Art Prize - Grand Rapids

About a month ago Karrie and I went to visit Katie and John.  On the Saturday we were down there we drove to downtown Grand Rapids for the 2013 Art Prize.  The whole Art Prize area was spread over the entire city.  As you can see from this picture there were lots of people.  And this was just one of the areas which had groups of people.
grand rapids art prize crowd, 2014, 2015, location

To sum everything up I would say that lots of the art exhibits were kind of boring but a few of them were really cool.  To each his own i guess.

Here's a picture of my favorite one.  It's called Earth Giant and it ended ended up taking sixth place overall.  He was down by the Grand River and it looked like he was made out of concrete and straw.
art prize earth giant, best sculpture

Outside of the Gerald R. Ford Museum also had thousands of people.
gerald r ford museum, grand rapids, river, art

This thing was really cool it was a giant fire-breathing dragon.  It was made out of old car parts and looks like it could probably move around.  This was probably the largest thing we saw that day.
dragon sculpture, art prize

When we were inside of the museum there a few cool paintings that people had done.  One of them was this giant mural really use layers and layers of paint.  It looked very surreal and had lots of depth.
depth of mural, layers of paint

This was a pencil sketch that someone had done.  It must've taken hours and hours and had a real 3-D kind of look.  It didn't win anything but people really liked it.
3d pencil sketch, art, most detailed painting

Here is the view of the grand River as we crossed it.  The river itself was a lot shallower than I thought it would be. 
peace river, stone, grand river

Here's another cool thing that someone had done.  It's called Tired Pandas and ended up getting 10th place.  The meaning behind the name tired is because the panda's are made out of old car and bike tires.
tired pandas, art prize, grand rapids, 2014


Dewalt 12" Compound Miter Saw - DW715

After looking for several months I ended up purchasing a new miter saw.  For several years I had used this old hand at miter saw and while it had served its purpose it was starting to become a hassle.
old hand miter saw, angle cuts

To cut larger boards it took several minutes and since the blade had become dull it wasn't making as good of cuts.  I tried on 2 different occasions to sharpen the teeth on the blade but it didn't seem to make a difference.  And with hundreds of teeth it was a long process.

I was originally going to buy one of the cheaper $130 saw available.  My original options were between the Hitachi 10" miter saw:
hitachi c10fce2 miter saw, price $130, lowes

And this Kobalt 7" sliding miter saw:
kobalt 7" sliding miter saw, review, price, lowe's

Both of those saws would've been okay for the price.  I like the Kobalt saw because I could set it to a certain depth and use it like a radial arm saw.  With the sliding action I could take small notches out of boards.  The problem with the two is they aren't very heavy duty and the Kobalt has only a 7 inch blade.  All of the reviews said they were fine if you only used them at home occasionally. 

Then about a week ago Karrie saw an add from Lowe's that had this DeWalt 12 inch 15 amp compound miter saw for $70 off.  I had the same dilemma when I purchased my air compressor and nail guns.  Should i get the cheap tool or spend a little more and get the better quality one.
dewalt miter saw, 12", 15 amp, bevel

I ended up buying the Dewalt saw, going with slightly better model than I originally considered.  I came to the same conclusion that i did with the other tools.  Spend a little more and get something that will be enjoyable to use and something that i will have for many years.  Rather then to save $40 and live with something that i don't like.

So I went to Lowe's and checked it out.  The price marked was just as it was listed, $229 down from $279.  So with tax it would've ended up costing around $245.
dewalt miter saw sale, price, lowes, coupon

One thing i always know is that there's always a 10% off coupon you can get for Lowe's.  So I went home to find the coupon and buy it online.  I eventually found the link but it didn't seem to work.  They had me fill out this form and they were supposed to e-mail me the coupon, but I never got.  So a day later I went on SlickDeals and found an even better deal.  They also had the 10% off coupon but below it I noticed that I could get $30 off any item that cost over $150 from Lowe's.  Here's what the SlickDeals page looked like.
slickdeals, lowes coupon, code, %off

I added the miter saw to the basket and then entered the coupon code.  It worked.
lowe's check out reciept, coupon code

I ended up getting the saw for $199, with tax it came out to be $210, which is not too bad.  Basically i got it for $90 less then the original price.  

I had it set to be picked up at the store, that way it I didn't have to pay for shipping.  It immediately sent me e-mail saying my item was ready so I got back to my car and drove up there.  I went to the desk and they had already set it aside to be picked up.
dewalt dw715 miter saw, review, sale, price, cost, coupon

Here is the comparison between the new and old miter saws.
compare miter saws

I tried it out when I was making the rustic wood cooler stand and needed to cut pallet boards.  It worked great.  It wasn't too loud and the motor wasn't overpowering.  Also when you're done cutting, the blade stopped within about a second or two.
dewalt miter saw stand, table

I'm definitely happy I went with the better Dewalt saw.  Once again i have a tool that i can't imagine building without.  The next thing i have to do is build a table with extendable arms for the saw.


