Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mammoth gets "smarter" with a SmartPlug

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Today was finally a nice day to do an outdoor project! So we decided to finally install our SmartPlug 50 amp Connector.

We had seen this product on display at Camping World this summer, and instantly thought it was a great idea. The folks at SmartPlug have redesigned the RV power inlet and power plug, stepping away from the old "Marine" style connection. When the old style connection has a securing ring (unlike the one pictured below), it's very difficult to get the ring secure in cold or damp weather. Even with the ring secure, the cord is able to twist in the inlet. This always made me nervous, was our cord properly connected?



I contacted the company hoping to learn more about the product and see if they would help support our next  Heartland Owners Club - West Texas Chapter Rally. They agreed, and sent us a sample to install, as well.

We were very pleased with how easy the instructions appeared, with photos and written instructions that were very clear and exact.

Sample of instructions

Here are some pics of the install:

Packaging of the SmartPlug 50-amp RV Power Inlet

Packaging of SmartPlug 50-amp Connector (cord end)

A 50 amp cord we purchased separately, with no plug. We wanted to keep our original power cord intact, so we could sell it later if we wanted to.

Taking Apart the Cord End

Innards removed. Note the wire-color coding on the clear sections. This is where the wiring will feed into the plug itself.

Preparing the wires on the power cord. The instructions are very specific of the length of exposed wiring needed.

Adding the black rubber gasket to the plug housing. There are two sizes, depending on the wiring size used.

Feeding the wiring through the plug housing. The white cap is sized for the 4 wires, and is only used for this step. It makes it quite easy.

Inserting the prepared wires into the plug housing

Using the supplied allen wrench, tightening the screws that hold the wires in place.

Securing the clamp that secures the plug end to the wire housing.

Tightening the plug innards to the plug outer shell. 
(Not pictured, adding the rubber seal to the plug.)

Second project, swap out the RV's power inlet. This is the old inlet.

It takes some patience to keep unscrewing screws to get this all apart.

Preparing the wires. The instructions are very clear about how to do this.

Push wires into the plug... then using the allen wrench, tighten the screws to secure the wires.

Push unit until it is in place, and resecure with the original screws in the same location.

Finished inlet.

Inlet closed

Preparing to plug in

We have contact! the silver pieces on the side click to secure the plug. No twisting!

Fold the inlet cover down over the top, and it grips a ridge on the top of the plug to secure (3rd point).

Finished project!

Overall, the project took about 2 hours. We had no issues with the instructions, only slowdowns with stripping the wires or getting the right tools in the right location to do the job. We consider ourselves fairly DIY savvy, but most of the time, projects take WAAAAYYY longer than they should, and require a trip or two to the hardware store. 

This was probably the smoothest upgrade (that required multiple steps and tools) we've ever done!

We also discovered SmartPlug recently added 50-amp RV Cords that are already equipped with their connector already.

I highly recommend this product - for safety, for ease of use, and for durability.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Holiday Happenings

December 24th, 2017

Our original holiday plans got changed -- instead, we headed to Terrell to visit family, and have our "white elephant" Christmas. We left December 24th, and headed to Terrell. We stopped for lunch in Santo, and made good time, getting to Terrell about 3:30. We were staying at our favorite park in Terrell, Bluebonnet Ridge RV Resort and Cottages.

We arrived and got set up in time to get changed, and then headed to our home church, First United Methodist for the candlelight service. It was great to walk through the doors and see lots of familiar faces. Tony's folks and brother were already there, and we sat with them. Tori, Tony's sister sang a solo during the service. It was very moving.

I forgot to mention, a cold front was also moving in, and it was quite cold when we got out of the church. After church, we headed over to Braums, as they were still open. It was nice to get a burger and shake from Braums since they are not in our neck of the woods. After dinner, we headed home and enjoyed some TV.

Arrival at Bluebonnet Ridge. Even though the office was closed, our reservation packet was waiting, along with 2 cookies.

December 25th, 2017

Today we got up and did a bit of laundry and wrapped our White Elephant gifts. We had plans to do our Christmas with my folks and Tony's family, over at his sister's apartment in Forney. We arrived about 3pm to celebrate with them. We ate, and then played some cards, before swapping our White Elephant gifts. We had a good time and enjoyed Tori's hosting the event.

