Notes and Comments  --  Scene #1
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How has your day been?
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Basic RV Info for the curious . . .

1971 Boles Aero 27ft Travel Trailer
    4 x 55-watt solar panels ( net about 12.4 amps max )
    Heliotrope RV-30S pwm auto-equalizing tapered charge controller
    pairs of 6-volt golf-car/cart batteries
    Heart Freedom-10   1000-watt inverter / charger

Originally began in 1995 with a . . .
1985 Chevy C20 Silverado ( 3/4 ton pickup )
    454 naturally aspirated gas engine
    automatic transmission
    camper shell for tools and stuff
    all with  216,000  miles of experience

Now I have a . . .
2007 Dodge Ram 2500 ( 3/4 ton pickup )
    diesel engine with an exhaust brake

    The choices of trailer and truck ( purchased in 1994 and 1995 ) were influenced by budget, cost effectiveness and the uncertainties of a start-up enterprise.   For the price of a new truck or a new trailer, I can provide a year or more service -- someday I will be forced to make the choice, hopefully not soon.
    The preference for a regular travel-trailer was to allow hauling tools and stuff in the truck.   The primary objective is to provide the ministry service,   and yet the living conditions have been quite adequate for a single person.

    Over three years (of the over 14 in this trailer) have been spent full-time through the winters  in the Denver CO area. With this trailer I average about one gallon per day of propane during the winter months, peak usage 1.5 gal/day ( overall between 120 and 150 gallons per year ).
    There have been occasions that I was fully dependent upon the batteries and solar panels for two or three days in a row ( including during the winter season ).

August 2008:  Yes, the day finally arrived when a replacement truck was necessary.  MATS International  ( www.MATS.org )  located an affordable 2007 Dodge RAM pickup with a diesel engine and exhaust brake - - now I can discard the boat-anchor!
    [ MATS International is a world-wide service to missionaries  provided by Covenant Auto Sales  www.CovenantAutos.com    ]


My day has been great !
    The Lord has provided yet another day in which to serve.   Perhaps in computers, perhaps in the church kitchen, perhaps helping someone repair their home/rv,     when you are ready -- there are so many opportunities to help.   May my efforts glorify Him !

So much more to tell ...

AC lights on inverter save battery?
replacing the water heater
installing an A/C
hail storm makes road slippery
boat anchor wanted, now!
baseball size wind-driven hail
Fantastic Vent service

the infamous "poopsicle"
preparing for cold weather
skirting the trailer
Trailer Trash?
Trailer Too Old?
misting cools the trailer, but ...
installing the solar system
preparing for cold weather
back-in or pull-through?
installing a new refrigerator

* * * *

    Replacing the water heater was the first major project.   At first it appeared that the leak was from the electric heating element seal. Replaced the seal, put the unit back in, reconnected the two water lines, the electrical service and the propane. Turned on the water and no leak . . . for about 10 minutes !     OK, take it all out again, remove the metal case and poke around some more, scrape off some of the gunk on the bottom of the tank and watch the water pour out of the pin-holes.   The final assessment was the aluminum tank had corroded. It was time for a completely new water heater.
    Getting a new Atwood of the same size and with both electric and propane heating was not a problem - - until looking at size of the old opening compared to the size of the new unit. The flanges that normally are on the outside surface of the trailer would easily slide into the original hole without touching. Atwood (and others) have changed the sizes of things since the late 1960s. The solution was to use aluminum flat stock to 'reduce' the size of the opening and provide a surface to which to attach the new water.

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* * * *

    Knowing that sometimes I would need to run the computers in hot weather, I had an Air Conditioner installed.   Usually I am a 'do it yourself' person - - after listening and watching the installer (who I know has many years experience), I am glad I jobbed this one out.
    The user’s manual for the trailer included drawings that indicated the pre-wired location for the AC. The installer was not so certain that there would be wire up there inside the ceiling space - - the only way to find out was to cut a hole. He did,   he reached in and found a loop of 110-volt wire and began pulling it to take out the slack. He pulled … pulled … and pulled … until the wire looped down to the floor, around his ankles and back up into the ceiling.   Yes they left enough for an AC.
    The next task was to cut the roof opening. It was at this stage that the installer began to get [..hot-and-bothered-type-term..]. The roofing is a very heavy gauge aluminum - - he found it not only hard to drill the corners, but even harder to cut straight sides with the shears.   Since I tend to bleed a lot when working on sheet metal, this was the final confirmation that I had made a good choice.
    Bottom line: all is well, the AC works when needed.     I later installed a fin-shield (looks like an expanded steel mesh) just in case there might be a low tree branch or maybe a hail storm. [This item will show up later in the stories.]

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* * * *

There is a separate page for
installing the solar system.

Here are links to two drawings of possible  RV Battery Banks  Four 12-Volt Batteries In Parallel     Six 6-Volt Batteries In Pairs

* * * *

    There have been a couple times when I was not certain about keeping control of the rig (truck + trailer) on the road.   Once was on the way up to Rocky Mountain National Park where a hail shower made a slippery road in July!     It was mid-afternoon, my younger daughter was with me as we proceeded up the road behind Boulder, a warm clear day. It looked like perhaps a small cloud with a light shower ahead - - however it was coming towards us as we moved up towards it. All of a sudden the windshield filled up and was covered with hail (about quarter-inch in size), like filling a glass with milk, faster than I could activate the windshield wipers. My daughter 'took cover' from the noise.
    I noticed as I slowed down the trailer wanted to drift to the right off the road. As long as I kept a constant pull on it the trailer would track fairly well. My concern was if I stopped the whole rig would be sitting on top of an inch of hail that would allow us to slide back into traffic and / or over the edge. So, kept moving with the objective to find a wide level spot for stopping. At a couple points the front of the truck was over the line, the back of the truck where it belonged and the trailer tail trying to copy the front of the truck: slight acceleration seemed to be the only way to keep things in line.
    The only damage from the hail was to the 28-plus -year-old vent lids. The front one was quite a puzzle to patch together with glue and shipping tape when we reached our destination. Because the lid style was no longer available, this was the opportunity to install the Fantastic Vents with thermostats.

    On another Colorado trip, I was at one point thinking "boat-anchor wanted, and now ! ".   This was when going over Wolf Creek Pass enroute to see the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.
    I could see the road ‘way down there’, and I could smell and see the smoke from the brakes. There was a turn-off into a view-point parking area - - but all the cars and RVs there looked too expensive ( as relates to the ‘hit something soft or at least something cheap’ rule ).     We did get stopped ( and probably had some reserve ) on the wide shoulder near the turn-off. Took some time to see the view, get out a snack/soda, and to allow the brakes to cool.   These hills make the idea of a diesel with exhaust or ‘jake’ brake much more interesting.

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* * * *

    One clever (and very warm) day,  without sufficient electrical service to run the air-conditioner,  I thought that I could use the excess water flow from the spring that supplied the place where I was parked.  There was over-flow onto the ground after the water had filled the tanks used for the houses and barns:  so running a misting system to cool the trailer  seemed like a good idea.  Using some drip-irrigation tubing and mist-heads,  I constructed a loop on the roof of the trailer that gently misted the entire roof and a couple of feet beyond.  After testing it for several days, it did cool the interior of the trailer by five to ten (5-10) degrees.

    It was after several weeks that I noticed something hanging down from the edge of the trailer.  It was a hard, light-brown, rock-like substance -- in fact there were quite a lot of them all around the trailer.  Closer inspection also showed ripple-like deposits on the side of the trailer.  I had created stalactites and more !
    The minerals in the water were depositing on the surface of the trailer as the water evaporated.   So, it was time to remove this 'invention' and clean up.  This took several days with 1-inch squares of sponge and an aluminum/stainless-steel cleanser (Cameo brand).  After this cleaning and polishing plus some car wax, the trailer skin was back to new looking.   So much for another 'clever' idea.

