Saturday, March 30, 2013

The End of the TechnoGeek Learning Rally

Bushnell, FL

Wow! What a great week. Today was the last day of scheduled classes at the TechnoGeek Learning Rally.

Phil made breakfast and then demonstrated how to cook a "proper" English breakfast using a portable induction cook top.

Very impressive demonstration and a very tasty breakfast.  Thanks again Phil!

Quite a few folks had to leave after breakfast finished this morning, but quite a few of us "fulltimers" (who really didn't have to be anywhere else quickly) got together for a potluck dinner tonight in the pavilion.  Another great meal.  Have you noticed that RVers like to eat?

I can't say enough about our week of learning and new friendships.  This was a great "learning rally".  The TechnoGeeks do not have plans yet for a next rally, but when they do I would certainly enjoy attending again if we were in the appropriate part of the country.

The fun just never stops when you're a fulltimer.  Tomorrow we leave for Brunswick, GA (just a 4-hour drive north) to begin a week of fun at the Tiffin RV Network SE Regional Spring Rally. We've attended 3 such rallies, but this will be the first as fulltimers. We are very much looking forward to this rally, as we always have such a great time with this group.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Techno Geek Learning Rally

Bushnell, FL

Karen and I have been attending the TechnoGeek Learning Rally all week in Bushnell, FL.  What a great time and what a great chance to learn about many subjects we'd like to become more proficient in.

Last Saturday and Sunday Karen attended a 2-day seminar entitled the Smart Phone Learning Camp. She picked up a lot of valuable information on how to get more out of her smart phone.

Tuesday thru Friday this week we are both attending classes on getting more out of such technologies as digital cameras, GPS devices, RV LED lighting, and the use of devices to enhance tire and towing safety.  Most of these classes have been taught by Phil May of
Phil doing double duty in the kitchen

Classes to instruct us in the greater understanding and use of computers in the areas of Google's Picasa, cloud computing to merge smartphones, tablets, and computers on the Web, Microsoft Moviemaker, and Google's Blogger have been excellent!

 Both Phil May and Chris and Jim Guld's teaching styles make for a
Jim and Chris Guld at Work
very relaxed and open classroom setting.  No one is afraid to ask questions and it seems that all attendees have been very eager to learn.

Each morning we start the day with a catered breakfast and most evenings include a catered dinner.
Breakfast before the start of classes
 We have learned long ago that RVers are never late to a meal!

The weather finally turned nice again today. Temperatures were back in the low 70's and the rest of the week is supposed to be very cooperative.

Let me throw in an advertisement for the TechnoGeek Learning Rally folks here.  If you should ever get a chance to take one of their seminars I can't imagine that it would be possible to leave without learning something (or a lot), and have have a good time in the process.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Bit of 'Learnin' and a Bit of Maintenance

Bushnell, FL

We arrived on Saturday at the Paradise Oaks Golf & RV Resort for a week-long educational seminar put on by Geeks on Tour (Chris and Jim Guld) and TechnoRV (Tracey and Phil May). According to their website's description: "A joint RV rally presented by Geeks on Tour and TechnoRV. Spend some time learning about your camera, computer, tablets and lots of other technology to enhance your RVing lifestyle." We've attended several of the "Geeks" classes at other RV rallies throughout the years and I'm sure we will both take away many useful things and ideas from the classes.

 Karen is attending the two-day classes on Smartphones use. I decided to forego this, but both of us will attend the remainder of the seminar beginning on Tuesday.

 Karen was very impressed at the end of the first day and learned several useful tidbits of information. This class was kept small by design to enable greater interaction between the students and Jim and Chris.

This gentleman was using a flip phone and taking the class primarily to decide which Smartphone he would like to purchase.  Because of this he fashioned a "dunce cap" for his not-so-smart phone.

 While Karen was in class, the weather outside was pretty bad today. We had severe thunderstorms and several warnings for tornadoes in nearby counties. As they say in Florida, however, if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes, and it'll all pass over. It did!

View of engine from above. Coalescing filter
is under the cover indicated by the box.
Since the weather was nasty outside it gave me a chance to perform a bit of maintenance on the engine of our MH which I had put off for awhile. I'm a big follower of the Tiffin RV Network  (TRVN) forum and have learned a great deal about our coach and its' maintenance from folks on that forum. A few months ago the subject of changing the coalescing filter on our Cummins ISC engine came up. I had read about this maintenance in the Cummins required maintenance list, but didn't have a clue what a coalescing filter was, much less how to change it. As it turns out, Cummins indicates that it should be changed every 60,000 miles or 24 months (whichever comes first). We have now had the rig for 36 months and I was fairly certain that this had never been done.

Remove bolts with a 5/16" socket
Place the coalescing filter in place and
re-bolt the cover.
 After a bit of reading on the Forum I located the proper part number for my engine and placed an order thru I've used them to buy most of my filters and their prices are very good. The coalescing filter is located on the top of the engine under a metal cover. The installation is very easy, but requires that the engine cover (on the bedroom floor in our rig) needs to first be removed. I won't go into that here, but suffice it to say that if you've never removed the floor engine hatch cover before that it will take you as long to do this as it will to change the coalescing filter.

I did a complete "how to" with pictures on this maintenance item and placed it on the TRVN under this thread, but a login to the forum will be required first for those who are not members. It is a very useful forum for anyone interested in the workings of their MH (and associated components) whether you own a Tiffin product or not.  The website is administered COMPLETELY by Tiffin owners and has no connection to the Tiffin Motorhome Company.  Ok, that's my pitch for TRVN for today.

Last night we also found out AGAIN that apparently all campgrounds are required to be positioned near railroad tracks. Because we have a road crossing about 300 yards from the back of our rig, train horns were heard several times thru the night.

 Thanks for taking a look!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Heading to Bushnell, FL

Bainbridge, GA (East Bank COE Park)

Although we really enjoyed our time at the Gunter Hill COE park it was time to move on.  We will make it to Bushnell, FL on Saturday, but since we no longer drive a lot of miles each day we've stopped for the night at the  Eastbank COE  park near Banbridge, GA. We drove a whopping 181 miles today.

We arrived around 2:00 PM (now 3:00 EDT)  and were set up shortly.  The campground appears that it will probably be almost filled by the end of the day. Eastbank COE is positioned at the south end of Lake Seminole just above the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam. Lake Seminole straddles the GA-FL line just north of the small town of Chattahoochee.

The sites are well spaced and our view out the driver's side of our rig looks toward the water.  Although it was a fairly nice day in the mid-60s, few boats were on the water.

       The end of another day of fulltime RVing!  I have to admit. We might learn to like this!

Tomorrow we have about 258 miles to travel to our destination near Bushnell, FL.  We are attending the Techno Geek Learning Rally beginning Sunday put on by Chris and Jim Guld (Geeks on Tour) and Phil and Tracey May (TechnoRV).  I can definitely handle these shorter driving days.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lions, Tigers, and Bears (and Oh, Crap) Ants!

Montgomery, AL

Let me address the nicer part of the post title first.  Saturday was a beautiful weather day here in the Montgomery, AL area.  We decided to go to the Montgomery City Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Center.  Karen and I hadn't been to a zoo together since we last saw the National Zoo in Washington, DC.  The Montgomery Zoo isn't as large as DC's, but we still had a good time. It was not crowded and most of the crowd was comprised of younger families with smaller kids. The zoo is divided into continents with animals native to each area. 

Lion- approx. 1 1/2 YOA
White Tiger

Sloth Bear

Of course, we saw the lions, tigers, and bears, but also chimps, giraffes, and elephants as well.

You can never go wrong watching a chimp! (Unless, of course, you get a bit too close.)

Attached to the Montgomery Zoo is the Mann Wildlife Learning Center.  This was a very interesting exhibit.  Most of the exhibits were from North and South America and they were presented in such a way as to show the interaction between species and between animals and man.

We learned from the guide at the entrance that all of the specimens inside were contributed by Mr. Mann from his travels throughout the years.


Moving on to the "Ants" part of today's blog.  Here at Gunter Hill COE park we've been invaded by ants, the small black "sugar ant" type.  We would love to hear any blog reader suggestions for ways to prevent/eliminate these little buggers.  To bring you up to date, we've already tried putting vaseline around our water hose where it enters the rig.  NO GOOD! The ants march right thru it.  Next I tried wrapping a dryer sheet around the water hose, but again the ants walked right over it. 

The product which I've had the most success with thus far is Comet.  I've sprinkled it liberally around our tires and jack pads where they contact the ground.

 I placed some under the water hose, let it make contact with the ground, and sprinkled a bit on top of the hose for good measure.  This seems to be the best deterrent to date.  I haven't seen any ants attempt to walk thru the Comet.

