Sunday, July 19, 2015

Roadrunner Front Console Tray

Pam and I have often wondered how to make the front console area more useable.  The wood cupholders are not really that functional because they are shallow.  I asked my friend Kirk, who has a woodshop if we could come up with something and we did.

It took us a couple or three years to finally get it done, but we are very happy with the result.
First, Pam and I taped together some cardboard to make a template of the area we thought we wanted to cut out of wood.
We liked the size and the way it fit, and Kirk went to work in his woodshop using some poplar wood he had in his garage.  It was a little bit of an 'L' shape so he glued a piece together using wood glue and a biscuit joiner.
We liked how the rough cut fit and gave ourselves a little distance on the left half in front of the dials below the radio so we had room to operate them.  For the corners, we used the curve of a plastic cup.
Next, Kirk added 1/2 inch of trim along the edges around the whole top.
After he cut all the pieces like he wanted, he glued them down and used a few brad nails to secure it.
Next he cut down the excess and sanded and sanded the sides.  We both took turns on that until it all looked like the trim was right on the edge.
We wanted to cut a 'test case' before we did it on the new table top.  He used a scrap piece to make sure it was going to work.
The test case was developed from my first iPad holder prototype and we proceeded.  We cut two pieces that fit snuggly into the cupholders.  Then we carefully drilled two holes for screws and inserted a two female-threaded screw receptacles.  (Forgot what the technical name for the piece is...)
The iPad holder was also screwed and secured with a bolt into the underside of the console.  None of the screws or the bolt touched any wood.  There was no scratching or contact of metal and wood except for the drilled holes.
Then we carefully measured where the screws were going to go in the top of the console.  We had to precisely drill the holes over the female inserts.  The screws on top were 'counter sinked'.  When the screws were tightened, the bottom piece in the cup holder drew up against the cupholders on the underside.  On top, the console was tight and secure.  No movement at all.
The moment of truth came when I slowly screwed down the four screws.  All went into the threaded receptacle pieces easily and screwed down just below the top of the console so there was no unevenness.
We were pretty excited about using it after we left Oklahoma City for Palo Duro Canyon near Texas.
I had an iPad holder which worked well and we had a space that was 100% more useful than the previous cupholders.  Instead of a balancing act when we had lunch as we traveled down the road, this new surface made it easy.

Once we got to Albuquerque, we had a couple of trial and errors on the right tint and color to match the color of the other woodwork in the Roadrunner.
Pam tired a couple of different stains before we declared victory and went with something that was not exact but close.
Next, Pam got some rubber/foam matted shelving cover for the console top so things would not slide around.
It was a one piece deal, so I had to sequence it all together and tighten down the four screws underneath the pad.
The final result:
We've had it now for a few weeks and really love it.  We couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
If for some reason, we decide we don't want the iPad holder any more, we can remove that and cut out a new black pad and you couldn't even tell there was one there.
Or, if we decide we want to go back to just the cupholders, we can remove the entire console unit and there are no scratches or screw holes to be seen.

But I think we will use this for a long time...

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Our Time in Rocky Mountain National Park

We stayed at the Riverside RV Campground in Loveland, CO for our time in the near Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was about a 20 minute drive from there up to Estes Park and then a little ways beyond that to see the RMNP River Entrance Station.

We started there and then made our way over to the Alpine Visitor Center.  What a great drive!
The right corner of the map shows the Fall River Entrance Station which is where we started.  From there we picked up a map that showed the major roads and scenic observation points throughout the park.
We took our time and drove over the Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitors Center.
Inside there were some artifacts and small displays of animals that frequent the area
There were some nice views of the valley below
 There was a restaurant at the Alpine Visitor Center but since we had a picnic lunch we just looked around some more and headed back down the mountain.

Here's another map showing some of the stops we made along the way

The overlooks and scenic stops were beautiful.
And we saw some wildlife down the mountainside
With my telephoto lense, I was able to get some close shots of these magnificent beasts.  They didn't seem too interested in us which was fine with me...
We found a spot to have a picnic and enjoyed our lunch along the way.
We also drove up another day for a drive over to the Bear Lake.  It was still before 10:30 but they put up signs advising to take the Shuttle because the parking lot was full.  We took our chances but sure enough it was full!  We were hoping either there might be a spot or someone would be pulling out.

So we have something to see next time.  We didn't take advantage of any of the hikes this time but there are plenty of those in the park.

We enjoyed our time at Rocky Mountain National Park and will have to come back another time.
Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, July 3, 2015

iPad Holder Prototype #1 for the Roadrunner

I have been thinking about an iPad holder so I could use Google Maps while I drive.  

Last summer Adam built a little aluminum frame with magnets to hold his iPad mini on the dash of his car.  Using that same general idea, I looked for many months for a solution that would work for us in the Roadrunner.  I decided to build something similar to what he did.

First I had to get all the pieces together which were in three parts:
  1. A flexible arm strong enough to hold a frame and my iPad
  2. An iPad 'holder' that I could mount with flexible arm  
  3. Some way to fasten the iPad frame and arm without drilling holes into our wood console or doing damage to the dash
Here's what I came up with as my first prototype:
The flexible arm:
I picked this up at a nick-nack discount gadget store near Murfreesboro TN that was full of gadgets.
I liked this because it had a nut at the top of the arm near the magnifying glass and also had a nut down on the other end for the clamp.  This was what I needed to secure the iPad frame at one end and then screw the bolt into the platform I built for the cupholder.

At first I wasn't sure how to make this 'flex arm' strong enough for the frame and holder but I knew it had potential.

What I ended up doing to 'stiffen' the flexible arm was to liberally use electrical tape and tightly wind  it around the entire length of the arm.  It still wasn't tight enough so I put a layer of good old duct tape around the length of the arm.  I still wasn't quite stiff enough so I wound another layer of electrical tape on top.  That gave me three layers of tape which ended up to be perfect.  It had enough stiffness to hold the frame and the iPad.

Next, the frame:
I used Adam's solution of aluminum 'angle bar' that I picked up at Home Depot and cut to size.
A hack saw and 4" x 4" scrap piece was good support while I cut the pieces.

I used my Dremel to sand down the edges.

I found some metal on metal epoxy that I used to glue it together and clamps to hold things in place.
I let it dry for a couple of days.  But the angles and corners were not holding to well so I found small screws and nuts to fasten the corners.  Those small screws and nuts were key to keeping the sides in place.  The epoxy did not work.
I also cut two cross pieces for the back drilled a larger whole in the middle for the end of the flexible arm to bolt to the frame.  I used some extra velcro to put over the in sides of the frame so the iPad wouldn't get scratched.  

Lastly I needed to Secure it to dash/console cupholder:

It took two pieces, one of which you can't see very well.
I slid the first piece of wood for the bottom of the cupholder.  Then I cut out a round piece the side of the cuphole and drilled a hole through the center for the other end of the flexible arm to go through.  
I screwed the end of the flexible arm to the bottom piece of wood in the cupholder.  Next, I drilled three holes into the top round pieced for three screws into the wood and fastened it all together.

It looks like I didn't do any photos for the wood base and the circular attachment in the cupholder.  But here is the finished product.
I was pretty excited about using this!  It worked well and opened up a whole new world for me.  As the primary driver I don't often get to see where we are along the route.  Now I can by pulling up Google maps and 'Directions' from our starting point to our destination for the day.

We used this prototype on our trip from Virginia Beach all the way to Oklahoma City.  It was functional and adequate, but I knew it wasn't the final product.   

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!