Dorsey/Lindsey White Elephant Christmas

December 26th, 2017

Today we got up and did some things around the rig, then headed over to my aunt's house in Dallas for Christmas with my side of the family. My cousin Scott was in town, so we especially enjoyed getting to see him. We had a nice potluck meal and enjoyed visiting and unwrapping some gifts my mom brought for folks. We headed home about 9PM.

December 27th, 2017 

Today we had planned to head back home to Cisco, but made arrangements to stay an extra day to spend more time with my folks and my cousin Scott. We met in mesquite for lunch and enjoyed a very long visit, before we headed back so I could do some work for some of my clients.

After I was able to complete the work, we decided to go see" Star Wars, The Last Jedi" at the theater in Terrell. They kept trying to sell us the popcorn-filled Chewbaca head, but we opted for a standard large instead, which came with free refills and no cheesy plastic "thing" to deal with. LOL! The movie was good in many ways, but perplexing in others. We both agreed we'll have to see it again!

December 28th, 2017 

We got up and got packed up, ready to hit the road about 10:30am. We stopped for lunch at the QT in Weatherford for a quick bite, and had an easy drive back to Cisco. We decided to go ahead and run to Cisco to get the trailer inspected, since we need to get our license tag renewed in January, and you must have an inspection to do that. It took about 15 minutes and $7 later, we were back home and set up.

It was a great trip, even though a fairly quick one!

December 30th, 2017 

 We prepared for an arctic cold front that would plummet temps into the teens at night, and cause freezing fog, freezing drizzle and some snow. We had no issues, thankfully, as Tony had our propane tanks filled and our heated hose was doing its job.

December 31st, 2017

We stayed put today, staying warm and staying inside out of the weather. Tony made his famous chili, and we really enjoyed it! We also made two pecan pies, with the gift Tony's mom had given us back a few weeks ago, "Pecan Pie in a Jar."

our home, with a thin layer of ice on everything

ice on the pines

January 1st, 2018

Happy New Years! Today was our 25th wedding anniversary! Unfortunately, due to the weather we didn't get out to celebrate -- We'll do that next week, when we head to the RV show.

Furnace flip

November 28th, 2017

After our RV Tech, Scott Paine, came to review the furnace in November, we found out that Suburban had authorized a replacement unit. Scott came back out to install the new innards into the housing. It did not take him very long, and thank goodness, as the temps were dropping that day to below freezing that night.

He left, and the furnace was producing the "new" smell, typical of a first time use. After running a while, the "new" smell burned off, but the old offensive smell remained, especially after the unit ran a while.

So, we felt there had to be another cause.

December 8th - 9th, 2017

We decided to do some more testing with the ductwork, thinking maybe that was the culprit. Since the area behind the basement wall is fairly easy to work in, we removed the 3 ducts that were in this area. It is called Hi-Tech Duravent M-KC Thermaflex Series Fiberglass Thermaflex Air/HVAC Duct Hose. Unfortunately, we had only one weekend to work on this project, so we opted to try another product, available at the local Home Depot. We picked up the Master Flow Insulated Flexible Duct R6 Silver Jacket, used in standard Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. We replaced the ducts and tried again to run the furnace for a while.

Success! The ductwork change made quite a difference. We can still smell the smell, but not so much that it is difficult to breathe or that it gets worse. We ran the furnace over the next week, and it was a great improvement. I think we have solved the issue!

So what caused it? We aren't sure. But we*think* the furnace somehow overheated at some point, some way, causing the burned metallic smell to permeate the silver fiberglass ducts. Or, it could be related to the airflow -- the new vents are more insulated, and thus more efficient. They are pushing out more air into the bedroom, bath and hallway, possibly causing the furnace to perform more efficiently than the old ductwork. Either way, we are happy with the results.

New silver insulated ductwork installed.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thanksgiving getaway

Sunday Nov 19th, 2017

Today, we packed up the Mammoth and headed to Terrell, TX to visit family. Tony had to work yesterday, as it was Jr High District tryouts, so I prepped the rig for travel.

Before I get into the trip, a little back-story: 

One of the things we've been dealing with lately is a strange smell from our furnace, so in the past few weeks we opened up the basement wall so we could get a good look at it, and see if there were any obvious obstructions. We did not find anything visually that could tell us what was wrong, but we did note that the smell is coming from the unit when it is heating, not from the ducts alone. We have a call into a Mobile tech to see what the problem might be since the unit is still under a two-year warranty.

Furnace as seen behind the basement wall

ducts and back cover removed for viewing

front cover removed for viewing

Back to the trip -- we got everything hitched and ready to go Sunday, and pulled out about 11:30am. The drive was uneventful and pretty easy. We stopped at the Stripes truck stop near Santo for a quick lunch, then stopped again at the Blue Beacon in Dallas to get Mammoth washed. They didn't do as good a job as we've had in the past, but it was better than nothing.

"Beaconized" again!

We got to Bluebonnet Ridge RV Resort about 3:30 and got set up. 

Bluebonnet Ridge RV Resort

The boys enjoying different scenery

That evening, we got together with Tony's family, and ate at the new Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. It was very good!

After dinner we said our goodbyes, as they were flying to Las Vegas the next day. We headed home and watched the Cowboys look very bad against Philadelphia.

Monday, Nov 20th

Today we got up and got moving so we could go to Rockwall and meet my folks for lunch. We ate at el Chico in Rockwall, and had a good visit. After lunch we ran a few errands, and then headed over to our storage units outside of Rockwall to get our ski-gear and check on things. It's quite overwhelming to see how much "stuff" we have that we are not using! We are working on a plan to do something about that.

After that, we headed back to the coach and relaxed for the evening.

Tuesday, Nov 21st

Today, we packed up and headed to Durant, Oklahoma for some relaxing and different atmosphere.  We went through the country, and enjoyed the scenery and less traffic. We got to Durant about 1:00, and quickly set up. 

Tony waiting on me to get us checked in.
Choctaw Casino and Hotel in the background.

Our site a the Durant/Choctaw KOA.
They take very good care of the grounds here.

Tony ran and got us burgers, while I set up inside. We put up the satellite dish, but had some issues talking to Dish about getting our local channels here in OK. I made a second call while Tony was gone, and was able to get the Sherman locals. We also had some water leaking from our hose, so Tony worked to isolate that and find a solution.

After a while we decided to go eat at Chili's in Durant for dinner. They have scaled back their menu, but we found what we liked still on it. We had a pretty good meal. 

After that, we ran into WalMart to get a few things, since it was nearby, then headed back to the coach for a relaxing evening.

Wednesday, Nov 22nd

Today, we didn't really have any plans, so we hung around the coach and checked again on the furnace. I had some feedback from others on the Heartland Owners Forum, so we looked again inside the unit (without dismantling anything.) We determined it was not a broken blower squirrel cage, as we thought that might be the issue.

After putting the furnace back together, Tony decided to head over to the Casino for some entertainment. I worked on some projects around the rig and did laundry.

After Tony was back, we decided to go to IHop for dinner, as I was craving some french toast. We took the back-way into Durant, and then finally got to IHop. It was very odd as there was hardly anyone in the restaurant. We were seated and served very quickly. However, when we left, getting checked out at the front was very slow, and some folks got tired of waiting to be seated and left. I guess we were lucky. The food was good and I got my french toast. 

After dinner we headed back and watched our Wednesday shows, then started the packup for tomorrow.

Thursday, Nov 23rd  Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, we got the rig ready to go, and had planned to go the Casino's buffet for lunch. But it was 10am, and we were ready. We decided to skip the buffet and start the treck back to Cisco earlier than planned. 

We pulled out and headed down 75, then cut off into the country near Gainesville. Before we got too far, we pulled into a closed strip mall parking lot and Tony made us turkey sandwiches for lunch. Happy Thanksgiving! We then took Hwy 51 from Gainsville to Weatherford, then back on I-20 for the rest of the way home. We had no issues at all with traffic going this way, though it feels longer since you go through a lot of towns.

We pulled in back at our home park about 3:00 and got set up, just in time for the traditional Cowboy's Thanksgiving Day game. The park owner had done a little work on our site to level it a bit while we were gone, and we were very thankful for that! No more extra blocks under the tires on one side.

Home again!

The Cowboys again disappointed losing to the LA Chargers. I ran to the post office and also picked up some food.

It was good to get away and enjoy some family time and also some "away" time.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fall means it's rally season!

Saturday, September 30th

This weekend was the North Texas Chapter's Rally in Tyler, Texas. Last weekend was the Oklahoma Rally, but we were unable to make it to that one. This year, Dave and Nancy picked a new location, at Tyler Oaks RV Resort, just north of Tyler on Hwy 69.  Due to Tony's busy fall schedule, again, we have to attend without the rig. But that's ok, we really wanted to see our Heartland Family! I'll tell you more, but first, a few things....


First, we need to fill you in on some of our other RV adventures. As mentioned in June, we had MorRyde SRE4000 suspension put on in Elkhart, as well as new shocks. One shock busted on our way to Nashville, so we replaced it, and managed to get home to Texas.
Well, we finally got time to change the other three shocks, and found another was also busted (compromised so that it no longer rebounds), and the other two showed signs of leaking. We replaced them with standard RV shocks by AP Products.  Getting the old shocks off was harder than getting the new ones in. Hopefully, with the "standard" shocks, the MorRyde suspension will operate as intended.

Failed Bilstein shocks

 We chocked up the adventure to "a learning experience." MorRyde actually forgot to charge us for the shock install, even though I questioned the bill at the time. When I contacted them about the failed shocks and this came to light, they basically said "We installed what was provided", and they did not offer any assistance with our issue. I guess that's considered a refund on the install?

The shocks were only warranted from the eBay seller for 30 days, and it had been much longer than that. Bilstein warrants shocks for a year, but they must be purchased from an authorized reseller, which our eBay seller was not.

So we're left "holding the bag" -- the cost of the failed shocks, plus the new ones.


Another adventure was back in August. After a few days of cooler, rainy weather, we had a hot day, with temps close to 95. As usual, our AC runs nearly continuously to keep up with the afternoon heat.

Mid-afternoon, I started smelling something funny, like burning wires. I quickly found the source of the smell was coming from the AC ducts. I turned off the AC and began working to see if I could get a tech to come look at it, since I have heard of the Dometic ACs having issues in the past with poor quality parts from China.

I contacted a couple of RV dealers first that were listed under Dometic's authorized service centers. But none of them could get it to us in a timely fashion. I was recommended to call a mobile tech, Scott Paine Services, out of Abilene. I called, and he was very helpful, asking me to check a few things. We determined it was definitely something he needed to check out, (not a breaker issue, or a thermostat problem, or something simple like that.) Sadly, he could not make it out for a week! I went ahead and scheduled it, hoping I could get a sooner solution if I kept looking.

That weekend, we crawled onto the roof, hoping to find out more info to aid in the repair. Tony took an RV Tech class this summer, but they did not delve into the AC. We took the shroud off and looked for anything obvious, like a loose connection or burned marks.

Tony removed the panel where the control board and start capacitor is located, and voila! We found the source of the smell. The start capacitor connection was obviously discolored and melted.

Me "sniffing" for a burned smell. 

The small box here with wires going into it and the warning label is where the control board is located.

Here is what we discovered.

After finding the issue, we sent pictures to Scott Paine, and he said he would bring the proper part to replace it. 

The next week, Scott came out and examined the unit and tested it for proper amp draw and other issues to make sure it wasn't something else causing the problem, and replaced the start capacitor. He was here about an hour. I sincerely appreciated his professionalism and quick work! It just hurts the pocket book. :(

After Scott finished, we were back to 2 ACs. Halleluya! I then proceeded to collect the info that Dometic needed to see if it fell under warranty, and sent that to them the next day.

On September 26th, we finally got a check to cover the part and the labor cost, but not the service call or cost to ship them their failed part. Realize this failure was August 3, repair was August 10, and info was sent to Dometic August 11! Dometic's website says "Mobile Living Made Easy" and "Satisfying your essential needs when living mobile." Both of these, they failed to do for us. Hopefully, I will not need their "help" in the future.

