Saturday, November 3, 2012

Boondocking Review: Picadilly Mall, Salmon Arm BC

On our trip last summer (July 17, 2012) we parked overnight at Picadilly Mall in Salmon Arm, BC.

1151 - 10th Avenue S.W.
Salmon Arm, B.C.
V1E 1T3

Coordinates: 50.693107,-119.297996

This mall welcomes boondockers.  So much so that they provide a free sani-dump in the NE corner of their parking lot.  Their website even says "complimentary sani-station & RV friendly parking."

The site was quiet, clean and well away from the highway.  There are lots of businesses to meet your travel needs. The next morning I returned some shopping carts to the corral, and shopped at the mall to show my gratitude.

Suggestion:  for your day site, to make a meal and hang out, go to McGuire Lake park, a short drive away.  Lovely, well maintianed and quiet.  

Address of McGuire Lake Park:
Trans-Canada Highway and 6th Street NE, Salmon Arm BC
Coordinates: 50.703471,-119.278114

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Tiny House Movement

I read with  interest this week about a local family who are building a "Tiny House".

The idea of the "Tiny House" is getting around, for example:

Photo Credit: RowdyKittens
I find this a very interesting take on the idea of fulltiming, and how fulltiming in an RV can be an environmentally friendly choice.

A tiny house is usually built on a trailer frame, because in almost all jurisdictions the building codes prohibit construction of permanent dwellings below a certain size.  Therefore Tiny House advocates usually need to build their homes on wheels to circumvent the building codes.  So a Tiny House is usually a type of RV.

Photo Credit: RowdyKittens
While there is significant overlap, the main difference (IMHO) between the Fulltiming movement and the Tiny House movement seems to be as follows:  tiny houses are not intended to move around a lot, where fulltimers (living in a conventional RV) tend to be more mobile - therefore (sometimes) burning a lot more fuel.  But it isn't necessarily so, and there are lots of RV fulltimers who are fervent environmentalists. An example of green fulltimers would be

Photo Credit: Joncallas
I often yearn to downsize, and free myself from the lifetime of junk I have accumulated.  Maybe someday I will  be a Fulltimer or live in a Tiny House.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

British Columbia Tour 2012

Roger's Pass BC

This summer we did a fifteen-day tour of British Columbia in our motorhome, from July 17th to 31st. the Total distance was 2807 km.

Google map of our route:

View BC Tour 2012 in a larger map

Outline and some highlights, followed by a few pictures:

  • July 17: Drove to Salmon Arm and boondocked at Piccadilly Mall.  They welcome boondockers and even provide a free sani-dump.  A nice place to make supper before hunkering down is McGuire Lake Park on the East side of Salmon Arm.
  • July 18: Drove to Kumsheen Rafting Resort near Lytton
  • July 19: Day of rafting on the Thompson River, hosted by  Kumsheen Rafting Resort . Photo below.
  • July 20: Drove to West Vancouver via the north route, through Lilooet, Pemberton and Whistler.  Incredible scenery!
  • July 21:  Visited relatives in West Vancouver, stayed at Capilano River RV Park.  Very expensive but clean.
  • July 22: Visited relatives in West Vancouver for a second day.
  • July 23: Drove to E.C. Manning Provincial Park
  • July 24: Drove to Osoyoos, on the Okanagan Valley. Stayed at the best campground of the trip, Haynes Point Provincial Park.   "Surrounded by warm water and sandy beaches, Haynes Point sits on a pencil of land jutting into Osoyoos Lake." Photo below.
  • July 25:  Drove north through the Okanagan, stopping at wineries such as Nk'mip Cellars and See Ya Later Ranch . took the winery tour at Nk'Mip Cellars. Ended the day at Kekuli Bay Provincial Park near Vernon.
  • July 26: Another day in  Kekuli Bay Provincial Park , cruised around Vernon and lazed at the beach in Paddlewheel Park.
  • July 27: drove to Vernon and visited the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery. Worth a visit just to see their lovely wood-fired still, let alone the delicious spirits. See Photo below.  Drove west on highway 6 to through Lumby, (beautiful scenery) took the ferry at Needles, through Nakusp and on to Halcyon Hot Springs Village and Spa.  Halcyon is the nicest hot springs I have ever seen!  Photo below.
  • July 28: Soaked some more in the hot springs.  Then drove down through the Slocan Valley through New Denver and stayed overnight on my brother's property near Winlaw.
  • July 29: Stayed in Winlaw. Spent the day boating with my brother on Slocan Lake.  This beautiful lake is a lot less crowded than anything in the Okanagan. 
  • July 30:  Drove on through Nelson; parked at Lakeside Park and rode our bikes from there along the Lakeside Waterfront Pathway. Walked through the quaint downtown area and did some shopping.  Drove on to Creston. 
  • July 31:  Picked 30 pounds of cherries in Creston, then drove home.

