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Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's My Birthday and I Will Camp if I Want To!

Well, it's my "Birthday Weekend" so I get to decide what we are gonna do.  My birthday isn't until Monday, so I declared this weekend as MINE!

On Friday I loaded up the motorhome, talked Steveio into taking a half day of vacation, and off we went.   A WHOLE TEN MILES to North Bayshore County Park!  LOL LOL LOL

We wanted to stay close to home as all the kids are coming Sunday with the grandkids for the day. So we can enjoy the lovely sunshine and 50 degree Saturday weather while camping, but we are thinking of leaving later on to head back to home for Saturday night and Sunday ...   The weatherman said it's going to rain... or maybe snow.  It was down to 28 last night so it could get that cold again tonight, I would imagine.




We pulled into our favorite site, number 16,  which is facing toward the waters of Green Bay.   We like this site because it's down on the end of the loop, but we have to pull into the campgrounds backwards on the one-way road.  Can't make the corner into the site because of the site marker post. We could back in, but then we only have a view of the outhouse from our front windshield.  By pulling in nose-first, we can have a view out over the marsh grass to the water.  So we break the rules by not going around the loop in the right direction.  With only 2 other campers here, it's not a problem.  LOL

I followed Steve out with our Saturn car, instead of hooking up the Tracker to tow.  We thought we might need to run up to Marinette for something sometime on Saturday night, but that didn't work out, so we just brought the car for nothing.  Oh well.




On Saturday we took a nice walk out along the harbor and breakwater to the beacon light post. The sun is shining, the sky is an unbelievable blue and the white puffy clouds are heavy with snow or rain to fall...  the bottom edges of the clouds are all horizontal with the water out by the horizon, probably from some low pressure?




We walked to the end and hung out with the dogs for a while.  
The winds were starting to pick up and it is getting decidedly colder.  
You can SMELL the "Winter" in the air....



Although the sun is shining, on our way back to the campground area
 the marsh grasses help protect us from the bitter winds 




Some kids are out on the other bank with poles... 
Wonder if they are catching anything other than colds? 



These waters face out into the area where the Green Bay flows into Lake Michigan.  Brrrrrrr it's cold already.  We have taken the boat out from this harbor a few times on calm days.  Other times it's high whitecaps and we don't dare.  The bay has a shallow bottom and when the wind whips up, the waves crest into whitecaps in just a moment's notice.  The right side of the breakwater is open water, and the left leads into the protected harbor.


It's now 3pm on Saturday as I type this up.  The sun is still peeking in and out of the clouds, but they are building up and getting grey looking.  The temps are dropping, so we think we will avoid paying for one more night of camping and pull stakes to head into town.  It's going to rain or snow before nightfall.

It isn't far and we will be home in 15 minutes and backed into the driveway.   This is probably the last camping trip of the season, as much as I hate to see it end.  The next two weekends have events we can't miss, so we will be home.   We don't have any winter trips planned, so this might be the last time until Spring.

Sigh.



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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deck Hand and Baking Buddy

Our decks wrap around three sides of the house... over 500 sq ft of deck, and three stairways.   And they ALL needed a new coat of stain.   Steveio hates painting or staining....  so it's been MY task to whittle away at them a bit at a time.   The railings and spindles take the longest, because I need to stain over the railing first on the back side with a roller on a long pole... then the inside surfaces that face each other.. then the final surface that faces inward.   That is just ONE spindle... ack!   of course there are cross supports and the top railings next, and the big posts... and finally the actual deck flooring.  That part is easy with a wide roller and handle.   And the most satisfying to do, because then it feels like I accomplished something!

We use a solid color oil stain, which soaks in nicely and does not flake or chip or peel like paint would.  But it gives the appearance of solid paint.  Better looking than the greenish grey of treated wood, don't yo agree?

