Off the grid…. for a month

Grubby and tired but solar & kinetic

Grubby and tired but solar & kinetic.
What really is “off the grid?”  In some ways I feel it might be out in the wilderness with only my significant other, some rugged boots and a bowie knife.  Maybe off the grid means you live in a city without a grid pattern?  Can you just unplug power and be off the grid?

Abby and I took off one day on our trusty touring bikes to take a little tour of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  The plan was to follow a loose schedule from Yarmouth NS around Cape Breton, round to Pictou and finish our last week touring Prince Eward Island before shipping our bikes back and catching a plane home to NYC.  We carried typical backpacking camping gear including a tiny stove and would resupply as we passed through towns.

Being that I’m a self employed photographer, as much as I love to think I can walk out of the office and leave it all behind, I end up bringing a pile of technology wherever I go.  No surprise here, I shoot digital now.  We (mostly I) had about 8Ah of lithium ion batteries between the camera (Canon 5D) media viewer/downloader, Ipod touch for checking email via WIFI (is that still off the grid?) and two cell phones.  Had we needed to charge devices along the way, we would have required a receptacle and four or five chargers, maybe a hundred foot extension cord?  How about a dynamo on a bike and then I could just ride in circles while taking pictures?  I opted for solar panels, we had a nice stable platform on the back of each bike that would be facing the sky for 120 kilometers or so a day over most of the next month.  How to make it all work?  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I found a nifty little device in Radioshack that would enable, with a little modification, us to charge most any small battery powered device with our setup.  Perhaps I’ll detail in a another post modding the Igo dual power adapter shown below.

 

Off Ebay, I purchased a couple of 1/3 watt 12 volt thin film (flexible) solar panels that would not only charge our stuff, but with a few bungee cords, keep our sleeping pads, food and miscellany from flying off the back of our racks.

Tresspassing at the Penn Warner Club

Tresspassing at the Penn Warner Club, originally uploaded by Davepix.

Somewhere down the Delaware River in a sleepy, little (not so little) town north of Philly sits a really big landfill owned by Waste Management Corporation. The story here isn’t necessarily about them, but rather, the club.

When I was a kid, we occasionally trespassed there, swam in the coves, fished the waters, biked and made a ruckus. Why would anyone care?  It now sits next to one of the largest landfills in the region. It’s like a little campground next to a mountain of trash. Actually, it is a little private park next to a mountain of trash. Yep, private. Recently a few buddies and I rode our bikes from NYC towards Philly, and en route, detoured through a bit of the grounds on a cold winter day. A security detail ran us down and threatened us a bit to chase us off the grounds.  When I asked where we could get a day pass, he said we couldn’t as if we were hoodlums cycling from NYC in full Lycra to terrorize the grounds which were shut down for winter.

When I was a kid, before the mountain of trash came, when it was all woods between the Delaware and Tullytown, I wanted my parents to get a membership there.  It was prestigious, so I thought. My dad replied, “Why would we ever rent a seasonal campsite a mile from our house when we could go to Vermont or Canada?”

I didn’t see it. Now I do. Silly place that Penn Warner Park.