Sunday, June 28, 2020

Day 143, 144 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Saturday (143) - Last night when we returned to the RV, the refrigerator wasn’t working again. The status panel claimed that AC was not available and the propane fault light was lit. This light comes on if the propane flame doesn’t light. After messing around with it, the propane burner fired up and the refrigerator/freezer temperatures started dropping. From the graph it looks like it stopped working around 3pm and I got the flame lit around 9pm. This morning, the flame didn’t relight.

I probed around with this little Fluke AC voltage tester. The outlet was good and after removing the access panel to the control board, there was power on one side of a fuse but not the other. There was no evidence that the fuse “blew” but checking continuity verified that it failed. Drove to O’Reilly’s Auto parts for a box of 5amp fast blowing fuses. After replacing the fuse, it is now running on AC. I think the propane burner needs to be cleaned. After fifteen years of soot buildup, it probably has never been maintained. The burner would not have been replaced when the refrigerator was repaired last August.

We went to Country Cousins restaurant in Centralia. It is described “kitschy barn-like spot” and the menu was mostly “American comfort food”. The place was well set up with plexiglass panels between the booths and only a fraction of the booths open. All of the staff and most of the patrons wore masks when entering but, obviously, removed them after being seated. Very delicious dinner and we really enjoyed visiting with our friends.

Sunday (144) - Another trip towards Seattle today. Bridget is flying to Minnesota to visit with our grandson for just a few days. We leave here on Thursday morning heading for the Oregon coast.

The WeBoost Drive-X cell signal booster has been working fine. As with most boosters, the retransmitted signal is pretty low to minimize interference so your device really needs to be close to the inside antenna. Without the booster, we get one to two bars of 1x “Extended” on Verizon which is barely enough for occasional email. If I put my iPad next to the inside antenna, it switches to two bars of LTE. I have the iPad plugged into the front TV and can stream YouTube at 720p. I also have that iPad set up as a hotspot and have the Ubiquity Nano connected. I have been able to connect to our HomeAssistant server through the Internet.

I sealed the front seam with Eternabond tape. The Dicor had cracked which wasn’t there a few months back. Hopefully that addresses the small drips along the windshield during heavy rain. I still need to run Dicor around the edges of the tape but need a 70°+ day. I cleaned out the propane burner on the refrigerator and it now seems to start and run. I’ll leave it on propane for a while to make sure it continues to work. And watched some YouTube videos off of the cell amplifier. All in all, a quiet afternoon. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Day 140, 141, 142 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Wednesday (140) - After ten days, it was about time to empty the tanks. They weren’t full but I think Bridget has plans for the next several days. After emptying the tanks, I moved one site over as it was more level. We originally thought about this site when we first arrived but the angle required us to go the wrong way on the one way road. Given the traffic, we now know that it wasn’t a big deal. The rear leveling jacks had sunk a couple of inches into the mud and it felt in-level. This site also seemed a little less muddy.

Yesterday evening, we visited with Carolyn and Garret from Diary of a Family. We had met them before back in Phoenix and have been following their adventures on YouTube. They did a short interview of us and said that portions will show up on their live stream this Saturday. Carolyn is a traveling nurse and mentioned that times are really tough these days. Lots of contracts are being canceled due to empty hospitals.

Thursday (141) - Today, we drove towards Seattle to meet with Bridget’s nephew who lives downtown. He graciously is meeting us in Renton, WA, which is northeast of the airport. We initially went to Ikea but there was a line to enter so we just headed to the restaurant (to go only) for lunch. We were originally going to be in Hawaii for a family reunion at this time so this was a nice choice. The poke bowl was delicious with two kinds of poke plus toppings over brown rice. I should’ve taken a picture.

Friday (142) - I can’t believe that it’s been 142 days since I was last home. And it’s still not easy to travel to Alaska. I am back at our friends home in Centralia-Rochester. Bridget forgot her keys at the yesterday’s restaurant so she is driving back to pick them up. The dogs are here with me quietly (sort of) in their kennels. One of them wormed his way out of the fenced yard and took off down the street the last time we were here so now they get to spend some quality time in their kennels. Other than that, there isn’t much else going on today.

