Thursday, December 31, 2020

Day 18 - Goodbye 2020!

Thursday (18) - The last day of 2020! Some would say FINALLY but I can’t really complain too much. We had picked up a TT membership at the end of last year and this enabled us to make back-to-back reservations up to 120 days in advance. This allowed us to stay all along the Oregon coast during the summer when we would normally been back home. For this year we spent 242 nights within the TT/Encore system. Around ⅔ of the year. It makes it a pretty good deal. There are lots of people complaining about TT but it’s a convenient default and I anticipate quite a bit of use in 2021. 

I thought that the drop in temperature around noon yesterday was pretty dramatic. That's a cold front coming through! We are still in Athens, TX, for a couple more days before heading to a TT park south of here. A bit closer to Houston and we will be there for about 2½ weeks. We then plan to head further south to enjoy some warmer temperatures. 

I’ve been enjoying being a VE, volunteer examiner, for the remote ham radio tests. It’s as much social as anything else. A good group. I’ve been a certified VE for the Anchorage club for several years as we were using their paper tests in Fairbanks but had only interacted with one person in the Anchorage club once when I took their certification exam (online).

I hope everyone has a safe New Years Eve. We are having Garrett, Carolyn, and family over for dinner. Nothing fancy. Just a pot roast w/mashed potatoes and gravy. And I made up a batch of brownies for dessert. It has been 42°F for the last 24 hours. I think the cat is wanting warmer temperatures...

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Day 15, 16, 17 - Athens, TX

Monday (Day 15) - I was notified that I picked up another virtual award using the Apple Watch. I met my minimal daily move goal 1500 times. This means that I’ve had an Apple Watch for at least 1500 days. I hadn’t realized that I’ve worn them that long. You just need to set the bar low enough.

Garrett came by yesterday afternoon to recaulk the front running lights and they were so cracked that they practically fell apart. I picked up replacements at the local Tractor Supply which has become one of my favorite stores. The new ones were designed for mounting to a metal surface so I needed to add a ground wire to each as the front cap is fiberglass. Digging through my supplies, I also found enough LED bulbs for all of the new running lights. Hopefully this fixes another water leak. We’ll find out in a couple of days as the forecast for Wednesday is a lot of rain.

For dinner, I made homemade murg makhani, better known as butter chicken, in the Instant Pot. It came out so much better than the bottled sauce. I think it may be the heavy cream. After sorting out the spices yesterday, I found I only needed a couple more to make this. You need a lot of spices to make just about any Indian dish. Surprisingly, I was able to find both of them at the Brookshire’s grocery store here in Athens. I could not find either one of them at Walmart. BTW, there is no “butter” in the dish.

Tuesday (Day 16) - A slow day here in Athens. Some minor repairs taken care of. I had ordered replacement tow dolly straps that hold the front tires onto the tow dolly. After 15k miles, they were showing some wear. The company had a two for one sale so I ordered two and they shipped two pair. I guess I'm set for a few more years. The 25' water hose, which is also about 1½ years old, sprung a pinhole leak a couple of feet from one end. I just cut the hose and picked up a new end from the hardware store. This was one of the cheap white water hoses sold at just about every RV dealer and was included free with the purchase of the motorhome. I still had the much higher quality 50' hose that we were using with the 5th wheel. This repaired hose is now relegated to be the tank flush hose. 

Wednesday (Day 17) - Lots of rain in the forecast for the next 24 hours. It just started around noon while I was doing one of the ham tests. I ended up needing to switch to Verizon about half way through the session. Fortunately, it can be switched with barely a hiccup on Zoom, Discord, and the testing website. 

I did put things away yesterday afternoon knowing that rain was coming. The dehumidifier is running on high now and is doing a good job of keeping our front windshield fog-free. Even with the Instant Pot running in slow cooker mode adding humidity. I’m making a sweet potato salmon chowder. Today just feels like a “soup” day.  

