Monday, March 30, 2015

Lone Rock Living

 I hear from friends who are a few hundred miles south of our current position talking about temperatures in the 90's already, while here at Lone Rock we have only gotten into the 80's three times in the 12 days we have been stationary here.....mostly it's the high 60's to mid 70's here and that means no A/C, and a little 'heater' when I first awake, otherwise it's short pants, t-shirts and flip flops weather.

Lone Rock attire & adult beverages

As the days pass we are mostly alone up here on the 'overlook', but we do get neighbors for a day, or two here and there.  Usually I'm out introducing myself to the new arrivals, but not so much this time around.  We have really been enjoying being by ourselves, and are trying to soak up every minute of solitude we can absorb before we find ourselves back in social situations for the next six months, or more.  Sometimes you don't realize how far down your 'social batteries' have drawn until you suddenly find yourself away from people for an extended period of time.

As we recharge the days seem to blend one into another.......pretty much all the same.....long views, big horizon, amazing sunsets, reading, napping, walking and just 'being' with my lovely Elaine.

We did manage to leave camp for about 2 hours to drive into Page to the local Safeway grocery store to do what I thought was a 'small shopping', but ended up being a 'BIG' shopping.  On the way there we drove into 'Glen Canyon National Recreation Area' to take a look at Wahweap Campground.....there is an entrance fee, but that is waived for Golden Age Passport holders such as we.   As we suspected, it (Wahweap) is quite pricey at $48/day, but it is a very nice campground....frankly, we have the same great view, and water access here at Lone Rock for $5/day.  On the way back out to HWY 89 we stopped at a scenic overlook to take a few pictures of Glen Canyon Dam.

The pictures really don't do the view justice, but you get the idea.......we were back a little after noon time, and then it was time for March Madness once again.  First up was Michigan State vs. Louisville with MSU coming out on top in a very close game. Then it was Gonzaga vs. Duke, which was a close game until Duke pulled away with 3 minutes to go.  So, the Final Four is now set, and those games will be played next weekend.

We had our evening fire a little later than normal at 7:30, but enjoyed sitting by the fire as the evening stars and moon revealed themselves in the darkening skies.  The sunset was beyond description......

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 11

We've now been here at Lone Rock for 11 days, and with the exception of our drive up to Kanab a few days ago we have pretty much spent most every day just sitting outside, taking walks, and reading.  The surroundings, the climate, the views, the clarity of the air are all just captivating, and it just seems so timeless.  There are times, like this morning, when I wonder why we are moving on later in the week.  Of course, our next two stops also have the 'it factor', and no doubt when it is time to move on from them I will wonder the same thing.

We only got our house batteries back to 97% on Saturday, but that was due to me watching a lot of 'March Madness' basketball off the inverter.  All things being equal I am elated that we are still getting the batteries back into the high 90's into our 12th day (today).

We still have close to 90 gallons of fresh water left in our tank, so we could go, seemingly, three weeks.  Our biggest limiting factor is the black tank, and right now it's a close call if we will make it to Thursday, which would mean 16 days without dumping.  We may have to dump in the next couple of days, but it's all good......the dump station is not that far from our camp, so it would just be a matter of driving the coach up there (sans trailer), dumping, and then returning to our camp.

The daytime highs have now reached the low 80's, and the night time lows are in the low 50's......ideal conditions!

That's pretty much it....oh, Notre Dame came oh so close to unseating #1 Kentucky last night, but ended up losing by 2 points as the clock expired.  So, now Kentucky is 38-0 this season.....if they win the next two games they will be National Champions, and be 40-0.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are you Nü?

