Installed a lip on top of our cabinets so things won’t fall off when we drive around

I’m slowly getting us prepared to hit the road again.  We’re aiming at the beginning of May but don’t have a definite date yet.  I’ve been working on a number of projects and have repair parts on order for a number of things that need to be fixed.  We’ve been sitting in one place for so long it was easy to put these projects off, but now I have to get them done and it’s been keeping me busy.

We have built-in cabinetry in the bedroom and the kitchen.  Since they’re convenient spots we of course use them to put stuff like kleenex boxes and whatnot.  The problem is that when we travel, unless we take everything off them and keep everything off them, whatever we put there tends to fall off when we travel.  The solution I came up with is to install a lip on top of them so things won’t fall off so easily.

I got some 1″ x 1-1/2″ oak boards and rounded the corners and mitered the ends and then drilled holes for screws to go through.  When that was done I stained them and coated them with polyurethane.  Today I installed them in both the bedroom and the kitchen.   This is what the kitchen unit looked like before I started.

It has a Coriander top which I drilled into.

And then screwed the oak board into the holes, edge on.

The new edge can’t prevent things from flying during a panic stop (you’d be surprised how many thing end up in the front of the motor home after you have to stand on the brakes so you don’t hit the idiot that just pulled in front of you and then came to a sudden stop for no particular reason), but during routine travel everything should stay put.

Cable TV Repaired

When we moves to Lot 6 a year ago there was one minor problem and that was that the cable TV didn’t work.  As a “temporary” solution facilities loaned us a 100 ft video extension cable and we’ve been “borrowing” the cable TV signal from a neighbor since then.  The “borrowed” signal wasn’t very good (a lot of snow and static) and I asked about having our cable TV repaired a couple of times and in finally got into the work queue.

When the cable TV system was installed years ago they were mostly interested in doing it on the cheap so they didn’t install any conduit, just buried the cable.  Cable TV is slowly failing across the park because of this so now when they fix anything, they are doing it right.  Even so, they had to dig a trench from the closest cable TV distribution box which was on our downhill neighbors lot.

The crew from Facilities (fellow park members) showed up around 8AM and started digging from the distribution box up the hill to us.  They didn’t use any power tools except an electric jackhammer.

Once the trench was dug, they laid the conduit and cable which came on a giant spool and attached it to the cable junction on our end.

I didn’t realize they were digging a trench for us at first.  The Casita on the lot next to us has been undergoing renovations so I thought that the jackhammer sounds were coming from there.  By the time they got the trench to the back of our lot I figured out that something was going on and went out to see what it was.  Ended up helping them dig the rest of the way and then filling it in afterwards and cleaning up.

We finally have static-free cable, which is nice.  Before they fixed it there were only a couple channels that you could see over the snow, now we can see all 46 channels.

Atwood Leveling Jack fail – again

We’ve been in the SKP Saguaro Co-Op for a year and a half.  We had to stay last summer because of our various health issues.  Last May, just about a year ago, we became leaseholders in the park and moved our motor home from site 702, where we’d spent the winter of 2015-2016, to lot #6, our new, permanent Arizona home.  When we did this I tried to retract our almost brand-new Atwood leveling jacks but the controller almost immediately went into failure mode and left the jacks in the down position.  Fortunately, when the coach’s air bag shock absorbers filled they lifted everything about 5 inches and that gave us just enough clearance to be able to make the move.

I started working with a local RV repairman (Steve from Kiwi RV Service) to see about getting them fixed, or at the very least retracted so we could take the motor home to where we could get them fixed.  Steve spent a lot of time on the phone with Atwood and they finally sent a replacement controller board, which he installed.  When we tried again that board also immediately went into failure mode and wouldn’t let us retract the leveling jacks.  Since exactly the same problem was happening on two different controller boards it probably wasn’t the board but something different.  We contacted technical support at Atwood again but even after several phone calls nobody there seemed to know what could be wrong.

But we were also getting the run-around from Atwood.  We called a number of times and usually could not find anybody who could talk to us about the leveling jacks. They’d take a message and promise to call us back and then never would.  This went on for a long time and we finally found out why and that was because Atwood was in the process of selling the leveling jack division to Lippert Industries.

We tried talking to Lippert industries but were basically told (not in so many words, but it’s what they meant) that they weren’t honoring any warranties from Atwood.  Steve persisted though, and finally got a technician from Atwood to call us on his own time and he ran us through a troubleshooting procedure.  What we found is that each leveling jack has a sensor that tells the controller about its position.  A wire to one (or more) of the sensors must have a short and for this reason, because the controller couldn’t tell where all the jacks were, it went into failure mode.

