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Sunday, January 21, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS *A* and a Warm Day in Wisconsin

I am going to start off the new year with posting three of our motorhome modifications at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes:


Awning Lights and Clips:
Just about every RV in a campground has awning lights attached to the valance of their awning. Sometimes called Party Lights. Our motorhome has a fabric awning... without a thick hemmed edge on the valance. It is not the thicker plastic coated type of awnings you see on many RVs.  Thus it makes it more difficult to use regular clips or clothespins to hold on a string of awning lights.  They just slide off the edge with the slightest movement.

Over the years we have had various party light sets.... and we finally stumbled on a set of clips that worked with our awning. 

They are tiny double metal clasping types that are reminiscent of the kind our moms used to keep our mittens attached to our jacket cuffs so we didn't lose them! Made by Camco and sold in most RV stores, along with Walmart and Amazon too.  Called Camco Lantern Snaps. 

We also have some of the fabric with rubber glide tabs that slide into the groove of the awning roller, but using little S hooks was not practical either.  We do use a few if we are hanging a spinning doo dad or a little sign. 

I leave these Lantern Snaps attached permanently to the light sets (being careful to not snap through a wire) and just clamp them onto the awning when we put them up. Easy to take down in a rush for an oncoming storm, and you don't lose them on the ground because they are still snapped to the light wires yet. 

We have had various light sets over the years, and just this past summer we found this pretty set at World Market on sale. It looks so cool and patriotic! They are glass, but we put them carefully in a tote when not in use. Each is an individual light bulb and we found clear replacements in case any break or burn out.... (1 filament burned out so far after a year of use)  I like them because they are not garishly bright or a penetrating dazzle glare like LED types. 

Kinda cute! 

Alternator Woes:
Our motorhome with a 3126 Cat diesel engine has burned through FIVE alternators in the last 12 years since we have owned it. 
  • Some motorhome folks believe it is the added strain on the alternator of leaving in the morning and the added draw of having to charge up the camping (coach) batteries after being drained overnight while driving.
  • Other motorhome owners say it is from not being used every day like a car alternator.  
  • Some motorhome folks say we need a larger one than what originally came in our rig, and to stop replacing it with the same size. 
Whatever the reason, we have replaced alternators five times over the years. It is NOT fun to be stranded. We have had to drive with holding down the ''boost'' button on the dash that connects our engine (chassis) batteries to the camping (coach) batteries and running the generator to keep up the charge level to get home. If too low of a battery charge, the transmission will not shift, its electronic.   Nope not fun.

After the third one went out while down in Florida last winter, Steve even tried to rebuild it, but that didn't solve the intermittent charging problem either.  It would fluctuate and not charge steady. Then he ordered a fourth alternator while in Florida to bolt up just so we could get home.  That burned out in just 100 miles on the road.

Obviously, that still didn't solve the problem so we ran jumpers from coach batteries to chassis batteries to get home. We ran the generator the whole way for 1,300 miles. Whew.... And I might want to mention also that the inverter which changes our coach battery power from 12 volt DC to 120volt AC was acting goofy too.... Hmmmm?

This leads us to a sub subject also starting with the letter A is
Access to Our Engine Compartment:
When Steve does this kind of work, we are fortunate that our whole king sized bed lifts up for access to the engine compartment.  Motorhomes with bedroom slides usually only have trap doors and acceess holes to reach things from above the engine. That is why many semi truck places do not want to work on motorhomes, or charge a higher labor rate per hour.  We do not have a bedroom slide out unit, so our entire king bed lifts up insead.

The compression struts have long ago given out, so he lifts up the bed and also supports it with an extra prop pole that is really a cargo retaining rod for delivery trucks (found at Harbor Freight around $15)

Okay.. back to the alternator and what we found out was REALLY the problem....

Once we got home, we chatted with a local guy who rebuilds alternators.  He said we should replace the alternator again with a brushless larger one, they run in the $300 range but he had one on the shelf for $160. He said all the semi trucks with Cat engines were going to this one. It cost more but we decided to try it.

Since the fourth alternator was a fairly newly rebuilt,  we were perplexed as to why it was not putting out enough amps. It was intermittent, sometimes 12 or 12.5... and other times 13 or higher. He said he would bench test that one for us.... and hooked it up.  I got to watch and learn.  It was not putting out a charge of course.  He took off the rotor section to test and the regulator was shot as well as some other parts inside.  All the diodes were burnt right off, like over fried from something back feeding! 

