Sunset - Warren Dunes

Sunset - Warren Dunes
Sunset - Warren Dunes - Thunderheads and gulls

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park
Quetico Provincial Park

Skimming the surface for dinner

Skimming the surface for dinner
Skimming the surface for dinner

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trekking in the Fall with Winter coming

Trekking through southern Indiana a few years ago on December 7, as I recall. Yest, that was snow and ice. We did camp overnight, but with winterized tanks. Ran the propane furnace then switched to electric ceramic heater and the generator. We carry several jugs of water, 1.5 gallons or 2 gallons each.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You Purchased a Rv and are Picking it up. Now What?

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A little Reading - A few of the manuals that came with the Roadtrek
Once we have made the committment, selected the product we want and made the order, or selected it from the showroom floor, there comes the day that payment transfers hands, and a lot of papers are to be signed.

Wait a moment!

One of the big parts of this handoff ceremony is getting a walk-through of the features of your new rig. Be it a Roadtrek or whatever, these are complex vehicles. Your walk-through will serve two purposes:
  1. Provide you with training and education about your new RV
  2. Provide you with a demonstration that all of the features and accessories are working. 
Some of these vehicles are really complex. If this is your first RV, or if you had one which is more than 10 years old, you might be shocked by some of the technology in today's RVs.

Please do a very thorough checkout.

Once you take delivery, then all of the issues become "warranty issues." These are treated differently than point of sale issues. So it is best to identify any issues before taking delivery.

Once you do take delivery, you may find yourself in a long queue of people wanting service.

Some Good Ideas

Arrange for the full feature demonstration. However, also arrange to stay in the RT overnight so you get to try it and make a list a questions that occur to you during that overnight stay. You will find that the "walk-through" is fast paced. If you want a good trekking experience there are things you will need to do, and things the dealer will have to do. This post is directed to Roadtrek purchasers, but the points made work well with all RVs.

Keep in mind that the moment you drive off of the lot, you should know enough to connect to "shore power", spend the night and a day at a campground, be able to connect to fresh water,  fill the onboard fresh water tanks, switch between city water connection or tank water and operate the hot water heater. You should know how to dump gray and black water tanks. You should know what the various readouts and displays mean. You should be able to operate the refrigerator, and cook your meals. You should know how to use the thermostat and select furnace or heat pump or AC, assuming you have these. However, a lot of this will require you reading the various appliance manuals that came with your RV.

Be prepared to spend some time reading all of these manuals, and you will have to do some experimentation. That will be a wonderful exercise during your first trek. I suggest you plan one for mild weather.

