Friday, July 29, 2005
Over to the Mississippi river road...
We left the Winnebago campground at 8:30 in the morning to get the unit weighed. We missed them yesterday. Weighing is done and the weights are OK on all wheels. We are a little heavy on one side in the rear, but the axel weights are all OK. The Saturn weighs less than the 3500 lb hitch limit, so that is OK, too. We are now heading north and east toward Red Wing and the Mississippi river.
We stopped in Austin Minnesota to go to the Spam museum. Very interesting ad for Hormel products. We got a tiny taste of fried Spam.
We traveled across Minnesota on the US highway to Winona and stayed the night at the Pla-More Campground. This is not as flat as the lower plains part of the state. The road winds and turns over the hills through small towns. We got lost twice by going straight down the road instead of turning, but ended up in the right place anyway. The roads along the rivers flowing into the Mississippi are pretty and we watched a lot of tubers and canoists enjoying the sun and water.
The rally is over, now to do repairs...
We took the RV to the Ford dealer in Forest City and had the starter and solenoid replaced.
While this was being done, we went into the town and did the laundry in the laundromat. A busy place and quite hot both inside and outside. Temperatures have been in the 90s for the last few days.
With the car repaired and the laundry done, we got some propane at the local Winnebago dealer then filled up on gas, then went over to get weighed. We were too late! We got there at about 2:15 and they had closed after their 2 p.m. appointment. The lady was still there picking up the signs (the scales were gone...) so we agreed to come back in the morning. She was wilted to a puddle from the heat and working in the sun. She tried very hard to be nice to me. I appreciate that.
Since we had a half day to spare, we drove the RV with the tow car to the nearest Wal*Mart to get new house batteries. The old one do not hold a charge any more and were only 75 Amp-hrs anyway. They were blocked in with wooden blocks to take up the extra space. The new batteries are each 115 Amp-hours and should give good service for a while, anyway. The battery service at Wal*Mart is my preference. No questions asked if they fail or don't last as long as expected. And, Wal*Mart is everywhere, even in Canada.
After all that, we stopped at Clear Lake again to have dinner at the Dock, a nice restaurant recommended by the Alstate agent in town. We had forgotten to get the Canada insurance card from our agent, so after the batteries were installed, we called the local agent and he provided the cards. Nice guy. Nice dinner, too.
Finally, we went back to the rally grounds to stay one last night. (We could stay until Monday night if need be.) We found a level spot to park and as I was hooking up, the man in the rig next door came out to see why his satalite signal had disappeared. I pulled up another six feet so I was not blocking his view and he and his wife were happy.
Tomorrow we head for the Mississippi River and begin the river tour up to Red Wing.
The last day of the rally and a birthday party...
The last session was on the internet and web pages for State clubs and for Sections. This presentation tried, but missed the boat for the group that attended. Some like me have a pretty good feeling for doing web pages, at least amature ones. Others were absolutely green. We suggested that they have more depth on this subject at the next rally. Maybe they will.
After the session I volunteered to help with the development of guidelines for making web pages for the NetWIT group.
This evening we had a party with just the Eastern section of the Tennessee club and I had a birthday cake for Dixie. Later we shared the remainder of the cake with the all the others. It all dissapeared. Tomorrow we get weighed and fix the starter and do laundry and get propane and and and...
Notes on the rally classes...
Awnings need to be cleaned with warm soapy water, then rolled up wet for 10 minutes; unrolled and rinsed, then dried open before re-rolling up. When rolling it up, let the awning go and roll hard up for the last foot and one-half. This will assure that the latch is secure. All according the A&E.
Towing information. Always receck your linkage before restarting your travels. This means that everytime you stop and leave the car connected to the RV, when you return ALWAYS check the links. Seems that there has been some vandalism reported and links have been disconnected or pins removed just to cause the RVer problems. I bought a pair of locks to lock the towbar to the car so it cannot be removed. I also bought some extra pins to replace any that get lost (or stolen).
