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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Field Tests

Nothing puts your camping stuff to the test like a camping trip that lasts for months. In general I was pretty happy with most of our stuff. After all, it's not like this is the first time we've ever gone camping.

The biggest upgrade we made was getting rid of the cheap thermocouple type cooler to a compressor type. We bought a Alpicool C15 portable compressor fridge freezer. The difference in power usage was amazing. In previous years we made the thermocouple one work by being at campgrounds that had grid power. The times we weren't we used ice. It wasn't an ideal solution but it sorta worked. This year we were off-grid most of the time and the compressor type made all the difference.

One of my blog readers gave me a couple of Exponent multi-fuel campstoves. They were used almost every day, and used a lot. One nice thing about them is that they can be turned down to a low simmer. A lot of campstoves have two settings; blast furnace or off. With fairly heavy use they consumed about a gallon of fuel each month.

The dehydrated foods worked out well, both Mountain House and Wise Company. I will buy more. The price isn't too bad on Amazon buying them by the bucket. The combination of compactness, quality, light weight, easy of preparation, and long term storage makes them very valuable. Often we stayed out in the woods longer because we didn't have to go into town for food. When I really didn't feel like spending a lot of time cooking, I'd just boil some water and make an instant meal. That was better for us than eating out or filling up on snack food.

My Coleman propane lantern was a disappointment. It would have been fine for weekend camping, but did not stand up well long term. Fuel consumption was significant and those one pound bottles get expensive. The most annoying thing was having to replace the mantles often. No matter how carefully the lantern was packed away, the mantles almost always broke. When it did work, however, it put out a lot of light.

What did work well was our LED lanterns and headlights. They got heavy use. A bigger LED lantern that took 4 D sized batteries was our main van lighting. The batteries were changed once during our trip. The headlamp batteries were changed more often, but I'd gotten a large package of really cheap AAA batteries. The batteries weren't of very high quality, but they lasted long enough that it wasn't worth paying a premium for really good ones.

Those are a few things that stuck out about our camping set up.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Inevitable Payment Snafus

It happens at least once every time I travel. I set up on-line bill payment and banking. I get everything working ahead of time so any kinks can be worked out. My information is backed up on paper in case my laptop computer dies along the way.

Every single time there has been a snafu with on-line life. There are digital gypsies out there who claim it's easy to live a virtual financial life. That's true -until something screws up.

This year it wasn't too bad. There's the normal hassle of having to go through a whole list of security questions because you are connecting from a remote location. Make sure you really know your answers. Sure, things your mother's maiden name are easy to remember. It's some of the others that can be tricky. Questions like “What is my favorite movie,” can be tough as I've got a lot of favorites. Those answers I really have to write down.

One annoying thing this year was that one of my banks decided to completely redesign their website. It took me forever to figure out how to do a simple funds transfer. The link used to be right on the front page. Now it's buried about four layers down in vaguely named categories. It wasn't something I wanted to deal with when I was tired, and had an iffy Internet connection.

A few years back my local bank decided to shut down my debit card. Three times they said the problem was fixed, but it kept getting rejected. In the end we used my lovely wife's card from the same account. That had no problem at all.

The best thing you can do is to simplify your life so that there's a minimum of financial things you need to deal with. However, not matter how often I streamline my financial life, circumstances conspire to complicate them again. Dealing with on-line life is just part of the cost of being able to travel.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Living Outside

A lot of people have commented that our van doesn't have a lot of living space. That's true. The bed is comfortable. There's room to sit and play cards, but that's about it. The thing is, we didn't really live in the van. We lived outside. There's plenty of headroom when you don't have a roof.

We didn't have very many rainy days, so it was pretty easy to live outside. It wasn't a big deal to spend the occasional inclement day reading books or working on the computer. There was the option of a good sized tarp for rain cover. We only set it up once in three and a half months.

That's also how we can live on small boats. The cabin might be small, but we could always go outside in the cockpit. Of course, we weren't crossing oceans. We are coastal cruisers. The dog is pretty insistent on heading to shore a couple of times each day. That gives us a lot of time on the beach and seaside trails.

I think our outdoor life helped keep us in generally good health. During northern winters people get sick when they are living in close quarters. The cold dry air doesn't help either. A lot of my friends and family got sick during this past winter. Many have lingering coughs that still haven't gone away.

We also got plenty of natural vitamin D from that southern sunshine. That couldn't have hurt. On the downside, we had to remove a couple of ticks. I hate those little buggers and they often carry disease. So far we haven't had any ill effects, so we probably caught them in time. Tick checks are important.

Now we are back in our house. I hope we keep spending a lot of time outside as it has proven to be a healthy way to live. Not only was I healthy all winter, I even lost 35 pounds without even really trying.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Success and Failure

The way to success is the ability to do all the things you'd rather not do.

You might hate school, but stick to it and get that degree. You want to go to the club with you friends, but you stay home and save your money. Instead of driving a nicer car you put together investment funds. Rather than go on nice vacations you save money for retirement. Work might suck, but you put your nose to the grindstone and stick with it. By putting off immediate gratification, you can have more later.

Eventually these techniques and strategies become second nature and automatic.

The problem is that they become second nature and automatic. The next thing you know you are old and forgot to have that fun you were putting off until later.

The amazing thing about instant gratification is that it pays off right away. Talk about living in the present. Isn't that supposed to be some sort of virtue?

Of course, there should be some sort of balance. For example: brush your teeth. It's something you'd rather not do, but do it anyway. Health maintenance in general is one of those things you really should do, even if it sucks.

As for the rest, the balance is up to you. One word of advice: ask yourself if what you are doing is still working for you. Maybe you should play more to be happy. Then again maybe you should work more to have more security in your life. A little self-reflection goes a long way.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Sitting by the Woodstove

I'm sitting by the woodstove, looking out at a frozen lake. Funny how that's what I was doing in early January before our trip. Of course, back then it was -27 degrees. While it's still not exactly spring weather, it's 60 degrees warmer. Progress, of a sort.

Normally by this time the ice has either left the lake or is well in the process of doing so. Currently there is only a little bit of open water near the inlet. This might be one of those years where we don't have an actual spring, just a quick transition from winter to summer.

A lot has happened in the three and half months on the road. We covered a lot of miles, saw a lot of things and met a lot of people. One of the neat things is meeting strangers in a coffee shop and having a very animated conversation for over an hour. That sort of thing happened to us all the time. Of course, you have to be open to it.

Opening up the house after being shut down for the winter can be hit or miss. My big concern this year was if I'd be able to use the water line. It froze four days before we left. The line was still frozen when we got back. Fortunately, it was only frozen for about six inches from the basement side. I snaked a smaller diameter hose down the supply line and ran hot water through it. The hot water slowly thawed out the blockage. Every time it would melt an inch or so I'd snake the line a little further.

The first day I was able to restore cold water to the downstairs sinks and toilet. There was a frost damaged valve on the hot water side that's for the washing machine. Currently it's plugged off and we'll just have to wash in cold water. My lovely wife has been asking me to move the washing machine to another room. That's on the schedule for early next month, so we can just do without hot water clothes washing until then.

Outside of that, the water is up and running, electric power, heat, the Internet and phones are back in operation. It cost me about $17 to get the water system squared away. Well worth shutting down the house and not paying for heat for those months.

My lovely wife and I are not sure exactly what we'll do next fall and winter, but we have a lot of ideas. We'll figure it out. Part of the process is checking out conditions before we head out. For example, this past year hurricane damage in Florida changed our plans from sailing and camping to just camping. While I missed sailing, I'm glad we didn't put the boat at risk.

Well, time to get back to cleaning and unpacking.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Snow Country

Tuesday my lovely wife and I made it to my daughter's in New Hampshire. I knew the state had snow, but didn't realize it started at the Massachusetts border. We drove up in a mix of rain and snow. A good friend met us in North Conway for coffee and lunch. Great to be back in touch.

I left the van at my daughter's and drove my wife's car to the lake and started the furnace. I figured it would have time to warm up over night. Wednesday morning I drove up and started the process of getting the house up and running.

It took some doing, but I was able to thaw the water supply line where it entered the house. One my hot water lines had seperated at the basement shut off. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, so I just shut down the hot water side.

Currently there's cold water in the downstairs bathroom and kitchen. Later today I hope to have the hot water situation sorted out. However, you never know what problems will crop up.

The Internet and phone got turned on a few hours after I called them. Can't beat that kind of service.

The house is going to need a good cleaning when we move it. The water had frozen four days before or trip so we left it in a bit of a mess. Turns out the house cleaning fairy didn't come in while we were gone.

All in all, it still is good to make it home, even though the lake is still frozen and snow is on the ground.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

One More Night

With freezing rain in the forecast it made a lot of sense to put off my trip north one more day. Even so, we may have some light snow to deal with. While that's not great, it beats the heck out of driving in freezing rain.