Saturday, March 17, 2018

Boondocking in the Hugo State Wildlife Area (SWA)

I left home around 1030 AM or so and drove east into Colorado's eastern prairies via the I-70 super slab, then at Limon, south on county roads to check out several State Wildlife Areas (SWAs) listed in the app.

The southernmost one was the Karval SWA, near the really small town of Karval, CO.  Nice little site, with smooth dirt roads and some shelter structures along with a pit toilet building.  Nice location but no cell reception, zip, nada.  So I couldn't use it.

Next up, just a few miles away, was the southernmost site of the four belonging to the Hugo SWA.  Good cell reception was found at location South1 but it had no trees and was quite windy and exposed.  Nearby south locations were a bit more sheltered due to being lower but they had less optimal cell coverage.  It was still good, but only 1-2 bars.

Hugo SWA South1
Continuing north on the county road that spans the SWA, I came to the Hugo Middle SWA site.  The sites are a bit small for Uma but I could have shoehorned her in but decided, that while cellular signal was OK, I'd see what the North location would show.

Hugo SWA Middle

All the above sites had a loop at the end of their access dirt roads, very nice and considerate of Colorado State Wildlife department!  It made it easy to explore with a RV and trailer and not get stuck without being able to turn around.

The Hugo North SWA was just right.  Found a nice almost level spot near one of the ponds and settled in. 

Hugh SWA North

 My campsite in the Hugo North location.

 A copse of Cottonwood Trees I found in the Hugo Middle SWA
when I went riding after setting up camp.

 Several views of the campsite during the Golden Hour

Not much of a sunset for us here in the eastern plains, I had to make do with a copse of trees located near where I set up camp.

It's basically just rolling prairie and large widespread ranches in this part of Colorado.  Not a single mountain peak in sight! 

Since I had not set up the solar panels till close to 2PM, the panels didn't have a lot of time to bring the battery to full charge and power the charging of electronics and running the fridge in propane mode. 

So, I start the night with just 12.3V reading at the battery, should be enough to run the fridge through the night but it'll draw the house battery down.  Just as well I'll be replacing it soon as it fails completely.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Spring Forward" Sunset

Sunday, March 11, the day Daylight Savings Time (DST) once again is inflicted on the nation in an attempt to make people think they get more daylight.  So, we're told to "spring forward" or set our clocks one hour forward.

There might have been a time, perhaps when the USA was an agrarian nation, where this measure made sense.  Now?  Not so much, at least from the way I see things.

Regardless, Mother Nature did give us a nice sunset on Sunday, perhaps as a way to make up for the taking away of an hour from us by whomever came up with DST.

 Mount Evans

 Stoner State Capital Skyline

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My initial foray into Solar Power

Ever since buying Uma, the URRV, I've explored and researched the use of Solar Panels to provide electrical power to the RV.

I'd resisted going with permanent panels, mounted on the roof as associated costs were seen with very little ROI given projected days of use.  In other words, easier to run the old but still working Honda eu1000i generator for when I needed power to charge up the on board house battery and power/charge my electronics for work.

This last boondocking session, saw the Honda generator burning through a lot of oil.  So I'd begun thinking about replacing it perhaps as the cost of a ring job on the generator might not be worth it as opposed to buying a new one from Harbor Freight for $450.

I'd also previously calculated that I needed 5.5 Amps/hour from either a generator or solar panels to
  • Power the RV refrigerator while its in propane mode.
  • Charge/Power the electronics (laptop in docking station, charge phones, weboost cellular booster) via the 600 Watt inverter already in place.
  • Power the LED lights as needed.
  • Run the bathroom fan as needed.
  • Run the water pump during warm weather glamping.
All of the above and at end of day when the sun sets, still have a fully charged house battery to carry on through the night hours, powering the fridge in propane mode and providing power for lights.  The electronics, would be fully charged as well and would be on their respective batteries for the night.

So, over next few weeks, as we camp in the URRV, we'll be using this setup:

From Harbor Freight, their Thunderbolt 100 Watt, four solar panel kit with included charge controller and wiring components:

image source: Harbor Freight

Overall construction seems pretty sturdy, but I splurged and paid an extra $30 to cover it for one year past the initial 90 day warranty provided by manufacturer.

Assembly was easy and mostly intuitive.  Operation seems simple enough but we'll see in the long run.

It's got a float mode of 13.8 volts and a Boost mode of 14.4V, we'll see how that works as well in reality.

Testing will tell if I can use it to do all the above and have a fully charged house battery at the end of the day, I've doubts on 100 watts being enough.

I'm thinking, right now, to use and move it as required for good sun exposure and not mount it permanently for now.  Also, my house battery is on its last legs so we'll see how I can stretch its life out while I explore solar panel technology.
Sunday Testing.

Took the above solar panel kit over to the RV storage yard where we keep Uma, the URRV and set up the panels up on the roof.  I think a setup location at ground level will be easier of course as you don't have to haul the panels up to the roof but it was all quite doable.  About 13-15 minutes to setup the whole thing and to tear it down as well for travel.

So far, the results are quite satisfactory.  I believe, given good sunlight, I can run everything I need, when boondocking, and still have enough battery capacity remaining to power the fridge in propane mode overnight.

Some power usage notes:

Using boost setting on the solar panel charge controller (14.4)

13.2 Volts at inside meter
13.4 Volts at battery

For reference, when on shore power, it usually reads between 13.3V and 13.5V as
that's what the converter is set to provide.

Fridge on Propane mode - Worked OK


Amp/Watt draw from inverter:
Tv and weboost powered - killawatt reports .36a or 24watt
Note: I used the TV to simulate power draw of my laptop, which I forgot to bring 

Add camera charging: .4 Amp or  26 Watts

Add iphone charging:  .46 Amp 31.5w  (Highest utilization I saw was 
32 Watts via Inverter)

Water Pump: Went from 13.2 to 12.3 when pump was on.

Turning on all the LED lights along with above (- water pump) caused the 
voltmeter inside to go from 13.2 to 12.5

After 90 minutes, the house battery read 12.6 after turning everything off.  
This figure isn't truly accurate of course since the battery wasn't "at rest".


Further testing Notes.

Whether flat or tilted, the difference is minimally higher when tilted, so probably best (when setup on the roof of the RV) to leave them flat to avoid the wind catching them and sending them flying.

Brightness of sun (duh) drives how much power delivered.  Solid overcast conditions resulted in barely 12.5V reported at the charge controller but it did "seem" to be delivering a small charge to the battery (with the battery isolated from all drains and inverter off)...otherwise with stuff on, the battery was being drained.

So far, in strong sunlight, a reading of 13.7V at the charge controller is best performance seen so far.  That showed an inside voltmeter reading of 13.3, with fridge running and electronics on.

Pretty certain the existing house battery is damaged in terms of capacity due to repeated drawing down of voltage previously.  Soon as it dies completely, I'll be looking to replace it.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Slow Week

Almost a week now since I returned from a short boondocking trip; ready to go again but there's other things to get done. 

The old Honda eu1000i generator continues to function but is burning oil, most likely it's getting past the rings on the engine's cylinder as I can't find any oil leaks.

I've my doubts I'll do the work on replacing the rings, guess I should do a compression test first but am thinking perhaps buying the 2000W Predator generator from Harbor Freight.

Or, buy a 200 Watt Solar Panel kit and charge my electronics and run the fridge (in propane mode) with that. 

Wednesday brought the first decent sunset of the week:

 Mount Evans

Denver, capital of the Stoner State

Thursday, March 8, a run to the data center took me past the Centennial Airport and a nice clear view of Mount Evans.

Thursday's sunset proved to be a bit more colorful:

 Stoner state capital city's skyline

 Mount Evans, highes summit of the Chicago Peaks
and one of the two mountains in Colorado you
can drive to the summit.

 A closer look at the sunset's last gasp of light

Longs Peak, northernmost fourteener in the Rockies
and tallest one in the RMNP.

Friday's sunset was not bad but low lying clouds over the Front Range mountains precluded much of a show:

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Boondocking in the Penrose BLM Common Use Area

Yesterday I displaced to the BLM area just north of the Colorado town of Penrose.

You ride on CR127 which is a rough dirt/rock road which is doable by motorhomes;  so long as you take it slow and easy in order to get to the camping spot.

I had some doubts at the cattle guard marking the boundary of the BLM land, as there were many trailers and ATVs, UTVs, quads and side by side being unloaded or getting ready to hit the trails.  The idea of boondocking, at least in my mind, is to get away from people.

I must have arrived at just the right time I guess; but I left the behind soon enough and within minutes found the camping spot I liked and there were just three other rigs there in a big area.

It was hot, by 11AM it was in the high 70s I think and I relaxed a bit while taking in some sun before lunch.

After lunch, which I skipped, I went riding with Fiona, going further north on CR127.

Every time I turned off to check out a side trail, it soon turned nasty pretty quickly with big rocks, and lots of loose gravel and dirt to make life very interesting.  Too interesting for a lone Ural rig!

I got the final clue when traversing a steep portion of one trail, I knocked loose the port side muffler.  Dammit.  I pulled over to a conveniently located flat spot and soon had the muffler bracket pounded back into the correct angle so it would connect with the header pipe.

Got Fiona turned around, and barreled up the same hill I'd just carefully negotiated down.  Only one moment when the sidecar bounced up enough that the left foot peg and my foot touch gravel for a second.....yikes.

So I stayed on CR127 until breaks off at a T-junction, took the right turn and immediately I was slowly traversing a steep and rocky hairpin turn down into a sandy valley.

Nope, turned around, got back up the higher elevation and made my way back to the campsite, I knew at that point I'd pushed my luck far enough.

No pics for Saturday.

Not much of a sunset and the terrain around the area is basically flat and covered with sagebrush and short dust covered bushes/trees.  The mountains around here were far out and not very high up so not much to picture there.

Sunday Morning.

Woke to the beginnings of a pretty good sunrise for us here near Penrose.

Here's some shots of the campsite itself and of the views.

 I believe this is the nearby town of Florence.

Use the above guide from PeakFinder app to
see the names of the peaks above.

Mount Adams behind the hills

Friday, March 02, 2018

Boondocking near Cañon City's Skyline Drive - Day 2

Woke to a very clear but colorful sunrise, it was quite "brisk" outside in the dawning morning....

Spent the day working, getting in a couple of hikes along the easy trails circling the campground and just enjoying the warm weather.  It would hit a high of 65°F (18.3°C) in the afternoon as I rode Skyline Drive one more time; this time under sunny conditions.

 The view as one rides out of the campground area
near the Royal Gorge Bridge

 Done with Skyline Drive, I drove into the city to finally get a picture of one of my rigs with the statue of Bird Millman, famous high wire act back in the day.

Motoring back towards the campground, I made a brief stop for this roadside attraction advertising a dinosaur exhibit/museum on US50 near the junction of the road that leads to the Royal Gorge Bridge and the campground.

Back at the campground, which I had all to myself again, I got some pics of Fiona and the nearby peaks as the cloudless sunrise cast the sky yellow.

 Yes, I did get a pic of the Royal Gorge Bridge, as the 
campground is less than two miles from the bridge.

 Sunset with Fiona at the Royal Gorge Eastridge Campground

Distant Peaks

Although I've another 24 hours remaining to me of the 72 hours max allowed for a single stay at this campground; not sure if I'll take advantage of the last 24 hours....we'll see tomorrow.