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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

We Got The Covid Vaccine

This afternoon during lunch - my friend texted me and said they are offering the vaccine at the county office. They told me the location - we hopped in the car - and away we went. 

We got there at 1 PM - there was maybe 40 or 50 cars in the line. Since they were giving the shots right in the cars - there was no delay. We filled out one sheet of paper - did not produce ID - just signed the paper. They gave us the shot - we then had to wait 15 minutes in a parking lot. 

The EMT staff told us to blow our horn if anything was wrong. Then they put a stickers on us and sent us home. We will go back for a booster on Jan 26th. 

The shot we got was the Moderna Vaccine - it is 95% effective. It is the one that does not have to be stored at the super cold temperature. 

There were no notices in the newspaper or on the radio. At first I thought it was a hoax - it came about so fast. But it was the real deal. 

We are both good. Lulu is celebrating with an afternoon victory nap. 


Saturday, December 26, 2020

CAMPER CARE - Freezing in Florida

At 5 AM this morning it was 27 degrees in Tallahassee. It is already up to 40 degrees at 10 AM and will climb to a high of 48 degrees. You would not know it by looking because we have bright sun and a dark blue sky. 

Since we seldom get freezing here - I did not have the camper tanks drained or the water lines bled. When I woke up at 9 - I put some clothes on and went out to check the camper. It was 30 degrees on the thermostat inside. I immediately turned on the furnace and the engine. The temperature got to a toasty 50 degrees in just 10 minutes. I turned the water pump on and tried the sink faucet - it was fine. I then tried the toilet and the shower nozzle - again fine. Lastly - I check the outside shower - it flowed smoothly. 

I turned on the water heater - it fired right up - as did the generator. Finally - I turned the camper into the sun to warm it up. 

Tonight - they are predicting 23 degrees here. I plan to leave the furnace on all night. The water heater will be left on too. 

Some people here experienced power failures from heavy rain and wind. We were ready with our  backup power systems - but there was no need. 

When we lived in Pennsylvania we owned an Argosy Motor Home. One time I drained the tanks and blew out the water lines only to have a water line break that was not drained fully. It was pain  replacing that water line. They sell a special pink anti-freeze for campers to put in water lines that carry drinking water. 

We are already for a camper trip from Tallahassee to Key West right after New Years Day. We do not have reservations and plan to vagabond all the way. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Camper With a Blocked Sewer Tank Is Just a Van - Unblocking My Roadtrek Toilet

People love traveling in campers. Right now during the plague - it is a great way to go carrying everything you need - safely away from the crowds. They are so many comfortable features in our Roadtrek - a bed - refrigerator - heater - stove - sink - and TV. But the feature I like more than anything is a flushing toilet. There is nothing than having a clean comfortable private bathroom.

The new toilet

I removed this pipe and elbow

About a month ago - I bought a new toilet for our camper. The old one was 16 years old and a showing its age. It was very easy to install the new one and after it was in place - we had to have a test trip. The physician's motto is - first do no harm. The camper toilet flushed beautifully. Normally our tank system holds - 30 gallons of fresh water - 15 gallons of gray sewer water from the shower and sink - and 15 gallons of black sewer water from the toilet. We also carry 7 gallons of propane and 35 gallons of gasoline. 

During the trip - the toilet was not draining normally. This usually can be fixed by going to a dump station and emptying the black water tank. I tried that and only a slow dribble of water came out. Usually it is like a 15 second torrent of effluent. 

When we went home - I tried again to drain the tanks into our dump station. The gray water drained fast - but the black water was just a few drips. First I tried putting a garden hose down the toilet to flush away any debris - nothing happened except the toilet quickly filled to overflowing - yuck. I tried using a piece of Pex water tubing to act as a rake to clear the debris - nothing. 

I went to Walmart to purchase a reverse flow attachment for $17 - that forced water up the sewer pipe outside - an enema if you will. This did cause more water to come out of the toilet - but nothing would flow down. 

