Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Return from Bueva Vista and a mystery cleared up

Last night was expected to get down to 10°F (-12°C), I figured the Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic Propane Heater was up to the task and went to bed early, anticipating a 4 hour drive back home in the morning.

I woke up around 4:30AM feeling slightly cold, couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and did a check of the heater and to see what the temperature of the water from the fresh water tank was at.  I did notice the thermometer on the dinette table to be 48°F (8.8°C), this was lower than the 61°F (16°C) that I'd gone to sleep with.

I turned on the water pump, opened a faucet but only a little water flowed out.  Hmmm.  I didn't hear the water pump kick in as usual.  Hmmmm.   I used the touchless thermometer and found the piping under the bathroom sink to be in the low 20s!

Went into a bit of a panic and without taking a reading from the battery (dammit) I turned on the generator so I could run the tank heat pads.  I also kicked on the coach furnace and blower, running both on high to bring temperatures up.

I thought, you see, that something had frozen and worried the pump had failed due to frozen water.  Or worse, the water in the fresh water tank had frozen (it was 10°F (-12°C) as forecasted) and had cracked open, resulting in no water.

While troubleshooting I verified no big frozen puddle of water under the fresh water tank.  The fact the pump wasn't working was worrying.  After about an hour and half of mucking about, I tried removing one of the two power leads  to the pump, checking for power with a multimeter, and reconnecting it.

Whether it was me removing/re-engaging the lead or things had warmed up enough by then, the pump kicked on when I tried it next.  Hurray!  Still, barely a few drops of water came out.  Hmmm.

At this point it was after 6AM so I decided to pack things up, tie Scarlett down in the trailer, and get setup for travel, hoping that as the day warmed up, water would start flowing again.  I decided, in contravention of safety practices, to drive with the propane valve open so I could run the coach furnace as I drove to help things heat up.

Here's the view as Uma and I, with Scarlett in tow, exited the area along county road 375:

Dawn along the Collegiate Peaks

I drove down towards Salida, the idea to take US50 East towards Colorado Springs via CaƱon City.  The CDOT site,, reported that route as dry vs US285 which was shown as "frozen".

At the Chalk Cliffs Overlook, I pulled over and posed ScooterBob for at least one picture for this trip:

ScooterBob with Mount Princeton (I think)

The rest of the drive was just highway driving with no weather issues.  I checked the water flow when I got home and it poured out of the faucet, under the water pump's impetus, just fine!

So, that's the mystery that had been puzzling me since the first boondocking trip Martha and I had done where we'd seemingly run out of water unexpectedly.  It was then, as it was this time, that water had frozen somewhere in the fresh water plumbing!

I am lucky that nothing froze to the point of bursting!  

Next time we go boondocking, I now know that neither the coach furnace nor the Wave 8 Heater keep things warm enough to keep the fresh water flowing.  We need to "winterize" the fresh water plumbing and use pre-stored water inside the coach for washing, cooking and flushing.  The grey and black water tanks can be used, with periodic addition of RV Antifreeze deposits as liquid levels in each tank grow.

If we're in an RV Park with electrical hookups (which allow the running of tank heat pads and perhaps a small electric heater aimed at the plumbing under the bathroom sink); then it should be OK to keep water in the fresh water tank (disconnecting the city water hose at night).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Boondocking in and near Buena Vista, CO

The snow won't come to the cesspool that the Denver Metro Area has become, I would have to go to the snow.

In this case, I picked the area around Buena Vista, Colorado.  I wanted to see the Collegiate Peaks once again, hopefully with some snow covering them, and explore the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping that I'd read was in the area.

The local RV Park, Snowy Peaks, was the only one open still and it was full each time I checked.  I think it's their online booking system but couldn't find something that worked for me.

I left home Sunday afternoon and less than 3 hours later Uma and I had ridden over some sparsely snow/ice-packed roads on US285 and arrived in the vicinity of Johnson Village where US285 junctions with US24.

As I wanted to boondock, I headed towards Salida as it appeared "warmer" down that way from Buena Vista.  The Collegiate Peaks were hidden behind wind-driven snow "fog banks" and were not visible.  I saw the sign for Hecla Junction with a camping sign and after getting turned around, went down that road.

The road turned out to be twisty and winding, with some snow/ice patches, and ended in a compact but seemingly nice camping area by a raft launching site for the Arkansas River.  I picked a spot and darkness descended as I setup camp.

Weather reports called for snow and I didn't want to be trapped by snow at the end of a narrow twisting hilly dirt road.  So I left after only sitting there an hour.  Once back on US24 I headed north and I tried two other RV campgrounds and they were closed for the season.  What to do, what to do?

I spotted a Loves Travel Center/Gas Station and dimly recalled they let you boondock in their parking lots.  I pulled into a spot in the empty RV parking section, went in and asked to park there overnight. The young lady at the desk said "Sure!".  Got myself some dinner and so spent Sunday night in a brightly lit RV parking lot.

The Olympian Wave 8 Propane Catalytic heater got a workout and kept things nice and warm inside the RV so I didn't engage the furnace and its blower fan at all.  The only things on were my electronics (0.5A draw) and the refrigerator (0.74A draw) for part of the night.  Very sparse use of the LED lights as well as I was trying to see if not using the furnace = lower drain on the coach battery.

Dawn came and alas, I'd drained the battery down to 11.85V again.  Dammit.  Not sure what's causing this as the Killawat device reported .5A when devices where charging off the inverter.  I turned off the fridge and lights with very sparing water pump usage.  Sigh.

After tanking up Uma and doing a recon of the BLM camping area with Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol, I found a spot and after filling up with propane in town, setttled UMA onto this camping spot at what I believe is the Turtle Rock Camping Site.  More info on this site here: LINK

There were only two other vehicles/campers on site, with UMA being the only RV.  Got some work done via cellphone Internet and the weBoost device and then lunch time came along.

I geared up again and Scarlett and I went riding to get pictures of the Collegiate Peaks:

 View of the Collegiate Peaks as one descends along Chafee County Road 375

 A set of neat tunnels along CR 375

 The view after the tunnels of the Northern Collegiate Peaks

Scarlett and I then cruised through the main part of Buena Vista (currently choked by traffic cones and construction) and rode towards the southern Collegiate Peaks:

Sorry, I forgot to get ScooterBob out for pictures but in retrospect, it was so windy I am not sure he would have remained upright!  The last two pictures were taken in high winds and biting cold as temperatures dropped into the low 30s Fahrenheit.

It was time to return to work anyways so we headed back through town, up to the BLM campground and spend the rest of the afternoon doing work and fielding a couple of calls.

I also ran the generator a collective 5 hours to charge up the coach battery using a "smart charger" I'd recently bought.  It does the three stage charging: bulk, fill, float but it's acting a bit wonky.  It seemed to be fine but when I went to check near the end of the charging period, it had reverted to pushing 15A into the battery and calling it only half full when it had been close to full just an hour before.  Weird.  I'm thinking now perhaps not use it when using generator for AC power?

Started on battery at 1640hrs, 12.67V reading after shutting off generator...yeah, there's some surface charge there.

Sunset proved disappointing from my camping site, so no pics.  However, I did get some visitors:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

RichardM on Fiona

Doing a bit of cleanup on the phone's collection of pics and videos.

Here's a short one of RichardM, during his recent visit to Denver, riding Fiona.

Monday, November 21, 2016

New and Improved Starter for Fiona's Beemer Engine

Due to careless wire placement on my part, the starter button on Fiona, my '99 Ural Patrol with the '84 R80 Beemer engine was activated several times with the engine running.

I at first thought it was gearbox problems but realized it as I rode home that the power cable going to the right handgrip heater pad was touching the starter button.  Dammit.

Of course, it ruined the pinion gear assembly on the starter to the point where it would jam up when engaging the engine's flywheel.  Sigh.

Note how the pinion gear's teeth were worn off by the
flywheel's gear teeth.

I checked the teeth on the flywheel and they were not damaged.  I lucked out there.

This was all yesterday, Sunday, and I spent the rest of the day (mostly) removing parts to get at the ruined starter which is located on top of the engine case.  It proved a big PITA to remove by the way, due to the two small 8mm nuts supporting the heavy starter.  Arrgghh.

I hate self-inflicted repair needs the worst!

Anyways, finally got the ruined starter out and yeah, the pinion gears were quite munged.  After consulting with RichardM, he sent me a link to the starter he'd recently bought while in Denver for a business trip.  The company is Euro MotoElectrics and they're pretty much a one stop shop for Beemer and some other motorcycle electronics!

I got a tour of their parts offerings and it's quite extensive.  It also includes filters for oil changes, batteries, and cables for the repair of our beloved Airheads and I am sure other motorcycles as well.

It's the EnDuraLast Starter - BMW R Airhead 9-Tooth which Replaces VALEO D6RA7, D6RA15; 12 41 9 062 425 / EnDuraLast.  Link to the item on EME's website: LINK

Image source: Euro MotoElectrics

A trip to Denver and I had the new starter which spins faster, draws about 20% less Amps and weighs about three pounds less than the Bosch unit that the engine came with.  As a bonus, the new starter is shorter and so one doesn't have to worry about remounting the small 8mm nuts!  

It was a tight fit but I finally got the new starter in the right position to secure it with existing bolts.  The new starter has threaded mounting holes so I reversed the mounting bolts accordingly.  No problem.

Did a test crank and all was well.  Sigh.

I buttoned Fiona back up, replacing the engine cover (which I didn't really need to remove based on the way I got to the rear nuts, and after making sure the negative ground cable on the battery was disconnected), the cover over the starter, the airbox, the battery standoffs to allow clearance for the end of the clutch cable, the negative ground screw to complete the circuits again and finally the sidecovers.

Fiona is "mo better" now.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Quiet Heat

Sitting in UMA, the URRV, typing this, enjoying the 61 degrees Farenheit reported by the thermometer while outside temperatures are below freezing.

The Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic Propane heater arrived yesterday and after some hunting around, finally got all the components to hook it up to the BBQ propane outlet in the right rear quarter section of UMA.

Here's what I bought:

Adjustable from 4200 - 8000 BTU/hr allow it to be used as a secondary heating source (going to be primary when we boondock)

Wave heaters operate on low pressure gas, and can be wall mounted or used as a portable unit. (Bought the legs kit, so I can move it around the camper)

No electrical drain or battery connection make it the ideal solution for boondocking and dry camping 

Wave heaters operate silently-no fan or blower noise

Equipped with a safety shut-off valve to help prevent accidental non-ignition fuel discharge  

Caution, you must crack open a window and a roof vent...only by 1/4"-1/2" mind you but you must have air flow!  Make sure you've a working carbon monoxide and propane detectors.

I am confident I've at least halved the battery power drain when not on shore power or generator.

The hard part was finding the components for the propane hose assembly to connect it to the BBQ propane outlet!  

Three trips, one to a newly discovered RV Accessories store in Denver, two to the nearby Lowes Hardware store to pick up the hoses and fittings to make the magic happen.

Items required:


Char-Broil 3/8-in 0.3125-in x 120-in Male-Female Propane Hose (two of them to make one 20' hose)

1 each, Proline Union 3/8" Flare Both Ends FL165 connector and 1 each, Proline Brass Pipe 3/8" FIP Both Ends BF-760NL.  These two items join the two propane hoses together to form one continuous hose.

To go with the quick disconnect, had to also buy a 1/4" to 3/8" adapter for it so it would connect to the propane hose.  Sorry, no pic, and lost the package it came in so no model #.  It screws onto the threaded end of the quick-connect plug below, converting it from 1/4" to 3/8".

1 each Camco 59903 Propane Quick-Connect Fitting - 1/4" NPT x Full Flow Male Plug.  

A unit of plumber's tape to seal all the threads and I was in business.  Finding these components proved to be a PITA but hopefully my listing them above will help someone else.

The heater gives us a warm orange glow.....

Update NOV23:  Bought a couple more fittings to enable a quick disconnect action at the heater so that the hose and the heater can be separated easily for storage and deployment:

Home Depot, needed instead of the similar
looking fitting that came with the quick connect from Amazon.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Post-Boondocking Notes

So we survived our first boondocking or "dry camping" trip in Uma the URRV this past weekend.

The view of the sunrise as we left the national forest Sunday morning

Boondocking, or dry camping, is the name given to camping in an RV/Motorhome without having hookups for electricity, water and sewer as when one stays at an RV Park.