(part of the large back deck)                (side entrance deck by garage)



 (east side deck over by fireplace and other door) 



Once I had all the decks done above, then I had to walk around the whole perimeter with a roller on a long handle and get all the outside edges and boards... and the big posts holding the whole thing up.  Steve hides his boat down on the lower patio, blocking the view out of one of the patio doors leading to my Loom Room...arggghhh


This is the last side by the entry into the kitchen... I just LOVE the rich golden sunlight of autumn afternoons... a job well done and almost three empty cans of stain.  Whew! 



Now for my RV friends, as I was walking around the house I snapped a shot of our tire covers. We used to have those soft vinyl covers but they deteriorate after a year or two from the sun.  So we had some extra plywood in the garage we cut out these wooden half circle pieces.  They stow away above Steve's tool box  in a small horizontal space.  Gotta protect those tires on the sunny side of the rig! 





Our neighbor to the west has had a change in his working schedule and has asked me to let out his silly doggers twice a day while he is on 12 hour shifts. (with almost an hour drive each way on top of it)   So this is Cooper and Cricket... they are visulas (hunting dogs)   they are also my frisbee buddies!   Mike sets out a lawnchair for me to go over and let them out and repeatedly throw their frisbees over and over till my arm is tired.   HAHA   I bring over my two green frisbees and they love them more than their purple and blue ones.  Sometimes Cricket tries to get BOTH of the green frisbees in her mouth, just so Cooper can't get them.   It's a delightful break twice in my day, and my dogs are very jealous so I have to come back to my yard and play frisbee with mine too.  Cricket has social issues and competitiveness with other dogs than Cooper, so my dogs can't come over to play at the same time. 












Tuesday afternoon I stole a little beedle bug girl from her daycare and put her to work for the evening.  She did tray after tray of slice-n-bake halloween cookie dough.  And for some reason, sometimes a piece would end up in her mouth.  Hmmmm wonder why?  Here she is examining a holiday potholder that I got from my mom a long time ago.

She baked up all the cookies so we will have them as treats when ALL the kids and grandkids come to our house on Sunday!   Why???  Because it's MY birthday and that is the ONLY thing I asked for, having all my kids and grandkids together for the day.  How great will that be?   After she baked her heart out, she took a long relaxing spa bath, and then cuddled up in her jammies on Granmuddah's lap till she konked out.  Ahhhhhh my plan worked, we wore her out!




I have a sewing machine question that a fellow RVer asked me to put on my blog:


Now I do have another favor to ask of you. Since you have so many followers on your blog could you ask a question for me. We are wondering if I can run my Featherweight 221 off the inverter. Or my Janome 8077? We can't  seem to get a straight answer from anyone. We have asked at many of the quilt shops I stop at that sell machines. I went online ask a guy that specializes in Featherweight re-builds and repair and no one seems to know. Perhaps if someone that sews or quilts that boondocks may read your blog and has run their machine off an inverter can answer my question. 
Hugs
Paula


If anyone has an answer for Paula, you can email her at stuplich@gmail.com


It's Thursday night as I type this, and we have the rig ready and loaded and water filled for a quick getaway on Friday.  Will be home early enough on Sunday for the kids to come over, but for Friday and Saturday the sun will be shining, there won't be any snow on the ground, so we are going camping!!!





Monday, October 24, 2011

200+ Followers! Wedding Weekend with my "Cuzzins", the Statons

Can you believe it??? I now have 204 followers on my blog!!!  
I don't often pay attention to the actual numbers, 
but I noticed the other day it was over 200----


Thank You 
to each and every one of you for tuning in 
and checking out my nonsense!
Sometimes it's camping, 
Sometimes it's gushy grandchildren posts,
Sometimes it's fiber stuff 
(like my weaving or spinning or sockknitting)


I guess you must like what I write 
and see the projects that Steve and I do to our motorhome?


