Sunday, November 30, 2014

The little flat green thing in the road, that's a Toad right??

In the RV community a Toad isn't little, probably not green, doesn't get squished flat (very often) and isn't even an animal.
A Toad is the nickname for the vehicle that gets dragged around behind the rig. 
The towed vehicle. Towed = Toad - get it? 
If you don't like Toad then Dinghy Vehicle or just "Dinghy" is another term, that one comes from the boat world where a sailboat will tow a small boat (named a Dinghy) behind it to use to go ashore when the big boat is anchored away from the beach.


That white car is tailgating us again!

You've probably seen an RV sailing along pulling a little car or a Jeep behind it. Looks easy but it takes a little planning.

First off you can't tow any vehicle, at least not with all 4 wheels on the ground (called Flat Towing or 4 Down). It takes a little research to find a vehicle that can be towed flat. Jeeps are good candidates as are Honda CRV's. Saturns used to be popular but they quit making them. 

We bought a Ford Fiesta. Whatever it is, it is essential to check that the manufacturer approves of it being towed and what conditions they might specify for towing. 

Our Fiesta has a routine that has to be followed or the transmission can be wrecked. First put on the parking brake, turn on the ignition, shift the transmission to neutral and wait for a "Transmission Ready" message on the information screen, turn off the ignition, then DISCONNECT THE NEGATIVE CABLE FROM THE BATTERY, Then you can tow it as far as you like but don't exceed 70mph.

Attention, Attention Will Rodgers. Having owned this Fiesta for 3 years now and having put only 35,000 miles on it I would NEVER EVER buy a Fiesta again. The transmissions are terrible and ours has had major repairs already. They are all the same and Ford have had to extend the warranty on the transmissions to 150,000 miles to try and calm the angry owners.

ANOTHER UPDATE.
We now have close to 60,000 miles on the Fiesta, it's had 4 major transmission repairs under the extended warranty from Ford. After the last ne they told us "NO MORE" they now claim all the rattling, lurching and hesitating is "NORMAL" for this transmission and we will have to live with it. Obviously nobody would buy a used car with a transmission in this condition so we are now in a "Mass Action Suit" (Not the same as a Class Action) against Ford. I personally do not recommend anyone buy a Ford vehicle with this or a similar computer controlled geared transmission. Ford Fiesta, Focus and Fusion vehicles are all cursed with this same problem.
BUYER BEWARE!!

Other vehicles have completely different set ups for towing and some can be towed if you have changes made to the drive train such as devices to uncouple the drive-shaft in rear wheel drive vehicles.

Some vehicles can only be towed on a trailer or a "Tow Dolly" which lifts the front wheels of the vehicle on to a 2 wheel trailer so the drive wheels don't go round while moving.

So then off you go towing? 

Nope. There is a Tow Bar between the RV and the Toad. That needs to be rigidly attached to the Toad, This requires that a subframe be installed that attaches to the toad chassis. 
The subframe is behind the radiator grille the two prongs sticking out are where the tow bar attaches and they can be removed when not in use

Some method of using the toads rear lights for brake lights, running lights and turn signals needs to be worked out. Some can be tied straight into the existing lights with diodes to isolate the power from the RV from the toad electrics. Ours has a new bulb holder installed in the rear lights that connects directly to the RV and has no connection at all to the toad.



Fiesta ready to roll

Tow Bar, safety cables and electrical cord set, and the "Y" shaped legs of the tow bar locked.


Off we go!

No. 
Because of the weight of the toad, some kind of braking system needs to be installed so that in an emergency when you jam on the RV brakes, the brakes in the toad also come on and help keep the whole ensemble stable. Various systems use inertia, the brake light switch, air or electric actuators to achieve the desired result.

Tow now? 

Sure just as soon as you attach the tow bars, safety cables/chains and electrical cord and set up the brake system in the toad, pump the brakes a couple of times to set them up, go thru the transmission tow routine, Check the lights are working, take the parking brake off and check the tow bar is locked.

If you're like me you'll be watching the toad in the rear view camera for the first 5 miles hoping it doesn't suddenly fall off.

And believe me all this stuff is NOT CHEAP.

Our rig with the toad behind it is 55 FEET LONG! The whole thing loaded and ready to go weighs 10 TONS. Please don't cut in front of a loaded rig, he's leaving the gap in front so he can stop if there's an emergency. Plan ahead and slow down behind him if you're nearing your exit. 
THANKS BnB


Thursday, November 27, 2014

So then we just kick back and relax

Sure kick back and relax. 

