Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Clickfree Automatic Backup Transformer SE = Awesome!

I was at Fred Meyer on the weekend and bought the Clickfree Automatic Backup Transformer SE. It's a small USB device that allows you to convert any external hard drive (or any iPod/iPhone) into a Clickfree drive. I bought it not so much for the backup function, but mostly for the "Bonus Feature" listed on the back of the package that says "Automatically copy the music from any iPod to your computer." I thought that this would be very handy in case the music on my desktop was ever lost. I'm so happy with the way that this worked that I had to write a review.

When I first plugged the Clickfree into my computer, the program opened up and asked me to plug in the hard drive or iPod. However, when I did that, the software did not respond. I went to the Clickfree website for customer support and they had a page that showed very clearly how to update the Clickfree Transformer to the latest version. Once I updated to the latest version, I started over and everything went very smoothly....

When you connect your iPod to the Clickfree Transformer, the program starts automatically. There's a 30-second countdown timer that shows to allow you to choose options before it starts to back-up your data. One of the options on the screen is to copy music from your iPod. When you choose that option, you are given a choice of copying All Music or selecting only the playlists that you want. You can also select the directory on your computer where you want it to be copied to.

The most impressive thing is that it copies the songs and playlists and adds it to your iTunes Library automatically. There is no extra work that you need to do. I know they advertised it as being easy, but I didn't believe that it would be that easy!

The fact that I was able to buy the Clickfree Transformer SE for only $10 makes it extra sweet. I saw it for sale at that price earlier in the summer and I think that Fred Meyer is trying to get rid of old stock. There were only a couple of them left on the shelf on the weekend, but I'm surprised that they weren't all snapped up sooner.

Monday, November 28, 2011

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - 39803 km - Silvania Silverstar Headlamp Bulb

From 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali
The driver-side headlamp on our GMC Yukon XL Denali burnt out on the weekend. It's such a pet peeve of mine seeing cars with only one light that I went out and bought a pair of Silvania Silverstar bulbs and installed them as soon as I could. However, I also had to mutter under my breath at the GM designers who made the simple car maintenance task of changing a light bulb such a pain in the neck. Basically, on the Yukon you need to loosen the wheel liners, grille and front bumper in order to get access to the headlamps. But there was no way I was going to pay the dealership to change a light bulb for me.

I originally wanted to buy Silverstar Ultra bulbs which are supposed to be 50% brighter than stock bulbs but Canadian Tire didn't have the right size (H13/9008) in stock. I had to settle for the regular Silverstars which were $10 cheaper but only 30% brighter. My initial impression of the Silverstar bulbs is that they are definitely an improvement over stock. After being used to the European-spec HID headlamps in my 1999 VW Passat and the stock HID headlamps in my 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, I never liked the quality of the lighting in the Denali at all. The Silverstar bulbs give a noticeably whiter light without any hint of blue common in cheap aftermarket bulbs. The biggest problem with high performance halogen bulbs is that they have a much shorter lifespan. Silvania states on the package itself that they are expected to last only 1/4 the life of a stock bulb. However, I will gladly pay for better performance even if it becomes an annual cost. I also disabled the DRL to see if that will help with how much used I get out of these Silverstar bulbs. They do come with a 1 year warranty. Besides, now that I've changed the headlight bulb on the Denali once, it will be much easier--and less time consuming--the next time....

And the next time will definitely be sooner than later because the marker light in the driver-side headlamp is also burnt out and I'll need to buy a new wedge bulb to replace it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sewer Solution



We were camping in our Keystone Premier 31BHPR one weekend when our neighbors in the next site mentioned that they had something called The Sewer Solution. The way they described the way it worked interested me, so we decided to buy one for ourselves while we were in Orgeon to save having to pay sales tax. I have to say, I totally love the system. It definitely makes dumping our tanks a much nicer experience....


From Bullet Mods and Accessories
The Sewer Solution works by using water pressure to force waste down through the narrow hose. That means you need to run an extra water line to the sewer valves. Because we always stay at campgrounds with full hook-ups, that's never a problem for us.

From Bullet Mods and Accessories

From Bullet Mods and Accessories

After you turn on the water jet, you open the valve and the waste gets pushed into the campground sewer system. When the black tank is empty, close the valve and open the grey tank. After it's all empty, what remains running through the hose is fresh water. You never have to worry about drips or bad smells. It's very much like dumping and rinsing all in one step. It makes one of the sometimes unpleasant tasks of RVing much, much cleaner. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

VW R32: Wash and Wax

Last weekend I washed and waxed my R32 using Einszett Glanz Wax. It doesn't last as long as sealants, but I like the results and it's easy to apply. I've been using Einszett for several years, now. This was actually the 2nd wax of 2011. I'd polished (Einszett Metallic Polish) and waxed only a couple weeks earlier, but for various reasons (okay, only one) I'd felt like waxing sooner than originally planned.

Click below for more pictures.




Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vancouver International Auto Show 2011

I visited the Vancouver International Auto Show earlier this week on opening day and got a chance to get up close and personal with a lot of amazing vehicles.

Continuing my habit of only carrying my cellphone, I took as many pictures as I could while the battery lasted. When that died, I took out my iPod and continued taking shots:o) All the pictures have been edited on the iPod (using only free apps because I'm cheap) and while the editing process is slow, you can see the set as it grows here:

Flickr: Vancouver International Auto Show

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Break Weekend #1



Debriefing Notes: The campground was much busier this time with neighbors all along the row with us. It was nice to have other children for our kids to play with. When we arrived the power tongue jack on our Keystone Premier 31BHPR was not working. I suspect that it might be a loose ground like it was before. I'll fiddle with it more our next trip. Didn't have the manual crank with me so I just left the trailer 1" nose up. It wasn't an issue sleeping inside.

Overnight temperatures were around 5 C. Bought a couple of vent opening pillows to put up at night to reduce the amount of heat loss through the ceiling in the evenings. Tried it Saturday night and the furnace seemed to run less constantly. Need to find some way to warm the 16 oz propane bottle for our table-top patio heater. With these cold temperatures, the bottle ices up quite quickly and pressure drops so much that the heater turns off even when there's still propane left. Keeping the bottle warm would allow more efficient use of the propane. Most commercial products I've seen so far are for 20 lb tanks. At least temperatures are warm enough now so no more winterizing required at the end of our stay. Yay!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Road Trip 2010: Low Octane


We averaged about two gas stops per day on our road trip in the GMC Yukon XL Denali and Keystone Premier 31BHPR. We did one stop in the morning and one in the afternoon. A full tank cost just under $70 depending on where we were in the country. I took this picture while we were in Montana because they don't have such low (85.5) octane fuel where I live. It's strange to me because no vehicle I've ever seen before required anything LESS than 87 octane for optimum performance....

Even with fuel in Blaine, WA now costing nearly a dollar MORE per gallon than it did last summer, it's still cheaper than it is in Canada so traveling in the US always saves us money.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Road Trip Day 3: Bozeman, MT



Our stop for the night on day 3 of our 2010 Road Trip was Bozeman, MT. In the late afternoon, we could see dark clouds on the horizon and we followed the outskirts of a heavy thunderstorm eastward on the I-90. The timing couldn't have been better because when we arrived in Bozeman, the clouds parted and the sun came out. We stopped at the Walmart to pick up some food and supplies (including a disposable water filter for our Keystone Premier 31BHPR) and saw that the thunderstorm had left behind some flooded streets.

We stayed at Bear Canyon Campground just outside of town. We had pull-through site #4 with water, electricity, and sewer. No fire pit. The campground was pretty and the location convenient (just off the I-90) but the pull-through sites, while long, were very narrow. With a playground for the kids and an inviting pool (which we arrived too late to use), it was good for passing through on a one night stay but not for anything longer because the neighbors were too close for comfort. There was a picnic table at each site, but not much room for walking around or setting up anything else.



Montana truly is Big Sky Country and we were treated to a beautiful sunset that I'm sorry to say was hard to capture with a cell phone camera. I guess you really have to be there to experience it! It was the first of several memorable Montana sunsets during this trip.



Click the link below to see a couple more pictures of our pull-through site....






Road Trip Day 3: I-90 East

Day 3 of our 2010 Road Trip in our GMC Yukon XL Denali and Keystone Premier 31BHPR travel trailer had us traveling from Spokane, WA to Bozeman, MT, and according to Google Maps, covering a total distance of 645 km (400 miles) with an estimated 6 hours of driving. To tell the truth, this leg of the trip was the one that I was most concerned about because we were passing through the Rockies and over the Continental Divide with an elevation of 6393 feet. I've driven this route several times already in a passenger vehicle but never while pulling a trailer. I didn't know how the Denali would handle pulling the Keystone's 7600 lb GVWR for extended climbs.

Our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali has a 6.2L engine with 380 HP @ 5500 rpm and 417 lb-ft torque @ 4400 rpm. The transmission is a 6-speed automatic with full-time AWD and it's never had any problems keeping up with traffic when pulling a travel trailer. I'm happy to say that it was no different in the high mountain passes. Near the top, the engine was working hard for sure, but I was quite impressed with its ability to climb the steep grades and maintain a safe speed. All of my concerns rapidly disappeared, like the accumulating miles behind us. I also have to say that the ProPride hitch also played a large role in my relaxation and peace of mind because despite the trailer's 35' length, the entire setup handled as steady and solid as a locomotive through all the winding mountain roads.

The picture below shows us stopped for lunch at a rest area east of Superior, MT.



Our afternoon fuel stop was in Deer Lodge, MT. Although we were only passing through eastbound, on our return back we planned to stay a night at a local campground. Little did we know that it would end up being much longer than that!



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Road Trip Day 2: Spokane, WA


We arrived in Spokane, WA, the final destination after our first full day on the road, shortly after 16:00. At Trailer Inns RV Park, the sites were the shortest we encountered during our entire road trip. The total length of our GMC Yukon XL Denali and Keystone Premier 31BHPR travel trailer is about 55' long (the ProPride 3P hitch adds an extra foot), longer than the available pull-through sites, but the manager was friendly and helpful in guiding us into our spot. This is an urban RV park but there was a nice playground for the kids to play while we setup for the night.

One item of RV gear we discovered that we needed was a water filter. Living in Metro Vancouver, we were not used to the hard water we found in Spokane and luckily we had enough fresh water in our tank to last the evening. I picked up a disposable water filter at our next Walmart stop and it worked well for the rest of the trip.


When we pulled in to our site, our Keystone Premier attracted attention and questions from fellow RVers right away...
...a trend that continues even now each weekend we're out RVing. The Premier's full-body paint definitely makes a difference, but the outside kitchen is what most people want to see and ask questions about. It was fun chatting with people across the country about how we used the setup with the outdoor grill and sink. Most appreciated the fridge and many were surprised to see the swing-out TV. Although the outdoor kitchen was not a selling point for us when we bought our RV, it has grown into one of my most favorite features.

Our full-body paint, however, paled in comparison to what pulled into the RV park later that evening. This Jelly Belly combo was probably the most colourful rig combination we saw :o)


Road Trip Day 2: Lunch


This is a picture of our GMC Yukon XL Denali and Keystone Premier 31BHPR travel trailer parked at the Winchester Wasteway Rest Area near Moses Lake, WA. Its name notwithstanding, we stopped here for lunch on the second day of our 2010 Road Trip. Because it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, this location was very quiet compared to the bustling Indian John Hill rest stop we made earlier in the morning. There were still people coming steadily through, but everyone seemed to be in passenger cars coming in only for a quick pit stop and zooming back on the road right away. There were not very many RVs and no tractor trailers at all. The wide open parking lot allowed us to put out the slides and have a very relaxing lunch. This is one of the great benefits of RVing and hauling around our own portable hotel room!



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Road Trip Day 2: Indian John Hill I-90 Rest Stop



We pulled over for our first stop in the morning at Indian John Hill Rest Stop at about 10:00. It's was a very busy location with lots of people coming in and out but I was able to pull our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali and 35' Keystone Premier 31BHPR travel trailer into a nice central parking spot. This rest area was large with nice grassy areas, picnic tables, and plenty of tourist information. The view is very nice, too, with the Stuart mountain range in the distance.

Unfortunately, there was one dog owner who didn't follow the signs and had their large dogs loose outside the designated dog area, so I couldn't let our 2-year-old play in the grass. It was too bad because he really needed to work off some energy.

