Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Trailer Mod - Upgraded Bunk Fan

The bunk fan/light combo that come with the Hybrid Trailers are, in my opinion, very inadequate.  I think they make more noise than they move air.  So, I have been looking for a fan that I could use that would help keep me cool inside my bunk.  I was considering the Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze, which is a very good fan, but a little pricey at around $60.  Then, walking around Target, I found the 02 Cool Fan for $22.  This was about the right size, but, how about performance.

So, I bought it, took it home, and plugged it into the wall using the power brick that came with it.  It has 2 speed, one less than the Fan-tastic, and it worked real well.  It was a lot quieter than those little bunk fans, and moved a lot more air.  Now, came the dilemma of how to mount it.  So I took it apart and found a lot of open areas that I could work with.  So, here is what I did.

I bought some threaded eye hooks at Home Depot, some extra nuts, and some regular and fender washers (to spread the weight on the plastic, probably overkill), and some light duty decorative chain.  I was going to attach permanent eye hooks to the camper, but Jen said to try and use the 3M stick on hooks, due to the fact that we want to upgrade and not depreciate the trailer with extra holes (she is my brain sometimes).

The next thing, how to power it.  This fan operates on 12VDC via a power brick, or, by 6 D cell batteries.  In my tests, the 6D cells, providing 9 volts, didn't perform as well as the 12VDC.  So, I went to Radio Shack, Bought the correct adapter tip, female to female 6 foot cord (which I cut in half), and Solderless 1/4" Audio Plug.

This setup seems to work great.  With the chain, I can adjust the angle of the fan.  The 12 volts means that it can run at any time.  The one thing that I want to get, next time I order from Amazon, is a 1/4 splitter.  That way, I can still use the stock bunk light, and use this fan, at the same time.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Campground Review - Ashaway RV Resort

Throughout this review, I may be referring to Normandy Farms quite a few times.  I currently do not have a review of Normandy, as there are several out there.  And, to me, we are spoiled due to their excellent facility and camping experiences we have there.

Over the winter, we have been so excited that 2 new campgrounds were opening up in the area.  Because of the brutal winter, both campgrounds had to delay their openings.  But, finally, they opened, and we got to book 4 nights at Ashaway RV Resort off Interstate 95, Exit 1, in Ashaway RI.  We were excited because this is in a part of the state that we hardly explore.  We had lots of things to do around there including Westerly Beaches, Mystic attractions, The Casinos, and more.  There is a potential for lots to do!

The campground was easy to get to, easily to navigate by the largest rigs.  The campground entrance road was a bit bumpy.  Upon checking in with the friendly staff, the owner took a second between phone calls to greet us.  He remembered us from the camping show, and said that he will try and stop by during our stay.

Upon driving to our site, I noticed that there was still a quite a bit of construction going on.  I also noticed a lack of large trees except around the perimeter of the campground.  I knew that my Popup Gizmos would come in handy.

Our site was on a hill, which I don't mind.  Our pad was made of dirt, which was a bit loose.  The pad itself was about 12 feet wide, and about 40 feet long from the road to the end, where it dropped down severely.  I wish it was topped with peastone, like the sites in Normandy.  The dirt pad did help in leveling, but was not level itself.  I did need to use 2 2x10s on the roadside to level.  This created a nice drop for my septic.  The grass on our site were weeds at best, and was a bit overgrown.  Our poor 4lb chihuahua had to hop over the grass and her leash kept getting caught up in it. 

The overall site itself was small, with no trees or bushes separating sites.  My Jeep and 22 feet of trailer fit fine, but when I get my Pickup and 25 foot trailer, it would be a tight fit.  People with large trailers will have a hard time finding a spot for their tow vehicle.  Even better, people with a Motohome and A Toad will have a hard time parking their Toad.  And, the larger families with 2 vehicles will have a hard time or find it impossible to park both vehicles.

The utilities seem excellent.  Water is well water, and we had no issues.  Pressure seemed adequate, but then again, the campground was fairly empty.  The power pedestal had 20/30/50 amp service at every site.  Every site also had a sewer connection with a 4" screw in connection.  Cable was provided by Cox Communications, and was there basic service with analog and digital QAM channels.  On a side note, I wonder if we brought our cable "modem" to the campground, would it work??  The free Wifi worked well while we were there, but I could see issues in the future with it, as I will get to this later.

