How Does it Feel?

I’ve been asked this a lot the last few days.

As I noted in my last post, my house and airplane have been sold.  The big change this week is that I am out of the house and am now live in motorhome full time. My house on wheels.

For the most part, if feels like just another trip in the motorhome.  Pack stuff up, find a swell place to park, work, and do the normal stuff.  However; the goodbyes were really miserable.  I am terrible at them – I apologize to all my friends for that.  They hurt so deeply that I’d just rather avoid them – probably another psychological problem of some sort, I dunno….

I attended several little going away parties and they were all fantastic and VERY much appreciated!!  I will greatly miss my friends!!  However; I am not going away forever. I may not get to see them on a daily basis but we live in a fantastic age when communication is cheap and easy.  I will also be back to visit.  The southwest has captured my heart and I will most certainly spend a great deal of time there.

So, how does it feel??

To be honest, today it is mostly bitter because of the goodbyes.  I love new adventures but leaving the old ones has always been very difficult.  I suppose this is true for most folks and the reason we humans tend to snuggle into a routine and stick with it no matter how “interesting” or “cool” some alternative may look to us – and even pull at us.

Newmar Dutch Star Lake Meredith TX Boondock Solar

Perhaps the most ironic part, at least the most interesting part, of all this??  My new adventure begins on my wedding anniversary – March 28.  Exactly twenty-eight years ago I was starting a huge new adventure – marriage to the woman of my dreams.  I absolutely loved that adventure – it had its up’s and down’s and plenty of challenges but it was more than I can could have ever hoped for when it began. I am so thankful for that adventure!  She is still the woman of my dreams but I am no longer the man of hers.  That adventure has ended, now it is time for a new adventure. It would have been easy, even comfortable, to snuggle into my routine; work, ride bike, fly a bit, sleep and repeat until death.  I want something more.

I am excited to see where this new adventure leads.  Many have asked for my specific plans – how long will I live in the motorhome, where will I go, etc…  I do not know the answer to any of these.  I will move forward and see where God leads. I know He has an awesome plan and I am happy to follow his lead without knowing what the destination may be.

To the adventure!!!

Changes are Afoot

A great deal has happened in the last month or two.  I’ve been too busy to even post updates.

I have sold my airplane.
I have sold my house.
I have sold most of my “treasures”.

A new adventure is about to begin!!

SmileyOnBeachx_thumb.jpgAfter waiting and stewing about this day for the last four years or so, I am to be out of my house by the end of this month (March). Closing is complete, contracts are signed, it is a done deal. That means I am going thru stuff as quickly as possible and selling the few things that are worth something, hauling huge loads of stuff to Goodwill, and filling up every trash can I can find (with my neighbors permission, of course….).

It is interesting to me how the value of a thing changes over time.  I remember things that I had in high school and thought I would own forever. Most of those things were destroyed by my young children or were tossed in the trash many moves ago.  Recently, I thought I was down to nearly nothing.  What I surprise!!  Junk really does expand to fill available space.  The goal right now is to get rid of everything that is not super important – it all has to fit in the motorhome.  Now, granted, the motorhome has a TON of storage space.  BUT, that volume of space is nowhere near what my home had – so a great many things must go.  Items that a year ago I deemed “valuable/worth keeping” are finding their way into trash bags.

I suppose the following quote kinda hits home with me right now.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ~ Maria Robinson

All of these changes are a big part of making a new ending.

Everyone asks about my plan.  Well… I am planning not to have a plan.

How’s that?

I suppose some would call the following a plan, I think of it more as a series of possibilities.

As soon as winter departs the north, I am going to head that direction.  I’d like to spend a month or so working at the home office of the company with which I am employed.  That is in Minneapolis.  I would also like to spend some time in my home town of Helena, Montana. Finally, I would like to be back in the southwest when cold temperatures and snow once again arrive in the north.

Pretty simple.

Oh!  The important parts: I hope to road and mountain bike in every cool spot along the way and I hope to drop my kayak in every neat body of water that I find!

Stay tuned – it may get interesting!


Solar Charging System – Take Two

I documented the installation of 650 watts of solar (Morningstar TriStar MPPT 45 charge controller and two SunPower E20 327 watts panels) on my last motorhome here.  Well, when I traded for a new motorhome, the solar system was of no value to the dealer, so I arranged to remove it.  My plan was to re-install it on my new motorhome because I love it so much!  I really can’t hype an adequate solar system on a motorhome enough!  It is SO COOL to not run the generator for weeks on end while living “normally”.

