Category Archives: Miscellaneous

And here is the “catch all” category for stuff that doesn’t have its own.

Hellwig Sway Bars

by Woodsbum

Around June of 2016 I finally decided that I needed to do something about my pickup truck being broken and I had serious need of a way to haul things. Since I was still rebuilding my 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 4×4 due to the engine going out, I decided that I should just buy a new Ram 1500 in the configuration that best suited my daily driving needs. My local dealership walked me through the process of custom ordering the exact truck that I needed and I ended up buying a new vehicle……

I ended up with a 2017 Ram 1500 Black Express (Special Edition) with the 5.7 Hemi, limited slip rear end, tow package, interior upgrades, blah, blah, blah. I ended up putting an ARE canopy on it and it ended up looking absolutely awesome. There was a serious problem, however. The horsepower was not well suited for the poor suspension. It seriously needed some help, but I just suffered through for a couple years until it dawned on me as to where the problem lay. There was no rear sway bar and the front bar sucked.

Here are some examples of my truck’s behavior. It basically twerked on rutted highways at speeds above 65. It felt like it was going to tip over in any corner, and when I changed speeds in the corners it would float horribly. The suspension reminded me of the ones in the 1990 Lincoln Town Cars. More land yacht than truck.

Online I found reference to many people installing Hellwig rear sway bars and there were even many videos that showed how well they worked with body roll angles, testimonials, and all sorts of crap that said that these sway bars were the miracle cure for a poor truck suspension.

I bought both front and rear.

When they came in I pulled up some YouTube videos and went to installation…..  In the rain….  And it was about 35 degrees….  It sucked, but only took about 2 hours from start to finish.

Now let me tell you how well they work. There is a night and day difference. No joke. The sway bars have turned my 4 wheeled boat of a truck into a decently handling vehicle that allows me to take 25 mph exits at 45-50 like I was on rails. The forces applied to my body are no longer making me feel like I am going to fall over. I now feel like my hips are being shoved down and into the seat instead of the side forces. It is truly remarkable.

Today I took some 45 mph corners on the highway at 85 and didn’t really even notice any push.

All told I spent about $650 for the sway bars and connection rods since my rear end didn’t have a factory installed bar. I now have a truck that performs like a sports car and can actually handle the 400 ponies under the hood. It was well worth the investment and I can add some links in the comments if anyone is interested. Just know that the Hellwigs are HIGHLY recommended by me.

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LASIK

by Woodsbum

I have been wearing corrective lenses since I was in 4th grade. My parents took me in at the beginning of my 4th grade school year to get me tested once they discovered that I could not see the rabbits we were hunting on opening day. They were only out about 20 yards, but it was a complete blur. I still remember the day I got my glasses. Everything was slanted, my peripheral vision no longer existed, and I was constantly getting headaches from the distortion when looking through the lenses. It was awful. The only up side was that I could see the kids making fun of me farther than 40 feet away.

It took me 4 years to save up enough money to get myself contact lenses. My parents would not pay for them and told me that I had to do it myself. I still remember the cost being $349 dollars at that time for the exam, lenses, etc. They also made me pay for my own contact solutions until I was in high school so I had to continue to save everything I could to cover costs. This was back in the 1980’s and we were pretty poor as a family with no health insurance, let alone something like VSP.

Once I was able to get contacts, a whole new world opened up to me. I could play sports. Hunting and fishing became SO much easier. My depth perception and peripheral vision with my contacts was almost nonexistent. Kids quit making fun of me quite as much since I didn’t look like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys anymore. Life was much better. Luckily, I was prescribed RGP (Semi-rigid Gas Permeable) lenses. The first pair lasted almost 7 years. My second pair lasted about 6 and my third pair lasted about 6 as well. That was when I started having problems, but I will talk about that shortly.

The only problem (before I got a bad set of contacts) was that I had to be extremely careful at all times. Camping was difficult since I had to take my contacts out every night. Being outdoors could be a nightmare at times due to dust and floating contaminates. Getting up and trying to function before I put my contacts in was a nightmare. Without correction my eyes were 20/500. Basically, I couldn’t see the stupid “E” on the eye chart without my contacts. Remember that I never wore glasses because the vision that they did give me was horribly distorted and I lost depth perception, peripheral vision, etc. These problems made it difficult to do one of the most important aspects of maintaining my sanity: spend time outdoors.

Speed through my childhood and a good section of my adulthood…..

I finally had insurance for vision. The first time in my life, other than the crappy glasses that the Navy gave me, where I could go get seen and buy corrective lenses at a reduced cost. My wife’s friend recommended this guy that had an office near us so we made appointments and went in to get new “portholes” (Navy/Marine Corps slang for glasses/contacts – as in portholes to the world). He wrote me a new prescription for some RGP lenses and told me that my prescription was way off from what I had been wearing. I didn’t argue, but I found that very odd. Semi-rigid lenses disallow your eyes’ prescription from changing that much because they basically hold the lens of the eye in place. It doesn’t relax, flex, etc., like they normally do as you age. The curvature of my eye was supposedly much different than the contacts I was wearing, according to this eye doctor. Again, I didn’t question it too much because I thought this guy was a good doctor due to all the testimony from my wife’s friends. Long story short, I should have known better.

This visit and subsequent follow up visits to this doctor changed my ability to see decently and made my life miserable for about 10 years. I just could not see decently either distant nor close. It was almost like I had to pick either or. It was so bad that I had to keep reading glasses in my desk at work and a pair of magnifiers at home to do fine, detailed work on things. The answer that I got from follow on doctors was, “You are over 40 so you should just get used to the idea that you will need reading glasses or bifocals”. It really pissed me off because no one was taking the time to work through the bad prescription I got from that asshole my wife’s friends recommended. I could barely see well enough to do my job about half the time unless I took out my contacts for close, detailed work and then used them again for distance. My old glasses caused similar issues, but I could focus within a couple inches from my eye without corrective lenses. It didn’t make sense that “I was just getting older.” Life was really sucking……

Fast forward to now. Starting in late September I decided that it was time to look into corrective eye surgery. Of course my first step was to question those that I knew who had undergone corrective laser surgery.

My father had it back in the 1990s and was able to go without glasses for about 15 years. He can still pass a driving test, but he does wear glasses to shoot and have more clear vision at distance. He also uses reading glasses, but needed them before he got RK.

Both of my daughters received laser eye surgery while Active Duty and it made a huge difference in their lives. My younger daughter had similar issues as I was having with distortion, depth perception, night vision, etc., and was getting constant headaches with corrective lenses. Long story short is that all three of my family member’s lives were changed for the better after their surgery.

When I went in for my initial appointment, I was told that I would have to quit wearing my RGP contacts for at least 5-6 weeks before surgery. This created a problem because I can BARELY function in glasses. To help with this transition I first went to soft contacts for about 5 weeks and then wore glasses for one week. This allowed my eyes to reposition to their natural curvature prior to surgery. This is important so that the correction is appropriate and proper.

The next step really brought me to the day of operation. Of course there were about 5 visits to the eye doctor prior to surgery, but those were to check the curvature of my eye and see if everything had stabilized. On the day of surgery, I was beyond nervous. Suffice it to say that I was terrified. Considering how many issues I have had with my vision over the years, the thought of it either becoming worse somehow or completely losing my vision was far more horrific than death itself. Many won’t comprehend that, but things like that are all based upon personal experiences and fears. Being physically handicapped in any form is my worst fear in life.

I was given a Xanax and a Neurontin when I arrived at the doctor to calm me and help with pain after the surgery. We signed enough paperwork to establish a mortgage on a home, gave them our money, and were put in a “calming area” to wait. There was a nice waterfall thingie next to me and not a wet bar in sight. I could have used a shot or two.

Once they took me into the room, I was told lay down on a table. The doctor physically manipulated my head and shoved it into position. He really didn’t have much of a tender touch. Of course this also led me to become more anxious. Some additional drops were applied to my eyes, an eyelid pry bar was utilized and a weird suction cup thing came down on my eyes (one at a time) that blacked out my vision. Some weird noises and light were inserted into the process and then the repeated it for the other eye. It actually hurt a bit, but was probably more related to my fear than actual pain. This created the “flap” that was needed to get down to the part of my eye that they were going to saw on.

All the apparatus was removed and they then taped my eyelashes to my forehead, used the pry bar again, used some dental tool things to lift up the flap, hit me with some laser lights, put the flap back down, squeegeed the hell out of my eyeball and then repeated for the other eye.

Once done I had a second to kind of get my bearings before they had my stand up and walk over to an eyeball microscope. My eyes were checked, some clear bug shields were duct taped to my face and I was sent home.

Now, I was supposed to have been able to sleep due to the Xanax…..  The Titanic was supposed to float as well. I just rode home with my eyes closed and annoyed that my eyes felt like they were being scrubbed with gravel. I was also supposed to be able to sleep when I got home. That didn’t work so well either. I got home around 1830 (6:30 pm) and remember looking at the clock several times between then and about 2000 (8 pm). I finally was free from the gravel cleaner feeling in my eyeballs by 2130 (9:30 pm) and decided to get up and take off the stupid anti scratch devices that looked like bug shields. Most of the skin and a good portion of the tape residue remained, but the plexiglass walls were removed.

