Join Date: May 2019
Dear Diary – A mind is a terrible thing.
Dear Diary – A mind is a terrible thing.
Feb 16, 2021 9:38 a.m. – The power just came back on. I hope it says on long enough for my batteries to recharge. I turned the electric heater fireplace on to hopefully raise the temperature a bit. It was 47 degrees in here this morning. I was able to raise it to 54 using one burner on the propane cook stove.
The last few days have certainly been interesting if not educational. Last spring, I suggested to my wife we take the travel trailer and go south for the winter. We’ve never done that in the past. My parents traveled for twenty years to the Brownsville area to winter. I wish I had taken the time to ask about their experiences. What it was like and what they did while they were here. It just didn’t occur to me to ask. In central Kansas, the wind and cold can be very confining. I searched online and found an RV park in Brownsville, TX that was brand new. Just opened in the fall of 2020, Tropical Trails RV Resort. Two hundred and forty sites, 50’ spacing, water, sewer, 50 amp service AND, high speed internet at EVERY site. Sign me up! I check online for historical weather in Brownsville. I learned the temperatures in Jan and Feb range from the low 50’s to the high 70’s. Shoot, I don’t even need to bring winter clothing, so I didn’t. In fact, I don’t even need to bring my 4400 watt generator, so I didn’t. (I will later regret both decisions). I called and talked with the owner/manager. He was eager to have us come visit, stay as long as you want. So, we did! Signed up for 60 days, from Jan 11 – March 11. This is goanna’ be a hoot.
We left home Jan 7, and drove slow coming down, stayed 5 nights along the way (1100 miles). The first night was in Oklahoma. The low that night was 25 degrees (F). Good thing I didn’t put water in the freshwater tank. Next night we stayed in Waco. That night it was 25 degrees (F). They call that “unseasonably cold” for that area. Stayed a few days in Austin with some friends. Turns out it snowed four inches in Austin while we were there. First time it’s snowed in Austin in DECADES! But that’s ok, we were with friends and we had a good time. They call that “unseasonably cold” for that area. Kept driving south and for some reason the cold just kept following us. It was “unseasonably cold” everywhere we went.
The brakes on the trailer were acting up as soon as we left home. They would work ok when cold but as soon as they warmed up (about 10 seconds) they would lock up and tires would skid. Didn’t seem to matter how low I adjusted the brake controller. After arrival I took them apart, took photos; sent the photos to Dexter and they are replacing all 4 brake assemblies. It made for a stressful dive down and I now need to replace all 4 tires as these have enough flat spots on them I don’t even need to chock the tires. Ok, I can do this just as soon as it warms up.
Arrived in Brownsville, Jan 14. Temps in the high 40’s, wind 30 mph. We’ve been here one month so far, super nice facility, just as advertised, lots of space, high speed internet everywhere, bring your own router. It will be difficult to “camp” anywhere else after this experience. This is a fantastic winter site. But about that weather.
I went back and checked that historical weather website. Sure enough, they do mention the wind blowing. Perhaps, they should have put that in italics. Most days have been in the high 70’s, lows in the mid 50’s and wind! We bought “surf” fishing poles and reels at Walmart for $29 each. Went to a bait shop and talked with the owner. He rigged us up with surf fishing gear for under $80. The fishing licenses were $68 each (ouch). We’ve gone surf fishing many times. Had a ton of fun. We went to beach with the pickup and drove for 25 miles north and 5 miles south, on the beach. Wonderful experience. We caught some fish and watched SpaceX build a couple of rockets. They even launched SN9 while we were here. That was awesome. Driving from this RV site to the Boca Chica beach takes about 20 minutes and takes you right through the middle of the SpaceX construction and launch facility. We literally drove within 300 feet of the rocket sitting on the launch pad. It’s absolutely amazing. There are people parked all along the road taking photos and just watching what’s going on.
Most days the temps are in the mid to high 70’s and some days in the low 80’s The humidity is quite high and it is often difficult to dry towels so we’ve had to get a little creative about drying laundry. Running the air conditioner helps things dry out and we’ve certainly run the a/c quite a bit.
But then………….. the cold, came back. A few days ago my high speed internet informed me it was going to get cold. So cold, you would have to go back to 1917 to match that temperature. Ain’t I lucky. I took one of my two 20# propane tanks down and got it filled. Now I have two full tanks. It didn’t just drop from 82 (F) to 25 (F) overnight. No, it was a slow methodical event. Almost a colluded affair. Ever so slowly, lower and lower, day by day. Turns out, the integrity of your RV plumbing is somewhat dependent on temperature. As the temp dropped some of the plumbing in the bathroom started leaking, drip, drip, drip. Until my wife saw a small puddle of water. I removed the cabinet cover and there it was, drip, drip, drip. I replaced several washers that were crushed at installation. Even though I have a water pressure regulator I decided it might not be doing a good job. So, I ordered a really good one on Amazon. Gotta’ love that Amazon two-day delivery. I’m not sure how people that settled this country made it without Amazon’s two-day delivery. If you want to know more about life in the 1800’s go visit the “Steamboat Arabia” museum in Kansas City. Best museum I’ve every been too. I digress, I replaced the pressure regulator and set it to 47 psi. When I get home, I’ll have to replace the “genuine simulated wood” face frame on the cabinet. That plastic coated compressed cardboard they call wood swelled up bigger than Dick’s hatband. Did you know, it’s impossible to dry plastic coated cardboard?
Anyway, I decided to leave the cover off that section of plumbing just to keep an eye on it for a while. Good idea! The temperature kept slowly falling. Lower highs, lower lows. Kind of like the stock market falling into a recession. Nighttime temperatures now in the mid 30’s (F). A couple times a day I peek in there with my flashlight. After a couple of days I noticed a small puddle of water. It’s not from the washers. No, it’s the braided, crimped ½” tubing that’s dripping right where it’s crimped, on both ends. Ain’t I lucky. The crimp machine at the factory was having a bad day and this particular hose didn’t get crimped right on both ends. Pulled the hose. Trip to HD, they don’t have ½” hoses like this. Jump to Lowe’s and got lucky. They have one box with a hose that will work. It’s a braided stainless steel hose but who cares, it will work.
Came back to the trailer. What the heck, there’s no power. I drove up to the main office. Somebody ran off the road and took out the power pole next to the RV park. It took them 7 hours to put in a new power pole. With no power we couldn’t heat with electric so we burned some propane.
The power came back on but the temperatures kept dropping. Now in the low 30’s at night. Yesterday morning, what is that? Is that a few drops of water under there?. Must be left over from the other day. It can’t be leaking, again. I dried it up with a paper towel. Checked it again a couple of hours later. Daggum it, there’s a few drops of water again. Now, the crimped PEX fitting is leaking. Apparently, the cold has shrunk the PEX tubing and it’s dripping. The only thing to do now is reduce the water pressure until the drip stop. I lowered the pressure to 35 psi.
So, here’s where it starts getting interesting. The RV park sent out an email and said, you might want to consider leaving your water running the next couple of days. It’s going to get cold and stay that way for “awhile”, and it did. Not everyone got the message. Those record-breaking temperatures hit and two nights in a row in the mid 20’s. Daytime highs in the mid 30’s. Lot’s of sites now don’t have water as their hoses froze. Important tip, in cold weather, open your dump tanks and leave the water running. I decided to bring in one of the three slides on my trailer. I’d have less cubic feet to warm if the power goes off. Glad I did. Maybe I should bring the bedroom slide in as well. It hangs out there in the wind. Something to consider. Wish I had done that.
Sure enough, the power went off about 7 a.m., 26 hours ago. I checked my handy android phone (how did those settlers every make it without smart phones). The power company says they will initiate “rolling power outages”. Rolling my butt. They shut the power off for the next 26 hours.
So, this is a whole new ball game. Not knowing how cold it’s going to get and how long the power will be out. Power company says, “rolling”. But it didn’t roll. It just stayed out.
Remember the movie, “Apollo 13”. Their risk wasn’t running out of water, or oxygen, or fuel, or food. Their big risk was running out of battery power. When the battery goes, you’re just going to drift on past the moon into oblivion. No heat, no light just dark and cold………. Doesn’t get much worse than dark and cold.
