Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Can You Have Your Sliced Bread And Eat It Too? - Low Carb/Calorie Bread???

    "The Best thing Since Sliced Bread!" That quote lives on and on. Back in the day, buying a loaf of bread meant having to slice it at home. Then, miraculously, you could buy one pre-sliced into perfectly even slices. Amazing! Well, at the time, it was. There's nothing I like better than bread...especially squishy bread that's moist and delicious. That being said, I'm still on my carb-restricted diet, so that stuff (and many of my other favorites) are off the table, so to speak. I have been pretty successful finding low carb and tasty substitutes for various things, but good tasting bread wasn't one of them. until now!

While wandering through my local supermarket, I stumbled across a loaf of white bread that boasted on 6 grams of carbs per slice and (only 40 calories!) I was really did seem too good to be true. So, of course, I bought one of each type....white and wheat (Italian was sold out!). I couldn't wait to get home to try it! It's been almost 3 YEARS since I've eaten a piece of bread! I know...seems incredible....even to me. But here was the solution, in my grocery bag...I hoped. So many, "so called" substitutes for things are not even pale imitations of the real thing. A perfect example is the noodle or pasta. So far I have found nothing that truly compare. So my expectations were pretty low for this bread.

Once home, I opened the white bread bag first. OK, so it sure smells like regular soft white bread...and it looked good too. None of that weird texture of gluten free products. I picked up a slice, felt like a slice of white bread. Looking closely it even appeared to have the same structure at the baked dough level. Could this be real? I took a bite. OH MY! It tastes just like bread with over 15 grams of carbs! It wasn't even the "skinny" slice that many dieters are used to seeing. Full thickness! I grabbed a piece of cheese and ate the rest. Delicious.

What about toast? I REALLY like toast. I've spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find the best way to make toast on the road with limited electricity. It has become less important since I stopped eating bread....but not anymore!  I put a slice in the toaster and VOILA! It was toast. Seems so simple, but good toast is one of life's simple pleasures. Now I can have it again and so can you! The final test? I have a sandwich toaster that I used to use all the time. Two slices (or four at a time and it will toast and seal the edges while cutting the end result into two diagonally cut halves. Usually I put in some cheese (Swiss or American are favorites) and just eat it. Even better with soup. OK so I can't have 4 slices without some guilt, but when you haven't had a single slice in a long time. TWO is total decadence! Well, the test was a complete
success! When I pulled the pieces apart I got an ooey gooey string of Swiss cheese...Amazing! It's made by Schmidt Old Tyme Bakeries and it's called "647." I have NO idea why, but I don't's great! The supermarket charged 3.99 (3.49 on sale) a loaf. Worth EVERY penny!

I'm back more of my favorites is back on the menu. It DOES have far more dietary fiber than a regular slice and I was worried that may have affected me badly. But it didn't! Perhaps it's indicative of folks considering their health and weight more, but I have seen more products surfacing that cater to low carb and healthy diets of late. Perhaps it's a trend. I'm OK with that.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road.

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Disc or Drum Rear Brakes - Are Four Wheel Disc Brakes A Must?

    Most new RV's have Disc Brakes on all 4 Wheels. Mine doesn't. I have Discs on the front, but drums on the back. Recently I had some problems during a trip that triggered a set of brake repair woes. It's all fixed now, but I got to wondering if it wouldn't be better to have discs in the rear as well. There are kits available to make the swap (Around $400.00 for the parts plus labor) but is it really necessary? I mean I just replaced all the worn out parts in my rear drum brake system so they are working quite well now. Should I (or You!) make the swap? Is it beneficial...I mean is it?

My Front Disc Brakes
By way of background, during a trip I noticed a slight leak on my rear wheel while I was stopped for gas. I should have looked MUCH more closely. 12 hours later, my brakes failed. Well not all of them. Just one. The rear right drum's actuation cylinder ruptured and I lost most of my brake fluid while trying to get stopped. NOT FUN when towing a trailer. I did get safely stopped in a rest area and used Google to find local mobile repair guys. Called a few, one got back to me in the Early AM and promptly came out to look. We determined I could drive the RV, with a very low pedal and only front brakes the 1.2 miles to their shop. Long story short, I was stuck for 2 days waiting for parts to arrive. They did, and it was repaired. Of course, this could happen with disc brakes as well. A hose or steel line could rupture and the same thing would have happened. But....maybe the parts would have been easier to source?

My Old Drums
Let's take at look at drums versus disc brakes. In a drum based system, the friction pads (that's what stops you when you apply the pedal by converting kinetic energy into heat) push out onto the inner surface of the drum. Disc brakes squeeze a thin metal disc with friction pads. Drums are all internal, discs are external. Meaning you can see the pads and the surface they push against. The main enemy here is heat buildup. Drum brakes will work fine until they are so saturated by heat that they "fade" and lose their effectiveness. Once cooled down, they will work again. That being said, since they are heavy iron construction, the cool-down could take a while. Discs are out in the open air, so they cool quicker. They can still become overwhelmed by heat, but it's more difficult and they cool rapidly to restore effectiveness. So discs are better, right? Well not necessarily.

The Disc Itself
In most vehicles, the front brakes account for 60-90 percent of the overall stopping power. Current (beginning in the 1980's) drum brakes were more than up to the task of stopping the other 40 to 10 percent. In my case, 85% of stopping power is accounted for by the front brakes with only 15% delegated to the rear drum setup. So is it really a necessity to changeover? In addition, there is a device, called a proportioning valve that modulates the front/rear braking force (bias) and it's expensive if you need a new one, To swap to discs in the rear I may need to buy and adjust this as well. After much thought...No, it isn't. Perhaps when the rear shoes wear out or another failure occurs I will reconsider.

But, since I just spent a lot of money on an overhaul of the rear drum brakes...I'll stick with them. Besides, they have always stopped my RV without a problem...well, unless you count the day they failed!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich"The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hard To See - Dollar Store Glasses - Are They Worth It?

    OK, I'll admit I age, my eyesight is slowly getting worse. Like many folks, close up and tiny text are beginning to become an issue as my arms aren't getting any longer. My sight is fairly good at all other distances, so I'm not ready for glasses...yet. In the meantime, for the rare-ish occasions I need some magnification and DON'T want to look like Sherlock Holmes using a spy glass, I looked around to see what was available to purchase. You know,  some reading-magnifying glasses. Wow, they sure can be expensive! However, the cheapest ones I could find were only a Dollar at a DOLLAR store...not much of a coincidence there! Would they work? Are they OK to use?? Read on, to find out.

These type of glasses come in various strengths. What strength can be determined by their "Diopter" value. Typically, they come in +1.00 up to +3.25 diopter ratings. What's a Diopter? It's a fancy way of describing the focal length of the glass. Suffice to say, it's an indicator of how strong they are and how much magnification you can expect. Best way to choose is to try them on and read something small! Be aware that the higher the number the more distortion you will get when moving your head around. It's very vertigo inducing and will likely give you a headache if used at too strong a magnification for too long. I've found that for tiny work and tiny text, 1.50 works well. But if I move my head too much or try and move around (like walk!) I get nasty headaches almost right away.

I tried lower than 1.50 and it wasn't enough power. Especially if the text was low contrast, like on some colored labeling. Any higher and it's really nausea inducing unless you keep your head VERY steady. I imagine it would be fine for close up watch battery replacement, but don't try to walk with them doesn't work! Let's just say, well, OUCH! I walked into a cabinet that way. They are available with metal or plastic frames and in lots of shapes, styles and colors...easy to find one that you like. They are so inexpensive, that I've taken to leaving a pair in my tool box. This way, if I get into a situation that requires them...I won't have to go looking. I wonder how long THAT will last!  Too bad they can't fix my memory as easily as my tiny text issue!

Who knows, maybe in the future I'll break down and need to get a pair of regular prescription lenses. But, for now. these work just fine.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bugs, Bugging You? - Here's A Way To Exact Revenge That's Fun!

Open Doors=Bugs!
    I hate bugs. Flying, crawling, whatever, they make me miserable. When I go to sleep in my RV, I hate when that high pitched buzzing gets close to my ear. It makes it impossible for me to sleep! And, don't get me started on the common housefly. Why do they enjoy RV travel as much as we do? Even with my screen door, they still get in! Well, after years of squishing them with fly swatters, rolled up magazines and catching them with Chopsticks, I have found a better way of taking them out...even in mid-air. It's much more sanitary than crushing them against some surface and WAY easier to clean off. Besides, it's oddly enjoyable!

Bug-A-Salt 2.0
It's called the Bug-A-Salt. A tool specifically designed to annihilate all types of bugs with a specific emphasis on flying ones. Version 3.0 is out now (yes, I just ordered one!) but Version 2.0 has been available for a few years. How's it work? Well, it shoots a tiny bit of table salt from a small reservoir on top out a plastic barrel with enough force to decimate a bug at about 3 feet. Kind of like a microscopic shotgun blast. Since it's just table salt, it's easy to clean up. Not that enough salt comes out in the first place to worry about cleaning. 80 Shots is only about 2 teaspoons of salt. You set it up to fire by pulling back on the forward grip (the pump) which compresses a spring that is the motive force behind each shot. It also engages a safety device that must be disengaged before it will fire.

Bug-A-Salt 3.0
Once ready to go, look down the sights, aim at the nasty bug, and fire! If you got the aim right...bug is done. Pick it up with a tissue and throw it away. Un-smushed! If it's still moving take a close range won't be for long. When you get really good, you can take them out of the air. It's tougher to do, but possible. The "rifle" is about 20" long and has NO stock, so it is a bit awkward to aim. It's really too big to use as a pistol, and too short (with no stock) to use as a rifle, braced against your shoulder. It's almost like a mini pistol grip shotgun with no recoil at all. Since it's awkward to hold, the heavy trigger pull can really spoil your aim. It takes practice. but once mastered, worth all the time it took!

This thing can launch salt at an astonishing rate. DO NOT SHOOT ANYONE WITH IT! It can do serious damage to the eyes. I mean it! Allegedly, the new V3.0 has a better trigger pull...we shall see. Until then, I am going to keep my nights bug free and my sleep undisturbed.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

When In New York City Go To Katz's Deli! Yes, On An RV Trip!

Safe At Home
    I have a place in Manhattan, have had it for MANY years. Recently, since it's RV season, I was wondering what I would do and where I would go if I was staying in nearby New York City in my RV. I figured having a few days would be best since there are so many things to do and see. In later articles I will cover as many as I can think of, but when I began to think of where to go the topic of "where to eat" came up first in my mind. Before  I tackle that...just where can you stay in NYC in an RV? The answer is, essentially nowhere! That being said, you CAN stay in New Jersey, just a short bus or Water Taxi ride from Manhattan right near the Liberty Science Center (at Liberty Harbor RV Park). It's not much more than a large parking lot with hookups, but you'll never notice as there is so much to see and do, all you'll be doing is sleeping there! OK, back to eats!

If you've ever seen the cult hit movie, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, you are already aware of Katz's Delicatessen. It's the restaurant made famous (well, MORE famous) by the scene that involves Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner's Mom (Estelle), and an Amazing sandwich! REALLY amazing. Watch it, you'll see what I mean. Well...while I can't speak to the effects of eating one quite as well as Meg Ryan did, I can say the Corned Beef and Pastrami are second to NONE. It's a distinctly New York experience. Surly waiters, a decor that leaves much to be desired, but totally amazing food. It's been around a long time. Really first getting internationally famous by offering to ship U.S. Soldiers in World War II care packages. "Send a Salami To Your Boy In The Army!" Many mothers did just that. A taste of home and a way to introduce fellow soldiers to the tastes of New York Deli magic.

