Tuesday, May 28, 2013

House Battery Hook Up Diagram

As requested, I have drawn up a diagram of how to hook up a separate house battery in a van or any other vehicle:
My artistic ability is limited so I hope this is readable.  If  you have any questions feel free to ask.

The 10 and 16 on the wiring refers to the size, or gauge of the wiring.  10 gauge is larger and is the actual charging lead from the original starting battery.  This heavier wire should be attached to the larger terminals on the solenoid.  The 16 gauge wire (much smaller) is only used to turn the solenoid on and off and is hooked to the smaller terminals on the solenoid.

The 16 gauge wire from the solenoid can be hooked to any fuse or circuit that is turned on and off by the ignition switch and is only powered when the vehicle is running.

The negative terminals of the batteries and the negative terminal from the solenoid go to ground.

If you choose to use 6 volt golf cart batteries, they must be connected in series to make 12 volts

Multiple 12 volt batteries can be connected in parallel to increase the amount of power available.

Connections between the batteries should be made with standard battery cables.  Only use 10 gauge wiring to provide a charging source to your house batteries.  Do not try to run heavy draw items with 10 gauge wire.

If you plan on hooking up a 1,500 watt inverter be sure to use standard battery cables between the inverter and the house batteries as use of a microwave for example would cause the inverter to draw a lot of power from the house batteries.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Meeting Abigail Washburn

Saturday morning, a lazy time of relaxing beside the campfire.  Max sleeping in my lap, I had the portable radio tuned to the local Public Radio station.

Playing was the Mountain Stage program from West Virginia Public Radio.  I like mountain music, banjo's, fiddles, and simple lyrics played to be easy on the mind.

I guess I'm just a low key country boy at heart.  Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion is one of our favorites for Saturday evening listening as well.

Having recently spent some time in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of the country, it seemed appropriate that this morning I should be introduced to a performer I've not had the pleasure of hearing before.  Abigail Washburn was on stage, and I spent a good hour enjoying her music.

She is very fluent in Chinese, and also includes Asian music in her program as well.  Something I found to be a good mix as her style is soft and I've always thought Oriental music to be soothing and gentle.

Originally aiming to become a lawyer in China, working to improve Chinese and American relations, Abigail came to find the Banjo and music was the key to her... soul, I guess is a good word for it.

Diplomacy's loss is most definitely a gain for the world of music.  Play on girl, well done.  A few tunes from your banjo immediately took me back to my friends in Big Stone Gap V.A.

If you'd like to enjoy her music this You Tube link will take you to some of her videos.

Ooops! Locked Out!

Though this picture is staged back home, it clearly illustrates the predicament I found myself in Thursday afternoon.

Time at the cabin comes with some inherent risks.  I'm often there alone with only my dog Max for company.

I've long passed those early years of adulthood where most men are convinced of their immortality. Odds are I could tip over without warning on most any given day.  That said, the cabin is pretty much total isolation.

Not only am I a 1/4 mile off the road, it's 10 miles to a one intersection town and 50 miles to the nearest hospital.  To minimize the possibility of lying for days in some compromised condition, I call home every evening to check in.

This alone isn't the best of situations because there is no land line.  I rely on my cell phone.  Which by the way is out of range unless I travel down the long driveway, and about two blocks further toward the main highway.

As I mentioned Thursday this daily check-in took on a new twist.  I stopped at the end of the driveway to lower the security cable that blocks access to and egress from the cabin.  Not thinking, I left the engine running, stepped out of the car closing the door so Max would stay inside while I unlocked the cable.

As I turned back to the car I heard a distinctive "Clunk", the sound of the electric door locks locking!

There I sat, locked out of the car with the motor idling away and my dog looking confused through the window wondering why I wasn't getting back in the car.

Realizing I was screwed, I made my check-in call to Mary only to ask her to immediately drive the 60 miles from town with the spare key.

The lock switch was an easy access for an errant pooches paw.   Bouncing around on the armrest it was easy to see how Max happened to step on it locking the door.  The hopeless part of the situation was that the button to unlock the door was much closer to the door and seemingly unlikely for the dog to step on.

I spent the next 5 minutes making faces down in the corner of the window trying to get Max to move around enough to unlock the door.  It was looking pretty futile when suddenly I heard the familiar "Clunk" again as he managed to step in just the right spot.

I grabbed for the door handle, and as quickly as I was locked out, I was back in.