I did forget my phone in the RV but since I had used the WiFi here at our friends home before, my Apple Watch is using the WiFi to communicate with the iPhone so I’m still able to receive text messages and notifications. Cool technology...

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Day 139 - Ocean Shores, WA

Today we headed to the coast. Along the way, we stopped to visit some friends who used to live in Fairbanks. They bought an old farm and are planning to start a craft cider business. Looking at the barn I’d say that this is a very ambitious project. The whole barn was lifted and a new foundation was poured. There is also an indoor horse arena with a dozen stalls.

When we arrived on Ocean Shores, we looked for a seafood restaurant for lunch. The cioppino was pretty tasty. I think that this was the first time I had this dish outside of San Francisco. They supplied bread to sop up the delicious broth.

We then drove to the beach. You were allowed to drive your car onto the beach but we didn’t know that when we arrived. There was a corral set up on the beach. Too many people for me. At least at this point in time. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Day 138 - WeBoost Cell Signal Amplifier

 As mentioned in the last post, the project of the day was to install the cell signal booster. I picked up the WeBoost Drive-X RV made by Wilson Electronics. It is designed for a mobile installation and includes brackets to install on a vertical post such as the ladder or rack. I used the very solid awning bracket and just drilled holes in the bracket to match the awning. Blue thread lock was included for the mounting hardware. A spring is installed on the base of the antenna. The 25’ of coax was run along the awning roof mounting and, for now, I fed it into the RV through the slide seal. A drip loop was added to the cable before it went through the seal. For the “final” install (once antenna locations are finalized) I’ll use the included pass-through for the wall of the RV. A hole saw was also included with the installation hardware.

I installed the amplifier to the cabinet right over the passenger seat. I was originally going to install it inside of the cabinet but the amplifier gets pretty warm while running. A DC-DC converter was included which supplies the 5VDC needed by the amplifier and was wired into the adjacent cabinet. An AC adapter was also included. We are still trying different locations for the inside antenna. The directions say that the optimal distance is between 4’ and 10’ to your devices.

Apple appears to have removed the ability to show cellular signal level. But we went from one bar of 1X to two bars of LTE. Enough to stream YouTube. I guess I’m satisfied with that. The location of the various components allow us to have the amplifier running even while driving down the road.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Day 135, 136, 137 - Centralia, WA

Friday (135) - It’s a warm 82°F this afternoon here at our friends home outside Centralia, WA. There were some discussion about going to a state park but with the overall ignoring of social distancing, etc. we decided to pass on that. So, not much going on.

Trying out a lamb roast in the sous vide. The Joule app said 140°F for 8 to 24 hours. Then finish it on the Traeger grill for 15 min. This is not what’s in the picture.

Saturday (136) -  We arrived at our friends home early for breakfast as Steve and Cheryl headed home with their RV shortly afterwards. It was great to visit after the latest few months of self-quarantine. This portable fire pit was set up in the front yard. We made some-mores yesterday. It’s been a long time since I had one of those...

Sunday (137) - Another project arrived today from Amazon. I have been thinking of a cell phone booster for years but have been resistant due to the cost. I’ve heard that the signal at most locations along the Oregon coast was on the poor side. I’m not expecting miracles but at least get a useable signal. Where we are now, the iPhone indicates two bars of 1X “Extended”. Barely useable except in the middle of the night. Hopefully this’ll make it useable. We probably could’ve used this earlier in our trip but I was concerned about things like taxes, repairs, tires, etc. The “SmartRV” project kind of makes connectivity a little more important.

I was kind of resistant to a cell phone booster due to 5G and the new low earth orbit satellite systems. But with the demise of OneWeb and the anticipated cost of 5G deployment, LTE has quite a few years left. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Day 132, 133, 134 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Tuesday (132) - Walmart shopping day. Not counting employees, probably 5% of the people wore masks. Many seemed to ignore the traffic arrows on the floor. I didn’t see any low or empty shelves though the selection of some things was poor. After I got back to the RV, Bridget was ready to head to our friends home as she was going through Internet withdrawal. Very little Verizon signal.