Rafting on the Thompson River

Beautiful campsite at Hayne's Point

The still a Okanagan Spirits

Halcyon Hot Springs

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Scary Story About Brakes

On a recent trip in British Columbia in our motorhome, our route included a lovely scenic highway from Lytton to Lilloet, and another from Lillooet to Pemberton.  It was a beautiful drive, and very rugged terrain.

View Larger Map

The first stretch was steep and winding.  The second stretch from Lilooet to Pemberton was even worse, with hairpin turns and very steep grades up to 13%.  The 13% portion was close to Pemberton, and there were signs saying "Recommended truck speed 10 KM/h".

For a few minutes before the trouble started I noticed a slight burning smell.

We were descending, when suddenly on a hairpin turn my wife noticed a hubcap had come flying off.  
You may recall I installed new hubcaps this year (described in this post).  In order to retrieve that hubcap, I stopped at the next pullout, which turned out to be very short and very steep; thus I had to brake hard.  We could see smoke coming from both front wheel wells, and the smell was unfamiliar to me.  The other front hubcap was gone too, but the rear ones were fine.

After retrieving the hubcap and waiting for the smoke to stop, we started out again and I noticed almost immediately that the brakes were very spongy - I could almost push the pedal to the floor.  I immediately geared down to the lowest gear, limiting our speed, and we crawled down the mountain as slowly as possible.   

Once we got down, the terrain levelled out and the brakes seemed much better, so I decided to drive to Pemberton to seek help. Within 10 minutes everything had returned to normal. 

What happened?

I am not a mechanic and will ask for some confirmation when I have the brakes inspected, but from my research I am pretty confident this is what happened:

We had experienced temporary brake failure; sometimes called "overheating brakes", "brake fade", or "brake fluid vapour lock".  The best description I could find can be found at this link.

Due to the heat of the day, the steep terrain, my heavy vehicle, and my haste to get to our destination, the brakes had overheated.  This resulted in a small amount of the the brake fluid near the calipers coming to a boil and turning into bubbles of gas, and also forcing a little fluid out onto the hot brake parts resulting in the burning smell.  Gas is highly compressible, where brake fluid is not; thus the brakes became spongy.  Once I had driven at low speed for 10-15 minutes the brakes cooled somewhat, the gas condensed back into fluid and the brakes were fine.

This may have been exacerbated a bit by the fact that I was using hubcaps on those front wheels.  The hubcaps could have retained some heat near the brakes.  I will need to do some research before I commit to installing new front hubcaps.  Very likely the heat from the brakes caused the hubcaps to become loose, either by weakening of some plastic behind the retainer clips or maybe a little expansion of the rim itself. 

Next step is a trip to the mechanic for an inspection and a brake fluid flush and fill. The fluid becomes a little more prone to boiling over time and should be replaced regularly anyway.

I'll update this post later if I find out more!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Checklist for Motorhome Camping and Travel

A packing/camping checklist helps to reduce my anxiety when packing for a trip.  That, and I hate to forget things.

Here is a link to my current camping checklist. 

Your checklist will be different than mine.  My checklist has changed over time depending on the number and ages of my children, and the mode of travel (bicycle, tent, tent-trailer, motorhome). Perhaps it would change again if I buy a different kind of RV.

There are lots of checklists available on the Internet, but maybe something about mine will be helpful to you - maybe because your mode of travel is the same or you are at the same stage of life.

This list is done in Google Docs, which permits me to print from any computer, or just view it on a tablet as I go through the items.  Plus I am able to share it, as I am doing with you now.  Feel free to copy this to your own Google document, modify and share again in any way you see fit. Consider this to be a creative commons licence, as described at

Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

If you find the checklist useful, please let me know.  

An aside: I quite enjoyed The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  As a frequent user of checklists, this book made sense to me.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cycling the Highwood Pass - Thwarted by Rain

I had a spectacular plan for this weekend.  But the weather is not cooperating.  

"Rainfall Warning in effect...Rainfall totals approaching
100 millimetres are likely by Sunday morning."

This weekend was the last chance this season - I'll have to wait for next year.  I'm going to write about it anyway because is is such a cool trip.

