On my last long trip we were car camping for two weeks in Josh. Because we weren’t driving the car, I was unable to use my inverter to charge my camera battery. The easy solution would have been to buy a new battery, but Canon is backordered. I’ve also dreamed about a 12 volt fridge for a while…buying ice is frustrating.
When my dividend arrived from REI it was enough to pay for a 100 watt Goal Zero solar panel. In my last post I talked about building a DIY solar generator. I have since upgraded that to a real car sized LifePo4 battery in a bigger, stronger milk crate. Today I finally put the solar panels on the top of the Tundra and hooked them up to the milk crate. I have 4 amps coming in to the battery with one amp going out to the strip lights inside the canopy.
The solar charge controller is managing everything and will supposedly shut down the power if the battery gets overcharged, or undercharged. I’m running the canopy lights off the Load terminal on the solar charge controller.
In other news, we broke the pedal off our beater secondhand unicycle taking so many falls. I have a new one on order from unicycle.com. I got what is called a “Trials” uni. They are built for mountain biking trails and lots of hard falls.
I had one of my collectors buy a pastel painting 30 years ago. She saw some dust on the matt and decided to re-frame it. The frame maker told her she could avoid more dust by spraying it with fix. The fix ruined the painting. It looked like it was under 2 layers of wax paper. All the vibrant color of the raw pastel was totally killed. You could sort of see the old painting but it was awful.
She found me online and I drove up there yesterday with some unsold paintings from that era. I used those as a reference to re-paint her painting, bringing it back to life. I’ve never done that before. It was actually quite fun seeing the painting start to breath again. I’m not sure it’s as good as it was before…but it’s definitely quite pretty. I know that darn mountain so well I can paint it when it isn’t even there.
Pictures first, I’ll write the narrative later. This is taking a long time to write…lot of things to do at home after a month long road trip.
A week ago when I got home I started working on Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. The first two weeks of practicing it focused exclusively on guitar. Singing along with it was absolutely hopeless. The timing of the picking is so precise that is has to become automatic. And for my aging train wreck of a mind that took a loooong time. Two weeks to be precise, playing it for an hour a day.
But today, I listened to her sing it on this tutorial and started singing along…badly. I had to simplify the chords initially to give me the spare brain bandwidth for voice and guitar together, all while listening and playing along with them. But finally, something clicked and the flood gates opened. I stopped the video and started actually playing it all by myself. So fun!
I’ve been playing Fast Car for a couple weeks now and it’s starting to smooth out. I’m into the polishing process now. This is where I’m relaxed enough playing it that I can start to think about what the words mean, and how to add emotion to the verses.
This is the longest I’ve ever taken to write a trip report. It was also my longest trip. I’ve been diverted by two problems I noticed on the journey. One was the roof top solar heated shower pipe. All the shower places closed down due to covid. Our shower does work, but it’s slow and cold. I looked into instant water heaters but the cheap ones had bad reviews and I don’t want to spend big dollars on something you can do perfectly will with a pot of warm water…pioneer style.
So I built a heat exchanger coil from 35 feet of one quarter inch copper refrigerator tubing. I coiled it up small enough to fit in one of our camping cook pots. I dropped that coil into a large pot of boiling water and it heated the water up nicely. When I did a smaller coil (started with 10 feet) in a smaller pot the water didn’t stay warm. The cold shower water coming through the line cooled the boiling water.
I needed the larger pot to offset the reverse cooling of the heat exchanger. My problem now is that water is scarce while dry camping in the desert. So I need to try heating the coil in a campfire bread maker stove…which I don’t own.
After that I started working on solar. We were climbing in one place so long that we couldn’t charge my camera batteries. They run on 110 and take up to four hours…and we weren’t doing more than 20 minute shopping trips. I’ve always resisted solar, but my REI dividend covered a goal zero panel and I thought: why not?
But storing the electricity led me down a rabbit hole of information I was unaware of. Initially I was tempted by the goal zero ecosystem. Its plug and play but extremely pricey for what you get. I ended up building this with a small battery and some other components I had on hand from ham radio.
It was a huge learning curve…and now I’m rebuilding it with a much better battery and some other improved circuitry…so we’ll see.
And then for some dumb reason I dropped everything and bought a used unicycle. I’m all over the place these days.
My most recent diversion was jury duty. As a working stiff, I’ve always been excused from jury duty. This time I had no excuse. We spent 4 days working through the process with 60 people for one trial, whittling it down to just enough for a jury. I had a bad attitude at first…but gradually came to realize that, at least in some trials, it can be an honor to serve.
I told them early on that I have an intense dislike for lawyers, thinking them too rich and often dishonest. And that I thought there was far too much litigation in this country. I could get much deeper into the experience but we were warned not to talk about the case.
I was surprised at how nice the judge and lawyers were. They asked us over and over if we needed to be excused. “We totally understand if you don’t want to serve…for any reason at all. Just let us know, it’s OK, we get it.” They totally understand how taking time away from an important job…or maybe your only job…is a huge financial burden. I was not expecting that amount of kindness and humanity from people wrapped up in the murky world of legal proceedings.
Q: Why won’t sharks attack lawyers? A: Professional courtesy
Towards the end I was actually hoping they’d pick me. In a way, it meant I had integrity, and I could be an impartial juror. I was starting to make friends in the crew…there were some really nice people there. But I’m guessing my initial attitude towards the case (which I can’t disclose) showed I might not be impartial.
After getting out of jury duty today Sue and I walked the unicycle down to the park where there was a narrow fenced walkway where we could practice. At 14, I couldn’t ride my brothers unicycle. But now at 68, Sue and I are making some progress. It seems…not impossible. Still extremely hard and scary…but maybe, maybe if we keep trying, we might just get it.
I saw a guy riding one around Josh last trip. It would fit in the truck better than a bicycle. Oh, and Clint finally replaced Jamies wrecked car. Nothing like a car problem to wreck a household budget.
In our family, we’ve wrecked 4 cars, including my Tacoma which was hit and run by a sideswiper right in front of our house. One of the others was Dan hitting an elk, while the other two were Jamie and Dan sitting in traffic and getting rear ended. All 4 cars were totaled at a time when car prices and availability is awful due to covid.
We really are so lucky to all have good jobs, and or retirement, so that we can recover from financial disasters like car accidents. Many people seem to whiz around in their cars thinking it’s no big thing. But for me and Sue, driving feels like a big responsibility. Maybe it’s just that we’ve been driving so long, over a million miles, that it feels like the odds are against us. No one is perfect forever. On the other hand, we have some serious skills after all those miles. So who knows.