Two Weeks, Two Fires…

It was a Friday evening at the West Des Moines KOA where the first unintentional fire needed to be extinguished.

Apparently, this particular weekend was customer appreciation weekend at the Kampgrounds of America – stay Friday and Saturday night at regular rate, stay Sunday night at no additional cost. Lots of people took advantage of this offer, including some first time campers.

Grandma, mom, and her two boys were enjoying a weekend of hot dogs, burgers, and fun. When they set up the grill on their new camper, the propane fuel line wasn’t attached correctly and the gas pooled around the controls. When lit, this created a low pressure propane fire around the control valve. Whoops…

I immediately jumped in and pulled the line line while calmly explaining to the family what I was doing and how to avoid this in the future while at the same time Sean was ensuring that the gas supply was turned off.

Easy fix. No damage done. Fire out. By the end of the weekend all members of the family felt comfortable with the propane system and how to safely connect and disconnect the lines. All is good.

Several hundred miles and two weeks later someone comes to our campground and says a trailer a few spots up is on fire…

My gut reaction was, “Have you called 911?”.

Jumped into action, got on scene and pulled the propane tanks after shutting off the gas. Pulled the power lines from the hookups. Pulled the battery. While I’m doing this (thanks Nrasser for pulling the batter wires) Sean was using our fire extinguishers to put out the visible fire.

Once the visible fire was out (there is no water source at this camp site), Sean broke the window and I ensured that there were no persons in the camper – there were not.

The whole episode took about 15 minutes…

Thirty minutes later, the fire trucks showed up…

Today the owner came by and thanked us for putting out the fire and explained that he’s had many issues with this 2018 camper that are all build defects.

This particular fire was caused by a faulty the emergency brake engagement breakaway cable. This device is at the front of the unit with the propane tanks.

It is evident from witnesses and my inspection today that the fire started at the breakaway switch. The electrical fire destroyed the propane lines which caused a small fire ball in the hitch area. This caused the propane regulator’s protective valves to kick in and stop the flow of gas (allowing me to remove the fuel tanks).

The breakaway switch wires burned down to the breaks where the major fire was ongoing. Once the 120 volt power cord had been removed and the battery disconnected the electrical fire could be put out by our hand held extinguishers. We were assisted as the heat from the fire between the tires ruptured the fresh water and waste water holding tanks, helping to put the fire out.

The electrical lines going from the breakaway switch to the axel breaks are all burned to a crisp. Elements of the propane lines are burned. The visual evidence points to a faulty breakaway switch.

So yeah, two weeks, two fires…

My Airstream Does Not Have Fleas…

Just over a year ago when we started our epic road trip we were given some advice at one of the camp ground. “Put a flea collar in your external compartments (water heater vent, fridge vent, etc…) to keep out the mud dauber wasps.” We did and we’ve not had any wasp issues at all.

Flea Collars

Apparently some wasps really like the odors and taste of propane gas – who knew? These fuel, and warmth, loving pests will turn the pilot light areas in the exterior fridge, water heater, and other propane vent compartments into a luxury condo complex if given the chance. If they do take up home, the can cause the systems to fail to ignite or worse, their paper-like nest material could go up in flames and take the whole camper with it, meaning everyone is now homeless…

Here is where the flea collar comes into play. The wasps don’t like the smell of the chemicals in flea collars and will move to the next best thing.

Fridge Compartment: Collar in lower left around gas hose.
Fridge and Macerator Pump Connection Compartment
Water Heater Compartment: Collar in lower left.
Water Heater Compartment

But what do you do in the event that you already have wasps in your compartments and want to evict them? Well, two campfire stories for getting rid of them.

  • Method the first: Douse the wasps with a cup of soapy water (dish soap was used by this group). While this sounds like a good idea, what about the wasps not in the nest who will come back to find their home gone? This exposes you to stings. While the couple who did this were not hurt, this wouldn’t be my first go to.
  • Method the second: According to these campers, wasps like beer. They place a half-empty can of beer in the compartment, wasps fly in, get stuck, drown in the beer. I like this better as it doesn’t have the added requirement of cleaning out the compartment of soapy water and you get to drink half a beer!
  • You could also use a household bug spray, but be very careful if the gas is or if the pilot is lit or tries to ignite…you will explode your rig and cause seriously bodily harm or death. Don’t use bug spray near exposed flames, ignition sources, or the like.

That’s all I have for today!

One Year Later…

On August 26, 2019 Sean and I picked up our first camper, an Airstream Globetrotter. Two days later we left Las Vegas on a cross-country trip to help Uncle Mike move from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. Along the way we stopped at roadside attractions including The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota…Earlier this year we again made the cross-country trip, during the pandemic, to take care of Uncle Mike during his final months. Over the course of that stay I rebuild the concrete pool skirt for my mother-in-law.

Fast forward to today. It’s been a year and a day since we left on our first camping adventure. We’ve driven coast to coast twice and visited thirty-six states. We have driven twenty-three thousand miles towing our Airstream. We have made lots of upgrades including:

  • Replaced Street-side Stabilizer (it was broken when we picked up the coach)
  • Upgraded Front Jack (the base model broke in Rhode Island)
  • Upgraded to a 600 Amp Hour battery bank from 96 Amp Hours
  • Added 500 Watts of Solar Power to keep the batteries charged
  • Added Custom Nameplates designed by @CandiceMakes
  • Installed dual SIM internet connectivity hardware & shipboard computer
  • Replaced DVD Player with two AppleTV devices
  • Upgraded the Water Pump and installed a pressure tank
  • Upgraded the entire charging and inverting system from 1000 watts to 3000 watts
  • Replaced all exterior compartments with stainless steel versions.
  • Repaired various things including trim pieces, shower door, toilet valves and seals, main table, guest bed…

I am sure there are things we have done that I am forgetting. I’ve been in every compartment/hatch/hidey-hole in the coach. 

