Sunday, July 31, 2022

Lakehills, TX - TT

Friday - Another hot day here in central Texas. We picked up a few groceries right after the first test session. The local grocery store is pretty limited, but we really don’t need much.   The picture of the Citroen was taken yesterday at the Pearl District outside of a restaurant. I always liked them. The very definition of quirky.

I got an update from the Cat shop and it sounds like they won't be able to get it into the shop early. It'll be the latter part of next week before they can start. The service writer also mentioned that he has the parts department trying to find a long block. I thought that this should be readily available but not these days. Not good news. He mentioned that until they get the engine apart, they really don't know what's needed. Until then, it's all just guessing.

Saturday - It was a pleasant 73°F this morning so I participated in the early morning (8 AM CDT) test session while sitting out on the front porch. Still a bit humid but overall, pretty nice. I'm sure that it'll be too hot by the next test session at noon local time.

There are a few more campers here as it's the weekend. Even a couple of the cabins around us are occupied. The pool still isn't open but there have been people working on it all last week. Hopefully, it'll open before we leave.

This afternoon, we are meeting with another acquaintance of Bridgets for an early dinner at Saltcreek Steakhouse, then going to a concert in San Antonio near the River Walk. The fried peppers and pickles were the best I’ve ever had. The Nashville chicken sandwich was okay. Not as spicy (or delicious) as the Nashville chicken I had picked up at Publix in Florida. 

After dinner, we went to a music competition at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Pretty impressive theater. 

 - A nice, quiet day after a late evening yesterday. There was a special test session for a class where we tested ten people right after they completed the class for the tech license. All those who tested (so far) passed. It's a bit different than the norm since the lead doesn't have the opportunity to contact the candidate ahead of time.

The picture is from yesterday's dinner. The Nashville chicken sandwich with coleslaw. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

San Antonio, TX

Thursday - Today’s touristy venture was to the Pearl District along the River Walk in San Antonio. It is named after the Pearl Brewery with some beautiful old buildings.  We stopped at Hotel Emma, which used to be the brewery. Mostly upscale restaurants in this area. I had lunch at a Mexican food place in the food court and it was kinda price but pretty tasty. 

We walked through the area, stopping at a bakery for dessert. Chocolate-peanut cookie. The picture on the right is inside of the hotel lobby. Lots of cool equipment. The Pearl District is on the northern end of the San Antonio River Walk. The next picture is taken from the bridge from the parking lot to the Hotel Emma. 

We then headed back to Medina Lake. This morning, on our way into town, we stopped in Hondo at the SKP park so I could see how well the oil spot remediation was going. Most of the spots are disappearing so I added some more to the remaining. You can really see the difference.

After getting back, I saw a message on Discord that VEs were needed for the afternoon session. I had time so I jumped into the Zoom session. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Lakehills, TX - TT

Monday - Yesterday evening, we visited with some friends who just arrived at the campground. Their YouTube channel is MelNetteLivingFreeZipCodeLess. The last time we met them was in here at Medina Lake over a year ago. Since then, they switched RVs from a diesel pusher to an older Prevost bus made by Marathon. It looks fabulous inside and out and could last a lifetime. Full SS frame and outside skin like a tour bus. The engine is a V8 two-cycle Detroit Diesel with both a supercharger and a turbo. It has been stored indoors since it was built. Surprisingly, the first two owners were in Alaska.

They are here to support a friend who is a finalist in a music competition where a grand prize is a recording contract. We are going to the final five concerts in San Antonio this weekend. 

We went back to the western edge of San Antonio to do a little more shopping. I had a glasses prescription but it turned out to be expired. I sent a message to West Valley Vision asking for an electronic copy. We’ll see what happens. 

I was planning to use the sous vide but there isn’t a suitable container in the cabin. Containers and large pots are not supplied. I’ll try Dollar General tomorrow to see if they have anything that’ll work. 

Tuesday - I didn’t bring the sous vide container as I had assumed that the cabin would have something that would work. Bad assumption. I picked up a nice container at the hardware store that would work great and we could use for food storage in the RV. 

Wednesday - I have a turkey breast cooking in the sous vide since yesterday evening. It should be ready this afternoon. I didn’t have all of the seasonings that I normally use so I’m hoping it comes out alright. We have apparently come far enough out of the south to once again find whole berry cranberry sauce. The whole time we were in Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida, all the stores seemed to carry was jellied cranberry sauce. You know, the stuff in a can that just gets sliced and served. With the impression of the can still showing. Not my idea of cranberry sauce. I still haven’t found frozen cranberries yet. Maybe that’s a west coast (and I’ll assume Northeast) thing. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Kerrville, TX

Sunday - We headed into Kerrville to meet one of Bridget’s friends at Cracker Barrel. It turns out that we had stopped at this Cracker Barrel with the motor home back in 2020 after our visit to Big Bend on our way to Medina Lake TT. It’s “Sunday morning” busy but it is very pleasant outside in their rocking chairs. It’s 82°F with a nice breeze. This is the first time we’ve had to wait at a Cracker Barrel but we generally avoid busy times like this. BTW, they already had Christmas stuff on display in addition to Fall decor and Halloween. 

After lunch, we stopped at a sculpture and prayer garden overlooking Kerrville. It was a quiet, peaceful stop up on a hilltop. 

Next stop, gas station. I’ve noticed that the price of gas and diesel have been dropping. Gas was $3.849/gal and we’ve seen it for $3.499 in San Antonio. I’m not sure if it’s just here in TX or gas prices are on their way down. 

Kerrville was around an hour away through really nice winding roads through what is known as Texas hill country. These roads cause me to miss having the Ural. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Lakehills, TX - TT

Thursday - Medina Lake is empty. This is the view from the old shoreline campsites. The last time we were here, there was still water. The lake is maintained by the Corp of Engineers but the original dam was built by the ranchers and farmers around what became the lake back in 1913. It was originally needed for irrigation. 

Oh, they fixed the satellite TV. We now have Dish Network. Well, that’ll probably save some of our AT&T allotment. 

 - We stopped by the Caterpillar shop to pick up a few more things from the RV. We then progressed to REI, Hobby Lobby, Dollar General, Kohls, Ihop for lunch, and ended at the best H-E-B we’ve seen. There are a lot of freeways in San Antonio. It’s a pretty populated town at #7 in the U.S. which is larger than I thought.

Once I realized that before I must repack the Jeep, several large items will be headed to Fairbanks with Bridget. Including the dog and cat with their kennels. 

These two equipment displays flank the entrance to the Cat facility. 

Saturday - This morning, I went back to the site we stayed at in Hondo, TX, at the SKP Co-Op. The RV dripped oil as we backed into the site so I picked up some biodegradable, oil-eating bacteria. This powder is sprinkled on the oil stains, spread around with a broom, and mist it with some water from a spray bottle to get the bacteria started. Supposedly, the only by-products are oxygen and carbon dioxide. It takes a week or so to work so I plan to drive back next week to see how it's doing and maybe do another application.

After getting back to the cabin, I joined a test session and ended up leading the session. The candidate was a professional photographer (phenomenal images) getting his general. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Lakehills, TX - TT

Wednesday - We only had a 1½ hour drive today but four hours to do it. We stopped at Petco, Target, Subway, and a gas station but still arrived way before the check-in time. We are staying in a cabin in a TT park. Our membership gives us 50% off of one, three week stay one time per year. A pretty good deal as the regular price is $110/day (including tax). 

They let us check in early. It’s a pretty cute cabin. It has air conditioning, non-functional satellite TV, gas stove, apartment size refrigerator, and a microwave. We have “good enough” AT&T and Verizon bandwidth. So it’s a nice place to stay for several weeks. Unfortunately, the pool is closed for repair.

On Aug 8th, Bridget will be flying back to Fairbanks from Albuquerque, NM, and on the 10th, I’ll need to leave here and find other accommodations. Hopefully, we will have a better idea on how the repairs are going. And, it should be simpler not having animals. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Fredericksburg, TX

 - Fredericksburg was started as a German immigrant settlement back in 1846. The promise to the immigrants was for a plot of land, a house, and a line of credit for supplies. The Mexican American war interfered with the plan as well as poor planning by the organizers.

Lots of German restaurants and gift shops line the streets now. A notice at the museum mentioned that all fire department business was to be conducted in German. So that is what was taught at the schools back in the day.

There was a nice collection of buildings and displays here at the museum including cabins with dovetail joints on the corners. 

This music box with replaceable discs struck me as pretty interesting. 

After the museum, we wandered through just a small fraction of the downtown shops. Lots of peach stuff such as preserves, salsa, and syrup but no fresh peaches. 

At least the hotel has a pool. With the hot temperatures in TX, it’s nice to be able to cool off. 

And, fast free WiFi!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Fredericksburg, TX

Monday - A stressful driving day today carefully watching the water temperature, oil pressure, RPM, and engine load while driving to Kerrville, TX. The first shop was an small, independent shop but after they saw the way the engine was mounted in the frame and the very limited access from the top, he decided that he didn’t have the equipment to remove the engine. He recommended the CAT shop. 

So off we went across San Antonio over an hour away to Holt Caterpillar. It’ll be about 2½ weeks before they can even start (hopefully sooner). Based on the symptoms, i.e. pulsing blowby at idle and the volume of blowby, he said that it’s probably one scored cylinder, or a cracked piston, or a broken ring. All require the engine to come out. 

Since the Heui pump, injectors, and water pump have been changed within the last 25K miles, and the glazed cylinders diagnosis from the Albany Cat shop, he suggested that we consider a long block. This would replace the block and all internal components and the head including the valve train. They would just swap the external components from the old engine to the new block. We like this solution as it gets rid of numerous issues and essentially gives us a new engine.

I also mentioned the hydraulic fan motor and cleaning between the intercooler and the radiator. 

We then had to drive all the way back to Fredericksburg where our pet-friendly hotel was located. 

Dinner was at the Hitching Post Steakhouse. This is the chicken fried steak with Hatch chili pilaf and poblano roasted corn. All was delicious and half of it came back to the hotel with us. Right now, I’m exhausted. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Hondo, TX - SKP

Friday - Went for a walk around the park for the first time in over a week. It was nice to finally be able to do this again. 

I’ve been administering ham radio exams through the Anchorage VEC and that has been a good activity especially with the very hot weather. Bandwidth has been a challenge at times. The SpeedTest is decent in the morning but by late afternoon, it slows down considerably. 

Saturday - No testing today as no candidates signed up. We are getting things sorted to move out of the RV while it’s in the shop. We also started to clean up some oil that was dripping off the Jeep after being towed behind the RV. There was some oil on the hitch of the RV but the front of the Jeep got the brunt of the mess.

Sunday - Packing up to leave the RV in the shop tomorrow. Trying to sort out what’s needed for what most likely is a several week stay out of the RV. Pets somewhat complicate things as we need to find a place that allows pets. And, get things sorted on the RV such as removing and storing the tow bar. And remembering to shut off the propane, Internet, and inverter. After all this time in the RV, it’s hard to remember what’s needed let alone what’s wanted.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Hondo, TX - SKP

Tuesday - Negative test result. According to the CDC guidelines, I can be out in public again but should wear a mask around others for the next five days. I had minimal symptoms. A slight headache, some coughing, and some congestion. I haven't experienced other symptoms that I've heard about. Such as fever or loss of taste. So I’d say that the experimental meds work great assuming you start taking them as soon as you feel any symptoms. 

I signed up for both test sessions today. Having this activity gives me something to do when I can't be outside.

Wednesday - I pulled out the back seat from the Jeep and put it into our basement storage. Now, there is plenty of storage space in the Jeep for stuff. Including the portable refrigerator, the cat and dog kennels, etc. as we will need to essentially move out of the RV while it's in the shop. This is one of the downsides of a drivable RV versus a towable. One of the current tasks is to use up as much frozen and refrigerated food as possible. Any left over food that doesn’t fit in the portable refrigerator will probably need to be tossed.

We usually just have the seat folded forward. This is the first time that I actually removed it. 

This reminded me that I needed a way to power the portable refrigerator while driving the Jeep. There is a 12VDC power port that is always on in the cargo area so I made added some Anderson PowerPole connectors to a 12VDC cord I had lying around. 

 - Another slow day today. Not much going on so I signed up for test sessions today. 

Rain this evening. It’s cooled down to 72°F at 8pm!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

RV Engine Issues

We decided that the Caterpillar C7 Diesel engine in the RV needs to be repaired sooner rather than later. We noticed that there was more blowby from what is referred to as the slobber tube. This is the crankcase vent which relieved pressure inside the engine to the outside via a tube ending just below the engine. Back in November, Bridget was following me through Orlando in the borrowed Prius C and she mentioned that there was a lot of “smoke” whenever I accelerated. But, otherwise just wisps of “smoke”. This “smoke” is air with tiny droplets of oil from the engine. The engine had been doing this for quite a while. Back when we were towing the Prius on the tow dolly, after any lengthy trip, the car would be filthy from oil droplets and dust. The Jeep would be the same. 

Since it has been doing this for a while, I figured that we would be able to get back to the Pacific Northwest and we would take it to the Cat shop in Albany where we had the last engine work done. A few weeks back when we left North Carolina into Tennessee, there were some steep grades. When we arrived at our Harvest Host stop, the front of the Jeep was almost dripping oil. It had gotten worse. I added some oil to the engine . At our next Harvest Host, the amount of oil on the Jeep seemed about the same. Coming into Athens, TX, the oil pressure would drop on any uphill so while we were waiting in the Walmart parking lot to check in to the RV park, I added several gallons of oil. The engine holds six gallons. At this point, I was still thinking that the amount of blowby was related to load. One possibility was a leaking seal in the turbocharger which would allow pressurized air to go into the engine via the oil return tube. This would be a relatively easy fix.

On the drive from Athens, TX, to Hondo, TX, the oil pressure dropped again. I added three more gallons of oil. So the problem is getting much worse. There were no steep grades or high speeds or sustained heavy loads. After talking to several shops in the area, we will be taking the RV to one about sixty miles north of here. They think it might be scored cylinders or a cracked ring. They think it’s unlikely to be the turbocharger seal. They will examine and probably pull the head while the engine is still installed. Depending on what the problem is, there are several repair options several involve removing the engine from the RV.

Another possibly peripheral issue is the hydraulic radiator fan motor is leaking hydraulic fluid. The shop thinks that it may not be spinning fast enough when the engine temperature goes up and isn’t moving enough air through the radiator stack.

More on this later once we have more information. Bridget is looking for housing options which is made challenging since we have the dog and cat. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Hondo, TX - SKP

Saturday - I participated in the early morning test session. Just one person had signed up and he was done pretty fast. Definitely prepared. Looking at the weather forecast, I’m not really looking forward to the next couple of days. I was originally thinking of defrosting the freezer tomorrow but maybe I’ll give it a few more days. 

One more person tested during the late afternoon session. Since I’m still quarantined, these test sessions are a welcome diversion. 

Sunday - I ended up defrosting the freezer. It had a large buildup of ice on the bottom which blocked the drain. And, there was a lot of ice above the ice maker. We switched to ice cube trays as I suspect that the frost and ice has been coming from using the ice maker. The whole task only took about 1½ hours. Seems to be a lot faster than other times. It sure is nice to have the 12V compressor freezer to offload the contents of our freezer into. It’s keeping things at a nice 3°F.

Later - The refrigerator is back on getting the freezer cold again. During that time, the refrigerator warmed up to 40°F from 35°F. It’s working good considering the ambient temperature of 105°!

No other pictures. It was just too hot to do much outside. Plus, I’m supposed to be quarantined through Tuesday.

Monday - Today is the last day for the anti-viral meds. Tomorrow, I’ll use a home test to verify that I’m negative. According to the CDC site, I need to wear a mask when venturing out for 5 days after that. Not that the weather is very conducive to much venturing.

I let the freezer cool down all night before filling it back up from the portable fridge/freezer. The portable unit was colder at -1°F but less convenient after I move it back to the basement storage. 

I joined the early test session and bandwidth seemed adequate. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Hondo, TX - SKP

Wednesday - Ah! Back in Texas. Dinner last night. Store-made tamales and fresh refried beans from HEB. Hatch green chile salsa over yellow rice. It’s been a while. HEB is a regional grocery chain in TX and the store-made Mexican food is delicious. And, they seem to have good produce and reasonable prices. Walmart still has more variety in addition to carrying things besides groceries.

I signed up for the test sessions today but there were no takers. The question pool for the technician level license just changed on July 1. 

Thursday - Well, feeling a little sick today. The ER doctor did say that it was inevitable given that we were living in the same 350ft2. I started taking the prescription anti-viral meds today and need to continue for the next five days. 

I feel well enough to participate in the tests today, so I signed up for both sessions. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow…

 - A few more symptoms but still feel well enough to participate in the tests.  Actually ended up leading several sessions both yesterday and today, so I still felt well enough for that. This barbecue grill was outside of the activity center here at the RV park. I’m not sure how much use it actually gets. But, I suspect, very little at this time of year.

The radiator fan arrived today as well as a new SeeLevel sensor, I'll see if the problem with the black tank is really a  bad sensor. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Hondo, TX - SKP

Monday - Happy Independence Day! 

Last night at the ER, we were given a couple of scripts for some anti-viral medication, a couple as the ER doctor said that I’d probably be showing up later in the week anyway. So far, no symptoms (that I know of).

It’s an overcast morning and only 77°F for an overnight low, so I finished getting set up. We may be here for a bit if I start showing symptoms. The friends who have this lot said that we could stay for up to a month according to the rules. I wouldn’t mind that. It’s pretty nice here and between the new A/C and the Reflectix, the RV temperature seems better than just tolerable. By the afternoon, the scattered clouds and light breeze made for nice walking weather.

The Walmart pharmacy in Hondo was open on this national holiday and Bridget was pretty happy about that. The ER doctor said the medication was most effective if started within 48 hours of initial symptoms. I also picked up some skewers for some cooking on the griddle this evening. 

It’s over 100°F outside and 75°F in the bedroom and 79°F in the living room. I’m not going to complain about that! These steak and vegetable skewers with a garlic-balsamic-oregano sauce, were pretty tasty. 

Tuesday - Another pleasant morning under partly cloudy skies. I need to run into town to get some wire to clean up the wiring on the rear A/C unit. I’m still feeling okay though the ER doctor said that I wouldn’t escape it since Bridget has it. While in town, I noticed the train station. 

I picked up about 10' of 16AWG wire at modestly sized Ace Hardware as they only carried bulk wire. The other hardware option was Tractor Supply and their electrical offering are usually kind of slim. I guess I could've tried Napa auto parts but didn't really feel like running around town. 

The 12VDC source was moved to behind the TV using the same feed as the microprocessor. The other wire is for the thermostat temporarily mounted to the wall. I guess that I could’ve removed the ceiling panel but that’s just asking for more problems. When the rear A/C gets replaced, this can all be removed as it’s only needed when running it as a standalone unit. But, so far, it’s running great for an 18 year old unit!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Hondo, TX - SKP

Sunday - A longish, hot drive today. Around 330 miles or so with temperatures up into the mid-90s. The engine water temperature got up to 217°F but, fortunately, there were no long grades. We did go through oil and the front of the Jeep is a mess. But water restrictions are in effect here so no vehicle washing allowed. Though I will probably wash the windows tomorrow morning. 

We are staying at an Escapee Co-Op on a friend’s site. The sites are all pretty large and theirs has a nice concrete pad and a good sized building. The tree should provide some nice, morning shade. We are on the waiting list to pick up a lot at this park. It’s pretty rural so very quiet. 

The nearby town of Hondo is about 4 miles away and has what you need. We joined the waiting list in December after friends, Richard and Hope, picked up their lot. We figured that we should at least see the place before making any kind of financial commitment. 

Bridget just tested positive for Covid…

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Athens, TX

Thursday - Right now, we are around 1300 miles into our 3500 mile trip across the country. Or around a third of the way. We’ve spent around $800 or so on diesel for that distance or a bit less than I had expected. Our total fuel bill will be less than these two A/C units that just arrived here in Athens. No one ever said that RVing is cheap. Certainly not me.

I looked up the installation instructions for both of the A/C units and it turns out that I ordered the wrong unit for the rear! I had searched Amazon for a Dometic Penguin A/C w/CCC2 interface and no heat pump. The description matched what I needed but it turns out that the description was wrong. There is no CCC2 board and, in fact, no control board at all. It’s just a basic unit for the price of a more expensive unit. 

Amazon authorized the return and UPS will be picking it up tomorrow. The front unit, which is the one that really needs replacement, is the correct unit. 

Friday - A very short travel day today. Only ten miles. We moved from Lake Athens Marina to the Texan RV Park. Garrett from Diary of a Family YouTube channel, is going to install the unit tomorrow morning with me helping.

It doesn’t look good, temperature wise, for us in TX. The radiator fan I had ordered from Amazon didn’t get delivered. Since we are leaving here on Sunday, I’m not sure what to do about it. 

In preparation for the front A/C installation tomorrow morning, I disconnected the network connection between the front and rear A/C units and made the rear one stand-alone using the old thermostat. Since the thermostat and the rear control board was powered from the front A/C unit, I need to find 12VDC in the roof somewhere. For now, it’s wired to the lights.

Saturday - Front A/C installation day. Garrett brought a lift mechanism that fits onto the top of a ladder. It made quick work of lifting the 100+ pound unit onto the roof as well as lowering the old one safely back to the ground. 

Meanwhile, I installed the SoftStart back onto the rear A/C unit and it appears to work fine. I removed the SoftStart from the front A/C unit and will reinstall it once the warranty runs out. I wired up the low voltage wiring and we shortened the existing wiring by several feet. The thermostat wire by over ten feet. Fortunately, I had plenty of RJ11 plugs. 

The new thermostat was installed to operate the new A/C unit and the Micro-Air thermostat was moved to the bedroom. We simply now have two thermostats instead of two zones. Each A/C unit still controls its own furnace but now we have a little more flexibility. I.e. heat pump in the front and furnace in the back. 

It’s now up and running and with it 90°F outside, the cold air out is 58°F. The old one was putting out 78°F air at the same outside air temperature. 

We plan to leave early tomorrow morning so just about everything except power has been disconnected or put away.