Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tankless days on the way

I mentioned awhile back that I was bidding on an RV-500 Precision Temp tankless hot water heater on EBay.   I eventually won the bid and got the unit for $600 + $10 S&H. It arrived here several weeks ago in a box that was distressed. I worried about the shape of the unit before even opening the box.

It turns out that they had packed it with some Styrofoam blocks and the only visible damage appeared to be that it was packed on its back and that is where the hot and cold water lines fittings protrude. The fittings stick out about 3” each and 1 looked to have been DSC01021 pushed in pretty hard. Hard enough to bend it to the side and slightly buckle the copper housing for the heater DSC01019 chimney where it is soldered around it before exiting the back.

I took pictures of the damages but it seems like its ok. The bottom corners of theDSC01012 cabinet DSC01010 look like they had taken a few licks, too.

I have been fighting a bug for 3 weeks and the weather has not been helping so it has taken me until now to get on with this installation.

Though I had seen forum comments about  swapping out a Suburban 10 Gal DSI HWH to a precision temp that made it seem very easy, I am not one to take off with that shining assumption… As I have said before, my middle name is Murphy and if it can go wrong it usually does. 

To get started, I did not want to just go and do the full conversion and then find that there was something wrong with the tankless unit and now could not easily swap back to my old Suburban until they could be worked out.  I decided that I should do some basic tests of the tankless, like water pressure test, gas leak test, electronics test and then heating test.

Since I am not equipped to do these all on a bench in my shop I figured that the most damaging failure was probably water leakage so I made some adapters and hooked up the water hose on the bench and flushed it then let it hold pressure… No Leaks!  Good.

Next test (electronics) required water and gas hookups so I decided to make some adapters to the existing water and gas lines rather than go heavily modifying what is in there.  This really was just a matter of picking up some 3/8” copper tubing, A flaring tool (I had one that got away from me sometime ago), Some flare nuts for the gas line adapter (and a shutoff) and some PEX to FIP connectors for the 1/2 water lines to be attached to the new HWH.

The RV500 Documentation recommends removing any HWH bypass kits as they are not needed. This step will greatly simplify the water supply and routing.  Plus, in my case, it makes it much easier to put the water filter for the sink where it really should be located.

The most difficult issue I faced was that the unit I got came with a flush mount kit and door and this required some significant modifications to the existing opening that the Suburban had been removed from.  I wanted to not make that mounting position unfriendly to put the suburban back into should the tankless not work out satisfactorily for us. These were not cosmetic changes to mount this guy flush.  However, Precision Temp makes a surface mount kit that should work perfectly for what I have to mount and where.

I put a 2x2 across the DSC01008 bottom of the opening. The entire opening is exactly outlined with 2x2 aluminum square tubing welded in place. I  was not interested in tangling with that structure so the 2x2 wood spacer across the bottom raised the tankless up 2” and centered it pretty well in the opening.   I then put in a 3/4” spacer over the top of the unit to give the top facing screws something to bite into .  I made it DSC01009 T shaped so that the ends of the Ts extended beyond the side vertical supports to keep the strain off of the screws holding it in place.  It cannot pull out through that wall without taking the whole welded aluminum wall out, too.

Finally, I put a stop cockDSC01020 on the end of the existing gas line so it can be shut off if needs be.  Also, the difficulty of getting a line into and connected to the gas controller in the tankless water heater was not going to be made with the existing copper gas supply so this was an easy way to pre plumb the inside gas connection and bring it out to where it can easily  be connected to the gas shutoff valve (you can see it in the middle of the picture with a blue shutoff handle.

Finally, I was running out of time for the day and figured I could just hook the two twist on connections that had fed the other HWH directly to the replacement, but…..  The tankless has the hot and cold water connection reversed from normal tank type HWH. Hot is at the bottom and cold is at the top of the back of the unit so the lines I needed to test with were about 6” too shortDSC01038 …. grrrrrrrr.

A quick trip to Home Depot with a stop for dinner at Char Grill and then home again to make patch tubes to hook up the water lines to the rest of the trailer.   They put such a combination of Tees, valves, elbows and more Tees in there to feed the kitchen, and the icemaker that trying  to use it was another 1/2 day job and I still did not want to wreck that piece of plumbing incase the tankless did not work. This would get water to everything in house but the kitchen sink, the water filter and the ice maker. We can live with that overnight.

Once it was all made and installed and pressure tested for leaks (gas and water) I was ready to take a shower….er… not quite.

I had used the water pump to provide the cold water supply to the tankless because the outside shore water supply was still connected to that rube Goldberg bypass tree of piping and there just was not any way to quickly connect shore water into this new hookup without a lot of surgery.