We'd gone to a dispersed camping location just inside the border of the Pike National Forest in Park County, CO just 8 miles or so south of the town of Jefferson.

We wanted to find out:

1.  Can our single 125 Amp Hour Deep Cycle last us through the night to provide power for keeping all our electronics charged, to include running the weBoost cellphone signal booster,  the Ubiquity WiFi Access Point, interior lights and run the refrigerator, water heater and furnace?

2.  How much propane is used?

3.  How long, given what we thought was frugal water usage, would the fresh water tank last us?



Note.  All our lights inside are LED (ten of them on draw only 1.05A and we didn't have more than say 4 on at any time).

The recently installed 600 Watt Pure Sine Inverter kept all our electronics powered/charged while drawing about 3.5 Amps.  It could even power the TV but being out in the boonies, there was no reception so we didn't use it (it rose to about 5.3A when used)  The inverter itself draws .3A with no load so one should turn it off when not using it.

The refrigerator switches automatically from electric power (when on shore power) to propane refrigeration and coach battery (DC Volts) when there's no shore power.  Stuff stayed cold and the amp draw was .68-.80 Amps.

The furnace and its associated blower fan were, as expected, the major consumer of DC electricity.  Drawing 7.1-7.3 amps when in operation.  It would cut in for about five minutes about 4-5 times an hour, kept the inside of the motorhome in the low 60s Fahrenheit and worked the whole night.

First night (after driving from home to campsite), I forgot to record start voltage, and end voltages(12 hrs on battery) as I had to troubleshoot why the car charger wasn't working....turned out to be tripped GFI circuit in the bathroom.  (1 light in control panel for battery status)

I charged the coach battery for 4 hours during the day to prepare the battery for the second night's usage.

Second night, starting at 1730 hrs with 12.86V, the battery was at 11.02V the next morning around 6:30 AM. ( agani, 1 light in control panel for battery status)

Though I am sure the 11.02 Volts still registering on the coach battery were provided a bit of recharge by just driving home, here's what it looked like to the charger's meter when I started to recharge it using house power:

As I read it, the battery is at about 25-30% charge and
the charger is pushing 10Amps at the time I took the picture.

I need to keep better records next time I go boondocking.  Bottom line though, the one deep cycle battery can provide power for one night!

Update: Per the battery manufacturer, one should only go down to 80% discharge which is about 12.17V.  By doing the above repeatedly, I am shortening the life of the battery in terms of discharge cycles.  More on this to follow.


The two nights cost us almost half of our propane supply.  We started out at the full mark and this is what the gauge reported the morning we broke camp:

The propane tank is a 56 lb tank which converts to 13.2 gallons of propane which is 80% of the 16.5 gallon capacity of the tank.  You're not supposed to exceed 80% when filling propane tanks.

Fresh Water.

We did however, run out of fresh water the last night of camping.  I have to make sure the 38 gallon fresh water tank is really full next time.  Apparently stopping the tank's fillup when I saw the idiot lights turn to Full proved premature.  Whatever was there wasn't enough even with frugal use of water for cleaning, dish washing and using the toilet.

I had been worried about overfilling and causing some seal to fail you see.  Once I got her home, I filled up the fresh water tank again, after consulting with RichardM, and lo and behold, there's an overflow drain tube when the tank is full.  Now I know.

Regardless, next time, we'll probably either carry a case of water bottles or the five gallon jug of water I bought for camping last year, as a reserve.

On Sunday morning, the fresh water tank reported empty, both the gray and black water tanks reported two lights each respectively (1/3 full).

I drained all the water lines and the fresh water tank, I'll empty the gray and black tanks tomorrow before parking her in the storage yard until the next trip.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

21st Wedding Anniversary Ride to Weston Pass

You of course knew that the theme for the 21st Wedding Anniversary is Motorcycle Riding right?

Of course you did!

We woke to a cold, cold dawn with temperatures around 23 degrees Fahrenheit but with some nice colors in the eastern skies.

 A slight bit of icing on Scarlett

Once the sun was up a bit more it lit up this rock formation to our
southwest nicely.

After some work and a sumptuous breakfast by my loving wife of twenty-one years:

Around 9:00 AM, temperature outside was 40 degrees Fahrenheit and so it was time to ride!  We geared up, locked up the RV, and headed out under beautiful skies with light cloud cover.

The entrance to the road to Weston Pass is located just south of the town of Fairplay, CO.  It was just over 13 miles to the summit and while the first 2/3rds of these 13 miles were relatively easy though sometimes bumpy and rocky, the last 1/3 was steep and very rocky!  

Still, Scarlett powered on through with no issues all the way to the summit:

The scenery at the summit was "ok".  I'd passed by the sign for Weston Pass many times in the last few years, and now know, there wasn't much to miss about it.

 Riding on down the mountain road, the deteriorating remnants of 
old houses and shacks to mark where folks had once lived.

Faded Old Glory on the side of this barn as we approached
US 285 on our way to lunch at Fairplay.

We stopped at the South Park Steakhouse in Fairplay and had a rather tasty Pulled Pork Sandwich with Tangy BBQ sauce.

After lunch and some UDF, we got ourselves a bundle of wood at the Fairplay hardware store and motored on back to Uma, the URRV.  Arriving without incident, we relaxed the rest of the afternoon, enjoying the warm weather.

Not much of a sunset to end this day, but overall, a pretty good way to spend one's anniversary!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Boondocking on Veterans Day

Hoping my fellow veterans had a great day today.  Martha and I sure did as we drove Uma the URRV towing Scarlett on the trailer to go boondocking or "dry camping" in the Pike National Forest.

Based on advice from fellow Uralista Craig H., we went to a spot with dispersed camping spots just past the National Forest border along County Highway 39, off of County Highway 77 south of Jefferson, CO.

We had a multi-site spot all to ourselves and picked a spot basically in the middle where it was mostly flat ground.

Pretty good view eh?

We spent the afternoon relaxing, with me doing a bit of work as we had cell coverage at this spot.  Sunset came early as we're out of Daylight Savings Time, but we were ready for it!

A pretty good way to spend Veteran's Day for Martha and I don't you think?

Saturday, November 05, 2016

A Foggy Ride on the Pikes Peak Highway

RichardM, motoblogger and fellow Uralista, is currently visiting me here in Centennial.

Today we rode out a bit before 9:00AM and headed south along CO State Highway 83, motoring on my two Ural sidecar rigs, Fiona ('99 Patrol with BMW engine) and Scarlett (2014 Patrol).

RichardM was on Fiona, helping me rack up the remaining miles necessary to complete the break-in period for the rebuilt gearbox done by Bural aka Richard Winter.

We started the ride with temperatures in the low 40's and would end up with a low of 31 degrees Fahrenheit at mile marker sixteen on the Pikes Peak Highway.  Due to snow at the summit, the road was closed by the park rangers at mile marker 16.

Since we heard the road was closed at mile mark 13, we detoured to the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs to give the weather some time to clear the summit.

After cruising most of Garden of the Gods, we then got on US Highway 24 westbound and soon were heading up the Pikes Peak Highway.  The top half of the mountain was obscured by low lying clouds which were producing snow at the summit we were told.

A few rain drops, which turned into snow flakes, fell on us as we motored up the mountain.  The roads were looking pretty wet and slick but proved to be just wet, no ice.

As mentioned before, we only were able to ride up to mile marker sixteen where further progress was blocked by a park ranger in his truck and some traffic cones:

It was a bit chilly up at this point, just slightly below freezing.  We decided to head back down the mountain instead of waiting with the line of cars that hoped to make it to the summit.

 We were, for quite some time, riding within the clouds, quite foggy.

As we descended beneath the cloud layer, a nice view of Colorado Springs presented itself as we positioned the rigs down a dirt trail away from the cagers who were clogging up the hairpin turns on the highway itself.

Once we got below the treeline, it was basically steady riding to the town of Manitou Springs where we had lunch a a subs/pizza shop.

After this late lunch and some nice conversation with RichardM, we tanked up the rigs nearby and then retraced our route on Highway 83 back to Centennial.  A good day of riding, both rigs did great and best of all, Fiona reached the 19,000 kilometer mark!  This means she's past her rebuilt gearbox's break-in period!  We can now "open her up" to 55-60 mph.

Tomorrow, I'l be working on the RV with RichardM and we'll try and get the gearbox oil changed out one more time.

P.S. Sorry, I forgot to bring ScooterBob along.