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Veggie Pasta

veggie_pasta1Say what you want about As Seen On TV products, sometimes they really do have a good idea and get it right. I stumbled across a veggie spiralizer in a Big Lots store and decided to give it a try since I am very much into eating healthy these days. The idea of making pasta that is very low calorie, non-gluten, and contains lots of excellent vitamins and fiber was very appealing. You can even leave the skin on for no peeling hassles and more good nutrients, the bulk of which are actually found in vegetable skins. The big question though is does it taste good? Hmm.

To test it, I used a zucchini though a yellow squash, cucumber, or large carrot work too. Wash then lop off the ends of the zucchini. Insert it into the device and put the included turning cap on the other end of the vegetable. Twist slowly and watch the long threads of veggie pasta come out. When ready, steam them to soften. I put them in a microwave safe bowl with a little water and cooked for 2-3 minutes. On a plate, cover with your favorite heated Spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese. Dig in.

OMG! It was delicious! I thought it was actually better than regular spaghetti and the texture was perfect, just like spaghetti.

For test two, I made zucchini pasta for Pasta Chicken Alfredo. Instead of spaghetti sauce, I covered it with Alfredo sauce that I had warmed up with chunks of cooked chicken and black pepper. Mmm mmm good! If you really want to go wild, add some broccoli too.

I can see using this to make julienne potatoes or hash browns also. I wonder what carrot pasta with roast beef and gravy would taste like. Hmm… Maybe with some potato shreds as well.

I rate this an A. The device works, cleans up easily, is solidly built, and is an easy way to eat healthier or help with a diet. I took off one point for not being able to use the whole vegetable, however, you can use the remaining vegetable by cutting and adding it or frying it up for something else.

veggie_pasta3

Another Flood in Texas

Like death and taxes, one thing that is certain in Texas is that there will be a flood every year. As you may remember, I got caught in a flood last year and nearly lost everything. Several months before that, I got pretty close to being flooded out of my gate. This year, I was specifically told I was in a major flood plain when I arrived at my current gate and was warned again when the spring rains started. I took the precaution of hitching up my trailer and pulling everything in the day before it was supposed to hit. It really helps that I have a new truck box this year which does not block my view of my hitch so I can hitch-up very quickly now.

The next day, the rains started. I kept an eye on the road and all around me. By nightfall, the road was still clear so I decided to hang in there and went to bed. Very early in the morning, my weather radio started going off constantly with flood alerts. I checked outside and saw that everything was fine around me so no problem yet. Later, when daylight came, I checked the road and found it just starting to cover to the south. To the north, the road was covered with fast running water and rising. I waded in a bit to check the level with my hiking pole since I would have to pull my trailer through it to either hunker down up on the first drilling pad or to turn my trailer around to get it out of there all together.  The flashlight popped off my hiking pole and is now probably in China darn it. I really liked and used that light. Bad pole/light design.

McKenzie flood southMcKenzie flood west

When I walked back to my trailer, I could see the water was now over the road to the south and was crossing over behind my trailer pad. I called my boss for permission to abandon post for a day or two, secured the company equipment, then headed out through the water. I slowly pulled through the foot and a half of water to the north so as not to soak the undercarriage or hit a hidden pothole hard. Since I don’t have an H2S gas monitor, I turned the rig around up at the pad and drove back through the water to go out to a campground. When I got close to the front, I spotted a large graveled area that was just big enough and high enough to pull in to stay. With 4 golf batteries and a full tank of water, I knew I could easily boondock for a couple days. That allowed me to not only stay safely for free but to also continue working and collecting pay by driving back down in my truck to guard the gate from my vehicle. I knew I was safe doing that as long as the tanker trucks were still navigating the water to continue their runs. I actually had a good time and a nice change of pace with plenty of walking up and down the road where I could and both my smart phone and Kindle Fire with me. I worked that way for a couple days from dawn till dusk and got to go out to the nearby Pilot station for gas and dinner (in that order not the opposite ;-) ).

McKenzie flood driving

As soon as the water receded, I towed my trailer back to the gate. Getting back in was not easy now that everything around the pad was mud. Much of the rock on the road had been washed away. It took a few tries and some steep angling to get in past the mud. I also had to get it lined up as close as possible to the way it was to re-attach the sewer lines. They use solid plastic sewer pipes with very little give to hook guards up to external sewer tanks.

