Troubles on the Road

There’s no perpetual motion machine, no unbreakable machine, no way to escape certain things like maintenance and repairs. We may try to avoid working on things that are still “sort of working”, but we’ll eventually get our hands dirty. Many of us are, consciously or unconsciously, aware of deferred maintenance, known more familiarly as procrastination.

Debbie and I try to keep up with all the required and advisable maintenance on our truck and Airstream trailer. In ten years, we’ve had very few problems, maybe not ten in all until our travels this summer. This story is one of my longer ones — Sometimes, like everyone else, we learn we missed something important. In this case, more than several things:

(1) Two months ago we learned our trailer brakes were broken. Fortunately we discovered the damage in Airstream’s excellent service facility in Jackson Center OH. The great folks in the service shop were going to do a quick brake adjustment. But it turned out to be more — much more.

Short story, Airstream replaced the electric brake magnets on all four wheels, turned all four drums, and put our brakes back together again for us. Ouch! We didn’t even know they were coming apart. Airstream Service DOES IT RIGHT! We’re good now, thanks to them.

(2) Both the charge converter and the solar charger quit charging the batteries on our way to the Region 2 Rally in early June. We need these to keep the trailer’s batteries up to keep our lighting, music, fans, and water pump working.

We were using the lights and fans, so we seemed to have battery power. But the battery monitor, a really cool Trimetric 2025, showed the batteries were discharging and not getting any juice from the chargers. Strange.

Finally I turned off the charge converter on the 120vac breaker panel in the trailer. The trailer’s lights and fan died immediately. I pulled the 12 volt system main (30a) fuses. They looked okay and I put them back in place. Everything turned back on and the batteries were getting a charge from the charge converter. The contacts for the two small 30 amp fuses for the 12 volt system weren’t letting juice get through the contacts until I removed and reinserted them. Okay — fixed.

(3) Next, our solar charge controller had stopped noticing sunlight. Instead of the soft amber light signaling everything is copacetic, we now had a bright red indicator light. No more charging from our solar panels, no matter how great the sunlight. We’d replaced our solar charge controller before, but only after it had a stunning smelly electrical circuit board failure.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, I pulled the fuses on all the power connections to solar power system, took the solar charge controller out, and took it apart. Apparently all the smoke was still inside. This time there were no smelly surprises, no charred diodes. I carefully cleaned the contacts, board and components, reassembled the solar charge controller, and put power back to it. It works perfectly. Yep! I probably only needed to do a power reset on it in the first place. We’ll call the extra work preventive maintenance.

(4) A few days later at a rally with the Airstream club’s Region 2 folks near Penn State, we had another surprise. Thanks to John Hussar for doing a propane safety check on our trailer (and even our gas grill!) One of the hoses showed a slight leak on a crimped fitting, according to John’s very sensitive meter. During our stay in Albuquerque NM we had Randy at R and L Propane Service make us a new set of hoses to connect the propane tanks to the gas regulator.

(5) Next, our shower head stopped working. Nothing but a dribble out of it. While we were at the Airstream Service facility I felt courageous enough to tear into the shower plumbing. I’d tried cleaning the shower head but didn’t find anything in it. I wondered about the long flexible hose. Killing two birds with one stone, I replaced the kitchen faucet with the shower hose. Great flow! Years ago a friend told me he’d removed his shower’s vacuum breaker. It’s at the bottom of the hose, where the water comes through the shower wall in a nice chrome elbow. These come in all shapes, ours looked like this:

FullSizeRender-7

Okay, not the cut-off valve, not the hose, not the shower head. I took off the vacuum breaker, reconnected the shower hose and the most amazing thing happened. We have incredibly great flow and pressure, like never before. Why didn’t I do this ten years ago? Good grief!

(6) Shortly after, Debbie’s vanity lights went dim. These are pretty high tech LED super-bright (205 lumens) lights (similar to these.) They seem 1.5X brighter than 12 diode pucks, even though they’re only 3 LEDs. Expensive too, at $19 each through Camping World (you can find them cheaper but might not receive warranty replacement at on-line stores.) Fortunately there’s a Camping World next door to Randy’s Propane Service place and they stock these. Okay, another problem fixed on this trip.

