Gravel Bike??

I find myself very interested in the current “Gravel Bike” trend – to include the gravel grinder events.

My road bike is great fun but impossible (at least for me) to ride on anything but a very hard surface (asphalt, concrete, etc…) due the very narrow tires.  I’m riding on 700c x 25 tires which are great on hard surfaces but on soft, they just dig in and slide around.  Making a turn on anything loose??  Wow – scary stuff!  Yeah, I’m a wimp and I REALLY don’t want to smash up my arm again.

My mountain bike is also great fun but feels “wasteful” on anything but single-track and trails.  However; gravel roads with lots of washboard are an exception – it is really great to have the full suspension soaking up all those bumps.

That seems to leave a pretty good size gap which is what the “gravel bike” intends to fill.  A sporty ride type bike with bike tires for dirt and gravel (as well as hard surfaces).  Makes sense to me.  However; I’m not really a CX guy. If for no other reason that it just hasn’t struck my fancy.  It’s really about a light bike, making good speed, on less than perfect roads (but not trails).

Ya, I kinda have a crush on the Specialized Crux Expert EVO. Love those 33 mm tires and disc brakes.

Specialized Crux

Image courtesy the Specialized Concept Store.

What do people have to say about this trend?  Is it worth having a third bike? Possibly this is just getting silly, two bikes should be plenty??

Second question: Is a carbon frame worth the additional cost on a gravel bike?  I love my carbon road bike for both its weight AND the way it soaks up the road/buzz.  Is this an issue with bigger tires?  Obviously it is cool!!

I’m looking for input!

Never Enough 12V or 5V USB sockets

The bedroom of my Newmar Dutch Star (JBAM) is completely devoid of 12 volt sockets and/or 5 volt USB charging sockets.  Perhaps that was acceptable back in 2005.  These days, it is a royal nuisance.

So, I started looking for a place to install some sockets.  The trick is finding a spot with 12V positive and negative wires nearby.

The only good place I could find was in the TV cabinet and even that wasn’t perfect.  There is 12V power for a cooling fan but it is switched by the light switch that lights above the bedroom window.  Since I rarely use these lights, I decided to pull the LED lights out, leave the switch on, and pickup power for the sockets from these wires.

Electrical sockets 12V 5V cigarette lighter USB charging

The socket I am installing is a combined unit that provides one 12V cigarette lighter style socket and two 5 volt USB charging ports (one 1 amp, and one 2 amp).  This particular model allows the two sockets to be separated from the face plate or installed all as one unit.  They are very simple to install by drilling two holes in the desired location, inserting, and tightening the nuts on the back side.

Electrical sockets 12V 5V cigarette lighter USB charging

Now I can have my phone on its charger all night and still have it close to me. Better still, I can run my Fantastic Fan on warm nights and sleep in comfort.

The following photo is of a similar unit that I installed on the wall near the kitchen where the thermostat, roof vent switch, solar panel monitor, and Trimetric battery monitor is installed.

Electrical sockets 12V 5V cigarette lighter USB charging

Aircraft Purchase

When I sold my Vans RV-3, Daisy, all of my friends predicted that I would not be without an aircraft for long.

They were right.

I have purchased a brand spanking new aircraft and I am back in the air (so to speak).  I lasted nearly four months.

This is her.


She is a UDI U818A drone.  I did a fair bit of research and this model kept popping up as being a good trainer.  I have enough remote control experience to know that I needed a very resilient trainer!  I find controlling these things to be very hard – guess I prefer to be IN the cockpit.  I am an Amazon Prime member so, of course, that’s where I ordered her.

While not super high-tech, she does carry a 640 x 480 camera onboard for video and stills.  That’s probably plenty to keep me occupied for a while.


In the first couple of flights around the inside of the motorhome, we have successfully not broken anything!  This is a pretty tough little drone.  The protective rings around the rotors are definitely a good idea as I have bounced her off nearly everything in the motorhome (including the ceiling, table, bicycle, counters, cabinets, and floor) and there has been no damage.

