2019 Western Summer Trip

June 25, 2019: First, my apologies for not posting the past few days, but we have traveled over 1,500 miles since leaving home on the 20th and we have not always had good cell signal at some campgrounds. So this is to kind of get caught up. I will do better going forward.

We spent last night at the Lewis & Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa after driving about 320 miles from Long Branch State Park in Macon, Missouri via highways US-36 to St. Joseph, MO and north on I-29. I-29 skirts along the Missouri River and we saw MASSIVE flooding. Tens of thousands of acres are still underwater and many exits were closed because the roads they lead to are still underwater, even though the flood waters have receded several feet. Sad!

This is a very nice state park and we are parked beside a lake. A thunderstorm rolled through around 4:30 this morning. When we arrived at the park, with no reservation of course, the sign said the campground is full, but we saw lots of empty campsites with reserved signs dated from one to a few days in the future. We talked to another camper and he said the campground hosts here are too lazy to keep the sites updated as to vacancy, so they just put up the full sign even though it is currently half empty. So we just used a site that was marked reserved for a couple of days from now and paid our $16 for an electric only site.

Today we will continue north on I-29, then head off northwest to Jamestown, North Dakota to see the “World’s Largest Bison”, but it’s over 400 miles, so will get there tomorrow. And we will get to add another state sticker to our map! Yeay!!!!

June 23-24, 2019: After a short run of less than 200 miles we arrived in Macon, Missouri and set up camp in the Long Branch State Park. Monte and Kathy Ashmore (I went all through grade and high school with Monte) live in Macon and they took us on a tour of their home and Macon and took us out for a very good Mexican dinner. They visited with us at our trailer until after 10:00 PM and we had a very enjoyable evening with them.

Long Branch State Park is very nice, but I forgot to take a picture of our campsite. Before leaving the park we dumped our two gray water tanks at the campground’s dump and left the park at 9:45 AM.

June 22, 2019: We traveled several miles on highway MO-8, one of the hilliest and curviest roads we’ve ever been on and finally found a campsite at the Meramac Spring Country Store Campground. It was an okay place for $32 for a full hookup site that we only used electric. Earlier in the afternoon we sat out a bad rain storm in a church parking lot in the country. Our truck and trailer continue to do well with no problems, except for a minor issue with the rear roll down blind that some rough roads shook loose and the bathroom power vent that will not open.

June 21, 2019: Nice drive through the country today. We camped at the Lucky Lady Casino (Caruthersville, MO) right beside a very full, flood stage Mississippi River and the casino’s campground was on the river side of the levee!! A pretty nice campground with four campers using it. Jeri actually walked out of the casino around $30 ahead and that about covered the camping fee. She got “trapped” in the casino when she went to pay for our site by a big rainstorm. LOL

I took this picture out one of our trailer windows.

June 20, 2019: We hooked up and left the house a few minutes after 8:00 this morning. We stopped at the Flying J in St. Augustine to top up our diesel fuel and I finally hit the CAT Scales with our fully loaded rig to get our real weights. Simple, quick process with their app and all our weights are easily with max axle weights by several hundred pounds. Our total rig, truck and trailer came in a bit over 22,000 pounds. We traveled I-95, I-10 and I-75 to Tifton, Georgia before heading off on non-interstates to Albany and Columbus, Georgia, then into Alabama. Drove through some rain and after over 400 miles we camped at the Scenic Drive RV Campground just south of I-20 east of Birmingham, AL. One little mishap—we missed the kind of hidden entrance to the RV campground and I made a poorly executed u-turn at a wide spot in the road with our big rig. I knocked of one of the rear jack snap pads. I discovered it missing when we were setting up, so unhooked the truck and drove the short ways to find it. I put it back in the next morning as we were breaking camp.

It is GREAT to be on the road to more new RV adventures!!

2019 Western Summer Trip

June 19, 2019: Hitting it hard this morning to get as much done as possible before the predicted thunderstorms arrive. So far I have completed the following items.