(7) Then, our kitchen cabinet door just barely worked. I’d tightened the Grass hinge screws but the screws wouldn’t stay tight. The door became really sloppy. I’d tighten the two hinges and the door worked perfectly. For a few days, then loose again. I finally took the hinges off, inserted big round toothpicks in the woodwork’s screw holes, and reattached the hinges. A month later and still okay.

1-nexis

(8) On our I-40 voyage into New Mexico I was blowing my horns to say HI in morse code (dit dit dit dit dah dah) to W5AOX Jim while talking on the ham radio with him as we crossed paths East and West. When I keyed the microphone, the horns died, the ham radio quit, and the GPS went blank. No power to any of these accessory loads. I’d overloaded the circuit because the new air horn compressor is a power hog and so is the ham radio when I’m talking full power. Short fix, replaced the 25 amp blade fuse for the accessory circuit and good to go. Project for later – add a dedicated fused line from the battery to the air compressor.

(9) During our stay in New Mexico, the truck’s air horn system completely died. The dash switch had power and I detected power to the relay. Oddly, the primary line only had 11.5 volts compared to the truck’s 12.5+ volts. Instead, I waited until I could get into the project mentioned at the bottom of number (8) above.

If I’d remembered how the line was connected I might sooner have figured out the problem and easily made a temporary repair (just as well I didn’t.) Here’s what I used when I had spliced the air compressor’s line power:

Solderless Wire Quick Splice Connector

Solderless Wire Quick Splice Connector

As soon as I removed the tape from the joint and saw this connector I knew why voltage was low and no current could get to the load — the inexpensive splice connector didn’t hold up. I removed the splice and installed a new (fused) wire straight to the battery. Everything is good. Many of you are probably saying, “He should have run a line direct from the battery in the first place.” You’re right. That’s what I did for the ham radio because we always do that for ham radios.

(10) On our way back from NM, I reached up to turn one of the reading lamps above our bed. It fell loose into my hand, tethered only by the 12vdc wires. Granted, the shelf it’s screwed into is a thin material but heck, I was just re-aiming it! For a long time I’ve wondered if I could, some day, get the squeak out of the ball joint that allows aiming these neat little lights.

FullSizeRender-6

I squirted a tiny spray of Boeshield T-9 onto the ball joint and the swivel. Wowzers, I should’ve done this years ago! The light head swivels and aims silently and smoothly. Just one more case where deferring maintenance probably hastened the attachment failure. Oh yeah, and I reattached the lamp to the shelf in new holes.

(11) On the way home from New Mexico two weeks ago we drove eastward through two days of hard rain on I-40. On the second day we realized neither the fridge nor the water heater would light on propane. The water heater’s never given us a minute of trouble and the control board is potted in some kind of epoxy so looks really waterproof. The fridge, on the other hand, has been troublesome off and on for all ten years of travels.

Good news, the fridge still worked on electric (110vac) and our inverter and batteries can handle the load. The drain on the batteries wouldn’t be a big issue for short drives but we were driving Farmington NM to Charlotte NC in four days, averaging 450 miles daily.

Dinosaur P-711 board

Dinosaur P-711 board

Also good news, we have Dinosaur Electronic’s P-711 control board for Dometic fridges and Dinosaur has GREAT customer and tech phone support. I talked with Chris at Dinosaur who determined the board was functioning but perhaps it’s the thermocouple?

fridge thermocouple

fridge thermocouple

On the way to Camping World the next day, the water heater and fridge both fired up perfectly. We’ve been asked a few times what spare parts we carry for our RV. Just added a (spare) thermocouple for the fridge — Chris at Dinosaur may have been right and we’ll be ready.

We had more maintenance issues in June and July this year than in the ten previous years. We should be good now, everything’s been fixed. Now, everything works perfectly and we don’t have to do any maintenance until the next thing happens — or maybe we should? I think yes we should.

Next post may be about spare parts — what else do we carry?

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
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©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

Eating Our Way Through Albuquerque

Three days in Albuquerque and we’ve hit all the destinations. Well, all the dining ones on our list, that is. We think New Mexico cuisine is a great reason to come to Albuquerque, and if you’re in Albuquerque you may want to try it too.

Five years ago we first visited Albuquerque while traveling on an Airstream guided trip, The Southwest Caravan. We love New Mexico cuisine and think Albuquerque covers it as well as anywhere. Stern’s Road Food and our caravanning friends led us to fun dining choices on our first visit. We’ve been trying those and new ones in visits since.

