Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Even The Simple Things - No More Measuring Spoons!

Tiny Utensil Drawer
    I like to cook. Sometimes you have to follow a recipe precisely. Most of the time I can estimate small amounts. I remember my grandmother would just say, "a Pinch." Until recently, I always thought of that as a subjective measurement. Nope...there really IS a measurement called a pinch! That got me thinking about how I measure stuff in the RV. Like many of you, I have a set of measuring spoons on a ring. You either use the one you need while still on the ring, or remove it then use. It works. You have to have quite a few of them on the ring to measure various amounts. What if you could do that with a single device? Reclaim the space and have less clutter in your utensil drawer. Sounded like a winner to me!

There is this cool company called OXO, they make any number of home gadgets. Every once in a while I find one at a liquidator store or at a deep discount. This was one of those times. This little beauty will let you measure liquids and solids from 0 to 1/8 of a cup. It consists of a clear polycarbonate measuring space with clearly marked red lines and numbers, A plastic base with a silicone rubber stopper. When assembled these work together to allow you to measure whatever you like.  Once you preset the measurement by twisting the base until the bottom lines up with the amount, simply fill the space and you're done!

The pieces disassemble easily for cleaning and went back together with a simple twist. So often I find gadgets that are more trouble to use than the work they are supposed to alleviate!! This one I like. The coolest thing it can do? Measure semi solid ingredients. Things like butter, shortening, brown sugar, etc. Simply pack the space with the ingredient and then level off the top. I use a butter knife, but any flat item will do. Once you have the right amount, push the base into the measuring space and it will drop its; contents into your work bowl. Way cool! And really less of a mess.

I thought it might have been difficult to read the small numbers, but if you hold them up to the light they are quite clear. No problems there.

It will measure Tablespoons, Teaspoons, Ounces and Milliliters. No muss, no fuss. I ran it through the dishwasher a couple of times on the top rack. No degradation of the numbers or lines. And it came out sparkly clean. Hand washing was also easy since the pieces come apart so easily. It's small size really reduced the clutter in my tiny utensil drawer. Always a good thing for me!

All in all, I like this measuring gadget. At under $3.00 it was a bargain. I'm sure they make this style of measuring device in larger sizes, but a simple measuring cup works OK for me and is far less complex. Maybe one a little bit bigger....say 1 Cup max would be helpful. I'll look around for one being sold at a discount...

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Trip Log - Dispersed Camping In The Northeast!

Safely Ensconced 
    After envying all the folks who DON'T live in the Northeastern U.S. for many years, I finally found some places that you can do dispersed camping. "What's that," you may ask? Simple, on many Federal and State owned lands you can drive (or tow) your RV into the forest or desert, go a particular distance off the "road" and camp. For free, or with a low priced yearly permit. Sometimes you have to move in a few days, sometimes longer. You get off the beaten path and aren't usually surrounded by other folks camping. It is tranquil, unhurried and beautiful. It's EXACTLY the reason I got into RV'ing and bought my particular RV. And the main reason for making all the modifications to let me be 100% self sufficient. The one I found is in Vermont and is easily accessible from several major highways. There are some downsides, but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives!

Now That's A View Out A Window!
The Green Mountain National Forest is , "416,000 acres spread throughout southwestern and southern Vermont, and the Finger Lakes region of New York State" at least according to their website! When I first stumbled upon the forest web pages, I could help notice that they allowed limited dispersed camping. That's camping without an actual campground. Just pull off the road in (sometimes) designated spots and camp. Sometimes deep in the forest, sometimes next to water, sometimes next to a dirt mound. It's mostly pot luck so I made sure to get there early on the first day, so I could explore a bit before choosing a site. That turned out to be a GOOD thing as the site I had pre-selected using Google Maps was chock full of tent campers and a few small trailers. We drove MANY miles on gravel and dirt roads (thankfully in decent condition, though if your RV has low hanging bits I wouldn't try it!) looking at various locations. As luck (and Murphy) would have it, the second site we saw when we first entered the park was the nicest! So after a full circle we parked near a storm/water feed conduit along a big, rock strewn stream bed and a beautiful bit of forest.

Easy Set Up And Perfect Grilling!
After setting up camp, which is really just parking to maximize comfort and solar panel efficiency, opening the windows and vents and pulling the odd window blind, I opened the storage bay and set up my roll-up folding table and portable suitcase gas grill. Time for Lunch! In this idyllic setting I grilled up some marinated BBQ pork chops, made some potato salad and some fresh grilled tortillas. There was also some fantastic chicken and beef Empanadas that we brought along. Simple, and delicious.

