Mazatlán – Day 16

It’s been a few day – recap

The last six days has been, both eventful and unremarkable. We traveled south down the west coast of mainland Mexico through Sonora and Sinaloa. It’s H.O.T. Average temps on the road are about 100º F. The most remarkable thing about this travel is that my inverter failed due to the heat, and therefore I don’t have air conditioning on the road. I try to push an early departure to beat the heat, but it’s usually about 90º by 10 o’clock so it doesn’t help too much.

We have also been staying at little beaches on the way down, which is nice because the breeze cools off the temps to the mid-high 80’s. It would be more enjoyable if the bugs didn’t eat us alive. My legs were eaten, but not as bad as Gary’s. Between the high heat and the bugs, heading south has been a slog. We knew this going into it. One of the unfortunate consequences of this, was that we missed several Pueblos Mágicos. This was disappointing, but… it is what it is.

We are now in Mazatlán where we slow the trip down considerably. We have traveled 2100 miles from Santa Rosa to Mazatlán in 15 days. From here to Puebla is about 800 miles more, and we expect to spend seven weeks between now and when we leave Puebla. This is just an idea and it will probably change as Puebla is socked in with volcanic ash due to the eruption of El Popocatepetl. We will see what happens when we get closer.

Inverter Woes

Back in October, I knew that my 2kva inverter was not powerful enough to power the air conditioning under high temperatures, so I replaced it with a 3kva one – under all rated temps, it could handle my air conditioner and then some. Seems like there was a failure and in talking with the vendor, it might be a warranty replacement issue. The only problem with that is I would have to return it to Arizona and it would be weeks if not months to get it back repaired. So that’s not really an option.

The issue is that the inverter thinks it sees less voltage from the batteries than is actually being supplied by the batteries, and therefore increases the amp draw and overheats, and shuts down. There are some things that I can to do nail down the actual issue, but it failed all of a sudden and the components I could check wouldn’t go bad just like that.

I did find a vendor who has this inverter in stock – in Puerto Vallarta – but that means that I would have to buy a new one, get the old one fixed, and then sell the extra one – not something I am relishing.

El Rosario – Pueblo Mágico #2

Today we visited El Rosario. A little town about 100km south of Mazatlán. It was a day trip there and back. El Rosario received its Pueblo Mágico designation in 2012 for its history as a mining town. I’ve been to many Pueblos Mágicos, and this one was fairly unremarkable. There were certainly some interesting things about the town and definitely worth a visit.

Gary got attacked by a pack of not-so-feral Chihuahuas. Their owner, a feral-dog-lady was standing at her gate trying to call them inside when they ran across the street to chase a car and bicyclist, and then coming back, ganged up on Gary and bit his ankle. More of a fun story to tell than anything else. If it were me they would have been flying, but Gary was more peaceful about the incident and walked away.

This town has lots of colorful murals scattered around and some pedestrian streets dedicated to sitting and relaxing. They are all quite nice and bring color to an otherwise drab town.

Another thing about this town was its effort to keep it clean and recycle. They had cages in the shapes of bottles and hearts to recycle plastic. A wonderful idea – that incorporates art, recycling, and stewardship of resources all in one.

Sometime in the 1930’s there was a monsoon and the amount of rain cause the quarry pits to fill up with water and the town has turned them into parks now.

The Panteón Europeo was rather… unremarkable. The town is 350 years old, but the oldest grave was only about 150 years old. Most graves were in disrepair and the feral chihuahuas… er… ducks and dogs, had the run of the place. The one interesting thing about this pantheon was the Druidic Portal tree (also a bee tree) growing on the inside wall of the pantheon. A druidic portal tree is a mythological tree where druids and fey creatures could enter and transport themselves to other trees. See for your self…

The final thing about the town was the Catholic Church. Unless I got my dates wrong, again in the 1930’s, the old church was falling down and the town relocated the church to its current location – 70% of the materials coming from the old church. The rest coming from the new quarries on the other side of the town. There is also the tomb of Lola Beltrán who was born in the town and according to a dedication to her, took the voice of the town and shared it through music with the rest of the world.