This week we dined at these four, in order: Duran’s Pharmacy; El Charrito; Model Pharmacy; and Frontier Restaurant. Duran’s, Model, and Frontier are recommended by Stern’s Road Food, and El Charrito is recommended by some of the staff at American RV Park. They’re all good choices, and all different.

Here’s our rundown of this week’s fun NM food dining, place by place.

Duran’s – We arrived near Old Town at 6:30PM for supper and we were one of only two tables occupied. We had very personal attention from an engaging and helpful wait person. Debbie ordered a Mexican Combination Plate and Jim ordered a bowl of green chile topped with shredded cheddar cheese, served with a very good tortilla. We finished with a slice of blueberry pie a la mode. The green chile was tasty and smoking hot, way picante, as hot as anything we ate anywhere this week. Deb’s combination plate was tasty, and the warm blueberry pie was great. The crust was tender and flaky and the filling was sweet and a nice consistency.

El Charrito – We were the only Anglos amongst a lively lunch crowd in this neighborhood restaurant on Central at 50th. Service was very friendly and fast. Jim joked to the waitress the combination plate lunch was not very big (it was really ginormous.) She laughed and said they have much bigger meals but Debbie had ordered a small one. Really? Jim’s carne adovado meal was way too much for one of us. It’s marinated pork served with lettuce, tomato, rice and beans, and a tortilla. The marinated pork was tasty, spicy-hot, and tender, and except for the spiceyness seemed like New Mexico’s answer to North Carolina’s pulled pork barbecue.

Model Pharmacy – The scale and setup of Model Pharmacy’s dining area is similar to Duran’s. Duran’s Pharmacy store is much larger and seems first a pharmacy, then also a gift store and restaurant. Model seemed equally a trendy gift store and a restaurant, neither very large. We readily found a table for dining but could easily have picked a stool at the fountain counter. Service was as good as at Duran’s, but Model was busy so the waitperson really worked to do so well. Our waitperson was attentive without interfering and made nice and helpful recommendations. We ordered a cup each of green chile stew with a tortilla, and we ordered coffee and a scoop each of Dreyers ice cream. The green chile stew was laced with carrots, celery and bits of beef, was mild and very tasty.

Frontier Restaurant – Frontier is directly across the street from University of NM. Open from 5am to 1am seven days a week and serving hot food really quickly, Frontier seems to serve a lot of people all the time. We arrived after 8pm today and had no wait to order. There is an order counter where we placed our order and received a number. Less than five minutes later our dinners were plated and on trays for our pickup. If there’d been a line we’d still have had our food within no more than ten minutes. Jim ate a cup of carne adovado with a chicken taco and a tortilla. Debbie had a half-order enchilada plate. The serving sizes were perfect for us and the food was excellent. The carne adovado was slightly spicy and, again, most like pulled pork barbecue with extra kick.

They have very large and attractive sweet rolls ($1.85) that remind us of the many rolls we enjoyed on our Alaska Caravan several years ago. While we were dining we watched a couple of dozen people show up to order. Within several minutes they all had ordered and were queueing to pick up their trays of food. Parking at Frontier can be challenging for lunch, but we easily found street-side parking on Central outside the restaurant for this late dinner.

Model had the tastiest, for us, green chile stew. Duran had the hottest green chile by far. Frontier is the low-price leader and the very fastest. El Charrito served the most food on a plate. We look forward to our next visit to Albuquerque so we can eat great NM food again.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
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©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

Who Carries With Them a 60 amp RV Adapter?

We arrived yesterday afternoon to the Fairgrounds in Centre Hall for a rally of Region 2 of the Airstream Club. Upon checking the power receptacle we found one we’d previously not seen. The receptacle has this blade pattern:

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.23.14 AM

for big honking 120 vac 60 amp plugs that seem to weigh five pounds and look like this:

NEMA 14-60 Plug

NEMA 14-60 Plug

There’s no way we can plug our trailer’s shore power cord into this thing. Eight years ago, on our first big full-timing adventure, we pulled to our assigned parking place. After leveling, unhitching, and getting out hoses and cords, we realized the site only provided electrical hookups for 50 amp plugs. Reconnect the truck and trailer, move to another site, try again.