Any suggestions on this subject would be greatly appreciated. I guess this is one of the few negatives associated with fulltiming.  We've been camping in various styles of rigs for over 20 years now and never had this problem.  I believe we are having the problem now because we are sitting parked in one place for more extended periods of time.

Thanks for taking a look!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

LED Lights and Dealing with the USPS

Montgomery, AL

Many of the newer MHs today come with LED lighting.  Our Tiffin Phaeton is a 2010 model and was still manufactured using halogen bulbs in all of the ceiling lights and incandescent lights in most of the other fixtures.  Because LED lights produce much less heat and use less power than comparable halogen bulbs we had been looking at changing out for some time, but I wasn't sure of the color I wanted and sure didn't want to pay the price some places were charging. 
I decided to go the cheap route to allow me to compare light color first.  I purchased a set of 10 G4 bulbs for $14.99 from Ebay.  These lights were listed as pure white and rated at 0.9 watts per light.  These lights seemed "whiter" than what we wanted, so I made another purchase of 10 for $16.99. The latter purchase was rated at the same 0.9 watts per light, but the color was "warm white".

 I installed both sets of LED lights and kept a row of the original halogen bulbs for comparison.  We still leaned toward the warmer color of the halogen bulbs at that point. Also, the light output from the Ebay bulbs just did not seem adequate.

During out recent stay in Red Bay we went over to talk to the guys at HHH Electronics.  This company supplies all of the LEDs (among other electrical components) for the Tiffin coaches. I indicated to them that we didn't like the brighter white color that I had selected.  They suggested that I go over to the plant and take a look at the finished rigs which all had LEDs installed.  We did, and were impressed.  We wound up purchasing 58 bulbs to replace all of the ceiling halogens in our rig.  The purchased bulbs cost $7.00 each and are rated at 2.2 watts per bulb.
One of the reasons for the higher cost is that the $7.00 bulbs have voltage regulation where the cheaper bulbs do not. This is an important factor when LEDs are used in RVs as the voltage can vary. We may do something later with the rest of the rig's fixtures, but will do a bit more research first.

Yesterday we installed all of the ceiling LEDs in short order.  We are VERY happy with the light color and output.  MUCH brighter than the cheaper ones I had purchased, and a much more even color.

Moving along to our next adventure, we drove to a small local post office in an attempt to receive our mail via "General Delivery" later in the week.  We use America's Mailbox as our mail forwarding company in South Dakota and have experienced absolutely zero problems since signing up with them last October. Up to this point, however, each mail "drop" had been sent to the campground we were currently staying in.  We are currently staying in a Corp of Engineers park and they will not accept mail addressed to campers.  Not a problem (or so we thought).  Our research prior to beginning the FTing lifestyle indicated that we could have mail delivered to a small, local post office as General Delivery. We took a look at the USPS website and found a small post office near us that was listed as accepting General Delivery mail.  Since we weren't doing a whole lot yesterday during a very rainy day we decided to make a drive over to the post office.'s a good thing we did.  The clerk advised us that they cannot accept General Delivery mail and that it is "against the rules".  Those who did are breaking the rules.  Karen informed her that MANY, MANY post offices accept this type of mail, but the clerk was an unbending beauracratic type (or just ignorant), and we left without success.  On to the next post office.  We drove the same distance north to the next post office.  This office is larger than the first, but immediately indicated that they do receive General Delivery mail.  Amazing, huh?
The lesson to be learned here is that if the first Post Office declines your request for General Delivery, then just try another one.

Just out of curiousity, what has been others' experience with General Delivery and the post office?

Thanks for taking a look!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Bit of Maintenance (Changing the Water Heater Anode Rod)

Montgomery, AL

To be very honest we haven't done much since arriving here on Saturday.  Decided to wake up late and take it easy for a few days.

Maintenance is always important, but even more so now that our rig is our home. Yesterday I decided to check out the condition of the anode rod in our water heater.  We have a Suburban water heater and these have either magnesium or aluminum rods.  The purpose of an anode rod is to act as a sacrificial metal to protect the tank.  Depending upon the type and quantity of minerals in your water, the anode may have a longer or shorter life.  That's the main reason for removing it for inspection.  Suburban states that these anodes should last approximately one year, but again that is dependent upon the water run through the unit.  This is a pretty easy maintenance item, but for anyone who has not done this before here's the basic procedure: (Please note that these instructions apply to the Suburban water heater only, and all work is done at the owner's risk.)

