Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Day 26 - Redding, CA

It doesn't look like it's going to be a simple fix with the truck. I had asked the service advisor yesterday why the mechanic thought it was a clutch problem and not simply the hydraulic master/slave cylinder. This morning he had the answer. The hydraulic system is still under pressure i.e. no leaks. Some Internet research of my own last night explained how a slipping clutch couldn't really be felt until it really failed but could generate enough heat for the friction material to stick to the flywheel and pressure plate. The slipping would occur under heavy load such as towing uphill. Pressing the clutch pedal several times in succession will sometimes free the clutch disc. This is exactly what I had observed while on the numerous grades last week. At the top of one pass, I thought I smelled burning brakes. I had assumed that it was one of the tractor trailer rigs that I had passed. That smell was probably from the clutch slipping.

So, we will probably be in Redding for a while. I've been calling the dealer a couple of times per day to get an update. Tomorrow morning, the mechanic is scheduled to pull the transmission.

A brief tank/valve update. The black tank valve that is buried in the underbelly of the 5th wheel does leak. But the good news is that the tank is not clogged and the valve does sort of open and close. At the suggestion of Ken from Keller-RV, I will just be using the valve on the exit pipe for dumping the black tank. The grey tank valve works fine and that will be used to flush the plumbing and hose after the black tank is drained. This does somewhat limit our boondocking ability and RV park procedures. Not optimal but it'll work. And I'll just plan on changing out the leaking valves when I get back home. Just about all of the screws holding the plastic underbelly in place are rusted in place.

The awning has a stretcher/support in the middle due to its length. After some googling I found an installation guide so I know how to use it. While travelling, it supports the middle of the roller and when deployed, it help stretch out the awning fabric in the middle of its span. The awning is around 20 feet long. Which is long for a roll up awning. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Day 25 - Redding, CA

This morning, we had Keller Mobile RV Service come by and take a look at the tank valves. And, as I had thought, the galley tank valve appears to be stuck open. This isn't really a problem. The grey tank valve is working properly. And the black tank valve is working but the tank needs a good cleaning. He picked up some other chemical called Happy Camper, filled up the tank with water and added a double dose of the chemical. He is coming by tomorrow to dump the tank and repeat. The chemical also helps to lubricate the valves. It's nice to have this problem resolved.

While he was here we talked about a few more minor problems. A tack weld was broken where the steps were stabilized by the frame. Rather than re-weld, he just bolted the step frame to the trailer frame. The awning strap was broken making it very difficult to pull out the awning. When he picked up the black tank chemical, he picked up a replacement awning strap and we installed it and I learned how to put out the awning. He said that the awning is mechanically in great shape though there is a small tear in the material where the door may have rubbed against it. Also, it looks like it may be partially out of the awning rail at one end. I'll take a look at it later. Since there is wind in the forecast, I didn't leave the awning out but did let it dry out.

If anyone needs work on your RV in the Redding, CA, area, I would recommend him anytime. Very personable and fair.

One activity that I neglected to mention yesterday was trying out the pool. It was pretty cool (temperature wise) and refreshing. Especially after walking to the store.

Last night around 9, I turned on the inverter, switched the refrigerator to propane and flipped off the breaker powering the outlets. All of the lights, Bridget's breathing machine and several cups of coffee had the bank down to 85% by this morning. Kind of a hazy, overcast day. I'm curious if we can get fully charged on this hazy day. If anyone is curious on how our solar setup is doing, here is a link where the files are updated only once per day at 1:02am. The local copy on the Raspberry Pi is updated every minute. (talk about overkill!)

This afternoon, we walked down to the shopping center again to pick up the AA batteries as well as a few other items. The overcast skies made the 83°F feel reasonable. Maybe I'm getting used to the warm weather. Right now I have the remote thermometer sensor in the refrigerator to see what it is set to.

According to this mornings call to the dealer, Crown Motors, they are actually working on the truck and I should hear back from them sometime today. They didn't call so I called Cody, the service writer, back at 5pm. He said the mechanic wants to pull the transmission to examine the clutch but couldn't tell me why. I told him that there was no evidence of the clutch slipping so I really needed to know the reason. He said that he will call me back at about 9:30 tomorrow morning. We'll see if he does…

By 6:30pm, the overcast skies charged the batteries back to 99%. It never made it to absorption. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Day 24 - Redding, CA

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend and given some thought as to what it's about. Not simply another holiday or a long weekend. Memorial Day is an opportunity to not only remember those that died in the service to our country but the sacrifice of their families and other survivors. It's also an opportunity to thank those that are actively serving their country. A huge thank you for helping to ensure that we can enjoy the freedom that we often take for granted. 

Today was another hot, sunny day. The only outing was a walk to the local grocery store, Raley's on Lake Ave, for a few more items. One item at the top of the non-existent list was AA batteries for a indoor/outdoor thermometer. Of course, I returned with a bunch of items not on the non-existent list but forgot about the batteries. Maybe it's time to use an actual list.

This VW bus is painted on the garage door of a small shop that is on the way to the grocery store. Not sure of the actual business but I like their painting. And, as nice as the Redlands is, it would be nice to get on the road again. Hopefully we get some good news from the dealer tomorrow. Something besides they haven't gotten to it yet...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Day 23 - Redding, CA

This morning I walked to the grocery store to stock up on food for the next couple of days. By early afternoon it was into the high 80s so we took an Uber to the local shopping area. First stop, Trader Joe's. Looked around but didn't buy anything as we would have to haul it around for the rest of the afternoon.


Then on to the Mt. Shasta Mall for some air conditioned walking. On to Target for some trailer organizing stuff plus things like plates and cups. And finally dinner at Olive Garden before another Uber back. Taking Uber is a fraction of the cost of renting a car here in Redding. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Day 22 - Redding, CA

This morning after breakfast, we walked down to the Sundial Bridge which crosses the Sacramento River. I had stopped here earlier when on a trip with my sister and her family. Returning from Sacramento, I believe. This place is the biggest tourist attraction in Redding, CA, and it is a pretty cool structure.

It is a cantilever spar cable stay bridge and was completed in 2004. The glass and metal bridge decking is only for pedestrians and bicycles but I imagine that it would be pretty slippery when wet. We noticed that some people were carrying their dogs across as the surface was pretty hot by the middle of the afternoon. The glass decking was frosted not clear and there was a strip of granite where the cables passed through to support the bridge.

This is just looking up the spar which serves as the sundial post. It turned out to be a beautiful day to be outside. Not too hot until mid-afternoon.

This picture was taken at 1:57pm PDT and the stone marker is at the 2:00pm position. The sign in the museum said that the time is only accurate on the Summer Solstice and at this point, it appears to be about 5 minutes fast.

The bridge site also has a small museum highlighting the fauna of the area and the history. Such as almost all of the aggregate for the construction of the Shasta dam came from this area. Geologists at the time said that it was "perfect" for building a dam. We also saw a live animal show but from where we were seated (in the shade!) picture taking opportunities were limited.

There was a butterfly enclosure that you can walk through and it was pretty cool but pales in comparison to the one in Singapore.

The last part of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park was the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. By the time we started to walk through, it was around 86°F and the sun made walking feel pretty tiring. Bridget called an Uber to take us back to the RV park. Plus the dogs were probably getting pretty tired of waiting for Bridget to get back. We left the air conditioner running in the RV so they wouldn't get too hot and had them in their kennels to insure that they didn't bark. 

I stopped in the office to pay for another four nights. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Day 21 - Redding, CA

After talking with the service rep this morning at Crown Motors, I've pretty much resigned myself that we'll be here for a while. At least into the middle of next week due to the holiday weekend. The forecast is for even warmer temperatures so we don't spend too much time outside. We did spend some time fixing and straightening things out. I had just brought things down in plastic bins then simply put the bins into the cupboards. Tomorrow morning we are planning on walking to the Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay Exploration Park. It is around 3 miles away. Then after spending the day there, take an Uber back to the RV park.

Due to the warm weather, I am opting not to use the gas stove and just cooking with the induction cooktop. Plus, electricity is included with our RV space so we might as well use it. With these temperatures, it sure is nice to have the air conditioner.

