Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mr. Wizard

Mr. Wizard and Skylark

Andy Baird is a man whose hobby is also his home.  There's nothing particularly unusual about this, among the retired.  What is different is that Andy's home has wheels.  I refer to the fabulous Skylark, a 2003 26.5 foot Lazy Daze, seen above with her luxuriantly bearded manager and confidant.  Skylark was not Andy's first.  That would be Gertie, a 1985 22 foot LD identical in all respects to the Daze Herself, with the added charm of a rare bit of age and wisdom.

When the Daze and I first met, I naturally was interested in questions of maintenance and improvement, so I got on the Web and soon found Andy.  His page on "Improving Gertie" was a godsend.  Andy has more ideas about RV customization than I could count on my fingers and toes, even if I were a centipede.  Many are available on his website, and even more in his html book, Eureka 2, available on CD or by download.

Some ideas are of course always rig specific, but most of Andy's are generally applicable to any RV.  If any of you are contemplating an RV retirement, his book is a must read.  Andy has about got it licked. He has jumped into that ocean, got in over his head, regained his bearings, and learned to swim like an otter.

For instance, he lives full time in New Mexico State Park campsites with electric for $4 a night.  How?  Go ask Andy.  Look at the website, buy the book.  Short of Shakespeare in the Park, you are not going to find so much cleverness for 12 bucks elsewhere.  Visit the "Life with a Lazy Daze" Yahoo group that he moderates.  This is the best advice you'll get from me any time soon.

After I found his secret lair deep in the gloomy vastness of the forest primeval, Andy and I talked, and then he gave me a tour of Skylark.  I'd read all about it, of course, but seeing some of his tinkerings in person gave me the modification bug, and in the days since I've implemented a modest few in the Daze.  So here's some pics for all you gearheads:

1.  A fluorescent fixture for the Reading Room:

Let there be light.  Hey, it worked!

The fixture itself was a gift from Andy, there not being a Walmart handy.  He "had a few he bought cheap".  And extra bulbs for it.  This got to be sort of a joke.  Andy has "a few" of darn near everything stowed somewhere about Skylark.  I think he's lassoed a pocket black hole to use as his personal "Fibber McGee" closet.  I kept wondering if he had this tool, or that, and he never failed to come up with it.  Finally I just asked him "Is there any tool you DON"T have in that thing?"  He paused for a long auditing moment, then nodded.  "I don't have a band saw." You could tell he truly regretted the omission.

2.  Battery powered fluorescent lights in the trailer:

You can see the one above the door, and there's another at the rear.  Given how little I go in there at night, if I can just manage not to leave them on by "accident", the 8 AAs in each should last for years.  The DC lights that came with the trailer are weak, weak, weak.  You will also notice the:

3. Large BC fire extinguishers, one in the trailer and one just inside the door of the Daze:

As a former fireman, I am ashamed to say I neglected Daze in this matter.  It was on my list, but I kept forgetting it.  I had several in my former trailer and truck, but all I had in the Daze was an ancient ABC powder unit, probably original, and no doubt caked up and useless these many years.  Andy has them all over Skylark, and particulary a small foam unit in the outside LPG compartment, which is unlocked by law, and thus always available.  I'm going to do that too, one of these days.  :o)

4.  A windshield cover:

This was also a gift from Andy.  He had been "saving it to give someone".  It was original with Skylark, but he replaced it since with a nice model that admits some light through its weave.  The cover was not made for Daze, but I did a little trimming and put in a couple of grommets and ball bungees to secure it to the outsized mirrors.  It made the inside a little too dark for my taste, which was also Andy's complaint, but then I figured a way to peel back one side and secure that with the same bungee.

I could put it up each night, but I find it easier just to close half the inside curtain.  This still leaves the line of sight open for the radio remote control, and gives access to the glove compartment, etc.