So, the problem was to get shore water either into the water tank to fill it enough to shower or hook it into the cold line somewhere other than cutting a Tee into what I had just finished up.   A little thought reminded me that there is a drain valve for the cold water line and when I checked the end fitting that the protective screen screws onto, I realized that I already had something that could screw onto that fitting and just put shore water  straight up DSC01040the regular drain line to pressurize the system and make it work until I can rework the Christmas tree of plumbing on the bypass setup. 

And it worked perfectly so I could have my shower tonight.

AND BOY WAS IT WORTH THE WAIT AND THE TROUBLE!!! That is the first full body, full time, full function shower I have had since moving into DakotR 19 months ago.

The hot water it produces is definitely hotter than anything I ever got out of the suburban HWH even when using both electric heat and gas heat simultaneously. I did notice that when I pinched down the water flow with the “pause” valve on my new shower head, it did shut off the heating. But that was just a way to stretch out the hot water from the old tank HWH, anyway.  I will give a little more info on my new shower head that I really like, somewhere else.  But for now, its a great combination… a 1.5gpm showerhead handheld that delivers all the water you want to shower, wash hair, shave, etc. with the tankless HWH.

This first experience with the RV-500 has me cussing the years of “tiny” showers, with no water soaping sessions and ice water to rinse out my hair. This is a no brainer.  Some folks can argue the fine points of conservation of water, gas, electricity,etc. but people have priorities based on real life personal experiences and its no sin to be able to enjoy a good shower, occasionally, rather than NEVER.

Tomorrow, I will unhook all of this and remake the replacement plumbing tree that feeds the sink, water filter and ice maker. I will also mount in the backing plate that must be slipped over the entire tankless unit from the back before it is pushed into the mounting hole in the wall … (a little step I missed when I was putting it in this afternoon while fighting 3 squadrons of anopheles mosquitoes intent on sinking my spirits before I could finish this job enough to take a shower.)

P.S.  and put away all the collateral DSC01039damage on the kitchen counters from emptying the under sink cabinets where all this work has taken place.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blogs I like

There are a few blogs I follow daily if I can. In no particular order, I like Nick Russell’s Gypsy journal  and Howard Payne’s RV-Dreams Journal, There are some others that I occasionally check in on if I have the time but these give me some specific satisfactions that help me keep the faith that we will be full-timing one of these days.

Gypsy Journal

I enjoy NIck’s blogs because he tells it like it is, adds some local color in the forms of a little history, a little current events in the area, some rving perspectives (if there are any worth mentioning) and a slew of names and links to other’s blogs, websites, products, and relationships, all of which I find useful from time to time when I am particularly interested in something related to his subject matter or those folks. 

Miss Terry seems to be the glue that holds Nick and their lifestyle together and the grease that keeps it moving smoothly.. not to mention that in a head-to-head skills contest she would whip Tim the tool man Taylor before the audience even had a chance to laugh at his first joke.

RV Dreams Journal

Howard does an excellent job on RV-Dreams of just giving the day to day grind of a workamper’s life without slighting the hardships or embellishing the joy and splendor. His pictures are the keys to the castles of nature that they visit and Linda holds her own with the customers and other workampers and certainly seems to make each day work out in the end.

Some days, the challenges they meet seem almost surreal in scope and yet, they get the job done without much more than an occasional “sheesh!”.  I think we have gotten enough “reality” from them that when we step into Workamping, there will likely be no surprises in what we encounter.

I still hate the word Blog!  But that does not keep me from reading them when I can. Its a new world growing right under our feet and if we don’t pay attention it will move on without us. The blogs of others can be more than a cathartic personal journal. More than a history lesson and more than a travelogue…. They can be educational and FUN!

Both of these folks have a website with their histories, how they got into a full time RVing lifestyle and lots and lots of helpful references, links and even financial planning tools, like budgets and financial histories to help others do their own planning for the life.

Kudos guys

…. I have tried to make this blog a daily or even semi-weekly routine but I guess I just don’t have enough happening each day (or enough focus each day… gotta work on that) to make it happen. It is not easy or automatic, I can tell you.  It does take dedication and focus to just get it down. It takes even more to feather in pictures and architect the pages each day to be interesting at a glance and still be informative through the reading.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A little welding here… a little dancing there…

This past week has been somewhat physically uncomfortable for me. I don’t know if it has been this odd weather or something I ate but whatever it was, I have just not been feeling like revving my engines much.

Having said that, I still managed to make dance class Wednesday evening and we learned the Tango.  Not a big accomplishment for most folks but a real milestone for me. We have one more lesson in this series and then its over but we have already signed up for another class for beginning Shag lessons and I can hardly wait until it starts.

