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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Does A Vacuum Sealer Do Anything Worthwhile On An RV?

    I store a lot of items on board my RV. I always wish I had more space for lots of things. I also like to prepare gourmet (semi!) meals in my galley and have to keep lots of ingredients handy. When preparing my RV for my yearly Spring awakening (Next week!! Stay tuned for the newest list!)  I noticed some stuff I just keep in there year to year, were going bad. Like the garlic powder that was more like a garlic brick! Years ago, I had purchased a vacuum sealer and bags to be able to store meats in the freezer for longer time periods without the dreaded "freezer burn." That worked pretty well. I also used it to package first aid supplies and items that couldn't get wet for storing in the trunks of my vehicles. That worked pretty nicely. I also prepackaged some snacks for emergency use. You know, like trail-mix , beef jerky or something similar. What about actually taking one along onboard your RV? Is there a reason to do it? What about energy usage? Read on!

A Typical Model Vacuum Sealer
It's a pretty decent question. There are quite a few uses for vacuum sealers. Mostly food related, but there are a few other things I had already done. First aid kits are a great example. Keeps stuff fresh and dry. I've put film in vacuum sealed bags too...but who uses film anymore? The actual vacuum sealer device is both a generator of vacuum as well as a bag sealer. It sucks the air out of the bag or container (more on that later) and then heat seals the open end. It's pretty easy to do. The bag material comes in a few widths and long lengths so you can vary the length of the bag by heat sealing one end, rolling out the length of bag you want then cutting it. You now have a bag. Fill it with stuff and then put it in the sealer, open side in. Hit the button and it pulls the air out and then seals the bag. Done.

Bags of Any Length
I was toying with the idea of pre-preparing meal items like say, a chicken stew. Then vacuum sealing it in bags and freezing. That way, they take up way less space, last a long time and can be reheated either in the microwave or, if you want to save battery power or generator use, on the stove in a pot of boiling water. Lots of meals could be done this way. Snacks too! I mean, you can always figure out a way to boil water, right? I can even do it with 12 Volts DC. Yes, it takes a while, but works fine. OK, maybe you don't like the food idea. Anything that gets ruined when too much moisture gets in is a likely candidate. Flour? Sugar? How about vacuum sealing important papers? Water and paper don't mix! This way, you don't let them. They even make plastic containers (like Tupperware) that have a vacuum valve built in. You could take these along after they were sealed. Then re-use after.

Some Of The Variety Of Containers
If you don't want to mess around with the bag making, there are MANY sizes of containers with vacuum valves on the lids. There is even an adapter to use regular sized Mason jars. To use these, you just plug in the clear hose to the sealer's vacuum port (mine's on top) and the other end to the container and press the sealing" button. Once it's finished, it stops. Pretty simple really. I'm not sure I would use glass Mason jars very often (if at all,) but it's an option. The containers are pretty easy to use and the variety of sizes means you can usually find one to fit. They can also be used to quickly marinate meats. Put in your meat of choice, add the liquid marinade, vacuum the container and let sit...longer the better (up to overnight in the fridge). Great idea if you know what you'll want to eat during a trip. You can pre-do the marination beforehand. Amazing flavor!

So what about using the vacuum sealer on board? It uses a pretty good amount of power. Around 110 Watts at 120V so about 9.167 Amps at 12 Volts (maybe another 15% if using an inverter). Not terrible, but significant. Plus, you have to find space for the device to live. My opinion? Leave it at home and take the packages with you. As always, Y.M.M.V. (Your Mileage May Vary!)

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can You Put A WiFi Camera In Your RV And Look Inside While You're Out? YES!

    When I am traveling, I like to feel that my RV is secure when I am out. Some folks install alarm systems, but typically they go off and no one does anything about it. Sure, you could get one that calls your cell phone and you could return in a hurry or call 911, but that usually ends in a "barn door closed after the horse has already left" result. What if you could SEE what was going on in real time and had a recording of the perpetrators to give to the police? Or, simply see that nothing is going on at all? What about monitoring your RV in storage for the off-season? Well, you can. There are a few glitches, but nothing insurmountable. Read on!

