Sunday, October 31, 2021

Day 39, 40, 41 - Natchez Trace, TN - TT

Friday (39) - Another dreary day here in Tennessee. It's 54°F and I think that's going to be today's high temperature. Rain is in the forecast for today and tomorrow. I'm going to try and participate in a couple more test sessions today. We'll see how it goes today. Yesterday, I had my phone USB connected to the laptop. Today, I'll try going through the AT&T hotspot. One test session used about 1.2GB of data. Significant on the phone as it has only a 15GB/month data limit. The Hotspot has a 100GB/month limit. Still not a lot but I think it should be sufficient if we also use the two 30GB/month Verizon plans on Bridget's devices. Here at this campground, Verizon barely works. I did connect to the paid WiFi service at the campground which works fine only during the afternoon.

For the afternoon test session, I am going to try directly connecting to the Netgear router with an ethernet cable. 17.92GB at 2pm. 18.78 at 4:50 so just a bit less than 1 GB for the test session.

Saturday (40) - Only 52°F and wet today. But that was also the low-temperature last night too so I shouldn't be complaining. I'm doing test sessions today so it's something to do during the wet weather. The morning and afternoon sessions each used about 0.8GB of data according to the hotspot. I think that is reasonable. The only problem is when AT&T stops working like it did this afternoon in the middle of a test. They had to stop until I was able to re-connect. Not good. 

Sunday (41)
 - We finally have a nice day. Still kind of cool but at least we could dry things out such as the awning and the mat before storing. The campground WiFi has still been flaky but that could partly because of the number of users. Even with the weather, the place filled up for the weekend. Trick or treating was going strong last night. If you opted to pass out treats, you needed to register with the office. 

Today’s task was getting things stored as tomorrow is a travel day. Just a short distance but we are planning multiple stops on the way to pick up groceries and a prescription. Plus, fill up on diesel. We’ll see how it goes as the parking lots at the Kroger and Walgreens  look kind of cramped. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Day 36, 37, 38 - Natchez Trace, TN - TT

Tuesday (36) - We arrived in the area around 12:30 and ended up calling the RV park to find out how to get there. From the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Google Map route had us going under a 10’ underpass. The Garmin RV GPS had us turning onto a road that didn’t exist. We got good directions from the park ranger station that included cutting through a state park to get onto a different highway. 

Bridget scored a full-hookup site with 50amp power. It was just vacated this morning according to the neighbor. Can’t complain about that. There is AT&T but only around 3.5Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up. Not enough for Zoom so not going to participate in the tests. 

Last night, the furnaces ran our batteries down to just under 60%. I later discovered that I left the roof vent fan running all night. And one of the front windows was open. It had only dropped down to the mid-40s so the furnaces shouldn’t need to run as much as they did. Time for an evening checklist. 

Wednesday (37) - Today’s high is forecast to be 70°F though I’ll be surprised to see it. By mid-morning, it is sunny but only 56°F. 

I just got off of Jeep Chat and there is finally a change of status. 

“I can see all the required materials for your order have been gathered and the plant has sequenced your order for production, it should be entering the build very soon!”

This was verified by the salesman who said that there was now a ship date of 11-08-2021. I’ll believe that when it’s actually built or at least having a build sheet available. 

We rode the bikes to the campground store and the only bread they had was hot dog buns. That works for us. They did have a good selection of prepared foods but we already had lunch. No other stores in the area. Fortunately, Micky let us use her car while we were in Sullivan, MO.

Thursday (38) - A wet day today that started around midnight. Rain and some wind last night were followed by a power outage around 3 AM. Since I had the electric heater plugged into an outlet supplied by the inverter, I did get up and verify that the power was really out in the campground. I turned off the electric heater and switched things over from the heat pump to the furnace. The power came on a couple of hours later.

The AT&T hotspot seems to have enough bandwidth for Zoom today so I signed up for upcoming sessions. The campground WiFi seems to come and go randomly but when it’s working, YouTube seems to work okay. I have the video quality turned down to “data saver”. 

