Tag Archives: RV refrigerator

Our Eclipse Trip (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

We planned out our meals, assuming that there would be days when it would be too hot to want to cook over the fire, but leaving room for a hot meal too.  My wife had shopped just before we left, and had looked for some steaks to take with us.  The store, however, had some ribs that were on sale (50% off!) so those were what came, along with some hamburgers, luncheon meats, hummus, snacking vegetables, cheeses, frozen pizzas, bagels …  The list went on.

The regular canned & dry goods pantry.

Luckily, our fridge is pretty big, and everything we wanted to take that needed to be kept cold fit.  We also had a bunch of canned goods, soups, beans, tomatoes, spam (of course), herring, you name it.  I usually keep a stock of those on the bus, but we added in some more soups and things.

By 11:00 am, we were all packed up, the house was secure (after being locked and alarmed and then me realizing that ALL my directions were sitting on the kitchen table!) and we started off. It was a pretty nice day, and after a quick weekend trip to Sprague Brook Park the weekend before (as a sort of shakedown trip) I’d filled the tank, so we were all set.

Except that the inverter wasn’t working.

Rolling farmland and countryside as seen from a moving bus …

I didn’t think it was a big deal, and we just kept going.  Along through New York on I-90, the speed limit was 65 mph, which is the top end for the bus, so that was fine.  It was a hot day though, and the temperatures kept creeping up over 200, so I feathered things a little to watch that.

I was also watching the output from the backup camera that I had finally installed.  It does a nice job, the static lines on the screen indicating about 1′, 3′, 5′, and 12′ from the rear bumper.  It also has a large field of view as I mounted it just up above and to the side of the rear door. (It was a little odd at first though, as the 140 degree fish-eye picks up the break and signal lights!)  The screen is nice, because if I turn the power to the camera off with a handy dash switch, it goes to sleep until it gets a signal form the camera.

But I had plenty of time to get used to the camera and watching temperature gauge along in New York. The I-90 through Pennsylvania, though, had sections of the 90 that had a 70 mph limit, which meant that I was holding some of the trucks back (especially on some of the steeper hills where we lost speed).  I really felt badly about that, but we continued on into Ohio.

Which also had 70 mph speed limits.

And the hills got steeper, so our average speed dropped some more.

Many people don’t realize that there’s a major watershed divide in Ohio, and as we headed south from Cleveland, we were heading uphill toward that.  Using a really cool website called www.flattestroute.com, I’ve been to find out the grades of the possible routes that we’ve looked at to travel on.  The route from Buffalo to Cincinnati is interesting as we start out in Buffalo at about 600 feet above sea level, and end up at about 485 feet above sea level at Cincinnati, but hit altitudes of almost 1400 feet along the way.

North of the red line goes to the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River, and south of it ends up in the Mississippi.
Altitude and slope of the route between Buffalo on left) and Cincinnati on right).

Just for interest, the first peak on that altitude graph is just east of Erie, PA (1259′), with the next lowest point being just east of the Pennsylvania/Ohio state line (677′), followed by the low point at the I-90 and I-271 interchange (648′).  The next high point was near Woodmere (1193′), but when we got to where 271 crosses the Cuyahoga Valley National Park it was lower (968′), only to rise again when we got to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River/Mississippi River Watershed boundary, just south of Medina, OH at about 1216 feet.  Then it was down again near Burbank (920′), and finally up to the highest point of our trip near Lexington, at 1391 feet, before our next low point just south of Lou Berlinner Park in Columbus (707′).  Another climb after we were out of the city brought us to the next high point at Exit 58 for Bowersville (1078′), then the next low near Mason, OH (762′), the next high point near Landon (871′), then finally the low of the Ridge Road Exit where we got off for the night (588′).

So, just looking at our starting and finishing altitude for our first day, we went down 12 feet, but if you look at even just the major high and low points along that day’s route, our ups and downs total some 5210 feet of altitude change!

And by the time we hit Jeffersonville, we were near a quarter tank of fuel, and decided to stop at a Love’s for fuel.  As per all of the travel stops that I’ve been to, I expected that the diesel pumps to be set for easier access for large vehicles, and away from the gas pumps.  Accordingly, Love’s has a banks of diesel pumps, and all the trucks are lined up right there, so I pull the bus in.  We wait for 10-15 minutes for the trucks ahead to fill, clean their windshields, and finally move ahead, and try to run our cards in the automated pumps.  Not a single one of them is accepted, they’re all declined.

I go through a minor panic, and my wife runs in to find out if there’s something wrong with the card reader.  And she has to wait on line for several minutes to find out that ALL of the pumps in those banks only take corporate cards, not regular credit cards.  If we want to use a regular card, we have to go to the one pump mixed in with the gas pumps that dispenses diesel. Which I was able to do.  And finally we got filled up and were back on the road.

