Saturday, July 31, 2021

Homer to Cooper Landing

As is fitting, on the day we leave Homer, it’s warm, sunny and calm. I picked up a breakfast bagel sandwich on the way to the RV park. 

I left Homer around 1:15pm. Stopped at the Fred Meyer in Soldatna for gas  and continued on to our B&B in Cooper Landing. Right after leaving Homer, it was overcast and the temperature dropped to 55°F. But after the highway turned inland, it warmed up to ~70°F. Much nicer. 

The B&B seems pretty nice and we’ll see what breakfast is tomorrow morning. 


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Homer, AK

Wednesday - It’s hard for me to tell but this may be Dixon Glacier across Kachemak Bay from Homer. Right now, I’m sitting in Heritage RV Park about ¾ of the way down Homer Spit. They have a nice view facing the bay with a view of the mountains and glaciers out the front door. Their view is below. The pano was taken just after low tide (-0.89ft).


I’m not sure what is on the agenda for today as I just rode down here. I believe the others are exploring the shops near the end of the spit. My brother is having everyone over for dinner (red salmon that he caught last week). I brought the old Instant Pot sous vide stick with me just to cook salmon. 

This was just the view while walking around the shops at the spit. I found the group after they found some fish tacos for lunch. Bridget shared her order. Pretty tasty. 

Thursday - Last night there was an 8.2 earthquake about 500 miles southwest of here. Reports say that it was the strongest quake since 1964. About 10:30pm, the tsunami sirens were going off and the low lying areas were being evacuated. My son and his group in the RV ended up at the cul-de-sac by my brother’s home. The tsunami was a non-event at 0.8 ft. Today is has been a cool, cloudy day. The group had their halibut fishing charter canceled and are now fishing in a small inlet on the spit. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Ural Trip

Sunday - Around noon on Sunday, I headed south with the Ural. The destination for today was Anchorage but eventually, we’ll be in Homer. Bridget left on Saturday with the Prius filled with most of our luggage. I brought my camping gear as I’m considering stopping on the way back. 

It was warm in Fairbanks but by Cantwell, it was 55°F and drizzling. The headwind didn’t help my progress much as the Ural was easily the slowest thing on the road. 

Tuesday
- Lots of wind on today’s ride to Homer. Between the wind and the hills there were times when I could barely maintain 50mph. Homer is beautiful. We are staying with my brother at his home overlooking Kachemak Bay. We are here for several days before heading north to the Kenai River.  

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Permafrost Tunnel

On Saturday, some friends arranged a tour of the Permafrost Tunnel located north of Fairbanks near Fox. I had heard about the facility since I had arrived as a graduate student. 

There were about a dozen of us and the logistics manager did a fantastic job telling us the history of the tunnel including the early days. The original tunnel is still there but it has been expanded numerous times. Both the length and height have been increased. 

The tunnel is chilled to -5°C by numerous air conditioning systems to keep the walls and ceiling solid. LED lights are installed throughout the tunnels so it was pretty well lit. 

Numerous bones were found when they dug the tunnels but due to the area, none were considered archeologically significant. As the ice sublimates, items surface such as this horn. 





Friday, July 23, 2021

Week 7 in AK

Monday - One more thing that needed to be done is some septic system maintenance. My role was just scheduling the truck but it took a bit of searching to find the septic tank clean-outs. That area of the yard is really overgrown. I guess I now need to start clearing out more small trees and brush. It’s been a while since it was last pumped out and it ended up costing ~$800. I probably shouldn’t wait so many years. 

The truck arrived just as I finished a test session that I was leading. Good timing as there were just enough VEs available so I wouldn’t have been able to excuse myself. 

Tuesday
 - Today was another Sunshine Coffee day. It's nice to be able to meet with the group. Many of them I've been meeting for quite a few years. By mid-afternoon, it was a very warm 82°F. Or it felt very warm to me. I had some corn in the fridge that needed to be grilled so after the afternoon’s test session, I fired up the grill. Even though it does have a propane tank, I also have a 20# bag of charcoal. Plus, I suspect that the tank is empty. 

