The adage “Two is one, and one is none,” may not be familiar to you unless you have military experience or you are a prepper.
Or, like me, you suffer from anxiety.
Basically, it means that you need redundancies to assure success. You know, spares, duplicates, backups, alternates, and … well, you get the idea. The notion also neatly sums up my anxiety-tinted view of the world where every outlandish and disastrous outcome is just as likely as an uneventful one, so it’s best to have a Plan B.
Whether you share my irrationality or not, most of us prefer to have some kind of safety net to prevent the inevitable “what if?” from becoming a “what now?”
Besides being practical, planned redundancy also supplies a satisfying sense of readiness, replacing the burden of worry with peace of mind. Considering this week’s headlines, I imagine many Texans won’t be caught unprepared again following their crippling winter storms and ensuing outages.
For Glenn and me, this saying is top of mind for us now as we humbly reflect on lessons learned from refusing to plan for one important backup.
Peace of Mind is Heavy
Whether you’re planning to weather an epic storm, setting off on a military mission, or provisioning your doomsday bunker, with a little forethought it’s straightforward enough to put this philosophy into practice. On the road in a 20-foot trailer, and living in the wild for long stretches with limited stowage capabilities, however, it becomes more problematic.
Redundancy has carry costs – quite literally, in our case. Choices had to be made and calculated risks were taken when we hit the road.
The massive downsizing we undertook to live on the road full time reduced our overall needs. We’re as close to the bare necessities as one can comfortably be, so that did much to pare our potential points of failure.
Few items were deemed important enough to carve out precious cargo space and weight allocation for redundancy. Things like paper road atlases, portable phone batteries, spare fuses, tire tubes for our mountain bikes, and Glenn’s critical backup supply of oatmeal raisin cookies are all of negligible size and weight. The four five-gallon collapsible water cubes we carry in our Jeep (one filled at all times) also fit this bill. These were all no-brainers to bring along.
Many redundancies were also designed into our tiny house on wheels. We have three propane tanks. Both our refrigerator and hot water heater run on either propane or electricity. And, like icing on a cake, our roof is covered by two massive solar panels. These greedily suck in photons to convert and store in our two lithium ion batteries – giving us all the power we could possibly need while camping without hookups.
… unless we’re on the third short winter day in a row under a thick cover of clouds or a dense canopy of California oak trees. It was under these circumstances that we bumped firmly into the limits of our unlimited power solution.
How the Mighty Have Fallen
Glenn and I have taken great pride in our ability to live on sunlight. We consider the nimble footprint and silence of a solar solution to be far more elegant than the traditional RV approach of lugging around a hulking gas generator, with all its fuss and fumes and fracas.
Spewing a plume of noxious fumes and deafening anyone within a 20-foot radius with its endless droning roar, the generator is the hated destroyer of peace and tranquility in campgrounds everywhere.
It utterly ruins any sense you might have had of experiencing a natural setting in its own right.
We confess to dishing out some judgmental side-eye to neighboring RVers who lumber out of their 40-foot fifth-wheel trailers into frigid morning air to pull a cord and stand back as their rattletrap generators sputter and shudder back to life just in time to power their Keurig. These folks are punctual in their timing. You can set your watch to their habits as they rev it up in the morning as soon as they’re permitted, and then wait until to the very last minute at night when they shut it off again in begrudging compliance of the campground’s prescribed time window for such things.
We have learned that, if you are confrontational enough to gently inquire about how much longer they’ll be running the thing, you will get a belligerent, “I’m allowed to run it all day” as rude confirmation of your belief that they don’t give two turds how their behavior affects others.
In our short time on the road, we have grown to detest the equipment and to loathe the owners, whom we considered to be luddites. Bubbas. Relics who refuse to embrace the simplicity modern technology provides. We’ve joked and tsked and ridiculed their speculated wasteful “need” for toasted bagels or blender smoothies or air conditioning or their beloved, microwaved Hot Pockets while camping.
In short, we were smug RV solar snobs.
This pride – not to mention our vilifying disdain for the generator crowd – made it particularly hard for us to admit we really needed a generator of our own.
We held out as long as we could. Longer, really, than perhaps we should have.
We were resistant to the idea because our power needs are just so minimal. We really don’t use much of it – especially not for Hot Pockets. But our gas furnace uses electricity to run its fan. As former tent campers, we’re fine with the chill of winter camping, but that furnace also prevents Libbie’s water lines from freezing and creating costly damage.
So, it was with no small regret and a guilty sense of hypocrisy that we picked up our new Honda generator yesterday.
We worked hard find an engine with a minimal footprint to take some of the sting out of the decision.
We believe we found a solution that optimized our three requirements of reliability (it’s Honda so, duh), fuel-efficiency (it runs eight hours on one gallon of gas), and low noise (only 60dB under load). This, coupled with our deeper understanding of how helpless we are when it comes to each campsite’s solar-friendliness, served to rationalize our painful ideological betrayal.
If we’re being honest, though, we’d tell you what really made the decision bearable was finding this badass fuel can to go with the generator. We expect one of our kids or grandkids will be excited to inherit this mother someday.
Still, the whole experience feels like a sad failure.
Thus, “one is none.”
After a successful test run of our new tiny-but-mighty redundant power source, Glenn and I both breathed heavy sighs of relief. It was only then that we realized how much worry was removed when we chose to mitigate the shortcomings of our rigid, solar-only approach.
To be clear, the generator is not our primary power source – just a backup for when we don’t get enough daylight for extended periods. But with that, we now have a reliable solution for power no matter where we are.
Lastly, because I couldn’t resist and in keeping with the failsafe ethos, I even added a siphon to our toolbox in case we need to pull fuel from abandoned cars clogging the freeway when the End Times come.
Now we are prepared!