Monday, July 28, 2014

Therm-A-Rest LuxuryLite Cot VS MEC: Reactor 3.8

Last year on my big tour across the Country,  I carried an inflatable air pad which I bought from MEC: Mountain Equipment Co-op  (similer to REI or Cabellas)  (click here)   It was a Reactor 3.8

Here it is.  It packs small and starts to inflate by itself except you have to help it a bit near the end to make it more firm.   I didn't give you any statistics but I camped nearly 1/3rd of the time, and I also used it when I was hosted to make the floor, less hard

Now,  I am not a large person but the pad seems "just" adequate for size.   I found that you have to centre yourself on the pad and hope that you stay on top of it,  especially if the ground is not flat.  Once I was on an incline and I found myself slipping off

I have to make sure that my head is still "on" the Pad and then the rest falls into place.  Not much roll over room though.   I like the way it packs into a small package as you don't have a lot of extra room on your motorcycle.   I put it into my Dry Sack and Rok Strap it to my rear seat

    Northern California Coast just north of Eureka, CA                August 2013

My trip last year was a test to see if I could endure multi week travel on my motorcycle.  I had never camped before 2012 and that was the year that I bought my first tent, sleeping bag, air pad and made my way to Baker City, OR for our iMBC2012 International Moto-Bloggers Convention to Hell's Canyon

    Campsite, Baker City, OR      New Marmot Tent and air pad                           July, 2012

Here I look like a seasoned camper, but I'll never forget my first time . . .  I had a nice looking neighbour too

    Earlier that year, setting up my new tent                                         Spring,  2012

Hard to believe that just a mere couple of months earlier,  I was struggling to figure out how all these parts went together.    Anyway after we left Bend, OR and I headed to a new campsite in Lincoln City, OR I nearly froze in my compact sleeping bag.     When I got home I upgraded my sleeping bag to one that can go down to 20F.   That's also when I upgraded my air pad to the MEC Reactor 3.8

I am always on the lookout to upgrade my camping equipment so I will be ready for my next trip.  As with most of you, my equipment is always evolving.  It's a question of value for money.  I don't need the best but often the more expensive is cheaper in the long run.  Cheap often falls apart.

I often peruse the Craigslist ads and I came across a "deal", so I made contact and brought home

a Therm-A-Rest  LuxuryLite "take apart" folding cot  (info here)    As compared to my MEC: Reactor 3.8 it packs down to a bit longer but skinner than the air pad

    Left:  LuxuryLite cot   Right: Reactor 3.8 air pad

Hard to say which one I would bring on a trip, based upon packed size

I didn't get any instructions so I dug right in and spread out the pieces.   The seller told me to twist the tubes for added strength so luckily I knew about that

Here we are, the tubes (cross pieces) come in 2 sections and are attached to those round "feet"

There are two tubes per set and notice they are 180 degrees offset to each other, so you twist them when you attach so they are in the same orientation

There are also two larger diameter aluminum poles which slide into the fabric of the cot, lengthwise.  These two sections are shock corded so they go together very easily

and you slide them into pockets on both sides, which create the sides/frame of your cot

I decided to hook the left side of the crossmember onto the frame, then twist the right one onto the tube.  This is easier to do than to explain.  I found that with the pressure required, it is easier to stand on the frame to hold it in place

Here's a close up view of the cross pieces.   They resemble tent poles, but much shorter

Here's what it looks like when you unpack the Therm-A-Rest bag

When you take apart your cot, the "feet" can also hold the aluminum tube pieces.   Crossmembers on one side, and the cot rails on the other

Here we are rolling up the pieces to put it back into it's own pouch

So here is what it looks like "assembled".  It is very light,  under 4 lbs and you can lift it with your little finger.  The MEC: Reactor 3.8  could be around 1-1/2 lbs

The cot works great on uneven ground, and you don't have to worry about bugs or crawly things

You can see how much larger the cot is as compared to the LuxuryLite which is 26" wide

The side rails seems to make the cot much stronger, and there is air circulation for those hot summer days.   Maybe not so good during cooler weather.  I found the air pad a bit sticky in hot weather

The cot has lots of room to move around, nearly like sleeping on a real bed.  You also don't get the dampness of the ground

Hard to say which one I would pack on a trip but I have read many reports that the LuxuryLite cot can cure backaches, especially after a long day of riding your motorcycle

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I am thankful to have good friends

who know more about mechanical things than me.   And it helps that they have the tools and supplies to get things done.   My saga started back in early May when I took my car over to my friends man cave

where he has a 2 post hoist (thanks Dom)  to make things much easier.  He also has air tools so off with the wheels

so we could have a gander at the brake pads.   Verdict: lots of life left, at least enough to complete our trip

This day the plan was to flush the brake system and install fresh brake fluid.   There are two trains of thought but the new way is to do the shorter lines first, and the rear lines last

He made a jig to pressurize the fluid reservoir using a garden sprayer notice the air gauge on the plastic container.   All you have to do is to open the valve at the caliper and my job was to keep the cylinder pressurized

Next was to change the power steering fluid.  I imagine that my fluid was the original that came with the car from the factory.  There is no way to drain the fluid so it had to be suctioned out with the plunger unit.   This was done at least two times and inbetween flushes, the engine was started and the rack allowed to turn from side to side inside the steering rack to flush out more old fluid

I came back another day so we could do a coolant flush.   While doing the flush he checked my serpentine belt and noticed that I needed a new one.   So off to the autoparts store to get one

I had to rush as it was a weekday and they were closing very soon

While I was there I also asked if they had a fuel filter, so I bought that too

The fuel filter is in a bad place behind the hot mufflers and it took a while while using a one-handed method to remove and replace it

