Sunday, July 30, 2017

Friends In High And Rugged Places

So, I'm finally getting around to doing my review of the ToughTested products I received a few months ago.   Let me give you a little background.

All of the charging cords I've ever had from Apple, for my iPhone, have become destroyed in a matter of months.  The problem I continued to have was the fraying of the charging cable. I've used electrical tape and animal print duct tape to fix the problem and although it works, it looks like crap.  They always break in the same place and after a while the cable just becomes unusable.  So Ed bought me a charging cable from one of the truck stops, the braided kind that's really durable.  It was great.  I loved it.  It felt so durable and I wondered why Apple, for the kind of money one pays for their products, didn't include this kind of cable when you buy something from their product line.

But then my brand new cable stopped working and I couldn't figure out why.  It wasn't frayed, it wasn't loose, it didn't look damaged.  It just stopped charging.  So I Tweeted to ToughTested, the company who makes it, and told them in 140 characters or less about my disappointment.  They quickly responded and asked me to send my information to them via a direct message and they'd send out a new one.

I sent my information but I never got the new cord.  Sad face.  I didn't want to be a pain in the ass, and figuring they got busy and my request got lost on its way through the chain of command, I wrote it off as a lost cause.  I didn't contact them again.

Enter Wendy Parker of The George and Wendy Show.  Not a trucker but a bonafide "celebrity" in the trucking world, she travels with her trucker husband and writes a column for Overdrive Magazine from the passenger seat of their rig.  She's got a healthy following on Facebook, engages regularly on Twitter, and frequently posts on Instagram.

She also attends the major trucking industry shows - MATS and GATS - has partnered with several companies, done promo for several brands, and reviewed products and services for a number of vendors that cater to the trucking industry.  I'm telling you, she's everywhere.  Oh, and she wrote a book too.  

So when I read on Twitter that she was going to be the grand dame of the ToughTested booth at the 2017 MATS show, I sent her an email about my beloved but no longer functioning charging cord. She quickly responded telling me she'd see what she could do about scoring me a new cord.

Well.  I am here to tell you that Wendy Parker didn't just "see what she could do", she came through like a BOSS.  Not only did I get my cord replacement - really, the only thing I wanted - but shortly after the MATS show was over, I got a box in the mail containing all of the items in the photo above.  Holy mother of the big slab!

The package blew me away.  I unpacked it like a kid on Christmas morning.  And because ToughTested was so great to me, I'm going to tell you what I think about each item in the box.  Let's just say that up front, I'm totally impressed.

OK, so first let me tell you why it's taken me so long to get to this review.  The biggest reason is that I'm a colossal procrastinator (ask my mother) and when I get home from my two-day run, I seem to find all kinds of things that keep me from actually sitting down and typing.  The other part is that I wanted to be able to use the products before I made any kind of comments or did a review on them.  I got the box at the end of March, so I've had four months now to make use of them and really get a good sense of what they are and what they do.  

Let's begin.

The Durable Braided Cable ($24.99)
This is the only item I actually needed when I contacted ToughTested.  And I love it.  In the signature black and orange ToughTested colors, the braided cable is super sturdy.  It's perfect for everyday life, but it's even superior for life in the truck.  The ends have durable, flexible plastic covering at the exact spot that shreds on most regular charging cords.  The cord is protected at the weakest point and the braiding doesn't break down. No need for electrical or duct tape!  I love this thing.

Rugged, Weatherproof 8000 mAh Dual USB Battery Pack ($59.99)

This thing is pretty amazing.  I use my phone so much that I'm always out of juice.  I often carry one of those little charging units (my friend Kim gave me one from the place she works that's the size of a lipstick tube) because I hate to be out and about without power.  This one is heavy duty.  It's a little bigger than a deck of cards but a wee bit too bulky and heavy to carry in my purse with all the other stuff I have in there.  What it is perfect for is a tote bag on the beach, a backpack when I'm out and about, or to throw in the pannier bag on my bicycle.  It can fully charge my phone up to five times and it has the ability to charge more than one device at a time.  We used it while out and about in California last weekend and Ed took it when he went motorcycle riding and used it for both his phone and his GPS unit. It's perfect for those types of outings.  And if you drop it off a cliff or get it wet, it'll still work.

Rugged Wireless Speaker and Power Bank ($69.99)
Now, this thing I LOVE.  LOVE LOVE LOVE!  Just like the description says, it's a speaker and a powerbank.  You can listen to music and charge your other devices with it.  It has a 16-hour battery life, it's shockproof, waterproof, and dustproof.  It utilizes both Bluetooth technology and a 3.5mm jack to connect devices, it's not as heavy as you might imagine, and the sound is insane!