We were in Mazatlán five years ago on our epic road trip through Mexico and Central America in Jeeps. Much has changed in Mazatlan in the last five years. The number of high-rises have doubled, and at least a half dozen new residential developments have either been built or are being built. Most of these are for the middle/upper-middle classes – showing that Mexico is progressing and expanding the wealth of the people.

Our little RV park seems like a mini Jurassic park – surrounded by resorts and high-rises. It’s right next to the beach and to get to it, you have to drive through a little jungle with bones/skeletal remains of whales I imagine, staged to look jurassic.

Day 10 – a lot has happened

Where we left it…

Gary had issues with his paperwork. He ended up driving the 200 miles back to California to fix the issues, and back again. This was Wed/Thu.

We headed out – back to Sonoyta to the customs/aduana to process the paperwork and get the TIP – vehicle import permit, and made good time, even though it rained on the way, it was a nice morning drive.

At the aduana, the official asked for the registration of both the truck and the trailer. So Gary proudly handed them to the official. Then the official said he needed the original. Gary looked through his folder again as my throat knotted up, and G high-tailed it to the truck. Only a few minutes later, he comes back with a smile on his face as both Rocco and I wiped the sweat off our brows.

As the official looked over the paperwork, he said that the truck was overweight (7700lbs) as the sticker on the truck stated 10K lbs. This is a known issue with the law, it is not written clearly and leaves it up for interpretation.

There is a difference between unladen weight (6800lbs), and gross vehicle weight (10,000lbs). The maximum weight in the books is 7700lbs, but it doesn’t say which weight. I then stepped in and explained to the official that the law was for the unladen weight (whether it’s an African or European swallow is not relevant). He saw the issue but said he didn’t have the authority to issue the permit. He would have to get permission from the bosses in Mexico City, and it would take time, how much, he couldn’t say.

After 90 minutes, he came out to the bus where we were hanging out and said it had been approved, we just need to file the paperwork, pay the fees, and then we were set. Another hour to process things and we were set – out’a there… on to Magdalena de Kino – our first Pueblo Mágico of the trip.

Magdalena de Kino

Magdalena de Kino was first founded (by the Spanish) in the 1680’s by Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino. Kino was one of the better known, altruistic missionaries of the Spanish Church. He helped the local Tohono O’odham indigenous people.

We happened on Magdalena during the Kino Festival – where people from all over, but mostly from Arizona and Northern Sonora come to celebrate, participate in cultural exchanges, including seminars, dances, processions, sporting events, music, and food. We were able to spend two days at and participate in the festivities.

Like many desert towns, the people come out during the early mornings until about noon and then go inside until it cools down around six pm. We, as tourists, found ourselves the first day walking around mostly empty and shuttered streets in the blistering heat until the evening – when thousands came out to take part in the festival.

San Carlos – Guaymas

Back to the coast. A short, and blistering hot drive from Madalena de Kino to San Carlos near Guaymas – on the coast. We were on the road for about three hours and rolled into San Carlos at noon, just in time for lunch. We headed to the beach where I took a refreshing dip in the ocean and chased, or was chased, by a flock of pelicans. 100’s of them. Apparently, there were schools of little fish in the waves and they were going after them.

There were also other birds fishing and when one would catch one, the others would chase it to try to steal the catch. Inevitably, some (many) of the little fish would be dropped and they would rain down around me where they would flop on the hot rocks and die.

San Carlos is just an overnight stop. We are trying to follow the 330 rule. No more than 330 miles AND finish the day’s driving by 3:30pm. Today we drove about 350km and finished at noon. Driving in Mexico is not relaxing, but it’s not a white knuckle experience either. You just need to be aware and alert.

Day 4 – TIP

A TIP is a Temporary Import Permit for foreign vehicles. They are needed to bring a vehicle into Mexico beyond a few border states such as Baja and Sonora. There are several types of TIPs, but basically, to get one, you need current registration, money, and the vehicle in question.

There are different ways to obtain a TIP, the easiest way is with anticipation before you leave – online. I did this and I got my TIP via email weeks ago. Due to the -newness- of Gary’s truck, there were… complications. The VIN was not decodable by the online system, so he was unable to get a TIP online. No worries, we could easily do it at the aduana or customs.

The struggle begins…

Upon arrival in Sonoyta, the border town, we asked the immigration official where the customs office was. He said it was on the highway to Caborca. I explained that we were not taking that highway and if there was another one on the highway between Puerto Peñasco and Caborba – he assured us that there was.

Sonoyta, Puerto Peñasco and Caborca make a triangle, and we were planning taking only two legs of the three for the third would make a full circle out of the triangle.

Not feeling entirely confident about the information we got from the immigration official, we asked the office manager at the RV Park in Peñasco. He said there was both a customs office on the road from Peñasco to Caborca, AND there was a Banjercito – the national bank that processes the TIPs. Yesterday, we went to the Banjercito to get the TIP and they told us that they didn’t issue them, but he gave us the number of the customs office in Sonoyta. He also said that there was a place on the highway between Peñasco and Caborca (three for three now).

Still not feeling entirely confident and having an extra hour to kill, we decided to -drive- without the trailer and the bus, to the customs office on the highway we wanted to take. 30 minutes later and we are arriving. We hop out and I go talk to the soldiers. They assured me that they were only secondary inspection and that we would have to return to Sonoyta.

After resigning to the fact that we would now have to return to the border and get the permit on a highway that we didn’t want to take, we decide to go back to Sonoyta and then direct to Caborca. After two hours on the road, we made it to the customs office where we got the vehicles inspected and headed inside. The young woman who was at the window was very pleasant to work with. She reviewed my paperwork and assured me it was all in order. She then took Gary’s paperwork and started to process it.

  • Clerk: sir, this registration is expired. Do you have the current one?
  • Gary: um, yes, right here in my super-over-the-top organized folder…
  • Gary: …
  • Gary: … it’s in the truck. I’ll be right back…
  • Rocco:… it’s been a few minutes, should I go help him look?
  • Me: … no, he will find it… or not…
  • Gary: … after 10 minutes, with head hung low and shoulders folded inward… I screwed up… I don’t have it. I checked the tags on the plate and they are expired.
  • Me: …
  • Gary: …
  • Me: Señorita – can we use the title instead?
  • Clerk: yes that would work
  • Gary: … jumping up and down with excitement, pulling out a copy of the title and handing it to the clerk
  • Clerk: … do you have the -original-?
  • Gary: …
  • Gary: … in the safe… at home
  • Clerk:… I’m sorry, we need either a current registration or the original title.

It goes on, but yes, you get the idea. Our solution was to have Gary’s wife get the title out of the safe and send it down next day via FedEx, but that didn’t work out so well either, and that’s a story for Gary to tell. The best we could do was two day delivery, not guaranteed.

So the title is now on it’s way via UPS to the RV park in… Puerto Peñasco, and we are here for three? more nights.

All of the nonsense travel to get a TIP – not all, we still have the last day out – back to Sonoyta and then on to Caborca

What to do in Peñasco

May is the beginning of the off-season in Puerto Peñasco. This is both good and bad. The bad… It gets bloody hot. It was 105F today on the way back here, although in Peñasco, it was considerably cooler – 83F. The good… there aren’t very many people here so RV reservations are not needed and we can always find a table.

Tomorrow we will be doing laundry, having some parts fabricated, visiting a hardware store to get mesh screens for my windows so I can open them without getting eaten.

We will have a few down days which is fine, we have about 1300 miles so far.

Accepting what is for what is, and being OK with it

It is not the destination, but rather the road traveled and the experiences gained by the traveling of said road that is of value. The journey -is- the destination.

When we first started planning this journey, we wanted it to be fluid without an itinerary. Because we have a friend flying down to meet us in June, I mapped out how we could get to where we needed to pick him up on the day he arrived. This was just a rough idea to see if it was doable without killing ourselves. I bragged about how after Peñasco, I really didn’t know where we would go (I had an idea), and that if we found something else to do that was of interest, we could do it. Well, second day in Mexico and our hands were forced to change. The key here is that while the reasons are disappointing, the actual change is not a big deal. What is, is and I’m OK with that.

