Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dixon's Gunmakers Fair, Kempton, PA

We attend some unusual annual events and we took the Roadtrek to another one this year. We went to Dixon's Gunmakers Fair in Kempton, Pennsylvania. This fair brings in some of the finest muzzleloading gunmakers in the country. Muzzleloading guns are flintlock and percussion firing blackpowder rifles and smoothbores. This fair mostly attracts those in the reenacting hobby and those who blackpowder hunt, but there is a lot of interest here for everyone. The fair is held under a series of tents. 

The fair is always held on the last full weekend in July for three days starting on Friday and ending on Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm each day. The fair is free. Parking is $2.00. The fair is held on the grounds of Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop, one of the best stocked stores of its kind.

I had some hesitation about bringing the Roadtrek to Dixon's. Parking is on the grass fields that are in front of the shop. If it has rained these fields are muddy and become rutted. More so than others that I have parked the Roadtrek on. I could just imagine the Roadtrek sinking into the mud. Before we left the weather reports were fair and there did not seem to be much of a chance of rain. When we arrived at Dixon's it had rained there several days before and there was mud in the fields. When you arrive you drive past the parking field that says 4 wheel drive vehicles only and keep going down the road.

The man who was directing us to park realized that we would be in trouble if he sent us out into the mud in the field where they were parking cars, and he pointed us down a partially gravel lane to a parking spot (not far from where a Class C RV was parked) that was mostly grass with a little gravel. As we got out of the Roadtrek to walk over to the fair he came over and told us to make sure we backed out onto the gravel and followed that along to the exit when we left and not to pull forward into the mud. Wise advice that I had already taken note of.

Our Roadtrek parked in the field at the end of the day.

 Dixon's Gunmakers Fair has more than just historically reproduced guns for sale. There are a variety of vendors mixed in who sell clothing for reenacting of various centuries, small items that would be period correct in an historic setting, history books, redware pottery, handmade knives, accessories for blackpowder shooting, and hand forged tomahawks. For most non-reenactors this is all interesting to see even if there is no interest in buying.

Also at Dixon's there are living history demonstrations set up  on the field above the hill from the shop. Here there was a Revolutionary War unit firing a blackpowder cannon on the hour and firing their flintlock muskets and rifles. Also right there were tomahawk throwing demonstrations and the public could take a turn throwing at the target.

Across the field there was a French and Indian War camp ->

Another camp had colonists from the 1600s ->

A cowboy chuck wagon is out near the cowboy camp demonstrating cooking on an open campfire - including tasting what is being cooked and sharing of the recipes ->

None of these camps are full encampments but just a small sample of what a camp from that era would have been like. All those who are demonstrating and interacting with the public in these camps are doing it for the love of the hobby and are not paid by the site.

Throughout the fair you will see gunmakers at work. Below the shop building you will see rifle barrels being rifled cut by hand using a long bench with a cutter on a long rod that is turned into and out of the barrel hundreds of times - pushing and pulling each pass with a crank. There is a blacksmiths forge turning out barrels and blackwork.

On the field with the living history camps there was a group that teaches muzzleloader making and they had several stations set up to show the process. This gentleman is carving a gunstock.

Some of their finished work- each was for sale and the prices were reasonable. Of course, reasonable is a very relative term.

Beside one of the fair tents this gentleman was turning end caps for powder horns on a foot pedal lathe.

In addition to all there is to see and buy, there are seminars that are repeated each of the three days. These include gunmaking techniques, horn making, and various arts related to this business and hobby. There is also a seminar area with topics of interest to the ladies including things like lye soap making.

A highlight of the fair for both visitors and those participating is a competition for the best built guns, powder horns, and leather pouches. Each entry is critically judged by a team of judges and prizes are awarded only to the best. All are on display on this building where the judging takes place.

A matched pair of flintlock pistols entered for judging. You can see the level of work that this event attracts. This is ALL handmade.

We had a great time at the fair. I only bought a few flints. I have purchased some significant things at this fair in the past but purchases like those are now behind me. I enjoy the fair just looking. Meryl enjoys it as well.

