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Going Solar

Well, it’s winter. Yes we are missing our Airstream adventures. Although we are “newbies” we have grown very attached to our little home on wheels! 🙂

#16003 in snow

Our first season “glamping” we stayed close to home. This season we are planning to venture out a little farther and boondock which means no hook-ups. So what do we do for power? Neither my husband or I are fans of the generator. Seeking the peace and quiet that comes along with the off-grid camping experience has spurred much talk and research about alternate means of power. Our conclusion… trying solar! So, we believe that we are ALMOST ready to take the plunge into the solar world. I thought we would share some of our research with you…
**A word of caution! This is ONLY a description of our experience and not meant to be a recommendation for others. **

Last season we had a few problems with our lead-acid battery. (Our Airstream only has one.) Although the battery was just 2 years old, we had found it dead a few times during our camping season. This made for some inconvenient and unhappy times 🙁 Please remember, we are newbies!! We have learned that when the Airstream is parked, or in storage there is still a draw on the battery. Why you may ask? Well, our quality airstream is equipped with a propane leak detector that does NOT shut off. So even though our battery cut off was in the off position, there was still demand for power from this detector. Sadly, even that small amount of draw was enough to run down/kill our battery after non usage for just a few weeks. This resulted in charging the battery by connecting the rig to our home power for many hours. Once we charged it again we were lucky and it held the charge thru our trip. We did plug into the campground’s shore power. This was fine for that week long trip. This happened a few times to us- each time the battery was discharging sooner and sooner while stored. During the off season we brought the Airstream in for winterization (NJ gets COLD). At this time we had them check out the battery only to learn that it was a goner! Now what? Well here is what we are thinking…

First, we are going to purchase a small – maybe 10V solar “trickle” charger. This we plan to hook up and use when in storage, and in between outings. Our research indicates that this should keep the battery topped off to avoid the issues we had this past year with non usage discharging.

Next, we are going to convert from the lead-acid battery to an AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery. According to our research from the internet, AS dealers, and people using them, this is a better battery type when used with solar: less maintenance and holds a charge better. They are more expensive, but not terribly so. The next question we have is will one 12V battery be enough? From what we can tell the answer to this question is a very personal one. Why? Well, it depends what you want/need to run off of your battery. Some may need to use an electric coffee maker, hair dryer, computer, etc. All of these items draw a different amount of energy. We are pretty basic people. No hair dryer, and we use the stove for coffee or tea making, so for us the battery powers the lights, the propane appliances, and the water pump. Hopefully this new battery type will hold a charge better and run longer than the lead-acid battery that we currently have.

Finally, we are planning to purchase a portable solar kit. This will include the solar panels, controller and an extension cable. Why portable? Most of the time when we camp, we try to park in shade. Our thinking is that with the extension cable we should be able to move the unit around to get the full benefit of the sun whenever possible. This allows us to stay a bit cooler in the shade, but take advantage of the suns energy. If we have only roof panels then we will always be looking to park in the sun. That seems like a less than ideal way to camp for us. Another reason for us to try the portable unit is an optimistic one. Someday we may decide to “trade up” to a slightly larger Airstream. This seems to be what so many Airstream owners do; start small then go bigger. Having the portable unit will allow us to take our purchase with us to the next trailer. 🙂 Our Airstream dealer has told us that if we ever decide to put the solar panels on the roof permanently, they could mount them for us. Seems like the portable is the first step to deciding how efficient it may be for us to use. Then if we want to mount them we can can just do it!

Now that we know we would like a portable unit, on to the next question-what size? Hmm. So the manufacturer suggest a 140 Watt unit. That is based on the trailer size. Seems reasonable. In chatting with other owners of solar it has been suggested to go slightly bigger- we have been told that it will charge faster and maybe it will increase the number of days that we could boondock? Not sure. The price difference is not much so we are now thinking of maybe a 180-200 W unit. Different companies offer different sizes so what will get will depend on the brand that we decide to go with. Here’s where the biggest question comes into play. Do we go with Zamp or Renology or some other brand? All of our research has told us that the Zamp is the best quality, but also the most expensive. A less expensive brand would be Renology. Everything I have read states that this brand is also good quality for less cost. If we were more experienced in the electronics field I would seriously consider this brand. Since we are not, were are thinking that it may be too costly to hire someone to change the wiring connection for the panel to the new brand. Zamp is the easiest to connect because our Airstream is pre-wired with a Zamp connector. If we buy the Zamp product all we need to do is “plug and play”! Of course that comes at a higher price. So, we continue to research. We continue to debate, at least for a little longer.

Our goal is to be up and running with solar by April. I’ll report back after we have a few months of solar experience under our belt 🙂

Cheers!  Lois Wagner

 

 

Watchungers 2018 Installation Luncheon

I realize one of the many things that I enjoy about our Watchung Airstream Club is that there is a great blend of contemporary and traditional.

The December meeting was the epitome of these two styles blending together.

The main event that day was the installation of the club’s new officers and directors. It was done with style and solemnity. Fred Brugmans did a marvelous job of presiding over the ceremony. The traditional service made you feel the responsibility of the officers and all that they represent. On the other side was the lightheartedness of a few jokes tossed out by some of the inductees. Our club is inclusive, and fun! Our officers are again a blend of long-time members and new members who jumped in with gusto! Each of them accepting their role with commitment and grace. During the ceremony we also said “goodbye and thank you” to the officers that had served us for the past few years.

I understand many changes to the club took place this past year and each and every officer was involved in helping these changes come about. From my point of view these changes are positive and will help to keep the club moving forward. Since this was my first year in the club I would like to personally thank the former officers for helping to make my first year a truly memorable one.

Part of the mission of the club is to give back to the community. Our December luncheon showed generosity in abundance. Monetary donations were collected through a raffle for prizes: beautiful, handmade Christmas centerpieces and wreaths created by the incoming 1st Lady, Kim Sheppard. These centerpieces helped to contribute to the festive atmosphere of the luncheon. Members were also asked to donate toys to charity for the holidays, and the Watchung Club did not disappoint! A large table overflowed with toys large and small to help put smiles on the faces many children Christmas morning.

By the meeting’s end oaths had been taken, candles lit, members had socialized,and an excellent lunch was had by all!

As I stood, somewhat in the middle of the room with my camera, I felt an enormous sense of pride to be part of such a wonderful, generous group of people. My husband and I look forward to sharing many more of these experiences with the club in 2019!

Cheers!    Lois Wagner

The Purr-fect Vacation

My husband and I have only been “Airstreamers” for a short time, but we learned very quickly that many people take their beloved dogs with them on their adventures. It seems those that bring them really enjoy the company of their loyal friends. Although we do not own a dog ourselves, we do have a furry pet.  This past July our kitty had some oral surgery and could not be left home with a cat sitter. So we decided to be bold (or crazy perhaps?) and take her with us for nearly two weeks in the Airstream. This involved a little extra travel back and forth from North Jersey to South Jersey.  Surprisingly, it turned out to be fun!

We stayed at the Long Beach RV Resort in Barnegat, NJ. This was a planned vacation for us. In fact, we booked it seven months prior to the event. The facility is run by Sun Resorts, and well run at that. They seem to have about 12 transient sites for visitors like us, and the rest were seasonal and tent sites.

 

We are beach lovers and this campsite is about 15-20 minutes from a variety of beaches. There were lots of things to do at the site, and so much to do off site. On site they have a swimming pool, free mini golf and a fun “air pillow”.  We annually rent a house directly on Long Beach Island, near the light house, so we were familiar with the area. The weather was mostly cooperative and so it was a lovely visit.

For those of you who may not know, we own a 22FB Sport Bambi. It’s a small, but very well laid out airstream. We were so pleasantly surprised that our kitty adjusted right away to the new, small surroundings. She made her home in the storage compartment under the dinette cushion area or under the bed. We just left the door open for her and she would go in and curl up for her naps. During the day we would keep her kitty litter box outside (bringing it in for her to use occasionally between cat-naps.) At night her litter box was kept in the shower for easy clean up 🙂 She is about 14 years old and an INDOOR cat only. The first night Anya, our kitty, boldly escaped from the AS. She ran out the door and immediately under the AS. Panic ensued – only to have her come out immediately as we called her name. 🙂  At this point we decided to experiment by buying her a harness so that she could sit outside with us. Although she did come out wearing her harness a couple of times, she mostly sat under one of our chairs and looked around. We think she did enjoy the great outdoors and we certainly enjoyed having her with us.

I was amazed at how wonderful and easy it was to have our kitty with us!!

Barnegat Lighthouse on LBI

Cheers!  Lois

 

Peaceful Valley 2018

This year’s August buddy rally was held at Peaceful Valley Campground in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

The Ratliff family headed to the campground after work on Wednesday.  Unfortunately we left the house a little later than planned.  We decided to follow Google Maps directions via Scranton PA.  Between Scranton and the campsite, the scenery was beautiful, but the roads were very hilly and curvy.  And then … it rained … hard.  The Dark Sky app on my iPhone told us that the rains would last an hour.  We pulled over to wait out the rain rather than drive.  By the time the rain stopped it was dark.  And some roads were flooded.  Given that we were not familiar with the area, we decided to spend the night at the Hancock House Hotel.  I slept in the trailer in the parking lot.  The rest of the family, including Margaret (the dog), slept in the hotel.

The next morning we arrived at Peaceful Valley.  We were greeted by the proprietor.  Not well organized.  Not exactly a warm welcome.  But, … he had marked out our spots so … we drove to the end of the mile long campground and set up.  After the long drive Margaret was ready for some exercise.  Here’s the ball …

The next day others began to arrive. One of our new buddies accompanied us to Roscoe Beer Co.  The beers were good, but the conversation was even better.  And what a fantastic ’68 Globetrotter he had.  Truly a work of art, or maybe better described as a “work of love”.

That night the sky was so clear that we got the best view of the Milky Way I have seen in a long time.  You could clearly see the diffuse light from the stars above and below the darker, dusty middle of the galactic disk.

After spending the night in the tent with Margaret, I awoke to beautiful misty views of the surrounding mountains.

Later that morning it began to rain, … and rain, … and rain, … and rain.  So we set up our popup shelters and had a breakfast of pancakes and omelettes.  That day I hung out at the campground, watching it rain, repairing the tent, and trying to keep the dog dry.  That evening we had the Cincinnati chili.  I felt like I was home again.  Just as good, or better, than the Skyline Chili I grew up with.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the 5-way:  spaghetti, chili, onions, beans, cheese.  Comfort food for sure.

We had another couple of buddies join us for chili too!  They were a welcome addition to the group.

Altogether an excellent rally.  Relatively small group, challenging weather, but an opportunity to meet new friends and strengthen bonds with old friends.  And that’s what this is all about, right?!

— Mark

New Paltz, NY- Region #2 Rally

The skies were grey but not our spirits!  The Region 2 Rally “crew” welcomed us with open arms and very helpful hand signals for parking.   With almost 70 rigs attending, the field was nothing but shiny aluminum.

Thursday was a day of arrivals, set up, and getting friendly with our neighbors. During the rally we were given 2 breakfasts (one yummy one served by our group!), a delicious catered dinner, and ice cream every night!!  It was not a rally to attend while on a diet 😉

Just as good as the food was the entertainment.  One night was a solo act and the other a 60’s band.  Many cool prizes were awarded at the costume ball! Many of us danced and sang until quite late into the evening.  I believe a good time was had by all.

This weekend also offered a number of fun and educational workshops.  The choices included Airstream Maintenance, Social Media, Cast Iron Cooking and A Caravan Leaders meeting.  I attended the Social Media workshop to help us with this blog 🙂

During free time there were many options for site seeing. The town of New Paltz has a 60’s vibe with a few “hippie” shops and many great eateries.  People were friendly and helpful.  At the very beginning of town is the historic Huguenot Street.  Here I toured a number of homes from around 1894.  Huguenot Street was home to a diverse group of people including French, Dutch, African, English and Indian.  The street is lined with beautiful homes filled with  many artifacts and rich with history of the area.

For those who ventured out of town, the Hudson Valley offered much to see and do.  Some went to the Vanderbilt Mansion, or FDR’s home and library,  Eleanor Roosevelt’s home; Val-Kill, the Walkway Over The Hudson, and the “Gunks” just to name a few.  The scenery was beautiful no matter where you went.

This was a weekend with many options to choose.  I believe many of us did a little of everything.  I very much enjoyed relaxing, site seeing, and meeting so many new people.  I am already looking forward to the next streaming adventure!