The pool setup was nice, but still being worked on.  The pool is L shaped, with a walk in (or wheel in with a wheel chair) end, that then has a walkway separation to the deeper end.  The spashpad area was not completed yet while we were there, and the adult whirlpool was also not working.  Also, the bathrooms at the pool were not in service yet, as the recreation hall was still being finished.

Now, some concerns and poorly designed parts of the campground....

This being a brand new campground, and calling themselves a resort, I would have thought that they would visit other places and learn a few things.

1)  Small Sites - I think they tried cramming too many sites.  Sites should have been designed to fit a 40 foot motorhome and a toad.  OR A 40 foot trailer and pickup.  Also, designed to park 2 vehicles for larger families.

2) Misplacement of Sewer Connections - Walking around the campground, I noticed quite a few sewer connections that will not work well.  Some are near the front of the site.  Also, on the hill, some were placed uphill, and a lower camper will never drain uphill.  Those will probably need to be cut down, and some sort of a trench built to them so that a camper can properly drain.  They could have learned from Normandy and placed 2 connections at every site, one in the middle, and one towards the rear.  That way, you can connect to the one closest to you, and the larger units with 2 connections can use both.

3) Lack of Bathhouses - At the time of our visit, there was one small bathhouse open at the office, and one other small one being built inside the recreation hall.  I asked if any more were planned, and they stated that they were 100% full hookups, so there is no need.  They could not be any more wrong.  A couple in their large luxurious RV may solely use their unit's bathroom, but many people with small units and large families usually use the bathhouse, since 4-8+ people trying to use one shower with 6 gallons of hot water is nearly impossible.  Our shower is used mostly for dirty laundry.

The one bathroom that was open had just one urinal and one toilet in the men's room. (I did not venture into the lady's room).  Now, because of the size of my bathroom, I usually go #2 at the bathhouse.  I had to wait in line, and a line was waiting for me when I was done.  I do not like to feel rushed when using the bathroom, but others are waiting.  There were also 2 showers in there, and they were decently sized.  But, I could see the hanger coming off the wall.  It was not mounted for heavy duty continuous use.

One design flaw in that bathroom and the bathroom they were building next to the pool was no floor drains.  I can see people using the bathroom dripping wet from the pool or walking in the rain and all the water has nowhere to go.  After getting out of the pool, I went up to talk to the contractors, and they agreed with me, that there should be floor drains.

4) Wifi Hotspots - This being a new campground, I would have expected them to have a wired backbone for their internet.  I would even pay if the internet was up to par.  But what I saw was rather hacked at best.  They used internet repeaters on top of PVC poles.  The repeaters looked to be more residential in nature.  These PVC poles were tie wrapped to pedestals around the campground.  There was a CAT5 wire running down the PVC and into the pedestal where it was connected to a PoE Injector (Power over Ethernet), which was just wrapped up inside the pedestal and connected to one of the 20amp outlets.  I have never seen anything so hacked at a brand new facility.  With Cox being the provider, I would have thought they would have used them to install Wifi around the campground.  I can see 2 things.  1) Any repeater can be easily unplugged and cause outages. 2) When it is busy, it will be impossible to get any service, just like at Normandy Farms.

In my opinion, I think they should have built and completed half the campground first.  They tried to do too much at once.  I also think they should have made the sites bigger and more accommodating.  Making fewer, but bigger sites, would have meant less pedestals, making the initial investment less.

Would I go there again?  Sure!  I love being close to great RI beaches, and other attractions.  Would I recommend it to others?  Yes, but not as a primary destination, but to park their rigs while they explore the area.  During our time there, I saw so much work taking place, that it was a different campground than from when we arrived.

I will definitely post a followup on this review the next time we go here.  Now, for some pictures.

This is our view up the hill.  If you look above Jay's car, you can see the white pole of a Wifi Repeater.  We moved our stuff off the grass in anticipation of them coming by to cut it.  Jay was also parked on the grass, but moved to the vacant site next door.  You can also see the sudden drop on the sides and back of the pads on the hill.
We were close to the pool.  As you can see, our small rig fits there.  There is not much room behind me before I start invading the site behind me. 
Another view of how close the sites are together.

Coolest thing was this bird nest by the high voltage power lines running down the middle of the place.
Barrel train.  They did have some activities schedules. 
The pool is a nice design.  Not all that big.  I could see it busy when the campground is full.  The dirt area is where the plumbing for the splashpad is.

Poor Jordan in the grass.

Hazy day at the beach.
Julie at the carousel at Watch Hill.
Group Selfie
Better day at the beach!!!
Waterslide fun in Misquamecut.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Trailer Mod - Battery Disconnect Switch

Sorry for the long absence.  The railroad has me working hard.  I have been doing little things to the camper to get it ready, but took a few trips off to go camping this weekend.

Today's mod, we put in a battery disconnect switch.  My Roo did not come with one from the factory, although, I believe new models are coming with one.

The main reason for the disconnect is so that you can store your trailer without hooking up the power.  What happens, there are little parasitic draws on the battery, and if you don't disconnect or plug in, you are going to kill the battery.  Drawing the battery too far too many times is a good way to shorten its life.

Some of the parasitic draw are:
  • Refrigerator Electronics (never had this issue in the 90s)
  • Safety Devices (Propane alarm, and any other 12v detectors)
  • Clock Radio
  • Television
On the forums, some people said to break the ground, so that if you accidentally ground the terminals on the switch, no harm.  The problem I see with that is the trailer breakaway is now disabled if you forget to turn the switch on.  So, I decided to break the positive just before my converter charger and put the switch there.

I bought a single battery switch from Blue Sea Systems, model #6005.  I liked this because there were 3 mounting options, a removable "key" to turn it on and to remove when off, and it was quite small. I chose mounting it by sandwiching the paneling between the front and back, and using the thicker wood on the sides to help brace it.  I also had to shave some of the edge off my propane alarm due to the tight fit.  One mistake I did, the hole saw grabbed and marked the wood.  I will have to get some of that furniture fix stuff to get rid of the mark.

Besides the switch, other supplies I needed were:
  • 4 #10 by 2 1/2 screws and nuts (Ace Hardware)
  • 6 foot piece of 8AWG battery wire (Autozone)
  • 3/8" 8AWG terminals (Autozone)
  • Holesaw (Ace Hardware)

Battery Disconnect mounted and in the ON position.

Proximity to my Converter.  Only needed on short piece of 8 gauge wire to do the job.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Campground Review - Webter Park Campground

The second part of my June vacation, I visited a friend in Rochester, NY. I was looking for something close, and found a County campground in the town of Webster. As I do with every campground, I look at both the campground map and Google Earth images. I saw that all sites had 30 amp electric, with some having 50 amp electric, I decided to give it a try.
Google mapping had the location of the facility about 1/4 mile or so East of where it was. Pulling into the facility, I noticed how clean and well cared for it looked for a county campground. I was quite impressed.
Drove up to the camp manager's office and was greeted by a friendly couple. They gave me a choice of sites, and I picked a random one. Price was $25 a night, which was about $5 cheaper than the KOA and half the diatance to my friend's residence.
Sites pretty much looked fairly level, needing minimal blocking. My site was a little tight to back into but others looked a bit easier.  The sites were 100% grass, lined with trees on the sides.  Electric pedestals look fairly modern and in good condition. Campground rules also allowed you to tie into the water spigots that line the road every few campsites as long as you use a wye adapter.   Also, depending on the site, a lot of hose may be required.
There was one comfort station in the center. Facility was exceptionally clean and well maintained. There was a large wash sink outside for doing dishes. One negative was that there was no hot water to this sink or the bathroom sinks. There were also 3 large unisex showers on the opposite side of the facility. These showers were token operated costing 50 cents for 5 minutes. Once again, very clean and well maintained.
There was a nice playground facility for the kids next to the comfort station. Once again, well maintained.  There was also a nice large open field for the kids to play in also.
I most definitely would camp here again if I visited Rochester. The campground is located not far off Lake Ontario. There is a waterfront park just down the road. Overall, a very nice facility.

