Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fixing the Splendide Washer Door Handle

We were doing some routine laundry the other day when Orinda tried to open the door and the handle came off in her hand. Unfortunately, this was the second time this had occurred with Rick fixing the handle with super glue the first time (it held for 6 months). As can be seen above, when the handle breaks off, it is almost impossible to open the door (careful application of a screwdriver will pry it open). While a new handle is available (about $40 plus shipping), Rick wondered if he could come up with a fix.

Rick decided to try another approach this time and tried his handy-dandy epoxy putty. This two part epoxy comes in a roll and you just cut off a small amount and mix it by hand, then apply it. It sets up in about 20 minutes.

Rick filled in the broken area as can be seen above with the epoxy and let it harden. Once the epoxy hardened, I drilled a hole for the metal pin which provides the pivot for the door handle and spring.

The next step was to break out the trusty Dremel Tool and machine out the excess epoxy so that the metal catch could be positioned inside the handle. This actually went very well and while I had to do soem trial fittings, only took about 15 minutes.

Here is the repaired door handle with the metal catch in place. There is a spring that fits around the catch that will make it "snap" into place when the door is closed.

Another view of the repaired handle. It seems to be much stronger now and Rick is hopeful this will take care of the issue permanently.

Success! The handle is now re-assembled and the washer works great! I did have to make one final touch up grinding on the handle to make sure the washer door sensor engaged and the washer started correctly. Now, things are working great!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The EROS Data Center near Sioux Falls, SD

The EROS Data Center, located about 5 miles northeast of Sioux Falls, SD, is the central repository of satellite and aerial images in the world today. This is the location that receives, processes and stores the incredible images taken by space satellites and the space shuttle.

We decided to pay the site a visit and found a very interesting (and free) Visitor Center that is well worth investigating. Here, Rick and Orinda are standing in front of a LANDSAT satellite of the kind used to take pictures and images in infrared and other light bandwidths.

Here is an example of the kind of images that are available (and can be downloaded to your computer). The shot to the left shows the desert area of Saudia Arabia in 1986. To the right is the same area taken 18 years later. The green dots represent central pivot irrigation systems which now cover thousands of acres -- in only 18 years! Water pumped through these systems comes from an ancient aquifer--they believe that some of this water has been in the aquifer for over 20,000 years!

EROS, under the US Dept. of the Interior, is unique in that it houses images from all over the world and the resulting data can be accessed by many different people.

Here, Orinda is checking out a Large Format Camera that was taken to space in the shuttle. The key to this camera is the very large film size (about 10" square) which allows amazing resolution. Makes my Canon Rebel look pretty small by comparison (but a lot more portable!)

EROS is at the cutting edge of technology and so is Orinda in these spiffy 3-D glasses. The map in front of her is 3-D enabled and the mountains seemed to jump out at her.

The detail of these images was remarkable. Here is a set of images showing Sioux Falls, SD and we were easily able to find the Yogi Bear RV Park where we are staying. Orinda is trying to point where it is, but seems a bit short for the task.

This beautiful set of images shows the state of SD with the Missouri River bisecting it. Orinda is pointing to the City of Madison where our mail forwarding service is located. The red tinted areas are actually areas of plant growth, while the blueish area west of the river are actually prairie.
Finally, here is a reminder of Hurricane Andrew just off the coast of Florida. This is the location where such incredible images are downloaded and then processed. It is hard to believe how big this storm was!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Batteries for the Tour

Our Tour motorhome carries 5 batteries to serve both the chassis (engine start) and for the coach needs. These are carried in a special battery compartment as seen above. The 3 coach batteries are located in the top drawer and the chassis batteries are below them. We have felt that the batteries were getting weak for a while and finally, Rick decided to replace them all at one time.

Rick started with the chassis batteries as seen above. This task is made much easier with the pull-out tray that allows reasonable access to the batteries. Before starting, Rick disconnected the batteries using the cutoff switch above and unplugged the coach from 110v external power.

Once I had the chassis batteries disconnected, it was time to pull the three coach batteries. I made sure to take several pictures of the batteries and wires before work started so I could be sure to put it back together the right way.

The three 12 volt batteries are connected together to form one large 12 volt battery. By connecting all the positive terminals together (and negative terminals), we end up with one big battery as seen above. You can also see that we have experienced some corrosion that we will clean up while we are at it.

Here is the tray after the (heavy!) batteries were removed. I had to deal with some minor rust, but things looked pretty good.

The next step was to clean off the grime from the ends of the connecting cables. I used my trusty Dremel tool with a sanding wheel to shine things up nicely. This works surprisingly well and was very quick to boot.

Finally, I sprayed some battery sealer on all the connections after I installed the new batteries. This is supposed to keep corrosion at bay, but we will see how that works. The batteries will naturally vent while charging, so this is a common issue.

Success! I have all the batteries replaced and the trays cleaned up. After getting things connected and the coach plugged back in, I was delighted to see the coach voltage was now nice and high -- much better than when the old, weak batteries were installed. I think this will work well in the future when we dry camp.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spending time at the Yogi Bear RV Park and Sioux Falls

We are spending the month at the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park on the east side of Sioux Falls. This is a nice park and very well maintained and we have enjoyed our stay so far.

Not surprisingly, Yogi is very popular with the kids and the park really tries to make kids have a great time. Naturally, this peaks on the weekends when the kids play minigolf and hit the pool, but by Monday morning, we have the park to ourselves for the week.

Our site is nice sized and very clean and level. The park seems to be in great condition with recent upgrades to utilities and roads. As you can see, there is plenty of room on the site for the coach and car in the pull through site.

