Big Trees!

We went to Armstrong Forest a few days ago and looked at the very tall trees. The one named Colonel Armstrong is 308 feet tall and 1400 years old. It was a sapling in the year 600 AD. I took a bunch of pictures and there is no substitute for being there staring up at someone you cannot see the top of. Their trunks are so massive they create their own gravity well that sucks you right in to touch and hug them. 

Once I stepped back a couple hundred feet I could see the top of the Colonel in the sunshine
They get a lot of rain around here. I think this used to be a drinking fountain
Dappled sunshine touches the ground

Repairs & Mods Steering Edition

up and at them

I’m at it again with truck repairs. Last summer I had a new steering gearbox installed and now I’m finishing the steering system with new everything else. We’re replacing all the tie-rod ends and the idler arm in the hope that it will tighten the steering up. With almost 300,000 miles on the original parts it’s time to retire them anyway.

A lot of hammering and a pickle-fork to get to this point

When we inspected the steering system we discovered that most of the play appears to be in the new steering gearbox (new parts bad from the factory – thanks China). Still we replaced all the other bits with moving parts in the faint hope that it will cure what is probably a Dodge design malfunction. Here is a curious case: There is a mount for a steering stabilizer on the truck, but no stabilizer has ever been installed on it. I looked for one online and didn’t see where one was a stock item, but Dodge, ya know

fancy new bits

So my new friend Al (Jim & David’s neighbor) has a cool shop with a truck lift and since he is a retired Snap-On dealer he has all the best tools! I ordered the premium line of parts from for truck 2.0 since I am hoping good parts will improve the steering. It took a couple hours to get the parts R&R’d and only one knuckle got busted.

More new parts

After the install we set the toe-in and took it for a drive. The low speed test (50 mph) seemed fine and the steering seemed a bit more responsive.

Clean new idler arm

The high-speed test revealed that the steering wheel was a bit crooked to the left and the steering is a bit more responsive. It feels like about 1/2 as much play in the steering wheel with the new parts. I set about fixing the crooked wheel, but I turned the rod ends the wrong way the first time so I had to crawl under there again and do it over. Seems I got it right the second time. In a few weeks I’ll have the trailer towing test drive and I hope that turns out as well as the first two tests.

If your are still playing along at home we’re up to $12,250 in truck repairs and modifications

Project Update! It’s October 2019 now and I’ve had a chance to drive Truck 2.0 a lot. The steering is way better with the new parts and the correct amount of toe-in (thanks Al !)

Repairs & Mods Montage

Stage direction: This will flow better if you imagine it’s a time-lapse video blog. Imagination engaged!

Tiffin’s Rube-Goldberg device for opening the coach door

I’ve been helping my friends Jim and David fix-up stuff around their houses the past two weeks. They have a nice property with a house, an accessory dwelling unit (granny unit, garage apartment, et al), and a place to park three RV’s. I helped them spruce up the house to rent it out, we changed out the bathroom faucet, replaced the dishwasher, and fixed some electrical glitches

Yundi’s RV got new LED lighting throughout, and Jim & David’s RV got a new convection/ microwave oven, new kitchen faucet, and some decorative trim.

Tow bar stopped working so we rebuilt it
All better!
Two lights might be brighter than one. Plus foil because it’s fancy!
New entry light left of the speaker

I installed a new light in my coach near the front door plus I doubled the light output of the brake lights. You may recall I was going to install some used ambulance lights as brake lights because mine were so dim. I decided against that because at night they were weapons-grade brightness and I thought blinding drivers was a poor idea. I obtained some bulb holders and LED lamps so I installed those in the stock lens covers along side the original incandescent lamps. Now I have twice the light and a back-up in case one bulb goes out.






Trip to the beach day

Day One

I totally spaced taking a picture of the ocean so here is a picture of kitty in his happy place

We took a drive from Cotati to Bodega Bay & Bodega Head to see the big water. It was a delightful no-rain day. The waves were fairly big and crashing into the rocks so I really enjoyed that.

We also stopped at a different spot on the beach where the under-toad was very strong! There is a big sign warning beach-goers of the danger. Apparently the surf can kick your legs out from under you and drag you far out to sea where only sea lions dare to go.

