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Monday, May 25, 2009

oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!… unlimited hot water!!!!!

Awhile back I admit I was not the biggest fan of tankless water heaters. I felt that my 10 gallon Suburban DSI hot water heater was up to the tasks I needed it for. For me, the advantage of having both electric and lp gas energy supplies available was a bonus that could not be matched by a tankless.

So what has changed?  I spent a winter getting a cold water supply that was a lot colder than the summer temp cold water going  into the hot water heater, that’s what. My previous experiences said that by running both electric and gas at the same time, I had good recovery times and by throttling back the hot water stream a bit I could maintain comfortable temperature water almost indefinitely.

The gotcha in this is that I am a big guy and (maybe to be a bit gross for some) I have a lot of body fur which takes a lot (and I mean a LOT) of warm to hot water to rinse off completely. Playing the dual-heat source and throttled back hot water flow in the winter meant that I could either;

  • brush my teeth and shave
  • wash my hair
  • wash my body
  • warm up my cold cramped legs and back muscles.

There just was not enough instant BTUs going into that cold water to heat it enough to do more than 1 item on that list before it got shrinky-dink cold AND FAST!

After quite a few months of debating the possible advantage of a tankless (specifically, a Precision Temp RV-500) I started looking for some sort of “deal”. Of course, Merrily had to be on board with the idea, too, otherwise, I would not do it.  I think she was moderately accepting of the idea but not really sold on spending $1000 for a hot water heater.

About 3 months of casual searching only turned up units that were nearly full price but finally, a good deal for $600 showed up on Ebay. I certainly hope its a good deal.  I received it a few days ago and it looks to be nearly new (as claimed) and in good condition but the weather here has been daily storms so I have not tried to work up the install just yet. I don’t want to get half way through and get ace’d out by the weather for hours to days.

In making the decision, I spent a lot of time searching for the experiences of others that had the Precision Temp RV-500 and had used it for multiple seasons.  I did not find anyone that was not positive about it and most were completely satisfied, whether the cost justified the attitude or not, I don’t know.

All seemed to be saying that it did what I wanted it to do, though, and with a washer and dryer in DakotR, the old 10 gallon never gave hot water for wash and rinse and I sometimes felt my BVDs had a little scum left in them from soap residues.

We will see when I get it installed.   I have toyed with the idea of keeping the Existing HWH installed so I can have electrically heated water, too.  Not sure if i have the room for both or if it is even an approved installation style by Precision Temp. I don’t have a strong inclination to even go there but it has crossed my mind.

More to come on this subject.

On other fronts, we have finally committed our Disney trip Campsite reservations and bought the tickets to Cirque Du Soleil, La Nouba.  Not an easy set of choices, though and not because we didn’t know what we wanted but because we didn’t want to pay full price… but that’s a whole post in itself and I will give it to you a bit later.

ttfn

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wilmington, NC – Very, very nice though a little cool, today, for the beach.

Our plans to watch the space shuttle launch on May 12th got scuttled! It just took too long to get the specifics nailed down tight and then they bumped the launch up a day and the combination made it pretty irrational to try to force fit this 12 hour drive to Cape Canaveral into this week of vacation.

So, the last minute destination switch was to… drum roll please…..   Wilmington, NC!

We opted to stay at the KOA Wilmington Campground (more on this, later) as there are few other campgrounds in the immediate area and our friends, Donna and Bill, would much more enjoy some urban American activities rather than just sitting in a state park in the wilderness.  Sure, doing that would have been a nice venue but, heck, they were driving 8 hours from West Virginia for only a 2 day visit with us and then returning to WV to fly back to the UK the following day so, they deserved to have some sort of excitement while down here.

So, here I sit doing this blog while Merrily, Donna and Bill are out “excitement-ing” in Wilmington Historic downtown on the river walk. We have always loved to come to Wilmington ever since we moved to Raleigh in the early 1980s. There is a lot of great stuff to do including touring the Battleship, beaches, Aquarium, riding ferries.

Wilmington is not (at least not yet) the glitzy tourist Mecca that Myrtle Beach has devolved into but it does have a lot of interesting places and things to do. The famous Wrightsville Beach is very close by. Public beach access parking is scattered all along the area but its all metered parking (ugh!) but the beach is worth it.

Carolina and Kure beaches are not far away with great beaches and mostly free access parking. Those areas are much less commercialized than Wrightsville and more like '”home-boy” beaches.

But, as usual, I digress…

Bill is into birds and serpents so he is off visiting the Wilmington Serpentarium for a few hours while Donna and Merrily wander around the “oos and ahhhhhs” land of shops and stores along the nearby river walk .