I stayed hitched up for another day to be sure I didn’t get surprised. The guys were all very welcoming and happy I was back in position. I was home again.

Holidays On The Gate

I love the gate I am currently at because I have this large fence right in front of my door between my RV and the road through the gate I am guarding. To me, it is like a giant canvas to let out my artistic and playful sides. I decorate it for every holiday and have been told the workers here really appreciate my efforts. While I am at it, I also usually wear an appropriate hat for the holiday and sometimes give out goodies to all who pass through.

For Valentine’s Day this year, I gave out Hershey kisses. It is always fun to ask strangers if they would like a kiss. Since I am not young, blond, or skinny, I make a point of holding up the chocolate when I ask. LOL

Valentines Day decorations

For St. Patrick’s Day, I donned an Irish cap and an Irish brogue while greeting the passers by.

St. Patricks Day

For Easter, I wore a bunny hat and hopped up to vehicles with a basket full of bags filled with Easter eggs, jelly beans, and marshmallow chicks.

Easter decorationsMore Easter decorationsEaster Bunny

I’m already plotting um planning my decorations for Memorial Day and 4th of July.  Tee hee.

I hope you all have jobs as fun (most of the time) as mine is.

DangRV – RVQuartzsite Drone

DangRv - RVQuartzsite Drone

DangRV.com and RVQuartzsite.com now have their own drone! Yep, spotted it in a store in the mall while on vacation and just had to have one. It’s a made in China (as most are) quad copter but the quality is quite decent. It has colorful LEDs that light up, 4 axis controls, rechargeable battery, and a tiny camera which takes pretty decent video and still shots. It came with a charger, extra blades, a 2 gig Micro SDHC storage card, and a USB dongle to directly download video from the card to a computer.

Buying it was interesting. As usual, I got the woman’s run around with the salesman asking me if I intended to fly it myself, had I ever flown one before, and did I have a man to fly it for me. Aargh! I get that same nonsense at Radio Shacks, hardware stores, and auto parts stores. To dissuade me from buying it, he had me try to fly one around his tiny store with a male customer close by to try to avoid hitting. While I got the picture that flying it would take a lot of practice, he did not stop me from getting it. The cost was just over $100 and well worth it I figured if I could get even a couple of nice aerial shots for my blogs. One thing I discovered is it crashes well. The body took quite a lickin’ but kept on… well you know.

It is going to take some time but I have learned quite a lot about flying it already. I now know that right and left are relative to the nose and which way it is pointing. I’ll need to perfect the hovering maneuver so it doesn’t fly away and so I can get those shots I want. The distance it can travel away from the controller is not very far (though far enough to get high in the sky) so hovering will help. I think I’ll be ready when I can fly and control it inside my RV. Ah yes, grasshopper.

Looking forward to some great pics and videos to post on my websites for you all. Here’s a a little taste for you.

View of drone and Big Tent in Quartzsite, AZAerial view of campsite on BLM

I think my drone needs a name. Any suggestions?

55+ Parks Not Necessarily 55+

If you are traveling around the country and would like to stay at a 55+ park but are not 55 years old, do not despair. You usually can stay there! Under federal law, a park can only call itself a 55+ park if they rent no more than 20% to those under that age. Therefore, sites would normally be available for you. In my experience traveling around the country, no such park has ever even asked me my age. Many tend to follow the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. They don’t really want to exclude responsible adults. They do want to keep kids out. Many older people who have done their time around kids and the noise they normally make, no longer have a desire to enjoy their company full time. They are looking for peace and quiet without having to dodge young ones on bicycles, toys left in roadways, splashing in the pool, etc. This is especially true for parks that cater to monthly and yearly residents. I didn’t understand the problem when I was young and visited my grandparents in Sun City in California. They had many rules concerning children and very few places kids were allowed. Now that I am 55+ and done raising my own children, I totally get it. Don’t get me wrong, I personally like being around kids for short periods like weekly camping. While watching them play I remember fondly all the fun times I had growing up with my siblings. Being noisy and full of energy is part of what being a kid is all about! Anyway, if you see a 55+ park you would like to stay at, give it a shot but don’t mention your age unless they ask and don’t act like a misbehaved child while there or they can and will boot you out.

