Great NC Hike – Up Grandfather Mtn via Boy Scout Trail / Grandfather Mtn Trail

If you are looking for a great hike that is challenging and very, very beautiful then this might just fit the bill. This is probably one of the most technical hikes in NC, but there is view after view after view.

Connie dropped us off on the Blue Ride Parkway and picked us up at the top of Grandfather Mountain, which turned out to be a good thing. There was a lot of traffic on the Grandfather Mtn trail and it was slow going at times. The hike up was about 6 hours.

If you want to do the hike up the mountain only, then you will need to arrange for a ride or have someone pick you up at the top of Grandfather Mountain. If you want someone to pick you up on the top of Grandfather Mountain, you’ll need to buy a pass, well in advance. There are a limited number of parking spots, so they sell passes with a window of time on a specific day to enter the park with a vehicle. You can purchase the pass to Grandfather mountain here. You don’t need to purchase a pass to hike in the park, but you will need a pass to enter the park with a vehicle. Grandfather Mountain does operate a shuttle service up the mountain, but I’m not sure how that works.

Alltrails.com is a great resource for hiking in this area. Click on the image to read about the trail and the hike.

The Daniel Boone Scout Trail portion of the hike is not very technical and the climb is gradual throughout the trail. The first part of the hike is on the Tanawha Trail. The Scout Trail turns right and heads up the mountain after a short hike from the parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The only gotcha on the Daniel Boone Scout Trail is the trail markings and trail configuration just past the trailhead (leaving from the parking lot on the Parkway). The signage is a little confusing where the Scout trail turns off the Tanawha Trail.

The Grandfather Mountain portion of the trail gets very technical in spots. There are lots of spots where you have to be very careful because of the steep drop offs and slick, or even icy, rocks. There were icy spots during our hike in mid-Oct. There are ladders and very exposed climbs, but it truly is beautiful.

One option to consider is just doing the Grandfather Mountain Trail. You would start at the parking lot near the swinging bridge, and do the trail as an out and back (returning to the parking lot on the top of Grandfather Mountain).

The plane crash site is pretty neat, worth the short detour.
Lots of ladders

Building our Campsite / Overland Destination – Evening of Day 1

We accomplished a lot on Day 1. Most of the stumps were removed. The brush and logs that were left from the last trip were cut up and pushed into piles on the side of the property. I also was able to start cutting some of the unhealthy trees on the perimeter.

The brush piles are good for the wildlife. They provide shelter for birds like grouse. They also provide places for a momma deer to stash a young fawn while she feeds else where. My wife was pulling brush into a pile (on the previous trip) and suddenly realized the was a fawn tucked away just a few feet from where she was working. We had been working in the area all day and the fawn had been there. We didn’t realize it until Connie saw it.

Tommy (with Bluff Mountain Nursery) started pulling stumps at the bottom and worked his way up the hill
Tommy is working his way up the hill.
Some of the stumps were easier to get out than others. There are 58 stumps to remove
The apple tree in the middle of the property had a bunch of apples on it

The apple tree in the middle of the campsite has been a subject of much discussion. The tree has struggled to survive under a canopy of faster growing Ash and Poplar trees. We cleared the trees that shaded the apple tree earlier in the year. The apple tree has put on a bunch of new growth with the extra sunlight hitting it.

The challenge is that the apple tree is in a spot that it is exposed to vehicular damage so we had to adjust the plans for the driveway to protect the apple tree. When we discussed the tree as a family, the consensus was to cut it down. I was the lone hold out to keep the tree. We’ll need to top the tree next year to keep it healthy and trim away growth that isn’t good for the tree long term.

It is important to note that those green apples are sooooo sour that the deer are even reluctant to eat them. You’ll see an apple on the ground with a couple of bites missing, like the deer tried it and walked away. They are cooking apples, just way too sour to do anything else with.

The saga of the apple tree continues, well see how it goes.

Building our Campsite / Overland Destination – Morning of Day 1

We’re working on the campground. Join us to see how it looks before the heavy equipment arrives.

