Propane gas leak and summer reading

Last April, while doing our routine prep week chores before a camping trip, I lifted the propane tank cover to see if the gas regulator showed green (indicating that my active tank had propane) and I noticed the faint smell of propane.  I know that the first places to look for gas leaks in this area are the pigtail hoses that connect the tanks to the regulator, especially at the connection points.  These thermoplastic hoses become hard and stiff and often develop small leaks after a few years.  To find the leak, I used a small spray bottle filled with soapy water using liquid dish soap and spritzed the hoses and connections. (See Airstream Life‘s video, Detecting a propane leak.*)

DSC_0454 Propane pigtail hose leak

The leak was revealed by profuse bubbling at the QCC ACME Type 1 (green) fitting that connects the hose to the tank.  Since our OEM hoses were eight years old, I decided to replace them both.  The trick was to find the correct replacement hoses. Our OEM hoses were Model A4 made by Marshall Gas Controls in 2006.  Propane pigtail hoses are available with different fittings at the regulator end, such as male inverted flare and male pipe thread fittings (See The RV Doctor article, “Propane Pigtails Needed.”)  Our OEM regulator (Marshall Automatic Regulator, Model 250) accepts a 1/4 inch MNPT (Male National Pipe Thread) fitting.  I found that the easiest and best way to find my correct replacement pigtail hose (and not have to buy an adapter) was to take my OEM hose to our local RV supply store, San Diego Trailer Supply, which assured me they would have the right hose or make me one!  They matched my OEM pigtail with one off the shelf, a  Marshall Excelsior MER426-15, a 15″ pigtail with 1/4″ MNPT fitting.  My OEM hoses were 12″ long, but some believe the 15″ hose would be subject to less stress (See “It’s as easy as bungee jumping.”)  The hose on the left in the photo below is the OEM hose.

DSC_0458 Old & new hose, & tools

I gathered my tools, which included a 9/16″ wrench (an adjustable wrench would also work just fine) and PTFE thread seal tape (yellow coded for gas line).  (I did not use the pipe thread sealant seen in the photo above.)  I then wrapped the 1/4″ male pipe threads with 4 full wraps of the seal tape, wrapping clockwise.

DSC_0465 New pigtail wrapped with tape

The new pigtails were then attached to the tanks and regulator.

DSC_0470 New 15" pigtails connected

The job was finished by placing and securing the propane tank cover.

DSC_0474 Propane tank cover in place A green cable lock was applied to slow down would-be thieves!

This job was done by using just three tools: soapy water sprayer, wrench, and seal tape.

This job is one of many routine tasks covered in the hot-off-the press new book, Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance, by Rich Luhr, Editor of Airstream Life magazine.  Rich says, “You can keep your Airstream investment in excellent running condition for the rest of your life with just a little knowledge and a few tools. Most Airstream maintenance is simply a matter of inspecting, cleaning, lubricating, and easy adjustments — and this book will teach you how to do all of those things.”  In writing this book, Rich says, “I wanted to defuse the myths, clarify the facts, and point people to easy and correct options.”  This spiral-bound book has 219 pages packed with information, is well illustrated and the perfect size to keep in our Airstream, along with our traveling toolkit.

DSC_0486 Guide to Airstream Maintenance

Now that I have my current Airstream maintenance in hand, I can go back to my ongoing summer reading, Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics, by Joe Biden…**

DSC_0151 My summer reading

… and to photographing the ongoing cactus blooms in our backyard as seen in my post, “A Peruvian Apple Cactus interlude“, History Safari Expresso.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**This is a link to a CBS NEWS video.

Wash and wax, tricks and treats

Salt deposits had been washed off our Airstream Safari trailer just after we returned home from our last beach outing, and now it was time for our big annual wash and wax job prior to the beginning of our fall camping season.  The trick is to use a good quality wax that is easy to wipe on and off, and provides long lasting protection.  This is the eighth year that I have used Meguiar’s M20 Mirror Glaze® Polymer Sealant to wax the trailer and I have been treated with its ease of use, high gloss finish that makes it easier to rinse off dirt between washings, and its ability to prevent and/or control filiform corrosion.  The 16 oz. size nicely covers our entire 23′ trailer, including the roof and air conditioner shroud.  The trick is to get it on the roof, and I have a crutch for that, literally.

DSC_0004 Applying wax with crutch

This year, sun safety for my skin was provided by my wide brim plague doctor’s hat, and for a brief moment by a calavera mask, a calaca, a skull mask, often used in celebrating Día de los Muertos* (Day of the Dead).

DSC_0006 Airstreamer with Calaveras mask

A calaca of Catrina and other symbols of the season already decorate our dining room table and Larry will be baking Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead).