Pueblos Mágicos – Day Three

Crossing the border…

Today Gary and I met up in Ajo, AZ. we headed south through Saguaro National Monument. a beautiful drive through the Saguaro and Palo Verde forests. Both of which were in bloom. Large yellow/white flowers at the top of the towering monoliths with a lower canopy of yellow from the Palo Verdes. The desert is tríelo a wonder to see.

Palo Verde in bloom and giant Saguaro

The border town of Lukeville is at the southern edge of SNM. There’s not much to it other than a gas station, border patrol and The Wall. Crossing the US border is simple – just drove through. They don’t care who leaves. There are no stops, no checks, no cares.

Entering Mexico is also practically a non-event. While a visa (FMM) is required for all, it’s not checked unless it is. And if you don’t have one, well, that was dumb. the immigration process is easy.

The customs portion of the border crossing is confusing. Especially if you are bringing a vehicle in and not staying in Sonora or Baja. At which point, you have to purchase a TIP – a temporary import permit.l for your vehicle.

I got mine (for a motorhome) online and it was pretty straight forward. Gary couldn’t get his online and has to have the vehicle inspected. But there’s no where anywhere near that border crossing to do so. From what we gathered, we have to drive on until the inspection site before we get to Caborca – two days from now. Let’s hope they don’t make us go back to the border.

Sonoyta, the town on the southern side of the border, is a typical border town. They have speed traps, so they take you license and force a bribe – unless you want to drive to the police station with your truck and trailer on a Sunday. Welcome to Mexico. PS – they ignored the bus…

Puerto Peñasco

We arrived in Rocky Point or Puerto Peñasco around noon. Set up and walked to the Malecón where we were assaulted by all of the pharmacy and cash exchange vendors. Then by the restaurateurs. They all want the contents of our wallets.

One thing of note is that all of the ATMs in the malecón only dispense US$. And all of the vendors accept US$ at a terrible exchange rate. In these situations, I tend to purchase on my CC and have them charge me in pesos, my bank gives the daily rate with no markup and no fees.

We’re staying at an RV park near the beach. Which is basically an empty lot with a bunch of RVs in it. Not my thing, but they have power and that’s important if it’s hot outside.

Sea of Cortez – looking southwest

This trip is about adventures outside of the comfort zone…

Being flexible and ok with things that you’re not familiar with is ok. They aren’t bad, they just are. This trip is all about doing things differently and, well… let the adventures begin.

Pueblos Mágicos – Day Two…

Little things we normally take for granted – like air conditioning!

Today from Palm Springs, CA to Ajo, AZ, it was a good 93° on the highway. It wasn’t a long day – a medium day. The heat wasn’t too bad inside. And there’s a story behind the aircon.

This bus came from Louisiana where it -had- a huge air conditioning unit. It was engine driven and was big and noisy. It also took up room inside, and room outside where I now have the holding tanks. So I ripped it out. I did put in an RV aircon unit, but they work off of 110v, not the engine. Meaning that it works while parked and plugged into shore power, not on the road.

The aircon only uses about 1200w of power and I had a 2000w inverter to power it – or so I thought. The brand I have is rated is VA and not watts. So that 2000 on the model – nope. More like 1600w. BUT… that’s the rating at 70°. Who needs aircon at 70°? As the ambient temperature goes up, the rating for the inverter goes down. So when the temps reach the 90’s or 100’s, the inverter won’t power the aircon.

So… I bought a larger inverter – a 3k. I had tried it off and on to make sure that it would work, but never -really- stressed it.

The other issue I had was that my batteries would only power the aircon for 2-3 hours. That wouldn’t work for long trips through the desert, so I connected it to the alternator on the engine. That worked for a while, until the engine computer complained of low voltage during high draw situation – I was drawing too much current from the old 135amp alternator.

So, a month ago, I replaced the alternator with a 200amp one.

So this combination of the aircon running off of my inverter powered by the batteries, solar, and the engine works great. It’s not -cold-, but it isn’t hot/uncomfortable either.

In mobile environments with limited resources, we learn how to conserve. I closed the dividing curtain and am just cooling the cab/kitchen area and not the back of the bus.

