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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Not that bad in the mountains

Looking back on some of my recent posts it looks like I'm suffering pretty badly from cabin fever. It's not that bad, really. A lot of my writing has been about travel, but winter is a good time to think about travel. Yes, technically it's not quite winter, but the big fat snowflakes falling outside right now says winter to me.

My lovely wife and I often kick around different travel scenarios. That way if we do decide to hit the road we have some idea what we'll be doing. Nothing ruins travel with a spouse than being on different pages. If she's thinking of wilderness camping and he's thinking room service, there will be problems. We like to iron out some of that ahead of time.

I do live pretty well out here in the mountains. Most mornings I rarely set an alarm and wake up when I wake up. Then I light the woodstove and put the kettle on to perk. It takes a while to make coffee starting with a cold woodstove, but I'm in no hurry. While coffee is heating up it's a good time to check e-mail.

Once the coffee is ready I bring a cup to my lovely wife's who's usually waking up around then. A wife who starts her days with coffee in bed is a happy wife. After that we usually have a leisurely breakfast.

Only then do I tackle the projects of the day. As some point I usually have a little on-line business to attend to. There's a few projects that should bring in a few dollars down the line. We shall see.

After lunch today I decided to putter around with my motorcycle project. It got moved to a better spot in the basement. The seat and gas tank have been removed to allow easier access. The electrical system does not look as bad as I feared. I did discover a expedient field repair I'd once made then totally forgot about. The main fuse had blown and I didn't have a spare. Instead a hasty bypass was done, without even the benefit of electrical tape. For some reason it was forgotten about and the bike driven for hundreds of additional miles. The hasty patch didn't stand up well to years of storage either.

Tomorrow we have to go into town to the post office. While there we'll combine as many errands as we can. We'll probably meet up with some friends while in town. My lovely wife is excited by the fact that I have to go to the hardware store. She loves the hardware store.

Even when our days are quiet we are doing well. We are warm, dry, aren't missing any meals and are surrounded by thousands of good books. Life could be worse.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Young, rich or healthy, pick any two

Congratulations, the Republicans won. The first thing they want to do is to get rid of Obama care. That should be fairly easy for them to do. Replacing it, on the other hand, is going to take hard work. Support for repeal is widespread among the incoming majority. What's lacking is any sort of consensus on what to replace it with.

I'm not going to go into any long in depth analysis of the different proposals. That information is out there and it's complicated. My reading of the different plans appear to favor the young, rich and healthy. You'll do pretty well if you have any two of those. Old, poor and sick? Too bad. There's lots of denial that's how it will turn out, but looking at the numbers, that's what I coming.

I just made my very last last health insurance payment. I had it for two years. The first year the price wasn't too horrible. The second year it went up but I continued to pay. This coming year it's getting dropped as the price is too high. In the two years I made payments I used exactly $125 in covered services. Hardly worth what I paid for it.

I've been feeling particularly mortal these days. Another of my fellow firefighters just died from lung cancer. A lot of guys I worked with died from cancer. Cancer rates in general are pretty high for firefighters. Workman's comp rarely pays the bills. They want to know at exactly which incident you came down with cancer. It's not like getting a broken leg. Cancer is often caused by repeated exposure over a period of time.

Because of that our individual insurances pick up the tab. The last guy who passed was able to get coverage at the VA because he was a veteran. They saved him from his first bout of cancer, but then it appeared a few years later in his other lung and that did him in.

Judging from past experience, I don't have a lot of hope for a decent health plan. Heck, even though I'm on a medical disability from the fire service, they don't have to cover related medical costs. They found a loop hole where they admitted my injury was job related but didn't have to cover it. That sounds unbelievable -unless you've had dealings with insurances yourself.

My guess is that any new plan is going to have all kinds of loop holes for people to fall though. I'm not going to argue about it. Just remember my words six months down the line.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Trips and talk of trips

It's funny. My lovely wife and I can spend day after day together in the same house, but nothing stimulates travel plans like going for a drive. I'm feeling better and so is my spouse. We decided to head over the mountains for dinner and a movie.

The weather looked mild with a chance of rain. It wasn't bad except for when we were crossing Pinkam Notch in the White Mountains. On the way back home the rain turned to snow. The new snow tires made all the difference. We didn't break any speed records but we never slipped one bit either.

Over dinner we started talking about possible travel plans later in the winter. Right now we are kicking around two options. One idea is to take the camper van and tow the sailboat to Florida. Once there we'd do a mix of camping and sailing. The Oday 19 is a bit small for us after having been on the Ranger 23. Four feet doesn't sound like a lot but there is a big difference in interior volume. With that in mind we'd only spend a few days at a time on the boat. Since it's on a trailer, however, we could leap frog all over the state and sample a number of different areas.

The second idea is to go minimalistic. We'd toss camping gear and the inflatable kayak into the little Nissan hatchback and go. That would allow us to go into some places our big rig can't go to. There are some nice camping spots that are tent only. That would require more research. We haven't stayed at some of those places in years. Other places we've only heard about.

