If you work for Starbucks

I’d love to hear if your wi*fi vendor has noticed my laptop’s ethernet address, and wondered why it has shown up in 45 different states. Or if it is even common. I assume most truckers and RV’ers don’t goto Starbucks.

Love to hear from you, if you’re sniffing my ethernet packets, and see me going to a HTTP connection requesting “GET /if-you-work-for-starbucks/”. I think it would be make an awesome story to tell in a bar.


He doesn’t have Auto Insurance? Stop listening to the dude, and just get the police report.

You would think that a guy who drives a car that looks like this, would be able to afford liability insurance.  That is what it’s for, in case of a accident you can’t pay for out of pocket.


In case, you hadn’t read an earlier post, this gentleman, ran his car into my van, when it was parked.  I was napping inside.  It was broad daylight, but it was a pleasant day to nap.  I thought we both got away lucky with only a scratch on the paint, until I saw the tire.  Yes, the tire is bent.  Yes, I was on mile 31,000/32,000, and though the prospect of staying in Miami appealed to me, but being stuck in an immobile van didn’t.  He whined about not having insurance and currently going through bankruptcy.  He offered to pay out of pocket.  I believed his sob story, and thought I could get most of the repair bill back from him eventually.


I had no time to sue the dude, anyway.  I needed it fixed, to get moving again, so I had it towed.  My repair guy called him and said the damage cost $800, but he disputed that cost and said $200 because he was a mechanic too.  My mechanic countered with that the entire axel assembly on my model of van needed to be replaced, not just a wheel, because it was all welded together.  I made the call to do the repair regardless of what the man said.  $800 later, with a new axel, I got moving again and asked for reimbursement of the repair cost.  But he gave me $200, and I asked when I could get the rest.  He went on again about his sick dad, and being unemployed, and I asked that he send it to me when he could. That was Feb.

This is May.  I’ve texted a few times, asking for another installment.  Any payment is better than nothing.  But I’ve gotten the “check is in the mail” treatment, and no more payments.  There is a moral to this story.

If the guy says he has no insurance, and he’s at fault, don’t bother listening to the sob story.  Just call the police, and have them file a police report.  They are likely full of B.S. anyway about their inability to pay.  That sob story is crook code for “Hi sucker, I get away with stuff like this all the time, and you look like the next gullible fool”.


If you have collision protection on your auto insurance policy, then your insurance company will reimburse you and may try to get the money they paid you, out of whoever hit you.

But if you have only liability, when you call GEICO at least, to ask if there are any ways for me to try to get my money back, their representative’s response will be “We cannot offer you any legal advice what so ever”.


Most Unexpected Obstacle

Jury duty… you wouldn’t think it a problem if you weren’t there in the local municipality for 2 years, and was just passing thru temporarily.

Did you know that there is almost no excuse you can give, to excuse yourself from jury duty, when you are traveling, as long as you have a P.O. Box that receives mail?  Upon returning to check my mail, I found I had missed 3 jury duty notices, and had a pending subpoena to appear to explain my non-response.

First, I show up 5 days early to the courthouse on Queens Blvd to see if I can get it settled early.  The guard helpfully sends me to the Civil Court on Sutphin, Room 244, since I showed up early.


Upon showing up there, I told them, I hadn’t been in Queens County in two years.  I have had no physical address in those 2 years.  My mail is being split between a PO Box in Queens and my parent’s address.  But bc I took out money from my 401k, I filed taxes in 2015 and 2016.  And without even trying to think about if I needed to file for NYS bc I didn’t have a physical address (and needed to re-establish one when I returned), I filed a NYS return for 2016 anyway.  This act apparently locked me into jury duty, even though my personal business took me all over the USA and had no domecile address in Queens county.  And even though it was sheer luck I returned to check my pile of mail in time for jury duty, and that I had plans to move to another state in a few weeks, this did not excuse me from my civic duty to Queens county.


Apparently, even being effectively not full-time in Queens for 2016 and 2017 and effectively homeless in 2018 while in town, as long as you can be served by mail, you are eligible for jury duty in 2018.  (Although I wonder what do people do, when they are retired on a RV) .

The only response the clerk said was: When you get to where you are going, send a change of address form to USPS and Queens county will be notified.  My response was “I just don’t want to get in trouble between the next notice that I miss bc I’m not in Queens county and when I next get my mail forwarded there”.  And his response was “Take it easy, you’re a unusual situation that they don’t currently allow as a valid excuse from jury duty.  It shouldn’t be such a big deal, if you miss one jury notice”.  So he has me fill out the questionaire and tells me to expect a jury duty notice in the mail.

