Wednesday, October 12, 2016

RoadAbode Fall Project - Adding a Fresh Water Tank Access Port

RoadAbode Project - Adding a Fresh Water Tank Access Port
We are always looking for ways to improve the quality of living RV life with RoadAbode. One item I always wanted was easier access to our fresh water tank. RoadAbode does not have a gravity fill spout like some RVs, so water needs to be either pumped into the fresh water tank or come from a pressurized source while boondocking (dry-camping). I've always wanted the ability to clean the inside of the fresh water tank. Currently it is a sealed system, so the only way to clean currently is to run a few capfuls of bleach thru the city water connection into the tank, and then let that slosh around as we drove down the highway. I usually would do this procedure by putting some bleach into the hose, and then connecting to the city water inlet on RoadAbode, then to a water bib (faucet) and set my water system in RoadAbode's basement to be able to fill the fresh water tank. Not hard, but I was never sure how clean the tank really was - with no visual or other inspection.

Boats that have self contained fresh water systems have watertight access ports, why not RoadAbode? I found a few RVers (who were also boat owners) that had added their own ports, so I did some reading on boating forums and planned how to do this project.

Parts List
Below are the parts I purchased on Amazon, had at RoadAbode, or purchased at our local Big Box Hardware Store:

Water Tank Access Port

Prep Work
First I had to access the fresh water tank. RoadAbode's is under our queen bed in the back, so even though the under storage is hinged with hydraulic lift arms to hold it up, it was easier to get the mattress and bedding out of the way. I just pulled the whole mess forward to the living area and leaned it against the refrigerator.
Bed without mattress. Plywood not finished in any way!
I used one of our LED lanterns to provide lighting to see my work area. The under storage is split front to rear down the middle. One side holds the water tank, the other plumbing, electrical, and the water pump.  There is a protective piece of plywood - painted black - over top of the water tank which I removed and slid to the other side of the under storage.
Once the tank was accessible, I wiped it down with a clean hand towel to remove the residual dust that was sitting on top of the tank.  I opened the access port, and using the outside mounting ring as my template, I drew on the tank with the marker. I drew around the inside diameter, knowing I would need to cut a little larger to fit the mounting ring into the hole I was going to make.
Tank marked, now comes the scary part - cutting!
I selected the spot for the hole closer to one end and not the middle for a few reasons.
First, and most important, the top of the tank sloped inward to the center. When I was testing various places to put the port, it would not lay flat in the center. The best place where it laid "flush" on top of the tank was closer to the front.
Second, to access the port while camping, it would be easier near the opening of the bed. If one person holds the mattress up, the other can even work there - to visually inspect the tank, or just to add some bleach, or a few gallons of water.

Actual Work
Cutting the hole was about as difficult as I expected, maybe easier in some respects.
The blade of my utility knife was brand new, and sliced into the plastic easily. The tank material is not as heavy as I expected. I cut approximately 1/8" outside the marker line, knowing I would have to trim a little more for a nice, snug fit. First I worked around the making slits around the mark. I just pushed the knife in for each slit, and extracted. Then I worked to connect those slits together using a sawing, or "old-fashioned can-opener" motion. The hardest part was thinking about "I'm cutting a hole in a perfectly good tank. Hope this is not stupid!"
Here we go!

