Retrospective: Boondocking with Jira and Confluence

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Retrospective in Confluence

In the software development world, each time you complete a project, you review what went well and what you could do better next time.  It’s called a “retrospective” or a “post-mortem.”

We did a retrospective on our boondocking adventure, using Confluence’s template.  These are the results.

What We Did Well

  • Excellent preparation, research, and pre-event testing
  • Used Jira and Confluence to plan and track the adventure
  • Didn’t ruin or damage any critical systems (except for the battery)
  • Bought the right equipment (generator, drill pump, water tank filler attachment)
  • Built a structure in truck bed to transport and store gas and water containers
  • First try was at a large event attended by experienced boondockers
  • Had fun and connected with new people
  • Stayed close to town in case other supplies were needed
  • Managed and conserved water well
  • Parked facing the best direction for temperature control
  • Planned for known cell reception issues
  • Have future plans for solar equipment

What We Should Have Done Better

  • Develop a use and charging schedule
    • Charge with generator more often
      • Took longer than expected
      • Requires us to remain onsite
      • Only possible during day hours
    • Recharge devices on AC (not inverter) power
    • Utilize existing USB and solar chargers
  • Understand the measurement for 50% battery draw (12.06 volts – see chart below)
    • Killed the battery
    • Battery may have already been weak from age (no good baseline stats)
    • Failed to maintain needed distilled water levels
  • Failed to realize cell booster requires constant electricity
    • Device is not generally reliable
    • If not attending an event, we would have switched locations
  • Neglected “day before” moving list
    • Was having fun and decided to do the “day before” tasks on the “day of”
    • Was rushing and made stupid mistakes
      • Closed slides out of order
      • Caused injuries:  Hit face with drill, cut leg on screen door (again!)
  • Remove hitch when driving on dirt roads (cleaning takes more time than removing)
  • Develop a better system for managing grey water levels
  • Spent more than normal on food and entertainment (due to social events)
    • Saved on camping costs however

Subsequent Mistake

Overall, we met our goals of living off the grid for one week.  By gaining boondocking skills and equipment we’ve enabled ourselves to camp in different types of locations.  City power, water, and sewer are no longer a limiting factor.  We also had fun networking with other full time campers.

We were so confident with our experience that we decided to try it again immediately.  We needed a one night stop between Pagosa Springs, CO and Santa Fe, NM.  We searched the online camping directories and decided on a free overnight spot, in a municipal park, near the half way point.  The location was excellent and we had the entire park to ourselves.   How could this go wrong?

We neglected to check the weather report.   RVs and travel trailers heat up very quickly, just like a vehicle does.   When it gets hot, you put our your awning, unfold your camping chair, and work outside until the sun goes down.  It’s not too bad if you also have a cold glass of iced tea to enjoy.

113° F (45° C) Temp

It’s Summer in the United States so we expected it to be hot – but not this hot!  The truck’s thermometer read 113° F (45° C) and the analog thermometer inside the RV read 106° F!  For the first time ever, the inside of the RV was just as hot as the outside.  There was no escape and no amount of iced tea provided a reprieve.  We had to sweat out the afternoon and night and learn a hard preparation lesson.  I always check the weather report for storms and high winds, but never for excessive heat.  The learning continues…

I hope you enjoyed following along on our adventure and alternate use of Jira and Confluence.  Atlassian tools can track anything!  I encourage you to experiment with alternate uses from both your work and personal life.  Happy Jira issue and Confluence page creating!

Day 5-7: Boondocking with Jira and Confluence

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We’re “Boondocking with Jira and Confluence“!
Enjoy $10 off your order at the Strategy for Jira Store

Code: BOONDOCKING Shop Now
Valid: July 8-15, 2018

Day 5

When boondocking it’s easy to run out of water.  How many times you wash your hands in a day?  Simple things like this deplete the supply quickly.  Our 46 gallon fresh water tank won’t last forever, no matter how much we conserve.  We got lucky though;  there was an on site water hose we could use sparingly.  We filled our 5 gallon portable container, used a pump that attaches to a drill, and slowly pumped the water through a hose and into the travel trailer.  A few rounds of filling the tank really made a difference.