Goodbye Water Bottles

As a gate guard, I live in my RV out in the boonies on other people’s ranches far away from RV parks and the usual amenities such as full hookups. My guard company provides a support trailer with a huge (and rather noisy) electric generator on it to provide me with power and a 500 gallon water tank that provides non-potable water via an RV water pump inline with it. The water comes from a local well. It is labeled non-potable both because of the sediment in it and because the equipment and tanks used to haul it are not monitored or certified. In the summertime, the large black tank may also contain algae due to the unbearable Texas heat. All guards use water filters to at least clean the sediment out to use the water for showers and doing dishes. For drinking and cooking water, most use bottled water. Personally, I have gotten a little fed up with worrying about having enough water on board since I work alone with no one to run into town for more water for me. I also have some concerns about the actual quality of the bottled water I have been getting. How do we really know the water coming out of machines found at gas stations and grocery stores is clean? Are we sure those machines get regularly serviced and filters changed? One information source tells me that 40 percent of bottled water is actually just unfiltered municipal tap water we have been conned into buying. I have noticed the taste of my bottled water lately has not been very good. It has an after-taste. I could try using a different machine but I decided to give the bottles the boot and filter my own drinking water.

To start my new water filtration system, I first had to stop using the blue inline Camco cartridges which clog quickly, are rather expensive, and don’t filter as well as home filters. They work fine for weekend warriors and did make life tolerable in Ocala, Florida where the water is loaded with sulfur that stinks so bad that you don’t even want to think about washing your hands or showering with it until you get some sort of water filter installed on the line coming in. However, for less cost, I can do better.

Camco Inline Water Filter

I finally purchased a two-stage house filtering system with a 5 micron sediment filter in the first housing and a charcoal block in the second housing. The charcoal filters out chemicals and improves the taste. These housings are very easy to use and more can be strung together if you want to add a third or fourth stage such as perhaps an extra 1 micron sediment filter or a water softener. Some people sit them in a bucket or on the ground. I’m using a plastic crate to hold mine upright off the ground and provide storage for the 4 foot hose attached between it and the RV. I also made a jacket for mine out of aluminum surfaced bubble wrap used for insulating RVs. That keeps the sun and cold winds off them. Speaking of sun, both of my canisters are blue not clear. The clear ones seem nice to be able to easily see how dirty your filters are but they allow the sun in which promotes algae and bacteria growth. The clear canisters should only be used in closed environments like under the sink. To open the canisters easier when it comes time to change the filters, I also bought a wrench made just for them.

Whole House Water FiltersWater Filter Cover and Crate

With the new system installed, I have noticed an improvement in water pressure. It’s small but noticeable. It should also be filtering better. That got me better quality water in the shower, for doing dishes, and for doing my laundry. But, that still wasn’t good enough for drinking. After a lot of investigation and research, my choices for the next step came down to two choices which each are good but each have a downside. Remember, this is for an RV, not a house with lots of space and water pressure. The first and cleanest choice would by a reverse osmosis system with a UV light. That system would filter out everything including bacteria, cysts, and viruses. It’s the ultimate in filtering! Unfortunately, it tends to be very large and requires electricity. If the power goes out or I boondock, it is no better than my second choice, a ceramic filter system. Ceramics are often used to bring drinkable water to areas in third world countries and they are used by hikers to drink from lakes and streams. Ceramic filters can handle everything except viruses. Debating my choices, I decided the odds of having a virus in my water are fairly slim but the odds of having no power are pretty good. A good UV system can cost $400-$500. A ceramic filter system was less than $100. With ceramics being used so readily by hikers and in foreign lands, I decided that was the best choice for me at this time.

I would have liked to use a ceramic to filter the whole RV but ceramics as well as RO (reverse osmosis) systems tend to really lower your water pressure since they filter down to less than 1 micron. With my only pressure coming from a small RV water pump 50 feet away from my trailer, it just isn’t practical. Instead, I chose a countertop water filter housing which connects to the kitchen sink faucet with a bypass switch and has it’s own faucet. It doesn’t take up much space and the water pressure is bearable for filling a cup to drink or a pan to cook. When I do laundry which also hooks up to the kitchen faucet or do dishes, I don’t need that extra filtering so I can push the switch to bypass the filter and get more pressure. It is also nice to know I can easily move ALL my filters over to a new RV at any time.

Counter Top Ceramic FilterCounter Top Filter Faucet Hookup

With the new system installed, my water is tasting great! It definitely tastes better than the bottled water I was getting and it is safe. I am very pleased with the end results. If I choose to spend a lot of time in Mexico someday, I may reconsider the UV light system addition then. For now, this works!

John and Gary Get Me Back On The Road Again

BarHarbor043I have been gate guarding in the oil fields of Texas for nigh onto 2 years now. While not completely off the “Road” as I travel from gate to gate south of San Antonio, it is a life of many months spent in one place, usually though not always far out in the boonies away from civilization, guarding one gate 24/7, umbilical cords to a support trailer providing the necessities of life (water, electricity, refuse removal), with an occasional monthly wild ride into a town for fresh supplies for my earth ship. Entertainment is found in the beauty of nature, sunsets so red and bold as to require nightly pictures, and the occasional visits of curious animals, both wild and domestic. Of course, there is also the standard TV provided by a well-tuned satellite dish, radio stations blaring out both Country and Western when not in Spanish, and books. Lots of books.

Last night, I poked my Bluetooth headset into my right ear, threw a camper on the back of my old truck, fired it up, and headed back out on the road with a large dog of French persuasion named Charley whose command of the English language was limited to “pfft”. I drove many miles out of my way to avoid the traffic congestion of New York City, crossed through Connecticut and Vermont, enjoyed the White Mountains of New Hampshire, till at last I was back in Bangor, Maine. After a night of peaceful sleep without the constant hum of a generator in my ears or the buzz of alarms telling me another tanker truck was coming through, I spent some time in the local and profuse antique stores gawking at the many items stored in basements, attics, and barns for years as they were replaced by newer models or thrown away with chips and dents by ancestors now long dead. I was amazed by the prices even a previously 10 cent plate now fetched or attempted to fetch.

After a leisurely uninterrupted lunch and a short walk with Charley to meet and greet the nearest Maine bush, we hit the road again to find Deer Isle for the night. The lady inn owner was expecting us. As usual and despite the numerous maps onboard, I managed to get lost and pass my turnoff. I had been warned not to ask directions from locals who delighted in providing wrong directions to tourists while silently laughing there heads off inside. I tried asking a rather taciturn local officer of the law for help which led to nothing more than a nod of the head in the direction which I had come. I set off again following the nod until I found the turn I had missed and managed to navigate to the old but stately inn in the woods. The owner was a very nice woman, alone and of senior age, who greeted us with typical New England cordiality. She provided a place for us to rest and all the info needed to enjoy our stay. She introduced Charley to her cat who thoroughly detested both dogs and humans and would have been quite glad to see the whole of Maine decimated of beings save for herself and the lady. Thankfully, Charley has no interest whatsoever in cats either for speaking to or chasing. We got some dinner, introduced a tree to the unique essence that is Charley, and went blissfully off to sleep again to relieve our tired bodies and ponder our current adventure.

The next morning, I woke up alone. Charley was nowhere to be seen. He had not woken me up as usual with a “pfft” in my face. The inn and lovely woods of the island were gone. Alarms were shrieking. I could hear a generator humming in the background. Looking outside, the land was now patches of dirt and cactus. A tanker was passing by, too fast as usual. A large wide gate stared at me as if to say, “Get back to work!”. I was home again if you can call it home.  The new adventure was over, for now. I look forward to hitting the road again this evening and continuing my explorations. I secretly grin at the thought of traveling the back roads of America with a dog named Charley when I once again poke my Bluetooth headset in my right ear to let Gary Sinise and his wonderful voice read John Steinbeck’s book, “Travels With Charley”, to me again from my Kindle Fire. I read it myself as a child so many years ago and it was the catalyst in my life that led me to becoming a full-time RVer and wanderer of the country, of the planet. Till tonight…

Kindle Fire HD Review

I just got a new Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 gig to replace my old Kindle Reader and gosh awful slow cheap tablet. I bought my Kindle Fire at Best Buy so I could try it and a full Android tablet out first. The Fire is a very good compromise between the two devices it is replacing and very fast unlike my previous tablet.

Their app store had my most important productivity apps including Evernote so no problem there. The couple they didn’t have I was able to get by going direct to the website of one to download it and the other I searched a forum and found I could get it through an alternative store at 1mobile.com. Fire has it’s own app store (which should be used rather than 1Mobile whenever possible) and does not support Google Play since it uses a modified Android operating system. Other apps I only use on my full android smartphone so no need to find and install those.

I love how tied into my Amazon account it is which the other Android tablet I looked at wouldn’t have been. It easily brought in my hundreds of eBooks. Browsing on it is a very nice experience. Playing games on it is fast and addictive. Reading email and Facebook are easier with the bigger screen than on my phone which I usually use. It only has WI-FI, not 3G or 4G, but that works for me since I use a MI-FI device. I had free WI-FI at my motel and was able to use my Prime membership to play music and stream movies for free. With only 36 channels available at the motel, it was nice to be able to watch “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” which played smoothly without a glitch. The Fire also supports Netflix, Hulu, etc. The sound on this thing when playing movies, music, or games is excellent Dolby with two stereo speakers.

It’s a bit heavy like an Ipad, more so than my other devices it is replacing. I like the standard charging port which is much better than the odd port on Ipads. X-Ray for music shows the song lyrics while playing some of my favorite songs which is certainly nice to have. I should see if it knows the words to Louie Louie LOL. It will also show extra info on movies I play.

For those of you who are sometimes visually challenged or often busy, the Kindle Fire HD has text-to-speech and audiobook support. I had it read my newspaper to me this week while I was working. Yes, you can get newspapers and magazines delivered to you anywhere on your Kindle too. Is that cool or what! It can also switch back and forth easily between text and audio without losing your place. The speech is very smooth and distinct.

I do wish it had a camera flash. The cameras are fully useful in good light and for things like Skype and other video chat. Not a deal killer for me since I usually use a good separate camera or my smartphone camera or take most of my pictures outside in daylight anyway. Still, they should consider adding it.

The battery seems to be about average. I have to charge it once or twice a day depending on how much I use it and what I do with it. They claim up to 8 hours depending on usage. It fully charges in under 6 hours using the micro-USB power adapter included. They do sell a faster 9 Watt charger. Mine seems to charge fairly fast.

I highly recommend getting a book about the device. There is no manual with it. I learned from a book some shortcuts and that it could do so much more than what I thought. A few tips I can give you: 1) It does have a caps lock mode. You have to double tap the shift key to access it and disable it. 2) Long press on keys and items to access special menus. This works especially well in the keyboard when typing to access numbers and other characters. 3) Set the rotation to NOT rotate when reading a book. It is an icon on the main navigation menu. Now you can hold your Fire any way you want without it flipping all around on you.

All in all, I am very pleased with my choice though I am still testing it and learning what more it can do. I already checked and found I can maintain my websites and post to my blogs away from home with it which is important to me. I also tested the Square credit card reader on it and found it is supported though I had to get the Square register app elsewhere rather than in the Kindle app store.

The specs:

Quad Core up to 1.5 ghz with 1 GB of RAM
HD Display (1280 x 800)
Fire OS4 (proprietary scaled down Android)
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (including support for Bluetooth keyboards)
Location-based services via Wi-Fi
Two speaker stereo Dolby sound
Front AND rear cameras
Create individual profiles for each user
Time limits app for kids
Web browsing, email, calendar, view and edit Office documents
Share movies, TV shows, etc. with your HDTV via an HDMI adapter (more $$$) or wireless
Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and Fire photos
Over 33 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, Android apps and games

Many will likely prefer the newer Kindle HDX model which starts at only $20 more with a faster 2.2 gig processor, slightly better screen resolution, lighter weight, and a bit more fine adjustments. Unfortunately, it does not come with a rear facing camera which I wanted. Don’t go for anything less than 16 Gig. Despite unlimited cloud storage, memory on the device does matter. More IS better if you can afford it.

I hope this review of the Kindle Fire HD helps you. If you have never owned an eBook reader or are using one that just does books, you should check out the Kindle Fire. You may find the added functionality can really improve your life. If you travel a lot, it’s a must!

Note: I am an Amazon affiliate and use affiliate links but everything stated here is true to the best of my knowledge and own opinion at the time of this writing. Your mileage may vary depending on what you are looking for in a tablet/reader.