Monday, January 29, 2018

The 2018 Quartzsite RV Show

I waited until this year's RV show was more than half done before attending with the purpose of avoiding possibly flu infected crowds, the show opened on Saturday and I went on Wednesday.

Guess which insurance company is a big sponsor?

First on my agenda was getting something for breakfast, a breakfast burrito jumped out at me:

About a pound's worth of burrito.

After eating 75% of my burrito (it was too big) I made a quick swing through the Big Tent where crowds are usually shoulder to shoulder in the aisles, this year, at least when I went, not so much.

Plenty of room in the Big Tent.

There are hundreds of different style RV's to walk through at the show, many are gigantic compared to the Mini (and cost many 10's of thousands more).

Big Fifth Wheels available for walk through at the show.

My favorite part of the show is outside the Big Tent north across Kuehn Street from the tent and all the model RV's.  That's where the stalls with every possible RV part or gadget is for sale.

If you can't find it in the stalls, they don't make it!

The good news (for me) is that it's been five days since I attended the show and so far I feel fine!  Knock on wood, maybe I dodged the virus?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Week in the Desert

Today starts the second of my planned two week boondock on the BLM's Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) south of Quartzsite.  The RV show started last Saturday and runs to this coming Saturday.  There's already been a noticeable reduction in RV density since just before the show.

Packed RV's on the LTVA south of Quartzsite.

The typical camper here buys a two week stay from the BLM ranger office for $40 and it appears many of them come in a week to 10 days prior to the show and then leave just after the first couple days of the show when their two weeks is up.  If you ever decide to camp in the LTVA during the show make sure you stay on the west side of Old Yuma Road which cuts the BLM land north to south.  Old Yuma Road is a dirt road that runs up to the show area and thus is extremely heavily traveled during the show's nine days.  Dusty is not an adequate describer of Old Yuma Road but since the prevailing winds are out of the west or northwest, if you are camped one the west side of the road you avoid most, but not quite all the dust thrown up by atv's.

Dust on the truck even though I'm on the clean side of the road.

After a week out here I'm pretty satisfied with the Mini's solar setup and how it's working and powering my laptop, Dish receiver, all my electronics and the Mini's lights and water pump.  I adjust the two sets of solar panels maybe two or three times a day to keep them angled to the sun but that's not really a big deal.

An optimist's sign along Old Yuma Road.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Quartzsite Camp

I made it out to Quartzsite, actually the Long Term Visitors Area (LTVA) a couple miles south of the town.  I rolled in on the Wednesday before the RV Show and found a middling campsite, not as good as some I've had but with people still streaming in today (Friday) I bet a lot of folks are staring at my site enviously.

The Mini's campsite in the LTVA, note another RV is visible in the background.

When the first wave of campers come into the LTVA, probably in late December, everyone tries to not infringe on existing campers' sites by keeping generously spaced out.  As the RV show approaches and masses of more campers come in the RV's are packed closer and closer together.  I might come in a week earlier next year if I do come, to get a more secluded site.

The new Renogy 100 watt solar panel with "custom" stand.

The new solar panel I bought for the solar generator is performing very well.  I stopped at a Tucson Home Depot and bought some 3/4 inch PVC pipe and a couple 45 degree angles and crafted a simple stand for it.

Closeup of the stand secured to the panel with cable ties.

I use the 200 watt solar suitcase to keep the Mini's 12 volt deep cycle battery topped off.  I charge all my electronics and run my laptop off that system during the day and let the solar generator run the TV and Dish set top box at night.

I've tried the awning deflappers I got from Amazon and they do reduce the awning's flapping, but I haven't tried the awning stabilizer system yet because it hasn't been at all windy...yet.  The awning rug is performing really well, allowing sand I track on it to fall through it's mesh and staying relatively clean on the surface.  I only sweep the Mini about once a day so that's a huge improvement over the last time I was here -- the rug must be helping.

The new awning rug -- Spartan green, of course!