The 50 amp receptacle we sometimes encounter in campgrounds looks like this:

50amp receptacle

50amp receptacle

Our trailer, and perhaps most small to medium RV trailers, are fitted with a shore power cord with a 30 amp plug to fit into these RV receptacles:

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Another time or three we failed to check utilities (and the length of our cords and hoses to reach these) BEFORE we unhitched the truck and trailer. We had to hitch up the truck and trailer and move to a spot where we could enjoy the utility connections for which we paid and upon which we still thought ourselves dependent. But, back to the point . . .

Yesterday we used our 12-3 20 amp-rated tool cord to connect the trailer to a regular 20 amp receptacle. Later, while walking the fairgrounds, we found a 50a – 60a adapter provided by the fairgrounds. This morning I plugged our 30 amp shore power cord into our 50 amp adapter into their 60 amp adapter into the NEMA 14-60 receptacle.

It’s really simpler than it sounds. I mention this only because I think it so odd we’ve traveled extensively these past ten years and only just now encountered our first 60amp receptacle in a camping spot. We bought a 30 to 50 amp adapter years ago and use it a few times a year. No, we aren’t going to buy a 50-60 adapter. Not yet, at least.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

P.S. Here are two sites with good visual references on plug and receptacle configurations:
PowerStream’s Reference Chart of NEMA AC Plugs and
StayOnline’s NEMA Straight Blade Reference Chart

Lucky Contacts in Pennsylvania

This is our Airstream’s first time in Pennsylvania. Various interests have pulled us all over the continent except, until now, the North Atlantic regions. The Airstream Club invited us to attend a region rally in Centre Hall (it really is in the “centre” of Pennsylvania.) We stopped first for a few days in Penn Wood Airstream Park. Thanks to Rorie, the Park President, for allowing us in despite a very busy Memorial Day weekend in the Park. And thanks to the many folks we met this weekend for their friendliness. We’ve had a great stay in their home park and look forward to our next visit.

HAM RADIO
The space Rorie found for us is at the top edge of Penn Wood (maybe she was hiding us?) It is a pretty and very quiet site. Our roof-mounted ham radio antenna works well here, better than many places we’ve visited. The nearby trees are fabulously tall white pines. I couldn’t resist hanging another antenna over the top of a great tree on this hill.

Good antennas plus good atmospheric conditions provide opportunities for long range conversations on the ham radio. The last couple of nights I’ve talked to hams in Slovenia, Geneva, Aruba, San Diego, Mille Lacs Lake (MN) and Rentz (GA.) The wire antenna I was using, the site we were in, and great conditions all combined for easy and fun work on the radio.

I’ve tried a lot of different portable antennas and wasn’t thrilled with many of them. I have a favorite antenna now. I learned a couple of years ago about a simple antenna from an article on the internet. The antenna consists of one 71′ piece of 12 gauge wire and an electronic box at the bottom. The box is an auto coupler, or auto tuner, and sits on the aluminum roof of our Airstream. The wire attaches to it, and a coaxial cable (similar to cablevision for your television) connects to the radio inside our Airstream.

Sometimes the wire attracts attention, often it doesn’t. The wire’s insulation is grayish brown and the wire isn’t large. The rope pulling the wire steeply upward toward the tree is smaller than the wire. Combined they are over ninety feet long and go very high up to the tall white pine across the driveway. If you look carefully at this picture, you might see the wire sloping upward away from the trailer.

end fed antenna

Two nights ago I turned on the radio, tuned up, and bang! I heard the station in Slovenia calling for North America. A few minutes later I heard the Geneva station then the one in Aruba. Last night I was listening for a few minutes and trying to reach a Naples station I heard. The Naples station fell silent and I heard a person asking, “Is the frequency in use?”

I waited while he tuned up and answered when he called “CQ, CQ, anyone anywhere?” Gordie was visiting Mille Lacs Lake and trying out his very old radio with good luck. I don’t think the radio is quite as old as Gordie though — he’s 92 and says he’s been a ham for 75 years. I started too late to ever match that! We had an enjoyable conversation for almost a half hour. Doesn’t happen often but is nice when it does.

JACKSON CENTER OH
Last week we were at the Airstream factory and at the Airstream Club central offices, both in Jackson Center OH. Enjoyed working with other members of the Club’s leadership on budget for next FY and plans for next year’s big summer rally. Membership is rising again, no doubt helped by the prodigious increases in production and sales from the Airstream factory and dealers. This year’s Airstream Club President Joe Perryman deserves a lot of credit too. He worked collaboratively two years ago with a team of very interested members to develop an action plan for the Club.

