Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Banks! (Another non RVing Post)

Chipmunk & Peanuts

I have some advice for all of you.  DO NOT LET YOUR BANK BE SOLD!!! 

While I can't really do anything about it, my bank that I've been using for the last 25 years has decided to get out of upstate NY.  Since there isn't a branch of the new bank they sold their accounts to in Oswego, the new one with my checking & savings accounts will be in the same building with the same people as the old bank. So far, so good.

While they announced the sale almost a year ago, everything went on hold while the FTC or who ever deals with what bank can be in what part of the country decided if the deal could go through. Unfortunately, they just announced that the actual change will take place in mid May when I will be at least 2000 miles away.

1st interesting point - they sold the checking & savings accounts to one bank & the Credit Cards to another so discussing any problems means dealing with 3 banks. The next interesting problem - all current credit cards, debit cards & terminal access cards will stop working as of May 20th, as will on line access to the accounts.  Even my "high interest" (insert laughter here) on line savings account which is only indirectly connected to the old bank (I have to use the ATM to make deposits or withdrawals, not a teller) will be transferred to the new bank.

According to the old bank, no problem; the new banks will send new cards well prior to that date which can be activated after the 18th.  Since the cards must be activated before use (from your home phone) it is a bit of a problem for me.  They also announced that any automatic deposits, withdrawals  will probably stop working and on line bill paying will definitely stop working on the 20th. Since I have my retirement funds electronically deposited & pay all my bills with on line bill paying, that is going to be a problem.

Even if I could figure out where I'd be for long enough to give them an address & wait for mail, they will not send cards to a post office general delivery, so there is no practical way for me to get the new cards. The new bank is fairly local - branches in NY & PA only, so out west I don't have the ability to visit a branch.

The old bank says that's an interesting problem - talk to the new bank; the new banks say they don't have much information from the old bank so they don't know yet how smoothly the transfer will take place. They do assure me that they won't lose any of my money, however I may not be able to access any of it until I return in September.

My rather ridiculous solution is to open new accounts at a branch of the new bank located in a near by town, apply for new credit cards with the new branch, re enter all the on line bill paying information, change all the automatic payments & withdrawals to the new accounts (hoping that I remember all of them, particularly the ones I only pay every 6 months or once a year), transfer enough money to cover the expenses of the trip to the new accounts (in case I can't access the on line savings account after the 20th), & hope that when I get back I can deal with all the duplicate accounts.  My current bank tells me there will be no problem letting the replacement credit cards that will be mailed to me by May 18th sit unactivated until I get back in September. I wonder what effect all the new cards & accounts will have on my credit score?

At least the people at the new bank have been great.  Not much they can do about the unknowns, but they have been more than helpful setting up things in the short time I have before I leave. The District Manager says she can solve any problems that crop up over the phone - sure hope so!

All this makes you think about how "convenient" electronic banking has become.  Sure, you can pay bills from any place you can access the internet, withdraw money anywhere in the country, or world for that matter, but making a change sure is a lot of work!

Till next time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Introducing the "Safari Wagon"

The "Safari Wagon"

Well, I can now call the RAV4 the "Safari Wagon" (Yes, the forsythia are in bloom & it is March.) A very strange spring for Oswego! Anyhow, while not really a trailer modification, the job is done -  (A tire cover is on order)

And, I definitely need to get started on this trip - I have too much time on my hands. I added a under sink filter to the trailer so if I hook up to or pick up some bad tasting water I can still enjoy my coffee. The first filter I tried was a Whirlpool one designed for refrigerators (there isn't enough room in the utility compartment for a standard under sink filter). While I liked the fact that you could change the Whirlpool filter with a 1/4 turn twist, it leaked at the "O" rings. I got on Whirlpool's web page, started a "Chat" session with them & they insisted that they didn't make the product (even though their trademark is on the instructions). Eventually, they gave me an 800 number to call to get help. Called, and they insisted that the refrigerator filter was a whole house filter. Eventually, they told me to go back to Loews & buy replacement "O" rings (this is for a brand new filter). Went to Lowes & they gave me a replacement cartridge to try - still leaked, so I pulled & returned it & replaced it with a standard refrigerator in line filter. More difficult to change, but for the amount of water I'll use it probably won't need to be changed more than once a year so it will work.

A photo of the filter is boring - here is one of the faucet:

The New Filtered Water Faucet

Hopefully, this is the last addition to this page, at least until I get underway heading south!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Well, a new day, a new project. As I've mentioned earlier, I don't use the 4 person dinette as a table, but leave it set up as a bed. In fact, I've removed the posts & hardware from the table both to save a bit of weight & so clothing baskets can slide underneath the bed.

While the cushions that are supplied with the Escape work well for sitting, they are too hard for sleeping. My solution for the last couple of trips has been to add a 2" Memory Foam Topper. That made it comfortable, but caused 2 minor problems - the folding table hit the topper and wouldn't fold to its normal storage position. In addition, the AC receptacle on the sink was partially covered by the topper.

