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Old 09-11-2002, 12:39 AM   #1
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Advice for long term trailering

OK kids, I am getting so close to getting on the road now. I'm sure I've lost my mind. I'm taking Swifty, the Silver Twinkie, my 31 foot Excella and I'll be gone for up to a year. When I hit the end of the driveway I'll just decide whether to go right or left. I'll only have the cat to answer to.
I've spent so much money on the truck and trailer already and will be without income for a year. On top of that I am packing up (throwing out) 30 years of packrat accumulation and trying to live a more zen-like existence. I make four piles: Trash, Thrift Store, Things I need in the trailer, and things I love and won't give up so am storing away.

So this is the last chance for full-timers, often on-the-roaders, and anyone with a crackpot opinion to give me advice about being on the road. I still need to figure out mail forwarding, emailing, television reception... all that stuff. I bought a new laptop computer with speakers and will use that for my stereo and DVD player. Tomorrow I'm going to go to Costco and buy a TV, a digital camera and an extra battery for the Twinkie. (Spent most of today with my neighbor trying to figure out why the truck wasn't charging the batteries when I towed, but now it's ok.) The truck has both a CD and a cassette player so I can listen to books on tape. I just wish there was a way to use libraries on the road. And I'm beginning to realize that I'd better find a cheaper way to stay than campgrounds every night. I'm thinking of, whenever I enter an area, find a nice campground I can stay for a few nights, roll the motorcycle off the truck, and drive into farmyards asking the farmer if I can hook up next to their barn for $50 a week. I love cows and the cat is just plain fascinated with them. Of course, I could run into old farmer Tony Perkins who keeps his mother in the attic, and I'd better not ask to use his shower.
Also, how important is it to keep the weight down in the trailer? Would taking a sewing machine be the act of a true nutcase? Did I mention I'm a packrat? I'm out of time and will be doing most of my remodeling on the road so I'll be carrying a lot of tools. I also like to collect rocks, but understand that such a habit led Lucille Ball to disaster.
Is there anything else I haven't thought of?
I'm both anxious and excited, and the stress level is causing me to forget things, drop things, etc.
Thanks for any advice! Cheryl
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Old 09-11-2002, 01:59 AM   #2
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Sounds exciting Cheryl!

As far as inexpensive places to stay...how about FREE? IF you are a member of WBCCI, the Membership Directory has a listing of all the current members and it notes those with "Courtesy Parking" for fellow Airstreamers.

I think that would be a GREAT way to meet some good folks with a like interest...Airstreams! These people are also going to be able to "fill you in" on the local sites & attractions and best of all it's FREE! That'll pay for your WBCCI membership pretty quick I would say.

I probably wouldn't Courtesy Park every night for a whole year, but I certainly would part of the time...who knows, some of them might even own some cows!

Enjoy your trip, stay in touch with the Forums, share your experience, post pictures, be safe & keep the shiny side up ~

Shari

P.S. I'm jealous!
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Old 09-11-2002, 02:05 AM   #3
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Talking parking

Hi...
Just to let you know if you make it to NH, we have a spot here with hookup(water/elect.) for your A/S..Cows can be found down the road from us at the dairy farm...You do your own "milkin"...lol
Good luck to you..
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Old 09-11-2002, 10:26 AM   #4
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Cheryl,

When we full timed we carried a sewing machine in a case in the back of the truck. It was nice to have when it was needed.

As to cheaper campgrounds I affer two resources. One is the Airstream parks directory. I have stayed at the one in Pensacola and it was only $8.00 per night for full hook up. The other is the Escapees club. http://www.escapees.com/website/ They have a network of parks as well as Mail forwarding services.

The Escapees also have information on seasonal jobs that can allow you to stay for free and earn money in some of the national parks. The sites may not be great but the surroundings are.

As to the books on tape issue, you may want to check into a naitional truck stop as some have a rent/retun program that will allow you to pick up a book in Florida and return it in Texas. There is a cost involved but it is less than buying books to listen to a couple of times.

As to the weight of the trailer there are two main concerns. One is safety, an overloaded trailer will not necessarly respond as it should in an emergency and could make a minor incident a major one. Second the extra wear on tires, brakes, shocks, and hitch equiptment can cause you to have big $$ repair bills down the road. If you are storeing things anyway, just store more. Knowing you can always swing back by and swap out stuff means you will never actually do it. Much of the extra stuff we carried was rarely used and the extra weight was not really worth it. Some things that you may want to take with are some smaller parts like bulbs, fuses, hinges and the like. You may want to as some of the other owners of your vintage what they would reccomend.

