Wednesday, October 28, 2015

2015-32 Solar Panels Installed, Quartzsite Arizona


another day ends with beautiful sunsets

Solar Power and beyond….

soaking up the sun on BLM land
As you probably know by now from my last report, I had solar panels installed on my camper.  Along with an awesome 2,000 watt inverter, solar power controller and 4 sealed highly efficient 6 volt deep cycle batteries.  I moved onto BLM land just up the street from my last full hookup campsite and am now testing out the solar system while dry camping in the desert.

First off, the 2,000 watt inverter will provide enough power to run the TV, microwave, small coffee pot and of course all the LED lights, radio and a few other things like my laptop and cell phone charging.  Obviously, not all items at the same time…

After setting up in the desert, pretty much away from the other campers who are congregating in the desert, I started to document the power settings and draining of power with some of the appliances.  Couldn’t figure out why the power was draining so quickly once I turned on the Inverter especially since I hadn‘t turned anything on yet.  But finally I figured it out after a while when I realized that every time I turned on the inverter, the fridge switched from gas to electric.  I had forgotten that I usually have it set on auto which means it can switch back and forth between electric and propane when one or the other is available.  After manually switching the fridge to propane, the inverter started to act normal.

The entire day has been overcast, yet the three solar panels were able to generate enough power that I was able to watch a movie on my large LCD 40” flat screen Tv (that‘s one inch larger than Tom‘s), have the stereo sound system on, and an overhead exhaust fan running.  The solar panels must be very efficient as they brought the batteries up to full power while I enjoyed using those electric items.  And did it with an overcast sky.  Now that’s impressive.

as you can see the desert isn't as bare as one might think

Taking a break, I sat outside to enjoy the peacefulness of the desert scenery with only hints of other Rv-ers out in the desert.  A small white patch indicating a camper was a fair distance away hidden behind ironwood trees and stately cactus .   The hum of a motor vehicle going down the highway a half a mile away.  Humming birds dive bombing my campsite looking for flowers and nectar.  Buzzing off after a quick check of the area.  Reading a book on my Kindle reader, but eventually putting it down just to look out at the expansive desert scenery.  Later the sunset would appear glowing red behind the mountain range where it quickly set this evening.  As if a volcano had just erupted.  A short while later the entire sky turned shades of pink, then deeper coppers and reds before fading into the night.  Only the far off lights of a small community flickering in the inky black darkness.  Night time comes early and quickly out in the desert this time of year.

I positioned the camper so that the entrance door and my outside seating would be in the shade all day long.  Necessary when the temperatures reach into the mid to high 80’s from noon until 5 pm each day.  Other than that, the mornings and evenings are very pleasant.  And being able to sit out on the shady side of the camper during the heat of the day is acceptable.  Though a run into town for a 69 cent ice-cream cone sure hit’s the spot.

I see a face in the mountains... do you?

2 nd day.  All’s well with the solar panels.  They are charging nicely and it appears the TV uses very little power (about 4 amps) as I’m able to watch it throughout the day and not use any battery power, only using solar power.  Evenings of course I’m relying on the batteries completely.  My small one cup coffee maker uses 48 amps of power which is rather high, but it’s only on for a couple of minutes.

I stopped into the Solar Discount store today to get a bit more info and let them know the little hiccups I’ve gone encountered, noting that I found only one thing amiss with their installation.  One of the solar brackets had not been covered with the DynCorp sealant.  They kindly gave me enough to cover the bracket.  Then when I got back to the camper, I noticed that the new breaker panel installed on the ceiling of the storage bay is hanging loose.  Apparently they did not secure it properly and I’ll have to bring it in so they can secure it correctly.  I could probably do it myself if I had too, but with the new solar equipment I would not be able to tell what had power going through it or not.  Not wanting to get an electrical shock, I’ll let them do the work.  A minor issue but glad I caught it before leaving the area.  Having a hanging power panel loose is not a good thing.

I’m continually impressed with how well the solar panels and batteries are doing.  I’m able to use much of the electric appliances and TV as I normally would.  I even used the microwave and it functioned quiet well, with the anticipated dip in the battery storage of course.  The TV being the lowest of amp use so far, making it quite easy to watch as much TV as I care too.

The days continue to be overcast and the solar panels are still able to continue charging.  Obviously at a slower rate, but still able to produce enough power to charge the batteries during the day.

My new friends Jeanne and Danny with their two free roaming cats and one very spoiled dog who is seldom on a leash had a bad experience the other day.  They are both new to this camping lifestyle and living in the desert for a short time on top of that.  Coyotes are around, occasionally seen during the day and often heard howling in the evening.  Jeanne and Danny have been warned repeatedly that they need to secure their pets inside or have them on a leash.  It might be added that most of the Rv-ers at La Paz campground seldom have their own pets on a leash.  Well, the other morning, rather early, I’d say around 5:30 AM or so, one of their cats wanted out of the camper to go pee.  A coyote was waiting quietly under their camper and needless to say, the cat is no longer with us.  It’s a sad lesson that we all must learn that domesticated pets are easy prey for the coyote and other animals in the wild.  And although we think by being in a campground, surrounded by other campers we‘re safe, we are in fact often out in nature where survival goes to the wild ones, not our pampered pets.  So we say a little pet prayer and wish all critters be safe from the wild ones.

The minor repairs have been made to my campers new solar panel installation and I’ll be heading out tomorrow. They actually moved the fallen breaker panel inside the service bay area behind the sliding access door.  A much safer and out of the way location.

I’m heading across the state to a favorite place I haven’t been to in a couple of years, the Cottonwood Arizona area.  Lots of Indian ruins, Jerome, the active ghost town up on the mountain over looking the area and Sedona that fancy upper class community surrounded by the most beautiful red rock with tons of hiking trails to explore.  I have a few good friends in the area that I’ve met over the years after having doing some camp hosting at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

There is a small BLM dispersed camping area (free) and recently I’ve discovered that the local Fairgrounds also has dry camping ($7.00) and some electric sites with 50 amp service for around $15 a night.  I’ll probably stay in the BLM site continuing to test out the solar panel system.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

2015-31 Lake Havasu to Quartzsite Arizona New Solar Panels get Installed

Quartzsite Arizona


Lake Havasu Arizona
Quartzsite Arizona

Campground:  Campbell Cove.  Full hookup, 50 amp.  PPA rate $21.00  5 day limit.  Nice park during off season.  Sites are close together and would be very tight during the winter months.  Small swimming pool and hot tub.  Park is in-town making easy drives to shops and restaurants.

Campground:  La Paz Rv park.  About 5 miles south of Quartzsite.  PPA rate:  $10.50, full hookup 50 amp service.  Desert setting, no tv.  3G Verizon service.  Small laundry room available.

local public beach in Lake Havasu AZ

the London Bridge that was moved to the Arizona desert community

Even the canal is man-made connected to Lake Havasu

I’ve traveled to both places in this report in the past, usually in the fall.  It’s really hot in Lake Havasu for most of this week, 100+ degrees so I didn’t do too much outdoor stuff.  This town is a great place if you need service on a vehicle, camper or boat as there are many shops almost on every corner.  Or if you’re interested in buying a car, truck, camper, or boat the same applies.  Sales centers, both small and large seem to be on every corner.

This is a vacation destination and many homes are smaller and suited for vacation living.  Of course I’ve also seen some pretty large Mc Mansions as well.  The town continues to grow each time I come back into the area as I see more concrete homes have gone up.  Of course the attraction out here in the desert is the lake.  Boaters from California, Arizona and surrounding areas, some as far away as Washington State come down here to enjoy the brilliant sun and water.

I enjoy the good restaurants, the free boat ride (with coupon) across the lake to the California side to the Indian Casino.  The shopping is nice as well, as there are many good stores to purchase all those goodies.  Tuesday Morning, 99Cent stores, Big Lots, Ross Dress for Less, Harbor Freight, Home Depot and Lowes all are ready to take your money.

Miniture lighthouse replicas line Lake Havasu

looking over into California

A wash that's used as a road to lake access

next to the London Bridge, beautiful Condo's and shops

My goal on this leg of my journey though is to see about getting solar panels installed on the camper down in Quartzsite Arizona.  Which of course is the winter snowbird destination for many dry campers from all over the country.  There are a number of destinations I’d like to enjoy and the only way to be able to enjoy them is via dry camping.  The decision is always between solar or a generator for the purpose of dry camping.  I prefer solar as the noise lever is non existent.


sunset brings cooler evenings for sitting outside till bedtime

I drove through Quartzsite, continuing south on hwy 95 about 6 miles out of town, turned right towards the bare mountain range, past weather worn mobile homes, sun scorched Rv’s, parched cactus, ocotillo and ironwood trees.  Flat bare desert landscapes.  Quartzsite will officially welcome the snowbirds when shops open November 1st.  Since I’m here a week or so early, only the year-round stores and restaurants are open.  The restaurant/Laundromat,  Family Dollar, a local grocery store and gas stations/fast food stops.  Row after row of Rv parks that cater to folks who want full hookups line the streets, empty, waiting for their winter residences to arrive.

my desert campsite at La Paz Valley

ramshackle buildings, this is the library and office

community center and kitchen

inside the community center

the community kitchen used for pot lucks etc. love the cabinets

Here at La Paz Rv park, three early winter residents have arrived a few days ago.  I and one other Passport America member came in today to take advantage of the $10.50 daily rate.  Rocks and quartzite boarder each RV lot helping to define each space.  A few weathered plywood structures comprise the office, Library with paperback books lining the walls and a laundry rooms .  Windows are covered with insulation sheets from the harsh sunlight.  Enough light streams through cracks and openings in the windows providing a ghost town effect to the inside of the buildings.  Doors remain wide open when in use, no air-conditioning used here.  In the center of the property stands a two story concrete building.  The first floor is used as a community center, second floor isn’t being used at present.

