Raleigh - People, Infrastructure & Entertainment

We had some possible work in the Raleigh area show up on our radar, and since the Onwired folks, Ryan Irelan (of both EEInsider and Mijingo), part of the Viget folks, and Dean Peters of HealYourChurchWebsite are all in the area we aimed that way after leaving the Outer Banks area on 11/23.

The North Carolina state parks were all closed for the season, so we settled in at a private park about 20 miles SW of the Raleigh area.  The park was little more than an ex-farm-field turned into a gravel RV parking lot, but with full hookups, wifi, and on-site laundry for $12.50 a night (yay Passport America!) it served us well for our visit to the area.

Our time in the Raleigh area was a bit different from much of our trip in that we did little sightseeing.  It was more about meeting people we’ve known for years online and fixing some issues we were having with our on-the-road setup.  Some highlights from the visit:

People
We joined up with Dean Peters and family for a Thanksgiving service at their home church of Resurrection Lutheran in Cary, NC (note that Dean has yet to “heal” anything on the church website..).  The service was very traditional, and we took the Lords Supper kneeling around an altar, with real wine being poured by the Minister dressed in full robes.  This was a new experience for all of us (and whether Miranda was almost served real wine instead of grape juice is still a matter of great debate).  Afterwards we joined the Peters at their home for pie, coffee, and several hours of fun conversation while Data and Miranda played with the Peter’s daughter.  We had such a good time we returned another night for a cookout and more kid time and adult conversation.

We also conned the OnWired folks into hosting an ExpressionEngine meetup with OnWired generously providing beer and pizza to fuel the EE conversation.  We had a great time connecting with some of the local tech scene and talking EE and Technomadism.

As it turned out Mr. Irelan and wife welcomed their first child into the world during this time, so we were unable to meet them but wish them all the best in their new adventure.

Movies
We haven’t been to a real movie theater as a family much over the years - it’s just too expensive.  However after a day of errand running and faced with another quiet night in the trailer we sought out a movie theater.  Our surprise upon rolling into the Carmike Blue Ridge 14 Cinema is that all shows are $1.50.  Elated at a $6 family movie night we saw Despicable Me that night and returned the following night for Toy Story 3.

Infrastructure
The truck got a tire rotation and a headlight alignment, but the bigger project was bikes.  We wanted to take all 4 bikes on this trip - to potentially save gas running errands, give the kids something to do in campgrounds, and (hopefully) start some family rides.

Our trailer came with a receiver hitch mounted on the rear bumper and we owned a hitch-mount bike rack so it seemed like the perfect setup.  We added a heavy duty cover and hit the road that way. 

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I’m amazed we never lost the bikes (and caused an accident in the process).

What I hadn’t really thought about or expected was the amount of bouncing the bikes would get on the back of the trailer. And just how bad some roads would be (Pennsylvania - man!).  In Erie, PA I found the rack hanging at an angle, with the hitch bolt loose.  I tightened things up and added a ratchet strap from the bumper to the rack top to take up some of slack.  That lasted a week or so before the ratchet strap broke.  The next idea was eyehooks on the rack and trailer bumpers with 5/16” steel cable and chain tighteners running between the eyehooks.  I also double-lock-nutted the bolt on the hitch.  It felt solid - but the first trip found the cables hanging loose.  There was enough bounce that the hooks on the chain tighteners came loose.  I replaced the hooks with threaded “D” rings so there was no way for them to come loose.  Coming into Raleigh I found a cable dragging with the end broken.  One of the 12,000 LB eyehooks I had used on the bike rack had broken, in addition to some of the rubber straps used to secure the bikes to the carrier.

Frustrated, I went into research mode and found many stories of similar issues with bikes on the back of travel trailers.  There is so much bounce there that trailer manufactures sometimes void frame warranties for bumper mounted stuff, and the bike rack manufacturers state “not for use on travel trailers” in their legalese.  It was clear we needed a different solution.  I wanted all 4 bikes in the same spot, and didn’t want to look at them hanging off the front of the truck, so the only option was a roof rack.  I had priced these out in the past and knew they weren’t cheap, but I saw no real alternative. 

So - I called a Raleigh-based Yakima dealer and ordered the entire setup for four bikes.  Yes, it was expensive.  Yes, they are high up when on the truck.  But once the bikes are mounted they feel solid and, using a team approach (one person on the ground, one in the truck bed, and one standing on the front edge of the truck bed) they aren’t horrible to get up there.  The biggest disappointment is that they won’t be covered so we’ll be dealing with rust issues from rain.  I do have to say the roof rack really adds more of an “adventure” feel to the truck…;)

Oh - we also had to buy new winter coats all around.  Temperatures in the area were maxxing out in the 50’s and dipping into the 20’s overnight and we just weren’t prepared for temperatures that low.  The kids needed new winter coats anyway, so off to Lands End we went (we wanted their warranty based on our expected heavier usage).

