The new Camper and truck

For about a year, I have been thinking about getting some kind of a travel trailer and doing some traveling. After our back-to-back trips to Florida and Arizona last summer, we really had such a good time that we wanted to do more, but hotels add up quickly when you are in them any length of time.

My wife and I have toyed with this idea and went to RV shows and saw all they have to offer, from micro-sized trailers up to monster RVs. Finding what fit our needs and that we could still afford was a challenge.


A-Liner, not what I got.

Initially, we thought that a conventional travel trailer in the 20-25 foot range would be what we wanted. I read up on all the amenities and hook ups and pitfalls they offered. They are not a bad choice and maybe we will graduate into one down the road. Until then, I thought maybe I could live with something smaller. I started looking at A-frame hard-sided pop-up trailers. What they are is like a pop-up tent trailer with hard sides.

The leader in the category, is made by a company called A-Liner. They make these trailers in a factory in western Pennsylvania. I found a lot of useful information about them and a dedicated following for them online. A couple of people have entire Youtube channels devoted to them and I was able to learn a lot from them.

But they are not the only company that makes them. The a-frame design has been around a long time and several companies make them, all with their own set of customizations. Another company called Chalet makes very similar models out in the Pacific Northwest, which, incidentally, is where the A-Liner company originated. They are popular, noted for high quality and are found predominantly in the west. Read more ›

Posted in Family

Pixel Poles and Tindie

circuit board

Prototype 2 circuit board

I have had a great time making and selling my Pixel Pole product on Tindie. I thought I’d share a few experiences along the way.

First of all, this whole idea came about as I was trying to find a fancy light display for our robotics team. I ordered a meter of RGBW NeoPixels and built up a shield for an Arduino Uno to work with them. I’m still using it for program development.

But what’s a Pixel Pole? Well, it’s a strip of NeoPixels and an Arduino circuit to run them. It runs off a battery and is intended to be attached to a bicycle flag pole for enhanced visibility. It’s a niche market, but I’m a part of the niche, so I had no problem getting the word out about them.

I have an entire page about the ins and outs of the battery packs here.

In fact, I made the first one for myself and mentioned it on Facebook in the Recumbent Trikes Group. Before I knew it, I had people asking how they could get one. Eventually, I decided to look into making a few. I went out on a limb and started ordering parts. I eventually looked into getting a PC board made and found a place that did inexpensive 3-board runs as long as they were a certain size. I found I could fit my design onto that size board five times, so I could cut them up and get 15 boards. Read more ›

Posted in Cycling, Tech Stuff

Battery packs for the Pixel Pole

This page is about information on what battery packs can be used with the Pixel Pole LED lights.

The Pixel Pole was designed to work with the common 8.4 volt DC Lithium Ion rechargeable battery packs that are available for powering bicycle lights. While usually meant for headlights, they provide a good voltage and plenty of capacity for the LED strips.

The Pixel Pole can be powered by as low as around 5v. The Arduino module as well as the LEDs run at 5v. In fact, I have a 5v regulator inside the module to supply power for the LEDs. I have tried it using a standard USB battery power booster and I know one purchaser of it intends to use it that way. It probably can be powered by a 12v nominal source, but I wouldn’t go too much higher. Extra voltage is wasted as it is converted down to a lower level.

With that range of options, I chose the 8.4v pack because:

  • I had several and have used them for headlights for several years.
  • They have a velcro strap and case that is very convenient to mount on a bike.
  • They have a good connector that is watertight.
  • They are rechargeable, not disposable.
  • They give good runtimes.

I wanted to be able to provide a complete package to those buying the Pixel Pole, but logistics get in the way. The first casualty was the flag pole. The cost to provide one flag pole was not insurmountable, but the shipping and packaging was. Since you can get one at almost any bike shop or Wal Mart, I left that up to the end user. Most people already have a flag pole anyway.

The battery packs were a different animal, though. To get a good price on the packs and chargers, I ordered them from China. The shipping ended up being equal to the cost of the parts.  You can order one item and they’ll give you free shipping, but order 15 and you foot the bill. Lesson learned.

And that lesson is, even though they might cost more domestically, you’ll save in shipping and shipping time, if you stick to home.

Here’s some examples of these battery packs I found easily by searching Amazon:

Here’s your basic battery pack and charger for $20 bucks. Looks like a nice nylon case with two straps.

When you just need the guts to replace some worn-out cells, this is a solution. About $6.50 with shipping. You can use your old case and charger.

If you need a spare charger, this is only $8.

Need more capacity to last longer, or maybe you want to use one battery for a headlight and your Pixel Pole, about $16.

A better quality battery with a much more waterproof casing. I use these myself. About $28.

An almost identical one for $20.

Here’s the cable you’ll need to power two lights from one battery. $10.

 Here’s a new idea. This pack will power your light and your cell phone at the same time. $26.

You’ll still need the AC charger, though. It doesn’t charge by USB.

   For $14 you can get a holder that you can put individual 18650 batteries into. Batteries are additional.

Standard batteries in many tactical flashlights, there are many choices available. This example is $13 for two.

Posted in Cycling, Tech Stuff

Spam is best fried…

I just cleared out a bunch of comments that were being held for moderation. The spam filters I have on this site work pretty well. Nothing gets through them. Unfortunately, legitimate comments from first-time commenters are almost always held for review.

Most of the spam comments are just link spam. Someone, probably a bot, posts comment filled with links to other sites. They do this so that they will get better ranking in search engines because it looks like a lot of sites link to them. Easy to stop.

The ones I laugh at the most, though, are the ones that sound like a sincere message from someone who want to help make my site better and get better placement in search engines. The tip off that they haven’t even looked at my site is they always talk about improving my site to make more money. Ha. Money is the last thing on my mind here. But they think that I need their service to improve my SEO – or Search Engine Optimization.

I’m convinced that SEO actually means SnakE Oil.


Posted in Rants, Website