There is, of course, no way to override this.  You can’t put the controller into any kind of manual override and there are no manual controls (no switches or pushbuttons) on the controller board.  The technician said that the only way to get the leveling jacks back up was to hot wire them, and that’s what I did today.

It’s not pretty, but it worked:

The hard part was getting the connectors.  There are a pair of wires coming from each jack that plug into the controller board.  I didn’t want to remove the original connectors from these wires because hopefully we’ll be able to get this fixed the next time we go to the Tiffin factory.  I spent a lot of time on-line trying to find the connectors I needed without being able to find them but Steve finally reminded me that we still had the original controller board and I could get the connectors from it.  I de-soldered the connectors (took a while, they didn’t want to come off) and then soldered them to 10 gauge wires (the motors appear to take a lot of current) and then bolted the 12V cables from the controller to the posts.  Each jack was wired oppositely, because I didn’t know which polarity would get the jacks to extend and which would get them to retract.

I started the motor home’s engine and waited for the air bags to lift the jacks off the ground and then attached the cable from the front passenger-side jack to the left hot-wire connector and found it was extending the jack.  Unplugged it and plugged it into the other side, and it started retracting.  I waited until it was almost all the way up and then unplugged it and then repeated this for all the other jacks.  I took a marking pen and marked which connector did what for future reference.

So our leveling jacks are finally retracted.  Since we bought the motor home 6 years ago we’ve had more trouble with our leveling jacks than anything else.  We replaced 5 jacks over the years that had failed because the jacks kept physically breaking off from the motors. In October of 2015 we had all of the jacks and the controller replaced with newer versions at the Tiffin Factory.  We pretty much drove directly from the Tiffin Factory to the SKP Saguaro Co-Op so the new jacks and controller failed after almost no use on our part at all.  At the moment I have nothing good to say about Atwood leveling jacks because we’ve had nothing but problems with them.  I also don’t have much good to say about Lippert Industries because they appear to have decided not to honor the Atwood warranties.  Whether this is really true or not is hard to say, because Lippert had just acquired the Atwood leveling jack division and it’s possible they were still sorting things out, but they sure weren’t willing to provide any over-the-phone technical support either.

I have a plan to replace the controller board with more complex hot-wired manual system so if Tiffin can’t fix it for some reason, I’ll have to way to extend and retract them myself. This also seems like a project for an Arduino or Raspberry Pi but that’s a much more long-term project and as long as I can get them up and down it won’t matter all that much.

White Christmas

Yesterday we had a fast moving storm come through the area with lots of wind and a fair amount of rain.  We didn’t get any snow but woke up this morning to snow on the mountains around us.

The Dragoon Mountains are about 20 miles to the east of us across the San Pedro River valley.

The Mae West Peaks are also east of us but a bit north of the Dragoon Mountains, on the other side of I-10 from us.

So, somewhat to our surprise, we had a White Christmas this year.  It was just a dusting however, because by late afternoon it had mostly melted away.

 

Desert landscape in wood

We went to Tucson’s 4th Avenue street fair yesterday.  This is an annual event where they block off a long section of 4th Avenue and set up an arts and crafts fair.  We’ve been to it several times before and it’s always fun.  There are artists, craftspeople and vendors from all over the Southwest.  In the past we’ve limited ourselves mostly to foods and occasionally jewelry for Susan but this year we went specifically looking for artwork we could display in our new casita.

We found this desert landscape made of small pieces of wood and done by an artist from Albuquerque.  We encountered his booth was relatively early in our meanderings so we didn’t buy it when we first saw it but went around to all the other booths first and then came back.

We were looking specifically for something like a desert landscape and were a bit surprised at how few of them we saw at the other artists’ booths.  A lot of other topics and landscapes from a lot of other parts of the world but not much that would be considered local art.  We didn’t buy it though because it was one of the few desert landscapes we saw but because we liked it and think it’ll look nice on the wall of the casita.

Other than that we picked up some fudge, kettle corn, and a shirt and a hat for Susan.  We had barbecue pork (me) and brisket (Susan) sandwiches from the Brushfire Barbecue booth (it’s a restaurant in Tucson that we’ve been to before).  Even though it was a Friday and the first day the fair was open, there were a lot of people there and I had to be careful not to run over people’s toes while pushing Susan’s wheelchair.  We made two trips around the entire fair and as I said it’s spread out a long ways down 4th Avenue, so by the time we were done I was more than ready to sit down for the drive home.

New awnings!

Our window awnings had gotten a bit worn due to both wind and sun.  The driver’s side awning had torn a bit and was starting to come off.  I contacted a local RV repair service (Kiwi RV Service) and found that they could replace them.  Steve from Kiwi replaced the window awnings about two months ago and we made arrangements with him at that time to replace the main awning as well.  The main awning took a while, not only to get it shipped from the manufacturer, but because it’s been windy for several weeks and one thing you don’t want to try to do is to replace a big awning when it’s windy.  Steve replaced the main awning today and it, and all the other awnings, look great.

The old awnings had been khaki-colored but considering the way the motor home has been painted I thought a darker brown would be better.

Our new driver's side awning
Our new driver’s side awning
passenger_side_awnings
The awning over the bedroom window and the main awning

And yes, despite what the camera makes it look like, they are all exactly the same color.

Susan’s broken arm, mostly healed

Susan had her last visit with the orthopedist and her left arm has healed and she doesn’t need another appointment with him unless something goes wrong in the future.  She had an X-ray and it shows a lot of improvement (left side) from one of her earlier X-rays (right side).

susan_shoulder_xray_2016_11_18

The Orthopedist said that a ball of bone always forms around where it was broken and that it will smooth out over the next year.  It still aches at times but she’s been out of the brace for almost two months and it’s much better than it was.

Super Moon in Benson

There was a lot of hype about the super moon.  All it is however, is a full moon that was occurring at the closest point of the moon’s orbit to earth so it was going to be the largest full moon (by angular diameter) for the next decade or so.  By sheer coincidence (not planned, really!) I happened to be out just around the time the moon was supposed to rise. There was a bunch of people out at the top of the main street in the RV park and I stopped to talk to a couple I knew and they said they were out to watch the super-moon rise, which it started to do about a minute later.  I almost always carry a camera so I took a couple of quick photos (if I’d planned ahead I would have brought the camera tripod).

super_moon_1

The moon rose over the northern end of the Dragoon Mountains which are about 20 miles east of the RV Park.

super_moon_2

I’ve never timed a moonrise before, but from the moment the top edge of the moon peeked over the Dragoons to the time it was fully up was less than three minutes which seemed quite fast.  To be honest the Moon always looks big when it’s near the horizon so I couldn’t say whether it was really any bigger than it usually is but it was a fun impromptu get-together with our neighbors.

On Halloween we revealed our true identities

The SKP park had a Halloween Party last night.  They have on every year up but until now we’ve always arrived in the park no earlier than November 1st so this is the first time we’ve gone.  We had some fun with costumes and I attached LED lights to Susan’s wheelchair.   We also got programmable LED badges.  Susan came as a cat so of course her badge said “Meow! Meow! Purrrrr”.

susan_cat

I came a mad scientist (always wanted to be one) and my badge said “Bwa-ha-ha-ha!  It’s alive!”.

mad_scientist

Susan’s new grab bars

It’s been a year since Susan first starting getting vertigo and although it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, her balance is still poor.  To make it easier for her to get around inside the motor home I decided to install a couple more grab bars.

The problem is that the kind of grab bars you can buy at Home Depot have wide bases, usually 4 inches or so across.  The interior cabinetry and walls of the motor home don’t have 2 x 4 studs to screw things into.  In fact, in order to keep weight down the structural elements are only at the corners and in between is very thin veneer plywood. Two years ago I made grab bars out of 1″ x 3″ oak that got around this problem by being narrow enough to install at the edge of the cabinets over and beside the bed.

This time I started with two pieces of 1″ x 3″ x 24″ oak and used a jig saw to round the outer corners and a bandsaw to cut out the interior space, leaving a handle shape.  I used my router to round the edges and a belt sander in the RV park’s workshop to smooth everything.  I then drilled and countersunk holes for screws using the workshop’s drill press.  I then gave them two coats of polyurethane and stain (sanding lightly in between coats).  Finally I used 4″ brass wood screws (that I had to order on-line because nobody carries brass screws that long locally) to fasten one just inside the doorway to the bedroom and one just inside the hallway.

Grab bar to the left of the doorway in the bedroom.
Grab bar to the left of the doorway in the bedroom.
grab_bar_hallway_2
Grab bar in the hallway (other side of the doorway to the bedroom).

I am pleased to say that they’re very sturdy.  I’ve put my full weight on them and they don’t budge.  Susan has used them several times already and says they are a real help so I think it was worth the time I put into them.