Soldatna & Kenai City

We got to our campground early in the afternoon and set up camp.  It wasn’t long before it started to rain and the camp roads became a muddy mess very quickly.   That evening we noticed the water in our Brita pitcher had a brown tint and the water in the toilet looked the same,  It was even more noticeable in the toilet since the porcelain is so bright white.   Turns out it’s a known thing and was “safe” to drink.  Hopefully…

I went out and bought 10 gallons of drinking water and made sure I didn’t fill the fresh tank with that stuff.   We noticed that a Fantasy Tour group that had pulled in one evening didn’t even connect to the water.  They were warned not to by the tour company.  It was a fairly expensive campground and they didn’t even tell us about the problem.  You can fill up for free at the Fred Meyers in Soldatna with clean City Water.  Next time I will know.

We were there the July 4th week, so we drove over to the 4th of July Parade in Kenai City with our chairs.   It was a pretty long parade that had lots of things not seen in other 4th parades in my past, specifically, tow trucks and race cars and even small children in go carts.   The one thing we missed was marching bands. There was not even one.  I guess that’s what happens when music class is cut from school curriculum’s.  At least the Shriner’s were there in their odd little cars.   Hard to imagine a 4th of July Parade without the Fez’s.

One afternoon we decided to take a drive to the beach, it was almost sunny and a bit cold but we braved it anyway.  Figured it might take an act of god to get us out of the car.   We headed south on Kalifornsky Beach road.  We went past Kalifornsky Beach and all the way down to Kasilof Beach Dipnetting fish camp.   It was a couple days before Dipnetting season but there were hundreds of cars, tents and trailers lining the road down to the beach.   We drove all the way down, to a spot that I figured was far enough as after that it looked like loose beach sand.  Got turned around and headed back toward Kenai City.   Along the route Kathy spotted 3 moose along the tree line near the road and I was able to slow down and she got a few pictures.  I was one cow moose and two baby moose.   Then about 10 minutes further up the road there was a very large bull moose just a foot off the road, by the time I saw him i was concerned he might jump in front of us.   He didn’t, but I looked back and he was meandering across the highway behind us.  Yikes.  He had to be 9-10 feet tall.  Having that coming thru your car windshield could ruin a lot more that just your day.

It’s been so cold and rainy, Kathy had to go to the sporting goods store and buy long underwear, socks, and a better jacket!  Now the sun should come out after spending the money!  We hope 🙂

The last evening in town we checked out St. Elias Brewery and had some wonderful pizzas!  And of course the beer was fantastic too.

Here are some of the 4th parade pics..






Starlink In-Motion Research and Installation

Getting the correct information about this new SL In-Motion option was not as easy as it should have been.   I read a lot of blog posts and watched a lot of  half baked youtube videos.  Every one of them left out the two most critical pieces of information I needed to make sure this was feasible:   How large of a hole do you need to get the cable into the motorhome and any information about using a third-party router without using that low-spec SL router.

I watched one video of an installer drilling a 1.5″ hole in his roof for the cable from the Dishy.   He apparently didn’t know the other side of that cable was a .6″ connector.   Slightly larger than a 1/2″ hole was all that was  needed.   And this In-Motion Dishy comes with an Ethernet cable built in, which was perfect to plug into our Max Transit.

I finally got to see what comes in the box while attending Escapade Tucson in March, and I was able to measure the cable hole size requirements with a tape measure and also look at the Ethernet cable it comes with so you can leave the obsolete SL router in the box.   After that I was ready to pull the trigger.

When we got home, I ordered mine thru  It drop-shipped via Fedex from Winegard the next day.  It arrived in San Diego less than a week later.  When I got home, I unboxed it immediately as there was a hole in the box.  I wanted to make sure everything was in good shape and all the cables I expected to be there were there!

It all looked good.   I set up a table out front on the driveway and hooked it up with a small travel router I’d used in the past.  It started working within minutes and I was a happy camper!  I figured I would let it run till it got dark out, then bring it back in the garage.  Then I’d deploy it in the backyard in the morning for a few days to “burn in” while I got the motorhome roof ready to mount it.

I decided to use a 12″ square piece of 5962 VHB from  5962 is slightly thicker.  That would give me 144 square inches of bond.   The wedge mount was a bit smaller than that size, so I purchased a piece of 5150 1/8″ sheet aluminum and counter sunk some flat head screws from the bottom up thru the wedge mount and locked them with Nylock nuts.  Now I had the 12×12 square that would hold the SL In-Motion Dishy to the roof and it would be difficult to remove.  I used CSL silicone to surround it and over the nuts to prevent water from trying to get under it and possibly pop it off if I was ever in a spot that it could freeze.



I cleaned the area of the roof a few days prior with Acetone and then the day of with alcohol and roughed it up with 200 grit sandpaper.   It was as clean a surface as I was going to get it.  Then I brought up the wedge and placed it where I thought it should go, brought up the Dishy and mounted it to look at clearances for the A/C and spotlight.   Both were far enough away to not be part of any obstructions to the view of the Dishy and it looked straight from the ground way in front of the coach.    I then marked the roof with a Sharpie so I knew where it needed to be glued down.

It was a nice warm day, probably 80 degrees, perfect for the VHB to bond to the fiberglass; so I put it in its place and slowly pealed off the red cover a little at a time to make sure it stuck in the correct spot.  I used some heavy tool steel to hold it down after I was done pushing it down for a while.   A few hours later I gave the wedge mount a yank and realized the roof would probably come off first before the wedge did.  It was well bonded.   If I needed to get that wedge off,  I will need to cut off the bolts.

