Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Labor-Intensive Camping

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I spent yesterday goofing with the trailer, since the Top Speed Shootout event I missed has now been rescheduled for October 10-14.  With the SCTA World Finals going October 1-4, I decided to stick it out here in spite of Wendover’s relative lack of amenities – like oh, say, a barber shop. I’d normally stay only the 2-week limit and move a distance away, then return for the next event, but another camper assured me that the BLM is well aware of the needs of running these events, and will not hassle people staying longer as long as they don’t present problems. Good campers = a local blind eye to the systemwide rules.

A longer stay means that the trailer really needed to be repositioned true east-west to allow maximum exposure for the solar panels. It does make a difference, because at this time of year, the sun never goes straight overhead and a true E-W position will grab considerably more sun than being off-kilter and either resetting the panels a couple of times a day or leaving them horizontal. I can tell by the voltage readings I’m getting. The frequent clouds don’t help, since I’m grinding the iMac pretty heavily each day.

The other motive for relocating is that I’m on a slight slope, and the fridge uses more propane if it’s off level just a tad. So, I hitched up and weaseled around a few feet this way and that until I reached trailer nirvana. Too bad I didn’t get sufficiently paranoid about solar power cables and ropes while doing it, since I ran over a cable, which caught a tie-down rope. That straightened out the rope’s end hook, and also forcibly twisted the house pack’s cable connector out, damaging the cable’s electrical connector. That particular cable enables me to provision the office pack with three solar panels for a maximum charge rate, but no matter – with the trailer oriented properly, there’s no need to do that any more. The remaining three cables will suffice for my standard setup. I may be able to pick up a replacement and splice it in at Quartzsite.

To straighten the hook and fix the connector for the house pack, that meant emptying the truck bed from “tow mode” and putting the heavy toolboxes toward the rear in “handyman mode” so I could get at some tools. Everything was now reoriented, repaired, and happy. I settled in for dinner and a movie, with Accuweather predicting a wind change from south to northwest, with a high wind alert for 45 MPH overnight. That’s okay. I’ve done 45 MPH winds before, and all panels were already deployed and roped down to eyelets on the trailer, with pole ends staked to the ground.

Just before sunset, a call from outside turned out to be one of the other campers who works as security for the season’s speed events. It seems that another camper, a nurse, had just come from a firehouse where a NOAA weather alert had been received. His take was that around midnight, when the wind was expected to shift direction, it would possibly hit 60-70 MPH. Hmmm. He has worked here for many years in the late summer, and has experienced those winds in his camper right at this location. He was quite descriptive. I did some more research on the Internet, and there looked to be a chance of that, but not a big chance. But it would definitely be windy.

With panels at $300 each, I decided a false alarm was better than an unexpected adventure. I tumbled out, unmounted and stowed the panels back inside the trailer in their travel position, stowed the power cables, left the poles and ropes in a stack on the ground, and rehitched the trailer to the truck loosely, just in case the wheel chocks didn’t do their job on this slope, and reset the rear stabilizers. I did remember to kick the fridge back up to compensate for the tilt – a first.

It got interesting that night, and the trailer did rock a bit depending on wind direction. I doubt that it hit 60, but I did feel better about having the panels inside where they were simply not a factor. Nighttime wind testing, watching out the windows with a flashlight to see how the panels are doing with each strong gust, I’m not enthusiastic about. I wanted to sleep in peace, which I did. This morning was sunny and windy, maybe 15-20 now and then.  I unhitched and got the trailer level again, and out came the panels. I’m now set for the duration. Time to enjoy the day!

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2 thoughts on “Labor-Intensive Camping

  1. Say Doug

    How much juice do you actually get out of your panels as a daily average and what size are they again ? If you know ?
    Today with 3 x 255 laying flat I got or should say used 1,600 watts approx.

    My 4 panels gave me 145v close to the CC limit of 150v dc where they can burn out , so I need to reconfigure a bit. I’m having some issues , but can run the AC part time right now – will get the rest worked out after some more testing


    • I dunno. All I know is the rated output, which is 195 watts at a nominal 18 volts, which actually measures out at more like 32V each. Two are dedicated to the office pack, and which in good sun can still charge and top off while I’m using the 27″ iMac, 3 external hard drives, printer/scanner, etc while the processor is grinding away on video conversion. I usually use energy at a rate of 130 watts or so, but adding drives can push me over 200. My wiring is okay but not overkill, so I’ve got to have considerable inefficiency in the whole thing.

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