DSC_0013 Día de los Muertos table display 2014

For us, this season is also a reflective time for reviewing the past year’s events, the tricks and treats.  For example, last November our corgi, Tasha, had a herniated disc, and the trick was to find it with an MRI and to remedy it with a laminectomy, and the treat was that she went on to a full recovery.  Last June, we found the trick on how to stop paying $75/month for cable TV channels that we mostly don’t watch, and now we are treated to free TV by using an indoor antenna.  Last August, we found the trick on how to stop paying high prices for cell phone service that we rarely need, and we treated our selves to a new service provider, resulting in better service at much lower prices.  In August, we were also treated to the happy sight of our first pitahaya blooms, and last month, we were treated to the sight of our first fruit after bees and I (with a brush) performed the trick of cross-pollination.

DSC_0155 Our first pitahaya fruit

This exquisite dragon fruit was cut in half, scooped out and served with a dollop of premium vanilla ice cream.

DSC_0169 Cross section of our pitahaya

We are now ready to celebrate Halloween*, Día de los Muertos*, and our return to the Anza-Borrego Desert!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Mobiling more for less

A new law this summer, “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” makes it easier for consumers to change their cell phone service.  We are retired and want to receive the most value for our money that we have earned and now spend.  Earlier this summer, we declared our independence from pay TV, bought an indoor antenna, cancelled cable TV, and are now enjoying saving $900/year.  We recently re-evaluated our mobile phone service and found that we can get more value for less money!

Our mobiling needs began when we began Airstreaming with our new Safari in 2007.  We bought our first mobile phone primarily for safety and emergency concerns while traveling away from home (we have an AT&T landline).  We chose Verizon because of reports of good wireless coverage and bought a basic flip phone for $99.99 and have stayed within our allowable 450 minutes/month, resulting in a monthly service bill of $43.69.  Actually, we rarely use more than 200 minutes/month, so while reviewing our current service, usage, and costs, we looked at Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plans, such as the single line, 200 anytime minutes for $29.99/month, with an overage charge of $0.45/minute.

I then reviewed the Consumer Reports January 2014 issue on choosing the best phones and plans, and I was surprised to learn that Consumer Cellular* was the leader in their satisfaction survey, with top scores for value, data, and support.  According to Wikipedia, in 2014, “Consumer Cellular received the highest overall satisfaction rating in the mobile carrier category of PC Magazine’s 27th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey…”  I liked reading and hearing that Consumer Cellular has inexpensive plans that require no contract and can be changed anytime without a service fee, operates from the AT&T network, and is the exclusive wireless provider for AARP members (and gives AARP members discounts).  Consumer Cellular* has a low-cost family plan that lets family members share minutes, and calls between phones on the same account are free (otherwise, there are no free mobile-mobile or free night and weekend minutes… See Consumer Cellular’s FAQ webpage).

We are AARP members and make few calls and don’t text or surf the internet with a phone, so a Consumer Cellular Family Plan through AARP made sense to us (text and data plans are optional).  We chose the Anywhere/Anytime 200 minutes Voice Plan, $15/month ($14.25 for AARP members).  Since this is so inexpensive, we purchased two new flip phones, Consumer Cellular Envoy,* for $35/each.  The additional line will cost $9.50/month, so our expected monthly service charge, including surcharges, fees and taxes is expected to be about $26/month, saving us of over $200/year!

We chose both the black and red Envoy phones and had our previous mobile phone number ported to the black phone.  Each mobile phone comes with its own wall outlet charger. We also got two Premium Combo Packs that include a car charger adapter and leather case.  The Envoy phone can provide text messaging and 3G networking, should we want these options in the future.

DSC_0106 Consumer Cellular Envoy

Now we each have a mobile phone that we can personalize with photos, contacts, and MP3 music (the phone is also a MP3 music player and I can add an optional microSD card, up to 32GB).  We can now contact each other whenever we want and can find each other when out shopping, camping, and hiking (in most campgrounds that we visit).

DSC_0126 Cell phones, cases & chargers

Envoy’s two megapixel camera* is adequate for our purposes and will be helpful if an accident occurs while traveling.  I was pleased that the phone has Bluetooth and I learned how to transfer files using Bluetooth,* once the phone and MacBook Pro were paired.  Below is a photo taken with the Envoy phone, transferred to the MacBook Pro’s iPhoto library, and uploaded to this article.

Img11 Envoy image of our Airstream

Cutting our previous mobile service costs nearly in half, while gaining a second mobile phone through Consumer Cellular has resulted in our mobiling more for less.  Now our attention turns to getting our Safari clean and ready to get on the road again* and enjoying our fall camping season and more riveting experiences!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream Safari trip notes

I start by making checklists and notes on a 8.5″ x 13″ yellow pad days before our Airstream Safari camping trips and specific tasks are assigned to specific prep days depending on the weather.  For example, Friday’s weather was clear, two days before departure on our first trip of the season, so I completed one of the scheduled tasks by attaching my PressurePro tire pressure sensors to the tires of the truck and Safari and adjusting the pressures toward the recommended cold tire pressures (50 psi for my 14″ trailer tires, 60 psi for the front truck tires, and 75 psi for the rear truck tires).

