Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Electronic Equipment Consolidation--Too Many Devices!?

Slowly I keep plugging along, buying the electronics I need at the moment, but now that I'm doing more traveling on Amtrak with my folding bike, and more bicycle camping, maybe it's time to consolidate my devices.

Here are the devices I have at this time:
  • Kindle eReader
  • Canon movie/still camera
  • Tracfone (buy minutes of phone time)
  • HP mini computer
  • Verizon MiFi wireless 
  • Garmin Edge Touring GPS
And, of course, all these come with cords and chargers.

All these devices fit my needs.
  • I enjoy the Kindle's E Ink screen for its ease of reading.
  • My Canon FS10 suit me well with its video/still photo capabilities. I like the lens clarity.
  • The Tracfone is minimal. I mainly use it for check-in's with the family.
  • A mini-computer fits a pannier easily and is fairly small.
  • The MiFi allows me access to the internet while on the go.
  • The Garmin accepts my custom routes, is good for through-town guidance in strange cities, and provides directions to stores and points of interest.
I believe I can consolidate this to 3 items:
  • an Apple iPhone
  • a Galaxy 7" screen tablet.
  • retro pencil and paper journal
On the upside, this is quite a reduction of weight and equipment. I could even minimize more and just go with the iPhone. (By the way, the brand specificity is because my wife has an iPhone; otherwise, I could also go with Android, which my son uses.) Just an iPhone would be quite a bit of minimizing. However, on Amtrak, I think I'd enjoy movies more on the 7" pad, and reading eBooks on that size screen would be a basically book-sized screen. The pencil-and-paper journal? I could use the touch-screen pad or phone approach, but I think I'd be faster with a pencil. Showing my age, I suppose.

On the downside, there will be a loss of capabilities. Generally speaking, each of the devices can fit my specific needs just a touch better--bigger screen, more options, a little faster. I do not think, though, that the "touch better" warrants all the clutter and weight. I might add the video camera to the mix if I had a specific project in mind and wanted an external microphone. I might find that not necessary, though, as I explore and learn the possibilities of the new devices. The main downside, of course, is the monthly fee for the phone. My Tracfone costs me about $7 a month for the minutes I buy. For the MiFi, though, I usually spend $60 four times a year.

I'm also realizing that people who own smartphones really don't put them in the "optional" category. The smartphone is placed in the "necessary utilities" category--an information necessity. Water, electricity, and information. The main reason I bought the Tracfone was for emergencies, but that little hand-held device can be a lot more.

The website reveals quite a range of possibilities. Right now I'm mostly focused on keeping weight down. I'm not on a world expedition, and my panniers are not my permanent home.

Any suggestions or experiences to relate? I'm still in the speculating stage.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Bike Overnighter (S24O) to Jefferson County Park

I left my house at 4:30 PM, the Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend, figuring that I'd beat the rush. Well, that was partially true. I found a campsite, but most were already taken.

As a guy with a 5th-wheeler across the way explained, "Some folks pay for a space starting on Monday, even though they show up on Friday. I got here Wednesday this year, and my usual spot was already taken."

So much for my forward-thinking plan! I did find a spot, though. The ride along the loop trail was fun, all loaded up with my panniers and drybag. I saw a neighbor walking his dog and gave a nonchalant nod.

The ride through the park set the mood. The trees shaded the lime chip trail, and the immediate mood was "outdoors and away from the bustle." That was somewhat dampened when I reached the campsite, already 75%  filled with RV's. I soldiered on, though, setting up my one-person tent, my bike leaning against the campground table. I wondered if some RV would pull in and tell me my little tent and bike didn't really count so hit the road.

I did get some looks from the folks who sat watching me in their lawn chairs beneath awnings extended from their 5th-wheel trailers. One guy came over and asked if I was from town.

"Yes," I said. "I'm just having fun and checking out how the equipment works."

"Looks to me like you could just take off with that rig."

"That's the idea."

Equipment Tests
  • Tent: My little $50 tent worked fine. Not much room in the outer vestibule for equipment . . . and not much room inside, either! One of those weight vs size things. For $50, I'm careful with this item. Not sure how it will hold up.
  • Toaks titanium cooking pot: It has a lid, handles, and is 550ml, a touch less than 2 cups volume. Nice for quickly heating water. Cools quickly so can be used as a mug. A touch small for real cooking.
  • Emberlit wood stove: Works great. Focuses heat upward and I just used sticks/twigs from the trees around. It could be a challenge on a wet day! Very light, packs flat. I brought along lint from the clothes dryer and a fire starter cube that I shaved pieces from as the fire base.
  • Topeak bike rack: My panniers mounted well, and the lower mount gave me room on top for the drybag. Also allows for sliding on the Topeak top bag for day rides (or an Amtrak journey).
I packed up the next morning and was only 10 minutes late to work. I would have easily made it on time, but I was playing with my stove, making hot tea, and I waited longer than I needed for the tent to dry.

I was pedaling home, though, and had the thought, "Maybe I should just ride straight to work and show up early." I opted for home, a quick shower, and work clothes, though.

A real shame, actually. My loaded bike leaning against my desk. . . The faint smell of woodsmoke in the air. . .  Tee shirt and black baggy bike shorts. . . It would have been a hoot!

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved