Featured

Travel trailer power inverter setup for boondocking and dispersed RV camping

All over the internet you will find articles, and reviews about RV’s and power inverters. If you are searching for an inverter it can become quite confusing, and very expensive depending on your setup. To determine what size inverter you will need in watts is a simple multiplication formula, amps times volts. Our Keystone is a 30 amp, so 30 amps x 120 volts = 3,600 watts. Plugged into a 30 amp power outlet we can run all normal AC appliances such as the TV, refrigerator, hot water heater, dehumidifier, lap top, and a few plug in air fresheners. If the air conditioner is running we have to turn off the hot water to run the microwave, toaster oven, or coffee pot otherwise if the hot water kicks on it may, and has tripped the main breaker.

We chose a 3000 watt inverter manufactured by SUNGOLDPOWER. We excluded the air conditioner, obviously we don’t have enough batteries, or solar to run it. We also excluded the electric hot water, and refrigerator, anytime we are running off our inverter these are switched over to run on propane. We sized our inverter based on a normal small appliance load, plus being able to run the microwave and coffee pot (sometimes you forget your not in a house and try to run multiple appliances with no second though). We settled on a 3000 watt inverter, playing with the amps times volts formula to figure that’s a 25 amp output on the 120 volt side of the inverter, slightly under what our Passports AC electrical system is designed for. We could have gotten a smaller inverter but many installations with smaller inverters also require, separate transfer switches, battery chargers, MPPT solar controllers, multiple wiring connections, switches, and circuit protectors. We went with a fully self contained grid tie inverter capable of 25 amps AC output, 90 amps of DC battery charging, 60 amps of MPPT solar charging, and switching from grid to invert mode automatically with no disruption to the power supply. This thing is a beast, it weighs 79 pounds and pulls 12 amps DC with no load other than the internal electronics. If it was loaded to the 3000 watt rating it would pull roughly 250 DC amps, and that’s what we fused it for on the battery terminal, although we may step up to a 300 amp terminal fuse to give a little wiggle room and not blow the fuse now that we have replace the deep cycle lead acid batteries with battle born LiFePO4 lithium deep cycle batteries.

This is not a boondocking friendly inverter if you are just looking at the amp draw without a load, to reduce our DC power usage when large AC appliances are not in use we installed a Wagan 400 watt pure sine wave power inverter, and a (DPDT) double pole double throw relay. This inverter powers the small appliances like the TV, dehumidifier, and plug in air fresheners with no problem and only uses about 7 DC amps to do it.

The circuitry goes like this, 120 volts is supplied to the factory 30 amp shore plug, either by an electrical grid power source, or our 3100 watt champion generator. This wire was disconnected from the factory WFCO converter main breaker, it was ran up to the underbay where our inverter is mounted and terminated to the input breaker of the inverter. The 120 volts then comes through the inverters transfer switch either as line voltage or inverter voltage, goes out the output breaker to the DPDT relay, activates the 120 volt coil closing the normally open contacts and sending the 120 volts back to the WFCO converter panels main breaker and powers all outlets in our travel trailer. If we are boondocking then the big inverter stays in standby mode, the DPDT relay is in the normally closed position and the smaller 400 watt inverter supplies 120 volts to the WFCO main breaker. From the factory the WFCO power converter charger was sharing a breaker with the TV, we installed it on a separate breaker and keep it turned off. You do not want the converter powered from the batteries, this causes a loop loss and will drain your batteries for no reason.

We purchased the Renogy 200 watt solar kit with the standard wanderer controller. The panels were great but the controller not so much so we knew we would probably want to upgrade it in the future. The MPPT charge controller built into our inverter allows us to expand up to 1200 watts worth of solar panels, we have added a plug so we can hook our 100 watt Renogy suitcase panel up to provide a total of 300 watts of solar power. In full sun conditions we will get 15 amps charge from our three panels, during the day when we are out and about not using much power this will recharge our batteries no problem. With the 90 amp charger that is built into our inverter we can fully recharge dead batteries in about two hours, that greatly reduces generator usage in the event we use a lot of power due to cloudy days or just using more power for things. With the WFCO converter from the factory we had to run the generator for about eight hours and still did not get a full recharge on our lead acid batteries.

