Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the month “March, 2016”

Disturbing the Peace

The Creative Labs D100. A wireless pairing button is at left of center, while volume buttons are toward the right.

The Creative Labs D100. A wireless pairing button is at left of center, while volume buttons are toward the right.

Yep, I like peace and quiet, you betcha. And now, only in recent times, do I get it. But when it comes movie or music time, I like sound at least a step up from the muted tinny sound of my laptop’s speakers. I have a fairly compact Aiwa speaker set with subwoofer in the Defiant, and that puppy can make lamps ring and panels buzz without going overboard on volume to do it. But it’s too large to transport in the Intrepid, and requires AC power. Playing movies in noisy backgrounds like truck stops and campsites in high wind can be futile and, as I learned while playing with videos, the visual aspect can be mediocre, but crisp, full-sounding audio can really pump the impact up. This goes for recorded music of course, but also for movies, podcasts, you name it. I noticed this years ago on NPR radio interviews, which had a “presence” far more engaging than the murky make-do mikes used by other networks.

What I wanted was a simple speaker that sounded decent, could pump its volume up beyond the limitations of its sound source, that could run on batteries or a plug-in power supply, and which could transfer sound by wireless Bluetooth or, in the event of a problem or situation, via common 3mm audio cable. The Creative D100 does all that, and can use rechargeable AA batteries as well as disposable alkalines. The D100 is the starter model for Creative’s line and, oddly, is the best suited for camper use. For example, the D200 must be plugged into an AC outlet to play – no batteries. The D100’s 5VDC power supply was not included with my $29 version, but is included with others. But, since it does not recharge any onboard batteries, I’m not bothering to cobble up or buy something any time soon. For users with ancient computers lacking stereo Bluetooth output, Creative also offers a USB Bluetooth adapter.

Left to right is the on/off switch, an aux input connector, and the optional power input.

Left to right is the on/off switch, an aux input connector, and the optional power input.

Much smaller speakers are available on the market, but the D100 works for me because it’s small enough and is a single unit to deal with. The carton it comes in is also sturdy enough to protect it in storage. Though the D100 won’t vibrate your glass across the table, its sound is quite good at this price point. I’m happy with it, though those people who must stay clear of Bluetooth wireless for health reasons may want to avoid it. An audio cable with 3mm plugs allows direct play, but I have no indication that this turns off the speaker’s Bluetooth circuitry. To use the D100 once you’ve paired it with your device the first time, you just turn on the power slider switch, give it a moment to broadcast, and tell your device to connect to it. Creative boasts that it can play for up to 25 hours on one set of four AAs, but I haven’t yet found the limit when using my rechargeable NiMH Eneloops. Creative cautions that Bluetooth has some inherent delay in it, so that audio may lag behind whatever’s going on onscreen. I’ve found no such issue, myself. Since most of my movies have a sound level that is too quiet, this speaker does the job, and then some. It’s good stuff.


HUD Proposes That You Can’t Live My Lifestyle

It’s no secret that Federal, State, County and City governments do not like people to live in homes under 1,000 square feet, nor outside of conventional homes or apartments, and that laws are being increasingly passed to “help” those in economic distress by preventing them from taking advantage of unconventional living arrangements. They do this to “protect” their communities, and while they note that large numbers of people in this country are homeless, they act to prohibit what they consider substandard housing, yet at the same time fail to offer alternative housing arrangements or housing programs for the poor. The usual reason cited is lack of funds. The end effect is to hope and say, “be poor somewhere else”.

The same problems and community reactions that served as the inspiration for the classic story The Grapes of Wrath, which was intended to be a snapshot of a past place and era when compassion was at a low ebb, is coming back on us once again. In many towns, if you are found to be sleeping inside your vehicle, you’ll be in violation of local ordinance, and cited. Should that vehicle be disabled and you’re saving up to have it fixed, it will be towed and impounded with daily fees, and you’ll be out on the street with only what you can carry. Given that recent studies have shown that medical treatment costs are the principle driver for personal bankruptcies, this is a message to not get cancer or other costly illnesses, or else.

In fact, I recently read newspaper accounts of one city where a volunteer organization built and provided “tiny homes” to homeless families, only to have the city confiscate and destroy Read more…

And So It Begins…

Stopped on a trail in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Stopped on a trail in Wickenburg, Arizona.

It was a day just like any other day, only more so. That is to say, I had the Escapees SmartWeigh guys at North Ranch in Congress Arizona ply their trade on the Intrepid, and got more than I bargained for. Weight, that is. Steel yourself: here comes the geeky part right up front. Once that’s over, it’s trailblazing in Wickenburg, kinda.

With a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, once you’ve filled the Mighty Furd with fuel and stuffed in all the passengers and crapola that you can, the resulting weight should not exceed 10,000 pounds. It will carry it just fine and the available acceleration is still sobering, but running at the GVWR limit shortens the needed maintenance intervals by half, and generally wears out the drivetrain and brakes more rapidly than if the truck were used solely for transporting bags of potato chips.

With Smartweigh, individual weights at each tire are taken in order to check Read more…

An Installation Anew

The Intrepid, coughing up some of its contents.

The Intrepid, coughing up some of its contents.