After five hours and 300 miles on the road in 90° temps outside, the inside is in the high 70’s to low 80’s.

Unrelated, I also put new tires on it a couple of months ago at $800 apiece I was hoping for a quieter, smoother ride – and I got it. It’s still a big truck chassis, and not a town car, but hey…

To combat the noise, I have a pair of noise cancelling earbuds. Things are good…

So where am I?

I’m in a little town just 40 miles north of the US-Mexican border called Ajo – Spanish for garlic. But they don’t grow garlic here. It’s possible it was named after the Tohono O’odaham word oʼoho meaning red paint or red tint. Ajo is rich in minerals and is home to the first copper mine in the state of Arizona. It’s interesting to see a satellite picture of it.

Ajo is also close to Saguaro National Park. And the saguaros are in bloom. Beautiful majestic cacti. a keystone species in the Sonoran desert.

Tomorrow my friend catches up to me and we will cross the border into Mexico. Puerto Peñasco is our first stop.

Pueblos Mágicos – The journey has begun…

Well, after years of talking and months of planning, the journey has begun. I left yesterday and it was a long day. All interstate. All 520 miles of interstate. Ok – mostly interstate with some US highways thrown in.

Took the 101 to the 580, to the 5, to the 210. I was going to stay in San Bernardino but decided the extra 80 miles to Palm Springs to meet up with my friend was worth it. He’s staying at an established campground. When I got here, my frugalness led me to opt out of the $88/night KOA and park under the security trailer at the local Home Depot the price is good – free. No hassles. For transitory nights, I just can’t justify spending money like that.

I woke up before 0600 and my first urge was to hit the road. Wait – why? I have everything I need with me, my destination is only five hours away, I can leave at any time. So, I decided to sit back and enjoy my coffee in the cool morning desert air. Forecast today is 100° so better enjoy outside now than later.

The bus performed exceedingly well. Not towing the Jeep makes a big difference. I don’t have to monitor the temps, and I can travel with the flow of traffic. Not towing the Jeep, I’ve gained 150 miles range on one tank of fuel. Now I’m up to about 600 miles. heading over the grapevine, I stayed at 65 up and over. No struggle – it just went.

I’ve named the bus “El Alebrije”. Which is a fairly modern term in Mexico. It’s a piece of art. But more than that, it’s a fantastical creature with multiple aspects of spirit protectors or guides, or nahual. They are there to guide and protect you in every day life. Alebrijes are guided for the spirits. To guide them back to the world of the living, to the altar that those that remember them have built for Día de Los Muertos in November.

While my Alebrije is not guiding the dead, it is a fantastical merging of a school bus and a home on wheels, and it is guiding my inner Pizote, or mischievous self in this journey – where there is no destination, only the road traveled.

Wish me well on this journey and welcome along in the telling of it.

Alebrijes – What are they?

Alebrijes are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. Originally, these creatures are created using a technique called papier-mâché, but are now carved in wood, and are often adorned with intricate patterns and designs. Alebrijes have become a beloved symbol of Mexican culture and are now popular all over the world.


The history of alebrijes dates back to the 1930s, when a Mexican artist named Pedro Linares fell seriously ill. While he was in bed, he dreamed or hallucinated of a strange place resembling a forest. There, he saw trees, animals, rocks, clouds, and other things that suddenly transformed into strange, fantastical creatures. In his dream, these creatures repeated a word to him: “alebrijes.” When Linares recovered from his illness, he started to create sculptures of these creatures, using papier-mâché as the main material. Over time, the craft of creating alebrijes transitioned into wood carving, and became a tradition in Mexico, passed down from generation to generation.


The word “alebrijes” comes from two Nahuatl words, “alebrije” and “ixtle.” “Alebrije” means something that is not real or something that does not exist, while “ixtle” is a type of paper made from the bark of a tree. Together, the two words refer to the process of creating something that does not exist in reality.

Alebrijes are not only fanciful creations; they also carry important cultural and symbolic meanings. Many of these creatures are inspired by animals that are considered sacred in Mexican folklore, such as jaguars, eagles, and snakes. These animals represent different spiritual forces, such as courage, strength, and wisdom.