I always research our location before we arrive and knew cell service would be a challenge.  The previous post took 2 hours to actually publish.  It was quick to write, but each time I’d save or upload a photo, the connection would die and I’d have to get it back and then recover the content from the cache.  Luckily I officially took off work this week for the experience and the Convergence.   Had this been a normal working week however, we would have needed to move to a different location.

Pagosa Springs, CO

With the morning chores done we took off with our boondocking buddies on a 60 mile, dirt road, scenic tour.  We also floated in a tube down the San Juan River.  Pagosa Springs didn’t get the normal level of snow melt so the river was low.  It was still fun though.

Day 6

We killed our battery.   I can’t be sure if the battery was already close to end of life, if we killed it during our tests, or if it happened during the Convergence.  We bought a hydrometer, which measures liquid density in the 6 battery cells.  They measured “dead”, “really dead”, and “give up now”.  The generator will recharge it, but will only hold a charge for a few hours before we need to charge it again.  I’ll be buying a new battery soon and will try to figure out where we went wrong.

Rising Water from Tropical Storm Colin (2006)

I’m starting to compile my list of items for the final post:  the Confluence retrospective.  After major events, we always review what we did well and what we need to work on for the future.  For example, when we evacuated for a surprise flash flood in Florida, we compiled a retro and reworked our emergency plan.  When we evacuated for a Tornado in Texas, we used our improved plan and made small adjustments then too.  Documenting our mistakes and making improvements makes us more prepared for next time.

This day we attended a pot luck brunch, played miniature golf, and watched “We’re the Millers” (an RV themed movie) together under the stars.  A Convergence attendee provided popcorn for the movie.  They must have figured out how to power their microwave.

Day 7

We survived!  We learned a lot about batteries, solar, and met lots of great fellow full-time travelers.  The Convenience was a lot like Atlassian Summit:  you have something in common with everyone and are instant friends.

Normally I complete the first half of my Confluence move day checklist the day before, but we were having so much fun, we saved it all for the travel day.  (Not smart.)  Everything was completed, but some tasks were done out of the preferred order, and I made two stupid mistakes.

  • I hit myself in the face with the drill and almost broke my prized Atlassian sunglasses!  I was raising the stabilizer jacks with the drill, like I’ve done 300 times before.  Only today, something looked odd and as I bent over to take a closer look the still moving drill smacked me in the face.
  • I also cut my leg (for the second time in two weeks) on the corner of the screen door.  I’ll need to file that down or cover it with foam.  Or, I could just be more careful and do the “day before” work on the actual day before.

We packed up, said our goodbyes, and hit the road for our next camping destination in New Mexico.  At the next location, we’ll have full hookups (power, water, and sewer) for a whole week before we move on to the next adventure.  I hope you’ve enjoyed following the journey we planned in Jira.  The Confluence retrospective will be available soon.

Day 3-4: Boondocking with Jira and Confluence

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We’re “Boondocking with Jira and Confluence“!
Enjoy $10 off your order at the Strategy for Jira Store

Code: BOONDOCKING Shop Now
Valid: July 8-15, 2018

Day 3

Lightning Strike Damage

In 2006, my stationary house was hit by lightning.  One strike sent electrical outlet face plates flying across the room and broke mirrored walls.  The fire department opened walls with their axes, checking for internal fire.  All the house’s appliances were fried.  No more fridge, no more hot water heater, etc.  The only electronics that survived were my computers, because they were connected to an APC battery backup and surge suppression system.  The APC took the lightning strike – not my devices.

From that experience, I don’t plug important devices directly into a wall outlet.  But how do you handle surge and voltage fluctuation when you live in a travel trailer?  The answer is you have to protect the entire dwelling.  Power pedestals at campgrounds are notoriously problematic.  They are wired incorrectly, deliver uneven current, shut off and on as they please, and frequently deliver too low voltage or too high voltage.  It’s really easy to ruin everything.  I will NEVER plug my travel trailer in without a Electrical Management System (EMS).  The best is made by Progressive Industries.  It is the one “must buy” thing for your RV!  It’s saved our travel trailer and the items inside it from disaster twice.  It’s worth every penny and more.

