where in southern utah is carmen san diego?

Can anyone guess where I was a couple of days ago when I snapped this picture?

rock steps

the official fruit of the apollo command module simulator

A few days ago, I went to my RV dealer and traded in the generator for a brand new one. The model number is slightly different, but it is actually the same generator – the old model number that graces this unit has “3500” in it, but it’s a 3000 watt generator. Apparently they renamed it with 3000 to reduce confusion.

So far, the new generator seems to have taken care of the pulsing light problem. I will need to do further testing when the temperature raises up into the 40 degree range to know for sure, but I think it’s done.

We still have a few minor issues left with the trailer, but now I have confidence that they will be resolved. Due to lingering snow, we haven’t been able to collapse the trailer, and it snowed again last night. Until I can get it dry and collapsed, I can’t take it back for the rest of the work.

towing yellow citrus

We went up to Access RV on Saturday and pulled the trailer back home. I set it up on Sunday to see how they did on the repairs. At first, things looked pretty good.

Now, of all the things noted on my last post about this topic, two of them are ultra-critical. One is the roof leak and the other is the heater. Most of the rest we could live with for a whole season if we had to.

After I got the roof raised and pulled out one mattress, I noticed that the other mattress had large beads of water on it. If the water had been there more than just a couple of minutes, it would have soaked in and it would have taken longer to see, but we hadn’t had rain or snow for days, and I could not see any water dripping anywhere. I wiped those drops up as best I could with my hand and checked the heater … which didn’t work.

They replaced the inverter on the generator and it claim it is now operating completely within specs. Replacing that part had supposedly made the pulsing better, but did not eliminate it. I plugged in the generator to see how bad the problem was. In a nutshell, it didn’t look any better to me.

As it was now Sunday and the dealer was closed, I gave up and abandoned it for a few hours and spent some time with Kathy planning the camping trips we are going on next summer – assuming our trailer is serviceable. It’s worth noting at this time that I hadn’t set the trailer all the way up. I hadn’t dropped the stabilizer legs or zipped the various canvas bits together, and the supports were not installed to hold the canvas up over the beds.

Later in the afternoon, there was a storm rolling in, so I went out to pack the trailer back down for the storm. As I was pulling the canvas around, the side with the slightly damp mattress suddenly poured several ounces of water down to the ground, and I found that it was very wet on the outside.

It’s a very bad idea to put the trailer away wet, and it was beginning to rain as well, so in frustration, I put the trailer fully together and made sure all the canvas bits were zipped and velcroed in place. Over Sunday night, we got inch or so of snow. Yesterday, I went out to check things over and found that the leak we had noticed on our third campout was a lot worse than we had thought, though I don’t think what it’s done so far is going to result in permanent damage. The canvas itself is holding the water out, even against the snow. I placed a cup and a towel to catch the drips from the roof until things dry out, which I really hope is soon.

Also yesterday, I looked deeper into the heater issue and the generator problem with pulsing lights. I took a bit of cat5 cable and bypassed the thermostat. The heater fired right up and blew out hot air. Then I did some experiments with the generator.

With the generator hooked up to the trailer, I plugged a worklight with a standard incandescent bulb into a trailer outlet. It pulsed just like the 12V lights in the trailer. I then unplugged the trailer completely and plugged the worklight into the generator directly. No pulse. With the light still in the generator, I plugged the trailer into the generator as well. The worklight started pulsing. I believe at this point that the generator is OK. At that point we were dealing with two likely culprits – the power converter and the battery.

The RV dealer claimed they tested the converter ten ways from Tuesday and they think it’s fine, so I decided to check the only thing under my control at the moment – the battery. Kathy and I had talked about getting a second battery and the power isolators necessary to hook up two batteries in parallel and ensure they charge properly, so I went down to Autozone and picked up a second deep cycle marine battery. I hooked it up and made sure everything was working with it, then started the generator. After the generator stabilized, I plugged the trailer into it. The lights got brighter and remained absolutely rock steady. All of the 12V problems we’ve had with the trailer could be explained by a bad battery.

