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Friday, August 30, 2013

Project "Storage Box," and Some Solar Input Needed From Readers

Glory to the gods of Treadmills, Anchors and Short Leashes, for they have taken pity on an unrepentant, poorboy-of-a-wanderer. My summer "sentence" at the Skol Fine Art Gallery has been officially commuted, so pardon me while I unleash some well earned exuberance! And what clever irony, that Labor Day will be the finale. To quote Dr King, "Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last." 

My mind long-jumps to future boondocks—October nights, camped under the Milky Way at the bleeding mouths of enumerable slot canyons. Utah's red rock and the San Rafael Swell beckons. The "Now" can't compete with "tomorrow," suddenly it seems boring and overrated. Good as it is, "what is" can't compete with "what might be;" never could. Ah, spoken like a true dreamer. 

Egads, man, there is work to be done! But why, my fellow road warriors, is there no toil and drudgery in prepping for The Road? I'll be trading my Polo pinstripes for bluejeans and backroads, and embarking on a six month parole. It never gets old. It is never hard. I can only liken it to the simple-pleasure joy of going into a supermarket for the first time after eight long weeks of bootcamp chow. I'm a little like Bayfield Al in that, with the first subtle tinge of Autumn there comes an uptick in spirit and optimism.

Upon the news of my early release, Bobbie moved her official last day up a couple of weeks. Then we made a mad dash to rescue Goldie from her RV kennel, a cruel chain-link fenced area below the dam at Ridgway State Park. There she was, sleeping like a puppy. She awakened to a key turn in the ignition, happy to be moving again. It's off to the "beauty shop" for some put offed projects. Last winter's travels demonstrated that Goldie needed (apologies to Mr Simplicity, Glennmore storage, not to mention (gulp) solar energy. It's not that we want or need to take more "stuff" with us, just more that we need a place to put the stuff we have. Last winter our inflatable Sea Eagle Kayak rode shotgun in the passenger seat the entire trip, and our Honda generator took up most of the entryway inside the cabin door. I've had it with generator dependence; we are going unplugged this time, tho I will take it along in the newly completed storage box...you know, in case our boondock has a mountain or trees or clouds blocking old Sol.

So it's a good thing I built storage shelves around the perimeter of the garage ceiling this spring and got all our shit sorted out.  I was able to find all my tools that went missing in the pile of boxes and tubs that laid in the middle of the garage floor for the past two years. Is there anything more lost and pathetic than a man without his tools? I found my drill press, my oxy/acet. torches, my grinders, my plasma cutter, my wire-feed welder, and Big Abe, my Lincoln dims-the-lights 220 amp welder...a hot rod in your hand if there ever was one. It magically glues metal to metal, and I am quite proud of Goldie's new storage box/bike rack.

But before I show you the solution to our storage problem, I want to reach out for your opinions on the, as of yet, unordered solar installation about to get underway. To make sure of placement and room, I made a cardboard template measuring ever so slightly larger than the each of the two 150 watt panels I would prefer to use (as opposed to three 100 watt panels). Here are the placement options I came up with... 

photo one

photo two

photo three

photo four

photo five

photo six

photo seven

Remember, I need two panels the size of the template (I only had one template to test possible locations). By photo number, I'd like to know where you think the best possible 2 locations would be, all things considered? Hurry, cause I want to get the panels and hardware ordered ASAP! Any reason to go with 3 100 watt panels instead of 2 150's?

Now for the "Project Storage Box" I added to Goldie's backside. I had no receiver hitch on the rear so that was the first order of business. I bought one at Murdock's Farm Supply and tacked it into place with four spot welds...just in case it had to be moved for some unforeseen reason.

Just "tacked" for now...

I ordered a "receiver style" 500 lbs cargo carrier from Ehitch.com for around a $145 dollars. Of course it had to be drastically modified to fit my vision (what doesn't). I wanted the cargo rack as close to Goldie's backend as possible...not sticking way out in traffic, which is the way it came. So I re-drilled another hitch-pin hole that allowed the cargo holders main shaft to slide six inches  further into the receiver and nearer the bumper. 

I then robbed the 60 inch aluminum storage box out of my pickup truck and attempted to put in the 60 inch cargo rack... that was in reality, only 59.9 inches. Oh shit...here we go. That's when I noticed the cargo rack's rounded corners. That doesn't work well with a square cornered box. Damn it! Somehow, with Bobbies help and the will of God, we managed to squeeze that box into the carrier. Ok, but it sitting right in the middle of the carrier instead of snugged up to Goldie. Hmmm. 

But that's why God made Sawzalls. With four cuts to the corners (two on each side) I was able to slot-notch the corners of the toolbox enough to accept the round cargo carrier. So far, So good.

Rounded cargo basket now fits into notches in the tool box... and look how close of a fit!

Looks like everything's going to work so I finish welding the receiver hitch to Goldie. Yes, those sparks continue to burn...through clothes and skin before they cool off. Welding upside down is an art I have yet to master.

Not a millimeter to spare...

A little primer and done!

That's how snug I hoped to get the box. 

Now for the bike rack. Remember how I had moved the cargo basket six inches closer to Goldie? Well, that left six inches of support shaft still hanging out of the other side. I just needed to find a way to attach our existing bike rack to that 2" shaft. I measured where the bike rack bolted to it's former support shaft and, yep, it was 2".

Goooollllleeee. I could just drill new bolt holes and be done! But closer inspection revealed that the bikes would be hanging too low for comfort. Rats! I found some spare 2" tubing, cut three six inch sections, and stacked them on top of each other. Perfect...welder please.
 I ended up cutting a nice angle on the stack of welded tubing...just for looks...but it turned out to be a BITCH to get done!!!!!!!!!!

With the help of a drill press and fancy measuring that required third grade math aptitude, the bike rack bolted  right in place... well, it took a hammer too, but close enough.

Plenty of room for the Honda 2000, some leveling blocks, the Sea Eagle Kayak...and room left over for life jackets, paddles, air pump. Still a nice slot left on the carrier for long objects, too!

Tools and a good helping woman are Man's best friends!
Notice the gap in front of the tool box...a great place for leveling boards/misc long things.



  1. Job well done young man (and woman)! Goldie is stylin' now!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  2. I'd go photo seven BUT... move the panel toward the bottom of the photo and mount the two panels together so they can be tilted as a single unit.

    You'll get 30%+- more power when you tilt 'em... can mean the difference between getting recharged and not in a marginal "solar" site...

  3. I can't help with the solar panels...sorry!

    That's a dandy job you and Bobbie did on the storage box.

  4. That's great news about your early "retirement" at Labor Day. I envy you for knowing how to weld.

    Does this mean that you will be doing more dispersed camping, rather than "boondocking" in established campgrounds?

    About the solar panel size: sure, it's nice to eliminate wire breaks, brackets, and get more amps per dollar. But you tend to change rigs every couple years. It will be harder to find a home on a new rig for larger panels.

  5. She's looking good. I think someone is antsy to hit the road. We haven't done solar just yet, but will eventually. We're back at Ridgway SP to do some more exploring in the area. I could throw some burgers on the grill if you and Bobbie can break away from getting Goldie ready :-)

  6. Looks swell!!..I cut and shortened my carry-all also.Washington State ferries charge by the inch.I purchased a double stack hitch so I can hook-up my Samurai and then put the bike rack on the rear of "Ninja"
    Hope to bump into you two sometime..

  7. The mod looks great! For the panels I prefer the lengthwise orientation (long side of panel parallel to long side of RV) because it allows tilting with minimal shadowing (with RV facing east-west) and allows the option of more panels down the line if you wish. Tilting gives us a 40% boost in winter...definitely recommend it!

  8. Nice work. Where there's a will there's a way.
    Making me want to take a road trip and I have over a month of work to go.

  9. Thank heaven for the one shot of beauty reflected in Goldie's window! I'm sure all of this is quite impressive, but my eyes did sort of glaze over in the manly detail!

    Here's to early departure success and happy trails wished to you from me on the road myself in the big sky state of Montana!

  10. I was just going to say the same as Wheeling it.
    That extra storage will work great for you, made an almost identical one for our van conversion 18 years ago worked great.

  11. A couple of comments on solar panel placement. First, like Wheeling, I prefer lengthwise placement to allow tilting. I don't do it often, but it's good to have the option.

    Second, the advantage of using 100 W panels instead of 150 W panels is that smaller panels give you more flexibility in placement. I have five 100 W panels on my LD midbath's roof: three on the curb side and two on the street side. (I had to discard the TV antenna to make room, but that was no loss, as I also discarded the TV. ;-) All panels can be tilted either to the right or to the left.

    Third, when choosing a placement scheme, remember that you are going to have to get up on that roof and clean those panels on a regular basis. If getting around on the roof is like playing Twister--which was the case with my first Lazy Daze, a 22-footer that ended up with eight (!) panels of varying sizes covering just about every square inch of roof space--it's going to be hazardous. Try to leave yourself aisles that allow you to walk the length of the roof. Again, longitudinal placement makes this easier.

