Archive for October, 2009

We’ve Been on a Gear Hunt

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

For the past year or so we have had a little problem with our Dodge 3500.  Other Dodge owners may be familiar with the symptoms.

When driving along, without the 5th wheel and when under no load, we experienced a  hunt for gears between 42 and 50 mph.  This is the point where the automatic transmission should shift to overdrive.  There is a constant shift into and out of overdrive.  It is very frustrating and forces us to downshift or disengage the overdrive.

In July, 2008, we had our torque converter changed to solve a problem of “flaring” between 1st and 2nd gears.  This is when you get a sense of the transmission revving up slightly prior to shifting.  This experience was listed on an earlier blog entry, click here.

Our hopes, at that time, were that our “gear hunting” had been solved by the new torque converter because the problem went away.  These hopes were dashed a month later when the symptoms returned.

Dodge service managers have told me that they are aware of the problem and that they have no real fix for this problem.  I’m told that it only happens to a small percentage of vehicles.  They said that sometimes the replacement of the speed sensor, accelerator sensor, or computer (or combination of these components) have fixed  the issue, but not always was it a permanent fix.  The service personnel told me that the computer was getting a faulty signal from a sensor that confusing the shifting logic.

I had noticed that following various service events, the problem would vanish for a week or a month.  It occurred to me that these events were somehow resetting the computer by disconnecting power to it.

We have two batteries in our diesel pickup and I tried removing both negative leads from the batteries and then hooking them back up.   Bingo, the problem vanished for a few weeks.

I thought of developing a circuit to cut the power to the computer for a few seconds following engine shut-off.  The concept will require a little more research for both practicality and whether there is a market for it.

Here’s the solution that I settled on for now.  Since it is a nuisance, and sometimes inconvenient,  to take the battery cables off, I opted for a battery disconnect switch as a vehicle for resetting the computer.

To the rescue came one of our affiliates, JC Whitney.  I chose the cheapest disconnect switch that I could find, product # 16122G which is sold for $10.99 each.


The installation took less than 5 minutes per battery.   The switches were added a week and a half ago and the problem vanished and hasn’t yet returned.


When necessary, all that is necessary is to unscrew the green knobs on both batteries and then screw them back on.  Details will be added as our experience grows.

By the way, if you frequent any of the advertisers shown in the right hand column, we’d appreciate it if you would link to them through our site.

Thank you.

A New Pet?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Click for Weslaco, Texas Forecast

When I was checking the air pressure in the 5th wheel, I came across a new friend, a walking stick.  This type of insect is usually so hard to find because of its ability to blend with vegetation. This one was walking alongside the wheel and following our string of lights that lay on the ground.


After reading up on walking sticks, it turns out that there are over 3000 species.  They apparently make good pets, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t get this one to roll over.

Here’s a front view, as if there is much difference.


Sand Castles and Red Tide

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Click for Port Isabel, Texas Forecast

In early May we visited, and wrote about, the Sandfest activities in Port Aransas, TX., which is the largest sand castle competition along the Gulf Coast.  Last weekend South Padre Island hosted a smaller version of the “castle” building.

The competition took place at Isla Blanca Park at the south end of the island. The structures were no less spectacular.




They even had a “Lesson Beach” section to teach some of the techniques to novices.


Unfortunately, we learned about a new beach hazard.  The Red Tide.   The red tide is an algae bloom that is not harmful to humans, but quite deadly to fish.  Thousands of dead fish were spotted by the Coast Guard just off shore and some were washing up on the beach.

One side effect of the red tide is that the blooms emit  particles that are irritating to everyone’s breathing.   Everyone we spotted had a hacking cough that quit when they traveled a short distance from the beach.

Smart people came prepared with masks.


Most of the artists came prepared.


We headed up the beach about a half mile along the beach at the north end of the road.  The surf was extremely rough, and the tide so high, that we didn’t want to work that hard to travel up the beach.  With the red tide, we didn’t plan to spend much time in the sand anyway.


Texas Parks and Wildlife keep a website to advise on the various beach conditions, including the Red Tide.  (Click Here)

We will certainly check out the conditions before our next visit.

Sugar Update

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

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In the past couple of days there have been a few additions to some of the sugar cane fields.  As I mentioned in the last post, fields that are to be harvested by hand undergo a pre-harvest burn. The reason for this is to rid the fields of many of the weeds and dead leaves as well as any dangerous snakes.

New signs have appeared to warn people, or perhaps the snakes, of the impending fires.


The outer edges of the fields are  plowed to form a fire break to prevent the flames from spreading to unwanted areas.


Growing up in corn country, this process is new to us and quite interesting.

That’s Sweet

Monday, October 12th, 2009

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We spent all summer navigating through the endless seas of corn fields in Midwest and the northern tier of states.  Scenes like this below seemed to go on forever.


Now we find ourselves amongst field after field of sugar cane.  Looking very similar to the corn, just a little taller and of course, no tassels.


On some days, the sky can be filled with smoke and burnt pieces of sugar cane plants.  It is usually not a bother unless the wind is a bit stiff.  We’ll be getting into the burning season in a month or so, but there are a few smoke plumes visible every few days now.

We’d seen this burning in Hawaii and assumed that the process was a clean up procedure following the cutting.  It turns out that when the cane is to be harvested by hand, which most is, the fields are burned in order to remove the dead leaves and drive away any dangerous snakes.  Since there are no snakes in Hawaii, that part of the equation is missing there.

The cane must be processed relatively quickly after harvest; therefore: sugar mills are distributed throughout the growing area.  This one is located near us, a few miles north of Weslaco, TX .  Click on the photo to get a view of the entire plant.


Click here to find more information about the history and processing of Sugar Cane.