Epic Trip West – Part 1

We just got back from a two week trip out west to visit family.  It was quite an adventure traveling with a one year old Frugal Boy for so long, but we had a great time and would do it again.

We started our trip by flying out of a nearby smaller airport, Peoria International Airport.  Shae and I both really enjoyed the small airport with its shorter lines and friendly TSA staff.  We chose to fly with Allegiant, a budget airline, and unsurprisingly they had several delays.  With time to kill in Peoria we went to a park to try and burn off some toddler energy.




With the sun setting below the horizon it was time to move on and check our baggage at the airport.  I believe all airlines let you check carseats and a stroller for free.  We debated beforehand whether or not we wanted to lug Frugal Boy’s giant carseat with us.  On the one hand, it was free to do so, but on the other hand it might be banged up, soiled, or even lost in transit.  The alternative was to buy a cheap carseat upon arriving or paying twice that to a rent a used one from the car rental place.  In the end, we decided just to lug our own and risk it.  Luckily, our fears were wasted energy and all was well.


Peoria has a nice modern airport.  Due to delays, our flight didn’t leave for Las Vegas until just before 10 pm.  We weren’t quite sure what was in store for us with a three hour flight and lap child.



Frugal Boy slept contently in Shae’s arms until we arrived at Las Vegas at 1 am CST, 10pm PST.  After collecting our luggage and finding the hotel shuttle, several passengers, the driver, and us endured Frugal Boy’s screaming for 20 minutes until we arrived at the hotel.  I left the driver an extra large tip, and thankfully the other passengers were forgiving.

The next morning was the start of our real adventure.  First things first, we needed some wheels to escape Las Vegas.


I tried rather unsuccessfully to use a kiosk to retrieve our rental car, but my Illinois driver’s license wouldn’t scan.  A short wait at the counter and we had a 2015 Nissan Altima with 3,000 miles on it.  The 12 day, unlimited mileage rental was $465.  Both Shae and I agreed that we got our money’s worth.  The IRS publishes standard mileage rates every year that figure in the ‘wear and tear’ on a car.  For 2014, the rates were:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

If we take 35¢ per mile (between business and moving) as our wear and tear expense and factor in that we put over 1300 miles on the rental car we end up pretty close to what we paid.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.24.44 AM


It certainly didn’t hurt to have brand new AC in 110°F desert heat.

With the car seat facing forward for the first time and positioned in the middle for optimal viewing, we drove east towards the Grand Canyon.


Our first pit stop was the Hoover Dam, just outside of Las Vegas.


The Hoover Dam blocks the Colorado River, and in the process creates Lake Mead.  Lake Mead is Las Vegas’ primary water supply.  A multitude of states lay claim to the waters of the Colorado River, and the demand has outpaced supply.  Lake Mead water levels have fallen drastically over the years, as evidenced by the discoloration of the canyon walls.


Despite the shortage of water out west, I was a bit surprised that not a single place we visited, besides Walnut Canyon, had implemented low flow anything.  The Vegas hotel we stayed at on the first night, which was not on the strip, had water guzzling showers and faucets.  I was bemused at the pamphlet in the lobby that talked about the water shortage and how the casino CEOs were stepping up and encouraging their employees to reduce water consumption at home.  Then those same executives touted the massive water savings they had achieved (or rather their employees in their personal lives), never mind their commercial properties had made zero changes.

Anyway, getting back on topic.  The spillway/overflow at the Hoover Dam had obviously not seen any use in a long time.


Stay tuned for more exciting adventures including The Road Less Travelled, Selfie Sticks Turned On a Leashed Toddler, and the fording of the mighty Rio de Flag.

Upgrading the Graphics Card

I recently bought some software so I could make some commercials for my business.  Like a dummy, I didn’t check the system requirements for some of the plugins that I purchased.  Lo and behold, when I started up the app, it promptly crashed.  Upon further review, I discovered that my graphics card was just below the cutoff for the software.

Thankfully, I have a modular DIY style computer, so when one part goes bad or obsolete, I can simply replace that individual part instead of replacing the entire computer.  I ordered a new graphics card from Newegg.com, one of my favorite online stores for computer parts.

IMG_6589The new card, a GTX 960, is significantly faster than the card I had.  I could have purchased a cheaper card that would have met the requirements of the app, but this card supports up to three 4K monitors (ultra high definition / retina).  In my line of work, being able to see what my customers see is important, so I purchased something that is a bit future proof.  When I buy my first 4K monitor, this graphics card will be up to the task.

Below you can see the new card (on top) and the old 9800 GT.  I purchased the 9800 GT when I initially built the computer because it was a solid bang for your buck.


The GTX 960 is twice as thick and about 30% longer.  This turned out to be a small challenge.

The inside of my computer case is cramped and err, dirty.


The big black box at the top marked power supply, is the part that you plug into the wall and into all of the individual components of the computer to supply power (geez, who woulda thunk it?)

The red sticks in the upper right are the RAM modules.  They can be removed and upgraded.  I currently have 8 Gb of RAM installed (2×4).  Just to the left of the RAM modules in the CPU, heatsink, and fan.  As my nephew is finding out, this is a critical piece of the computer.  Without the heatsink and fan, the CPU will quickly overheat and automatically turn the computer off.  The mess of blue cables are SATA cables.  They carry data from the motherboard to things like hard drives and DVD Rom drives.  Finally, not pictured is the graphics card.  It plugs into a slot labeled PCIe x 16, for PCI Express 16.

My problem was that the new graphics card was so long it was butting into the hard drive chassis area.  Using tin snips, I cut out a notch so the extra long graphics card could fit.

IMG_6596With everything plugged in, I tested the computer before putting everything back into its proper place.


Opening up the other side panel, you can see the butt end of the GTX 960.


The software works now and I can start to make promo videos for my business.  Of course, the software doesn’t run very fast because I have an old CPU.  That’s an upgrade for another day!



June Update

Holy mackerel! It’s June already!!

Our garden is coming along.  Everything is planted, but the back row has just started to germinate.


I love how the carrots look like a forest.


The lettuce and spinach has been growing like weeds.  This picture was taken a few days ago and it has already doubled in size.


We’ve been eating fresh salad greens almost daily.  My birthday was at the end of May and Shae grilled lamb bacon burgers.  It was her first time grilling and I think she enjoyed it.


DIY projects have taken center stage again.  This time we will be rebuilding our front porch.  Here is a before shot.

IMG_6567It is shaping up to be a busy summer.  Aren’t they always?