An email from Jeep Customer Care:

This is a courtesy email update regarding your Jeep Wrangler factory order status.

Good news! I show your order has been sequenced for production with all the parts necessary to begin building your order either being scheduled or gathered. 
I show your order has an estimated dealership delivery window reflected as the week of 11-01-21.  Please keep in mind, this timing is estimated and could be subject to change.”

There’s hope…

Monday, October 25, 2021

Day 35 - Jackson, TN - HH

A 300 mile travel day. We are stopped at the Samuel T. Bryant Distillery which is a Harvest Host. We arrived around 3pm and were the only RV here. We are parked in a nice, shady spot which was fairly level. We went in for a free tasting and ended up getting a bottle of the salted caramel moonshine. Very tasty. They offered four tastings and I tried the salted caramel moonshine, their bourbon, and the blueberry moonshine. Three samples were enough for me. 

By evening, there was a class A towing a Jeep and a class B with a TW on the back. Plenty of room. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Day 34 - St. Louis, MO

This afternoon, we drove into St. Louis with Micky and after lunch at a White Castle and Krispy Kreme along the way, we headed downtown to the Gateway Arch. Bridget had picked up tickets for 3:30 for the ride to the top. For a weekend afternoon, it isn’t too crowded. 
On the way to the tram, which takes you to the top, there is a large visitor’s center with St. Louis history. It’s location made it the gateway to western expansion. 

From the top of the arch, there are windows with views to the east and west. After the four minute ride up, we were given around nine minutes to enjoy the view before the three minute ride down. By the time we returned to the bottom, the place was pretty empty. 

It’s 5pm and my phone battery is still 70%. The iPhone battery replacement was definitely a success. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Day 32, 33 - Sullivan, Mo - KOA

Friday (32) - A nice relaxing day. My only “tasks” are picking up some groceries and making dinner. I moved the portable fridge/freezer inside as I will defrost the RV refrigerator tomorrow morning. There isn’t a lot of frost built up but the water line to the ice maker may be frozen. 

Saturday (33) - The  defrosting process went pretty quickly but I’m still not sure the ice maker is working. I went ahead and participated in a ham radio test but it took much longer than expected. Afterwards, we picked up Micky and drove southwest on Historic Route 66 and one of the stops way this large rocking chair. We then went to Matt’s Steakhouse for dinner. Delicious dinner.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Day 30, 31 - Springfield, MO and Sullivan, MO - HH

Wednesday (30) - We left the CoE park around mid-morning and made our way through the northwest corner of Arkansas into Missouri. We are staying at a farm which is part of Harvest Hosts. It is after their growing season and the greenhouse was filled with potted plants from their venue and Air B&B rooms. We are parked in the driveway as I didn’t want to risk getting stuck on wet grass as rain is in the forecast. 

They offered several parking locations and there are some trees with low hanging branches along the drive but it wasn’t a problem. Very quiet stay with very nice hosts. Even the chickens were quiet in the morning. Another wonderful HH stay. 

On one of the Jeep forums, someone mentioned that they got a warning from the order system when they added rubber floor mats to their order. The warning said that it could delay delivery. If it’s something stupid like that I’m going to be annoyed. 

Thursday (31) - Today’s drive was only 150 miles but it felt longer. Maybe because we stopped several times including at a tourist trap candy factory. They made fudge which qualifies as a candy factory. We are staying at a KOA Journey in Sullivan, MO. This evening, we met up with a friend who used to live in Fairbanks. She is letting us use her car while we are here in Sullivan. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Day 28, 29 - Brooken Cove - CoE

Monday (28) - It’s a really nice, 75°F day here at Brooken Cove Corps of Engineer campground in eastern Oklahoma. I set up the induction cooktop outside to make lunch with less mess around the stove. We have water and 50amp power but no sewer connection so in some ways, we still function as if we were dry camping. But don’t skimp on the electricity. I.e. Instant Pot, toaster, sous vide, induction cooktop, Keurig, water heater, heat pump, and A/C.

