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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First day of Hurricane Season

Official or not does not much matter when it is 96 degrees and 72% humidity with no breezes and no ocean to cool one off. Hot hot hot!

Sure seems like the tropics are here, today, checking us out for some later hurricane activity…. Like RVers checking out campgrounds for future visits.

No an outside day, for sure so I turned to inside tasks like, finding the power brick for my printer. As usual, I stumbled across it up in cool, breezy West Virginia (See, I can change my mind) and put it in a “special” place so I would have it readily available. I think my special place was pitched out because I can’t find it anywhere!

Irked!

So other stuff is trying to fit the oak door panels from the Norcold RV refrigerator onto the household refrigerator we replaced it with.  Got to do something about that great white whale sitting in the middle of DaKotR. It is absolutely wonderful, functionally, but aesthetically…. not so much.

Also, I have still not heard from Progressive about my A/C that was damaged in the Tornado in Smithfield, NC on 4/16 so I guess I am going to have to get pushy with them.

Dr. visit #1 went fine, today, Dr. visit #2 is tomorrow but I don’t expect any surprises other than some med changes.  We will see.

ttfn

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Followup on the Household Refrigerator installation:

At the beginning of the year, we replaced our defunct Norcold LM1200 12cu ft. RV refrigerator with a standard 22 cu foot Household refrigerator.  It was pretty much a test to see if we could work with it instead of a gas/elec  RV refrigerator so we just used an older extra refrigerator we kept in the basement for summer water melons and beer.

In the past 6 months of use, it has never been a problem for us and even when we have been traveling unplugged for 9 hours at a time the freezer still stayed below 15 degrees.  We are very happy with the household refer and especially with the much larger capacity and far better internal layout and flexibility it has over any RV refer we have seen.

Since this was a test, we left some of the labor to finish off the installation until we were sure we were going to like it and that it would be a completely satisfactory solution, which it is.  One of the things left to do was to seal off the outside venting that was there for the RV refrigerator.  Although I wrapped each vent door in a trash bag and pinned it shut, it looked odd and the winds on the highway shredded them pretty quickly. With them unsealed it has been like living with a window open all the time so before summer gets really hot I needed to finish this off.

The main thing I was concerned about was air infiltration. A secondary concern was just plain insulation which is problematic on the bottom vent because there is only 1” behind the refer and the air being exhausted when the refer is running needs to be able to circulate back into the interior of the RV or the compressor will overheat and it won’t cool very well.

The upper vent door was no problem and I fully insulated it with part of a bat of pink fiberglass insulation glued over the 4 mil plastic film I first glued to the backside of the door to seal out all airflow through it.

I think that this will work fine for the summer.  I may revisit this later, to see just how well it is actually sealed but short of pulling the refrigerator and sealing the hole from inside the RV I don’t see much chance of doing it any better.

ttfn

Monday, May 23, 2011

Innovation–A Key to successful Full-timing?

Let’s face it. Going from 2400+sq ft of house with a basement, garage, closets and such into a 400sq ft “everything” means that when you have a problem you need to be MacGiver.

Nick Russell has his Great White (Greg) and Geeks on Tour on his speed dial. These are his resources AFTER Terry the Terrific!

Others depend a lot on…. others when struggles pop up. However, just as in a stationary life, seeing deeper into what surrounds you can empower your creativity and return some real satisfaction when you solve a problem with little more than what is at hand.

For instance, this campsite at Pipestem DSC03244State Resort Park in WV, really does not have a “patio” area. Sure, there is a fire pit that you can sit cross-legged at on the high side and stand on the low side with it at chest height.

But it is impossible to put the picnic table anywhere but on the pavement (where the RV is) or in the street and have it level enough that the salt shaker will remain upright.

This dropoff also made for a really big “last step” coming out of the RV.

My solution: DSC03250

Turn the picnic table into a mini patio and steps.

Looks a little scary but it is so solid that Merrily, Katie and I were dancing on it.

Once I got it leveled up I jack-strapped it tightly into the fold out RV steps and not only does it make it much easier doing the in-out thing but it is dead level for actually sitting down and eating (if it weren’t that we are parked under the caterpillar Oak hotel.) It also makes a great stand up work bench at the left end and that was a big help with all the outside stuff I have been doing.

See, innovation is not hard. One just needs to be open to the opportunities that are waiting to be used.

ttfn

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A wunnerful… a wunnerful!

Beautiful day. Nice temps, nice breezes, no rain, no mosquitoes and we are parked under the Caterpillar Oak hotel. I have seen some bad caterpillar droppings from the oak in front of the house in Raleigh but this puppy has some prodigious cata-poop coming down out of it.