So how to accomplish this in a short walk-through? You might think this is trivial, but a couple of weeks after taking delivery of our 210P we headed south to warmer weather. En route the weather changed from 50F during the day to about 5F at night. We found ourselves winterizing in a gas station as darkness fell. "Be Prepared" is a good motto for kids (Boy Scouts) and if 13 year olds can master this, so should adults. But it might be a bit more intimidating than you expect. Your walk-through is your opportunity to be educated and to be prepared.
  1. Before going to the dealer make a list of everything you ordered and every accessory. Every appliance, option on the RT, etc.
  2. If you can, download and print out a copy of the current manual from the RT website and bring it with you so you can mark it up with notes. Keep the one provided by the dealer as a clean backup. 
  3. At the dealer, review all of the documentation. Do you have manuals for all of the features and accessories of your RV?
  4. Have the dealer demonstrate everything completely to you and take notes when they do. This includes battery systems, generator, any "auto start/stop", DC power systems. 
  5. Discuss the DC fusing and the AC breakers. Look at the propane detector and CO monitor and know how to reset and test these.
  6. Ask them to show you the batteries and ask about "resets" and so on.
  7. Ask them to show you the DC contactor and point out any DC circuit breakers or other "hidden" fuses.
  8. Ask them to show you the battery isolator so you know what it is.
  9. Have any solar panel system including controller demonstrated and understand the readouts.
  10. Have any inverter demonstrated and ask about "resets" or fuses or circuit breakers it might have. 
  11. Fill the water tanks both from city water and via the door mounted fill points. Partially drain the tanks and note the operation of the tank level indicator.
  12. Have the valving demonstrated to you for operating from inside fresh tank or exterior tank (210P). Note the positions of all of the valves for this.
  13. Run fresh water via the tanks with pump and via city. Have them tell you how to isolate the hot water heater and describe and show you the anode in that heater.
  14. Ask about how to winterize and the procedures.
  15. Try absolutely everything including the macerator and dump both gray and black tanks, so you open and close the gate valves, etc.
  16. Run the propane appliances be it hot water heater, furnace and range top. Have them show you how to open and close the propane valve and where it is.
  17. Try the stereo and TV systems; bring DVD and Blue-Ray discs with you, assuming your RV has a blue ray player.
  18. Know how to switch the TV antenna from roof top to cable, or Satellite, is so equipped.
  19. Try all interior lights and all doors and latches.
  20. These are complex vehicles and treat them accordingly.
  21. Also ask about a list of optional, user provided "accessories" including water pressure regulator, water filter, and even a shore power protection device. Get their knowledgeable opinion.
  22. You don't have to jump in and buy anything until you are confident but not before taking a trek. I understand Roadtrek says you don't need a120V power protection device. Ask wny.
  23. Have some fun.
  24. Once you have taken delivery, make a list of all of the accessories. 
  25. Download pdf files of all of the accessories; furnace, hot water heater, roof fan, air conditioner, microwave/convection oven, refrigerator, water pump, macerator, TV, DVD player, TV powered antenna, etc. If you can, look for "Owners Manuals" as well as "Service Manuals" and "Parts Manuals". These will serve you well in the years ahead. 
Now you have the  basic information, head on down the road and see how knowledgeable you are.

Have Fun!

The above is based upon a September 2017 post I made on Facebook

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Piney Squirrel Neighbor

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Our summer location has had a bumper crop of pine cones this year. With them came a piney squirrel. That little critter would sit high in the tree and cut loose green pine cones. At about 6am each morning we'd be greeted with a constant "thump, thump, thump" as the squirrel jumped from branch to branch cutting lose pine cones. There was also the occasional "thwack" as a cone hit the AC.

I'd go up on the roof and clear off the sticky cones, loaded with pine sap. The trees are finally barren of green cones and the sap is reduced.  The pace of cone dropping has moderated, but I've got quite a few piles on the ground.

I've added a few photos and a short video. That squirrel can strip a cone in 30 seconds or less. Thanks to his activities, we also have quite a few black capped chickadees and other birds hanging around, picking through the leftovers.

The "roof" is not that of the Roadtrek, thank heaven. It is a travel trailer on our summer "base camp" in Michigan. That base will shortly be shut down and we'll be Roadtrekking toward the southwest. Any plans for FL and the Florida Keys are now on hold pending the outcome of the recovery after this year's hurricane season.

Saturday, September 9, 2017


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On the Bayou, after Katrina
Floated into the Bayou by Katrina

Hurricanes are dangerous. I've had the opportunity to experience two hurricanes. I rode out a Category 4 hurricane, and the eye passed directly overhead at about 2:00am. The wall has the highest winds. Was like a freight train running by that want on, and on, and on. Not fun. Afterwards I had to live off of the water in the tub for a few days. I also was in New Orleans but left on the last departing airline flight before Katrina made landfall, and then returned to assist a client in the recovery of their business.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse August 21, 2017

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It was very overcast this morning, a little sun and that quickly went away as more clouds blew into the area.

However, at 1:23pm there was a small break, not total, but we were able to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Steel Crazy - Steel Band

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Yesterday we attended an evening "Concert in the Park" at the veranda of the Wheaton, IL public library. Wheaton is the 32nd safest city in America, according to NeighborhoodScout’s 2017 list of the 100 safest cities.

