“Never do anything when you are in a temper, for you will do everything wrong.” – Baltasar Gracian

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cabin Trip 2014—Day 2

What happened to Day 1? We arrived yesterday in the early afternoon. We had done our Laramie shopping, which went well, and were happy to arrive ready to settle in for a few days.

We could not get down the driveway. The wooden archway that marks the entrance to our drive had fallen down. This was not unexpected. When installed back in 2001, the builder did not creosote the logs and they were rotting near the ground. A neighbor had rigged up some wire hooked to a rebar pole driven in the ground, and that had held up one of the posts for over a year. But, this Winter, it fell.

I was able to drive around it in 4WD and we got the truck to the cabin site with no further issues.

I unlocked the door, stepped inside, and turned on the lights. Nothing. No lights. A quick check of the PV system meters showed that the batteries were at about 19 volts (it is a 24 volt system), and the inverter had cut out at 22 volts, just like it is supposed to. Further investigation (I have some pretty sophisticated meters) showed that the batteries had not had a full charge in 66 days! It was a bright sunny day, but the charge converter (the device that takes power from the solar panels and uses it to charge the batteries) was showing on 6 amps of input current (should have been 28 to 31 volts) and some of its indicator lights were not working. Hmmm.

No electricity meant no water, so we pee'd in the trees.

I fired up the trusty generator and it supplied us with electricity for lights and started charging the batteries.

We unloaded the truck and got the dogs settled and I went down into the crawlspace to check the batteries. They were very dry. I had one gallon of distilled water and it was used up adding water to the first two batteries (there are eight). Faced with a possible need to go all the way back into town, I planned to drive to several neighboring cabins to see if anyone was home and if they had distilled water.

To get out of the driveway, I planned to use my chain saw to cut up the log and drag it out of the way. But, as is typical, I could not get the damn thing started. So, I drove around the downed post again and went in search of neighbors. Our closest neighbor was not home. I drove back to the cabin and told Lynne that I'd drive to a different neighbor, much farther away, and if they were not home, I'd drive into town. 

But, on my way out I passed the first neighbor and he volunteered to bring 3 gallons of water and chain saw to our rescue.

We got the post out of the driveway, and later I filled all the batteries. But, at this point it was obvious that something was wrong with the charge controller. The input current had not changed from 6 amps, even though the sun was in and out behind clouds. And, the indicator LEDs were still not working. It would not respond to any commands I gave it. Ah oh.

I called the company that we use for off-grid services (PV and wind) and they needed to order a new charge controller and by the time it arrived, they could come install it on Friday. Friday? Crap. That meant 4 days of minimal electricity and the noise of a generator. Did I have enough gas?

We got through the night with lanterns and minimal electricity. I did get enough charge on the batteries that they, along with the boost from the generator, were able to fill the water tanks and provide water. Good thing, because it is hard to boil macaroni without water.

Sloppy Joes and boxed Mac & Cheese for dinner along with abundant red wine.

Before going to bed, I tried one more thing. I completely reset the system. I opened the breaker to the PV panels and to the batteries. This removes all power from the inverter, my Trimetric meter system and the charge controller. I thought maybe a complete reset would fix things. What it did was wipe out the program in the inverter, so I had to reprogram it with all the appropriate settings; I lost all the readings stored in the Trimetric; and the charge controller still showed 6 input amps (it was dark by now), but the LED did come on!

To bed around 8:00. We were pooped.

This morning, however, the charge controller seemed to be working. It showed zero input amps (before the sun came up), and I was able to program it for a battery equalization charge. I ran the generator for about 7 hours and during this time the charge controller seemed to be working with as much as 31 input amps. The batteries got up to about 29 volts and after I turned of the generator, settled at about 26 volts. That is good! We'll see what happens over the next few days.

(I am going to still get the new charge controller as a backup -- this has happened before. But, I did call the installer and told her she did not need to treat my case as an emergency.)

More later, I'm sure. We did other stuff today...but, not much.

Tags:  cabin
Posted under: Cabin News • by Rick on 09/16/2014 at 02:10 PM
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cabin Trip 2014—2nd Day On The Road

We are in Grand Island, Nebraska. Our standby motel is the Rodeway Inn (pet friendly!) which has always had excellent, clean rooms. We have a nice view of a small lake behind the motel. 

The truck is gassed up, dogs and cat are fed, dogs are walked and now we are settled down with a cup of wine about to order a pizza. Tonight it will be Domino's Hawaiian Pizza.

We always get here at a good time, around 5:00 local time (we are on Central Time now). This gives us a chance to relax and wind down some. We'll get a good night of sleep, up early tomorrow and then be in Laramie at or before noon. There, we will do 2-3 days of shopping and head on in to the cabin arriving around 3:00 or so. I'm telling you this in advance because we won't bother to try to get the Internet working (which is always a multi-hour phone call) because a new system is (supposed) to be installed on Tuesday. 

Tags:  cabintravel
Posted under: Cabin NewsTravel • by Rick on 09/14/2014 at 04:37 PM
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cabin Trip 2014 - First Day on the Road

We got away in good time this morning -- 6:30 a.m.

The drive went well, although we had rain through most of Pennsylvania. We are now in Mishawaka, Indiana at a Red Roof Inn (pet friendly!). We have fed and walked the dogs (who are very needy) and we just ordered a pizza to be delivered (Vesuvio's Pizza: sausage, green pepper, black olives and mushrooms as well as a garden salad). It will be late before we eat, probably 8:30, so bed not long after that.

I forgot my hardback book at home. I'd just started Michael McGarrity's Back Lands -- the second in a series. His books are all New Mexico based with lots of history and stories of the area where I grew up and went to school. Most of his books have been murder mysteries, but the first in this series starts the back story of his protagonist character. It is a big dense book with great story telling. We tried to find a copy in a couple of book stores along the way to the cabin with no luck. So, after struggling to get this Internet connection, I downloaded it to my iPad.

I hope our food comes soon!

Tags:  cabintravelbooks
Posted under: Cabin NewsTravelBooks I've Enjoyed • by Rick on 09/13/2014 at 05:40 PM
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Time Lapse Sunrise

Here is a time lapse movie, taken at the cabin, that compresses about 3 hours of real time into 1-1/2 minutes. You can see the sunshine on the trees as the sun rises. Lynne also makes a cameo appearance to feed the birds. The camera is facing north.

Tags:  cabinvideo
Posted under: Cabin News • by Rick on 10/22/2013 at 09:50 AM
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Cabin Trip 2013 - Trip Summary

Going from NJ to CO, we drove a total of 1826 miles and spent roughly 34-3/4 hours in the truck. (This includes rest stops, lunch, gassing up, etc.) The average speed was 52.5 mph. You can follow the track here

Coming back, we drove 1820 miles and spent roughly 32 hours in the truck. The average speed was 56.8 mph. Here is a link to the track.

Our minimum altitude on the trip is about 300 feet and the maximum is around the cabin area at about 8650 feet.

Tags:  cabintravel
Posted under: Cabin News • by Rick on 10/11/2013 at 09:00 AM
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