Oh! And I found some dancing shoes that work for me.  I did not order custom…. such things never fit me right. But these were at Belks and I had a great old fashioned shoe salesman wait on me that actually knew shoes. Boy!  It sure is easier dancing in these things with leather soles than in sneakers (quieter, too).

Merrily is getting interested in Zumba lessons (don’t ask.. just Google them). After seeing some examples I don’t know whether to sign up or just lay down and die now and spare the aggravation and sweat.  I have no doubt that it would be a fun workout… but I want to live, too.

The good news is that I am now down to 287 lbs, 30 lbs off of my January 2009 weight of 317lbs. No diets, no pills, just walking every day and reduced portions.  Maybe this ought to be another blog someday but now, on to the welding….

For reasons mentioned at the top, I did not make the welding class on Thursday evening. I wanted to but my body denied me the trip to class and back.  However, my boys did go and did well. Emery actually had a project he needed to make and took his stuff up there and made a jig for building frames for screen printing T-shirts with blended colors.  Randy was playing a little catch up since he had missed the week before but he learned TIG welding and had a great time, too. I will definitely be there this coming week, though.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

And a welding we will go….

The welding class is going… well…. well!  I had forgotten how much fun it is to throw arcs, melt steel and have the sparks flying!  Its particularly great because I get to watch my two youngest sons, Emery and Randy, learn the tools and techniques that are available to make and modify metal structures.

We have covered torches (oxy-acetylene, plasma), “stick” welding (typical ages old electric welding with a flux coated rod or “stick”) and MIG (commonly called: Metal Inert Gas ) welding. Tonight, I think we cover TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding which is more like high temperature soldering with a tungsten arc rather than a hot contact iron.

I realized last week that my old eyes are just having too much difficulty seeing through the fixed shade welding visors they have at the class. I just could not see well enough around the arc to tell where I was going with the “puddle” so I did some research into auto-darkening helmets and they generally start around $120.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a good one for about $50 from Northern Tools. Harbor Freight also has one or two for about the same money. So I am headed out in a few minutes to grab lunch and pick up one from Northern Tools.

I have also found to be a great resource for supplemental welding instruction and examples.

Cool stuff!  BTW, Randy is back from E3, the gaming industry’s mega-conference and missed the last class so he will be there tonight. I have not had a chance to talk with him much about E3 but some of the links he sent me of new technologies in human recognition, like the NATAL project, are really mind blowing.  To think that in my short lifetime I have seen so many technologies of the Science Fiction books I devoured as a kid become real and then surpassed just gives me chills.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Time for an update

Lots to talk about to get up to speed and current.

1. Tankless Hot water Heater:

Now sitting on the dining table and out of the box (good thing we eat out all the time).

I have checked it out. The only obvious possible shipping damage is that it was shipped with the back of the water heater facing down and there are the hot and cold water connections there. It was shipped with some solid Styrofoam blocks under it to lift its weight off of these connections. The cold water inlet connection appears to have been forced to the side and inward and may have bent the tankless copper pan it is soldered to as the copper line spirals around it. DOn’t know yet if this is any problem or not.

The plan is to first, pressure test it on a table in the yard to be sure it does not leak anywhere.  Next, will be to hook up 12 volts dc to it and see if the electronics seem to check out. Lastly, I want to hook some LP gas to it and give it a test or two to be sure it all works safely and correctly before I go to the trouble of removing the old Suburban DSI HWH and mounting this one.

If all these test go well I will get it installed as soon as I can get the time and proper weather to work on it.

2. Anniversary trip to Disney World.

Did I mention that we now have campground reservations for our stay and tickets to see the Cirque Du Soleil – La Nouba show while we are there?  Well, we have them.  Now to get our Minds to focus on exactly what park admission tickets and accessories we need to have to fit our tenure there and not leave with unused tickets (they are only good for 14 days after the day you use the first one, unless you pay a bunch more for the "non-expiring” tickets.)

3. Shuttle launch event after Disney

We have nailed down 3 possible places we might like to stay. We would already have booked the campsite we want but they have a limit of 90 days advance reservation so we can’t book until Aug 13. I gotta write that down somewhere!

4. What’s doing after the shuttle launches… or doesn’t?

We will be there a few days after the scheduled date to give us better odds of seeing it.  If it does not go up while we are there, we will go back another time during 2010 and catch one.

Whether it does go or not, we will spend some time visiting with Bob,  Merrily’s brother and my best friend for over 50 years and his wife, Bette. They just live a few miles up the coast from Cape Canaveral and we will probably stay in Anastasia State Park or the KOA in St. Augustine Beach.

5. And then what and where?

The holidays will be close upon us by the time we finish visiting Bob and Bette and we would like to be back in the Raleigh area for Thanksgiving through the New Years Day.  After that, Merrily is still determined to get her big truck driving credentials so she will feel comfortable and safe wrangling Clifford on the highway.

