Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just When You Thought It Was Over! - The Iceman Cometh!

    It's the very end of February, almost March. I'm beginning to get hopeful that the dreary, snow-ridden days are passing and the glorious Spring will be upon us soon. We had a "warm" day last week. In the 40's(!) The snow was melting, things were looking up. It's OVER! YAY!.... Nope, we've gone back into the deep freeze here in the Northeast, This morning was -4 degrees Fahrenheit and at night it hit -15 degrees! My RV cover is frozen to the ground. I couldn't get into my RV (easily) if I wanted to. How long can this go on! I'm so ready for my Spring RV Re-awakening!!

For A While I Couldn't Even GET To The RV!
What happened to global warming? Ice caps are melting, global climate change is upon us. Unfortunately, that means more weather extremes rather than milder overall weather. I have so many projects that I want to start outside and can't begin a single one of them! OK...I'll stop whining about it. But, I have to tell you, moving to a place that doesn't get below freezing is starting to look like a great option. Of course, like most everyone, I have obligations. Two jobs (well, three if you count writing these articles!)  I dream of retiring sometimes, but likely won't enjoy it past the "honeymoon period." Long term...not sure I could handle it. I'm a bit of a workaholic. I like being busy, doing things both for others and myself.

The Cave!
Maybe this is all simply cabin fever? Being cooped up, no matter what cool things you have to do, can get on anyone's nerves. I believe the internet only adds to the feeling. I can go online and research all sorts of things, see all sorts of places and never actually GO THERE! It feeds the itch to get back on the road. Last winter I regularly visited the inside of my uncovered RV, fired up the furnace and got some things done, projects completed on the interior...heck I even watched a movie once. RV's are a really comfortable space to relax, even just for a while. You can even imagine you are on a trip someplace and camped for the night. Think of it as a "man-cave." Or a "woman-cave" if that's actually a thing.

This coming season, I am determined to go on far more trips. Meet more of my fellow RV'ers and readers and find a better balance between work and relaxation. I'd love to hear from you.... Have any great trip ideas under 1000 miles or so? Short trips to little known places?  A nice Driveway to stay on? I'm ready to go. Well, almost. Now I just have to figure out a way to get the weather to cooperate!

Be Seeing...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Have A Theater In Your RV! - Movies & TV On The Big Screen

Digital Movie On the LCD Screen
    A couple of years ago I pulled out the old CRT TV and VHS player(!) from my RV and replaced it with a modern flatscreen Monitor. A little later on I added a Digital Media Player and stereo interconnect to give me lots of options for viewing. The screen is still a bit on the smallish side (not really, compared to the old 13" TV!!) so I wanted to go larger. The problem is my RV has a custom built housing for the TV and forward storage compartments. Without a MAJOR re-do I am maxed out size-wise. That's not bad, mind you, as it's totally watch-able the way it is. I just would like something for "special occasions." Last year I thought, "Why not a projector and screen???"

I looked into it at the time and found the regular 120V home ones to be HUGE energy hogs, majorly expensive and massively overkill for the small space. Then I found Pico projectors. What's that??? Keep reading....

A Pico projector is a small (sometimes tiny) LED based video projector that could even have a battery pack. The concept of them is great/ Last year, the execution....not so much. I found that they could cost upwards of $500.00 for ones that were usable for film and TV without major sacrifices. That's a bit too rich for my blood. Fast forward to today (well last week anyhow) and lo and behold, you can find them for less than $100 if you look hard enough. Be careful, there are MANY on the market that will disappoint you and precious few that will amaze you. I know. I tried them.

OK oN The Gray Painted Wall....
What's the secret to a good tiny projector? In a word, LUMENS. This is a measurement of just how bright the light is coming out of the projector's lens. The brighter the light the nicer the image. My big home version with the power hungry, hot running light source get's all the way up to 2700+ LUMENS. WAY bright and the picture is beautiful even on the 12 foot screen in moderate light. How could I get similar results from something the size of a large cell phone? Well, to be honest, you can't. With old V8 engines they used to say, "There is no substitute for cubic inches." Bigger is/was better. Does that mean it's impossible? No. It doesn't.

12 Foot Screen With Pico Projector
I tried an assortment of Pico projectors in various LUMEN outputs from 20 all the way up to 200. Since I will have my screen hung behind my front seats, I could go to a maximum of 6 Feet across, so the image would be MUCH smaller than my 12 foot home screen. I can make the RV quite dark with my insulated window covers (or simply wait until night time!) so that's a plus. I tried each projector in, essentially, total darkness at whatever distance was needed to fill a 6 foot screen. Some of the results were obvious. The 200 LUMEN one looked great, but it wasn't practical to velcro to the ceiling and cost more than $300. Predictably, the 20 LUMEN one was awful. All the colors were washed out and the sharpness was abysmal. The 50 LUMEN verson wasn't much better. The 100 LUMEN one was smaller and worked well. I would have stopped there, but I had to test them all. Last one had 70 LUMENS. It was the oddball. It had a bunch of cool features and was really tiny. I was fully expecting it to look horrible, but much to my surprise, it looked almost as good as the 100 LUMEN one. It was VERY hard to tell the difference.

Lots Of INs/OUTs
The Aaxa P3X can be found online for around $150.00 but I had a coupon so I was down to UNDER $100.00! This little beastie has a built in battery pack good for two full hours, a reasonable sounding speaker, the ability to take HDMI in as well as composite (RCA VIDEO IN) AND playback media files from USB AND MicroSD cards! Wow. That does almost everything my RV's full media system can do. I play back movies from USB drives now, so plugging them into a different device is no big deal. It also has a jack for Audio Out so I can feed my stereo system as well. It weighs next to nothing and will easily Velcro to the ceiling.

