Spyder Key Quest

I may not be as organized as Donna, but I do take care of certain things. One thing is my credit cards. I always handle them carefully and put them away before I sign a receipt or do anything else. That way, I never misplace them. I’m also careful about keys – I have a place for keys and try to always put them where they belong. That way, I don’t have to look for them and I haven’t lost a key in years – until last summer. While we were in Iowa for the RAGBRAI, somehow I misplaced the Spyder key. I  looked everywhere I could think of and retraced my steps before they were lost. I had to give up and break out our spare key.

Since then, we’ve been operating with only one key – no spare for the Spyder. This made Donna nervous – she almost locked the key in the frunk a couple of times and was also worried about losing the key and getting stuck somewhere. I meant to get one made while we were in San Diego, but I put it off. On Friday, I went to the Ride Now Powersports dealer – they carry Can-Am products – and I bought a new key. It wasn’t so simple though. The Can-Am key has a chip that is read by the ignition switch. The Spyder is equipped with an immobilizer system that won’t allow the engine to run unless the system recognizes the chip in the key.

Ride Now had a blank replacement key, but they don’t have a way to cut the keys. They can program the chip in the key, but it has to be cut first, so the key will turn in the ignition during the programming process. I took the new blank key with me. On Saturday, I set out to have the key cut. First I went to Ace Hardware on Main Street. No luck – they don’t duplicate automotive type keys. Then I went to Lowes – same story. I tried a locksmith shop on Power and Southern Avenue – they were usually open on Saturday, but not on the President’s Day weekend. Then I went to a Key Me kiosk in Bed, Bath and Beyond. They wanted to sell me another blank which they would cut for $73. I’d already paid $62 for the blank I had.

I did a search on my smart phone and found a mobile locksmith nearby called Sparks’ Locksmith. I gave him a call. He said he didn’t have a shop – just a van for mobile work – but I could come over to his house and he would cut the key in his van. He was a few blocks away off Signal Butte Road. I found his place and he cut the new key blank in less than 10 minutes and it worked in the ignition fine. He was a super nice guy and didn’t charge for the work. He just said think of me if you need to have work done or if a friend gets locked out. Sparks’ Locksmith – service 24/7 and no extra charge for after hours calls. His number is 602-301-8170 if you are ever in the area and need a locksmith.

From there I went back to Ride Now to have the key programmed. The service guy there told me on Friday that he would program the key for free once I had the key cut since I bought the blank from them. He tried to complete the program several times without success. Finally he got the service manual out. I read the programming sequence out loud to him from the manual as he went through the steps. Success at last – the new key works. I can cross that off my things to do list.

Old key, new key and keyholder

All that running around worked up an appetite. Donna grilled wild Alaskan salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled baby bok choy for dinner. We always buy wild salmon and avoid farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

Wild Alaskan salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled baby bok choy

On Sunday, our friends Gerry and Cindy Dimassa came over to go bike riding with Donna. We met them about 12 years ago when we rode in the same bike club together. The last time we saw them was eight years ago in Paris, France – we happened to be there at the same time.

Gerry, Cindy and Donna after a 36-mile ride to Tempe Marketplace and back

Gerry and Cindy are avid bicyclists and have ridden all over Europe. Cindy’s bike is really high-tech with electronic shifters – no cable adjustments needed!

While they were out on their ride, I tackled another chore. It was time to give the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill and the Weber q2200 propane grill a thorough cleaning. Ash builds up in the Traeger and it needs to be cleaned out after four cooks or so. I cleaned the grates and build-up on the interior, then scooped the ash out.

Heart of the Traeger – the fire pot

Diffuser over fire pot after scooping out excess ash

Last step – fresh foil lining on drip pan

Later, I put two racks of babyback ribs on the Traeger. I had dry-rubbed them with my favorite rub to cook them Memphis-style. We had company over for dinner. Donna met another professional organizer online, Barbara. Barbara and her husband Brent have just taken up the nomadic lifestyle and have been on the road in their class C Minnie Winnie since August.

Barbara brought a 7-layer salad. Donna made cornbread, sweet potatoes and green beans to go with the babyback ribs and we had a buffet-style dinner outside. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and talked about the lifestyle. Brent and Barbara are just getting into it and still adjusting. Like most newcomers, they’ve been pushing and covering a lot of ground. Their next stop will be an extended stay in Palm Desert.

Dinner buffet

The wind kicked up Sunday night and Monday was very windy – gusts up to 30mph – and we had a few raindrops. It was a good day to lie low and we did. A cold front blew in and we’re in for below average temperatures for the coming week.

Tuesday was cool, but the wind died down and the skies cleared. Still, the high only reached 57 degrees! We rode the Spyder over to a Mexican restaurant where we met our friends Mark and Emily Fagan (Roads Less Traveled) along with their puppy, Buddy, for lunch. We sat out on the patio in the sun since we couldn’t take Buddy inside. We had a good time catching up on their latest adventures. We last saw them in McCall, Idaho almost two years ago.

Emily, Mark and Buddy

Donna made a turmeric chicken and rice soup for dinner last night. With the cool temperatures, soup sounded good – and it was!

Turmeric chicken and rice soup

The forecast calls for the cool weather to hang around for the rest of the week with daily highs around 60 degrees. This morning, it was 39 degrees out at 6:30am and the coach had cooled to a chilly 51 degrees. We don’t run the heat at night, we prefer blankets. But when I got out of bed, I turned on the heat pumps first thing!

