Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

It's not about fireworks, barbecue, or car sales...

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Miscellany: Airplane EDC

A lot of people are travelling this Memorial Day weekend, so I thought I'd share what I usually carry when I need to get past TSA probulation. From left to right:

Flashlight: SureFire EB1 Backup. The Backup is nice, smooth, and innocuous-looking, especially compared to SureFire's other offerings in this segment. Overall, I prefer my E1D, but it's not something you want to lose to an overzealous security guard.

Pen: CRKT Williams Pen. As I said in my review, this is one "tactical" pen that doesn't look like it belongs at a sci-fi convention dealer's table.

Phone: LG B470. This simple flip phone is the exact opposite of the giant smartphones and phablets you see on airplanes - it makes calls, and that's pretty much it. Small and disposable, though.

Watch: CASIO G-Shock GA-1000-8A (part of the G-Aviation series). This watch is enormous, and way out of proportion to my wrist. On the other hand, it's sporty-looking, tough as nails, and has a handy compass.

Wallet: Big Skinny multi-pocket bifold. I'm thinking of getting one of those passport cards for travel in the Americas.

Guns: OK Corral Gun Club review

Okeechobee County has become a shooting sports oasis tucked in the middle of Florida, with first class facilities like Okeechobee Shooting Sports and the subject of today's feature, OK Corral Gun Club. It's more than enough to justify an hour-long drive from Palm Beach County through sleepy rural roads.

OK Corral Gun Club is open seven days a week from 8am to 5pm. No membership is required; you can walk right in, plunk your money down, and start shooting within the hour. The range hosts sporting clays, wobble trap/five stand, rifle and pistol ranges, and a building for special events like weddings and family reunions (there's an on site kitchen that serves food).

There are two sporting clays courses, sportsman and champion. This is one of the swankiest courses I've visited in Florida - the stations all have nice covered stands, and they're accessible by golf carts that you can rent. The sportsman course was easy enough for me to use my 18" barreled FN SLP.

Of course, the "OK Corral" name implies Old West flavor, and the range does not disappoint. There's a large cowboy action range featuring faux Western storefronts and steel targets, and several groups shoot SASS matches there every month. One caveat - you can only use lead bullets; no jacketed ammo is allowed.

Overall, I had a blast at OK Corral Gun Club, and would recommend it to anyone looking for good sporting clays or cowboy action in the middle of Florida.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Miscellany: 2004 Toyota Tacoma review - A Priceless Pickup

You often hear people say "they don't make them like they used to," but in the case of my old Tacoma, it's true: Toyota simply does not make a compact, single-bench pickup truck like this one anymore, much less one designed by an American (!) and made in America (!!). My 2004 model is a strange relic of a bygone era, when people used pickups to pick up stuff, rather than as glorified SUVs.

At gas stations and banks, random people often stop to ask whether the truck is for sale, a mark of how valuable the Tacoma is in its own way. This is, after all, a working man's truck that has been unfailingly reliable, despite daily commutes, long road trips, and 12 years spent mostly exposed to the elements. The patina of rust on the bumpers just adds character (as well as subtle theft deterrence) to the vehicle.

The truck's interior is spartan. Audio is provided by late '80s technology: an AM/FM radio, a cassette player (yes, a cassette player), and poorly-insulated road noise. The hand-crank windows and manual door locks may not be luxurious, but they eliminate potential points of failure.

The Tacoma has subtle virtues that you only notice after a decade of ownership. The truck is tremendously hard to break into - I once locked my keys inside and watched an experienced smith take a solid 20 minutes to jimmy the lock loose. The single cab design makes it as maneuverable as a compact car, but with a full-size truckbed large enough to haul a lot of junk around. Driver visibility is excellent, thanks to the compressed cabin.

The truck has faults, some major. The wimpy 2.4L V4 engine makes highway merges an adventure, and requires literal pedal to the metal in order to climb a busy on-ramp. The middle seat is uncomfortable for anyone larger than Peter Dinklage. There is almost zero interior storage space - you are not going anywhere overnight with anyone else.

Still, when my folks reclaimed the Tacoma to use as their daily driver, I felt a pang of sadness. Then again, with only 137,000 miles on it, the truck is still a baby - I'll probably see it again...