Monday, May 31, 2021

Day 78 - Still on the Ferry

We arrived in Ketchikan this morning. It was pretty wet outside so the town was living up to its reputation. I believe the scheduled departure time is 11am so we have several hours here. Too bad you aren’t allowed to get off and wander around a bit. That is currently prohibited due to Covid. 

I had turkey dinner in the cafe and it was pretty good. Especially since they let me sub rice for the mashed potatoes. Rice with gravy is still a comfort food. The food isn’t spectacular but it’s not bad either. I brought breakfast, lunch, and some snacks with me.

This was taken yesterday evening around 9 or so. The days are definitely getting longer. There are 120 passengers on board so still only about ¼  of their capacity. Though the car deck is full so I don’t think that is any different. Just fewer walk-on passengers. There are a couple of guys getting off here with their sea kayaks. Lots of camping gear. I heard that they were planning on spending the summer cruising around southeast.

I don’t remember the last time I was in Ketchikan but it was over 15 years. It doesn’t look much different. The are allowing people to go into the terminal but not able to leave into town. And it’s still early in the morning. Tomorrow, we arrive in Juneau at about the same time. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Day 77 - On the Ferry

Here is the “cabin”. What is shown is pretty much the whole thing. I do have a couple of electrical outlets and the electric kettle works fine. I made a cup of coffee before we got underway. I was actually able to get to the car. I don’t think they are running at full capacity yet so the car deck wasn’t packed. 

Here is the stellar view from the cabin window. I guess it’s better than nothing. There are a number of people camped out on the deck as all of the cheap rooms were sold out. I visited the cafeteria as soon as I got settled and the prices were on the high side. I’m glad I brought some food with me. I can feel the boat move but it’s a pretty smooth ride.  

The short video shows the ferry leaving Bellingham on the way to Alaska. I’m typing this on Saturday evening while I still have cell signal.

Later - I had breakfast and made coffee in the cabin before wandering around the ferry. We were just reaching the northern end of Queen Charlotte Strait and I made short 30sec video. After this, we will be in open water for a short time before ducking back between islands along the Canadian coast. The ferry would normally stop in Prince Rupert, BC, but not now due to Canadian Covid rules. The first stop will be tomorrow morning at 7am in Ketchikan, AK. 

There is a bit more pitching and rocking though not sufficient to trigger sea sickness. It’s wet and foggy outside with quite a bit of water on the deck. So I think it’ll be a quiet, inside day. 

Around noon, it had warmed up a bit out on the deck so I went for a walk around deck 7 aka the “boat deck”. This was the only one where you can do a lap without doubling back and was around an eighth of a mile per lap (285 steps). After fifteen laps I headed back in for a drink and to cool off as my laps were starting to get faster. We are between islands again and there is no rolling or pitching.

Four times per day, they escort groups down to the car deck. I think this is primarily for those with pets in their vehicles. But I plan to take some stuff back down to the car. I ended up renting their sheet/pillow/towel package as it was only $3. So the sleeping bag isn’t needed. And it’s an opportunity to drop off my dirty laundry. Of course, it is also something to do as there isn’t much to do on the ferry beyond watching the water slide by. They do show Alaska tourism videos in their theatre but given the number of families with small kids headed for the theatre, I decided to pass. Quite a few people are sitting on deck looking for wildlife. So far, those that I’ve talked to haven’t seen anything.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Day 76 - Loading Onto the Ferry

Saturday (76) - This may be the last post for a few days. I heard that Internet wasn’t really available while on the ferry. I checked in around 1pm. Kinda early but that’s just the way I am. I rather be early than feel rushed. And since I’m not at the front of the line, I’m not the only one.

The last time I was on the ferry was 1975 (I think) and I don’t think things have changed much. Proof of Covid vaccination is no longer required and it sounds like the Alaska travel declaration form is not needed either. The clerk at check-in said that these were recent changes. 

Here is the car deck. They had me pull all the way to the bow then circle around to face the stern on the port side. 

As you can see it’s a pretty tight parking space. The crew then anchors the wheels to the red discs to keep the vehicles from moving while underway. 

After leaving Bellingham, we will be in Canadian waters so no cell service is expected. The “cabin” is about 7’ by 6’ with a small porthole. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Day 74, 75 - Centralia, WA

Thursday (74) - Today was another packing day. And it rained on/off for most of the day. I cleaned out the refrigerator/freezer giving the useable stuff to our friends here. This morning, the batteries were at 72% since both furnaces were running last night. Even with the rain and overcast, we were back up to ??% by late afternoon. I’ve unplugged just about everything that I can think of and we are still drawing about 60watts. This is with the inverter running to power the HomeAssistant server and associated microprocessors, the Victron Raspberry Pi monitor, and the Ubiquity WiFi. Refrigerator and it’s fans are turned off. The propane is shut off at the tank, all other AC devices are unplugged. I really need to find a way to run the WiFi and Pi’s off of 12VDC so I don’t need to keep the inverter running. 

Friday (75)
- All packed up, I think. The roof vent is set for 84°F and two desiccant buckets are set out to absorb moisture. I think it’ll be fine. 
The refrigerator/freezer doors are open. I did leave the night light to automatically turn on/off as the power consumption is pretty small. Both LED lights are about 1watt combined. 

I drove up to Burlingame, WA, which is about 25 miles south of the Alaska State Ferry terminal. I didn’t want to deal with Seattle traffic on a holiday weekend when I needed to be somewhere by a certain time. I found a hotel using my free night with Candlewood Suites. Pretty nice place. I picked up an electric kettle from the Bed, Bath and Beyond store across the street as well as some sandals from the discount shoe store to replace the ones that broke a few weeks back.

Today was a sunny day in Centralia and the batteries were back up to 100% by mid afternoon. It’ll be interesting to watch this through the summer. This graph is from the Victron portal. I am also able to access the HomeAssistant server and the new thermostat. The only thing I am using the thermostat for is a second check on the inside temperature. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Day 71, 72, 73 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Monday (71) - The task of the day is to defrost the freezer to get ready for storage. There isn't much food left in the freezer at this point so it was a good time to defrost. Since the RV isn't very level, the ice maker has been overflowing and there is now a glacier at the bottom of the freezer. This may take a while to defrost. Fortunately, it's only 46°F outside. For now, I have the space heater in front of the open freezer door with a fan blowing into the freezer. Usually, I use the heat gun.

Here is a shot of the glacier. There is a drain behind all of that ice but when we had those cold nights, I think the drain hose froze right at the back of the freezer.

Later -  I ended up digging the heat gun out to blow hot air around the drain in the back of the freezer to allow the water to run out to the ground. Otherwise, it was running onto the floor in front of the refrigerator. Not ideal.

I'm running the heat pump right now but I think the front A/C unit is going to need replacing soon. The current draw rises the longer it runs and it eventually trips the breaker.

Tuesday (72) - Today project was cleaning the cabinets and sorting what goes and what stays. I topped up the RV batteries with distilled water. They were thirsty and I added about ½ gallon of  distilled water. The plates were still covered with liquid. 

Wednesday (73)
 - A short travel day today. Just up to Centralia for storage. To that end, I emptied and flushed the black tank several times. I also bypassed the water heater and drained the tank. I pumped some bleach water into the fresh water tank and into the water lines using a drill powered pump. 

I dropped the tire pressure on the tow dolly to 25psi since it went without the car today. Bridget had an appointment in Seaside today. Now, it’s time to start packing. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Day 67, 68, 69, 70 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Thursday (67) - I participated in two test sessions today (everyone passed!) and made some chocolate chip cookies during the afternoon session. I am trying to empty out the refrigerator and cupboards. I think this may have been the first time I’ve ever made cookies without an electric mixer. And they turned out fine.

Friday (68) - It didn't get as warm today as I hoped but there is hope for tomorrow. I just need to get up on the roof to install vent covers for the plumbing vents. 

I got a call back from Micro-Air since the "Away" function didn't seem to work on the thermostat. It appears that the Dometic A/C units that I have don't support switching between heating and cooling modes. So the thermostat isn't able to provide that function. I kind of assumed that so it wasn't that disappointed. And it was nice to hear it from them.

Saturday (69) - It's only 46°F now at 10am but I'm still hoping for some warmer weather. If I don't get the plumbing vents changed out before heading north it's not a big deal. We had some friends in the campground over for dinner last night. Russ was the one who reseated the windshield last Fall after it popped out for the third time. He and his wife, Alex, have an annual site as they primarily split their time between here and on the Seaside on the Oregon coast.

It's now 1:30pm and it's still only 55°F. I don't think we'll see 70° today like the weather guessers said. At least it isn't raining. Right now, I'm waiting for the next test session to start. 

Sunday (70) - A cool and wet day. Nothing of significance except for continued cleaning out the cupboards. Dinner was a phenomenal steak and potato salad made with leftovers from Friday. Olive Garden bottled dressing and feta really made it delicious. Bridget drove to Corvallis to take the dogs to the vet for the health certificates required for air travel. She flies back home on Thursday with the animals. We leave the TT park on Wednesday morning. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Day 64, 65, 66 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Monday (64) - One more minor project completed. One of the day-night blinds needed the strings replaced. And late afternoon yesterday seemed like a good time to do it. The temperature was nice outside and with the awning out, it was comfortable. Today, it feels cold and humid out and it looks like a bit of rain for a couple of days.

I did join the afternoon Zoom session but there wasn’t anyone testing so it turned into a DMR troubleshooting session. 

Tuesday(65) - Today's high is supposed to be only 55°F which is about the same as Fairbanks. I still have a couple of chores to do on the roof with Dicor so I hope we get at least a couple of days of warmer weather. Dicor says it should be around 70°F during use. 

This shows the output of the solar panels. Since we are in a pretty shady site I'm not surprised that there is almost no solar power.

I manually raised the back of the RV using the leveling jacks. A little more than I normally would as two of the rear tires are barely touching the ground. Since the parking brake is on the rear wheels, I usually try to avoid it. But, since the SnapPads are firmly planted, I don't think there is an issue. 

Wednesday (66) - Here is the big screen over the water heater. It is held on with a couple of springs. I may add some wire as the springs aren't very tight. 

The furnace outlets are also held in place with the same springs though the exhaust covers are much lighter I also pieced together some more material behind the air intake grill on the two furnaces. I had "extra" material since the Amazon item for the water heater and furnace screens also included refrigerator vent screens. They didn't fit our refrigerator so I went ahead and cut them to fit the furnace.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Day 61, 62, 63 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Friday (61) - With all of the trees, we won't be getting much solar but then again, we are plugged into power so it really doesn’t matter beyond me playing with something new. And the Verizon at this part of the park seems to be sufficient to do the test sessions though I just got a warning that I’ve used 90% of my allotment. But, it resets either tonight or tomorrow night. So I went ahead and did both sessions. 

It’s a very pleasant 73°F this afternoon with a very light breeze. Not enough to be concerned about leaving the awning deployed. I started working on my list of what to take back to Fairbanks in the car. All of my camping gear as I may want to take the Ural out sometime. And the DMR radio gear which includes the MS Surface as the programming software is Windows only. 

Saturday (62) - This is the newest upgrade to the RV. Micro-Air came out with a programmable thermostat that works with the older Dometic CCC systems. I was looking at them last December but they didn’t have one that worked with the older systems. Installation was all of 10 minutes as wiring was a single RJ11 on the back. It connects via Bluetooth LE or WiFi to the phone for configuration and control. The little WiFi symbol indicates that it is connected to the Internet but I haven’t looked into connectivity options though I did need to create an ID on their site. 

The programming is one of the best features as it could switch between A/C and heat based on time. With the original thermostat, you had to manually switch between modes. 

We visited with friends Dave and Ginny in Centralia today. Dave made a fabulous seafood paella. Shrimp, muscles, clams, scallops, with chicken, veggies and rice. And cooked over a wood fire. Incredibly delicious!

Sunday (63) - This is the app view of the thermostat while we were away from the RV. You have full control of both zones. I like it. It would have been nice to have it integrated into HomeAssistant but this works for me. Maybe integration will come later. 

After visiting Dave and Ginny’s church, we had lunch at Olive Garden with them and some members of their family.  

The next “task” in prepping the RV for storage is plugging some of the openings where wasps frequently make nests. These are the screens over the refrigerator vents. Paper wasp nests are a common cause of fires behind RV refrigerators as there is an propane flame. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Day 59, 60 - Corvallis, Salem to Chehalis

Wednesday (59) - The activity of the day was a visit to Schreiner’s Iris Gardens just north of Salem. My back was feeling sore so I just relaxed in the garden typing this blog post. 

Since the morning was free, I went ahead and participated in another amateur radio test. The campground WiFi seemed reasonably fast but I still ended up switching to tethering the laptop off of the iPad for the session. Verizon bandwidth was sufficient. 

Tomorrow is the last travel day for this road trip. We are heading up to the TT park near Chehalis, WA. This will be our third time at this park. Here, we will be getting the RV ready for several months of storage at a friends home nearby. A lot of cleaning and sorting. Trying to figure out what needs to be taken back to Fairbanks.  

It’s been 1 year, 8 months and 9 days to this point since the RV was driven off the lot. Or add 16 days since I left Fairbanks with the Prius. That is a better date. So 634 days.  

Thursday (60) - Another short driving day and we arrived around 12:15. It took a while to set up as the site was kind of unlevel. The back is definitely lower than the front. But, it is a full hook-up site though it is 30amps. Not really a problem since it isn’t hot and/or humid. You may notice in the picture that the car is a real mess from the drive up. A task for this afternoon. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Day 56, 57, 58 - Medford to Corvallis

Sunday (56)
 - I’ve heard about this mail order place but didn’t know that there was a store as well. It is based out of Medford and their specialty is shipping out seasonal fruit boxes. There was a lot of other stuff in the store and the old truck was pretty nice. Most of the day was spent with our friends and their family. 

Monday (57) - Today’s drive was about 200 miles up to Corvallis. We are staying at the same RV park as before. It’s part of the fairgrounds. We are here visiting family before heading north. It was an uneventful trip. Filled up in Coburg, OR, at a much more reasonable $2.94/gal. I remembered that finding TSD fuel opportunities around Portland proved to be difficult last year. 

Tuesday (58)
 - My sister and brother-in-law came out to visit and we walked to the OSU campus. This covered bridge was along the way. We just caught up on what’s going on as we hadn’t seen them since last fall when we were last here. 

There were these automated robots running around campus delivering food. Kind of cool. The campus was pretty empty with several small groups taking graduation photos. With all the flowers, it was a good day for pictures. 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Day 54, 55 - Medford, OR

Friday (54)
 - Another short driving day from Redding to Central Point, OR. The mooch-docking opportunity didn’t work out as the parking site was a bit too un-level for this RV. Fortunately, Bridget found a site, the last one available, at the Southern Oregon RV Park next to the Fairgrounds. It is really nice. The RV parks around Medford are full of FEMA trailers to house people displaced by the fires. The screenshot above shows our peak wattage at 512watts. A bit closer to the 630watt specification. 

Saturday (55)
 - Quite the temperature change from just a few days ago! I switched from the heat pump to the propane furnace in the middle of the night. From the forecast, this cold spell is short lived. Just a few days ago, it was 90°+ here in Medford.  

This is our back-in space at the RV park. The nice lawn and table are nice additions. The paved pad is around 75’ long which is enough to leave the tow dolly attached and still have plenty of room to park the Prius. This place is definitely on our list of nice parks even though it doesn’t have a pool. 

We are meeting with Dan after lunch to go mushroom hunting in the local mountains. 

Only 1 morel. But it was nice walking. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Day 53 - Redding, CA

A short driving day. From Lodi, CA, to Redding, CA. We stayed at this RV park before back in 2017 when the truck needed the clutch hydraulics replaced. This time, we arrived under our own power. I was reminded that this park had a pool though it’s a bit on the cool side, it felt wonderful after getting set up. 

We filled up with diesel again at a T/A instead of a Love’s as it had a much better discount. At $3.52/gallon (post TSD discount), it’s still on the expensive side but not as painful as yesterday. 

Tomorrow, we arrive in Medford, OR, for a few days of mooch docking. The forecast is for very moderate temperatures in Medford. That’ll be a really nice change. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Day 52 - Lodi, CA

It was a long-ish driving day today. I looked several Harvest Host offerings but after looking at the weather for today, I opted to stay at an RV park. We stayed here before and it’s a pretty good deal with Passport America. 

After setting up, this was my destination. The pool and jacuzzi are open until 8pm. The pool was on the cool side but perfect with these temperatures. 

It was about 360 miles today but we are now over halfway to our next stay. Climbing over Tehachapi Pass, I saw 216°F on the water temperature but it was already in the high 80s (°F) outside. The fill-up in Tehachapi was one of our largest at 85gallons for $327. Ouch. California is expensive…

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Day 51 - Acton, CA - TT

The power is still out in the RV park and we needed to do some laundry so the generator was turned on at noon. And, since it’s running, we may as well use the A/C plus I made a batch of rice in the Instant Pot. 

I was curious about the solar panel voltage. The specs for the panels say Vmpp is around 22VDC and Impp is 9.3amps. With three of them in series, I’m only seeing around 52VDC and 7amps. It felt like a pretty sunny day today. 

To check the third panel, I switched to the first two panels in series. Then the last two panels in series. I got the same result which means all three of the panels are fine. In Benson, the first two panels were making 350watts now 226 watts. Clearer skies in AZ maybe (less “haze”).

We ran the generator for about four hours. Tomorrow is a travel day. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Day 48, 49, 50 - Acton, CA - TT

Saturday (48) - An absolutely beautiful day here in Acton, CA. It's only 70°F right now, but then again, it's only 10am. I'm waiting for the morning test session. This place isn't as crowded as I had expected since it is a weekend and not that far from Los Angeles. The pool was very refreshing yesterday afternoon though they didn't have the hot tub open. And the second pool was still closed. 

I'm still playing around with the Victron software options. This is Victron Connect running on my laptop and connecting with the charge controller via Bluetooth. This is the software used to configure the charge controller. From inside the RV, the Bluetooth signal is low but I can still connect using the laptop. The phone needs to be much closer to get a reliable connection. One nice feature is that I can export the data as a CSV file. Since we are currently plugged into shore power, we aren't using much power from the batteries. 

We went towards L.A. to meet Bridget’s oldest at a Mediterranean take on Korean BBQ. There was a mixture of protein some with Korean marinades. And the appetizers were half Korean and half middle eastern. Quite the mix. 

Sunday (49) - Power shut off at 8:05am and there were a lot utility trucks running around. I think it may have been planned but there wasn’t any communication. Anyway, a nice test of our solar. 

The one shadow across one panel was sufficient to drop the voltage down to the mid-30s (VDC). Once the shadow moved mostly off the panel, the voltage increased to 50VDC then up to 65VDC once the shadow was completely off. This is a known drawback of series connected panels. If they were in parallel, only the shaded panel would be affected. Nevertheless, the batteries are still at 100%. 

A staff member stopped by and said that the power may be off for a couple of days  

Monday (50) - Today, we get to really test out our new solar. The batteries are pretty low now with the state of charge (SOC) of 53%. The recommended minimum for lead acid is 50%. 

To get here, I prepared dinner completely using electricity. Sous vide, induction cooktop, and microwave. Plus, the propane furnace was used for heat (we didn’t need much). You may notice that cooking really didn’t start until near sunset. I’ll update as the day progresses. 

This morning, we headed into downtown LA. I hate large cities of any kind and this was miserable for me. We told my middle son to meet us at 11am. He didn’t show up and his phone repeatedly went to voice mail. The parking for the 1hr wait was $10. Did I mention that I hate cities…

At 4pm, the batteries were back up to 80%. The power is still out and we had both fans running all day long to keep the inside of the RV at a “reasonable” temperature. So we can’t count on the three panels to get the batteries back from 50% in a single day. But, that was not the current plan. I need to find out how much power the inverter draws when only the Raspberry Pi, HomeAssistant, and the WiFi running. Currently, they run on 110VAC.