It sure seemed like there were several repairs that had to be made this summer. I had issues with the RV water supply, with the pool, with the spa, and also with the air conditioner. I installed the Mr. Cool one ton unit in 2019 after several failed experiments with a chiller to cool the radiant floor. I also had purchased a used mini-split that was 9000 btu, and I worked to install that one but could not get the lines to hold a vacuum. The DIY mini-split comes with pre-charged lines so the installation does not require pumping the system into a vacuum and then charging with refrigerant. It is all completely charged and the connections don’t require brazing or flare fittings.
Last summer it appeared that there were issues with the Mr. Cool. It appeared that the air was not being cooled as much as it had been. I cleaned the filters but there was not much else I could do. I hired an HVAC pro to look at it and he determined that the condensate line’s path to the washer stand pipe was backing up because some of the line dipped and didn’t flow continually downward. Part of the paint on the wall was even blistered from the water dripping out of the indoor unit. He measured the coolant and said that it appears to be fully charged. So he installed a condensate pump to pump the water out of the conditioner. He also applied a special cleaner to the filters and we didn’t have more issues for the rest of the summer.
This year we started having problems again with the water dripping from the indoor unit. It appears that the condensate pump only lasted a year. It was expensive too at about $250. So we noticed a significant drop in cooling. I again cleaned the filters washing them in Dawn dishwater and letting them dry outside. I also found condensate leaking all over the attic with the floor so wet it was turning black. That was an unpleasant surprise. I dried all of that out and checked for leaks to the pump and then made sure it was level and feeding down from the unit. All to no avail and then the unit went into an error mode.
The Mr Cool support was fantastic. They had me do an electrical test on the outside unit and the results determined that the problem was the control board inside. They sent me a replacement for the cost of the postage. There were instructions online and a video about how to open the evaporator unit and remove the cover and the old board. I had to stand up on the refrigerator which was actually better than a ladder would have been. I removed the control unit and took lots of photos of the wiring that I was removing.
Then there was the challenge of fitting it all back together. In fact it reminded me of the cartoon of the long equation on a chalkboard with “A miracle happens here” written in the middle. Because the video showed some of what had to happen and then left out details when it came to reassembly, which is NOT the same as disassembly.
I was able to change the board and replace the system but had the same issue with water backing up so I disconnected the wiring for the pump I double checked that the inside wiring was correct.
Then I let the condensate drip into a bucket in the attic, emptying it each day before I turned the air back on. The unit then started to give us nice cold air again. Lovely but it has not lasted. It could be that the filters need to be cleaned again, but I fear it is something more complex given the new control board and removing the condensate pump .
The differential between incoming and outgoing cooled air is supposed to be about 20º. I have a temperature measure that shows 82 degrees going in and about 75 coming out. When it is operating correctly its 82 going in and 64 coming out. That cools the room during the day.
So this issue probably requires that I call the company again for help troubleshooting. It will be interesting to see if this can be fixed again.
Last summer we had big problems with the spa equipment and it was replaced. We had discovered a leak at one of the jets in our exercise spa. I tried all kinds of patches for the leak, caulk, pool goop, silicone tape, but nothing worked.
Finally I decided I could replace the whole jet. When taking it apart, I found that the plastic screw part had been partially stripped. Maybe during my fix attempts, maybe in assembly, and I realized it was unrepairable. The project sat for about a year while other stuff happened in our lives. Then I had to clean out the spa again.
I was able to find a replacement jet body that would fit. It was a Balboa body with a 2 1/2″ water opening, a 1 1/2″ water delivery pipe and 1″ air pipe with the jet protruding from the side. I purchased the complete set with the standard jet insert from a hot tub parts site.
After the old pipe was cut away, the new jet could not screw into the jet body. The threads were too short to fit through the thick fiberglass on our tub. After an unsuccessful attempt to find a longer threaded jet assembly, it occurred to me that I could make the fiberglass thinner with a router. The router bit however was not able to sit properly on the uneven surface. So I used a Dremel tool instead.
I glued together replacement pipes and pushed the new jet body into place. Dave held it while I used a pipe wrench to twist the jet into the body. Then we had to fill the tub to see if the repair worked.
Unfortunately the attempt to glue the pipes was a failure. The pipes were leaking at multiple joints. I had glued the new jet body into pipe that did not hold water! It may have been old glue or it was just crooked joins. Also I found that the hot tub hose did not fit exactly into the PVC pipe so that caused leaks too.
I cut out the whole repair and reordered the same jet body from Amazon for faster delivery. In fact I ordered two in case the third one failed. I glued the initial pipes in the house instead of on the tub. Instead of multiple glue joints I decided to use rubber Fernco connections. That meant that the whole repair could be removed without cutting pipes.
This time I connected all the Ferncos and then attempted to have Dave hold the jet body that was coated with silicone while I screwed in the jet. But again the jet body did not hold water. (More water was added to the tub to test it.)
It seriously leaked at the connection to the tub. The silicone must have been outdated and did not properly cure over the 24 hours it rested. I read that old silicone can take a long time to cure but should be water tight in less time. I believe the failure was a result of having all the pipes connected so the jet body had to be pressed against the wall to connect, so it was slightly crooked and the silicone did not seal. This time when I drained water from the tub, I pumped some water into a couple of plastic barrels we have from a former project. That way I could reuse it after the next repair. I also just removed the Ferncos to take out the pipe assembly and attempt the repair again.
To fix the silicone problem I looked for the “best” marine caulk that could take constant wetness and would cure in a reasonable amount of time. I chose Star Brite and ordered it from Amazon.
By soaking the pipes in 99% hydrogen peroxide and scrubbing them with a 3M pad I was able to remove all the old silicone. Then I washed the pieces with dish soap and rinsed well with water.
I also took a bowl of the hydrogen peroxide out to the hot tub and cleaned all the silicone from both sides of the jet opening. I then wiped it off with a sponge and soapy water. The old silicone had to be completely removed before using the new.
Instead of completely connecting all the pipes, I decided to install the basic piece with Dave again holding the silicone coated jet body straight while I connected the jet to the body, screwing it in with a large pipe wrench. Then I let it sit for another day while it cured. By that time I could add the Ferncos to connect to the existing pipe. I had tried a pipe repair fitting in one spot but it was too long, so I replaced that with another Fernco. These clamp in two places and I made sure that the clamps were very tight.
This time the repair worked! I did have to reroute some of the pipes to fit the Ferncos to the tub hoses but I don’t think it will be a problem for the pump. I was able to pump at least 150 gallons of water back into the tub and then refill it the rest of the way.
I opened the connection to the spa control pack to be sure it had water in it and would not burn out. I had to retighten that connection and then I flipped the power on and the topside control showed a temperature but the equipment did not start up. Next I troubleshoot all the equipment.
Making our way back home we drove another couple of hours and stopped by the Yampa River State Park. This one is right on highway 40 and was a pleasant camping area. The first evening walked down to the river which was really low. Too low to put in our boat.
So we drove over to the lake the next day. It was a reservoir and another state park just a few minutes away. Another lovely day but actually not hot enough to get in the lake to play and Wolfy is a little old to just play in the sand by himself especially with more Minecraft waiting for him. I wanted to try out the boat again but we were all a bit tired by that time so we went back to our river camp.
We rested in camp, reading and enjoying the cooler weather. Later we were able to convince Wolfy to take a walk with us at the river. He was rewarded with some great frog sightings.
He was also able to wade almost completely across the river which was fun.
Despite the lovely weather we decided to go home a day early. I guess two weeks was enough of an adventure. But so glad we were out and about to see these amazing views.
Dave had proposed visiting this out of the way Colorado/Utah park with the grandkids some time ago. We didn’t think we could handle all three but at seven, Wolfgang is old enough to appreciate ancient history or so we thought. He did like the lizards and the frogs but was less impressed with dinosaur bones even if the excavation site was pretty amazing to us old folks.
We left Rifle Gap and arrived at our riverside Green River campsite. But the river was not accessible to our site. It was about a four foot drop from the shore. One area not far from our site was a tiny rocky area for river access but it was being used by a group of campers and their dogs. Yuck. That afternoon we stopped at the visitors center and watched the movie then read some signs and shopped in the gift store. The next day we took a short morning hike where Wolfy spotted four lizards and we took the shuttle to the indoor actual Dinosaur dig and read the history of discovery. Wolfy got bored and wanted to go back to the RV so we hung around with him watching Mindcraft videos and playing it non-stop.
The next day we took a drive to see some roadside dinosaur sights on short hikes where Wolfy’s sharp eyes saw a few more lizards. We drove the RV down a gravel road to see an old homestead ranch. Wolfy picked up some old walnuts from the ground. On the way back we stopped at a boat put-in site and spent some time lazing by the river.
The next day we left camp and stopped in town to visit a small but very well done natural history museum then spent the night at an RV park with full hookups to do some laundry and take showers.
We hung out there for awhile then drove to the Colorado entrance to the monument. There was major road construction going on for a long stretch where we had to wait quite awhile to be led by a vehicle through the broken road. There were two areas that were torn up. Afterwards we drove several miles through rolling hills and rocky canyons to get to some nice lookouts. We actually drove back across the Utah border. Several private ranches were along the road. Very remote living. We took about a ten mile gravel road down the mountain to get back to Highway 40 and back to our RV park site.
Our half Korean grandkids spent most of the summer visiting their aunt with their mom on Jeju Island in Korea. The children are very bilingual and knowledgeable about their mom’s culture. My son went to join them for the last couple of weeks and there are some great activities for the family including miles of beaches with tide pools to explore and anchovies to harvest. Plus warm springs pools, cultural landmarks and kids’ entertainment parks.
They returned a few days before our granddaughter left and our grandson started football practice. My son took over patent duties for him while we had a long RV trip planned for the younger grandkids. The first week we wanted all three kids then we hoped their parents would join us for the weekend and take the two littlest ones home while we continued our trip with the oldest. Instead a friend who was visiting with her son drove down and we spent a couple of days together. She took the little ones home herself. It was a big job. We spent one day just setting up camp then we visited Rifle falls nearby the reservoir. One day we went to the beach but it was too cold to swim so the kids played in the sand. And one day we took floating toys down to the water near our campsite but our kids got cold. They did really enjoy their scooters on the camp road which was paved and had a downhill stretch. Lots of fast rides.
By the weekend the little ones were ready to be home. After they left we continued our journey with their older brother.
Last time we set up the pool the various leaks in the aging liner were getting more and more difficult to repair. I had a choice between buying a new pool altogether or ordering a new liner from Intex. The liner was much more reasonable and the rest of the pool was in decent shape. The actual liner i ordered was for a newer pool setup but the correct size and the liners are often completely out of stock so I was glad they had one.
Because the grandkids would be here this summer I was anxious to set up the pool for them. It is kind of a big deal to re-level the sand base, put down a new tarp, haul out the frame and insert the liner then get the bottom smoothed out with the first inch or so of water.
I was very disappointed when we noticed that the new liner was leaking. It appeared the leak was from the seam that welded the sides to the bottom.
I was hoping the leak was just in one area around the drain, but unfortunately it turned out the entire weld was leaking. I bought a couple of rolls of Gorilla waterproof tape thinking we could seal the leak underwater and use the pool while at the same time submitting a replacement claim.
Before the pool was half full the pressure of the water overcame the tape and the pool began to leak profusely all around the perimeter. In the meantime I had started the laborious task of filing for a replacement. The requirements were to cut a huge hole in the side of the liner and a smaller one to send photos of the RMA written on the cut piece back to the company. Luckily I purchased the liner from Intex so it was in their system and I only had to send the order email to provide proof of purchase.
Once the required paperwork was properly filled out, after a call to the company was needed to guide me through the mistakes I had made on the original application. I successfully submitted the claim. The company then sent a replacement which is still in the box.
The visit was practically over, we had already wasted gallons of our well water, and my granddaughter was spending a lot of time at the local water park on an annual pass.
It was time for her to return home at the end of July and for us to take another trip with the grandkids who had spent two months in Korea. So the pool was staked to keep it from blowing down and we left for Rifle Gap and Dinosaur National Park.
We had our 12 year old granddaughter and 15 year old grandson visit us this July. That kept us busy with fun kid stuff.
