Category Archives: Maintenance

Enjoying Full-Time Living in Our Airstream Trailer

Enjoyed a few cups of coffee with friends today and returned to the house mid-morning. What to do with all that morning caffeine? Turned on some energy music, pulled out a few cleaning supplies, and started burning calories. Cleaned ceilings, walls, floors and doors of all our rooms. How long does that take? About two albums worth, listened to all of Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II.

Airstream walls and ceilings all clean

cleaning’s ez pz

This brings up a benefit of living in a tiny house. Our former home was 3,000 feet on two floors plus a detached 1.5 story 2 car garage. We lived in four rooms of that large house, the bedroom, small den, breakfast nook, and kitchen. With company, we’d use more space. How often would that happen? We’ve known homeowners of all ages who lived similarly, gravitating toward the cozy space for reading or browsing, eating in the kitchen, sleeping in the bedroom, while supporting a house of anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet. The less-used spaces still require upkeep of dusting and vacuuming. Somehow all the washrooms seem to need cleaning. There are lots more windows to clean.

For now, we’re enjoying the benefits of living well in our tiny house. Do NOT get rid of your nice home. We love visiting you. We love occasionally housesitting for you (we call it “playing house.”) You love your home and we do too. In a way we don’t really know what we’re missing. Some ask us, “What d’ya miss most about your house?” Our answer varies with the season or our moods.

How do you answer about something that, in a way, never was? Sometimes we reply, “We never lived in it as retirees – as soon as we quit our jobs, we sold our stuff and the house and split. We don’t know what it would be like to live there now.” We also fondly recall hosting folks for large gatherings, like Jim’s high school class during Christmas holidays 2007, or a sister’s wedding brunch with family from near and far, and baby showers for friends and family. Just can’t invite as many into this tiny house. Those are nice memories. Would those occasions still arise if we had a large enough house? Do we miss doing those?

How many camping stoves does a fast-hiking 4-person backpacking team need to carry? Does everyone need a car in case they want to run an errand, or can we share cars or support mass-transit and taxi solutions more economically (and with less carbon footprint?) Do we all need enough house to host family and neighborhood gatherings? Is it fair for the tiny house people to not share in the cost of the host homes? Are we willing to own and maintain a “big home” again?

A large fixed location house isn’t currently one of our needs. We don’t miss owning a large home. Taxes, maintenance, and utilities comprise the large portion of an annual household budget. We’re saving, by not supporting a large home, nearly half of our current entire annual budget. We’re enjoying volunteer leadership for the Wally Byam Airstream Club, life in our Airstream trailer, and our ability to travel where, when and for how long we want.

How much Spring Cleaning time do we save by living tiny? It’s not really the point. We’re enjoying living full-time in our Airstream tiny house. Easy maintenance, inside and out, is a great feature of Airstream trailers. We love living in ours.

See you down the road,

Jim and Debbie
see us at dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
see what’s going on at WBCCI, The Wally Byam Airstream Club

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How many years full-timing?

2-dswkayak2015 was a good year for us. It wrapped up an enjoyable eighth year of full-timing. We began the year in a wet and chilly Corpus Christi TX, and the year mostly improved from there.  Our year was full of interesting travels throughout much of the United States. We visited another FL state park (Silver Springs) for the first time before visiting Sarasota and Miami again. We added another state, Pennsylvania, to our camping list with two weeks enjoyable visits there.

5-liarWe traveled a different path westward to Farmington NM for the Airstream Club’s annual meeting and rally. It was fun to stop at the mother ship of Bass Pro stores in St Louis MO. Along the way we discovered a free city park in Elk City OK (electricity and water,) and nice RVers everywhere we went. While in Farmington at the annual meeting, Jim was elected to 2nd Vice-President of the international Airstream Club. This was an exciting event and promises to provide a lot of hard and rewarding work.

9-ChacoFarmington NM is a great part of the USA to visit. Attractions include Shiprock, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Aztec Ruins, and Hovenweep National Monument, and Durango, among other ancient and more recently developed attractions. Summer may not be the best time to visit the southwest but we found the weather manageable and enjoyed our stay and the attractions.

3-CWCSadly, Jim’s mother died in mid-March last year. We left Miami earlier than planned to rush home to be with Catie and family during this tough time. Thankfully the campground in southwest Miami was very accommodating about refunding our unused camping nights, and we’re glad we weren’t any further away from the family home. Our full-timing lifestyle allowed us to quickly respond to the family’s needs and care for Catie so she could stay home during her last two weeks.

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One of our daughters and her family repatriated from Vancouver in Canada last month. They’re getting settled in with many adjustments after being out of the country for ten years. We’re excited to have all our children and grands living in North Carolina for the first time. We sense, on the other hand, a tug to start settling on our NC mountain acreage. Doesn’t this look really inviting? We have courtesy parking – let us know if you’d like to stop in. It’s pretty nice.

 

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Two new grandchildren joined our family last year. We’re grateful our travels and their arrivals all timed well, and they’re both in N.C.

 

We encountered our fair share of mechanical issues last year. Our fridge and water heater both failed on our rain-soaked trip from Farmington. Not until we hit some dry pavement in Tennessee did these start working again. Our batteries stopped charging from shore power. We accidentally destroyed our folding step when we ran it into a projecting concrete sidewalk. Precipitates from the water heater clogged our sink faucet completely. The solar charger quit. Debbie’s makeup mirror LED lights failed. We found ourselves needing to replace the trailer’s brakes and turn the drums. We had our worst water leaks into the cabin. One that soaked the fabric base of our sofa and one that dripped onto the floor from inside the roof air conditioner.

These are all pretty routine maintenance issues to us. To have a gaggle of mechanical issues in the same year is unusual for us and was frustrating at times. We sometimes defer maintenance when we think we can count on getting to it before long. Ideally, we catch problems before they catch us. Other times, a delay turns out to be punctuated by a repair instead of preventive or scheduled maintenance. Dry camping is easy when most things are working. Living in an RV is easy for us when most things are working. Our RV is eleven years old and is apparently becoming a little more demanding. Okay – we’re on it!

Our 2015 towing mileage was 11,740, down from 14,866 miles in 2014. This brings our total full-timing towing miles to just under 108,000 miles. Our truck has 157,000 total miles, so towing represents 70% of our total truck mileage. The truck and trailer each continue to delight us with low maintenance needs and costs. We still plan to run the truck to 200,000 miles, or another three to four years, before replacement. Get your bids in soon for future purchase of a lightly used truck!

Our full-timing travel costs continued another year to trend downward. We spent $2,966 on camping sites, down from $4,050 and $4,565 the prior two years. Our average cost of camp site rental for 2015 dropped to $8/night, down from $11 and $13 the prior two years. Our average nights stay per site returned to six nights.

One expected decrease is our towing miles per relocation. We averaged 178 miles per relocation in 2015, our second lowest number in eight years. Moving more often within southeast USA from July through December 2015 drove this and other reductions. This year we’re likely to spend more time traveling out west, so some of these may swing upward again.

10-75 degrees

Finally, we now freely admit we’re likely to build a house. We bought very nice land two years ago in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Weeks spent at various times of the year getting a feel for the sun, the weather, the wind, and the neighbors, provide us good ideas for site placement.

This attraction to building a house runs counter to our full-timing ethic of the past 8+ years. We promised we would only stay on the road full-time so long as we wanted. We’re still loving it, but are beginning to wonder how many more years. We think it’d be nice to eventually have a house again.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
visit our website
©2007-2016 Dreamstreamr odyssey

Better Handling Our Screen Door

Full time life in an RV has a few dimensions different from living in a bigger home. Our RV experiences are more frequent than most RVers, since we stay in our RV every day instead of one, two, or three weekends a month. Too, we come into contact with a very wide array of RVers in a years time. We enjoy our time traveling and meeting people from all over the world.

One more benefit to hanging out with other RVers is the shared knowledge and experiences. Sometimes we commiserate and just make each other feel better. It helps to learn you’re not the only one experiencing a recalcitrant water heater or a fridge that refuses to behave as advertised.

More helpful yet is when someone shares a solution you can use. We weren’t looking for this fix but knew it would help. Several times Jim thought he was stepping out of the trailer. He was so surprised when he abruptly was jerked back by one or more of his fingers caught in the screen door pull.

New pull is easy on the eyes and the fingers

New pull is easy on the eyes and the fingers

Susanne showed us a simple fix she and Keith did on their new Airstream. They replaced the small curved pull on the screen door with a beefier Euro-style bar handle cabinet pull. The new one has three inch centers, so uses the same holes and screws. We found this pull at our local building supply store.
One inch offset allows more room for fingers to get in and out. The bar handle matches the other dozen cabinet and drawer pulls in our Airstream trailer.

You never know what you’ll learn from others. It’s a cinch we can learn a lot from each other if we pay attention. This is a practical, easy and economical solution for a sometimes painful problem in our trailer. Our screen door is easier to handle.

Thanks, Susanne!

See you down the road,

Jim and Debbie

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

Spare Parts for Full-Timing

Last post I said, “Next post may be about spare parts — what else do we carry?”

It’s taken awhile to get around to this post. I’ve been writing elsewhere about our adventures on our land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C. While thinking about this post, I just didn’t get to writing it.

We’ve addressed previously the gear list of our truck and trailer on our dreamstreamr.com web pages.

This post is to talk about spare parts we carry. We try to be self-sufficient as much as we can. If we can, we’ll fix what breaks. Sometimes things wear out or break. Some things are more important than others. If we lose refrigeration of our food it’s not quite disastrous. We have dry goods, and usually are within a reasonable drive to a grocery store. But if our hitch fails, we’re stopped. If our trailer’s electrical system stops working, we might be uncomfortable.

Having looked closely at what we carry (and don’t), I’ve decided to eliminate some of the stuff we thought we needed. What’s the worst that happens if you lack the spare? How many years do you carry something before you decide it’s surplus?

This is the list of spare parts we carry on our travels:

Quickbite Coupler and Equalizer hitch parts –
1 pair Equalizer L-pins
1 pair Equalizer socket pins
1 pair Quickbite hitch jaw pins
2 5/16″ hitch ball
hitch head pin and clip

Dometic Fridge –
thermistor (interior temperature sensor)
thermocouple (flame proving sensor)
gas burner jet

Atwood Water heater –
Thermal Cut-Off (TCO) replacement
Drain plugs (plastic, threaded)

Casework –
cabinet door latches

Electrical –
LED 5 watt G4 bipin bulbs
LED 10 watt G4 bipin bulbs
CFL 9-watt bulb for dinette lamp
ATC fuses 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 amp
80 amp class-T fuse (for inverter)
wire, insulated stranded and solid, 22 gauge to 8 gauge
7-way receptacle, complete spare
battery cable tubular lug rings

Plumbing –
bushings 1/4″ IPT, brass
ells, short nipples, plugs 1/4″ IPT, galv
fresh water tank petcock

Radio –
UHF PL-259 connectors
Double UHF female connectors
shrink tubing, various diameters
AGC fuses (0.5 – 30a)

Let’s see what your spare parts lists are, and what you think of mine.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

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

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

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

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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