This has been our first month with the AT&T hotspot. With three days remaining in this billing period, we still have 15GB out of the original 100GB. I think… 

Tuesday (29) - Visited with multiple neighbors this morning over coffee. They live in the area and spend a month each Spring and Fall at this campground. It is a very nice 75°F this afternoon with a light breeze off of the lake. 

We had dinner with relatives in Stigler this evening and returned the borrowed truck. Tomorrow morning, we head towards St. Louis, MO, planning a stop midway at a Harvest Host farm. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Day 26, 27 - Brooken Cove - CoE

Saturday (26) - Bridget’s niece picked us up at the campground this morning and brought us into town to her brother’s home. He is generously letting us use his truck for a couple of days as there are very few businesses within walking distance. It’s a nice, bright red, late 90s half-ton Dodge. 

I picked up the battery kit for my iPhone X that I ordered from Amazon. Installation requires a heat gun, suction cups, and prying up on the glass screen. We’ll see how this goes…

It took quite a while to get the battery replaced. No pictures since the phone is my primary camera. But the  most challenging part was removing the adhesive used to hold the battery in place. The screen came off easier than I thought after the phone was heated with the heat gun. The directions say 155°F is a good target temperature. Now that it’s done, the phone appears to be working and is hooked up to the charger as the instructions suggest. The FaceID function is still not working. The battery was only 19% charged when initially installed. It is supposed to be a 3580 mAh compared to the original 2716mAh. We’ll see if there is any improvement.

Sunday (27) - We went on a walk along the beach. Not a sandy beach but pretty sticky, damp clay. The previous windy days had pushed the water quite a ways up the shallow shoreline. Today was clear and calm. 

I made plans for a Harvest Host stay in Missouri for Wednesday then on to Sullivan, MO, for several days. That’s about as far north as we are planning to venture at this time. After that, I believe we are headed for a Thousand Trails campground. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Day 24, 25 - Yukon, OK and Stigler, OK

Thursday (24) - This morning, I finished installing the second SoftStart on the front air conditioner. A bit more complicated since this one has an integrated heat pump. But, now I knew which wires to look for and the green LED means that it’s working just fine. 

I repaired a bent cabinet hinge that made the door not latch as it was no longer lined up. I started up the basement fridge and put in a bunch of drinks plus a handful of items in the freezer half. I really didn’t feel like making dinner so I went down to IHOP, which is right next door to the grocery store. 

This is the office and club house for this campground. It really has been a nice place. Nice, concrete parking slots with grass between the sites. Mediocre WiFi.

Friday (25) - Today was a short driving day to Brooken Cove campground near Stigler, OK. It is a Corps of Engineers park and is located on a lake and is quite windy. The site is not very level but was the only site available that we fit. 

The wind is from the northwest and is supposed to end this evening. But it’s making for whitecaps on the lake. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Day 22, 23 - Yukon, OK

Tuesday (22) - After the warm and sunny day yesterday, today is mostly overcast with some rain. One of the other campers mentioned that there are some tornado warnings for the area west of here towards Amarillo. I didn’t think it was “tornado season” anymore. 

This morning, I was up on the roof looking at the rear air conditioner. I purchased SoftStarts for the A/C units to allow them to run without the current spikes when the compressor starts up. The wiring was slightly different from the instructions so I sent an email off to tech support. I also asked it it was alright to install the SoftStart unit next to the blower motor. They responded within 30 minutes with what I needed. Unfortunately, there is rain with lightning in the forecast for the rest of the day. But it’s supposed to be nice tomorrow. Lots of thunder to the south and west and the NWS says 50amp winds.

I tried to participate in testing yesterday afternoon but there was insufficient bandwidth on the campground WiFi and AT&T stopped working for about 5 minutes. Not reliable enough for the test. Fortunately, there as an extra VE logged into the session or else the test would have needed to be restarted.

The weather app says that there is a severe weather warning for most of the night though we are in the “less severe” area of the state. And they suggest having a weather radio turned on.