It could still be the power converter, even though the new battery fixed the problem. I believe what was happening was the power converter was sucking additional power to deep charge the battery, and for whatever reason, suddenly deciding that it needed to change modes to trickle charge it instead, and then deciding again that it needed to deep charge it. The big question is whether it was a bad battery providing improper feedback to the converter, or a bad converter unable to charge the battery correctly.

I’m going to need to run the new battery down pretty far to see whether it’s a charging problem on the power converter or if it was in fact the battery with the problem. Either way, this will close the electrical chapter.

Most of the other problems that I noted in the previous post are taken care of. To fix the broken piece that holds down the canvas, they replaced it with a metal equivalent, so I’m going to check to see how much they want to replace the other strips that haven’t broken yet. The new canvas piece is on order, and they even winterized the trailer for free, which was pretty generous. We decided not to mention the screw problem with the curtains, and Kathy did manage to find a way to get them to close all the way.

Unfortunately, this morning we are now getting more snow. I had hoped to have all the previous snow off the roof and be able to close the trailer up before trying to putting a tarp over it, but that may not be possible.

The leak is the last big problem we have left to solve … but when I spoke to the guy who did the work yesterday, he didn’t seem to have any solution for it. I asked him to have the service manager call me, which hasn’t happened yet. It appears now that adding the air conditioner may have been a bad idea, that maybe we should have installed the slim unit that doesn’t weigh as much. The thing about that is, we were not given any choices on the the type of air conditioner to install.

The salesman assured us that their service department could install the AC and there would be no problems with it. We specifically asked them if they would take out the roof fan and put the AC there, and whether the trailer was pre-wired for AC, and we were told yes on both.

When we initially received the trailer and discovered that they had chopped a large hole in the roof for it and run surface-mounted conduit for its electrical, we were very surprised. To now find out that they may not be able to properly seal the hole is more frustrating than I can describe. If they thought the AC would cause problems like this, they should have mentioned it before they installed it. I’m aware that they installed it at our request, but we were relying on their assurance that it would work.

island park wildlife

In July of this year, we went on a massive family reunion campout in Island Park, Idaho. This is just a few miles down the road from West Yellowstone.

One of the really cool things in Island Park is the headwaters of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, a place called Big Springs. The river comes up out of the ground, flowing at the rate of a full river, not a trickle.

The water is pristine and ultra-clear, and fishing is prohibited in the area. There are a large bunch of absolutely enormous trout that you can feed from the bridge that lets cars into the area.

I took several pictures of the fish, and also of the birds and muskrats (i think they were muskrats anyway) that joined them in competition for the bread dropped off the bridge. Some of the better pictures are linked below. The swimming bird is particularly good when viewed at full size.




click for high-res image

counting down to lemon status

Here is a list of the things that are have gone wrong with our trailer. The ones that are crossed out have been fixed. I plan to update this post as things get fixed or new problems arise.

  • The air conditioner trips its 20 amp breaker when the compressor kicks in.
  • The air conditioner kills generator.
  • There is a water leak. It drips from the surface-mounted conduit that feeds power to the air conditioner. My guess is that the air conditioner hole wasn’t well sealed.
  • When the generator is plugged in and the air conditioner is off, the 12V lights pulse from bright to dim. Even though it happens every time, the dealer claims they cannot reproduce this.
  • When accessories are plugged into one of the 12V lights, the fuse blows.
  • After the dealer fixed the short in the accessory socket on the light, the accessory plug falls out of the socket.
  • After our first trip, the Battery was not charging when on house current.
  • Why did the fuse blow that caused apparent dead battery?
  • The battery completely discharged after second trip, trailer was sitting closed with everything off for a couple of days.
  • The power converter gets quite warm and its fan runs when charging the battery. All appliances are turned off at the time.
  • One of the straps that holds door when trailer is down has a stripped screw.
  • Part of the trim that holds down the canvas on the dinette pullout broke on the first trip.
  • The power lifter does not raise the trailer all the way. We have to hand-crank the last inch or so.
  • The bed curtains on both ends do not close all the way. A screw was installed too close to the track.
  • The dealer patched a hole in the canvas and told us a new one has been ordered.
  • The heater died completely on the second night of our second trip. The manual claims this may be a bad relay.

