This post is going to be all over the place. Things are going on, but none are big enough for their own story, which is why I haven’t written them here yet. So I’ll mash them all together here.
I must’ve made too many short motorcycle trips to the bathroom or dumpsters. I tried to start it yesterday, and it cranked too slowly to fire. Too many short trips meant not enough recharging the battery after each one. Whoops. So I jump-started it off the van battery, then was positively forced to take a longer ride to recharge the battery. Oh, the horror.
I cruised to the west side of Quartzsite and explored the Dome Rock area, mainly because I’d never been over here before. No, I didn’t ride up it. This is as far as I went. Dome Rock is also a BLM 14-day free camping area where people I know have gone before. I can understand why. While the mountains are in the distance from La Posa South where I camp, Dome Rock is in the middle of them, which is better for people who like that kind of terrain.
I had a good cruise on and off the pavement, returned to camp, stopped, then successfully restarted my bike. The problem was solved, and I didn’t kill my battery.
I had a few visitors on Friday. There’s a couple who camped with us briefly last year before moving to join some friends. And there was Rich, a fellow traveler I’ve gotten to know on Instagram. I found and followed him soon after he got Adventure Van Man‘s old van, and we’ve been talking ever since.
We were up near the Grand Canyon around the same time, but I never managed to meet up with him in Williams while he was there. But he recently landed in Quartzsite and came over to visit. He was buying pizza for his camp, known as “The Spot,” that night, and invited me to join them — and to come along to Silly Al’s and help carry the pizza there safely. And that’s how I got to ride in another famous YouTube van, the Adventure Van.
Why yes, it is a very similar interior configuration to my first van, the Black Pearl. The Adventure Van now proudly wears a Smokey Da Van sticker, too. That feels like an accomplishment in an odd sort of way.
We got to The Spot, and Rich introduced me to everyone. There are a few other small-time YouTubers there, so I did a little networking. What I didn’t expect was to find the same couple that visited me that morning. This is where they’d moved to after leaving our camp! Honestly, I can see why. They have a nice setup and seem to be a bunch of cool, fun people. We all chatted a bit, then Rich drove me back to my camp as it started to get dark. I’m sure I’ll be back to visit. Rich even invited me to camp next to him at The Spot, if I’m so inclined.
Need More Power
I didn’t run the generator for a few days to see how my new batteries held up. They worked just fine, but I did see my voltage slowly drop during this time, which tells me I’m using more power than I’m putting into them. Starlink has something to do with that. I’ve run the generator a bit to put more power into the batteries, but with bits and pieces of inspiration, I’ve put together a plan to affordably upgrade my solar arrangement.
The first inspiration came from Vancity Vanlife. I currently use a more powerful version of the Renogy charger he used for his solar and alternator charging. During a recent visit to Ray Outfitted, he replaced this with a dedicated charge controller for his solar, plus two DC-DC chargers to get maximum power out of his alternator. The downside we’ve both discovered is that when you’re getting power from solar and the alternator at the same time, this charger limits how much actually goes into the batteries. While my charger is rated for 50 amps, if I’m only getting a few watts of solar charging on a cloudy day, it’ll only send 25 amps from my alternator to my batteries, charging them more slowly.
By splitting up these functions into separate devices, I can get full charging out of both sources at the same time. A 30-amp charge controller can handle my theoretical maximum charging potential of 350 watts from my rooftop solar panels. With no solar panel plugged in, my existing charger could shove its full 50 amps into my batteries at the same time while I drive. That’s a whole lot of extra charging without a whole lot more equipment than I have now.
But wait, there’s more. That same charger can also handle solar, but won’t have any hooked up while I’m driving. When I’m parked, though, I could plug in an additional solar panel — say, a single 250-watt used rigid panel that I can pick up for dirt cheap from SanTan Solar in Phoenix. Add a little L-channel and it can stand up, pointed up at an angle to catch the low winter sun. If it’s windy, I can hammer some stakes into the ground through the holes in the L-channel to hold it down. Unbolt this stand, and the panel can hang flat against the inside wall of my trailer when not in use. But when I’m parked, and not using my existing charger for alternator charging, this can shove extra power into my batteries. Since it’s a separate system from the charge controller I’ll switch my rooftop panels to, it doesn’t have to be exactly the same type of panel I’m already using. This 250-watt panel, plus my existing 350 watts on the roof, would give me a total of 600 watts of charging potential. I won’t actually get 600 watts in winter, but I’ll get a whole lot more than just the rooftop panels are giving me, and not have to run the generator much, if at all.
But wait, there’s more. I’ve already decided to keep one of my old AGM batteries to use in my trailer, just to run lights, chargers, etc. I want a good quality charge controller for my primary system in the van, but for the low-use, low-priority trailer system, I can get a cheap PWM charge controller, and plug this same solar panel into that when the trailer battery gets low on power. That solves the question of how to keep the trailer battery charged. So for a relatively low investment, I can seriously increase my charging potential.
So a road trip to Phoenix will be in order, to SanTan Solar to buy a cheap panel. While I’m in the neighborhood, I can visit the local LKQ Auto Parts to buy a replacement passenger seat belt that isn’t locked up like mine is. I was going to buy one for $35 until they wanted $45 to ship it two hours down the road to Quartzsite. I don’t think so. It’s too much gas to drive there just to pick up a seat belt (another reason why a highway-capable motorcycle would help), but that and the solar panel are worth the trip. I can even leave my trailer at my camp in Quartzsite, and spend a night in the Phoenix area so it won’t be too much driving in one day for Lister, or keeping up with my day job.
The one thing I need to do first is replacing my front brake pads. The shop in Colorado that did my shocks told me they were getting down there, and when I heard a faint grinding sound when braking the other day, I realized they were right. But instead of paying them hundreds of dollars to do it, I ordered a set of brake pads and will replace them myself, right here in my camp. I’ll want to do that sooner rather than later, and before driving to Phoenix, or anywhere else farther than the center of Quartzsite three miles away. I should get my pads in the next couple of days, and I should have everything else I need to replace them. If I don’t have a big enough clamp to press the piston back inside the caliper, I’m sure K&B Tools has something that will work.
So that’s what’s been going on here, a whole lot of little things. Hopefully, I can get to Phoenix later this week to pick up those parts. After that, I’ll probably be in Quartzsite a bit longer to receive the other bits and pieces I’ll need, plus I want to go to various Halloween parties at the Meet In Q camp and the Lit Cactus. I’m not sure what’s up after that. I want to get to Imperial Dam for a while, likely combined with a walk across the border into Mexico with Yellow Wolf. But I also want to get my bike into the shop in Lake Havasu to get its leaky front fork seal fixed. And on top of that, I still need to try and get my Arizona residency. I’m still collecting paperwork for that, and waiting for my Florida titles to arrive in the mail. A bunch of us are planning to visit Wayne, who camped with us in Quartzsite last year, at his new place in Sierra Vista for Thanksgiving, so that factors into the road trip plans for the next month or so as well.
If you’re still reading at this point, congratulations on getting through this long, rambling, and incoherent post. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s what’s been going on in my life for the past few days. Your reward is this fine example of the weirdness that is Quartzsite, Arizona.