Monday, October 20, 2014

A Laser Guided DogHouse

One of the more challenging aspects of traveling with a Truck Camper
is loading it into the back of the truck.

When backing under the DogHouse it must not only be centered, but
the truck must also be square to the camper.   There is only about an inch
of play on either side and if we are not square the truck bed sides will scrape the
camper as you back under.  With the camper lifted about 4' off of the ground
any bumping puts strain on the legs...  not a good idea.

While I've never found loading it to be particularly difficult, it can sometimes 
require a number of back and forth adjustments to get it right, and then slowly backing
under it - stopping and getting out numerous times to check the sides to make sure we
are backing under straight.

Some folks solve the problem by not unloading the camper, or
only unloading it when they absolutely have to.

Our rule is not to unload if we are only staying somewhere for the night,
but if we are staying longer...  off it comes.   
Its much easier to get in and out
(especially with the Doodles) when it is lowered down to the ground.

Anything to make the job easier and more accurate results in time saved at departure.

Working off an idea that I saw on the internet I built a laser guidance device.

The main component is a horizontal laser that sends out a fan shape beam of light.

This was mounted onto an aluminum bracket that I fabricated and mounted onto
the centerline of the truck inside the sliding rear window.
You can see the green beam shining.

Next was adjusting it so that it projected it's beam straight down the centerline
as well as vertically.   Below I was fine tuning the vertical allignment.

Finally installed, I put 3 pieces of reflective tape on the camper. 
(note - the camper window is NOT in the center of the camper)

Having the one spot on the top front of the camper gives me a plane
(remember Geometry?)
This one closer spot assures me that I am perpendicular.

I used to have to slowly reverse while turned around and stretching to try
and look right down the centerline out the back window.

Now I can simply use the mirror and see that I am aligned properly.

Note - the camper is not yet lifted.
It is also level - the truck however is slightly sloped (as is the driveway)
So you can see in the photo below the upper line is slightly off to the side.

If I was going to load the camper I would first make sure that the camper and the
truck were on a similar plane side to side, but you can see how even at this
point we could load up and go.

It took all of a minute to get the truck backed 
and in loading position in this first test.

I think this will be a real time saver.
It will also be useful for backing up to the 5th wheel - especially at night.

Parts list

DPPS-5b 4.5mW Green Laser Module

A heat sink

A 3v power supply.
Mine uses 2 AAA batteries and has an on off switch.

A way to mount it to your truck.
I had some Aluminum flat plate laying around and was able to
fabricate the mount from that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Blood Moon

For those of you who did not know about it...
Our could not see it...
Or just didn't want to get out of bed...

Since our weather was perfect for viewing,
I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of this mornings Blood Moon.

It was a total lunar eclipse and due to the red tint caused by reflections from
the sunrises and sunsets on Earth, it is called a Blood Moon.

The interesting thing about this lunar eclipse is that it is the second of 4 that will
take place between 2014 and 2015.

The series is called a Lunar Tetrad because there are 4 full eclipses,
each full Lunar eclipse is followed by a period of 6 lunar months (6 full moons) 
with no partial eclipses in between.

It is a fairly uncommon occurrence.   Although there will be 8 Tetrads
in the 21st century - there were none for instance in the 17th, 18th, and 19th.

The next Blood moon will be in 6 lunar months - April 2015.

Here the eclipse was about 70% in process.

A bit later more of the moon is covered.

Finally - this was taken just a few seconds before totality.

Here on the east coast the totality occurred at 0625 so soon the sky started
to brighten and we did not get to see the moon reappear in its full brightness.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dog Power!

After receiving a number of emails I realized that our last post had
us camped on the Colorado River and then we dropped off line.

Sorry folks...  didn't mean to leave anyone hanging.

Well...  we're home.

We put it into high gear and did the California to NC run in 5 days.
We arrived home August 23rd after 4 1/2 months and 21,000 miles of travel
to Alaska (and points in-between) and back.

Since arriving home we've been up to NY on business, Kate has been to
Chicago, and I gave the Doodles got a well deserved haircut and baths.
I think they brought back many souvenirs of the trip with them.
In their fur that is.

We've settled into shoreside life for now but I have a real case of "hitch itch" meaning I can't
wait to get back on the road again.

One needed project while home was putting some solar panels on the Dog House.

For this job I selected 2 Kyocerra 140w Panels

The Arctic Fox comes prewired for solar.
One of the hardest jobs in installing solar is pulling the damn wires from the roof to the
solar controller and then from that to the batteries.
Arctic Fox saved me all of that work...  Thank you AF!

Up on the roof I replaced the Arctic Fox Connector with my own Combiner Box.
This is where the wires from the panels connect to the wires installed by the factory and
go thru the roof.
AM Solar sells a combiner box for $80.
I made this one for about $10 with parts from Amazon.

I positioned the panels on the roof so that I was able to catch Aluminum framing
members with 3 of the 4 screws securing the panel feet.   This ensured a solid mount.

Under each foot I placed a piece of Eternabond double sided tape.
This served 2 purposes:  
1)  It waterproofed the screw hole.
2)  The eternabond tape would hold the panels down even without a screw.

Here you can see the panel in place with the eternabond tape squeezed out below the foot.

Next I took some pieces of Eternabond tape and placed them over the screws to
add an additional waterproofing factor.

Finally - never be afraid to be accused of doing a job to overkill....
I covered the whole mounting foot with Dicor Sealant.

This is after the Dicor was applied.
This will level out mostly but keep in mind - its up on the roof - only the birds see it.

I followed the same methods for securing the panel wiring.
A piece of Eternabond tape went under each wire holder.
Then I shot a screw thru the eternabond.
Below you can see the holders at this stage.

Finally  - I followed up with some Dicor on each holder.
There will be NO water leaks on any of my work.

Inside the Dog House I needed to mount the Solar Controller.
Arctic Fox Left a label right on the wall where the wires were located so choosing
a location for the controller was simple.

Cut a hole in the wall, pull out 2 sets of wires...
1)  From the roof  2) to the batteries.
Connect the wires to the controller.

I added (2) 30amp panels mounted fuses.  
One on the Battery side and one on the panel side.
This protects the circuitry and allows me to isolate the
controller for maintenance if necessary.

Below you can see the panels are suppling 13.3v

I  also ran a temperature sensor wire from the Controller to the batteries.
While not required for the system to function - having temperature sensing by the controller
allows it to recharge the batteries much more efficiently as the charging voltages will
vary quite a bit based upon temperature.

Lastly is the Electrical System Monitor.
I put this in the Dog House last year.   I never leave home without one.

This the the heart of any system.
Think of it as a sophisticated fuel gauge.
It tells you the exact state of the batteries plus how much power is going into/from the
batteries.   The information that you gain from this device allowed me
to properly size the solar system and know that what I was putting up on the roof would
be sufficient for our needs.

So the Dog House is now ready for some serious generator free boondocking just
like the Montana.

Did I mention that on our 4 1/2 month trip to Alaska and back we never used our
generator once?  Our solar system in the Montana took care of all of our needs.

I expect the same performance out of this system.

Now...  on a different subject.

Some of you might remember my post a couple of years ago about Tom Mix,
the Western Movie star from the 1930's??

Well I found out yesterday that he was a pall bearer at the funeral of Wyatt Earp.

I thought that was a cool fact and wanted to share it with you folks.

We have a busy winter planned:

Christmas in Germany then Switzerland.
And of course Quartzsite and the Arizona/California Deserts.

We hope to hit some new spots this winter so stay tuned.