Category Archives: Casita

Category for my 13′ Casita Patriot that I just bought for my adventures. Casita and fiberglass RV articles, tips and advice as I learn them myself!

Accidental Casita Owner

The trailer hitch jack bottom was scraping on every dip, making a horrible screech. I stopped the truck and studied for a moment, feeling like a moron, until it hit me – the hitch on the truck was too low. Duh!

So I up and went to get a hitch that was a little higher, and attached it. When I got back to the Casita, I backed the truck, but heard a slight ‘thunk’ as I backed up too close. But as I shifted the stick to first gear, I didn’t account for the slope, and slipped backwards again before going forward. I heard a louder crunch, and in my panic I gunned the engine, and did this:

Done broke it!

The edge of the bumper snagged the trailer ball hitch lock, dragging Conchita la Casita a foot before the bumper gave way. Luckily the wheel chocks held, otherwise I might have seen the Casita roll down my brother’s steeply sloped street.

The Casita, except for a slight bent hitch latch, was none too much for wear, and while the trunk bumper will still work, I went online shopping for this unexpected “upgrade” on a truck I didn’t own.

C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

In my early twenties, a $200+ repair may have been much more serious, a choice between repair or eating. I remember living in San Francisco’s Lower Haight pre-tech days, living with 5 roommates and their significant others, who my roommates swore didn’t actually live with them, even though I saw them slipping in every night.

I worked in an outdoor cafe in the Embarcadero, serving the financial serfs, who would tell me unironically that they had to budget their morning lattes. I wanted to tell them, oh darn, I got up at 4am today, will work again tonight at an art film house in order to make rent. I can barely keep my eyes open

Broken lock

What the truck did

But, now I know, we all go through phases like that in our lives. I’ve had my salad days, and now almost feel like I’m coming around, but hopefully not full circle. Hopefully, more like a spiral, with maybe a similar spirit of adventure, and less financial tightrope walking.

I think with age, though, comes a certain knowledge about what you can withstand, what you have withstood. We get to a comfortable place, a place we had to claw tooth and nail to get to, taking evening classes, doing self-learning, making things up as we go. And suddenly, we reach a place we never thought we’d reach – a place of relative comfort.

But, back in the far reaches of our minds we remember that, yes, we too suffered and bore our suffering. I remember getting to Alaska in my mid-twenties, and standing in a cold room with that sorta fake wood paneling with the lady foreman saying she couldn’t find my resume. I was 2,000 miles from home with $50 in my pocket and no job. The salmon factory foreman told me to go pitch a tent at Tent City, and apply at unemployment.

Sometimes what is born out of what we think might be the worst of experiences are tales of unimagined adventure.

I remember riding camp bicycles to a local salmon factory, pretending we were new workers to steal showers, and free saltine crckers. These factories often had hundreds of workers, with new ones coming in every day, so no one questioned us.

There was a weekly soup kitchen that rotated volunteers from different churches. I loved the Baptists with their huge spread of casseroles, desserts, and even rarer – salad! Salad takes on a new meaning in places where everything is shipped in, so much from cuisine born from cans. Seeing fresh salad was a curiosity, a delight, more so than even than the desserts – though we had seconds of those as well! Made me want to convert!

And then the Catholics came, with their watery soup, and bread with no butter. Frost, this guy from Norway, at a burly 5 foot 4, with the blondest hair and beard, looking like a pocket Thor, said under his breath, ‘Man, I’m gonna just return this! This is Bullshit!’ We told him to shush, and be grateful. I, having been baptized Catholic, was mortified.

But I also remember wrapping the sleeping bag closer around me as the wind tried to rip the sheet plastic off the makeshift PVC tent poles. I remember feigning sleep, as the owner of the Tent City came by in the morning to collect the $6/day rent. And one night, hearing something large sniffing around my tent.

But eventually I got a job at the local shrimp factory, and things became more routine.

I think back on those days as I hold the broken lock, which my brother and I laughed over. There are much worse things that can happen when owning a Casita, this among the least of them. A $200 dollar repair beats the Casita running wild downhill ’til it meets some other immovable object. And no kids on a 4pm partly sunny afternoon. Lucky.

This weekend we plan on making another climbing trip down south, as a last hurrah before I set sail for Chile.

 

 

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Soapstone – Can it heat your Casita?

I was on the Casita Owners Facebook Page awhile back, and I saw a post about using a small soapstone tortilla press to heat up a Casita. I was intrigued that a person could simply heat a small soapstone press and then use it as a radiant heater for small spaces.

Well, I have a small space! At 13′, I have the smallest Casita fiberglass camper trailer that is sold today!

After researching different soapstone presses, I found a Soapstone Bacon Grill Press through Amazon:

Soapstone Bacon Grill Press (Photo: Amazon.com)

Soapstone Bacon Grill Press (Photo: Amazon.com)

Unfortunately, it is not currently available. But with a little searching I’m sure you could come up with something similar. Here’s what the packaging for mine looks like:

Sparq Soapstone Bacon Press

Sparq Soapstone Bacon Press

The wood handle keeps the soapstone cool to the touch

The wood handle keeps the soapstone cool to the touch

I wanted something with a handle, since with heating the soapstone would potentially get too hot to handle.

soapstone04

The dimensions are 6.5″ wide x 10.2″ tall, and 3.9″ on the handle side. It weighs 3.4 lbs.