Wednesday (23) - This morning started at 4:40am with tornado sirens going off. I grabbed the dog (as the cat had seemed to vanish), a flashlight, phone w/external battery, and my raincoat. It was pouring buckets with lightning all around every couple of seconds. We went to the underground shelter and I passed the dog down the short ladder and followed. There were about 15 people and about 5 dogs. Normally our dog barks at other people and other dogs but he stood quietly watching everything. By about 5:15am, the manager came by and said that the warning was over and the sirens had stopped. 

This morning, after things dried out, I installed a SoftStart on the rear A/C unit. It was pretty straightforward and is running right now. The green LED shows that the compressor is running. Maybe I’ll install the front one tomorrow morning as it’s already getting warm.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Day 20, 21 - Amarillo, TX to Oklahoma City

Sunday (20) - Yesterday, I participated in the afternoon test session with our WiFi running through Verizon on Bridget’s iPad. Much faster than AT&T at this location. The throughput was sufficient to participate but I wouldn’t want to be a lead VE since the audio needs to be really clear through Zoom. After yesterday's 95°F temperature, today’s high is forecast for only 64°F. Quite the change,. I have been enjoying the indoor pool while we are here. That has been a nice treat. 

I used a heat gun on low to heat up the iPhone with the SIM card removed so there would be an opening in the phone. I used an infrared thermometer to make sure I didn’t heat the phone case up too much. But the heat gun was recommended to soften the glue inside of the iPhone by the iFixit website. Then, I had it sit in the bag of rice overnight. This morning, there was less condensation visible on the camera lenses and the phone started right up. It is sitting on the charger right now running. I'll try the heat gun again later.

Right now, I’m waiting for the special, Sunday afternoon test session to start. It is for a class and, I believe, there are eleven people signed up to take the exam. Almost all are for the technician class. I’m using an iPad-Mac feature to treat the iPad screen as a second monitor for the Mac. 

Monday (21) - A relatively short drive today to almost Oklahoma City. We are at an RV park in Yukon, OK, which is about 20 miles west. Kind of on the same side of town as the airport since Bridget is flying out tomorrow morning. Since we don't have a toad, we need to rely on Uber. This is a nice RV park. Full hookups, concrete pads, etc. Though the pool is closed for the winter as it's unheated. Unfortunate, since it's 75°F right now.

A unique feature of that I hadn't seen before are tornado shelters inside of the RV park. I guess we are in that part of the country. Right now, I'm trying out the campground WiFi for the test later this afternoon. 

I think we are staying here for four nights before moving on to another RV park on the other side of the state.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Day 17, 18, 19 - Amarillo, TX

Thursday (17) - We left the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta grounds around 10am after seeing hundreds of balloons flying near the campground including this one which actually landed in the park to switch passengers. I heard it arrive around 6:30am and it was maybe 100 yards from us. They stayed on the ground until after the national anthem at 7:00. At that time, the selected balloon took off with the American flag waving from the basket. Every day, they had a different singer. It was a beautiful morning with barely a breeze so the balloons traveled slowly. They landed all around us with the field in front of our windshield being a popular choice. An enjoyable experience.

Our next stop was Amarillo, TX, at the Big Texan RV Ranch. We are here for four nights. It is affiliated with the Big Texan Steakhouse and we plan on visiting that tourist attraction for dinner one of these days. Maybe tomorrow. They have a pool, sauna, and jacuzzi here which I have been looking forward to. I went into the pool with my phone still in my pocket. After drying it off, it rebooted continuously. Bridget suggested a bag of rice, which I did. The iPhone X is supposed to be IP 67 rated which means surviving 1m depth for 30min. It submerged for less than 1m for maybe 5 min. So it should’ve survived the dunking.