Discount Vacation - Myrtle Beach - Cheap Travel

A few months ago Karrie and I decided to go on a cheap vacation.  We wanted to go someplace warm and stay their for the least amount of money as possible.  So the first thing we did was start looking at flights.  We considered Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, but the cheapest flight we found was a Spirit Airlines flight to Myrtle Beach.  Spirit definitely isn't the best but since they only fly to 8 locations out of Detroit their flights are usually inexpensive. 

Next Karrie was able to find a hotel right on the beach for under $60 per night.  She used Orbitz and selected a room with an ocean view.  Then she reserved a car or Priceline for $12 per day.  The company it ended up giving us was called Sixt.  We had never heard of it and didn't know what to expect.

The flight turned out to be alright.  Since it was only an hour half we were able to watch a movie on her ipad.  We got off the plane picked up our luggage and headed for the car rental.  Sixt ended up being one of the best car rentals we ever had.  It only took about three minutes to get the keys as opposed to some places which have you sign and initial 10 different pages.  They only asked as once whether we wanted the insurance and didn't feel like they were trying to sell us something for commission.  The economy car that we were given was the Nissan Versa.  It was super basic and a four cylinder, but by the end of the trip we only needed to put nine dollars worth of gas back into it.  I think it got something like 35 miles per gallon driving slow through the city. 

We drove down toward the ocean and on the main road we came to our hotel called The Breakers.  The Breakers Hotel is actually made up of four different buildings, all of them right on the ocean. 
myrtle beach hotel, main road, bike week, panorama

We checked in and Karrie went up to the room as I went to go get the bags.  Immediately after getting into our room we weren't happy.  Instead of a room facing the ocean we had a room facing one of the other hotels to the side.  It turned out that ocean view did not mean ocean front.  We debated what to do.  I said we should go down and talk to somebody at the front desk and see if we could get a better room.  Karrie said she would rather call down to the front desk. 

After a few minutes on the phone it looked like we are going to be stuck with the room we had.  They were telling Karrie that they were all booked up and they didn't have anything available.  But then after a few minutes more on the phone Karrie talked the guy into giving us one of the last available rooms he had facing the ocean.  So we quickly got out of that room, went down to the front desk and exchange to our key card for one to our new room. 

The new room was great.  Nothing fancy on the inside, definitely not as nice as our resort room in Cabo, Mexico, but the view was great.  Here's a panorama i did from our balcony.
view of myrtle beach from hotel

We were on the fifth floor and we were able to see all the way down the coastline in both directions.   Also we could look down at the pool and lazy river.

Here's a video of what it looked like from the balcony

Myrtle Beach Hotel View of Ocean - The Breakers
Here are some pictures I took from that first day we were there.  Most of the days we were there were cloudy, but still hot.
ocean sunset, sunrise, myrtle beach

This was the view looking south down the ocean coastline toward the pier.
myrtle beach pier, pay, price to walk

And this is the view looking to the north.  It's insane to comprehend how much money these hotels were making per day.  Especially when you consider that this used to be an abandoned swampy beach a hundred years ago.
myrtle beach cheap hotel

Instead of getting up early every day and having to go out for breakfast, we decided to buy our own breakfast things from the Piggly Wiggly, which was just up the road from our hotel.  We bought cereal, bowls, spoons, banana's and even milk since our hotel room had a small refrigerator in it.  This turned out to be a great idea and i would highly recommend it.
breakfast tip for staying in hotel, free

That first night we decided to go for a walk on the beach.  Here is what our hotel looks like at night.  Our room was in the small hotel on the right, 5 floors up.
night life myrtle beach

As we're walking along we notice lots of people with their flashlights out.  We were wondering what they were all looking at, then we found out.
myrtle beach jellyfish, step, poisonous

Apparently there are tons and tons of jellyfish that wash up on shore.  I use the flashlight app on my cell phone as we walked all the way down to the pier and back since we were barefoot and didn't want to get stung.

The next day we decided to go to the alligator farm about 20 minutes north of our hotel.  I think it cost something like $17 per person, but the place had a lot more things than just alligators.  My favorite thing there was the Galapagos turtles that were around 100 years old.  They move very slowly and weren't bothered by anything. 
huge turtle, old turtle

Here's a video of him trying to climb over a rock

100 Year Old Turtle Stuck on a Rock
They had a look like "What do you want, go away."
oldest turtle in the world

They also had some cool birds there to. 
talking parrot, colorful parrot

This guy was using his beak to cling to the bars and move around in the cage.  Here's that video

Parrot Tongue Up Close

But definitely the main attractions were the tons and tons of different alligators and crocodiles.  They had too many different types to remember.  Here were all the juvenile alligators we saw when he walked in.
lots of alligators, sleeping, den

We made it there just in time to see the American alligators being fed.  The lady came out and talked to us as she was throwing them some raw chickens.  Some actually jumped out of the water to eat.
american alligator, feeding, chicken, jumping out of the water

Here's a video of the alligators eating

American Alligators
Although some of them didn't really care, they just kind of laid around.
alligator sleeping in the hot sun

She said that they only need to eat 80 pounds of food per year.  Aalthough the ones at the farm ate much more than that.
alligator danger, how to escape

