Winter weather water ways

Lots of talk about heated hoses, freezing water, and how to camp when it’s cold outside, so let me share a little about my setup.

I’m in GA now, without a heated hose, and here’s my system:
1) I’ve got two electric space heaters inside, both energy efficient, and both set to keep it around 62-65° inside, which is comfy for me in sweats.
2) I have the furnace set to 55°, so anytime it’s too cold for the space heaters to keep up, the furnace kicks in, which also keeps the belly warm.
3) I keep my freshwater tank no more than 3/4 full so I have water on board if I need to disconnect from the park, but with enough room for expansion if it were to happen.
4) If the weather is going to be 30° or less for more than four hours overnight, then i’ll go disconnect and drain my exterior hose after my shower, but before bed.

Remember that water starts to freeze at 32°F, BUT, that doesn’t mean all of the water inside a tank, or even a hose, will freeze at once.

Also, anytime your FURNACE is on, you’re heating the living area AND the under belly, which includes the tanks. This means, in theory, you could simply fill up your tank, keep the furnace on low, and live all through the winter (emptying your waste tanks and filling your fresh tank(s) as needed), but this means you’ll be using more propane (since your furnace uses the most propane of all your gas appliances).

Since I bought my TT in April of 2017, the lowest temp i’ve been in is 17°F (low for the night), and with the system called out above, I didn’t have any trouble at all! 😀

It’s a dogs life

I know, I know, i’ve been all hit-and-miss with the personal posts on my blog, and i’m sure some of you are saying, “Dude. It’s a BLOG. Where’s the LOG part of that?!?!”. Others just watched that joke go right by them without even slowing down. It’s cool, i’m selectively funny.

Anywho, i’ve been wanting a dog for a long time. I had a dog of my own as a kid in Georgia, and i’ve rescued/fostered/housed/dogsat a bunch of dogs along the way in life, but i haven’t had a dog of my own in many years. Well, meet Scout.

I adopted her 29DEC from the Humane society, and she’s part of my recovery team (i’ll get more into the injury and recovery stuff in other posts). So far, she’s doing a splendid job!

Now for the cliffhanger; if you’re not on my Facebook, you’ll have to stay tuned for more posts here. 🙂

Spare room for spare parts?

Do you carry spare parts in your RV? Well, you should. Let’s talk about why, and what parts you should have readily available.

The spare parts you carry will vary on a number of factors, like if you’re in a motorhome, or towing a trailer, what level of mechanical comfort you have, or the age and type of vehicle you’re in. People can do anything they put their mind to, and with blogs (like mine!) youtube, Facebook groups, and other self-help information readily available, anything is possible.

Coach:
Whether you’re in a motorhome of some kind, or towing a trailer, the area you live in is known as the coach, and you should carry a spare anything that’s essential to comfortable living. This will vary, but here’s some stuff I carry:
Spare fuses for the breaker panel (DC) so I can replace them if they blow. Small, inexpensive, and super easy to do, make sure you get the right size(s) you need, as well as an assortment of various amperage ratings.
Spare bulbs, for both inside and outside. I want to see, and be seen, so pull a couple of bulbs out, write down the numbers on them, or take them to your local auto parts store (I’m a big fan of AutoZone!) to pick up some spares. Most of the lights inside will be the same bulb, but make sure you check them all just to know what you’re up against.
Spare shower faucet. If i’m doing some kind of road-side repair, or I get stuck somewhere, my shower is the ONE faucet I will have to have. No matter how big or small the mess is, I can clean it off of me with the shower faucet, and carry on being a happy camper, even if i’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Water pump. I cannot stress this enough; if you’re out camping without hookups (or with hookups, and the park water is turned off for any reason) your water pump is invaluable! Of course, it means nothing to until it stops working… CARRY A SPARE! Also, don’t throw the old one away right away, a lot of them can be rebuilt for much less than buying a new one.
Water hose. Carry a spare water hose, in addition to your usual clean and gray water hoses, just in case. If your primary hose breaks and you need water in your RV, you’ll thank me for having a spare hose.
Pressure regulator. You should have one of these with a gauge so you can see what the pressure is, and adjust it if you want to. For a spare, carry one without a gauge, just in case. There’s nothing worse than pulling into a park, looking forward to a nice long shower, and finding out you’ll need a regulator to bring their 80 PSI water supply down to your rig’s max of 55 (except for not knowing, and blowing out a water line or fitting!).
Sewer connection. Carry a spare hose, a spare connection for each end, and two spare hose clamps. Even if it’s just a cheap 10′ hose, it’s still better than no hose when yours breaks, or worse, when you forgot to stow it before you left the park this morning… 400 miles ago.

 

For your tow rig (or motorhome chassis), I suggest:
Spare fan belt. Even on a brand new rig, some piece of highway debris can get kicked up, put a slice in your belt, and then POOF! you’re stranded because of a belt. Yes, I know, pantyhose work in a pinch, but a spare belt is way better, and works every time. Make sure to carry the tool(s) you need to change it, and learn how to change it by doing it twice. Yes, twice.
Fuses and bulbs. Just like in the coach, fuses and bulbs can be lifesavers on the road; see and be seen!
Tape. One roll each of electrical, gorilla, and flex seal just to cover all the bases. You might be amazed at what you can do with these!
Spare fluids for older vehicle are always good to have; oil, trans fluid, coolant, and washer fluid are all good things to have on hand, and can even be helpful in a newer vehicle if you run into minor issues on the road.
Zip ties. Yes, zip ties. Buy a small assortment pack, put them in your ‘uh-oh’ box, and hope you never need them. When things go sideways and you need to hold that thingy right there so it won’t rub on the doo hickey, zip tie it.

 

There’s always more stuff to think about, but the key idea is to carry a small amount of a variety of stuff so you can craft something that’ll get you to the next safe place when things go sideways. Other than the fan belt, don’t worry about getting the best, the most expensive, or the exact right one, just have some stuff that will get the job done, and remember; i’m only an email away 😉

W&M 3, How much can I tow?

I see this question often, and my standard reply is always, “Check your owners manual!”. While that’s the best place to start, let’s take a little trip deeper down that rabbit hole.

In “Weights and Measures 1: What’s it all mean?” we talked about all the different terms and basics we need. (If you skipped that, you may want to revisit it before falling down this rabbit hole).

So let’s say I have a nice pickup truck as my towing rig, and it’ll tow 15,000 lbs in a bumper pull configuration, or 18,000 lbs in a fifth-wheel or gooseneck configuration (more about towing types).
Great, so now I know my maximum towing weights? We can go now, right? Well, hold on a second, let’s talk about what we’re towing!
Let’s say i’ve got a 32′ Travel Trailer with a GVWR of 11,000 lbs, and it’s a bumper pull (I really do!). Ok, what else do I need to know?!?!

Well, in bumper pull configuration, my truck will tow (note the difference between towing and pulling!) 15,000 lbs, so that part’s all good!

The next part I want to look at is the tongue weight. Tongue weight is most crucial in the “Control” category of towing. If you have too much tongue weight, you’ll have a saggy rear end on your tow vehicle, and you’ll have less steering control up front. Too little tongue weight, and you’ll suffer from ‘fishtailing’ of the trailer, as well as potential slipping of the drive wheels on the a RWD vehicle.
Check out this link for lots more info on tongue weight.

I always tell people to never exceed the manufacturers tow rating because the people that designed it know the people who built it, the people that wrote the book about it, and the people that did the math to know when it’ll break. Don’t break your rig.

Once you’re all loaded and set, go get yourself a Non-Commercial Weigh so you know what you tow before you go! 🙂

Here I go, off to tow!

Quick note about towing versus pulling:

Just because your rig can PULL it doesn’t mean it can TOW it.
Towing generally refers to CONTROLLING a trailer, so it’s not just about getting it going, it’s also about slowing it, turning it, moving it around, and stopping it.
Why does this matter? Because if you can’t control what you’re towing, then you’re not towing, you’re pulling a collision looking for a place to happen.

#don’tbethatguy

 

W&M 2: Motorhome Math

If you’re in a motorhome, and not towing, then you’ve got very little to worry about. Let’s say you have a class A diesel pusher with a GVWR of 40,000 lbs, and it’s dry weight is 35,000 lbs. That means you have 5,000 lbs of weight capacity that you can add to this motorhome in fuel, water, stuff, people, pets, goodies, gizmos, gadgets… you know, ‘stuff’. 🙂 Seems like way more than enough, right?!

