Friday, August 16, 2013

New Spot Gen3 Review

The New Spot Gen3
Not too "water friendly"


I was excited to hear that Spot released a new updated version of their famous Satellite GPS Messenger series.  Dubbed the Gen3, the new device has some great features but also a fatal flaw.  Here's my review.

Putting hands on the new Spot Gen3 was difficult.  I already researched all the information about the device online and discovered the Gen3 touted improved performance, a motion activation feature, better battery life, more settings for the track function, and the ability to power the unit from an outside power source.


After calling around, I discovered my local BassPro Shop had one of new units in stock.  So, I drove down to check it out.

I was immediately disappointed.

Why?  Because the new Spot Gen3 now has an external USB port connector on the back of the unit.  It was added to allow the unit to be powered by a cable from an external power source and a way to accommodate firmware updates.

The flaw in this design is that the external USB connector port is covered by a flimsy rubber cap that can pop off while handling allowing a potential source for water leaks into the unit. That's a bad thing.

The rubber cover on the unit I inspected kept coming off.  It simply wasn't a good fit.  You should note the Gen3 Users Guide clearly states the Spot is NOT waterproof when using line power.  Yikes!

I'm not sure why the designers decided on this poor design feature.  The last thing I want to risk in the field is my Spot GPS Messenger failing due to a water leak.

You should consider this if you plan on using the Spot Gen3 near water or wet environments.  Especially saltwater which is extremely corrosive on electrical connectors.

I suspect the only folks who will get any value out of the Spot Gen3 are pilots.  Risking a water leak through the external USB port makes this a deal breaker for outdoor enthusiasts or kayakers.

Past Spot Problems

The previous Spot model had its own share of problems.  The company issued a recall notice after discovering some units didn't meet their battery performance and messaging standards.

Now the poor design of the Spot Gen3.  Hmmm.....


I would not recommend the Spot Gen3 because of the potential for water leaking into the unit from the rubber cover on the external USB connector.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easy Kayak Storage System- Under $60 for Two!

Our Perception Essence 165 touring kayaks arrived in January and ever since I've been searching for an easy, affordable kayak storage system.  You know, the kind that won't break the bank account?

Well, thanks to my friend Jim, all it took was a trip to my local Lowe's Home Improvement Center.  I ended up spending under $60 to hang two kayaks!  Man, does it look great too! 

Parts List:

  2- 20" Heavy Duty Shelving Brackets ($10 ea.)
  2- 15 " Heavy Duty Shelving Brackets ($9 ea.)
  2-  6' Section of  1" Thick Rubber Pipe Insulation ($7 ea)
16-  Plastic Zip Ties (Already had)
12-  2" Dry Wall Screws (Already had)

Total- $52

Other items you'll need: 
A pair of scissors, a stud finder, pencil, and an electric screwdriver or drill with a Phillips head driver bit.

The wall I used to hang the yaks had an electric panel on it.  So in order to maintain unimpeded access I decided to place one boat high and the other low.

I found some white heavy duty shelving brackets at Lowe's in the section that sells wire shelving.  You may have to ask for them.  These are very sturdy.  I purchased a pair of 20" brackets for the top boat and 15" brackets for the bottom boat.  This was because the 15" bracket allowed me the amount of space needed to clear the electric panel.

Here's what they look like and a shot of the box the 20" brackets came in.

Found them at Lowe's!

Here's what the box looked like

Determine Support Points:

Consult your kayak manufacturers owners manual to see what support points they suggest for your particular model.  Mine basically called for one support behind the forward hatch cover and the other in front of the aft hatch.  I was lucky.  The wall studs were located in just the right positions!

Hang the Brackets:

Locate the wall studs using a stud finder and decide what height you need to place each bracket then secure them using dry wall screws.  I used 2" screws and placed some washers over the heads just to match the mounting holes better.  You could use longer screws if you want.

Install Hull Protection:

I used 1" thick rubber pipe insulation to protect against scratching the hull and form a nice non-skid surface.  Don't buy the cheaper closed cell foam pipe insulation- it doesn't work as well.

Place the pipe insulation over the top bracket support and cut enough to extend past the tip by about 2 inches.  Wrap the end around and use zip ties to keep the insulation in place.  Because of the double wrapped end,  I had to use two zip ties for extra length.

Here's what the insulation looks like:

Get the "rubber" kind not the cheap closed cell foam!

