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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Real Danger Of Rain and Tire Grip.

Rain, Rain, And More Rain
    It's been raining...a in the Northeast. Pretty much every week (or day!) we experience a downpour. I mean, if I was in Seattle...I'd understand, but I'm not. And this is supposed to be summer! Aside from keeping us inside our RV's (there's lots to do in there too!) it makes traveling a bit more dangerous than when it's dry outside. First, there is the obvious problem of visibility. That's reduced. But what about your tires' lack of traction or "grip" in the rain. Sure, tire technology has come a long way and tires do operate more safely in the wet. But it still pays to be careful. Probably the most dangerous thing is a condition knows as "Hydroplaning."

A Tire Hydroplaning
OK...what is it? Well Hydroplaning is defined as "to slide uncontrollably on the wet surface of a road." It happens when your tires have more water thrown at them than they can disperse and it builds up a sheet underneath, separating your tire's contact patch from the road. I'm reasonably sure all of us who drive have experienced this. One second you are driving along on a wet road and all is well, then the vehicle loses grip and you have no way to change direction or slow down. Sometimes it only occurs for a second, but under the right circumstances, it can go on long enough to cause a crash. It's especially dangerous in the first 10 minutes of a rainstorm as the water mixes with oil on the road and creates a slick surface. Is there anything you can do to prevent it?

Well, yes. Some of the things you can do are quite simple. First, SLOW DOWN! Most hydroplaning incidents happen at above 35 MPH. So, if it's practical, slow down. Next, make sure your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread depth to dissipate the water. Avoid driving where you can see long stretches of standing water on the road. Try and avoid quick changes in direction or hard braking in the wet. Most of these (if not all!) you should be doing anyway. The best defense against this dangerous situation is being mindful and aware of changing road conditions.

This is a serious topic. RVs are heavier than most cars and, because of the extra mass, are harder to slow down and control even in normal conditions. Add lack of traction and it could all end in disaster. Above all, be careful! When in doubt, find a safe place to pull off the road (NOT the shoulder!) and wait it out. You've got all the comforts of home....use them!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Finally, A Low Cost Portable Espresso Machine That Works! - Coffee Time!

The Old Stand-by
    Making and drinking coffee is a topic that is near and dear to me and, I suspect, to many RVers. There's something about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the RV in the morning that is somehow invigorating and familiar. I've covered many ways to make coffee in an RV (even k-cups without power!) and thought I had found some excellent methods. Well, I found another. A while ago I purchased an old fashioned double-boiler style espresso maker. It works quite well and fits nicely on my RV stovetop. That's really the only way it can be used easily. Well, what if you can't use the stovetop or are away from the RV and still want your "morning thunder"? Find and buy a portable espresso maker. Last time I looked, they were very expensive for a device I would only use occasionally. Well, that's changed!

Well Packaged
For only $11.00 (with a coupon) you can purchase a workable, portable, compact espresso maker! Like you probably are right now, I was VERY skeptical. Especially at that price point. Since it was Amazon and they allow for relatively easy returns, I figured....why not? It arrived a few days (2 to be exact) later and was packed in 2 sturdy boxes. Inside was the device, a coffee measure, a soft case and, for some reason, another set of rubber grip bands for the outside. It had black ones installed, but they give you a red set as idea why. I guess you can call it a bonus!

Complete Kit!
So, how do you use it? The bottom of the device is the cup. Remove it, unscrew and fill the coffee compartment and lightly tamp it down with the back of the measuring spoon. Remove the top, flip over and fill with boiling water. Insert the unit into the top, flip back over. Pump the handle slowly until coffee dispenses into the cup. Keep pumping until it's empty. About 8 pumps. It runs at about 8bar (8 Atmospheres) of pressure, plenty for decent espresso. Wow... the aroma was amazing! Clean up is simple. Dump the grinds. Rinse everything (wash with some soap to get all the oils out of the cup) and let dry. SIMPLE! Just the way I like it. Self-cleaning would be better, but that's just me.

All in all, this is a winner of a product. Inexpensive and it actually does what it is advertised to do. What more could you want? I know..someone to make it for you? I'm kidding....of course. I find making coffee relaxing. Once you have espresso, you can make any number of coffee drinks with it. Lattes, Cappuccinos, even use the espresso for recipes!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Can You Watch Streaming TV Using A Mobile Hotspot??

    A few weeks ago, Amazon had a killer deal on the 2nd Generation Fire TV Stick. Only $19.99. Since I already have a couple and they work great on home-based WiFi, I figured I could get one to experiment with on the road. Would I be able to watch ANYTHING at all while connected to the internet via my cell phone's hot-spot? It would be way cool, especially if the satellite dish is blocked by some trees or something. For 20 bucks, I figured it was worth a try. Besides, I could always put a TV in the garage... you know? Here's what I found out.

Unlike traditional analog signals that we used to use a regular antenna to receive, digital ANYTHING is all or nothing. Either you have a usable signal or you don't. Over The Air (OTA) digital signals work that way. Sometimes I get lots of great channels, sometimes not a single one. WiFi streaming TV/video works a bit differently. More like a laptop or tablet on your home WiFi. The worse the signal (up to a point) the slower the transfer rates. When it gets low enough, you will get the dreaded "buffering" and your video will stop until the data "catches up."

My New Phone!
Mobile hot-spots and cell phones typically have a minimum of 3G service. Most are 4G or even faster 4G LTE. That's a lot of letters! Really all it means is that a good 4G signal can be very close to your home WiFi router and LTE even faster. 3G is OK, but will limit what you can do. So, does it work for streaming movies and TV shows through a streaming device? Yes. Well, sort of. When I have a good signal and am using LTE it works great! I can watch HD quality without a hiccup. At "only" 4G speeds HD works most of the time, but can stutter once in a while as signal (bars) go up and down. At 3G speeds HD is mostly unusable, but SD (Standard Definition) is fine. When I can't get a better signal, I can still watch older TV shows in SD and that's fine too.

Be aware that you will be using a lot of data! If you have an unlimited plan, it's not a big deal. However, if your phone/hot-spot plan limits your data to a set number, you can easily go over your allotment and begin getting charged for additional data. Video uses a large amount. HD Video, even more! Figure a Full HD movie will use up to 3 Gb per hour! Don't over-use if you have a limited plan. The overage cost can be enormous!

So, the bottom works! I plan on using my new streaming device to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime video and a few other online networks. Since I have a cable TV account I can watch networks and some pay channels for free, but that's another article!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"