Andrew’s Fall Fun Facts

Updated annually from a project George started back in 2003.

I share these Fall Fun Facts with you because we are on the cusp of my favorite season. How do I know that fall is right around the corner? For starters the temperature in the Boston area has fallen below sixty-five degrees during the overnight hours – ideal weather for sleeping. I received a message from my grandmother telling me that she has started to can her veggies, meaning that her harvest is done, and I will be making a stop in Tiverton for sauces and marmalades. But the real indication to me that the season is about to change is that the colleges and schools are gearing up for full sessions.

With this in mind I share some Fall Fun Facts as shared with me by my former temporary employee George.

Apple Picking

What better way to celebrate the fall harvest than to get out there in the crisp, afternoon autumn air and do a little of your own harvesting?  Take a couple of bushels home and make some pie, bring one to work for lunch, throw a couple at school buses.  Use the big pointy-ended basket on a stick to get the good ones up top, eat the ones that have fallen to the ground. Be sure to eat so many you throw up in between a couple of the big trees at the back of the orchard…the possibilities are endless.

There are over 22 orchards in Rhode Island that allow you to ‘pick from their bounty’ (for a small fee) and many of those actually make cider on the premises.  Generally the ‘pick your own season begins on Labor day and runs through the middle of October, but with the warmer weather this summer it’s best to call ahead.  As an aside, Smithfield has long been known as “Apple Country” to Rhode Islanders and still has a strong agricultural base due to the numerous apple orchards located here.

How nice!

Fall folk tales

It is said that if you catch a falling leaf before it hits the ground you’ll have 1 month of good luck.  Catch 12 and the next year will be great…catch 492 and you’ll explode due to luckiness.  It’s also said that the luckiest leaf of all is the last one to fall from the tree…unless you’re trying to catch that one and miss it.  Then you die.

Just kidding.

You don’t die.

The Do’s and Don’t of Leaf Peeping:

    • Do get lost.
    • Do observe proper foliage etiquette. If you’re using the back roads to get from here to there as should be done, don’t turn everything into a Sunday drive of Ooh’s and Aah’s. Pull over and let the 46 locals behind you room to pass.
    • Do get out of your car to walk, smell and listen…
    • Do go to New Hampshire’s Franconia notch to see the spot where the Old Man in the Mountain used to be…don’t say hello to his vacated spot driving 13 miles per hour on route 93 north.
    • Do look for changing views from roads with hills and curves that meander through changing vista’s of woods and farms and small villages.
    • Don’t rush.
    • Don’t panic that ‘peak’ is passing by you. It’s constantly shifting in New England and is a continuum, not a moment fixed in time.
    • Moose crossing signs are there for a reason. Ever see a car that hit a moose? Ain’t much left.
    • Do wake up early. The colors are most vivid in morning light and dew.
    • Do linger to take in late afternoon light. The shadows in the hills are very, very deep.
    • Do look up once in a while. Mid-to-late September is when thousands of broad winged birds (raptors, falcons, hawks, etc.) ride the thermals south from the Northeast
    • Don’t be a color snob and ignore everything but bright red Do go beyond where everyone else goes. Vermonters have a saying. “When people die, they go to Vermont. When good Vermonters die, they go to the Northeast Kingdom.” (Northeast part of the state.)

Cabin Maintenance: HVAC Filters

One of the things we like to do every two weeks, depending on use, is clean the HVAC system air intake filters. These filters are located in the cabin and cycle the cabin air through our Dometic air handling units. As our Airstream has two rooftop HVAC appliances that act as both air cooling and a heat pump they are used year round so cleaning is a year round task. We believe that one should regularly clean these filters. Some units recommend cleaning AC filters once every thirty days, while others recommend to do it every other week, check with your appliance manual to confirm the cleaning schedule.

Our ceiling intake vents are easily cleaned by removing the four screws holding the decorative grate in place and then simply washing both the decorative grate and the plastic filter.

2019 Airstream Hop Inn Ceiling Air Intake Vent

While the intake is open, it’s a good idea to inspect the wiring, drain hoses, and general interior for anything that needs cleaning, adjustment, or service.

Two Parts: Plastic Filter Element (bottom) and Decorative Grate (top).

Cleaning is an easy task requiring only warm water and Dawn dish soap. There are very few things that can’t be cleaned with Dawn – it’s our go to cleaner of choice for all things inside the cabin and many things outside the cabin. The clean parts should be allowed to dry fully before reassembly and use of the HVAC system.

This process takes us about half an hour every two weeks. We have four inlet vents, two per roof top unit. Sixteen screws in total.

We are looking into something like replaceable RVAir filters, which would make the air inside the coach cleaner when sealed up and running the HVAC, but we tend to open the windows and door often and are concerned that these replaceable, non-washable, filters will gunk up faster and no longer be an economical alternative to the factory filters…but you never know, we could try them and like them…

Back on the road…

It’s been a heck of a pandemic all around, and it’s not over yet. Sean and I are fully vaccinated and many places are opening back up to near pre-pandemic capacities. We’ll be wearing masks in public places and avoiding large gatherings for the time being. Once the country reaches 75% fully vaccinated and international travel is possible I might ease up on mask wearing, but for now I feel better wearing a mask in public.

With the end in sight, more of my customers are opening their doors to vendor visitors, meaning back to traveling…

This week we’re in Tulare, California visiting some food quality labs. Next week we’re heading west to Gilroy, California for the heck of it. Week after we will be in the Bay Area visiting friends and working with clients. After that it’s back to construction before the next big thing…

Did I Just Buy A Mobile Solar Generator

Yes, yes I did…

Back in November when we purchased our backhoe we got a tip on mobile power from the prior owners. They told us to check out BidIndustrial.Com as the site was auctioning off several thousand mobile solar generators built by DC Solar before DC Solar was proven to be a scam and forced into bankruptcy liquidation.

After some mental debate we settled on a Configuration C mobile solar generator on which to bid:

MSG (mobile solar generator) with Kubota GL11000 Lowboy II, 11KW diesel generator with super low hours! 96 GNB Flooded Classic Platinum tubular industrial batteries 468 AH capacity 48 volt, ECI 113 gallon fuel tank with locking cap and gauge, (10) Talesun Solar Module Type: TP660P-235 235 watt solar panels, (2) SMA Sunny Island model 6048-US-10 single phase battery inverters, MidNite Solar Classic 250 charge controller, MidNite Solar MNGP Classic controller display, MidNite Solar Photovoltaic Combiner breaker box, Homeline Load Center breaker box, (4) 110 volt plug ins, (2) Hubbell 220 volt output plugs, Carson 9,995 lb. GVW tandem axle trailer with electric brakes, pintle hitch.

One January Day I went to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and selected six candidates from the available pool – there were many – that were in top condition.

During the last minutes of the auction bids were flying back and forth extending the auction time beyond the end by fifteen minutes. When it was all said and done I was the proud owner of one of the six candidates I had reviewed.

After picking up the payment, a truck, and hitch conversion I headed back to the Speedway to collect my prize.

The first thing I needed to do was to swap out the pintle hitch for a standard ball capture hitch.

All of these MSGs have pintle hitches from the factory. My truck only has a ball hitch, and the rental truck also only has a ball hitch. So with my tool box and a conversion kit I hit the nuts. A little muscle and some leverage later and my new ball capture hitch was installed.

All that was left to do was to back the truck up to the unit, hitch up, and take off!

Except the jack wouldn’t go up all the way…

The jack foot would only go up about four inches… That’s not safe…

Welp, a broken foot would normally be a show stopper – but enter the cut off wheel.

A few minutes later and I’m on the road.

Jack Foot Removed…

The next day we headed 520 miles north to our land with an overnight at Miller’s Rest Stop.

The MSG provided plenty of power for the night. We did top off the batteries with water so that they could charge in the sun the next day.

Once on our land we deployed the panels, hooked up the camper, and set about to servicing the generator that came with our MSG. We needed several things: diesel fuel, oil change, a new starter battery, and new fuel filters.

As well as lots of reading on how these things work.

Now the unit is happy as a clam.

Next we started digging into what’s on this thing and this put a smile on our faces. Looking at the auction listing we expected 468 AH of batteries. In reality the unit had two 540 AH battery banks for a total of 1080 AH capacity! The auction listing also mentioned that the solar panels were 235 watts each for a total of 2350 watts solar collection. A quick look at the panes and they are 270 watts each for a total of 2700 watts solar collection.

We both thought it was a good deal as posted, but getting more battery and more solar collection is good news!

I’ve downloaded all the manuals and have been reading up on how all the parts work. Simple enough, but can do a lot more than just provide power from the sun.

I also priced out all the components and it would cost roughly $36,000 to build this unit today. I paid less than half of that.

It’s time to order new tires…

As you may recall from earlier posts, we accepted delivery of our Airstream travel trailer back in August of 2019. Since then we have put over thirty-thousand miles on our coach and over forty-one thousand miles on our tow vehicle.

During that time we have given very little thought to our tires other than inspecting them before and during trips, keeping the air pressure at the suggested level for both vehicles, and covering the camper tires when in the same place for more than a few days. We also use a tire protectant spray every two thousand miles. So I guess we do give more than a little thought to our tires.

Last week, when preparing to move from an RV Park to our own land, I noticed one of the tires was looking low. I had just checked the pressure a few days ago before we arrived at the RV Park, so this was troubling. Very troubling as the usually 80 PSI tire was down to 65 PSI.

Upon closer inspection I found a small screw embedded into the tread of the tire.

Somewhere along the way we picked up a screw in the inside valley of our tire tread.

Luckily I have experience with small punctures such as this, and the screw was in a location that was easily repairable without removing the tire from the Airstream. This picture also tells me that the tire is wearing a little unevenly and, as we will see in other photos, it’s time to order a fresh set of tires for our coach. Back to the repair…

The tools required to plug this kind of puncture include:

  • A screwdriver to remove the offending screw (a pair of pliers would also work)
  • A plug kit (I use the Slime branded kit)
  • A razor knife to trip the plug flush to the tire
  • A compressor to inflate the tire
The only tools needed to repair this kind of puncture.

Step One: Remove the offending object.

Step Two: Clean out the puncture hole using the abrasion tool provided in the kit.

Step Three: Thread a plug through the needle tool provided in the kit and coat with rubber cement.

Step Four: Plug the tire and quickly pull the tool back through the hole.

Step Five: Inflate the tire and check for leaks.

Step Six: Trim the Plug flush to the tire.

We will be monitoring the tire pressure for a few days to ensure that the plug is holding air.

Slime Plug Kit

Instructions from Slime.

Tire plugs aren’t hard, but there are some disadvantages to running on a plugged tire. Most tire manufacturers don’t recommend taking a plugged tire to the maximum speed or temperature rating of the pre-plugged tire. Plugs should only be used to repair a tire when the puncture is within the tread and less than ¼” in size. Also note, that patching a tire yourself may void the warranty.

One should never attempt to plug or patch the sidewall of a tire.

Given that we have over 31,000 miles on these tires and they are showing uneven wear on the inner tread as well as dry rot on the sidewalls near the start of the tread, it’s time for new tires. We’ll be upgrading to Carlisle trailer tires on all four wheels.

My 2021 Electric Vehicle Road Tip:

Las Vegas, Nevada to Winnemucca, Nevada – 520 Miles

Back in August last year Sean and I purchased about ten acres up in northern Nevada. Our plan is to develop the land into our own little slice of paradise including guest cabins, recreational vehicle parking, a massive communal kitchen, and laundry facilities. We have already acquired a backhoe, broke ground, and have started the process of having a well installed for water, electricity dropped from the pole, and ideas for our septic system. It’s all coming together…slowly.

That said, we decided that having our Electric Ford Focus down in Vegas where it makes short six mile round trips daily, while we are in town, didn’t make sense anymore. Up here in Winnemucca, it’s eleven miles to the nearest grocery store, twenty minutes from the shopping districts and there is a DC Fast Charge (DCFC) station in town. Given that we need to run into town to get essentials like food, water, fuel for the generators, fuel for the backhoe, it just made more sense to have the electric vehicle here.

Indian Springs, Nevada DCFC The week before our trip.

DCFC stations are located every fifty miles or so along the proposed route. The week before setting out on our adventure we drove out and back to the first charge station to make sure that it was working and to make sure that the range reported by our Ford Focus Electric was accurate. It was working and the range was accurate.

For the next three days I plotted routes to ensure that we could make the trip. Of course we had a Plan B in our back pocket the whole time. As we need a place to stay and, given the current global pandemic, hotels are right out, Sean was going to follow me in the F150 pulling our Airstream as well as our generators.

I chose this round because there were more DC Fast Charge Stations than the shorter, Battle Mountain Route.

The proposed route isn’t the shortest, it’s about forty miles longer than running up Battle Mountain, but it has far more DCFC charge stations, so it was selected.

I left a few hours before Sean so that we could meet at our first overnight in Goldfield, Nevada – four DCFCs from Las Vegas (not that I would need them all, but it’s nice to know they were there).

My first stop was in Indian Springs as I knew the DCFC worked, having tested it the week before. I only stayed here a few minutes to take a picture (see previous) and top off before heading to the Amargosa Valley Rest Area’s DCFC – again mostly for the photo opportunity as the vehicle had enough charge to make it to Beatty.

Beatty is pretty cool as they have this massive candy shop called Eddie World, which I love!

The next leg out the journey was one hundred miles. This was a test of the battery capacity as there were hills and wind… I did make it to the Goldfield Visitor Center and their DCFC safely with a few miles to spare.

The charging process took about forty-five minutes. As luck would have it, this was the exact time it took for Sean to catch up to me, and we both head to our overnight RV Park together.

After setting up camp, we plugged the car so that it would have the cabin temperature ready for for Saturday’s drive.

Saturday was to be the big day, starting with an eighty mile drive to Tonopah and their DCFC station. This went off without a hitch. The next station, the Lunning Trading Post proved to be problematic as the station had no connectivity and with no connectivity, no ability to initiate a charge session.

Inoperable Lunning Trading Post EV Connect Station. DCFC not shown, same error but in a smaller screen.

This proved problematic as I was short several miles to the next DCFC. Enter Plan B.


Our portable Honda 2200i Generator running on low power mode provides enough juice to charge the car with an equivalent of 46 miles per gallon.

I only needed a few extra miles to make it to the next DCFC in Hawthorn, so we took lunch, caught up on social media, play games, and relaxed while our little car charged.

After a short time we were back on the road to Hawthrone.

While I was charging Sean went food shopping, then we continued up to Fox Peak, our next DCFC along the route.

Just for shits and giggles Sean stopped the camper at Four Seasons Smoke Shop DCFC – another EV-Connect station. It too was down due to no network. Apparently Verizon was down in the area causing all the EV-Connect stations to not work.

While it would have been nice for these stations to be in working order, they aren’t critical to our journey as there was plenty of charge on the battery to make it to Fox Peak.

After hooking up at Fox Peak, I joined Sean in the Airstream for dinner. By the time we were done with the dishes the Focus was ready for the next leg of the journey – Rye Patch Rest Area. There is no DCFC in Rye Patch, but that didn’t matter. We were only fifty miles from our destination. We overnighted at the truck stop, employing the generator while we slept to get the car ready for the final leg of the trip the next morning.

My view for the better part of three days…

We made it to Winnemucca early Sunday, plugged the Focus into the RV Park’s hook-ups and are done with the trip. We drive 520 miles and used 1.8 gallons of gasoline in the generator to make up for the inoperable DCFC in Lunning, Nevada.

Had that station been open, we would have arrived Saturday night.

Two years ago we made a trip to Sacramento, California in the very same Focus Electric with no issues as the charging infrastructure to the west was better at the time. Back then I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of a cross Nevada road trip.

I do hope that more and more DCFC stations open across all the highways and byways in the land. But until then, there is always Plan B

Cold Weather Camping

Last year we found ourselves camping out in Arizona during a snow storm. We were prepared with a heated water hose and lots of propane. Earlier this year we camped out in Elko, Nevada and dialed in our cold weather camping. Currently we are out in Winnemucca, Nevada surrounded by snow capped mountains and several inches of fresh snow on the ground.

It’s -5ºC (23ºF) outside as I type this.

Snow our first night at the RV Park

We’re comfortably warm in our Airstream and are doing things to ensure that everything operates as expected during these winter camping trips.

What do we do to say warm while camping below freezing?

First and foremost we try to camp where we have power. Electricity means we can run our two small electric heaters day and night. These little guys provide enough heat to keep the interior at 22ºC (71.6ºF) all day into the night. We usually run one on high and the other on low during the day, and both on low at night with the propane furnace set to 15ºC (59ºF) just in case something happens…

Our Airstream has a furnace fed heating duct running to the fresh water, gray water, and black water holding tanks. We like to run the furnace for an hour in the evening when the temperature is going to go below freezing to warm up the fluids in the tanks so they don’t freeze overnight.

Speaking of the tanks, we do empty the gray and black water holding tanks before bed (and after our nightly showers). This ensures that the valves are not frozen and we start the next day with empty dirty water holding tanks.

Filling the water tank daily

For the fresh water tank, we fill it to the top and let the expansion valve do it’s thing. That large mass of liquid water isn’t going to freeze overnight, especially with the duct from the furnace and that we open all the compartment doors.

Compartment doors you ask? Yup, every evening before bed we open up all the storage compartments and leave them open. This way the heat from our space heaters (and furnace if it comes on) put heat in every nook and cranny of our home. The access panels feed directly to the holding tanks giving additional heat to what the furnace provides. Additionally, by opening all the compartments we expose all the plumbing and pumps to the nice warmth provided by the space heaters.

Another thing we do is close up all the window shades and sun shields. This helps trap the heat in as our Airstream only has single pane glass windows.

When emptying tanks we don’t force the valves. If they seem stuck or frozen we put one of the two space heaters under the valve for about thirty minutes – we’ve only had to do this once. It worked.

We also tend to cook things that use the oven which heats up the place big time. Three seasons of the year we do all our cooking outside using our various camp kitchens, but during the winter, cooking inside helps heat up the coach as the sun sets.

Camp kitchen set up outside of Rabbit Lane while dry camping. Notice the 25 gallons of water storage. These additional containers allow us to dry camp longer than the internal tank.

The most important thing for us when camping in below freezing temperatures is keeping the heat inside the coach and protecting the plumbing. We do this through using the tools provided by our Airstream as well as two space heaters (which run silent compared to the furnace and heat pumps) and a cold weather water hose.

Four season camping is fun.

One just has to plan for each season.

Personally, I’m a fan of long underwear. Keeps me warm when I have to leave the coach and is the perfect loungewear for when I’m inside.

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…