Cut it long enough to wrap around

Use two together if needed

Don't forget to zip tie the end near the wall

Repeat the process for the remaining brackets.  Always double check your measurements to insure the brackets are level so your kayaks will hang straight across.

Here's the finished storage system:

Nice and level!

The 15" brackets would have worked fine up top

Added bonus:  Use the remaining pipe insulation on the down supports of the 20" brackets and hang your paddle across too!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Red Rock Canyon Marathon Race Report


I'll admit I wasn't too excited about doing another run after experiencing the problem filled Inaugural Rock 'n Roll Marathon in Savannah, Ga on November 5, 2011.

Then Kim mentioned the Red Rock Canyon Marathon in Nevada on March 10, 2012 put on by Calico Racing.   The event gets rave reviews from past participants and the lure of bagging another state was motivation enough.  This would be my 17th marathon and Kim's 12th.

Yeehaw! Let's sign-up!

Our running group this trip would include a friend, Shawn, who signed up for the half marathon and her husband Rick who would handle logistic support and be the lead photographer.

We're excited.

Flight and Accommodations

Booking airfare from Charlotte to Las Vegas was crazy.  Kim and I ended up saving about $400 by flying out Thursday instead of Friday and grabbing a one night stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Las Vegas-Red Rock/Summerlin

The Hampton Inn is a great place and super convenient. I highly recommend this location.  We transferred over to the official marathon hotel- The Red Rock Casino Resort Spa on Friday afternoon.  Wow, what an impressive place!

Of course, before check-in we couldn't pass up a drive down the famous Las Vegas Strip.  Fabulous!

Vegas Baby!

The Red Rock Casino Resort Spa was nothing short of stunning.  Our room sported a spacious main bedroom area and a large bathroom complete with a marble tile shower and the deepest bathtub I've ever seen.  It would prove valuable for the post-marathon soak.
Red Rock Casino Resort Spa

Checking In

Nice Room!
Deepest Bathtub I've Ever Seen


Shawn and Rick made the Hampton Inn their base of operation and would stay over into the next week visiting their son Kent who is a performer in Mystere, a Cirque du Soleil production at the Treasure Island Casino.

Packet Pick-up

(L-R) Kim, Kent, Shawn, and Rick

Packet pick-up was at the Ridges Banquet Room in the main hotel between 5:00-9:00pm on Friday.  It was no-frills, organized, and uncrowded.  There weren't any vendors here, just one small table on the other side of the room where you could purchase left over items from past races, mainly tech shirts.

Packet Pick-Up

We found out there were about 900 people signed up for both the half and full marathons.  This was good number of runners since the course is in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, an area managed by the Bureau of Land Management and protected as a National Conservation Area.

The area is home to the Desert Tortoise, an endangered and protected species.  All runners had to sign a “Desert Tortoise Acknowledgment Waiver” form in order to be allowed to run.

Pasta Dinner

Time to Carb Up!


Carbing up before the race couldn't have been easier.  There was an Olive Garden Restaurant directly across the street!  Kim and I both had soup, a hearty serving of plain buttered pasta, and those famous bread sticks.  You just can't beat an Olive Garden meal before a marathon.

It's early to bed since we have a 6:00am start and all runners would be bused to the start location.

The Course

The race organizers really planned out the transportation system well.  There were two locations where runners could get on buses for travel to the half and full start line.  One at the main hotel and the other on The Strip next to the Bally's Hotel and Casino.  Buses began running at 4:30am at both locations.

Ready to go!

The only small glitch Kim and I had was that the front desk clerk told us our buses would pick-up in front of the main lobby.  This was incorrect.  They actually picked up on the other side of the hotel at the Red Rock Casino entrance near the surface parking lots.  No problem once figured it out.

Our bus attendant and driver were so nice!  They went out of there way to engage us in conversation and even quizzed everyone on the bus to find out where we were all from.  Fun!
On the 5:00am bus

Now I have to explain a little bit about the course and how it was organized.  The run would take place along the 13 mile scenic drive roadway inside the park.  This is a one way road that begins at the Visitors Center and loops around before exiting the park at a different location.

Marathon Start Location

Our View at the Start

Marathoners began at 6:00am at the exit location, run to the Visitors Center, turn around, and run back.  Extra mileage was built in along the way to achieve 26.2 miles.