The full menu has so much more on it. Knishes, those doughy pockets of potato, kasha, or meat (or combinations) that go down heavy and smooth...yum!! Lots of special ethnic dishes and old deli staples are available as well as all-day breakfast. The corned beef and Swiss omelette is a personal favorite! Finish it all up with a New York Style Egg Cream. No, there's no EGG in it at all. (Go figure!) It's a bit of milk, a bit of chocolate syrup and some seltzer. Mixed to a's delicious. And don't forget to buy a salami!

Yes, RVing and including New York City is a tough call...plan on lots of time to look around all the sights...museums, skyscrapers, neighborhoods, restaurants, much to do, so little time. Try it, you'll like it.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Even The Simple Things - Post-It Sticky Notes

Lots Of Places To Put A Note!
    Even when I was younger, I would forget things. Maybe because my brain runs at 90 MPH all the time, I lose track of some things. Perhaps as I get older (Not OLD!) it's getting worse. I'm not so sure about that, but you never know. If it gets bad enough, I could hide my own Easter eggs! Thankfully, I'm not quite at that point yet. I have taken to writing short notes to myself so I remember to do something. We've all been there. RV all loaded, get in the driver's seat and go off down the road...a few minutes later you remember something you forgot to take with you! Don't be shy....we've ALL done it at least once. A long time ago some smart guy invented the Post-It note. It was just a little pad of paper with a tacky glue strip along one end that you could stick and re-stick to many surfaces without damaging them. Perfect for short notes! You can use them for all kinds of things. I do.

So Many Sizes And Colors!
Of course, the most obvious in our case, is making a list of items to take with you or do before you leave on your RV adventure. "Make sure home Oven is off" comes to mind. Whenever I begin a project that requires a bunch of tools and parts from various places, I make a short list. This way I don't get ready to work on something and have a bit missing or forget a tool that's across the street, buried in a toolbox I don't regularly use (or maybe it's not there to start with!) They are great for recipes. I put down what I am missing to prepare a particular recipe and make sure I stick it by the door. This way, when I stop at a Walmart or shopping center with a supermarket, I just grab the note and go shopping. Nothing worse than beginning to cook and realizing a primary ingredient is missing! Especially when Boondocking away from civilization!

A Giant Sticky Note Mounting Board!
Fixing stuff can be easy....what if you begin a job and realize you need some additional hardware? Write it down and THEN go to the store. This way, you may only have to make one trip. Don't ask me how I know this... How often have you thought to yourself, I'll remember what I need, it's only a few items?" Part numbers! Who is going to remember the exact part numbers for a mechanical project? I find these little squares (or rectangles) of paper to be a god-send. They come in all colors and sizes. I am sure you'll find one you like. I have a small square purple pad on my desk. I use it all the time. They stick great to RV windows, so kitchen lists go there. I found if I stick them to the fridge, I always end up bumping them to the floor.... Then what?

Believe me, the first time one of these little notes saves you a trip back to the house or the store, you'll be grateful you have it! Oh, by the way...make sure you have a pen too!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Even The Simple Things - Cutting Grease And Oil While Cleaning Your RV...Or YOU!

Clean-up Time
     As I have said MANY times in the past, I hate cleaning. Of course, everything I LIKE doing usually ends in a clean-up. Cooking, working on my RV's mechanical bits, modifying my RV's house systems...well, you get the idea. Pretty much anything fun is going to require some kind of cleanup afterwards. (If it's fun, it's probably illegal, immoral or, at the very least, fattening!)

I have tried many cleaners for all sorts of jobs. Some work great on one thing but not another. Some will damage certain surfaces, some are just hard to use. Whenever I get my hands dirty I always end up going back to the basics -- Dawn dishwashing liquid. I's a "name" brand, but when I can buy small containers at a dollar store for...umm.. a dollar, that's OK. This stuff cuts through grease and oil, better than anything else I have tried that doesn't strip paint and irritate skin as well.

Now I am not going to wax poetic about the product. It works, 'nuff said. But I am always astounded by how many things I can use it on. Need to wash your RV? Get all the waxy buildup off? Mix some into your wash pail. Just remember to re-wax afterwards! Well, unless you use an acrylic floor finish instead, I do! Need to wash some dishes without filling up the sink? Put some in a spray bottle mixed with water. Spray the dishes, utensils, etc., and then wipe and rinse. Works great, saves water! Now that's a bonus. How about greasy, engine grime soaked hands? Use it straight up...add a tiny bit of water and scrub off the dissolving dirt.

So many things can be many things cleaned. It's a true RV multi-tasker. (You're Soaking in it! For my older friends.)

Of course, it will NOT work on everything. You can only play with the concentration so much. It's a gentle cleanser after all. No abrasives in it at all. That's part of its charm. if I need abrasives I'll use a powdered cleanser. I did that a few times to get greasy engine dirt off my hands and while it worked, I definitely took some skin with it! Just about the only thing you can't use it for is drinking! Yes, that's a joke. It would be bad if you tried. If you feel you must wash out someone's mouth with soap, might I suggest Ivory as an alternative!? What else? Works great on RV plastics too!

Try it....I always have a couple of bottles around for whatever I need to clean. It works. So many things these days just...don't. Nice that some do.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How To Build A Flying Ornithopter - A What??

