Live and learn . . .
Here I am in the waiting area of the Napa Auto Parts Store in Ajo, Arizona, with the crew at my feet and a drip pot of cold coffee at my side. We’ll be here for several hours while the PTV’s solar batteries are given a full charge. After waiting two days for the sun to restore the charge and seeing as it’s a cloudy, rainy day, the sun can use some help.
So what the heck happened to drain the brand-new AGM batteries?
I happened, that’s what. It’s all my fault. Sooner or later, I’m bound to make some mistakes. Unfortunately, this particular mistake is A Really Big Boo-Boo. I need to back up a bit to give you the whole picture.
We set up our first boondocking camp on Friday under a sunny, cloudless sky.
Al, Kelly, Rick and I are in shirtsleeves. Spike is having a grand time playing with Pheebs and Lady. Bridget sits at my feet in bewilderment or follows me around like a . . . puppy. I’m a bit stunned myself. Here we are in this beautiful and secluded area with unpopulated, mountain and desert vistas all around, and my boondock camp is next to some of the nicest people on the planet.
Once the sun goes down, the desert gets chilly, of course.
Bridget and Spike eat their kibble and I heat up some soup for supper. I slide open the side and back windows a few inches and light the propane heater. Now it’s getting too dark to see much, so I plug in two LED lights into the 120v sockets and crawl into bed with my kindle and clip-on LED light. It’ll be nice when I have LEDs in all the overhead lights. I look out the back window.
The full moon reveals the outline of a saguaro cactus against a distant mountain peak.
Oh, this is wonderful. I love this already! It’s late before I’m ready to settle in for a good night’s rest. Just as I’m about to get up and turn off the heater, the carbon monoxide alarm starts its hair-raising BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! I jump up in the dark and yank open the windows and open the door. Using my flashlight I see the numbers on the alarm’s window start to drop, finally stopping at zero. I close the door and put the windows back to slightly open.
Now the Casita has lost most of the heat from the heater.
No matter. It’s a two-dog night and under the quilt, we’re plenty warm. Bridget, however, will not settle down. She keeps moving around, jumping off the bed, on the bed, and whining. I notice a funny smell. What is that? Is that propane? If I go to sleep, will I wake up?
Why does the unknown have such power over the human mind in the middle of the night?
Bridget is going nuts. She’s at the door scratching like a wild dog. Is she the canary in the mine? Oh, this is silly. She probably needs to go out. We walk around in the moonlight. She runs around in circles and obviously doesn’t have to do anything. I start thinking about coyotes. The hours on the road, meeting new people, setting up camp, and taking in new surroundings all hits me at once. I’m exhausted and irritated.
Bridget refuses to go inside!
I pick her up and throw her in. Enough already! I pitch her onto the bed, leaving her suit and leash on. I’ll hold her down until she falls asleep, darnit. She fights me as if she’s fighting for her life.
That’s when I hear it.
An almost imperceptible beep, more of a faint pulse actually. Where is that coming from? I wait. A few minutes go by. There it is again! Bridget coughs and chokes, pulling against the leash wrapped up in my fist under the quilt. I let her go and she practically climbs up the door. That smell. What IS that?
Spike snores softly.
Boy, how does he do it! He must be really tired out. LIKE ME! I turn on my phone and see that it’s a little after three in the morning. Bridget is back at the screen door, scratching at its plexi-glass bottom. I open the door and let her run out. I crawl under the quilt next to Spike’s warm body. Let the coyotes eat her up, darnit!
I start to see coyote jaws sinking into Bridget’s fat behind.
Hoo-boy. I go outside and chase her around the PTV until I finally get a hold on her and we go back inside. I’ve had it! I’m going to get rid of that beep and that smell so I can get some sleep! I take down the CO detector and the smoke alarm and rip out the batteries. I turn off the refrigerator. I go outside and close the propane tank. I leave the outside door open, so only the screen door is closed. I crank the Frantastic Fan in the ceiling open even further. It’s really cold. I don’t care. I want this dog to SHUT UP AND THIS SMELL TO GO AWAY! I WANT TO LIE DOWN AND GET SOME SLEEP!
It’s probably almost four in the morning before all is quiet in the little Casita boondocked in the still of the desert. The next morning I look at the meter and see my batteries are drained.
Why do things become so much clearer in the light of day?
Neighbor Rick checks the Casita systems and asks me a zillion questions. Suddenly the cause becomes obvious. I didn’t turn off the refrigerator in the middle of the night. I turned off the GAS to the refrigerator. This caused it to automatically turn over to AC power. Where is the AC going to come from to handle the heavy load of a refrigerator?
Oh no. How dumb and careless can I get!
Lesson learned. If I’m going to rely on solar power, I’ve got to use my head, no matter where I am, no matter what time of day or night, and no matter how tired and lacking in patience I may be.
I never did figure out the source of the pulse sound and the smell.
I’m still not sure how well my solar is operating. Today is cloudy and rainy so it hasn’t had a true test. I’m being conservative on power usage. After coming back to camp from having the solar batteries charged, I charged up my laptop. Other than that, I’m not using electric until the sun can do her thing. For some reason photos don’t want to post today. I’ll try again tomorrow.
I apologize for not replying to comments. I’m taking note of questions and will try to answer them sometime soon,. When it stops raining, I’m going to move my camp up to a higher place in hopes of a better Verizon signal.