Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Geocaching Thanksgiving

Well, things were going to be kinda slow around here today so I cut a trail about 10 am. Grabbed the gps and headed east. There were 4 caches in Sikston I needed to have the town finished off. Here is one of them. My 3rd time here and looked at the thing every time. This time I got to log it with a smiley face.

Look at that thing. I hate these tiny ones. It is stuck to a screw head via magnet. there is actually a log sheet in that thing.

3rd time was charm on this one also. Every time I have been here there are too many people around. I will look suspicious so I have not given it a real going over before this morning. No one out on Thanksgiving morning so I took my time and grabbed it.

See if you can find it. Dog gone I hate these things. My first attempt here but the gps was spot on. I could not help but see the thing. Now, I head for the last one in town. 2nd trip over to the park where it is hidden. No luck. Another day when Teri can be with me.

Matthews truck stop. So many truckers out this morning I could not get to this to look inside. So, I just took a picture. If folks see me they will go take a look. It has already been stolen once so I did not want to draw attention to myself.

This one is in the middle of nowhere, so named. I am telling you it was 3 miles out a muddy gravel road south and west of Portageville. I found a shorter way back to pavement.

This little bad boy is just north of Hayti, on east side of 55. Went right to it. Another gravel road. I think this is number 6.

Number 7, Walmart in Caruthersville.

Number 8. right on the mighty muddy.

See the river? Also, see the mud on Teri's car?

Number 9 was a really neat place. A grave yard with about a dozen graves from the mid 1850's. This guy was responsible for the bootheel on Mo. He owned this ground in Arkansas. He knew Missouri was a much more progressive state and wanted to be a part of it. The man was allowed to give Mo. the land so he could be called a Missourian.

This is the cache.

Number 10, also in Caruthersville, Mo. I like the container as no water can get in it. Found it under the skirt of the light pole in the background.

Had muggles here. I had to be stealthy. I was. We have been to this park before. I guess we did not find it a couple of years ago. Another rain proof container and the last cache in the Gambling Boat City. Mark it number 11 for my day.

Well, I think this is number 12. Way out in the boonies on an old railroad track bed.

Oh yea, number 13 was hiding about 400 yards down the ditch bank, just north and east of Kennett, Mo. I really did not want to walk in there but hey, its my last one for the day, why not. For some reason the actual photo did not load. Take my word for it, I found it hidden down where the coyotes sleep. No way Id go here in the dark.
Thought I found 14 but counting them here I see 13. Might have missed one somewhere. Oh well, it kept me busy today and my mind off Teri and her dad, not really. Did keep me busy though. Teri called me while I was hunting down these treasures. Her dad was back in surgery for the 4th time. Doctors did not believe he would make it through, but he did. Thanks for all of your prayers. This has been a really hard time for us. Teri has been at her dad's side ever since the first 12 hour surgery about 3 weeks back. Portland is a long ways from me but we stay in touch via phone and computers.
My sister and her family stopped by just after I got home and was eating my lunch, about 430 pm. They are in the area until the weekend. From Michigan. Left here about 30 minutes ago heading to the St. Louis Arch. Why, I have no clue. I went up in that thing one time back in the 70's. No more. I stay at the bottom when Teri and I take folks there for a ride. I do not like going up in that thing. My sister will be back here tomorrow.
Well, hope yall had a great holiday. Keep checking on me. Never know what an old guy, staying by himself, might get into. Keep praying for Teri and her dad.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Living Off The Grid, Solar

So, are you tired of utilities and property owner taxes? Maybe you are just tired of paying 30 dollars to over night in an rv park. We have the answer here.
Before I retired we tried to get the GMC set up so we would not need to park over night in an rv park if we did not want to. I bought every book on rv solar that I could find and asked everyone I thought might know, how to get started. There just was no simple "do it yourself" information out there. So, I did it pretty much backwards and wasted a few bucks. In the past I have posted simple solar here on the blog. But, for the life of me can not find it. There is no simple index to my posts here. So, I thought maybe we should re visit this topic.
Don't look too hard at the above photo or you will see that the painter let the clearcoat run. I just had this roof repainted. I was not as happy with the job as I was when the same company painted the Vdub. I paid 1 and a half times just to get the roof painted as I did the entire baja. Different topic for different day.
Don't buy the solar panels first. They need to come last, and I will tell you why:

A picture of the one on the rear. There are two more, hidden, for a total of 300 watts on our roof. This is a perfect setup for Teri and me. 250 watts would be fine if we wanted to tilt the panels, nope. So, I put an extra panel on to make up for the" no tilt".

