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Intense heat wave = please check your tire psi

July 3, 2012 18 comments

This is a big travel week and I need raise this concern for people driving along regions affected by this crazy heat wave.  This is something that I noticed yesterday on my own truck and it is important enough for all of you that drive, to understand.  What you feel may only be 110-114degrees, but that’s nothing compared to what your tires feel going over that hot pavement.  I’m not going to go through the equations and theories on why gas expands when heated, they just do.  PLEASE PLEASE, check your tire pressure under two conditions:

  1.  Check it when its cool
  2. Check it after you’ve been driving for some time.

My tires are 44max psi.  I noticed they were at 55psi during this intense heat wave!! That is 20+psi ABOVE the recommended pressure when its cool!  Be sure to make sure your tire pressure stays safely below your maximum psi rating.  Happy 4th everybody, and safe driving.  Don’t be that guy/gal with a blown tire during this bizarre climate.

Categories: auto, camping, children, family, wife

Fun at Stonewall resort in WV (review)

June 28, 2012 8 comments

I took a week off with my 2 boys and we went back to a place where it’s a guaranteed perfect vacation spot.  Here is my short summary of the resort:

I decided to write about my experience at this resort because we live in a world where people are quick to complain but not enough complements are given out.  I’ve already stayed here 4 times (in the past 14months) and it’s one of the best resorts I’ve ever stayed at.  It’s easy to find a resort that is pure family friendly, they are dime a dozen.  Its lot more difficult to find a resort that goes another big step further, and accommodates a vacationer who HAS to work during the vacation.  Haters can hate me and criticize me for working during family vacation, but I’m the one that has to put the food on the table, and that dang electric bill better be paid so the light turns on when my wife flips the switch at night.

There are 6 areas within the resort that are critical to my family’s enjoyment, they are:

  1.  Indoor pool
  2. Outdoor pool
  3. Hot jetted pools
  4. Restarurant #1
  5. Restaurant #2
  6. Kid’s activity area

All these locations are clustered together and it’s easy to migrate from one area to the next, if need be.  I have perfect line of sight, and all within audible range, to what my kids are doing from any of the mentioned locations.  There are comfy chairs and tables to accommodate my work package.  I also have direct line of sight to all my work stuff as I’m interacting with my kids, too.  All this adds to peace of mind and I don’t miss a beat.  Everything just flows from work to fun seamlessly.

I found this 1900acre BEAST of a resort hidden away in West Virginia that has earned the Four Diamond Award from AAA.  It’s so huge that it’s got its own separate waterfront campground, waterfront cabins, full marina, fishing bridge, 18hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, and 3 restaurants.  You might be saying, did he just say West Virginia?? Isn’t that where all the hicks hang out?

This resort couldn’t be further from the West Virginia stereotype.  All the staff and visitors are so friendly and I assure you they all speak the proper English.  It feels like visiting ummm…that Munchkin land from Wizard of Oz, with normal sized people though.  Everybody is smiling there.  Not just any ordinary smile but a radiant one from all the staff members.  There are visitors of many shapes and sizes.  Best way to describe the resort experience is, it feels alive! You can feel life there!  There are cute little kids bouncing around, there are great grandparents holding hands by the campfire, there are newly married honeymooners embracing by the dock, & everything in between.

Just because there are cute little kids there doesn’t mean people without kids are going to be shortchanged.  All the parents I’ve seen are very responsible and staff member are very strict about keeping things in order and enforcing the resort rules.  For example, when my kids jumped into the adult heated whirlpool, one of the staffers was on to them like a hornet on a stick wielding kid.  Let me repeat,

The staff members will STRICTLY enforce the, no kids in the hot pool rule!

I love kids, but just not in my whirlpool.  I wish I knew the name of the staffer that booted my kids from the whirlpool; I would have tipped her generously and would have given her boss a high review.

I’m kind of an uptight vacationer and I do embarrass my wife with all my complaints.  But as I said, I’ve vacationed here 4 times and I haven’t had a single incident.  When a resort does something so magical where it makes even the grumpiest vacationer happy, I will reward them.  I am extremely generous tipper, and I will tip like I’m gambling in Vegas when I’m jolly.

