Yesterday I call Chip at Bakers RV Service in Elephant Butte.
I tell him I have a Casita which I tow with a Chevy Express van, I live in my Casita fulltime, and I want to be able to camp without electric hook-ups. After a few questions he suggests a “Go Power Solar and Inverter System.” Here’s what it includes:
- GP-RV-125 125-watt (7 amp) solar charging kit
- GP-SW1500-12 1500 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter for AC power
- GP-PWR-25 digital regulator
- GP-SW-REMOTE Inverter on/off remote
- GP-DC-KIT3 DC Inverter Install Kit
- Easily expandable into a full-time system
- GP-TS Automatic 30 amp AC transfer switching kit
Chip arrives promptly at nine this morning.
He’s a big guy with an easy-going manner and what I call “southern manners.” We shake hands and the crew rushes to meet him, too.
He says, “Oh, you’ve got rat terriers!”
“Wow!” I respond. “I’m impressed. Most people don’t know that. They usually think Jack Russells.”
“Well,” he adds while petting Spike, “That’s because I’ve got a rat terrier myself.”
At that very moment I bond with Chip!
He looks over the exterior of the Casita, specifically the roof. There isn’t much room for panels what with the a/c unit, the fan, and the vents. Also the roof is curved. I mention that I’d like to have at least 200-watts and maybe it would be better to put the panels on the roof of the van. There’s a lot of flat surface there.
Chip suggests I have the panels mounted so they can be adjusted toward the sun.
“If you have them adjustable, it’s going to be hard for you to get up there to adjust them,” referring to the Casita’s roof. I agree. I also tell him I don’t like the idea of drilling holes in the fiberglass shell roof or even using special tape to mount the panels. Accomodations would also have to be made due to the curved roof.
Together we agree to put the panels on the PTV*.
Chip says he can make it so all I have to do is plug the PTV to the trailer. I may be able to adjust the panels without having to get the stepladder out. There are double doors on both sides of the PTV so if I open the doors and stand on the inside “step,” I may be able to adjust the panels from there. That would be great.
He suggests more than one battery in a box in the Casita’s interior . . . at the back, under the bed. (The outside-access battery compartment is only big enough for one battery.) I have a Liberty Deluxe model, so the wiring will go through the cabinet under the range and sink, then under the bench seat to get to the batteries at the back. The regulator will be mounted on the side of the fiberglass bench where it can be read easily. I’ll continue to report on this project as it progresses.
The crew and I are in our fourteenth day at Elephant Butte State Park.
The 21-day limit means we’re supposed to move the latter part of next week. That doesn’t give much time for Chip to get the parts in and finish the installation. We’ll figure out what to do when the time nears.
Coyote update: More sightings!
Yesterday as I drive the PTV back from the post office around 3:30, a coyote crosses the road up ahead. This is the road that goes to our campground. In fact, the coyote runs into the bushes that line the Desert Cove campground which is adjacent to our campground. The actual campsite he heads for is about 30 feet from the road.
As I pass I see a camper there with a man outside. These coyotes are very close by. They see us without us seeing them.
Then this morning around 7 o’clock as I walk the crew within our campground, I see a coyote trot across the road that leads to the campground. He gives us a quick glance as he passes us from left to right, carrying a rabbit in his mouth.
Fellow camper Bridget and I have a theory.
There are campers here (and some previously) who put food out for the rabbits. At least that’s what it looks like when you see six or seven rabbits eating out of a pink dish behind a campsite.
Where rabbits gather, coyotes will soon follow!
I’m disappointed that Bridget, Spike, and I have to keep within the confines of the campground for our frequent walks. My friend Bridget is still walking her Australian Shepherds down to the lake and also on the Luchini trail. I think she’s taking risks, but then her dogs aren’t little munchables like mine!
*PTV . . . Perfect Tow Vehicle!
thank you so much for your info on solar panels and the installation process. The more I read of your journery, the more committed I am to doing a similar lifestyle. I’m a dog groomer and thinking I may do something where I can offer grooming and pet bathing as I pursue a similiar lifestlye. I am wondering about the finances and what your budget looks like in general. I have a small teachers pension and left teaching at 55 years to pursue another career before retiring. I went into dog grooming and have about 3 years left. I want to put my plan in place. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.
When do you see Massachusetts/New Hampshire on your radar?
Believe me, your scenario sounds a lot better than mine financially. I only taught for 11 years so I have a small teacher pension check along with a small Soc. Sec. check. I’ll give more details on my finances after I’ve been doing this for a while. I don’t want to give a wrong impression.
Having the ability to make money on the road in a way that is compatible with this way of life is a big plus . . . You’ve got that with the dog grooming. One thing I notice about campgrounds . . . there’s always plenty of dogs! Unless you’re a high maintenance person, you will do fine!
