Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Winter Garden - TT

Sunday - Just a bit of maintenance today. I picked up some spray-on battery terminal cleaner at the local auto parts store. I had always used baking soda in the past, but the commercial product's acid indicator really made it simple. Spray, lit it sit for a few minutes, then flush it with water. Repeat until the spray doesn’t change color. That means the acid has been neutralized. 

Monday - I re-installed the Pi-Hole software, which is a DNS black-hole. There are 143,528 ad domains in its current database. You use the Pi-Hole Raspberry Pi as your local DNS and anytime it recognizes a domain in its database, it just returns a null. The net result is fewer ads, less bandwidth, and faster web pages. I had this running earlier but needed the SD card for another Raspberry Pi. I picked up some new SD cards and got the server back up again. I now have three Raspberry Pi's running on the one buck converter and between all of them, they are drawing about 1A at 5VDC.

I ordered a propane "sniffer" device that detects combustible gases. I tried it out on the stove initially to demonstrate to myself that the device actually works (it did). I then used it to check all of my additions to the propane line at the back of the refrigerator. There were no leaks detected. I had also picked up a squirt bottle at the Dollar General store and put in a 50% mixture of dish soap and water. I used this concentrated solution to look for leaks as well. I really wanted to make sure that there weren't any.

I made a trip to Walmart to look for Calgon water softener for the black tank. It is used for the GEO method. for keeping the black tank clean. In addition to the Happy Camper chemical, you add a cup of Dawn dish soap, and a cup or so of the Calgon. The last time I tried it was several years ago and the SeeLevel sensors actually worked for a while. The Calgon is kind of hard to find so I went to the Walmart on New Independence Dr which is larger than most of the other Walmarts we've been to in Florida. It's promising as the SeeLevel gauge now reads 13%. Usually, it jumps from 9% to 22% and skips everything in the middle. Hopefully, this trend will continue.

Tuesday - It was a really nice morning. Not very humid and not as hot as it has been. It's about noon and only 84°F. I spent the last hour lazing around the pool. Bridget's flights got changed by Delta and instead of arriving at 6:30am, she arrives around 2:15pm. A more civilized arrival time. There was time for a test session before heading to the airport. And we were back in time for the afternoon session. 

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Winter Garden Farmers Market

After the morning test session, I walked to the Farmers Market, or maybe Saturday Market would be a more accurate term. There were two large vendors selling produce and most of the rest were selling prepared food or "stuff". I picked up some produce, freshly baked bread, fresh gnocchi, and homemade bleu cheese salad dressing. There were quite a few people there. I got in 3½ miles so a decent walk.

I floated around the pool for a bit to cool off then joined the early afternoon test session. The candidate was a “no-show”. I went to Aldi, which is right next door to the RV park, to pick up some more salad makings. The bleu cheese dressing was very good. I suspect that I will be having salad for the next several days.

Friday, May 27, 2022

More Tasks - TT

Thursday - Home Assistant is the open-source,  home automation software that I'm using in the RV. It runs on a Raspberry Pi 3 using an SD card for storage. After the last major software update, all the temperature sensors were displayed in Celcius instead of Fahrenheit. That used to be controlled by the localization setting. I finally dug into the server software and learned how to use templates to perform math on the sensor data and create a new virtual sensor. All of the documentation claim that this is not needed as the software takes care of the conversion automatically. Maybe it does for others but my installation wasn't doing it automatically. So after an evening of messing around (i.e. lots of trial and error) I have it working and all of the temperatures are now being displayed in °F.

Since there are at least three auto parts stores within a mile of the RV park, I went searching for some ATF to use in the hydraulic pump. This pump provides pressure for the power steering and the fan motor. When we had the coach worked on in northern GA last fall, they mentioned that the hydraulic fan motor had a slight leak and to add fluid. I needed some oil and this is compatible with what they used. It was a nice enough walk to the Napa store. About 2¼ miles round trip.

Participated in the afternoon test session after cooling off in the pool. 

