Tag Archives: DC Batteries

Our Eclipse Trip (Part 6)

(Continued from Part 5)

Addendum to Part 5:

So, one of the things that we did after touring the Museum and the reconstructed Forts was to engage in one of the pre-eclipse crafts.  We made colored moon and sun cut-outs to paste over solar viewing glasses (though we had our own glasses, so we just took the cut-outs).

(Lego) Batman!

Then, that evening, they had an outdoor movie the our son and I went to see; Lego Batman.  We biked down with a couple of camp-chairs and a small table, and were some of the first people to stake out seats on the grass.  Not only did we get to see the movie near the riverbank, on an inflatable screen, for free, but they also offered popcorn,Moon Pies, and Sun Drop for refreshments!

It was an awesome end to our day!



Now on to Part 6:

So, the next day, we ventured out to …

Metropolis! (Illinois, that is.)
Superman Square and surroundings (from Google Maps)

The city limits of Metropolis, Illinois directly abut with Fort Massac State Park, so it wasn’t hard to get into the urban setting.  In fact, this sign is right where East 5th street makes a right angle from where it runs south along the park, and then to the west, right over to Superman Square.

That’s right, Metropolis has been decreed to be the official hometown of Superman. On January 21, 1972, an official release from DC Comics made the proclamation, and that was followed by the Illinois State Legislature passing Resolution 572, which affirmed that Metropolis was the “Hometown of Superman” on June 9 of the same year.  Superman Square runs around the County Clerk’s Office, and from there, looking northeast along Market Street, is a 15 foot tall (painted) bronze statue of Superman.

Superman, ready for the upcoming eclipse with his eclipse glasses on!

But, how to get there?  Well, we brought our bikes, and due to the floodplain nature of the area around the Ohio River, the route was overall flat (though the park area is about 20+ feet higher than much of the city along the river), and they have a designated bike route to get from the park over to the square.  So it was just about 2 miles from our site to the square, and taking our time we were still there in half an hour.

Who are these pesky knee-biters? Oh, some Kleinmartins …

So after taking pictures with Superman to prove we were there, we spent a couple of hours looking through the Super Museum, which is right across the square from the Superman Statue.

One of the lead knives used on ‘Adventures of Superman’ with George Reeves.

The Super Museum is pretty amazing (and air-conditioned!), starting off with the gift shop/store where you enter.  For only $5 per person (kids 5&under free), you can get access to see an amazing collection of memorabilia, comics, documents, video clips and documentaries, toys, video games (bring some quarters), and actual TV and movie props from the Superman world that DC has cultivated over the years.

Krypton Power Crystals!
Many, many Superman items …
And control panels …
The boy and Batman pose with Darksieid.

But even after seeing the Supergirl memorabilia room, and Batman and Darkseid, we finally came to the end. We then spent some time in the store, looking at all the stuff they had (they were out of kryptonite chunks, unfortunately).  We ended up with a commemorative magnet (to stick on the steel roof inside the bus), and the last of a commemorative poster that they had in stock.  With these we set off to see one more thing before biking back home.

Lois Lane is ready to take down notes for her story.

Metropolis doesn’t only have a (painted) bronze statue of Superman, but a few blocks northeast up Market Street, they also have a statue of Lois Lane.

To get to Lois, we had to ride through the set-up for a pre-eclipse street festival, that looked (and smelled from the cooking of the food vendors setting up) good and fun.  But, it was so hot and the sky so cloudless, that we thought we’d be better off heading back to the site, where we had shade trees and the woods.

The boy with the heater core fan’s entire output blowing on his back.

And once we got back, it was still pretty hot in and around the bus.  There was hardly a breeze, and even with all the windows and the roof vents open, it was hot.  We’d never encountered this level of heat and humidity (and Buffalo has plenty of humidity, but is pretty breezy), so I hadn’t thought to bring a fan. But I had wired the bus’ 12 volt accessories through a switch so that we could run them off the converter when we were plugged in (or batteries when we’re not) so I started up the big heater core fan and the two defrosting fans.  It worked pretty well.