  • Checked and aired the Montana’s tires to 110 psi. My EEZTire TPMS is reading 109 psi on all four tires. Either it is reading very close to my good, highly recommended digital air gauge or it’s very accurate and reading true psi because screwing the TPMS sensors on always releases a little bit of air. On a side note—I aired up the tires quickly and easily using the new VIAIR 45053 Silver Automatic Portable Compressor Kit (450P-RV). Works great! It’s pretty expensive, but worth it so far. I highly recommend it.
  • Confirmed all trailer lug nuts are torqued to at least 120 ft lbs.
  • Cleaned and re-greased the king pin and B&W Companion fiver hitch.
  • Finished packing all clothes, my MAC laptop, passports and extra cash. Whew, but I think we are almost there. I am looking forward to seeing the CAT Scale weights tomorrow morning.
    The storms came and it’s been raining, sometimes quite hard, since a little after 2:00 PM (it’s now 6:45 PM), but we are pretty much ready to depart in the morning, except for the last minute items that will go in in the morning.
  • Thank you Claudia and Donna for taking us out for Mexican dinner this evening! We appreciate it!
  • 2019 Western Summer Trip

    June 18, 2019: T-2 before we head out. I brought the trailer home from storage yesterday to prep it for the trip. This not only includes loading food and clothes, etc., but also testing all systems for functionality, checking tire pressures, checking the wheel lug nut torque and a lot of other stuff.

    Yesterday my wife Jeri made a grocery run and we’ve loaded that and started putting cold items into the fridge after it cooled down. And we started stocking the pantry. We decided that we tend to pack too much food (after all there are plenty of grocery stores), so are cutting back on how much food we pack.

    I drained, flushed and refilled the freshwater tank yesterday, too. I am also going to replace the flaky 50 amp breaker for the hydraulic pump that runs the leveling Jack’s and two of the slides with a Keystone recommended 80 amp breaker. Getting ready for a major trip is a LOT of work, but so worth the effort and quickly forgotten once we hit the road on another adventure. More later today.

    Later today: Wheweee, it’s hot and muggy today in NE Florida and the bit of rain this afternoon doesn’t help!

    I have accomplished the following items today.

      Replaced the 50 amp cheapy breaker Keystone put on for the hydraulic pump with a quality 80 amp breaker.
      Used some small screws to better attach some trim in the front walkin closet.
      Hung another of Jeri’s paintings in the hallway. This one is kind of an colorful abstract that she didn’t really like, but I do.
    • Loaded more food and drinks into the pantry and fridge.
      Brought most of our trip clothes out. This is always somewhat difficult when you live in the hot south and are traveling to the upper northern states and the Colorado mountains because we need hot weather and cooler weather clothes.
      Turned on one of the 30 lb propane tanks and tested the stove. 5×5 (any old military comms guys know what this means).

    Well, that’s about all for today I think. It looks like we are about to get a thunderstorm and we are going to our daughter’s for dinner.

    I am looking forward to getting on the road, but still have more maintenance checks on the trailer to do tomorrow.

    More tomorrow.

    2019 Summer Western Trip

    6/15/2019: Thursday, 6/20, we plan to head out on our Summer Western trip (we did a Spring trip to NM, AZ and TX in March/April). On our Summer trip we plan to head up to South Dakota via mostly non-interstates through western Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa/Nebraska. After SD we will drop down through Wyoming to Colorado where we will spend some time visiting and camping with three of our grown children and their families. When we leave CO the plan is for our two youngest grandsons to travel back to Florida with us. We plan to take them to the Great Sand Dunes and Carlsbad Caverns and maybe to see the Marfa Lights in Marfa, TX and maybe some other interesting places on the way home.

    We recently purchased a Roku streaming device and will use it instead of the Amazon Firestick we currently have on the TV in the trailer. We recently switched from DirectTV back to Spectrum (10 times faster internet) and the Firestick does not support the Spectrum app, thus the Roku. The Roku seems to me to be much more sophisticated than the Firestick.

    This coming Monday I will bring our new fiver home so I can do some pre-trip maintenance and systems checks and we can get it packed for the trip.