Across the street from the RV park, there is a poké place. I had the Hawaiian Poké and added masago. The base was a mixture of greens and brown rice and the protein was tuna sashimi. Plus a bunch of other veggies. It was delicious. I was looking forward to trying the place out as soon as I saw it on Google Maps being right across the street.

Friday - I added about a cup of ATF to the hydraulic pump reservoir and about ¾ quart of oil to the engine. And checked the coolant in the overflow reservoir. It would've been nice if the coolant reservoir was translucent but it's steel. The only way to check the level is to open the radiator cap and use something as a dipstick to check the level in the tank. I didn't need to add any coolant.

The lawnmowers came through this morning so I took down the sunshade and stakes, rolled up the mat, and moved the Jeep. It took all of five minutes to have it all re-setup. I did the test session outside today as there was a nice breeze today.

After the test session, I headed to the pool to float around for a while to cool off. I ran into Ben and Charity from the Grateful Glamper YouTube channel. I recognized them from their voices. After about 30 minutes, I could hear thunder in the distance so I headed back to the RV before the thunderstorm hit.

The afternoon test session was canceled, so this was my afternoon "project". Spam musubi. Something to do during the afternoon thunderstorm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Winter Garden -TT and Epcot

Tuesday - I finally received the small circuit board from Victron. They replaced it under warranty and shipped it in a relatively huge box. I removed the old board, cleaned off the contact area and put a thin layer of anti-oxidation compound on the mating surface, and screwed in the new board. Plugged everything in, and reinstalled the original BMV-712 meter inside the RV. It works like it's supposed to and now battery temperature monitoring is back. The temperature is used by the charge controller to vary the absorption and float voltages based on the battery chemistry selected.

After the early test session, I headed to the pool to cool off. It was nice. I'm now waiting for the afternoon session to start in a bit. A good time to type this blog post. They are having difficulty getting hold of the candidate so there may not be an afternoon session. 

Wednesday - I arrived at Epcot around 8:45 as I thought the morning would be cooler. At 78°F, it is cooler but humid. I headed to Frozen Ever After ride in the Norway area of the World Showcase. Every time we’ve been here, the wait time was approaching two hours or more. It is listed at 30 minutes. The actual wait time was 18 minutes. 

The ride is a re-theming of the old Viking boat ride. Same boats, same waterfalls. Below is a short video that iMovie made semi-automatically. Only 18sec long.

I’m sitting by the lake enjoying my coffee with a pastry from the bakery called school bread. Filled with custard and covered with coconut. I would’ve never associated toasted coconut with Norway. Anyway, it was very tasty and not overly sweet. 

I continued my stroll around the World Showcase. This is the Italy area. You can see how empty the place is. Pretty nice. Though the begging bird population was out in force. Every time you sit down, a number casually strolls by looking for dropped food or a handout. 

On my second lap, I stopped for lunch in the Canada area. What would someone get in the Canadian area but poutine! They had a choice of standard poutine of a special, seasonal version. Though the seasonal one sounded good, I was kind of disappointed by the last seasonal one I had here. So, this is the standard version. Fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Very satisfying even on a warm day.

In the early afternoon, I headed out as it was starting to get more crowded. On the way out, I took a loop on the monorail which ran to the Transportation and Ticket Center for the Magic Kingdom and back. On the way back, it travelled through the front part of Epcot.

After Epcot, a visit to the pool to cool off before the afternoon test session. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Meeting Friends and Magic Kingdom

Monday - Today, I’m met up with BobB and his wife for lunch in a town called Celebration. It was a great lunch and I really enjoyed getting to know them a bit better. I had just known Bob from the ham radio testing.

Bob’s wife, JoAnn works at Disney and knew all the short cuts including this route behind Space Mountain so we could take a fleeting look at the upcoming Tron ride. (No picture)

Around 4pm, I headed for the Magic Kingdom. It took about an hour door to admission gate since I needed to go through the ticket and transportation center and hop onto the monorail to get to the entrance. 

First ride was Pirates of the Caribbean as the standby line was 40 min and it’s all indoor I.e. air conditioned. It only took 25 minutes. The next ride was Thunder Mountain as it listed a 30 min wait. It actually took 22 minutes. I was in the last seat in the last car and you get whipped around pretty good. 

Surprisingly, it doesn’t feel as crowded as it did at other times. Maybe the 91°F temperature discouraged some from sticking around. Yes, it feels warm and humid but it’s not intolerable. Bob suggested not sticking around in July and August. Plus, that’s hurricane season. 
Using the walk-up- waitlist, I had dinner at Skipper’s Canteen which is themed after the Jungle Cruise ride. Pretty cool decor and air conditioned! Plus, the staff use the same style humor as the ride. Kind of corny. E.g. The cabinet is referred to as “The Great Wall of China”.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Winter Garden, FL - TT

Saturday - An early start to the day. Bridget flew home for a bit so we left for the airport at around 5:30am. This was the first opportunity to try out the LEF headlight bulbs. They work good. Decent beam pattern, a lot of light on the road without blinding oncoming traffic. 

I returned in plenty of time for the Saturday, early test session for those on this side of the country. The noon session was a special group session for eight people from a church in TN. It was kinda disorganized but not as bad as the last group session. For the Zoom session, I used Airplay to have the TV as an alternate display. I was able to have the audio still in my earbuds and the camera was the laptop. It was nice to have the alternate display.

This morning, I walked to Publix to pick up several items. It ended up being 1.4 miles and by the time I got back, it was getting hot and muggy. Nothing that a short visit to the pool couldn't take care of. There are a lot of stores, shops, restaurants, fast food places, etc. around here. Unlike any other RV park we've stayed at recently. In other words, kind of crowded. But within the park,  it's pretty quiet. You can't hear any traffic sounds and all of the sites have a lot of grass and some trees.  

This is the lightning activity in the area at 7:20pm. Needless to say, the cat isn’t thrilled. 

Sunday - The task for today is defrosting the refrigerator. The high humidity means that this particular task needs to be done more often. Running the ice maker brings warm water into the freezer which causes frost to build up even faster. Using a heat gun, I was able to unclog the water drain at the bottom of the freezer. I can now just let this thaw out on its own. The contents of the freezer is now in the compressor refrigerator/freezer so there’s no rush. This task is much more convenient than it used to be. 

After defrosting the freezer, I walked to Plant St. Market. It is an indoor mall with a number of specialty food stalls. Kind of pricey. I continued through downtown Winter Garden before looping back to hwy 50 and the rv park. I stopped at CVS and picked up a couple of bottles of G2, a sugar free hydration drink. Given the temperature, I really needed it as it was 91° with a “feels like” temperature of 101°F due to the humidity. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Winter Garden - TT


Thursday - We are back in Florida for a couple more weeks. Bridget has an appointment before heading north again. The temperature was in the low 90s (°F) while driving so we had the generator running both rooftop A/C units. They really can’t compete with these temperatures. 

The last couple of times that we ran the generator while driving, it seemed like the fuel gauge was dropping faster that I had remembered. I thought that we might have a fuel leak. This time, I filled the tank full and the gauge didn’t even start dropping off of the full mark until we were over 100miles. Any after todays 212 miles, the gauge is at 3/4 and we ran the generator for over 3 hours. So, no fuel leak. 

Friday - Rain and wind in the forecast for today. We were originally planning to meet with BobB at the open air market here in Winter Garden. That plan went out the window as rain and thunderstorms are forecast for much of the day.

There are wind gusts in the forecast so the awning is in. Lots of thunder and heavy rain today…

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Jekyll Island

Monday - Today's touristy activity was Jekyll Island which is south of St Simons Island. In fact, we were able to see the lighthouse from the beach. The first stop was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center which was all about education and rescuing injured turtles. Pretty small place with the gift shop almost as large as the rest of the place. They did have some nice displays.

We walked around the grounds and it was very relaxing. The moss hanging from the trees is very cool though I still don't know what kind of trees. There were some small shops open in the area and I had a nice cup of Georgia Pecan coffee.