I read once that eighty percent of your body heat is lost through your head. I need to start making a plan. The good news is, just before all this started my wife decided to fly back home (Kansas) and visit her mother. She landed in Wichita. It was 5 degrees (F). She drove to her mother’s house in NW Kansas, it was -19 deg (F). But she was warm compared to where I am. She has power and heat. In that part of the world, they know it’s going to get cold and they plan on it. That doesn’t appear to be the case this far south. They don’t normally have to deal with this, “unseasonably” cold stuff. Now I’m not saying I was worried about freezing to death. When I was a kid, age 9, sixty years ago, I had a paper route. I got up every morning at 5:15 a.m. rode my bicycle down to the Greyhound bus stop, loaded up my newspapers and rode 5 miles around town to deliver papers. What still amazes me is my parents were so “willing” to support this, because it was routinely -10 degrees (F) in Kansas in Jan and Feb. I can count on ONE HAND, the number of times my dad decided it was too cold to ride a bike all over town. All three times it was 10 degrees and raining. Three times; got that! I had that paper route for 9 years and got a ride three times! (It used to get cold and snow in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Kansas. It would start snowing in Dec and there would be snow on the ground until April. Not so much anymore.)
Back to the eighty percent body heat loss. I need a plan. The power’s been out for 8 hours. I checked the battery level. I have three led lights glowing. I’d feel better if I had four leds. I took my empty propane bottle down to the filling station. Dang, with the power out, the RV facility can’t fill propane bottles. I’m number three in line for getting re-filled. I looked out the window a couple of hours later, there’s about three dozen propane bottles lined up near the propane filling station waiting for the power to come back on.
Now, it’s about 5pm. I decided to find out what happens if I try and run the propane furnace with no 120volt power. It works! I didn’t know this before, but the gas heater blower motor runs on 12 volts. I have heat! I set the thermostat to 52 degrees and bingo it runs. I have three heat ducts. A lot of air comes out of one and only a little air comes out of the other two. I’ll have to investigate that this summer and find out what’s blocking two of them.
Now, about 9pm, I shut all the lights off. I turned off the refrigerator. It’s so cold out I don’t need to keep it running. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s 54 degrees in here and I might as well just go to bed. Maybe when I wake up there will be power. I turned on the bathroom and kitchen faucets to run a little water to make sure the water hose doesn’t freeze overnight. I checked the battery level. I’m down to two led lights. If the batteries die completely it could cause real damage to them. The heater blower motor is sucking the life out of the batteries. I shut the heat off and turned one burner on the stove and went to bed. Hopefully, there’s enough propane to last until the power comes back on and I can use electric heat.
I was very comfortable all night. I put three blankets on the bed and wrapped a T-shirt around my head to hold in the eighty percent body heat. This morning, when I woke up about 7a.m., I could see my breath when I exhaled. It was 23 degrees outside and 42 degrees inside. Still no power. The battery level was down to one led. Parasitic battery losses will slowly drain your batteries even with everything turned off. Why, because everything isn’t off even if you turn all the circuit breakers off, there’s still stuff sucking power out of your batteries. The kitchen stove was still running, so I must still have propane.
I checked my smart phone. The power companies are now saying the power outage might be extended for another 18-24 hours. #&%@ (four letter word). I need a better plan.
A Mind is a Terrible Thing!
Abandoning ship came to mind. I guess I could sit in the pickup and run the heater. I probably have enough gas to idle for 8-15 hours. I drove into town earlier yesterday. All the stores and gas stations were closed. No power means no cash registers or gas pumps. I may be cold but not near as cold as I recall it being when delivering papers at the age of 9-17 when it was -10 degrees. Ok, no reason to abandon ship just yet. There are no more water leaks since I lowered the water pressure to 35 psi, that’s good. I have no idea how much propane I have left and if the power stays out another 18-24 hours, I better conserve what propane I have. I’ll continue to run 1 burner on the stove but leave the furnace off.
I fixed breakfast on my one burner; sausage and an egg. I stuck a fork in a piece of bread and waved it above my burner until it resembled toast. I boiled some water and tossed in some coffee and filtered it through a paper towel to make a cup of coffee. I can still see my breath, but no toes or fingers are numb, so all is well. I’m glad my wife isn’t here. I’m pretty sure she would not see this as a “challenge”. She would just be cold and expecting a solution.
I wondered about the people who settled this country, any country for that matter. They didn’t have smart phones to tell them what was up ahead. No maps, no weather service. They would eat what they could find, burn what they could find and were probably always cold between the months of November and May. I read once that most “housewives” that lived in the prairie states had a bird cage and a canary. It was so lonely all the time they just wanted to hear something besides the silence and the wind howling. And they were cold in the winter months.