So let’s do some math:
If we fill up our 100 gallon fuel tank with diesel at 7 lbs/gallon (link), that’s 700 lbs.
Now we fill up our 100 gallon freshwater tank, at 8.5 lbs/gallon, that’s 850 lbs.
We also need to fill our propane tank, which is 40 gallons, and at 4.2 lbs/gallon that’s 168 lbs.
Now we bring aboard our camp chairs and table, our clothes, our food, our canopy, and all the other stuff we want to take with us to make life on the road more comfortable, so let’s say all of that is 2,000 lbs. I know, seems like a lot, but if you start weighing stuff, especially tools and spare parts, you’ll find it all adds up very quickly!
So, let’s add up all that stuff:
Fuel: 700 lbs
Fresh Water: 850 lbs
Propane: 168 lbs
Stuff: 2,000 lbs
Now we’re up to 3,718 lbs of stuff! We’re left with 1,282 lbs of ‘weight space’ left over, which means we can add more stuff! WooHoo! Time to break out the Ham radio gear! 😉

You don’t have to weigh every single item on board, but here’s what I suggest:
Fill up your rig with everything you want and need, then go get a Non Commercial weigh.
Once you know what your rig weighs fully loaded, you can see for yourself how much room you have, or how much you need to take off.

Non-Commercial weigh

Anytime you want to know the total weight of your rig, all you need to do is go to your local truck stop!
Park somewhere (in a designated space!), walk inside, and ask someone at the fuel desk for a “non-commercial” weigh ticket. This let them know that you’re not a Commercial driver, and they’ll log it differently in their system. Commercial drivers have to provide Truck, Trailer, and load numbers, along with Company name and other stuff, which you won’t have since you’re personal use.
After they give you the okay, go back to your rig, and drive slowly onto the scale, lining up in the center (left to right), and making sure your axle sets are in different sections of the scale. If you stop with the speaker/microphone box just outside your drivers window, you should be fine, and you can ask for a little help over the speaker/mic to get adjusted correctly.

Once you’ve settled down, they’ll let you know they’ve got your weight, so clear the scale (ALWAYS DRIVE SLOWLY on the scale!), park, and go get your ticket inside!

W&M 1: What’s it all mean?

When we’re talking about a house on wheels, it’s important to understand all the different terms used to talk about weight; what they mean, how to use them, and why they matter.

First things first, here’s some terms you need to know:

1) GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
This is the total amount of weight your vehicle is designed to carry, and going over this amount is a recipe for disaster.
This applies to any single vehicle, so you’ll have one for your truck (or tow vehicle), another for your trailer, or one for your motorhome.
2) GCWR: Gross Combined Weight Rating
This is the total amount of weight your vehicle can weigh in combination with another vehicle, such as when you’re towing a trailer. If you’re towing a trailer, then you’d want to make sure your GVWR of your truck, plus the GVWR of your trailer, is NOT more than the GCWR for your tow vehicle.
3) GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating
This is the total amount of weight a single axle can support. Not as common, but worth noting here.
4) Towing Capacity
This is the maximum towing capacity for your vehicle, or the maximum amount of weight it can tow.
5) Curb (dry) weight
Curb weight is how much your vehicle weighs dry and empty (sitting on the curb). Think of this as how much your vehicle weighs without stuff, people, fuel, water, luggage, so on and on and on…
6) Tongue Weight
On your tow vehicle, this is how much weight you can put on the tongue of the vehicle, which is different than the total weight of the trailer.
On your trailer, this is how much weight should be on the tongue of the trailer, which is different than the weight placed on the wheels.

Okay, now that we have some terms down, let’s add one more section, weights per gallon:
1) Water weighs 8.3 lbs per gallon at 62°F, and
2) Gasoline weighs 6.3 lbs per gallon, and,
3) Propane weighs 4.2 lbs per gallon, and,
4) These weights vary with temperature because the mass changes with density.

The reason these numbers matter is because vehicles (all vehicles) are designed with specifications, and so long as they are used inside those specifications, they will operate as intended, as tested, and as certified. Anytime you operate a vehicle outside of its specifications, you run the risk of causing damage to the vehicle, losing control of the vehicle, or other troubles.

Read on in the following posts to learn more about Weights and Measures.

 

Right of way

Right of way is a fun topic (for me) to discuss, but so often it seems to be misconstrued by people who want it to be about feelings, rather than facts (a whole ‘nother series covered in another category).

Right of way has nothing to do with WHO is right, letting people in, ‘being nice’, or ‘polite driving’, but everything to do with which driver is supposed to do what, according to the rules of the road. The reason this matters is that we don’t have a readily available way to discuss these things from behind the wheel, so it’s important we all know, and follow, the rules of the road.

Right of way simply means which driver has which responsibility, based on position and situation. An example is at an intersection with a four-way stop; each driver has a responsibility to come to a complete stop, and then each driver has a responsibility to proceed through the intersection in a timely fashion when it is their ‘turn’. It’s also important not to block an intersection, as this causes congestion.

Another point about Right of Way is that it doesn’t just pertain to automobiles, but to anyone using any form of public walkway or roadway, which includes pedestrians, bicycles, motorcyclists, buses, trucks, and all other vehicles.

While the laws in your state may be a little different from some other states, here are some general rules of the road dealing with right of way:
1) ALWAYS yield to emergency vehicles. Police, Fire, Medical, Public Service, or other emergency vehicles should always have the right of way when their lights are flashing, their siren is sounding, or both. This does not mean you have to stop, pull off the road, or cause a collision, you are simply required to YIELD to emergency vehicles with activated lights, siren(s), or both. A great example of this is that if an emergency vehicle is travelling the opposite direction from you, and you will not impede their travel (they have no need to use your lane to get around other vehicles) then you don’t have to make any changes, you can simply keep travelling along as you are not, nor will you, impede their travel in any way.
2) ALWAYS yield to pedestrians!
In a pedestrian vs vehicle collision, the pedestrian ALWAYS loses, because the vehicle does not give way like human tissue or bone does. It’s not a ‘fair fight’ in any way, and the easiest way to prevent that type of collision is to simply yield to pedestrians. People standing about in the roadway, outside of marked crosswalks, are NOT pedestrians, but care should still be taken to avoid injuring them if possible.
3) KEEP IT MOVING.
My single greatest frustration in driving with the general public is that so many times, they fail to keep it moving. People will gawk, jerk, search, make sudden movements, fail to look before moving, and a long list of other things that create issues; all of that falls under ‘failing to drive’, and should be avoided at all times while operating a motor vehicle.
When you’re driving, keep it moving! At an intersection, take your turn when it’s your turn so traffic can keep moving. On the roadway, keep up with the flow of traffic, and don’t impede traffic whenever possible. If you’re lost, find someplace to pull off, stop, figure it out, and then get back on the roadway. On the freeway/interstate, use the proper lane, and keep it moving!

 

Further reading:
https://driversed.com/driving-information/signs-signals-and-markings/right-of-way.aspx
http://www.safemotorist.com/articles/right_of_way.aspx

 

 

Lights and Signals

Having been a driver for so many years (professional, private, for work, for pleasure, and otherwise), I often come across ambiguity, or sometimes downright confusion, with people who don’t know (don’t care?) what certain signals mean from other drivers.

Sure we all know the ‘typical’ hand gestures, often rude, rarely helpful, but did you know there’s actually a meaning behind what you’re doing with your lights?
Let’s start with defining terms:

Turn Signals:
When you activate your turn signals (or blinkers), you’re letting the drivers around you know that you intend to move or turn in that direction. Note that this signals intention, and does not give you license to move freely into otherwise occupied space. Left turn signal for a left turn or movement, right turn signal for a right turn or movement.

Hazards:
Hazard lights (Or flashers) are usually the same physical lights as your turn signals, but when you activate the Hazard lights, all four lights should flash at once (left turn, front & rear, right turn front & rear). Hazards should only be used to signal that you are a hazard to the drivers around you.

Marker Lamps:
Also known as ‘parking lamps’, these are the first stage of your two-stage headlight switch, and when activated, should show two solid orange lights up front, and two solid red lights in the rear. Note that these lights are often the same as your brake or turn signal lights, but are about half as bright. These lights are designed to ‘mark’ your vehicle, or to show other vehicles where your vehicle is.

Headlights:
Headlights (or Low-beams) are the front facing white lights, generally between 16″ and 28″ above street level (check your local legal library for specific measurements in your are), and are used to illuminate the roadway in front of you so you can see in less-than-light conditions.

High-beams:
High beams are the ‘high’ or ‘bright’ lights you use when it’s really dark outside, AND, there’s no other vehicles around you. You can read my other post for more info there. High beams are designed to give you maximum illumination when it’s very dark , and should not be used around oncoming or nearby traffic.

