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:

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.11.55 AM

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.

2-P1000119

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.

1-P1000109

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!

1-P1170663

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
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

No iHouse? No Problem

Our top choices today are TimberCab by FABCAB and Element by BLU. Both nicely thought out, smart finishes, good sizes. Both fabricated in a controlled environment for reduced waste and more efficient and rapid build and completion in the field. Both seem well insulated and sealed.

The TimberCab has better proportions for us with 30′ X 35′ sides. The 30′ short side allows us good margins for garage doors placement below.

Five years ago, two years into full-timing, we announced our affair with iHouse. Not enough of you bought it. Our time to buy still was ahead. And Clayton Homes no longer offers the iHouse. S’okay, lots of choices.

There’s nothing wrong with our current manufactured house, nor with our lifestyle. In fact, we love it. We’ve always enjoyed browsing floorplans. Window shopping doesn’t require committing prematurely. Someday we may want a house in NC. P’haps we’ll know what it may look like.

A favorite question we get is, “Do you still love full-timing?” Easy to answer – “YES.” Explanation – “We’re still living the dream. When we don’t love living and traveling full-time in our Airstream we can make a change.”

We like manufactured and panel-built prefabricated options. The TimberCab homes and BLU homes are two attractive examples. Others you know of?

Jim
Chilly in Corpus Christi

Contemporary Small House – Airstream

You never know what’ll turn up under the next rock. Debbie and I are enjoying our eighth year of full time living in our 25′ Airstream trailer. We love living on the road, able to travel where and when we want.

A year ago we closed on a nice piece of land. Now we wonder how small a house we can afford to build. Browse the web with different key words for search terms, and you may find an endless array of hits. How many floorplans do we need for enough choice?

We keep looking. The iHouse isn’t offered anymore. Still, there are enough new options to keep us looking. Sometimes we find really stupid hits on the Internet. On the other hand, we get lucky too. Look what we found today when we searched “contemporary small homes”:

http://www.smallhousestyle.com/2011/02/25/an-airstream-story-living-large-in-small-spaces/

Pretty cool. We should get one, right?

Dreamstreamrs
Hanging out in Corpus Christi for the month