As I mentioned I have to jump through a few hoops to make my call home under normal conditions.  Now what were the chances I could reach Mary's cell phone to stop her en-route as she had already put in a long day at work, including going in early and staying late.

The first try got through, she had only gotten about a mile from the house.  She was able to go back, enjoy a quite evening and finish out her day without the added stress of driving for a few hours just to rescue one stupid little dog trapped in a car.

What had appeared to be a major malfunction turned out to only be an interesting end to a busy day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Going Nowhere Fast!

It's been a busy few days at the cabin.  After my cross country voyage, in the new stealth van, I was hot to get the motorhome out of storage and on the road for the summer.

I did battle all winter with an industrious squirrel that insisted on taking up residence in my RV, but in the end I won!

Though my traps were sprung, but empty, I at least found his point of entry.

The bottom side of the flooring is covered in tin from front to back.  The firewall area is constructed of sheet steel, also preventing access.  The one spot that the factory dropped the ball was an unused 2" access hole through the 1/16" plate firewall.

Taking the easy way out, they simply sprayed in some quick set foam insulation.  It probably took that squirrel less than 5 minutes to chew through that soft stuff and like magic he was in!

Now the hole is covered with more sheet steel, better luck next time squirrel.  Check, and Mate!!

It's been 2 years since my motorhome has turned a wheel.  I got busy cleaning and servicing.  Washing it inside and out, changing the oil, and starting all the appliances to make sure everything was ready to go.

Once I felt it was ready to hit the road, I was off to town to gas up my rolling mansion.  That's when the reality of the situation struck home.  After pumping in $100 of fuel the gauge on the dashboard registered a little over 1/2 a tank.  At $4.19 a gallon, to fill my 65 gallon tank would have cost me $272.35.  As it was the $100 I put in is enough fuel to get me from Duluth to Minneapolis and maybe 1/2 way back.

To add insult to injury within 24 hrs gas took another big hike.  Now at $4.44 a gallon, you can see why I took the mini-van on my trip out east.  It would have cost me $2,220 to make a trip that cost me $570.

Now my freshly prepared motorhome sits again unused in the yard.  At some point this summer I'll probably top off the tank and go for a couple weekend outings.  No new territory explored, just familiar places where we can have a camp fire, and maybe cruise the ATV trails a bit.

Somehow I expected retirement to be a time of new adventures.  I'm sure glad I did that over 15 years ago when gas was cheap.  At least I didn't miss out on traveling the country all together.  One thing for sure now,

my motorhome is going nowhere fast again this year!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Native American Flute: The Perfect Instrument For Those Inept!

Before I go too far you need to know I have zero musical ability.  I tried percussion in grade school and flunked out in 4 weeks.

I thought the harmonica would be the perfect traveling instrument but then what genius designed them with the holes so close together.

The solitary traveler, like myself, would sometimes appreciate some relaxing music.  Especially if they can create it themselves.  There's something about the effort, and the slow breathing, that by itself helps stress to just slip away.  If the effort can be rewarded with soothing sounds, so much the better.

I picked up this Native American cedar flute on Ebay.  $42, including shipping, brought me a hand made flute that was guaranteed to play in perfect pitch.

Though skeptical, after numerous other failures, I did some  research, and watched a few You Tube instructional videos.  It gave me enough confidence to send off my order.  I think it was those few pointers, easily found on line, that made the difference.  Within 5 minutes I was tooting up a storm.

OK, I'm no Beethoven.  I can claim to make clean, clear notes, with nary a squawk or squeal to be heard.

The beauty of this instrument is that's enough to create a soft relaxing series of tones.  Though not necessarily an organized song, they still provide a relaxing ambiance.  It's said for the best effect the flute should be played outside, say in a box canyon for the acoustical effect.

Judge for yourself with this short video of my meager attempt at playing after minimal learning effort:
No applause necessary.  I find it relaxing, that's good enough for me.  Imagine it sitting around a campfire, that will make a difference.

Click this link Native American Flute Music to hear some beautiful music played by someone with actual skill.  Don't be discourage by my clumsy attempt at playing, just go ahead and dive in with both feet.  I've always found that to be the best approach with anything!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Recap: It Was A Great Trip!

Some trip, I'd swear at times I was sure I saw myself in the road signs.

When I arrived back home this morning, I was plenty glad to get out from behind the wheel for awhile.

Now that the feeling has returned to my backside, it's time to assess my voyage.  Yes, I had goals from the start.  I've owed relatives out east a visit for some time.  Now retired, I could make the journey.

