Archive for the ‘RV Mods’ Category

The Pressure Is On!

June 26, 2011

I feel as if I should have a banner ad on my blog to justify all of the “plugs” I seem to give Harbor Freight… but then again… this is The Cheapskate Camper site… I am a cheapskate and the place is cheap!

My latest discovery is their electric pressure washer.  

1500psi Electric Pressure Washer














It’s not a camping necessity… but certainly a handy tool for keeping your grill, camping gear, RV, trailer, SUV, truck or whatever… clean!

On the cheapskate side of things… by the time I applied all of my coupons and discounts I got the one pictured here for under $80.00!

It’s simple to operate, has few things to lose… and works as advertised.  Its 1500 psi of water pressure (using only 1.3 gallons of water per-minute)… has cleaned everything I’ve pointed its wand at.

Unlike the other three pressure washers I researched (in a similar price range) the Harbor Freight product does one thing better than the others.  The high pressure pump only runs when you squeeze the trigger!  The other three appear to run the pump all the time.  The other brands even cautioned, if you are not using the sprayer for even the shortest of time, you should turn it off to avoid damaging the pump.

Fit and finish are fine.  The only things you have to assemble are the handle, and snap the wheels on to the base.  Attach the hoses and you are good to go!

The device is absolutely water tight… not a drip or dribble at either the water hose connections (a quick connect/disconnect is provided) or the high pressure outlet. The only other “accessory” item is the soap dispenser.  The wand has just one adjustable tip… from a soft “fan” type of spray to a piercing 1/8” stream capable of stripping paint off of wood! Certainly sufficient for my needs.

Be sure to read all of the safety warnings… you can hurt yourself with this thing (no firsthand experience).  And you can damage the items you are cleaning.  (I have first hand experience in that department… shot a little hole right through my awning!)  It is a good idea to test the spray on the items you intend to clean by starting soft and adjusting the spray until you see the “cleaning effect” start. Be careful with wooden items… it will cut groves in softer material!


Not Always A Cheapskate! Camping At A KOA!

June 15, 2011

A few weeks ago the big “Air Show” was in town.

My son, grandson and I decided that the best way to beat the massive traffic jam that always occurs at the end of these events was to just camp out on the airport grounds.  So plans were made to do just that.

I showed up a day early to get a good spot only to discover the air show organizers had just that minute decided, with a chance of rain in the weekend forecast, to not offer camping this year.  (I guess last year there were some “big rigs” that got stuck out there.)

Um… kinda short notice eh?

Not to worry they told me… the local KOA was offering a discount for air show goers.  “Discount”… there’s a word that rings my bells!

I’ve never camped in a “commercial” campground before.  Always state parks and the like.  (They are usually cheaper.)

But I really had the camping bug so I decided to go check out the Indianapolis KOA.

Gotta tell you… I was surprised and impressed!

With the discount… the overnight rate for a site with electricity and water was not a whole lot more than I was used to paying in the state parks.  The site suggested for me was level, well-kept, had a fire ring, and a nice sturdy picnic table.  There was a huge tree nearby for ample shade.  I really could not have asked for more.

Even with the influx of air show campers… the KOA was not crowded.  There were one or more empty sites between most of us there.  I suspect those that were camped closer together… were together.

When the set-up chores were completed we went exploring and discovered the campground was divided into two sections by a little wooded area and a creek.  After visiting “the other side” I was very pleased to be where we were.  That area was more open and closer to the interstate and nearby businesses.  Kind of spoiled the “camping in the woods” atmosphere for me.  The sites were nice though… some with concrete patio pads… and even a “bark park” for Fido.

Our side was much quieter… only occasionally disturbed by jets, war birds and stunt planes flying overhead.  Ummm… I guess even that wasn’t “disturbing”… those “sounds of freedom” were what we were there for in the first place!

Gotta hand it to the owners/managers of the Indianapolis KOA… it was a wonderful experience and the people who worked there were very nice and helpful!  They have a well stocked “camp store” too.

I’ll visit them again sometime!

Here’s a link to their website if you want to nose around.

Oh… for what it is worth… the rain started the very moment the last act, the Navy’s Blue Angels, flew out of the airport!  The Sunday show was cancelled.  Guess it was a good idea the air show folks didn’t offer camping this year.

Before the rain started… got to fly up in the cockpit of “Fat Albert”… WHAT A RIDE!

Cheapskate Camper With The Blue Angels "Fat Albert" Crew

The First Outing Of The Year… Dead Battery.

June 14, 2011

It seems that my first outing each year becomes a bigger adventure than expected… and a learning experience for this old cheapskate.

It was to be an outing with my son and grandson.  Just an overnighter.  It started out uneventful… right up to the point when I shut the motor off at the campground office.

After paying my fees and getting the proper tag and directions to my site I hopped back up into the cab and turned the key.   Click, click, click.  Not RRRRRRRR Varooom!   My battery was dead.  (The reason why is another story.)

I was tempted to pull one of my coach batteries and attempt a jump from it.  But before I could give that much though I notice an “RV Doctor” truck just about 50 feet from where I was parked.  They were there on site replacing a fridge in a camper’s RV.

I asked if, when they were done, if they could give me a jump.  They said they would as soon as they were done with the fridge.  About 20 minutes later one of the techs showed up with this gadget.

A portable jump starter!  He hooked it up… had me wait about a minute… and then he told me to “…give it a try”.  RRRRRRR Varoooooom!  My old beast started right up!

Two minutes and ten dollars later I knew I had to have me one!

I scoured the Internet and could not find that exact one… and I had not though to ask the technician where he got his.

Saturday… I found it in an ad in the back of “Flying Magazine”.  It was from one of my favorite places… Harbor Freight!  With the ad’s coupon I got the gadget for around $36.00!

As you may see in the picture it has a couple of nice extra features… a built-in light for being able to see how to hook it up in the dark.  And there is a 12VDC power-port for a cell phone charger or any other 12 volt device.

The jump starter has a rechargeable sealed lead acid battery inside… as well as a built-in 120 VAC charger… and a 12VDC charging cord.  The manufacturer does not recommend using the 12 volt cord for charging other than in “emergency” situations because it will not fully charge the internal battery (thus shortening its life) like the AC charger will.

This is one of those things I hope I will never have to use… but if I need it… I’ve got one now!

Oh yeah… the rest of the camping experience with “my boys” was great!

Never Underestimate a Good Neighbor!

June 14, 2011

As I’ve mentioned before… my RV was manufactured back in 1979.

Not much of anything on board had been replaced (until I got hold of it)… although I suspect the seat cushions on the couch and at the dinette had been recovered… maybe.

One thing for certain was the carpet.  A beige/champagne/light gold sort of color.  Not sure of that either… it was rather faded from years of light exposure.

Long before I acquired the RV, 1997 to be exact, I happened to be in the right place… at the right time to dumpster dive for some rather large carpet remnants.  I saved some for a project at work and took a piece home for “some future project”.  

I kept it clean and dry… and this spring I found a use for it… the RV!  

The colors were complimentary to the RV’s interior.  For a cheapskate like me… that’s a bonus (but not always necessary)!  

I felt rather confident it was big enough… because there just isn’t that much floor space in an RV.  

There was just one problem. I don’t know diddly squat about laying carpet… or even how to go about taking up the old.  This is where the neighbor comes in.

Just about a half mile down the road from my house is one that often has a big box truck out front that advertises a carpet business on the side. I guessed it was a “mom and pop business”. 

One day I jotted the number down with the plan of calling the owner and finding out how much it would cost to do my RV over with my my carpet treasure of 1997.  Of course I lost the number and could never remember to write it down again.

A few months later… I just happened to be behind that very same truck as it pulled into their driveway.  I followed them right in.  Which may have kinda spooked the driver.  I could see that he was cautiously watching me in his side mirror.  But I boldly sauntered up their driveway and ambushed him with a friendly greeting.

Not to make the story any longer than it needs to be… he was willing to take on the job when had a break in his “day job”.  Turns out he is actually a “big time” professional carpet installer with a number of crews working for him all over the state.  In fact he did most of the work in our building for the new addition and remodeled areas!  Somehow we’d never crossed paths and I’d never seen his truck in our parking lot.

It wasn’t but a few days later that he called and set a time to come over and do the job.  It took longer than either one of us expected… even with the assistance of his wife… an expert “carpet puller upper”… mostly because my old carpet had been stapled in place at the factory!  But after about three hours… my classic shag carpet had been replaced with a newer vintage industrial indoor/outdoor carpet!

Total price for professional carpet installation… 50 bucks!  That figured out to less than 17 dollars an hour for a crew of two!  They even hauled off the old carpet, padding, and a zillion staples. (I tipped him an extra 10 spot… but still feel like I owe him more!)

 As he was getting ready to leave… my neighbor and new friend told me my “new” carpet would outlast the RV by at least 20 years!  That was comforting… I think.

 The moral to the story… don’t be afraid to take an inventory of your neighbors’ skills… ’cause some day you just might be able to take “friendly advantage” of them.  He/she may be a plumber, an electrician or a refrigeration specialist… or my case a really good carpet guy!

Surviving A Winter Emergency!

February 12, 2011

We are just coming out of a rough bout of winter… snow, ice, sub-freezing temperatures.  As I watched the ice and snow slowly begin to melt I was reflecting on a few of the steps we went through to hunker down and survive.

As the worst of the storm was just a day or two out I went to my “emergency shelter” and grabbed some supplies.

You have an “emergency shelter” don’t you?  Or at least emergency supplies?  Of course you do!

Mine is pictured at the top of this page. My 1979 Itasca RV!

Camping gear can double to cover emergency situations… they are not just for summer any more!

I grabbed the two burner propane stove that we use for outdoor cooking, a couple of propane bottles, all of the flashlights and lanterns. (I had no idea I had that many flashlights out there… thank you Harbor Freight for the freebies!) I also picked up a butane lighter and a box of matches.

The sleeping bags looked like a good idea… so I brought them in too!

I filled up a five gallon water container for cooking and minor washing. It was my intent to fill a bath tub with water for flushing… but I forgot to do it! (In the past couple of days  I’ve discovered three more 5 gallon water containers stored here and there. I will be sure to fill those if an event like this comes around again.)

We also had about 36 bottles of drinking water on hand… but that is normal for us.

Although I didn’t drag it into the house… I had one good load of firewood in a milk crate out there… just in case I needed to stoke up the fireplace. And I have about a rick of firewood just outside my shop.

My house is dependent on electricity for a lot of things… maybe too many things.  I need electricity to run the igniter and fan for the propane furnace. My water heater is the same way… propane… but it is vented horizontally vs. vertically… so there is an electric exhaust fan that has to come on… the water heater won’t heat unless the fan runs. No electricity… no hot water.  Oh and of course… there’s the water pump!  No electricity no water for drinking, washing or flushing!

So here is where your RV could help out again… if… you have a generator! (My Sundancer had an Onan generator at one time or another… but I guess someone re-purposed it… all I have now is a nice storage area with outside access.)

So… I wasn’t so lucky as you might be.  If your RV is parked near the house… (not so close that exhaust from the generator might get into the house)… you could run an extension cord for some lights, a radio and or a small TV, and depending on how electrical savvy you might be… power some other essentials as well!

You might want to consult with your local electric company about a bypass switch so you can take your house off the grid in an electrical emergency. You don’t want to be pumping electricity back down the power system while repair crews are out there handling downed power lines.

As you might have read in an earlier post… I have just recently purchase a 2000 watt inverter.  It did cross my mind that in a pinch I could use it and the RV’s deep draw batteries to run a few items in the house… if necessary. I didn’t have much of a plan beyond that… but I am working on one now!

Take a stroll through your RV (pop-up, tow-behind… whatever) sometime and consider what emergency uses you might have for your camping gear.

Of course the ultimate use… move the family out to the RV and fire up the furnace!  Pop some popcorn, and turn on the TV.  It could be you really do have an “emergency shelter” in your driveway.

As a sort of post script… we didn’t end up needing any of the supplies from the RV.  We never lost power, we were snowed and iced in for the better part of a week… but the electricity flowed, as did the water!  (A lot of other folks in the county weren’t so lucky!)  Bottom line… it was reassuring to know we had a “Plan B”.

A Quick Look…

January 17, 2011

Here is just a quick look at an upcoming project…

I’ve wanted freedom from the electric outlet since I first purchased my “classic” (read that old) RV.  Although I have never camped anywhere without at least 15 amp electrical hook ups (or water for that matter).  But someday… I may find the ideal camp spot may be some distance from an electrical connection.  Some day… 

I have held off because an inverter with enough power output to run (for short spans of time) a microwave or electric coffee pot was out of my financial reach.

For my last birthday a friend, who knows what kind of cheapskate I am, gave me a 20% off coupon for Harbor Freight Tools.  I cashed it in this past weekend!  I found a 2000 watt (4000 watt surge) unit for $128.00 (with the coupon)!

The unit appears simple to operate… hook it up to one or more (in parallel) 12VDC deep draw (marine) batteries, plug in up to two devices and flip the power switch!  Ta da… 120VAC (modified sine wave) up to 15 amps! 

The inverter has LED meters to monitor battery condition and AC current draw.  Thee is also a low power alarm and auto shut off if the DC source drops below a certain leve (8 volts… I think).

I will publish a “how to” page when I get a chance to consider where I’m going to install the inverter.  (It has to warm up a bit.  Brrrr.)

Spam: The Eating Kind!

