MIRROR VS. ME

The original mirror design sucks big time.  The steel screws ripped the threads right out of the aluminum piece that bolts to the door.  That made enough play for the wind stream to shove the mirror against the side of the van.  I screwed pieces of toothpicks into the holes.  Didn’t work.  I wrapped thin sheetmetal and sandpaper around the cylinder to make it bigger.  Didn’t work.  I wrapped glued string around the cylinder.  Didn’t work.  I was forced to hold the mirror in place with my left hand as I drove.  This isn’t an issue when it’s 90 degrees out, but when it’s 60’s in elevation that wind gets darn chilly.

My last idea sacrificed the aluminum part.  I drilled out the damaged threads and epoxied nuts in the holes.  The epoxy set up too fast.  Guess I should have considered the temperature.  I recall some folks suggest mixing their epoxy in the divot of an upside down cold soda can so it stays malleable longer.

So I did what must be done to support good mental health.  I bought a new mirror.  What’s that you say?  $98 for one with electronic controls?  Heck no.  I can roll down the window and use my thumb to reposition.  $45 for a manual one.

Well, I see they haven’t changed the poor design.  Maybe, just maybe this design will last the remainder of the van’s life.  I am temped to loosen everything up and slapping some epoxy in.  Nope.  My interest is getting it in quickly.

Finally it’s in, but I’ve scratched a lot of gray marks in the finish.  Looks awful.  Sigh.  Another job to add to the chore list.

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THE SENIOR CENTER ROCKS

Our first day at the senior center.  It looks very new.  Sure enough there’s some nice exercise equipment.  Two treadmills, a sliding thing that Chuck Norris advertised, a big weight set, bicycles, hand weights that must weigh as much as some of the members, and an inversion board (I think).

We headed for the treadmills.  Hmmm.  They are on a pretty darn good slant.  I’ve been walking on flat surfaces for the last six months.  There’s an awful lot of controls.  We started pushing buttons to start what we hoped was the slowest phase.  Oh way too slow.  Push.  Zweeeeee.  2.5 mph was good for a minute then it jumped to 2.8 on the way to 3.2.  I never saw 2.5 again until the last minute.  I try to imagine I have the gait of a gazelle.  This device tells me I am deluding myself.  I have lumbering cow legs.  It felt like I was playing catch up every step.  My hands sweated so much I almost had the handles slip away.  Margo was having almost the same results.  We refused to start over and lose the time we had so painfully earned.  We clung to the hand rests and panted through 20 minutes.

Seriously, we gotta read up on how to program those rolling sweat makers.  A little free weights while trying to catch our breath.  Pain killer when we got home and we felt whipped for the rest of the day.

I’m glad we got out of there without anyone seeing us.  Especially those fit seniors.

Day Two and Three

Finally, we have a handle on those killer treadmills.  The pedestal fan is turned on as soon as one of us starts to sweat.  We learned to adjust the treadmill outside of set programming so we started very, very slow and worked up to higher speeds.  Only then did we punch in the easiest program which still is still too long for me, but I stopped when I wanted.  Finished up with two minutes of cooling down to snails pace.  I will find gloves that don’t make my hands feel icky.

So much different than the first day.  We didn’t feel like we’d been pistol whipped.  Finished off the visit with a game in the pool room.  We are impressively bad.  It looks like we have never seen the word geometry.

I drove back for the late morning tai-chi class.  A slow and easy style designed for gentle strength and stretching improvement, perfect for seniors.  Ha.  And ha.  Don’t you know the slower you complete a move the harder it is?  The stuff with few steps I could do but when we got to “pulling taffy” I got to be all thumbs and left feet.  Overall it was excellent and I shall plan to return.  Fifteen minutes away I found a yoga class.  If I work it just so I can do yoga, then drive over for tai-chi.  I wonder what I will feel like afterwards.

May as well set an alarm.  Early every weekday.

The center is loaded with stuff for seniors.  In addition to what I’ve mentioned, a TV room with two computers, a thrift store, a large dining room, a craft room.  It doesn’t stop the aging process, but it makes getting older a touch more enjoyable.  I’m darn glad I don’t have to buy exercise equipment or have a room to put it in.

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SENIORS GOTTA EXERCISE TOO

I passed the magic line on my last birthday.  Gained the senior moniker.  Not quite sure how I feel about that.  I like the old age perks, but hate the downhill slide.

I totally enjoy being retired, but my diet has suffered.  I go out to eat several times a week.  I graze the refrigerator through the evenings.  I feel lost if I don’t have a dessert after every meal and many times between.  Over time the sugar monkey got a steel grip on me.  I was opening my pocketbook every day for that magic sugar/fat/chocolate mix.  It was a poor replacement for exercise endorphins.  My weight and cholesterol climbed.  My joints started complaining.  I didn’t sleep well.  My gut screamed.  My body was in a dark place, and I was going to regret it.

I did.