Included in the trip was reuniting with an old military buddy, and meeting the one person most significant in my online financial successes.  Happily I can report all three goals accomplished, and I might add a few new friendships were gained in the process.

Beyond these normal upfront goals, there was plenty behind the scenes that I hope to accomplish.  This being my first long distance trip by myself, there was the underlying question of "Could I stand myself alone for that long".  Yep, I made it without driving myself nuts, actually enjoyed the solitude too.

I know I set out to wander the back roads with no concern for time or date.  I think I'm an abstract failure on that issue.  Yes I took secondary highways going east.  This indeed slowed my progress, and granted me some wonderful scenery.  But once I left Boston and my relatives in the rear view mirror, I got antsy to make progress and set out to more or less get on with my prearranged agenda.

I enjoyed my stays with friends, but once on the road it was main arteries, and how many miles can I get under my belt.  Because I was concerned about leaving my cabin unattended after the break in weeks back, and of course missing Mary and my dogs, I was way more interested in expedient travel than poking along.

Proving to myself I'm still quite capable of driving way more miles in a day than is prudent or sensible...Oh well.

On to how functional is a mini-van as a live in traveling domicile.  Success with this issue, yes it works amazingly well.  Building out the van before the trip I kind of went overboard.  I rigged it more for living in apposed to traveling in.  Meaning I had the ability to cook most of my meals, and the supplies to do so.  Only problem it just wasn't convenient to do so, as it's unlikely truck stops would tolerate an operating chuck wagon kitchen in their parking lot when they have a perfectly good restaurant in their complex.

The key to my success was the bed.  A regulation, at least medium quality, twin mattress resting on a low pedestal bed allowing me to sit on the edge of the bed to put on my pants and shoes.  Small thing, but it's really important for long term comfort.

In the cooler temperatures I slept so soundly I often awoke not knowing for sure where I was.  Home, cabin, motel, who knows.  Might be age or mentality, but mostly it was I slept good!

The van is comfortable to drive all day, and very cost efficient.  Driving just under 4,000 miles at a cost of $460 dollars spent on gas.  Lodging was free, I stayed at large chain truck stops, parking on the auto/RV side of the complex.

Flying J's were consistently the best, with the rest being about equal.  Most prevalent were Travel Centers of America, though it was at two of these I chose to drive on rather than stay.  Too small, to center city in appearance, and signs posted allowing only 30 minutes of parking for customers only.  Not all that traveler friendly if you ask me.

Morning cleanup was always at the truckstop, and showers were done at my various layovers.  The reported Baby Wipes do indeed make reasonable cleanliness possible without full shower facilities, when the need to stretch the period between showers is necessary.

Using McDonald's for free internet access was very reliable.  Most often I pulled into an empty parking space, placed my little magnetic antennae on the roof, and spent up to an hour taking care of business on line.  Maybe 20% of the time I would go through the drive-thru but most of the time I just left.

If the McDonald's is located within or next door to a truckstop they wouldn't offer free WiFi because the truckstop sells the service to truckers in their lot.  I just chose Micky Dee's located on exits without truck facilities.  I had 100% success in finding McD's with WiFi this way.

As a final note the question of "Would I travel in this manner again" gets answered with a resounding YES!  Though I suffered from a sense of guilt, as I know Mary would have enjoyed the trip in the motorhome but work and cost prevented that.  Now I can get on with my summer, there's lots of work to get done at the cabin, now that the snow is gone.

Friday, May 3, 2013

40 Years? No Big Deal For Military Roomies!

Some people you never forget, that's the kind of bond you build when you're in the military.  Richard and I served together way back 40 years ago.  With the help of a famous author, Adriana Trigiani, I tracked down my long ago roommate and today we erased that minor time gap in our friendship.

I've always said Southern hospitality was special.  Richard and Noreen exemplify all the good things in people.  Welcoming me into their home after days on the road as they did, even though I was sadly in need of a shower.

Big Stone Gap is a small coal mining community way back in the Hills of Virginia.  The scenery is fantastic, especially in the spring when everything is bright green and fresh.  We toured the town, refreshing old memories of when I was there in my early twenties.  The road lined with what used to be company owned housing up to the top of the hill where Richard grew up.  Dad was the superintendent so they had the house up on the hill.  A larger home among others of higher stature within the mining company.

The coal mine is shut down now, the company has sold off everything.  Life is a slower pace in these parts but no matter they are still good people.  It's the kind of place where you put down roots and spend a lifetime.  Just ask Richard, he's been there all along.