Some visitors came by today… I think they are enjoying the weather.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Day 13, 14 - Athens, TX

Saturday (Day 13) - Only one more week here at the Texan RV Park and Campus. The “Campus” part is a school for RV technicians and inspectors. They have certification courses and tests for both as well as classes for RV owners who want to repair their own rig. Or at least do some minor repairs and maintenance. We were looking for someplace to park for the holidays that was reasonably close to a major airport served by Alaska Airlines. We knew that Garrett was taking the RV technician certification course and that we needed some things done.

The park has a reasonable monthly rate and allows us to receive mail and packages. We even were able to have things arrive before we checked in. This was incredibly convenient. It’s not fancy with a lot of amenities but the sites are level and dry, clean 50amp power, and a decent dog park. 

The real incentive to stay at this RV park was being able to spend the holidays with Garrett, Carolyn, and their children. They travel full-time in their 5th wheel with a chase car. We initially met them in November, 2019, at a meet up outside of Phoenix with the Loftis Party of 6, another YouTube RV family. We met them again at the TT in Chehalis, WA, last summer. That’s when we learned of their plan for the certification training here in Athens, TX, in November/December. 

Bridget gifted me with a box of 24 empty spice bottles with labels. With the spices stored in a basket, you couldn’t easily find the one you were looking for except by memory. The labels on the lids (and bottles) make it a little easier. They are not in any particular order. The basket makes it easy to move all of them in/out of the cupboard. There is another basket with lesser used seasonings plus some Costco containers of things like onion flakes and peppercorn. 

Sunday (Day 14) - Since I left with the Prius packed to the roof, it has been 499 days. Full-time RVing was never, and still isn’t, the retirement plan. It just sort of turned out that way due to the current environment. Since picking up this coach, we've put on a bit over 15k miles burning 2192 gallons of diesel. Giving us a whopping 6.8mpg. This is towing the Prius. On the initial cross country trip, it was about 1mpg better than that. During same period, we put over 20k miles on the Prius. This is just miles driven not towed. Way more than I had expected. 

I know that I've often mention RV repairs on this blog. More engine repairs were needed but "house" repairs are less than expected. The completely unexpected ones are the windshield issues. The tire replacement was planned. 

We are here for another week before heading for a TT park west of Houston. Only a couple of hours south of here.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Day 12 - Merry Christmas!

It was a nice, quiet relaxing day. I think cooking is a hobby as I enjoy preparing food more than eating it these days. For me, that’s a good thing.

We had dinner with a young family here at the RV park. We had initially met them last year in Phoenix and then a couple more times around the country. They have a YouTube channel, Diary of a Family, as well as a new RV repair business. Garrett is the one who worked on the RV here at the park and is a newly certified RV technician. They teach the classes and offer the certification exams here at the park.

Short post today. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas in spite of all of the restrictions.

Later that evening
 - Around 8:30pm, I was wondering why the heat pump wasn’t able to warm the RV. It had dropped to 66°F. It turns out that I had forgotten to close the ceiling vent. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s only 41°F outside. The heat pump usually works just fine down into the mid-30s. I think the overnight low is forecast to be 36°F. Much warmer than last nights 28°F. I’m glad I picked up the heated water hose...

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Day 10, 11 - Athens, TX


Wednesday (Day 10) - Kind of windy this morning. I brought in the main awning and the window awning as they were flapping quite a bit. But absolutely no noise of flapping of the slide toppers! In the past they would be making enough noise that we would bring in the main living room slide due to the noise. Partly cloudy and temperatures into the mid-70s is enough to have the A/C units running. 

Just out of curiosity, I turned off the shore power last night and ran both furnaces set at 70°F. Propane use was 2% and battery power was 21% after about 13 hours. This is significantly less than we've seen in the past. Both furnaces were cycling on and off just like they are supposed to and the temperature was within one °F in both areas according to the HomeAssistant graphs. This means that dry camping is doable.

I went into Walmart to do some last minute grocery shopping for Christmas Day. I'll be making a bunch of side dishes. Deviled eggs, broccoli w/cheese sauce, green beans, brussel sprouts w/bacon & balsamic, oven roasted baby potatoes, bread dressing like for Thanksgiving, freshly baked rolls w/honey butter, apple pie (bake and serve), and I must be forgetting something.  I'll be heading out shortly for DFW as Bridget is flying back from Chicago. 