The process started by ordering a 50′ length of PV array cable, 3M 5200 adhesive, and a chunk of 4″ x 2″ x 48″ aluminum angle.  Amazon Prime is pretty amazing!  Possibly even dangerous.  I love being able to order this and that without having to worry about shipping charges and then actually getting the things in only two days.  Impressive!

The installation on my new 2005 Newmar Dutch Star was either much easier than on the Pace Arrow or I learned a lot on the first install because this time around it was VERY easy. Getting the array cables routed down thru the refrigerator vent stack has twice proven to be the hardest task of the install.  I used an electrical snake and tried, tried, tried, and tried again… Eventually finding a good route that offered enough space for the two array cables.  These cables were then run down thru the floor of the refrigerator vent stack and into the furnace space.  More holes were drilled from this space into the basement.  All of these holes were filled with caulking to avoid air leaks and locations thru which critters could stage an invasion.

Newmar Dutch Star Solar Panel Electric Charge Controller PV Photovoltaic

I mounted the MorningStar MPPT charge controller in the basement, on the wall near the inverter.  This made for VERY easy access – much easier than working on my head under the refrigerator in the Pace Arrow.  It also allowed for a very short cable run to the DC input power terminals on the inverter (which run to the batteries via very thick cables. Of course, I reinstalled the large fuses between the array and charge controller and another between the charge controller and battery bank (inverter input cables, in my case).

Newmar Dutch Star Solar Panel Electric Charge Controller PV Photovoltaic

Newmar Dutch Star Solar Panel Electric Charge Controller PV Photovoltaic

I was going to make panel mounting tabs using 2″ x 4″ aluminum angle.  However; a trip to the home improvement store was productive and I found some nice 2″ x 4″ galvanized sheet metal L-brackets in the joist/construction section.  I drilled a number of additional holes in the feet of these brackets to provide additional “bite” for the adhesive.  I did some research and the 5200 documentation reports that it has better holding power with galvanized steel than aluminum so I was comfortable with this bracket choice. The roof of the Dutch Star is flat which makes the panel install VERY simple – I simply laid the panels on the roof and marked the bracket attach points.  I then scratched up the surface of the bracket and the roof where the brackets will mount and cleaned it all with acetone.  A nice layer of 3M 5200 adhesive was put on the bracket feet and they were laid in place to cure. The standard 5200 adhesive requires a week to cure – I probably should have ordered the quick cure version but I didn’t.  So, let’s hope for no high wind events over the next few days!! :-)

Newmar Dutch Star Solar Panel Electric Charge Controller PV Photovoltaic

Upon connecting the wires, the charge controller started pumping juice into the batteries!  It is a marvel to behold.  Speaking of which, I did not retain my Trimetric Battery Monitor (here) which I also loved.  I sorely need to buy and install one.  The Dutch Star remote inverter control panel has a “battery full” gauge but it is based on voltage so is terribly inaccurate/misleading.

Newmar Dutch Star Solar Panel Electric Charge Controller PV Photovoltaic

I am excited to see that there is a lot of space remaining on the roof so the addition of another panel or two is possible!  1000 watts or more – wouldn’t that be neat!!!

Newmar Dutch Star

I am super pleased to report that I have done a bit of upgrading over the last few weeks.  I am now the proud owner of a 2005 Newmar Dutch Star (DSDP 4023)!  Shaneeda was great old girl and I had a lot of fun with her. She taught me a tremendous amount and kept me occupied which was incredibly important during that phase of my life.

This Dutch Star is pretty amazing.  The space that opens up when the slides are open is something else – massive!  Cruising down the highway at 65 mph is surreal!  The noise is nearly nonexistent and the ride is very smooth. It feels incredibly odd.  The big diesel just chugs right up hills. With the cruise control set, it barely changes it’s tempo – no downshifting and roaring up the tiniest of lumps in the road.  The space in the basement isn’t quite like a bus but there is certainly more of it than Shaneeda had.  Even has a couple big, heavy duty slide out “drawer” type things.  Very neat!  Of course, it is a very complicated machine.  There are all sorts of electrical systems – I have much to learn!

