Sunday, October 29, 2017

More River Time

The group of twelve that camped behind us said they were staying two nights but loaded up and left about 3:30 p.m. the second day. It was really interesting to watch them. I would have been very uncomfortable launching a group of that size that late in the day, but it seemed to work for them.

After a quiet second night at Arizona Hot Springs, we headed down stream. Our plan was to visit viewpoints along the river for an earth cache and then set up camp at Cranes Nest Wash (Mile 55.9) for a couple nights.

Unlike our first day, we had glassy water for the move from Arizona Hot Springs to Cranes Nest. I love paddling into reflections!

I love some of the geology in Cranes Nest Wash. This is an area that is typically ignored by folks on the river. Part of the wash has beautifully layered rock, with the layers running vertically. I especially liked this rock that we thought should be called the Eye of the Needle.

Further up the wash we found water sculpted pour overs

and pot holes. Given how rarely there is any water flowing in the wash, it's hard to imagine how many years it took to sculpt these rocks.

I loved the way that the conglomerate is all shaped by the water flows, leaving all the rocks even.

The lower part of the wash is in a wilderness area. There is a road that comes part way down the wash. At about .6 miles from the river is a nice sign indicating a camping area and No Target Shooting. Down the wash a bit further, where the road ends, is another sign, clearly used as a target!

By the end of time on the river, I was looking pretty grubby.

Unlike when we first started paddling this section of river, there is now a 32 page guide book printed on waterproof paper that points out many of the highlights. It's also available as a large pdf file from the Boulder City library.

We were blessed with another paddling day of light breezes. Easy paddling but hard to get reflection pictures.

We took out below the boat ramp at Willow Beach Marina. (about River Mile 52.5)

This section of the river was recently highlighted in Backpacker Magazine. Unfortunately, that article had lots of incorrect information.

There is no fee for camping in the Black Canyon but there is a $22 fee for launching at the dam. That fee is reduced if you have a Senior Pass. In addition to the launch fee, you MUST pay a shuttle service to launch you at the dam. That price varies depending on if you are providing your own boats or renting boats or using a guide.

This section can also be paddled upstream, launching from Willow Beach Marina, saving the cost and missing the experience of launching at the dam.

If you want to launch at the dam, I highly recommend our friends at Desert Adventures in Boulder City, NV or Desert River Outfitters in Bullhead City, AZ.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

River Time

Usually, we manage to spend a week or two on the Green River in Utah in the fall. This year, I was too late to get reservations for the jet boat shuttle so we decided to spend a few days on the Black Canyon section of the Colorado River below Hoover Dam.

We figured out which week Kathy could get off work, loaded the boats and gear, and the three of us headed northwest.

We did a couple geocaches along the way including a virtual at the trailhead for the trail to Arizona Hot Springs. We debated for about 30 seconds about carrying the boats in from here but decided the 3.5 mile hike with our boats and gear was not practical.

The weather on Monday morning looked good if you believe this picture, but the reality was that there was over 20 mph of wind blowing. At least it was a tailwind, but the canoe was squirrely to say the least!

While this section of the river is typically a day trip, we've been known to spend more time. This time, we decided to break the 11 mile trip into three pieces, spending two nights at each camp.

When we arrived at Arizona Hot Springs (Mile 59.7,) there were already a bunch of people scattered out but we found some spots tucked into alcoves with protection from the wind.

Just about the time we figured things were going to settle down for the evening, a group of 12 arrived and decided that our chosen spot needed some very close neighbors.

After breakfast the next morning, we headed up through the hot springs towards some petroglyphs. We visited these with Suzanne over two years ago but I wanted to go back to fulfill the requirements of a virtual cache located nearby.

Kathy and I elected to use our water shoes for the hike while BJ decided to switch into hiking shoes once we got above the hot springs.

The petroglyphs we saw last time were still there.