Joe and his team have a lot of great ideas to improve the club. They arrived at a series of priority issues to accomplish during his leadership year. Under Joe’s watch the Club has implemented a digital directory (“Big Red Numbers Lookup”, some friends call it.) Joe relaxed the dress code for business meetings. He reinstated the electronic newsletter, “News and Views”; issued a survey of Club membership; hired a new Corporate Manager; has continued support for modernizing the Club’s administrative processes and has pushed for on line registration and renewals. It’s been a good year, and things are looking up for the Airstream Club!

While at the Airstream factory we asked the service center to do an annual tune-up on our trailer brakes. It turned out to be a little more than expected. The excellent service techs found a problem with two of our wheels’ brakes and quickly adjusted their work plans for the afternoon to finish this up and get us going before closing time.

Nothing is without a cost, though. I was hoping for a brake adjustment and repacking the trailer’s wheel bearings. Sometimes this work has cost us under $100. This time the techs showed us damaged drum faces and ruined brake magnets in our wheels apparently caused by a pair of lost retaining clips. They explained very well what must be done. Our bill was $1,000 to bring everything up to safe working order.

It’s a relief to have the brakes and bearings in best condition and ready for another year on the road. An interesting thing about the Airstream factory service center technicians — they work ten years in the Airstream assembly plant before eligibility for joining the service center. Pretty good credentials, we think! We try to stop by every year or two and catch up on needed repairs.

REPAIRS ON THE ROAD
This afternoon found me begging to tackle anything productive. Our solar charge controller quit working ten days ago, displaying one bright red light and doing no work at all. We don’t have specific plans for boon docking in the near future. We’ve found over the past eight years the solar power system is very convenient to keep our batteries up no matter where we go. This charge controller’s only four years old and should be good for many more years but just stopped working. I had lined up a replacement unit identical to this one (BZ Products 2500HV) and decided to take a look before I ordered the new one.

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Pulled the fuse from the solar panels, carefully removed all the mounting screws to release the control box from it’s mounting spot. I took the unit out into bright sunlight and Debbie and I examined it very closely for any cold solder joints or blown components on the circuit board. The circuit board was dirty but everything looked fine to our unpracticed eyes.

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I carefully dusted off the board and realized I might have gotten by with just resetting power to the board to clear the failure. It hadn’t occurred to me earlier because I expected to find a blown capacitor on the board or a loose connection. Crossing my fingers as much as I could while wielding a screwdriver, I reassembled the control box and reinstalled it with all the electrical connections.

When I reconnected the fuse the charge controller worked again. Four more years trouble-free service? I hope so. Having the solar collectors and charging is very handy and has allowed us lengthy stays in Quartzite, NC mountains, and elsewhere without any commercial power connections. Even when we’re connected to shore power, the solar charging system reduces our demand on the grid. Nice to have.

This reminds me of another problem we corrected a few days ago. We’re connected to an old park power system and apparently are on the long end of it. Voltage is low and power is almost non-existent. We can’t run the microwave without going below 108vac. The low power tends to make me hyper aware of potential problems.

I was probing around, just looking for another problem when I realized our batteries weren’t doing anything. We’re connected to shore power, the park’s 110vac system. We generally assume the batteries are ready to go too. I turned off the trailer’s main 110vac breaker, and everything turned off. Not s’posed to happen!

Hmm, did low voltage mess up our charger? Are our batteries shot? Calmly, I pulled the trailer’s 12vdc two main fuses, one at a time, and put them back in (you can see the pair of 30a main fuses in the below picture.) The second one was apparently a little corroded, because when I plugged it back in everything powered up. A little strange. . . I’ll be tightening up all the 12vdc and 120vac terminals on our power system today!

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We feel very fortunate to have everything working well so much of the time. Bouncing down the road more than 100,000 miles in ten years is what the Airstream trailer is made for, but it can’t be easy. That’s a lot of shaking and braking, and fortunately not so much breaking. We often do routine maintenance and cleaning and try to keep a sharp eye and ear out for trouble. A well-built RV helps reduce problems. A little luck helps too.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

I Don’t Want To Leave

Fortunately, at least for now, I can return to Woodland Ridge the same evening. We arrived Monday evening after an evening and morning of preparations for travel. From May through September we will be traveling a lot for The Airstream Club.