The next stop was Driftwood Beach. Also a very picturesque location with a lot of gnarly trees on the beach. We sat out on the sand for a while, but it quickly got pretty warm without some sort of shade.

Tuesday - Just another quiet day at the RV park today. We are planning to visit Jekyll Island again tomorrow. Maybe take the tram tour around the island. 

This really is a pleasant RV park. Quiet, decent free WiFi, good water pressure, and walking distance to a grocery store. The pool temperature was ideal for today. At 88°F, the cool water felt wonderful. And, it was deserted. At least it was around noon. 

At 5pm, it was 82°F with a light breeze and, as long as you were in the shade, it was really pleasant outside. There were no test candidates for the early session and only one for the later session today. Once the FCC started charging $35 for a license, the number of people testing took a nosedive. 

The project-of-the-day was making Brunswick stew. After all, we are in Brunswick, GA, one of the locations claiming to be the originator. It is a tomato-based stew with pulled pork and chicken with vinegar-based bbq sauce as one of the ingredients. The recipe called for butter beans and I have never liked lima beans. The stew is very tasty! I’m this stew, even the beans are full of flavor! Some hot sauce is a great addition but not needed.

Wednesday - This time, we took the tram tour at Jekyll Island. It started at the museum an we went through all of the “cottages” in this resort. These winter homes were built by wealthy families from the north. We toured through one of them. The building pictured is the main building where the meals were served while the resort was open. 

It was a good tour and it included admission to the museum. If you visit Jekyll Island, bring your bicycle as there are a lot of trails and traffic is not moving very fast. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Brunswick, GA


Saturday - We had a wonderful dinner last night with my son and his fiance at a local restaurant called the Marshside Grill. It was right on the water and the oysters were fabulous.

Today's project has been brewing for a couple of weeks. This sliding storage tray is terrific but the RV frame hangs down in the middle so you can only stack things up on one side. The other side has our compressor refrigerator/freezer so this side was only partially usable. I put in a shelf to hold two bins which hold things used for water like the heated water hose and pressure water regulators. The water hose we are currently using gets stored underneath the bins on top of the folding table. The tray will slide out in this direction about a foot which is just enough. 

And, this is the first time in months when I could sit outside, in the afternoon, and enjoy a cup of hot tea!

Sunday - Today’s adventure was to St Simon’s Island just east of Brunswick. The lighthouse was at the narrow part of the inlet between St Simon’s and Jekyll Islands. There was a fishing pier along the walkway as well as a large playground and community pool.

This large tree was covering the picnic area. I’m not sure what kind of trees they are but they look old. 

We then headed north to look for public beach access and parking. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Brunswick, GA

Thursday - This was our longest travel day since back in November at 4 hours. Lots of traffic and several slowdowns due to accidents. Including one that must of involved a truck carrying watermelons. They were all over the side of the road. 

We are at a private RV park for a week. The site is flat gravel with grass. It has a pool but no hot tub. It looks like the stereotypical older RV park that may have been a KOA before based on the A-frame office building. We arrived around 2:30 and mostly set up by 3:00. I still haven’t put out our mat and the awning as it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. 

Friday - A cool-ish day with partly overcast and some light rain. The pool is unheated but even today, it’s refreshing. When it’s hot, it would feel great. Today, at 3pm, the temperature is a very mild 75°F. 

This morning, I finished setting up things around the RV including the awning and the screen. Light winds ~8mph are forecasted for every afternoon for the week we are here. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Clermont, FL - TT

Tuesday - It feels like winter. (Just kidding) For the first time in months, both air conditioners were shut off last night. Windows opened and vent fans turned on. It is a nice break from the heat. 

Speaking of heat, the Raspberry Pi running as a DMR hotspot, was reporting processor temperatures around 170°F! Needless to say, that's on the hot side. The developer, Simo from CQRadios.com, sent me another version to try out that is running a Raspberry Pi clone. I have it running in the same cabinet to see if it runs any cooler. Right now, the CPU is reporting 108.3°F but it's still early in the day.

