Thursday, June 30, 2016

Testing The Panel

Yesterday was a very sunny day here on the "Wet Coast" so I took advantage of the chance to test the new panel combination.

We run a small "bar type" fridge above the drivers seat. It runs on AC, plugged into the inverter. It has been our practice to reserve it for pop, water, juice and beer, nothing perishable. When we boondock for the night we unplug it and then plug it back in in the morning. I have always been a little concerned if I leave it on during the day when we leave the rig parked for a few hours as the old single panel would not quite keep up to it and our batteries were dragged down if we left it more than an hour or so.

Yesterday I unplugged the RV and left the bar fridge running on the inverter for three hours. I could have left it on all day as the battery voltage was exactly the same (fully charged) after running the fridge for three hours as it was before I unplugged the rig. The panels were keeping up! $200 well spent!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blast From The Past

I was going through a box of "stuff" and discovered the slides I took of the 1997 comet Hale-Bopp! I ended up with ten usable shots out of two rolls of 35mm film I took one night. It was great to find them.

All were taken with my N-8008 Nikon film camera. The last was an experiment with my 500mm lens with a doubler attached making it a 1000mm. It is not great quality but is a closeup of the comet. The grain on all the shots is the result of the ASA 1600 film I was using.

New Panel Photo

The new solar panel! (The new one is closest to the camera). It turns out that after the voltage drop between the panels and controller, both panels are putting out exactly the same voltage.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Panel Mounted!

I got the new solar panel mounted on the roof and wired down the fridge vent with #10 cable. I was smart enough to tie a rope onto the straps of a grocery store bag so Norma could send up any tools I forgot and I forgot two. Saved me at least one trip down.

I just laid the wire on the roof and stuck it in place with strips of Eternabond every foot or so. It should work. Tomorrow I will wire it into the controller and watch the amps flow!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Another Solar Panel

We have one solar panel on the roof of the RV, a 125 watt unit I bought a few years ago from Camping World. It has generally been enough but when I saw a deal from Canadian Tire I had to jump on it. They had a 100 watt Coleman panel on sale for $199, marked down from $525! I called to discover they only had one left so I asked them to hold it for me and I headed downtown to pick it up.

I got it into the car OK but the box was very slippery and awkward and when Norma and I were carrying it from the car to the workshop I tripped and dropped my end as I fell backward. Norma then dropped her end so she could help me. I was fine and way more concerned about the panel! Anyway all was well and there was no damage. I manufactured some mounting brackets from some aluminium stock I had laying around (never throw anything out!), drilled four holes in the frame of the panel and pre-drilled the brackets. I then cut some #10 wire to length from a couple of rolls that my previous employer had kindly donated when I retired.

Tomorrow is the day! I will go up on the roof and run the wires down the fridge vent and into the solar controller. Later in the day Norma's new lawn guys will be here so I will have one of them pass the panel up to me. I have some Dicor self leveling sealant as well as some Butyl rubber to go between the brackets and the roof. It will look very professional.

I made the brackets because the hardware store did not have exactly what I needed and ordering them from eBay would have taken two weeks. So... I made them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Roof Vents

Our house had none. Well, it has one on each end of the roof, under the overhang but that is not enough. To determine how much venting you need you take the total square feet of the roof and divide by 300. That gives you the number of square feet of vents you need. In our case that comes out to 6 vents. The side vents made up for two so we were four short. It was the soffit installer who pointed out the problem when he said we had no roof vents for all the new air the soffits were introducing into the attic to exit.

I studied YouTube videos and was quite confident I could do the job myself but Norma asked her new lawn guy who used to be a roofer and he offered to do them for the same rate she was paying him to do the lawn. He did all four in an hour and a half so we were quite pleased and it saved me more than that in the chiropractor bills that I would be paying if I did it myself. The vents themselves are cheap, $10 each plus tax.

I went up on the roof and I could feel the hot air pouring out the newly installed vents proving they are working well!

It was a very hot day to be working on the roof but here he is. Yes, there is moss on the roof but I have something to kill it. That is the next job.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Our Eagles Are Back

We awakened at about 6:00 AM to a great commotion out back. Norma went to the back door to investigate and found two eagles, a male and a female, in the tree right behind the house vocalizing like crazy. By the time she came to get me and the camera, one of them had left and the other, having made her point, was quiet. She posed for me for some time when another female pounced on her and knocked her off her branch! Both combatants flew off in opposite directions. It may have been a marital dispute or maybe something else but they have not been back.

I hope this means they are nesting somewhere on the slope behind us. I will have to watch and listen for them.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mexico RVing Site

There is a friendly discussion going on about Mexico RVing over on It has a couple of  the expected "You're crazy to go to Mexico" posts but on the whole everyone is civil. Here is my contribution.

