The RV Road Trip Fulltimer's Blog for November 2011

There were no shortage of kids coming through the park to trick-or-treat last night! It started off slow but then they came in droves. I would guess about 300 kids came through as Cynthia and I handed out 200 $1,000,000.00 bill gospel tracts along with our candy and when we ran out of tracts, kids were still coming. It all ended at 6:30pm because the park activities director had a big meal planned for the residents and it started at 6:30. It was funny to see everyone suddenly file into the activities hall when the clock struck 6:30pm.

Here are a couple of pictures we took, there are more in the Picture Gallery under Mission Bell RV Resort.

Handing out candy.


Oh yeah, did anyone notice the updated background image? It works properly in everything except Internet Explorer. I sure wish Microsoft would adopt CSS3 standards already. If you'd like to see how great our site looks in a standards compliant browser, load it up in Firefox, Chrome or Safari. The most noticeable difference is how the picture galleries display, but there are lots of other little things you're missing if you still use Internet Explorer.
I did some more tweaking of the code in an attempt to get Internet Explorer to properly display the background so you can see Cynthia AND me peeking in from the sides regardless of what your screen size is... but only IE9 works. If you have IE8 or less, I have no idea what you'll see - LOL. Once HTML5 becomes a standard with W3C, I will rewrite the site to conform to that as all the top browsers will fully support it. Right now it conforms to HTML 4.01 Transitional, XHTML 1.0 and partly to CSS3.

I apologize if this is technical mumbo jumbo to any of you so I'll explain it in non-technical terms. HTML is the language used to write ordinary web pages. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are ways you can apply effects to the HTML to change colors, fonts, layouts, etc. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sets standards for writing web page code so that, supposedly, all browsers can properly render a page written to those standards. However, Microsoft chooses not to adhere to those standards... and never has. This is why their market share has tumbled, people are tired of it and there are much better browser choices now. OK, OK... I will get off my soap box now - LOL.
Still more code tweaking today, but we figured out how to get all the picture galleries to display properly in all the major browsers. Yes, even Internet Explorer! I tested it on IE9 and it works fine, not sure how it will look any other version of IE. If you are running a version of IE less than 9, you can use the Windows Update site to upgrade for free.

The script we use to display the images pulls them from our Google Picasaweb albums online and embeds them into the page on the fly. If we add pictures to one of the existing albums, the new pictures show up here on the site without us having to do anything else. So go check out the Picture Gallery displays, we hope you'll like them.

This morning we went to the pancake breakfast here in the park. It was from 7am - 8:30am and we got there right at 7. There was already about a dozen people there eating! We got our plate and sat with some friends and enjoyed the breakfast and the conversation.

Scooter is starting to understand that he is not supposed to growl or bark at everyone who walks by. He still gets excited when someone comes by with another dog but that'll get better with time. Yesterday evening when we were out walking with the dogs, a friend that had recently arrived saw us and came to give us a hug. Well, ol' CJ got very defensive! He starting barking and yelping and got between us and our friend. Maybe he thought we were being attacked or something but he certainly made it clear he did not approve. Scooter was looking at CJ like he had lost his mind.
When the weatherman says it is going to be windy, they don't mean the wind is going to blow the same as it does every other day. They mean it is going to be windy! So either tie that awning down properly or it will get ripped off the side of your camper... like this poor fellow.

Wind damage.

You want to tie your awning down at each end of the roller and 1 or 2 tie downs running across the canopy from side to side. This way your awning can't billow, and billowing is what causes most of the damage. Now if the wind is going to be above 35MPH, be sensible and roll your awning in. Here's a shot of a properly tied down awning and also a close up of how we stake ours into the ground. We use a 12" spiral screw then attach an awning spring to that, then we run straps around the roller tube on each end.

A properly tied down awning.

Awning tie down spring.

If you are an RVer, you know your fridge and freezer isn't nearly as large as a residential unit, or those found in much larger RVs. So when we go to the grocery store, we cannot buy more than will fit in it when we get home. Here is what ours looked like after a recent return from the local grocery store, HEB.

A full freezer.

Today is 11/11/11. Some say it is a lucky day, some say it is unlucky. I read online that there were going to be an inordinate number of births and weddings today. The weddings by choice, the births by C section. I guess in the rush to be "special", people didn't realize that so many people are doing it that it is no longer special.