I think the dealer’s service department is probably fed up with dealing with us. It took much longer than expected for initial delivery because they ran into trouble during air conditioner installation. We’ve had the trailer up there a few times since then for the issues that are fixed already, and even for some of them that aren’t.

The generator and general power troubles make me suspect that the converter is either broken or got wired wrong when they installed the air conditioner. The pulsing does not occur with my brother-in-law’s generator, but strangely my generator was able to power his trailer, with a larger air conditioner unit, with no troubles.

Unfortunately, Utah’s lemon law only applies to the vehicle chassis portions of an RV, and the law specifically says “motor home”, so if this actually turns out to be a lemon, I’ll be at the dealer’s mercy.

miners, not minors!

We had our maiden trailer voyage last weekend. We went with our good friends Nick and Niki, a husband and wife team. Both Kathy and Niki have written LiveJournal articles about the trip.

We left town at about 5:00 PM, and stopped off in Eagle Mountain to drop off two of our kids at their grandmother’s house. One of them had a telescope class to take from my brother in-law that weekend, and the other had a badly sprained ankle. About 5:45, we finally got on the road for real.

Finding the campground was a major adventure. We had reservations at Lake Hill campground, which is 5 miles up Ephraim Canyon. When we first made it to Ephraim, we could not find the road to get to the canyon. We went back to the single stoplight in town and went east, hoping that might do it. Turns out that it didn’t, but right at the point where that road turned to dirt, there were a bunch of people out on the street, so we stopped and asked for directions.

The directions sounded good, detailed enough for us to find the road easily. The problem was that the restaurant the man mentioned, China Gate, does not exist in Ephraim. On our way, we did see one named Snow Dragon, but we pressed on, looking for China Gate.

We were halfway to Manti before we discovered it didn’t exist. We then found that there wasn’t anywhere to turn a trailer around until we got to Manti, so we called Nick and discussed options with him. Kathy knew about a campground near Manti called Palisades, and had heard that it was posh enough that it was almost not camping at all. So we kept going, hoping to find it. We saw a National Forest sign that said “campground 6 miles”, and followed it.

It was one of the worst dirt roads ever. Six bumpy and slow miles later, we found ourselves at the Manti Community campground. This might have worked out OK, except that it was completely full. Our estimation of the place was colored by this fact, combined with our horrible experience getting there, topped off with the fact that it was now 9:15 PM and completely dark.

With few options at this point, we conferred and decided to head back to Ephraim. We were worried that our reserved spot was going to be taken by someone else since we couldn’t make it on time. When we got there, we decided to try the road where the Snow Dragon lives, since it appeared to be the only chinese restaurant in the town.

This road, 400 south, turned out to be the right road. It even had a nice dark brown Forest Service sign visible from the south. A sign mostly covered up with colorful neon paper signs to the point where you could just barely make out that the sign said “Ephraim Canyon” with a big arrow pointing east. If we hadn’t been slowing down to make the right turn, we would not have seen the sign.

This road was like glass compared to the earlier one. It’s still a steep dirt/gravel road (goes up almost 3000 feet in the span of five miles), but they have been doing road construction on the section that goes to Joe’s Valley Reservoir, a large lake much further up the canyon. It was freshly graded, with reflective marker poles every 50 feet or so. It was so well done that if they don’t actually pave that road this summer, it’ll be a total waste of effort. The posted speed limit was 20, but we were doing 25-30 except on the numerous switchback turns.