The next morning I installed the Dishy on the wedge and wired it up and put the small end thru my roof access port and snaked that wire over to the cabinet I installed the POE device in that it plugs into.    That POE device is plugged into an outlet that is supplied by the inverter.  It’s a really large device that uses 80 watts of power almost all the time.   If you use the Dishy’s sleep mode, that cuts the power by 1/2, to 40 watts, which isn’t really a light load for something that can be running on batteries often.

The next part of the project was to connect the Starlink into my existing internet system, namely, making it a WAN connection on my Max Transit cellular router.   The most interesting part of the equation was the Starlink was providing internet access thru the Max as soon as it was connected, no configuration other than the WAN wired port was in the Priority 1 position beforehand.

Then I started testing the SL app on the phone and noticed it would only connect using its “remote” feature.  It wouldn’t connect as local.   Without the local function, some of the Dishy configuration was not accessible.

I could find nothing about getting it to work via the Max.  A few days of posting on the Peplink forum, I got a response from a vendor out of Texas that sent a picture of a part of the configuration that allowed my app to connect local.   I had to edit that WAN connection and add an address.  Then I had to add a DNS entry: =    Once done, my app would connect local to the Dishy.   We were done!!!


UPDATE 2 weeks into our Alaska trip we are in Glacier National Park in Canada.  The In Motion Dishy has NOT lost connectivity yet.   Which was totally unexpected camping in canyons and under trees many times during this journey so far.   As we get further north I expect that to change as the Starlink 3rd party maps show very few satellites in those orbital planes.   We are camped in the Waterton Lakes Townsite Campground for the next three nights, surrounded by tall mountains, very close on three sides but the app says “no obstructions”.  So far this very expensive piece of hardware is preforming way way better than expected.  Here is a screenshot from Waterton Lakes…

UPDATE 5 weeks into our Alaska trip.   We are outside of Watson Lake, Yukon.  The In-Motion dishy has been a god send.  The last 10 days we have been camping and driving the ALCAN.  No cell service here, and no service most of the way since Dawson Creek.  We have camped under trees and surrounded by mountains.  Yes, some drops but phone calls were working and data was moving quickly.  I am very glad I opted for the $2500 hardware and not the $600 option.   I am parked under trees as I write this update.

This thing rocks!  [06/07/2-23]

Mods this Winter & Spring 2022-2023

I needed to replace the angle iron on the mudflap that broke off a mile before turning into Champoeg campground last fall.  I had to tie wrap it up so It wasn’t dragging on the asphalt or getting pulled under the front tire of our tow car till we could get to the campground.  I took it all the way off of the mudflap while camping there and made a note to replace it once we got home.   I looked at a friends mudflat to see how it differed.  He didn’t have the angle iron and his mudflap was being ground down significantly on the sides like my sacrificial angle iron looked.   I decided I would rather the unseen steel be ground off instead and  I bought some angle steel at Industrial Metals when we got back to San Diego.  I drilled the required holes using the mud flap as a template and bolted it back on.  I also cut up a piece of flat stock to be the wear points at each end of the mud flat so I don’t wear down the plastic and then the expensive stainless logo.   The top left photo shows the angle after attaching it and the one below and to the right shows on the the sacrificial steel plates I added to both sides.   

I also bought new Shackles to hang it as the originals were not really the correct type for this application, they had threads where the chain hung.  The new ones only have the threads where they screw into the shackle  as its supposed to be, and the part the chain rests on are solid steel (a lot stronger).  They were 5/16″ x 3/4 inch and can lift 1.5 tons.

I installed new MCD shades in the cockpit area so we could donate the curtains.  They were sill usable, but were just too ugly to keep anymore and we really wanted easily deploy-able sun shades.  All the roller shades are now installed.  The windshield ones were a much harder install than all the others combined.  Basically working above and behind you is not a very fun thing.   I found that buying the MCD roller shades thru Camping World around Black Friday is significantly cheaper than buying them anywhere else.  And of course that means you must install them yourself.   They are not hard to install, except the windshield ones.

Two of my rooftop Solar panels went Kaput this year so I contacted the seller and they refunded the cost of the two panels (5 years old).  That was so easy it was amazing to me.   Turns out they don’t make that panel anymore but I was able to get two NOS from a seller on Walmart.  And I was able to use a sharp putty knife to remove the old panels.   We are back putting out the amp’s again!   Just in time for Boondocking @ Escapade this spring.

I also purchased a new AC Cover for the roof as mine had a large piece broken off it.   Not sure what did that, but it was pretty ugly.  A new one was ~$400 so I opted for a used one.  (no use buying a new one for a very old AC as the new AC when needed,  comes with a new cover)  $80 from a place out in El Cajon.   Its installed and looks much better now.

I changed out the lamps inside the Dining Table Fixture that I had I installed last spring   Kathy thought it was too bright while camping last summer so first I  purchased a Dimmer, which wouldn’t do anything with the existing LED’s in the fixture.  I then purchased two small Small stick on 24 bulb lamps at M4products and wired them in to the  dimmer, now they are controllable. Nice!

Diamond Shield Install.  Had an installer come out and install the diamond shield.  He made it look easy, but I could never have gotten that installed.  It looks good, but I probably wouldn’t have it installed again.  It was pretty pricey for what you actually get.

I replaced our 6 year old surge protector with a Power Watchdog EPO model.  It includes an app that you can look at the power being used from the pedestal and also which circuit, L1 or L2 is using how much power.

I am very happy with the Sheepskin Seat Covers we had custom made by Superlamb in Escondido CA. They were pricey, but are they comfortable!   It took them a couple weeks to make them but well worth the wait.   I still have my original sheepskin seat cover on my 2004 Silverado and still loving it.

Pulling a few Ethernet cables from the front to the rear bay in the bus had been needed for a long time.     I put that off for years and finally bit the bullet and did it.   What a PIA.   But its working well.

