Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blogs are easier than Scrapbooks

I had a scrapbook as a kid, and initially enjoyed taping-in things like everyone’s school pictures and my perfect attendance certificates from the grade school. The thrill wore off in time, and my one volume still has blank pages. As you can see from the lower shelf below, Kim pursed the hobby past the early years.

Like photo albums, unless there are words to explain a given picture, a scrapbook will be a story untold to all but the creator.

Nowadays, there are companies set up to help people effectively scrapbook/make photo albums. My wife picked up on that a few years ago, and started doing a great job of cropping & documenting memorable photos/remembrances with meaningful words & graphics.

As someone who realizes that a certain amount of tools & supplies are necessary for any given project, I never gave much thought to all the gear that was accumulating in Kim’s Room which is necessary to support this hobby (we have a “spending over $100 at once requires discussion” limit that we both know how to skirt).

One scrapbooking benefit for Kim, that I have no problem with, is that she and all her girlfriends escape for a weekend every so often on a Creative Memories’ sponsored event to the next county over, and work on nothing but their scrapbooks. To my male-oriented surprise, there is no alcohol involved. One of those retreats is scheduled for this weekend.

Normally, in anticipation of the retreat, Kim rounds up all the computer’s digital pictures and has them printed at a locally owned shop.

The other morning, I got up to find the window seat in Tom's room covered in prints drying after being printed on the color printer we got, but have not used, a few months ago.

On my normal patrol during the early morning hours, I also found the scrapbooking table in her room similarly covered.

This marathon printing activity was repeated the next night. Come to find out, the printing house was having trouble with their machine, and could not guarantee that Kim’s pictures would be ready when she needed them. So, Kim just printed a huge stack of pictures at home to make sure she would have something to crop for the weekend. I would ask how much all that photo-paper & ink cost, but since we never discussed that hammer-drill I recently bought for one of my projects, I opt to leave well-enough alone.

While blogging is easier (dare I say "cheaper"), I do appreciate the results of what she is doing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Off with his head

Many people may not realize (or particularly care) that most of my 1967 Airstream's functionality is being realized with the originally-installed parts/appliances. In spite of being 42 years old, the refrigerator, cooktop, oven, furnace, and water heater are still giving great service. So was my shore power cord's plug.

I never visited a campground before the late eighties, so I don't know what campsite power panels used to look like in the sixties. But the sites' electrical hookups must have been different than everything we have visited in the last five years with my Overlander as my shore power plug has been plugged uncomfortably in to each & every site on our travelog.

The problem is that current camp site electrical hookup code appears to require that the electrical box door close substantially over the plug. This nuance can only be achieved if the power plug is mounted 90 degrees off the the cable. Airstream, in the sixties, had the plug coming straight off the end of the cable.

The 30-amp electrical outlets in several sites we have visited were worn out, and I had to duct-tape my shore power cable in position to get good electrical contact. Deciding that the strain on the cable leading to the plug was destined to give me a problem when I least wanted it, a new, 90-degree plug was acquired, and my Overlander's original molded-on plug, in perfect working condition, was chopped off to receive it.

On a happier note, I found time to build an adapter which allows my quiet Honda generator to interface with the House's transfer switch. Cookie was much happier with the setup.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

1st Use of Emergency Generator

Last year, I decided to get a small generator capable of powering the Airstream in emergency situations. The project snow-balled, and I ended up with two generators & the capability of powering part of the house.

Last night around 7:00, the lights went out. While not an uncommon occurrence, outages are usually preceded either by the line fuse at our utility pole blowing with a big BANG, or the lights dimming upto three times before going out for good. None of the above. Our neighboorhood went dark & stayed dark. Figuring that a TVA feed to the entire city had gone kaput, I told Kim that it was probably going to be dark for a while. Since Number 2 son appeared to be uneasy in the darkness, I decided to wheel out the big, loud generator to power the house TV and see if, at 5kW, it was strong enough to start a big air conditioner (highly doubtful).

Cookie says, "Turn that thing down!"
The generator fired right up, and did a fine job of running the TV & cable-box in our room, and the computer & cable modem in "my" room. The AC, however, just grunted as if to say, "Pay attention, boy! My compressor needs a 240 vac, 30-amp service. While you've got the voltage covered, that wimpy generator of yours can't cough up much more than 20 amps. Now, watch this..." The generator's circuit breaker then popped.

Fine; I didn't want his old cold air anyway.

This particular generator is strong enough to start the Airstream's air conditioner should the need arise. It was wired to the mean old house AC to run the natural-gas furnace's blower in a winter emergency. That it can do.

The power ended up being off half the night, and I got close to moving the generator over to the Airstream just to have some AC. But the Generac generator is LOUD. Since I'm sure my neighbors probably noticed that too, the Generac was switched off around 11:00.

Right now, my quiet, 120 vac Honda generator will not connect to the Generac's transfer switch, so it can not be used easily to power the house TV. But I'm sure everyone's ears will appreciate it when I remedy that problem later today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

North Carolina Side of the Smoky Mountains

Since last year’s Airstreaming trip to the South Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains was so much fun, we decided, for our third trip of the 2009 Airstream season, to point the Mighty Suburban to a KOA campground on the Cherokee, NC side of the mountain range.

