Category Archives: Safety

The Road Less Traveled By

Any other highway but I-10 would be fine this time. So we started westward on I-20 and almost magically found ourselves entering the Sacramento Mountains on US-82. How could we have known how cool this was going to be? How many times did we not take this road?

We’ve crossed the continent, out and back, almost every year for the past ten. Every time we’ve been pulling our sweet 25′ Airstream home-on-wheels behind us. It seems like we’ve taken I-10 way too many times.

Really we probably used other highways at least half of the times we traversed the continent. We’ve crossed on The TransCanada Highway once, and each of I-90, 80, 70, and 40 at least once in both directions. Interstate 10 gets all our other crossings because it’s the most southern route and therefore the most suitable for towing our unwinterized RV in January, Feb, or Mar, which we often seem to do.

We were headed from North Carolina to Casa Grande AZ for the WBCCI Airstream Club’s annual winter Board meeting. Each evening on this trip we looked at the possible routes and weather a day ahead ahead. An overnight in Sweetwater TX on I-20 gave us a good look at a route we’d never considered. We saw a straighter line than I-20/I-10 offered from Sweetwater to Las Cruces, by picking our way from I-20 to US-82. We had no idea the adventure we were facing, the route simply looked more direct.

One hundred or so miles later we were in an incomparably beautiful area, the Sacramento Mountains in Lincoln National Forest. Without a doubt this was the prettiest part of our entire drive. The two lane road gently turned and climbed back and forth as it followed an ancient route through a gorge and then inexorably upward toward Cloudcroft NM at 8,650 ft above sea level.

There were long stretches of nothing but unspoiled terrain. This natural beauty reminded us of driving on Top of the World Highway between Dawson City YT and Chicken Alaska, where for as far as we could see away from our road there was no trace of civilization anywhere. Gradually we started seeing more homesteads, then RV parks, and finally stores. In Cloudcroft we even drove by a small ski slope filled with folks enjoying skiing on a sunny afternoon.

It took a little while for us to recover from the excitement of watching our engine and transmission temperatures climb on the mile-high climb and imagine our brake temperatures climb on the 4,300′ descent. Then we realized we were going to be driving right by White Sands National Monument. Several times we had driven on one border or the other of the White Sands Missile Range. We’d never been on this side of the area and hadn’t thought how to find our way to it. We had to stop!

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We spent a fascinating hour touring the Visitors Center and watching their very good video about the area. We learned some history and geology about the area, and why the white sand is special – it’s gypsum instead of quartz. What surprised us most is the rule prohibiting taking any of this white sand out of the park. Sure enough, we saw little piles of it on the sidewalk of the parking area where people dumped out their shoes so they wouldn’t be absconding with the material.

I’ve friends who won’t take that road, the one less traveled. Their travel’s going to be on the four-lanes and GPS-referred routes. There’s nothing wrong with that. Those roads are likely to have good paved shoulders, softer grades, great sight lines, and perhaps other safety features. The best thing is that the really interesting routes might remain, in Robert Frost’s words, “the road less traveled by.” It did make all the difference for us yesterday.

See You Down The Road

Jim and Debbie,
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
©dreamstreamr odyssey 2017

Air travel is Again safe

Tried to get through TSA screening today with Chapstick in my pocket. It’s nonmetallic, non-liquid, right? The full-body scanner picked it up, thank heavens. We then submitted to the one-on-one.

“Sir, do you have items in your pocket?”

“Yes.” Reach in and retrieve the Chapstick, and I show it to him.

“Sir, I’ll need to pat you on that side.” I guess it was good for him. Then he said, “Please open the Chapstick.”

Okay, that worked. I get to keep my Chapstick. They either didn’t detect the individually wrapped lifesaver mint in my other pocket or they know what it is. Probably the latter, eh?

I hope we’re safer now. So long as only goodness comes in Chapstick- and smaller-sized packages, I do feel safer.

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™
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©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

New Make-up Air Vent for our Aluminum Home

Full-timing allows us to experiment with strategies for heating, cooling, venting, cooking in our RV. We thought for years about installing a make-up air vent.  We guardedly use an unvented 6,000 btu catalytic heater, and use the windows and roof vents to properly add oxygen and remove products of combustion. Safety concerns prevent us from using the heater when we’re asleep or without adequate ventilation.

Otherwise, we enjoy the soft warm glow and heating without any electricity. These benefits are especially nice when we are dry-camping and want to make our batteries last longer. Full-timers might have more opportunities to use this convenient heater, but it would work for anyone.