Notice The USB Power Supply
The cost of WiFi cameras has been steadily dropping for a long time now. A model with Remote controlled Pan, Tilt, and Zoom (PTZ) can be had for $21.00 or so. They are pretty easy to set up and can run on your cell phone's data connection or a hotspot. If you set it up to only use your data when it "sees" something, you won't waste too much data at all. You'll be able to connect to it remotely and look at what's going on inside your RV. If you place it in the right place, you'll be able to see out the windows as well. Remember the PTZ will allow you to MOVE the camera's view around at will. There is no reason why you couldn't have more than one camera on this connection. They do not require much power at all, so that's not of major concern. You could even run them wired into your RV's 12V system. Some of the cameras even take 12V input via USB. But, to be sure, check the AC adapters voltage output...some are much lower!
Old Mobile Router And Dongle
Now, the issues to setting this up. First, you need to have an internet connection that is always on. Not much bandwidth nor data will be flowing when nothing is happening, but you need to be able to reach the cameras via the internet. If you have a cell phone, you could use it as a hotspot, but obviously you wouldn't be able to take it with you. So then you wouldn't be able to check the cameras! Catch-22! A second cell phone or stand-alone hotspot from a provider would work, but would likely cost extra each month (maybe even plus data). If you have two people with cell phones, one can leave the phone while the other takes over the monitoring portion. Of course, if you are in a location with WiFi already, you could set up a small (and cheap!) Mobile router to connect each time. Then you are all set.

I've got a few spare cameras that I purchased for home use, and have set up one in the RV. Since it's parked inside the fabric hangar and there is WiFi right inside the house, I have 24/7 access for storage. I can also see inside the fabric building through the windows when I Pan the camera around. Works really nicely! I've tried it through my cell phone hotspot and it's fine. If 720P movies will stream through it (They do!) this was a piece of cake. The cameras have SD Card slots, so they record internally AND when set up to be triggered by motion, you can have the cell phone application open automatically and record the video as well. Some of the cameras even include Audio! A permanent record of what happened to trigger it. Of course, it may have just have been a critter...but why take the chance?!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Clothes Pins - Not Just For Clothes Any More!

Wishful Thinking!
    Have you ever noticed that sometimes the most mundane items take on an almost mythical reverence? Like Duck Tape for instance. While I am not saying clothes pins should be raised to that level, I am saying there are far more uses for them than just hanging clothes on a line to dry. Who even DOES that anymore? I even have a drying rack that attaches to my roof ladder to dry clothes. No pins needed. So what's so good about them? Well, first off, they are really inexpensive. No, let's say it like it is. They are CHEAP. 36 of them for 1 dollar! Yes, but what can you DO with them? Read on!

Cheap And Effective!
It all started when the plastic snack bag clip broke. You've seen them, a 6-inch or so plastic clip with a metal spring designed to keep bags of snacks closed and (allegedly) fresh. It's pretty flimsy plastic, not to mention awkward to use. They break on me all the time. Probably why they come in sets of three. To add insult to injury, they don't fit in my silverware drawer. Terrible, I know. Well, when the last one broke, I decided to try something different. Yup, you guessed it, the lowly wooden clothes pin. I had a bunch at home and figured they would be useful for other things too so I had brought a few with me. Turns out, if you fold the bag down one corner at a time, then straight, it makes a perfect seal that a clothes pin will maintain. The bag is smaller and easier to store AND it won't open. Seems to be more airtight as well. Though I usually don't have a bag of snacks last long enough to know for sure.

Crossover And Fold Down, Then Clip
What else can you use them for? Well I use them for adding "gels" to lights, you know the colored transparent plastic that allows you to change light colors. Same goes for diffusion paper. Lots of other photographic uses too...Once in a while I still develop my own photos, you couldn't hang the prints to dry without the good old clothes pin. Holding things down or at an edge comes to mind. Like a table cloth on a thin table (like the one I have you can roll up to store). It works perfectly to keep those cheap plastic tablecloths on the table! How about holding your nose to prevent a bad smell from getting in? I'm kidding! But felt it needed to be in here as I've seen it so many times in cartoons! How about adding a tiny Velcro strip to one side of a few of them and using them to hang small bags of spices (or whatever) to your wall or even the ceiling. Sounds a bit crazy, but my ceiling and walls are carpeted.