I then proceeded to place the Soapstone press on my propane 2 burner stove to heat it up and test drive how effective it would be for heating up my 13′ Casita camper.

Soapstone on burner

Soapstone on burner

Long story short…

While the soapstone gave off heat for a long time (felt warm to touch after an hour), it was not useful for heating a small space, such as my Casita. I think if you had the idea to use this as a furnace substitute, or even to just take the edge of cold off, you’d be sorely disappointed.

I think a more appropriate use of the soapstone grill would be to heat it to 105-110 degrees farenheit and use it as a foot warmer. This is what small soapstones were traditionally used in the past, and for this use it is totally appropriate!

So, this particular press is not available, but this pizza stone is still available, and if you only heat it to 105-110 degrees you should be able to handle it either barehanded, or with a small cloth:

SPARQ Home Soapstone Flat Bread Pizza Stone, 12 by 16-Inch 

Soapstone Pizza Stone

In any case, testing this was useful for me so I could see what its appropriate use would be. Heating a Casita, at least at this size, is inappropriate. But as a bedtime foot warmer I could see it as very effective. It gives off a nice warmth for extended periods of time (at least an hour in my brief test). Enough to get to sleep, or for a night time read. But if you are looking for a furnace alternative, this soapstone would not work for that purpose.

 

 

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Lasko MyHeat

 

Review of the Lasko 100 MyHeat Personal ceramic heater

Last night I slept in Conchita, my 13′ Fiberglass RV Casita. The temps nowadays went to a low of 30 degrees overnight (November 27, 2016). I thought that would give me a good opportunity to  test drive the Lasko 100 MyHeat personal ceramic heater.

Sometimes I test drive...in my driveway

Sometimes I test drive…in my driveway

Reading the forums, and some of the fiberglass RV specific Facebook groups I heard of this product as a suitable heater to use when plugged in to shore power.  Some even said it’s low voltage use  is suitable for using on 12 Volt DC. It’s small size (The front is about the size of my hand) also lent itself well for tiny RV living, such as my 13′ Casita.

I knew I had to test drive this!

Well, it did blow out a warm stream, but at least in the 30 degree temps I experienced it didn’t really warm the place up. I did think it took the harsh edge of cold off, but as far as completely warming the Conchita I think I’ll have to look at a different product. I’ll keep it around for cool (but not cold) days.

Get the Lasko 100 MyHeat Ceramic Heater

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Casita Shopping List

I made a store on Amazon for stuff that I am considering getting. Many of the items on this list I now own – but not all of them! I always try to find reviews prior to buying, and then sometimes make video reviews based on personal use.

This list is just for items I had researched, and was thinking of buying at one time. I did my own filtering, but if you see similar items, it’s probably because I haven’t finalized my research.

I thought this might be useful for someone for ideas for essential and non-essential items to consider buying for their Casita, or similar Fiberglass RV. Leave a message below if you are wondering why a certain item is on my list, or if you have your own review of an item on this list.

http://astore.amazon.com/excavatortool-20

 

 

 

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Flexible Solar Panel Install – an additional 100 watts!

After testing the solar power in Moab, Utah, and in my driveway, I came to the conclusion that while the hot sun of Utah kept the battery topped off I noticed that in my shadowed driveway that the battery would slowly drain. If I hope to boondock for longer periods than a couple days I think a second 100 watt flexible solar panel attached to the roof would serve me well in keeping the battery topped off.

solar-in-desert

The rigid solar panel will have a flexible solar panel buddy on the roof of my 13′ Casita!

 

Flexible Solar Panel

I had previously used the Renogy 100 Watt Solar Kit with Adventurer Charge Controller. The panel that came with the kit is the regular rigid kind that is within a metal frame. I decided that a flexible solar panel would suit the roof of my Casita better than the regular rigid version as the flexible solar panels are lighter. I decided on the HQST 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel:

It’s a quarter of the weight at 4 lbs vs 16.5 lbs.

3M VHB Tape

I’ve also decided to not use screws to attach the panel, but to use 3M VHB tape:

VHB stands for “Very High Bond,” and they have several videos of manufacturers using the tape in place of rivets and other mechanical attachments, saving both time and money:

3M video on VHB tape. Will use this to attach the 100 watt flexible solar panel.

3M video on VHB tape. Will use this to attach the 100 watt flexible solar panel.

That two of the testimonials are from RV manufacturers (Yetti and Showhauler ) which bodes well for a rooftop install!

My concerns with a mechanical attachment, such as screws, are additional holes in the roof. I’d like to avoid that, if possible.

I consulted a 3M representative who recommended 3M VHB version # 4945 (or #5952) after I described the surface materials (gel-coated fiberglass, and the flexible solar panel plastic). He did mention that the tape would only be as strong as the gel coat and paint, rather than the fiberglass, and recommended considering abrading the surface down to the fiberglass, cleaning the surface with a combination of isopropyl alcohol and water, and then using an adhesive primer on the back of the panel prior to applying the tape:

So, attaching with the 3M VHB tape and using a lap caulk around the edge seems reasonable:

EDIT:
I decided instead to use Eternabond instead of VHB and Lap Caulk. Tape is just less messy than using lap caulk, and Eternabond seems to be sufficiently strong and waterproof for my application: Eternabond

What about the wires?

