Forget something at home when traveling? PrimeNow from Amazon to the rescue

Recently I attended a conference in Las Vegas. On the first morning of the conference, I discovered that I forgot my belt. At first I looked for a Jos A Bank store that I could have used Uber to get to and from my hotel, then I thought that maybe I could find one in a local shop in the many stores in the ‘malls’ of the casinos, and finally it dawned on me that I could use PrimeNow from Amazon. I opened the application, searched for belts, found one that I liked, and added it to my cart. In this instance the belt was $19.99 which did not meet the $20 requirement, no problem I thought, so I added some gum 🙂

I did all of this at 8am and my order was scheduled for delivery to the hotel between 10am and noon. I left comments for the driver to call me when he was within 20 minutes of a hotel and we met in the main entrance where he handed me a paper bad and drove off. I had my belt at 10:30am and it turned out to cost a lot less than traveling somewhere to get one or over paying in the ‘malls’ of Vegas.

Thanks Amazon!!

2014 Chicagoland Speedway NASCAR weekend

In September Dan, Sean, and I went to Chicagoland speedway for a very fun weekend of camping, racing, and making friends. We lucked out and won a Sprint VIP experience which allowed us into the pits and saw both cars and drivers up close. It was a really good time!

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Hanging out with Miss Sprint Cup

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In the pits

Our camping buddies – we ‘adopted’ a college track team that was tenting between us and our neighbors.

It got a little crazy when we wheeled our fire pit into the street and people just started gathering 🙂

ProPride 3P Hitch Review

Background

We purchased our Palomino SolAire 317BHSK and a Ford F-150 last year. When talking with the camper dealership they told me with complete confidence that the Equal-i-zer 4 point hitch would be the perfect solution for my combo of truck and camper. I found out very quickly in the six trips that we were able to take before putting the camper in storage for the winter that the Equal-i-zer hitch was not adequate for pulling a 35′ travel trailer in cross winds.

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Justification

After sharing my experiences on a couple of the forums that I frequent of being shoved around and fish tailing on the road by random wind gusts, I was quickly directed to the ProPride 3P product. First, I was a bit hesitant to spend the money on this hitch but I could not find a single review that was negative or suggested that this product would not do what it says. There were many ProPride reviews suggesting that existing users would not pull without one. Second, the resale market on these hitches was very encouraging. I found a ‘deal’ on Craigslist for one that was for sale and it was gone before I was able to reach the seller. Third, when I spoke with Sean from ProPride. Sean was very patient and answered all of my questions and was not pushy at all. Finally, the safety is very important for my family and others that we are sharing the road with.

We had a trip planned for Yellowstone in July and I knew that I could not pull for that long of a trip with our existing hitch. I called Sean and placed my order and I had the hitch in about a week. It was shipped in multiple boxes and to my wife’s frustration, it was shipped while I was out of town and she had the pleasure of moving the heavy boxes into the garage 🙂

Installation

I prepared for the installation by reviewing the installation manual a few times. Once I started the install, it went very well. The longest task that I had to tackle was getting the tank tray to set on the frame. I had to cut around the U bolts to get this to work.

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The total time from beginning to end was only about 3 hours with the help of a friend. I would say that we were taking our time and double checking things many times. Since installing the hitch I have called Sean a couple of times with some questions. He is always kind and quick to respond.

Towing Experience

We made many trips this summer including the Yellowstone trip which was about 2,300 miles of towing for just that trip. I now tow with complete confidence, there is no more white knuckle driving that I was experiencing with the previous hitch which made for a much more relaxing time.

I will share that when I first pulled with the hitch I made my test pull on a pretty windy day and was getting pushed by the wind. To be clear and help manage expectations, this hitch will not put you on rails on the road. It will however prevent any affects to your steering on the road. The result is that the camper and truck are pushed in parallel when wind strikes the side of your truck and camper. The point is that the ProPride hitch does not allow the tail to wag the dog which results in a much safer ride.

