Solar Maintenance Update

There's really not a lot to say here, just a huge 👍👍. We've been living almost exclusively on solar power since October 2014, and I've hardly thought about electricity. I haven't done a moment's maintenance on the system other than monitoring water levels. I do this once a month, or whenever I start feeling almost guilty for having abundant, effortless, free power.  

To check the water levels, I usually just stick my phone inside the compartment and take a picture of each cell with the white cap removed (rows of three on each battery top in the picture below). It's fast, helps me remember what level they're at (a silver sharpie does wonders for numbering each cell), and I don't have to remove the batteries to look. You could also use an inspection mirror if you prefer the analog method.  I pulled mine out for the sake of inspection, and well, plain old curiosity. 

If the batteries need water, I use a syringe and some plastic hose to add water, 500cc's at a time. 

Hydrometer, distilled water, and our batteries removed for easy maintenance.

Hydrometer, distilled water, and our batteries removed for easy maintenance.

We had a wire to the Trimetric meter fail back in Boston, but that was a self-inflicted injury. The spray foam I used to seal the wire's passageway continued expanding until it shorted the line. I spliced in a new line and it's been fine since. 

The only other problem we have is that the blender can surge past 1000 watts, triggering a fault in our inverter that I then have to manually reset (this always coincides with days we're in a hurry). The blender pulses occasionally confuse the Trimetric as well, but a quick reboot fixes that too (the IT background comes in handy once again). 

The inverter overload isn't a solar issue, but since it's part of the system, I want to mention it. It's happened maybe three times in five months--just frequently enough to be annoying. Our next rig will have a larger inverter--the one I specced for Harvey's system was conservative because I simply didn't expect such an abundance of power. In the meantime, full solar power ahead!

 

New Mexico

It's officially been five months since we've been on the road! And I have officially done a terrible job of sharing our travel photos with you (I do much better on Instagram, I promise!). I couldn't let another several months go by without sharing one of the most beautiful parts of our journey with youthe southwest. We took so many photos of New Mexico alone, we're still catching up (I'll get to the Arizona photos one of these days. Really.). Everywhere we've been has been lovely in it's own way, but the southwest completely caught me off guard. I'd never been there and therefore hadn't thought much about the area. I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised by how enchanting this part of the country is. As you'll see from the highlight reel, the skies are incredible! 

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The first evening sky we saw in New Mexico. Carlsbad, NM.

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We just loved this place! Great views and a fun hike. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. Alamogordo, NM.

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I mean, what else can I say about this? Cute guy, awesome view. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. Alamogordo, NM.

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After Oliver Lee, we headed to White Sands. Being from Michigan, we're not strangers to sand dunes, but the combination of sand dunes in the desert surrounded by mountains had us floored. It was the craziest combo! 

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White Sands, NM.

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Our next stop, and definitely worth the crazy drive in, was to Aguirre Springs Campground in the Organ Mountains. Las Cruces, NM.

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Organ Mountains, just outside Las Cruces, NM. 

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And now, my favorite place thus far. Angel Peak near Bloomfield, NM. 

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Sunset at Angel Peak. Bloomfield, NM. 

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I could fill several posts with the photos we took at Angel Peak. Between the badlands, the sunsets, and the beautiful calm that filled the area, we could have stayed for weeks. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend staying here.

 

Music Production On The Road

If you'd asked me five years ago if it was possible to do music production on the road, I would have laughed at you. Thankfully, technology has come a long way, and there's very little you need to produce music outside of a laptop and whatever instruments you play. There's a case to be made that you don't even need physical instruments, but I think they're worth it for the 'realness' and feeling they can channel. Most of the time, though, I don't need more than a laptop and my trusty Sennheisers

I prefer to work with as much of my own recording as possible, so when I'm not going directly into my interface with a guitar or instrument pickup, I'll rig up a temporary isolation box to mic my source (post coming soon).  Here's my basic setup for recording vocals:

 

The point  is that so many people I talk to seem to fixate on gear or the space they're working in, and that takes away from the music.  The less time and effort it takes to capture ideas and then polish them, the more quality work you'll produce. If you're holding back, or worse, never recording because something isn't perfect, it's tough to stay relevant with how fast the music lifecycle is these days. The trick is to know what can be fixed later versus what has to be right in the original take so you don't waste hours on little things that aren't important to the end result. 

I'm also a huge fan of the Pomodoro One app to keep on track. It's a timer that you set to help focus for a short period of time, and then it tells you to take a break. Pretty simple, but in practice, it keeps me productive and forces me to break up my work and avoid burnout. 

Keep it simple, and don't build up obstacles to doing the important stuff! 

6 weeks

We've been on the road for 6 weeks already! And yes, that means that we are seriously behind posting some of our adventures. We've spent time in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, and each place has a story for you! Especially Florida (for now, let's just say that Tate's Hell is an aptly named place.) 

We've learned a lot in 6 weeks about life on the road, ourselves, and the RV. We're starting to get settled into a flow and learing what works best (and what doesn't). It's been good for us to learn how to work hard and enjoy life at the same time, and to be flexible with whatever the days may bring our way. 

 

Welcome.

I want nothing more than for this site cataloging our journey to be genuine; I want you to see us as we are, and be a part of where we are going. The time in this RV did not come easily. I can't pretend that making dreams happen isn't messy. There were hard days, months and years leading up to packing our things into plastic containers and storing them away indefinitely. There were moments of anger and tears and despair. There were times I thought we’d never get where we wanted to go.

But we did. 

We were determined. We kept working toward our goal. We made difficult sacrifices along the way. Slowly, not on our own timing, one tiny piece at a time, we took the first step in this adventure. That’s why this journey is so much more than just travel to me. Although I'm enjoying the experience immensely, it's more than just the experience. This trip is also a time to step back and be purposeful, to work on where we want to be next and who we want to be (we didn't like who we were becoming).  I excel at placing stresses on myself that are unnecessary and I want to work through that. I also want a job where at the end of the day, I’m satisfied and fulfilled because I helped someone else feel that way. I want to let go of holding myself back because I’m afraid. I want to strengthen our marriage and work through some of the things we've ignored because we've been too busy or tired or stressed. I want to make the right choices for our health. I want to see beauty and enjoy it.  I want to live in the memories we're making. I want you to know that there's always hope and that there's always a way. We're going to wander, but there's a rhythm, a purpose, that we're following.

I can’t promise we won’t wander in the wrong direction along the way (we will), but I’d like to invite you to be part of this journey with us.