But that did not deter my attitude, today.  I tackled a few more long deferred tasks, like patching the crack in the skin of DakotR at the bottom front corner of the bedroom slideout opening.  It has been there since we bought it and I have made lame attempts to fix it a couple of times but never really did more than gush some goo onto it.

This time, I gouged out the gunk inside, widened and straightened the edges out and generally cleaned all around, all around before patching.

I used some Dyco 20/20 caulk and filled the bugger. I then patched over that with a piece of Eternabond Seam sealing tape.

That should hold it!

Another put off too long job was to replace the main awning rear arm lock.  The original one never had a locked position. It just was pushed into place and would gradually work its way open in route. Last year I had bought a couple of new awning locks and managed to get the front one replace (cause it broke off) but never got around to it.  Actually, I never seemed to be able to get myself, my drill and drill bits, my pop rivet tool and the new lock all together at the same time.  It seems that one or another of these items managed to go into hiding.

I got them altogether today, though, and replaced the old one. One problem with the non-locking type is that it would not stay open and out of the way while trying to stow the awning and would jam between the main support and the spreader bar behind it, usually just as the awning was rolling in its last foot or so.

I also tackled the tar and gunk thrown up onto the lower front panel of the 5th wheel (I just gotta get some mud flaps on those fenders).  The best combination I came up with was Turtle Wax Bug and Tar remover followed by a Marine black streak remover… now I just have to do the other 3/4s of that area.

The water pressure here is so high that without a pressure regulator it causes the filtered water faucet in the kitchen to drip constantly. I had a nice Watts Home pressure regulator which gave good flow but installed it in the house several years ago due to very high street main pressures. I just have to replace it as these RV pressure regulators just throttle back the water flow so much that a good shower is impossible.

It’s another thing to “pick up” when we get back to Raleigh. the list is getting pretty long right now even though we only plan to be in port for a couple of weeks.

I hope the rains hold off tomorrow, too, while I have the drive and clarity to work on some of this deferred maintenance stuff.

ttfn

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pipestem West Virginia

West Virginia has some very upscale state parks that they call Resort Parks.  Pipestem State Resort Park is about 15 miles east of Beckley and can be reached via state road 20. 

The highways, other than Interstate, are the usual narrow, tight turns up/down/all-around roads one finds in the eastern mountains of NC, GA, VA, WV, TN, etc… you get the picture.  WV roads at this time, might be in worse shape, maintenance wise, than some of these other states.

2011-05-18 12.39.28

The RV sites in this campground are pretty nice with paved streets and drives but gravel patios. They are also small. Site 24 is the only one that we could get into, comfortably. There were a few others that we could have gotten into with a struggle and then park the truck elsewhere but most of them, including 24, were not very level.

2011-05-18 12.41.03

I think the same crew did these sites that do the WV roads and don’t believe in level as being important. High water pressure >100 psi, makes a pressure regulator advisable and they have a sign in the office to that effect.

WE came here in heavy to light rains all day and that was day before yesterday. It is still “misting” with an occasional downpour.

A real disadvantage to traveling up these small WV state roads in this kind of weather is the ongoing problem of falling rocks. Yesterday, we drove into Hinton in the Smart which is only about 10 miles east but there were plenty of places that rocks of various sizes were on or on the edge of the road and plenty of rock pieces still scattered on the roadway.

Of all of the advantages of the Smart Car that we tout, ground clearance is not one of them. With a full tank and 2 people, 3” of clearance in the middle is only a dream so always go around stuff on the road, never just span it and expect it to not hit because it probably will hit something underneath.

Luckily, no damage but could have been bad.

We are planning to stay here until next Monday before heading back towards Raleigh for some appointments. WV parks have a NO REFUND policy so be sure you are going to stay for what you pay cause you won’t get any of it back no matter what.

Of the several WV State Resort parks, Pipestem was the only one that even had much RV camping available. These parks tend to cater to semi-camping in lodges or tenting up to pop-ups but I figure that the roads will probably deter most folks with anything bigger, from coming here.  Guess that says too much about me.

For all the hype about the wonderful views in WV, that is old print. Everywhere we have been, the views from the roads are obscured by trees. Maybe in the dead of winter one can see fairly well but then, what would there be to see.  So far, not that impressed with WV.

On, BTW, the toll road (I-77) charged us $9.50 per toll station going North to Charleston. That was $28.50 total. Coming back down it, we found at the last toll booth that Recreational vehicles are charged a flat $3.50.  Of course, there were no signs posted anywhere other than for the $2 per car rate. The rest was assumed to be per axle and I have 6 by their count.  Another WV “gotcha”. Not a happy camper in WV.

ttfn

Monday, May 16, 2011

Going nowhere… yet.