Seriously.  I'm blown away by the sound.  Amazing quality, great bass, really pleasant tones overall.  It's not cheap or tinny, and the sound doesn't change when you increase the volume, no vibrations or wobbles.  It sounds like it's coming from a speaker in a home or car system, not from a portable speaker with a wrist strap.

I'm not one to camp - although I have a feeling that may change in the future - and can see this speaker perched on a rock belting out tunes to a crowd.  It has power!  For me, knowing that I can drop it and it's not going to conk out on me is a real plus.  As Ed can attest, I have a tendency to be a little butterfingered when it comes to gadgets.  I'm surprised my iPhone has lasted as long as it has without me breaking the screen on it since I drop it all. the. time.  I seriously don't know how they pack such serious sound into something so small, but the consumer in this scenario is definitely the one benefitting from the technology in this little baby.

Power Share Pro USB Wall Charger with InstaSense ($24.99)
Every device we buy comes with a charger.  The iPhone has that little cube, Ed's Samsung has a bulky wall charger, and we have power strips and outlets that have USB ports in them because we use them so often.  It never hurts to have an extra charger.  What I love about this one is that it has three USB ports, it does a fast 30-minute charge, and the prongs that plug into the wall can be used in an 180° or 90° position, which allows it to sit flat against the wall if needed (good for behind furniture, or in tight spaces).  And like all the other items, the construction is rugged.  I'm definitely not breaking any of this stuff anytime soon.

Pro-Comm Neckband Bluetooth with 10x Noise Canceling and Speaker mode  ($79.99)
This Bluetooth headset is badass.  It's a neckband style, with speakers in the neckband so you can wear it with or without the earbuds in and still hear what's coming through.  The cable is Kevlar reinforced (say what?!) with a braided nylon cover to prevent tangles.  The earbuds on this thing not only block out noise, but they're comfortable, which is often hard to find.  As awesome as these things are, I have to be honest and say that this is the only item I passed on to someone else.  I have tried many headsets and earbuds in my technology-driven life and I've settled on a brand that I love and have used since Ed bought me my first iPod over 10 years ago.  I don't like wireless (Bluetooth). I like to be hooked up, without having to worry about charging my ears in the middle of an audiobook marathon.  They went to a very appreciative family member.

Tech Gear Bag for Mobile Accessories  ($24.99)
I am a bag freak.  Purses, tote bags, cosmetic bags, backpacks, mesh envelopes, zippered cases, pencil holders, even plastic Ziploc bags.  Most people know this about me.  In fact, my friends bought me gifts from Bangkok one year that I still use on a regular basis to this day.  So, of course, I love this ToughTested gadget bag.  This past weekend when Ed and I went away, I stored all the ToughTested gadgets in it and threw it in our travel bag.  It's got a hard molded exterior and a carabiner so I can just clip it to the D-ring on my bag.  I'm very happy with it.

Last but not least, there was a baseball cap in the box.  Now, I'm not a baseball cap kind of girl, and Ed rarely wears them anymore, so if any of you out there would like a brand new, ToughTested cap with a Mid-America Truck Show patch on one side and 2017 stitched on the other, send me an email and I'll be happy to mail it out to you.  Put "Tough Tested Hat" in the subject line and then tell me how you found my blog and how long you've been reading - I don't care if you're a newcomer or a longtime fan - the very first email I receive at will be the first person to get the baseball cap.

This is what ToughTested says about their products:

"Tough Tested products are built to meet the demands of professionals; 10-hour work shifts, noisy trucks, unpaved roads, extreme conditions, continuous use. ToughTested is designed to go to work with you. Our products work longer hours and withstand the extensive stress of rigorous use. We engineer our products to exceed performance standards and we back them up with a 5-year warranty. You can expect more robust features built into Tough Tested products; longer and heavier cords, higher amperage, longer battery life, more durable materials, extreme temperature tolerant components, higher grade plastics and hardware. Whether you’re off road on the job or on a hike, you want your gear to be ToughTested."

That about sums it up.  Damn.  I could have just written that.

I'd like to thank Wendy Parker for reaching out to ToughTested on my behalf, and I'd like to thank the folks at Mizco International and ToughTested for coming through in such a HUGE way.  They asked if I would share my experience with their products after I had a chance to use them.  I was more than happy to oblige, writing a review is a small price to pay to show my appreciation for such a generous box of swag.

