Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lubricating the Waste Tank Seals and Macerator

I was certain that I had written about this before, but searching this entire site I can find no mention of it. It is very important to regularly lubricate the tank seals in the black and grey tanks - and for those with Roadtreks or any RV with a macerator, the added benefit of the process is that it lubricates the internal parts of the macerator at the same time.

When we got our Roadtrek in 2011, the recommended lubrication to do this was coconut oil. Coconut oil is expensive and has a problem - it reacts to temperature. If you go to buy coconut oil - I found it in a gourmet food store - it is sold in a bottle as a white paste. At 75 degrees F coconut oil liquifies and becomes a clear liquid. Below 75 degrees F that same coconut oil becomes a solid fat - thus the white paste. I also found that the Camco RV supplies company sells "Coco Lube" which is a 100% coconut oil lube in a bottle. I bought that at over $6 in an RV shop. I bought it in the summer and tried it in the summer and it seemed to be fine. Then in the Fall I decided to lube the tanks again and now that bottle was full of white paste. I could have gotten it out of the bottle and put it down into the tanks but it would have been a gunk going down and likely would have staid in a lump in the tank. This is not at all what you want.

I started researching what the alternative is and learned that many use mineral oil. Mineral oil is sold in pharmacies or pharmacy departments. It is sold as a laxative - yes, it is "food grade" and can be consumed which you don't want to do unless you wish the resulting effect. You should be able to find a bottle for about $2 or $3.

To use the mineral oil to lubricate your waste tanks (and macerator):

1) Measure ONE HALF CUP of mineral oil, open the toilet flush flap and pour it down the toilet.

2) Flush the toilet with water.

3) Measure ONE HALF CUP of mineral oil, and pour it down the open drain of the kitchen sink. (Take the drain stopper out first.)

4) Run some water down the drain in the sink. 

You have just lubed your tanks and macerator. Step 1 and 2 put the oil into the Black Tank. Step 3 and 4 put the oil into the grey tank.  You are DONE.

Simple. You can't get more simple than this.

The mineral oil in the tanks will lubricate the seals in the tank. The next time you dump and use the macerator that mineral oil will come through into internal workings of the macerator and lubricate those also.

Do this two to three times each year. I do this AFTER I De-winterize. I do this Mid-summer. I do this in the Fall. This is all that is needed.

Just as an aside - always keep the flap in the RV toilet covered with water to prevent it from drying out. In the winter when winterizing, use RV antifreeze instead of water.

NEED I SAY THIS? Never put mineral oil into the FRESH WATER TANKS. It will not harm the tanks but like Eveready batteries, you will keep going, and going, and going...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It Isn't All Peaches and Cream, Part 7

As I am writing this, it is four days before the start of April and it has been snowing here all day. Outside, once again, my Roadtrek is on the driveway covered in snow. The Roadtrek must like the snow as it collects on it faster than it does on my car or my van. Well - so much for "Spring can't come too soon!" It came and seems to have gone. It is 28 degrees F right now. Yes, this is the "S" that I mentioned at the end of Part 6. Just in case you wondered if it actually came - yes it did, Snow Happens. Of course, you are reading this starting almost in the middle of April so we will all know by then when the next snow came - I really hope there is no next snow, but each week the weatherman says, "this is the last one of the season!" Perhaps he should keep his mouth shut and not keep jinxing it.

Anyway, let's return to yester-month, way back in October 2014 and what turned out to be our last trip of 2014. We have been going away for Meryl's birthday for years and years. Meryl does not like the date her birthday is, and we leave to try to avoid it. We were off for four nights and five days - Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations were made for this trip in September and we looked at the site that we would be in then, to make sure it was going to be fine. My only concern was that the electric pedestal was a distance from the edge of the site and we decided when we saw this that we would bring the RV extension cord with us. It takes up some room in the rear storage but it is better to have it than to not reach to plug in. We were all set and the weather, as usual, seemed would be dismal mid-week. We were both very anxious to make this trip as there was something that we had to see.

