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Saturday, December 31, 2011

When Omni-Directional Isn’t

Today we got up late and were lazy.  Then we went on a small excursion into Corning.  First we went to a quilt store so Carol could stock up on some supplies.  (I’m sure she will post the details for those interested.)  After that we went to a car wash to clean our poor Honda which was really filthy after two days of trailing the RV through the rain and getting covered with road grime.

Then we went to the local Radio shack in search of an omni-directional DTV antenna (more on that later).  They had no clue (Why am I not surprised?). 

Then Carol went shopping at the Olive Pit which specializes in Olives. (I’m sure she will write that too).

After a quick lunch, we decided to go to Chico, about 40 minutes away and see if the Best Buy there had an omni-directional DTV antenna.  The guy there knew what I was looking for and had one that was amplified and sounded like a great fit.

We went to another quilt store in Chico for more supplies and then came back to the RV.  By this time it was 4pm, so we went for a 25 minute walk around the park to get some exercise.

Upon returning to the RV, I connected up my new antenna only to find that it is definitely not omni-directional.  Rats, I was really hoping it would work.  So we will need to take it back.

If you are looking for DTV local channel information, be sure to check out the TV Fool at TV  It has a great locator system to determine your local channels.

An interesting aside… the temperature at home in Vancouver, WA was 39.  It was 62 here in Corning and 73 in Pismo Beach where we are headed.  Also sunrise is 21 minutes earlier in Pismo compared to Vancouver, and sunset is 28 minutes later.  By mid-summer on the Solstice, the numbers will be over an hour for the sunrise and sunset in favor of Vancouver!

Tomorrow is Raider football day, so hopefully they win and Denver loses and they get into the playoffs.  They probably won’t last long if they make it, but it would make for a good year considering all their injuries.

More details on local channels

This is a special post at the request of one of my readers, Glenda Laine, who wants more details on the local channel options mentioned in the previous blog post.  That is the only topic for this post, so if you aren’t interested, feel free to skip this one.

OK, so you are interested….this only applies to Direct TV DVR service and not the Direct TV TiVo units nor DISH service.  If you do not have a Direct TV DVR, this won’t help you at all.

We actually have a number of Direct TV DVR/TiVo units on our account. There are basically three types of Direct TV DVR, not counting the old TIVO units that Direct TV used to use.

First is the HR20-700.  This unit has the digital TV channel (DTV) capability built in.  If you have this unit, the local DTV broadcast channels are available in the setup menus.  You win.  We have one of these at home and it works great!

Second is the HR22-100.  This unit does not have DTV built in.  There is also an HR21-100 which I think is very similar, but perhaps less capacity.  For this unit to have DTV capabilities, you need to add an external device called the AM21 Off Air Tuner.  This is available from Direct TV (on phone or website) and costs $50.  You might find one elsewhere (Craigslist or EBay for example). 

To use the AM21, you remove the power cord from the DVR and plug it into the AM21.  Then there is a cord supplied to connect power from the AM21 to the DVR.  Also there is a USB cord that you connect between the AM21 and DVR.  This carries the signal to the DVR.  You also need to connect an over-the-air antenna to the AM21 so that it can get the local channel DTV signal.

Once these connections are made, you can then use the menu to setup the local channels by entering the zip code.  (If you move from point to point, be sure to use the reset option first to remove the settings from your old location).  Then it is as if the local DTV channels are part of your satellite package.  You can record, watch, view the guide, save shows, etc.  All seems to work fine.

For RVs, you might want to get an Omni directional digital TV antenna to replace the directional batwing.  That way you don’t need to reposition the antenna as you change channels.  I am going to look into this and will post details if I find out what will work.

There is a new Direct TV DVR out that can record 5 channels at once.  This unit is the HMC (Home Media Center) DVR.  I don’t know much about it, so I have no idea what it does for local DTV broadcasts. 

I hope the above information clears up any questions.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Going Loco over Local

This morning we left right at 9am with no problems.  It had been raining fairly heavy until about 10 minutes before I needed to go outside to disconnect the RV.  So it was nice staying dry!