Newmar Dutch Star diesel pusher motorhome rv

You might be asking what am I going to do now that I no longer have my “project machine”??  Well…. Fear not – there is no a shortage of tasks to be performed.  I kept the solar panels and charge controller from Shaneeda so I have those to install.  I have come to realize that I am a clean freak.  There are MANY cleaning opportunities so will be spending lots of time on that.

I am an advocate for older RV’s, some will ask why I changed.  I haven’t, actually.  However; for my use, I decided something more was needed… ok, desired.  Shaneeda was not well insulated (or insulated at all??) and her windows leaked a lot of cold air.  This made winter/cold weather camping difficult and hot weather camping uncomfortable.  With shore power (or generator), the air conditioners kept the inside at a comfortable temperature but at a huge noise cost.  The other biggie was weight.  Shaneeda had a 16,000 lb chassis.  With my typical camping stuff, we were maxed out.  To live in her full time would require adding several thousand pounds more junk (my belongings).  I knew this would be hard on her mechanically and possibly even dangerous.  It could certainly be done but I decided to make things easier on myself, and more comfortable to boot.

Let the learning begin!

Indian Bread Rocks

I spent nine nights on a really nice BLM spot in southern Arizona this past week (early January 2015).  It is called Indian Bread Rocks Picnic Area and/or Happy Camp Canyon. It is about ten miles south of Bowie, AZ.

The surrounding hills are huge mounds of giant boulders and are really spectacular – particularly in the right early morning sun.  Of course, they are a blast to climb around on as well!

The area was very quiet and peaceful while I was there.  I probably saw about one vehicle drive by each day.  While I was there, I saw three or four other motorhomes nearby.  Most of them stayed for one or two nights and then moved on.  The only negative to the quiet is that the railroad tracks are way off in the distance – probably ten miles or more – and you could hear a dull rumble when one was chugging up the valley below.  A city slicker probably would not even notice the sound, it was very faint. To someone like me that loves total silence/solitude, it was noticeable but not annoying.  A very, very minor negative to a very nice spot.  There are probably about six or so spots that a bigger-rig (my size) could get into, probably that many more smaller spots.  As noted on the above site, the last cattle guard is rather narrow.  I did not have any problems towing my Jeep – had about eighteen inches of clearance on each side, but I could imagine a big rig feeling the pinch.  Hit it straight on (the road angles) and I would think nearly all rigs will fit.

The altitude of the site is right at 4000′ MSL so one can expect cool nights.  On average, the nighttime low temperature was between 30 – 35 degrees while I was there. The daytime highs were in the mid 50’s to low 60’s and mostly sunny.

Camping BLM Indian Bread Rocks Boondocking dry rock climbing

I camped near a group site that has a vaulted toilet and two BBQ pits/grills.  Nobody used the site while I was there.  The markings/information plaque are long since faded/missing. That said, the site is in reasonably good condition.  There was no toilet paper in the toilet when I arrived but within a day or two a maintenance person arrived and restocked it as well as did some general cleanup (not much to do, it appears).

Camping BLM Indian Bread Rocks Boondocking dry rock climbing

A huge positive was having a good 4G signal on my Verizon phone (three bars without amplifier) and reasonable signal on my Sprint 3G MiFi (three bars).  The Sprint connection was useable but kind of iffy (dropped fairly often and was far from fast, even for 3G.  I think it is an amazing thing to be camped on gorgeous BLM land and have a good Internet connection!

Camping BLM Indian Bread Rocks Boondocking dry rock climbing

The hiking was, of course, fantastic!  I find climbing these huge boulders to be a ton of fun.  Going up is a good workout and a bit of a challenge (I’m far from a “rock climber”) and coming down is heart pumping excitement since I’m afraid of heights and afraid of falling and then tumbling down three hundred feet of rocks!!

Camping BLM Indian Bread Rocks Boondocking dry rock climbing

I did not see much wildlife.  A good number (twenty??) of grazing cattle and a few small, pretty birds – that was it.

Camping BLM Indian Bread Rocks Boondocking dry rock climbing

Camping BLM Indian Bread Rocks Boondocking dry rock climbing

My kitten, Buddy, got outside to do some exploring and seemed to have a great time being a wild tiger on the prowl.  As far as I know, he didn’t catch anything but the excitement is in the chase!!