Thursday, April 30, 2015

Knife Laws

Here's a useful little site about the knife laws in the United States. There's a state by state breakdown.

Growing up in New Hampshire I was unaware that there laws against knives. After all, with our unrestrictive laws about guns, why bother with a knife as a weapon?

I always thought of knives as really useful tools. You aren't properly dressed unless you have some sort of pocket knife on you. These days I carry multi-tools or if doing a lot of rope work, a rigger's knife with a marlin spike on the back. A machete is a great tool for camping. I think I've four or five of those things around the house. Of course, I've a whole collection of hunting knives suitable for processing game.

A few years back I met a guy from England who was on a dive trip to the Florida Keys. He was all kinds of excited about his diving knife and had to show it to me. It looked useful: sharp, good quality stainless steel, maybe a bit bigger than necessary but to each his own. Apparently it was totally illegal in a number of ways back in England. That's why he was so excited about being able to carry one in the US.

So it might be worth checking out the laws where you are or plan to travel to. Especially if you grew up like I did and didn't even realize there were laws.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Live Free or Die

Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils

-General John Stark

The New Hampshire motto: Live Free or Die, is on all non commercial license plates. When I travel far from home, sooner or later, someone takes note of the my license plate motto. Most folks who do approve. In my humble opinion it sure beats the wimpy innocuous mottoes most other states have.

In today's world is probably a bit politically incorrect -and I'm fine with that too.

The real irony is that the license plates are made by inmates of the state prison. Yeah, that's got to bite.

Then again, there are many forms of freedom. The body may be imprisoned but the unyielding mind is still free.

Unfortunately, what I see way too much of is the opposite. There are no chains on people's arms and legs, but their minds are shackled. There are many ways to shackle the mind: school, media, authority figures -even parents pass down their conditioning to their kids. They don't even know they've give up their freedom.

As I see it, one of the greatest sins is to deprive someone of their freedom. One of the greatest virtues is giving someone the opportunity to break their chains, be they physical or mental. I believe we were put on this planet to experience and learn. A slave has few opportunities for doing those things.

So Just about every day I can look out at all those NH plates and be reminded of the value of freedom. It keeps me honest.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Home Base

My lovely wife and I slept in. Eventually we got our act together and headed into town to take care of business. The house water filter housing cracked so that had to be replaced before even attempting to get the water flowing.

While out and about we had a light lunch at our local coffee shop. We happened to run into friends of ours who just got back from Florida. Their water supply line has been frozen since March. That had me worried as I didn't know the condition of my supply line. After all, last year it took me the better part of a week to thaw it.

When I finally tested it the supply line was clear. Back flowing nontoxic antifreeze down the line in January paid off. My plumbing is divided into different zones so they can be isolated from each other. That way I can flood different sections and check for leaks before moving on. Now all the cold water lines are working. The hot water system will wait until tomorrow. After months of camping just having cold water on tap feels like a luxury.

In energy news a survey appeared in my e-mail in-box from the electric company. The old power company was bought out by Eversource. I'm not sure if they are a worse company than the old one, but so far it looks like they are no better. People tell me their electric bills went up a lot this past winter. Since I turned my main breaker off before heading south I didn't use any power during that time period.

Anyway, the survey asked a lot of questions about what was important to me about energy management. Apparently they have some sort of system set up. After a couple pages I gave up on the survey. Frankly, it's none of their business how I want to use their electricity. I don't want their experts telling me what to do. In short, if their bill gets too high I'll just add more alternative energy power until the bill shrinks or I cut them off completely.

On average I generate about 80% of my power with solar electric. The problem is that there are times when I use much more than that and times when I use less. The grid allows me to bridge the bad weeks, like during a wet and dark November. Right now the electric bill is a tiny part of my budget. If Eversource becomes too troublesome they'll get the boot. It's nice to have options.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Home again

We took the long way home: some camping in Virgina, a night at a service plaza, a few days at my daughter's in Massachusetts, and the weekend with friends in Maine.