Later - It was a pretty windy drive to the airport. Right into a headwind. And Dallas traffic was heavy. Several accidents along the way. Bridget arrived safe and sound.

Thursday (Day 11) - It hit freezing last night and the front furnace reached its limit as far as keeping the space warm. It was 64°F in the morning according to the HomeAssistant temperature sensor located by the swivel rocker and that is with the assistance of the electric space heater. The tile floor in the kitchen area was 59°F. The basement storage isn’t heated like in some other motor homes. But it was better than before. 

Today was a cooking day, at least for a few of the things that can be prepared in advance. We picked up a couple dozen tamales at a local Mexican market. A couple of weeks ago we picked some up at HEB and they were okay. And very small. Like maybe an inch in diameter. These look like tamales we used to make. 

Later - The tamales were pretty tasty but turned out kind of spicy for Garrett’s and Carolyn’s kids. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Day 7, 8, 9 - Athens, TX

Monday (Day 7) - Garrett's Mobile RV Services is here to work on the RV. The first problem was not much heat from the front furnace. There are four ducts connected to the front furnace and the hose for the one that went to the cabinet under the stove was like this. I suspect that's why we weren't getting any air out of that vent. Most of the air from the front furnace was coming out of the vent under the shower so I blocked off half of that outlet with Gorilla tape to try and redirect more air to other areas.

Last night, I tested the rear furnace and the temperature in the rear was maintained to within 1°F. I set the front furnace to 64°F to limit it coming on and set up a fan to redirect warm air from the rear to the front. Propane use didn't even register on the SeeLevel II gauge. Much more efficient.

I noticed that the small coffee can that I was using for some miscellaneous hardware was about the right diameter to repair the hose. Actually, it was the perfect size. A handful of zip ties finished the repair. I'll run the front and rear furnaces tonight to see how things work. Garrett also added some additional sealant which separates the air intake for the burner and the cold air return. They are right next to each other. 

The next project was to replace the slide toppers. The rear ones are much smaller as the slides are shorter. This is the newly installed slide topper on the drivers side rear. It was 83" long and it is one of the shorter ones. It took several hours to install partly because we only had one ladder. I was helping from the roof. We think that the next two will be pretty straightforward but the track for the passenger front topper is right next to the awning arms. It looks to be more difficult. Garrett thinks he can borrow a ladder which would simplify things.

Work continues tomorrow.

Tonight was supposed to be the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the southwestern sky. But they are still far enough apart to appear as individual planets. I thought that they would appear as a single object. I guess the complete conjunction won't occur for another 7000 years.

Tuesday (Day 8)
 - we finished the slide topper replacement today. We saved this one for the end as we needed to fish it through the awning arms and thought it would be the most difficult. It turns out that the first one was the most difficult as all the pieces were corroded in place. All the others came apart easily though we did have to drill out broken screws.

The material is nice and they look well made. Hopefully they’ll last a long time. Garrett fixed other items along the way such as loose brackets, broken screws, and some things that were just examples of shoddy workmanship either during construction or subsequent repair. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Day 5, 6 - Athens, TX

Saturday (Day 5) - Kind of a damp day but it's not cold. I've been thinking of trying to make chicken adobo for a while. Today seemed to be a good day for cooking inside the RV, so I offered to make dinner for friends here since they do a live stream in the late afternoon. It came out pretty good in my humble opinion. I paired it with one of our staples, pineapple fried rice. 

I did two radio exams today as one of the main examiners tested positive with covid-19 and is out for a week or two. So a lot of filling in on short notice is needed. I needed a couple of food items so I went into town to the Brookshire's, a Texas-Louisiana grocery chain, for the handful of items. As usual, I came back with a few extra items. 

Sunday (Day 6) - After a foggy start, it's burning off and becoming a very nice day. 54°F right now with a projected high in the mid 60s (°F).

