Tech Update Through Alaska

Another technical update… Here’s how all of our parts and pieces that make our trip possible are doing:

Digital Camera: Our Canon S70 camera started acting up in May.  A spring went bad in the slide mechanism that covers the lens, making it somewhat difficult to keep the camera “on.”  We sent it in for a warranty repair in June.  But because it had a very small dent in the body of the camera, they would not cover it under warranty.  They determined the fix cost on it was $123 and we decided to pay it.  But unfortunately, a few weeks later, the camera lens would not retract into the body of the camera.  No amount of coaxing could get the camera lens to close.  So, with mixed feelings, we bid our Canon S70 adieu.  We wandered into a Circuit City and ended up purchasing a 7 megapixel Olympus SP-320 for $200.  We also had to buy a 1gb xD card for it.  It seems to be a great little camera.  It’s a lot lighter than the Canon, and doesn’t have the stupid slide mechanism that will, according to my mom, the professional photographer, eventually break.  It has superior video capabilities to the Canon.  (We are still taking videos, but just haven’t had time to edit them.)  My only complaint on the Olympus is that the wide angle capability is limited.  Oh well… we also have my Minolta Dimage 7.  It’s only 5 megapixel, old, slow, and sucks down batteries faster than some of my friends can finish a beer, but it works and takes nice wide-angle shots once you figure out that it’s auto white balance setting is useless.

Garmin GPS 10: This isn’t what you might think of as your typical GPS.  It is basically a box with a single button on it (for power) and two lights.  It communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth.  It worked great 99% of the time, but it did occasionally die in the most bizarre manner.  If we left it out to bake in the sun, we’d occasionally “crash” the device, with no way to power off or reset it.  (Depressing the power button had no effect.)  Basically, the lights would indicate that the device was on, and the Bluetooth wireless link was functioning.  We could even browse to the device and connect to it in a Bluetooth browser.  But no GPS data was sent on the wireless data link.  It was as if the Bluetooth side of the device was working just fine, but the internal GPS had died.  Our only way to resolve the problem was to wait for the device to run out of battery power!  We called Garmin tech support and described this to the gentleman on the other end.  He’d never heard of such odd behavior, and unbelievably, they offered to replace our out-of-warranty device.  Wow!  I’ve always liked Garmin products.  Now I love the company as well.  Thanks Garmin!

On the less technical side of tech…

Thermarest: (a camping air mattress)  I sleep on one thick Thermarest, while Teresa sleeps on no less than three thinner, light weight Thermarests.  One of those is my lightweight backpacking Thermarest, approx. 8 years old.  We took it to the REI flagship store in Seattle.  They were willing to send it into the manufacturer, Cascade Designs, for us, but we didn’t have the time to wait on it.  So they told us we could bring it into Cascade Designs ourselves… and they just happen to be in Seattle.  On a separate trip down into Seattle, we took it in.  They cut it open right in front of us (Teresa asked, “does this void our warranty?” ) and explained it had started to de-laminate from the inside.  There was no repair they could do, and it was only going to get worse.  They gave us a brand new Thermarest right on the spot.  Thanks Cascade Designs!

Thule bike tray:  (attaches to roof rack)  Apparently a bolt fell out of this where the metal tray connects to the plastic piece up front that holds the fork mount.  We repaired this ourselves with some hardware store replacements.

Propane Tank:  (1 gal) We picked this up during a jaunt into an REI store on our desert Southwest run.  It saves us a ton of money ($4/gal), and we don’t have to deal with the earth-unfriendly 1 lb disposable canisters. After only two refills, the overfill protection device got stuck.  This is basically a little float that dangles in the tank that stops the flow of propane from the propane pump as the propane level rises.  Basically, this meant it couldn’t be refilled, and we had to run off the incredibly wasteful and earth-unfriendly 1 lb tanks.  REI in Grand Junction, CO replaced it without problem, although we had to wait to pick it up until we passed through again on our way out to Alaska.

Thule box:  Somehow, this tough plastic box was starting to show signs of wear.  We ended up with a hole in it, and a crack near where it mounts to the roof rack.  We took it to REI, and if you can believe it, they gave us a brand new Thule roof-top box… an upgrade!  Thanks REI!

Too bad Canon doesn’t stand behind their products like REI / Cascade Designs / Garmin does.  But such is the technology industry.  🙁

Bikes:  Our bikes were starting to show some wear from being on top of the truck.  We also weren’t riding them as much as we thought we would.  We got them fixed up while in Moab, but we decided to stop carrying our bikes with us.  We figure, if we are ever really desperate for a bike ride, we can always rent.

Tires: As mentioned in a previous blog entry, our tires, 10-ply Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revos, picked up a nail, proving that they are not “bulletproof.”  <sigh>  We actually knew this of course, but at least they hadn’t failed us yet on any of the more serious dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere.

Truck Cap: While at Nomadic Research Labs, Ned and I worked on securing my camper shell so it would stop splaying out (creating a bad seal in the rear).  We’ll have to see how well it holds, but it looks promising thus far.  Did I mention before, Jason truck caps aren’t of the greatest quality?

Truck:  Big Red, our beloved Toyota Tundra, went in for its 90,000 mile checkup in Everett, WA.  We had to replace a plastic front seat lever and rear window latch.  Although we are taking a ferry to Alaska, saving the mileage, we will be driving back.  You can bet we’

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