Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “The Enterprise”

What is Seen, Cannot Be Unseen

No pictures today. They’d be too horrific. This day was spent at the Ford dealership while they dismembered the Mighty Furd’s front suspension. Got there ar 8AM, left at 4PM when it because clear that all of the needed work could not be completed by the time the mechanics end their workday. The suspension will be done and the new shocks are on, but then there’s the alignment and that bad tension pulley for the serpentine belt. They graciously carted me all the way out to Wellton, where I got out only to hear a newish Chevy pickup owner across the street climb into his cab and yell with a grin, “And they told me I should get a Ford!” Hyuk hyuk. Your day will come, my friend. Your day will come.  …Or maybe you’ll trade it in before that day of reckoning and lose your wallet in that manner. In the end, we all pay.

My service writer had approached while I was in the dealer’s waiting room, once again looking like the messenger of doom. “Bad news, huh?” I asked.

“I’m afraid so,” he replied, looking very uncomfortable.

“They found something else?” I offered.

“Oh, no,” he said, “It’s just not going as smoothly as we hoped.”

“So it’s not about money, just time?” I asked.

“That’s right, it’s a time problem.”

“Then enter, friend!” I said, “Have a seat here and relax. I can take anything but finding more parts going bad.”

He explained, “There’s enough rust on the fittings that things have resisted coming apart, even with spraying a lot of Read more…

Picky Pioneering

You don't see too many of these. These were on the leg from Pine Bluff to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

You don’t see too many of these. These were on the leg from Pine Bluff to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Today was a short jaunt that turned otherwise, but in the end, I’m all set up in camp at Vedauwoo in the Medicine Bow National Forest, solar panels out and everything humming along. The cell data signal at my location is on-again-off-again at two out of five stars – and that’s with the amplifier –  but it works most of the time.

The day began with a drive to a Walmart in Cheyenne, made more interesting by having an incorrect address on their website. But, I made it there after some steering wheel gyrations and stocked up on fresh produce, eggs, bacon and so on. From there I keyed in the GPS coordinates generously volunteered by Flybiker. The impressive 3,000′ climb during the entire trip, plus a headwind, knocked the fuel display down to 8.0 MPG. Now I know what the title for the film High Plains Drifter refers to. There was a warning sign that the “Happy Jack Bridge” was out of commission until the 18th, but where was that? That was the exit I wanted, but where was this bridge?

Once I made it there, I found out that the bridge was the connector over I-80, and its sudden absence eliminated any chance of heading back east toward Vedauwoo. Oh well. What a great, wide trail! I was impressed that the Read more…

RV U.S.S. Enterprise to be Rechristened

The Enterprise being fitted with new, shorter 4'-8' telescopic poles prior to the ceremony.

The Enterprise being fitted with new, shorter 4′-8′ telescopic poles prior to the ceremony.

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 – The RV U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701, also commonly referred to as the U.S.S. Enterprise, is today having its official name retired. The ship will be rechristened the RV U.S.S. Defiant NX-74205, to be commonly called the RV U.S.S. Defiant. No ceremony is planned other than an evening rechristening which is to include a crew’s supper of “sea varmints” accompanied by red wine, and the traditional custom of breaking a wine bottle on the ship’s hull. Due to Section 3 of the Prime Directive regarding alcoholic beverages, that bottle will be Read more…

What’s Your Angle, Bud?

With support poles at a slight tilt, this has been my only concession to following the sun's lower winter arc.

With support poles at a slight tilt, this has been my only concession to following the sun’s lower winter arc.

Well, I was out admiring the Enterprise again and noticed that the sun at noon was not even remotely perpendicular to the solar panels, which were too close to horizontal to be very efficient. A panel that’s markedly out of position in relation to the sun presents a smaller surface area to it, and captures less light. The limited daylight of the winter sun is bad enough, and so is the inability to physically follow it across the sky. Why waste it further by having the basic panel tilt way off?

I looked up the seasonal data for my latitude, which is just shy of 33 degrees above the equator. Turns out the recommended panel winter angle for my location is Read more…

The Case of the Failing Fridge

The nerve center of the 1994 Dometic Model 2611 refrigerator freezer.

The nerve center of the 1994 Dometic Model 2611 refrigerator freezer.

I could put it off no longer. I hate doing repairs where the odds of screwing up guarantees additional cost. The Enterprise’s fridge was sporadically shutting down when fueled with propane, and the only signal was a “check” LED light on the control panel. Fail to notice in a timely manner, and your food supply is at risk.

