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Sunday, January 28, 2024

Gearing Up to Head South

Well, we are in the final countdown to leave Wisconsin for the rest of the winter! 

Fortunately, the veterinarian called us with a cancellation appointment that we could move up Nick's neutering by 8 days. That event will happen on Tuesday and we will see how well he is healed to leave near the end of the week. It will actually be much easier to keep him calm and from jumping around and being too active within the confines of the motorhome. As opposed to our open concept house in which he gallops around like a racehorse and takes flying leaps from furniture or up and down the stairs. Being under control in the motorhome or only outside on a leash instead of loose in his potty yard will make a big difference in his healing process, we hope.

Monday, Steve and I both have our yearly general checkup physicals. We've already completed the blood work for that and we should be good to go for another year. Maintenance and tune-up!

We started thinking about things that we would need to adjust with having a new active young pup along as opposed to our sedate relaxed comfortable 11-year-old Sheltie Binney.

She has never pushed on our screen door of the RV or ever even tried to go through it. But with new Nicholas, we want to be sure that he is safe and prevent escape by going through a screen.

Many RV companies sell these door grilles. We looked up and found one on sale at Camping world from $39 down to $29 this week. 

We picked one up from the local dealer in Green Bay. We don't often shop at Camping World, but in the case of a good sale, we will make an exception. 

It is made adjustable that it can fit almost any size RV door. A drill is necessary to pre-drill the four little holes in the four corners.

We had a really nice warm day in the mid-30s with no wind. Perfect time to get it mounted and level in place. 

Steve took care of the drilling and screwing in the mounting screws, and we made sure it was centered on the door. 

Once it was centered, we realized there would be an irritating rattle where the adjustable arms slide in and out of the main center section. So we did a little brainstorming:  we looked it over and figured out that if we ran a thin bead of glue from a hot glue gun in the seam between the two pieces, it would prevent any rattling noise.  This was my job. 

Here's what it looks like from the outside, with the big door open and just the screen door latched in place. You really can't see it from the outside.

We have another project to get done, and it's a preventative one to make sure that this little guy Nicholas never escapes. Even when closed, RV screen doors can sometimes be bumped open with a good push. Our screen door latch is very firm. But for added insurance, we are going to add a butterfly wing nut to the inside of the door frame, just like we did on our last motorhome. That way we are sure it is locked tight--- but we can reach in through the slider to flip the butterfly toggle open if need be. 

(This pic is from our last motorhome)

Well, since we went to Camping World for the grille, we decided to do a little shopping... Nearby at Fleet Farm. This is a farm and home type store that's popular in the Midwest. And this was something we've been thinking about for a couple weeks. We looked at various pet trailers to take along behind our e-bikes. Thinking that if the dogs would like it, it would add to our adventures. The price range was about $150 to $300 for anything made for pets!! Ack! Specialty items you know. 

Well, I happened to go on the local Fleet Farm website in their bicycle department looking for some little rubber tips for the end of our kickstands. And in the files of bike supplies--- I saw this little bike trailer! It was made for children, but what the heck, it could work for pets right? And it was on a clearance sale that I couldn't believe. 

It was $150.00 
marked down to 
only $25.00!!! 

Actually it took going to three different stores to buy it. The first one in Green Bay, at the West side store said they had ONE in their inventory. We got there, and nobody could find it. 

So they contacted the next store down in Appleton who said they had SIX of them. We went there, nobody could find ANY of the six??? 

But they kindly called up to the Green Bay East side store who promised they had TWO of them for sure. So we went there. SUCCESS!!! 

Who on Earth buys a bicycle trailer in Wisconsin in the middle of January???

We do! 

The cart collapses down flat and both of the wheels can detach and store easily for storage. It weighs 24 lb and is made of a steel frame and nylon fabric. The dogs were both very curious as we unpackaged the trailer. 

It goes together quite easily. Inside there is a little seat and harness for a child. We unstrapped most of the harness and the seat portion was just a matter of two screws to remove from the frame. Now it was one open complete space inside.

The bottom surface of the trailer is just lightweight liner fabric kind of like tent nylon. It really isn't made for pets so we adapted by adding this firm cushion as a base for the dogs. It is actually a baby changing table foam pad! Binney uses it as a bed in my She Shed. So we can put it in the trailer and put it back when not in use. 

