Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Issues resolving

The word is in on the packrat damage to The Beast.  They got in the intake manifold, built a nest, and then for whatever rattish reason ate the knock sensor.  New sensor: about $100.  Cost of diagnosis and tearing down the engine to get at the part, about $900.  It'll be done on Friday.

The cost of this is annoying, no two ways about it.  Seems unfair to have a major expense before I've even really gone anywhere.  But it's fixed, and it could have been a whole lot worse.

How to prevent this in future?  There's a simple device called a "Rid-a-rat" which is a small strobe light in a box with a magnet.  You clip its leads onto the battery, and it sits there pretty much forever.  The guys at Buck's say it works.  Let's hope so!  Details here.

And about the e-bike:  I've hemmed and hawed about what would make sense.  I'm ordering a bike from e-joe.  It's a full-size bike, not a folding bike.  It has a step-through frame so my back will be happier.  And it was a big range, more than twice the other options.  It's kind of a retro cruiser looking thing:

It just begs for a wicker basket on those handle bars, huh?   It'll require a rack on the Hyundai and the RV to carry around, but the same hitch-mounted rack can be used on both.  Since the bike I'm getting is a 2013 model, I save enough so that the cost of the bike plus racks is less than the folding bikes I was focussed on at first.

The battery is that metal thing which is mounted behind the seat tube. It weighs about 30 pounds; the entire bike weighs just over 50 pounds.  So if I take the battery off to charge it, the bike is really light to heft on and off the rack.  Review of the bike here.

And so it goes.  I'm itchy.  Time to go somewhere.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Roller Coaster

And I'm not talking about the road where I live.

I took The Beast into my mechanic for an oil change and checkover before I really go anywhere in it.  The famous "check engine" light was on -- in The Beast it says "Dealer Service Soon" or something like that. The light was on when I bought it.  Previous owner said his mechanic couldn't find anything wrong. My guys ran a computer diagnosis on it and eventually determined that the a fuse was blown.  They replaced the fuse, took it for a road test, no more indicator. No stored error codes.

Cool!  There were some things that they said should be looked at after a while, but nothing to keep me from hitting the road.  "Have fun!"

I drove the rig back toward its parking lot, and halfway there the light came on again.  I called them and they said to bring it back.  Apparently it takes a while for the on-board data bus to clear and reset, and their road test wasn't long enough.  This time, they come up with some error codes.  Problems with the knock sensor.  Didn't know I had one.  Turns out I may have 2!

But the killer is that they found a "massive" pack rat nest in there.  And evidence elsewhere in the vehicle (license plate light wires)  that rats had been chowing down on the wires.  So they cleared out the nest and started the job of getting at the knock sensor wiring.  Hard to get at, of course.  And only they get in there can they tell what the damage is.  The parts are about $50 apiece; it's the labor, and the possibility of major re-wiring, that will cost.

Won't know until sometime tomorrow.

So I go from "Have fun!" to "Oh, sh*t" in an hour.

And no way to know when or where the rats did their thing:  previous owner's yard, my storage lot.

More tomorrow.  Margarita time.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

More on e-bikes

More thinking and reading time.  Joined a couple of on-line forums.  A few observations:

