Monday, January 15, 2007

Energy Crisis

Being stranded in front of the mechanics shop, waiting for the repair part to arrive has its ups and downs. Our RV is not only our home on wheels -- in many ways it's our office on wheels. Mary Ann has been productively occupied for the past couple of days creating images and printing out the photos she'll be using as portfolio fodder in her NANPA interviews. We are self-contained. Maybe we are a little low on water and have to be quick with the faucets, but the generator and inverter system have kept the printer and the hard drives and the computers up and running. The weather has turned cold, but our propane heater still has at least another day's use.

So I had no worries when Mary Ann finally printed her last photo and she packed and headed off towards Palm Springs in the Jeep. I had my own activities on the computer to keep me occupied, and the repair ought to be completed tomorrow.

But a couple of hours after the sun went down, and the temperature dropped to freezing, the generator stopped. I restarted it, but it only ran a minute or so before stopping again. The symptoms were clear. The generator had run out of gas.

Our RV is a gasoline rig, and the generator feeds off the same gas tank. The salesman, oh so long ago, said the generator probably took a gallon per hour, but I've never checked it out. We've stayed places for as long as four or five days before, using the generator for a few hours per day to recharge the battery system. We'd started following that same pattern, but due to the heavy office work, and perhaps a sense of complacency, we'd run it more hours per day than we'd done before. The problem was visibility. With the steering column in pieces, I hadn't been able to turn the key and look at the gas gauge. I'd been running blind.

So I quickly turned off most of the lights and considered my options. I didn't really need 110vac electricity, except a little to charge the laptop. But I did need 12vdc. The propane heater had some LPG left, but it still needed 12 volts to run the fans. I'd run most of the day off the battery system and it was down to 11volts and dropping. I'd started to recharge it with the generator when the gas ran out.

I can survive the freezing temperatures, out of the wind in my comfortable box, but I'd have to lay on the blankets.

However, I was only a little less than a mile from a truck stop. Why not give it a shot?

I bundled up in my ski-slope jacket and gloves and went for a walk.

The Petra station was strictly a truck stop. It was clear they had no gas pumps, only diesel, and no gas can to buy in the store. But next door, and probably run by the same company, was a Mobil station, and a 2 gallon plastic gas can. I bought my gas and trudged back to the RV. Adding it to the tank, I started the generator and it came right back up. I'll run it until it stops again. As I type, it's pumping 50 amps into the battery charging system, which ought to bring me back up to full power after awhile. And I'll time it, giving me a better idea of how much gas the generator uses per hour.

At worst, I can always go for another walk.

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