Wednesday, January 28, 2015

RV's Handle Differently! - What About Snow?

    After the massive snow fall today, I got to thinking. I've driven an RV in the snow...twice. It's not something I would like to try again. Yes, I survived and it wasn't all THAT bad, but it did get me thinking about what COULD happen when your heavy vehicle loses traction and begins to slide. Yes, you can do what you would do in any vehicle, namely steer into the slide (look it up!)...but the fix would happen MUCH more slowly. Heavy vehicles have more mass....takes a lot more to get them to change direction. There is nothing quite so horrible as being in a large vehicle headed toward something solid with no way to change its path.

The first time I got stuck driving in snow in an RV was in a rented 40 foot diesel pusher. It was very late at night (well early morning really,) driving down a steep hill in a blizzard coming down into Roswell, New Mexico. Lots of strange lights in the sky, of course it was just my headlights lighting up the driving snow. No UFOs...kind of a bummer really. I remember, at the time, thinking how solid the rig felt on the road. I didn't feel as if it would careen off the side of the road (which was on a mountain!) The snow eventually petered out as we came down into the town proper. It was sunny the next day! Very cool place to visit. Neat museum. One Day, maybe I'll get through that way again.

The next time was in my RV on a flat highway in Pennsylvania someplace in the middle of nowhere with no exits. Couldn't see anything because of the blowing snow, cars eventually stopped on the road and then we were blocked by an accident. I was on my way to a friend's wedding in North Carolina in October. That time it wasn't all that bad either. Though I was delayed for well over an hour, I was warm, dry and had myself a nice hot dinner and some tea. All the while watching the poor motorists around me standing around in the snow or stuck in their cars being  miserable . You know, I really like RV's!

The main point here is to be careful. Be wary and aware that your rig doesn't handle like a normal sized passenger vehicle. Depending on the type of RV (Class A, B, C, etc) each will have its' own distinct handling characteristics. It pays to figure those out before you get into bad weather. It may just save your life and property. A bit of prior knowledge can forestall a costly mistake!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Check Your Batteries During Storage!! Or Else!

    Anytime I am forced to store my RV for any length of time (Like Winter!) I make sure to visit it from time to time both inside and outside to make sure there are no "surprises" waiting for me when the RV season begins in the North East. If you are lucky enough to have a storage location with electrical hookups and you leave your batteries connected, you should be aware there are a few "gotchas!" that may arise. Mainly, cooking your batteries. But there could be other electrical gremlins to deal with. It pays to check BEFORE they jump out and yell, "GOTCHA!"

Cooked Battery!
When batteries charge, they do something called "out gassing" the liquid inside, which is mainly a weak sulfuric acid and water mix,  heats up and boils when it's charging. Particularly when it's almost completely charged. If they boil for too long, some of the water is released from the battery as vapor. Now you have a cell or cells that are low on water/acid mix and that's very bad. Worse if they boil completely dry. Last year I almost had a complete battery meltdown and fire. Only by shear luck did I catch the melting battery before it was too late.

See The Catastrophe Fuse? Get One!
Now I have new (expensive) Lead Acid batteries. I didn't want to buy new ones last year, I've been putting that off until I can try out the new LiFePO3 (Lithium Phosphate) ones. But they hadn't (haven't) come down enough in price to make that a viable choice. I am still looking at them, waiting for the cost to become a bit more reasonable. I am sure that will happen, eventually. In the meantime, I intend on enjoying my RV! At least the new batteries store a bit more than the old ones. I have a few more amp/hours to play with. (130a/hr vs. 105a/hr.)

All of this checking is especially important if you store your RV plugged into shore power. if it's an older rig, at least make sure you have replaced the old (and potentially battery killing!) single-stage converter/charger with one of the new modern ones that have at least 3-stage charging. It's MUCH more gentle on the batteries and shouldn't boil them to death unless it fails. Another good reason to check them even if you have one! Some of the better ones now include temperature compensation. This adjusts the charging to take the temperature of the batteries into consideration. Gentler still!