We wired our inverter with 0000 gauge welding cable, the reason we used such a large wire was voltage drop. 12 volt DC is prone to voltage loss, with our wiring being so large and under five feet we have less than one volt of voltage drop. This is important with recharging the batteries quickly and the inverter getting the power output from the batteries it needs running large loads like the microwave.

Our set up does have one minor quirk, and we have not yet decided on an action plan yet. if we are plugged in, such as when we stay in a campground with hook ups with the air conditioner running, if the pedestal looses power the inverter will swap over to invert mode and the 250 amp DC fuse will blow. This is good otherwise the air conditioner would drain our batteries dead in minutes. Right now when using full hook ups we keep the 3000 watt inverter on standby, line voltage priority, it shuts down when shore power is not available and our camper loses the 120 volts. We keep the 400 watt inverter manually turned off when hooked up. We have considered installing another breaker panel just for items like the air conditioner, and hot water to only have power when shore power is available. We feel this would be going overboard, it would be fairly simple to do but the need considering it’s a rarity does not justify the time or the cost. We keep the refrigerator on auto so if 120 volts is lost it will swap to propane, everything else loosing power for awhile if we are away is not a big deal, we can always reset the microwave clock when the power is back on.

20181226_05582920181226_05581320181226_05575820181226_055738

 

Watch “Coastal Strand Trail, North Peninsula State Park, Smith Creek Landing” on YouTube

The Colonial Quarter

The Colonial Quarter is around $13 for a ticket, but we were able to get in for a local deal that was going on for a BOGO ticket. It was a cloudy and some what windy day, but it was also cold. Since it’s 95% outside, we recommend going on a warmer day for sure. We missed the first 5 minutes of the tour, but we caught up real fast. Parking is across the street at Fort Castillo. There are meters there. If you have a National Park Pass, put it on your rear view mirror and you should have free parking that way.

The whole tour was about an hour, and it was very informative and entertaining. The first thing we saw on the tour when we caught up was the Flags of St Augustine, representing all the flags that have flown over St Augustine since it’s beginning in 1565.

From there, we saw a replica of a ship that might’ve been similar to one sailed by the famed Pirate Sir Francis Drake when he burned St Augustine to the ground. There’s more about that in the musket firing clip of our YouTube video. Just copy and paste the link  below:

From there, you can go to an interactive station to see how important pulleys are when lifting heavy items, the more pulleys, the better.

The walls of the fort Castillo are made from a special shell rock mined in certain areas of Florida, called coquina. There are only 2 forts in the world made from this stone, and they are both in St Augustine. One is the Castillo, the other is Fort Matanzas. Fort Matanzas is free to visit, with a ferry that takes you out to the fort. Coquina is so sturdy, it’s virtually impenetrable. The enemies of the fort were amazed that their cannon balls just sort of “stuck” in the walls and did no damage. Below is a pillar made from coquina.

There was a large canon barrel on display that they found in the ocean, but they don’t know it’s origin. The canon they used for firing was a scaled down replica of the ones you can see at the fort.

The Casa de Mesa-Sanchez is a house that was originally just one room built by a shore guard and his family of 9. As others moved in, it kept being expanded upon, but the original one room house is still part of the structure. (The first two photos of the house).

There is a Ben Franklin series 1 Printing Press so you can see how the first newspapers in the area were printed.

After the fun little scene at the Blacksmith shop and musket firing, (I took a video clip there instead of photos), we were able to climb the 35 foot watchtower and look out over the fort Castillo and the Bayfront. You can see the St. Augustine Lighthouse from here too. We even caught a glimpse of the ocean behind it all. I zoomed in on one photo so you can see the waves. 🙂

We ended our day on St George Street, which is also part of the Colonial Quarter experience. We chose to eat a snack at the Seafood Company because we absolutely love their Lighthouse Lemonade. For every lemonade they sell, they donate $1 to the St Augustine Lighthouse. It’s the perfect mixture of sweet and sour. Hubby got a Cesar salad, and I had the chowder fries. It was a great way to end the day.