Later in the afternoon, we went on a special tour at the Large Animal Research Station aka the musk ox farm. The tour was provided by the credit union. 

Wednesday - We met a longtime friend for lunch here. I had never been here before as it opened around the same time as I had headed out. And it was pretty tasty. I had one of my favorite dishes, kimchi stew with a side of rice. We also had some seaweed salad and some kimchi on the side. 

Thursday - Another rather typical Thursday. Coffee in the morning at Sunsprout Cafe with the regular group followed by the afternoon test session. I'm working on replacing the upstairs shower cartridge that has developed a small leak. I believe that I installed it back in 2005 when I remodeled the bathroom. Instead of trying to guess the part number, I will need to shut off the water for the whole house to disassemble the valve.

Later - The internals of the faucet are corroded in place. Even the brass on brass threaded connections doesn’t budge. My “hack” is an on/off valve for the showerhead. 

Friday - A couple of test sessions and we started to get ready for our trip to Homer. Bridget is leaving tomorrow in the Prius and I'm taking off around noon in the Ural. This is about my only opportunity for a Ural road trip as the summer is rapidly coming to an end.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Week 6 in AK

Monday - In addition to two test sessions, I needed to do some running around town. A visit to Sportsman's Warehouse for some fishing line. The line on my spinning reel was probably at least 25 years old so it was due to be replaced. It is a pretty lightweight setup and I just filled it with 8# test line. I don't plan to go fishing but Bridget plans to take our grandson when we are in Homer. I'm guessing that she will need/want a fishing pole as well. I also stopped at Costco to shop for summer tires for the Prius and have an appointment for the end of the week. Nice that Costco actually does tire appointments. 

After that, I stopped at Zorbas for a gyro using a gift certificate that we received from another food vendor, The Hungry Robot. We lent them a chest freezer for them to use at Chickenstock, a music festival in Chicken AK. Pretty generous given that the freezer has been sitting outside unused. But it works well and the inside was very clean. After the session, I hauled a week's worth of household trash to the transfer site. The Ural has been getting quite a bit of use since the truck has been sold. 

Tuesday - Tuesday/Thursday coffee with the regular group. It was a nice morning though it was starting to feel pretty hot by 11. It's around 75°F but it still feels hot if you are sitting in the sun. I'm back home waiting for the afternoon test session to start. Then, maybe a bit more work on the Ural.

Since I'm planning a road trip later this month, I installed the Heidenau K28 on the rear. This is a street tire designed for use on a sidecar rig. It is a directional tire with a non-knobby tread. I normally use Heidenau K37 tires. I also took advantage of having the rear wheel removed to adjust the anchor point on the rear brake pads. They now actually work halfway decently.

Wednesday - A wet rainy day today. In other words, a good day to continue with maintenance on the neglected Ural. I finally got around to checking the valve clearances. With the engine cold, all valve clearances were still 0.003" so I must've set them shortly before storing the rig.

I looked at some of my old posts and noticed that I had just returned from D2D (Dust to Dawson) and had clutch release-bearing issues. Plus I had gone to Barrow and Georgia so the rig didn't get a lot of use. And I've only driven it about 600 miles since returning. So, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that the valves didn't need adjusting.

Thursday - Another day of no pictures. I guess Fairbanks seems to bit boring. Coffee in the morning and another Costco/Safeway run with the Ural. The rear brakes actually contribute to slowing the rig down after adjusting the shoes. The parking brake still needs to be adjusted.

Friday - I spent the morning in Costco getting new tires for the Prius. The front tires were on the tow dolly but the rear tires saw the RV miles in addition to the running around. So both front and rear needed replacing. Plus, the TPMS sensors needed to be replaced.