Starting a trip with the right tire pressures is important because an under-inflated tire could get too hot, stressed, and fail.  The tricky part is that tire pressures fluctuate with the outside air temperatures by as much as 1 psi per every 10° F change in temperature.*  The temperature was 80° that Friday afternoon when I attached the sensors.  I knew that the pressures would be lower the next morning and even lower at our mountain camping destination, predicted to get the first cold storm of the season by midweek.  My task was facilitated by the PressurePro monitor, which shows the pressures at a touch of a button and then I recorded the pressures, along with the date, time, outside temperature, and weather conditions.  So when we departed, I was confident the tires had the optimal pressures for our 5 days of camping.

DSC_0017 Solar & Tire pressure notes

My note taking continued when we arrived at our non-hookup campsite as I kept track of weather conditions and how well our Lifeline AGM batteries were being recharged by our two Airstream factory installed solar panels (See my Columnar Pad notes in above photo).  These notes are saved and assist me in determining when it’s time to replace the batteries (I replaced our first set after 5 years).

I continued to write notes on my yellow pad throughout our camping trip, which are also saved for future reference.  At home, Larry maintains a running camping log on a Word document on our aluminum iMac* of trip mileages, menus, plants, birds and people seen.  I also make concise entries in “The Airstream Travel Journal”.

DSC_0003 Journal hardcovers

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal“, designed by Bryan Burkhart/MODERNHOUSE, was published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2002.  (Bryan Burkhart is also the designer and coauthor of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht, Chronicle Books LLC, 2000.)  The spiral-bound journal with aluminum* front and back covers and featuring lined pages along with vintage Airstream spot art and photos, originally sold for $16.95 and I bought two of them in 2006.  This journal is now out of print and is no longer available from Chronicle Books*, but it can be found online for prices ranging from $79.99 to $600!  (For now, I think I will not place notes in my second copy and will just keep it in pristine condition for future possibilities!)

DSC_0002 Lined pages with notes

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal

Another journal, “Airstream Prism Journal Book“, is currently available online for $16.95 from Airstream, Inc..  Per Airstream’s website, this journal has a silver anodized aluminum front cover and a black leather back with an elastic pen loop and includes a black Airstream pen.

Our aluminum Airstream (75th anniversary)* Safari trip notes also find their way into our aluminum MacBook Pro*, which transforms them into a blog post, documenting those riveting experiences.*

HPIM2381_2 MacBook Pro & Safari

I prefer writing my trip notes with a pen and paper, but perhaps I should consider a simpler tool, the pencil, or a more powerful tool, the iPad Air*, or perhaps the typewriter (with its classic, iconic image and sound)* would be more appropriate!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Safari shine on harvest moon

Washing the dirt and salt deposits off our awnings after the trip to the beach was the prelude to our annual big wash and wax job before the start of our fall camping season.  Over time dirt and salt deposits can weaken the awning fabric and shorten the functional life of trailer awnings.  See Zip Dee’s video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“.*

DSC_0118 Washing Zip Dee awning

A fabric bead strip attaches the awning to the trailer via the awning rail…

DSC_0100 Streetside bead strip

and when the awning is closed, this strip forms a trough that collects and traps dirt.

DSC_0094 Awning trough

I am always amazed how much dirt is flushed away when I extend and wash the awnings.

DSC_0103 Canvas attaches to trailer

Our fall camping prep continued with a midsummer cleaning and repacking of our Safari’s wheel bearings and having the brakes adjusted.  Last week as the Harvest Moon rose*, we ate Moon Cakes in celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Cool, fall weather arrived just in time for my big wash and wax job of the entire Safari trailer, including the roof (white wax dust particles are seen in the photo above).

I washed our trailer with Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash and on the following day I sprayed Boeshield T-9 on any areas of aluminum that had first shown signs of filiform corrosion (that was stopped in its tracks years ago by this product).  Only a light coating is needed (spray on and wipe off before it dries) as this product penetrates any breaks in the clear-coated aluminum and helps to block salts and oxygen from corroding exposed aluminum.  I then applied my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Polymer Sealant #20 (the dry residue easily wipes off and the protection lasts over a year).  I then applied 303 Aerospace Protectant to the rubber seals of the Fan-Tastic Fan and windows and doors (keeps them from sticking and prevents UV damage).

DSC_0076 Our trailer protectants

Leaves are starting to fall from our Ginkgo tree and the nights are now cooler as we anticipate our early October return to the Cuyamaca Mountains.

DSC_0090 Autumn leaves (Ginkgo)

It was a bit of work, but by using quality protectants annually this nearly seven-year old Safari still shines and is ready to resist the elements, which makes me smile and want to sing and dance!*

DSC_0080 Safari shine

*This is a link to a YouTube video.