Me?  I am still not feeling too swift because I got too much sun (allergy to it) the day we left to come here and also probably ate something else that I can’t handle anymore and am quietly recuperating in DakotR with Katie. I am having my kind of fun, too, so no one loses, today.

Chances are I will get a call from them about dinner time to meet somewhere to eat and all will end well.

I am generally not a raving fan of KOA camping, mostly due to price but I have to say that the Wilmington KOA really is something a cut above.  There are a lot of big rig suitable sites with easy ingress/egress (unlike the KOA Myrtle Beach with its old stand of pine trees encroaching on the roadways).

50 amp FHU sites just about everywhere, a 3 pen off leash pet exercise area and plenty of places for kids to play. The sites are all level beach gravel and Clifford and DakotR fit nicely with room for the Smart car to fit without anything hanging out or sitting on the grass.  Its surprisingly quiet with no nearby railroad tracks, Interstates or airports to rattle us.

A decent promo video gives a good perspective of the available amenities.

The staff has been mostly college kids with a few workamping older folks like us, thrown into the mix and I can easily see Merrily and myself working in a place like this sometime in the future.

We reserved a Lodge (not a cabin with no bathroom) for Donna and Bill. Its a short Park model with a log cabin motif inside but complete with everything but linens.  They are loving it!

Talk about convenience, there is a Hess gas station at the entrance which, at the moment has the lowest fuel prices that I can find in this whole area. On the opposite side of the KOA driveway is a big vehicle pull through car wash with lots of bays tall enough to handle any sized RV. That’s just too darned convenient!

As I said, I am not a big fan of KOAs and have stayed in a few that were not acceptable but this one is something special and is well managed and cared for. Its certainly better than many of the Coast to Coast Deluxe resort properties we have stayed in.

We will definitely come back here.

ttfn

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Di dit-di-daa-dit-da: Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea...…Update….

I decided that I had just too much on my plate to decide whether to eat the peas, carrots, corn or green beans first.. .so I made succotash!

I also realized that  DSC00930I was not utilizing the influence of my main muse… Katie… made all the difference in the world engaging her in the process. BTW, she SNORES big time!  Even worse than my sister-in-law! (I’m gonna pay for that one).

Here is the result at this point:

  • Clifford has a few potentially trip spoiling problems:
    1. Throttle position sensor Error codes in the computer
    2. Fuel temperature sensor error codes
    3. a drive tire that loses a lot of air in a short period of days
    4. a very out of round drive tire, too
  • The Smart car rack has still not been added to Clifford so Merrily will probably have to drive it down, alone.
  • 2 tires on DakotR need to get slow (probably bead) leaks fixed
  • Everything in here is piled with cast-offs from getting our paperwork from inside the house that we will need on the road, organized and filed in the cabinets.
  • Katie is due for another Bromide level check
  • Appointment with my urologist on the state of my kidney stones (When I take long drives and particularly when I swim in the surf any newly formed ones in certain parts of the kidneys tend to turn into “rolling stones” and that is a real buzz-kill for a vacation.
  • All of the loose gear, like the computer, monitor, hard drives, table, chairs, etc. needs to be anchored. Since we reorganized the layout and eliminated the sofa and coffee table, we have not traveled off the jacks so I need to get it all stowed and do a test pull.
  • Send a Mother’s day card to my Mom
  • Get propane
  • Get special food and meds for Katie for while we are gone.
  • get refills ordered for my own meds for next week (everything seems to always run out at the same “wrong” time.)
  • clean the gunk out of DakotR’s gutters… one more time. (Frankly, I think that more stuff falls out of southern trees in the spring than in the fall.)
  • order anode rods for the hot water heater.
  • order some new shoes exactly like what I wear all the time (if I can find them anywhere, now).
  • PUT DOWN TV and SATTELLITE DISH!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Strikeout text is on items that have already been dealt with)

BTW, if you recognize the title of this post, then you are older than I am. If not, then you can update your retro knowledge from this site.

ttfn

Does it seem to you like I just can’t focus?

Our trip to Cape Canaveral to watch the space shuttle launch on mission STS125 is busted. Just trying to get too much crammed into too little time and to be honest, I was not nearly as excited to drive 12 hours each way within 7 days as I was to possibly see my first Shuttle launch. Bathed in Lights

The primary goal was to meet our dear friends Donna and Bill, from the UK, down there  but their visit to the US was just not going to be long enough to comfortably do that and be with her mother on mother’s day.  The launch got moved up a day which would force them to miss Mother’s day altogether and even at that, no one really knows exactly when of the three possible launch windows on 5/11, 5/12 and 5/13 it would actually go up. It might even get postponed until 5/22 and the odds of missing it completely were just too much of a gamble for the costs.

