This is Winter?
Originally posted 1/10/2013
Having arrived here from the upper Midwest, I can’t exactly whimper about winter here in Quartzsite AZ. But in its own way, it is notable. We’re heading for a short week of nightly lows just below freezing, with highs in the 50s. That’s not particularly good from a camping standpoint. There’s kind of a point of no return on low temperatures. Lows of 40 or more are a non-issue. I light a kerosene lamp overnight to serve as a nightlight and to slightly take the edge off the cold when I awaken. It’s usually 50 or more inside the camper then, and edges upward well after sunrise.
Nightlight? Yes. I’m more at ease with a nightlight, ever since the days when I would travel on business and wake up in the middle of the night in pitch-black darkness, with no clue as to where I was or where the bathroom might be. I found that disconcerting, enough so that I began to pack a nightlight so I could wake up at least having bought a vowel. Because of moonlight here, it really isn’t necessary for orientation purposes – I’m home, after all, and two feet from the bathroom. But, I already have the kerosene, already have the lamp, and it slightly affects how low the cabin temps go overnight.
Once it approaches freezing though, all bets are off. Nothing but the propane-powered Mr. Heater Buddy idling on low will affect cabin temps and hopefully prevent water lines from freezing. Fortunately, a 20# tank lasts for a week or more with this nearly-always-on usage. The difference is notable, since waking up with a cabin temp in the mid-40s is something you can feel in your lungs, and using the heater to bring such low temps up can take quite awhile.
One thing that helps (in addition to the space heater) is to circulate the air to distribute warmth away from the ceiling toward the lower areas. I managed to get my hands on a two-speed “O2 Cool 10-inch Tent Fan With Battery Pack” from Gander Mountain. It comes with a cylinder big enough to hold 8 D-cell batteries (which I will probably chuck) but also has an adapter that plugs into the trailer’s cigar lighter-style outlet. You just aim it wherever you like – in my case up to the ceiling – and it circulates air very nicely and makes the living area more comfortable with less propane usage. Before, the ceiling could be 78 and the waist-level air 60. The fan knocks the warm air around better. Nice product, and fairly quiet.
I got an unexpected call from a local shipper that my ergonomic bike grips arrived, so with today’s daytime high of 61 or so, I biked to town to pick up the package. (By the way, I’ve changed my local package receiver on the “Mailing Addresses” page – Ironwood Outpost charges $5/package to hand you your box!) The 15 MPH tailwind made the trip pleasantly fast and effortless. The trip back was less pleasant, mainly since the wind picked up enough to kick huge amounts of dust up. Slow, and I could feel the dust building up in my eyes, and occasionally feel the grit in my teeth. You know what that’s like.
So as I write this back in the camper after sunset, it’s 54 at the moment and the wind is variable, ranging from a light breeze to a trailer-wobbling gale. It’ll
hit exceed a predicted 30 MPH later, and then calm a bit. You know, when I lived in a regular house, I could expect weather events to affect electrical power. If it got windy enough or stormy enough, I’d have to begin shutting things down just in case the power flickered. That’s the single plus of operating off solar here. I don’t stop for nothin’. I may have to monitor battery usage, but that’s it. There’s no need for a safety shutdown to protect electronic gizmos. Nice, and something it takes awhile to get used to, actually!
What the wind does affect is the water heater. The trailer is aimed directly westward. If the wind is from the southwest or south like today, the turbulence on the driver’s side of the trailer prevents the water heater from igniting its propane flame. No hot water. I noticed that standing in front of the heater area to block the wind allowed it to fire up, and so today I stopped by the hardware store to get a small sheet of aluminum and some magnets to build a wind shield. It’s really a great design, if I do say so myself. The aluminum is bent to attach to the heater’s metal side cover, and it’s held on with magnets to avoid the problem of what heat would do to adhesive attachments. Wizard! If only it worked. Maybe it would ordinarily help a bit, but the wind is just too strong to know. It doesn’t stand a chance of igniting. I have consoled myself with the knowledge that at least it hasn’t blown off…so far.