BUT you can’t use an EMS with a generator!  What???  We’re going to plug the trailer into something without my precious safety system?  Queue my anxiety.

Today was the big day where we’d use the new inverter generator for the first time.  On the previous day, we tried plugging in an old fan first, just to make sure everything was working as expected.  If the fan exploded, that would be alright but I wasn’t willing to take that chance with the entire travel trailer.  Luckily, there were no explosions.

In two days, our battery drained to 11.76 volts.  That’s probably lower than we should have let it go.  Time will tell if we’ve damaged it.  To recharge the battery to 12.45 volts (under 100%) we ran the generator for 1h 45m and used 0.5 gallons of gas.

After our morning generator fun, I joined the Convergence festivities.  There 32 people and 28 “rigs” attending this off grid get together.  “Rig” or “coach” is slang for your camping setup.  At the convergence, we have travel trailers (towed by a hitch on the bumper) like ours,  fifth wheels (towed by a hitch in the bed of a truck), and motorized RVs of all sizes and configurations.   The day’s activities started with a trip to the in hot springs which included a shower.  I was excited to use someone else’s shower and not waste our water!  Back at camp, we ate a “Taco Tuesday” pot luck dinner.

Day 4

It’s time to charge again.  Our travel trailer is wired for 30 amp, which is a different plug than a regular house outlet.  We have to use an adapter to connect to the generator.  The adapter cuts our amp possibilities down by half.  When connected to a normal power pedestal, we can run multiple things at a time as long as we don’t exceed 30 amps.  We can use the microwave with the lights on.  We can use the hot water with the radio on, etc.  But with the generator and only half our amperage capacity (15 amps), we have to limit what we use.  We did some tests and learned we can run the air conditioning, as long as we start the fan before the compressor and NOTHING else is running.  We cannot run the microwave using the generator however.

As shown in the picture, the generator has standard US wall outlets.  There are two – the left one is empty and the right is used by our yellow trailer plug and yellow adapter.  If you look closely, you can see we had to file down the adapter in two places to make it fit.  The outlet on the left has a red button that’s in the way and the one on the right has a grounding screw in the way.  Also pictured is where we had to file off the handle on the yellow trailer plug.  The plug is a replacement and was too big to store with the original handle.  This is typical of the RV lifestyle.  You buy something perfectly nice and intentionally ruin it to make it work.

I’m used to having my laptops plugged in all the time, so it’s pretty annoying to run out of power and have to wait until our next generator charge to be productive again.  Today I got a bit of work done but was up against the laptop battery deadline.  I stood up a new Jira instance but I was rushing and messed up the database part.  I created the database with the wrong table collation.  Jira requires “utf8_bin.”  When Jira started up, it notified me of the problem.  There are two options:  recreate the database or change all the tables and columns.  I opted for the latter.  The needed queries are documented and it didn’t take long to fix.  Some of the queries make the change and others generate a new set of queries to run.

Day 1-2: Boondocking with Jira and Confluence

Menu:  Intro | Day 1-2 | Day 3-4 | Day 5-7 | Retrospective

We’re “Boondocking with Jira and Confluence“!
Enjoy $10 off your order at the Strategy for Jira Store

Code: BOONDOCKING Shop Now
Valid: July 8-15, 2018

As previously announced in Boondocking with Jira and Confluence, this week, we’re “off the grid” in our travel trailer.  We’re boondocking which means camping without hookups to city power, water, and sewer systems.  We’ll provide our own resources which includes enough power and internet to connect to Jira and Confluence – vital resources for our long-term RV trip.

We’re also attending a “convergence” which is like a conference with fellow digital nomads.  We’ve all parked together in the same place.  If we fail at boondocking, we’ll do it surrounded by experienced campers.

Week Before

The week before our trip, we further tested our preparations.  We were at a campground with full hookups, but instead of plugging in, we tested how long we’d last with conservative use of battery power and stored water.

