Thursday, November 30, 2023


Monday - I rode into town this afternoon to pick up some stuff at Tractor Supply including the Ortho Home Defense stuff I had used on the spider. I also picked up some small hooks to hang Christmas lights on the casita/shed. 

I picked up this TP-Link “smart” outlet strip from Amazon and used the Kasa-Home integration to connect to HomeAssistant, the home automation software I’m running on a Raspberry Pi. Before the evening was done, I had the Christmas lights plugged in and running on a schedule. Turn on at ten minutes before local sunset and off at 9:15pm. The ability to use sunset as a time is kind of cool as the software could use location information from the phone. The “off” automation was tested and we’ll see if they turn on tomorrow. I had a different brand outlet strip with more USB charging ports but it died in under a year. 

Tuesday - Even though it didn't rain (yet), it never really warmed up with a high in the low 60s (°F). We made a quick trip to Tractor Supply to pick up a few more items for our outdoor Christmas decorations and Walmart for a few "critical" grocery items. Critical items such as half-and-half for my coffee!

I joined the afternoon test session as there were three candidates. And I joined the VARG session at 7:00pm as there were five candidates signed up.

Wednesday - BTW, the automation running the TP-Link outlet strip works as it's supposed to. There really isn't a good site for identifying what works with HomeAssistant so there is some trial and error. I do have several WiFi-enabled relays that could be used either with 110VAC or 12VDC. So I'm thinking of installing a couple of them in the casita/shed. 

I mistakenly used up a good chunk of my iPhone and hotspot data plans as I had left auto-download updates enabled on my Mac. The last update was 14.4GB. Plus the Microsoft Office suite updated. Auto-update is now disabled.

Thursday - Another wet morning though the temperature is about the same as yesterday's high. I'm outside waiting for the morning test session to start after running (actually drove) into Hondo to get some groceries. I was planning to make pineapple fried rice yesterday but discovered that we didn't have any cashews. It just isn't the same without them. So we went to Cowboy's, a small restaurant in D'Hanis which is only about two miles away. The chicken fried steak was decent though not outstanding. I'd go there again. The park is actually located within D'Hanis though the post office is too small to handle the mail hence the Hondo mailing address.

This morning, I configured the TP-Link outlet strip to also work with Alexa. "Hey Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights" It seems to work…

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Rest of the Holiday Weekend

Saturday - It has been raining on and off for most of the day. All we had “scheduled” for today was helping out with Christmas decorations in the common areas. 

I just started the turkey breast that I had picked up last week. It’s in the sous vide for the next 24 hours. The bones are simmering and I might make a small pot pie as we have an extra pie crust in the fridge. 

This is one of those days when I’m glad to have a 50amp shore power connection. Heat pump, convection oven, sous vide, induction cooktop. No problem running everything at the same time. 

Sunday - Another cool-ish day with a high temperature of only 62°F with mostly cloudy skies. But it was windy this morning and that made it feel much colder. 

After the ice cream social, I went out to get a couple of pictures of the lights. The iPhone does on OK job on these night shots. I did use a small, tabletop tripod. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Black Friday

Friday - Nothing to do with any kind of shopping frenzy, but I did run into this while working in the compartment with the hydraulic pump and valves. It’s clearly a black widow spider. Not something I want around. A neighbor, who also happens to be another ham radio operator, let me use his gallon bottle of Ortho Home Defense. I sprayed it on the spider and what I’m assuming are egg sacks. Then vacuumed the whole compartment with the shop vac. Then emptied the shop vac into the dumpster. 

I guess I’ll be picking some up the next time we go into town. I’m installing switches to manually control the hydraulic pump and the solenoid valves which extend and retract the slides. There are two solenoids per slide one each for extend and retract. Plus, two switches for control of the hydraulic pump. I have a bank of six switches so I can control two slides. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving in Hondo

Tuesday - Today was another windy day but the temperatures are lower with today's high predicted to be in the mid-60s (°F). I picked up this folding aluminum table for the Blackstone as the head was deforming the plastic tabletop on the old table. It’s sturdy enough but folds up into a small carrying bag. We’ll see how long it lasts. 

Wednesday - An early start this morning. A bunch of guys meet for coffee early on Sunday and Wednesday and I’ve gone a few times already. I’ve met other ham radio guys and more than a few motorcycle riders (and quite a few former riders). As you might have guessed, they most are fascinated by the Ural. 

Thursday - Thanksgiving day. I volunteered to help in the kitchen to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. We met in the morning to prepare the turkeys, potatoes, and dressing. It went pretty quick as there were plenty of volunteers. 

And the dinner was wonderful! Bridget hosted our table of eleven people including a couple who have been full time RVers for 30 years!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Ural is On The Road

Thursday - I started the morning with a Ural ride to the Starbucks in Hondo. I’m not a real fan of their coffee, but I received an email that it is “Red Cup Day”. A free reusable Christmas-themed cup with any holiday drink. It was an excuse for a ride. Temperature was in the 50’s (°F), and sunny sky it was a very pleasant ride. And, after deciding to try and make butter chicken from scratch instead of using a bottled sauce, I needed a couple more ingredients which necessitated another trip into town on the Ural. Any reason for a ride. It's been quite a while.

I joined the afternoon test session after running a SpeedTest and getting over 80Mbps down and 9Mbps up. It should be enough for a reliable Zoom session. The picture shows my preferred location for doing these tests. This is the front of the casita. This inside is a little stuffy and will probably be used as a storeroom rather than a living space. But that's subject to change.

Friday - We ran some errands this morning at Home Depot, Petco, Target, and Lowe's. All of them were clumped together on the outskirts of San Antonio. It was about a 45-minute drive each way. It was in the upper 70s today so we needed to run the A/C when we arrived back at the RV. It was pretty warm.

I finally got around to checking the hydraulic fluid and the engine oil level after the 1100 mile trip from Cheyenne, WY, and I'm happy to report that all is well. Hydraulic fluid still is at the. "Cold-Full" line and the engine oil is halfway between add and full, which is where it was in Cheyenne.

Saturday - I got up early to watch the second SpaceX Starship launch this morning. The launch window was 7:00 - 7:20AM CST. A pretty short window which I’m guessing was due to the day of the week. It was partially successful and pretty impressive. 

After a test session, I finally got around to switching out the 60 amp circuit breaker with a 60 amp fuse. I really prefer breakers but the manufacturer, Renogy, says to use a fuse. We’ll see if this works any better. 

I then did a little trimming on the tree on our lot and used the Ural to haul the branches to the dumpster. Some people use golf carts for such tasks but the Ural works. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Still Raining

Sunday - It’s been raining for the last couple of days which has put a damper on me getting things done. And, it made driving around San Antonio somewhat less enjoyable, especially at night. 

Not much went on today. Maybe things will improve tomorrow…

Monday - More rain for much of the day. After the early test session, we headed west to Uvalde, which was a much larger town than Hondo. It had a Super Walmart, a much larger H-E-B, and a Walgreens. We found an unusual flavor, at least for us, cinnamon-cream cheese tamales at H-E-B. I wasn’t actually able to participate in the early session due to horrible Internet performance with Zoom. 

Wednesday - I had thought that I had lost the sidecar seat somewhere along our trip south. But, I found it in one of the bins that I had re-packed in Helena, MT. This is the same bin that had leaked due to a crack in the lid. I put things in the bin that could get wet. I also put the bin into the trailer upside down so any water that got in would drain out from the cracked lid. I checked the other containers on the trailer but they were all Action Packers and all of the contents were completely dry.

Yesterday was sunny so I was able to start unpacking things including unloading the Ural from the trailer. The rear tire had slid a bit to the side so it was no longer straight on the trailer. I think I want to add some sort of winch to the trailer to enable a more controlled load and unload process. I'm still not sure if I want to store the trailer in the storage lot or just leave it here next to the building or, as they are referred to around here, the casita. Internet speeds here have been really variable but it may have been partly due to the weather. I signed up for the mid-day test session so I'll see how it goes today.

After the test session, we went for a short ride to D'Hannis to make sure that the Ural still ran fine. The only problem is the left handgrip is loose and rotates easily. I need to find my handgrip cement. I remember packing it somewhere...

It was nice enough to do the afternoon test session outside. It's been a while since I've been able to do that.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Venturing Into San Antonio

Saturday - I participated in today's test session. In AK, it's in the morning, but now that I'm in the Central time zone, the test starts just before noon. It feels much later. After the test session, I will be heading to San Antonio. The first stop is Costco to pick up a couple of grocery items that I like. Then, Bridget will be flying in this evening into the San Antonio airport.

The afternoon traffic wasn’t horrible but San Antonio is a city so there was more than enough traffic.

After the Costco visit, I noticed a Jason’s Deli next door. Since I had over an hour before Bridget’s flight arrives, it seems to be a great dinner option. They have a fantastic salad bar and I had the quarter muffuletta. I had the muffuletta before when we were in Tucson and it is delicious basically a ham and salami sandwich with an olive salad all heated up on a panini press. 

Plus soft serve ice cream… 

Now, on to the cell phone and waiting area.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Working on the Slides

Friday - No traveling today! Feels rather nice to just be stationary again in the RV. This is the hydraulic valve assembly for the leveling jacks and the room slides. The upper row of four valves are for the leveling jacks and bottom two rows of five are for the room slides. The room slides have two valves as they move in and out with hydraulic pressure. The left hand row are to move the rooms out and the right hand row are to move the rooms in. The leveling jacks only use hydraulic pressure to extend the jacks. To retract the jacks, the valves are simply opened and springs are used to retract the jacks.

The valves are not labeled (big surprise) so it was just trial and error to identify the valves. The pair nearest pair is for the generator slide. The next one is for the kitchen slide. The next is the passenger side bedroom slide. The next is the drivers side bedroom slide. The furthest one in is for the living room slide. 

I needed to extend the kitchen slide and the drivers side bedroom slide. To extend those two, I opened up the valve manualy with a 1/4" socket a couple of turns. I then used the bedroom slide switch to actuate the hydraulic pump. I could've also use the generator slide switch on the dashboard. I still need to figure out why those two rooms have problems...

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Hondo,TX - LSC

Thursday - A 278-mile travel day today and I arrived at our leased RV lot around 1:30pm or so. After disconnecting the Jeep, I backed into the concrete parking spot and it's pretty level. Now, two of the slides have problems so that is tomorrow's task.

It has been raining on and off all day with winds from the west. Crosswinds aren't ideal for driving but it's a lot better than a headwind like I've had on previous days. Not much solar charging today just alternator charging through the DC-DC charger. The recommended fuse size for the input is 60amps but I installed a 60amp circuit breaker instead. It trips all the time. I believe that a fuse would handle short spikes above 60amps where the breaker trips immediately. So I have been running the 40amp DC-DC charger at only 20amps. Battery charging is very slow. The SoC when I left this morning was 49% and when I arrived here 5 hours later it was only 65%. I guess I will order a fuse now that we have a delivery address.

The engine in the RV ran really well on this 1100-mile trip. I would say that power was adequate. Enough that I really needed to keep an eye on my speed which I never needed to do in the past. With the cruise control set at 65mph, it would roll up and down the hills pretty much maintaining speed. Before, I needed to manually downshift and the RV was always floored to even make it up the hills. The engine temperature was pretty steady at 181°F to 197°F depending on the ambient temperature and steepness of the grade. And, no smoke at startup!

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Sweetwater, TX - HH

Wednesday - BTW, this is what LiFePO4 batteries look like when they are almost dead at ~5% SoC. The voltage drops dramatically. This is why they took so long to charge yesterday. 

Today’s short (213 miles) drive was to Sweetwater, TX, and I’m parked at the National WASP WWII Museum. It’s a cool museum with free admission. I’m told that there is a donation box. 

Several planes used for training including this twin engine Cessna. 

It was pretty windy both yesterday and today. Sometimes it was a head wind but today it was mostly a gusty cross wind. Not ideal. At 88°F, it’s nice to relax in the A/C here in the museum. Plus, there’s free WiFi. 

Tomorrow, it’s 270 miles to Hondo. It’ll be good to finally arrive. 

No Longer in CO - HH

Tuesday - The overnight stay at the Walmart was good. Fairly quiet as it closed at 11. This morning, I picked up some groceries. Mostly perishable items as we were limited to what fit into the portable fridge/freezer. 

