Cool clean water

Our camping season is just beginning and we are about to return to the desert.  I mentioned in my last article specifics of getting our Safari ready to roll and blithely mentioned that we topped off the fresh water tank.  Rich caught this and quickly reminded me of the importance of sanitizing the water system periodically with a bleach and water solution as recommended by Airstream.  I had wanted to do this last spring but I postponed it when I found that the fresh water petcock drain would not budge with normal hand pressure.

We have no need to winterize the trailer in San Diego and have never completely drained the fresh water tank before, but now I was motivated to do so.  I posed this issue on the Airforums and got a helpful reply suggesting that Dow Corning 316 Silicone Release Spray may help and alerting me to the importance of not turning the petcock too far open or closed (so that a finger won’t fit behind it).  My next challenge was to find this product, which is now called Molykote 316. I was able to order it from our local San Diego distributor for Kaman Industrial Technologies (It also can be ordered here.)

Two cans arrived via UPS and I was eager to use it but found no “How to use” directions included or on the label.  I finally found the product information along with “How to use” instructions.  So now I went out to the Safari.

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I sprayed a light film of Molykote 316 on the petcock and let it be overnight.  (Directions say to allow approximately three minutes drying time.)  The next morning I still found the spigot difficult to turn by hand so I used pliers with plastic tubing over the teeth to turn the spigot.  This worked and I sprayed the petcock again and was able to move it now by hand (but due to my big hand and some arthritis, I found I still relied on the pliers).

dsc_0144-molykote-316.jpg Molykote 316 Silicone Release Spray is made by Dow Corning and is a release agent for many food and industrial applications.

The product information says that it helps prevent seizing and jam-ups of conveyor guide rails and reduces sticking of pulleys and valves.

It also says that this product complies with FDA21 CFR 175.300 and FDA 21 CFR 178.3570 regulations for incidental food contact.

This product has a H-1 designation meaning that the lubricated part may have incidental food contact not to exceed 10 parts per million.

Handling precautions indicate that this product contains a flammable solvent, so do not spray in a confined space where the possibility of spark ignition exists.

So now that I was confident that the petcock could open and close, I proceeded with the sanitizing of the Safari’s water systems.

I followed my Airstream Owners Manual for the Safari and computed the required amount of bleach to add to a water solution for my size tank (multiply “gallons of tank capacity” by 0.13 to get ounces needed).  For my 30-gallon tank I used 4 ounces of household bleach.  The solution was added and I topped off the tank, and opened all faucets (hot and cold), including the outside shower hose, allowing the water to run until the distinct odor of chlorine is detected (not so easy with my nose).  I then let this sit overnight (the manual says that this standard solution needs to have four hours of contact time to disinfect completely).

The next morning I opened the petcock and the water streamed out (and took two hours to completely drain).  I refilled the tank (with the white fresh water hose with a new TastePure RV Water Filter attached).  Again, I opened all of the faucets and purged the plumbing of all sanitizing solution.

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I once again opened the petcock and drained the fresh water tank and, after another two hours, I closed the petcock and filled the tank for the final time and flushed the faucets once more.  (I then drained the gray tank.)

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We did not want to water our plants with bleach-water so we allowed it to drain down the driveway.

But in this age of needing to conserve our precious water…

There must be a better way…

Perhaps an alternative technique or active agent…

Such as Purogene Fresh Water Treatment.

Or the use of the Drinking Water Freshener?

The second draining of the fresh water tank may not have been entirely needed.

But for now at least the fresh water system has been sanitized and the petcock works…

So we’re ready to hit the trail…

and enjoy cool clear water.

Cuyamaca Indian summer

The summer heat is over and the seasons are changing quickly now, so for us it means the beginning of our fall and winter camping season.  Although it is still too hot for us in the desert, we traditionally enjoy experiencing the fall harvest season in our local Cuyamaca Mountains.

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At the end of last season our trailer got its annual major washing, which was followed with a thorough washing of all trailer awnings.  Just prior to starting our new season, I applied 303 Aerospace Protectant to the seals of our Fan-Tastic Vents, windows and doors to protect them and keep them from sticking.  Then we refilled our propane tanks and checked the operation of all equipment, including the hot water heater, water pump, stove, oven, furnace and refrigerator.  Vent screens were cleaned and the trailer was vacuumed.  Tire lug nut torque checks were done along with checking air pressure and installing tire pressure sensors.  The fresh water tank was topped off and our solar panels were cleaned in anticipation of camping without hookups in the Cuyamacas.

Larry prepared the menus and food, including the baking of the buttery, rich and very delicious French apple tart seen below in its tart pan just out of our home oven to tie in with the seasonal apple harvest festival celebrated in nearby Julian, Ca.