He said to go home and test our isolator.  That is an electrical unit that splits the power from the alternator and sends it either to the chassis batteries or the house batteries, but doesn't let them bleed over into each other. Well, Steve bypassed the isolator on the chassis battery post by putting all three wires onto one post just to hold them together.  

BINGO!   that was it!   The isolator must have been malfunctioning and back feeding into our alternators and burning them out. The rebuild guy said that is how the others got fried. It made sense.

Nobody locally carries isolators, so we had to place an order on Amazon to get one delivered in a few days. 

Here is the old isolator... it is mounted on the wall in the engine compartment which is open to the dusty road and dirty diesel engine.  That is probably 20 years of accumulated dirt on it. LOL...

NOCO IDG200HP   $55.27 from Amazon

 Steve hooked up the wires and double checked and triple checked each one....
  •  2 wires on the left are to the chassis batteries and solenoid boost switch on the dash...
  •  (next post is skipped)
  •  the center post is the alternator and the engine clock. 
  • The far right post is for the chassis (house) batteries.
Everything is working properly... even the inverter!  

Whatever was back-feeding with the old isolator is now corrected.
Whew....  and since then everything has been fine as frogs hair.

Here is my third A hint:
Awning Arm Trick for Cleaning: 
Cleaning an RV awning is not a fun job, but it needs to be done a couple times a year.  We found out this little trick for making it easier. Of course you can lower your awning like this to scrub the underside. 

But here is the trick to reach the topside.  Unhook your awning arms where they attach to the side of the rig.  Now carefully lower them down so they can slide underneath the body of your RV! 

Now you can easily reach the topside surface, scrub it with a long handled broom or 
brush on an extension pole, and easy to spray off with a hose! 

P.S. We clean our fabric awning with mild car wash soap.
Some folks with the plastic coated awnings find that
Bleche-White automotive tire cleaner works well for them. 


Now for some regular stuff....  I am feeling better and better as the weekend goes on. I think I have this bout of pneumonia licked (knock on wood).

We were amazingly warm yesterday, up to low 40's... and today will be the same. It was sooo warm that Steveio decided to wash the car and tracker right in our own driveway.  We have an override valve on our exterior house faucet that allows us to run hot water out to the hose from the water heater in the house. This type of weather is something that doesn't normally happen in January in Wisconsin, that is for sure.

(look at that sad motorhome in the background....)

Big Lake Winnebago is still frozen over, but I would not trust the ice to go out on it.
(although a whole community of crazy ice fishermen do....)

It was so warm out with the sun shining, that the dogs and I sat out in the front porch for a while. It was almost 60 degrees in there with the sun's solar rays coming in.  We love the front porch, and usually only use it as a 3 season room.  This warm spell lets us enjoy a day or two out there in mid winter.  A cup of coffee, the weekly paper, and a couple cuddle pups makes for an enjoyable afternoon.

Since it was so warm, I decided that those same cuddle pups could use a bath.  They take a good half day or so to dry, and that would mean chilled dogs if it was sub zero going out for potty breaks.  Taking advantage of the warm temps while we can, but they didn't really think so....

Just look at the ole "stink eye" coming from both of them!  LOL!!!!

Steve lifts them out and we wrap them up in towels, 
like a couple of green burritos on the floor.
It prevents their shaking off their coats and splashing water all over the laundry room. 

They lay down like that for about 15 minutes and then get up 
and want to roll around and act goofy---
racing around the house until they are dry. 

Steve spent the evening with his brothers at a charity event hockey game up in Green Bay, supporting teachers and helping to donate for school supplies.  Great cause and they had some good Brother Bonding Time together.  While they were gone, I worked on my newest quilt.....  I was tucked away in my sewing room for the evening with no interruptions.  I had The Property Brothers playing on the tablet, and a couple doggies playing with toys at my feet. 

My retreat-  we made the extra bedroom into a sewing room for my quilting frame and machine

This is a coffee themed quilt, with center motifs of various coffee prints from fabric that I won in a drawing from a quilt shop in Clinton, WI called Twin Turtle Quilts http://www.twinturtlequilts.com  

It is made in log cabin technique, and I am almost done with all 72 blocks.  Here are five rows put together in strips of 9 blocks each. It will be 8 rows across when completed. and be a generous queen/king size.  I might sell it, so if you are interested, email me at pfundt@gmail.com before I post it in my Etsy shop. Once I put them on there, they go fast! 

We are looking forward to another day today of warm temperatures. I might even feel good enough for a walk with the dogs. The sidewalks are dry and free from ice and snow.  We have a bit of steamy fog out there this morning, but later on the sunshine should burn through.  Amazing weather for January in Wisconsin, that is for sure!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS *A* Air Intake, Air Horn and Awning Lock

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications in alphabetical order. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will share them with you RV blog readers!

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes:


Air Intake Relocation:

Our air intake for the air cleaner is located in the rear of our diesel motorhome, as most are.  But the problem is that it is located UNDERNEATH the motorhome by the engine. Things get pretty dirty and dusty back there, especially with driving on any dirt or gravel roads, out in the desert, or just around blowing winds from newly plowed farm fields. You ever see a dirt devil over loose soil? 

Steve measured and figured and futzed around... and soon he said he was ready to cut!! OH MY!  Cutting into the fiberglass on our vintage motorhome is pretty scary (to me) but he was not daunted in the least.  He grabbed his drill and made four pilot holes and used a sabre saw to cut out the rectangle. 

Here is his crazy looking inner workings for the intake vent.  It looks very rigged, but it works. Thankfully it is hidden up inside the back engine compartment and nobody can see it. LOL  PS he said that is super duper heat resistant aluminum fibered duct tape.

With a little bit of sputtering, partial swearing, and a few bruised and scraped knuckles, he got it into place.   Laying in the driveway is how Steve does most of his projects. Of course we do not have a garage space large enough to pull it inside. I am the ''gopher'' to bring him tools, take the pics, and basically support and encourage him as he does a great job.

And there it is...  all complete!  He sprayed a regular steel household vent grid with silver paint to match the motorhome color scheme.  It would have been impossible to match the blue, so he went with the silver to go along with the stainless steel lower compartment doors.

I am pleased to report that it has been 8 plus years since we changed the configuration.  It has lessened the need to replace the air filters as often because this reconfiguration works so well. The little filter minder device is only showing a small amount of dirt picked up since the replacement, so our air flow is fine. Engine temps are fine.  (on edit: we did replace the air filter about 2 years ago, so we got a long life out of the first one since Steve did this change) 

Air horn button on passenger side:
This one is a recent improvement. You are going to think it is really STRANGE.... but it is a great idea--- And it works!!  

See.....  when you are in a long long rig, with a towed vehicle behind, you can not just whip over to another lane to avoid the merging idiots who do not seem to see you.  Countless times we have had idiots who cannot merge safely into traffic.  They are immersed in their cell phones, their coffee, their GPS settings or whatever.  They cruise right alongside of us, mindlessly involved in their own little world, going the same speed until they suddenly run out of pavement from their on ramp!  We have had soooo many close calls of possibly having them crease right down the side of our rig.  We do not want to go through the trouble of being laid up for weeks to have have our rig repaired, or trying to match the stainless steel doors and paint, nor cause injury to other folks around us if we did have an accident with a dumb merging idiot. Not to mention the insurance hassles and down time during precious vacation hours to get it fixed! 

Usually Steve does not have room to move over to the left, and we find ourselves struggling with either trying to rapidly slow down or speed up to try to avoid the collision with the idiot who does not know how to merge.  ARGGHHHH   

I swear they just do NOT see us! We are blue on top and silvery/grey on the bottom. I think they think we are sky and pavement????

When this happens, Steve is busy looking in the mirrors, driving straight ahead to stay in his lane, but trying to see if he can move, trying to see the tiny car in his almost blind spot on the passenger side, etc., that he does not always have time to beep the air horns to wake up the idiot.  

I warn him to blast the horn, but he does not always have time....  when he does, it does help!  It wakes up the person who suddenly either speeds up and cuts in front of us, or drops back to safely merge behind us. 

Ssoooooooo to help with this tension filled event, Steve installed an extra horn button on MY side of the rig!  Seriously!!!

I can look down out my passenger window and determine if the person needs a blast to wake up and realize we are there!  Our dual air horns blast out sounds similar to a big ocean liner.... and it is enough to get their attention before we are both in an accident.  It is the GREATEST thing ever and so far it has saved us twice since he installed it.

Plus, it is kinda rewarding to see the idiot suddenly realize we are there and look up and react --- and either look stupid or sorry .... or worst of all angry!  Then they drop back, intending to swing around us to quickly to flip us off as they speed by. But then they meet up with our towed Tracker behind us, which makes them having to back off even more to get around behind us.  By now, they are pretty ticked and zoom up alongside of Steve to flip him off.  He smiles broadly and waves a nice wave at them.  No sense giving them the satisfaction of getting US mad... right?  

Awning locking rod:
The awning on our Safari motorhome has a ribbed aluminum cover to help protect the awning during travel. But it is possible for the awning to unwind by accident during travel. This has happened to many people over the years and once to my parents while driving on a cold rainy windy sleety winter night on an interstate. Traditional arm locks are not enough. Yes, their awning unfurled and it was dangerously flapping out like a sail into the next lane! They had to carefully pull over in the dark, and examine the damage that had ensued.  My folks were in their 70s and had no choice but to try to fix it and get off the dangerous section of the interstate where they were pulled over. They could not just roll it up, the arms had bent in the process. Now, while in the dark and wind and rainy sleet weather, they had to crawl up on the roof and strap it up around their air conditioners and vents to be able to finish their journey.  

After that happened to them, Steve started thinking.  He came up with this: 

I am pleased to say it works perfectly
and we have never had an unfurling 
in the past eight years since he made this for our rig! 

(stay tuned for more motorhome modifications in my next blog)

We had some very very cold weather last week... and some interesting sub zero frost designs appeared on some windows that face south.  The damp moist winds from the south turned suddenly very cold and the moisture froze in the most interesting patterns.  This was only on the south side of the house, not on the east, north or west. 

Take note.. these are on the outside of the windows, not inside of our house. LOL! 

We were sure to stay in, cozy and warm during those subzero days. Besides my suffering from pneumonia, Steve was also not feeling so well.  The doggies cuddled with us in bed, and made sure we were well taken care of!

And last up, I will share a recipe for some GREAT soup I made... 

Zuppa Toscana (better than Olive Garden!)
1 lb. Italian sausages (use spicy to get that signature Olive Garden flavor)
4-6 russet potatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c. REAL bacon pieces (optional)
2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 c. kale or Swiss chard, chopped
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp flour
1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan.
2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices.
3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.
30 minutes before serving:
5. Mix flour into cream removing lumps.
6. Add cream, kale, and bacon to the crock pot, stir.
7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly.
8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
Image may contain: food

Here are pics of mine. 
I did it long and slow on the stove 
instead of the Crock-Pot or pressure cooker. 
I did chopped spinach instead of kale or swiss chard.
 The house smells great!!!

Clawed My Way To the Top and Upcoming Travel Decisions

Whew! After almost three weeks of pneumonia, and after 3 different courses of antibiotics and some steroids thrown in for good measure, I THINK I am getting better!

Clawing my way to the top of the deep fog is how I feel today. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and starting to feel "normal" for whatever that is worth for me.  hahahahaha

I am still going to lay low and be a hermit for a while, until this flu outbreak passes. The LAST thing I need at this time of my healing is to get the flu.  The doc said to avoid any crowds, wash hands and get plenty of rest.  Heck, even the stylus for signing the tablet each time I went for Xrays is probably caked full of flu germs.  I slathered myself with the antibacterial solution multiple times at each step of the process when going in for the xrays three times last week.  Touching elevator buttons, door handles, ATM buttons and checkout stylus for signing at registers is also a no-no. (especially at the pharmacy counter!) Probably better to hang out inside my own house and keep away from any flu bug possibilities.

Now for the other part of my title....  Upcoming Travel Decisions!

Steve and I had a long talk about upcoming travel plans.  Usually we head south or out to the desert this time of year for 6-7 weeks. Leaving winter in Wisconsin and getting south is tricky, timing ourselves to weather tracking, clear pavement and time off work.  This year could be different, we could leave anytime now that Steve is retired.  Also, Steve's job driving for the county is flexible and he can leave for periods of time and come back to work again.  But......  we may not leave for any trips this winter.

Steve's elderly dad is moving from one house to another. We have been helping with some of the steps to get his possessions transferred.  We helped with some of the garage items, vehicles and garden equipment.  Next will be the delicate and breakable things. It's 70 miles from us to get over to his old house, then 150 miles to his new house, and then 120 miles back to our house.   So that totals to 340 miles round trip each time.

The Big Move of most of the household stuff is coming up in early February, so we are going to be assisting with that as well.  He is using a moving company for a lot of it, but needs our help with the supervising, loading, unloading, placement etc. Getting him settled in the new house, in the middle of winter is going to be exciting.  They just got 25 inches of snow there last week, and more to come of course.

Steve and I decided to save our pennies and take maybe two trips this upcoming spring and fall instead.  We don't ever get out west to see the northwestern states.  So perhaps we will do that instead?    He also mentioned a trip to our friends in Tennessee and spend a week or two.  Hmmmmm


But of course, if the winter doldrums set in, and once his dad is moved and settled, there IS a chance we might just hop in the rig and leave and head south to some warmth (and healing sunshine?) for us.  Our friends out in the southwest keep beckoning us to come on out. They are saving spots for us at a desert hot springs, a great boondocking spot, or a location by their land they own.  Ya never know?