Every day we have a get-together with all the other Tennessee Winnebago owners at 4 p.m. This is fun, full of talk about RVs and friends and our plans. Today there is no show, but tomorrow will be Crystal Gayle. The singer with the long hair... a beautiful voice and a great band.
A visit to the Winnebago store...
Fixed the door stop. The plastic is getting old and the outside connector that holds the door open broke when we closed the door. The hook just pulled out of its hinge, taking some of the plastic with it. Got a new one from the factory store. Apparently this is an often replaced item.
Arranged for the converter people to check my noisy converter. It is the fan, not the electronics. Fan is a standard 80 mm fan, 12 volt, 26 cfm fan used in computers. Not too hard to change, but the converter is under two drawers below the refrigerator, so the access is through the hole for the drawer. Awkward access at best. The converter plugs into the AC and there are three wires. Chassis ground, negative and positive. Chassis ground and neg are both greeh. Don't mix them up.
Got electrical boxes from parts. Do those later. The electrical boxes have little wings that hold them to the wall or surface that they are attached to. These wings are breaking. The boxes are not available at Home Depot. The ones used in RVs are shallow and are designed to fit into thin hollow surfaces such as just below shelves in wiring channels in the overhead shelves.
The rally begins...
The first thing for us on Monday was to go into town and see the Ford agency. Service was friendly and they set us up an appointment for Friday morning to fix the starter and solenoid. With that out of the way we went to Bills Friendly Market and did some grocery shopping and got more bottled water for coffee and drinking. Nice store, could be a Kroger in Farragut.
Much of the rally is seminars on various RVing subjects. For me it was ID theft and prevention for RV'ers, then ONAN generator maintenance, and then maintenance tips for black and grey water systems, and finally the new changes in Medicare prescription coverage.
ONAN parts: I needed air and fuel filters for my generator. The ONAN people were there with all kinds of parts, but not the air filters. They will get two of them for me and have them by tomorrow, along with a couple of plugs and two fuel filters.
ID theft and protection for RVers was full of good advice. Get your credit report from each of the three companies at four month intervals so you can get three each year. Check them and cancel all unused credit cards. Have your checks made with first initial and last name imprinted and no other information.
Black water tanks was about the avoidance of chemicals and instead, using the proper bacteria to control digestion of wastes. Also, the standard rules of not leaving the black water tank open (let it fill, then dump). Don't let food particles or grease get into the gray tank. Wipe plates and pans clean of debris first, then wash. When dumping, dump the black tank first, leave the black tank valve open while dumping the gray water, then close both valves. I will help rinse the black tank.
Medicare is changing. A heavily attended seminar on the new changes to the prescription drugs was interesting.
In the evening, we all met at 4 p.m. for the state group, then went to see Jimmy Travis, a commedian and guitarist from Nashville. He was really good. It was two hours of one-liners like the one about how hot it was. It was so hot that Bill went to stand beside Hilary to feel the chill.
Arrived at Winnebago Grand National Rally
We took our time leaving the park in Clearlake, Iowa, and drove into town toward Mason City looking for propane. We didn't find any, so ventured back and drove through the corn fields up to Forest City. We found the camp ground and rally site and continued into town, still looking for propane. Of course, on Sunday one would not really expect to find the propane stores open unless it was at an open gas station. We found the propane dealer in Forest City, then turned around and went to the rally site.
The back way in is used for all arivals so that there is enough room to stop and disconnect the tow car. As we did this chore, the old steam tractor near us blew his whistle ear-drum-shattering loud and chugged across the road behind us. When we were ready to go, the RV engine was reluctant to start. Looks like the starter is bad. Tried 3 times and the engine started. We got our parking location information and a team in a golfcart escorted us to the parking spot. This is on a slight slope and I had to use all my blocks to make the RV level enough to sleep in without rolling out of bed. I set up the blocks and urged the reluctant starter to start which it finally did. As blocked the RV was nice and level. Now we don't have to move until Friday morning. Need to make arrangements to have Ford fix this problem. I opened the switch on the chassis battery, then hooked up my trickle charger to the chassis battery to make sure that it is fully charged and not the problem with starting.