Installed some gutter over the windshield and over the drivers window.  Stick on Gutter  We had put them on years ago after a buddy told me about how it keep the windshield a lot cleaner.   I had pulled them off prior to getting the bus painted.   This time I used white gutters instead of black so they blend into the new paint scheme.

Also, I redid the new 400w solar suitcase infrastructure.  The new wiring has been run and the breakers installed.  We got to test them out at Escapade for 7 days of boondocking.  They worked perfectly.  Even in the wind, although I did have to tie them down using the D rings I had installed on them just prior to heading toward Tucson.

I built and added a slide out tray for the small door on the passenger side.   Its 60″ long and pulls all the way out on 60″ Vevor Full Suspension Slides.  (accuride slides are much better than these, but the price was 5x the cost of the Vevor)  These slides have 500 lbs capacity.  The tray itself is made from some scrap 3/4″ plywood I had in the garage.

While looking for spots in the motorhome basement to store things not needed very often, but when needed that couldn’t be impossible to get at.   I found a couple fairly large unused spaces above the sliding trays on the drivers side.   I made two sets of  brackets that I bent from 3″ wide 1/8th in thick 5159 aluminum pieces that were left over from my Starlink In Motion project.  On one side they hang over the Chassis Frame and then cantilever from there.

Another mod that needed to be done was add an outlet next to the toilet for the heated seat.  I was tired of looking at the extension cord running to it.   I also finally got around to installing a switch for the battery heating pad as I knew we could be in much colder weather this year on our Alaska trip.

This year I decided to ditch (sell on eBay) my iPad.  I wanted to use it for navigation but Apple only puts GPS chips on their cellular enabled iPads.   So I sold the 2017 iPad for $125 and bought a new Lenovo 10′ tablet for $110 that has been working great as a Navigation device.  Finally something larger than a phone to look at while driving down the highway.

I also installed a StarLink In-Motion Dishy on the roof the 3rd week of April (2023) and have been testing it since.   That post will publish tomorrow May 14th.


Getting ready for this Summers trip..

After getting the bus back home, I had to get the TV Lift/Bench/Fireplace moved to the top of the to-do list as I had sold the couch on Craigslist that originally filled that spot.

I finished up the drawing and bought the needed Cherry wood.   I went for quarter sawn as I really love the straight grain.  I ripped it down to get rid of the sapwood and realized I didn’t have access to a joiner anymore.  I started researching where I could use one.   I discovered and was able to schedule a joiner use session less than 10 miles from my house the next morning.   It worked out great and I think cost me $50 for about an hour with a helper.

After the boards were jointed, I was able to glue them up and use my hand planer to flatten them.   I was used to a wide planer and wide-belt sanders, so this was a real chore to get the glued-up boards flat.

While in the middle of that, I had to order new casters for my table saw and miter saw cabinet.  The 20+ year old phenolic wheels had just been disintegrating for years, and  as I moved them out for this work, they totally broke.  I ended up buying steel wheels this time, so hopefully they will be the last I need to buy and install.

I built the cabinet and installed it in the RV.  So we now have a fireplace (that can produce heat too, what a novel concept) and a TV lift that works much better than my old one.  And the best part is when the slides are in, like during travel, there is plenty of room to walk by another person.


During the winter I had completely redone the wet bay’s fresh water piping and also the black tank wash connection so it doesn’t route up into the living quarters. I moved the vacuum break to the hose end.   While doing that, I decided to add a second water filter in the bay to give me a 5 Micron and .5 Micron filter.  When I finished that part and tested it a while back, the fittings in the filter housings leaked like a sieve.  I was so bummed as the engineering required to get two into that small area,  no small feat.

So now that the TV lift was completed, I needed to get those fittings fixed.   I was googling a bit, trying to find out if I should be using something other than Teflon tape to wrap the threads, and that’s when I discovered that I was supposed to wrap them 5-7 times, not the 2 times I had always done during my life.  Who knew?  I’m not a plumber and have never worked with one.   This winter I will probably replace the existing L-bracket concoction I made with standard L-brackets I could find in stores with a single L-bracket with steel thick enough to hold them.  I will also remake the top brackets with something more substantial than the Simpson ties I used.  They worked for this summer but are not sturdy enough to last many years.

I took it all back apart, re-wrapped the fitting threads, and then tried to buy new wall brackets for them as the original brackets that came with them prevented a really tight fit for the water fittings.  I ordered a couple and none of them were the correct size, so I bought a few Simpson ties, drilled and sawed openings for fittings to fit, and they are working to hold them up.

The wet bay is finally completely dry again!   Check out these pictures of what someone had done to add an accumulator to the system.  I had never seen stainless hose clamps rust and start flaking apart before.  I only thought stainless turned brownish in color, nothing like these.   They had used the wrong inside diameter flex tubing.  I found the right stuff so was able to use the normal Pex cinch clamps and they should outlast me.

We got on the road Thursday, the 2nd of June, a little late in the afternoon.   That lateness added a couple hours to the drive to our stop for the night in Barstow, bumper-to-bumper traffic once we hit Riverside, and almost all the way up the Cajon Pass.

But we were on the road again!

I also replaced the chassis batteries, and while doing that, added a heating pad below the lithium house batteries to use if needed in the future.

And we replaced the potable water hose on the reel as the old one kept springing leaks and had been cut back a few times to get rid of the holes.  It had gotten pretty short over the years.   The new hose seemed great till we got to the cool weather in Colorado this summer and it’s almost too stiff to reel up and out.  I will need to find another one.  Maybe I will go with one of the collapsible fabric ones if I can find one safe for potable water.




Picking up the painted Bus.