 Just enough room for 
two pampered pets!!! 

Binney always does anything that we ever ask her to do without question. So we popped her in and quizzical Nicholas had to see what was going on. 

Here's a little video:

Once we get down South, and settled in somewhere, then we can add the bracket to the back axle of one of our e-bikes. Not sure which one of us is going to pull the trailer yet, but we can order an extra bracket so we can put it on either bike if we wish. 

We will start out with just walking alongside of the bike, until they get used to it. We hope that they will both enjoy going for rides with us. 

If they don't like it, we can always easily resell it for either a child or pet trailer, considering the price we only paid for it. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon packing up things that can go in the motorhome already waiting out in the driveway. We're pretty much all set with clothes and dry goods and non-freezable items.

Slowly I am filling up these totes, lined up by the back door. These are all the items that could freeze. Even though we are enjoying some unusually warm weather in Wisconsin, best to not put anything out there that can freeze up. I don't think there's a single night this week that it's going to be below 32°! 

Once the vet clears Nicholas for being able to travel, we will toss in these last few totes and hit the road! 

Not sure exactly where we are going, we play it by ear. Probably down through Arkansas into Northern Texas or loop over into Oklahoma. We will see. We've done a lot of winter desert camping to Arizona and New Mexico, so maybe we want to do something a little closer in the middle of the country. We will see. Plans made in Jell-O! 

In the meantime, 
look what's happening here
 in Wisconsin!

All of our snow is melting melting melting melting! We got 18 inches from that last storm. Now we are down to bare ground in some areas and whatever remaining snow there is, is only about 2 in thick. This is almost unheard of for January in Wisconsin. Wowzers. 

And to finish up on a doggie note, we took Nicholas and Binney for some socialization over to Steve's brother's Pete and wife Cindy's house. They met Finnegan, their handsome golden retriever. I'm pleased to say that all three dogs were on their best behavior and socialized quite well. 

And we will finish off with a video

I think one of the best ones I have made:

It seems like we have been watching football all day. Glad to see Kansas City make it into the Super Bowl. Now we are watching the Lions against the 49ers. Hoping for the Lions. Third quarter and things are at a tie. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Planning Our Upcoming RV Adventure

The heavy snows have come to Wisconsin, just like a lot of other parts of the country. We have been snowblowing and shoveling it away and keeping a clear path behind the motorhome. Our cargo trailer with the e-bikes and all of our extra gear is safely stowed away out of the snow inside of our garage.

We are looking to make a getaway as soon as some other obligations are finished. We have our yearly checkups at the end of this month, and have already completed the pre-appointment blood work. All looks good.

We have a neutering appointment set for February 7th for the new dog, Nicholas. We know it'll probably be a good 7 to 10 days after that before he will be cleared to travel. So that brings us easily into the middle of February. AAARRRGGGHHHHH! 


So I am proposing that we push ahead our physicals into April when we get back as well as Nick's neutering appointment. He isn't showing any signs of aggression or dominance. He doesn't even lift his leg when he goes pee. So I don't think he needs to be neutered immediately... Although that is the best situation for him to get it done. We just wish we could have gotten a sooner appointment at our vet. We did ask to be put on a cancellation list in case they get in earlier opening for him. 

He doesn't like this anymore than I do, so I am hoping to nudge him forward into saying heck with the appointments and let's just load up and go? 

Nicholas has chosen to take the easy path and just curl up inside the warmth of the house. He is really appreciating a good warm house after being on his own out in the cold miserable woods for 3 weeks trying to find food, water, and shelter! 

Binney says she will go out and be a snow puppy just long enough to go pee and get right back in the house!

We got a whopper of a storm the other night. It was amazing blasting with blizzard conditions. The winds were equivilant to a F2 Hurricane. Everything's stuck and frozen shut. 

Sustained winds for hours along with a good 12 to 14 inches of snow. It was blowing so much it was hard to accurately measure the snowfall. I think in our area we got closer to 18 inches. 

We had prepared before the storm hit and had everything we needed at hand. There was no reason to go out. So we hunkered down and enjoyed the fire and binged watched some traveling YouTubes to get some ideas on our upcoming trip.