A little after noon, I finally arrived in Texas (after a short jaunt through Oklahoma). The generator got a good workout today as the batteries were down to 5% this morning. I had the generator charging the batteries for around 5½ hours before they were fully charged. This was at 70-80amps so they were pretty discharged. Around 1:30, I turned on the roof A/C as it was 85°F. 

I arrive at my overnight stop around 3:15 or so. It is a winery which is part of the Harvest Host system. A reasonably flat parking spot, fast WiFi, and a nice glass of red wine to end the day with. 

Tomorrow, I split the distance to Hondo. I requested a stay in Sweetwater, TX, at another Harvest Host. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Lamar, CO

Monday - I finally picked up the RV from the shop. Note, not a trace of smoke from the crankcase vent or the tailpipe! It took a while to pick it up as there was paperwork to sort out. I purchased a 3-year warranty on the engine good at any Caterpillar shop. This replaces the one year warranty. 

After hooking up the Jeep and transferring the noisy cat, I took off around noon heading east then south to bypass Denver. Very pleasant to drive again. No overheating, no hesitation, no dash warnings, no drama. I drove 300 miles and arrived at the Lamar, CO, Walmart. I transferred most of the stuff from the Jeep and enjoyed a tasty Walmart deli dinner. 

The batteries were pretty dead when I arrived at the shop with a voltage around 11.6V. I plugged in the shore power and cranked up the Magnum to charge at 80 amps. While driving, the solar was charging as was the alternator through the DC-DC charger. For the last hour, I ran the generator. I don’t think the batteries are fully charged yet. As long as it gets me through the night here in the Walmart parking lot. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Getting Ready to Leave

Saturday - After the morning test session, the last one until I get to Texas, I went with Galen and Cindy to their grandson’s football game. Their last game was played last week in the sleet and snow so this is quite the change. It hit 74°F on yesterday’s drive through SE Colorado. Pretty nice weather. It’s nice to not need to drive somewhere for a couple of days. 

Tomorrow, I pack up the Jeep and on Monday I’ll pick up the motorhome and start heading south. It’s over a 1000 miles from Cheyenne so I’ll probably break it up into four days. Galen told me about a really cheap RV park in Amarillo so I may stay there an extra day. 

Friday, November 3, 2023

Heading North

Thursday - I left San Antonio around 8:30 this morning and there was a fair amount of commuter traffic but, shortly, I was on I-10W heading away from the city. I filled up the Jeep a couple of times and gas is cheaper in Texas. Regular is generally less than $3/gal. Yesterday at Costco, it was $2.649/gal. At 4:30, I stopped in Amarillo for the night after 510 miles. Pretty tired…

My motel is the Big Texan. The attached restaurant is best known for their 72oz steak dinner challenge. I did not take on the challenge but had a delicious rib-eye with salad and baked potato. It’s a very touristy place but the room was reasonably priced. 

The shop called and they can’t get a pressure relief valve for the hydraulic pump. A Freightliner part not a Caterpillar part.

Friday - An early-ish start this morning. At least early for me. Sunrise is at 8:10 so it’ll be nicer driving after that. The motel didn’t provide breakfast so I stopped a few miles down the road. It was 41°F this morning. 

Google says another 480 miles today. I was hoping to get a little farther yesterday but the hotel prices in Oklahoma and Colorado were much higher. 

The shop called and the RV is done! I’ll pick it up Monday morning and start heading south. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Hondo, TX

Wednesday - We left Lubbock this morning before sunrise. The hotel had a decent breakfast. Most of today’s driving was on secondary roads and, going across Texas takes a long time. 

We arrived at our RV lot around 3pm and unloaded the action packers and plastic bins from the trailer but left the Ural loaded. We then headed for Bridget’s hotel near the airport. She is flying to Fairbanks on Friday. 

The shop called and said that the motorhome runs great. The computer needed a bit of tweaking to get rid of the boost error. There is a leak on the hydraulic pump possibly something like an “O”-ring. So almost ready to pick up. I decided to stay here in San Antonio for the night and take two days to drive back to Colorado as it’s 978 miles according to Google. From Fort Collins to Hondo, it was 997 miles. And I’ll pick up the RV on Monday morning. They should have the leak fixed by then.