Here's a helpful hint. Avoid going East on Rt. 90 at sunrise. With the sun in our eyes we missed the exit to 95 North and ended up in the heart of Boston -in a low clearance no trucks area. Fortunately we were able to just barely clear the low overpasses. A miss is as good as a mile.

Just before we got to my daughters one of the leaf springs on the trailer broke. The other two looked like they might hold a bit longer so I decided to drive home that way. Two out of three ain't bad, right? I could have bought replacement springs and swapped them out, but a friend has some heavy duty springs for free at home. The concern was actually making the trip north. By unloading the heavy stuff out of the boat and shifting more of the boat weight to the good side it rode well enough.

The lake still has ice on it, but it's starting to break up. Depending on the weather it should clear soon. At least there is no snow in my driveway.

It's actually warmer outside than in the house. I picked up 10 gallons of off road diesel to use as heating oil. After checking the chimney and bleeding the air out of the fuel line the furnace started right up. Now that I know it works I can get more fuel oil.

The water system will take a bit more work. Somehow I forgot to drain the water out of the filter housing, so that cracked. It goes on the list for when we go to town. For now I can fill my water jugs at the overflow from the well.

Overall, the house looks in pretty good shape. My lovely wife is camped out in front of a portable heater until the house warms up. Could be worse.

All in all, it's good to be home.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Travel days

We are spending the next couple days traveling. Probably won't be posting until we settle. Hope to visit my daughter and her family in MA. Then it's just a few more hours to home after that.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Keep the lovely wife happy.

We are spending a night in a hotel. The weather is wet and the lovely wife shyly asked if we could hotel it. After all these months on the road this is the first time. I was ready for one too!


Cardens Bluff and restrictions on travel

Okay, the name of the place we camped at is called Carden's Bluff. Right now I feel a bit more charitable towards the campground management. Maybe that's just left over happy glow from a wonderful boat trip on the lake.

I've discovered the reason the closest bathhouse is not open is because of tree roots plugging the septic system. It's been closed since last summer. A private campground would have fixed it by now, but the Federal Campgrounds are all starved for money. We've seen this before in other places where repairs and upgrades have been put off indefinitely. The Everglades park will most likely disappear under the waves before their planned projects get funded.

We've decided to move on. Bad weather is predicted so we think we'll make our way to some sort of civilization. That will give us a chance to eat in restaurants and maybe do something like catch a movie somewhere. Looks like we'll spend a night at a Walmart or a truck stop. Monday and Tuesday nights we've time booked in a Virgina campground. After that we'll look our options over and decided what to do.

This travel season we've wandered off the beaten path from time to time. It's kinda nice to see things far away from the 95 North/South corridor. Our trip south was a straight shot south until our wheels crossed into Florida. Our northward trip is more of a twisty meander. My lovely wife got to see relatives we haven't seen in years. There is no telling what the future will bring.

When I see headlines about an “Armada” heading from Iran to Yemen to support their allies there, it makes me wonder. If Saudi Arabia and Iran go to war say goodbye to cheap fuel. A war between two oil exporters would be very disrupting. As it is just the hint of such a war is giving the stock market fits. Maybe nobody will be doing much traveling next winter.

In the mean time I'll do my best to enjoy the traveling I'm doing now.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The slow slow road north

I'm heading north, but not very fast. Today we did only 75 miles. We plan on staying two days in another Federal campground. Originally we thought we might stay even longer. It's a beautiful location right on a lake.

However . . . it's not run all that well. We got a nice site near the bathrooms, but the bathrooms are locked. It's a good long walk to the next ones, and all but one bathroom is closed in that unit. Trash disposal is also a problem as the dumpster is a long long ways away. The campground map doesn't even show its location.

I'd have complained to the camp host, but he was already getting chewed out by another camper about something else.

Maybe it's just because the campground only recently opened for the season. One can but hope they get their act together. It's a shame that such a nice location is so poorly run.

(I'll mention the name once I've moved on, for obvious reasons.)


Friday, April 17, 2015

Low cost camping and electricity

One of the very last things I did to the van before our trip was to install a 105 watt solar panel on the roof. That very day it started snowing, putting an end to my outdoor driveway projects. I'm glad I got the job done.

