Pittsburgh Road Trip, Day 1


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Yesterday (the 12th) I set out on a somewhat ambitious journey. A driving trip from Boston to Pittsburgh for a 4 day camping excursion with blk. The occasion is a private party held out in the hills outside Pittsburgh.

After much hemming and hawing, and taking into account my general dislike of sleeping in tents in rainy conditions if I can avoid it, I decided to haul our Jayco camper trailer out, instead of flying there and tenting it.

I had never driven the van this far before, and certainly not hauling a 2700lb trailer. I had camped with the trailer before, so knowing what was needed for that was pretty easy. Bedding, flashlights, etc etc. No problem. But the 10-11 hours in the car was another matter.

I loaded up the iPod with a bunch of new tracks, and also spent some time rejeuvenating my XM Radio. The main problem was that I was getting a constant whine in the speakers. Fiddling around it turned out the whine was only happening when jacked into either of the 12v outlets in the van. This wouldn’t do. I rattled this around for a while and noticed this problem merged with another problem I was wrestling with. How to power the trailer while camping. The trailer can take a 12v power lead (as well as 110v ‘shore’ power), but the small lead acid batteries I had been using (scavenged from UPSes) are not ‘deep cycle’, and once fully discharged tend to really lose it.

The answer came after I remembered seeing these Black and Decker Jumpstarter / Power supply thingies at a Sears local service center. A quick trip to AutoZone and lo, there one was. 400amp, has a 12v socket on it, charges from 12v or from 110v, has a compressor, and says it has no problems cycling from fully charged to low charge, just don’t do it constantly. Perfect. $79 later, and it was mine.

At a previous campout, we had used a similar hookup (loaned to us by another camper), but it was much smaller (maybe 100amp?), and really didn’t hold up for a whole weekend. I think it started out low charge too.

I charged up the battery, and installed it into the footwell on the passenger side of the van. Using the 12v connection from my XM receiver, I jacked it into the battery, and lo! No whining! A totally isolated power source.

It turns out the power held up beautifully, powering first my XM receiver, then my ipod, and back again, for the entire trip, without losing more than a quarter of its charge. Excellent. I’ll be able to power my toys on the trip, then move it to the trailer for powering lights and other accessories while we’re camped.

The drive out in an of itself wasn’t particularly eventful. I went over several sets of “mountains” (the quotes there for Rosa’s benefit – being from Wyoming, hearing easterners refer to our little lumps as ‘mountains’ gives her a chuckle) – regardless, they were a lot of work to get over. The van held up great, though I certainly did spend time in the 40mph lane going over some hills.

Pennsylvania is HUGE, and has some absolutely gorgeous countryside. I had forgotten how empty the middle of the state is. Even within 30miles of Pittsburgh, it’s wide open rural.

P7130023.JPGIt rained occasionally, but mostly was overcast and just humid.

Today we pack up and head off to the campsite. The forecast for the weekend is occasional thunderstorms (which are wonderful when the trailer is all set up and comfy), but a little tricky for getting around and socializing. We’ll see!


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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3 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Road Trip, Day 1

  1. I firmly believe that hatred for camping in the rain is the wages of bad equipment 🙂 My little tent stays dry, and so with a quick-dry towel and enough changes of clothes, works out pretty well.

  2. My hatred for camping in the rain comes not from previous leaky tents (although I think I have had one) but from an utter hatred for being uncontrollably damp. With a tent, even after getting a change of clothes, I usually end up feeling damp and clammy, because there isn’t enough distance between me and the wet.

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