Let us know how it goes!
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Old 09-11-2002, 10:56 AM   #5
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My father-in-law told me that if you are a member of the Elks club, you can park for free at any of their lodges. I've never seen anyone mention it here, though....maybe its sort of like the "walmart" thing..temporary, or just "overnight".
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Old 09-11-2002, 11:17 AM   #6
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Cheryl,
Camping World has a few books out on "camping for free". There is another book I purchased from them that lists highway exits that allow you to dump black/graywater tanks for free and will list Information Centers and rest stops that will allow you to stay for a few hours or up to a week. I looked these up when I traveled from TN. to AZ. and back so that I could get a few hours of sleep. I really pushed on that trip traveling 3200 miles in 4 days by myself. If you do a forum search, probably under "maximun length", you will find a site you can go to that lists max. trailer and vehicle length, max. width, brakes required or not, safety equipment, etc. listed by state. They also show whether the state law allows overnight stay at rest stops. These can come in handy if all you are doing is stopping because you can't go any farther and you need a temporary rest. As far as TV goes, a friend gave me a little 5" B&W TV free and I have used it a few times when rained out on a deer hunt. I am looking at the 13" color AC/DC Sylvania sold through Camping World to replace the
5". You may not always have 110 v. hookup so the 12 v. feature would come in handy. They do have a 13" TV/VCR combo but why spend the extra if you have a DVD setup already. I would also look at a Direct TV dish unit for better reception since not all campgrounds have cable. A recent thread discussed the difference between Dish and Direct so use the search function to look at the responses. I eventually would like to go to this but the wife doesn't want a dish at the house much less spend the extra money with the trailer. Good luck on you
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Old 09-11-2002, 11:19 AM   #7
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Cheryl,
I forgot that Marjorie posted a thread 7/20/02 that she owns a campground in Pensacola, FL. and allows 1 free overnight for Airstreamers. Every night after that is $5 per night. She can be reached at maj60@earthlink.net.
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Old 09-11-2002, 11:32 AM   #8
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We're newbies, but planning to do the same thing... full-timing.

From advice I've been given, the Escapees RV Club is the way to go for USPS mail forwarding and other services, such as a free email address.

You'll need an ISP that has local dial-up numbers in a wide variety of places, and a free 800 number to download them from the server. AOL and AT&T Worldnet come to mind. Most dial-up ISPs provide an email account, but some of the cell phone data providers don't.

Rather than use a email host that requires access through a web browser, get one that supports a POP client, like Outlook or Outlook Express, so you connect, download the mail, disconnect, read the mail and compose replies off-line, then reconnect, upload replies (while downloading any new mail) and disconnect. Most people won't mind you using their phone if you're quick about it.

When it comes to appliances, i.e. TV, coffee maker, vacuum, etc look not only for light weight, but low power usage. 12 volt appliances won't cause the power loss going through the inverter like 120 volt ones do. Get a 120 volt 30 amp to 15 amp household plug adapter if you don't have one. At least you'll be able to charge the batteries and use lower-powered 120 volt appliances when 30 amp power isn't available.

No, it isn't crazy to carry a sewing machine. That's mandatory for us. It's the serger that's debatable! LOL!

Weight is going to be important, especially if you're boondocking. You'll want a full tank of fresh water at 8.4 lbs/gallon, when you head out to do that, so that's a few hundred pounds of "stuff" you can't carry. Definitely get a good filter... if you fill the tank with contaminated water, it takes a lot of filling and draining to get it purged out.

A number of good (cheap) parks have only a common dump station and don't allow grey water dumping on the ground. One of those blue tote tanks will let you dump without moving the trailer. Just keep in mind how heavy they get when full, so you probably wouldn't want to use one in a boondocking situation, but you could probably dump grey water on the ground there. Just keep enough water in the grey water tank (weight) to flush the hose, etc after dumping black water at the next dump station.

Anyway, that's just a few things off the top of my head... we're also debating other things like nationwide cell phone service, whether to try to do data on it, etc.
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Old 09-11-2002, 02:25 PM   #9
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Hey, you guys are great! So much fabulous information. My head is spinning... especially the technical stuff. I've never understood electricity very well. If the TV is AC/DC, that means it can run on 12 volt? I thought all the outlets in my trailer only worked if I was plugged in. So how would I plug it in to 12 volt? I'm printing off all your replies and will take them to a smart guy... I think I can find one.

I have been seriously thinking about getting a dish for reception. I can't miss West Wing. I'd end up in some bar slugging it out with some yahoo who wanted to watch wrestling instead.

I've just recently hammered into my head the definition for ISP, and I guess I'm stuck with Verizon since I just signed a 2 year cell phone agreement with them, and my internet right now is through them. I don't know. I guess this is the area that confuses me most.

Also, does anyone carry a generator? Would the extra weight be worth it? I just removed all the gizmo from the defunct hydraulic vacuum brakes that was on the front, so I would have room to mount it there behind the propane tanks. I don't understand generators either, but I guess even a Norwegian can learn.. if the teacher has a hammer and a lot of patience. After all, I can back the Twinkie up now even into a pretty tight space, as long as I have an hour or two to spare.

And here's another detail question. Does anyone travel with a catbox? How does one avoid STENCH! I also... unfortunately... smoke, and although I swear now that I will only do so outside, I know there will be some cold nights when I will lose my resolve. Maybe somebody has worked up a super duper ventilation approach... or maybe I will and then let you all know how I did it.
Well, can't think of any more silly questions right now. I'm heading out to spend money on TV and camera and battery, etc. Maybe I'll stop at the truck stop and interview truckers about the best truck stops. None of those guys look like they would listen to books on tape, but who knows? Thanks, Cheryl
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Old 09-11-2002, 04:06 PM   #10
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You should have a few 12 volt outlets in your trailer; check the owner's manual for locations. They look like the "cigarrette lighter" plug in your car. So, yes, if the tv has an ac/dc connector, it will plug into one of those 12v outlets, and run off the battery. Sam's Club was carying a 9" tv/vcr combo that I bought. nice picture....I think a 13" would be too big. but my trailer is small.....

In my trailer, there's an outlet over the fridge, but its mounted underneath the overhead cabinet, so I didn't even see it there at first. Its not in a normal "line of sight". I have to bend down, and then look up at the bottom of the cabinet to see it. Another outlet is hiding in the bathroom medicine cabinet. The third is in the small cabinet over the front couch. the radio is plugged into that one.
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Old 09-11-2002, 04:40 PM   #11
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Cheryl,
I sent a post but the server shut down as I sent it. Here we go again. The TV has a seperate 110 v. transformer that plugs into your 110 v. outlet and the other end plugs into the TV. It converts the 110 v. alternating current to 12 v. direct current. When shore power is not available, there is another wire setup that has a male cigarette plug on one end and a male single prong plug on the other end. The single prong plugs into the TV and the male cigarette plug fits female cigarette plugs throughout your trailer. My '77 31' has them located in the entertainment credenza underneath the front window, one near the sink, one by the curbside window, one over the roadside dresser and one in the bathroom underneath the right hand light. It provides you 12 v. DC straight from your batteries. I like this arrangement because I boondock most of the time and do not have access to 110 v. power. I really like the new 13" Sylvania at Camping World. It is so much better than the 5" I'm looking at now and would fit nicely in the front credenza (51 yr. old eyes need this type of attention).

I would not mount a generator on the tongue behind the propane tanks but place it on the ground or keep it in the bed of a truck. I'm not big on generators and would rather spend my money on solar power with tilt frames, inverters and a bank of batteries.
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Old 09-11-2002, 05:03 PM   #12
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good luck in your travels. Sounds like a terrific opportunity!
I wanmted to mention on the order of free camping, that many State Parks offer you free stays, if you act as a campground host for awhile. You can set up in a great park, use their facilities, and drive into visit nearby sites of interest. The Georgia State Park system is one, and has many beutiful and well equipped campgrounds, with security gates and all.
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Old 09-11-2002, 06:28 PM   #13
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Chuck and Craig covered the 12V outlets pretty well, and you're correct, when not plugged into 120V, your 120V outlets don't work.

However, you can buy an inverter, which turns 12V DC into 120V AC. Volts (electrical pressure) times amps (volume of electrical flow) equals watts (power). So it would seem that you'd need 10 times the 120V current from your batteries to run a 120V appliance off 12V through an inverter. However, inverters aren't 100% efficient so a 60 Watt 120V (half an amp) appliance may cause the inverter to consume 72W (6 amps) from your batteries, rather than the 5 amps you'd get from multiplying half an amp by 10. Hope that wasn't confusing.

That's why it's preferable to use appliances that work directly off 12 volts. However, there may be some devices that you'll need an inverter for. Your laptop and cell phone may be supported by 12V chargers, but from what I've seen, some of these are "rapid chargers" and can decrease the life of the battery they're charging.

Some chargers are only available in 120V, such as the one for my FRS radios and Canon Elph Digital. I personally haven't found a 12V vacuum cleaner that works as well as a 120V. But rather than buy an inverter large enough to power a 120V Dirt Devil, we may just put off vacuuming until we're near a standard 120V outlet and use a 100' extension cord to get to it. An inverter is something to consider if you'll need 120V at times you aren't plugged in.

There are two types of inverters, modified sine-wave (a stairstep pattern) and pure sine-wave (lower powered and more expensive). Some electronics need a pure sine wave, but most appliances don't.

I'm not a fan of solar, which is fine for keeping your batteries charged in a stored trailer. A generator gives much more bang for the buck, AND gives you 120V. The downside is having to carry gasoline for it in the truck (especially if you drive a diesel and don't otherwise need gas) and the noise. Many, if not most, generators are really too noisey to be used in a campground. The Honda EU series is know to be quiet and reliable.

The question is, "how much generator do you need?" The answer is, "how much do you want to run?" A 1000W (900 continous) can charge your batteries and operate something like small vacuum, a coffemaker, etc. A 2000W (1600 contiuous) can run a hair dryer or a microwave oven (which consumes about 150% of it's "rated" power, so a 1000W microwave needs 1500W). A 3000W (2800 continuous) can run one of the smaller air-conditioners. For maximum flexibility, you can pair the 2000W models for 3200 continous with lots of room for peaks, and do other things while the air-conditioner is running.

Weight is a consideration with generators. The 1000W weighs about 28 lbs, the 2000 weights 48, and the 3000 near 140 lbs as I recall. I'd carry it in the truck bed but run it on the ground, chained to the trailer for security.

We gotta have satellite also... the receiver will probably need a pure sine-wave inverter (to avoid noise) for boondocking (I don't know of any 12V ones and I already have two now). A standard 18" single or dual LNB dish will work with one of those tripod mounts, if you're used to aiming your own dish. The tripod mount and a 100' cable lets you move the dish around in case your trailer parking spot doesn't have a clear shot at the sky due to trees.

Yeah, we'll be carrying a cat box (with charcoal element in the top cover... they help). Daily scooping and twice weekly (we have 2 cats) litter replacement with a thorough washing of the box should keep odor down. Not much you can do but turn the fans on when they break wind or have a stinky. How can something so cute smell so bad?

Hope this helps!
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Old 09-11-2002, 06:46 PM   #14
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Cat box

I have travelled with a cat very successfully. I used the clumping litter. Clumps, as soon as I noticed them, went into zip=lock baggies and into the garbage can. I never had any odor problem. The clumping litter is more expensive, but a little goes a long way if you take the clumps right out so the balance stays clean and dry.

For a cat-box, I duct-taped two big throw-away aluminum baking pans top to top. I then cut a hole in the top pan and bent the edges double. The top pan made it deep enough to keep the cat from kicking litter all over. The pan was light and not as large as a conventional pan.
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Old 09-11-2002, 07:16 PM   #15
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I can understand some dislike of solar power, but if you are going to budget 3K for a generator to run everything you can get solar to do it all, but the AC.

We had 4 50 Watt 5AMP panels on the roof, with a 1250 WATT Trace inverter and 2 group 27 batteries. We rarely ever plugged in unless we wanted AC, and we even used our bread machine on a 4 hour cycle on full sun days! We carried a 120 volt dirt devil broom vac and it did fine. When we full timed, we tried to do so without many limitations. The solar let us do what we wanted where we wanted for the most part. One of the other great things we would do on travel days is to fill up the crock pot, plug it in, put it in the sink, fire up the inverter and drive. Hot dinner by the time we were ready to park for the night and the truck alternator did all the work.

So if power, without AC is your thing you may want to lean more about the solar systems that are available. They do cost more than the purchase price on a genset, but there is little or no maintence costs.
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Old 09-12-2002, 12:24 AM   #16
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More about cats and power

Great catbox suggestion, Pahaska. That would especially work well when I have the stinky old thing riding in the truck with me. It's a crew cab, but still not enough space to keep me far enough away from a catbox.

Have any of you left the cat(s) in the trailer while you drive? I'm afraid the movement might make her miserably sick and I would have to keep pulling over to check on her. (God, I sound like an old lady.)