Half way done

20 minutes later, a hole appears!
I was happy to see that the water was very clear - no film on the inside edges of the tank, and smelled good to! There are tiny "ripples" of sand resting on the bottom, which next time we winterize I am hoping to clean out  - now that we have an access port!
They are hard to see, had to darken in the photo - "sand ripples"
I test fitted the port mounting ring, and noted the areas that needed to be trimmed. I trimmed this way about six to eight times - test fit, trim...test fit, trim..... and so on. I prefered to cut to little, than too much. I di this until I had the mounting ring "pop" into the hole. I also made sure the port screwed in well - so that the pressure of the tank against the mounting ring was nt warping it in a way I could not see. Everything fit nicely though.
Hole trimmings - eww - look like toenail clippings - dime for scale.
Test Fit - Now to apply the sealant
After test fitting, now came the moment of truth - sealing the port in. I used aquarium safe sealant - figured if it was safe for fish, it should be fine for us. I generously applied it to the underside of the ring (sorry, no pictures, I didn't want goop on my phone) and also applied to the tank outside the hole to help with adhesion. I pressed the ring in, and then attached and started the stainless steel screws in their mounting holes. (but did not tighten all the way down just yet) I ran my finger on the inside of the hole, and could feel the sealant oozing through more in some places than others. I ran my finger around to help it into any crevices I felt around the rim, but being very careful not to get on the threads of the port - where the access port screws into the mounting ring.
After that first pass, I did do again after the screws were all fastened tight. I tighened the screws evenly across from each other, so the port seated nicely, and some sealant was seen coming out of the outer top edge of the ring.
The sealant needs to cure for 45 minutes, so I left the port open allowed that to set while I sat with a drink and some reading. I did check the fit of the port and felt the underside of the hole for any more sealant pushing through. (no problems)

The hardest part of the cleanup was remaking the bed! There was sealant left, but from my previous projects, I knew the tube would harden before I got to use the little bit left. Throwing it away is still cheaper than having someone else do it! I had a few stainless screws left, and used them to hold down a piece of loose moulding in RoadAbode's rear bedroom.
New Fresh Water Tank Access Port In Place!
The total job took about 2 - 2 1/2 hours including waiting for the sealant to cure and cleanup. Glad I used the utility knife, it worked fine (though slow) and my original idea of using a drill and small coping saw would have gotten plastic dust both inside and out of the water tank. That would have been messy.
Only thing I would have changed was using #8 screws - the #6 Screws were small, but seem to hold fine. 1/2 length seemed about right. Time I guess will tell.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Is it Ever TOO Hot to RV? RoadAbode RoadTrip August 2016

