Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Made It!! - Flipped The Odometer. I've Begun Again

Miserable Driving Weather.
    On my last trip out to retrieve my helicopter and trailer I had a milestone event occur. I watched my odometer flip over and begin again at zero! This is a momentous occasion. I mean, it's not as grand as starting from factory fresh zero miles and rolling through back to zero, but it was pretty special to me. I purchased the RV with 62,000 Miles on it and promptly put on 2500 more driving it back from north of San Fransisco to my home base in New York. Since then, I've had lots of trips and lots of "smiles per gallon" seeing places and meeting people along the way. There have been trials and tribulations, failures and follies. I wouldn't trade any of it for a second. Here I am, looking at my next mileage rollover, wondering where the next block of miles will take me. Wherever it is, you're welcome to join me!

Getting Close!
To be honest, my odometer only has 5 digits plus a tenth of a mile counter. So a rollover is really only 100,000 miles in total. I'm not sure I'll be around to hit the Million mile mark, but I can hope to be able to! Still, it's fascinating to watch the digits slowly creep up from 99990 to 99999. You start get fixated on the clicks of the tenth counter. Not so great on the highway at speed, mind you! I kept looking down more and more often because I didn't want to miss it happening. Add that to the fact that I wanted photos of the event for posterity's sake and I ran the risk of not being able to go much past the rollover. In fact, with all the camera juggling I could have had a rollover of another kind entirely. But let's not dwell on the "coulda's."

Made It!!!!
100,000.0 Miles! At 60 MPH. A done deal. I made it. There were a couple of shouted "whoops!" and it was over. I watched for a while as it began to climb back up. I had been thinking how cool this trip had been. Even though I was STILL driving in horrible weather with the trailer in tow. I mean, what other way is there to travel to a destination, relax in comfort, pick up a trailer, drive back semi-leisurely with comfortable overnights along the way? None that I could think of. Car or Truck? Ever sleep in a car? A truck? Not so comfortable. Sure you could sleep in a motel....well...I've seen lots of roadside motels. In a word....yuck! I like having my own stuff, my own shower and bathroom. You could fly out, buy/rent a truck and drive back. Not for me...think of the logistics nightmares with that one!

I'll take my RV anytime. Can't beat it for going on trips and adventures. And this last one was definitely an adventure! Perhaps we'll meet sometime out on the road or camped someplace. Feel free to stop by and chat. I've usually got some kind of conversation starter ready to go!

Be Seeing You...Down the Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Most Grueling But Rewarding RV Trip I Have Ever Taken - Picking Up A Helicopter

Not Its Natural Environment!
    I just got back. Normally, I'm fully bummed out that my RV adventure is over. This time I am glad it's done. Here in the North East we are usually just getting into Spring weather around the beginning of April. I start the process of de-winterizing and stocking the RV for the season's travels. Well, this time I got the opportunity to buy a Helicopter that I had been looking for, but the catch was I had to pick it up in Wisconsin. OK...sounded like a perfect time for an RV trip, problem was the weather hadn't been cooperating and it had been well below freezing for most of the days leading up to my departure date. The day before, I had warm enough weather that I was able to get the fresh water system operational and do some basic startup maintenance. Then the morning came and off we went. In the rain. More on this a bit later.

The helicopter is a Rotorway Exec 90 (heavily modified). It seats two people and will fly about 2 hours or 200 miles between fill ups. I had built an older version with a friend in the late '80s early '90s and was familiar with the issues and benefits associated with this particular type of aircraft. I've been flying helicopters (and airplanes) for Many, many years and it was time for me to mix flying with my RV. When everything is set up, I will be going to events around the country with the helicopter in tow. You know, fly-ins, Oshkosh, aviation related events. Great people, fun events with good food and a place to sleep comfortably. What else could one ask of an RV trip!

Yes, Rain All The Way There!
So off I went to Black Falls River, Wisconsin, on a rainy Thursday morning. Expected trip time was 16 hours and some number of minutes. All was going well until it wasn't. I received a call that the delivery wouldn't take place on the appointed day, but a day later. No worries as I had built in an extra day for travel stops and to see some interesting sights both ways. We arrived in a rainstorm to the Walmart parking lot in Black River Falls and went inside for some supplies and to notify them we were staying until the following day. Then the rain became Ice, the parking lot was completely covered, as was the RV. The temperatures were dropping fast. I began to worry about freezing pipes and water damage. The furnace was running...a lot! Thankfully the inside temperatures remained a comfortable 68 degrees thanks to the extra insulation of the window covers.

