Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category


Monday, October 10th, 2022

The newest addition to my rig is a 12 volt chest refrigerator. It’s called an Alpicool X40. I’m sure it’s made in China, but looking at reviews of people that have them, seem as good quality as ones costing several times more. Even if I can only get a few years of service out of it, the price spread out over time is not too painful.

the nice thing about these chest fridges is that they only use a few watts to run. With all the solar and battery power I have, the 4 or 5 amps it pulls put very little drain on my electric system. And unlike my propane fridge, it only runs part of the time until the temperature turns the compressor on again.

I have never been a fan of propane refrigerators. It never used much propane but over the course of a couple years, what I spent for propane could pay for my chest fridge. I think more than the cost of propane, it was the hassle of finding and filling bottles all the time. Lots of places have gone to swapping out bottles instead of filling them. At least I modified my rig to use portable propane bottles. If I had to drive my rig to a propane dealer, that would be even more of a hassle.

An upright refrigerator is a little easier to get things out of than a chest fridge. Getting what you want seems to always be on the bottom and requires some digging to get to it. Fortunately, I don’t stock groceries for a family, so that helps keep the inventory down.

The freezer on my propane fridge would never get cold enough to keep ice cream hard. Sometimes things in the refrigerator compartment would freeze. My absorption propane fridge has served me well, but it is on its sixth year since I replaced the coils on the back, and many say that the life of an absorption fridge is about 7 years.

My plan is to get another smaller chest fridge/freezer ( most can be used either way) after a while to use exclusively as a freezer. I still have to remove the old fridge and build a cabinet for the new ones. As with all things I do, I’ll update how they are working and if I’m happy with the new setup.

New Battery

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

Just a short update to document another change to my electrical system. A few days ago I purchased another lithium battery to add to my existing battery. I now have two 300 amphour batteries being charged with 1200 watts of solar. It’s part of my quest to go total electric.

The new battery is called Ampere Time and it was less than half the price I paid for my LifeBlue battery. My LifeBlue has an app that lets me see the state of charge and information about amps and voltage, but the Ampere Time only has a BMS built in that protects it from overcharge or low temperature, so I hooked up my Trimetric so I could see the state of the battery in real time. With lingering monsoons and remnants of a hurricane off the west coast, cloud cover has been a challenge for my solar.

So far everything seems to be working fine. The batteries are having a little trouble balancing their charge because my wires to each battery are a little different. As soon as I get new wire, that should solve that problem (copper wire is very expensive now).

I just wanted to mention that I enjoyed two weeks up in the Sitgraves National Forest camping with sister Donna. We had a couple days of rain and a muddy driveway in and out, but several days of beautiful weather where we explored the surrounding area. One highlight was when Richard and Dianna came up for a wonderful picnic with us.

Right now I’m camped near Payson in the Tonto National Forest. I’ve had a couple eye doctor appointments treating for some age-related Macular Degeneration and this is a good place for a quick run into Phoenix to see a doctor. The weather is starting to get perfect here and it is still too early to head down to southern AZ. I may go over to the Sedona area next and look at a new area they set up for dispersed camping. They say the idea of the new area is to remove the areas around town that are becoming overused by boondockers, but I think it’s also to get the homeless people out of sight of the tourists.

Looks like a jumble of wires.

I’ll update how the new battery is working after I’ve tested it for a while.

Starlink Update

Saturday, July 23rd, 2022

People have been asking for an update on how I like the Starlink system. It will probably take a year to get all the data to make an educated report, but I’ll talk about the pros and cons that I’ve noticed so far. 

The biggest pro is the high speed unlimited data. I get speeds close to 100 Mbps whenever I do a test. That’s better than some home broadband connections. It’s pretty easy to setup and booting only takes a few minutes. If I turn it off at night it start back up in just a couple minutes.  I like that all my devices can be connected at once. The hotspot on my phone  seemed to be problematic to connect devices, but the Starlink works great with phone, tv, computer, and PlayStation all at once if I want. I like the idea I can stream HD video too, something my Visible cellular won’t allow. 

The major con is the fact you have to have an open sky for it to work well. I’ve been camping up in the National Forest in northern AZ, and finding an open sky is almost impossible. I found that a few trees scattered around my campsite will still let me get a pretty good signal most of the time. When a satellite is blocked by a tall mountain or trees, I get skips in video where the picture will hang for a few seconds. 

The second major con is the cost. Starlink started out charging $99/month, then they raised it to $110 as it cost more in fuel to launch satellites, then they added another $25 a month if you wanted the ability to roam around the country. With my cellular plan still in affect, I’m shelling out $160 every month to stay connected. It takes a big chunk of my fixed income. I still subscribe to two streaming services and I may have to decide if it’s worth keeping them. 

Starlink won’t work while in motion but that’s not a big deal to me. It takes about 35 to 40 watts to power the router and dish but I have enough solar and battery that that’s not a problem for me either. Some people with small solar and battery might have a problem powering it. 

As with all new data systems, the more people jump on board and the more the bandwidth gets shared, slowdowns in speed are sure to happen. Slowdown are most likely to happen in metro areas and near big cities. I’m usually in a rural area so I’m hoping I won’t get throttled much. 

I should get good service this winter. I spend a lot of time in southern AZ where tall trees are fairly scarce. Before I purchased Starlink, I used the App to check a place in Quartzsite for obstructions. The App announced that this would be a good place to set up Starlink. I’ll let you know. 

