Posted by: theurban6 | July 27, 2011

Mendocino or bust Pt 2

Mendocino National Forest has an interesting rule to take note of. No firewood from outside the forest. This is an important rule to abide by, if you bring in wood that is contaminated with bugs, or diseases that do not naturally live in the forest then you could kill an entire forest.

So first on our list was gathering wood. We unhooked the camper and got it leveled. Before we left we grabbed the Fiskars hatchet (look for review on this site), bow saw, and gloves out of the camper. Off we went in the Jeep to look for a dead dry tree. It didn’t take long to find one right beside the trail. The tree in question had been about 12′ tall, before it was cut down by the forest service for reasons unknown. The first thing you always do is grab your hatchet, and walk around the tree looking for snakes of the rattling variety. Also be on the look out for any critters that could ruin the rest of the trip. This would include, but is not limited too snakes, scorpions, spiders, and ants.

I found none of these so using the hatchet I cut all of the limbs off first and laid them in a pile beside the Jeep. Using the bow saw I cut the tree into logs. The bow saw is a lot of work, but is much easier than an axe for this work. I then loaded it all in the jeep on a wood tarp, and back to camp we went.

Back at camp I unloaded the wood and set limbs in a pile, and stacked the wood. I grabbed by small pruning shears out of the camper, and sat down near the pile of limbs. First I sniped all of the bunches of straw off the limbs and made a pile of those. Then I cut off every thing up to finger sized into 6″ sticks and twigs. The rest of the limbs I broke with my hands into 8″ pieces. Using the hatchet I chopped up the rest into 12″ sticks.

In the fire pit I made a nice doughnut of the straw, and put a small layer of straw in the center of the doughnut hole. On this layer I sat my tinder (I carry a tender kit in the camper. It consists of a screw top peanut butter jar packed with dryer lint, that I save for camping). Using my flint and steel I lit the tinder and covered it with more straw, then I started with my smallest wood, making a pyramid around the straw. As the fire gets hotter and burns off the smaller stuff you can add larger until it is hot enough to add logs.

For dinner that night we made hotdogs, and chips. This is not normally my first choice as I love to cook over a fire, and usually make some dishes people will not attempt at home but it was the little boys first real camping trip. Of course after dinner we made smores for desert.

You will find at times the young ones will get bored as they are used to being at home, and have no interest in whittling and the such. Be smart before leaving the house through some toys they like in the camper, and toss in some books to read them as well. In our case it was Tonka tractors, that the boys didn’t know we brought. When boredom set in the tractors came out, and the boys commenced to making roads in the dirt. This continued until bed time, where we all loaded into the camper and read books. It was a good night and everyone slept well. Upon waking up Benjamin Discovered he needed to use the bathroom.

If you have never used a vault toilet, you will find the experience intimidating. It is literally a hole in the floor with a fiberglass toilet on top. Lifting the lid you see nothing but a large pit of waste below. If it is intimidating for you imagine a 5 year olds thoughts. GO WITH YOUR KIDS AND HELP THEM. Children can fall into a vault toilet so hold them while they are using the bathroom. It helps them be more comforted. Funny thing was when I was helping Ben on the toilet I heard a mind piercing scream as Cameron screeched at me not to do that to Ben. I guess he thought I was gonna throw Ben in LOL. My ears rang for and hour afterwards.

The next morning was full of off road trail exploring, before going back to the camp ground and packing up for the trip home. Make sure after everything is secure to clean up not only your garbage, but other peoples at that site as well. It not only helps the park but it helps the environment. Don’t be that guy! I made a game of it with the boys, singing a song as we policed the site for bottle caps etc. Sleeping in the teardrop

Posted by: theurban6 | July 8, 2011

Mendocino National Forest, or BUST!!

Well in the spirit of this blog’s title, the two youngest boys and I took an Expeditious Adventure to the Mendocino National Forest. This trip we would take the Jeep, and the Teardrop camper. It would be the camper’s first trip ever, and the longest trip for the Jeep in over a year. Shows how much I drive the Jeep, as the trip was only 220 miles there and back. 😉

Problems….always something (but isn’t that the point). Three days before the trip the Jeep radiator started leaking, at least it was an easy 2 hour fix. I love a Jeep’s simplicity. The morning of the trip the camper lights suddenly quit working right. After spending 2 hours trying to figure it out I realize it is an electrical issue with the Jeep, and it only is a problem with the headlights on. OK, so no driving at night.

Preparation….Only had to get food together, as the camper has been ready to go for 2 months. Simply a matter of hooking the trailer up, heading to the store, and then on too the Forest. (I actually failed a little here, I forgot to pack another set of clothes for me, and the kids.) Oh yes and as we were leaving the wife tossed 2 Hershey’s bars in the back of the camper.

1st odd thought. Driving 120 miles at 55 MPH takes for ever. California law limits anything pulling a trailer to 55MPH. Not sure why, as it tends to create more of a traffic hazard, but hey it is California. No matter how silly the traffic law, I will obey, so forever it took.

We hit the road around 11:00 am (way later than planned, thanks Jeep electrical Demon” for wasting my morning. I really needed a visit from you since the coffee fairy failed to visit me that morning) and as stated before, it took forever to make the drive. We stopped by a Walmart when we made our turn off of the freeway to head to the park. This Walmart was 92 miles from our house. First thing I did when we got out of the Jeep was feel the hubs to see if they were hot. Nope, they were just right. So into Walmart we went.

Many interesting people to be seen at a Walmart in the country. Even if said Walmart is in California. Unlike what California would have you believe, not all the women wearing skin tight shirts, no bra, and short skirts in the state of California…..should. That being said, we made our way through the labyrinth of rolled back prices, and managed to get only what we needed.

Did you know that Walmarts in northern California do not ask if you want paper or plastic anymore? They ask if you want to buy a bag. They literally have no other bags except for the ones for sale. Quite an amazing thing to a Alabamian, that hasn’t been in a Walmart in 4 years. Did I mention said bag costs $.25. Yes a bag that they had mass produced in china for $.01 is making them a $.24 profit. Good deal for them for sure. Luckily between me and the boys we had six empty hands, so no bag for us. Besides I had plenty of plastic bags in the camper.

Back out in the lot I loaded the boys up, and strapped them in. Man that Jeep was an oven, so I turned the A/C to high (yes, my Jeep has A/C…Yes I am a “poser” I like my A/C). Suddenly the thought occurred to me how hot the inside of the Jeep had been, meaning the inside of the camper would be hot, said camper containing forgotten Hershey’s bars…… well you get the picture. As I opened the camper I fully expected a rush of hot air to come out of the hatch, but instead I was greeted by a pleasantly cool breeze. That’s right I said cool breeze. Reaching down I grabbed one of the Hershey’s bars only to find it still in solid for and cool to the touch, amazing. Heat transference theory really works.

At Mendocino National Forrest (MNF) we took road M1 to Penny pines camp ground. Penny pines is not the first camp ground on the M1 that you will come across, but it is the shadiest. It is also situated at a much higher elevation than Middle Creek Campground (the first campground on the M1), therefore it seems to run an average of 5 degrees cooler than Middle Creek. It also costs half as much being as the nightly cost is $6, instead of $12 for Middle Creek. It is also an important consideration to note the amenities. There are none at Penny pines, other than vault toilets. That’s right no power, no water, no showers. But hey that is how we roll in the Urban6 clan, besides we carry our own water. Worth mentioning here that Middle creek does have water available, and vault toilets.

The campground was empty save fore three other campers in the area.

To be continued………….

Camp Penny pines

Posted by: theurban6 | April 18, 2011

The Fiskars hatchet review

A few months ago I bought a fiskars hatchet. They have since come out with a new and improved style called the x7, this review is of the older one.

I looked at many hatchets around town at the local stores, and box stores, never really finding what I really wanted. What I was looking for a hatchet that was relatively light, inexpensive, but of a decent quality. I ended up deciding on a fiskars, and here is why.

The blade has a good profile, without needing a bunch of modification. It has a very light handle, that is hollow. It is tremendously sharp out of the box. Also it is perfectly sized.