Wednesday (133) - This morning, we both went for a haircut. We went to Great Cuts in Chehalis and they had online check-in available. So the wait once we arrived was maybe ten minutes. They only did haircuts at this time and required everyone to wear a mask. And a thorough cleaning between customers.

We are up at the lodge, which is closed, but WiFi is available out on the deck. They are cleaning the pool so maybe there are plans to open up sometime soon. After all the rain, it seems really nice now. Plus, the quiet is amazing. I looked for some thick rubber tiles to put under the jacks but Tractor Supply only had 4’x6’ sheets. It looked good as it was about 1½” thick and made of recycled tires. It would be difficult to cut.

Thursday (134) - This morning, we went into Centralia and are spending time visiting friends. Some other friends are driving their RV back from southern OR and are staying on their lot. They also used to live in Fairbanks.

I picked up a rib roast at Walmart the other day and that is in the sous vide with rosemary-thyme garlic butter. It should be good.

Just a quiet, relaxing day...

Monday, June 15, 2020

Day 131 - Chehalis, WA - TT

We are at another Thousand Trails park. This one is only has 30amp and water. Since there isn’t sewer, we will need to drive to the dump station every five to seven days. The 30amp service seems insufficient to run the heat pump especially if anything else is in use. Most of the sites aren’t very flat and this was the most level one we could find that we actually fit into. I have the rear tires on three blocks but it’s still a little low in the back. So nice compared to being packed in at the KOA.

We are practically all by ourselves in this area of the campground. From our site, we can’t see or hear any other RV. The more crowded areas have fewer trees which many folks prefer for their satellite dishes. We get 14 channels of over-the-air TV which is sufficient. It’s been raining all night and the forecast is for more rain through mid-day tomorrow. Yesterday evening, we visited with friends who used to live in Sunriver near Bend. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner of barbecue ribs, grilled  asparagus, and a delicious salad.

Very little Verizon signal here. So there won’t be many photos posted. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Day 130 - Chehalis, WA

Today was a 300 mile travel day that proved to be somewhat stressful. First, the hydraulic pump wouldn’t come on to pull the slides in. The leveling jacks use the same pump and when I tried them, it worked. So I tried the passenger front slide and it came in as it’s supposed to. The passenger rear slide also came in, almost. It stopped with about an inch to go. I tried shorting the contacts on the solenoid but the pump wouldn’t run. When it did run, it ran fine. Hmmmm.

After breakfast and coffee, I went back out with my voltmeter and the solenoids were working fine. I traced the wires and found the nut holding the cable to the pump was loose. After hand tightening it, the pump worked fine and the slides came in.

We got a late start but we headed out. About 5 miles down the interstate, the check engine light came on and the engine went into “limp mode”. I looked for broken wires on the engine, checked the coolant level, oil level, and drained some fuel from the water separator/fuel filter. All looked fine. After looking online, the most likely solution was add more oil. I added two quarts and we took it for a test drive. All the way to Chehalis, WA. No more check engine light. Who would’ve thought that two quarts of oil would be the solution. It’s now slightly above the full line...

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Days 128, 129 - Pendleton, OR

Friday (128) - Only a few more days here in Pendleton, OR, so this will probably be the last post while here. Bridget had checked with the wool mill but they still haven’t started doing any factory tours. I think the factory is just getting started again. I guess the tour will have to wait until “next time”.

I had run out of the breadboards I’ve been using for my sensor projects so the latest one, the ESP32 test board, is just sitting in a plastic container in the cabinet over the recliner. There is no physical switch for the recessed lights only the Home Assistant interface on your phone or tablet. The screen capture shows what it looks like within Home Assistant. The partial circle is the intensity level and you can adjust it to whatever you’d like. Tapping the bulb toggles the light on/off. I haven’t gotten around to running a wire for the touch sensor. Maybe that’s an afternoon project.

I installed the outside temperature through the back of the compartment. It is a somewhat protected location though it doesn’t get any airflow. We’ll see how it works...