Park the rig, put out the chairs and pop the top on a cold beer. Doesn't get much easier than that does it??

Oh boy.

First off there's the toad. Do you unhitch it before you get into the site or after? The answer to that is "It depends". If there is room you can drive right in so long as it's a "Pull Thru" space. If it's a back in space then you cannot, repeat CANNOT, back up with the toad on so you better unhook it before you get to the campsite. But where to unhook it? It needs to be somewhere level so the car doesn't roll off down a big steep hill when you unhook it. Somewhere that you're not blocking the access road into the campground.

So that's the toad taken care of.

Now you park and get the beer? No first you have to check the electrical pedestal is safe to use.

Beer?

No, the rig has to be level to use the slide out so you have to assess if there's a slope front to back or side to side and arrange blocks under the jacks to take care of the slope. 

Danger, Danger Will Rodgers!
Here's something I learned. If there is a steep slope to your campsite park the rig so the rear wheels are at the high end. Then when you use the jacks to level the rig the rear tires don't come off the ground. Why is that important? Because the parking brake works on the rear wheels only and if you get those wheels off the ground the rig can skate down the slope on the baseplates of the jacks. (I didn't have to find this out the hard way, a friendly fellow camper wised me up)

Then get in the rig and deploy the hydraulic leveling jacks to get things level. Hopefully the blocks you put out where enough and in the right place or you will have to pull the jacks up and put more blocks out. Now you can put the slide out. And bring it back in again when you realize you got the drapes for the front window caught between the slide and the wall, OK then you put it out again. Whew.

Beer?

No, now you have to get the water, sewer and electric hooked up and run the water in the rig so you get any air out and make sure there's enough flow because if there isn't you might have to replace a filter. If it's a hot day you'll be sweating by now.

Beer?

Not just yet, if the campsite is dirt you'll want to put out the outdoor rugs to stop tramping the dirt into the rig, And stake them down or they'll end up in the next county when the wind blows while you are away from the campsite.

Beer?

No, you'll want to get the chairs and tables out and set up so you can enjoy the fresh air. Sit the cooler with that wonderful cool beer where you can get to it.

Great! Time for that beer at last.

Not quite. You'll need to put out the awning for shade or for protection from the rain and stake that down so it doesn't join your outdoor rugs wherever they went to. And just for fun we have awning on all the windows so there's 3 more to pull out before that delicious beer.

Wait no beer yet. 

The food is in the cooler because the refrigerator wasn't cold when you left home so seeing that it got cool as you drove here you can put it in the fridge now.

Keep your hands off the beer! There's work to do.

Get inside and set the TV antenna, scan the local stations, move the antenna if needed. Check the cell phone/internet signal and if it's weak set up the phone booster or set your wireless router to pick up the free internet at the campground. Find the chargers for the phones, tablets, kindles, computer, cameras and plug them all in so they are charged when you need them and stagger out to sit in the shade and sip that oh so cool tasty beer!

No. 

You have to put the windshield shade in place and pull the drapes across so you don't have to do it tonight when it's dark.

Ready for that beer?

Just go round and open the windows first so there's a nice breeze.
That beer will taste good right after we change into our shorts and flip flops.

Wait! That's it we're setup!

Except for the tire covers if we're staying more than a couple of days.

Pop....fizzzz...sip....AAAHHHHH!

I love RV'ing it's so easy you just drive in put out the chairs, kick back and relax with a cold beer.

Thanks and regrets

I heard that a friend and colleague passed away this morning. Dennis was a warm friendly guy that knew his stuff and gladly shared his knowledge and experience. He had a joke when you needed one and some sage advice for those times he thought you needed a helping hand.

Dennis had a terrible time for the last 10 years. In the space of a couple of years his wife died, his dad died, his brother died. All one after the other.
Then he found out that the spot on his lung due to asbestos exposure was growing. They gave him less than a year. He was pretty down and I casually remarked that he still had his dog for company. Then the dog died. He hung on another 7 years,
So what could he find to give thanks about?
Dennis remarried fairly late in life, him and his first wife had no children, his second wife had 2 daughters. They became the loves of his life and they took care of him as much as he took care of them. I believe he loved them as much as a man can love another human being and he delighted in their company.
Dennis was a dedicated Boy Scout as a kid and loved to talk about the camping and hiking he did back then. We'd sit and talk when we were travelling to some ship in some far off place like Guam or Japan we both loved Scouting. We both used to watch cowboy movies and we both had Davy Crockett Coonskin hats when that movie came out in the 50's.

We didn't always agree on things. I know for a fact that Roy Rodgers was the true "King of the Cowboys" but Dennis insisted Gene Autry was a better singer.

We regularly traveled together. Dennis didn't drink, but put up with me. I had a thing about always getting a Mai Tai if we stopped in Hawaii, and when we went out to Guam we always had to change planes in Honolulu. On one trip we were on the airport bar and I was working my second Mai Tai when Dennis asked what time our flight to Guam left. I said I thought we had a couple of hours. Denny checked his ticket and dragged me out of there with enough time to squeeze thru the airplane door as it closed!


Dennis always wore a blue shirt, blue jeans, a pocket protector and black shoes. It didn't matter where you were. He must have owned 20 blue shirts. Ask him and he'd tell you "I like blue shirts".

The picture of him is on Guam, it's the most remote beach on the north of the island and tough to get to. It was scorching hot that day. I wore flip flops, shorts and a tee shirt. Dennis?



Denny I know you have found peace at last and relief from your suffering. We'll all miss you.
Thanks for being part of my life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Just a little off center

If you are driving on Interstate 8 going east towards Yuma you see off to the left a church on a hill seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Well it turns out that it's not in the middle of nowhere at all, it's the exact center.


 The center of the world that is....

The church at Felicity CA

But how can this be the center of the world? Even the population sign says "Population 0". The facility that this is based in has apartments for rent, Barbara thinks when the people leave the apartments and go to work they take the number of people displayed on the sign off and hang up the "0" until they get home and then they hang "2" up again.
But this IS the center of the world, it says so right on the sign and it's been recognized as such by the Government. Well the FRENCH Government at least. Seems there is a big French influence here in Felicity. 

The mayor is French which explains this:

What the heck is a spiral staircase doing out in the desert? That's not just ANY spiral staircase, it's a piece of the spiral staircase that was removed from the Eiffel Tower, yes the one in Paris France. Apparently when they renovated the tower in the 90's they auctioned off parts of the staircase. The mayor being French bought a piece and there it is. Out in the desert.

But the center of the world, where would you keep the center of the world? Why in a pyramid of course! A pyramid out in the desert.

With Micheal Angelo's arm of God pointing it out, in case you missed it.

Handily enough the arm of God is also a sun dial so if your watch has stopped you know the time.

The arm of God also seems to have a message for Barbara too.

So what does the center of the world look like? Some impressive, monolith? A glowing, glittering object with sound effects?

Nope it's a bronze plate about 12" in diameter. For an extra $2 per person you can get a certificate saying you were there and can have a picture of you standing on it. 

Wow what a tourist trap we'd never do anything like that.



Between the pyramid and the church is a kind of "Garden" and there is a radial set of walls about 4' high made of concrete and clad in red granite. Engraved on the granite are various things. The history of Arizona, The history of California, The history of the mankind! There is a monument to the Marines who died in the Korean War. There's a history of the French Aerospace Industry (That French Connection again) and a history of the French Foreign Legion. Don't the French have any granite of their own?? There's a history of Art it goes on and on. 

Only about 20% of the walls are filled in as yet, the guide says about another 10 years of engraving and they'll be done. It's engineered to last 4,000 years. I hope the engraver doesn't make many spelling mistakes, that granite would be hard to erase.

At the opposite end of the site on a hill (A man made hill...)
There's a non denominational church/chapel that is quite simple on the outside and the inside, but it is a restful place and we liked it.



But yet it all feels OFF CENTER. 
I mean, what possessed somebody to construct this out in the middle of nowhere? How did they pay for it? Where did they go? Will it ever get finished? Will they bring the rest of the Eiffel Tower here to join back to the staircase?
Do the aliens come down when it's dark and read the inscriptions?


Apparently the origin of this was a children's book about a dragon at the center of the world. Well why not? Kids have great imaginations.

But at least now you know, that's what the church on the hill just west of Yuma on Interstate 8 is. The center of the World of course.









Sunday, November 23, 2014

What bright spark let the smoke out?

I guess seeing as I've rambled on about sewer and water I should reveal how little I know about electric too.

