Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Mod Squad”

Air Spring Day

After an overnight stay at Escapees North Ranch in Congress, Arizona (a judicious stop to shower, do laundry, take on water and get rid of trash for $7.50), I made my way to Nichols AutoFab in Prescott to have some air springs installed on the rear suspension of the Mighty Furd. Recommended by my Four Wheel Camper dealer Adventure Trailer, AutoFab has a shop and a couple of bays packed into what is the most claustrophobic hole in the wall mixed-use shop mall I’ve ever seen. The limited parking lot for the group was claustrophobic for the Mighty Furd, anyway.

In a repair bay intended mainly for Jeeps, the Intrepid needed a cautious backing up.

Prescott is an interesting town nestled within the Prescott National Forest at an elevation of 5,600′, measured at whatever point they consider this burg’s nexus to be. The general landscape for the town is challenging, requiring either that the roads follow valleys or paths along forested hillsides, or that massive walls be built beside the newer multi-lane roads to keep back the earth and rock that they short-cut through. With a population of just 40,000 people, the terrain turns the city into a genuine sprawler, each home and business finding a Read more…

Equipment Follow-Up

The Evelo Aurora, fitted for an errand run.

This here’s a minor post on the e-bike and the printer, just to indicate how things are working out for those who might be considering adding these items to their Squandered Resources Arsenal.

The indications of a fading e-bike battery is becoming confirmed. I rode the 4 miles to town and back yesterday, although the total mileage actually expanded to over 14 miles. The principal casualty was of course my posterior, since it takes regular outings to condition same for longer rides. That hasn’t happened over the last 9 months or so. I’ve been walking. Despite the special Ergon grips, my Read more…

Gags, Humor, and Solar Power

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

I recently managed to replace the misbehaving Outback SmartHarvest 20A MPPT solar charge controller with a proper Morningstar controller, and now all is right with the world. The Outback was exceptionally naughty right out of the box, and its replacement was no better. The USA office of Outback appeared to be manned only with sales types and customer service reps, with no technical staff on board. The sole solution seemed to be trying another unit. So I did, but opted for the Sunsaver. Since I could not in good conscience sell or even give the SmartHarvest away, it is now residing in the local landfill, where it belongs.

With Morningstar’s remote temperature sender attached to one of my batteries, the Sunsaver now operates in tandem with their TriStar MPPT 45A. The Tristar handles everything coming in from the 360W roof panels, while the Sunsaver serves to feed power in from the 200W ground panels via the external rear wall plug that comes standard with the Four Wheel camper. (A simple internal wiring harness change was needed to feed both of these units to the same battery pack for my installation.) Four Wheel uses the less expensive Read more…

Traction Jackson

This is from an annual mud bogging event called Mudfest. This careworn 2WD Dodge pickup didn't make it through the trough of gumbo, but it wasn't from lack of trying!

This is from an annual mud bogging event called Mudfest. This careworn 2WD Dodge pickup didn’t make it through the trough of gumbo, but it wasn’t from lack of trying!

[This post is a long one, so you may want to read some and return later. I do not follow the convention of breaking it up into its components, since each of those components interweave with each other to some degree. When the overall topic is finding traction, I’d just as soon publish an article that can serve as a reference, than shotgun the thing just so I can get more web traffic, with the hope that you will consider subsidizing my lunacy. (That comes later, after I’ve established my empire. But don’t worry, I won’t be sending in Brownshirts or anything, for intimidation. They’ll be more like Desert Sage-Shirts, or possibly Taupeshirts… Camo has been SO overdone!) Thus if you have an interest in this traction topic, you can saw your way through. And if you don’t care to infect yourself with it, you won’t be subjected by its different parts for weeks.]

A frequent question I come across among campers in relatively small camping vehicles is “Do I need four-wheel drive?” If you’ve already been camping for awhile and have established the types of places you prefer, the answer is already apparent either way. If you are either an armchair camper planning to get out there someday, or already camp but want to expand the types of places that you drive through or to, the answer can be more elusive.

I’ve been working on this particular topic for well over a year, and the end result is markedly different than the start. I’ve dumped it and started over a couple of times in an attempt to get down to the nitty gritty of it. It started out as a review of all the different types of 4×4 driveline systems as well as tire types and their applicability to different terrains. I found that epic type of presentation to be more overwhelming and boring than helpful. So if you think this article is bad, you should have read its predecessor. While I consider it essential to understand certain basics of how your vehicle reacts Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Scan & Print

Primera Trio with its cover open.

Primera Trio with its cover open.

If there’s one thing I quietly agonized over while setting up the Intrepid, it was what to do about scanning and printing. There have been times when I’ve needed to receive PDF forms which can’t be edited on the computer, so they must be printed and filled out by hand (and perhaps signed) and then either be mailed, or scanned and emailed back. These tend to center around either medical forms, or such things as fishing licenses, which then need to be printed out and carried with me. This can be a problem in the boonies. The vexing thing is that printing and/or scanning isn’t a frequent thing, so once you figure it’s worth the money and all-important storage space, then you need to decide whether you really need both capabilities, and whether you really need to be able to handle letter-size sheets.

Naturally, I researched the usual compact printer solutions. They tended to be rather large, and my available space to stow them is very limited. Adding in the need for scanning complicated this further. In my experience, inkjet printers don’t do well with inactivity – the cartridges dry up and go gimpy, then it’s a battle with a wet paper towel. I looked at thermal transfer, dye-sublimation (sub dye) and laser printers as alternatives, and couldn’t Read more…

State of the Intrepid – E-Bike Carrier System

The Evelo Aurora cannot be carried by a top-tube carrier, so a wheel hoop carrier is called for.

The Evelo Aurora cannot be carried by a top-tube carrier, so a wheel hoop carrier is called for.

The Hollywood Racks HR1450E Sport Rider SE2 2-Bike e-bike carrier that I use at the front of the truck has required about as much attention as a new refrigerator/freezer. Once you yank the anti-rattle handle that keeps it tight in your hitch receiver a few times during the first month, that’s about it for “maintenance”. I’ve already covered this carrier’s features on my Evelo Test Mule page, so I’ll pretty much keep to usage effects over the last two years.

The wheel hoops are easy to adjust to fit different sizes of bike. I've reversed the rear pair to better support my BOB bike trailer.

The wheel hoops are easy to adjust to fit different sizes of bike. I’ve reversed the rear pair to better support my BOB bike trailer.

The Hollywood carrier supports the bike at the wheels, and the hoops can be quickly adjusted from side to side in order to accommodate various bike wheelbases. You just loosen a large knob, slide a hoop, and retighten. For my purposes, final adjustment required some finesse, so that the bike’s cranks would clear the vertical tube and also center between the truck’s headlamps. Two height-adjustable hooks (of which I use only one) drape over the bike’s main tube. Adjustment is instantaneous thanks to a simple squeeze lever at each Read more…

State of the Intrepid – The Cargo Box

The StowAway cargo box as originally mounted in February of this year.

The StowAway cargo box as originally mounted in February of this year.

The “small” standard model of StowAway cargo box has been awfully handy, and is a clean way to transport goods in the swirl of dust that often trails behind the truck. The white color I chose is unusual and does show dust easily, but so does the black one, and the temperature rise inside the white version is much less. White also discourages heat-induced lid warpage that can compromise gasket sealing and the ability to latch the lid closed. That makes it appropriate for storing away those items which would quickly degrade if left in Yuma’s spectacular summer heat, like my old Pentax film cameras and videocam, as well as the e-bike’s spare battery. Wheel levelers, camera tripods, books, bike parts and tools, lubes and maintenance chemicals, you name it. Whatever could not fit in the camper’s twin benches (due to the added batteries) or posed a semi-hazard in an enclosed space, went into this cargo box.

This is a swingaway version, which can be locked at 90 degrees or swung to 180.

This is a swingaway version, which can be locked at 90 degrees or swung to 180.