After the beach we stopped for fish and chips at a great local restaurant. I saved part of the fish for the boys 🙂

Day Two

Remembered to take a pic this time

Spent the day at friends house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The hawks were soaring and the deer were browsing while the wind blew rain against the windows. It was lovely even though we were too far from the ocean to walk down and touch it.




Repairs & Modifications: Plumbing Edition

New plumbing parts

A couple issues have been bothering me since the weather turned cold and they are:

1) Running the hot to get the shower ready wastes water. It takes a couple quarts to drain the cold out of the line and get the water hot at the shower head. I’d like to recapture that water and keep it fresh

2) Once the temp drops below 10ºF the lines in the coach begin to freeze. The water lines to the bathroom run outside the heated space for a few feet and they freeze around 10º. The water pick-up from the fresh water tank is below the tank, running between the tank and the insulating skin on the bottom of the coach. That line freezes around 4ºF

My previous coach was good to -30ºF and I would like to come closer to that operating ability than I am now. One way to do that would be to remove the bottom skin and re-plumb the coach, add insulation, etc, but for now I’m going to create a plumbing circuit that will address both issues.

If there is a flow of water it has to get a lot colder before it will freeze. Running streams don’t freeze as soon as still water so I built a water return circuit to get the hot water from near the shower faucet back to the fresh water tank.

Tapped into the hot line just before the shower valve

I tapped into the hot water line near the shower with a custom made T- fitting then ran a 3/8” line to a ball valve in a place accessible from inside the coach. From the valve I ran the new water line forward through the cabinetry to the fresh water fill port. I tapped into the 1/2” vent line to the tank and connected the new water line to that.

Valve to control the flow from the hot (pressure) to the fresh tank (vent)

Now when I open the re-circulation valve the fresh water pump pushes water to the water heater, then to the shower, then at the T it flows to the valve (open position) then back to the fresh tank via the vent line.

Hot returns to the vent then into the tank

This keeps hot/warm water in the hot line all the time that the valve is open heating the pipe space and keeping the hot and cold lines from freezing. It also keeps water flowing through the fresh pick-up line (keeping it from freezing) and adds hot/warm water to the fresh water tank keeping that tank a lot warmer.

This system does required a 110V connection to keep the water pump supplied with power and to keep the water heater running on 110V. It would also work with the gas water heater system and enough 12V power to run the water pump 50% of the time.

If the re-circulation valve is opened just a tiny bit the water flows and the pump cycles on and off, running less than 50% of the time. The coach has an accumulator/ expansion tank on it to cut down on pump run-time.

When it’s not super-cold outside the re-circulation valve is only opened before I jump in the shower. It flushes the cold water out of the line and pumps it back into the fresh tank so I have hot water right away in the shower.

Since I’m in warm and sunny* California for the next few weeks I won’t have a chance to test the cold weather capabilities of the new system, but the shower pre-heat part works great!

Project Update! It’s October 2019 now and I finally had a chance to test the non-freeze properties of my plumbing project. It got into the single digits last night and I set the water to trickle and it kept the hot and cold pipes toasty warm. The pump cycled every 25 seconds and that was enough hot water to keep it all flowing. YaY!

*. By warm and sunny I mean 50ºF and raining a fair amount. It is however so much warmer than the -2ºF I drove thru to get here






Nevada to California

Wendover to Elko NV
Up and down the mountains across northern Nevada we went. I-80 is mostly smooth asphalt and the ride was nice – EXCEPT for the nasty rotten no good concrete section west of Wells NV. I hate concrete highways!

There is noticeably less traffic on I-80 west of Salt Lake City. Across Wyoming there were many many trucks and plenty of cars too. Once we headed west from SLC the traffic dwindled to about half the cars and trucks. It’s nice to have the road to ourselves, but it makes me wonder which way all the things that get sent in trucks are going. I’ve been watching the weather on the pass west of Reno and the roads are very snowy. Maybe the smart truckers have a secret route with no snow.

When we got to Elko we spent the afternoon at Home Depot buying parts for an upcoming Repairs and Mods project so stay tuned for that!After our shopping spree we headed over to the Valley View RV Park and grabbed a $14.00 spot for the night. I’m usually a cheap-skate when it comes to overnight stays, but when it’s this cold out (High 27º, Low 12º) the options are to run the generator a lot or leave the truck idling. Idling the truck overnight in Wamsutter WY (low temp -2ºF) ended up costing $29 in fuel. Running the generator in Wendover only cost $9 but I didn’t run it all night.

Elko to Winnemucca NV
I saw a bald eagle trying to out-fly a crow and get her to drop the tasty morsel she had in her mouth. The smaller crow can turn much sharper than the eagle and she was using that advantage to lose the bigger bird (avian dinosaurs!). I didn’t see how it ended and I’m rooting for the crow.

Lots of mining in this part of Nevada. Lots of mountains too, but no big trees. Scrub oak, pinions, etc.

I managed to get through this section of the trip without being snowed on. The day after I made the trek west it snowed a fair amount between Elko and Winnemucca.

Winnemucca to Reno NV
I have to give NDOT two thumbs up for the smooooth asphalt roadway almost all the way to Sparks NV. It didn’t turn to rough concrete until 10 miles east of Sparks and speaking of Sparks – I didn’t like it. Not one bit. The energy there was wonky, the place is loud, and drivers are rude.

Reno to Loomis CA
We left at the crack of dawn, which for us is about 3 hours after we wake up, and headed over Donner Pass before anyone got eaten. CalTrans did a great job of cleaning up the last snow storm and we had about a 1-day window of clear sailing. Next storm was due the day after we got over the hills.

CA seems very different from Nevada. The road is lined with big trees and other plants, the highway curves and twists, the are many small hills closely spaced together. In Nevada the road only turned every twenty miles or so and the hills are spaced far apart. Crest a hill in Nevada and we can see an arrow-strait ribbon of asphalt 25 miles into the distance. In CA the view is far shorter, maybe only a mile or so.

Green. Everything is green. And the water is not frozen.

Loomis to Cotati CA
Except for that one butt-head driver who tried to cut me off the drive was nice. We came down from the hills, crossed the marsh, and headed back into the hills near Napa. Wine country plus some cows. I can see why people want to live in this area. When it is raining it looks very lush and green. I saw some wineries for sale, but I didn’t have time to stop and buy any. Maybe later.

This was the last day of eight strait days on the road and I’m glad to not have to drive for awhile. The trip started out sunny and warm, switched to sunny and super cold, then changed to cloudy, cool, and wet. Now it’s time to help friends fix up their place and go for bike rides. Plus trips to the ocean and the redwood forest. Stay tuned!

Salt Lake to Wendover UT/ NV

Wet lake bed

After we got west of the rough-ass concrete mess UDOT calls I-80 and onto the smooth silky asphalt the trip to Wendover was nice and flat. Flat like a lake. Because it is a mostly dry lake. Since it snowed recently the area is more mud flats than dry-lake-bed though.

We stopped at the salt-flats over look and saw mostly water. I’m guessing when it drys out it will be salt flats again. I never really thought about it before, but I suspect that when snow falls on salt flats it just turns to water and pools up. I do wonder how cold it would have to get for the water on the salt flats to freeze AND I don’t want to be there if it ever happens!

dMovie plane from “Con Air”

We stopped off at the Wendover airport because it looked interesting on Google maps and we were not disappointed. Turns out Wendover is where the B-29 crews that carried atomic bombs to Japan were trained. There is a museum, the officers club has been restored, and the “Enola Gay” hanger has been mostly restored. We parked on 7th street, which currently is a dirt two-track in the middle of what use to be barracks, and the boys got to go romp around for awhile.

Restored Enola Gay Hanger






Boyd Lake to Wamsutter WY to Salt Lake City UT

Uphill and into the wind

After a day’s delay due to the freezing-ass weather over new years we lit off for parts west. I had to drain the tanks of my “four-season” RV because the water was freezing in the pipes. I think four-seasons means winter too and in Colorado winter means -30ºF. Apparently it never gets that cold in the Oregon Mountains where my coach was built. I woke up Wednesday morning to 1ºF and the red RV anti-freeze in the back of the truck was a slushy!

First westbound stop was at the Love’s travel stop in Wamsutter WY where the blue windshield washer fluid was frozen solid! The high temp was 9 and the overnight low was -2ºF. Brrrr

The trip across Wyoming was mostly uphill and into the wind but on the plus side it was well below freezing all day so none of that pesky road grim was able to splash up and get on the coach. We made it to Salt Lake City by noon and after three days the temperature was finally above freezing! YaY running water!

I have friends who are now in New Orleans and Mexico. Why am I not smart enough to go south for winter?