So when you check the RV periodically, make sure you check each battery and each cell to make sure you have enough liquid inside. Yes, I know it's cold or a pain in the.... you know what. But do it. You could save yourself lots of aggravation and $$$$. Take care of your batteries!!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Aha! The Best Folding Handle Non-Stick Frying Pan I Have Ever Used In My RV!

    By now, everyone who reads these articles knows I love to cook "gourmet" meals in my RV. Having a great non-stick skillet is essential to making cooking a breeze and cleanup (which I HATE!) even easier. Of course, for me, storage is always a problem. I've seen lots of nesting pots and pans with removable handles, but they were either not secure or WAY too expensive for cookware that doesn't get used except on board the RV. Well, guess what, I found a solution!!! Read on.

Over the years, I've had every Teflon (Polytetrafluoroethylenecoated type I could find, and while they work well, you have to be careful not to scratch them. Once scratched, they become worse than useless. Add to that the fact that Teflon in your food can be toxic. Bad Mojo! Well, I randomly came across a solution! I was in a national pharmacy store the other day. One that has general housewares and even a "As Seen On TV" section. On the bottom of that shelf was a folding handle pan that had an original price tag of $19.99. Now reduced to $9.99! How could I resist. Reading the label it was a new "miracle" coating that would stand up to the rigors of RV life. Did I mention the handle folds so you can store it easily? So, of course, I bought it.

Definitely NOT Grandma's Speckled Enamel Cookware!
Since it's the middle of Winter and the RV is covered, no chance I could cook in there for basic testing. Nowhere for the smoke to go and having your exhausts covered would be bad. I like breathing and I'm pretty sure you do too. I fired up the burners in the house and got to cooking. It worked! Even better than my "good" set of Teflon coated, name-brand pans. Astounding! I made eggs without butter, oil, or other shortening. No cooking spray either. they just cooked and slid right out. Can't wait to try it on my "One Skillet Breakfasts!" I know I'm sounding like a late night infomercial, but I was impressed. The finish reminds me of my great-grandmother's enamel speckled cookware.

No idea if this pan will stand the test of time, but I am going to replace my 10" Skillet in the RV with it for the upcoming season. I'll let you know how well it works in the long run. I did see a larger 12" one too.....maybe I can locate that one at half price too....

be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Getting Rid Of More Wires - Bluetooth Connections For Audio/Video Sound

    One of the nicest things about having an RV is the ability to have electronic entertainment at one's fingertips wherever you happen to be. In my RV I have several different types of media to play on my TV, lot's of sources for music (Satellite, DVD, MP3 files, AM/FM/XM/CD and the like) One issue with having so many sources, is the crazy number of wires you have to setup to get the sound into your speakers. A while back I swapped out my old dash mounted stereo for one equipped with a secondary rear input and Bluetooth. That allowed me to hide the wires from the entertainment system and also wirelessly connect my cellphone to it and use the stereo as an amplifier for sound and it's microphone for calls which is nifty especially when you are driving. Much easier to hear AND it's hands-free which is much safer. So now what?

Lots Of Devices!
I figured that was pretty cool to start with, I mean no wires running from my phone to the stereo. You simply "PAIR" them together once and as long as Bluetooth is turned on, it will connect automatically.  Smartphones, Laptops, Netbooks, tablets, etc. often have Bluetooth, so you can use any of them to playback whatever you like through your stereo. Some even allow more than one device to be paired at the same time! Since I store 1000's of hours of content on my laptop, it made the perfect music device while travelling. I can (and have!) drive coast to coast and never hear the same song twice. Sound quality is great. When phone calls come in, you can answer them and the music mutes automatically. Then comes back on when you are done. No muss, no fuss! Just the way I like it.

What's the cost of something like this? Surprisingly inexpensive. I have seen MANY Bluetooth equipped car stereos out there for 99.00 dollars. You can get a nice name brand one for 179.95 at any big box store. Installation is pretty easy. They even have versions with large screens that you can plug rearview cameras into! And on some of them the screen is motorized, it comes out at the touch of a button and retracts when not in use! Way cool! Mine doesn't do that, I have a separate monitor for my backup camera. But it's still cool

Years ago, I remember car stereos with any real features costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Now you can do much more with much less. Sure beats my original 13" CRT TV wired to the front right speaker!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"