The TV antenna.
Besides the things already mentioned in previous posts (and a few more to come in the near future), we also found a Lava brand antenna at a great price. These antennas are supposed to be rated at 150 miles radius (signal coverage), whereas most smaller RV antennas are only rated for about 60 miles.
|Our new Lava brand antenna.|
This antenna comes with a remote control box for indoor use, and the remote control allows for rotating the antenna to the direction of the strongest signal. The antenna is designed for mounting on 3/4-inch to 1-inch pipe or conduit with a built-in clamp on the base of the unit. From there, you can simply wire-tie the coax lead to the pipe.
In our case, I happened to have some 3/4-inch EMT (electrical conduit) in stock, so I cut it in two pieces to more easily store in either of our vehicles. When set up, it will be a little over 10 feet high, and well above the roof and solar panels on the trailer. I used a steel rain tight compression coupling to join the two pieces together, and a regular connector at the bottom to attach it to an old pipe flange that I happened to have. The pipe flange should keep the mast from sinking into soft ground.
|Our antenna mast and base plate.|
The cam bar latch on the trailer door makes a very convenient place to attach the antenna mast when parked. A couple of Velcro straps are all it takes to hold it in position.
For entering the trailer, I installed a weatherproof antenna jack next to the mast location, which also is right behind the first cabinet... the location of all the TV controls and players.
|Our external antenna jack.|
|Our entertainment cabinet.|
|Great picture, but only four PBS stations!|
As far as reception, when I tested everything out to make sure all the components worked, I was able to search out four signals...all of them PBS affiliates! What's with that? Why am I not picking up the ABC affiliate in Jonesboro, only 65 miles away? And yes, I DID rotate the antenna to the strongest signal and verified it visually from outside. Granted, what I did get was crystal clear, but public TV was not what I was hoping for! Again, maybe it's because of this goofy location we're in here. We never could get ABC before, even when it was analog, so it's no surprise, I can see that some "real world" testing is needed!
Eventually, we will probably acquire a roof-mounted antenna of some kind, that can be used anywhere without having to set anything up, or, we could go with a satellite antenna. But first, we want to see how much this type of entertainment remains a part of our lives after we get away from our "sticks and bricks" situation, and become more socially oriented again. Even now, we have been home for over a week and have been too busy to watch anything.
Our trip north.We realized by the time we stopped for lunch in Corning, Arkansas, that our van was seriously low to the ground at the hitch. The hitch for this van actually has a crossbar underneath the regular bumper to begin with, and then the receiver part is attached below that, so it already starts off at a serious height disadvantage. As you can see I also have the receiver plug-in turned upwards, to gain what height I can. They actually come in different offsets, and I could get one that raised the tongue higher, but it's the van that is the real issue. It, also, needs to be raised.
Then, combined with the modest load we had in the van, and then the weight of the trailer tongue on it, the bottom of the hitch was only about four inches off the pavement! Our safety chains were dragging the entire trip north!
|Dragging the safety chains at Corning, AR.|
When we stopped at Corning, I also noticed the left rear tire was low. I already knew we had a slow leak in it, and I had forgotten to check it before we left. Fortunately, I had purchased a new Stanley PowerIt 1000a (1000 cranking amps) jump pack before we left (more about that in a future post), and part of the reason was because it not only had an on-board air compressor built into it, but a 500-watt inverter as well. No need to even plug it into the van... just get it out, hook the hose to the tire and hit the compressor switch. In about 5 minutes, the tire was up to proper pressure, and I checked the other rear tire as well. That was all we could do at the time to gain any height, but it didn't help much.
Since we had left home later than planned, around 10:50 AM, we didn't take the scenic route we had planned, but headed straight up I-57 to I-70 toward Terre Haute. Our first stop was to try to get to the home of one of our blog readers at Marshall, Illinois, as he had purchased our 40-inch TV. He had also previously sold us our solar panel setup. Unfortunately, it was not only dark when we got near his place, but it had rained that day, and his yard was too soft. So he met us at Walmart, and that was where we spent the first night out, and our first night EVER in a Walmart parking lot.
|Our first night EVER in a Walmart parking lot. Many more to come, we're sure!|
Our blog reader met us the next morning at McDonald's, less than a block away for breakfast, and then we followed him out to his place to deliver the TV. Around 10:00 AM we headed toward Terre Haute, and then up Hwy 41.
