Thursday, February 20, 2020

Day 13, 14, 15 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Tuesday (13) - Warm and sunny today. We had the RV washed and waxed today by a mobile wash company. They just drive around the park looking for business. We looked like prime candidates. Lots of road grime from the last couple of months. They did a good job. It hasn’t looked this clean since I picked it up in Georgia. It’s still windy but I don’t hear the slide toppers flapping wildly like they do in Arizona. This is a small pond within the RV park. Just on the other side is a bird sanctuary. We rode the bikes over to the other side of the park and took a look at their amenities. Nice pool and a huge jacuzzi. I tried the WiFi here at the park. It is provided by JabbaWiFi out of Arizona. I ended up talking to their support four times until I just cancelled the service. Slower than dialup.

 It’s 2pm and 87° so I’m at the pool (big surprise). A nice, gentle breeze at the pool. It’s actually around 22mph but the pool area is kind of sheltered.

Wednesday (14) - It looks like we brought some of the “cold” with us. At least for the rest of the week. By Sunday, the forecasted high will be back in the 80s (°F).

The dogs went to PetSmart and I walked to a Bass Pro Shop. I hadn’t been to one in a while and Bridget thought that she hadn’t been to one before. Then realized that it was the same as Cabella’s. It was fun to walk around the store looking at the displays. The aquarium caught my eye as did the weird mailboxes.

After exploring Bass Pro, we had lunch at Cracker Barrel then stopped to pick up a few more groceries.

Kind of interesting that the free WiFi at PetSmart triggered a bunch of security certificate warning messages on my phone. And it wouldn’t allow a VPN connection. Hmmm. Disabled WiFi.

Thursday (15) - This may seem silly but I’ve been looking for a small shelf to put things like my coffee cup ever since we picked up this RV. Every Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, ACE, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby we went into. I finally found one that fits and is functional. Most shelves we found were too wide, too heavy, or not very functional. This one works and the mounting screws are into the aluminum frame of the slide. Very sturdy. Maybe some Velcro for the remotes…

It’s 55°F and breezy with a little light rain all day. That means the pool is probably deserted. It’s a pretty nice setup. The jacuzzi must be 15’ in diameter with seats in the middle as well as the perimeter. And it was completely empty as predicted. I guess people don’t like the pool when it’s raining. The only downside is that it’s a little far to walk. Especially on a day like today. And, it isn’t that much nicer than the other smaller pool that I don’t need to drive to.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Day 12 - Harlingen, TX - TT

Today started out foggy which turned into light rain. The GPS took us right through downtown San Antonio on our way south. Odd routing. We filled up again using the TDS Logistics fuel card and saved another $30 on 60 gallons of diesel. I can’t complain about that. Once we got near Corpus Christi, it really started to warm up. It hit 92°F this afternoon. I think we found “warm”.

Just out of curiosity, I turned on the dash A/C. I hadn’t worked in the past so I didn’t expect it to work now but it did! I guess when the cleaned the radiator they also cleaned the condenser since it was also in the stack. It didn’t get 40°F cold but definitely was cooler than the ambient temperature.

This park has two swimming pools both with jacuzzis. We are at the small one right now enjoying the warm breeze. And it’s 8:30pm. Not at all like Medina Lake where it got cold as soon as the sun set. Tonight’s low is 70°F!

This RV park is an Encore resort that we have access to from our Thousand Trails membership. We can stay at Encore parks for up to two weeks at a time then be out of their network for a week. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Day 11 - Grid Heater

This is the ground side of the grid heater on the bottom of the intake manifold. The grid heater is an electric heating element inside the intake manifold that is used to preheat the air before enters the engine. It is used when the engine is cold. It is supposed to continue cycling after the engine starts. There is a relay that is controlled by the engine computer to operate the heater. I initially checked to make sure there was 12vdc on one side of the relay. From the other side of the relay to ground, there should have been a very small resistance from the heating element. But it was an open circuit which either meant the element failed or the element ground was broken. Closer inspection of the ground side showed a short ground strap that ran from a bolt and back to the same bolt instead of to the ground bus bar. When I measured the resistance from the relay to the bus bar, it measured very low but non-zero resistance so the element was good!