After a couple of false starts, we finally got on a healthier track last month.  Gave up sugar.  Gave up diet and regular soda.  Gave up carbs.  I gave up caffeine.  Cold turkey.  We started with a week of high protein shakes to get our body in ketosis and our mind ready.  It was tough.  I kept going over and opening the refrigerator door.  I planned where I was going to eat when I was in town, then had to remind myself I wasn’t eating out.  About day three I stayed in bed.  Some big pressure was pressing me down.  As though the barometric pressure had increased tenfold.  Experts say it is the time where the body switches from demanding sugar for energy to burning fat of which I have considerable reserves.  My body balked at the extra work.

We switched our diet to a ketosis program.  Meat.  Veggies.  Dairy.  Slowly my energy has come back up, and I now have more than I had in a long, long time.  I can tell it especially in the evenings when it cools down.  That’s the time that I’ve done things like vacuuming out the truck and cleaning all the vehicle windows until it looked like there were no windows.  Both of those tasks are darn good upper body exercise.  The next big activity is to work on the oxidized van roof.  It appears I have a gazillion hours of scrubbing and rubbing to do.

We began a morning walk around the town.  Good for seeing what’s going on in the neighborhood, but there are a couple yards of snarling dogs I absolutely hate to walk past.  I almost crawl up Margo’s neck.  They act like I taste good, and they haven’t eaten for a week.  What a ruckus.  Everybody knows where we are by the barking dogs relay.  Loose dogs started to investigate.  Uh-oh I don’t like loose dogs.  To top it off, by 9 am it’s already 95 degrees, and we get a little swooney.  Way too hot to walk.  What to do now?

We started lifting hand weights.  Margo found a blurb about tai-chi at the community center.  I’m interested.  I find myself with less and less flexibility, and I’d like to turn that around.  Then she made a tour of the local senior center and came back raving about their exercise room.

So we made a plan.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday we walk at the day at the senior center.  This meshes well with our Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday watering schedule.  Tuesday I’ll try tai-chi.  Since I’m not head water girl, maybe I’ll go over by myself on the off days and lift weights.  After all, I am the brawn in the family.

If all goes well, we shall be in much better shape by mid fall.  Slimmer and stronger.  Ready for some serious hiking and fishing.  Margo has already promised me a September or October trip back to the magnificent San Juan River where I can fly fish to my hearts delight.  I can’t go unless I fit into my fishing waders and can hold my own against a strong current.  There was this one prime spot across the river at a strong riffle that I couldn’t reach with my cast and couldn’t walk across to because of the current.  Maybe my exercising will let me throw the line out farther.

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WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CHOSE THE BATTERIES FOR SOLAR?

Slight deviation from plans.  The batteries will come next.

Through my solar reading I quickly understood that I barely scratched the surface on understanding 6v and 12v batteries.  I visited four nearby businesses to get prices and warranties.  I looked at walls of batteries.  They started tossing out terms I didn’t understand until the end I was pretty sure it was different names for the same stuff.

It became more complex.  There are batteries that require care.  There are sealed batteries that don’t.  There are batteries that hate daily recharging.  There are others that don’t.  There are commercial batteries and batteries that go in golf carts.  There are batteries longer than double my foot.  There are little ones that go in scooters but still called 6v.

How to take care of them is a science in themselves.

We seem to be wrapped in some sort of battery Bermuda Triangle.  I’d chose a battery and then do a search for where I could buy it.  Invariably there would be none within two hours away.

There was more than just sizing and finding a battery in the here and now.  I also have to consider the future.  The secret to my final decision to purchase at Walmart?  It came down to being able to get a battery at many locations and the understanding that I will probably kill these batteries quickly from carelessness and lack of knowledge.

Posted in Adventure Van, Electronics, Modifications | 2 Comments

SOLAR ENERGY KIT FINALLY GETTING INSTALLED IN THE VAN

I’ve wanted to play with solar power for decades, but I always put it off.  Not enough money.  Not enough time.  No need.  Finally, retirement came along as did the wish to create a boondocking fishing van.  It all came together.

I researched like I was building a nuclear power plant.  So many choices.  So many different opinions.  I’d get irritated with it all and would set it aside.  In the meantime, my aging brain started playing mean tricks on me.  What I could have absorbed in minutes in my prime, was now taking frustrating hours and lots of note scribbling.  Darn notes kept hiding.

I finally said the heck with it and purchased a Renogy 200 watt solar kit before we left for North Carolina.  My intent was to make a portable setup since I don’t have room to attach the solar to the roof.  When the package arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed by the size.  The panels were bigger and heavier than I imagined.  I’m not sure why this confusion because they tell you exactly what size and how much they weigh.  Dang brain.  With the addition of the file cabinet inside the van, it made a good place to secure the panels.

I won’t be needing some of the stuff that came in the box.  The braces for a roof install, the gland for running wire through a roof hole.  I’m hoping I’ll run into a newby boondocker who needs it.

Not everything I need for the install comes in the kit.  I need more wire, but what size?  There are no numbers printed on the wiring already in the van.  I guessed then ordered.  Finger thick battery to battery and to the inverter, smaller from battery to the fuse box, which I also had to order.  The ends of the wire need terminals so into the cart went a big box of different size terminals and shrink wrap, crimpers and a heavy duty hydraulic crimper for the big a@@ed lugs that have to be put on the thickest wire.  I could have ordered wire of a certain length and had the lugs installed.  Who me, who doesn’t even know how I’m going to route them around everything?  Thanks, but I’ll make my own.