But, Merrily already had made plans to take the week off so, off we go to a closer beach, Wilmington, NC.  The Wilmington KOA will not quite be the mosquito coast of east Florida but we do have our own varieties and its only 3 hours away. Did I mention how much I was not looking forward to that 12 hour drive down to Florida?

So, we will squat in Wilmington and Donna and Bill will come there for a few days after Mother’s day and we will still have a great time…. we always do. Besides some really great seafood restaurants and a particularly good German restaurant down in the Cotton Exchange on the river, there is the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial,

Welcome to the official web site of the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial.  The memorial and museum are opened 7 days a week, 365 day a year in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Enjoy your virtual trip through the history of this beautiful ship. Learn about BB-55 and all other U.S. ships named North Carolina.  Thank you and welcome aboard!

 Fort Fisher Aquarium (Newly renovated) and beaches, beaches, beaches.'

But I digress…  At the moment, I am flooded with last minute gotta-do items (in no particular order, as they say):

  • Clifford has a few potentially trip spoiling problems:
    1. Throttle position sensor Error codes in the computer
    2. Fuel temperature sensor error codes
    3. a drive tire that loses a lot of air in a short period of days
    4. a very out of round drive tire, too
  • The Smart car rack has still not been added to Clifford so Merrily will probably have to drive it down, alone.
  • 2 tires on DakotR need to get slow (probably bead) leaks fixed
  • Everything in here is piled with cast-offs fromDSC00920 getting our paperwork from inside the house that we will need on the road, organized and filed in the cabinets.
  • Katie is due for another Bromide level check
  • Appointment with my urologist on the state of my kidney stones (When I take long drives and particularly when I swim in the surf any newly formed ones in certain parts of the kidneys tend to turn into “rolling stones” and that is a real buzz-kill for a vacation.
  • All of the loose gear,DSC00923 like the computer, monitor, hard drives, table, chairs, etc. needs to be anchored. Since we reorganized the layout and eliminated the sofa and coffee table, we have not traveled off the jacks so I need to get it all stowed and do a test pull.
  • Send a Mother’s day card to my Mom
  • Get propane
  • Get special food and meds for Katie for while we are gone.
  • get refills ordered for my own meds for next week (everything seems to always run out at the same “wrong” time.)
  • clean the gunk out of DakotR’s gutters… one more time. (Frankly, I think that more stuff falls out of southern trees in the spring than in the fall.)
  • order anode rods for the hot water heater.
  • order some new shoes exactly like what I wear all the time (if I can find them anywhere, now).

Maybe the last 3 items are not absolutely gotta-do items before we go but I am sure there are more items than on this list. 

But, this is the master list for now and all must be dealt with  before we leave on Sunday for the beach….. and just yesterday, fulltiming seemed so close!

Has anyone out there seen my mind?… I seem to have misplaced it!

and… OH YEAH!!!!!:

  • PUT DOWN TV and SATTELLITE DISH!!!!!!!!!!!!

ttfn

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yard Sale Day!!!!! ?????

Ok. My first yard/garage sale in over 35 years has come to a close. Weeks of weak preparations (on my part) have finally ended. Merrily, along with daughters Carol, Shawna, Christi and sons Emery, Randy, and Sebastien (honorary son) wrestled it to conclusion.

I put up 16 signs with about a 1/2 roll of clear shipping tape last night. They said simply “Garage Sale” with a big Arrow. Some also had “SAT 8am” on them.

The yard sale was advertised to be from 8am to 1pm. It was posted on Craigslist.com and 5 national yard sales sites as well as advertised in the local News and Observer newspaper. True to form, the N&O’s printed paper was the only organ that got the ad wrong. They had it listed as only running from 8am to 11am. Personally, I think this was why the continuous flow of people dramatically slowed down about 11am. It was also the only ad that was not free ($26). Is it any wonder why newspapers are drying up. Mistakes will happen but the downside of printed mistakes lives long after the moment it happens.

(High step up onto soap box…) Ok, just to make a bigger point of this, once something is printed it can only be retracted, later, after the fact, if at all.  Newspaper traditions seem to dictate that we have no recourse for the lost 2 hours of exposure because it was “frozen” in print and it was wrong. I think we should be entitled to a refund proportional to the amount of lost opportunity that they caused us. (off soap box, now.) If the ads were wrong on the internet, they could have been fixed right then with no losses or misunderstandings at the time of the actual event.