The heater has explicit recommendations for 24 square inches minimum each for fresh air intake and exhaust. No matter which window we use we seem to have a draft. Rain can limit which window we open. An intake located near the heater would serve the heater as well as the oven and stove.

We’ve read and heard that Wally Byam, Airstream Company’s founder, had gravity floor vents in his own Airstream trailers. Without air conditioning, the best place to find cool air is under the trailer. Jim proposed numerous times installing a gravity floor vent near the oven or catalytic heater. But management would not approve the project.

Jim found an approvable solution recently while we were at Alumapalooza at the Airstream Factory. Airstream Company (and others, too) installs Salem vents in the Eddie Bauer version of their trailers to vent flammable gases from motorcycles or gas cans in the trailer. Easy to install and operate, weatherproof, and durable, these are neat vents.

The vents can be a little difficult to source using the patent name, Salem vent. Just today, Jim found an easier name for search — 2-way hingeless vent. Several sources list these for under $30. Ours came with an abs plastic trim ring for the interior.

Here are pictures of the install:

Protect the aluminum before marking the cut lines

Protect the aluminum before marking the cut lines

Cut completed and pilot holes drilled to inside

Cut completed and pilot holes drilled to inside

Small holes for locating, large hole for starting saw blade

Small holes for locating, large hole for starting saw blade from indoors

Interior cut, fortunately it's above the 110vac wiring for receptacle

Interior cut, fortunately it’s above the 110vac wiring for receptacle

Vent sealed and riveted.  When caulk skins, we'll cut the Olympic rivets pins

Vent sealed and riveted. When the caulk skins, we’ll cut the Olympic rivets pins

This page cross-references with our web page about catalytic heater venting and about Salem Vent.

 

 

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Fiat 500 Fit For Full-Timers?

Our new Fiat 500

Our new Fiat 500

We drove a new 2013 Fiat 500 over 1,000 miles this past week.  Some of you might wonder if it has the required towing capacity for our 6,500 pound trailer.  No.  I’ll get back to that later.  The Fiat 500 is a more economical means for travel between a couple of points than driving our big red truck.

picture of driver side of our red truck

Our big red truck

We usually drive the big red truck.  It’s a fully capable trailer towing machine and equipped with more amenities and electronics than any vehicle either of us ever owned.  Comfortable?  You bet.  Big?  A bit. Expensive to drive?  Definitely!  Last week we needed to make a road trip between Dayton OH and Charlotte NC. Luckily, Jim’s brother suggested we consider renting a car — both fun and economical, he said.

The quick rundown showed we would save over $50 on gas costs alone after paying the rental fees.  Little did we know we would be driving this cute little looker AND getting great economy. Including all costs we might have saved hundreds of dollars using this little gas sipper instead of taking our truck the 1,000 miles round trip.

Here’s a quick look at some statistics between this Fiat 500 and our 2006 Chevy 2500HD truck:

1,400 cc engine instead of 8,100 cc engine.
2,800 pounds loaded vs 8,000 pounds loaded.
Total interior volume 85 cf vs 140 cf+.
40 liters gas tank instead of 45 gallons.
41 mpg highway vs 15 mpg highway.
Horsepower and Torque ratings of 100/98 vs 330/455
Towing capacity of ZERO vs 16,000 pounds
$17,500 instead of $43,000.

Why are the dreamstreamrs road testing the Fiat 500? We needed to drive from Dayton OH to Charlotte NC and back for a weekend. This 1,000 mile round trip is almost all highway but still could cost a lot in our big red truck. The 4X4 truck’s 496 ci (8.1 liter) engine and 8,000 pound weight are all about capability, not economy. Jim’s brother suggested we consider renting a car — it’s fun to drive something different plus we could probably do it cheaper than in our truck.

The Enterprise rental agency in Centerville OH pulled our rental car to the front while we were inside doing rental paperwork Thursday morning. Their sample sub-compact is a Chevy Aveo. We were delighted to walk out and find a little white Fiat 500 smugly awaiting our approval.

Fiat Co brought this model to the states in 2012. We had read the early reviews with interest, hoping to find they had brought a true economy car. Too often, it has seemed to us, car manufacturers have withheld from the American market small gas misers because Americans “would not purchase under-powered cars”.

True to form, the reviews often cite the Fiat 500’s low power (98 hp) as the car’s major short-coming. Two interstate days of 500+ miles each and two days of urban driving proved the car has enough power to maintain highway speed despite our loading the boot fully with our gear for this trek.

This car is seriously cute inside and out. We didn’t measure but the Fiat 500 looks as though it would fit into the bed of our truck, maybe an Eddie Bauer extended Airstream, or surely into a Pan American Airstream.

controls nicely arranged

controls nicely arranged


The interior is fun and nicely arranged. Fiat’s designers cleverly decluttered the controls. Some of the functions were intuitive, where you might expect to find them and operating similarly to what we are accustomed to. The a/c compressor is switched on or off by pressing in on the fan control’s rotary switch. Smart, simple, and clean. Neat design.

A few controls were a little more interesting to fathom. Last night Jim accidentally stumbled on the headlight delay switch (on the hi-beam/turn signal stalk). The door locks by pressing the door latch into the bodywork. The seats recline and release for folding with a handle at the top corner of each seat.

Speaking of seats, we found the seats very comfortable for driving, but think these are small person seats. Tremendous leg room suggests tall sizes are welcome, but the seats are the narrowest we’ve seen in a car. The driver’s seat cushion easily adjusts up and down, nice for varying leg position.

Seating position is good. The driver’s arms are extended to reach the steering wheel, and all controls visible and easy to reach. Good visibility overall, particularly side and forward. The radio requires a little practice but worked well and sounded good through the six speakers.

The Fiat 500 is surprisingly quiet, smooth, and comfortable on the long stretches of interstate driving. We expected a rougher ride from a very short car. Handling doesn’t seem great, the car doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in turns. Maybe a different tires setup or (I hate to suggest) more power would improve cornering?

One of the greatest joys was hitting parking spaces with this little car. The mirrors are good and visibility at the front is great, so pulling in, backing, and parallel parking are all a breeze. It seems you could parallel into a space no longer than a living room sofa.

an hour of I-77 in NC

an hour of I-77 in NC


How did we do on economy? The rental cost was $25/day with unlimited mileage. We rented the car five days, or $125. We saved enough on gas costs to pay the entire rental fee. Our gas mileage was 25 mpg BETTER than our truck, so we saved over forty gallons of gas by not driving our truck for this 1,000 mile trip.

Assuming AAA’s April 2013’s $0.773/ mile total vehicle cost, we might have saved over $650 net by leaving our truck parked for this quick trip. AND we had a lot of fun driving this cute and comfortable little car. Thanks brother Chuck for the great cost-saving idea.

Sad Fiat

Sad Fiat

How about safety on the Fiat 500 — how is it in crashes? We had the misfortune to find out when a fellow started to turn left smack in front of us, failed to yield to oncoming traffic. There was nowhere for us to go, and despite how slow we were going, he pulled across too late for us to avoid his car. The Fiat is pretty much a mess.

Airbags deployed everywhere

Airbags deployed everywhere


The Fiat 500 deployed all its air bags, destroying both front seats and the windshield. The impact damaged the bumper, both fenders, both doors. The noise of the airbags was deafening, the smell slightly like burnt wiring, the car was instantly very hot inside, and some sort of cornstarch powder filled the air.

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The passenger side dash airbag broke the windshield. The wrecker guys said this is common, for the airbag to “use” the windshield as a backstop.

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The car’s body panels don’t fit too well anymore. Sort of a surprise to us, considering how slow we were going just before impact.

Jim checks with other driver

Jim checks with other driver


The other guy seemed to have no injury at all. We think we have only a couple of bruises and a bunch of burns between us. The bags seemed to have protected us pretty completely except for cuts on our legs from under the dash.

and then the wrecker truck tire blows

and then the wrecker truck tire blows

The wrecker truck picked up our rental car and us two hours after the incident to take all to Cincinnati where we could pick up another car and continue to Dayton. But the wrecker suffered a blown tire and stopped us AGAIN. Thankfully our good Dayton friends were already on their way toward Cincinnati and detoured to our road stop. They carried us home with them.

Our trip westward will wait another day while we try to sort out the impacts from this incident. The Fiat? Maybe a one hit wonder, but a great little car still.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Is Your House Secure?

We were talking yesterday with a bunch of fellow travelers.  The conversation went to travel blogging. One of them said,

“Our travel blog is private.  Only our family members can access it. We don’t want to advertise the times our home is vacant.”

picture of security door

Just don’t invite them if you are not home

Today I was enjoying reading Rudy Maxa’s Travel Minutes, looking for his take on airline ticket purchasing. Rudy posted this neat article a couple of months ago about exposing your house during your absences.

House thieves in a large city apparently obtained, on an ongoing basis, “stop orders” for the daily newspaper. We never considered stopping our newspaper a risk — quite the opposite, we figured we were methodically covering our absence from the sticks and bricks home.

Our rolling home now moves rather frequently. It might be difficult for an under-achiever to find our house. Just in case, though, we don’t want to disclose the best times to not find us home.

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©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr