Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hate To Clean? Here's A Great Excuse... - A Better Way to Find And Fix Problems

Cleaning Begins!
    Yup, it's that time again. Around this time towards the end of the season I like to go through the whole RV and clean. Sounds a bit compulsive doesn't it? Well, it is. Sort of. Look at it this way, while cleaning nooks and crannies, appliances, displays, closets and cabinets you can easily spot things that are about to break or that already have broken. Inside and outside, on top and underneath. A thorough look around can save you a ruined trip down the line. Engine bay, storage bays, batteries, fridge externals, water heater, and generator are all easily checked before something goes wrong. Sounds much more reasonable now... doesn't it?
Galley Sinks
I usually begin in the galley. Empty the trash, take the bucket out and look down inside the cabinets. Lots of cables, hoses and screws under there. If anything is loose, tighten it. See any leaks? Fix them now before it becomes a REAL problem. Clean the stove-top and microwave (or gas oven). Get close, sniff! Smell any gas? Find the leak and fix it!! Clean the sink(s), look inside the cabinet at the sink drains... any new stains? Maybe it's dribbling a bit. Of course, if your water is on, test it! Put a hand on the sink drain.. is it loose? Does the sink move? You don't have to YANK on it... just see if gentle pressure causes any obvious movement. If so... tighten the sink mounts and/or drain.

On to the cabinets. Open them carefully as contents may have shifted while traveling. Believe me, getting hit on the head isn't nearly as fun as it sounds! Look and feel for water inside (on the roof) of your storage cabinets. Sometimes water leaks from the roof someplace (vents, etc.) and travels down the sloped roof into the overhead storage cabinets. Better to find that early, before it causes too much damage. This is also a good time to organize and sort through what you're carrying around. I'm a pack-rat, so this step is really important for me!

On to the bathroom. Check under the sink the same way you did for the kitchen/galley. All OK? Move on. My water heater is actually in a cabinet under the lav sink, so I check here for leaks and loose fittings. I can also see the external "city" water hookup here. I have found that one leaking on multiple occasions, so I check it carefully. Since this cabinet also has a 12v and a 120v outlet, I check the wires for fraying or breakage. If you find something... make sure you know how to turn off the power to fix them!! If your water is on, check the functionality of the toilet. Good flush, good "swirl?" Move on to the back and sides of the toilet... any leaks? Feel around for water when it's being flushed. Check the base, any leaks here? Look into the shower, any cracks in the surround? Are the valves leaking? How about the shower head? Does it need a cleaning to get rid of mineral deposits? This can really reduce your pressure!
How about the outside? Cleaning the exterior is always a good idea. Especially the roof. Take a good look at all the seams and seals on the roof. Around vents, fans, air conditioning, antenna wires... everything! If you see gaps, fix them! If you're up to it, remove the screws holding your A/C shroud on and clean inside. If it looks like it's corroding or there are cracks in the tubes, probably time to think about repair or replacing the unit. On the sides, you've got your furnace and fridge... open the access door and check for obstructions and even critters! Take a look at your water heater, is it leaking from the drain plug?

Take a look at your generator, any obvious oil leaks? Clean all of this with a rag and the appropriate cleaner. You will be surprised at what you can find when something is clean! Check the oil level for your generator. Check your storage bays for leaks and anything else that looks amiss.

Check all your battery connections here and in your battery storage area as well. Clean them up. I use a wire brush and some baking soda dissolved in water. Less corrosion equals less resistance and better performance. While you're here, check the battery water level. Add distilled water if needed.

The engine bay is a great place to look through. Clean it as best you can, while still looking for obvious leaks and damage. I'm sure you have particular areas in and on your RV that you know would be a good idea to clean and check. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

All of this is all REALLY easy when you're cleaning. You're already there, so the checks are a "same time" exercise. Maybe I should look at this the other way around? Since I hate cleaning... maybe I'm checking and fixing things and the cleaning is just to be able to SEE and REPAIR. Hmmm. That's a great rationalization. I'll stick with that!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RV's - Not Just For Camping Anymore

    Camping is fun. I prefer going to unimproved areas and "boondocking" or dry camping without hookups. Often I have beautiful scenery and blessed quiet mixed with all the comforts of home. Sure sounds like a win-win scenario to me! One day as I was having my morning coffee, looking out at a pretty vista through my window, and I got to thinking. What other places would having your RV be a great boon? Surprisingly, there were lots of places that came to mind!

