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. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Day 69, 70, 71 - Texas - TT

Thursday (69) -Today, we ventured to Cleburne State Park which was about 45 minutes north of here to share Thanksgiving with some RV friends. We distributed ourselves meeting the guidelines of the park but still had an enjoyable time. Four of us had amateur radio licenses, which was a surprise to me. The sous vide turkey surprised many as they, like us, usually don’t care for the normally dry white meat. 

The state park was off the beaten path and Google had us winding through farms and ranches on these small roads. I’m glad we didn’t have the RV. We did need to purchase a day pass for $10 before arriving as they are limiting the number of people in the park. It felt pretty empty. 

Friday (70)
 - I re-figured out the code and wiring for the ESP32 microprocessor for the lights and sensors above the swivel rocker. I’m trying out the ESP32 instead of the ESP8266 that I’m using everywhere else since it does PWM (pulse width modulation) in hardware. I’m controlling the two LED lights with a TIP120 darlington transistor to handle the current of the two LED light fixtures. It’s been a while since I had set it up. I’m also using a DHT22 temperature/humidity sensor as it is more accurate than the DHT11. Now I need to start working on the touch sensor again. Another minor difference is that this microprocessor uses 3.3V logic instead of 5V. Just something else to keep in mind…

Saturday (71) - Cold and rainy day. I messed around with the ESP32 some more. Installed an OLED display with the outside temperatures and played around trying to make a functional touch capacitative touch sensor. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Day 65, 66, 67, 68 - Whitney, TX - TT

Sunday (65) - Today was rather cool (temperature). I pretty much stayed inside trying to recreate one of the configurations for the Wemo D1 Mini microprocessors that got reconfigured a few months back when I rebuilt the HomeAssistant server on newer hardware. I’ve been putting it off until we were somewhere with decent Internet. 

Monday (66) - I did another remote ham radio exam this morning but the testee was a no-show. Apparently, this was only the 3rd out of hundreds. So, it was a training opportunity for me to fill out one of the online forms to track exams. The other form is for submission to the FCC after an testee passes. That's one of those no-errors-allowed or else the batch file fails at there FCC. 

I'm trying out the Mac feature of extending the desktop onto an iPad. It's kind of a handy feature when doing these radio tests due to the number of windows you need to monitor. Here I have the iPad connected via USB but, supposedly, it works with WiFi as well. Things got confused when I was using another USB connection to my iPhone for Internet at the same time as extending the screen. But it actually works.

I've been talking to Garrett from Diary of a Family about some RV repairs. He just completed a certification course in Athens, TX, and is quite knowledgeable on repairing the RV portion of this rig. We have a long list.

And, I've been continuing to work on the Smart RV projects now that we have at least so-so Internet. An Internet connection is needed for compiling and generating new firmware to download to the microprocessors.

Tuesday (67) - Two more tests today. The first at noon and the second at 5pm. The Zoom room usually goes active around 30 minutes before the scheduled exam. I think that many of the other volunteers enjoy the short period of socialization especially during these days of social distancing. We picked up a handful of groceries for a Thanksgiving potluck with some friends of friends. I believe the plan is all outdoors.

Wednesday (68) - The turkey breast is in the sous vide. I browned it before double-bagging it since it needs to cook for 24 hours. Seasonings are bay leaf, sage, Herbes de Provence, salt, olive oil, and sugar. Temperature is 131°F as recommended by the Joule app. I’m pretty sure that this is the same recipe as last year. I’m using the Joule sous vide appliance this year. The temperature control seems to be more accurate plus it connects the app on my phone to set time-temperature directly from the Joule app. And it sends notifications to my Apple Watch. I know, gimmicks, but I like gimmicks. I also made some cranberry sauce w/orange. A couple more items which I’ll make tomorrow morning.

Last night, I ended up bringing in the awning due to a rain storm with high wind gusts. I really didn’t get to see if my HomeAssistant automation to turn off the lights worked. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Day 62, 63, 64 - Whitney, TX - TT

Thursday (62) - Perfect temperature today. 75° now at 2pm. Blue skies and a light breeze. I picked up some groceries this morning at the local grocery store. Not as much variety but I was able to pick up some stuff for Thanksgiving next week. I’m looking forward to the sous vide turkey already. 

This is the most set-up we’ve been in a while. Our site is pretty sheltered from the wind so the awning is out and staked down. Got a few tasks done around the RV done. Probably only a few hundred more to go...

Friday (63) - We drove to Waco this morning. Uneventful drive though we were surprised that how crowded the roads are compared to Arizona. Uneventful is a good thing. 

Several stops including a Pet Smart, HEB (a large grocery chain), and Chick-fil-A. Delicious spicy chicken sandwich. Plus, fresh tamales from HEB. By "fresh", I mean actually made in that store. We picked some up last year and they were wonderful.

Saturday (64) - The campground WiFi isn't really fast but I've been able to update my MacBook and MacBook Pro to Big Sur from Catalina. I think it was about a 12GB download on the MacBook Pro and a bit less on the MacBook. It looks similar but behavior is slightly different especially as it relates to security.

It looks like holiday baking season has begun. Since we are on a 30amp connection, we have to plan our power consumption. Times like this is when a propane oven would be preferred. The convection/microwave uses about 15amps all by itself. We just turned off the A/C and switch the water heater to propane as they are the other big consumers of power. The washer/dryer is also running and the dryer uses a lot of power as well. Right now, we are using about ⅔ of our max power.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Day 61 - Whitney, TX - TT

Today felt like a long driving day. Probably because it was the fifth one in a row. In reality, it was about 320 miles which does make it the longest of these last travel days. We are at another TT park and it’s one that we’ve been to before. And, like other TT parks, it’s first come first served. But we do have a 30amp full-hookup site and the power looks good. The front A/C is running and the inverter/charger is pushing 85 amps into the batteries. And the voltage is still 121VAC. In Chehalis, it would be down to about 105VAC and breakers would be tripping. We just need to be conscious about what’s running before turning anything else on. 

Since we are done traveling, I’ll go back to the 2-4 days per post again. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Day 60 - Big Spring, TX - PA

Today drive was about 230 miles to another Passport America RV park. Only $17.50 for full hookups including 50amp power. With a 50amp connection, we can pretty much run any electric appliance without concern of tripping a breaker. Since it is a 220VAC @50amps, we can consume up to 11KW versus 3.6KW on a 30amp connection. This means that we don’t need to use any propane. 

The WiFi is decent enough that the iPhone and AppleTV installed updates in the middle of the day. Maybe it’s time to dig out the laptop...

Monday, November 16, 2020

Day 59 - Van Horn, TX - PA

Last night around 3am, I noticed that the rear furnace was no longer shutting off and the room temperature was around 75°F. I checked the thermostat and the LCD display was blank. After resetting the thermostat, it said “EE”. After a quick Google search, this indicates a communication error either between the thermostat and the front A/C or the front and rear A/C. Since both connections meet at the front, I disconnected one of the RJ-11 cables. I figured I had a 50% chance of guessing the one headed to the rear A/C. I guessed correctly and after resetting the thermostat, the front worked for the rest of the night. 

Today’s travel was about 220 miles to Van Horn, TX. We are at a Passport America RV park and with our discount, it’s only $15/night with full hookups including 50amp power. It nothing to write home about but it’s worth $15. 

After we set up, I dug out the contact cleaner and a small cleaning brush and cleaned all of the connectors and RJ-11 plugs. Then reset the thermostat again with no error codes. Turned on the rear A/C and the fan came on within 10sec but the compressor did not. Still broken. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Day 58 - Deming, NM - HH

Today, we are at another Harvest Host winery. D. H. Lescombes outside of Deming, NM. I picked up a rosé and a couple of mimosas in a can. Starting tomorrow, the tasting room will be closed as they can only do curbside delivery according to new NM guidelines. 

They have a huge parking lot for events that they can’t have so there is a lot of room for RVs. It was a short-ish drive today something like 150 miles. Tomorrow’s drive is only a little longer into Van Horn, TX. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Day 57 - Wilcox, AZ - HH

We left Apache Junction around 10 or so and arrived at our Harvest Host stop around mid afternoon. We are dry camping in a large field with a couple other motor homes at the Birds and Barrels winery. A very pleasant 72°F though the forecast is for 39°F tonight. No block heater this morning even with a low of 47°F. It smoked for a few seconds then stopped and didn’t start again until we were leaving the park. 

We did a wine tasting and left with a semi-sweet white that we both liked. We only have a 150 mile drive tomorrow to our next Harvest Host in New Mexico. I believe it’s the same one we stayed at last year. Today’s fill-up was at a T/A with a $40 discount. What a great program!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Day 55, 56 - Apache Junction, AZ - TT

Thursday (55) - Right now, I'm waiting for another one of the ham radio tests to start. Since I never did hear back from the local WiFi provider, I'm tethering the laptop to the phone via USB and have the iPad on Verizon. It seems to work fine. The iPhone tethering is limited to 400Kbps (so says Verizon) but for this application, there isn't any problem. The only part that uses more bandwidth is the Zoom session which I run on the iPad. The Mac is running Big Sur beta and for some reason, Zoom doesn't want to connect on it. But the production version is coming today. I'll download it once we are on campground WiFi.

I think warm daytime temperatures have returned. I won’t say where I spent a couple of hours this afternoon. We head out on Saturday heading south and east. New Mexico is still “closed” to out-staters but we’ll only need one-stop and a Harvest Host winery said that we were welcome in their parking lot.

Yesterday, I made four appointments in Fairbanks for mid-December. I also got tickets to arrive one week before those appointments. Today, it sounds like the state is thinking of changing the rules again. Very frustrating trying to keep track of all this...

Friday (56) - Another ham radio test this morning. These are easy enough for me to do while I'm on the road using Zoom and their online testing software. Unlike the paper tests, the testing platform uses randomized test questions from a large pool of FCC-approved questions. The questions are publicized so you can take practice tests until you can pass consistently.

Another beautiful day. Clear, 72°F with a real light breeze and not a cloud in the sky. Hard to complain about anything. Took care of some minor tasks around the RV. The WeBoost cell booster interior antenna cable now runs over and through the front cabinet with the antenna mounted under the TV. 

After a couple of hours at the pool, I started to pack things up. The awning was rolling up crooked as the material had slipped on the roller. Possibly due to the windy days. We managed to slide the material back and it then rolled up fine. It’s always something...

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Day 54 - Goldfield Ghost Town

A short distance from Apache Junction is a tourist trap called Goldfield Ghost Town. I had stopped by in Feb 2008 when I was in Tempe for a Northern Tier meeting. The place has grown quite a bit with more shops and many more attractions. All I got last time was coffee and this time, an overpriced ice cream cone. I think we also picked up a magnet. 

The main street was there in 2008 as were most of these buildings. I remember the bakery and the emporium but not the big, sit-down restaurant. The museum was probably there. The focus of the town and the museum is the Lost Dutchman mine located somewhere in the Superstition Mountains (seen in the first picture).

If this building was here, I don’t remember it. It was listed as the bordello with tours available. They also had mine tours, gold panning, a narrow gauge train ride, zip line, reptile museum, etc. Each charging something for admission. I just like walking around these places.  

On the way back, we stopped at Fry’s for groceries. This is part of the same organization as Fred Meyer. Then back to the pool. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Day 51, 52, 53 - Apache Junction, AZ - TT

Sunday (51) - The wind died down and it was a very much moderate 66°F this afternoon. I went up on the roof to check out the circuit board in the rear A/C unit. Right below the red DIP switches are two connectors. The upper is for a freeze sensor, a temperature sensor attached to the condenser to monitor icing, and the lower for the room temperature sensor. I unplugged both and cleaned the connectors with contact cleaner. I checked the room sensor with an ohm meter and it read 7.34K ohms. Where 7.9K=75°F and 6.9K=70°F according to an online troubleshooting guide. My HomeAssistant sensor said 74°F. Close enough to say that it works. I cleaned the contacts on the board and put it all back together. Turned the breaker back on and set the rear A/C to 70°F and after a few minutes, it turned on. We’ll see if it continues to work. 

Monday (52)
 - It was 48°F this morning and the forecast is for 39°F. Quite a change from last week. But it’s supposed to start warming up after that. We met up with good friends for lunch at a Szechuan place in Mesa. The food and company was excellent. 

Bridget had some stops in Mesa and one of them was next to a Trader Joe’s. I hadn’t been to one of them in quite a while. I picked up some non-essentials but it was fun browsing. The second stop was near a Best Buy. Browsed there as well but didn’t really see anything earth shattering. 

The tamales from Trader Joe’s were delicious. Not very spicy but good flavor. Steamed them in the Instant Pot. 

Tuesday (53)
 - It was in the low 40s (°F) last night and was clear and sunny today. Only a light breeze and temperatures in the mid-60s (°F). Not much going on today. We are meeting a ham operator and his wife for dinner again. They are also snowbirds from Fairbanks who initially had an RV but have since moved to a park model from the RV. MikeP is the one who administered the ham radio tests to me. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Day 48, 49, 50 - Apache Junction, AZ - TT

Thursday (48)
 - The forecast for today was for high of 97°F this afternoon. One guess where I’ll be (or already am!). It looks like one last hurrah for “summer” as starting this weekend, it looks like it’ll be more moderate. That’ll give us an opportunity to do more than sit around the pool or in the air conditioning. 

Speaking of air conditioning, the rear A/C unit is actually semi working. The thermostat is set for 61°F and it turned on at 78°F and is cycling on/of keeping the rear bedroom at around 74.5°F. At least for a while. This is the HomeAssistant temperature sensor. BTW, I’m able to check the temperatures remotely due to a $5/month service called Nabu Casa. Personally, I’m glad it works but does need Internet. The rear A/C shut off for a while but came back on when the temperature went over 80°F. I’m still thinking that it’s something with the temperature sensor. Once it cools off I’ll dig into the unit. I think the sensor connector is in a junction box accessible from the roof. Given the outside temperature, I’m just glad it’s working. 

I’ve given up on the park WiFi provider, Jabba Communications, as their tech support couldn’t even tell me the SSID. Let alone whether they even offered service at this RV park. For now, I’m just tethered to my iPad. 

This morning's “project” was a batch of yogurt in the Instant Pot. The pint mason jars don’t fit when using the trivet so I needed to heat the milk on the stove before filling the jars. One more step. I’ve made it before in the small 3qt Instant Pot but used wide-mouth canning jars. What I have with me are regular pint mason jars. They are slightly taller. 

Friday (49)
 - This is the temperature at 6:16AM! I heard the front A/C unit cycling all night but didn’t really think much of it. Now I know why, There has been a south wind for most of the last 24 hours but it hasn’t been strong enough or gusty to cause us awning or slide toppers issues. But, since it is somewhat overcast now, I went ahead and brought in the awning. I put the awning out mostly to shade the back of the refrigerator.

Doing another ham radio test this morning. It's a way to contribute a bit back to the community. It's fairly easy to do from anywhere and pre-Covid, it wasn't even an option. They needed to come up with a way that the FCC approved to do testing besides in-person. This has gone through a couple of iterations but it seems to work.