Dixon's is located at 9952 Kunkels Mill Road, Kempton, PA 19529 right off of PA Route 737 (exit from I78 to 737 North). Their phone number is 610-756-6271. Pine Hill RV Park campground is close by. Here is a link to Dixon's Gunmakers Fair. They update the site for each year's fair with the new dates in late winter.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pine Hill RV Park Campground, Kutztown, Pennsylvania

We took a trip to two different events in northeastern Pennsylvania. One was a muzzleloader gun makers fair located in Kempton, PA which appeals to reenactors and muzzleloader hunters and the other was a quilt exhibition and vendors show in Hershey, PA.  We wanted a campground that would be convenient enough to both of these events. With some research looking at campgrounds and their reviews I found Pine Hill RV Park campground located in the town of Kutztown, PA. Kutztown is the home of the Kutztown Pennsylvania Dutch Folklife Festival that is an annual event at the beginning of July and it is also home to a university. This campground is perfect if going to the Kutztown Folk Festival or if visiting the university.

The campground is very easy to get to and is right off Route I78. There is an exit right by the campground and if coming from the east ignore the exit your GPS wants you to take and continue to the next exit which is Route 737 North. The exit sign says Krumsville which is to the south. Get off on Route 737 going north and go to the intersection and make a right. The campground is down this road on the left. There is a small lit sign for the campground and the campground is hidden from the road by large hedges. This is a local residential and farm road.

The campground office is ahead to the left in a building that seems to be the home of the owners of the campground. The woman in the office was very friendly and welcoming. There is a small store in the office and there was a sign outside that said that hot fresh pizza was being served inside. This is not a restaurant but the pizza was convenient to take back to your RV.

The campground has sites with 30 amp electric hook ups or 50 amp electric hookups. The 30 amp sites can be selected with or without cable TV service. All of the 50 amp sites have cable hook ups. All of the sites have water and sewer hook ups. There are also a couple of cabins for daily rental. There are actually also four 20 amp sites.

Sites are gravel and our site was LEVEL. For a Class B and a Roadtrek this is very important. There was no problem getting level - the site was level. The sites are, of course, next to each other but not right on top of each other. There was a grass area between every site.

Many of the sites are pull though. There are 30 amp sites with cable that are backin sites along the edge of the campground. We had a pull though site.

While it was no problem, the electric box does not have its own circuit breaker for the outlet. Every so many sites had a large circuit breaker box for several adjacent sites.  

We were in a site with such a circuit breaker box (but our site did not seem to be in that box). So when you plug in, you are plugging into a live outlet. In the photo to the right you can see the small box at the bottom to the right. That is the 30 amp outlet. There are no other electric outlets at the site. The larger boxes are boxes for the circuit breakers and electric circuits that go to other sites.  You can see the water connection to the right. On the opposite side of this was an box with the cable TV connection which can be seen below.

The cable TV at this campground had the most channels of any campground that we have been to so far. When I scanned for cable channels 160 digital and analog channels locked in. Now, in that number there were duplicates and even triplicates of some channels but the selection to watch was broad and included many of the channels that you might expect at home - with the exception of the premium movie channels.

The wifi was not as good as the cable and the connection at our site was marginal. We were at almost the end of the campground so closer to the main buildings might have had better wifi. My tablet had no problem making a connection but my phone was not able to get a good connection to the wifi. Here in the mountains cell voice service is good but data service is marginal which has nothing to do with the campground.

The sewer connection at the site had a hands-free cover. The lid was on a foot pedal and lifted up without having to touch it. I have not seen this at other campgrounds that we have been to. The usual is just a screw on pipe cap.

The campground was very clean. There is a trash dumpster near the office and that is where garbage is placed. There is no trash pickup at site. The restrooms were small but very clean and well maintained. There are showers in the men's and ladies' restrooms. There is a large hall for parties, a recreation room/game room and an ice cream parlor on site (these were closed while we were there). There are shade trees but you are not in the woods - which is fine with us. There is a playground for children and there is a free miniature golf course.

The people who run this campground are very nice and are very attentive to their guests. We also found that the people in the other RVs here were also very friendly. We don't always find that. There were some very large Class A's here, trailers,  Class Cs and even a Class B other than ours.

