Tularosa Basin Museum of History, Alamogordo, New Mexico

We saw this museum on the corner of 10th Street while driving through Alamogordo on our way to our RV park.  We hadn’t noticed it the last couple of times we’ve been through Alamogordo and since we had some time after having lunch we visited it.

Although small, it was reasonably well organized, mostly chronologically but also by subject.

Indian baskets and pottery
The Cowboy Past
The railroad line from El Paso and the logging railroad that went up to what is now Cloudcroft were big influences on the area around the turn of the prior century

Continue reading Tularosa Basin Museum of History, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Had to replace the batteries too

I’ve known for a while that the house batteries (a bank of 4 6-volt golf-cart batteries that keep the motor home supplied with electricity when we’re not hooked up to anything) were in poor shape.  It’s been a while since we’ve been unplugged however, and while we were waiting for our tires to be replaced I watched the battery charge indicator go from 100% to 20% in about 15 minutes.  Needless to say, that meant the batteries needed to be replaced.  After the tires had been replaced I made arrangements with Shannon’s to replace the batteries too.  We came back on Friday and had that done.

The starting batteries were still working okay, but they were factory-installed originals and are now almost 10 years old, so I had them replaced as well.  Like the tires, not cheap, but necessary.

Replacing our tires

I’ve been getting our motor home ready for traveling.  One of the most important things that needed to be done was to replace the tires.  They were overdue for being replaced since they are nearly 10 years old.  We would have replaced them last year but since we ended up staying the entire summer it didn’t make any sense to do that then.

I had gone to Love’s tires first but they ended up saying they couldn’t find tires with a high enough load rating.  Our tires need to be able to handle 7160 pounds for a single tire and 6000 pounds for a double tire and this is very high end of what you can get for 16-ply tires and most trucks don’t need that high of a rating.  The staff at Love’s suggested I go to Shannon’s in Benson since they work on motor homes all the time.

Shannon’s was able to find the tires we needed and ordered them.  Last Tuesday we drove down and had them replaced.  I had to back the motor home so that it was under their front awning and there was just enough head room to do this.

They had to get under the motor home to place the jacks, which is something I’m glad I didn’t have to do since it is a tight fit.

Here’s what it looks like with the back tires off.

And here’s what it looks like with the new tires in place.

They only took about two hours to get this all done.  Not a cheap process but I feel much safer now that it has been done.

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 moved 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
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).


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.