1. Turn off the electric and propane switches to the water heater.
2. Turn off the water supply and/or water pump.
3. Allow the water in the heater to cool for a period of time before draining.
4. Open the pressure relief valve.
5. Use a 1 1/16" socket to remove the anode rod and drain the tank.  (Stand clear of the opening as the water might still be hot and WILL exit quite forcibly.)

6. Examine the condition of the anode rod.  Suburban recommends replacement when 75% of the original anode has been used up.

  My rod was far less than this, but since I had used an aluminum rod last year I was concerned that the aluminum rod was not "sacrificing" itself enough.  I went with the magnesium rod this time in an attempt to get more sacrificial use out of the rod.

7. I use a long plastic piece of pre-made tubing with a water shut off to rinse out the deposits in the bottom of the tank.  (The deposits will look like white pieces of calcium and will probably resemble soft bath soap.)
8. After the tank has been thoroughly rinsed, wrap the threads of the new anode rod several times with teflon tape and screw the rod back into the drain hole.  Make sure the rod is tight, but DO NOT over tighten.
9. Turn on the water supply.
10. Close the pressure relief valve when water begins to exit from the valve. (This ensures that the tank is filled with water and that an air space has been created in the tank.)
11. Make sure the tank is filled again BEFORE turning on the electricity to the water heater or you run the risk of burning out the electric element inside the water heater.
12. Turn on the propane switch again to make sure that all is working properly.
13. Check the anode for leaks around the threads and tighten JUST A LITTLE if needed.

That's it!

Tomorrow I take a look at LED lights and dealing with the USPS for mail delivery.

Thanks for taking a look!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Red Bay in the Rear View Mirror

Montgomery, AL

Although we completely finished our work at the Tiffin Service Center on Thursday, we decided to stay until today to make certain that our interior water leak problem had been solved.  We are very happy to say that we believe the problem has been repaired.

We also wanted to have our coach washed and waxed prior to leaving, but experience has taught us to wait until just before departure as the service camp area can, and does, get very dusty.  We used Ricky Johnson, an employee of the Tiffin Service Center, as he did a very nice job on our rig last year when we were departing.  Actually, Brandon, a young man who did the actual work (both last year and this year) does a very nice job.  We dropped the coach off at Ricky's residence at 12:30 PM and it was ready for pickup at 5:15 PM.

 We were very pleased with the work.  Since I didn't ask Ricky for permission to enter his information on the blog, anyone who visits the Tiffin Service Center just needs to go in the office and ask for him.  He is in the same office area as Don Boyd (should any of you other Tiffin owners be familiar with him.)

On Friday afternoon while the coach was getting a bath we had lunch with Bill and Kathy at 4th Street Grill and Steakhouse. Although we had gone to dinner a few nights ago, and had lunch together on Friday, I discovered that I had not taken once single picture of them.  I am borrowing what I think is a very nice picture of Bill and Kathy  (and Autumn) from Facebook. We really hope to cross paths with these two in the future.  Love trading stories with you guys!

Finally, let me return to the subject line of today's blog.  We left Red Bay around 10:30 AM this morning and drove about 210 miles to the Gunter Hill COE campground just southwest of Montgomery, AL.  This is the same campground we stayed for a couple of days on our trip to Red Bay several weeks ago.  We really enjoyed the campground, plus we'd like to spend a bit more time exploring the Montgomery area and its' history.

What a change from only a few weeks ago.  The last time we were here, there were maybe 8 rigs in 79 or so campsites.  Today, I think there were about 10 empty spots.  Partially our fault, because fulltimers should try to avoid coming into campgrounds on the weekend.  What the heck was I thinking!  It all worked out well, however, as we are now in a back-in site at the extreme end of the park.  There is no one behind us and it's very quiet.

We will be here for almost two weeks before heading to the Techno Geek Learning Rally  in Bushnell, FL. We'll need a few days to get everything straightened up and organized again after our stint in Red Bay. Also, no more of that getting up early stuff for awhile.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 8 at Tiffin Service Center

 Red Bay, AL

The sun came out, both literally and figuratively, for us today.

We got the "call" to respond to Bay #36 at 8:10 AM.  Apparently, we got moved up on the list when another rig decided to leave.  I certainly wasn't unhappy to hear that!  We packed up the rig and we were at the door at 8:30 AM.

 The scaffolding used to get up to the roof level is VERY close on each side of the rig.  It's so close that the driver's side mirror has to be re-positioned as close as possible against the side of the rig.  Also, this bay employs the use of the tech to position the rig in the bay.

There are several signs posted in this bay indicating that only employees are to climb onto the scaffolding.  I can fully understand that from a liability standpoint.  I asked permission of the techs to take a few pictures and there was no problem with my request.

Our old fiberglass removed
(Top horizontal lines are NOT cracks, just overhead lights) 
The old fiberglass radius is cut off and replaced with aluminum.  The top edge of our coach is painted all black. Fortunately, the techs have access to aluminum replacement panels which are pre-painted black and this precludes us from having to go to the paint booth later for painting.

  By lunch, all of the old fiberglass had been removed and the area prepped for the installation of the new aluminum.

About 1:30 PM I returned to the bay to check on progress and observed "a whole bunch of rivets" ready for installation to hold the new aluminum.  Notice that the new piece is inserted under the roof section (similar to shingling a roof).

Since it was nearing the end of the workday I returned again about 2:45 PM to see what we would need to do tomorrow.  When I went back the rig was pulled outside of the bay.  I spoke to the tech to see where we were supposed to report tomorrow.  He said "YOU'RE FINISHED".   What?  Did I hear that correctly?     YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!   That completes all of the items on our repair list.

We are free to leave.  Well, not exactly.  We still have to pay the bill and check out with the campground.  We decided to stay in the campground for a day or so to make certain that the water leak repair has indeed been remedied.

We had just pulled back into our camping site (#33) when friends Bill and Kathy came over.  They had just arrived from AZ and have an appointment on Friday for some repair work.  We met them last year while we were here at Camp Red Bay.  They were just about to take delivery of there then new 2012 Allegro Bus.  We saw it over at Sherman RV when they picked it up.  Beautiful rig! They had  met a couple, Bob and Cindy, in a similar manner.  We all decided to get together and do what RVers do best, eat.  We met over in Belmont, MS at a relatively new Mexican Restaurant named Costa Oaxaquena.  The place was very busy (even on a Wednesday).  I thought the food was very good and was reasonably priced.  Unfortunately, we were so involved with swapping stories and having a good time that I completely forgot to take a picture.  Sorry guys.

Well, back to the rig.  We watched a bit of television and went to bed.  We have several things to check on tomorrow, but the best bit of information we received today is that we are FINISHED! Now, it truly feels like our fulltiming lifestyle has begun.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 7 at Tiffin Service Center

Red Bay, AL

From a weather standpoint, Red Bay was fairly unpleasant today.  It began to rain around 8:00 AM this morning and the temperature dropped throughout the day.  Pretty windy as well.  Because we hadn't heard anything from the service office, at lunch we walked over to check out our current position in line for the replacement of our roof rails.  Not bad, we've moved up to #2 position and Billy (the scheduler) thinks that we might get called in to a bay tomorrow to begin the 2-day process. By now, it was about noon and we had resigned ourselves to getting no further work today.

At 12:45 PM we received "the call" to report to Bay #2.  This was the tech we specifically requested to take a further look for our water leak when we spoke to Billy on Monday.  It took us until 1:10 PM to get all packed up, unhooked from the utilities, and pull the slides in to be able to get over to the bay.  Our tech, Marion, had performed work on our rig two years ago and we specifically asked for him to attempt to locate the water leak.  At first, we went over all of the previous "suspects" to locate the leak without success.  Things were looking bleak!

Shower Connection (paper towel against black
backing wall to check for leaks)
Finally, while running the washer and shower at the same time, Marion began checking the water manifold for the plumbing under the bathroom sink.  A closer look and Marion saw a leaking hot water connection for the shower.  He thinks that the loose connection was allowing a small amount of water to strike the black board (in the photo), run down the wall, and fall onto the carpet.

Looking down the plumbing wall
(Common room carpet circled)
 This small piece of carpet is carried under the bathroom-bedroom wall and is right in the area where the majority of dampness has been found.

I know that I had checked this area for wetness back in Dumfries, (before we retired), but I can only conclude that we I checked we had not taken a shower recently and the visible leaking had dried. Oh well, another item to list to our maintenance list.  Check plumbing connections.

Marion tightened up this connection,  and checked all of the others, and dried up any evidence of moisture under the sink.  Now, with fingers crossed, we will dry out the carpet completely with our electric heater and monitor the area after we take a shower again.  I'm hoping we have this whipped!

Thanks for taking a look!