We're lucky all our 5 kids travel really well. We've done extended road trips in the past, including driving to...
...Washington, DC, (see Road Trip 2007, Road Trip 2008, Road Trip 2009) and we generally find that leaving not too early, having a morning break, an extended lunch, an afternoon break, and then the final stop for the night not too late in the afternoon worked out to be a good routine for us. Each break was never rushed and we encouraged the kids--especially the younger ones--to run and play as much as possible. It usually works out to be around an easy 6 hours of actual driving each day: 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. For this particular trip, we decided to do some 7-8 hour driving days so that we could spend an extra day or two not driving at all.

Having satellite radio and a rear DVD entertainment system with an iPod Touch in the Denali is magic because time passed very quickly. The kids were able to read, watch a few episodes of their favorite shows, and listen to Radio Disney in the morning, and then watch a movie after lunch. After a little more music in the afternoon we'd be at our destination. We were never worn out at the end of each day and at the end of 27 days, we wanted more!

Road Trip Day 2: Sunrise at Camping World



The first full day of our 2010 Road Trip opened with blue skies and we were happy to put the previous evening's border glitch behind us and get on the road in earnest. The goal for today was to reach Spokane, WA, and seeing the sun appear from the mountains behind us was energizing....

Since we had arrived at Camping World in Burlington pretty late, all the spots in the back lot were full. We ended up parking on the side lot and left around 07:00 hoping not to impact workers arriving in the morning too much.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Road Trip 2010: Day 1

In August 2010, our family of 7 went on a road trip in our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali and 35' Keystone Premier 31BHPR travel trailer. From Vancouver, Canada, we drove over 7500 km (4650 miles) through the United States taking the I-94 East to Thunder Bay, Ontario and the I-90 West back home from Minneapolis, MN. We spent nearly 30 days on the road living out of our trailer and had an incredibly great time. However, the journey was not without its bumps (including the first night when we found ourselves in the wrong lane at the border crossing and a flat tire in North Dakota), but every "wrong turn" we encountered happened at the "best" possible time to NOT ruin our trip. Even the bent axle that forced us to spend an extra 3-days in Deer Lodge, Montana, did not put a dark shadow on our vacation, because it allowed us to explore and make a special connection to a place we had no idea existed. As a result, we saw a very beautiful part of the country that we will always want to return to. And we can't wait until we can start our next adventure. Can you tell we love road trips?

With our 2-week spring break starting next week and my mind drifting away from work, I decided it was time for me to finally post up pictures of our trip. This is the first in the series. (Sorry for the poor quality cellphone picture.)



Day 1: We decided to start our 3-week road trip one day early. We left after work and stayed at Camping World Burlington that night. We arrived a little later than we expected because the NEXUS lane at the Peace Arch border crossing was closed and I didn't know that until it was almost too late....

I had to backup the trailer a few feet so that I could turn into one of the regular lanes. In doing so, I drove the right-side wheel of the trailer over the curb. This may or may not have implications in our major break-down at the end of our trip thousands of miles later.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

VW R32: Venture Shield update

Back in the summer of 2009 I had some Venture Shield clear sticker installed on my R32. Admittedly, I don't drive the R32 as much as I used to, but I'm still happy with how it's held up. No yellowing or discolouration whatsoever (knock on wood). You can see in the picture that it's barely visible even a short distance away.

The only nagging concern I have is that my installer was just as impressed as I was at exactly how well the Venture Shield had held up, giving me the impression that yellowing or discolouration will be inevitable some time down the road.

Anywhoo, I've pretty much made all the modifications to my R32 I'd wanted. Though recently I wish I had a compass built into my rear view mirror. The dashboard compasses you can purchase from stores like Canadian Tire never seem to work right for me. I suspect it's not as straight forward as a simple swap of rear view mirrors, though.

VW R32: Recall Notice #28F3

Late last year I chanced upon a Volkswagen recall notice (ID #28F3), that was originally dated 29 October 2009, to "Inspect, and if necessary replace Ignition coils." What I found puzzling is that I only learned of this recall in December 2010 when I was testing out the recall notice look-up tool on VW of Canada's website. It would have been nice if my dealership had mentioned this when I took my R in for the moonroof service action (60A7/S9) back in May 2010, or a simple e-mail.  Oh well.

Actually, on further thought, I have a vague memory of my mechanic back in the United States mentioning he had replaced the ignition coils, which would explain why VW didn't have a record of it.


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