Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It Isn't All Peaches and Cream Part 5

Here we are back to the "It Isn't All Peaches and Cream" series - now Part 5. Well it is covering a whole season from Spring 2014 to the end of October 2014 and I am beginning to wish I had wrote this as it was happening as sometimes I am not sure what happened yesterday. Well, maybe two days ago.

We left July and we are now - or were then - in August and it was coming close to our big trip for the season. To us with our schedule at home "big trip" means two to three weeks and I usually plan this trip well in advance all the way back to late Spring and the beginning of summer but in 2013 things were happening causing us to change plans, change reservations, and even cancel one which at an RV campground if not done well in advance costs up to a day's deposit - and at some any cancellation costs a day's deposit which is not cheap - at least here on the East Coast. So we have been waiting as long as we can to make trip reservations now. It is not like the old days when you could call the night before and cancel the Holiday Inn with no penalty. So we were in August with no reservations - not that this concerned me as I was pretty certain that getting reservations where  we wanted to go would be any problem. The plan was for Virginia and the way the weather was going I was waiting as long as I could to make sure that ten days in Colonial Williamsburg which is primarily outside or at least outside from program to program would be decent weather - at least for some of the days. Should I say Ho Ho Ha Ha now? Well that was the plan.

But I have something else to tell you about that happened at this time before we got to the trip. We can refer to this as an "entr'acte" - way back when this was a little show that took place on the stage between the acts of a play that had nothing to do with the play itself. So to our entr'acte! Have I mentioned in any of these articles in this series - the drawer?

Our 2011 Roadtrek 190 Popular RV has one drawer inside. It is under the kitchen counter over the refrigerator to the left of the sink. We use this drawer as the place to hold whatever needs to be available when we need it. Inside there is an assortment of such things as velcro straps, a hex key used to tighten the screws that come loose on the television wall mount from the vibration of travel, a several flashlights and other things of miscellany. The draw has no special latch to hold it closed other than a plastic clip that holds the drawer in by friction to stop it from opening as you drive. At 65 mpg around a curve this clip does not do much good - especially if the road is bumpy - and sooner or later (from the beginning of our owning the Roadtrek new) even at slower speeds on nice flat roads that drawer will slide open. This is very exciting! You hear something behind you and you can't really see what it is in the rear view mirror. You then you hear a lot of rattling and banging and Meryl who does not have to keep her eyes on the road will look back from the passenger seat and announce, "The drawer is open!" Do you get how exciting this can be? You see, the drawer just does not open and stay open. As you turn the other way it may - or may not - slide back but never enough to close it and let it catch. No, it then slides back open again. And the thing you know you need to do is pull over and close it, but that is not always possible for another 30 or 40 miles. Well, you know - "It isn't all peaches and cream!" Early on in our owning the Roadtrek we learned how to deal with this - and it worked until the season of 2014. I got two suction cups that had plastic hooks on them and added a length of rope to the hooks of the suction cups. One suction cup would get stuck down - with a little spit, of course, to the granite counter top, the rope would be looped around the drawer knob and crossed over itself and then the second suction cup would be stuck down on the counter top. This would hold the drawer closed quite well - until now - then. I went out on the Facebook groups and the forums asking how others deal with the drawer. I went to several RV shops asking about latches for drawers - and oddly, no one at the RV shops had anything to suggest. The best of the suggestions was to put a hasp on the drawer front that connected to the wood panel below the sink. Putting a pin (made so that it would not rattle and add a new noise to our cacophony of sounds) into the hasp would hold the drawer tightly in place and it could not open. Others told me that they did this and how well it worked. I was reluctant because it would mean drilling holes into the woodwork and permanently screwing screws in to hold the hasp lock. After the last trip with a harrowing ride on the New Jersey Turnpike when coming home with the drawer sliding back and forth in conjunction with the bang, bang, knock, knock noises that could not be closed until we got onto a street in Brooklyn, I had had enough and went out to buy a hasp and came up with a plastic screw and nut that would hold it closed and not make any noise. I had several other ideas that I started to design as well including a way to have a velcro strap keep it closed, but that was not working out given the placement of the drawer slide. It would be the hasp - and so it was! We bought what we needed and together we went out into the Roadtrek on the driveway to install the contraption certain that it would work - and it would have if only not for the design of the woodwork. I started with the piece for the drawer front, drilled small pilot holes to not split the wood with the screws, and installed that half. Then I lined up the hinged section carefully, made sure that it was in the correct position, drilled those holes and started screwing that part in. I stopped before drilling the last two holes on this part and decided to see if all was well and this was going to work. I closed the hasp, dropped the screw into the hole on the hasp, and gave a gentle pull on the drawer knob. And the wood panel under the sink that the hinged section was screwed into pulled away from the cabinet. Oh yes! The whole two feet or so of this panel came down. More accurately it folded down held in place only by a metal clip on each end. I do not know why this was made this way. It does not allow access to anything reachable.