Anyhow, we have friends who live not far from the Ridge Road exit in Cincinnati, so we got to drive down some lovely quiet little streets to get to theirs. We had talked about parking in front of their house on their dead-end street, but there were too many cars, and the exhaust pipe of the bus scraped about half-way up the slope of the entrance to their driveway, so backing in there didn’t work either.  So it was a multi-point turn (made much easier by the back-up camera) to turn around head the bus back out on their small street where we parked in the lot of a small apartment building at the end of the street that was in renovations (and our friends knew the manager who said it was okay).

We were treated to a great meal and a tour of their house (all the cabinets were hand-made by our friend Jeff, and they’ve stripped and refinished all the original woodwork, so it was great).  The rain which had been forecast for our trip had been spotty as we got close to Cincinnati, but really let loose once we stopped.  But at that point, it didn’t really matter, we were tired and ready to sleep.

But …

Without the inverter running (and since I don’t have the LP plumbed for the fridge yet), our fridge was a big cooler.  We had some worries, but there wasn’t much we could do right then, so we just left the doors closed.

The first day of the trip was done, and tomorrow would be a Kentucky day …

(continued in Part 3)

 

 

 

A Trip to Presque Isle State Park, PA

So, on the 13th of July we set out for Presque Isle State Park in/by Erie, PA.  Our son had a day’s worth of homeschool classes on aquaculture, swamp & beach biomes, the geology of the park, and preservation and maintenance of the park.  While it was only two and a quarter hours away from Buffalo, as the classes started at 9 am, we decided to camp overnight.

Our trip was uneventful, except for the fact that I made the mistake of topping up the coolant level in the bus before we left.  Why was this a problem?  Because there was a small leak at the coolant reservoir that dripped down onto the alternator, frying the voltage regulator.  By the time we had hit the Angola Rest Area on the NYS Thruway/I-90, we were running on battery power.  But as on our Evangola trip, I knew that the engine would keep running fine, but unlike that previous trip I had the house batteries fully charged, and chargers for both the house and bus batteries that would work when we got to shore power.  But now I knew the reason WHY the alternator was failing.  Unfortunately, the fluctuations in voltage damaged the board in the fridge, though I got it to work for part of the time we were plugged in.

We stayed at Sara’s Campground, whose lands abut right up to both the Presque Isle State Park and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.  Their grounds also have sites on both sides of Peninsula Drive/Route 832, the east side has sites for actual beach camping (in tents), and the west side is in the more forested area.

Sara's Campground Site Map
Sara’s Campground Site Map

So, we ended up getting Site 21 in the Forest Section.  It was our first stay in a private campground, and I was frankly surprised at the density of sites! The dashcam recorded our trip into our site, including the trepidation and worries I had of getting the bus in a place I’d have to back out of.

Sara’s Campground, Site 21, with the bus all settled.

But the site was fine.  The electric/water pole had a streetlight on it, so we had to put a blanket up over the windows on that side (thankfully magnets hold to bus steel wonderfully).  But there were no sites to our starboard side (where the firepit was), so it was a nice open site (next to a parking lot). And the concrete pad was very nicely level, so everything was comfortable.

Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.
Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.

But right across the street (via a crosswalk with speedbumps and a pushbutton controlled set of flashing lights to cross) was the start of Presque Isle’s beaches, and we walked all the way up past the first couple of breakwaters.  We did a little beachcombing, then returned and we made a fire and some lovely toastites for dinner.  We had some people stop by, interested in the bus, and we gave them the tour, and some skoolie info, as they had expressed interest in working up their own.

The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.
The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.

A little while later, as the sun was setting, we found that the sun was setting directly behind the bus, through the path to the beach.  It was, however, it was basically 9pm, so we were forced to get to bed before we felt we were ready.

Our next morning was fine, coffee and bowls of cereal for breakfast, and as the engine was running and I was doing our pre-trip, folks came over, interested in the bus. Alas, we didn’t have time for a tour, and weren’t returning, but they thought the concept was cool and were absolutely fine with us being there.

Unfortunately, given the short timing of us getting to the Tom Ridge Center for the aquaponics class, and then us getting from that class to our pontoon boat tour, I forgot to turn the dashcam on for those trips. But after the boat tour, I remembered to turn the cam on, so we have a video tour of Presque Isle, sped up 4x.  You miss out on a whole bunch of the cottonwood tree seeds floating about at that speed, but I recorded us getting from the tour to Barracks Beach, and then down the beach road to the Tom Ridge Center again, and then around the whole park once more.

 

Our trip back was uneventful, except for the one tractor-trailer driver who LOVED the train horn.  He paced us while we were still in PA, blew his horn and motioned for me to blow ours and gave a thumbs-up when I did, and hung out in front of us to break air for us until he got to the Angola, NY exit where he sounded his horn again and waved, and I sounded ours again.

Counterspace

FloorPlans2
The fancy floorplan.

With the fridge finally in place, I have a firm ‘wall’ to start to build the kitchen in.  I knew for sure that the counter would be at the level of the base of the windows so that we wouldn’t lose visibility, but the actual arrangement of drawers and storage/access cabinets would depend on placement of other things, like the stove and the sink.  If you look on the original floorplan, you can see that there’s a whole lot of potential counter space where things could go.

