Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

Starlink

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. 

Router

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. 

Cooling from the Sun

Friday, November 5th, 2021


Over the last few years, in order to stay in a comfortable climate, I have moved to higher elevations in the summer and lower ones in the winter.  When I was doing a lot of traveling, I roamed around in the northern states to escape the heat of summer, and returned to the desert southwest to escape the cold of winter. This method works well most of the time , but as any nomad can tell you, sometimes you can’t always escape some hot weather or chilly days. As a general rule migration will help you stay in a good climate, but Mother Nature can fool you now and then. 

Staying warm is easy in an RV. We always have furnaces or heaters for cold snaps and chilly mornings. My catalytic heater works well in my little RV and it only sips a little propane. Staying cool when the temperatures unexpectedly rise into the 90’s is another problem altogether. The only way to cool an RV is with air conditioning and that usually involves running a generator or plugging into shore power. I don’t stay in RV parks with hookups and I detest running a generator all afternoon. With all that said I started to think of ways to power an air conditioner from the sun. 

The rooftop AC on my rig does a good job of cooling my motorhome even when temperatures get up to 100°. If not plugged into shore power it requires a good size generator to run. I try to avoid ever being in 100 degree places for very long, but sometimes need a little AC for a rogue 90 degree day where I’m staying. After researching power requirements for small air conditioners and reading about Boondocker that have built systems, I decided to build a solar system to power an air conditioner. 

I won’t go into all the numbers I used to design my system but the basic build is this:  I bought a 5000 btu windows air conditioner that uses about 35 amps @ 13 volts. I increased my solar to a little over 800 watts. I already had a 300 AH lithium battery and 400 watts of solar panels on the roof. I also bought a larger Victron charge controller to basically run the process. It only took me a couple days to install and build the system. 

The magic of a solar powered air conditioner is in the fact that you need most of your cooling when the sun is shining. If I had to run an air conditioner with my battery, the battery would be depleted in a few hours. When I’m getting good solar power, the panels provide all the electricity I need to run the AC and actually will also charge the battery at the same time. As the sun gets lower in the sky my battery takes over and provides power until the night gets cooler. In the morning, the solar quickly chargers the battery back up before the day gets warm. 

One thing I did to increase my solar power is to build a frame that holds some of my panels at angle to the sun. I have four 100 watt panels that I can tilt and rotate to point at the sun. This method requires a little more attention to tracking the sun, but I found that I only have to move the panels about four times a day. It actually gives me something to do and I enjoy the little bit of effort it takes. Later on in the winter as the need for AC goes away, I wouldn’t have to move them at all. 

Right now I’m in Quartzsite at the LTVA. I have to drive back to Tempe for doctors appointment in a couple weeks. I’ll probably drift down to Yuma after that. The Arizona desert is a good place to spend the winter and enjoy the climate. 

My Little Car

Saturday, July 10th, 2021


Pecos Canyon campground

My little car was acting very sick so I found a place in Albuquerque that worked on them and decided to get an appointment. Smart cars are nice to tow, good on gas, and easy to park, but don’t try to get one fixed. Mercedes quit making the gas model a few years ago and most dealers don’t want anything to do with them.  In hindsight I should have bought a small Ford or Chevy or Toyota that any shop would fix. So began my adventure in an attempt to repair my Micro. 

While I was at Bluewater Lake, Micro had a service engine light come on and it wouldn’t run right. It kept losing power, misfiring and stalling. Jeanne had an OBD reader and the code showed up as a bad sensor. When I tow my little car I have to disconnect the battery so it doesn’t lock the doors at 10 mph. Of course when you disconnect the battery it resets the computer and erases it problem codes. 

My appointment was for early Wednesday so I left Bluewater on Tuesday and spent the night at Cabelas in Albuquerque. The next morning I towed the car to the repair shop and told them what it was doing. Of course when I started it up at the repair shop it ran fine. I explained all the symptoms I had experienced and left with a bad feeling they wouldn’t be able to fix it. 

Albuquerque this time of year can be hot. It was hot. Two days while I waited for word on my car it reached to almost to 100°.  The smart thing would have been to rent an RV spot where I could plug in and run AC. I’ve never been too smart. I figured I could do some shopping and eat in some air conditioned places and tough it out for a couple days. I spent three  uncomfortable nights at Cabelas, sweating into my pillow throughout the night. In the morning it was still 80°.  I ran my generator some, but as soon as I turned it off the heat would seep back in with a vengeance. 

After two days I received word from the repair shop that they couldn’t find anything wrong with the motor but other things needed attention. They wanted to change spark plugs, wipers, lights, hood latches, flush brake fluid and coolant, and a couple other ridiculous things. The estimate came to $2275. I told them the only thing I would let them do was the spark plugs. Everything else I could do myself or wasn’t necessary. 

They called this morning and said the car was ready. I talked to the mechanic and he said they really couldn’t do anything unless the diagnostic computer pointed to a fault. He also said he drove it for quite a drive to get the engine light to come on. I hitched up and headed out after dropping $300 to change three spark plugs. 

Tonight I’m at Pecos Canyon State Park, located 20 miles up a narrow, twisted road north of Santa Fe. Pecos Canyon is New Mexico’s newest park. They are still developing the campgrounds. 

There is no drinking water, picnic tables, or dump. The campground where I’m staying (the only first come first served site) has no level parking. I had to use all my blocks to get somewhat level. 

As soon as I headed up into the canyon I knew that cell service was going to be challenging. One look at my phone after I arrived confirmed the area was dead.  A park worker confirmed that I would have to drive back to Pecos to get word out. 

With all the missing amenities and cell service the area is actually quite beautiful. What draws most people to this canyon is the world class trout fishing in the Pecos River. I sometimes wish I was more into fishing like my Dad and my Son in Law. It would sure make places like this more fun. One nice thing is that the temperature is in the 70’s this afternoon. It was a little warm when I got here but a thunderstorm came through and cooled it off nice. 

I’ll explore the area tomorrow if Micro will run right. After the weekend I’ll probably head over to Storrie Lake. 

Arizona is Burning

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

Northern Arizona has been hot and dry this year. Even up in the mountains the temps have been over 90° for many days in June. With all the high temperatures and low humidity, it has been ripe for forest fires. 

It is monsoon season but very little rain has materialized out of the storms that pass through. What is a sad fact is that the storms wield dry lightning that has set many blazes in the Coconino, Kaibab, Tonto, and Prescott National Forests. Every day as we camped near Flagstaff, new fires were reported in the forest. Two days ago after a generous round of new fires in the area, we received notice that they were closing all the forest in two days. None of the fires have been caused by careless campers but they want to get us out of the way anyway. 

Rafael Fire

As we all stood around and pondered what we could do, no one had any brilliant ideas. North in Arizona is the only place cool enough to survive in a camper. I had some options to go stay with family and store my motorhome or rent a spot in an RV park to run my AC night and day. After weighing all the options, I decided to head north to Colorado or check out New Mexico State Parks to see if any of the higher parks were open. 

With a little investigating online I found out the New Mexico State had opened their parks to limited first come sites. They also were selling the camping pass that lets you into any park. This morning I loaded up and headed 200 miles to Bluewater Lake State Park. 

There was a lot of construction on Interstate 40 and lots of semi trucks on the road. I only drive about 62 mph so I am passed consistently by big rigs that knock me over with their wake. I was out early so missed much of the high wind, but near Window Rock, AZ there were some gusts that I didn’t care for. I arrived at Bluewater shortly after noon and looked for someone to give me information on camping. 

I flagged down a worker and inquired about camping. Yes… I could indeed camp in one loop where they put the low-life people that don’t want to use their reservation system. I always hate using reservations. For one thing, I never know when I want to go someplace or how long I want to stay. And along with the reservation, Reserve America wants a cut so you end up paying another $12 to them for making the arrangements!

But I am ranting. I don’t mind being put back in the corner as long as I don’t have to pay extra. Today was up in the 90’s so it would have been nice to have electric, but I ran my generator for a while and now that the sun is low it’s cooler. The weather is calling for lower temperatures and a chance of rain in the next few days.  That would be nice. 

Jeanne is coming tomorrow to camp here. Margaret has been asking questions about here so she may be interested too. I thought maybe a few more forest dwellers would end up here but not so far. There are hundreds of them scattered about the woods and I don’t know where they will all go. 

Donna just texted that the last holdout, Apache-Sitgraves NF, is closing too. 

Ask your doctor if “XYZ” is right for you!

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

1: Cosmetics-6
2: Electronics-0
3: Insurance-20. Fifteen minutes could save you 15%…
4: Vehicles-2 Built Ford tough
5: Detergent-10
6: Travel-6
7: Internet-21 Can you hear me now?
8: Apparel-12
9: Pharmaceutical-58 The winner by far!!
10: Credit Card-5 What’s in your wallet?
11: Food-30
12: Investment-16 We do better when you do better
13: Appliances-5
14: Charity-2
15: Alcohol-2
16: Attorneys-21 Call the husband and wife…
17: Home Repair-6
18: Pets-7
19: Real estate-6