Friday, December 29, 2017

Storing some Juice

The Vista came stock with a pair of NAPA 12 volt, 75 amp hour rated batteries for the coach circuits. Jeff knew he wanted more power, so we started researching 6 volt golf cart battery options. The plan is to put two in place of the original coach batteries under the stairs and to put the other pair in the bay adjacent to the stairs, alongside the solar controller.

The biggest challenge was making the second pair easily accessible for servicing. We ordered a pair of 250 pound capacity, full extension drawer slides and a battery box for the second pair and then I got busy cutting up some wood.
The plan was to build both the base and the drawer from Baltic birch. I did some dry fitting and drilled for screws to hold the major pieces. 

With the dry fitting completed, I epoxied the seams and screwed the pieces together, expoxied the base, radiused the edges and glassed the structure inside and out. With the weight of the batteries and notorious Alaska roads, we wanted to be sure the base structure would not shift or loosen.
The base was painted and the drawer slides were installed

so that I could start dry fitting the parts for the drawer portion. Amazingly, the vast majority of my initial cuts were correct, with just a couple needing a little additional clearance.

Like the base, the structure was epoxied together

and then glassed inside and out.

Amazingly, everything fit without any shims.

The biggest challenge was the installation of barrel nuts in both sides of the base so that a machine screw could be run through the face of the drawer on both sides. These screws keep the drawer firmly closed in transit. The two screws will be removed when opening the drawer to service the batteries.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


BJ has our tree all decorated and lit up.

Around the area, some home have gone over the top with decorations, including lights that are synchronized to music.

Lots of yards have one or two blow up decorations, while a few seem to have taken the challenge to see how many they can stuff into their yard.
Lights shaped as an old John Deere tractor,

a team and wagon,

or a trotter and sleigh.

In spite of the apparent evidence to the contrary, I don't think Christmas is about lights or shopping or excess. Instead, it's a reminder of Christ's birth in Bethlehem.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

River Walk

 Three years ago I had a blog post about a hike to the lime kiln near the Salt River. This time, BJ and I were headed back in hopes of getting another FTF (First to Find) - this one on a geocache that had published the night before. We left Blue Point as the sun was casting long morning shadows.

This time of the year, the river has minimal flow with the dam at Stewart Mountain only releasing a dribble. Portions of the river have very little water while the pool locations have plenty. We usually see this spot from kayaks!

After a quick stop at the mouth of the wash, we headed up the wash in the shadows. The wash is very sandy but there's usually a narrow trail formed by the feral horses that frequent the area that is a bit firmer.

About six tenths of a mile up the wash from the river is a lime kiln. It seemed like there was less brush around it this time.

Off to one side of the kiln is a hiking register under an obvious pile of rocks. I was amazed to see that it was a glass casserole dish with a plastic cover - poor choice x 2 for this country! This is NOT the geocache that we were seeking.

The geocache was well placed and nicely concealed away from the oven. While looking for the cache we enjoyed the views back down the wash.

BJ and I stamped the log as FTF. Like some of the others I've done this month, this one won't get lots of traffic because it requires more effort, but it's very deserving of the effort. A beautiful hike in beautiful country.

This time, I even remembered to take a picture of us with the log.

As we wandered back to the truck, we enjoyed noticing the details. Gnarled trees, twisted saguaros, and this group of cactus trying to survive in the crack of a rock.

It's been a good month for FTFs - that's four so far. Three of them involved hikes which makes them all the better! I love the 'potluck' aspect of geocaching - never sure where you'll go next nor what you'll find.

Friday, December 15, 2017


When it's reasonably convenient, I enjoy the challenge of the side game in geocaching of First to Find. As a result, I have my preferences set up to send me an email notification whenever a new geocache is published in the surrounding area.

Last week I got a notification in the evening of a new puzzle cache titled Johnny B. Goode. Just as I was looking at it, I got a message from the cache owner, "One with you in mind!" Obviously, this was one that I needed to review closely! I was able to solve the puzzle to get the actual coordinates relatively easily, and then started reviewing that location in Google Earth. While I really enjoy hiking around in the desert at night, this location was one that I didn't want to do in the dark.

BJ decided this was one she wasn't interested in, so the next morning before sunrise, I parked near the published coordinates and headed off towards the actual coordinates. I'd suspected that there would be others arriving shortly so I started picking my way when it was darker than the pictures make it seem. If I'd been smart and kind, I would have contacted the other likely suspects and we could have done it together.

Along the way, I'd stop and watch the light changing, hoping for one of those spectacular sunrise pictures.

One thing about doing it this early - the pictures don't provide much spoiler information! Others will have to figure it out the same way I did.

By this point it was getting lighter, it was obvious that it was going to be another dusty day, and I'd finally found the animal trail that I suspected would exist.

First to Find at 7:14 a.m. - and no, I'm not going to show you the cache container or where it was hidden! Found the cache in time to get back to the truck and get on with my day.

It's always interesting to me to see how much easier it is to find and follow a trail on the way back to the truck!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

They Worked!

I thought I had everything in place in time for the geocaching events in Apache Junction. After I prepared the last blog post, I got a call from the Fire Department asking me to move two of the three caches that they'd approved on their property. The end result was it bumped one of the other caches because of proximity issues, but I was able to move them to new locations that kept their crews happy.

We had 26 people show up on Wednesday morning to help with road cleanup around Prospector Park. In less than an hour, we filled my truck and BJ's Outback full of garbage bags of roadside trash. It's always nice when we can leave an area better than we found it.

The new caches were scheduled to publish at 10 a.m. but some folks decided to team up and tackle some of the other caches in the area that they hadn't visited. It took eight people and some luck to figure out where the birds had roosted.

I was fortunate enough to drive by a couple caches as people were enjoying their success

"Is this one of those caches that you need to read many times until clues pop out? Yep! Tricky, tricky, tricky."
or trying to figure out the figures. This group was the only group to admit to attempting this one on the day of publication. It's been visited by one other group since then and I suspect there will be other people out making the rounds today.

"After gathering what we needed at the other 2 caches, we did some math and ended up here. what? So we kept reading the description over and over and over again until things started to make sense. Luckily for us, the CO arrived on the scene to watch us sweat. Offering no advice except to "move that hand", he let us work through it. When we had a possible code, he blinked, I think, and then we were in."
The day ended with a meet & greet event at a local Mexican restaurant hosted by another geocacher. While I typically geocache solo or with BJ, I think it's the creative side of building caches, and the social side of events that I enjoy the most.

No more new caches for awhile although I do have a meeting on Tuesday about another place that might be willing to host a cache...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


In mid October I posted a blog post about Patience. Finally, on November 30th, I got an email approving cache placements at some of the locations, just in time for a Geocaching event scheduled for December 6th. This would be the same event that I was hoping to do in early October. Doesn't matter - it's still going to be fun!

Since I don't think any of my local geocaching friends read my blog, here's a bit more about the special caches that I've built this fall in preparation for this event. Five of them are 'birdhouse' style structures. This one has gone through four color iterations as it's likely placement wandered around the community. This one is called Lights & Siren. There is a series of switches inside the side door that do various things including operating the flashing light on top and a siren inside the structure. Deciphering what the various switches do should result in the code needed for the lock to gain access to the cache container.

This one uses a similar side-loading structure. It was going to be titled Magnetic Attraction and talk about arson, but now it's going to be placed at a church so I changed the subject. It's now called Old Testament Survey - since the New Testament doesn't have enough books. Three of the books are written over magnets inserted into the structure. Figuring out the ordinal number of those three books provides the numbers for the combination.

This one has the lock underneath it with the door nearly half way up inside so the lock isn't obvious and it's protected from the weather. This one was going to be titled Loose Connections and talk about the importance of electrical safety in fire prevention, but when the department backed away from their earlier commitment, this one was retitled and placed near a hardware store. There's a similar assortment of hardware on the right side of this one. Touching the correct pair will make the box buzz and light up three colored lights inside. The colors are decoded to provide the combination for the lock.

This one is a bit more challenging - I'm hoping it will be fun rather than frustrating, but only time will tell. It uses a magnetic latch for initial access, a 'useless box' switch as a decoy, and a puddle lamp that shines out the back when you press the right button. The puddle lamp reflection can be decoded for the combination.

These caches are designed to be mounted to parking lot poles like this one. If I hang them in trees they disappear!

Those were fun, but these weren't the ones I was really anticipating!

The pile of plywood in the last picture of the last post turned into this cache. It's actually listed as a letterbox hybrid, and uses a wireless doorbell to locate the final from the initial coordinates. It uses a child safety latch to release a tube with the combination for the lock. No sense making it too easy!

This is the container that started it all. Actually this cache was the result of finding a highly favorited cache elsewhere that used a fake fire hydrant.  I bought a surplus hydrant and rebuilt it, installing a false floor just below the steamer port. Access is through the steamer port after unlocking the padlock. Combination is derived from finding three other caches. This one, False Alarm, and Lights & Siren survived the FD review and are going in place in time for the event. The others have been repurposed and I've found homes for all but one. I have feelers out to several other locations for the last one (that I didn't show you) but don't know if I'll have it in place in time for the event or not.

These are all way overkill, but I have fun building them and dreaming up new ways to create challenging access methods. I've got at least three others in the mental queue but don't know where they might go.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This & That

While a bunch of my time has gone into doing mods for Jeff's RV, I've taken time out this month to get ready for a geocaching event to be held early next month. In the process, I spent some time talking with the Lost Dutchman, but he wasn't willing to tell where all the gold in the Superstitions is hidden.

I've been out to hunt for a handful of caches, including one First To Find on a wannabe stormy afternoon. The reality was that it was cloudy, but it never produced. I did find the cache, though.

My favorite time of day is to be on the trail at sunrise. I'm ahead of most hikers, the day is quiet, and sometimes the colors are beautiful. I've found I really appreciate the opportunity to wander through the desert watching it come alive.

The biggest  chunk of my time this month has been in the shop, building a series of  'gadget' caches. They'll all be finished and placed before the geocaching event, but it's too soon to publish more about that...

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Just Chillin'

A couple months ago our air conditioner showed signs of distress and wasn't keeping up with our 100 degree+ weather. We called our son-in-law's cousin to check it out. He was able to get it working temporarily while we got a new unit on order.

Josh, and his helper, Josh showed up with a trailer load of new gear.

They started at both ends of the system - removing the old air handler & furnace combination and the really strange angled return air duct.

The pile in the front yard grew taller. It took ALL day for the two of them,

but by later afternoon the compressor was in place and the system was charged with freon. This unit uses a current version of freon which is supposedly safer for the environment.

By 7 p.m. or so they had the new furnace and air conditioning coil in place as well as new transition ducting. This return air box includes a filter at knee level instead of filters at 'top of the ladder' level like the old system. The supply duct is insulated like the old one should have been.

We selected the Goodman system because it is built in the US and is very basic in nature, making maintenance calls much easier. We should be good to go for years to come.


I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We gave thanks for having a new air conditioner as we enjoyed a 90 degree day.