First lets address the carrier, or hostler if you will. It is made of plastic, and is made to be mounted to a solid surface. This is good if you will be storing it in a shop or something along those lines, as it can be mounted out of children’s reach. Once it is mounted and the hatchet is inserted, there should be no worry of it just falling out. If you are like me, and plan on carrying it around in the bush, the holster will not work well for you. So you will need to make a belt holster or something along those lines to really be able to pack it anywhere. Also it is very sharp so for safety reasons you will want to consider this also. I mounted the factor holster inside of my teardrop camper, so that it will always be easy to find, but I have a homemade belt sheath for it as well.

The sheath gets a 5 out of 10 for me. It is sort of useful.

The handle is the next part of the axe to be reviewed. As I stated previously it is a very light weight hollow handle. It seems to be made out of some type of plastic composite material. Mine is black, with and orange coating where you hold it. The hollow handle is handy because you can fold up a small survival kit in canvas and force it into the handle. I tied a string to mine so that if it goes to far to reach I can just pull on the string to get it out. When your hands get sweaty your grip gets slippery (something they addressed in the X7) which can be dangerous. So I wrapped my handle in bicycle inner tube. It really helps the grip, and I did it in such a way that part of the innertube slides under the bottom to hold the survival kit in place.

Handle gets 8 out of 10, slipperiness is deadliness.

The blade is a pretty strong metal, that is really sharp. With a light swing at a pallet, the blade sunk in almost 2 inches. Which is really good. The profile is perfect, it stays thin which prevents the blade from bogging into the wood to soon, and stopping the foward momentum. The back side is a low profile hammer head, which most hatchets have, but I like the profile of this one better.

The blade 10 out of 10.

Longevity for the money – 8 out of 10.
I am not sure how long the plastic (there is a lot of it) will hold up over time. Plastic has a tendency to dry out over time. Though the price was right at $14, if it lasts through 2 years of my type of use, I will consider it a terrific axe for the money, being as the only modifications were free in materials, and quick to do.

Keep in mind that there are other cheap hatchets that would be around longer, but I would need to spend many hours re profiling the head, and my time is worth money. So in essence if I spend 6 hours on a $13 hatchet, it is really worth over a $100. For that money I could by a really nice heirloom quality hatchet. That’s why the fiskars rates so highly.

Posted by: theurban6 | March 30, 2011

The Axle

Well with the trailer being nearly finished I have noticed that the tires were tilted in at the top. It could mean only one thing, the #1000 axle was seriously, or over loaded. So off to the store I went.

I bought a #3500 axle from Tractor supply, and some new wheels for it from Harbor Freight. I managed to change out the axles pretty easily, with exception to the new axle having a bend in it. This bend is the way it is made. The axle was meant to be installed spring over axle, but I do not have enough room at this time so I had to install it upside down temporarily.

Upon removing the Harbor freight axle I found one of the welds broken, that holds the stub to the tube. This was the reason it was bent. The new axle did make a big difference though I can see that in the future I will need some new springs and plan on these being the non slipper type.

Posted by: theurban6 | February 24, 2011

Trailer awning

I had an idea to use a tarp for an awning. The following is the supplies used, and what I did to incorporate the newest addition.

I used the following

3- Small rope cleats
2- 10′ sticks of 1/2″ EMT conduit
2- 10′ sticks of 3/4″ EMT conduit
4- 3/4″ rubber cups (like used on crutches)
4- small tractor pins
8- tent stakes
4- 1/4″ x 2 bolts and nuts to fit, don’t forget the 4 fender washers too.
50′ 1/4″ rope
1- 12’x12′ tarp

First I measured the distance between the grommets on the tarp. I then screwed on the rope cleats to the driver’s side of the trailer near the roof line.

