Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Benson, AZ - TT

Tuesday - Went into town this morning to pick up a new pair of gloves at Tractor Supply. And, just like every time I go to Tractor Supply, I end up walking through the entire store even though I'm not looking for anything. Fortunately, I didn't end up purchasing anything else. The old pair were so full of oil, that my hands were greasy just from putting them on. They went into the trash. I did wander around the park a bit as I noticed that this barrel cactus was blooming. It is very green here in Arizona from their monsoon season. Lots of rain. I was told that it'll probably be pretty dry until November.

Both of these cacti are on the way to the pool. Somewhere I've been heading twice a day, in the early afternoon and again in the evening. The pool here at the Benson Encore park really is a favorite. I'm leading a test session this morning and, from talking to the candidate, it should be pretty quick.

It’s 11am and I’m at the pool. At 91°F and with a light breeze, it’s hard to complain about the weather. 

Wednesday - Led a session this morning and signed up to lead another one in the afternoon. The afternoon candidate was a no-show so his test fee is treated like a donation to the radio club. I was told that this was the sixth time he either didn't show up or rescheduled. 

For dinner, I went to Dickey’s for barbecue. I had the beef burnt ends, brisket, creamed spinach, and okra. And some of their spicy sauce. A delicious end to my stay in Benson. Tomorrow, I head for an RV park on the northeast side of Tucson. But for now, heading to the pool!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Benson, AZ - TT

Saturday - I got an early start this morning since I wanted to change the wiring on the fan to high speed. Yesterday, there is a long grade coming into Benson from Wilcox. The temperature did keep rising and topped out at 222°F but I never had to back off the throttle. The ambient temperature was pretty hot in the high 80s (°F). Leaving Benson towards Tucson, the grade continues so it'll be a good test for the fan on high speed. That will be on Thursday.

After the morning test session, I went for a walk and covered a couple of miles before it started feeling a bit too hot. After my walk, I cooled off in the pool. Definitely a nice perk of this RV park. Doing a load of laundry and preparing beef and tomatoes for dinner. The beef has been in the freezer since San Antonio and the tomatoes needed to be used. It came out pretty good, especially with the addition of Koren chili sauce.

Sunday - Today started out as a nice, relaxing day. I got an early start on washing the Jeep. It's been about 6 weeks and over 1000 miles behind the RV. The RV park charges $10 for the extra water so I'm going to make sure everything on the Jeep gets thoroughly washed. When I was almost done, I noticed that the driver's front tire looked a little low. I started the Jeep and the TPMS reported 25psi. So I got to dig out the jack and lug wrenches to switch out to the full-size spare.

It looks like I picked up a roofing nail somewhere and based on the wear on the nail head, pretty recently. I guess tomorrow's project is to look for a tire shop to repair. Or, I could pick up a plug kit since this is a pretty straightforward repair. Nail punctures in the tread are the easiest. This highlights the need to try and find the TPMS sensors I bought last summer. I haven't been able to find them but I'm pretty sure I brought them down with me last Fall.

So, off to the pool to cool off after working this morning. And time to finally make some coffee.

Monday - I was up at 4am today just on the chance that the Artemis 1 actually launched (it was scrubbed). The next attempt is on Friday. Since I was up early, I went ahead and headed for Discount Tire in Tucson. They repaired the tire for free using both a plug and a patch inside the tire. Then they rebalanced the tire. And, it was free! A way of generating goodwill. I will definitely remember Discount Tire.

I stopped for groceries in Benson on the way back then started to get ready for the afternoon test session. Since no one signed up to lead, I went ahead as I seem to have enough bandwidth.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Benson, AZ - TT

Friday - A short travel day from the HH to the TT Encore park in Benson, AZ. I forgot about the time change as Arizona is MST and New Mexico is MDT so I’m sitting in a rest area just past the AZ border. I’m planning to fill up in Wilcox, AZ, just so the fuel tank is near full. The generator has been getting quite a bit of use while traveling to run the roof A/C units. In the rest areas, the trucks are either running their engines or auxiliary generators for the same reason. 

I arrived at the TT/Encore park around 1pm and they put my in a corner spot with the view out the front windshield looking northeast out over the valley. It’s 91°F right now but the overnight low is supposed to be 67°F. Pretty nice after the triple digit and high humidity for the last month or so.

The pool and hot tub are one of the best features of this park. I think we’ve stayed here four or five times over the years. After I arrived at the pool, I realized that the test session I had signed up for was about to start. Messed up by the time zone change again. 

