Monday, June 11, 2018

Grill day

We've had the same Vermont Castings gas grill for about 8 years now, its played a support role in many of my videos. Recently I noticed a random blast of flame coming from a strange spot. Initially I thought it was due to a piece of crud covering a gas jet but it turns out the burner had holes rusted in it.


I suspect I could have welded in patches to save the old burner but it wouldn't be pretty and wouldn't last. That was the "cheap" burner which lasted 8 years, this time I opted for the "premium stainless steel burner". If it lasts another 8 years I'll be happy.

New burner, new briquette tray: 

New ceramic briquettes, new porcelain coated grill grates: 

Total cost about $150 shipped. $150 doesn't buy much in a grill...

To save wear and tear on the grill grates Angie bought some copper/silicone mats that go over the grates and prevent crud from cooking onto them, seems to work good and because they're thin you still get lines on the food.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


In my previous post I commented on how much I like Trader Joe's dried baby bananas, and I do, thats not what this post is about.
At the end of that post I put an Amazon affiliate link for said bananas with the comment that it was cheaper to buy the 2 pack than the three pack. I should note here that I rarely go to Trader Joes since there isn't one handy (or anywhere near actually) where I live. The other day I happened by a Trader Joes and bought two more bags of baby dried bananas and realized that the cheapest place to get them is Trader Joe's.

I know, duh right? What I hadn't realized was the price difference, the link I gave you is nearly $12 for two bags, in the store they're $2 each!

So don't use my link, I get a small amount of money if you do but really just buy two bags for $4 and give me $8, heck get a third bag and give me $6 ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

So good!

Did you know that dried baby bananas are a thing?

I found them by accident in Trader Joe's one time and they are so astonishingly good! Its hard to explain what they taste like, its condensed banana flavor and since they're dried they're a little bit oxidized so they're kind of a weird brownish color. The texture is a bit like stiff marshmallow which combined with the flavor is a new favorite of mine.

Its worth mentioning that I really like dried fruit and I really like bananas so this is a perfect combination. The link above is a 2 pack which is only $1 more expensive than a single pack...

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New Rifle!

I was surprised to find that my last post (Time for a new rifle) was very controversial. Apparently lots of folks thought I just don't know how to load my gun or how to use it. It was interesting to note that none of the "experts" had any experience what so ever with a CVA Buckhorn but thats how it goes.

Anyway last week we attended The Ancient Ones of Maine show in Augusta, Maine, I went with the intention of bringing home a side lock gun, preferably in .54 with a preference for a Thompson Center model.

As you can see in the picture I ended up with a TC Renegade in .54. The bores perfect, the wood is good although if you look just behind the barrel wedge you can see where somebody must have clamped it in a vice and squeezed it. It doesn't detract from the functionality of the gun and theres lots of meat in the stock, I could potentially sand/file the mark out.

So just a quick update for now, I also scored several hundred conical bullets, a couple boxes of the excellent Hornady Great Plains bullets in .50 and a large box of .54 bullets of some unknown manufacture, probably home cast but they look good and the price was very good. I'll let you know more when I get a chance to shoot it.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Time for a new rifle.

My parents gave me a CVA Buckhorn as a Christmas present a few years ago.

Dad and I were pretty impressed with how it shot right out of the box. It came with fiber optic "iron" sights that were actually made of plastic. The hunting season before last I was walking on snow covered ice when I slipped and fell and broke the front sight clean off. I already had the 3-9x scope for it but hadn't been able to make it shoot well. It turns out the mount I had was wrong, with the correct mount it shoots well. I use 80 grains of loose 777 powder with a 250gr TC sabot which will produce 1" groups easily at 50 yards. Thats not extreme accuracy but this is a really cheap gun. The fit and finish is nice but it does have a problem.

This is the closed bolt position. The thing is that this is quite a primitive system and in this position the primer will have been struck and the gun has been fired. That means you can't transport it like this.

In the open position you can see where the primer goes and this is the real problem.

The breech plug holds the primer in the center. The primer is retained by a spring clip around the hole. The breech plug itself is tightened with a slotted screwdriver. The problem is that any time water gets anywhere near the breech plug it can go through the slots, around the primer and in the touch hole and wet the powder. The time I fell snow packed into the breech and wetted the pellets I was using at the time.

