Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 5

Holbrook, AZ to Albuquerque, NM — 272 miles

[Click to go to an interactive map]

When we awoke in our cozy cone that morning, a quick look out the tiny, singular window revealed a pair of rabbits hopping around looking for something to eat amidst the imported red lava rock. The girls were all to happy to see this and they oooh’d and ahhh’d and clamored for position until the last rabbit hopped out of view.

Continue reading Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 5

Automating Pool Chlorination

After a year of dumping various sorts of chlorine into the pool, I finally got all the bits and pieces together to automate the chlorine addition process. The key element that pushed me over the hump was learning I could open a COD account at Hill Brothers Chemical to buy commercial quantities of high concentration (12.5%) bleach at a reasonable price. The 15 gallon, reusable carboy is a perfect size — enough to last about ~3 months without any packaging waste.

Industrial Bleach — the best pool chlorination method behind pure (and very dangerous) Cl2 gas

Nikon D600, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.5, 1/50sec, 42mm focal L.

The next part was the positive displacement pump to move the bleach with. I found a Watson-Marlow OEM peristaltic pump on eBay. It runs with simple 12V DC and pumps a quart in a little over 9 minutes.

Watson-Marlow Pump — Model 102FD/R for OEM applications

Nikon D600, ISO 2000, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 38mm focal L.

For the design, I wanted to have a web-enabled interface to allow me to control it from any browser on my network. And, I wasn’t going to drag a network cable out to the pump equipment, thus, it needed to be WIFI enabled. The Raspberry Pi is the perfect solution: runs on linux with USB port(s) to plug a cheep wifi dongle; runs on 5V power from almost any USB phone charger; $30 including WIFI dongle.

Raspberry Pi — with a 5V regulator, and a few relays to control stuff

Nikon D600, ISO 800, ƒ/4.5, 1/50sec, 27mm focal L.

The rPi has quite few GPIO that can used as 3.3V LVTTL output signals. I put together a few relay circuits: 1 to turn on the peristaltic pump, and 1 to kick on the main pool circulation pump.

GPIO to relay

It’s all mounted into an outdoor rated box that keeps the weather out. The output of the chemical pump is plumbed into the intake side of the main pool circulation plumbing.

The final install

Nikon D600, ISO 180, ƒ/4.5, 1/50sec, 26mm focal L.

On the software side, a simple PHP web interface front-ends a MYSQL database to keep a history of all measurements made. Knowing the size of the pool, the past chlorine inputs, and the subsequent measurements taken, it’s a straightforward calculation to figure how much bleach to inject to maintain the appropriate concentration. Everyday after the sun goes down, the Pi kicks on the main circulation pump, meters out the bleach, and then circulates the water long enough to circulate it thought out the pool. Although the software can all run stand-alone on the rPi, the database and web-interface lives on my main web server.

As an added bonus, the system reminds me when it’s time to take the various measurements — as the old measurements go stale, the colored box fades to gray showing that it’s about time to retest that portion of chemistry.

If you want to attempt do duplicate this effort, I’m willing to share many more details, but, I will forewarn that the SW is a real hack that was hastily written without any mind to be easily transported to another situation.

Big Sur Camping with the Playgroup

When we learned we were having twins, we joined the Gemini Crickets parents of multiples club to commiserate learn about handling multiple screaming infants at the same time. Playgroups form with like-aged kids, and it turns out, our playgroup does an annual camping trip to Big Sur. All total, 7 families descended upon the small Riverside Campground, bringing with us 14 kids worth of chaos; that’s 6 sets of 4-year-old twins!

Home for the weekend.

Nikon D600, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 29mm focal L., map

Continue reading Big Sur Camping with the Playgroup

Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 3-4

Williams, AZ to Holbrook, AZ by way of the Grand Canyon— 291 miles over 2 days

[Click to go to an interactive map]

Day 3 and 4 were all about the Grand Canyon. Neither of us have any recollection of seeing it before; twas one of the first destinations we listed when planning the trip.

Williams staged us for a quick 1-hour drive to get to the park. Sadly, breakfast was a bust in Williams and that was the final nail in in the coffin for Williams — never stopping there again!

Unfortunately, it was an equally slim selection along AZ 64, but, we did manage to find a hotel with diner attached.

Continue reading Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 3-4

Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 2

Needles, CA to Williams, AZ — 199 miles

After our long, 600 mile previous day, the promise of a leisurely stroll exploring the Mother Road was just what we all needed.

[click to go to an interactive map]

Sleeping 3-across on the bed, Stella fell off the end several times and, generally, there was tossy-turny sleep for most of us. Tired or not, Maia’s internal alarm clock is quite reliable and the rest of us were awakened sooner than we’d have liked. Round abouts 8:30, we stretched our legs and casually ambled toward the nearby breakfast hole. The girls were psyched to find a Pegasus around the corner.

Continue reading Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 2

Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 1

San Jose to Needles, CA — 601 miles

And, so begins the 2 week adventure that will check off 5 new states in our 50 by 18 Project. This trip is all about the desert Southwest. The months leading up to the trip, Valerie and I plotted and schemed the best route to cover, and ultimately ended up with a Google Doc that had a day-by-day plan with sights to see, places to stay, and reasonable mileages to cover with a six year old sandwiched between a pair of four-year-olds in the back of our trusty Jetta Wagon TDI.

[click to go to an interactive map]

However, the first day was anything BUT a reasonable mileage day. We wanted to run as much of the old road of Route 66 as we could going toward Albuquerque. Since we were so close to LA, we might as well stop and visit our friends, Mark and April, and see their new(ish) born daughter, Violet.

Continue reading Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 1

50 by 18 Project

Valerie and I have a goal to introduce the kids to all 50 states before Miss Maia (our oldest) turns 18 in 2024.   Neither Valerie or myself have visited all 50 states yet and we both feel it’s a an important experience that we can give the kids.

The rules:

  • We shall visit the state as a complete family
  • We must visit at least one significant site of historical, cultural, or scenic importance.
  • We have to visit a state long enough to necessitate needing a meal before leaving.
  • John and Valerie need to have an adult beverage, preferably brewed in state.
  • A post card shall be acquired.

The states already covered prior to starting this Grand Adventure:

  • California
  • Idaho
  • Hawaii

So, good fortune and health permitting, this post will be the launching pad and general project status tracking for many trips to come.  For now, it’s a simple placeholder with grand visions of potential.

Pool Water Chemistry and Testing

This whole pool thing is new to me and it’s time to organize my thoughts on what/how/when things need to be done.

The BBB (Bleach, Borax, Baking Soda) method looks like the most straight forward method for maintenance. In a nutshell, do the following:

  1. Know your stabilizer concentration:
    • You have to know how much stabilizer (CYA, Cyanuric Acid) is in the water.  The more stabilizer, the more free chlorine that is required to make the chlorine effective.  For outdoor pools exposed to the sun, it’s recommended to have roughly 40-80 PPM of stabilizer to prevent the sunlight from destroying the chlorine.  Too much stabilizer (CYA, Cyanuric Acid) leads to high levels of chlorine and unnecessary bleaching of swimsuits and hair.  It seems to be a trade off of how often you want to test/add chlorine vs bleaching (less stabilizer, less bleaching, more frequent testing/maintenance).  Sensitive skin may also have issues with higher chlorine level
    • Stabilizer (CYA, Cyanuric Acid) can be measured at your pool store, or with a test kit.
    • CYA levels do not change except when you add more or remove water.  NOTE: Tri-Chlor tablets and Di-Chlor granules both  contain stabilizer — see the Chlorine Choice below!
    • Replacing water is the only way to lower stabilizer levels, so, add it carefully.
    • Once the level is established, recheck a few times a year, or after some causal event.
  2. Adjust your Free Chlorine: With stabilizer (CYA, cyanuric acid) concentration known adjust your Free Chlorine using this chart, or this chart, to know how much Chlorine  you need to maintain.
    • Add chlorine of choice to raise the level with the pump going and re-check in a few hours for granules and liquid types.
    • Use slow dissolving tablets (careful: they usually contain stabilizer!) for maintenance.
    • Re-check daily, or couple of days once established in a routine.
  3. Adjust your PH: it should be 7.2 -7.8.   The daring can run it up to 8.2 with care, if your pool naturally balances at that high range (and your test kit accurately measures that high).
    • Use Muriatic Acid to lower the PH.  Can be purchased at a hardware store.
    • Use Borax to raise the PH.  Yes, the 20 Mule borax in the laundry isle of your grocery store.
    • Use this pool calculator to figure how much.
    • Recheck weekly.
  4. Maintain the Total Alkalinity in the 60-90+ PPM range.
    • Total Alkalinity controls how difficult it is for the PH to be changed.
    • Raise it very carefully with baking soda.
    • Lowering is much harder.
    • Re-check monthly.
  5. For plaster/concrete pools, maintain Calcium Hardness above 250 PPM to avoid having calcium leach out of the plaster/concrete.
    • Add Calcium Chloride to raise it.
    • There is no maximum, but, too much will eventually lead to scaling around the water line and in the heater core.
    • Re-check monthly.

The rest of the chemistry is fairly much a non-issue.

Chlorine Choice:

Let’s assume we want to take a 20K gallons pool and raise the free chlorine by  5 PPM. What will it cost using the various products?