The stove was easy to place, as my plan was to put it at one of the ’emergency’ windows that can be swung out and give lots of good ventilation if we need it.  As there are two such windows along the counter (colored red in the floorplan diagram), the stove could have gone along either one, but putting it along the fore window would give more ‘working space’ around the sink, which is fairly important when washing dishes and such.  And since we actually had the stove, I could place it so much more precisely than in the floorplan where there’s essentially a 24″ x 28″ space for the (three burner – ha!) stove.

The sink was a more dicey matter in terms of placement.  The window closest to the fridge is ‘sticky’ – there are some scratches in the aluminum frame, and it can make the window hard to close (at least form the inside). My original thought was to put it right in front of that window near the fridge to maximize the available counterspace between the sink and stove, but being able to have fresh air while doing dishes ranks highly, so the sink may move closer.  Actually doing the placement is going to wait until we ‘play’ with the space for a bit.  I had hoped to do this on one last camping trip of the Sprague Brook season, but it just never came to be.

The stove!The first thing I did was take measurements and figure out the placement of the stove.  I was planning for a 24″ deep stove,since I kept seeing that come up as a dimension for newer stoves, but ours is only about 20″ deep, leaving about 4 inches of counter behind it. And while the window comes out to be more than 24″ wide, the stove is only 21″ wide, and that measurement (like the depth) includes 1/2″ of overlap of the trim.

This gave me some concrete information to work with in making the countertop.  While I’ve seen lots of people using some of the pre-made household counters in their skoolies, my wife had shown me an article on how to build a counter that gave the look of thick oak planks and we both liked the look. However, the idea of having beveled edges between the planks seemed to just be an invitation to a continually dirty counter.  So as a compromise, I had decided to use oak to make a counter, with no beveled edges, and as few seams as possible.

It turned out that I had just enough oak in two almost 13″ wide by 1 1/8″ thick planks that, when planed down and jointed, came out to the right length for the counter from fridge-wall to side-facing seat.  These pieces were fixed together with the Kreg pocket-jig and some 1 1/4″ fine-thread screws.  

Kreg K4MS Jig Master System (Tools & Home Improvement)


List Price: $149.99 USD
New From: $126.40 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Even with some bowing in the plank, which was fixed with clamps, screwed, and sanded down to fit where the stove would go.

The stove structure and enclosure. 2x3" beams and 1/2" plywood, and some 3/4x2" pine to keep things even.
The stove structure and enclosure. 2×3″ beams and 1/2″ plywood, and some 3/4×2″ pine to keep things even.

In order to support the counter without actually having counters underneath it, I decided to build in some 2×3″ supports that would hold it up, and just fit the sides of the stove, with allowances for 1/2″ plywood on the inside of the enclosure to help support it.  The 2×3″ supports that attached to the wall rest upon a 2×4″ that is screwed into the wall supports.  I used more pocket screws to attach the horizontal supports to the 2×4″ and then attached the vertical supports to the 2×3″ that was attached to the floor.  The 2×4″ was attached to the wall at a height that would put the 7/8″ thick counter just below the level of the windows allowing for a 3/4-1″ oak backsplash to be added at a later time.

Counter supports in place.
Counter supports in place.

One additional support at the fridge wall and another toward the seat edge, though the one near the seat is back about 10″ so that I could put a small lower drawer and upper ‘bin’ at seat height that would have nice storage space for passengers and the counter above it.

The stove looks awesome in place!
The stove looks awesome in place!

With this all set, I stained the counter and slid it into place, checking the fitting and adjusting the ‘square’ of the stove structural fittings before using more pocket screws to sink things into place.  A 3/4×1 1/2″ edging was affixed to the counter after being rounded with a router and the stove was set in place (the edging had to come up to the trim of the stove.  This was also affixed from underneath with pocket screws.

The counter as seen from the captain's chair.
The counter as seen from the captain’s chair.

I had considered leaving the leading corner of the counter as a 90 degree angle, but thought that it would present too much of a chance for a bruise in the close quarters with several people on the bus.  Toward that end, I decided to trim the corner and make it a simple 45 degree angle, which was easy to work with for the trim.

The counter from the aft, by the bunks.
The counter from the aft, by the bunks.

With the counter in place as it is, it looks like a lot of space, though we’ll need to decide where the sink will go, and I was expecting to put in a full size sink as opposed to the RV sink that we salvaged from the trailer.  The salvaged sink is stainless steel and in decent shape, but it’s only 4 or 5 inches deep.  A standard kitchen sink is around 9 inches deep, and a double sink that deep could easily have one side filled with hot water and suds to wash and then use the other side to rinse and thus conserve water while still doing a full set of dishes for four or six people.

One of my concerns right now is that the 29″ height that the counter is at (the bottom of the windows) may be a bit low to be comfortable tpo work at for long periods of time since most counters are at about 35″ height.  That said, I do make cookies and bracciole at our kitchen table and it’s only about 29″ tall, so … time will tell.