The intricate patterns and designs on alebrijes are also significant. These patterns are often inspired by pre-Hispanic art and motifs, which carry their own symbolic meanings. For example, the use of circles and spirals represents the cycle of life and death, while the use of triangles symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth.

Today, alebrijes continue to be an important part of Mexican culture. They are often created and sold by artisans in markets and shops throughout Mexico, but mainly in the state of Oaxaca. In recent years, alebrijes have also been featured in popular culture, such as in the movie “Coco,” which tells the story of a young boy who dreams of becoming a musician and encounters a magical world filled with alebrijes.

Alebrijes have become important facets in Mexican culture and have been interpreted, not only as protectors but also spirit guides where an Alebrije is paired with the spirit of a loved one and guides the loved one back to the altar during day of the dead festivals so that the spirits can see their family members.


Alebrijes are an important part of Mexican culture, representing a fusion of indigenous and Spanish influences. These whimsical creatures have captivated people’s imaginations all over the world, and their symbolic meanings continue to resonate with many. Through the craft of creating alebrijes, artists are able to express their creativity, preserve cultural traditions, and honor the natural world.

Pueblos Mágicos 2023

The time is rapidly approaching that I embark on another epic adventure with my good friend GLRay. This year, the adventure entails cultural exploration by visiting many Pueblos Mágicos and UNESCO sites in the central highlands of México. The general idea, as my brother-from-another-mother says, is to not have a plan. This year, we have a general idea of what we want to do, but it’s open ended and with a few exceptions, there is no itinerary. We will be traveling in a pattern guided by vagaries.

Our method of travel will be that of dérive. This word literally translates to “drift,” but thanks to some mid-20th century French philosophers, it can also refer to a spontaneous trip, completely free of plans, in which you let your surroundings guide you. This is a much different method of travel than either of us typically embark on, with lots of planning and strict itineraries. This is a journey of change, growth, awareness, and acceptance for what is.

We have some dates and timelines we must abide by, meeting up to leave, when to be at certain airports to pickup/drop-off family and friends that are visiting, visa limitations, etc. Other than the initial getting to México and our first couple of nights, we don’t know where this adventure will take us.

In my past adventures, I have been asked to write about them as most people don’t have the opportunities of travel that I have, and my stories are educational, funny, and inspirational – or so I’m told. I have found that the easiest way to reach people is on social media, but the little red flags and bells have me drooling worse than Pavlov’s dog, and I have better things to do with my time than watch cat videos and engage in toxic exchanges on social media. So the birth of this blog. If I can figure out a way to post my blogs posts of past adventures here, I will, but some of those are many years old and it might not be worth it.

The Dates

The current dérive plan – an oxymoron in itself is to enter México on May 14th, and to return sometime mid-late August, or maybe September… So as mid-May approaches, you will see more and more posts, and possibly a daily post once we enter México.

Meet the Players

El Alebrije – this is my beast. It’s a school bus conversion, it took me about 18 months to build. Another 24 months in fine tuning and changing things up to meet my needs. The latest iteration was to take out the two captain’s chairs and large dining room table, and in place install a sofa/lounge/bed and a smaller table (still sizable) for mobile work area/dining table, etc. For this trip, I will be taking just the bus. The Jeep (Pizote) stays home.

The word Alebrije is a new term in Mexican Spanish. For more information – visit El Alebrije

Owlbear – this combination is my friend GLRay’s rig. He bought the truck 18 months ago and the trailer about 8 months ago. We’ve been working on modifying the solar and electrical system of the trailer.

Owlbear Solar and Electrical Use Case

Unleashing the Power of Solar and Battery Systems: A Use Case for Electric Consumption in RVs

As the world moves towards sustainable living, more and more people are turning to renewable energy sources like solar power to meet their energy needs. This shift towards clean energy is also evident in the recreational vehicle (RV) industry, with RV owners increasingly exploring the use of solar and battery systems to power their adventures on the road. In this blog post, we will delve into the development of a use case for electric consumption, specifically for the specing of a solar and battery system in an RV.

