Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Where the Livin’ is a Little Easier

Garbage! The white bag is a tall kitchen bag full of papers that should have gone away long ago.

Garbage! The white bag is a tall kitchen bag full of papers that should have gone away long ago. “Someday” is today.

This post is just kind of an update to the prior one, just for those having a morbid sense of curiosity. That’s so you aren’t left with the situation appearing to be in limbo. Now that I have broadband DLS Internet and running hot and cold water, life is good.

The new blood pressure-lowering meds are a slight dampener on both energy levels and outlook, which requires more perseverance to bull through each day. As a result, cleanup has about a day more to go before I will be able to touch or lean against everything in the trailer without fear of wearing black or white clothing. It’s been a bit overwhelming, but the naps are good.

As for cleaning, I worked on my old-style IBM “clicky” keyboard, which was long overdue for a good scraping off. I was careful to rub each key with a cotton cloth dampened with Simple Green. The problem apparently came when I took a dampened toothbrush to the more resistant parts. I let it dry overnight, but when I turned the desktop computer on the next day, it didn’t recognize the keyboard as being attached. Dead. Waited another day and tried it again. Nope. Fortunately, they are still available from the same outfit (Unicomp) that made the original IBM-style keyboards and bought the patent, though they are relatively expensive. In the meantime, I’m using the wireless Apple keyboard that originally came with the iMac desktop. Though it’s quite effective for keystroke feel, it just ain’t the same as those classic units that once drove the people in the surrounding cubicles nuts from the noise. Sometimes, you just develop a preference for something, and nothing else will do. If you’ve never used one of these, then of course you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s okay. It’ll be a week before the replacement shows up.

The clogged drain situation compelled me to call in the troops (a bonafide plumber). Turns out that the 1994 Gulf Stream Innsbruck’s plumbing setup is funky. Not only did the joint connecting the two kitchen sinks include a molded-in mystery plate cutting water flow in half and stopping my cleanout devices from going past it, but sloppy assembly at the Gulf Stream factory produced a pipe run to the grey water tank that’s free of any incline at all. Unsupported, it also sags enough in the center to create an enhanced spot for grease and debris to settle. The only way to mechanically correct it is to get full access to the full span and brace it up enough to create a pronounced incline. That requires disconnecting and removing the stove/oven unit, which of course is not going to happen. As a consolation, the plumber replaced what he could to eliminate the blocked joint, and added a cleanout that will let me shove in a rooting thingie and take a shot at clearing out that unfortunate pipe run. And, now that the trailer is not boondocking, he also advised me to be generous with my use of water, to try to get stuff all the way to the tank. Way to go, Gulf Stream.

That overall assembly approach matches the oddities with the 20-gallon freshwater tank that I discovered a couple of years ago: if a flexible hose to that tank or a draining or hookup fixture needs replacing due to age deterioration (like my leak-prone tank drain valve), good luck. The water tank has been pre-assembled and fixed in place, so that clamps and doodads are either inaccessible from lack of space and/or are oriented such that there’s no way to get a tool on them. Since the tank itself is now trapped by a surrounding bench to hide it, and that bench is constructed such that it cannot be disassembled without essentially destroying it, that makes any problems with plumbing in this area unserviceable. It’s a safe bet that were I somehow in the market for a new TT, I’d be ignoring the existence of Gulf Stream, its parent company, and all of its new step-sibling brand names scooped up during the last “recession”. Features like this reflect a top-down management policy to minimize build costs and boost profits in any manner possible, and tend to be infectious across brands, regardless of their former reputations.

A Coleman dual-mantle lamp doubles as a Plan B heat source.

A Coleman dual-mantle lamp doubles as my Plan B heat source.

The balky Mr. Heater Portable Buddy is now in a dumpster. A dual-mantle Coleman propane lamp is filling in until a smaller heater arrives, perched atop a Mr. Heater Compact Distribution Post. This distribution post mounts to a bulk-size propane tank and offers multiple outlets in order to supply propane to several gizmos at the same time, if needed. For example, you could fuel a couple of lamps and a propane grill at the same time. The main benefit for me has been to hold the bright Coleman lamp securely at chest level. This lamp has represented Plan B for warmth on cold mornings since I first hit the road, offering somewhere around 3,500 BTUs at full-gun. That’s officially enough to heat 100 square feet, while the entire trailer is closer to 200 square feet. The plus of the Coleman lamp is that its output is highly adjustable, while its negative is that it is not specifically rated as safe for indoor use. This perturbs me little, since the Defiant is fairly leaky as far as sealing effectiveness goes, and it’s an easy matter to crack open a window or vent at each end of the trailer.

