First RV Trip

Vicki and I had the weird idea that maybe instead of spending crazy amounts of money to fly out to BC this year, we instead rent an RV and spend a couple of weeks going out, and a couple coming back. And we could take the dogs with us!

But of course, before we want to commit to a month on the road, we thought we’d better try a short trip. So we rented a motorhome from and about the last available campsite in the Adirondacks. We had an awesome time. I think even the dogs liked it.

Unfortunately, the rental place wouldn’t allow us to pick up the vehicle until after 2pm, and the campsite wouldn’t allow you to check in after 9pm, so there was a bit of a rush. We took the RV home and basically just dumped everything through the door without thinking about what goes where, and hit the road. We ended up barely making the time cut.

Possibly a good sign for what PRP is doing for me, but I made the 5-ish hours of driving without any extra pain in my hamstring/performis/ischial tuberoscopy/quadralatus femoris area.

Because we booked at kind of the last moment, we were in a campground that didn’t have any electrical hookups. It did have a dumping station for dumping the black water and grey water tanks on the way out, and numerous water taps for filling up the fresh water tank. But the lack of electrical hookup and the generator quiet hours meant we had no electricity to run Vicki’s CPAP, so that didn’t do either of us any good for getting a good night’s sleep. Also we had to run the generator for a few hours during generator hours just to charge our phones and iPads and stuff.

We didn’t do much on Saturday except hang out under the cool trees reading. We did get things kind of put away but without a lot of rhyme or reason. We went in to Tupper Lake for dinner. Finding parking kind of sucked. We ended up parking in the lot of a high school.

Sunday we spend some time discussing pros and cons of RVing, and whether motorhomes are better than trailers. I think we want to try more RVing, although we probably won’t do the cross country trip until we have some more experience.

We took a bit of a diversion on the way home. I think we did 8 hours of driving, which is more than my pain area can really take.

Things that weren’t great with the motorhome:

  • The bed was tiny, but actually not as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be.
  • The vehicle is a monster to drive, and it made me reluctant to want to drive off the campsite to do something. You’d practically have to pack up everything just to go down to the shower building. I wonder if we need e-bikes to get around the local area?
  • Backing up is a pain.
  • Finding parking is a pain.
  • The motorhome we rented was kind of tiny inside. Afterwards we looked at the bigger size they rent and it looked like it would be better. For instance, the bed in ours was wall to wall, which makes making the bed a pain, but the larger one actually has some room to move around it.
  • The motorhome we rented had dark paneling and the overhead lights were a terrible color temperature. If we owned, we’d definitely make it whiter and brighter.
  • We spent about $250 on gas, for about 13 hours of driving and 4 hours of generator use. And $6 for propane to run the fridge and water heater. I don’t think we cooked on the indoor stove because the weather was excellent and the Coleman did a great job.
  • The motorhome is very noisy when driving, partly due to the giant engine (that might just be because we’re used to a Leaf and a Prius) and partly because of the shaking and rattling of everything in the back, including the buffeting of the actual walls of the RV.

On the other hand, it we went for a trailer and tow vehicle combination, I think we’d see the following changes:

  • Price of a trailer plus truck or SUV tow vehicle probably isn’t much different than the price of a motorhome, but I could trade in the Prius against the tow vehicle, which would probably reduce it by $20K or so. Man, I’d hate to give up the Prius, but it gets so little use I guess it’s not like I could justify having two vehicles sitting idle while we use the Leaf all the time.
  • Driving a giant pickup truck doesn’t exactly fit with our aesthetic, but you know, needs must. I think I’d rather have an SUV than a pick up, but there seems to be very few SUVs with decent towing capacity.
  • It would probably be quieter inside the tow vehicle without all the drumming of the wind and the rattling of every little thing inside the trailer. On the downside, we also wouldn’t know if stuff fell out of cabinets immediately.
  • We could set up the trailer and unpack it, and then wouldn’t have to pack everything up if we want to drive to the nearest swimming beach or go out for dinner.
  • In a similar vein, I’ve never seen a motorhome with leveling jacks, perhaps because you’d have to jack the wheels off the ground, but most trailers seem to have them. Our campsite had a small slope, but not enough to disturb our sleep or make things roll off the counter.
  • If we get a truck with sufficient towing capacity, we could upgrade the trailer without having the change the truck at the same time.
  • We could carry bikes and kayaks on the truck, and wouldn’t have to climb up on a 12 foot tall trailer to unship them.
  • On the downside, it would be even worse to back up and park en-route, although much better once we’d dropped the trailer at the camp ground.
  • The other downside is that it seems virtually impossible to rent a vehicle + trailer combination to try it out.

I still have hopes of someday being able to resume kayak racing. I’d love to be able to bring an RV to a race location and spend a couple of days enjoying the country side (and maybe reconning the course) in comfort before and after the race.

Drone around and find out

On Saturday, it was a pretty nice day so I took my Mini 3 Pro drone with me cross country skiing. They were snow making so after doing one loop to check everything out I decided to take the drone around a “half loop” where I’d ski just the bit with no snow making and back, because skiing through the area where the snow makers are active is like skiing through a howling blizzard.

I set up and started “Active Track” mode and started off down the Hale Bopp trail and then past the lodge and around half of the Ares loop and back. The drone did its usual excellent job of following me, even correctly reversing course where I did. However when I got back to the lodge area, I discovered it wasn’t following me. Looking at the controller screen, it was about 200 meters up the trail, just around the end of the s-turning downhill run.

I took manual control and flew it back to me. I decided I’d take it for one last run up the Hale Bopp trail and back, so I pointed its camera at me and set up and started “Active Track” again. I stashed the controller under my jacket as per usual and was getting my gloves back on and my hands in the ski pole straps when I noticed it slowly circling me to the left. I don’t know if it thought I’d started moving and was circling to get behind me or if I’d accidentally put it in POI instead of “Active Track”, but it looked like it had a mission and it wasn’t the one I wanted it to be on.

Before I could dig the controller out of my jacket, it softly touched down on the blanket of snow on the roof of the lodge building. The snow was deep enough that it sunk in and the motors wouldn’t restarted because they were blocked with snow. I was still getting a video signal, however, although I didn’t realize that could be useful to me until it was too late. (Foreshadowing!)

I asked the guy who was working inside the lodge if they had any means of getting snow off the roof or anything, and he said they didn’t, but he handed me a plastic tube that was approximately 10 feet long and just not quite long enough to hit the drone. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get it down. I also realized I would need to leave very shortly to get to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Unfortunately I also realized at that moment that if I’d thought about it before I started futzing around with sticks, I could have downloaded the videos off the drone onto the controller, but now it was too late.

My poor little Mini 3 Pro

I left Bristol, and once I got home I made a plea to members of the Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation that if they’re going to Bristol to have a look for my drone and let me know its status.

Unfortunately I couldn’t go back to Bristol on Sunday because the Banff Mountain Film Festival was a matinee, but I received a couple of reports that was still on the roof.

Monday morning I set off loaded for bear. I had 3 things with me, as well as my ski stuff:

  • My big drone, the DJI Air 3
  • A tie down rope for my kayaks that has a metal hook on both ends and
  • A 50 foot dog leash

I tied the tie down rope around my drone so that one of the hooks was dangling below it. I clipped the dog leash to it to act as a safety so if the big drone crashed, I’d be able to bring it back.

There was no snow on the roof at all, but the drone was sitting exactly where I left it. The snow obviously hadn’t slid off, and I think it sublimated off rather than melting because there was no signs of melting and refreezing, even in the snow off the trails. That bodes well for the drone actually not being water damaged, but time will tell.

My plan worked perfectly. I was able to slide the hook onto one of the arms of the stuck drone, gave it a little tug and it started sliding off the roof. It hit a window sill on the way down and bounced a bit, but I managed to catch it in mid air.

Safe and sound!

I haven’t fired up the Mini 3 Pro to see if it still works – I’ve decided to wait a bit to let it warm up and dry out. But at least I’ve got a fair chance of getting the videos off the SD card.

Cross country skiing

So three winters ago, I decided to see if I could possibly get back into cross country skiing without buggering my knees up too much. For most of that first winter, I skied at Cumming Nature Center, which is about the nearest place that had rental equipment. I had just come off a really great year of kayak racing, except for the hip pain that was making it increasingly untenable to keep paddling, and I pretty much did no paddling after August except for the Long Lake and Seneca Monster races.

So I was still pretty fit when I took up skiing, and I really enjoyed skiing around Cumming which had a great network of trails and a variety of conditions. Also their rental equipment was pretty great. The only drawback was the driving distance. I usually arrived at Cumming just as the sitting pain was becoming unbearable. On the way home I’d have to stop at least once and walk around and stretch a bit to alleviate the hip pain.

After four or five times renting, I decided to buy some equipment, a mixture of stuff bought on-line and my friend Dan’s old skis. Dan introduced me to something called “Start Tape”, that was like a 1-wax system that you applied like a tape to the wax zone of your skis. I don’t know if it’s because the wax pockets are so much better engineered that when i was skiing in the 70s and 80s or just that my expectations were lower, but I’ve continued to use the Start Tape.

Buying also meant I could ski closer to home at Durand-Eastman park, which had a mixture of groomed trails and skied in trails, and wasn’t a bad place to ski as long as the weather held. I still went back to Cumming and a few times to Bristol when snow was scarce on the ground because Bristol makes snow. It’s only a 1km or so loop, but it’s consistent snow when everybody else is ice and puddles. And when the snow is good, they have an additional loop that’s about 1.8km.

Only drawback of Bristol is that most of their customer base appears to be skate skiers, so they’re not very consistent about putting in grooves. Due to the knee problems that caused me to quit skiing the first time in the 1980s, I don’t do skate skiing any more, and I really want those grooves.