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to purchase anything, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

 

Valentine’s Dinner Delayed

As we expected, the weather dashed our Valentine’s Day dinner plans. We planned to go to Roma Cafe Ristorante a few miles from Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort – our current home. The rain started falling around noon and persisted into the night. It wasn’t the typical rain we often get around here, which are thunderstorms with heavy rain in short periods. This was more reminiscent of Seattle – light to moderate rain under a heavy overcast. It would occasionally lighten up to a drizzle or a few scattered drops, then fall steadily again with small raindrops – just enough to keep everything wet.

The Phoenix area averages eight inches of rain annually. A quarter of that amount falls in July and August during the monsoon season. The monsoon happens when the prevailing winds come up from the southwest carrying moisture from the Sea of Cortez through central Arizona. That’s when you’ll see heavy thundershowers here. Anyway, we weren’t about to head out on the Spyder and didn’t want to hassle with an Uber ride of only a few miles.

I spent most of the day lazing about and reading a book. I was waiting for parts to be delivered before I could work on my next project. It seemed a simple project, but I’d already had a false start on it – more on that in a minute. Donna replaced our dinner plans with a dish of creamy champagne chicken served over veggie pasta and zucchini spirals with sauteed peppers. It was a good excuse for Donna to open the bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne she had on hand!

Creamy champagne chicken

In our galley area, we were having trouble with one of the wall outlets. One day last week, a breaker tripped and we lost power to all of the kitchen outlets. When I investigated, I discovered that one of the outlets was worn and the induction cooktop plug was barely making contact. At one point, it must have lost contact and a spark arced from the outlet to the plug causing a current spike, thus tripping the breaker. I could wiggle the plug at the outlet and make or break contact with the wall outlet.

The wall outlets are 1-1/4″ X 2-1/2″ rectangular duplex type with a surrounding wall plate.

Old outlet and wall plate

Last weekend I rode the Spyder over to the Ace Hardware on Main Street and bought three new standard household Leviton brand duplex receptacle rectangular wall outlets – I figured I should replace all three outlets in the galley area.

When I came home and removed the trim plate, I discovered that ours weren’t standard household type receptacles. The mounting screws were offset and the wall plate snapped into a square hole centered above and below the receptacles.

Pass and Seymour self-contained wall receptacle – note offset screws and holes for plate

These outlets were made by a company called Pass and Seymour. A little digging online and I found they are self-contained wall outlets made specifically for mobile homes and RVs. They don’t use a metal or plastic junction box like you would find in a standard home installation. The power supply wires and ground lug do not use any screws. Instead, the Romex power cables are stripped of the outer sheath and the individual wires are forced into slots cut into the brass conductors of the outlets. Similarly, the copper ground wire is also captured in a slot. Once it’s wired, a plastic cover snaps over the back of the assembly, completely enclosing it.

I found the replacement Pass and Seymour self-contained receptacles online from an outfit called Mobile Home Parts Store and ordered half a dozen. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have enough on hand to replace the rest of our wall outlets and the shipping cost was the same whether I ordered three or six.

The parts came on Friday and after lunch, I set to work. The first step was to trip the breaker and make sure no current was flowing through the circuit. I tested the circuit with my multimeter to be sure. Once I had the outlet out of the wall, I removed the rear plastic cover by pushing the tabs in with a small punch. Then I used a flat blade screwdriver to pry the wires out of the receptacles. The brass slots are undersized so they bite into the wire, creating a secure connection with good conductivity.

Circuit breakers – second to the bottom below the one marked Refrigerator is the circuit I worked on

Old receptacle on the right has corroded conductors

The self-contained outlets are held to wall with clever locking levers that rotate 90 degrees when you tighten the screws. Tightening the screw rotates them to a vertical position to clamp against the backside of the wall. Loosening the screw rotates the lever against the housing and releases it from the wall.

Romex sheath stripped and wires forced into undersized slots

Pushing the wire into the slots on the outlet wasn’t easy. It has to be pushed with great force. There is a tool available to do this. It’s a plastic handle that has a “U” shaped end to fit over the wire. It costs $38, so I passed on it. It didn’t look very durable and I’d only be using it a few times if I bought one.

I used a metal punch with a flat tip about 5mm in diameter. It was difficult to force the wire into place, but with a few choice words, I got it done. The advantage I see in using this type of receptacle in this application is this – it takes less wall depth and fits thin wall construction. It also doesn’t have any screws that can loosen while traveling – the wires are secure in the slots and not likely to ever work free. It took some pressure to lever the wire out of the old receptacles.

The second outlet I replaced was similar to the first one, but the main difference was the Romex cable. In this one, they stripped a small portion of the outer PVC Romex sheathing and passed the cable through the receptacle and continued on to the next outlet. The job was the same though – pry the wires from the old outlet and force them into place in the new one. Then assemble in reverse order.

The only Pass and Seymour self-contained outlets I could find were white. Our originals were more of a bone color. Since I replaced all three in the galley area, they match with a two-tone look.

New two-tone look

I flipped the circuit breaker to the closed position (on) and tested the outlets. Job done!