Our Bus has been in Puerto Penasco for the last 6 weeks (as of the middle of March 2022),  and today, after driving 8 hours to get here, I am in the bus waiting on my painter to finish the final steps of the paint job:  polishing all the clear coat, touching up areas like inside the fuel filler doors, any small crevices that didn’t get the color coat, etc., then on to caulking all the seams/joints with clear silicon, reinstalling the myriad of parts that had been removed prior to sanding and painting, too.

Something I already notice is the difference in the heat radiated into the coach from the sunshine on the sides of the motorhome.  The top half is pearl white now, not the original browns, blacks and tans of its last 15 years.  The bottom is a deep blue.   It reminds me of my old BMW K-Bike Motosport!    I am really loving the new look!   And now, having the inside walls stay cool instead of the inside wall getting hot because of the sun on the outside is very nice.  I can imagine that the roof A/C’s won’t have to work as hard to keep the inside temp down on a hot, sunny summer day.

Antonio’s crew is reinstalling all the “stuff” that was mounted on the exterior that had been removed for sanding and painting.   He is also using a large buffer to polish the clear coat now that its been curing for over a week of sunshine in his driveway.  That really looks like hard work as I watch a bit.  When he is not doing that, he is using a small air brush to touch up any place that didn’t get painted, like behind the fuel fill door, etc.  I’ve never seen anyone use an air brush, so that is a bit fascinating to watch.   Since his passion is probably the murals he does, he is really good with that air brush!

Antonio had also replaced the small plastic wind deflector by the front door with a metal one.  The original one had broken in a few spots and I had replaced it with another one I purchased from the manufacturer, but it seemed a bit flimsy to me.  I wondered how long it would last.  Now I am not concerned it will crack off like the original anytime soon.

When Antonio’s tio started installing the lights and other things around the coach, I pulled out my new headlights, the over-door sensor light, and new patio sensor lights from Gregg Wilson designs.

After a couple days, Antonio asked when I wanted to leave.  My reply was “When you are done  and not a minute before.”  He seemed happy that he had time to finish it.   Within a couple days of that conversation, he told me it was ready to go.   I dug out the cash from my hidey hole and paid him.  I printed out a receipt and he signed it.   It was March 22nd, 2022,  six weeks to the day after getting it into the paint building.   Below is Antonio’s Business Card.

Within the hour I had pulled the bus out onto the dirt street in front of his home and hooked up the car.  We took a few pictures and I headed for the border.   And that proved to be an interesting adventure.   I will continue that below the pictures.

Here are a few more pictures that you can click on to make the thumbnail larger.

The drive north to the border was uneventful, got passed by lots of cars probably doing 80+ mph on a road that the maximum speed limit was               55 mph.   Almost all were Arizona plates.  But things changed as I got to the US side of the border crossing.

I immediately noticed all the US border buildings’ overhead clearance signs said 12’3″.  That stopped me in my tracks,  much to the chagrin of the agent in the booth.  My coach is 12’7″ high.  I saw that all the openings had the same height restrictions, and all the pipes with that height-stenciled warning were hanging from chains, and the pipes themselves were VERY scratched up with lots of paint transfer from taller vehicles going thru.   I was frozen in that spot wondering how I was getting out of this predicament.  The whole time, (2 minutes that seemed like days), the border guard in the gate house was waving me forward.

I started forward at about 1/2 mph, waiting for the sounds of the pipe dragging over things on my roof; but I got up to the guard shack and there were no sounds.  I had not dragged on anything!  I have measured my coach and it IS 12’7″ fully aired up.   Now I know that those signs are wrong.

The CBP officer asked for my passport and after a few seconds gave it back and told me to drive fast through the tunnel/machine in the left lane.  It was some sort of scanning machine for trucks & RV’s.  He told me to keep the speed up going thru at 5-7 mph.  When I got to the entrance, it was tight, maybe a few inches wider than my mirrors on each side, so driving at 5 mph was going to be a white-knuckle experience with my newly painted rig.  It was not fun, but I got through it unscathed.

After we were out of that machine, the next CBP officer stopped me and asked me the year of the coach and for the registration.  Then after hearing the answer, he asked if it was just painted.  I told him yes.  Then he asked how long it had been down there.  I told him 6 weeks.  Then he asked if I was with it the whole time.  I replied no, I had just driven back to retrieve it.  Then he asked what year it was again, which seemed odd, but I answered him again.

Then he asked me to get out of the bus.  Once I was outside, he asked how full the tanks were.  I wasn’t sure if he meant fuel or water/waste tanks, so I answered with both.   I asked about the low-clearance signs, and he made some remark about “stupid people bringing oversized vehicles into Mexico.”   Then he called over to a couple other guards to come over, and they proceeded to go through the car.  I had to open everything up.  It seemed a bit odd to me as the car had only been there a few days with me the whole time, but the bus was there for many weeks without me.   They never looked inside the bus.   I figured they would want to look into every opening in the bus, but that wasn’t the case.

After about 5 minutes of looking through the car, they told me to lock it up and go.    The first CBP officer moved the big plastic K-Rails out of the way and had me drive off.    No odor detector dogs, nothing.  I guess that machine can see what they need to see.  Not sure why they needed to closely inspect the car I was towing, but that’s what happened.

Once across the border into Lukeville, AZ,  I was a lot more relaxed and headed up the small two-lane highway toward Gila Bend, which is about 80 miles and takes about 80 minutes to drive.   I had researched campgrounds from Gila Bend to Yuma for stopping for the night as I didn’t know what time of day I would be leaving Rocky Point.   I passed the first turnoff of I-8 and determined I would stop near Tacna, which was about another hour of driving.  That turned out to be perfect.   I had mapped out a Passport America place (that was also a Good Sam campground) and it was only $21 a night for a full-hookup, pull-thru site for the night.  It was about an hour before sunset so the timing was excellent.  The pull-thrus were pretty close to a truck stop, but once inside the bus I didn’t notice the noise from them.  Outside you could hear the truck stop, freeway, and even occasionally a long train going by about 1/4 mile north of us.