You can see the ground strap in the second picture. Sometime, someone worked on the engine and forgot to reinstall the ground strap. So, for as long as we’ve owned this coach, the grid heater was non-functional. No wonder it’s been so hard to start when cold. I couldn’t get to the bolt with the ground strap without removing part of the intake manifold so I picked up a battery cable from ACE and ran another ground from the bus bar to the engine block. Now, when measuring resistance, I get about 0.3 ohms. This is pretty approximate as it’s near the limit of the meter but that is about 50 amps when energized. (E/R=I Ohms Law) When the “Wait to Start” light is lit, the battery voltage slowly drops as it should. It still smoked when started but it did start without the block heater. But Bridget pointed out that it wasn’t that cold.

We’ll see if this fix does anything. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my new rocking chair from Camping World while watching a 45’ class A trying to fit into the spot next to us. Interesting watching them as the wheels on the tag axle steer. Kinda cool! I didn’t know they did that.

I had thought that we may need propane before checkout tomorrow but tonight’s low temperature is forecast to be 55°F so the heat pump should be fine. We are down to ⅛.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Day 8, 9, 10 - Medina Lake, TX - TT

It’s been almost half a year since I left Fairbanks in the Prius. I’ve been through twenty one states, Canadian provinces and Territories during those 181 days.
Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Texas. 
Granted, some of those I just passed through.

Thursday (8) - Some maintenance today. I checked the water level in the house batteries. All cells had plenty of water. I added maybe an ounce of distilled water to each cell. The Magnum inverter/charger has an equalization mode but it applies to the chassis batteries as well which are AGM. I’ll need to disconnect the chassis battery cable before running the equalization cycle. It was already late afternoon when I looked into this.

I had stopped at an ACE hardware store and picked up a small hose clamp to fix the small 12vdc air compressor. I know that the left inner rear tire needs air but I don’t have a long enough 12vdc power cable. I need to move the coach first. Or start the engine and use the chassis air.

I found the procedure to test the grid heater on a Cat 3100 series engine. This is what the C7 used to be so I’m hoping the procedure still applies. There is a real shortage of information on this engine on the Internet.

Friday (9) - We visited the Guadalupe River State Park which is northwest of San Antonio. There was a nice loop trail that was about four miles and modest hills. I guess this area is referred to as “Texas Hill Country” so some hills are expected. After the hike, we went to the end of the road where this picture was taken. Then on to the Discovery Center. It was sunny but not very warm with a high of 52°F.

The trail walking might be my favorite activity these days. On the sections with no mud or loose rocks, I even got in a little jogging to try and raise my heart rate a bit. The good thing is that my knees and ankles no longer hurt when running. Since I’ve lost some weight, it helps.

This info graphic made from Apple Watch data does show what can be collected. I’ve found that unless I can get my heart rate above about 145, it doesn’t feel like I’m getting any exercise. This is from the HeartWatch iPhon app from AppleWatch data. After arriving back at the campground, I sat in the jacuzzi for a while enjoying the 60°F temperature and sun. There was a full-time couple and family at the pool. Interesting conversations.

Saturday (10) - This morning, we headed to New Braunfels, which is east and a little north of San Antonio, to meet an acquaintance from Fairbanks. We also stopped at the Camping World to pick up a new latch for the medicine cabinet. One of the hinges is bent so I’ll fix that as well. Hopefully, I’ll have time to check out the grid heater circuit on the engine. This preheats the intake air when the engine is cold both before trying to start as well as after starting. The grid heater draws a lot of current so the chassis battery voltage should drop quite a bit during the preheat cycle (Wait to Start) and I’m not seeing the drop. On the Dodge truck, the battery voltage drops to about 11 volts before starting.

Right now, we are at a boba tea shop and I’m having a delicious Vietnamese coffee. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. I don’t think there is anything planned for tomorrow besides getting ready to leave. We’ve been really conservative on propane usage as I didn’t want to need more until we leave on Monday...