Passed this guy on the way back from the pool this evening…

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Deming, NM - HH

Thursday - Today was a 400 mile travel day which included going through El Paso. Lots of construction, narrow lanes, no shoulders, lots of traffic. Plus, it was bumper to bumper leaving Midland this morning. Not rush hour but a semi truck accident sometime last night. The 20amp fuse I added to the fan circuit blew sometime this morning. I guess I needed a 30 amp mini blade fuse which are green. I went to Auto Zone after arriving at the HH as it was just a few miles up the street in town, and picked one up. The fan control module came with a fuse installed on the ground wire. I added one to the positive wire where I attached it to the positive terminal for the grid heater in case there is a short between the terminal and the fan. There’s about 9’ of 10AWG wire between those two points. 

On todays drive there were some grades and I could tell when the electric fan had stopped working from the water temperature. We’ll see how it does tomorrow. I still have it set to low speed.

Tonight, I’m lot docking at a winery in Deming, NM, which is a Harvest Host. We’ve stayed here at least three times before so it’s familiar. I knew that there was plenty of space. With the nice breeze, I don’t even need to run the A/C and generator. 

Diesel has been getting more expensive as I head west. Today’s fillup was in Van Horn, TX.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Midland, TX - HH

Wednesday - A 358 mile travel day today with a stop in Stephenville for fuel and a rest area west of Abilene for lunch. My destination was the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, a Harvest Host location. The first picture is at the rest area showing the weather for the day. Some showers and some sun but mostly scattered clouds. 

The museum was very well done with lots of interactive displays and good information. The focus was on the history of oil exploration in this area and how it transformed Midland. I had worked in this area back in the late 70s as it was one of our field sites. 

There was also a section of the museum dedicated to Jim Hall’s Chaparral race cars which was based out of Midland, TX. I remember this car when it was blowing the doors off of everything else so they banned it from racing. It had fans which created a low pressure space under the car so it cornered really well. 

My parking spot is right by this derick and it is close to level. I’ll probably just put out one bedroom slide and I’m running the generator now to cool things off. 

The plan is to try and leave by 8:30 as it’s a 400 mile travel day and the route goes through El Paso. (Lots of traffic!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Last Day at Lake Whitney - TT

Tuesday - Today was originally planned to be a travel day but the weather prompted me to postpone leaving for a day. It was relatively cool this morning so I went on a walk. Something that I really need to do more of. My goal was 5K and I ended up a couple of tenths short. There are no test candidates today so maybe it's time to head for the pool!

This time I drove to the upper pool next to the office. It was deserted and about 10°F cooler! So it would be much more refreshing on a hot day. It started raining after about 20 minutes so I headed back to the RV. I could hear thunder rumbling so I needed to get out of the pool. 

It rained for about an hour. Not heavy like yesterday. I went ahead and dumped the tanks and filled the fresh tank about ⅔ full (~48% on the SeeLevel gauge) as I will be dry camping for the next couple of days. I went ahead and put the slides in and moved the RV about 15’ forward so I could hook the Jeep up. The roads are really narrow and it takes longer to hook it up with just one person. 

It turned out that three test candidates jumped in for the afternoon session. I offered to lead one and will simply connect the audio with my phone. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Whitney, TX - TT

Sunday - I finished up the radiator fan installation today and roughly adjusted the thermostat. After the neighbors left, so as not to disturb others, I ran the engine at a high idle until the first thermostat opened at around 185°F. I turned the fan thermostat down until the fan started running, then turned the screw up around 10°. There is only about 250° of rotation available for the circuit board-mounted rheostat so it really isn't much more than a guess. The real test will come in a couple of days when I start heading west.

I had lunch today with Mel & Nette at a small Mexican restaurant here in Whitney. The food was pretty good and they had a good variety. The Sunday special was the Arriero Dinner, something that I had never heard of before. Two fried flour tortillas with fajita meat sandwiched between and covered with sauce and a bit of cheese. It could've been spicier but, overall, pretty tasty.

Monday - The rain started late last night and is forecast to be coming and going all day. Flash flood warnings have been on the TV all day. I was originally planning to leave tomorrow (Tuesday) but decided to postpone one day to give things time to dry out. 

The rain does mean that the weather forecast is for much cooler temperatures. The high today is supposed to be only 81°F. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Whitney, TX - TT

Thursday - I arrived at the Cat shop to pick up the RV around 7:30am. I loaded everything from the Jeep and the refrigerator was nice and cold. Started the engine and the oil pressure gauge read 0 psi. Not good. They sent out a tech and after verifying that the sensor was plugged in, he connected his laptop to the port on the engine and confirmed that there was oil pressure (52 psi). It turns out that they loaded a newer version of software to the engine computer. Apparently, on a Cat, you have to enable which data elements are shared out and oil pressure wasn’t “checked”. I was on my way by 9:30. The instrument cluster is a Freightliner product. 

It was about a 4 ½ hour drive to the Lake Whitney TT but for some reason, it seemed longer. There was a lot of traffic and road construction and the Garmin kept trying to send me on the Interstate through Austin. 

They’ve made many improvements to this RV park since the last time we were here. This pool at the lower lodge was never open every other time we’ve been here. It looks great. Kind of warm but I’ll blame that on the weather. 

Friday - I spent most of the day sorting things back out. I put the back seat back into the Jeep, rearranged the basement storage so I can get the compressor refrigerator back into the sliding tray, and put everything away that we took to the cabin. The clothes that I was wearing at the last hotel reeked of cigarette smoke so all of that went into the washing machine right away. When we moved to the cabin, I had removed several parts of the Internet setup including the Apple TV and the DMR hotspot. It's all working now. Sufficiently well to participate in two test sessions.

After dinner, I went to the pool again. There was a grandfather and his two grandsons there. They live in the area and visit one of the TT parks just about every weekend.

Saturday - After the morning test session, I started on my "project of the day". Actually, it'll probably take me more than today to get it done. Back while we were in Athens, TX, I ordered a high-output electric radiator fan to help move more air through the radiator stack. The stack is composed of the dash air condenser with the transmission cooler below, the charge air cooler aka intercooler, and the radiator. The fan has two speeds but I'm going to start with the lower speed which moves 1800 cfm (cubic feet per minute) and draws 18 amps. The high speed is 2400 cfm and draws 23 amps. The temperature controller is rated for 25 amps and is designed for one temperature threshold. The fan is attached to the A/C condenser using plastic pegs. With the grill closed, there is still around 1" of space.

I thought that mounting the fan was going to be the most challenging part of this installation but getting the thermocouple into the radiator fins may prove to be even more difficult due to lack of access. I partially removed the condenser to get to the back and pushed the pegs through the fins, avoiding the tubes, attached the retaining clips, and cut off the excess length. It seems solidly mounted and has rubber and foam feet to protect the condenser from damage.

I mounted the fan controller to the frame surrounding the engine. The wiring is a bit odd as it controls the ground instead of the 12V positive. I dug up an extra inline fuse and I'll install that on the 12V positive line that will run to the grid heater relay input terminal. The wiring is rated to run the grid heaters which draw over 100 amps. I have one more wire to run and that is supposed to be to the ignition. Since this doesn't have an ignition wire, and I don't want to connect it to anything related to the ECM (engine computer), I think I'll wire it to the parking light circuit. The current draw should be negligible as it is just for the fan controller circuitry. But, it is hot and muggy now so I'll wait until tomorrow for the last two connections.

The Internet speeds here have gone downhill now that it's the weekend. There are a lot more people here just for the weekend. I participated in both test sessions but had to run audio over a phone call.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

San Antonio, TX - Airbnb

Sunday - I made a quick trip to REI to pick up a box of Aeropress coffee filters. A package lasts almost a year and I should've picked them up when we were at REI over a month ago. Anyway, it was something to do. Afterward, I walked down to the 2M Smokehouse to pick up some Texas BBQ. The line went out the door and down the sidewalk. And this was 40 min after they opened. 

After around 20min in line, a storm came through and poured, making me question my walking choice. Fortunately, I was inside the door by the time the rain started, still in line but undercover. By the time I got to the front of the line, they were already sold out of a few items including the chicharrones mac and cheese, which sounded interesting. I picked up brisket, beef sausage, and pinto beans. The total wait time was an hour. I had some for lunch after getting back to the Airbnb and it was all delicious and worth the wait. I have enough leftovers for several more meals.

Monday - We are getting a bit of rain again. I hear that precipitation in this part of TX is less than half of normal. And “normal” really isn’t that much rain, to begin with. The news report said only 5+” so far this year compared to 12+”. It’s pretty dry. 

The Caterpillar shop is installing the hydraulic fan motor today so there is hope that I might be able to pick it up on Wednesday, the day I need to leave the Airbnb.

Tuesday - I still haven't gotten an update from the shop so I made a one-night reservation at a motel a short distance away from here. Their cancelation policy is no-charge until 6pm tonight so if I do hear something, I can cancel if needed.

Later - The boost level from the turbo is 33 psi which is good. But the shop is looking into why it's throwing a code. I guess I'll be moving to the motel tomorrow. Unfortunately, the check-in time isn't until 4pm. Kind of a pain...

Wednesday - I left the AirBnB this morning and stopped at the Cat shop. The computer was still connected to the engine but the service writer thought they may be done this afternoon. I went to the hotel and they let me check in three hours early. Cheap hotel, but it has a good A/C and the TV has the DABL channel, which has turned into a favorite. No WiFi.

Around 2:30, the shop called and declared the engine fixed. I headed over and needed to be on the phone with the credit union when the debit card was run. I then started up the refrigerator on propane (took quite a while as the lines needed to be purged) and got the tow bar reinstalled. I’ll need to wash it as it’s still kind of oily but the washroom at the shop had gallon bottles of hand cleaner. I also started the inverter and I should’ve brought the AT&T hotspot to get things back online. 

I’ll pick the RV up tomorrow morning and plan to head north to Lake Whitney TT for several days. It’ll feel kind of nice to be back in the RV again after 30 days. The TT cabin was fine and the AirBnB was nice but it’ll be good to be back in our home on wheels. Across the street from the motel at the Petro truck stop, is the Iron Skillet restaurant. American comfort food.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

San Antonio, TX - AirBnB

Thursday - I participated in three test sessions and led one where a dad and two daughters took their tests sequentially. They all passed but it was a long session. The desk is also the nightstand so things are all over. Including the AT&T router (which I'm only using for the DMR hotspot). The house has pretty fast WiFi so I've been using that for the test Zoom sessions. 

Friday - Yesterday evening, San Antonio finally got some rain. It was pretty heavy for about an hour with lots of water flowing down the street. Almost curb height. It didn't last very long but it did make for some lower temperature but much higher humidity. 

This morning, I picked up some more groceries at HEB which is only a couple of miles away. Walmart is closer but it's on the other side of the highway with a lot of construction in the area. I finally have to start cooking again. I cleaned out the freezer of the cabin and made a meatloaf which has been my dinner for days. 

Saturday - Participated in the early, east coast test session. It's always disappointing when someone doesn't pass but hopefully, they'll be back to try again. By the afternoon, it's is pretty hot. 

I have some chicken cooking in the sous vide. Enough for a couple of meals though I'm not quite sure what to make yet. I also have some beef for beef and broccoli. Maybe I'll make that this afternoon after the next test session.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Road Trip Day 3 - Amarillo to Lake Hills

Tuesday - I left the hotel in Amarillo a little after 6am Google Maps said it was an 8-hour drive. Right around 500 miles for today. I forgot to mention numerous storms with heavy rainfall yesterday and one more today. Enough rainfall that water was pooling on the Interstate. 

I arrived back at the cabin and started sorting through all the stuff getting ready to check out of the cabin tomorrow. I have a room reserved on AirBnB for the next week.

Wednesday - I checked out right at 11am as the check-in time at the AirBnB isn’t until 3pm. I stopped at the Caterpillar shop to talk with the service writer and to drop off a bunch of extra things that aren’t needed for the next week. 

They had some old equipment on display so I spent a bit of time walking around after finding a shady spot to park the Jeep. 

I checked into the AirBnB and it's a clean, quiet room around a mile and a half from the Cat shop. Pretty convenient. The provided WiFi is pretty decent so maybe I can finally back up my laptop to the cloud. It's been about a month since the last backup.

Just a shot of the room. I'm here for a week. The shop thinks that it should be ready by the middle of next week which works out around right.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Road Trip Day 2 - Albuquerque and Amarillo

Monday - We left Roswell, NM, around 10am heading for ABQ, the Albuquerque airport. Bridget’s flight was late afternoon so we had plenty of time to get there as it was around three hours away. We stopped at a park near the airport to let the dog run around. When we turned onto I-40 at Clines Corner, it was a very pleasant 69°F as we were at 6700’ elevation. From there , we dropped to 5300’ at Albuquerque and it warmed up to 85°F.