But something that is special is our new toilet! We just got a Dometic Revolution 310 and it sure is nice. Our old toilet was a Thetford Aqua Magic V and that thing was all plastic, too low, hand flush only and didn't have a spray attachment. The new toilet has a porcelain bowl, is almost 18" tall, has a foot flush and a sprayer! And the best part is, it sure is comfortable.

Dometic 310 Toilet

Dometic 310 Toilet

Today is also Veteran's Day so we would like to thank all the vets out there who have served or are currently serving our country. Your commitment is very much appreciated. Jerry is a veteran and served in the US Army from 03/1983 to 10/1989. Here is a shot of him in 1986 when he was stationed in South Korea. He served as a tank gunner and a combat engineer and has been in more countries than he has US states. But we're working on changing that. :)

Jerry in Korea.

Well, well. We went to the grocery store this past weekend and guess what we found? Egg Nog! Now Jerry likes it but Cynthia doesn't, so we bought a small bottle. The major brands are very expensive but the house brand at the HEB store is fairly reasonable, so we got that. It is so rich that you can only drink a little at a time, but it sure is good. Anyone else out there like Egg Nog?

This past Saturday we went back to Bobz World in Los Fresnos. We had been there once before but didn't realize it was more than just a gift shop. This time we took the tour and thoroughly browsed through the whole gift shop. Unfortunately, they do not allow pictures on the tour so we aren't able to show you that, but we did take pictures of everything else. You can see all those pictures here. The tour is a large number of exhibits ranging from dinosaurs, to Hollywood, to Jesus' resurrection. If you are ever headed to South Padre Island or Brownsville, stop by Bobz World and have a little fun. Oh yeah, they will open a new putter golf course in March 2012.

Bobz World

Bobz World

The new toilet is working great. We should have bought that a long time ago but didn't realize just how big an improvement it would be. Oh well, live and learn. We ordered 2 new solar panels to go on the roof of the motorhome. They are 100 watt mono-crystalline panels and will easily keep our house batteries charged when we are at locations that don't have hookups. We'll get them installed as soon as they arrive. We intentionally bought small, high efficiency panels so they could be placed strategically on the roof. Higher wattage panels tend to be much larger and we just don't have the roof space for large panels. With panels of this size, we have room for 2 more should the need arise. We'll need to find room for 2 more batteries before that, though.

In the menu on the left is a link to a solar installation we did on our first camper so I doubt I will do another write-up for this one. It is pretty much the same, just different locations for the equipment.
Today would have been my mom's birthday but sadly, she died 3 years ago. She would have been 67 but a life of smoking brought on lung cancer. She was diagnosed at stage 4 and died about 5 weeks later. I sure do miss her but she was a good Christian woman and I know I will see her again one day in Heaven. What a day that will be!

We installed the Ready Brake cable on the Jeep today. This cable attaches to the Ready Brute tow bar that has the integrated braking system. When you use the brakes on the motorhome, the force of the Jeep pushing activates the braking system which in turn pulls on the cable that is routed to the Jeep's brake pedal. All you see on the Jeep is the ring connector sticking out of the front bumper just above the base plate. Here's a few shots of it, there are more pictures in the RV Mods picture gallery that show the cable routing.

Ready Brake

Ready Brake

We went with this braking system for several reasons. First, there is nothing to put in or remove from the driver's side floorboard and second, there is nothing to break or wear out. No air lines, nothing to plug in, no hydraulics, no vacuum lines, nothing. The installation we did today is all we will ever have to do to it. When we hook up the Jeep with the tow bar, we connect a cable to the ring connectors on the motorhome and the Jeep. That's all there is to it.

We also installed a set of tow lights on the roof of the Jeep. They are magnetic and came with the wiring and all. We routed the wire so that it can't be seen all the way to the front of the Jeep. This way we can easily connect them to the motorhome lights. We got the light set from Harbor Freight for $9.99 and that included a free multimeter. Heck, just the wire costs more than that everywhere else. We will most likely swap out the lights themselves for an LED light bar. It will look better and be much brighter.

Towing Lights

I guess we forgot to mention that the same day we went to Bobz World, we stopped by the infamous Gonzales Burger in Donna, TX. They are located in an unmarked building at the corner of Silver Ave and 14th Street. Just look for all the cars! They are only open Monday through Saturday from 10:40 until they run of fresh ground beef, which is usually about 2:30pm. They only serve their enormous hamburgers, fries and onion rings. Drinks are canned sodas or bottled water. All the Winter Texans rave about them, so we decided to give them a try.

