Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Day 30, 31 - Tucson and Benson, AZ

Tuesday (30)
 - Today is our last full day here at the KOA in Tucson. It was fine though I’ll welcome the slightly cooler temperatures in Benson. We still have almost two weeks until our next vaccine appointment but I think there are a few activities planned for our time in Benson. It has been great to visit with Garrett and Carolyn from Diary of a Family who are only a couple of spaces down. We also met Kristen and her kids from No Ordinary Life, another YouTube RV channel. Multiple pools and hot tubs are nice if they aren’t crowded. Even on this 86°F afternoon, there is only one person in the pool. Several sitting around the pool but not in the water.

No test candidates for the afternoon session. Tomorrow is a short travel day. 

Wednesday (31)
 - We are back in Benson at the same Encore park. We’ve been here often enough such that it almost feels like we are returning home. This time, we are in a back-in site with a nice view out of the windshield since we are at a slightly higher elevation. After setting up, my first stop was the pool to cool off a bit. It is 10°F cooler here than it was in Tucson. Very nice. 


Monday, April 12, 2021

Day 28, 29 - Tucson, AZ and Biosphere 2

Sunday (28) - Another hot day at 90°F by mid-afternoon. The two A/C units did a passable job. There is still a lot of heat that gets into the RV as the insulation isn't that great. And without a lot of wind, I could have the awning out to shade the refrigerator. It's been doing good with freezer temperatures around 3°F if I don't have the ice maker running. The additional load of making ice will raise the temperature by about 10°F.

Monday (29) - Today, we visited the Biosphere 2 site being operated by the University of Arizona. It is located about twenty miles north of Tucson. The purpose of the experiment was to replicate the biological processes on earth and see if humans can survive. They grew all their own food and had no physical supplies except what they brought in with them when the experiment started.

This is the residential complex and the dome on top is the library. Apparently, it wasn't used much due to the long spiral staircase but from the pictures, the 360° view was pretty good. The glass pyramid structures are the different areas such as desert, rainforest, ocean, etc. They are full of vegetation all nicely labeled with the species and what part of the planet they were from. 

This is inside the desert area. It was a very pleasant temperature and humidity. It is connected to the ocean area which is higher in the structure. With all of the glass, temperature control was one of the biggest tasks. If the power for chillers went down for even 30 minutes, the temperature would rise enough inside to seriously damage everything. So they say.

Here is the ocean. During the experiment, it was operated as a coral reef. The first use of the facility as a closed-system experiment was in 1991. The eight people were to live and work here for two years. The experiment was terminated early when they discovered that oxygen levels were dropping and, at the time, they couldn't determine the cause. The second run was only six months but they resolve the O2 problem and they achieved complete self-sufficiency for food production. 

This is in the rainforest region. Very hot and humid. There is an artificial mountain in the middle complete with a waterfall. Their food grown included coffee beans but the harvest and effort roasting the beans meant that everyone could have one cup of coffee every three weeks. Their diet was primarily plant-based even though they did raise some animals such as pigs and chickens. Their role was to process the vegetation that the people couldn't consume.

I remember hearing of this project and got the impression that it was only a partial success. The other side of this experiment was the human side. Could a small group of people survive in a confined area while raising all their food, recycling all water, and not hate everyone. These types of studies will be essential if people ever hope to be a multi-planetary species.

Not seen in my pictures are two domes listed as "lungs". These adjust the air pressure inside of the dome to match the ambient air pressure. Otherwise, the glass walls would blow out. Since the system is closed, the air needed to be collected and re-injected since no "new" air was permitted. At least initially. Additional oxygen was added when they couldn't figure out why the levels were dropping. It turned out to be a micro-organism population consuming the oxygen. 

I would recommend visiting the Biosphere 2 facility if you find yourself in Oracle, AZ. This is one of those places that I've wanted to visit for a number of years. I wasn't disappointed.
  



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Day 25, 26, 27 - Tucson, AZ

Thursday (25) - For the next week, we are at a KOA park in Tucson, AZ. It is a family-oriented park with a couple of pools. Kind of on the expensive side and definitely one of the most resort-y parks we've been in. There are even covered sites. The overhead roof is covered with solar panels which, supposedly, provide most of the power used in the park.

Right now, I'm sitting outside waiting for a morning test session to begin. It a very pleasant 72°F. Not a bad way to spend the morning. By mid-afternoon, it was 88°F so too hot to sit outside for the afternoon test session.

Friday (26) - It was a very warm 88°F this afternoon. This weekend is forecast to be even warmer. We did get some errands run but have a few more things to do. 

A new project showed up on my radar. Victron supports an open-source project for their Venus operating system, You can purchase their color controller to manage and monitor their products or you can run it on a Raspberry Pi. The Pi 3 B+ is recommended as it has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. If the Victron products have Bluetooth, you can connect right in. If not, you can use their VE.Direct USB cable. Both the charge controller and the battery monitor support Bluetooth so this may be a great way to monitor the solar output. Since the "spare" Raspberry Pi I have with me is a Pi 2, I went ahead and ordered another Pi 3 B+ and the 7" touch screen display from Amazon. It should arrive at the RV park sometime next week. For comparison, the Victron color controller is over $1000 while the Raspberry Pi with the display is a bit over $100. If it works, it’s a bargain. Plus there are commands to display data without using the GUI. 

Saturday (27)
 -  It's a very pleasant 79°F this morning while I'm waiting for the morning test session to begin. I am planning to try using the campground WiFi as it seemed to be working pretty well. I've been watching YouTube this morning and some Amazon Prime last night. All in HD.

I went ahead and started the A/C in the RV since I am baking pie crust. There are tons of citrus fruit trees around the RV park and on Wednesday, some of the kids visiting our friends picked a lot of grapefruit. I found a recipe for a grapefruit curd pie. It sounds like it may be worth trying out.

Later
 -  The WiFi seemed to work okay. Some audio artifacts but overall, it worked. That's good as I had run out of Verizon hot spot data last week and it won't renew for 5 more days.

This is one of two pools here at the park. I figured that it may be crowded as it’s already 86°F. No humidity to speak of. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Day 22, 23, 24 - Benson, AZ - TT

Monday (22) - This morning, we headed back into Tucson for a birthday party. Bridget ordered a cake from Safeway and, I believe, she is picking up some pizza somewhere in Tucson. 

Tuesday (23) - A test session this morning and another this afternoon. I began to pack up stuff in preparation for leaving here tomorrow. I figured that this afternoon was going to be a bit too hot to sit outside so the table, chairs, and outdoor “rug” are now packed. 

The 5amp AC fuse on the refrigerator control board blew for the third time in 19 months. It just switches to propane when it blows so not a serious problem. I think it has something to do with direct sun on the outside wall and not enough airflow to keep the temperature down. Just a hunch…

Wednesday (24) - A short travel day today. Only 44 miles to the KOA in Tucson, AZ. We needed to be “out” of the Encore system for seven days. We will be returning here in Benson next week. There are other parks in Mesa and Casa Grande but we like this place. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Day 21 - Happy Easter!

Today, we watched a video prepared by our church in Fairbanks. They have been doing live streams for the past year but today’s service was outdoors. And if you follow the Fairbanks weather, you know that they were/are buried under a lot of snow. 16” to 20” and still coming down. This is pretty unusual for this time of year.

We had Easter dinner with several new friends. Rich and Hope whom we met last Thanksgiving. Sam and Diane who I just met yesterday when Rich and I went to work on their handicap ramp. And another couple who are work camping about 20 miles east of here who are friends of Rich and Hope. I made sous vide lamb, ham in the Instant Pot with a pineapple-honey sauce, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and brownies. 

It was a fabulous way to spend Easter. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Day 18, 19, 20 - More Solar - Bisbee - Benson, AZ - TT

Thursday (18) - 84°F today!

With the charge controller in the passenger-side rearmost compartment, I need to re-think the placement of the solar panels. Instead of placing them towards the front of the RV, I will locate them all on the driver-side between the two A/C units. Hopefully, this will avoid shading from the A/C units. This will result in 55 ft of 10AWG wire between the panels and the charge controller. This includes both the positive and negative cables. From the chart and ohms law, we get a voltage drop of 0.515 volts or 0.76% loss with the panels wired in series. If I connect the panels in parallel, the resistance would be 3x higher but the loss would be almost 12% due to the lower voltage. This would require much heavier gauge wire from the roof to the charge controller. This is why I’m wiring the panels in series. 

After the morning test session, I put 4” wide Eternabond tape over the Dicor on both of the vent installations. Next week, I’ll put more Dicor on the edges of the tape. 

This picture also shows where I’m planning to install the solar panels. Since I try to have the driver's side of the RV facing south, putting the panels on this side minimizes the possibility of shadows on the panels. A shadow on even one panel could pretty much shut down all the panels in that series connection. But, that’s the trade-off between serial and parallel connection for your panels. The benefit is a higher voltage and lower current. I.e. cheaper wiring and you aren't so constrained by the distance between the panels and the charge controller.

Friday (19)
 - Today, we spent the day at Bisbee, AZ, an artsy town southeast of here. We went down with Rich and Hope who are staying at the Escapee park about a quarter of a mile down the road. We had met them last Thanksgiving near Lake Whitney, Texas. He is a fellow ham radio operator and they are full-time RV travelers. 

Lots of shops such as this honey store. It was not much wider than their front door. We had a tasty lunch at the Bisbee Coffee Company right on the main street. 

Saturday (20) - This morning, I went with Rich to another RV park in Benson and helped finish a handicap ramp up to a 5th wheel RV. Another couple, Garrett and Carolyn had started and finished much of the framing and most of the decking. We finished the decking, finished the handrail, and primed the raw wood on the handrail. 

Afterwards, Bridget and I headed into Tucson to color Easter eggs with Garrett and Carolyn’s three kids while they were doing their livestream. Their YouTube channel is Diary of a Family