Look Away

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Everyone knows that I tinker in homemade devices.  I could spend a lot of money to buy things that are built for the purpose, but it’s not my style. I may be a little redneck. I built an evaporate cooler, solar water heater, and a trailer to move my solar panels to the sun, all from parts at the hardware store. Every project has been fun and all have worked well for their purpose. This post is mainly to document another project that I have been thinking about for a while now. The subject may be too gross for some, and this is warning to turn away if that’s the case. The topic for this post  is a composting toilet. 

My toilet has always had an odor whenever I drive to my next location. I have changed sealing rings and tried vent diverters to stop the smell but it hasn’t helped. I thought once of replacing it, but I’m not sure the smell is coming from the toilet itself and not the tank, so I just deal with it. As long as I’m parked there is no odor. 

Any nomad can tell you that finding water and dumps are a big hassle when you live in a motorhome. That’s what got me to exploring the idea of a composting toilet.   Composting toilets use no water and they can last a month or more before they have to be emptied. The waste mixes with a composting material like peat moss and can be disposed legally in dumpsters or used as fertilizer on non-edible plants. The urine is separate and sterile and can be dumped in the woods or vault toilets. 

YouTube is great for exploring devices and teaching how to build or fix any project, and I have to admit I surfed many videos to learn about composting toilets. The only thing holding me back from buying a new toilet is the price tag. Natures Head the best name in composting toilets is just over $1000. 

Installation is simple and there is no smell once they are in use. They are designed to separate the solid from liquid, and a small fan dries the waste and moves any odor out of the house through a vent tube. The biggest problem with composting toilets is separating the liquid from solids. Too much liquid in the compost waste material will not break down the bacteria and turn it inert. Because men and women are built differently, there has to be build in diverters to separate chambers. 

After studying toilet designs for a while, I realized that the composting chamber is nothing more that a bucket with a vent tube and a rod to stir the composting material. I purchased a 5 gallon plastic pail, cut a hole in the side near the top for a vent hose, and built a padded seat with a computer fan to remove moisture and odor.  All the parts have not arrived yet and I’m still experimenting with the rod to stir the mixture. For now I set the bucket outside until I get the vent hose. It seems to be working well, but like everything else I make, a work in progress. 

This part is a little embarrassing but I want to answer this question- how do I separate my urine from solids? The answer is: part of a man can remain outside the bucket where there is a bottle to collect that part separately.  Anytime number one is required, the bottle is used. I hope I didn’t gross you all out with my potty talk.  I still plan to use my water toilet. This is just a way to extend and experiment other options.

this is where a picture would go of a bucket.

Update to my location. After camping at Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff, I moved to a place near Hutch Mountain on the Lake Mary road. I’m now in the Sitgraves forest near Forest Lakes. There is a lake near here called Willow Springs where I will try to launch my kayak soon. There have been some heavy monsoon thunderstorms in the last couple weeks. We really need the rain.


Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

Over the last few years I have chosen campsites that meet certain criteria. I like a level, quiet spot, close to town for supplies, and plenty of sun to run my solar system. Sometimes I have to compromise on these things. I can’t always find a level campsite, and parking in forests, though beautiful, can block out solar.   I have camped in very rugged, isolated places over the years, but there is one thing I now look for in a new camp more than any other, and that’s cell signal. 

Cell signal is my entertainment, my communication with family, and my safety if something goes wrong. I use it to navigate, bank, check what’s going on in the world, and get the latest weather. I’m sure parts of it are an addiction, but it provides a lot of positive good in my life, too. 

When I changed my cellular service to Visible, it improved my lifestyle greatly. Visible offers unlimited data and unlimited hotspot all on the Verizon network. When I’m in a strong cell area I was happy with the way it performed. Even though the hotspot was limited I was still able to stream video in many locations. I thought it would be the answer to all my data needs, and at only $25 a month, a bargain to boot. 

After a year with Visible I realize it has several limitations for me. I camp in Quartzsite a lot in the winter and so do thousand or other people. With that many people hitting the Verizon tower, the service is spotty at best and nothing most of the time. Many of my favorites summer camps up on the Mongolian Rim are out of cell range and so are other places along the way north. When Donna and I tried to get a campsite around Payson, we explored many spots and couldn’t find a good signal anywhere near there. 

When I started reading about RVers switching to Starlink satellite internet, I couldn’t resist pulling the trigger and jumping on board. I’m hoping I didn’t shoot myself in the foot or jump on a sinking ship!  The reason RVers are turning to Starlink is because they opened up roaming connections. Before this you had to have a service address to activate the satellite. If you changed your location it was a hassle to find another open area and move your address to it.  Now the satellite antenna finds where you are and automatically moves you there. The one drawback is if the area is full of people that have already bought service in that area, you are put below them in priority and may get slower speeds. 


It’s expensive. The system you have to purchase up front is $600 and the monthly service is $110. The only way I can justify the expense is that I don’t travel as much now and I save way more than that filling this motorhome with gas. The other drawback is that you have to have an open sky to find satellites. I traveled with a Directv satellite dish for a few years but that connected to geostationary satellites and as long as you had a hole through the trees it would lock on to the signal. Starlink uses low earth orbit satellites that are always moving across the sky. The antenna has to find them as they pass overhead and lock on to the signal.

The Starlink antenna and router arrived at Daryl’s on Sunday and the whole family met there on Monday to see it set up. Even though we were in an area that is not open to new customers, we were still seeing speeds over 100 Mbps downloads. That’s enough to do anything I ever want to do. 

Today I traveled north from Tempe in search of cooler weather. It is 86° here in Rye where I’m camped and the Phoenix area is 100°.   I’ll move even high in the coming days because it will get hot here too. The satellite antenna was easy to set up and I’m getting very good speeds. I’ll post an update later after I have used the system and become more familiar with it.