Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mid-week Update

On Monday morning, I was flying to Anchorage for a meeting and took this snapshot of the Tanana River. It definitely looks like Fall here in the interior with hardly any shade of green remaining. Even though it does look a bit dreary, the weather in Anchorage was cold and wet. At least it was dry in Fairbanks.

Tuesday was spent upgrading devices to the new iOS. The 9.7" iPad Pro was registered in the Apple Beta program so it received the update last week. Today was the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Both went without incident though the watch update process took several hours. I think it was because the new OS was transferred to the watch via Bluetooth.

I'm still digging into them looking for any real benefits. The new Siri watchface (pictured) is probably not one of the real benefits though Siri on the watch has always been much better than on the phone. I've been running the public iOS betas since July and like the new features though it seemed to increase battery consumption. Hopefully that has been addressed in the final release.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ural Alternator

On Friday, I pulled the Ural alternator after noting the position of the slotted bolts. I could still see the punch marks I made when I overhauled the engine. The slots are used to set the gear lash between the alternator drive and the cam timing gear. After removing the drive from the alternator, I tried to measure any play. I could feel a very slight amount when putting pressure on the cush drive but it wasn't enough to even try and measure. Just to make sure, I disassembled the drive by pulling the drive gear then pushing out the shaft. There was an internal snap ring holding the bearings in place. This was easily removed followed by the bearings. The bearings looked good, very smooth movement. I removed the dust cover from one side of the bearings and there was still plenty of grease.

After reassembling the drive, mounting the alternator to the drive, and reinstalling the unit, I went for a short ride. I could still hear the whine but I guess it must be normal. No pictures as everything was good. Total time was maybe half an hour.

Last Spring, SueL had mentioned that she wanted a sidecar ride. Saturday was a great day for riding. Clear and sunny. We went around the Chena Ridge-Chena Pump loop and the Fall colors were wonderful. She mentioned that the view from the sidecar was much better than when riding pillion. Of course I pushed the concept that they needed a sidecar rig. And I know for a fact that the BMW they have would pull a sidecar around just fine but I'd look for something more comfortable than a Cozy. (They had picked up my '83 R100RT last Spring) I nabbed this photo from her FB feed as I forgot to take one. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Day Trip to Denali

After meeting of coffee with the regulars on Wednesday, I headed towards Denali National Park with the truck. I opted to not take the Ural since rain was in the forecast and the Roadcrafter still hasn't come back from Aerostitch. I visited with fellow blue/white Ural owner, BruceW, in Nenana. His rig is still in Delta with Mickey getting the engine worked on after his engine hydrolocked last Spring. Mickey mentioned that it was so locked up that it was almost impossible to get it out of gear. That sounded pretty serious. After a short visit, I continued on towards "Glitter Gulch", which is what the very touristy section of the Parks Hwy north of the park entrance is called.

I met up with Lynn, the author of motoblog Curvyroads.Info, and Jerry at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. They are on the land portion of a cruise and the park was as far north as the tour went. After talking at the hotel coffee place, we went to the 49th State Brewing Company which is about 10 miles north in Healy, AK. I had not been there before but my son, Tim, really recommended it. The food and company were wonderful. On the way back to the hotel, we saw three moose in a pond. Unfortunately, I didn't think about stopping for a picture.

There was a pretty strong wind in the canyon blowing north giving me a nice tailwind but it died down by the time I was halfway to Nenana. The remainder of the drive to Fairbanks had beautiful light shining on the trees. There was hardly any traffic and I arrived home shortly after sunset. It was a nice way to spend the day.

Thursday was clear and mostly sunny but it was in the 30s (°F) in the morning. I thought that it may be a good idea to winterize the water system in the RV. I brought about 1½ gallons of RV antifreeze for the pump and the traps and used the small motorcycle air compressor to blow out the hot and cold water lines. I already drained the water heater and switched the bypass. After blowing out the lines, I opened the low point drains. I pumped anitfreeze through the pump but not into any of the water lines. The manager of the RV repair facility said that they were targeting it to be done next week even though they haven't started any work at all.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ural National Rally - Not

The Ural National Rally was today (Saturday, September 9th) and, no, I didn't participate. In fact, I never bothered to register since I wasn't sure if the rig would be on the road. But I did manage to get the Ural out and about a several times. It was too nice of a day to not test the transmission. After morning coffee and a stop at the Farmer's Market, I noticed a slight loss of power on hills. It was then that I remembered that before pulling the transmission, I made a point of using up most of the gas in case I needed to remove the tank. A quick switch to reserve solved the loss of power on hills. Later on in the day, I went out in search of evidence of Fall and I'm afraid that I found plenty. We really don't have a lot of Fall colors around here besides yellow. Unless brown qualifies as a color. There is very little red except on some bushes. This picture was taken at the park in the Goldstream Valley.

I then continued east towards the pipeline turnout on the Steese Highway. I thought that the trees would be more yellow. Maybe in a couple more days. I was reminded by a whining/spinning noise that I probably need to replace the bearings in the alternator drive. It's a pretty simple procedure and I believe that the bearings are available at Napa. I had helped JedR replace the bearings on his newer Ural. I think that they are pretty similar.

I then headed home as I was going to make pizza tonight and needed to start on the dough.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Ural Transmission Finished!

Seventeen days after disassembly, I actually remembered how to put the transmission together. And there were no parts left over. At least none that I could find. I used silicone sealer between the two halves of the case and followed the procedure that Van Le of lemoto.info to "set" the kick starter spring and adjust the upshift and downshift stop screws. I did go through the gears on the bench to make sure it shifted into all of the gears though reverse seems a bit more difficult to get into than before. Reassembling the case took a couple of attempts as I didn't have the kick starter spring procedure memorized and had to pull it to reset the spring to a known position. The specified torque for the case bolts is only 6.2 newton-meters which translates to 55 inch-pounds. This is lower than the lowest setting on my ⅜" drive torque wrench. So I just hand tightened the bolts.

I took the opportunity to grease the transmission input shaft with a mixture of Honda Moly 60 and thick axle grease. The input shaft splines show almost no wear as do the clutch discs. The input shaft is still the original but the clutch discs were changed during the engine rebuild. It was somewhat of a challenge to get the square end of the clutch release rod into the pressure plate but after digging through my tools I found that a nut driver fits onto the end of the rod perfectly and allows me to move the shaft around while rotating the flywheel with the kick starter.

I think it took longer to reinstall the rear swingarm than installing the transmission. It required the removal of the rear shocks to get the swingarm pivots to line up. It's about 99% finished. I took it for a test ride and realized that I had forgotten to attach the rear brake spring. Minor detail. The transmission shifts cleanly and no more popping out of gear. I still need to attach the brake spring and adjust the rear brakes. Then it'll be time for a real test ride.

Update - It runs just fine and the shifts seem more positive than ever. Ran it up and down through the gears tonight and then brought it back into the garage to change the engine oil. The last time I changed it I didn't have a filter handy. Upon examination, I'm glad that I changed third gear as well as there was significant wear where the slider engaged the gear that wasn't noticeable until I could compare it with the new gear.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mid-Week Update

On Monday, we headed down the Parks Hwy towards Nenana to the Big M Farm at mile 314.5. They have u-pick berries and vegetables. While we were on our road trip, they would be posting these wonderful pictures of ripe berries starting around late June. We picked some golden raspberries, carrots, cucumbers, yellow beets, green beans, tomatoes and peas.

Yesterday, I made yogurt in the Instant Pot trying out its "yogurt" cooking program. I put 4 pint canning jars on a trivet inside of the pot, added some water and steamed the jars to sterilize them and the inside of the Instant Pot. I then added 1⅓ cup of whole milk to each jar. The initial part of the "yogurt" program is to bring the milk up to 180°F to pasteurize the milk. But since I was using the canning jars, I just used the saute function and had a thermometer in one of the jars. After reaching temperature, I moved the jars into a water bath to cool them down. When the temperature of the milk was down to 100°F, I added 1Tbsp of sugar and 1Tbsp of plain yogurt with an active culture to each jar. Stirred it up and added some of the golden raspberries to each jar. The jars were placed back in the Instant Pot on a trivet with about 1½ cups of water in the pot. Select the "yogurt" function and increased the time to 12 hours. In the morning, I put the jars in the refrigerator to thicken up. The yogurt is very tasty. Pretty tart as a result of 12 hours of cooking. (Normal is 8 hours and mild is 6 hours)

According to the recipe, if you then drained the whey from the yogurt by using something like cheesecloth or a coffee filter, then the resulting yogurt would be "greek style". You learn something new every day. I didn't know that was the only difference between regular and greek yogurt.