We planned to camp in Kananaskis and do the famous ride on highway 40 (paved) before it opens to vehicle traffic on Sunday June 15th. The highway is closed from December 15th to June 15th to reduce the impact on Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the area. The ride is popular and really unique because you can ride anywhere on highway - there are no motor vehicles. It is 17 KM to the pass, with an elevation gain of 536 meters on the way up and and exhilarating coast back down.   We did this about 10 years ago, and I am hankering to do it again.  Will you join me in 2013?

Here is a Calgary Herald article about it and a gallery of photos .
  • Highest paved road in Canada
  • 34 KM round trip, two to five hours.
  • Weather and road conditions: Peter Lougheed Conservation officer duty desk at (403) 591-6309.
  • Start: 50.716,-115.10868  Winter gates at junction of Highway 40 and Kananaskis Lakes Trail
  • Summit: 50.598913,-114.989444
  • Summit Elevation 2206 Meters (7239 Feet)

View Larger Map

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ladder Repair Part 2

Click here for part 1

Last week in part 1,  I discussed the parts for RV ladder repair, in particular the "Star Fangled Nut".

With the parts in hand, I began by disassembling the ladder.  

The at the top of my motorhome the ladder is firmly connected, well sealed and in great shape, so I decided to leave it as-is. I began by disassembling all the standoffs connected to the side of my motorhome.

Many of the bolts were rusted in place and I had to cut them off.

 Here is a standoff with the rusted star nut inside and the bolt rusted in place.

I drilled out the bolts.  In a few cases the only way I could get the star fangled nut out was to hammer it through to the opposite end.

Here are all the parts laid out, with one reassembled standoff. (P.S. Note the longer bolts are not stainless steel: later on I had to replace these as they started to rust.  Make sure ALL bolts are stainless steel.)

It is tricky to get the star fangled nut into the tube.  I slowly tapped it into place, watching to keep it aligned.

Before attaching each standoff to the sidewall, I put a generous amount of butyl putty on the end of the standoff. Butyl putty comes in a roll, and is called "putty tape".

I trimmed off the excess putty.

The bottom of the ladder was a challenge because it joins to the sidewall with no standoffs.

The star fangled nut must be assembled to the mounting bracket.  I braced the bracket against the sidewall with a piece of wood and used my hands to hammer the ladder onto the mounting bracket.

The nut would not go all the way into the tube.  I used a right angle screwdriver to get in behind the mounting bracket and loosen the bolt. Then I pounded the ladder again into the bracket to force the nut in a little further. I repeated this several times to get the nut about 3/8" into the ladder end.

Right-angle screwdriver

I applied putty, and attached the bracket to the sidewall.  A long screwdriver was very handy for this job.

I attached the rest of the standoffs to the ladder.  The job is complete!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ladder Repair Part 1: What the Heck is a "Star Fangled Nut"?

In recent years the ladder on the back of my RV has become a little rickety. 
Some of the horizontal tubes, called "standoffs" have begun to loosen and come away from the brackets where they attach to the sidewall.

In the picture below, you can see how the standoff tube is pulling away from the bracket.

I pulled the standoff tube away so you can see what is inside.  Lots of rust, and not much to hold that tube in place.

The star-shaped gizmo inside the tube took a lot of research to figure out.  I went to the local RV Parts supplier.  After much discussion and poring over a parts catalog, they identified it as "Standoff Nut". Below is a photo of what a new one should look like.
Image credit:

The RV parts store had to special order this.  MSRP in the catalog is about $9 each, they said they would cut a deal and charge me just $6.50 each.  A week passed, and the nuts got back-ordered, and then two more weeks passed.

In my frustration, I did some research.

It turns out that this is a very common part in bicycle repair.  Bike mechanics call it a "Star-Fangled Nut".  Every bicycle has one of these in the headset, where the fork and handlebars join the frame.  If you search for "Star Fangled Nut" you will easily find them on the internet.  

These nuts also go by a couple of other names too.  Sometimes they are called "Star Nuts".  One company calls them "Tube Connecting Nuts" and uses them to construct shelving.  They are also used in the marine industry to build and repair the ladders that attach to the sides of boats.

My local bike repair shop had drawers full of them in a couple of sizes. They charged me only $2.50 each!  At that price I bought ten and they threw in four connecting bolts which I could not find in the right size at the local hardware store.

If you want you can buy a replacement for the entire standoff, complete with star fangled nuts and retaining bracket, here is an example on for $14.95. 