The next morning I drove to Yuma, filled up the tank with cheap diesel fuel before heading back into California (and their $1 diesel tax)  and uneventfully drove home from there.

Once I got home, I installed the Tiffin door medallion and the Allegro Bus decal for the front cap.  After seeing the front decal, I ordered a couple more for the sides.  I am probably not going to put one on the rear as the rock guard has it on there; and I will also add the “Roughing It Smoothly” decal on the back cap when I get out the rolling staircase to start cleaning the roof top.


The weeks waiting to go back and pick up the painted bus.

Since deciding I was bringing my coach to Mexico, I had been researching tracking devices to install on the coach.   In the end I had three.  Redundancy is a good thing!  Something to look for is one that either uses satellite or cellular to update the map.  If cellular, make sure it’s 4G, as 3G is being turned off.  AT&T’s 3G went away just this last February.

The first one was a Linxup Asset Tracker.  It only uses VHB tape to stick it to the roof and has a small solar panel that keeps the battery charged.  I had worked with the vendor for a few weeks after getting it to make sure it was working as intended.   I drove it around San Diego while checking the tracking and found it was updating every 20 minutes instead of every 10 minutes as it was supposed to do.  It took a few phone calls to figure out what was happening.

Turns out on their new builds, they changed that to every 20 minutes so long-haul truckers (driving 24 hours a day) didn’t kill the batteries in the winters.   Once we figured that out, they reversed the firmware in my tracker to update every 10 minutes while moving.  (It updates every 3 hours when stationary.)  Linxup Solar Asset Tracker    After I saw it working, I glued it down to the roof of our Bus.

Second tracker was just adding a $32 GPS antenna to my existing Cerbo GX device and that was as easy as plugging it in; but that required having a way to update the VRM website, meaning I had to leave my cellular router in and active in the coach.   GPS antenna I added to Cerbo GX.   I placed this inside the coach as close to the ceiling as I could.  It works perfectly.  I was not sure it would work without being on the roof, but it does!

The third tracker was an impulse buy of an Apple Air Tag.   I wasn’t sure it  would work, but it worked so well I have since bought 4 more and added one to each of our vehicles in case they ever get stolen.  They are cheap, $29, and no monthly fee like the Asset Tracker.  Apple AirTag

Antonio, my painter, provided a 50-amp outlet to plug my motorhome into inside the building, so I did because my solar panels weren’t going to help keep the batteries charged while inside that building.  That allowed me to keep the inverter on and the 120v cameras turned on.  (Note to self:  in hindsight, putting a camera on the wall pointing at the coach would have been a great way to see what was happening while I was back home, but I didn’t think of that until I was almost to the house when driving back.  Next time — err, I hope there isn’t a next time!)   They also had WiFi available, pretty slow, but it worked. 

My Cerbo GX  allowed me to monitor the RV’s power and batteries while it was down there.   The solar asset tracker had no sun for charging for about 5 weeks.  It was down to about 49% battery remaining when the bus got moved into the sun to allow the clear coat to cure.  The folks at Linxup didn’t think the battery could last that long without charging, but thankfully they were incorrect!

The Cerbo GX allowed me to keep track of the batteries while I was away from the bus.  I have it set up to send all the solar/battery & temperature information to their free VRM web dashboard available to me from any device or web browser (and now it had GPS built in).

A few weeks into the job, the Cerbo battery information stopped updating the website, but the cameras were still available to view and hear.   Still, I am not sure exactly why that happened.  The Cerbo stopped sending data on 2/23 @ 6pm and started sending it again on 3/10 @10am when it was being moved outside for the clear coat to cure in the sun.  So for two weeks I was in the dark about the battery’s condition.  I also did not know it had lost shore power.  I will be installing a new Hughes hardwired Power Watchdog  this summer to enable  tracking our shore power.

The Wyze Cams I have installed in the bus allowed me to see things inside the coach and, most importantly, allowed me to hear what was going on.  Since all the window openings and windshield were papered over, the cameras weren’t very useful for video at that time.   A few times a week I connected to one of the cameras and listened to what was going on.  It seemed to me someone was sanding the bus for three weeks, 6 days a week.  I started to wonder if there would be any fiberglass left when they finished.  🙂

Along the way I would message Antonio to send pics and he would send some that night.

The morning the bus was moved, I got a lot of alerts that something was happening and I went to the cameras to see what was going on.  Antonio was driving the bus from the paint building to his home and I could see him going down the road, so I knew what was going on.  Later that evening I called him to turn on the solar controllers allowing the batteries to charge again.  (I had turned them off as they consume about 25 watts and due to being inside did not provide any power to offset that draw.)   It took a bit to communicate that to Antonio’s tio so that Antonio could turn them on in the correct order.

Once the bus cured in the sun for about a week, they started the process of polishing the paint.   It looked good in the pics when unpolished; but once a section was polished, it look amazing!  (I had no idea what a difference that would make.)

I communicated with Antonio mostly via FB Messenger to get an approximate date I should come down.  I picked a day as we got closer so I could be around when all the “stuff” was getting reinstalled on the exterior, including the windows.

I will finish this up in another post.



The Quest to paint our Bus

I had been researching fixing the peeling paint on my bus for a couple years as the clear coat was failing and it was looking pretty ugly.  I had a couple quotes.  One guy said he could do it in the street in front of my house for around $15k,  a truck paint shop in San Diego quoted me $45k, and a place in Texas quoted $33k and 6 weeks of work.   I even talked to Barney over at Discount RV, and he said they just didn’t have the time to do the job right.