Right now, I'm waiting for the afternoon test session to start. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Rest of the Week

Wednesday - It actually dropped into the high 40s last night. Is this the beginning of the end of summer? I guess it isn't snowing yet, so I shouldn't be complaining... But it did feel cold this morning.

Here at home, I'm back to my first sous vide stick. The temperature is off by several degrees but as long as you know that, it works fine. I'm using the Instant Pot as the sous vide vessel as it is somewhat insulated to lessen heat loss. It works. I happen to run across a turkey breast at Safeway (only one on the shelf) so it's in the water bath for the next 26 hours. Should be pretty tasty.

Today, it's just tacos. On Tuesday, we stopped by Fish and Game to get our permanent fishing licenses. My old one had pretty much dissolved in my wallet and instead of simply replacing it, I had to re-apply. But this time, they laminated the license. I took several other items down to the copy place and had them laminated as well. Things like my Medicare card, voter registration, Ural insurance card, and ham radio license. Hopefully, they will last a while.

Two more test sessions today. Both of them lasted longer than usual. The first due to a late addition and the second just took a while...

Thursday - After meeting the normal Tuesday/Thursday coffee group, I headed to Fred Meyer to pick up a  few grocery items. It turned out that the power was out on that side of town and FM was running on generator power. They had all of the refrigerated items closed off with emergency lighting. But all of the checkouts were up and running. I also stopped at Sportsman's Warehouse to pick up some fishing line. I figured that the line on my reel was probably 20+ years old. Maybe it's time to be replaced.

Friday - Today, after adjusting the parking brake on a newer Ural, we headed out to the Big M Farm near Nenana to pick honeyberries aka haskaps. They are the color of blueberries but oblong instead of round. We picked 6½ lbs of the delicious berries. 

The farm was a very relaxing way to spend the day. 



After getting back home, the after rain arrived complete with tiny bits of hail and lightning. If you look closely in the picture, you can see the white streaks from the hail. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

More Yard Work

Sunday - Thank you, Tim, for letting me borrow your truck to haul the brush piles to the transfer station. I thought that the yard debris dumpsters would be full but they had at least two drivers hauling away the full ones. It took four trips to haul away the brush. I still have four trees already cut down but need to be limbed and cut into manageable pieces. But there is enough room for a pump truck to back in which is the immediate goal.

I took this picture at Tim's home when I picked up the truck. Does the other sidecar rig look familiar? The current problem is the Nivomat rear shocks are sagging to the point where the rear tire is rubbing on the fender.

Monday - No yard work today! Just a Costco run with the Ural for a handful of items. And like most days in Fairbanks, you run into people you know at most stores.

This evening, we went to the Airheads get-together out in Fox hosted by Ralph at the Howling Dog (still closed for business). We took the Ural and about 20 people showed up.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Misc…

Flowers at Creamer's Field. Not very many birds here today as they are not migrating now. But it still looked like it would make a good picture. And, every picture must include the rig, eh? This was actually taken yesterday as, today, it's a little hazy due to smoke. It may be due to a large fire near Manley Hot Springs west of Fairbanks. There isn't a lot of wind but there is a breeze from the west up the Tanana River. The fire map from this morning shows the location of Manley Hot Springs to Fairbanks.

Today was also more Ural maintenance. I remember reading that Ural changed their recommendation for transmission oil to 75W90 full synthetic. In the past, it’s been engine oil but now, gear oil. And, since I don’t remember when I changed the final drive oil, I went ahead and changed that as well. In both cases, minimal swarf on the magnets and the oil looked fairly clean though there was a trace of water contamination in the transmission oil. 

I also cleaned the non-stock air cleaner element. The inside of the housing was caked with dust but the inside of the element looked clean. The element is from a Moto-Guzzi and has much more surface area than the stock element. Right now, I’m waiting for the filter element to dry before re-oiling it. The rear drum brakes are still proving to be difficult to adjust. It seems like they are either dragging or not functioning. 