This is where you start. Incadescent lights burn lots of energy. This one is an led. We have nothing but led lights in our coach. Leds have come a long way over the last couple of years. I even have led lights in our home now. The color is important to me. I think you can see that this particular light is not too cold.

Even though this photo is blurred you can see the light. It is a little strip that puts out about 220 lumens. Outfit you rv with good quality led lights, not the China ones on ebay. This light is put together in the Phoenix area and I sell them. Lifetime warranty.

Another obsticle we needed to overcome was our electric water heater. This on demand propane heater is perfect. Sips lp while it is on. I can't say enough about the on demand water heater. Before we installed it I had to fire up the Onan just to run the water heater. Regular propane water heaters consume a lot of gas. This thing is perfect. Cost less than 130.00 shipped to us in Arizona. Look at the fluorescent replacement leds to the left. These are bright.

While I don't have a picture, test the tv you buy before you buy it. We had a 3 year old flat screen that was using 55 watts of power. Found a new one that would use 25. Took my meter to Walmart, at midnight. Pulled ac lines and checked them til I found this one. Teri uses a computer monitor for her tv in the bedroom and it uses about 22 watts. Now, we run both on same power consumption as the older one we had, up front. I watch tv til after midnight most evenings so this was important for our setup. I normally turn off the inverter when finished watching tv so there is no draw from the set or the satelite receiver. Takes our receivers less than a minute to load all of the programming once they are powered back up.
We use two inverters. I have a 700 watt one hooked to the tv system. We use it most of the time. Have a 2000 watt inverter for the vacuum cleaner, microwave, and hair dryer. Modified sinewave.
Another big power consumer is the furnace. The blower motor, on most, will draw 7 amps. We use a Wave 6 catalytic heater most of the time. It keeps us warm. Crack a window or roof vent. We turn it off when we go to bed and set the furnace on 60 degrees.
Ok now we have the rv set up to draw the least amount of power. Even bought netbooks that will run 6-8 hours on battery. Charge the batteries when sun is bright and maximum solar is available.
Look at the meters in the photo above. The one on the right is a must have. Get one before you buy solar panels. It is like a fuel gauge on your car. How do you know how much fuel to put in your tank, or take out, if you have no gauge. This particular one is a Trimetric 2020. I bought it new for under 150.00. It came with the large shunt so I can run anything through it. The unit shows now that I am down about 8 amp hours. We never plug the coach in while sitting in our driveway. It has been cloudy and the batteries are a bit down. One hour, or less, of sunshine, will charge them back up. Today is cloudy but by 2 pm I will still have enough solar charge to fill them up. I think the meter on the left is showing 2 amps of solar on the panels now. The meter on the right shows what is at the battery, not on the panels. Many folks use only a meter like the one on the left. That is not good enough. You must know what is in the battery, not on the panels. Either meter will show when solar is charging, or has been shut off, but only one like on the right is an actual fuel gauge. It will also show how much power any appliance in the coach is using. After I bought this meter is when I got rid of the fluorescent lights. They are also power hogs.
We use 4 6 volt batteries. They suit us just fine. 2 6 volts do not give us a large enough "fuel tank". Some need larger tanks to store more fuel.
The meter on the left is a remote meter for our charge controller, mounted close to the batteries. Get a charge controller large enough to handle your needs. Our's is 60 amp but 30 would have been fine. I got a deal on this one, new, for 110 bux. Whichever controller you buy, make sure it has adjustable set points. Charge controller is very important. On a good day when the batteries are down I see 14-16 amps on the meter, at the batteries.
Now, to the panels. It is very important not to let your panels get shaded. I measured our spots on the roof and bought panels based on their physical size. We rarely have a shade on any of the 4 panels.
Cables. You have to run large cables. How large? Depends on your system. I ran 6 gauge welding cables down from the panels to the charge controller and on to the batteries. Might have gotten away with 8 but nothing less. Consider the cables as a water hose. The larger the diameter the more "juice" that will come down to the batteries. The length of cables will also need to be considered. Longer the cables, bigger in diameter, they need to be.
There is a lot more that can be said about solar on your roof. I just wanted to give you something to think about. Panels keep improving and dropping in price. I may start replacing my panels in the future should I see something that suits me better. With what we have, Teri and I can pretty much stay anywhere we want for as long as we want with no electricity plugged into our coach. We have done this for over a month at a time with no generator. Set your rv up to consume the least amount of power and you will love this. I do not "rough it" well. I have the same toys in the rv that we have at home. I watch a lot of tv and use the internet, with a mobile router and aircard, as much as I want. We do not run the air conditioner. If it gets hot it is time to move. I bought only one new panel. The others were used. Even at the old prices I have less than 1500 dollars in our system. You can do it cheaper now. I love the fact that this works and I have no tilting of panels to do. I never think about this. We have power, always. It is a rare day when our batteries do not get a full charge.
I hope this might give you food for thought and save you a few dollars. Nothing technical here. Anyone can do this themselves. You need a drill and a wrench.