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* * * *

    Preparing for cold weather is something every full-time RV person must address.   Some simply 'vote with their feet' - - they move south to a warmer location. Others may be 'stuck' because of jobs or other obligations.
    Regardless of the climate where you are staying, many of the actions you might do to 'prepare for cold weather' can help reduce your need for heating (when it is cold out) and cooling (when it is hot out). These actions can extend the time when you don’t need to use the furnace/heaters or the air conditioner/fans. And, sometimes, there can be a cold-snap or heat-spell that breaks records for your location.     So, here are some things I do.
    Permanent modifications or equipment purchases:
1. Replace ceiling/roof vents with efficient fan vents that have built-in thermostats (eg: Fantastic Vent). These not only help cool but, more important in the winter, they help quickly reduce the moisture level to avoid damaging/annoying condensation.
2. Apply heat-tape and insulate water lines in critical areas (where normal living quarters heat does not penetrate well).
3. Install a proportional heat tape (or pad) to the black-water tank that is only minimally enclosed.
4. Apply heat-tape and the foam style pipe insulation to the primary fresh-water hose (and its in-line filter). The heat-tape is only plugged in during freezing conditions. The insulation also helps moderate the water temperature in the summer months.
5. Install a digital thermostat, one that can operate down to 40°F if circumstances require preserving propane and battery.
6. Replace most of the 120V incandescent light bulbs with the screw-in fluorescent units (some of which are even dimmable on a regular dimmer switch).
7. Install mini-blinds between the insulated/lined curtains and the windows. This reduces some heat transfer and drafts. The blinds are also good for light control when working on the computer.
8.
    Temporary changes:
1. Put up 'storm-windows'. In my case, this amounts to applying plastic film (eg food wrap) to the interior window screens that cover the entire window area.
2. If I am going to be in one place for an extended period of time, 'skirt' the trailer. This can be effective both in the winter and the summer (even though my trailer has a well insulated floor with a 'belly pan' - a full sheet of aluminum covering the bottom, attached to the underside of the frame so that none of the frame shows).
3. Put the electric mattress pad on the bed, under the regular pad, under the fitted bottom sheet. This provides a warm bed from the bottom up through the down/feather comforter. I usually turn it on a while before bedtime and turn it off before falling asleep.
4. Apply a heat tape to the bottom side of the drain hose or pipe outside the trailer (if the daytime temps will not be significantly above freezing).
5. Cover the AC outside, insert covers over the discharge outlets and seal the intake with plastic wrap (inside the AC, around the foam filter pad).
6.
    Operational (way of living) approaches:
1. Recognizing that climates include temperature swings during the day and night, set the thermostats to demand less heat (in winter) and less cooling (in summer). For the winter I use 65°F when I am in the trailer and awake, 55°F when away or asleep. In the summer, I use the vent fans until the temperature reaches 90°F and then use the AC at its minimal-work setting that approaches 80-plus (instead of 70 or less) until the temperature outside drops to the 85 level.
2. Although I have an auto-switching propane regulator set (that will switch from just-used tank to new tank),   I prefer to not be surprised by being entirely out of propane - - I leave the new tank shut-off,   I am willing to go out, turn-on and switch-over to the new tank and re-light pilots. For extended stays, I use a 100# (about 22 gal) tank as the primary source and use the trailer mounted tanks just long enough to go refill the big tank.
3.
    Of course, when boon docking (or during a protracted power failure), some of the 120V based items use too much energy to be run from the inverter (using up the batteries too quickly) for long periods of time.
    There are two types of heat tape with which I am familiar: one has a thermostat that turns on the whole tape, another has a tape body/cord that “inch by inch” adjusts its heat output to what is needed ( eg FROSTEX ). If I have occasion to upgrade to a new(er) RV, I will use the FROSTEX type throughout. It is what I used under the plastic black water holding tank and around the drain valve to avoid possibly melting the plastic when it is not full ( yuck ! ).

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* * * *

    A  "Poopsicle"  is not a typo,  it is RVer jargon for the three-inch waste water flexible drain line when in a frozen condition.  In sufficiently cold weather, the liquids will slowly accumulate in frozen layers - - if you tend towards short showers,  this may happen more quickly than you expect. 

 

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* * * *

    It was a warm June day with clear skies, a nice day to be working at home just east of Denver Colorado.  Outside the window I saw a couple of people looking towards the north - - a good excuse to take a break and see what is happening.  Low on the horizon is a very dark churning cloud:   Where did that come from?   Where is it heading?   Is it strong enough to do damage?     It kept coming closer and growing proportionately bigger, but there were no warning sirens.     Should I hook up the trailer and try to get out of its path?     Common wisdom tells us we can not outrun it   and certainly the roads limit our choice of paths while the storm is free to take "short cuts".     Since there was a significant amount of construction and other debris in the neighborhood that could take flight in a strong wind, I decided to bundle up and buckle up in my truck.   This left me watching the approaching storm cloud in my side view mirrors - - the trailer and truck were pointed south.

    A couple drops of rain hit the mirrors,  then some pea-sized hail flies by,  then a lot of Baseball Sized Hail sails over the side-view mirrors after passing the back of the trailer below the trailer roof line (about a three-foot drop in a thirty-foot flight). 

    And the noise !   That big stuff rebounding onto the roof of the truck (after hitting something else), plus the sounds of impact on nearby objects was very impressive.

    Someone went out to put a blanket over his car - - he regained consciousness just before the ambulance arrived after the storm passed.   Otherwise the storm simply caused a great deal of major structural damage, plus totaling cars and RVs. 

    Anything facing north that day in a corridor about fifteen miles long and three to five miles wide was severely damaged -- unless it was brick, cement block or plate steel.

    My trailer had not been dented by one-inch hail - - but it looks like I took a five-pound hammer to the back of it since it was hit by that wind-driven baseball sized hail.
(Pictures on Photo Page)
(Fantastic service from Fantastic Vent company is a related story.)

