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Author Topic: A Year of Serenity  (Read 4004 times)

MistWolf

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A Year of Serenity
« on: February 13, 2014, 09:29:59 PM »
As a Contractor in the field of aviation, my job has taken me all over the west, up & down the Left Coast and even as far east as Delaware. At each job, we needed to take an apartment. Most have been pretty nice places to live, but to be honest, it got to be stressful wondering which would run out first- the job contract or the apartment lease. A couple of summers ago, I landed a high paying contract building fuselage skins for the 747 with plenty of overtime. I was able to stay at a relative's place and packed as much money as I could fit into my savings account to buy an RV. That November, we bought a 1998 32' Southwind by Fleetwood with a slideout and promptly moved in. My wife christened her Serenity. It was at the beginning of one of the coldest winters Utah had seen in awhile, one in which I got a hard education.

Since it took every dime we saved, there was little left over for luxuries, like heated water hoses. I had just started a new job with a helicopter tour & flight school. It didn't pay much, but it was a good opportunity to expand my knowledge & experience as an Aviation Technician. Turns out, heated hoses are pretty expensive and we barely had enough money to pay our space rent & fill the propane tank.

Let me explain something. I've been camping all my life but I've never had an RV of any kind. Most times, I'd pull into a remote spot with my Jeep, build a campfire and roll out a sleeping bag. If it got cold, I slept in the back of the Jeep. When the kids came around, a dome tent was added to the routine. When we got Serenity, I knew I didn't know a thing about RVs but I'm a fast study and I can make broken airplanes fly again. Should be easy, right? Right. That first night, I could not even figure out how to turn the propane on. Snow was falling, we were cold and hungry but no propane. Who knew you had to reset the little propane detector thingy, then turn it to the ON position before the propane would flow?

Once we got the propane flowing, we were nice and snug and warm. We could now cook our food. But propane was expensive and we kept having to go tank up every week or so. We couldn't afford an auxiliary tank, so I got the brilliant idea to use some small electric heaters to save money. (More on that later!)

As we didn't have a heated water hose, we simply kept the fresh water tank full. Whenever it ran low, we'd simply hook up our hose and fill it back up. A bit of a nuisance, especially when the temperatures dropped to single digits and lower, but we didn't have to worry about the hose freezing up. Following the advice read on the forums about prepping the RV for living during winter, we installed a drop light in the utility room where the pump and all the pipes were.

"We're good to go now" I assured my wife. "Snug inside and out." That very night, the temperatures plummeted, the bulb flickered and died and the pump froze solid and cracked. As a long time mechanic, I've had experiences with drop lights. Just look at them wrong and poof! that little filament breaks. I should have known better.

I put on my heaviest jacket and ventured out into the aching cold. I removed the control panel in the utility room to get to the pump and pipes and was greeted by the most fascinating Rube Goldberg contraption I'd ever set eyes on- and I've seen some impressive ones, being a devoted fan of Warner Brothers cartoons growing up.

Little did I know, the plumbing was all PVC pipe dating all the way back the Roman aquaducts and had grown very brittle. It being so cold didn't help matters either. I set the PVC cutters to the first section so I could remove the busticated pump and the whole Rube Goldberg of pipes, fittings, valves and who knows what else shattered. I don't mean it broke, I mean it shattered into a thousand little itty bitty pieces. The good news was it made getting the pump out easier. The bad news is, I knew nothing of plumbing. I had no idea what all those pipes did or where they were supposed to go. I didn't even know what I didn't know! None of the stores had the the right fittings so I had to fix up my own contraption, with fittings from one plumbing section and flex tubes from another, to get the pump running again and prayed it would hold up till spring when it would be warm enough to fix it proper. This time, I placed a small space heater with a thermostat to keep the new pump warm. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

I went back inside where my little space heaters we used to save on propane were keeping us snug and warm. I was about to learn why not using the propane heater was a Really Bad Idea

Next: Old Man Winter Teaches Me About Pipes

Comments, questions & snide remarks are welcome
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 10:09:33 PM by MistWolf »

Tom

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2014, 02:37:29 AM »
Interesting story, thanks for sharing. You have me waiting for the next episode.
Tom.  Need help? Click the Help button in the toolbar above.

Mr Bojangles

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2014, 03:13:19 AM »
And I..........
SAFBVET    Jim O
28 trips out.... 88,000 Miles -S  to Key West, SW to Gulf...w to Texas, NW Oregon, across Canada.

Thechap1

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2014, 12:23:06 PM »
And me!

toastergirl

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2014, 02:08:26 PM »
I love the name of your RV :) Is your wife a browncoat?
Today seems like a good day to burn a bridge or two.

MistWolf

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2014, 10:40:48 PM »
Wife did get the name from Firefly. One of the best shows ever produced. It's criminal that it got the short shrift

Old Man Winter Teaches Me About Pipes

Heating your home gets kinda pricey with propane being nearly $3 a gallon. It costs over $50 to fill our tank and we were doing it almost every week! There had to be a better way to keep our toes toasty and I figured that way would be found in the Heater Section at the local Wally World. The wife was all for it, figuring the store had to be warmer than our mobile ice box (she really wasn't happy with Scrooge McWolf turning the thermostat down to save money). We looked at the larger heaters but space is tight in a motorhome. Little ones could be set on the counter or table or the dresser by the bed. They'd be out of the way and they were much cheaper. I was able to buy two little ones for the price of one big one big one with enough money left over to pick up Hondo on DVD. One went out in the living room, the other into the bedroom. Turned them both on and pop! went the circuit breaker. Together, they draw too much amperage for Serenity's circuit. Another trip to Wally World for a good outdoor extension cord so we could plug the heater directly to shore power.

"How much money did we save buying the little heaters instead of the bigger one?", asked my wife when she saw the price.

"We needed a new extension cord anyway," I grumbled.

We got the cord run into the motorhome and cranked up the heaters while Hondo played out on the screen of the laptop. They didn't warm the place quite as the propane heater, but enough that with a sweater and maybe a blanket or two we'd be comfortable. I was happy I didn't have to shovel the motorhome out of the snow as often to get the tank filled and we were saving money. We just needed enough propane to cook and keep the fridge running. Life was good.

A week later, the wife tells me a hard freeze is expected. "Maybe we should run the propane heater tonight, just in case."

"Naw, we'll be fine," I said. That night the temperatures really dropped and while the motorhome was warm enough as I got ready for work the next morning, the floor was icy cold.

A couple hours later, the wife called to tell me there was water leaking out of the motorhome. "Are you sure?" I asked.

"I know what a water leak looks like," she said, "The pump kept running. I had to turn it off."

I left work and when I got home, sure enough- water was trickling out from under the bathroom whenever the pump was turned on. Another pipe had frozen. Turns out that while the electric heaters kept the living space warm, it did nothing for the spaces where the pipes ran. It was cold in there.

You'd think that because the water had run out from under the bathroom, that's where the leak would be. No. Turned out the break was on the other side of the motorhome where the kitchen is. But the water thought it would be fun to follow a circuitous route, first going here, then meandering over there, before finally trickling out the right side, under the bathroom. To find where the pipe was leaking, I had to take the bathroom cabinet apart, then follow the flow upstream. To stop the leak, I had to take the closet apart which is over on the left side. Still, it was a tight fit as I moved the heater ducts to get to the pipes to cut out the break with the coping saw. Again, the brittle PVC pipes exploded at the first stroke.

After hours of trying to curse without offending my wife, I had stopped the bleeding. To repair it properly, I needed to replace the entire pipe which ran under the closet, over the heater, behind the stove and under the kitchen cabinets and finally to the sink. I was dirty, tired, hungry and very frustrated. A cap was gonna have to be good enough for today. I told the wife there wouldn't be any cold water to the kitchen sink but the hot water was still fine.

"The ducting of the propane heater runs along the pipes," I explained. "To keep them from freezing again, we'll have to turn the central heat back on."

"Is that so?", she said.

I dried the water as best I could, cleaned up the mess, put the tools away, washed my hands and turned on the central heat. There was a protesting rattle and a clunk from the fan as it spun up before settling into a smooth rhythm.

"What was that?" the wife asked.

"Nothing to worry about," I answered as the heater gave a soft pop and a whoosh, followed by a comforting stream of warm air. "Nothing to worry about at all"

Next: "Don't Ignore Your Fans" or "The Electric Bill Is How Much?!?
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 09:37:43 AM by MistWolf »

driftless shifter

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2014, 04:28:09 AM »
Do you have a blog? You should, you have a great comedic style. Keep one up to date with daily observations and you may get to making a bit of income off it.

Bill
Bill & Nan
(o\_!_/o)
93 bounder 34, chevy chassis
couple of aircooled vw's, 1 fast(sold), 1 reliable(sold).  Dubless : (
USN '76-'80, 1 boat, USS Blandy, DD 943.
I'm an analog guy in a digital age.

John From Detroit

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2014, 09:16:43 AM »
I was not so pleased with that TV show.. It did not excite me so much..... Continuing.

When I went with space heaters (I have 4 small ones.. By the way the only real differences between the small 1500 watt heaters and the big 1500 watt heaters are price and size, they both throw exactly the same amount of heat)

I can keep this 38' job at aroun 70 degrees on a 20 degree night without using propane.

As for the wet bays.. under the fresh tank is a string of C-9 (the old big outdoor type) Christmas tree lights, that's around 250 watts of heat, basially, just heat.   And another 100 in the waste end of the bay.

At 11 degrees I did have  a pipe freeze.. (I added an additional 150 watts that night to the wet bay) it was a PEX line, so it was not damaged,   What can't take freezing is the connectors and the stuff they connect to, PEX is very forgiving, not the first time it's froze on me.

And only one of the two lines that lie side by side froze.. I still had water flow on the other line.
Nothing adds excitement like something that is none of your business
My Home is where I park it.

Kevin Means

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2014, 02:01:46 AM »
MistWolf, I'm really sorry 'bout all your troubles, but I gotta tell ya, I'm really enjoying your misery. I'm gonna go nuke some popcorn so hurry up with the next story.  :D

Kev
2011 Winnebago Tour 42QD
Towing a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited LJ or an Acura MDX
RVI Brake 2, Minder TM-66 TPMS, 970 watts of solar
(Can't wait to spend more time RVing)
Lakeside, California

Maddie

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2014, 06:05:22 AM »
I hate that you've had all your misery.  Given your background, the fact that you have had problems figuring things out makes ME feel a little less stupid.  Thanks for sharing.
NC Foothills Workkamper
'14 Bounder 35K
'10 Wrangler Toad
Husband Fred, and 2 Border Collies

MistWolf

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2014, 11:31:51 PM »
Maddie, I'm told that I'm good at making others feel a lot less stupid. That's a good thing- isn't it?

"Don't Ignore Your Fans" or "The Electric Bill Is How Much?!?"

You've got to take your victories where you can. We had heat, we had water (although I had to cap off the cold water line to the kitchen) and I was making Hank Hill proud, learning to cook with propane. I have learned it's different than cooking with natural gas or electricity. I got the Hot Rod inserted in the water heater and after a week of fiddling, figured out how to get the gas part of it working. It was nice to have our own place. Sure, we have to pay rent for the lot, but all we needed to do if we wanted to move is pull up stakes and head on down the road. No more worries about breaking leases, or whether or not we'd get our deposit back.

One night, after a long day at work and a hot supper, we settled on the couch to watch something on Netflix. The heater kicked in and as it did, the fan made this horrible rumbling noise and a vibration could be felt running through the place. The fan was spinning out of balance but settled down after a moment or two.

"What is that?" my beloved wife asked me.

"The heater fan," I explained. "But it's settled down now. Nothing to worry about." When the fan started again, no noise. The noise only came back every now and then, and when it did, I could get it to settle down by going outside and banging my fist on the outside of the heater compartment.

"The noise is getting louder," my wife called out.

"What did you say, Love?"

In the world of aviation, they make things easy to get to. They must because when an aircraft doesn't fly, it doesn't make money and the longer it takes to fix, the longer it doesn't fly. Not so with RVs. I pulled the panel off to take a look at the heater and puzzled the situation. And puzzled it some more. I puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore while it grew colder and colder. I could see no way I could remove the fan motor without removing the heater and I couldn't see how I could remove the heater without drilling out all the pop rivits they used to mount the heater with as well as ripping out half the sheetmetal and the closet and the stove under which it was all mounted. The temperature was edging it's way toward single digits. The feeling in my feet went back inside where it was warm a half hour ago. I finally gave up and decided to do the same.

My wife asked "Did you find out what the problem is?"

I tried my best techno-babble hoping to forestall any further questions. "I had to bring the flux capacitor back into balance with the spin doctor and tune the anti-matter flow containment field check valve to reduce warp core flutter."

She folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. "I bet you didn't clean the astro-dust out of the Jeffrey's Tubes. Did you at least remember to re-engage the exhaust duct deflector shield?"

"Don't worry, Love. I've taken care of-" The heater kicked in and the fan spun up with a rumble, followed by an ear piercing screech as the fan motor seized in it's bearings then a deathly silence. "-everything." With the temperatures continuing to dip, it was going to be a long cold night. We pulled up stakes and headed south to my sister's house an hour and a half away, where it was a balmy 16 degrees. I called ahead. "We were just wondering, can we come over for the weekend?"