After lunch, a bit of a nap. Yes, it was an early AND a long morning driving all those dirt roads. GPS didn't always have the Forestry Service roads listed, so there were some interesting moments of being "off the grid" so to speak. With a beautiful breeze and perfect temperatures...a nap was in order! After that, off exploring the pipeline and surrounding terrain. I've gotta admit, a wooden water pipeline almost 20ft in diameter is pretty cool! I'd never seen one before. Looks like it's used to divert flood waters and.or feed surrounding towns. Whatever it is, it was BIG! It snaked for a REALLY long distance and off into the forest. No idea how long it was. Definitely a cool thing to see in person.

As the sunlight began to wane, we returned to the RV. Took some nice hot showers and then relaxed in front of the windows. The wind was picking up and there was rain being forecast by my Weather Station. It got VERY dark, very quickly. Not a problem, we were safe, sound and comfortable inside.

As the light grew ever dimmer, on came the LED lighting. I like my LEDs in the warm (3200K) version that replicates a nice old style incandescent bulb. Which in turn was supposed to replicate pleasant gas light or candle light. Then the rain began. Gently at first, then stronger. We never saw much of the heavy rain, since it got incredibly dark! No light around. Probably be a great place t stargaze!

A little bit of dinner planning was next. Since the view of the rain and weather was so nice, we decided on a simple multiple cheese and crackers plate. Extra Sharp VERMONT Cheddar (of course!), Swiss,  Monterey Jack with Jalapenos and a little bit of Brie. we had several types of crackers; Water Crackers (My favorite) Ritz, Stoned Wheat (OK no jokes about pot smoking wheat plants!) and some plain old saltines for variety. I also sliced a fresh tomato and we had some fresh fruit on the side. Delicious.

Being An Invention Mom
Now for the Drama. What goes with a varietal cheese plate with fruit? Wine of course! As some of you know, I recently reviewed a nifty portable corkscrew that I could easily store in my small utensil drawer. It worked great! So I removed the old bulky one from the drawer, Trouble was, I never put the new one in! Here we are, in the middle of nowhere with a bottle of nice Italian table wine (Valpolicella) with no way to get it open! Yes, I suppose I could have broken the bottle on a rock, bit that's so messy! Necessity is the mother of invention, so after some deep thought I came up with a brilliant plan (OK so maybe not brilliant, but workable!) I found two large thick-threaded screws and screwed them into the cork right next to each other. Once they were snug, I placed a long needle nosed pliers under the screw heads and slowly lifted one side then the other. It WORKED. The cork slowly came out most of the way. A final tug with a trusty pair of locking pliers finished the job. Every RV trip is an adventure.

The following day was overcast and cool, I even ran the furnace for a a short while to get the chill off. When I awoke, I put on a pot of coffee (percolator style!) and turned on the water heater. If you make coffee, drink it and clean'll have plenty of hot water! The timing just works out. After showers, I made one of my monster single skillet breakfast meals. Eggs, Hash brown potatoes, peppers, onions, ham and cheese. That will provide lots of energy for the day! Left around 2PM for the 3 Hour ride home.

I do believe this locale will become one of my regular "getaway and recharge" spots. It meets all the criteria. No planning needed, under 4 hours travel time, quiet and remote. An easy 2 or 3 day trip. No drama...well unless you include the wine debacle!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Shower Clothes Line caught me...I shower. Regularly even. There is such a thing as conserving too much water! One of the best things about RVs (IMHO) is the ability to take a hot shower anyplace you happen to be camped. I spent a lot of time coming up with the perfect shower head now I aim to enjoy it. Regularly! I even have some fluffy, absorbent bath towels to dry off myself and then the shower enclosure (first I Squeegee!) when I get out. This always leads to the puzzle of how to DRY the towel. Sometimes Outside isn't an option. How about in the shower enclosure itself??? Of course, you aren't limited to towels! Any wet items can be dried this way.

 If this seems like an interesting on! If not...ask yourself, " Why Not?" I mean, it's the perfect place for drying wet items inside an RV, isn't it?

Why is it perfect? It has a drain, the bathroom vent can be left open to remove humid air. If you have one (I do!) open the window for additional air circulation. Even the skylight's additional "sun warming" will help dry a towel faster. So, how do you get the towel to hang in the middle of the enclosure so it dries more quickly? Remember, more surface area exposed to air equals faster drying. Oh, you'd like to know how? Right. Use a wall mounted retractable clothes line. That's how! If you look online, you can find these for under $15.00 shipped! It's easy to install, takes up no real room in your shower and when retracted, isn't an eye-sore. A win all the way around.