    Fourth, use oversized wire when connecting all this together and bringing it down into the coach. I've seen far too many RVs with plenty of panels... and skinny wires that waste much of the energy before it gets to the batteries. My advice: figure on having 400 W eventually, and choose your wire gauge accordingly. Use that gauge all the way from the panels to the charging controller to the batteries. Rewiring is no fun, but there's no point in putting new panels on the roof if the added power will be dissipated in resistive losses due to undersized wiring.

    There's more information on solar power systems in my "Eureka!" website here:


  12. Mark
    Here is some of my zsolar reading links.....Mark


  13. Mark, I continue to be amazed by your skills.

    One suggestion. If you use your tv antenna I would suggest you remove it entirely and replace it with a Jack antenna like we did. Here is a post regarding the project on Debbie's and our's.


    It opens up the roof and eliminates shade issues for nearby panels.


  14. Longways, on one side, close to the edge, so you can access them when want to tilt them. Leave yourself a aisle to get around on the roof. Three narrow, rather than two wide may leave you the aisle. Fat wire.

  15. Mark, You are a true renaissance man! Goldie looks ready for another journey. When will you set sail?

    (I must go down to the seas again,
    To the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship
    And a star to steer her by...")
    -John Masefield

    Here's my version:

    I must go down to the desert again,
    to the lonely desert and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall Lazy Daze
    And a star to steer her by.."


  16. butterbean carpenterAugust 31, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Howdy Mark,
    You done a really good-looking job, young feller, on the tool-box placing, the bike rack fixing and welding it all on the back end of Goldie!!! Did you get everything fixed that needed fixing from the last trip, when you had to 'cripple' in?? Sure do wish y'all LOTZ OF LUCK, this time out!!! Hope y'all climb lotz of mountains, crawl lots of slots and have many HAPPY DAYS..

  17. Howdy Mark,

    That's a really good looking addition to Goldie.. Know nothing about solar.. Have a great trip and come home in good spirits..
    Hope all your mountains are sloped and the slot canyons wide enough so y'all can have many HAPPY DAYS !!!

    butterbean carpenter

  18. Wow, very nice! Impressive that you DIY'ed that. I get anxious holding a aparkler on the 4th of July, let alone that welding thing!

    Thanks for posting the solar question on the blog, as I am hoping to do the same next winter. I am learning lots. (Andy Baird: "get up on the roof and clean those panels" Seriously? GULP!!)

    Congratulations on the early commutation of your sentence. :::sigh:::

  19. Great site. Lots of beautiful pictures.

    I'm Not an expert on solar, but I have been reading a lot regarding solar panels recently.

    1) The wires should be as short as possible. So putting them close together and close to batteries and converter has an advantage. Pick a location that minimizes wire length.
    2) The wires should be a pretty heavy gauge to avoid loss. Wiring the panels in series will increase voltage and you will have less loss.
    3) If you put them close together you will have less holes in the roof and or less wires running on the roof.

    There are lots of sites with lots of info to look at.
    This guy sounds like he knows a lot about battery charging.

    Trailer hitch install:
    Did you weld it to the bumper or the frame? That box, frame, bike rack, etc... must weigh an awful lot.

  20. Looks like 7 has enough room to set two end to end and tilt as a unit. Also it's the opposite side from the frig which needs cool air for efficiency and would be on the mort side with panels facing south.

  21. Solar panels Why use 2 when 1 will do I have 1 on my 5er that works fine the inverter can be added later on to run the microwave
    My panel cost 225$ 225w I used a tri-star 45 145$ (now for sale) but went to something faster 235$ Sunsaver MPPT unit ,,,it Works better for me
    Most better panels are a buck a watt and work even in part sun ,,mine work some with heavy over cast
    If u hit my web site and scroll down past the BS to solar u can see how I set myself up ,,all I'm saying is I like it
    U can Attached yours your way however I can't walk on my roof so I went to the sides and I have room for 1more
    If needed
    Have no fear I'm not coming to see u , knowing u would take me for a hike no way I have all I can do to jump up in my truck thank u but I love your Sense of humor and the photos are ok to
    Joy your day

  22. Solar advice. Every time an antenna casts the slightest shadow on your solar panel, it will shut down, and won't produce any power. Something to keep in mind. A great source for solar power info is here: http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/

    Luck! Larry M

  23. Good advice/comments on solar all around. We have six 100w panels and six AGM batteries. We haven't plugged in or run the generator in four months. I think the best place in the US to buy equipment and get incredible advice/support is AM solar in Oregon. We've been fulltiming for 18 months now and the solar system is about the only system that has worked perfectly :-)

  24. I'd go with photo 2, less have to "crawl" over panels in future trips to the roof.


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