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Indian summer is an expression indicating sunny and warm weather in autumn when the leaves are turning color, often after the first frost, and before the first snowfall.  Days before our outing, Julian’s morning low was 31 degrees and we departed in the midst of a hazardous weather outlook for all of extreme southwestern California.  But within two days we experienced Indian summer in the mountains.

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Besides the periodic California Santa Ana fires, another drama is being played out here and other areas of San Diego’s East County.  Thousands of oak trees are dying from infestations of the gold-spotted oak borer, which may have spread under bark of firewood.  The public has been urged not to transport firewood in or out of the county until more is known about this problem.  Even as we were camping, we could hear dead and/or hazardous trees and undergrowth being cut and turned into chips for mulching areas of the park.

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Some of these oak trees were quite large, such as the one below seen on my morning walk.

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Also seen during my morning walk were a Rio Grande Turkey hen and her two fledglings emerging into a clearing.

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The fledglings foraged while the hen kept a sharp eye on me.

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It had been chilly when I left the trailer for my walk, but when I returned, freshly baked Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits greeted me, along with a very warm trailer (we found no need to turn on the furnace on chilly mornings when anticipating baking with the oven).

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One of a set of small, battery operated LED flickering tea lights (seasonal item Larry found at Costco) is seen in the votive holder above.

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By the afternoon we experienced the Indian summer temperature of 80 degrees.  We used our new Endless Breeze 12-volt fan for the first time and Larry reports that it worked beautifully.

This fan is made by Fan-Tastic Vent and is available at Camping World (we ordered ours online from Fan-Tastic Vent).

It plugs into our trailer’s interior DC outlet.  Maximum current draw is reported to be 3 amps (easily supplied by our solar panels).  It also comes with clips for attaching to pet crates.

Our fall harvest/Halloween dinner table setting included pumpkins, Indian corn (also called maize), a turkey-shaped wicker basket containing Pineapple Guava, and a floral display of Plumeria (guava and Plumeria are from our yard).  The Pineapple Guava is sweet and juicy and is especially enjoyed by our pug, Pau Hoa.

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And so during this golden fall harvest season, we are thankful to be able to return to and experience our beautiful parks with our loved ones, whether we are vividly awake… or enjoying Golden Slumbers.  

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Trailer awnings

When we first placed our custom order for an Airstream factory-installed solar power system at the time of the build of our Safari trailer, we were glad that we also ordered their Full Awning Package, which consists of awnings on all three sides.  This enabled us to stay cooler and more comfortable while camping, especially in our desert heat.  Our awnings have performed flawlessly and we expect that they will continue to do so for a long time, provided that they are properly used, maintained and cared for.

Awning operation

Opening and closing the patio awning can be a bit tricky, so we were glad that we videotaped the tech as he opened and closed our awnings during the initial walk-through when we picked up our trailer at the dealer.  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “How To Operate Your Zip Dee Patio Awning“, made earlier this year in conjunction with Airstream.  This video is a good review and has useful tips, even if you have been using your awnings for years.

Awning cleaning

Each year we are scrupulous in doing our annual wash and wax job of our trailer, especially after camping next to the ocean, but I have not cleaned and lubricated our awnings, until now.  Our awnings are individually handcrafted by Zip Dee using Sunbrella acrylic fabric treated with a fluorocarbon finish that makes it water repellent and stain resistant.  Over time, dirt can get embedded in the fibers, which can lead to mildew, stains and decreased life of the awning.  Zip Dee recommends a thorough cleaning every two to three years using a mild soap solution in cold or lukewarm water, followed by thorough rinsing.  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“, made earlier this year in conjunction with Airstream.  Before I began, I also reviewed the detailed instructions, “Awnings care & cleaning“, from Sunbrella.

Last weekend’s heat wave in San Diego was a perfect time to clean our awnings.  After selecting the appropriate straw hat and yellow Hawaiian shirt, I pulled out the awning and hosed it off.

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I then scrubbed the awnings with an extended-handled, soft bristle brush and a solution of one quarter cup of liquid Ivory Snow in two gallons of cool water.  Ivory soap was invented in 1879 by James Norris Gamble, and the phrase, “99 44/100% pure” first appeared in its advertising in 1882.  Last week I went shopping for the Ivory Snow Flakes that I grew up with (as seen in this vintage Ivory Snow Flakes commercial) and I was disappointed to learn that Procter & Gamble had stopped making Ivory Snow Flakes in 1978.

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I then rolled up the soapy awning, allowing it to soak for about 15 minutes.  Then I re-opened the awning and thoroughly rinsed it off on both sides (It was necessary to get on a step ladder to rinse off the dirt and soap on the very top where the awning attaches to the trailer).  I then left the awning fully extended to thoroughly air dry (which only took about two hours on this hot summer day).

Awning lubrication

After the cleaned awning was dry, I lubricated the hardware with silicone lubricant spray (I avoided WD-40, oil or grease which could attract dirt).  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “How To Lubricate Your Zip Dee Awning“, made in conjunction with Airstream.  As shown in the video, I slid the tube off of the rafter arm bar and I lubricated the ratchet stud (knob) and the slot exposing the spring and worked the lubricant in by pushing the tube on the ground several times.  (Refer to Zip Dee’s Parts List for hardware terminology).

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I then used a tooth brush to clean the dirt off of the teeth on the rafter arm bar, which was then sprayed with silicone lubricant and the excess was wiped off with a clean cloth.

43-rafter-arm-teeth.jpgI then slid the tube back onto the rafter arm bar and reattached the rafter arm to the awning roller shaft and extended the main arm fully for cleaning.  I sprayed the main arm with silicone and wiped off the excess with a clean cloth.

The roller shaft was then sprayed and worked back and forth several times as seen in the video.

This was then repeated on the arm on the other side of the awning.

Other instructional videos are also available from Zip Dee such as:

Straightening a Bent Main Arm Bar

Adjusting the Main Arm Bars (to fit the Clamp Wheel)

Ratchet Stud Replacement

Awning safety

We learned early on how quickly weather conditions can change, especially when camping in the desert, and that it is a good idea to not leave an awning extended during windy or rainy conditions.  We also learned that one good precaution to take when there is possible rain nearby, is to leave one side of the awning lower than the other to prevent accumulation of water which could weigh down and bend the supporting arms.

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We have also learned that it is best to retract the awning whenever leaving the trailer unattended or when going to bed for the evening.  By the way, it is easy to bump into the opened awning support arms (especially when entertaining), so we periodically hang festive decorative items on them, such as these Chinese flutes, for increased visibility.  Finally, prior to towing, we make sure that the patio awning is secured by the top travel lock (hook) and the two side clamp locks, the street-side awning’s top hook is secured, and the rear awning is rolled up.

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Now it’s time to cool off, relax, and watch this video of snowy scenes as Airstream Professionals visit the Airstream Service Center in Jackson Center, Ohio.

Stepping into summer

Summer for us is actually our off season for camping, which may surprise some because we live in San Diego, which has many great, nearby camping spots and where people come from places such as Arizona to cool off and enjoy our beaches.  That is precisely why we stay at home during the summer.  It is now too hot for us to camp in our favorite mountain and desert places without full hook-ups and air conditioning.  As mentioned in my “Desert heat” article, the 100-degree desert heat while we were camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last May motivated us to turn our trailer into a cave and enjoy the air conditioning while reading, doing projects or just napping.  We don’t need to go to the desert to enjoy air conditioning that we have at home.  Our nearby state beach campgrounds are now booked for the summer and we prefer to do most of our camping in quiet peaceful settings.  So we step into summer by staying home.

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We enjoy stepping into the tropical garden oasis in our own backyard with its pond and plants (flourishing due to Larry’s TLC)…

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Bougainvillea above (surrounded by Red Trumpet Vine and Delicate Asparagus Fern) and Epidendrum below.

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And of course we enjoy stepping onto the patio and barbecuing chicken and rib eye steaks.

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Hear “How To Make The Perfect Burger“, and learn the recipe in this Morning Edition, NPR program of July 3, 2009.

I also enjoy stepping into the world of reading books and I have them stockpiled for summer reading.  I’ll have time to read each time I step out of the courtroom of Superior Court – County of San Diego during my current jury duty, which is expected to last two to three more weeks.

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My latest addition to my library is Miles Gone By – A Literary Autobiography, William F. Buckley Jr., Regnery Publishing Inc., 2004.  Years ago I was fascinated by his debating style and sense of humor, and my interest in him was rekindled after watching his son Christopher’s interview on Book on C-SPAN2. (He also has an interesting blog on The Daily Beast and new book out, Losing Mum and Pup – A Memoir, Twelve, 2009.)

Another literary addition to my summer reading is Reading Lolita in Tehran – A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008.  I first heard about this author while listening to the NPR program, Azar Nafisi Discusses ‘Things I’ve Been Silent About, February 10, 2009.

My favorite author became Ernest Hemingway after I read his first African safari book, Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1935, 1963.