I wondered about the Donner party. I looked around but there’s no one here to eat except me. Wait a minute, there’s 240 other RVs here. Food! Things are looking up. Oh crud, I may end up being someone’s lunch if I’m not careful.
When I talk with my grandkids, ages 8-21, they absolutely cannot imagine a world without cell service, google maps, twitter, facebook, YouTube and having to walk to school. They get a ride to school everyday; everyday! They’ve never walked to school, not one time. They don’t even know the sound of silence. They have ear buds plugged into their heads nearly 24x7. They are entertained by YouTube videos or music nearly every waking moment. They don’t know how to use basic hand tools, mow a lawn, wash dishes or prepare a meal. The worst part is, it’s not their fault. They can truly say someday, my parents took me to every soccer, baseball and volleyball game in a three-state area, but they didn’t teach me squat about life. So, when the power goes off and it’s cold outside, I wonder what’s going to happen?
I’m a retired electrical engineer (25 years) and financial advisor (20 years). Several years ago I had a wealthy client who wanted to donate money to a local trade school to teach young people a trade. He was 80 years old and retired from building houses in the Chicago area. I set up a meeting with the head of the trade school and we met with him and the head of the “home construction” department, my client and myself. It was about a 90-minute meeting. The longer we talked the more disillusioned I became. My client wanted to re-roof an old building next to the school (at an old airport). The building had huge doors for rolling aircraft in and out. He wanted to fully supply the school with the tools to allow the students to build an entire house indoors and then they could auction off the house after assembly and install it on a buyer’s property. The income would be used to offset the student’s cost of attending the school and buy next year’s supplies to build the next house. It seemed like a great plan (it seemed). In the end, the school said it wouldn’t work. I continued to press for more information and finally the head instructor told me this: The overwhelming majority of the students really didn’t want to be there. They would not be able to take on this task. It was difficult to get them to put their cell phones away long enough to attend a class. When the school banned phones during class the “kids” just stopped attending. So, the school dropped the “no phones” rule.
The obvious question then is, why are they there? Answer: their grandparents! Grandma and Grandpa got sick and tired of watching their grandkids sit at home and play video games and listen to music on their cell phones. In most cases the parents had gotten fed up with arguing with them and finally kicked them out of the house, so Grandma and Grandpa took them in. Only to find themselves in the same situation within a few months. About ninety percent of the students were there because the grandparents had told the kids, get out or go to a trade school, we’ll pay for it. So, faced with hitting the streets or going to trade school on grandma’s ticket, they go to school. In the end, the school opted not to accept my client’s donation as they considered it fortunate if the kids attended at all.
When I followed up on that point, I was told that upon graduation most of the students were fired, usually within a few days, from their first six jobs because of their addiction to their cell phones. Construction employers just will not allow them to muck with their phones all day. Most of the students end up quitting the construction trade within 6 months of graduation because of the hard work and they aren’t allowed to use their phones during work hours. About 20% figure it out and learn to stay off the phone. A handful (usually kids who grew up on a farm) go on to start their own construction business within 2 years.
Maybe that’s why my parents had me peddling newspapers all over town for nine years at -10 degrees, uphill, in the snow, both ways. Or, maybe they were just enjoyed being cruel. Anyway, thanks mom and dad, you helped me learn to survive challenging times.
It's now 2pm. I just got an email from the RV park office. They’ve run out of propane. They’re hoping to find a local company that can bring a truck load of propane out here. The power company says they will likely have to turn the power off at some point.
I’m fortunate. I’m in one of the warmest places in the continental United States. Twenty miles further and I’d be in Mexico. Having said all this, I really feel bad for all those RV’s further north where it’s really cold and not likely to warm up anytime soon. Hang in there.
Anyway, the power’s back on, I got my propane bottle filled, the batteries are fully charged. I’m going to bring in the bedroom slide, go out and hook up my propane bottle and try and drain my black tank, just to be safe. Bring it on cold weather, I’m ready for round two!
Dustin and Doris
2018 Crossroads, Sunset Trail 33CK,
38', 7600 lbs empty, 8300 lbs loaded.
2016 Tundra: 5.7L with towing package with added "Roadmaster Active Suspension"