Our first year on the road we joined a online group called Nü Rvers.  Why, you might ask?  After all we were not 'new' RVers, we had been RVing for about 7 years by that time.  It seems a lot of people see the  RVers Facebook page and join (without reading the 'about' section) thinking it is a place for 'New Rvers' to learn about, and ask their 101 questions about RVing, when it really has nothing to do with that at all.   refers to more of a state of mind.....young at heart, living life outside the conventional norms, not typically 'retired', but living and earning a living while traveling around the country in an RV.  You will see  Nü RVers home schooling their young children while living on the road full time.  In fact the term Nü RVers encompasses the whole range of age groups, ideals, lifestyles, interests, political and religious views available in our world today.  They are typically not a group of gray haired, retired folk that congregate in 'Over 55' RV parks in the southern latitudes of our country.  You will find them, more often than not, living 'off the grid' as much as possible.  Around a typical campfire of Nü RVers you will find all age groups socializing as equals.  Many of my best Nü RVer friends are as young, or younger as my own children, and yet I do not think of them in that way.  They are just good friends who form the backbone of our nomadic community.  

The first Nü RVer gathering we attended was in March of 2012 in Cedar Key, FL.  We had been meandering eastward along the I-10 corridor for about 6 weeks when one morning while we were in DeFuniak Springs, FL I was reading Chris and Cherie's blog which mentioned they were heading for Cedar Key, FL for some decompression time.  I had been following their blog for several years at that point and really wanted to meet them......Cedar Key was a two day drive from our location, so I sent them a message asking if it would be okay if we stopped in for a few days at Sunset Isle RV Park to meet and visit with them.  They quickly replied that it was okay, so we headed south.  What we didn't know was this would become the focal point of a Nü RVer convergence.  It was there we met so many like minded people that have become good friends over time.  We all reconvened back in Cedar Key again that December and spent weeks getting to know each other even better.

Often we, or they, will go out of their way to meet up anywhere our paths may be crossing at any given point in our travels back and forth across the USA.  There is this continual sharing of ideas, and information.  If one of us has a breakdown, or an illness we are all there to help in anyway we can.  Two summers ago are very good nomadic friends (Chris and Cherie of Technomadia) posted on Facebook that their Detroit Diesel in their vintage 1961 GM bus conversion had bit the dust in the middle of no where in Montana.  Within minutes they were getting phone calls, and messages from all around the country from other nomads, as well as the larger online bus community offering help.  Within a few hours some from the Nü RVers community, and primarily the broader 'bus' community had located a reputable repair facility where they had their bus towed.  Over the course of the several weeks they were in Billings, MT having their engine rebuilt a dozen, or more nomads, friends, blog readers, etc. stopped through and spent time with them, including ourselves.  This, to me, typifies the most important thing about who and what Nü RVers are......they are good friends who always have your back.

When we had our 'diesel fuel' incident in Melbourne, FL Chris and Cherie dropped what they were doing (they are young, and still must work for a living) and spent the afternoon, and early evening with us until we had resolved the problem.  We were so grateful for their support.   

For me this group has broadened my world view beyond belief, as well as taught me the value of acceptance.......and for that I will be eternally grateful.....

Now, what happened Friday?  Not much.....just another day living off the grid.....just another day when our batteries reached a 100% charge for the 5th time in 10 days with no generator humming in the background.....just the wonderful quiet of the high desert.  

I made the 2.6 mile run over to the local Union 76 station to fuel up the VW and buy 4 more bundles of wood for our eventide fires........

The rest of the time I spent reading a very good book on my Kindle.....and that was our 10th day of boondocking at Lone Rock.......

Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Always sunny in Lone Rock..."

The perfect days are kind of coming one right after another.......perfect temperature, perfect weather, perfect location, perfect company, perfect view.....I'm not trying to make you jealous, although that may be a byproduct, I am trying to convey how happy I am to be where I am at this juncture in time.  Being able to find a boondock site with the 'it' factor, and being able to remain there for an extended period of time is what I have been aiming for since the day we had the solar panels installed back in February of 2012.  Now that we have finally arrived at the point in our journey where we are in the perfect part of the country at the most ideal time of year where boondocking 'it' sites are available by the droves we are beginning to find spots we love to return to year after year.  We have really just begun to explore to find these sites......last winter we found 3 where we stayed briefly, but this year we have been able to spend more time at each enabling us to get to know our coach's electrical needs much better, and how to manage those needs within the confines of our current setup.

