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Terlingua Reprise - Portable Potables

65 gallon nurse tank and transfer pump

Last August when we were down Terlingua way I picked up all the parts necessary to piece together a water transfer pump.  I had really thought we would spend some time out boondocking on the Refuge property itself at that time.  A transfer pump would have been a necessity to pump the water fetched from town into the onboard tank on the Old Girl. Turns out, the weather was waaaay too hot that August to survive without the air conditioners running full time.  Fuel costs to run the generator on the Old Girl hour after hour to keep cool far outweighed the $15/night we were paying for a FHU site at the Longhorn Ranch motel.

So all the pieces of hose and various clamps and bits of wire went into a box for ‘later’.   I bet I put hands on that parts box a dozen times over the next 7 months rummaging through the DTB for one thing or another; always thinking I really need to get it put together.  Like the procrastinating animals we are, I waited until the last minute to get it done.  Miss K returned from Study Butte with 65 gallons of potable water in the nurse tank and we were down to less than 10 gallons available in the onboard tanks. Sounds about right, The RV has a 60 gallon onboard fresh water and we had been running off of it for 5 days now.  Historically, we average about 10 gallons of water per day.

Water transfer pump

I drug the box o’ parts out; just hoping my purchases 7 months ago had included all the necessary bits to make this thing run.  It was pretty simple really.  A short length of clear hose connected to the inlet side of the 12v pump and a female hose connector on the end.  The outlet side was pretty much the same with the exception of a male hose connector. 2 short wires were spliced to the pump power supply and lugs added to the end.  The whole outfit was screwed to a weathered length of 2×6 board  –and there ya go!  I put it on the rear bumper of the Suburban and connected it to the nurse tank and put the end of the white water hose in the onboard tank.  Jumper cables clamped on the lugs and then to one of the house batteries supplied the power.  We were in business pretty damned quick.

Both of the generators needed a little tweaking.  When I finished the rebuild on the onboard Generac propane generator last fall I was so darned tired of messing with the thing I did not fool with fine tuning it.  The few hours I had run it since reminded me it was running just a tad rough and I always put the tuning off until another a day.  Most of these simple generators set cycles or hz according to engine speed and then they run a constant speed to maintain it.  Optimum with no load is 62hz.  Output voltage is set via a voltage regulator once you get the cycles set.  The Generac generator was putting out 129 volts no load and that was just a might high to suit me. I would much rather see a lowered output of 124v.  Off with the cover of the generator and I spent 30 minutes adjusting the propane flow at the load block to get it running as smooth as a sewing machine.  Adjusting the voltage regulator down 5 volts was an easy task as well.

The Green Brute at home in the Desert

The Green Brute had developed a sticky fuel shut off solenoid over the last few days of use.  ANY generator loves to run and one as little used as the Green Brute is going to have all manner of persnickety little problems.   Things ball up, they stick, they bind and you just have to run them enough to work out all the kinks.  The bad thing about fooling with this shutoff solenoid was that it required me to crawl up inside the DTB to give it a nudge on or off when the generator was in use. It wasn’t a hard task at all but the environment inside the DTB was less than spic and span.  The 90 hours or so the Green Brute had run up to this point had deposited a slightly oily and incredibly black layer of diesel exhaust soot on the inside frame and canvas cover of the DTB.  I could not make a trip inside that DTB without emerging with a streak of black soot on the legs of my Wranglers or the sleeve of my shirt or down the side of my face.  As careful as I was, it happened every single time and I was tired of Miss K saying ‘ What is that on your face?’  I just happened to have a can of B12 Chemtool carb cleaner in one of the tool boxes.  A liberal application of that seemed to free up the sticky fuel shutoff solenoid.  We will see.

Trimetric 2020 battery monitor

For all of you nickle squeezers out there, here are some facts and figures. I try to recharge the house batteries morning and evening.  I installed a Trimetric 2020 battery monitor years ago and a situation like this where you are totally off grid makes it an indispensable accessory.  I generally try to recharge the depleted batteries to a 90% charge level mornings and evenings.  That last 10% charge happens VERY slowly and would require hours of generator run time to accomplish. 5 hours of daily generator run time would be enough to attain these levels. However, Miss K and I love watching our shows on the DISH satellite or the DVR so the actual generator run time is probably closer to 9 hours total per day.  The flat screen and the DISH receiver are powered via the inverter and when it is in use, we suck 13-15ah out of the battery bank.  Figuring that 9 hrs run time on the generators with a fuel consumption of .6 gallons per hour gives me daily fuel consumption of 5.4 gallons.  Lets’ just call it 6 gallons per day.  Fuel cost average would be $4.25 per gallon for propane or diesel.  I generally run the propane generator for the morning shift and the diesel generator in the evenings.  Daily fuel costs would be $25.50.  Factor in one 50 mile round trip per week to town for fuel and water would add $2 per day in gas cost for the Suburban. Water cost @ $0.10 per gallon amounts to $1.00 per day.

Ahhhhhh- We could get used to this view

$28.50 per day.  Miss K and I find ourselves watching less and less TV as the days pass. If we actually could go hardcore on the generator run time to 5 hours per day; our daily costs would decrease to $15.75 per day.  I suspect the happy medium lies somewhere in between the high/low figures.  For $28 per day, we could stay at the best RV park in Terlingua but that really ain’t saying much.  At best, they are all little more than gravel parking lots with less than spectacular views and the lottery of neighbors by chance.  I am thinking we best stay put right where we are. It sure is nice to walk around with a beer in my hand or go outside in my jammies if I want. Hell, I could probably walk around bare assed if I wanted.  Might happen too if Miss K and I drink one too many after dinner cocktails.  Tuco the Dog loves the freedom out here as well; she goes butt nekkid commando at all times you know.  A BIG bonus is our view of the spectacular night skies with no light pollution to interfere.  It really does not get much better than this.

End Note: Heard It in a Love Song by The Marshall Tucker Band from the Carolina Dreams cd.  When these boys released this album in 1977, Miss Kathy was in 3rd grade and I was well into probably my second tractor trailer load of illegal green gone up in smoke.  The boys from Spartanburg managed to hit it just right  — rock flute and all.

So all you youngsters get a listen and look as to how it used to be before MTV and social networking…  Love ya lots baby!

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3 comments to Terlingua Reprise – Portable Potables

  • We really enjoy your blog a lot, but don’t often comment.

    We also love boondocking spots over a fancy Rv park, or even a poor RV park LOL …

    Never realized a dish and DVR drew that many amps! We don’t have a dish or DVR, just hit the local OTA stations if we want to check the weather or news for an hour or two at bedtime.

    We are solared up (500 watts) and find most days we never need to fire up the generator, so that helps on the fuel costs. Ours is LP Onan 6300w so we would have to haul out an extra propane tank to hook on our extendastay or drive in for a fill.

    That trimetric gauge sure is a help, and I like it left on the % left mode while Steve likes it on what is being currently used mode. We are always pushing the button to change to the mode we like viewing!

    We also put together a pump system to add to our water tank when need be, glad you got yours going too. It will help keep us out longer in the nice boondocking spots. Right now with 100 gal tank, we can make it about 13-14 days if we are careful.

    The privacy and silence of the boondocking is what we enjoy the most. Can’t get that in an RV park where you can hear the guy in the next rig burping, coughing or farting! LOL LOL LOL

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    • Andrew

      Hi Karen

      The TV is a 36″ flat screen — I guess they draw 6-7 amps on their own.

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  • Solar is defanatly the way to go. My 450 Watts is overkill for my 220Ah of battery, but I’m planning on getting more batteries. The generator is only needed to run the microwave or on realy cloudy days when I don’t feel like conserving.

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