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Terlingua Reprise - Cowboy Coffee

Headed south out of Balmorhea on Highway 17 was a fine place to be on a Friday afternoon in March.  Neither Miss Kathy or I had ever been down that route through the Davis Mountains and on through Ft Davis to Alpine.  Miss K seemed to enjoy it but then any combination of desert + mountains makes her smile.  I think both of us would have liked to explore Ft Davis a bit more but with a DTB each in tow; you just don’t pull off anywhere.  We were pushing to get to Alpine before close of business anyway.  I needed to get propane in the external tanks to run the generator on the Old Girl in the coming days.

The last yard chair in Alpine. Luckily, it was a pleasing color akin to a sick alien 🙂 .

Eventually, we accomplished the chores at hand.   Propane was at $36 per 40lb bottle which equates to the neighborhood of $4 per gallon.  Gas for the Suburban was $3.89 and even though Miss K bitched, I told her it would be less expensive in Alpine than Study Butte.  I was right as gas in Study Butte was $4.05 a gallon.  She did manage to pick up the last camp chair in an attractive color for $7 at ALCO. Heck, beats sitting on a 5 gallon bucket any day.  Everything is expensive south of I-10.  When you bitch about it, the proprietors say it is because of increased transportation costs to the hinterlands.  My suspicion is they are playing to a captive audience and they prefer it thataway.  Down this way, if you don’t like the price of avocados at the grocery, you just can’t cruise over to the next strip mall and shop there.  It is what it is.

One of my resolutions for this trip was to take full advantage of the fact we were AT Big Bend.  Long ago, we had made the rounds of all the touristy venues both in Terlingua / Study Butte and Big Bend National Park. If we are going to live down  in this High Chihuahuan Desert at some point,  I need to get with the program and do it.  Leave the satellite TV off as much as possible, deal with internet and cell phone withdrawal and forget about turning on the air conditioner when the inside temps climb above 80 degrees.  It doesn’t take  long to lose a step or two when it comes to real boondocking.  I had forgotten just how dependent we both are on a steady flow of 110v AC.  Living utility free for over a year as gate guards makes you lazy.

Setting up at Sunset at The Refuge

The Old Girl has 2X125ah AGM batteries and a 1000W Xantrex Inverter.  External power is supplied by an onboard Generac 66LP 6.6kw propane generator and a government surplus MEP-002A diesel generator conservatively rated at 5kw; it lives in one of the DTBs.  Back in the day when the Old Girl was shiny and new, technology was nowhere near where it is at today.  She had a single stage converter/charger which promptly fried a pair of expensive 8D AGM batteries.  When I upgraded the electronics, I couldn’t afford an expensive inverter/charger.  Hell, I could barely afford the Progressive Dynamics PD9260CV Inteli-Power 9200 Series 60 Amp Converter/Charger with Built-in Charge Wizard smart charger upgrade.  So that means the inverter sees little use since it is not integrally wired into every 110v outlet on the bus.  It is wired into one power strip that exits the dash of the Old Girl.  We use it to power the DISH receiver, TV, DVD player and Tuco the Dogs electronic fence.  Just to give you an idea of power usage, we use about 3-5ah minimum. That is for all the parasitic items and the Fantastic vent fan which is never turned off.  If we beam some of that satellite TV down on us, power usage levels out at about 15ah.   Consequently, the petroleum guzzling generators have to run daily.  I will give up some amenities but a man has to have his limits. I am not going to swelter in the heat if there are viable options, I am not going to give up my showers and I am not gonna do my dooty in a 5 gallon bucket of sawdust.  I wouldn’t wish that on a dog much less the two of us.

It is the little things that trip up the Master Plan of the Desert.  I figured I was a smart rascal when I bought a ginormous external hard drive to put all of my Zune music on. A 1tb external hard drive that is powered off a USB port is a helluva lot more expensive than one you plug into the 110v.  Guess which one I bought?  Figured that one out when I wanted to listen to some tunes in the peace of a pre-dawn morning while I hammered out a blog entry and no 110v was available. You just know we love our second baby fridge.  That extra space makes twice monthly trips to a distant big grocery possible.  Naturally, heading out to the Desert for an extended period would mean stocking up on the eats as much as possible.  Uh no….  if the baby fridge only runs a few hours a day when the generators are hammering out those AC volts, it won’t even keep the beer marginally chilled.  Thankfully, we were smart enough to figure that one out before we ended up with 2 full refrigerators off grid. The Wilson Electronics SOHO RV cell signal amplifier runs off of 110v.  They have the option of a 12v power supply as well and I have been meanin’ to get one.  Little matter here as I have not been able to get a usable minimal cell signal on the property anyway.  I got the coffee covered thankfully.  I am not throwing a handful of coffee in a blue enamel pot over an open fire like the cowboys did.  The new stove top percolator works dandy with just a bit of propane expended.  Maybe if it was the last coffee on earth Miss K would drink it.  In the meantime,  I have to fire up the generator to feed the power to her Keurig.  One of the hard core Desert Rats you see down here could live 3 days on the amps that beast uses to brew one cup of gourmet joe but what are you gonna do?  The Keurig is on Miss K’s ‘Not Gonna Go There’ List along with the dooty bucket etc etc.  We all got our limits, huh?  I hope we never see the coffee pocky-lips.

Mep-002A workin' hard in the desert

So as it stands now, one or the other of the generators is run for a few hours morning and evening.  The break point for us financially is between $20 and $25 dollars per day.  Both generators use about 0.5 gallons of fuel per hour and figure a fuel price of $4 per gallon for diesel and propane.  If I ran the generators 12 hrs per day, we would use 6 gallons fuel X $4 = $24.  For $24, we could just about stay in one of the RV parks with full hookups and drive the Suburban back and forth.  I wish I had a couple or three solar panels and another 150ah of betttery reserve. Maybe I can justify that expense when we get to the point we are spending more than a few weeks a year out here at the Desert Refuge.

As with all things the best laid plans can go awry and you can make lists until your hand cramps.  When it comes right down to it you cannot substitute first hand experience.

End Note:  Hole in My Pocket by Ruthie Foster from the Runaway Soul cd. if there is one thing I dearly love, it is a woman with a set of pipes on her.  Damned if that Ruthie Foster can’t sing.

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Terlingua Reprise - Cowboy Coffee, 9.1 out of 10 based on 9 ratings
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2 comments to Terlingua Reprise – Cowboy Coffee

  • Good call on the ground rod for sure. I rarely see people pay attention to that lil’ piece of safety when using a portable generator. BTW, LOVE the DTB’s and the MEP-002A. (Drool) That generator will most likely be passed down for a couple generations. I was sorry to read all the trouble you had to go through with it in the beginning but whenever you fire her up now I bet you get the warm and fuzzies!

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  • Bryan

    Nice setup on the MEP-002A. We used those and the 10kw version in the unit I was in during my Army days. A word of advice though, roll the tarp on the trailer all the way up at least on the exhaust side if you plan on running it for just a short period of time. Anything over 30 minutes, I would completely remove the tarp. I can’t tell you how many times we replaced tarps on trailers because they were only going to run the gen-set for “a few minutes”

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