Sigh, New York City used to be the classic place, where bc the left hand claims not to know what the right hand is doing, you can suddenly get yourself sucked into a maze of a bureaucracy because the right hand says “I don’t know what such and such told you, but as long as you are in the system…”.  Like a wary animal in a forest that used to be filled with bigger animals, I wait for that bureaucracy to suck me back in, like the old days waiting in the lines of the DMV.

I’m half-expecting them to flag me in “the system”, bc the guard said I can settle this early at Jury administration, and not at the designated date/time at the courthouse.

Update.  But no, a few weeks later and I got a jury notice.  And few more weeks later, I’m sitting in the jury waiting room, and 24 hours later after I tell a judge in jury selection, I’m transitive in NYC and in the interim sleeping in a van until I move on and apparently the only form of intelligent life (but no reflection on their municipal collective integrity, otherwise why is a person who has been in Queens county for less than 2 months in last 2 years and sleeps in a van and got his jury notice in a PO Box, even need to talk to an actual judge) that exists in our justice system, are the officers of the court, and I’m released from my duty to Queens County.

Update2. But I did get paid for my duty.  I suddenly wished I stalled and returned to jury waiting room for a full 5 days.  The strange thoughts you get when you’re unemployed.



Is solar worth it?

I would say for me, my do it yourself solar hack has been worth every cent, and couldn’t get enough. I wish I added another panel. I wish I had surface area for a third.

But here’s the fine print.  It’s for a mobile application, NOT FOR A HOUSE. I’m on the road for 2 years straight. Perhaps longer. Would you do this for a the benefit for 2week road trip? Solar panel let’s say $150. Batteries $500. Controller, fuses, wires, another $50. Pure sine wave inverter $250 if you’re lucky. Or a 10 nights of camping hookups at $30/night is $300 w no limits on power usage. Vs nearly 800 for a diy solar. Hmm… see what I’m saying about the 2years on the road being the important part? Plus only 50% of battery is really useable.

How are you planning to getting electricity while mobile?

Week Solar RV hookup
-1 100W Solar Panel($150)

300ah Bank of Deep Cycle Lead Acid Batteries($500)

300W Pure Sine Wave Inverter($250)

Wires,Controller,Fuses ($50)


An extension cord to connect to RV hookup($10)
1 280ah max of power, with 150ah in reserve in battery($0) 7days of nearly unlimited RV power($210)
2 280ah max of power, with 150ah in reserve in battery($0) 7days of nearly unlimited RV power($210)
3 280ah max of power, with 150ah in reserve in battery($0) 7days of nearly unlimited RV power($210)
4 280ah max of power, with 150ah in reserve in battery($0) 7days of nearly unlimited RV power($210)

If you look at the startup and running cost, you’ll see you need to be connected to RV hookups every day for a month, charged at a daily rate of $30, where the cost connecting to RV hookups starts to exceed the startup cost of solar, in a mobile application. Even then there is the convenience of RV hookups, which are like outlets at home, in regards that you rarely think about the how much current it uses. With a 300W inverter with solar, nothing you connect, can use more than that, plus there is a time limit.

solar diagram charging.png

The Use Case

I’m essentially off the grid most of the trip. That is NOT a good thing, energy wise. The grid supplies energy at a ridiculously low cost. I’m not even going to calculate it here, bc it’s so obvious for me. Plus the grid has nearly unlimited reserve capacity (limited by your budget and what your wiring will support and if the entire city you are in decides to turn on AC at same time) compared to what you need. Connecting to the grid is what RVers call RV hookups or shore power, but then you are also renting RV space plus likely charged a premium for that power. Let’s face it, residential power is cheap but not mobile. And motel-like services need to make money by making a profit on services they provide you.

So, here, I’m not going to figure out break-even period of adding grid-tied solar to the home vs regular grid power without solar, which is what most people are figuring out for their houses. There is simply no viable staying-on-the-electric-grid option for my use case.  So I didn’t bother thinking about it.  It was have power or not, and if so availability, and cost.

Why is more panels important? Bc I use energy. And the panels provide a regular stream of it at fixed cost. Period.  Here are all the things that take power.