We hope you enjoyed our stroll through the Colonial Quarter. Thank you for subscribing to our blog and our YouTube channel. We hope we entertain you as well as throw in a little historical education as well. We appreciate all of you and your supportive comments keep us going.

The many trees at the St Augustine lighthouse

Every year, the volunteers and emoyees at St Augustine Lighthouse and Museum decorate the grounds beautifully for the holidays. They have a special nautical themed tree that people from all over send in or drop off ornaments to decorate. This year, yours truly made 2 that were on the tree. I tried to find the list of people who donated ornaments so I could take a picture to recognize all of them but it was not by the tree, so we may have overlooked it if it was in another location.

A lot of you know I like the lighthouse a lot. So much so that I have a tattoo of it on my arm. They do such a good job helping to preserve it’s history as well as the history of the area. Their newest is the WWII exhibit. If you’re in the St Augustine area, I would certainly encourage you to visit, especially if you enjoy learning about history. There is also a lab where you can observe how they help uncover and preserve shipwrecks. It’s not all about climbing to the top of the tower, even though that is obviously part of the fun.

Please enjoy the photos we took and a big thank you to the St Augustine Lighthouse for all they are doing to preserve history and help the community.

One of my favorites: at the base of the lighthouse tower
Inside the Tin Pickle, the snack shop
What a neat idea using fishing net as garland
The WWII exhibit
At the lab
The wreath and ornament I made
So many donated ornaments
Another favorite: the Dark of the Moon tree

Thank you to everyone who subscribes to our YouTube channel. Hubs is off trail now until the fall, when he will finish the section of the AT from TN to GA. In the meantime, get ready for lots of fun on our channel and here on our website.

It’s been hard to keep up with the website and editing videos but I have more time to focus on our website and writing about all our fun RV adventures again. Thank you all who are faithful readers! We’re looking forward to bringing you along on our adventures.

Washington Gardens State Park

One of our “resolutions” for 2020 is to go to a different park every Sunday. One such park is Washington Gardens State Park in Flagler County, FL. This is a beautiful State Park that costs just $5 per vehicle to enter. It’s no secret that Florida has warmer temperatures in the winter, but it’s still a grand site to walk through a blooming rose garden at the end of January.

The park, like most of the parks along A1A, is on both sides of the road, the surf side, and the inlet side. The coastal side has a different type of walkway down to the beach. It.s not a typical boardwalk, but it looks like some type of tracks. It’s not made for bare feet, but it is great for getting all the sand off your shoes before getting back in your car.

The inlet side is where the majority of the park is. The gardens are handicap accessible and an easy walk. Walk through a path surrounded by towering ancient oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Sit a spell in one of the benches by the Matanzas River before circling back through the museum and garden.

There’s interesting reading about the history of the home place, gardens and maritime hammock.

Take your time and stroll through the beauty garden. All sorts of roses and azaleas and exotic flowering plants adorn your walk. There are several fountains and ponds with koi. Take a selfie or two in the gazebo.

We highly recommend this park anytime you’re in the Flagler area. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday, or any day for that matter.

Helen Mellon Schmidt Park

This park is off the beaten path. It’s behind a private community in St. Augustine on the intracoastal side. It’s a wonderful hidden gem.

After driving down the short paved section past the private community ( not turning into the actual community), the road turns to dirt. You will see the small sign driving into the park for Helen Mellon Schmidt. The park is named after Helen, who was a Naval decoder in WWII.

There is a porta john at the main entrance into the park. It is always clean. There’s plenty of parking here and several little coves to go into. Just watch your vehicle for rising tide of the Matanzas Inlet. If your park in the middle of the parking area, you’re safe from the tides.

On the left side is the big, beautiful waters of the Matanzas. On the right, is a smaller outcove of the Inlet. It’s not as deep and is more narrow. The water is warm and inviting but you still need to be mindful of the tides, especially if you leave a chair or cooler and go wading off.

Waterfowl abound here, and are beautiful to watch, especially the bright pink spoonbills. There’s not much in way if shelling here because the hermit crabs have taken over every shell you pick up, but they’re fun little critters to watch. The fishing isn’t bad, so bring a pole if that interests you.

