Catching Up Before Christmas

Current Location: Nashville KOA, Nashville, Tennessee

Sorry for the long pause in blog updates. We’ve been busy since we got to Nashville.

Last Thursday, Malcolm was back to work. While he was working, Val picked up the remaining items need to finish replacing the wall switches in the trailer with residential style switches. We are really enjoying them, especially the triple switch in the bathroom.

Friday was another work day for Malcolm and a day of errands for Val. On Saturday, Malcolm ran to Home Depot to get a couple items as well as had one of the propane tanks filled at the campground. Meanwhile, Val did laundry at the campground. After lunch, we relaxed for the afternoon.

Saturday evening was the company Christmas party held at Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse in Nashville. The food was good and there were nice prizes given away. Val won a nice pair of headphones (since Malcolm already has a nice pair of headphones already).

Sunday morning we went to the 9:45 service at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville. One of Malcolm’s co-workers attends there and had invited us to their evening Christmas concert. However, Val’s sister Anne and our niece Jasmine were coming in to visit about the same time of the concert so we had to pass on that.

Sunday evening, we met Anne and Jasmine at the Waffle House parking lot (so they could avoid the long lines of traffic for the Christmas light show at Jellystone) and they followed us to Pie Five for pizza dinner. We led them back the back way to the campground and we relaxed around the trailer for the rest of the evening.

On Monday, Val, Anne and Jasmine all rode the shuttle downtown and visited Malcolm at the office. The four of us had lunch downtown and dropped Malcolm back off before the gals went back to wander around and shop. Monday night we all went over to Opry Mills mall and ate dinner at the Aquarium restaurant. We walked around the mall for a while, then drove over in the truck to the light show at Jellystone. We headed back to the trailer after that.

Today, Val, Anne and Jasmine ran around shopping for a couple items in the morning and had lunch at McNamara’s Irish restaurant. Afterwards, Anne and Jasmine headed back home to Kentucky. This evening we ran a couple errands and had dinner at the trailer. We packed up the last of the gifts and other items to head west to our daughter and family in Seattle and south to our son in Panama City Beach.

How-To: Installing Residential Light Switches

Someone on the Heartland Owners Club forum posted about replacing his small rocker light switches in his RV with residential style light switches, so we thought we would do the same. We decided on ivory colored rocker switches and plates. The other piece to buy is a Carlon “1-Gang Non-Metallic Low-Voltage Old-Work Bracket”.  This is essentially an open plastic gang box for existing construction.

The main tools used were a flat-bladed screwdriver, a phillips screwdriver, a sharp box-cutter knife and wire stripper.

If you have the larger rocker switches as shown in the following pictures, you’ll need to slip a flat-bladed screwdriver in the side and push in towards the middle. Grasp both sides of the rocker with your fingers, squeeze and pull and you should be able to pop the rocker out of the fixture.

Pry with screwdriver

Pry with screwdriver

Squeeze and pull

Squeeze and pull

Rocker removed

Rocker removed

Once the rocker is removed, remove the two screws holding the switch to the wall and pull the switch away. There may or may not be a lot of slack in the wire, but pull as much out of the hole as possible and, if it feels like it might slip down inside the wall and ruin your day, tape the wires to the wall for safekeeping.

Remove the screws

Remove the screws

Pull switch away

Pull switch away

Wires on the back

Wires on the back

Connectors pulled off switch

Connectors pulled off switch

The opening needed for the 1-gang box is about 2 1/4″ wide by 3 3/4″ tall. Use a pencil to draw out a rectangle this size. Note that on slideouts there is a metal stud at the trim side. Make sure to cut at least 2 inches inboard from the back of the trim. For our first switch, we cut about 1/4″ off and found the stud. We ended up making the hole 1/4″ wider than necessary to clear the stud.

Measuring.

Measuring.

Hole marked

Hole marked

We used a sharp box knife to cut through the wallboard. It is essentially about 1/8″ particle board, so it cuts fairly easily with a sharp blade. Note that there may be wires close to the back side of the wallboard, so we just kept scoring each side of the hole until the blade was just slicing through to the inside. Once cut, pop out the cutout.

