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Dancin' the Dance

When I got to the new jobsite on Tuesday I was whipped. By the time I bulldozed out the RV parking spot and got everything situated and hooked up outside my old Wrangler butt was draggin’ the ground. I was really looking forward to some satellite TV, a cold beer and a hot meal. According to previous experience, I ran the Generac generator 2 hours to top off the batteries.  I watched TV a bit longer than that.

Just so you understand where this is going, some background is in order.   I have not done any extreme boondocking with zero amenities present on site in a couple of years.  I am able to boondock full time because of the way my recreational vehicle is set up.  I have a Generac 6.6kw propane generator that supplies electricity and charges my battery bank at the same time.

1/2 of my battery bank -- 8D 250ah battery

The battery bank is two HUGE 8D AGM batteries that are 250ah each.  The suckers weigh 161 lbs apiece and are about 4 years old.  The batteries run everything 12 volt in the Old Girl.  I also installed a Xantrex 1000 watt inverter.  Now this is not a huge inverter by any means.  There is no way I can run the microwave or AC or even the coffee pot off this small inverter.  I knew that going in.  What I did was to run two 10ga extension cords from the inverter into the motor home.  One goes to the front of the bus where the TV, DISH receiver and DVD player hook into it.  The other one goes to the back of the Fish Bus and is handy to hook in the laptop or the cell phone when they need charging. Since I was not going to need any AC this time  of year, I honestly thought this boondocking experience was going to be a piece of cake.

When I got up Wednesday AM, the Trimetric 2020 monitor showed I was at 12.5 volts which is just sorta OK.  I had piddling to do outside the Old

Heavy haul truck delivering John Deere 200LC excavator

Girl and as is my habit I tuned the TV to Sirius satellite radio and turned it up so I could hear it outside.  I came in for lunch and fired up the generator for about an hour to microwave a tasty gourmet Lean Cuisine meal and catch the Noon News.  I was still showing 12.5 volts when I shut off the generator.   The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. More piddling and I had to supervise the heavy haul truck that delivered our John Deere excavator.

As it got dark, I finished up and went inside.  Generator on, TV on, laptop charging etc etc.  I was watching the Trimetric, hoping the batteries would charge up to 13.2 volts.  The best I saw was 12.8 but I figured what the heck and shut everything down for the night.  After all, I had all those electrons charged up in those two big ole batteries, right?

In the early dawn hours Thursday, an insistent beeping woke me up.  Now an insistent beeping is never a good thing in an RV.  Never, under any stretch of the imagination; and specially when it is an unfamiliar beeping that you don’t recognize.  I was groggy and made two trips from front to back before I figured out it was the Norcold refrigerator and the display said “blo”.  I am not a rocket scientist but I knew instinctively that “blo” didn’t mean I needed to blow something out in the ‘fridge.   They just aren’t that smart.  An RV refrigerator does require a small amount of electricity for the circuit boards.   A glance at the Trimetric showed 11.8 volts.  I was not feeling good about this.   I needed some generator power and I needed it now.

Unfortunately, at 11.8 volts, the generator will turn over but it will not start.  They have to spin pretty darned fast to fire.   Expletives did not help even though I would have made an oilfield roughneck proud. It was a dark, cruel dawn to venture out in to but the generator had to get running.  I pulled the Suburban around to the back of the Old Girl and ran the jumper cables to one of the 8D batteries.  I thought to myself  “Battery, you let me down and I should not be giving you a leg up here.  You don’t deserve it.”   But then again, it was just a poor, helpless battery so I shouldn’t be pissed.  The boost from the Suburban did the trick and the generator was soon purring along feeding juice into the hapless batteries.

I patted myself on the back and went inside for breakfast, some coffee and the morning news on TV.  2 hours later, I was reading a scant 12.2 volts on the readout and that was not good.  The multifunction gauge on the Trimetric showed I was drawing out almost as many amps as I was putting in.  Thoughts of an aborted stay here crossed my mind because it looked like I might not be tough enough to hang.   Well , that offended the manly man side of me!  There was no way I was going out that gate in the Old Girl, defeated, with my tail between my legs. if I was a boondocker worth my salt I could whip this problem.

I sat at the dinette and mulled the situation over.  There had to be a logical explanation for this abject failure.  Had to be!   I decided to do a load shedding experiment, turning things off and then checking the gauge to see who the amp hog was.  Turned out to be the inverter gobbling up the amps.  I went to Survival Plan B which is considerably lower on the comfort scale but when times get tough you gotta do what you gotta do.

Plan B was to turn the inverter off and transfer the power source for the  two lines to the generator side.  That meant no TV unless the generator was running.  Immediately I saw an amp gain and the batteries climbed toward 12.6 volts.   4 hours later I was still at 12.6 volts with the generator running non stop.  That was a puzzlement to me so it was time for another mulling session at the dinette.   The only rational excuse I could come up with was that I had seriously depleted the battery bank the previous two days.  I had plundered and pillaged the poor helpless batteries through wanton disregard and high handed living.  The poor batteries were on death’s doorstep when I came to my senses and it was time to pull out all the stops and give them some intensive care.

I needed more juice to fully recover my batteries.  I did some quick research and figured out that I probably could hook another battery charger up to them and supplement the charging that was coming from the onboard Progressive Dynamics 9245 3 stage charger.  I have a battery charger like you would use in a shop to charge a car battery.  I figured what have I got to lose and hooked the sucker up.

It took 12 hours of double charging and generator running wide open Thursday to top the batteries out at 14.2 volts.  I shut everything down and went to bed, knowing the acid test would be the meter reading when I got up in the morning.

I went to bed with the outside temps around 60 degrees.

Home Sweet Home - A plume of exhaust vapor from the Gen-Turi on a cold January morning.

A cold front came through during the night and the thunder,wind  and rain woke me up several times.  It also got alot colder.  I woke to a steady rain with an outside temp of 37 degrees.  I was thinking to myself if I have to go jump start the generator again I am gonna be one pissed off camper – literally.  The Trimetric read 12.9 volts and if I would have been a little more conscious, I would have done the happy dance right there on the spot.  As it was,  I turned on the generator, all the heat sources ( 52 degrees inside the Old Girl) and the TV in that order.

Things were definitely looking up!  🙂

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3 comments to Dancin’ the Dance

  • Always something, isn’t it? Will you have to get a new inverter?

    What are those blue coverings on the windows of the Old Girl? Did they come that way or is that something that you created?

    Love the John Deere 🙂

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    • admin

      Nope, the inverter is fine but just not feasible in the current extreme boondocking environment.

      The blue coverings are awnings. You don’t usually see the small awnings on little windows like mine. I have found they are great for keeping the sun out when it is hot and keeping the rain off traditionally leaky window frames. A big plus is I can leave them out all the time — high winds do not bother them very much– unlike the big awnings most RVs have. I have a big awning too but it is seldom deployed. These awnings are made by Carefree of Colorado and are what they call encased awnings. When they roll up, an aluminum flap rolls arpund them and protects them from the UV rays which are killer here in Texas.

      You dig on that heavy equipment?

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  • Good news about the inverter. 🙂

    Hmm…will have to check on those awnings or something like it. I’m sure it would help in the summer time with my rediculously huge window in my bedroom.

    Love, love, love heavy equipment. Miss the days of when I was driving a Putzmeister Boom Truck. 🙁

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