You can come up with lots of other uses...just try, imagination is king. Come on, send me a few!

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How To Store Stick Butter Or Margarine - Is Tub Better?

    I haven't used butter in a while, been content with using tubs of margarine (some brands are WAY better than others in terms of flavor!). When traveling in an RV, it's easier to store opened butter or margarine that is in a tub with a snap on lid. That's pretty obvious. What if you like stick style? Sure, it's fine until you unwrap the stick, even partially. Then you have to find a place to store it in the fridge that won't fall and "dent" your stick. That being said, there are some distinct advantages for stick style butter or margarine. As long as you can figure out how to keep it in good shape without air getting to it and discoloring the surface after use. Take a look at what I found.

The Solution!
I like the way sticks look on the table at a meal. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner,  there is something about a stick of butter on a dish that makes it feel, well, fancier somehow. Easy to do. Unwrap the stick, place it on a butter dish and place on the table. What could be easier than that? So, why not? Well, what do you do with the unused portion after the meal? No, even I don't use a whole stick at one sitting! You could attempt to put it back in the wrapper...but that usually doesn't work well and isn't really air-tight anyway. If you leave it on the butter dish and put it back in the fridge it will begin to turn a particularly ugly shade of yellow. That's because the surface is reacting with the oxygen in the air and changing the properties (Oxidation). What about a butter dish that seals tight to prevent this AND keeping the butter from getting all dented up in the fridge while you are underway? There are LOTS of these containers around, but I like to get a bit more for my buck so I chose this one. It's got an additional benefit as well.

A Simple Solution
While tub style is great, it's a pain to measure out tablespoons (or larger measures.) You have to find a measuring spoon (not hard) and then once it's measured, figure out how to get it OUT of the spoon and into your recipe. Of course, it also adds to "things that must be washed." Getting butter or margarine off of kitchen utensils without using an excess of water AND keeping the oily residue out of the grey tank is tough! Everyone KNOWS I hate cleaning. Stick butter, on the other hand, has a handy tablespoon scale printed on the wrapper and a simple cut will give you exactly what you need for your recipe. That's all well and good, but what if you have already used it on the table and the wrapper is gone?  Well, this one has measurements printed on the base and you can just pull it open cut what you need and put it back. Simple and with very little fuss.

On a vacation, I prefer to keep the fussing to a minimum (cleaning too!). If I have the extra room in the fridge, I'll likely take this along with me. Looks good on pancakes! A little pat will do ya!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Oh Summer, Where Art Thou! - Planning For The Warm Weather.

No Snow...Not Yet...But Soon!
    I just heard the weather forecast. They are calling for MORE snow tomorrow, followed by freezing rain for the next day. And to add insult to injury, after the weekend 10 DAYS of snow. I like snow, it's pretty when it begins and the first white covering makes everything look beautiful. But, that's about it. From then on, I watch the accumulation and wonder when I will be pushing the snow off the fabric building and all the cars. I wonder when they will plow my driveway so I can get to work. I wonder how many accident scenes I will be visiting in the middle of the night. And then when it's all over and it's a gray, brown and black slushy mess, I wonder just how long until it's all gone. In between bouts of "wondering" I am also thinking about "wandering." Since I KNOW that it will end at some point (Well at least I hope it will!) I am planning out my first trips of the RV season. I can't help it, I'm still an optimist (mostly.)

At An Aviation Museum
Where to go and what to see this year? I'd REALLY like to go to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio as I have heard they'd done an amazing renovation. It's only 10 hours away, so doable with only a few days off. Since I am a member of Harvest Hosts, I like to plan trips that go past their locations. Often I stay for a night there (and have a meal and buy some goodies!) on the way to someplace I wanted to see or experience. It sure beats Walmart parking lots and you get to see some cool secondary roads and towns. Of course, if I'm fighting time, interstates and Walmarts, Cracker Barrels and the like are fine for a quick overnight rest. So what else? Well, I have the annual Rotorway Fly-in/Gathering in Lake City, FL, but that's in October. There's a lot of time between the beginning of the season and October! There's always my first shakedown trip to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA. Close enough and way interesting!

A Special Place!
I'm always looking for short trips. Between 2 and 4 days with travel miles at or below 400 miles or so. This way I have 1/2 a day's travel at either end and plenty of time to relax upon arrival. If you all have any ideas, I'm always looking for destinations. Perhaps, one day, when I retire...I'll just be able to wander at will. Not yet. Not soon...but eventually! So for the time being, I like to keep the radius relatively local. I found a cool Skiing mountain that is closed in the summer (Obviously!) that allows RV's at the summit parking lot for overnights. It's got amazing views and is very comfortable. You can hike 100's of miles of trails from there. or mountain bike. or not! It's trips like this I seek out. I really ought to compile a more formal list on notecards or something and randomly pull one out when i get a few days strung together that I can use to travel.

I guess the only thing beneficial, from an RV standpoint, to snowstorms is the ability to dream about RV trips when it's NOT snowing! I have a really great imagination for trips.....

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fabric Building - Mid Winter Report. How's It Holding Up?

RV Inside!
    Well, it's snowing here in the Northeast. Again. Not as much as in the past, but enough. A few months ago I completed assembling my fabric building to house my RV and helicopter. I was (and still am!) concerned about snow and ice loading on the roof. Since the company does not publish any snow load numbers, we are left to our own devices to figure out what is safe. So far, I haven't had any issues. However, since it was put together in the cold weather, it really never became taut enough. I believe that is why it's accumulating more snow and ice than it should. Hopefully, I can adjust it when the weather gets warmer. Will it hold up?

It's Snowing Outside Now!
When it snows, I have been going out when accumulation is around 3 inches and pushing the snow off from the inside. The distance between the roof supports is about 8 feet and you can see a a distinct bowing of the fabric between them when there is any snow or ice on the roof. It is pretty easy to take a pole broom and gently push up, first at the bottom by the walls then further toward the top, to get the snow sliding off the peaked roof. When it's icy like freezing rain or sleet, it does not slide off as easily. While doing this it became VERY obvious that the first two sections (front and back) were not tight enough compared with the center sections. I believe that is caused by putting it together in the cold. It didn't shrink any more after it was put together like it would have if assembled in hot weather and then exposed to the cold. Hopefully, I can tighten it up this spring or summer.

Beats This Method, Hands Down!
Regular rain has NOT been an issue at all. Even torrential, frog strangling rain has had little effect on the fabric or frame. However, I did find a pinhole where the cover was folded tightly in the box. I'll fix that with either a patch or some tool handle liquid rubber. Even though it will be an easy fix, there should NOT have been any holes in the cover at all. It is brand new from the factory after all. Other than that, it has been faring quite well. The zippers are easy to open, even in the coldest weather and close back down without undue strain. The frame has not shifted at all, so the tie-downs I "engineered" are working well. So far. We have experienced some pretty high wind loads recently and I did not reach OZ.

For the price, I am quite pleased, with the notable exceptions during assembly phases 1 and 2, and maybe 3 as well!,  a few parts issues and a terrible, out of date manual. If I purchased one now, I would do many things differently. It would have been MUCH easier if we hadn't attempted to follow the steps in the manual. Even IKEA is better and that's knowing that my Swedish is non-existent!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

3D Printers Are COOL! - Make Parts And Accessories For Your RV And More!

Cannot Wait Until Spring!
    I finally broke down and bought a 3D printer. They have come down in price so much over the last few years it was really hard to resist. For only a few hundred dollars I now have a device that can print in various materials (more on that later) in 3 Dimensions! Yes, it makes Stuff rather than text on a page. Truly amazing. There is a bit of a learning curve. Heck, figuring out which one to buy in the first place took over a month of research! Worth it! I have already printed new cabinet and drawer latches to replace broken ones. Some knobs for electronics, a keychain and a Phaser. Yes, the last one was just for me. Yes, they are a bit fiddly, but with a bit of trial and error (much less than usual for me) and a little bit of patience you can be printing whatever you like in short order.

