Ambassador PLQ, RV Living

Progress: it feels good

2014040213241327-40PLQAfter a year and a half I think we can safely say that we’re finally getting Serendipity (our current coach) to the point that we have most of it the way we want it, instead of the other way around, with most of it needing tweaking in some way or another.  The flip-flop has been a long time coming but it’s the way we do things:  live with something for a while before jumping to conclusions about what needs changing.  Then handle upgrades or changes as needed — when you really know how you live with that thing.

In the last month and a half I’ve added new hardware, new storage, rearranged a lot of things and gradually been turning Serendipity into a coach that was easier to live with.  None of the changes mean we bought the wrong coach — they are pretty much all trying to find the right place for things that we had grown accustomed to being in different places in our previous coach.

The office is done — as you can see from the feature photo.  This week I added a couple lightweight storage bins — I’m tired of having cords hanging from all the cabinets.  The hard drives are mounted and accessible. The graphics tablet is usable.  I’m happy.20151013115622022015101210271611

While I was happily working in the office Peggy has been staring at the corner of the lounge wondering how to make THAT area more usable.  During one of our shopping forays she found a set of drawers and a nice matching basket and now the corner table deftly hides a few pillows and throws while the drawers will do a nice job of hiding a few papers and cords and what-nots.  Hoorah for Progress!

Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary, RV Living

Norcold Forever…. well, not exactly

You’ve heard that expression about being stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea? We’ve sort of reached our RV version of the same — but we’re more than OK with it.

It seems that Home Depot can’t deliver our Whirlpool fridge in a timely fashion; so we decided to cancel the order. Since replacing the thermistor in the Norcold it has been humming away happily. That has been about 3 weeks ago and we haven’t seen so much as a glitch. It’s cooling colder than it ever has. It’s staying at a more constant temperature (and we’ve had some hot days this past month with the RV internal temp reaching the 80’s).

Norcold 1200Whether this is a ‘good’ decision we are not going to speculate. It’s what we’ve done. Without a reliable delivery forecast we can’t schedule an installation, and with the old unit working as designed we’re going to take our chances.  Maybe we can get another year out of her.  We’ll cross our fingers that we don’t have repeat failures. The cooling core is new, the thermistor is new — there are old circuit boards but we’re gonna see if this thing is finally going to do what it’s supposed to do.

We have talked a little about boondocking this winter. Not having practical experience  of how much benefit we get solely from solar power we agreed that we might as well see how it goes while we still have the advantage of the dual power.  The thermistor was a cheap repair and if that is all that we needed from the outset then shame on me for not changing it out earlier.   And we can always change it out at a later time.  If it fails while we are gone this winter we’ll deal with it however we must.

So much for a scripted plan…. Life Unscripted indeed.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary, RV Living

Sparks Fly!

You remember that microwave/convection oven I’ve been talking about?  Well, there’s some more to the story than you’ve yet heard. 2015081117565401 I wanted to check out the outlet before Mike and Katy arrived.  I had noted at the time the unit quit working that the plug seemed difficult to pull out of the wall.  I didn’t do anything about it at the time — the timer was working, the clock was working and the appliance would function for 59 seconds at a time — I thought the problem was just with the internal circuits.  Well, I tried to pull the plug from the outlet and it was not going to come. 2015081109504203I got out a screwdriver, which I used (after turning off all  power to the outlet) between the plug and the outlet to twist and remove the plug.  There was clear signs of arcing on one prong.  The plug had essentially welded itself inside the outlet.  There were no signs of heat on the wall — but as you can see there were signs of heat on the face of the outlet. 2015081114544807Well, that’s not good, is it?

110VAC receptacle

an RV type outlet — with locking back cap.

If you haven’t looked at the back of your electrical outlets you may not realize that the outlets in most RV’s are not like the outlets in a sticks & bricks home.  Most RV’s do not use outlets inside electrical boxes.  They use self contained outlets with rear covers that serve the same purpose as an electrical box. You don’t find those at Home Depot or Lowes, so the first problem was finding an RV dealer who might have them, and then getting one.  As a back up plan I did get a standard outlet and a box — just in case — these I can now return to Home Depot in the morning when we drive past the store on our way to the laundromat. 2015081114541805 I looked at the insides of the box after pulling it out and considering that it’s been back there in situ for 11 years and I did know about the the obvious one time heat the box didn’t look too bad.  No real way to tell WHY it happened other than an excessive draw on current. So, with the new outlet in place we’re ready for delivery of our new micro — and the manhandling of it into place.  Even the installation directions tell you to use 2 men to set it into place — at 70 some pounds — at odd angles and extended out beyond your body by 2 feet — it’s not going to be a “pretty” install, that’s for sure. smiling moose saloon smiling moose dining roomAnd there you have most of my Tuesday.  The job only took 1/2 an hour.  Finding a replacement outlet, driving to get it, and then accidentally’ having to stop and have a bite of lunch at the Smiling Moose Bar & Grill in Hudson — that took most of the rest of the day. I had hoped that I would get at some more of my projects today, but by putting first things first and taking care of that outlet I at least got the most important one done first so I’d be ready for my helpers.  Now, maybe tomorrow I’ll get at some of the others. The weather is forecast to be beautiful and I’m enjoying this summer to bits! Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary, RV Living

Air Dump Revisited

Airbag 1

One example of an air bag

Airbag 2

Another variety of airbag.