  • If my yellow Hyundai is called Buttercup, and the RV is called The Beast, the e-bike if I get one will be called Harley.
  • As I noted yesterday, for some people the e-bike phenomenon is something of a movement;  some of the people I'm reading clearly want to cash in on what they see as a growth opportunity.   And it is growing.  One chart I saw showed that bicycle sales are pretty much constant in the last decade or so, but that e-bike sales have a very steep growth curve.  This is on a global basis, and that's a key part of understanding this.
  • In a compact urban environment which is pretty flat, and trips are pretty short, these are ideal.  And a lot of the world's population lives in places like that.  It's no accident that one of the bikes I'm considering seems to be made in Indonesia.  
  • There's something distinctly un-American about these critters.  Or maybe "un-Amurrican" would be more apt.  They're small, quiet, and for the most part don't earn you macho points.  So motorcycle people look down on them.  But so does a big segment of the bicycle crowd: they're (gasp!) motorized.  They don't go really fast.  So, in the few days that I've thought about this at all, I'm wondering if popularizing these may not face the challenges akin to selling soccer to an audience accustomed to American football.   
  • A good parallel for these might be to hybrid cars.  The Prius is a gas/electric hybrid.  These things are for the most part muscle/electric hybrids.  Although some are bicycles in appearance only, using pedals simply as a way to get started and put your feet, most provide a range of electric assistance from none (which is where you can be involuntarily if the battery depletes) to full.  Some actually seem to require muscle power to get up significant hills. 
  • I'm beginning to see these as examples of what I'm calling sophisticated simplicity.  There's a lot of engineering goes into motors, batteries, control systems, frame fabrication, brakes, gearshifts, and so on.  But the result is a fairly transparent machine; in many ways like cars used to be.  An average person can, it seems to me, understand how to do basic and even more-than-basic maintenance on a bicycle.  And because in many parts of the world bikes are owned by people who can't afford cars, they often do maintenance themselves because they must, not because they enjoy it. And they can.  
Maybe more thoughts in a while.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The tail that wags the beast

When Mike suggested I look into an electric bike for use between wherever the RV was parked and nearby points of interest, I didn’t realize he was pointing me at what seems to be something of a movement.   However that may be, I had my first few minutes on a couple of e-bikes yesterday afternoon, and I was pretty intrigued.

Actually, I had a blast, tooling around a parking lot down in the SE part of town.  You get on one, start pedaling, and the assist kicks in. On most models you can leave it at that: you pedal and your effort is multiplied mightily.  On many models, you can also stop pedaling when you want, and use a hand throttle for speed control.  They all seem to cut out at 18mph, to avoid becoming “motor vehicles” for legal purposes.

But let me tell ya, even cruising around a parking lot at 12-15 mph feels pretty quick.  And fun!  Just being on a bike I felt like a clueless klutz for the first few minutes, but the bike “stuff” came back pretty quick.  I felt a nice slightly-worked-out burn in my legs when I was done, and I didn’t want to return the bike to its corral!  You can vary the amount of electric assist you get, which increases the load on your legs and decreases the draw on the battery.  For RV travel, like I thought, sure!  But I can see going for rides along Tucson’s bikeways just for fun.  And exercise!  My balance issues relate to foot stability, not inner ear problems, so I’m perfectly stable on a bike once I get the hang of it.   So this could be the way to gently and enjoyably get some cardio conditioning and regain some lower-body strength.

Batteries:  two kinds of battery in use.  One is the standard lead-acid battery used in most cars.  Heavy, cheap.  Last about a year in regular use.  The other is a lithium battery, which costs more, lasts longer, is lighter, and recharges faster.

Range and battery life.  The more muscle you put into it (the less assist) the longer the range.  And wind and hills also make a difference.  But something like 20 miles seems to be the most you can expect.  So I could ride it downtown, and back home without being too nervous.  I don’t know about places like cafes where you could recharge the bike a while.  

Because of back and hip mobility problems, the classic thoughtless throw-your-leg-over-the-saddle move just doesn’t work for me.  And it certainly didn’t yesterday wearing a pair of jeans.  But, once I got used to it, a “step-over” frame does work.  What we used to call a “girls’ bike.”  Wikipedia outlines the advantages:

  • less risk of stretching or ripping clothes when mounting the saddle
  • the rider can wear a skirt (also requires a skirt guard and possibly a chain guard)
  • very quick to mount and dismount, so is suitable for delivery bicycles, or any journey with many stops
  • suitable for elderly and others with restricted agility
  • potentially safer than a high crossbar; a rider who loses balance can step through the bicycle without becoming entangled
  • compactness provides a popular starting point for folding bicycles.

There ya go.  I could pretend to be a bike messenger, and not a geezer.  No?  Didn’t think so.

So some kind of step-through frame.  But how do I get it from Point A to Point B?  From my house to a bike path?  From my house to the RV?  One answer is two bike racks:  One which fits into the trailer hitch on the RV, and another which fits on the Hyundai.   A folding bike is also an option, and I’ve located some which would fit in the back of the Hyundai.  I need to learn more about this option. Most of the folding bikes are step-through designs. 