Friday’s weather was cool – the high was in the mid-60s – but it was dry. We rode the Spyder to Roma Cafe Ristorante and had our Valentine’s Day dinner a couple of nights late. Donna had the eggplant parmigiana with pasta and a meatball with marinara on the side. I had the cannelloni ripieni, which is rolled sheets of pasta filled with crumbled sausage and covered in marinara and melted mozzarella. I also had a meatball on the side. Roma Cafe serves reasonable portions – not oversized. It’s similar to how Donna typically plates a meal. But I was stuffed. It was a good meal.

Today we have clear skies with only a few high, thin clouds. The temperature should reach the 70s. I have a few errands to run, but other than that, no plans. I’m still getting over the sinusitis although I’m feeling much better than I did earlier in the week.

Update – I’ve read on a few RV forums where the poster advises using a regular household type duplex receptacle as a replacement. They claim it’s easier to install and somehow “safer.” While I’ll agree it may be easier to install, I can’t advise their use or understand how it could enhance safety. Standard household receptacles are designed to be installed in an existing junction box, not freestanding in the wall. If the hot leads secured by screws to the conductors were to vibrate loose, you’d have hot wires floating free inside the wall of your coach without an insulating surround.

On the other hand, a Pass and Seymour self-contained receptacle is fully enclosed once the plastic back cover is snapped into place. It also has no screws securing the wiring – the wires are tightly held in the brass slots. These are designed for this application, standard household receptacles are not!

Stringing Day and Night Shades

I took it easy last weekend. My allergies have escalated to the severe category and I developed a bit of a sinus infection. On Saturday, Donna played in a pickleball tournament. I went to watch and ended up being a line judge. Donna had a good time playing.

On Sunday, Donna rode the Spyder to the park-and-ride lot at Gilbert and McDowell Road. She met up there with her friend, Julia, and they went to a movie theater in Tempe. Meanwhile I laid low, taking benadryl allergy tabs and rinsing my sinuses with a neti pot.

I stayed off the pickleball court Monday and took it easy again. I mostly relaxed and read a book. Donna got her exercise by running to Red Mountain Park and back – a distance of four miles. Then she hit the gym here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort. She made a new recipe for dinner – a Korean beef bowl with noodles. It was spicy and yummy.

Korean beef bowl

On Tuesday morning, we had a rain shower. It was okay with me, I wasn’t up for pickleball. I had a delivery though and a project to complete. Our coach, like many RVs, has day and night window shades on our bedroom windows. Day and night shades have two panels, one that’s opaque for privacy but allows sunlight to illuminate the room. It also blocks some of the radiant heat. The second panel is a night shade that blocks light from entering the room.

Night shade half-way down

The night panel is attached to the top plate and center plate. It can be pulled all the way down, left all the way up or set to any point in-between.

Night panel half -way down, day panel covering the rest of the window

The day panel attaches to the center plate and the lower plate. Like the night panel, it can be left all the way up, pulled all the way down or set at any point in between. The day and night shades work through friction on cords that are strung through the plates and panels. One of the cords on our shade was frayed and the night panel wouldn’t go all the way up – in the photos, it’s up as far as we could get it. I ordered a kit to re-string the cords in the shade.

Kit

I removed the shade from the window frame and popped the end caps from all three plates. Then I cut the old cords at the top plate and pulled them off of the panels. The cord is constructed similarly to paracord, but much thinner. The cord in the kit was 1.4mm in diameter – slightly thicker than the cross section of 16-gauge wire. The kit also included new plastic bushings and a nifty tool for pulling the cord. The interesting thing was, the instructions never mention the cord pulling tool. In fact, the instructions were a little sketchy, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out how to do it.

I measured and cut two lengths of cord – in this case, I needed about 93 inches for each side. This allowed some fudge factor for tying the cord ends. I pulled both panels out of the end plates and center plate. The cords criss-cross through the center plate and pass through plastic bushings. Wear on these bushings is what ultimately causes the cords to fray. I replaced the plastic bushings by inserting a small punch through the opening and pushing them out of the plate and panel. I used the same punch to snap the new bushings in place.

Old worn bushings

I started at the top panel by the tying the end of each cord to the springs mounted there. Then I collapsed the night shade pleats flat against the upper plate and used the cord tool to pull the cord through the plate and panel pleats.

The instructions warned about stringing the center plate as being a tricky operation. The cords must cross – the left cord comes out of the center panel on the right side and right cord goes to the left side through the bushings. I found an easy way to do this. I slid the lower day shade into the center panel taking care to keep the strings centered in the plate. Again with pleats collapsed I inserted the tool before I had the panel all the way into the plate. This allowed me to easily capture the cord and pull it through the panel pleats and bushings.

This made stringing through the center panel easy

The instructions didn’t offer any advice on doing this step. Next I slid the panel through the plate until the bushing on the other end was exposed and did the same trick to pull the cord through the panel. Then I was able to center the panel with cords strung through.

After I pulled the cord through the bottom plate, I tied large knots in the end of the cords so I wouldn’t accidentally pull them back up. Then I snapped the end caps in place and I was ready to install the shade.

With the top panel secured to the window frame, the last step is to secure the ends of the cords at the bottom of the window. This is the trickiest part of the whole operation. There are plastic tabs screwed to the bottom of the window frame to secure the cords. Proper tensioning of the cords is critical. Too loose and the shades don’t have sufficient friction to stay in place – the shades fall from gravity. Too tight and the shade is difficult to operate and the plastic bushings will wear prematurely. The other thing is the cords need to pull against the springs in the top plate with fairly equal tension or the center plate and bottom plate won’t stay horizontal. I played around with it for a while before taking a break. I left plenty of extra cord where it ties to the tabs so I can make further adjustments to get it right. That was my project for the day.

Donna’s project for the day was a green curry shrimp dinner. Tasty!

Green curry shrimp

Earlier in the day, she rode her bike to Orangewood Shadows RV Park to visit Debi and Lowell Hartvikson, who we met when we stayed there several years ago. Afterward, she continued on to Trader Joe’s at Baseline and Gilbert to pick up the brown rice she needed for dinner plus bananas and lemons which she carried home in a small backpack. Altogether, she got in a 25-mile ride.

This morning is cool and cloudy and rain is imminent. I played in the 3.0-3.5 pickleball round robin and it was a mistake. I felt a little lightheaded at times and played poorly. I’ll take it easy for the rest of the day. We planned to go to Roma Cafe for Valentine’s dinner, but we’ll see how that works out. Riding the Spyder to dinner in the rain is not an option.

Christmas in February

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might recall I had to spill the beans early about Donna’s Christmas present. She fancied a pair of Lucchese equestrian-style western boots. These boots are made to order, so I had to measure her feet and place the order in time to have them for Christmas. I ordered them in October and we received the boots mid-December before we left San Diego.

But, something was awry. Either I made a mistake in the measuring or the last Lucchese built the boot on wasn’t really true to size. The boots were too big. They were excessively loose in the heel and also over her instep. I had to return the boots and have another pair made a half size smaller. The replacement boots arrived on Wednesday – Merry Christmas, Donna!

Ladies tall equestrian boots

These boots are styled similar to the Lucchese women’s competition polo boots – except they don’t have the hard shielding and they have a walking heel. The heel is one-inch tall and the shafts are 16 inches tall. The leather is full-grain aniline calfskin. The boots are hand crafted and all leather with the exception of the rubber heel cap. It would have been nice if the boots had come a week earlier – she could have worn them when she spoke at the convention for the American National Cattlewomen. I’m sure she’ll find a reason to wear them soon enough.

The weather here in Mesa, Arizona has been near perfect. Daily highs hover near 80 degrees and it cools to the mid-50s at night. Just right for sleeping with the bedroom window open. The only fly in the ointment was a night with gusty winds that continued through Wednesday morning – but I can’t complain. The historical average high temperature for February around here is 71 degrees. We might see temperatures closer to the average next week.

Spam and Sports

Something strange is going on with my website. Over the last four and a half years, the site comments are hit with spam on a daily basis. About 100 spam comments per day are quarantined by software I installed and I empty the spam comments regularly. Over the last four days, I’ve only been hit by two spammers. I’m not complaining – just wondering what happened to the spam.

We had a busy weekend with sporting events – both as participants and spectators. On Saturday morning, I played in a pickleball tournament. We started out with a round robin split into two groups. The group I was in had 12 players. The round robin results determined seeding to form the teams. Number one was paired with number 12, I was number two and was paired with the 11 place finisher and so on down the line. It was a fun tournament but I didn’t take home any prizes. Our results were 9-11, 9 -11, 10-11 and 11-4. We lost three close games and only won once. By number of points scored, we were the number two team, but it was number of games won that determined the results.

Our friends Howard and Sara Graff invited us to join them Saturday afternoon to check out the PGA Phoenix Open golf tournament. Howard somehow managed to get four free tickets and a parking pass. The Phoenix Open has the highest spectator attendance of any PGA event. The weekly attendance this year was over 655,000 and more than 218,000 were there on Saturday.

Crowds of this size made the logistics of getting in and out of there a little tough. We parked in lot 8 and rode a shuttle through bumper to bumper traffic. The tickets Howard had were for a penthouse skybox on the 18th green. We were guests of a law firm, Tiffany and Bosco. I’m not sure how that happened, but it was the place to be. They had an open bar and hot hors d’oeuvres plus sandwiches and snacks.

Great tickets!

I don’t really follow professional golf and have only played on rare occasions – company scramble tournaments mostly – back in my working days. We had a nice view of the 18th green and I recognized a few of the golfers.

Phil Mickelson on the 18th green

Another view of the 18th green from the Tiffany and Bosco skybox

Golf originated in Scotland in the 15th century. While we enjoyed the food and drink and the tournament, for me, the fun part was the atmosphere and people watching. We saw some guys that took golf’s Scottish heritage to heart.

These guys celebrated golf’s Scottish heritage

On Sunday morning, Donna headed out on her bicycle. She discovered a good route that avoided car traffic to the west side of Mesa, then got on a paved bike path into Tempe. She met up with her friend Beth Welch – we used to ride with Beth when we lived here and rode with the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club. They rode to Singh Farms where they spent a few hours chatting. They ran into Howard and Sara Graff there. Her roundtrip ride was about 38 miles.

While Donna was out, I prepared babyback ribs with a dry rub so I could smoke them Memphis-style. I love cooking ribs this way on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. I have the process for babyback ribs down by now and they are so good.

Memphis style babyback ribs

Donna made a potato salad and baked jalapeno poppers – this was our Superbowl meal. We enjoyed the game with a great meal.