We were due to leave Rippling Waters CG today but.. we just decided that we would rather not… so we didn’t.

 

Weather has been quite comfortable and a hint of moisture in the air… and on everything else but no actual rain which is fine by me.

We will likely leave tomorrow and head for PipeStem State Resort park.. but not if we are not going to be able to get the Dancing With The Stars Results show, there, tomorrow night.

I managed to do a little fishing (catch and release, of course).  First time I have actually gotten a line wet in a few years even though I always have my rig with me… I guess I am even more relaxed, here, than I have been in a very long time, so that’s a good thing.

We will see where tomorrow takes us.

ttfn

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A day for relaxing…. aren’t they all?

Today was just an easy day from the get-go. I was up, as usual, about 6:15am, did some PC work then went back to bed and zonked out (technical term) really well for about 3 hours.  Now, that’s the kind of rest I need to get every night.

We had planned to have an afternoon cookout with Donna B and her Mom and some of her relatives, so brunch was light.

About a 20 minute drive to Pinch, WV at 1:30pm and we met up with most of the whole family, about 15 of us in total.

The meal did not disappoint and neither did the company. As usual, her Mom overfed us and dessert had to be spaced out by an hour or so but it was worth the wait, too.

While we were there, one of her father’s old friends that lives only a couple of miles from the Pipestem State Resort Park near Beckley, WV, gave me some pointers on how to get there without getting on the Toll road.  It may take a little bit longer but he said the roads are very good that way…. we will see on Monday…

ttfn

Friday, May 13, 2011

Can I get there from here?

Google has Google accounts and then there are Google Apps accounts and they are neither the same thing nor interchangeable.

Why this is important is that in the bigger scheme of things as I try to cut costs, improve the time it takes to keep up with things and share whatever with whomever, I need to streamline some of the existing mechanisms and connectivity.

The email address I have used since signing up with Google GMail became the anchor point for everything I did and necessary to my use of Google facilities….. until Google Apps came along.

On the other hand, my Webdoms existence has been there several decades and I have a considerable investment in it and did not want to just drop it. I did need to cut the costs in money and time to sustain it and decided that I could transpose it all, fairly intact, into Google Apps…. or so I thought.

The short of it is that I created a free Google Apps account, assigned it to Webdoms, set my email and other Webdoms connected stuff to port or be forwarded to the GApps platform I created and began dismantling it on the old 1and1.com servers.

The hitch in this get-along is that Google cannot just merge two accounts and particularly not a Google account and a Google Apps account.

Complicating this is this blog, created under my original Google account and my Cell phone (Android) id which was initially also setup under my original Google Account.

To switch the phone, I had to basically clear it and reinitiate it from scratch on my webdoms id setup on GApps. This meant reinstalling all my phone apps, too, which was no small task in itself.

A bigger problem was, and still is, that those things that were tied to my old id on my phone, cannot be connected to by my new id on the same phone.

An example is Google latitude which shows where I am via the built in GPSA  hardware.  Once my Phone became a part of my Webdoms identity, it could not update the places that had previously been tied to it.

Simply put, the “Where Am I?” gadget could only show my old phone id location in this blog and I could not get my Webdoms phone location into the blog gadget in this blog.

I discovered, today, that I could move a blog between accounts with a little Penn and Teller slight of hand and now, it is administrated by my GApps Webdoms id instead of my old Gmail id.

It has taken weeks to do the following:

  • Shift all my email to my GApps Webdoms identity ( over 800 mbytes)
  • Shift all my RVing content to GApps docs, calendar, contacts, etc.
  • Graduate my profile information, blogging following, stats, etc. to the webdoms. GApps id
  • Make my phone a part of my Webdoms GApps identity instead of my old Gmail id.
  • Configure Outlook 2010 to interface IMAP to my new GApps mail, calendar and contacts and completely rebuild my Webdoms folders and rules in it to match. It was all previously running on a MS Exchange server on 1and1.com.
  • Engage the Sprint/Google Voice integration option so that all my voicemail, calling, ringing, etc. is handled through Google Voice instead of Sprint.

This has taken weeks of preparation and planning to be sure I could do everything I wanted before I stated actually changing things.  I really could not afford to find myself with one foot on the boat and one on the dock and then see the boat was gonna sink.

At this point, there are just a few loose ends but everything is now on the Google Apps platform under my Webdoms identity and I am very happy with the results.