Storage.  In Tucson, I think it lives on the back patio, in the newly-refurbished roofed-over area.   It might, if I could get it through the door, live in the RV when it’s stored.  

When I thought of this as an RV accessory, I figured I’d wait and see after a few RV trips.  But the idea of going for recreational rides around home right now, before it gets beastly hot, is pretty exciting.  And it might be really fun to plan RV destinations near places to bike for an hour or so.

I’ve located on-line resources and forums, as I did with RVs, and so I’ll keep learning. 

Good Stuff!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Baptism ...

... by water, actually. Damn near by immersion.

I spent a lot of the day sanitizing the fresh water system in the Beast.  I'd drained the tanks a day or so ago, so I drove it to my friend Bruce's place to push some chlorinated water through it in a location with water, electric, and a gravel drive to drain things into.

Tedious.  Mostly from waiting three hours for the chemicals to do their work.  And then drain it.  And then flush it out until the water doesn't smell like chlorine.  It'll take less time next time, of course, now that I know what I'm doing.

It was hot.  Not Tucson hot, just ordinary hot.   At one point I pulled the drain plug on the hot water tank to make sure I had gotten it fully drained.   I'd gotten it fully pressurized, is what I'd done, and took the brunt of a 6 gallon shower in about 10 seconds.  I smelled like Clorox for the rest of the day.

I did get an email from the manufacturer this morning with the specs fully, well, specified.  Some of it I'd doped out, but the water tank is smaller than I thought (36 gallons, not 45) and so is the hot water tank (6 gallons, not 10).

So now I take it to Buck's for a lube, oil change, filter and then I think I'm ready to hit the road to somewhere.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hanging with the big dogs

Weigh In

At Tucson Truck Terminal (TTT):

Water tanks empty
LP half full
Fuel tank 3/4

From scale:
Front axle 3300
Rear axle  7220 
Gross Weight 10520 

From doorpost:
Front GAWR 4600
Rear GAWR 9450
GVWR 14050

When the water tanks are full, that would add about 500 pounds of weight.  So that means I can haul around about 3000 pounds of people, gear, supplies, etc.   That's a ton and a half!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Smaller stuff

Ten bucks later,  the Beast now has two working door locks.   The deadbolt worked all along, much better after a squirt of teflon.  The previous owner reported that he'd never been able to get the lock on the door latch to work.  Turns out that lock was on a different key!  It took a while for the locksmith to figure out the right key.  It took 5 minutes to make two of them.

Fresh water tank(s):  I drained both tanks: the "master" tank and the hot water tank.  It took more than an hour for the big tank to drain. I measured it as best I could, and a little conversion math ( one cu ft = 7.48 gallons) tells me that it holds 40-45 gallons: more than I thought!  The hot water tank only took about 20 minutes to drain, but that was more than I expected.  There's nothing to measure on that, so there's no real way to infer its size.

Maybe tomorrow, with the water tanks empty and the gas tank almost full I'll take the rig to a truck stop and weigh it.  And then refill the tanks with a sanitizing solution and drive it around to slosh for a while.  Drain, rinse, repeat.

One month into the mission

One month ago the Beast joined the family.  I've spent a little money on it, mostly to replace the converter, but not near as much as if I'd paid an RV center.  And now I understand it pretty well.

Next I figure out a place to drain and sanitize the fresh water system, now that I know how. And I take it to my mechanic to get an oil change and have them inspect the truck systems.  This'll cost.  But I'll learn a bit more about what's underneath the hood and the chassis.

Travel. Next destination will probably be a couple days down in Bisbee, near the Mexican border.  Maybe a trip over to New Mexico to see friends in Los Alamos before they take off for Maine for the summer.  I'm planning a Colorado swing in July to coincide with a conference in Denver.  In June I'll fly to SF for a week for a run over there.  I've been looking at Mexico, which at this point seems very scary, simply because I've never been to Mexico.  No, I take that back:  I walked across the border at Nogales for a few hours just to see what it was like and get some cheap antibiotics for my first aid kit.   Didn't like Nogales much.