What is our setup?  Before you even think about going 'solar', you must first have a place to store the energy converted by your solar panels.....we have on board two Interstate flooded cell 8D batteries which each provide just over 250 amp hours of 12 volt electricity (combined they provide just over 500 amps hours).  To avoid damaging flooded cell batteries you should not discharge them below 50%, so, in effect, we must divide the total amp hours available (500) by 2 to get the actual amp hours to which we have access when they are both fully charged.  Essentially if we have 250 amp hours (half of the total 500 amp hours) of 12 volt electricity available and we use 10 amps per hour we can, theoretically, power our coach with 10 amps of power for 25 hours before we have discharged our batteries 50%.

 Two Interstate 8D batteries providing around 500+ amp hours combined

Next you must have a way to convert that direct current (12 volt) electricity to alternating current (110) to power those systems/appliances in your RV that require alternating current to operate.  To do this you need what is called an 'inverter' inverter converts 12 volt (direct current) to 110 volt (alternating current).  We have a Heart Interface 2000 watt inverter that came with the coach, and is probably well over 20 years old, but it still works quite well.  Most late model coaches have the inverter/charger/converter all combined together, but ours is not.  Our charger/converter is in a different location near the rear of the coach.  The inverter is located in the front storage bin on the driver's side just below the cockpit area.  The batteries are located in the front storage bin on the passenger side just below the cockpit area, so they are only a few feet apart.

 Heart Interface 2000 watt inverter (Now owned by Xantrex)

Without solar panels the only way to replenish the 12 volt electricity we draw out of the batteries is via an on board generator.....we have a 7.5 kw Kohler generator fueled with propane, which uses about 1/2 gallon of propane per hour when in operation.  We also have a portable Honda 1000 watt generator (used about 1/2 gallon every 3 hours) that we use when we are not in need of air conditioning, or any other system/appliance that uses more than 10 amps of power.  Of course, fueling either of these electrical generators can become costly, and the whole point of going solar is to eliminate, or mostly eliminate those fuel costs.  The other thing you are trying to eliminate is the noise which results from the operation of generators.  Solar generators are silent, and require no fuel except the rays of the sun, which are free.

 Two 150 watt solar panels from AM Solar

To replenish the batteries without the use of a noisy generator we had two 150 watt solar panels installed by AM Solar.  These panels convert the suns rays to 12 volt electricity which is sent via cables to our Blue Sky charge controller, which then uses that electricity to recharge our 8D batteries.

Blue Sky charge controller

While not totally necessary, we also had a Blue Sky monitor installed so we could more precisely monitor our usage, the status of the batteries, and how many amps of power are being generated by the solar panels at any given time.  This is an invaluable tool, and if you decide to install a solar system I highly recommend you have one....maybe not Blue Sky, but some type of monitor.

 Blue Sky monitor

So, that is our setup.   Our cost to install this basic system was just under $3,000, and that includes labor.  The actual 'part's (two solar panels, cabling, charge controller, monitor and other associated materials) cost about $1,400.  For most late model RV's the labor would probably not be as high as for ours, but we have a vintage coach and running the cables effectively took longer than normal.

So, on Thursday by 3 pm our batteries once again reached 100%, which is the fourth time we have reached that plateau in 9 days.....all other days we have gotten into the high 90's.  We typically lose about 7% of our charge overnight while we are sleeping.....there are things in the coach that draw 12 volt all the time (refrigerator display, our radio, the ionization system for our black tank, the door bell button, the Blue Sky monitor, the various analog gauges throughout the coach), but account for less than 1% of our power draw each day.  When it is much colder than it is now overnight (now it's in the mid 40's at night) such as when we were boondocking near Cottonwood we can lose up to 12-13% overnight.  This is not because we run heaters at night.....the only time we might run heaters is when we are plugged in and it is really cold at night, like in the 20's, or 30's.  Very low temperatures increase the rate of discharge for flooded cell batteries.

Our Thursday, like virtually all the other days here at Lone Rock, was composed of a little exercise (I rode my mountain bike around the local hills, and we took our usual 3.4 mile hike out to HWY 89), a lot of reading, and another fire to welcome in the evening.  As I said earlier, it was another perfect day! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's all nuts and bolts......