I cut the EMT to 5′ pieces. This gave me 4- 1/2″ 5′ EMT poles, and 4- 3/4″ 5′ EMT poles. This is enough to make 4 extendable poles.
1- First clean up the cut ends with a file.
2- insert the cut side of the 3/4″ emt into the crutch cup
3- at the top of the 3/4″ emt pole measure down 6″ and make a mark, measure another 6″ and make a second mark, measure another 6″ and make another mark. This will leave you with 3 marks at 6″, 12″, and 18″ from the top of the EMT.
4- using the appropriate sized drill bit (sized to the tractor pin {I used 1/4″ pins}) drill a hole straight the EMT.
5- Measuring from the uncut side of a stick of 1/2″ EMT measure 2″ and drill a hole (same size as above).
6- Insert one of the bolts into the cut side of the 1/2″ EMT just far enough to get the head (hex side) of the bolt 3/4″ into the pipe. Then using a hammer fold the EMT in around the bolt. Once you can not pull the bolt out, install a fender washer and nut on the bolt and tighten it until it is snug. This keeps the bolt from going further in the pipe, and the washer helps support the tarp grommet.
7- Then slide the 1/2″ EMT into the 3/4″ EMT. You will be inserting the side you drilled a hole into, into the side that you drilled the holes into on the 3/4″ EMT.
8- align the holes and insert the pin. The holes make the pole adjustable between 8’6″ to 9’6″ in 6″ increments.

The Tarp can then be pulled onto the trailer top with one end tied to the side of the trailer using the cleats. the corner of the tarp should be on the front driver side corner of the trailer. This will give you a few feet hanging off the back. Then going to the passenger side of the trailer the poles are inserted into the grommets and extended up till the tarp is at a suitable angle for run off. Using the rope and tent stakes you will secure the poles from moving. That is it. Awning finished.

Posted by: theurban6 | February 24, 2011

Finishing the roof

The roof of the teardrop is covered in aluminum, but because of the flatness of the roof it tends to leak at the overlaps. I have cured this by coating the entire roof in silver seal. This product resists cracking by integrating fiber into the product, also it expands 200 times to keep its seal. Silver seal is specifically made for aluminum roofs, so I do not believe I will have further problems with it. It rolls on, but is hard to clean up. So take your time and just throw the roller away, as it is not salvageable.

I used a brush to go over the joints first, and then used a roller to coat the rest of the roof. The rest of the trailer has not leaked thus far.

Posted by: theurban6 | February 24, 2011

Clear lake day trip

Well this past weekend we decided to take a day trip close to home, since our son is getting more mobile.

Heading north on 101 out of Petaluma, we continued past Santa rosa. I believe the correct mileage was 54 miles from Petaluma to the turn off for hwy 175. If you get car sick you will want to take a different route, but if you want gorgeous views take 175.

Hwy 175 is a very twisty paved road with 15 MPH turns, and 9% grades. The highway does have a length restriction also. No vehicles with a 39′ total length are allowed. This means no campers, or RV’s. If you have the aforementioned RV or camper you will need to continue north on 101 to the hwy 20 turn off. Hwy 20 extends the trip by about 20 miles, so be prepared.

Hwy 175 comes out on the banks of clear lake at the town of Lakeport. The lake is huge, and surrounded by large snow-capped mountains (at least in Feb.). Once in Lakeport we decided to start looking for a place to eat lunch. We went through Lakeport, and Kelseyville, with no luck. I think it is fair to mention here that we did go on Presidents day, and I should have brought or own lunch. The main places open were casinos, and I didn’t feel that was appropriate.

We ended up cutting the trip short because of lunch finding issues :), the kids don’t last long without food. Returning we took 175 again to Cloverdale, where we stopped at The World Famous Hamburger Ranch. My wife ordered the pulled pork sandwich, I had a cheese burger, and we shared some chili fries. Cameron had the kids fried fish sticks, and Benjamin had the kids fried chicken strips. This was all that was on the kids menu.