Next, I have to figure out the best way to mount the screen material to the RV. My ceiling has a "bow" to it, so a pull-down cylinder style won't work well....I'm working that one out now. Stay tuned for more info as I perfect it.

Now I can watch BIG screen movies, whenever I like. I can even project my mini laptop/tablet using the Pico projector since it has HDMI OUT. Bonus! The only cable that needs to be run is Audio. I could run on the battery pack, but there's a vent fan right next to it, so I will ad a socket there to run the projector from the house batteries. Now all I need is the snow to melt so I can get into the RV!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,
Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Friends With Driveways - Great Trips!!

    I really dislike staying in crowded campgrounds. I much prefer finding a great spot in the middle of nowhere (or close to it!) and camping. Near water is always a bonus! Quiet, beautiful scenery and relaxation friendly activities. That's the ticket. While that's my preference when I am on a "bounce trip," when I have a few more days I like to visit with friends. Especially ones I miss. Spending time with the friends that have moved away. It's really a "win-win" situation. An RV can make you the perfect house-guest. No, really. Read on!

A Friend's Driveway.
If your friends have a driveway, field or other space large enough for your particular RV, then you are good to go for a visit. With their permission of course...well you should have that, they ARE your friends aren't they? Essentially, you are bringing your own hotel with you. I usually bring lots of food to cook for 1 or more know, being "neighborly." If you get really lucky, they will have a convenient outlet to plug into. Be aware that the circuit you would be plugging into could be (and probably is) limited to 15 Amps at 120V. So don't overload it!  Blowing fuses and/or tripping breakers isn't all that friendly. Especially if you have to wake up your friends in the middle of the night to reset it! (DON'T ASK!)

Driveway Surfing
It's really great to visit folks this way. You get to spend time with people whose company you enjoy, eat good food, drink great beverages, have great conversations and generally have a good time. When the night (or early morning) arrives and everyone wants some sleep, you can retreat back to your own private "apartment" for the night. No disruption to your friend's routines or extra work for them setting up accommodations. Add to that simple fact you don't have to pack and unpack from a plane/train/car ride nor be limited to 22" carry-on luggage. Sure there could be a multi-hour or even multi-day drive, but that's half the fun! Split the road portion up into 2 or more days and you can make the trip much less taxing on the driver. An extra bonus.

The last time I did this, before the Winter shut down my traveling for the season was a trip to Tennessee to visit with some friends I really miss having close by. His only regret after the move from New York? In the small town that he now lives it's impossible to buy good Italian pastries. Specifically, Pignoli cookies. was VERY easy to bring 6 pounds along with me. Imported all the way from New York. It put a very big smile on his face and made me happy as well. The best thing? I get to see my friends more often, no matter where they are.....

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,
Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Worlds Smallest Stick Blender? (Almost!)- Lots Of Uses

    I use a hand-held stick blender. Sometimes called an immersion blender. Instead of a giant glass or plastic pitcher it can be used in any container...even plastic bags! Obviously it takes up far less storage than its' counter living brethren.  Even so, they do take up some space since they are long and usually a bit odd in shape. I roll mine in a small towel to keep it in place in one of the overhead cabinets. It would be awesome to have one of these that I could easily store in the RV and would run on some kind of DC power. Never thought it would happen. But it did! Sort of...

While perusing through a liquidator shop I stumbled upon a tiny one, billed as a "cocktail frother." Looked a bit too good to be true, but at $1.99...Why not? I'd never seen a battery powered one, only the "normal" sized 120V AC versions. Well after getting it home and looking it over, it was fairly obvious it would never completely replace the regular AC powered stick blender. With only 2 AAA batteries powering it, it simply cannot be used for chopping things up or pureeing anything solid. That being said, it WILL allow you to do a whole bunch of cool things.

Here We Go!!
My basic test was making whipped cream from a pint of heavy cream. I put the stainless steel vessel in the freezer for a few minutes, opened the pint container, got the vessel from the freezer, added a little bit of sugar, some vanilla and the heavy cream. Then placed the rather boat propeller shaped end into the cream and let it rip! Well, it bogged down almost immediately. Hmmm....Aha! You really should only put half of the "prop" into the liquid, this way it's introducing lots of little air bubbles into the mix. After learning this important lesson (and getting lots of cream splattered all over my shirt!) I tried again. It took a while, but did make whipped cream. Not as thick as i usually like it, but it was OK. Truth be told, I wouldn't use it for this again. Back to the Drawing board.

Now, the brand name listed on this frother is "HOUDINI" so I should, at the very least, be able to do something magical with it, Right? Well I found something it does REALLY well. What is that, you may ask? Well, it FROTHS! I made a simple cup of coffee with some half and half in it (and a bit of sugar) just the way I like it. Wouldn't you know it, the frother was just laying there on the counter. I figured, "What the heck?" and let it rip in my hot coffee. After about 10 seconds there was a rich and thick froth both on and in my coffee! It was delicious! I'll wager it will work in all kinds of drinks, both cold AND hot, Cocktails too!

Just goes to show you, sometimes the packaging can actually be TRUTHFUL. I look forward to using this little beauty on lots of trips. Everyone who reads my articles KNOWS I am a big fan of coffee...I wonder how well it would work on steamed milk??? Or with iced coffee....I guess we'll have to try it when i get back out in my RV...

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"