Later - At 5:30pm, the hotspot is running at 131°F with the cabinet door closed. The inside of the cabinet is 110°F so it is running much cooler. 

Wednesday - Another nice, cool night and morning. Since we are heading out tomorrow morning, I checked fluid levels. 2½ quarts low on engine oil and about 1 cup of hydraulic fluid. The shop in GA said that the hydraulic motor operating the radiator cooling fan has a slow leak and over the last couple of thousand miles, I’ve added about 2 quarts. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Propane Mod

After giving up on the local hardware stores, I resorted to order the fittings to add a propane quick connect to our refrigerator line. Two 3/8” flare elbows, one 3/8” flare coupler, one tee with two 3/8” flare and a 1/4” NPT, and one 1/4” NPT elbow. 

This is in addition to the quick connect with 12’ of hose and the connector for the Blackstone Griddle. Right now, I have the hose going into the refrigerator space through one of the vents but I’m not sure if my preferred solution. Now to try this out with the roast I’ve had in the sous vide for the last 23hours. 

A coolish morning at 70°F so we have the windows open and vent fans in for the first time in a while. At 11am, it was still just 77°F and the scattered clouds and light breeze made for a nice morning. The pool was quiet this morning.

I’m still paranoid about all of those fittings so I will be checking for leaks on a regular basis. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Clermont, FL - TT

Friday - Hey, we have a visitor to the pond behind our RV. There is a nice breeze this morning and, according to WeatherUnderground, it be around all day. Possibly, strong enough to warrant bringing in the awning. We’ll see. 

I heard from multiple vendors yesterday. Our MaxxFan has started beeping and shuts off when it runs at higher speeds. The company is sending out a new control board. The Victron shunt had stopped working a few weeks ago. And they are sending out a new circuit board for the shunt. 

I looked at Lowe’s and Home Depot for flare fittings to add a propane quick connect fitting to the refrigerator propane line. They didn’t have what I needed so off to Amazon, again. The CO detector started occasionally beeping in the middle of the night. I heard that they should be replaced periodically anyway so a replacement was ordered (from Amazon). The new one is a CO/propane detector so the existing propane detector can be disconnected. 

Saturday - I ended up getting up at 3am today as a thunderstorm came through. I removed the sunshade and brought in the awning. Two of the tent stakes snapped in half! There must've been a lot of movement.

After the early morning test session and a quick trip to the grocery store, it was time to float around the pool. There is a nice light wind right now so the temperature is very pleasant outside. Nice enough to enjoy the hot tub. 

The new CO/propane detector arrived and was easily installed with Wagu connectors replacing the crimp butt connectors. The new detector is slightly smaller than the old one so, for now, I just have a piece of cardboard filling the rest of the opening. The old propane detector was underneath this and I just disconnected power. 

 - It’s a moderate 72°F this cloudless morning so I did another cheap-ish Jeep upgrade. LED headlights from the factory was a $1000 option so we have the stock halogen headlights. Even aftermarket LED lights were expensive but I’ve been reluctant to simply try an LED bulb replacement as they are notorious for too much scattered light. 

A YouTube channel I’ve watched for a while, Wayalife, who does a lot of very well done Jeep mods, tried out these LED bulbs and compared the resulting beam pattern and light output to the factory LED setup. Yes, the factory LED setup was brighter and more uniform but these replacement bulbs in the factory halogen housing was definitely a huge improvement. And there wasn’t much scatter. I.e. light going above a fairly well defined line. 

The whole process, including removing and reinstalling the grill, took ten minutes. This included routing and using zip ties for the green wire seen in the picture. This wire is from a prior mod where I replaced the front marker bulbs with LEDs and wired them to be on when the engine is running. Now, I just need to wait for dark to see how they are aimed. I might just crank them down a few turns just in case. 

We went to pool this morning but it wasn’t very relaxing as it was a bit crowded. The weekend crowds were there in force. After a short dip, I went back to relax under our awning. It was much quieter. 