That's probably what an RV technician would do to save time. However I chose  to replace just the nuts and connecting bolts because:

  1. I want to use the original mounting brackets and
  2. I'm not sure if all the star fangled nuts need to be replaced only four of the ten seem to be loose, and
  3. the bottom of the ladder attaches to the mounting bracket without a standoff tube.
I'll start work today and the repair will be my next post. 

Click here for part 2.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Air Conditioner Cleaning and Maintenance

In the last couple of years, the air conditioning unit on my motorhome was getting less effective.

RV air conditioners should not normally require recharging, but the cooling fins should be cleaned out regularly.  Dirty cooling fins are a common cause of poor performance.

The following video from explains the process clearly. The unit on my motorhome is a little different, but the cleaning process is the same.

...and here's a fairly good article at .

You will need a compressor, brushes, a vacuum, rags, a pail of water and a cleaner/degreaser.

When the cleaning is all done using the process described in the video, you can test  the efficiency of the system using two thermometers.  There should be a temperature difference between the inlet and outlet air of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or 6.7 degrees Celsius.  If the difference is significantly less than that, you will want to take your AC to a professional.

Here are some photos and notes from the cleaning I did this week.

Metal Shroud, and plastic shroud in the background
 My unit has two shrouds, with a metal one nested beneath the plastic one (Above and below)

Side mounted screws
Once the unit was opened, I discovered an old wasp's nest, and the cooling fins were very dusty.  That would explain why the unit was not working so well!

Dusty cooling fins
More dusty cooling fins

In the next picture the unit is all cleaned and being reassembled.

The top screws serve only to secure the outer plastic shroud to the inner metal shroud.  I replace the rusty top screws.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Clearance and Marker Lights Part 2

It is probably obvious to you that I am not a mechanic and I am not an RV technician.  So sometimes I don't get it right have to do things over.  I feely admit that.  Hopefully the mistakes are small.  Hopefully someone else can benefit from my mistakes too.

Take the clearance and marker lights which I wrote about on April 9th.  I replaced the first five out of fourteen and tried to connect the white (negative) wires by wrapping them around the mounting screw. Later I found a couple of these connections were poor.  So I removed the all five lights and installed ring terminals on  the ends of the white wires to ensure a really solid connection.

Ring Terminal

In the picture below, the connection between the white wire and the mounting screw is very poor and unreliable.  This marker light is designed for mounting on a metal automotive surface, where the mounting screw on the right would ground to the metal vehicle body without having to attach to a wire.  Unfortunately my motorhome sidewall is not conductive and not grounded, so the white ground wire is required.  

Before: poor connection for the white wire
I removed the marker light, added a more centred hole for the wires to pass through, then added the ring terminal, crimping it into the wire with my crimping tool.
Crimping the ring terminal onto the wire

Here is the finished light, with two new mounting screws.  I added those because the old mounting screws were no longer holding as well as I would like.
Finished: ring terminal, wire routed through new hole and two new mounting screws. 
And of course lots of silicone!

After completing this, I used the same method to replace the five remaining clearance lights at the front of the motorhome, and four side marker lights.  That completes a total of fourteen lights. Now I can rest assured that the lights will be watertight and reliable for years to come.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wheel Covers

Little things can make a big difference. In the case of wheel covers, maybe this is a practical demonstration of The Pareto Principle

I bought a set of stainless steel covers (AKA "hubcaps") at The Wheel Pros for $250.95, including GST.  Here is a picture with the old covers on top, and the shiny new ones on the bottom.

On my rims, the lug nuts have to fit inside the lug caps on the  wheel cover. It is a tight fit and if they aren't centred correctly, you can damage the lug caps.  You can't see the lugs under the wheel cover, so it is easy to be off-centre.  

The lug is off centre.
One method is to remove one lug cover so that you can make sure everything is centred as you install the wheel cover (as in the picture below).  Notice I am using a rubber mallet so I don't damage the wheel cover.
Hammer the cover onto the rim with a rubber mallet.
The problem with that approach is that the lug covers may become loose if you repeatedly remove and replace them.

Here is a better method I'll try next time, but it will require a little more care.  Look for the valve through one of the holes around the outside of the wheel cover. When the lugs are properly centred, the valve will also be centred in the hole.  Keep the valve lined up as you hammer the cover into place
Valve is centred in the hole. 

Post Script: 
Before you install hubcaps on your truck or motorhome, you might want to read a more recent post as a bit of a cautionary tale (click here).