Fog lights:
Fog lights are a second, optional, set of lights situated low to the ground, and usually directly under the headlights. They’re often white, sometimes yellow or orange, and they’re designed to cut through heavy fog and illuminate the road in front of you.

Dip:
To ‘dip’ your lights is to flash them in an intentional manner, usually for a full second, perhaps two, and it simply means to change the state of your lights. So if your headlights are on and you want to signal to someone with your headlights, you would turn your headlights off, on again, off, and on again, in a smooth, steady sequence. This lets other drivers know that the change in light was intentional, and allows them to understand the signal you’re conveying.

Flash:
To flash your lights, typically your high beams, you want to activate and de-activate them as quickly as possible. Most vehicles these days have the headlight switch combined with the turn signal activator, so a tiny touch will usually do the trick.

Now that you know the terms and purpose of the different lights, let’s talk about what those lights are communicating:

Turn Signals:
These are used to indicate intention to turn, or change lanes, and should always be used so that other drivers can adjust if needed. Keep in mind that turn signals are merely an indication of intention, and do not give you license or right to interfere with other drivers.
If you’re in the passing lane (far left), and you’d like to pass the person in front of you, after you make sure they can move to the right, you would turn on your left turn signal; this is a polite of way saying, “Excuse me, I would like to pass”.

Marker lamps:
These are used to ‘mark’ the position of your vehicle, and should be used all the time, or anytime the sun is not shining brightly. This is especially true for dark or neutral colored vehicles in cloudy, rainy, foggy, or less-than-light conditions, so that other vehicles can clearly distinguish your vehicle from the background.
You can ‘dip’ your marker lights three times to signal a thank you, or an apology if you got too close to someone, or dip them twice to signal to someone on foot who is looking for your vehicle (this usually works best in the dark).
If you see someone dip their marker lights (which would include their headlights) five times, they’re signalling that you have an issue with your lights, and you should immediately head somewhere safe to check your lights.

Headlights:
Headlights are used to illuminate your path so you can see where you’re going. You should always drive in such a way that you can stop inside of what your headlights show you, otherwise, you’re ‘overdriving your headlights’.
If someone has just passed you, and you want to signal that they’re clear to move over, you would dip your headlights twice, but make sure they’re looking in their mirror first, or else they won’t see you. You might also reserve this for times when traffic is heavy, it’s dark, and/or there’s some precedence for the assistance.
If the driver flashers their marker lights three times, that’s their way of saying thank you.

High Beams:
The only time you should use your high beams for a signal is to alert other drivers of DANGER. Keep in mind that high beams are bright, and will often impair the vision of other drivers, so it can be seen as an aggressive tactic by police officers.
If you are a danger to other vehicles, such as when you’re sliding down an icy road towards an intersection, flashing your high beams at a high rate is a great way to get peoples attention. Couple this with your Hazard lights, and you’re conveying that you’re a dangerous hazard, and other drivers should avoid you.
DO NOT flash your high beams to let an overtaking driver know they’re clear to move over; it prevents them from seeing clearly, and conveys that there is danger, which of course if true if you’re the bad driver blinding people!
DO NOT flash your high beams at people you wish to pass, expect for emergency situations. Flashing your high beams at people is often seen as aggressive driving, and should only be used in an actual emergency.
During the daytime, you can tap your high beams twice from a distance to alert oncoming traffic that there is some danger up ahead; most notably used for alert that there is police activity, this can also be used for any danger that oncoming traffic is approaching. Do make the effort to keep it within one mile of the scene or site so you don’t get everyone riled up over nothing.

Fog Lights:
Because not all vehicles come equipped with fog lights, there’s no set meaning for them. You may have something worked out with friends and family, but expect that most people don’t associate any message with them.
The only common use I have for them is when i’m closely following someone, i’ll leave my headlights off and my fog lights on, both to avoid blinding them with my headlights, and to let them know i’m in ‘follow mode’. This is primarily a tactical use, and when I separate from them, they’ll know because I will turn my headlights on.
Another good use is in dense traffic, or urban areas; leave your headlights off, and just use your fog lights, as there’s plenty of light, and headlights often interfere with other drivers vision in dense traffic. Use this one with caution; it’s not often enforced in my experience, but it is a traffic violation.