In the photo above if you look to the right of the drawer knob - past the first set of nasty holes - you will see the edge of the drawer front and to the right of that above the cabinet (with more nasty holes) is the wood panel in question. Go figure it is not attached permanently. Well my surprise was followed with some explicative words that I will not repeat here but have been known when spoken by young lads to result in one's mouth being washed out with soap.  How exciting! How... well ... great! The wood panel was pushed back into place. The screwdriver was set to reverse and all of the screws were removed leaving these very visible and glaring reminder holes in the woodwork.

Every time I go inside the Roadtrek now, my eyes are drawn to those holes and I get angry. They can be easily filled but the stain will never match to cover up the filled holes. We spent the next three trips looking for something to place over these two spots - on the drawer front and on "floppy" wood panel - to hide the holes and make it at least look like it is not a glaring mistake to have done this!  And at the end of the last trip in October we found some small charms with our initials on them that will eventually be placed over the holes - once I figure out how to do that without permanently gluing them on.  You know, it isn't all peaches and cream! Sometimes it is ...

So what did we then do to keep the drawer closed. I went to a local Harbor Freight store and bought two of the small size heavy duty suction devices used to pull dents, attached a cord to the two suction handles using carabiner clips and did what we had been doing from the start with the small suction cups that no longer held. Again, with a little spit, these hold in place very strongly and keep the drawer closed.

End of Entr'acte. Returning to our play...

So, here we are almost to when we should be leaving on our trip and I am watching the forecasts. I have become very good at watching the forecasts. I have found who on the television seems to know what he is doing and which websites will tell you almost what to expect. (And with one, learning not to get caught up in their need to horrify everything into a sensationalist weather report - this one would say "Damaging sun rays will harm millions tomorrow!" when forecasting a sunny day.) So I am watching out for what the weather will be and not making reservations. And the forecasts for where we were going in Virginia were terrible. Rain almost every day. This was too far to go and too expensive a trip for our limited budget not to get the most out of it and finally I said, "forget it!" But this meant we were going nowhere and that was more upsetting. We sat down and talked about alternatives - going in a different direction. No better weather north. Finally, we decided just to head to Pennsylvania and stay in our usual campground and do what we like to do - which rain or not, we would still find things to enjoy ourselves. And that is what we did. Now - how did that go!

We called at the last minute and made a reservation at the campground. All of our usual sites were taken and we were offered a site in a different part of the campground. Since the campground had the sites in this section all redone last year I figured it had to be good and maybe even better than the sites that we like there. I should have thought differently seeing on the map that the site was on "Hilltop Drive". We arrived at the campground and went to the office and were directed to the site. All looked good as we approached the back in site that sat along a ridge. I positioned the Roadtrek to back into the site and Meryl with her walkie-talkie guided me back. I was in the site and looked at the levels. Not even close. I moved all around the site and even with the lego-type large blocks used to level we were not going to come close. Then I got out and looked behind the Roadtrek. We were a foot from the end of the space and the ridge and then there was a drop down about six feet. Had I not stopped there we would have gone over - and this was why Meryl was shouting, "Stop!" I was not the proverbial "happy camper"!  I pulled the RV forward and asked - really told - Meryl to walk over to the office - not a long walk lest you think I am mean - and tell them that we must have a different space - which was not going to be easy to get as they were supposedly full. We did get another site and it was fine - it needed leveling blocks but it was manageable. We did discover when we were in this new site that if the front of the Roadtrek is pointing toward a light that stays on all night to light the campground, even with the covers on the skylight windows, the light still streams inside.

This was when we went to Gettysburg which I wrote about here. We did have some excitement before we left as we discoverer poison ivy in our backyard right under our outside water faucet so that we could not connect the water hose to fill our tanks which led to our going out to get a water bandit which I wrote about here. That problem continued through the rest of 2014 until, as advised by the local agricultural extension, to get a certain chemical treatment and soak these plants when their leaves turned red, which they did and I did. They all shriveled up, died and seemed to disappear along with all other signs of vegetation which frankly I don't care about and hopefully in the Spring - when the snow is all gone - will be gone and not come back.

We did not go away for the planned ten days but went for five good days - all of which stayed mostly dry despite daily warnings of storms. We went to places that we like to go to no matter how many times we have been there and had a good time - which is all that counts.