    Our first stop Thursday will be at the Flying J in St. Augustine to fill up with diesel fuel and weigh the rig on the CAT Scale. I have downloaded the app on my cell phone and set up my account with them so the weigh should be quick and easy.

    My plan is to do a daily update with pictures and videos to this blog, so I hope you follow along with us.

    Our New RV Rig

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    During September and October of 2018 we traded our F150 Ecoboost for a new 2018 Ford F350 Lariat 4×4 Diesel and our Bullet for a new 35′ 2019 Keystone Montana 3121RL 20th Anniversary Edition fifth wheel trailer using a new 20,000 pound rated B&W Companion Slider hitch.

    During the PDI it was discovered our oven did not work and it had to be replaced under warranty.  That was completed in November of 2018.

    The model, 3121RL, designates this trailer has a residential refrigerator.  It is a double-door, 18 cubic feet unit with a built-in ice maker.  We really like it.  No more worries about trying to keep stuff cold.  We set the fridge to 38 degrees and the freezer to -2 degrees and that is where they stay.  Since a residential fridge runs on 120 volts AC, the trailer came with a 1,000 watt Pure Sine Way (PSW) inverter, so when we are not plugged into shore power the fridge runs of the inverter that converts 12 volts DC to 120 volts AC.

    The trailer has a one-button 6-point hydraulic leveling system and I love this feature!!!  Unhook from the truck and push one button and several seconds later the trailer is nice and level.  No more levelers to drive on and off, etc.  Simple and fast.  If not unhooking from the truck I can still manually level the trailer, too.

    As of May 2019 we have completed several fairly short trips and one extensive, 5,000 mile round trip out West.  We have had no major issues, but I have had to do some minor repairs inside the trailer on things like the roll down shades, the bedroom barn door and a piece of trip that came loose.  These, sadly, are fairly normal issues with most RVs these days.

    We are really loving the new rig.  The big turbo diesel pulls the trailer wonderfully, whether up or down mountains, whatever.  It is a very relaxed tow for me.  No more push/pull when a semi-truck and trailer blow by us.  Very solid rig.

    I have made some major improvements to the new trailer.

    1. Installed a hard-wired Progressive Industries EMS-HW50C 50 amp electric management system with remote readout (in the cabin).
    2.  Installed a remote switch for the fridge inverter so it can be turned on/off from inside the cabin.
    3. Installed a 300 watt solar system to power the trailer and charge the batteries and modified the 100 watt portable panel so it can quickly be connected in parallel to the 300 watts if needed, for a total of 400 watts.  The three 100 watt panels are mounted flat on the roof of the trailer (see pictures below).
    4. As part of the solar install I mounted a Trimetric monitor inside the cabin to keep track of charging/discharging and the batteries state of charge.
    5. Installed a new battery box and two 6 volt (in series for 12 volts) GC2 true deep cycle batteries.
    6. Installed a second 1,000 watt PSW inverter with a remote switch and electric outlet in the cabin.  This allows us to run some AC stuff inside if we want or need to.
    7. Installed MaxAir vent covers over the two MaxAir vent fans to allow for air circulation in the trailer when traveling or in storage.  We can leave the vents open and the covers allow air, but not water to enter/exit.

    Some photos of the inside:

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    EMS remote (upper right), remote fridge inverter switch (upper left), second inverter remote and outlet

    Some more outside photos:

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    Some additions:

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    Second 1,000 watt PSW, solar charger and wiring I installed

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    New battery box with two 6 volt deep cycle batteries
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    300 watts of solar on the roof–wiring held down with Eternabond tape and Dicor lap sealant.

     

    New Interior Reefer Fans

    June 27, 2018:  The reefer (absorption refrigerator) in our trailer is a Dometic DM2652 and many times when the outside temperatures are 80+ degrees it has struggled to keep the inside refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees or less, even with the thermistor control slid up as high (Cold) as it will go).  In order to solve this problem I have made a couple of modifications.