 

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* * * *

    "Fantastic Vent" sounds like a marketing department generated hype name - - until you have occasion to experience their service department.   After the baseball size hail storm, I needed to replace the two lids and one of the fan-blade assemblies of the two Fantastic Vent brand roof-vents in my trailer.   After spending too much on a lid at Camping World, and not being able to find a replacement fan-blade assembly,   I finally called the toll-free number at the Fantastic Vent company.   There I spoke to the owner who at first sounded angry about my purchasing a replacement lid: it turns out Fantastic Vent stands behind their life-time warranty on the lids -- even through what I would consider excessive circumstances.   They sent me two lids and a complete fan unit (so I would avoid the difficulty in removing the fan-blade from the motor) -- all at no cost to me with pre-paid UPS shipment of the old broken parts back to them.  Within two days my trailer vents were back to new.   I ended up a "happy camper" regarding those vents and the service behind them.

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* * * *

    Just like boats, travel-trailers are "female" - - we know this because we provide them with skirts as in Skirting the Trailer.     Skirting of a trailer was something we did to my grandparent’s mobile-home trailer:   enclose the space under the trailer to retain warmth, keep out the heat, keep out animals ( and kids? ), and to improve appearance. Since these trailers did not often move, the skirting ( often corrugated metal siding ) was screwed into the bottom edge of the trailer and had a on-the-ground board to secure it.
    The same concept applied to RVs will also reduce the heat loss/gain situation.   Unfortunately, we in our RVs like to move around more than the typical mobile-home owner. The materials need to be easier to carry (or replace) and, hopefully, more adaptable/adjustable to variations in the distance from the trailer to the ground.
    I have been using the 'Styrofoam' type insulation that has foil faces, usually the 3/4-inch or 1-inch thick material. I cut this to fit snugly between the trailer and the ground. Generally the snug fit is enough to keep the skirting in place, if the entire space is enclosed the wind does not get a chance to 'blow out' the insulation.   Because of the 'custom fit' cutting of the material, after use at several different locations it eventually no longer fits snugly and must be replaced.
    I have seen manufactured 'enclosures' for the space under the hitch overhang of a fifth-wheel trailer, perhaps someday someone will come up with an adjustable height skirting for the entire trailer.

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* * * *
 

    After installing the screw-in replacement fluorescent lamps (replacing the regular incandescent 60-watt and 100-watt bulbs), I evaluated the power consumption.  The 15-watts used by the fluorescent lamps (that produced 60-watts of light)  is less than the 24-plus-watts used by the tail/brake-light style bulbs in the 12-volt lighting system.  Since my trailer was built with essentially duplicate lighting (both 12-volt and 120-volt fixtures) in every area, it is reasonable to consider which to use when not connected to outside power.
    The direct 12-volts lights use more power from the battery than the 120-volt lights use when running the inverter from the battery.  It is, however, not a very wide margin -- just enough to justify the over-head of the inverter.   I have also since install more efficient 12-volt lighting (also fluorescent),  so this now becomes a matter of preference.

 

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* * * *

    I did encounter one on-campus "RV Park" where I had to convert a back-in site into a pull-through site.   The sites were among many trees.  The circular roadway through the trees was just large enough to pull my trailer the entire way around.  However, there was not enough space to maneuver my trailer back into a site.  They were all designed for pick-up-campers and 12-foot trailers.  So I managed to drive across one site into the back of my target site.   But . . . there were small humps to climb and my truck wheels spun out on the last one in the wet soil.  Finally we used a farm tractor to finish pulling me into position:  thus converting a back-in site into a pull-through.

Oh, yes!  Getting out required hooking-up at an angle, pulling part way out of the site, disconnecting and re-hooking at another angle and moving further onto the circular roadway,  then another un-hook and re-hook to get the last part of the way out. 

 

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* * * *

    There are some places that prohibit RVs that are 'too old'.   What is too old? - - some say anything ten years or over. This obviously includes mine !

What if I had purchased a brand new trailer and truck in 1994?
Right about now I would again be excluded.
    At the other extreme are those places that cater to “trailer trash”.   I have even lived in a couple combination mobile-home and travel-trailer parks that had a high percentage of 'permanent' residents that could be classed as trailer-trash.   However, the evening entertainment of watching people being chased by the cops was a bonus.
    I guess the difficulty arises in the 'subjective' evaluation of appearances as compared to an arbitrary but 'objective' standard like the 10-years-old limit.

    So just what is Trailer Trash? Although appearances may point to probable trailer-trash, I think it is a matter of behavior and attitudes.   Some people live in old (and sometimes junky) trailers due to economic set-backs, some because of economic habit, and some because of intrinsic limits.
    I have seen people in a new 3-axle Alpha fifth-wheel behave like 'trailer-trash',   and I have seen people in a single-axle 14-foot well-worn and patched travel-trailer making a new start.
    How do you recognize 'trailer-trash'?

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This page last edited: 09 August 2008