Campground Review - Greenbelt National Park

For my vacation on the railroad, one of my destinations I decided was to head to Washington DC to visit some friends and their new baby. Campgrounds near their house went for $60+ a night.  So, I decided to give my first try to camping without hookups and save myself at least $45 a night.
When I arrived, first thing is a big hiway sign warning about ticks. And yes, they were right as I found a few on me the three days that I was there. As I followed the signs towards the camping area, I realize how wooded the place is. I pull up to the camping area and see that the ranger station is under construction and the guard house is locked down with signs pointing me to self registration. Of course, there were no envelopes there, and got lucky and found some outside the ranger station.
There were signs directing scouts only to loop A, large campers to loop D, tents only to Loop C. So, I decided to give Loop B a try. I found myself a site next to the comfort station.  The place to me was pretty dead for a Saturday in June.
Sites in Loop B were small to me, as my 21 footer and Liberty barely fit with the wheels on the back edge of the pad. Sites on the inside of the loop were fairly level, but on the outside would require blocks. Lucky for my short tow vehicle and trailer, I was able to back up into the tight fit. Other sites had a little more room to maneuver.
Comfort facility was old and could definitely use refurbishing. They were somewhat clean, probably due to the lack of patrons. I would hope they do a better job when more people use them. There was one large shower in the facility. Shower was free and the hot water was ok. The facility had lots of bugs due to people leaving the door open and I also saw a salamander crawling around.  Outside of the facility, there was a large washing sink for dishes.
One thing I liked was that the place was well wooded. When checking the place out by Google Earth, I had a hard time finding the campsites. This thick forest is good for keeping the camper cool, but would make a solar power system almost useless and also satellite TV.
The camp host for my loop was friendly. They stopped by checking to see if you registered.
The dump station was located by Loop D. It was your basic dump station with a hose on a pole for rinsing your hoses. Of course it leaked at the top giving you a cool shower. There was also a potable was spigot and also potable water spigots around the loops.
If I was going on a cheap vacation to the DC area, I would go here again. Especially in cooler weather, as I like my creature comforts. But if it was going to be hot and muggy, I would probably stay at a nearby campground with hookups.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tow Vehicle Maintenance - Tires

I feel one of the most important parts of any vehicle are the tires.  Last year, when we towed our rental, I felt like I was driving on marshmallows.  I thought an LT tire was going to be in my future, but in the size that I wanted, 245/70R16, the choices were slim.  Then, this winter, when I went to pick up the Roo, I had my Firestone Winterforce P245/70R16 tires on.  I noticed no marshmallow feel over my stock Goodyear Wrangler ST P225/75R16 tires.  That is when I opened up my search to both P rated and LT rated tires.  My tire finalist were Falken Wild Peak LT, Cooper Discover AT3 LT, BF Goodrich Rugged Terrain P-Rated, Firestone Destination AT P Rated, and the Hankook Dynapro ATm P-rated XL Load.  All seemed to be good by the reviews.  But, some of the best reviews went to the Hankooks, and that is what I got.

I can't tell you right now how they tow, since I only have less than 50 miles on them.  But initial impressions are good.  No noticeable increase in road noise over my stock tires (sound of the diesel may be drowning it out).  The tire feels good.  And, I like the fact that it is good for 50PSI and 2403lbs of load (Load Index of 111)

 Nice aggressive tread pattern.  Good for a bit of off road trails.

 I wanted the white lettering out.  That was my preference.

 Extra Load Baby, with LT high pressure valve stems.

 Rated at over 2400 pounds!!!  My gross axle rating is 3150, and the CAT scales says I am about 3000 while towing.  More than enough.

I got a 5th tire on the way to replace the spare.  But, the spare marshmallow is rated at less than 2000 pounds.  And, there is a 6 pound difference between the tires.  It will suck for fuel mileage, but I didn't buy the Diesel just for the fuel mileage.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trailer Mod - MaxxAir II Roof Vent Cover

One thing that I wanted for my trailer was roof vent covers.  First one to be put on was the one for the bathroom.  Since this one already had a high powered fan, I decided to put on a MaxxAir II cover.  Installation was simple, and was complete in less than one hour.  Any handy RV person, who is not afraid to get on his/her roof (yes, I am afraid, but grew a set and got on there) should be able to complete this project.

I was hoping that this was going to be more simple than it was, since the previous owner had roof vent covers and had removed them.  WRONG.  Difference brand/style of covers, and the holes didn't line up.  So, I had to make my own holes.

 First, attach the hinged side.  I took my time, making sure everything was correct.

 After 2 screws, I took the cover off to get to the other 2 screws.  The instructions said to use the self tapping screws for installation in a Fan-Tastic fan installation.

 I then put the cover on, and mark where the brackets lined up for the clip side.I then drilled and installed the 4 self tapping screws.

Finished Product.

My other roof vent will get a MaxxAir TurboMaxx fan.  That, is a bit more expensive, and a bit more work.  I hope to have that installed by the end of summer.