Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Buses By the Bridge 2015

Having attended our first Buses By the Bridge last year we knew we had to make every effort to ensure this becomes a yearly event. My amazing wife managed to get some time off work so off we went to the biggest VW camping event of the year.

It took many hours of preparation getting the camper ready and packed but eventually the morning arrived to start our new adventure.
The prior year we found a group that met up at Amboy Crater for a free camping night beforehand that breaks up the long drive. Although some of the surrounding roads were closed due to flash floods, there were a few that still managed to make it out.
We even had time for a quick hike to the crater.
Up before dawn to ensure a good spot in Lake Havasu.
Our BBB convoy.
I had to take this picture as it passed by. Those are tires on the back of a tractor trailer that are bigger than the VW bus beside it.
Arriving at Lake Havasu on Thursday before 10am Arizona time we were "bus" number 57 behind this waiting to get in the gates.

This still ensured we had a great spot on the grass.

We heard that there were over 300 registered buses after the first day (Thursday) and were that much more thankful for leaving early to get our spot. After a great night's sleep, here are some examples of what we woke up to every morning in conjunction with the BalloonFest close by.

And a quick time-lapse video.
It was humbling to wake up to such amazing sights but there was soo much more to see and do.
Including a quick trip on the ferry to the casino across the lake.

Here is the London Bridge on our way back.
Brooke's Tonka truck was a big hit
A parting shot before we left in front of the lake - the final tally was over 450 buses (and Vanagons) which was a new record!
One more very important part of this trip was trying to figure out the power consumption of all my electronics. It was upsetting to discover that simply turning on my 400Watt inverter consumed 2 watts of power and using the USB outlet on the inverter to power our iPhones ate up 6 watts (.5amps). On the other hand, our 12V IKEA LED 4xpuck lighting took only 2 watts to power at 25% and just over 6 watts when at 100% power. Another upsetting fact was charging my laptop through the AC inverter took almost 50 watts (4 amps) which was almost as much as the cooler/fridge used when on maximum to keep our drinks cold. I also was able to test out my 300 LED flexible light strip which I was happy to find it consumed a paltry ½ watt at the lowest brightness setting. After learning this I will attempt to have everything run through DC voltage instead of using my inverter.
The entire 5 day weekend consumed over 75 amps which ended up working out fine and is a testament to the power absorbed by our solar panel (in combination with the new battery setup) over the time camped without starting the engine. It not only powered our phones and laptop computer but kept our beverages in our Dometic fridge/cooler nice and cold.

Here are some more shots from this incredible event.


Brooke of course took all this trip in stride but had to get her rest as well.

 After an incredible weekend of VW fun and friends, it was time to head home.
 The road less travelled!
We ended up spending our final night at Joshua Tree National Park which was absolutely amazing.
Oh wait, this was my awesome co-pilot during most of the trip. On to Joshua Tree!!!
We managed to get a great spot at Jumbo Rocks campsite.

We woke up early in the morning to enjoy more of this beautiful park.
Here's my amazing wife climbing Skull Rock.

Of course we didn't miss out on other breathtaking sites.

Although we could have spent the entire week enjoying this beautiful park, it was time for us to head back home. It's difficult to express how amazing this world we live in can be and this trip will be etched in our memories for a lifetime.


New Battery setup

After a few months of research on the internet and YouTube along with some feedback from others I decided to upgrade the house battery in the Vanagon. As all the available storage areas are fully used, one of the main goals was to continue utilizing the original space under the drivers seat. I discovered that the best option for our needs could be handled by installing three 22Ah batteries in parallel which would give me 66Ah and a 30+% improvement over my previous setup. I managed to find 3 UB12220 Universal Batteries on eBay for $115 with free shipping so I pulled the plug.

Using 8 gauge wire throughout, I attached the batteries together with some double sided tape and they fit perfectly in the stock location under the seat.
I have seen others manage to fit 4 batteries in the same space but I wanted to keep my battery isolator in its current location and am optimistic that 66 Ah will be enough in conjunction with the 80W solar panel. One of my other goals was to really understand the power consumption of my electronic devices so I installed a GT Power Watt meter and Power analyzer. Here is another shot with all the wiring in place.
I was reluctant to drill holes in my kitchen cabinet but wanted a clean look for the 12V receptacle I installed which will mainly be used for the Dometic cooler we use in between the front seats. Here is the final shot with 400watt inverter, MPPT solar charge controller, Watt meter, and Power analyzer.
I realize that there is so much more to learn about power and electronics but am happy that I now know the difference between Volts and Amps....along with a few other things. We are anxiously awaiting our first big test during our trip to Buses By the Bridge 2015.