Wednesday, August 12, 2020

New GPS installed. Now I won't get lost.....maybe...

My last post was describing how old and antiquated the GPS system was in our coach. Also, it was no longer supported so I wasn't able to update the maps etc. With that in mind I went searching for a better solution. I had been using a window mounted unit that worked ok but I couldn't see any advantage to having two GPS units. With the dash cam, the TPMS and the GPS mounted on the windows there was too much clutter. Garmin just came out with a new unit, the RV890, which is designed with RVers in mind. It also has an 8" screen which would just fit in the factory opening. So, without further ado, here's my build out. If anyone has questions, feel free to contact me....Dennis

Here is the original factory unit. It consisted of several pieces and weighed over 12 pounds. You can see the microphone in the lower left corner, the A/C vent and two cigarette lighters. I'm keeping one of the lighters and replacing the other with a dual port USB device so we can charge our phones if necessary.






With the middle dash removed, you can see the break at the screw hole in the middle top. There is also a small piece broken out in the lower center hole. This is common with these plastic assemblies and I intend to correct, what I consider to be a flaw.


In order to 'fix' the broken dash, I purchased a sheet of scrap .80 ga. aluminum for $7 at a local machine shop, AZ Metals.  I then took that to Southwest WaterJet in Phoenix where they matched the dash using a CAD program, then fed the sheet of aluminum into their machine. The result was two identical dash pieces cut and drilled to perfection.

One piece of aluminum will serve as a backing to the original dash. I use E6000, an industrial adhesive to laminate the two pieces together. Notice I prefit the Garmin unit into the dash. I'll paint the aluminum black so any gap shown in the dash will disappear.

I did this with my left side arm rest several years ago which turned out great. The parking brake is now securely bolted in place.

Glued and bonded, clamped and allowed to dry overnight,  I now have a solid piece of dash that can withstand the beating of being in a moving vehicle.

Turned face up and prefit. It looks pretty good. I was missing a small piece of plastic at the top center hole so I'll have to live with that unless it shows up one day. The lower hole was patched and glued. The screws will now go into the aluminum sheeting instead of simply the plastic. Much more robust.

Now my next challenge was how to actually mount the new product into the dash. My original plan was to use velcro but I wasn't comfortable with how it 'felt' once installed. I then used the old mount from the factory install, modified it to fit and mounted that to the back side of the dash. The RV890 comes with a large magnet mount, which is what you see in this picture. I had to cut the original mount to allow the magnet to fit.


Continuing, I removed the windshield mount and formulated a strap from some scrap aluminum rail I had in my workshop. After drilling it, I mounted the magnetic mount to the strap and the strap to the housing. The large washers you see were used a spacers to get the proper 'look' from the front. Here is what it looks like.

Here is the finished product. I'm very pleased with the result. I had to add a 12VDC outlet behind the display to plug the Garmin into. And because I wanted control over the on/off switch, I added a toggle switch in the cabinet below. Overall it's a great improvement over the factory unit. It has more features, can connect via cell phones, displays current time and temperature and weighs only 13 ounces.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Time to shed more weight and upgrade the GPS

Well, it's a new week and we're still in lockdown mode so I'm calling this the Covid upgrade. Our factory GPS unit was top of the line when it was new. Now, not so much. Like TVs of old they were big, bulky and weighed a ton. The maps no longer could be updated and it was simply cumbersome to use. I bought a Garmin unit that I attached to the driver's window and I used that for navigation. Debi liked to program our destination into the Kenwood but I rarely used it. I decided it was time to upgrade what we had and see if I could combine both GPS units into one that would satisfy our needs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Garmin just came out with the RV890 which looks like it will fit perfectly for our needs. So, today I decided to demo the old unit. Here is the breakdown:

The Kenwood system consists of several parts. This is the GPS monitor which sits in the middle of the dash. The lower portion of the dash contains two 12VDC plugs, the microphone for the GPS and a voice sensor. There are two a/c vents as well. The monitor, microphone and sensors will be removed.

Here is the second part of the system. This contains the radio and the Aladdin system. The top portion extends and tilts upward when the unit is turned on. The Aladdin system contains the four outside and one inside cameras. It also provides all the operating data for the coach including mileage etc. This portion will not be touched.

After loosening the bezel, I tilted the monitor forward and removed the four screws holding the monitor in place. It was held onto the mounting plate by four velcro tabs. The A/C vent hoses are removed by 1/4 turn tabs. I set them aside to re-route later. 

With access to the back of the monitor, I unplugged the two cigarette lighters, the a/c hoses and unplugged the monitor. This allowed me to remove the bezel and the monitor as one piece.

Monitor has been removed. I intend to save the mounting assembly and attach the new Garmin device to it. This will allow me to mount that to the bezel and hopefully make it look like a factory install.

As I said, the Kenwood system consist of several pieces. The monitor which you've just seen, the receiver which is the silver box with the multi colored ports seen here, the radio assembly, described above and the CD unit which will be discussed below. The wiring was amazing and I knew I'd have to clean all that up before I was done. 