Babyback ribs, potato salad and baked jalapeno poppers

Last night Donna prepared a new recipe, Chicken Lombardy. She pounded boneless chicken breasts, dredged them in flour, and sauteed them. Then she placed them in a casserole dish, covered them with sauteed mushrooms and cheeses, and a sauce made with chicken broth and marsala wine. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Chicken Lombardy with brown basmati rice and spinach

The daily high temperature has been in the upper 70s and the forecast calls for 80 to 83 degrees for the rest of the week. That’s why we winter in Arizona!

Pickleball and Projects

Another week of pickleball and projects has flown by here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort. The weather has been fantastic, other than the high winds we experienced on Monday. The overnight low temperature has been around 50 degrees, while the daytime highs have been around 80 degrees.

On Monday afternoon, Donna took an Uber ride to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix. She stayed the night there to speak at the American National Cattlewomen meeting on Tuesday morning. After speaking, she was dropped off here by an Uber driver by noon. Her topic was “What Your Clutter Would Say If It Could Talk – and How to Give It the Boot!”

On Tuesday, I took care of a project I’ve been putting off for a while. A few of the rubber weatherstrip seals on the basement compartment doors were loose. They were originally installed with a double-sided adhesive tape. Time and temperature had taken a toll and some areas of adhesive were no longer holding.

I pulled what was left of the tape off on three loose seals and cleaned the rubber and corresponding area of the doors with rubbing alcohol. I like to use the 91% stuff, the 70% alcohol doesn’t work as well. I re-secured the seals with 3M Weatherstrip Adhesive.

3M Weatherstrip Adhesive

This is a type of contact cement that will stick to just about anything and creates a strong bond. I smeared a thin bead on the rubber seal and on the metal door. I let it dry and get tacky for about two minutes, then pressed the seal in place. The adhesive bonded immediately and the weather strips won’t be coming loose anytime soon!

On Tuesday evening, Donna made a new recipe. It was shrimp in a tomato cream sauce with brown rice and quinoa fusilli pasta and it was so tasty.

Shrimp in tomato cream sauce with pasta

I put off my projects on Wednesday and played the 3.0-3.5 round robin games on the pickleball court. I stayed off the courts on Thursday to tackle a couple more projects. The first was pulling the anode rod out of our 10-gallon Suburban water heater. Anode rods are sacrificial devices and need to be changed periodically. I wrote about it in this post.

The first time I changed the anode rod, I didn’t know how long it had been in water heater. It was totally corroded and I replaced it with a magnesium rod.  I changed the magnesium rod after 18 months, but it looked like I could have left it for another six months. I replaced it with an aluminum rod. The aluminum rods don’t corrode as fast as the magnesium rods, so I left it in for 22 months before I pulled it.

Aluminum Suburban water heater anode rod

I shut off the breaker for the water heater so the electric heating element wouldn’t burn out when I drained the tank. Then I shut off the fresh water supply to the coach.

Our water heater lives behind this vented panel

I cut a plastic grocery bag and taped it in place to create a “curtain” for the water to drain over. I knew the water coming out of the tank would likely have some heavy mineral deposits.

Water heater – anode rod in lower center

Hot water draining over “curtain”

As I expected, several chunks of calcium deposits and sandy mineral deposits came out with the hot water. To my surprise the anode rod was still in good shape. After I cleaned the tank out, I reinstalled the old anode rod and I’ll give it another 12 months before I change it.

Old anode rod still in good shape

After I reinstalled the anode rod with teflon tape sealing the threads, I opened the hot water in the bathroom and kitchen faucets. With the hot water faucets open, when I turned the fresh water supply back on air could escape from the tank while it filled with water. Once I had water flowing out of the faucets, I shut them and flipped the breaker back on for the heating element. Even though I didn’t need to change the anode rod, it’s a good idea to drain the hot water tank every year or two to clean out the mineral deposits.

After I finished the water heater project, I saw a mobile RV tech installing a new pressure relief valve on our neighbor’s hot water tank. I mentioned how our anode rod looked good after 22 months. He told me that aluminum rods are usually good for three to four years. Good to know.

After taking a break for lunch, Donna and I went to the pickleball court. I set up the ball machine so Donna could work on some drills. She’s getting more power into her shots and we worked on shot placement as well. After an hour of drills, I had one more project for the day.

I wanted to grease the wheel bearings in our cargo trailer. Our Interstate trailer is equipped with Dexter axles. The Dexter axles have what’s called E-Z Lube bearings. This system had the axle spindle drilled creating a passage that extends to the rear of the hub where it intersects with another drilling at 90 degrees. This passage opens just behind the rear wheel bearing in front of the rear bearing seal.

This makes greasing the bearings easy. You don’t have to remove the drums and pull the bearings. You just put a grease gun on the zerk fitting in the center of the spindle. With the wheel spinning you start pumping grease into the fitting. Spinning the wheel allows the grease to exit the passage behind the rear bearing all the way around instead just pumping through a small portion of the bearing.

The grease is forced through the rear bearing, then through a small clearance to the front wheel bearing. The old grease is pushed out of the bearings and comes out the front of the hub. When clean, new grease starts coming out, the bearing is repacked!

E-Z Lube wheel bearings

Of course I had a couple of issues to contend with, so it didn’t go quite as smoothly as it could have. First, my jack wouldn’t extend beyond a couple of inches. Apparently some of the hydraulic fluid had leaked at some point and the level was low. I had some automatic transmission fluid on hand, so I was able to remove the stopper and top up the fluid level.