Aside from the "parking lot surfing" of your local (and not so local) WalMart and big box stores, you could always go to a sporting event and have the ultimate tailgating machine. Think about it... a full kitchen with a decent sized fridge and a complete bathroom facility. Your own! Not some plastic portable potty that likely smells like what it's for. You've got your own food, cooking devices, tables, awnings and a place to escape into if it rains! What else could you need or want?!?

OK, what about casinos? Many, if not most of them will allow you to park for multiple nights while using their facilities. Some of them even have full-on RV parks you can use! Have several meals, maybe gamble a bit. See a show, go people watching and then back to your own home away from home when you return. No packing and unpacking. Just park and go have fun!

Casinos not your thing? OK, how about a concert or music festival? Some let you park for free, some charge a small fee. Get there early and find a good spot then relax, make lunch, watch some TV, go out and meet your fellow revelers. Go to the festivals activities and when it's all done (or several times during) strategically retreat to your oasis. Use the restroom, eat, shower... whatever you like. Perfect.

How about a Renaissance festival? These are quite popular around the country and there are some HUGE ones. How about experiencing that era AND having a location that ISN'T in the middle ages to microwave a meal... charge your phone. Sleep in a warm bed or have some air conditioning at your disposal. Even if you are a die-hard fan, a place to store your present day stuff while you're out is a great thing. Changing room anyone?

Not your cup of tea? How about having a leisurely visit to a museum?  I personally like Air and Space museums. I've done quite a few trips to some "out of the way" places that had fantastic exhibits. Most of the time, the owners, managers, staff will invite me to stay in their parking lot. Of course, you should ALWAYS ask first, but you'd be surprised what a simple friendly conversation will bring!

You can be right next to the action! Awesome.

Of course there is always the RV convention. There are so many of these around it's hard to keep track of them all. They almost always have overnight parking and you get to see lots of new models and accessories. Some are so large, it's nice to know you have a place to rest. Especially if it's a hot day and you are walking miles and miles to see the latest and the greatest.

How about Outlet Malls and Mega Stores! Park there for a day or a few days and shop till you drop! Tired feet? Retreat back to the RV. Want lunch? A cold drink? A Nap? Back to the RV! Drop off your heavy bags in the RV and go shop some more! Maybe only one of you wants to shop? OK... stay in the RV and watch TV or... whatever. Win-Win!

Emergencies. This can be a very serious use for an RV. Natural disaster, storms, floods... you name it. If it can hurt you or your loved ones and friends, why not hop in the RV and light out to greener and safer pastures until the emergency passes?

Obviously, this is a VERY short list! Your imagination is the only limit, I'll bet you can come up with LOTS of things you can do with an RV. Taking your home with you certainly has it's advantages.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Even The Simple Things - Drawer Organizers And More!

Clutter = BAD!

    I admit it. I'm a mess. No not emotionally! I just have to make a concerted effort to stay organized. If not, things begin to get lost and cluttered and... well all the things that make finding items in your RV a real P.I.T.A. 

In the very telling photo to the left (if it's not on the left blame crazy internet formatting!) you can see how the smallest of my storage areas get cluttered with all sorts of odds and ends. To make sure that DOESN'T happen everywhere I decided early on to use drawer organizers and plastic storage boxes. So good. How long it will last, I have NO idea!

The simplest place to start will always be the utensil drawer. There are any number of organizers available for this one. Many are adjustable to fit various sized items. Mine isn't. In fact it's built in to the cabinet like a drawer. I open the cabinet drawer, which happens to be where my furnace lives, and slide out the utensil drawer. It has four compartments. Three of them are shorter and are great for forks, spoons and knives, the other is for longer serving utensils and cooking knives. As you can see, I have some odds and ends here as well. Yes, I'm incorrigible and a bit of a pack rat as well!