  • Household bleach
    • Made of Sodium Hypochlorite.  It ranges in concentration, but, let’s assume we are using 6%.
    • It’ll take 208oz (volume) to do the job.  It’ll also raise the salt in the pol by ~8 ppm.
    • At Walmart a 96 oz bottle costs $1.98, thus it would cost $4.32 for this product.
  • Granular, “Cal-Hypo”, or “Cal Chlor”
    • Made of Calcium Hypochlorite, usually 65%.
    • It’ll take 20 oz (weight) to do the job. It’ll also raise the salt by ~5 ppm, and the calcium hardness by 3.4 ppm.  This is of concern if you already have high calcium.
    • Buying a 50# bucket from my local pool supply goes for $120, thus costing $3.00 for this product.
  • Granular, “Di-Chlor”
  • Tablets or Sticks, “Tri-chlor”
    • Made of Trichlor-S-Triazinetrione, which has 90% stabilized chlorine.
    • Usually a slow dissolving tablet that’s meant to go in floating feeder or in the skimmer.
    • It’ll take 14.6 oz (weight) to do the job. It’ll also raise the salt by ~4 ppm, raise the CYA by 3 ppm, and lower the PH about 0.27 (depending on total alkalinity).
    • A 50# bucket from “in the swim” currently goes for $130, thus, costing $2.37 for this product.

So, it appears as of this writing, the most economical way to chlorinate is Tri-chlor tablets if you actually *need* to raise your stabilizer concentration, or Calcium Hypochlorite granules you have headroom in your calcium levels, and then bleach.

Dealing with Combined Chlorine (chloramines)

  • Free chlorine has no odor and does not irritate the skin in normal maintenance dosages.  Combined Chlorine (chloramines), however, does have an odor and causes irritation.  It is the source of that “over chlorinated” complaint people make.  Combined Chlorine is much less effective at sanitizing.  Chloramines will naturally dissipate through UV breakdown, but, it can be accelerated by raising the free-chlorine levels.  Use any of the fast dissolving chlorine choices above to do this — don’t pay more for special “pool shock” chlorine.
  • Reducing chloraimes (combined chlorine — CC) requires raising the concentration of free chlorine.  There’s a good article on it here that explains what’s happening.
  • Update: Here’s a better guide to shocking the pool.
  • There are also non-chlorine oxidizers that accomplish the same goal, but there’s no good reason to use them over your regular fast dissolving chlorine.
  • Shocking the pool is only needed when you have measurable combined chlorine or some other visible problem with the water.  There should be no need to do so as part of a regularly scheduled program.

The open road: 2010 summer trip — Epilogue


For those just finding this, jump to the beginning, or any other day: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7, 8, 9 & 10, 11 & 12, 13, 14, 15, 22.

Home sweet home

Nikon D70, ISO 800, ƒ/3.5, 1.6sec, 18mm focal L.

  • Miles on the odometer: 6964
  • Fill-ups: 45 — average of 155 miles/tank
  • Gallons: 129.0 — an average of 54.0 miles/gallon
  • Dollars spent on dead dinos: $391.17 — an average of $3.03 per gallon

The best roads of the trip:

  1. CO-92 Starting about 10 miles south of Crawford until reaching US-50 near Blue Mesa Reservoir. Wide variation of twisties to sweepers with no traffic. Biggest problem is many parts are have a speed limit 35 MPH.
  2. UT-12 from Escalante to Grover — A few (brief) dull spots, but, overall great variation of scenery and fun road to play on
  3. CO-141 between Naturita and Gateway — sweepers till the cows come home!
  4. Talemena Scenic Drive (OK-1/AR-88) — it fairly well connects nothing to nothing, so, there’s no one else on it. One of those roads that was just cut into the terrain with little “engineering”, making an ideal moto road.
  5. US-550 from Durango to Ouray — It’s busy, speed-limited to 35, and probably highly patrolled, but, WOW, that’s an interesting road.
  6. US-12 over Lolo Pass While it was a let down for being over hyped, it’s still a worth while road to head out of the way for.
  7. CA-108 over Sonora Pass. Yeah, it’s my back yard, but, still loads of fun.

So many miles of fun

[click to go to an interactive map]

This was the first trip with a radar detector. I had it wired into the audio system so I could easily hear it at any speed. I chose the Escort Redline because it is supposedly one of the most sensitive detectors available, for which to pick up the faintest signal in the middle of nowhere and give the best chances of getting a warning. Of course, nothing is perfect, but, it definitely saved my bacon a few times.

As I type this, Airventure 2011 is in full swing and I’m sitting at my kitchen table listening to the pitter patter of chill’ns feet scampering around the house. While I always have the notion to hop on the bike and point it in some general direction, the only thing I’m missing right now is spending the time with my dad. A little trip through NorCal is in the works, but, that’s for another ride report.

Until then, thanks for reading!

– Fin –

The open road: 2010 summer trip day 22

Day 22: Boise, ID to San Jose, CA — 701 miles

It was a chill week in Weiser/Boise staying at my folks and my sisters. Mostly bumming around, playing with the kids and relaxing. But, all good things must come to an end as I’ve yet to find a motorcycle adventuring gig that’d pay well enough to feed a family of five, or, even just myself, for that matter.

[click to go to an interactive map]

The plan was to loosely caravan with the family in the car. What this really means is that I’ll see them when they arrive at our next stop. What can I say, my wife knows how it goes…

Continue reading The open road: 2010 summer trip day 22