Monday, August 31, 2009

Gutter Overflow problems

In 2008, I got tired of having my RV gutters stop up and then run over the side when an ant got caught sideways in one. I had tried some different gutter ends with drip extensions but none addressed the real problem.

The gutters are so small that they cannot handle much water, much less the constant buildup of EPDM roof cast off material, algae and other foreign stuff that seems magnetized to DSC01159lodge in them. Additionally, they are not angled at any sort of useful drainage elevation so what does get into them rarely moves on out very quickly.  Some awning braces actually attach over the gutters with bolts that barely clear the top of the opening and so anything that might try to go down it, like a leaf, twig or a cockroach with his hand up, will catch on the bolt and create a junk jam, again causing overflow.

On my curb side I have a huge awning with the afore mentioned mounting problem. Between the backup in the gutter at the awning attachment bracket and the normal overflow onto the awning covering shield, a great deal of the water runs off right at the edge of the rear slide seal. Over time, a lot of water manages to seep through any seal there and also trickles down and around the bottom of the slide at that place and wicks back into the edge of the flooring causing it to deflake.

Replacing the gutters is a non-option as is climbing up there every week (or less) to flush them out. After much puzzling and cursing over this, along with replacing the floor in the slideout, I decided that the solution was a lot simpler than I was trying to make it.

I figured that if I made some sort of gutter/flashing that did not try to hold the water and trash but just kept it from running on down the sides and slides, then I could direct it wherever and If it did get some trash in it, there would be no sides to it to capture it there and make a trash jam in the flow.

I started off looking for aluminum flashing that I could form but I was unhappy with the look and the work needed to get it like I wanted. Eventually, I found some DuraFlash


at Home Depot that is made of PVC and it seems to be a great solution. Being PVC, it is easy to cut, shape, glue and is virtually indestructible if struck by branches or whatever. Since there is no "edge" to actually capture the water but rather, just direct it, any trash that may get on it just washes off the side or over the end with the running water.

By cutting a piece long enough to carry gutter overflow from above the slideout to behind the rear scare light,


I managed to stop all of the dampness in the carpet and along the slideout seams. I placed it at enough of an angle to insure that the water would really rather go down it than over the edge. The slight drip lip along the outer edge keeps any water that may run over the side from running back under it and down the side of the RV. You can still see the old stains from the original gutter runoff that goes down across the scare light. Notice no stains at the end of the flashing, though.

I shaped the end of it with a little outward flare to direct the runoff away from the side of the RV


and glued it in place with standard PVC cement. Likewise, where there was runoff from the Big awning cover I put an extended piece


there to catch that and direct it back down into this new flange. I won't apologize for the current look as this was just a prototype to see if it worked, how well it worked and to see what modifications I might need to make to it to protect other places that have gutter overflow problems.

As of now, I need to go back to just make a nice looking one to replace the prototype and then make a few more to put in a few other places that have runoff/overflow problems. Just about the only changes I will make is to provide a little longer/larger flange at the ends of the awning shield to better direct really heavy flows back down the flange. At present it takes nearly a hurricane's volume of water to run over it now and even this amount does not run down the end of the slideout..

I will also add one of these across the back of the RV above the triple rear windows to keep them from collecting so much "white" runoff from the roof back there. A nice double angled pair draining to each RV corner should do the trick.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting rid of the “Stuff!”…

Nick Russel's Gypsy Journal Blog has been a long favorite of mine. He has a lot of insight and very useful perspective about many diverse things besides just full time Rving.

When He and Terry finally bought a new motor home they had to move everything from their MCI bus conversion into the new vehicle and that meant discovering a lot of things that had been there but forgotten for years. He chronicled this multi-day effort in his blog. He also has a "bad side" that is ruled by Bad Nick. Bad Nick seems to be the one that has more mouth than brain, a shorter fuse than an older cherry bomb and despite strong social fences and tethers, does manage to get out, occasionally and impress his needs on the world around him. You can follow the misadventures of Bad Nick on his own website… But I digress.

The follow is an excerpt from my comments which I posted on the regular Nick's blog when he was grousing about all the stuff that had to be relocated or disposed of to move into the new Winnebago.

Believe me, just because one is living in less than 400 sq ft does not mean that the usual FSF (Flat Surface Fungus) does not thrive just as well as in a 4000 sq ft Stix and Brix home.

It sounds like maybe Bad Nick gets a lot of that stuff and then puts it in unrelated places just to gently hide it from you and Terry. He probably knows exactly where it is and maybe even gets it out to play with it sometimes when you guys are not paying attention.

Personal experience:

We still have the advantage of living in DakotR in the back yard. All of our "stuff" is still in the basement of the house. Every few months, I take a 90 gallon city trash can and drag it into the basement, empty. The goal is to fill it before the next trash pickup on Tuesday. The "left-overs" that I gleaned out of the boxes, drawers and other "high density" hideouts, are left sitting out to be sorted and restored in new places. This adds an urgency factor to dealing with them because whatever flat spaces they now occupy are probably places that I will need to be able to use in a few weeks or months. Places like the table saw bed, workbench, flip top tool box, slack space on the hand tools storage shelves.

That last one is a really good technique because as tools are discovered in various random boxes, bags, buckets, etc. They have to be put on those shelves sooner or later so the boxes, bags, etc. can be pitched into the 90 gallon "liberator!". When that happens there will rarely be anything that is as important as the tool.. Any tool, used or unused for decades will still trump 4 Aces of any other sort of content.

I will admit that this cannot be done in a few weeks. Some lagging content will be able to hold out longer in this competition than John Ratzenberger on Dancing with the Stars. The key is the presence of the 90 gallon mawr that must be fed to full by Tuesday. That insures that every week the liberator is brought into the basement, 90 gallons of volume is released to the natural environment and eventually, you will see the difference.

There is just one rule, If its in the basement I must not be there past monday evening and it must never be put on the curb less than full. Its amazing how well this works for us that are organizationally challenged and sometimes can't seem to make a simple decision between STAY, GO, DONATE. I have found that by the time things have survived the liberator a few times (or many) and have not had their destinies firmly decided, the sheer trouble of having to face them again wears down their staying power and their ability to cling to the edge of my indecision, weakens and starts to slip.

By the time I reach the "Oh crap! I have to handle this again!" point,... it has become translated into crap and that is a no-brainer.

I promise that it only takes a few weeks of gritting your teeth when facing the unfilled Liberator 90 gallon container before that becomes a passion more powerful than all the collected "I am sure I can/will/might use that item someday".

And above all, don't let the ebb-tide side of this catch you by surprise. It is guaranteed that with a week or even a few days after the Tuesday an item left with the liberator, you will see an immediate need for it. That is the way of nature.... ignore it and just ask yourself if you would have recognized this need if you had not just handled that item for the first time in 14 years? The answer must always be NO! because if you had even thought of it you would not have had a clue where it was and would not have been willing to spent the hours of lost time it would have taken to discover that it was not in any of the places that you could have thought of to look in for it.

For those items that are still potentially too useful, valuable or warm and fuzzy to give to the liberator, you can store them on eBay or Craigslist until you need them (never).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Layout of the Smart deck on Clifford

The following pictures show, from back of cab area to the tail of Clifford, where things are located on the present back of the truck.  Any photo opened can be zoomed to read the tape measure to identify how far back from the forward edge of the middle Catwalk platform an item or area is located.

The forward edge of that catwalk was picked as an easy reference point because it lines up with the grab handles on the side fairings of Clifford and makes it the forward-most point that the side of the smart couOrigion 2: Starting point - fwd most edge of smart placement on deck begins at fwd edge of middle catwalk.ld be placed once loaded. O2: pic 2





O2: pic 2

O2: pic 3






O2: pic 4 -White line is 60" from front edge of middle catwalk. Should be width of Smart less 1.1"O2: pic 5






O2: pic 6

O2: pic 7






The white chalk marks indicate the 60” point which would be about where the smart side facing the rear (plus 1.1”) would come if lined up on the front edge of the catwalk. This is just as an easy reference to get perspective and measurements.

In the last photo, the middle chalk mark of the 3 is 60” rearward of the first chalk mark (back side of the smart). The two marks bracketing it are about the range of where the pin would come in this hitch.

Clearly, this hitch must be moved back. It is presently in the rear most lock position on this sliding platform.  The whole platform can be moved farther back by unbolting it and then unbolting the support flanges under it and moving them rearward. I don’t think that it will be necessary to add any extension to the main frame rails to do this.

DSC01070 DSC01069

A lot more pictures and measurements of Clifford’s bed area are available on my Full TIming – Smart Car Deck Project gallery. The originals are 4k x 3k pixel photos so displaying the original form of a photo might be slow on a slow internet connection. Fortunately, Smugmug displays thumbnails and provides a number of alternate display formats by default so the choices are yours once you are there.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Smart Loading and unloading

All focus is now on getting Clifford setup to load $prite, the smart car on it, piggy back style.  This whole concept has only been around a few years but it provides a way to have a run around vehicle that can go anywhere civilized with good MPG.