Word on the Web was that the problem was common to Dometic units, with the most common mantra being that any failure of a ground wire or any connections to the board could trigger a shutdown. The purported solution was a replacement board made by Dinosaur Electronics, which was specifically geared toward a double ground connection. I ordered and promptly received one a month ago, but hesitated to get into the actual repair work. But, the time came when I had to step up to the plate, because I’d need to let it run for quite awhile to made sure that this was in fact the fix.

After struggling off and on for an hour to solve the mystery of just how to remove the OEM protective circuit board cover, I finally succeeded. Dinosaur Electronics was careful to provide a schematic of old and new connections along with its installation instructions, but it quickly because apparent that my Dometic board did not fully match the schematic, and was different enough to invite disaster. What to do? It was now about 4 PM.

I went to Dinosaur’s website and clicked on their customer service form to send an e-mail. That merely sent me to a page declaring an internal server error, which means that e-mail was out. What the heck. I dialed the tech help phone number and it was immediately picked up by a gentleman who turned out to be the founder and owner of the company! As he explained, only he would be crazy enough to still be in the office so late on a Saturday. Saturday! I’d lost track of days and had thought maybe it was Friday. This was momentous! But there he was.

I explained my dilemma, assuming that the board I had was some no-name replacement patched in along the way. Not so, he explained. What I actually had was a fairly rare OEM board, now vintage, made before Dometic issued an engineering change that led to the “bad ground” boards that followed. It seems that my board had proven so problematic that Dometic, without publicly acknowledging anything, simply changed the design to one that they felt would work more reliably. It only partially shared connections with the later boards. There were so few of my type of boards left that Dinosaur had not bothered to issue a schematic that included it, but I think I convinced him to get one of his boys to make one up, because he did say that they still got plenty of calls from customers confused about how their old board didn’t match the schematic supplied. They sell a ton of boards, so even a few percent means a lot of calls that could be prevented by one more page of instructions.

This guy basically told me more about my board and the industry than I ever wanted to know, but in the end I had specific point-to-point wiring instructions to replace old with new. There was no excess of wire lengths inside the outside-access compartment, but there was just enough to allow transfer of the connectors one by one. At my hesitant pace, it probably took less than five minutes. I hooked power back up, and nothing smoked or threw sparks. I fired up the fridge, and it seemed to operate okay. Now, several days later, it’s been running like a…well, like a refrigerator. I keep a special thermometer hanging inside the lower compartment, and temps are just as they were before, which is good. I’ll need a couple of weeks of running to feel completely good about the Dinosaur board, but it sure looks good so far! I of course hated the $100 replacement cost, but the greater reliability will have easily paid for itself within a couple of years (in ending prematurely spoiled food). Bon Appetit!

Hittin’ the Skids

View from the rear: one bolt removed, and the other stripped and locked in place.

View from the rear: one bolt removed, and the other stripped and locked in place.

The skids on the rear of the trailer have been a problem. In use, they have shifted up on the “V” of the angle iron they’re mounted to, allowing the tip of the iron strap to contact the ground directly. That’s tough on the strap, and will soon result in an unusable skid. The cause is that the wheel assemblies were mounted on the rearmost angle of the strap, causing them to shift back and up, out of the way. Given a spindly 3/8″ bolt with a locknut, the bolts bent easily from the side load applied to them.

One bolt was removable, while the other rusted in place and snapped off when torque was applied.

One bolt was removable, while the other rusted in place and snapped off when torque was applied.

A fix was needed. Either that, or use the grinder to take the entire contraption off completely and let the bumper take a beating. As far as a fix was concerned, it was made more difficult in that the pair of bolts on each bracket were badly bent from the sideways force applied to them. Bolts aren’t made for that. With the help of a high-speed grinder, Kroil penetrating oil and Vise-Grips, the bolts were removed. I decided that maybe less bolt-bending would occur if I Read more…

Fun With Awnings

The awning has two of these telescoping arms. Yanking out the handle disengages a pin from a hole, and the arm can be retracted. Easy, yes?

The awning has two of these telescoping arms. Yanking out the handle disengages a pin from a hole, and the arm can be retracted. Easy, yes? The square post coming toward you is just a brace.

