What we’re doing with the fifth-wheel on The Mountain is not, in the purest sense, “boondocking.” By definition, that means being completely self-contained with no access to water, sewer or electric. Even in our current situation we have sewer (septic system), and eventually we’ll have 50A shore power.
For now, an inverter generator can supply us with 30A electric.
But we’re definitely off-grid. And when I stand in front of our rig and look around, it feels like the kind of spot that a committed RV boondocker would choose — quiet, secluded, woodsy, picturesque. Great solar potential. Solid cell service.
What some people would see as primitive. we consider ideal — actually, we think it’s perfect. It’s a perspective thing.
Smudge report — in her never-ending quest to make the puppy’s convalescence easier on all of us, Deb directed me yesterday morning to stop at a pet store in Mountain Home. She bought a blow-up donut collar to use instead of muzzle or The Cone of Shame.
The best thing about it is the comic relief it offers. The down-side is that it really doesn’t work very well.
Our big job yesterday was getting that Harbor Freight generator running and putting power to the rig. We carried it out of the shed, hauled it to the homesite and unboxed it in the shade. I pulled up a chair and methodically worked my way through the prescribed setup procedure.
Connect the battery. (Yes, it has electric as well as recoil start.) Fill the crankcase with 20 ounces of 10W30. (Never mind that I forgot how many ounces constitute a quart. I caught my error in time.) Put gas in the 2.5-gallon tank. (There was enough stabilized fuel left in one of the Ranger cans to give our generator a respectable test run.)
The Moment of Truth, of course, after pulling the started rope gently a few times to distribute the oil, was the first push of the starter button. I didn’t even have time to cross my fingers — it fired up immediately and ran with a gratifying purr. Though it may sound noisy in the video (below), it’s really very quiet. We could stand next to it and hold a normal conversation without raising our voices.
After about ten minutes I shut it down and, with Deb’s help, moved the hundred-pound beast to its duty station 20 feet behind the fifth-wheel.
Making the connection involved the rig’s shore-power cord and two adapters. The Predator 3500 is supplied with a plug that converts its twist-lock high-amperage output to a standard 30A female receptacle. We use a 50A-female-to-30A-male “dogbone” as well. Standard stuff in the RV game.
Again following the procedure outlined in the instruction manual, I started the generator and let it settle for five minutes, then plugged the fifth-wheel’s cord into the 30A outlet. I stepped into the rig and glanced at the microwave (which runs on 120VAC) — the display was blinking, so ok, we had power. Turning to my right, I thumbed the thermostat and turned on the air conditioner in the living area.
Within a minute or so the HVAC fan began whirring and, shortly thereafter, the AC compressor kicked on. I reached up to the ceiling vents and felt cold air.
I knew that the Predator 3500 couldn’t power both ACs, but I tried it anyway, going up the steps into the bedroom and turning that unit on. Deb shouted to me that the generator had bogged right away. Its “overload” LED glowed red. Both HVAC units shut down. I unplugged and then reconnected the 30A cord, which reset the generator. No harm done.
It was worth a try. Now I know for sure.
My next task was to replenish our supply of gasoline. I put a splash of STA-BIL® (fuel stabilizer) in each five-gallon can, loaded them into the bed of the Silverado and left Deb at the homesite while I made the (relatively) short trip to Flippin.
As I eased down The Mountain, a whitetail doe emerged from the woods and trotted along beside me. I slowed. She stopped. So did I. We had a silent conversation, just the two of us, before I let off the brakes and rolled on.
With everything else whirling around us these days, I needed that moment.
Murphy USA in Flippin, affiliated with the Walmart, reliably has the best gas prices close to The Mountain, though they’re always higher than what we pay in Harrison and Bellefonte. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find 87 octane for $3.159 a gallon, a penny less than the lowest price we’d seen in Boone County.
I topped-off the truck’s tank first, then began the clumsy ritual of filling our five cans. Even though no one was waiting behind me at the pumps, I did it as efficiently as I could. It still took a while, owing to federal nanny screens in the gas cans’ filler necks.
Back on The Mountain, I dropped off two cans in the shed (for the buggy) and brought the rest back to the homesite (for the generator). By that time Deb and I were getting text alerts from the security system in the motorhome that the power was going in and out — not good. We shut down and stowed the generator and hurriedly buttoned-up the fifth-wheel.
In the midst of that, and in my haste to get us rolling back to the campground, I crashed headlong into the corner of the rig’s bedroom slide. Hard.
(No, this isn’t the first time.)
The smack didn’t rip my Squeek’s hat, but it put a deep gash in my scalp. Now Smudge and I have something in common — both of us have spilled our blood on The Mountain.
We arrived back at the motorhome to find the HVAC, fridge, water heater and other major circuits working, but all of the outlets in the living space were dead. My troubleshooting didn’t uncover an obvious cause for that, so Deb called a mobile RV tech we’d used recently. He said he couldn’t come out ’til Monday, and still he tried to help us over the phone — while he was having a weekend barbecue with his family.
We managed to narrow it down to the inverter/charger, which seems to be inverting just fine but isn’t charging the house batteries. That’s a problem, and probably an expensive one. We’ll know more tomorrow morning.
In the meantime, we shut off the inverter. We’re using 12VDC (lights and such) only when absolutely necessary. We made coffee this morning by plugging the Keurig into the only live, non-inverted 120VAC outlet in the bus, in the bedroom, which at least allowed us to charge our phones and our vape batteries overnight.
I’m typing this post on my computer, which is plugged into our portable power station. We had to pick up a battery charger, one capable of more than just a trickle, to keep from depleting the house batteries entirely.
I’ll confess that for me this goes well beyond disappointment. On a day that we first got electric power in our soon-to-be-Home on The Mountain, at a time when we’re about to put up our beloved Ernie for sale, the inverter decided to shit the bed.
It doesn’t bother me to live on rationed 12V power — we expect to be doing that some in the fifth-wheel soon. No, what’s got me down is knowing that the money we’ll spend to repair the bus, however little or however much, comes out of what we need to make more progress on The Mountain.
I’m not easily or often discouraged. This is one of those times.
In the interest of full disclosure, and to avoid ending this post with pissing and moaning, we did get good news yesterday. Our electrical contractor messaged to say that he’ll build the homesite’s temporary meter pole next week (at his shop) and expects to set it the following week.
After that’s done, I’ll take pictures of the cleared right-of-way and the temporary pole, then send them to the electric utility’s engineer. He may follow with a visual inspection. Once okayed, that clears the way for setting the transformer pole and running AC power to our meter.
Then we’d need a generator only for occasional power outages and TEOTWAWKI.
So yeah, despite the insult of electrical gremlins in the bus and the injury (self-inflicted) suffered by an old man in a rush, yesterday wasn’t a complete bust. Our generator is chuggin’ and we have the prospect of grid power sooner rather than later.
And there was that doe….
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.