I checked the temperature sensor again at the control board on the rear A/C. It shows on the ohm meter as OL or open line. Meaning that the wire is broken somewhere between the roof mounted A/C unit and the sensor in the drivers-side, rear slide. Who knows what the path is for that wire. I removed the sensor cover and pulled it out a couple of inches to see what color/gauge of wire. White insulation and about 22AWG (guess). I looked behind the TV where the wires show up and there is nothing that matches. I open up the plastic loom and start looking at what is there and the rear A/C unit comes on. I had previously turned it on and set the temperature to 75°F. 

I let the A/C cycle a couple of times and lowered the thermostat to 72°F. After about two minutes, the A/C came back on. After a couple of cycles, I turned on the furnace and set it to 73°F. It turned on almost immediately and ran for about 10 minutes when it hit 75°F. I'll let it run this way for a day or so before digging into the wiring again. The temperature graph on the right is from HomeAssistant. The overnight temperature is being maintained by the electric space heater.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice. I liked this video taken in Fairbanks showing sunrise, high noon, and sunset.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Day 2, 3, 4 - Athens, TX

Wednesday (Day 2) - Field trip of the day, Camping World in Tyler, TX, located about 45 minutes from here. I wanted to pick up a heated water hose for the RV. I believe the forecast for tonight’s low is 28°F. There is enough additional heat cable to wrap around the pressure regulator and some foam sleeves were included to insulate the regulator itself. 

Just a shot of the new heated hose. It’s supposed to self-regulate but I’ll probably just unplug it in the morning. I also have a small 250watt electric heater running inside the wet bay. I’m not really sure how much it helps keep things from freezing. It is a cheap heater from Walmart and my thought was to add an outlet controlled by a relay from the ESP8266 microprocessor. I will add an ambient temperature sensor and model a thermostat to control the heater. 

Thursday (Day 3) - What’s with this frost!? It did hit 27°F last night so I guess a little bit of frost is to be expected. The furnace ran almost continuously last night and it wasn’t able to keep the living room/kitchen warm. I think it was 64°F this morning. The good part was the dogs didn’t even budge until I came out around 9am. I went into town real quick for a couple of items and when I returned, I dropped off one of my jars of the honeyberry jam to Garrett and Carolyn.

The RV automatically switched back to the heat pump once the outside temperature rose to around 36°F. Apparently, last night while I was having dinner with friends, the system switched from the heat pump to the furnace. This is what it’s designed to do but this is the first time I’ve seen it. Now if only the furnace could put out some heat…

Friday (Day 4)
 - I changed the controller board in the rear A/C unit to fix a communications error being reported on the thermostat. The communications error seems to be fixed. It still doesn't seem to work properly. If I switch it to furnace, the furnace comes on immediately and never turns off no matter what the temperature is set to. If I turn on the air conditioner, it never comes on no matter what the temperature is set to. The temperature sensor plugs into the controller board and according to the specs, it works fine. 

If I look at the specifications for the sensor, the lower the temperature, the higher the resistance. An open circuit will appear to the system as a very low temperature. The system behavior supports this. I.e. at a low temperature, the furnace will come on and the air conditioner never will. If I remove the sensor connector and measure it's resistance, it matches the table within a few percent.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Day 1 - Return to Athens, TX

I left on the red-eye and after a 1½ hour layover in Seattle, we continued on to Dallas-Fort Worth. I think I actually slept on the flights. At least some. The flight had a lot of empty seats and first class was limited to only eight people. I was pleasantly surprised that I got upgraded. 

The freeways through Dallas were a real mess with the gps saying “recalculating” about every ten seconds in some areas. A whole section of 175 was torn up so I had to wander around finding an alternate route. But, wandering is almost always interesting. Wandering around with an RV is less interesting. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Appointment Day

Monday - Four appointments today. The first one at 8am. The second was at 11:30 but since I was early, they just bumped up. I can’t complain about that. I thought I’d have time for coffee but as soon as I picked it up, they called me into the exam room. Since my first appointment was at the dentist’s office, I didn’t have coffee before arriving. That seemed like it would be a tad inconsiderate. 

