Tag Archives: Quartzsite

Battery Monitoring in Our RV

Just before sunrise Ketchum ID

Debbie and I have lived in our 25’ travel trailer year-round the past five years. It’s not too big, not too fancy, doesn’t have too much storage. And until recently didn’t have too much spare battery capacity.

We mentioned visiting QuartzFest 2012 in our post last January and how we’d dry-camped in the desert with good friends Herb and Lois. Lucky for us, their motor home generator has excess capacity and they were willing to share.

Trimetric 2025-RV

Truth is, we really didn’t know how much battery capacity we had at any given time. Sure, we’re starting with 460 amp/hours at full, but what about ten or twenty hours after full charge? We’ve just added a Trimetric 2025 battery monitor from Bogart Engineering into our trailer, and we are rapidly gaining a good understanding of our batteries’ charging and discharging patterns.

A couple of key measurements include days since full-charge, number of amp-hours from full, and most interesting to me, incremental watts or amps of each connected load.

My very compact ham station

My ham station, consisting of a VHF radio, HF radio, Hear-It speaker, Kantronics TNC, and LDG illuminated meter adds 1.5 amps load. Lowering the antenna requires 0.4 amps, raising it takes 0.8 amps, and tuning it takes 0.3 amps. I haven’t measured transmitting yet, but will.

I look forward to learning the observed ampacity of our loads and better understanding the capacity of our 460 amp-hours of batteries (four 6v Interstate batteries).

Debbie looks forward to my being less cranky about saving battery energy when we probably have lots to spare. She’s using 8.2 amps right now — I should go check into it, right?

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr


Why are ham fests sometimes in very strange locations?

A couple of posts ago we wrote about Herb’s and Jim’s unplanned 10 mile hike in the desert.  More significant, really, is why were we in the middle of Arizona’s desert at all? You might already know we are suckers for interesting or unusual ham radio conventions. A ham radio convention in the middle of Arizona’s desert would probably be interesting and unusual. We’d heard about Quartzsite for several years and wanted to get there. This seemed like a great opportunity, and we only had a drive of 160 miles to get there.

Less than 700 miles to visit a new hamfest? Let's go!

Some of you dear readers may recall our post two years ago when Debbie and Jim drove to Essex, in the top of Montana for a famous ham fest.  We had heard of the oldest continuous running (once per year, that is) ham radio convention, the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park Hamfest. And so upon departing Gillette Wyoming in early July 2010 we reasonably figured, since we were only 600 miles away, we should take the opportunity to visit Essex Montana and see this venerable ham fest first hand. It was pretty neat and sharpened our interest in unusual ham fests.

and the camels are another story entirely

The recent week we spent dry-camping in the Arizona desert was pretty much the opposite in several ways. Glacier National Park can be very chilly even in the middle of July.  Everything in Glacier National Park is either green (evergreen trees, grass, moss) or white (ice and snow), with just a little brown (bears and deer).  The Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park HamFest is 78 years running so far, versus a few years for QuartzFest.  And camping in any campground near Glacier National Park is a bit costly — we camped free at Quartzsite (except a donation to the organizer to help cover paper and printer cartridges.)

very cool hex beam antenna for W7Q station

Some things are remarkably similar between the two hamfests.  At neither hamfest did we see any ham radio vendors (although one almost always does).  Both hamfests are pretty close to an international border (Canada and Mexico).  Both hamfests involve dry camping although in Quartzsite the term takes on additional significance — everything is really really dry.  Both hamfests had very dedicated RVing hams with some really interesting antenna setups.  Both hamfests had special event stations allowing attendees the opportunity to operate from a different location and try using different gear than in their own station. Both hamfests had well-organized presentations on various subjects.

another big antenna on small RV

The QuartzFest rally seemed huge compared to the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park HamFest.  We might have had 75 rigs at Glacier-Waterton, and we had 400 rigs at QuartzFest.  We never had seen such a big collection and wide variety of amateur radio antennas as at QuartzFest.  Not all were RV-portable – many were tall masts with two and three sets of ropes guying the antennas against the winds.

Much easier to clean and aim than on the roof

Oh, and we saw assorted ways to collect solar energy for electricity as well as several wind generators. We went to a lot of work putting our solar panels on the Airstream’s roof — they would be low maintenance (sort of) and pretty secure from theft or damage. Tilting the solar panels wasn’t in our original scheme and weekly wiping of the panel’s glass surface (necessary in the dirty dusty desert and even in Mesa) requires setting up and climbing the ladder. We like this portable panel idea more and more.

THE place to be for fish on Fridays

When in Quartzsite, do as the Quartzsitians do? We followed our friends Bob K9WMP and Laura K9BZY from Mesa to Quartzsite since they knew where to go. And we followed them to Sweet Darlene’s restaurant for Friday fish dinner our first evening. Without Bob and Laura we probably would have given up this idea when we saw the lineup outside the restaurant — this place was hopping. Herb and Lois, Tom and Debbie, Bob and Laura, and the two of us were deluded if we thought we would get to sit together in this place.

Sweet Darlene's does big biz on Fridays

The line moved reasonably quickly and we soon found out why — you don’t wait for a table of four, or six, or eight — you wait for a couple of chairs anywhere close to each other and you forgo sitting with your larger party. Your food order at Sweet Darlene’s Friday fish dinner is simple. Fried fish, cole slaw, and a slice of bread are on all the plates — you choose what style potatoes.

Our order was simple and the food was good

Except our wait person was so frazzled by the time she arrived at our table she asked what style fish we wanted. Faked us out briefly then we all had a big laugh — there’s one style fish at Friday fish dinner at Sweet Darlene’s, and it was good.

Can we take one of these home?

People we meet in Mesa think of Quartzsite as a place to shop for gems and geodes. While we don’t frequent rock shops we have been in a few. We’ve never seen anything equalling these huge geodes. We didn’t see any price tags but wonder if everything is for sale at some price.

Clearly the biggest tent we've ever shopped in!

Another thing most people do in Quartzsite is browsing the shops. Sweet Darlene’s has graduated from a tent enclosure to a completely enclosed metal structure. Some of the shops are in metal buildings but most were in tents. One of the tents seemed as big as a football field and was chock full of vendors representing nearly every facet of support and supply for RVing.

US Gov't perhaps runs most smoothly when done by volunteers

We camped in Road Runner RV area of the BLM land 6 miles south of Quartzsite. BLM required us to register and receive a 14-day camping permit (at no cost), allowing us to park anywhere within a vast area of the desert. The closest dump station and fresh water resupply was in Quartzsite, and we couldn’t even find a 30 amp power pole in our camp site. Nor did we really expect one, we knew we’d be conserving water and battery power both.

We’ve dry camped numerous times but had not previously done nearly so well with our fresh water. We used less than 20 gallons total of fresh water in five days for all uses — cooking, drinking, and bathing. Our Airstream travel trailer carries 40 gallons, so we had water aplenty. Not so capable though is our 19 gallon black water holding tank. The only thing it serves is our toilet.

Some of the 20 gallons of fresh water had to have gone into the 40 gallon gray water holding tank, right? We bathed each day and used our sink for pot and utensil washing. But the 19 gallon black water holding tank was nearly full after five full days use. Very nearly all our toilet flushing was with dish water or bathing water, so precious little fresh water found its way to our gray water holding tank. If only we could find a way to expand our black water carrying capacity. Who would have thought we’d wish for such a thing, eh?

Our best (and only) Quartzsite neighbors

We were grateful to Herb and Lois for sharing their Winnebago’s generator with us twice a day. We ran an extension cord 100 feet between our RV and theirs and they would bump our batteries up a little. It was nice to have their big old generator send some extra energy our way a couple times daily. Even nicer, though, was camping with them and sharing meals, conversations, and spending evenings at card games or watching movies together.

Our solar panels did fine but one pair of 6-volt batteries just don’t have enough depth for our uses (this is not necessarily a mutually held opinion). We like to read at night. Our water pump, fridge controls, and propane leak detector all use battery power. Oh, and the ham radio can use a bunch (22 amps @ 12vdc) of battery power. One of us likes to have enough battery power left by morning to do a little chatting on our HF (long distance) ham radio. More power = a good thing, right? Unless you were a ho-hum-ham and might ask, “Jim, what problem are you trying to solve with all this?”

Maybe keeping busy is a good thing in itself? Jim’s been busy since we returned from Quartzsite. Our solar panels are, after four years flat use, tilt-able. We are on the verge of more than doubling our storage battery capacity from two 6v 220 amp hour batteries to four 6v 232 amp hour batteries. Results are encouraging on tilting the solar panels and we think the battery change will be a significant boost. We’ll get back to the details about these two changes in another blog.

Stay tuned — we’ll be back soon!




Jim and Debbie

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©2007-20112 Dreamstreamr

Searching for Woody Hi-Q in the desert

Herb and Lois are full-timers we met through ham radio rallies years ago.  Debbie and I  have fun with them and share many interests including walking.  This day Debbie and Lois drove to Quartzsite on a shopping trip.  Herb and I agreed we might take a little walk while the girls were away.

Herb and I left our campsite intending to stroll about looking for Woody, the Hi-Q antenna guy.  Herb has a couple of Hi-Q ham radio antennas (neat stuff!) and brought along some money to buy a few more parts from Woody.

I assumed Herb knew where we were to look and I had no idea whatsoever where Woody might be camped.  Had we talked a little more about our prospective walk I would have figured we were really just on a walkabout in the desert south of Quartzsite.  Which is fine but I would have brought along more stuff than I did.

SAR guys tell us the basic rules for trips into the desert

The search and rescue guys had only two days before given a presentation to our large group.  These SAR guys provided very clear precautions  before striking out into the desert and Herb and I violated all but one.  Good news, we did have a portable ham radio and a cell phone with good service and battery.  We had no water, no sandwiches, no sunscreen, no camera, and had left no note as to our walk plans.  And, if I had remembered it, we had a quite capable compass in my Suunto wrist computer/watch.  The compass would have been helpful if I had remembered it AND if we knew what bearing to take.  You do need both, a compass isn’t as useful if you don’t know where you want to go.

So Herb and I set out along a pretty decent road from our camp, walking briskly.  After 45 minutes we see a settlement a mile or two (or three) ahead in the desert and decide we’ll keep going in that direction.  We arrived a the housing development (park model development?) after another 45 minutes, or two miles walking, and spent twenty minutes walking 3/4 around it.

We were at least two miles from Quartzsite and not sure whether we could find Debbie and Lois there and hitch a ride back with them so we struck off across the desert toward (we thought) our encampment.  Bearing on a distant landmark in the mountain range well to the southwest, we headed across the open desert watching for the road we had hiked in.  It was a well-traveled road we were sure we “couldn’t miss”.

More than two hours later we had missed the road without knowing it.  We also didn’t realize we passed well west of our campground and extended our walk a couple of miles.  Thinking we needed to change our approach we headed for some buildings to our east, and encountered a dirt-biker heading by us.  He told us we had a several miles on a new course to reach our campground and pointed the way.

My next RVing antenna?

Fortunately the dirt-biker was correct on the direction and overestimated the distance a tiny bit.  We entered the Road Runner BLM “campground” from a new (for us) angle.  We saw this antenna — it was worth the walk to see this antenna holding the little camper down.  Herb and I marched, triumphant at our 10+ mile walkabout, into the campsite.  And drank a gallon of water each.

Next up — pictures and descriptions of our week in the desert (no, not walking) with 400 other amateur radio RVs at the 2012 Quartzfest Rally in Quartzsite.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-20112 Dreamstreamr