Where we started. Thanks John Burwell for mowing the grass and cleaning the shoots off the stumps so we could see where they were. That made things to quicker.
Lot of stumps to remove before the new water lines can go in.
The teardrop is so handy for trips like this.
Cool picnic table provided by John Burwell!

Staying safe from Covid-19 While Camping

Thinking about going camping soon? The video below shows how we tried to stay safe last weekend and avoid the Covid virus while we were camping at Grandfather Campground in Banner Elk, NC.

The goal was to not enter the shower or bathhouse. Instead we used our pop up shower tent and portable, propane hot water heater to shower at our campsite. We used our portable poop bucket for those needs.

Stay safe out there!

Pimping the Teardrop Trailer

The teardrop trailer has been a work in process. We’ve wanted to add more capability and storage, but I didn’t want to have a big impact on ground clearance or break over angle. Moving water, propane and the spare tire to the trailer means more space in the tow rig (either or Wrangler TJ or 4Runner).

Another challenge is the 200 lb tongue weight limit on the Wrangler. Once we get everything loaded on the trailer, I can check the tongue weight. I had relocated the battery to the rear of the trailer and that will help off set some of the additional tongue weight that we are about to add.

Items for this round of upgrades:

  • propane tank for use with the oven and especially the shower water heater (which can use a good bit of propane)
  • 2 jerry cans for water or gasoline
  • winch for the spare tire – wanted to tuck the spare tire between the structure so it didn’t have a big impact on the ground clearance and breakover angle
  • go to a larger jack on the tongue so i could use a two wheel roller (this part didn’t turn out like I hoped)

First step was to trip check that the bumper on the tow vehicle wouldn’t hit the jerry cans at the minimum turning circle. That also required a Bojangle biscuit since I was already in the Bojangles parking lot. This was just before the virus hit.

Last check of the clearance when the tow vehicle steering is at the maximum travel
Removing the old jack alignment plate
Ready to start the fabrication process after touching up paint that wouldn’t be affected by welding or grinding

Once we had the lower guide plate for the jack removed we could start verifying the layout of the can holder, tongue jack, propane tank and spare jack.

Important to test fit the location of everything before welding

Next step is to fabricate simple brackets to attach the tank holder. Then the brackets were attached to the tank holder and squared up before welding the brackets to the trailer frame.

Test fitting and aligning the mounting bars for the jerry can racks

One of the challenges was attaching some sort of frame to the front rail of the trailer frame without getting the weld bead too close to the blue skin and causing heat damage to the skin finish.

We also found a structural weld that was not adequate and could have caused a failure on the trail. The tire winch mount is bolted along the top and welded along the bottom. The weld pattern also addressed the frame weld issue and fixed the weak spot with the bad weld.

Support for propane tank is in place and the support for the jack
Propane tank rack in place. It took a little work fit everything in limited space and allow for the motion of the tank closure
Jerry can mounts tacked in place prior to final weld
Now we just need to add the tire winch mount and paint
Winch mount in place and painted. Need to grind and add final welds.
Welds and final paint almost complete
Painted and ready for final assembly
Next step is to add the tank, racks and spare tire

It was a lot of work. It would not have happened without Maverick Metal Works

Once we have the trailer out and outfitted, we’ll take some pictures and show off the new gear.

Corona Virus – Minimizing the Impact to Your Business and Family

Here are my thoughts on

  • how NC and Wake county are misleading us and not being consistent with CDC guidelines
  • why the Corona virus is a threat to your employees, you and your bottom line
  • why you should send your employees home sooner, rather than later, to protect your business and bottom line – especially employees that can work from home
  • reducing the chance of infection by reducing the potential R0 in your business
  • remember as the commentator on PeakProsperity.com says the pattern of the virus is case, case, cluster, cluster, boom

Our local disinformation from the state / county / public schools is so bad that PeakProsperity.com was pointing out the inaccuracy of info provided by Wake County public schools and the Wake county health department in conjunction with NC DHHS.

I’m not a medical professional, but I’ve been following the virus very closely. I hope this helps you make proactive decisions that could save lives.

