End of summer dreams

Thanks to Dwayne and Aaron of Southwest Coaches, “Where Dreams Come True”, our end of summer trip-to-the-beach dream eventually did come true. But it was a different picture just one week ago. Just after I had unhooked our 30 amp shore power cord from the trailer, in preparation for washing the trailer, just prior to our scheduled three night camping outing at South Carlsbad State Beach, I heard some brief, but unusual, street-side clicking sounds near the area where the converter is located. I washed the trailer and reconnected the shore power.

The next day, while I was doing interior cleaning, I had two Fantastic fans running and some lights on. When I happened to glance at the Sunexplorer (solar power) monitor, I was shocked to see it reporting that the AGM batteries were at 45%. (They are normally at 100% when connected to shore power.) That evening I posted the problem on airforms.com and got useful information and support. (See jd’s excellent troubleshooting tips and photos in this thread.) Setting the “Use/Store” switch to “Store” did seem to keep the batteries from draining lower during the night (thanks 2air’). The solar panels were able to bring the batteries back to 100% during the day (and thus helped to save the batteries during this crisis). But as the sun set, I could see that the batteries were not holding their charge like they used to. What was needed after that drop to 45% was for the batteries to get charged to the maximum for a couple of days on shore power via the converter.

Testing with a digital voltmeter showed that my Parallax 7300 Series electronic power converter was not working correctly because the voltage reading at the positive and negative battery connections at the converter showed 9.5 volts (my Airstream Manual states that if the reading here is not between 13.8 and 14.0 volts, the converter needs to be serviced or replaced).

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(This photo shows the reading of the voltage of the converter after it was replaced by Southwest Coaches.)

The other indicator that the converter was not charging the batteries was that when testing the voltage at the battery terminals, the voltage remained the same, regardless of the shore power being connected or disconnected. (You would normally see a higher reading at the battery terminals when the shore power is connected.)

So our end of summer trip to the beach became a trip to the dealer and we reluctantly canceled our camping reservations. Fortunately, our Parallax converter was still within the two year warranty period, and, with our local Airsteam dealer, Revolution RV, suddenly out of business, we journeyed 83 miles up the coast (a two hour trip in morning rush hour traffic) to Southwest Coaches, in Irvine, CA., where we originally bought our trailer. When we placed our factory order with them almost two years ago, they gave us a good deal, and when the trailer arrived, it got an excellent prep, and we got a thorough walk-through/orientation from Aaron.

When we arrived, Aaron confirmed that the converter (bottom half) needed to be replaced, and not only replaced it, but also checked and replaced the notorious, black water tank sensor, and re-calibrated all of the system monitor sensors, and all within an hour’s time.

So we were back on the freeway, happily headed south at 11:30 a.m., when I thought we have everything we needed to camp, wouldn’t it be fun if a beach-side campsite were available. We quickly assessed our provisions and resources (and were glad that we had brought the dogs along) and pulled into South Carlsbad State Beach. The very friendly ranger told us we were in luck because this nearly full campground just had an unexpected early departure from a beach-side campsite. We took it!

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Even though it was just for one night, it was wonderfully therapeutic after dealing with the past week of stress and two months of not camping. We and our dogs enjoyed relaxing to the sounds of the waves, birds, and ocean breezes.

My two week topical chemotherapy treatment of actinic (solar) keratosis ended a week ago and the rather large red area on my cheek was starting to fade. The area had been unsightly with white whiskers sprouting through, until I bought an electric razor (Remington Microscreen 280), which comfortably brought them under control. This razor has additional benefits when camping by not adding whiskers to the sink drain and by saving on water usage… and it will be recharged with power made by the sun when boondocking.

Sun safety not only means protecting skin with sunscreen and wearing broad-brimmed hats, but also protecting eyes with a good pair of sunglasses. After each of my cataract eye surgeries I was provided a pair of Dioptic Solar Shield sunglasses. By the way, some scientists are now saying that there is no such thing as a safe tan.

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So on this beautiful, sunny day at the beach, a fellow passed by and said, “Thanks for doing that!”, as he pointed to our American flag at half-mast… (it was 9/11 Remembrance Day). I said, “Yes, it’s a sad day to remember.” “No!”, he said, “It’s a happy day… we have our country, and our loved ones…”, and he gave a smile and a thumbs-up gesture.

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Yes, it turned out to be a happy day indeed. And the following day was happy, too, when we brought our trailer home and connected it to shore power and saw that the converter was now working. After two days of charging up the AGM batteries with shore power they are fully charged and retain their charge when shore power is disconnected.

So I, for one, have had my fill of the sun for awhile, and look forward to the shortening of the days and the lowering of the sun in the southern sky.

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This weekend we are enjoying the clear night sky with the full moon as we celebrate family and friends during this Chinese Moon Festival period…

Eleanor Luhr provides additional background information on the Moon Festival, in the September 15, 2008 Tour of America post, “Celebrating the Harvest Moon“, which includes photos of Eleanor and Emma making moon cakes (Thanks, Eleanor and Emma!)

Happy Moon Festival! (and hope you catch your reflections… and dreams!)…

Now “Fly Me to the Moon“… (let me play among the stars)…

or simply, “Nightwish“…. (sing to me, my angel).

Gettin’ hitched

Getting hitched is not to be taken lightly. It’s serious business, and a time to reflect on what’s really important, and then to act in a correct, determined and focussed manner to assure a successful and happy outcome.

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Not doing it correctly could lead to problems.  I’ll ‘fess up. Shortly after hitching up, I slowly pulled the trailer forward a few inches and felt and heard the thud of the hitch jack as it moved off of the thin wood pad onto the concrete driveway. I had forgotten to raise the electric jack. Fortunately, no harm was done, but it scared me into thinking about how to prevent what could be a costly omission in the future.

Early on, I developed a number of trailer protocols and checklists (including hitching and unhitching). But as time went on, I tended to do, what were becoming to be, “routine tasks” by rote. But all it takes is one brief distraction and a critical step could be omitted. So this season, I have built into my routine a way of reminding me to do certain critical tasks. For example, when I’m about to hitch up, I remove all of the specific tools and items required from the hitch box at the outset. When each task is done, the related tool goes back into the hitch box. The trailer is not moved until all tools and items are back in the box, and we both do a walk-around inspection, and check lights and signals.

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Four of my essential tools seen in the above photo remind me to do certain things. The stabilizer crank reminds me to raise the stabilizers (done first when hitching up). Next to that is the tool that helps me to place the Equal-i-zer sway bars onto the brackets on the A-frame. The rubber mallet reminds me to knock off the jack foot when the electric hitch is raised. And the wheel chock wrench reminds me to remove the chocks.

Other useful items seen in this picture include the Husky Universal Coupler Lock #39594, rubber cover for the greasy hitch ball, tube of white lithium grease, and Gojo Natural Orange Pumice Hand Cleaner (which comes in handy with all that grease around).

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Those Equal-i-zer sway bars also get greasy, so Larry made lightweight tubes for them when they are not in use.

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Also seen in the above picture is the flag pole stand under the jack post. We often use this stand under campsite tables as well.

So that’s how we get hitched… oh, there is one more view

In the meantime, during these dog days of summer, we’ll stay home and enjoy the house air conditioning. (Our local state beach campgrounds are mostly booked until after Labor Day, when we plan to return to our favorite beach campground.)

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We will use the time to catch up on various projects, including playing and listening to the ukulele.