In all this time and all these miles we haven’t actually gone camping yet. We’ve used our Airstream as a hotel on wheels between destinations. Thus far all our trips have been either family emergency related or work related. Sure we’ve done camping things along the way, but we’ve not actually been camping for the sake of camping. 

We rectify that later this month, if the pandemic allows…

Fairwell Uncle Mike

On July 4th Uncle Mike passed away…

He will be cremated as per his wishes and his ashes spread over Lake Erie in Ohio along with the ashes of his wife and parents.

The Church Group he was a member of in Pennsylvania will be holding a memorial service for him at some point once COVID-19 restrictions are removed for those who knew him from the 1980s-2019 before he moved. His steel models and railroad models will be on display.

The National Museum of Industrial History (https://www.nmih.org) will be accepting the remainder of Uncle Mike’s historical artifacts and research and putting them on display in the appropriate departments.

We will be donating his belongings to the local charities so that they may live on to help people here in the community he called home.

Thank you for your continued support.

Dementia Sucks…

We’ve been in Franklin, Massachusetts taking care of Uncle Mike and his property since April 23rd. We departed our home in Nevada on the evening of the 16th of April and drove the 2,812 mile trip to assist Uncle Mike. On day five of our six and a quarter day journey he tested positive for COVID-19 and was institutionalized for six weeks. Nobody told us how long he would be in the medical facility and until the red tape was cut we could not get him out.

It’s been just about two weeks since he returned home and …

…it’s not pretty. Dementia sucks. Short term/Long term care facilities aren’t pretty. COVID-19 sucks.

I know getting old and passing away is part of life, but watching it in slow motion isn’t fun…

2020 Travel So Far and Plans for the Year

We’re back on the road again – actually we never left. Since January 1, 2020 we have been to The Grand Canyon and Flagstaff in Arizona. We’ve visited Caliente, Ely, Elko, Winnemucca, Reno, Carson City, Tonopah, Hawthorne, Las Vegas, and other points in Nevada. We’ve traveled to San Diego, Buena Park, and Palm Springs California.

Later this week we will be heading north to San Francisco, Sacramento, and other points Northern California before heading back to Las Vegas to restock.

While we don’t expect the Coronavirus to impact our traveling, we are taking precautions and self isolating as much as we can. We’re eating in for every meal as most, if not all, sit down restaurants are closed in the areas we are visiting. We’ve got a well stocked camper.

Just a short update today.

Back on the road … Flagstaff

Feeling the itch to travel we decided to pop out to Flagstaff for the long weekend. Our first stop was in Kingman for an overnight, no great shakes there.

Our journey to Flagstaff on the other hand was a little more interesting as the weather turned colder and snow started to fall…

According to Sean driving in the snow wasn’t bad, but I’m sure glad he was the one behind the wheel at the time…

Once the weather cleared we headed to Sedona for a day trip and visited Slide Rock National Park.

Seeing as it was again cold, we enjoyed a fire before turning in for the night. Monday we make the trip back to Vegas.

Wind…

Today we have been fighting 27 mile per hour winds on Interstate 5 in California. Lots of cross winds on the highway means we’re taking it slowly and carefully.

We’re expecting to be at the campground around four this afternoon.

No Bars in More Places – AT&T vs. Verizon

With all of this digital nomadity so far, one thing remains constant: the need for internet. And one of the weirdnesses of my day job is that I can’t have my own personal phone and their cell phone plan (wat), which means reimbursement and picking my own plan and all the “fun” of discovering what is best in an area.

AT&T Pros and Cons:
Pro: With the Mofi hotspot and a SIM from an iPad on my unlimited data plan, I haven’t experienced any sort of data caps yet.
Con: But, when the signal is low…. it’s a horror show. Case in point – Mesa, AZ. Yes, one of the largest and newest metropolitan areas in the country, the greater Phoenix region, seemed to have the absolute worst AT&T coverage I’ve seen yet, and that includes driving across the middle of nowhere truckstops.

Verizon Pros and Cons:
Pro: Didn’t need to go to the store at all to get set up. The eSIM in the iPhone 11 Pro Max Super Giga Bonker, or whatever the marketing department came up with, allowed me to almost instantly switch from AT&T to Verizon on my personal plan. And since Andy’s got another AT&T phone, we can have some balance to the force; if one doesn’t have service, the other has to…
Con: HOLY COW EXPENSIVE. Not only do you get a data cap (though how hard that cap is, I haven’t experienced yet), but $100 a month gets you A Single Line with 35 GB of data hotspot.

T-Mobile – An incomplete review:
I had a T-Mobile SIM as a second line in the iPhone, and voice/text only. Can’t go wrong with $20 for a phone line, though. The downfall is when you want them as a backup data plan; again, back up to $70 for a single line with only 10 GB of data through hotspot.

Beats the Alternative – Satellite:
I’ve not been able to get some decent information on the net about this, but Viasat seems to do RV plans, but on the high end of $150 a month plus equipment. RVDataSat seems to have real unlimited plans, but the cost of the equipment is upwards of $15k!

Week in review…

We departed Vegas a week ago for Mesa, AZ to attend a book selling event.

Arizona was nice, it was good to hang out with Damian and Apple as well as see people at the convention – but the convention itself was a bit lackluster compared to prior years…

Green Acres RV Park was nice, but tight. Every available space was filled.

We’re now in a lovely RV Park in Palm Springs, California bringing our trip to twenty-eight states visited so far.