Sunday, June 30, 2024

6/26 Ft. Gratiot Light Station, Port Huron, MI

I spent a couple of rainy days in Sarnia, Ontario, tracking down some gravestones of my great-grandparents and stocking up on real Canadian peameal bacon.  This is not the smoked ham stuff we get in the U.S. and call Canadian bacon.  It is a very lean chunk of pork loin that has been brined in the refrigerator for 5-6 days in a mixture of salt water, maple syrup, pickling spices, and curing salt. You slice it (about 1/3 inch thick) and fry it gently in some butter, only 2-3 minutes on each side. You can make a sandwich of it or have it with eggs and toast in the morning. If you have never had the real stuff, check it out here. There are a lot of recipes for this meat, but I just use the boxed pickling spices, which result in a slightly sweet, but salty flavor, with tiny bit of clove and garlic taste. I also use a meat injector to make sure the brine gets all the way through the chunk of boneless pork loin.  And don't cheat by not using real maple syrup.  Yum!

On the way home, I had a lot of extra time, so stopped at this lighthouse in Port Huron, which is just across the St.Clair River from Sarnia. 

Way back in the early 1800s, fur traders and explorers brought their goods down from Lake Superior through Lake Huron to this area where the lake narrows and the water from Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron all head for Detroit and on to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  

I spent a pleasant hour on a tour and visiting the gift shop, but not before trying to figure out if I was allowed to park on the road outside of the museum.  Is my vehicle a truck or not?  This is a constant puzzle for me, especially when it comes to parking and speed limits.  My motorhome weighs very close to 15,000 pounds and is built on a Ford medium-duty truck chassis, similar to the chassis used for a lot of delivery and other commercial trucks. 

Lots of store or mall parking lots have "No Trucks" signs, and a lot of residential roads do not allow through trucks.  However, over the years, I have decided that most of the time, my vehicle is NOT the kind of truck they mean.   In this case, just about 100' down the road behind me, there was a sign that specified semi-trucks, and there was a big manufacturing plant of some sort, so I just stuck my handicap permit in my window and parked here!!

Very nice sign! 

The old garage is now a gift shop.

These buildings are not the original ones on this site from the early 1800s.  These were built around WWII.  The lighthouse is original, however.

This is one of the smaller Fresnel lenses.  It replaced an older oil lamp, and was subsequently replaced by one using LED bulbs.  Most ships really do not need lighthouses as much as they originally did, but it is nice to see one still operating.

I have climbed the steps of a lot of lighthouses, including the one at Cape Hatteras, which is the tallest in the U.S. and the Ponce de Leon lighthouse just south of Daytona Beach.  Today, however, I decided to not bother. 

I am on my way for a night's stay in Lapeer and then on my way to a graduation party in Traverse and the annual Cherry Festival!

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

6/18 More Tips for Motorhoming

I have given up on trying to add items to my previous list because my HTML skills are rudimentary and the numbered items are set up as a table and won't let me add new items. 

Anyway, here are a few more serious things I have learned over the years and thought some of you newer folks should know about. I will put them in paragraph format so I can more easily add more items. 

First, I was reminded today that if you take prescription medications, the bottles will tell you that they to be stored at a certain temperature range--roughly room temperature.  However, RVs are like cars in that when parked, they tend to get very hot or very cold unless you are plugged in and using your AC or heaters. I was told by a couple of pharmacists that the best way to store medications is in a small cooler, but without ice.  The cooler will help the temperature stay more consistent, and more like what would be room temperature in a house. 

Second, RVs are a lot taller than cars and thus are more sensitive to side winds or the wind caused by big trucks as they pass you.  Most of us who have been on the road a few years know to either get off the highway if winds hit 20-25 MPH, or at least slow down substantially, like to maybe 45-50 MPH, if you cannot get off the highway safely.  For this reason, it is always a good idea to add an extra "emergency" day to your travel plans.  

Third, related to the above, know how tall your motorhome or trailer is.  If you want to see what NOT knowing the height or your vehicle is, check out this website:  (The bridge has been raised a few inches, but the results are the same for drivers who do not know how tall their rigs are.)   The best solution is to get a GPS system meant for RVs or trucks where you enter your height, plus a few inches just in case, and the GPS will keep you away from low bridges and the experience of losing a vent cover, AC unit, or your entire roof.

Fourth, speaking of dangers, your front tires are critical, so make sure your newest and best tires are on the front.  I have had three blowouts of rear dually tires, and it was really scary.  Never try to drive with one dually blown, as the remaining tire cannot handle the extra weight and will also blow soon, causing a lot of damage to things underneath your vehicle, as well as possible body damage.  Pull over immediately, stick out some warning cones, and call road service.  It may take a couple of hours for someone to come and change your tire, but you at least have a bathroom and refrigerator with you, which cars do not!!   So, sit back and relax, and hopefully you have a good road service company such as CoachNet.

Fifth, and an addendum to the item above, make sure you always have a good spare tire.  You cannot count on a tow truck to bring a tire you can use temporarily.  Plus, they cannot tow you with a blown tire, so you are going to be stuck for a long time on the side of the road waiting to get a new tire brought to you.  (And do I need to mention that you should always know your tire size and carry some orange cones or triangles to put out on the road??)

Sixth, If your vehicle does not display tire pressure and temperature, you might want to buy a tire pressure monitor that sits on your dash and add sensor caps to each tire.  I got tired of constantly worrying if my tires were inflated correctly or were ready to blow, so I got a TST 507, but there are other brands.  It is a little tricky to program each tire cap, but well worth it to know that your tires are OK and not underinflated or overheating when you are going up or down mountains.  Also, I can turn it on before I drive and watch it as it cycles constantly through each tire.  No more worrying if a strange noise means something wrong or is just due to a weird road.   

Seventh, know what your rig weighs and what its maximum cargo carrying capacity is.  The cargo carrying capacity, or CCC, is on a yellow sticker somewhere inside your motorhome or trailer.  CCC is how much stuff you can carry on your RV above what it weighed when it left the factory.  This includes the weight of water and waste in your tanks, passengers and driver, pets, clothing and personal items, bedding and towels, groceries, various equipment such as tools and outdoor toys, and anything else you bring with you.  Being overloaded can cause tires to blow, a rough ride as springs and shocks are stressed, and even frame damage, so you need to periodically weigh your rig as you travel.  

Eighth, you can never have enough flashlights.  Walmart has some really good, small flashlights for $1.25, and I carry several extras, but you also need a couple of bigger flashlights.  I have small hooks on exits so I can grab one in case of an emergency in the dark.

Ninth, mice and other critters like that we provide them with nice, warm homes while we are camping.  I don't know how they get in, but I suspect they crawl in through small holes underneath our rigs or cracks in slides.  In any case, they DO get in, whether your rig is in storage or you are camping.  A year or so ago while camping in the desert in western Colorado, I was watching TV at 11 pm with all the lights on in my motorhome and sitting in my recliner.  A little fellow came out from under my sofa, and looked up at me with surprise that a human was actually there.  At midnight, I was outside with a flashlight trying to find my mousetraps with no success.  The next day I had to drive 35 miles to stock up on traps, but that night I caught two and then caught three the following night.  Left the next day for a place with fewer mice, but I strongly advise you to stock up on mousetraps, traps and powdered borax for ants, and a variety of insecticides before you take a long trip.   

Tenth, pack rats are common in the desert and very interesting animals because they dig burrows and protect their burrows with cactus nodules. They also like to steal colorful objects from campsites and use them to decorate their burrows.  However, they have a very bad habit of getting up under the hood of your motorhome or pickup truck and chewing the wires.  Those strings of lights people buy are very handy to put UNDER your rig, not hanging on your patio, to discourage pack rats.  If you do not have lights or an electric hookup to power any, the best thing is to open your vehicle hood and leave it up all night.   

TBD - And feel free to suggest more tips for newcomers in a comment!!

Saturday, June 1, 2024

6/1 Rules for RVing, Updated

I originally posted this in 2015, but somehow I forgot where I put it.  I have been looking for it ever since so I could repeat and update it based on stuff I have learned more recently.  Here is my updated list:

  1. Chocolate always goes in the refrigerator.  Leaving any kind of chocolate out in a hot RV results in an unsatisfactory puddle, as I learned on my first trip.

  2. Never go to bed or leave your rig for a substantial time without putting your awnings in.  Even if your awnings are electric and can be put away quickly in a storm or high wind, storms can come up very quickly, especially in the mountains or desert.

  3.  It will take you twice as long to drive somewhere as you thought it would.  That’s actually a good thing, as it is nice to enjoy the drive.

  4.  Pictures and maps posted by campgrounds lie. Campsites are at least 30% smaller and twice as sloped as advertised! To adjust for this, pick a bigger and flatter site than you think you need.  Corollary:  Campground owners also lie, so check photos and reviews online.   

  5.  You can never have enough plastic bins.  Everything must go in a bin or container of some sort or it will eventually fall on the floor while you are driving. Things stored in outside compartments need to be in waterproof bins, if possible. 

  6.  Things disappear faster in a small space than a large one. Buy clear plastic bins to help you find the things you put somewhere but can’t find.  Think of a purse with too many compartments.  

  7. Things leak, even though they are surrounded by weather-stripping.  A driving rain will sneak past the tightest of weather-proofing to get into underneath storage.  See #5 above about plastic bins.

  8.  Stuff in the refrigerator jumps around at every bump.  Therefore, food needs to be restrained with spring-loaded curtain rods, or you will have pre-scrambled eggs, and things will fall out when you open the door for a snack.  Also, breakage will be less if you buy foods in plastic containers rather than glass. 

  9. Dealers will promise you anything to get you to buy an RV, so don’t believe them unless they put it in writing.  Also, the service manager at a dealer will tell you to leave your RV, and they will start work on it in a couple of days.  Plan on at least a couple of weeks, and maybe even a couple of months. See my posting on tips for getting better RV service here.

  10.  Pack half as much as you think you need, but take twice as much money. RVing is really not a cheap way to live, but having your own bed, bathroom, and kitchen is priceless! 

I'll be posting updates to this from time to time, and I welcome other suggestions I can add to this list.