2014 Trip 6: really...more weekend rain!!!

Bonnechere P.P.

Let's just start off by saying the weather is going to be crappy this weekend. The forecast and radar shows precipitation covering a huge area, right over where we are heading. This is the weekend we had planned for our friend Sandra to camp with us, however given the weather predicted and that she would be tenting, we all agreed that it would not be a good weekend for her to join us. It would not be much fun if it is raining the whole time.

It does not look to be a swimming or sit around the campfire type of weekend. We made the decision to try to camp together another weekend.

We are still going to head up, as we can be quite comfortable and cozy just staying inside. Heavy overcast sky when we left on Friday night, and as usual, the traffic getting out of the city is crazy. It is quite clear that the Queensway, the major highway that bisects east to west right through the centre of the city, can no longer keep pace with the growing size of the population. On an average Friday evening in the summer, with people heading home from work and leaving the city, it can take around 40 minutes to travel from the downtown core to the west side of Kanata. From there, it moves relatively smoothly. We drove into periods of rain all the way there...and of course, it was raining when we pulled into the park. 

We have been on this particular site many times, so setting up is a breeze. This is our first time using the newly installed front stabilizer jacks, and they are much easier to set up than the screw jacks we had been using before. Once lowered onto the Lynx Levellor pads, they make the Alto quite stable. The new jacks are mounted at the front outside corners of the trailer, so it gives a wider stance for support. It is important to also use some sort of pad on the ground below the jack leg, as without, I think the narrow tip of the jack leg would just work its way into the ground. The pad spreads out the pressure and provides a firm resting spot. Very pleased with this new addition. Further details and pictures of this latest project can be found on the Mods page.

After we got set up it was into the Alto right away to get out of the rain. It picked up a bit as the evening went on. We have electricity on the site, so the heat pump was able to get the Alto nice and toasty. Although it is just a bit chilly, the dampness makes it feel worse. Relaxed the rest of the evening and hit the pit early.

Steady rain now, and it looks like it will stay all day. Serious hibernating today, although I do have a little project to work on. Pretty quiet around the park as everyone is hunkered down inside. Coffee and breakfast then on to my project. We are changing out all the flourescent bulbs in the Alto. Our version came with these, but later production models now use a number of the LED puck lights. The fixtures we have use 2 tubes, except the ones at the back of the Alto which contain 1 each. The LED replacements use considerably less battery energy than the flourescents (drawing only a third of the energy), an important savings when you are off the grid.

A bit of work rewiring the fixtures, but it went quite smoothly. We ordered the warm white versions of the LED tubes, as the flourescents we have now have a cold harsh colour temperature. We rarely use them because of this, the cooler light is just not pleasant to be in. The new bulbs are quite good. The colour is nice and they are an excellent replacement and well worth it.

The rain subsided a bit in the early afternoon, so we wandered out for a bit of a walk, mostly in the direction of the park store. We have always made it to this park in September, and the store has always been closed for the season. We enjoy the park stores as there is always something interesting to be found, and guaranteed a tasty treat is available. We stopped and chatted with a nice lady who is here with her husband for 23 days, a nice little vacation. They live in Pembroke, and she is 84 years old, although she looks like she is in her 70's. We had a nice visit, then it started to rain again so we continued our walk. The park store has been renovated and looks quite nice. Typical of a park store, it has a great selection of camping neccesities. Not all parks have a little store, but they are always handy when there is one.

Back into the Alto as the rain has started again and is coming down somewhat harder. Had a little nap in the afternoon, as there is something about a dull rainy day and the sound of the drops on the roof that makes having a nap a foregone conclusion. Dinner this evening will be beef fajitas. We found a nice simple recipe, so I made up the marinade before we left, cut up the meat into strips this morning, and fired them into a ziplock with the marinade, to sit all day and get nice and flavourful. Sliced up the peppers and onions, quick stir fry, then the meat went into the pan. Once these were rolled into the tortilla, with guacamole, salsa and cheese, and sour cream on the side it made a nice filling meal. The meat was quite tasty, so I think we will be making this recipe again.
It is still raining, so no opportunity to get outside after dinner. We watched a movie, taking advantage of the electricity hookup. If we do not have have a hookup, using the TV is now out of the question, based on our experience last fall where we had a similar rainy weekend, and we pretty much drained our battery watching episodes of Mad Men. What were we thinking??? No concerns this evening though. We watched a movie called 'Broken Flowers', with Bill Murray and a few popular female actresses like Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange. An interesting movie and not a main stream type which is the type Dale enjoys, but I found it a little plodding. Bill Murray can act quiet and contemplative quite well, which is a good thing, as that is pretty much the whole movie.  Dale does not agree and enjoyed it for it's overall understated and realistic acting.

No rain this morning, but still overcast and dull and not inspired to stay long. Then at 9:00am the sun came streaming through the trees and our outlook instantly changed. Campers suddenly appeared and were scurrying around doing regular camper things. We took a walk around the park as it was real nice to get outside and move around a bit. We want to camp on the river side at some point, so we had a close look for some prime sites. It will be great to follow the river inland in our kayaks, the Bonnechere runs a long way.

We pulled out around 1:00 and made our way home. Although a cool and rainy weekend, it is always nice to get out of the city regardless. There is not much that will keep us at home if we have an Alto weekend planned!

A Nifty Illuminating Idea

When we are just sitting around a night, we don't really want to have even one of the flourescent light fixtures turned on, as we do find they give off a lot of light, and they are in the cooler blue colour spectrum. We came up with the idea of using one of those battery operated rings of LED light, sitting on top of the microwave cabinet, which being relatively close to the ceiling, allows the light to reflect off the aluminum interior. It is a much nicer lighting effect, and easier on the eyes.

Taking this idea a bit further, I thought of using one of the extra LED strips we got for our sink light project, and somehow incorporating it as a permanent fixture. After some thought, I mounted the LED strip to a short piece of aluminum angle stock. Then this was screwed to the very back of the microwave cabinet. One end of the angle was tapered so it would not contact the ceiling when the roof was lowered. I wired the light and placed the switch right beside the one for the sink. It gives off more light than the battery unit, and reflected off the ceiling, provides a perfect amount of indirect illumination. The colour temperature is warm white, which is more pleasing to the eye.  

A Moose???

We found this really cute aluminum cutout of a moose in a funky design shop called Kikoto in Bloomfield. We just knew we would be able to find a spot for it in the Alto, and it became our new place to hang keys.

LED Fluorescent Replacement

After our weekend where we drained the battery, we have become more conscious of our power consumption. Now to be fair, we really caused the issue by overusing the TV when not connected to power, and not realizing that the solar panels were not generating any power as the weather was rainy and overcast.

I decided to look into replacement tubes for the fluorescent fixtures, not only because they draw considerably less power, but they also are available in different colour temperatures. The tubes in the Alto are the common bright white temperature. This produces a light that we find is too bright, and harsh to look at. We have found over the years that we sort of avoid turning them on, relying on little AA battery powered lamps we picked up from Lee Valley. The newer versions of the Alto now use LED lights, with 12 volt applications, this is the way to go.

There are lots of options out there to find LED fluorescents, with just as many quality options. I settled on a company called Marinebeam (www.marinebeam.com). Their web site was very informative, with tons of technical details that really explained how these tubes work, and the best components to use. They are on the pricey side, but for our long term use of the Alto, it will be good value. We purchased the warm white 12" tubes and waited for them to arrive.

Installation was pretty easy, although the fixture needed to be rewired to take the existing ballast out of the circuit. This was as easy as identifying the wires, using the provided instructions from Marinebeam, snipping out the ballast, and reconnecting the power feeds to both ends of the tubes. Probably a 10 minute job for each fixture. 

As I have said before here in this blog, before tackling any sort of modification or maintenance job, you need to have a good understanding of what is involved, and your own knowledge and comfort level with doing the work yourself. If in doubt, get it done at your dealer.

The bulbs work great. They are bright and give off a very pleasing light. It is quite noticeable how different the light is. The harsh brightness is gone, replaced by a pleasing warm glow. Really amazing the difference this can make. The front fixtures have 2 tubes inside, but we have found that in this area, 1 tube gives off just the right amount of light. This has turned out to be an excellent modification. 
the little ballast that was yanked out
lots of little LED's all in a row
these photos above show the colour of the fluorescents
fluorescent on the left, LED on the right.
notice the different colour
LED light, much warmer, notice the overall colour

Front Stabilizers

There is now an option on the Altos for the addition of front stabilizer jacks. I took a number of photos of the installation at the last RV show, and I knew I would be able to retrofit them to ours. I ordered the same jacks online, and headed over to my favourite metal supply store to find some stock to create the mounting plates I needed. This store is a great spot, and I have been there many times. They have a large section of scrap material which you can just hunt through all sorts of various pieces to find just what you need. I needed to make a couple of flat pates and a couple of angled plates for the jacks to be bolted to.

The plates are riveted to the underside of  the trailer, and the angle bracket is glued to the frame, as there is no drilling of the frame allowed. The glue recommended by the factory is automobile windshield adhesive. I was a bit intrigued when I heard this, but found out it is a very durable glue that is strong, yet remains a little flexible. Makes sense, given how it is used. Once the plates were in place, the holes were drilled for the bolts and the jacks installed.

These are more convienient to use. We were using a couple of screw jack stands under the frame, which did work well, but this is a better solution. We do use a couple of Lynx Levelors, which prevents the arm from sinking into the ground. 

the jacks in use. they make a huge difference from not using anything at all