Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Windshield Work Part 2 - Quartzsite, AZ

Tuesday - By this morning, most of the new material was laid down. A couple more strips were added to the passenger side to increase the thickness. Body filler will then be applied, smoothed and sanded. 

This morning, we drove to Verrado, a town east of Buckeye, AZ, to meetup with longtime Fairbanks friends Dale and Janie. We had lunch at a fantastic Italian restaurant and shared pictures and catching up on a lot of years. 

This is early in the body filler process of fill, sand, repeat. And the wind picking up today didn’t help and the forecast for tomorrow isn’t looking very promising. But Thursday is looking promising…

Monday, February 27, 2023

Windshield Work Part 1 - Quartzsite, AZ

Monday - This morning, we moved the RV to the work area in front of his shelter where he has his tools and supplies. All of the Gorilla tape was removed as well as the lock strip from the rubber windshield seal to prepare for removal of the glass. 

This is the passenger side upper corner. You can see how much urethane was used to try and compensate for the poor fit. The windshield seal only overlapped the fiberglass by about 3/16”.
Here is the urethane that was cut off of the windshield from the corner shown above. The extra material was just to try and fill in the gap. The repair is to add fiberglass to the cap to reduce the size of the opening so the windshield actually fits. 
Here, Jeff is removing some headliner material as the underlying wood is misshaped and puts pressure on the windshield. It was only attached to the underlying structure with two screws and both were broken. Without the support, the upper part of the front cap flexes a lot and probably contributes to the problem. Especially as it flexes upwards away from the windshield. 
Almost an inch of wood is being trimmed off before the upholstery is glued and stapled back in place. Pretty sloppy construction…

After masking off the opening to keep out the fiberglass dust, the outside surface was cleaned of urethane and paint in preparation for a layer of fiberglass extending the edge. Material is just being added to the top as it doesn’t need to be structural. The weight of the windshield is being supported by the fiberglass on the bottom. The fiberglass is really thin so the additional material will really help keep it more rigid. The manufacturer is using the windshield to strengthen the front cap instead of adding reinforcement to the fiberglass. 

The first four layers of fabric with the resin and hardener. He used 4oz of resin with 40 drops of hardener. The next batch will have more hardener as it was taking more than the 12minutes listed to harden. After it hardens, it will be sanded, painted, and cut to match the glass. These steps will happen tomorrow as it’s almost 5pm right now and there is still 7’ of fiberglass to do. 

Quartzsite, AZ

Friday - We left the LTVA for the windshield repair location in the early afternoon. We stopped across the highway at the La Posa South LTVA to empty our tanks and refill our fresh water. The LTVA fee gives you access to water/dump/trash though there are no water/dump facilities within the La Posa Tyson Wash LTVA. At least not this year. 

So far, we have been dry camping for over three weeks. Each time we dumped our tanks and refilled it was due to opportunity not because we needed to. We have needed to run our generator for several hours per day and on cloudy days, even more. For example, our batteries were down to 24% this morning as they didn't get fully charged from solar due to the clouds and we have friends over for dinner so I turned off the generator before they were full. 

Tonight, we are in the parking lot of the windshield shop on the corner of Main and 95. We had dinner at a diner called Times 3. Good diner food for a reasonable price. We have 30amp power here at the shop, an almost full water tank, and empty grey and black tanks. We can sit here for a while…

Saturday - There was an event here last night with hot air balloons but the weather didn't cooperate and they canceled the tethered balloon rides. They used to launch from here but, I'm told, that the BLM didn't like the balloon crews driving across their land to retrieve the balloons. Very possessive about it being "their" land.

It is too windy to remove the windshield and rain is forecast for this evening so we wouldn’t want to be without a windshield. The forecast is for better weather tomorrow. We can’t really complain about the location. It’s flat, near restaurants and the grocery store, and we have 30amp power. Definitely a set up from dry camping on BLM land.

This afternoon, we went out to Roadrunner BLM area to visit with Richard and Hope, who were at the Grand Design rally. We played Mexican Train, a game with dominoes. 

Sunday - Still in the parking lot all day. The windshield guy said he was coming in but hasn’t showed up as of noon. Rather frustrating but it is Sunday, not a day he’s normally open. 