My solution was to replace the 4" cushions with a gym mat. We used the gym mat under our air mattress when tent camping - it has a hard & soft side & worked well in the tent so why not try it in the trailer? I has to remove 2 sections & add a round to the top rear corner, but it was 4' wide & fit almost perfectly. Another advantage is it folds in sections, so it is easy to roll back the mattress/topper, fold as many sections as necessary, and get into the under seat storage areas. (Sorry for the shadow in most of the photos - I'm using the Nikon D700's built in flash & it doesn't get along well with the 17 - 35mm zoom lens.)

The Gym Mat

Folded in Place

Folded Back to Access Underseat Storage

I also added a raked mattress to make my doctor happy - some stomach problemsI've been having  seem to improve sleeping on a slant. I had to modify the topper cover to fit both it & the tapered mattress, but in the end it works, and is comfortable. That space at the bottom is on purpose - it lets my toes hang off the bottom!

Topper & Tapered Mattress

There is one last project for me to start -

I've given up on the Run Flat tires that came with the RAV4 Sport model.  As I've previously stated, it was a big mistake - the run flat tires are expensive, only last 20K miles, produce a harsh ride, and are completely useless in snow (while we didn't have a winter this winter, we usually get close to 200" each season).

I purchased a rim & 5 Goodyear Assure Gas Saver tires (for just about what I would have paid for 4 run flats). I'm building a mount to store the new spare tire on the roof rack. While it fits inside the back of the RAV4, it takes up too much space. Since I don't want to spend the $2000.00 quoted by the local junk yard for a RAV4 rear door with a spare tire "bump", let along the hassles of getting it painted, mounted, etc the roof looks good. I suspect it will hurt the gas mileage, particularly when the trailer is not attached, but if it is too bad, I can always move it back inside. Who knows, it may break up the air flow and improve things with the trailer behind it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Photos of Additions & Modifications (Long)

Spring in Oswego, NY
Spring in Oswego came early, and, as usual, very changeable (photos are a couple of days apart).

In any case, I've been discussing trailer modifications in the last couple of posts so now that I'm almost done, I thought some photos of them might be worth posting.

The first shows both the Progressive EMS-HW30C Surge Protector & the Xantrex ProWatt SW 1000 watt inverter. While I installed the surge protector early this summer & it has shut down the trailer a couple of times because of low voltage & once because of reversed polarity, the inverter is new.  I like to make a cup of drip coffee in the morning, and although the coffee pot didn't require a pure sine wave inverter, some things do, so that was my choice.

Rather than adding a transfer switch, I added a dedicated outlet on the side of the sink.  The remote is located in the front of the sink cabinet.

While the Prowatt inverter remote will shut off the inverter completely, I added a heavy duty (200 amp) switch since I prefer to have a way (other than the fuse) to disconnect the input wiring to the inverter. 

I also moved the trailer disconnect switch forward so that it is easier to reach when the dinette is made into a bed (something I have pretty much done permanently).

The next additions are some fancy hooks.  I've been using the 3M temporary hooks, moving them around until I found the most useful locations for them.  I was never sure the hooks would stay on the walls (although they did) so once I found a post on the Escape Forum describing Umbra Folding Hooks, I was "hooked."

The first set is on the refrigerator wall facing the exit door.  I had to cut one hook off the length to make it fit & discovered that there is a steel hinge wire between the hooks. Oh well, I needed a new 10" fine toothed blade for the power miter box anyway!

The second one is on the bathroom wall next to the front dinette.  The photo also shows the C0 detector I added.  I also changed the smoke detector to a dual sensor version that has a hush button - got tired of taking down the one that came with the trailer & stuffing it under the bed covers every time I made toast!

A minor addition is a mirror on the inside of the bathroom door:

I also changed a couple of the LED lighting fixtures for dual LED fixtures.  One is at the head on the bed, and the other on the side of the front dinette where I usually sit.  Although neither was necessary, I like to read & for some reason, the print on paperback books seem to be getting smaller the older I get!

There have been a number of posts on the Casita Travel Trailer Forum (you may need to join to see the post) describing adding a refrigerator light - since my 5 cu ft fridge doesn't have one I thought it would make a good addition.  I used a strip long enough that it could be run up the side & part way across the top above the freezer door, that way I have light in both parts.  Probably should have used white wire to make it pretty, but black is what I had.  If it bugs me enough I'll change it in the future...

A much more involved modification was adding adjustable shelves to the closet.  It came with a closet pole for hanging clothes, however I rarely wear anything that needs hanging, and for the few shirts & jackets that do, I now have the folding hooks.  

I wanted them adjustable because I'm not sure how much space I need on each.  I went a bit overboard on the shelves - they are "stress skin"; 1/8" Luan plywood on the bottom & 1/8" White Cote Masonite Hardboard on top, separated by 1/4" hardwood strips.  I've used the technique for building light weight theatre scenery & it makes very strong, lightweight shelves.

Here are two more changes - I added a square fence post to hold the sewer hose.  The original was a 4" round drain pipe that wasn't large enough to hold a heavy duty hose with a right angle connection. 

I also added a vinyl "" sticker to the back of the trailer.