Or friend, Jean Johnson arrived from up the row to welcome us to the group. There are three RVs from our group here, but there are quite a few from the central (Nashville) and western (Memphis) groups, so there are about 23 couples here from Tennessee. I hear that there are 1550 RVs at the rally! We Tennesseans all got together at 4 to snack and meet and sit around and talk for a while.
In the evening we went to the starting ceremonies at 7 p.m. in the amphitheater. Announcements, Flag ceremony, parade of states and flags and we were done for the day. On the way back to the RV it began to rain and lightning was striking in west. We sat in the front seats in the RV and watched the storm approach and drench us. My awning was up and my antenna was down, so it was fun to watch and the storm was good sized, too.
Almost made it to Winnebago
The tiny pea blossoms covering the campground and along the highways are birds foot trefoil. Gbout 24 feet long overall. Well, I asked if I could take a picture and by the time the conversation ended and I got away it was already 9:30. The Indian was attached to a trailer holding the Jeep and a bunch of bicycles. Seems there are three little girls and a young boy along for the ride. As we talked about the RV, the story evolved that it now has a modern diesel engine from a pick up truck and gets pretty good mileage. The wheels have been changed to 16 inch iron from 17.5 because tires are no longer available for that size wheel. Some grinding on the front calipers was necessary to make them fit. The interior is clean and tidy ood fodder for cattle. A legume, I suppose, with lots of protein.
This morning's plan is to go to the Herbert Hoover Library and Museum in the little town of West Branch Iowa. The gates open at 9 a.m., but we didn't make it on time. I saw a Winnebago Indian RV in the campground and went over to take a picture. They were all getting ready to continue their trip to Colorado, Denver, to participate in a Jeep rock climbing rally. Now this Winnebago has seen much better days. Turns out it is a '73, and it looks like it is awith a new hardwood floor over much of the busy area and the stairs going in. The dinette is re upholstered and the refrigerator is an AC studio model powered by a 1000 watt generator when boondocking. The owner, Tim, and his wife say it is all paid for and they are having a ball. There is more to the story but you will have to find Tim and talk to him to get all the details. I understand he is trying to get over a pass at 8000 feet in that rig towing 5000 pounds and going pretty slow.
We went on to the Herbert Hoover site and looked and talked and finally left after 1 p.m. Late for our 200 mile trip to Forrest City and get there by 6 p.m. Here is a picture of the young lady who provided information about the buildings in the small town now preserved by the Federal Government. We had an interesting discussion about Hoover. She was very shy and thought the picture didn't look like her. It is a perfect image.
Hoover is an interesting study. The US had great expectations for him as President. The problems he faced were horrendous. Drought and poverty in the farms. World War I barely over and unions fighting and prohibition and the crooks it brought into politics, the stock market crash followed by bank turmoil and so he lost to Roosevelt who let the banks crash and then had even worse problems than Hoover had. Hoover was an honest man in the presidency, unlike many before or after him (Truman and Eisenhower are the exceptions.)
We had thirty miles to go when the gates closed at the Winnebago rally for early arrivals. We decided to stay the night at Clear Lake State Park near Clearlake, Iowa. There was a wedding taking place near the lake in a beautiful setting and we watched hot air balloons racing across the lake.
The second day to Winnebago
We drove through Indiana and Illinois, both states paved with corn. The corn goes on for miles and miles. We did get a little history about a guy named John Deere. He invented a plow that was suitable for the tough prairie grass and shrubs. With this new plow, the swampy prairie was drained and plowed and turned into infinite corn fields. All the natural wildlife was destroyed and the relatively rapid runoff from the prairies now causes the Mississippi to flood and do great damage occasionally. Just think what the EPA would have to say if all the wetlands in the prairies were drained today!
At about 6 p.m. we tried unsuccessfully to stay on the Cedar River at a Corps of Engineers campground. It was full of kids having a good time for the weekend. We went on a little further and stayed at a small campground, Colony Country Campground, near Wal*Mart in Iowa City.
When we unhooked the Brake Buddy to park the RV, I noticed that the wire to the plug had come apart where I had installed a new plug with crimped on connectors. I repaired it right away and that fixed the transmitter light for the brakes and probably fixed the brakes, too.
Off we go to Winnebago
We got away later than I expected. The goal was 9 am, but Dixie didn't understand the urgency of the matter and we left about 11. It was raining as we hooked up. This was the first time to hook up this Saturn, so it goes slower than will be normal. The tail lights and turn signal on one side didn't work, so had to fix that. The bulb was not burned out, but the contacts appeared to be corroded. An emery board fixed that and the light worked bright as it should. Did the same to the other side and all was well. The Brake Buddy monitor didn't work, but the brakes worked fine and the stop lights on the saturn lit; the radio transmitter that tells the RV that the brake lights on the Saturn are on did not seem to be working. This is not urgent, so we went without fixing that. The trip was uneventful and took us north thru Kentucky and into Indiana. We stopped at Seymore, Indiana, at Wal*Mart and spent the night in their parking lot with pleasant permission. I picked up a new multimeter for the RV since I had not brought mine from the other tool box. I also picked up an inexpensive color printer for $25. Lightweight and powered from the USB cable. Should be good for occasional use in the RV. In the morning after our limited use of the electrical system the night before, the batteries were very low! These batteries need to be changed. I'll do that later.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Almost ready to go...
We had rain this morning, so it was slow going for a while. My doctors appointment was at 11 and he is not far away. I almost didn't make it because I flooded the Saturn and it would not start. (This is the second time.) I had to back the Buick out of the garage and the RV was parked behind the Buick, but I had left I thought room for the Buick to get out if I really needed to. I made it with only one readjustment of the angle.
I called the propane man and he said he had the part and would be right out. Finally. He was there when I got back from the doctors office. I have a perscription for Cipro for a potential kidney infection. I can recognize the symptons now after three times and I know it recurrs. He will call me if the blood test indicates that I need to take it.
Propane if fixed and no more leaks in the repaired system. That's good.
The lawn guy came and gave me a quote. I took it. Now that is taken care of and when we return we will call him and he will bill us for the work. Works for me.
I spent the rest of the day going back and forth trying to get all the stuff we take back into the RV and all the stuff we don't need weeded out of the pile.
The other day, I moved the RV from the yard to the driveway, so we were not going through the gate and tracking mud all over the place. Things are pretty wet as hurrican Dennis is comming back across east Tennessee today. We got another 3/4 inch of rain today. It is still light rain.
I finally put the Buick to bed and backed the Saturn into the garage, then backed the RV up to the Saturn to make hookup easy in the morning. I can put the bra on the Saturn in the garage, too, without getting it all wet.
More later as we begin this trip.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Packing for the trip...
Tried on the bra for the Saturn. It fits and goes on easily. This one covers the entire front of the car including the windshield. On our old Saturn, the bra was in two pieces over the front of the hood and the top piece would catch small stones and hold them against the paint, ultimately doing some damage to the hood paint. I like this one better, but it must be taken on and off for each trip. You can fold down the windshield part so you can see to drive around the parking area, but it would not do on the road.
Put in the DVD player and a stock of DVDs that we have not watched yet. Many are oldies that are now available cheap. I also restocked a new set of blues and classical CDs to listen to.
We have 4 gallons of spring water left over from the recent water shutdown on our street. I never did find out what happened.
Found the propane leak in the refrigerator. It was at the shutoff valve right where the gas feed comes into the refrigerator. Found a repairman to order one and come to our house and repair it. He ordered the part overnight, then it came in this morning and there was a screw-up and the check cut for payment to UPS was for the wrong amount and UPS would not deliver it. It should be here in the morning at 10 a.m. to be installed. I think I am lucky even to find this guy. Most other places would take me in in two weeks.