We have spent six winters (5 months of each) solo RVing in Mexico. We travel alone because we like our own schedule and change our route several times each year as we talk to people along the way. If we like a place we may stay a month, if the weather or surroundings is not to our liking we may move on after a day or two. We feel safe and confident enough that we do not need the security of a caravan or even a travel buddy. We have RV’d in every State of Mexico. We have had three relatively minor traffic accidents, only one of which involved another vehicle (he ran into us) and all of which we were able to drive away from. All three were fully covered by our still reasonably priced Mexican Insurance (San Xavier).
We drink bottled water which is cheap and easily available at every OXXO convenience store in sizes ranging up to 20 litres. Mexicans don’t drink the tap water and neither do we We spend pesos which we get from bank or large grocery store ATM’s. We would never show disrespect by asking Mexicans to take dollars. Visitors to the US or Canada do not ask us to take their national currency so why should we be different? How would you react if a visitor asked to pay for his hotel in the US with Euros or Yuan?
The advice in previous posts is valid. Don’t travel at night or hang out in late night bars. Do not associate with the drug trade - Ever! You will end up in jail or dead.Basically we follow the same guidelines we follow at home. Be aware of your surroundings, be respectful and if something does not feel right, leave. We are always back at the RV early, usually by sundown.
If you want to travel on libre (free, no toll) roads use common sense. Follow a bus or truck as they know where the topes (speed bumps) are. By doing this you can save a lot of money on tolls but keep your speed down, these roads are often rough.
Don’t be afraid to eat at street side food stands, In general they are cleaner than many/most greasy spoons at home and you will find some wonderful, reasonably priced food there as well as a chance to get close to the locals. Take a cab downtown, grab an outside table at a restaurant, order a coffee, a drink or a meal (or all three) and watch the people and families interacting with each other. It is guaranteed to be one of the memories you take home. Let the Mexicans practice their English on you while you try out your Spanish on them. You will make instant friends. These are the only times we violate our rule about being home early, and even on these occasions we take cabs and are never out past 9 or 10 PM.
Don’t be too concerned about not speaking Spanish, you will get by. I would suggest learning to read a menu or at the very least, carry a pocket size Spanish dictionary so you can order a beer or eggs and know the difference.. In a situation where nothing on the menu looks familiar just point at something someone else is eating and ask for the same. Everyone will have a laugh and you will get a good meal. Don’t worry about the cost, it will be less than you expect. Most Mexicans can speak at least a little English and as soon as they see you try to speak their language they will meet you half way.
The best advice I can give you is,this, be respectful, you are in THEIR country!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

New Water Pump Installed

On the way home we noticed the fresh water pump was leaking a little. There was a small puddle under the motorhome every morning and the compartment where the pump is mounted was wet. I had a good look with a flashlight and could see water beading around the pump where the two halves join together. I tried to tighten the screws without removing the pump but had no luck. I decided to replace the pump and try to fix the old one for a spare.

Pumps in our local RV repair place are over $200. I found one on eBay at an Elkhart, Indiana (where RV's are built) dealer for $58 US. It was out of the box but unused and the RV supply store had several dozen of them, likely unused stock from an RV manufacturer. I ordered one.

Today I made the swap. It is a different model than the one that I had and the intake and outlet are on the top where on the old one they were on the bottom. I had to use the old mounting bracket to lower the pump a little and I had to put a 2" wedge under one of the water lines but I got it in.

I called Norma and had her turn on the pump and try all the taps while I watched the pump for leaks. All was well. I left the pump turned on and will check it every few hours to make sure it remains leak-free.

Before and after photos. Note the piece of wood under the water line to make up for the difference in attachment points. I may build an insulated box to soundproof the whole thing.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New Laptop Ordered

My trusty Asus Netbook EEE has seen it's last days. It has been a faithful backup when we travel, easy to carry around in my backup looking for WIFI, 10.1 inch computer. The battery is the original. I bought it in 2009 for $430. Problem is, it has Windows XP which is no longer supported and I keep getting annoying notices on screen.

This alone did not bother me but last winter I started having trouble charging the battery and now it will not charge at all. I could invest $30 on a new Ebay battery but I think there are also problems in the charging system. To top it off, I used Crazy Glue to attach a replacement rubber foot to the bottom and some crazy glue ran in between the battery and the body, gluing the battery solidly to the computer.

After playing with this problem for a while today I decided to replace the computer. I wanted a small unit because I like to use it while laying on the bed in the motorhome while Norma watches her movies and the laptop is just too big. Yes, I know. Pretty lazy but I enjoy it.

I searched eBay and this morning and finally settled on a refurbished HP 5103 Mini computer. It has good ratings on old review sites from back when it sold for $650 US new. I bought it from a Canadian seller for $105 plus $12 shipping. It comes with Windows 7 but there are lots of them for sale on the Internet with Windows 10 installed so I know it will take the upgrade. I actually emailed the seller to ask him if he would do the upgrade for me before he ships it. If he does, he does, otherwise I will do it myself as I have already done three upgrades so it is not something I am afraid of tackling.

It is a pretty basic computer. It will not do "gaming" but neither do I. I want it for Blogging, browsing, emailing and Quicken. Not much else so this will do me.
Mini 5103 N455 10.1 250/2GB

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Easy Project

Today's project. The sliding gate was getting a little tired and saggy. A quick drive down to Tower Fencing in Courtenay and $85 found these wheels. Works great now! Thanks for the advice Brooks Randle