Summer 2017 trip prep (7/25/17)

Getting ready to leave for our summer trip involves plenty of work.  I tested the telescope with the solar filter and camera mount to make sure everything would work well when viewing the eclipse.  Note the sunspot:

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I filled the fresh water tank and turned on the pump which supplies pressure to all the fixtures in the RV.  I heard a spraying noise, and ran into the master bathroom to find the toilet leaking fresh water.  I winterized the RV after our 2016 Assateague Island Sukkos trip, which involves opening low-point drains and then opening all water fixtures to allow the water to drain out of the fixtures and out the low-point drains.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think of the toilets as water fixtures, so I didn’t do this.  The toilet’s supply valve must have been filled with water and cracked over the winter when it froze.  Getting the supply valve disconnected from the toilet was easy:

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I ordered two new valves, since the kids’ toilet broke in the same way.  The new valves won’t arrive before we leave, so I had them shipped to my brother’s house where they should be waiting for us when we arrive on Sunday.  In the mean time, I capped the water supply line so we can use the water in the rest of the RV:

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For now we’ll have to flush by filing a container with water and manually pouring it into the toilet.  So much for our glamorous RV lifestyle.

The New (for us) Truck Camper

There may be some trips for which a massive 5th wheel like our 2014 Avalanche 360RB is too large.  I found a truck camper on Craigslist and bought it for $500.  It’s a 1990 Sunline C951.  The floorplan can be found on page 11 of the manual:

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The truck camper needs a good bit of work, hopefully I can get everything working.

In order to bring the truck camper home, the truck needed tie-downs to attach the truck camper to the truck.  I could have purchased a set for $450, but it rankled to pay almost as much for the tie-downs as the truck camper, so I decided to build tie-downs instead.  I welded up a pair of rear tie-downs using a bar attached to the tow receiver:

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For the front tie-downs, I based my design on commercially available tie-downs:

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During construction, I installed the tie-downs to make sure the fit was correct.  To tie-down the truck camper, extension bars are installed to bring a mount point out beyond the undercarriage of the truck:

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Stay tuned for the rebuild of the truck camper!

Assateague Sukkos Day 6: Flying and Beach Fun

The first two days of Sukkos (Monday and Tuesday) with congregation Ahavat Shalom in Ocean City, Maryland were great.  It was the first time we’ve spent a holiday with a Sefardi congregation.  Since everyone there except us were Israeli expats, the Rabbi delivered his sermon in Hebrew.  On the second day I walked down to the beach and walked the boardwalk for a bit. 

RV breakfasts are always fantastic:

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The passenger side of the RV seemed to be sagging, and a peek underneath revealed that the rear passenger leaf spring had broken.  This is the same spring position that broke and had to be replaced on Day 366.  Back when that spring broke, I replaced the springs on both sides so the axle would be square to the trailer and therefore the tires would not wear poorly.  As I result, I had with us the unbroken leaf spring pulled off the driver’s side of the rear axle those few years ago.  I crawled under the RV and got to work:

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Installing the new leaf spring:

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While I was working, this Wheel bug wandered by:

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The broken leaf spring:

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The congregation used to be headed up by a Chabad rabbi, which explains why the synagogue was built to resemble 770:

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After Shacharis and fixing the leaf spring, we relocated back to Assateague Island.  We had camping reservations at Assateague Island National Seashore, but we would have had to change sites in the middle of our stay, so we decided to try for the first time camping at Assateague State Park, which was much less crowded.  For a couple more dollars, we have use of bathhouses with toilets and nice showers, as opposed to just pit toilets in the NPS campground.