Of course, we are exploring the Sioux Falls area and as we drove by a shopping center parking lot, we saw a large, portable swimming pool being set up. The next day, we drove by and lo and behold, it was the Dock Dog competition! This is a competition for retrievers who leap off the platform into the water to retrieve a tossed float. Since our dog, Cody, loved to do this in his youth, we had to take a look.

This dog really took off and traveled about 17' in the air (and splashed all the kids on that end of the pool!). The dog reminded me of Cody who could launch about the same distance into the lake and just loved it. You could tell the dogs could not wait to hit the water. This was a fun, free exhibit!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Sioux Empire Fair

We took in the Sioux Empire Fair at Sioux Falls (which is why we could not stay at the Fairgrounds this time!) and had a fine time. This is a medium sized fair that seems to feature entertainers (ZZ Top was playing one night). Still, there were many displays in the state fair tradition.

We went with our daughter and son in law and enjoyed exploring the fair with them. We had not seen them for a couple months, so this was a nice time to visit.

Here is an interesting fact -- South Dakota ranks 6th in the country in corn production! Frankly, after seeing the thousands of acres of corn being grown, I was surprised to see it was not higher.

Rick had to check out the restored tractors, of course! Antique tractors are a very popular item in this area given the agricultural heritage, so it was no surprise to find a few nice tractors around.

I liked the John Deere tractor best. This one is a 1940 vintage and has been fully restored. Plus, it still gets used occasionally as a tractor which is pretty slick.

Last night, we had some heavy thunderstorms in the area and while we were OK in the coach when the 70 mph winds hit, this tent was not so lucky. The wind apparently got under this large tent and simply demolished it. I was impressed to see 6" aluminum poles bent at right angles.

Naturally, Rick had to take a quick stop at the model railroad exhibit. Billed as the largest model railroad in the state, it was fun to see the places in the Sioux Falls area that are modeled on the exhibit.

The detail was amazing and speaks of a real labor of love. Rick has done some modeling in the past and the efforts required to build something like this are substantial!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Falls at Sioux Falls -- with LOTS of water

We had to cut our midwest tour a bit short after we learned that Orinda will need some surgery, so we returned to Sioux Falls. It turns out that the area has had quite a bit of rain over the last few weeks and when we went to Falls Park, we were amazed at the level of the water pouring over the falls.

Falls Park is a beautiful place very close to downtown and is very popular with residents and visitors alike. Across this bridge is a cafe and deck to enjoy a coffee while watching the falls.

The Falls runs through red granite that is beautiful in its own right, and usually the water level is much lower than this, especially in the summer. Now, there is a great roar as the water cascades down.

While the water level is high here, last night, after this picture was taken, we had some hard rain, so dropped by again this morning to see the difference (below).

Wow- what a difference a day (and a couple inches of rain) make! Orinda is standing in about the same location as the upper shot and you can tell that the water level is much higher -- I would guess about 12" more. We thought the water was impressive before the rain -- well it was, but this higher level was amazing!

Here is another comparison between the high water and the REALLY high water. The water is now completely covering many of the rocks seen in the shot above. This water is really moving as it streaks through the rock walls.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI

We headed to Ann Arbor, MI to visit relatives and while there, had to see The Henry Ford Museum in nearby Dearborn. Started by Henry Ford himself, this museum naturally features automobiles and transportation, but there is so much more than that!

All kinds of exhibits are located here with America as the common thread. Indeed, it has been quite a while since I have seen one of the wiener mobiles from Oscar Myer! Rick recalled seeing a couple when he was very young (a LONG time ago), but this was the only one for the past 45 years or so.

The museum featured a section covering agricultural equipment and this steam tractor was very interesting. These are huge machines and took a crew of men to run. Still, it was a huge advance over the horse-drawn era.

Here is another steam tractor that is designed to run in the rows of planted fields. These fully restored engines provided a glimpse of large scale farming over 100 years ago.

This is the famous Dymaxion House, designed by Buckminser Fuller as a prefab house that could be built in a plant, delivered to the house site and completed in 3 on-site days. Planned for the post WWII era, just two of these were ever built before Fuller abandoned the concept for lack of investors. It was fun to take the tour of the "House of the Future" and see what the dome house might have looked like.

Ford collected a remarkable group of steam engines from the late 1700's to late 1800's. These machines really powered the Industrial Revolution and in fact, one of engines on display was one of 9 huge engines that powered one of Ford's plants.

This dynamo, or electric generation system, was powered by steam to provide electricity. The cool thing about this one is that it was actually built and used by Thomas Edison in the late 1880's in New York City. To look at it, you would think it was a relatively modern system

Naturally there are many cars featured, including Fords, but also many other makes. This was President Reagan 's executive car that he used as President.

Of course, Rick wanted to see the cars, so we humored him. Look at this one -- the Blue Bird Coach Co. now builds luxury motorhomes, but their operation starts here with bus one.
1. I think we will stick with the Winnebago.

Speaking of RV vehicles, the Ford Museum featured a collection of old RVs. Look at this one dating from the early 30's. Even then, folks were thinking about the motorhome lifestyle.

Here were a couple of Rick's favorite vehicles -- an early 60's VW sedan and a 50's Nash. These cars represented a couple of the wide variety of vehicles that were available then.

Speaking of cars, here is the 999 that was built by Henry Ford and raced by Ford and Barney Oldfield, the famous early 1900's race driver. The car was named 999 after the famous railroad locomotive, NY Central #999 which was the first wheeled vehicle to exceed 100 mph. There is quite a history on this car and it can be said this car, and the publicity it gained, helped found the Ford Motor Company.