5.  Solar Fence Lighting from Home Depot:

These are a bargain at 11 bucks.  I bought two.  The outside light on the Daze is too high and dim to let me see my keys, of which I have a confusing abundance.  This little light stores energy from a small solar array all day in rechargable AA batteries, which then discharge slowly into two orange LEDs at night.  It is positioned just above my bolt lock, and gives plenty of light to see my keys.  And it doesn't run down my coach batteries.  Not bad for 11 bucks.  Set it and forget it, at least until the AAs wear out.

Where did I put the other one?  Hmmm.  Now where do I need a light on all night, where I hate to fumble for a switch in the dark?  O yeah.

We aim to please.

6.  That's about all the innovation I can stand for one day.  O, wait, I found some 6 gallon real water cans at the Taos Walmart, to replace the interim solution of a 5 gallon gas can.  And a fifty foot hose to run my gray water off into the woods.  And replaced the hood light on the stove with a bright LED like Andy's.  And reduced the dangerous plethora of choices in my giant collection of CDs with a selection of MP3s on a few long playing CD-Rom disks.  Yes, CDs are dangerous, because apparently I cannot drive and change CDs at the same time.  And I got rid of (stored) the 19 inch TV to give me some elbow room at the table.  The 17 inch HP is also a TV.  Here's the evolving look in my main living quarters:

Other than that, here's some pending projects Andy and I discussed for the coming winter:

A.  Bolting my Honda EU3000i generator left over from the fifth wheel to the tongue of the trailer.  For too long I have thought of the Daze and the Trailer as two separate things, rather than as a Single Unit for Travel.  I think the 3000 may actually run my A/C down in Torrid Texas, of dim dam memory.

B.  Sliding my kayak up beside the Beast on rails inside the trailer, or alternatively install a roof rack.

C.  Changing the Backup Camera sending unit from the back of the Daze to the back of the trailer, where it might actually do some good.

D.  Packing a portable manual trailer dolly in the trailer.  These look somewhat like an old fashioned rotary push mower, only with a hitch instead of  blades.  Wait, here's one.  I almost got trapped in a cul de sac in Taos, where unhitching and moving the trailer around by hand would have been very useful.  What can I say?  The prospect of Thai food clouded my judgement.  Another option would be a big front tongue wheel for the trailer, perhaps with some sort of brake.

E.  Caulking the various wrinkles of the Daze, which are enlarging with age.  Shhh.  She doesn't know.

F.  Painting the trailer, inside and out.  The poor thing needs it.  I think the floor and ramp should be covered with pickup bed liner paint.

G.  Double the drawers in the closet.  Who needs hanging clothes, anyway?

H.  Replace the radio speakers up front, install them in a different place, and cover the holes in the doghouse with something tasteful.  Okay, innocuous.

I.   Tint my mysteriously clear back window.

J.   Replace the scalding 140 degree thermostat on my water heater with a manually adjustable one.  We actually did this simple improvement on Andy's rig while I was there.

K.  Install a wonderful magnetic knife holder in the kitchen like Andy's.

I know there has to be more, but my aging brain cannot reclaim it all.  That little list ought to keep me busy for a couple of months, and there's much more in Eureka 2.  I'm telling you, folks, if you don't pick Andy's brain in these matters, you're gonna be sorrrreee!



Jan Forseth said...

Glad you got to meet our buddy, Andy! Hi, Andy! Hope to be seeing you this fall. Maybe we can meet Bob one day as well. Bob, it sounds like you're someone we'd enjoy knowing. Your blog is great fun to read.

Jan (also enjoying one of those great solar lights that Andy gave us)

Bob Giddings said...

Hi Jan,

Thanks, and hello to Andy, too. The light outside works great. However, the one in the bathroom doesn't seem to get enough light from the overhead vent to stay charged all night. It pops off easily, of course, and I can place it in the light, but I'd like to have it self maintaining.

I'm planning to take off the window curtain and replace it with translucent contact paper directly on the windows. Maybe that will let in enough light for the scheme to work.