Normally we count on campgrounds having at least 15 amp electric service. This camping season we did without conventional electric power more often than not.

My lovely wife has a discount card that allows us to camp half price at Federal Campgrounds. That's great, but a lot of Federal campgrounds have limited electrical hookups. Those fill up first. Everyone who could get away from the cold north this year appears to have done so. Campgrounds have been busy. The only sites available have been non-electric. The next two campgrounds on our journey north don't even have electric sites. Having our own power also allows to dry camp in places like Walmarts and truck stops.

The last few days have been cloudy and rainy. Even so, we've been getting enough power to run my
c-pap, charge the phones, computers, tablet, and hotspot. Being connected to the Internet sure makes travel much easier. We can find what we need and where to go.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Found on the side of the road

One of the hassles of travel is getting my lovely wife's prescriptions filled. When on the road we generally stick to a certain national chain since their computers can talk to each other. That doesn't mean things go smoothly. This time they didn't want to fill her prescription because she's been moving around too much. What? Is freedom of movement now a suspicious activity? Her doctor back home had to fax information directly to the local branch to make it happen. It can sometimes take several days to get these things sorted out.

On the bright side, near the drugstore was an actual for real used bookstore. It was like a blast from the past. Not only did they have an extensive selection of books, they also had vinyl records. Asheville North Carolina must have a large hipster population or something. Well, it is a college town so there's that..

One of my pet peeves is the high price of downtown parking. My van is too high to fit in the municipal parking garages so I have to feed meters on the street. It's not cheap, but even worse is the two hour limit. We were thinking of catching a movie, but the run time was longer than the meter limit.

We had dinner with family and friends downtown our first day here. People kept having to run outside and feed the meters. Asheville is just doing what other other cities are doing. Just like those other cities, Asheville is missing out on some of our business.

Of course, if we'd stuck in town we'd have never found that great used bookstore on the outskirts.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Solar Trailer

This little trailer was designed for off-grid music concerts.

It has two 180 watt panels and 4 Trojan batteries.

The inverter is a true sine wave inverter that makes clean electric power for a sound system.

The sound system is not pictured here, but it is sized to work all day with the power available from the solar trailer.

This one is used for concerts, but there are many other uses. Some people build solar trailers where local restrictions don't allow house installations. They are also super handy for building an off-grid house. The trailer runs power tools. Once the house is built the solar panels are mounted on the house.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

North Carolina Rain

So we made it to Asheville North Carolina. There's light rain now, but it's supposed to really start coming down. There are local flash flood watches. Glad we don't plan on driving very far the next few days.

We did over 800 miles since we left Missouri. One night we just pulled into a truck stop. The next night we connect with my wife's uncle and aunt in Tennessee. The last time we saw them was over 5 years ago when we happen to meet up in Texas. We had a great visit and they treated us well. Good food and good conversation.

Monday we met up with my daughter and her family. They are heading south and we are heading north. The plan is to all get together with friends in Asheville for dinner before they continue their journey.

I'm told things are still pretty frozen solid up north. The cross country ski trails by my house still have 100% coverage. They tell me the frost went down past 6 feet this winter. Quite a few people are still without water.

Can't wait to get back . . . .well, I can wait a little. It will be a slow trip north.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Road Tripping

On the road again. Tennessee right now. North Carolina by Monday.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Apple toys

Anyone else think it's ironic that Apple has made a watch? Thanks in large part to smart phones we no longer need a watch to tell the time.

Yes, the Apple watch does much more than tell the time. So what? I can't think of one really burning need it satisfies -unless one counts the need to have the latest Apple toy.

Early technology adopters pay a huge price for being first in line. I'm usually way back in the pack. That way by the time I get into something it has proven its value, the bugs are worked out, and the price has come down. I was an early adopter of solar electric technology, but it was the price of freedom and independence. Those old solar panels are still cranking out power too.

Most electronic gadgets plummet in value very quickly. Ever get excited about 10 year old electronics? Think about how worthless a 10 year old Apple watch will be. Anyone still enjoying their LISA computer? Didn't think so.

There is a limited market in old electronics, but it's a nostalgia market. They aren't so much selling equipment as they are selling memories. However, for every person who has fond memories of their old gameboy there are piles of electronic junk best forgotten.

The Apple watch may catch on. I assume the company has done plenty of market research. Who knows, maybe in the future it will be useful and the price will be right. That future isn't here yet, in my opinion. I've got a lot of other more pressing needs than a new wrist toy.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Car Shopping

My lovely wife's car died and we'll have to replace it soon after we get home. I don't want the veggie van to be our daily driver anymore. The plan is to use it more like an RV and tow vehicle for our boats. That way we can get a few more years out of it.

I had been thinking of getting another diesel, maybe even another old Mercedes to convert to veggie. Sadly, I think my veggie burning days are coming to an end. Good quality WVO is getting hard to get. So that puts me in the general car market. I haven't bought a real car in years. My most recent vehicle purchase was a decommissioned ambulance.

A small pickup truck would be nice, but they don't really make small pickups anymore. The newer pickups out there don't excite me. Whatever happened to little ½ ton manual shift pickups that could get 35 mpg?

Oh yeah, my lovely wife is perfectly happy driving a stick, so that opens up things a bit.

I'm wondering if we should just settle for a little econo banger car, but we really hate to settle.

Should we get an older used vehicle and avoid payments? Perhaps we should suck it up and buy a new or newer car with some sort of warranty?

Any ideas out there? Something with decent mileage and a bit of character?

. . . an no Mr Flying Tortoise, we don't want a mule team.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lost Bill

Travelling the roads the only practical way for me to keep the bills straight is to pay them on-line. Now some folks don't worry about that because they have no bills. Another way is to put everything on automatic payments.

If you've ever done any banking on-line you've most likely had offers to set up automatic bill pay. There are only a tiny handful of bills I'm comfortable paying automatically. They are small payments and never change from month to month. I don't like it, but I can live with it.

There are occasionally bills that slip through the cracks. Today I was notified by e-mail of a late bill from a building supply store. That dates back to when I was in Florida. I must have used the card to take advantage of the membership discount. The paper bill should have been forwarded to my in-laws place in TX. A lot of my snail mail was.

Normally we'd have mail sent to our next destination, but that's a bit of problem. Where we are staying in MO does not even have a mailing address. It's also a long drive into town to the post office. (remote or what?) Now my mail is piling up at my daughter's place in NH. That's fine. I'll deal with any stray bits of business when I get home.

However, the building supply store had my e-mail and let me know payment was overdue. It took some effort, but I was able to access my account on-line and pay the bill: $26 -big whoop. It's not a big bill, but not paying those little things can eventually show up on your credit rating.

Good thing I sprung for a mobile hotspot and can access the Internet. The store bill was no big deal either way, but I'm also paying things like my car insurance on-line, so it's good to be able to stay in touch.

Eventually I hope to simplify my financial life. Maybe I'll even forgo using store cards and pay cash. The discounts just aren't worth the hassle.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lake launch

There's an unimproved boat launch next to my in-laws property at Table Rock Lake. It was too small and tight for the van, so we used my father-in-law's ATV to launch the boat. That worked well enough, but picking up the boat again was a different story. It took rope, chain, the ATV and my in-law's van to pull the boat back out. If I launch on the lake again I'll be taking the long and winding trip into town where there's a decent boat ramp.

In spite of that, it was a pretty good day on the water. The lake is long enough for the wind and waves to build up. The motor could just barely move the boat against the waves. We decided to head for protected coves and rivers.

We got to see our first loon since fall in New Hampshire. It was like seeing an old friend. Yes, our friends are loons -just so happens that some of those loons really are aquatic birds.

On the way back we had to pound our way back against the waves. The waves would bring us almost to a stop, then we'd bump forward a short bit at 2 knots. Rinse and repeat. Eventually we made it past the point into somewhat calmer waters. The little 12 foot boat made pretty good progress after that. The battery indicator on the electric trolling motor dropped down into the red so we turned around.

The little lake back home is still frozen solid so I'm enjoying time on the water while I can.

Next week we've some time booked at campgrounds in North Carolina and Tennessee. We making our way home, but neither quickly or directly. That lake needs a bit more time to thaw.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Auction Time

I'd rarely been to an auction. It's not the sort of thing I seek out. My in-laws, on the other hand, really enjoy them, so my lovely wife and I went along.

We got there early to check out the merchandise. There really wasn't anything I wanted. Bidding started outside where a lot tools were on display. My wife was going to bid on a skill saw until I reminded her I already had a much better one at home. She remembered when my old one burned out, but forgot that it was quickly replaced.

That felt like a close call to me.

Later we went inside were the action continued. Soon I decided it wasn't for me. However, my lovely wife was still having fun. After reminding her that our van space was limited, I went outside for some fresh air.

When all was said and done she'd spent only $12, and didn't buy anything too big. It's all stuff she's going to use, so that's good.

I guess my lack of interest in auctions is related to the fact that I'm not a recreational shopper. If there is something I want or need, I buy that item. When we got to flea markets I have a short list of things I'm looking for, but only if the price is right. Rarely do I buy something I'm not already looking for.

So now I know auctions kinda freak me out a little. Watching people spend more on used items than what new ones cost had me shaking my head.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Into the wilderness

Modern communications are amazing. When I first came to my in-laws place on Table Rock Lake it was a 12 mile drive on twisty bad roads into town. Only there could I get a connection to the Internet. There was a drive through liquor store that sold dial-up connections by the minute. Now I get a strong 4G signal on a mobile hotspot. It's not cheap, but sure beats driving into town.

Besides cell phone connections, there are many devices designed to work with satellites. Everything from full phone service to a simple rescue button are available. Injured hikers and distressed boaters lives have been saved by the new technology. One cannot deny there are benefits.

Progress does not come without down sides. It's difficult to sink into the rhythms of the natural world while constantly checking social media. There has been a spiritual cost. There's a long tradition of people wandering off into the wilderness to quiet the mind and partake in a journey of self discovery. Most of history's great spiritual leaders have made such pilgrimages.

You don't have to be a Bodhidharma to benefit from wandering the wilderness alone. It certainly did me a lot of good, especially during times of great life transitions.

So is that experience lost forever? Is there a middle path? Perhaps it would not hurt to have a fully charged but turned off cell phone in the bottom of one's pack -just for emergencies. It would take some disciple to only use it in emergencies, but consider that part of the quest.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Junk tools

My father-in-law picked up a big air compressor for next to nothing. It had a large air tank and lots of hoses and accessories. The only problem was it didn't work. This compressor, like generators, pumps, and many other tools, was built in China. Replacement parts are almost never available.

Just read reviews of Chinese built generators sometime. Ignore the reviews from people who just got one and it fired up. Look at the reviews from people who actually use them for a living and work them hard. Those reviews are terrible. Quite a few are broken right out of the box.

Sometimes it's possible to do what my father-in-law did and fabricate parts yourself. That's what it takes.

I used to look down on equipment that use small Briggs and Stratton engines. They are pretty low tech and have been around forever. Now I look for them just for those reasons. Parts and manuals are readily available.

Good quality equipment is still available, but they aren't cheap. If your business depends on your equipment working, spend the money. That also goes for people who buy equipment for emergency use. If the grid goes down and your cheap Chinese generator fails when you really need it, will you be thinking about what a bargain it was?

There are times when I will buy cheap power tools. If I'm doing a job that needs special equipment, but I never expect to use it again, I might go the cheap route. If the equipment fails it will still be on warranty. I once blew through a pile of guaranteed wrenches. They'd snap and I'd go down to the store, get a replacement and snap that one too. Eventually one lasted long enough to do the job. The store was getting really really sick of seeing me, but that wasn't my problem.

As for my father-in-law's compressor? His cobbled together repair lasted a year. Then he tore it down and did another cheapo repair. He's still using it.