Sure enough, they are some big burgers! We decided it was best to split one since they appeared to be about 3/4 of a pound uncooked. The patty was thick and significantly larger than your hand. Once our burger and order of onion rings were ready, we grabbed an ice cold soda from their cooler and sat down at a table. We cut the burger in half and dove right in. It was a tasty burger but not really anything out of the ordinary, other than the size of it. The same goes for the onion rings. In the pictures below, you can see the size compared to the ketchup packets. All in all, it was a decent lunch but I doubt we will go back. It's hard to beat Sonic!

Gonzales Burger

Onion Rings

After church yesterday, we spent most of the day installing the solar power system on the motorhome. The panels are 100 watts each and are physically smaller than most panels of that wattage, measuring just 47"x21". We connected them in parallel using MC4 branch connectors and ran 8AWG wire down through the refrigerator vent. The Blue Sky 3024iL charge controller was mounted inside a storage bay and from there, wires go to the house batteries and also inside to the remote display. The remote display allows us to see all the details about the power being generated, the condition of the batteries, the temperature of the batteries, the battery state of charge, amps in, amps out and much more. As soon as the first light peeks over the horizon, the panels start producing power. Of course, in full sun is when they put out the most power. These panels will allow us to camp in places that do not have hookups and we probably won't have to run the generator at all unless we need to run the A/C or microwave.

Solar Panels

The next step is to install the 300 watt pure sine wave inverter. This converts 12v DC power to 110v AC power so we can charge the laptops and watch DirecTV even when no shore power is available. The only bad part of the whole deal is the motorhome only has room for 2 batteries and right now we have a pair of GC2 6v batteries that allow 220 amp hours total, or 110 usable amp hours. We will probably switch to a pair of 12v true deep cycle batteries to get a little more amp hours. But we'll wait until next year at least to do that.
Our new toilet has the foot pedal which we really like, but when you release your foot from the pedal too quickly, it generates a water hammer. Water doesn't compress, but air does. When you release the foot flush pedal, it essentially slams shut the water valve to the toilet. The water that was rushing through the lines comes to an immediate halt, and since it cannot compress, it slams into the end of the water line creating a "thunk" sound. This is a water hammer. If you don't fix this, the water hammer will find the weakest point in your water line and cause a leak. And you know the weakest point will be some connection inside a wall that you can't get to!

We determined that we needed a water hammer arrestor. This gizmo contains air and when you close the toilet valve, the air in the arrestor is compressed thus eliminating the water hammer and it's offending "thunk". We went down to Home Depot to get one, but all we got there was blank stares. So off to Lowe's only to find one made for a washing machine connection. Now on to eBay and success! We found one premade with a Sharkebite fitting so installation would be a breeze. It was also much less expensive than we thought it would be, under $20 delivered. We already had a pipe cutter so we just cut the line and pressed the new arrestor in place. Yay! No more water hammer! Here is a shot of it installed.

Water Hammer Arrestor

I'd like to respond to a couple of the comments below. First, about 6v vs 12v batteries. When you only have room for 2 batteries, you want the largest amp hour (AH) capacity you can get. The 6v golf cart batteries (GC2) that we currently have are 220AH each but they are wired in series to get 12v. This doubles the volts but not the amp hours. The "deep cycle" batteries sold by Walmart and other battery sellers are actually dual purpose batteries designed for use on boats. They will have a low amp hour rating as well as a cold cranking amp (CCA) rating since they are used to start outboard motors and run the boat's 12v systems. They are OK for casual RVers but not for anyone who likes to camp without hookups. Trojan makes a true deep cycle 12v battery that is rated at 225AH. Two of these wired in parallel keeps the voltage the same but doubles the AH, so in the same space I can get 450AH at 12v instead of 220AH at 12v.

