This weekend I got to hang out with my long lost Learning Center partner. Ok, it may have only been a couple of months, but it feels an eternity. My gal Marsi moved to a gorgeous house this past summer, sitting on 5 acres in the Sierra foothills, and I got to have a playdate with her while camped in her driveway. Man have I missed this lady!
We got out around 10 on Saturday and took a leisurely, scenic, route via highway 4 to 99. Her place is off highway 50 before you get to Placerville, but we didn’t want to do the highway drive. The roads less traveled were alternately either very nice and new, or probably next in line for repaving. Lots of open grass land out in the central valley, but we crossed a surprising number of waterways along the way.
As soon as we arrived, Marsi and I got right into catching up as she served us a delicious chicken curry and rice lunch. Yum!! I’m not even sure how long we talked, but Richard disappeared into Dory at some point and fell asleep to the relaxing sight of his Trimetric battery monitor. This weekend was a test of “boon docking,” or trailer camping with no hookups. We’d done it a few times on the maiden voyage, but we didn’t have a high end battery monitor to entertain us with constant data, so this was Richard’s idea of a perfect afternoon.
Here are some numbers for you, cause you know you want to know. With a fully overcast sky, we measured an overall deficit of -2.15 amps per hour when the 12v refrigerator’s compressor was running, but nothing else was on. When the refrigerator compressor shut off after a cooling cycle, we were bringing in a net positive of .8 amps per hour from the solar panels. That makes sense because we have seen that the fridge tends to draw about 3 amps when it’s running. So, with an overcast sky, the solar panels are only putting in around an amp. When the fridge runs, the battery is being drawn down and when the fridge shuts off and nothing else is on, the battery is being recharged, albeit only a little. This is very good to know. How often and how long the fridge runs will depend on many things, like how hot it is outside, what temperature we’ve set it to, and what we’ve packed inside it.
We will be going for two nights without hookups next weekend, so we’re looking pretty closely at these numbers, trying to gauge how much we’ll have to conserve energy. As I was inside chatting, Richard sent me a photo of the monitor reading a positive of +6 amps in because the sun came out a little. So bottom line: it really matters how much sun is hitting those panels. If we were in a site in full sun, I don’t think we’d have a problem with battery draw. Trouble is, the sites I like are the ones in the full shade of the redwoods. That being the case, we will just have to watch closely so we don’t draw the battery down too low. The battery holds about 100 amp hours and you are not supposed to run it down lower than 50% capacity. So, math tells me we get to have a total deficit draw of 50 amp hours. If we have solar putting amps back in, that number may get bumped back up all the time and never see a significant drop. If, however, you are planning to go to Big Basin Redwoods State Park next weekend, you’d better think about energy usage.
I eventually ended up in Dory next to Richard and we both sort of nodded off for a while. Heaven. Oh yeah, except the fact that I have some sort of weird allergic reaction happening that seems to have started on my ears and is now covering all of me in hives. So yes, I dozed, but woke up itchy. Still not sure what triggered it.
We hadn’t even unhitched at this point so after we woke up, we spun Dory around in the driveway and set up. There is a gorgeous view from her property across the hills and toward the sunset. Nice place to retire!
Marsi offered us burgers on the grill for dinner, or popcorn and a movie first. We went for the popcorn and watched “Philomena” together. Very good movie there. Judi Dench is an amazing actress. After movie time, we had pumpkin pie and more conversation. Then it was off to bed in our little slumber party house in the driveway. We were snuggly little bugs in our traveling guest room and fell asleep after another episode of “Breaking Bad”.
In the morning we woke up late, made cinnamon rolls to share, and I took a shower. Marsi again outdid herself with breakfast burrito makings. We brought her a 12v cappuccino. The sun came out on Sunday and Richard got very excited when the monitor read a net positive of +9 amps! So that seems to be about the best case scenario in terms of amps in. That’s with full sun, nothing running. Second in power draw to the fridge is the water pump. When you don’t have a hose connected to city water, you have to pressurize the system with the battery driven pump. It looks like that draws around 6 amps when it is running, like during showers, or dish washing. We think we can avoid overusing this by taking advantage of campground dishwashing facilities, but we really do not want to give up on our trailer showers. The water heater draws a minimal amount and the LED lights draw a minimal amount. The fan draws around 3 amps when running on full speed. In all, for about one day of use, the monitor said we used 34 amp hours and brought the battery down to around 67%. Over two days, this could be a problem. We think though, that with a conservation mindset, we will be ok.
Sadly, we eventually had to leave. We said our goodbyes and headed out around 3. Another thing that is not present in someone’s driveway is a sewage dump station. So we scoped out possible dumps along the route using apps like “Allstays” and “Sanidump”. Handy. We decided to stop at the KOA we passed on our way up. It was a nice little spot. Not sure I’d camp there, but it was a perfect place for a propane tank refill and a dump. On the road again, we made it home in time for pizza and “The Walking Dead”.
We thoroughly enjoyed our little slumber party! It was fantastic slipping right in to that kind of easy, honest, conversation you only get to enjoy with a few kindred spirits. We certainly gathered lots of data and we are ready to see what happens with two days of no hookups. Should be a data intensive weekend.
Total miles: 120.9 (we did take a couple of wrong turns however), Engine time: 3 hours, 6 minutes (see previous note), 17.2 mpg