Thursday, January 31, 2019

Day 23 - Lake Havasu, AZ

Another warm, partial cloudy day here in AZ. It’s in the low 70s (°F) but with the sun out it feels much warmer. Bridget took her kayak out again and it seems to work much better going forward. I forgot my phone so I just relaxed on the park benches. There were quite a few boats out on the lake including a couple of sailboats. Not really enough wind today but maybe there was more on the water.

Tomorrow, we head up the road a bit. Only 28 miles as the crow flies to Needles, CA. Lake Havasu is close enough so we may come back down here on day trips. One challenge with the kayak is the need to clean it thoroughly due to all of the invasive species problems. No dirt allowed on any watercraft. So the kayak is being dried on the picnic table.

Somewhat noteworthy. Today was our first two Instant Pot meal. Ribs were on sale at the local grocery store and the other is making a batch of brown rice. My son had given me the Instant Pot after the first one dropped out of the cabinet and dented. It sort of works but you can hear pressure leak occasionally. Not dangerous just something to be aware of. It made brown rice just fine.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Day 22 - Lake Havasu City, AZ

This bridge was moved from London and reassembled block by block here in Lake Havasu City back in 1971. The area right around the bridge is pretty touristy with American versions of London Pubs and more gift shops than you could count. But there is free parking and it wasn’t very crowded. High overcast so the light was pretty flat. The picture almost looks B/W.

These are quite a few pictures on display at the visitors center showing the construction of the bridge and the canal. As you can see, the area surrounding the bridge was pretty undeveloped. And you can see the actual size of the bridge.

Bridget is trying out her kayak in the no-wake area of the canal but it looks like there is a current which is making paddling a tad difficult. Plus, I put the seat facing the wrong direction which made it difficult to go straight. We discovered that when I looked for the drain and it was at the wrong end.

Another picture from the visitor center showing how the blocks were numbered when disassembled. This is just a portion of the drawing which was around eight feet long. Lots of blocks. The last picture is a fountain in front of the visitors center. Again, really flat light. The bright colors (mostly red and blue) on the buildings don’t even show up.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Day 21 - Lake Havasu City, AZ

Finally getting some tasks done on the RV. I had ordered this outdoor shower unit from Amazon back in November. It traveled down with us and has been sitting in the basement storage until I could get some putty tape. One of the local RV shops sold me a partial roll of just enough for the job. It was a simple matter of removing the old unit, cleaning off all of the old putty and putting the new one in. Reconnected the water lines and silicone seal the upper edge and along the sides. The old door was sun-baked brownish color and was repaired with duct tape. It looked pretty tacky which is the main reason for replacing it. We never used it except to test the water pump. Though having a place to clean up the dogs may prove to be useful. The shower and the water fill are the only exterior locks that still use the ubiquitous CH751 key. I figured that neither one really matters much. Maybe I'll rekey them one of these days to match all of the storage bays.

A short walk from the RV park was one of the ⅓ scale lighthouses in Lake Havasu City. This picture was more of an experiment than anything else. Dom suggested I try shooting RAW with the iPhone so the picture could be post-processed. Post processing was done using an iOS app called Darkroom. Lots of things to play with and the result is better than it looked like in real life. The sky wasn't that blue and with all of the clouds, it looked kind of flat.

Another view of Lake Havasu. This really is a pretty large lake and the popular activity seems to be boating. I remember that we drove out here from L.A. on a day trip right after the London Bridge was finished. There was very little around here except for real estate offices selling lots. I remember not being very impressed with the place. This was around the winter of 1972 or so. The reconstruction was completed in late 1971 so that sounds about right. When I was growing up, all day road trips like this were not unusual. We had also stopped at the Poston Internment Camp location which is where my dad's family was sent. It was located on a reservation and after the war, the facility was turned over to the tribe. It would be between Quartzsite and Parker along the Colorado River and I think that there is a memorial but no structures still standing like there are at Manzanar.

2018 Picture Challenge

This is a followup post to Sonja's challenge posted a few days ago. 

Post one favourite picture each from 2018 in the following categories:

1: In the city - Vancouver, BC. This was the only city picture I took the entire year.