Library
We spent another library day at the Cary library.  I joked we could have called this trip the “Tailgating at America’s Libraries” tour as we once again heated up soup over a campstove on the truck tailgate for lunch.

Museum
We also spent a day a the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.  We initially were drawn to the “Animal grossology” exhibit they are showing. While the museum itself is free this exhibit has an admission cost which we paid with great expectation.  What we found is that the exhibit is a curious mix of displays that are visually designed to appeal to kids younger than ours while also containing large blocks of text that even the older kids had trouble finding the attention span for.  The exhibit held our attention for about 40 minutes then we were done.  The rest of the museum was more our speed - but the kids really found their home in the museum’s hands-on room that contained thousands of different insect, rock, shell, animal and plant specimens.  It was here that we finally identified some of the shells we had found in Virginia Beach.

Not much sightseeing means not many photos, but here are a few to cover our time in Raleigh.

Our spot in Raleigh - not sexy but cheap with amenities.

Our spot in Raleigh - not sexy but cheap with amenities.

Tony Chester of OnWired at the EE Meetup

Tony Chester of OnWired at the EE Meetup

Data & Storybird find a wolf skin.

Data & Storybird find a wolf skin.

Storybird at the microscope.

Storybird at the microscope.

Data weighs and measures.

Data weighs and measures.

The failed bike rack cable.

The failed bike rack cable.

Data helping to install the new roof rack.

Data helping to install the new roof rack.

Rack installed, bikes off.

Rack installed, bikes off.

Bikes almost as tall as the trailer.

Bikes almost as tall as the trailer.

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9 Comments Raleigh - People, Infrastructure & Entertainment

  1. Picture of RickRick December 05, 2010

    It might have cost a bit, but it sure look SHARP!

  2. Picture of Larry LeakeLarry Leake December 05, 2010

    You missed out on camping at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area - not all of the areas are closed during the winter. It’s a great spot - sorry you had to camp at the gravel orchard pictured above….

  3. Picture of BoyinkBoyink December 05, 2010

    Hey Larry -

    We looked at that one, but they evidently lock the gate at the campground at either 6 or 8 PM and stated NO entry or exit after that.  Concerns for emergencies aside we had some evening activities that were going to keep us out later than that.

    The private park was a parking lot but served it’s purpose, let me get some work done from the trailer, and was quiet and clean.

  4. Picture of Larry leakeLarry leake December 05, 2010

    There’s always a camp host in each loop so you can get out in emergency. Actually the gate closing is kind of nice, ‘cause you don’t have people coming in at all hours of the night. This is the case for all North Carolina State Park campgrounds. The 6pm gate close in the winter is a challenge though.

    Wish I had known about your meetup. Would have been interesting.

  5. Picture of Margie LundyMargie Lundy December 05, 2010

    Hope your rack works out! We had them on my old van for bike/kayaks and loved it. SHOULD have kept it. Hindsight… We had to get winter coats too!  :)

  6. Picture of salguodsalguod December 05, 2010

    That rack set up looks nice.  I’m considering Yakima cross bars for my factory rack, getting 4 bikes up there with the factory bars is bike interlocking puzzle.  They are tight.  I went with the factory bars when I bought it because the Yakima or Thule setup was going to be $250+ and the factory bars were ~$185.  Had I known how narrow they were, the extra $65+ would have easily been worth it.

    Getting them up there is a job, I don’t have a bed to stand in, but I manage.  Hoist a bike overhead, balance it on outer rack while stepping up on rear tire, lock the bike down.  I leave the cross bars and bike racks all together and hang the assembly on the garage wall when not used, something I couldn’t do with my minivan rack.

  7. Picture of Ryan IrelanRyan Irelan December 06, 2010

    Sorry I missed you guys, Mike. I was looking forward to meeting the rest of the family and welcoming you to the area. I hope you’ll find your way back…spring time is beautiful here. :)

  8. Picture of BoyinkBoyink December 06, 2010

    Hey Ryan - No worries!  We know how unpredictable life with little (or not so little) ones can be.

    We’ll see what happens with our locale & timing.

  9. Picture of BoyinkBoyink December 06, 2010

    Doug - that is tight!

    I do like how much room I have between bikes with this rack setup.  It’s note quite “roll them on” like Yakima suggests, but it’s not bad.

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