Saturday (129) - Quite a bit of rain last night into this morning. There was some water drops on the dashboard this morning but no drips running down the glass. Time to redo the Dicor and maybe use Eternabond tape along the roof seam between the roof and the fiberglass cap.

Since the newly added dimmable lights are in the main living space, I created an automation to turn the on at 15% from 10:30pm (only if they are off) and off again at 30 minutes before sunrise. Essentially a night light. They are only 3.6watts at 100% duty cycle so at 15% duty cycle, only about 0.6 watts. I think the microprocessor only uses 0.13 watts max so it’s efficient enough. I think I need to do some research on the touch sensor. It works but not reliably. But good enough to play around with...

We are getting ready to head out tomorrow. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Day 126, 127 - Pendleton, OR

Wednesday (126) - This morning, we finished the Pendleton Riverwalk By starting from the north end of town. It turned out to be only ¾ mile to our last turnaround point so we kept walking a bit further. After all, we have to get our miles in (the June Apple Watch challenge). I took this picture of the wall along the walkway. Obviously, they must not want people to sit here.

After our walk, we picked up groceries at Walmart. Even fewer people with masks on than last week.

I finished “packaging” the board and sensors for the wet bay. One sensor will be Gorilla taped to the fresh water tank and covered with a layer of close cell foam. A second sensor is simply measuring the air temperature behind the drain. I just want to know if that area ever gets anywhere near freezing. I needed to add a buck converter to provide 5VDC. I tapped into the bay convenience light for power. I received the logic level converters today. I’ll play with that tomorrow. And I ordered NPN Darlington transistors which could provide the same functionality as the MOSFET as far as LED dimmer using PWM.

A few months ago, I posted that the ground cable for the intake grid heater seemed to be missing. I added a temporary cable so the engine would start. Further research showed that there are two grid heaters in the intake manifold. One each for three cylinders and they are wired in series. It appears that one of them is burned out or something and it is the one that has the ground connection. One more thing to fix...

Thursday (127) - The wet bay temperature sensors are finally installed. This is surprising since this was one of the first boards I had assembled. But, I was needing a box so the board was just duct taped onto the fiberglass and powered off an old phone charger for almost a month. I also created an alarm if the outlet temperature drops near freezing.

Now for something different. A new direction for control of two LED recessed lights. Today, I received some Darlington NPN transistors (TIP120). The two 12vdc LED bulbs are only 1.8watts so they draw around 300ma total. This is about 20x the current output of the GPIO pins on the ESP32 so you need something to boost the current. I used a 1k-ohm resister to limit current into the base of the TIP120 From the ESP32. The collector was connected to the ground side of the LED and the emitter was connected to chassis ground. The other side of the LEDs are connected to 12vdc. This worked great. From Home Assistant I could turn the light on/off and vary the brightness. I’m using an ESP32 for this since it does PWM in hardware as if it really matters. It’s been quite a while since I used discrete components such as this transistor. Maybe 30-40 years.

I connected a wire from one of the GPIO pins that support “touch” and created an automation to toggle the light on/off. The challenge now is running a wire within the cabinet shelf to reach the second light fixture. And possibly using a single touch sensor for both on/off and dimming. Hmmm. A project…

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Day 123,124, 125 - More Techy Stuff...

Sunday (123) - I tried my ESP-32S board with the IRF520 MOSFET as a dimmer for 3.6watts of LED under cabinet reading lights. At first, I had the V- output be the same as chassis ground and the lights came on immediately with the microprocessor powered off. I then wired the light “ground” into the V- output of the MOSFET. This worked and through Home Assistant the light could be controlled including dimming. The problem was that full bright wasn’t what it should be meaning that there was insufficient current through the MOSFET. The switching voltage was just too low. BTW, the reason for the MOSFET is that LED dimming is done using pulse-width modulation aka PWM. That is, by varying the duty cycle of a square wave, you can change how long the LED is actually lit. The frequency is too high for your eye to see. The frequency is one of the parameters you have control over in the ESPHome configuration.