Overnight, you could hear the ice and snow hitting the roof and sideways into the glass. The RV was rocking from the gusts of wind. I'm happy to report no leaks at all! At least that's a good thing. I've also discovered exactly where the air comes in.When it's that cold, you find them pretty quick! Definitely going to get some weatherstripping under the main door and under the dashboard. In the morning we awoke to 1/2" of ice all over the RV and frigid temps. Ice was still coming down in tiny pellets. Felt like riding my motorcycle in the rain, little pin pricks all over your face.

Ready To Swap Tow Vehicles
Then the truck towing the helicopter on its trailer arrived. No lull in the weather. The cover came off the helicopter and the moving blankets secured with bungees and layers of 20" wide stretch wrap (U-haul about $20 for 1000 ft.) went on. That stuff is AMAZING. Covered everything (the most important being the front windscreen "bubble"), holding the doors closed and protecting from stones and road debris. Though putting it on in frigid temperatures and high winds isn't much fun at all. Especially while being pelted by tiny ice pellets! Finally it was done and the trailer ready to be switched over to the RV. Of course, the hitch ball I had was 2" and the proper one for the trailer was 2 15/16" So, back into Walmart to buy one. THAT'S why it was good to meet there. Lots of Trailer components, just in case! Also got some RV sewage tank treatment as I was running low. Oh, and a few extra snacks too!

Ready To Roll!
Once the hitch ball issue was fixed and everything hooked up (thankfully I had the right trailer connector!) the ride home began. In an ice/snow storm. My RV wasn't designed with this weather in mind, but really performed admirably in the harsh weather and icy road conditions, even towing the trailer! Color me impressed. Then, the wipers stopped wiping. About 2 miles down the dark road. Nowhere to pull over as construction had removed the shoulders from the list of choices. So, driving without wipers for a few miles to find the next reasonably safe spot to fix them was, needless to say, a challenge. Once found, it was a simple matter of removing ice buildup from the blades and getting underway as quickly as possible. The ice had built up on the roadway and was like hitting inverted nasty potholes. Every bang had me groaning with the equipment waiting for something to break.

Still Raining!
The snow lasted for many hours, slowly turning into freezing rain, then just a hard downpour as we neared Ohio. Not fun at all. We spent the next night in a truck stop, noisy...very noisy. But I was grateful for the break and the long rig was easy to park in the long, well marked spot. In the AM, it was still raining, and ice was on our tail, so I left at 6AM and got as far as I could. We had missed the ice, and pulled in to refuel in merely a rainstorm.  Back on the road again, lots and lots of rain with no end in sight. Made it most of the way home, spent the last night only 314 miles from home. Yes, in the rain. In the morning we made a leisurely breakfast and finished the ride home. Still in the rain!

Finally arriving home, I had to switch vehicles to get the trailer where it belonged and back the RV down the long driveway into its regular space. I was proud of how well it drove and handled the rather harsh conditions. Made me happy I had the RV and got me thinking of the RV/Helicopter adventures to follow.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Too Much Paper! - What To Do When Your Manuals Take Up More Space Than Anything

Almost Ready To Roll!
    I know I'm a packrat. I save things forever. Many times this has saved my bacon as I had something on hand that I needed RIGHT NOW and didn't have to go find it at a shop or online. This includes saving all manuals and instructions from whatever I buy. Sometimes it's a single page, but often it's multiple books. I even save them for stuff I don't even have anymore. Crazy right? Perhaps... I don't mind keeping a library handy, but there had to be a better way. Being the computer and technology fan that I am, I figured why not turn them into electronic data and store them in a USB Thumb drive? You could just get a scanner (or even take photos of each page) and store them as pictures. Sure...but why not go that extra step and make them searchable? This way, you could find the info in any manual easily. There would be an extra step, but it's not that hard. besides, the payoff would be well worth it!

How's THAT For A Mess Of Old Manuals?
So, how do you get it done? Well, first begin by deciding how you are going to get the image of each page into the computer. You could scan them on an old fashioned flatbed scanner (SLOW!) or use one of the newer Multifunction printer/scanner/FAX machines. The benefit to those is they often come with a document feeder that automates much of the process. In the case of manuals, not so much. They are typically bound or in booklet form, so not great candidates for automated document feeding. Hmmm....now what. Well, most of us have a very sophisticated handheld computer we use everyday. Yes, I am speaking about your cell phone. Most (if not all) smartphones have a camera. A very good camera. If you look around, you can easily find a PHOTO TO PDF application for your phone. They are available for iPhones as well as Android and are quite amazing.