During this trip, we did get the wonderful experience of bang, bang, knock, knock when driving on rough or bumpy roads which we seemed to find everywhere. The mystery bang was ever present and I was determined to find its source. I moved things. I took things away and put them on the bed where they could make no noise. Still, bang, bang, knock, knock. The sound of one object hitting another - with every bump, with every crack in the road was driving me over the edge. We go off like this to relax. Where Meryl is far more tolerant of things like this, I have become less. It was on the way home that I started to put the location of the noise - the area of the third seat - together with what is there in that area that I had not looked at. All of his is going on in my head as we are cruising down the turnpike. We stopped at a rest area - this is the middle of the night as when we come home from most trips we stay the day, have dinner and start back at night. I got out and went around to the passenger side, opened the side door and looked at the third seat that I had looked at so many times before. The bottom of the seat is a cabinet. It opens from the top with the seat cushion flipping up on hinges. For a long time I thought that this seat cushion was bouncing and hitting the frame to make this noise but I had Meryl sit in the seat and we drove and the noise was still there and the seat cushion could not bounce with her sitting there. I have removed everything from inside the cabinet - which is packed tightly - and drove and the noise was still there. All of this done and redone in the past. I then looked down at the front of the cabinet - the bottom of the front of the seat and there is strapped the fire extinguisher. It is strapped in with a plastic strap and abbreviated plastic bracket that is screwed into the inside of a well that is a few inches into the bottom of the front of the seat.I reached over to the fire extinguisher strap and it was fastened as it should be. I then went to the end of the fire extinguisher bottle and tried to move it. It moved. Not only did it move but I could knock it against the wall that it was strapped against. And there was the noise. Something knocking against wood. This was knocking against wood. You know that proverbial light bulb that suddenly comes on. In psychology it is called the Eureka Effect. I was sure I had found the noise.

As I have been trying to quiet things that I have suspected was the noise but wasn't, I have used scraps of foam rubber to cushion things. I had a few of those scraps in the Roadtrek clothes closet. There in the rest area parking lot at 10:00 pm at night I went into the closet and got these scraps and started to stuff them as best I could behind the fire extinguisher. When we got on our way again, I purposely drove over some rough spots on the parking lot pavement - no noise. As we drove home the noise seemed to be gone. As we were getting closer to home the noise seemed to be starting up again and when we got home I found that much of the foam has been knocked out as we were driving. At that point, I was sure that I found the noise - at least the main noise.

That week at home I got some larger pieces of foam rubber and stuffed them all around and behind the fire extinguisher. I made sure to cover every spot that could come into contact with the wood around it while making sure that I was not putting any strain on the bottle or the top where the handle is and that the fire extinguisher was secure.

It was even more secure now as the flimsy plastic strap that holds it in place had not been holding very well. I am surprised that with all of the movement the safety cotter pin that keeps the extinguisher from going off when not needed had not been knocked out and the extinguisher gone off long ago. I have to say that I was very surprised at home inadequate the bracket and strap are and how poorly the strap closes. I went in the house to look at the fire extinguisher that we have on the wall and that is strapped onto its bracket with a steel strap with a tension latch/release. Somehow I had expected the strap on the Roadtrek's fire extinguisher to be just as tight and secure. It isn't. With the extinguisher well foamed around it, the next trip was much quieter. There is still another noise - one lower and it is much more of a vibration/rattle and I suspect it may be the seat on the third seat - above this all. I know that it is not the seat back as that is wedged tight with foam that I put back there long ago. I am still trying to figure out how to secure the seat down solidly to the frame it sits on. My mind goes to a strap but where to attach that strap remains a question - and I am not drilling more holes and installing any screws into the woodwork unless I know for sure that what I am doing will work and resolve this noise. It is not the last noise, however - there is still the mysterious "wobbling platter" noise - that others have shared with me that they have as well.

Well, at least the big noise is resolved - I hope. Sometimes it is peaches and cream even if it takes almost four years to get there.

End of Part 5
Part 6 - maybe the final part - next.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Better RV Extension Cord

I am interrupting the series, "It Isn't All Peaches and Cream" once again for an article that is more timely and of use to all who own a Roadtrek or an RV. I have written before about my RV extension cord. It is a 30 amp, 10 gauge M/F extension cord that is 30 feet long that I use when my Roadtrek's power cord is not long enough to reach the power pedestal or my outdoor 20 amp house outlet at home. We have rarely needed it at a campground but we do need it at home and that is where it gets monthly use.

This winter with temperatures incredibly colder than we have had in this area in many, many years we found a big problem with our RV extension cord.  There is a lip around the socket - made to securely hold the plug in place, I suppose, or to keep moisture out of the connection, but that lip combined with our Plug Dog handle on  both the extension cord socket and the Roadtrek power cord plug in the cold was not seating together properly. This was causing all types of problems including the connection coming apart or when pressured together to stay connected, almost impossible to pull apart in the frigid cold - even with the Plug Dogs. This extension cord socket has always been a tight connection.