How's it work? In a word, simply! On one side of the shower enclosure is the clothes line, retracted into it's housing. On the other side, a simple "key hole" style holder. Pull the (8 foot!) clothes line out of the housing, across to the holder and insert the end. A slight sliding motion of the end in the holder locks it into place. Then hang up whatever you'd like to dry (Obvious I know! I have a flare for the obvious!) When done, simply slide the line's end out of the holder and retract back into the housing. Beautifully simple and functional. No muss, no fuss.

You could mount this almost anywhere you'd like, I like the enclosure since it's designed to be water-resistant anyway. My shower enclosure isn't all that wide, but I can dry two bath towels in there without any trouble at all. In the warmer months, I usually leave on one or two vent fans in the RV, just leaving the bathroom door open really circulates the air and keeps any "musty" odors from forming.

I've got a really sensitive sense of smell. My old nickname was "K-9" so odors in the RV are especially unpleasant for me!

Easy to install, easy to use, doesn't use much space AND the towels smell nice when they are dry! What's not to love. I'm always on the lookout for simple solutions to any problem. Now if I could only find some kind of robotic mini-maid to clean the RV, inside and out, THAT would be great!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Repairing A Dual Overhead Light

    One of the things that make RVs so "cozy" to camp in is having lights. Seems obvious, I know, and we take them for granted. Imagine what your RV interior would be like at night with no light. Aside from banging into everything on the way to the bathroom, most tasks would be more difficult! When one of the dual aircraft style "eye-ball" lights over my dining table decided to partially fail, it become obvious just how important they are! Especially when you are eating. I love to cook, so actually SEEING my meal becomes important!
I have 5 of these dual lamp wooden fixtures in my RV, one over the couch, 1 over the bed and 3 over the dining table and chairs. Depending where you aim them, they light up various section of the RV. The one in the center is the primary light source for the dining table with some additional light (if desired) coming from the inside bulb of the out board fixtures. Sounds complicated, it isn't. Naturally, the one that failed was directly above the table. I've never enjoyed eating in dark restaurants...who knows what you are actually eating! So this had to get fixed right away. Of course, I first tried a new bulb. After all I had recently replaced all of the regular incandescent bulbs with LEDs...maybe I got a bad one. I removed the bulb, put it in a known working fixture and Voila! it worked fine. Hmmm... Now what? 

BTW: These tips will work on, essentially, any light fixture. Begin by locating and carefully removing the screws. Be careful as they are often just screwed in the ceiling itself or a cabinet bottom. They can be quite long, so have patience...don't just pull them out when you think they're all the way out! It will then be a pain to re-install. (Don't ask me how I know this!) Once the screws are out, gently remove the fixture. If it has been attached a while, it may be a bit stuck. Whatever you do, don't force it! The wires attaching them to the ceiling aren't usually that long and it's VERY easy to pull them out. (Yup. Did that too!) I tell myself not to rush all the time. However, I'm very stubborn and don't listen.

Once you can access the fixtures' wiring, look for obvious problems. Detached wires, broken wires, broken switches, burnt wires....pretty much anything out of the ordinary. In my case, everything looked fine, but it still didn't work. Next, you've got to look for problems you CAN'T see. Here's where a multi-meter comes in handy. They are available for FREE if you have a coupon and go to Harbor Freight. Otherwise figure less than $20 for a cheap one. Make sure it can read CONTINUITY as well as DC Volts. This will allow you to find wires that are broken internally. Turn off the power to the light. Switch your meter to continuity and place a probe at each end of the wire in question. If the the meter goes to zero (and/or beeps, depending on the model) the wire is intact. Try the next one.

All my wires were intact. Arrrggghhh. Now what... Again! I switched my meter to read DC Volts (our RVs light fixtures are usually 12V.) After turning the power back on, I put the probes on the positive and negative wires running TO the socket. 12 Volts!! Odd...the light SHOULD turn on and light up. Next I carefully removed the socket from the fixture. As I did this, one of the brass contacts (this type squeezes the wedge shaped bulb) fell out. Actually, it was HALF of the contact. AHA!! There's your problem!

When I touched the meter's probes to the positive and negative wires AT the socket end I had 12 Volts. Obviously the broken contact wasn't making a good connection with the bulb. Of course, I didn't have any extra ones in my parts bin, so I had to figure out what to substitute. I am going on a trip and couldn't leave the light fixture just dangling! I had some spare, really thin sheets of copper. I just cut out a new one and bent it into shape. Crimped it onto the old wire and re-inserted it into the plastic socket. Before re-assembling everything, I inserted a bulb and switched on the light. Ta Da! it lit up and didn't shut off when wiggled around. Reassembled everything, re-installed the light and I was ready to go.

It just goes to show you that any job, broken down into small steps, can be simple and straight forward. This one was no exception to that rule. Besides, it's sure nice to be able to see what I'm eating!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"