Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Disaster Strikes… Maybe!

Originally posted 10/24/2012

Tuesday, Oct 23rd: Well, today was what I’d refer to as “non-optimal”. Since my past employers preached that there are no problems, but merely opportunities, perhaps I should have titled this post “Opportunity Strikes!”

Opportunity one was noticing that the bed floor of the Ol’ Furd was bathed in diesel fuel – not from the tank, but from one of the emergency 5 gallon jugs that’s filled with 4.5 gallons of the stuff. It seems that the cap isn’t really a cap – it’s a holder for the spout, which is supposed to be mounted jutting out rather than tucked inverted inside the cap. How do I now know this? The center of the cap was leaking fuel every time the truck swayed, which is a lot. The center needed to be punched out and the spout run through it to point upward. That isn’t obvious because that center piece blends smoothly on the outside and is carefully engraved with a note to squeeze a safety ratchet out of the way to unscrew it. Lesson learned. Don’t trust engineers. Good thing diesel fuel has a higher ignition point and doesn’t vaporize like gasoline. Also a good thing that everything not impervious to diesel fuel is inside a storage bin that is.

Opportunity two was hanging two solar panels to charge the main house batteries and CPAP battery, just to check out the system and see if it worked. It didn’t work. Each solar charger saw the 30 volts coming in from each panel, read the battery voltage, and decided to go on maintenance charge rather than a real battery-restoring power charge. I could see this for the CPAP battery, which was still pretty hearty, but the house batteries were down and needing a charge. Hmmm. I called the tech at BatteryMinders, who gave me some things to check. When I called back with the results, the final opinion was “it should be working” and he recommended that I leave everything hooked up overnight, let physics take its course, and see what it did when the sun came up tomorrow morning. I’ve always called that kind of thing the Voodoo Factor. Sometimes it works. You rarely then understand why it worked, but you do know what it wanted – that time.

There was nothing else to be done about it at the moment, and I needed to let the problem soak, so I went into the Petrified Forest National Park and walked my legs off, taking pictures that couldn’t do it justice. It wasn’t as enjoyable as it might have been because I couldn’t get that solar charger thing out of my head. I did console myself deeply though, with this: without the camper attached, the Ford averaged a whopping 18.8 MPG through the park road. Okay, yes, I’m nuts. Fine. You’re still reading, so what does that say about you?

It returned to my aged memory that a cellular data signal does require a much stronger signal than voice, so I’ll have to drive the 17 miles to Holbrook to find a cell signal or WiFi hotspot to send this. I may also have to do some online research about a substitute solar charger. It all depends.

It all depends on what happens next. See, when I came back from the PFNF, it was sunset and the stinkin’ controller was actually charging the house batteries – barely, but it was an active charge. The panel was putting out a meager 12.75 volts, while the batteries were at 12.45. What that may mean is that one of two things will happen in the morning. Either the system will wake up and start charging and magically keep charging, or it will wake up and start charging but then shift over to maintenance early, when the panel voltage output exceeds some unknown value. In other words, it may be incompatible with the panel. The maintenance charge thing isn’t supposed to kick in until the batteries get happy by reaching some 14 volts during charge. It should take quite a while for the house batteries to hit that now.

So what I will do is somewhat akin to caring for a sick child, except for the staying up all night thing, and the complete lack of love or caring in nursing a sick electronic device out of a coma. I’m minimizing any further power drain on the house batteries tonight in order to get a true condition reading in the morning – care for a candle, anyone? I have plenty! I just checked to make sure the solar system shut off in the dark as it’s supposed to. I took a battery voltage reading just now and will hopefully do so again before there’s enough light to kick the system back on in the morning, and then see if it eventually goes into charge mode. I’ll basically be reading panel voltages and what the charger is doing every hour or so. If it stays rolling, great! If it goes straight to maintenance or kicks into maintenance early, before the batteries are really charged, I might have some wild idea what panel output voltage the controller doesn’t like to exceed. I can then talk to the tech guy yet again with this info. Fascinating, yes?

And third, the pricey cigarette lighter USB charger made especially for the iPad by some third party vendor quit working. So I can’t charge the iPad or anything else with this in the Ford or the camper. I have to use shore power or a power inverter in the camper. That wastes power, and battery power is not a good topic for me right now.

Having the ability to recharge batteries by solar power is pretty important to my Master Plan to Live on the Cheap. So in short, I may be kinda busy the next couple days, and not driving to nearby towns to publish blog articles. I’m still discovering Verizon hotspot limitations, so if I seem to drop off the map for awhile, don’t fret. That’s my job. Once this solar charger issue is cleared up AND I can get a cell signal to publish, the blog will crank up again for your amusement. This is amusing, right? It’s only too bad that I have no idea right now just when those two requirements will converge.

Boy, who though seeing the this great nation of ours could be this awesome, hey?

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