The meal review is as follows. My meal was nothing better than a McDonalds burger, though a slightly better quality. The patties appeared to be premade like you buy in a store, and very under cooked. The fries were wedge cut, and appeared to be fresh. The chili fries were not much better. The chili was over spiced, but the chili fries were hot. Leisha’s pulled pork sandwich as stated by her was good. Benjamin and Cameron’s meal was a lot like mine. The fish and chicken strips were of the frozen food variety just like you get in the frozen food section of your local grocery store (want an example look for the cheapest quality when you go to your local store). They had the same type of fries as us, but had more of them than us. I think that this was to make the plate look fuller, because both meals only had 2 strips. The quantity of strips is fine, because you don’t want them to eat more than that. They only ate the fries anyway. The high point was their signature bbq sauces. They were good, having a sweet, spicy, and carolina variety (vinegar based). The food was typically over priced for what it was. I guess I should have followed my experience the crappy meals need a world famous in their name to get people in to eat. (Leisha will think I was too negative in my review)

After the meal we continued home, with nothing else interesting to point out. Overall I am interested in going back to see the north and east sides of the lake. The side we saw was a little messy in places, but in others it looked as though the towns were making an effort to become more upscale. As you know upscale doesn’t mean much to me, but I do enjoy looking through towns when on “family” adventures. Best town visited on this trip award goes too Kelseyville, for its effort to make downtown a good-looking and very clean place to visit. When I say clean, I mean hospital grade clean. Though everything looked new, it was done in an older small town style. It featured nice looking restaurants, and wine tasting shops, though they were all closed :(.

Posted by: theurban6 | November 8, 2010

My homebuilt Squared Teardrop Camper

First let me say I love tent camping, it is about all I have ever done. All of my camping equipment is of the well made variety, which also means heavy. In the past we have used small utility trailers, as “camp trailers”, to carry all of our equipment, and this has always worked well for us. As I have gotten older I have grown tired of laying on roots, and rocks, but I wouldn’t buy an RV because it is just not me. I often thought about buying a pop up camper, but they are to high of a price for what you get in my opinion. I also thought of buying an older one and fixing it up. Some where in this process I ran across the teardrop camper. I loved the ones I saw online, but most of the ones you see are just to well finished for me. I am a utilitarian kind of guy, I drive a Jeep (that I don’t mind scratching), and I wanted a utilitarian teardrop.

After a few years of research I chose to make a squared teardrop. I started out buying a Harbor Freight 4×8 foldable trailer in a box. I used the 20% off coupon you find in magazines, and paid $295 out the door. It took 5 hours to put it together, but I did it as a non folding trailer.

I then towed it to Lowes, and bought the following:
5 sheets of untreated 1/2″ plywood 4×8
1 sheet of treated 1/2″ plywood 4×8
2 sheets of 1/4 Luan plywood 4×8
4 2x4x8’s
14 2x2x8’s
3 100 pack 3/4″ sheet metal screws
2 packs 3/4 wood screws
2 packs 2 1/2″ wood screws
6 3/8″x 2 1/2″ carriage bolts w/ 12 washers, 6 nuts to match
5 rolls 20″x 25′ aluminum flashing
6 90* x 10 ft flashings
and other misc aluminum angles and flats.

All total I built the simplest squared teardrop you can possibly make, for $800, and 30 hrs of labor.

My Teardrop

Posted by: theurban6 | September 28, 2010

Mini fridge/ cooler

If you are a outdoors man, then you have probably seen a refridgerating type of cooler before. If you have ever used a regular cooler, that uses ice, you know that water has a way of getting into things that need to be cooled, like mayo or jelly Cooler

The model shown in the image retails for about $40. Unfortunately this model is rather small. I believe it holds one six pack of Soda.

ARB makes a model that I have dreamed of having. ARB cooler The price is pretty steep though, as the unit above retails for around $750. It not only cools, but can freeze whatever you put into it.

These two coolers, may sound like they do the same thing, but they do not. They also utilize two different types of technology. The first cooler listed uses what is called a Peltier unit. It is the worlds smallest type of heat pump. When connected to power one side heats, and the other side cools. The cooler turns into a warmer, if you switch the side that faces the inside of the cooler. Another way to warm what is in the cooler, is to use a second unit with the hot side facing in. The ARB on the other hand is a true refrigeration unit. It utilizes what they call a swing arm motor design. The whole compressor unit uses less power than a headlight. I myself would definitely recommend the ARB, but the price is too high for me. The peltier type unit is too small for me, but is cheap.