We spotted more as we continued up the wash. These are quite different from the petroglyphs we typically see in Utah. I'm not sure if this is proof of space aliens or that Halloween has been celebrated longer than I thought.

After the petroglyphs it was back through the hot springs and down the ladder to camp. I just couldn't resist this shot of BJ descending the ladder. Usually we're too busy making sure to not slip to take a picture.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Vista Solar, Part 2

I got the wiring done for the controller and the portable panel before taking time off for a river trip. The buss bars on the left are where the panel feeds come in and feed to the controller. The controller feeds to the coach batteries at the lower left, while the feed from the portable panel comes through at the lower right corner.

The mating Anderson connector, with a red weather guard is mounted to the bottom of the side wall, just behind the entry steps.

Storing rooftop panels is easier once you get the work done. For now we'll have one up here but with plenty of room to add a couple more if they decide it's necessary.

The roof panel feeds will enter the controller compartment through a couple grommeted holes just above the yellow arrow in the first picture.

The portable panel will be stored in the rear compartment. Thankfully, the plywood deck for the bed provides plenty of structure. I added a pair of carriage bolts in two places and put the mattress back in place.

I fabbed up a plywood receiver on the street side end that is screwed and glued to the plywood. The receiver is designed so that one end of the portable panel goes there, and then the other end is lifted up and retained by a 2" nylon strap with a Fastex buckle. The panel is kept on the street-side 'shelf' by a similarly constructed stop that is also screwed and glued to the plywood ceiling.

Closed cell foam bumpers will be added to the back of the panel frame to restrict vertical bouncing. The face of the panel is protected from any extraneous damage by a thin plywood panel retained by a couple smaller straps.

Once our river trip is over we'll see about getting the roof panel in place and running the cabling for that panel and the battery monitor.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Patience is Tough!

Last spring I placed a cache at one of the local fire stations. The discussion at that time was to place one, and if that proved to be successful, to place others to draw attention to the breadth and scope of their operations. With six months of good experience with the first cache, I attempted to communicate with them about placement of others.

Meanwhile, their organization was going through some significant, yet unclear, struggles. The board bought out the Chief's contract, but I can't find anything suggesting why. My previous, very helpful contact, provided me with the name and e-mail address of the person that should be my contact moving forward.

I immediately e-mailed the new contact but got no response. Figuring he might be on vacation, I waited a week and tried again.

With no response to the second e-mail, I did a bit of spelunking and found a phone number for the new contact. I'd expressly started with e-mail so that I didn't interrupt his work, desiring an appointment at his convenience. With no response from two e-mail attempts, I called but that rolled to voice mail.

I left a voice mail and left my phone number. When I didn't get a call back within the week, I stopped by their main office and asked the receptionist if the individual was on vacation or might be out sick, but her response was that he was 'very busy.' Three days after leaving the note with the receptionist, I finally got a call back.

I understand that the organization is going through some leadership challenges and that they're in the midst of a search for a new leader which means extra work for the remaining leadership team. I also understand that it shouldn't take over three weeks to get any sort of response.

I'm now assured that they'll look into the possibility of additional caches, but it could be awhile. So much for my hope of combining the release of these caches with an event celebrating our local first responders. Patience is so tough to learn!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Vista Solar, Part 1

With a couple years experience using solar in his travel trailer, I didn't have to spend any time discussing the issues related to installing a larger, true sine wave inverter to power the microwave since I knew it wasn't considered essential. Instead, I concentrated on those items that would be used while boondocking.

I was pleased to see that the inverter idle draw was only 10 watts. None the less, the inverter is not likely to be powered except when using one of the TVs.

The big draw will be the large TV which won't be used that much. It's quite likely that 200 watts of panels will be more than enough for their typical use patterns. We selected the same Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline panel that we used on his trailer because of its compact size and high Vmp. One will be configured for portable placement and the other will be roof mounted with tilting capabilities.