If you visit on weekday, it usually never crowded. It’s the perfect place to put you feet in water and bring a good book or a picnic. There is a trail you can wonder down, but wear shoes on the path because there are mounds of oyster shells the further down the island you go.

This place is a definite on our list of “must see”, especially if you want peace and quiet.

Beautiful Spoonbill fishing for dinner
Matanzas Inlet
Little cove

Sign along the path
Watch for spurs among some of the wildflowers

This little park is open from dawn to dusk. If you’re into island hopping, bring you canoe or kayak and paddle across to Rattlesnake Island. Just be sure to watch bigger boats when it’s high tide. This place is a great little getaway for the day.

Lighthouse Pier

It’s been a topsy turvey year. So many things going to and many places were closed. Since hubs went on the Appalachian Trail in April, I’ve been busy working on his videos on our YouTube channel (Southeastern RV Living and Appalachian Trail Hiking), and haven’t been writing as much for the blog. Forgive me for that. I’m hoping now that we’re in Phase 3 of reopening here in Florida that I can venture out a little more between videos and write about it.

Today’s little excursion is directly across from my favorite lighthouse in St. Augustine. I never noticed it before this day of riding around. I had seen the beautiful water oaks across from the lighthouse parking lot, but without driving (or walking/biking) over there, you’d never notice the pier.

Across from the lighthouse parking lot, among the trees, are picnic tables spaced far enough apart to not even hear other’s lunch conversations. On this day, one family hung their hammocks up in the large branches of one of the trees.

Behind these beautiful trees is a small parking lot next to the Yacht Club that appears to have been closed awhile. Directly in from if the Club is the Lighthouse Pier and Intracoastal waterway (and smallboat ramp). It’s not a very large pier, and at high tide, there’s no sand spot to walk on. But, it’s a public fishing spot and at low tide, you can see oyster shells galore and hermit crabs all over the place.

It may not be a large spot, but it’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. It’s a beautiful place to picnic and gaze across the water at lots of water fowl. If you’re in St Augustine and just want a quiet place to read or relax after climbing the lighthouse, this is a great place.

Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracostal Waterway is unique to Florida, traveling for some 430+ miles from Key West to the Georgia border. It’s a man made canal that allows travel between fresh water rivers and the ocean. The water level fluctuates with the tides. It’s home to an array of species, including such birds as herons and pelicans, and many kinds of fresh and saltwater mixed aquatic animals and fish.

Here on Anastasia Island, the Intracoastal forms a border for the island, along with the  Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas (some call it Matanzas River, some call it the Inlet; Inlet is a good description, as it intermingles with the Intracoastal). There are several Parks along the Intracoastal, each one providing a different view and different water depths. Most parks are split by Highway A1A, so you get the best of both the beach on one side, and the Intracoastal on the other side. Some are county parks that a free, and some are state parks with a small fee per vehicle. Some also have places to came, either on the Intracoastal side or beachside, or both. No matter where you are on the Intracoastal, you will not be disappointed at the beauty of it and its surroundings,

20200301_141133We have been to several Intracoastal Parks, but this one in particular is actually named Intracoastal Park. We went to the beach side and the Intracoastal side. It was low tide and we could see Fort Mantazas across the marsh grass. Some people have attempted to walk through the marsh to the Fort, but the Rangers frown upon this and it’s not a very good idea. The wet sand in the marsh, although it looks dry, can be like quicksand. Also, if you’re out there when the tide starts coming in, depending on the weather, the tide may come in faster than expected. There is a free ferry that will take you to the fort from the river side. (Covid has affected this, so check out their schedule before going).

20200301_164622We spotted lots of wildlife, including the famous egret and gopher tortoise. When you visit either side of these parks, please be sure you throw all your trash in the proper trash bins or take it back out with you. These animals depend on the environment to keep them safe and trash can harm these gentle creatures. Many of you may have seen gopher holes on the beach and not known what critter made its’ home there. A little tip to tell the difference in the holes is the larger ones are usual the tortoise, and the smaller ones are probable for either rabbits or mice.