It cut about $50/month of ongoing expense and was worth the struggle it took to make it happen. I have 6 gigabytes more of free email space plus all the GApps docs space I will probably ever need, for free.

More about some of these details at a later time. I am also working towards dramatically changing the way this blog works, too, and hopefully, it will make it much easier for followers with only limited interests in some of the topics I post, like PC stuff, RVing trip planning, health tips, etc. … I don’t have all the separate topics locked in just yet and suggestions are certainly welcome.

The idea will be to have the blog’s starting page be the root for about 6 individual blogs on the various topical areas of interest.

Meanwhile, it’s getting late so….

ttfn

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ahhhhhhh………!!!!!!!!

DSC03193

Rippling Waters CG – Romance, WV

We left Raleigh, NC at 10:00 am on Monday, May 9th, 2011 and headed for this lovely place 368 miles away…. over some really crappy WV highways (mostly the toll roads, what a $30 rip off) …..and really unenjoyable mountain roads in WV.

It was worth it when we finally arrived here about 7:30pm the same day.

DSC03179DSC03185

Lots of choices, lots of things to do, and a few glitches but all told, it was a good trip. Weather was great, and the temperatures were comfortable enough to travel with the windows open the whole way.

The things to do included:

  1. Fill with Fuel
  2. Weigh the whole rig with Smart on board and with Full Water and propane, empty grey/black and full fuel tanks.
  3. Weigh just the truck with full tanks and us in it.

Fuel was $3.93/gallon at FlyingJ Haw River, NC Exit 150 I-85/I-40 with my FlyingJ Frequent Fueler card ($.03/gallon discount – cash or credit) I was sure glad that I saw that post in the Escapees forums about their new discount policies.

The whole rig weighs 44,440 lbs. The truck is 24,500 with the Smart car loaded on it.

Some interesting facts about the setup:

CAT Scales 5/10/2011
Combined Truckonly Difference
Steer 10,880 11,980 (1,100)
Drive 18,080 12,520 5,560
Trailer 15,480 0 15,480
Gross 44,440 24,500 19,940
Pin Weight 4,460
Trailer 19,940
Tires Rating Combined Margin
6 3,042 18,252 2,772
Notes:
Smart Loaded only 2 gals
Truck Fuel tanks full
Trailer Water tank full
Trailer black/ Grey tanks empty
Refrigerator Full
Propane tanks Full
All other items are typical for our Full Time life.

All of that cost us an hour of travel time.

I have had a few hints that my marginal throttle Position Sensor (TPS) is getting worse, again and at the beginning of this trip, it was definitely causing some problems. I almost stopped at Central Carolina Trucks in Kernersville, NC to pick up a replacement but we just did not have the time and I was pretty sure that it would be ok the more it got used…. and it did get better.

Also, the fuel temperature sensor that was giving me intermittent error codes for the past several years seems to have been a poor electrical connection to it. When I had Clifford in to Speedco, in Kenly, NC last week for a standard PM, I had the mechanic unplug/plug it in a few times to clean the contacts before I replaced the sensor. That seems to have fixed it.

Since this was going to be the longest single day’s drive we have ever done with the full rig, I had made optional plans to stop either in Mayberry Campground in Mt Airy, NC or Camp Creek State CG in WV, if it was looking like we were getting too tired or it would be dark before we made it to Rippling Waters. From what I had read, the road going in was only about 4 miles long but it was very narrow, crooked and hilly.

It turns out that this is true. It is almost a sidewalk with a double yellow line down the middle. It is clear that no dirt was shaved or filled in the process of making this road and it is necessary to spend most of the drive somewhere in the middle or on the wrong side of the road in order to keep all tires on the pavement around the sharp turns.

Staying on the pavement is also necessary as there is no shoulder and the edge of the blacktop rolls off into the ditches on both sides. Like I said, a sidewalk with a double yellow line. This is a place where having a pilot car to lead is definitely a desirable thing.

They have a number of long pull throughs but only 2 with FHU and I wanted a very long, hot shower. It turns out that two were available for 2 nights but we would have to move for one night (tonight) and then could move back the next day for the rest of our stay.

As you can see from some of the pictures, this site is excellent! Full view of the lake, fountains, chapel, Swans, ducks, manicured grounds, etc. through our living room windows.

Maybe it does not completely have the RV-Dreams “IT” factor but it certainly hits our “G-Spot” at $23/night.

We will spend the week and figure out where to go from here. We will have to go back to Raleigh for a bit before heading out west but it does not have to be right away so we are thinking maybe Tennessee COEs on an around-about trip back to RDU.