The Star Wars Theme sounds pretty good on a dobro …

Later, as the sun was going down more, it cooled off as a little breeze started up.  Our son entertained us on his dobro, and I started getting a fire ready for dinner, while my wife made some potato salad and a green salad.

Beans warming up on (the edge of) the fire!

My contribution was to cook some burgers, and heat up some beans (in the can, of course) over the fire. The rotating, adjustable grating worked really well for being able to control the cooking, though

The burgers are about to come off the grill.

we started late and it quickly was pretty dark by the time the burgers were done, so it’s hard to see them well.  After a wonderful dinner, it was off to bed.  The Eclipse was the next day and we wanted to be ready.

(Continued in Part 7)




A Trip to Presque Isle State Park, PA

So, on the 13th of July we set out for Presque Isle State Park in/by Erie, PA.  Our son had a day’s worth of homeschool classes on aquaculture, swamp & beach biomes, the geology of the park, and preservation and maintenance of the park.  While it was only two and a quarter hours away from Buffalo, as the classes started at 9 am, we decided to camp overnight.

Our trip was uneventful, except for the fact that I made the mistake of topping up the coolant level in the bus before we left.  Why was this a problem?  Because there was a small leak at the coolant reservoir that dripped down onto the alternator, frying the voltage regulator.  By the time we had hit the Angola Rest Area on the NYS Thruway/I-90, we were running on battery power.  But as on our Evangola trip, I knew that the engine would keep running fine, but unlike that previous trip I had the house batteries fully charged, and chargers for both the house and bus batteries that would work when we got to shore power.  But now I knew the reason WHY the alternator was failing.  Unfortunately, the fluctuations in voltage damaged the board in the fridge, though I got it to work for part of the time we were plugged in.

We stayed at Sara’s Campground, whose lands abut right up to both the Presque Isle State Park and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.  Their grounds also have sites on both sides of Peninsula Drive/Route 832, the east side has sites for actual beach camping (in tents), and the west side is in the more forested area.

Sara's Campground Site Map
Sara’s Campground Site Map

So, we ended up getting Site 21 in the Forest Section.  It was our first stay in a private campground, and I was frankly surprised at the density of sites! The dashcam recorded our trip into our site, including the trepidation and worries I had of getting the bus in a place I’d have to back out of.

Sara’s Campground, Site 21, with the bus all settled.

But the site was fine.  The electric/water pole had a streetlight on it, so we had to put a blanket up over the windows on that side (thankfully magnets hold to bus steel wonderfully).  But there were no sites to our starboard side (where the firepit was), so it was a nice open site (next to a parking lot). And the concrete pad was very nicely level, so everything was comfortable.

Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.
Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.

But right across the street (via a crosswalk with speedbumps and a pushbutton controlled set of flashing lights to cross) was the start of Presque Isle’s beaches, and we walked all the way up past the first couple of breakwaters.  We did a little beachcombing, then returned and we made a fire and some lovely toastites for dinner.  We had some people stop by, interested in the bus, and we gave them the tour, and some skoolie info, as they had expressed interest in working up their own.

The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.
The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.

A little while later, as the sun was setting, we found that the sun was setting directly behind the bus, through the path to the beach.  It was, however, it was basically 9pm, so we were forced to get to bed before we felt we were ready.

Our next morning was fine, coffee and bowls of cereal for breakfast, and as the engine was running and I was doing our pre-trip, folks came over, interested in the bus. Alas, we didn’t have time for a tour, and weren’t returning, but they thought the concept was cool and were absolutely fine with us being there.

Unfortunately, given the short timing of us getting to the Tom Ridge Center for the aquaponics class, and then us getting from that class to our pontoon boat tour, I forgot to turn the dashcam on for those trips. But after the boat tour, I remembered to turn the cam on, so we have a video tour of Presque Isle, sped up 4x.  You miss out on a whole bunch of the cottonwood tree seeds floating about at that speed, but I recorded us getting from the tour to Barracks Beach, and then down the beach road to the Tom Ridge Center again, and then around the whole park once more.