  • Summer, ultrasonic humidifier plus fan equals homemade evaporative cooler. 2amps for however long it takes to keep you comfortable.
  • Phone requires charging. 1amp@5v (0.5a@ 12v) for 2 hours. The 5v battery for iPhone is 1,440mAh. This should draw 1amp hr max from battery bank. (When comparing energy quantity, comparing watt hr are supposed to be equivelant, comparing amp hr are equivelant, it is valid only if voltage of devices are same).
  • iPad requires charging. 2amps@5v(1amp@12v) for 6 hours. The 5v battery is 11,666 mAh for iPad. This should draw max of 6 amp hr from battery bank.
  • Mifi for internet requires charging.
  • A laptop needs to be charged, in case not every place you go has outlets.  I’d say you’d randomly have 25pct chance of not being able to find a outlet in strange, but populated area. Or camping. Macbook Pro 2015 uses 36watts in operation using Kill-a-watt. Or connected to an inverter, it draws 3amps from you battery bank. The Macbook Pro battery is close to 12v, and has capacity of 6559 mAh. Don’t have a MacBook? Other laptops are less performance/watt efficient.  Increase the amp draw by 50pct. 5 hours on MacBook 2015 is 15amps hours from battery bank. 3days of similar operation is 45.
  • Your digital camera batteries, they require charging too, right?
  • How about that e-reader?
  • I’ve got 3 fans total, which probably draws maybe 2amps with all of them on. If I don’t bother turning them off, in a day, they draw 48 amp hours from the batteries. Only have them on for 8 hours, 16 amp hours.
  • TV is roughly 5amps. 4 hours of tv, 20 amp hours from battery bank
  • I have an inverter for the TV and anything that requires regular AC power. Conversion results in 10pct loss of power.  That is not included in any calculation.
  • Lights (USB mostly) 0.5amps
  • Want to interconnect your devices, a wireless router draws up to 2amps. If don’t bother turning it off, 48 amp hours.

Turning it off when you’re not using it, saves the most power in majority of circumstances, when it comes to power management.  Something most people barely think about when not on batteries.

solar diagram full.png


Why are the power numbers listed in both amps and watts?

The battery bank is 12v, because it is the most widely available standard due to it’s automotive applications.  If you’re trying to make apples to apples power comparisons, watts will allow you to make comparisons of energy consumption and capacity regardless of the native voltage of the device. Most appliances will list wattage for consumption and watt hours for capacity. My application draws from and charges 12v batteries. The amps are drawn at 12v (only 12V, varying by tenth’s based on if it’s full or not) from the battery and the rating on battery capacity works out for how long a battery can last being drawn at a rate called amps.  This relationship is roughly inversely linear.  So 300ah rating means it should last about 300hours, if drawn at rate of 1 amp, AND 150 hours if drawn at a rate of 2 amps, etc.  But devices and the batteries inside them run and store on different voltages.  Phones and other devices that use USB standard connectors are on 5v.  Those accessory port adapters you buy to charge your phone, turns 12V to 5V. Laptops are more complicated, since they have a AC/DC adapter expecting 120V AC power(wall power).  The 12V battery power has to be first converted to wall AC power at 120V by the inverter, and the AC/DC adapter (plugged into the inverter) converts the 120V AC to DC for a laptop, which could expect any voltage from 12 to 36V.  That’s why the wall warts always go with a laptop.  It converts the exact voltage the device expects, as much as it needs, from wall power AC.

But when comparing using watts, 1watt hr of power in battery bank, is 1 watt hr in phone.  If the TV is 60 watts, it is 60 watts at wall power, or connected to your battery.  Disregarding efficiency losses, The theoretical conversion is using the equation P=IV. Or 60W=I(12V), I=60W/12V=5a.  Or 60watts when drawn at 12v from battery bank is 5a.  You can also say a 300ah battery is 3600 watt hours.  It’s the same thing.  It all depends whether you have to divide or multiply by the voltage, when working with devices that only list the voltage, when they aren’t the same.

If you’re trying to figure how much the phone will drain the battery bank, while charging. Battery capacities above are listed at the native voltage it expects, so that gives an idea of how long it takes to charge.  The theoretical conversion is using the equation P*hr=IV*hr.  (5v)(I@5v) = (12v)(I@12v).  (5v)(1.44a)hr= 7.2watt hr = (12v)(I@12V)hr.  Or 7.2 watt*hr/(12v) = I@12V*hr = 0.6.  I@12V*hr means amps at 12V for an hour, so the iphone charged from zero to full 1.44ah(@5v) will drain the battery bank 0.6ah(@12v).  Or you can just subtract 7.2watt hr from the 3600watt hr battery capacity.  It just depends what’s easier for you to work with at the moment.

Isn’t a car like a tiny 12v generator since it keeps the starter battery topped off when the engine is in operation?