20200301_14573320200518_19411320200518_19564920200518_19440320200301_16452520200301_151335 I’m sorry that it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post to the blog, due to hubs being on the AT, it’s been hard to do his videos on YouTube and post things to our blog too. For those following both, we greatly appreciate it. I am going to try to post more to our blog coming up when I’m able to venture out to some of the more open spaces without too many people. Everyone stay safe during this pandemic and we’ll all be traveling RVers again very soon!

We recommend checking out the Intracoastal and its many parks along the way. It’s an experience worth repeating too!

Betty Steflik Preserve/Black Creek

When we think of Jacksonville, we usually think of 2 things. We either picture thee beaches, or we think about the horrible traffic downtown on I-95. But, Jacksonville has another side. Tucked away from the hustle of town or the crowds at the beach, are hidden gems. State and county parks are among these.

One in particular is a quaint little preserve on a small island just outside the city. When you drive out there, you forget all about town. There’s a small parking area and some picnic tables as you enter this park. It’s full of biking and walking trails. It’s a nice shady place to ride your bike or take a stroll.

The best part is Black Creek. You walk down one of the trails and it opens up to a nice sturdy bench with a front row seat of this beautiful body of water.

The trails are suitable for walking and bike riding.

Some trails are trails are listed as mountain bike trails. Go ahead and chuckle, but they are narrow with hills and berms, just like mountain bike trails you would see elsewhere.

A narrow mountain bike trail
Natural or not?
Black Creek

So, the next you’re on vacation and you want a break from the interstate, look up this little place. Go by a good drive thru or pack a picnic and bring it to enjoy at the picnic tables. Grab your bikes and enjoy nature while burning off those lunch calories.

Go down the trail to the creek and sit and enjoy the view.

Bird Island Park and Rookery and Mickler’s Landing

A little north of Valano and Mickler’s Landing, and of all places, behind a library, is a little place called Bird Island Park. There’s a shrubbery maze shaped like a giant turtle. There’s a path around the park with a mosaic of beautiful tiles, a colorful turtle statue, and a fountain.

Beautiful tiles
Turtle maze

There’s a playground and a boardwalk around a pond. There are fish, turtles of all kinds, and ducks in the pond. On the side closest to the library is the tree “rookery”. It was full of adult and juvenile Anhingas. There are benches behind the library to sit and read and enjoy watching the birds.

Egret
Small heron
Geese
Anhinga next to the water
One of many Anhingas in the trees
More Anhingas
One of the resting benches
Another bench
Fountain
Outside the library
Soft shell turtle

This is a quiet place right behind a busy street. Just driving by, you might not notice unless you watch for the signs. It is well worth a visit and it’s free. It’s a wonderful place for peaceful reflection and bird and turtle watching. We highly recommend checking it out. Before leaving the area, if you like seashells, you should stop by Mickler’s Landing Beach. They have nice restrooms and showers there as well.

Mickler’s Landing has plenty of shells.

Days 3, 4, and 5 of AT hike

We’d like to thank all of you for virtually following along on the flip flop hike along the AT on our YouTube channel. So far, it’s been agreeable weather and decent terrain.

Maryland in 5 days may not be a big feat for some, but for us, it’s a dream come true. We hope you will enjoy this pictorial of these 3 days. Stay tuned for Pennsylvania coming up next.

The gear is holding up nicely, including the hammock and tarp, sleeping bag and shoes (chacos). We’ll post a gear review when he reaches Maine so everyone will know how it’s held up to that point.

Enjoy the pictures and thank you for following along on this epic journey across the Appalachian Trail.

DAY 3:

Rocky Cliffs View
7 trees, 1 base
Why they call me The Butterfly Whisperer
Home for the night, behind the shelter in the hammock
Trail meals. Ramen and chicken
Trail magic provided by a trail angel to a thirty hiker.

DAY 4:

Reno Monument
Deer, part of the abundant wildlife
Washington Monument
View atop the monument

DAY 5:

Trail magic left by a fellow hiker

Thanks so much for following along. Since I’m in the Sunshine State while hubby is on the trail, I’ll be have some mini adventures of my own to report. Stay tuned for those and more updates from the AT.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see the trail up close and personal. We appreciate all of our blog followers and I’ll post a sandy adventure very soon.