The rest of the changes are not worth a photograph.  Everything mentioned in the pervious post are done with the exception of the new Marinco Inlet.  I had to return the chrome, screw cover inlet since it was smaller than the hole in the side of the trailer.  I talked with Marinco, and they said they will send me a replacement for the one that the cover failed.  Hope it comes soon - I'd like to finish the projects & get the trailer ready to travel!

Next week the trailer goes for bearing  & brake service, after which it & I will be ready to head south.  Unfortunately, I have a couple of appointments the first week of April, so I'll have to stay in Oswego until then.

Till next time - 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Uncovering the Trailer

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, NY

Today's "Big News" is I pulled the cover off the trailer.  Probably too early since we often have snow even into April, but I have been working on the inside & I'm tired of zipping & unzipping the opening for the door.

I cleaned up the batteries & sprayed some terminal sealer on them hoping to keep them clean.  I also added a "" sticker to the back of the trailer.

I do need to wash it - while I washed & waxed the trailer after my summer trip, I didn't after the fall one & the roof definitely needs a bath.  The weather tomorrow is suppose to be even nicer than today (we hit 57°F today) so I'll wash it then & maybe do some more work on the last project- the shelves in the closet.

Till Tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Working on the "Projects"

The Reflective Pool, Luray Caverns, VA

Well the weather was right for working on the trailer - It was in the 60's today, in fact at 7:00 it is still 60°F out.   Since it is suppose to rain tomorrow, I started on the outside projects first.

Unfortunately, the new mount for the Marinco inlet is smaller than the one currently on the trailer so I'm going to have to live with the old one flapping in the breeze until I can find an exact match.

I did get most of the rest of the projects finished.  I now have a light in the refrigerator.  I mounted the strip of LEDs so that they light both the main section as well as the freezer.  A window alarm magnetic switch takes care of turning it off & on.

The new smoke detector(a dual ionization/smoke) with a hush switch, as well as a C0 detector are now installed as well as the folding clothing hooks & a dual LED overhead light.  I also added 2 dual circuit breakers so each circuit is now on its own breaker.

The most involved project was moving the battery disconnect switch & rewiring the feed to the converter.  It's done & everything works.

I haven't started the shelves for the clothing closet, but I did decide how I'm going to do them.  I'm adding some hardwood strips to the sides that are drilled for adjustable brackets.  I picked up the shelf material & strips - just have to do some layout & drilling to get them installed.  It is a bit tricky since the back of the closet is the outside shell of the trailer & is curved.  I'll probably make 2 shelf sizes, one set for the top & bottom & the other for the deeper middle.

So, I got more accomplished than I expected - must  have been the nice weather.  Now I'm going to wait until midnight & check across the lake for the Northern Lights.  The recent solar flare may produce them here on the southern side of Lake Ontario.

Till next time

Saturday, March 3, 2012

9 Trailer Projects

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park, UT

Not much new in the way of photographs, so I'm going to post some of the older images until I find some new & interesting subjects.

Well it was suppose to hit 50°F today, however at 2:00 it is 41°F and dropping.  I was going to get started on some of the trailer modifications & updates I've planned over the winter but I think I'll wait for it to warm up a bit.

I've got a list of 9 "projects".  For many it is a boring list & you can ignore the rest of the post, but for those interested...

Actually, none of them are critical, but I'm the type that likes to putter around & make improvements.  They include adding a C0 detector and replacing the smoke detector with one that has a "Hush" button - I'm tired of tearing the current one off the wall & stuffing it under the blankets when ever I make toast!

I also have some electrical updates.  Since I added #0 cables to install a 1000 watt sine wave inverter, the #10 wires between the batteries & the converter nom't make sense so I'm going to connect the converter feed to the inverter wiring.

Since I have decided to leave the rear table set up as a bed permanently, I'm also going to move the battery disconnect switch to a more accessible location. Other changes are going to be the addition of additional circuit breakers - currently all the receptacle outlets are wired to one 15 amp breaker.  Since there is room in the converter for additional breakers I rather put some of the receptacles on individual breakers.

I've seen a couple of posts at The Casita Forum  for adding a interior light to the refrigerator. Since mine didn't come with one it is a welcome addition.  Finding a path for the wiring will be interesting but it looks like an useful project.  The last electrical "project" is to replace my Marinco 30 amp inlet.  The door on the current one doesn't stay closed driving down the road.  It flaps in the breeze.  Probably not all that much of a problem (although the hinge pin is getting a little worn) but I have a replacement that has a locking cover.

That's it for the electrical projects - I do have one additional one - I purchased a couple of Umbra Flip Wall-Mount hooks to hang jackets, shirts, etc. Although there is a hanging rod in the closet, I'm going to remove it & add shelves.  I think that will be a better way to store the types of clothing I normally wear while traveling.  The folding hooks will hold the few button down shirts, sweaters & jackets I take with me. I haven't quite decided what kind of shelves I want to add.  The wire closet shelves available at Lowes is one direction, adding some peg board sides & some adjustable wood shelves is another.

That is about it for now.  I do have one "announcement" on the non trailer front - I'm now a National Geographic photographer.  Of course I do have to clarify that a bit - National Geographic Books, not the magazine bought one of my images.

Till next time -