Scoring the wallboard

Scoring the wallboard

Wallboard removed. Note stud at left-hand side of this hole.

Wallboard removed. Note stud at left-hand side of this hole.

Test-fit the gang box in the hole to make sure the opening is sufficient. We found that tightening the two tabs on the gang box would not grab the thin particle board and let the box slide around in the opening. The boxes are made for thicker wall material (such as drywall), so our wall material needed to be made thicker in some manner. We put two velcro command strips together, peeled the backing off one side and stuck it just inside the hole above and below the hole. This added the necessary thickness to the wall so the gang box would grab tightly. Then, it was just a matter of tightening the two screws on the tabs. Make sure the tabs don’t grab any other wires when they flip up or down.

Test fit

Test fit

Putting command strips inside the wall to thicken it

Putting command strips inside the wall to thicken it

Tighten the two flapper screws to pull the box in tight

Tighten the two flapper screws to pull the box in tight

With the box tightly in place, grab your light switch. Note that it has a green screw on it for an earth ground. If this were 110 volt AC lighting, you would need this. Since we are working with 12 volt DC trailer wiring, there is no ground circuit. We just removed the green screw and discarded it.

Remove this green ground screw.

Remove this green ground screw.

Clip the flat connectors off the existing wiring. If there are two wires in one connector, you want to make sure you keep those two wires together. Strip about 1/2″ of insulation off each wire. Twist any single wires to prevent loose strands. Twist any pairs of wires together.

Cut off connectors

Cut off connectors

Strip 1/2" insulation off

Strip 1/2″ insulation off

Wire with insulation removed

Wire with insulation removed

Pair of wires

Pair of wires

Pair twisted together

Pair twisted together

The switches we bought have a hole in the back that you insert the wire(s) into. Once inserted, you tighten the screw on the outside of the switch and it draws a clamping mechanism in on the wire internal to the switch. Take one of the wires (or the pair) and insert into a hole, tightening with a screwdriver. Take the remaining wire (or the pair) and push into the other hole, tightening that screw as well.

Push end into switch and tighten screw

Push end into switch and tighten screw

Pull on wires to make sure they are tight.

Pull on wires to make sure they are tight.

Once the wires are tight in the switch, you should be able to test the switch to make sure the lights still work. If they don’t, double-check your work. Remember, don’t use the green ground screw and you should have at least one wire in each of the other two connections on the switch.

If everything is working, mount the switch to the gang box and tighten the two screws.

Mount the switch

Mount the switch

Tighten screws

Tighten screws

With the switch mounted, test again to make sure it turns the lights on and off. If so, screw on the switchplate and you are done.

Switch mounted

Switch mounted

Switchplate installed.

Switchplate installed.

We did four single switches in our trailer on the first run. We have two more singles, one double and one triple switch in our trailer that we are going to go back and replace, as well. They make a double and triple switch body that each fit into a single gang box like we used for these single switches, so we can use the same sized gang box.

For a single switch, cover plate and gang box, we spent a total of $12.02 with tax.

Back in Nashville for a Bit

Current Location: Nashville KOA, Nashville, Tennessee

This morning we pulled up stakes and left the Asheville East KOA around 8:00AM eastern time. It was barely spitting a little snow. It snowed, drizzled or sleeted off and on while we drove through the Smoky Mountains portion of I-40 near the Tennessee/North Carolina border. We saw salt trucks out at one point. The temperature was in the mid 30’s. The snow up in the mountains was pretty, but fortunately there was none on the road.

We arrived at the Nashville KOA about 1:30PM central time. We got set up and Malcolm called the car rental place. They sent out someone to pick up Malcolm and he rode back to pay for the car. Once back at the trailer, we hopped in the car and ran several errands. First up was to return a cheapie radio thingie from Target that looked cool but was honestly a bit junky. It quit working at all on battery power and hummed loudly when plugged into its power pack. Target took it back without a box or receipt (found the original purchase via credit card). We bought a nicer Bose Bluetooth portable speaker that sounds 100 times better and is much better built.