I dropped Bridget off with a very annoyed cat and a nervous dog and started back to Texas. I messed up on and booked a cheap hotel in Amarillo instead of Lubbock. So a bit out of my way. Oh well. The Internet was fast!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Road Trip Day 1 - Roswell, NM

Sunday - A 500+ mile driving day from Medina Lake TT to Roswell, NM. The first leg of our trip to the Albuquerque airport where Bridget is flying out tomorrow. It's been partially cloudy so the temperature hasn't been too bad. The Google Map screen capture was at our first stop. 

We arrived around 4 pm thanks to the time zone change. We walked a bit downtown before heading for dinner. There are several alien museums and gift shops just in the one-block area. 

Pretty touristy place. Somehow, we've managed to miss this town whenever we went through New Mexico. 

Really fast WiFi at the pet-friendly hotel. Almost 270Mbps down and 150Mbps up. Not too shabby. 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Lakehills, TX - TT

Thursday - this morning, I went back to the SKP park in Hondo to see how well the biodegradable oil cleaner worked on the concrete pad. I’d say that it did a decent enough job. These stains here are from oil dripping off of the front of the Jeep. 

After getting back to the RV park cabin from Hondo, the service writer from Holt Cat called and said that the steps on the RV weren’t retracting so they couldn't drive it. So, I headed to the Cat shop an hour across town. It turned out to be something simple. The mechanic had turned off the chassis power and that is what the steps use to extend and retract. If they had started the engine, they would've noticed that the steps work. 

As far as an update, they found a leaking connection providing engine oil, under pressure, to the air compressor and the power steering pump. The power steering pump actually pumps hydraulic fluid (ATF) but the pump mechanical parts use engine oil for lubrication as does the air compressor. The next step is to drive the RV with a catch bottle on the blowby tube to see how much blowby there is. Also on the list is to check to see if the radiator fins are clogged and dirty from oil being sucked in, and why the front computer is reading low turbo boost and generating a stop engine/check engine light under full throttle.

I got back to the cabin in time for the afternoon test session. BTW, filled up the Jeep in Hondo for $3.39/gal. 

Friday - The campground emptied out a bit more and it seems like the AT&T cellular is a little bit faster. Especially the upload which appears to be essential for others to understand when using Zoom. I walked to the office this morning (1¼ miles each way) as I really need to get more exercise in spite of the heat. It was 80°F while walking and the breeze made it feel reasonable. I'm just waiting for the early test session to start right now.

We tested a 12year old and he passed! It's always nice to see younger people getting involved in this hobby.

And, the pool is finally open at the TT campground! It was nice...

Saturday - The forecasted high for today is only 91°F! Quite a bit nicer than the triple digits we've been seeing for the last couple of weeks. I lead an early morning test session, which they have every Saturday for those on the eastern side of the country. The candidate was in CDT and easily passed. He was well prepared.

We are starting to get things packed up to leave the cabin. The checkout isn't until Wednesday morning, but we are driving to Albuquerque tomorrow for Bridget's flight on Monday. I'll be back here on Tuesday to finish packing things up. I will be moving to an AirB&B on the other side of San Antonio for at least a week. Kind of depends on how much blowby there is. It lfeels like it's time to head back to the pool!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Mission Trails

Wednesday - This morning, Mel and Nette from the MelNetteLivingFreeZipCodeless YouTube channel, picked us up to explore the Mission Trails south of San Antonio. We started at the southern end and worked our way north visiting four of the five missions. The fifth mission is the Alamo in downtown San Antonio and which we visited on an earlier trip.

The first stop was Mission Espada at the bottom of the map.

This one had one of the most intact grounds and building foundations. There was a funeral going on in the church building so no pictures. This tree was kind of interesting though I'm not sure what kind of tree it was.

This is right near the entrance looking down through the Indian quarters which were built along the walls of the mission. 

The next one north was Mission San Juan. This one looked a lot more finished with the white finish over the rock walls. The rocks used on this building were a lot larger. I didn't look at the dates for original construction and rebuilding. All of these were operated by the National Park Service so I did pick up stamps for each location.

The next one was Mission San Jose. The church doors were open. They had several museum displays showing what life was like in the 18th century. I particularly liked the wooden downspouts attached to the flat roofed buildings to direct water away from the walls. 

The inside of the Mission San Jose church. This location also had an open visitor center and had National Park Passport stamps for the four locations we visited today.

This is the granary which, I assume was for storing grain. It was an impressively large space with an intact roof. 

The last one we visited was Mission Concepción. The visitor center here was closed but the church was open.