On Our Way To Mexico

It’s Saturday Feb 8th and we left Rovers Roost this morning and made our way 3 hours West to Quartzsite (AZ). We came over here because our new lithium batteries weren’t acting the way I thought they should.

Brian Boone installed our solar panels, controllers and inverter. We could have bought the batteries through him when he installed all the other, but it just wasn’t in the budget at the time.

But when we went to the Big Tent RV Show last month, the sale price on these batteries was just too good to pass up, so we bought 2 and I installed them myself. They market them as “Drop in replacements” … We’ll, not exactly the case.

When we spent 10 days in the desert at the big show, we were still using our Trojan T-105 Deep Cycle Lead Acid batteries. The solar and the batteries played well together and we never once had to fire up the generator.

But once we got back to the Roost and I swapped in the new lithiums, things always seemed a little screwy. I was constantly watching the volts, the amps, the capacity (in percent) and the amp hours from full. And the math just wasn’t adding up!

Time for some professional help. I called Brian for help. He and Sue are still dry camping in Q, so we drove out here to have him take a look. What Battle Born doesn’t tell you is that there are more than a couple settings that need to be changed when converting from lead acid to lithium batteries.

Brian made the changes and all seems to be working well now. I’ll monitor things tonight and in the morning and let him know before we head outta town.

Our camp site for the night at Road Runner BLM land a few miles south of Quartzsite

We’ve got the windows open, no fans on and a nice breeze moving through the coach. Kathy’s taking a little siesta on the couch right now as I write this. We’ve decided we’re going in to Silly Al’s for pizza tonight.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll head on down SR 95 to Yuma where we will spend the night at the Escapees KOFA Co-Op park for the night, then Monday morning head West through El Centro CA to Potrero County Park

Potrero is where we will meet all the others going on the caravan to Mexico. There will be 27 rigs total. Kathy and I are on the parking team so we need to get into Potrero a day early so as to be able to be ready bright and early to greet and park the folks coming in.

We’ll spend a night or two at Potrero before we caravan into Mexico.

Much more on that later. I know our Visible phones won’t work in Mexico, so I’m going to try to buy a SIM card in Mexico. Not sure how pricey it’ll be, so it’s not clear on how many pictures I’ll be able to post.

But rest assured you’ll hear from us again. If not sooner, then later!

Adios for now!

herbnkathy solar install

While we were on the road this year, I made an appointment with Brian Boone to have our solar power system upgraded when we got back to Arizona.

We set the appointment for November 18th in Quartzsite. Brian worked for Discount Solar for ten years installing new systems before going out on his own.

Welcome to Quartzsite

Brian and his wife Sue are full-time RV’ers themselves and travel the country posting their upcoming locations on their Facebook page so other RV’ers can make appointments when it works for both.

Since our RV Park at Casa Grande is only 3 hours from Q, it was an easy drive for the day and a half it would take for the install. Brian was able to make arrangements with a local church to allow us to use their parking lot for the duration.

Our first night at the church parking lot

After arriving Sunday afternoon in Q, we had dinner at the famous Quartzsite Yacht Club where they had Karaoke and it was a blast!

I ordered all the equipment for the install from Continuous Resources back in October and had it delivered to me at our RV park in plenty of time to load up in the Saturn to take along with us to the install site. By doing it this way Brian doesn’t have to carry any bulky, heavy, and high priced inventory. He does however, carry a wide variety of cables, connectors, and hardware needed to complete the installation.

6 solar panels, 2 solar controllers, Inverter, remote panels, switches, and fuses

The next morning Brian and crew showed up about 8:30, set up their work station and got right to work.

Since Brian is having a little trouble with his knees lately he solicited the help of his friend Devin to do some of the work that would require kneeling and squatting.

We installed (six) 200 watt Hightec RCL-M200w solar panels on the roof, two Blue Sky 3024i controllers, two power disconnects, fuse, and a Magnum 2000 watt full sine wave inverter. Both the inverter and the solar controller(s) have remote monitoring and control panels wall mounted in the kitchen. We mounted these on the wall because we didn’t have any cabinet conveniently located that we could mount them into.