Lastly, I want to comment on their drinking water, because it is so clear and so crisp.  I have a nose for fishy water, probably from all the years of my aquarium hobby, but I’ve been to various high end restaurants where water smells funny.  I love the drinking water from all of Stonewall’s restaurants.  I think the water is so good to a point where it could be a bad for their business.  Why? Because I will not order my usual glass of Coke with my meal, when I’m at Stonewall.  Their drinking water is that good.

That’s my quick summary in a nutshell.  If you ever see a man with a portable Dell laptop and 2 rowdy little boys, stop by and say hi to me.   Now I’m going into the details that matters to me the most.

Pool

If you are vacationing with little kids, pool is a #1 priority.  Stonewall have a large heated indoor-outdoor pool.  Two pools are connected so the indoor side is warm and the outdoor side is cooler.  Also, there are two adult only whirlpools that are jetted and bubbly hot, it will instantly melt all your stress away.  Sometimes I’ll get in a repeating rhythm of working on my laptop for few hours followed by relaxing in a whirlpool for 10-15 minutes.  There is also a fitness area with changing room, complete with sauna and a steam room.

Foods

No such thing as a good resort without good food.  Exquisite food can only start with the freshest locally raised ingredients.  Their meats and veggies taste noticeably different than what I’m used to back home.  Burgers are amazing and they use traditional recipes on their other fine gourmet dishes.  Oh and kids under 8 eat for free!

Categories: bicycle, camping, children, family, wife

Am I a bad father?

October 21, 2011 38 comments

I’m going to take a little break from all the reviews and how-to-do’s and discuss something little more personal.  I am a father of 2, happily married, and trying my best to be the best dad possible to my little boys(3 and 5).  But here is something I get accused of time to time, “You don’t do anything for the kids!”  I gotta believe there has to be handful of other dad’s that gets accused of this.  Or I gotta believe there has to be handful of wives that’s accusing their husband of this.  It’s a terrible accusation that hits the core of my spirit and I was wondering why that is, and I finally figured it out…because it’s the truth, and it hurts.

I have a traditional family where mom stays with kids and I work several jobs to make sure all the lights turn on in the house.  I borrowed that line from Chris Rock when he said, “It is mother’s fault if kids do bad in school, but it’s the father’s fault when kids do bad in school because the light don’t turn on in the house”.  That cracks me up but its right on target for how my family operates.  Anyway, I been thinking lot about where things have gone wrong and where things are headed.  If something does not change I will end up as the father that just works, sleeps, and sits on a sofa on weekends.  I don’t want to be that guy.

I guess a mother always has that distinct advantage from the  beginning, and its that beginning that puts a dad at a huge disadvantage.  Mom will always grow with the child but Dad’s growth will pretty much end when all the vacation days are used up.  This means a mom will always have that comfort level with the child.  I, on the other hand, feel like I’m missing out on lot of stuff and getting left behind.  Its beautiful to see my wife singing and dancing along to things like Wiggles, Thomas Train, Wonder pets, etc…  But its kind of sad because I don’t feel included.  My wife gives me every opportunity to participate and do these things, but I just simply don’t do it, I simply do not want to do it.  She asks me to come out to birthday parties and other social kid activities but, again, I don’t want to participate in these activities either.  All this sounds pretty sad and depressing, but I assure you, I am not on any anti-depressant, drugs, or undergoing therapy.  I’m just logically trying to explain what I think is going on in my head.  Its hard to do anything during weekdays because I am tired and burnt out from work.  And its hard to do anything on weekend because my wife already has everything planned for the kids and its either I participate or I don’t.   I would say 99% of the time I end up staying back on doing chores around the house, and missing out on the action.

