Much of my time the past couple weeks has been sitting - studying SAM - with the object to refine and upgrade her Systems. So far, we have:
(1) Modified SAM's Solar Panel Installation by eliminating the "adjusting" supports. The Solar Panels are now fixed in position, sloping forward about 30 degrees to best catch light.
(2) Completely changed SAM's Solar Panel "Covers". The Solar Panels have no "ON" "OFF" switch. The vinyl covers do double duty: Eliminate Light - effectively turning the panels OFF; and provide weather protection - from dust and rain, keeping the panels "clean" when not in use.
The covers were previously held in place with Velcro - which was a failure in the 100+ degree temperatures -. They are now held in place with screws on one side and quick-release SNAPS on the opposite side, allowing quick positive hold down (important in heavy winds).
Last Summer the "covers" always partially covered the Solar Panel Cells, effectively limiting - and often turning OFF - the electrical flow. If a single row of cells is even partially covered, the entire Solar Panel is essentially turned OFF. This was a serious problem before I understood that part of Solar Panel technology. Battery charging should now be much improved.
(3) Changed SAM's Auxiliary Battery (a single stand alone 12V 8 ah) installation. A "cigarette lighter" has been added to SAM's control panel for quick disconnect of auxiliary equipment, such as the GPS, chargers for small voltage batteries for flashlights, cell phone, camera, etc. Also, a separate hard-wired connector has been added as a charging point connection.
(4) SAM has also received an INVERTER (changes 12 Volt to 120 Volt electricity). This small item fits in the palm of one hand and can be used to borrow 12 Volt electricity from any passing motorist or other handy 12 Volt power source. Small 120 Volt appliances (hair dryer for example to quickly dry out that pair of wet socks) or battery chargers can be plugged into the Inverter.
(5) SAM's 36 V 8 ah secondary battery pack has been modified. All of the connectors on the three (3) 12 V batteries making up this 36 V system are SLIP-FIT Tabs. Last Summer, these slip-fit tabs, receiving constant vibration from road surfaces, came loose, shutting down the entire battery pack. We have soldered - and or crimped - SAM's electrical wire connectors to the battery slip-fit tabs and securely taped them to the batteries and each other. This makes a rigid wire harness which should eliminate battery connector failures.
Later today, Sunday, November 07, 2010, we plan to modify SAM's PRIMARY battery pack - the 12 amp hour system - in the same way.
(6) SAM has received all SOLID RUBBER TIRES. Last Summer, we had flats from such silly things Rose Bush thorns. Solid Rubber Tires - as used on performance Mountain Bikes - will effectively eliminate flats.
Changing to Solid Rubber Tires eliminates the need to carry: Spare Tires, Tubes, Kevlar Strips (reduces punctures), Jacks (to lift SAM up when servicing the tires), Tire Air Pump AND Tools needed to service the pneumatic tires. This makes for considerable weight reduction and space availability for really essential things such as food and that extra pair of socks.
We took SAM on a 10 - mile walk yesterday. The Solid Rubber Tires, even though with knobby tire tread, ran smoothly and actually made it much easier to steer SAM around corners.
(7) Yet to be accomplished is to purge SAM of un-needed STUFF. Last Summer, WE took along "extra THIS" and "extra THAT"...just in case. Fully 80 percent of that STUFF was never used. We were fighting at every stop trying to remember where WHAT was and digging it out of SAM's storage.
(8) Also taken along last Summer was a Rain Cover - much like a motorcycle cover - purchased especially for SAM. We never used it. We tried it out Yesterday. It is quickly zippered into place and is large enough for ME to sit on a box leaning back against SAM and be fully protected from the rain, wind, and COLD.
Because it fits into a wee bag hanging on SAM's side, it can be unpacked and installed over SAM in a minute or two. It will be used during short rest periods when confronted by the tempests we expect walking the Olympic Rain Forest and Pacific Coast this Winter.
(9) Brooks Walkers have served ME well. They are waterproof, comfortable and have almost no wear. Walking in inclement weather (lots of rain and wind expected), the Brooks will not suffice. I must obtain similar comfy "boots" to make it through the muck awaiting us.
(10) We are also looking into a waterproof "BAG" for our Sleeping Bag. It will not do for our Sleeping Bag to become muddy and/or wet. Some research will be needed here.
I read on the Internet a day or two ago about a fellow who has roamed the USA for the past 6 months without ANY money. He has subsisted using coupons and assistance from friendly folks met along the way. I believe he is taking part in a TV Show...must look more closely into his adventures. $$ is a major consideration for ME, and may be able to emulate this Guy.
So, One can see our time Home has not been lost to our walk. We have improved SAM's design and construction and have streamlined our walking technology.