Why Go Solar in an RV?

RVs are a popular choice for travelers who seek the freedom of the open road and the ability to explore new destinations at their own pace. However, traditional sources of power in RVs, such as generators or relying solely on the RV’s engine, come with their drawbacks. Generators can be noisy, require fuel, and emit harmful emissions, while running the engine for prolonged periods can lead to increased fuel consumption and wear and tear on the engine. This is where solar power can be a game-changer for RV owners.

Harnessing the sun’s energy through solar panels on the roof of an RV can provide a reliable and sustainable source of power. Additionally, coupling solar panels with battery storage allows for energy to be stored and used even when the sun is not shining, providing power during cloudy days or at night. This combination of solar and battery systems allows RV owners to enjoy the benefits of clean and quiet energy, while also reducing their environmental impact and saving on fuel costs.

Developing a Use Case for Electric Consumption

When it comes to specing a solar and battery system for an RV, it’s crucial to develop a comprehensive use case that takes into account the specific electric consumption requirements of your RV. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:

  1. Assess Your Energy Needs: Start by evaluating your RV’s energy consumption requirements. Consider the appliances, devices, and systems that you will be using in your RV, such as lights, refrigerator, air conditioner, water pump, and entertainment systems. Note down their power ratings, usage patterns, and estimated daily energy consumption.
  2. Determine Your Solar Panel Capacity: Once you have a clear understanding of your RV’s energy needs, you can calculate the solar panel capacity required to meet those needs. Consider factors such as the location and orientation of your RV during travel and camping, the average daily solar insolation in those locations, and the efficiency of the solar panels you plan to use. You can use online solar calculators or consult with solar experts to determine the optimal solar panel capacity for your RV.
  3. Choose the Right Battery System: Selecting the right battery system is crucial for storing and utilizing the solar energy efficiently. Consider the capacity, type, and voltage of the batteries based on your energy requirements and the available space in your RV for installation. Lithium-ion batteries are a popular choice due to their high energy density, longer lifespan, and lighter weight compared to traditional lead-acid batteries.
  4. Plan for System Integration: Once you have determined the optimal solar panel capacity and battery system for your RV, it’s essential to plan for their integration into your RV’s electrical system. Consult with a qualified electrician or solar installer to ensure the safe and efficient installation of the solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and battery system. Consider factors such as wiring, mounting, and protection against overcharging, over-discharging, and other electrical hazards.
  5. Monitor and Optimize Your System: After your solar and battery system is installed, it’s crucial to monitor and optimize its performance regularly. Keep track of your RV’s energy consumption and the performance of your solar panels and battery system. Make adjustments as needed to optimize the system.

This Specific Use Case

It took us about four months to develop a use case that was workable. Some of the challenges were changing expectations of what is possible and normal, and personal behaviors of consumption, and maintenance. A simple difference between home vs RV life is that at home, people typically let the faucet run while brushing your teeth, where as in an RV with only 50 gallons of fresh water and perhaps days until you’re at a place where you can refill, the behavior is modified to just get the brush wet or use a glass of water for the whole process. The same goes for electricity. Turn things off while not using them, turn the heat down, turn the cooling up, etc.

In the end, it was decided upon the following:

  • Batteries should have enough capacity for three days without sun.
  • Air Conditioning could only be run for short periods of time on batteries to initially cool the area.
  • Install more efficient air-movers to help circulate warm and cool air.
  • Technology such as internet, monitors, etc. are required and thus their consumption 24×7 must be taken into account
  • Solar panels should recharge a minimum of 30% batteries in six hours of good sun.
  • The Inverter should be able to run everything in the trailer, not all at once, but at a minimum, all minor loads and one major load such as the air conditioner, microwave, or electric heater.



It was decided to go with a 24v system. There are advantages and disadvantages with this. The primary advantage is efficiency and lower current. Following Ohm’s law, V * I = P where V is volts (the amount of electricity), I = current or amperage (the flow of that electricity), and P for power in watts (the amount of work that the supplied electricity can do). So increasing the voltage from 12 to 24 volts, in turns reduces the current by half while still providing the same amount of power.

The number of batteries, it was decided, were six 100ah @ 12v Battle Born LiFEPO4 batteries. These are arguably at the top of the industry, much of the price of them is for the name. But they work, and that was very important to GLRay. These batteries (more tech talk) were to be configured in three parallel lines of two batteries in series – yeah, it’s a mouthful and the head needs to be wrapped around that. Basically it means that the two batteries in series will bump the voltage up to 24v. You put three of these series together in parallel and that changes to available amperage up to a whopping 300/600 amps. Not that this system would ever use that, but hey… it’s available. We actually limited it to 200amps, as there is nothing in the trailer that would ever exceed that – not even if all of the loads were turned on at the same time.

These batteries will provide 300ah @ 24v of power or 7.2kwh. That’s a lot of power, but not enough to run air conditioners all day long.

Solar Panels

As the use case stated, we needed the batteries to be charged a minimum of 30% in six good sun hours. That would call for a minimum of 450w of solar panels on the roof. That would be the bare minimums. There is also an arbitrary rule of thumb ration of ah@12v : 2x w for batteries:solar. So for this ratio, for the 300ah @ 24 or 600ah @ 12v, we would need 1200w on the roof. Since solar panels are inexpensive, we went this route. We have six 200w panels on the roof feeding the batteries and they generate quite a bit of power.

System Components

Since I have experience with Victron Energy components in El Alebrije, we decided to go with Victron all around – well… almost.

The SmartSolar MPPT controller is a 150/70. What this means is that on the input side, it can convert up to 150v, and on the output side, it can convert up to 70amps to charge the batteries. So min-maxed this SmartController could support up to 2000w of panels on the roof. We only put 1200w up there – so room to expend if we need to.

The next thing would be the Orion DC-DC charger. This device functions to take the 24v battery power and convert it to 12v for the trailer. All of the components in the trailer are 12v. This is a little bit of added complexity, but the trailer would always have the required voltage to run everything there – without having to worry about the voltage fluctuation of drawing directly from a 12v source.

Next is the brain of the system – the Victron MultiPlus-II 24/3000 2x120v. That’s a mouthful. This device is both an inverter and a charger. It will take shore or generator AC power and convert it to DC @ 24v to charge the batteries. It will also take the 24v DC power and invert it to 120v AC to power things like the air conditioners, the microwave, and laptop chargers.

System Monitor

The system monitor is a display or UI that is installed in the trailer and relays pertinent information regarding the electrical system, holding tanks, and temperatures to the user. This is important for a variety of reasons, primarily to give information and knowledge. And as we all know, informed people and knowledge lead to power. With this information, we are able to adjust behaviors, change itineraries, etc. Without it, we would be surprised when we ran out of power or water – which would be a bad thing.

We chose to go with the Simarine Pico Blue. Made is Slovakia, they primarily focus on leisure water craft. It’s a pretty nice system, although there are some software issues – which, with time, are getting remedied.

Ironically, the main issue on the maiden voyage had to do with the Pico not reporting correct SOC (State of Charge) for the batteries, thus giving false information and a false sense of security – and a bit of frustration. That problem was fixed right away.

2022 Apple Harvest and Pressing

It’s that time of year again. 600lbs of apples sweating in the garage for a few weeks. Crush will be In a week or so. Then followed by pressing and a couple of bottles of sweat cider, and the rest to fermentation.

Last year my yield was low, I hope to double or triple it through a different crush process this year.

Since I made a new masher, I was able to double the yield from 2021. We got about 35gal of juice this year. Enough to make four different varieties and have a bit of simple cider left over to give away.

We had four varieties this year:

  • Pippin Crisp – a single varietal cider. Quite sour but is mellowing with time.
  • Just Cider – a multi varietal cider. Unfortunately this cider didn’t have enough sugar for the yeast and it became stressed and ended up being drinkable-but-funky
  • Guava Treat – a multi varietal cider back sweetened with guava nectar. Turned out quite nice with fruity hints of guava – not not to sweet.
  • Holiday Spice – the same multi-varietal cider back sweetened with holiday spices. This too was quite delicious and is getting better with time.