I can't find the phone number of the guy I had contacted to mow my lawn while we are away. He does a neighbor's lawn and I stopped him and we have a contract to do mine when we go. Now I can't find his number and I don't remember his firms name. I do remember the 966 prefix on his phone number because that means he is local. Our prefix is also 966. I looked all the lawn service firms up in the phone directory and there are only 5 that have 966 phone numbers, so I called all of them. Of course, you just leave a message and hope they call back. Two have so far. One was a fax machine. Two more to go to find the guy. If I don't find him, I will get one of these others to do it. Sweat, but not panic like the propane leak.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Hooking up the Saturn for our upcoming trip...
Dixie and I hooked everything up and got out the FRS radios and changed the batteries on the dead one (put away still on probably...) then we went through the routine light checking on the RV and the car when it is hooked up. We always do this so we are sure the lights work properly. The tail lights and the running lights and headlights on the RV worked and the tail lights on the Saturn worked. Checking the turn signals found that they worked on both vehicles, too. Then we tested the brakes......... RV: fine; Saturn: none!!!!! Time to check the cable connections.
I took the cable apart and looked at the connections at both ends. Nothing broken, but no wire connected to the brake light connection on the RV, the red wire. Well, this worked on the other Saturn that we sold, so what was different?
I got on the web and found several sites that gave information about hooking up trailers (but not towed cars) and found information about the 7 connector and the 4 connector fittings that I was using. The RV has seven connectors and separates the brakes from the turn signals and the Saturn has a connector that uses only 4 wires, and one of them is ground.
I opened up the back of the Saturn and looked at the connections from the wireing to the light assemblies on the rear lamps. There were diodes in place to permit the two vehicles to share the lights without damage. Fine. The brown wire was for the tail lights, just as in the book. The green and yellow wires were for the left and right turn signals, and the white wire was for the ground. No brake light connection!
I went back to the connecting cable and futsed around with it some more, and read the RV book and the notes I had made and it was 4 p.m. I started at 10:30.
Then it dawned on me. I use a Brake Buddy braking system to stop the Saturn and it presses on the brake pedal of the car when we slow down. Voila! The Saturn brake lights come on when the pedal is pushed, not when the RV lights come on. I felt stupid and relieved. The problem was solved and now I know that to test the brake lights on the Saturn, I have to use the test button on the Brake Buddy. Now I feel better.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
I built four vegetable patches on the lawn this spring. These are just simple frames made of three 2x4x8 boards. One is cut in half for the two ends. These were staked at the for corners on the lawn with enough room to run the riding mower around them. The stakes prevent accidental movement of the frames. The lawn was covered with newspaper at least 4 pages thick and overlapping. Then I added five bags of pinebark fine mulch or soil amendment to each frame to fill it up. Later I added climbing frames made similarly using 2x2x8 boards and plastic chicken wire mesh for the cucumbers to climb on. The mulch and newspaper stopped the grass from growing. (Burmuda grass is very persistant, though and is finally comming thru.) In the spring I planted sets of squash, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The plants went down into the soil under the paper. I fertilized using Miracle Gro and other 13x13x13 fertilizer.
Now we are overwhelmed with zuccini and yellow squash and the tomatoes are heavy! We got a good crop of cabbages and a few small heads of the red cabbage. Only one pepper so far. Some cukes. It is only the 4th of July, so more is comming.
Yesterday I took out all the cabbages remaining in one plot and planted sweet corn on one-foot centers with three seeds in each hole and a handfull of fertilizer. This should be up in 68 days. Look for sweet corn on Sept 19th.
In retrospect, I should have used Round-Up early on in the beds to kill the bermuda grass and I should have used it around the edges to keep stuff from creeping in. The climbing nets should be set into the area about one foot, not on the edge. Then the cukes will climb straight up the fence. I had to guide each plant and tie it up to make them start climbing on the outside where they are accessible.