Our rig has a few choices for power. The engine has it's own battery just like the one in your car. It's charged by the alternator when you drive and is used to start the engine and power the vehicle lights if the engine isn't running. The difference with our rig is that it can also get charged if the rig is connected to the 110 volt power supply in a campground.

DANGER< DANGER, WILL ROGERS!!
<Since writing this we had a battery episode and it turns out that the chassis battery DOES NOT GET CHARGED ON SHORE POWER> (at least on our particular rig it doesn't)

Also if for some reason the battery for the engine (Called the Chassis Battery in RV's) is dead then there is a switch on the dash that makes the battery that powers the rest of the rig (The Coach or House Battery) switch over to power the engine to start the engine. The coach battery or batteries are separate from the chassis batteries (our has 2 but some rigs have 6 or 8). On our rig the coach batteries are by the generator and the chassis battery is in the engine compartment similar to a car. The engine alternator will also charge the coach batteries while you drive along.

All this naturally is 12 volt. Our coach batteries will provide basic lighting and the power for the controls to the fridge and water heater. It won't power the microwave, TV, VCR A/C or any of the outlets around the coach all of which need 110 volt.
So where does the 110 volt come from?

Our rig has a generator that runs on gas, it's under the rig in it's own compartment. If there is nowhere to plug the rig into then the generator will provide enough power for the accessories mentioned above, plus it will simultaneously charge up first the chassis battery and when that is fully charged it will switch to charging the coach batteries. This way if you are boon docking for an extended period you can fire up the generator and put enough charge in the batteries for the evening. Naturally you could run the generator at night too but it's considered rude to do so as the generator is fairly noisy and can spoil other camper's enjoyment. If you are somewhere hot you can run the A/C system to cool down while on the generator. Our rig can run the 2 A/C's at the same time on generator power. That is very nice but you can't run everything at the same time as the generator produces a limited amount of power and if too many things are turned on at the same time then a breaker will pop.

ATTENTION ATTENTION WILL ROGERS.
Another discovery we have made (the hard way) is that the generator draws fuel from the RV gas tank. As a safety measure the generator won't draw fuel of the tank is below 1/4 full. That way you can't run your main tank dry using the generator and leave yourself stranded. So if your generator suddenly stops check your fuel gauge. 

If you have partial or full hookups at a campground then you can plug the rig in and use 110 volt power without the generator. Campgrounds have "Pedestals", one for each site (Hopefully) usually they are next to the water faucet and the sewer connection and on the left side of the vehicle which is where RV's are set up for hook ups. 
At the pedestal, We are plugged in to the 30 amp outlet. The one on the right is a 50 amp outlet. The box hanging down is the surge protector.

Older and smaller rigs have a 30 amp service. That means that you have a maximum of 30 amps of 110 volt current available. In effect that usually means you could run 1 A/C unit and maybe the the microwave, but if you try to turn on a second A/C or the toaster then a circuit breaker will pop and spoil the fun. So you have to be aware of what you are running.

Big modern rigs have 50 amp service so you can run more stuff but there is still a limit. The plugs and sockets for 30 amp and 50 amp services are different and so a 50 amp plug won't fit in a 30 amp socket and vice versa. You can buy adapters that will let you use them together but it won't let you use 50 amps in a 30 amp rig because the wiring and breaker panels are still sized for 30 amp. Conversely you can plug a 50 amp plug with an adapter into a 30 amp pedestal but you won't be able to get more than 30 amps and the breaker on the pedestal will trip if you try. You can also get an adapter that will let you plug unto a household outlet. This is good if you want to charge the batteries at home but there isn't enough energy to power much more than the TV
.
The electrical systems on a rig are pretty smart. In our rig if we are plugged into a pedestal and start the generator the system will isolate the pedestal power and just use the generator power to avoid voltage issues. While all this is happening the rig is happily charging the coach batteries too.

So all is well in the electrical department right? Wrong!

