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Ever Hopeful, Bob Buys a Hammock

Haviland Lake

I was wandering Wal-Mart last Friday, looking for 1411 DC bulbs, when I came across a fine piece of Retirement Monitoring Equipment. It is known outside the RV environment as a "two person hammock". This is a misnomer. Except in preschool and certain sections of South Africa, I know of no two persons in the world who could fit in one at the same time and meditate in comfort.

I can confirm that it accommodates one standard Texan with ease.

There is a children's model called a "one person hammock", but this is a mere plaything. At most a night-time Evil-RV-Robber-Tripper. At worst a potential trap for the unwary owner, out for an impromptu pee without a flashlight.

I've been wanting one of these things.

After nearly two years of preparation and training, I have a sneaking suspicion that retirement will never truly arrive until one can master the "two person hammock" for periods of more than two hours of somnolent calm at a stretch. Two by two.

This would be the "standard test".

Certain fabled masters of the art have been known to stay in the things for days, but it is uncertain whether these individuals have taken retirement to a new level or simply passed away.

It is best to have your spouse and patient help-mate monitor the situation when you are attempting such higher evolutions. Monitoring is achieved by having her periodically ask the following question in a low, persistent, but polite tone of voice:

"Would you like another Drinkie, Dearest?"

Non-responsiveness after two hours is not necessarily a bad thing, but it requires the Monitor to initiate a second level test, otherwise known as "poking with a long stick."

Unleashing the grandchildren upon a Master in Full Meditation is considered cheating. If you do it anyway, and there is STILL no response, it is probably time to call 911.

Or else plant him where he lies, with a suitable marker.

All this comes straight from the Retirement Handbook. I can't argue with any of it. It's well beyond my present state of Illumination. I haven't even passed the Standard Test.

However, as usual, I do have excuses.

Stuff Keeps Happening. The most I've managed consistently is the simple Mount, Swing, and Dismount. This proves nothing, even though I've never once fallen on my kiester in the process. Neophyte City. Somehow I have to develop the discipline to stay in the thing, but so far I have disgraced myself, because Stuff Keeps Happening.

I do not speak of the usual barking Squirrels, nattering Nuthatches, noisome Steller Jays, cackling Crows, or chattering Chipmunks. Even the occasional unpremeditated bonk from a pine cone does not bother me unduly.

I remain serene.

When I say Stuff Happens, I mean Stuff that requires me to get up and (gasp) Work.

For instance:

I was giving the new hammock a 30 minute test drive Saturday, just cruising through the beginner steps, when a powerful thirst sent me to the trailer for refreshment. This is not serious. Exceptions must be made for those who have no Monitor available. I left the hammock idling. No harm done.

But as I approached the door, I heard one of those numerous BEEPS that are incessantly reminding me that all is not well in Trailerland. This time it was the low voltage alarm.

What the heck? I've been hooked up to 30 amps for a week now. Okay, time for Master Scientist Mode:

Breaker on? Check.

Power from panel? Check.

Voltage output from Batteries? 8.5 Volts.

Ooooo. Never, never ever, been that low. Even the radio won't stay on, and the lights have a wan look. Hmmm. Master Scientist stumped. Time for the Dumbass Ex-Fireman to start breaking things.

It is always helpful to have alternate personalities to call on.

I removed all the kitchen drawers and dug my way back to the converter. Checked the AC outlet it was plugged into. Okay. Unplugged the Charge Wizard, whose "on" light, I noticed, ominously remained "off". Aha. The interior 30 amp fuse is burned out. Well, more like melted. I put in another.

Is a 30 Amp automotive fuse supposed to light up like a birthday candle? I had to throw the breaker and let it cool a few minutes before I could remove the still warm and tacky remains.

As luck would have it, Steve from Farmington was my neighbor, and he overheard me whining and cursing. Steve is an electrical engineer, and possesses a potent Meter, capable of foretelling the recent past.

Batteries okay, but depleted.

"You've got 4 golf cart batteries. Series and parallel. 420 Amp-hours, or thereabouts. When you get 'em this low, these babies can draw 50 amps or more. Where were you plugged in before you came here?"

"Uh...I wasn't. I was up in the woods above Dolores."

"How long?"

"About a week."

"Did you use your generator?"

"Uh. A little. I don't like the noise..."

"Well, that's it. You are drawing 50-75 amps through a 30 amp charger protected by an internal fuse. Or trying to. Have you got a separate charger?"

I brightened. Felt minutely smarter, along the level of a pillbug. Which was definitely an improvement. "Of course."

"Try this. Leave the fuse out of the converter. Hook up the external trickle charger overnight. There's a thermistor in there that will shut it down periodically when it draws too much current. Right now that will be every 10 seconds or so. When it reaches 12 volts or above again, sometime tomorrow, try the converter. It should work. The fuse saved it, I think."

It did. I made Steve a ritual gift of plentiful firewood Sunday afternoon, and heaped praise on his punkin head. Abased myself. Laid on the grits. You NewMexicanos is wunnerful folks. Truly.

The Charge Wizard is fried, though, or its connection inside the converter is. The converter puts out a steady 14.4 V now, so I have to turn it off periodically or cook the water off the batteries.

I am the Charge Wizard now, God help me, at least until I get to a place that will sell a substitute. Where did I put that wand?

And it's not a matter of simply buying a larger converter. Say 60 amps. For the wire run I have, according to my electrical books, that would require replacing my AWG 8 wiring with AWG 4. You can't just change one thing. It all fits together.

Hindsight is the most wonderful thang.

This trailer came with a single 12V battery. When I quadrupled the battery bank, I set up the possibility of the current scenario. I've gotten away with it thus far by never using my batteries down below 50 per cent.

But I'd gotten so used to everything working okay, for the last two years, that I just quit monitoring the state of charge. When I plugged in here, or maybe even before, out in the woods with the generator, it drew more than 30 A, and the interior fuse blew.

Unbeknownst to me, because I wasn't checking, the voltage then got lower and lower and lower, until even the radio didn't work.

That's low. Loooowww. Why should I check? After all, it's plugged in. Right?

Here's what will work now, I think. Check the state of charge, daily, regular as prayer. My own self. If it starts to get low, crank up the generator and leave it on until matters improve. Never mind the din. If the state of charge falls below 12V, use the external trickle charger for a while at first, to keep from melting the converter fuse.

Oh, and buy another charge wizard, to prevent overcharging. Hope it works when I hook it up. If I've slagged some of the converter innards, I may have to buy another converter of the same size.

The alternative is to rewire the trailer and upgrade the converter. Lotta work, cutting waaay into my hammock training. Ain't gonna happen soon.

So. Now you see. How can I ever Master the Hammock, if Stuff Keeps Happening?

Every time I think I've finally broken free, they puuulll me back in.


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