Maker Faire is Coming, Maker Faire is Coming on Jun 7th


Are you a maker? Who are makers? Lets spend a few minutes and explore this amazing and sometimes wacky world. Keep in mind that the makers are influencing how you do business and that influence is rapidly growing. According to Wikipedia:

The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.

Makers are people how build stuff. Some of these makers are just hobbyists and crafters who use technology to create their products. Other makers are entrepreneurs who use what is now common technology to build innovative products in their garage. It would probably surprise you how many individuals now have CNC machines or hobbyist grade 3d printers in their garages. Over past ten years several technologies and enabling products have had a huge impact on democratizing design. These enabling products and services include:

Electronics Development Platform
Raspberry Pi – http://www.raspberrypi.org/
Adurino – http://www.arduino.cc/
 

3D Printing
MakerBot – http://makerbot.com/
RepRap – http://www.reprap.org/wiki/RepRap
 

Laser Cutters

Epilog –
http://www.epiloglaser.com

CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Machining
Shopbot – http://www.shopbottools.com

Online 3D Printing and Laser Cutting Services
Fineline in Raleigh, NC – https://www.finelineprototyping.com
Ponoko – https://www.ponoko.com

There are even networks of makers like 100K Garages (http://www.100kgarages.com/).

Many people don’t realize that this community even exists. It’s important to keep in mind that this community is and will impact your business and how you do business. A great way to connect with the community is at the Maker Faire at the NC State Fairgrounds on Saturday, Jun 7th, 2014. This is a fun event, and it is guaranteed to show you the coolest innovation and innovators around. Check out the Maker Faire at www.makerfairenc.com!

See you there!

About this blog’s author, Montie Roland and his business Montie Design Montie Design is an innovation and commercialization firm with core competencies in mechanical engineering and industrial design. Active in the product design, defense, and technology sectors, we leverage years of industry leadership and extensive technical capabilities to help clients take products from concept to marketplace that are economical to manufacture, elegant and robust. Montie Design is a North Carolina company headquartered in the Research Triangle region with clients across the country and overseas. We are dedicated to economic development throughout our home state and furthering excellence in design and engineering. For more information, visit www.montie.com or download the capabilities statement in PDF format here.

Parts!

We (the interns) went on a field trip this monday, to ADR Hydro-Cut. They do water jetting, and while we were there they cut out sheet metal parts according to our drawings.

IMG_20130724_150521IMG_20130724_150548 (1)

The parts arrived yesterday, so we grinded the tangs of and threw them in the washer for a couple of hours to smoothen out some sharp edges, and then they were pretty much ready to go.

IMG_20130724_151524 (1)IMG_20130724_151820

Spent a couple minutes putting it together, and it looks and feels great! I might make some minor adjustments to the drawings, adjusting the angle of the paracord braiding, and I also have to figure out how the braiding itself is done in the best possible way.

Apart from that though, they’ll be ready for anodizing/powdercoating. And with that, we’ll have a product!

/ Robin

Ball dispenser sent off for prototyping

Hey!

So the belt clip ball dispenser is finally coming together. After testing more mock-up models the decision was taken not to use any plate or similar to separate the balls from the magnet, as more than one kept falling off when trying to pull only one off. Instead the magnet will be coated with a durable finish and the balls will be in direct contact with it. This simplified the design significantly, but put increased the demand on the aesthetic form of the back plate, as this now became the mail feature of the whole product. A simple plate can have many different forms:

assembly

One option was to add a top bumber to create a feeling of better encapsulating the balls, as well as giving more depth to the product. Unfortunately, the manufacturing complexity of adding this feature was greater than expected. As this would drive up the cost of the product a lot the decision was taken to put this feature on hold for now.

As for the final design the initial round magnet was kept and the plate form includes some curved lines to follow the magnet while still keeping some edges to go with the rectangular belt clip. After quite a bit of struggle finding a good form, this one actually feels pretty obvious I would say! Let’s just hope the prototype will look just as good!

Have a good weekend!

/Richard Boden

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Dispeser, round, belt.210 copy

Podcast: Rapid Prototyping Options

Morning,

Please join the discussion about Rapid Prototyping options that are available for us to use in building your prototypes.

