Monthly Archives: January 2018

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!

Snow Birds

We have a variety of birds visiting our site at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona. Snowbirds aren’t just people from the north wintering here – a lot of real birds also come to the southwest for the nice winter weather. We set up a hummingbird feeder with a suction cup on our living room window. It soon attracted a number of hummingbirds that visit throughout the day.

Before long we noticed other birds also came to the feeder. I’m guessing they’re attracted to the smell of the sweet nectar. We had finches perching on the feeder and I even saw a woodpecker – I’m pretty sure it was a gila woodpecker – drinking the nectar from the feeder. This prompted Donna to suggest setting up our finch feeder.

The finch feeder is a wooden tube with a mesh sock hanging from the bottom. I filled it with nyger seed. Nyger is also spelled niger and sometimes it’s called thistle. It doesn’t come from a thistle plant though, it’s the seed of the African yellow daisy. It’s grown in Africa and parts of India and is also used in local cuisine there. The name niger comes from it’s origin in Nigeria. In 1998 the wild bird food industry trademarked the name nyger. It’s a favorite food for finches and other birds feed on it too. Finches can live on it exclusively and the high fat and protein content help them get through cold winter nights.

Finch feeder

Now we have finches and sparrows in the orange tree on our site flitting back and forth from the feeder and tree. Some of nyger seed falls to the ground and in the late afternoon quail come to our site and pick at it. It’s fun to watch the birds.

Wednesday evening our friends Joel and Lana picked us for happy hour and dinner at The Hub Grill and Bar down on Baseline Road at Sossaman – a few miles from here. The food is good and they have a wide variety of beers on tap. We came here once before with our friends, Hans and Lisa. I had the pot roast sandwich – it’s a mid-western take on a French dip. It has sliced pot roast beef on a hoagie roll with mozarella and is served with a bowl of brown gravy for dipping instead of aus jus. It was tasty and I brought half of it home.

We came home early. Donna had already packed for her trip to Florida but had to be up early for her flight. She was heading to Miami to meet up with her brother and his family. He rented a place in Miami to celebrate his birthday and get away from the cold weather in Philadelphia for a month. It turns out Donna had to pack some cool weather clothing – they’re having unseasonably cold weather there, but it should warm up over the weekend. Meanwhile, we’re having great weather here in Mesa.

I didn’t sleep well Wednesday night and Donna was up at 4:30am. I got out of bed to see her off – I’ll be fending for myself for the next six days. I didn’t take much advantage of the nice weather on Thursday – I mostly read and napped, then met the guys for a happy hour beer at Lucky Lou’s. The temperature reached 77 degrees.

This morning I played pickleball for a couple of hours and I’m looking forward to another day of abundant sunshine and mid-70s temperatures.

Goodbye 2017

Happy New Year first of all! Donna and I spent a quiet New Year’s Eve mostly binge watching early season reruns of Breaking Bad. Today is the first day of 2018. As we look forward to the year ahead, it’s always nice to reflect on the past year.

2017 was an eventful year filled with many good times for us. We started the year in San Diego, then moved to Arizona where we spent a month at RV Renovators getting the wall on our coach repaired. We stayed in Mesa, Arizona at Viewpoint until mid-April, then returned to San Diego for a month.

Our travels took us north through California. We stayed at the Escapees Park of the Sierras at Coarsegold where we met new friends and fellow pickleball enthusiasts, Joe and Melinda. Then we moved to Sacramento where Donna found excellent bike trails and I reminisced about my elementary school days there. We also found a fantastic boondocking spot at Lake Shastina.

We continued north to moochdock in my daughter, Alana’s, driveway in Arlington, Washington. We were there for our granddaughter, Lainey’s, graduation from high school. Heading east from there we stopped in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where we were able to hook up with my high school buddy, Gary Stemple and spend a day on the lake.

We moved on to South Dakota where Donna had to get a replacement driver’s license – she lost hers somewhere in San Diego. Next up was one of our big events for the year – the Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). It was a bucket list item for Donna and we spent a fun-filled week with our friends Jeff and Deb Spencer and also their friends Geoff, Tom and Fred.

Next up was the total eclipse of the sun in Nebraska. Our next major event was crewing for the Hearts A’Fire hot air balloon owned by our friends Brad and Jessica Rice. It was our third straight year at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

These are just a few of the highlights. In 2017, the states we visited were California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. If you ever want to look up a post about a certain area, you can search for posts by state by clicking on the state name in the categories on the sidebar of this page.

Saturday night Donna prepared green curry shrimp and vegetables over brown basmati rice for dinner served with a side of grilled baby bok choy. On New Year’s Eve she topped that by making a bowl of her famous split pea soup served with a portobello mushroom stuffed with crab meat.

Saturday’s green curry shrimp

New Year’s Eve plates with a glass of wine

I often mention our meals because it illustrates the fact that we’re not camping out. This is our lifestyle and we don’t eat out often or roast hot dogs over a campfire. We mostly dine on nutritious, delicious meals that Donna prepares in the galley of our motorhome.

The last day of 2017 was cloudy here at Viewpoint RV & Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona. The temperature only reached 71 degrees but it felt chillier. Today we have abundant sunshine and it feels nice. The high should reach the mid 70s and the nice weather is forecast to continue for coming week. We don’t know where 2018 will take us, but I’m sure we’re in for more good times and great places.