Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

This is my second Christmas on the road, and am going to a potluck dinner tomorrow with my parents, who are here at the park with me.  I think it will be a great and fun time and sure to bring the spirit of the holidays to me again.

As a single person my whole life I really haven't celebrated Christmas in the last 5 - 10 years, especially since I moved west to the Seattle area.  Not exactly sure why I moved to where didn't know anyone, guess it's one of those things that were meant to be.

Lately have always thought of Christmas as just another day, but another day where didn't have to work!  Growing up it was totally different and not sure why things have changed for me, but pretty sure it's due to not having anyone to share the holiday with so I typically withdraw into myself.

One thing I really enjoyed about this season though, is when hooked up with the Firkin Scooter club.  We/They put on an awesome rally each year.  Around the holidays take a scooter ride in December to visit all the businesses that sponsored the club, and potential ones for next year.  Have missed the last couple years, due to traveling.  Here is all the places they went to this year.  Looks like they had a super fun time!

Awesome Practice Video from 2013 with some members of the club!  Go Tom and Renee!!!!

Caroling in action from 2013!

Truly wish could've been there!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life

Just finished watching the movie It's a Wonderful Life, which is a movie that's over two hours long, and every time I watch it always notice something haven't noticed before.  It's also a very uplifting movie, one where I think should be mandatory watching once a year for everyone!  But that's just my opinion.  I downloaded the B&W version from YouTube last year and didn't find it this year after a quick search.

On another note, Olivia, a stray cat I took in, is on a "walkabout", and hopefully she'll return.  Olivia got out of RV through an open window that was open just a tad bit too much, and haven't seen her for over a day.  Have a feeling she's still around.  Won't be in this spot much longer, so hoping she'll come back before I leave....  We were just starting to connect!
Will be adding Olivia to my journal, wishing her the best, and hoping she'll come back if she's supposed to be with me.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solstice and Scooter, SS for short

I think these are both good topics to think of, the Winter Solstice and my (or any) scooter!

Winter Solstice

This is nice because it means spring, which generally leads to more abundant times, new growth, new beginnings, and all that happy stuff.  This general theme is something that is also part of The Meaning.

According to Wikipedia, this is the shortest day of the year, and also the longest night (seems to me that would've made sense anyways).  It is also the start for where daylight increases (until summer solstice).

Barbara Carrellas, author of Urban Tantra (and a few other books), sent out an e-mail wishing everyone a Happy Solstice, so am passing on the well wishes to everyone!  I've met her in person and took a couple classes from her in NYC (group setting), and she's truly the real deal.  Here are her steps on:

How to Have an Ecstatic Solstice

Stay in the present moment.
Don't try so hard.
Stay in the present moment.
Drop your expectations and your judgements.
Stay in the present moment.
Stay in the present moment.
Be conscious.
Stay in the present moment.
Practice doing all of this throughout your holidays... the present moment.

Scooter news!

While this isn't the big update I have planned, it is something which I recently had the pleasure of doing with the scooter.  It is to fix it (one more time) by replacing the battery and the starter solenoid (relay).

Spent some time at an Escapee Coop in Florida for couple weeks.  I was due to go visit parents for Pizza (YES!) and, much to my dismay, scooter wouldn't start.  Was able to crank it for a little bit but wouldn't start so kept trying until one last spurt where it just failed to do anything other than one single click.  PHOOEY.  Had to call them to come pick me up, a small letdown to my pride, but such is life.

First things first, knew battery was dying, and almost dead, so decided to first replace it.  Took a trip up to Tampa, FL for couple different reasons, with this being the top reason.  Trip was nice and they replaced the battery without a problem.  At least on this scooter, batteries seem to last about two years. Got my last battery from Cycle Gear in Tacoma, WA, as a store brand, and it came with a lifetime warranty!  Now it comes with a one year warranty and can buy second year for $5.00.  Hopefully don't use it but feel that cost is acceptable so spent $5 for a battery with two year warranty!

Got back to RV and still no joy after installing new battery.  One click and that's all it gave me, even after charging it on both a regular charger and a trickle charger.  Next came some research and debugging which led me to this post that explains how to replace the relay.  The trick is, at least on my scooter, it wasn't in the location they showed...  Here is a description, and not so good image, of what the relay looks like, new.  Mine is all old and rusty and don't have a picture.

As mentioned, problem was finding it.  According to this parts diagram (page 59, part #1), it was in the general location of the battery and it seems like was slightly above the battery at first glance.  Nothing matching that description was up there.