Here are some of the trips we have taken, with our Microsoft Streets and Trips leaving mouse trails of where we have been....

I know for my RV blog readers, my blog has gotten boring and nothing much about RVing.  I see the RV readership is dropping off. But I am going to fix that now.  I am going to redux some blogs I wrote a few years back.... all about the motorhome modifications from A to Z in our rig!

I will intersperse them with some blog posts about Campground Reviews that I do of each place we have been.  Now I will have some interesting blogs for my RV readers. 

As for my fiber readers, I am working on a quilt and will soon have pics of it as I put it on the big frame to get it quilted and finished.  I am also knitting socks, weaving rugs and towels, and playing with my spinning yarns.

Steve has a few ideas of projects for Our Old House: maybe repainting the back hallway with some fresh paint.  Thinking of some trim ideas to dress up the exterior this spring,  And maybe even some more organizing and detail work in his garage to make more of a workshop area?   We will see.....

Anyhow, stay tuned for some upcoming blogs now that I am feeling better!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


You betcha...  pneumonia. Ugh!

I am clawing my way up to the surface of fog to type a blog this evening.  A Blog Fog??

I have been down and out for over a week now.  My cold (lovingly shared from the grandkids before New Years) had turned in to pneumonia. Of course.  I knew it would.

It's only about my 23rd or 24th time having it.  Back two or three years ago we totalled up the doc visits and had 21 times in my records.  Not fun.  Since my lungs were compromised in 2002 in a chemical burn spill, they manage to be susceptible to pneumonia, I was on oxygen for a long time.  The lungs slowly heal, but are still weakened and always will be.  My pulmonologist said that for me, the pneumonia shot does no good.

So after two doc visits and xrays, back again to get even two stronger antibiotics and steroids, I am now working my way through it.  Steve has been a wonderful help, and has taken care of everything so I can rest.  He has been plying me with fruits, juices, crackers and frozen sherbet fruit popsicles. He has our whole house humidifier cranked up to keep me comfy. AWWWWW  I try to sleep when he is gone driving for the county.

But I am pouting.  Feeling sorry for myself.  I am sleep deprived. I have no energy. I wheeze and whistle and gurgle and make bubbly crackly sounds inside my lungs. The noise is in my throat and my ears on the inside. It keeps me awake. I play the tv loud enough to drown it out so I can sleep. It's like cellophane crinkling.  It's called "rales":

  • Rales. Small clicking, bubbling, or rattling sounds in the lungs. They are heard when a person breathes in (inhales). ...Crackling or bubbling noises (rales) made by movement of fluid in the tiny air sacs of the lung.

And all the coughing has my ribs and muscles just aching and sore.  Soothing baths help some. Sitting up does the best so I can keep the lungs as clear as I can.

Fun, huh?

In the last ten days, we did manage to take down all of our Christmas decorations.  Bit by bit. I would do a few things at a time, then go rest. A few more, and go rest.  I am glad we splurged on 8 new green tote bins with red lids.   Now that we added the new shelves to the garage, we can put these totes out there.  Steve did all the work and carrying.  All I did was toss things in the totes.  Ha.

We sealed each tote with shrink wrapping to keep out any unwanted bugs or spiders or flies, since they will be in the garage for the next 11 months.

These lightweight totes will all go on Steve's new suspended racks in the garage.  This will free up more room in the closet in my sewing room, which previously had been packed almost floor to ceiling with Christmas stuff.

Steve took down the tree once I got it all undecorated.  The foyer looks so empty now.  I keep expecting to go through the pocket doors and see the tree all aglow.  Oh well, next year.

Steve went out and took down all of the outside lights
from on the house and the little pine tree,
 and put away the cords and timers.
It looks so dull and bare now out there too. 

Boy, I sound like a Debbie Downer, don't I? I should be thankful. I might try to do some knitting. Maybe some quilting. I have just been laying around watching tv and trying to breathe.

Check out my two nurses???  They give 24/7 care and are covered by our insurance plan.  Pay is cheap. Dog food, treats, and pats on the head. Even a belly scratch every now and then.  They follow me all around, keeping an eye on me. They wait by the shower or the bathtub while I steam to open my lungs.  They are VERY eager to see what I don't feel like eating after each meal, helping to clean up. Good team, eh?

This too shall pass.