Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 The TRIP--Canada & Alaska

This Sunday, June 25, 2017, Jeri and I (and Sugar Belle) will hook up our travel trailer and head out on a trip of a lifetime, going to Illinois to see family and check on our farm crops, then West to Colorado to visit family and spend the 4th of July.  On July 6th we will point our rig north and travel through Wyoming and Montana to Sweetgrass, MT, where we will cross the border into Alberta, Canada and continue north and west through Alberta and British Columbia to Dawson Creek, BC.  There we will start at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway (formerly the Alcan Highway) and pass through the Yukon Territory, ending up about 1,400 miles later at the terminus of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, Alaska.

From there we will travel to Fairbanks and we may do a long day trip up to the Arctic Circle (not 100% sure on that one yet, though).  After Fairbanks we will head south down the Parks Highway and visit Denali National Park, then Talkeetna (our jumping off place several years ago when we climbed Denali).  While there we plan to do a flight seeing trip around Denali.  After Talkeetna we will head south to Anchorage, Seward, Homer, Valdez and then back up to Tok to take the Alaska Highway back into Canada.

Prior to arriving back in Watson Lake, YT, we will jump off the Alaska Highway and head south on the Cassiar Highway, eventually coming back into the USA near Oroville, Washington.  Then south and east to Idaho, Utah, SW Colorado and New Mexico and eventually getting on I-10 and getting back home.

I hope to update this post regularly with text, pictures and even a few videos as we travel on this awesome adventure, so I hope you come along for the ride.  See you on the road.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 Fort DeSoto Park return after 45 Years

Sunday, May 14, 2017:  Tomorrow morning Jeri and I will hook up the trailer and head over to Fort DeSoto Park, south of St. Petersburg, FL for three nights.  Besides a short getaway, this trip will serve three other purposes:  1) testing all the new modifications and additions to the trailer before The Big trip to Alaska in June; 2) re-create the first picture taken of Jeri and I as a couple at the fort 45 years ago; and 3)  renew an old friendship with one of my great high school friends, David Champion and his wife.

The first picture ever taken of us as a couple on our first camping trip together that we want to re-create.
I have already taken most stuff up to the trailer in storage and yesterday I turned the refrigerator on to run on propane, so it would cool down.  When I checked it this morning the fridge was 39 dg and the freezer -1 dg, but I did an experiment because on our last trip we were having problems keeping the refrigerator cold enough.  I started recording video on my iPhone and put it in the fridge, then shut the door for several seconds and lo and behold, when I took my phone out and replayed the video I found that the light inside was not turning off when the door was closed.  This little bulb generates quite a bit of heat, too. It is hot enough that it burned my fingers a bit when I tried to take it out without any padding.  For now I have the bulb out so it will not generate heat inside the fridge. I will build up either the little contact lever or the fridge door where it contacts the contact lever and see if that will turn the light off when the door is closed.

I also loaded the bed of the trailer with stuff I usually carry when we camp and I put the Blue Ox Sway Pro hitch bar on the truck.  So in the morning all we will need to do is take Jeri's clothes and the cold stuff for the fridge.  We cannot check in until 1:00 PM and it will take us four hours or so to get there, so we have no need to really rush around in the morning.

Monday, May 15, 2017:  We loaded our fridge stuff and some other items into the truck and departed for the trailer storage at 9:30 AM, transferred all the stuff to the trailer, hooked the trailer up to the truck and departed for Fort DeSoto Park at 10:10 AM.

Our rig about to leave the storage facility

Since we were on Florida highway 40 and going right past the place and it was almost 11:00 AM and we had not eaten any breakfast before leaving we stopped at Essex Seafood and treated ourselves to a scallops & onion rings boat (Jeri) and a fried clam strips & french fries boat (me, although we both shared).  To us and many others Essex has some of the best seafood around.  Their breading is light and a bit crispy--just perfect!  We actually had to wait a few minutes for them to open and Jeri was the first in the door--we were their first customers of the day.  Since we have Sugar Belle with us we ate in the truck so she would not get hot and of course, she enjoyed a clam strip or two and a couple of french fries.