Our next upgrade will be to replace the four Trojan T-105 flooded cell batteries with four Battleborn Lithium 100 amp hour batteries but that’ll be a while since they are so pricey.

Although the job was finished Tuesday about noon in time for us to make it back to Casa Grande, we decided to stay a 3rd night because a bad wind and rain storm was headed our way. By early afternoon the temperature dropped about 25 degrees and the wind went from “still” to 20-30 mph gusts.

Look at the sky as the storm was heading in … eery

So we spent another night at the church and then headed on home on Wednesday.

If you’re considering installing or upgrading your solar system, I recommend that you check out Brian Boone’s Got Solar or Got Solar? Solar Brian on Facebook.

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, you can easily do so by scrolling up to the top of any page and entering your email address in the block on the right side.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel (herbnkathyrv) on You Tube.

If you’re curious (at any time) to know where we are at that moment then click the button at the top right of this page labeled “See Where We Are Now“.

We’d love to hear from you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you can send us a note. Again, thanks for riding along. ’til next time – safe travels.

Bill Williams River Wildlife Refuge – Lake Havasu, AZ

We saw some beautiful sights on our way up to Parker Dam and Lake Havasu, and once we finished lunch at Lake Havasu City, Kathy suggested we work our way back down to visit the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s really a great facility with lots of paved walkways, plenty of shaded places to sit and just take in and appreciate all the different vegetation and water fowl, and enjoy all that we have to enjoy in this beautiful country of ours.

There are 3 park host RV sites there and we talked with one of the hosts just as we were leaving.  He’s been there for a few years and does everything from taking care of the beds and the trails, watering the batteries in the solar banks, maintaining the golf carts and utility vehicles, to daily maintenance of the Visitor Center and the Education Center used by schools and other groups.

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We had an opportunity to use our new Vortex Optics 10×42 Binoculars to see the birds, and boy were they great at bringing everything up close and so clear too!

Our Adventure to Quartzsite

For over 35 years now, there has been a group of people traveling to a once barren area known as Quartzsite, Arizona. These seekers come by the thousands and are often referred to as “gypsies of the modern world”. Entering the grounds of Quartzsite is like entering another world… Back to the good old days in many ways.

But now, this town of 3800, in January of each year, grows to nearly 100,000.  People in their RV’s come from far and wide to hang out for the winter and enjoy each other’s company while visiting some of the attractions including; rock and gem shows, the worlds largest RV show, ham radio convention, and countless other venues.


Although there are some RV parks at Quartzsite, most folks stay in “campgrounds” of sorts at BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands.  There are berg-quartzsite22nearly 12,000 acres of open desert where one can “Boondock” for up to seven months (for a low fee of $170) or other desert sites where you can set up camp for free.

Although there are pit toilets, black water dump stations, and fresh water stations at the entrances to the BLM campgrounds, it’s easiest if the RV is self-contained to make your stay self-sufficient for a few days or more.so

We have a 70 gallon fresh water tank, 52 gallon gray and black water tanks, a pretty hefty battery bank (to power the 12 volt lights and water pump) along with both solar panels on 2016-12-19-09-21-14the roof and a 8000 watt diesel generator to recharge the batteries.  We also have a 2000 watt power inverter that will take the 12 volt dc battery and convert it to 110 volt ac power so that we can watch our TV at night and make coffee in the morning.

Our refrigerator and water heater both run on propane when we’re boondocking and 110 v shore power when we are connected in an RV park.

So Kathy and I are excited as we plan on heading to Quartzsite on Jan 22nd.  We’ll be there for three or four days and hopefully we’ll have enough food in the fridge and propane in the tank to keep us self-sufficient for that time.

We’re looking forward to being at Quartzite, we’re counting on seeing a lot of cool stuff, meeting a lot of great people, and hopefully NOT spending a lot of money at “The Big Tent” RV show.  We’ll update you with pictures as we get them.  Stay tuned.