The trip today was 271 miles and included the Siskiyou mountains and the high pass on I-5 that is usually cause for concern this time of year.  In the past, I’ve always tried to time the mountain crossing to be early afternoon.  That way the ice that may have accumulated on the road overnight has melted and if it has been snowing, the temperature is usually high enough to have just slush.  But this trip, there was no snow in sight.


Above is a picture near Hilt, CA which is just south of the summit.  As you can see, no snow in sight.

If you have traveled into California, you will recall the Agricultural inspection stations a few miles inside the border.  Normally, these are no big problem.  But today we had 3 oranges that were from Chile so we had to surrender them.

We arrived at Rolling Hills Casino RV park at 3pm, about when I figured we would.  We had periods of rain during the drive, just enough to make a mess of the car.

The RV Park here gets excellent satellite TV as there are no trees.  However, even though we get our local stations via satellite at home, that only works when you are 200 miles or so from the major metropolitan area (in this case, Portland).  Once you exceed that, the spot beamed local stations are not available.  And you can’t get the local stations from this are on satellite either as your receiver is set to your home area.  So unless you want to change that while on the road (a hassle and you lose some other things), you can’t record your major network shows on your Direct TV DVR.

But, wait, there’s more………

I have an add on device that will attach to my DVR and will pick up the local digital TV signal and treat it as if it is a part of the satellite programming.  You get the guide, the ability to record, save shows, etc.  I wondered what this device knew of the local channels.

I noticed that when you configure it, you must give it your zip code.  That tells me it doesn’t know where it is until you tell it.  So might it work on the road?  I installed it about 6 weeks ago before we went to Cape Disappointment so I could try it there.  But there are no local stations in that area since it is so small.  This trip would be the first chance to try it.

Well, it works!  I gave it the zip code for the park here and it figured out the nearest digital TV signal service area and configured itself to receive those channels.  But configuring and actually receiving them are two different things.  At first, it got a blank screen.  But once I turned the antenna to the right direction, the signal became clear!

Now Sunday I can watch my Raider game which is being broadcast on a local network station in Portland, so it would not be on the NFL package for me on satellite.  Digital TV is the only way I will get to see it.  Now you know where I will be Sunday!  Here watching my Raiders try to get into the playoffs.

Carol also discovered some quilting shows on the digital channels so she can make use of this capability too.  (Just not when the Raiders are playing!).

We plan to stay here until Monday or maybe Tuesday, then go to Patterson until Thursday and go from there to Pismo Beach.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On the road again-----finally!

Well, we made it to Seven Feathers Casino RV Park today.  After getting delayed by our water main problem yesterday (see previous blog post), we didn’t get a clean start this morning either.

When I was ready to back the RV out, I wanted to put the back slide out except it would not go out.  Likewise the main slide would not activate either.   Skipping all the gory details, I thought at first it might be a fuse.  Could not find any documentation in the manuals on the location of fuses, so tried to call Fleetwood.  Except it was noon there and they all were at lunch till 1pm (10am here).  So I just checked every fuse I could find and of course, all of them were just fine.  I did eventually find a wire that appeared loose, so I tightened it onto the connector and that was the problem.

So, I backed the RV out to the street so I could hook up the car to be towed and noticed that the steps were not retracting.  Did some troubleshooting and eventually found that the cotter pin used to hold the motor actuator to the step had broken and the plug on the shaft was hanging out.  The cotter pin was about 3 sizes too small, so I put in one that actually fit the hole, lubricated everything, and now it worked just fine.

So we left home at 10:10am.  The 221 mile drive to Seven Feathers was pretty uneventful.  No traffic at all and for the first 80% of the trip there was little rain.  It did start raining for the last part of the trip, mostly showers though.  Also some side winds, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

During the last part of the trip, we listened to Carol’s IPod broadcast through the RV speakers.  She had a good sermon by Art Azurdia from Trinity Church in Portland.

We arrived about 3:00 and there were  six other RV’s checking in.  So we had to wait our turn (about 15 minutes) before being led to our site.  Got everything setup here and later we will be going out to dinner at the Casino.  (Rib eye special for $8.99 – mmmmmm).