I am going to have to think about all this for awhile…. after a nap or two….

ttfn

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inspirations

We had the great pleasure of having dinner with Dee and Jim (Tumbleweed blog) and it replenished our

2011-05-02 19.53.01

enthusiasm about Full-time RVing.

They make it seem so easy, even with the little glitches and gotchas. We discussed a lot of things about traveling, places they have liked staying and, of course, HDT tow vehicles and Smart cars.

Jim has been concerned about tire loads and is upgrading his wheels to 17.5 inch with an H load rating from the E rating on his current set of RV tires.  I am following this with great interest. I have long wanted a bigger margin between my tires and my max RV load.  Although I have a 21,000 GVWR on DaKotR spread across 3 – 7,000 lb. axles, the tires are the same as Jim’s with an E load rating of 3042 lbs. max/tire.

In my case, my pin weight accommodates about 4300lbs of the 21,000 lbs., leaving the axles, wheels and tires to handle 16,700 lbs., if I was fully loaded. The axles are clearly capable (21,000 lbs. total GAWR) and the 8k brake sets can handle 24,000 lbs. total, but the wheels/tires max out at 18,252 lbs. technically leaving me only a 1550 lb. margin at best.

The concerns I have  are more about “typical” in use loads rather than the “technical” specs.  Pulling a large 5th wheel means some curbs, road-edge runoffs, potholes and other things that will affect only 1 or two tires at a time. That makes it very easy to overload a tire or bruise a sidewall, weakening the tire’s actual safety.

I have lost 4 treads on older tires on this 5th wheel over the years and fortunately, no significant damage was done to the RV due to the King of the Road engineering of the tire wells and body of the RV. Flapping alligators don’t really have any compartments or body parts to contact.

However, even with a pressure pro or other TPMS to monitor tire pressures, I would only have immediately detected one out of the three failures because the others never lost pressure. When the treads stripped off nearly all of the weight they were carrying shifted onto the remaining two tires on that side.  Even brand new tires can be compromised for life by such overloading.

Good luck with this upgrade, Jim.

ttfn, Budd

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blessed Day of Rest

Sunday is supposed to be for resting and I finally got to do it, today. First one in a long time (or maybe that's just how it seems).

The generator is now generating, once again. The Generac NP 5500 watt that came in DaKotR has always been a little cantankerous but it finally reached a point where it would not start. I had fiddled with it a little some weeks back (actually, months, I think) and got it to start and run but Carbon Monoxide built up inside DaKotR so fast I ran out to see where it could be coming from and found the generator sitting in a puddle of raw gasoline!

I overrode my first impulse (to RUN) and stopped the generator with no sparks. The steel tray that the genny sits in has a 3/4" lip on it and the gasoline was almost to the top. I quickly threw rags and whatever else I could grab to soak as much of the gas out of there as I could.

After much thought and research I decided to ck for gas line leaks, first. I pulled the air filter housing off so I could run the whole fuel line and did find a few less than tight-enough clamps. After checking it all over, thoroughly, I pressed the starter to see if I could see a leak. From the amount of gasoline, I knew that it had to be a doosie.

I pressed it just long enough to have it start to catch up... and then a pulsing stream of gasoline began shooting straight out of a vent on the carburetor air cleaner mating face. Good Fuel pump, for sure. That sucker was squirting a pencil lead thick stream of gasoline a good 2 feet straight out of the carburetor. I instantly shut it off (but it seemed like about 20 minutes for it to quit running) and decided that I had to pull the carburetor off and rebuild it.

So, that was how I spent my Saturday.. a partially disassembled carburetor in one hand and a can of Carb cleaner in the other. After cleaning ( and it was definitely crudded up really bad) I put it back on the generator and hit the starter. NO GAS running anywhere! Super, but no running, either, unless I held the choke fully on.

Pull the carburetor again, opened it up and found 2 little intake holes that had such solid plugs of gunk in them that it was hard to push them out with a probe.

All done, put it back together, put it back on the Generator and hit the starter. Wahoo!!!! runs like new!!! Sure could have used that for a few days after the Tornado hit us a couple of Saturday's ago. But it will work fine, now.

So, on my day off, I have been working (playing, actually) on a rework of our exit strategy next week. It is just looking like we are not stopping the slippage of our timing so we are planning to go to WV as planned, but then spend a few weeks or a month, hanging around the mountains of WV, Kentucky and Tennessee and checking out some COE and state campgrounds. Some of them are really exceptional with FHU/50 sites and with my America the Beautiful Senior Pass in hand, they are half price for us. It won't be Colorado but maybe it will take the edge off of our hitch-itch hunger for the Rockies for a couple of months.

ttfn