Friday, February 24, 2017

Living on the road Pressure canning…

Current Location: Covington GA
Next Planned Location: March 1st  Pinewood/Rimini SC, Elliott Landing and Campground 

Last year when in Alaska I decided to try my hand at canning salmon and found it was pretty straight forward.  As long as you follow the USDA guidelines it is a good safe way to preserve food without using freezer space and the flavors are outstanding.  The flavor was so good that most of my canned salmon was eaten on crackers and not used for cooking. 

In preparation for my trip to Alaska this year I researched several pressure canners and purchased the  Presto 16 Qt Pressure Canner.  The other canner I considered and decided against was the All American 15 Qt Pressure Canner which has higher ratings but it also has higher weight weighting 18 pounds at about twice the weight of the Presto with cost over double also.  Both canners can pressure can 7 quarts or 8 pints at once.  I looked at the next size up that would allow canning 16 pints but the height of the unit would not fit my stove without removing my built in microwave or I would have had to do all my canning outside on my camp stove.  Being on the road with limited spaces the Presto 16 quart fits my needs minimizing weight and saving a few dollars.

When you preserve your food following a USDA tested recipe the shelf life is one year for the best quality, flavor and most importantly nutrient value.  If the food was properly processed and the lid is still sealed the food will be safe after the 1 year mark.  It is not like you have to throw out your canned food at the 365 day mark if you have not consumed it.  Like all food we prepare for a meal we use common sense if it looks bad or smells bad you dispose of it and home canned food is handed the same.  I have read articles where people are using 5 plus years old home canned food.

After doing my research and looking at my options I have decided to can some beef, beef stew, chicken, and chicken soup.  If I am going to can salmon this summer I might as well take the jars with me so why not fill them up with some precooked meals.  With the canned food meal preparation is much simpler.  You don’t have to preplan and takes it out of the freezer ahead of time it is ready when you are.  The uses are limited by your imagination/creativity.  I have canned all of the above listed foods and have used them for sandwiches, over rice, and with mash potatoes.   Fast easy meals and they are delicious.

Cost wells let’s see I paid $3 lb for a beef roast at Aldi’s.  It takes about 1 pound of beef per pint .50 per pint with the Aldi’s price.  The jars are one time purchase item for about $1.00 each and I am going to leave them out of the cost per pint because they will be reused.  Lids are about .25 each.  The stove time is hard to calculate due to the small usage…it does take stove time but I am not going to do the math at this time to incorporate stove time or my time.  Like the stove time the cost of the pressure canner itself is a small cost per pint.  Cost for beef per pint is .50+.25=.75 with chicken costing slightly less.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chevrolet Dealer Service Review Covington GA

When I need service on my truck I like to visit the local GM dealer and it seems I am always in a new area when the service is due.  I have visited a lot of different dealers over the last couple of years and have always received great service.  I have had no bad experiences but all of the wait times and lounge areas have been different so I thought I would start reviewing the different locations and share my reviews.

                                Ginn Chevrolet Dealer in Covington GA
                                I took the truck in to run a diagnostic check because the engine light was on.  It was close time for an oil change and fuel filter replacement so I had it all taken care of at one time.
                                The service area lounge was next to the service area and not in the show room like most of the other dealerships I have visited.  The lounge was clean with comfortable seating.  There were not many people in the lounge but even if every seat was taken it would have been comfortable.
                                There was no coffee, water, or snacks in the lounge area.  The lounge area had separate restrooms for male and female, the men’s room was clean.  I was told there was free WiFi.  When I attempted to log in I was asked for a password.  There was no posting in the area to supply the password and you had to ask the service department personnel for the password.  When I was checking out I found a coffee pot in the cashier area which is close to the lounge.
                                Running the diagnostics and changing the oil/filter and fuel filter took about 2 hours.
                                Service was timely the staff was very informative and pleasant.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Alaska 2017 Tire Maintenance

