Friday, October 25, 2019

Solenoid Annoys

Last night we tried to retract the slide once again before driving back down to Jax from Matt's house. It wouldn't work, didn't even make any clicking noises; there was no indication that the motor was getting any power.  Just before we went to bed, Larry mentioned that he thought the problem must be the solenoid, which is located underneath the camper carriage in a compartment just left of the house door.

When we arrived at Matt's house this morning, I tried to operate the slide again and it worked!  So, Larry and Matthew removed the solenoid and tried to find a new one locally, but it turns out that it is a somewhat specialty part.  Larry called the manufacturer based in Milwaukee and they directed us to a distributor in Ocala, Florida.  The new solenoid should arrive next week.

I went out and bought a hanging shoe rack for the smaller closet, and later removed some wood framing so that Larry can rework the space above the cab where the tv used to be located.  Larry removed old sealant and applied new sealant around the rear roof seam.  It was pretty humid today, and I felt tired by the time we drove home. 

Larry untangling the mess of wires to remove the solenoid.

The slide solenoid is the cylindrical silver object behind the wires.  You can just see the other solenoid to the right of the silver one, and it looks like it was replaced not too long ago.
Made in Milwaukee! I'm hoping replacing this part will result in no more slide problems, though it is possible to use the camper when the slide is retracted. 

Larry working on resealing some seams.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Slip Sliding Away

We headed over to Fernandina to my brother Matthew's house just before noon to work on a few projects on the Winnie.  Larry installed the t-valve on the propane tank and ran a line into the interior to operate a small propane heater we purchased. The propane line will be handy if we want to bring along a small out door grill in the future.

Later, Larry tried to expand the slide and it wouldn't work, wouldn't even make any sounds, so power is not getting to the motor. Matt and I drove to an auto parts store to buy a new switch for it, but the switch did not solve the problem.  I started calling around to RV repair shops to see if anyone could get us in and found a fellow in St. Mary's, Georgia who agreed to see us tomorrow. It's an easy drive across the state line, and hopefully he can track down the problem.

My brother Matthew's man cave work shed. It is much bigger than the photo indicates.  He is a  fixer and a builder of projects. He plans to spend a lot of time here when he retires from the FAA next May.

Matt and Larry working on the slide.

It was wonderful to spend time with Matt, I don't get to see him and his wife Kendra very often. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


After visiting the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in Plains, Georgia, we drove straight through to Jacksonville.  It was really nice to come home to our winter place. This house had been in foreclosure and was in very poor shape when my sister bought it in 2014.  She hired a crew to work on it, and they essentially rebuilt the inside and out.  We have been doing the finishing touches on it every winter since her purchase. It has been a wonderful place to escape the winter to, all due to the generosity of Stephanie 💖!

We drove the Winnie up to Fernandina Beach, about 30 miles north of Jax, to store it at my brother Matthew's house so that we can get a few things done to it before hitting the road. The neighborhood here in Jacksonville is older and the streets are too narrow to park the Winnie out front and we didn't want to aggravate our neighbors.

We plan to be here for about ten days before heading west to Texas to visit my brother Mark in Dallas before meeting up with our Mexico group on November 15.

View of the front yard of the Valencia house. Stephanie has hired a yard service to keep up with the lawn during the spring and summer. Everything looked lush!

View of backyard deck that Larry and his brother John built last spring. Larry has to add a coating of deck preservative to it before we depart for Texas.

The bananas that Stephanie planted last fall next to the garage are very tall now, and we were surprised and delighted to see two bunches of fingerling bananas!

A view of the other bunch and the partially opened banana flower. Too bad we won't be here to eat the bananas!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


We've been camping at US Army Corps of Engineering campsites when we can find them. Saturday night we stayed at Bo Wood, Lake Shelbyville, Illinois, and Sunday night at Cages Bend on the Cumberland River in Tennessee.

Pelicans on Lake Shelbyville. 

Our campsite on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. ACE campsites are often on terraces with paved, level camp pads below. 

We hiked the West Rim Trail at Cloudland Canyon state park in northwest Georgia on Monday morning. Ended up getting a little lost, hiking longer than planned and didn't get on the road until noon.