I completely support this and will be glad for her participation when we move the rig to other locations.  She is thinking about taking a February or March class at the same truck driver training school where I got my CDL in 2004. This will take about 8 weeks of 10 hour days/ 5 days a week but when she comes out I am sure she will be better than I am at handling Clifford.

6. And then to infinity and beyond….

Let’s just say that we plan to just head out in that direction and see how far we can go.

7. Reality check Postscript:

The present economic climate has really made it necessary to focus in tightly on just how we will make this full time lifestyle float properly on top of our financial situation.  This is certainly a work in progress that has yet to return the necessary confidence factor for the leap to full time in the exact timeframe we have been targeting.

There is nothing that will prevent it but there is a lot of things still floating around that can delay our expected start date.

Previously, I mentioned our jump off date was to be our Anniversary and clearly, some vital benchmarks have not happened to guarantee that date so alternate planned schedules are in development as contingency directions should the emotionally significant anniversary date not quite match up perfectly with the reality at that moment.

In other words… to go on fulltiming from there we need to actually be there with all our dependencies locked in solidly in order to start the trip. Otherwise, we might not only not get very far but we might do irreparable financial damage to our situation that could halt our dream.

Most important, we have Lots to do, lots to work out, lots to discover and most important, lots of love.


Monday, May 25, 2009

oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!… unlimited hot water!!!!!

Awhile back I admit I was not the biggest fan of tankless water heaters. I felt that my 10 gallon Suburban DSI hot water heater was up to the tasks I needed it for. For me, the advantage of having both electric and lp gas energy supplies available was a bonus that could not be matched by a tankless.

So what has changed?  I spent a winter getting a cold water supply that was a lot colder than the summer temp cold water going  into the hot water heater, that’s what. My previous experiences said that by running both electric and gas at the same time, I had good recovery times and by throttling back the hot water stream a bit I could maintain comfortable temperature water almost indefinitely.

The gotcha in this is that I am a big guy and (maybe to be a bit gross for some) I have a lot of body fur which takes a lot (and I mean a LOT) of warm to hot water to rinse off completely. Playing the dual-heat source and throttled back hot water flow in the winter meant that I could either;

  • brush my teeth and shave
  • wash my hair
  • wash my body
  • warm up my cold cramped legs and back muscles.

There just was not enough instant BTUs going into that cold water to heat it enough to do more than 1 item on that list before it got shrinky-dink cold AND FAST!

After quite a few months of debating the possible advantage of a tankless (specifically, a Precision Temp RV-500) I started looking for some sort of “deal”. Of course, Merrily had to be on board with the idea, too, otherwise, I would not do it.  I think she was moderately accepting of the idea but not really sold on spending $1000 for a hot water heater.

About 3 months of casual searching only turned up units that were nearly full price but finally, a good deal for $600 showed up on Ebay. I certainly hope its a good deal.  I received it a few days ago and it looks to be nearly new (as claimed) and in good condition but the weather here has been daily storms so I have not tried to work up the install just yet. I don’t want to get half way through and get ace’d out by the weather for hours to days.

In making the decision, I spent a lot of time searching for the experiences of others that had the Precision Temp RV-500 and had used it for multiple seasons.  I did not find anyone that was not positive about it and most were completely satisfied, whether the cost justified the attitude or not, I don’t know.

All seemed to be saying that it did what I wanted it to do, though, and with a washer and dryer in DakotR, the old 10 gallon never gave hot water for wash and rinse and I sometimes felt my BVDs had a little scum left in them from soap residues.

We will see when I get it installed.   I have toyed with the idea of keeping the Existing HWH installed so I can have electrically heated water, too.  Not sure if i have the room for both or if it is even an approved installation style by Precision Temp. I don’t have a strong inclination to even go there but it has crossed my mind.

More to come on this subject.

On other fronts, we have finally committed our Disney trip Campsite reservations and bought the tickets to Cirque Du Soleil, La Nouba.  Not an easy set of choices, though and not because we didn’t know what we wanted but because we didn’t want to pay full price… but that’s a whole post in itself and I will give it to you a bit later.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wilmington, NC – Very, very nice though a little cool, today, for the beach.

Our plans to watch the space shuttle launch on May 12th got scuttled! It just took too long to get the specifics nailed down tight and then they bumped the launch up a day and the combination made it pretty irrational to try to force fit this 12 hour drive to Cape Canaveral into this week of vacation.

So, the last minute destination switch was to… drum roll please…..   Wilmington, NC!

We opted to stay at the KOA Wilmington Campground (more on this, later) as there are few other campgrounds in the immediate area and our friends, Donna and Bill, would much more enjoy some urban American activities rather than just sitting in a state park in the wilderness.  Sure, doing that would have been a nice venue but, heck, they were driving 8 hours from West Virginia for only a 2 day visit with us and then returning to WV to fly back to the UK the following day so, they deserved to have some sort of excitement while down here.