“This is a sponsored blog post. While the views expressed here were genuinely mine, consideration was paid to me by Mizco International to review this product.”

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2016: No Middle Ground
2015: Check Out These Links Before The Big One Hits
2014: In Six Months, They'll Know Right Where To Put It
2013: Musical Parking Spots
2012: Me And The Thunder
2011: Her Cup Overfloweth With Idiocy
2010: Dear Arizona,
2009: Come Sit In Our Cab For A Spel And Let Us Take You On The Road!
2008: How Well Do You Know Your Stringed Instruments?
2007: Meat. The Old Fashioned Way.
2006: Kicking The Hell Out Of Texas
2005: Look, Mary!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

360 Degrees Of Blue Sky

This is the top of Mammoth Mountain in California.  The final destination for my secret anniversary weekend away with Ed.  More pictures and a helluva story to come!

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Sunlit Trees

2015: Kitchen Troubadour
2014: The Earth Is 75% Water. Grab A Fork.
2013: Reflection On The Island
2012: Sprinkled
2011: Prized Good Luck Piece
2010: Summer In The City
2009: I Should Get A Job Working The Pole At A Boy Scout Camp
2008: The Flavor Of Life
2007: I’ve Been Everywhere Sunday
2006: Again??? But You Just Got Off The Phone With Her!
2005: A Cow’s Opinion

Friday, July 28, 2017

All Tatted Up

This is a real live text from my mother telling me that she's considering getting her eyebrows tattooed.

I'm concerned.  She said her nail girl can do them for her.

Her nail girl? Her nail girl can barely do nails let alone tattoo eyebrows.

I'm seriously afraid she'll go to someone inexperienced and wind up looking like this, or this, or God forbid, this.  

This is how it starts, with an idea and a misspelled text.

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Trapping Tourists Since 1965

2015: Selfie In 53
2014: Storm Warning
2013: Another Home Run By Big Ed
2012: A Window On New Mexico
2011: My Man Makes A Mad Meal
2010: Less Is Not More In All Cases
2009: Grain Gone By
2008: The Absolute Beauty Of It
2007: Not Only Did He Pray, He Posed
2006: Camera Phone Coolness
2005: Life Is A Salt Shaker

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Getting Probed In The Nevada Desert

As if a lime green alien themed travel center isn't odd enough to come across in this very desolate area a little over 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada....

This one has an actual brothel attached to it.  It's called the Alien Cathouse.

And yes, there's even an alien probe room.  

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2016: Texas Hay For Sale
2015: Summer At Ninth And Gansevoort
2014: The Prayer
2012: Ladder 11 To The Rescue
2011: It’s Got Lipstick Written All Over It
2010: Liquid Crack
2009: For All The World To See
2008: Studio Blue
2007: Eddie Tests His Spine Friday
2006: Almost Twenty
2005: Thinking

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rock Hound

The route we took this weekend was mostly one we've never traveled before.  We took US-95 North out of Las Vegas, picked up NV-266 West which brought us to the Nevada/California state line, where we picked up CA-168 West, which ends at US-395 in Big Pine, California.  

Part of this route took us through the Inyo National Forest, where a 4,850-year-old bristlecone pine tree named Methuselah can be found.

We did not see Methuselah, and never will since it's location has never been made public, but next time we're in this area we will definitely go into the actual Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and do a little exploring.

We stopped here to get a better look at the rock that these mountains are made of.  They looked like shale, and the piles looked as if they cleaved off in sheets, all straight and sharp edges, none of them were round. 

It was an interesting and arresting landscape. Does anyone know what kind of rocks these are?

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2016: The Bronx Terpsichoreans
2015: Best Shopping Trip Ever
2014: Laying Down The Hot Mix
2013: Yes You Is
2012: Window Shopping In The East Village
2011: Waiting For Someone To Service Me
2010: Rockin’ Rockaholic Haul
2009: Just Don’t Call Me Late For Dinner
2008: In This Case, R & R Means Recumbent And Recuperation
2007: Posthumously Famous In The World Of Cheap Lodging
2006: What Better Reason To Dine Out?
2005: Hudson Valley Summer

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Equestrians Crossing Since 1493

Riders in Mammoth Lakes, California
A brief history of horse use, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Though there is controversy over the exact date horses were domesticated and when they were first ridden, the best estimate is that horses first were ridden approximately 3500 BC. Indirect evidence suggests that horses were ridden long before they were driven.