Getting it done outside in front of my house sounded like an awful plan and the other quotes were a lot more than I would consider paying.    I even had a wrap company quote $11k for a wrap, but that didn’t include the required sanding and removal of all the external parts.  (They said the wrap could last 5-7 years)

Then last fall I saw a before and after picture of what was essentially my coach having been painted in a Facebook post.   It had similar issues as mine with the clear coat peeling.   The paint job looked pretty good; so I contacted the coach owner and asked about the paint job and found out they only lived a couple hours north of us.  Later I made up my mind to investigate getting my bus painted by the guy that painted theirs, and I asked if I could come by and look at it.

They agreed to my request.  A couple weeks later we drove up to Chino to look at the job.  It was a really good job!  It wasn’t perfect and the owner pointed out a few issues, but I couldn’t see a couple of them with my eye.  I did notice the striping wasn’t perfect if you look very close, but in truth I wasn’t sure the $33k job would be any better.  For what they paid, it was an incredible job.   And at the time I didn’t really understand what painting these things actually entailed.

I found a graphic artist on Craigslist and sent her off a couple pics and a picture of a rudimentary sketch of what I was looking for.   I should have known that it wasn’t going to work out based on how hard it was to explain to her what I wanted done.   It went bad real quick.  Her end product looked like something an 8-year-old would produce.  Here is her finished product I was supposed to give to the painter.   She had received the exact same sample picture as a starting point as the next designer, but the difference in the deliverable was astonishing.  



After that first ugly designer experience, I started searching for someone who had previously done design work for other motorhomes.   I found a few, but most were too busy working for companies to do anything for me.   Then I found Xtreme Paint & Graphics in the small town of Nacogdoches, TX.  They told me they could make a design for $650.   I had found this picture and liked some of it, but wanted the white on the top instead of the bottom.   I gave this to the designer and told her I wanted it much simpler and it to be dark blue on the bottom and pearl white on the top. 


Her first draft was perfection to me!  That was just prior to Thanksgiving.    Exactly what I wanted.  I told her to finalize that (which took way too many weeks for some reason).  I did have to call her after Christmas to finally get the invoice and final drawings done.


I messaged the painter with the pic and negotiated a price.   Setting the date was not as straight forward as expected.  And that ended up working out well for me as right after New Years I caught the flu and was feeling crummy for three weeks.  Once better,  I attempted to get a date from the painter via messenger but received the same vague responses.   So then I just set a date and he said “sure”.

The painter doesn’t speak a lot of English but can get the gist.  The day prior to me heading there (it’s about an 8-hour drive from my home) I wanted to get the exact address to bring the bus.  He kept sending me his home address; and when Google street viewing, I could see there wasn’t a building to put it inside at that address.  It took a bit, but then I did get the right address and could see a building that looked like it could fit the bus inside.

The weekend prior to going, I also bought Mexican insurance as our US coverage isn’t worth the paper it’s written on down there.  My AARP/Hartford motorhome insurance is basically no coverage in Mexico at all,  so I needed full coverage for it.  Turns out 6 months of coverage cost less than 2 months of coverage by a lot of money, so I took the 6 months of coverage.  I also had to negotiate the value.  NADA guide said it was worth $118k and the insurance company would only go to $75k of value.  After some negotiation they upped it to $100k.  It alone cost about $650 to insure.  My car is covered by our home/auto policy and they covered it all down to Senora, Mexico, where I was going; but Mexico doesn’t recognize their Liability coverage, so I had to add that with a Mexican company:  $50 for 5 days.

Also, a note, if you plan on staying in Mexico for more than 7 days, you must buy a tourist visa (FMM).  That was difficult to determine by reading everything I could online.  Luckily for me, a club I belong to had just finished having a rally down in Puerto Penasco the week before I was heading there and I was able to get the requirements confirmed by the leader of that rally.

I was planning on removing the windows when I got down there so the paint would cover everything.  Prior to leaving home, I removed all the valances and the attached roller shades (no small feat in itself!) and stored them in the guest bedroom till I got it back home.

I also wanted/needed to replace a couple of exterior lights (over the door and the patio light).  I also ordered two new headlights to replace the original ones  (exact same look, not projectors as I was thinking about).   I had purchased the new light last year from Gregg Wilson LED’s prior to deciding to paint the coach white and had bought a black one.   I talked to Gregg and purchased one to replace the patio light (including his brand-new patio cover fixture plate) in white and mentioned I had a black one for over the door.  He offered to exchange the black one for a white one.  He was wintering in Yuma, which was on my way toward Gila Bend, and I stopped by his RV and swapped them.  That’s what I call customer service!  I hadn’t even asked for that.  I was asking him if I could paint it white.   I am glad that happened as they blend into the new white paint perfectly.   Saved me from having to try to paint it.

I am driving to be in Rocky Point so I can be there on Tuesday around Noon.  Monday morning I am finally ready to go.  I head toward Yuma for fuel and the light fixture swap, then on to Gila Bend and will make a sharp right and head south to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Senora, Mexico)  I researched a few campgrounds near Ajo, Az (that is really the middle of nowhere) and I lucked out finding a newly remodeled campground at a golf course just out of town.  I say I lucked out because it was great, had brand-new full hookups and had pull-thru’s available.  The other two places had no pull-thru’s, and I really didn’t want to detach and reattach the car the next morning.   And even better, when I drove past the other two campgrounds, they were Dumps.  Yes, with a capital D.

I got there a bit after hours that evening, forgot about the time difference between home and Arizona; but the camp host left his cocktail party and guided me in and told me we could settle up in the AM so he could go back to the cocktail hour with some friends.  Camping there was a bit like being in a fish bowl as I had no shades to pull down (they were all back at home).   The place was very quiet and I apparently passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow at 9pm.

The next morning I noticed I hadn’t brought much for breakfast with me.  I had coffee and toast, but butter had been forgotten.  I did have hotdogs, but I didn’t want to think about that for breakfast, so coffee was breakfast.