Hi, Anne Marie!!!!  We're here!!

After enjoying our early lunch (we were stuffed) we got back on the road and checked in at Fort DeSoto Park at 3:02 PM for our reserved campsite, #119.  It was right at 200 miles from where we store our trailer to the park.  We did stop one other time at a Shell station for a bathroom break and I topped up the truck's 36 gallon gas tank.

Our rig in campsite #119

Our campsite is where the blue & white dot is.
We got the trailer backed in and all set up by around 4:00 PM if I remember correctly, then we just sort of chilled out a bit, walked the dog, took some pictures. It was hot, a bit over 90 dg F. I did not hook up to the park's fresh water spigot, so we could use our onboard water pump to provide fresh water out of our onboard tank.  I wanted to drain it down so I can refill it with completely fresh water before our Alaska trip in late June.  
Jeri relaxing
I am pleased to report that the new Progressive Industries EMS HW-30C a/c power connection protection came up and worked perfectly, indicating the a/c power at the park's power pedestal in our campsite was okay and, of course, that the EMS system works perfect.  Up until now it was only tested by plugging it into our Champion 3,400 watt generator.  Success is sweet!

Jeri made a wonderful goulash for our dinner.  Very good!

Our refrigerator is working fine and keeping nice and cool since I removed the heat producing interior bulb that was not turning off when the fridge door was closed and the little Camco interior battery driven fan is also helping keep the temps consistent inside, too.

After dinner we watched some TV, streaming a movie using our Amazon Firestick from home and our new Mobley ZTE wifi hotspot hooked to AT&T's $20 a month unlimited "Car Connect" data plan.  It works pretty well even though we are not getting a real great AT&T cellular signal here in the park (our Verizon signal is pretty weak, too).  After that I raised our over the air antenna that I added the Wineguard Wingman to a couple of months ago, used an app on my phone to locate the direction of the closest over the air TV broadcast stations and turned the antenna to point there.  I did a channel scan on the TV and we are getting over 50 digital channels perfectly clear (most of which are just crap).

We went to bed around 10:30 PM or so.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017:  Neither of us slept real well last night. I had an air conditioner vent pointing at the bed, so when the a/c cycled on I'd be cold and have to cover up, then it would cycle off and I'd get hot and have to uncover.  Repeated over and over.  Not sure why I didn't just get up and turn the dang vent.

After an egg and juice for breakfast we went to the East Beach for an hour or so.  There were hardly any other people there.  I guess it is usually like this, but I think the reason is because the water was kind of full of flotsam and jetsam and not pretty, while the North Beach is simple beautiful!  I believe the North Beach has frequently been named the most beautiful beach in the USA.
The East Beach at Fort DeSoto Park
Jeri at the East Beach--hardly anyone else there
Arriving back at the trailer and after having a bite of lunch, Jeri rested a bit and I got our Weber Q1200 grill out and hooked it up to our onboard propane system.  I recently converted the grill to run on either the trailer's LP system or the little green canisters, so this evening will be its first actual cooking test hooked to the trailer LP.  We are having guests for a cookout tonight; one of my best high school friends and his wife, who we have never met are coming to see us.  They live about four miles up the road from the park in Tierra Verde.  David and Dij Champion.  We have not seen Dave since he came to a small gathering my Mother got together at her house for Jeri and I right after we got married almost 45 years ago!!  It will be fantastic to see Dave again and meet Dij.

I hooked up to the campsites fresh water spigot, using, as always, a pressure regulator, hose and inline water filter.  I was getting tired of hearing the onboard water pump come on--it's rather noisy.

Dave texted me at 3:50 PM, advising they were leaving at 4:00 PM to come to our campsite and they got there around 4:20 PM.  It was absolutely wonderful, great, awesome, fantastic to see Dave again after so-o-o-o many years and to meet his wife of 44 years for the first time!!  Getting re-acquainted was so much fun!

We had a few "sundowners" on the "down-low" (shhhh, don't tell the park--it's prohibited), then I fired up the grill and cooked cheeseburgers and a couple of hot dogs.  The grill worked great hooked to the trailer's onboard LP--it actually seemed to be a bit hotter.  Another item successfully tested and working to perfection!