By actual measurement, power diverted from my van’s alternator can supply nearly 20 plus amps to my battery bank (simultaneously charging the starter battery and my auxillary battery bank), when the battery bank is drained.  Which seems like it is a much higher rate than 5amps from the solar panel.  But in a city or in camp w/o hookups, I won’t drive more than an hour a day.  That means I won’t put more than 20amp hours at most back in the battery bank?  8 hours of peak sunshine at 5 amps gives me 40amp hours. See where solar becomes important? Add another panel, that means ideally 80amp hours in a day.  Plus driving supplies electricity to batteries when you are least likely to use it. As an example to what I mean by that, after a long drive, are you going to sleep or watching tv? If you watch tv, are you going to drive again or settling down for next few days?

battery usage chart3.png

Right now, I’m terrified of using 50 amp hours in a day, given the max I can expect is less than 40 amp hours a day from solar.  It’s like spending $50 in a day, when you have no idea if you’re getting money but never more than $40 the next day, and your wallet only holds $150.  It’s ok, when you have $150, to spend $50.  But when your wallet has $60, you wonder if you need more than $10, before you get your next payday.

For perspective, I run all my fans for 24 hours at 2a to keep the cooler from melting and that is 48 amp hours. Run a router for 24 hours that’s also 48 amp hours. Where am I going to recharge it from? A full day of sunshine is not guaranteed. But what if I had 3 panels and a full day of sunshine will recharge my entire battery bank at 150ah? I can draw 2 straight days wo concern for the weather, 50amp hours each before worrying draining the batteries. Or use 600watts for one hour. That actually might be enough to cook with.

Draw 100amp hrs from the battery and knowing at best, it’ll put in 40 the next day, knowing you need some of it, doesn’t make a person feel nice and fuzzy inside. Convenience-wise, there are 2 kinds of stuff: the set it and forget it stuff, and the stuff you have to keep an eye on. More panels means less keeping an eye on it.

solar diagram no sun.png

solar diagram alternator.png

That should be plenty to live on, right?

Let’s talk about your quality of life on 150ah of batteries. Bc that’s what you really are on. Not really solar. Solar recharges your battery. 100w of panel maxes at 5amps where tv and a laptop doubles that. The battery supplies whatever solar doesn’t and at night solar supplies nothing. I tend to think it makes it easier to think that you are always drawing from battery and solar just recharges the battery. It simply makes no difference.

How about video games? Let’s say you have a top end system? 200watts on average. For 8 hours. That’s 16amps average for total of 133 amp hours. Your gaming marathon just used up your entire battery bank. You wanna watch tv now, or are you worried you might have to do something tomorrow to make sure battery is charged.

PS4 130watts. You just got back a third of that power used, but where the hell are you storing those DVD’s and getting a network?

Web browsing on efficient laptop at 36 watts. That’s 50 hours on a 150 amp hour battery bank! That’s like 4 days of doing nothing but web browsing in a camp ground. But damn it, the best campgrounds are under trees! Those batteries look real useful now, and if you have a 300W of panels instead of 100W, you just need to take a day drive and park somewhere with sunlight and get 15amps*8hrs=120 amp hours in one day. And another 3 days of web browsing. Then again, you can’t get cell signal in a camp ground, so you’re back to gaming.  With only 100W of panels, every day you’re on battery in camp under tree, you have to drive out and park under the sun for another day.

Cooking appliances usually require 1800 watt of power.  That’s assuming you have that much inverter.  That’s 150 amps of battery.  One hour of cooking assuming it uses that much all the time and your battery bank is all gone.

How about climate control?  Heat and Cooling.  I actual have no numbers for that because you can’t reasonably expect, as of today, for your battery power to sufficiently control the climate in my opinion, other than keeping it ambient with the environment.

So once you’ve set your expectations of what you get and realigned your economic trade-offs vs other viable alternatives, you’ll see if you were in similar situation as me, you’d want more solar.


What if you meet Mr Monty Burns and he’s now selling gasoline? What does he want you to buy?

Honda EU2000 generator produces 400W for 9.6 hours. Convert that to 12v, that is potentially 33amps for 9.6 hours. Or almost 320 amphrs. Twice the amount of battery capacity I keep in my van. But the generator has only 10 hours max on single tank bc fuel usage has a floor, no matter how little electricity you use. If you’re thinking using the generator to charge batteries, remember the car alternator itself can charge at 20amps real world measurement. Albeit, it probably consumes gas at a higher rate than 0.1gal/hours than the generator can. But that 33amp by the generator is how theoretically much it can provide at a steady 13.7v or whatever it’s programmed that means to it that it is supplying just more power than the load is using. But the battery doesn’t cooperate fully in real life, accepting all the electrical power that generator produces, but the fuel usage is all same. It’s more like trying to inflate a partially inflated raft w your lungs w someone on it. There’s pressure inside pushing back at you, as you try to inflate. The difference in pressure is what gets air in. Even then there internal resistance inside the battery limiting current flow (if the alternator produces 13.7v and battery pushes back at 12v, and pumps in 20 amps, what is internal resistance of the battery?  There is resistance. Have you ever accidentally shorted a 5v li ion battery’s leads? Li ion can discharge at a very unsafe amperage, unlike alkaline batteries which I think maxes out at 1a). Real world measured charge rate to the battery, from the generator, is probable much lower than 33amps (assuming internal resistance doesn’t change, what connected voltage can the generator supply? If not 13.7, can it realistically charge faster than the alternator? If not, what is real world amp of charging @12v/30pct level of battery/gallon? Is it any better than the alternator at charging a battery?)

solar diagram external generator.png

Or you can just carry a few extra containers of gas, and deal with the noise.


