Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Harbor Freight Tools Aluminum Mobility Wheelchair And Scooter Carrier

Owning multiple lawns in Oregon is tough, especially during the spring when you can watch the grass growing because it's so fast! I found myself putting off mowing because I knew I would have to take the trailer out, put it back, etc. It's not hard, but it's just enough work that I wanted another solution.

I researched into hiring someone to mow my lawns, but decided it was too expensive & that I actually like the exercise (and listening to my audiobooks). I also thought about requiring our tenants to mow their own lawns, but unless they live in a house they don't tend to actually do it.

So, I started looking into carriers that I could quickly attach to the back of the Jeep.

Harbor Freight Tools is the best place to get hardware deals. I'll admit that it's not the highest quality products, but that's fine for a weekend-warrior like myself who actually takes care of my equipment.

At first I wanted to get the standard 500lb Aluminum Cargo Carrier, but it wasn't wide enough by 2" for my standard sized mower! Seriously? Who designed that?

The next option was the Aluminum Mobility Wheelchair and Scooter Carrier. It also carried 500lbs, had a ramp, and most importantly was wide enough for my mower. The only problem was that it was twice as expensive.

So, I did what I normally do: I patiently waited for an inevitable deal. One finally came where I was able to knock a little over 50% off the price... within $10 of what I was willing to pay for the other carrier.

Putting it together was super simple. It came in 4 large pieces and I just had to attach them together with nuts and bolts. I was able to do it all in a couple hours. I actually planned on taking a bunch of pictures to show how to make it, but the picture above kind of spells it out entirely.

I do have two changes I'll eventually make from the original design.

First, I'm going to make the ramp a quick-release so I can completely remove it. That will make it easier to move around and store. The carrier is just heavy enough, and the ramp sticks out just enough that it's really awkward to move around and store. A couple wing-nuts on the ramps bolts will solve that.

Second, I'm thinking about creating a wooden box I can put in the carrier. Then I'll be able to put tools and other goodies in the back without worrying about them falling out. I still need to think through the design, but knowing myself it'll be a foldable box so I can store it easily.

Until then, it'll be great to quickly put in on the back and go.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Working Vacation

Jessi and I are spending time in Colorado visiting family. We're here on a "working vacation". Basically, it's a combination of working and vacationing. For example:

Today Jessi and I both worked from the kitchen table this morning for a few hours. I had a phone meeting and made a report. Jessi worked on a flyer for an up-coming event.

Then we took off to go fishing. The river and canyon were beautiful! We could see the fish in the water and had a blast trying to land the fly right in front of it. Despite seeing the fish, we didn't catch anything, but it was still a ton of fun. Vinnie ran around like crazy too. Check out the scenery:

Jessi's brother, Abe, fly-casing:

Jessi spin-casting with a fly & bubble:

All of us happy after a good afternoon of fishing:

Then we went home and I worked for a couple hours more: replying to emails and such before relaxing some more.

On a different day, Jessi and I went on a double date with her parents. It's was great fun. We played mini-golf and ate a nice dinner. I really enjoyed it.

That's a typical "working vacation" schedule: work in the morning, relax or do something fun for a few hours, work some more, then have a fun evening. The trick is to have a job that can pretty much be done from anywhere. I realize not everyone has that privilege, but if you don't love your current job, working from a computer at home has some great perks. :) Since Jessi and I both have computer-based jobs, we can work from anywhere.

I also did take a couple full days off for larger outings (well... It was actually for the road trip to travel to Colorado). Vinnie was a great traveler too. He just slept and look out the window the entire time.

The advantages of a working vacation are huge! Officially, I took 2 days off, but we were gone for 11 days including weekends. It's a way to extend our time away. Since I like what I do, it's not a big deal to have to work. In many ways it's not a vacation, it's just traveling.

Some people go really extreme: they'll work from Paris for a month or two! If you go that long, you can rent out your home short term and actually break even on living expenses. I don't think we'll ever get that extreme because of Vinnie, church, and real estate commitments, but a couple weeks is very feasible.