The basic design is simple, just put a deck on the back of the HDT behind the cab and some ramps to run it up there and tie it down securely. How hard could that be?

It turns out that there are a few critical points that make this complicated. $$$$$, $$$$$$ and more $$$$$$ if the finished examples of this are any indicator of what is necessary.

The first person to do this that I know of was DennisM. His solution was fixed ramps loading from the driver’s side onto the flat bed he built behind the cab. He is still loading that way just fine.

The next evolution was to make a platform for the smart to sit on when loaded and make it to tilt up when loading and unloading. Lifted by hydraulic or Air bags, this reduces the breakover angle for the edge of the deck.

I am not satisfied with some of the limitations in the current solutions.

For one thing, they are all loaded/unloaded from the driver’s side of the HDT.  They require some powered lift mechanism to give a smart clearance and they also need a winch to get it on and sometimes to get it off of the HDT.

I want to load from either side and unload the same way. I do not want a lot of mechanics to do it and I would like to drive it on and off without dependence on a winch.

We need to have this finished for our anniversary kick off trip at the end of October so I have a friend with some experience doing this, working on the design with me.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

House Cleaning day

Today we tackled cleaning DakotR.  Normally, I would not mention this but this was like a spring cleaning… .in August.  It had to be done, what with the recent bloom of spiders and their webs this time of year.

Also, lots of pollen and such but its mostly because of the almost constant forced air from the A/Cs and the ceiling fan. The fan has been a great addition. The original 30” fan was too close to the ceiling so it never really moved any air but it had to be that high to clear the tops of the opposing slideouts. DSC01081 The replacement is only 24” and fits nicely on its stalk between the slideouts when they are closed. It can even be used like that.  It does keep the air stirred and balances the temps both summer and winter. The other one never really kept the things evenly tempered.

But, it does move a lot of dust, too, and despite the apparent slickness of the ceiling and wall surfaces, they do snag lint and pollen like a wire brush and so have to be cleaned more often. I guess that is proof that this fan works. Never had to vacuum the ceiling and walls, before.

I handled the high stuff, like ceilings, valancesDSC01072 , cabinet facingsDSC01071 and doors and all the other “up high” stuff.  Merrily used a second vacuum to do the floors and carpets (one of the few perks of still sitting in the back yard of our stix and brix).

But after a couple of hours of this, I am pooped and soaked with perspiration from working over my head so much. I really need an extension hose to lengthen it so I don’t have to pick up the vacuum so much to reach up high.  Its a Hoover self propelled so its not light but it is good.

I have gotten the hardest stuff done but still need to do the entry area, bathroom and bedroom “up-highs”, tomorrow.  I also need to do my regular clean and sanitize of the bathroom, kitchen and hard floors.  I will work on that some, tomorrow, too.

Normally, I can keep up with this on a fairly regular basis but with the gobs of extra attention that I have been paying to changing our hot water heater for a tankless and planning the smart car loader and bed for Clifford, I have just not stayed on top of it all.

I really appreciate it when Merrily offers to pitch in on her day off to help me get caught up, again. She never complains about it nor chastises me for being behind.  She just says “lets get the place vacuumed and cleaned up a bit when we get back from lunch” and I never say “no.” She is more than just a gem of a person, she knows me better than I do myself and if I have learned nothing else in our 30 years of life together, its that she really is right more often than I am and I had better listen to her when she has an opinion or a suggestion.

On another front, it is clear that it’s time for a PIBWIB day (Put It Back Where It Belongs).  One fact of living in 400 sq ft is that a lot of things have to be kept in unhandy places.  When they are needed, they come out of the closet, basement or wherever they normally hide. Once used, it is often anticipated that the item will be used again, “shortly”, so it is kept out and handy. DSC01077

Eventually, it will be joined by brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and non-related items all retrieved to be “handy” with few returned immediately to the places of their storage after use. The bad news is that any flat area will become a temporary home for this growing gaggle of gear. The good news is that every flat surface will eventually reach equilibrium and things will start falling off as the overloading continues.  I call it Flat Space Fungus (FSF) because it does behave much like a fungus growing and growing until it spawns new piles on flat surfaces below it as they fall off of the primary surface.

The other bad news is that human nature being what it is, no one item falling off is enough justification to put them all back where they came from. Its much more expedient to just pick it up and find another way to place it back there with a little more “clout”.

