Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
9:18 pm - Taking Stock...  
I'm going camping in Canada next Thursday, on the 10th anniversary of the last time I went camping, also in Canada*, in exactly the same provincial park. One of my friends grew up in the area, and her family holds a big annual shindig, the Otty Lake Blues Cruise, on the first weekend of August. A bunch of us went up ten years ago, and now we're returning. There will be biking, golf, and tennis, among other activities. A good time is anticipated.

* I just now realized that I've had this journal for ten years now. Holy cats!

I should have all the camping gear I need. However, I haven't used any of it in ten years now**, so I figured that as long as I have all this free time, I might as well check to make sure it's all in good shape. A stitch in time saves nine, right?

** I used to go camping somewhere almost every year, but got out of the habit. Stupid, that.

The first thing I checked was my air mattress to make sure it would still hold air.

I actually have several up in my attic. When I first moved in to this house, I hadn't yet set up my old bed or bought my current futon, so I was sleeping on an air mattress. Which developed a leak I was unable to track down. So I threw that one in the attic against the day when I had the time to do a more thorough puncture search, and bought another. Lather, rinse, repeat over the next year or so.

Anyway, I brought the mattress I remembered as being the good one downstairs, laid it out on the living room floor, put four brandy new batteries in the pump that's been sitting on my bookshelves ever since the last time I used the mattress, inserted the pump into the air lock, and turned the switch. Except... Nothing happened. I checked the batteries to make sure I had inserted them facing the right way. No joy. I tried shaking it a little. Nada.

Remember how I said it had been sitting on my bookshelves for a very long time (probably about nine years or so). Now for much of that time it had batteries in it. Unfortunately, at some point the batteries leaked inside of it. I noticed this a few years back and cleaned it up, but I never bothered to test it with fresh batteries until now. It looks like the motor has seized up, probably to to exposure to corrosive battery guts. Bother. It's not a big deal, because it turns out I have at least four other replacement pumps on hand, but none of the other pumps is as small or convenient, by which I mean battery powered, as this one. I'll get to them in a second.

Now, I have a small compressor in my living room that I use for pumping up bicycle tires, but it's useless for something like an air mattress. For a tire you want your compressor to deliver a little bit of air at high pressure. For an air mattress, you need a lot of air at low pressure. It's a totally different head. I once tried to pump up an air mattress with a tiny little Job Lot tire compressor that plugged into a car cigarette lighter socket. The poor little thing took forever to even pass a little air, and eventually burned out in frustration. On the other hand, the exhaust port of a vacuum cleaner works great if you can cobble together some sort of adapter. Besides, that compressor requires 120V AC, something usually in short supply at a campsite.

*** I do have an AC inverter that'll plug into the truck's cigarette lighter, for charging things like my laptop and camera battery, but I have better options for blowing up the air mattress.

I mentioned some other options. I have another compressor out in the truck that I use for emergencies, and that compressor not only plugs into the cigarette lighter, but it also has a high volume-low pressure (HV-LP) port and adapters for doing air mattress type stuff. The main issue with it, and also with another little HV-LP pump I have that runs off the lighter socket, is that the adapter cords are only three or four feet long. One could bring the mattress to the compressor, but that gets awkward once inflation is complete, especially on windy days. It turns out in these modern times they even make extension cords for lighter sockets****, but depending on campsite layout, even those may not be long enough to reach the tent.

**** And yet still no flying cars...

I also have not one, but two nearly identical manual HV-LP pumps. I used one of them to finally blow up the air mattress in my living room. It's not onerous labor, but it still takes up valuable beer drinking time, and it makes embarrassing noises as it works. Not optimal, except for emergencies. The good news is that a day later, the mattress doesn't look to have lost any air. I'll try sleeping on it tonight as the acid test.

Meanwhile, I thought of the solution to having no easy of using one of the lighter powered pumps inside the tent. Knowing my love for all things Craftsman, my brother often gives me Sears gift cards for Christmas. A few years back I was having battery issues with the truck, so I used one of the gift cards to buy a portable jump starter battery. It was a lifesaver on cold mornings until I finally bit the bullet and bought a new battery, but lately I haven't needed it, so it has been sitting in the basement, mostly forgotten. But I remembered it today, and I wondered if I could somehow attach its 12 volt goodness to one of my pumps. It turned out to be all I could hope for. It comes with a lighter socket built in. O frabjous day! I haven't used it for awhile, so I need to charge it, which takes forever (it's a big frelling battery), but I have plenty of time because I was thinking ahead for once. Anyway, now I can use either of the 12 volt pumps with the battery pack inside the tent. No dragging of air mattresses over to the car. The combination is still a much bigger and heavier contraption than my old portapump, but it should do, and I won't have to buy anything.

Apart from the nasty thunderstorm at 5 am that left my neighborhood without power for an hour, today was a nice sunny day, so I washed my sleeping bag and hung it out to dry on the clothesline. Smells like springtime!

One of the activities planned for the trip is a round of golf. The last time I played golf was ten years ago at the same event. I like to play, but I has no one handy to play golf with, so I never got around to it and fell out of the habit. Plus, it's gotten tres expensive round here. Still, I'm looking forward to it, and in anticipation, I figured I'd better go hit a bucket of balls to see if I could still play.

Well, it wasn't pretty, but I didn't embarrass myself, either. Apparently my days of hitting the ball a couple hundred yards in the air are long gone, but I can hit it 150 or so, and it was usually straight. And hitting it shorter has the benefit of making it harder to really lose a ball when you hit it wrong. Unless you're trying to clear a water hazard.

I also took 10 swings in the slow pitch batting cage, also for like the first time in ten years. I can still hit a line drive, so there's that. I do miss playing ball.