How It Works!
You simply run the application, aim the camera at the page you want scanned in and take a photo. The Software does the rest. It will convert and format the document, so it looks like what you see all while allowing it to be searchable. Even the pictures will be transferred. Yes, it will take a while to do them one page at a time, but you don't need all of them at once. Do a few at a time (or one manual at a sitting.)

 I love it! It's going to take me a while to get through several decades of manuals, but they will all fit on a tiny USB drive and I can just have access to it whenever/wherever I like. Pretty cool. That's why I like technology. Not always...mind you...but for this kind of thing...it's great!!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Even The Simple Things - Rapid Multiple Egg Cooker

Compact Kitchen!
    I like eggs. Ever since the powers that be decided (again) that they aren't bad for you I have been enjoying them again. With my Carb restricted diet (Lost 46+ lbs and keeping them off!) I try and keep to protein rich foods. Eggs are incredibly versatile. I have a whole bunch of breakfast recipes that are delicious and keep the cleanup to a minimum. What about the most basic egg recipe, hard boiled? Soft boiled? Poached? Omelettes? They are great to keep in the fridge, are good by themselves (with a pinch of salt) or sliced up onto a salad or sandwich. I even put them in the center of my meatloaf. Delicious! Sure, you can boil up some water and make them on the stove, but what about an easier way? A way that adds a bunch of other, much more difficult to get correct styles of egg cookery. I found it!

Look, A Pretty Box!
Typically I don't write too much about appliances that run on 120V AC house current. I try and stay in the 12 Volt realm since I have a great solar panel charging system and do most of my trips to boondocking destinations. That being said, this little gizmo does so many things with eggs, so easily...I couldn't resist! The cooker comes with a water measuring cup with an eggshell piercer on the bottom under a safety cap, an omelette pan and a soft/poached container.  First off is the aforementioned hard boiled eggs. In the model I selected, you can cook 6 eggs at a time on the handy removable (with handle) platform.

Ready To Cook
I'm only one person, that's plenty! The instructions both in and on the box tell me for 6 eggs, hard boiled I add water up to the HARD BOILED line on the measuring cup, pour it in and pierce the big end of each egg before being placed on the cooker's removable egg tray.  Cover the cooker and twist a bit to lock the cover in place. Then simply press the button and walk away. The finished buzzer is loud enough to be scary! Press the button again to turn off and let cool. Perfect eggs every time. And, since it's small, I can store it under the sink in a tiny extra space I had available. I did wrap it in a towel to make sure it doesn't get smashed, but the box would work fine too.

So aside from hard boiled eggs what's this thing good for? Well, it's really just a heating element that boils water to make steam in a housing, so you could make an omelette easily with the included plastic pan. I find mixing in various leftovers to be a great breakfast. For those of you that like Soft boiled eggs of various softness levels you will love this gizmo! It will make perfect soft boiled eggs in their shells (of course) and make them in multiples. There is an additional set of lines on the measuring cup to let you determine the amount of water (and therefore time) that the eggs cook. More water for more done eggs, less for softer, runnier ones. Once you find your sweet spot, mark a line with a sharpie or other indelible marker to lock in your "recipe."  You'll have one amount with up to 3 eggs and a slightly larger amount of water for up to 6 eggs. A tiny bit of experimentation will zero in on the perfect egg(s). And besides, you can eat the mistakes too!

If you are a fan of poached eggs, this will make those as well, in the included poaching plastic container. Bear in mind you can only make 2 poached eggs at a time. They will retain the shape of the poaching container, so it may look a bit odd, but will cook very nicely and taste exactly (eggs-actly?) as you would expect them to. Cleanup has been a breeze, take out the plastic bits and wash, then, when it's cool, wipe off the metal base with a paper towel. Done.  Almost all of you know how much i hate cleaning, so when it's this easy...I'm OK with it. Well mostly OK!

Eggs are low calorie, low carb and delicious. This gizmo make it easy to have them on hand. I wish it was available in 12V, but it's still valuable! If you'd like to order one the one I have, it's a Dash Rapid Egg Cooker and it was found on Amazon. There are MANY different kinds and capacities to choose from.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"