The slightly over-extravagant

(Featured image from https://www.thewanderingrv.com/rv-accessories/)

  1. 100W Solar panel with 300ah of deep cycle, Lead acid batteries.
      1. Notes about the batteries.  Lead-acid technology means 150ah of useable power, since they recommend you never go below 50pct.  Why do you want to anyway?  12.7V is full, 12V is half, 11.5v is depleted.  So your using anything that expects 12v at below that voltage once it depletes at 50%.  Well designed stuff will work.  Not everything will be.  I’m pretty sure the 12V to 5V accessory port adapters will still pump out 5V (I don’t think they use voltage divider technology you learn in school), until the batteries are fully depleted though.


    1. If you plan on having your solar panel recharge your daily use of power from the battery, I recommend 100W, for every 100ah, of battery.  I had a switch to take power from alternator to charge my batteries from, so I didn’t need to match my source of power, to battery size.  If too much power is produced, and not enough battery, that’s a lot of extra solar power (and money spent on it) basically going to waste.  If too much battery, and not enough solar power, the batteries are never fully topped off, and will drain eventually until lead-acid batteries are damaged.  Your alternator charges the batteries at 13.7V but can suppl 20a.  The 100W solar panels charge at 18V open voltage, but can only supply maximum 7A to batteries.
    2. 300ah of batteries connected a inverter is enough to watch football, all day on sunday, on today’s LED TV’s.  It’s true.  And then you have a week to recharge them.  100W panel will NOT recharge 100+ ah used from a day of football, in a week, if you have daily use needs like fans, lights, and device recharges.  My van in normal operation had a constant drain of about 2amps.  that’s 48amp*hrs of drain, and nominally when sun is up, 40amp*hrs recharged over course of day.  So it’s a losing operation of 8amps*hrs.  It depends how much electricity it uses.  My vehicle has fan running to keep temperature inside at least matching ambient, so to keep the cooler more effective.  A router runs constantly, but if you only turn it on as you need it, obviously you can save there, but if you need to connect from outside, it’s annoying to go into the van to turn it on, so it ran constantly bc it wasnt worth the annoyance.
  2. There is a regular TV running off the inverter.  The inverter is pure sine wave, so I don’t damage anything.  It’s annoying to rescan for channels with every city.  An surprisely high amount of america you cannot pickup TV stations with a regular antennae.  But you can watch some TV, when you can.
  3. Cargo net hammock hanging off seat belt shoulder points.  Im not kidding.  It’s so convenient to store stuff.
  4. Mr Buddy Heater, with a 20lb propane tank running to it.  Or 4 days of heat, when it’s below 20F.  If you goto walmart, that’s $17 for 15G (20G tank).  There’s gonna be a draft bc you need to keep a window cracked.  I plan on putting 12V electric blanket under it, if I ever go back to Green Bay in Dec.
  5. Tent and folding chair for beach.  They fold up, so they take very little space.
  6. Cooler bc I really wanted to grill some steaks, and porkchops.  Which I pay for, with 5sqft lost of storage space.
  7. Stove bc I really wanted to cook soup if necessary (and it was but mostly bc of money mismanagement).  Canned chicken, chunky Chicken noode, cream of chicken, and ritz crackers make chicken stew.  But I question this every time I see it, and don’t use it.  That’s propane tanks, burner, pot, oil, water supplies, canned goods, dishes, utensils, and lighters, all needing space to store.
  8. BBQ grill, which then you have to store briquettes.

Wish list

1800W inverter, so I can use a water kettle.  Instant coffee in the morning on cold days.  I can then pack instant noodles and a bowl.

Need a genie for

The Death Valley solution.  Have yet to find something to heat bearable.  There is not a ultrasonic cold mist humidifier on market that I found that runs on 12V, to see if it can be used as a swamp cooler.  5V misters in front of a fan produce too little mist to cool effectively.  I wasn’t planning on buying 2 or 3.  Others on market take 24V.  Anything other than 12V and 5V, needs a non-consumer grade adapter (not cheap).

A 5000BTU room air conditioner costs $200.  But needs 1800W to start, 300W to run.  And is bulky as hell, and is presumably, ridiculously overkill.