Another upgrade was for our porch light. The original worked great, until it didn't. I am not sure how, but it seemed like water had gotten into the lens area, and affected some of the LEDs, causing some not to light, and others to flicker. I checked with Heartland, and the price of the same fixture plus shipping was too much. I could find other options for cheaper on Amazon.

Original light fixture

Prying at this tiny indentation is how you pop the outer cover off.

Cover removed, now you can remove the screws.

New fixture in place is MUCH brighter and has day/night on/off and motion detection.

We replaced the fixture fairly quickly, but it was daytime, and we could not make any adjustments to the settings. When it got darker, it would not motion-detect, so I said I would spend more time with it later.

The next day I tried adjusting the settings, but still didn't have much luck. It will activate if you put your hand about 6" from it! Well, we don't want to take it down to return it so I guess we just have a super-bright porch light now. If you're interested, here's a link but I cannot say much about the the motion detection.


OK, back to the Rally!
 We drove in from Cisco to Tyler in our SUV about 12pm Saturday, and met up with our friends, Stella and Jay. We talked to a few folks, but then headed to lunch with Jay and Stella, at a nearby Cracker Barrel. We had a good meal and lots of time to visit, since they were pretty busy. 

After lunch, we wondered over and visited with Nancy and Dave for a while, then decided we needed to go and check in at the hotel. We headed over to the southeast corner of Tyler to the LaQuinta -University Area, on the Loop at McDonald Road. It was a very nice new LaQuinta, with the new modern decor. We checked in and rested a bit, then headed back to the Rally. It was about a 15-20 minute drive.

We got back and walked around, visiting with a number of folks around the park, until it was time for the potluck and white elephant gift exchange. Of course, we had to do a picture first!

North Texas Chapter Rally attendees

We had a great meal with BBQ and all the sides typical with BBQ. There was some great peach cobbler, as well. We met some new folks from Louisiana,  Paul &  Cindy, and enjoyed visiting with lots of our old friends.

After dinner, we did the gift exchange.  We had a good time with that, lots of fun things were given. One included the "ice cream maker ball" that has been at every white elephant exchange  I've attended. No one wants that thing! LOL!

Audra M, new grandpuppy, and me with my "white elephant" gift, a cute Ty beanie bear. They could be related.

After the festivities, we enjoyed walking around and visiting with more folks. We hung out with Ted & Dee and their Margaritaville set up, its an EZ Up fully decorated with lights and decor that make you feel like you're in a little beachside cabana bar or something. FUN! They always bring the "outdoor living extravaganza."

We hung out with our friends Jason and Audra, and also met some "younger" folks like us, Pat and Jana Jones. They have a really good-looking Cyclone, with blue accented/ full body paint. We had a good time hearing their tales of dealing with their dealer, which happened to be our dealer (just a different location.)

We ended up leaving about 10pm, to head back to the hotel. We took a wrong turn, but managed to get back just fine. We headed to the room, and crashed. It was a long and busy and fun day, visiting our Heartland family!

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Today, we got up and got our bags packed. It was strange having an overnight with no kitties bugging us all night! I still tossed and turned due to the harder mattress, but we slept OK.

Tony got us breakfast from the hotel lobby - eggs, ham, and a muffin for me, biscuits and gravy for him. We ate, and finished getting ourselves ready, then checked out and headed back to the Rally.

We arrived about 10, and visited with more folks until 12.  We met another new couple, Kelsey and Pam, and had a good visit with them and some more folks that gathered around Kelsey's rig. Then we needed to hit the road. 

We first got some food, and made a stop at the Camping World that was close by the RV Park. We didn't think we needed anything, but invariably we found a few things, including butyl tape and a collapsible wagon, to help haul our rally supplies. (We had borrowed one from Nancy and Dave one time, and found it VERY helpful.)

Once done with Tyler, we were on the road. We had no issues going home, and made it home about 5pm. We unloaded and rested for a bit, then Tony decided he'd cook the (impulse buy due to good price) steaks that I bought on Friday. We had a great meal at home, and enjoyed some TV with cats in our laps. 

A fun weekend, we just wished it could have been longer!