I’ve seen a lot of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, whereas there are states in the West I haven’t, so I won’t be going to New England any time soon. Beautiful states . . . especially this time of year.
Best of luck with your plans! This is a goal worth working toward!
With your gift or crafting words, you could and should be selling your stories to travel magazines! That would be fun “gas money” !!
Hey, Geri . . . How nice of you to think I could do that.
I wish ad placement on blogs was lucrative. Then I wouldn’t have to do more than I’m already doing!
You might want to consider carrying one of the K-9 designed Mace/Pepper sprays with you when you walk the dogs. A number of companies make them and can be found with a google search or check with the Park Ranger he probably is issued some type of spray and can make a recommendation.
I do believe you own a sidearm??
Yes, I do. I don’t have a NM permit to carry it around coyote-shooting.
I wouldn’t suggest going around shooting them……but just in case…. a little noise goes a long way
Hi Sue & Crew, Yes to pepper spray; get one that shoot a long distance. I think it was wise to put the solar panels on the PTV. You can park the Van facing east / west then you only have to tilt the panels depending on the season. This would be a simpler and probably stronger mount. This would also allow you to mount several panels on the Van as they wouldn’t have to rotate. I am glad you found a good person to help you. Now about your birthday …
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you approve of this arrangement! Thanks for giving me some more reasons for mounting the panels on the van as I’m sure there will be those who think it’s a bad idea.
I like that I can park the Casita in the shade. Only the PTV needs to be in the sun.
What about my birthday? LOL
Ask Chip about an air dam in front of the panels to deflect the wind over them. This would prevent lift on the highway. I bet a bug deflector would work great.
Public or private?
I’ve looked online and the bug deflectors are for specific models of vehicles to fit on the hood. They’re $50 and up and look like overkill for what I need. Seems like there should be a simple way to protect the panels. All we’re talking about is some slanted plastic to block bugs and allow air to pass over easily.
I have large solor panels on my Class C but have never had to use them yet. Maybe this winter.
I don’t know why people insist on feeding wild animals. All it does is create trouble and harm to others or even themselves. Oh well keep your babies safe.
It does create problems . . . for people, pets, and the wild animals.
Something as small as leaving breadcrumbs out for the birds can mean the next camper finds out after setting up that their site is overrun with ants. That happened to a couple at Santa Rosa. I loaned them my ant spray and gave them some traps.
Ants are an annoyance. Coyotes are a whole lot more serious!
“Yes, I do. I don’t have a NM permit to carry it around coyote-shooting.”
You may want to check with the local authorities but I believe you can carry out in the open in New Mexico. Probably not a good idea to stroll downtown while packing on the outside, unless you change your name to Annie. But it might come in handy while you and the Little Debbies are wandering around the desert invading the territory of the wildlife.
You are so funny! Little Debbies! Boy, you gave me a good laugh.
I can’t see myself walking the dogs with a firearm in my pocket. It kinda spoils the mood.
On the other hand, if I were boondocking and someone was hunkerin’ around the Casita and won’t leave, I might just stand ready to blow him away if he comes into my trailer. Which, on second thought, is unlikely to happen with a deadbolt.
Gee whiz. I probably shouldn’t have bought the dang thing. Who knows.
We know another lady who travels solo in her 13′ Casita…, and she travels with a big old pair of well worn work boots she bought at a second hand clothing store. She parks those boots outside her door when she camps, hoping to deter the human predators out there!!!
Ah, yes. The Men’s Boots Defense. Idiotic. I’ll leave it at that. You don’t want to get me started . . .
Perhaps there is a sliding scale. If a pair of men’s boots will keep murderers and rapists away, what would a pair of men’s slippers do? Discourage the Hare Krishnas and the Grinning Mormons?
Perhaps this thing just needs a little calibration…
There was a small stampede to Walmart to purchase crock pots after your post on that subject. Now there’ll be a run on solar panels. You have a lot of influence! (BTW, you did inspire me to get a crock pot & it was well worth it!)
I’m still reading your posts. You have an engaging style. Keeps me coming back for more.
All the best,
Hey, Phil! Another crock pot convert!
I’m lovin’ the power! Someday whole economies will shift according to the subject of my blog entries! Stocks will rise or fall depending on my purchases!
Keep coming back. And all the best to you, too.
The solar solution sounds wonderful! I’m impressed you are already working on the project. Your coyote posts have really highlighted the need to keep pets safely leashed. As always, thanks for sharing with us all that you are experiencing and learning.
The opportunity to have the solar installed appeared out of nowhere. After hearing people commenting on how good an rv service person Chip is, I thought it would be smart to hire him. When you’re a newbie, it’s difficult to know whom to hire.
It’s a pleasure to share the project here and possibly help others.
Raid Wasp Spray, cheaper, reaches further and is legal in all states.It will blind the coyotes and sting.