Early one recent morning, I awoke to find a large thunderstorm approaching, and I could tell that it would be a windy one. The forecasts here rarely mention potential wind speeds, so I clambered out to retract the awning. Unlike the solar panels, it does react to winds much over 10 MPH. The retraction process is quick and easy: just pull a locking handle on each arm that holds the awning out, and allow each arm to telescope to its shortest length. Then unlock the roller and allow it to move up toward the trailer, gathering the fabric as it goes. It’s a lot like a big window shade. Trouble was, one of the two locking handles failed just then, and that arm stayed extended. The pin that it controlled couldn’t be persuaded to retract with tools, and the handle was riveted on, so it could not be removed. The rain began, and I found that the awning does not slope enough to drain all water, so between the wind and the trapped water, this posed a problem. One of the poles holding up a solar panel was Read more…

Solar of the Absurd

Ummm, aren't solar panels supposed to be mounted on the roof? Normally, yes.

Ummm, aren’t solar panels supposed to be mounted on the roof? Normally, yes.

I receive questions about the Enterprise’s peculiar solar power system, and peculiar it is. One would like to think that my solar system is being presented here for you because it’s unusual, and might give you something to learn or to think about. True enough. It may inspire you to consider unusual options when suddenly confronted by major obstacles. It may also convince you of the real value of both diligence and thoughtful learning. It will also underscore that haste makes waste, and that ignorance can derail even the best laid plans.

My original goal was to quickly acquire an old, mid-sized travel trailer having a certain floorplan that I needed. Then I would slightly modify the interior space, install solar power for full-time boondocking, and hit the road before cold weather set in. I’d never done anything remotely like this, and am not particularly “handy”. Time was exceedingly short, and I’m not above trading away sophistication and elegance for whatever is workable. When a rain cloud is overhead, a tarp and a stick is often better than a pile of arched steel spans, roofing materials, bricks, and bags of mortar.

The Master Plan

Think of my system as “modular”. One solar panel, one solar charge controller, and one battery pack – nothing unusual about that. Each component is closely matched to the other to maximize performance and minimize cost. The only difference is that, to get much more power than it can produce, you don’t then start upsizing the individual components. Instead, you simply add more of these modular solar assemblies to your project, placing them where you need them. I’ll be the first to admit that upsizing is usually the least expensive way to scale up power. A bigger solar panel usually costs less than two smaller ones. A higher capacity charge controller normally costs less than two smaller ones. Same for batteries.

But, I’d stumbled upon a sweet-spot for my purposes: Read more…

She’s Doon, Captain!

The Enterprise at her last port of call, where the equipment failure occurred.

The Enterprise at her last port of call, where the equipment failure occurred.

06.24.2013 – Communications Bay on the Enterprise has reported via emergency channels that its cellular data link equipment is no longer operational, due to a severe overheat condition in an onboard lithium battery power pack. No incidents have been reported. The ship also reported that its cellular voice equipment remains on standby, and that limited data transfer may be handled by its Portable iPad ATT-RIPOFF backup system.

The Enterprise is currently on schedule for its 06.03.2012 arrival at Federation Dock 60152, at which time repairs to the affected equipment will take place as part of the NTF (Normal Refitting Procedures). As a result of this data equipment failure and the necessary transition of the ship to warp speed commencing 05.27.2013, the regularly scheduled publication of blog posts on this website has been temporarily suspended. Publications, if any, may commence only in the event that the ship comes into the range of WiFi communications terminal ports during its return. Except for a brief visit to the planet “Lavaland RV Park” on 5.26.2013, such proximity is not expected due to routing via unexplored territories.

On the Level

The offending party.

The offending party.

The Dometic refrigerator/freezer has always been marginal in operation, rolling from too-cold to too-warm at the toss of a coin. The “thermostat” doesn’t hold set temperatures – it only asks for colder or warmer in some generic way. This is aggravated by all these types of fridges having a weak cooling system that takes a long time to overcome placing new, warm items inside, or being able to deal with being lightly loaded. It’s the nature of the beast. This one also shuts down now and then, requiring an alert eye to prevent excessive warming up before restarting it. Fortunately, it has never failed to start right up…so far.

When I stayed overnight at Bluewater Lake State Park, I noticed that the refrigerator was suddenly unable to maintain minimum temperatures, even at full throttle. I attributed it to high winds or bad luck. It improved a little when the winds died off at night. The problem got a little better in transit, and then worse again once I parked in the Cibola National Forest. Watching food spoil while parked miles from the nearest town is not the best.

Now, a failing fridge is not something you want unless Read more…

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