Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Good Things Must End

Our time here at the gate is coming to an end. It has been an interesting ride and an educational one. Come Sunday we will be heading out and on our way back to Houston to help out our son and daughter-in-law with their new baby and kids. We have not heard any news about how she is doing other than she is on some medications and waiting to see if this helps. I am sure we will know more once we get there.

It has been busy still and we are now staying up through the night. Well Sherry is. We have one group of workers setting up some pipe to send water to another site for a frac(k?)ing. From point A to point B is over 8 miles. They monitor the pumps during this process. Last Sunday was a very busy day. We had 31 "belly trucks" carrying road base or cliche for a well site. All together they brought in 73 loads. What a nightmare!!

We have met some nice people and of course some ding-a-lings. The one thing that gets to me is when we ask them "Where are you going?" the first response is "DDDUUUHHH, I don't know". How can you drive a truck, get to the gate and not know where to go after that? One night awhile back Sherry ask the million dollar question, "Where are you going?" and the driver said, "I don't know, how come you don't know where I am going, you are suppose to know!" Sometimes you have to wonder when you are on the road going to your next stop and a big truck starts to pass you.

It may sound like I am bashing truckers and I am not. The majority do a very fine job, I am describing what we have encountered here at our gate.

If it doesn't rain today I will start to pack up the truck and strap things down. That all depends on how busy we are. We have acquired a satellite dish and it is attached to the ladder. I think if I loosen the bolts the pole will slide down some and it can ride there. We have a short trip into Laredo and I will check it out and see how it did.

I would like to try something and see if it will work, so bare with me:

Hey it worked!! I looked on my camera and found a different setting for emails and took this picture of used cooking oil on the counter. This was sort of a test to see if it would load up any faster. Well it's obvious that it did. The picture seems to be stretched a bit but I'll take it.

Until next time................Be safe.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Frustrated, Fedup, Finally Finished

I have been trying for the last 3 or 4 days to upload some pictures to show you what has happened in the bathroom. The toilet is fixed with no leaks and I laid down the wood laminate floor. I think it looks great and Sherry likes it a bunch. It gave me great practice for when I lay down the flooring in the kitchen and living room.

I mentioned in one of my posts about the disadvantages of gate guarding and one of them is very poor or no internet signals. When I researched the "air card" for the laptop I figured it worked like a cell phone. If your cell has bars then the air card would have the same strength. I don't think so. I have since found out that the cell phone signals are different from the air card signals.

While being here at the gate I have encountered many people and talked to them about the amplifier or boosters. So with this new found information I went out to purchase a "Wilson" booster. Once I figured out how it worked there is still no difference with it on or off. I do have internet but it is spotty at best depending on the day. I am suppose to be able to get this "4LTE" signal but that hasn't happened at all. I checked on a booster for this signal and found out that there not on the market yet and when the do come out I am sure it is going to be very expensive. The small booster that I bought cost me over $200. We decided to keep it because I am sure it will work well in different locations.

I will gladly take any advice that you all may want to throw my way on how to get a stronger air card signal. Thanks.

Until next time..................Be safe.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wrapping It Up..........We Think!

Here at the gate the traffic has really dropped off. Last week I noticed that Sherry had no traffic at all during the night for about 3 nights in a row. I asked one of the land owners if it was possible to close the gate around ten and he said he didn't have a problem with it. So now we close at ten and open at five or so.

Last Sunday we only had 5 people come in the whole day. After logging in over 180 people a day in the past, it was weird to only have 5. Well it gave me some time to work on the flooring in the bathroom. That's another story down the road when I get it finished.

We are not sure when they will cut us loose but we told them that we will be leaving at the end of March. We will be heading for the Houston area to be with our son and daughter-in-law. They recently had a baby girl and there are problems with the child and they have asked us to be with them to help with their other children. We don't know how long we will be there but Sherry has said that we will be there for as long as it takes to get the baby well.

We have told our Field Supervisor and he is working on getting us replacements for the gate. We don't have any idea how long this will take but I told him we have to leave no later than April 1st. I am hoping that it will be sooner than that.

I think that I might cut it short today and not bore you with a long post. So.................

Until next time..................Be safe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oh It's So Pretty..........Boom!!

LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) propane is a wonderful fuel. We use it in our bbq, some vehicles run on it, or even heat homes with it. In a RV we use it for the water heater, the furnace the stove and oven and sometimes the fridge.

When I started owning RVs I was a bit confused on how this propane tank thing worked. Now I think I have a grip on it. Starting with the smaller RVs they have a small tank, usually I refer to them as bbq size, larger bumper pulls and 5th wheels have what they call a 30# bottle and most motor homes have larger tanks attached to the unit. We'll use my unit which has two 30# bottles.

Why is it called a 30# bottle? That's and easy one, the bottle weighs at about 30# when empty. When I get one filled it will weigh about 65# or so. Propane is measured in gallons when you get it filled. The 30# bottle can hold about 7.5 gallons and the bbq size bottle can hold about 4.5 gallons. This is how they are going to charge you by so much money per gallon. I just had one filled and it cost me $25 which is not bad compared to what I paid last year. 

Propane can last quite awhile but your biggest usage of propane is the furnace. Depending on the size of your furnace it is possible for you to use one bottle in a week. I found that out one winter when I used the furnace and went through propane quickly. Now we use electric heaters and try to save on propane.

When working with propane be careful in what you are doing. Propane is heavier than air and will collect at the lowest point. This is one reason why your "LP Detector" is located close to the floor. If you ever smell propane now is not the time to light up a cigarette. I think you know what I mean.

Now it is time to make a repair to one of your appliances, obviously turn the bottles off. Disconnect the line, make the repair and reconnect the line. Turn the propane back on and test for leaks. The easiest way to do this is a solution of soapy water in a spray bottle. Spray this onto the connection and if you see bubbles then you have a leak. There are some fancy leak detectors out there but this method works for me.

Propane bottles have quite a lot of markings at the top. The one that you want to pay attention to the most is the manufacture date. A new bottle is good for 12 years but when it expires then you have get it re-certified or buy a new one. A re-certified bottle is good for only five years. One of my bottles has expired and now I get to make this decision.

The propane system is pretty much maintenance free. The one thing that might happen is that the regulator might stick. The regulator maintains an even flow to the appliances. When switching from one tank to the other is when the regulator might stick. This happened to me a couple of times and might have to replace it.

I don't think there is much more to say about this so take that hot shower, have fun cooking and stay warm.

Until next time..........Be safe.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

All The Comforts of Home.....So You Thought

I have read and heard more stories about RV'ers not being able to run all of their air conditioners (some units have 2 or 3 a/c units) and their microwave and their coffee maker, well the list just keeps going on, at the same time.

In most cases you should be able to run all of your a/c units at the same time when hooked up to shore power or a big enough generator. But trying to run multiple ac powered appliances all at the same time, something is going to give. Usually a circuit breaker will trip.

When you were living at your house, did you ever have to reset a circuit breaker? Well your RV has them too. Just like at your house your RV has circuit breakers to help protect that particular circuit, such as your a/c unit. If you run too many items, it draws too many amps and a breaker will trip. Lets talk about this for a minute.

Every ac powered item that is in your RV has a rating of how many amps it draws or watts. The way this works is based on Ohm's Law. The basis of Ohm's Law is this, E over I times R.
Or in simpler terms E = Voltage over I = Current (Amps) times R = Resistance.

Now we want to do is add up amps or wattage. To find wattage you find the amp rating and multiply that times the ac voltage. For example: My a/c unit has a rating of 9 amps and runs on 120 ac volts so I multi[ply 9 times 120 and get watts. 9x120=1080 watts. OK, now that I have this information what do I do with it? You need to start adding this stuff up and see what you can run and not pop a circuit breaker. I have a portable generator which is rated at 3600 watts. Wait a minute look at that number again!! If I were to take 3600 watts and divide it by the ac voltage I would come up with 30amps. Guess what, that's exactly what my unit is rated at. Bigger units have a 50 amp rating, usually they have 2 or more a/c units.

Let me see if I can put it in perspective, I will use my 5th wheel and list some appliances giving the amps and wattage.

A/C - 9amps or 1080 watts
Coffee Maker- 7.5 amps or 900 watts
Microwave - 12.3amps or 1.48K watts (1480 watts)
Electric Heaters X2 (I have two of them) - 12.5amps or 1500 watts
Hair Dryer - 12.5amps or 1500 watts
Fridge - 2.7amps or 324 watts
Light Bulbs x8 - 1.3amps or 160 watts

Let me stop there. I just added everything up and here are the results:

Total Amps - 45.3 amps
Total Watts - 6944 watts

So if I were to run everything listed here I would be tripping breakers left and right. Now I know what you are thinking and you are right I would not be running two heaters when the a/c unit is on, but at least I made you think about it and you started to compute this in your head. It is obvious that we RV'ers can have all the comforts of home but just in moderation and finding that right combination.