As an added bonus, the hitching and unhitching process is much more smooth than dealing with greasy weight distribution bars that you have to wrench up. Also, the ProPride hitch reverses without issues where previously I had to drop the weight distribution bars on the Equal-i-zer hitch.

Conclusion
I could not be happier with the decision to purchase the ProPride hitch. The installation and support from Sean was great and the towing experience is so much better! My friend that helped me install my hitch also purchased bought one and has been equally as happy with his purchase.

Feel free to ask questions, I am happy to answer them.

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Air Lift 5000 Ultimate & Load Controller Review

Problem

Our F-150 has squatted in the rear end since we started pulling our travel trailer. Even when using either the Equalizer 4 Point or ProPride 3P weight distribution hitches I wanted the front end to sit a little lower. I never felt that the front end was overly light but I knew that the truck could sit more evenly.

Prior to install with trailer picture

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Solution

To solve this issue I decided to first purchase the Air Lift 5000 Ultimate (88200) and try it out. Air Lift has a guarantee with their products so I really had nothing to lose. I decided on the 5000 Ultimate version over the other two available models for my truck. The smaller model I thought was not strong enough for what I wanted and the regular 5000 model did not have a jounce bumper which I feel is needed on the F-150 because the install calls for removing the factory bumper.

Air Bag Installation

I started the installation of the airbags by jacking up the truck and removing the tires. After having a problem removing one of the tires and having some missing parts (grr) I decided to try without removing the tires from under the truck. I put the air valves to fill the bags though the lower license plate holes which has a clean look. I was able to perform a 24 hour pressure test without any issues. The install was easily done from underneath the truck and took me about three hours.

Passenger and driver side installs

Valves in license plate

Decision on the compressor

The install of the air bags had two separate air valves which can create an uneven fill between the two sides. Also, I may not always be in a place with a air compressor available. I could have gotten by with carrying a remote tank with us when pulling but the on board compressor is very convenient.

I selected the Air Lift Load Controller Single Heavy Duty Compressor (25854). I felt that this model had a reasonable cost and had the heavy duty compressor which could be exposed to the elements versus the standard duty compressor which I understood should be installed inside the cab.

Compressor Installation

After reviewing options for locating the gauge, connecting power, and routing the wires and air tubes I started the installation which took about 4 hours. I took my time and double and triple checked many points of the installation. I located the compressor under the truck bed in the center. The pressure gauge and compressor controller is located on the left side of the driver side dash.

Gauge location

Compressor location

Post install picture with trailer

For comparison – Prior to install picture with trailer

Conclusion

The air bags @ 0 PSI with no trailer weight versus 60 PSI with the trailer weight results in no height change in the rear and only a 1/4″ raise on the front with trailer weight. Prior to having the air bags installed, I was down multiple inches in the rear and 1″ high on the front.

I am very happy with the products that Air Lift offers. I was a bit frustrated with the missing parts but Air Lift quickly sent them out after a phone call. The truck is much more level and I no longer feel that I am leaning back in a recliner when pulling. I have some more pulling to do to be sure but my first experience with wind while pulling with the bags has felt like I am not pushed as much with wind or tractor trailers passing. I would recommend these products to anyone.

A review of the Fitbit Flex and Aria scale

I recently had the opportunity to become familiar with the Fitbit product line through a work project and decided to take advantage and give the product a try.

The Fitbit product

The basis of the Fitbit product is a pedometer that tracks steps and other functions such as counting the amount of stairs climbed, vibrating alarms, and sleep tracking.

Fitbit comparisons

The first Fitbit that I used was the Fitbit Zip. This is their least expensive model and sells for about $60. The Zip tracks steps and some other items like the time, calories burned, etc. From the reviews that I read on Amazon, it seemed that many people liked the Fitbit One and Flex models which are newer and offer some new features including sleep tracking.

flexI did some research on the One and the Flex and they both have comparable features. I decided to purchase the Flex because it is waterproof, it goes on your wrist like a watch, and has a silent alarm. I was worried that I would lose the One which many people complained about in the reviews that I read on Amazon. The largest complaint about the Flex was that it was not as accurate as the One or Zip and it does not count stairs climbed like the One.

I have since compared the Flex with the Zip to gauge the accuracy of the Flex. Over the course of three days I found that out of an average of over 10,000 steps in a single day that the Flex was only 284 steps short of the count of the Zip. I will take the difference of 2.84% for the ability to hopefully not lose the Flex and the ability for it to get wet. The alarm is a nice feature for a bonus.

Aria Scale

The next item that I decided to purchase from Fitbit was their Aria product which is a weight scale that syncs with the Fitbit.com site through your Wi-Fi connection. Not only does it capture the weight of its users, it can also gather BMI information. The Aria is not limited to a single user, it is intelligent enough to recognize up to eight different people.

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Here is and example of the weight graph in the Fitbit.com site. It supplies more detail and is nice to have for reference. The first spike on the left was the result of a week at the cabin in the summer 🙂

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The combination of the Flex and Aria scale

With both the Flex and Aria, the Fitbit.com site becomes very informative. I can track my weight history, my activity, calorie counts, calorie burn, water intake, and food intake. Fitbit has opened up an API layer to allow other products and services to be synced with Fitbit.com. I can use the large food database of MyFitnessPal and the tracking of bike rides with Endomondo to input into my calories consumed and burned. The Fitbit.com site then becomes a nice ‘hub’ for all of your activities and inputs.

The positive effect of using a Fitbit

Being more aware of my activity levels has been motivating. When I am close to 10,000 steps I want to meet or exceed my goal. When I am really light on step counts, I want to get something logged for the day. When I take a walk to get the full 10,000 steps I will go out of my way to make sure that I will have reached my goal by the time I am home. When I travel, I am on the treadmill until my goal is hit.

Stepping on the Aria scale every morning has been rewarding to see the progress of my weight loss. It also allows me to watch my weight. If I am trending up then I know that I need to take it easy for a couple of days.

I have been working on losing weight since late 2012 and was generally aware of where I was but had no record or reference. Recently, I asked my doctor to provide some weight history and he was able to print a graph. Now I can produce this information myself as shown above.

The social aspect

friendsrankingPart of the benefit of having others with Fitbit products around you is the benefit of the social integration of the Fitbit.com site. On the site, I can check my progress compared to my friends over the last seven days and I get a weekly email with my personal progress of many metrics along with where I stand with my friends. As you can see below, I am not doing very well in the winter time…

 

Conclusion

Being a geek I was drawn to the technology behind the Fitbit product. The integration that they offer with other sites and services is a good indication to me that they are going down the right path with a somewhat ‘open’ platform that recognizes the strength of other services.

Carolyn and I have both use the Flex model and have seen an explosion of usage at work and with friends over the last nine months. The Fitbit product line has been a positive influence on our lives by encouragement and awareness of activity and other health related metrics. I am a big fan!

Feed my starving children

A couple of weeks ago we had a team gathering at Feed My Starving Children. The team had a lot of fun and the competitive juices began flowing between the assembly tables that Team Delta was working.

By the end of our shift we were proud to produce 72 boxes out of a total of 42 people that were volunteering (including people from Target and other local companies). The ‘normal’ number of boxes is one per person so we crushed the 1:1 ratio by 1.7:1 🙂

Lots of fun!!

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A review of canvas prints from Walmart

I ordered a canvas from Walmart for Carolyn for Mother’s Day this year. They had their 16×20 framed print ‘rolled back’ for only $30 with same day pickup. Carolyn wanted some flower pictures that we took from Hawaii and so she picked the picture below which has some great contrast. When I picked up the print I was very happy to see the quality of the print and the ‘pop’ of the colors. I even received an inquiry as to where the picture was taken and a compliment on the picture 🙂 The only little thing that bothered me was that the canvas was not wrapped to the back of the frame as I have seen in the past with other purchases.

I will order again from Walmart in the future and am very happy with our purchase. Walmart is offering good quality at a reasonable price.

The canvas print – my phone is not doing the colors justice
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Original picture
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The back of the canvas – Notice that the canvas material is not wrapped around the back of the frame
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