Oh yea, here are the new Justins.
Have a great weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Geocaching Day

The weather was great so I hit the road. Ran over to Sikeston to grab a few caches that we have not picked up yet. Look at this first photo. Its hiding under the rail. If you know what to look for you can see it in this picture.

Its a good thing no local geocachers read my blog. Teri says I show too many pictures of the caches. Hey, I am proud of the fact that we can find some of these, as they are tough. Had to wait for maintenance workers to take their lunch break so I could retrieve this little guy.

This is a fun one. I had revisited two cache sites that I can't find and was a bit depressed. Then here comes this one. Got to meet a very nice shop owner here. This one, as can be seen, is inside a store. The shop owner would not give me any clues. She asked me questions to make sure I had read about this cache. She said "you will find it" and I did.

Inside the dictionary.

YMCA. My gps started throwing fits this afternoon. I did not think I was going to locate this one. Then, I slid my hand back where I thought it should be and there it was. Of course I hid it back after signing the log.

I love these. I did not even wake the frog. He spit the film cannister out while he was snoring.

I have found a few of these. I like them. Once I realized my gps was pointing the wrong way, I walked right to this one.

Way out at the end of the road. A park near the golf course. Was still early so I programmed one in that was in Charleston. A loner over there, 10 miles west of the Mississippi River.

Drove right to it. This little guy lives behind a stop sign. Could almost snatch it, like I did the first one of the day, without getting out of my car.
Looking at 10 caches northwest of here. Should the weather be right, I may head after them in the morning. Wish I had an available grandchild to go help me.
Teri's father had a setback today and had to go back into surgery. He is out now and recooping. We are praying that this does not reoccur. I know Teri is worn out after sleeping in the hospital for 2 weeks now. I am hoping she can find a regular bed soon. If her dad improves maybe she will go back over to her brother's, just across the River in the Vancouver area.
Hope you are enjoying the weekend. Come on back when you get time. I may have a few more caches for you to look at. If you have my tracker in your favorites or get an email from me, look to see where all I was today. Oh, got a new pair of Justins today. Life is good.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Geocaching Rural Missouri

Well, some days are good and some days are better. Saturday was better and today was good. Found some caches I did not know about just 25 miles up the hiway. Thought I would jump in the vdub and chase them down. Now, we have to be stealthy sometimes so I chose not to take the bug. I knew folks would be looking at me, took the Vibe. Might as well have taken the vdub. I was feeling good after the 12 for 12 on my 150 mile run Saturday. That felling did not last long today.

Rolled right up to this one. Was right where it was supposed to be. Going to be a real good day, I thought.

Rural cemetary. I tore this place up, twice. Never did find the rascal. Just outside of Advance, Mo.

If you blow this photo up you will see a little solar light on the top of that post. Someone took the cache right out of it. Another no find.

I had to hit this place 3 times because of muggles eating their lunch in the Advance City Park. Was supposed to be in this "tunnel". Gone.

Well, let's try number 5. I found number one. Nope, someone took number 5 from its hiding place. So, let's see, 1 out of 5, not good. Time to readjust my plans. Move the geocache map out and I see a couple over in the Morley area that have been placed since Colsyn and I hit that area last year. Out across the countryside I go.

Yep, I found this one. I see the picture did not upload. Picture a black plastic container in a stump, sitting at the end of a cemetary. Had an old fella watching me so I had to be careful. 2 for 6 now.
Oh, now the picture shows up. No, I did not climb up there. Just thought it was neat.

Found another one in a very rural old cemetary. This flashlight hangs on a plastic fishing line and is not visable to anyone. I had it pulled out for the picture. Now, that's 3 for 7. Made for a much better day. It was a hundred mile run. If blogger had not removed my tracking link you could see where I was. They also took down my counter. Oh well, 3 for 7, not a bad day. Might have found more if Teri had been with me.

Hmmm, here is the picture that was supposed to be above where the red x is.

Vanduser, Mo. This place is out in the middle of nowhere. First time I have been here in 45 years. Now I remeber why.

Not a total bust. I have some fruits of my labor that the squirrels won't get.
Life is good and Tuesday is a work day, if one can call it that. Hardest part of what I am doing is getting out of bed before 7 am. The drug court and dwi court folks meet in our office early in the mornings. Not sure if they will be there tomorrow or not. I have court all day and actually look forward to it.
Thanks for your prayers on behalf of my father in law and Teri, who is in Portland with him. It has been one week since his surgery. He is progressing and the doctors are talking about where he will go for rehab now.
Maybe some more geocaching this weekend. I have 10 picked out if the weather cooperates. Today was 75 and very windy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Revisiting Memories Through Geocaching

It is funny how certain things trigger our memories, sometimes just an odor. Yesterday while in Gideon I wondered if my grandparents and parents would approve of the person I have become. Today I traveled a rural area again in search for geocaches. 30 years ago I was the parole officer for the southern half of Butler County, Mo. As I rode along the rural roads I could recall faces that lived along these roads so many years ago. Most of them were good individuals who had just made a mistake, or two, in their judgement. 
My first two stops, Qulin. Forgot to take a picture of the second cache. 

A cemetary just north of Corning held two caches.

I had 12 cache coordinates in my gps. Need ten to break 700. Thought I would give myself 2 to spare. Yesterday I could not locate one.

Another cemertary in Corning. Nice place to visit but I am not ready to move in yet.

Squeeze this little guy and he will throw up a 35mm film canister with a log in it. He lives in a tree right in the middle of a rural cemetary.

This old church building watches over the cemetary where the frog lives, just west of Corning. It triggered more memories from nearly 30 years ago. My daughter was a flower girl in a friend's wedding at this place in the very early 80's. My baby is now 33 years old and the mother of 4. I kinda doubt I will see if this building stands for another 30 but you never know. Teri takes good care of me.

Just east of Corning is another rural cemetary. Actually two.

About a mile east of the one above. I get kinda nervous when there is a Confederate flag flying close to where I want to go. There was one at the house next to the graveyard. Well, when I walked out, there were three of them in seperate yards. I started the car and headed east toward Piggott.

Pollard, Arkansas. This little community sits about 3 miles south of the Mo. State Line. Some of my mother's family came here from Alabama and settled this place, back in the 1800s.

A very nice park just to the west of Piggott. This is where they have the big car show. Piggott is also famous for their 4th of July celebrations, at this park. It covers several acres, I am talking 120 or more with a nice lake.

The park is home to 2 seperate caches. This was number 700 for us. Not bad for caching less than 2 years.

Check this out.

One of Ernest Hemmingway's places. He married a girl from Piggott and they lived here for a while. There is a big museum behind the house.

Grabbed this one as I left Piggott.

It was located at this sign on the east side of Piggott. Next I continues eastward, across the St. Francis River into Holcomb, Mo.

A very famous resturant to all who live within 100 miles of it. Strawberry's is famous for their pork steaks, and other grub. One will have trouble eating a whole one at one sitting. They are one inch thick. Very good.

Look close.

You will see this hanging inside, at the top. My 12th and last cache for the day. It is identical to the one I forgot to take a picture of in Qulin. This was in Holcomb. Signed the log and drove north 35 miles back home.
The weather was warm, cloudy, and very windy today. I left home at 1030 am and got back about 330 pm. 145 mile run. Takes more miles, and time, to grab numbers in the rural areas but much more fun than caching the urban places. Hated being alone but enjoyed the memories. Life is about making great memories. My life is full of them. And, life is good today. Thanks for keeping me company this afternoon.