Tuesday, May 29, 2018

More RV Prep

On Monday, we went to the Museum of the North aka University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum. In the Alaska Hwy section, they even had one of the BSA bikes that Slim Williams and John Logan rode from Fairbanks to Seattle in 1939. The trip took about six months and traversed roughly the Top of the World Hwy, Klondike Hwy, Alaska Hwy, Cassiar Hwy, Yellowhead Hwy to Prince George. This was before any of these roads existed. The trip was to promote the idea of an international road to Alaska.

Last summer, when I plugged the RV into the generator, I needed to bypass the EMS (Electrical Management System) since it would report a floating ground error code. Ground and neutral need to be bonded together at only one location and on an RV, that is the power pedestal at an RV park. If you have an onboard genset, then the G-N bond is within the transfer switch.

I wired the ground terminal and the neutral terminals together within a plug. I did add a label to the plug so its use was obvious to me. It is then a plugged into any outlet on either of the two generators that are connected with a parallel cable. The RV is plugged into the 30 amp outlet. You can see the G-N plug in one of the 20 amp outlets on the right-hand generator. A quick test after changing the oil in the generators running the trailer A/C. No errors reported by the EMS. After the test, the two generators were put into the truck toolbox for the trip.

I also checked out the solar panels and discovered one connector of the right side pair disconnected. Not sure how it happened. Possibly when the RV cover was installed or removed. There was a lot of tugging involved. The panel mounting is still solid and the Dicor is in good shape. I also checked all of the Dicor on all of the roof vents and skylights. All are in good shape. I washed the pollen off of the roof and solar panels. That’s the yellow you see in the picture. I initiated a battery equalization on the charge controller and the current went over 20 amps so all is well with the solar panels.

Some other tasks completed is changing the engine oil in the truck. The last oil change was last fall so this was more based on time rather than mileage. The transmission, transfer case, front and rear differential, brake fluid, and coolant levels were also checked. I still need to check the power steering fluid, oil the exhaust brake actuator, and change the fuel filter. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Almost Ready

A few more RV upgrades. I had forgotten to drain the kitchen sprayer hose when I winterized it last September. The water in the hose froze and there were spray parts all over the counter in the spring. Rather than simply pick up another faucet from an RV shop, I just went to Home Depot to see what will fit. They had this nice stainless model with a spray for about half the cost of anything from the RV store. It bolted right in and the Pex lines screwed right into the bottom of the faucet. After replacing the faucet, I went ahead and flushed the RV antifreeze from the pump and all of the lines. I then switched the hot water heater bypass and tested the hot water heater. It worked great. On to the next project.

If you ever had an older RV, you may remember having to stuff the shore power cord through a small door where it piles up inside of some cabinet. I never cared for that system especially when it was raining or cold as it is a pretty heavy cable. I had picked up a conversion kit last year where you install a connector with a twist-lock connection and it includes the parts to add a waterproof twist-lock on the end of the existing power cord. I just installed it into the small door and sealed the door shut with silicone caulk. This eliminates one more place for bugs to get into the RV.

I put a bead of silicone caulk around the perimeter of the new floor then used quarter round moulding to cover the cut edge of the new floor. I had pushed the moulding into the silicone to make sure the moulding still fit and it dried in place. This meant that I needed to paint the molding after it was installed. A lot more trouble than I was planning for. But it's done now.

We pulled out the old stereo unit. Not really sure what to do with the area. A lot of the AC power runs through the area and there are multiple holes to the space below the shelf.

I'm trying to figure out what else I still need to do.

Monday morning update - The list

  • Change truck engine oil
  • Top off battery water
  • Pick up grade 8 hitch bolts 
  • Remove stereo from trailer
  • Install smoke detector 
  • Change exterior light bulbs to LED
  • Change propane pigtails 
  • Clean under bed storage 
  • Clean A/C condenser
  • Check solar panel mounts
  • Check roof Dicor
  • Find all pieces for water
  • Find all pieces for sewer
  • Pick up 30 amp extension 
  • Make ground-neutral bond adapter for generator 
  • Change generator oil
  • Check wheel bearings
  • Check trailer tires
  • Pick up storage box for RV cover (can’t find a box big enough!)
  • Contact CC and bank
  • Thursday, May 24, 2018

    R60/5 Alignment

    Tuesday morning, Brian came by with his R60/5 w/Ural sidecar rig. JedR and I had talked to him at the last airhead.org get together at the Howling Dog. While looking at it, it was arrarant that the sidecar wasn't aligned right. We gave him some suggestions and he did some alignment work. The sidecar frame is now level, lean out is 1° and toe-in is ½". Just about perfect now. Before working on it, he said it was leaned in and toed out slightly. He said that it still pulled to the right and suggested that the toe-in be increased until the pulling decreases at whatever speed he rides at. With the R60, that’ll probably be 50-55mph. 

    Jed also brought his Ural by since it was making some funny sounds from the sidecar wheel. We had replaced the sidecar wheel last week and it looks like there may either be some pieces missing or it’s the wrong hub. The wheel was dragging on the caliper and the disc broke its mounting to the hub. The scraping damaged the bolt heads of the disc mount so an allen wrench no longer fits. We tried drilling them out and one of the drills broke inside the bolt. 

    Sunday, May 20, 2018

    New RV Flooring

    Started the flooring installation in the RV this afternoon. The flooring is Allure TrafficMaster Vinyl Plank Flooring with GripStrip. Fairly straightforward to install but the built-in kitchen cabinets added some challenges. The kitchen cabinets were not installed straight and there are some angles. The biggest challenge so far was that I needed to start in two locations, by the refrigerator, and by the door, and they needed to meet in the middle. After a lot of measuring, they actually did meet and align.

    Only two more runs are needed with the last run fitting under the slide. The original flooring was installed before the slide so it’s a little awkward reaching that section. Plus there is still some carpeting that must be glued to the bottom of the slide. I think it’s looking pretty good so far. I still need to pick up some quarter round molding to cover the edges of the floor where it meets the wall and cabinets.

    Updated Monday Evening - This is the last piece of flooring. Since I worked from the kitchen (passenger side) of the RV, the last piece is next to the slide. It was a real pain to get the last row installed as it had to slide under a metal molding which prevents the floor material from catching on the slide as it goes in and out. The flooring thickness was just about the same as the opening and if there were remnants of carpet staples on the floor, it made for a very tight fit.

    All that is left is to pick up some molding to conceal the small gap between the new flooring and the walls and cabinets. The instructions said to leave a ⅛" to ¼" gap to allow for expansion. The tool is a hand roller used to press down the seams. I need to go over the whole floor again to make sure that I didn't miss any. The instructions say to go over the whole floor with a 70# floor roller but I think that may be a recommendation for a residence where you may not want to use the small, hand roller.

    Friday, May 18, 2018

    Back in Fairbanks

    I think someone has discovered the lower latency connection. This is a graph of Internet traffic to/from the science facility in Utqiaġvik for the last 12 hours (on Thursday). This is the connection that I was working on the last couple of evenings. After the switchover, Internet browsing felt kind of like it does for the rest of the country. Bandwidth is still limited (it's still 4.8 Mbps) but latency was reduced from 700ms down to 30ms. I suspect that this graph may be pegged for the most of the summer.

    On Friday morning, I heard that the first large science group of the summer arrived the previous night. I guess that getting on the Internet was a high priority for them. This will be a good test of the reliability of the connection. Terrestrial should be more reliable than satellite.

    I ended up doing quite a bit of walking today between Lowe's and Fred Meyer. We picked up the new flooring for the RV on Thursday evening after the morse code class and I needed to pick up a good straight edge for trimming the floor material. Unlike the snap-together floor that we installed in the house, this stuff is cut with a utility knife and not a chop saw. The next post will probably be the flooring installation.