Amateur Radio Field Day June 2016

I’ve been an Amateur Radio Operator (radio “ham”) since about 1969 growing up in Detroit and for many years since then I’ve participated in the annual Field Day exercise sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Although many (including ham radio operators) consider ham radio a hobby, it is really a public service.  You see, during events like natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, mud slides, severe rains, etc.) very often there is no immediate source of electrical power.  Yes, nowadays we all have our cell phones, but if the power outage is widespread and there is no electrical power to the cell towers, then the wireless phone in our hand isn’t much good to us.

Over the years, ham radio operators have jumped to the rescue along with other volunteers and we have provided the means for those volunteer groups and government agencies to talk to one another and coordinate the workers and accomplish the mission.

For those of you here in Morrow County, you might remember the tornado that ripped apart the Village of Cardington or the historic blizzard that hit Morrow County in 1978, but you may not know that radio hams were an integral part of the emergency teams working to make peoples lives whole again.

The ARRL Field Day is an exercise in emergency preparedness and to that end hams all over the United States exercise and demonstrate their ability to, on short notice, set up their radio equipment typically in a public place but without commercially available power and then operate over a continual 24 hour period to see how many contacts they can make with other hams all across the country.

The four stations set up this year used either gasoline generator, battery, or solar power to operate their “rigs” and logged their contacts on laptop computers.  Those logs will be submitted to the ARRL who will cross-check and tally all the logs from across the country and then publish the winners of the different classes and areas.

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Solar Still Not Working Right?

Take a look at the video — What do you think?  Do I still have a problem?  I really don’t know for sure what to expect from these solar controllers.  I know we fixed the connection between the panel and the controller and I know we also fixed the connection between the controller and the batteries, just not sure that things are working they way they should.

I shot this video with the coach still plugged in to shore power.  When I got home from work later in the day, I disconnected the shore power and then the ARRAY AMPS read about .2 amps and the charging amps read slightly less than that and the “charging” LED was on steady indicating the panels were charging the batteries, even though the battery voltage display was over 13 volts.  I’m confused …..

Solar Panels Not Working?

As we prepare to head to the 56th annual Escapade at Essex Junction, VT the end of July, I’ve been checking and double-checking the various systems in the coach to make sure all is well and in good working order.

Over the last month or so we’ve replaced the two front tires, (they werG670RVULTe made in ’04 and had about 50,000 miles on them) and although they were not checked or cracked and had good even wear pattern, when they’re that old I just didn’t want to take a chance on another cross-country trip.

We’ve got a Heliotrop brand solar charge controller.  This job of this controller is to heliotrop solar controllermonitor the voltage level in the coach 12 v batteries and, should there be enough sunlight, then send power from the roof-mounted solar panels to the batteries to keep them charged.

This week I noticed that the display was blank even though I knew we had a good charge on the battery bank.  I started trouble shooting the wiring harness that runs from the controller located inside the coach to the battery bank located in one of the rear curb-side basement compartments.  I had 12 volts at the batteries, but not at the controller.  I couldn’t believe that the wire was “open” (it’s 10 gauge insulated wire) and I knew it wasn’t shorted to ground because we hadn’t blown the inline fuse.  There must be a loose connection.

As I looked more closely, I found that the installer of the after-market solar panels and controller had used large red wire nuts to tie the power harness into the battery bank.  Well, as it turned out the NEUTRAL wire nut was really only connecting two of the three wires together.  I didn’t like this set-up when I first saw it when we bought the coach, but now since it’s presented a problem, I decided to install a terminal strip and attach all the wires using ring terminals for a tight, low resistance connection.

So now we have a good solid connection between the solar power control panel and the battery bank, but still no power coming from the solar panel on the roof to the controller.  Now it’s time to get Stu (our son-in-law) up on the roof to check out the connection up there, since my knees go weak when I get up to about the 6th step on the ladder.  I’ll let you know what we find a little later on.

(Update June 22, 2016) So here’s what we found: