Since I don't have much in the way of photos today, I thought I'd lead with the ending.
We were up at 6:00 a.m. this morning as Linda needed to be at the Elmira-Corning airport around 8:30. About two weeks ago, she expressed the desire to go to a baby shower her sister and niece were throwing in Jacksonville, FL. It was just the excuse she needed to go back and visit family and see how the new house was coming along.
We had a couple of vouchers on Allegiant Air from flight delays getting home from RV shows this past winter, so the cost would be minimal. It just threw a kink in my planning.
We booked the flight assuming that we'd be in the Watkins Glen area and the Sugar Hill boondocking thing would work out. The airport is only 21 miles and 30 minutes from here. Fortunately, everything worked out and I got her to the airport right on time. It was all back roads, no traffic, no stress (other than the occasional deer crossing the road), and no lines for check-in. It was a direct flight and she texted me that she arrived safely. She'll be back on Wednesday.
I drove back to Watkins Glen, again dodging deer, to get some breakfast and make a quick stop at Walmart. I came in on NY 414 which has a serious downgrade going into town. I was glad I wasn't towing the fifth wheel on that.
A quick Google search put me at Classic Chef's in Watkins Glen for breakfast. It was an old place where there were several locals and regulars. The service was fast, the food was fast, the portions were big, and the price was reasonable. Eggs, sausage, and pancakes were good, the fried potatoes not so much - should have skipped those and had an extra egg. I left the potatoes and half the pancakes as it was just too much food, ..... even for me, even for breakfast. I don't often leave food on a breakfast plate.
I drove past the Watkins Glen State Park and things seemed to be bustling there on this Friday. I went on to Walmart, picked up a few things and drove the ten miles back to quieter confines of the Sugar Hill Recreation Area. Okay, now what should I do?
Oh, I need to get our permit from the ranger. So, I got our free two-week permit from Creighton - that was easy. Now what?
While I was washing the rig yesterday, I should have gotten on the roof and wiped down the solar panels just to make sure there was no thick layer of dust blocking my sun. So, I got the ladder back out of the truck, climbed up and cleaned the solar panels. They weren't bad and it really made very little difference in the amps we were bringing in.
When boondocking, we are constantly monitoring our battery situation using the three monitors shown below. We have a system control panel (top) from our Xantrex RS3000 pure sine wave inverter/charger, a Trimetric battery monitor from Bogart Engineering (middle), and a solar monitor for our solar controller (bottom).
The Xantrex system control panel allows us to turn the inverter function on and off and allows us to turn the charger function on and off independently. It also tells us battery voltage, charging rates, usage information, and a lot more.
The Trimetric tells us everything we need to know about the batteries - charging or discharging, net amps being used, voltage, percent full, and most importantly, how many amps of our battery capacity we have used. It is the monitor we look at constantly when boondocking. In addition to "total amp hours used", another setting tells us "net amps being used" now (the net between charging and discharging), so we use it to determine how many amps each item in our rig uses. We can watch the monitor, flip on a light or appliance or electronic device, and see how much the number changes.
The solar monitor tells us how many amps of solar we are getting in at any particular time. And it also tells us battery voltage, so all three monitors tell us the voltage of the battery bank and we can compare to make sure they all display the same.
Understand that the most valuable battery voltage reading is when the batteries are "at rest" (not discharging and a few hours after charging). While discharging (being used), the voltage will show lower and while charging, the voltage will show higher. Immediately after charging the voltage will show a false high reading for a few hours.
Measuring state-of-charge (SoC) by voltage is simple, but it can be inaccurate because cell materials and temperature affect the voltage. The most blatant error of the voltage-based SoC occurs when disturbing a battery with a charge or discharge. The resulting agitation distorts the voltage and it no longer represents a correct SoC reference. To get accurate readings, the battery needs to rest in the open circuit state for at least four hours; battery manufacturers recommend 24 hours for lead acid. This makes the voltage-based SoC method impractical for a battery in active duty.
That's why a battery monitor that can tell more than the current voltage (state-of-charge) is preferable. That's also why you can't rely on the little LED light monitors in most RVs that are supposed to tell you how much battery capacity you have - most work based on state-of-charge voltage.
We have four six-volt Lifeline AGM GPL-6CT batteries with a total battery capacity of 600 amp hours. As we use battery power (either directly for lights, water pump, furnace blower, etc.) or via the inverter to run AC appliances (anything with a standard electrical plug), the Trimetric tells us how many amp hours we have used so we always know where we stand. It shows the hours used as a negative number. When we are charging via shore power, the generator, or solar panels, the Trimetric tells us we're charging and the negative number (amp hours used) climbs back toward zero.
So, when Linda left this morning, we were at -76 amp hours based on the amps we used last night (to run the inverter, run our DVR, watch TV, and charge our devices) and this morning (Linda made coffee and we continued to charge phones, Kindles, laptops, and our portable Verizon JetPack).
We don't get early morning sun due to trees, but by late morning, we're getting full sun. At our peak, we were getting in 22 amp hours of solar per hour with bright sun and no clouds. We have a 2-amp per hour "phantom draw" which means something in the rig (refrigerator control panel and who knows what else) is using a total of 2 amps per hour even with everything turned off. So, we were getting a net charge of about 20 amps per hour.
By mid-afternoon, our Trimetric showed we were back to 0 amp hours used - we were fully re-charged. Often, if we're fully charged and still getting sun in, we'll turn on the inverter and run some appliances or charge devices using the "extra" solar power coming in.
Okay, so I headed out to do a little exercise. The Onondaga Trail is part of the Six Nations Trail System and it circles the fire tower area. It connects other Six Nations trails (mostly used for horseback riding and snowmobiling) and it leads to the Finger Lakes Trail (which includes over 950 miles of primary and spur trails in New York.
I'm planning to do a little hiking on the Finger Lakes Trail while Linda is gone. But for today, I just did the Onondaga loop (about 1.25 miles) a couple of times for the exercise.
I also booked a tee time at the Mark Twain Golf Course in Elmira for tomorrow afternoon. Using GolfNow and my GolfNow rewards, I'm playing for about eight bucks including cart. The rack rate for 18 holes with cart is $41.
When boondocking, I use our Verizon Jetpack AC791L for data. It has a fantastic battery life, and I need to charge my laptop way before I need to charge the JetPack.
So, I sat outside this afternoon returning emails, doing some other web stuff, and researching future travels while watching all the new arrivals come in. When I got bored with the laptop and internet, I read my Kindle. Late in the afternoon, with our batteries fully charged, I turned on the inverter and watched a little TV (just because I could) while I recharged my laptop and phone. I also microwaved a bratwurst for dinner and watched the Trimetric "amp hours used" number go up quickly.
As the sun was going down, I went up and down the fire tower a couple of times for exercise and then got my camera and a fleece shirt - it was chilly up there. I went back up the fire tower and called my Dad and then Linda while waiting for sunset.
It was a lovely sunset over the rolling hills and a couple of lakes in the foreground.
Returning to ground level, it was still somewhat light outside and perfect for a campfire. Though there are campfire rings scattered about, they are anchored down and there isn't one that is close enough to where we parked. However, we carry a portable firepit and the ranger said we could use it as long as we put it in one of the nearby bare spots where a fire ring has been before.
I had put together our firepit yesterday (meaning I put the legs on it), so I just added wood and got a fire going.
I sat by the fire in my lounger with my campfire fleece (you know the one you always wear around the campfire that has a few little burn marks in it) and read my Kindle until one bundle of wood burned completely. I was thinking "Now this is camping".
More folks with horse trailers arrived today and a couple of them had barking dogs. Other campers moved in near us, and a boy scout troop arrived as well. But, by 10:00, everything had quieted down, and by the time I went inside at 11:00 it was silent.
The Trimetric was showing -22 amp hours, so with the "phantom draw", we should only be around -40 in the morning. Even if I turn on the inverter when I get up tomorrow, the solar panels should easily get us fully re-charged during the day. It becomes sort of an obsession, and my goal is to not have to run the generator for the whole two weeks we are here.
So, that was my first day here alone. It was another gorgeous day, and it looks like tomorrow will be the same except a little warmer. I think I can keep everything under control by myself until Linda gets back. Let's hope so. :)