I COULD SEE…..  It was crazy. It is still crazy. For the first time in almost 10 years I can see both up close and far away, but I don’t need corrective lenses to do it. I am amazed…….

My suggestions, recommendations, wisdom to be passed on, etc., for those thinking about this surgery is quite simple. It really is a life changing event, especially for those with vision as bad as mine was. I don’t know how much more I can say, but my life will never be the same. I am truly beyond words to describe the change. My headache caused by eyestrain is gone. I have depth perception again. I can see both up close and at distance. Hell, I can even see decently at night.

If you have the means or ability to save up to get this done, I strongly suggest that you just go for it. One day out and I can only repeat how amazed I am at the change.

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The Truck is Done

by Woodsbum

It has been a while since I posted or added ANY content to my site. The reason wasn’t due to laziness, lack of interest, or even a desire to quit sharing online. It was 100% due to a “depression” of sorts based around my inability to physically get out into the field.

You may consider this an excuse, but after 3 years of fighting with my 4×4 and pouring thousands of dollars into the engine compartment I felt like I was trapped. My prison only allowed me access to my home, 1st job, 2nd job and the gym. That was all I was able to do. The 5 times I did try to take my street vehicles out and do outdoors related items lead me to 4 tires being blown out….  Yes. You read that right. 4/5 trips lead to flat tires. This caused me to have to replace all 4 tires on our Outback (all wheel drive) and 2 tires on my commuting truck.

All that is a thing of the past, however. I am now up and running again. My truck LIVES!!!! Not only that, but I also have purchased a boat!

 

GordoNBoat

My truck and boat

As you can see, I have a great boat. My truck is awesome. Life is grand.

I will be doing a post on my boat as well as one on everything that had to be done on my truck to get him up and going.

Welcome back to me??

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AOD Wilderness Shirt

by Woodsbum

It has been a while since I first covered my Wilderness Shirt. This thing wears like iron, is warm in winter and allows just enough air flow/layering to span a huge temperature range.

Here it is in all its glory.

Wilderness Shirt

Wilderness Shirt

As you can see, I had to take pictures inside my office. This was because of a few reasons:

  1. I am a complete dufus about taking pictures when I am out in the woods. It won’t happen, thus the reason I have so few posts as of late.
  2. Someone hit me up and really wanted some pictures of the shirt this morning. This compelled me to take advantage of having snapped a few pictures and went forward with this post.

Here is some information about the shirt and how we came to make it.

The shirt was designed by my mother and I. She took care of the actual engineering and I gave all the specifics needed in the design. Although there are a whole pile of “Boreal Shirts” available online, I have not seen any that I actually liked. Either they were unlined and didn’t keep you warm enough or they had design flaws that I felt were lacking in some form.

If you notice, the arms and body of the shirt are quite long. I usually cuff the sleeves for normal wear. I wanted really long arms so that I could tuck the sleeves into gloves/mittens without having to worry about riding up. I also wanted the ability to “turtle” my hands if I did not have gloves. This design is perfect for that.

As for the body being extra long, I wanted the ability to keep my nether region and butt warm while wearing the shirt. When I want to keep a pistol or knife easily accessible, I wear a 2″ wide leather belt over the shirt. It is long enough to not bunch up and allows for the belt to be comfortably worn. This configuration also brings the shirt in closer to my body and keeps me even warmer. There is just enough air flow for spring/fall weather, but with the belt I can raise the 2 position wind flap to keep me quite toasty at temperatures around 0 degrees with only a t shirt on as a base layer.

Wind Flap Full Position

Wind Flap Full Position

Wind Flap Half Position

Wind Flap Half Position

The eyelets/grommets at the neckline allow for 550 cord lacing. Not only does this give me some emergency cordage, but I can cinch down the hood, the neck or both. Since the hood is so big, I can also put the hood down and cinch it all up so that it works to keep my neck warm while wearing a hat. I wear it that way a lot with a scarf or shemagh. It really keeps the air trapped inside the shirt to provide phenomenal protection and warmth when worn that way.

The entire shirt is flannel lined and well sewn. Many shirts I have seen use a wool blanket that doesn’t have as closely knit fibers as the wool we used. This, along with the flannel liner, cuts the wind much better and resists the elements more readily. As for the actual design, the shoulder seams are done in such a way as to disallow stretching even when completely soaked. We are toying with the idea of making an unlined oilskin anorak that will fit over the shirt. Since synthetics ALWAYS leak in extremely wet conditions, I have been pushing for the oilskin solution. We should have some prototypes and start testing that idea this fall. Being in Western Washington allows me to do some pretty intense wet weather testing.

Lining and Seams

Lining and Seams

As you can see, this has gotten a lot of wear over the last couple years. If you ignore the dog fur and remnants of fire prep from my last outing, you would not hardly believe that is was over 2 years old and worn 4-5 times a week in inclement weather.

Cuffs

Cuffs

For those that are wondering, no this does not have any pockets. We have experimented with several pocket designs, but I have not liked how they function. They tend to allow my to weigh my shirt down funny due to packing all my gear in my shirt. I also don’t like how all but arm pockets tend to interfere with my belt I wear. There just doesn’t seem to be that nice “happy medium” that allows for pockets without them becoming a complete hindrance in many situations.

At this time we are taking only a few orders. My mother is too busy building a companion set of bibs that will feature oilskin patches and a fully adjustable waistline. Once those are past the prototype and testing phases she will start accepting orders for the shirts and bibs.

Thank you for looking and hit me up with any questions.

The End

The End

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PDXXFit (1 or 2 X’s)

by Woodsbum

A little over a month ago I decided to make a change in my life. I went full on idiot and started paying someone to kick my ass a couple times a week. My goals were pretty simple in theory:

I want to be in less pain when I do serious physical activity and be able to move better

Sounds like a simple plan, right? Believe me that it isn’t when trying to do it alone. Booze and my Catnapper easy chair are just WAY too accessible when I overexert myself. Having someone push me into getting into better physical condition really was essential. Searching online for workouts, buying training applications, reading books, blah, blah, and blah just were not enough to make me push past the pain and just get in better shape (and I know pear is a shape, just not the one I want to be).

Luckily, I have a highly motivated daughter that used to work at LA Fitness. She knew several trainers from there and knew one of their Master Trainers that opened his own place. After a couple of weeks of her badgering her friend, I got a call to come in for an assessment. This was my first experience with crossfit or any of the crossfit methods of training.

Let me back up a little bit so no one thinks that I have never seen the inside of a gym. Back when I was in the military, I used to work out at least 4 days a week on a slow week. At my height of being a gym rat I would do 2 – 3 workouts a day and run 3-7 miles several days a week. This didn’t include my 16-18 miles a day I commuted via bicycle or the rock climbing I did on the weekends. To say that I was quite active was truly an understatement. Then one evening I fell down an embankment that is steep enough I call it a cliff. It messed up my back pretty bad and made it difficult for me to continue that level of physical activity. Due to constant pain, I slowed down on the workouts to the point where I was only hitting a body bag a few times a week (20-30 minutes) and some weight training. Weight packed on and I was no longer feeling good about myself or my physical condition. That was when I finally decided that I needed outside help.

Back to my phone call and first appointment with a guy named Marco: At first I will admit. I was very skeptical. He didn’t have any of the normal gym equipment that I have always used and was accustomed to seeing. There were racks of medicine balls, kettle bells everywhere, several tug o’ war ropes and about 6 or 8 squat racks. No where did I see a single stair stepper, which was good because I agree with Po from Kung Fu Panda on that: “My old enemy: stairs.”

Marco sat down and talked with me, did some biometric measurements, assessed my physical condition (abysmal), and set me up with a schedule to really start training. Now mind you that Marco has a weird fetish about squats. He loves to make people do squats for days and then do more. I think he likes to see if he can make himself tired through other people doing squats. Squats, squats, squats and more squats…..

I am poking fun at Marco and the crazy workout stuff that he has me doing, but in all seriousness I feel so much better. Not only am I moving better, but I am feeling better overall. It really is working and I am still amazed at how badly a “Battle Rope” and ball slams kick my ass. Not once I have I had to do an exercise that actually hurts either my beat up joints or back. His methods are amazing.

Right now I am almost half way done with my 12 week program. When I am finished I will report back on my overall progress, but I can assure you that I am really pleased thus far. If I can keep this up and get past that “hurting to bad to continue” hump that I was stuck at, I will be able to actually get back out and do the things that I love doing. Although playing basketball will never be an option for me ever again, I should be able to hike and backpack without killing myself. Even my hunting trips should be easier. Most importantly, I will be in better physical condition to go play with my grandchildren.

Although I am unsure as to how Marco works things with regard to private training, group training, or the sort I really would recommend that you look him up if you are in the market for a good trainer. He would be the one to discuss pricing and scheduling, but I know that his dedication to both his craft and his clients is really unmatched from what I have seen.

Give him a call. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a way to get back in shape, but don’t want to waste money on the disinterested and overpriced personal trainers at the big box gyms.

Marco’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mypdxfit/

Marco’s Website: http://www.mypdxfit.com/

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