There it is, way up there.   Lucky we were using my friend's hoist.  I can't imagine crawling under the car with your hands above your head trying to reach it

After it was all done, the belts were making an awful squeaking  noise.  We weren't sure what it was so I left the car and went home.   A day later my friend called to say the Harmonic balancer had failed and the serpentine belt was rubbing on the timing chain cover, and would have failed on our trip causing catastrophic failure.  Of course these type of things would happen in the middle of nowhere.   It could cost a lot of money to repair so we had to bring it to a proper mechanic.  The balancer rotates on a rubber bushing which deteriorated.  Perhaps the new belt stressed it more, but anyway it would have failed soon anyway so it had to be fixed.   A big job $$$  turned into a lesser $ thanks to my friends good negotiating skills

Last week we had a heat wave so I was testing out my air conditioning.   A couple of years ago I had a compressor failure and it cost a lot to have it fixed.   Anyway, driving in rush hour with the fan on medium it was draining my battery to the point where I noticed it wasn't charging like it should.   I remember that I bought the battery nearly 9 years ago so it was time for a new one

I went to the dealer and bought the highest CCA battery they had

Here's the old one as compared to the new one.

The battery goes in "there".

Didn't take long but then I attached a 4amp charger.  Batteries are not 100% charged so rather than drive the car I thought this would be faster.    After 5 hours, it was still not 100% charged so I brought out my big charger and pumped 10amps into it for an hour, and then put back the 4amp charger.   Soon all the green lights were on, indicating that it was now ready to use

Now I could sit back and relax.   There are just a few little cosmetic things to do like hide the wires to my Sirius satellite radio, and make sure my 2 way radio is working

My 'Vette is now ready for the road but there is still the story of my electronic shocks which created some panic a few weeks ago when I replaced them with Non-electronic ones which caused some error messages in the ECM

Here are the old shocks which were replaced with regular shocks.   The electronic shocks cost at least $500. each x 4 = $2,000. or more.   For the cost of one electronic shock,  I got 4 regular ones

Here are the regular ones which were bought on the internet from a Corvette forum member.  When electronic shocks are disconnected, the car computer presumes that there is a shock failure.  You get 3 error messages which cannot be cleared.  You hit reset but they keep coming back which is not just annoying BUT your Corvette is speed disabled.   I am sure you can imagine my stress of not being able to exceed 80 MPH . . .   more later if anyone is interested in how we fooled the computer

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Looking for a taste of Maine

Recently there was a promotion at one of our fast food outlets where they are offering a Lobster sandwich, for a limited time.

I remember last year when I was on a quest to have as many lobsters that I could when I rode my BMW R1200R to the Atlantic Coast.   I had lobsters all the way from Portland, Maine, Bar Harbor and up to Shediac, NB.   I thought that I could capture the feeling that I had by buying a lobster sandwich  Yes it was expensive for a mere 6" sandwich but I went for it

and had lunch at my desk at work.  I tried to savour every bite and remember the good times that I experienced last year on the East side of our Continent

Here's what my sandwich looked like.    Resembled more of a lobster salad sandwich.   Not quite the same as I had as I tried to relive the experience and trigger memories of one of the best riding summers I have ever had

I remember my first lobster roll in Portland, Maine home-made by Mike and his BRW (read here)

Turn back the clock to Monday, July 22nd, 2013 when we left Mike and BRW and headed towards Bar Harbor.   I was getting fatigued and I spotted a perfect spot for a rest break and a snack

    Here we are with Vstar Lady on the right

I don't know what happened but I was getting tired and nearly ran off the road.  We took turns taking the lead and I knew that I needed to stop and what luck to find this Restaurant by the water

Thankgoodness for photos.  Now I know where we were,  Waldoboro, Maine

Here are our meals (Snacks).   Mine was the lobster roll

I found out that most places prepare two types of Lobster rolls,   One with mayonnaise which is less expensive (but still pricey)

and then there are the Bare Naked Lobster rolls.   Can't wait to get back there to try the other one

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I love Vietnamese Chicken Sandwiches & Cashews

The other day I had to do some business in Richmond.  I love Thai Chicken Sandwiches but the shop which makes them doesn't open until around 9am.   It is too far away for me to go there for lunch and I often pass the shop on my way to work, but at around 7am when they are not yet open

I have gotten into the habit of stopping here on my way to work after they open to buy my favourite Chicken sandwiches where I ask them to put on extra cilantro.  

I used to work around the corner and I used to come here a couple of times a week.   She still remembers me as I am the only one who discards all the pickled vegetables and instead gets a big dose of cilantro

Sorry, no photos of the sandwiches (I ate them too fast) but I have to let you know that they were very tasty, and here she is toasting the buns . . .

We were in the middle of a heat wave and this shop does not have air conditioning

When Ed was here I found out that he really likes cashews but my supply was getting low.   Since it was hot I told him that I didn't really want to turn on our oven,  but I WOULD if he wanted some .

Now that it is much cooler, today I made another batch

I spread some RAW cashews on a cooking sheet, all spread out in one layer

I set our oven to 350°F and put them in for about 15 minutes.  Then I took the tray out to check their progress.   Nope, not ready yet.   I set the timer for another 14 minutes and put them back into the 350°F heat.    I like the cashews roasted a bit darker, they have more crunch this way

I removed them and put then into a metal wok, sprinkled a bit of vegetable oil so that the salt could adhere.  Not too much salt but I have tried them "plain" and found that I prefer salted cashews

I waited a while to let them cool,   then I put them into a large jar

I've got no will-power.   I have to take a sample everytime I walk by . . .