I then remembered hearing a clicking and feeling it someplace. Assuming that this clicking was the relay, I simply kept pressing the starter button until pinpointed it and found the offending unit.  Turns out it was right above the radiator, tucked away in a little rubber sleeve.  Getting it out was a different story, but suffice it to say, finally got it out, unhooked the wires (after disconnecting the battery).  It was very rough and tough to get out.

Headed to autoparts store (AutoZone I think) and they were unable to find a relay similar to this one.  After that headed to Tractor Supply, which they had one but not exact one I needed, though I purchased it for $21.99.  After got back and looked at post again, realized this one looked exactly like what was in the post, and they had to do the same type of retrofitting I had to do.

Right out of box
I chose to do something different, mainly due to where this would sit and length of wire had to work with, and that is to solder wires onto the relay, then plug it into the wiring harness.  I utilized wires snipped off old relay, stripped little insulation off, and broke out the soldering iron.  Once heated up it was a breeze to apply heat, apply little solder, and viola, all done!  Used a 40 watt soldering iron from Radio Shack and worked like a charm!

Soldered on other side
Next step was to install it, start scooter, and take for a test spin.  All this was done fairly quickly and effortlessly (in comparison to finding it).  The starter relay worked as advertised and had no problems hooking everything back up.

Lower part, ziptied
In these three pictures can see how I mounted it.  There's a main structural bar just behind the radiator and fan.  It is to this bar that I ziptied the relay.

In the first picture can see I bent some metal tabs where routed the zipties through.  The upper ziptie is seen fairly easily, but there's also a smaller ziptie below so it doesn't ride up and down the pipe (insert "snarky" comment here).

Picture showing whole unit installed
 Second picture shows the whole thing clearly.  At the top is where the two battery cables are connected (with 1/2 inch nut on copper studs and lockwashers).  Then are the two wires I soldered on (to activate relay from ignition switch), then the two zipties I used to secure this in place.  Pretty simple stuff in reality.

View from top
Last one is a quick view from the top.  Doesn't show much.  The round edge at bottom of the photo signifies front of the bottom gas tank.  The "ribbed" round thing in bottom left corner is the ring which holds the fuel pump in place.  Put these two references in for those who can envision where it is.

And now scooter is humming along like a champ!  This worked and am quite happy that have wheels again, other than a bicycle.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Elio - To three, or not to three, that is the question

While I was listening to Coast to Coast AM one day, there was some talk about a three wheeled car, which is 90% made in America!  At first I was somewhat skeptical at claims of 80-90+ mpg, but the more I looked into it was convinced there is some truth in them thar hills.

I checked out Elio Motors website and became convinced that this is the real deal.  The further and further I looked into it, the more I wanted to see it before plunking down some deposit money.

At the time didn't have any plans to leave Texas until February/March time frame, but some circumstances changed and I found myself heading to Florida.  Turns out, at the time I was leaving for Florida, Elio had a tour and they would be in New Orleans as I was passing through the area.  Their location was at a mall downtown near the French Quarter, The Outlet Collection at RiverWalk.

I decided to drive down there and park RV at the mall as it had a pretty large lot.  Drive up to the gate and it wouldn't let me in.  Had to repeatedly press the buzzard to get someone to open the gate, but, turns out, they wouldn't open up the gate unless I paid $150.00 to park for one day, in the RV....  I was baffled...  The person I talked to wouldn't even lift the gate up (says he "couldn't", suuuure Wilbur) for me to turn around...  If anyone's backed up a long RV, with a scooter on the back, onto a busy road, it's not exactly child's play.  So, to the mall's policies, I present The Finger....

Wandered around a little, went to Home Depot (about 1.3 miles away), got couple things, then decided to go to Walmart (next to a police station of sorts), which was about a mile or so away.  Took my bicycle and headed off to the mall.

When I got to the mall, turns out the lot was still 75% (or more) empty, so they definitely deserve the Finger.

Was able to find Elio Motors fairly quickly, they were on North end of the mall.  Quite a few people here, but no real line to speak of.  I was able to sit in the car, fondle the steering wheel, and get a good sense for how it feels.  Was impressed.  It seemed sturdy and positions of items were well thought out.  Looked like there was ample room in the back seat, though the "trunk" was a little lackluster.

The main selling point for me, and my lifestyle, is that this can be flat towed behind the RV, with no additional modifications (other than tow bar stuff).  The light weight, three tires on the road, and low profile should make it so don't see a significant impact on the diesel mileage.  For comparison, I know someone, with a gas motor home, and they lose about 15% (1 mpg) when towing their small SUV.  According to what they said there (think on website too), is that it can be flat towed with either their automatic transmission, or the standard one (which comes standard).  I prefer standard vehicles when possible so this is music to my ears.