Before we got to Kentland, our lunch stop, we noticed the spare tire cover billowing out in the middle from the wind pressure behind it. We stopped and tightened it up once. But before we could get to Kentland, the back of it had come off the spare tire and it was blowing in the wind. I HAD to stop and take it off completely that time, but the damage to it had already been done.
|Our wind-shredded spare tire cover.|
From Kentland, we continued north to SR 10, and followed it east until we got to SR 49. This road takes us straight north into the east side of Valparaiso, IN ("Valpo" to the people who know it) and less than a quarter mile from our destination. It also gets us off and away from the higher speeds of the interstate, and allows us to see some of rural Indiana on very nice roads.
The rest of the story.On the last morning before we left Arkansas, we were frantically trying to finish up last minute packing, and then get the trailer connected to the van. I had a local repair shop install the hitch on the van, and (supposedly) install the new 7-pin trailer receptacle in place of the old 4-pin connector. I had already purchased everything they needed, with the intention they USE it! When we went to pick up the van, I looked it over and couldn't find the isolator relay I had bought to go in the charging circuit to the trailer. Upon questioning them, they had omitted it! It was still in the box of parts in the back of the van!
I tried my best not to come "unglued" on them... "telling" them that you NEVER, EVER install a circuit to a secondary battery system without installing an isolator... because... without it... any power you use from the secondary battery will also get sucked out of the engine battery... and could leave you stranded without being able to start the vehicle! Neither do you want to use a deep cycle battery on a regular basis, for starting the engine... which is what would happen without the isolator! And don't even get me started about using a much lighter wire between the two batteries, which could overheat and cause a fire!
Well, at least they DID install the 30-amp circuit breaker in the secondary line. Small favors.
Being late in the day, they didn't have time to install the isolator anymore, so I had to bring it back the next morning. When I picked it up that time, they had installed the isolator, but switched from using the wire color I had bought, to the opposite color! Why? I don't know! That wasn't even the problem!
But still, everything seemed to work, so we took the van back home. It was only when we went to try the tail lights and turn signals on the trailer, did we discover another one of their blunders! We couldn't get the left turn signal to work, nor the brake lights on the trailer. Again, more time wasted in me having to track down the reason why. I verified that the wires all went to the proper terminals on the receptacle. But then, I discovered that these idiots had simply hooked onto the old wiring from the 4-pin connector... without ever verifying that the circuit was good to begin with! They never tested it!
I found that the old wires had been tapped (yes, and taped over, too) onto the van's tail light wiring by simply stripping the wires and wrapping the trailer wiring around the tail light wire... with no mechanical connector at all! Once I removed the poorly wrapped electrical tape, I could see that the wires were all greenish-white and corroded to the point where they weren't even making connection anymore! This is why you ALWAYS use a mechanical connector of some kind!
Keep in mind, this is the way they were when we bought the van nearly two years ago, but we never had occasion to pull a trailer with it, and had no idea what a sloppy job someone had done previously!
By repairing the connection with proper fold-over type Scotch brand wire connectors, I got the turn signals and parking lights working. But try as I might, I couldn't figure out why I still had no brake lights. But once I realized that on the van, the turn signal/parking light and brake lamps are separate entities, I could see that there was no way they would work without a special converter...which I didn't have, and had no time to find one.
We drove all the way north...over 600 miles... with no brake lights! To compensate, whenever I had someone behind me and had to stop or slow down, I would manually switch on the parking lights, so at least there would be "some" light show up. Obviously, we arrived safe and sound, so no problem. But if you're one of those who can't chew gum and remember to walk at the same time, I highly discourage this!
In Part Two of our adventure, I'll reveal what it took to get the brake lights working, as well as what else happened on the trip... after we got there.
Make sure you subscribe to receive the future posts. It gets "interesting".