My StowAway is a swing-away frame version, which is a good thing on a rear-entry camper. Any misgivings I had about its frame strength under a heavily-loaded box are gone – I absentmindedly drove it for ten miles along a 65 MPH two-lane with Read more…

State of the Intrepid – La Toilette

The C-Head BoonJon inside the Grandby's ear passenger-side cabinet.

The C-Head BoonJon inside the Grandby’s rear passenger-side cabinet.

The C-Head BoonJon composting toilet has proven a worthy investment, in spite of being the most expensive portable way I know to separate solid from liquid waste in a boondocking RV. To my surprise, it has proven odorless in spite of the lack of venting that is normally installed with these things. The maker suggested trying it out sans vent first, just to see, and I’m glad I avoided that complication. Most C-Heads are intended for marine use, or remote cabin use without plumbing. The separation of urine from solid waste prevents most noxious odors, and a churn handle mixes the solid waste with an absorbent material each time solids are added. The intent is that it is the initial stage of Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Solar Power Mods

You want trauma? Try drilling and sinking sheet metal screws into a pristine, seamless 1-piece top.

You want trauma? Try drilling and sinking sheet metal screws into a pristine, seamless 1-piece top sheet, where every screw must intercept a supporting thinwall rib somewhere underneath. And it’s up to you to figure out exactly where those aluminum ribs might be.

The Grandby by default came with an electrical system intended to be powered off the Ford’s twin starting batteries. This is not a bad way to go if you travel a little each day, don’t use much power, and preferably swap in some Optima AGM deep cycle batteries under the hood to deal better with the dual-purpose stresses. Lots of overlanders do this, but it starts to make less sense once you begin to stay planted, use more power, and/or don’t care to lug along a generator and gas can. Stranding your own vehicle by depleting its starting battery is seldom advisable.

I recommend wiring an inexpensive digital DC voltmeter to your battery to get a rough idea of its state of charge. This one is simply perched on top of a Samlex 150-watt pure sine inverter, which allows even sensitive electronics to run safely. It uses less than 6 watts at idle by itself. Since Samlex recommended 10-gauge wire for my length of hookup wire, that's what I used. No unpleasant surprises.

I recommend wiring an inexpensive digital DC voltmeter to your battery to get a rough idea of its state of charge. This one is perched on top of a Samlex 150-watt pure sine inverter.

I was already sitting on five 3-year-old AGM batteries, as well as a suitable solar charge controller and four 200-watt solar panels. Whoops, overkill! Right? A distinct lack of storage space and roof acreage prompted me to keep just four of the batteries and the controller. Couldn’t I make do with fewer batteries? Yes, definitely. Just two 104Ah batteries would possibly Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Bedding Mods

Kinda looks like one big mattress, but it isn't. You're looking towards the front of the truck.

Kinda looks like one big mattress, but it isn’t. You’re looking towards the front of the truck.

The FWC’s original equipment 3-piece queen-sized foam mattress is fine for most folks, but I couldn’t spend more than a few minutes on it. Still too firm, despite FWC’s recently having gone softer in durometer. I wound up yanking out the main section, replacing it with a “self-inflating” sleeping bag pad, an Exped MegaMat 10, which just happens to sleeve perfectly into the hole vacated by the original main foam piece when the bed platform is in its “tucked in” position. See, the basic bed platform can be expanded to full queen width by pulling out a sliding section that then overhangs part of the dining area. I don’t need that extra width, so mine stays narrower, and the single Megamat fits right into the vacated hole.

With the MegaMat yanked out of place, you can see the bed platform and height to the piano hinge, which all bedding should stay well below.

With the MegaMat yanked out of place, you can see the bed platform (light grey) and height to the piano hinge, which all bedding should stay well below.

I’ve found that I can’t trust user ravings about how great a particular mattress is, but I lucked out on this one. It’s basically a layer of open-cell foam inside an air mattress, and in my case, I run it with very little air pressure added. Heavenly, and more comfortable than a residential Sleep Number mattress I’ve had. Your mileage may vary. The Megamat is considered to be a “car camping” pad, since it’s Read more…

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