Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

December 31, 2011

Welcoming 2012

Sticks always make my dog happy.
Tomorrow begins a new year and marks my second full year of retirement.  I like to look forward in life and make the best of whatever I have.  The past is gone and memories serve as lessons.  So I expect 2012 will be another good year for me.  

December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Solstice, Chanukkah, ...

To all.  Axial tilt - the reason for the season at the nadir of the year in the northern hemisphere.  When the dark of the year begins to get light again but not before the temperature lag gives us the winter to get thru.

November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Today is the national day of giving thanks.  It started as the fall feast before winter sets in and after the harvest is done and stored.  It is an ancient tradition for agrarian peoples who felt a need to mark the time of plenty in hopes that it would ensure more plenty.  Not really effective but the rites serve to remind people of the work needed to sustain life.  Did the ancient hunter gatherers also have a fall feast?  They also spent a lot of effort getting ready for the harsh winter like the bear who feasts to store fat to sustain it thru the winter sleep.

November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day on Binary Day

Thinking of all the veterans out there today.  If only the origins of this day of remembrance really had meant the war to end all wars.  But alas, we humans never learn.

October 12, 2011

My First Rally Experience

Last weekend, I went to my first RV rally.  It was the local chapter for my brand of RV - Leisure Travel Vans.  It was at a campground about 70 miles south of my house - Creekside Campground in Edinburg, VA because it had a nice meeting room.  Expensive campground at $35+ a night with electric, water, cable, wireless internet.  Sites were fairly level with a plastic picnic table and gravel and all in a line with little space between sites.  There was a nice creek behind our sites.

September 16, 2011

Pondering Van Electricity

In pondering what to get for a new refrigerator, I used my battery monitor to see how much juice each thing in my van takes.  It is an interesting exercise.  Here are the results:

September 11, 2011


A decade ago, a terrible thing happened.  The deliberate murder of as many citizens and visitors to this country as a few vicious fundamentalist religionists could manage.  They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and thousands died that day.  Thousands who harmed those vicious people not at all.  That is the definition of terrorism.  The cowardly murder of people who are not at fault for whatever the supposed grievances are.  The effectiveness of the current brand of terrorism is the successful indoctrination of the murderers to also kill themselves.

September 6, 2011

49 days on the road. Lessons Learned

This post is a recap of what worked well and what didn't work on my nearly 2 month trip in the van.    I put key words in bold to make it easier to find a topic in this rather long post.

September 4, 2011

8/21 - Down the hill to home

I got on the road by 9 am. Just made coffee, walked the dog and took off. I forgot to secure the closet door and the dog got scared. This time, her solution was to get on the bed with the cat. We stopped at the Sideling Hill rest stop and I secured it with a bungee. She then resumed her position in the aisle and didn't try the bed again. We got home at 11am.

8/20 - US250

The van that was there last night was gone when I drove out. I'm not a terribly early riser anymore now that I don't have to. That came as a surprise to me after so many years of rising at 4:30 am to get to work. No one bothered me at all in my parking spot. There were 2 cars in the lot behind me. One had a person in the driver's seat who looked like he was napping. It appeared the park had only a single porta-pottie for nature's call.

8/19 - Huron and down the Mitten

Lake Huron

I did a little housekeeping this morning after cooking some eggs for my breakfast. Kids came over to play with my dog again. She sure is popular with children. A couple people were very interested in my van – saying it was what they had in mind. After all was done, I dumped my gray water and filled the tank with fresh water before heading off.

8/18 - Lakes Superior to Huron

Lake Superior looking toward Marquette
I was awakened very early this morning by loud rapping on my van and a man yelling for me to wake up. I finally answered and he asked if I had a dog and if she was red. Yes to the dog, no to the red as I think of her as sandy colored. My drivers door was wide open (yikes) and my dog was roaming around the parking lot. I must not have latched it securely last night. I got back in bed and then heard meowing. Oh no, did the cat get out too? Yup, not in the van and he wanted back in. Not one of my finer moments. Then I couldn't really get back to sleep so I got up early at 6 am.

8/17 - Wisconsin and to Marquette

A northern WI Roadside Park

We drove all the way across the northern part of Wisconsin today thru Eau Clair, Ladysmith. Eagle River, and north east to Marquette. MI where we are camped at a Walmart just before dark. Lots and lots of trees in WI that get increasingly more coniferous as we moved north. There were a few plants already starting to get their fall colors but mostly it was very, very green. Lots of lakes too but I could only see a few glimpses of them because of the heavy forest cover.

8/16 - On the Mighty Miss

The Mighty Mississippi at Wabasha, MN

Tonight we are camped in Wabasha, MN in an overflow lot. It is posted for 72 hours parking and there are a few semis here so it must be fine for boondocking. I found a nearly level spot near what passes for grass. There is a very big field where I could throw a ball for the dog and not worry about distance or traffic for her to get good exercise. The name of this town makes me wonder if there is some relationship to Wabash, as in the river. I was hungry so I stopped at the T-bone restaurant in downtown for a good meal of ribs and veggies. The server said the cook thought it odd but it was a nice mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and peppers. The mighty Mississippi river is still very large up here so far north as befits the drain pipe for the entire center of the country. It is only about 695 feet elevation, dropped from 1000-1200' from the surrounding countryside.

8/15 - To Rochester, MN

After an exercise fetch session with my dog at Cabela's in Mitchell, SD, we drove at 65mph on the freeway to get to Rochester when I said I would. Once I hit the last town in SD, Brandon, suddenly my phone got signal and grabbed all the email its been missing. My USB connector for it seems to not make a connection to charge it so there's another thing gone wrong. It was a long drive of SD grassland changing to MN farmland and tons of corn. In places, the incredibly dark rich soil of southern MN is revealed. Its no wonder that it is farming country despite the harsh winters with that soil. I got to my internet friend's house where his wife saw me and greeted me nicely. Their neighbor is gone for many months at a time so they invited me to camp in the driveway - nice and level with electricity and water. We had a lovely visit and dinner at a new Greek restaurant that their favorite Mexican cook just opened – Opa Opa. It was truly delicious. The owner is a Mexican complete with strong accent who learned to cook in a Greek restaurant but has a Mexican restaurant next door. Funny juxtaposition but the food was great.

Route: I90E – US63N to Rochester, MN

8/14 - The last of the Badlands and heading east

Badlands oasis

I threw the big rope toy for my dog before heading off to see the last of the Badlands. That 6' leash restriction makes it hard on the dogs. Some campers let their dogs run around anyway and I let mine have just a bit of a romp dragging her leash. She was good and came every time I asked.

8/13 -The Badlands, II

Off to the Badlands again, only this time, I took I-90 to Wall. I stopped at Wall Drug, a kitschy paean to self-promotion and excess of silliness. I got a lanyard for a pen to stay put in the cab and ate a bison burger and had a shake there. Ok, I've been there. 

8/12 - The Badlands - and a retreat

I spent a good part of the day doing some housekeeping at the Wind Cave campground and took the dog on the nature trail around the camp. The campground host came around and asked if I was going to stay another night. The check out is noon. The campground was nearly deserted but she said they weren't very strict on the time. I finished up my housework and moved the van to the amphitheater parking lot so I wouldn't be in the camp. When I got out to take the dog for the walk, the extra cat was in the foot well and ran into the van, A couple of maintenance people there asked why I wasn't taking the cat for a walk. (ha, ha)

8/11 - The Black Hills and Wind Cave

Wind Cave Box Formations

Only natural opening to Wind Cave
About the diameter of a cowboy hat brim

In the morning, I went to the visitors center and met a young ranger with a box of dirt and animal tracks. She seemed very surprised that I, an adult, was interested in her display and to learn which animals made which tracks. I learned the pronghorns have very grooved hooves that amount to having cleats. It must help them run so very fast.

8/10 - Devils Tower and the Black Hills

Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower, WY

In the morning, we drove up to Devils Tower where there were tons of motorcyclists and more and more coming in as time wore on. The visitor's center was packed with them and they reserved the parking lot near the building for them. I found a shady spot for my van in the RV line up along the road and looked at the displays in the visitors center then took the mile loop around the rock. It is a cool chunk of rock with interesting formations. Unfortunately, they banned dogs from all the trails.

8/9 - North to the Black Hills and the Devil

Cambria Salt Mines Vista - WY Black Hills
Just outside of Lusk, there was a bad motorcycle accident. Most of it had been over by the time I got there except for the lane closures. As we moved north, there were more and more motorcycles on the road. I moved over to the shoulder whenever I could to let them pass me by. There's a lot of dry prairie in eastern WY and the winds are relentless. The Black Hills began immediately north of Newcastle. Beautiful drive. The Ponderosa pines look black from a distance, hence the Black name. The vegetation reminded me of the Black Forest near Colorado Springs.

August 25, 2011

Trip Over

I got home Sunday, 8/21.  My cell phone completely died on Monday and it is my main internet at home.  It will not get any power or connection from the cable so it has no juice at all.  I now am limited to finding free wi-fi hotspots until I get a new phone.  Choosing a new phone is not a simple project so I have to do research.  I am not pleased with the durability of the phone (Samsung Moment) - not even 2 years yet.

August 9, 2011

8/8 - Laramie to Lusk

Today, after our morning camp, making coffee, and playing fetch with the dog, we meandered down to Laramie and spent a few hours doing some shopping and making yesterday's blog post on the Univ. of Wyoming's free guest wi-fi.  I found a lovely food co-op and got some grass fed beef and some heart for the dog along with a lovely salad mix that included nasturtium blossoms.  I fixed some of it with sardines and blue cheese for lunch.

August 8, 2011

8/7/11 - Up the Poudre and to Medicine Bow NF

Camp at my sister's house
We left my sister's house at 11 am after breakfast, coffee, shower, wash hair, packing up the food in the refrigerator and the frozen cat food. Last night, I made 2.5 pounds of food for them so I could freeze it overnight. It is sitting in the cooler with the frozen ice packs. I don’t have all that much cold food with me this time. I still have some cheese and I bought Greek yogurt and cherries last night. I got an onion and I still have quite a lot of sardines and tuna in cans that I can make a tasty meal of.

August 7, 2011

Heading out again

My mail packet didn't arrive until 3:30 yesterday and it didn't make a lot of sense to head out at that hour so we stayed at my sister's for one more night.  That meant one more trip to their land for the dogs to play and run.  My dog had a blast fetching in the irrigation ditch and she made it running at 30mph along side the truck.  She "heels" to the truck and has learned to stay away from the front mostly.

July 24, 2011

Staying Put

Cache la Poudre River Canyon Rd, abt 7000ft

I'm still camped at my sister's place, plugged into her outside outlet.  It is really hot in Colorado.  Temps have been in the 90s most of the time and sometimes make it to the low 100s.  It was 105 and humid at home so the low humidity here is better.  Seems like most of the country is burning up.

July 20, 2011

Computer and desk work in the van

Working in the van.  Table open.
I worked hard last spring getting things set up for my particular needs and uses.  Among those needs was a functional desk for my computers and some office type activities.  I needed a place to put my printer that didn't need constant access, a place to efficiently store various office supplies like stamps, envelopes, tape, scissors, pens, etc.  I also needed a place to sit and use my laptops.  I have a little volunteer activity that involves logging a bunch of envelopes, sorting them and sending them off to another volunteer each week.  In addition, I like to keep detailed track of all my expenditures and personal finance things using the computer.  In the middle of my summer trips, I have experience using my design and setup.

July 17, 2011


Refinished elephant table
We spent a week in the Denver area camped in my mother's driveway.  It has a slope downward but not as bad as I thought it would.  My airbags managed to get the rear up just enuf for a comfortable near level experience.  Turns out that it was illegal to camp on the street like I did last year.  I plugged the van into her outside outlet which kept the batteries charged and was enough to run the AC when needed.  I took showers in her house but did all other personal ministrations in my van, including the teeth brushing.

July 7, 2011


Free camp at Hunnewell Lake, MO
We are on the road this week.  We left Maryland at 6pm on July 4.  Not a bad time to travel west at all.  The freeway traffic was very light.  We spent the night at the rest area just over the border in WV.  It was much cooler and drier up there so the late start worked out well.  I had a great parking spot next to a hill for the pet area where my dog could play fetch safely.

June 26, 2011

Pudding in the Thermos Cooker

I used some of the blueberries I picked to make a clafootie type pudding and tried out the thermos cooker I bought to cook it.  I used my Shuttle Chef thermos Cooker as a bain marie (water bath) and my tiffin pots as the bake pan.  It worked as well as anything except the bottom tiffin pot leaked.  Not much harm done.  I just poured out the water on top and the pudding is fine.  I got the Shuttle Chef cooker because the interior pot is a very high quality stainless pot with a thick bottom for heat dispersion and its superior insulating qualities.  Not easy to find anymore.  I ended up ordering it from a Canadian supplier which triggered my credit card fraud alert.  Nothing wrong with the vendor tho, just automatic software.   

June 25, 2011

LEDs and Deco

LED Bulbs

B15 base LED installed in porch light
Aluminum cookie bent to send beam down

Porch light with LED lit
I got my new LED bulbs today from http://www.prudentrver.com.  Great service as I only ordered them Thursday.  I got replacements for my 6 halogen puck lights under the upper cabinets and the porch light next to the side door.  The site where I ordered them has really good information on how to select the replacements and how to figure out what kind of base the bulbs are.  I don't remember where I found this site but I bookmarked it.

June 23, 2011

Making a List, Checking it Twice, Thrice

Cat and Dog making themselves at home in the van while I work
Cat jumped into the van and rested.  Dog checking him out.
The reason I've been working so hard on my van mods and repairs this spring is that I'm trying to get on the road in a couple weeks.  Time is getting short.  Very short.  Now that the electrical is fixed, I'm breathing a big sigh of relief.  I found a blown fuse in one of the lights circuits that gives me pause.  It might have blown while I was doing the installs so maybe it is ok.  I'll keep an eye on it.

June 17, 2011

New Inverter Installed

Xantrex Prowatt SW Inverter in Electrical Cavity
And look at that open space!  A place to hide something.
Yesterday, I finished installing my new inverter.  It is a pure sine wave Xantrex Prowatt SW 1000 with a remote switch.  My biggest stumbling block for installing it was finding connectors for the very fine stranded 1/0 audio wire that the old inverter POS was connected to.  After failing to get a soldered connection and another screw on connector, I finally found a clunky but all copper screw-down connector at Home Depot that made a firm connection.  Once that was nailed down, I could proceed.  I had made a new ground cable and mounted it to the ground screw when doing the converter installation so that was ready.

June 16, 2011

Battery Monitor Install

I finished the Trimetric 2025-RV battery monitor installation in my 2005 LTV Free Spirit van with 2 house batteries.  Running wires is the hardest part.  The monitor requires a shunt to be in between the battery negative and all other connections on the negative/ground side.

June 8, 2011

New Converter

I completed the WFCO Ultra III WF-9855 converter kit installation last weekend.  It was a fairly involved procedure so I am late in documenting it.  This replacement started when I blew fuses and discovered the source was 3 melted wires to the NEG post on the DC fuse board.  That was a simple enough fix (wrap the melted insulation with electrical tape) but that left the question of why was the post so hot that it melted the insulation?  Anything getting that hot is not a good sign and could well be an electrical fire hazard.  Rather than just patch it up and forget it, I looked into correcting the why and making it work properly in the future.

It appeared that the wire sizes were too small for the loads.  They had used 8 AWG wires to get the battery power to the fuse board.  It was especially bad when I ran the water pump and the POS post got very hot.  From my research on the web, this seems to be a fairly common problem and other people had serious charing in places near the converter.  I also wanted to have a good 3 stage battery charger to take better care of my batteries.  This led me to replace my Parallax 7355 converter/charger with the Ultra III 9800 series kit that included a new and better fuse board.

June 7, 2011

Installed the Trik-L-Start

Trik-L-Start with labels on wires
I got the engine trickle charger installed today into my 2005 Sprinter LTV.  After searching on the internet, I discovered the battery disconnect switch between the house and engine batteries is located under the driver's seat and it is accessible from the top of the seat base.  Thanks to TrikLStart.pdf this excellent write up in this thread: http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1150&highlight=trik-l-start, I found the disconnect switch.  I didn't want the unit where he put it because I like to store some things there.  I found a bracket bolted to the driver's seat on the door side that has nothing else on it.

Battery Disconnect Under Driver's Seat
Left wire = Engine battery
Right wire = House battery 

May 26, 2011

Slow Water - fixed!

I fixed the cold water flow on my galley faucet.  A simple pry off the cap, unscrew, take off the handle and the valve under it.  I peered into the hole and saw chunks of lime.  Not terribly surprising since I found a quarter inch of lime in the bottom of the water heater last fall when I emptied it and replaced the completely eroded anode rod.  I sucked up the lime with my wet/dry vac and poured a little Whink Rust Remover to help it.  Then I boiled some white vinegar and gave the valve a good soaking overnight.  Reinstalled and the pressure is much better.

Funnel contraption to pour
Last fall before I started the blog, I filled the water heater with half 5% white vinegar and half water using a funnel I connected to a hose with a screw on fitting to fill it.  Hold the funnel higher than water heater and it fills up despite the drain being on the bottom.  I then turned the water heater on overnight so the vinegar solution stayed hot and all that lime dissolved.  Drain and rinse and it is renewed.  I tested the heating and it works great.  So, now the water system is back in business.

Summer is here with a vengeance today.  Hard to want to do things outside when it is 90 degrees with rising humidity - right on time for Memorial Day.

May 23, 2011

Wiring Woes, Update

I found 2 positive cables that are in contact with one of the rear shocks.  It is hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure that there is some rubbing on the insulation of the wires.  At any rate, I need to re-route the positive cables on the inside of the shocks so they cannot come into contact with the shocks.  The positive cables echo the configuration of the negative - they go from the battery to a junction box under the van where they are connected to 2 other wires, one of which goes to the inverter.  

May 18, 2011

Wiring Woes

3 Wires Fused to Converter NEG Lug
After much effort, trouble, and a few bruises, I have learned some things about my wiring in the van house.  This all started with a blown fuse that blew and sparked every time I replaced it.  The van had blown both the converter and inverter before I bought it.  The dealer had replaced both and spliced a fried wire to the inverter neg.  It worked fine last summer after I bought it but for some reason, it blew fuses during the fall.

May 9, 2011

Refrigerator Blues

Drawer Refrigerator
Last week, I took my 3 way refrigerator (circa 2006) out of my van and did the burping procedure, then tested it. It has no 110V circuit working but the 12V did heat up the back as it is supposed to but I got zero cooling overnight. I think it is dead and not worth trying to repair so it now resides in a corner of my garage until I do something about it. I now have a cavity of 32"x21x23 with no insulation on the van skin and 2 nice vents. For this summer's trip, I think I will go the cooler/ice route but with a better quality cooler than the one I used last summer.

April 27, 2011

The fan update

I think I have figured out why my ceiling fan and front ceiling light stopped working along with the bath light and fan.  A blown fuse.  Duh.  Unfortunately, replacing it causes the replacement to blow immediately.  With the DC power on, I got a spark when putting in a new fuse.  Now, how do I find out why?  Do I have to dismantle everything to find a short?  What a drag.  Guess I'll be disconnecting the batteries and following the wire.  When I bought the van, the inverter, converter were blown due to a short in a wire under the fridge.  I wonder if mice have been busy?   At least I have a decent chance of getting it fixed now that I have a reason for the problems.

April 20, 2011

Pets in the Van

Nissa on tether in front of rock
One of the big reasons for me to invest in my camper van was to be able to wander about with my pets in tow.  Last summer, I had 3 cats and no dog.  I was waiting and disciplining myself to not get a dog after my last one died a couple of years ago until I had firmly gotten my post retirement life in some sort of order before saddling myself with another dog.  There was never any question about getting a dog, just a matter of when.

There seems to be a lot of people who worry about traveling with cats who hate the car.  Here's my experience with traveling with my cats and how I handled the challenges.

April 18, 2011

The Bed Raising

My van has a dinette/bed in the rear.  I have no need for seating for 6 or a 6'x6' bed and can comfortably sleep across the rear of the van.  I thought that having about 42 inches between the bed and the bottom of the upper cabinets was a lot of wasted space devoted to the bed.  It was also a lot easier to leave the bed in place while on the road than to make it up each day.  To that end, I decided to semi-permanently make a raised bed in the back.  I got poplar boards to make two boxes raising the bed area by 7.5 inches.   This is item 2 in my list.

April 12, 2011

The Fantastic Fan is not so fantastic

It finally got warm enough yesterday that the ceiling fan should have come on regardless of the thermostat.  It is sporadic and doesn't seem to work according to the speed control.  I made sure the lid was fully open so that wasn't it but it has to be more open than it did before.  This happened after I cleaned it up of the stink bug carcasses last fall so I must have done something to it.  I'm trying to figure out some way of putting a screen over the top side of it now that the stink bug plague makes that a needed thing.  In the pic, you can see some stink bug carcasses inside the center fan housing (those dark spots).  I haven't found a way to get them out.

March 30, 2011

Head Rest

The head rests on my otherwise very comfortable seats in my van are hard and do not give adequate neck support for long driving sessions.  I suppose it meets the safety requirements.  I made a padded sleeve to put over it to address these problems.  This is item 11 in my list.

March 25, 2011

Making the dinette seat comfortable

The curvature of the van wall makes for a rather uncomfortable back rest. LTV supplied a 3 foot cushion that doubles as the bed in the center but it doesn't give good back support at a comfortable angle.  Item 4 in my list.

March 5, 2011

Changes to my Van

Of course, the stock accouterments that come with my van are not completely to my liking.  Here's a list of things I think I need to add or modify to make it more comfortable for me and my pets.  This is as good a place as any to keep a list of things to do.

February 16, 2011

A Review of My Rig

I bought a used (3rd owner) Leisure Travel Van (LTV) Free Spirit 210B Class B van. It is built on a 2005 22 foot long Sprinter van with the diesel engine. The interior behind the cab is 14 ft. by 5’8” yielding about 79 sq ft. The cab adds about another 2 1/2 ft. to the center console. The passenger seat swivels to the face the back but while comfortable, it is too high and lacks one armrest. I’m trying to figure out how to make it more comfortable as a lounge chair maybe with a computer desk thing. It was not inexpensive at about $50k but I wanted the gas mileage and longevity of the diesel engine. 

January 27, 2011

Winter Camping in my Driveway

Last night dumped 9.5 inches of heavy wet snow and the power went out at 7pm.
Still out at 2pm today. The house is cold and I have no water because it is on
a well - no power, no pump, no water. I was plenty warm in my bed with my down
comforter. I ran out of battery in my laptop and my cell phone last night.