Saturday, September 29, 2012

That Ain't Stock #2: Removing the Jump Seats

So - remember this puppy?

Aww, he's so cute!

Well, he's 7 months old and over 65 lbs now.  So, he looks a lot more like this:

OMG, he's gonna eat me!

Needless to say, the small back seat of our 2009 Ford Ranger barely has enough room for him to stand - much less turn around, lay down, and chill out while we drive to our next camping adventures.  RDB and I  both had the thought of removing the jump seats in the back to give him a little room - and sure enough, if you Google it, some one's done it.  We followed the tutorial found here as it had great photos and pretty clear instructions.

Step #1 - Go buy new tools (we both liked this step!)

(I should point out - you don't need the deep socket set, but RDB wanted to get them - he also wanted me to point out that you don't need them... of course, that was before we realized that you do need a set of sockets that aren't deep in order to complete this project - so we ended up with a set of those too, by the time we were done.)

Step #2 - Unscrew stuff.

Step #3 - Repeat Step #2 on the other side.

Step #4 - Lather, rinse and repeat.  (There was a lot of unscrewing stuff). Until you can finally remove the jump seats on both sides.

And then realize that the jack stand is kinda in the way, but nobody talks about that in the tutorial to replace your jumps seats with ear-drum-deafening sub woofers.  We needed room for a different kind of, um, Woofer.  So, we took it a step further, unbolted the jack and relocated it to the utility camper shell we have on the back.  So, to continue....

Step #5 - Remove the bolts that hold in the jack stand (there were only two, I think - maybe three).

Step #6 - Once the unit is removed (I was impressed by how easily it came out - gotta love the Ford assembly line ingenuity!) find a place to secure it elsewhere in the vehicle - because as sure as you don't travel with it, you'll end up needing it.  We located it behind the fishing poles that live in the utility shell.

Step #7 - Securely fasten.  And I mean securely.  When RDB engineers something, he does it so that it can withstand my driving the test of time!

Notice the Leatherman!! My inspiration!
Step #8 - Step back and enjoy your handiwork!

Gotta have the fishing poles - in case we have a blow-out by a lake!

From this....

... to this!

I'm sure our not-so-little puppy is gonna love all the extra space.  Now, if we can just get the weather to cooperate....

One project always leads to another: That Ain't Stock #3: More Misc Mods!

**Update** After having the Ranger for about a year - and especially after doing this project - we were kinda wishing that we had bought our second truck first.  I mean, the Ranger is great for the set-up we have now, but we want to be able to do more as our family (and our dog) grows... I guess the old saying is true: Be Careful What You Wish For.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Park (P)review: Village Creek State Park - Lumberton, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

Village Creek State Park

*Lots of privacy - but at the sake of very small, back in only sites
*Green 'fences' separate each of the sites (bushes, trees, etc)
*Great launching point or home base for hiking and water activities
*Electric and Water Sites: Sites 10, 12 &14 would be great for a group, as would 113 & 115

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Our first camping trip of the fall season is scheduled for this weekend at Huntsville State Park.  But as we get closer and closer (and I get more and more excited) it seems we keep hitting road bumps.

RDB got stung by hornets last weekend doing yard work, and now his foot/ankle/calf and wrist/forearm/elbow mimic those of Popeye, but with swelling rather than spinach-induced muscle.

I 'threw my back out' over at a friend's house.  Clarification: while sitting over at a friend's house.  And I am way too young to use a phrase like "threw my back out." Blah.

And, then there's this:

When I looked yesterday, it was only a 40 percent chance of rain, so that's not moving in the right direction either - much like RDB's swelling appendages and my stiffly unmoving back.

So, should we stay or should we go?

I'm trying, at least a little bit, to look on the bright side: there's a 40% chance of great weather this weekend.

And, it is only Tuesday.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Park (P)review: McKinney Falls State Park - Austin, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!


*As you're checking in be sure to notice the 'shade covers' at Headquarters - they're solar panels!
*Didn't get a chance to see them - but this park has great hiking trails, and 2 waterfalls.
*Water and Electric Sites: Grapevine Loop - huge shade trees, big lots, any in here would be great
                                        Big Cedar Camping Area: 53 as a solo sight (but a hard turn to back in), For groups - 62 & 65 (back into each other) 78 &80 - lots of little trees in between, but probably the best group
                                        Big Oak Camping Area: 1, 13, 14 (BIG), 26 (big and lots of shade) For groups - 8 & 18 back into each other
*You'll notice curbed bike lanes all throughout the park roads - Austin is a very bike friendly city, and the park is no different

We stayed here in November '12: A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Moo!

No, I'm talking about the barnyard animal here.  I'm talking about one of my favorite online print shops:

I've used them before for personal and blog business cards and have been thoroughly impressed by their quality, speed to print, and price.  And, since I got an email from them yesterday, I'm even more excited:

I love emails like this!!

So, I went out to order new blog cards (I was running low anyway - RDB keeps asking me to hand them out!)  This time, instead of doing the regular full size card, I created one of their Moo Mini-cards.  It's half the size of a regular business card, but still packs a punch with the incredible graphics, or photos (you can upload your own) and crisp clean text on the other side.

I really enjoy that they give you the chance to download and print a PDF of your work so that you can see the actual size, clarity, and layout before you place your order.  I'm much more likely to catch spelling errors on paper than on the computer screen. (So, forgive me for the things I don't catch as I'm typing up a post!)

I really love this company's product.  My last set of cards were from their Green Premium Paper line - 100% recycled and recyclable, manufactured using wind power and free from harmful chemicals. I'm no tree-hugger, but it's one small thing I could do - and for the quality of the product, you'd have never known they were 'green.'

A few of my 'green' cards, and the box they came in.

I'm excited to get my set of Mini-cards in! At 100 mini cards for $19.99 (shipping included) that's a steal of a price!  So, Happy Birthday , Moo! and thanks!

(BTW - If you purchase something from the link above, I do get referral MOOlah of $7.50 - but you'll also get 10% of your purchase! And besides, even if I dont get anything, I'm bragging on a company who's product I absolutely love!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Park (P)review: Bastrop State Park - Bastrop, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!


*I drove up to Batrop from Buescher along Park Rd 1C - a 10 mile windy, curvey, tree lined hilly back country drive.  The change was drastic from one park to the other.  Buescher was saved from much of last year's wild fires, but Bastrop suffered. Driving around, you can tell this was once a favorite hot-spot, just a short 30 minutes from Austin, and I hope at some point it will regain it's former glory.
*3/4ths of the campground was burned in the wildfires, but the Copperas Creek Area appears to have survived - and the pines here are georgous, lush, and tall!
*Water and Electric Sites: 7, 12, 52, and 53 have good afternoon shade and are semi-private
                                Group Sites: 52 &53, 65, 66, & 67, 55 & 56 (these looked the best!)
*Swimming pool on the camp ground, and a golf course, too!

We stayed here March '14: You've Got to go Thru Hail Before You Get to Haven

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tips & Tricks #2: Poison Ivy First Aid Kit

Did you know - 15-30% of the population has no allergic reaction to the 'poison' found in poison ivy?

Lucky dogs.

I'm not one of the chosen few - I've joked that if I can just see the ivy vine, I'm gonna get the rash.  I've battled with poison ivy/oak/sumac through my entire life and can even recall getting a poison oak rash so badly on my face that my classmates called me ScarFace (It was sixth grade, after all.  And kids are mean at that age.)

After a pretty nasty bout of it this summer from pulling branches down on the dam at Mom's, and then loving on Diesel after he inadvertently ran through it out in the country at Dad's, I've decided that I'll be prepared the next time (and God willing, there won't be a next time) I encounter this horrid plant.

Before I list out what I've put together as my "after exposure" kit, let me preface by saying: Avoidance is the best medicine! Urushiol is the culprit - this oil can survive and still be toxic up to 6 months after contact. So, learn what poison ivy looks like, be cautious if you're camping or hiking near it and your pet runs through it.  If you have come into contact with it - bag the clothes you were wearing (shoes, too) and wash them in hot water when you get home - trying not to touch them again. 

Remember: Leaves of Three, Let it Be!


Here's what I've put together as a supplement to my basic first aid kit - being very specific to the things that have worked for me and need to minimize the impact of the urushiol once I've been exposed.

The most important thing for me after exposure is to remove as much of the plant oil, as quickly and efficiently as possible.  tecnu was something we discovered early on in my life, and its been the most effective soap/wash at removing the oils from the initial contact.  If I even think that I've been exposed, I'll wash with this.  This product is also pet safe.  4oz for $7

Next up, towels.  Coleman has super small towel 'tablets' that expand once they've come into contact with water. That's a 14' x 7' towel compressed to about the size of a really thick dime!  My plan is to use these as I'm washing out the tecnu and oils, and then toss the washcloths afterward. I've got 2 of them stored in a toothbrush cover (that came with the kit you'll see later) 10 in a tube for $3

So, after removing and bagging any clothes you were wearing, washing and cleaning the exposed area, and washing the offending oil-carrying-tail-wagger - you've done all you can to minimize the possible rash. Now, you wait. And hope.  And pray that you either 1) aren't allergic, or 2) will only get a small rash.  The rest of my kit will come into use if I find myself out camping and the rash has started (which for me, takes less than 2 hours from first exposure).

My plan of attack is two-fold - internal and external.  Internally,  I'm a fan of the generic version of Benedryl. Good news, it blocks the signals that the nerves are sending that say: "your arm is the enemy, and should be scratched to death."  Bad news, it makes me drowsy.  Come to think of it, that may be a good thing, because if I can get to sleep, then I don't get that desperate need to SCRATCH!  24 caps for $2

Externally, I've got a few different choices in my arsenal. First up, the traditional anti-itch stuff. I'm not brand specific on these - the pink stuff works, the generic stuff works, this time I picked up the Calagel because it came with a 2oz sample of tecnu, which I was planning to buy anyway.  My travel kit came with a 3oz squeeze bottle, and I transferred some into it for my kit.  6oz for $5

If I want a break from the gooey-ness of the Calagel, I switch over to a generic of Cortisone 10 (are you seeing a 'generic' pattern here?).  Cotton balls are a part of the kit as well - for both of the previous medications.  Just be careful as you're taking pictures of your kit - come to find out, Diesel thinks cotton balls make for really chewing treats.  1oz for $3, cotton balls from a supply I already had.

Diesel back there "helping" me with this post.

Third option - hydrogen peroxide.  I came across this one the last time ran into poison ivy. It works both as a wash (if I don't have tecnu) and as an anti-infection and drying agent.  I scratch.  I admit - there are moments when regardless of how strong I think I am, the overwhelming desire to do something about the incessant itch consumes me.  I try counter that with the use of hydrogen peroxide - on the off chance that I've got something infection-causing under my nails, I want to keep the wound I'm creating as clean as possible.  As a second benefit, peroxide has a drying effect.  I've found that poison ivy rash has three phases: itch, ooze, and ache.  You know you've got it bad when the rash oozes.  The spray bottle came from the travel kit I picked up ($4) and the peroxide I already had.

It's not much to look at, but it's probably the best ~$15 I've spent getting ready for the next camping season.  It'll live in the 'pup and I hope to never need to use it.  But, as my Eagle Scout Dad taught me, it's best to be prepared.

BTW (this part gets a little gross, skip to the 'final note' if you're squeamish) - If you've come across this post because you are currently suffering though a poison ivy rash, I have one more golden nugget for you: hot, almost way-too-hot, hot water. As hot as you can stand it, hot water.  I discovered this the last time I had a reaction - and a really bad reaction it was: oozing, red, swollen, all over my elbow and forearm, and partially on my face (what's up with that!).  If you have a sprayer/detached shower head, turn the water to as hot as you can stand and spray the rash area.  Do not believe the common myth that you'll just spread the rash. (Learn more here.) The oozing is your body producing blisters to fight off the destruction caused by the original contact with urushiol.  If you're at 'ooze phase' you're well beyond the initial contact.  During the worst of my 'ooze,' I would shower in the morning around 7am, spray my arm and face with very hot water, and then have relief from the itching until about 2pm, at which point I wanted to bite my arm off. It worked for me even while camping (think: coffee pot of hot water, arm held over a bowl, and using a washcloth).  This is by no means medical advice.  Gotta say that because I don't want you to come back and sue me if you have a severe ivy rash and you scald yourself trying to stop the itch.  Because when the ivy has you, you'll try anything for relief!

One final note: you know how 15% of the population doesn't have to go through all this? Guess who's part of that group?

Yep, RDB is immune.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Park (P)review: Buescher State Park - Smithville, TX

Park (P)review
We haven't camped here yet, but I've driven around and checked it out!

Buescher State Park

*Say it like the locals: "Bisher, like fisher"  Yeah, I was "butcher"-ing it.
*I was impressed with how very quiet this park was.  Rustling of the leaves, stunning kinda quiet.
*Water and Electric sites: Site 22 was the only one that really jumped out at me - small sites, but a relatively small campground, too.
*Park Rd 1C at the back of the park is a connecting road (about 10 miles winding and hilly) that will take you over to Bastrop State Park.  Buescher was saved from the destruction of the wildfires last summer, but Bastrop wasn't.  It's a chilling thing to drive Park Rd 1 from one park to another - you just suddenly come upon the fire line.
*That being said, firewood is for sale at the Park Headquarters

We stayed here November '14: Work. Life. Balance.