A 3,800 BTU Mr. Heater Little Buddy (which is indoor-safe) is onroute to me now. Built to mount atop a 1-pound propane canister, this heater will replace the Coleman when it arrives. But what about the relatively limited heat output? In the past, I’ve used the full 8,000 BTU output of the now-defunct Portable Buddy only occasionally – to break Quartzsite’s overnight lows in the high 20s, and to speed up initial heating in more normal temperatures. Yuma is always a few degrees warmer, the Defiant’s location in the RV park has consistently less wind, and so there’s much less need for the Buddy’s extra heat capability. This trailer isn’t going anywhere any more. If I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and it’s nice to have a heater that doesn’t take up additional aisle space or use a fallible rubber hose. When hoses finally split or loosen at the connections from being moved around, they can cause considerable excitement, which is one thing I also don’t need in a box full of combustibles. The Little Buddy’s ceramic plate is angled up at a 45-degree cant, so if it spends too much time throwing heat at the ceiling, a joint in the distribution post allows remounting it at tabletop level. It should work out fine.

The Little Buddy heater.

The Little Buddy heater. Worth a try when mounted atop the distribution post.

These heaters throw a heap of heat directly in front of them in the form of radiant heat, more so than convection heat where warm air is expelled. I’ve always been a bit wary of how people place them in confined, junk-filled spaces like truck campers and vans. I think it pays to be a little paranoid, both from a fire standpoint and an emissions standpoint. A blurb in a local paper has stuck in my mind over the years, one about a man and his grandchild being found dead in his truck camper, the cause being a “propane heater”. No doubt this was the equivalent of a cooking burner mounted to a 1-pound canister, or similar. They are extremely cheap, but consume all the oxygen in small spaces, replacing it with carbon monoxide. The smaller the space you have, the pickier you need to be. The choices are widening in heater types, and rather than regurgitate my ignorance here about them, I’ll shuffle you off to a very nice article here.

But I will mention the one problem I’ve found with oxygen-sensing heaters, which shut down when they detect that oxygen has been somewhat depleted within the given space: elevation. Camp at 7,000 or 8,000 feet, and it’s likely that your Mr. Heater ceramic will fail to fire up, as mine regularly did. It treats thin air as having not enough oxygen, and you’re quite likely to have no heat that morning unless you have a Plan B to fall back on. I assume that other heater brands that detect oxygen levels share the same issue, but that’s no more than an assumption on my part. Probably wouldn’t hurt to Google “elevation” along with the heater brand/model you’re considering.

The Little Buddy I’m getting likely suffers from the same limitation, but since the Defiant is staying put at 246′ elevation, it’s no longer an issue for me. This elevation thing is a prime reason why I opted for a traditional vented factory heater in the Four Wheel truck camper. It needs no such sensing devices, includes a genuine thermostat, and fires up no matter what. Set and forget. It supposedly is much less efficient than a ventless heater and uses onboard 12VDC electric power to run its fan, but neither of these “problems” seems to apply to it. Apparently, it is small enough that the camper’s 20-gallon propane supply still lasts a very long time, and its fan must be pretty efficient, because there are no dings to the batteries in running it all night. True, I do have an excess of battery capacity available, but other devices such as the inverter or the idling laptop show a detectable voltage drop, while the heater does not.

The one thing I do know is that, if using a Mr. Heater Portable Buddy adapted to a bulk tank with a hose, they call for you to add one of their filters in line at the heater connection. This is because the plasticizer used to keep the hose nice and flexible bleeds out into the propane flow, and eventually ruins the heater. The Mr. Heater filter I used was poorly made, and its seal was defective. As soon as the heater fired up, the leak ignited with it, and the only way to stop the impressive flames was to shut off the valve at the tank and wait for the supply to run out. This was an exciting few seconds, since I’d placed the heater against an interior wall. I feel that a better idea is to swap out the standard hose and filter for Mr. Heater’s “green” hose, which lacks the plasticizer. This hose may be a little stiffer, but needs no add-on filter. This 10-foot hose, P/N F273704, is not actually green in color, and looks like any other, but it simplifies the setup. My “new” setup will get rid of the hose entirely as a risk point. That’s it for Tips & Tricks, Strolling Amok style: don’t set your rig on fire! That’s always good advice, I’d say.