Yesterday was a big day, what with casting the Defiant to the whims of Yuma’s oppressive summer heat and voyaging on in the Mighty Intrepid toward Prescott, Arizona. The purpose of the trip wasn’t to camp, but to have Adventure Trailer, my Four Wheel dealer, replace the gimpy water pump and reset the Grandby in the truck’s bed. Wellton to Prescott is a four-hour drive, and a prior errand jumped that to five. Amazingly, I arrived fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, arriving at 12:45 PM. The lads started right in and finished the job before I could finish filling my gut with a blend of pulled BBQ pork and macaroni with cheese at an emporium located just one block away.

I then consulted with Martin, one of the co-owners of AT, about what would be needed in order to move the camper back so that a thin spacer could be inserted up front to make the camper rest about a quarter-inch farther back than it presently was. See, my super-duper ground panel storage rack was just thick enough to Read more…

Intrepid Bedding

The final configuration.

The final configuration. No, that black cord doesn’t stay there – it’s used when lowering the top and pulls the canvas sides inward.

Among the things that I cannot leave well enough alone in the Four Wheel Grandby is bedding. New for last year’s 2015 model was a slightly softer mattress foam, 3″ thick. This works well for many, and once the support platform is pulled out to increase available width, the three assembled foam sections match a queen-size bed. Four Wheel encloses them in zippered cloth cases, with a heavy vinyl underside on the main mattress in order to avoid any chance of the wooden pull-out platform’s forward edge doing any damage to it when it’s shoved to the front for daytime use.

On the boring side, I’ve got some spine anomalies going on. Too many rave parties, I’m sure. A fairly taut hammock would be the perfect approach about now, but that’s not going to happen here, so I’ve found that I need a mattress with some sag. In fact, about the time most folks would roll slowly out of a bed groaning with pain saying, “Ughh, this mattress is shot!”, that would be the signal that it might be ready for me before too long. Just knock a slat or two out of the center of the bed frame, and it’s usable.

So bedding is just that simple – except for me, of course. What fun is it unless you can make it needlessly complex? In this case, what Four Wheel calls the “push bar” in front lays across the bed when the roof is down, and it’s hinged to the front lift panels, an articulated pair of composite rectangles that position and keep the roof exactly where its needs to be at any given time. The hinge for the lift panels is about 7″ above the bed platform, and with Read more…

Test Camp! Fail!

The beautious Fergusen Lake near Yuma, Arizona.

The beautious Fergusen Lake near Yuma, Arizona.

About 35 miles northwest of Yuma, Arizona is Fergusen Lake, an attachment to the mighty Colorado River. I figured a test camp was in order to check the function of the Intrepid (a modified Four Wheel Grandby) as well as my stowage choices both in the camper and in the Ford’s cab. This was almost a full-dress rehearsal, the only items lacking being the e-bike and trailer in the front carrier, the stepladder in place due to a rear cab pack that would need some adjustment, plus a few minor interior items left out.

The verdict: it could use a little work. The lakeside campsite itself was nice, and I got there just after sunset, which is the perfect time to feed the local mosquito population. You know there’s trouble when you shut down the engine and look at the side window to see several already there and waiting. Fortunately, the sole exterior setup to use this pop-up is to release the six external latches and climb inside behind the protective wall of the screen door. Before or after raising the roof, pull Read more…

Not So Smart Harvest

The Outback Smart Harvest 20A.

The Outback Smart Harvest 20A.

Building is one thing, and testing is another. With the Intrepid’s solar installation complete, I moved onto running it to see how it fared. The rooftop system, some 360 watts of panel powering a Morningstar TriStar MPPT 45A solar controller, ran like a refrigerator from the get-go. The Outback Smart Harvest MPPT 20A ran fine for a day, but then combining the two controllers to run simultaneously for a total of 560 watts seemed to freak out the Smart Harvest. Voltage at the battery sailed from 13.4-16 volts, throwing the unit into a momentary over-voltage stop before resuming its roller coaster ride. Okay. So I tried it solo again. It ran fine for a day or two, and then suffered the same symptoms and series of warning lights all by itself.

As I wrote in Intrepid Solar, Part 1, I’d already been disappointed that Outback offers no remote temperature sender for this new series of controller, even though the unit itself has the capability. A call to Outback Tech netted a replacement shipment, my controller’s serial number apparently being within a bad batch. That was slow Read more…

The Nautical Intrepid

A fishing rod tube, thanks to the FWC Grandby's jack mounts.

A fishing rod tube, thanks to the FWC Grandby’s jack mounts.

Although I’m currently struggling with bedding options and epic storage issues, I thought it’s about time to document a few of the Interpid’s other mods-in-progress. I don’t plan to fish much mainly due to the cost of out-of-state fishing licenses out this way, but I do want the option to take advantage of the occasional fishing opportunities that present themselves out here. I’ve driven right past various fishing holes along the way and wished I could pull in for a couple of days to try my hand in futility, but the challenges presented by the 26′ Defiant travel trailer always worked against that. The compact Grandby now opens up that option.

Mind you, I’m far from a fish killer. There’s a difference between going fishing and catching fish. In my case, it’s a big difference. But I enjoy the Read more…

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