Too hot to RV? In a word - No. You just have to plan some different activities.
It was suppose to be DisneyWorld for August. But we found our house heating/cooling system needs to be replaced. So to save money, we opted for a "mini-trip." Right now I'm in RoadAbode relaxing at the beautiful Cherry Hill Campground in College Park Md. As I lie on the bed typing this, Amy is doing some work for The Table food pantry next to me and our girls are watching cartoons. It's 10 am and already it's over 90 humid degrees out.
I understand "it's not the heat, but the humidity" but each day's heat index has been over 102F.
The east coast has been in a heat wave for five days, and relief is not coming for a few more. Last night was the first time walking around the campground at twilight I've ever seen not a single soul sitting outside, or speaking with neighbors. A small troop of boy scout left early this morning - the heat just too much. Kind of glad we didn't do the expense of Disney this time!
So we are huddled in RoadAbode, a comfortably 79 degrees, doing things we want to do. Maybe not first choices, but definitely different than if we were home. So even though this weekend is not enjoying outdoors, we can still enjoy some "downtime". There are other things to do in this heat.
Cherry Hill Park Entrance
Yesterday, we treated ourselves to an IHOP down the road from Cherry Hill PArk, and then we stayed out of the heat and enjoyed a roadtrip to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. This annex of the Washington DC Air and Space Museum displays some of the hundreds of planes the Smithsonian has in it's possession. And most important on this overly hot day - air conditioned! Some of the more interesting large craft include a Lockheed Blackbird, the Concord, and the Space Shuttle Discovery. Other smaller craft that I found interesting were World War Two craft, including a wooden glider with a swastika on the tail fin. I found this interesting because my father told me of his memories as a boy, seeing these craft being pulled up into the air in farm fields by motorcycle. The enormity and variety of aircraft to see was almost overwhelming. One I did not expect to see was the Red Bull Stratos Capsule - which parachutist Felix Baumgartner used for his free fall from space.
The Red Bull Stratos
One that evoked mixed feeling was also on display. Though I know the Enola Gay is part of history, seeing this plane that had a part in the death of over 150,000 civilians saddened me. From the first floor viewing area, it almost seems as if the plane was on pedestals, looming over us. I understand that this is to help view the plane from the second floor catwalk. I hope we citizens of earth become smart enough to never repeat the decisions that led to what occurred in Hiroshima.
The Enola Gay
Other interesting craft included a section dedicated to helicopters, balloon flight, and stunt planes. A separate wing is totally devoted to spacecraft and rocketry, both from the United States and former Soviet Union's military and space programs.
The histories told and type of aircraft to learn about was almost overwhelming. We did not even make it to see the wide variety of military aircraft on display. Another trip is in order.
We did get to the mock air control tower they had setup. It provides a bird's eye view of it's next door neighbor, Washington Dulles International Airport, and the surrounding area countryside. Pretty cool to hear the radio chatter between the real air tower and pilots landing. The expansive windows in the viewing area allow you to see the planes take off and land.
The last stop we made was to the gift shop. We purchased a few sew on patches to add to our collection, and the girls got a few interesting trinkets and books
On the way back to Cherry Hill Park, we located on Google Maps a few thrift shops enroute. Two seemed pretty close to each other in the Silver Springs area. It turns out they were next to each other! Side by side, Unique Thrift and Value Village Thrift Store, and sharing space between these two stores, some interesting small retailers selling everything from electronics, phone accessories and apparel. There was even a small cafe/eatery in one corner. It was an odd setup, and from the signage found inside, the two stores must have the same owner. They were in the midst of a sale, so all summer type clothing was 50% off! I didn't need anything, but the girls found some great bargains on things that were already great prices. The preschool teacher of the family found plenty of books to share with her students. If someone was starting a first house or apartment, this would definitely be a great place to hit.
Once back to RoadAbode, the girls hit the pool, I took a nap and then we convened together at the Star cafe near the pool for dinner.  Cherry Hill Park has a great cafe, and from previous outings in years past I was looking forward to an authentic handmaid broiled Maryland crab cake. Alas, the cooks must have changed, as a crab cake was no longer on the menu, but the burgers, pulled pork and gyro we all had were very good, and not overpriced. They also  have a great list of breakfast muffins and pastries, and some very good selections of ice cream for your sweet tooth. Everything is fresh, made to order, and their kitchen prep areas are noticeably very clean. I'd say it's the best campground cafe we have ever been to!
After dinner, we opted to watch some tv and play some card games. If you've never experienced Exploding Kittens, I'd suggest adding it to your repertoire of "games to play for all ages."
A card game about Explosions. Kittens. And sometimes Goats.
Overnight we had a pretty intense thunderstorm. This was according to the girls and Amy, apparently I slept through it. Today was a "swim day" so we had breakfast, and relaxed by surfing the web (girls) doing some work (Amy) or reading (me). The pool opens rather late - Noon - so we had plenty of time for these activities.  Once we got to the pool, I was surprised how few were taking advantage of a dip during the heatwave. Then I remembered that many people come here to hit Washington DC, and were probably sightseeing. It was great to have two pools almost all to ourselves! It was also nice to see they had a lifeguard positioned between the two pools, actively scanning the waters for trouble. So few campgrounds have lifeguard staff anymore, and rely on "swim at your own risk" signs. We stayed in the pool for a few hours. The water could have been a few degrees cooler, and felt warm. I did cool off once I stepped out for a bit. Not sure if the pools are heated, or it was just the action of the sun warming up the water.

Cherry Hill Park "mushroom" water feature in one of two pools
Checkout is a little early - 11am - (but then check-in is early too at the same - 11am) than usual for us, so we just lounged a bit and slowly readied RoadAbode for departure. The ride home is almost all freeways. I mentioned to Amy we should come more often - the ride is really only about three hours from RoadAbode's home - depending on time of day traffic of course.

