Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One Pot Meals - Fresh Shrimp With Chinese Leeks

    I love to cook. I love to cook in my RV galley, a lot. Any time I get the opportunity to try out a new recipe that's really different from what I normally cook is a huge bonus. This time, I was introduced to a "new" vegetable...the Chinese Leek. It's kind of like a scallion, with a stronger, sweeter and nuttier flavor. Really tasty. Last week while traveling, I went past a fresh fish shop that was just offloading a shipment of shrimp, so naturally I bought a couple of pounds. This recipe is REALLY easy to prepare AND you can cook everything in the same skillet! BONUS! Less cleanup is Always great for me!!

Begin by cleaning the shrimp. This is the biggest prep job for the recipe. I prefer to "De-Vein" them before cooking... It's not really a "vein," but the shrimp's alimentary track. You know, it's digestive track, from one end to the other. Most assuredly NOT, "Good Eats!" After they are prepped and washed. Squeeze them in a paper towel to dry and put them aside for the moment. Next, wash the Chinese Leeks, and cut the green parts into one inch pieces. Take some fresh ginger root, wash, and peel a section. (You could use powdered ginger as well.) Then cut into matchstick thin slices. Cut one regular scallion into small sections and put that aside. Cut the shrimp into 3/4 inch pieces.

Look At That!!
Put some vegetable oil in a skillet and preheat. Reduce to medium heat and add the ginger and scallion. Cook for 45 seconds while stirring. This will smell absolutely WONDERFUL. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp in one section of the pan and mix with scallion and ginger until the shrimp becomes white. NOT cooked through, yet! Add the Chinese Leeks to the pan and mix thoroughly until the shrimp is just about cooked and the Leek leaves are wilted. The leaves should still be vibrant green! Remove from heat just BEFORE the shrimp is completely cooked. They will finish cooking on the plate. Optionally, you can add a bit of sesame oil just before you transfer to the plate for some extra flavor!

That's it! Sounds complicated when written, but REALLY isn't. You will be surprised at just how delicious something this simple can be!! With modifications you can make many dishes with this technique and a variety of fresh ingredients. I'm already looking at using the Chinese Leeks in Soup! Delicious!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Simple Repairs - Round Vent Fan Seal Replacement

    Hello! This week I will be starting a new series of articles that will "pop-up" from time to time as I make simple repairs to my RV. All of these will be "do-able" by anyone and  can be accomplished in around an hour or less. May save you a lot of money, surely will save some time. First off is a quick replacement of  the foam seal on a round bathroom vent/fan. In the coming weeks, I'll tackle some small repairs and updates that anyone can do on their own with either no tools or the bare minimum. No need to fear small repairs! Trust me...I've made all the mistakes you can make...perhaps I can save you some of that aggravation!

 Vanair 6" Vent/Fan
Like most RV's I have an exhaust fan in the bathroom. This is a good thing as odors build up in that enclosed space and you really would prefer them to escape OUTSIDE rather than into you RV when the door is opened. Was that a politically correct enough way of explaining it? Well I have a round vent fan assembly that you push up on a handle to raise the roof cap, then turn a small switch to activate the fan. Everything was working ok, but when I was cleaning the roof during my de-winterization I noticed a "tail" sticking out from under the roof dome of the vent. Closer inspection made it clear that the seal was degraded to the point of being useless. It had to be replaced.

Lid Removed.
In order to do this, you have to remove the dome's lid on the roof. Except that happens inside. Huh? Wait, bear with me. If you take a closer look at the fan, inside the bathroom, you'll see the handle is attached via two small Philips head screws to two metal slides. (one on each side) Once the handle is removed, you can slide the dome up and off. Sounds complicated, it isn't! Take off the screws, put them (and the handle) someplace safe and then go up on the roof, or on a ladder close enough you can reach the dome. Now pull straight up, gently, on the dome and it will slide out of the slots. Bring it inside.

Ready to Reinstall!
Now remove the old worn out seal. Mine mostly just peeled off, but there were some spots I used a nylon dish brush to get completely off. While it's out, this is a great time to clean the entire dome and check for cracks. In my case, it was OK, but the parts are still available from VentLine. It's called the VanAir 6". I went to a local hard ware store and picked up some 1/2" foam sealing tape. Make sure it says on the package it is rated for outdoor use. There are a few that look similar, but wont stand up to the RV life. Measure how much you need (plus a tiny bit more) and cut to fit. Begin applying the tape at one point on your vent dome and slowly press down until you come back to the place you started. It should fit tightly. Now, firmly press down the tape all the way around and that's it! All done with the new seal.

Time to reinstall. Go back on the roof (or on your ladder) and look down into the opening. You will see the two slots that your vertical tabs will slide into. Make sure they both go in the slots. If you get it right (it's quite easy) the dome will slide down onto the opening making a tight seal. Go back inside and reattach the handle with the two screws. Test the operation of the dome lift and the vent fan. I added a tiny amount of lubrication (light oil) to the sliders to be on the safe side. Won't hurt at all...may help it operate smoothly and not rust or corrode as quickly.