We took them camping in the mountains to reacquaint them with their home state. We stayed at Shadow Mountain Lake but my battery system for the inflatable boat had a disconnected wire so we didn’t get to troll around. But the kids got in the water and generally we enjoyed out of doors.
t was cloudy and rainy driving down the east side of the mountains so we didn’t stay one more night. We just drove all the way home.
Alice spent lots of time with her friends in the US and a lifelong friend of Spencer’s came to visit. Tao and Spencer met in nursery school as babies. It was great to see him and his mom.
Before the end of Alice’s stay we drove down to the amazing Garden of the Gods. We all hiked a bit. Alice and Spencer went together. And we watched the rock climbers.
Alice had me take her friends to see the Barbie movie. We enjoyed the movie and it was fun to sit with the young ladies. We were all dressed in pink of course!
We sent Alice home but the plan is for Spencer to stay the school year to get some US education and play “real” football.
When the plumbing leaked in the RV the toilet also overflowed with water. I had read that the valve often breaks in newer Thetford toilets so I ordered the kit, watched a couple of YouTube videos and took the pedal off the old toilet to fix it.
The pedal was difficult to fit back on. It turned out the spring that opens the flap was misaligned and while I was working on the pedal it popped off. I looked up how to reattach it and that’s when I found that the plastic notch for the spring had worn off. That was impossible to fix. In retrospect I don’t think the valve was bad on the old toilet. I think the pedal slipped off the spring so it was not raising and shutting off the water flow. As I tried to reinstall the pedal the spring would not fit in the recess in the pedal. As I maneuvered it the spring popped off entirely. So I ordered a new toilet. We planned to go camping in a few days so I was in a hurry. I could not get one quickly on Amazon and the local Camping World was out of stock but one was available at a CW about 30 miles north of us. So I ordered it and drove up the next day. I had read good things about the Dometic 310 toilet. Mostly because it has a porcelain bowl and is still lightweight because it sits on a plastic pedestal. The porcelain is easier to clean, it doesn’t stain with age. The bowl wash is distributed under the rim so flushing is more complete. I was surprised to see that the round bowl is a bit smaller than the Thetford so it takes up less space.
The toilet included the bolts, caps and foam ring but I used the existing bolts. It fit over them exactly but the water supply hose connected at the back of the Thetford and to the right of the new Dometic. The hose was too short. So I cut another hole for the hose with a hole saw.
The best part about the smaller footprint is the extra floorspace between the door and the sink. I had the small bathroom heat duct removed to work under the drawer on the pex replacement. It has been replaced. The added floor space seems significant. The new toilet can use a regular toilet seat and it came with a wooden one.
When finishing up the install I used the old nut covers because they were smaller and easier to fit on the old bolts. It is a nice upgrade even though it was not planned.
I installed a pressure tank next to the water pump in the wiring and plumbing bay under the bed. I had winterized the system before I did the installation when we returned from Arizona in March. When I was getting ready for my birthday camping trip in May I found out the pipe was leaking badly. The new winterizing bypass valve also had a bad crimp fitting. I had not de-winterized in time to find the leaks and even though I spent a couple of hours connecting the pipes without the tank the system was still leaking. We dumped all the fresh water and we had no running water in the RV that trip. Luckily our campsite was right across the road from a nice running water bathroom.
Towards the end of June I needed to get ready for our post July 4th camping trip. We have the older set of grandkids visiting and I wanted them to be in the mountains again while they are here. I reconnected the pressure tank and redid the crimp fittings for the winterizing connection and when I turned on the water one of the hoses just shot out water.
I’m not sure if the hose was stretched at this point, the fitting was out of round, or if the crimp wasn’t tight enough but I could not stop this leak. Unfortunately the connection between this hose and the pex was back under some other equipment so I could not reach it to extend the pipe and eliminate the leaking hose.
I shared this dilemma with a Class C RV support group and someone suggested I replace the whole pipe under the floor. Since I have plenty of pex that seemed like a good option. The pex from the equipment bay extended under the floor to the wiring, plumbing, and heating duct area below a large drawer on the kitchen side of the RV.
Access to the area required removing the drawer and reaching into a confined space to cut off the crimp fittings and replace the pipe. I bought a new tool that had both the crimping and a cutting function. Unfortunately it required the cutter to be perpendicular to the crimp ring so I could not remove them in place and had to cut out the entire tee fitting. Pulling out the old pex and inserting a new piece through the channel under the floor was not difficult. It slid right through.
However I thought it would be easier to replace the crimp fittings with sharkbite fittings. This did not prove to be true. I clicked on the fittings and tapped them with a hammer but they leaked profusely when I turned on the water pump.
Then the real struggle was trying to remove the fittings. I could not get them to come off so I eventually just cut the pipe again to get them out. This effort resulted in several bruises and scrapes on my arms.
Once the sharkbite fittings were cut out. I had to figure out how to reconnect the pipes and tie them together with crimp fittings instead. The crimp fitting on the valve had to be pried off which took another battle with vice grips and a screwdriver and more battle scars on my arms. I disconnected the heating ducts to move them out of the way while I was working in the tight space.
Then the pex was a bit difficult to align with the tee fitting and the valve. I fitted all the pipe together before I started crimping.
The new crimping tool had slightly shorter arms so it fit better in the confined space. I was able to get the crimper fixed over each ring and I used the sides of the cabinet to start the ratchet function to close the crimps. Holding everything together was difficult but slowly the crimps were made and the plumbing was fixed.
It was a minor miracle that none of the crimped fittings leaked. In the storage bay under the bed the sharkbite fitting worked fine to connect the output hose to the new pex. The other hose connected directly to the pump.
We were able to have running water with no leaks in the RV during our July trip to the mountains. We had a few nice days but the last one rained and we got graupel when driving through Rocky Mountain National Park so the kids were ready to get home and we skipped the last night of camping.
After observing the cool outdoor shades John Avenson installed on the exterior of his passive solar wall, I wanted to add solar shades to the Trombe wall to prevent it from heating up in the summer. I priced automatic shades and came up with a pretty high total expenditure. Then I researched DIY. The tried and true DIY shade motors were Rollerhouse sold through Amazon. I researched the pulling strength of the motors and decided on 24v since the secondhand cracked solar panel on the front wall is 24v. I happened to have a Grape Solar 12/24 volt solar controller. I purchased two 12v 10ah deep cycle LiFePO4 batteries to power the shades. Each shade uses a very small amount of power-about 1 amp. The specifications allow for 12 lbs of lift and I weighed a full shade at about 5 lbs.
I have several bolts of vinyl from a Repurposed Materials auction. It seemed a shame not to use it to make my own shades. I cut approximately 9 ft of material and washed each piece of vinyl in the washing machine with cold water. Then it dried in the sun. I bought 1 1/4 inch galvanized conduit for the shades roller size I purchased. Actual internal size of the 1 1/4” conduit is about 1 1/2”. Then I cut the width of both the vinyl and the pipe to fit the block wall section.
In order to attach the rollers to the underside of the overhang in front of the wall I bought 1×4 cedar boards and installed the shade hangers. Then I screwed the board to the overhang. The roller motor rubber grips had to be shaved a little to slip into the pipe. I attached the shade with 2 sided 3m tape and a layer of outdoor waterproof tape. The tricky part was being sure the shade was square on the pipe and square at the bottom. I used my industrial Sailrite sewing machine to stitch a small hem at the bottom. I used 1/2” aluminum or zinc rods slipped into the hem to weigh them down. But apparently there is a shortage of these rods. I bought three Home Depot had in stock and ordered one at ridiculous expense from Amazon. I thought I was getting three. Read the fine print don’t go by the pictured item.
The shades have to be programmed to the remotes that come with each shade. I wanted to control them all with one device so I also bought the 15 shade remote.
After the initial pairing of the remote the top and bottom limits can be set. For one shade I could not get the top and bottom set. So I contacted support but they just suggested I reprogram from the start and do the erase remote signals three times to be sure it was a fresh start. I finally boxed it up and returned it as malfunctioning even though I had trimmed the rubber roller to fit the pipe. I ordered a replacement.
I assembled the west wall of shades and programmed them to rise and fall the right amount but one kept getting off track. So I removed it and re-squared the material on the pipe.
The batteries were working great but the solar controller seemed to have a broken load connection. I was not getting any power there. I temporarily tried another older controller and got power. So I looked up the problem and the manual indicated it could be a programming issue. I could not figure it out so I just used the battery connection instead. I lined the black battery box with styrofoam to keep the batteries cool and will cover it with white vinyl.
As I wired the shades I realized that the bare wiring was not going to be sustainable. The connections needed to be waterproof. I ordered 1/2” flex conduit and waterproof electrical boxes to contain the wires.
The wiring is tiny. Maybe 20 gauge. I wired them in series because there was enough wiring to run from box to box. I have plenty of old 2 wire thermostat wire so I will use that to reach the Southeast wall.
Each time I work on these I make a huge tool mess on the kitchen table. Although after 4 of them I’ve streamlined the work a little bit more.
I have two more to assemble. The third panel on the Southeast wall is under the window so I don’t think I’ll use a shade there.
Of course May is crazy for everyone with it being the last month of the school year here. I also have a tradition of spending a weekend camping near my birthday. This year we did it the weekend before and we were lucky it was not snowing. We drove three hours to Lathrop State Park as I was told it had a beautiful lake. The lake was lovely but it was too cold to take out the boat. The kids enjoyed the lakeside playground. The family was with us one night but because of the rain the parents and Clementine went home Saturday. By Sunday afternoon it was dry again.
I was pretty busy before we left so a few things were at the last minute. The bathroom door was stuck shut with a broken door handle that I removed and replaced with our used lever handles that I have not yet complete replacement of all the handles in the house but I have a lot of handles. The handles are meant for thicker doors so I had to shim it with a rubber washer. I also had to cut the edge to fit the strike plate and lower the jamb hole a little. Not a short job.
I also hung a customized clock. I saw an inexpensive clock at IKEA and could not resist cutting a Cricut vinyl project for the RV.
But finding and repairing the electrical problem took the longest. On our February trip to Mesa we discovered our tv and cell signal booster 12v outlets were not getting power. I checked the fuses and that was not the problem. I checked power at the fuse box and it was good. Eventually I cut the wire that fed the outlets from the water tank compartment and that wire was dead. Since I could not isolate the wire connection to the fuse I added a fuse in the last slot on the panel and ran a new wire to the cut wire. I had completely disassembled the outlets and some of the connectors fell off when I pulled them so I had to redo several of them. And I needed to do a better job of crimping them.
The water was leaking profusely at the pump outlet and had to be redone. That meant removing the pressure tank I had installed but had not pressurized the system to see if there was a leak. With the time crunch the easiest thing was to remove it. Then I had to dig into my plumbing stash to redo the connections. It seemed that I had stopped the leak but when we were underway water was in the bathroom and hallway. It turned out the toilet valve that lets water into the toilet was stuck open. So we didn’t have running water for the weekend which was not so bad since our campsite was right across from the bathrooms.
Of course the leaks were worse than I expected so it took awhile to fix them.
April is a busy month. Both our grandson Leonidas and his mom Haewon have birthdays and we prepped for an early 5th birthday party for Clementine and our 50th anniversary cruise to Alaska. Plus there were a couple of new projects on the RV and at home.
We were excited to see our grandson, Wolfgang, perform in a first grade musical. He was the boy who called Wolf in a series of three fables with acting and songs at the first grade program at Westwoods Elementary.
Then we had the April birthdays. Leo wanted Monster Trucks for his third birthday party.
Dave and I prepped for his party. Dave made cardboard racing ramps and each child got a Monster Jam monster truck. I labeled paper party favor sacks with monster trucks and his birthday banner. Dave made trophies for the race winners. Eventually everyone won!
We hung monster truck wall stickers in the basement staircase. As an activity the kids ran through an obstacle course. They were supposed to be pretending they were monster trucks.
The next April birthday was for his mom. We had a nice sushi dinner and cake afterwards.
Although Clementine’s birthday is in June she has a party a month early for her friends since she and her mom and siblings spend the summer in Korea. Clementine’s theme was Frozen as she wanted to be Elsa. So her mom bought her the formal Elsa costume and her great aunt Jean bought her a school and playtime Elsa costume and she loved both!
Plates and napkins, banners and balloons, and hallway stickers were Frozen themed. I also used the cricut to make my first layered vinyl design.
Her parents were also Frozen! And the partygoers seemed to be happy even though Grandma and Grandpa (both sets!) we’re away on an Alaskan cruise.
Preparation for the cruise just included laundry and packing and making our matching shirts for the big day.
We always have a wonderful time visiting our daughter’s family in Germany. This year they met us at the Frankfurt train station to tour a few German cities. We walked to our hotel in Frankfort and the next day we visited Goethe’s childhood home.
The house and gardens were lovely and the family was obviously wealthy. Although they moved from this early home while Goethe was young. I’m always fascinated by the restored period kitchens. This one had an interesting fire place with an iron top. And there was a well under the house so a gravity pump was installed right in the kitchen.
The finest antiques were original furnishings. This clock belonged to an uncle but it was the kind of thing that was fascinating and beautiful. The three faces indicated the position of the stars, the time, and the moon phase. An animated bear in the middle will lie down when the clock needs to be rewound. The very top dial showed the year and the date which is amazing all these years later!
It was interesting to see the same families come up again as we visited Hamburg next. We took the train from Frankfurt to Hamburg.
Our first evening we went to see the Elbephilharmonie. It is a new building for the symphony that has an amazing top floor to view the city and the river.
We spent over an hour up on the top just enjoying the view and waiting for sunset over the water. It was worth the wait!
We walked around Hamburg viewing the beautiful city. We all liked Hamburg and it is the city that Clare’s employment has been based so she visits often even though she works from home.
We experienced a lot of Hamburg in a short time. We were within walking distance to the City Hall and the large square it is located on. And we saw it from the pinnacle of the bombed church building.
As part of the public transportation system, we took a relaxing ferry ride down and back up the Elbe, viewing towns and industry along the harbor way.
St. Nicholi church was bombed during WWII. Only the tower remained and it has been preserved as a memorial to all those who died in the bombing. The lower level also survived and it has been converted to a museum commemorating the tragedy of war.
The museum was a tribute to the losses of the bombing and also recreated the church wine cellar.
We also visited the Lutheran Church of St. Michael which was all white inside and found a quaint alley with a bookstore that sold the famous children’s book Struwellpeter about difficult children written in early 1800’s that was re-written as a parody of the bad Adolf Hitler. We bought a translation by Mark Twain and Rob found one written in Korean for the Dibble grandkids.
We took the train back to Aachen to stop at home for Easter. Rob prepared his traditional hot cross buns for Easter.
The next day we took the train to Bonn to visit Beethovan’s birthplace home. It was another lovely house with loads of Beethoven memorabilia. As his hearing declined he tried every medical intervention they had at the time, even shock treatments, but none were successful. There was an assortment of the ear trumpets he had to amplify tone. And a recording of what tones he had lost so what the fifth symphony sounded like to him. Writing that was an amazing accomplishment.
We walked to see the streets covered in cherry trees. The blossoms were just beginning to emerge but they were pretty. There was some shopping to be done which meant patient hanging out by some
We woke on Easter morning to a bonanza of treats from the Easter bunny and the bakery. And of course a large feast was prepared for the family. Alice did the beer pours of good German beer to accompany our meal.
One last evening at the fire pit with the family having snacks and enjoying the fire. The next day we hiked in the nearby forest and were jealous of their early spring. We would return to Denver with still more snowy days before the green started showing.
I wanted to sew a “designer dress” for my 12 year old granddaughter’s birthday. Spoonflower sells specially designed material in hundreds of patterns that are printed on a variety of materials. I successfully bought Spoonflower organic cotton material and sewed a butterfly patterned dress for my daughter-in-law’s rehearsal dinner and it fit her well.
I had my granddaughter also pick a material design for her dress and she picked a bold diamond pattern.
For comfort and flow I bought her material in polyester jersey knit. I also bought a white jersey lining material at JoAnne Fabrics in polyester that had a similar stretch. I lined the entire dress with this white material and it seemed to brighten the dress.
Before I cut and sewed the red and black dress I decided to sew a sample dress for sizing. My daughter’s family lives in Germany so I had to have them measure my granddaughter. They did a good job except when it came to the neck to waist measurement. I had a striped jersey knit from the early 70’s that I never used. Since what goes around comes around again, it looked as bold as some of today’s materials. I had enough for a sample dress but not quite enough to make the skirt full and gathered so I bought another pattern for a flared skirt.
I have learned to trace patterns onto interfacing so that the tissue paper pattern does not get ruined especially if alterations are required.
I needed to practice sewing jersey with my Singer 9966 machine and bought special ball point needles for the work. It turned out that these needles dulled quickly and when the material began to catch in the feed plate I knew I had to throw out the needle and replace it. I decided to sew a winter style with long sleeves and a cowl neck that was not part of the pattern. Sewing the collar horizontally gave the dress some dimension with the sash the pattern called for.
I purchased the mannequin for the wedding rehearsal dress and it’s a great addition to my sewing tools. Setting it up for body measurements is relatively easy despite the multiple adjustment wheels. The one problem with the neck to waist measurement they sent was that it was way too long. So I cut to the pattern waistline instead. When they visited at Christmas the waist was still too long so I measured again and was able to shorten the waist to fit.
The next step was tackling the new expensive material. With the bold pattern it was important to match the diamonds. I also chose to make this skirt very full like the rehearsal dress.
But she wanted a v neck which made sense with the material so I bought another pattern so the neck would be properly proportioned. Fortunately some patterns are sold at less than retail on EBay and Amazon.
Unfortunately I failed to take into account the dart for the bust so I made the first bodice about an inch too short.
It was obvious on the model after I had stitched it together so I cut a longer bodice. But while I was sewing it I blindly followed the pattern steps and mistakenly sewed sleeveless seams into it. She wanted short sleeves! Luckily I had barely enough material and lining to cut and sew a third bodice. When the bodice was complete I gathered and basted the skirt and sewed it to the bodice. The first try had uneven gathers on the right.
I decided I could not live with it so I ripped out the seam and sewed the waist again. I used bias tape to cover the multiple layers of material in the waist.
This full skirt would be difficult and time consuming to hem by hand. I hemmed the butterfly dress by hand but it was an easier material to work with. For this dress I hemmed both the lining skirt and the outer skirt by machine. That made the stitches very even.
We visited Germany for spring break at Easter so I brought out both dresses. Alice tried them on but did not remove her pants!
The altered waist now fit her.
Despite the addition of an invisible zipper in back of the dress, she was able to get the stretch jersey over her upper body without opening it.
And the dress she wanted fit her! She even twirled in the wide skirt.
The big question is after I spent the better part of two months sewing these dresses and the expensive Spoonflower material ($120) and other supplies, will she ever wear either dress? I hope so!
RV trips seem to require a lot of accessories. Or at least most RVers love accessories. We recently went on one such trip where I’ve noticed the use of the RV cubbies and shelves had become a matter of interest to RV groups on the internet. So I decided to inventory ours. I started with storage ideas as soon as we purchased the newer 2018 Minnie Winnie 25b in March of 2021.
It’s been two years and our RV is kept mostly packed up and ready for the next trip. Of course we pack new food and appropriate clothing for each trip. We use the cabinet over the rear bed for our clothes, usually in duffle bags.
Many of the first space arrangements we made for the RV are still the same. The bathroom is unchanged except for under the sink which is usually now a space for a hamper or a small extra electric heater.
Each trip is a little different depending on the season. We left in mid February again this year and we finally realized why some people have heated water hoses. I have added one to our supplies hoping to leave more often in winter.
The items in the large storage area also change depending on the trip. This time we packed a new “clam” type of screen shelter that one person can put up and 4 foldable camp chairs plus the outdoor mat. In the summer we would also bring the inflatable boat and it’s floor if camping near a lake and life jackets. With the grandkids along we bring more chairs. We store camping stuff in an outdoor shed so we can vary the equipment.
We also brought the gas fire ring for chilly nights, the 5 lb aluminum propane gas tank and a roll up metal camp table. We had the grill and an armful of commercial firewood but didn’t use them. I carry fire starter sticks and packing paper rolled into mini-logs too.
I have a small electric battery heating pad to protect the water pump on cold nights and it stays in the water and solar bay and of course the small dryer is in the rear storage area too.
The large inside closet holds the washing machine. I think it is very much worth the storage space it uses. I have a rimmed baking tray with a silicone liner under the machine to catch drips and keep the machine stable. I hung a shoe storage bag for a closet over the hanger bar and it holds our cleaning supplies. We don’t usually take an iron. That was for our son’s wedding but I use the rack to hold the washer supply and drain hoses.
Kitchen items take up most of our midcabin food preparation space. The pull out pantry has been particularly useful for trip food.
Next to the pantry is the refrigerator and freezer stocked with fresh food and drinks. And across from them is the laundry closet and two large kitchen drawers. Our pots and pans include a small 12v crockpot, a stainless saucepan, a larger stainless pot used for pasta, a stainless bowl, a cast iron skillet and an old aluminum double boiler that can be used on campfire grills. The extra aluminum drip pan liners and the pan for our Weber 100 grill are also in this drawer. The narrow drawer has pantry items like salt and sugar in a jar and spices. Food storage bags and foil, instant coffee and cocoa packages, tea and coffee filters.
Over the kitchen sink there is an extra shelf that we bolted to the above cabinet and screwed to the sides and back. We substituted a small air fryer for the toaster that was on one side. The other side still holds our coffee pot and coffee. The dishes and other small appliances like a blender and coffee grinder are in the cabinet over the sink. I use our old camping dishes which are lexan plastic and hard to find these days. I have a lexan coffee press and a hand grinder just in case we need them while boondocking, plus a few extra plastic bowls and crushable silicone bowl and strainers. We carry several water bottles for hiking.
The stove gained a lid early in our ownership but we also added a large cutting board for extra counter top use. While underway we usually have to move the cutting board to the floor or it flies off the stove.
There is a small shelf over the microwave that we use for fruit and extra food storage containers. Tension rods for the cabinet shelves are essential. Our RV sways too much to keep untethered stuff on the shelves.
Two small drawers beside the sink hold utensils and the important expanding marshmallow roasting sticks. The bottom drawer holds standard kitchenware, a can opener, potato peeler, ice cream scoop, silicone serving spoon and spatula, pancake flipper and large tongs, an extra sharp knife and a couple of fire starters. We also lay the potholders on top of the kitchenware.
It seems we have a large amount of just in case items in our forward living/dining storage areas. Two cabinets over the dining table hold two sets of small drawers. One has stationery items, scissors, pens, pencils, a note pad etc. Also a small screwdriver. Another drawer has batteries and electrical stuff like the multimeter. A drawer for fuses and extra led light panels. Another for 3m tabs and rv goop and glue. One has extra child protectors and magnets for the doors though we have not had one swing open wildly in a long time. Even though these are loosely organized I generally have to take them out one at a time to find what I need. The other side has the propane coffee pot which we seldom use unless we have a crowd. Same story with the spotting scope. But we keep it in the RV. All of the smaller boxes with DVDs and our small portable dvd player/viewer are on the left. The 12v fan, a battery powered tent fan/light, a rechargeable bug zapper, and several small led lanterns.
Over the couch we use plastic shoe bins in the corners. There are two on the left and six on the right. The left ones are buried so we only have spare solar plugs and other not very necessary items. In front of those is a magazine holder for a light extension cord. Next are two long narrow bins for linens. One has extra beach towels and the other extra sheets and pillow cases.There is a large bin of other stuff too. I know the air pumps are in there, the binoculars and the nylon kites. we have an extra water bladder for hiking and a folding nylon backpack. Then we have a thick Winnebago paperwork organizer that is practically full of all the product manuals and an extra general rv repair book. The six shoe size boxes on the right are also organized. One holds a few plumbing parts especially sharkbite caps just in case, one has generator parts, one has 12v wiring, like extra plugs and a 12v extension cord. The easiest one to grab has art supplies for the kids.
I keep the water hoses under the couch and a bin for extra drink cans and bulky food items. And it seems to be the best place for the heavy metal toolbox.
There are two large bins under the benches. On the left I have a set of foldable Coleman aluminum tables and a Coleman expandable grill table on the bottom. Then the small canister vacuum I’ve had for years and the tool bags for a hammer drill and an impact wrench. A separate socket set for small sockets and a variable battery charger. I also have a small toolbox filled with bungee cords as they are often needed on the road. In the right side bin the inverter is installed very close to the batteries in the step. We took the Mr. Buddy propane heater though it wasn’t needed. We carry a Senco air compressor and hoses and a lithium battery box that we mostly use for the trolling motor.
I needed to find a spot for the toaster. It has a very short cord. So getting it close enough to the outlet over the dinette table was a challenge. I installed a narrow shoe stand between the table and the window valence. It has adjustable legs so I tightened it and it does not rattle. I had to cut part of the top of it off and I put cork pieces on the raw metal ends. It would have to be removed to fold the dinette into a bed but we don’t do that often.
The toaster is on the top shelf with some styrofoam and small bungees to help keep it attached, the King WiFi extender is on the next shelf and I have a small bin with miscellaneous napkins and other small items like chapstick that clutter our space. And there is room for a box of Kleenex. Finally the doorway is home to a couple of file folder racks that we thought we would use for our shoes. But instead we have hats and slippers and flashlights an sunscreen there. The grandkids can fit their shoes in the lower bins. We keep our extra shoes in a bin that turns into a bench under the refrigerator. Our current pair gets kicked into the step well.
The bin over the door holds coloring books, loose paper, and umbrellas plus fly swatters and chargers. I have an extra can of butane up there too. There is a file folder bin to keep stuff from falling out.
We don’t use the overcab bed for storage except in the winter when our sheets and pillows and blankets are stored in plastic shrink bags. I do carry the inside and outside front windshield shades up there and I set up a small storage area for personal items under the TV. The corner shelf is screwed to the wall and the large mattress fits under it. The 3” memory foam futon mattress that we make up for sleeping up there is shorter than the cushion so I use the small dividers to help keep the mattress in place.
I have some small storage boxes between the shelves to drop in a wallet or keys or hold small toys for the kids. The loft ladder is stored on the other side of the bed. That’s the approximate list of stuff we carry in the RV.
We like to visit our son in Arizona at least once a year. Last year was exciting because he and his fiancée got married at a beautiful outdoor wedding in late February. This year we are visiting again in February. We left home during balmy winter temperatures in the 50’s but drove all day to escape the approaching snowstorm. When we finally arrived in Bernadillo, New Mexico we were a day early so paid for two nights. There we found that the 12 volt water pump connected to the indoor water tank was not working. It tried to pump but just ran with no water going through.
The pump is known to have a problem with water flow when the internal check valve freezes so I disconnected it to see if it could be fixed.
The pump was held to the floor by 4 screws and connected to DC with a wiring clip so it was easy to remove.
Once it was out I watched a video describing the repair. There were eight screws that held the pump together.
It would have been easier to hold the pump to remove the screws with the filter taken off. But I didn’t realize that until I got into the disassembly.
The pump had three layers inside: the cover, the diaphragm and the casing.
As expected the check valve inside was stuck. But unlike the video I could not get the inner part loose. I removed the screws that held the part and popped off the check valve but I was unable to get the pieces apart.
I pounded on the inner part with a screwdriver and hammer and I found a plastic knob that fit so that I could distribute the force evenly to the inner part and hammered on that but it would not budge.
I even soaked the part in Pepsi hoping that the acid would dissolve whatever was holding it together but even that did not work.
We drove to Albuquerque to buy a new pump so we didn’t spend the second night at Bernadillo after all. We would be going in the wrong direction away from our route so we might as well keep on driving from Albuquerque. Instead we stopped at Caballo Lake near Las Cruces, New Mexico where I installed the new pump. I had to clip the old pump wires and connecting clip to install on the new pump. Fortunately Amazon carried the check valve for the 4008 pump for only $15. So I had it sent to my son’s house and I will be able to repair it and have a spare pump.
When I realized the boiler’s condensate filter was gunked up it was reasonable to clean it out and replace the filter medium. I was mistaken to believe the filter used plain limestone. When it came as a powder I had to return it and order the brand name filler from Supplyhouse.
The condensate had disintegrated the medium and clogged the drain. It was very black and the plastic filter needed scrubbing. I didn’t scrub the pipe but ran hot water and dish soap through it.
The original stuff was stone-like but the new improved stuff is round balls.
The old medium was very old. I had never changed it since it was installed about 10 years ago. The new stuff said it should be changed yearly. I tested the ph of the draining condensate in the pail and it was not very acidic. About 6-7 on the scale. That is almost neutral. So that is probably why it lasted as long as it did. It is meant to keep acidic water out of the drains. I have it draining into the sump hole that is sealed from radon gas intrusion. I never have to pump it out. It gets absorbed by the soil.
I don’t think I’ll have to replace it every year but I better keep an eye on it. Don’t want a clog to back CO gas into the house. I’ll watch for the media turning black again. It is tucked behind the other boiler pipes so I need to pay better attention.
Nice to know our CO alarms are working well though.
We woke up after a below zero night to the carbon monoxide alarms in the morning. Even though it was below zero I turned off the boiler function and opened the back door to let in fresh air. The alarms turned off. We were able to keep the hot water function on without the carbon monoxide leak. Last time this happened I was able to clean out the condensate trap and lower the water pressure and the problem went away for a couple of weeks. That was a spell of below zero weather too. So there seems to be an issue only when the boiler is running close to capacity. Sometime this season the fan began to whine when the boiler was running to provide heat. So my guess was that the fan is not operating fully to keep up with the exhaust that is created. We checked the flue and that is not blocked and I checked the power to the fan and that was correct. But when I turned the boiler on the #5 error flashed.
This error says the condensate is blocked or the gas pressure is not correct. Since I got it after I cleaned out the condensate trap again and since the gas pressure has no other issues in the house I was even more convinced it was the fan. I spent a lot of the day trying to decide whether to replace the fan or the entire boiler. The fan costs over $500. The existing boiler cost about $2800 in 11/2012 but I didn’t install it until about 3/2013. I have read that a condensing gas boiler has a service life of about 7-10 years. So we may be close to the end of this one’s operating years. But we don’t run it very hard with the lovely passive solar windows and Trombe wall.
Of course I want the latest clean energy and efficiency for a replacement. I first researched cold weather hydronic heat pumps. The newest technology uses carbon dioxide as the refrigerant. Trane Mitsubishi released a combi CO2 version last year but it is labeled commercial and the smallest version is 150,000 btu. I can’t tell if it is sold anywhere. I could buy a SanCO2 hot water heater from ECO2 in Michigan that uses CO2 for about $5500. It has a 40 gallon tank with a air to hydronic heat pump hot water heater that can deliver 69 gallons of 145° water in the first hour. But it is rated at 15,000 btu/hr which is pretty undersized for a boiler. Even if I could figure out the heat exchange piping.
My conclusion was that the air to hydronic technology would have to use R410 refrigerant. I didn’t find much that didn’t need an electric heat strip for really cold weather. And these heat pumps don’t operate well for temporary loads. Despite the problems with gas pollution I’m reluctant to switch to electric heat. Maybe I need to do more research.
In the meantime I could purchase one of several other small combi gas boiler/water heaters. There is a Rheem at Home Depot but it is twice the depth of our current Triangle Tube which is no longer made. There are models by Noritz, Weil-MacLain, Lochinvar, and Bosch, Rinaii, and Laars. All available from Supplyhouse where I bought the Challenger. They are all at least 95% efficient.
The Bosch 4000 is 82,000 btu for heat and 150,000 btu for hot water for 4 g/m at 67° rise. Has internal primary pump. The box is 18.1“ x 27.6” x 11.6“. The Bosch Greenstar 100 is 83,000 btu/hr and 2.6 g/m and advertises 96% efficient up to 98% for low fire although its still rated 95%. About 17“ x 33” x 14”. The Weil-McClain AB-120 delivers 111,000 btu/hr and 3 gal per minute at 70° rise in temperature. With an internal primary pump, it’s box is x 16.54”x 27.56”x 12.60”. Laars FT is 129,000 btu/hr and 3.2 g/m at 70° rise. Probably too much heat for us, it’s 17 3/8”x 29” x 15 1/2”. Lochinvar Noble is 102,000 btu/hr and has two pumps. Delivers 2.6 g/m at 77° rise. It’s big at 17 1/4” x 32.5” x 18”. Another option is the Noritz 180, 100,000 btu/hr and 4.9 g/m at 70° rise. 18.5”x 27” x 12.8” There are several Viessman and Rinaii models on back order or out if stock too. The Rheem at Home Depot is the cheapest at $1800. Rated at 100,000 btu and 4.6 g/m at 70° rise. No internal pump and 17.3”x 28.7”x 14.8”.
The models I’m considering in order of cost are the Rheem, Noritz, Weil-McClain, Bosch 4000 and Bosch Greenstar 100. Our current boiler is 17 1/4” x 25” x 9 3/8”. It is the CC105 model rated at 92,000 btu at 94% efficiency. Hot water production is about 2.7 g/m at 70° rise. It has always been large enough for our use. I’m concerned about the larger boxes. Although it appears most of these eliminate my primary loop and pump with an internal pump. If I just replace the fan I can put off this decision with so many variables.
But wait! I was saved from making this decision by realizing it was the condensate neutralizer filter that was clogged! I disconnected the drain hose and used a bucket to collect the condensate. Although it was not below zero the boiler did not release CO while running. I tested it with an electronic gas detector. I was surprised by how much condensate drained from the heater. The bucket filled to the pipe in just two days during colder weather.
I ordered new filter media from Supplyhouse. I added another project to get the free shipping. I need to isolate the fireplace boiler from the gas boiler because I found that with the gas boiler off the warm water did not circulate through the primary loop and I didn’t have this emergency source of radiant heat although the ambient heat still helped.
Maybe by the time we actually need a replacement for the Triangle Tube Challenger Combi boiler there will be better heat pump options on the market.
Even before I gave up on the old dishwasher I started shopping for a replacement. I was even considering a drawer dishwasher like the one I once installed for my son and his wife in California. The kitchen counter we have is shallow because the rear is connected with logs. It only has about 18” of clear space in front of the logs and only 12” of clearance between the two horizontal rear logs. There is not enough room to install a 24” deep dishwasher unless I cut into a support log. Plus I would have to build the cabinet around it. I liked that this model is energy efficient at only 151 kWh a year and very quiet at 45db but the 7 place setting space could have been too small for us since we are used to two layers. The cost was $900 and the install seemed too difficult. Our broken SPT was an 18” portable that I had altered to connect directly to water and drain. We bought it used in 2014. A replacement SPT in stainless had a little better Energy Star estimate than our old one at 265 kWh a year vs 295 kWh a year. But it cost just over $700. I did not have the option of waiting for a Craigslist bargain either. I almost ordered a GE portable for about $70 less until I realized it was too tall to fit under our counter. The built in units would fit better, were more reasonably priced and had a wider selection. But they had insulation over the top and sides requiring a cabinet of some kind. Unlike the others though the Avanti had enclosed sides. It had a little better Energy Star rating than a couple of the others at 250 kWh vs 265 kWh and a sound rating of 53db just one db less. But it cost $150 less and I would not have to void the warranty by cutting off the portable hose. Plus it was less than 33” tall and would fit under the counter.
The dishwasher did not have easily adjustable legs so I decided to mount it on a small platform. I had an old cabinet door that was just the right height with the oak veneer shelf from the tv cabinet as a top. These gave a nice tight fit under the cabinet to stay level and not rock while running.
The install was practically the same except the supply hose was the size of a washing machine hose which I had on hand. That replaced the sharkbite and pex connections from the water softener. I got the new dishwasher installed the day before we left for a winter vacation in Florida visiting my brother and his wife.
I ordered a new pump and it was not the right fit but it had the same type of magnetic motor. The motor on the original pump slipped right off but the new one was enclosed in plastic. So I cut off the motor. Then slipped it on the old housing and it worked!
Then I put the machine back together. A rinse cycle with the new pump showed the repair worked.
Unfortunately water leaked heavily from under the machine. I took off the bottom again and tightened all the new clamps and made sure the original pump was tight. The problem seemed to be the sump assembly. The machine leaked water if I just poured it into the sump area. So I ordered a new sump gasket which was a Danby part but hard to find. Shipping cost more than the part.
In the meantime I put it back together again and tried to run it again. It seemed the leak was better at least. But it would not run. Instead the dreaded flashing 888 indicated something was wrong with the control board. It could just have been a fuse but it could mean more expensive parts with no guarantee it would be fixed.