By the end of that first winter, I was tolerating the length of the drive better, and I was skiing as much as 9 or 10 kilometers at a time. A far cry from when I was training for the Canadian Ski Marathon and loppers, but I sure remembered why back when I was doing everything (skiing, orienteering, backpacking, canoeing, etc), cross country skiing was my favourite. If you don’t believe me, look at my domain name,

Second winter came along, and this time I did almost no paddling during the summer because of the hip pain problems. And it turned out to be a complete wipe-out for snow – the only place I skied was at Bristol, around and around that 1km loop. I think I made it up to 7 or 8 kilometers at a time. The driving wasn’t bothering me as much, and I’d often go 3 times a week. Still felt great to ski. I often felt like I was slower than the slowest skate skier, but faster than the fastest other classic skier. I took my drone a few times to get footage of myself skiing using “Follow Me” mode which was pretty cool.

It’s now the third winter. I did get out a very few times in the kayak this summer, but only for an hour or so each time. But the fitness is way, way worse this year. Most of the skiing has been at Bristol, because we haven’t had much good snow. Cumming hasn’t opened for more than a day here or there, but not fully groomed, and I managed Durand once before it all melted away. And I’m slow, just horribly horribly slow. I get one decent loop which takes about 1.5 times as long as it took me two years ago, and then the rest of it is ski for a bit, catch my breath for a bit. I’m up to 3 loops and a bit of this out and back trail called Halle-Bopp. Maybe 4 kilometers total. It’s sad. But if the winter lasts a bit longer, maybe I can add another loop or two by the end.

Except I’ve got a problem. I feel like I shouldn’t even write about this in public, because people are going to tell me to stop skiing. The problem is that my knees are acting up. My right knee especially. For a day or so after I ski, I get a terrible stabbing pain when walking up and down stairs, and sometimes even when walking on the flat. I’ve been grinning and bearing it mostly because I don’t want to give up skiing, but I’m extremely concerned.

Update on Droning

So evidently I forgot to update after So this is happening. Since that time, my DBA got rejected because the county clerk thought that “RochDrone” was too close to an existing DBA for “Rochester Drone”. I couldn’t find anything about this “Rochester Drone” company, except an unclaimed listing on that pointed to a domain that doesn’t exist.

Interestingly the county clerk didn’t follow the instructions from the letter from LegalZoom that said to return it to them in the self addressed stamped envelope, and instead sent it to me. I sent it on to LegalZoom, but it’s just as well that they did send it to me, because otherwise I would have had no clue what was going on. I waited a few weeks for LegalZoom to get back to me with my next steps, but eventually I got tired of waiting and so I went down to the clerks office and registered a different name, FlyerCity Drone. I of course also registered the new domain and with help from Bob Raymonda, I got the new site up and running.

Registering a DBA in person is dead easy, and only costs $33 and only takes a few minutes. If I’d known how easy it was, I never would have bothered with LegalZoom. I’m certainly not going to use them again.

About 2 or 3 weeks after I’d done with that, I finally got an email from LegalZoom, which they described as their final attempt to contact me. Except it was also the first time they’d tried to contact me since the last time they sent me a couple of forms to get notarized. I wrote them back and said in view of the fact that they never contacted me for over a month, I had done the registration without them, and I would like a refund of the registration fee, since I knew the county clerk had returned it to them. They refused. Bastards.

Meanwhile, I bought a second drone – this time an Air 3. The Air 3 is a much larger and more capable than my Mini 3 Pro. The major features are a second semi-zoom camera, and omni-directional obstacle detection (as opposed to front, back and downwards only). I’m looking forward to finding out all the things I can do with it.

Finally got it!

So I already wrote about my first attempt to do “Active Track” with my drone at Bristol Mountain Nearly lost my drone today. My second attempt got abandoned because after I launched the drone and was trying to set up the video when a gust of wind took it and drove it into the bushes. The third time I think I forgot to start the video recording. The fourth time, I bought a screen shade / screen protector so I could see the screen better, but I forgot about the big video start/stop button on the top of the controller, so it stopped recording as soon as I tucked it into my jacket, and started recording again when I took it out at the end.

But this time, it all came together. I decided not to tuck the controller into my jacket, and just let it pendulum around in front of me. That was mostly a factor on the big climb at the turn-around on the Hale-Bopp train. But I checked that it was still recording a couple of times, and it seemed to be recording fine.

Bristol Drone Video

Ok, there’s one weird thing – at one point it gets very close to a small branch, I can’t tell if it touched it or not, but the video got strange and wobbly. About 3 minutes later, it gets close to another branch. This time, it really doesn’t look like it touches, but the wobbliness clears up. I wonder if the gimbal is a bit frozen and it’s just bouncing around. I’ll have to look to see if there’s anything on the logs.

Oh, and a second weird thing – on the second loop around, the drone hits that very same branch and crashes. Maybe it was harder to see because the snow got knocked off the first time, but I don’t know. When I tried to relaunch it, it first wouldn’t climb, and then when I tried to land it, it suddenly took off upwards and hit a branch way above me and crashed again. I figured there must be some snow in one of the motors or something so I put it away..