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I Gotta Get Outta Here

 

I gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta get outta here
I gotta, gotta get outta here
I’m gettin’ the message, it’s totally clear
Yeah, I really gotta get outta here – Alice Cooper – 

 

After listening to the weather report this morning I can’t get Alice Cooper’s chorus out of my head. Snow, ice, freezing rain, power outages, brutal cold were all mentioned by my morning weather guru Todd Gutner.

I’m not kidding!

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One more doctor appointment to get through on Jan 2.

The weather won’t stop us

Mice won’t stop us

Shiny’s door won’t stop us

Glaucoma won’t stop us

Medial Meniscus tear won’t stop us

Sing with me now! I gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta get outta here ……..

Addendum:

The Forces seem to be against us. We now have to contend with this obstacle. Geez….

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Must Have Gadget # 7 weBoost

weBoost Drive 4G-X 470510 Cell Phone Signal Booster

Shiny makes an excellent Faraday Cage. That’s not good if we want to use our cell phone for accessing the internet or making a phone call from inside our aluminium acropolis. There is only one option that I can think of to alleviate this electromagnetic impediment and that is an external antenna.

First I needed to decide what type of antenna to get. Then I got thinking if I was going to go through the trouble to mount an external antenna I might as well boast the signal while I’m at it. After hours, and I mean hours, of research I decided to go with a weBoost 4G-X system. I went with the regular car/truck model. They do make a weBoost kit for RV’s but the antenna mounts on a ladder which Shiny does not have.

I could think of some problems that I was going to have with this installation. How would I mount the magnetic antenna on Shiny’s aluminum roof? How was I going to run the cable along the roof and tie it down? The weBoost comes with a 12 volt power cord and requires a 12 volt power supply (cigarette lighter) which Shiny is without. And finally how was I going to get the antenna cable inside of Shiny without drilling a hole in the hull.

Here’s the accessories I ended up buying to accomplish these tasks:

3/4″ Adhesive Backed Mounting Bases with 4″ Cable Ties

Gorilla Heavy Duty Mounting Tape, Double-Sided, 1″ x 60″

AC to DC Power Adapter Charger

1/2 inch grommet (from the local hardware store)

1 1/2 cable management grommets

To be honest, I was really dreading this installation. In reality Sue and I performed the installation in under and hour and with ease.

The first job we tackled, and the hardest,  was the antenna. Hardest only because someone, namely poor Sue, had to get up on the roof. Being a big guy I was certain that if I tried to get up on Shiny’s roof there was going to be a hole much bigger then 1/2 inch.

In any case, after seeing how other people solved the problem on Airforums, I decided to run the antenna cable down through the refrigerator vent. One not so warm day we got to work. From the ladder I drilled a 1/2 inch hole in the side of the refrigerator vent on the roof. I then went inside and drilled a 1 1/2 hole with a hole saw in the cabinet above the refrigerator. Back up on the ladder I pushed the cable down through the 1/2 inch hole while Sue pulled the cable in through the 1 1/2 inch hole in the cabinet above the refrigerator with a bent wire. It worked slick!! Sue then got up on the roof and using the two sided Gorilla tape found a nice spot for the antenna and using the adhesive mounts and tie downs ran the cable neatly along the roof to the refrigerator vent.

Here’s what it looked like after we were done on the roof.

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The tie downs I bought worked nice. Disregard the pine needle. 🙂 We used a little Gorilla tape for added support where the cable entered the vent.

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We then drilled another 1 1/2 hole through the cabinet wall just above the TV. I ran the inside antenna and power cord. Then I mounted the inside antenna above the TV.

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Mounted the booster on the inside wall of the cabinet with Gorilla tape.IMG_2025

Guess what? It works! Before we plugged the weBoost in we had just one bar on our cell phones. After putting juice to the booster we had 4 bars. We’re happy Streamers.

Previous Gadget Expenses     $2774.00
weBoost                        480.00
AC to DC Power Adaptor          17.00

Total Gadget Expenses        $3271.00

 

Meniscus Viscous

As my old neighbor, Sam Rouleau, use to say, “well shit a God damn“. Sue does not like me using that phrase but I feel it is totally appropriate here.

