Small House Big World


Deadwood, Lead and More Repairs (1993 RV, You Sneaky Devil)

Anna Edgren • July 10, 2015

Kelly and I have been staying about 6 miles down the road from Deadwood, South Dakota. Deadwood is interesting. It is an old gold-mining town in the Black Hills where back in the late 1800s prostitution was rampant and people like “Wild Bill” Hickock and Calamity Jane lived and thrived.

wild bill janeLife in Deadwood allegedly looked much like it does in a typical Western movie –  drinking, gambling, shootouts, the works. As the gold rush died down, the city had ups and downs, including a series of fires, as it tried to re-establish itself, settling finally as a sort of out-of-the-way tourist trap and gambling haven in the 1980s. It is packed to the brim with casinos and hotels, heavy on the casinos. And they aren’t really vegas-style casinos, but more like hotels filled with video-poker type games. Despite its commercialization, it is also very naturally beautiful here, nestled within quiet pine forests and mountain tops, and the town itself has some real charm and great historic buildings.

Deadwood’s less-famous sister next door is the town of Lead (does not rhyme with led). I am kind of in love with Lead. It has a vaguely European feel to it – narrow streets with old winding roads, small homes built way up on the hills and packed together. It would be the perfect setting for a Fargo-esque small town murder mystery. There is something intimate about it, like everyone knows their neighbor a little TOOOO well…

Lead from the air care of

Lead from the air (care of

We have been staying at the Hidden Valley Campground, within about 10 feet of a small babbling brook, which is quite serene. The air here is fresh and clean and smells like pine. I just can’t get enough of it.

2015-07-08 08.54.17

Now, there is some news which I haven’t broken yet because it is somewhat depressing – but our generator has not been working. The generator is big and expensive (new: around $5000).


For those unfamiliar with the power setup in an RV (I know I was), there are a couple of important bits of information to know. The RV has DC power all the time – it comes from the batteries. We have one battery for the engine part of the RV, and one for the cabin. The DC power runs just a few things: the lights, the water pump, and the fans. So no matter where we are, we have lights in the cabin of the RV, fresh water to use, and a breeze blowing through. The AC power we use for anything that plugs into the wall: Phone chargers, lamps, the toaster and microwave, and crucially, laptops and air conditioners. So the only way to get AC power is by being plugged into shore power or by (ding ding ding!) using the generator.

We don’t much care if we can’t turn on our one extra lamp or use the microwave to heat up leftovers – we can live with the DC cabin lights and with our propane stove to cook. What we DO care about is the laptops. Since both Kelly and I work full time, it is a necessity to have continuous access to a charge. There are car chargers for laptops that utilize DC power, HOWEVER, this is a pretty substantial drain on the battery. If we were to use the battery to charge our laptops, we had better be sure we had some way to replenish the battery sooner rather than later (again, cue: generator). Without a working generator, it just means we have to be plugged into shore power every single day (or work from a coffee shop). Not a HUGE deal, but it means we have to be very careful about where we stay the night and spend our days, which is kind of the opposite of what we’d like to do. The RV is about having freedom of choice, and this is a big limiting factor.

Kelly did a lot of testing to see if he could figure out what was wrong with the generator. He probably tried about 15 different things, none of which I care to remember or repeat.


The point is, none of them worked. AND, somewhere along in there, likely due to us draining our batteries past the point of replenishment, our batteries gave out. They were probably old and needed replacing anyway, so not a huge loss, but that was another $550 expenditure on the books. At least they should last us another 3-4 years. We seem to be running into a lot of this type of thing…  a good amount of money now, but it should last you. Let’s hope that turns out to be true!!

So for the generator we finally gave in and called a repair shop. We had our fingers crossed that nothing was seriously wrong with it. Turns out it was the starter. Mechanically inclined or not, the way it broke was interesting so I’m going to tell you about it. Any actual mechanic reading this will likely be horrified with this simplification so please excuse me, but, essentially, a small gear in the starter spins really fast to get the thing going. One of the teeth on the gears snapped off and lodged itself in an inappropriate place in the generator, so when it tried to spin and start, it would just catch and not rotate. Here is a picture of the culprit because I’m sure you’re dying to see:

2015-07-07 20.43.27

The plan is to replace this gear, and, fingers crossed, that should take care of it.

Another piece of bad news: We have some leakage going on. We are pretty sure its the gray water tank, or some piece of pipe leading up to it. It is not an obvious leak, but it is a constant slow dripping from the underside of the RV that seems to vary randomly in severity. First we thought it might be related to the shower, but now we think it may be related to the kitchen sink. The real difficulty there will be accessing the leak – it is likely hidden in the bowels somewhere. Makes me really wish for on of the copper sinks from Sinkology I saw, but for now we are waiting to get more info on how to proceed there before we switch out our old sink.

And now a piece of good news! Our front air conditioner had not been working, but our brilliant repairman was able to help us fix it.  The only problem was that it wasn’t receiving power. He said it would be very difficult to try to diagnose why exactly it was not getting any power, but it would be very simple to wire it up so that you can simply plug it in from the side into an outlet and run it that way.

Kelly and Rob the Repairman disassembled the AC (air conditioner) until the AC leads (alternating current) were accessible, and spliced in  about 12 inches of heavy gauge wire, which would protrude from the side of the unit once re-assembled.  After a quick trip to the hardware store to get a 3-prong plug to splice onto the end of our newly-installed wires, and a heavy duty extension cable to plug it into, we had what I can only describe as a FrankenFan.

It looked ugly as hell, but when we plugged everything in and started up the AC, miracle of miracles – it worked. We hadn’t been too worried about the front AC not working in the past; we have another unit in the rear, and we figured it could keep the whole coach nice and cool.  We were quickly shown the folly of our assumption when we had a couple of 90+ degree days sitting in the baking sun. Then we became extremely worried.

There was no relief.

There was no relief.

So this is a big wonderful thing. Especially since it’s, you know, July, and temps on the west coast have been 90+ for weeks at a time and we are gradually headed in that direction.

Next up: Wyoming! I will say, now that we have left the midwest behind and are heading into the mountains, it just feels right. It looks good, it smells good, the air is crisp and clear. Everything we have coming up is very exciting – national parks, more great scenery, more hikes, hopefully more wildlife. The future is ripe with possibility!

deadwoodleadrv air conditioner repairrv generator repair

Anna Edgren • July 10, 2015

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  1. Kathy Edgren July 10, 2015 - 9:42 am Reply

    You two are becoming mechanical geniuses. Sorry to hear about your troubles, but glad there are compensations. Also glad you can cool off!

  2. Suzanne Schultz July 10, 2015 - 3:14 pm Reply

    These tails are all part of the adventure and love reading them. (Not that I wish breakdowns on either of you!)

    Dan and I were just outside Lander,WY hiking in the Wind River Range. I highly suggest you hitting this Wilderness. However, enter it from the Pinedale side. A shorter approach will get you into The Winds a lot faster with breathtaking vistas – so they say. Its WY’s 125th anniversary today. Woot!!

    The mountains in summer are awesome! Hope to see you in Colorado!

    • Anna Edgren July 13, 2015 - 4:44 pm Reply

      @ Suzanne, thanks for the recommendations! We are having such a blast finally seeing some mountains 🙂

  3. Wade July 30, 2015 - 11:13 am Reply

    You guys should add a second battery to your house battery bank. It will help your lights and other DC items last just *that* much longer. I didn’t figure this out in our Dolphin until about a year before we sold it. I wish I would have done it a lot sooner!

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