Wednesday, November 28, 2018

No Cover This Winter - I Bought A Big Fabric Building! - Was It Worth It? Part - 1

    The main bummer of living in the North East is having to put the RV away for the Winter season. I do have a cover, which is a bit of a P.I.T.A. to put on, but does the job of weather protection decently. I had looked into building a pole type building and even priced out a 30 x 60 foot one. Not bad all in (including the concrete pad) at around $15,000. Still a bit too rich for my blood. Not to mention that my taxes would go up pretty significantly! That route was out. While I was researching steel buildings, I came across a couple of companies that made fabric ones. Basically, they are a galvanized steel frame with 10 oz (or higher) vinyl layered fabric covers. They have zippered roll up doors and are designed for storage. Seemed like a good idea....they came in all sizes. I was mainly interested in the 24' x 22' x 12' or as they call it, "2 car garage."

Right away, I knew there was a risk involved. It is NOT rated for snow loading. In fact the manufacturer recommends you push snow off by lifting sections of the roof from the inside with a broom or something similar to reduce problems. They DO sell them all over the North East including Maine and Massachusetts, so if there was a bad review to be found regarding snow, I couldn't find one that pointed at manufacturing rather than improper installation. The one I was interested in (24'x22'x12') was under $2000.00 delivered! I am about 100 miles from the factory, so shipping, while high...was manageable. If I had picked it up it would have been less expensive, but you then have to pay sales tax so it was about $100.00 extra to have it delivered. Gas would have cost that much! So I ordered one.

Pre Site Prep
You have to prepare the installation site. Since I was installing it on pavement, it was mostly cleaning up and making sure I had the correct anchors for the frame. I did have to cut back some tree limbs, but I was going to do that anyway since that particular tree had broken my skylight a few years back. Bad tree!Once clean and ready, the frame is laid out in separate "arches." Each of those is comprised of 7 pieces. Once each arch is ground assembled and loosely bolted together with the supplied carriage bolts, nuts and curved washers, each is lifted into place and the horizontal rails attached. The first two are the most difficult as they won't stand up by themselves until the cross-members are bolted in place. Once that's done on the first two, it has four legs and can stand on its own for each of the subsequent arches to be attached. When all of them are assembled you have to attach the pipe sections at the peak of the roof between each arch. Have a big ladder handy! They are over 12 feet in the air.

Leveled And Squared!
Now that the frame is all put together it has to be leveled and squared so that all the sides are equal. If you skip this step, the cover will not fit properly. Begin by aligning one side with a string pulled taught at the base. That will get you one side straight. Make sure the whole thing is in the position you want it when you are done!! Once that was complete, I held them down with sandbags so I could go on to the next step. Each side has to be 22 ft. from the bottom of the verticals on one long side to the verticals on the other. Once that measurement is done I placed more sandbags to hold it in place so I could measure diagonally from one corner to the other to make sure it was square. It's finicky and takes a while to get it right. Once it's all level and square it has to be anchored to the ground.

Re-Used Dirt Anchor Cable
The kit comes with dirt anchors, so I had to source some that would work on pavement, blacktop specifically, without cutting really big holes in the surface. I could re-use the cable tie downs as the loops would fit over the anchors, even with the "duck-bills" attached. I found some at Tractor Supply that would work, sort of. The anchors I found require a 1/2" hole to be hammer drilled into the blacktop and then they are set in the hole, up to the threads with a hammer. Once set, the washer and nut are screwed on pulling the bottom of the anchor up and expanding to hold fast in the hole. Sounded easy enough. In practice, drilling the holes was easy. Getting the anchors to expand without turning was not. My pavement is a bit brittle in spots and it isn't all that deep. The requirement for holding down the building meant I needed relatively large 1/2" anchors so they were also pretty long. Eventually, I got them all to expand enough to stay in the ground. I will be filling in the holes and adding threaded female ends into the pavement for threaded eyelets in the spring!

Once the anchors are in, you have to pull everything tight so it stays firmly on the ground. Believe me, doing this alone is a real challenge. Better to have two (or more!) folks to assist. It would have gone MUCH faster! Eventually (in the dark) the frame was up and ready for the end and main covers.

Next week, we'll get the covers on and everything tightened up. I had to split this operation up because it was snowing when I stopped building the frame! Stay tuned for the completion of this project and my honest opinion on the building itself.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Rain, Rain Go Away...And Never Come Back So Often!

Rain. Bleh.
    It's been months. And more months. I haven't had a day off in 5 Months that hasn't rained. My maintenance tasks around the house and RV have gotten pushed back over and over again. Some may blame global warming. Maybe, but nonetheless it's disheartening to not be able to get anything accomplished.

For example, I began writing an article last week about purchasing and assembling a 24'x22'12' two-car fabric garage just so I can work inside, out of the weather for the off season. It finally arrived. Today. Guess what? It's RAINING! I know, it was a holiday yesterday and no deliveries were made, but come on! Now that article has to be postponed until next week so I can take photos of the assembly process. Not to mention not being able to work on anything...again! Moving South (or West!) is beginning to become more enticing.