 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Yard Work (Ugh…)

Saturday - This is the slope between the road and our house. Over the years, a lot of trees and brush have grown. After arguing with the 30-year-old two-cycle chainsaw this morning, I was prompted to get a new battery-operated model. I picked up a Ryobi with a 4AH, 40V battery, and a 14” bar. I have no plans to tackle trees so this was a suitable size chainsaw for me. I got about half done and will tackle the rest later. 

I’ve never needed to clear trees and brush while in the RV. Nor mow the lawn or use the string trimmer and brush cutter. All were activities of the day between the two ham radio test sessions. 

Sunday
 - More playing with the chainsaw clearing trees off of the hill. Today, I tackled some of the larger trees at the other end. Getting them to fall where I wanted them to was the challenge. Less so today as there was no wind. None hit the house so I'll call that a win. I put them in a couple of piles. I'm thinking of renting a chipper so I can just shred them. But that's for another time. I still need to cut the stumps down closer to the ground.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Routine

Tuesday - I’ve been back home for almost three weeks and fell right back into the routine. Coffee on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I guess the ham radio tests are a change. Those are up to six days per week and could be twice per day. It's still a nice diversion. The two riders on BMWs are headed for a ride somewhere around the state. No firm plans or schedules, just follow nice weather.

Cooking outside has become common partly because it’s not in the house. Maybe some people really enjoy "homeownership" or having a “home base” but I don’t think I’m one of them. Sure, it’s nice to visit old friends and acquaintances and, I’ll admit, that it’s been wonderful to ride the Ural again. 

Wednesday
 - We went to the Farmer's Market and picked up lunch at our favorite Chinese food stall. The menu hasn't changed from when they had a storefront near the university. The prices have gone up dramatically over the years. They closed off a significant portion of the parking lot to allow more room for the vendors so the parking lot was kind of crowded but not the Farmer's Market itself. 

Tonight is a motorcycle ride leaving from the Harley shop. I may go down there to at least see where they plan on going. In the past, it was a challenge to keep up with the group as most were on large dual-sport machines.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Tow Equipment and Solstice

Saturday - I just ordered the tow bar and baseplate for our tow vehicle. For the tow bar, I had seen several installations of the Ready Brute Elite II which has a mechanical surge brake integrated into the tow bar. There is a cable connected to the brake pedal of the towed vehicle which runs to the front bumper. A cable is clipped from there to a lever on the tow bar. When the towed vehicle pushes on the tow bar, the lever pulls the cable which applies the brakes on the towed vehicle. I like the simplicity. For emergency breakaway, you connect a separate cable from the pedal to the front bumper, and a separate cable is clipped from there to some point on the frame of the motorhome. If there is a failure of any part of the hitch setup, the brakes on the towed vehicle will apply and will stop. An emergency breakaway is required in most states.

This is the baseplate for the tow vehicle. the arms are removable and are completely hidden from the casual viewer. If you know what you are looking for, it's still easy to spot. The claimed installation time is only a couple of hours but projects like this seem to take longer than expected. Additional tasks are integrating the lights so the towed vehicle lights always match the RV lights. The normal way to do this is to install diodes. But I think a better way is to install relays in the tail light housings to switch the bulbs between the RV and the built-in wiring. More on this when it's time to install. There is a 0.6VDC drop when using the diodes. Not an issue if the lights are LED but could affect the brightness with incandescent.

Sunday - No chores were done. Nothing to report...

Monday
 - Well, it’s the beginning of the end. We are starting to lose daylight as of today. At first only a minute or so per day though soon, it’ll be seven minutes per day. Winter is coming… 

This morning, I have been receiving alerts on my phone from the thermostat in the RV. If it is over 85°F, I'll receive alerts for when we leave the animals inside the RV while we are galavanting around out and about. I changed the notification to 95°F to minimize the alerts. It's a nice feature as I could, potentially, start the generator and the A/C remotely though I don't have the generator start function wired up to the thermostat.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Week or So in Fbks

The task of the day (Wednesday) was a physical. In December, the doc asked when my last physical was. I had no idea and if they didn’t have a record of it so it was before the invention of paper. So, I guess I'm overdue. 