The first week in November, after working in the wood pile for several days, I woke up in the middle of the night with my right knee throbbing and I was unable to bend it. My first thought was total knee replacement and then I am going to leave the first week of January in Shiny even if I’m on crutches.

On the 10th of November I limp into my primary care physician’s office. Doc Badman orders up some x-rays which I had done the same day.  His office called the next day saying no bone damage and the next step would be an MRI. Like 90 weight oil (hence the word viscous) it took nearly a stinkin’ month for Federal Blue Cross and Blue Shield to approve the MRI! I have read that opponents to a single payer healthcare system say the Canadian system is too slow. Ya right.

Meanwhile my damn knee is killing me! Out of desperation I did some knee brace research online. I found a website called betterbraces.com.  They had a little tree that you went down asking which knee, where it hurt and so on. At the end they recommend a certain brace for your problem. It happened to be Black Friday and there was 45% off  that day so the brace was only going to cost me $47. I took a chance, bought the brace and added 2nd day shipping for $5.

It was the best $52 I’ve ever spent!! Immediate relief. It didn’t cure anything but it supported my knee enough so I could go on short walks and walk around the house.

Finally I get the approval for the MRI on December 1st. The insurance company called and asked me to have it done at Huggins Hospital instead of another hospital that was closer because it was half the price. I was ok with that and it turned out to be a Godsend because everything happened so quickly at Huggins. Did I mention we’re leaving in Shiny in January?

In very quick succession, everything taking place at Huggins Hospital, MRI on the 4th, diagnosis of medial meniscus tear on the 5th, appointment with the Orthopedic surgeon on the 8th, and Arthroscopic surgery on the 15th.

Now here I am on the 16th writing this blog post with my very sore knee elevated and iced. My loving wife waiting on me hand and foot.

Maybe I won’t need crutches after all. But if I do, shit a God damn, we’re hooking up Shiny the first week in January and we are heading south.

I am a lucky guy.

Must Have Gadget #3 Honda

Honda EU2000i 

There is a lot of contention out there on just what is the best generator for an RV. Some people say forget the Micro-Air EasyStart/small generator and get a big wattage rig that will handle the air conditioning/microwave/hot water load. Some advocate buying two small generators and hooking them together for more wattage. Some like gas models, some like propane models. Some like combo generators that can use either gas or propane. All will work.

It comes down to what the individual prefers. I want a small generator that is easy to move around which means I also need the EasyStart. I don’t want to lug gas cans in the bed of my truck all over the country which means a generator that runs on propane.

I decided on a Honda EU2000i from GenConnex. I own a Honda lawn tractor, a Honda wood splitter, and a Honda water pump. Never had an issue with any of them so I went with the Honda generator. With shipping it cost us $1790, again not pocket change. But I’ve got a rig that weighs in at only 49 pounds, is very quiet, and with the EasyStart will run the air conditioner. Even more slick is that it connects right into the front of Shiny via a gas hose quick connect. Sweet!

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that almost right off the bat I had a problem. The day I got it, I hooked it up to Shiny and it ran wonderfully. I had it running for about 45 minutes checking to see what worked inside, charging the batteries, and running the air conditioner. Everything worked perfectly. About two weeks later I took it up to a remote cabin in Maine intending to run it off a 20 lb propane tank. It ran for about 5 seconds and then sputtered and stopped. I tried everything to get that rig running to no avail. When I got home I e-mailed GenConnex and they informed me about a spark plug cap issue that they had just learned about from Honda. You can read the whole story on this thread I started in Airforums.

It was a minor problem and and the local Honda dealer took care of it. I am still quite happy I went with the Honda.

Oh, and before I forget, if you do decide to go with a propane converted Honda from GenConnex, make sure you ask them to send the high altitude orifice. It’s for altitudes 5000 feet and above and it’s free!

Prior Gadget Expenses     $819.00
Honda EU2000i             1790.00

Total Gadget Expenses    $2609.00

 

 

Must Have Gadget #2 EasyStart

Micro-Air EasyStart

We’re leaving in January for warmer climates. Other than getting somewhere warm as quickly as possible so we can dewinterize the aluminum palace, we do not have an itinerary.  My crystal ball told me that there are going to be times where our Zamp solar package just isn’t going to be adequate. My fear was boondocking in the heat of a desert somewhere and no way to run the air conditioner or being in someplace like Alaska during an extended period of rain.