    Yes, you read that correctly. An Ornithopter. It's a flying machine that flaps its wings to create lift and achieve flight. Rumor has it the first Ornithopters were put together in the 12th Century. However, the first real documented flight of a device that flew with the "flapping motion of a bird" was attributed to a bunch of French guys in the 1870s. The one I found is based upon a design from 1884. I stumbled upon it while shopping at a liquidator store. (Where else?) Turns out there are quite a few of these to be had at quite reasonable prices. When I purchased it, there was a doubt in my mind as to whether it would actually fly at all. After a bit of a tedious assembly process, I wound it up flew! Really, it did. It's the perfect rainy day RV time killer. And fun too.

The model I found is made by a company called, NPW. With a tiny bit of searching, they can be had for as little as 3.99 per kit. It includes the wooden pieces, plastic for the wings and tail, tape to attach everything together, the drive system and a tiny metal crank. It doesn't look like much before it's assembled, but, believe me, it goes together and looks cool when finished. I have to admit, getting the incredibly skinny tape lined up and stuck down to the wings and tail surfaces and the wooden pieces was a challenge. But it will all fit together properly with a bit of finagling! Once complete, wind it up just a bit and make sure it's solid and will flap its wings properly. I really enjoy things that fly. Heck, I even braved a snow and ice storm/blizzard to pick up a flying machine.

Ready To Fly!
Next step is to get it in the air. Depending on the size of your RV (and whether you have deep slides!) you may be able to try it out inside. It can be set up to do a couple of lazy circles about 6 feet around, or straight for about 15 feet. Well, that was the best I could do. I was just amazed that it flew at all! Very cool to watch it flap its wings to stay aloft. As a side note, I did see some of these online that were actually bird shaped, but I liked this one better. Made me feel like Leonardo DaVinci! The instructions said to wind the rubber band two knots over, but I couldn't get it to flap more than a couple of times until I wound it to the triple knot position. then it FLEW! Nicely!

If you find yourself stuck inside (and maybe have kids or grandkids with you), these small and easily storable kits may be just the ticket.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Easiest Way To Adjust Your Engine Belts!

    I have a slipping power steering belt. After replacing my power steering pump last year, we found that the only way to adjust the tension is to have two people underneath the RV. One with a REALLY long pry bar and the other with two wrenches to tighten the bolts. This is not ideal. Because of the positioning of the pulleys and exhaust pipes it is almost impossible to get the correct tension. That's why it squeals when under heavy load. This is really bad for the belt and pulley. It will wear prematurely and may snap at a most inopportune time! I went looking for a better, less muscle-intensive solution and managed to actually find one that works!

It's got the grand name of, "Belt Tension Jack," but really it's a simple piece of equipment that works very well on MANY sizes of belts and pulleys. It's made up of two slender, slightly curved pieces that will fit in (or on) the inside of the pulley's rim and a solid piece that goes to a hexagonal adjuster bolt. There are several different length extensions you can add or subtract to get the correct fit. The whole thing is made from chrome plated steel and is decently constructed. Not perfect, but serviceable. It can be found online for less than $20.00 and doesn't take up much storage space.

Typical Use
It's pretty easy to use. Loosen the bolts that allow the belt to be tensioned. Usually it's one in a slot and another just in a hole to lock it down. Just figure out the distance between the two pulleys you are trying to adjust the belt on, insert the correct adapter (or none for short distances) and place the curved ends into the pulley grooves. Hand tighten till it stays put. Then get a 1/2" wrench and begin turning the adjuster until the belt is properly tightened. Make sure to get the factory tension specs as over-tightening is just as bad as under-tightening. Over-tightening could cause damage to the bearings in the pulleys or the device it's driving, like a power steering pump or alternator. Once tensioned, simply tighten the bolts on the adjuster and loosen the tension jack to remove. Done.

It's really easy to use and makes it a snap to make sure you have correctly tensioned belts. MUCH easier to put a belt on this way when you are having a roadside emergency due to a broken belt! Believe me, I know!

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cleaning Narrow Necked Containers Easily - Great For Thermal Coffee Carafes!

    As everyone already knows...I like my coffee. Especially in the morning. When not traveling, I use a large thermal carafe (pot) so it's stays hot over a long period of time. The problem is, it has a small neck and is very difficult to clean. I've tried many brushes and sponge attachments, but they just didn't have the strength to really clean out the bottom of the pot. And everyone knows, one of the secrets to great coffee is a clean pot! I was browsing around the other day in a large housewares shop and came across a hybrid sponge/bristle brush that had the right idea. So I bought it. Did it work? Read on!

First off, it's built quite well. It has a large-ish handle for a good grip and stiff bristles. At the bottom is a "sea anemone" shaped sponge doo-hicky. Is that the correct term, doo-hicky? Anyway, it would fit down the tight opening and appeared to be able to take a fair amount of scrubbing force. If you press down vertically, the sponges are compressed enough that the bristles clean the residue off the bottom quite nicely. A good swirl while inside, with hot water and soap of course, will make short work of anything left inside. I haven't seen the inside of my aluminum carafe look this good since it was new! And all for only $3.99.

Once done, it simply rinses off under hot water, though you could put it in the dishwasher as well. So, how about having on on board the RV? I do have some small necked containers that would be a breeze to clean in my galley, so that's a plus. It also works nicely on tall glasses that you cannot get your hand deep enough to really clean the bottom. You could replace one of your other sink tools with this because it will do pretty much everything a regular brush will. The bristles are nylon and the "stem" is a solid but flexible plastic. No metal to rust in your sink. I leave my tools on one side of the double sink with the cover on when traveling, so that's a bonus.

As always it comes down to space available and personal preference. I absolutely will keep one at home, but the jury is still out about bringing one along. I suppose, after a trip I could always bring stuff home to clean...and everyone knows I hate cleaning!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Portable, Size Adjustable Bag Dispenser - With Bags!

