Quick, easy and safe RV refrigerator defrosting

Dometic User Manual Caution: “Do not use: A knife or an ice pick, or other sharp tools to remove frost from the freezer shelves. It can create a leak in the ammonia system.  A hot air blower. Permanent damage could result from warping the metal or plastic parts.”  We use neither sharp tools nor a hot air blower and yet easily and routinely defrost our Dometic RM2551 RV refrigerator (5 cu. ft.) in less than 30 minutes.

Frost and ice buildup on the cooling fins reduces the cooling efficiency of the refrigerator.  As seen below, our refrigerator is overdue for defrosting!

DSC_0004 Time to defrost RV refrig

I usually defrost our refrigerator about every two months depending on outside temperature and humidity conditions.  I like to start a trip with the cooling fins clear of most of the frost to make sure the refrigerator maintains safe temperatures for food (40° F or less).  We use our RV refrigerator full time (it acts as a supplemental refrigerator when at home) and it always has food in it, so it is important to be able to do the defrosting quickly, to prevent food spoilage and to shorten the recovery time to get adequately cold again.

DSC_0002 Gathering defrosting tools Once I determine that the refrigerator needs defrosting, I choose a warm day and gather five tools: a cooler, electric fan, large Tupperware lid, extra long chopstick, and a washcloth.

One of the benefits of our 23′ Airstream Safari trailer is that the large lobster sink/counter is directly across from the refrigerator, which provides a handy location for the fan to direct warm air directly into the freezer/refrigerator compartments.

I then turn off the refrigerator, fully open the door and place most food items in the nearby cooler. (I leave most condiments and other food items in the door in place.)

DSC_0006 Removing food

DSC_0004 Wireless sensor & thermistor

As you may have noticed,  our refrigerator’s white thermistor probe wire is not in its OEM plastic holder on the far right fin where it normally is moved up and down to regulate the temperature (See Adjusting the Thermistor to Improve Cooling*).  Refrigerator thermistors are NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) thermistors* and resistance decreases as the temperature increases.  The higher the position on the fin, the warmer the thermistor will be and the refrigerator will run longer and become colder.  But our probe wire is short and does not allow it to be moved high enough on the fin to obtain the proper refrigerator coldness.  So I found that by removing it from its holder and moving it away and down from the fins, I can adjust and maintain the proper refrigerator coldness (which for us is usually 36-37 ° F and monitored by our AcuRite Wireless Digital Thermometer).

I use a condiment bottle to prop open the freezer door (Thai sweet chili sauce* works well) and place the frozen items in the cooler.

DSC_0013 Freezer door propped open

A closer look at the tools is seen above: an inverted Tupperware lid to collect melting ice chunks, an extra long chopstick* (17.7″ bamboo chopstick for hot pot and wok cooking) to gently loosen ice chunks, and a white washcloth to wipe clean and dry the refrigerator.  (Note: we have greatly reduced our use of paper towels by purchasing a 24-pack of white reusable washcloths from Costco and also available at Amazon.com.)

DSC_0008 Ice cube trays in freezerTip: This set of 4 flexible silicone ice cube trays from Target works wonderfully for us.  It makes ice cubes quickly and takes up less space than traditional ice cube trays.  It helps keep other food items cool in the cooler when defrosting and it helps decrease the refrigerator’s recovery time after defrosting.

Packages of fish balls, jiao zi (dumplings),* and pesto are seen on the left.)

The fan is then turned on and defrosting will take about 20 minutes!

DSC_0016 Defrosting begins

DSC_0018 Water exits via new drain tubeAs ice begins to melt, water drips down and is collected in the condensation drain pan and flows through its bottom hole into the Dometic white drain pipe with cup, which connects with the drainage tubing on the backside of the refrigerator.

Our OEM drainage tubing had become brittle and we replaced it with Shields Rubber Series 162 Polyester Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing, 1/2″ ID (inside diameter).  I chose this tubing over the clear vinyl tubing because it is reinforced, can tolerate hot water (or being in a hot space such as near the boiler tube), is more flexible and is slightly less expensive than their clear vinyl tubing.

The chopstick is then used to gently nudge the melting ice sections forward and off the fins and collected in the Tupperware lid and deposited by nearby plants.

