Monday, December 31, 2012

Maps, Maps, and more Maps

I've had my head stuck in maps for the past couple weeks. With the New Year and retirement, there are lots of places I'd like to visit.

In the very short term, the map of interest covers the area between Key West, Mexico, and south Texas. Our son surprised us with the opportunity to join his family and his sister on a cruise with Mickey in the very near future.

Starting with the MLK weekend, it is looking like more than three weeks on or near various sections of the Colorado river between Hoover dam and Yuma as well as some time with friends in Quartzsite. Part of the river time will be quiet solo time where I can continue studying options for the anticipated summer trip to Alaska.

In spite of all the maps, books, and advice, we recognize that no matter how much planning we do, we don't control the future. My hope for this new year is that our lives will reflect Christ's love to those around us and that our decisions will be consistent with His will for our lives.

I trust that the New Year will be a happy one for each of you.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sometimes Good Ideas Need Help

When I built the shelf over the bathroom door in the Scamp, a wise friend suggested I might consider a light under the shelf since the shelf casts a shadow. I noted that I'd designed the shelf to assure access to the switch for the existing light specifically so that I wouldn't have to move it.

I figured that would be enough, but BJ decided that while the light was adequate, access to the switch when coming into a dark trailer at night was inadequate. I investigated locally available 12 volt or battery operated lights and decided to give this one from Sylvania a try. It's not the one suggested by the friend, but I like the looks of it better in this exposed location.

The very first mod to the Scamp was the installation of a paper towel holder midway between the stove and the sink. It has worked quite well for over two years but had an unintended consequence. It shades the 12 volt light from the stove.

The wise friend had recommended a 12 inch, 12 volt florescent fixture and I'd located something similar. BJ and I liked how it fit behind the frame of the upper cabinets over the stove, hiding nicely while relieving us of practicing braille cooking. The wise friend, in suggesting an option for one mod, improved two. Thanks, Bob.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Every year the Phoenix Zoo does a "Zoolights" fundraiser from about Thanksgiving until the end of New Year's week. The display changes each year and seems to attract bigger crowds each year. Perhaps going the day after Christmas was part of the reason for the massive crowds this year.

The big blue tree uses 30,000 lights which raised the question for how long it takes to set up for Zoolights. Research indicates it takes a crew of four 12 weeks to install the lights.

In addition to lighting the trees, there are a lot of animals shapes, many which appear to move. The monkey "swings" across a wire above the restrooms while birds "fly" in the trees nearby.

This year they added a light show in the lake with the trees, 12' floating tubes, and a 24' sphere changing colors and other effects in time to the music. I forgot the camera so all the photos are from my phone.

The Phoenix Zoo is a private non-profit operation that doesn't recieve any public funding. Zoolights is their largest fund raiser of the year and worth a visit if you're in town.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thinking About Christmas

Christmas feels different this year. Perhaps it's because I'm not as busy and therefore thinking more about the true meaning of Christmas. Perhaps it's because of the shock of multiple acts of violence in the last couple weeks. In any case, I've been thinking about the many people who are hurting as a direct and indirect result of two individuals who decided to inflict violence on others while ending their own lives.

I'm so thankful for our friends, scattered around the nation and the world. Many are involved in ministry - some in recognized roles, others ministering to the needs around them in ways that aren't always recognized. Each of our friends have been an influence in our lives, and for that I'm grateful.

Lemons, Limes, & Oranges
Unlike our youth when Christmas was signaled by cold weather and perhaps snow, the season is now signaled by the ripening citrus loading the trees in the backyard. This year, each tree seems to be carrying a bumper crop.

We were especially fortunate to have both of our kids with us for breakfast. Our son had an PHX overnight before headed back to Seattle & Anchorage this afternoon, complete with a bag of lemons. Our daughter joined us as well. First time in a long time that we've enjoyed a meal with just the four of us. We're looking forward to spending more time with them after the first of the year.

I trust that you each enjoy a blessed Christmas season and have a chance to share your joy with others.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hitch Height

Because of garage door height constraints, we have to remember two separate but important hitch heights. For the past couple years, I've used a tape measure, but that means wandering between the landing gear switch and the hitch, tape measure in hand. An easy solution is a length of yellow plastic chain, cut to the appropriate length.