Campgrounds have a nasty reputation for poor power supplies. Due to the large number of rigs plugged in to the supply the voltage can drop below 110 v,  thunderstorms etc can cause voltage spikes. Some pedestals can get damaged or were improperly wired by the campground handyman. All of these can and will damage the very expensive electrical and electronic equipment in your rig. Luckily there are testers, surge protectors and low voltage protection devices available. The one in the picture above has a test function built in so I plug that into the pedestal first, turn on the breaker and look to make sure I have a green and 1 red light. If not I don't plug the rig in. Always do this before hooking up the sewer and water because an incorrectly wired pedestal can cause electric shocks. If it's not right find a site that's wired properly. If everything looks good I turn the breaker back off, plug the electrical cord from the rig into the surge protector and turn the breaker back on. Knowing what I know now if I was buying a surge protector for the first time I'd buy one with low voltage protection. Low voltage can be just as harmful as a spike but low voltage is much more common

To complicate things a little, all the lights in the rig are 12 volt even when the rig is plugged into the pedestal or running on the generator. There is a transformer that takes care of that. Also the controls for the fridge, A/C and water heater require 12 volts even though the water heater runs on propane and the fridge is just a wonderful thing that can run on propane, 110 volt or even 12 volt automatically. If you are running one of the A/C units then switching the fridge manually to propane might allow you to run another appliance on 110 volt without tripping the breaker. Perhaps.

Some people who do a lot of boon docking add solar panels and voltage controllers/smart chargers that recharge multiple batteries. They then run Inverters that convert the 12 volt battery power to 110 volt AC power which can in turn power the TV, A/C fridge on AC power and whatever else they want until the sun goes down and the batteries die. There is a whole other subculture of solar power and power converter fans that talk a different language than the rest of us and know what "Power Density" is and why it's important.

So now you get it right?

If you do then write it down and tell me because I'm still learning....

Friday, November 21, 2014

And water flows down hill

I work on ships for a living. designing the systems that make them work. In very many cases the systems on a ship are the same as those on an RV. How so I hear you ask?

Well a ship floats on the ocean, it has an engine that pushes it around. It has a crew that live on the ship and so it has cabins for them to sleep in, dining rooms for them to eat in. It has bathrooms for the crew's use with hot and cold water systems, sewage and gray water systems, power and lighting, ventilation, storage, refrigeration and food prep areas for food. Steering systems, fuel storage. all these things have to go along with the ship when it pulls away from the pier.

An RV rolls along the road, the owners live on board, there is a sleeping area, a dining area. There's a bathroom, hot and cold water, sewage and gray water, power and lighting, ventilation, storage, a refrigerator and food prep area. Steering and fuel storage. All these things have to go along with the rig when it pulls out of your driveway.

A rig doesn't float for long if you drive it into the ocean (Except for 1 very expensive unit), but then again a ship doesn't do that well on the freeway at 60 mph.

One common saying when designing piping systems for ships is "Poop don't float and water flows downhill" a huge simplification but a good thing to think about when you're working around sewage and water systems!

I talked about black and grey water in another page of this blog. Now I suppose I ought to give fresh water an equal amount of coverage.

Drinking water is described technically as Potable Water. Because we are going to drink it it's a good thing to take a little bit more care when setting things up. First thing is to get it clean and keep all the hoses etc used for drinking water clean and separate from garden hoses and sewage hoses etc. You can get VERY sick drinking contaminated water. 

The term "Blowing it out of both ends" gets the message across I believe. If you've experienced that sad condition you'll be ready to listen to some helpful hints.

To keep things clean and disinfected isn't hard. Simple Chlorox Bleach will very effectively sanitize everything connected with the rigs fresh water systems. http://rvbasics.com/techtips/sanitizing-your-rv-fresh-water-system.html 1/4 cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water in the tank will clean the tank. So for my 100 gallon tank I'd need about 1 3/4 cups. If you are like me and you've never done this before you'll find yourself standing at the water connection to the rig with a bottle of bleach in one hand and a measuring cup in the other and you'll have no idea how to get the bleach into the tank!!

To save you going online to find out I'll tell you. Connect the hose to the tank, pour the bleach into the hose (Use a clean funnel if you need to), then connect the hose to a faucet and turn the water on! As long as you keep the open end of the hose above the the level of the connection to the tank the chlorox stay in the hose.  (water flows down hill remember). Wow that worked. But you don't need to fill the whole tank just to sanitize it. You can get away with putting about 25 gallons of chlorinated water in and driving the rig around so the water splashes around inside. That way you could do it on the way to a campground and fill the tank when you get there. If the tank has not been used for several months you might want to run the faucets and shower for a couple of minutes to get the mixture thru all the piping in the rig and dump the contents of the tank before you fill it completely. You can't be too safe with drinking water. The measurements for the amount of chlorox and the amount of water in the tank are not exact, you can be just "In the ballpark" and it'll be fine.

Here are some good things to have along as part of your fresh water "Kit"

A pressure regulating valve. This screws on to the water faucet at your campsite. Water pressure can vary immensely from campground to campground. If the pressure gets over around 50 psi it can burst your hose and cause bursts and or leaks in the rig itself.

A white food grade hose to connect the rig to the faucet. If you have a long one and a short one you can couple them if the faucet is unusually far from the rig. It also gives you a spare if one bursts and there is no store locally to buy a new one.

A "Y" connector with shut off valves. This lets you use 2 hoses at the same time. Why would you need that? Well when you are breaking down the campsite for the trip home you are going to be handling the sewage hose and draining the sewage tanks. You'll want to wash the hose out when you're done before you pack it away. You don't want to use your drinking water hose for that. You also don't want to be using your dirty (contaminated) hands and/or gloves to undo the drinking water hose so you can put on a garden hose to rinse the sewer hose. When you finish rinsing the sewerhose you are going to want to wash you hands with soap and water. It's easier to do this in the rig rather that using a garden hose. With a Y connector you can easily leave both connected until you're done.

A backflow preventer. The National Plumbing Code requires these, The stop possibly contaminated water that has been sitting in hoses for possibly months from getting back into the piping and contaminating your drinking water system. Some pressure regulator valves have this built in.

Spare washers. Most leaks around faucets, valves and hoses are the result of old worn out washers. They harden with age and tightening the fitting until it screams for mercy won't stop the leaks. A new fresh washer will, unless you distorted the fitting last time you used the channel locks to try and stop a leak.


Here's our setup right to left: Campground faucet, pressure regulator. Y connector, white drinking water hose, green garden hose for washing out sewer hoses.

FILTERS! A simple two filter setup between the faucet and the rig will make life good. The filter nearest the faucet should be a particulate filter, it will keep dirt, mud, insects and other small bits and pieces that may be in the piping going to the faucet from ending up in your morning cup of coffee. The second filter should be a carbon filter of some description. Carbon absorbs bad tastes and smells in the water which is a good thing. A lot of campgrounds are on well water rather than city water because they are out in the country. That's not a bad thing but there may be sediment in the water and some tastes and smells you may not find pleasant. (http://blog.budgetwater.com/smelly-water/2011/common-causes-and-solutions-to-smelly-water/). These filters are reasonably priced and last several months to a year depending on how much sediment is in the water. (One campground we go to can plug a new filter in a weekend and the filter housing looks like its full of mud when I open it).


The right side is the particulate filter and the left the carbon filter.
Water flows from right to left.

The connection to our rig. The lever directs water to the coach (as set here) or to the water tank for filling it prior to going boondocking.


Rubber gloves. If you are playing around with sewer hoses you'll want some of these. I find you need heavy duty ones because the thin latex type will tear as soon as you try twisting the hose to unlock it from the rig.

Hand sanitizer. Good to have close by if there's a spill.

If you want good prices for this stuff shop at the big box hardware stores and not the camping store. It's the same stuff but half the price.

There are lots of sources for this information on line. I like iRv2.com and escapees.com for advice and answers to questions. 

Remember I'm a NEWBIE too so there may be some things I missed or got wrong.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Time to roll, what the poop??

We've been camping 20 times so far this year since we bought the Rexhall but only for weekends.

We've tried camping with all the connections water, sewer and electric. That's called "Full Hookups"


All set up. Sewer, water and electric.

We've camped with water and electric. That's called "Partial Hookups" and means that the Sewer and Sink drain connections, called Black and Gray Water respectively have to be held in the tanks that are built into the vehicle and they have to be emptied manually. Overfilling the gray water can have water backing up into the shower pan which is not usually a disaster. Overfilling the black tank has sewage overflowing which IS a disaster and a very smelly one! 
To empty the tanks you have 2 choices. You can drive the vehicle to a "Dump Station". Most campgrounds that only have partial hookups have such a station somewhere on the premises. Or some places have what's known as a "Honey Wagon" which is a service that comes by your campsite on request and hooks up your tanks to his big tank and takes away the stuff you don't want to think about! Good thing about the Honey Wagon is you don't have to pull in the awnings, disconnect the electric and water to go to the dump station.

We've also camped without any connections at all. That's called "Dry Camping" or if you are somewhere remote "Boondocking". Variations on the theme are staying overnight at places where it's permitted such as some Walmart locations, Cracker Barrel restaurants, Truck Stops etc. There is a whole subculture of Boondockers with websites and cell phone apps to share good locations. In order to Boondock you have to bring along your own water too and the vehicle is equipped with a fresh water tank. Hopefully the manufacturer calculated the sizes of all the tanks so they last about the same time before filling up. Our rig has 100 gallons of fresh water, 40 gallons of black water and 40 gallons of gray water capacity which is good for about 4 days.
Boondocking in the desert with Toyboxes full of ATV;s etc.


Having said all that and tried them we are happy to camp with whatever is available. If we are going to Boondock though we have to think ahead and fill the fresh water tank before we leave. We don't travel with it full normally because 100 gallons of water weighs 800 lbs (close to 1/2 a ton!) and we don't need to be dragging that up and down hills.

We (For we, read ME) screwed up last weekend. We were staying in a full hookup site but only for 3 days. Generally when you set up for full hookups you connect the sewer hose to the rig and put the other end in the sewer drain. The black water tank valve is left closed so that the tank fills with ... well you know what a sewer tank fills with!! The reason for letting it fill is to keep the solids in suspension in the liquids in the tank. (I bet you just put you breakfast sandwich to one side right?). When the tank is nearing full you open the drain valve and the contents drain out. You can do this as many times as is convenient. The gray tank valve is usually left open, it's just soapy water so it flows right out. The day before you want to leave however it is good practice to close the gray water valve for a day to let that tank fill a little. The reason for this is to use this water to flush the sewer hose before you put everything away. 
In our rig the grey water valve is on the left and the handle is gray.
Note the clear plastic section in the hose so you can tell when the tank is clean after it gets washed,

Now I screwed up because I decided that 3 days wouldn't fill the gray tank so I'd just leave it closed and flush the hose out with a full tank of gray. What I didn't plan on was that the cold water faucet in the bathroom started leaking and a few times we went into the bathroom and found it running slowly. It must have run thru the night a couple of times. When Barbara took a shower on our last day the water backed up into the shower pan. No problem, I pulled the gray valve and it drained right down. What I didn't know was that the water got out of the shower pan under the shower and got into the carpet and backing. A day later it started to smell damp and musty. I learned that lesson, always leave the gray valve open until the day before we leave. I also fixed the faucet and put some spare washers in the parts kit.

I painted the house.. what can I paint next?

A couple of years ago I decided to try and draw our grand daughter Kaitlynd's face from a photograph. She lives in England and we don't get to see her nearly enough. The drawing was AWFUL and I bought a book on how to draw portraits from photographs. 
I kept trying and practicing and things got a little better. Barbara found free portrait classes thru the local community college and I got to practice painting live models.
Then I stumbled across www.paintbasket.com and immediately started making major improvements. I started painting motorcycle portraits and I have my own website http://scouserl41.wix.com/brian-downing that shows some of my work.
I really enjoy drawing and painting, I love to talk about my work too so feel free to stop and talk if you see me out under the awning slapping paint on a canvas.


I painted this portrait of Bob and De with the Rexhall
Bob passed away about 4 years ago.
I gave this to De as a token of how delighted we were that she let us buy her rig.
We'll take care of it and enjoy it De.


Kaitlynd



A fabulous Harley



The Point Loma lighthouse San Diego


Blue Hibiscus












Yuma or bust

This week we are leaving for Yuma Arizona for an Escapees Chapter 25 Rally (www.escapees.com) at the Yuma Balloon Fest. The Thanksgiving holiday is the following week so we're going to stay in Yuma for the whole week. This will be our longest trip to date. 
Rather than load up with food etc before we leave as we do on weekend trips, we're just going to take enough for a day or so and shop when we get there. This will cut down on the weight we have to drag up the big hills inland from San Diego. 
We'll be towing the Fiesta with us so that once we get the rig set up in the campsite we won't have to move the RV just to go shopping. We'll also be taking our bicycles along so we can get some exercise and go short distances without the car. Altogether we'll be pretty well provided with transportation!
Kitchen sink? Where did we put the kitchen sink??

Our last weekend at Pio Pico Thousand Trails campground got kind of cool in the evenings. The seasons don't change much in San Diego, pretty much nice all year round! We love it that way but sometimes we forget that it can't be perfect every time. We had to turn the heating on at Pio Pico and expect we will have to do the same in Yuma. These desert areas of the South West stay warm all winter and have wonderful blue skies 90% of the time. The problem is that those same clear skies let all that nice daytime warmth vanish as soon as the sun goes down. 

I have camped at Agua Caliente for several New Years Motorcycle weekends and it can be 80+ in the day. Then around 4.30pm the sun goes down behind the mountains and the temperatures drops into the 40's. That's just fine by me too, I sleep better when I'm curled up in a sleeping bag with cold air on my face. And the stars, OOHH, the stars! 
We lay on our backs one evening and just looked at the stars for a couple of hours. I had been talking about the night sky on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and how we'd seen satellites going across the sky. One of the guys suggested that I was making that up, no way could a person see satellites with the naked eye. So we lay on our backs and showed him what one looks like. 

If you've never seen it for yourself you need to get somewhere where there is no light pollution, like out on the desert or up in the mountains away from cities. Find the clearest evening possible, walk out away from your campsite and the lights around the campground, then lay flat on your back and stare at the stars. You'll see airplanes with their flashing lights go by at all altitudes, ignore them. Keep looking and soon you'll notice one of the stars is moving slowly across the sky. It's slower than the airplanes and doesn't have flashing lights. That's a satellite! I can do that for hours. Before long you start seeing them going in different directions, it's really something.

I'm taking my painting stuff with me and I have a new commission to paint a friend on his new motorcycle. 
See my artwork at http://scouserl41.wix.com/brian-downing. Barbara doesn't like to get up very early and I frequently wake at 5 am so I find I can paint in the morning and enjoy the fresh morning air and a cup of coffee while she sleeps. I'll have my camera and video camera, computer, tablet, cell phone, and if there is a decent signal that will give us WiFi. We have TV if we can get a signal with our digital antenna. If not and we need a TV fix we have a DVD player and some DVD's in the coach. And there will be beer and wine in the fridge, the barbecue set up outside with a couple of comfortable chairs. 
Heck what am I sitting here typing this for? I need to hit the road.

Not sure this is my favorite stretch of road !

Hard at work
The co-driver ever watchful

We arrived at the Riverfront RV Park around 1pm thursday. After a liesurely drive with a stop for a sandwich in a rest area (We LOVE this RV life). We were thinking we'd be one of the first to arrive but we forgot that the Escapees are nearly all retired folks so instead we were near the last! Fun folks though and this is our chance to get to meet them. It's our first RV Rally and the first camping trip longer than a weekend. 

 Sunset Thursday
Sunrise Saturday


Sunrise Sunday

Escapees

Somebody explains something to somebody else

A picturesque RV Park Office

The Balloon Fest, what the trip was all about
Wednesday. All the Escapees have left and the park is about 50% full now. We signed up for the Thanksgiving Pot Luck on Thursday at 1pm. It'll be another first for us. 
Yesterday and today we drove around and shopped. The roller blind over the entrance door to the rig stopped rollering. I carefully measured the existing one and we went to Lowes where they cut a new one to my exact measurements. 
My exactly WRONG measurements!! 
Luckily they cut the first one from a remnant so it only cost us $3,50 for my mistake. Today we took the old blind in and they cut it using that as a pattern so it fits. We also bought a gadget that will let us stream web content to our TV. We got that home and when I opened the box it was empty! Take that back tomorrow!! Still we did get some excellent pizza. If you are in the Foothills area try Da Boyz pizza it was the best we've had in years.
We've been shopping around for a shop to re-upholster our sofa and maybe the recliner which are old and starting to show it. It ain't going to be cheap but we think we've found a shop we like. The prices are pretty much the same wherever we go but this shop will let us park the rig in it's locked compound and will dismantle everything, do the work and put it all back together again for the same price. They offered to let us dry camp the night we drop it off and the night we pick it up in their compound for free. That could be the clincher. We brought samples of the material back to the rig and we think we have the one we like. 
The sofa complete with towels to hide it!

We'll take the samples back tomorrow and on Saturday we'll take the rig there for them to get a good look at. We will dry camp there Saturday night. If things work out we'll camp at Agua Caliente the next weekend, drop the rig at the place Sunday night then drive the Fiesta back to San Diego that night. They'll have the rig for 2 weeks then we'll pick it up on our way to Casa Grande where we are spending Xmas and New Years.
We're excited!! 
Yuma Territorial Prison Museum



Riverfront RV Park Thanksgiving Pot Luck

Now that's Thanksgiving weather. 80 degrees!

Castle Dome Mine Museum and Ghost Town

The Castle Dome and the church


A happy camper