I highly recommend trying it out. Our next step will be to try it when we're not visiting family. Maybe the next student loan we pay off will go towards that type of "vacation".

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Journey Starts With A Single Step

HP just finished another "Shape UP Challenge" where we track our steps and exercise minutes. In the past I just tracked around those times. This time I started around Labor Day because I knew I was going to run the Disneyland Half Marathon and I wanted to see how many steps I took. A lot! 45 THOUSAND steps. After that I just sorta kept going... 

As a reminder: 2,000 is about 1 mile.

Here's how to read the chart above:
  • Blue dots are daily steps. Yep, I've been tracking for a while. I have a cheap pedometer and save them to Simplenote at the end of each day and then transfer them to a spreadsheet once a month.
  • The green line is a cumulative average of ALL the steps. So over time that line gets more and more stable.
  • The yellow is simply a 7-day rolling average with the yellow dots being the weekly average. It helps to draw out the pattern of the blue craziness.

The next chart is easy to read: It's my average steps each day of the week. The green line represents the overall average: 7,660 steps per day

A few observations:

  • When I hurt my hand in November, my activity really dropped off. I think there was also a double whammy of it being winter.
  • I'm definitely headed into a more active period, but not at 10,000 per day yet.
  • Saturday and Wednesday are still my most active days. I typically go into the office on Wednesday and walk around the site at least once.
  • I don't have periods of persistent "down time". At least once a week I get good amount of steps in.
  • Vacations are good. I tend to do a ton of walking, like in Las Vegas.
  • I'm probably the only person who actually finds this interesting... Jessi thinks I'm crazy.
I plan to keep going. With even more data, I can start to do some really interesting comparisons.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Jeep Wave

Owning a Jeep is pretty fun. It has a rugged tough-guy look, a loud engine, the ability to take the top off, and it gets the occasional "nice Jeep" compliment. It's also really convenient: we can remove the back seat, pull a small trailer, and park in small spots. Pretty much the only thing that isn't awesome about a Jeep is the gas milage (~20 miles/gal). Thankfully, we also own a Prius which we use for the longer hauls (this last tank was 53.2 miles/gal!). That's made the Jeep more a "work" vehicle, and one we don't put a ton of miles on anymore.

BUT, there's one more SUPER fun thing about driving a Jeep: The Jeep Wave. I'm going to lean on the Urban Dictionary to help explain it:

Owning, registering, insuring, or driving a Jeep implies knowledge of and intent to abide by the following rules. Failure to obey the rules may result in your being ignored by other Jeep owners as you sit along the side of the road next to your stalled vehicle in a blizzard surrounded by Saturns, Yugos, and Hyundais. 

An honor bestowed upon those drivers with the superior intelligence, taste, class, and discomfort tolerance to own the ultimate vehicle - the Jeep. Generally consists of either a raised hand waving or 4 fingers extended upward from the steering wheel, but may be modified to suit circumstances and locally accepted etiquette. 

Examples of commonly accepted modifications
  • Top off: One handed wave above windshield or outside body tub. 
  • Top off during blizzard: Shiver and nod, hands may remain frozen to steering wheel. 
  • Southern/rural locations: No wave, just a nod. 

General Rules
  1. All Jeepers are responsible for upholding the tradition of the Wave. It seems that generally the Jeep wave is only practiced by Jeep owners driving the following Jeep vehicles; CJ, YJ, TJ, JK. 
  2. All Jeepers are required to return the Wave even if it's a Grand Cherokee or Compass. 
  3. Do not EVER wave to Hummers, even if you know the person. 

So there you go. Now, at this point you might think I'm joking. I'm not. Just yesterday (the inspiration behind actually researching this) I had FIVE Jeeps pass me. ALL FIVE waved to me. I, of course, waved back. The Jeep Wave is alive and well in Oregon.

Image: jeepfan.com