Here you can see three of the pieces of the system all in one picture. The monitor is removed and laying flat on the console. The receiver is the silver box in the back and the CD player is in the cabinet below the dash assembly. Four screws hold the CD player to a bracket and all the cables and wires simply unplug. That huge mess of wires on the console is for the microphone. I think the engineers thought the microphone would be mounted 150 feet away from the unit.

This is the single disc CD player. Kenwood uses CDs that contain all the information necessary for the GPS unit. North America is available on two discs, one for the East Coast and one for the West Coast. This sometimes is cumbersome if you're traveling across country as you must change discs to access the information needed.

Four screws and several wire plugs removed and the disc player is removed. After removal of the monitor, the receiver and the CD player, all the wiring must be removed. What a rat's nest. Very little thought went into the installation as wires went everywhere. The microphone had 150' of wire, the monitor, 15' and the receiver another 15'.!


System is out and on the table. The microphone and sensors were double sided taped to the bezel. It will take a bit to clean the residue off before I can reinstall it. I also found the bezel was broken at the top where the screw went in. I'll repair that with a thin piece of aluminum from the scrap pile and some JB Weld. All told the removed components and associated wiring weighed 10 pounds! The Garmin RV890 tips the scales at a mere 13.7 ounces.

I re-routed the a/c hoses away from the wiring, cut out most of the wasted wires and re-routed a bunch of them. Fifteen to twenty zip ties and a plastic anchor now holds all the wires together and out of the way.

So, I drew the bezel opening on a piece of paper and cut out the dimensions of the Garmin RV890 on another piece of paper. I then overlaid the Garmin onto the bezel and this is the result. The black lines are the bezel opening and the lime colored image is the Garmin RV890. I'll post the finished product once I've received and installed it. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Out with the old; In with the new.

For the past couple of years, I've been wanting to upgrade the front television in our coach. The 32" Sharp was ok and serviceable but it just didn't have the "pop" and the advantages of the new smart televisions. We've also started streaming a lot of movies as sports have pretty much fallen to the wayside and may stay there for awhile. With that in mind, the largest television that would kinda fit in the existing opening was a 40" flatty. Below are some pictures of the install and what it entailed. It took me about three days to complete the changeover. I could have done it quicker but with temperatures hovering around 105 degrees, I just didn't feel like overdoing it. I did have the a/c on but I only spent a few hours each day. Total cost was about $320. TV $189. Sound Bar $70 Then about $60 in misc parts and HDMI cables. Here are the pictures: Hope you enjoy....Dennis

This is the original TV. 32" Sharp with side speakers. The cabinet is 19"X 38 5/8". The new TV is a 40" Vizio with speakers in the rear. It measures 21.5" X 35.5". In order to fit, I must cut 1 1/2" off the top and narrow the cabinet by 3 1/8". Since the Vizio has rear speakers I decided on using a 2" sound bar alongside the TV for sound. This meant I only needed to narrow the cabinet by 1 1/8". 

Next is the tuner for the Sharp. This unit runs all the other audio visual stuff in the coach. The new television won't be needing this extra stuff. All in all, I'll be removing almost 60 pounds of extra weight.

Tuner is removed and look at all that mess. Wires here, wires there. Nothing is tie wrapped either. What a mess. Time for my lineman's pliers and start snipping.

There! That looks better and much cleaner. The new television will use only one HDMI cable for the DirecTV box and another for the DVD player. I pulled those two cables thru the top cabinet and tied them off. 

With the old TV removed, you'll see the access panel off the back of the cabinet. This allows access to remove the old TV. Notice the blue box on the left. That's the power supply and ignition shut off so the TV can't be used while driving. The cable you see is from the Winegard antenna on the roof which goes to  the DirecTV box. Since there's only a single outlet, I added a three outlet pigtail as the sound bar needs power too.

With the cabinet cut away along the top,  I salvaged the piece I cut off and repurposed it along the right side of the opening. Since it's part of the same cabinetry, it matches so it looks like it belongs there. Notice the pull string for the HDMI cables. I decided to leave it in place should I need to pull more cables in the future. The small speaker on the lower left of the cabinet is part of the Bose surround system and will only be used for the DVD player.

I purchased a 48" slotted 14 ga. angle bar to be used for the TV mount. I wanted the slots to be able to slide and adjust the TV once it's in the opening so it fits flush with the cabinetry. I cut it in half and cut and bent the ends, top and bottom. They are held in place by 1/4" lag bolts. You can see I've already mounted the sound bar in place using a couple pieces of aluminum from my scrap pile.
 And here's the final result! You can see the sound bar along the right side of the TV. Debi is happy and you know what they say, "A happy wife is a happy life"  Ahhh!  Life is good.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Ready to go hiking?

Debi and I love to walk. As part of our lifestyle we try to walk three to five miles every day. This year we decided instead of simple walking we would add hiking to our lifestyle. We chose to vary our hikes to include at least one a week and more if we're so inclined. There are many hiking trails in and around the Mesa, Arizona area. With that in mind, we pulled up the hiking app on our phones and went searching.  We're excited to add this to our lifestyle.

First up is "Spook Hill". A moderate hike up the side of a mountain of just short of a mile. Part of the trail was strenuous but it levels out half way up the hill and became very enjoyable. The views were well worth the effort. Yes, it's winter, but winter in Arizona means tying a jacket or sweater around your waist.

I intend to post more pictures of some of the hikes as we explore around the Phoenix area. 

From the bottom looking up. The elevation gain is less than 500' but the first 1/4 mile is very steep.

Once you make it past the first 1/4 mile the trail widens and becomes much easier. What's at the top? See below.

For those wondering how Spook Hill got it's name...well no one is positive but the commonly accepted story is it's based on a 'dude ranch' that used to be in the area in the 30s and 40s. The ranch offered horseback rides in the area. However, whenever the rides went up on the hillside, the horses unaccountably became ''spooked'' and so the hill came to be called Spook Hill.

 Distant view of Superstition Mountain with the City of Mesa in the foreground.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sunsets at Usery Regional Park -- Mesa, Arizona

As promised, here are several pictures I took as we were relaxing at Usery Regional Park in Mesa, Arizona. There's nothing better than sitting outside in 78 degree winter weather with someone you love watching the sun set behind the mountains. Life is good - hope you enjoy the pictures....D

I'll start with this picture of Pass Mountain.It's easy to spot from the Phoenix/Mesa area due to it's distinct white stripe, (orange in the sunset) that runs across it western slope. The stripe is a 'tuff layer' which is solidified volcanic ash and includes it's main attraction, a grotto or wind cave. A two mile hike up the mountain is a favorite of locals and offer fabulous views of the cities below. Technically, Pass Mountain is part of the Goldfield Range which also includes the Superstition Mountains.

So, let's get to the pictures. Here they are in no particular order. If you enjoy them, feel free to share them if you like. 

This one gives you an idea of how close you are to the "City".

Usery Regional Park -- Mesa Arizona

Our first journey in 2020 takes us just a few miles outside of Phoenix to Usery Regional Park. This park is close in, yet the feeling is very remote. What makes it fantastic is if you need supplies, fine dining or any amenities they're only a few minutes away. This is a county park and provides water and electricity, 20/30/50amp but no sewer. There is a dump station on site. Phone service is perfect but no wifi, so bring your own. There are many hiking trails throughout the park raging from easy to difficult. Each site is set apart from the next so you have lots of privacy. They are fairly level sites but since they are gravel, the monsoon rains play havoc with them. The hosts rake and clean each site prior to the next campers' arrival.

Upon arrival, you're greeted by the mighty saguaro cactus. The Harris' hawk was a regular and we spotted him several times on our hikes. The Harris's hawk is notable for its behavior of hunting cooperatively in packs consisting of tolerant groups, while other raptors often hunt alone.

The Saguaro can grow to 40 feet and a lifespan of over 150 years. They normally begin growing their arms from 75-100 years of age. The arms serve three purposes; first, they allow the cactus to absorb more water from rainfall; second, the arms produce flowers and fruit to enhance reproduction; and three, they help balance the plant to keep it upright. Inside the green skin are long wooden 'ribs'. During times of heavy rain, a single saguaro can weigh up to 4800 pounds. The largest on record stood 78 feet tall. Their root system can extend over 98 feet in all directions. Saguaros may take between 20 and 50 years to reach a height of 3 feet. They are protected by State Law which prohibits harming or removing them in any way without a permit from the State.

If you look closely, you can see one of the hiking trails within the park, at the base of the cactus.

This Harris Hawk could have cared less that I was beneath him and taking his picture.  Harris Hawks are typically 2 feet long with a 4 foot wing span. Groups typically include from 2 to 7 birds. Not only do birds cooperate in hunting, they also assist in the nesting process. No other bird of prey is known to hunt in groups as routinely as this species. Their social nature has been attributed to their intelligence, which makes them easy to train and have made them a popular bird for use in falconry. Their diet is mostly small creatures such as rodents, other birds, lizards, mammals and large insects. However, because they often hunt in groups they can take down larger prey up to 4 pounds although this is not common. They are gorgeous birds in flight with dark brown plumage, chestnut shoulders and alternating brown and white striped tail feathers.

While the desert is known as a harsh, hot and challenging environment, we discovered this pond on one of our hikes. The pond is fed by an underground spring and provides needed water for many of the desert species. The water was somewhat stagnant so it appears the spring is pretty small.

Since Arizona is well known for it's beautiful sunsets, I thought I'd close this page with this shot of a Harris Hawk passing by our campsite. If you want to see more exciting sunsets, I'll be posting more on the following page. Good night for now.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A New Decade

As we enter the next decade, we are excited to see what's ahead for us. As many of you know, Debi and I have been volunteering at the California State Parks. We may take a break from that this year and do some more traveling. We've been back and forth across this great country many times but there are some adventures that await us. Debi lost her dad last year so many things we wanted to see and do were put on the back burner, so to speak. Anyway, I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful beginning to the new decade - the NEW ROARING 20s !  Let's GO!