We are back from a wonderful week at the beach here in San Diego. (Actually Cardiff by the Sea) Just south of Encinitas. We were dry camping, which means there are no hookups for power, water or sewer. Since this would be our second adventure without hookups, we were ready and I knew what to expect.
We arrived around 3pm on Sunday (15th) and chose the wrong side of the kiosk to go thru towing the car. Next time we will stay left of the kiosk, not attempt the right side. I had called earlier in the week to find out if we should tow the car in or let Kathy drive it in. Turns out if we didn’t tow it, there is an extra $15 a day for the car. We towed it in.
Once inside the campground, there was a bit of a traffic jam just before our site. A guy with a trailer was heading the wrong way on the little campground roadway, I hadn’t been able tell what he was doing. It appeared to me he was leaving in the wrong direction. So we were going to need to back up, which requires detaching the car. By the time I got the car free of the coach, the guy had got his trailer backed into his site. Who knew..
I was now ready to pull the RV into the site so the front was facing the beach at maybe a 45 degree angle, giving a nice view out the windshield and also out the passenger side windows and door. Also a beautiful sea breeze in the windows!
The site was up on a tall bluff as we were at the north end of the campground. We deployed the slides, put down the outdoor carpet we purchased in Quartzite with the sweet hold-down method I learned while at a rally in Tucson last month. The new carpet gives us a 9′ by 24′ space to put out the lounge chairs, and they are so incredibly light, packing them away later is a breeze!
After we got everything inside and outside situated and ready to relax, I did a quick walk around the coach and realized the small 14″x 14″ panel that covers the water heater was missing. Ouch! I immediately realized that while at home last week, I had removed the anode rod to get a replacement and clean out the hot water tank. Turns out the rod was still about 98% good, so after cleaning it, I put it back in. Unfortunately it appears I did not turn the panel’s little keeper thingamajig enough to secure it fully and the panel popped off in transit from home to San Elijo Beach. So instead of relaxing with a cool one, I had to get in the car and retraced my drive to see if I could spot it.
Drove the 27 miles back home and then 27 miles back to the campground without seeing it. Once I got back, I asked Kathy to drive it again with me in the passenger seat this time. We got all the way back home and started heading back. As we approached the freeway on-ramp, I thought I spotted something on the side of the road in the bushes. Since we were going a bit fast and already on the freeway on-ramp, we had to drive to the next exit and circle back. On the second much slower drive toward the ramp, Kathy saw the panel to her left! I jumped out and grabbed the flattened panel. Sigh! But at least I found it so I could match the paint pattern on a new panel.
Once back to the campground after driving the 27 miles 4 times (108 miles) in the car, I was happy to have found the panel and celebrated with a few cold ones that evening.
That evening I did some research to find a tool to bend the flattened edges back so the panel would fit back into the side of the coach. Turns out what I needed was a Hand Seamer and found a couple listed in stock at the closest Home Depot.
Monday I drove there the next morning and couldn’t find it anywhere in the store. I asked three workers and they all pointed me in different directions, one explaining that he gets asked for them all the time and he says they don’t stock them. UGH. Anyway, I go find a fourth employee and show her the picture on my phone, and she doesn’t hesitate to look it up on her phone. Boom, she walks me over to a $60 one. I then ask if she has the $26 dollar one. She looks that up and leads me to a different part of the store where that model is hanging. (Why hand seamers would be in two different places is strange merchandising to me).
I get back to the beach, the glorious beach, and proceed to test out my new tool. It works and within an hour the panel is back in its place, a little worse for wear but covering the big white hole that had been there. [Thank goodness because there is a blazing flame in that compartment when the water heater is on!] From more than a few feet away, you cannot see all the dings and dents from being run over many times. Most of the paint is still there, mainly only came off on the edges that I needed to bend back to 90 degrees.
Kathy is saying I don’t need to replace it. That’s not going to happen. Those panels are only $50, so the paint will be the difficult part. I called Tiffin to get the paint colors and they gave me all 4 Napa paint codes. It appears Napa also will mix it and put it into a spray can. I will be trying to buy that next week.
Luckily a buddy I had invited to come down for pizza and beer Sunday afternoon didn’t see that text until late in the afternoon. We weren’t there much due to driving around looking for the lost panel. And we didn’t get pizza that night either. But we did Monday night. Ordered pies from Pizza Port in Solana Beach and picked them up. All in all a good day. And to make it better, the sunset was spectacular! Perfect ending to the day.
It turns out that SESB only allows running generators between 10am and 8pm. On Sunday afternoon I hadn’t realized that as I only read the part about 6am to 10pm as quiet time. So Sunday night I only remembered to turn on the genny at about 7:30pm and had to turn it off a half hour later, meaning we weren’t even close to fully charged for the night, and pretty far from it. So Monday morning we had a fairly low state of charge (SOC) to run the coffee maker, toaster, heater and microwave. Kathy tried to cook bacon in the micro and the inverter faulted and wouldn’t go back on.
Turns out I had modified the cutoff voltage from the default and moved it up too high. As we were at a fairly low SOC, the batteries went below the setting I set, causing the fault. After a bit, I figured out how to do a hard reset of the inverter and it powered back up. I called the manufacturer to see if my setup parameters were the issue, they were. They suggested I put the cutoff voltage back to the default of 10 volts, explaining that the batteries can easily drop to that during a high current draw (like the micro) then rebound back to 11 or 12 volts a second or two after the load stops. I turned it back, now knowing why it should be set that low. Everything I had ever read about lead acid batteries was 10 volts was a dead battery. But there is a difference if its under load, What they are talking about is a battery in a static state. Live and learn.
Monday night around 7pm I realized I needed to set an alarm to remind me to start the generator earlier, as they weren’t going to get fully charged again on Monday, but at least they would be around 95% charged instead of 80% SOC like the night before. I figured I need to start it around 6pm to get a full charge prior to the 8pm cutoff time.
Tuesday we finally got to tour the campground. I hadn’t realized it was so large, over 160 sites. We were almost to the north end and didn’t know the south end was at least twice the size. The furthest sites south are at beach level. And we found beachfront sites down there, some with full hookups. We talked to one of the camp hosts as I wanted to understand the length policy and FHU info. He stated it was a recommendation. You could bring in any length vehicle, but if it didn’t fit in your site, you were “SOL”, basically out of luck and couldn’t stay. Some of the sites could fit a 45′ coach and most could fit a 40′ one.
There is a nice little campground store just across from the entrance with quite a bit of stuff crammed in there. I was surprised they sold beer and wine in there. Kathy spied the ice cream, so I knew we’d be back soon. That evening my alarm worked perfectly, alerting me to run the genny around 6pm so we could full charge on the house batteries. They were almost to 98% when I had to shut it down. So by Wednesday morning, we had the routine working well. No issues running all the electric appliances in the morning. Our only other dry camping trip was in the desert north of Quartzite, where there are no generator run time restrictions, so we could run it whenever we needed it, like when all the appliances were running while making breakfast.
At night we headed back into the coach as the temps dropped into the low 60’s as soon as the sun went down and the wind made it feel much cooler. I had brought the new season of Bosch to watch, giving us a couple hours of watching after dinner each night in the warmth of the coach. There were a few hearty souls at other campsites (probably) shivering around pretty large campfires. Much larger than I would have expected the rangers to allow here.
On Thursday after lunch at The Taco Shop we decided to create a list of campsites we could fit into along the beachfront for making reservations for next year, taking into account a few very non-level sites not usable for our RV, or next to the dumpsters, restrooms or dump station, etc. I ranked them 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices so when we start trying to make reservations for next spring and summer, we can try to get the best sites.
While we were scoping out the sites, another camp host came over and started telling us which are the best sites and also about the FHU sites that are fair game for our rig too. Dick was his name, and he is a camp host this summer for 4 months and lives in Palm Desert most of the winter. He was telling us about his Alaska trip last summer and I am ready to start planning a four month trip starting June 2019 if anyone wants to caravan till sometime in September. He mentioned it was their second trip to Alaska. Prior to last summer they went there in 2007 with their previous coach. It sounded great, except the part about the big rock getting thrown up from a truck going the other direction in a small town that went right thru his windshield, a couple feet above his head. Seems like I might want to erect one of those Blues Brother fences… Rawhide!
We were leaving Friday, so we performed out last day ritual, thoroughly cleaning the coach. I really love the new Dirt Devil central vac I installed last summer. That thing could suck the hair off my head if it got too close.
One of my new favorite things is to put out and pull up the outside carpets. The lag screw and washer holding down for the carpet has made that job almost enjoyable with my little 12v impact driver. San Elijo dirt is almost as hard as that Tucson gravel we camped at a few weeks back, but the new hold-downs made short work of it.
Once we were ready to leave, Kathy drove the car home and I headed over to the dump station. It was easy in and easy out. I was impressed how clean the bathrooms and dump station were. Although, I didn’t camp over the weekend, so your mileage may vary.