Ah, but I digress… the point is that PIBWIB day is when all waifs and orphans must be put back where they came from for the sheer sanity of it. However, there is bad news here, too, for some of us older, wiser folk… these items will have been out of place for so long that their original storage locations will have been forgotten!  Imagine that!

So, putting it away becomes a matter of engineering new storage places for this stuff and thus restart their lifecycle anew, and that takes a lot more time and is harder to initiate.

The other thing that happens on PIBWIB day is that all of those empty boxes that stuff came in from a store (shoe boxes, tool boxes),DSC01076 UPS or USPS that looked like they would be just what I will need to store….. something (I don’t exactly know right now but it will come to me). 

They tend to have their own growth cycle but will probably be moved and moved again many times to get at things legitimately stored in the cabinet behind them or under them.  They will also be opened many times when looking for something else that was not where it was supposed to be and that had either become part of the FSF collections or been “aggregated” into some empty box for temporary holding until the box could be sorted or a PIBWIB day rolls around.

It is important to note that aggregated storage like this means that there is absolutely no indexing system of what’s in there or any discernable associative relationship to any other item in the box… its just there because company was coming and it looked bad “out”. It also means that at the time of aggregation, one’s mind was likely not their own and the pressures of “straightening up” prevented any and all transfer of temporary memory to permanent storage. Thereafter, all attempts to find anything that has been thus aggregated will require looking through all boxes, empty or not, until the last one, which, of course, is where the item being sought will be.

I guess its time to sign off. Between the actual work and this recap, I am bushed and getting hungry.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

To blog…. or not to blog….

Taking on the “responsibility” of a blog is not as simple as just making a diary or a personal journal…. maybe I was naive to think it was mostly like that.

The truth is that, unlike a diary, a blog is potentially readable by more than one’s self.   It does require some sensitivity to what others might think or how they may react to something I put into it. The best case is that I can “unload” my mind and spirit into it. The worst case is that I reveal something that unintentionally offends, embarrasses or maligns someone else. So, whether it is nobler in the mind to blog uncensored and suffer the slings and arrows of outraged friends and family or distort and omit some of the expressed reality with censorship. This can become a really sticky point in the process and in the content.

I feel strongly that it is important to reveal the actual state of mind and affairs as we move through this process. It paints a picture of accurate realism and better perspective for those that may come behind. It does not ignore the sloughing off of great chunks of expectations at the expense of future disappointments of readers.

On the other hand, absolute truthfulness can quickly become a wedge between friends and family that induces an unwanted attitude and regard for the full timing transition relationships thereafter.

So, the daily availability of content becomes subject to the fine line between censored and uncensored content…. and therein lies the difficulty with maintaining a content rich blog on a specified schedule.  Sometimes, the mire of personal daily content that cannot pass the censorship process is so large that there is nothing to describe without opening the whole kimono.

I have tried to get some ongoing content online but each day has been mostly about personal, medical, financial and relationship issues that once posted, would not cease to cause me discomfort for a very long time. I am certain that I would also start getting a lot of comments on the site which, while I like to get them, would not be pleasant to read so I have abstained from posting.

To all this I will say that there are a lot of things that come up in the process of moving into a full-timing lifestyle that is of a very deeply personal nature. Realistically, I offer a caution to all that pursue this lifestyle to expect to have some uncomfortable and frustrating times that you will have to bear alone or only with your companion.  Just be aware that this is normal even though no one writes much about it in their books and journals. They just cannot describe the specifics so that future readers get a completely honest and revealed view of what to expect. In so doing, the future followers of the lifestyle may find surprises in their transitions but they should not be dismayed or discouraged by these “dips”. They are normal and should be expected and should not be seen as automatic show-stoppers.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Go – No Go days….

It seems that every time I get a certain kind of respiratory bug its takes me forever for it to run its course.  This time I came down with it at the same time as my #1 son, Smitty, got it. He has worried through it while on the road and got over it in about 2 weeks.

Me, I am still struggling with the residuals from this thing.

To answer the usual first questions… I do take massive amounts of Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Flaxseed Oil, Omega 3 fish oil, and a descend multivitamin. The downside is that some of these things change how I feel but don't really seem to shorten the lifespan of this bug.  Likewise, antibiotics don’t really seem to make any improvement but they do often make me feel worse while I am taking them.

All of this points more to viral rather than bacterial based infections.

The bad side of all of this is it kicks my immune system into high gear and that stress brings on the whole team of discomforts and depressors that come out when I am suffering from long term stress.