Now, I’m shopping for some logic level converters which would convert the 3.3v output of the ESP-32S to 5v for the signal input of the ISF520. Due to inadequate research on my part, I didn’t learn that the digital I/O ports were 3.3v until after I had ordered the IRF520 boards. I just assumed that it would be the same as a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. The logic level converters are an easy fix though it means that this project will be “back burnered” for a while until we can receive packages again.

It has been windy since last night and it will continue into tomorrow. Even sitting here on concrete with our hydraulic jacks down, we can still feel (and hear) the wind.

Monday (124) - Maybe I should consider upgrading from the Pi 2 to the Pi 4. Most of the time the processor utilization is around 5% but when I'm doing firmware upgrades to the microprocessors, the CPU pegs and it takes quite a while. Especially since I'm thinking of expanding this "system".

Tuesday (125) - Another “packaging” project. This is going in the front-passenger storage bay. I already have PowerPole connectors for the LED awning lights. That is why I have two sets of power leads coming out of the box. One going to 12vdc and the other one for the awning lights. The blue thing sticking out of the box is a DHT11 low-resolution humidity/temperature sensor just so I know what the temperature is inside of the storage bay. The black wire is the DS18B20 temperature sensor that I’m going to stick out the back of the storage bay into the open space behind the fuel tank and across from the propane tank. The box will be finished after I hot glue the DHT11 and the OLED display in place. The display was added just because I had extras. It displays time and the outside temperature. I may play around with it and just display a large 40-point temperature. That may be more useful. The box is a water-tight junction box I ordered from Amazon.

I changed our next TT reservation this morning. We head to Chehalis, WA, on Sunday for just short of three weeks. Originally, this was when we were planning to go to Maui for a family reunion that Bridget was planning. The quarantine rules in Hawaii are more severe than Alaska so the reunion has been postponed.

Here is the box installed with a 42 point font for the temperature. I may need to modify it for temperatures over 100°F. We’ll see...

Actually, I just changed the formatting to get rid of the tenths of a degree. Now the font is fine…

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Day 120, 121, 122 - Pendleton and Walla Walla

Thursday (120) - Today's project was to build up the board that is actually going to be attached inside of the refrigerator. The screw terminals are for 12VDC power and the two temperature sensors. I am still considering adding on a relay board and another temperature sensor to monitor the on the condenser mounted to the rear of the refrigerator. But, in order to reach the condenser, the refrigerator needs to be removed. That's not going to happen. There already is a temperature-controlled fan that just needs to be switched on when it's warm. And, it's been switched on since January. More automation is not really needed.

Not shown is the RGB led that will change color if the freezer gets too warm. Apparently, there is a way to sent a notification to my phone as well. Something else to explore. Tomorrow, we are going to Walla Walla for the afternoon.

Friday (121) - Today we had a number of stops in Walla Walla, WA. I needed to refill a prescription and this was the nearest Walgreens. I needed some small machine screws and spacers to finish the D1 Mini installation in the refrigerator. For the wet bay and the storage bay, I ordered some plastic junction boxes to mount the electronics in. A little weather protection might be nice even though they should be out of the weather.

Later - I ended up getting double stick foam tape and a hot glue gun to mount the boards and the OLED display. We are now waiting at an Applebee’s and their procedure is to add your name onto a list, then you sit in your car to wait for a text message letting you know that your table is ready.

I don’t remember enjoying dinner so much at just Applebee’s. I think that I miss eating out…

After dinner, we visited an alpaca farm right on the border between Washington and Oregon. We signed for a tour of the operation which included shearing and dying the wool.

Another side business was cut flowers though I don’t remember the name of that business. Pictured is about half of the herd. The other half was in the barn due to the occasional rain. The farm started out as a homestead around the turn of the century and they had copies of all of the paperwork including the final “deed” signed by Ulysses Grant.

Saturday (122) - The project of the day was finishing up, for now, the refrigerator monitor board. I was originally thinking of cutting an opening for the display to show through but decided against that as it would be difficult to get a nice opening cut with the tools I have on hand. It would be hard to get it to look “finished”. Before I started this morning, the freezer was actually down to 4°F. It likes the cooler overnight temperatures. I think I may look for a bezel on the Internet that can be printed and fit over the display. Maybe I just need a small 3D printer in the RV. Isn’t that what everyone needs in an RV?