Summer is also a good time to savor good radio programs outside or while getting ready to begin the day.  Just before stepping out the door last Wednesday morning on my way to jury duty, I was listening to Morning Edition on National Pubic Radio (NPR), on our local public broadcasting station.  My ears perked up as I heard the sound of diesel power and I delighted in their story, “Diesel Cars Attempt Comeback with Clean Diesel“, by Chris Arnold (NPR, Morning Edition, July 1, 2009).

View “The Great American Summer“, a gallery of classic images from a bygone era, presented by The Daily Beast contributor, Rachel Hulin.

So in these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, I might even dust off the ukulele and start strumming…

Or take my boogie board to the beach for a celebration of summer with an afternoon of surfin’ followed by “a cool one” at Miller Time and chilling out.

Addendum: In memory of just some of the many notables who have sadly stepped out of this world this summer, including Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Robert McNamara, and Walter Cronkite:

Never dreamed you’d leave in summer“, performed by Stevie Wonder…

And as ‘Uncle Walter’ would say, “And that’s the way it is.”

Wash, wax and treat

Cooling off while camping at the beach is a treat that is followed by our annual big wash and wax job. We have learned the importance of washing off salt deposits to prevent or control corrosion. We will probably limit our beach-side camping to once a year, not only to limit the exposure of salt to our trailer, but also to cope with the reality of mandatory water rationing that is about to begin due to California’s third year of drought conditions.

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Notice that I’m using an extended scrub brush compared to flooding the top of the trailer with our precious fresh water as seen in this photo from last year’s washing.  We are following many of the tips to conserve water seen here.

Before washing the trailer, I needed to tend to a few minor details…

dsc_0060-smashed-marker.jpg On our return home from our last beach outing I successfully negotiated the busy Interstate 5 freeway and was driving up our neighborhood hill. A car was coming down the street so I moved over to the right and, when the car passed, I pulled back toward the center of the street as I accelerated up the hill. I heard a barely audible “boom” which sounded like something had shifted in the truck’s cargo area. An hour after unhitching I noticed a slight dent in the rock guard and a smashed amber marker light. I must have hit one of the large plastic city trash cans that were out that day.

dsc_0069-new-marker-lt.jpg This gave me an opportunity to learn how certain parts for the Airstream are obtained. Airstream, Inc. was helpful in giving me the correct part number (511750, Marker Light, Amber Teardrop) and the two closest Airstream service centers. I chose C & G Trailer Service, an Airstream Certified Service Center that has had an association with Airstream since 1946. They had the part and could ship it via UPS, but we drove 113 miles up the coast to get it so that we could see their service center and become familiar with driving there when our trailer needs servicing (San Diego no longer has an Airstream dealer or service center). I installed the light fixture at home and substituted a flat #6S brass washer and added a #60 rubber O-ring to reduce the incidence of moisture getting into the light. Another LED bulb (67-A15) has been ordered to match our other marker lights which Larry had switched to LED.

I was now ready to wash the trailer and used Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (See Meguiar’s over 100 year legacy and family history).  San Diego has hard water and water spots are prominent after washing. I added a cup of vinegar to a bucket of water and used a chamois to remove the water spots. Then I inspected the trailer for filiform corrosion which is showing up in newer Airstream trailers and extensively documented in the Airforums.com thread, “Corrosion problems with new Airstreams“. Last year I treated my filiform corrosion with Boeshield T-9. The label on its 12 ounce spray can indicates that T-9 was developed by The Boeing Co. for lubrication and protection of aircraft components and contains solvents, lubricants and waxes designed for penetration, moisture displacement, lubrication and protection. It dries to a thin, clear waxy film that clings to metal. One year ago I applied T-9 to my filiform and I am glad to report that I saw no expansion of the filiform. Compare the current filiform image below with the one taken last year.

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(Whitish circular areas surrounding the rivets are actually incompletely removed waxy residue from Mequiar’s Mirror Glaze sealant.)

The following day was the wax job and, as indicated above, I used Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Polymer Sealant #20 that can be obtained from a good automotive body shop supply store. (Thank you, 2airishuman of Airforums.com for sharing your wisdom and insights on protecting trailer exteriors.)  I bought the 64 ounce size jug and used it to refill the 16 ounce size squeeze bottle which is easier to handle while on the step ladder. (The roof also gets a protective waxing.) This is my third year using this product and I can report that it is durable and withstands washings throughout the year. I also believe that using the above two products goes a long way in preventing and/or controlling filiform corrosion.

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Also note that I observed Sun safety while out in the sun by wearing a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeve white shirt (Columbia Titanium), sun glasses that protect on three sides, and sunscreen.

So by the end of two days the trailer was washed, waxed and treated for this season.

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(Larry made the covers for both the Super Jack and the wheels.)

So now it’s time to relax and enjoy summer and our own back yard.

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(Red Trumpet vine that our hummingbirds love.)