Friday (18) - This morning, the phone was still behaving the same way. We used Uber to go to the super Walmart to stock up on some groceries and I wanted to look at their phone selection. They don’t sell unlocked iPhones so I moved on to grocery shopping. I happen to pull out my phone out of habit and it was sitting on the lock screen. I unlocked the phone and was informed that there was a problem with Face ID but otherwise it seemed to work fine. The battery was at only 2% and I was able to send a text message and receive an email so I am assuming that it works. There is moisture visible on the camera lenses so it’s back in the rice bag except the charging cable is attached. Obviously, the phone isn’t very waterproof. I’ll leave it overnight in a bag of warmed rice and check in the morning.

The Uber experience was fine and it cost under $20 for the round trip. This seems like a reasonable option as we still don’t have the Jeep that we ordered back in June. The status is still the same. Collecting parts.

Saturday (19) - iPhone dead again. Our next stop is in Oklahoma City and there is an AT&T store about 3 miles from the RV park. I will look into picking up a replacement iPhone at that time. That's only a couple of days away.

We did go to The Big Texas Steakhouse last night for dinner. I had the 16oz ribeye and it was perfectly cooked. There is still over half leftover for tomorrow night's dinner. It really does have the look and feel of a tourist trap but that's fine. We're tourists. We were picked up in a limo at our campsite and driven to the restaurant. Convenient.

I actually did get something done today. The Raspberry Pi running the Victron open-source software no longer dimmed and the screen saver no longer worked. This happens every time that I do a firmware upgrade which I did a few weeks ago. I finally got around to downloading the scripts from GitHub. I added the URLs here so I don't have to search for them again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Day 15, 16 - Albuquerque, NM

Tuesday (15)
 - This is but a fraction of the balloons in the sky as seen from our parking space aka “Box View, South RV park”. Our front windshield faces a large field where some choose to land. No utilities at all but it’s a great location. The sections of the park with utilities are really cramped. Slide to slide. 

This morning after the balloons were done, I moved our frozen items back to the RV refrigerator as it has been running fine. I powered off the basement freezer to see if we could get more out of our batteries and solar setup. I also cleaned the panels as they were pretty dirty from sitting for four months. 

Later - Due to the low sun angle of 45° and some scattered clouds, the peak wattage that I saw was around 320 watts. This is about half the rated output. So the generator will come on around sunset. Plus I want to make some chocolate chip cookies and our only oven is the power hungry convection-microwave. 

Full-time friends, Ken and Lynne, who we’ve met in AZ and AK, stopped by to visit. They had a 5th wheel before and now have an older diesel pusher. Their tow vehicle is a RAM 1500 and it has a lot of storage capacity. And the 6.7 Cummins has no problem pulling it all. 

Wednesday (16)
 - We caught the 6:15AM shuttle this morning in a light drizzle. They had the yellow flag out which meant that the mass ascent wasn’t cancelled but they were watching the weather. I picked up a green chili breakfast burrito at one of the many food stands and we waited to see what was going to happen. Around 7:30, they changed to a green flag and the first group of balloons started to blow up.

The first group seemed to be mostly commercial tours with paying passengers though there were a few international balloons. After that, balloons started to inflate all around us. This went on for a couple of hours. I almost had enough coffee but  my phone needed to be charged. Too many short video clips.

I’m not sure why but this seemed to be my favorite balloon. The patchwork pattern was definitely unique from the mostly geometric patterns. I’m not sure watching the mass ascent was any better than our view from the RV park but it was different. I wish I had brought a folding chair. The grass was still kind of damp from the early morning drizzle.

Another favorite was this African savannah themed balloon. Nice colors and it also stood our from the commercial tour groups. There were a lot of commercial tour balloons. And a number of balloons sponsored by businesses. Tomorrow is supposed to be mostly the special shaped balloons. 

Late morning, I went to a YouTube meetup with Phil, Stacy, and Matt. Two different channels. It was entertaining as they were very personable. 

Afterwards, we went to the balloon museum. Admission was only $10 for both of us and there was a lot of history that I was not aware of. Such the use of balloons during WWII. They had the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic gondolas and the all important smashed penny machine. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Day 14 - Albuquerque, NM

Monday (13) - This morning, while waiting for the shuttle bus, we saw a lot of balloons heading our way. We are parked next to an open field that some choose to land on. It was kind of breezy at lower altitudes so some were moving pretty fast. Those higher up were almost stationary. This is just a sample of the hundred or so of the hot air balloons that went over our RV parking space. 

Around 9:30, we went to the launch field and RV Life and Lippert sponsored a corporate tent with free donuts and coffee. There were a number of presentations on a variety of RV related topics. At 11am, there was a meet and greet with several YouTube couples. Marc and Julie of RV Love, Nate and Marisa of Less Junk, More Journey, Phil and Stacy of You Me and the RV plus one more that I didn’t recognize. It was fun to meet them. 

Around 2pm, I started the generator so I could cook up a batch of rice in our fuzzy-logic rice cooker and hard boil some eggs in the Instant Pot. I also wanted to top up our batteries. While I was at it, I ran both A/C units to cool down the interior during the warmest time of day. After an hour the cooking was mostly done and the batteries were at only 91%. But it was still 81°F so I left the generator and A/C running.

The video below is a landing right in front of our rig.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Day 13 - Albuquerque, NM

Sunday (13) - A very short driving day today from the rest area south of Santa Fe to the Balloon Fiesta north of Albuquerque. I spent some time this morning messing around with the igniter on the refrigerator as it stopped working a little after midnight. After cleaning it and repositioning it, the burner would light again. I did move most of the freezer contents to the portable unit just in case. But, at least for now, it’s working again.

We walked over to the launch field after lunch. It’s further than I thought. We are returning around 6 for some events but we will take the shuttle bus. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Day 12 - Santa Fe, NM

Saturday (12) - After meeting Dom and Martha for a wonderful dinner last night (Thank you!), we packed up and headed south. The longish day turned even longer when our planned stop at a casino didn’t work out. The casino was closed. After a lot of searching, we ended up at a northbound rest area. No lot-docking at Sam’s Club due to abuse by past RVers. Our check-in time at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is noon tomorrow. Even though we are right next to I-25, there isn’t a lot of traffic noise.

I needed to reattach the air intake hose as it had fallen off again. I picked up a new hose clamp at Ace yesterday morning.

The good news is that the refrigerator stayed running on propane for the entire trip as did the portable unit. The batteries are at 100% at 6pm. I’m curious to see where they are at in the morning. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Day 8, 9, 10, 11 - Colorado

Tuesday (8) - Another fairly long driving day from Ogden, UT, to Fort Collins, CO. Galen and Cindy, friends we've made while on the road, offered their RV parking next to their home. Their class A is currently back at the factory getting a lot of warranty work done. Full hookups including 50amp power! Pretty nice. We had a wonderful visit.

Wednesday (9) - Today was a relatively short drive to Chatfield Lake State Park. The pull-through campsite had full hookups which we really needed as the next week will be dry camping. We are able to run multiple loads through the washer and start out with a full fresh water tank and empty grey and black tanks.

The real treat was being able to meet up with Dom, aka and he is letting us use the Suzuki Samarai to run some errands. Including, getting ready for the week of dry camping.

Thursday (10) - Picked up some engine oil and a quart of Lucas Oil Stabilizer which is what the mechanic at the Cat shop in Albany recommended. The oil level was only a bit over a quart low (out of 22 quarts) so I was able to add the oil additive. I checked the water in our flooded golf cart batteries and all of the cells were still full. Not bad after sitting all summer.

Friday (11) - This morning's task was rearranging some of our basement storage to fit a compressor refrigerator/freezer. It has a capacity of 50liters and runs on either 12VDC or AC. There is an AC outlet installed in this compartment as there used to be an old flat-screen TV on a swinging arm. The outlet is not powered off of the inverter so I need to wire a 12VDC connection into the compartment to run the portable refrigerator. There is a 12VDC light in the compartment that I installed some Anderson Powerpole connectors into. I cut the 12 volt cord that came with the refrigerator and added Anderson connectors. We'll see how it works with our batteries and solar over the next couple of days.