Quadcopter RC UDI U818A remote control

The first handful of flights outdoors proved more interesting.  Having some open space to operate is very helpful.  My hands are still a bit behind my brain while flying this thing so having a bit of extra space (time) makes a big difference.

I must admit to getting it stuck in the tall pine trees where I am currently located in Lincoln Montana a few times.  Getting her down each time proved to be a real game.  The best approach turned out to be a bit of weight connected to the end of some fishing line.  Many tosses in the air finally resulted in snagging the drone or enough of the branch it was on to bounce it free.  Sometimes some power to the motors helped, sometimes it didn’t.  My best advice??  Don’t get it stuck in a tree or, for that matter, any high places. :-)

I highly recommend a handful of batteries to go along with a toy like this. They take a while to charge (about an hour) but each charge doesn’t last very long (maybe ten minutes) so having several keeps the fun level high.  I purchased a five pack of 680 ma and they have been working well.  Be sure to get the splitter cable so you can charge all five at once.

I’ve got thirty or forty flights under my belt and am slowly getting the hang of it.  It is certainly a challenge! The hardest thing for me is having the ship pointed at me and having to remember to reverse the control inputs. Needless to say, I try to avoid that condition.

None of the photos nor video that I’ve taken so date have been presentable but I’ll share one just for proof. :-)  I think I need to learn to hover in a perfectly still state to take photos that are worth showing anyone.  By the way, this is where I am currently sitting – on a friends property in Lincoln, MT surrounded by as many trees as possible for as much shade as possible – it is has been HOT here!

Quadcopter RC UDI U818A remote control

Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers are one of those odd things on a motorhome that don’t seem all that special but sure cost a lot of money!

I guess it’s the size. JBAM had 31″ wipers originally.  Pricing these at all the common online locations (cause they are not available locally) net’s a price somewhere between forty and sixty dollars – EACH!

You know me – a cheapskate.

I found the longest wipers available at WalMart – 28″ – were $8.00 each.  I bought a set.  It’s interesting that these things cost about 29 cents an inch up to 28″ but the next three inches cost something around $17 per inch.

Of course, they would not fit without a little effort. That’s simply not the way saving money works – you have to sweat a little.

The mod was pretty simple.  Drill out the cross pin thing that was riveted in the new wiper blades and enlarge the hole to match the size of the bolt/pin that was already in use on the wiper arms. This photo shows the completed modification and the new wiper mounted on the arm.

Windshield Wiper RV Newmar Dutch Star Motorhome

Complicated work – it took all of ten minutes to get both wipers mounted and that included opening the wiper blade packages and throwing away the trash.

If my math is correct, I was making something around $624/hour for my efforts ($120 for two “RV” wiper blades minus the $16 that I spent; it took ten minutes which is a sixth of an hour, so $104 times six = $624/hour).


Oh, they look just fine, you can’t really tell the difference (3″).  It hasn’t rained yet so I can’t say how well they work.

Windshield Wiper RV Newmar Dutch Star Motorhome

Heat Wave

A heat wave was scheduled to arrive in Helena, where I was sitting, so it was time for me to get out of Dodge.. err.. Helena.

I decided to take the very scenic route to Lincoln, Montana.  This is state route 279 to Highway 200 and into Lincoln.  This takes you over Flesher Pass at 6131′.  I was very glad I did as the scenery is fantastic.  It is impossible to maintain the speed limit in a big motorhome so you end up being a roadblock to other vehicles but I did my best to get out of their way – which is never an easy thing.

Newmar Dutch Star Lincoln Montana Heat Wave Flesher Pass Newmar Dutch Star Lincoln Montana Heat Wave Flesher Pass Newmar Dutch Star Lincoln Montana Heat Wave Flesher Pass Newmar Dutch Star Lincoln Montana Heat Wave Flesher Pass