Later - Three down, one to go. It is quite a bit warmer today than just a few days ago. I stopped by the university to introduce myself to the new IT executive if for no other reason than to explain why a non-employee was using space assigned to the IT department. The building was really empty. My last appointment is in 45 minutes so I have a few minutes to add to this post. He was on the phone for the time I was in the building. So maybe next time.

I’m glad to be able to get these appointments done in one day. It’s past sunset already though it still isn’t dark. Even though the sun sets early, the angle with the horizon is so shallow that dawn and dusk last a long time. 

This watch face shows that better. First-light is just after 7am even sunrise isn’t until almost 11am. Sunset is at 2:39pm and the last-light is after 6pm. So those stories of it being dark all the time are just stories. 

This is the type of post you get when I just type while in waiting rooms...

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Fairbanks Still

Saturday - Went into town to dump trash and pick up a handful of groceries. I also looked for a replacement strike plate for a Kwikset lock. No luck on that one. I guess I’ll need to look on Amazon. I started typing this post while waiting for curbside food delivery at Robot Pizza. They have the option of using portabella mushroom caps instead of pizza crust. The pizza's were very delicious though I don't have any pictures.

Yesterday, the truck displayed multiple error codes with the check engine light illuminated. One was a vapor emissions error and the other was for the ABS. Both errors codes seem to show up regularly in cold temperatures. No error codes today even though it never warmed up more than -15°F while I was driving around. In several locations, it had dropped down to -22°F.

The pile of stuff that I'm bringing back seems to be growing. Hopefully, not beyond the weight limit of my checked bag.

Sunday - I took my son to get sushi but his favorite place (Ajimi) was closed. The the second choice (Tokyo Sushi) was also closed. We went to Fushimi Sushi and it was open for take-out orders. I ordered the chirashi sushi which is sashimi on top of sushi rice. It was pretty good but the Ajimi and Tokyo Sushi versions serve it with lettuce between the rice and the sashimi. I like the addition of the lettuce.

The project-of-the-day was replacing the striker plate on the garage man door. The old plate had fallen off and the wood was in poor condition. I found a longer strike plate at Home Depot made for a different brand of door hardware but it looked like it would work. I carved out the jamb for the longer plate. Now, the door latches more securely. It had warmed up to +9°F so it wasn't too cold working with the door open (for short periods). 

I have four appointments tomorrow starting at 8 am with the last one at 3:30 pm. Then, I fly out on the red-eye tomorrow night. It's going to be a long, busy day. 

Friday, December 11, 2020


Friday (SSD Day 5) - This afternoon, I’m done with the state requirement for “strict social distancing” after arriving in Alaska. Today did feel pretty cold outside. I needed to pick up my prescriptions as well as bits from the hardware store to shorten an extension cord. Rather than run the trickle charger on the truck to the same junction box as the heating devices (block heater, oil pan heater, battery heaters), it can be plugged in separately and powered on all the time. The trickle charger is needed year around as there is enough parasitic draws to drain the two 70amp hour batteries in a month or so.

I just noticed that you can barely see Denali from our rear deck. This is a zoomed in iPhone picture but you get the idea. This picture was taken an hour after sunset. We get really long sunrises and sunsets due to the shallow sun angle. 

No real projects for today besides the little extension cord. I was a VE (volunteer examiner) for a radio exam this morning. I almost missed it as I was sort of used to the 9am exams being at 11am local time. I didn't even have time to make coffee. To add more "stress", they switched from a web-based chat to Discord. I already had Discord installed but I couldn't find a way to find the Anchorage VE chat.

This is part of the "Control Center" on my iPhone. Once I had identified the Apple TV in the RV using the Home app, which is the app for Apple's version of home automation, it scanned the network and identified the Raspberry Pi running HomeAssistant. The lower part of the screen shows the status of some of the items on HomeAssistant such as the step light, awning light, and the dressing table light. I had set all of these up to control through HomeAssistant. Now, even though I am thousands of miles away, it still shows the status of these lights and I can remotely control them. I can also see all of the temperature sensors. This is not completely from the Apple TV but the remote access function of Nabu Casa. Kind of cool!