The grease gun I had was a cheap unit I bought at Harbor Freight. It’s poorly constructed and there’s too much clearance between the plunger that pushes the grease out and the walls of the grease cartridge. This allowed grease to flow back behind the plunger instead of coming out the way it should. I had to play around with it to get enough grease to pack all four wheel bearing sets. Eventually I got the job done. Last night I ordered a new grease gun from Amazon – hopefully it’s a better quality tool than the one I used. I also found two of the rubber dust caps on the hubs were cracked so I ordered replacements.

The great weather is forecast to continue through the weekend and into next week. I’m playing in a pickleball tournament tomorrow morning, then Donna and I might join Howard and Sara Graff for an afternoon at the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament.

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to purchase anything, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Headlight Eyesore

Another week has flown by here in Mesa, Arizona. The week started with cool weather – the high was only 64 degrees on Monday. Our friends and fellow full-time nomads, Brett and Cheri were in town for a few days. We met for dinner Monday night at Baja Joe’s – a Mexican restaurant on the corner of McKellips and Gilbert Road.

Brett, Cheri, Donna and me

I’m not much of a dessert eater, but I dug in when we split a dish of fried ice cream after our entrees. Fried ice cream is a Mexican treat. A ball of ice cream is breaded – usually with crushed corn flakes and a dash of cinnamon – then quickly deep fried in hot oil. This forms a delightful crust over the ball of cold ice cream which is then drizzled with chocolate syrup and honey and served in a cinnamon fried tortilla bowl. A dollop of whipped cream topped with maraschino cherries completes the dish. Yummy!

Fried ice cream served in a crisp fried tortilla bowl

A warming trend began on Tuesday and we had high temperatures in the 70s for the rest of the week. As you can see in the restaurant photo, I’ve let my goatee grow long over the past few months. On Wednesday I decided it was time to clean up my act. I trimmed my beard – we’ll see how I like it.

The new look

Did I mention how the time is flying by? We’ve been here in Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort for over a month now. Donna reminded me I had a few projects that I should get going on before we head out of here. One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is replace the lens covers on our headlights. The covers discolor and pit from exposure over time. They’re made of a lexan type polycarbonate material. A couple of years ago I polished the headlight covers to remove the crazed surface and restore the luster (posted here). The thing is, there’s an exterior coating on the polycarbonate surface to inhibit damage from exposure to the sun. When you polish the surface, this coating is removed and the lens will deteriorate fairly quickly.

The headlight assemblies Western RV used when they made Alpine Coaches were made in Germany by Hella. They were the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for BMW and these headlights were used in the BMW E39 models – E39 is the code for BMW’s fourth generation 5 series models made from 1995 to 2004. I searched for headlight covers for this model and only found one supplier with an expensive replacement. I wasn’t even sure if I could remove the old cover from the assembly without damage to the headlight.

I could get OEM headlight assemblies from BMW or buy used ones. The problem with OEM parts from BMW is cost. The OEM headlight assemblies run about $600 each – $1,200 for a pair is out of the question. Used headlight assemblies may have had enough exposure to already begin deteriorating, so that didn’t seem like a good way to go either.

I searched on Ebay and found several suppliers with knock-off E39 headlight assemblies made in China. One supplier had sold nearly 600 pairs with a seller rating of 99.7% positive. The headlight assemblies sourced in China looked good – they copied the Hella design. The price for a new pair of headlights was $135! I went for it.

The headlight assemblies were delivered on Friday afternoon. They were well-packaged and looked good to go. I got to work on the project Saturday morning. First I made a trip to the NAPA auto parts store. I needed automatic transmission fluid for the HWH hydraulic system. We have a small leak at the equalizer ram and the fluid in the reservoir was low. With the slides out and jacks down, the fluid was low enough that I couldn’t fully extend the front generator compartment to access the headlight assemblies. Once I topped up the fluid I was set.

The old headlights looked bad, really bad. Donna said the headlights were an eyesore.

Old headlights

It was mainly a cosmetic issue – the headlights still functioned and we’ve only driven the coach after sundown once in the last four years. Before I disassembled the old unit, I put tape on the wiring and numbered the connectors. I took a photo to make sure I connected everything correctly on the new light. I put the connectors on the new assembly temporarily to check function. With the wiring harness connected, I could just reach the top of the generator housing to set the assembly down while I went in the coach and turned on the headlights. I checked the low beams, high beams and turn indicators – all was good.

When I exited the coach and walked to the front, I found the headlight assembly on the ground. It had fallen off the generator housing. The high beam bulb holder had popped out and the H7 bulb was broken. The bulb holder looked okay. I took the bulb holder with me and went back to NAPA. I pried the H7 bulb base out of the bulb holder and it was fine – this was a good thing because NAPA didn’t have the bulb holder, only the replacement H7 bulb.

Old assembly with connectors marked

The new headlight assembly had a plate on the bottom that wasn’t on our headlights. I’m guessing this plate is an adapter used on some E39 model BMWs. It was held on with two screws so I removed it. Without the plate, the mounting tabs on the new assembly aligned with mounts on the front bodywork. It didn’t take long to complete the job.

Before photo of the front end

After photo with new headlights

On Saturday afternoon, Donna presented a free decluttering seminar at the Mesa Public Library. She spoke for about an hour there. On Saturday evening, we were invited to join with friends at Kim and Mike Childs’ house for a potluck dinner and drinks – and a bonfire in the backyard. They live a couple of miles from us off Brown Road.

Backyard bonfire

The wind picked up here overnight and it’s quite gusty this morning. The forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees today with similar high temps for the rest of the week. Donna is working on another presentation today – she’s the keynote speaker at the American Cattlewomen’s Association Convention in Phoenix on Tuesday. She’ll spend the night in a hotel in downtown Phoenix Monday, then speak at 9am on Tuesday. I’m planning to head out to the Rio Salado gun club with Howard Graff and do some target shooting this afternoon.

 

Resistance and Heat

Life is good at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort.  I haven’t posted much lately, but we’ve kept busy. Last weekend, I missed the pickleball tournament – the start time of the event was changed from 10am to 9am. I didn’t get the memo and forfeited. There will be another 3.0-3.5 level tournament in a few weeks and I’ll make sure I make it to that one.

I mentioned in a previous post how a Gila woodpecker visits our hummingbird feeder and drinks the nectar. Ozark the cat gets really animated when the woodpecker is outside the window next to her cat perch.

Gila woodpecker

sweet nectar

Last weekend, I watched the NFL Divisional playoffs – the final game of the weekend was a real barn burner. Minnesota pulled off the winning touchdown with 10 seconds to go and time expired during the play. I enjoyed the game with a bottle of Chimay Belgian ale.

Chimay Belgian ale

I’m continuing to work on my pickleball game and Donna took an advanced lesson last week to sharpen her skills. We went to the court on Friday at noon and worked on drills for her to get more power and pace on the ball. I played five days straight and took this weekend off. My left knee and right foot were sore by Friday.

We’ve made a few new friends here in the park and renewed friendships with people we met here last year. One of our new neighbors are a couple from Alberta, Canada – Geoff and Cynthia. They are in a Winnebago Class C coach called an Aspect. Last week, they mentioned to Donna that they were having electrical problems and needed to find a shop to take it to. The problem was a loss of electrical power to the radios – both the in-dash radio and one mounted in a bay outside. They also smelled a burning odor coming from the fuse panel. Geoff shut off the switch for auxiliary power to the radios.

I went over to their coach to take a look at the problem. I found a loose connection at the fuse panel. A 12-gauge wire was connected to the fuse panel with a screw that clamped the wire to the panel and that screw was loose. I measured the resistance before I did anything with my Fluke multimeter and found over 200 ohms of resistance between the panel connection and wire. This resistance had overheated the connector and left a black burn mark on the fiberglass surface of the panel. It also melted the insulation on another wire that was laying across the connector. Geoff had discovered this and taped over the insulation of the wire and just left the circuit switched off.

After I tightened the screw and firmly clamped the wire in the connector, I measured 0.3 ohms at the connector. I told them that all was well, I didn’t see any real damage, just the cosmetic black mark and the tape over the wire insulation. Geoff was surprised to find that a loose connector could create that much heat. When a connector is loose and poor contact is made between conductors, resistance rises. In this case it was over 200 ohms. Electrical current flowing through resistance creates heat. Here’s a photo of our 12-volt fuse panel to illustrate how the wires are clamped in place with screws.

Our 12-volt fuse panel

It’s a good idea to periodically switch off the 12-volt power and check the connectors. Ours use small torx head screws – Geoff’s had a flat slot screw.

Yesterday Donna attended an introductory performance arts workshop class in Phoenix hosted by Showstoppers Entertainment. Her classes included aerial silks/lyra, hoop dancing, strength and conditioning, dance movement and lines, and hip hop. The program ended with open gym time to practice skills. She was most interested in the hoop dancing lesson, but enjoyed the day.

The weather was great all week here in Mesa – we had highs in the mid to upper – 70s. Yesterday that changed. A cold front moved in and with it came clouds. We had a few rain showers and the temperature only reached 60 degrees. Today we have clear skies but the temperature will remain cool – about 60 degrees today and tomorrow before we warm up again. The overnight low was a chilly 40 degrees. I have the heat pumps running this morning as I peck away at the keyboard.

How an RV 50 Amp Circuit Works

Lately I’ve been seeing questions about the electrical power supply in RVs. Specifically, in one Facebook RV group, someone asked how large a generator should they buy for their travel trailer. The answers given by some people were confusing or downright incorrect. I’ll take a minute to try to explain how this works as simply as I can.

Recreational vehicles typically are wired for a 30 amp or 50 amp power supply. This is where the confusion begins. It seems like a 50 amp power supply would be capable of supplying 20 amps more than the 30 amp power supply. It doesn’t work that way. The 30 amp power supply uses a three-prong plug – a hot lead, a neutral and a ground. All current flows through one hot lead. A 50 amp power supply uses a four-prong lead – two hot leads (L1 and L2), a neutral and a ground. Each hot lead – L1 and L2 – can provide up to 50 amps of current.

An RV wired for 50 amp service has the power outlets and electrical consumers split into two separate circuits. Each circuit has the capability of providing up to 50 amps of current. For example, L1 might provide power to the front air conditioning unit, the microwave/convection oven and half of the wall outlets. L2 might provide power for the rear air conditioning unit, the converter/battery charger and the rest of the wall outlets. A 30 amp coach has all of the consumers and outlets on one power supply circuit. So, we can see that the 50 amp service can really supply up to 100 amps while the 30 amp service is limited to 30 amps.