Today (Wednesday), I drove down to Delta to pick up the transmission parts ordered from Ural. Muriel gave me one of the limited edition Urals of Alaska patches. It'll look good on the RoadCrafter once it gets back from the Aerostitch repair shop. Muriel said that they had made up some stickers but didn't have any at the shop. Mickey also gave me some parts to drop off to RickS in Fairbanks the next time I saw him. RickS was the one that I had purchased the Ural from. Since he no longer has his shop in town, I rarely see him so I just ran out to his place and dropped off the parts.

Here is what I had ordered. On the left is the 3rd/4th shift fork, on top is the 3rd/4th slide, and on the bottom is 3rd gear itself. I need to pick up a different external snap ring tool as the transmission uses a different style of snap rings. I asked Mickey if there was anything I should do when assembling the transmission and he said to just oil the needle and ball bearings.

I should be able to get the rig back on the road before the weekend.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Transmission (Cont.)

I finally got around to cleaning up the transmission case. When I overhauled the engine 1½ years ago, I didn't clean the transmission case. I didn't remove the seals, the output shaft or shifters and just used solvent and a brush on the outside of the case. The oil and dirt came off pretty easily. After cleaning with solvent, I then used compressed air to dry off the remaining solvent. I probably should have cleaned the case before splitting the case but I was anxious to get a look at the inner workings of the transmission.

I heard back from Mickey on Friday and the parts have been backordered but the folks at Irbit told him that he should have them by next week. I was hoping to get the transmission done before the Ural National Rally Day on June September 9th. We'll see...

Friday, September 1, 2017

New Cooking Gadget

This isn't a really a new cooking appliance as we already had an electric pressure cooker. But this particular model adds a few more features. It has a "saute" mode so it can be used kind of like an electric sauce pan. It will also work as a rice cooker and a slow cooker. If you watch a lot of YouTube videos of full time RVers, they all mention the Instant Pot. I suspect that the Zojirushi rice cooker will make better rice but it is a uni-tasker.

On our road trip, a slow cooker and a pressure cooker would have been nice to have along but I didn't want to take two additional appliances. The pressure cooker would use less power than simply cooking on the induction burner as would pressure cooking rice. It does draw up to 1000 watts but that is about the same as the rice cooker.

I hadn't planned on picking one of these up but Bridget had ordered it as a wedding present but the couple already had one. So now I have one as well.

As a quick test, I boiled up some eggs. It took about 15 minutes total. 5 minutes to heat up, 5 minutes to cook and 5 minutes to cool down. And the shells practically fell off when they were done. This model has a program for making yogurt. Maybe I'll try that one of these days.

As another quick "test", I made up some steel cut oats. In the past, I had to pre soak them overnight. The recipe just said to saute them in oil or butter, then add 3x water and pressure cook them for 13 minutes. They came out great. Add some raisins and maple syrup and I had breakfast. I think that this will be a great gadget and addition to the kitchen. Both at home and in the RV.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In the Shop

This morning, I dropped the trailer off at an RV shop to have them replace all three of the cable operated tank valves. The back of the shop faces a gravel pit so there would be a nice view from the back window if we were actually camped there. The rig looks high in the front as I had adjusted the pin box to its lowest position which maximizes the distance from the trailer overhang to the top of the truck bed rails. No problem with them touching as I pulled out of the driveway. Towing nose-high is not recommended as it puts more of the trailer weight on the rear wheels of the trailer. But since the shop was only about six miles away, I figured that it should be fine.

The repair time estimate they gave me is really dependent  on how quickly they could get replacements for the cable operated valves. Due to the different cable lengths, it isn’t something that they carry in stock.

On a side note, Bridget has been asking me about the GoPro video that she shot in Colorado. Here is a small sampling of the video of the ride up Pike Peak.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Starting to Get Ready For Winter

On Friday, I flew back to Fairbanks from Utqiaġvik arriving early afternoon. I had been asked to run sound for a memorial service and after the service, they asked people to write notes on balloons and release them outside. It turned out to be a beautiful evening.

