Who knew Mister had a Fan Club . . .

or Kind of A Techie Blog.

Well, we’ve had our first few pretty chilly nights here on the gate, at least chilly in comparison to our normal nighttime 70’s and 80’s.

Friday night it only went down to about 66, but we had a pretty steady 15 mph north wind all night which gave us a nippy 55 degree wind chill factor. And since I was only wearing jeans and a t-shirt, it got cold fast, until I dug out a hooded long-sleeve sweatshirt.

Then on Saturday night, it went down to 59, not too bad, no wind, but there was a lot of moisture in the air so you ended up damp and cold, not a good combination.

Then last night it got a bit worse, with a temp of 49 along with a little wind. But this time I was a little more prepared, with a long sleeve denim shirt, along with the hooded sweatshirt. But I was still cold.

So tonight, Monday, I’m ready. I’ve got on a t-shirt, the long-sleeve denim shirt, the hooded sweatshirt, and a sleeveless insulated vest, as well as sweat pants under my jeans. I look like a cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy (like I didn’t already) and the Michelin Tire guy, and I’m screwed if I have to use the bathroom, but I’m finally WARM.

I realize that for you folks up in the Midwest and Northwest with the snow and ice storms, this all seems like a bunch of wussy whining, but there’s a reason Jan and I are essentially snowbirds. It’s cold up there.

Of course it doesn’t help that I’m just sitting here, and the only exercise I’m getting is writing on the log sheets, and occasionally getting up to get the name, company, and tag number of a new vehicle. Most of the time we recognize the regulars and already have their info, so we just need to write them in the log along with their time In or Out.

But along with the cold nights, comes the upside. The Fall days here are just great, low to mid 80’s with a lot of sun. It’s actually been cool enough so that Mister pretty much spends all afternoon outside, just sleeping on the table next to me. I usually don’t even bother hooking up his lease since as long as I’m out here, here he stays.

But this has led to Mister having his own fan club. Since with the cooler weather we’re not running the fan and the misting system, he’s more visible and the workers see him as they drive by, and then stop and come over. They take pictures of him, and then I have to take pictures of them holding or petting him. There’s also a lot of pointing out the window as the trucks drive by.

But even with all his notoriety, MIster always insists that I let everyone know that at 30 pounds, he’s not fat. He’s just big-boned and fluffy.

Man, that’s a lot of ‘fluffy’.

Mister Outside in Chair

I wonder if that will work for Nick and I? Probably not. Neither of us is very fluffy.

One thing I’ve been doing with all my free time sitting out here is that I’ve been writing a program on my laptop to computerize the log system here at the gate. At first I thought I’d write it as an Android app and use it on our Kindle Fire, but having to type in all the starting information on everyone would be a pain on the Kindle keyboard, so I decide the laptop was a better idea.

I created two databases, one containing the vehicle tag numbers, driver first and last names, and the company name, and the other database is the actual log information. This one is used to track the vehicle ins and outs, and contains the tag number, driver name, number of riders, whether they’re going in or out, and the date and time. I also have another date field in the format of yyyy/mm/dd, i.e. 2013/10/07. This allows me to easily sort by the date, which the 10/07/2013 format does not, at least not without a lot of extra code. And since program will generate the date in any form, it’s easier this way.

At this point the program lets me enter the tag/company/driver data into the vehicle database, and then search the data by tag, company, or driver. It also lets me log a vehicle in or out quick and easy, by just typing in the first few characters of the tag, selecting the correct one (if more than one) from the screen, and then clicking In or Out. All info is then written to the log database and it’s done. Only takes a few seconds.

Besides saving a lot of handwriting, log sheets blowing away, getting wet, etc., this takes care of a bigger problem. Sometimes workers stay on site for days, a week, or even two weeks before they leave the gate. So we may end up pawing through dozens of pages of log sheets looking when they came in so we can sign them out on the same line. It doesn’t help that they usually don’t remember what day they come in, either.

If a vehicle comes in that we don’t have the info for yet, it still lets us log them in using only the tag number. Then, using the edit feature, we can update the log with the correct info when we have it. It’s still a work in progress, but it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.

Well, I guess I’m actually sitting out on the street, so that one doesn’t work, and I still seem to get in trouble. So just forget what I said.

Let’s just go with, It’s Fun.


And now for more than you probably ever wanted to know about repairing a Splendide Control Module Board. If you’re bored, just skip to the funny Thought for the Day at the end.

Many of you have read about Nick Russell’s problem with his Splendide Washer/Dryer combo. Or rather, Miss Terry’s, since she’s the one who had to go to the Laundromat after it died.

The symptom was that the drum wouldn’t turn in either wash or dry mode. So after Nick made the obligatory phone call to me, I had him check to see if it did the same thing in all the different wash cycles, i.e. Normal, Permanent Press, etc. This was to eliminate a problem with the timer switch itself. After having him check a few other things with no luck, my next thought was maybe that the drive belt had broken, so I told him to call Westland Sales and see what they said before we tore into it any further.

Sam at Westland said he had very seldom seen a belt break and that it probably just came off the pulleys. But after Nick and Terry (mostly Terry) pulled out the washer and removed the back, they found the belt was just fine, not broken and still on the pulleys.

So now I started digging into the repair manual and had Nick (mostly Terry) start checking readings with their volt/ohm meter. After a few false starts and bad readings (mostly Nick), we found the motor itself was good and the problem finally came down to the Control Module Board.

I had a bad feeling about this.

I remembered last year when I was working on my Splendide and ordering parts, the guy at Westland said there were some parts that were no longer available for this model (the same one both Nick and I have: the WD802DM).

And after Nick called Westland back, it turns out that my memory was correct. There were none to be had. And the Internet, and even eBay didn’t offer any help, either.

The Westland guy said there were some people who for $750-800 would take a newer model board and use parts from it to fix your old board. But since a new Splendide (with a new warranty was only (ONLY) $1100, this didn’t really make sense.

The Westland also said that a lot of the time the problem with the boards was one or both of the two relays on it. So before Nick shelled out $1100 for a new washer I told him to Priority Mail me the board and let me take a look at it. Maybe I could find new relays and replace them. For $1100 it was worth a shot.

Receiving the board a few days later, and removing the circuit board from the housing, this is what I found.

Splendide Board 1

One of the legs of what turned out to be the power supply’s full-wave rectifier had overheated and melted the solder off the pad. In fact it had actually burned the copper circuit trace pad off the board. There was no connection between the component leg and the circuit board. Maybe this would be easier than I thought to fix.

Splendide Board 2

My first thought was that maybe something had shorted on the board and caused too much current to flow, overheating and melting the joint. But a thorough examination of the board showed no other damaged or overheated components which should have been the case if something had shorted.

So my next thought was a cold or bad solder joint. A cold joint is one that just didn’t get heated or soldered correctly. It may have been a little dirt or grease in that area, or maybe something else, but the result is a weak joint.

And a weak joint has a higher resistance than it should. And that means more current flows through there, and more current means more heat, and more heat means an higher resistance, and a higher resistance means more current . . . and you get the picture.

Poof! A burned-out joint. This process is called “thermal runaway” and you see it a lot in boards like this that handle a lot of power, like driving a motor.

I decided that before I fooled with swapping out relays, or anytime else, it was probably worthwhile to repair the joint and send it back to Nick to try it out first.

Since the underlying circuit pad was burned away, I decided to just bypass the trace altogether and run a new wire between the damaged component leg and the leads on either side of it. Using a piece of stranded wire, I tinned it (covered it in solder) and made good, solid joints on all three legs.

Splendide Board 3

I doesn’t look really pretty but it will do the job.

So after Nick and Terry finally landed at the Verde Valley Thousand Trails, I put the board in the mail back to them.

And as it turned out, I made two people very happy. Miss Terry doesn’t have to trudge down to the park laundry anymore, and Nick didn’t have to spent $1100. I know that would make me happy. Glad I could do it.

But I also had fun doing this kind of stuff again. I started out repairing radios and TV’s in our garage when I was about 14, and always enjoyed tracking down a problem and fixing it.

And with Nick around I get a lot of practice.


Thought for the Day:

"Unless we each conform, unless we obey orders, unless we follow our leaders blindly, there is no possible way we can remain free."  Frank Burns,  M.A.S.H



9 Responses

  1. Nick should appreciate you & I’m sure he does. Can I adopt you. I have a w/d in my RV like Nick & Terry that works just fine now BUT if it quits!!.My mechanical skills are somewhere in the area of Nick’s. Guys like me keep mechanics employed!

  2. Whew–Mister could eat little 11 pound Emmi for lunch!! Glad you got Nick and Terry (or rather Terry) going again–what would we do without handy guys like you and my Mike???

  3. Good Blog, Greg. Enjoyed it and seeing the Gate Guard In Charge again, Mister. He looks like he has everything under control. And what a great electronic/mechanical repair story. I could tell you were enjoying the challenge and success. It reminds me of the time Maria had an odometer/speedometer (I think) problem with her 1998 Outback. The dealer said they would have to take out the dashboard and install a new wiring harness for $1700.00. Her brother-in-law (Brandon, Belinda’s husband) fixed it for $10.00. I don’t remember all of the details, but I believe it involved some soldering.

    It will be good to see both of you again when you get back to the Houston area.

  4. My Dave would have been making that database, too. He also thinks that is fun. Our friends who find themselves needing to organize events appreciate him.

  5. Bob,

    We’re looking forward to seeing ya’ll in a couple of months, too.

  6. Love that pic of Mister…..He is in charge…haha….To bad I can’t send my big flat screen to you…lol….Bet you could fix it….Would give you something to do during those cold nites…Can’t believe how the temp is falling….Not ready for winter….

  7. Thanks for sharing all this today…we are riding along in southern OR at this moment, and been reading it to Hubby between looking at the great scenery!! Hubby would be like you making the program to use while gate guarding…he loves doing such things too. So nice you could fix the board for Nick…no doubt 2 very happy people!! Hubby and I are more “fix-it” types too…we hate the waste these days!!

  8. My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different page and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking over your web page repeatedly.

  9. Mandy,

    Looks like you ended up on one of our gate guarding blog posts.

    If you’re interested in gate guarding, we’ll be back on a gate for 3 month starting around the end of August.

    I will also be giving a seminar on Gate Guarding at the next Escapade in Tucson in March 2015, and possibly at the Good Sam rally in Phoenix, also in March 2015.

    I was scheduled for a seminar at the Escapade last month in Goshen, IN, but my wife’s health problems didn’t allow it.

    Hope you enjoy the blog.

    Greg White

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