Our meds in hand, we decided to make a break for it and streak north as quickly as our bodies could muster the energy. It was yet another 'Cannonball Run' through the North East corridor, taking care to carve out directions around DC and New York City, as we have learned in the past with our rig and our temperaments. Taking all things into account, we don't move very fast at a total weight of 8.5 tons and being nearly 50' long (did I mention we had pneumonia!?). At our current rate, it would take 3 days.
If we were gonna make up any time traveling, we needed to just hit rest stops to sleep on the way. The first night in Maryland, we tried to settle into our normal routines with the kids as much as possible, keeping Max entertained but keeping an eye on sick girl Maddie-lou. We didn't leave until late morning the next day (when our bodies finally allowed us to), and we made it as far as East Fishkill, NY to another rest stop. One more day to drive and we would be back to Margaret's mom's house in CT.
We were all bit edgy and exhausted, as it is never our ideal traveling scenario to drive until we can't move anymore. We made dinner, did bedtimes and slept...
What's that alarm? The truck parked behind us maybe? I lifted my head and it went away. Put my head back down... it got loud again. *beep* *beep* *beep*.
Okay, what the heck is that? I sleepily struggled to see the back bedroom of the Airstream through the corridor, which was darker than usual... was the stove light dimming?
I shot awake and rolled off the bed onto the floor, pressing my head against the bed. Under the bed is our power center: 2 deep cycle AGM batteries, converter and inverter. I heard the beep loudly... it was definitely the inverter. Since installing it, I have never used the inverter really and it's not accessible to anyone under the bed. I swung around and stared into the solar charge controller mounted under the TV stand, which had a red 'Load Fault' indicator light blaring back at me. Damn...
Should I wake everyone up? Quickly, I jumped up and remembered I had a remote control to power down the inverter. I snatched it out of the cupboard, and punched the button. The inverter alarm stopped sounding. The trailer went dead silent and very cold.
Okay... that was weird... I stumbled through the dark to the bathroom and jumped when the propane alarm chirped back at me. I dropped the the floor again and silenced the alarm, which also indicated a power fault. Okay this was a big deal. It's 26 degrees outside, everyone is sleeping and sick and we are rapidly losing power... I checked the trailer control panel, which indicated the batteries were nearly totally drained. The fridge control's "check" light was on while running on propane. Exasperated, I put my jacket on, and headed out to turn on the truck... it's umbilical would charge the batteries enough until everyone was up.
Were the batteries under performing in the cold? The batteries are new since last May. Did I fry them by having them plugged into shore power too often? Were we drawing any unnecessary power from some previously unknown source all of a sudden? Did I screw up the inverter wiring? Did a solar wire come loose on the roof causing a short? "Are our pet's heads falling off!?" I ran through all my mental checklists, knowing full well I would have no time to troubleshoot any of these issues before hitting the road and heading home. At least at home I could plug into the house's 110v power. Then I could run the basics to get by while I troubleshoot the 12v system.
I plugged the trailer in at the house, everything was fine. I checked on a few things, and then flipped a light switch on in the basement. No power in the house. The Airstream was flipping a house breaker. I knew from previous visits that this is not usual for this circuit. I eventually found the breaker box in the garage, and flipped it back on and went back to the trailer. It stayed on fine for a minute, but I knew the breaker had tripped again when I saw the fridge control panel switch from AC to propane. Ugh.
I had to think clearly... and I was in no shape to do that. I went back into the house and took a long hot shower, feeling defeated thinking of running through all the systems I'd have to check the next day. It had to be something simple, right?
Out of the shower, I checked the breaker again: Off. Okay... what have we done differently here? What can I do now? I couldn't do anything outside in 30 degree weather. Time to get serious and minimize the system inside. I went back to the trailer and unplugged anything from every outlet, back to front. It was not much considering we had been driving. I reread the solar control manual regarding the red fault load indicator light. It should reset on it's own when everything is all set... still red.
Finally I lifted up the couch and began checking wires under the couch... solar okay. Converter okay. Interior battery connections okay. Inverter okay... wait, what is that?
I got my phone out and snapped a picture:
Carefully, I managed to snake my hand into the web of cables and gingerly fished Kevin out. At that point, I swung around and laughed a second, thinking to myself, "If it could only be that easy..."
There was no more I could do, everything seemed in order inside. I put the dismantled couch items and other parts of the airstream back together and tidied up for the night, resigning myself to come back in the morning and check stuff out.
I walked by and noted the light above the stove, which had been flickering on the waning battery power was fully lit. No flicker. Huh...
I reached up and switched on the Airstream control panel. Batteries: 100%.
Astonished, I ran onto the house and said a small prayer before flipping the breaker one last time. I stood there in the dark garage for a good five minutes, waiting to hear the dreaded pop from the switch... it never came. When I got back to the Airstream, I set the thermostat at 55 degrees for the night, made sure the fridge was back on AC, and stopped short to check the solar charger Load Fault indicator... it was green. I walked back over to the dinette and picked dusty old Kevin up off the table, with a smile.