One advantage of taking the little car is that my lovely wife is comfortable driving it. She's driven the van before but really does not like it. Towing a boat isn't something she wants to do either. By switching drivers we could go a lot further in a day.

On the other hand, with the van we don't have to drive as far every day. We can stop anywhere along the way and sleep in the back. While it takes longer to get anywhere we are lot more rested once we get to our destination.

We aren't even 100% sure we are going south this winter. If we do go it won't be for the 3 – 6 months we've done in the past. Right now we are thinking maybe a month, month and a half. Of course, with us everything is subject to change. We are nothing if not flexible.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At the crack of noon

I got up bright and early. It's trash day and I don't want to miss hauling my stuff to the road. To prevent bears and other animals from tearing up the bags they always go out at the last minute. Putting bags out the night before would guarantee a mess in the morning.

A mixture of rain and hail was coming down. I hauled in more fuel for the woodstove. After coffee, breakfast and a few chores I went right back to bed. Since I've been sick my sleep schedule is all over the place. With no need to be anyplace, going to sleep when tired just makes sense.

Waking up at the crack of noon I was confused at first. It was darker than it was at 7 a. m.. The clouds thickened up and we have freezing rain. Thought I'd better get this blog post out there while I still can. These are the conditions that take down the local grid. While I'd still have my off-grid power, the Internet would go down.

The roads are ice covered. Some folks are staying home from work. My granddaughter stayed home from school. Last I checked it should end by late afternoon. Hope it does. That would give the salt crews time to sort out the roads.

Hope things clear by this evening. It's pool night at my cousin's and I hate to miss it. I've got my priorities after all.

It might seem foolish to got out at all, but if you wait for perfect conditions you never go anywhere in the winter. This might change to snow and that would be better. Driving on snow is a skill I learned before I had a driver's license. Ice on the other hand can be just impossible.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Before the snow

My motorcycle's been sitting in my driveway. That was supposed to be a temporary stop until I could move it into the basement. Then I got sick and everything got pushed back. It even snowed a couple of times. Due to some mild rain there was only about an inch of snow on the ground.

Since I'm feeling somewhat better I went back to my motorcycle project. In the morning I was able to clear a path to the basement. I pushed the bike across the lawn and down a couple of stairs, where it decided to hang up. Rather than over extend myself the kickstand came down and the bike stayed right there. I was pretty beat. No sense in doing something tricky when I'm not even feeling 100% yet.

I knew a friend of mine was working in the area and wondered if he could come over to help. Cell phone service is pretty sketchy where he was working so I wasn't sure he'd get my message. As it turned out he only had enough signal to register he missed a call. Being in the area he just dropped in.

He was also pretty frozen so I gave him a couple cups of tea by the woodstove. Outside work can be brutal when it's cold. Once he warmed up we were able to move the motorcycle the last 20 feet or so into the basement.

That was a huge relief for me. With more snow and frozen mix only hours away I was worried about ever getting the bike under cover. My lovely wife even suggested wrapping it up in tarps and giving up on it until spring.

Now I'll be able to work on the bike over the winter. In the spring the bike can be driven up some ramps and back onto the road. The bike will need more elbow grease than money so it's a good project for me.

Looking forward to road trips in the spring.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Electric needs change

A buddy of mine called me up the other day. He needed some advice on alternative energy systems. About six or seven years ago I helped him set up an off grid solar electric system. That generally worked out pretty well for him for a number of years. Like anything else, there's a learning curve, but he sorted it out.

Fast forward to now. When he built his off grid house it was just him and his wife. She had a full time job and was out of the house most days. Then they had a child. His wife quit her job and spent a lot of time at home with the baby. Their electrical usage shot up quite a bit. He had a generator to top off the batteries, but sometimes he was away for work and batteries got drawn down very low. That's bad for lead acid batteries and shortens their life.

He's got a good plan to expand the system to meet the increased needs. I gave him what knowledge I had to share. They'll be fine. Fortunately solar panels have come way way down in price.

The thing about off grid living is that you are you own power company. If you need more power, you have to either find a way to make more or reduce your usage. If you don't do those things you'll be sitting in the dark.

It's different when you are tied to the grid. All you have to do is pay more. How many of us have gotten the surprise electric bill? That bill that comes out of nowhere and is three times what you normally use? That happened to me before I put in the solar electric. My well pump had developed a crack in a hose fitting inside the well. The pump would turn on constantly as the system lost pressure. Water at the house was slightly reduced, but not enough to cause alarm so the problem wasn't caught right off.

Due to the excessive number of duty cycles the pump burned out. That was bad enough. Then the electric bill came in and it was more expensive than the pump was. Talk about adding insult to injury. Now my pump is wired up to the solar electric system. If there's an excessive power draw it will show up on my meters and can be dealt with right away.

Being totally off grid has its challenges, but the honking big surprise electric bill isn't one of them.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Things you should know about Canada

Recently there's been a lot of talk about going to Canada. Sadly, not too many Americans know anything about Canada is run. I thought I'd present this little informative youtube to help?