Unknown how much cooling capacity can be transferred with a peltier cooler transferring the heat outside.  It says 8A@12V, tranferring 250BTU.  Or 15hours on 150ah, if it actually works.  And it not going to cost less than $200 to experiment with something like this.

What can you skip on, and what you don’t think you need but will


  1. Food that needs to be refridgeration, if you have don’t have a fridge.  And consequently, no need for cooler that takes up room when not in use, and needs to be recharged w ice, every 3 days, when in use.
  2. Emergency rations.  You’ll never need them in the USA.  Buy food as you need it.  Maybe keep a 6pack of gatorade in case you are parched thirsty (but not carbonated anything since any heat will cause it to burst).  Don’t get a big bottle.  Get several small bottles.  Once you’ve opened it, it’s no longer santiary in long-term, unless you have a fridge to prevent bacteria growth.
  3. WD-40.  I’ve never needed to dissolve grime to loosen anything part on my trip, that didnt require a puchase of a part that they’d install for you (ie. replace battery requires leads to be loosened, but then you’d buy a battery and they’d do the install for you).  This is strickly a keep at home thing.
  4. Books.  Where are you going to find a place where people will leave you alone for days, to read a book quietly?  Even in libraries, this is proving difficult.  Bring a low power e-reader.  Nothing intellectually in depth.
  5. Mifi.  Almost everyplace you go in USA has wifi.  Unless you can’t wait till you get to a place that has it (this happens too that you happen upon a perfect library and you need a library card there to get online).  And if you aren’t in a place with convenient Wifi, chances are, the cell service is spotty there too.  Like in a campground.  So the MiFi wont work either.  If you think city park, have you tried working in the sun-light.  I’ve tried working on a laptop on a beach.  Hope you have a big umbrella.
  6. I would say an obvious weapon of any sort would cause more trouble with law enforcement, than deterring criminals who are more likely to cause damage when you’re not around (or steal them).
  7. Tools that don’t come with the car.  You can buy them, as you need it.  Bc you never know what you actually need.  It’s convenient to have on hand it happens, but you never know when you actually need the screwdriver, wrench, or duct tape.  And it takes up room, otherwise.

Recommend, that you didn’t think you needed.