Back to the question – how much power do I need from a generator? To answer this, we have to understand a few terms. First is voltage. Voltage is electromotive force – think of it as the pressure creating the flow of electricity. Amps describe current – it tells us how much current is flowing through the circuit. Watts describe power – the rate of electrical transfer. We need to understand watts because that’s how electrical consumers are rated and it’s also how generators are rated. The formula is simple – watts = volts X amps.

In a coach wired for 50 amp service we can use the formula to see that when the coach is plugged in to a 50 amp service, we have 120 volts times 50 amps = 6,000 watts on L1 and 6,000 watts on L2 – 12,000 total watts ( sometimes listed as 12kW). Does this mean I need a 12kW generator? That would be expensive.

Looking at the information regarding typical appliance loads in my Onan generator manual, I see the following:

Appliance                                               Load (watts)

Air conditioner                                       1400 – 2000

Battery charger/converter                     300 – 2000

Microwave/convection oven                  1,000 – 1500

Electric hair dryer                                     1000 -1500

Television                                                    200 -600

Coffee maker                                              550 – 750

As you can see, anything with a heating element will require quite a bit of power. Also, large electric motors like the one in an air conditioner also requires a lot of power. The power requirement drops after start-up. In other words, the maximum power requirement for an electric motor comes when the motor is first activated, then drops as the  motor RPM stabilizes. Likewise, a heating element draws the highest amount of current at start-up and the power requirement drops as it heats up. Our Dometic Penguin II air conditioners have a delay built in on start-up and both units never start at the same time – there’s a few seconds of delay before the second unit kicks in.

Our coach is wired for 50 amp service, but our generator is a 7.5kW Onan Quiet Diesel. It provides about 30 amps of current on each circuit. So L1 can provide enough power to supply about 3,600 watts of electrical consumers. Likewise L2 can provide 3,600 watts. With the circuits on the coach split, I see that this should be adequate. The only issue I have is if I want to run the front air conditioner, the microwave/convection oven and the coffee maker at the same time, I may overload the circuit and trip the breaker on the generator. So, if we’re cooking breakfast and making coffee, I don’t run the front air conditioner at the same time. If we need AC, I can run the rear air conditioner as it’s wired to L2.

On shore power, we have more than enough power – 12,000 watts total – to run everything without concern. I hope this makes sense and my simplified explanation helps someone understand the power requirements and how to choose generator size.

We’re continuing to enjoy great weather here in Mesa. We really like Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort. I’m hitting the pickleball courts four or five times a week and Donna has been playing more and she’s really stepping her game up. That’s all for now.

 

Bachelor Days in Mesa

I haven’t posted in a week – that’s a long layoff for me. The thing is, I just haven’t had anything exciting to add. Donna was away from Thursday morning, January 4th through Wednesday evening January 10th. While she was away, I settled into a fairly boring routine – I wasn’t bored, it just wasn’t anything to write about.

I started most of my days on the pickleball court. Then I would come home, make lunch, feed the cat and clean her litter box. Then do dishes and sweep the floor. With my domestic chores done, I’d read for a while before heading out for happy hour with the guys at Lucky Lou’s. On Monday, I hit happy hour at Red, White and Brew and caught up with my favorite bartender there, Kasondra.

We had a cold front move into the area on Tuesday afternoon. With it came wind and rain Tuesday night. I covered the Spyder in anticipation of rain. When I looked outside before going to bed, I noticed the cover for the Spyder was gone! The wind had carried it away. I went out with a flashlight and found the cover on the next street to the north of us. I covered the Spyder again and made sure I had it secured with the bungee hooks.

Meanwhile Donna spent the weekend with her brother and his family in North Miami, Florida. It wasn’t too warm there – the east coast was having a cold snap that extended all the way down to south Florida. Mark had rented a house for a month there and hosted a party on Saturday for their Miami friends. On Sunday, Mark rented a pontoon boat for the day and they traveled south on the Intracoastal Waterway and to the Miami River.

After the weekend, Donna went up to Boca Raton to visit her friend, Lynne Ogren. She spent the night in Boca Raton then moved down to Fort Lauderdale to visit her friend, Karen Dayan, who also lives in Boca Raton, but had a rented a room at the W Hotel. She had a good time visiting her friends and hanging out.

View of the Intracoastal Waterway from Donna’s room at the W in Fort Lauderdale.

Another view of the ICW and the Atlantic Ocean on the left

On Wednesday morning, I went to the pickleball courts which were very wet – it had rained most of the night. I pushed the water off of the court with a roller made for drying the court for about half an hour, then rain drops started falling again and I gave up. I played Thursday morning with Donna and this morning I played with the 3.0-3.5 group. I’m prepping for a tournament tomorrow and I felt like I played well today. Hopefully it’ll carry over to tomorrow’s tournament.

Rain clouds just before sunset

Thursday evening I went to Lucky Lou’s for happy hour. Donna walked there and arrived around 4:30pm to join me. She wanted to make the four-mile walk to get her exercise before she had a beer. We got take-out from the Thai food place next door to Lou’s and brought it home for dinner.

The mornings have been a bit chilly – upper 40s to low 50s. The afternoons have been nice with temperatures in the low 70s after the cold front passed. This weekend we should see mid to upper 70s and no rain in the forecast for the coming week.

Donna asked me to share this article with you that she wrote on behalf of The Home Depot for KOA about choosing the right RV grill. It was published just this week. Enjoy!