Monday, April 8, 2019

Things that go bump in the day

We are wrapping up our first "winter" in the new home and will be
leaving for Alaska in the bus in 3 short weeks.

Our first 4 months in the new place has been celebrated by an almost
endless stream of visitors....

And of course - beautiful sunsets from our backyard.

Arizona Sunset from our patio
One visit that will stand out in our memories forever will be when Craig & Vicki, our
English friends that we met on the Queen Mary 2 came to town.

They drove out from their winter place in Florida to take in some of the great
scenery to be found in the desert southwest.

It was to be a one week visit....

Arriving Tuesday about 330pm, the next morning I thought a nice
hike in Catalina State Park would be a good way to start off the week.

First Morning we take a hike in Catalina State Park
Less than 5 min after we hit the trail, disaster struck!
I called Vicki, who was a few feet ahead of us up the hill, to come back down
to a spot where I would take a picture of her & Craig.

Turning around to come back down, she lost footing on the loose gravel and fell.
The result was a broken left ankle and broken left wrist.

Where we were located, phone service was sporadic, so I climbed further up the hill
and with much difficulty was able to tell them were we were located.
About 20 min later they arrived.

Oro Valley Paramedic Squad
Vicki, being a retired nurse, knew what her condition was, and even in her
pain took charge of her care and directed the paramedics.

After inserting an IV and administering morphine, 
the loaded Vicki into the Ambulance and transported her to the
University of Arizona Trauma Center in Tucson.

Into the Ambulance
Kate rode with Vicki in the Ambulance, and by the time they got to the hospital,
Kate has completely interrogated the staff and knew all of their life stories.

That afternoon in the ER the bones were set and we learned that due to the severity
of the ankle break, surgery would be necessary and that was scheduled for the 
next morning.

Vicki spent 2 nights in the hospital and on March 1st Craig and I drove down
to bring her home to our place.

But first... due to both the ankle and wrist being broken, crutches were out of the question.
Vicki would spend the next 12 weeks in a wheelchair.

So on the way to the hospital we went shopping for "mobility solutions"

Craig leans the finer points of wheelchairs
Loading the supplies into the car Craig forgot to lock the wheels on the wheelchair

Whoops....  Bye By Vicki!
Fortunately the above was just a test run with no Vicki in the chair!

What was to be a one week trip turned into a two week stay at Casa Marana.

This enabled Vicki to see her two doctors, have stitches removed, and gain some
strength that would be needed for the long drive back to Florida.

That was one way for us to keep them longer...
You can check out any time you like - but you can never leave.

Hotel Arizona...
Broken on all 3 sides, Vicki's ankle as much metal as a Smart Car.


PS...  I asked permission before I posted about this.

So for 2 weeks we stayed closed to home.
I baked some bread.


Towards the end of their stay, we started to take some small, but longer duration
trips in the car to give Craig & Vicki practice getting in and out, and to help
them establish a routine.

We visited the Mission Del Bac south of Tucson



A rainbow outside the house just a day before they departed forecasted a
good trip home for both of them.


Craig learned the finer art of stuffing 10lbs of stuff in a 5lb box.

The rental car is packed, and it's back on the road to Fla for them.

Via con Dios Craig & Vicki
Kate and I settled back into the routine of watching sunsets and
waiting for our next guest to arrive.




Each day - a new show.


We took more hikes in Catalina.
But not with guests.


This is the spot where I wanted to take a picture of Craig & Vicki


The world traveling Doodles are always up for a nice walk.


Outside of our door, in our Dove Mountain Community are miles and miles of walking
and hiking trails.

A nice 2.5 mile loop from the front door gives us a nice morning stroll where
we can enjoy the desert plants and wildlife.

Spring flowers are blooming

Brittlebrush flowering on the Tortolita's




We even spotted this Gila Monster.
They are poisonous, but reclusive, so I shooed it back into the bush and
we passed safely by.


In between guest I had to repair the Kwickee Steps in the Coach.
A new controller and motor and they were back in business.

Kate thought this looked like the Wizzard of Oz
Mark & Karen came to visit from England..
Like Craig & Vicki, we met them on the QM2.

Big Nose Kates Saloon in Tombstone
My staff from New York surprised me with a package of gifts.
Some people retire after 25years with the gold watch.
I received something much better....

Gifts from the heart from my staff!

Thank you ladies!
And we watched the sunsets.



Prior to leaving for Alaska, I wanted to make a run up to Denver where I have almost
300 bottles of wine in temperature controlled storage.
I would bring home some of the wooden wine cases, plus some wine
for the house and to bring north.

It was also a good chance to give my new battery installation a quick test drive.

So leaving Kate home (she had girlfriends coming to visit) the Doodles and I
headed out in the bus, Denver bound.

First stop was was the Valley of Fires BLM Campground in Carrizozo, NM 

Perched on a ridge over a lava flow, it was a great overnight stop and would be a great
place to come back for several nights to explore the area.

Valley of Fires BLM Campground
Having lived in Denver (Arvada) Colorado for many years, this
area holds a special place in my heart.
I left here over 30 years ago and each time I return I'm amazed how much its grown.

The traffic here now seems like LA or NYC.

Denver traffic on I-25

Arriving in Denver I spent 3 nights in Cherry Creek State Park.

Deer outside of the bus in Cherry Creek.
First order of business was to go to my storage facility, take inventory,
and decide what treats I would bring home with me. 


Taking home 4 cases plus the wood, I managed to get the storage
down to one locker with 24 cases left behind.


Wooden cases, below, now can come home and stay in the garage.


Truck is loaded for the return trip.


While in town, I alway enjoy a visit with my good friend Frank.
Frank & I both worked as welders in a Generating Station in NJ back in the 70's.


A sentimentalist...  Frank has lots and lots of old pictures.
Kate loves to visit Frank and travel down "memory lane"

The one below answered the question Kate and I have wondered...
When did I grow my mustache?

Looking below, me (in the center) is just starting to show some fuzz on my upper lip.
The next pictures Frank has, all show me with the "stache"
The picture below was taken in 1977 so that is when I grew it.

Kate always thought I was born with it.


A quick turnaround - it was time to head back south.
This time I would take I-25 south to I-10 west.


Pikes Peak stands guard over the Front Range of the Rockies.
Gracie keeps an eye on my driving.


Sunset in New Mexico paints some colors inside the bus


On I-10, between Deming and Lordsburg, NM (about MM50) this derailed Union Pacific
train is laying on its side.   My understanding is the train actually derailed in May 2017 and
these are the cars remaining from that accident.


Arriving back home on Sunday - 1 week after I left - some of the plants in the back yard
have started to bloom.

Slim Bottlebrush starts to bloom

Mexican Bird of Paradise

Palo Verde starts to flower.
And of course....
Another sunset welcomes me home.


Well that brings you up to date.

We have a few more people coming to visit the next couple of weeks and
then that will conclude our first winter in Casa Marana.

In 3 weeks we pack up the bus and head north to Alaska for our 3rd summer.

Stay tuned and thanks for riding along.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Lithium Battery Upgrade

Since getting back home from Quartzite we've continued to stay busy.

Friends have stayed nearby in their RV's at Catalina State Park and we've had the luxury
of hanging with them, while using the house as a home base.

We took some nice hikes in the park

The 50yr trail in Catalina State Park
We got an annual pass so that we can enjoy all the Az Parks

This doesn't look like England.
5 couples and 5 dogs all spent some quality time in the desert.

The Gang on the trail.

We had some snow fall in the mountains.


We we arrived back home we found that our
 back yard landscaping had been completed:

A new look to the back yard
We had the gang over for a few get togethers and 1 birthday party

Happy Birthday Kevin
After a couple of weeks the group started to scatter and it was back to
just Kate, Me, and the doodles.

Then this past weekend, we had even more snow fall at the house


Snow on the Saguaro
Saturday morning I woke up to the falling snow.
It's a rare chance to get a different view of the Sonoran Desert.


Our house sits on the shoulder of the Tortolita Mountains at 2,600'.

Snow on the Tortolita Mountains

Look quickly and enjoy the view.
In the desert as quickly as the snow comes....
it goes.

Snow on the Catalina Mountains

And of course we have had endless great sunsets.

When the walls turn orange....    We call that the "sunset alarm",
we know it's time to go watch the nightly show.

The sunset alarm is going off!
And it never fails...

Another beautiful end to the day!

Lithium Battery Install in the PartyBus


The signature project during this time period, and one that many are interested
in hearing about are the batteries.

WARNING
The post now gets technical so unless you are interested in hearing about
Lithium Batteries, Charging Profiles, and solenoids,  you can tune out till next time.

 I upgraded the batteries in the bus
to new LiFePo4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries.

I went with 5 Battle Born 100ah drop in replacements.

Each battery can discharge at 100amp continuous, or 200amps for 30 seconds.
In parallel wiring it is additive, so I have 500/1000amp capacity which is more than
enough to start the generator which calls for 450cca.

I went with 500ah because:

My existing bank was totally sufficient at 900ah.
That gave me 450ah of capacity (50% discharge) if needed
without drawing the batteries down
too far as to shorten their life excessively.

I preferred not to discharge the AGMs below 75%

I normally draw my batteries down 150-220ah by the morning.
That was 75% of my 900ah AGM bank and I needed to recharge them,
but I can easily double that amount with the lithiums without issue.

At the lower end of the Lithiums capacity curve, they still maintain most of their voltage
unlike LA which as the % of capacity drops, so does the voltage.
This means they can still deliver the power to start the generator at say 20% of capacity.

That means I can go thru some cloudy days and still not need to start the generator.

While the Battle Born Batteries are called "drop in"  there still are a
few minor modifications needed.

I had to replace my Charging Solenoid (battery interconnect) and change the charging
profiles on my Magnum Charger and my Solar Controller.

They arrived 2 days after I placed the order in perfect condition.

5 Brand New 100AH Lithium Batteries

First off was the replacement of my existing charge solenoid.

The Charge solenoid will connect the Chassis and House banks when the alternator
is running, allowing charging current to be directed to both banks.

When both banks are of a similar chemistry this is not a problem.
The lithiums however, with their almost unlimited charge acceptance, will draw so much power
from the alternator, that they could cause it to over heat.

Unlike Lead Acid batteries which accept less and less power as they charge up, 
LiFePO4 will accept 100% of the alternators (or other source) output until they are fully charged.
This means that they will charge much faster than L.A. batteries.

To solve this, I replaced the existing Charge Solenoid with a specialized
Lithium Battery Isolation Manager.

The LI-BIM-225 will supply current to the house bank on a timed schedule, 15 minutes
out of every 35 minutes, and continuously monitor both banks voltage.
It will connect and or isolate as needed.

It still can serve the same function as the original solenoid ie: the emergency
cross connect can be used to supply power from the house to the chassis
batteries in the case of a dead chassis (starting) battery.

Diagram how I wired my BIM
The ignition switch side of the BIM shares that post with power to the slide solenoid.
In my coach, the ignition needs to be turned on to operate the slides.
The slide solenoid gets it power from the ignition switch from the post that it shared
on the charge solenoid.


Here (below) it is wired into the spot previously occupied by the charge solenoid.
The large cable on top goes to the house bank and the large one on the bottom
goes to the chassis bank.

Under the appropriate circumstances both the large cables would be connected
to each other via and thru the BIM

Rats nest wiring: Courtesy of, and typical of, Tiffin Motorhomes

Second on the list was some modification to the battery compartment.
Since the lithiums do not give off gas - there is no need for ventilation.

They are also more particular to temperatures.
The built in BatteryManagement System will not allow them to accept a charge
 below 25°F so I wanted to close off the compartment and install some insulation
on all outside surfaces to try and moderate the temperatures a bit.

Insulated Battery Compartment and Battery Tray

Insulation installed, and .25" plywood base for the batteries to sit on.


I needed to make up new interconnects due to the new layout.

2/0 Interconnects

Here they are wired up

Batteries set in place

Finally, some wood blocks screwed to the plywood base to prevent side to side movement,
and tie downs installed.
The batteries are now solidly in place

Secured and ready to go

The battery tray is slid back in, it now has almost 425 lbs less weight
sitting on it.

Storage Solar is attached to provide power while in covered storage

Lithium Batteries do not require multi step charging.
Simply charge them at maximum current up to 14.4v, then hold that voltage for
20 minutes per cell for a balancing charge and you are done.

I set my Magnum for 14.4v absorb and 100 minutes.   Float was set at 13.4v.
Float charging is not needed for Lithium Batteries so I set the float charge
at the batteries resting voltage of 13.4v.

So, when charging the batteries will take maximum current until they reach 14.4v
at which point they are full.   
Then 100 minutes of balancing charge at 14.4v (the old absorption stage)
and the charging devices either go to standby, or a 13.4 "float".

Temp compensation is not needed, and could actually cause the BMS to disconnect the
charge source due to excessive voltage, so it needs to be turned off.   
On the Magnum, I needed to disconnect
the Temp Sensor to disable Temp Compensation.

My Solar Controller was set with similar parameters. 

In all cases, Equalization is either turned off, or limited to 14.4v.

Once everything was hooked up I started the generator to take a look as
what the charge cycle would look like.

The batteries were only down about 30 ah (per the Magnum BMK)
so I did not expect to bulk charge for very long.

Generator is first turned on and registers 100amps charge rate at 14.3v


In a few minutes that settles in to a balancing charge at the maximum
charge voltage of 14.4v.





These batteries are quite expensive so why did I make the switch?

First was a lifestyle choice:

We dry camp extensively.
Being able to run our batteries down to 10% and leave them partially charged during long
periods of dry camping means even less need to run the generator.

No worries about getting the batteries back up to full charge after each cycle.

The high charge acceptance means that I can accept 100% of my solar output back into
the batteries all the way back up to 100% full charge.

With my AGM batteries, I would get a big jump on recharging early on during bulk charge, but
once I went into absorption phase I would only be using a diminishing %
of my solar output for hours on end, as the bank slowly finished recharged.

The rest of my solar potential went unused.

Many days by 1pm I'd see 20 amps or less going into the batteries,
with 50 amps or more of potential solar charge not being used since the batteries
would not accept a charge any faster.

The LiFePo4's will accept all that I have on board till they are full!

The 400+ lbs of shedded weight off of the bus will be a huge plus.
Don't tell Kate.... she'll do more shopping!

Supposedly they have a much much longer life span.
Time will tell on that one.  Fingers crossed.

I'll reserve final judgement till we spend this summer in Alaska and get to put them
thru a full season.   I'm looking forward to tweaking the systems and putting them to the test.