I just cancelled our reservation in Anaheim, CA, and we are going to miss the wedding of my cousin's daughter which is scheduled for next Monday. Our next campsite reservation isn't until June 14th. So we have a lot of flexibility. Hopefully we don't need all of it...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Day 20 - Redding, CA

The day started out pretty nice. Beautiful weather, mild temperatures and we had a great view of Mt. Shasta. This is from a rest area shortly after crossing the border into California. 


Things were going too good to last I guess. While descending towards Lake Shasta Dam, the clutch on the truck started to behave oddly. It wouldn't disengage completely. This made shifting a bit challenging to say the least. But in 5th gear we made it to the second Redding, CA, exit and called roadside assistance.

The tow truck picked up both, towed us to an RV park where Good Sam's roadside assistance had already made a reservation. We dropped off the trailer then continued on to the dealer (Crown Motors) where Good Sam's had also contacted to see if they would be able to work on it tomorrow. The tow truck driver mentioned that it looked like hydraulic fluid on the right front tire. This is near where the clutch hydraulic cylinder is located. Phenomenal driver. Towed the whole thing into the RV park, wound through and put us in our space. He even had to back up for the slide to clear the power pedestal. 

Interesting observation. While on the side of the road, the emergency flashers were on drawing power from the truck battery. The current from the solar charge controller jumped up to charge the truck battery since they were connected through the trailer connector. 


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day 19 - Medford, OR

First day on the road. Just Corvallis, OR, to Medford, OR. About 215 miles. I looked for free/cheap parking using the AllStays app and, apparantly, overnight parking seems to be banned just about everywhere by city ordinances. I guess the RV parks must of complained loudly to local city government. This seems to be the case in Fairbanks as well as the city is considering a ban on overnight parking. Too many people taking advantage of Walmart. So we are in a somewhat overpriced but very nice private RV park on the southside of Medford. Since it was 930 miles from Corvallis to our next reserved site in Anaheim, CA, I figured that 200 miles per day was a pretty modest goal.   

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Day 18 - Corvallis, OR

Today was all about getting things ready to get on the road. Shopping for groceries, picking up household stuff, dog stuff, a trip to the vet. And to make room for the dog kennels, I donated one of the rocker recliners to a local furniture recycler. We ended the day visiting with some wonderful friends. Tomorrow we start heading south. 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Day 17 - Corvallis, OR

The big news is Bridget arrived with her two dogs on the red-eye flight into Portland. This is the first time she saw the RV and her initial reaction was "it feels small" but seems to have a lot of storage. Hmmm, we'll see how this goes as I thought it seemed huge especially while towing it. But that's probably a different perspective. I think that the dogs are just happy to be out the the belly of the plane.

It got up to 93°F today and it feels miserably hot. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Day 16 - Oregon Vintage Motorcycle show

Trobairitz sent me an email letting me know that there was a vintage motorcycle show at the fairgrounds where I am camped. It was a beautiful day with a very packed campground last night. Not only the RV spots but the tent camping area as well. The bikes were roughly grouped by continent of origin i.e. Asia, European, American and British. Lots of beautiful bikes, only a couple of sidecar rigs.

The only RV stuff I did today was install the compartment locks and install a different cable clamp in the AC breaker box. I may have identified a potentially serious problem with the RV, I think the black tank and the galley tank valves are stuck in the open position. This would seriously limit our ability to dry camp. This is unexpected.

Today it was in the mid-80s so the air conditioning works. At least at these temperatures. I ran the inverter starting at about 7pm last night. Watched TV, made coffee, charged up everything. The batteries were only down 9% and were fully charged by 11:00am. I think we are in good shape there. The EMS that I installed yesterday shows the AC current. I am surprised that the air conditioner varies between 9 - 18 amps and the microwave is draws even more at 19 amps. Pretty handy.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Day 15 - Corvallis, OR

I think that I'm just about done.

The Raspberry Pi is set up and running. For some reason, the Tristar was absorption charging at 15.1 volts. Too high. I restarted the unit and that seemed to resolve the problem. It looks s supposed to be 14.8 volts Hmmm, I'll have to keep an eye on that. Fortunately, that's what the Trimetric is for.

The automatic transfer switch (circled in red) is installed and tested. It's purpose is to switch the outlets in the trailer between the inverter and shore power. Installation was pretty straightforward. One romex to the breaker (hot), neutral and ground in the panel and one romex to the outlets hot, neutral and ground which are isolated from the panel. And a third cord plugs into the inverter output. The breaker is 15 amps and that matches the 2000 watt output of the inverter pretty well. BTW, the refrigerator is on the same circuit so I need to remember to switch the refrigerator to propane if I don't want it to run off of the inverter. The transfer switch is in the same compartment as the EMS so I ran an extension cord forward to the inverter.

If you have an RV, take a look at the keys for the storage compartments. If it says "CH751" then you may want to re-key your compartments. That key is used by many manufacturers probably for the convenience of the dealers. Once I was able to physically measure the storage compartment locks, I was able to order replacements from Industrial Lock and Hardware ( They arrived in today's mail so I'll probably install them tomorrow morning. As you can see, I opted for the cylindrical keys just to be different.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Day 14 - Corvallis, OR

Two weeks so far… And there is a little bit of moto content in this post.

Today, I installed the Electrical Management System or in non-vendor speak, a surge protector. It is wired into the main power cable that is plugged into a campground. There is a remote LED numeric display showing realtime voltage, current, frequency and any error codes. If the campground pedestal is miswired or the voltage is too high or low then power is disconnected. This is just how it looks when unpacked from the box. The left side is the input from the power pedestal and the right side is the output to the breaker panel.

All installed. There is a coil installed over the hot lead on the output to measure the output current. I'm planning to just install it diagonally on the floor of this little compartment next to the electrical panel The automatic transfer switch will  be installed here as well as there is very little room behind the breaker panel. I needed to pick up a strain relief for the electrical panel on my daily run to Home Depot.

This afternoon I drove up to Tigard, OR, which is a suburb on the south side of Portland. I have been looking forward to a talk by moto-author Sam Manicom. It was a great talk with really cool pictures (made with a film camera) of Africa. He spent a year on the road in Africa before deciding to not return to England to a job that he didn't like and shipped himself and his BMW R80 G/S to Australia on a freighter. If you haven't read his books, I would recommend them. If you prefer audiobooks, like I do, he is the reader.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 13 - Corvallis, OR

Not a lot to report. I used a level on the floor by the door when I was leveling the trailer yesterday. It was not a good choice. To level the trailer, you use blocks under the wheels. The wheels are then chocked. After raising the front using the landing gear, the trailer is unhitched from the truck. The landing gear is then used to level the trailer front to back.

My inner ear got a workout yesterday as it wasn't very level. I re-hitched up and fixed it this morning. It feels a whole lot better now. Since the trailer is level, I was able to set up the LevelMate Pro. This talks to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth LE and shows how unlevel the trailer is and displays with 1/4" resolution. I.e. You tell it the track and the distance from the rear axle to the front landing gear and it tells you how many leveling blocks are needed. 

Yesterday afternoon, I made a run to an RV shop to pick up some things that I hadn't ordered previously. Such as a 30# propane tank (only one was installed though there was room for two). A sewer hose, some chemicals for the black tank and some wheel chocks. I had ordered some X-Chocks but there wasn't enough room between the trailer tires. Fortunately, the gentleman behind me in line was going to buy some X-Chocks. I sold him the ones I had bought from Amazon. 

Another easy update was replacing 24 inside light bulbs with led replacements. The incandescent bulbs drew about 1.5 amps per bulb while all 24 led bulbs draw 3.2 amps. That's less than 1/10th the power. Plus, they run a whole lot cooler. 

I installed a 31" Samsung TV that we purchased from my son when he moved out of the state. I also set up the Ubiquity Nano and Gateway. To get power to these things, I had to dig into the electrical panel seen at the bottom right. The outlets by the TV (and the ceiling fan?) were on the same circuit as the converter aka battery charger. I rearranged circuits (only 6 duplex outlets) so all of the outlets are on the same 15 amp circuit and the converter is on it's own circuit so it can be easily shut off. 

Yesterday morning, I was seeing 18 amps from the panels and that was without the sun overhead.

The next project is to pick up another strain relief so I can run the cables from the automatic transfer switch into the electrical box. This would allow power for the outlets (mentioned above) to be powered off of the inverter when no shore power is available. And as soon as the RV is plugged into the campground, power switches automatically to the campground.

The main shore power cable runs through the little cabinet next to the electrical panel and that seems to be the logical place for the wired in surge protector. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Day 12 - Corvallis, OR

Got enough done to get on the road. A huge thank you to Steve and Karen for not only opening up their home and shop but also providing lots of tips from their experiences as fifth wheel owners. Their suggestion to go through Portland between 10am and 11:30am was very helpful to this novice driver. 


After getting past Portland, I stopped at a rest area to check tire and bearing temperatures as well as checking to see if anything was loose. 


I'm now looking camped in Corvallis for about a week. It'll give me a chance to clean things up on the inside as well as start finding places to put things. The basement storage is a disorganized mess. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Day 11 - Woodland, WA

I used the "special photovoltaic" wire to connect the panels to the combiner box. I had purchased 50' of the 10awg wire and five each of the special MC4 connectors and the tools. The insulation is supposed to be weather and UV resistant. Shown are the plastic wrenches used to assemble the connector. 


I ran the wires into the combiner box using weatherproof bulkhead fittings. But I covered the entry with clear silicone caulk anyway. To keep the cables from moving I used a long piece of the 4" wide Eternabond roof repair tape. This was the last task on the roof. 


The next project was installing the Trimetric 2025-RV. I opted for simplicity and routed the cable along the same path as the solar cables. This meant that it is installed on the side of the closet. I mounted the remote for the inverter in the same location. 


It may make more sense to install this somewhere more central like in the kitchen but this was way easier. With SteveA's help, I disposed of the old RV queen mattress and put in the memory foam mattress that I picked up on. Amazon. 

Since I was done on the roof, I installed the bicycle rack in the rear receiver. And hung the garage sale Specialized RockHopper bike on the rack. I noticed that the front bead of the new tire was coming off so I quickly deflated the tire. Another project but this one can wait. Another item that I seemed to have forgotten was the ibuprofen. Lots of muscle aches today. I think it's from climbing up and down the ladder to the roof. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Day 10 - Woodland, WA

ChrisL was dropped off at my mom's home at 7:45am and we headed for Portland shortly afterwards. Chris was planning to explore Portland including a visit to the Japanese Garden. I continued north to where the RV was being stored as I was anxious to start the solar panel installation.

Step 1 was to install the mounting brackets to the four panels. Then haul the panels up to the roof. To install the panels, I first cleaned the roof where the brackets would mount. Then put down a piece of Eternabond tape which is designed for roof repair. I figured that the tape would separate the aluminum brackets from the roof material and provide some protection to the roof material. I used Dicor lap sealant under each bracket to seal the holes.


I then drilled a small pilot hole and screwed in the self drilling screws through the bracket, lap sealant, Eternabond tape into the wood underneath the roof membrane. More lap sealant was put over the screw heads. With eight screws per panel, they are solidly mounted. 


Here is an "after" photo of the solar panels. There is still plenty of more room on the roof if I want to install more panels. This is 400 watts of panels. 


Now comes the stressful part. I need to install the combiner box. Essentially a waterproof junction box that the panels feed into. And drill a 1" hole in the roof to connect the combiner box to the charge controller in the basement. I found a spot in the corner of the bedroom closet right between the closet wall and a roof truss. I drilled a 1/4" hole through the closet ceiling and then through the roof. After enlarging the two holes (one in the ceiling and one in the roof) with a 1" hole saw, ran the pair of 4awg arc welding cable into the combiner box. The stress is not knowing exactly where the best place to drill the 1" holes. I figured that I had one chance to get it right.  


I put down a good layer of lap sealant under the box, screwed the box to the roof with stainless screws. Then covered everything with more lap sealant. Tomorrow I'll run the 10awg wires from the panels into the combiner box. Once I do that, the solar installation is complete. The 4awg wires were run through the floor and into the battery compartment. I had purchased 15' cables and I needed just about all of it to reach the compartment. BTW, all of the bare copper was coated with Ox-Guard before being clamped into place.