Under the microwave/convection oven is a large drawer. I use it for many things. Originally I stored pots and pans here, but they simply took up too much room in the drawer and made it difficult to get other things in and out. It was a real pain to take all of them out just to get to a coffee mug or a camping style toaster. Ultimately, I moved them up to the over-the-stove cabinet and put cutting boards, the aforementioned toaster, a frying pan splatter shield, and a bunch of wooden spoons in here. They live with some glass mugs that are wrapped in some soft 8"x 8" towels to stop them from rattling.

Below this drawer is a fold down door that could have been a drawer, but isn't (???) It's a great place for heavier cooking implements. I store my induction cooktop in here as well as some bulkier kitchen items. Like the folding dish drying rack and electric salad shooter. Believe it or not, there is actually some free space here!

Maybe one day I'll change it into a drawer, or build in a mini slide-out to make getting items easier. Right now I'll just get down on my side and dig around. Thankfully the aisle is right in front of the storage space.

Above the double sink and the stove are my main kitchen cabinets. They may LOOK cluttered, and well, they are. But I have a system and can find just about anything I need. I've used extra refrigerator shelf rods to stop the items from rattling or shifting around in the closet whilst underway. Works great!

You can see the white towels on the left side of the photo, those are tucked around my Corian squarish plates and bowls. So far, I have never had anything shatter. Of course, now having said that, it's just a matter of time!

With a little bit of effort, and some cleverly designed accessories, you can keep your home on wheels relatively organized. If i can do it, being severely organizationally challenged, so can you! In all seriousness, it makes life easier when everything is easy to find and close at hand.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Charging With USB - Less Cables! Less Clutter!

    Pretty much everyone has some kind of personal electronic device these days. Cell phones, music players, GPS... you name it. All of them are battery powered and need a way to charge. It seems that they all come with at least a wall charger (120V). Some come complete with a 12V "cigarette lighter" style plug. After a while, you end up with multiple chargers and multiple cables. It gets worse if you need a DATA cable to connect your device to your computer. I had so many that I was forgetting which ones went to which devices. Yes, I should label them... but I didn't. There HAD to be a better way!
There is.

If you go out on the internet and look up USB charge cables for your particular device(s) you'll find lots of them, in a bunch of different sizes. I like to order one 3 foot (1 meter) one and one 9 foot (3 meter) one for each device. That gives me some flexibility when plugging things into various 120V and 12V outlets around the RV. Make sure that one side of all the cables have a regular USB plug. This is the one that's plain and rectangular. Now you'll need the generic 120V and 12V chargers for these cables. They are REALLY inexpensive. I have seen folks online trying to sell these for $39.95! DO NOT get suckered in. Look around, sometimes they will have to be shipped from China, sometimes they are local, but shouldn't cost more than $2.00 for each one. I purchased a few of each style (120V and 12V). Since they are so small, they store easily in various places. I keep a set in the bedroom area and a set up front, just for convenience sake.

Make sure that they will put out 1 Amp (1000 milliamps). This will make sure they can charge even the most power hungry devices. You can buy them in higher current (amps) ratings, and some devices REQUIRE more than 1 Amp. Check all of your devices before you buy!!! I have a tablet/keyboard dock combo that looks like it uses standard USB charging... but doesn't. I needed a special cable and charger. Which I marked with paint specifically so I don't destroy any other device with it's charger. It uses 12V to charge rather than the 5V most devices use.

While I used to have 5 devices with 5 120V chargers (with attached cables) and 5 12V chargers (also with attached cables), now I only need to have 3 cables and 2 chargers. You may have more cables. Right now all my devices use either USB, Mini-USB or Micro-USB, so a cable for each. Add in the 3 longer cables and a few spare chargers and I am WAY ahead. Another great thing? Any one of the chargers will work with any cable. Automatic redundancy in case something fails. 

Lighter, less clutter and better performance. A Win-win!

I'm always on the lookout for products that will make my life easier. In this case, I am not attempting to keep track of multiple chargers for multiple devices in multiple voltages. Bleh. If one failed, I couldn't really charge the device. Like the Boy Scouts of America....always be prepared!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"