So, here I sit doing this blog while Merrily, Donna and Bill are out “excitement-ing” in Wilmington Historic downtown on the river walk. We have always loved to come to Wilmington ever since we moved to Raleigh in the early 1980s. There is a lot of great stuff to do including touring the Battleship, beaches, Aquarium, riding ferries.

Wilmington is not (at least not yet) the glitzy tourist Mecca that Myrtle Beach has devolved into but it does have a lot of interesting places and things to do. The famous Wrightsville Beach is very close by. Public beach access parking is scattered all along the area but its all metered parking (ugh!) but the beach is worth it.

Carolina and Kure beaches are not far away with great beaches and mostly free access parking. Those areas are much less commercialized than Wrightsville and more like '”home-boy” beaches.

But, as usual, I digress…

Bill is into birds and serpents so he is off visiting the Wilmington Serpentarium for a few hours while Donna and Merrily wander around the “oos and ahhhhhs” land of shops and stores along the nearby river walk .

Me?  I am still not feeling too swift because I got too much sun (allergy to it) the day we left to come here and also probably ate something else that I can’t handle anymore and am quietly recuperating in DakotR with Katie. I am having my kind of fun, too, so no one loses, today.

Chances are I will get a call from them about dinner time to meet somewhere to eat and all will end well.

I am generally not a raving fan of KOA camping, mostly due to price but I have to say that the Wilmington KOA really is something a cut above.  There are a lot of big rig suitable sites with easy ingress/egress (unlike the KOA Myrtle Beach with its old stand of pine trees encroaching on the roadways).

50 amp FHU sites just about everywhere, a 3 pen off leash pet exercise area and plenty of places for kids to play. The sites are all level beach gravel and Clifford and DakotR fit nicely with room for the Smart car to fit without anything hanging out or sitting on the grass.  Its surprisingly quiet with no nearby railroad tracks, Interstates or airports to rattle us.

A decent promo video gives a good perspective of the available amenities.

The staff has been mostly college kids with a few workamping older folks like us, thrown into the mix and I can easily see Merrily and myself working in a place like this sometime in the future.

We reserved a Lodge (not a cabin with no bathroom) for Donna and Bill. Its a short Park model with a log cabin motif inside but complete with everything but linens.  They are loving it!

Talk about convenience, there is a Hess gas station at the entrance which, at the moment has the lowest fuel prices that I can find in this whole area. On the opposite side of the KOA driveway is a big vehicle pull through car wash with lots of bays tall enough to handle any sized RV. That’s just too darned convenient!

As I said, I am not a big fan of KOAs and have stayed in a few that were not acceptable but this one is something special and is well managed and cared for. Its certainly better than many of the Coast to Coast Deluxe resort properties we have stayed in.

We will definitely come back here.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Di dit-di-daa-dit-da: Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea...…Update….

I decided that I had just too much on my plate to decide whether to eat the peas, carrots, corn or green beans first.. .so I made succotash!

I also realized that  DSC00930I was not utilizing the influence of my main muse… Katie… made all the difference in the world engaging her in the process. BTW, she SNORES big time!  Even worse than my sister-in-law! (I’m gonna pay for that one).

Here is the result at this point:

  • Clifford has a few potentially trip spoiling problems:
    1. Throttle position sensor Error codes in the computer
    2. Fuel temperature sensor error codes
    3. a drive tire that loses a lot of air in a short period of days
    4. a very out of round drive tire, too
  • The Smart car rack has still not been added to Clifford so Merrily will probably have to drive it down, alone.
  • 2 tires on DakotR need to get slow (probably bead) leaks fixed
  • Everything in here is piled with cast-offs from getting our paperwork from inside the house that we will need on the road, organized and filed in the cabinets.
  • Katie is due for another Bromide level check
  • Appointment with my urologist on the state of my kidney stones (When I take long drives and particularly when I swim in the surf any newly formed ones in certain parts of the kidneys tend to turn into “rolling stones” and that is a real buzz-kill for a vacation.
  • All of the loose gear, like the computer, monitor, hard drives, table, chairs, etc. needs to be anchored. Since we reorganized the layout and eliminated the sofa and coffee table, we have not traveled off the jacks so I need to get it all stowed and do a test pull.
  • Send a Mother’s day card to my Mom
  • Get propane
  • Get special food and meds for Katie for while we are gone.
  • get refills ordered for my own meds for next week (everything seems to always run out at the same “wrong” time.)
  • clean the gunk out of DakotR’s gutters… one more time. (Frankly, I think that more stuff falls out of southern trees in the spring than in the fall.)
  • order anode rods for the hot water heater.
  • order some new shoes exactly like what I wear all the time (if I can find them anywhere, now).
  • PUT DOWN TV and SATTELLITE DISH!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Strikeout text is on items that have already been dealt with)

BTW, if you recognize the title of this post, then you are older than I am. If not, then you can update your retro knowledge from this site.