August:  I'm considering heading vaguely northwest toward Seattle at some point, maybe stop and see friends in Olympia.  Maybe cross over into Canada, if that's not a hassle with my dog.   I'd like to camp by the Pacific again.   And then there's Montana and Wyoming.  

One step at a time.  First get the oil changed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The great drain mystery solved

I found the gravity drain for the fresh water tank, and while doing that found the water pump and Plumbing Central.  It's all under the forward seat in the "dinette."  Electric Central is under the aft seat, so that makes sense.  Pretty accessible, once you know where you're looking.

So now I know how to drain the fresh water system and how to put sanitizing solution in it.

The battery continues to hold its charge.  The little fan arrived to help the refer cool down more quickly.

Time to plan the Bisbee trip.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


The fridge seems to be working fine.  After about 6 hours on propane,  the freezer was at 10 degrees and the fridge at 31.  I'll check back after dinner and see if it just keeps getting colder, or what.

And I tackled the awning once again,had a brief moment of concern (although not pain) and figured it out.  I spent a few minutes drinking a beer, sitting on my front "stoop," in the shade of my awning.  Just like home, huh?

Next project is sanitizing the water tank.  Because ...

Down the road, but not too far: a Trickl Start  so that when I'm plugged in to AC I'm also charging the starter battery.

Further done the road:  solar.  (1) To keep the battery topped off when it's sitting in storage, and/or (2) to extend the battery life when I'm camped without power.  This requires some research.  Fun!

More on refrigeration and other issues

These RV refrigerators are odd beasts.  There's general agreement that they take a long time to cool down.  6-8 hours is often mentioned.  Observations and gleanings:

The freezer compartment cools down first.

Load the thing with pre-cooled food, and (one Phoenician suggested) put frozen bottled water in it when starting up.  

Seems like the frig needs to be started up the day before departure.

Use a small fan to keep air moving in the frig compartment, and load food so as to permit air circulation.   Fans for this purpose can either be wired in, or battery-driven.  One model says it runs for 30 hours on a load of D cells. Seems better to me than drilling holes through the case for 12VDC wires.

There's no temperature setting in my model: the manuals repeatedly advise that this is "factory pre-set."  But there's apparently a thermistor attached to one of the cooling fins in the frig section, and by sliding this up and down one can adjust temperatures.   Sort of.

Constantly opening the door(s) to check on the temperature is counter-productive (!)

The DC power has to be on for control circuitry in the thing to work.  (This may have been one of my problems.  There's a battery disconnect switch which I have been religiously turned off when I leave.)

Make sure birds have not built a nest in the vent.


While chewing on these issues, I wondered about how much LP gas the thing consumes.  That's the only way I can cool it down while in the storage lot.   There's a LED  indicator in the rig which reports how much fresh water I have on  board, how much LP gas is in the tank, how full the waste water tanks are.  The LP indicator hasn't budged since I've owned it.  Poking around and reading schematics, I learned that there's an actual analog gauge down in the compartment where the LP gas tank is.  Comforting.  I have more than half a tank.  And the refrig consumes least LP gas BY FAR of all the appliances:  The shop drawings report:

Refer 1500 BTU
Furnace 31000 BTU
Range 25500 BTU
Water Heater 8500 BTU

It's not clear what these numbers actually mean.  BTU per hour?  Under what conditions?  Max BTU?   But whatever they mean, since the refer seems to run all the time, either on gas or 120VAC, I'm glad it's relatively parsimonious.

Come to think of it, I have no idea how many BTU's a full tank of LP gas provides.  But wait!  This is the internet...

Here's a set of numbers from :

1 pound of propane 21,600 BTUs
1 gallon of propane 91,000 BTUs
1 cu ft of propane     2,750 BTUs

So if I have a 20-pound tank, which one owner of a similar rig said he has (again, no specs anywhere) I have a capacity of 432K BTUs, which might run the refer for 12 days, IF the numbers on the shop drawings are BTU's/hour.

But that 20-pounds seems a bit low, given that your basic "20 pound" BBQ grill tank holds about 16 pounds of propane, and this tank looks bigger than that.

And if I'm not running the furnace.

Or cooking.

Or taking a lot of showers.


More coffee.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Back from second shakedown

It was a successful shakedown.  Another overnight at Catalina St Park.  

A few disconnected thoughts:

I have some questions about the refrigerator, or perhaps they’re questions about the little thermometer I bought to check on it.  It didn’t seem to get cold hardly at all when I turned it on yesterday morning, using LP gas.   So when I bought groceries I got a bag of ice, and turned it into an icebox.  That may have been the pragmatic solution — kept the food cold — but I didn’t learn much. It seemed colder when I plugged into camp power, but the thermometer never did get down into the below-zero range for the freezer.  It said that the freezer was in the safe zone for refrigeration.  So I left some cans of soda in there, and was rewarded in the night by the sound of exploding Pepsi.   This next week I’ll try to be more systematic about testing it, and get a better thermometer.  (Just checked Amazon and there’s a wireless device which gives a readout from both the freezer or the frig.)  Gadgets!

As far as I can tell, the new converter/charger is working right.  The output of the converter when I unplugged from camp power was 13.6.  The battery test lights on the rig showed “full charge.”  I was too lazy to unearth the battery from its protective shell down under the step and actually measure it.  For now, I’m assuming that all is well down there.

Emma:  she may need to go back on the pheromone collars for trips. She panted almost the whole time, and trembled for the first several hours.  I bullied her into getting down from the couch and sitting on her dog bed for a few minutes, but the moment I stopped paying attention she was back up on the couch.  That by itself isn’t a bad thing, but the incessant panting and drooling suggests she’s in a fair amount of distress, and it’s pretty annoying for me.  

I’m beginning to develop routines about what gets stowed where.  I’m happier when the space is fairly clear, and when I know where things are.  

I also need to get some checklists for small electronic parts and their cables and adapters.   I think it’s time in general to get some small plastic boxes to organize various bit and pieces… and I want to figure out something akin to a cargo net to keep things from skittering around that I’ve put in a couple of places that don’t have doors.

This was the maiden voyage for my son’s generous birthday present:  a “Big Jam Box” bluetooth speaker.  It sounds great in the space, takes up very little room.  I took it outside on the site’s picnic table at one point to enjoy jazz with a beer and some chips.  Perfect!

Assuming I can get a handle on the refrigerator issue without going on the road, I think the next trip will be Bisbee for a few days.

Friday, April 11, 2014

On the road again

Kinda.  Later I'll take some supplies and the dog down to the storage lot, and head first for the grocery store and then Catalina State Park.  Second shakedown.  I went down this morning to turn on the refrigerator, which takes a long time to cool down, and checked the air in the tires and the air springs. All was close to normal except the driver's side air spring, which was pretty low.  First time I've used the little compressor which was part of thew deal -- it runs on 12 volts off the battery, and does the job just fine.  I discovered that my nice analog-dial tire pressure gauge doesn't go high enough for truck-tire pressure. Good thing (a) I have a couple of little old-fashioned gauges which push a little rod out to reveal the pressure and (b) the compressor has a pressure gauge built in.  

I found the fresh water storage tank! Poring over the diagrams showed that it had to be on the driver's side,  a bit behind the front axle.  And there it was, under the couch.  Of course.

This is important because I want to drain and sanitize the sucker.   I found one way to do that, by letting the water dribble out the intake port I discovered a couple days ago.  That can't be the best way, because it barely drained a gallon in half an hour, even with the faucets turned on to release pressure.  The tank holds 25 gallons -- There's gotta be a secret I haven't figured out yet.  

One way to do this would be to  connect a hose to some cold water outlet, run it out the door, and turn the pump on.  Or use the pump to get a siphon going.  That seems like a kludge.  But a faster kludge than what I did this morning.

This is progress.  Next major component I haven't found is the fresh water pump itself.  Which is something that might break, leaving me SOL.

Too bad the campground has a noon 2pm checkin.  I'm itchy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hitch extender

Rummaging around in a storage compartment I found this:  it extends the trailer hitch so I can use a bike carrier without bumping into the spare tire. 

Not the best of pictures, since you can't see the spare tire. 

Where is it, contd

I'm pretty sure the drain for the hot water tank is that white plastic hose fitting about in the center of this pic.  But the drain for the main fresh water tank eludes me. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

two down ...

The new converter is installed. For once, something was as simple as it seemed it should be.  And as far as I can tell, it's working fine. With the generator running as an AC source, there's 13.6V at the battery terminals.  With the generator off, the battery shows 12.6V, which is essentially a full charge.  I haven't screwed it down yet, in case I need to move it or something.  Well, mostly because I forgot to put the drill in the car this morning.

And with the help of a $.77 plastic pipe adapter from Lowe's, I seem to have solved the "how to suck liquid from a bucket" problem, which means I can proceed to flush and "sanitize" the drinking water system.

The only remaining problem that I know of is the furnace howl; I forgot to check that this morning.  It's not crucial just now, as afternoon temperatures hereabouts are in the mid-90s.  With 3%.  Yes, three percent humidity.  It's a dry heat, ya know.

I think it's time for another shakedown overnight at Catalina St Park.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stand down!

I reinstalled temporarily the old converter. And if, indeed, a breaker flipped it flipped back. Normal 12 volt operations in the rig. 

So now I wait for the new converter to be delivered, and proceed.

I'm really glad I didn't have to get under there and disassemble that circuit breaker array.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ruh-roh Part II

Getting closer, thanks to Mike Muller.

Seems like my strip of breakers is made up of components kinda like this.  There are several examples on line of different models: metal, plastic, with various brackets to hold it in place.  In every case, there are two screw terminals, and what I assume is the reset button is on the end near the shorter brass terminal.  These are from the Optifuse site.

My breakers are all in a nice row, with the short terminals facing in the same direction.   And access to the ends where it seems likely the reset buttons are is blocked by a piece of plastic (?) which holds the whole thing in place.

Either the whole mishegas has to be disassembled, or (maybe!) I can slide a thin piece of plastic in there and manipulate the reset button without seeing what I'm doing or really knowing what I'm doing.   Yeah, right.

Any bright ideas out there?


I'm trying to figure out how to reset a circuit breaker which doesn't look like a circuit breaker.

Here's a picture of what is supposed to be a breaker panel:


The wiring diagram for this neck of the woods:

These pictures are here for the benefit of folks on who are generous with their time, but if anyone has a clue about how to reset such a breaker. I'm all ears.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Battery, the continuing saga of

The new converter is on its way.  I'm continuing to have conversations on line about my battery experience, and one person yesterday rather emphatically asserted that my battery is fried.  Or toast.  Or words to that effect.  I haven't thought so:  I charged it up a little while back, took it to AutoZone, and their little machine said "Good Battery."

But heck, I've got time.  So I brought the battery home last night and put it on my charger overnight.  Yes, it takes that long.

And this morning, damned if the charger wasn't flashing an error code indicating that my battery has an open cell.  Might be "sulfated."   Say what?

So now in the early morning I'm researching batteries.  Deep cycle marine batteries.  Did you know you can lay out more than $350 for one of those suckers? The real price jump seems to come with the "maintenance free" batteries.  Sealed: never have to check the water level.  Seriously, folks, when was the last time you checked the water in your battery?  I just did, this minute, wondering if I'd missed an obvious cause of my problem.  But no, the plates all seem happily covered in a rather murky-looking fluid.

And Oh, Lordy!  Turns out there's a whole category of products which offer to prevent or reverse the dreaded sulfation.  Check this out.

My battery was replaced about 3 years ago.  My mechanic tells me that's about what to expect from a battery in this climate, regardless of how much I spend.  So maybe I'll start with a clean slate.  New converter, new battery.  Unless there's some subtle issue with the wiring from Point A to Point B, that should cover the bases. Right?

A more or less ordinary deep-cycle battery will run me about a hundred bucks.  That should do it.  Should't it?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Scary stuff --

Took out the old power converter.   This is the place it came out of:

And this is the unit, bottom side up:

The vinyl flooring is discolored from heat, I assume, which is why the unit was up off the floor on the two rails.  The new unit has a different way of providing air space underneath.

Now I wait.

New insight

Figuring out how to sanitize the water system(s) has surfaced something I didn't think about when I was considering buying an RV.  