After Target, we stopped at Pie Five for pizza dinners. We each got a coupon for buy one pizza, get the second one free just for ordering combos this evening. After dinner, we stopped at Publix for some groceries then headed to Costco to order Malcolm more contact lenses. On the way home, we stopped at Home Depot to pick up some items for a couple projects. One was to put an eye hook in the top of the UDC to hang our trouble light on to keep the UDC warm. The other was for a special project that Malcolm will cover in a separate How-To article – replacing light switches with residential rocker switches.

Eye hook for trouble light

Eye hook for trouble light

License plates for today – 28 of 51 plates found.

License plates

License plates

Halfway Home

Current Location: Asheville West KOA, Candler, North Carolina

This morning we packed up and headed out in the middle of a cold, intermittent rain. It rained on us until lunch time. We had stopped at a truck stop to fill up the truck and it was still cold (38 degrees) and raining. Instead of standing outside in the cold rain, or heading inside to fix lunch, we decided to go a few miles up the road and treat ourselves to a meal at Cracker Barrel. The rain stopped just as we got there and the sun was shining when we left.

The weather turned nasty again as we got into Asheville, spitting rain and snow at us. We decided to call it a day at the Asheville West KOA where we stayed on the way to the North Carolina rally near the end of October. The folks here are really nice. When Malcolm asked at the office if they have LP gas, they said yes and to go ahead and park the rig and set the tank out. They picked it up, filled it, charged it to the credit card, emailed us a receipt and dropped the tank off at the door.

We stayed hooked up to the truck and only plugged in the 50 Amp cord. We heated up leftovers on paper plates for dinner to minimize the amount of dishes.

Our spot for the night

Our spot for the night

We should be in Nashville tomorrow, hopefully not too late. It’s only about a five hour drive from here, but the weather is calling for snow showers with a chance of accumulation here in the mountains. We suspect once the sun is up it shouldn’t be too bad on the roads.

The Rest of the Rally

Current Location: American Heritage RV Park, Williamsburg, Virginia

On the second day of rally….

On Saturday, several folks congregated early in the rally hall at the campground and fixed a great breakfast. We all sat around and talked until it was nearly lunch time. Saturday was also a very rainy day. Several of the ladies decided to go shopping and leave the men behind. Malcolm sat around the trailer and just took it easy, including watching part of a movie.

Once Val was back, she prepared her contribution to the evening pitch-in. There were lots of tasty foods and we all sat around and chatted after dinner, had our group photo taken, and generally introduced ourselves to the group.

On Sunday, Malcolm awoke with a migraine and stayed in bed for a while. Val headed over to the rally hall where breakfast consisted of drinks and packaged pastries. Val visited over there until mid-morning. Meanwhile, Malcolm finally pried himself out of bed, took a shower and felt better. Several of us convoyed over to Sal’s by Victors for lunch. We headed back to the trailer to visit with Malcolm’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Charles for a while.

After they left, we headed down to Williamsburg for the grand illumination ceremony. Unfortunately, it was cold, damp and windy, which made for a miserable wait for the fireworks. We were the first ones to bail and headed to see warmth and shelter in the bar of a restaurant. We listened to the fireworks from inside. After a light meal of appetizers and beverages, we headed on to the truck and back to the trailer.

This morning, Malcolm did a lot of the emptying, unhooking and storing of stuff in advance of tomorrow’s departure. The weather forecast is for rain on Tuesday, so we wanted to get as much of the outside stuff done as possible while it was at least dry outside. Afterwards, we headed to downtown Williamsburg with our neighbors, the Pikes. We wandered through several different stores and had lunch at the DoG pub. We headed back to the trailer to do a few more pre-movement chores and to generally take it easy.

Tomorrow, we head back west towards Nashville. It will end up being a two day trip.