Out of the woods

It is just before 8 a.m., and it is time to start packing up for departure. I would be doing that now but the rest of the family is still snoozing. It has been a restful night, with light showers in the early morning tapping on the aluminum roof, and fresh air coming in the window. A cold front is expected today, which will sweep away the relentless humidity we’ve been experiencing and eliminate the thundershowers too. It should be a good driving day.

I mentioned earlier that we didn’t expect to get any solar power from the panels because of the extensive forest canopy above us. This turned out to be true. During the day the most power I saw flowing was 2.5 amp-hours, and that was only for a few minutes. We managed only to generate enough power to make up for the parasitic drain during the day, in other words, hardly any power at all.

If we’d had a third solar panel on a 30-foot cord, like I’ve wanted to get for years, we might have been able to place it in a sunny patch near our site and pick up a few more amps in the morning. But it still would not have been much relative to our normal daily power consumption.

So, this morning the Tri-Metric meter tells me that we have 48% of our power remaining, which equates to 89.4 amps consumed. We could stay in the park another day without a problem, but having had solar working for us on other trips, I really miss coming back to the trailer at the end of the day and seeing that meter read 95%.

On the other hand, draining the battery may have been just what we needed. A few weeks ago I blogged that I thought the problem of flickering LED lights had been cured. It had been a real annoyance when boondocking whenever we used the water pump. I cleaned up the main grounds (electrical connections), unplugged the trailer for a quick test, and the problem seemed to be cured. But I was mistaken—the problem recurred on our first night out on the road. This led me to believe that the issue might be in the battery itself.

This wasn’t a theory that made me happy, because the solution might turn out to be replacement of the $600 battery (we have a large Lifeline 4D). The flickering lights plagued us for the first two days of our boondocking adventure in the Smokies, but this morning I noticed that the problem had stopped.

Hmmmmm. We’ve used half our battery power and now the lights just dim slightly when the pump is run, rather than flickering like disco strobe lights? I’m thinking that this also points to the battery as the source of the problem. By exercising the battery we may have removed some internal resistance. It was plugged in all winter, except for our short trip last month, so perhaps it “stiffened up” like an unused muscle. Now it’s working better.

We’ll have to test further the next time we boondock. I’m not sure when that will be. We will have a power hookup everywhere we plan to go for the next couple of months, so it may be a matter of just disconnecting for a day or two (assuming we don’t need air conditioning) and doing further testing.

While in Gatlinburg yesterday I took advantage of the appearance of a cell phone signal to check in on the situation up in Ohio. Half of the Alumapalooza team is already on site, and the rest are expected this weekend. My phone revealed a total of 39 email messages and nine voicemails, which was depressing at first, but then I discovered that other team members had dealt with seven of the voicemails already and about half a dozen of the emails. Good people, especially Brett, Alice, and David, who have picked up the slack during my brief disconnect.

Still, it’s time to get up to Ohio and pitch in. We’ve got a dozen pre-event tasks to manage before the crowds arrive on Tuesday, plus we are expecting about 25-30 Airstreams to show up early for a Memorial Day picnic that Airstream is throwing for us. I’ll have to go wake up the crew in a few minutes, and start packing up for the road. We’ve got 300 miles or so to cover today.