This was our 2013 Jayco Flight Swift 198 RD


Thursday, 31 December 2015

What an ordeal

 “I could have kissed the ground” this phrase would be very familiar with our boating friends and it crossed my mind when we arrived at our RV site in Robertsdale, Alabama on Monday night.  The weather had been severe in many parts of the country this past week and we had our share of torrential downpours for hours on end while coming down from Canada, which made the driving very intense. Benno displayed nerves of steel while I was beside myself with fear watching helplessly as rain gushed down with such an intensity as if aimed from a fire hose, which reduced our visibility to about a car length in front of us, all the while we were crawling along at 40 mph on the highway while pulling our travel trailer. 

We left Canada last Saturday in dry weather. A friendly officer swift and effortlessly conducted our border crossing and since we had nothing to declare a few minutes later we were on our way.  On the agenda were filling up the truck with fuel including our spare jerry cans. That chore didn’t take long. 
Next, we needed to stock up on food items that were restricted to import to the USA from Canada at the border plus some things from the Aldi supermarket that are not available in Canada. There is a fairly new Camping World store at the Sportsman Drive in Toledo/Rossford, Ohio very close to the I-75 on Exit 193.  It is right in the middle of a shopping mecca with all the stores you could or would want and within view of a Pro Bass store the size of a football field or bigger. Kroger, Meijers, Aldi, Super Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. and tons of restaurants, including Cracker Barrel, you name it, you got it.

After picking up an item for the camper, the parking lot of the Camping World store became our rest spot for the night among other smart parked RVs folks.  After the stores closed down the streets quieted down and the night was peaceful. However, in the morning it started to rain but not too bad. Later on the rain stopped and the driving was good. 
Because the Epic Rainstorm (the media called it that) was in the forecast, we had decided to take the I-75 south until Chattanooga, Tennessee and not the I-71 past Cincinnati toward our southern gateway the I-65.  At exit #19 right next to the I-75 past Dayton, Ohio is a large Ikea store where we pulled in to have lunch at their cafeteria and to stretch our legs while walking through the showrooms. We’ve been to that particular Ikea store before and could not resist purchasing a thing or two every time.  This Sunday was no exception. Refreshed and happy with our new gadget our trek south continued with some rain, heavy at times. Towards nightfall we looked for options to park with our camper for the night but two of the possibilities we didn’t like at all and hated that we had wasted precious time looking.  The idea to spend a night at a Walmart parking lot had never appealed to us, but as it got darker and in desperation, I found a Super Walmart at exit 29 in Corbin, Kentucky in my guide.  The parking lot was sloped toward the store so we drove around until we found a level spot next to a grassy area.  To our surprise the ground was totally dry and it didn’t look like it had rained here at all.  That was a bonus because we were able to set up our portable generator outside to charge the batteries, use the 120V appliances and I started to make dinner. Then, all of a sudden, all hell broke loose.  A very long freight train, hooting at ear splitting noise, roared by right next to the grassy field.   Oh boy!  After dinner we relocated to a more central spot on the parking lot next to a lamppost but there were more freight trains running during the night followed by roaring mufflers on souped up pickup trucks of the Kentucky Mountain Boys driving by and at 05.00 a.m. a street sweeper noisily circling our camper cleaning the parking lot and the law in a sheriff patrol car passed by the fifths time.  Needless to say we were on the road by 6 a.m. and soon got into the rain again, which would worsen the further we drove. Basically the moment we hit I-65 south the rain came down in biblical proportions, the road conditions turned into a nightmare and stayed that way until we left the I-65 a few miles before Mobile Alabama. Towing the camper felt like controlling Noah’s Ark. I thank God; we made it without incident and didn’t end up in the ditches or down the ravine like so many other cars we saw underway.

As we came off I-65 into the Gulf Shores Parkway the rain lessened and just before the I-10 it stopped altogether.  The RV Park was dry at our arrival and the temperature was in the 80ies F.  Just lovely. On Tuesday the sun was out, we were sitting outside having our coffees and hoping the weather will not disappoint us in the coming weeks. We are now at the Central Time zone, 1 hour behind Ontario Canada and 7 hours behind Germany.

Benno busy setting up the camper

Happy 91st birthday to my Dad on January 1st 2016 in Germany

And a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to everyone!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Happy Holidays

Wishing all our readers a wonderful Christmas. May your home be filled with love, laughter and peace during the holiday and all year long.

Our anticipation is not so much for the arrival of Santa, but that we are very close to our departure day to head out of Canada. The travel trailer is packed, the tire pressure is checked and the wheel nuts are torqued, the water pressure system is winterized and we are ready to roll. The going away day is near and we feel a bit anxious and restless. Of course the weather is also of our concern for the days we are on the road and so far we have been very fortunate with a very mild winter here in our region.  If we can avoid driving in snow and salted highways, we will do so.  A month ago our Canadian Rona box store had a sale on for windshield washer fluid. We bought a carton of 4x1 gal containers for $5.00.  That is a lot of wiper solution, but in addition to using it for the truck’s windshield, we would use it to flush after a recycling effort on the potty. Just pour some winter windshield wiper fluid on it before stepping on the pedal while traveling in freezing temperatures. This is an old snowbird trick. The water pressure pump is off until we arrive at our RV campsite and we recommission the water system.  Maybe we are lucky with the weather this year, we sure hope so.

If I don’t post before year’s end, we wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Follow-up of Benno’s Battery Stuff

Having narrowed down the wish list for how to improve our 12 Volt electrical household of the RV, I went to Leamington’s Canadian Tire, a box store chain in Canada, a toy store for the man and a Canadian icon. They had a sale going and I happily pushed a shopping cart, heavy loaded to our RAM 1500 truck. What was in the shopping cart?
1 MotoMaster 80 amp AGM deep cycle group 24 battery
2 MotoMaster 105 amp each AGM deep cycles group 31 batteries
1 MotoMaster Eliminator 1000 W pure sine wave inverter
2 battery boxes with cover and tie down hardware to fit Group 31 batteries
MotoMaster is a Canadian Tire brand. The AGM batteries are a quality product and are made for Canadian Tire by Exide Technologies in the United States.

With all these goodies loaded into the truck I rushed home, eager to get the tools out and to get started to install everything.  First, I removed the wet cell Group 24 battery, which we got with the trailer and gave it to Jim Warren, my neighbor for his outboard. Jim is a fishing fanatic who used to own a big commercial fishing trawler on Lake Erie and later on dove under the ice in Northern Canada to earn his bacon as a commercial diver.  In return Jim gave me his old clunker battery so that I could return it to Canadian Tire’s “Battery Core Exchange” program for a credit.  Jim Warren was happy and I was too.

The new group 24 AGM Battery fit the Jayco supplied battery box perfectly, but the original cable to the converter, which is mounted underneath the galley stove, was not up to snuff. It was a gauge #8 SAE automotive wire with crimped on “el cheapo” battery lugs. The gauge #8 wire was on the very low end of the permissible size for the current of the converter’s built-in 55amp 3-stage battery charger. A gauge #6 wire in AWG instead of a SAE wire is a better choice, can handle the produced amps better, has less voltage drop, finer strands and circa 7 % more circular mil area vice versa a SAE #6 wire.
SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers – AWG stands for American Wire Gauge.

By choosing a marine wire, the fine copper strands are tinned to resist corrosion which results from salt spray, while driving on plowed winter roads or near the oceans. Marine wire is the way to go for RVers, when facing a job of running new wires along a frame or tongue. As for the on the wire end crimped lugs, I prefer the marine lugs. These lugs are seamless closed up toward the mounting hole and are tin-plated. Most standard automotive or industrial type lugs are not seamless and open toward the mounting hole.

seamless lug on the right

These openings will let salty moisture or water into the wire core, which will start corrosion and you will experience a loss of conductivity. While we are at this, I like to mention that after you have crimped a wire to the lug, you should cover the mating point of the wires’ plastic insulation meeting the crimped end of the lug with a sleeve of adhesive lined heat shrink tubing to waterproof it.

I removed the manufacturers’ battery wiring and the next thing was to cut a few length of #6 AWG Marine wire to make up new cables. From our boating days I still had a stash of Ancor Marine wire in different gauges and colors of red, black and yellow, plus a pile of marine lugs. Three different kinds of crimpers including the heavy duty one for lugs I had still in my possession from my professional days before I retired as a self-employed technician specialized in bookbinding and printing equipment. Because of this profession, I possess a good knowledge in electronic, electro mechanic, hydraulic, pneumatic and machine shop related work. This helped me tremendously in building two boats with all the high tech instrumentation, wiring, steering, engine, etc.

lug crimper, heat gun, box cutter

I needed to cut a small pile of red (positive) and black/yellow (negative) #6 AWG wires for the battery on the tongue to a point in the trailer’s storage compartment and from there to the converter under the stove, plus a few jumper wires for the 2 new to be installed group 31 AGM batteries. On top of the 2 battery boxes I will piggyback the new inverter, so I needed to cut a couple of short lengths in black/yellow and red #6 AWG for that too. The new inverter needed also a cut off switch, so a couple more wires in red I cut as well. After all the lengths were cut in black/yellow and red, I crimped the tin plated lugs to the wires after removing ½ inch of plastic insulation with a box knife. For a neat finish, I covered the wire and lugs mating area with adhesive line heat shrink tubing.
We now call these wires with heat shrink covered lugs a cable.

 West Marine, a “Top Notch” marine store chain, has all the Ancor marine wires; lugs and heat shrink in stock and supplies a courtesy heavy-duty crimper for in store use for their clients. They don’t charge any money for using the crimper. Go and check it out.

By using a DeWalt power drill, I drilled a few half-inch holes thru the storage compartment’s floor and marked them by sticking a few #14 solid electrical wire cutoffs through, which I had left over from my house wiring adventures. They will act as a fishing wire to pull the battery cable through. This job of crawling under the trailer and feeding the red cable I dedicated to my lovely wife Marlene, while I was sitting in the storage compartment to pull. Haha!! It worked out fine, she almost got a spider in her hair. The heavy #6 battery cable later got secured with cable clamps and wire ties. A black/yellow negative cable got bolted to the frame running from the tongue to the battery minus post. The same applied to the group 31 AGMs batteries in the storage compartment, plus we fitted another red positive cable from the storage compartment to the converter along the trailers’ frame plus a black/yellow negative cable from the converter to the trailers’ frame, all done in Ancor Marine #6 AWG wire. It sounds like a lot of wires, but really it isn’t!

Info: The black wire in house wiring is the hot wire in the 120 VAC applications, as you know. Touching a black 12 VDC negative wire is not life threatening, but it is life threatening when touching a black 120 VAC of the house wire. For this reason the Marine Industry is trying to change the black color of the negative 12 VDC wire to the yellow colour for the reason of preventing life threatening mistakes. This can happen while testing or trouble shooting live wire circuits. I bet the RV Industry will follow!

The actual installation was a breeze. Work progressed quickly. The batteries with the battery boxes I put in position; installed the jumper cable, negative-to-negative and positive-to-positive. (The technician would call it parallel, not in series) Fitted the tie down straps for the battery boxes with the supplied hardware and mounted the 1000 W pure sine wave inverter on the top of the battery box covers with removable stainless machine screws and nuts. A pigtail cut off with the fitted plug of a 120 Volt extension cord was run from the inverter to a new 120 Volt outlet on the galley counter, secured it with cable clamps and connected it. A supplied inverter control panel I mounted in a location on the wall, which separates the storage compartment from the trailers’ interior and connected it with the supplied cable to the inverter. A simple plug in affair.

This is it; everything is in place, 3 AGM batteries and a new 1000W pure sine wave inverter with one outlet at the galley counter and an associated control panel close by.
Now we have a lot more amps at our disposal, which comes handy to power the inverter when there is nothing to plug in for the RV power cord while at a stopover on the highway or boondocking in the sticks!!

Future write ups are in the works with thoughts about using a mounted digital 12 volt meter gauge as an indicator to find out how much juice is still in the battery bank. Plus, the installation of a Wifi booster with router to beef up weak incoming wifi signal for your internet, is coming up soon.

Computer Frustrations

This morning, while reading blog posts of fellow RVers, I learnt that several people had difficulties posting pictures or entire posts within the last day.  I know that is stressful and very upsetting, to say the least.  Yes, I went through that myself several years ago while cruising on our boat, sitting in remote locations with spotty internet connection and trying desperately to get a post out.  In addition to this irritation, our computers got Trojans and were infected with a virus several times through the years of our travel.  At the time I used exclusively Window operated computers with Microsoft programs, as I had done while I was still working fulltime. For a while it seemed all the antivirus programs could not keep up with all the hackers out there and I found myself on the IRIDIUM phone (800 minutes $500) calling for help to our son, who’s occupation is in IT to get my troubles resolved.  He told me many times to purchase an Apple computer because none of my computer problems would have occurred as it runs on a different operating system of much better design.
A webpage or blog is fun to have for sharing some thoughts and pictures. It should be an enjoyable hobby to do and of course not too difficult to implement. I read that many of the bloggers use a program called “Live Writer” which was the culprit of the trouble many of the bloggers experienced yesterday and it is a program from Microsoft, which became (open sourced) yesterday, so there were probably some glitches. 
For the longest time, years in fact, I stayed with Windows operated computers because I was familiar with them, but when the then only three year old HP Laptop computer, which had numerous viruses started to give us grief, we relented and bought a MacBook Pro.  That was in July 2013. I thought we would have to start learning new programs, but we were wrong.  If you have already an iPad or tablet or a smart phone, you know there is not much to learn.  You just use it.  That’s it!  Ever since using our Apple computer we have never had any issues or a virus at all.  Yes, we also run “Word” on it, which is Software from Microsoft.  And searching the Internet, I found an article from Vintage Revivals on how to use the “Live Writer” successfully on a Mac.  In my humble opinion when it is time to purchase a new laptop or computer, look into what Apple has to offer.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Last year’s final recap and a story of cancellations…

The state of Texas sure is big which I mentioned before, I think.  When we left the RV Park in Port Isabel we were not sure how far we’d get before retiring for the night.  It turned out to be the parking area of the Camping World store in Katy, Texas (just before Houston) after roughly 375 miles of driving.  Up early the next day and hitting the road again we followed the I-10E all the way to Hammond in Louisiana, where again the good folks from Camping World let us stay in their very spacious parking area for the night which turned out to be a nice spot, by the way.  In the parking lot we noticed a unique looking old mobile home complete with mobile 'potty' sitting piggyback on a trailer and I just had to take a couple of pictures of it.

The inscription on the board reads: 
Redneck Hangout
and on the other side on top it said: 
The Dream Camper

In the afternoon of February 28th, a Saturday, we pulled into the Hilltop RV Park in Robertsdale, Alabama where I paid and booked us in for the month of March.

 Benno was busy with the set-up and hook-ups of the trailer, meanwhile I chatted with some nice folks who had been staying in this park already for several months when my phone rang. My parents, who live in Germany, called to inquire of our whereabouts but really the cause for their phone call was that they wanted me to come right away to assist them.  They had decided to put their house on the market to be sold, found an apartment built for senior citizens of which they could take possession immediately and now the huge task of downsizing was before them.  I persuaded them to delay their move by at least a month to give us some time to head home with the trailer and for me to book a flight.  I explained that our house in Canada was still snowed in and the road conditions right now were not favorable to pull a trailer.  Eventually my parents agreed to that and we would spend only a couple of weeks here in the RV park and then try to head home.  This sure put a damper on our plans, but regardless we tried to make the best out of our stay and to see as much as possible of the area during our visit. In case you wondered, no, the RV Park would not refund any money paid up front.

At The Battleship Memorial Park

From the Robertsdale RV Park to The Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL it’s about a 30 min. drive.  There, in pain view in a park setting sits the enormous Battleship  USS Alabama (BB-60)   

For all the military buffs or enthusiasts for Navy Ships, like my hubby is, following are a few tidbits of info:

The USS Alabama was commissioned in August 1942 and decommissioned in January 1947. Since June of 1964 she has been a museum ship.
She is 680ft/210m long and used oil-fired steam turbines for propulsion with a top speed of 27.5 kn (31.6 mph – 50.9 km/h), and her range was 15,000 nmi at a speed of 15 kn, carrying a crew of 1,793 officers & men.

Here is a short segment from the Historic Naval Ships Association:
“USS Alabama began her combat service augmenting the British Fleet protecting convoys on the “Murmansk Run” from England through the North Sea to Russia against German warships and aircraft. The ship transferred to the Pacific Fleet in August 1943, and earned 9 battle stars providing gunfire support for amphibious assaults on Japanese-held islands and protecting carrier task forces from air and surface attack. Alabama was credited with shooting down 22 Japanese planes. Her radar was the first to detect enemy bombers in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, at the unprecedented range of 190 miles. This warning enabled U.S. fighters and anti-aircraft gunners to destroy over 400 Japanese planes. Decommissioned in 1947, Alabama was “mothballed” in Bremerton, Washington until 1964, when she was transferred to the State of Alabama and towed 5,600 miles to become a memorial in Mobile.”

The ship was used in several movies, the most memorable one “Under Siege” with Steven Seagal and recently for the movie “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” with Nicolas Cage to be released on Memorial Day 2016.

While we were at the Battleship Memorial Park, a very nice looking old-timer car pulled in next to us.  That car was a beauty and its owner let me sit behind the steering wheel to get a feel of it.  Look at the shine and my reflection on the hood!

In the evening of Sunday, March 15th, we cleared the Canadian Border at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario and were soon underway heading for home.  Looking at our watches we knew we wouldn’t make it to our house in time to watch our favorite show “Madam Secretary” which airs here at 8.00 p.m. and we didn’t want to miss this episode, so we pulled off the highway at 7.50 p.m. into the Park ’n’ Ride parking lot next to the O.P.P. station on Manning Road and 401 for the next hour to watch television in the comfort of our travel trailer with the heather on full blast to keep us warm.  When the show ended we jumped into the truck to finally head home.  Yes, there was still snow on the ground and the entrance to our driveway was blocked off with a pile of iced snow left from the snow ploughs, but we’d expected that. Next morning my parents called to ask if I had booked my flight yet? “No, mom, I’m doing it right now.” I said.  “Oh good,” my mom said. “The move is off!” 

(My parents did not sell their house and I flew out to Germany for a month in May when my mother became sick)