DSC_0023 Chop stick coaxes ice free

DSC_0026 Ice placed in tray:lid

Each section slides slowly and smoothly towards me and reminds me of Dave using a simple tool/key to selectively disengage electronic circuit modules in HAL’s Logic Memory Center.*

The washcloth is then used to remove excess water and wipe down the refrigerator’s insides and door seals, which completes the defrosting process in 30 minutes or less!


DSC_0029 Defrosting completed

Additional information: Airstream’s How to Operate Your Refrigerator* and Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.


Great expectations: Nests, beasts, bread, books and America

The Nest Caravan trailer prototype, designed by Robert Johans, is a sleek, new trailer with a fiberglass monocoque body that does not sit on a steel frame, which makes this 16′ trailer lightweight (about 2000 pounds) and easily towed by a standard car!  The Nest Caravan prototype has a queen size bed, large counter, vent fan, and a removable step bumper for the option to install a bike rack (see video linked above or photos here).   See how Robert built the prototype: “Nest Caravans – Building a new FG trailer step-by-step.”  Last spring, Robert sold his prototype and company assets to Airstream Inc., where he will assist Airstream to develop the Nest, expected to be launched by late 2017 or early 2018.  I have great expectations that the proud and happy owners of this new trailer will enjoy the ease of towing, not worrying and dealing with filiform corrosion, having fewer, if any, leaks, saving money on tow vehicle fuel, and feeling good about going green (it has an integrated solar panel!).  Future buyers and Fans of the Airstream Nest will not have to contemplate acquiring fantastic beasts to tow this trailer!

DSC_0084 Airstreams pulled by F-250s

Surf’s up and time for keeping cool along the coast and doing summer reading, gardening, hiking, house and yard maintenance, and fun cooking!

DSC_0094 trailer towed by car

For the centerpiece of my summer reading, I have great expectations in the New York Times Bestseller, Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, which was the inspiration for the wildly successful Broadway musical Hamilton,* winner of 11 Tony Awards!

DSC_0425 Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton

My expectations for making beautiful and delicious challah from scratch were fulfilled by Maggie Glezer’s “My Challah” recipe on page 94 of her wonderful book, A Blessing of Bread: Recipes and Rituals, Memories and Mitzvahs – “Modern-day takes on age-old recipes for challah, holiday breads, and everyday family breads from Ashkenazi, Sephardic, North African, and Near Eastern traditions, interwoven with joyous family stories, wise folktales, proverbs, and prayers.”

DSC_0419 Challah, Maggie Glezer recipe

I have very great expectations this summer in the new writings of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.

DSC_0007 Harry Potterbooks

A new book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script), will be published the day following the official stage production opening in London on July 30.  Other new writings include, “Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” the second in a series of stories called History of Magic in North America,* written by J.K. Rowling as a prelude to the movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,* opening November 18, 2016!

Summer for us is a time for a staycation in happy San Diego with its many attractions and a time for sharing stories and cherishing memories of our Airstream camping adventures before its time to wash, wax, and treat our Airstream in the fall.

DSC_0509 Sharing stories & memories

And as we approach the fall, we also have great expectations for “the miracle that is America” as reflected upon by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in their introduction to the performance of “Hamilton” at the 70th Annual Tony Awards!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Encore: See and hear the creator and star of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda sing the production’s opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,”* at the White House Poetry Jam, May, 12, 2009.

Wash, wax and treat II

This week I completed our annual wash, wax, and treat (filiform) chores on our 2007 23′ Airstream trailer prior to the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season in our wonderful coast, mountain and desert parks in San Diego County.  Rich Luhr, in his newly published book, The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, says, “Most of the maintenance associated with the aluminum body and clear coat is simple cleaning.”  This guidebook includes pertinent “Exterior Cleaning and Appearance” and “Filiform corrosion” sections.

My blog’s web site stats show that my post “Filiform corrosion” gets the most interest and views, which is understandable because many people would like to know how to protect their Airstream trailer.  Modern Airstream trailers*, such as ours, have an exterior body of clear coated aluminum sheets that can corrode beginning at the cut edges and rivet holes.  Using tools and techniques, such as some of those seen or listed below, I have stopped most filiform and protected our Airstream for the past eight years.  Can you spot the filiform in the image below?

DSC_0113 Wash, wax & treat tools

Yes, it is on right side.  Air, water and salts can corrode exposed aluminum and travel as filiform threads under the clear coat finish.  (Other white areas shown below are from protective sealant residue.)  This filiform has not progressed since 2008 when we started treating with Boeshield T-9* (seen and listed below).

DSC_0118 Filiform close-up 2015

Important general note:  This article is my report on how I went about washing, waxing and treating my trailer.  It is not intended to tell readers how to wash, wax, and treat their own trailers.

Important safety note:  Even though I am seen (in a photo below) standing on the first ladder step from the top, be advised that there are a warnings on the ladder such as: “CAUTION: DO NOT STAND ABOVE 2ND STEP FROM TOP… YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE” and “DO NOT OVER-REACH.”

My tools:

Sun protection for my skin: wide brim hat (except for photo shoot), long sleeve white shirt, long pants, sunglasses, shoes (rubber soles for safety) and sunscreen (Think sport SPF 50+, recommended by EWG).

50-foot garden water hose, 6-foot step ladder, 5-gallon pail, Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (label states, it “removes loose dirt and contaminants without stripping wax protection… Dish washing detergents strip wax protection”), extendable car wash brush, vinegar & water (to remove hard water spots), Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant, Long Lasting Protection #20, (label states, “A unique blend of polymers, resins, silicones and imported waxes… safe for clear coats.”), extendable wax applicator (I used my crutch), cloth-covered waxing sponge, two hand buffing mitts, detergent & water (to clean waxing tools), Boeshield T-9 (label states, “… a combination of solvents, lubricants, and waxes designed for penetration, moisture displacement, lubrication, and protection.”), soda, and a cooler.

DSC_0055 Boeshield T-9

My strategy: Wash one day and wax the next day to not overwork my 68-year-old muscles and joints.

My procedure: I pulled out about 50 feet of water hose and hosed off dirt from the trailer top and sides while standing on the ladder.  I then put 4 fl. oz. of Meguiar’s Car Wash and 4 gallons of warm water into a pail.  I raised the TV antenna and scrubbed the trailer top, including the solar panels and AC shroud, using an extendable car wash brush while standing on the ladder (This also gave me an opportunity to inspect the integrity of  the topside seals.)

DSC_0050 Scrubbing top to bottom

The rest of the trailer was washed from the ground and I removed yellow insect stains with my thumbnail. The trailer was then rinsed off and hard water spots were removed with a chamois moistened in a pail holding 2 1/2 gallons of water and 4 fl. oz. of vinegar.

The next day I sprayed Boeshield T-9 to appropriate areas of filiform (It dries quickly.)  I topped off my 16 fl. oz. squeeze bottle of Meguiar’s Professional Sealant from my reserve 64 fl. oz. jug (About 12 fl. oz. covers our trailer.)  The sealant was applied to the trailer top and AC shroud (I believe it extends the life of the shroud) with an extended wax applicator, while standing on a ladder.  I used a sponge wax applicator to apply the sealant to the metal awning cover and the rest of the trailer.  The dried white residue was easily removed from the top with an extendable wax-buffing tool and from the sides by using a buffing mitt on each hand.  Wax applicators and buffing tools were then washed with a laundry detergent, rinsed, and hung to dry.

DSC_0046 Meguiar's wash & wax products

 The benefits:  From my experience, this sealant will last at least a year and the trailer will only need an occasional rinsing or light washing, especially after camping at the beach (to remove salt deposits), and the trailer will be protected.

So now I’m a happy camper and ready to be ridin’ with…

DSC_0068 Ridin with..


*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Summer spiders, flowers, stir-fry and Sonoran hot dogs

As our Airstream Safari rested between camping seasons, an orb-weaving spider spun a sticky, spiral-wheel shaped web* attached to the trailer’s rock guard and waited for the capture of its next prey.*

DSC_0013-2 Orb-weaver spider

On the eve of summer solstice, our night-blooming Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) produced six blooms by our outdoor kitchen (See “A night-blooming interlude“, History Safari Expresso).

DSC_0487 Cereus & outdoor kitchen

Under the Full Buck Moon,* our pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus) sent up into the heavens its first spectacular bloom over the patio pergola (See “A pitahaya summer interlude,” History Safari Expresso).

DSC_0025 Pitahaya bloom 2015

Under the pergola, Larry stir-fried meat, then vegetables, in a wok over a 250,000 BTU burner and then tossed them with pan-fried Cantonese-style egg noodles that were golden “brown, firm and crispy on the outside, and yellow, moist and soft on the inside, a combination of texture that is classically Chinese.** (See “How to make chow mein with Ken Hom“.*)

DSC_0032 Stir-frying in patio kitchen

For my turn in our outdoor kitchen, I made my version of the Sonoran hot dog, based on a recipe adapted from Robb Walsh’s The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook.

DSC_0048 Sonoran hot dog prep

A Sonoran-style hot dog is a grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog placed in a toasted bolillo (Mexican-style bun) and topped with your favorite condiments.  I prepared bowls of chopped tomato, onion, avocado, grated cheese, refried beans, and fresh salsa verde (made by Larry).

DSC_0049 Sonoran hot dog prep 2

The grill was fired up and the dogs were cooked until the bacon was crispy (about 7 minutes).

DSC_0054 Cooking Sonoran hot dogs

The bolillos were toasted and the pocket was lined with refried beans, avocado and cheese.  The cooked dog was placed inside and topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, salsa verde and squiggles of a blend of mayo, Tabasco, and lime (or lemon) juice.

DSC_0059 Hotdog drizzled with mayo-blend

Earlier this month, The Huffington Post said, “Make Sonoran Hot Dogs, And You’ll Never Go Back.”  The history of the Sonoran hot dog can be traced from Hermosillo, Sonora, to New York, Los Angeles, and Tucson.  Perhaps TBM has earned enough dietary credits to do another Tucson Sonoran Hot Dog test!

DSC_0057 Fiesta in a bun

The Sonoran hot dog is truly a fiesta on a bun!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**Asian Vegetarian Feast: Tempting Vegetable And Pasta Recipes From The East, Ken Hom, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1988, p. 150-151.

Author’s note: For additional visual delights, see “A Peruvian Apple Cactus interlude,” History Safari Expresso.

It’s cooking up in the desert, again!

Earlier this month, we enjoyed sunny days and moderate temperatures while we celebrated the Lantern Festival and the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations.  We spent relaxing cool evenings, sitting outside stargazing while the Full Worm Moon brilliantly lit up our Airstream Safari trailer and the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0290 Under full moon & stars

I enjoyed rich coffee, cake and reading material in the mornings before going on hikes.  I was hoping to photograph once more the elusive bighorn sheep, especially since this is the Year of the Sheep.*

DSC_0208 Morning coffee & cake

As I started my hike, the first flower that I saw was nearby our campsite.

DSC_0056 Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail Cactus, Opuntia basilaris

I then got on the Moonlight Canyon Trail where I had photographed bighorn sheep last December.

DSC_0113 Moonlight Canyon Trail

That morning, the granite walls were still cold from the chilly, desert night air and I was greeted by soothing, cool air as I entered the trail from the east.

As I hiked over the trail’s saddle, I spotted a blooming barrel cactus in front of ocotillo (Whale Mountain is seen in the background).

DSC_0142 California barrel cactus

California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus

The next morning, I hiked up the Desert Overlook Trail to get current photos of Agua Caliente County Park.

DSC_0225 Agua Caliente County Park

I was especially interested in getting an updated, overhead view of the camping loop where our original, favorite campsite and eleven other RV sites were displaced by seven cabins, which I documented in “Cabinization of our parks.”  Each cabin has an array of solar panels and the camping fee is currently $70 per night.  They are typically all occupied on weekends.

DSC_0233 7 cabins displaced 12 RV sites

Each evening Larry prepared gustatory delights, such as deep-fried Szechuan pepper-salt calamari rings, Japanese eggplant and Mexican zucchini.

DSC_0268 Deep-frying calamari rings

DSC_0275-2 Fried calamari rings & squash

The desert is also cooking up, with temperatures currently 90°, so we won’t be back here until next fall.

DSC_0105 Our Agua Caliente campsite

We are currently enjoying our garden near the coast, while preparing for our return to the mountains next month.  See our garden blooms in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” in my new blog, History Safari Expresso, while enjoying a rich cup of coffee or espresso.*

*This is a YouTube video.