"What time you expect to arrive?"

"We'll be there in twenty minutes."

After we got there, I made a couple of phone calls only to find out the mobile mobile-home repair guy wanted $75 an hour and doesn't do weekends. My brother-in-law drove me to the RV parts store to pick up a replacement motor. Still, I had no idea how I was going to the the old one out. I spent hours searching for some kind of repair manual online, but to no avail. Finally, I took a deep breath, squirted everything with Mouse Milk and just started yanking things apart hoping I'd be able to figure out how to get all back together.

At first, I'd work for an hour, then go inside for fifteen minutes to warm up. Didn't take long before I was working for fifteen minutes and going inside to warm up for an hour. It took a little finesse, a bit of sheetmetal bending and going back three generations of cussing but I finally got the old motor out and the new motor in. I wired it up, held my breath while I hit the power and it ran, quiet and smooth. Ah, the sweet taste of victory!

I had run electrical cords out from the house set up the heaters to keep the inside of the RV warm while I had the power off, but the circuit breakers kept popping. It was an old house and between the heaters I was using out in the RV and the heaters keeping us warm inside the house, it was just too much. Taking advantage of the situation, the cold, in it's insidious fashion, crept into the RV and burst another pipe. Each time I tried cutting out the damaged section, the brittle PVC cracked more and more. Finally, I just capped the line off until I could figure out how to fish a replacement under the closet, fridge & stove without tearing everything apart.

We got home Sunday evening and we had heat although My Beloved Wife, who is usually very patient, was unhappy we had no water in the kitchen. When I got to work the following morning, I reflected on our experiences so far. Sure, it was frustrating to have another pipe burst, but I met the heater problem head on and while it was tricky, figured out how to get the fan motor in & out. 

I should be able to puzzle out the trick to replacing the lines to the kitchen soon enough. With the electric heaters, we cut down on the money and trips to get propane. I figured we were starting to get the hang of living in an RV full time. When I got home that evening, I was feeling much better. Until my wife handed me the electric bill of $267 for the month. We have to take our victories where we can, no matter how small because if we didn't, it wouldn't be worth getting out of bed

Next: The Awning of a New Daze
« Last Edit: February 22, 2014, 12:15:19 PM by MistWolf »

Maddie

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2014, 11:37:29 AM »
You're a hoot!

As for putting things in odd places, I found that out this week when I tried to empty the antifreeze from the water heater.  Took tools with me of course but the drain plug is BEHIND a piece of metal making it impossible to get to with pliers or a regular wrench.  Hope to get out today with an adjustable socket wrench and try again!  Maybe they do that so you'll say "Oh scr... it, I'll take it to CW and let them do it".
NC Foothills Workkamper
'14 Bounder 35K
'10 Wrangler Toad
Husband Fred, and 2 Border Collies

mariekie4

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2014, 11:52:40 AM »
MistWolf, you missed your true calling - you should be a writer. I am waiting in suspense for the next installment!
If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.       George S. Patton.


2007 Winnebago Journey 35'
2011 Jeep Liberty

MistWolf

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2014, 12:20:39 PM »
If I could afford to write full time, I would. My sons and the rest of the Wolf Clan have bee pestering me to finish a couple of projects I started too many years ago.

They do put stuff in strangest places. The water lines run under the floor where they cross from the right to the left. I have several broken lines I can't get out of there, along with a couple replacement lines, that I cant's see how I'm going to get out without tearing up the floor!

I think we should start a petition for a National Show Your Appreciation To An Engineer Day. Anyone wanna sign?

RVn00b

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2014, 12:24:03 AM »
Where's Kaylee when you need her?
Kaylee: So, um, how come you don't care where you're going?
Shepherd Book: 'Cause how you get there is the worthier part.

MistWolf

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2014, 11:52:14 AM »
My apologies for being late with the next installment but a thing called "Real Life" has intruded. I've been busy with helicopter maintenance and preparing for an FAA inspection. As soon as things return to some semblance of normalcy, I promise to get back to it :)
« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 12:06:27 PM by MistWolf »

Mr Bojangles

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Re: A Year of Serenity
« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2014, 04:22:38 AM »
"Helicopter maintenance"..... Normal, are you kidding me????
Ha ha. Now that there is funny!

Ha ha.., he he, ha ha.......

SAFBVET    Jim O
28 trips out.... 88,000 Miles -S  to Key West, SW to Gulf...w to Texas, NW Oregon, across Canada.

 

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