Wicked

Texas weather sure can be wicked.  Dawny and I awoke to near constant thunder and lightning coming our way early this morning.  My iPhone sounded a warning about an approaching line of severe storms, complete with loads of lightning, heavy rains, and possible heavy winds and hail.  Opening up the Storm app, I felt somewhat reassured as the tornado watch was to the east of us.

Before the sky started to toss giant buckets of rain on our heads, I disconnected our shore power at the box and threw a couple of towels on the windshield to maybe-possibly-hopefully help against hail.  I didn’t even need my flashlight as the nearly constant lightning strikes provided more than enough light, thank you very much.  I have a built-in surge protector that protects my rig’s electronics in case of a power surge coming through the electric box, but I prefer to disconnect when there is lightning.  Gotta protect my surge protector, ya know.

I fed Dawny and settled down with a bowl of cereal in front of local TV news to catch up on their take on the weather.  It looked like we would have just enough time for a good dog walk after the first line of storms swept through and another, angrier line marched in.

* * *

It’s times like this that I really appreciate the self-sufficiency offered by RV living.  After disconnecting from the campground’s electrical system, I still have power.  Two “house” batteries power my lights and ceiling vent fans.  An inverter converts that 12-volt battery power into 110-volts so that I can also use the TV and a couple of electrical outlets connected to the inverter.  My stovetop is propane and the refrigerator and water heater can be switched to operate on propane (although it is prudent to turn the propane tank off in cases of severe weather).

If there is a power outage and I have to rely on the house batteries for a while, then when they get low, I can fire up my onboard generator to recharge them.  The microwave draws too much power for the house batteries, but I can use it when the generator is on (same with the air conditioning and A/C heat strip).  The generator operates off of gas from the gas tank as long as it is at least 1/4 full.  This is one reason why I like to fill up before I drop much below half a tank of gas and I try never to let the propane get too low, either.

Excuse me while I take Dawny on her morning constitutional before the next batch of storms rolls through.

* * *

Back from our dog walk and listening to distant thunder from the next line of storms, I check my Storm app.  It shows a cell with a “tornadic signature” heading in our direction.  In case of tornado, the laundry rooms are the storm shelters for this campground.  Given Dawny’s disdain (to put it mildly) of other dogs, I would not be able to bring her with me in case there was another dog in there.  So I have made plans to “shelter in place” in the RV.  I would put our pillows and blankets under the dinette table then plop the mattress on top of the table and benches.  Hopefully we never need that, but it’s good to have a plan.  After all, this is Texas.

* * *

The storms are passing.  The TV newscasters babble on about sports, shopping, and movies . . . weight loss, local murders, and promises of a sunny afternoon. As usual, I find them annoying.  But comforting, too.  Life goes on.  Or not.  As for me and my doggy, I think it is time to snuggle up for a nap in the comfort of our little home.

Weight Gain

I am SO impressed.  I have only gained 120 pounds since my last weigh-in nearly two years ago!  The best thing is that my rear only gained 35 pounds and the rest of the weight gain was up front, where I have plenty of room to expand.  My side-to-side ratio is still very good, too.  Don’t want to be lopsided when barreling down the highway at 55-60 miles per hour (yes, I am sorry, I am the engine to everyone else’s train… could have something to do with control issues, but more likely simple raw fear and respect while piloting a six-ton vehicle much above waddling speed).

To anyone still confused as to today’s topic, I am talking about the importance of weighing your RV on all four corners.  Not just once, but periodically.  Why?  Because of your tires.  The quintessential rubber hitting the road.

As was explained to me by the weight masters (thanks Al in Florida and Kris in Texas), not only is it critical to not overload your rig, you don’t want a single corner overloaded and you do want to have the sides well balanced.  You can only determine this information if you weigh the load at each corner.  Then you need to inflate your tires to the appropriate pressure for the load they are carrying.  The last thing you want while flying down the road, waving as you pass me by, is to have a tire blow out because you are overloaded and/or under-inflated (the most common cause of blow outs).

Take my rig, for example.  It is a 25 foot Phoenix Cruiser 2351 motorhome (link to the manufacturer’s website for any interested parties: www.phoenixusarv.com).  It’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is 12,500 pounds, with 5,000 pounds maximum allowed up front and 8,500 pounds maximum in the rear.  I have a 55 gallon gas tank mounted near the rear axle and a 38 gallon fresh water tank under the bed near the rear bumper.  If the gas tank and fresh water tanks are full (and I do often travel that way), that is an extra 639 pounds, most of it over the rear axle, before I even load me, my dog, and basic life-sustaining supplies (chocolate and dog cookies) into the rig.  Calculations are based on 8.3 lbs/gallon of water and 6.1 lbs/gallon of gasoline–diesel fuel is 7.1 lbs/gallon.

