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Thursday, December 31, 2015

What Route Will I Take


I have gotten a lot of questions in what route I will take to get to Quartzsite, AZ for the RTR.


There are 4 route possibilities. Although I asked Google to get me to El Paso, TX as this gets me south out of NM and AZ high country.

1. Shortest go to St Louis, MO to Oklahoma City, and I40 on to Mew Mexico and Arazona.  This is the coldest route and can be the snowiest.

2. Head over through PA to WV into KY and TN followed by AR and on to Texas to pick up I20 to I10 

3. Head down to Harrisburg, PA and down I81 and over to Chattanooga, TN then AL and TX either I20 or south to I10

4. Lastly and the longest route by at least a days travel vs the shortest is down the east cost on I95 and then decide to diagonal through Atlanta, GA or go to Jacksonville, FL to pick up I10 to Quartzsite.

My route is all weather dependent as I will avoid winter weather whenever I can.


Right now Monday when I leave looks like this and I like it as it gets me started in good weather.  I can get to Ohio the First day this way going straight.

 
Tuesday afternoon is still looking great but the front moving east I don't want to hit it where snow is possible.  I would be in Missouri the second day.


Wednesday afternoon I'm in rain and if I pick up I40 to northern NM I will hit snow.

So although we are a ways out from having a fixed forecast next week it looks like a modified route like #2, the one Google gave me above, with me heading through KY, TN, AR and into Texas picking up I10 and going through El Paso.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com





Saturday, December 26, 2015

Photo Storage Vandwelling

(Photo of Google web search for cloud storage)

I use a few free cloud storage sites for some important home and work files that I need to access on the road.  I don't like the concept of paying a fee for cloud storage so I keep my cloud storage to the minimum so I don't have to pay.  For security purposes I only access these files over a secure network.

Also being a Vandweller I don't want to backup using the cloud as it uses my cell data or wifi.  I manage my cell data to try not to go over my 5 gig plan and I'm not near wifi often enough and long enough to back up often.

I don't carry a separate camera as I don't like having to carry two separate devices (camera & phone) on my travels.  I had set up to back up my photos via iCloud but soon ran out of space and turned this off and wasn't backing up during my 2015 travels.

Last year in April on the way home my iPhone split open from the battery expanding and when I went to the Apple Store in MD and they advised me that my phone battery may start on fire at any time and I needed to swap it out now.  (Replaced phone under warrantee) I knew then I was going to loose my 2015 Travels and personal photos.  I also knew my special photos from my trip were at least on my blog for posterity as I post nearly daily.

Since getting an iPhone I lamented the fact that I can upload photos from a memory card with an adapter but couldn't offload the photos without cabling to a PC and using iTunes.

Merry Christmas!  SanDisk came out with two bi-directional storage solutions that work with the iPhone and iPad.

The first below is a flash device for iPhone & iPad devices using a lightening connection that pops out on the front and has a USB connection to move to a USB product.

(SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive)

The second is a flash device for all products 

(SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick)


One of my Christmas a Presents is the second one that is wireless.  This is the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick.

You charge it on any USB charger and you turn on the wireless connection and you connect with your iPhone/iPad by selecting the WIFI connection and after connecting using the SanDisk App you upload or download pictures.  


This App allows me to offload pictures from my phone and store on this wireless thumb drive as a backup and not have to use cell data, cloud storage I have to pay for and I can carry and transfer or print my pictures.

I'm a happy Vandweller now that I have a great way to backup my photos anytime.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com



Preparing For Prius Minimalist Living

(Note: I am not affiliated with REI and receive no compensation)

I recently posted about how I originally planned to live out of a Prius, down sizing from a Clasd B after my 2014 Travels. My logic was that if someone can live backpacking the Appalachian Trail for months that I could live like a king in a Prius as I have much more room.

Well, I may have done this out of order, but I recently went to a free REI course on how to hike the Appalachian Trail.

I am more of believer now of new car dwellers starting off, using items needed for backpacking as their initial list of items in their car.

Here is the first half of the backpacking list from my class.


Here is the second half of the backpacking list.


The class was excellent with our instructor having hiked the trail with his brother some years ago.  

Like cheaprvliving.com blog where vandwellers get first hand advice, the REI class participants asked questions on where do you make camp, where do you get trail food and how often, where can you get a general delivery at a post office, and what worked and what didn't.