Anycubic I3 Mega 3D Printer
I remember the Star Trek: The Next Generation "Replicator". You walk up to it, say something like, "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" and VOILA! You have a coaster and a mug filled with hot tea in a flash. Way cool! 3D printers are NOT like that, but it's a start. How do they work? Well most of them heat up filaments of plastic and squeeze them out through a nozzle. This nozzle is able to move and be controlled in three dimensions by a small computer running a few stepper motors. As the nozzle moves, more plastic is fed in to create an object layer by layer. These layers are THIN! -- 0.1 mm (give or take). The smaller the layer the more detailed the object. Each layer adheres to the one below and on and on until the object is finished. It takes a LONG time. My 4" long Phaser took about 5 HOURS to print. But it was amazing to come back and check on it once in a while to see the progress.

A Couple Of 1KG Spools Of Filament
The plastic itself comes in many colors (or just buy white and paint whatever color you like.) The standard is PLA (Polylactic Acid) which is mostly made from renewable materials like corn starch. It's the default material for most printers and does not require a heated bed -- that's the part material is deposited on. It's pretty strong and light and is fine for most projects.It does not like to be over stressed and will break. Especially if used on small parts.

Next up is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). This is a VERY common plastic and has been in use for decades. It's strong, lightweight and can handle a decent amount of stress. My Attex 6 Wheeler's body is made from it. It is UV resistant and works well outside. You can make gears and machine parts from it. I've seen screws and nuts used in various applications. It is a bit harder to work with and your 3D printer settings are critical to get a good output.

Nylon is next up. Incredibly tough and resilient, it is difficult to get good results, but if you can get past the trial and error phase, the parts and/or objects are REALLY tough wearing.

The Star Trek Phaser One
There are MANY "exotic" materials as well. TPE is flexible like soft rubber. You can make lots of stuff with this. It's a bit hard to feed properly, but works OK in my printer. Add to that, Ceramic, Metal, Wood, Carbon Fiber, Magnetic, Glow in the Dark, and even Conductive! There are so many materials you can use, the limit to what you can make is up to your imagination. I started with replacement parts and "trinkets." I am graduating to full on design and prototyping of products!

So what's the process to make something? Well, you first install some free 3D design software on your computer (Mac or PC) and create an object file. If you do not or can not draw, there are quite a few places online that you can choose and download from THOUSANDS of free files to print. I was/am amazed at what is available. This file is opened in the free Slicer software. I know, weird name, but it's what it does. It takes the object and cuts it in very thin "slices" of data that are then fed to the printer. Either directly via USB or indirectly by saving it to an SD card that you then insert into the printer. Most of what I have printed was downloaded. The Slicer software allows you to rotate, scale and perform various tweaks to the printing parameters.

These 3D printers are not for impatient people. I am not the greatest at waiting, but it is so cool that I wait patiently while it prints out my next...thing! Who knows, I may figure out a way to bring it along (it's attached to my laptop) and print out stuff on the road as a new source of income...hmmm. Maybe!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

More Low Carb "Cheats" - How To NOT Feel Like You Are Missing Out!

    Lately, I have been writing some articles about low-carb cooking, recipes and products. My goal is to replace the high carb versions of what I miss with low carb versions that still taste the same. That's the real trick. So many low carb versions of things just don't taste the same as their counterparts. You end up feeling like you are missing out on something. That leads (for me at least) to a nagging train of thought that keeps me thinking about what I am missing and trying to rationalize just having a small amount. It's a slippery slope for me! Next thing I know, I'm eating ice cream and pretzels (delicious by the way) out of a tub while watching TV. Let's explore a substitute for something I used to always take on RV trips. The simple and tasty granola bar.

Image result for nature valley protein barsTake a look at the calorie and carb counts for an average granola bar. Believe me, I was as shocked as you when I realized just how energy dense these things are. I don't care, I like them. They happen to be good as a snack with coffee, or on the run when you just need something to nibble on. For the last couple of years I have been reading granola bar labels and hoping for one that would be "guilt free." It's been a long wait, but new products have been rolling out over the last few months that fit the bill perfectly! The first one I came across in the supermarket was Nature Valley protein bars. They come in some pretty great varieties; Salted Caramel Nut,  Honey Peanut Almond, Coconut Almond and Peanut, Almond & Dark Chocolate. They really taste amazing and the texture is spot on. These are mid way between crispy and chewy bars.. Just the way I like them!