And about solar... if I decide to go that way, where do I get equipped for it? If I bought the equipment, would that include set-up? I love the idea of solar vs. gas powered. And generators are big and expensive. I priced one at Costco today, turned white and walked away. I did the same at the digital cameras. And I forgot to ask you guys which kind of battery to buy. I knew to get deep cycle, and ended up with a 700 amp, 30 month guaranteed, Marine deep cycle battery for 44 bucks. I got it home and the friendly ex-husband asked if the posts were on the correct sides and Shoot! I don't know. I'll have to wait for daylight to compare it to my other one. I'm feeling dumber by the day.

Also, I'm not at all sure that the truck is charging the batteries. I didn't drive it far yesterday, but today it was all dead again and I've got it parked too far from the house for an extension cord, so I can't unhook it from the truck until I figure it out. Not having power in the trailer really shakes me up for some reason. It makes me feel so... I don't know... powerless.

Thanks again... Cheryl and stinky old Pesky Pester
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Old 09-12-2002, 01:20 AM   #17
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sites

I don't know if you're aware of this site but, it list some excellent camping sites..Plus other A/S news..
http://www.airstreamtrailers.com/
ciao
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Old 09-12-2002, 04:47 AM   #18
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Cheryl,
I do hope you plan on writing a book!
'On the road with Cheryl and stinky old Pesky Pester'

You first chapter is being written as we type.
All the best!
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Old 09-12-2002, 05:10 AM   #19
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Cat in trailer

I left the cat in the trailer just once while under way, for about a mile from a service station to a campground. She was frantic. I never did it again. I have an idea that it is pretty scary back there.

Get a real good leash and harness for the cat. You never know when something is going to happen while transferring from truck to trailer or vice versa. Once, it was a sonic boom. No way you can keep a scared cat in your arms without something to hold on to. With a leash, the cat can always get to safety under the vehicles if dogs suddenly appear.
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Old 09-12-2002, 10:56 AM   #20
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Gotta have my AC! The most I'd budget for AC would be $2,000 for a pair of Honday EU2000i generators and interconnect cable and 30A RV pigtail. But just for grins, lets compare two small (1500W) power systems.

I can get the Honda EU2000 for $859 with free shipping. It'll run wide-open at 1600W for over 4 hours on a 1 gallon tank of gas... (most owners report 8 hours) MUCH longer than that if auto-speed is enabled. But the point is, I can power everything except the AC, AND charge the batteries when the generator isn't providing full output for less than $900.

Now let's look at a 1500W Trace DR1512 (modified sine wave) with 30A transfer switch. It's $852 plus shipping at The Alternate Energy Store... about the same cost as the Honda generator. At rated output (1500W) the DR1512 will be sucking a whopping 165A from my batteries (Trace specs).

So I'll need a bank of 8 batteries (400+ lbs) to keep discharge rate down to a bit over 20A each and get about 4 hours run time (the Honda's least) at the Trace's rated output.

Now... lets talk about recharge. With the Honda, I have to walk outside and pour a gallon of gas in the tank.

On a good day, I can count on about 4 hours of peak power from sunlight out of solar panels. I'd need four 75 watt panels for 5A at 15V each per battery to recharge at 20A. So if I had an 8 battery bank (worst case Honda run time), I'd need 32 panels, which are about 2' X 4' and $500 each.

A $900 inverter, $400+ worth of batteries, and $16,000 and 256 sq ft (more than twice my roof area) of panels, plus the cost of mounts and a good sunny day everyday, and I'd have a solar system with almost the same capability as the $900 generator with a good source of gasoline every day.

This exercise in number crunchin' just shows a realistic comparison of solar energy to petroleum based (I don't work for the petrochemical industry) and why solar has never caught on.

About the most inverter I'd want on a two battery system would be a ($314 plus shipping) 500W Trace 512, which draws 43A at rated output, leaving maybe 7A from a battery pair for a couple of 12V lights while it's running at 500W, and leaving no less than 92A from a 135A vehicle alternator to charge the two vehicle batteries (diesel) and two trailer batteries while underway. It would be a nice addition to the Honda.

That would handle the Dirt Devil or other similar small appliances, such as a crock pot, but certainly not a hair dryer or microwave (I have a gas stove and oven, so the MW isn't a big issue). The big problem with this model is that the transfer switch is only 15A, so I'd have to downgrade the 20A GFCI for the kitchen/bathroom/outdoor circuit to 15A to wire it in there, where it would be most useful.

Just my thoughts and ramblings on the solar vs generator issue and inverters. Feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.
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