I quickly discovered a problem recharging the computers.  My 12 volt inverter charger works perfectly in a (running, and therefore full battery) truck, but not so well on a dwindling trailer battery.  Its 75 watt output could handle the Chromebooks and phones but couldn’t recharge my HP laptop.  Also, it only has one outlet, which is inconvenient.  I immediately upgraded to a 2,000 watt device with 3 AC and 4 USB outlets.  Right now I only have a WiFi booster plugged in and its internal fan is running more often than I’d like.  We’ll see if it works long-term.

Week Before Test Results:

Item Measure Notes
Battery
  • Full battery:  13.09 volts
  • After 48 hours:  11.63 volts
We’ll need to charge our trailer battery every day or every other day, to sustain the 12 volt system and recharge electronics.
Electronics Battery time with heavy use:

  • HP laptop:  6 hours
  • Chromebooks:  8+ hours
  • Phone 1:  10+ hours
  • Phone 2:  5+ hours
  • WiFi 1 (Verizon):  Requires phone use, needs boosting
  • WiFi 2 (Sprint):  Lasts day however, unusable due to proximity to tower
  • WiFi 3 (Sky Roam):  4 hours, dupe of Verizon signal
While boondocking, we can only use the 12 volt system, which powers the lights, water pump, and fire and carbon monoxide detection systems.  It also generates the spark for propane appliances, like the fridge, stove, and oven.

We won’t be able to use luxuries like the microwave, coffee maker, or air conditioner.

When the trailer is briefly connected to the generator, we’ll be able to use the wall outlets to charge electronics.

Water & Sewer Tank capacity:

  • Fresh tank:  46 gallons (+6 gallons from hot water heater)
  • Grey tank: 33 gallons
  • Black tank: 33
Our fresh water lasted 4 days with moderate use and 4 showers.  We can easily extend that with conservation, including less dish washing and fewer showers.

Our grey water tank lasted only 3 days.  Storage of used water is an issue.  We can extend capabilities by limiting how much water goes down the drain.  Next week, we’ll need to use the outside shower and wash dishes outside to avoid storing excess water.

Our black tank is never an issue.  We can go a week or two without dumping it.

Day 1

RV Moving Day Confluence Checklist

We woke up, made a quick breakfast, and completed tasks from our Confluence “moving day” checklist.  There are 32 things I do the day before any move like:  verify our route, fuel the tow vehicle, and check the pressure on all tires.  (The correct pressure is CRITICAL for trailer tires!)  On moving day, there are another 52 items to complete like:  draining all tanks, turning off the electric and propane systems, and properly coupling the tow vehicle to the trailer.  My Confluence checklist is vital to the moving process.  Missing any item could put us, others, or our property in danger while rolling down the road.

We completed our standard checklist but this time one thing was different.  We filled our fresh water tank, otherwise, we’d have no water at our next destination.  We’ve never traveled with a full tank before.  Water is heavy and the extra 450 pounds means extra risk and even less gas mileage.  Luckily our off-grid destination was only 10 miles away.

Boondocking Parking Spot

We arrived and parking was much easier than usual.  Usually you have to line up very carefully, so all your connections reach and you fit in the spot.  But with boondocking, there are no connections to worry about.  We simply parked, drove up on leveling blocks, detached the tow vehicle, and opened our slides and awning.  Voila – we’re camping!

This night we met our fellow convergence attendees and cooked dinner together on many grills.  There’s a fire ban in this part of Colorado, so only propane grills are allowed.

Day 2

So far so good!  I’m able to launch Jira, Confluence, and other web apps, but only through my phone’s hotspot and only when the cell booster is on.  Both are a constant draw on the battery.  Our electronics are running low and we’ll need to charge the battery tomorrow.

We spent the morning re-reading the generator manual and filling it with gas, fuel stabilizer, and oil for the first time.  We only broke one plastic piece doing this.  We turned on the generator and tested it with a cheap appliance.  It worked as expected and the generator was quieter than anticipated.  Tomorrow we hook it up to our entire rig.

Today we took a group hike to Treasure Falls, saw part of the continental divide, and drove a dirt road up a mountain for a beautiful view of the area.  I’m looking forward to charging everything tomorrow and possibly a soak in the natural hot springs!