If you are experiencing a circuit breaker that trips all the time try to find out what you turned on and look and see what else is running. There may not be a problem but to many items running at the same time. Circuit breakers do go bad from time to time and may need to be replaced. If so make sure the unit is not receiving any power, pop out the old one and get a new one. If it looks like one from the old house try Home Depot or Lowes to see if they have it ,if not off to the RV store you go.

I hope that this gives you a better understanding of what you can run in your RV and what combination you need to find. If it seemed to technical I am sorry but pop me a question and maybe I can explain it better.

Until next time..........Be safe.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

12 Volt Electric System - RV's Of Course

When looking back at my posts, I thought I would pass on some of my knowledge on what I know about the electric system on your RV. But first a bit about me.

I am not a certified RV technician, but I am a Ceritfied Master Automotive Technician. I was in the field turning wrenches, for many years and then decided to go into teaching automotive for over 19 years. OK with that being said lets get started.

The Basics. We'll start with the 12 volts system first. The heart of the 12 volt system is your battery(ies) on your unit. Voltage is devided into two catagories. One Alternating Currect and the other is Direct Current, often called in the field ac or dc volts. We will be dicussing the dc voltage.

DC voltage is commonly refered to and associated with batteries, from the ever so popular AA's to the one in your RV. At this time you might be thinking that you need to get a voltmeter that measures both ac and dc, good thought. Measuring the voltage across the terminals on the battery is simple and should read about 12.5 volts. OK sounds easy enough but when I check mine is reads around 13.8 volts. Uh Oh, do I have a 13 volt battery instead of a 12 volt one? No what you are measuring is the charging volts going into the battery.

When you are plugged into shore power you have what they call in the industry a "converter". This is a fancy word for a "battery charger". Sometimes when your vehicle is connected to the RV, your vehicle's charging system may charge the battery when driving. So just like in the auto repair shop the charger is plugged into the outlet and "converts" ac into dc volts to keep the battery up.

So what is being used by the battery in my RV? Well your fridge may run off of the battery and propane (that's a different story). Let's see....Some of your lights, the furnace and the water pump for running water from your tank. Now lets take a ride and park the RV where there is no shore power, the RV is on its own.

What can I use: Well the fridge is still cold, I have some lights, I can take a shower, and have hot water. The hot water tank (on most units) ignites the propane by way of the battery.

What won't work is the tv's, microwave, coffee pot, hair dryer, basically anything that plugs into an outlet won't work and this includes the air conditioning unit. All of these items require ac voltage.

To maintain your battery is very simple. About once every two weeks go to the battery compartment and check the water level. Fill accordingly, and make sure the connections are tight. Oh I forgot, the battery also operates your sides and leveling legs on a 5th wheel.  You may have heard that you should only use distilled water in your battery. This is true but tap water will work just fine.

Now lets talk about when something doesn't work. We'll say some interior lights. The system is protected with fuses just like on your car or truck. Somewhere in your unit you will find a fuse box and it should be marked which fuse controls what circuit. Find the fuse that controls your lights and check to see if has blown, if it has replace it with the same one and not a lesser or more rating than the one that has blown. If you are not sure check your owners manual. OK the lights are back on but one has to think, what caused the fuse to blow in the first place? If you put the new fuse in and it blew right away then you have what we call a "short to ground". This is something that a qualified service technician needs to look for.

I hope that I have gave you some information that will help in understanding your 12 volt system. A few maintance items once every two weeks and you are on your way in taking care of your battery.

Until next time................Be safe.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pictures Maybe????

Here is our unit at the gate.
What I thought I would do today is try to post some pictures and see if it works. Now that was a stupid statement. If you are looking at this post then it worked, If you are not looking at this post then you have no idea what I was trying to do. Did that make any sence at all?? Here we go.

OK not exactly where I wanted to put the pic but at least it's here. OK lets try another one.

This is our generator, fuel for the generator and NON-potable water tank. The water tank holds 550 gallon and the fuel tank holds 200 gallons. OK now for the smelly trailer.

Here is our mini septic system trailer. It's a septic tank system above ground and works great. I dump into a smaller tank by my discharge and the pump takes over and I don't have anything to worry about. A sewer type system or a regular honey wagon once a week was necessary for us to be gate guards.

OK now it's time to post this puppy and see if it takes.

Until next time..........Be safe.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Repairs Made Easy........We Hope

I have been looking back at my posts and realized that I have made a lot of repairs since we have been here. One would think that our RV is falling apart around us. The latest repair that I have to make is the door lock mechanism. Our door is hard to close and latch so in doing so the handle on the inside has cracked. I have ordered the new part and will be installing it soon.

Trying to make repairs when you are in the boon docks can be difficult at times. The biggest problem is getting the necessary parts. There is no RV store close by so I have to order everything and get it shipped to the nearest town. This door problem is an easy fix and should be taken care in a jiffy.

The repairs that I have done on our RV are sometimes small in detail and large, like replacing the air conditioning unit. Most of the repairs can be accomplished with a little know how and common sense. If you have ever made any repairs to your sticks and bricks home, then you should be able to make repairs on your RV.

The basics still apply. The one thing you may need to study up on may be the 12 volt system that your RV has which is just like on your vehicle. When you are not hooked up to shore power, you are able to still have lights, water pump, fridge and your furnace. These items run off your battery, just think of what you were able to use if you have ever boon docked.

My first RV repair that I tackled was on our first bumper pull trailer. The fridge didn't work at all. I have never worked on anything like this before so I started to do some research on it. I found out that this model operates on ac power and battery. When I opened the outside panel I noticed a circuit board and an electric outlet with a cord plugged into it. OK that must be the ac part of the fridge. On the circuit board there were two fuses, one marked 12v and one marked ac. Both fuses were good. OK now lets apply some common sense here. When I was studying this board there were some other connections to it and more connectors. This board must be the heart of the fridge.

I started by checking the voltage on the outlet. Since it looked like any other household outlet I assumed that the voltage should be 110 volts ac, and it was. Then I checked the connector that said 12volts, meaning 12 volts dc, battery voltage and it had 12 volts. OK now, proper power going to it but the fridge doesn't work. The only conclusion that I came up with is that the circuit board was bad. I didn't know that for sure but I was about 85% sure of it. That still left 15% that it may still not work. When you order any electronic parts, like a circuit board, you cannot return it. The board that I ordered cost about $120. Now that 15% is really starting to bother me. The board came in and I installed it and it worked great.

In summarizing, you can repair items on your RV using some simple tools, applying logic and common sense. You should get a digital volt/ohm multi-meter or at least a volt meter, which can be purchased at most auto stores. Small parts such as 12 volt fuses can be purchased at the auto store but larger items or specialty items need to be purchased at your local RV store. What I mean is just because you have an RV that doesn't mean that you have to get everything at the RV store. Try thinking out of the box. Remember, someone installed it which means you can fix it. Don't be afraid to try, it can be done. You just need more information on the subject. Good luck and I would be happy to help if I can.

Until next time................be safe.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Disadvantages of Gate Guarding

The day is starting out to be a gorgeous day with the highs only to be in the middle 70's. Cool mornings and evenings and nice in the afternoon. As promised here are the disadvantages of gate guarding as we see it.

1. The Dirt and Dust:  The dirt road that leads back to the wells is made out of what they call "calachie" ( I think that's how you spell it.). When dry this stuff produces a fine powder that will inundate your RV. It will be everywhere even if the windows are closed.

2.  Rain:  I don't mind when it rains but out here it becomes a mud soup. It does keep the dust down but now you have it in your RV. We cannot pull out our awning because it would be out too far and the trucks would hit it plus the wind would rip it off as well.

3.  No Cell or Internet Service:  I guess you might say that we are fortunate enough to get some kind of service here. You may find yourself in an area that is so remote that you won't get a single bar and that is with some kind of booster.

4.  No Town in Sight:  We are only 16 miles from the nearest town and 50 miles from Laredo. There are some gates that can put you right next door to a busy town or some where you may have to travel several miles to get anything and the prices are expensive.

5.  Drinking Water: You have to provide your own drinking water. The water that is supplied for you is for bathing and such but not consuming it. When we started thinking about this job we started to buy gallon bottles and had a nice stock pile. You usually can find a water dispensing machine and get water there. One dollar for five gallons is not bad but just one more hassle.

6.   Prepare to be Bored:  If you are a busy type of person then you better find something to do. The gate always have to be manned and the days and nights can get pretty long. Find yourself a hobby or something to do because if you don't be prepared to be bored.

7.  Up and Down, Up and Down:  I have to go to the bathroom, sounds normal enough until when you get started and you hear the bell go Ding Ding. Or its time for dinner, I have been looking forward to this meal all day. Ding Ding, Damn, a bunch of trucks just came in and now when you are finished the dinner is cold. Enough said.

8. RV Needs Repairs: Where we are at the nearest RV store I think is in San Antonio. You would think that there would be something in Laredo, nope, nothing that I can find. If you are not handy with tools or comfortable doing major or minor repairs on your RV you are out of luck. Or should I say good luck getting a repair guy out where ever you are.

9.  No Training:  I have talked to some other gate guard people and found out that they had about as much training as we did. It consisted of telling us how to fill out the log sheet and that was it. No more than just that. You are left in a state of confusion and not sure who to let in and what your limits are. Our supervisor never has checked in with us to see how we are doing. I guess this is normal.

10.  The Wildlife:  I know that I put this one as an advantage but recently we have had reports of rattlesnakes all around. A worker showed me one that he killed. It had to be at least 7 to 8 feet long and at least 3 inches in diameter. There are also wild hogs in this area as well so you better be careful and watch where you take your next step. Did I mention the coyotes?

Well looky there, the advantages and the disadvantages cancel each other out. I did that on purpose so you can make up your own mind on this type of job. We are all different types of people and always never see eye to eye on certain things. Everything that we do is determined by what fits us the most at that particular time in our life. Enjoy what ever you choose to do and always.............be safe.

Until next time......................

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Toilet Sealed and No More Leaks......I Hope!!

"Here I sit, all broken hearted, came to s.......Oops I better not continue.  A little toilet humor.

I received the new toilet flange and gasket a few days ago and opened the box and guess what......The wrong parts!!!  I was determined to make this flange work. The gasket was for a different manufacturer all together. I can't even try to make that thing work. I went across the street to the Ace Hardware store and started to explain my dilemma to the sales guy. After we were talking the same language we were able to get the parts I needed.

While we were discussing my situation, I noticed a similar flange on the shelf. I picked it up and sized it to the one I had and it matched up perfectly. Damn, who knew that the one in the trailer is a standard flange that you would use in a regular house. Keep that little tid bit in the back of your head if you have to do this job yourself.

The one thing that I didn't want to do was to glue pipe but life goes on. When I got home it was drizzling and I decided to wait until tomorrow to start the job. Tomorrow is here so it's time to get going. OK everybody go potty!!!  I turned off the water and proceeded to remove the toilet. After that I had to go outside and in the belly I had to cut the pipe and then removed the flange. If you remember I told you that this toilet had three different flanges and the one I have is the threaded type. I couldn't tell because it was covered up by the floor.

Now it was time to size everything up and dry fit it together. I cut my new piece to fit and then put the flange on. Crap!! The flange doesn't fit flush on the floor. I have to cut the floor to make it fit right. No problem and it fits great, minor adjustment. I squared up the flange so the toilet would be straight and screwed it to the floor. Now outside I dry fitted the elbow and marked it and did the same for the cut pipe. OK now it is time to glue it all up. That wasn't too bad and everything is going to plan. I gave it some time to let it all set and took a break.

Sherry cleaned the outside of the toilet and after that I went inside to tear up the carpet. We are going to put laminate wood flooring in there so the carpet had to go. It was nasty underneath. Before going on I cleaned the floor with bleach water and paper towels. I mounted the toilet and bolted it down, hooked up the water line and it was time to test it. Once the toilet was in place I stepped back and looked, it was turned to the right a bit. I guess I didn't square up the flange as good as I thought. Oh well can't do anything about that now. The water is on and it's time to flush the toilet. Yippee!!!!! No more water leaks. I put a towel down for now to soak up any water on the floor but it is drying up nicely.

It has been a couple of days now and the floor is all dryed up and no more towels soaking up water. I am waiting for the flooring to come in from Home Depot next week and then will tackle putting it down.

A little side note:  I would be taking pictures and posting them but my internet connection is very weak and I am afraid it would take all day just to load one pic. I may try one pic in the future just to see how long it takes to load. Look for the disadvantages of gate guarding in the next few days.

Until next time............Be safe.