Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Out For a Walk

A canal feeding brine back toward the Bonneville Salt Flats.

A canal feeding brine back toward the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Nothing spectacular today, which is nice for a change. The daytime temperature edged back into the 70’s today, and since I was already out to pump the camper’s waste tanks into the Tankmin in the Furd, I went for a 2-mile walk down the road heading for the Salt Flats. There are two 12-inch pipes coming out of the ground, each a hundred yards from the roadway. There must be a heckofa pump or two somewhere, because the flow rate out each of those pipes is impressive, and they flow 24/7. It seems that a potash plant on the other side of I-80 is returning leftover brine back to the salt flats.

That’s good, because the Bonneville Salt Flats used to be 90,000 acres in 1963, and today covers only 30,000 acres because of that plant. For speed freaks, that has reduced the former 10-mile track surface to just 7 miles. 18 inches of salt have been removed, and this voluntary return is hoped to slow further shrinkage, not hold or reverse it. Potash is a key ingredient in fertilizer, and this result makes sustainable methods of farming look like an admirable thing to me.

The last few days have been inordinately cold and windy, with highs at about 50. Officially, wind gusts registered up to 28 MPH, but the difficulty I had opening the trailer’s door led me to suspect higher speeds. For the first time ever, the solar panel retention system came into play – just a little, but into play. The trailer is aimed west, as usual. It seems that a strong wind coming from just the right west-northwest angle into the front of the trailer can use its deflecting pressure to get underneath solar panel #1, and lift it. A west wind does nothing, and so does a northwest wind. Get the speed and direction just right though, and up it goes in a hop.

This is exactly what an oncoming wind needs to see to be able to lift a panel.

This is exactly what an oncoming wind needs to see to be able to lift a panel.

Fortunately, wind going in this direction can theoretically lift the panel to horizontal, but that’s it. It can’t possibly blow it up and back over the roof, which would be the Dreaded Solar Panel Doomsday Scenario. Still, what it can do is blow the lifted pole to one side, letting the panel slam back down to vertical against the side of the trailer. Not good for the thin aluminum trailer siding, the pole mount universal joint fastened to the panel, or the panel itself. Dropping the panel closer to vertical is the only way it can unhook from its mount, but any wind being able to do that is unlikely.

This is the bottom of the #1 support pole. The rope has a clip to make attachment to the looped spike easy and quick.

This is the bottom of the #1 support pole. The rope has a clip to make attachment to the looped spike easy and quick.

I only found out this was going on because I was in the office typing away while the trailer rocked in the wind, and I glanced out the side window to see the #1 pole hop upward just a bit. Uh-oh. Was I hallucinating? I looked down to the ground, and saw that the bottom of the pole had moved out of its little detent in the dirt, heading with the wind. It was kept from moving more than a few inches by the spike and rope I’d added down there just for that purpose. That’s all it’s supposed to do and can do: keep the bottom end of the pole where it needs to be underneath the panel, holding it at its working angle. Even a 14″ spike can’t get enough grip in this sandy soil to resist persistent vertical yanking. Good thing it doesn’t need to. The twin retaining ropes running from the trailer to each panel frame are what keep them from lifting more than a few inches, and let the spike and rope do their thing down below. I could have scurried outside to flop each panel down and tie them vertical, but I decided not to. That’s what these tests are for! Besides, I wasn’t seeing the main retaining ropes having to get involved yet. I rode it out. Oh, what courage! Plus, I was being lazy. Oh, let’s just see if it works fer cryin’ out loud…

Those pairs of yellow ropes with hooks won't allow the panels to lift more than a few inches. I don't recommend this style of deployment with cheapie solar panels with weak frames. I like the color coordination with the poles, but it was just luck.

Those pairs of yellow ropes with hooks won’t allow the panels to lift more than a few inches. I don’t recommend this style of deployment with cheapie solar panels with weak frames. I like the color coordination with the poles, but it was just luck.

It was a pleasant walk I took. There may possibly be a couple of trailers parked out at the Salt Flats entrance turnaround five miles away. RVs briefly visit there all the time, but these two have been there for a couple of hours now, and may indicate that the advance crew for the upcoming event may have arrived to check out the racing surface. Yippee! My next errand trip won’t be until at least Monday, so I won’t know for sure until then. Once there, these guys tend to stay planted until either they give up, or the event has been completed.

There's no particular point in taking this shot, but it does show my road heading down to a "Y". To the left is the 4-mile trek to the salt, and to the right is the road to I-80. That pipe in the truck is the Tankmin's vent tube.

There’s no particular point in taking this shot, but it does show my road heading down to a “Y”. To the left is the 4-mile trek to the salt, and to the right is the road to I-80. That pipe in the truck is the Tankmin’s vent tube in action!

Road graders have been working the road's shoulders to make them shallow and wide, and each side is now at least as wide as the road itself. My guess is that they're trying to lower water speed, like the Mighty Mississip' and unlike the Colorado River  Rapids.

Road graders have been working the road’s shoulders to make them shallow and wide, and each side is now at least as wide as the road itself. My guess is that they’re trying to lower water speed, like the Mighty Mississip’ and unlike the Colorado River Rapids.

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