Reflecting pool at Cherokee Falls. The water doesn't start running off until the winter and spring months. 

Main overlook

View as we made our way south out of the park. Even though it was past noon, the visibility was limited along highway 136.

We stayed at the Army Corps R. Sheaffer Heard Park near West Point Georgia last night and are headed to Plains, Georgia today.

Friday, October 18, 2019


We decided to stay an extra night at home since we were bushed from packing and readying the house to be unoccupied. We had dinner in Afton at Skip's and ran into Marc and Bonnie, a couple who play bridge with us and had a nice chat.  This morning, we walked down to the Citrus Cafe on Main Street to eat breakfast, and managed to get on the road before 11.  Once we were on the road, I thought about the house and whether we forgot anything, and I think that we were wise to stay the night to give ourselves time to run out of things to do and be thoroughly comfortable leaving.

I did most of the driving today while Larry monitored the solar system and tried to track down road noises. Road and wind noise is significant, so we are trying to limit our day to under 300 miles. Slowing down to 55 helps with the noise, and it is easier to listen to the radio; the tradeoff, of course, is more time driving and listening to road noise! We'll figure out a balance somehow.  

Tonight, we are staying near Shelbyville, Illinois at an ACE campground, Bo Woods. The campsite cost $8 for the night.  It is clean and quiet. Some of the trees are starting to turn color. It is noticeably warmer here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Solar Installation

I haven't posted in a while, we have been busy finishing a floor project in our house. Our house has a rear addition that was added in the 1930's that had been subdivided into two rooms.

Before view of dividing wall. The combined number of windows between the two room is 12.  We decided to remove this wall and open up the space.

View of wall from other side. One of the complications of removing this wall was that though the floor was the original maple, the rear part of the addition had had other flooring installed on top of it and the surface had been ruined. The entire floor had to be removed.

Larry working on removing the dividing wall. Much to our surprise, the electrical wires appeared to have been installed before the 1940's. We had to hire an electrician to clean out the old posts and tubes.

We had to hire plumbers to remove one of the four radiators in the addition in preparation for a future  bathroom remodel. Each radiator weighs 800 lbs!

Once the wall was removed, we removed all the old maple flooring and the remaining three radiators, installed sub flooring and a moisture barrier, and eventually new maple flooring.

View of the almost finished room. Floor was sanded and a water based coating applied. The remaining three radiators were painted and reinstalled. The addition faces south and is flooded with sunlight and is a very pleasant space to use in the winter. Larry will have some carpentry work to do after we return from our trip next spring.

So, once we finished this project, we turned our attention to readying the camper for the trip.

I found an online source for information on our planned solar installation and bought the panels and all in one solar charger unit in September. We decided to find someone to install the charger unit in the camper as Larry needed some help understanding how a 24 volt system would work in a 12 volt vehicle. 

After calling around to various rv dealerships and running into some resistance about installing a somewhat unconventional system, we were referred to a local self employed engineer, Petur Sigurdsson, who worked with Larry to get the system installed and running.

View from upstairs window. Larry installed four 100 watt panels.

We purchased sixteen 50 volt LiPo batteries from a solar installation company in Utah that sells its slightly used batteries on eBay.  Each cell was $50 for a total cost of $800, well below the cost for a single unit battery of the same capacity (Battleborn batteries are almost $1,000 each).

The MPP Solar all in one unit we purchased for about $600. It has everything included to run a 24 volt system. Petur and Larry installed a step down device to convert 24 volts to 12 volts. It works well!

View of the LiPo batteries. All 16 fit into the house battery box. The charger unit is mounted directly above on the curved wall behind the drivers seat.  Larry installed foam insulation sheets around the battery compartment on the outside of the box.

View of the camper looking forward. We removed the tv and DVD player that the previous owner installed. We also removed the swivel seat for more floor space. 

Our Mexico group leader, Kevin, recommended purchasing a Mr Heater Buddy propane heater (bottom right in the photo) in case we need extra heating capacity for the camper. I fashioned a strap and some cushioning for the heater, since storage is limited in the camper. 

So we plan to leave Wisconsin either Wednesday or Thursday and head down to Jacksonville, Florida for a visit with relatives.