My stats page says I have had almost 115,000 page views on my blog!!!    On top of that, some of my readers are also not on the actual page as followers, but people that I copy and paste each blog into an email and send to them.  Their numbers don't show up in the stats. The counter I added on the page was some time later from when I started the blog.    Since I started hosting the Google Adsense ads, it also earns me a little income each month too if they are clicked on when it's something interesting to my readers.  I don't see which ads are put on, as I am not allowed to click on them myself.  They are supposed to be kinda geared to the content of each subject I post.  This one will be about wedding stuff I am sure!

We skipped going camping this weekend and planned to go to my cousin John Staton's wedding down in Saukville, WI. He is marrying his lovely gal Judy, and we wanted to join in their celebration.

We were thinking of taking the motorhome there for the weekend, which then the dogs could go along and we didn't have to pester someone to come to our house and let them out. There aren't any campgrounds open this time of year down in their area near Milwaukee.  We could have parked in the nearby Walmart overnight, but that is a long way to go in the motorhome for just an overnight using up 40-50 gallons of diesel.   Saukville, WI is about 120 miles from here.   Instead we decided to go in the car and leave the dogs at home.  Erin and little Chelsea came over during the evening to let them out, as we expected to get back late. (Erin later said Chelsea was soooo confused why Granmuddah & Granfaddah weren't home?)

Saturday morning, Steveio was out checking fluids etc in the car for the trip.  He decided to rotate the tires on the Saturn and discovered both tie rod ends on the front were bad!  Whew!!!  I had noticed a strange feeling when turning corners, and that must be why.   He called the auto parts store and luckily they had them in stock.  He ran into town with the Tracker and got them and he had them all installed and done by the time he had to hop in the shower before hitting the road.  What a guy!!!!  He works so hard all week and then all weekend to keep us safe and sound.

We got dolled up and left about 1 pm to get down there by 4ish.  It was a wonderful day with sunshine, warm temps and pleasant fall scenery.  I knit socks and hats the whole way down there for the 2 hour trip.  Gosh that little Saturn car is SOOO uncomfortable after travelling in the comfy seats of our motorhome for  long trips.  We were stiff and sore by the time we got there, something we never experience in the motorhome.  Sigh.   Guess we are getting old, huh?

We got to Saukville in plenty of time and visited with all the cousins before the ceremony began.

My mom and their mom (Rita and Lois) were the only siblings in their family,  and our grandfather (Harvey) passed away before many of us grandchildren were born.   Our grandmother (Beatrice) devoted the rest of her life to helping her two daughters and being the Benevolent Matriarch of the family.  Between Mom and Lois living just a few miles apart, we grandkids were very close growing up.  Mom had 6 kids and Lois had 6 kids.  So us 12 "cuzzins"  were a real tribe!  We often ALL went to Grandma's house and had sleepovers, play days and good times.   Grandma babysat us almost every weekend overnight when Mom and Dad did the Milwaukee Sentinel Sunday paper route every Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning.  Often the Staton kids could come over too, and we bunked all over in Grandma's tiny house!  We would all vie for the big feather tick to sleep on the floor.  My oldest brother Butch has it now, all these years later.  She passed away 16 years ago and was a real important part of all our lives.  She was always fair, never had to raise her voice, and we all adored her.  I am striving to be as good a Grandma as she was!!!!  What memories.


Back to the wedding-----

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by all the "Cuzzins" ---  we reminisced about our childhoods, caught up on our busy lives, and how we all missed Grandma Kafehl....

Aunt Lois and Uncle Sam, as well as my parents, now live down in Florida.  They didn't make it up for the wedding, so I sent immediate photos one at a time as the events unfolded, via my Galaxy Tablet emailed down to mom's computer.  Lois and Sam live a few doors down from Mom's, so Auntie Lois was over to her house in Florida watching as each photo came across the screen.  Mom's printer was printing them out as fast as they came in.  Ahhh Technology-----  The next best thing to being there, I guess! We sure wished they had been able to come up for the wedding, though. 

Formal pictures with the photographer were posed outdoors because it was such a wonderful day.  I stood over his shoulder and snapped a few of them myself!  