    After walking a couple of miles in the Sidi boots, I must say that they are comfortable enough to walk in. I'm not sure I would want to use them for walking really long distances but the soles and ankles are flexible enough. 

    Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Ugly Northern Spring

    These snapshots are in B/W since they ended up with a very unnatural bluish cast. Plus, there wasn't any color anyway. Maybe a little bit of brown and an orange cone in the second picture. Fourteen hours yesterday and the new circuit still isn't working so still running on the high latency satellite connection. I'm told that I needed to shuffle out of my office space again since the lease arrangements have changed again. This will be the 4th or 5th move but each time I get rid of more junk. There is a reluctance to get rid of "stuff" since it cost so much to get it shipped up here in the first place but before long the "stuff" turns into "junque" then just junk.

    The roads up here during breakup are in really poor shape. Some pothole big enough to swallow a car. Last night, while heading into town, I noticed a half shaft from a front wheel drive car lying in the middle of the road. That half-shaft probably didn't just fall out quietly.

    At this time of year, there is very little that is picturesque around here. Everything is muddy or various shades of grey. 

    Monday, May 14, 2018

    Heading North

    Bridget dropped me off at the airport on her last day of school with students at 7:30am. My 11 flight to Utqiaġvik via Deadhorse isn’t until 11:50 but I’m not complaining. I arrive at 6:15pm so I guess I have a little bit of time while at the two airports to write a post. At least they have decent WiFi in Prudhoe but they don't have a Starbucks.

    One of the initial tasks is replacing a router that was recalled by the manufacturer. I’m not sure of the details but was asked to set it up as soon as I arrive using the new terrestrial circuit for testing. The new Arctic Fiber/Quintillion hardware appears to be operational. No faster and not much cheaper but with a fraction of the latency, it’s a step in the right direction. For this trip, the heavier jackets,, hat and gloves were dug out again. Not that they were buried very deep, but it is still well below freezing on the north coast of Alaska.

    It is already a couple of days past the beginning of 24-hour daylight. The large area of light blue is sun above the horizon. Darker shades of blue indicate when it's not dark but the sun is below the horizon. Unfortunately, the weather is for overcast skies for the next couple of days. So, no sun and cooler temperatures.

    I was planning on including a picture of the GripStuds that I pulled from the rear tire of the Ural. They were in pretty poor condition and many had to be removed with locking pliers as the slots for the tool no longer existed. I wasn't going to get another season out of them though I'm hoping to get another summer out of the front and pusher tires.

    For those of you thinking of traveling to that exotic destination known as Prudhoe Bay, here is the view from the front entryway of the only hotel/restaurant in town. Lots of mud, dirty snow and the nearest tree is a few hundred miles away. It's 29°F with 24-hours of brilliant sunshine (somewhere behind the clouds), and the only way to get to the beach is by purchasing a tour.

    Saturday, May 12, 2018

    Greening and New Boots

    On Thursday, not a trace of green. On Friday, all of the Birch trees are starting to bud. Whole hillsides went from grey to a hint of green overnight. I guess one 73°F day is enough to get the sap flowing again. It was definitely enough to significantly increase the number of bikes on the road. At least until the wind picked up this afternoon. I needed to pick up a router at the university and didn't see a single bike on the road. The router (and me) are headed to Utqiaġvik next week.

    The wind on Friday afternoon did a great job of keeping the mosquitoes at bay. On Thursday evening, I tried to move the summer wheels and tires for the Prius from the shed to the garage and practically got eaten alive. These are the large, slow ones that wintered over in the mud so they were easily swatted. By the time I moved one wheel, a couple dozen mosquitoes. This afternoon, I didn't see a single one.

    After seeing a comment from DavidR a couple of posts back about Sidi motorcycle boots, I went online to Revilla.com just to look at their selection again. It turns out that the Adventure Rain boots were on sale. I had looked at these while at the motorcycle show in Long Beach but didn't want to pay as much as they were asking. It looks like the Adventure Rain boots are being discontinued and Revzilla had only one size left. My size. And the 30% off made the price seem much more reasonable. I had already tried them on at the show so I knew what size to order. They showed up today. Pretty sturdy and lots of protection and they are supposed to be pretty waterproof right out of the box. After wearing them around the house for a bit, it's obvious that they are not designed for walking.

    Thursday, May 10, 2018


    It kinda looks like riding season is finally here. On Monday, the Airhead group met at the Howling Dog for the first time this year. And there must’ve been 20 bikes out front including many non-Airheads. On Tuesday, I went with Jed to Delta to pick up his warranty replacement sidecar wheel. The original had split between the spokes apparently from improper construction at the factory. Today, we moved the tire from the split wheel to the new wheel and, like many things on the Ural, you spend time trying to figure things out as there really isn’t a repair manual. Some of the pieces of the new wheel were different from the old wheel. Plus, we switched out the stock (i.e. poor quality) button head screws for some good socket head screws.

    It's now Thursday and just like NWS predicted, it's 72°F and feels really hot. I stopped by my office and decided to stay for a while enjoying the air conditioning. Plus, I need to pick up my son to look at some housing in a couple of hours. This morning, Jed and I finished up upgrading the bolts in his Ural spare. I needed to drill out and extract one of the bolts as the shallow allen button head bolts stripped out. No problem getting it out.

    Not many bikes here in the motorcycle parking spaces at the Butrovich Bldg. Many of those who rode have retired, moved on to other jobs, or just don't ride anymore. 

    Monday, May 7, 2018

    Ride to Nenana

    After church today, four of us rode to the Monderosa north of Nenana. A Harley Softtail, two R1200GS BMWs and the Ural. I was obviously the slowest one of the group but it didn't seem to matter. For a couple of guys, it was their first "real" ride of the season. From the clouds, you can see that it wasn't the most pleasant day but it didn't shower too much. The temperature for most of the trip was in the mid-40s (°F). The Monderosa is a favorite ride-to-eat destination as they have, IMHO, some of the best burgers in AK.

    On the way back to town, I made a point of stopping at the Parks Hwy Monument. The view wasn't fantastic but there were some nice clouds and you could see the Alaska Range in the distance. I still haven't picked up some proper riding boots so my feet were kind of cold by the time I got home. They've developed a leak over the winter. I didn't expect much for $30 from Sam's Club.

    A few months ago, I won a small door prize at the AARC (Arctic Amateur Radio Club) meeting. It was an LED voltmeter. I had a simple voltmeter with just red, yellow and green LED to indicate voltage. The new one was just the bare numeric display with a circuit board. I showed it to my son and he used his 3D printer to make me a nice holder for the circuit board. I mounted it to the top of the headlight with 3M outdoor double sided tape. It came out pretty good. Though the meter seems to read low. Probably since it is simply tied into the switched 12V that powers just about everything else on the bike.

    Saturday, May 5, 2018

    Rear LED Turn Signals

    Before I could replace the rear turn signal bulbs with LEDs, I had to slightly modify the dashboard turn indicator (LS1). Like most bikes that use a single indicator for both directions, each direction is wired to each side of the bulb. When the right side is flashing, the dash indicator is being grounded through the left indicator bulbs. Not enough current is running through the dash indicator to light up the bulbs on the other side. Unless you switch to LEDs. The fix is a small mod where you use two diodes (D1 and D2). For my mod, I used 1N4001 diodes which are rated at 1 amp. Sufficient for the dash indicator bulb. I was going to replace the indicator bulb with an LED but it is glued to the plastic lens. A non-replaceable bulb. Thank you, Ural...

    I could then replace the rear turn signals with LEDs. The left was no problem. The bulb on the right side was so corroded that I used PB Blaster to get the bulb out of the socket. I should've done the tail/brake bulb as well as it is also corroded into place. But for now, the LED turn signals are working great!