This attachment forced water like an 
enema up the sewer pipe.

Next I decided I had to buy a pair of ramps from Harbor Freight for $33. They raised the camper 6 inches - enough for me to crawl under on my back. They were rated for 13,000 pounds - much higher than the gross weight of my Roadtrek - 8000 pounds. I felt safe under the camper - but a shop lift would have been so much better. 

I examined the bottom of the camper - and figured out the layout of the 5 tanks under there. The sewer tank is 8 feet long! It is also very narrow and certainly not deep. What confused me at first was that both the gray water and black water outlet pipes came out of the same tank. There are two valves so you can empty gray water and black water separately. I then figured out the tank had a divider inside - really two tanks in one. I also noticed that I could easily removed a 4 foot section of sewer pipe and elbow - all the way up to the two gate valves for the black and gray water. It was easily done with 3 small screws. With that removed all I had left was 4 feet of pipe and one 90 degree elbow to the tank. Surely the blockage was in that last 4 feet. 

Next - I bought an endoscope - a camera very similar to what a doctor uses to do an endoscopy on you. It was $35 on Amazon and wirelessly hooked up to my iPhone. I must admit it is pretty clever - you get color pictures - color video - and sound - as you explore the inner workings of your poop tank.

I used a piece of blue Pex tubing and inserted the camera and wire in the tube. It went down the hole easily and bend horizontally into the tank. The tank was half empty after sitting a night. It looked like I was in an airplane flying over clouds. When I swayed the camper a little - I could see the clouds moving. Since I tried several quarts of Mister Plumber and a gallon of detergent from the Dollar Store - the cloud must have been a toxic sludge of chemicals and toilet paper. 

The endoscope with LED light

Next - I pushed the endoscope camera up into the pipe at the gate valve. It went in a foot and turned. I could see what I hope to see - the blockage. I could see some faint green - I use green microfiber rags to clean - this must be it. In my excitement - I forgot to take the money shot. I quickly grabbed my drill attached to a roto-rooter - one of those rotating metal worms with a hook on the end. It whirled and whirled and finally like catching a fish - it snagged and bit in. Water started to run a bit - and I naturally pulled back - setting the hook! The green rag fell out flopping on the ground like a big mouth bass. 

Drawing of sewer system. I removed the
black water out pipe. Note the gate valve.

I was laying flat on my back - with just inches of room. All of a sudden a tsunami came gushing out of the pipe. I had nowhere to go. Water and sludge all over the place and me! It reminded me of those old movies where they are digging for oil and all of a sudden there is a gusher. The workers are dancing around with the oil mess all over them - but they are super happy. I felt that way - covered with bits of toilet paper and sludge. 
A green microfiber rag was 
fished out by the auger

I called Lulu to come out and see. She was relieved because she is missing a shower fluffy - and thought that may have been the culprit. She was happy it was caused by something stupid I did. When installing the toilet - I used a green rag to cover the sewer hole to prevent odors. I am guessing it fell in and I did not notice. I guess it is like a doctor leaving a sponge inside of a person during an operation. 

Just two tools are needed to 
remove the toilet.

I ran the garden hose into the toilet at full force - it flowed straight thru never backing up. Clear water in - clear water out. One last time - I inserted the endoscope to get a nice clean picture of the inside of the tank. You can easily see where the water exits through a three inch diameter hole. It is in great shape for being 16 years old. 

After the rag was out - clean water flowed
through the tank from hose in toilet

It is fun solving problems like this when you have the time to do it - no urgency. Some problems we have are caused by others - sometimes they are just acts of nature - but in this cause it was caused by me.  

On to the next adventure.  

I used those ramps to lift the truck.
Much of the mess was toilet paper 
dissolved behind the rag

The blue Pex tubing was used to 
wash out the tank.

Although I was covered with 
effluent - I was happy to solve the

Pex tubing served two jobs. First - to guide
the endoscope. Second - to scrape the tank inside.

Videos of the tank inside and out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Powering Your Home With a Nissan Leaf Electric Car

This is my 2012 Nissan Leaf with inverter hooked up

I have a 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car. It has given excellent service for 8 years. When it was new it had a range of 70 miles on a charge. Now that the battery is getting tired - it only gets about 45 miles on a charge. It is a great in-town car - but I would never take it on a long trip. 

In Florida - we have lots of hurricanes that blow down trees and cause power outages. When Hurricane Michael came by recently - it knocked out our power for 8 days. I was able to power our house with a Honda 2000 natural gas generator. It did a great job running 8 days straight - it reminded me of the Jewish Menorah - 8 crazy nights. The Honda generator is very quiet - but it is not silent. 

I have often wanted to buy Tesla Powerwall battery. Very simply - it is a big $6000 battery that charges during normal times - and when the power fails - you can use the battery to charge your home. It is an expensive luxury - and when combined with solar panels you can power your home for free. I recently had a quote done on my home for solar panels and a Powerwall battery - it was $27,000! I passed. 

Then I thought to myself - my Nissan Leaf has a giant 650 pound battery in it. It can hold 24 KWH at 400 volts. Surely that could partially power my home in an emergency. It also has a 12 volt accessory battery. The big battery reduces the voltage and keeps the little battery charged when the car is turned on. 

I thought that I could use the 12 volt battery - connect an inverter to it - and produce about 1000 watts of 110 volt AC power. The big battery would keep the small battery charged a long time. 

I pulled the car up to the house - hooked the 1100 watt inverter to the small battery. I turned the system on and plugged a lamp into the inverter - and the light went on. I felt like Thomas Edison. Eureka! So far so good. But the light uses less than 10 watts of power. 

Next I ran a 12 gauge extension cord from the inverter into the house to our refrigerator. I put a gauge at the refrigerator to measure the volts - watts - amps. I turned the system on - and the refrigerator lit up. The motor went on. Everything seemed to work. I was powering our refrigerator freezer from the Nissan Leaf battery. The badge in the refrigerator says it can draw up to 11.6 amps - about 1200 watts.

When I started at noon - the mileage gauge on the Nissan Leaf read 36 miles of range. All afternoon I was watching the gauges - making sure no warning lights or beepers were going off. I felt the battery - inverter - cords - gauges - to make sure nothing was getting hot. The little cooling fan on the inverter did not even cycle on and off. This was too easy. 

The gauge would show the refrigerator drawing as little as 10 watts and as much as 200 watts. Of course when the compressor came on - there would be a surge. The inverter is rated at 1100 watts - but can produce 2200 watts for short surges. 

I love my old Nissan Leaf. It is a fast - nimble - quiet - and smooth car. But the range has dropped so much - it is just good for short errands of 45 miles or less. It cost $42,000 new - but now the books says it is worth just $5000. A new battery is $6000 - so I am not going to invest in that. I am 72 and have three other cars. Lulu loves driving the Leaf to campus - when we are in normal times. It is excellent for going a few miles and letting it sit all day - then driving home. I have a trailer hitch on it and pull my little trailer around our property doing yard work. It has gobs of torque.

At 10 pm - the mileage gauge had dropped from 36 miles down to 31 miles. It used 5 miles of range to run the inverter and refrigerator for 10 hours. If you extrapolate that out over 45 miles of range - it means it could run the refrigerator - a few lights - TV - computer - phones - for about 90 hours - almost 4 full days. 

Lulu requested that I shut it down for overnight - she said I proved my point. She worried it would fail at night and thaw her food. She was such a good sport up to then - I packed everything up - plugged the refrigerator back into the wall - and wrote this story. 

During the next power failure - in Florida we are always assured there will be a next one. Instead of striking up the Honda generator - I will start off using the Nissan Leaf to power my home. I also have a generator in my motor home that produces 2800 watts of power - but if I used that - I would not have thought to write this story. 

650 pound battery in floor of Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf battery costs new $6000

Inverter cables attached to 12 volt accessory battery

Inverter changes 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC power

The Krieger 1100 cost $80 on Amazon. 
It produces 1100 watts of AC power 
with 2200 watt surges

The little 12 volt battery kept putting out
13.1 volts of DC power

The frig drew .28 amps

In the house we were receiving 113 volts
of AC power

The 12 gauge extension cord went
straight to the refrigerator

The freezer remained at 2 degrees.
The refrigerator remained at 36 degrees
during the whole experiment. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

We Replaced The Toilet In Our Camper

This is the new Aqua Magic V installed

This is our 2004 Dodge Roadtrek.

Today I replaced the 16 year old toilet in our camper. It still worked fine - but rather than just replace moving parts - we chose to install a new unit. 16 years is a longtime for a lightweight plastic unit. 

The old toilet was a Thetford Aqua Magic IV. We searched on Amazon - and they offered a Thetford Aqua Magic V for $135. The main difference was that the newer model had a hand flush system - the old one had a foot pedal flush. Other than that they are pretty much same. 

First I took the old one out. It only had two nuts to remove with a ½ inch wrench. The water supply was simply twisted off by hand. When I lifted off the old toilet - it exposed the old rubber gasket. It installs just like a toilet in your home - but it is much lighted due to being made of plastic. You can lift the toilet with one hand. 

When I fit the new one into the space - I noticed that the water supply hose was about one or two inches short. I had to lengthen the water supply line. 

After that it was a simple plug in the old one - fasten the two brass nuts - and twist on the water supply. 

Before I tightened everything down - I turned on the water pump to see how it worked. There is not a lot of room in the toilet closet - so you had to take your time tightening everything. 

I am really happy with the results. The old foot pedal worked fine - but the handle control seems more precise. You can flush and add water while you are sitting. 

The new toilet on the left - the old one on the right. It came with gasket and bolts. 

Here is the water supply and sewer flange

The old toilet had pedals and was a little lower

Notice the new toilet has a higher water inlet

It is a nice clean installation

The new rubber gasket 

I added a small piece of hose to the water connection. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tamaqua's Own Andrew Leibenguth Visited Us In Tallahassee

Andrew - Steven - Lulu - Me

You can see us - the 2 spots together. Our house - 
garage - camper - truck - trailer - heat pump.
4 citrus trees by the truck.
The roof was damp from rain. 

One of Lulu's former students from Tamaqua High School was driving from Dallas to his home near Ocala FL. He sent a text message asking to stop by for a visit. We love when friends - coal crackers - and students drop by. I was friends with Andrew's father John back in the 1960s - I have not seen him since then - but being with Andrew felt like being back home with old friends. 

We live about one mile from the State Capitol.
Tallahassee is so proud of its oak trees. 

Andrew is a technology whiz. He has been doing web pages and operating drones way back when - before it was fashionable. He coached me into buying a Mavic Mini Drone - although he said he never had actually flown one. This led me into getting my drone out - and giving him a chance to fly it. Most of the pictures I have of Andy include him holding a drone controller and smiling into the camera. 

Andrew served as a soldier in Afghanistan. He returned to Tamaqua to become very active in community projects in his hometown. He keeps a Tamaqua web page - even though he lives in Florida now. 

We used to live on that lake for 10 years

Since I bought the drone - back in February - I was chicken to take it up too high - usually my ceiling was 200 feet. Andrew must have excellent vision because he took it up way above my eyesight. Most of the time he flew it - he did not look at the drone - he was using the screen on my iPhone to see where he was going. He commented on how easy it was to fly compared to his drone - one that he paid much more money for. My drone was $400. 

Our neighbor is building a new pool - 80k. 

Andrew took all the pictures on this page. At no time did the drone wander over my neighbors' property. I thought that was good in case it fell out of the sky for some reason. My drone controller has a button - if you push it - the drone will fly back to the exact spot where it took off. When the drone is outside - it uses a GPS to fly and is very accurate. When you take your fingers of the controller - it will stay in one spot until the battery runs out - then land safely. You can control the camera - left and right - up and down. You can steer the drone - left and right - front and back - up and down. The controller has two little joysticks. 

Our guests stayed a couple hours - then it was time for Lulu to teach her Tuesday class - so they were back on the road to home near Ocala. Andrew promised to come back again - when covid lifts - and go to some FSU events with us. 

With Covid - there have been so few things to write about. It was nice having a bit of a change. Usually it is wake up - breakfast - shave and shower - Howard - lunch - TV - walk - bike - wash a car - mow the grass - supper - porch sit - news - movie - bed - REPEAT - REPEAT - REPEAT. 

I used to be able to make a story out of I just did.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Last Year - October 1st - China's 70th birthday - We Saw The Parade - We Were In Beijing

October 1st starts Golden Week in China. Today is the 71st Birthday of the world's most populous country. They have 1.3 billion people - about 4 times as many as the United States. 

Last year we spent 6 months in Beijing the capital - where Nancy taught at Beijing Normal University as a Fulbright Scholar. We had a lovely apartment and enjoyed seeing China from the inside out. With so very few white faces - we were a minority but enjoyed a warm welcoming from everyone. People would come up to us on the street and welcome us - and use their best English idioms and slang on us. It was a life altering experience for us that now seems like just a dream. 

I recorded this parade using my iPhone on a tripod watching our apartment television. The party went on all day - I only recorded the first 90 minutes. 

We went to China in August and returned to the USA in January - right before the pandemic hit. We were able to travel freely through China to Shanghai - Nanjing - and Xian. We flew in and out of the country to Vietnam and Japan. We walked on the Great Wall. We enjoyed Shanghai Disneyworld. We had three sets of American guests that helped keep us from feeling homesick. 

There are so many other places in the world to visit - I doubt that we will ever fly the 15 hours to China again. But we have good memories of the people of China to last a lifetime. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Quiet Sequestered Trip To Fort Wilderness at Disneyworld

The gate to the empty Magic Kingdom 

It has been one strange summer. Due to the covid virus we have remained sequestered in Tallahassee. It has been very hot and humid. Usually we have been spending summer elsewhere - in London or the rest of Europe. Not this year - since Americans are banned in many places. This is the first summer in years that we stayed home. Our only trip was taking the camper back to Tamaqua PA and sleeping in Lulu's old homestead driveway. 

On Friday - Lulu got online and booked two nights in the Fort Wilderness campground at Disneyworld. We packed the camper and at 9AM Saturday we pulled out of Tallahassee. The camper is our little covid cocoon.  We sleep - eat - and bath in there. The only virus we can catch in there is from each other. 

It is 270 miles from our home to Disneyworld - and we can almost make the entire round trip on one tank of gasoline. Since the weather forecast predicted rain all weekend - we stopped at a Bass Pro Shop in Gainesville and bought 2 ponchos. We topped up with gasoline - and that assured us we had fuel for the trip home. 

We arrived at Fort Wilderness in Disneyworld - and were greeted at the entrance booth by a masked man behind a shield. We said our names - and were waved right through to our campsite - 336 Cypress Knee Loop. Since rain was predicted for later - we took the folding bikes off the rack and rode around the resort. Due to covid or construction - we were no longer able to ride over to the Wilderness Lodge and other resort hotels. We did visit the pool and other old haunts we remembered from when we used to bring the kids here. 

Our Roadtrek at Fort Wilderness

The place was empty by Disney standards. Yes - there were very many large luxurious campers and motor homes - but not a lot of people. I am guessing most of them were in the amusement parks. There were many more golf carts around than we remember. Our little bikes were nice for getting around. Saturday night - Lulu made supper on the charcoal grill. We ate outside before the rain started. 

It rained all Saturday night and Sunday night. Sometimes we slept with the AC on when it got humid - other times we turned the AC off and enjoyed the open windows. Lots of little Cypress sprigs were falling all over the camper. I was able to hose them off before we left.

Sunday we had light rain most of the day. We took the bus and boat over to the other resort hotels. Wilderness Lodge - Contemporary Resort - Polynesian Village - and the Grand Floridian all seemed nearly empty. We were allowed to roam freely through the hotels - but each time you came and went - they took your temperature. Masks were mandatory - and everyone wore them. There were plenty of workers wiping down surfaces. There were plenty of sneeze barriers around. On the monorail - each group had their own compartment - it reminded me of the old English trains - you had your own door. 

The beautiful lobby at the Grand Floridian

We went to the main gate of the Magic Kingdom. For years we paraded through that area with groups of students - and our own kids. It was so quiet - you could look into the park and see very few people on the main street. It was raining mildly and we chose to NOT go into the parks. We did enjoy the shops in the hotels because they were empty. 

Lulu made all our meals except one. On Sunday night - we had supper in the Grand Floridian. We found a nice restaurant that was virtually empty. I had chicken and Lulu had salmon in a beautiful dining room - with big windows - but we had it to ourselves. All of the hosts at Disney seemed even nicer than normal. Maybe with the layoffs - they kept the really good ones on the job.

The monorail - we had our own compartment

They are housing the NBA at the Grand Floridian - they are sequestered - and we did not see any players. 

All the Disney hotels are still very beautiful. Prices were high - starting near $500 a night. We thought our campground price at $95 was high - but I doubt we will ever stay at the hotel at that price. Our $95 price was discounted for being Florida residents. 

It was getting late Sunday night - around 8 PM - it was raining - so we decided to NOT visit Disney Springs - the shopping area. We did not want to tempt fate after doing such a good job staying away from people - and wearing our masks. We have been there several time before. 

We spent $200 for campground - $50 for gasoline - $50 for supper at Disney. Not bad for 3 days in Disney. 

Monday morning we got up - had breakfast - got showers - and headed home. The best weather we had was Monday driving home - mild weather - no rain. We only stopped once the whole way home to change drivers. We were home by 4 PM. If the weather was nicer - we may have stayed a day longer. But honestly - the strange feeling at Disney - few people - the covid precautions - and the memories of previous trips - said it was time to go home. 

Swimming at the Polynesian Village

I read about a new term called TRAVEL SHAMING. It is when people shun you because you go traveling during a pandemic. Also MASK SHAMING - where people insult you if you even drop your mask for a second to communicate or eat. Everyone has become an expert on what is right and wrong. Some people may even think something like - I hope he gets covid. He deserves it. This virus has changed all of us. 

We miss the nice hotels and flying all over the world by jet in Lulu's job.  I seldom eat in fancy restaurants but I still love a meat and potatoes barbecue joint or some good pizza or pasta. My kingdom for a pub. We all would be much slimmer if we avoided too many dining out meals. But it is certainly fun sampling foods all over the world.

We are lucky to have our little camper van that lets us travel in relative safety. I love the meals that Lulu makes for us on the road. We all hope for a vaccine to help things back to normal. 

Wild turkeys at our campsite

Our folding bikes are 10 years old.

Wilderness Lodge was beautiful but empty

Lulu found this lovely library table

These cabins at Wilderness Lodge
look like our old house

The Grand Canyon Room at the
Contemporary still is awesome

We love Dole whip - a
Hawaiian Pineapple ice cream treat

Polynesian empty rooms

Little Bora Bora cottages

The water was warm and wonderful - 
Polynesian hotel

Polynesian Lobby - a ghost town

Aloha - no one getting Leis

Dresses were discounted at 
the Grand Floridian

Our dining room for supper Sunday -
the Grand Floridian.