Oooh, sounds effective.
Go for the pepper spray. Much more socially acceptable in the campground.
FYI, Orilla Verde Recreation isn’t our style. Great for folks that are rafting or kayaking but not so great for seeing georgeous vistas or neat walks. We ended up today at Cuchiti Lake. Nice COE campground but the lake is really low. But it has a dumpstation which Wild Rivers, Orilla Verde, and El Morro Natl Monument don’t.
No dump station at some of these parks sure does have an influence on camping plans!
Every NM lake I’ve seen is terribly low. I can’t imagine how beautiful they must be when the water is high. Thanks for sharing info on these camping spots.
Enjoy! Stay safe . . .
That coyote you heard barking the other day was actually calling in the pack to take Bridget. I have never heard of a dog being taken while on lead within 4′ or so of the owner. However, any off-lead activity with coyotes around can definitely lead to one of the “Little Debbies” being taken. The thing with wasp spray/pepper spray, etc. is that you will not see the coyote take your dog and it’s gonna happen quickly. Plus, you won’t be facing their face, you’ll be facing their rear as they take off. You may not even hear it happen. If your dog is small enough, the coyote will take it by itself, and it’s fast! Your dogs will probably require a pack ‘pile-on’. I walked my Papillon all over the Nevada desert, but he remained on lead, and never outside of about 4-5′ away. The coyotes won’t come that close to a human – generally. I’m glad you’re being careful.
My sis lives in Virginia City Highlands up near Reno. People move up there, let the dogs out, and wham! dog’s gone. Same with cats. Stay safe!
Welcome to my blog! You seem very knowledgeable of coyote behavior. I’m grateful for readers sharing what they know. I come out to the desert knowing very little about the traits and hunting strategies of coyotes.
A dog off leash is not only more vulnerable, it also moves differently . . . wandering, scampering around and running. . . like prey. What you say makes a lot of sense. I will keep the crew on a short leash.
I grew up in coyote country. Arizona, Utah, California. I’ve not lived in Nevada yet, but go there frequently for extended visits. My papillon barks and “guards” the van, but when the coyotes sing, he quiets right down. I’ve noticed when I’m camping at my sisters’, all her animals, chickens, goats and such get super, duper quiet. She actually has her beagle inside a 6′ fence that is also partially buried, because of the coyotes. They go for the belly and disembowel. She had a dog attacked by them in it’s pen a long time ago. The dog survived and lived another 8 or 10 years….
When I was camping in Death Valley, I was enjoying coffee and some games of catch with Tony when I looked up and saw the coyote checking us out. Made the hair stand up on my neck, that’s for sure.
Oh! I’ve heard coyotes here in Wake Forest, NC twice in the last month. All the dogs will bark all over the neighborhood, the coyotes will start their pack yipping, and all the dogs go silent. I always wonder how many poor little beagles disappear during the night. Gives me the shivers.
Okay, enough! Happy Birthday! I’m dreaming of selling my Roadtrek for an arrangement more like yours. I hate having to use it as my go to town vehicle when I’m all settled in!
Our friend Geri sent me a link to your blog. We had a 200-watt pv system installed 3 years ago on our Oliver. Another Oliver owner, Andrew, installed one as well, and made extensive posts on the Oliver forum, with links to his blog. You can see photos of both our systems there. You do not have to be a member of Oliver forum to search or read, just to post.
Here’s a link to Andrew’s thread: http://oliverforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=992&p=4806&hilit=solar+panels+andrew#p4806
Follow his links to his photos, a very step-by-step process.
We did not do our install ourselves. It was done at the Oliver factory about six months after we purchased our trailer. The side-mounting means that we seldom have to adjust our panels, if we choose a campsite with a good sun angle on the panel side. If we do adjust, it’s a simpler process, and a shorter ladder than center-mount panels.
We’re very happy with our system, after three years and around 40,000 miles of travels. We are not full-timers, but are retired and use our trailer several months a year, usually without hookups. I’ll try to find some photos of our system and email them.
Olivers . . . For years I dreamt of owning one of those. I was almost at the point of going to Tennessee when they announced the stop of production.
I quickly checked your links before writing here . . . The photos of a side-mount are excellent. I will look at the link more carefully. I noticed there is comparison of battery types.. . . very detailed examination of pros and cons. This will be helpful when we get to that stage of the project.
Thanks a lot. I appreciate you going to the trouble of putting the info here.
Pepper spray in New Mexico? Too windy. I think that a whistle is an under-rated safety device, both for you, if you’re injured on a trail, and for scaring off coyotes. A good whistle is ear-splitting for us, and coyotes and dogs hear those high frequencies even better.
A walking pole might be a good idea too, Once again, it could do double duty: prevent you from turning an ankle, and serve as a pretty effective jabber.