Saturday, April 4, 2015


There's a reason this part of the country is known as “Tornado Alley.” Sleep was interrupted as massive thunderstorms rolled in. My in-laws have a place in the basement for waiting out tornadoes. We stayed there until 2 a. m. when we got the all clear from the weather service.

We were fine, but homes in neighboring counties were badly damaged. Fortunately, no one was hurt. That's the main thing.

A few days ago I was talking to a guy at the Hot Springs campground. He was from upstate New York and terrified of tornadoes. He was ready to drive back to NY at the first hint of tornadoes. I wonder how he made out?

Do I worry about tornadoes? Only a little. Every area has it's dangers. Some places have earthquakes. Other places have hurricanes. My home area has bitter cold and blizzards. If you were terrified about every little thing that could go wrong you'd never leave your cave.

So when traveling it's a good idea to have a good idea what the local conditions are like, then plan accordingly. Don't stress about it, but have some situational awareness.

I'm not too worried about stuff. If my van is destroyed in a twister, but I'm not in it at the time, no worries -even though I've only got liability insurance on it. Having almost lost all my physical possessions one time has given me perspective. It's the people who you love that matter.

The weather is supposed to clear up so I'll be enjoying myself on the lake.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Table Rock Lake

Here's where we are spending the next few days. My in-laws place has a great view, doesn't it?

I took an ATV down to the lake to check out the condition of the boat ramp. The road down to the lake good, but the landing itself is pretty cramped. There might not be enough room to maneuver the trailer. However, I discovered my father-in-law's big 4x4 ATV has the same sized hitch my trailer has. It should be perfect for launching the boat.

Heavy rain is predicted so we won't launch until the weekend.

People on the coasts refer to the middle of the country as “fly over country.” The whole center of the country is some sort of wasteland, not worth visiting. They are welcome to their wrong headed arrogance. I'll be here enjoying the view.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

I said my path would be twisty

So Tuesday we planned on heading to Missouri. We got side tracked. My lovely wife noticed we were not all that far from Hot Springs Arkansas. So we did a little detour and checked it out. We accidentally checked out the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. I was looking for a place to park -not easy with van towing a boat. Then I was looking for a place to turn around.

Suddenly I found myself on the road to the tower. There's a warning that vehicles over 31 feet long are banned from the road. Well, the van with the trailer is more than 31 feet, but since it's articulated at the hitch I thought it might work. The road was incredibly steep and twisty, but the van and trailer handled it just fine. There was even room to park at the tower.

My lovely wife is prone to vertigo and didn't think the tower was a good idea. I went up alone and took some photos. Great views, even if it was a cloudy day.

The elevator to the top has a glass wall so there's a clear view all the way up. This is a quick shot of my van and boat. Notice the solar panel mounted on the van roof?

After the tower we were running pretty late so we decided to stay at the Federal campground at the park. It's a nice little campground with some good hiking trails.

We didn't do much hiking as we still had a drive ahead of us. We took the long and winding Rt. 7 up to the Missouri border. It's slow going due to hills and curves, but the views are stunning. It's an amazing drive.

Our timing was good as we arrived at the in-laws just in time for dinner.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Will reality and politics collide?

I can't help myself, I've been watching the dance of the politicians. Maybe it's that time spent in Texas, where so many of this years crop have sprouted up. Of course, while I've been enjoying warm southern weather, politicians of all stripes have been trudging through the frozen snows of New Hampshire. Somehow that amuses the heck out of me.

Don't worry all you politicians. I'll be in New Hampshire when it's time to vote in the primaries. Then again, maybe they should worry. Political campaigns come to my home state to die. I plan on doing my part to kill a few of them.

One of my big guidelines will be if the politician has any sort of connection to reality. There are a lot of fine speeches coming out of their mouths. There are some grand and interesting ideas bouncing around. The problem is that most of those ideas have a lot more in common with fantasy than reality. Most of those politicians appear to live in a world totally unrelated to the reality of my world.

Right now I'm not even going to single out any particular politician. Besides, after New Hampshire gets through with them, the field will be a lot smaller. You are welcome.