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26 thoughts on “Where the Livin’ is a Little Easier

  1. Doug I have used the heater by hanging it and running a hose to s 20 pound cylinder. I don’t like it and returned mine because the pilot dosent have a on setting. I leave the pilot on an my LOL Buddy with a tea kettle hanging over it. This works like a radiator throwing heat in all directions. When I wake in the morning the water is warm from thenpilot burning and I can turn the heater on high and in a couple minutes it whistles. Boiling hot water for coffee, oatmeal, dish washing and a good face washing and shave!

  2. Great couple of posts. For your next keyboard, use only alcohol on a cloth and on q-tips to clean, as that vaporizes and won’t wreck it. Old computer user trick.
    I too have a new Little Buddy and am not yet comfortable firing it up. It’s cold now and I have to get over that!

    • Welcome! Oh, I knew somebody would offer up a smart way to do it. Thanks, and I had alcohol just sitting around here, too! I also heard it suggested to clean with the board upside down, but I apparently selectively forgot that when I started getting excited seeing the sludge start to come off the main housing. Shiny object syndrome. Doesn’t help that that keyboard is quite huge and heavy, either.

      Yup, I’m not sure just how that Little Buddy fires up on spark alone instead of a pilot light as the intermediary, but I guess I’ll be finding out. I imagine it’s unsettling. The Coleman lamp is a bit spooky too, as it has a piezo igniter that you press several times to get the propane accumulating in the globe to mini-explode. The igniter button is just below it. No matter what gas setting you use, you wind up pressing the very stiff red button repeatedly with no effect until the glass globe suddenly goes WHOOMP with a fireball that fills it. Then the two mantles are glowing and it’s fine. Kind of hard to get used to, though. It’s the proximity of your hand to the fireball in the globe, mostly. Your instincts kick in every time you want to fire it up, even though the actual threat is zero.

      • Yeah, I’ve used the Coleman style lamps before and hehe, they scare me less than the propane connection on the Little Buddy. It’s in the 20s and 30s here so I know I need to beat this stupid fear response.
        Do you spray the connection with soapy water each time you use it? I’ve read that’s a good idea….now to get a spray bottle, I guess :p
        By the way, found you a few months ago through Cheaper RV Living. Nice to meet you. 🙂

  3. jr cline on said:

    I like the Coleman lantern for heat idea. That’s a good tip

    • You have a sizable rig, so it should work to slowly knock the chill off. But keep in mind that a goodly portion of this blog also covers things that didn’t work out so well, JR!

      • I took the Coleman lantern idea above as a joke. Now that it seems it is not, I have to say that your leaky trailer may be all that is keeping you alive. Unless they are working perfectly (and when does that happen?), those things put off CO and unburned fuel vapor. I hope your CO detector is functional. The only warning of imminent death is a gradually increasing headache. Too bad if you nod off.

        Besides that, I’ve camped next to people who just had to ruin the campfire ambiance by leaving one of those brilliant things running all night long. I can vouch for the fact that they generate a high pitched hissing whine that easily penetrates 30 feet of air and a camper wall to drive you crazy.

        I can’t say what happened the next night. I was out of there.

        Like you, I started out with a leaky trailer that was hard to heat. Mine was a 27 foot fifth wheel. Leaving the furnace on really sucked down my batteries. I had good luck with an absolutely silent and relatively safe-for-indoors Olympian Wave 3 catalytic radiant heater. It only sipped propane. Situated right across from the door, it seemed to banish drafts and create a pleasant homey atmosphere.

        But I turned it off at night anyway and piled on the blankets. The furnace was still good for heating things up in a hurry come morning.

        • Thanks for the caution, Bob. This one runs strictly on propane gas, and my First Alert CO/Propane detector that alarms at 75% early has never made a peep related to the Coleman. So I figure risk is low, but I will still prefer the Little Buddy that will replace it. The Coleman will go back to Plan B storage. I’m uncomfortable around the white gas lanterns and the noise and blinding light they generate, equally so with storing highly flammable liquids in the trailer or truck. Oddly, I’m relatively at ease with storing and using highly flammable gases in same. Has to do with tipover and leakage, maybe. I’ve never used the Defiant’s furnace, since it appears that an overheat thermistor has gone bad and shuts it down after a minute of running. Its fan also mimics the ambience of an airport taxiway at O’Hare, so I’ve never bothered having anyone touch it. I see the Olympian Wave series as a serious step up from Mr. Heater products, perhaps because I’ve never come across anyone complaining about one other than having chosen an undersized model for their setup. Once.

          • Too bad about your furnace. What worked best for me, down to about 8 degrees, …. well, what worked best was getting the heck south from there, but what worked second best was a combination of furnace and Wave 3 (the small one). The Wave 3 kept things toasty and eliminated drafts. The furnace was great for warming up the whole space to 70 degrees in about 10 minutes, and hang the noise. After that I turned the thermostat back to about 55 degrees and it seldom came on. But the forced air effect of the furnace fan constantly running actually seemed to just suck more cold air in through cracks and such. Not so with the Wave 3, though it alone would take a long time to heat up the entire space from scratch. But then it was a fairly big 5th wheel. Call it a marriage of convenience.

            Cussin’ the cold doesn’t really help the physics of the situation much, but it often makes you feel warmer. Wear wool socks to bed.

            The Wave 3 is so quiet it is easy to forget to turn it off when you hook up to travel. I nearly burnt up the trailer when a loose cabinet door swung open and contacted the heater where it hung low on the wall. After an hour or so bouncing against it down Highway One, that door was charred black around the point of contact. Fortunately I stopped to watch the whales, and discovered the problem. Otherwise it would have no doubt made the papers, and I’d be famous.

            • Ah. The nuclear solution. The catalytics and ceramics are a lot like a small fireplace or a cast iron woodburner. Silent and cozy warm. Sounds like you had a quick and effective solution for breaking the overnight cold and then sustaining the rest of the day. The Mr. Heater Portable Buddy and kin are harder to forget about than the Waves because they’re much bulkier and always in the way on the floor. I hope I never see 8 degrees in my pop-up!

      • jr cline on said:

        I know. I try to learn from successes and failures.

      • jr cline on said:

        In an emergency it is a reasonable backup idea.

  4. When I first had a stent put in, back in 1994, I was prescribed a “beta-blocker” to prevent hypertension. I have never actually had high blood pressure, but this medicine was prescribed anyway as a precaution. What they didn’t tell me at the time was that one of the possible side effects is severe depression, as in “not wanting to eat or get out of bed, there’s no color in the world” depression. I suffered miserably for two years, taking that pill every day, before running across mention of this side effect on the internet. A month after quitting them I was my old self again. But by that time I was divorced.

    I mention this, not to say you shouldn’t take them if your doctor says to, but just so you might have a clue where it is coming from if it happens. It never occurred to me to connect the two things, or even to mention depression to my cardiologist.

    By definition, side effects don’t affect everyone the same. But I no longer take medicines without researching them thoroughly. Another example is severe muscle cramps from taking statins. After 10 years of taking them, I had to quit those things too. Unlike the beta-blocker, the statins didn’t immediately generate a problem, but over time it grew and grew. I eventually ended up in hospital with ridiculously painful and rigid cramps high in my back that no one could find a cause for, despite spending most of the money in the world. After I quit taking them, the pain ameliorated within a month. Three years on and counting, with my fingers crossed, it is only mild and occasional.

    I have regular blood tests. My cholesterol is only slightly elevated. If it ever gets really high, then I’ll have a decision to make. Back pain or heart attack, which will it be? Hmmmm.

    My point here is that even minor “side effects” should be paid close attention to. They are principal effects to those who happen to lose that particular lottery.

    • Sorry to hear that, Bob. Yep, I wound up having to research side effects on the Internet as well, since the Illinois cardiologist no doubt felt that rattling off all the possibilities would talk me right out of taking them – which it did when I looked them up, at least in regards to the cross-country trip itself. One of them turns out to be depressive in my case, but nothing even remotely like the circumstance-driven endurance contests of the past. Your point on monitoring even minor side effects reminds me of the drug companies advertising their wares to patients, not doctors, and then rattling off the sometimes astonishing side effects found so far. Then later, the lawyer ads promising recompense for the nastier side effects of older “new” drugs.

  5. I’m with you on keyboards, Doug. There’s something personal about how one feels on your fingertips. And those chiclet style ones I’ve seen on some Mac laptops gives me a giggle.

    I don’t think I’ve ever used a buckling spring unit. I do remember on terminals I’ve used over the decades where one could enable/disable an audible electronic click as feedback.

    And I’m always amazed at just how dirty the keys get over time. Kind of embarrassing when at the office, as if I never washed my hands. I like Texpads. Little individual wipes soaked in alcohol. And they’re a godsend for cleaning DVD’s. Much better than using cottonballs or tissues.

    But I’m wondering though. Was your keyboard not worth a repair? At those prices, I’m sure you considered it.


    • You’d recall the feel of a buckling spring keyboard, had you ever used one. The typical slight spring pressure suddenly collapses most of the way through the stroke, ensuring that full electrical contact is made at the bottom of it. It’s the only keyboard I’ve used that I generally don’t have to go back and add letters that didn’t complete, and where no key ever began to go bad and require a harder, slower push. Also makes up for a day when I’m just not pressing down as usual and would be losing a lot of letters on a normal keyboard. The sound is just a side effect, and fluffing one key along the way doesn’t stand out for me, so an audio simulator would be of limited value to me without the key feel kind of fixing the problem with reliable contact. Thanks for the Texpad tip, by the way!

      You’re right about the issue of repairs. That keyboard, because of replacement cost, was technically worth a repair, but I get in a mindset when a stack of issues need prompt addressing. Because it was an electronic item that was now dry internally but still didn’t work, I had the impression that a successful outcome was unlikely and the time absorbed away from the numerous other problems (not included in my posts) to play with it was too much. I figured that shipping/driving it off someplace for a per-hour fee could quickly add up to replacement cost territory. Just an executive decision, no more. Had I been sitting around with nothing to do or living on a lower income, I probably would have opened it up. As things played out, I needed the time much more than the money, since further delays had their own practical and financial impacts.

      Completely Unnecessary Detail: Even discounting those impacts, my pseudo-philosophy is that I see money as essential in order to live, but time is much more precious, being in limited supply. Squander money, and one can eventually get more, somehow. Time squandered is not replaceable. The irony of that is that I use most of my time now not to accomplish or do, but to sit around, considering or reflecting on things, and be myself. I have a chore to-do list and like to plan things out to grease the skids, like combining errands. But, being retired and rolling solo, I’m finally outside the goal-setting and annual reviewing of MAST objectives – Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Specific – (now SMART: Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely), and outside the direct influence of goal-oriented Type A personalities that have a passion for MAST and SMART. I’m highly motivated by upcoming or ongoing problems, not checklists of goals, a detail that attainment-oriented Type A’s always seemed severely confused by, if they acknowledged it as a possibility at all. Very few have. I’ve never had a 5-year plan, my goal being to enjoy the work I did each day. MAST and the like never actually worked in any of the career jobs I held, mainly since the all-important targets kept dying off and being replaced by unexpected ones as the year progressed. MAST and SMART assume an unchanging scenario, which proved not very realistic in my field year after year after year. I never accomplished much at all toward my assigned annual goals lists, but earned my raises and promotions just the same, because I was fired up by the unexpected new problems and challenges that swept in unforeseen. Yet there MAST was again at the start of every new year, as if it were somehow relevant to anything. Now, if you can figure out how all this somehow relates even loosely to a blown computer keyboard, you’ll have my lasting admiration!

  6. Yeah, I still have a 20 year old HP workstation keyboard which acts similar, utilizing a spring as well, but not a BS as you use. I remember when I first started using a PC I really missed the audible click as I previously described.

    A little story on the texpad: I found them in an old field tech kit I kept from working on tape drives of yore. Literally 30 years later and they were like new! They used to be made by Texwipe, but a recent search shows they’re now made by a company called Acctech. Hint: In this case, Amazon is not the best deal.

    My impression of your tangential thought is;
    “I wanted a new keyboard, so I bought a new keyboard.”
    And didn’t Freud once say, “Sometimes a keyboard is just a keyboard.”

    But a further dissection of those thoughts would be worthy of good breakfast banter. A lot of what you said hits close to home for me as well.


    • Good Onya for the Texwipe update. I too have found that Amazon is often not the lowest overall price source. I pays to look around.

      Your impression of my “new keyboard” thoughts shows me that I didn’t word things accurately enough. I would try to justify a new keyboard if I wanted to try something new and interesting, or just a variant that, in hindsight, I should have chosen first. The replacement I ordered is an exact duplicate which worked great right up to the point that I unintentionally killed it.

      I researched that Freud quote and found that there is scant evidence to support it as attributable to him, Jim. However, I am convinced that he did say, “Sometimes a Ford is just a Furd, the difference being in the addled mind of the beholder”. Or maybe not.

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