We are thinking about heading south as quick as we can. In about the middle of Illinois is a small town called Wenona. There's a gas station and Burger King just off the interstate. They have pull through RV sites with hookups alongside of their building. It's nice to have electric for the night and add some electric space heaters as well as the propane furnace. We will leave the motor home fully winterized until we get further south. We carry along a 5 gallon jug of drinking water for the first night and use RV antifreeze to flush the toilet. 

From there we are looking to get down maybe to the top edge of Arkansas by the second night. We've looked at a few campgrounds and made sure that they are open in the Ozark National Forest. We called ahead and found out Long Pool and Cove Lake are both open year round.

Next we are looking at getting down into the corner of Arkansas Oklahoma and Texas area. We found a few places that we might meander around to. 

On the way back I would like to stop in Hamilton at Missouri Star Quilt Company, and then stop by our dear friend Rosie in Bethel, Missouri. 

We will just play it by ear and we don't make reservations. Because we are very adept at boondocking we don't need campgrounds with hookups. We prefer the National Forest where it's quiet and take the rustic sites.

Tentative ideas: 

Just to get out of the snow
and hit the road!! 

One of our last commitments here for January was our granddaughter Chelsea's 14th birthday. We also combined it along with our delayed Christmas family event. First we took all of them out to our favorite little Mexican restaurant here in Oconto, Los Magueyes.  

The food was excellent, as always. And of course the birthday girl had to wear the token sombrero and get her Birthday Sopapita! 

After that we took them bowling at the local bowling alley for our Epic Bowling Day. We had a lot of fun!

The snow is starting to get deep, 
the deer out in the Nature Preserve behind our home 
have come into our yard to check out the bird feeders! 

We told both of the dogs that we want to take them and go camping in the motorhome. So it's time to get Nicholas accustomed to the motorhome! Even though it was down around 0°, we turned on the furnace and set up an electric space heater to warm it up inside for a couple hours. Then we went out with the dogs and a food dish and a water dish and our lunch! We let him explore the motorhome and sniff everything. Binney showed him around, and told him all of her favorite spots. We had our lunch out there and watched some TV so Nick got used to the idea that we would just sit in the recliners and it was like another house. We think he got the idea??

He has traveled well in our Saturn in a dog crate on the back seat. He doesn't show any signs of motion sickness or nervousness so we think we he will be a good traveler. We put on about 180 miles with him one day and it didn't bother him a bit. 

So as long as we pack up their toys, their doggy beds, and their doggy food..  they will love to go wherever we go. 

Since we've been kind of snowbound and trapped at home, I've been making some YouTubes of the dogs just being silly and getting to know each other. I think they are just hilarious. Here are a few links for your viewing pleasure:

Well, if Steve doesn't want to leave yet...

I do have some quilts to work on.

This one is called North Star, 

and will be done for my friend Cella.

I am prepping and prewashing and cutting fabrics to take along to work on this one next.  Called Autumn Leaves.  I have a variety of rich brown, rust and gold prints to work on the blocks. The pattern has 3 sizes, I think I will work on the largest 10 inch ones for a big quilt. 

Time to get a move on here,

maybe start packing?

Friday, January 12, 2024

Next Step with Our Solar Power Bluetti Power Station


The next step in our RV power setup arrived today by FedEx. It was already delayed one day in Chicago, due to the bad weather yesterday. Well, it got here just in time today before the big storm hits again tomorrow! 

Steve excitedly examined the package, which appeared to be in really good shape. FedEx treated this box well. 

Soon he had it unpacked and let it warm up for the required 6 hours to get it to room temperature before messing around with charging it up any further. It already came pre-charged at 57%. 

We downloaded the Bluetooth / Wi-Fi app to our phones and got all of the settings figured out for what we would be using it for. This is going to be a really nice addition to our camping experience. 

This unit will take the place of a couple additional deep cycle batteries, as well as have inputs for solar or generator or DC charging from a vehicle's alternator while we drive. It also contains a built-in MPPT solar controller, a pure sine wave 2400 watt inverter, UPS unlimited power supply interruption, and surge protection. It operates from either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to our phones, which makes it easier for us to monitor and control it. 

We can use it as a separate power source out in the cargo trailer. It can be used to charge our e-bikes, or any other equipment we have out there. I can also use it for my sewing machine while sitting outside in the campsite. 

But the best use is that it has a large 30 amp RV outlet on it. We can take our big motorhome cord and plug it into the Bluetti Power Station, and it's like doubling our on board battery capacity! 

This is a LiFePO4 lithium iron phosphate battery as opposed to a lithium ion battery. 

Not only can we use this for camping, but it can be a backup power source in our home if the power goes out. We can use it to run our home refrigerator, and our modem and router for the Wi-Fi. Plus a few lights and be able to recharge phones etc. With our 2 natural gas fireplaces not needing any electrical power to heat the home, we are all set in case of a power outage. 

Back to the "Blue Eddie"... My talk-to-text wants to call it that instead of Bluetti, ha ha. 

Main reason for picking this up was because we were going to get some additional batteries to utilize in the cargo trailer behind our motorhome. Last week Steve installed a 320 watt solar panel to the roof of our cargo trailer. This cargo trailer hauls our e-bikes, extra camping gear, and our lawn chairs. 

He made the panels tiltable in either direction if need be. But really, on our last motorhome we had 500 watts of panels and never tilted them. They always charged up well before noon to 100% on our battery bank. 

But the added benefit of making them tiltable is he was able to then work on the wiring to guide it down through inside to the cargo trailer. 

He ordered this little junction box to guide this solar panel specific wire connectors down into the cargo trailer interior. 

He took pictures of the process yesterday of drilling a hole right through the roof! Gasp! Then he added a rubber grommet into the hole. From there he cleaned the exterior surface very well with rubbing alcohol. Then he was able to stick down the gland junction box using very strong butyl tape. This is the same tape we used when we replaced the motorhome windows on the Safari. From there, he screwed it down tight and then he covered all the exterior edges with a good thick layer of Eternabond tape. I think he did a very good job! 

Now that he guided the wires down to the inside, tomorrow we will go out in the garage and set up the "Blue Eddie" and see how well it works within the cargo trailer. 

In Wisconsin, we have been blessed finally with some snowfall! It was really beautiful last night floating down like a snow globe. Earlier in the day it was very wet and icy and slushy. Towards evening the snowflakes turned big and fluffy. It was beautiful. 

With the fresh coat of snow on the ground, these two absolute silly dogs had to get outside and romp and play. Who would believe that they are 1 and 11 years old. That is 7 and 77 years old in dog years???? 

By mid-afternoon, the snow let up and the sun actually peaked out with beautiful blue sky. Steve rushed out to get the snowblower going and get this wet heavy stuff out of the way. We are due for a big storm coming and then some very sub-zero temperatures. The stuff will freeze like a rock if you don't get it off the driveway now. 

While he was doing that, I was laying out these quilt blocks in a pleasing pattern on our king size bed in the bedroom. This is going to be a queen size quilt with borders around the edges. 

I settled into my she shed and started sewing the blocks together into long strips. Each one is labeled with a hunk of blue painters tape designating row and column to keep them in order and facing in the right directions. 

Silly little Nicholas, our new little rescue puppy, was totally convinced that the sewing machine was going to EAT ME!! 

Once I propped him up on my sewing chair, He settled down and let me continue sewing. 

They just released the weather storm warnings for what's coming in Wisconsin. I know across the whole country, there's a bunch of crazy weather. Looks like we are maybe going to end up with another foot of snow. It's the blasting winds that are going to be a problem. They said the wind gusts are going to be like an EF 2 tornado. It will be blizzard conditions!! 

We are just going to stay home and hunker down. Everything is stocked up in the cabinets in the fridge so we will be just fine.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Solaring Up Our Cargo Trailer for E-bikes Behind Winnebago View Motorhome

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that in October we bought a couple of Lectric XP 3.0 E-bikes to take along when we go camping.

We decided to transport them inside of a small 4x6 cargo trailer. Here is my blog post about outfitting the cargo trailer:


Now we've gone one step further, and decided to expand our solar array by putting a 320 watt panel up on the roof of the cargo trailer!

Previously, on our last motorhome, we had 500 Watts of solar on the roof and that was more than adequate, along with a bank of four deep cycle 6 volt batteries. 