My niece Kelly and her husband Rusty would love coming out here to experience the “Peace Trail”.  Designed for ATV’s, Quad’s, and Jeeps, this 700 mile long dirt trail in the Sonoran Desert connects three counties.  It’s a loop trail from Bull Head City to Yuma with points of interest all along the way.  The trail uses existing roads and trails and was established only a year ago.  New signage is expected to be put in place shortly.

Life in the desert is quiet.  Walks in the desert often lead to unexpected finds.  Like the pet cemetery that my neighbors discovered the other night, while walk their dog at dusk.  They saw small lights flickering in the distance near some saguaro cactus.  Thinking it might be a camper out in the desert, they slowly walked closer to see if that was the case.  Instead, they found a pet cemetery where loving pets were put to rest.  Little monuments to furry friends who had passed on.  Many of the sites having those solar LED lights as sentries in the night.

an evening walk in the desert

to the Paradise Pet Cemetery

the cactus are narrow with the loss of their stored water
during this extended drought.  

Well I mentioned how quiet it was in the desert, that is until a few coyotes enter the campground in the dead of night and begin to howl and yip searching for a quick meal.  Maybe looking for a stray cat or dog out for a late night wiz.  I was told later they were making noises like they were injured and needing help, hoping to draw in their prey.

Discount Solar

On Thursday I brought my camper in for the installation of the solar panels.  It would take all day for the installation and I’m certainly glad I didn’t attempt to do the work myself as it’s actually quite complicated with all the electrical connections between the shore power, battery pack, inverters and charges.   The job appears to have been done with lots of skill and know-how and I look forward to doing a bit of “dry camping” in the near future to test everything out.

three are being installed and I can expand to four if needed

it's an all day job

Breaker box being inspected and changed
solar panels installed and so much more

My neighbors, Danny, Jeanne and I went into California today to visit Blythe, the Native Indian Intaglios and have a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.  Blythe is a farming community with many having a  Mexican heritage.  The town is large enough to have a big K-Mart, a couple nice grocery stores and a few other basic shops and restaurants.  On the drive back into Quartzsite we even drove into the desert and visited the remains of Joseph Cone’s stone house and art studio that he built.  Stunning site, easy to get to if you discount the jarring wash we had to drive down into and abruptly climbed out of and that was done in my two wheel drive truck, without the aid of four wheel drive.  Whew, probably would never have tried it on my own.

Danny getting the perfect shot

the loose tin roof creaking loudly with each gust of wind

built in the 1800's

art studio on left and house on right

I had a scare this morning as I was repacking stuff back into the storage bays on the camper.  When I went back into the camper, all the electric power was off and the refrigerator was working on propane.  Did something blow out on the new solar power system?  After a bit of scrambling to understand the complicated LED solar charger display panels, I went back outside checking the shore power and breakers.  Come to find out, I had accidentally turned off all the new power breakers they had installed on the ceiling of one of the storage bays.  Obviously not a good location for the breaker panel as it is very easy to accidentally hit the switches and turn something off.  After turning them back on which is difficult to tell if they are off or on since the switches are up upside down on the ceiling of the storage bay, everything is back to normal and working fine.  I also noted that they had removed two of the breaker switches and could have used two unused breaker locations inside my original breaker panel without having to install the “new” breaker box.  Not sure why they went to such trouble adding a new breaker box when there was obviously plenty of room in my original breaker box.  But it works at this point and I’m sure there must be a reason for the seperation of breakers.

I’ll move over to dry camping just a half a mile away to test the systems out tomorrow before heading on down the road and will update you one more time to let you know how this new solar system adventure turns out.

Miscellaneous shots from the area



on top of a shop in town

an historic gas station and out buildings

Till then, it’s bright and sunny, dry, high 80’s and 90’s in the desert as I watch all the “snow-birds and desert rats” descend on Quartzsite for the winter.  The dozens of large flea markets, swap shops and temporary Rv related stores will officially begin to open on November 1st.  A unique lifestyle that I'm able to have a glimpse of along the way as I continue my journey towards Tucson Az and my winter destination.

more photos on PICASA