Day 599: Installing the New Oven

Shabbos was just a bit on the hot side of comfortable, with highs in the high 80s.  We had lunch with Rabbi and Mrs. H and their children, which is always a pleasure!

Today we moved back to my parents’ house from the synagogue.  This will use up the last 24 hours of the 72 hours per month we’re allowed to be parked in front of their house, so tomorrow we will have to move on.

Today’s project was to replace the RV range with a residential range.  Our current oven is about the size of a microwave oven, and Trish could really use more space for cooking more elaborate Shabbos and holiday meals.  Here’s what we started with:


The first step was to remove the range:




Next I removed the cabinetry and countertop around the range, leaving a 34” wide alcove for the new range:


Next I added an outlet for the residential range and modified the propane plumbing to attach to the new range while preserving the quick release propane connector for our catalytic heater


After replacing the natural gas orifices in the cooktop and making a few other adjustments in the oven, the new range was ready to run on propane instead of natural gas.  After attaching the propane line and plugging into the new outlet, the new range is ready to go:


The only down side is that the oven seems to keep the 400-watt electric igniter on whenever the oven is heating (as opposed to turning off once the gas is ignited), so we will have to be careful not to use the oven for several hours when the solar system isn’t charging the battery.

Day 589: 12 Gallons of Water Found Hiding in RV

No doubt so our RV manufacturer could save money by using lighter duty suspension components, our RV only has a 45 gallon fresh water tank, which is on the small side for an RV of this size.  Most RVs used by fulltimers have at least 100 gallons of fresh water on board.  In turns out to not be that big of a deal for us, as we can last about 5 days on 45 gallons of water, and we tend to go out on trips or to do errands frequently enough that we fill up our 45 gallon water bag in the bed of our pickup and bring the water back to the RV. A few times, though, we’ve run out of water and have been forced to make a special trip just to get more water.

Water in the RV is pumped from the fresh water tank into the plumbing to create water pressure at the sink and shower.  Cold water is also pumped into the 12 gallon water heater.  The pressure on the cold side pushes the heated water out of the water heater into the hot water lines.  When there’s no more water in the fresh water tank, hot water no longer gets pushed out of the water heater, so it just sits there.

I realized we could use this 12 gallons of water heater water if we could access it.  I removed the anode rod from the tank and added a T fitting which allowed me to screw the anode rod back into the T fitting and install a garden hose attachment on the side:


I then attached the other end of the hose to the fresh water fill attachment on the RV, and set the fill mode to “winterize”, which uses the onboard pump to draw from the fill attachment, not from the fresh water tank.  This is normally used to draw anti-freeze into the RV’s plumbing for winter storage, but in this case I’m sucking water out of the water heater and making it available for use!  We now have 12 gallons of water we can use in a pinch if we empty our fresh water tank.

For this to work, I have to open the pressure valve at the top of the water heater so that air can enter the tank to replace the water removed.  I installed a screen over the valve to prevent bugs from crawling into the water heater through the vent.  I also installed a screen between the hose and the RV pump so that any scale or other particles from the water heater aren’t ingested by the pump.

Just for fun, we lived on water heater water for the whole day!  

This afternoon, B and I went for a ride “around the block”.  Much of the Forest Service road was quite rough, and we passed a dead rattlesnake on the road!  At one point, there were cows all over the road, which made B nervous, so I rode ahead and encouraged them to move along.

Day 501: Battery Charger Rewire

We had a nice Day 500 Shabbos in Las Vegas! Last night we had a Chanukah party with our parents, which was nice.

Today I tried to salvage the staircase the was damaged in Alaska by cutting off the bottom-most stair. This allowed me to at least get the staircase to unfold, but after 30 minutes of sledgehammer lovin’, I still couldn’t get the staircase back to a shape that would allow me to mount it back on the RV, so I gave up on it.

The RV’s battery charger, which is powered by our generator on those rare occasions when we strike out with solar, is wired with 6 gauge wire, and is about 20 feet from the battery, which I believe adds enough of a voltage drop (1.19 volts according to the math) to dramatically reduce the ability of the charger to actually charge the battery. I moved the battery charger about 2 feet by wire away from the battery, and used much thicker 2 gauge wire. Voltage drop should now be 0.047 volts. The charger is the silver box in the photo:


Tomorrow I’ll break out the A/C plug for the charger so it pops out near the propane quick release for the generator. This will save me from having to run an extension cord from the generator all the way to the chassis A/C input on the rear of the RV, like I’ve been doing so far.