The campground is located along I78 and there is traffic with trucks that travel along this route. We could hear the traffic OUTSIDE of the Roadtrek but could not hear any noise inside. A suppose a thin-walled trailer may hear some noise. This was not a problem for us in our Roadtrek.

We had a very nice stay at Pine Hill RV Park and we will be going back again. The events that we attended on this weekend are annual and we will happily stay here again to attend them. The gunmakers' fair at Dixon's was just down Route 737 from the campground. Hershey is about an hour away down I78. Right near this campground is a shop named Dietrich's Meats and Country Store that sells many unusual smoked meats and foods that are local to this region of the Pennsylvania Dutch. You can get sandwiches or buy by the pound here. It is not a restaurant. It is well known by any who come to this area. Also a little further west on I78 is Cabella's Outdoor store, one of their largest stores and a destination store to visit. Not only is this a great place to shop for items outdoors, fishing, and hunting but there is a room sized aquarium of local fish to walk through. This is not to be missed if you come to this area.

I definitely recommend Pine Hill RV Park. Rates for this area are reasonable.  It is located at 268 Old Route 22 in Kutztown, PA 19530. The phone number is (610) 285-6776. There is a toll free reservations number at (800) 217-6776. Their website is They have a website at

Just to note - if driving on I78 and you go through the toll for the Delaware River bridge, the toll is over $6.00 because the Roadtrek's weight puts it in the toll class with commercial trucks. The sign says a $1 for passenger vehicles but this does not apply to the Roadtrek over 7000 pounds.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Changing a Roadtrek Lightbulb

On a trip this summer we were at a campground and I went to turn on one of the Roadtrek dome lights that are above the front of the dashboard and the light did not come on. The light on the opposite side was on so there was no problem with the fuse. The problem was as simple as a blown light bulb but with the Roadtrek that turns out not to be quite so simple.

The first thing one needs to do is find out what type of light bulb is needed to replace the blown one and there is no list anywhere of the fixtures that Roadtrek uses and the bulbs that go into them. Before we could get the bulb I had to open the fixture and see what bulb was inside. The domes on these fixtures are frosted so you cannot just see through them to the inside as you can with the long fluorescent fixtures that are along the ceiling. Figuring out how to open the fixtures is like figuring out a Chinese box puzzle.

My first reaction was to get on the internet with the campground's wifi and ask for help on one of the Roadtrek Facebook groups. These groups are good for a fast reply - much more so than most forums. I did get answers - actually I got several answers from pry it open with a screw driver to turn the dome. I had tried turning the dome before I went looking for help, and it did turn slightly, but it did not come off.

I tried turning the dome and pushing in on it at the same time and this worked! The dome hit the right spot and disengaged and came down into my hand. I saw then that the dome has three tabs that line up with three slots and to remove the dome these tabs must be pushed up and turned. Replacing the dome requires the same movement with a turn in the opposite direction. Below is a picture of the dome seen from the inside. You can clearly see the three tabs set at thirds of the circumference of the inside edge of the dome lens.

Now I could see the bulb and it was unlike any RV light bulb that I have seen in stores. The bulb sits in a ceramic base and to remove the bulb you pull the bulb straight out. So now I have the bulb in my hand and there are no identifying markings on it at all! There is no way to look this bulb up on a chart without knowing what it is. Below is the bulb -

Back I went on Facebook to ask if anyone knew what this bulb is. I had a few suggestions that led to learn - about a week later - what this bulb is. I had hoped that I could go into the camp store at the campground the next morning and buy a replacement bulb. The store did have a selection of RV light bulbs but not anything like this. I asked the lady behind the counter and she told me that this is a "special" bulb. I am always thrilled to hear that I have to find something "special". I asked for the nearest RV dealers with accessories and the two nearest were not near at all. Rather than waste the day looking for the light bulb we put the search aside and enjoyed the day.

When we got home I started looking and asking about this bulb. I was able to find out that it is a "G4" bulb base - that is the two connection prongs coming from the bulb, that it is a 12 volt bulb (which I had known), that it is 10 W and that it is Halogen. Other than at an RV store which are a distance from where we live, I did not know anywhere else to look for this type of bulb.