I headed for the border and got there about 11 am.  After I got to the Mexican side, I was stopped and they asked for my passport and both vehicle registrations.  I had to go back to the car to get its registration.  One of the border officers came into the RV and walked to the back and opened a couple of drawers, then told me I could drive off.

That border town was just as bad, possibly worse than I had imagined.  (I spent a few years working in Maquiladoras for Sony in a prior life)  Tijuana was WAY nicer than this place.   Prior to getting out of the town, there was a police roadblock with a few men holding machine guns.  That got my undivided attention.  But as I stopped for them, they just waved me on through.

As I drove south, I started seeing these signs and wasn’t really sure what to make of them.   They were posted about every 10 Kilometers along the road to Rocky Point.   I got used to seeing them, and I had no issues with anyone on the way down; so I started thinking the signs were a good thing for us north of the border folks, as they sort of implied.

I got to the building sometime after noon.  I was a bit surprised to find all but the main roads in the town were dirt.   Very few paved roads where the locals live.    Antonio (the painter) met me there a few minutes later.  One thing I noticed again, when traveling out of the US, our phones require using different prefixes depending on where you are calling.  It was odd.  I could call home without doing anything different, but for the life of me, I could not call or text Antonio no matter what I tried while I was south of the border.  No issue once back in the US to call him.  I tried every prefix and suffix I could find by googling what to use.  I had switched to Cricket Wireless for phone service before heading to Alaska in 2019, Cricket advertised they allowed roaming in Canada and Mexico.   I worked well in Canada, and now Mexico has been tested and deemed worthy.   Although calling locals isn’t something I could figure out.

I drove the coach into the building through the smallish door, but we fit in.  Something else I noticed, as I missed the correct turn-off for the building and had to go past the turn and took the next right and right again to come back, the overhead wires were very low on the right side of that street.  My radio antenna did its Boing Boing sound, and I immediately stopped, got out and noticed the wires hanging were a bit lower than my roof ACs, but still high enough that the front curve of the AC covers would help them ride up and over.   Note to self:  next time stay left, toward the side of the road with the telephone poles where the wires are a lot higher.

Antonio’s crew got to work within minutes of me leveling the coach and putting out the slides inside his building.   He had two of his guys help with taking out the windows, which was great as there are 15 of them.  It’s kind of amazing how stuff seems to get heavier each year…

By the end of Tuesday, all the windows were removed. There was a bit of confusion on where to put them.  In the end, if you have this done, make sure they get put outside the RV along the wall where they can cover them with plastic prior to the start of the painting process.

Another thing of note:  They will put paper in the windows, and even after I mentioned that the prior coach had a bit of over-spray inside, they didn’t do a very good job and I was cleaning over-spray of the counters and furniture for a couple weeks.  Note to self:  Do that job yourself.  Buy lots of rolls of wide blue tape and thick plastic and double it up.

Here is what the bus looked like with the windows out that Tuesday evening, my first night there.






And the picture below is the second day after the windows were taped up and the sanding had started.  On the other side, the awnings were being removed and the slide toppers were already off over there.





And below is the morning I headed home, the slide toppers are off and sanding has begun on this side.








I will add another post detailing more happenings after the first day.





















Upgrades to the Bus prior to our Winter Trip to the Desert and Summer 2020 trip

I had quite a long list of changes needed when we got home from Alaska last Fall and I started earnestly on them in November.

The list:
Replace the absorption fridge with a residential electric model.
Replace the lead acid batteries with Lithium Ion batteries.
Double up on the amount of solar panels & Controllers.
Replace the Smart Battery Sense (SBS) with newer Long range SBS.
Swap out the uncomfortable Living room chairs with Theater Seating.
Add a battery monitor with Bluetooth capability. 
Hook it all up with a Raspberry Pi to upload all the Solar and Battery information to an internet web page.
Replace the bedroom TV with a slightly smaller one to fit the space better.
Move that larger TV to over the windshield, make a heavy duty frame to hold it.
Install a second cargo bay rolling tray
Install a shelf over that tray in cargo bay for more storage space.
Install a weather station
New Windshield
Replace windshield camera that died during Alaska trip.
Replace all window shades with new MCD day/night roller shades.

Replace the drivers console tray with new cherry one.


Geez, we will be much poorer when done. 

to Calgary and beyond..

From Milk River we drove to Claresholm and stayed for one night.   It was a really nice community park in the middle of the small town.   Lush mowed grass all around,  a couple baseball diamonds and 22 RV sites.   It was Memorial Day in the States, but this little gem was practically empty.   The town provided the WiFi there, so it was pretty good till it dropped around 5 pm then showed back up at 8 pm.  I guess the AP’s needed a reboot or something.  Anyway, I was planning on staying there for a couple nights, but Kathy had a different idea.  She wanted to get to somewhere we could sightsee.  So the next morning we drove the couple hours to Calgary and are currently staying in a big grass field across the street from the Grey Eagle Casino.   We are boondocking in a pretty large field.  Lots of grass and practically no one here either.   Last night there was one 5th wheel trailer sans truck and two minivans.  This morning we woke up, only 1 minivan left and a Nissan SUV of some sort.   After touring the city, the other minivan is gone, so just the SUV and the trailer are here.

The first morning there, we drove downtown to check out the sky tower and Stephen Avenue.  Parking in downtown Calgary near Stephen Avenue is difficult.  We eventually got a space on the street only a block south and a block from the sky tower. The tower didn’t allow pets, so they weren’t getting our $36 entrance fee.  So we walked over to Stephen Avenue.  It is a few blocks long and mostly blocked off to cars. Oddly it’s not all blocked off though. One of the blocks in the middle had a car pass by us.