At 10:00 PM, we managed to finally reach the campground. After another minor struggle trying to get someone to move their truck so we could exit the wrong loop without resorting to driving backwards with a trailer, we got to our campsite. In the meantime, Nick and Niki got turned around and found their way to the campsite. By the time we got there, they had a roaring fire going. Kathy got the trailer backed into the site and we finally got it set up. Because it was so late, Nick and Niki took our offer of using the queen bed in the trailer, which they repeated the following night.

The trailer is SO nice. Raindrops are very loud on the roof, but it keeps out water beautifully. Having a king-size bed to sleep on is wonderful, even if it’s a few inches shy of being a REAL king.

One of the things we picked up on the way out of town was a fishing license for me. I hadn’t been fishing in over 5 years. I have a small collection of simple gear, which I went through before we left. There were several jars of powerbait and a couple of jars of marshmallows. The marshmallows were hard as a rock, but all the 5 year old powerbait was as good as new.
Lake Hill Reservoir is very small. I’d guess it’s about an acre in total area. It’s heavily stocked with trout … you can see them jumping every few minutes.

Ben was very excited about fishing, and went with me down to the lake. I got him going with his little pole, and on the second cast he had hooked himself a fish – the biggest one we caught that day. We had it landed, unhooked, and on a stringer before I ever got my tackle set up. A little later, the other two kids (my daughter and one of Kathy’s daughters) we brought with us came down with Kathy to watch, and the girls decided they wanted to fish too.

On that first day, we kept four fish – the one that Ben caught, one that Kathy’s daughter caught, and two that I caught. One of them was probably too small to keep, but it was hooked very deeply and wasn’t going to live if we had released it. I did not have a fishing procalamation, so I wasn’t sure how the bag limits worked for unlicensed kids. As it turns out, each kid gets to keep a full bag limit even without a license, but we didn’t know that until we returned home to the Internet.

When we landed the fourth fish we were keeping, we called it a day and came back. The girls were so excited about it that we let them go back to the lake with all the tackle on their lines except hooks, to practice casting. Later that day I cleaned the fish and cooked them on the grill, basically steaming them in margarine inside a tin-foil oven. My daughter and I ate most of it, but we finally convinced Kathy and her daughter to try it, and they loved it. Kathy had tried trout before, but that came from the store, and doesn’t compare in any way to freshly caught fish.

The next day, I took the barbs off the hooks so we wouldn’t be as likely to deeply hook a fish, and we went out again. We got lots of bites, but the missing barbs meant a lot more fish got away. The kids caught quite a few small ones that I released. The two girls ended up catching fish at the same time, and they were both good size, so we kept them. I wasn’t having anything beyond bites, until I remembered the night crawlers I had bought at the same time as my fishing license. I put those on my unbarbed hook and started actually reeling in fish. A number of them got away before they could be landed, but in the end I kept two that were pretty good sized – one was about a foot long. That once again brought us up to my four trout bag limit, so we called it a day and went back to strike camp.

Bringing down camp is easier with the trailer than with tents and cots. I think we only spent about an hour and a half foliding everything up and getting it stowed. That might seem like a lot of time, but it took us a lot longer at Island Park last month. I suspect that when we finally manage to get everything down to a good system, we’ll spend even less time.

The campground was pretty decent. Although we never used it, we did have the possibility of hooking up the trailer to a water faucet. It was actually a shared faucet between campgrounds, but the other people would have still been able to get water when we were hooked up. There was a nice firepit, and a big picnic table that we covered with our 10×10 canopy.

It was not hot enough to fire up the generator and use the A/C, so we ran the fridge on propane and the everything else on the batteries. The heater worked beautifully, but only turned on a few times each night.

We hope to go out for a 3-day trip on Labor Day weekend with Nat and his family. Still working on details to see whether it’ll happen.