A Clean Galley Is A Happy Galley!
    Onboard my RV I use a lot of plastic bags. Most of the time I end up with lots of those cheap shopping bags from large chain stores. They are OK, but not all that durable. Many times I wished I had a better quality bag in a bunch of sizes that could be used where a small garbage bag would be overkill. I stumbled across this nifty gadget. It's a self-contained dispenser that allows you choose the length of your bag and then simply cut it to fit. Seemed like a pretty good idea and might fit the bill nicely in my case. So I bought one. At only 5.00 for the loaded dispenser and one refill it was worth the experiment.

Each bag refill has 32.5 feet (10 M) worth of bag material. They open out to 2 Feet around. So not all that big, but great for small uses. How many bags you can get out of a roll of bag material is really based on the size (length) of bags you make. Did I mention that the name is really cute? "Knot-A-Bag" Get it? It's NOT a bag until you tie a knot at one end. To use it, you simply flip the cap open (it's attached so you don't lose it) pull out the amount of bag material you want, cut it using the attached to the dispenser lip cutting blade, tie a knot in one end and use. Sounds like MUCH more work than it actually is!

Note The Small, Angled Razor Cutter
Refills are available after the one that is included, but I found that just buying another set is actually cheaper. Refilling the dispenser is pretty easy. Unscrew the cap, drop in the refill, pull the loose end through the cap and screw it back on. Ready for use. So what's it good for? The bags aren't huge, but for leftover food, wet bathing suits, long skinny objects like wet umbrellas, pet waste, you see where this is going...if you can fit it in the width of the bag it works great. I wish they would make several versions in different widths. That would be great. The whole device is about the size of a larger pill bottle and has a plastic hook on the back side. Looks like it was designed to be used with a strap or clipped on to your belt. Mine clipped on nicely to my back-of-seat pocket, so it's out of the way.

I have been using it to toss out nasty stuff, like hair from the drains or squashed bugs in paper towels/tissues. It's nice to have a bag handy that isn't wasteful, like throwing out a larger bag just to get something out of the RV. Fish entrails? Smelly food garbage from dinner. You could use it to extend your regular garbage storage by only putting dry items in that one and wet/nasty ones in a smaller bag. After tying they do seem pretty water and air tight. Of course, you can double knot if you like and be sure to pull the knot snug. You can use a twist tie on the top, but I've just been tying another knot. I'm getting pretty good at it by now. Very little wasted bag material on both knots.

I will try this out for the RV trip season and see what develops.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Get Rid Of Some Wires! - Bluetooth Speakers For Your Video Needs

My Pico Projector
    A while back I wrote an article about some rechargeable speakers I had purchased. They sounded GREAT when coupled with my pico projection system and screen. The only issue was I had to run a wire from the speakers to the projector's audio output. Not really a big deal, but it's another wire that I have cluttering up the place. Bluetooth speakers are all over the place now and finding one that would support more than just stereo AND be rechargeable was my new goal. Better, Stronger, Faster...I bet a bunch of you are hearing the theme from THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN in your heads right about now. Hopefully this speaker will cost less than that!

Chialstar (Weird Name, But Great Speaker!)
I began, as I always do, by doing lots of online research. I look at the major sites (Amazon, Newegg, E-bay, Walmart, etc, etc) not only for the products themselves, but the number sold and positive reviews. After all, if three people tell you you're drunk, lie down! Lots of negative reviews never bodes well when you are talking about cheap electronics. Lots of (real) positive reviews speaks volumes. I wanted one that would fit in front of my cabinet, under the table I place the projection screen on, so it couldn't be as large as a full length (37inch) sound bar but still had to sound great. The old one I have is only 10 watts. Fine for casual use, but really needed more punch for epic space battles and action films. Double that would probably work fine and would still give me enough built-in battery time to watch more than one movie without having to plug it into my house batteries. Besides, I could take the whole entertainment system outside if I wanted to!

Included Accessories
After a lot of research I found a few that would work, but after even more research the best ones were over 100.00, a bit rich for me. I only use it once in a while to be honest and that's just too much. Back online to keep looking. After a while I was getting a bit discouraged, but then, I finally found the perfect one! It's a CHIALSTAR 21 inch sound bar with a passive subwoofer. It has a 5000mAh battery and will run about 8-10 hours at full volume. That's actually way too loud in my RV, so I'm at about 75% for watching movies. It will probably last longer. It charges with a mini USB port so lots of your existing chargers will work, especially if you have 12V cigarette light outlet to USB adapters. Not only can you use it for movies, but since it has a microphone, if you pair it with your cell phone or smart device, you can talk to it and answer calls as well! It's got a MicroSD card slot for playing music as well (MP3's) so that's a bonus. It comes with a wireless remote and a storage bag as well as sets of RCA jack cables and a USB cable for charging. All for 66.99.

With more than twice the power of my old one 24W max, it does an excellent job in my small RV. I sit about 5 feet away from the sound bar, but it's below my line of sight pointing slightly upwards so the extra power makes a BIG difference. Now you can have Movie Night, on the road!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Reclaim Your Storage Space! - Vacuum Storage Bags

    A few weeks ago I wrote an article about using a vacuum sealer in your RV. While it definitely has its uses, the size of the bags in width is limited. Vacuum sealing works really well on items with lots of air in them. I figured what about stuff like pillows, blankets and quilts? Currently, I jam them into whatever storage will fit them, but if they were vacuum sealed the size would be MUCH smaller. After some research, it turns out I didn't have a "million dollar idea" -- there are lots of choices for that kind of thing. So, I ordered a few different sizes and waited until they arrived. Do they work? Is it worth the extra hassle?? Read on!

SmartDesign Magic Bag
Once they arrived, I opened the package and took a look. Simple, large, thick plastic bags with a wide "zip-lock" opening and a large 2" diameter vacuum port. You fold up what you want, slide it into the bag, zip the end closed and suck out all the air with your home vacuum hose using the port. That's it. It's like magic watching a large comforter/quilt go from its regular folded size to essentially flat! From around 18" high to 3" high. Wow! I can now store them in the bottom drawers in my RV's under-bed storage or even upright in the closet -- they get pretty rigid without air in the mix.