I spent some time working on the trailer partly to get it ready for winter. I changed the anode rod in the water heater (see my earlier post) and installed some insect screens on the water heater and furnace vents. I still need to install some screen in the refrigerator vents.

Then flipped the water heater bypass valve and drained the water lines using the hot and cold water low point drains. There was a large water filter housing installed with no filter. I removed it and will be redoing the plumbing to bypass it. When I picked up the trailer, the water filter housing and the water heater had a lot of RV antifreeze in them and it took a long time to get the smell out of the system. In fact, when I drained the pipes on Saturday, there was still a lingering smell of RV antifreeze.

The above picture was taken from the area next to the building where my office is. I stopped by in the middle of the day. One of the reasons was to pick up a USB-C hub that I had ordered for my Macbook Pro. If you pay attention to the whining on the Internet, you may have heard the complaints about this laptop only having USB-C ports and to use anything else, you need "dongles". This Kickstarter device pretty much resolves that with HDMI, SD slot, micro SD slot and two USB3 ports I'm in pretty good shape. The only dongle I need is USB to Ethernet. Pretty cool gadget. It would have been nice to have during the trip.

The transmission parts should be at Mickey's shop sometime this week. So maybe there will be a trip to Delta soon. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

More Transmission Pictures

Last Saturday afternoon before heading north, I dug into the transmission a little bit more. After removing the input shaft, I was able to partially disassemble the output shaft starting from 4th gear. Here are a couple more pictures from inside of the Ural transmission. This is 3rd/4th shifting sleeve and you are looking at the 3rd gear side. You can see the rounded corners one of which is circled in red. These mate with reliefs in the gear itself as can be seen below. The shift fork fits into the shifting sleeve and there is noticeable wear and play. The wear is on the side of the sleeve and fork where the sleeve is being pushed into 3rd gear. The sleeve popping in and out of third would put a lot of additional pressure and wear on the sleeve and fork.

I'm thinking that 3rd gear itself looks fine with only a small amount of wear but went ahead and ordered a replacement. The 1st/2nd shifting sleeve also has a lot of wear on the 2nd gear side but the shifting fork for 1st/2nd is held in position by the shift quadrant a lot better than the 3rd gear position. I'm pretty amazed at how easy the transmission came apart. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


This afternoon (Wednesday) was spent in meetings examining the installed IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities and upcoming changes. At some point, the goal is to turn over management of the network to UIC. The target is when high speed terrestrial broadband is available through one of the local telecoms. The publicized date is first quarter of next year but next summer would be more reasonable and first quarter of the following year may be more realistic.

This evening, I took several of the visitors attending the meeting around town to see the sights including the iconic whale bone arch near the Top of the World hotel. Also on the tour was the local grocery store to see the phenomenal prices that people pay to live and work in this area. We also headed out towards the point to see the baleen palm trees. They are getting to be in pretty sad shape.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Visit This Summer

This is the new housing unit for NSF researchers, referred to as Ukpik Nest 2. I think that it was originally set up when the oil companies were doing exploration west of Barrow. After they pulled out, it was available. Even though the building is fully wired, we simply installed some of the newer mesh network access points and installed one Ubiquity Nano for the whole building. It's working pretty good. The rooms are in good condition though it is "dorm style" housing with the bathrooms down the hall.

It has been overcast and in the 40s (°F) all day and overcast. And it looks like summer is mostly over. On the way to NARL, we saw that someone had landed a beluga on the beach. This is Barrow...

I had some tasks that needed to get done to resolve some issues that had arisen during the summer but it was all pretty straightforward. Starting tomorrow afternoon and possibly extending into Thursday are some meetings dealing with the transition of operational responsibility of the network to UIC. This will probably occur when the new terrestrial broadband service becomes available. I hear that service will be available starting in the first quarter of next year. I'm not sure what that really translates to. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fairbanks Eclipse

Fairbanks was far from optimal for viewing the eclipse. This morning, I went to the university as there was going to be an eclipse viewing event at the Reichardt Building, which is home to the natural sciences. Right off the bat, you can see that the weather wasn't cooperating but there were a few hundred people hanging around with their free, cardboard viewing glasses.

Most of the people were hanging around looking at the displays and telescopes that the various clubs had set up and the local TV station was interviewing random people collecting sound bites. The physics club was selling cookies and muffins (actually just asking for donations) and some departments had tables set up for kid to make some viewers. There were even some grad students doing presentations to the crowd explaining why eclipses happen.

As the time approached, they mentioned that they had the NASA TV feed running in the large lecture hall. And if they really wanted to see the eclipse, then that was probably the "best" view. It was a good opportunity for the University to get some community involvement as many people rarely visit this university building. Lots of kids running around. Some people whining about not seeing anything.

On the Ural front, I called Mickey from Urals of Alaska to order some transmission parts. I decided to get all of the 3rd gear pieces including the gear, the shift collar and the shift fork. The needle bearings appear to be in good shape and there was very little metal floating around in the transmission. More on that in the post scheduled for next Friday.

I'm typing this while sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to Utqiaġvik, the village formerly known as Barrow, where I will be spending the week. I suspect that I will be posting more about that later in the week.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

RV Apps and Memberships

In preparation for this road trip, I had joined a number of RV "clubs" and downloaded a number of iPhone apps. Some were very useful, some less so.

Good Sam's Club: This is one that I've used on just about every RV trip over the last 25+ years. It gets you 10% off on the daily campsite fee at participating campgrounds, a 10% discount at Camping World stores, and a discount on diesel at Flying J truck stops. I more than recovered the membership fee on this trip. I used their app to find campgrounds down the road.

Good Sam's Road Assistance: The one tow in Redding,CA, paid for this. I could have called them in Idaho to change the blown trailer tire but figured it would be faster to do it myself. They have an app but I never used it. I just called them on the phone.

Passport America: Another discount campsite club. If you stay at one of their member campgrounds, you get a 50% discount on the daily rate. The discount is usually only for one night. I think we broke even on this as most of the campgrounds don't provide the discount during their peak season. But the membership paid for itself after only being used three times. I used their app to look for member campgrounds and to look at their discount policies.

KOA: We stayed at a couple of KOA campgrounds and received a modest discount. Probably not enough to warrant joining. Their campsites were generally had more amenities suitable for a family such as miniature golf and larger playgrounds. I used their app to look for campgrounds down the road and they usually had space as they generally cost a bit more.

Harvest Host: We stayed at four of their sites. You need to join before getting access to their database. It was worth joining as we enjoyed staying at all four of the location. The locations can be wineries, fruit stands, farms, or museums. Generally, they ask you to visit their site, store or tasting rooms in exchange for the free parking site. Generally, no hookups but one of them had water and electricity. There is no app, just a web site.

AllStays App: This was our go-to app when we needed to find campgrounds, rv parks, rest stops, truck stops, Camping World, Costco, Walmart, BLM sites, etc. It was well worth the $10 and it was used regularly when looking for the next campground or when we needed fuel or food. The app also lists road grades and low bridges.

GasBuddy App: Useful app to compare fuel prices. What the apps don't tell you is how open the parking lot is to maneuver a 33' trailer that is over 13' high.

The last app that I used regularly is LevelMatePro. It works with some hardware mounted to the wall and communicates using low energy bluetooth. It's really convenient to see how level the trailer is side to side from the drivers seat when pulling into a camp site.

Some less than useful apps are Sanidumps+, Roadtrippers. Due to the number of RV parks we stayed at, finding dump stations between RV parks wasn't needed. If we were dry camping more then maybe. Roadtrippers is an app that helps you find things to do while on the road. I never really had the opportunity to try the app out. 

Not really an app but one of the "fails" on the trip was the Spot 2. The hardware failed, the company said hmmm, and in the next breath said no refund for the remaining ten months. Basically, too bad. I'll never get another one again… 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back to Normal?

If "normal" is working on the Ural then things are back to normal. This evening, I pulled the transmission out leaving the engine in the frame. To do this, it's necessary to remove the final drive as well as removing the rear swingarm pivots. This allows the drive shaft to go back far enough to remove the rubber flexible coupling between the output of the transmission and the driveshaft. Definitely easier than removing the engine and it took about 1½ hours.

Now, I need to figure out the minimum disassembly needed to crack open the transmission. The Ural repair manual mentions some special tools but I'm thinking that they would only be needed if the transmission was going to be completely disassembled.

I removed the kick start lever then the seven screws holding the case together. After a few light taps, the case separated. The picture on the right shows the inside of the gearbox after the reverse idler was removed. I am unable to remove the output yoke as there isn't enough room for even a very thin walled socket.

It took me a bit to figure out which gear was which. In the picture on the right, 4th is the uppermost gear and 3rd is just below it. Right now, it is in 3rd gear and you can see that the shift fork is held in barely held in place. If there is any wear on the gear, the fork or the shift sleeve that engages the gears, then it could easily pop out of gear. Since it isn't going completely into 3rd, it seems that the shift fork is probably the worn part. There is a little bit of rounding of the edges on the sleeve and 3rd gear. More than any of the other gears.

This is the 3rd gear side of the 3rd/4th shift fork and there seems to be a lot of wear and even some hot spots. Those are the discolored spots. I think that I am going to order the 3rd/4th shift fork, the 3rd/4th shift sleeve and 3rd gear. I think that the reason it isn't staying in gear is that the parts are just worn out. 3rd gear is used a lot. Just about any speed from 30mph to over 50 mph could be in 3rd gear.

By the way, there was only a trace of metal on the drain plug magnet and the oil still looked pretty fresh. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Meeting up With Mike

This morning, I had another opportunity to meet up with Mike Saunders. an intrepid Ruckus traveller. I had originally met Mike several years ago when he was near the beginning of his last trip. Since then, Mike has crisscrossed the country multiple times from Key West to Prudhoe Bay and Baja to Labrador. After being in Fairbanks for the last couple of months, it is now time to venture south again before the snow flies. This time the Ruckus was mostly unladen before he heads south to Wasilla before heading towards Canada and points south.

I think that this may be a good time to start tearing into the Ural. I usually don't ride when the snow starts to fly. The weather is pretty nice in September but without third gear, the Ural isn't really very rideable. When hitting a hill, you are relegated to 30 mph unless you can make it up at least 50 mph. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Road Trip Summary (Cont.)

The question has come up on what, if anything, we would do differently. There are a few things. Traveling through the desert in the summer was silly. But one of Bridget's must see destinations were the Utah national parks. And one of the things that I had scheduled was the MOA rally in Salt Lake City. Given the MOA history of having the rally in some miserably hot areas, I won't have the rally as a destination again unless it is really convenient and somewhere cooler.

I would've scheduled our travel days differently. Maybe travel for a day or two then stay put for several days. We wouldn't cover as much ground but that was never the goal. We used a planner/calendar put out by a full time RV couple on this trip to keep track of where we stayed each night and how many miles we traveled each day. It was useful information as I had pre-filled in the campground reservations as I made them. This allowed us to see how far we needed to travel between those reservations. And reservations were only needed if we wanted to stay in popular areas such as near national parks especially if it was the weekend. We were generally unable to camp in the national park campgrounds as most of them could not accommodate an RV longer than 30'.

Making reservations the day before worked well enough especially when we could use an app to look for a campground. Many times, the campgrounds would fill up by early evening so it's better to arrive at your destination by mid-afternoon. Most of the Walmarts no longer allow overnight parking. Mostly due to local ordinances. Many of these local ordinances were put in place due to pressure from private RV parks and campground organizations such as Good Sam's. Another reason is there are many that abuse the free RV parking. Examples of abuse are using it like a campground (lawn furniture, awnings, etc), sleeping in your car (no RV), or staying multiple days to months instead of simply overnight.

To us, the only useful time when overnight parking made sense was when we simply needed a place to stop when we were traveling between locations. We used Harvest Hosts for some of these and a casino for another. Walmart or a rest area would've been a last resort.

It would have been really convenient to have some sort of motorbike on the trip. I saw a number of RVs with rear mounted carriers with modest sized bikes and scooters. I wouldn't use a carrier that only fit into the receiver hitch but would reinforce it with some attachments to the trailer frame unlike the one pictured.

I think this post will be continued later. Including a list of apps that we used.

On the maintenance front, I pulled out the anode rod from the RV water heater today as I suspected that it was in pretty poor shape. I had no idea how poor it was. On the right is what a new anode rod looks like. This is a picture from Amazon. Below is what the anode rod from our water heater looks like. Quite a difference. It's essentially completely consumed.

The purpose of the anode rod is to protect the steel parts of the water heater from rusting away. It is made from a magnesium alloy that will corrode faster than the steel components in the water heater. All that is left of this rod is a thin layer of metal on the steel rod in the center which provides mechanical support. If the water heater tank starts to rust away now I know why. Fortunately, it isn't leaking but I should plan on replacing it in the near future. As part of the winterizing process, the water heater is usually drained by removing the anode rod. It's an opportunity to check its condition. Last October, I had asked the previous owner about draining the water heater and he said that he had never done it. I didn't have a 1⅛" socket with me at the time. I had brought one with me on the trip but I had forgotten to check the water heater.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Road Trip Summary

Some basic trip stats:
  • 92 days on the road
  • 89 days outside of Alaska
  • 12 days in Canada
One of the limiting factors for our trip was I couldn't be out of the state for more than 90 days according to the state retirement system.

Here are some camping statistics.
  • 50 nights in private RV parks
  • 17 nights in public campgrounds with and without hookups
  • 6 Nights in family/friends home (Whitehorse, Woodland, Corvallis)
  • 6 nights driveway surfing (Helena, Sun River)
  • 4 nights using Harvest Hosts
  • 3 nights in motels (Fort Nelson, Prince George, Merrit)
  • 2 nights at Walmart
  • 1 night camping w/tent (Hood River)
  • 1 night casino camping
Most of the camping had some sort of hookup including one of the Harvest Host sites. The hot temperatures forced us to look for campsites with power so we could run the air conditioner. I only used the generators once at one of the Harvest Host sites to run the air conditioner for a couple of hours. Most of the public campgrounds had generator restrictions as does Walmart.

The leaking black tank valve really limited our ability to boondock. The fresh water tank overflow was not connected to the overflow on the fill so anytime we were off camber, such as at a rest area, we would lose water from the fresh water tank. Even if we started out full in the morning, by the afternoon we lost some percentage of our fresh water. We ran out of water once after only 2 days of dry camping. It should've lasted much longer than that since we weren't using it for cooking or showers.

The battery bank and solar panels worked great. No issues. The lowest we ran the batteries down was 65% of capacity or about 150 amp-hours. We never had a day when the batteries weren't at 100% by evening. The converter was never used to charge the batteries. We never had to "ration" the power and regularly used the induction cooktop, rice cooker, Keurig coffee maker, electric fans, computers, microwave, TV, furnace, CPAP machine, etc. all off of the battery bank. We did have to try and remember to switch the refrigerator from "auto" to "gas" when the inverter is on. Otherwise, the refrigerator would be a continuous 350 watt load on the battery bank. It may be an idea to add four more solar panels just to power the refrigerator while traveling. I think that 90% or our cooking was on the induction burner and only 10% was on the stove. The oven was only used to store frying pans.

The Ubiquity network setup worked well. I needed to downgrade the Ubiquity firmware at the one campground that was still using WEP. Having the Nano allowed us to connect to almost all of the campground wifi including the Google wifi available at one of the Starbucks next to the Rock Springs Walmart. Where campground wifi wasn't available, I could connect the Ubiquity to either my AT&T iPhone or Verizon iPad. The iPad service was more for emergency use only as I only have 1GB of capacity available. We did not use a cellular booster.

The Berkey water purifier was probably the best addition we made. We were never out of great tasting water and we never bothered to sanitize the fresh water tank as we did not use it of cooking or drinking. I do have to come up with a way to secure the Berkey for travel in the trailer. For this trip, we always moved it onto the floor of the back seat of the truck for travel.

The air conditioner was nice to have since it was so hot. But it struggled to keep the temperature in the trailer much more than 10°F cooler than the outside temperature. An option is to rewire the trailer for 50 amp service (new electrical panel, new cord, new surge protector) and add a second air conditioner. In Moab, we picked up some Reflectix bubble pack insulation and put it on some of the windows. It really did help. We needed to add some to the other windows especially the picture window on the rear of the trailer. For moderate temperatures, a second fan for the living room vent would help. Though, due to the height of the ceiling, the model with the remote control would be needed.

One addition needed before the next trip are new tank level sensors. The SeeLevel II system can be retrofitted without drilling into the tanks and uses the existing wiring.

We used five 30# tanks of propane during the trip. The furnace is, by far, the largest consumer of propane. During the +100°F days, one tank would last a month. On the way back through Canada, maybe 10 days. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fair Time

Now that we are back from the trip, there is just the normal running around town. On Tuesday afternoon, we stopped at Pioneer Park aka Alaskaland, as Bridget wanted to look for something at the museum. I just enjoyed looking around since I really don't stop there very often. This is the sternwheeler Nenana that has been under renovation for longer than I lived in Alaska.

Wednesday was "Senior Day" at the fair. I'm not going to pass up free admission. As you can see in the picture, attendance seems to be really down. At least from what it used to be. One of the vendors mentioned that next year they were going to raise the rate for a booth and reduce the number of days. Not what you want to do where there are already a lot of empty booth spaces. Back when a family pass was reasonable, we used to go to the fair almost daily. Not so anymore.

The normal "senior rate" is only $5 so I went to the fair again today. Partly to exchange an iPhone charge cable that I had purchased last year at the fair. The claim was that it was extremely sturdy and should last a lifetime. It lasted a month. I brought it back and the vendor happily exchanged it for a new one.

On Monday, the Ural wouldn't accelerate in 3rd gear. It felt like it was running out of fuel or something. After a search on SovietSteeds, a Ural forum, I found a description of exactly what I was seeing. There was no followup post with a solution so I sent a message to the original poster. He told me that he tore into the transmission and replaced a slightly worn 3rd gear. That fixed the problem. So I guess that I will be digging into the transmission shortly. Today, I had some errands to run and just drove the Ural in 1st, 2nd and 4th gear. It has a full tank of gas so I need to use some of it up. Skipping 3rd means that it runs up to 5k rpm in 2nd before shifting into 4th. This works fine on flat ground.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Back Home

A huge thank you to Ian for getting the trailer into the driveway and to our neighbors for letting us park it in their driveway for the weekend. Due to the steepness at the top of our driveway, the bed of my truck hit the overhang of the trailer. Ian has a flatbed with the same gooseneck hitch so the 5th wheel hitch just popped right in. The flatbed has no bedsides so there nothing to hit. Since the flatbed was longer, the back corners were watched and they cleared by only a couple of inches. This does mean I that I may be looking for either a used flatbed or possibly building one on the truck before the trailer can leave the driveway. I may also lower the hitch on the front of the trailer a couple of inches further increasing the distance between the overhang and the truck bed.

Now that it was in the driveway, we finished unloading it. The trailer really looks huge relative to the house. Tomorrow, I will be picking up several 2x10 pressure treated boards to put on the dirt behind the trailer. Then, I'll be able to back the trailer further into that area next to the garage and have it level.

Some initial stats for the road trip:

  • 13,478 miles
  • 1,035.05 gallons of #2 diesel
  • 13.02 miles/gallon
  • $3,224 for fuel 
Or about 24¢ per mile. Not too bad...

Actually, it's a bit less than that since I didn't adjust for the difference between U.S. and Canadian currencies. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Day 91 - Tok, AK

Today was a long 386 miles (according to Google) but we had a time change in our favor. We stopped at Kluane Lake (photo below) for a late lunch before heading for Beaver Creek, the last gas station in Canada. We used the last of our Canadian Currency to get some diesel. No need to fill up since diesel would be (hopefully) cheaper in Tok. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Day 90 - Whitehorse, YT

Today was a lazy day in Whitehorse, YT. We switched sites at the RV park as the one that was reserved for today had full hookups. After lunch, we headed for the Copperbelt Railway & Mining Museum on the north end of town. It was a pretty small museum but the modest entrance fee included a ride around their grounds on a small train. By "small", we mean that the engine is one that is normally used inside of a mine.

This was a display of lanterns. Lots of equipment and pictures on display showing the mine in operation.
After the railway museum, we headed into Whitehorse to wander around town and look in the trinket shops. There were a lot of tourists wandering around town, almost too many. It gave the town a weird vibe. And something I haven't seen for a while, panhandlers.

We wandered down to the wharf to look at the Yukon River. It was moving pretty fast and I was amazed that all of this water was running through Miles Canyon.
The wharf area was also the end of the line for the Whitepass Railroad, which is a narrow gauge line that is mostly run as a tourist attraction.

The last photo is our campsite for the second night here in Whitehorse. For future reference, having the door neared the middle of the rig would be nicer...