January 12, 2011

It is the dead of winter her in beautiful Indiana.  In fact it has been “winter” since some time in November… and it seems to have a pretty good hold on us.  I’d love to be working of a few of my “started but not finished” projects out in the RV but it is just too cold… and I’m too “cheap” to fire up the furnace.

Here recently I’ve been reminded of one of my favorite camping foods… it’s been around since 1937!  It’s kind of “ham in a can”… but not exactly.  If you want to know what SPAM really is… visit; food).

We were stuck at home last night, because of the weather, and had to scrounge though the cabinets to find something to eat. 

Ta da!  SPAM! (Probably hauled back in from the RV for the winter.)

I popped the top off and sliced that hunk-o-meat into six thick slices and headed for the grill.  Well… the grill was out there in the snow somewhere.  Got it brushed off and fired up.  Just a few minutes later we were dining on grilled “Spam Steaks”… sweet potatoes, and broccoli!  Yummy!

That got me to thinking… over the next few weeks I’m going to post some of my favorite SPAM recipes. 

If you’ve got a favorite send it to me… I’ll cook it up and give it a review! 

Five “Tent Pegs” for the best and so on down… sound OK to you?

See you at the picnic table…

Lost Summer…

September 20, 2010

That’s what it truly was… a lost summer.  My first (and only so far) camping trip of the season ended with rain.  I think it had to be one of the wettest springs in a long, long time.  It’s not that I don’t mind a little rain… but I really don’t like the mud.  So then the spring was shot… good weather and available time just did not meet up. 

 We had planned a camping vacation… but the rain discouraged us and we cancelled.  (So the Department of Natural Resources… got a little of my money (lost deposit)… they can use it so it really didn’t bother me.  

We took a nice day trip down to Madison, Indiana… one week before the big regatta.  They were in the process of turning the town into a festival venue.   Vaughn Drive, that runs along the Ohio River, was closed off for about a half to three-quarters of a mile for the construction and placement of food booths and the like… but we still found a place to sit and watch for barges (but never saw any).  But we did see three of them while we ate lunch at a little floating restaurant called the Lighthouse. 

Pretty cool!  Long walk up/down the ramp.  The food was excellent!  We were also treated to interact with the “Begging Carp”.  There were three or four HUGE carp that hung around the eatery waiting for people to throw scraps overboard.  Funny! 

It wasn’t long after that trip that something went wrong with my left knee.  It didn’t really manifest itself until the evening of July 4th.  A small group of us (affectionately known as “The Rat Pack”) went downtown Indianapolis for the big fireworks show.  It was that evening I notice my left knee really hurt when I walked. 

It took a few weeks for the doctor to determine what was wrong with me.  First he thought it was just inflammation, then possibly gout (that treatment worked great… for a week).  Finally he sent me for an MRI.  It turns out I had a torn meniscus… and that required surgery. 

I’m recuperating from that now.  I still walk with a bit of a limp and have some aching pain… but I am expected to have a full recovery.  (This getting old stuff is for the birds!) 

We do have another camping trip in the works… I’ll report back to you then.

In the mean time I hope to clean up a couple of projects I started this spring but never got to finish.  I’ll document them here as soon as I can.

I hope you all have had an enjoyable camping season!

Handy Flashlight!

July 2, 2010

I found this clever little flashlight at The Christmas Tree Shop yesterday… and I mounted it above the RV’s door.

Multi-purpose LED Flashlight

It is about the same diameter as a broom stick so I used a couple of broom holders as mounting brackets. 

(The observant reader may notice that there is only one holder/bracket in the picture.  Good job!  The second bracket broke into two pieces as I tightened the mounting screw.  A trip to the hardware store is in order to replace the defective item.)

The flashlight has a strong magnet in the “butt” end… helpful for holding it in place as you use it.  It has a 7 LED front end… and a matrix of white and red LEDs on the side (under a plastic window).

The 10 white LEDs make a bright “floodlight”…

White LED Floodlight

And the 6 red LEDs alternate on and off as an “emergency” flasher.

Red LED Emergency Flasher

Where I have it mounted makes it a handy item for a quick run out in the middle of the night or as back-up lighting if my 12 volt system should fail.

And believe it or not… it runs on just 3 AAA batteries!

Not bad for 10 bucks.

New Project Page!

July 2, 2010

Check out page 19. A Battery Of Tests.

I did get a couple of projects done today!  The first was the battery/charger tester I’d mentioned earlier.

I also put together a handy 3 stage battery charger/maintainer for the engine compartment battery.  I’ll post that as “page 20” shortly.