A certain percentage of RV’s are equipped with systems that dump the air out of the RV airbag suspension system.  They are optional (so far as I know) both as to whether they are included in the original build and whether they should be used.

I have been very schizo about our airbags and our air dump system.  Journey had them and I used them about 1/2 the time.  Serendipity has them and I have hardly ever used them.   The Winnebago system uses 4 airbags.  The Holiday Rambler system uses 8 airbags. They are much more comfortable to ride in than a spring suspension but I haven’t been thinking much about air bags when it comes time to park.

The Holiday Rambler owners manual says that the air dump system may  be used to assist with leveling the coach when  you are parked. However, the manual says nothing about how to use it.

In case any of you aren’t familiar with why leveling your RV when parked is important here’s the short, short, short version:  
aside from feeling funny when you walk around inside an un-level RV, the Norcold and Dometic refrigerators in many of the RV’s need to be level in order to work properly.  So, in addition to feeling goofy walking down hill, or uphill, or sideways — you want to keep your RV level so that your food cools correctly.

Our dealer actually discouraged using the air dump system out of concern for the life of the airbags — saying that without air pressure it’s possible to cause premature wear on the bags themselves. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate concern but it has weighed on whether I chose to use the air dump system.  If anything I’d rather be less comfortable and more maintenance minded than the other way around.

The last several times we have moved I have been playing around with the air dump system.  For one thing I’ve been determining how much lower to coach sets with the air bags dumped before leveling. Learning to let the air dump to release some of the air but not all is one possibility.  Then, the jacks raise the coach up again activating the inflate/deflate valves.  I have noticed that when I extend my jacks without dumping the air the air bags deflating partially on their own.  That process of relieving the pressure on the bags causes the bags to partially deflate on their own.

Then there are the mechanical realities of a 40’ long suspension system.  Our Winnebago Journey had a four leg leveling system, our Holiday Rambler Ambassador has a three leg system (2 in the back, 1 in the front).  No matter how many legs you have, the leveling system can bind — caused by the twisting of the frame and suspension components — the weight of the coach pushing down on the axles and the pushing up of the leveling legs.  The rear wheels on an air brake RV are the only wheels that are locked when parked.  Too much lift or a twist on the frame not mimicked when you retract your levelers can produce a state where when you retract the legs. They will bind, usually accompanied by a nasty CLUNK when they release.

NOTE:  If you have a three jack leveling system you should always extend the FRONT jack first.  Doing so will relieve the stress on the steering axle and will act as a pivot point for the other two jacks.  Failing to do so will cause even more torquing (twisting) of the frame.  When packing up to move, reverse the process and lower the rear jacks first and finally the front jack.

I have noticed is that by dumping air before leveling I prevent that uneven bind and the loud clunk.  The reason is simple.  Dumping the air lowers the coach.  The lowered coach doesn’t have to be raised as far to be leveled.  And as soon as you crank up the engine the first thing it’s going to do is to rebuild your air supply — re-inflating the airbags.  Once the bags inflate, there isn’t nearly as much weight on the legs and no binding. Voila!  Simple.

The other advantage of dumping is that you don’t need a supplementary step or footstool because your coach isn’t sitting quite as high.  The older we get as RV’ers the more concerned we are about safety; and stepping down two steps instead of three is definitely a good idea.

So, I think we’ll use our air dump more than we have.  I’ll dump some of the air, but not all.  Keeping a little pressure in the bags can only be a good thing from the maintenance standpoint.

And, I’ve learned a little more about our coach.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary, RV Living

Water underneath your coach is never a good sign

It’s a good thing to take a walk-around your RV each and every day.  Note that:  regardless of whether you are going anywhere that day.  You never know when the RV gremlins are going to come out and decide it’s a day to mess with you.Stuff-Happens

Such was our morning Tuesday.    We went out for our morning walk and as I was doing my usual walk-around I saw the puddle on the ground.  Hmmmm….

No matter what’s up, that’s not a good sign.  I saw tell tale drips OUTSIDE on the side of the coach.  Hmmmm…

pissing statueI opened the access panel for the Norcold. and this is what I saw…

Well, not exactly. But close.