Does it seem to you like I just can’t focus?

Our trip to Cape Canaveral to watch the space shuttle launch on mission STS125 is busted. Just trying to get too much crammed into too little time and to be honest, I was not nearly as excited to drive 12 hours each way within 7 days as I was to possibly see my first Shuttle launch. Bathed in Lights

The primary goal was to meet our dear friends Donna and Bill, from the UK, down there  but their visit to the US was just not going to be long enough to comfortably do that and be with her mother on mother’s day.  The launch got moved up a day which would force them to miss Mother’s day altogether and even at that, no one really knows exactly when of the three possible launch windows on 5/11, 5/12 and 5/13 it would actually go up. It might even get postponed until 5/22 and the odds of missing it completely were just too much of a gamble for the costs.

But, Merrily already had made plans to take the week off so, off we go to a closer beach, Wilmington, NC.  The Wilmington KOA will not quite be the mosquito coast of east Florida but we do have our own varieties and its only 3 hours away. Did I mention how much I was not looking forward to that 12 hour drive down to Florida?

So, we will squat in Wilmington and Donna and Bill will come there for a few days after Mother’s day and we will still have a great time…. we always do. Besides some really great seafood restaurants and a particularly good German restaurant down in the Cotton Exchange on the river, there is the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial,

Welcome to the official web site of the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial.  The memorial and museum are opened 7 days a week, 365 day a year in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Enjoy your virtual trip through the history of this beautiful ship. Learn about BB-55 and all other U.S. ships named North Carolina.  Thank you and welcome aboard!

 Fort Fisher Aquarium (Newly renovated) and beaches, beaches, beaches.'

But I digress…  At the moment, I am flooded with last minute gotta-do items (in no particular order, as they say):

  • Clifford has a few potentially trip spoiling problems:
    1. Throttle position sensor Error codes in the computer
    2. Fuel temperature sensor error codes
    3. a drive tire that loses a lot of air in a short period of days
    4. a very out of round drive tire, too
  • The Smart car rack has still not been added to Clifford so Merrily will probably have to drive it down, alone.
  • 2 tires on DakotR need to get slow (probably bead) leaks fixed
  • Everything in here is piled with cast-offs fromDSC00920 getting our paperwork from inside the house that we will need on the road, organized and filed in the cabinets.
  • Katie is due for another Bromide level check
  • Appointment with my urologist on the state of my kidney stones (When I take long drives and particularly when I swim in the surf any newly formed ones in certain parts of the kidneys tend to turn into “rolling stones” and that is a real buzz-kill for a vacation.
  • All of the loose gear,DSC00923 like the computer, monitor, hard drives, table, chairs, etc. needs to be anchored. Since we reorganized the layout and eliminated the sofa and coffee table, we have not traveled off the jacks so I need to get it all stowed and do a test pull.
  • Send a Mother’s day card to my Mom
  • Get propane
  • Get special food and meds for Katie for while we are gone.
  • get refills ordered for my own meds for next week (everything seems to always run out at the same “wrong” time.)
  • clean the gunk out of DakotR’s gutters… one more time. (Frankly, I think that more stuff falls out of southern trees in the spring than in the fall.)
  • order anode rods for the hot water heater.
  • order some new shoes exactly like what I wear all the time (if I can find them anywhere, now).

Maybe the last 3 items are not absolutely gotta-do items before we go but I am sure there are more items than on this list. 

But, this is the master list for now and all must be dealt with  before we leave on Sunday for the beach….. and just yesterday, fulltiming seemed so close!

Has anyone out there seen my mind?… I seem to have misplaced it!

and… OH YEAH!!!!!:

  • PUT DOWN TV and SATTELLITE DISH!!!!!!!!!!!!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yard Sale Day!!!!! ?????

Ok. My first yard/garage sale in over 35 years has come to a close. Weeks of weak preparations (on my part) have finally ended. Merrily, along with daughters Carol, Shawna, Christi and sons Emery, Randy, and Sebastien (honorary son) wrestled it to conclusion.

I put up 16 signs with about a 1/2 roll of clear shipping tape last night. They said simply “Garage Sale” with a big Arrow. Some also had “SAT 8am” on them.

The yard sale was advertised to be from 8am to 1pm. It was posted on and 5 national yard sales sites as well as advertised in the local News and Observer newspaper. True to form, the N&O’s printed paper was the only organ that got the ad wrong. They had it listed as only running from 8am to 11am. Personally, I think this was why the continuous flow of people dramatically slowed down about 11am. It was also the only ad that was not free ($26). Is it any wonder why newspapers are drying up. Mistakes will happen but the downside of printed mistakes lives long after the moment it happens.

(High step up onto soap box…) Ok, just to make a bigger point of this, once something is printed it can only be retracted, later, after the fact, if at all.  Newspaper traditions seem to dictate that we have no recourse for the lost 2 hours of exposure because it was “frozen” in print and it was wrong. I think we should be entitled to a refund proportional to the amount of lost opportunity that they caused us. (off soap box, now.) If the ads were wrong on the internet, they could have been fixed right then with no losses or misunderstandings at the time of the actual event.

Once the yard/garage sale (I could only find GARAGE SALE signs) was over, the leftovers went to Goodwill and as I type this, Merrily and Carol are going through the inventory list of what was donated.  That is so important for tax reasons.  We have been "donating” stuff for years to various charities and only claiming $20 or $50 for a bag of good clothing or a chair or table.  A few years ago, my annual Taxcut Home and Business package included the Deduction finder Pro package to help find the deductible values of donated items.

I had some detailed inventories of previous donations that I put into it and discovered that the tax values of these $50 bags was from $250 to $700, depending on contents. One can never have too many legitimate deductions.

So, the Y/G sale grossed $362 and netted $300. Aboutn 1/2 of the stuff that was out was sold including some furniture, books, and a lot of kitchen and home brick-a-brack.

We had a very surprising turnout and though it was advertised to start at 8am, people were showing up at 7:25am as we were starting to bring the stuff out and set up on the table. We probably had 10 people standing around waiting as new stuff was brought out.  As I said, very surprising turnout.

Now I just have to decide to have an electronics and computer Yard/garage sale and get to selling books on Amazon.


TechShop, Welding class and an incredible LED flashlight!

While there is very little that ties these three goodies together they all represent my near obsession with tools and a love of just really great technical stuff, genre ambiguous…

First, My two youngest boys (Emery 27 and Randy 25) and I signed up for a 12 week, 30 hour general welding course at Durham Technical College. We all have wanted/needed some skills in this area and though I have both Rod and Oxy-Acetylene welding equipment, I have used it so rarely in the past 30 years that I feel like a kid playing with matches in a fireworks factory every time I even think about getting it our for some little project or other…. so I usually don’t.

This class (basically Free for Sr. Citizens) will get me back into a comfort zone with the equipment.  I have a lot of little “quickie” projects that I would like to do to enhance our RV setup, storage capabilities and such and have just kept putting them off.

For the younger set the tuition for this continuing education class is only $85 and covers most of the common types of welding equipment with about 30% of the time in the classroom and the rest in the workshops.

I am really looking forward to this because I have long  been considering having a small wire feed MIG welder along on our travels… just in case.  I still have the GVWR for it but maybe renting/borrowing one if and when I need it on the road would make more sense, I know. If I feel comfortable with the skills, I will not be so hesitant to rent something unfamiliar to use.

Now, this is a good segway into the TechShop in Durham.  On the way back from signing up for the welding class, Randy had seen some info on the TechShop and wanted to just check it out so we did.

Hey, this place is amazing!  They took a building that had been offices all on 1 floor, and basically, turned most of the office spaces into Project rooms that can be rented to people that want to work on “projects” and need a place to get their stuff together and have virtually all of the tools available to them to use.

To assist in creating designs they have the SolidWorks 3D CAD package on all of their Computers (and they have a lot of them). Members can come in anytime to work with any tools they need and a lot of supplies that can be purchased at below retail. That can save a lot whether one is woodworking, metalworking, doing textiles, plastics, automotive or even Cooking.

Heck, they even have a 3D printer that will “print” a 3D drawing in solid works into a scaled plastic 3D working model of the drawing.  Pretty cool stuff to see it print out a working crescent wrench (of course, being made of plastic makes it not particularly useful for anything other than a lot of ooooing and aaaahhhhhing!

Now, for something I hope you will really like….   How about a 2 D-Cell LED Flashlight that throws a 200 lumen white beam for $19? huskyledlite Well, Husky makes the Tactical 4 Watt LED flashlight that Home Depot normally sells for about $25 ( Their (Husky) number is 626731 ). Right now, its going for $19! (Its the one in the middle of this picture.)

Unfortunately, I cannot find it on but that is not so unusual. You know, one would really think that stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s would have decent online catalogues with really well thought out search engines to help people quickly get to what they really need. In fact, both companies have search engines almost as bad (or even worse) than most discussion forum sites…. (but that is a peeve for another time).