After one cold night of panic trying to pull these apart standing in the cold and ice, I decided that I had to get a better extension cord. I have seen RV extension cords with built on handles in RV stores and in Camping World. Of course, snowed in we were not going anywhere near one of those soon. I started searching the internet for anywhere close that had it or if I was available site to store from the Walmart website. I like shopping on the Walmart website with their site to store service. They sell things that are not found in the Walmart stores and they ship for free to any Walmart store that you select. Even better is that you can return the item to any Walmart store for a full refund.

At first my search on the Walmart website was not coming up with anything other than the cord that I already have. A general Google search brought up the cord that I was looking for with a link to the Walmart website. Apparently, RV extension cord was not bringing it up on their site- it needed to include the manufacturer's name - Camco. There was the cord that I felt should be better. It has a large plug and socket and both have solid handles that are part of the plug and socket.

This is a 30 amp, M/F 10 Gauge RV Extension Cord. The cord matches the power cord on the Roadtrek - same gauge. The cord is five feet less than my original cord and is 25 feet long. Twenty five feet is plenty. The name is Camco Power Grip Extension Cord 30 amp Model 30-30 RV. As you can see this cord's socket base is flat - no Plug Dog is needed on the socket side of the connection as there is the nice BIG yellow pull handle. The Plug Dog on the Roadtrek power cord plug allows the two flat surfaces to attach properly. The price is less than the original RV extension cord that I have. This cord costs only $36.21 - free shipping site to store. My old cord costs $50.

It took ten days to ship and it arrived on the date promised. All I had to do was go to the store's Site to Store desk and pick it up.

Now, I have a better RV extension cord for my Roadtrek. This cord comes also in 50 amp for larger RVs. There is also a 50 foot length 30 amp cord with the same large handled plug and socket that sells for $64.38 if one needed a cord that long.

No matter which RV extension cord that you use, if it is cold outside, the cord will be stiff - as will the Roadtrek power cord. It will not unroll easily nor will it roll back up easily. I now keep the extension cord in the house where it stays warm until it is needed and after use in the cold it can warm up to roll it back up. We only put it in the Roadtrek if we are uncertain about the distance to the pedestal at the campground - and when we have carried it "just in case" we have not needed it. IF you are planning on staying at a friend or family's house when traveling take this cord with you. Outdoor outlets are not always conveniently placed to driveways. Combine this cord with a good 15/20 amp plug to 30 amp socket adapter and you can plug in safely. 

I am not sure what I will do with the old cord. One thought that I had was to cut away or grind away the lip on the socket. The plug and socket on that cord are lighted - nice if you want to know that it is plugged into power, but not really necessary. I am not sure if removing that lip will interfere with any wiring. Another thought is to purchase the same handled socket that is on the new cord, cutting the socket off of the old cord, and install the new socket on the old cord. I have seen that socket at RV parts stores. That is something to consider when it is warm again. Will it ever be warm again? Remind me that I asked that when it is 100 dF on July Fourth!

Now, just one word about RV extension cords because I have heard before to just use any household heavy duty 15/20 amp extension cord. I have also read and heard about the fires that have started when those cords get hot because they are overloaded. It was recommended to me and I recommend to you - if you need to use an extension cord on your Roadtrek or RV always match the gauge of the extension cord to the gauge of the power cord on the RV. For $36 why would anyone take a chance?


I fit all of the connections - using the old extension cord plug as a stand in for the Roadtrek power cord plug - inside before going out into the cold with the whole thing just to make sure things fit and came apart easily. The 15/20 amp adapter pulled off the extension cord plug easily easily. The extension cord socket was not as easy and it took holding on to the socket's handle and giving a sharp, quick tug on the Plug Dog handle to get them separated.

We had to plug into the house to charge the batteries and we were lucky enough to have a dry 38 dF day. (Imagine being lucky to have a 38 dF day!) I plugged the plug of the extension cord into my dog bone 30 amp female to 15/20 amp male adapter and plugged the adapter into the outlet inside our very small, screened porch and ran the extension cord out the aluminum screen door and down to the Roadtrek. The Roadtrek power cord plug got one of the Plug Dog handles and plugged that into the extension cord power grip handle socket. They went together easily. Because there was a lot of ice on the ground toward the front of the van that if it melted would come down into the connection I used Velcro straps to hang the connection from the frame of the Roadtrek's little door that covers the power and city water connection.

The connection worked well and the Roadtrek batteries showed that they were charging on the monitor panel. I checked that there was power in one of the Roadtrek's inside outlets and all was well. The Roadtrek remained plugged in for its usual charging time of 12 hours.When we went out the temperature was 27 dF. The Roadtrek plug and power grip extension cord socket came apart with a sharp pull much easier than the plug and old extension cord socket ever did in the cold. The cord came into the house to be kept warm and manageable for the next time it is needed. Maybe by the end of March the temperatures will be much better! I certainly hope so!