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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 …

 

Testing out the Backup Camera(s) (Part I, The Parts)

So, with all the cold weather and lack of being able to work on the bus, I pulled out the backup cameras and screen, to test them out.  I had had these for a while, but they were still in the boxes, and I wasn’t sure how and where I’d be installing things.  I ordered all these from Amazon last winter and just never got around to them.

 

So, here are the parts, all expanded out of their boxes:

NEEWER Waterproof CMOS/CCD Reverse Backup Car Rear View Camera
NEEWER Waterproof CMOS/CCD Reverse Backup Car Rear View Camera

NEEWER Waterproof CMOS/CCD Reverse Backup Car Rear View Camera (Electronics)


List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Here is a relatively cheap back-up camera that had decent reviews, and I thought I’d give it a try, or keep it as a spare if the other camera ended up not working or burning out too soon.  It attaches by way of a hollow, threaded post through which the wiring goes.  It has a small plug/socket set to connect the camera to the DC power/return and the 25′ long RCA cable (which will be a little short for the bus).

The attachment for the cheaper camera.
The attachment for the cheaper camera.

There had been some complaints about it not being really waterproof, but it looks good to me, given that the lens and body are all nicely molded together, and the back (with the post) is screwed into it with four small screws, meaning that the only place for water to get in is at the back, which you should be sealing up anyhow.

The molded body of the cheaper camera.
The molded body of the cheaper camera.

They included a little pieces of what seems to be a 1/16″~2mm foam tape (which somehow escaped my picture) to put on it, but I’ll use a thin bead of butyl rubber when I go to attach it.


Night Vision Parking Car Rear View Wide Angle LED Reversing CMOS Camera

Night Vision Parking Car Rear View Wide Angle LED Reversing CMOS Camera

BW 3.6mm Wide Angle Car Rear View Reversing Backup Camera with Night Vision (Electronics)


List Price: $10.59 USD
New From: $8.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

This was the ‘fancy’ back-up camera that I opted for.  It’s ‘fancy’ because it has the IR LEDS that kick on when it gets dark enough.  I had figured that this would be the main back-up camera for the bus.

IR augmented camera. 7 IR LEDs and one photocell sensor.
IR augmented camera. 7 IR LEDs and one photocell sensor.

It attaches to the vehicle by the side-flanges, and the wires come off the back.  It has separate plugs for a rather standard ‘+ in’ 12 VDC plug (the red one in the picture) and a female RCA jack for the video.  The camera came with 25′ of RCA cable, but I have a run of 50′ that I’ll use instead.

Like the cheaper camera, the body and lens are all together in one nicely molded piece, with a ‘hatch’ that’s screwed down on the top.  Again, I’m figuring on using some butyl rubber sealant around the seam there to try and keep out water, which I expect to be a bigger deal with this camera, since the opening is up and there’s a bigger hatch.


One of the major complaints in the Amazon reviews about both of these cameras is that the image is backward, and you can’t change it, or that it’s been built wrong.  However, these are really back-up cameras, designed to be installed in a particular way so to give an image that’s going to give the driver a familiar view of a rear-view mirror. And they do that just fine, so I think a lot of the issues in those comments is that people didn’t understand what they were buying.


Lilliput Eby701-np/c/t

Lilliput Eby701-np/c/t

The Lilliput screen is a 7″ touchscreen with a VGA input as well as two RCA inputs and a reverse-sensor that automatically changes the input to a camera’s input when the transmission is shifted into reverse. It had some good reviews as being a reliable and visible screen for vehicle use, able to interface with a vehicle-based computer (which I’m planning on installing).  It runs on 12 VDC, but also came with an AC adapter (which made testing a whole lot easier).

Lilliput screen connections.
Lilliput screen connections.

It also turned out to have TWO RCA inputs (Video 2 is the one activated by the reverse sensor), so I’m likely to install both back-up cameras and have them each on separate channels (more on this in Part II). The cables that came were actually in two parts, perhaps in case one didn’t have an on-board computer.  The first connects to the screen and includes the power jack (black), RCA jacks (yellow), reverse sensor (green wire), an audio input (white), and the screw-on secured connector for the other wire which connects to the VGA jack and a USB connector for the touchscreen.

Armed with these bits (and a 12 VDC power source from a USB IDE hard drive connector), I got into actually testing the system.

(Continued in Part II …)

 

 

 

 

 

Lilliput Eby701-np/c/t (Electronics)


List Price: $119.00 USD
New From: $119.00 USD In Stock
Used from: $99.00 USD In Stock