    Summer-like daylight is sneaking up. Civil twilight is almost after midnight and within a couple of weeks, it won't really be getting dark anymore. By mid-week, the forecast is for highs in the mid-60s. Maybe it's time to remove the studs from the tires and drag the Prius summer tires from the shed...

    Thursday, May 3, 2018

    Floor Shopping

    While I was at College Coffeehouse this morning (Wednesday), it really started to snow. By the time I left, the rig and the parking lot was completely covered. Maybe I should've taken a picture then. Anyway, my next stop was Lowes and Home Depot to get some flooring samples. I'm looking for vinyl plank flooring with panels that stick together as opposed to the seemingly more common "click joint" or glue to the floor versions. This type would be cheaper, thinner and lighter. All good features for a seventeen-year-old RV.

    I found what I was looking for at Home Depot. It looks like their house brand flooring will work and at $1.89 ft2, the price seems reasonable. The local store only carries a handful of choices and, contrary to their sign of 5-day shipping on special orders, the sales clerk said that four to six weeks is more common. I didn't find anything similar at Lowes. The area that I'm working with is only 125 ft2. Not a lot.

    Last week, I noticed that someone set up a Nenana-style tripod on the ice on Ballaine Lake. I was usually in the wrong lane to turn into the turnout but I needed a test ride. This seemed like a reasonable turn around spot. With yesterday and today's snowfall, the engine would start running really rich so I assumed that the air filter needed cleaning. It wasn't that dirty or wet but the engine barely ran when I pulled into the garage. After removing the air cleaner element, it ran great so I'm assuming that was the problem. I went ahead and cleaned and re-oiled the K and N filter element then took the test ride. Since it was mostly clear and sort of sunny, no problem...

    Wednesday, May 2, 2018

    Not Slacking Off

    Or at least not slacking off too much. I pulled the carpeting out of the main part of the trailer. It turns out that the linoleum from the kitchen area extended almost up to the slide. The linoleum was installed before any of the walls or cabinets were installed as it extends under the exterior walls, cabinets, and all the way into the front storage area. The carpeting extends under the cabinet at the top of this picture and was folded over and stapled wherever there was an exposed edge. The carpet did not extend under the exterior walls and was just tucked under an aluminum cap where the slide comes in.

    A utility knife made quick work on removing the linoleum in pieces. I just ran the knife along the cabinet edges and the exterior walls. There is still some cleanup at the ends of the slide as there are welded aluminum caps to reinforce the corners of the slide. Tomorrow, I'll clean up the floor and pull out any leftover staples. Overall, the floor looks pretty good with no soft spots or signs of water damage.

    At least not until you turn around. This is the driver's side rear corner. The plywood on the floor is still really solid so water has gotten into the luan wallboard below the window. The wallboard feels solid above the bottom of the window. The rear wall is suffering from the same problem. Fortunately, all of the framing material in this trailer is aluminum so I will simply replace the wallboard after locating the leak. This could be a remnant of the roof leak that was repaired before purchasing the trailer as the floor is completely dry in this area. 

    Since I was out there, I connected to the RV wifi network to see how the solar was doing with the recent snow. Yesterday, there was insufficient sun to get to the absorption stage. You can tell from the voltage graph where the red line (array voltage) is above the green line (battery voltage) and the battery voltage is above 13.4 volts. If the battery voltage drops to ~13.4 volts while the array voltage is still high, then the batteries are in float charge.

    We did get a measurable amount of snow today and it was actually sticking until early afternoon. I got the new thermocouples from Aircraft Spruce yesterday so they are now installed and it's nice to see the cht (cylinder head temperature) gauge working again. Compensating for the 35°F air temperature, the gauge was peaking at about 400°F while cruising down the road. Since this is a simple cht gauge, you need to manually correct the readings for the ambient air temperature. Seems to be a bit high but I need to check it against my IR thermometer. At least it's an easy way to see when things change.