Half marathoners on the other hand, started at 7:00am from the Visitor Center and ran to the exit point.  Both groups crossed paths along the way.  I wasn't sure how this would go but I can tell you it was rejuvenating since mostly everyone you passed exchanged words of encouragement.  Shouts of “Looking good!”, “Good job!”, and “Way to go!” could be heard continuously.  It just made you feel good listening to that sort of stuff from other runners.

This was a challenging course but some of the pain was taken away by the absolute spectacular scenery!  It was definitely worth the entry fee.

Here We Go!

Along the Course
Great Views!

Trying to Tell Me Something?

Time for the Happy Dance!

Aid stations were spaced out about every 1-2 miles with “Ultra” stations about every 4-6 miles that included a full spread of water, Hammer Heed, Hammer Endurolyte tablets, bananas, oranges, Hammer Gel, salty & sweet snacks, basic first aid, and a portable toilet.

The volunteers at every station were remarkable!   I tell you, out of all my marathons, the aid stations and volunteers here get my vote as the very best.

The Run

Kim and I planned on maintaining our normal slow and steady pace.  It proved to be the right decision.  At mile 17 my right calf muscle began to cramp so I slowed down even more and adjusted my gait to try minimizing the pain.  It worked pretty well.

The downhills on this course did a number on our quads but we managed to run through the pain.  Then just before mile 24 I had some major cramping issues that finally subsided by mile 25.  I'm thankful for Kim being there to offer words of encouragement.  She's a good leaning post!


The Warm-Ups Over. 6 miles to Go

On the Back Side Now

Kim Poses with 2 "Elvinas"

We finished the run at 5:35 and were awarded an awesome medal- a big piece of hardware.  Post race food was fabulous at the finish line.  There was an assortment of sweet and salty treats, yogurt cups, muffins, fruit, and an assortment of fluids.  Way to go guys!

Nice Medal!

Big Hardware!

After resting a bit, we jumped on another bus for the 10 minute ride back to the hotel.  Yeah!

Post Race

I'm a big fan of drinking a couple bottles of Hammer Recoverite after each long run.  I'm convince it helps speed muscle recovery. That and a big dose of ibuprofen.  But I also had to look forward to soaking in that deep giant of a bathtub back in our room.  It felt so good.  There was even a TV mounted above the tub. I felt like a big roller no doubt about it.

Saturday Evening

Time for some fun!  Shawn and Rick made reservations at The Barrymore Restaurant on The Strip inside the Royal Resort.  It's a cozy little joint that specializes in American cuisine.  The atmosphere reminded me of a place that the Rat Pack would have dined at in the early 1960's.  Our table was a half moon shaped booth upholstered in crushed blue suede velvet.  The ceiling tiles in the dimly lit room were old gold colored film reels.  The side wall was completely mirrored.

Our waiter was knowledgeable and snappy in his service delivery. He sent over the sommelier who offered a blended wine selection that was to die for.  Shawn decided to try the cobia fish special while everyone else ordered the beef special that included two different types of steak medallions served with root vegetables and a beef reduction.  Superb!  No one had room for dessert.  Drats!

Next, off to see the 9:30pm performance of Mystere at Treasure Island.  The show was breathtaking.  Shawn and Ricks son, Kent, is a gymnast in the show and does one of the Chinese Pole acts.  Kent was amazing.  I still don't understand how he does some of the intricate moves.  He actually defies gravity!

After the show Kent gave us a backstage tour and described some of the things that go on behind the scenes to make the show possible.  Thanks Kent for your great hospitality.

Kent in his make-up, Kim, and I

Stage view from high above


Sunday Tourist Stuff

Hoover Dam

Memorial Bridge


I can't say enough good things about the whole Red Rock Canyon Marathon experience. This event was so well organized, set in one of the best scenic locations, led by an amazing Race Director, and crewed by a remarkable group of volunteers. Kudos to all.

Don't be fooled, the course is tough but doable given the 7 hour time limit. Definitely put this race on your short list and be sure to check out all the other Calico Racing events. You will not be disappointed.

Las Vegas is fun in its own sort of way. The city offers something for everyone from gaming, to fine dining, to fabulous entertainment venues. Go, enjoy!

Special congratulations to Shawn for completing her second half marathon in 2:35. You did good!

Thanks to Rick for taking all those fantastic pictures and finding Kim and I along the way.

Shawn, Kim, Marc Victory Pose

Goodbye Red Rocks

Thanks for Showing Us a Good Time

I hope you enjoyed this race report. Until next time....