Since they are air- and water-tight, you could put them in basement storage without fear of getting them wet or mildew/mold smelling. The trick is in the one-way valve that allows air out but not back in when a vacuum is applied to it. They are NOT all created equal. The ones WITHOUT the snap-open cover work far better and maintain the compression for a LONG time. Look at the SmartDesign Magicbag line for an example.

Simple To Use!
They aren't all that expensive. I got a 4-piece variety pack with 2 MEDIUM, 1 LARGE, and 1 JUMBO bag for only $9.97. Though if you want REALLY large ones it's more expensive (36"x48" 4 for $19.88). Since they are reusable it's not all that terrible, pricing-wise.

I tested these with several home, shop-vac and canister style vacuum cleaners. Pretty much anything with a hose will work. I was surprised (and happy) that my 12 Volt shop-vac would do so great a job with them. That means I can pack (and repack) items on the road! Fantastic. I am going to be looking for other items that will compress, that aren't used all the time, to increase my available storage. Should be fun to see how much space I can reclaim.

I will definitely have all the sizes on board this season. Who knows what I can use them for! Hmmm...bulky sweaters and the like come to mind right away. I mean you (hopefully) won't need them in the Summer! As a bonus, without air, they stay really fresh. I've even seen folks put a dryer sheet in the bag before it's vacuumed out. Good idea!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 REVISED (w/Links!) - How to Go From Winter's Slumber to Spring's Re-Awakening And Perform A Yearly Safety Check.

I had a few nicer days last week, so I have been slowly beginning my Spring Re-awakening started. It's getting close to the RV Season here so it's time to think about getting your RV ready to travel! I know I'M ready to travel!

Look Ma...No Snow!

    Time to wake the slumbering beast (well, my RV is more like a tame house cat than a beast). I'm going to de-winterize, inspect and repair for the upcoming season. Winter was great for planning and researching projects, not so great for actually DOING them! If you plan ahead and prepare, getting your RV ready for the season or checking it once a year if you are blessed to live in a warmer climate, should go smoothly and easily. Yes, I know NOTHING ever goes smoothly and easily. Let's hope this Spring's charmed.

**Many of the tasks below have links to articles on that subject. Click and find out more!**

Start with a list of basic tasks. The list below can be modified to suit your particular RV, but is a good guideline. Mine reads as follows:

Remove Cover Straps  (or Get a Fabric Hangar Building!)
Remove Cover (Did the building hold up this winter?)
Inspect Cover for Rips and Tears, Repair if Needed/Possible
Roll and Fold Cover and Store. (In a Dry Place!)
Walk Around Outside Look For Obvious Defects
Inspect/Clean Windshield Wiper Blades - Replace If Needed
Inspect Windshield Washer Nozzle and Hoses (Cracks, Breaks, Dry Rot.)
Inspect/Repair Running Lights
Inspect Front/Rear Lights/Headlights
Inspect Mirrors!
Inspect Backup Camera
Inspect Underneath For Leaks, Puddles, Dry Rotted Hoses, Excessive Rust, Cracked Gas Pipe Joints, Frame Problems, etc.
Inspect Tires and Inflate to proper pressure (Check Dates!)
Check TPMS Sensors (Tightness and Battery Replacement, if needed)
Wash RV and Inspect for cracks, chips, glass breaks, leaks, etc. Repair if needed.
Check For Mold/Mildew on Exterior Seals (Clean As Needed)
Open Outside Engine Compartment, Check for Leaks and Nests.
Open Storage Compartments and Inspect Doors, Seals, & Locks(leaks, bugs, critters, etc.)
Clean Outside Refrigerator Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Clean Outside Furnace Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Clean Outside Water Heater Compartment (Spiderwebs, Leaves, Nests, etc.)
Replace Water Heater Drain Plug and/or Anode.
Clean Battery(ies) and Terminals if Needed. (Chassis, House and Generator)
Check Coach and Chassis Battery Water Level, Refill if needed. (Distilled Water ONLY!)
Check Hitch Receiver
Check Hitch/Trailer Wiring

Open Door(s) Test Operation. Lubricate if Needed.
Test Operation of Electric Stairs (Lubricate/Repair as Needed)
Turn On Lights, Replace Any Bad Bulbs/Fluorescents
Check All LED Bulbs and Fixtures
Open Vents, Test Seals and Operation
Clean Pop-Locks On Vents
Open Blinds - Check Function (Adjust If Needed), Clean
Open Windows, Test Seals and Operation. Check Locking Mechanisms
Close and Clean Blinds
Open Cabinets (Upper and Lower) Organize Shifted Contents
Check for Leaks; Roof, Doors, Vents, etc.
Check for Critters. (Bugs, Mammals, Gremlins, etc.)
Check & Clean Interior (Carpets, Walls, Floors, Cabinets, Fridge, etc.)
Check LP/Propane/CO Detector Operation
Check Smoke Detector Battery and Operation
Check Fire Extinguisher(s) for Expiration and Fill Level
Check Monitor Panel, Tanks and Propane
Check Converter/Charger For 12 Volt Output
Check All Fuses and Breakers (12V and 120V)
Confirm Solar Charging System Voltage and Amperage (If Applicable)
Check Bathroom Skylight for leaks and cracks.
Check Bathroom Vent for Operation and Seal.
Check All Flashlights (Batteries, Charged? and Bulbs)
Check and Tighten ALL screws and fasteners Everywhere!

Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed
Check Coolant Level, Fill if Needed
Check Brake Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Power Steering Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Transmission Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check Windshield Wiper Blades Replace If Needed.
Check Windshield Washer Nozzles, Replace if Needed
Check Windshield Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Check All Hoses and Tighten Clamps
Check Airbag Compressor for operation and leaks.
Check Air Bag System Pressure
Check Air bag System for Leaks

Check Fuel Levels on Gauges
Check Battery Volts
Start Engine
Check for Oil Pressure Rise
Listen to Idle (Sound OK?)
Check Idle Speed RPM
Check for Battery Charging (Volts/Amps)
Check TPMS Monitor for Operation and Correct Pressures
Check Temperature Gauge for Rise
Listen for "strange" noises. Clangs, Bonks, Whistles, Squeals, Chattering, Rattles, Clunks etc.
Shift Into Each Gear (Foot on Brake!!)
When In Reverse, Check Backup Camera Monitor
Switch On Dash Air Conditioner (Got Cold Air?)
Select Dash Heat and Defrost (Got Hot Air?)
Shutdown After Everything Warms Up to Operating Temperature
Re-Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed
Re-Check Transmission Fluid Level, Fill if Needed
Go Outside, Look Under RV..Any New Leaks?

Check Shore Power Cord & Plugs
Unplug Shore Power Cord
Check Generator Compartment for Oil Leaks
Check generator and Wiring for Obvious Problems
Check Oil Level, Fill if Needed (Coolant too! If you have it)
Start Generator
Check for leaks
Check for Transfer Switch Operation
Run for 30 minutes (or so)
Check Voltage at Sockets without Load
Check Voltage at Sockets with Load
Shutdown Generator
Turn On Inverter (If You Have One!)
Check AC Power From Inverter 
Turn Off Inverter
Switch to Shore Power
Check All 120V Outlets for Ground/Polarity

Turn On Gas at Main Tank Valve
Listen and Check for Leaks (Use handheld detector)
Check for leaks in Refrigerator, Furnace and Water heater Compartments
Check for leaks Inside (Stove, Water Heater, Furnace, Refrigerator)
Check & Clean Stove Vent System
Light 1 Burner, Check for Blue Flame and Even Burn
Turn Off
Check Other Burners.
Turn Off Stove Valves
Set Thermostat to Heat
Confirm Furnace Ignition
Confirm Heater Vent Airflow and Temperature
Shut Off Thermostat
Confirm No Leaks from All Stove Valves in the OFF Position

APPLIANCE CHECKS (On Both Shore Power AND Generator/Inverter)
Attach Shore Power (or use Generator)
Check and Clean Air Conditioner Filters
Turn on Air Conditioner, Wait for it to engage
Check for Cool Air
Check for Heat Strip Operation (if installed)
Shutdown Air Conditioner
Inspect Microwave
Set Clock
Run for 1 Minute (heat something up!)
Check Coffee Maker Operation (VERY Important!)
Remove and Store Refrigerator Door Spacer
Inspect And Clean Refrigerator Interior
Check Fridge DC Control Panel Operation
Turn On Refrigerator (on AC Power)
Clean Out Refrigerator Chimney/Fan/Cooling Fins/Tubes and Check for Debris/Nests/Bugs
Confirm Refrigerator Heating Element is Warming Boiler in Outside Compartment)
Switch Refrigerator to Propane (LP Gas)
Confirm Flame Ignition (By Sound AND Visually Outside In Compartment)
Switch Back to Electric (or AUTO)
Check Refrigerator Door Seals and Lock(s)
Replace Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer Batteries
Turn On Entertainment System
Replace Remote Control Batteries (As Needed)
Check Inputs (Antenna/VCR/DVD/Satellite/VGA/HDMI)
Check Bluetooth (If Applicable!)
Check Sound
Raise/Lower TV/Satellite Antenna
Turn Everything Off.

WATER SYSTEM (without Sanitize) 
Re-Connect Water Pump to Tank
Set Valves to Tank Fill
Re-Insert Water Heater Drain Plug
Close Low Point Hot and Cold Water Drains
Check All Fittings
Close Faucets
Partially Fill Water Tank (Hose or Connect City Water)
Set Valves To Operating Position
Turn off Water Heater Bypass (If You Have One!)
Pressurize System (Pump and City Water, One at a time)
Check For Leaks
Open Each Faucet Until It Runs Clear(to Remove Antifreeze and Air)
Check Toilet Main Drain. (Holding Antifreeze?)
Check Flush Fill and Drain
Fill Fresh Water Tank (and/or Use City Water)
Check Faucet Water Filter
Check For Leaks (Look in All Cabinets! Under Coach as Well!)
Open Faucets and Run Water until Clear
Check For Leaks AGAIN!!
Make Sure Water Heater Emergency Pressure Relief Valve is Closed!
Turn On Water Heater (Propane)
Check for Ignition
Wait At Least 10 Minutes (Water Has to Heat Up You Know!)
Confirm Hot Water and Flow
Check For Leaks (Inside Hot Side Plumbing AND Outside Water Heater Compartment)
Switch Water Heater to Electric (If You Have It Installed)
Confirm Hot Water and Flow
Clean and Inspect Water Drains and Pipes
Shut Everything Down

Close All Windows
Shut Off All Appliances
Shut Down Propane Gas Flow
Turn Off Lights
Close and Lock Doors.

While this list is geared toward my coach, most of it will likely apply to yours. Hopefully, it will start you off safely and with some peace of mind this season.

Feel free to send me new items to add or ask questions!

Be Seeing You....Down The Road

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Does A Vacuum Sealer Do Anything Worthwhile On An RV?

