Saturday, December 31, 2016

Birthday Thoughts and Happy New Year!


What a CRAZY year 2016 has been!  Though things didn’t always go as I had planned, I’ve felt really blessed this year. I'd like to share how I've experienced that prayers DO get answered . Here’s some of the things I prayed for.

I actively prayed to “see new sights”  and travel more. Didn’t happen as I had expected – but glad it did. Don’t really have the time or money, but GOD gave me the opportunity! Since my company was bought out last year, this year I was able to travel (expenses paid) to the following for my new employer.

  • Birmingham Alabama – Worked with a great team, and had some delicious BBQ!
  • Los Angeles California – First time west of the Mississippi! Met other team members, Could see the Hollywood sign from my workspace, and tried Korean BBQ and sushi for the first time!
  • Hackettstown New Jersey – Had an amazing drive to and from on some backroads of Pennsylvania and New Jersey
  • Columbia Maryland (twice) – Learned the joys of Jimmy Johns and a Phillips Crab Pretzel
  • Buffalo New York – Smallest plane I ever had flown (prop, not jet) Took a trip to see Niagara Falls, with a bonus of fireworks! Buffalo has best wings ever!
  • Chicago, Illinois – Did “The Loop” Hiked along Riverwalk, The Navy Pier, and Millennial Park. Ate authentic Deep Dish and first time for Poutine. Was blessed to meet friend Dina and family – and her new granddaughter  - enjoyed a meal together - found out we had the same flight home!
  • Jacksonville, Florida – Was able to take a road trip along the coast to St. Augustine, hit the beach, hike an estuary, and enjoy conch fritters!

I actively prayed for better connections with my family. God allowed me to see how parenting has changed for us. I’ve learned that I’m a “father of adults”. Discussions are better, and time together is now less about moulding our girls into proper young ladies, and more about allowing them the discovery of who they themselves have grown to be. With less stress to worry about raising two ”little“ girls, this year Amy and I spent some quality time together – even if some of that time is lounging in our living room, Netflix on the TV, snoring with each other J
It’s a blessing that even at 19 and 24, our daughters still love to travel with Amy and I. We love to spend time in our motorhome, revisiting old haunts, and adventuring into new ones. It’s one of the ways I love to reconnect, and recharge together. Places RVed in 2016:

  • Lancaster – A regular favorite, but having snow made it extra pretty.
  • French Creek State Park – Relaxing and hiking in the place my parents loved.
  • Amherst, New York – Emily’s choice (two thumbs up!) – to visit the town that poetess Emily Dickinson lived her life in. Some cool hiking and a side trip to the Eric Carle museum made it even better.
  • College Park – Planned to hit Washington DC - didn’t - and glad we hit some new sights instead!
  • Jonestown Pa – There is something calming about setting up camp next to a stream.
  • Central PA  “Guys Trip”  with Ed and Kev - great travel partners as usual.  New Traveler Little Liam caught SO many fish! Got to tour a coal mine and walk around Centralia. Went to Knoebels for the rides – stayed for the food!
  • Man Caving – So it may seem counter intuitive to have alone time, but it is really healthy to do. Sometimes I enjoy doing work on our RV, making her more homey, or just sitting and enjoying some quiet time in my “mobile mancave” to revive on my own.

I actively prayed to have time to help others more. I had to step away from serving with Roxborough Church Youth Program, and the ASH Theater Group for kids because of  my responsibilities at work. I missed helping them, but could not devote the time needed for those outreaches. Amy chose to start a new job – at the church, an outreach to those with food insecurities. “The Table” serves neighbors and families that need good food – The Table provides not just canned and boxed items, but fresh produce, meats, and baked items too! Pickups of those items many times occur on weeknights, or weekends after the donating grocery or bakery closes. Perfect timing for me to lend a hand. It’s been a blessing to know we are helping families in our own neighborhood that are in need. It’s been both challenging and fun helping by my wife’s side when I can.
I’ve also served as an elder at Roxborough Church for two consecutive terms of office. Per the by-laws I need to take at least a year off. Though I’ll still serve as I can, I’ll use the time to discern details of what GOD has planned for my path as I am getting older. There are ideas and possibilities that come before me as clearer, and I want to be faithful to what I believe I’m being led to.

Do I feel some prayers went unanswered? Of course. Some situations in my life are still not as I would like. There are still many wrongs in this world that need to be corrected. I ponder and question how those who should be leaders are acting, or see our world as something that is to be theirs to take, with no giving in return. Why some I know have so little compassion. That some people I pray for have a differing perspective of what is important. But I need to remind myself that it is “In His timing, not mine.”
Looking back at 2016, there were plenty of surprises in my life. I’m thankful for each opportunity that was given, every challenge met, every win, and every failure I need to learn from.
Wishing you a Happy New Year, and that you can find the blessings you’ve experienced in 2016.
I’m looking forward in 2017 to what GOD is bringing!

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. I did not want to twist the knife, which could crack or break off the thin blade point. Then I worked to connect together the slits made 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 fit 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 did 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 not warping the mount 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 silicone 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 even out into any crevices I felt around the rim, being very careful not to get on the threads of the port - where the access panel screws into the mounting ring.
After that first pass, I did do again after the screws were all fastened down. I tightened 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)

Cleanup
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 size screws - the #6 Screws were small, but seem to hold fine. 1/2" length seemed about right. Time I guess will tell.

Thanks for reading, hope this description of the install is helpful if you are planning to do the same job. Happy and Safe Travels, see you down the road!


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 www.cherryhillpark.com
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.