Just playing around with HomeAssistant graphs watching the solar charge controller top off the batteries. Such is life in an RV…

The windshield guy showed up around 3 with a pile of stuff for repairing fiberglass. Fresh resin, hardener, mixing cups and sticks. Some 2” wide material that is more structural than filler as well as a package of cut strands. He explained the process and what he would like me to help with (mixing resin w/hardener, taping plastic, etc.). Starting tomorrow morning at 8:30…

While poking around on the Magnum remote, which is where you set battery type and charger parameters, I noticed that it did have a setting for battery type of LFP or LiFePO4. I didn’t think it had support for lithium batteries so I didn’t even look. I switched battery type from CC/CV to LFP and it seemed to work fine. Voltage climbed to 14.4V on the Magnum display which corresponded to 14.1V on the Victron. The Magnum reads higher during charging due to voltage drops in the cabling and connectors. It then dropped to “float”. We’ll see how long it stays in that mode.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Tyson Wash LTVA - BLM

Wednesday - As predicted, it was really windy last night. I ended up pulling all of the slides in as the slide toppers were making a lot of noise (flapping). By mid-morning, it was sort of back to normal winds of up to 25mph. I turned off the generator at around 9:40am with SOC of 88% and the solar is charging at a modest rate. It should be good for the last 12%.

Later - There is a lot of dust in the air plus scattered clouds so I think I'm going to be running the generator this evening. At 2:15, the SOC is only at 95% and this is well past the solar peak. Which, by the way, got up to 560 watts with just a shade over 40amps from the charge controller. 

Some bad news. The windshield guy just called and the high winds has been causing him to fall behind so he isn't sure if there is going to be time to get it completely fixed.

Thursday - Another cool-ish day. Windy and partially overcast so not a whole lot of solar. I have frozen rolls thawing out so I'll need to run the convection microwave this afternoon which means I'll have the generator running later. I will also take advantage of the generator running to charge up the chassis batteries as we will be heading to the windshield shop tomorrow afternoon.

Around 3:30, I started up the generator as the microwave and Instant Pot brought our batteries down to about 70%. Plus, we are running the heat pump to warm up the front half of the RV a little more. In a bit, I will start preheating the convection oven and will be turning off the heat pump at that point. The generator is 7500watts but it’s split into two 30 amp legs. The electric loads are unevenly divided with most things on one leg.

We got a bit of rain this afternoon which did result in a nice rainbow. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Tyson Wash LTVA - BLM

Sunday - It only went down to 43°F last night. It really did feel warmer. The batteries were at 38% at 7:30 when we started the generator. I adjusted the Magnum inverter/charger for just under 90amp output with about 75amps going into the batteries. As the sun rose higher and solar charging kicked in. I lowered the Magnum output to keep the current into the batteries <80 amps as recommended by SOK. Max is 50 amps charging per battery but 40 amps is the recommended charge rate. 

I dusted off the solar panels as they were pretty dirty. They hadn’t been cleaned in several months so maybe I'll pick up a few watts.

Monday - It's really nice weather again today. About 72°F, sunny, with no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. I did participate in a test session this afternoon from outside. No awning or mat due to the frequent winds around here. It is so quiet out here. Wonderful!

 - The no-wind weather may be ending today. The forecast is for wind with major gusts so anything outside will be put away this afternoon. 

Another test session this morning. It went pretty quick as the candidate was well prepared. A candidate showed up at the last minute for the afternoon session so I jumped on into Zoom. 

The sun is getting higher as we move towards Spring. A couple of months ago, we were barely peaking at 300 watts. Over 400 watts is a little bit better but we have seen over 500 watts last week. We still end up running our generator for several hours every morning to get the battery SOC to about 88%. The solar will then top them off by about 2:30 or so. To avoid running the generator, we will need to double the solar as the first 15-20 amps are just keeping things running. Actual charging of the batteries is currently around 15 amps from our current peak of 30 amps. We’ll see how much it improves in a month or two. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

More Windshield Problems

Saturday - Now, where have we seen this before? Windshield problems again. Actually, the same problem though the cause was different. Before, it had been from leveling problems. This time, it happened while driving from Yuma to Quartzsite in very windy conditions. The windshield guy says that the pressure from sidewinds will cause the windshield to move. 

He has a solution and it is the one that everyone has recommended from Tucson, Phoenix, and Washington. And that is adding fiberglass to the upper edge of the windshield opening to reduce the size of the opening. The gasket will then be able to be fully seated in the opening and the glass. Right now, it’s barely seated in either one. 

We are to return next Friday morning and he is blocking off most of the day for our repair. This is the right way to do it and should eliminate the problem. On the way back to the LTVA, I needed to stop and add gorilla tape to the windshield to hold it in place. I stopped at La Posa South to dump and refill the water tank. We should be good for the week. I returned to the same site near Jim and Debbie. Garrett, Carolyn, and their family headed of towards Phoenix to meet up with Kristin and John of No Ordinary Path. We had last met them when they were in Fairbanks a couple of years ago.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Tyson Wash LTVA - BLM

Thursday - Last night it dipped down to just below freezing. But, since our large slide is going to be left in until we get to Tucson, it was warm enough. The problem with the slide is that it was designed to slide on the carpet when being brought in/out and without the thickness of the carpet, it was sliding on a metal guide which was wearing through the thin fiberglass mesh on the ends of the slide. I have some plastic protectors meant to protect the floor from the rollers that some slide mechanisms have, but our slides don't have rollers. They make slide-out skis, which I plan to order once we are stationary in Tucson. So between the slide issue and the windshield, more RV issues to deal with.

Just a quick picture showing how much the windshield had moved. The windshield glass is being used to stabilize the front cap structure. Without it, just floppy thin fiberglass. I’m told that most class-A motor homes have this problem and it is aggravated by the curved glass on the sides of the windshield.

This morning we ran the heat pump while the batteries were charging up as the heat pump does a better job heating the front half of the RV. It took several hours to charge from 30% SOC to about 89% SOC. We were down around 290AH. If we were still running on the flooded golf cart batteries, we would have run out of power around 3am. The SOK batteries enable us to camp out here. During this time, the front of the RV readily warmed up from 59°F to 68°F.  

N.B. I do not make any claim about “living cheaper” as some do when referring to boondocking but it is so quiet and peaceful out here. And almost preferred. You do need to be conscious about how much water and electricity you are using as well as how much is going down the drains. After tonight, it looks like it’ll be a bit warmer. Hopefully, there won’t be any significant wind. 

BTW, we got 2.7Kwh from the solar today which was just enough to get our batteries to 100%. I do have to manually “tweak” the settings on the Magnum to ensure we don’t charge with more than 100amps total. Magnum plus solar. E.g. Around 9, I reduced the Magnum output current from 90amps as solar was starting to exceed 10amps. Remember, that ~5-20 amps of that total are powering the 12V loads in the RV.

Friday - It's kind of overcast today so there probably won't be much sun. Around 8am, I turned on the generator to charge the batteries (35% SOC) and to run the heat pump. We turn the front thermostat down to 62°F to reduce the propane consumption by the front furnace. The screen capture is from the Victron app showing current (blue) and voltage (red) as the battery is charging from the Magnum inverter/charger. You'll notice near the end, the voltage curve is starting to get steeper i.e. the voltage is starting to climb more rapidly. This is a sure sign that the batteries are nearly charged. From this point on, the charging from the solar panels will continue albeit at a much lower current. 

I volunteered to lead a session this morning as using my phone as a hotspot seems to work pretty well. Last night, I even tried joining another ham testing group and participated in two tests. No problem beyond some significant lag when the applicant was screen sharing. This group does things a little differently with multiple recordings, screen sharing, and no chat back channel for the VEs. I'm not sure I like it as much but it's nice to see how other groups work.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Tyson Wash LTVA - BLM

Wednesday - This morning, we moved north to Quartzsite again. This time, we are in the Tyson Wash LTVA area. Pretty empty. We are still camping with Diary of a Family and are now next to Life is a Joy. Both have or had YouTube channels. 

This is our view to the southwest. Much less crowded here than Imperial Dam but the low temperature is forecast to be near freezing. I filled up with diesel in Quartzsite as the fuel gauge said under ¼ tank but only it only took 61 gallons. Plus the tach was reading about 600rpm low for most of the trip. After filling up and restarting the engine, the tach read fine and the fuel gauge read full. Instrument problem?

Speaking of problems, the windshield is starting to pop out again along the top. Now, I need to find an RV windshield company. It should be easier here in Quartzsite. 

Imperial Dam LTVA - BLM

Sunday - I started the generator around 7:30am as our batteries were down to SOC of 17%. This is the lowest we’ve ever run them. It’s going to take hours to recharge them even though they are getting 84amps between the Magnum inverter/charger and solar. 

Not feeling very well today. I seemed to have picked up a sore throat so I didn’t sleep very well last night. 

Monday - Still not feeling very well. It’s hard to sleep with an intermittent cough. It rained last night which was unexpected as it wasn’t in the forecast. 

Tuesday - High winds are forecasted for this afternoon so most of the outside stuff was packed away last night. So far, it's pretty breezy but it's only 1pm. The wind advisory was or 2pm to 11pm. Since it as kind of scattered clouds today, I ran the generator for several hours to get the SOC from 45% to 94%. Solar actually did manage to top the batteries up and go into "float" for a short period. I have the solar controller set to absoprtion time of 30minutes to allow the batteries to top balance and it seems to do a good job. On both of the SOK batteries, the individual cells are within 0.001V. I can't ask for better than that. To do that, the BMS is actually shutting down charging while distributing current between the individual cells. Then turning charging back on for a little bit then repeats. At first, I couldn't figure out why the BMS kept disconnecting the battery. 

I participated in the afternoon test session though AT&T has been a bit flaky. I was told that my audio was dropping occasionally. This usually means that I just need to disable my video to preserve upload bandwidth. According to SpeedTest, I had plenty of download but upload was a bit constrained. (9mbps down, 1.2mbps up) 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Imperial Dam LTVA - BLM

Thursday - We were initially planning to move today but postponed until tomorrow. Our friends had things to get done and others are in an Encore park until tomorrow. I have no problem with changing plans.

Friday - We are moved to another LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) just a short distance north of Yuma. This is a new boondocking location for us and since we paid for two weeks at the last LTVA, we are still good and don't need to re-register. There are dump stations, trash, and freshwater as part of the LTVA fee. Our tanks were far from full but the plan is to stay here for almost a week so we may as well start our empty and with a full fresh water tank. 

We are at the Imperial Dam LTVA and is managed by the BLM. It is a very pleasant 73°F right now (mid-afternoon) and the forecasted lows are in the mid-40s. We are camping with the same friends from Quartzsite and this place seems to be more crowded. Or at least that’s what it feels like. AT&T didn’t work near the entrance but we are quite a ways in and service has improved. 

Saturday - I signed up to lead a testing session this morning and it's nice to sit outside again for the test. I'm using my phone via USB for the Internet as it seems to work much better than WiFi to the hotspot… sometimes. I was told that the audio was kind of choppy during the test so the tower may have gotten crowded by the middle of the day. 

The batteries were down to 32% by morning. I turned on the generator and had the charge rate cranked up to 90amps and after several hours, the inverter/charger cut off due to high internal temperatures (145°F). By this time, the batteries were up to 75%. The inverter/charger bay as well as my insulated battery box need some powered, temperature control. Sounds like another project. Tomorrow morning, I’ll just open the inverter/charger bay door. The batteries had heated up to 106°F. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Los Algodones, B.C.

Wednesday - This morning, we drove to the large parking lot on the U.S. side of the border and walked across to Los Algodones. Several in our small group had dental appointments followed by lunch and some shopping. It seemed to be much less crowded and quieter than when we crossed in TX. There were still a lot of Pharmacies and Dentists on every street with restaurants mixed in. I had a shrimp chimichanga for lunch and it was very tasty. And, a much more moderate size than the American version. 

I picked up a few things from the shops and street vendors though I wasn’t really in the mood to dicker on the price so I probably overpaid. We got in line to return to the U.S. around 1:30PST and it took around 3hours to get through the border crossing. Fortunately, the line was shaded. That was a whole lot longer than we thought it would take. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Yuma, AZ

Sunday - We had a short travel day south to Yuma, AZ. We are mooch-docking at Carolyn and Garrett’s friends home outside of Yuma. They have enough room for two RVs in addition to their 5th wheel. They ran us a 15amp extension cord which is enough to keep things charged up without running the generator. 

It is a very pleasant 73°F right now with a very light breeze. The high is forecast to be 77°F! Quite the improvement from Benson. I went to the grocery store to stock on food as in few days, we will be headed out to another BLM area. 

Monday - Excitement (for me) last night around 1am. The RV was completely dark. I went out and checked the batteries and the BMS indicated that it had disconnected the batteries due to a "Short Circuit". I restarted the batteries using the small Antigravity jumper pack that I used to carry on the Ural, and the BMS went out of protect mode. I turned on the main shutoff switch and shut off charging on the inverter control panel. After the HomeAssistant server re-started, I looked at the data and things shut off when the batteries were just fully charged off of the inverter/charger. I had changed some of the charge parameters when we were boondocking to enable the batteries to charge to 100% from the generator though I never ended up using it to charge to 100%. We are plugged-in to shore power now and the inverter-charger used those new parameters. 

