Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Toilet Paper - We All Need It, But What Kind Is OK For Your RV?

    OK, it's time to have a serious talk about TP. Toilet paper. RV sanitation is always a touchy subject. Heck, if you watch many RV scenes in movies you'll notice they usually show the disastrous results of your sewage system. Don't believe me? Watch Robin Williams in the film "RV." Yes, it's funny if it's in a movie, not so much if it's real. Don't be afraid of your RV toilet. Use it! If you follow some simple rules and be kind to it, it will give you years of trouble-free service. So, what can you do to make sure everything, umm, comes out OK? Well, a good start would be keeping your RV Black Water tank clean. This is a very important part of getting the full measure of enjoyment from your home on wheels. What you put INTO the black tank is critical to its survival. With the exception of what comes out of should only put TP into that tank. Trouble is....what kind? And Why?

Typica "RV" Toilet Paper
There are quite a few schools of thought on this subject, but they all agree on one point. TP needs to dissolve easily and quickly. OK, TWO points... The quicker and more completely it will break down the easier it will be to get out when you dump the tank. There are many commercially available toilet papers out there and many of them work just fine. How to choose? Well. Let's begin by talking about ply. Single or Double? Well, RV paper comes in both styles from the major manufacturers so that's a start. Personally, I dislike single ply. It's fine if you double it up, but that defeats the idea of single ply! Double ply can be OK as long as it will break down quickly. This gets confusing.

How to figure it all out? Easy. Do your own tests. Get a piece of the paper in question and drop it into a container of water for a few minutes. Pick up the container and swirl it (maybe a little bit of a shake too!). If the paper is completely broken down to the point it will flow out of the tank through your hose -- Bingo! You are good to go. If, on the other hand, you are left with a semi-solid mass...I wouldn't recommend putting it in your black tank. It will likely clog the tank, collect on the bottom and probably get stuck on your tank sensors giving you false readings.

I tested quite a few brands, both RV and regular store bought. I was VERY surprised at the results. Be Careful! Sometimes a manufacturer will change their paper and what worked in the past might NOT work in the future. Be safe, test each time you buy a new batch. Always use a good amount of water with each flush. I know conservation is important, but a solid mass of dried matter at the bottom of your tank will be very difficult to clean out! With prices of RV toilet paper (and the fact they are not all that comfortable to use!) so high per roll, why not experiment a bit and find one that you'll like using. After's your bottom, treat it nicely!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

When Entering Text Gets Frustrating, Fight Back With A Bluetooth Keyboard!

My 19" Monitor
    Bluetooth is everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. It's installed in my phone, my laptop, my tablet, my set top box, my TV, even my stereo. It seems that almost any device can be used to e-mail or text or search through a list of TV shows or movies. With my Digital media player it's a no-brainer to find something to watch. Most of the time, clicking on an on-screen keyboard is just fine. But sometimes, it can be VERY frustrating to navigate with a remote control. There IS a solution; the battery powered Bluetooth keyboard with touchpad. I'll never go back to fumbling with the remote again!

With Function Keys Too!
I tested quite a few of these at several price points. From 7.99 up to 49.99. They all work similarly. You pair the keyboard to your device and you can type. GREAT for tablets with no keyboard to start with. You want to make sure you know what you are getting, since many of them look great until you receive it and realize the keyboard is about the size of a large remote control. Not easy to type on. OK for a few words in a pinch, but not what I wanted at all. There are also all sorts of shapes and colors to choose from, but the basic rectangle in basic black suits me just fine. You can use them with any OS that supports Bluetooth connections.

Cool TouchPad/Numeric Keypad
The best I found was the  iPazzPort KP-810-25BTT. It matches a fully usable keyboard with a large touchpad on the right that, when switched, doubles as a regular number pad. It's very thin and small enough to store easily but large enough to type on comfortably. Just to be clear, this is NOT a full size computer keyboard, rather a 1/2 scale version with real keys that depress when you touch them. I wouldn't write a novel on one, but e-mail, texts, searches...even setting up new's perfect! The added numeric keypad is a great time-saver as well.