    I store a lot of items on board my RV. I always wish I had more space for lots of things. I also like to prepare gourmet (semi!) meals in my galley and have to keep lots of ingredients handy. When preparing my RV for my yearly Spring awakening (Next week!! Stay tuned for the newest list!)  I noticed some stuff I just keep in there year to year, were going bad. Like the garlic powder that was more like a garlic brick! Years ago, I had purchased a vacuum sealer and bags to be able to store meats in the freezer for longer time periods without the dreaded "freezer burn." That worked pretty well. I also used it to package first aid supplies and items that couldn't get wet for storing in the trunks of my vehicles. That worked pretty nicely. I also prepackaged some snacks for emergency use. You know, like trail-mix , beef jerky or something similar. What about actually taking one along onboard your RV? Is there a reason to do it? What about energy usage? Read on!

A Typical Model Vacuum Sealer
It's a pretty decent question. There are quite a few uses for vacuum sealers. Mostly food related, but there are a few other things I had already done. First aid kits are a great example. Keeps stuff fresh and dry. I've put film in vacuum sealed bags too...but who uses film anymore? The actual vacuum sealer device is both a generator of vacuum as well as a bag sealer. It sucks the air out of the bag or container (more on that later) and then heat seals the open end. It's pretty easy to do. The bag material comes in a few widths and long lengths so you can vary the length of the bag by heat sealing one end, rolling out the length of bag you want then cutting it. You now have a bag. Fill it with stuff and then put it in the sealer, open side in. Hit the button and it pulls the air out and then seals the bag. Done.

Bags of Any Length
I was toying with the idea of pre-preparing meal items like say, a chicken stew. Then vacuum sealing it in bags and freezing. That way, they take up way less space, last a long time and can be reheated either in the microwave or, if you want to save battery power or generator use, on the stove in a pot of boiling water. Lots of meals could be done this way. Snacks too! I mean, you can always figure out a way to boil water, right? I can even do it with 12 Volts DC. Yes, it takes a while, but works fine. OK, maybe you don't like the food idea. Anything that gets ruined when too much moisture gets in is a likely candidate. Flour? Sugar? How about vacuum sealing important papers? Water and paper don't mix! This way, you don't let them. They even make plastic containers (like Tupperware) that have a vacuum valve built in. You could take these along after they were sealed. Then re-use after.

Some Of The Variety Of Containers
If you don't want to mess around with the bag making, there are MANY sizes of containers with vacuum valves on the lids. There is even an adapter to use regular sized Mason jars. To use these, you just plug in the clear hose to the sealer's vacuum port (mine's on top) and the other end to the container and press the sealing" button. Once it's finished, it stops. Pretty simple really. I'm not sure I would use glass Mason jars very often (if at all,) but it's an option. The containers are pretty easy to use and the variety of sizes means you can usually find one to fit. They can also be used to quickly marinate meats. Put in your meat of choice, add the liquid marinade, vacuum the container and let sit...longer the better (up to overnight in the fridge). Great idea if you know what you'll want to eat during a trip. You can pre-do the marination beforehand. Amazing flavor!

So what about using the vacuum sealer on board? It uses a pretty good amount of power. Around 110 Watts at 120V so about 9.167 Amps at 12 Volts (maybe another 15% if using an inverter). Not terrible, but significant. Plus, you have to find space for the device to live. My opinion? Leave it at home and take the packages with you. As always, Y.M.M.V. (Your Mileage May Vary!)

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can You Put A WiFi Camera In Your RV And Look Inside While You're Out? YES!

    When I am traveling, I like to feel that my RV is secure when I am out. Some folks install alarm systems, but typically they go off and no one does anything about it. Sure, you could get one that calls your cell phone and you could return in a hurry or call 911, but that usually ends in a "barn door closed after the horse has already left" result. What if you could SEE what was going on in real time and had a recording of the perpetrators to give to the police? Or, simply see that nothing is going on at all? What about monitoring your RV in storage for the off-season? Well, you can. There are a few glitches, but nothing insurmountable. Read on!

Notice The USB Power Supply
The cost of WiFi cameras has been steadily dropping for a long time now. A model with Remote controlled Pan, Tilt, and Zoom (PTZ) can be had for $21.00 or so. They are pretty easy to set up and can run on your cell phone's data connection or a hotspot. If you set it up to only use your data when it "sees" something, you won't waste too much data at all. You'll be able to connect to it remotely and look at what's going on inside your RV. If you place it in the right place, you'll be able to see out the windows as well. Remember the PTZ will allow you to MOVE the camera's view around at will. There is no reason why you couldn't have more than one camera on this connection. They do not require much power at all, so that's not of major concern. You could even run them wired into your RV's 12V system. Some of the cameras even take 12V input via USB. But, to be sure, check the AC adapters voltage output...some are much lower!
Old Mobile Router And Dongle
Now, the issues to setting this up. First, you need to have an internet connection that is always on. Not much bandwidth nor data will be flowing when nothing is happening, but you need to be able to reach the cameras via the internet. If you have a cell phone, you could use it as a hotspot, but obviously you wouldn't be able to take it with you. So then you wouldn't be able to check the cameras! Catch-22! A second cell phone or stand-alone hotspot from a provider would work, but would likely cost extra each month (maybe even plus data). If you have two people with cell phones, one can leave the phone while the other takes over the monitoring portion. Of course, if you are in a location with WiFi already, you could set up a small (and cheap!) Mobile router to connect each time. Then you are all set.

I've got a few spare cameras that I purchased for home use, and have set up one in the RV. Since it's parked inside the fabric hangar and there is WiFi right inside the house, I have 24/7 access for storage. I can also see inside the fabric building through the windows when I Pan the camera around. Works really nicely! I've tried it through my cell phone hotspot and it's fine. If 720P movies will stream through it (They do!) this was a piece of cake. The cameras have SD Card slots, so they record internally AND when set up to be triggered by motion, you can have the cell phone application open automatically and record the video as well. Some of the cameras even include Audio! A permanent record of what happened to trigger it. Of course, it may have just have been a critter...but why take the chance?!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"