We set up our sukkah again:

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We managed to squeeze everything onto our site:

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Next we hit the beach:

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We collected some shells:

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Dead Horseshoe crabs:

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I received permission from the state park to launch my PPG from the beach:

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Launch of flight #112.  I’m doing a reverse launch due to strong wind:

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Nice views upstairs:

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Coming down to land:

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This video contains my four flights on this trip:

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I kited the wing to make sure it was clean before putting it away:

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After dinner in the sukkah we had a campfire.  It’s warm here with 100% humidity, so the wood is damp and doesn’t burn very well:

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Day 945: NM Mineral Museum, Salinas Pueblos NM, Emergency Welding

Today we drove over to New Mexico Tech to visit the New Mexico Mineral Museum:

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The sample in the center is Trinitite, which is fused sand formed by the Trinity nuclear bomb test:

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Big chunks of gold and silver:

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These mineral samples have not been altered.  They are as they were found:

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The radioactive display:

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We drove north and east to Abo Pueblo, one of three sites managed by Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument:

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Spanish Franciscan monks came here from Mexico in the 1580s to convert the Puebloan Indians who lived here.  In the 1620s the mission at Abo was built:

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To persuade the local Indians to help in the construction of the mission, The monks told the local Indians that the new mission would include a Kiva for Indian rituals.  Once the mission was completed, the “Kiva” was used as a garbage pit:

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Droughts and Apache Raids (in retribution for Spanish slave-capturing raids against the Apache) caused the Salinas Pueblos to be abandoned around 1670:

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The kids completed the Junior Ranger workbook sections dealing not only with Abo Pueblo, but also Quarai Pueblo and Grand Quivira Pueblo, and the section for the main visitor center in Mountainair, so they received all four location ribbons for their badges:

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We drove on to visit the main visitor center in Mountainair.  The rear wheel was sitting a little funny, and after a bit of investigation I found that the rear leaf spring hanger had broken.  The part indicated by the arrow had broken off the frame of the RV:

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The rear leaf spring more or less stayed put because it’s attached to the equalizer in front, and the axle is attached on the other side to the other leaf spring with the intact equalizer and rear hanger.  Nonetheless, we needed to get the broken off hanger pieces welded back on without too much driving. 

I asked the ranger in the visitor center about local welders, and she asked the other ranger for direction.  The other ranger is a coach at the local high school, and he called the shop teacher, Mr. E.  Mr. E. happens to be a certified welder, and he asked us to drive over to the high school.  We crawled our way from the visitor center to the high school, hoping everything held together.  We arrived successfully:

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I disconnected the ground wire from the battery to protect the electronics in the RV from damage from the electrical current imposed on the frame by the welding:

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Mr. E.  used an angle grinder to prep the frame and the broken parts for welding:

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I jacked up the frame to unload the equalizer so the rear leaf spring could slide into place.  Mr. E simultaneously pulled a chain tightly around the rear axle to encourage it into place:

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Welding ensued:

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Mr. E did an amazing job and we were ready to get back on the road!  Thanks so much for your help, and it was a pleasure to meet your students!

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We drove on from Mountainair to arrive at Michelle’s flying field and wing shop, where my wing will be repaired.  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 825: National Cryptologic Museum

Today we said goodbye to our friends in Baltimore (thanks for hosting us!), did some last minute shopping, and hit the road.  We drove south to visit the National Cryptologic Museum adjacent to the NSA campus:

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German code machines and the Colossus machine used to break the code:

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Various Enigma machines:

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In the modern cryptology gallery, this StorageTek Powderhorn robotic data cartridge library was on display.  The robot arm spins between the inner hub and outer rim of cartridges, grabbing the needed data cartridge:

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FROSTBURG, a Thinking Machines CM-5 used by the NSA:

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Cell phones with NSA software layers to allow for encrypted communications:

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Russians gave this wood carving to the US Ambassador as a gift.  It was discovered that a microphone had been built into the carving:

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The kids used an Enigma machine to decode a message:

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We attempted to visit the visitor center at Goddard Space Flight Center, but unfortunately the visitor center closes at 3pm, so we missed that.

We continued south towards the Walmart where we would stop for the night.  Turning a corner, we either hit the curb or an object in the road.  The rear passenger tire exploded.  We pulled over and changed the tire:

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The tire change took eight minutes, not bad!

We limped into the parking lot of the Walmart of Stafford, Virginia.  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.