While waiting for parts to come in, I will focus on the battery box for the two new batteries.

 

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PORTABLE PROPANE GRILL AND RAIN

While camping, one must not cook meat in a kitchen pot.  I think it’s a rule or something.  There’s a more definite rule: a burn ban in the forest, so no wood or charcoal fires.  But visitors can fire up any kind of propane grill or stove.  Here’s what we carry in the 5th wheel.  It holds maybe three good sized steaks.

I will never be mistaken for a vegetarian.   I salivate profusely over the thought of chowing down on thick pork steaks or roasts which Margo brings home.  The woman is a pork savant.  She can look at a dozen cuts and pull out the one that is tastier than all the others combined.  It’s why we don’t buy a lot of beef.

It was a ridiculously hot June, and July started the same.  Well over 100 most days.  We barely used the stove so it wouldn’t heat up the house.  I debated setting up a kitchen on the covered back porch using my portable table, camping grill and the single propane burner.

Saturday

We were insulted for days as the rain skirted around us.  Seems like everyone was getting some except us.  This afternoon it was finally our turn.  As it rained harder I thought of the truck.  We keep the windows cracked under rain deflectors, but if the rain comes in more horizontal the curve might just force it in.  So I rushed out to the truck.  Everything is dry, but I was trapped by heavy, heavy rain and steady lightning.  I considered making a run for it but a metal carport and metal yard fence felt like I gambling more than I needed.

For twenty minutes I got to see how well my rain-x application worked.  Finally, in a slight lull I made it back indoors.  Margo tells me we’ve had over an inch.  An inch in the desert is like six inches elsewhere.  My phone does an unfamiliar ring.  It’s the county alert system warning everyone to stay off the roads because it’s flooding.

Our property retains the unique slope required by the gravity fed acequia system which runs along the south property line.  There is no longer a water gate on the property but that didn’t stop the acequia from overflowing and delivering hundreds of gallons.  Water is coming in from the north from the road.  North and south meet and continue their race across to the back corner behind my shed.  Unfortunately, it is also lifting all the loose organic material in the grass and building a dam along the privacy fence.

The water squirted through the gaps between planks but it couldn’t clear it as quickly as it was coming in.  Later I see the high water mark etched in the floating debris and am amazed.  It came within four inches of flooding my shed.

What a mess.  I’d been storing water hoses, bike rack, buckets, a trash can and packer of stuff behind the shed until I can make more storage in the shed.  The water was strong enough to turn some over.  I was gambling it wasn’t going to rain before morning and turned the containers on their sides to drain.

Sunday

Dreamed all night about my shed flooding, so I knew just what to do this morning after I checked the rain possibility.  I raked the organic material dam into the wheelbarrow and moved a couple of 4x4s we’d placed against the bottom of the fence to keep our terrier in.  The small dog died a year ago and we hadn’t thought of moving them.  I rinsed much of the stuff in the buckets and put them in the shed.  So much for my relatively neat shed.

At least I don’t have to worry about flooding my shed at the next rain.  I think I will blanket the area behind the shed with bricks.  Makes cleanup so much easier.  I hope.

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THE PROBLEM WITH BEING TOP DOG

The two dogs don’t think I’m top dog in the family.  They thinks Margo is.  So throughout this week, when fireworks go off, they ignore me me and slink straight for Margo’s circle of imagined protection.

I’m sure Margo is tickled with the idea, but reality is a lot tougher.  Ya see, it’s this way… One dog is much more afraid than the other.  SpotDog hides in the bedroom.  It’s easy to forget she is even in the house.  HappyDog is the one with the real issue.  She pants with fear.  Not a quiet little pant.  A full scale symphony of panting as close to Margo as she can get.  When Margo is unavailable, she also squeezes her ample body under every small space she can get into.  We’ve learned to grab for whatever is on top of the tables.  She doesn’t fit under the bed, but she tried.  She sticks to Margo like glue.  Tonight I heard Margo yell at the dog to get out of the bathroom.  HappyDog won’t go outside to potty unless there’s been no booming for at least an hour.

If only this holiday didn’t last so long.  Booms started Sunday night and have continued each evening.  Six evenings of fireworks and a cowering HappyDog.  It may only be a dozen booms spaced out over four hours, but the damage is done.

I don’t know about y’all but I don’t recall the fireworks making so much noise when I was a kid.  A couple have rattled our windows.

It may not be much better at the neighbors.  Last night after a particularly loud series of booms, the neighbor kids came outside to yell at the reveler’s to go away.  Then Momma started yelling in Spanish and then Papa took his turn.  Several sets of running feet.  I put the story together just from the noise.  Their scared chihuahua had gotten out of the house and was running down the street followed closely by the kids yelling at the dog to stop.  Quite the rodeo until the dog was snagged.  Thank goodness for short-legged dogs and long-legged kids.

I hope the fireworks are all blown up now.  Nope, there’s one now.

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