If you want to see ALL of the photos I took, here is a public album I put on Facebook
(you don't have to be a Facebook subscriber to view them) 




This shot is one of my favorites that I snapped of Judy 
while they were waiting for the guys to have their pictures taken




This photo is for the folks in Florida: 
"Hi Mom and Pops!" 



The ceremony was sweet and they were all so happy.   John, always the clown, during the part where the minster asks if anyone has just cause to NOT see this couple wed, speak now.....    well, he turned around and glared around the whole room, raising one eyebrow, checking to see if anyone dared to speak!  LOL .. the place erupted in laughter at his antics.  It sure was cute and sooo typical of John! 





Yes, they were pronounced married..... 
and to kiss the bride







Dinner was served and we had a nice time chatting with Roger and Meg and Lance at our table.  Later Meg's family joined the table too.  We laughed and made the bride and groom kiss of course. 






With John being a Harley Lover, and recently buying my folk's Harley from them...     my mom found this little figurine that was soooo fitting!  She sent it up from Florida so John and Judy had it put on the wedding cake!!!









It was time for some cousin pictures.....   
First all of the Staton siblings
(l to r) Roger, Laura, Pam, Bruce, John and Dan


Next shot added in all their children who came.... 


And now they added in all the spouses and grandchildren! 


It was a fun evening of wedding festivities, laughing, telling stories, and some dancing.  These are my two favorite photos.....   the Bride and Groom tenderly dancing... and cousin Bruce dancing with his little granddaughter... .awwwwwww!



It was great re-connecting with all my "Cuzzins" again...  We swapped emails and promised to friend on Facebook pages.  We sure wished more of my own siblings had been able to come down from Michigan for the wedding too.  The stories would have been wild, and the memories shared would have been even more priceless.  It was a great time and all too soon, we had to head on home in the dark of the night.

I HATE driving at night, and even riding in the car with the oncoming headlights really hurts my eyes.  My nighttime driving is really kept to a minimum.   I kept my little LED light clipped to my seat belt and looked down to knit all the way home, instead of looking up where the headlights were.  We find that we prefer travelling in daylight now that we are over fifty.  Such old farts, huh?   Once we got off the interstate, it was easier travelling on the country roads to our house.  But then again, it's deer rutting season so we had to keep an eye out for roaming wandering Bambies crossing the road and in the ditches.  It seems as soon as you get close to the deer, they leap into the path of the oncoming cars.  The deer have *other* things on their minds than being cautious and wary of cars.   We made it home safe and sound about 11pm.  

Thanks again for letting us share 
in your celebration!







.





Friday, October 21, 2011

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Repair of our Olympian Wave 8 heater

Yup, sometimes things break.
Sometimes they break because we didn't read the directions.
Sometimes they break and need to be repaired, rather than just thrown out.

WE LOVE our Olympian Wave 8 propane catalytic ventless heater for the motorhome.  It uses no electricity or battery power. It is very frugal on the propane use.  It heats the rig up very well, and on 10 degree days, setting it on high it can just about cook you outta the motorhome.  Although it is rated safe for indoors, we also crack open window for fresh air and have a working Co detector.


Here is a link to the blog when we first got it and installed it.




When we installed it in early 2010, the directions warned us to keep it covered when not in use.  (we didn't) ...  and we later found out that the dust out west in Arizona did what was called "pad poisoning" to the delicate fibery pad on the unit.  We were in a number of dusty areas, and waited out two dust storms besides.  Even with the windows closed, you could taste dust in your mouth and feel it in your lungs. It did the damage on the heater for sure. 

By the time we were driving near Quartzite, AZ last winter, the heater would barely function or throw off any heat.  It would also kick off during operation for no reason.  Rut Roh!

Plus,  a combination of high altitude and possibly running our propane tank too low one time also caused debris to get into the inner workings of the heater when we were in Arizona.    Although the desert was warm during the days, the nights were cold and we needed the heater at night. 


From that point on, we knew we were heading up further north and needed heat while at the Grand Canyon and heat to get the rest of the way home...  so we had to pick up another heater fast.  

The Olympian heater is factory sealed and has to be sent in to the company for repairs.  Kinda hard to do while travelling on the road.   We could not afford another Olympian Wave 8 at the current price at an RV dealer in Quartzite ($550.00)   but we did stop at a nice hardware store on the main drag and found a ProCom heater for only $175.00 that would work in the meantime. We installed it that very night in the same spot that the Olympian occupied. 



Whew... we had heat again! 

This ProCom heater is similar to the Mr.Heater Big Buddy heaters--- with a radiant design and square white brick units.  10,000 BTU on HI and 5,000 BTU on LOW.  It works good and we used it the rest of the trip home, and all summer while camping.  

But we had this $500+ Olympian sitting there in the garage all summer, needing repair.  

I recently called Camco who makes the Olympian heater, and got the information for shipping it in, where they could examine our heater.  I happened to send it in the empty box from the ProCom heater and added a note saying that we are using the ProCom in the meantime, but REALLY REALLY want our Olympian back! Just so they knew we were loyal customers.  LOL 

Sadly, the warranty does not cover "pad poisoning", nor debris that comes through the propane lines. And that is exactly what they diagnosed as the problem.   So we were out of luck on a free repair under warrenty.  But they were very nice.  The cost to replace the pad was $112 in parts and $48 labor estimate.   I called them back on the phone with permission to proceed with the repairs and mentioned how much we loved our heater and how I blogged about it when we installed it, he later returned an email with a discount on our repair bill!   How nice was that?   

The heater was returned to us after repairs and we had it back here in 2 days!  

The repair guy at the factory strongly suggested two items to prevent this happening again in the future.  

One was to make a "sediment trap" to prevent unwanted gunk and debris from the propane tank to get into the heater.  It has a much more sensitive orifice opening than regular RV appliances like the fridge, water heater and stove.    He sent me this diagram:




He also strongly suggested that we get a cover for the unit when not in operation.  They sell them for about $20-25 plus shipping, available at many RV stores.   But I knew I could make something similar, and had Heather pick up some grey vinyl from Joann's on her way up here the next day.  I sewed a nice cover with magnets all around for a tight fit.  Steveio put a sediment trap on the line, installed the heater back where it belongs, and we were good to go! Ahhh that feels good! 




We put the extra ProCom heater in our house as auxiliary heating on the main floor by the dining room window.  (he added a sediment trap on there too)  This helps on our heat bill, so we don't have to run the bigger furnace as often, and is replacing an older unit we used to have in that spot. 


 It's on LOW right now as I type this on a 41 degree morning and I am quite comfy. 


Of course we sometimes throw a fire in the fireplace in the evenings, 
which helps on our household heating costs too.  


Now that I see this pic, I think that tonight will be a 
"Relax-By-The-Fireplace" night! 



Thursday, October 20, 2011

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Revisiting the Installation of our Solar Panels

I have had a number of emails lately from RV readers inquiring about our solar panel setup.   I had done some blog posts in the past when we first installed it back in April 2010.  Instead of just referring them back to the old posts, I thought I would repeat the information by copying and pasting into a new blog post for today.


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On our Safari motorhome, we originally had two OEM solar panels… one 75 watt for the big coach batteries and a smaller one for maintaining the chassis batteries.   This setup was enough to top off our four golf cart batteries, with frugal usage we could go many days with it.  But we decided to “Solar Up” with more…   and be more livable and downright extravagant once we are done!  LOL

We removed the old panels, as it’s never good idea to mix sizes.  All panels should be the same wattage. Sold the old ones off on Ebay.