We enjoyed a nice dinner and a fantastic evening of visiting until Dave and Dij left a bit after 9:30 PM for their short ride home.  They will come visit us at our home in Palm Coast after we get back from our Alaska trip.

We puttered around a bit and went to bed a bit after 10:00 PM.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017:  This morning, while thinking about the great visit we had with Dave and Dij I realized we had not taken a single picture!!  What a colossal blunder!!

I slept great last night and did not wake up at all until just after 6:00 AM and I got up shortly after.  Jeri did not sleep well again, so I left her sleeping and she got up around 8:00 AM.  Yes, I aimed the a/c vent mostly away from the bed.  LOL

I cooked eggs and made toast for Jeri and I this morning, then did the dishes.  After that we headed over to the old fort to re-create the picture taken nearly 45 years ago.  Arriving at the fort and looking at the gun emplacements we noticed they had painted the equipment black.  As you can see from the first picture above they were white back in 1972.  Unfortunately for Jeri, since she had to sit on the quite warm equipment, while I got to stand behind her.

I asked a man who was there with his family to see the fort if he would be so kind as to take several pictures of us, after I explained how we wanted to re-create the first picture ever taken of us all those years ago and showing him the picture.  He and his family were very happy to help us with this and he did a great job taking the pictures.  We did get the angle a bit off and this very nice, helpful man was quite a bit taller than our friend who took the original picture, so that angle is a bit different, but all in all, we are quite happy with the results.  See what you think.

45 years later..  We don't look a bit different, do we? Ha Ha
So, what do you think?  Did we do a good job re-creating the picture?  I have wanted to do this for a long time and I am so happy we finally got to do it.  It's been a fantastic almost 45 years with this woman.

After lunch and after it cooled down a bit we took our pup, Sugar Belle, to the dog park and beach area.  The dog park was huge and divided into two sections; one for big dogs and another for smaller dogs.  Jeri went to the beach while I took Sugar to the smaller dog park section and turned her loose.  She was not very interested in running around for some reason and just sort of hung around close to me.  She had the entire small dog section to herself, too.  So I took her to the beach and she did seem to have fun for a bit running into the edge of the ocean (Tampa Bay) and back, but all in all I do not think she likes the beach much more than I do.  LOL  I rinsed Sugar off at the dog park hose and we went back to our campsite.

We grilled a steak and potatoes & onions in foil for dinner.  It was good!  After dinner we watched a bit of TV and streamed another movie via our Amazon Firestick-Mobley AT&T hotspot.  Worked great!

Thursday, May 18, 2017:  I got up early, as usual and had coffee while Jeri caught a few more winks.  After she got up I fixed her a cup of coffee and she made a canned potatoes and fried eggs breakfast--good.  
Great breakfast!  Very tasty!
Then we took our time breaking camp and putting things away.  Check out time was 11:00 AM and we left our campsite at 10:56 AM and headed to the campground's dump stations to dump and flush our gray and black tanks.  We had to wait a few minutes for campers in front of us to finish, then we did our dumping, flushing and tank prep and left the park at 11:22 AM, headed for home.

We stopped at Essex Seafood again on the way home for a late lunch and arrived safely home around 4:00 PM.  We decided to take the trailer home to make it easier to empty and clean it and since we had found a few roaches in the trailer Jeri had made arrangements with our home pest control people (SPC) to treat the trailer Friday.

Epilogue & Additional Pictures:  All in all we had a great time on this trip.  Fort DeSoto Park is a really nice place--even Jeri said she would be happy to come back here again sometime.  Our refrigerator worked fine the entire trip.  Removing the always on heat source inside from the interior light that was not turning off and the little fan inside seemed to really help, in spite of the outside temperatures running into the low 90's.  I was very pleased that all my modifications and additions to the trailer worked out great, so we feel it is pretty much ready for our BIG ALASKA TRIP in late June (stay tuned!).  The bug guy came out Friday and treated the trailer for the minor (we hope) roach problem.  I did find one big dead roach that evening, but have not found anymore yet.