To keep weight down our instructor had a second pair of socks but only one tee shirt and undershorts.  Every 5 days or so he would find a town where he would get a shower and then put his rain pants and rain jacket on, having removed all his other clothing and he would wash his laundry for the next leg of the hike.  

Certainly there is enough room in the Prius or other small car for a number of change of clothes and more fresh food that a backpacker would bring.

So, if you are thinking about Vandwelling in a small car the list above is a good starting point, provided you substitute items for the season you are traveling.

Since I hike while traveling in my Prius the things I learned in the class gave me some new ideas for my backpacking.

To answer the question, I have thought I would like to hike the Appalachian Trail in segments as I am not interested in a 5-6 month 2000 mile hike.  I also would do it with another person.  I do not currently have any plans.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Vehicle Decision Based On Fuel Prices


When I started my vandwelling experience I had selected a 1994 Coachman raised roof campervan on a Chevrolet C30 chassis with a V8 engine.  It was absolutely the right vehicle for me the first year (1994) of my travels.  The reason I say it was the right vehicle is that it had everything I needed for my travels and since I bought it in November and I was leaving in January I didn't have time to do much more than update and fix what was there and then I was off,

I had thought about fuel costs but it wasn't a limiting factor this first year.  Then as I tracked my expenses the price of fuel caught my attention and partway through my trip I decided to modify my driving to save on fuel costs.  

I started making decisions on where I would go based on what the cost would be for the trip.  For example if I drive from Galup, NM to Four Corners (100 miles) at 10 mpg it would be 200 miles round trip for 20 gallons at $3.50 a gallon for $70.00.  I made the decision not to go as the cost didn't equal the value. 

Just driving the 20 miles from where I was staying in Tucson to play disc golf for 40 miles round trip was 4 gallons added up.

I ended my 2014 Travels driving 13,600 miles over my 3.5 months on the road.  This equated to spending $4700 in gas.  

I knew driving home that April that I would be selling the Class B as trips costing about $5,000 in fuel were no longer in my future.  

The other thing was my fuel consumption caused me to think long and hard about the environment as well.  Yes my carbon footprint.  I actually felt bad about what was happening to the environment with global climate change and how my desire to see the US contributed to the problem.

The problem was that when I came home I had the desire to continue my vandwelling experience, but I needed a solution that would give me great milage and could have all the features as the Class B but minimized.  

I found RailRider's blog who traveled in his Prius http://railrider-railridernet.blogspot.com/p/building-prius-rv.html and after some emails with him my decision was made to buy a Prius for my 2015 travels.

I sold my Class B in June and bought my 2011 Prius in July.  I actually put down the back seats and laid down in the back to ensure that at 6' tall I could sleep in the back before I purchased it.  Once I knew I would fit I was thrilled to start dreaming of my new adventures in it.

Then I went into engineering mode studying about the Prius and looking at what RailRider did.  I then found Suanne's blog http://suanneonline.blogspot.com/?m=1

Suanne traveled in her Prius too and did it differently than RailRider.  The contrast was helpful.  Best advice ever was Suanne writing about the importance of having the bed and a seating area dedicated.  Thanks Suanne!  You were so right.

My internet travels brought me to Prius Chat http://priuschat.com/forum/ where I learned the technical aspects of the Prius I needed to know to utilize the Prius to fulfill my power and travel needs without having to carry solar panels.

My work was cut out for me designing from July through December (2014) to make my Prius emulate my Class B.  I knew I couldn't test and revamp before I left so I had to live with my first design, good or bad.

I am open in sharing what I do, both living style and designing I have done with the Prius.  I got the gamut of responses from folks as I designed and built out my Prius Campervan.  Some repulsed by the thought of living in and out of a car.  Others wished they could do what I was going to do.

Another thing that helped guide me in my thoughts was that if someone can hike the Appalachian Trail out of a backpack, I could live like a king out of a Prius having all that room for things.  I looked up from backpacking and not down from the Clasd B.

My efforts resulted in being able to do everything I could in my Class B other than stand up.

The design changes did not alter the Prius for resale.  This was a goal of mine and I'm glad to say I was successful.

I can't say minimalizing my life in the Prius was cheap as I needed to buy lots of new items to live light space saving design.  Miniture backpacking folding chair was $70 for example.  

So, now the questions come up about my original decision to sell the Class B as the gas prices have come down below $2.00.

My answer is no.  Yes the cost is what drove me to look at changing initially, but my desire to not contribute to global climate change took over and my carbon footprint is as low as it could be for my travels.

Moving to the Prius helped in other ways.  I can park anywhere.  In a city I can park anywhere including parking garages that are much safer in general.  The handling on the road is excellent when the high profile of the Class C was hard to hold onto in the wind.  Driving home my first year the wind was so strong I got scared and got off the highway when tractor trailers were blown off the highway an hour before I  got to that spot.  There were many white knuckle moments in the wind.

The mountains were tough on the Class B brakes and had to stop a few times to let them cool, even when using 2nd gear.

Yes I learned with the Class B but I didn't miss the stress of these moments.

Oh yes I traded out in road clearance and learned that the Prius is not a SUV, but the gains over the Class B was refreshing.  This doesn't mean I wouldn't ever go back to a Class B but not as a cross country vehicle that you drive every day.

I drive my Prius for local and distance travel not related to campervaning and I drive often to MD to visit my oldest son & family.  It's 420 miles to his house and I was there 2 weeks ago and it cost me $16.50 in gas each way to drive in my Prius.  I drive it without stopping for fuel as the Prius with its 11 gallon tank and 50+ mpg I can go at lest 500 miles between fill ups.

Back to the price of gas.  All I know is that with the reduced gas prices means my 2016 Travels in my Prius Campervan it will cost me less and that means more money stays in my pocket and I am doing my part to put less carbon in the atmosphere.

Oh did I say, regardless of gas prices I get 5 times the distance on a tank of gas than my Class B.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com






Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My 2016 Travel Chronicle


My Prius Campervan is coming together for my 2016 Travels and I will be leaving on 1/4/16.

This year I have my CRVL (Cheap RV Living) sticker to highlight the group I'm meeting up with in Quartzsite for the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rondevious).  Here, others will also travel to Q in all kinds of vehicles and live live in the desert.

Unlike my past two year's travels I am headed directly to AZ and not going to FL first so I can make the RTR that runs from 1/5 - 19/16 which corresponds with the 14 day limit to stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.  I plan to arrive on Monday 1/11 and stay for the duration if I don't get itchy feet.

In the past I generally post to my blog  daily, but this year I may be grouping some days together.  I will also be posting how my Prius Campervan setup works and the changes I made this year with any trials and tribulations too.

I have a number of changes for this year's travels that I've written about over the fall but they are not tested solutions so this will be my opportunity to tell you how effective they are.  I also have some things that I have not written about that I will be showing you from the road.

The last two years I have traveled to the southwest has been dry and mild.  This year it the weather is so different with rain, mountain snow and cooler temperatures. I've enjoyed the warm fall in the northeast and hope it follows me west.

My trip to AZ could take two possible routes.  If the weather is good (no ice or snow) I will travel on a diagonal from the northeast to the Dallas area and over towards El Paso   Hooking up with I10 headed west.

If the weather along the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys is not good I will head down the east side of the Appalachian Mountains heading to Beloxi to pick up I10 there.  This will probably add a day to my travels heading west.

I will not be stopping for much other than rest/sleep and once rested I will be moving along.  This means I could be driving at night as well as days.  I have my spots where I have stayed in the past along I10 that I hope line up to my layover spots.  It's my goal to swing back through the southeast in April before returning home.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com   





Two New Tires & MPG


This year (2015) I left on my trip knowing that my tires were going to make it through the trip but would have to be replaced before my 2016 Travels.

I left in January with all 4 tires with the same tread wear, but an early morning drive to the dealer in Tucson for a 5000 mile servicing I cut into a turn lane and hit the front drivers tire in a sharp granite curb blowing one tire.

Side to side tire tres size is important for geared axles (only front of Prius) so I bought two tires that day and kept the two rear tires as when the tires get rotated the two front go to the back and the two rear go to the front.  This way the same tread size was always side to side.

Now I'm less than 2 weeks away from my 2016 Travels so I ordered the new tires last week to go on the rear and had them put on this morning.  ($200)

As I have read on the web, I find that I have slightly improved MPG running the tire pressure 1-2 psi higher than what is recommended.  This also compensates for my travel weight too.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com







Friday, December 18, 2015

Prius 12 Volt Battery & MPG


There are a number of factors that affect the Prius MPG.  Just like other vehicles, driving conditions, operator actions, vehicle condition, including the engine, and so on.

The Prius Hybrid design efficiency, where the engine only runs under specific conditions, you notice little things that affect mpg more.  

For example, you can have an MPG when you park the car and when you turn it on and and the engine warms up you see your mpg drop.  In the colder months you see the mpg dropping fast to get to the warm up state.  So if you only live s mile away from work your car is spending a lot of its time warming up your gas mileage is not that good.  You get good gas milage with your Prius only once the engine is warm.

Of course your mpg is less in the winter since the cold air coming in the grill will drop the Prius engine temp faster and causes the engine to run more.  Some Prius owners go as far as blocking off some of their grill openings to adjust for this.  I don't as the Prius doesn't have an engine temperature gauge. 

Running the passenger compartment heater also reduces gas milage as you are taking heat from the engine and the engine needs to run more to maintain a minimum temperature.

Well, I guess you get the point of how a high mpg vehicle like the Prius is impacted by these variables so I won't go on.

I noticed my mpg decreasing over the summer from my previous recordings and I surmised that it was due to my 12 volt battery being less efficient.  For example I have easily gotten 56 mpg driving to my son's house in MD, but my trips were at 52 this summer. (No A/C on)

I changed my Prius 12 volt battery just before a trip again to MD last weekend and on the way down I got 54 mpg and that was with the heater on all the way down at about 44 degrees average outside temperature.  I got about the same on the way home at about 55 degrees outside using the heater set at 72.

Then since I've been home I driven to the Boston area and I'm at 54.7 without heat.

I know this isn't a controlled scientific study but it appears that a Prius 12 volt battery that is older and is not as efficient as it used to be draws more power from the high voltage battery (how it is charged) thus requiring the engine to run just that more to make up for it and you see the difference in MPG.

Last year I got over 60 mpg from El Paso to Tucson on I10.  It is with segments of my trip that I get high mpg that makes up for leaving my Prius in "Ready Mode" to run my fridge when I hike and still get 52 mpg average for the trip.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com




 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Replacing the Prius 12 Volt Battery


My Prius 12 Volt (AGM) battery has been getting weaker over time.  I monitor my Prius 12V battery with a digital volt meter tied directly to the battery.  My Battery is original to my 2011 model year Prius, so it is 5 years old.

When I returned from my 2015 travels the resting voltage was down to 12.7 volts from a start of my trip of 12.9 volts.  I decided to wait out the summer and consider replacing it in the fall.  This morning I checked and the Prius has sat for a number of days in not too cold temperatures and it was down to 12.4 Volts. There is always some parasitic draw from the Prius.  Just opening the car door with no cabin lights there are relay noises.

Although I run the Prius enough during my travels that I should expect to get buy for my upcoming travels with the existing battery, I wasn't ready to risk it.  There is too much is riding on the Prius 12 volt battery living off grid.

Note:  In an emergency I do have a back up strategy as I can backfeed my house 12v battery setup to assist the Prius 12 volt battery.

After considering all these factors I made the decision to replace the battery today.

I went to a dealer who had a reasonably priced OEM battery with an October date code so I bought it.


The next step was to slide off the housing I made above the battery in the rear passenger hatch area where I house my 400 watt pure sine wave inverter and expose the old battery.

I removed the hold-down bracket and power leads and swapped out the battery.


Many ask questions in online forums about venting batteries.  Here is the disconnected AGM battery vent tube that vents through the floor of the vehicle.


Here is the view of the vent tube reinstalled in the side of the new battery.


 With battery cables reinstalled I placed my Prius 12 volt battery area back in place over the battery.


With the Prius connected to shore power I have the new battery on the BatteryMinder  conditioning charger.

Another item done for 2016 Travels.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com





Monday, December 7, 2015

Prius Campervan Rear Door Table


During my 2015 Prius travels I camped a number of times in the desert and camping spots without a picnic table and I had a couple of problems cooking.

First, I needed a wind break for my butane cooking stove so I set up on the leeward side and opened the door and had a nice spot to cook out of the wind.  I cooked off the very small roll-up camp table.  

Second, I didn't have a place to prepare the rest of the food and dishes as the little table I carry wasn't big enough.  I resorted to using the top of the fridge as a flat surface under the rear hatch.  There was too much moving back and forth around the car.  Although good for exercise it was not good for cooking and eating.

This modification wasn't high on my list but it was so simple and gives me a nice level surface for eating and working on small projects.


I always start out with a cardboard scribed with a compass to give me the angles and create a template before cutting wood.

I then traced the cardboard template onto lauan plywood and cut it out.


Then I needed to make a brace on one end to keep the table from sliding up on the side with the door pin as the other side of the table is pressure fit.  For the brace I decided to use 5/4" plastic wood and miter the bottom where it touches the table and put shoulders on the part that goes into door pin.  The length from the miter to the door pin is sized to give a level table top.


The table is reversible so it can be used on the drivers side rear door too.  You just need to flip it over as the other side of the Prius is a mirror image.


I will primarily use the table on the passenger side (above photo) as this is where the cooking pots and pans, utensils, and dry food and water are stored.


It works out that the table will slide in the storage area under the bed where my camp cooking items are.  Since it is only an 1/8" it doesn't use up too much room.  


The lauan at an 1/8" is sturdy enough, for cooking with a pot of water or for using as a table for my plate of food and drink, but to increase strength and possible sagging that could occur over time I glued stiffening bead to one side. I made the bead by cutting off the bull nose I made on my router.


After the Prius door table is sealed with multiple coats of polyurethane it will be ready for my 2016 travels.

Brent

macaloney@hotmail.com






Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prius Campervan Entertainment Upgrade


I have an iPad and a iPhone and they are great for most things, but I need a Windows product.  The problem is that I am an Adjunct Professor and teach online courses while living for months on the road as a vandweller.  The problem is the iPhone/iPad's browser is not compatible with all websites.  Last year I used an old heavy Windows XP laptop and it worked fine but it was so heavy and a power hog, even with the 12 volt adapter.

On Black Friday Walmart was selling the above RCA notepad for $129.99 and was still available that evening when I got there so I bought it, although a bit skeptical of Windows 10 and it being labeled a data hog.

Here is my new RCA notepad with removable keyboard to allow it to be a tablet.


This next photo is a side by side view of the old XP laptop on the left and new W10 notepad on the right.


Living in and out of a Prius means every cubic inch is important, so I saw the new computer as being a benefit for space. Not to mention reduced power consumption.

My old XP laptop served multiple purposes.  In addition to being my work computer it was also my TV, my long range WIFI, and DVD player.


I had been using the following USB TV/Radio stick during my 2015 travels.


I was planning on using this but I found out there are no drivers for Windows 10.  The drivers only go up to Windows 7.  This meant I needed to find a new USB TV tuner. I did find one on Amazon for $35.00. (Below)


This new USB TV stick does not contain a digital radio tuner but that is fine as I have the car radio and a small portable radio.


The old XP computer was my long range WIFI connection too.  I have been using this Bear Extender with it and a good surprise was that when plugged it in the W10 notebook it plugged and played correctly.


Since the notebook only has one USB port I need to use a USB multi connection cube.  Here is the notebook with both the TV and wireless extender installed, although I would not typically run both at the same time.


The XP laptop allowed me to go to RedBox and get a movie to watch so to keep the same functionality I need an external DVD.  I have this one I use at home but when I plugged it in the W10 notebook the hardware plugged and played but the applications didn't see it.  A check on the web shows that the drivers for this DVD are only good to Windows 7.  I will be going out to buy a compatible DVD.

Lastly I don't need another tablet and I don't need another device that auto syncs with the Internet and manages my environment for me.  Luckily the Cheaprvliving.com blog I subscribe to had a post to a YouTube link to address shutting down nearly all the Windows 10 environmental activities that use bandwidth.  When I turn on the notebook I don't want to be sharing anything and getting any content for me as this just uses up my cell phone data plan.  The blog post was to this YouTube  link http://youtu.be/u1kGMCfb2xw


I am now ready for my 2016 Travels using less space and power.

Brent
macaloney@hotmail.com