This takes me back to September so we shall flashback - just like in the movies - for a few moments. One of the places we very much enjoy going to and that I have written about in past articles of past trips is the Green Dragon Farmer's Market in Ephrata, PA. It may sound strange to those who like to go into the woods and get away from everything and to those who go to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but this to us is the best day of a trip to this area - and it is only open on Fridays. Twice in 2014 we missed getting to it - the last was on our last trip when we had to change the trip itinerary due to the funeral that I spoke about in Part 6.  In early September there was a major fire at Green Dragon Farmer's Market. I learned of it on Facebook and we tried to find as much information about it as we could - and find out just how much burned. When we heard about the fire we were heartbroken - as if it was a close friend's home we were hearing about. Searching the internet we found very disturbing video footage of the fire as it was being fought by multiple fire companies - the video taken with a camera attached to the helmet of a fireman. The video was dizzying to watch as it moved jerkily around as this man moved through the burning structures and looked in every direction as he did. It took us a little time to orient ourselves to where he was and what he was looking at and then very familiar scenes came into recognition through the black smoke, the flames, and the night sky. The fire started at night - seen from the road by someone driving by who called the fire department. The fire, it was learned later, started in a snack bar kitchen located in a very large building that housed an animal auction and also a furniture store. (Yes, an odd combination.) There were no animals in the building or on the grounds at the time of the fire. Just behind this building there are a number of permanent vendor stands in pre-built sheds. In front of the building there is a covered area of produce stands and vendors. The auction building, what is behind, and what was in front were ablaze. As this fire fighter moved on, we were watching where we have walked many times over many years burn to ashes.

The week right after the fire the owners of the market went into gear to make sure the market would open in two weeks and they did. They cleared the burned rubble. We saw photos of this as they did. They got sections temporarily ready to open again and brought in a generator to provide the electricity as the fire went right up the electric poles in this section of the market. We very much wanted to be there both to give our support to everyone there and to see for ourselves that what we care so much about was coming back. We missed that at the end of September. Whether it was pouring this trip of not, we were going. End of flashback...  Currently, a new building just began construction.

So we were were going. We left on a Tuesday with decent weather and headed southwest. We arrived at the campground, checked in quickly and only stopped at the site to test the electic box for proper voltage and polarity. Best to do this first, because if there is a problem the site needs to be changed or the campground has to repair it right away to be in proper working order for use. Tip - get a polarity tester ($5), a voltage meter ($30), and a 30 amp plug to 15 amp socket adapter ($8) and do this first thing when coming into a campsite at a campground. All tested well and we were off for the afternoon to another Farmers Market - Roots Market. (A close second to Green Dragon but not as good.)

We had a nice time at Roots and had dinner out and eventually came back to the campground at night - which is our usual mode when traveling. We had to find a level spot on the site - if there was one - and we were prepared this trip for the first time with our new Andersen Levelers, and then hook up electric and cable. It is about ten o'clock at night and we move around the space and actually find a spot that was nicely level - no need for the levelers and I am not complaining. In fact it was so good we made a written note of the site number to know that this would be our second choice when "our" site is not available. We set down our "level markers" to be able to get to that level location on the site quickly when we came back in the next night. I have made some additions and changes to these which we can talk about in some other article. Next we were to find out if we needed the extension cord or not and when we took out the entire length of the Roadtrek's power cord it just made it to the pedestal. We did not need the extension cord. A couple of more feet away and we would have. Again, better to have it than not, because if we had left it home we would have needed it. I also put out a new flag that we had bought on our August trip to alternate with the one we have been using for a couple of years. I staked the flag stand into the grass at the side of the site and attached the new flag. Nice. We were set and went into the Roadtrek for television and eventually bed.

The next day was pouring and we spent the afternoon in an indoor antique mall while it rained outside and by the time we were coming out from there the rain was stopping. When we got back to the campground that night we had a different campground experience for us. As we were getting hooked up, a dog came over to our site - now again, this is around ten o'clock at night. The campground is actually crowded. There are RVs and trailers all around. And here is this dog loose with no one in sight that seems to be looking for him. It was not a very large dog but large or small I am cautious with any stray dog - and Meryl is afraid of dogs and has been so since a young child and she was anxious to finish hooking up and get inside away from the dog. I talked quietly to the dog and kept telling him to go "home" - still no one is looking for him. We finished outside as quickly as we could and headed inside and this was a cue for the dog to start barking. I told him to go away and we went inside. He stayed outside around our site and barked and barked. And everyone decided it was our dog - and there is yelling to shut the dog up and the dog is barking. Eventually someone must have taken the dog away as there was some activity outside and then the dog was gone. I was certain that the next day we would get an earful from our neighbors or the campground owners. No one said anything - no one was around when we were unhooking the next day to go off for the day.

I will jump ahead to our visit to Green Dragon - post fire. They did a remarkable job getting things back to almost normal. The building, of course, was gone. The cement slab floor was all that remained. The covered section in the front was temporarily replaced with a very large tarped canopy. The smell of smoke was still evident -and the most blatant evidence of the fire was the vinyl siding on some of the vendor sheds behind where the building stood that had melted from the heat of the fire. I have never seen anything like that. It was curled and distorted - and in some places gone with melted plastic left behind over the charred plywood outer wall of the shed. What was most encouraging to see was that Green Dragon had risen from the ashes and was as busy as always.

While at Green Dragon I found a book at the book stand that I knew I could not pass up. It is an obscure volume by an obscure author that was printed in London in the year 1746. It is a thick book that had been rebound sometime in the 20th Century but the "new" cover was coming away from the cover pages - but the entire 18th Century book itself was in excellent condition. For $25, no matter what the subject matter of the book was - and it happened to be a collection of writings of the author including personal observations of people and the state of affairs of the period - I was buying it - and I did. I have, with the guidance of a friend who is a craftsman and artist, repaired the cover - not touching the 18th Century pages and the book is now readable. Touching the pages is touching the past. For a historian, that is just remarkable. I have a very few other books printed in the 18th Century but the pages are near crumbling. This one is very different.  I have researched the author and he is of minor note. (Aside over.)

I have not mentioned not being able to find RV antifreeze for the coming winterizing we would have to do. There was none on the shelves in the stores at home. There usually is at this time of the year but even the expensive brands were not there. I had figured to find it in PA but I was not seeing it here either. We just happened to be  in an area heading to a restaurant that we had not been to in a while where there is a large multi-supply store that we have been to a few times over the years and found it there - and on sale - but this made me realize not to wait until almost November again to buy RV antifreeze.

Let's go to the night when we return to the campground. We arrive at the site and back in and I am feeling that there is something wrong. After we hook up I walk around the site and realize that my flag and flag stand are gone. I am furious. Meryl, of cooler head, suggests that perhaps someone - once again - thought that we had left and were not coming back and took it to the office. This has happened before - which I though that my ever present and obvious sign that says "Just Gone for the Day! Will Be BACK TONIGHT" would take care of. The sign was still there. The level markers were still there. The flag and flag stand were gone. The office was closed so we had to wait until the morning which I awaited fuming. The large trailer with the big truck that stuck into the lane that had been in the site opposite to ours that had made it difficult every time we needed to back into our space was also gone. All of the others around us were still there. I cannot accuse but I was certain.

The next morning - Saturday and the day we were leaving it was heavily overcast and the forecast for rain was for later. Meryl went to the office to find our about the flag as she keeps calm when I will blow. Best that she went as when she returned with no flag it was clear that it had been stolen. The people in the office at this campground are very nice and they said that should it appear they would hold onto it for us. The flag was gone. It would never appear. Someone is enjoying our flag that they stole.  We keep reading and hearing that people who RV and camp are all so nice and friendly. We wave and say hello and rarely get waved back to or said hello back to. The little Roadtrek is an oddity to them in the middle of their huge bus RVs and super-sized trailers. Rather than the norm being those who actually are friendly - it is the opposite. Those who are friendly or are friendly back to our efforts are the rarity. That's OK - and when I mention this to other RVers I often get agreement - they too find other RVers are not all peaches and cream!

