RV Windshield Sun Shade

Last week in north Texas was HOT!  Several days were near ninety degrees and the inside of the motorhome was warmer than that – this boy ain’t used to that kinda heat!  It was obvious to me that I need a windshield sun shade – more than just the curtains on the inside.

So, I started my research.  I found a couple of good options.  The Magneshade brand seems to have an excellent reputation on the RV forum that I frequent but the price is wee bit on the high side for me.  Something around $600 – just for the windshield.  The mirrors and side windows would add about $300 to that. I have no doubt that the product is worth that but I hate giving my money to others.

What to do??

Yup, I ordered a bunch of material and am going to make my own.  I kept my sewing machine and have plenty of time for projects these days so will kill some time and save some money.  Well…. maybe – we’ll see if I succeed or not.

I’ve had good success ordering from Seattle Fabrics so I gave them another shot.  I ordered 7 yards of their black Phifertex Plus material, V69 polyester thread, and some webbing (for the edges). PhiferTex is marketed as having a 95% shade factor and is woven from PVC-coated polyester – highly durable, mildew resistant, stain resistant, fade resistant and easy to clean.  Time will tell! :-)

An interesting tidbit turned up during my research.  Several tests have shown that RV interior temps are reduced when a black fabric is used versus white.  There are some competing theories to explain this but I want cool so black is what I ordered.

My Dutch Star has the turnlock fasteners already installed on the exterior but I really like the Magneshade method of using magnets to hold the shade in place.  The eliminates having to get a ladder out to install and remove the shade each time.  That is appealing!  So, I ordered a couple dozen of the super strong 3/4″ x 1/8″ Neodymium Disc magnets from Amazon.

One of the challenges of the full timing lifestyle is having things delivered.  I opted to have the above items delivered to one of the places that I know I will visit in the coming few weeks so they should be there waiting when I arrive.

Will $165 worth of material yield a windshield cover, side window covers, and rear view mirror covers of which I am not ashamed?  And save me about $700??  Stay tuned and we’ll know in a few weeks.

Lake Meredith Recreation Area

The Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is about 30 miles north of Amarillo, Texas.  It is still a bit early to head north (still too cold at night for me) so I decided to try this spot.

The lake is very low but that is true for nearly all lakes in the southwest so that is not a surprise.  The area is relatively pretty (it is north Texas, sorry Texas….).  The lake sits down in a little canyon that was cut by the Canadian River so the surrounding ridge line is pretty with lots of red soil and rocks.  I am here early in the spring so the trees and shrubs are not active yet.

Lake Meredith Texas Newmar Dutch Star fulltime RV boondocking solar

I have setup in the Harbor Bay area.  In this area, there aren’t any “RV spots” but there are acres of soil on which to park.  Be careful with the little side roads as some of them have significant drops (significant in terms of a large motorhome).  I explored a couple of the other areas. The Fitch Fortress area has a dump station but very few spots that appeared to be ok for an RV (mostly tent, in my opinion).  The Sanford-Yake area is very large and has many great spots for RV’s as well as a dump station.  Both of these two areas sit above the lake and have really great views.  However; they both leave you exposed to the wind.

Verizon cell signal is pretty weak – at least where I am at in Harbor Bay near the boat ramp.  With my Wilson Sleek amplifier, I was able to get a workable signal that fluctuated between 3G (mostly)/4G and about 2 bars.  While walking around, I have noticed spots with much better 4G signal strength. It appears to be a matter of finding a spot with better line of sight to the cell tower.

Lake Meredith Texas Newmar Dutch Star fulltime RV boondocking solar

There are several toilets and many trash bins.  I have not tried the toilets but they look clean from the outside.

Sitting down inside the canyon means that the solar panels don’t get much sun until about 8:30 am (this time of year – late March/early April).  However; once they do, they were really cookin!  By 8:30 am the 650 watts of panels are making about 200 watts which is about 15.5 amps. By 9:00 am, they are making about 450 watts.

Another benefit to being in a low spot is some protection from the wind.  From my very limited experience, the wind seems to nearly always blow in this part of the country.  I am somewhat protected from it where I am sitting so it is quite comfortable though one does feel some portion of the wind.  Having said that; the wind was really howling one night – I thought I might get blown over.

Another thing that was really nice, over the course of an entire week I experienced only one case of “poor behavior”.  In my definition this includes; cars driving around with music blaring, people drinking and make a ton of noise, four wheelers racing around out of control, dogs barking, etc…  This one event wasn’t even too bad, just a guy with a dirt bike whipping around making noise for fifteen minutes or so.  He didn’t come near and wasn’t obnoxious so it barely fits into my definition.

The Harbor Bay area offers a single mountain bike trail (that I could find).  It is a very nice single-track that snakes along what used to be the shoreline.  It is hard packed red soil and is about a 3 mile round trip.  Not the greatest but for someone coming off a broken arm – it was nice to be back in the saddle and on an actual trail!

I would certainly recommend this area to others.

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 3″ galvanized sheet metal L-brackets in the joist/construction section.  I drilled a number of additional holes in the feet of these brackets and roughened the ‘feet’ with sandpaper 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 – a total of 12 brackets per panel. 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!!!