The featured entertainment was "Steel Crazy" a musician/steel band from nearby Aurora, Illinois.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Comparing AGM and Lithium RV Battery Systems

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Comment added August 10, 2017; see the notes at the bottom of this post, in particular #5.

A couple of years ago, I considered swapping my AGM batteries for Lithium (LiFePO4). I looked again in January 2017 and I again decided against doing that.

What's the problem? It's simply dollars and sense.

As can be seen above, running both 200AH lithium and AGM battery systems to 80% depth of discharge (DoD) the cost of the AGMs is sufficiently less. So, while the lithium batteries are more "elegant" from an engineering perspective they may not provide more benefits and at a higher cost. Read on for the details.

Here's the background:

Battery life: Lithium 2000 cycles at 80% DoD. AGM 700 cycles at 80% DoD.

Cost for 200 AH: Lithium with BMS = $1,939. AGM = $450.

As can be seen above, here is the arithmetic:

AGM: 2100 cycles at 80% DoD requires (3) sets of batteries, or 3 x $450 = $1,350.
Lithium: 2000 cycles at 80% DoD requires (1) set of batteries at $1,939.

Conclusion: use AGM batteries, install a better battery monitor and run the batteries to 80% DoD. Compared to Lithium, save $589 while getting about the same performance and none of the low temperature headaches.

Other Considerations: 
  1. AGMs weigh more than LiFEPO4 batteries, so if I needed more than 200AH of battery capacity (more than 10 hours @ 16.8A) then I should re-evaluate an alternative to the 200AH of AGMs I have. 
  2. Installing lithium ion batteries will also require additional electronics, including a charger and an Energy Management System, at additional cost.  My AGM system includes the necessary electronics, I added a digital Volt/Ammeter, so all I have to do is replace the batteries at the required time.
  3. AGM batteries can be charged at below 32F. LiFEPO4 batteries have to be heated to be charged at 32F and below. In my case (AGM), that means no heaters and no wasted electrical energy warming up lithium ion batteries prior to charging. In my case, that makes installations simpler. I can keep the 200AH of AGM batteries in the outside compartment. I had decided that if I chose lithium ion batteries that I would install them inside the coach. I would have had to give up valuable real estate (square footage) to do that. 
  4. Because Lithium ion batteries weigh less than AGM batteries, if I really needed 400AH or so, I'd look at the volume and weight differences. But that is not currently an issue for me. 
  5. Over on social media, putting info about the relative merits of AGM batteries versus Lithium (LiFePO4) usually causes a bit of a stir. Here is my response to one social media rebuttal:  "I agree about the "light duty", but that also changes the cycles for AGMs and what' the point of buying a lot of capacity not to use it? What is missing in the chart you provided is remaining capacity and that does make a difference. The charts for the AGMs I'm using indicate about 60% capacity remaining after 80% DoD and 700 cycles. It is a known AGM characteristic that capacity does gradually decline, and by 700 cycles capacity decrease to 50-60% is usual. That certainly can have an impact on [battery] selection. Specifics may vary from manufacture to manufacturer. I used the table of the AGM battery manufacturer in my coach, and it might be accurate or not. I also based cost on the actual cost of the batteries (AGM's in my coach and the current price of the LiFePO4's I was considering). The lithiums don't include installation, which would definitely not be drop in. One other issue to beware of in AGMs is full discharge. The battery numbers vary based upon "relative" DoD. In other words, some battery specs go all the way down to 10.5 volts, which is a dead AGM battery. Other charts use relative terms in which the 0% AGM charge is 11.66V or so, which is actually about 20% DoD. Everything I've seen indicates that AGMs when fully charged generally have about 80-100% capacity which gradually diminishes. Lithium batteries also experience capacity loss, although that doesn't seem to become significant (below 80%) until about 400- 500 cycles. I'm sure there are installers who have better data based upon dozens or hundreds of installations. On the other hand, they might not want to provide data that kills the golden goose.