The only hole drilled will be for the wires to go into the trailer, protected by a cable entry gland:

Flexible solar panel wiring will enter through the roof with this cover.

Gland for the flexible solar panel wiring.

I’ll use the tape as well as the caulk for that as well.  The panel wires will go through the “glands” sideways. It acts as a waterproof cover, and will be nicer than a caulk covered hole in the roof!

No looking back(?)

Here’s the thing: I can always add a mechanical attachment. The holes will still be available to add a screw, so the adhesive will just be an additional attachment method.

I’ve seen other people saying they used this method, with no remarks that it failed. I have heard of industrial hook and loop (velcro) attachments failing, with solar panels flying off onto the freeway!

The tape can (with effort) also be removed.  You’ll need a 3M SMART Removal tool, as well as a 3M Stripe off wheel…but hopefully I won’t need to do that!

Only time will tell if this method will work well. But, I figure that If this does work, then I won’t have additional holes for rain to seep through, and can offer this as an alternative to drilling more holes in your RV.

Rain seems to be the universal destructor of RVs, and I’d like to do what I can to eliminate water entry points.

Check out the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/ZKQqHoT0fDw

Products used:
HQST Flexible Solar Panel
Eternabond tape
Link Solar Cable Entry Gland
RENOGY 5 Pair MC4 Male/ Female Solar Panel Cable Connectors Double Seal Rings for Better Waterproof Effect
1″ hole saw

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Solar – from start to finish!

In this article, I am going to show you how I was able to install the Renogy 100 Watt Solar kit – from start to finish!

But first, here’s the video with all the steps I outline in this article:

I want to emphasize that, much like William Hung, I have had no professional training:

I am not an electrician, nor do I represent myself as anyone other than an amateur that has managed to connect everything together in a way that works for me. Follow my directions at your own risk, and ask the advice of a professional if you have any concerns.

Okay, enough of the disclaimer, let’s get on with the Renogy Solar Panel Kit Install!

Step One: Lay out the Renogy Solar Kit with Adventurer Charge Controller.

Renogy, give me more energy!

Renogy, give me more energy!

The kit contains Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Battery, and a Power Inverter.  As I outlined before, the components work like this:

  1. The Solar Panels collect the solar energy and uses it to generate an electric charge.
  2. The Charge Controller, both controls the charge coming from the solar panels, as well as tests the battery energy levels and coordinates so that the appropriate amount of energy from the panels go to the batteries. If the batteries are topped off it will shut down the energy stream from the panels to the battery. Alternatively, if the batteries are low, then the floodgates will open to send more energy from the panels to the batteries. Think of the Charge Controller as the gatekeeper of energy from the panels to the battery.
  3. The Batteries store the solar energy for use.
  4. The Power Inverter “inverts” the power coming from the battery from 12 volt DC to ordinary household power: Alternating Current or AC.

Remember: Don’t freak out!

Sean Connery: Shafety firsht

Sean Connery: Shafety firsht

Seeing the box full of wires and unfamiliar electrical boxes that did dangerous electrical things gave me pause. But a few calming breaths later (and the watching of a few thousand YouTube installation videos later) and I was able to pull myself together and start. Frankly, there’s a bunch of crap videos that only show the finished product, not the crucial parts one would like to see when installing one of these on one’s own. But there are enough clues within them, as well as online articles to piece together everything.

Frankly, I didn’t look at the manual until AFTER I completed the kit. This speaks volumes more on how Renogy put together the kit than any mechanical ability on my part. I simply spread out all the components out and figured out what end of the wire goes where, and realizing that they only could go in one way.

Step 2: Lay out the components

Panel in the...aisle

Panel in the…aisle

The Solar panel has two wires attached in back that are labelled with a “+” sign for positive, and a “-” sign for Negative. They have male and female ends, which shouldn’t be confused with polarity, they just mate with their opposites. As long as you know which wire is Positive, and which wire is Negative the different male and female ends make it fairly idiot proof. And, like I said, only the set of wires with the corresponding ends could possibly work with the panel.

Female end, not necessarily the "Negative" end. A distinction with a difference!

Female end, not necessarily the “Negative” end. A distinction with a difference!

The Panels connect to the Renogy Charge Controller:

Charge Controller - Renogy Adventurer

Charge Controller – Renogy Adventurer

The Charge Controller controls the charge that goes from the panels to the battery. In the back of the Charge Controller there are squeeze terminals to put in the bare wire ends. The slim guide that comes with the kit is actually useful in this case as it identifies which openings are for the batteries.

In this case I have a single Interstate SRM-27 Deep Cycle battery:

Interstate 27 size battery

Interstate 27 size battery

Interstate Batteries are not sold through Amazon, but Amazon does have an equivalent battery.