There is some evidence that about 3,000 BC, near the Dnieper River and the Don River, people were using bits on horses, as a stallion that was buried there shows teeth wear consistent with using a bit.  However, the most unequivocal early archaeological evidence of equines put to working use was of horses being driven. Chariot burials about 2500 BC present the most direct hard evidence of horses used as working animals.

In ancient times chariot warfare was followed by the use of war horses as light and heavy cavalry. The horse played an important role throughout human history all over the world, both in warfare and in peaceful pursuits such as transportation, trade, and agriculture. Horses lived in North America but died out at the end of the Ice Age. Horses were brought back to North America by European explorers, beginning with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493.

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2016: We Will Rise
2015: The Whitewashed Domes Of León

Monday, July 24, 2017

No Small Adventure

View from the Twin Lakes Vista
The final destination for my surprise weekend was Mammoth Lakes, California.  I had a hard time guessing, even knowing the general direction of our travel, because Ed told me neither one of us had been there before.  Well, that left a lot of open space, but if you know the area between Arizona and here, the towns are spread out and there's a whole lot of nothing.  I kept guessing but couldn't come up with the right answer.

I've got to hand it to him though - Ed really knows what I like.  Trees, water, and SNOW.  Can you believe it??

This area is just stunning.  More pictures to come!

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2016: Do What Happy People Do

2015: Te Voglio Bene
2014: Dry Like An Oven
2013: I Saw And I Said
2012: Juicy Driving Treat
2011: Reckless In Rome
2010: Back And Forth, Back And Forth, Back And Forth…
2009: Eddie Enters A Copper Mine Friday
2008: Oshkosh B’Gosh!
2007: Queen Of The 21st Century
2006: Sketchbook
2005: A Queen’s Life

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Not Really A Loop

Ed and I celebrated our 13th anniversary together this week.  This weekend, he's taking me on a surprise out-of-town trip to celebrate.  I do not know the final destination.

This photo was taken from Arizona State Route 303 on the west side of Phoenix just after the rain passed through.  I'm not really sure why they call it a loop since it doesn't actually go around anything, but whatever.

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Food For The Spirit Inside Of You

2015: These Little Piggies Went To Market
2014: Just Another View From The Road
2013: Polly Needs More Than A Cracker. Polly Needs A Roll Cage.
2012: Hats Off To Tits And Ass
2011: Approaching Chi-Town
2010: Paneful Outlook
2009: Gray County Silhouette
2008: This Little Piggy Went To Market
2007: I’ve Been Everywhere Sunday
2006: The Heat Bog
2005: Five

Friday, July 21, 2017

Halo Of Color

This is the area I can see directly outside my living room window.  In the morning when I'm having coffee, I sit and watch the birds descend on the feeders, devouring seed for hours.

Last year I replanted these little cactus plants.  I was going to throw them away because they were tiny nubs, a nuisance underfoot.  But this area was empty so I just dug a few shallow holes and stuffed them in.

Well, a few days ago, they flowered.  Look how pretty they are!

These cactus are part of the genus Mamillaria, one of the largest of the cactus family. This particular plant has flowers that bloom around the top of the cactus, like a crown.  Some people call this a Halo Cactus because of the ring of color the flowers create.
We've had a lot of rain since it's monsoon season, and I've noticed a lot of the plants on my property becoming a little lusher.  I know cactus don't need very much water, but it certainly seems to have helped these little guys.
Look at that vibrant magenta color!  The delicate pink flowers are so incongruous with the dangerous spines that cover the rest of the plant.  

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Western Exposure

2015: Heroes And Legends In South Tucson
2014: A Decade Of Love, Travel, And Monkey Business
2013: Thirty-Thousand Square Feet Of Stuff To Spend Money On
2012: Truckin’ With Ed
2011: Way Better Than Seven Years In Tibet
2010: His Charm And Understated Humor Is Totally Contagious
2009: The Creature Comforts Of Home
2008: Checklist
2007: Happy As A Clam
2006: Two Things
2005: Good For Licking

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Place Beyond The Pines

This past weekend, Ed and I went to Flagstaff, Arizona so he could ride his new Kawasaki KLR 650 in the Mountain Madness 2017 event sponsored by the Coconino Trail Riders.
Ed, prior to getting suited up in all his riding gear.
It was a two-day Dual Sport ride in the mountains of Northern Arizona, 7,000+ feet high.  They offered A, B, and C adventure routes.  The A and B routes are the most challenging, the C routes a little easier and mostly designed for bikes bigger than 650cc.  Ed fell into the C category because of his bike and because he was new to this kind of trail riding.

