quick reprovision run into Los Alamos

I’d made a short relocation a few days ago to better handle the wind, so I wasn’t looking for a full relocation necessarily. 18d after the last reprovisioning I still have plenty of staples but no “fun” food. I was also craving milk to make rice pudding and also for cereal. So I will try just a supply run.

I picked midweek this week to avoid weekend traffic, because temps were scheduled to be in the 70s, and because it was forecast to be cloudy. This way the alternator gets to play along.

Last night I

  • moved everything away from the van
  • gathered up trash
  • filled up the Brita pitcher
  • filled the spigoted bucket from the aquatainers
  • filled the now-empty aquatainers from the fresh water tank

The water-decanting musical chairs game means the aquatainers get potable water in them ASAP. More importantly, it means that the water fill (wherever I find it) is done with one connection by hose to a spigot. Filling just the water tank is fast and easy.


I had reports that the Smith’s grocery in town had a spigot. This would be convenient for the shopping (see below) and the other Smith’s I’ve seen had high-pressure tall spigots, my preferred type.1

I drove the station’s lot and found the spigot. Pulled next to it and checked the spigot before dragging out the hose. It worked, so I hooked up the hose and started taking on ~30gal.

This gave me a couple minutes to dispose of trash. Adjacent to the water spigot was a (bear proof!) dumpster.

I finished filling with water and topped off the gas tank. I didn’t need much (5gal?) and the price was high $3.99 but it was the least I could do.


The best option for food in town was the Smith’s mentioned above, a chain owned by Kroger.

I knew prices would be high due to remoteness and the disposable income of the Los Alamos worker bees. It wasn’t terrible. I picked out some staples, some market down meat (brats, strip steak, Angus patties) all for <$3/lb. Bacon and green grapes were on sale. Cherries were $3/lb but I didn’t get any because all of the bags were ginormous. Most expensive thing I bought was 18 eggs for $5.99. That is quite high and I blame the remote location.

Also bought foil and glue traps. The latter are not my preference but the snap traps were sold out. This tells me that the cute-but-destructive fieldmice aren’t a problem just for folks out camping.

As a special treat I picked up some kalamata olives, dry-cured olives, and dolma from the olive bar ($3.50). This is about 3x the cost of the same items at an Arabic grocery but in the boonies we take what we can get.

Total spend after 18d: $84.68. Seems like my food expenses go down when I camp emplaced for longer periods. I suspect this is because it forces me to cook from scratch more often.

On the way back to the van I noticed I could see the campsite from the Smith’s parking lot. If you draw a line up from the backward-facing stop sign to the top of the hill that is my spot. Cell coverage comes from a tower on the taller hill to the right, Parajito Mountain (10,441ft) if I am reading the maps correctly. Upon my return I tried to find the store with the binos but couldn’t ID it with casual effort. If I cared I could use the gps or compass to plot a bearing but I am not that motivated. Plus it started raining while I was looking so I came back to the van.

the road back, as monitored by OBDii

The bank had been accepting ~0.25C from the alternator, normal for this bank at middling States of charge (I typically see 0.18C - 0.30C when the bank is in the 13s).

I wanted to watch coolant temps on the (steep) road back to camp so I cranked up the app that talks to the OBDii dongle. The ECU was commanding 14.4v (normal) and the dongle was seeing ~14.1v.

alternator load

After I turned onto the dirt road leading to camp I stopped and added fuel GPH to the display. The GPH accuracy is only to 0.1gh so it’s not going to be exact. But I noticed it was 0.5gph sitting still with the vehicle in Drive, and 0.4gph when I disabled alternator charging. Interesting. While driving GPH varies by more than 0.1gph so I don’t think I’ll be able to see the difference when underway.

When I got back to camp and put it in Park the gpg fluctuated between 0.4-0.5gph with the alternator charging. Flicking it on/off might have made a difference but hard to tell when it’s going back and forth.

The takeaway here is that pulling an extra ~38A from the alt seems to have increased fuel usage at idle by ≤0.1GPH. Using 50% alternator efficiency as a constant it’s likely taking ~1.3HP additional HP to spin the alt while charging the house batteries. The app shows HP numbers so I might add that gauge and see if the numbers match my estimate.


Last night I watched Oppenheier. I took Muffin out for a break afterwards and could see the lights from Los Alamos, the town Oppie built for Project Y.

It seems to me that one of the lessons we can learn from people like Oppenheimer and Alan Turing is that The Powers That Be will tolerate eccentrics as long as they are directly useful. After that opportunists and hard-liners will sacrifice them for personal or political gain.


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  1. the one in Santa Fe was like this but they padlocked it about two months ago. :-(