I guess in any therapy, the first step is admitting you have a problem.  I admit it, I have a problem.  Now what?  In an ideal world I can hit a button and I will instantly have the same personality as my wife, so I can feel natural and happy doing all the parties, sing-alongs, and other kiddie stuff.  But realistically that is not going to happen.  I pray to Jesus I don’t become a grumpy old man, because that is exactly where I am headed.  Although this may sound little selfish, I need to do things with kids that makes me feel more natural and comfortable.  I can’t put on a smile and put on conversation with other people, I feel disgusted every time I’m in a situation like that.  For some strange reason I really enjoy being alone with my family, away from EVERYTHING.  Based on my other postings, you would think I have gadgets, computers, & cars all over the place.  While that part is true, I could totally do away with all that if I can be isolated with just my family.  I wish I can pack everybody up and live out in some remote part of Alaska, but we know marriage is about compromise, so we are not moving anytime soon.  I wish I can take my kids and go off fishing every weekend, or go mountain climbing, or go shoot a slingshot, and start a campfire.  As all this was going through my head I started getting really excited, because there is hope!!  Grumpy loving dads have different set of activities than some “mainstream” activities determined by bunch of mainstream moms.  I started getting all teary eyed because of the thought of hanging out with my little rugrats in a setting where I’m comfortable, motivated, and looking forward to every weekend.  Of course I would be devastated if kids would rather go to another stupid birthday party than to hang out with dad.  I don’t have any other option at this point.  I will need support of my wife to get this ball rolling.

For all you dads out there going through a similar situation, please find an activity that you feel highly motivated for and get your family involved in it, ASAP.

For all you moms out there taking your kids to countless birthday parties and kiddie activities, please cut your husband some slack and encourage him to get involved in activities HE want to do, not what YOU want to do.  A dad is not going to be as versatile as a mom, we cannot just jump into an activity and be natural at it.  You gotta support the father if there is an activity he wants to do with the kids.

Categories: camping, family

How to create route in Google Earth and transfer to Garmin GPS (part 1)

August 17, 2011 24 comments

NOTE: Latest version of this guide as of 9/21/2012 is in the part 2.  Google Earth has some significant changes since this post, so it needed to be updated.

https://chris9911.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/route-in-google-earth-and-transfer-to-garmin-gps-part-2/

Lesson #1 General overview

I figure this is the most effective way to show people how to get started with creating and transferring google routes to your Garmin GPS.  This tutorial is for those that don’t like reading a manual. Follow these steps and leave me question if you have any:

1.  Install GoogleEarth for your computer

2. Install Garmin Mapsource

3.  Reboot your machine

4.  Start your GoogleEarth

5.  Create all your “Placemarks” first.  This sets up a point to point connection of your path

marks

6.  Create routes by connecting placemarks.  If you rightmouse click on a placemark, it will give you option to route to/from.

route

7.  Here is what it would look like after you connect everything up.  My routes are in white, also notice all the connections I made on the left side of the screen

route_sample

8.  Once you are happy with your newly created route, its time to get it ready for your Garmin GPS.  Click on File/Save-as/<route_name.kmz>

saveas

9.  Open up your web browser to GPSvisualizer.

10.  Browse for your .kmz file, be sure to set output file to .gpx, and hit convert button.  Your form should look like this.

visualizer

11.  Click on your shiny new .gpx file and do a save-as to your computer

gpxfile

12.  Open up GarminMapsource

13.  Open the newly created .gpx file from above step.

14.  Connect up your Garmin GPS to your computer

15.  Click Transfer/send to device.

16.  That is it…Gratz.

17.  If you got this far, least you can do is leave me a friendly comment below Smile

Lesson #2

This will be published dependent on if there is a demand for it.

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Jeep commander vs. hummer H2, Toyota Land cruiser, Mercedes G, Land Rover, Toyota FJ, Nissan Armada

August 13, 2011 13 comments

I am a huge auto enthusiast because I love to drive it and I love working on them even more.  I feel taste and need for a specific vehicle evolves with changing lifestyle and situation.  For example, when you get married with 2 rambunctious boys.  Maybe I’m a typical guy because I’ve always loved trucks for their all around capability and that go-anywhere  attitude.  My family has decided to be more outdoor active and decided to go all in on camping.  We started off  with your traditional kind of camping where all the amenities are there at the site, hot running water, full service bathroom, and groceries nearby.  We entered a phase where that is not good enough and we need a primitive style camping lifestyle.  For those not familiar with camping terms, primitive camping=you camp if you can get there.  So this meant we trade in our beloved Nissan Quest minivan for an off-road worthy SUV.  I have a track record of holding on to cars until either wife makes me get rid of it, or until it burns to the ground.  That was enough justification to go out and pretty much buy any SUV in the market at any price.  Wife really wanted the Land Rover Range Rover or the LR series.  We looked at it together and I have to admit, it’s a beautiful car and I’m sure it will be very off-road capable.  On paper it seemed like a done deal, but… From an auto mechanic’s point of view(yours truly), Land Rover is on top of my list of unreliability.  Their drivetrain has never been the same since going with an aluminum block.  Its inexcusable that you need to have a head job on these motors at about every 30k miles.  Thought of picturing my wife and kids stranded on some 2 lane highway is a nightmare situation for me.  It was tough convincing my wife out of it since her heart was so deeply buried in a Landover, but I convinced her she had to think of it from family point of view, and she finally agreed it wouldn’t be right. 

Hummer H2 was just okay in luxury features and initial presentation.  Test drive proved this vehicle was not ready for prime time.  It accelerated like a turtle and interior is surprisingly small for such a huge vehicle.  The H2 in its stock form actually looks lot more tougher than it really is.  In fact the H2 is probably the least off-road capable truck out of all the other trucks I listed.  Even if I can overlook it pathetic abilities, I cannot risk my family getting attacked by environazis while shopping for groceries.

Mercedes G series and Toyota FJ was rejected immediately because it doesn’t offer 3rd row seat.  Its unfortunate because these two trucks look very unique and fully off-road capable.  7passenger seating is a necessity for my family because we need to include grandparents, friends, and family during some road trips.

Nissan Armada, all I can say is WOW.  It is probably the best value in terms of capability, cost, and features.  Its not the most off-road capable but it exceeds in every other category.  Enormous interior, great gas mileage compared to others on this list, and I know it will get through 90% of trails I need to get through.  So what is the problem you ask?? It was the size.  This truck is just too big to drive around for practical purpose, especially for my wife who has horrible time parallel parking her small Volvo sedan Sad smile  This was truly a sad realization because we both wanted this vehicle so bad…

Next up is arguably the best off-road vehicle for a family, Toyota Land cruiser.  Its on road/off-road capability is legendary, its reliability is legendary, its also sized perfectly for everyday use, and all this for about $65k.  This was my 1st choice truck, in fact we almost did buy this until…

Jeep Commander.  This was the last truck we looked at and it was basically a no-brainer when I found out about its “newfound” features.  I already knew following things about Jeeps.  Its off-road capability is legendary, repair & service is cheap and easy, and it’s as American as it gets.  But I also know the following negative things about Jeeps.  They smell like gas, most women hate it, has “redneck” image, small interior, nuisance failures, and its loud.  Many Jeep owners I know have well over 200k miles on them and the powertrain usually outlasts the body, which is amazing.  So knowing all this, I was shocked and blown away when I found out the Commander is everything a Jeep is with refinements you see in luxury vehicles, and its got 3rd row seating.  Its got sunroofs all over the celling, its got stadium seating, its got Jeep’s version of dual lockers for going over anything, power rear hatch like a mini-van, and Hemi-V8.  Its also very quiet on the road, and parking/maneuvering this truck is piece of cake.  Wife loves it for the 3rd row seat, power, visibility, turning ratio, and maneuverability.  Kids love it for stadium seating, sunroofs everywhere, & dvd player.  I love it because it should be mechanic friendly, replacement parts will be cheap, aftermarket support will be big, and I know my family will have one of the most reliable vehicles on the road.  We maxed out the Jeep commander to their Overland edition with Hemi V8/Quadradrive system with every option imaginable under the sun.  All this and it still came out cheaper than the Land cruiser!

Categories: camping, family, offroad
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