I imagine, bringing this in to an RV service center will cost an hour or more in labor and some amount for parts. With labor rates what they are today, that money could be better spent on something else! Especially since this is so simple. Knowing how, could save you $$$. I like that idea.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Even The Simple REPAIRS - Sink Faucet Sprayer Replacement

    Last week, I brought my sleeping "beast" back to life. I know it's not a beast at all, but let a guy have his illusions, will ya? Most everything went well, I had one catastrophic failure. My sink faucet sprayer was completely broken by the threads at the hose end. Looks like there was some residual water in there that froze and shattered the plastic. Of course, when I turned on the pump to test the faucet I received a pretty decent bath, AND the sprayer launched into the ceiling with a fair amount of gusto. Thankfully, it's a relatively easy fix. Now I just have to figure out why the 120V electric element in the hot water heater isn't week!

Instead of a long drive to a neighboring city shopping area, I am "lucky" enough to have a shiny new (well 2 years now) big box store close by so small items for the home tend to be in stock. I figured the RV faucet and sprayer were regular home thread sizes and wouldn't require anything special. At the store, I found a  couple of versions of the sprayer. Both plastic, but one was black and the other had a sort of chrome finish.  I just bought the generic black was $4.99 and the silver one was $5.99. In retrospect, the silver one would likely look better. Probably would work exactly the same though.

The packaging said it was "Universal Fit." I've heard THAT before! Since I had brought the old broken one with me, I did a quick, in the package" size comparison. It looked the same....I hoped that it was. When I got back to the RV and opened everything up it was fairly obvious they were exactly the same, only the brand name on the package was different. In the Package was some Teflon tape. In a TEENY roll....VERY difficult to unroll. It was the most frustrating part of the installation. Once I figured out the Flat washer and plastic plate from the old one had remained on the hose end, it was a simple matter of removing the extra ones from the new sprayer and screwing it on the hose end.

This fix can be done on the road, without any special tools. Well, to be honest, it didn't require any tools at all. Everything goes together by hand. DON'T OVERTIGHTEN!! It is, after all, just plastic. After I got everything back and the extra parts stowed away for when they are needed, I turned the pump leaks. Activated the leaks, Tried the leaks! Will miracles never cease? Most of the time, I begin a simple project (like most of you) that goes awry. Fast. What seems simple at the onset then throws curve balls when you get into the project. It can and does get to be annoying. Especially when the open road beckons or you are prepping for a trip.

Every once in a while things just work. I often wonder why this isn't the case far more regularly. I enjoy fixing things, modifying things and figuring out inventive ways of getting things done, Sometimes I go down false trails or something simply doesn't work. Perhaps that's part of the fun?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

RV Air Conditioning On 12 Volts? - Is That Even Possible?

My Rooftop A/C Control and Duct Unit
    I am a firm believer in Solar Power. Especially for RV'ers that enjoy Dry Camping or Boondocking without the noise of a typical generator. With a reasonable amount of planning and battery storage capacity, you can run just about everything in your RV from 12V Deep Cycle House batteries. This includes (with an Inverter) your TV/Video system. How long really depends on what you have in your battery storage bank. For example, I can run my microwave for about 20 minutes continuously on battery power alone. I wouldn't do's not great for the batteries, but 2-5 minutes has been OK. I can go longer after the batteries are charged in the AM and I am using mostly solar power. The only thing remaining is the Air Conditioner.
Can that even been done on 12 Volts?

A Typical All In One Unit for  a Truck Cab
The simple answer is...Maybe. I have been researching various ways to make it work over the last couple of years and have founds some interesting products. The power requirements have dropped considerably, but I'm not sure it's viable....yet. There are a few manufacturers that offer 12 Volt air conditioning systems. The military uses them to keep Armored Personnel Carriers, tanks and the like cool. The main issue? AMPS! The very best of these air conditioners will draw 46 Amps every hour when on full cool (8000 BTU), then dropping down to 26.67 Amps at 50% to maintain. While the sun is up and my batteries are charged, I put out around 46 amps of power from my current solar panels. That would support the air conditions, barely. The real problem happens on the overnight. That's a lot of power. Especially if you, like me, only have two batteries (260 amp hours/2= 130 amp hours usable).

If you have to get through 6- 8 hours of no sunlight you'd need a bare minimum of 160.2 amp hours of storage to make it work. I don't. I really do not have the space to add another 2 Lead Acid batteries to get me there. Yes, I know that at night you should be using less power than the estimate since there is no sun heating your RV and temps usually fall at night. would be VERY close and you would be draining your batteries quite quickly. If you had a reasonably sized Lithium Phosphate pack (say 300-400 amp/hours or larger) it would be a different story. However these are still quite expensive (they work, but at a price). AND you need to make sure you have the Solar Charging capacity to maintain the battery bank.

My conclusion? Not ready for prime-time in your average RV. Getting VERY close, but not just yet. Your average RV Rooftop Air conditioner uses around 10.5-15 Amps at 120 Volts AC to put out between 10,000 and 15,000 BTUs. They work. But you need a generator or massive, impractical battery bank to run them. Let's hope for a true battery breakthrough in either new chemistry or the pricing for Lithium Phosphate. We're close. Stay Tuned!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"