  1. Iphone
  2. For any trip over 10,000 mi, an auto service like AAA.  Double tire failures require tow unless you bring 2 tires.  In a 3 year period, I’ve had 2 double tire failures bc of road hazards such as huge potholes or a piece of junk on road that wasn’t collected.  Jump starts.  If you don’t wish to carry a bulky jump starter battery (and you need to recharge it after use) and it takes up room in your vehicle like a gallon bottle.  The membership gives you a sense of security, if you feel something is wrong with the car (otherwise, the prudent person would get the car checked so that it doesn’t go wheels up in the worst possible place).  For accidents, you don’t always know which auto repair you are going to, so it might need to be towed again, if the first choice in unavailable.  This has happened also, if the damage is exotic, I’ve needed to go from a place like Goodyear, to a specialized garage.  Even for something as simple as a flat tire, jacking up a car is a lot of work nearby a busy thoroughfare, unless you’re a physically fit person.  So you can have them do it, plus cracking the nuts are a problem if you are light weight.
  3. Biggest thermos you can find, rated 24hours for cold.  12 hour rated or less is only good for taking to lunch.  It’s great to store a Big Gulp and stays cold even until next morning.  Steal (ie. one last fill up) flat soft drink from any fast food that has unlimited fountain drinks by filling up before you leave and transferring it to thermos.
  4. Air pump for tires.  Even if you don’t use it on the trip, now you have something to inflate you balls and rafts from now on.
  5. Plastic food containers.  Big big big deal.  Steal from golden corral.  Store food.  Store leftovers.  Buy volume of big bags of potato chips and snacks, and store in air-tight containers.
  6. Blanket for beach.  It doesn’t take that much room.
  7. Aloe for sunburn.  I’m not kidding.  Nothing worse than a bad sunburn just from walking around, and you have to keep walking around.  Again, not much room, just keep in gymbag.
  8. Baby powder, to dry yourself with.  And in worst case, to absorb odors.  It’s basically talcum powder.  Esp if you’re fat.
  9. Tiny amount of Vasoline.  It’s not neosporin anti-bactorial, but sometimes your skin needs to heal and needs temporary help in the form of keeping elements out.  And one overnight will do it.  Chapped lips.  Cracked that won’t heal.  I’ve found a little bit of vasoline overnight, helps the problem the next morning.
  10. BIG BIG BIG deal.  A good thick pair of sandals.  Not one of the $10 cheap ones.  Those will last 2 months before your heels are bruised.  Or 3 cheap ones to last 6 months, but I’m telling you when the cushion from those are low, the bruise on your heel is what tells you you need to change.
  11. If the low falls below 50deg at any time, plan accordingly.  In this case, the worst case is what you need to plan for.  You need layers.  Blankets, sleeping bag.  If the low falls below 32 deg, you need a reliable source of heat.  If running your car all night, is acceptable… maybe that will do.  I went with cracked windows and propane heater for more stealth.
  12. Separate gym bag, from daily backpack/daypack.  A Black card membership with Planet Fitness or the like is implicit.  $25/mo to goto any branch in a nationwide gym.  And a lot of them are 24hours.
  13. E-reader as opposed to book.  A book has illustrations.  I’m not talking about like a child’s picture book, but if need a book with a lot of diagrams, tables, and cross-referencing to understand it, the e-reader probably isn’t going to replace it.  But like I said, where are you going to find a quiet place to read a book like that.  If you need something like a wikipedia webpage, e-reader probably won’t match that.  But if you need something that is 99% text, e-reader suffices more than enough.
  14. A big ass battery you can charge thru 12V accessory port as you drive, and then can recharge your 5V devices with.  I’m not sure there’s anything bigger than a 30,000 mah  5v lith ion that would serve this purpose now, but they take a ridiculous amount of time to charge.  Ideally, if your car accessory port can pump 20amps, that’s (oversimplified) 20,000 mah in one hour of driving that you can use later.  If you’re thinking solar, it’s an ok solution bc you dont have to drive, my 100W panel puts out 7A from 10a to 4p on sunny day in Arizona (42000mah over 6 hours), 5A everywhere else.
  15. Paper pad and pens.  As ridiculous as it sounds, writing implements are necessary.  There are just little notes that need to be kept all the time.
  16. Lots of little pouches to carry things in, esp if you have cargo pants and will go thru metal detectors.  If you pack things in those pouches, when going past security, it’s an easier remove and replace.
  17. Even in summer heat, you may still elect to have breathable, long sleeve shirts and pants if sunburn is a concern.  Better than suntan lotion in my opinion.
  18. Lots of paper towels, and wetnaps on reserve.  I’ve used weekly.
  19. Either a good paper map, or a stand-alone GPS unit.  This is just to get you back on the road, where you can use your smartphone again, when it doesn’t get a signal.  This is actually likely to happen.


  1. I recommend against cooking, unless money is of the essence, AND you have cooking facilities inside the vehicle.  Fast food is just really that convenient.  Grilling and BBQ outside is not practical under 50F.  And then, you need fridge, and clean water sources for cooking, drinking, AND cleaning.  I recommend soap too, though I recommend a real sink for this.  You can still boil water in some leftover grime left from last cooking session that cleaning with just water can’t get off.  If you don’t have enough water, you can’t use the slightly soapy pot anymore.
  2. Tent and folding chairs.  I’ve used these very little, but when I did, I was very happy to have them on beaches and campgrounds.  But in a urban environments, it’s never used.  Unless you plan on tailgating.  If you want to be happy going to a campground, or beach, then you need these.
  3. I’d recommend a DSLR w 300mm lens over a spotting scope or binoculars, but obviously cost is a concern.  but otherwise, there are telescopic attachments for cell phones that work pretty well in sunlight and don’t cost a lot.  But if you just want to see something up close from far away, a spotttng scope is ridiculously clear.  But that’s rare.  Unless when you need to see something really far away clearly, you definitely NEED it (and if you don’t, there will be dire circumstances).  I can’t think of a reason why that is the case, unless you are on the ocean, looking for land. Is seeing a bald eagle nest in real life worth carrying a padded case with your special glass?  I’d rather photo it, slightly smaller, than seeing every feather in it’s wings.

How is the Van doing?

2016 to 2018 Roundtrip.png

200,000+ mi  on the odometer and engine still going strong.  The GPS conked out in miami before I noticed it in Maryland.  But calculating that stretch as the bird would fly, that’s still 30,982mi, clocking an average of 23mph of 1368hours moving on the road.  Starting in NYC on 20160713 and returning to NYC on 20180316. And delta thinks a 5000mi coffee run is impressive. Ha.


What has the van gone thru?

Radiator fan burns out.  Still in NYC.  Fan assembly needs replacing.  Fuse for fan needs to be replaced too.  Radiator replaced, too (this was a probably rip off bc there wasn’t a leak).

2 Jumpstarts.  New Battery in ??? solves problem

Shaking over 55mph from NYC all the way to Dallas.  After Dallas, it starts to feel dangerous.  Wheel bearing replaced in Athens, TX.  Replaced the brake pads while at it.

