Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wanna Know What I Had For Breakfast? Here, I'll Show You.......

Lake Mead N.R.A., Boulder City, NV

As I've mentioned numerous times before, it seems as though there's always something that needs to be repaired or maintained when you live this lifestyle. A few weeks ago I had to remove the water heater from the RV to replace a check valve that had gone bad. After finishing the repair we started to notice that the DSI Fault light was coming on and the water heater would be offline after a single cycle of heating water. We also noticed that the hot water seemed to be much hotter than normal. After a little research in the Owners Manual and reading several discussion threads in IRV2 we determined that the thermostat didn't seem to be doing it's job of shutting off the heater when the water temp reached 140; instead the water heater was continuing to heat the water to a temp of 190 degrees at which time the ECO (Emergency Cut Off) was initiating the DSI Fault and turning off the water heater. Since everything had been working fine prior to my having to remove the water heater; and that had not required me to work with any of the wiring or thermostats I was fairly sure we had a loose wire somewhere. I pulled the wiring connections on the thermostat and cleaned them with a little WD40 and '00' steel wool. After restoring the connections everything worked as it should. It's always something!
The 'After' Picture
No More Sunlight Steaming

I put my tools away and as I started up the steps to the RV I noticed something unusual....there was sunlight coming through a 10" gap in the door awning. Closer inspection showed that the material of the awning was intact, but the seams in the awning were starting to separate as the original thread was deteriorating. I surveyed the situation and determined that I could remove 2 bolts & 1 screw and completely remove the awning assembly from the RV to work on it. After a quick climb onto the top of the RV Joan & I had the awning loose and spread out on the picnic table ready for repair.

A few years ago I repaired the awning on the Class C we owned previously and I still had the heavy duty needles and fishing line I had used then. It took me about an hour to sew all the seams and another 15 minutes for Joan & I to reattach the awning. Just so you know, it's not a matter of 'if' something will happen, it's a matter of when! So next time you run into a similar problem, keep an open mind, use your wits and you'll do just fine.

A few days later we got an unexpected surprise....a phone call from Scott, one of the park rangers asking if we had some time open on our calendar for the following Sunday. Scott is not only an LE (law enforcement) but he is the park pilot and spends half of his patrol time flying the park plane.

When we first arrived at Lake Mead this year we had put our names on the list to fly with Scott if he ever needed observers. Scott was calling to ask if we could fly with him. HECK Yeah! was our response. So we met up with Scott Sunday morning at 9am and he led us through the pre-flight check. As we were taxiing Scott shared with us that we had a 31mph crosswind. "Do either of you have a problem with motion sickness?" Nope. So off we went.

The views were spectacular. We saw many of the back country roads that we normally drove and seeing the water fronts where we've eaten lunch while working gave us a whole different perspective.

Home Again. I feel much better now.
The wind was pushing the plane around quite a bit....and I suspect that standing the plane on its wing in order to better see irregularities on the ground probably had something to do with it, but it wasn't long before I was holding on to a barf bag....and after a few minutes I was using it! Breakfast was definitely better the 1st time.
We'd been out about an hour when we turned back and headed for the airport. Joan never had a problem and we're both hoping that we'll get another call to fly again....maybe when it's a little calmer.

As we were driving one of our ARs (approved road) we got another example of the power of water in the desert. Many of our ARs are in washes that run from the mountains surrounding the Colorado River down to the water's edge. My focus while driving is usually on the road surface looking for rocks or depressions that might shake up the truck. Joan is not only looking for disturbances but she is also checking the GPS to make sure we're following the actual road, not someone else's tire tracks. We were driving down one of the ARs we'd driven several times last season when Joan told me to stop, that we were beyond the end of the road. There was supposed to be a barrier in place to stop vehicle traffic from going any further; foot traffic only. The barrier was over 150' long and should have spanned the entire wash. It was built out of 5' tall 5" diameter metal poles, each one buried approximately 12" deep with 1/2" stranded cable connecting them. And none of the barrier poles or strand were anywhere in sight.. Wait a minute, there's some stranded cable sticking up out of the dirt over to that bush. Closer inspection revealed that the additional 1/2" of rain in October must have uprooted the entire 150' barrier leaving only the attachment to the walls of the wash. The water had buried all of the poles and cable under the sand and rock in the bottom of the wash.
We ended up volunteering to return a few weeks later with a crew of 8 to restore the barrier. It was hard work and after digging up most of the poles (some were buried so deep it wasn't worth the effort to dig them up) we then had to dig them back in. We spent all day and completed about half the barrier. Once we got home, we were so tired from all the digging and tamping we decided we would rather work our normal job when the crew goes back out to finish the restoration.