The yogurt turned out pretty good. This was breakfast today. I just needed to add some berries from the freezer. The granola is store-bought but pretty good. 

Saturday (50)
 - Lots of dust to the southeast. Enough to have a traffic warning of ¼ mile visibility and it almost blocked our view of the Superstition Mountains just a few miles east of here. It has been much cooler today and the rear A/C unit decided to start working again. The step up in temperature is where I raised the thermostat 1°F. 

Even with the cooler temperature, the pool is still a nice place to spend the afternoon. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Day 45, 46, 47 - Apache Junction, AZ - TT

Monday (45) - It's been 45 days since I was in Alaska so I think that it may be about time to make reservations for the next trip. I spoke too soon about the rear A/C. It worked fine yesterday but today, won't turn on. I know it's getting power and communicating with the thermostat since I can manually turn on the fan and vary the speed. But the whole communication with the remote temperature sensor doesn't seem to be working. I looked at the wiring and found a loose crimp connector (actually corroded) and changed it. That didn't seem to do anything.

At least the pool is open today. It’s not very big but it is the ideal temperature on this 92°F afternoon. The sign on the gate says that the hot tub is closed but there are no barriers or signs at the hot tub itself. Several people were using it. And, it is still being heated.

About 1pm. the rear A/C just started working after it had warmed up to about 87°F. Still flaky especially for these 90°F days. I'll be doing another remote ham radio test later this afternoon. It would've been nice to be using the park WiFi but I haven't been able to find it. The SSID they claim is there isn't. Not on the Ubiquity radio, the iOS devices, on OS X, or Windows 10. I can even see the Motel 6 down the road. I'd say that their network isn't working.

Tuesday (46) - We had a nice, colorful sunset last night. The weather app says it’s 91°F but after sitting in the pool, it feels pretty nice now. I did some grocery shopping this morning and the non-mask wearers in the store could be counted on one hand.

At least it’s not -27°F like I see back home. It’s nice that they have the pool open even if it’s limited to ten people at a time.

Just like yesterday, the rear A/C didn’t turn on until the temperature hit ~87°F which, also just like yesterday, occurred a bit before 3pm. It’s supposed to be cooler starting on Saturday. I’ll pull the cover and try to test the remote temperature sensor. The air temperature at the output of both A/C units is 42°F, so once they are running, they put out cold air  

Wednesday (47) - Another 90°F+ afternoon so we are at the pool again. It is so nice that the pool is open. I went for a walk this morning and it’s around 2½ miles through all of the roads within the park. We talked quite a bit to another couple at the pool and got numerous suggestions of locations and hikes in the area. I think Bridget plans to return to the Music Instrument Museum tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Day 43, 44 - Apache Junction, AZ - TT

Saturday (43) - We drove around 300 miles to Apache Junction, AZ, which is east of Phoenix. We are at an Encore Park which is part of our TT membership. It is a "classic" RV park complete with nice, level sites and a concrete patio. We have 50 amp power but our rear A/C unit is being flaky again and not turning on. We ran the generator for almost half of our drive here so we could run the roof A/C units as the dash air is almost useless when it's this hot. I didn't want to chance the long climbs going through Flagstaff since I wanted to make sure that there were no other coolant leaks.

Sunday (44) - This is our site for the next couple of weeks. It’s definitely on the warm side but, surprisingly, sitting outside under the awning with a light breeze is pretty nice. You’ll notice the location of the palm tree. After we were all set up, I noticed that I wouldn’t be able to get the awning out. This morning, we pulled the front two slides in, lifted the jacks and moved back about 10” or so. Just enough to get the awning deployed but still enough room to get in/out easily. The awning is staked out in case the breeze picks up. 

Thankfully, the rear air conditioner decided to start working again. The one front unit alone has difficulty coping with the interior volume with the slides out. It decided to start working around 11:30pm by just randomly turning on even though the thermostat was set since we arrived.  

The pool is closed on Sunday...