I  filled up the Ural based on the trip odometer and it only took 3.8 gallons. I guess it’s been a while and maybe I don’t remember what the range actually is these days. Based on my Fuelly log, the gas mileage has been in the low 30s during the summers. 

Last Friday, the Ural was used for a quick shopping run to Costco and a stop at the university. My free university parking pass had expired and I needed to fill out a physical paper form to get it renewed. The local copy place, Dateline, wanted $5 to print out the one page I needed to sign so I went to my office and printed it out there. Dateline has closed their self-serve copiers and printers due to Covid so $5 is their minimum charge for counter service. They did suggest the UPS store for self-serve printing. Anyway, now I can park "legally" even though the parking pass can't be displayed on the dashboard.

On Sunday, we had found a Jeep at the BMW dealer in Anchorage. I called them just before closing so I called this morning. The Jeep had been sold yesterday afternoon. I did get a follow-up call from Dave Smith in Idaho and we talked about what we were looking for. He suggested a couple of 2020 models (still new unsold inventory) which were priced attractively but the wrong color (all black w/black interiors) and all automatic transmissions hardtops. It turns out that we may just order a new vehicle and get it set up the way we want it. Lightweight with few luxury options. 

On Thursday, I was the lead VE (volunteer examiner) for one of the amateur radio test. This was the first time I tried it since we have good, stable, fast Internet. I think it went well and the applicant passed. He was prepared.

This morning, there were quite a few errands to run around town. When I left, it was pouring rain but the Roadcrafter Light kept me completely dry. I had forgotten how convenient it was to get in/out of it. One of the errands was to print out one sheet of paper, sign it, scan and email it back to a Jeep dealer in Idaho. Now we just wait.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Good Bye Truck

One of the tasks for the summer was to sell the 5th wheel RV and the truck. The main reason the truck was purchased in the first place was to tow an RV. We did it for several years and had decided that a driveable RV was the direction we wanted to go. I had looked on KBB.com (Kelley Blue Book) and after entering the mileage, accessories, and condition of the truck, it came up with estimates for trade-in and retail sale. There was another tab called "sell it now" where you get an offer for immediate sale. I went ahead and clicked on that tab and within five minutes got an estimated offer from a local dealer. We stopped by there and after they looked at the truck, they confirmed the offer. So the truck was sold. I'm sure that we could've sold it for more as a private sale but we would have to deal with the general public. I was not looking forward to that. 

The 5th wheel was being stored at an RV dealer and they sold it. I had made a crack about selling it for whatever just to get rid of it. And it sold this afternoon. Bridget didn't care for the selling price that I had agreed to but I view it as we got our use out of it. And given the physical damage to the rear cap and the minimal insulation, I was happy to just get something out of it so we didn't have to continue paying storage fees. 

Now, we need to look for a tow vehicle. A manual transmission Jeep would be ideal but I think we need to expand our search as Jeeps don't seem to depreciate. A five-year-old Wrangler is almost the same price as a new one. Most of them on Craigslist seems to be modified to past the point of reliable transportation. So, for now, the Ural is my daily driver.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Back Home

In other words, now the work begins. I removed the rusted Westin step bars from the truck as they were ready to fall apart. I'm disappointed in these as they came highly recommended back then and the powder coating was supposed to last. They didn't last. I also cleaned out the truck, vacuumed the floors, and emptied out all of the compartments including the toolbox in the bed. One of the front tires was only 40psi (minimum is 75psi) but all of the others were still holding.