Temporary tire on driver’s front has almost no tread, and finally gives way in Austin, NV.  Middle of Nowhere.  Got another temporary tire from the only auto shop anywhere close.

Phoenix, a operator malfunction shorts the factory stock radio (subconscious desire suspected) and new head unit installed.

On way to Sequoia Natl Park, one of the tires develops a leak.  Right front?  New tire.  and we are back on the road.

Oakland pothole causes 2 flats on passenger side.  and 2 destroyed rims.  2 rims from a Alvin’s junkyard and 2 new tires later from Mac Tire Sales, and we’re back on the road.

The oakland pothole destroyed something else.  The suspension bottoms out with any bump all thru Mt St Helens.  At Anacortes, I replace the front struts at Les Myles.  Handles like new again.

yellowstone rock rips a hole in one of the new tires, passenger front.  And rips a chunk off the lip of a rim.  another new tire from Tire*Rama and we’re back on the road.

Check Engine light on and off all thru trip.  Rough idle after Jackson, WY, climbing the Tetons to get to Idaho Falls.  Misfire code from OBD diagnostic at mechanic, Advanced Auto Repair (after Ray’s forwarded) cleared the code.  No charge.  Check Engine light again in Rapid City SD.  New Ignition wires solved.

Green Bay.  Insufficient Coolant mix for -17 deg in Green Bay.  The temperature gauge after 20min will go over halfway on temperature gauge, and the coolant will boil.  No problem with belt.  But unable to keep engine running wo radiator overflow.  Mechanic at Auto Aces next to O’Reilly Auto Parts said nothing is wrong w coolant pump, but he flushed the engine coolant.  Probably coolant in hose froze hard and melted in his garage.  Fine after.  Not one overheat after that.

200,000 Miles hit in Alabama

The passenger rear temporary tire finally gives way.  And disintegrates in northern Florida.  Found a walmart.  New tire.  and we’re back on the road.

Palm Beach, somehow while parked, someone rams his car into the passenger rear wheel and the wheel is bent like it has an extreme negative camber.  The entire axle needs to be replaced on that model of vehicle.  At Ron’s Auto Repair, after Goodyear referred the repair to them.

Driver malfunction caused vehicle to hit a curb.  Car pulls to right since Wisconsin.  Alignment finally in Richmond Firestone service.  Camber still bad which is a slight pull to right, but at least steering wheel is true.

To pass NYS safety inspection, the taillight needs to be replaced, and 2 tires that were worn bald from the trip, need to be replaced.

All in all.

44 states (Not VT, NH, LA, RI and obviously HI and AK).  31,000 mile roundtrip.

Lowest elevation Death Valley

Highest, Denver.

Most west, Seattle

Most east, bar harbor

Most north, Marquette

Most south, south padre island (key west was on another earlier trip).

Park n rides in Boston, Denver, slc, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Fran, Phoenix, Chicago, DC.

Back to D.C.

I just don’t remember the archives. I now know why. It’s guarded more closely than either the Cistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa. Inside a great hall the great documents are stored. I assume they are on poster sized paper bc that was the posting back then. The hall is darkened, like the chambers containing the other 2 works of art.

But the other two, a stray photographer will take a flash once and a while. No real chance in archives building. No photography anywhere in building. And the declaration and constitution in rotunda, you are remind verbally upon entering, with 4 guards aside the documents, waiting for you to lift your camera.

But you get to see the ink blotches where it leaked.

The faded calligraphy on yellow paper looks like elvish from the movie “Lord of the Rings”.

They even have the Magna Carta reproduction on display there. It “looked” genuine w a wax seal.

And it’s filled w displays of how public records are preserved, and you get to interact with the digital exhibits.

Around the corner is Pennsylvania Ave w a peak at the Capitol.

Archives metro stop. If you take Park and ride on weekend from outside D.C., it’s free. $5 otherwise. Payment only by credit. D.C. Subway is paid by distance between station(round trip about $12 during peak hours, about 20% discount for offpeak ) or daily pass($17).

You should always see the Lincoln memorial when in town. The view of the Washington memorial in reflecting pool from there, is always worth the 30min walk from Foggy Bottom Station. What a nice view Lincoln gets in the afterlife.

Cherry blossoms bloom in late march. Or a few weeks. I’m not going to wait around to see them, though.

Virginia is for lovers, does that mean Miami is for breakups?

(Above Image from https://www.visitrichmondva.com/listings/the-grand-kugel/1670/)

Other links:

Yes, there’s a lot of unattractive people here in Virginia. (Kidding… sorta)

And the biggest attraction I could find was a the Grand Kugel.