Current Location: Covington GA
Next Scheduled Location: SC Early March

The cleaning and waxing of truck and camper is well under way.  I am still working with my WEN power buffer and when you have little or no obstructions it works great but at times it’s better to leave it in the storage compartment and use a little elbow grease.
On the road safety is always a concern and should be taken seriously.  I am not talking about being mugged or worse that is a whole different topic I am referring to vehicle break down and tire problems. 
One of the biggest potential problems I believe is tire problems.  To reduce this potential I perform regular inspections of all the tires.  I have two types of inspections that I perform one is the pre-trip inspection and the other is a on the road inspection. 
Three things that could reduce tire problems 1) proper inflation 2) proper loading of camper don’t overload  3) maintain a speed under 65 mph, trailer tires are speed rated for 65 mph.  If you follow these three simple rules you greatly reduce potential tire problems.
The pre-trip is a visual inspection of the tires, I look at thread wear and inspect side walls for any damage or signs of potential failure, i.e. cracks, bulges, and/or damaged areas.  The lug nuts torque and tire pressure is also checked and adjusted if needed.  I perform this inspection before every trip and if I am on the road for more than a day or two I repeat the inspection from time to time.  On the pre-trip I inspect the fifth wheel hitch on the camper and in the truck bed.  Running lights are checked both pre-trip and at least once a day when on the road.
The on the road inspection is something I do at every stop this includes fuel stops, rest stops, and end of day stops.  This is a quick inspection for any potential problems.  I walk around the unit and visually inspect the exterior and all tires by placing my hand on each tire and the center of hub checking for any excessive heat or damage to tire.  If the tire pressure is low it will be warmer to the touch than the other tires.  If you have a bearing problem the center hub with be hot/warmer to the touch.  This is not a 100% fool proof inspection but if done properly most problems can be found early.
I have looked at a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) and the prices are all over the place some 4 tire systems in the $50 range but a good system that will monitor 8 tires run in excess of $400 dollars like the TireMinder Smart TPMS with 4 Transmitters for RVs, MotorHomes, 5th Wheels, Motor Coaches and Trailers.  Since 2007 all new vehicle’s under 10,000 gross weight has a system installed.  The 3500 series truck are over this weight limit.  In the end I may regret this decision not to install a system but I believe as long as I do my inspections as I described I will be okay…
Some of the items I carry with me in case of a road side problem are the following.
VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor.  This is a 12 volt compressor that is great for airing up tires.  I looked at several others including a 110 volt unit but for the size and cost this is the best air compressor for the money.  I have used it several times to top off my tires on the camper it is fast and easy to use.
I also carry a Neiko High Visibility Neon Yellow Zipper Front Safety Vest with Reflective Strips, Blazer 7500 Triple Warning Triangle. Warning Triangle, and the Slime 1034-A T-Handle Tire Plug Kit.  I have not had to use any of these items but I feel better having them with me.  Last year I was on the Denali Hwy in Alaska at Brushkana Creek Campground a BLM Campground with the closest services at Cantwell about 31 miles of gravel road away when I got a knock on the door…another camper had a flat tire and asked if I happen to have a tire repair kit.  I loaned him the kit and offered the air compressor and my help but all he needed was the kit about 30 minutes later he had his tire repaired and returned the kit.
Most of what I have covered has been tires and like I stated I believe that is the area you need to focus on to reduce the chances of roadside problems.  But you cannot overlook the maintenance on the tow vehicle.  I drive a 2012 Chevrolet 3500 Duramax and personally like to use the GM dealer in the area I am when the maintenance is due.  By using GM dealers they have the history of my vehicle any recalls or safety issues that are related to my truck.  I have used dealers in SC, GA, MI, AZ, SD, and AK and have received the same professional service and pricing at all of them.  I have found that all of the customer waiting areas are different.  I plan to start reviewing the customer waiting areas.  I have never had a bad experience but I have seen some with a coffee machine, some with nothing, and others with unlimited snacks.

I also perform additional maintenance on the camper but the tires and axles are the main ones I consider road safety items.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Alaska 2017 Part 3

Current Location: Covington GA
Next Scheduled Location:  SC early March

 This winter in Atlanta area has been nice, a bit wet with very few hard freezes.  Now I am getting some warm sunny days so it is time to tackle the outside of my fifth wheel.  Outside includes washing and waxing the exterior both the camper and truck, cleaning out the storage compartments to remove the stuff I thought I would like to have and never used.

Washing the truck and camper is pretty straight forward and does not take a lot of time or effort.  I try not to let them get in too bad of condition.  When on the road I have both the truck and camper washed at truck washes or a self-service wash facility.  The cost is approximately $55 for the truck wash  with the self-running $15-$25 all part of living the dreamJ.

Waxing takes a lot of time and energy but the cost to have it done would be in the $300-$400 range.  And seeing I have more time than money I will do what I did last year and wax it myself.  As I prepped for the waxing I remembered the long hours for several days not to mention the sore arms from the wax on wax off procedure.  So then I started doing my research into using a power buffer to speed up the process and reduce the wear and tear on the arms.  I looked at a lot of different models and several different sizes and decided to go with the WEN 10PMC 10 inch Waxer/Polisher Deluxe.

I did my homework and researched the power waxer/polisher but the info on the bonnets/pads were not very informational or at least not to me.  There were three different bonnets with the kit I purchased the applicator, the removal, and a polisher.  The applicator is similar to terry cloth with a plastic/water proof liner to prevent the polish getting on the buffers foam disc.  Then you have a terry cloth removal bonnet followed by a fleece type polishing bonnet.  I was able to wax half of camper to height I could reach in about an hour.  This is about half the time it took me last year waxing by hand last year.  I am currently using Meguiar's Gold Class Carnauba Plus Paste Wax and it is working good but I believe I am going to switch to Meguiar's G7016 Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Liquid Wax .  The paste wax worked great but the application was not suited for the power buffer I believe the liquid wax will be easier to work with. 

The one issue that is still not real clear is waxing over decals on the camper I have wax over them several times with no ill effects so for me I will continue waxing the decals.