There’s a small plastic water line that supplies the ice maker and, yup, there was a teeny-tiny fault in the plastic tubing which had sprung a leak.  Water was swooshing a little stream up against the access panel, and from there it dripped down the side of the coach.


I’m one of those non-manly guys who can’t just ‘look’ at something and now what size it is.


It’s easy enough to see there the yellow electrical tape is!

Being about ready to move to another park I didn’t want to deal with it.  I wound electrical tape around the tubing to staunch the flow anticipating that when we get to Blackhawk I would get push-on connectors to complete the repair.  I have used them when we re-plumbed our kitchen drinking water faucet in the Journey and they worked just fine. Why mess with with a simple solution?

Now that we are in Blackhawk Park and our daughter is arriving this p.m. to spend a few days with us, we wanted to drive to La Crosse anyway (about a 25 mile drive each way), so what better time to get my other parts and finish up this repair.  After all, it’s summer and time for drinks that use ice cubes!

union valve

We found what we wanted at the local ACE Hardware store and returned home.  A little snip, snip with my Facto knife and the flawed section of tubing was removed.   2015071611110907A little PUSH, PUSH inserted a valve in the line, and a little loop of additional tubing helped keep the tubing from kinking and we were all done.   Easy Peasy. A couple wire ties to keep the plastic tubing away from the HOT exhaust components of the fridge, and we’re done.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.


Our son-in-law Michael sent us our annual Christmas Wreath!


Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary

I do so have Christmas spirit

Ambassador PLQ, Minimalism, Old Diary, Travel

And it Hinges on…

It seems one of our cabinet hinges has broken a spring

It seems one of our cabinet hinges has broken a spring

This morning I woke up to a wonky door.  The hinge on one of our overhead cabinets seems to have had a malfunction.  And we need a replacement — from what I can tell there’s no way to replace the spring.

It was a good excuse for a drive.  We’re 10 miles from Granada.  Which means we’re also 38 miles from Greenwood which is the first town of any size and we decided to make that our destination for the morning (after checking out the local hardware store and the nearest Walmart – at the far side of Grenada.)  (P.S.:  Turns out these Euro hinges aren’t part of the stock for this little town, or Greenwood, so we’ll wait till we get someplace larger to worry about the repair.)

cotton-fieldsWe are in the heart of Cotton Country here.  In fact, Greenwood MS claims to be the Cotton Capital of the World.  All I know is there’s a lot of cotton sitting in a lot of cotton fields waiting to be harvested.   It’s hard to believe — in the 21st Century how important cotton was to the US  not long ago.

cotton_ginHumans have been cultivating cotton since 500 A.D. but it wasn’t until 1793 that Eli Whitney invented the cotton Gin and miraculously made it possible for the cotton industry as we know it today to become an entity.  The ‘process’ of processing cotton had been time consuming and Whitney changed that forever.


From Harpers’ Bazaar circa 1869

It’s troubling — as a Northerner — to travel the roads down here and see how little has changed in cotton country.  I’m saddened by the deep poverty we see as we drive down the road, and as we make our way through the local communities.  “Ramshackle” and “House” are still inseparable  here;  neighborhoods are still clearly defined as black and white — though far more black neighborhoods than white. And even here in the Corps campground there is a lot that speaks to the continuing issue of race in america.   The hosts here were sure to make it clear that their little Halloween party to be held next week was “just” for the campers, not for townies to come and “see what they can steal.”  There’s still a lot of bigotry to be found in the South.  There are a good number of RV’s with both their US flag and their Confederate flag on display.

I don’t know.  I clearly do not understand feelings of regional pride, or disgust.  Intellectually I know it’s hard to live in a place that is associated with a singular event.  To live in Dachau — home of that infamous Nazi concentration camp — is to live in a place that people don’t want to be FROM.  Mothers travel to nearby Munich to give birth there so that the child’s birth certificate will not say Dachau.  I have no idea what it must be like to be a descendant of slave cotton workers; to understand the degree to which being in this place affects their psyche.  All I know is that even as an outsider I was aware of the bits and pieces of cotton balls that escaped from trucks delivering the new harvest to factories and storage facilities.  All those little bits of fluff that perhaps say more to the local residents about their own history, and the history of their people than I can ever guess.

I’m running out of unread books in my library.  I usually go to Goodwill to replenish my reading ammunition.  I noticed that there are no Goodwill stores here;  I don’t think as much gets thrown away when it’s still usable as is the case in Milwaukee.

Downsizing:  perpetual vigilance

Downsizing does not end with selling your house and moving into your RV.  Even as I have been talking about finally getting around to sorting out our basement storage bays, the question comes:  what do you keep and what do you throw away?  Some RV’ers I know have a saying, “One in, one out,” but I don’t think that living in an RV is quite as simple as trying to keep a steady state in possessions.

3744 Ramsey

This is what we downsized out of. From 6500 sq ft to 230 sq ft. A literal 95% reduction in size.

You’ve seen them, haven’t you?  Those RV’s in the next campsite that, when the storage bay doors are opened, are crammed, jammed, and bulging with belongings.  Peg and I felt that way when we left Milwaukee just after having sold our old house.  The thing is, I don’t want my coach to look that way — or to BE that FULL.   I find myself embarrassed for them.  And one of the first things I did when we got 30 miles away from Milwaukee on that first trip was to get rid of some of the things we had thought we were going to want, but realized (perhaps before we even put them on board in the first place) that we didn’t need them.  When we stopped in Milwaukee a month ago we unloaded a variety of items that we’d been carrying along for a year, a food processor, a toaster, some clothing items including one of my Australian Cowboy hats, and a slug of other nondescript items.

On Saturday we bought a tiny document shredder.  We used to have one, and we sold it (or maybe we gave it to our daughter — I can’t honestly remember). In post-downsized life there is this annoyance every time I purchase something that I had and erred in selling off, and now realize I should have kept.  But, even if we still had that shredder with us it would be too large for the space we have.  We wanted and needed something much smaller.  And for me, realizing that our needs have changed is a huge lesson that has been (and still is) hard to accept.  Smaller works too!  I don’t always need the large economy size.

Buying something new can mean finding something to get rid of, perhaps two somethings.  But buying new can also mean learning about smaller sized packaging, learning to use the old one up before buying a replacement.  scott tpFor example,  we used to buy toilet paper 12 rolls at a time.  Yeah — it was cheaper in bulk, but not all that much.  It was a pain to store (even in the old school!) and in the coach we simply don’t have room for all that toilet paper — I mean no one needs that much TP at any one time.

Bounty-Select-A-Size-Paper-TowelsSimilarly, we have started looking at other items differently.  Take paper towels for example.  For one thing we have cut our use of everything that results in solid waste.  We wash where possible, we recycle even in places that don’t offer recycling bins — some things we carry along with us until we find a recyle bin.  But we also find ways to cut down on how much solid waste we make. Peggy started looking for paper towels like Bounty where you can choose 1/2 of a sheet, instead of an entire sheet of towel.  Every little bit helps.  Now we buy just two or three rolls where we used to buy 6 or 12 rolls.  If you don’t USE it you don’t have to store it.

I don’t open the storage bays, or bring something into the coach without wondering to myself “what do we really need to carry along with us?”  On Thursday while organizing the basement I got to the storage tubs that contain “fluids” — oil, cleaning supplies, windshield washer fluid, etc.  — I didn’t take time to trim the quantities and items I have down there — but I know that next time I’m puttering around down there I will reduce those items in quantity.  I don’t need all of those items.  Some of them I’ve carried 12 months and haven’t used yet.  I think my mantra will become “If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you don’t need it.”

But the real lesson here is perpetual vigilance.  It’s easy to put my latest package of mail on the counter and not get right on it.  It’s easy to say, “I might need it,” instead of tossing something.  But now, as an RV’er, every pound I carry costs something to transport: it costs fuel, the added weight adds to the stresses and strains on the coach, it costs money to buy in the first place, and I don’t  need the same things I formerly did.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary

A Day Above Days

Every once in a while a day comes along that’s just perfect.  Friday was one of those days!2014101706262825

From the whispy clouds at sunrise all the way through the day it was just perfect.  We got a whole lot done — as well as having time to get a whole lot of nothing done.

We started the day off at the Visitor’s Center; it’s time to get some mail from home so we checked with the receptionist to see whether they would accept a package for us; once we had approval we passed the info on to our daughter and voila — we can get caught up with the world.

This location also has a really nice (though 10 years old and a little outdated) video about the Great Flood of 1927.  This area — at Grenada MS — is at the heart of the legislation that resulted in the Corps of Engineers entire flood protection campaign and it was interesting to hear some of the details.  Some day when I have more inclination to write a LONG post I’ll see about sharing some of that with you.  But for the time we achieved our purpose at the visitors’ center and returned to our site.

Then the long process of sorting and resorting the basement storage bays.  I know that’s not exciting, but I’ve been putting it off for so long and struggling to get everything INTO the bays even though we have more storage in Serendipity  than we ever had in the Journey.

We began, looking like this:

and when we were done,

After finishing up with that I had time to sit out under our awning and just chill.  To enjoy the view, listen to the birds, watch the grasshoppers; to chill.  To be honest, we have been so busy since leaving Springfield that I haven’t really spent time sitting outside enjoying life like this.  It felt wonderful.  And I’m looking forward to a lot more of this.  Even if the temps aren’t this warm (79º as I write this late on Friday afternoon)  it’s a great place to chill.

I think I’ll even get at some of the indoor organization projects we have in mind.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.