I reset the settings back to the way they used to be. 14.3V constant-current, 80amps max, 12 minutes absorption time, 13.8V constant-voltage, 12.9V restart bulk charging. I'll try charging again today after solar is done.

Almost made it back to 100% SOC! They went from 77% to 97% in one day. Today’s total was 2.6KW-hours and that is the most we’ve been able to get from the solar (so far). The max sun elevation was only 41° today. The elevation will be ~80° on the summer solstice. 

 - Based on this graph of battery voltage and current, I adjusted the output of the inverter/charger to not charge the battery to 100%. The sharp spikes are from the BMS shutting down the battery since it is fully charged.

Absorption voltage=14.1V, absorption time=6min, charged voltage=13.8V, re-bulk voltage=13.0V. We’ll see if this works better.

Today’s adventure was the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park right along the Colorado River. It has a nice museum and was very advanced for its time. Pictured is a guard tower and it is sitting on a large cistern that supplied the drinking water. The prison had electricity before the town and supplied power to Yuma after 9pm. The prison hadn’t been used as a prison for over 100 years but it did serve as the high school. Their athletic teams were called the Criminals.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Quartzsite, AZ

Thursday - When we were within an hour of Quartzsite, I noticed that the outside temperature was over 70°F! When we left Benson, it was barely 40°F. We filled up our propane tank as it was down to 8% and below “E” on the tank gauge. We arrived at La Posa South LTVA around 3:30 and Garrett met us at the gate and led us in to our friends campsite. 

It was a nice sunset and we had a nice campfire. The DC-DC converter tripped the input circuit breaker sometime during the day but we arrived with our batteries at 100% from the solar. Tomorrow, I’ll enable the 50% feature on the Renogy charger and see if it still trips. 

 - Not very sunny this morning but it’s a whole lot warmer than Benson. And, at least for now, no wind. We are with Diary of a Family and Richard & Hope. They’ve been here for almost two weeks and will relocate to Yuma on the beginning of next week.

This morning, the SOC of the batteries was 42%. We use a lot of power. That did include running the microwave last night. I started the generator at 9am and ran it until 11:30am which brought the SOC up to 87%. There wasn’t much solar today due to the clouds. I'll probably run the generator again this evening to top off the batteries since I'm going to be making something in the Instant Pot that cooks for almost an hour.

The last task was running the additional wire to the Renogy DC-DC charger to drop the current to 20amps from 40amps. 

Saturday - The SOC was at 42% this morning. I started the generator around 8:30 and, since it was running, I ran the heat pump to warm up the front of the RV back to 70°F from the overnight temperature of 62°F. 

We went to visit Jim and Debbie from Life is a Joy in their converted bus. I have been following their channel for a while. Afterwards, we drove a couple of miles south and visited with Brian from AdventureVanMan and Kelly from Wild Wanderland both have YouTube channels. 

Bridget had some sort of complicated game for the afternoon. The picture on the right was taken last night as the campfire was dying down. I just wanted to try out the night capability of the iPhone 13 camera. It seemed to come out all right. The photo says 1/6sec @f1.6 and ISO 8000. 

This is the game. Some sort of single-use “escape room” game. Too complicated for me since more time is spent reading the instructions.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Benson, AZ - TT

Saturday - We headed south and east to the Dragoon Mountains to visit with Dom, Chris, and Lori again. This is a different location than earlier in the week. A very scenic location. We visited until around 5pm and made it back before sunset. 

Sunday - The forecast is for one of the warmest afternoons in quite a while. Mid-60s (°F) supposedly. Bridget headed out to take some bird pictures at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. I opted to defrost the freezer. This is the first time since the 12V compressor conversion and it went much quicker. There was no thick layer of ice on the bottom just a lot of frost and ice around the ice maker area. Most of the freezer contents fit in the chest refrigerator/freezer. 

It took about four hours to get back down to freezer-like temperatures. I loaded about half the stuff back in and I’ll just add the rest tomorrow. 

Monday - This morning, we drove into Tucson for a Dr appointment followed by lunch with Fairbanks friends who are full-time RVers. Lunch was at Ruby’s Texas Barbecue. Very delicious. 

Tuesday - Today was spent running around Tucson. The picture is from our last stop at Saguaro East Visitors Center where Bridget picked up her senior National Park Pass.