The answer was some sort of a generator. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to have to lug gas cans thousands of miles in the bed of my truck. I don’t want some giant monstrosity that’s too heavy to move around and sounds like a 747 taking off.

After hours of research I decided we needed a small inverter type generator that would run on propane. The problem with a small generator is that it will run an air conditioner but won’t start it. The amperage draw the air conditioner compressor needs to start up is too much for a small 2000 watt generator, like what I had in mind.

I found the answer to this problem in the Micro-Air EasyStart.  There is a whole lot of discussion about the EasyStart in Airforums. Here is a thread to start you off. Do a search for Micro Air for much more discussion. This post quickly explains how the EasyStart works and if one should elect to purchase there is a $40 coupon. $259 isn’t pocket change. But the money I don’t have to spend on a bigger generator makes it well worth it. I should mention that if anyone elects to go with the Easy Start I recommend also buying the $10 installation kit. It’s got all the tie wraps, connectors, etc you need to do the installation.

Speaking of the installation, I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about doing this myself. I was reassured by many posts on Airforums of people saying how easy it was to install. Also Micro-Air has a manuals and resources page that includes a YouTube video and installation instructions for the Penguin II air conditioning unit on top of Shiny.

In the end I recruited the help of my good friend Jim Bohan. Took us about 1 hour and really wasn’t that bad. Getting Jim up on the roof was the hardest part. 🙂

Prior Gadget Expenses   $550.00
Micro-Air EasyStart      259.00
Installation Kit          10.00

Total Gadget Expense    $819.00

 

 

 

Well Shiver Me Rivets

We don’t need another reason to head to warmer climates. Nevertheless, we have one. Shiny DOES NOT like the cold.

The main door on Shiny has always been a bit hard to close. When it gets down to 40 degrees or lower it just won’t shut. All the slamming in the world does nothing but loosen rivets. The only way to get it shut is to gently close the door, put both palms on the door just over the latch, then very firmly press in. But….. then you can’t open it. Something is going to break.

In addition, both the grey water and the black water valves will not open or shut when it’s cold. I had left both valves open after winterization and water must have frozen (despite the anti freeze) blocking the gate valves from closing. The thought of driving down Interstate 81 leaving a trail of unmentionables is not appealing.

While standing next to the shivering barge of rivets, I swear I could hear a voice saying “for all that’s green on God’s great earth, can we please head south!“. I wish we could but we have appointments until the 1st week in January so our tentative departure date is January 7th. I’m pretty sure that our daughter, Brooke and her husband, Dan, who have moved in and will be house sitting while we full time in Shiny, would like to see us head out early as well.

Getting back to the door. I was perusing Airstream Addicts on Facebook and came across a thread about a woman getting ready to take off on a trip and her door wouldn’t shut. Lots of folks posted trying to help this damsel in distress. One post got my attention. It talked about adjusting the door striker. I grabbed a 3/4 inch boxed end wrench and after prying open the door, backed off on the striker one turn. Voila, the door shut perfectly and Shiny breathed a sigh of relief.

I ended up removing the striker and adding a thin washer behind the one already there. Most importantly the Bride approved the fix.

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On a warm day I got both gate valves closed and closed they will remain! I’m confident that the Bride will approve this fix too.

Shiny patiently awaits us.

 

 

 

 

Must Have Gadget #1 Zamp

Zamp 160 Watt Portable Solar Kit

There is no end to the sometimes expensive but must have gadgets that I think we need to survive if we are to full time in Shiny.

As a fiddler I love to go to Old Time music festivals. We can spend a week or more boondocking in the middle of a field. Sue and I are pretty conservative when it comes to amp hour usage. We use flashlights at night instead of the lights in Shiny for instance. One thing we don’t skimp on is the electric water pump as the use of public porta johns can be rather REPULSIVE! In any case the two 12 volt deep cycle batteries in Shiny will last about 3 days before the need of recharging. We try not to discharge the batteries more then 50% as damage to them will occur if they are drained more than that.