We arrived right at lunch hour and the street was packed with office workers heading out for lunch. There are lots of restaurants on both sides of the street and almost everyone had an outdoor patio.  Each one we passed had no empty tables and the food looked delicious!

We found this nice large park at the eastern terminus of the street.  There were lots of kids wading into the huge water feature/fountain.   After all, it was 25 degrees celsius  and everyone was walking around like it was mid summer.   One gal I talked to said we had just missed a snow storm.  (I’m thankful for that!!)



I did get to stop and talk to the local constable.  I noticed he was packing a Glock and a taser that also looked similar to his Glock.  It appeared to me he was carrying two pistols.  He said they all (the police) carry guns in Canada and are allowed to carry them off duty, but not really.  He mentioned if you do carry it off duty, you will get into all sorts of trouble with the bosses.  Sort of odd, I bet if they stumble upon a robbery while off duty and don’t have their service weapon, they would also catch hell for not having it..  🙂

All the highways in Calgary are under major construction.  At least that is how it seems.  It’s a real mess.  I guess due to the weather it all must happen the few months of the year that it’s warm enough to work outside, but this is over the top.   We were planning on spending tomorrow at the Heritage Park Historical Village, but Kathy just read no pets allowed there either.  Darn, another $58 I am not able to add to the local economy.   Geez, but we liked the free camping.   I really like Calgary… just not all the road construction and detours that go with it.

After we came back to the RV, I decided to get started on the rock guard I am making that goes between the rear of the RV and the front of Kathy’s car we pull behind us.   For today I just painted the 6′ x 1″ square steel tubing, and after that dried I installed a rubber foot on each end so that when it’s mounted and I bang into it, I won’t tear my clothes or legs..   Next I have to drill 7 holes thru it to mount the large U bolt that will hold it to the hitch receiver and 5 eye bolts that will hold down the nylon mesh via many feet of bungee cord I brought.

Drilling the holes is going to be interesting as I don’t have a vice to hold the bar to drill thru it.   Now I am thinking I need to replace my drop receiver with a double receiver so I could mount a vice on the second receiver.   (maybe when we get home.)

I then moved on to hooking the Raspberry Pi (RPI) to the coach’s network so whenever the coach has internet, the RPI will be able to upload all the solar information gathered to the web portal.

Speaking of solar..  Today was really sunny and the roof-mounted panels created all the power to charge the battery to 100% by 7 pm.   Last night the sun didn’t go down here till around 9:40 pm.   If the sun never sets in Alaska, I guess it will keep charging all night.  Now wouldn’t that be really cool!



Lost Wages to Salt Lake City

We drove from Vegas to Beaver, UT on Sunday.  It’s at about 6,000′ elevation.  Pretty cold for us San Diegans.  Was 33 when we got up that morning.  I haven’t seen temps below 44 in San Diego except once when it got down to 32 degrees and killed my Heliotrope plant in the front yard.  It was purple and red one day, the next morning it was brown and never revived.

Anyway, prior to leaving San Diego I had two of the three Air Dump valves replaced as they were getting stuck open occasionally and it was irritating to wait for the air bags to fill so we could drive.   I was just replacing the one that was leaking, but par for the course, as soon as that was replaced, another one could be heard purging air when it wasn’t supposed to.   I drove all around town to locate another valve and could only get one.  But I had the guy order one from LA so I could swing by some other day and have it on hand if needed.

All seemed well after the second one was installed till the morning we were leaving on the trip.   I hadn’t made time to pick the other one up, so as we were exiting San Diego I had to drive to El Cajon and get it.  (about 20 miles out of the way)

Monday morning in Beaver the rear bags were fairly slow to fill; so while I waited, I called Freightliner in Salt Lake City to find out about having the last one replaced.   They told me I would need to wait till the 30th., 10 days from now!

So I googled Diesel Mechanics around Beaver, UT.   There was one with almost five stars on Google’s Reviews.   I called them.  They said to bring it right over and explained to me they were 1,000 feet from me.   We drove over, showed the mechanic the part.  He crawled under the coach, said it would be a quick swap, and had me drop the air and raise the coach on the jacks.

He had it replaced in 35 minutes.   The last guy took 2 hours to do it.  Paid them $110 (1 hr minimum) and we were on our way in less than an hour.   That was utterly amazing to me.  I’ve got to make sure I write up a review of them!

So we headed across the mountains toward Salt Lake City and then the rains came.  Then they turned to sleet and hail to make it a bit of an edgy ride.   When it started to sleet, I slowed to 50 mph; but I was getting passed by lots of trucks still doing the 80 mph they allow there.   Seemed nuts to me as it was very steep downgrades and climbs thru long curves during all of it.   I never felt the coach slip, but I was waiting for it to occur.

Once out of the winter weather, it was smooth sailing into downtown Salt Lake City to a KOA we stayed at on our way to Yellowstone back in 2017.   It was one of Kathy’s favorite parks, lots of grass for Dusty! Thankfully it’s a lot cooler here than it was in June of that year and a lot less crowded.

Drove over to the big temple that’s in the middle of downtown and got pizza for dinner!   The next morning it was raining pretty good and continued all day.  So I spent a lot of the day redoing my playlists on my local pc in the front of the coach so we can have tunes in the great white north where an internet connection may be difficult to find.

We switched our cell phones to Cricket Wireless as it appears AT&T has more connectivity in Canada and we could get an unlimited plan that includes Canada and Mexico for $40 each.    Our current Verizon and AT&T hotspot plans don’t include any data outside the USA.   So we are good in Alaska, but Canada will probably find us looking for WiFi when camping.   I installed a new omni-directional WiFi antenna from Mikrotik Metal AC Router on my crank-up TV antenna.

I still have my NanoStation with us for longer range WiFi acquisition situations.