It's not that I don't like rain. When I am in the RV and the raindrops are falling, it's beautiful. Warm, dry and comfortable. Make some coffee, maybe a some video, play a game. pressure...well, unless you have a leak! I've spent time in the RV during major storms, where power has gone out for over a week and the weather was not just nasty -- it was downright dangerous! A safe haven. On the other end of the scale were days that were so hot that without the air conditioning and refrigerator in the RV it would have been far more uncomfortable.

Call Mario!
We all have projects to accomplish. Bad weather puts a "damper" on things. On my last trip to Florida, we had sporadic rain showers that slowed all the events and work down to a crawl. At least it wasn't cold! Of course I had to winterize in the rain this year. Fun. Well, not really. I've got to look into figuring out how to efficiently heat the new garage (or just the RV) to keep the pipes from bursting over the winter. No way to really enclose them... I looked into heat pads (120V relatively low wattage) for the tanks themselves, but so many pipes are close to the outside, I'm not sure I could make them all warm enough. Besides, they are the older gray pipe (not PEX) that is prone to cracking.

I don't usually complain...well, OK, maybe a little bit. But this is getting ridiculous. I did hear that we are going to have a mild winter...allegedly. I'll believe it when I see it. I wish I could send a good portion of this rain out California where it would do some good!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Last Trip Of The Season - And It Was A Doozy!

Almost Ready To Depart
    A couple of weeks ago I embarked on my last trip of the season. Sad, I know, but it was most memorable. Some good, some bad, all...ummm...interesting. If you've been following these columns, the first few days didn't go so well (Breakdown #1 and Breakdown #2). I eventually arrived at the Helicopter Gathering in Florida 1100 miles from my home base in New York. Of course, I was two-and-a- half days late, so a lot of what I wanted/needed to get done was delayed. (More on that later!) All in all it was fun, AND I lost another 4 1/2 pounds. The "No sleep, No food, all work diet" works very well, but I wouldn't recommend it! So, what exactly happened?

Early Morning On The Flight Line
Long before I leave for an extended trip (well, extended for me anyway) I try and make sure all my maintenance and servicing is completed. That way I don't have any surprises. Works pretty well when I do the work myself. Not so good when you leave it to someone else. I admit, I should have checked the work, but I didn't. My bad. This time it cost me. In time and money. Ah well. Live and learn. Once the breakdown saga was over, and we arrived in Lake City, Florida, things began to look up. We had a beautiful spot parked right on the flight line along the runway, along with other fellow Helicopter owners. There was water for refilling tanks and my newest version Solar Charging system kept pace with energy demands. The only thing missing was a dump station, but there were public bathrooms and trips to town to mitigate that.

Ready To Disassemble!
After unloading the helicopter from my trailer and moving it to the maintenance hangar I set up camp in the RV. The first couple of days were 90 degrees PLUS! So the Mylar bubble foil window reflectors were an absolute necessity! I left the two fantastic fans running all day (on solar, of course!). One set to Intake and the Other on Exhaust make a wonderful breeze throughout the RV. To be honest, there were a few hours the first two days where the generator got started up and the Air Conditioner used. Hey, I believe in Solar, but I have a Generator and am NOT afraid to use it! That being said, it did need half a quart of oil....I should really exercise it more often. After those two first hot and humid nights, the temps dropped into the high 70's low 80's with nights getting into the 50's. Perfect!! Temperature control inside the RV was easily achieved with vents and fans alone.

Have To Do Part of This Job Again!
Then the rain came. A lot. It's a good thing I was mostly working in the hangar because the flight line was a muddy mess. Just to make matters a bit worse, I discovered a tiny leak on my rear vent/fan unit and had to put a small tarp over it to keep the water out of the ceiling. So much damage can be done by water getting into the ceiling it's VERY important to stop it ASAP! I believe it's a loose screw under the eternabond tape that will have to be addressed in the spring. I've removed and reinstalled both the front and back ones over the years. Road vibration loosens EVERYTHING! Make sure you check your screws before you leave or after each trip. Not too hard to do, but will save you lots of tedious repair overall.

The event was scheduled to end Sunday afternoon, but because of my late arrival and the amount of work I wanted to get done, we elected to stay past Sunday afternoon. We relocated to a half concrete/half dirt section next to the maintenance hangar. There was water to fill the tanks and shore power if needed. But still no dump facilities. The weather held out for the most part, though it did rain quite hard on and off for the next few days. Finally, all was in readiness, we pushed the helicopter out in front of the hangar and started it up. All was good. Once warmed up and having no leaks or other flew. Yes, only a hover, but for the amount of work done (a whole new drive system!) this was unexplored territory. Many thanks to the skilled and brilliant folks that helped out, I couldn't have done such a great job without them! Lots of flying to be done when I got home!

It was really nice having a place to retreat to for a snack or coffee or just a quick rest while working. RV's are awesome! I know, I'm biased. I'm already looking forward to next year's gathering. This time I will be better prepared with the RV ready to go and all systems checked (and re-checked.)

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"