You can purchase these on the Internet and not only can you get the halogen exact replacement but you can also get an LED replacement. The LED replacement is more than twice the price of the glass bulb but it will last longer and will use much less electricity which can be important when running your interior lights on your batteries.   The LED replacement for this bulb cost in the range from $9 to $15 a bulb. I decided that if I could not find the bulbs locally and I had to order them, that I would order the LED and I would order several and replace them one by one as the bulbs in these same fixtures blew out. There are four of these fixtures in my Roadtrek 190 - two in the front, one over the toilet, and one in the outside storage cabin. It appears but I am not yet certain (as I have not yet figured out the next Chinese puzzle of taking apart the small swivel spotlights) that the swivel spots also take this bulb.

So I knew what bulb to look for but I still had not conveniently found this bulb until I was walking through - of all places - an IKEA furniture store. We were walking past the lighting section and there was a display of light bulbs and there on the rack were 10 w Halogen 12 volt bulbs that looked just like these. I was not completely certain that they were the same and decided to go back to the store with the bulb in a few days. This got me looking at other possible places to buy these bulbs and I did find the exact ones in Home Depot. These same bulbs are used for garden lights and are sold in single and two packs. The crazy thing is that the single package is sold in the lighting department for $6.43 and the exact same bulb by the same company in a two pack found in the garden lighting section is $6.98. Here is a link to the bulbs at Home Depot.  Below is a photo of the package that you will find on the shelf.

It is extremely important that you buy only 12 volt bulbs and from some reading that I did on forums if you replace the bulb with a larger watt bulb and you can get these in 20 watts, you will melt the fixture. So do not buy a larger watt bulb.

For $3.50 each I now had the bulbs. I removed the dome again to replace the bulb. With halogen light bulbs YOU CANNOT TOUCH THE BULB WITH YOUR SKIN. All halogen bulbs are like this and there is a warning on the package. It will not harm YOU it will harm the BULB. The oil from your fingers will cause the bulb to burn right out when you turn it on. I got out a pair of latex gloves that we have in the Roadtrek to wear when we dump the black tank and put those on. I removed one bulb from the package and reached up into the fixture to insert the two prongs of the bulb into the two very small holes in the light base. This was a little tricky and it took several tries before it just went right in.

Of course the photo is a lot larger than the socket really is and the angle from which you have to work to insert the bulb does not allow seeing the face of the socket. Once you find the holes just push the bulb in (while wearing the gloves).

All that is left is to replace the dome lens and on the photo above it is easy to see the slot that you set the tabs into and then push in and turn clockwise to lock the dome in place. Once you have the bulb the whole thing is easy and now that I have done the ground work for you it will be very simple when you need to replace the light bulbs in your dome fixture in your Roadtrek.

Over time when I need to replace other bulbs I will make a list of the bulbs that go with the fixtures in the Roadtrek and post a chart on this site - something that Roadtrek should have provided in the manual.

I can add to this article that the fluorescent bulb needed for the overhead ceiling fixtures is a 12" 8watt 12 volt fluorescent tube made for RVs. These can be found in most RV supply stores and usually come in a package of two for less than $5.00. It is common to find the ones made/packaged by Camco. The bulb actually measures 11 inches but the replacement will say 12" inches on the package. The bulb in the Roadtrek and this bulb match exactly.

While I have not had to replace any of these yet, I have purchased a package of two bulbs to carry with us so that in the event that one of these goes out, we will be prepared. To open the flat lens on the ceiling fixture slightly push in and slide toward the passenger side. The plastic lens will slide on tabs in slots and come to the open position and then the lens just comes down in your hand. Take out the fluorescent tube by giving it a half turn so that the prongs line up with the slot and it will slide right out. Put the new bulb in by moving the prongs on each end into the slots on each end and pushing up. Give a half turn and it will lock itself in. This is no different than replacing a fluorescent tube in your house.

After replacing the halogen bulb, we went on our August extended vacation trip. The weather was hot and inside the Roadtrek at night, sitting under the bulb that I replaced, I was feeling more heat from the light above than it seemed to me I have felt before. This is the correct bulb and perhaps it was just warmer outside (and inside) than usual and while we were running the A/C it was set to automatically go on and off by the temperature set on the thermostat which is located in the back and we sit in the front. This got me thinking about replacing this bulb with an LED equivalent. As I speak about above, the LED bulbs are more than twice the price. There are a few advantages to LED bulbs. They do not give off any heat. They last a very long time. They use less electricity and if you run your interior lights on your batteries any saving in amperage is a good thing and your coach batteries will drain less quickly.

After we returned home I happened to see a G4 base LED bulb in Lowes that replaces a 12 volt, 10 watt halogen bulb. This bulb is priced at $9.88 for one bulb with a sign on the counter saying "new low price". I decided to try this bulb and replace the one that I replaced above as an experiment in using LED bulbs in the Roadtrek fixtures. One big advantage to buying this bulb at Lowes over ordering one on the internet is the bulb can be returned to the store if it is not a satisfactory replacement. The other advantage is that there is no shipping as I was buying it off the shelf. The price was about the same as LED bulbs that I have seen on the internet to replace this fixture's bulb.

The LED bulb is 1 watt. The halogen bulb is 10 watts. This LED bulb gives 90 lumens of light which is less bright than the halogen bulb that gives 100 lumens of light, but the difference of 10 lumens is not a lot. The LED bulb uses .083 amps of electricity. This is what is drawn from the battery in one hour. The halogen bulb uses .83 amps of electricity which is ten times as much. Now,
both bulbs are less than one amp and this is not very significant in how much less electricity the LED bulb is using over the halogen bulb. If a number of these bulbs were in use at the same time there would be a difference in power savings to consider. This LED bulb has a light color of 2800 which is about the equivalent of an incandescent bulb and is warm white and not the stark white or blue white that some complain about with LED bulbs.

The bulb fit the fixture perfectly. It installed exactly the same as described above. There is one small good difference. You can touch this bulb with your fingers and as indicated above, you are not supposed to touch a halogen bulb with bare skin.

It should be noted that when searching the Lowes store website for this bulb it cannot be found. This may be something only found in the stores.(Since this article first appeared I have not seen this particular LED bulb any longer in Lowes stores.)

Meryl feels that there is a noticeable difference in less light. I did not see this. As this is above the seat the I usually sit in when we are lounging inside the Roadtrek at night, it is fine for my needs.  We are going to keep and try out this bulb. I did purchase a spare. I am not running to change all of the light fixtures of this type to LED bulbs right now. As bulbs burn out we will consider what to do then. In the meantime the pair of halogen bulbs are safely stored inside the Roadtrek along with the spare LED in the event a bulb burns out when we are "on the road".

It is very important to purchase good LED bulbs for an RV. LED light bulbs can cause interference to electronics and you may find this showing up on your television if you use deep bargain LED bulbs. An LED is not really a light bulb. It is a Light Emitting Diode on an electronic circuit and this diode just happens to emit light. A poorly made circuit will cause interference. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adding a Digital Antenna Signal Finder

One of the most frustrating things about digital television is that the signal is directional. In order to see all of the digital broadcast channels that are available in an area the antenna must be turned in the direction of the signal being broadcast. There are websites and apps that will tell you by zip code or GPS on the phone or tablet that the app is installed on what the directions of these signals are - but the GPS has a hard time finding a GPS lock inside the Roadtrek in the middle of the night and you don't always know by zip code.

Roadtrek has now discontinued using the Winegard Sensar directional antenna on the roof and now uses a multi-directional antenna that does not have to be turned. The model that they are now using may work very well, but it has been my experience when trying this type of antenna out at home that they still need to be turned to get the best signal reception. I like the Winegard. It can be easily turned to find all of the digital broadcast signals - but in what direction? Until now it has been trial and error. Turn, scan for channels on the TV (which can take up to ten minutes or longer) and then turn and scan again if you did not have the correct direction - and this repeats until you have found the correct direction for the area that you are in.

I had seen a device in the RV shop at my Roadtrek dealer that eliminated the guesswork. I always looked at it when I was there and each time I put it down for the $70 price tag. After a few frustrating nights of trying to find a signal, I decided that I would get this device. It happens that I found it on the Walmart website and had it shipped to my local store after ordering it. I paid  $50 for it. It is called the King Controls SL1000 Digital TV Signal Finder or Sure Lock. 

Installation is easy and can be temporary or permanent. I decided to rearrange the A/B box and add a second A/B box into the cables for this installation. 

What you need - the Sure Lock, a cable A/B switch found at any home electronics store or department, and coax cable with connectors. 

Let me state right now that I have had a lot of experience making cable television coax cables of various lengths and I cut and made cables to suit my needs. You may wind up with a lot more cable in the cabinet that you might like so for some steps here you want as short a cable as you can get.

Now, the installation ->

I wanted to move the Roadtrek's A/B box to within easier reach from the front of the cabinet door so I did move that box first. In this photo you will see the Roadtrek's splitter that has an input that connects to the antenna's coax cable and splits that signal to

1) the antenna input of the Roadtrek's A/B black box.
2) the home entertainment center where it is connected to the back for FM radio reception.

I wanted a connection to the antenna and I wanted it before it went into the Roadtrek's A/B box. For this I went to the Roadtrek splitter and disconnected the output coax that goes down to the Home Entertainment Center (DVD, etc). To that leg of the splitter I attached a short piece of coax and that coax was attached to the input of a new A/B switch that I bought in the Walmart TV department for $6.00. To that new A/B switch's  A output I connected the coax that used to be connected to the splitter that went down to the Home Entertainment Center. Now that was connected just as it had been. To the other output of the switch - the B side I connected a six foot length of coax cable connected to nothing on the opposite end. Below you can see the additional A/B switch installed. I attached this to the floor of the cabinet with heavy 3M velco like plastic strips to keep it in place. I labeled which side to slide the switch to for radio or for antenna scanning. When slid to radio everything works exactly as it did before.

What I had then was a completely working TV connection to the antenna just as it worked before AND a completely working Home Entertainment Center FM radio just as it worked before - provided the new A/B Switch was slid over to the correct side of the switch. I also had at that point was a coax cable connected to nothing that I could connect to the Sure Lock signal finder. The photo below shows the cabinet connections completed. The coil of coax on the right is ready to connect to the Sure Lock when I want to scan. I attached a push on coax connector onto the end of the coax for easy on and off of the scanner.

Now, when I need to scan I take out the scanner - stored in a zipper bag in this cabinet - and attach it to the end of the coax with a simple push on. There are two coax leads on the top of the Sure Lock that will enable you to attach it between the coax coming down to the TV from the antenna and a new coax going into the TV for a permanent installation behind the TV. The problem with this is the crank/direction bezel for the antenna is in the front of the Roadtrek and you need to easily see the scanner as you turn the antenna. This is why I have used six feet of coax in my set up. So I now take my scanner connected to the loose coax in the cabinet and walk over to the crank. 

You turn the scanner on with a switch on the side. It runs on a 9 volt battery. Turn down the adjustment knob at the top as per the instructions. And start to turn the antenna. When four LEDs (or as many LEDs will light if in a weak area) you stop turning the direction of the antenna. Then you turn the adjustment knob up until the last light just goes out. Next you slightly adjust the antenna direction a fraction until that LED comes back on. You have now found the best direction for your antenna and that is where you leave it. Next - as always - you turn on the TV - go to channel source in the menu and make sure it is on Antenna and then in the menu below, scan for channels. You should see as many channels as available in that area lock in to the TV. 

We tried this on our driveway and it worked. The real test was on a trip and we were at the same campground that we had problems finding channels at the trip before. I scanned and found the direction - and all channels came in. 

If you are going to be in the same campground site for a few days and will be moving the Roadtrek to leave the campground at any point to visit the area, you want to be able to find the exact same direction for the antenna without having to scan again - so I came up with an idea. I bought removable peel and stick round color labels and placed one right at the antenna's direction pointer on the ceiling of the Roadtrek. It comes right off without leaving a mark and it will stay up for as long as you are at that campground. 


 With the level markers that I put down on the ground on the site next to the tires to show where to park that is level, I always come back to very close to the same position on the site, so all I need to do is move the antenna pointer to the middle of the dot and all of the TV channels are back where they need to be.  When moving to the next campground or home, just peel off the dot and throw it away.

This little gadget works. It saves a great deal of the frustration of a directional antenna. There are units that do the same thing that are built into the ceiling at the crank but these involve cutting into your Roadtrek. This little Sure Lock does it without any permanent changes to your RV.