No storms in the forecast so the awning came back out. You can see what a difference it makes in the freezer temperature. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Day 69, 70, 71, 72 - Clermont, FL - TT

Monday (69) - It’s a little before noon and 82°F already. Surprisingly, I enjoy sitting outside especially if there is a light breeze. It’s too hot if there isn’t any shade. After the first test session, I went to float around the pool for a while. It was nice and relaxing. Only a couple of people were there. Maybe it’s too hot…

I'm joining the afternoon session from inside of the RV as it's almost 90°F outside right now. That's approaching "hot" unless there is a breeze and/or some cloud cover. 

Tuesday (70) - Kind of overcast today. I took advantage of the lack of direct sun and washed the Jeep and the front of the RV. I am trying out this new car wash soap. Hoping that it'll make the bugs easier to clean off. The front of the RV was plastered with bugs after only a 20-mile trip up the highway. Bob, a friend here in Orlando, said that the bug guts will eat through the paint. Many RV parks don't want you washing your car on the grass but this place didn't seem to care. And encouraged you to have a clean car and RV.

Wednesday (71) - The weather app says that it's 86°F right now but it is very pleasant with the light breeze. Participated in both test sessions today. Outside for the first one but by 4:30, it felt much warmer than the thermometer indicated. Maybe because no breeze.

Thursday (72) - After this, no more counting days out of Alaska as the flight to/from Alaska at this time of the year is about the same as the COLA benefit. In other words, flights are ridiculously expensive from Florida to Alaska. I'm not sure where the expensive part is. Orlando or Alaska. I sent email to the Division of Retirement and Benefits to calculate what I owe them from Feb. 22, 2022, to now for overpayment. 

Right now, I'm waiting for the first test session. Not doing it outside as it's a bit on the hot side (86°F). And, with last night’s rain, kind of muggy. It’s even warmer (93°F) for the second test session. It’s supposed to start cooling down in a couple of days. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Day 66, 67, 68 - Clermont, FL - TT

Friday (66) - I must admit that sitting outside having coffee at 10am with a temperature of 73°F is pretty nice. Is traveling around getting old? No, not really. Even though we’ve been in the area for a while, I’m fine with it. There’s enough that needs doing on the RV. Plus, volunteering for the ham radio tests is an enjoyable pastime.

Just a little further to the right of the first picture, is a cell phone tower. So the hotspot is working pretty good at this location.

Saturday (67) - I worked on the Jeep a little bit today after the morning test session. I picked up LED lights for the front turn signals with a white light instead of amber for the front marker light and amber for the turn signal. The white LEDs turn off when the turn signal is flashing. I plan to wire the marker lights to be on whenever the Jeep is running for daytime running lights. 

I had picked up a fuse tap but it was for mini fuses. The Jeep used micro fuses. I had never heard or seen them before. They are tiny. A fuse tap allows you to remove a fuse and add a second fuse to the circuit. There are plenty of unused circuits in this Jeep as it doesn’t have many accessories. 

After the second test session, I spent a little time at the pool. The pool is almost too warm. There were a number of families there but all of the kids were well behaved and minded their parents. How refreshing…

Sunday (68)
 - The “RV Repair-of-the-Day” was replacing the gas strut that holds the entry door open. I don’t know why I procrastinated as it was an easy fix. I’ve been using bungee cords to hold the door open on windy days. Replacing it took maybe ten minutes. The length was easy but I wasn’t sure how strong of a strut was needed. The Amazon entry had a list that said door struts, 10lbs. It works great. The old strut had no resistance at all. 

These little lizards are running around everywhere. 

The fuse tap came this afternoon from Amazon less than 24hrs from when it was ordered. I’m amazed at how the do that. I used fuse for the passenger seat heater (don’t have that option) and temporarily installed a 5amp fuse. I cut the wires going to the front marker light and connected it to my new circuit. Now the markers are white and lit whenever the engine is on. Both lights combined draw 0.49 amps, or about 6 watts, when illuminated.