It's one thing to find a place to store it.  It's another to find a place to do maintenance and repair work.  Maybe plumbing is uniquely messy: I could probably drain clean water into the dirt of the place where it's stored.  I surely couldn't do this parked at my townhome complex. The HOA patrol would have a conniption fit.  They don't like seeing it parked there.  

Back at the storage lot,  there's no source of water to flush out the system.  

Hmmm ... 

Water sanitizing video

There's an example of how to do what I'm talking about on YouTube

Look at that RV!  Everything labelled, better fixtures than in most people' homes!

But the process is what I'm trying for.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Water sanitizing

OK, here's the current project:

I'm trying to get the drinking water tank and pipes sanitized, so I can drink water I store in there.  The previous owner didn't do this, preferring to carry bottled water.

The procedure is simple:  using a short hose, provided ...

You suck a solution of bleach and water up into the system, using the onboard water pump.

The hose is supposed to be connected to this:

It's not real clear here, but the knurled grey knob under the words "antifreeze connection" unscrews: it's a plastic, male-threaded plug, smaller than the female hose end. 

I *think* the plug is embedded in a larger plastic fitting with fins, which, if I could remove it, might reveal the male hose fitting I need to attach the hose.  

I'm putting this here in hopes my friends at can use these pictures to give me some advice.  When I try to "unscrew" the connector with fins, nothing happens.  Since the previous owner didn't do this, I suspect that the connector has seized up with time and temperature.

The new converter is due in on Tuesday.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

First upgrade

Well, this should be fun.  And that should give you a notion of how warped my idea of "fun" is these days.  It's a new (well, factory-reconditioned) power converter for the Beast.  This is what takes 110V AC from the generator or external power and converts it to 12V DC for all the lights, etc.  And charges the battery.  Smaller, lighter, and smarter.

It's being shipped to me. We'll see how installation goes. If this works, I will be feeling extremely smug about figuring this out and dealing with it without paying one of the repair shops.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Beast and social media

When I had the idea that an RV would be a way to escape Tucson summer heat, I was focussing on what using it might do for me.  It turns out that, so far, owning the thing has provided great pleasure.  It's this huge, glorious, multifaceted toy.  A bit scary at times, but even in a few short weeks I'm getting more confident in my ability to deal with what problems there are and to imagine ways to improve the Beast to make it better for me.  It's just like a house, that way.

So I've learned a lot.  The shop drawings I got from a guy on eBay were incomprehensible at first, but  now that I'm learning how to read them, they're useful and even interesting.  I'm lucky enough to have inherited manuals for all the components of the thing -- the furnace, the hot water heater, the air conditioner, the awning... The last post documents not just this but that I had to acquire an illuminated magnifying glass to read the fine print.  Sometimes all there is, is fine print!

My major focus since the shakedown cruise has been the electrical system.  More specifically, the fact that when the thing is plugged in to external power ("shore power") it wasn't charging the battery which provides 12V power to most of the appliances in the "coach."  Lights, the exhaust fan over the stove, the tv, the water pump (!), the starter motor for the generator...  And so as I used those things in one overnight camp, I simply depleted the battery.  The "Deep Cycle Marine" battery, whatever that means.

It looks like the problem is that the converter -- the unit which converts 120VAC power to 12V DC and charges the battery while doing so -- seems to be losing its mojo.  Instead of providing the 14.1 volts it should to charge the battery, the best it can muster is 7.4.  So, I seem to need a new converter.

How do I know what a converter even is?  How do I know where to get one?  How do I know what the proper voltages are?  How do I get the courage to believe I can install one myself?

The internet, of course.  We all know how important the internet is.  But this has been my wake-up call to just how crucial it is.  Google, Craigslist,  eBay, Amazon, a couple of blogs, a Yahoo group, a message board, email.  I would not have found the Beast, or know what to do about problems, or where the nearest free dump station is, or where the good  campsites are in Utah, or just which Walmarts will let you camp overnight in their parking lots while passing through.  Where the cheapest gas is wherever I am.   What services are available at the next exit, where the next rest area is, where I am and how to get where I'm going.

Amazing.  Simply amazing.  And how much I take it for granted, until I think abut it.