More About Cherry Hill Park - This is a top park to visit. This is the first time we stayed more to "home base" and relaxed than go visit DC. There is plenty to do in the area besides Washington DC. Cherry Hill Park is also close to area restaurants, and a great pizza place and a large grocery store is only about a mile up the road. The office staff are very knowledgeable and helpful for getting around to the various attractions. Think of them as more of a concierge service that just someone to check you in, or ring up a sale. The store itself has plenty of Washington DC souvenirs for sale, a small grocery aisle and a large RV parts department. While there I picked up some some items, a nice sewer cap with a handle I'd been wanting to replace (lost when we had a tire blowout), and some washers with filter screens built in. I did a price comparison and they were about the same as Amazon or less (not including shipping) In fact, if you needed work done to your RV, you could make an appointment to have that done by an onsite tech while you are out sightseeing for the day. Check them out at
Decorative Pond at Cherry Hill Park at sunset
Yours truly with lazy summer beard and the college-bound youngest at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Guys Trip 2016

One weekend a year three of us get together to camp for a weekend. We try to pick a place that has a good hiking spot, perhaps a winery, or some interesting places to see. Good food is always high on the list too. This year, we had a fourth join the crew. The "littlest man" was one buddy's son. To make it interesting for him, I made reservations at Lake Glory in Catawissa, PA. Lake Glory is owned by Knoebels Amusement park, and is only a mile or so away from all the rides, games and great food Knoebels has to offer.
I've been coming to Knoebels with the family for years. My family loves this free entrance amusement park. Centralia, the town that's burning from underground is close by, and we found a new attraction to check out.

The ride up was pretty laid back. Not much traffic or issues. Our trip up went so well even Ed was able to catch a nap while our young guest watched movies on my Chromebook once we reached "cruising altitude" on the PA Turnpike.
Nap time on the roadWatching a movie on the road

When we arrived at Lake Glory shortly after check-in time, there was actually a lineup of trailers and popups checking in. We waited our turn, and within another 15 to 20 minutes were at our campsite. We were in a corner spot - across the road from a small pond (no fishing in this smaller body of water) and across from the showers. A playground was in full view from our picnic table and I barely had pulled into the spacious site when I heard "Can we go to Knoebels?" And that was from the adults! Actually, hitting Knoebels for dinner was the plan, and I WAS getting ready for a good pizza. So I quickly leveled, hooked up water and electric, and jumped in the toad to zoom over to the park. Since we were arriving late in the afternoon, we were able to score a reasonably close parking spot to the entrance. We headed right for Cesari's Pizza. There are other places to get a pizza in Knoebels, but Cesari's has more options, more seating, and I think better pizza. Once the guys saw the options, my hopes for a large plain went out the window. They opted to get a large "Taco Pizza". I was just along for the gastronomic ride. We got our drinks (all local "white" birch beer) and our number, and found a shaded picnic table to sit upon. And waited. And waited. And Waited. This was the longest I had ever waited at Cesari's, and in my mind blamed it on the topping heavy taco pizza. And these guys were hungry enough to chase down staff asking where the pizza was. It wasn't just us - there were others that were waiting for food to come out. Don't know what happened back in the kitchen, but we were sure happy when the pizza finally arrived. The pizza was good - and hot, but because of the level of piled on toppings - hard to eat. And there was so much of it. I could only eat a piece and half, and collectively we couldn't est the full pie. I felt a little guilty of not doing "my part" to finish it off. Just was too full!
We walked the park a bit. We wanted to give Ed the lay of the land, since he had never visited Knoebels before. Where the kiddie rides were (like for his daughter) the eateies, the museums, and then over to the Twister. The mammoth wooden roller coaster is a favorite of those who seek that sort of thrill. For Ed and I was a good time to catch up waiting for Kev and his thrill-seeking son to do the ride. Had some fun people watching too!
Thrill-seeking Father and Son after riding the Twister
After wandering a bit more and a few rides, we headed back shortly before 8pm to set up camp. We just popped out some chairs and erected the shade room. a few interconnected foam pads for a patio and we were all set. After our first day out, we decided to just get our bed areas in order and watch some television. We didn't pick up any over-the-air channels, and there is no cable setup at Lake Glory. Fortunately I had put a few movies on a larger thumb drive. I was able to connect the Chromebook to our TV's HDMI port and watched a few recent movies (and cartoons) through it before heading to bed. I even was able to activate my phone's hotspot to view a few You Tube videos about the movie. Only did a few - not wanting to eat up all my data.

Saturday got a quick shower and then headed over to Knoebels early to grab breakfast. On the way out of the campground, we saw a horse trailer stopped near the campground office. Inside was what looked like a reindeer, but ended up being a Red Deer. The owner was there advertizing his Deer Farm not far from Lake Glory. We stopped and learned about the farm and got to feed the deer. The multi point rack still had velvet on. Pretty cool being close to such a large animal. At Rolling Hills Red Deer Farm, not only can you feed the animals, but buy meats and participate in hunts on their property.
We continued on to Knoebels and headed into the empty amusement park. Breakfast is served at one of the food pavilions for guests camping at either Lake Glory or the campground attached to the park. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then headed back to the campground to relax.
Playing on the old coal train at Knoebels after breakfast
Our next trip out for Saturday early afternoon was to Pioneer Coal Mine, with a short stopover in Centralia - still burning underground. I enjoy sharing the amazing, yet sad story of the underground fire of Centralia with friends. Click here for thoughts from my first visit to Centralia
On the Abandoned Route 61 in Centralia 
Though not as prolific, we did find a few vents from the mine fire burning underground. No bigger than to fit a hand in, they still emit hot gasses and water vapor when you pull your hand out. We also walked along Abandoned Route 61  - Centralia’s Graffiti Highway - and found a few families in the act of tagging. Must be a rite of passage in these parts after high school graduation. Quite a few people were wandering the area looking around, and a few riding quads. Someone even had a makeshift hot dog stand setup in the trunk of their car.
We continued on to about 10 or 15 minutes to Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine Tour, located in Ashland PA. This tour takes you 1800 feet straight into the side of Mahanoy Mountain on actual equipment used in the 1920s when the mine was operational. There is also a ride on the Henry Clay, a narrow gauge steam locomotive, which takes you into the mountains surrounding Ashland to the location of a "bootleg mine". Our tour guided on both tours were very informative and able to answer our questions about the area and coal mining in general. Very cool! Will have to take my girls here the next time we head to Knoebels.
Waiting to go down into the mine 
Steam Locomotive Henry Clay
Learning about some of the various jobs and the dangers of working in a mine
After our tours, we headed out of Ashland, and were ready for a late lunch. We decided to check out Big Dan's BBQ located at Rohrbach's Farm Market. We got a rack of ribs and some sides to share.  Dan actually use to live near Philadelphia and moved to the area to help with her family's farm stand. With their help they are growing the business - and the BBQ is a great addition right up the road from Knoebels. We also stopped into Rohrbach's and picked up some homemade baked goods for dessert - and were lucky enough to find them on the discount table. Both places are worth a visit! We took our delicious finds back to RoadAbode and enjoyed everything at our picnic table.
Now back at camp, we relaxed, watched a movie or two, napped and strolled around the campground, stopping by covered bridge and over to Lake Glory.

Kev after much thought  decided to buy a fishing rod at the camp store. They have one, but forgotten I mentioned there was a lake to go fishing.  First test told us something was wrong with the reel, and Kev went back to the store to exchange. Once we saw it was working, we took a small cooler of drinks, some chairs and all of us went over to "help out" with fishing. Things were pretty slow, while a "Nana" with her grandchildren were catching a fish every few minutes. They left and she stopped by and offered us her leftover bait - hotdog rolls! Sure enough it was what the fish were biting on. By the end of the weekend the little man had caught more fish than I remember the count. (at least fifteen)
One of many

Ed help pulling one in

Relaxing lake-side

Toward Evening, we headed over to Knoebels to catch the lights of the lights, some rides and dinner and dessert. There is something memorable about having a warm waffle ice cream sandwich while enjoying a summer evening.

Click here to learn about a previous RoadAbode trip to Central PA, including Knoebels and Centralia