January 8 to February 28, 2003 - Winter in WA + new solar/inverter

We were back in our house, but planning to become full-time RVers.  The house sitting did not go as well this last trip, the person who did the housesitting had moved to Seattle and only came by about once a week to check on things.  Plus, she wanted more money for the task.  The house looked vacant and our house cleaner, who came to clean while we were gone, chased someone off our front yard who had a sleeping bag setup. 

Evita came into our lives on January 10th, you can read more here.

We weeded and killed slugs in the yard. 

We went through the hassle of getting the awning fixed.  Evita went with us the first 50 mile trip to Camping World in the motorhome for the estimate, she did fine traveling.

We visited Bill's mother, Elena, who was now back in Tumwater since his sister was doing better.

We decided we wanted the motorhome fixed up better for boon-docking, which is when you camp without being hooked up to power, water and sewer.  We decided to get an inverter, more batteries, and solar panels.  Since we knew AMSolar from Life On Wheels (see our Life On Wheels adventure) we called them in Eugene, OR.  They told us they no longer do their own installs, but trained Guaranty RV in Junction City, OR to do it.  We called Guaranty RV and set up an appointment for February 10, with the expectation it would take one to two days.  We arranged for our house cleaner to house and cat sit and drove down to Guaranty RV on February 9th, it was 311 miles.   They had water/electric campsites and we setup for the night.

In the morning they took the motorhome and we took our stuff to a motel since with the inverter install we could not stay in the motorhome that night.  We also arranged for them to handle the chassis and generator maintenance at the same time.   To not need to have a certified vented compartment for the two new batteries, we went with Lifeline AGM batteries.  We bummed around the Eugene, OR area that day and came back in the morning to see when we could take the motorhome away.  Turns out everything was finished except they could not locate the right type of circuit breaker, so they ordered one overnight from Los Angeles.  We went and checked back into the motel and took a day trip to Florence, OR since it was a sunny day:

Florence was nice, as usual. 

On the 12th everything was finished, but there was a problem.  The technician had installed the panels too close together to leave the tilt mounts on.  This makes it more of a pain to tilt the panels for winter sun to get more charging.  Since they drilled holes in the roof we didn't want them to move the panels the one inch needed.  Then we figured out the circuits that were on the inverter were not exactly the ones we had discussed and the way they put the extra batteries in the compartment was not how we had wanted it.  Still we gave them a lot of money and took off.  It was nice to use the microwave at a lunch stop without running the generator, it was nice to have the refrigerator on the inverter so it didn't need propane on the road. 

Here are how the panels look on the roof at Brookhollow RV Park in Kelso, WA where we stopped for the night:

You can see the heavy wire going from the panels to the refrigerator vent.  You can also see the main awning is all fixed.

Here are pictures from inside showing the inverter panel, a pure sine-wave inverter, and solar charge controller:

Here are how the extra two batteries, inverter (yellow) and the inverter circuit breaker box were installed:

We later learned another issue, we could not use the charger in the inverter at full power on generator.  Our generator had two breakers, a 20AMP and a 30AMP, they wired the inverter through the leg with the 20AMP breaker instead of the 30AMP breaker.  The charger needs 22AMPs to run at full power.  We talked to AM Solar about the problems and they told us the techs they trained were not the the ones who did the install, Guaranty kept moving the techs around and was driving them crazy.  Eventually AM Solar went back to doing their own installs. 

When we got home our housekeeper had bonded with Evita, no surprise.

Diane had her Lasik surgery the same day Evita was spayed, that way Evita was not so rambunctious while Diane needed to rest.  Evita was back to her self in a couple days and Diane didn't need glasses for the first time since she was quite young.  

We were ready to take another trip to California, this one started on March 1st.

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