Solar powered

I’ve always been solar powered–in need of high levels of sunshine to function and recharge–seems like my camper should roll the same way. I got into this full-time RV lifestyle to be as free as I can be, the option to be self-sustaining is the next step.

I’m in the Sears parking lot in Key West with a panel, some cables, a controller, two golf cart batteries wired in series and my phone giving me access to a group of people who have done this more than me–me, who hasn’t ever done this at all. But I love the idea of living off the sun, getting my power free and clean, without adding pollution or demand for fossil fuel. I’m reading comments on my many posted questions and looking at the pics of people’s systems, but it’s not really clicking together in my brain. It’s the math and the fear based on the fact that electricity can be shocking that intimidates me. I’m a writer, a wanderer, a word girl. I’m good with creative expression, but bad with formulas.

And I suppose I should’ve been working on this long before I really needed it, but that’s not really my style, either. I’m the poster child for the quote: Necessity is the mother of invention. I’m desperately trying to figure it out and failing in the process. I’m doing a lot of searching and swearing, watching videos and feeling out of my league. Thankfully, a person quick to comment on the Solar for Dummies Facebook page offers to talk me through it. He’s from my hometown—Madison, Wisconsin—on a too cold to work winter day, giving him some free time on a Monday afternoon.

It wasn’t just the contrast of my naïveté rubbing up against his knowledge or the fact that I was now sweating in January instead of shivering (I could almost feel the winter wind reaching through the phone to reclaim me), it seemed the biggest difference between us what his unwavering confidence in me and my ability to do what he was teaching me to do. I had serious doubts about both. I suppose being reminded of how my packed to the rim VW Bug and I drove off into the early morning light, crunching through ice encrusted snow with no particular plan other than finding a place where owning a snow shovel was not a necessity and socks were never needed. But somehow my successes get filed under flukes and my failures get catalogued as flaws. I wish I could embrace my learning curve with more compassion. I try to have the faith that he has, but it feels like a pair of shoes that don’t fit right: they’re my size, but someone else has broken them in to fit their feet.

Luckily he also had a lot of patience. I was in territory that I’d only marveled at from afar, stripping cable to expose wires that could then be screwed into the controller inside my outside storage compartment. I’d love to say that I came out of the process embracing Ohm’s Law and excited about electricity, but I didn’t. I did however get it the system installed before dark and kept my cussing relegated to an under my breath volume. Mostly.

The real joy came later, around midnight, when I came back home and pushed the circle on my camper’s control panel that said ‘batt’ and all four lights lit up which meant it was full. At midnight. I know because I pushed it like five times, giggling gleefully at the free energy I had harnessed and the process that I understood just enough to make it happen.

I’d done it after all. I can go anywhere now. I feel like a rock star.

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