Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

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

Paying for the Free Market

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Over the last few weeks I have watched a lot of OTA tv. Some things I have recorded but mostly I just surf the channels looking for something interesting.  OTA tv is filled with channels of old sitcoms, old movies, old westerns, news, public broadcasts, cop shows, and shopping. I usually watch the evening network news, some local news, and some of the Sunday morning news shows. Other than that it is a mixture of anything I find entertaining. Sometimes I have the tv on in the background to break the silence and I’m not really paying much attention at all.  I do have online access to just about any show I want, but they all use my data so I try to limit them as much as possible. 

As it became clear how exasperating and how much of our time was exposed to commercials, I figured I might as well make a game of it. As I watched the endless assault of marketing, I realized that the commercial breaks are flooded with several categories of ads.  I was pretty sure some ads were way more prevalent than others so I started tabulating type and quantity just to see which products were pushed the most. 

This study of commercials is far from scientific as I realize the target for OTA tv may be quite different than cable or satellite, and that even during different shows there would be a different audience to exploit. During the day, the audience would be more retired people, and science and news programs would probably be a different target. The psychology of marketing is way above me and I don’t pretend to understand much of it. This was just a fun way to waste a little time. 

Some commercials ran longer than others and I made mental footnotes of length but did not tabulate it in any statistic. There are endless categories of products and I took some liberty in my grouping, however I didn’t stray far from the idea of the product.  

We all know that marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry, and without all the money spent on advertising, things could be a lot cheaper. And marketing isn’t just about commercials. Everything we do online or in a store is being tabulated in databases that track our every whim. Whether we like it or not our privacy is being shared and sold to everyone that wants a piece of our dollar. But I digress. 

Here are the categories in no particular order. See if you can guess who spends the most on advertising? Just comment on the top 5 you think have the highest frequency of ads in my non-scientific game.  I’ll release the results in a few days after everyone that wants to play has seen it. 

1: Cosmetics-

2: Electronics-

3: Insurance-

4: Vehicles-

5:  Detergent-

6:  Travel-

7:  Internet-

8:  Apparel-

9:  Pharmaceutical-

10: Credit Card-

11: Food-

12: Investment-

13: Appliances-

14: Charity-

15: Alcohol-

16: Attorneys-

17: Home Repair-

18: Pets-

19: Real estate-

Most are self-explanatory.  Insurance includes health, auto and home.  I grouped cars, trucks and RVs into vehicles. Food was tough and I tallied even if they advertised a food store. Alcohol can be beer, wine, and whisky. Pets are food or health products.