The four golf cart batteries are back in the 5th wheel and charging just fine from the solar panels. Even with the overcast, they were getting 22 amps. The batteries were at around 30 SOC according to the charge controller so we'll see how they hold a charge. I did turn on the temperature-controlled fan to 80°F to keep it ventilated. I looked around and there is no evidence of water damage or rodents. For some reason, the slide was not in all the way. After I installed the batteries, I tried the slide and it went in/out just fine. I also put batteries back in the RVLock and it worked. It even retained our code. I wish they made a model for Class A motorhomes. 

The Ural started up just fine after putting the petcock on prime for a minute or so to allow the carburetor bowls to fill. 

I rode the Ural to the gas station to get its first fill-up since July 2019. At least that's what I have in the Fuelly app. Sunday's task was to mow the "lawn". Or at least trim back the dandelions. Now on to some Ural maintenance. Valves, rear brakes, tire pressure. I discovered that one of the aluminum angles that I used to mount the top box had cracked. Probably from me pushing the Ural around in the garage using the box. I made a new piece using some aluminum angle that I had lying around the garage. I think it's even sturdier this time around since I used angle instead of flat stock. The picture is from the monthly BMW Airhead get-together. The Ural is last one on the left.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

2019-2021 Trip Summary - RV


I’m not really sure the term “road trip” is accurate as the focus hasn’t really been on the typical vacation activities associated with a road trip. I’ve heard some describe it as just occasionally changing the view from our front door. The RV is just the method that we chose to accomplish this. The “RVing” part is secondary. I guess a more accurate description may be “mobile lifestyle”. A secondary motivation was pursuing 70°F. You may have noticed that we aren’t very good at this as it has been much warmer and colder than this quite a few times. For us, it was desired but not absolutely essential as we still have two propane furnaces and two air conditioners one of which has a heat pump. Something I mention when talking to others is that I sold the snowplow back in July 2019. No more snowy winters. 


We also really enjoy visiting friends along the way and have made a few more as part of our traveling. I enjoy visiting new places and areas but that doesn’t necessarily mean visiting attractions. The occasional attraction is nice but, for me, a hike in the area is just as enjoyable. I do enjoy trying out foods that are unique to the area but not if it costs an arm and a leg.


This trip started in the middle of August, 2019, when I drove the Prius down to Oregon with the stuff that we thought we needed for the next season of traveling. A month before, we had purchased the 2005 Mandalay model 40E from Parkway RV in northern Georgia. Thankfully, Chris and Lori let me stay with them while the motorhome was getting ready to be picked up. The refrigerator wasn’t working and they ended up replacing the entire back with a new, aftermarket unit. I wish they would’ve just replaced it with the 12volt compressor unit made by the same aftermarket supplier. Oh well. After it was repaired, I picked it up and immediately started a cross-country trek back to Oregon.


On that initial trip, problems observed were hard starting when cold with a lot of smoke after starting and the engine running hotter than it should when climbing grades. Since I had never driven anything like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Also the tire valves had balance beads jammed in them.


The front tires were fixed by a tire shop in Oregon though they were unable to balance them. A Freightliner shop in Bend replaced the engine block heater cord which was shredded. At least this helped with the cold starts but not the smoke. 


The more serious overheating problem showed up when towing the car in AZ. The radiator/intercooler/transmission cooler/Air conditioning condenser stack needed to be cleaned as dirt was packed between the fins. This caused the engine to overheat and go into limp-mode. A diesel shop in Tucson took care of that repair though they weren’t sure how that much debris got in there. This mostly addressed the overheating. 


The windshield popping out was an unexpected problem that occurred three times. It turns out that there really isn’t a permanent solution as the problem is caused by too many slides which reduce the torsional rigidity of the body. A recommended solution is an X-braces added to the frame. This RV already has the X-bracing installed. As long as we make sure the frame isn’t twisted before putting out the slides I think we can avoid it happening again. 