Thursday, December 10, 2020



Thursday (SSD Day 4) - When cleaning up the upright freezer, I found about ⅓ of a gallon of honeyberries. Since they are over a year old, I decided to try and make some jam. The Internet said that honeyberries have plenty of natural pectin, all I needed to add was sugar and heat to 220°F. This is after allowing the berries to defrost in a colander to get rid of a lot of water. I then transferred the jam into ½ pint canning jars, that we just happen to have, and they are now in the Instant Pot for 15minutes. They didn't need to be pressure canned but that is the only pot large enough for the jars. I have a couple tablespoons in a partial bottle in the fridge so I could see what it tastes like and if it thickens up like it's supposed to.

From almost a half gallon of berries to a bit over three cups of jam. I just tried some on a toasted English muffin and it tastes great. It looks like blueberry but doesn't taste quite the same. The jam did thicken up nicely just like the Internet said it would.

Only 24 more hours for the required five days of strict social distancing to be completed!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Still in Fairbanks

Wednesday (SSD Day 3) - Since I did get the Ural dug out of the garage, I had to try it out. As I suspected, without studs in the tires, it wasn't a good idea to ride around much. Too much ice on the roads. Even the main roads. I did try out the heated gear and, surprisingly, it all worked. It's been a while since it was last used. I did ride around our subdivision roads and with 2WD, going up hills was fine. The problem was stopping. Lot of pumping on the front brake. The picture was taken around 2:30 which was just before sunset.

No "real" projects for today. I finally made a temporary fix for the steering stabilizer. This is by far the best steering stabilizer I've had. The stock friction one was removed and replaced (twice) with the Ural hydraulic version. This one uses the hydraulic stabilizer for an old VW beetle. The aluminum angle had broken due to fatigue on the return trip from Dawson City back in June, 2019. I made another using aluminum but I need to find a nice piece of steel for this part. 

The "real" project was dumping a lot of old food. The upright freezer is now empty so I’ll defrost it and clean it before leaving. There was a lot of old stuff in the inside refrigerator and freezer as well as in the pantry. Pantry items include cooking oil and various kinds of flour.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Fairbanks, AK

Monday (SSD Day 1) -  Strict social distancing (SSD) here at the house according to the state of AK requirements. It's a balmy 1°F right now as I am trying to get the truck running again. The batteries were dead and I have a charger connected to then trying to get them resurrected. I don't have a lot of hope for them but they are six years old according to the sticker. I was checking on prices and was surprised that Batteries and Bulbs had the correct size and was cheaper than Costco. Pretty shocking. The charger claims that they are actually charging but I'm not sure I believe it. I did install a small trickle charger but it wasn't plugged in. Plus, I had left the air compressor switch on which draws more power than the trickle charger would have able to provide anyway. So, they've been dead for a couple of months.

My old sous-vide stick is here at the house and I found a large enough plastic container to make a roast. Remembering that the temperature sensor reads high, I set it 5°F higher than the target temperature. The meat thermometer seems to agree that this may be a reasonable correction. We'll see how it turns out.

Later - After sitting on the charger for several hours, the batteries barely cranked the engine for a fraction of a second. They are toast. I pulled them out and placed a curbside delivery order from Batteries and Bulbs here in Fairbanks. I found an online coupon for 10% off. Actually, an app called Honey found the discount. My son is picking them up during his lunch break.

Even later -  Batteries installed. Most of the snow shoveled off. I ran the truck for about 45 min in the driveway just to make sure that the fuel wasn't gelled. I had added a half bottle of anti-gel back in September as winter fuel was not available at that time. I needed to add air to the drivers side rear tire again. It must have a slow leak. I then went to Sourdough and filled up the tank with winter blend fuel. I don't really need the truck until the weekend but I knew that it would need work to get it running.

Tuesday (SSD Day 2)
 - The ham radio club board asked if someone with a Verizon phone could check the signal at a specific location. I volunteered as I could easily drive out and check. No need to interact with anyone. Plus, I can get a few more miles on the truck. I needed to use the drive-thru at the bank. The picture is our house not the location to check out. That was out on Murphy Dome Road.