There were a few albino alligators in the covered area off to the side.  They had really interesting white/clear eyes.  They didn't move either.
albino alligator, white, eye

One of the best pictures I took that day were of these Asian Alligators.  They had really narrow snouts, I think they mostly ate fish. 
asian alligator, snout, food

When I took this picture there was actually a smaller one laying on top of a larger one, both sleeping.
asian alligator

Before we left we saw this huge guy who was over 30 years old.  He was in his own pen.  He didn't move either.
largest alligator in the world

The rest of the day we spent at our hotel in the different pools and hot tubs.  But one of the best things turned out to be floating down the lazy river in inner tube's.   The river had jets that created a current to help push you in a circle as you float around.  It was great, relaxing and the view kept changing.

That night we went out to this shopping area which surrounds a lake.  There were lots of interesting shops to go in.  One of the places sold candy and inside they had what was called the world's largest gummy worm.  I think it cost something like $40, it looked gross.
worlds largest gummy worm, cost

  We also had dinner there that night and continued to walk around. 
lake mall light reflection, myrtle beach

On our way home we drove up and down the main street just looking at all the sites.  Further down the coast there is a small little amusement park that has two or three little rides.
myrtle beach amusement park

The next day we went back to that same area because we wanted to ride the big wheel.
myrtle beach the big wheel, cost, how much to ride

I think it cost something like $12 go up on it but it had great views of the beach.
myrtle beach coast line view

Here's a view of the main road of Myrtle Beach to the south.
what to visit at myrtle beach

It wasn't too scary because you are encapsulated in these closed compartments.
ride the big wheel at myrtle beach ferris wheel

That night I took some pictures on the beach.  There were lots of seagulls around so I took some pictures of them to.  This one was deep in thought, contemplating why he was on this planet and the meaning of life.
contemplating sea gull, ocean, thought

Then I tried using my old homemade ND filter.  It didn't really turn out all that great.  I wanted to get a picture of the ocean waves looking silky smooth.  I got one that turned out alright, but i didn't have the right angle using my mini tripod.
nd filter, ocean waves

Overall it was a great trip.  We were able to fly to Myrtle Beach, rent a car and stay for four nights, two people all for less than $600. 
best myrtle beach vacation

myrtle beach sunset pier


The 3 Year Drainage Project

A project that i started back in August of 2010 was finally finished last week.  In May of 2010 i buried 20 feet of PVC pipe and connected it to my garage gutter downspout.

First Drain Project
 - This one turned out great and still drains the roof water today.  It turned out so well that in August of that same year i tried building it again at the back of the house.

Backyard Gutter Drainage
 - That's when this project started.  Little did i know it would be this difficult.

Backyard Drain Continued
 - And then it kept going.  I still remember having to cut and chop my way through the tree roots.  Another problem i had was that in the backyard i don't have as much fall from the house to the back of the yard.  There is really no place for the water from the gutter to drain to.

The reason that this project took so long was not because of the pipe.  It was a chore but i got that in place.  The real problem was with the concrete sidewalk slab.  I originally used a 2x4 and moved it out of the way to put the PVC pipe under it.  But for 3 years i could never get it back in place.  It was always crooked and i was meaning to get it aligned correctly. 

Then one day last month while I was out doing inspection, I decided that today was the day that I was going to fix it.  I was actually watching some guys pour a concrete curb, which is what gave me the idea.  I realized instead of messing around trying to reposition that old slab back into place I should just buy some bags of concrete and pour my own new slab.  So on the way home I picked up few bags of concrete.  Also I had two old bags already in the garage leftover from projects from earlier.

Immediately after getting home I went to the backyard with a sledgehammer.  A few blows and I cracked the old slab in half.  There was no turning back now.
how to break a concrete sidewalk slab, sledgehammer

After about 10 minutes of pounding I had the slab broken into movable pieces.
size of concrete sidewalk, thickness, how big

Since I have been working on that area for a while it was actually deeper than the 4 inches of concrete.  Also underneath the concrete was not compacted sand or gravel it was just top soil.
how to fix broken concrete, patio, crack

I knew I couldn't just pour the concrete on the old topsoil.  So I got as much gravel as I could and compacted that in place.
fix, repair, base, concrete sidewalk, concrete patio

Then I figured that I was ready to pour the concrete.  I thought 5 or 6 bags would've been enough but it turned out that I needed around twelve 80 pound bags in total.
how much concrete do i need, quickrete, 80lb bag

Not that it made that much of a difference.  An 80lb bag of concrete only cost around $3.50.  Also my car can only carry 4 bags at a time or else my mufflers scrape all the way home from Lowe's.

The whole process wasn't too difficult but it always seems like i mix the concrete a little too watery.  Although that might've been a good thing because I was able to create a slope away from the house and toward the yard.
repair replace broken sidewalk section

Also I couldn't forget to write our names and date at the edge.
how to write name in concrete, when

It turned out okay, maybe not perfect but at least there's not a huge gap like it had been for the past three years.
fix a broken concrete patio