A year later the water pump failed just west of Kingman, AZ. This would be considered a normal wear component. A mobile mechanic replaced the water pump at the RV park. And the overheating problem is pretty much gone. It’ll still get as high as 217°F on 8% grades but that is still within the operational specs. No more limp mode on grades. 


The next problem was cold starting. I debugged the problem to be a failed intake manifold grid heater. The Freightliner shop in Coburg, OR, claimed that the system was working just fine. Incompetent. I took it to a Caterpillar shop in Albany, OR, and they said it looked like someone used starting fluid as neither grid heater was working. They replaced both and our cold starting problem was resolved. And, this helped the smoke problem considerably as the grid heaters would cycle on-off until the water temperature warmed a bit. 


The only other engine related repair was replacing the chassis batteries. I think we may need a front passenger side airbag as that corner seems to droop and the front air pressure is usually at zero after sitting for a while. Unfortunately, this is a Freightliner repair. I guess I shouldn’t blast the chain due to the performance at one location. 


Besides the windshield, coach related problems were minimal by comparison. The slide toppers were starting to rip so we replaced all of them last December. The rear furnace and A/C behaved erratically and I debugged that to not reading the temperature sensor properly. Later, the control board in the rear A/C (which also controls the rear furnace) failed completely. I replaced the control board and it started working again but still didn’t control temperature all the time. I tested the temperature sensor and it worked sometimes. It turns out that there is a bad electrical connection but I need to cut the bedroom cabinet open to get to the wiring. The fuses on the refrigerator control board have blown multiple times though it still works. I just carry spare fuses. Other coach related problems are failed latches and drawer slides, and the mirrors fell off of the cabinet doors in the bedroom. There was a moisture problem but that seems to have gone away when the slide topper was replaced. I think the water pump needs replacement and possibly the front A/C unit. But this thing is over 16 years old and I suspect that these were original to the rig. I also plan on replacing the stock modified sine wave inverter with a Victron full sine inverter that also has multiple other features giving us more power flexibility.


Once we decided to keep the motorhome, I started to add upgrades such as 630 watts of solar and a Victron MPPT charge controller. A new digital thermostat that allows remote monitoring and control. I installed a Raspberry Pi running the Venus OS that was released by Victron. This allows me to remotely monitor the status of the batteries and the charge controller and eventually the new Inverter. It also supports a cool 7” touch screen that I have installed in the wall near the refrigerator. I installed another Raspberry Pi running HomeAssistant which is an open source “Smart Home” software. Supporting this are six small, cheap WiFi equipped microprocessors with temperature and humidity sensors as well as relays and FETs to control lights. The software supports automation. Far more than I have set up. We also replace the four rear tires as they were starting to get old. Something that we wouldn’t have done unless we were keeping the rig.


In the last paragraph I mention keeping the motorhome. After the third windshield incident, we seriously considered dumping the motorhome and chalk it up as a bad purchase. At this point we had just learned from the Caterpillar shop in Albany that there was an engine problem that was ridiculously expensive to repair and we just needed to live with cold engine smoke and low engine compression. The mechanic said that this was caused by improper operation by the initial owner and the repair requires removing the engine. This engine problem was possibly known by Parkway RV and they hid the symptoms from us. Don’t ever purchase anything from them. I’m not sure if it was just a sleazy salesman or was this practice condoned by management. 


We haven’t had any other engine problems with the RV since last Fall. Maintenance is needed next Fall when we return.


One of the summer tasks is selling the truck and the 5th wheel RV. Having the Prius along was fantastic but needing to use a tow dolly was a major hassle that I want to eliminate. So we are looking for a vehicle that we can flat tow. An additional need is for a vehicle that has some clearance. I can’t tell you how many times the bottom of the Prius has scraped. And we’ve even avoided places that looked interesting but signs said high clearance vehicles only. Finding a suitable vehicle and getting it set up for flat towing sounds like it could be challenging.


The last picture is waiting for our turn to drive through the train tunnel in Whittier, AK.