Below you can see a map of Ed's ride.  The light blue line is the route as it was shown in the GPS, according to the GPS tracks given to him by the rider organization.  The dark blue line is the route Ed actually wound up riding.

In some areas he decided not to follow the course, in others he got sidetracked and got off course.  
The ride was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with two breakfasts, lunches, and one dinner provided.  Saturday was an all day event, ending with a dinner for all the riders, and Sunday's ride ended by 2 p.m.  Ed only participated in Saturday's ride.  

The area is very pretty, with pine trees lining the back roads and lots of pleasant scenery.  At one point, Ed ventured off the C route and wound up on an A route.  He shot some video of his ride and I've got to say, the A route looked a little hairy!  Very rocky, very narrow.  Much more suited for the bikes in the photo below than the one Ed was riding.  But he made it through.  Yay, Ed!
He liked it so much that I know he plans to do more riding in the future.  Southern Arizona has a lot of desert and dirt, and I'd imagine it gets a little boring after a while looking at the same thing for miles.  The northern part of the state has scenery I'd find a little more appealing to ride through.  But I'm not riding, right?

If you're interested in this kind of riding, you can find dual sport events nationwide through this website.

Happy Trails!  

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2016: He Needs A Personalized Plate
2015: Get Down With Oscar
2014: Embrace The Heat Of Miami
2013: Oh, To Be A Kid
2012: Kind Of Like A Virtual Celebrity Bodyguard
2011: Jack & Jill Went Up A Hill To Fetch Some Aircraft Parts
2010: Live Longer. Live Better. And Be Sure To Have A Devil Dog Once In A While.
2009: How Can You Not Be In Love With The Man Who Invented Kisses?
2008: And We Wonder Why We’re The Fattest Nation On Earth
2007: Star Gazing
2006: Only A Southerner
2005: Do You Take Wolfgang Winkelmeyer To Be Your Lawful Wedded Husband?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Man Bun Burrito

I captured this guy, with his man bun, tattered sneakers, tattered belt, and tattered tattoos, in the Chipotle in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Not everyone can pull off the man bun.  It doesn't work on any of these guys.

But Ben Dahlhaus?  I can look at him and his man bun all day long.

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Boys And The Barn
2015: Not Your Average Meme
2014: Marine Transport

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Shift Change

Ed and I drive an 8/8/3/3 schedule.  This allows us to skip the Hours of Service mandatory 30-minute rest break and neither of us has to do more than 8 hours of driving at one time.

Let's say Ed starts driving first - he'll do 8 hours, and I'll sleep eight hours.  Then he stops and I do my eight hours while he sleeps.  When I'm done, he drives three hours, I sleep three hours, then I drive three hours and he sleeps three hours.  Then we begin again with the eight-hour stint again.  

This schedule works perfectly on our dedicated route and if we want to take a break we can but we're not obliged to do so.  
It's not for everyone.  Some people like having very scheduled sleep and drive times but we are used to this and it works for us.  
Finding what works and working it.  Isn't that the ultimate goal?

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A Chair Is Still A Chair

2015: Summer Calls For Cukes!
2014: Nature's Bounty Fills My Fridge
2013: Bags, Boxes, And Bikes
2012: Wrappers Delight
2011: Breaking The Spell
2010: It Never Ends
2009: 275 Square Miles Of Brilliance
2008: Four Standards, One Newbie
2007: Semantics
2006: 36 Hours Of Hell On Earth
2005: 11:11:11

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Seventeen Years Just Whizzed On By

This is a picture of my nephew Joe making his way around the track at Autobahn Indoor Speedway here in Tucson.

He recently celebrated his 17th birthday and it looked like something fun to take him to do.  I was initially planning to go but when Ed and MacG said they'd take him, I gracefully (wink-wink) backed out.

Boys and fast things on wheels.  What better way to spend an afternoon?

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Into The Mouth Of The Wolf

2015: We Have Our Very Own Air-Conditioned Theater
2014: A Real Weekend
2013: Gary Hits Me Up With Another Gem
2012: After Dinner Pusch
2011: Moments Before Sleepy Time
2010: Bakin’ It The Fake Way
2009: The Elegant Gathering Of A Life
2008: My, What A Nice Berg You Have
2007: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Grapes Being Crushed Into Wine
2006: There Are No Words To Explain The Misery Of A Three Digit Temperature
2005: New York State Of Mind