and Cathy McArthur on
the Road 2008: 7
Things That Go BEEP in the Night
Early this morning, in the wee hours, I heard a BEEP, and was instantly, but groggily, awake. What was that? My mind quickly wandered over the prime candidates: cell phone, computer, smoke detector, CO detector, propane detector, owl.
This happens to me very often, but more often at home than on the road in the RV. I had flashbacks to BEEPs in my past. Most often, one of our cell phones is crying out for juice in a most persistent way. Why do they usually do this in the middle of the night? The weirdest one I ever had was my "noninterruptable" power supply beeping because it thought its battery was bad. So, it was "noninterruptable", but "interrupting?"
We actually have a smoke detector at home that is 20 feet up from the floor. This is the one of the whole set that usually BEEPs at night. I remember one night when it was 25 degrees and windy outside and the high smoke detector started BEEPing at 3 AM. I had to dash outdoors into the cold and go under the house to get my aluminum extension ladder. I carried it up the side stairs into the house and then wrestled it up the inside stairs. I set up the ladder in the upstairs hall and extended it. Then I climbed the ladder and changed the battery.
During the winter of 2003, while we were residing in Spain for 4 months, we were on a weekend trip to Lanjarón in the Alpujarra mountains, staying overnight in an old hotel. In the middle of the night (naturally) I heard a BEEP which occurred periodically for the rest of the night. I got up and looked around and finally established that the sound was right outside of our window. I imagined that an electrical transformer was about to blow up and destroy our room, but held back on evacuating. Some days later I discovered that the sound was the strange call of a Saw-whet Owl.
Last night, after hearing the BEEP, I jumped out of bed and started looking around. I found that the problem was with the propane detector. A yellow light was on steadily and it was BEEPing every 10 seconds or so. The propane detector is under our dinette table, so I had to dismantle the table to get a good look at it and read the front panel. I found 3 lights: green, yellow, and red. Normally, the green one blinks. The red light would mean that there is free propane and the RV is about to explode. The yellow light was marked "fault."
From our previous RV, I knew that low voltage causes a propane detector to go into the fault condition, so I checked to see that our power was OK by making sure that the microwave panel light was on. There is a "test" switch on the front of the propane detector, but I thought that pushing that button might set off a constant siren or something that would wake up the whole
trailer parkRV resort.
By now, my wife was also fully awake wondering why I hadn't fixed the problem. I dropped a few F-bombs to quiet her and then went outside with a flashlight to check our propane supply. We had over a quarter of a tank, so that wasn't the problem. I came back in, turned off the furnace, turned off the water heater, and dropped a few more F-bombs. Then I went back outside and turned off the main propane valve. As a last resort, I pulled out the telephone-book sized RV manual with no index or table of contents with random vague information about every RV that Coachmen makes.
I muttered F-bombs as I paged through the manual and learned that we might have a propane system on board if we had an appropriate RV model. Then I dug out our bag of manuals for each and every item in our RV. I went through the materials, one after another. There was the manual for the TV, DVD player, toaster, ...., and finally a 2 by 2 inch micro-manual for the propane detector. I read through the information after choosing the English section. I found that if the yellow light was blinking, then there was low voltage, but there wasn't anything about a steady yellow light. Then I saw a tiny schematic on one of the tiny pages. It said that a steady yellow light meant that there was a "nonmicroprocessor fault." The suggested remedy was to push the "test" button. I pushed the "test" button and nothing happened. Some F-bombs followed.
When my computer freezes and all else fails, I hold the power button for about 10 seconds and the computer turns off. Thinking analogously, since I was very wide awake at this time, I held the "test" button until the yellow light went out and the green light went on. When I released the button, the green light started to blink normally. I went outside, turned on the propane, came in, turned on the hot water heater and the furnace and crawled into bed.
Cathy did a load of laundry after breakfast. Later, we walked for 3.4 miles. The day was warm and clear, but windy. After lunch, Cathy called the doctor and set up a 3:30 PM appointment. She met with the Internist and got a couple of prescriptions. She was to meet with the Cardiologist at the end of the week. We stopped at Starbucks and Publix after the appointment.