Our trip back was uneventful, except for the one tractor-trailer driver who LOVED the train horn.  He paced us while we were still in PA, blew his horn and motioned for me to blow ours and gave a thumbs-up when I did, and hung out in front of us to break air for us until he got to the Angola, NY exit where he sounded his horn again and waved, and I sounded ours again.

Testing out the Backup Camera(s) (Part II, The Testing)

(Continued from Part I)

So with the cameras and the screen, I was ready to test them out. The screen was easy, as it had its own AC adapter.  I was able to just plug it in and it came right on, gave a nice blue screen indicating that it was set for the VGA input, and after 10-15 seconds of finding no signal, it went to sleep.

I could wake it easily by either selecting a new input (VGA->Cam 1->Cam-2->VGA cycle), or by just hitting the power button, but with no input, it just went back to sleep again.

The screen with a real image!
The screen with a real image!

I have a mini-HDMI->VGA adapter for my tablet, but that didn’t work to give a testable signal, so I had to go hook it up to an old XP box.  The booklet manual said that the optimal resolution was 800×400, but the computer’s resolution wouldn’t go down that low.  At the lowest setting though, it was pretty easy to see.

Tiny little icons at higher resolution on the graphics card.
Tiny little icons at higher resolution on the graphics card.

Putting it back up to some 1100×800 dpi (the computer’s regular output setting), the image was still pretty clear, but the text and icons got really small.  I’ll have to play with the setting once I get the bus’ computer up and running.

But with proof positive that the screen was in good shape, I went to checking out the cameras.  The little, cheap camera just had the red and black wires for power, so rigged a plug using a female four-pin power connector from an old computer fan, and hooking it up to an adapter that was meant to power a hard drive. With the VGA connected to the screen, and a button push to cycle camera 1’s input I got … a black screen.

A little clarification.
A little clarification.

At first I checked all my connections, then realized that if I cycled the input again to camera 2, I got a picture. One Sharpie later, I had that system all worked out, and went about trying to get a nice image I could photograph easily, but found that it wasn’t easy to get what I wanted because the picture was, indeed, mirrored (just like I knew it would be but my hands still wanted to turn it the other way).

The little, cheap camera`s eye view.
The little, cheap camera`s eye view.

One of the other issues that people complained about was the guidance lines.  In looking at the view, I don’t see them being very intrusive.  I can, however, see how they form a great fixed reference point for backing up.  For this picture, the camera was at couch height, and the distance to the far wall is ~21 feet.

I hooked the other camera up to the same power source, and put it in a similar placement (just next to the first camera).

The bigger back-up camera's view.
The bigger back-up camera’s view.

The lines are more pronounced on this camera, but they are more colorful.  The back wall here looks closer, but you can see less of the walls, even though the two cameras were at the same distance.

In recognizing this, the cheaper camera has a much greater field of view, but with much more distortion.  At the time, I just noted it, but in thinking about it since then, it seems that this difference will actually help me with placing the cameras on the bus.

But there was another thing to test with the more expensive camera, and that was the IR LEDs.  For that, it was an easy thing, as the photosensor that turns the LEDs on doesn’t need complete darkness – even a good shadow would do it.  So for that, I just held the camera up off the couch (looking at the couch), and lowered it until the LEDs kicked on.

No IR LEDs on ...
No IR LEDs on …
... and with the IR LEDs on.
… and with the IR LEDs on.

The ‘night vision’ works fine, though the bright ‘light’ of the LEDs washes out the colors.  But really, when I’m backing up at night, I think the color of the object I’m getting too close to is less important than if I can see it clearly.

So my plan is now to mount the small, cheap camera up high on the bus (there’s a bevel right above the back dome window and below the clearance lamps that should put it at a great angle), and use it as a regular rear view mirror, displayed on the screen during normal driving operation.  I’ll get a nice view of what traffic is right behind the bus, and a nice wide angle on the sides.  The other camera looks like it will need to be pretty close to the ground for the LEDs to have a good effect, so I’m going to play around with mounting it under or just above the back bumper.  Since I can change between the two views with just a click of the cycling button on the screen, I should be able to get both a ‘big picture’ and then a more detailed view when backing in somewhere.

I’ll post again for on-the bus placement testing and installation …