    I use electronic sensors inside the reefer and freezer with an outside monitor to keep tabs on the status of cooling.  The monitor also records minimum and maximum temperatures.

    The first thing I did was install two 12 volt DC fans to the outside lower section of the reefer.  I bought the Valterra one with the thermistor switch and another computer-type one.  I wired these in with three switches.  The first is the master on/off switch and it is mounted inside the trailer.  This switch also has a small red lamp inside to indicate the switch is on.  The other two are micro switches mounted on the back of the reefer.  Using these switches I can run one or both fans either controlled by the thermistor or with the thermistor bypassed.  Actually, I need to test the thermistor because I have never observed the fan/s running with the thermistor controlling them.  The purpose of these two fans is to force air up over the coils in back and out the top vent.

    After using them for several days of camping I cannot say for sure they really have helped a whole lot, so the next thing I did was buy one of those small battery powered fans that go inside the reefer.  I initially put this on the bottom shelf, but again this did not seem to really help much with the overall temperature inside, although it may have made it more equal throughout the interior.

    The next thing I tried recently on a June trip down to Key Largo (with some pretty warm temperatures during the day) was to reorient the little battery powered fan to the very top shelf and aimed at the fins near the inside thermistor.  Even though the air output of this little fan is very low this, in conjunction with running both the fans in back really seemed to help keep temps lower.  I observed low temperatures as low as 33 degrees, but primarily the temperature tended to hover in the 37-39 degrees (F) range.

    So, I figured that if this little bit of air blowing on the fins made a positive difference, a lot more air would make an even better improvement.  I bought a small two fan assembly with LED light unit off eBay for $35 including shipping and installed it a few days ago right on the fins.

    The unit has two switches; one for the LED and another for the fans.  The instructions mention several different ways of wiring it up, but I sort of did my own thing with the installation.  I only want to fans to work if the reefer is turned on, so I pulled the interior light switch and after confirming the wiring with a multimeter I soldered the power wires to the correct wires going to the interior light.  Worked great.

    Here are a couple of pictures.

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    Mounted with the LED off.
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    LED on.

    Since we have an interior light (LED) already I doubt we will ever use the LED on the fan assembly.  I used Gaffer tape to dress the wires inside the reefer and left the entire length of the wires intact since there is a built in fuse near the free end.  I want to see how the Gaffer tape holds up inside the cold reefer.

    At this point I have not tested to see if this new fan setup will do what I hope and have read that it should do, which is to lower the temperature inside substantially to the point I can move the controlling thermistor down a bit and keep the inside temperature at 35-37 degrees (F).  But, in another week or so we will be leaving for a few weeks out West to Colorado.  It will get a thorough test and I will edit this to report the results.

    Update 9/10/2018:  After using this setup for a few days camping, while the cooling was better, it was still not as good as I wanted it to be, so I moved the interior double fan over as far to the right as I could so it would blow a bit more air onto the thermistor.  This really helped.

    On our last trip a couple of weeks ago from Florida to update New York and back the refrigerator temperature was normally staying around 35-39 degrees and we were encountering outside air temperatures of 90+ degrees F.  A few times overnight it got down to 33 degrees and only rarely got above 40 degrees briefly if the fridge door was left open for awhile while someone looked for something inside.

    I think this has solved our reefer cooling issues.

    2018 Florida to Colorado Trip

    On or around July 9, 2018 we will be heading to Colorado, where we used to live, to do some camping and visit with our two of our sons who live there and their families.

    Our initial plan is to head to Crested Butte, C0 and meet up with our son Jimmy and his wife Rachel there for some boondocking in the mountains. They bought a new trailer in March and we met up with them in Moab, UT in March while we were doing our Spring Southwest trip, for a few days of boondocking.

    After Crested Butte we will head to Bear Creek Lake Park on the west side of Denver where we have four nights reserved. While there we will also visit our youngest son Billy and our Granddaughter Sofia.

    I am not sure what we will do or where we will go after that, so stay tuned.

    We just returned from a few days of camping down in Key Largo with our two youngest grandsons a few days ago.