But this Tactical (I think they use this word because it has some real heft like a full sized MAGLite and could be used as a defensive weapon if necessary) light is very impressive for the money. But I just like that it lights things up enough that I no longer have big concerns in walking Katie the poo at night and having a close encounter of the 3rd kind with any snakes or scorpions.

This thing throws a beam that Scotty could use as a backup transporter.!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Well, Spring is sprung and now summer’s here

Summer’s here with a bang.. right on the heels of spring.015  Heck, the  flowers are still hanging in there on a few varieties around here and we are definitely in the 90s… with humidity.  Where I come from (pretty much all over the southeast) that means summer.

013 Never mind the calendar, its no help in this matter. Besides, I can count on one hand the number of times in the past 10 years that both the calendar and the weather prognosticators have been right.  The rest of the time it has been “unusual” or “rare” weather and seasons.

I will admit that the ability to go out at 2am on a bright moonlit night and just sit in a chair among the pines in shirtsleeves is a nice experience I have never had before this year.  Usually, the mosquitoes would have driven me in before the seat of the chair had time to warm to my butt. 008

This year, however, no mosquitoes so far. Katie and I could just sit and enjoy watching the deer graze only a dozen yards from us in the filtered moonlight while listening to a light breeze whisper through the overhead pines.

001In all honesty, I do have to admit that this scenario actually played out about 2 weeks ago as the moon peaked and before this last bout of wet and then chilly weather hit. It was all the idea of Katie the Poo dog to get me up for a 2am rendezvous with her favorite potty spot but what the heck?  It was just too nice out there to rush back in and struggle to get back to sleep.

The rain dried up a few days ago and its 68 degrees out there right now … sans moon. We saw our first snake of the season on the street during our evening walk so I am not so tempted at the moment to rush out for an encore evening.  But the appeal is still fresh in my mind. The pics are from a few I took on a walk through the neighborhood a few days ago.

As we move towards getting on the road in October, I wonder where I will find other places that will offer such opportunities or maybe some that are even cut from a grander scale.   Whatever they are, I sure am looking forward to those experiences, too. 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dancing ! ? . !

Along the way to this point in my life I have managed to avoid almost all situations that required me to dance.  Now, don’t think I don’t have a love of music  or can’t carry a beat… Heck, I played Trumpet for 6 years in JH and High school and finished sitting solo chair.  It’s just that somewhere, in my wiring, anything that might trigger some self consciousness usually was like an “oops” with a weapons grade nuclear device and I would melt down. 

So the simple solution was to evade the opportunity for personal embarrassment by avoiding scenarios  that might develop into a “dance” opportunity which I successfully have done for the past 50 years…. I am now thinking this was not something to be applauded.

So what is different now?  I think that all along I have wanted to dance, particularly with the love of my life but just could not take the potential personal pain of being “out there”.

Once, when I was in Seattle to teach a seminar, My wife and I, while pursuing an evening mall meal happened upon a small band playing in the area while we ate, and folks were dancing to good old tunes from the big band era. 

By the time we were finished eating, I actually suggested we go dance .. and we did and had a great time at it until the band quit.. That was about 1976 and the last time I danced publicly.

Sure, I have gotten really hooked on Dancing with the stars. I only started watching it because I like John Ratzenberger and he was one of the celebrities on during that season. I quickly saw that he could do what I knew I could do and more, that his attitude switched from expecting an early dismissal to responding to his fans support that kept him in the running. In that I found an admiration and a lust for dancing and figured that if John could do that then It certainly would not hurt me. Several seasons since then I have found that I am now appreciating the whole beauty of the well performed dances without hardly noticing the lack of clothes on the female dancers.

Then, when #3 son Emery, III got married, there was a band and dancing at the wedding reception (actually a DJ, but that’s irrelevant). During the reception, I saw many of His wife’s family and friends dancing almost continuously and some of them were my age (and shape) and just seemed to be enjoying themselves without any apparent awareness that they were being watched.  They were just dancing because they liked to dance.

I was sitting there really wanting to dance. I finally got up and did so with Merrily and loved it… all the while I kept looking out for that 3rd foot of mine that kept getting in the way. Never did see it but the experience convinced me that one skill I definitely wanted to have when we got on the road, was to be able to comfortably hold my own on a dance floor.

So for starters, we signed up for a 12 week social dance class at A Step to Gold and tonight was the second week.  I have the slow dance (with promenade variation) under my belt and the rumba…. maybe. And we are totally enjoying it!  This is way better than it was learning this stuff on an asphalt basketball court in 7th grade PE… Believe me!.  This is really nice and now I really want to do it.

But I don’t think I will ever be doing any acrobatics (heck, at my age and condition, just taking a shower in the RV is pretty heavy on the acrobatics.

But we are having way more fun than I ever imagined I might.