Anyway, the task for today was replacing the bathroom sink faucet. When we renovated the bathroom, we found a really cool faucet. But finding replacement parts has proved to be a challenge. It sprays water onto the counter whenever it's used. So I picked up a new faucet at Lowe's today. Do you know how hard it is to find a faucet without actually seeing them? I found one online and had it delivered curbside this afternoon. It took all of 30 minutes to replace it. The challenge is that most of my tools are in Texas.

I've been debating on whether to dig out the Ural but after driving around, I think I'll pass due to all of the ice on the roads. I don't have studded tires and taking on a project like that for only a few days seems silly. Maybe if I'm really bored tomorrow...

Later that evening - I guess I was feeling bored. The Ural had been packed away in the garage back in  the summer of 2019. I spent a few hours digging it out, added some gas, added a little air to the tires, and it started on the second kick. Not too bad!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Day 79 - Heading Home

Sunday (79)
 - An early morning (for me). I caught the 6am shuttle to the airport for my 8am flight through Seattle. There was supposedly only a one hour layover but it grew since the flight arrived in Seattle 30 minutes early. The line in Fairbanks wasn’t too long since I had completely filled out the form and uploaded my test results on Friday. I’m required to “strict social distance” for five days. No indoor restaurants, no large group gatherings, and use curbside pickup for groceries. A second test after five days is suggested but not required though it may be required by some local businesses. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Day 78 - Athens, TX

Saturday (78) - I had stopped at Panda Express to get some lunch/dinner yesterday after dropping off the old chassis batteries. I thought that the fortune cookie saying seemed particular applicable to this motorhome. 

Since I had the time, I went ahead and did another ham radio exam on Friday evening. The campground WiFi seemed to be working pretty well during the day so I went ahead and tried it out for the test. In the past, I would USB connect my phone to the laptop and connect with Verizon.

I got all packed up and on the road by 9:45am. I stopped at the T/A truck stop to fill up. I only needed 34 gallons but I prefer to arrive with a mostly full fuel tank. I arrived at the RV park in Athens, TX, around 12:30 and someone was in our spot. They were supposed to move to another site by 11 but the driver was taking a test. This is the RV tech certification location. I was able to fill the propane tank while waiting. We will be here for about a month. 

They got their RV moved by around 2 and I backed in and got all set up before heading towards the airport. It only took a bit over an hour even with driving through downtown Dallas. Bridget is now heading back to the RV and I fly back home tomorrow morning. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Day 76, 77 - Whitney, TX - TT

Thursday (76) - I drove into Cleburne for the COVID-19 test. I’m now waiting at the clinic. And waiting. And waiting... Actually, only 30min past my appointment time. They took the sample so it’ll get sent out in time. They said that my temperature was ½° high and told me to check it every day. When I got back, it was a degree low.

The inside temperature of the RV was still 64°F which is what it was when I left. I guess the heat pump wasn't cutting it given the 42°F outside temperature. I turned on the furnace as well as the space heater in the bedroom and within an hour, it was back up to 69°F. 

The project of the day was to clean the black tank. I turned on both the electric and propane heaters for the water heater and added ½ cup of Dawn dish soap and  about a cup of Calgon water softener to the black tank. I then started adding hot water until I used all 10 gallons in the hot water heater. I did this twice and the SeeLevel II read 81%. BTW, Calgon water softener was difficult to find.

This mixture of Calgon and Dawn is referred to as the GEO method of cleaning the black tank. It appears to have done something. I may finish filling the tank with hot water once the hot water heater finishes heating it's 10 gallon tank. This is not a substitute for proper chemicals as this combination will kill any helpful bacteria inside the tank. I then drained and flushed the tank a couple of times and the SeeLevel II gauge read properly both times. With an RV, there is always something that needs doing. 

Friday (77)
 - Nice and sunny today though the temperature never made it out of the 50s (°F). It was almost freezing last night so we've been using the propane furnace. It doesn't seem to put out much heat. I picked up a small 250watt heater for the wet bay. There is a small heater in there connected to a thermostat but it doesn't seem to put out any heat. The fan runs but, as far as I can tell, no heat. 