Tomorrow we will head to Corning, CA and another casino RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino.  It will probably take 6 hours or so as it is 269 miles.  The weather forecast does not include snow over the mountain passes, so that is good news.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When the main makes puddles, send for the witch!

Well, if you have been reading Carol’s blog, you know we have been in a holding pattern regarding our upcoming trip.  Let me briefly tell you how we got to where we are at…..

On the night before Christmas

I sat comfy in my chair

Watching my football Raiders

win – an occasion so rare.


When from out on the porch

the doorbell did ring

I sprung to my feet

to check on this thing.


T’was a friendly neighbor

so shy and so meek

Dear friend, said he as he pointed outside

your driveway has become a creek!


With haste I went out

to take a quick peak

and lo and behold,

our water main sprung a leak.


I called my Santa plumber

and quickly he came

confirming our worst fears

it would take 3 grand to tame!


We hung our heads low

and retreated in fright

twas not a “Merry Christmas”

at all that night.


There really wasn’t much more we could do.  We were losing about 30% of the pressure down the gutter.  So I only turned it on when we really needed it.  Meanwhile, I quickly hooked up our Bounder and got it set up in lifeboat mode.  We could use its plumbing as a replacement until we could get the leak fixed.

But no one is going to be able to fix it on Christmas because the no one sells the needed parts on that day (or the next, since Christmas was on a Sunday).  But the plumber promised to get right on it Wednesday morning as soon as he finished up another job on Tuesday.

Our water main runs under about 35 feet of concrete in our driveway and side drive then under another 35 feet of concrete in the garage.  Digging up the concrete was not really an option as the leak may not be anywhere near where the water was coming up.  You could easily dig up half the concrete to find the actual leak.  Total replacement of the water main was actually easier and cheaper.  There is a machine (called a Ditch Witch – see title above) that can bore holes for a great distance – more on this later.

On Monday, he calls and says he will not be coming on Wednesday………but will come one day early – Tuesday.  (bet you thought that wasn’t going to be a happy ending!).  And he did.

Mike and his faithful sidekick Fernando (reminds me of the Lone Ranger and Tonto – always out to do good!) arrived just before 10am and began by digging out the water meter by the sidewalk.

At 1pm another guy arrives driving a truck and flatbed trailer that has on it the Ditch Witch. 

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This “tractor” drove into position and using lengths of a special shaft, started boring a hole in the ground.  The shaft lengths are about 5 feet long and every 5 feet, the operator stops and lays another section of shaft in a tray and the machine automatically adds it to the boring shaft and continues the process.

The most interesting part is that the boring head can be steered to go up, down, right, left.  It can handle up to 200 feet of these sections and the driver uses a joystick to steer it.

There is a remote sensing device that acts as a target.  The operator can place this target along the path he wants to bore the shaft.  He can also set the target depth and slope.

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There is actually a readout display showing the location of the head with the depth and angle.  This information is wirelessly transferred back to the operator.

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He looks at his control panel and with his right hand, uses the joystick to steer the head in the direction he wants to go.

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Above you can see the readout (top of the panel left) and the visual display (top of the panel right).

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Above is the joystick used for steering the head.  The actual sections for boring are very strong yet bendable so they allow the head to have a real good range of motion.

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This picture shows the water meter (top center) and you can see the shaft coming into the ground from the right.

What is really neat about this system is that once the shaft arrives at the desired location, the operator can cause it to surface right where the pipe comes out.  Our operator was about 2 inches to the right when it surfaced under the house – well within the needed area.

Then they attached the new water main flex line to the head and pull the pipe backwards through the hole just bored!  It took about 40 minutes to bore the 70 feet and about 10 to pull the pipe back.  Truly a great way to install a replacement main. 

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Above you can see the finished product – the new main comes up through the sill plate and ties into the distribution manifold.

The “Ditch Witch” system (tractor and electronic target) costs $150,000 so not everyone can have one just in case it is needed.  But this is really the way to go!  The final bill was $3,129 which sounds like a lot – but tearing up $8,000 worth of concrete was not going to be an option!.

So now we plan to leave Thursday, a day later than planned.  But this could easily have been much worse and more time consuming.  We look at it as having an extra day to pack for the trip!