Cute Little Rubber Feet
Bluetooth keyboards come in a wide variety of types (no pun intended!) so your typing preferences should help you decide on one. I would recommend one with some kind of mouse substitute. This one has a touchpad, but you can find ones with pointing sticks or even a hide-a-way mouse. What about power? The one I have runs on two AAA size batteries. I've used it for many hours and haven't noticed a problem yet. This particular one has an actual ON/OFF switch on the bottom. That should help save power when in storage. The little rubber feet hold it from slipping on any flat surface, while the battery compartment acts as a stand to place the keyboard at a better angle.

It's nice to be able to do an online search or select something on screen while I'm far away, comfortable on the couch. You can even pair it with your cell phone and type emails and messages, albeit on a small screen...unless you have one of those giant semi-tablet phones! Try'll like it!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Cheese Lovers Amazing Adjustable Slicer

The Freshly Cleaned Galley
    I love cheese. There are only a few things that keep me on my low-carb diet and cheese is in the top two. Normally, I just use a sharp knife to cut pieces (usually big ones!) off a block, but sometimes thinner is better. More surface area equals more flavor. Besides it will melt faster if it's thinner. Yes, I know, more cheese equals better! But several thin slices will equal a thicker slice AND melt better. The main issue I've had with wire cheese slicers is their non-adjustability. No, seriously, have you ever used a wire cheese slicer and not been able to get a uniform slice? Or it was too thick or too thin? I have. Well, this little gizmo is adjustable AND easy to use.

See The Little Thumb Wheel Adjuster?
Cheese lovers rejoice! OK, it's not that earth shattering a moment, but it does make me happy. I have been eating block cheese (Cheddar, Muenster, Colby, etc.) on my low-carb diet (NOT Atkins!) for over a year now and have lost almost 40 pounds for good. I feel better and my bad knee doesn't hurt any longer in the mornings. I guess less weight on it, day in and day out, helps. Well, cutting the block with a knife works fine, but trying to slice really thin pieces (like for a garnish or salad add-in) was tough. Especially if you want it uniform. The regular wire cheese slicers worked, but you have to be careful if you wanted an even slice. If you wanted uniform, multiple slices...even more careful. Too stressful for a simple task!

Such A Deal!
The slicer is built from mostly plastic, but uses a metal adjustment wheel and adjustment shaft. Obviously the wire is metal as well! There are a set of rollers on the thickness bar so the slicer slides easily along the cheese block. I got lucky. I found this beauty in a soon-to-be-defunct chain drug store at a deep discount. 75% off. The total? $1.12. But even at full price (or better, found online!) I would want one. Now I can easily, and uniformly, cut the cheese. All my friends will be so pleased! this would be great at shaving Parmesan for salad topping or with thin sliced salami or prosciutto. All in all, a great little gadget.  Give it a try... I know I'm getting hungry.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding The Holy Grail - Hard To Locate Vintage Parts For RVs

My 1991 Gardner Pacific Aero Cruiser
    My "Orphaned" RV is 26 years young. I spent a lot of time researching various brands and types until I found the perfect one to fit my needs. Then, many hours tweaking and improving to get everything as close to perfect (for me) as possible. Every once in a while I need a part. It could be an engine bit or something from the original builder of the coach. Perhaps an appliance or a maybe a light fixture. Some things are very easy to find. Some, not so much. After lots of trials and tribulations, I've come up with places to purchase just about anything you may need...Read on to find out where.

My Front Suspension
Let's begin with the easiest things. Anything to do with your underlying chassis and engine (if it's motorized!): Auto parts can be sourced from the various big chain stores. The main problem is telling them what you want to order. If they do not have your vehicle listed in their computer, you are not going to be able to get them to figure out what you need. Gone are the days of knowledgeable counter folks. Here's a quick and easy tip. If your motorhome is based on another vehicle's chassis or suspension or even the engine from the same year...find that out! Then, when you need something like springs for your suspension or maybe a fan clutch for your engine, you can simply ask for that year/make/model instead of trying to convince the sales people that "it's the same thing."

Fresh New Fan Clutch And Water Pump
In my case, even though it was all customized, many of my basic engine and drivetrain parts are from a 1990 Dodge D350 1 Ton truck. Yes, some of that won't match up, but lots of it does. Instead of weird stares when I ask for a "Water pump for a 1991 Aero Cruiser 23Rba.," I call (or visit) the parts person and say, "I need a water pump for a 1990 Dodge D350 truck with the 5.9L TBI engine."  Usually, no problem -- the parts come from the back and off I go. You can even look things up online (with pictures!) to compare what you have, to what you need. There are even prices there. I like as a place to start.