So here is the idea get an igloo, or coleman cooler from a yard sale or something (point here is to be cheap). Order a Peltier unit, you can find them for sell all over the internet. I recommend a 226 watt model from Crazy PC Note that the ARB uses only 2 amps intermittently, while this 226 watt peltier unit will draw almost 20 amps steadily. Also you will need two heat sinks that are available on for $8.95 each. Thermal tape is also available from amazon for $5.09, and is used to attach the heat sinks to the Peltier unit.

Start by selecting the area you want to mount the unit. Remember heat pump theory states that heat pumps remove heat from ambient air on one side, and removes cool air from ambient air on the otherside, and then it transfers them. So with that in mind we know that cool air is more dense than hot air, and therefore hot air rises while cool air sinks. Since the cooling side takes the heat out of the air in the cooler, you want to mount it as high as you can. Thats where the old style coolers with the thinner flat lid work the best. Then you will need to drill a whole in the center of the mounting area. This is just to get an idea of how thick the lid is. Then you can start assembling the unit. I start by extending the power wires on the unit by soldering on the 20′ cord with 12 volt plug. Then put a piece of the thermal tape on to the unit and attach a heat sink. The heat sinks amplify the peltier effect. Do the same to the other side. Then plug it in. You will feel very quickly which side is hot and which is cold. I then use a sharpy marker to make a “C” on the cold side and a “H” on the hot. After doing this you will use the marker to trace out the out line of the cold side on the unit. Using a razor knife or xacto knife you can cut out for the cooling unit. You will need to make a way to mount it, and I will skip this part as each cooler shape is different. I like to use thin flat metal bar, because it is stable. Make sure that when it is all together it is well sealed.

I then like to plug it in and put a thermometer in it, this gives me an idea how how long it takes to cool the unit, and what kind of temperature I can expect.

Posted by: theurban6 | September 27, 2010

In 1996 my father decided to take one of his spontaneous trips with the family. We had been living in Colorado for a few years, and he had just recently bought his first Jeep, a cherokee town and country. He had heard me talking about my friends and I camping at Guanella pass, in Colorado, and decided that would be a good place to try out his new Jeep. The trip there was uneventful, but the trail he took once we got to our destination was. It was April, and as we turned on to the trail, it started to snow. We did not let that stop us as the trail was bare, with no snow to be seen. Soon this changed as the trail went into a thick aspen grove. Dad had to put the Jeep into Four wheel drive, with much protesting from my mother who thought we should turn around, and me encouraging him to continue, as the grove could not be that big. The snow on the trail was getting thicker as we continued, and finally dad stopped the Jeep to see how deep it was.

We found that the snow was about a foot and a half deep, and he decided we had gone far enough. So he put the Jeep into reverse, and attempted to turn the Jeep around. Evidently the snow off the trail was thicker than it was on the trail. Which means we were soon stopped dead in our tracks. When we got out to access the situation, we found the Jeeps weight was on the bottom of the body, not on the tires. Meaning the tires were just hanging in mid air.

Needless to say we were getting worried about our situation, especially when we started trying to dig the snow out from under the Jeep to get the tires on solid ground. After roughly an hour of digging the snow we were making no progress other then sinking the Jeep deeper, and deeper in the snow.

We stepped back and took a moment, as one should do in these situations, (meaning my Dad needed to smoke a cigarette) when the thought occurred to me that we could pick up all the broken green limbs off of the ground (due to a freezing rain that had happened recent to that time period), and use them like a snow shoe. So we gathered as many green limbs as we could find and jacked up each tire, and proceeded to stack the limbs under the tire. Then we made our own trail out of the limbs that connected to the ones under the tires. As soon as we were done, dad smoked another cigarette, and I said a prayer, then he fired the Jeep up and tried to go forward.

The Jeep moved as if it had never been stuck in the first place. Funny thing was, once the Jeep was moving and back on the trail, dad didn’t stop to let me in until we were back to where the snow was not so thick.

Lesson 1:
Never go offroading with only one vehicle.

Lesson 2:
In a scary situation, take a few minutes to stop, calm down, and think out your situation.

Lesson 3:
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

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