Two key rings were installed in the appropriate links of the safety chain to assure that the measuring chain is connected to the correct links.

After the trailer is rolled out of the garage far enough to clear the forward escape hatch and canoe rack crossbar, the chain is re-positioned to the lower key ring and then the landing gear is extended until the chain hangs free.

I use a single "Hitchin' Rod" on the ball to ease alignment. It lines up with the centerline of the hitch structure.

For this trailer and hitch combination, 45 inches ground clearance gives about 1/2 inch ball clearance when the truck is in place. The Hitchin' Rod is stowed crosswise against one of the hitch plates. It was shortened to fit.

When the plastic measuring chain is not in use, it's stowed in a plastic food storage container mounted under the forward deck.  I've used Lock N' Lock brand before, but this one was some other brand that was "gifted" from the kitchen.

Simple, cheap, and works well, the way mods are supposed to be!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Night Hike = SAR Call-out

Went on a night hike a couple weekends ago with BJ, some of her Search & Rescue (SAR) friends and their families. It was supposed to be a nearly full moon but was slightly overcast so the moon wasn't as bright as it could have been. The rocky trail runs through desert landscape most of the way.

Hiking up the hill towards Hieroglyphic Canyon in the Superstitions did give lots of opportunities to view the city lights which were challenging to photograph without a tripod.

The creek wasn't flowing but there was some water in the deepest pool. There are several panels of petroglyphs that are quite interesting in the daylight. After a break and conversations, we started back down the hill.

We hadn't gone far when one of the people behind us called for the leader to return. It didn't take long to find that one of the people still near the top of the trail had broken their ankle.

What started out as a hike with friends quickly turned into a rescue. The SAR team's gear trailer was only a few miles away so they were able to get it before the remainder of the team responded to the callout. BJ, along with several of the SAR members that were on the hike headed back up the hill with the Stokes basket to carry the stabilized patient down the hill.

About 3.5 miles & 800 feet elevation gain for me. Double that for the SAR team - and a lot more work!  Sure is nice to hike with the "right" people.  It's definitely SAR season!  In addition to the Friday night rescue, there were three more rescues in Pinal County before the weekend was over.

Enjoy the outdoors but be careful!

Monday, December 10, 2012


I already had a post from a flurry of work on the Scamp that I titled Reflections, but I needed the title again for this post, thus Reflections2.

Friday was a day I'd tried to avoid, desiring to sneak out while no one was looking, but the boss wouldn't hear of it so they threw a big party to celebrate my retirement. I actually have a couple weeks left but this week is finals and then the faculty are gone until January. I didn't think that it was possible to keep a secret around this place, but they certainly did.

In addition to a video of reflections from faculty and staff, there were many people in attendance sharing their favorite memories. I was amazed at the stuff that I'd taken for granted and often totally forgotten that was seen as meaningful and special to people. While I've been fortunate the past several years to serve a key role in campus master planning and the construction of several buildings, that role wasn't really part of my job description - it just needed to be done. It's apparent from comments that others feel strongly that the campus is a better place - I couldn't ask for more!

My assistant joined my wife and I on several river trips. She clearly had an influence on the proceedings! Our VP of Academic Affairs was a professional musician before he got involved in higher education. He wrote an original song & music titled "On the River" illustrated with pictures she had from our various trips.

We don't have a history of extravagant farewells so I was especially honored when the campus took up a collection and purchased a new tent to replace the one I've nearly worn out. The Big Agnes Copper Spur 1 tent was the one I've dreamed about, but I wasn't willing to pay the price. I was overwhelmed and look forward to using it often. In addition, other college personnel provided a monetary gift that will become a spotting scope for viewing wildlife, and a GPS for finding our way home from this summer's Alaska trip.

As I reflect on the years with the college system, I continue to be amazed at the opportunities it provided.  I started as a faculty in a new Aviation Maintenance program and expected that would always be my role, but instead I've had unanticipated opportunities in curriculum development, faculty leadership. process improvement, and IT leadership in addition to the past nine years as a campus leader.  It's been a wonderful time that has positively impacted many lives but now it's time to find our way to the next chapter.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


The Scamp is a timeless design dating back to the early 70's. Not only is it timeless, it's little changed and still sports just two taillight assemblies without a third brake light. One of these days I'll get around to updating the taillight ensemble, but in the mean time I wanted to add some reflective tape. The belly band is slightly less than 3/4 inch, limiting options.

I hit the jackpot when I tripped into Tape Jungle online. They had multiple colors of 1/2 inch wide engineering grade reflective tape in ten yard rolls at a very good price. I ordered a roll of red and a roll of white on Thursday about noon and received a shipping confirmation less than two hours later. The package arrived in the mail on Saturday. Pretty exceptional for less than $15 with free shipping! (The free shipping may be a holiday special.)

I used white tape to mark the front corners, the transition between the main body and the doghouse, and the hitch. The big advantage to reflective tape on the forward areas will be in camp when the trailer is often unlit and disconnected from the truck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


All of the gear on what I've taken to calling the "communications shelf" is powered by USB adapters. With up to four more components looking for power, I decided to install a power distribution location in the area at the top of the cabinet. I had the small five-post buss bar in stock and ended up with a ten-post overkill buss bar for the ground side based on availability.

The buss bars are fed from a separate fuse in the trailer's stock AC/DC breaker & fuse box. The power lead is routed along the back of the cabinets and through the refrigerator enclosure. The ground ties into a buss bar I installed below the closet when I installed the Doc Watson power meter last year. Both new leads, plus the heavy ground leads for the Doc Watson, are routed up the back corner of the closet.

Used a Bestek "four way car splitter charger" from Amazon to provide a source for all the USB feeds. Cut the cigarette lighter plug off it and wired it directly to the buss bars. Turns out it draws about .5 watt when idle, so I'll install a kill switch for it one of these days.

The Bestek device hangs in a cradle bent from a piece of 3/4" aluminum strap attached to the wall with some of that multi-purpose 3M Very High Bond double faced tape. The wires in this view are associated with the Doc Watson power meter installation.

Tried to keep the wiring somewhat neat, but it was a challenge given the space and location.  Velcro does wonders for keeping all the extra lengths out of the way. The adapter on the right powers the Wilson Sleek 4V. The two USB cords plugged directly into the four port adapter power the MP3 player and the Novatel 4620 MiFi. The spare cigarette lighter port will be used for an adapter to recharge our phones.

The shelf is now powered, nearly populated, and fully functional.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Antenna Installation

I've become a very happy fan of the Millenicom 4G MiFi that we've been using for several months now. While it was intended for use while we travel, it's now our default Internet access at home as well.

For the trailer, I wanted an external antenna feeding a Wilson Sleek amplifier, but the antenna needed to clear our garage opening and not require running a feed wire through an open window screen. I seriously considered a temporary style mount on the back bumper, but couldn't find a weatherproof coax fitting for the feed-through so I went a different direction.

The mount I elected to use is a Shakespeare 4186U Nylon Rachet Mount from Amazon, designed for marine use. It's also available in a chrome plated model and a stainless model, but the nylon version was the most affordable and looked like it would fit our needs. I fabricated a 42" extension from 1" Schedule 40 PVC.  It was 42" because that was the length of the piece I had.

The mount was positioned over the cabinet above the closet to provide an easy run to the amplifier. It was positioned on the slope to take advantage of the refrigerator vent when the antenna is in the stowed position. The mount is attached with stainless bolts, large area washers, and nyloc nuts. The insulation and "rat fur" goes back in place when the installation is finished.

I wanted to use a bulkhead seal suggested by a very experienced RVer but it was made in Italy and both US distributors were out of stock. Ended up using the Blue Sea CableClam which is just as functional but a bit more bulky. It was another Amazon purchase. These are available in various sizes - I used a 7/8" version but could have used a 5/8" version based on the diameter of the connector on the antenna.

The CableClam base was installed just inboard of the antenna mount base. It came with stainless wood screws for installation of the base plate, but we used stainless machine screws through the fiberglass shell. The upper section consists of a tapered rubber piece, compressed and held in position by the upper retention ring attached to the base with stainless machine screws.

The Maximum Signal "Super Trucker Antenna" came with a stainless mount, U bolt, and hardware so that it could be clamped to the top of the extension. In the travel position, the extension "snaps" into a saddle fabricated from a short piece of 1.25" PVC pipe that was cut so that slightly more than 1/2 of it is used.

I think it makes a pretty clean installation in the stowed position, and doesn't impact garage clearance. It does require a ladder to access the mount to move it to the vertical position, but I carry the ladder for stowing the canoe anyway. We typically only haul one canoe which is loaded on the curb side of the trailer, so the antenna location won't be an issue with the canoe.

With just over a month until retirement, we're getting ready but won't have an operational report for a while.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Your Sign

While I was working with PVC pipe for the awning frames, I decided to build a sign for our site at the Quartzsite Gathering in early February.  Last year there were 80 fiberglass trailers there.  A sign would make it a lot easier for internet friends to find us.

The base was  made from pieces of Western Red Cedar 2x4 that happened to be close to the saw.  A couple coats of spar varnish will slow down damage from moisture, just in case it happens to rain in the desert.

The frame was designed so that the fittings were glued to the horizontal pieces while the verticals were sanded so that they would slip together easily. The sign was printed on ledger-sized paper, laminated, and then glued to coroplast backing, making a reasonably weatherproof sign.  Shower curtain rings complete the ensemble.

After I made the sign, I realized that it could actually display two signs.  The second one is asking for personal experience and recommendations for the Alaska trip planned for next summer.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Window Awnings - Part 3

This project has taken longer and was more work than I expected, but it's now complete enough to write the last blog post about awnings. The key to this part of the project was the seamstress.

There's a total of four separate awnings. The left and right sides are the same. The two for the rear window vary slightly, with the left one having a flap that overlaps the right side and connects with velcro. This project confirmed that the rear window and the spare tire are not mounted on the center line of the trailer.

The awning is attached to the PVC frame with loops of strap.  A piece of 1 x .125 aluminum strap is sewn into the lower hem to add a little weight and keep the edge straight.

The lower end of the stay strap is hooked to a 3M Command hook.

The rear frames were much more challenging because of the curve of the belly band. I ended up using a tee and a cap for the outer corner to get the offset so that the bottom of the rear frames lined up straight.

We made the rear awning in two pieces so it would fit in the curbside hatch.  Each awning frame disassembles into four pieces and is rolled with the awning and strap and then stowed in it's individual bag.

Now we can be in the shade even when we're not.

Part 1 and Part 2 of the project were earlier this month.

Updated April 2, 2013: We discovered that the Command Hook would fail in a brisk breeze. Our solution was the installation of metal hooks fabricated from 100 lb. picture hangars. They are seated with 3M5200 sealant and retained by a single rivet.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks!

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving a bit different this year. No trash can turkey, and no big family gathering. Instead, I'll spend the weekend futzing around with Scamp mods.

This year has been different from so many that we've enjoyed. We've had good times with the family including a wedding, meeting new extended family, a river trip with our daughter, paddling with our grandson, and a fairly long road trip in July with visits to several National Parks.

At the same time, we can also give thanks for the changes at work that led me to announce my retirement sooner than I might have otherwise. With just 22 work days remaining, it's time to start packing.

While it’s a bit scary, the calendar is filling with things we wouldn't be able to do with a 40 hour work week calendar. I'm looking forward to time with new friends in January and February and continued planning and preparation for a road trip to Alaska for several months this coming summer.  We're so fortunate to have good friends scattered all over the world and we're looking forward to being able to spend some time with them.

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Put it on the Shelf

But first you have to have a shelf. The Wilson Sleek 4G amplifier for the Scamp arrived and needs a home. Since we're slowly turning the top of the cupboard above the closet into an electrical distribution center, it seemed the Sleek and the Novatel 4620 MiFi from Millenicom should be located somewhere nearby but accessible.

I decided to build a small cantilevered box shelf above the bathroom door. Of course, that meant a trip to the lumber store since I had alder, ash, and oak in stock but no birch. Pieces of 1/4" Baltic birch will form the top and bottom of the shelf.

Some glue and clamps and the first phase is done. I left the ends long because they were easier to cut off after the glue dries.

The bottom of the shelf is flush. The top has a lip around the shelf.

The cleat screws through the wall and into the frame of the bathroom ceiling. The caps were popped off the factory screws and then the back side of the cleat was relieved to clear the original screws.

The shelf isn't designed to hold lots of weight. The Sleek and MiFi will go on the left end. The MP3 player will go on the right end, held on the shelf by velcro. Five volt DC for both unit will route from the wall on the left.

The shelf is finished with satin polyurethane.

It was nice to spend some time messing with wood for a change.