I'm debating actually going to the RV show.  I read an article that said Doctors have found that the flu virus can be transmitted by normal breathing, in addition to coughing and sneezing.  Arizona is really getting hit hard by the flu and with 100,000 people packed into the Big Tent at the show I think the odds of getting the bug go way up.  If I do go it'll probably be on one of the show's last days when hopefully things have thinned out.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rethinking Solar

Readers of the blog will recall that I decided against a permanent solar panel install on the roof of the Mini like I had on the Tank due mostly to me not wanting to drill into the roof of the Mini fearful of future water damage, the bane of all RV owners.  Instead, I went with a 2 panel 200 watt "Solar Suitcase" from Renogy, a California-based solar company which tends to give a better solar "yield" than panels that lie flat because the suitcase can be aimed at the sun at the most beneficial angle.

The 200 watt Renogy Solar Suitcase in action.

Rather than use lead-acid batteries like I did in the Tank I went with lithium-ion batteries that have the advantage of being much lighter albeit at a significantly higher cost.

The Mini's lithium-ion solar generator.  345 watt hours of goodness.

Initially, the system worked great.  The Solar Suitcase would quickly charge the solar generator and keep it charged all day during heavy usage.  In fact the Solar Suitcase was TOO efficient as after the 100% charged meter showed up the generator's internal fan would kick in, indicating the lithium-ion battery was getting too warm from charging.  (Ask Samsung Corp. if lithium-ion batteries can overheat and catch fire.)  Re-reading the generator's manual I discovered that the manufacturer said not to charge the generator with more than 100 watts of solar...oooops!  As a partial fix during really sunny days I'd cover one of the Solar Suitcase's two 100 watt panels, effectively reducing it's output to the desired 100 watts.

Covering a panel to reduce the solar charge to the generator.

I decided to use the suitcase to charge the Mini's 12 volt lead-acid battery and purchased a new Renogy 100 watt panel that I'll use to charge the generator.  I'll still have the suitcase available to charge the generator on cloudy days when efficiency is reduced due to lack of sun if needed.

The stand-alone 100 watt Renogy panel for the generator.

This week is the big move to a two week boondock in the desert outside Quartzsite so I'll get a great chance to break-in the new solar setup and I'll be sure to update how it's working.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Prepping for the Desert

My time here at the Escapee's Benson, AZ facility is slowly drawing to a close.  Plans now are to take the Mini further west to Quartzsite for the Big Tent RV show and two weeks of boondocking on the BLM land south of the town.  I've got a couple of years experience with desert boondocking and I've come to a couple conclusions about what it will be like staying there in the Mini.  First, it can get really windy in western Arizona in January and winds can come up in a hurry.  When I camped there in the Tank it wasn't the biggest deal because the Tank didn't have an awning.  The Mini has a large awning and it really helps shading the sunny side of the trailer from the sun but a strong wind could easily make it act like a sail and flip up, possibly damaging the awning and also the roof of the Mini.

The Mini's awning shading the sun from the wall,

Camco, an RV after-market parts vendor, sells a couple of awning tools that can help secure an awning in at least moderate winds.  I ordered both their Awning Stabilizer Kit (tie downs that attach to stakes that screw into the ground) and their Awning De-flapper Kit (attaches to the awning material in the middle where winds coming from either end of the Mini could cause intense flapping which could rip the awning material if it was intense enough.)

The two awning kits and a awning mat in the middle.

The second major problem you experience when boondocking in the desert is the amount of sand and dirt you track into your RV (it is the desert after all!).  With the Tank I can recall having to sweep it out several times a day which was a pain after a few days.  I also bought a 6 foot by 9 foot awning mat that I plan to deploy under the awning and in front of the steps up into the Mini.  The mat comes with four stakes to secure it to the ground and is made up of a fibrous material that allows sand and dirt to drop through it instead of remaining on the mat's surface.  We'll see, I guess.  I'll post pictures of the gear after I've deployed it after I pick my campsite at Quartzsite.  Plan is to depart from here January 17th break the four and a half hour drive in two by stopping and getting a few more things I'm going to need at a Home Depot in Tucson.

Thanks for reading!