Now to start working on the final board for the ESP8266 in the front storage compartment. This is a different board than the D1 Mini I’ve been using everywhere else. No good reason besides “just because”. Since I will be hooking into wiring for the LED awning lights, the temptation is to have the D1 Mini control the three color channels of the lights. For now, I’ll just control power. Today, my order for MOSFET boards should be arriving. These will allow me to use PWM (pulse width modulation) to control the brightness of the LED lights. The initial project is for the recessed lighting above my recliner. I already have a demo set up that just controls an led built onto the EPS-32S and is turned on and off with a touch to a loose wire. The IRF520 MOSFET aren’t ideal for this application since They really need a signal of around 4VDC. The digital I/O pins on the ESP-32S Put out 3.3VDC. It’ll still work as long as the current being switched is modest. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Day 118, 119 - Home Assistant

Tuesday (118) - Yesterday evening, I noticed that there was an update available for Home Assistant, the home automation software that I'm running on an old Raspberry Pi 2. This wasn't the first update over the last couple of weeks and all of the prior ones installed without a hitch. Of course, I hadn't bothered to back up any of my configuration files. So I went to the website and downloaded the newest hassos image file and copy it to the micro-SD card. After booting the Pi up on the micro-SD card, it downloads any updates and starts up. I then installed the EPSHome extension and the system recognized the deployed microcontrollers with their sensors and switches. It doesn't have any of the configurations as they get compiled and just the new firmware gets downloaded to the microcontrollers. So today, I get to dig out each board and rebuild the configuration. That should be pretty straightforward.

It's now 4:20pm and I think I have all of the configuration files recreated. And, I really do need to convert the two hobby board versions to breadboards. The hobby board versions are fragile and anytime I moved them around, wires would get disconnected. The is the one in one of the storage bays with a temperature sensor for outdoor and a temp/humidity sensor inside of the bay.

Wednesday (119) - Today, I went back in behind the fiberglass panel in the wet bay to change the ground used by the SeeLevel II tank sensors. The directions said to make sure that the sensor ground was the same as the display ground. I was using the ground wire from the original sensors so I really had no idea where it tied in. I am now using what originally was the black tank sensor wire and have it connected to the ground at the display. I cut what I was using for ground just to make sure that no current would be passing through the sensor wiring. I was originally planning on tapping into 12 VDC wiring while I was at it to install my D1 Mini and two temperature sensors but given the difficulty in removing the panel, I decided that mounting the box on the panel would be preferable. Especially since I plan to add more capability in the future. That little project ended up taking over three hours. But that included talking to the neighbors who moved out today. They bought a small house here in Pendleton.

The “chore of the day” was washing the car. It was incredibly dirty from the last couple of rainfalls. There must’ve been a lot of dust in the air. Maybe it was pollen.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Day 116, 117 - Pendleton, OR

Sunday (116) - Today was much cooler so it seemed like it might be a good day to defrost the refrigerator/freezer. Maybe it’ll work better. I had decided that it really needed to be defrosted since I couldn’t get to the thermistor that was mounted on the refrigerator fins. If you want the refrigerator to run colder, you slide the thermostat higher up on the fins. If it’s too cold, you slide it down. We used a heat gun and a hairdryer, each on a different AC circuit, to start melting the ice enough to get it loose. This is the third time we’ve done this chore so maybe every three months or so.

Monday (117) - Defrosting the fridge seems to have made a difference in the performance of the refrigerator. But it isn't really hot either. Since the whole cooling part of the refrigerator was replaced last year, it should be working "like new". I still need to build that onto a breadboard so that maybe today's activity.

After Bridget talked to a specialist at the Alaska Division of Retirement, the suggestion was "why risk air travel at this time". We agree with that suggestion and canceled our flight and doctor appointments until later this summer. TVC is suggested a Zoom meeting for my semi-annual appointment instead of in-person so we'll see how that goes.