Once the yard/garage sale (I could only find GARAGE SALE signs) was over, the leftovers went to Goodwill and as I type this, Merrily and Carol are going through the inventory list of what was donated.  That is so important for tax reasons.  We have been "donating” stuff for years to various charities and only claiming $20 or $50 for a bag of good clothing or a chair or table.  A few years ago, my annual Taxcut Home and Business package included the Deduction finder Pro package to help find the deductible values of donated items.

I had some detailed inventories of previous donations that I put into it and discovered that the tax values of these $50 bags was from $250 to $700, depending on contents. One can never have too many legitimate deductions.

So, the Y/G sale grossed $362 and netted $300. Aboutn 1/2 of the stuff that was out was sold including some furniture, books, and a lot of kitchen and home brick-a-brack.

We had a very surprising turnout and though it was advertised to start at 8am, people were showing up at 7:25am as we were starting to bring the stuff out and set up on the table. We probably had 10 people standing around waiting as new stuff was brought out.  As I said, very surprising turnout.

Now I just have to decide to have an electronics and computer Yard/garage sale and get to selling books on Amazon.

ttfn

TechShop, Welding class and an incredible LED flashlight!

While there is very little that ties these three goodies together they all represent my near obsession with tools and a love of just really great technical stuff, genre ambiguous…

First, My two youngest boys (Emery 27 and Randy 25) and I signed up for a 12 week, 30 hour general welding course at Durham Technical College. We all have wanted/needed some skills in this area and though I have both Rod and Oxy-Acetylene welding equipment, I have used it so rarely in the past 30 years that I feel like a kid playing with matches in a fireworks factory every time I even think about getting it our for some little project or other…. so I usually don’t.

This class (basically Free for Sr. Citizens) will get me back into a comfort zone with the equipment.  I have a lot of little “quickie” projects that I would like to do to enhance our RV setup, storage capabilities and such and have just kept putting them off.

For the younger set the tuition for this continuing education class is only $85 and covers most of the common types of welding equipment with about 30% of the time in the classroom and the rest in the workshops.

I am really looking forward to this because I have long  been considering having a small wire feed MIG welder along on our travels… just in case.  I still have the GVWR for it but maybe renting/borrowing one if and when I need it on the road would make more sense, I know. If I feel comfortable with the skills, I will not be so hesitant to rent something unfamiliar to use.

Now, this is a good segway into the TechShop in Durham.  On the way back from signing up for the welding class, Randy had seen some info on the TechShop and wanted to just check it out so we did.

Hey, this place is amazing!  They took a building that had been offices all on 1 floor, and basically, turned most of the office spaces into Project rooms that can be rented to people that want to work on “projects” and need a place to get their stuff together and have virtually all of the tools available to them to use.

To assist in creating designs they have the SolidWorks 3D CAD package on all of their Computers (and they have a lot of them). Members can come in anytime to work with any tools they need and a lot of supplies that can be purchased at below retail. That can save a lot whether one is woodworking, metalworking, doing textiles, plastics, automotive or even Cooking.

Heck, they even have a 3D printer that will “print” a 3D drawing in solid works into a scaled plastic 3D working model of the drawing.  Pretty cool stuff to see it print out a working crescent wrench (of course, being made of plastic makes it not particularly useful for anything other than a lot of ooooing and aaaahhhhhing!

Now, for something I hope you will really like….   How about a 2 D-Cell LED Flashlight that throws a 200 lumen white beam for $19? huskyledlite Well, Husky makes the Tactical 4 Watt LED flashlight that Home Depot normally sells for about $25 ( Their (Husky) number is 626731 ). Right now, its going for $19! (Its the one in the middle of this picture.)

Unfortunately, I cannot find it on Homedepot.com but that is not so unusual. You know, one would really think that stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s would have decent online catalogues with really well thought out search engines to help people quickly get to what they really need. In fact, both companies have search engines almost as bad (or even worse) than most discussion forum sites…. (but that is a peeve for another time).

But this Tactical (I think they use this word because it has some real heft like a full sized MAGLite and could be used as a defensive weapon if necessary) light is very impressive for the money. But I just like that it lights things up enough that I no longer have big concerns in walking Katie the poo at night and having a close encounter of the 3rd kind with any snakes or scorpions.

This thing throws a beam that Scotty could use as a backup transporter.!!