Our site’s location & layout was one of the best we have ever had. Bordered by a finger of the Raven Fork River, the view was great.

Of course the Boyz quickly found, and thoroughly enjoyed, the pool.

Did I mention that my Airstream sleeps nine (if you include stuffed animals)?

In addition to fly-fishing, the Raven Fork River is also popular for tubing. One of the campground’s amenities is free shuttle service to an upriver drop-off point. Come to find out, we picked a good time to visit, because some other campers told us that this was, due to the drought, the first time in two years the river had had enough water flowing in it to tube. Although tame, the river was too rough to take a camera on, so our only physical remembrance is a picture of genuine river water draining out of our shoes.

I’m the only one I know who appears to enjoy the challenge of cooking on a campground-provided grill. While I have been known to tote along my full-size Weber grill (when a lot of people are expected to eat), one of my life’s endless list of small challenges is to master cooking over the equivalent of a pit. I made this fire for Kim to grill some hotdogs, and we both agreed the fire could have been a little hotter. But it was still a tasty lunch.

Jared’s absolute favorite attraction was the jumping pillow. He even got me to join him for a while.

Although tubing proved to be Daniel’s favorite activity, he and I both enjoyed the biking trail that ran along part of the river.

Normally, on extended-weekend trips, our final destination usually precludes eating out anywhere. For various reasons, we decided to not pack supplies for the Saturday night meal, and take our chances on finding a good local restaurant. Lo & behold we found a Big Boy complete with statue. I haven’t been to one since I was a kid. Kim and the Boyz ordered off the menu while I helped myself to the buffet’s fried Rainbow Trout. Everyone left happy.

The Campground’s Putt-Putt course left Daniel with a new appreciation for Tiger Woods’ prowess on the green.

When Jared was not on the Jumping Pillow, he was usually at the playground.

While we spent a lot of time enjoying the campground’s many activities, we did find time to appreciate the scenery along a short portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 mile stretch.

Sunday afternoon found the Boyz enjoying make-your-own Sundaes after another swim in the pool.

Having crested the learning curve on the campground grill, our last supper of the trip came out even better than if I had used the Weber grill.

One thing I had not anticipated was, due to all the mountains, there were no FM radio stations available. Since I forgot to bring my iPod, the mighty Burb shared a feed from its XM radio so that we could have dinner music at the picnic table.

Seeing as we were fairly high in the mountains, the outside temperature for the trip was always comfortable during the day and almost chilly at night. But seeing as how the Overlander does not have any Fantastic Fans, the air conditioner was run during the day to keep the inside cool. I was simultaneously surprised at how much condensate was produced, and thankful that it drained out the bottom instead of down the side of the trailer into the foot-traffic path like some other campers have to deal with.

After returning home without incident on Monday, we all agreed that the Cherokee, NC KOA trip was one of the best yet and would certainly be repeated in the future.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My First Blog Post

This is the first post of the blog I created several weeks ago, and although I knew there would be a learning curve, I didn't expect as much trouble as I have had coming up with a good first post.

You see, for about the past five years, most of my free computer time has been consumed with Airstream-related stuff because 'streamin' is one of my favorite activities. Some people reading this might even know I have a webpage devoted to my 1967 Overlander International. But, since most, if not all, Vintage Airstreamers are Do-It-Yourselfers AND I just want to share my experiences with whatever pops up in my curious world, I decided to use this blog to chronicle both Airstream stuff NOT covered on my webpage, and DIY stuff that's either cool or I just wanted to do myself rather than pay someone to do.

Although I plan to document some back-projects, two significant things happened lately which I feel like sharing.

Memorial Day found us at a theme park called Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana:

Holiday World is home to the world's tallest water ride which Number 1 son & I rode.

We had a blast at the park. There's a little more fun to talk about concerning our trip, but my buddy Frank wanted to hear more about the stump removal I just had done. Since I'm still learning how to work a blog, let me move over to what he's waiting for.

The month of May established a new record for rainfall here in Northern Alabama. In addition to flooding my house's crawlspace & wiping out my air conditioner's ductwork (future post), the rain & wind took out a cement-filled, double-barreled Hackberry tree sitting at the fence line in my back yard. Seven chainsaw chains later, I was left with this:

The orange tape is there to keep Cookie from walking over the trunk into the neighborhood (yes it worked - Labs are great dogs but they ain't rocket scientists).

I though about renting a backhoe, but since I last operated one around 1979, I thought I might be a bit rusty. So I called Buck, who, a few years ago, had brought in dirt & distributed it with HIS backhoe around my newly-built shop and asked him to handle it. He brought in his new toy, a miniature trench hoe, to do the job.

A skillful fellow, he did a fantastic job, and I was later grateful that he brought a tracked tool in for the task because a backhoe would have really rutted the yard.

Hopefully, my future posts will be better as I learn how to post to a blog (adding pictures is more trouble than I was expecting). But I'm getting great training from reading everyone elses blogs. Marcus has a good idea - Let's see if it works for me:

Naa, I think I'll leave the tour to the Texas beer.