This had been on the todo list for months, so I’m happy to finally get to it.

While I was rewiring the RV, Trish went boot shopping with Grandma DiAnn. Sounds like they had a lot of fun!

Tonight we’re overnighting at Camping World, as we have to do a couple more errands in town tomorrow before we can head out to Jean Lake.

Day 313: Your Call Cannot be Completed as Dialed, eh?

The signage in the Walmart lot said “3 hour parking”.  We had called ahead yesterday and been given permission to overnight, but I was still nervous (what Trish calls my “everyone is out to get us” syndrome) so we drove away a bit after 8am.  We parked a couple blocks away and the kids did homeschool with Trish while I went in search of cell service.

AT&T’s Canadian rates are outrageous, so I walked to the nearest Roger store, which happened to be across the street from a Telus store.  I had to note store locations before we crossed the border, as we had no cell coverage once we crossed over.

In the end, I signed up with Telus.  My phone is still in the two-year contract period with AT&T, so they wouldn’t unlock the phone to work with another carrier’s SIM card, so we used Tricia’s phone, which is out of contract.  For $30 we get 1GB of data, usable over the next 30 days.  Inbound calls are 50 cents a minute, but by adding a $5 texting plan for the month, that rate drops to 15 cents a minute.

Our Google Voice numbers, which we have to dodge AT&T’s texting charges, won’t forward for free to the Canadian cell phone number, so I signed up for a $10 a month hosted FreePBX.  I registered a couple US DIDs with the PBX, set up rules to forward inbound calls received by the DIDs to the Canadian cell number, then set up Google Voice to forward to the US DIDs.  So it went from this:

Google Voice –> US cell phone

…to this:

Google Voice –> US DID –> FreePBX –> Canadian cell phone

This gets around the Google Voice limitation of free forwarding only to US numbers.  Since Google Voice is forwarding to a US DID, Google Voice is happy.

On the outbound call side, it costs 65 cents a minute, down from one dollar a minute thanks to the addition of the $5 texting plan.  Using FreePBX, I turn a 65 cent per minute outbound call into a 15 cent a minute inbound call by enabling callback on the PBX.

Of course, all of this is in case I can’t use the data connection on the phone to make a VoIP call using a softphone client on my phone, which makes the call effectively free.

To avoid data charges, I set this all up in the Telus store using their free WiFi.

Continuing North, we stopped at the Walmart and Home Depot of Squamish, BC to cobble together an antenna cowling for the WiFi Antenna which was damaged by low hanging branches yesterday.  It is considerably more vulnerable atop a 13 foot high 5th wheel than it was atop a 10 foot high travel trailer.

As Home Depots go, this one was quite stately.  I think the mountains and the Canadian flag lend a certain gravitas, don’t you?


Rather than take Route 1, we took the shorter but less traveled route 99 through the coast range.  The drive was amazing, which majestic mountains plunging into Lions Bay.  Heading inland, climbing to 4,000 feet, we drove through the clouds, the road reduced to insignificance as it wound between steep mountain faces towering thousands of feet above.  Bridges over storm fed streams were one lane, wood decked affairs.  We glimpsed several hanging waterfalls and passed the resorts of Whistler and finally descended several 13% grades to pass by the modest mountainside town of Lillooet.  There weren’t any good pullouts for photography, but the drive was spectacular, the ignored smaller sibling of the drive through Banff and the Canadian Rockies.

Meeting up with Route 1 a bit North of the town of Cache Creek, we continued North through the towns of 100 Mile House and Lac la Hache to arrive at the Walmart of Williams Lake, BC for the night.  We arrived at 11:30pm, about 45 minutes after twilight surrendered to night.  We will be in the Land of the Midnight Sun soon!  See the trip map for details.

Tidying up the electronics

I had a spare moment one morning this past week, so I turned a mass of wires and boxes laying on the bottom of the cabinet into a wall-mounted model of efficiency.  Pictured here are the back of the stereo, our WAP, the PoE adapter for the WiFi antenna, and the booster for our cell antenna.