The last step in the energy journey goes from the battery (12V DC) to the Pure Sine Wave Inverter. Pure Sine Wave is important if you want to run delicate electronics such as Laptops and Cell phones. You don’t want a dirty, or even modified sine waves screwing up your electronics!

Invert me!

Invert me!

Step 3: Decide where to place the Charge Controller and Inverter

Frankly, this took me some thinking. You want the Charge Controller to be as close to the battery as possible, so that there is minimal energy loss. You also want the Charge Controller to be in a place where it is fairly easy to view the LCD screen, so you can monitor the energy as easily as possible. I placed both the Controller and Inverter in the front of my Casita RV, near the Battery which was located on the trailer tongue outside of my Casita.

Cables exiting the battery box

Cables exiting the battery box

Controller and Inverter, together in perfect harmonyer!

Controller and Inverter, together in perfect harmonyer!

You can decide to mount the Controller and Inverter at this point, or do as I did, which is left them loose until I connected everything and verified that it worked first. If you determined that your wires are long enough, then I don’t think it matters which you do first: mount the boxes now, or after testing.

Step 4: Connect the Batteries to the Inverter

You might be thinking, “Don’t I want to connect the Solar Panels to the Battery first?” You could, but I decided to do the simplest thing first. An inverter will work regardless of whether you have a solar panel or not. It simply inverts the DC power to AC so you can use a standard plug with AC devices like your computer. You simply connect battery cables to the inverter and test. If your electrical device doesn’t work, you may have your polarities crossed.

Once the battery is connected, flip the switch and a red light should come on:

Scotty, we need more power!

Scotty, we need more power!

You can test the outlets by plugging in a small electrical device, in my case I use a small bathroom bulb:

Cap'n, I'm giving you all she's got!

Cap’n, I’m giving you all she’s got!

Step 5: Connect the Solar Panels to the Charge Controller

I covered the panels so that the outgoing charge would be low:

Panel cover

Panel cover

I then connected the panel extension wires, female to male, and male to female, making sure I knew which one was positive.

Solar Panel wire connectors to Charge Controller

Solar Panel wire connectors to Charge Controller

I fed the wires through the hole I drilled and capped with the conduit squeeze connector:

Drill, baby, drill!

Drill, baby, drill!

Fiberglass hole, yo

Fiberglass hole, yo

 

Electrical squeeze conduit

Electrical squeeze conduit

Wires going from Solar Panels to the charge controller, and charge controller to the battery.

Wires going from Solar Panels (black pair) to the charge controller, and charge controller to the battery (red and black pair).

Step 6: Test the connection!

I added a kill switch both for the Solar Panels going to the Charge Controller, as well as the Charge Controller to the Battery:

Kill kill switch

Kill kill switch

Once I was ready I uncovered the Solar Panels, and threw the kill switch to “On.” Then I checked the Charge Controller to see if the panels were registering a charge:

Power up!

Power up!

“PV” stands for “Photovoltaic” and “V” indicates the volts, in this case 14 volts.

Yow, I’ve got power! Enough to run my laptop and charge my cell phone while boondocking.

Macbook powering up!

Macbook powering up!

Solar...in the Sahara...with you!

Step 7: Enjoy!

solar-in-desert

Solar…in the Sahara…with you!

I took my setup to Shelf Road near Canon City, Colorado, as well as Moab, Utah during my solar shakedown trip during Steph Davis’ Crack Climbing Clinic she was running in October.

It worked very well, I was able to power my laptop and cell phone with no problem, especially in the bright desert sun of Moab. I found I could park in the shade and pull my panel to where the sun was unimpeded by shade trees, maximizing my solar input and output.

I did see that when the sun was not so strong, say in my driveway, the single panel in my test wasn’t sufficient in keeping the battery topped off. I’ve read warnings that in order to keep your deep cycle batteries healthy it is best to not let them dip past 50%. In my shady driveway I was not able to do so.

My next plan is to add an additional 100 watts to the roof in a semi-permanent installation. I think that this should take care of most issues in getting enough power to charge the battery. That, and possibly getting a second battery, but for now I will just see how effective a second panel will be.

Solar - from start to finish!

Solar – from start to finish!

Stay tuned!

 

Gear:

 

 

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Steph Davis Crack Climbing Clinic

Author, low on crack

Author, low on crack. Chris Kalous from Enormocast watches

Been eyeing the October Crack Clinic that Steph Davis runs in Indian Creek since July.  Facebook helpfully put it in front of my eyeballs every few days or so, but I wasn’t sure if I could stomach the expense: $1,400 for 2 days of training? EarthTreks (ET) in Golden, my home gym, has a crack clinic that was free to members!

But I have been following Steph’s adventures, from her soloing a route on the Diamond in Colorado, to her BASE and wingsuit flying – for a few years now. To actually take a course from someone who has mastery of a subject is a rarity.  I don’t see many of her calibre conducting courses. I considered some  more…

Steph, on her FB profile, put out the word: “There is one spot left on my October Crack climbing clinic…” I emailed her, expecting not to get it, actually. I responded late, but to my surprise she said I got the last spot, and after sending a $900 Paypal deposit I would be good to go.

That’s when I got nervous.