I brainstormed a shopping list and shortly thereafter, stuff magically started showing up at my door. Like the other systems I've put together, this one will use 8 AWG cable to reduce the line losses.

I did some of the stuff at home where tools were easily available. Some aluminum angle was used to create legs for the portable panel.

The secret to the legs is the plastic washer and self locking nut. With the plastic washer between the leg and the frame, the self locking nut can be tightened down enough to put some friction on the hinge angle.

The installation is using two different 8 AWG wire styles. The feed wire from the portable panel is 'zip cord' from PowerWerx. The red/black paired cable uses finer wire for more flexibility, which makes it much easier to use with the portable panel. The roof-mounted panel/s will use MC4 Solar cable. It has fewer strands of thicker wire resulting in a stiffer wire, but it also has a UV resistant cover.

The extension cable for the portable panel was permanently connected to the panel leads with waterproof, heat sink butt connectors. They're waterproof and serve as a strain relief across the connection.

The other end of the portable panel cable got an Anderson SB50 Power Pole connector. These connectors have beefy contacts and result in a connector that cannot be inserted with reverse polarity. We used these on Jeff's trailer project a couple years ago and it has served well.

Unlike last time, this time I spec'd the extra Tee handle to make it a bit easier to connect and disconnect the pair of Anderson connectors.

The rood top panel gets fitted with AM Solar's mounting system. This system is fabricated from stainless steel, and allows the panel to tilt in two directions. It's a quick and easy installation on the panel.

Each corner gets a bracket that is retained by one bolt with self-locking nut.

The mounting foot connects to the adapter with a threaded knob. The foot will be attached to the fiberglass roof with 3M Very High Bond tape and then sealed around the edges with 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive.

The Victron controller* and all the system connections have a home in the forward curb-side bay, as close as I could get to the coach batteries.

*We considered the TriMetric TM2030 / SC2030 combination, but the Victron combo got the nod because of the cleaner looking monitor. The MPPT controller is a bit of overkill, but will work nicely with the high Vmp of the Renogy panels.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Initial Mods for the Vista

I promised that I wasn't going to work full time on the mod list for the Vista since I had all winter to get them done. I started by cutting up a couple old 2x10 boards to create some ramps. The RV is low enough that I can't get under it from the sides using a creeper, so I decided to help it grow up.

Driving this rig from Iowa was like trying to herd cats in a rain storm. It wallowed badly and got worse in cross winds. Turns out, lots of other people had already experienced the same thing with this chassis which is essentially unchanged since the early 1990's. The inter web crowds had a cheap fix. I didn't think it would be enough, but decided to try it.  The upper mount remained untouched,

while the lower end of the front sway bar links were moved from the original placement at the outer end of the sway bar arm to the inner, pre-existing hole.

A super quick change that made an incredible improvement. Still not as good as I'd like to to be, but definitely much, much better.

Haven't done the rear ones yet since its reported that it doesn't make as much change, but I expect to do them before the rig heads north. The rear sway bar installation is the same except that it has the extra bracket to put the link bolt into a double shear situation.

The next project was to install the shunt for the Victron battery monitor. I put it in next to the existing fuse for the stock inverter. I needed to get this installed so that I could do an energy audit before determining how many panels would be needed for the solar installation.

With the inverter off, there was still 3 to 4 watts of phantom draw. I think it might be the propane detector, but I haven't taken the time to dig deep enough to temporarily discount it.

In the process of doing the energy audit, I discovered that several lights were still sporting incandescent bulbs. The three lights in the service bays, the porch light, and the two bulbs in the dinette light were all incandescent bulbs that draw about 18 watts each.

The dinette bulbs (with a T5 base) were replaced with LED lamps that draw 3 watts each. The other incandescent bulbs will be changed out in the near future.

I did a pretty complete power audit, but did skip testing the power draw on the furnace - with our temps still running above 90 degrees on average, I'm not really interested in adding more heat to the equation.

Next up will be starting on the solar installation and wiring.