The plan is to add a relay to the ESP8266 that I have in the wet bay to switch on the heater when the temperature in the bay is near freezing. This seems to be a reasonable project for when I get back from Fairbanks.

The testing location, Integrity Urgent Care, gave me a web site to check on the status of my test. I created my ID this afternoon and the status showed "received" by the lab. At least it made it that far. It'a supposed to be around freezing again tonight so I'll be packing up the sewer and water hoses later today. I also brought in two of the slides to help reduce propane use. Plus, it makes it much easier to pack up the hoses.

Friday Evening Update - By 9pm, I already had my negative test result and completed the travelers declaration or whatever it's called by the state.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Day 74, 75 - Whitney, TX - TT

Tuesday (74) -  We stopped at the HEB gas station in Cleburne, TX, to fill up the car. $1.649/gal! A nice change from over $2/gal. Bridget is heading up to Fairbanks so I dropped her off at a hotel near DFW for her morning flight. We went to a poke bowl place near her hotel for lunch. Absolutely delicious!

On Saturday, I'll be moving the motorhome to an RV park in Athens, TX. After getting it set up, I head back to DFW for my trip back home. Bridget is flying back on the same day and she will drive back to the RV park. I fly up on Sunday morning as I have four appointments scheduled for Dec 14th. I'm flying up a week ahead of time due to the Alaska Covid requirements. An urgent care clinic in Cleburne, TX, had a listing in Google saying that they offered no referral Covid testing so I made an appointment for late morning on Thursday.

We also stopped at Batteries+Bulbs to pick up two chassis batteries for the RV. They are group 31 w/950 CCA each with studs instead of posts. I will be installing them tomorrow and returning the old batteries on Thursday when I drive back up for my Covid test.

Wednesday (75) - This morning, I swapped in the new chassis batteries. I'm not really sure why there are so many cables. But it's done. The new batteries are the same brand (Duracell) AGM batteries as the old ones and just as heavy. The dates on the old batteries was 06/18 so they were only 2½ years old. I suspect that they were run down to near dead too many times.

A test start followed. No engine block heater and it had dropped to 45°F this morning. While the grid heater was on, the old battery would drop to about 11.9V after about 20 seconds. With the new battery, it dropped to only 13.1V and the engine cranked very fast. I'd say that it really did need new starting batteries. BTW, very little smoke. Just a puff when it first starts then almost none while warming up. To me, this is normal behavior. The grid heater is working as it's supposed to. I suspect that the grid heater hasn't been working as long as we've owned it. Now, I'm not as concerned about being flagged as a "gross polluter".

I made a quick trip to the grocery store to look for Calgon. Unsuccessful finding the Calgon water softener liquid. The local grocery store, Brookshire's, takes Apple Pay, which is now my preferred method. I believe Safeway does as well but Walmart has refused as they would lose the ability to harvest customer information. To me, that sounds like a good reason to avoid Walmart.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Day 72, 73 - Whitney, TX - TT

Sunday (72) - It looks like I need to remember to disconnect the water line tonight so it doesn’t freeze overnight. I filled the water tank to 54% according to the SeeLevel II sensor. I’m guessing that it’s about 75% full based on the shape of the tank. 

I finally got this microprocessor mounted. Since it’s near the door, I added a display with the outside temperature and inside humidity. The square of aluminum foil taped to the side of the box is my initial test of a capacitive touch sensor. Another square is taped inside the box and is wired to one of the touch enabled inputs. Surprisingly, it works. Tap to turn on or off. 

You may notice that it isn’t very warm today. 

Monday (73)
 - It hit 32°F last night so I’m glad I disconnected our water hose and pressure regulator. I’ve broken a couple of regulators due to freezing. I like the color on this tree. All of the rest of the leaves had already fallen off leaving this one branch. 

The next RV park allows us to receive packages so I’ve ordered some repair items. Replacement material for all four of the slide toppers, an air conditioner control board for the rear A/C unit and a replacement thermostat. I also modified the OLED display a bit. I removed the time and added the room temperature and humidity (both in yellow) as it is useful. The dehumidifier we had delivered in WA is working well.