Living in Wheat Ridge, I am right next to Golden, and 15-20 minutes from Clear Creek Canyon, my home crag. I also take expeditions to Eldorado Canyon, as well as Boulder Canyon, Devil’s Head and Shelf, but none of those places are really known for crack climbing. You might find an occasional crack on granite in Clear Creek, but for the most part a continuous crack is the exception, not the norm.

Crack climbing is what that old guy is doing on the seams in the rock gym, running laps in his taped up mitts, while all the youngsters climb the regular sport routes wondering what the hell he’s doing.

The straight and slippery crack climbs in the gym only have a fading resemblance to actual sandstone cracks that populate the crags in the desert Southwest of Utah and Arizona. Sandstone has the properties that generate these hundreds of feet long cracks soaring into the sky. The first time I saw a video of someone climbing one I knew that I wanted to try it. It just looked so beautiful: a person self-suspended using only a crack as the basis for applying tension to progress upwards. Seemed like the impossible made possible.

And the desert sandstone tower scenery could not be beat.

It looked like my love affair with climbing – all over again.

But, could lightning strike twice? Would I love crack climbing the way I loved sport climbing, and trad climbing? It seemed to have some elements of off-width climbing with compression and using not so much finger strength to progress, but major muscle groups.

I know that that famous off-width woman Pamela Shanti Pack did offwidth for that reason. She had some sort of physical condition that prevented the use of her hands, so she switched to off-widths. But crack climbing also had it’s own arcana of hand and foot compressions, things like ring locks and finger locks, crushed toes
– and pain.

That’s what one of my climbing partners told me, ‘Crack climbing is about enduring pain. And doing that same damn thing over and over.’

I chuckled with him at the time, thinking ‘Who the hell would think to do crack climbing?’

But then I started seeing photos on Imgur and Facebook, of my friends and acquaintances climbing in the middle of a soaring crack, hands sunk wrist deep, toes only an inch or two in the seam – seeming impossible, but yet enough to attach and progress upwards. The scenery combined with this kind of levitation seemed to suggest that there was something there there.

So, I took a preparatory crack climbing class offered at ET. I was the only one who signed up.

The instructor, though, was enthusiastic in showing me the magic of crack climbing. He showed me how to do finger jams and hand jams; toe jamming had their own character of excruciating pain, and I lost skin in the fist jams. It was painful, and I kept slipping and getting spit off, but I did, at the end, managed to get up half a climb in a go before popping off my stance.

I felt wrecked, my breathing ragged, and about to throw up. The instructor told me climbing inside cracks was harder.

“When you get onto sandstone, first of all sandstone is grippier. The cracks at indoor gyms are all straight and smooth, making it harder to find purchase for your feet and hands,’ he said. “And on real rock you can find edges and surface irregularities to grip, even inside cracks. Also, you’ll also find opportunities on the face to do some face climbing.”

I did learn some things from the ET teacher, but I soon found out that there’s a lot more subtleties to learn when you get on the actual sandstone cracks of Indian Creek.

Coincidentally, I also just bought a small (13′) Casita travel trailer I named “Conchita la Casita,” and this seemed like a good cross-the-border shakeout trip.

Conchita la Casita

Conchita la Casita

I left for Shelf Road the Friday prior to the Monday that the crack clinic would start.

I mean, why not start the shakeout with a trip to Shelf – see how Conchita likes the dirt roads and ruts of Sand Gulch prior to the desert of Moab.

Rod czeching out the solar

Rod czeching out the solar

With some backing up shenanigans, pine branches scraping the sides of both Conchita and my Subaru WRX I was finally able to get a (relatively) flat area for my Casita, and set up the solar, etc.

I think after running the ruts and dirt road, and attempting to get to the Bank campground up the steeps – that I need a new TV (Tow Vehicle).

While I was able to turn around from the Bank road and get a spot at Sand Gulch below it made me realize the limitations of my WRX as a tow vehicle.

One, the previous owner had lowered the Impreza, so clearance, especially when weighted, was an issue. Deep cavities and high bumps left me bottoming out. I could tell from inspection that the rear wheels scraped the inside of the wheel wells, and that my front bumper would shake loose if I kept this off-roading up.

It’s not that my WRX couldn’t tow the weight, it’s when I left the nice smooth freeways and highways and hit the dirt roads was where I was failing/flailing.

I needed to get a truck.

Except, this is what I think of when I think “truck”:

truck

Gas hogs, road nuisance, waste-of-space-space grabber, blahblahblah.

But, the time has come.

Shelf it!
Shelf, as always, was completely great.

The Gallery, Shelf Road, Canon City, CO

The Gallery, Shelf Road, Canon City, CO

My brother and I explored the Gallery. I thought it might be mobbed by weekenders, but while there were about 3 groups we didn’t have trouble getting on our routes.

Rod, gettin' it!

Rod, gettin’ it!

I love this climbing area, I love the limestone and the cheap camping – and that’s all you need, right?

Rod, fish-eyed

Rod, fish-eyed

This is what I see when I look over at Rod most times

This is what I see when I look over at Rod most times

Author, top of a Gallery route

Author, top of a Gallery route

But, after a second night it was Sunday, and time to head to Moab.

Adieu Shelf!

Adieu Shelf!

We were to meet at this Cafe in Moab. After camping at Mill Canyon Road 15 miles northwest of Moab off 191 I went to the cafe and waited.

Camping at Mill Canyon Road - free!

Camping at Mill Canyon Road – free!

When Steph arrived, I recognized her instantly from the videos – dark hair, earnest eyes, big smile when she recognized someone. She was shorter than I thought her to be – for some reason I thought she’d be taller. Which is funny, because I thought Cedar Wright would be shorter than he was.

Famous climbers are not like other famous people. Like, they aren’t mobbed or anything. But climbers know. You could tell the climbers by the way their eyes tracked her movement through the crowd.

She seemed at first glance like an organized, but normally disorganized person, as she handed out information sheets and collected money. Like a person who is normally a tad disorganized, but has learned to be more organized. I think this was her 6th crack climbing clinic, so she had some under her belt. When we were about to leave, she received a text from the last person saying they would be 15 minutes late.

Oops,almost left a person!

Anyway, I decided to leave earlier since I had my camper and needed to see if I could navigate the turn into her land.

“My boyfriend Ian will be there. He’s clearing a flat place for your RV,” Steph said.

I thought, that was mighty nice of him!

I was the first person to arrive, and while I lost the hooks on the side of my Casita when it scraped the side of the entry gate, I was able to get to my spot and park.

Casita hooks scraped off on turn

Casita hooks scraped off on turn

Only got stuck a couple of times in the Moab sugar dust (see “need to buy a truck” above).

Why, hello neighbor!

Why, hello neighbor!

My neighbor Cindy owned the rig parked next to mine. It was a large deisel 3500, which her bf was selling. “He arrives Friday, if you are interested,” she said.

Steph's Octagonal yurt

Steph’s Octagonal yurt

This is where we would congregate in the mornings, get our meals and collect our lunch wraps. We were all camped, either in tents, or trucks, campers and cars. I think mine was the only camper trailer in the group.

The first day started with how to tape our hands

Desert thorns vex me

I should have learned how to tape BEFORE the clinic!

And we were soon climbing the cracks

steph-davis-crack-018

The cracks looked impossibly tall and intimidating, but the settors Chris Kalous (of Enormocast fame), and Mary Harland, a Colorado climber I hadn’t heard of prior, but am learning more about her, set the routes in their approach shoes. They didn’t seem overly concerned with slipping, their technique perfect in what for them must have been easy crack climbs.

I can’t remember the names of the routes, but they said they were 5.10’s and 5.11’s.

“Take the grades in Indian Creek with a grain of salt,” Steph said. “The grades don’t mean as much here.”

So much depends on the size of hands and feet and the size of the cracks they are stuck into. A route easier for large man-hands might require double hands for the thinner woman-hands.

We got a quick tutorial in how to insert and expand our hands, and how to slide our feet in sideways and “cam” them by drawing the knee to the centerline.

Steph and Chris Kalous tutorial on crack climbing.

Steph and Chris Kalous tutorial on crack climbing.

Crack climbing on sandstone I found easier than the gym cracks – but still very hard. I appreciated my time at the gym, though, as I seemed to have a better handle on how to climb it than a few of the others.

One girl, Gabby, while she climbed well came down and said “That was really hard!”

Crack addict (photo: David Clifford)

Crack addict (photo: David Clifford)

Eve at Indian Creek, Photo: David Clifford

Eve at Indian Creek, Photo: David Clifford

It was. And sort of terrifying – but in a good way. Like the first time I learned to climb – it was hard and painful, and I couldn’t wait to get back on it again!

After my second route I knew I would need to come back.

More Indian Creek

More Indian Creek

The second day was more of the same, except we went to the shadier side of the Creek.

steph-davis-crack-021

Again, I was amazed at how the route settors climbed in their street shoes. This day we had the opportunity to do some fake leads – on top rope, but with a second rope to set cams and clip into.

I don’t get this opportunity – to fake lead with a belay, and a second rope. Although it was only optional – I wanted to do the fake lead.

I ascended the crack okay, setting the pro as I thought it should be set – squeeze the cams close, shove into crack, crank and yank to see if it was secure – move on.

But when Mary took a look at my placements, it was a litany of “This is bad,” “Too open”, “If I had to grade this you would have failed.”

Funny, my long term trad partner always just took a look, and said my placements were fine.

I found out that the cams need to be (ideally) closed so that it looked like a heart shape. It’s like 75-90% closed. It allows optimum pressure, and also if it “walks” it can still open more to re-cam the sides of the cam.

Instead of moving to the other routes I decided to wait my turn and do it again, this time the right way.

Dave, the photographer took pics of us as we ascended the route.

steph-davis-crack-020

I belayed and waited and belayed again.

Finally, it was my turn, and I made sure my cams were closed perfectly, placed perfectly.

Mary went up again, “This is good!” she said. “This is another good placement!”

I found her to be a stern teacher, but every time she said “Good!” I felt like I had accomplished something.

“You went from a “D” student to an “A” student,” Mary said.

“Thanks. I feel like a better leader now,” I told her.

I walked around to the other routes, but it was nearing 3pm, when Steph would go over anchors. I was only able to look at the beautiful cracks, wondering when I’d be back.

The anchoring lesson was everything I already knew, but it was good to have a refresher.

Steph, going over anchoring

Steph, going over anchoring

There was some discussion about the safety of daisy chains. Apparently, Americans were buying so few that they were not any available in the U.S. for our clinic. The issue was that if used incorrectly, with the carabiner between loops the daisy chain would fail. Chris mentioned that some people had died supposedly.

“Who, who died?” Steph asked. “No, I really want to know!” Her thought is that it was an internet rumor thing, that no one had really died using it, and although it can fail in using it wrong, she would never use it that way.

Steph Davis and I, Photo: David Clifford

Steph Davis and I, Photo: David Clifford

On a quick search on “Daisy Chain Failure,” although I found several articles warding against it’s use in anchoring I could find nothing regarding an actual death. The closest thing I could find was an article on the death of Todd Skinner, but that was his daisy chain fraying his belay loop to failure, not a failure of the daisy chain itself.

The Metolius PAS was supposed to basically replace the daisy chain, and ensure this wouldn’t happen. But the one thing about Steph was that she went as light and fast as possible, and the PAS was both bulkier and heavier than her preferred daisy chain – and that made the difference.

Personally, I have the PAS, and while I understand that incorrect use of any piece of gear can make any gear fail, I thought the extra weight was worth the extra safety. Steph continued, and we then broke out into groups to practice.

And then the clinic drew to a close.

Taping up

Taping up! Photo: David Clifford

It seemed to happen so fast, from start to finish. I felt worked, but more in tune with what crack climbing required. I thought about what it would take to get me back out here again – and I wanted to be out here again!

I found Steph to be as I imagined her: positive, earnest, straightforward. Present.

I overheard her at one of the dinners talking about “…everyone was there, everyone was present…” talking about authenticity.

And that’s mostly my impression of her: authentic, present.

Steph Davis and I watch the climbers. (photo: David Clifford)

Steph Davis and I watch the climbers. (photo: David Clifford)

When someone in the group mentioned her fame, she just didn’t respond, just smiled and continued on. I thought that she appreciated what her fame had brought her – sponsorships, free gear, ability to draw a group who paid $1,400 for the opportunity to learn and to spend a couple days with her. But, other than that she didn’t let it affect her.

It seemed to me like it was something outside her; she didn’t allow it to go to her head, nor did she assign it any importance outside of what it allowed her to do. It would interfere with being absolutely herself. At least, that was my impression.

Group gathered around for the anchor clinic.

Group gathered around for the anchor clinic.

I remember one of the girls looking up and saying, “She’s so beautiful!” as Steph climbed a long crack. I looked up and had to agree.

Steph seemed completely in her element climbing the desert crack. Fully acclimatized to the environment she found herself in. Hand, then foot…foot, then hand. Rising like the wild thing she is.

 

Details

 

Learn More!

Books by Steph Davis:

Learning to Fly:

High Infatuation:

 

 

 

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Review: KingCamp COMPASS Outdoor Car Canopy Tent

KingCamp Car Canopy - can be used for your small camper trailer or RV. Perfect for the Casita!

KingCamp Car Canopy – can be used for your small camper trailer or RV. Perfect for the Casita!

The thing about my Conchita – without an awning you’re either inside – or completely out. There’s no transitory area, like the covered porch of a house, an in-between area that has some shelter from the elements, but you still feel like you are outside.

And so, my search for something “awning-like”.

After looking at SUV tents, like Napiers SUV Tent as being too, I don’t know “tent-like”:

…I was searching for something more open, like an awning without the weight or cost – or even permanence. Something that shades, but is inviting to neighbors, that says, ‘Come, take rest beneath my shade.’

Which led me to KingCamp’s COMPASS Outdoor Car Canopy Tent:

 

I bought this off of Amazon, which from the description and images  of the item, I felt I could make it work with my Casita.

It comes in a nice grey bag:

KingCamp canopy bag

KingCamp canopy bag

Unfurled, the canopy is quite a bit larger than what I thought it would be.

 

Canopy spread out

Canopy spread out

From what I could see on the photos on Amazon, it is usually attached with the short side towards the SUV hatch back, and extends the full length outwards. What I wanted to do was have the long end against the side of Conchita la Casita, only extending outwards – like an awning, but more voluminous.

Bienvenidos a mi Casita!

Bienvenidos a mi Casita!

One of the poles was actually damaged – the stretchy cord in the center of the pole was cut, so I had some segments that were loose, and not attached to the pole it was from.

I was able to figure out I could just attach them, and extend the poles the full length. The stretchy cord was really just to keep the poles together, not really interfering with the functionality other than being a nuisance to figure out where the segments go.

I almost sent this item back, but seeing the canopy go up, and with an upcoming trip to Moab, I thought that it’s just a little more trouble to set up. I was annoyed that the quality seemed diminished by the cord being cut, but I thought that the fit and finish of the canopy material, the pockets where the pole ends go, and the bungie cord were of high quality.

I can live with the poles not being attached by the center cording, I thought. And dealing with another return (I was sending something else back to Amazon that arrived broken) was something I preferred not to deal with.