In preparation for the trip I ordered two better wheel chocks, another 25' of drinking water hose in case we need more than the 25' we normally carry, a new ice cube tray, a couple of microfiber bug cleaning sponges to make it easier to get bug splatters off the front of the trailer and truck, some fire starter cubes and a 13" pizza stone.  The stone is just to place in the oven when baking anything so the heat is more evenly distributed inside the oven.

On Saturday, I tried a new method I read about on an RV forum (IRV2) to clean the awning on the trailer.  It was kind of dirty.  I put about a half cup of bleach and a bit of Dawn dishwashing soap in a gallon of water in a yard sprayer and really hosed down the awning top and bottom with this solution, then rolled the awning shut and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before opening it and rinsing it off thoroughly.  It was much cleaner, but I repeated the process a second time and the awning looks really good now. While I was at it I did a light wash on the entire trailer and stripped the sheets off the bed for washing.  On Sunday morning we took the trailer back to storage.

Fort DeSoto North Beach--absolutely beautiful!
Jeri on the walk at the top of the fort
One of the two gun emplacements at Fort DeSoto.  The guns were never fired in anger.
Jeri at camp

My favorite place at the beach--in the shade!

See you all in June-August--check back for updates while we are on our trip to Alaska.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 2017 Bullet Trailer Improvements

After our earlier April RV adventure down to Long Point Park I have done a few additional improvements to our Bullet travel trailer.  We have another short trip planned for mid-May prior to THE Trip (from home in Florida, to Illinois and Colorado then up to the Canada, where we will travel through Alberta and British Columbia to Dawson Creek, BC, where we will get on the Alaska Highway (this year is its 75th anniversary) and follow it up to Alaska where we will spend a few weeks touring around the state before coming back.  This trip will have us on the road for at least two months or so and will cover somewhere around 14,000 miles!

So, I wanted to get some improvements done before our May trip to test them thoroughly on that trip before THE Trip.  We will also be taking our two grandsons camping for a few days after they get out of school--either late May or very early June.  So, we will have two trips to test everything before THE Trip.

The changes:

1.  The most important change I made was purchasing and installing a Progressive Industries EMS HW30C A/C power monitoring system.  EMS=Energy Management System.  For the past couple of years we have relied on a Surgeguard 30 Amp dog bone type surge protection unit to protect our trailer and onboard systems and electronics from being damaged by power surges.  Campgrounds sometimes have problems with their wiring, voltage levels, other campers could back into a power pedestal and other problems that may cause a variety of surges, wiring and other issues.  

Typically what I do when we get our trailer into a campsite is take the dog bone surge guard to the power pedestal.  I make sure all the pedestal power breakers are off and I plug the surge guard into the pedestal, then turn on the 30 amp breaker.  The Surgeguard unit has lights that indicate some types of mis-wiring and if power is present, but that is all it does other than over voltage surge protection.  Once I have verified all is well with this, I then plug the trailer in and turn on the 30 amp breaker on the pedestal.  Next I go into the trailer and check the voltmeter I have plugged in.  This is done at every campsite, every time.

Why is something like an EMS important?  Both low and high voltages can damage or cause premature failures in things like the air conditioner, reefer and many other items in the trailer.  Mis-wiring can cause many problems, one of the most serious being what is called a "hot skin" condition, where the trailer's frame and other metal parts have 120 volts of A/C on them--a very dangerous condition that can cause electrocution.

For some time now I have been researching EMS units and most people recommend the one I purchased, so I bit the bullet and bought one.  It is guaranteed for life and Progressive Industries provides 7x24x365 customer service if there are issues.  