Earlier this year Joan started reading a new blog Jim and Barb's RV Adventure. And a couple of days after we arrived in Custer Jim & Barb pulled into the campground and parked right beside us. We had a great time meeting and spending time with them. They spent the summer in Canada working at a friend's hunting/fishing lodge. We stayed in touch over the summer and a few days ago they decided to get out of freezing temps of Salt Lake and head down to Zion NP. Joan & I decided we would drive up and spend a couple of days with them.
It was a close call, but lucky for Jim that
Barb was close by

We drove all through Zion, hiked a couple of trails and shared a couple of our favorite, out of the way, lesser known sights and overlooks.

We headed back home glad to know them a little better and with a plan to get together at least once or twice while we're here in Lake Mead this season.

Joan & I thought we had driven most of the ARs last season. But in the last 3 weeks we've already driven 4-5 new to us ARs. AR53 ends about 2 miles from the water and we GPS'd a disturbance made by a dirt bike that decided to drive towards the water rather than hike.

We only hiked a 1/4 mile, but saw many unusual features along the way. Here are a few pics we snapped along the way.

Do you see the bear?

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nothing Ever Stays the Same

Just like Roseanne Roseannadana constantly reminded us......"It's always something!" We've been back in Lake Mead for 3 weeks and it's  been one thing after another since we got here. 2 weeks ago I traveled with LVSSA Raiders 60+ softball team down to Bull City, NV for a softball tournament. We played a 5-game round robin format over a 3-day weekend. Throughout the tournament we continuously attempted to play up to the level of our competition and finished with a 1-4 record. This is a fairly new team as about 1/2 of the team has changed over the last few months. My lack of batting practice showed during most of the tournament even though my defense was solid. After going 0-3 our coach decided to shake things up for the 4th game and I went to the mound to pitch. The 1st inning seemed like more of the same as I walked 3 and our offense still appeared to be MIA. But we turned things around after that and went on to beat our opponent handily.....I was 2 for 2 at the plate with 2 3-run homeruns and fielded several hot line drives up the middle. Though we didn't do as well as we'd have liked, the team is looking forward to our next tournament scheduled in early December.

Joan wants to know "Who's
that knocking on my roof?"
After work time (Lake Mead) and play time (softball) I had to start working on my little list of RV chores. First off, the Fantastic Fan/Vent system. We have an automatic fan in the roof our RV controlled by a thermostat so that if during the day when we're away from home and the temps get too hot the fan will kick on and vent the hot air. Over the last year the fan has worked off and on. It acted up a little at Lake Mead earlier this year, but I didn't think much about it as we didn't really need it in South Dakota except for 1 or 2 days. But the first week back in Lake Mead it was really warm with temps in the high 80's. Without the fan venting during the day, the RV would be really uncomfortable when we would return from work at the end of the day. I called FantasticFan and spoke with a technical support rep. I'd heard great things about their product support and was hoping for a quick low cost solution to my problem. After describing the problem the rep corrected my understanding of how the fan worked and told me what I needed to look for. I thought the thermostat controlled the fan itself.......wrong! The thermostat controls the automatic vent that raises and lowers to cover the fan. When the temperature inside the RV triggers the thermostat, the thermostat raises the vent. As the vent elevates it releases a plunger switch that turns on the fan. After climbing up on the roof and removing the vent cover the problem magically appeared......the power wire from the plunger switch to the fan was loose. After tightening the loose wire the fan works perfectly as designed. Yahoo! 1 RV chore down....who knows how many left? Our outdoor porch light lens was broken and the bulb burned out, so I tracked down a replacement lens and bulb and installed them; Purchased a timer and some outdoor lighting (100 white outdoor Christmas tree lights for $2.50...hard to beat that) and installed them under the RV along with some rope lights in the surrounding trees so the outside of the RV would be lit up after dark; replaced several broken cabinet door hinges; and painted the outside door trim where the original paint has peeled off to reveal primer. Whew! Glad that's done. Now I can relax...........EEERRRNNNNNTTTTT.....Wrong again! Tuesday after a long day I had taken my shower and Joan was just starting to wash dishes when she said "We don't have any water coming out of the hot water tap." That's weird. We just had water a few minutes ago. Cold water works fine. Check the bathroom water from the hot tap.....check the shower....same thing. So I pull out the owners manual and start reading through the water heater section while Joan queries IRV2. We just luv that site. It didn't take long and we determined that we had a check valve problem. The check valve is located on the back of the water heater and prevents anti-freeze from entering the water heater when winterizing the RV. The next morning I was on the phone with Camping World as soon as they opened. Yes they have bananas...uh...check valves. So off we go.
Back at the RV I decide the only way to gain access to the valve is to pull the entire water heater out. Not really hard, just awkward.

"Do they really expect me to fix
the water heater working through
this 5"x5" panel?"
After removing the cover and 20 screws, the heater can be pulled out of the RV. Just be careful or you may snag one of the water lines and break the water line's threaded connector.....just like I did. Crap! So out comes the heater and off comes the connected pipes, hoses and busted check valve. Then in goes the new check valve......hey, wait a minute...something isn't right here....let's the valves and what do you know....they're not the same. The original valve is male/female threaded and the replacement is male/male threaded. Okay, so back to Camping World we go. After all it's only 14 miles away, 28 miles round trip. Upon arrival at CW......Sorry says's the only valve we have. You'll need to buy an adapter. No we don't carry those. Yes we have a replacement water line connector for the one you broke sez CW. No we don't carry the PEX connector clamps you need to install it. So now it's off to Lowes. Yes we have adapters sez Lowes. Yes we have PEX clamps. And yes you'll need a $38 PEX clamp compression tool to tighten the clamp around the replacement connector. So let me get this straight....the check valve is $9....the adaptor $5....the replacement connector $3......the PEX clamps $ $21...and the *&%^#$$%(*)(**&^^%$ PEX compression tool is $38! Breath deep....go to your happy place...ah better now, after all the entire RV has PEX piping with connectors at every turn and corner so I'm sure I'll get to use the &^%$$# tool again sometime soon and get my money's worth. And you'll have only driven 56 miles so far today. Back to the RV and the reinstallation of the check valve goes smoothly. Now all I need to do is replace the broken connector by slipping this inside the PEX....wait, why is this so loose?...and slipping this collar outside the PEX....and why won't this slide outside....... #%^%$(*)^%^$#@*&(*&( It's the wrong size replacement. They gave me a 3/8", not the 1/2" like the broken parts I showed them. So it's another 28 mile round trip to CW to get the correct 1/2" part. Finally at 4:58pm, after starting at 8:01am this morning, 84 miles on the road and $59 later, the hot water heater is back inside the RV where it belongs and hot water is heating up and flowing through our wonderful PEX pipes to our faucets. Happy place, happy place.

Work has been fun and we really enjoy riding out in the back country where not too many visitors travel. Here's a shot of Joan and Joseph mapping a GPS track where someone drove off the approved roads deep in the desert.

And you just never know what you may encounter as we drive these back roads.

The elusive desert tortoise, usually already underground when we have been working at Lake Mead.

l-r Jenny, Don, Joan, me, Bill & Barb
We have noticed that many of the back roads are showing signs of erosion from the recent rains. In August and September rainfall was almost double the normal amounts. Just before we left South Dakota we heard several news stories about flash floods in the Vegas area and signs of that are evident deep in the desert. The power of a 1/4" or 1/2" of rainfall is incredible in this area. That was made quite evident during a hike we took with several other volunteers this weekend. We joined Bill & Barb and Don & Jenny for a hike through Anniversary Narrows.

Joan and I took this hike several times over the last 2 seasons and for the most part is was a pleasant walk through a narrow and picturesque slot canyon; 95% of the walk on smooth gravel. But not this time....there were numerous spill overs and rock piles created by the summer rains. And the hike turned out to be a little bit more of a challenge than in trips past. But we all had a great time and everyone managed to get in & out without too much effort.

Well that's about it for now.

Stay Tuned. More to Come