Strange things begin to happen to your mind when you spend extended periods of time in the desert away from most human begin to see things as you take your mostly daily walk, which you never noticed before.  Within a few days you begin to pick up the things you're seeing and stick them in your pockets thinking...."I'm sure I can find a use for that...I'm sure....".  You begin to realize that if you just keep walking the same road day after day it won't be long until you will have collected enough material to build your own car.....seriously!  Now, you are probably wondering "...what the hell is he doing to do with that popsicle stick?"  I'm sorry, I'm not at liberty to tell you, but I will be able to put that micro fiber towel to good use for sure.  And who doesn't need a few extra washers, nuts and bolts?  I am, however, still thinking about what I can do with that stainless steel ring on the left, and the tire weight right next to it......

TLE and I have discussed the possibility (just last evening) about starting a new charitable foundation called "Bolt Rescue"......we could solicit donations (tax deductible of course), and sign up volunteers to walk the highways and biways of America rescuing nuts, bolts and washers from an untimely demise, then clean them up and put them back into circulation.  This motley collection was acquired in just a 3 day span whilst walking the 1.6 mile stretch of the Lone Rock Road up to Highway 89 and back.  I think we have the beginnings of a vintage VW Beetle, what do you think?

And while I am feeling somewhat whimsical today please watch the following YouTube video on "Daylight Saving Time" is hilarious (thank you Kirsty for sharing it on Facebook this morning....).....I laughed so hard while watching this first thing this morning I think I woke TLE up......:-)

So, as you might be imagining right now there is not a lot to report about 3rd Saturday (Wednesday for the un-initiate)......just more serenity, bliss and laziness at Lone Rock National Park.  I spent the better part of the day sitting outside in my zero gravity lounger reading a good book by Nick Russell called "Big Lake Burning", the sixth book in his popular "Big Lake" series.  Nick is a fulltimer like TLE and I (he's been at it much longer than we), and writes interesting mysteries.  Another favorite "fulltimer" author I read whenever a new book comes out is Brian Gore......just recently I finished reading his latest book called "The Horsemen", the 3rd book in his Jeb Taylor western series, which I also highly recommend.

Around 4 we took another walk up Lone Rock Road to HWY 89 and back which is where the first part of today's blog was conceived.  The wind calmed down enough for us to have another sunset fire......3rd Saturday's beverage of choice, courtesy TLE, was wine excellent choice my dear!

By the way, I left off yesterday's offering advising we began the day at 84% on our house batteries.......I ran the big genset (7.5 kilowatts) for one hour which brought them back to 90%, and then the solar panels took over from there and brought them all the way back to 98% by sundown.  We have hit the point now where the sun is high enough in the sky by 8:30 am to stop the discharge, and begin to recharge the

Thanks for stopping by.......

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Day tripper"

Even though we are only half way through our two week stay here at Lone Rock we have been going back and forth about where we will head next.  Ever since we stopped by Goosenecks State Park in April of last year and saw that we could camp there free for up to 2 weeks I have wanted to go back.  Until recently that was the plan, then TLE began to suggest we may want to explore boondocking options up in the Kanab, UT area.

We left home base about 10:30 (actually 11:30 Utah time) and just as last year, we thoroughly enjoyed the 60+ mile drive northwest to Kanab.  This small town is sort of a 'jumping off' point for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef, and Bryce National Park as you can see from the map above.  Our sole purpose this day was to check out two possible BLM sites where we might 'boondock' for a couple of weeks while we did some site seeing of these well known National Parks.

The first, and preferred BLM area we checked out was Ponderosa Campground located right on the northern edge of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park about 14 miles northwest of Kanab.

We arrived on the eastern outskirts of Kanab around 11:30  (Arizona Standard Time) and continued right on through two to northbound HWY 89.  Seven miles later we turned off on Hancock Road for another 7.4 miles on a nicely paved road to the campground. Regrettably the information on the BLM site did not specify that the campground was not compatible with any RV over 22'.....:-(  As we drove through the campground it was very obvious the sign was not exagerating.That's too bad, because I could have seen us spending 2 weeks there.  Nevertheless, the drive in was very scenic.

We were back in Kanab by 12:45 and decided to stop in at the "Rocking V" for lunch.  Yelp gives them 4.5 stars on over 200 reviews.  I ordered the "Kanab-A-Dabba-Doo" burger and TLE ordered the "Jalapeno Lime Chicken".  We both loved our entrees and the side (black been salad).  The ambiance, food presentation, and service were all worthy of a 4.5 star rating.  It is a little pricey, however.  The burger was $14, and the chicken was $12.....after drinks (ice tea) and tax the total bill was just over $31.  The portions were so large that we each only ate half, and took the remainder home for dinner.  We both enjoyed eating our entrees for the second time around....:-)

The second BLM site we wanted to check out was White House Campground located to the east of Kanab just 2 miles off HWY 89.  Once again, this time before we actually drove the 2 miles in on the dirt road, we saw a sign that said any RV over 22' was not compatible with the facilities, or the road to reach them.  So that is that.  We'll have to do more research for our next foray up to this area, but for now it looks like we'll be heading towards Goosenecks in another week!

Goosenecks State Park

We got home about 2:30 to find that while we were gone our house batteries had once again reached, that's the 3rd time in a week.  We picked up our individual 'shopping lists' and headed into Page......I needed some hardware type stuff, so we stopped off at Page Hardware and Lumber first, but I didn't find what I was looking for, so we headed over to the Walmart to fill TLE's list and I actually found all four items I was looking for at Walmart.....remarkable!

We watched five hours of TV in four hours (Justified, NCIS, Hell's Kitchen, NCIS N.O., and Person of Interest) off our inverter Tuesday night, and when we shut things down (we turn off the inverter when we don't need it) we were at 91%.  Based on our observations the past week I figured we would wake up 8 hours later at 84%....tune in for tomorrow's blog to see what happens!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

And on we go....

I finally got off my duff Monday and called A.M. Solar to make an appointment for early October to add a couple more solar panels, and upgrade my charge controller to a model that can handle more than 400 watts of solar panels.  Right now I have 300 watts on my roof (two 150 watt panels) and it was my intent to just add two more of the  same, but was advised by the nice gentleman on the phone (Dan, or Dave.....I'm bad with names) that my current charge controller would be maxed out by one more 100 watt panel.  I'm grateful they keep good records at A.M. Solar because now I can budget the extra money for the upgrade on the charge controller in addition to the two 160 watt panels they recommend. We are supposed to arrive in Springfield, OR the afternoon of September 30th, so they can begin the upgrade the next morning, which will require us to leave Cape Blanco that morning.

Why is this important to us?  Well, under perfect conditions (temperature, location, time of year, etc.) our 300 watts of panels do a pretty good job of keeping us supplied with power, but if we want to boondock in less than ideal conditions they have a difficult time meeting our daily demands, which to start with are not that great.  By more than doubling our wattage we will have a little more flexibility in when and where we opt to boondock, or dry camp.  Where we are right now provides conditions that are near ideal for our current setup.  For example, Monday we began the day with our battery bank at 89% of a full charge.  Using only the solar panels, and with partly cloudy conditions, they got us back to 98%.  There was no sound of a generator running in the background......just passive solar energy being absorbed by our two 8D batteries.

As we hit the middle point of our two week boondock stay here at Lone Rock we are continuing to learn more about our solar system, and how to manage our power consumption without it becoming burdensome, and in a way that allows us to live  a somewhat normal daily routine.

So what did our normal routine look like on First Saturday?  We took our usual 3.4 mile walk out to HWY 89 and back, we spent time outside reading until the wind picked up early afternoon chasing us inside for the rest of the day.  I spent some time working on my mountain bike......the rear derailleur has not been shifting properly for a while now, including the ride I took with friends up in Sedona.  I was able to diagnose and fix the problem, so now all is well again in MTB land.

We were treated to a windblown sunset.....there was no fire to bring in the evening.....too much wind!  As I told TLE this morning.....if you stay in one place long enough you will experience a big range of weather conditions.  We are, after all, in the high desert where I would expect it would get windy from time to time.  Our first 5 days here were idyllic.

Thanks for stopping by!