There’s something about tent canopies – how the soar upwards like the roof of a church, billowing with a breeze. And while the poles held the ends up fine in my garage, I could see how they might collapse from something other than a completely windless day. But since I planned on boondocking for most of Conchita’s journeys, I could add some extra cording to steady the poles with ends staked to the ground for support.

The long side is just about perfect for a 13′ Casita, fitting nearly exactly to the side, and the ridge above the Casita door makes for an edge to rest the corresponding edge of the canopy. Secure the bungie on my rear trailer hitch structure, and the other side on the trailer tongue secures the side next to the Casita.

The rubber ending poles basically just stand one end on the ground – supporting the ends that extend out.

I bought some 12′ tie downs that I could ratchet down to add additional support to the poles:

I think with these the canopy could actually take a bit of wind, but really I think you’d want to remove the canopy in anything too windy.

Tonight it rained on my house in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, but standing under the canopy next to Conchita la Casita it was nice and dry.

This, in my opinion, is a great addition to a 13′ Casita, and probably the larger ones as well. Recommended!

Shopping list:

Other items considered:

 

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Tour of Conchita la Casita

Launching the GripandClip YouTube channel with a tour of Conchita la Casita! Conchita means “Little shell” in  Espanol, which I think apropos since “Casita” is Spanish for “Little house,” and Casita’s outer shell is composed of two fiberglass “shells”. The 13′ version of the Casita is the smallest of the Casita fiberglass RVs, but within that space they pack a bunch.

Without further ado, here’s the video with a tour of my Casita:

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Solar Prep

In October, I will be attending Steph Davis’ crack climbing clinic in Moab.

This will be my second trip with Conchita, and my first out of the state of Colorado.

I’ve been thinking more and more about boondocking, and what it takes to go off grid. I’ve spent a week as a tent camper at an RV resort, and I think I’d like to avoid those places unless necessary. I’m a long-term tent camper at BLM and National Forest campgrounds, and find the numerous amenities like showers and stores do not outweigh the sound of HUGE RV generators and loud neighbors – at least for me. While I do plan on using those RV campsites on occasion (and am open to having my views changed), most likely I will go the boondocking route.

I’ve discounted having a generator, for aforementioned reasons – I’d like a quiet, no-gas solution for my energy needs. And while I’ve been given suggestions as far ranging as wind-power, and even water and fire powered, the solution that keeps returning is, you guessed it: Solar.

The cost of solar has dropped over the years, and now seems like a great time for exploring solar as a way to get off-grid.

I’ve looked into it for my house, and the price I was quoted for my small 1200 square feet house was around $13,000. But, my 13′ Casita seems like a perfect opportunity for me to learn how to do it myself for a complete off the grid solution.

After researching solar systems for RVs, I kept coming across a company called Renogy.  Many other fiberglass RV owners, as well as other types of RV owners seemed to gravitate towards using Renogy products. Both their products and their customer service seemed to get high marks, as well as the ease of installation for the average user.

In my research, in order to build a complete solar system what I’ve found are the following necessary components: Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Battery, and a Power Inverter. The components worked like this:

  1. The Solar Panels collect the solar energy and uses it to generate an electric charge.
  2. The Charge Controller, both controls the charge coming from the solar panels, as well as tests the battery energy levels and coordinates so that the appropriate amount of energy from the panels go to the batteries. If the batteries are topped off it will shut down the energy stream from the panels
  3. The Batteries store the solar energy for use.
  4. The Power Inverter “inverts” the power coming from the battery from 12 volt DC to ordinary household power: Alternating Current or AC.

After pricing different systems, and frankly not knowing much about solar, I was looking for an all-in-one solution. The only one I could find that had:

  • 100 watts Solar Panel
  • Charge Controller
  • Inverter
  • All the necessary wiring

– was a Solar Panel Kit by Renogy:

This kit has everything except the battery: 100 watt Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Power Inverter. I feel more reassured using a kit since presumably all components have been tested to be compatible with each other. Reading further, it looks like you can add up to 4 100 watt panels, so it is even set for expansion.

I already had the battery, but am thinking of adding a second. I planned on using the single marine deep cycle battery that came with my Casita (Interstate SRM-27) until I feel I need a second (probably).

Many websites recommended figuring out my energy needs beforehand, and you know, basically it’s my iPhone and 13″ MacBook Pro.

From the Reduction Revolution website, I found the following:

Most of the time I find that my MacBook Pro uses around 12 watts. It uses 16-18 watts when crunching something (eg. opening a program, saving a file, etc). It’s power consumption peaks up to around 30 watts (eg. when starting up).

From the discussion form on Apple, I found that the iPhone charger uses:

iPhone wattage

iPhone wattage

So, fairly low power consumption, especially compared to a lot of folks I’ve ran into who power their Satellite TV, X-Box, refrigerators and air conditioning!

Basically, I don’t want to be forced into town in order to charge my (minimal) electric devices. (Wifi is another story…) But since my income is dependent on using my laptop, and my cell phone is my connection to the rest of the world, these 2 items are a must for me. A semi-reliable source of power is a must.

So, I’ll update y’all once the Renogy Solar Kit arrives, and how I install them for my Casita!

 

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