After my first weigh-in in Florida, it was beneficial to see how close I was to the maximum load on my rear axle.  Thankfully I was under the maximum allowed for the axle, but I only had a couple of hundred pounds to spare.  One area I know I need to work on after this current weighing is my right rear corner which, if you divide the axle weight rating in two, is actually 25 pounds over for that corner, even though the entire axle weight is safely within limits.  The issue is easily solved by carrying just a few less gallons of fresh water when traveling and moving the location I keep my antifreeze.

On the front axle I have lots to spare (only weighing 3,500 pounds with a 5,000 pound limit).  I can also see that my passenger side is 300 pounds heavier than the driver’s side, which Kris says is comfortably within the margin of safety.  Bottom line, I’m in pretty good shape, but if I do add any more weight, I need to keep it off of the right rear and preferably keep the heavier things on the front driver’s side.

On the practical level, this was great information to have in my pocket.  Since being weighed the first time and knowing how heavy my rear was in comparison to the front, I moved all my canned goods, dog food, and cookies to the front left quadrant.  I gradually shifted as much of my paperwork as far up front as possible (including old books that I could not part with when I broke up household).  As I travel, if I acquire new belongings, I do my best to get rid of old items that I have not used and do not need.  Even though I did gain that 120 pounds, I am pretty pleased with the numbers.  It is a really tiny weight gain over two years, and I succeeded in shifting a lot to the front driver’s side.

On the more technical level, once you get your RV weighed and are happy with the distribution, you need to check the inflation chart from your tire manufacturer.  That will tell you the minimum pressure for the weight load that tire is carrying.  You want to do this axle by axle, taking the corner with the heaviest weight and then inflating all the tires on that axle to the appropriate pressure for that weight (with all the tires on an axle having the same pressure).  Kris and other sources say that it is fine to add 10 percent or so to that minimum psi. Also, you should gauge your tire pressure on cold tires before you drive anywhere.

A terrific resource that explains much better than I can is the SmartWeigh section of the Escapees website.  These are also the folks who do the four corner weighings.  Here is a link:  www.escapees.com/smartweigh.  They go into more detail and also cover weight issues associated with trailers and towing.  There is a handy link on their site to tire manufacturer load/inflation charts, as well.  Another favorite resource that I’ve mentioned before is the Escapees forum, which is full of active RV’ers, many of whom have great expertise on all things RV (link:  www.rvnetwork.com).  And don’t forget Mr. Google.  If you keyword “correct RV tire inflation” or some semblance thereof, you will pull up a wealth of info.

That’s it for boring but necessary shop-talk.  I hope everyone has a lovely holiday weekend, filled with love and good food.  I know I will be able to stuff myself without guilt, at least as far as the weight load on that driver’s side tire of the RV is concerned!

(For any of my Phoenix Cruiser friends and visitors or anyone else with a Class C or B+ motorhome, here are the most recent weights in pounds for my 2351 (no slide), fully loaded, full water, gas, and Lp tanks, empty waste tanks, and no toad:  Front Left 1725, Front Rt 1800, Rear Rt 4275, Rear Left 4050, for a total of 11,850 overall, with 3525 on the front axle, and 8325 on the rear axle.  The sides weigh 6075 on the right and 5775 on the left.)

TVtvTVtvTV… Antenna Pointers

Hold your judgement.  I am first in line chastising myself for continued dependence on the darned idiot box.

But this post isn’t about that.

Today I would like to help other TV addicts get their fix with as little stress as possible.  Specifically, it is for RV’ers with the Wineguard Antenna who like to tap into free broadcast signals wherever they go.

Question of the day:  How the heck do I point my Wineguard Antenna to tap into the best signals?

It only took me two and a half years and a visit with John, a smart engineer-rancher (who also has this type of antenna on his RV), to get it figured out.  Up ’til now, my practice was to adjust the antenna’s direction from three to six times and run a channel search with each adjustment, then settle on the best spot.  It takes longer to do that than it does to hook up and set up household when reaching a new camping location.

For his part, John was beyond frustrated by a device that wasn’t making sense to someone of his level of experience and expertise.  So, between my OCD diagramming while running in and out to check on the physical direction of the antenna and his knowledge of exactly where the stations were in his area that were broadcasting the signals I picked up at different antenna settings, we arrived at an answer.

Bottom line, and all you need to know (so no need to read the fluff afterwards if you don’t want to… and apologies for the fluff up to this point):  If your antenna looks like an airplane with a kite’s tail, point the tail in the direction of the city or location from where you know (or suspect) the strongest signals will come.  (The photo at the top of this post shows the tail pointing left.)

Period.

Although…

I did read a great tip on one of the RV forums this morning from a poster named “Dutch.”  Mark the direction the tail points on the inside dial that you use to adjust the antenna.  Then you don’t have to run in and out to double check where it is pointing.

As for knowing where the directions of the compass lie as you manipulate the dial, if you have a smart phone, you probably have a compass app, or can easily get one.  Gotta love the power of simplicity.  Thanks John, “Dutch,” and i-phone.

(Post dedicated to Carol and John, my Texas rancher friends, occasional travel buddies, and hosts who simply brim with southern hospitality.  Thanks for a great visit and all the leftovers!)