This unit is hard wired inside the trailer, so it is always functioning when on A/C shore power and is protected from the elements and theft.  It also has a remote LED display that cycles continually with readouts for voltage, amps, frequency and any errors.  It protects the trailer from just about every bad power condition there is and if it senses a fault, for example the voltage drops below 104 volts, it shuts the power off to the trailer in less than one nanosecond.  If the condition is corrected the unit will monitor it for a preset time and if stable, turn the power back on to the trailer.
This is the Progressive Industries EMS HW-30C with remote that I installed.
I mounted ours in an unused area below the pantry to the left of the trailer's main power distribution center and converter.  I removed the 120 vac #10 gauge wiring going into the converter and ran it to the input of the EMS, then using a short jumper piece of #10 gauge wiring ran from the output of the EMS back to the converter's A/C input.  It was simple and fast.
The installed EMS box.  A wood panel velcros over this opening.
I mounted the remote display using Command velcro strips to the panel to the left of the entertainment center, but running the wire up through one corner of the pantry.  It was all very easy to do.
The box on the left is the remote readout for the EMS.

Closeup of the remote on the left.  The switch can bypass the EMS in case of a component failure in the EMS, but per Progressive Industries if there is a component failure and error code indicating so, a call to their 7x24x365 hot line is suggested before going into bypass mode.  The surge protection works in either case.
Since the trailer was at our storage facility when I did this I tested the new set up using our Champion 3,400 watt inverter generator.  Since I already knew this type of generator does not have a neutral-to-ground bond built in and the EMS will show that as a fault and not allow power through to the trailer I had already made a neutral-to-ground bonding Edison plug.  This plugs into one of the 120 volt Edison-type outlets on the generator, thus providing the neutral/ground bonding.

Anyway, I power up the generator and plugged the trailer in and after the EMS unit's built in time delay of 15 seconds the trailer was powered up.  Awesome!  I ran the air conditioner and a few other items and watched the amps being drawn change on the display.  Test successful.

So, now all we have to do when pulling into a campsite is plug the trailer's shore power cord in and the EMS will take care of the protection automatically.  Nice!

2.  We carry a small Weber Q1200 LPG grill in the trailer and use it often when RV'ing.  We have used MANY of those small green canisters of LP gas over the past couple of years.  After reading many RV blogs, forums and YouTube videos I decided to modify the grill to use the trailer's onboard LP gas instead of the green canisters that always seem to be empty or get empty right in the middle of cooking something.

I went to a web site,  They sell all kinds of parts, hoses and pieces to do grill conversions and seem to be very knowledgeable about Weber grills.  I called their phone number and told the very nice, helpful person (Ren) what I wanted to do and he told me what parts I needed, so I ordered them on the spot.

I removed the regulator and mount and replaced it with the two brass parts in the picture just below.

The male QD and mating brass connector to the grill's control and gas pipe.
The 12' gas hose I got. They will make any length desired. The female QD on the left attaches to the male QD in the picture above and the male QD on the hose attaches to the female QD on the rear of our trailer.  Our Bullet came with a grill, but I don't use it because I like the Weber and so, the trailer had a gas line running from the trailer's onboard LP regulator to the rear of the trailer.
The original regulator from the grill with the female QD attached on the left side. If we want to use the green canisters the green canister would screw into the right side and the female QD on the left side would plug into either the male QD on the grill (where the hose goes) or it can even be attached to the male QD end of the hose (that would be attached to the grill).
It took me all of about 15 minutes to make all the modifications, after which I used soapy water to test for leaks; there were none.  I first tested it with the green canisters, then took the grill to the trailer and used the hose to attach the grill to the trailer line.  Worked perfect.  We will test this more fully on the May trip, but it should be fine.

2017 Long Point Park

Tuesday, April 4, 2017:  Jeri and I decided we want to take short trips in April and May prior to leaving around June 24th on "The Trip" (Florida to Dawson Creek, BC where we will take the Alaska Highway up to Alaska and spend a few weeks seeing different places prior to heading back home to Florida.  We also want to take our youngest Grandsons, Jack and Max for a short camping trip before we go to Alaska.  Anyway, Jeri booked us into Brevard County's Long Point Park for Tuesday, April 4th through Thursday, April 6th.  We will head back on on April 7.  This campground is only a little over 130 miles from home.