Rapid Prototyping Options

Cheers,
Montie

Join Us at the 2009 RTP Product Design Street Faire on Saturday, 12 Sept!

Scene from the 2008 Street FaireThe RTP Product Development Guild – a local group of engineers and designers working together to improve the regional economy – is hosting its third annual RTP Product Design Street Faire Saturday, Sept. 12  from 3:00 – 6:30 pm at 400 Dominion Drive in Morrisville. This fun, outdoor networking and educational event will feature exhibits and demonstrations by leading Triangle-area product designers and affiliated professionals showcasing the technological innovation that makes North Carolina a hotbed of state-of-the-art manufacturing design and production talent.

Admission to the Street Faire is free but requires pre-registration online at RTPStreetFaire.com.

Barbeque, drinks, popcorn, snacks and other treats will be served throughout this family friendly event which will include an inflatable kids’ play area and plenty of shaded space for business networking among peers.

“The Street Faire is a great way for area businesses and manufacturers to get to know product design and prototyping professionals right here in RTP,” Montie Roland, president of the RTP Product Development Guild, said, adding, “Why spend hours on conference calls or travel overseas to work with vendors when you can find the resources you need right down the street? I think people will be surprised at how competitive the region has become in the global marketplace.”

According to Roland, each year has seen increased attendance and vendor participation at the Street Faire, with well over 200 attendees representing a diverse range of business professions and 26 vendors last year. Vendor spaces are still available for this year’s event; pricing and information is available at RTPStreetFaire.com.

Sponsors of the 2009 Product Design Street Faire include Montie Design, the RTP Product Development Guild, Studio Hagler and Trimech, with Gilmore Global as a contributor.

The annual Street Faire is one of many educational and business development programs conducted by the Guild, which also hosts networking meetings, lunch-and-learn seminars, and other events at member locations throughout the year.

“We love our craft and do a lot of different things to promote it, share leads and resources, and build essential working relationships,” Roland said.

For more information visit RTPStreetFaire.com or call 919-481-1845.

About the RTP Product Development Guild
The RTP Product Development Guild seeks to improve the regional economy in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C. by providing a framework for product developers and startups to work together on products in a collaborative environment. This helps entrepreneurs move products to market that might otherwise languish due to a lack of funding and professional guidance. The Guild accepts applications for products, services or concepts from entrepreneurs, early stage start-ups and corporate spin-offs. More information is available online at www.rtpproductguild.com.

Customer Feedback – Up-Close and Personal

Product reviews (especially online) are increasingly important in helping customers make purchasing decisions. A study by CompUSA and iPerections discovered 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews. According to a Forrester study, 71% of online shoppers read reviews, making it the most widely read consumer-generated content.

The beauty of the internet is that even small companies can integrate online reviews into their website. Companies such as RatePoint (www.ratepoint.com) provided neutral, third party management of online reviews. They also provide tools (called Widgets) that simplify the integration of the collection and display of customer reviews into the seller’s website. We use RatePoint as a way to give our clients an outlet to rate the services and products from Montie Design.

Customer reviews are a great way to encourage sales, especially of a new product. However, you have to have sales to have customers who can write the reviews. Strategic users are the early adopters (often cultivated by the product manufacturer) who test the product and write a review. These reviews help drive customer sales and they also help encourage resellers and distributors to carry the product.

Strategic users can include writers and product evaluators for magazines and blogs. Thought leaders in the industry are also candidates for strategic users. Anyone who is in a position to influence the opinion of the marketspace is a possible strategic user. Carefully selecting the strategic users and getting product in their hands is an effective to way to begin to shaping the opinion of the marketspace as early as possible. The reviews generated by the strategic users should be a planned part of your public relations strategy. Excerpts from the reviews can also be used in your advertising campaign. The links from published reviews also help drive traffic to your website. A potentially bigger benefit occurs as the links drive up the PageRank of your website and help potential customers find the product through search engine results.

Earlier this year we launched a product called the X-Rest. Part of our launch strategy for the X-Rest shooting rest involved identifying strategic users to evaluate the product and help form a positive opinion of the X-Rest within the shooting community.