Image result for great value protein barsIf you are minding carbs, these are pretty low, especially if you subtract the dietary fiber (I do) 14 grams - 5 dietary fiber = 9 Total Carbs! (6 grams Sugars) I am eating around 65 grams a day to maintain my weight. Remember that's an average by the week, so I don't go crazy counting everything all the time. So these are a pretty guiltless snack. Be aware they do have 190 Calories as well. The main issue is price. They are around $5.68 for 10 or $3.89 for 5 bars. Not terrible, but significant. That being said, Walmart's brand, that just came out, is as good or perhaps a bit tastier than the originals and they are only $1.92 for 5. Right now there are only two varieties available, but they are good! Same nutritional values. I keep a few in the car and sometimes even one in my pocket for an afternoon snack.

You can avoid temptation and get to eat stuff you like without feeling guilty! It is possible. I'm proof. I'll keep finding substitutes and moving forward. In follow-up articles I will be writing about guilt-less pancakes, cookies, cakes, biscuits and yes...even pasta! Ice cream too!! Stay Tuned!

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How To Heat Your Massive Space Efficiently - Kerosene Forced Air!

Safely Ensconced
    Last week I wrote about lighting my new 24' x 22' x 12' fabric hangar. That worked out well. So, now I can see what I am doing inside....however it's COLD up here in the North East, around 19 degrees Fahrenheit today. Not great for working in a fabric hangar with gaps under the roll-up doors and at the corners. The fabric itself is pretty heavy duty and does have some insulating properties, but you still need a heater to be comfortable. Since it's a big space, keeping it heated all the time is pretty wasteful, but getting up to a comfortable working temperature shouldn't take too long. I mean waiting a few hours to be able to work isn't all that efficient. You really need a "Big BTU" heater that you can turn down when it gets the space comfortable, so it will maintain that temperature without needing to run all the time using fuel. The best way I have found to do this, is with a Kerosene forced hot air furnace.

The Heater!
I looked around at a whole bunch of these. They come in everything from 15,000 BTU all the way up to 225,000 BTU! Typically, contractors use them to heat their work spaces. They are a long cylinder with a burner and a fan to force the air through and out into your space. You can get them in both propane and kerosene versions. Some (including mine) can be run on heating oil or diesel with a few small modifications. That will make use a bit less expensive, but I have noticed it doesn't burn a lot of fuel. With a 7-gallon built-in tank, I've run it for 4 hours and seen NO drop on the gauge! Opening the fill cap did show a slight drop, maybe less than 1/2 inch...but not too much at all. Kerosene is easy to get near me, I just bought a blue container to keep a spare 5 gallons in reserve. Why blue? I have so many red ones for gasoline that I would get confused!

5 Gallon "No Spill" Spout
So, how's it work? Pretty amazing. In about an hour the temperature inside the fabric hangar was warm enough that I didn't need a coat! All this on a 20-degree Fahrenheit day! Of course it will take longer to warm up big chunks of metal, like my RV, but the inside gets pretty warm as long as I leave the RV door and a couple of sliding windows open. Mine is 75,000 BTU. I thought about getting a 125,000 BTU version, but I am really glad I didn't. It would have been way overkill. The one I bought was a Mr. Heater, and was about $189.99 from Amazon. I am still a bit worried about smoke and carbon monoxide inside the building, so I leave one of the zippers on one of the doors open about 12 inches with the heater just in front of it. Just to be safe.

Overall I'm very happy. It is a bit noisy, what with the fan running. It's OK...usually I'm working and don't notice it after a while. Besides, it does exactly what it's supposed to do...keep me warm!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Don't Work In A Dark Cave - 120V LED Daisy Chain Lighting

Safe And Sound Inside!
Now that my fabric "Hangar" is complete and my RV and Helicopter are inside, I realized I would not only need some heat (more on that next week) but also some way to illuminate the large space without breaking the bank. It's 24' x 22' x 12' so quite a large volume. In order to allow me to do maintenance and modification tasks over the winter I would need a good amount of light. Probably like you, I don't enjoy squinting! So, how can you light up the space, minimize shadows and keep the power use to a minimum? Oh, and NOT create so much heat to melt the plasticized fabric or set fire to anything else? After some research, I found 2 solutions that are working VERY well.