So we waste time this morning that we must leave finding out about the missing flag and now we have to unhook and get underway. My plan was to repeat the flushing of the black tank as I had at the end of the last trip and saw, finally, the black tank sensors read empty. The black and grey tanks have to be dumped and then the black tank is flushed and as we get ready to unhook it starts to rain - but not just a shower - a downpour. And we have no choice but to keep going and get the tanks dumped. We could not leave this until we got home as there is no convenient place to dump the tanks near or at home - and now the date is November 1 and we have to winterize very soon - that coming week just in case the temperatures start to drop into freezing. As those with Roadtreks with macerators know, the button to operate the macerator is inside the driver's door at the bottom of the driver's seat. That button is a hold in to operate button. If you let go, the macerator stops. To operate this you open the door, stand outside in the door well and push the button. I push the button while Meryl bends down over the dump hole and holds the hose over the hole to dump the tanks. It was pouring and the rain was pouring into the front of the Roadtrek. It was filling the pockets in the door soaking what is in them, it was wetting the seat, it was wetting the dash. It was flooding the inside of the driver's area. You can't rush dumping the tanks. The macerator pump grinds and pumps at just one speed. And there are two tanks to dump. It seemed like it was taking forever - even though I was throwing towels down, everything was getting soaked. So much for flushing the black tank. When we were done it read Full and shortly later it read 2/3 and that is how it stayed. This was the crown jewel in the rotten peach. This was the ultimate It Ain't All Peaches and Cream end to the 2014 RVing season.

Before we left Pennsylvania, that Saturday, we bought another flag stand and I also bought a two foot metal stake with a ring on the top. The plan now is to put the flag on one side of the front of the site and the metal stake on the other. A bright yellow poly rope will be run between the two in front of the entrance to the campsite. When we leave each morning, the rope will be put up. There should be no way to think then that the site has been vacated and things left behind - as that rope can only be put up that way on the way out indicating that we are coming back. Who knows?  If they are going to steal, they just don't care if you are coming back or not. This at least gives the benefit of the doubt that people are honest. Maybe.

So you have come down this winding path with me. Mostly it was the weather that determined what was and what wasn't though there were non-weather related excitements as well. Some call RVing a "Lifestyle". I often see it as an endurance challenge.

As I started out saying in this article, it is a couple of day before April and it is snowing. Now it is 26 degrees outside. By now, in years past I would have de-winterized already. Temperatures are predicted to be well below normal for this week ahead and it is unlikely that there will be a significant difference the week after. I am really not sure when we can safely de-winterize. We should be making arrangements to take the Roadtrek to dealer/service to change the oil in the generator and I would like to have them install a digital voltage meter inside connected to the monitor panel test switch to get an accurate reading of the coach batteries' voltage at just the push of a button. Hopefully they will do this and will have such a meter to install or I will have to find one to take to them - if they can put it in. I would love to say that the 2015 RVing season is about to get off on the right foot, but if that is going to happen that step will have to wait, at least for now.

Well, it still isn't all peaches and cream!

Thanks for bearing this long, convoluted journey with me. We will all keep smiling - me too.

End of Part 7 and the end of this series.



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It Isn't All Peaches and Cream Part 6

We have come a long way together on this convoluted look at our 2014 RVing season. We come now to the Fall and we are at the end of September. We annually go to a quilt show outside Philadelphia every year and stay over at our favorite campground in Lancaster. This trip was planned for awhile and the campground reservations had been made for Thursday and Friday when we were at the campground in August. We plan this trip to be at the quilt show on Thursday and have Friday for one of our favorite spots - Green Dragon Farmers Market open only on Fridays.  As one of my readers pointed out very recently - as Rosanna Rosanadana once said - "Its always something!" Well, things happen and things were happening.

Our reenacting unit was contacted by a special historic site that was asking us to come and do an encampment. The date was the Sunday of the weekend we would be in Pennsylvania. As Commander of the unit I am not really able not to be there for this type of event - and even though we would be back for Sunday, Meryl and I spend the day before an event preparing for what will be needed the next day. Well, I started making arrangements with other members to take on the tasks that we should have been doing. Things were set - we would be exhausted to getting to this event the next day but I alerted everyone that we would be there - but later than the start. Fine - obstacle averted.

We get to the week of the trip. The weather for this trip appears to be actually cooperating and we are getting ready to go - and we get a phone call. The wife of a good friend has passed away. The funeral would be Thursday. No question - we were going to a funeral rather than leaving on this trip. A fast call to the campground and we delay arrival until Friday and let them know that our two day stay is now one day. This campground has always been great with us in allowing us to cancel or make last minute changes to our reservations. No problem at the campground. We would go to the quilt show on Friday and stay at the campground that night. Saturday we would spend the day in Lancaster, have dinner and head back at night - not too late.

I want to say that this trip is rather uneventful but there are is a minor and a good major event that take place on this trip. We knew the site that we would have in the campground. What we were not aware of was that in the site we were in we were facing a large street lamp that lights the central intersection of the campground. This should be no problem but it stays on all night and the three roof windows in the front of the Roadtrek faced this very bright light. The covers that came with my Roadtrek to block out these windows do not fit snug to the edges. The center window - the largest - has a cover that warped our first year in the Roadtrek still in the window as the August hot sun rose in the morning and heated the window and the composite plastic cover and warped it like a "U". I have been looking to eliminate these windows in some manner for some time. If pointed toward the sunrise, the morning sun comes in around the edges of the covers and streams in waking us way before two "night" people want to wake up. I had tried before this trip to flatten this cover out - clamping it between two boards and heating it with a heat gun. It actually looked flat when it came out and cooled but when placed on the window it went back to its "U" shape. I brought along some foam and my plan was to stuff strips of it around the edges of the covers - sealing the edges.  A while back I made Reflectix covers for these windows - (I will not go into what Reflectix is now as that is an article all on its own) and while it would seem that these covers should work as I made them larger than the windows, they are too flexible and don't sit close enough to not allow the light to still stream in around the loose edges. I have even tried to combine the Reflectix covers with the original plastic ones but this is too thick to fit under the turn clips that hold the covers in place. It turned out that this is the same problem with my idea of putting foam around the edges. No, we had the light from the street lamp at night and the sun streaming through in the morning.

Now one major good thing occurred on the day we were leaving. This was the day that we actually saw the black tank sensor on the monitor panel show empty. A first! Not even on the day we took delivery did the tank show empty! This story appears in the article, "For the First Time...". This was a reason to cheer and it got a big "Huzzah!" out of me when I saw it. As you will see in the article about this linked, it was a short lived experience.

Well, we got stuck in traffic coming home - no bangs, but that lingering mysterious vibration was still evident and as I said in the last article in this series, it seems to be the third seat - but I still have not come up without a way to secure that. And then, of course, there is the wobbling that seems to be coming from outside and mysteriously comes and goes with no predictability. The fire extinguisher was secure in its foam bed and that noise (hopefully) is a thing of the past. We got home a little later than we would have liked to and we got to the event the next morning at Noon which was nicely underway without us thanks to the wonderful group of men, women, and children in our unit. That afternoon we had some nice first person interactions with visitors and with other members - bringing history to life and creating a time travel experience for those who came to see us.

I had thought that this would be the last article in this series, but once I start writing, things get longer than I start out anticipating - so one more time. And the "S" word is in the weather again - (this is being written about six days before it will be on the site) go figure end of March and there is "S" in the forecast ("S" starts a four letter word - your choice, no difference), so who knows when I will be able to de-winterize and actually pull the Roadtrek out of the drive way so... Since 7 has been a good number for me -

End of Part 6

PART 7 (and that really "should be" the last part) NEXT.