Obviously those weren't going to go off. I figured that the problem was only because snow had really packed into the breech and I wouldn't have trouble if I took basic precautions. Well last December I spent two days in the field and didn't fall down once. I did however go through some heavy country. After the first day I pulled the charge and found it soaked.

That clump toward the top of the picture is all wet. Thats a duck sauce container from my local Chinese restaurant, they're super handy for this.

To ensure I didn't have an issue the second day I packed Bore Butter into the slots the screwdriver engages. With the breech plug installed I used a toothpick to ensure all the gaps were filled. I didn't get a chance to pull the charge until recently, when I did I found all the signs of a wet charge that had dried out. This one *might* have gone off but I wouldn't bet on it.

Contrast this to last spring when I was turkey hunting, I had my percussion cap 16ga and it was raining. It rained so much it pretty much ruined whatever crappy finish there was on the stock, that stuff just melted off. I pulled the charge every day, its super easy on a shotgun, and never found any sign of water intrusion. That was real black powder instead of 777, both are fairly hydroscopic but the percussion cap covers the only point of ingress on that 16ga, unlike the CVA.

The CVA is an "inline muzzleloader" which means the primer is inline with the barrel. Its the hot thing these days, the 209 shotgun primer gives powerful ignition and when the powder is dry I really can't complain with how the gun shoots. However that accuracy is no good if the gun won't go off...

I was thinking about another in-line. The newest models are break action which gives good coverage for the primer and prevents the ingress of water but then I was thinking that my 16ga works just fine why not get another percussion gun, a Hawken would work great. I'm thinking .54 cal, it'd be fun to play with a big bore gun for a change and "The Ancient Ones of Maine" gun show is coming at the end of the month...

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Great Games #5 King of Tokyo

Favorite Games #5 King of Tokyo

Giant monsters thrashing it out for control of Tokyo, whats not to love? King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game similar to Yahtzee, the twist is that players are giant monsters and the dice dole out damage, healing, energy or victory points. Just like Yahtzee you're trying to make combinations of dice, but in King of Tokyo your goal is to either get to 20 victory points or to kill off your opponents.

My favorite part of King of Tokyo is the player cards, to keep track of your health and victory points there are wheels inside the cards that display a number in a little window. This game mechanic works super well and is easy to handle even for players with less than perfect manual dexterity.

On interesting thing about King of Tokyo is how gameplay changes with different numbers of players. With 3 or 4 people you'll tend to focus on victory points and have less combat. With 5 or 6 you tend to have a lot more combat and the winner is usually the last monster standing. I've played King of Tokyo a lot and especially with big groups that don't know each other well everybody will start out being polite to each other with relatively few smacks but as the game progresses somebody (usually me) will become "that guy" and deliver a barrage of smacks and then its on!

King of Tokyo is a great game to play with kids or novice gamers, the dice are some of the best feeling I've ever used, they're slightly bigger than normal d6 and heavy with good feel in the hand. We play this game often with Angela's family and everybody has a great time.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Great Games #4 Tokaido

Favorite Game #4: Tokaido

Another Japanese game and I think its safe to say this is Angie's favorite game. In Tokaido players journey the East Sea Road having a traditional Japanese vacation. On the way they can interact with interesting people, buy souvenirs, paint pictures, eat interesting food and relax in hot springs. This is a game where enjoying the journey really is the goal. Each activity earns players points and the player who had the most satisfying vacation as measured by the points, wins.

My trick to winning at Tokaido is to not play to win, just to have fun. Tokaido is a very zen game, its probably not a great choice for young kids, its recommended for 8 and up but in our experience this is a pretty adult game. The pace is relaxed and players who want more excitement should probably look for another game like King of Tokyo.

There are several expansion sets for Tokaido, the miniatures are worth having although they are a little too big for the board. The other expansions I'm not too excited about, the game is well balanced the way it is and I feel like the expansions upset that balance.

One last piece of advice is to play Tokaido in a relatively quiet place, maybe with some Japanese music in the background, this will enhance the zen like experience. We've played in loud environments and it really hurts the game overall. Remember this is all about the journey not the destination. I often find myself at the end of a game of Tokaido wishing their was more.