THE EQUIPMENT:
We purchased four 100 watt Siemens panels,  a Blue Sky MPPT solar controller, a Trimetric gauge, and all the various cords and accessories to go along with it.  We already have four 6volt golf cart batteries installed.
solar panel install4

solar panel install5




SONY DSCsolar panel installation0
Steve made the mounting brackets out of heavy aluminum, and made them so supplementary metal rods can be wingnutted onto them to tilt them in the winter months if needed.  The panels will ride flat the rest of the year, and only add the tilting rods if we deem it necessary. He pre-fitted the brackets while the panels were still on the ground, rather than waiting till they were up on the roof.


solar panel installation1

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PREPARATION:
solar panel installation6  solar panel installation7
The location of the solar controller is very important.  The closest spot located to the batteries is the most desirable.  But it also needs to be in a protected compartment.  This one is the closest, just on the other side of the wheel well.  Once the controller is mounted here upright, the main heavy welding cable will go around the wheel well and connect to the shunt and the batteries right behind the wheel well.


WIRING:
We chose a location on the roof for the panels that would not have them shadowed by any objects on the rooftop, such as roof vents and air conditioners. The slightest shadow can hamper the panel's output.   We plan to face the front of the rig east as much as possible when choosing parking spots, so the panels are running lengthwise along our south side (passenger side) of the rig.  We already try to park this way in the hot summer to keep our fridge on the north side cooler by being in the shade.

On the passenger side of the rig is a perfect spot to run the wires down through a hole Steve will drill in the roof, through an access panel in the closet that reveals a chase for other wiring and the plumbing vent from our washer/dryer unit.   Directly below this closet is the basement compartment where the solar controller will be located.
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He got the solar controller mounted, wires and ground all hooked up too.





(this next photo added later .. now it's correctly wired and labelled and marked)




solar panel install8





Now it’s time to get on the roof and drill down, and pull through the heavy gauge wires for the panels.  Steve carries along this ladder in our rig, an Xmas present from moi.
solar panel installation14  ladder blocks0



We cut out a section of wall and installed the Trimetric Monitor gauge and the 500amp shunt used to monitor the battery condition.
PICT0010PICT0012PICT0013

The gauge is mounted in our kitchen, and the shunt is mounted under the bed close to the batteries on the negative line.  Special wires come back to the wall panel.
PICT0014PICT0002


Voila! It works!  This is like “Command Central” for seeing how many volts you have in your batteries, how many amps are being used, how much is being charged etc.
PICT0018



Let’s all sing together that James Taylor favorite:  Up On A Roof…………….
solar up part 238


And I gingerly crawled up the ladder to assist.    I HATE heights….ack!  First step was to hook the four panels together into pairs of two.
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Now they had to be wired up together and then joined to the two 8 gauge cords
solar up part 24

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solar up part 22

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Next comes the time to flip all four of the panels over and install the brackets to the roof… ohhh drilling holes in a roof can be VERY SCARY!    Once a hole is drilled, you can’t  UNdrill it!

solar up part 217





solar up part 223


We used some rather unique fasteners.   Before you get too excited seeing “plastic”, calm down.  It’s only temporary nylon guides that hold the metal toggle into place … read on:
solar up part 29 solar up part 214

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Ahhhhh  now look at that !  (about four hours later)
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Well, not quite.   Now Steveio had to hook up the wires in the solar controller and 30 amp fuse box.  Then hook the Trimetric gauge back up to the shunt and it *should* work…..

solar up part 240 solar up part 241


solar up part 242


Weeeeeheeeeeee it all works!   
And even in cloudy afternoon sky in April we are pulling 20 amps.  
Ain’t that something?



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P.S.  We find our solar panels give us ample power to do most everything we wish when boondocking (other than run the microwave or vacuum cleaner)    We run the tv's, my curling iron, recharge our cell phones and cameras, run the Galaxy Tablet, and any of the lights and water pump etc. as needed.  We have to remember to start up our  on board Onan generator once a month to exercise it, because we don't often need it now that we are solared up.


Three helpful links we found when exploring all our solar options were: 







(NOTE: SINCE THIS POST, STEVE RAN ACROSS ONE MORE 100 WATT PANEL THAT MATCHED OUR OTHER FOUR, SO NOW WE HAVE FIVE PANELS UP ON THE ROOF)