Now on this Winnebago View motorhome, we only have two 6 volt batteries, and a 100 watt set of portable solar panels. They work well, but we decided we would like to have something mounted up on a roof so we don't have to move them around as much. 

We really didn't want to mount solar panels onto the roof of the new motorhome. We prefer to park in the shade for comfort. We decided to have the solar mounted on the roof of the cargo trailer. 

Now we can charge up the e-bikes even while they are inside of the trailer. We have other items that could be charged from inside the trailer as well. 

Plus, by having this roof solar panel set up, we can plug in the motorhome (via something new to us called a Power Station) so it can top off the motorhome batteries at the same time. 

The third thought is that I would like to be able to run my sewing machine when we are camping, and have it set up outside. That usually means running a cord back into the motorhome's inverter power system. But now with this extra solar and equipment on the cargo trailer, I don't need to tap into the motorhome. We can save that power in those batteries for evenings and overnight. 

Well, you know Steve... He was watching on Facebook Marketplace. There was a gentleman replacing some rental solar panels that were only a few years old. The company was changing an array to larger panels and he was selling these 320 watt panels for only $125 each. One was the exact size that we needed for the roof of the 4x6 cargo trailer. 

He made up some brackets that can be tiltable. The panel is held up off the roof so it does not build up heat underneath it. The brackets are bolted into the side of the trailer rather than with multiple holes through the roof, avoiding any potential roof leaks. 

He put it together easily in one afternoon. Now the one single large panel is mounted up on the roof. He ordered a special grommet type shielded connector that will route the power cords to the inside with no risk of leaks. 

It can tilt to either side if need be. But in all honesty, we made the old Safari's panels tiltable, but we never needed to tilt them. We were always charged up to 100% before noon.

This trailer is easily maneuverable around a campsite, so we can push it to where the sun is. Also, it can charge up this new system even while we are driving down the road.

Here's what the cargo trailer looks like when it's hooked up behind our motorhome.

This little trailer hauls our Lectric E-bikes as well as our excess camping gear. We have things in there like our camp stove/oven, portable fire pit, instapot, chainsaw, and extra firewood or jugs of water if needed. 

Okay, back to the solar installation. The next step is once we get the power from the panels routed to the inside of the trailer, where does it go from there?

Well, that is our newest acquisition. We just ordered a Bluetti AC200L power station. This is basically a huge LiFePO4 battery. Lithium iron phosphate. 

The unit already has built-in ALL of the additional equipment we normally would have to buy with a traditional solar setup installation:
It has the MPPT solar controller, 
it has the battery charger, 
it has the pure sine wave inverter,
it has uninterrupted power supply,
It has Wi-Fi / Bluetooth app connectivity for monitoring, 
and it has surge protection. 

It can be charged up by solar, 
or by 120vAC plug-in, 
or by 12 volt car charging, 
or from our generator. 

On the front surface are multiple outlets for 12 volts, USB, C type phone chargers, four 120vAC outlets and a large 30 amp outlet for the motorhome. 

Once this unit is charged up, it can handle being depleted all of the way down to 5%. Then it shuts off to protect itself. This is a lot different than our Trojan flooded wet cell batteries that we have on the motorhome itself. Those we never let get drained down any lower than the top 30%, with 70% remaining at all times. 

Here is the link to the unit we bought:

It will be here in a couple days, and I will do another blog post of everything all set up and operational.

Steve added an exterior electrical hatch door on the side of the trailer to run cords out to our campsite from the power station. Now we could run my sewing machine, the instapot, or charge up the E-bikes, or our Sena helmet communication devices, or even our cell phones and laptops from right at the campsite. This will lessen the draw on the two batteries of the motorhome. At any time we can just run the motorhome cord into the cargo trailer and plug it in to the Bluetti for additional power. 

Oh, one more thing we added to the back of our cargo trailer is this handy-dandy solar powered motion detection light and alarm system. It's REALLY loud with flashing red and blue lights. 

It's one more item to protect ourselves, but also handy for seeing what we are doing behind the cargo trailer if it is dark out. 

Here is the link to that:

We are gearing up to get ready to head out mid-February, after Nicholas's neutering is complete.

We are looking forward to doing some boondocking out on some dispersed camping perhaps in Texas, or BLM land in New Mexico or Arizona, who knows?