Tomorrow we have a gaggle of errands. We’ll visit our storage unit to lighten the truck and RV. We’ll do annual renewal for truck and trailer registrations. Drop off a few clothing and goods donations, say hello and “Ow!” To our dental hygienist, and we’re back up on the mountain a few more days. The past few days have been idyllic. Quiet, gorgeous weather, and watching springtime arrive on our hill. We’d like to stay unti everything blooms, but duty calls.

We enjoy and look forward to our Club activities. This Spring we’ll be in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. We’re planning a stop in NC and GA on our way to Farmington NM for the WBCCI IR. Then, zoom east-northeast to join up with the Viking Trail, one of WBCCIs most venerated caravans.

This promises to be a lot of fun travel. Preparing is good too. Today Jim spent a few hours emptying and re-organizing the truck bed for our next season’s travels. Not sure our modest little 5X7 storage cubicle will hold all Jim plans to leave there, but we’ll try.

Even full-timers tend to accumulate stuff. Sort of an insidious human condition, like storing a little body fat as winter approaches. We find ourselves sifting through our RV and truck a few times a year to identify things we really don’t want to haul. Today we went through our closets, totes, and the truck bed.

Big change in the truck bed. This picture might not do it justice. The primary two effects are a reduction in the amount and weight of stuff in the bed, and a lowering of the height of goods in the truck bed.
image

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

Pre-Flight Checklist?

Early last year a friend asked us if we didn’t need to use a checklist before we depart a campground and tow the trailer.  We laughed off the question, stating the obvious, “We do this every week, we’re good at it.”  There are a number of ways we could mess up our trailer, if we didn’t sort things properly before driving away.  One example is the rooftop stuff – imagine some of these things being torn off the roof or driven down into the trailer by a low hanging limb.

1-P1020777

Or what if, as our friends were recounting tonight, we failed to latch a window?  There is a tremendous pressure change when a big truck passes us on the highway and we’ve heard stories of windows mysteriously disappearing on driving days.  If you’re good with masking tape and fortunate enough to find double-ply cardboard in the nearest dumpster then perhaps you don’t need that window.  On the other hand, do you really want to give away something so dear?

Outside view of temp window

The thing is, you never know what you’re missing until it’s gone.  Friends were talking this evening of the events they’ve suffered, or have heard of from others, caused by not properly preparing the truck or trailer for towing down the road.  There are seemingly endless ways to ruin your day and perhaps empty your wallet through carelessness.  We finally saw the light, thanks in part to Doug’s and another Airstreamer, Marshall’s suggestions.

We use a checklist before every towing day.  Included in the list is Marshall’s item, to look at the entire rig from 100′ away and see the big picture.  Does anything look wrong from “out there?”  Then work on the checklist.

Friends suggested tonight we could share this list here, and lacking a more important topic we decided to comply.  Then again, maybe this is the most important topic we could share?  Here’s the checklist:

                  INDOOR ITEMS
Jewelry on wife
Jewelry box on lower shelf
Windows closed and latched
Vents closed, including Salem (ram) vent
Water pump off
Cabinets lashed and closed, including pantry doors
Brita pitcher and fruit bowl stored in sink
Catalytic heater stowed and latched
Shower head, etc. on shower floor
Headphones and TV put away
Items secured in vanity cabinet
Desk drawer secured
Laptops put away and stored
Inverter off
Furnace thermostat turned down
Outdoor temperature thermometer placed inside
Oven pilot lite off
Purse and food bag in truck
                    OUTDOOR ITEMS
Awnings closed and latched rear and both sides
Bars, breakaway, chains, and seven-way plug all connected
Chocks removed and stored
Jack stand removed and stored
D/C water, store hose and filter
Unplug shore power connection, store cords
If boondocking, d/c inverter, unplug from inverter, store cord, set Fridge to auto operation
Antennas down
Solar panels down and latched
Door closed and latched, double-locked
Doormat stowed in truck
Steps folded up
Tire pressure monitor hooked up and reading 4 trailer tires
Lucy  (our GPS) plugged in and reset trip miles
Mirrors extended for towing
Check brake and turn signal lights
Leveling Blocks stored

_______________________________

This list is on our iPad and our iPhone, so we can access it readily before towing.  You may have fewer, or more, issues you want included.  You may not need a list.  We thought we didn’t until we realized WE DO.