This is the “downers team” and when it gets control there is little more that I can get done than sleeping, eating irregularly and just trying to keep the minimum daily chores done. I can usually forget dealing with anything that requires engineering thought, power tools, or that involve some sort of conflict. The first will be wrongly done, the second is too dangerous to handle and the last will put me in a completely dysfunctional PTSD funk just waiting to explode unpredictably . That is not good for anyone around me.

So I have been plagued with this bug since June 3rd and though I have gotten mostly through the phglm, coughing, nose itching and dripping, ears plugged, raspy voice, lung whistling, stomach hurting, gut pains and nausea they still come back from air pollutants, and food sources. If I am lucky I will be over this before Labor Day.

There is still way too much to get fixed, completed, planned and financed before we leave at the end of October and a lot of it requires my brain and body working nearly flawlessly to get it completed without incident and or mistakes. This is getting really hard, right now.

I have started a workspace for designing and building the Smart car loader on Clifford. I put in an Excel spreadsheet that provides something of an index to resources of threads and pictures that describe key information and pictures of several bed and loader building processes to give some perspective of the overall process.

So far, most of this has been done during my last few non-sleeping nights so the time has not been totally wasted.

My next step is to decide how much to do myself and how much to contract out.  With the financial state right now, I think I am going to have to do a lot more of the work myself than I had originally planned.  Unfortunately, I don’t work well outside during the heat and humidity and biting insects of the NC summer months. I couple of chigger bites or mosquitoes bites and I am damaged for several days or more.

Another piece of work to do is to get the shore power hookups on Clifford and to put in the old Magnetek converter/charger to keep his batteries up. I would not trust it to do the job long term but they will get good peak charging from time to time when we are driving it but the Magnetek won’t let them go dead on me.

I need to start putting my various project plans on the website, too. A place to keep it all together and easy to find “what’s next to do”.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Tankless days – followup

I want to tell you…. this Precision Temp RV-500 tankless water heater is outstanding!  I actually showered AND Merrily did wash at the same time and I could not even tell it other than a few little glitches in water pressure!!!!

Granted, I also turned on the RV water pump to provide supplemental water and pressure since our shore water supply is about 100’ of 3/4” polybutal pipe plus another 50’ of RV hose to get to the RV connection. This is all just fed from a common (and 40 year old) frost proof hose bib on the back of the basement of the house. These are definitely NOT full flow valves and it does not take much pressure drop in the house to give us less than 40psi out here. When it does drop off I have found that running the RV Shurflow Extreme flow plump in the RV draws enough additional water from the RV tank to make up the lost pressure and volume so its not noticeable.

BTW, I have found another important thing about occasionally doing this with the pump. When these Shurflow pumps sit unused for long spells they seem to get stubborn about starting up again.  From tips from others with these smart flow pumps, using them even while shore water is hooked up is not a bad idea… just so long as you don’t forget it is on and run the RV water tanks dry.  I generally flip the pump ON during laundry days and keep the RV tank nearly full most of the rest of the time, just in case of… whatever.

I did finish up the replumbing job, though. I had intended to reuse some of the pipes and fittings from the old HWH bypass valves “Christmas tree” but decided that this stuff was all over 10 years old and the fittings were all plastic. I opted to use some of the 1/2” PEX I still had from replumbing the house a few years ago and bought new brass fittings for everything I installed.

One thing that turned out to be pretty nice is that the new tankless HWH is not nearly as deep as the Suburban 10 gallon DSI HWH so I now have quite a bit more space under the kitchen sink for storage. 

I just need to relocate a couple of 110volt electrical boxes that feed the whole slideout and I will actually be able to put a lot more under there than a bottle windex and a 1/2 bag of new sponges. Nothing heat sensitive,of course, even though it does not even get a little bit warmer under there when the new HWH is operating.

This is the “before”DSC00991 picture and here is the “after” shotDSC01048 with the newly operational tankless HWH and plumbing.  Quite a difference as you can see from the electrical junction box in both pictures that has not yet been moved. There is just that much more available space, now.

I just need to do some dressing up of the routing of the pipes, wires, heater hose, etc. to make the space more accessible.

The only item left to do is reinstall the water filter to the ice maker and the separate filtered water tap on the sink.  The original installation had the filter mounted horizontally (against the printed instructions on it) and on the shelf above the HWH. I am still puzzling as to where to put it so I can easily change it without emptying anything out of this cabinet. Maybe I will have an epiphany tonight…. if I ever get to sleep.


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.