The Original 5000 Lm Shop Light
A couple of years ago, I cleaned out my garage. It was LONG overdue. I found so many things I had...ummm..misplaced that I should probably think about cleaning it more often. Naaah. Well, I had purchased a set of 2 LED hanging shop lights. These were 5000 lumen bright white (5600K) that hang from included hooks and bits of chain. They were about 27.00 each and work well. There is a chain on one side to turn it on and off and a grounded plug and wire on the other. Each light requires it's own outlet to work. On the long walls of the hangar I would need to add a bunch of extension cords to go from one side to the other. I did hang one of them up (the other is in the, now cleaned, garage!) and it works. The chain goes around the crossbar of the building's frame and it's secure.

Original Light
They are 4 feet long and the building is 24 feet....hmmm that's 6 lights on each side. 300.00! to completely light the space. No way. Even if you cut the number in half, it's way pricey. I know you're asking, what about hanging a single row of 6 from the rail that travels down the peak of the roof? Well, it's 12 feet above you, hanging on bits of chain. I worried that wind might cause them to fall. Scary stuff. Also, I'd have to rig up a switch to turn them all on or off (not too hard) AND have to install them way up there. I'll admit, I tried putting one up. The light was bright, but diminished too much when close to the ground. It was better when it was 5 feet up the wall on each side.

New Daisy Chained Light
Back to the internet, looking for another solution. Wow! A lot of choices. Most of the 5000 lumen styles were around the same cost, so that's wasn't all that helpful. Then I hit upon something new. A set of lights that were DESIGNED to be daisy chained together and run off a common plug and switch! They came as a set of 8 for only 57.99 (on Amazon) These are smaller and lighter, but do not put out the same level of brightness. Still, for 8 of them (around 2200 lumens each and warm white) they are a much less expensive choice that is easier to wire/install. No chain or hooks are included, but since they are so lightweight, I just used some extra cord I had lying around and tied them to the cross bar. Works great!

It's nice to be able to work in a well-lit and well-heated indoor space over the winter. Be ready, I have lots of projects that had become "back burner" ones because of the inability to work during the cold months. I can't wait to begin!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Further Adventures In Pleasant Weight Loss - Pizza. No, Really!

My Mobile Gourmet Kitchen!
    I love to eat. Just look at some of my past articles about cooking in my RV, especially when boondocking. Gourmet meals do NOT have to be difficult nor time consuming when on the road. Why do I enjoy cooking so much you may ask? Because, I like to EAT! A few years ago, I was overweight. I have had a bad knee since a high school track accident and when the barometric pressure would swing a great deal, it would ache. I dealt with it. No big deal. Then, BOTH of them began to hurt in the mornings. Why? Easy, I was forcing my one better knee to carry most of my weight all the time and it didn't like that at all. So, I went on a diet. Essentially, I restricted my intake of carbs. There's more to it than that, but that was the basis. I did this the first time LONG before anyone had even heard of low-carb. I've been keeping up with it and have stayed at my target weight for almost 2 years now. That being said, I found myself still missing certain foods.

I am always on the lookout for great tasting substitutes for my old favorite foods. Aside from the obvious carb rich foods like PASTA I really missed having a simple slice of Pizza. I mean, most of what goes on as toppings....tomato sauce, cheese, spices, mushrooms, pepperoni sausage, meatballs, etc.. are low carb already. What does it in is the crust. A pizza without a crust is like a day without sunshine on an RV trip. You're not particularly happy, but you'll make do. A friend of mine and I were talking about the subject and he asked if I'd ever tried a cauliflower based crust substitute. A what? Huh? Obviously, I'd never even heard of that! I did know that cauliflower could be used to substitute for other foods I missed. I have a killer recipe for cauliflower "mashed potatoes" that I'll share in a later article.

It turns out you can make (or buy) a "crust" that is based on cauliflower that has been ground into small granules. Not as smooth as mashed potatoes, but almost. I start with a medium fresh cauliflower (or a frozen cauliflower rice package) cook the cauliflower and then squeeze out as much moisture as I can. I put it on a piece of cheesecloth and twist until it's "dry." Add an egg, some Parmesan (perhaps a bit of mozzarella) and spices and press into a crust. Bake until crispy at 350 degrees (about 8 minutes) and your crust is ready to use. Or...go and buy a frozen one! Usually around 3.99 each at the supermarket. I won't judge. I buy them too!