A generator is not feasible at Old Time music events because of the close proximity to  other festival attendees, most of whom reside in tents.

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Also, come January we plan on doing a whole lot of boondocking so some sort of solar array was imperative. Well, at least as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

This leads me to our first must have gadget accusation. A Zamp 160 Watt portable solar panel kit. We paid around $650 for it. Truth be told we already had a Renolgy 100 Watt suitcase which we paid about $160 for. It was adequate for the job but one day on the way to Mt Airy in May of this year it stopped charging. So we bought the new Zamp at more then four times the price of the old Renolgy. The only difference between the two (besides quality, wattage and weight) is that I had to use alligator clamps right on the batteries while the Zamp has a handy dandy connector that connects directly to Shiny.

My friend Cliff Riggs told me that I was taken in by the warning sticker on the front of Shiny which states “Only use Zamp …”.

zamp

 

The idea that I was a fool was reinforced when I discovered that the only thing wrong with the Renolgy was a blown inline fuse. Can you say DUMB!

BTW, I e-mailed the Airstream dealer and they wanted $2350 to install a 160 watt solar array on Shiny’s roof. Ouch! They said;

160W solar panel pkg install is $2350.00, that does not include the upgrade of AGM batteries. You do not have to upgrade your batteries to the glass mat batteries unless you intend on doing alot of boon-docking. The AGM will take a faster charge and have a longer draw life. The AGM’s are $250.0 each.”

We decided to hold off on the AGMs until we need to replace the Deep Cycle batteries that came with Shiny.

I was able to sell the Renolgy setup at Mt Airy for $100 so I recouped some of my money. If I knew then what I know now I’d have most likely spent the buck on a new fuse and still be dealing with the alligator clamps.

That being said, I do love the Zamp. It’s far better constructed and more rugged then the Renolgy. We were 12 days boondocking at Mt Airy with sun on the Zamp only from 2:00 pm on and it kept the batteries well charged. It stores nicely in Shiny’s closet with a shower curtain rod holding it in place.

If you have a late model Airstream, looking for a portable solar system, and starting from scratch, then go for the Zamp if you can afford it.

Zamp 160W Solar Kit   $650.00
Renolgy Solar Kit     -100.00 

Total Gadget Expenses $550.00

 

 

 

Those aren’t chia seeds

We had a little surprise when we got Shiny, our beloved Airstream, back from the repair shop where some warranty work was ably performed. I opened the silverware draw and there were chewed up packets of parmesan cheese and little deposits from some furry friends. After my initial dismay and revulsion, I had to laugh. The image of cheese in an aluminum packet, in a drawer, in an aluminum encased trailer, in an aluminum sided building came to mind. Such a fortress was no match to a pair or two of mice.

Given my Irish heritage, I am bound to see a sermon in this little story. It goes like this – Life is going to happen. It is going to get up close and personal. It doesn’t care how many layers of shiny reflective, protective gear you put up. And, it’s messy and stuff happens.

The waiting time for a big getaway is hard (in a first world sort of way). We entertain ourselves with internet searches of cool places. We have been having fun reading about Shunpikers and the fascinating blog Streaming Thru America.

Getting ready to hit the road!

Larry and I sure never thought we’d be able to be planning an adventure like this one.  A little over two years ago we were both working away at jobs that were wearing us down. Now we are planning a nine month road trip. We are two of the luckiest people on the planet. This is a leap of faith for me for sure. What will we do? Will we get sick of each other? Will our kids and my parents be ok? There is a sense of adventure stirring in me after years of hard work and raising a family. Now it’s time to play. I hope that this blog is fun for you and that our adventures, stories and photos add joy and laughter to your day. Till next time!

Are you willing to do something poorly?

Starting a blog sounds like an easy enough task. What the heck? It’s all preformatted and all I have to do is click a few bottons and I will be on my way to a beautiful website. Au contraire, Pierre! I am about 10 hours into this program and most every thing I attempt has come out differently from what I had planned As usual, I am expecting instant success. I guess if I keep taking one small step and then another, this blog will get created. How did I ever acquire this, ‘just add water’ mentality?