2: On the countryside - Creamer’s Field in January

3: By the water - Oregon Coast

4. Something red (included for obvious reasons).

5. People. Martha Washington at Williamsburg, VA

6. Animals. Rock Sheep at Muncho Lake on the Alaska Highway

7. Plants. Peonies in the Goldstream Valley

8. Something unusual. Yosemite phone booth

9. Something funny. Grass Harley, Vancouver Anthropology Museum

10. Best photo of the year. Not sure. Tanana River overflow taken on Jan, 2nd on our way back to Fairbanks with Jed's Ural.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Day 20 - Lake Havasu City, AZ

Just a couple more pictures from Quartzsite. We head out today for the short (89 miles) trip to Lake Havasu City. Most of the RV parks I checked on were full except Campbell Cove RV Resort. I guess we’ll find out why they weren’t full. I’m sure that it’s going to be a typical RV park i.e. kinda crowded. In fact, they even mentioned that the length and width of the site probably precludes is parking the truck at the site. But after ten days of dry camping, we need to empty our tanks and do laundry.

There were these interesting mountains not too far away but I didn’t really feel up to exploring much. The cough was a real drain physically. It was hard to even walk very far. The e-bike did allow some exploration but I would have liked to do more. The neighbor mentioned that he headed towards those peaks but turned around when it became obvious that a one-ton dually was the wrong vehicle for exploring.

Yep. This is the RV park at Lake Havasu. Probably won’t make my top ten but we are only here for four days. There is a pool, jacuzzi and free WiFi in the clubhouse so I’m not complaining. I got our tanks emptied, the black tank flushed, and there is a laundromat.

I’m not going to complain about this. It’s 73°F. And we had dinner at In-N-Out Burger...

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Day 19 - Quartzsite, AZ

Went for a bike ride this morning before getting it packed up on the cargo rack. The Roadrunner BLM area has about a 20th the number  of the RVs when compared to last week. Most of the Quartzfest participants have left and the few that are left are taking down their antennae and packing up. Compared to a few days ago, we are all alone out here now. This picture is Sunday afternoon right after we returned from a meet-up with YouTubers David and Jenni. Their channel is called FateUnbound and they live in their trailer full time with a large dog, two cats and a rabbit. They were in the BLM area right next to I-10 which felt a lot more crowded than here at Roadrunner. Probably due to its proximity to the RV show. BTW, the RV show is now over and there was no longer a traffic jam at the intersection.

It’s almost 70°F today with a light breeze. Nice enough to sit outside and type this post. We finally were able to dump our trash. The transfer station north of town is only open Sunday through Wednesday and closes at 2:30pm. Pretty limited hours which probably explains why every single dumpster in town is filled to overflowing. Even though everyone is supposed to pack out their trash, they don’t. The LTVA’s were all really crowded. Since they have trash service and dump stations, they are a more popular option for many RVers. This is our last day in Quartzsite and we didn’t really get to explore much for several reasons. But mostly, there were just too many people everywhere. I guess one of the benefits of having neighbors in the BLM campground is that I don’t worry about leaving stuff out such as the generator. Now that there is noone else around, I felt compelled to put it into the back of the truck again.

One of the things that this last week has highlighted is that there is nothing wrong with running the generator. This evening, I’m making a roast in the Instant Pot and it has to run for over an hour total. Yes, I could run it off of. the battery bank but why stress over the battery charge level at the end of the day. Just run the generator. Especially out here where the next RV is probably a couple of hundred yards away. And when you run it in the back of the truck, the noise is pretty contained.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Day 18 - Quartzsite, AZ

Today was the last day of Quartzfest, the amateur radio conference. At the closing ceremony they had drawings for a lot of donated items including an Icom 9700 VHF/UHF radio that was just introduced here at Quartzfest by a representative from Icom. The picture is the crowd waiting for the drawing. Attendance was an all time high of 1043 and you had to be present to win. The organizers even had to modify their software a few days ago to allow more than 999 attendees. Right after the closing ceremony, there was a mass exodus from the campground.

I think that it briefly hit 70°F this afternoon and our batteries actually hit 99% for the second day in a row. They do reach full charge but not enough to push the charge controller into absorption mode let alone float. To accomplish even this, I run the generator for a couple of hours in the morning then let the solar finish them off. I did go up and clean the dust off of the panels and I’ll say that it made a half an amp improvement just to make me feel better for cleaning them. The last time they were cleaned was at Cottonwood, AZ. I thought that there may be a lot of dust out here from the passing vehicles.

Boondocking Dry Camping - We arrived here at the Roadrunner BLM 14 day camping area last week on Saturday. We arrived with a full water tank, empty grey and black tanks and one full 30 lb propane tank and one almost full tank (used for two days). According to the questionable RV gauge, we still have 2/3 fresh water and 1/2 full grey tanks. The black tank gauge always says full but it’s only been a week so I’m sure that it’s fine. We ran the partial propane tank empty on the 8th day so I am assuming that the other tank will easily last until we are at our next RV park on Monday. I still have the 10 gal of fresh water in the back of the truck in two five gallon jugs. I won’t transfer them to the trailer unless we actually run out. I’m impressed that we haven’t needed more water. Dom pointed out that this really wasn’t boondocking as there were too many other RVs around. A more accurate description is dry camping.

We have been using more propane and battery power due to the near freezing temperatures at night. To charge the batteries more efficiently, we could use more solar panels and a better converter aka battery charger. The solar system was sized so we could double the panels without changing any components. The built in converter will charge at about 15 amps initially but quickly drops down to only about 3 amps. At that rate, we would need to run the generator all day to rechage the batteries. I had tried to order a multi-stage charger such as the Progressive Dynamics converter which has a “boost” setting of up to 60 amps. This would charge the batteries to about 90% in only an hour or so of generator use. Then let the solar complete the process. But, like many other things, they wouldn’t ship this item to Alaska. I think that I may pick one up here in AZ somewhere. I thought at the RV show but no one had useful things like that. The focus seemed to be on gimmicks and junk. Or half million dollar RVs.

Would I go to Quartzsite again? Sure, just not anywhere around the time of the RV show.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Day 17 - Quartzsite, AZ

Today, there was an antenna walk-about with the emphasis on the simpler HF installations. There are actually three antennae mounted on the back of this older diesel pusher. Each antenna is for a specific band and the owner mentioned that he got a lot of interference from the engine. The large fiberglass mast is removed for travel. He mentioned that with any vertical, counterpoise or grounding is critical. With the fiberglass or wood roof construction, that is always the challenge with any vertical.

This magnetic loop antenna will handle up to 100 watts and for 40m he adds something I had not heard of before, a vacuum capacitor. Very directional, does not need a ground plane and covers a wide variety of bands with the variable capacitor. He mentions that while being used, you need to be at least 10 ft along the plane of the antenna due to the strong magnetic field produced.

This hitch mounted crank up mast fits in the back of the pickup. The mast has a capacity of 50 lbs including the rotator. The circular antennae on the roof of the camper shell are three magnetic loop antennae that are used while mobile. This setup looks really expensive.

These antennae are used for QRP or low power. The owner rarely uses more than 5 watts and morse code. He has made contacts halfway around the world while here at Quartzfest. But he doesn't travel light as the trailer is needed for all of the equipment.

This dipole in the back of the truck was used for National Parks. I guess you aren't allowed to anchor your antenna to anything except your vehicle. A much simpler system as the mast is extended manually and you need to lower the mast and change the length of the dipole when switching bands.

The hex beam shown in yesterday's post is a popular option as it works with six HF bands with only one coax connection. And it doesn't need a ground plane.

This is a screwdriver antenna mounted to a hinged mount and a linear actuator to raise and lower. It is an unusual design in that there are no externally moving items like a conventional screwdriver antenna. All of the movement is inside of the large section and the motor is in the lower tube. This vertical does need a ground plane and the roof of the pop-top camper is aluminum. He added ground straps to connect the roof to the body of the camper and eventually to the frame of the truck.

This was an interesting walk. Not sure how much new stuff there was but it was nice to see and hear what others have been doing and what kind of problems they’ve had.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Day 16 - Quartzsite, AZ

A nice end to a nice day. I ran the generator this morning for a couple of hours then the solar took the battery bank to 92% by evening. Given the shallow sun angle, that’s about as good as I can get. I haven’t looked to see how much power we are producing but it’s something like 75 amp-hours per day or about 17% of our capacity.

One of the attendees brought his Moog Synthesizer and played for about 15 minutes. He just started building it four months ago and has been teaching himself to play. He was pretty good. He said that learning to play was the last item left in his bucket list. He sailed solo around the world as the prior list item which is why the “Captain” hat.

There are a lot of unusual mobile antennas around here and I’m looking forward to the mobile HF antenna tour tomorrow afternoon. “HF” is high frequency with wavelengths of 10 to 160 meters. There was a presentation on mesh networks for ham radio. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Apparantly, fequencies that accessible to ham radio licensees are adjacent to the WiFi frequencies. With different firmware loaded on common WiFi hardware such as Ubiquity and TP-Link, you can access those frequencies and set up your own mesh network with distances of up to 50 miles. They have it set up here at Quartzfest and tying in to a ham operator in town with a high speed connection. I need to look into this more.

Late this afternoon and into the evening, the musical instruments came out. They tried hard to get some audience participation but most people, like me, preferred to just be entertained. It was a nice way to end the day.

And, there is enough bandwidth on Verizon to upload pictures.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Day 15 - Quartzsite, AZ

Still here. There was a good presentation on digital modes for amateur radio this morning. Following that was a presentation on RV solar with a walking tour. I think I could have done that presentation as there were some generalizations and “rules of thumb” stated as absolutes. I wandered off and talked to several other people about other topics.

Around noon, we drove into town to check out an e-bike store. The bikes were still too tall for Bridget.    Another Ural owner stopped by on his Rad-Mini folding fat-tire e-bike and Bridget tried it on for size. Still borderline too tall. He mentioned that Rad makes a folding step-through version that we need to look at.

No pictures as bandwidth over Verizon is still sub-dialup modem speed. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Day 14 - Quartzsite, AZ

This morning, Dom dropped us off at the RV show in Quartzsite. The “Big Tent” was a disappointment as it was full of fair-like vendors hawking the typical junk you find everywhere. There were a surprising number of booths looking for work campers. Everyone from state parks to Amazon. The food vendors were all typical, overpriced fair food. The grocery store turned out to be a bargain. The cough medicine that I’ve been taking was a fraction of the price at Safeway. But no other bargains to be found. The typical ploy was raise the price then mark it down. Solar panels are cheaper on Amazon and there was a lot of no-name items for sale. Hopefully you never need any sort of support or warranty. Overall, a disappointment.

I went to one of the afternoon sessions on HF antennae here at Quartzfest and the speaker was knowledgeable but the venue was miserable. The wind picked up to over 20 mph today so it was not fun being outdoors. It’s supposed to be better tomorrow.

We didn’t bother with the pot luck barbecue due to the wind. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Day 13 - Quartzsite, AZ

The first talk of Quartzfest was this morning. There was a vendor providing free coffee, which was nice as it is a bit breezy this morning. This first session was mostly about portable power systems and PowerPole connectors which are somewhat standardized within the amateur radio community.

Last night was a total lunar eclipse and even though there were high cirrus clouds for most of the day, it was clear enough to get some photos. Challenging as manual exposure and manual focus was required to get any photos at all.

Today, Dom came by with his rig. He worked on the Ural some. After all, watching someone else work on their motorcycle qualifies as a spectator sport. Tom, the neighbor from across the wash, came over. He is here at Quartzfest with his 2013 Ural Gear Up that he brought out in an enclosed trailer along with his radio equipment. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Day 12 - Quartzsite, AZ

This morning, we met one of the YouTube RVers that I regularly watch. Dan & Jen Nevada. They were in the LTVA camping area down the road. They have some of the more entertaining videos along with campground reviews including Thousand Trails. It was fun to meet them and they are as friendly in-person as in their videos.

We also met Matt aka Nomadic Native on YouTube but he was pretty busy upgrading from 6xCG2 flooded batteries to four Lithium Iron batteries. Probably 1/4 the weight and 50% more useable battery capacity.

BTW, Verizon throughput is pretty minimal so not many pictures. It’s been high cirrus clouds for most of the day so the battery bank didn’t recharge completely. I have the generator running now to try and get us to over 90%. It takes a while with the stock converter. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Day 11 - Quartzite, AZ

We are in Quartzite in the Roadrunner BLM area about five miles south of Quartzite. There was quite the traffic jam in Quartzite due to the RV show that started up yesterday. I knew that it was going to be crowded as there have been a number of YouTube videos showing all the crowds for RTR and the RV show setup. But I am here for Quartzfest, an AARL amateur radio convention which starts up tomorrow afternoon. This is our first real boondocking experience for multiple days. In the past, we’ve stayed without hookups for one or two days but never for more than that. We had plumbing issues that I believe have all been resolved.

We’ll see how it goes. Since we’ve been here, two cups of coffee with the Keurig and homemade chicken noodle soup in the Instant Pot. Batteries are still at 92%. I’m curious as to how much power we use on a typical night with temperatures down into the mid-40s (°F). If you go outside now, there are a lot of generators running. I’m glad that there are none around us.

Update - All of the generators were off by 8pm. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Day 10 - Benson, AZ - TT

Today was our last full day at the Valley Vista RV Resort. Tomorrow, we pack up and head west. Most of the day was clear, sunny and windy with highs of 23 mph. It was rocking the trailer pretty good for most of the afternoon. Hopefully, it'll be less tomorrow and that's what the forecast claims.

By 6 pm, the wind has pretty much died down. Enough to get some packing done outside. The chairs and front mat are packed away, the tanks are empty and flushed out, and we have 60 gallons of water between the built-in fresh water tank, hot water heater, and the water jugs. Because of the full water tank, I went ahead and aired up the trailer tires to 80 psi (cold) and since I had the compressor out, I aired up the rear tires on the truck back to 90 psi. They were both a little different but I never bothered to fix it as they were still well within their load capacity. At 90 psi, they are rated at 3890 lbs per tire or 7780 lbs for the rear axle in a single rear wheel (per side, obviously) configuration. At 80 psi, you need to subtract about 250 lbs/tire. That is still over the rear axle weight with the trailer connected but not with a full tank of water.

I ended up going to a local clinic here in Benson. The PA gave me some antibiotics and some stuff to help with a never-ending cough. I think it was starting to bother Bridget. Anyway, it turns out that the local clinic, which is attached to the hospital, doesn't accept Aetna. I wonder how much of that we are going to run into.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Day 9 - Benson, AZ - TT

This morning, we went to the Sierra Vista farmers market. It was a very nice day and the high temperature is forecast to be 69°F. This musical group was performing at the farmers market so I enjoyed their music while Bridget was looking for produce. When we were in Sierra Vista a couple of days ago, I noticed that there was quite a difference in fuel prices from Benson. So today, we filled up in Sierra Vista for fifty cents per gallon less than the Love's truck stop near Benson. I had heard that the stations along the Interstates were more expensive.

I filled up the propane tank that we have been using for the last week so we will be heading to Quartzite with two full tanks. When we were in Bend with similar overnight temperatures, one propane tank only lasted about four days. We have been on this tank for eight and it was about ⅔ used. I think the electric heater really makes a difference. I also filled up the gasoline container for the generator and I picked up two five-gallon water jugs from Tractor Supply. After filling up the plastic gasoline container, it looked like it was leaking from the cap. This was a container that I had brought from home and had just assumed that it was in good shape. So back to Tractor Supply for a plastic gas jug.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Day 8 - Benson, AZ - TT

We've been here at the Valley Vista RV Resort in Benson, AZ, for a week. Today, they had a barbecue chicken lunch with all the food provided by the campground. It wasn't bad but it was a free lunch. It has been partial overcast for most of the time that we've been here but surprisingly, the solar panels have been almost able to keep the batteries charged. By almost, I mean that it completes the bulk charge phase but doesn't complete the absorption phase. I'm thinking that with the lower sun angle, I may need a couple of hundred watts of additional solar panels in addition to the four hundred currently on the roof. I had sized the whole system to support eight hundred watts. We'll see how things go while boondocking in Quartzite next week. It's common to tilt the panels to compensate for the lower incidence angle of the sun but the loss is about 35% relative to the summer solstice. In my opinion, if you have the roof area, just add more panels and not mess with tilting. If you don’t have the roof area, tilting is your only option.

Even though it has been partial overcast, it still doesn't prevent me from taking advantage of the jacuzzi. The water temperature is around 104°F so pretty nice. Today, I was asked if I was from Canada as they seem to be the only ones who take advantage of the pool. They were from Quebec and travel around the U.S. in their Mercedes chassis class B motorhome. Another nice, relaxing day.