What about RV interior bits? Light fixtures, sinks, toilets, appliances, furniture, cabinet parts, etc. Most things are still made or the new ones are easily backwards compatible with the older models. If you need to replace a the new version and install it. Same thing with refrigerators, furnaces, water heaters and the like. Sometimes they will require a bit of fiddling to install, but it's usually very minor. As a bonus, the newer models often use less power, propane or water and work better. The down side? Sometimes they aren't built quite as well.

I MADE That TV Surround!
What about RV Specific parts? What if you need a corner fiberglass bumper or the surround for your TV? Anything that was built by the RV manufacturer for an orphaned RV will be harder to find. The fewer that were built and the further in the past, the harder it will be. For bigger brands, there are RV salvage and surplus yards all over the country (try an online search for RV surplus or RV salvage) and you can usually find what you need. Sometimes you just can't. I will turn to or search through many craig's list pages in the hopes of finding an replacement. Sometimes you get lucky.

Exactly The Same, Only NEW!
Recently, I repaired my vintage Atwood furnace thermostat. It was working great and simply stopped. Turned out to be a loose/failed connection and I managed to fix it, but really wanted an original replacement. There were many new-style versions available for a reasonable price, but I just LIKED the old one. Mind you this is a two-year-old problem....I JUST found a NOS (New, Old Stock) replacement, still in it's original box. It was 5 dollars more than the new replacement, but it's exactly the same. In fact it's so new the ON/OFF switch is so tight it takes some doing to switch it one way or the other. It will get better with use, after's NEW!

Don't get disheartened...the search can be frustrating but, believe me, it will be successful eventually. Besides, the hunt is all part of the fun!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Getting Lost - Is It Time For A New GPS?

    OK, I admit it....I have an older GPS. It's been upgraded and upgraded, over and over for quite a few years, but it's beginning to show its age. There's no support from the factory anymore and updates to maps (unless you count DIY) are non-existent. Lots of folks are using their cell phones for navigation, but I like to have my phone for phone calls, not attached to the dash or window, reading out my trip plan. How often has an interruption like a phone call came in JUST when you need to make a turn? Nope, I'll stick with a standalone unit. So how do you pick one out?

My Vintage Garmin NUVI
My first GPS was a Garmin with an LCD backlit screen and no navigation built in at all. It figured out where you were based on satellite positions and displayed it on its screen. There was a "base" map, but most roads under county sized weren't included. Next up, another Garmin with a 4.3 inch color(!) screen and a pretty decent United States map built in. The latest one I have is yet another Garmin, this time with a 5-inch screen and lots of extra features I don't really use. Like bluetooth phone compatibility and music playback from media files. My current stereo does both and sounds a whole lot better!

7 Inch Garmin
Following my tradition, I am likely going to get a 6-inch or 7-inch Garmin with lifetime map updates. I used to get ones with lifetime traffic, but that really isn't all that useful on an RV trip. Well, at least not for me. I try and avoid traveling during rush hours and try and plot my routes around construction.

In the handicap accessible van I've got a nifty Rand McNally one that has a 7-inch screen and seems to work well, but unlike the Garmins I am familiar with, I am unsure if it can be upgraded. POI's (Points of interest) are a nice thing to have as well. They help you find restaurants, fuel, lodging, etc. I know on my Garmins I can add my own databases of POIs. I have one that gives me all the low clearances on the routes I travel and beyond. Just a little bit of searching online for something that interests you will garner many results. Try it, you'll like it.

I did toy with the idea of using an old android tablet with a 10.4-inch screen as a navigation device, but decided a purpose-built system would be better. I know Google Maps is quite amazing, but what if you have no access to the internet AND forgot to download the area for offline use. There are also a few models designed for RV use, but with a premium over and above the cost of a "regular" model. I can add POIs to mimic most of the RV specific features anyway. Of course, there are other brands (Magellan, TomTom, etc.) that work fine too. The choice, as always, is yours.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"