The only major drawback I see is lack of a tried and true engine design, as they're redesigning a 3-cyclinder engine.  This is slightly offset by fact that they have quite a few well respected names as suppliers in building this car.  The partner list can be seen near bottom of their main page.

Another drawback is that it's not available right now, but they anticipate it being available in about a year....  Will see what happens but feel good about this..

I was able to take advantage of their 50% holiday bonus reward by putting down a deposit.  Maximum can put down is $1,000.00, and least is $100.00.  If put a non-refundable deposit down then get a number of your place in line.

I like sounds of this car for several different reasons.
  • A unique design, similar to the Can-Am Spyder, but fully enclosed and car-like
  • Uses less materials than traditional cars
  • Fuel efficient
  • Less maintenance
  • Light weight
  • Internet connected (additional upgrade)
  • Some things standard, such as Manual transmission and air conditioning

Am sure there are others but that's all I can remember now.

After seeing them again at The Avenues Mall in Jacksonville, FL, decided to plunk some money down, take advantage of the 50% bonus, and reserve my spot in line.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Undercover Boss

I normally don't watch TV, but am currently staying next to my parents at a campground in Florida.  Every night so far we've had dinner together and spent some time socializing and watching TV (which I generally don't watch on my own) and playing games.

While I get TV is just that, TV, and over half of it is pure ickiness, there are a few decent channels/shows out there (if can tune out the commercials).  One of them was Undercover Boss, and tonight was the first time I saw it, must say am very impressed.

Tonight was a season premiere and had the CEO of True Value on it.  I would like to believe this is one of the few shows that are truly unscripted.  The "unscripting" aspect doesn't take into account the final editing which can make anything appear great, or ungreat.

John Hartmann, the CEO, is a great man and, on the show, it seems like he understands people are truly one of his greatest assets, and everyone is going through their own struggles.  What he does simply dumbfounded me as to how much it seemed like he cared about his employees!  Am sure a good amount of it was due to editing, but he seemed awesome!

If everyone treated their employees like he did, Corporate America could be transformed.  This show seems like it brings some humanity to leaders, hopefully.

I'll be looking for True Value stores whenever I need something that they provide.  Their prices are a little pricey but feel good for supporting this company.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Online communities, then came Reddit

Just something quick and easy.  I've never gotten into the Facebook craze, but vaguely recall making an account way back in the day.  Never really felt it was my "thing" though.

Then came Slickdeals (a great website), of which I keep my eye on, but don't actively pursue deals in a way which I have done in the past.

A website, well, online community, that I currently favor is place called Reddit.  They have a little alien logo that somewhat reminds me of Mork & Mindy (RIP Robin Williams).  I truly hope this doesn't fall prey to the buyouts that we've all seen in the past, like Woot! and other websites.  When those websites were bought out it was all about monetizing the content and scaring away consumers.

Reddit has couple favorite things that I like.
  • Sub reddits for particular interests, such as for different geographical locations, sports, or even for different types of cars.  If can think of it, probably exists to some degree
  • Mostly unfiltered news source, contains things not found in typical mainstream media (Fox, CBS, ABC, etc) from all over the world.
  • Wide range of articles in popular sub-reddits (such as in Science, Technology, and others)
  • Reddit gives back to it's members, both as a corporation and helping to promote a sense of community among it's community
  • The Reddit Hug of Death, for websites.  Something interesting pops up and people, en-masse, go to visit it. Noticeable for smaller websites.
  • Gift exchanges.  This is my first year doing it, but sending gifts to random people after finding their likes/dislikes by viewing their history.
  • Meetups for local areas, where can meet other Redditors (I've never done this), and this increases a sense of community generally.
  • Celebrity Q&A sessions called AMA (Ask Me Anything).  President Obama and Robin Williams, among many others, have done them.  Bill the Science Guy is very popular (I don't agree with all his views, but just me)!
  • Some small businesses have a large surge in traffic, such as this Candle Maker.

With anything that offers some degree of "anonymity" (being truly anonymous is getting harder and harder), and Reddit is no exception.  There is a sense of being anonymous, but also a sense where want to be involved to some degree.

It's too late this year to sign up for the Reddit 2014 Christmas Gift exchange.  Keep an eye on it for next year!

Truly hope Reddit stays similar to what it currently is and doesn't sell out like so many others have.