Once you have a crispy crust, put on your sauce, cheese and other toppings and back in the oven until they are cooked and the crust is golden brown and delicious. Usually about 10 minutes or so. That's it. Cut and eat! Works great on a small BBQ with the lid closed. No, really it does!! You can make any kind of pizza you can imagine. To keep it healthy, try topping it with fresh items you find at farm stands on your travels. It's like a game, find the ingredients available, mix and match a pizza. I even did one with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, spinach and ham bits. Not a "traditional" pizza, but it was REALLY tasty! Trust me on this one, even doubters will enjoy these pizzas. Especially if you like thin crust Neapolitan style.

There is no reason you can't eat healthy and get your favorite foods back, you just have to be a bit "inventive." Stay tuned...more to follow. And believe me, I will thoroughly test them out beforehand!

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

No Cover This Winter - I Bought A Big Fabric Building! - Was It Worth It? Part 3

Waiting To Go Into The New Building!
    Well, it's done. Sort of. I managed to get the sides and roof up and attached. Even the roll-up door kit (only one side is included) was finished...with some difficulty! It wasn't too bad. Even with just one extra person. That's not to say there weren't difficulties. Overall, I am somewhat satisfied by my purchase. There are definitely some changes I would make to the assembly procedure and to some of the hardware and supplies that come with the kit. There were quite a few issues that had to be worked through to complete assembly. Not that any of them were insurmountable, but when you purchase a full kit, you shouldn't have to climb mountains to be able to use it.

The Messy Cut Due To Factory Slots In The Wrong Place
The main issue that made the install difficult were the poor instructions. There were steps that were backwards in the numbered sections, whole steps left out and pictures that really didn't illustrate the process properly. In this day and age, having a corrected instruction manual or even some notes/more photos on a company website is easy to do. No one is asking for them to spend more $$$ on printing new manuals, but when phone help is only available during the week and most folks are going to put them together on the weekend....well, you see what I am getting at.

After We Had To Buy Better Rope For The Doors.
When we were at the point of installing the roll-up door kit, and there really weren't any detailed instructions. Having to wait on hold for a long while before having someone from the factory explain that the instructions are long out of date and they change the product over time, does nothing to make me feel better about the company nor their product. I mean, running changes (especially to increase quality or ease of assembly) are great, but if you don't change the manual or point to a place to get a list (change-log?) of updates, all you are doing is slowing down the process and losing customers in the process. Don't even get me started on the person that answers the phone. Customer Service? What's That??

Let's just look at the hardware and kit pieces. In Part 1 of this set of articles we put on the end covers. The slits in the fabric were in the wrong place and 2 weren't cut at all! Now, after looking at the printed manual, their website and trying to figure it out, I stumbled (many days later) on a YouTube video that shows that the cuts are in the wrong place from the factory!!! This was confirmed by the factory technician later on. Why wasn't this mentioned ANYWHERE by the factory? It caused me to have to cut the fabric multiple times to make it fit, because we all believed WE had assembled something incorrectly! How frustrating is THAT!

Completed. Yes, The RV Is Inside!
I've had some snow fall here in the North East, about 2 inches a couple of times. The structure held up fine. That's a good thing. I am adding a couple of lolly columns to reinforce the roof peak rail. It may not NEED it, but probably won't hurt either. I'm STILL having problems unzipping and rezipping the zippers. It's a function of how the end fabric fits over the top arch rails, but there should be a better fit, or some advice to get it to all work smoothly. Word of mouth advertising is the BEST way to sell product. If your product is good, you have reasonable customer service, you will have satisfied customers that extol the values of your product and recommend it to other. Common Sense really.

Well, I can say that once all these trials and tribulations were done, the finished product is an 8/10. I'd like to see better closures on the corners (the bottoms have relatively large gaps). I'd also like to see a better self-healing zipper system for the doors. I had one fail. Everyone that graciously worked on this project with me wanted better rope. It's used for a bunch of things (like pulling the bottom of the fabric to the base rails. It's very inexpensive polyethylene rope, that doesn't like to stay tied and loves to "unbraid" itself. Next year I will be replacing it with better cord and perhaps some bungees as well.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"