Thanks to Doug for reminding us we are fallible.  We should have listened sooner.  Thanks to Marshall for the apt suggestion of looking at the big picture too.  And thanks to Rich and Julie, John and Barbara, and Jay for suggesting we share the checklist here.  We need all the help we can get and really appreciate our friends.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

Why We Love Our Truck

A few weeks ago we talked with Jim’s brother about an upcoming road trip. You might have read our Fiat 500 story two years ago about renting a car instead of taking our truck on a 1,000 mile jaunt? Upcoming was another opportunity to avoid piling expensive miles on the truck. Or was it?

The possibility of saving money and saving our truck caused Jim to run an analysis of life-cycle costs for our truck and see if we made the correct decision last week. We decided not to rent a car for a week-long trip to North Carolina. The truck gets almost 16mpg highway (not towing), is trouble-free, very comfortable, and we don’t have to support a rental company’s O+P if we use our own truck. We’ll get back to the rent decision in a minute.

We love our pickup truck. Full-timers, maybe, maintain a closer relationship to their truck than some folks. If the truck doesn’t go, we can’t either. Bought to tow the Airstream trailer, this truck has met or exceeded all our expectations. The truck just turned 140,000 miles and has towed the Airstream approximately 100,000 miles since July 2006. Below are the new truck’s story and some numbers.

Over eight years ago we bought a new truck. The old Ford 4X4, while fine for the 22′ RV, wasn’t enough to stop or pull our new 25′ RV. The Ford was tired when we bought it. Pretty, nice paint, comfortable, but a worn-out engine. We needed a new truck and were brand indifferent.

What mattered more to us than brand was the right arrangement of features including gas engine, bucket seats, extended cab, 4X4, no sunroof, and some others. We had bought the new Airstream and needed a more capable truck. Ward Williams came to our rescue. Thanks to Williams Buick-GMC in Charlotte, we were able to find a good deal on the right Chevy Silverado 2500HD. The truck apparently was languishing at a dealership in Virginia.

Big Red Truck

Big Red Truck

His buyer found us a truck meeting 5 of our 6 criteria. He called us one day and asked, “Can you go with a red one instead of blue or green?” Once we looked at it we were all in. The truck is a deep red called “Sport Red Metallic” by Chevrolet.

Jim owned three other trucks before this one, all purchased used. And between us, we’d bought, traded, and sold dozens of cars. None of those previous trucks and cars came close to the comfort and technology represented in this 2006 Chevy. No, none of them cost close to the truck’s purchase price.

We’ve never experienced a failure or breakdown of any type. The truck has found no hill too steep, even towing the trailer up or down 15% (that’s really really steep) grades on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia. The engine temperature doesn’t vary more than one degree. It’s a little hard on batteries but, really, that’s more Jim’s fault for accessorizing the truck with 12v appliances like ham radio, cb radio, air compressor, trailer tire monitor, and chargers for Apple mobile products.

Folks often ask, “Why didn’t you put a camper shell on the truck?” We thought we were minimalists, having emptied a 3,000 sf house and moving so much less stuff into a 180 sf travel trailer.

We thought you might appreciate seeing some of the numbers we’ve developed on this great truck’s performance. No, nothing like 1/4 mile or 0-60 stuff. These are life cycle cost numbers. Bottom line, we thought we could save the rental cost and at least break even using our truck. See what you think?

copied from worksheet

copied from worksheet

Here’s how it worked out when we ran all the numbers for rental vs using our gas hog truck:

copied from worksheet

copied from worksheet

The $195 saved by not paying tires, oil, maintenance, and gasoline on our truck would be close to breakeven once we paid the fees for renting a subcompact car. Our truck is roomy, comfortable, has XM radio and ham radios, and we like it. According to these numbers, we did okay on our decision. Not great, not saving the world by reducing carbon footprint and fuel usage, but for our pocketbook, we at least broke even.

We made over 15 mpg overall, the best we’ve done since ethanol cut our gas efficiency. We were ready with 4-wheel drive in case those New England/Canadian storms brought snow into our path. Best of all, we enjoyed 1,300 miles Interstate driving together in our big red truck. What a nice way to spend Valentines Day!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
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