Friday, May 19, 2006

We're Leaving on a Jet Plane

We're Leaving on a Jet Plane. Don't know when we will be back again. You remember the great Peter, Paul and Mary song don't you? It was written by John Denver.

Super Shuttle picks us up at 12:00 noon tomorrow to start our big adventure. We fly out of Sky Harbor to LAX then to Frankfurt and then to Barcelona. We have 4 hours to get from the airport in Barcelona to our cruise ship, the Regatta.

We have been working to overcome the 9 hour jet lag by going to bed early and waking up early. Last night 7:30 to bed and rising at 2:15am. About 4 hours behind now.

I have done tons of online research on our ports of call: Gibraltar, La Coruna, LeHavre (Rouen), Zeebrugge (Bruges), Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tallin and St Petersburg. We will only use the excursions in St Petersburg because we didn't want to mess with the onerous Russian visa requirements. Elsewhere we will walk, bike, boat, mini-bus, or train. All the information is overwhelming. Like studying for a geography final exam.

We have covered the furniture with sheets (it is dry dust) and left buckets of water out to put some moisture in the air. The bushes are trimmed. The timers on the lamps set. We hired a house watcher.

We are excited to say the least. Europe here we come!! More postings from along the way I hope. After Europe RVing to Utah!

A little more cowbell from Peter, Paul and Mary.

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time let me kiss you
Close your eyes I'll be on my way
Dream about the days to come
When I won't have to leave alone
About the times, I won't have to say

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wiring up the CRV

In order to tow our 2001 CRV behind our RV we needed to wire it so that the brake lights and turn signals would work when the RV's did. There are lots of ways to handle this problem. One simple way is to buy lights on magnetic rack that sit on the back of car. Another is to run a wire from the RV and install a separate bulb for the lights. I wanted something more permanent and that used my toad's wiring and lighting system as much as possible. I called RV dealers to get prices on wiring the CRV and they told me anywhere from $120 to $300 plus parts. Being sort of handy and cheap I decided to do it myself.

I bought a Roadmaster universal wiring kit #150 for $65 and began my adventure. A note to non-instruction-readers: read the directions carefully and plan everything out before cutting wires and drilling holes or whatever. It is not hard but if you are unfamilar with things like this it can be tricky.

There are several different ways, depending on how your RV's and your toad's brake lights and turn signals operate, to do the wiring using the universal wiring kit. Basically they all work the same way. A diode has to be installed in the wiring path. The diode does two things as I see it. It prevents signals from the RV from frying your toads computer and it gives you a place to hook the wiring from the RV into the toad's wiring. Two diodes came with the kit and I had to buy two more at $11 a pop.

The tricky thing for me was to find space in the cavity that holds the rear lighting assembly for the diodes. There is very little space up for grabs. I used electrical tape to hold the diodes in place in order to test whether I could fit the rear lighting assembly back on the toad with the diodes on it. Once I found a good place I used the included double sided tape to secure them.

Another bothersome thing was finding a place for the wiring to go from the rear lighting assembly to under the toad. I had a couple of knockouts in the toad's body that I could use but after an hour of fishing wires through them I gave up and routed the wires around the rear door.

Once the wires were underneath the toad I routed them along places where I could use zip ties to secure them up out of the way as much as possible. It is a good thing CRVs have a high ground clearance because that made it easy.

There are two different ways you can wire a toad to an RV - one is with flat connectors (what is in the kit) and the other is with 4 or 6 prong round plugs. I didn't look at the RV's receptacal until I was ready to plug in. Of course I set the toad up on 4 prong system and the RV had 6 prongs. So I had to go get another plug and take the four prong plug off my flexible coiled wire and put on a 6 prong plug.

After getting everything set I tried her out. Of course it didn't work. While changing out plugs I got the wires crossed and had to take the plugs apart again and correct that. Then it worked fine. It probably took me 8 hours to do this job because I had no idea in the beginning and made a couple of time consuming errors. I work slowly too with lots of water breaks. It is pretty hot in an Arizona garage in May.

I was fortunate to find an Apollo braking system for the toad for $550. I had to wire it up too. The brake-a-way system requires a wire from the switch to the Apollo. After wiring up the brake and tail lights that was a piece of cake. Just fishing the wire through the engine compartment so it is not in the way of anything or sitting on the hot motor.

Wiring the transmitter to let the RV driver know that the toad's brakes had been applied was a different story. I had to turn myself upside down and crawl under the dash to find the wires leading from the brakes. There were 3 of them and I only had about 2 inches of wire and one hand to work with. After posting my problem on I waited until someone knowledgeable came along and saved me. It took a while but some one finally told me it was the black and white wire that I had to tap into. Joyfully I crawled back up the dash and found that there wasn't a black and white wire there. I had a dark green and wire one so I gambled and tapped into it. I almost cried when the receiver flashed a bright red light when I pushed down on the brake. It was hot. It was uncomfortable. It was frustrating trying to get the tap to seat on the wire with one hand. It works and I am pretty pleased with myself for doing it myself.

We are ready to safely tow. Now we have to learn how to. An adventure a day keeps the doctor away.


In the past couple of months 150 years ago people were migrating west. These adventurers would collect their covered wagons every year in towns near the edge of one of the big barriers keeping them from reaching their destinations in California or Oregon, the Great Plains. Here, in places like Kansas City and Independence, Missouri they would provision their wagons carefully because those provisions would be what would keep them safe on the long, perilous journey in front of them.

Now, our trip to Utah next month is not a long, perilous journey and we never will be far from provisions (a McDonald's, a buffet in Salt Lake City, a Country Kitchen, or a Wal-Mart) but we like to lay up some provisions anyway. It is nice to be able to go to the cupboard and pull out some pancake mix or brownie mix and whip up something tasty. At least we won't have to shoot a deer or bunny for supper.

We use a book called Make-a-Mix published by Fisher Books for a wide variety of recipes. We have made mixes for hot rolls, biscuits, brownies, pancakes, and an all purpose breading mix. I vacuum seal these in quart Mason jars. I know we could get similar things at the store but if you read the labels on those things they are full of two ingredients we try to avoid - sugar and salt. My mixing our own we control the salt (fake salt) and the sugar (Splenda).

We have also caught things on sale recently and vacuum sealed and frozen steaks, chicken, pork chops, grapes, and strawberries. We are fortunate to have a double freezer in our RV and can pack it full.

So our covered wagon is filling up. One more month and we will be camp hosting at Redman Camp Ground in Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah! We will eat well.

Stop in and say 'Howdy'. There is always room for one more around the camp fire.