We brought the trailer home from storage on Saturday to make it easier to get ready for the trip and I had a maintenance item or two to do on the trailer, like sanitizing the freshwater system.  I got all this completed and we finished packing the trailer Monday, so we could head out for the campground around 10:00 AM Tuesday morning.  Unfortunately, Tuesday was a day of some intense thunderstorms and monsoon rains, so we waited and pondered what to do.

We had about decided to just wait until Wednesday morning to leave, but around 2:00 PM it stopped raining.  We quickly hooked up the trailer, put our dog Sugar Belle in the truck and got underway around 2:20 PM.

The drive down went pretty good, although we did run into some fairly heavy rain a few times.  It was also pretty windy, but the truck and hitch handled the trailer without any problem.  During the last hard rain we ducked into a rest area off I-95 and sat out the worst of the rain.

We arrived at Long Point Campground around 5:00 PM, checked in (it was raining lightly), found our campsite (#75, right on the Indian River), and got to work setting up the trailer (did I mention it was raining lightly?) which we accomplished quickly.  We had read a few reviews about the campground saying the water coming from the faucets had a sulphur smell, so we are just using water from our 43 gallon onboard freshwater tank.  Plus we have bottled drinking water and I brought an extra five gallons of water from home.

It stopped raining just as we got done setting up.  After getting everything squared away and the camp chairs set up we sat down to relax and enjoy a cold beverage.  The temperature was around 75-80 and it was pretty breezy, but then that keeps the bugs away.

We had hot dogs, pork and beans and beets for dinner and watched a little TV before going to bed.

The blue dot is our campsite
Our campsite
Backed right up to within about 6' of the Indian River
The view out our rear window--nice!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017:  Cereal for breakfast this morning and then we took Sugar on a long walk around the campground. She loved the big open area in the middle.  We drove south over the Sebastian Inlet bridge and drove into the Sebastian Inlet State Park to check it out.  We asked the lady ranger if we could just look at the campground without paying to get into the park and she gave us 10 minutes.  It's a very nice campground and campsites 52-56 would be great and sites 5-14 would be okay, per Jeri.

We got gas and drove back to camp to relax, then we drove 10 miles north to the Publix supermarket and Jeri rented a couple of movies from their Red Box.  For dinner we had one of our staple camp dinners; grilled chicken breasts covered with shredded cheese and green sauce, with grilled potatoes and onions (cooked on the grill in foil).  Very tasty!  We went for another walk and since it was still windy, so no campfire, we watched a movie before going to bed.

Thursday, April 6, 2017:  We woke this morning to overcast skies and a quick check of the weather online and on the TV (we had several stations coming in quite well) indicated a very severe thunderstorm was coming in from the west and moving east.  LOTS of lightning with 3,000-4,000 strikes per 10 minutes!  Fortunately, all the worst of it passed just to the south of us and we only got hit with the north edge of it. 

Storm view out our rear window

After the storm passed it cleared up and because a nice day.  We drove south and went to the town of Sebastian and had lunch at Black Fins restaurant, located in Captain Hiram's resort complex.  I had grouper and Jeri had oysters and both were pretty good.  We were stuffed.  After lunch we bought some souvenirs in their gift shop.  I got a nice T-shirt with "Living the Dream" on the back.  LOL

Jeri at Capt. Hiram's Blackfin
Bill dining at Capt. Hiram's Blackfin, right on the water
For dinner we just grilled a couple of cheeseburgers.  It was a nice evening, but still windy.  We saw dolphins every day by our campsite, sometimes they were very close in, too.

Friday, April 7, 2017:  This morning was cool and beautiful and still quite windy.  After a breakfast of eggs and fruit we packed up, dumped the tanks and leaving around 10:45 AM, had an eventful trip back home.

This was a nice trip, in spite of the rain, wind and storm.  The campground is pretty nice.  It stayed peaceful and quiet, in spite of being pretty full.  While almost all the entire island is surrounded by mangroves, almost all the campsites are on the water and the owners have cut out the mangroves at most sites to allow a decent view of the water (see my photos above).  We had electric and water hookups.  We used our onboard freshwater the entire time and I never did smell or taste the supplied water to see if it smelled and/or tasted bad.  I planned to, but forgot.