You are absolutely right about whistles! Why didn’t I think of that? There was a time I taught fourth-graders and all it took was a whistle to round them up off the playground at the end of recess. I had to be careful not to blow my eardrums in. I will add one to my arsenal. The neat thing is I always wear a lanyard of my keys when we go walking, so a whistle is easy to add.
Funny you mention a walking pole. Fellow camper Bridget and I were talking about that. She walks with one . . . it’s actually more like a wooden cane. She picked it up in Mexico . . . pretty carving and painted designs . . long and heavy-duty, a formidable jabber! Thanks for the ideas . . .
I have a place in the Texas Hill Country where my border collie and I go for long walks, and my brother gave me a ski pole to use as a walking stick. He buys the ski poles at garage sales (cheap!). I like it because it is lightweight, metal – so won’t bend or rot, has a strap to wrap around your wrist for carrying, and the end point is good for jabbing. I am always watching for snakes, coyotes, racoons and opossums (night time), and other wildlife creatures that show up occassionally. I especially like the idea that I am “recycling” somethng that might otherwise end up in a landfill. I know you don’t get to many garage sales, but I wanted to mention this so that some of your many fans might consider a new use for an old item.
Golly, I hope I am not “letting the cat out of the bag”…but could this be a birthday gift from you to you?
birthday ???????????? Do tell !!!
Oh, I really should but maybe if I didn’t use her name. My SISTER has a birthday on Sat. Oct. 15th…but let’s keep in quiet. ok?
Sue, you might ask chip about the hydrogen gas batteries release. You dont want to breathe that stuff, a vented system would be the key. Good job going solar, it took several yrs to finally convince me to do it. But now WOW solar is great!
I have carried batteries inside of an RV for years without incident. The amount of outgassed hydrogen is tiny, and finds it’s way easily out of the vehicle. Back in the day, Volkswagen Bugs had the battery factory installed under the passenger seat.
That said, they make plastic battery cases that vent through a flexible tube to wherever you want. In Sue’s case, probably to the already outside-vented battery compartment. Here’s the first one to come up on Google:
Thanks, Bob, for the link. Some of these vented boxes look like little aliens. I don’t know why I said that. It’s hardly relevant.
Yeah, I think he does plan to vent to the existing battery compartment.
Chip is aware of the need to vent the hydrogen. Thanks for your concern.
I would be interested to know how much this solar arrangement costs these days. When I was full timing, the installation ran about $1000, while a Honda 1000i ran about $600 delivered. I know the Hondas have gone up about $100 since then (2003).
It just wasn’t cost effective for me. The solar array didn’t work worth a dam in winter, required you to park in the sun in summer, and you had to be always fussing with the angle. The Honda required you to carry a little gas, but it ran 7 hours on about a pint, and was quiet enough – kind of a hum – to fade into the wind noise if I sat it on the other side of the trailer. At 30 lbs., it was easy to move around. I only needed to run it about an hour every other day. I was very pleased with that arrangement.
If solar has gotten much cheaper, that changes the equation. But I still prefer camping under the trees. BTW, one thing that made my system work was that I had 4 batteries. You need at least one more, however you intend to charge them.
O, and I forgot. One real downside to the little Honda generators is that everybody wants one. They tend to walk off if you don’t chain them to the tongue of your trailer.
Happy Birthday. Here’s a weird little ditty about dat:
Look Both Ways
We celebrate our birthdays,
and fear things getting worse.
What if we got life in reverse?
We’d cheer ourselves on Deathdays,
and dread the Awful Time of Birth.
Thanks for the birthdays wishes, Bob.
I’ll report on the solar installation once we’re further into it. Since I wrote the entry about the kit, I’ve found other options and may revise my plans. I’m undecided about a few things yet.
I really like the idea of solar and putting the panels on the PTV. I was just wondering if it
would be a good idea to have the batteries in the PTV also. The batteries could be charging all the
time instead of just when plugged into the Casita… Love the blog.
Putting the batteries in the PTV is another option I’m considering. Now that I’m at the point of making decisions about the installation, I’m realizing all the choices involved which is a bit overwhelming!
I need to investigate the pros and cons of the batteries in the PTV. It would be nice to shorten the distance between panels and batteries . . . and not lose the underbed storage in the Casita (although that’s not a deal-breaker).
I’m glad you love the blog, and nice of you to tell me so.
[b][size=20pt][color=red]Happy Birthday RV Sue[/color][/size][/b]
[b][size=20pt][color=red]Thank You Mick[/color][/size][/b]
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Thank you Mick.
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Happy Birthday RV Sue
Remember, coyotes properly prepared are not bad. Check the internet for recipes.
Let’s see . . . Chili con coyote? Coyote Quesadilla? Country-fried Coyote?
So many choices, so little time.
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