Stay tuned for trip updates, probably on Thursday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

One of those days

Normally I don’t post unless we are on the road somewhere.  But seeing this cartoon, I just couldn’t resist sharing it with my blog followers!





And lastly, this item I got from a friend.  As the skies become more and more crowded with planes and travelers over the holidays, you might want to help keep an eye out the window…..



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunny Skies, Time Flies

Ever since Monday we have had mostly clear skies with occasional clouds and only one period of rain during the very early morning. And no wind to speak of.

I played some golf on Friday at the local course here.  Did nine holes and shot 4 over which was really good.  The course was in remarkably good shape given all the rain of the previous week.  Guess that sandy soil really worked.

Went to the Ilwaco lighted boat parade last night.  There were only 5 boats in it and they left at 6pm, went right out into the bay and apparently never came back!

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Not sure why I couldn’t get the camera to clearly focus, but the pictures give you some idea of the boats.  Interestingly enough, the reflections in the water are in perfect focus.  Go figure!

Tomorrow we leave for home (3.5 hours or so away).  It will be cold tonight again but clear and little wind.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A walk by the Waterfront

Today dawned bright and clear and cold…..a chilly 30 degrees at about 8am.  It was supposed to get to 29 last night and I don’t doubt that it did since there are no clouds around to hold in the warmth. 

After breakfast we went to the Ilwaco library to access the internet and check emails etc.  Then about noon we went down to the port of Ilwaco for a walk along their waterfront.

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The Port of Ilwaco waterfront

The shops along the waterfront consist of art galleries, book and gift stores, and of course a variety of restaurants.  The entire area is maybe four-tenths of a mile long from end to end.  Many of the shops were closed for the season and many of the eateries were only open on the weekend.

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At one of the mooring slots, there is this weird looking barge pictured above.  It almost looks like a small ferry boat with a ramp at one end.  Maybe it carries special equipment of some kind.  Carol noticed it coming into port a few days ago and today we saw where it was moored.

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The Ilwaco Marina area for small boats

There are many small boats in the marina area, most are pleasure craft with a few charter boats thrown in.  Someone really goes to a lot of effort to keep up the docks, decking and streets in the marina area as they look great.  At the far west entrance to the port area, they have this special Christmas Tree.

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This tree is made up of a large stack of crab traps.  Then garlands and lights are streamed down from the top with various buoys used for ornaments. 

Walking around the area there are stacks and stacks of crab traps on pallets.  If you watch Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, these traps are about 20 percent the size of the ones on the program.  I tried to lift one though and I would say they must weigh close to 200 pounds.  You wouldn’t think a crab trap would need to be that heavy.  Guess some of those crabs caught are strong!

Saturday night they have a lighted boat parade in the marina, and we are planning to go down and check it out.

Sunset at the Beach

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Today we went for a walk along the boardwalk in Long Beach.  The boardwalk is a .4 mile walk each way and is a raised wooden decking that runs through the sand dunes about 100 yards in from the beach.  It is a pleasant walk, but not a very long one.

Since the day dawned clear and calm, we did do that walk first (you never know when the weather here will change!).  Then we went to Hungry Harbor, our favorite lunch place in town.  The nice thing about it is that the food is good and the Wi-Fi is free and works really well.  So we were able to get caught up on internet items.

Once we got back, I installed some new tire pressure sensors on our toad.  The batteries in them only last about 6-7 years, so they were due to be replaced.  I have some on the RV that need replacing too, but won’t do them until I am home and can keep a better eye on them to make sure they don’t lose pressure when first installed.  RV tires are a real challenge for small air compressors and with the larger tires on our new RV, the pressure is really beyond what my portable compressor can handle.

As you can see above, we walked out to watch the sunset.  It was really pretty.  Today is the first time we had a chance to check it out and the weather cooperated!

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Once the sun went totally down, we came back to the RV.   It is going to get cold tonight with the forecasted low of 29.  Tomorrow’s low is 31 then we will warm up into the high 30s at night for the rest of our visit.

I took all these pictures with my cell phone camera and it did a real good job!

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Say goodnight, Dave!