As for water pressure, we do have a residential grade Watts brand adjustable water pressure regulator with a gauge, and it is set at 38 pounds. Even at such a modest water pressure, the slamming shut of the toilet valve produces a mild water hammer which we could not ignore. Now supposedly, using PEX tubing should preclude the use of a water hammer arrestor, but we decided to err on the safe side and spend the $9 for the water hammer arrestor rather than have to possibly deal with a leak.
We did a little maintenance on the Jeep yesterday. Every now and then it would idle kinda rough, so we hit up the Jeep forums to find out what might be causing it. Turns out it could be any number of things from a dirty idle air controller (IAC) to a bad crankshaft position sensor (CPS) to Lord knows what. We figured we would start with the simplest and most probable cause, a dirty IAC and a dirty throttle body. We took the air intake off of the throttle body and sure enough, it was very dirty in there. We also removed the IAC and it was covered in carbon but not too bad. We cleaned all of this with a can of throttle body cleaner and reassembled it. The parts looked brand new and the total time to do this was about 30 minutes. The ol' 4.0L engine fired right up and idled like a dream. We'll have to give it a little time to see if the symptoms return or not, but hopefully this did the trick.

We already had the necessary tools to do this job as well as a can of throttle body cleaner, so there was no out of pocket expense. Had we taken it to the dealer, we would have been charged 2 hours for labor, an unreasonable amount for a little bit of throttle body cleaner and those bogus shop fees they tack on now. We figure we saved about $300.00.
Happy Thanksgiving
Well, Thanksgiving and Black Friday came and went... all without a problem. Much better than last year! If you don't know what happened last year, click here to read about it. We slept in on Black Friday for several reasons: First, we didn't need anything; Second, we didn't want to deal with the crowds and last but not least, we didn't want to get up that early! We did see on the news about thefts, pepper spray and a whole assortment of bad behavior. People just don't know how to behave nowadays or they simple don't care.

We added a new link at the bottom of the left hand menu, leading you to a "Find the Difference" picture game we created. We'll make more of these using pictures we have taken during our adventures. You can hold down your CTRL key and scroll your mouse wheel to make the pictures larger or smaller if you have trouble seeing them. They are 500 pixels wide but won't distort if you make them a little larger. There's not really a point to them, just a way to pass the time if it is raining and you can't go outside... or if you are just bored and want something to do. So go test your skills!
Have you ever heard the old saying "If you want something done right, do it yourself?" Well, there is truth in that. Back when I had the Jeep lifted to support the weight of the wheelchair, I asked them to check the rear u-joint as I thought it was going bad. They said they checked it and that it was fine. Well, I started hearing a clicking in the rear end and thought it might be time to replace the axle bearings, so I raised the rear tires off the ground so I could spin them by hand. Doing this would allow me to hear exactly what the source of the clicking was. As you probably already guessed, it was the rear u-joint. That thing had more play in it than a school yard at recess.

I drove over to the local Autozone, which happens to be about 1/2 mile down the road, and picked up a new u-joint. Twenty minutes later, it is installed and no more clicking in the rear end. Total cost was $14.06 and my time, which I have plenty of. This new u-joint has a lifetime guarantee so it will be the last one I buy for that joint.

I think winter blew in last night. The winds the last 3 days have been fierce with sustained winds of 28 MPH and gusts up to about 40 MPH. We got up this morning and the heater was doing it's job of keeping the camper warm. We had set it on 72 and that's what it was when we got up, inside. We lifted the blinds over the dinette so we could see our outdoor thermometer, and here's what we saw...

Winter Temperature

Argh, I spoke too soon. After a short drive, the clicking in the rear end returned. I climbed back under the Jeep to inspect the new u-joint and the new u-joint straps I installed. I used my finger and pushed on it ever possible way and I got it to click! I made a 10 second video of me making it click and posted it on the Jeep Cherokee forums for a little diagnostic help.

In short order one of my fellow Jeepers diagnosed a bad pinion yoke. With this new information, I went back to the Jeep to verify it. Sure enough, it was ever so slightly warped... but enough to allow the u-joint strap to not clamp tightly against the u-joint. This allowed the u-joint cap to move resulting in a click every time the drive shaft rotated. Rather than get a used pinion yoke from a bone yard, I ordered a brand new one from Quadratec and it will be here Tuesday. I sure hope this fixes it!


RV Blog Archives

2017   JAN, FEB, MAR         Please visit
2014   We did our massive 22 state and 15 national park road trip.
2013   We dealt with Jerry's wreck and thyroid cancer treatment.
2012   JAN, FEB, MAR, APR         We stopped full-timing in April 2012.
2008   The Beginning

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