Here are some rules for soliciting reviews from strategic users:

* don’t interfere with the review process, it has to be honest and genuine
* stay open to criticism, not all reviews are 100% positive, bad reviews can lead to great product improvements
* look for new ways that users interpret how they should use the product and find new markets
* have faith in your customers, they have a perspective that can help you create even better products

The following is an example of a review from one of our strategic users:

FIELD-TESTING THE X-REST
By: Peter J. Kolovos

INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND:
Peter J. Kolovos, was a Deputy Sheriff with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, before retiring.  He has been involved in the shooting sports for well over 40 years.  He is currently the Secretary-Treasurer and Director of Training for the North Suburban Police Pistol League, Inc.  With over 200 members, the NSPPL, is probably one the largest police shooting clubs in the country.

His credentials are many but my most noteworthy are the following: Pete is a highly competitive rifle and pistol shooter.  He is Certified as a Rifle Coach (Level-2) and a Pistol Coach (Level-3) with the National Rifle Association.  He is a NRA Training Counselor and Certified Instructor in several shooting disciplines.  Pete has been certified as a Police Firearms & Sub-Machinegun Instructor with the State of Illinois.  He attended the FBI’s Sniper/Observer School in 1994, and shot a perfect score during the final qualification course.  He has hunted extensively in 15 states including Alaska, and has hunted in Canada.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
The first thing I noticed when I received my sample of the X-Rest, was how compact and light weight the unit was.  Made of Aluminum, it came nicely tucked into a 14.5” x 4.5” digital Camo carrying bag with a draw string closure.  The disassembled unit was approximately one-inch thick.

Each of the unit’s three legs measured out at  9” x 1.5”.  The legs join together through a rectangular slot in two of the sections and are held in place by the third leg which has a half-round section with a hole in it, and a pin which is attached to the main section via a split ring affixed to a short length of plastic coated wire cable.  This system virtually guarantees that you’ll never lose the joining pin even in rough conditions.  I also liked the fact that it was made in the USA.

Once the three sections are assembled, the rest seemed extremely steady.  The cross sections, where you’d lay your rifle measured out at approximately six-inches high, making it best suited for either Bench or Prone work.  Both of the cross-sections that actually formed the cradle seemed to have an ample amount of a protective rubber coating applied them to keep the rifle steady and to aid in protecting the rifle stock from being damaged during recoil.

INITIAL RANGE SESSION:
On Sunday, May 31, 2009, I took the “X-Rest” to the Racine County Line Rifle Club which is located in Racine, Wisconsin.  My club was holding it’s monthly F-Class rifle match, so I would be able to better evaluate the rest at distance from the Prone position.  The weather was overcast as we had a lot of precipitation during the last week.  The ground was still somewhat soft from all the rain we had, so these conditions would prove interesting for the “X-Rest”.

RANGE SESSION EVALUATION:
Being that I would personally use a this rest for Predator hunting, I chose a Remington Model 700 Varmint, bolt-action rifle chambered in .223 Remington for the evaluation.  This particular rifle was equipped with a 6.5 x 20 power Leupold target scope.

I set up the “X-Rest” at the 300 yard line, placed a small sand bag near the toe of the stock, took careful aim and fired.  Since I wanted to be totally impartial from the get-go, I decided that if I muffed a particular shot I would not consider it as part of the evaluation.  I would only consider the shots that I felt I broke cleanly.

I fired twenty (20) rounds at this distance and put all of the called shots just under a minute of angle (three-inch group at 300 yards), which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I only muffed two of the rounds.  Several other members then gave the rest a try and we also quite impressed with it’s construction and how steady the rest was.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS:
This neat little rest is simple, well made, and quite solid when assembled.  I feel it definitely has some law enforcement and military applications, as well as the civilian market.  This is a nice item for someone who’d like to have a portable rest available but not necessarily have a Bi-pod constantly attached to their rifles.  This would be a most excellent tool for a Rancher, or a Predator hunter.  It is also a very nice item for the casual shooter who’d like to have a solid rest to sight in their rifles but don’t necessarily want to pay several hundred dollars to do so.

If I were a school teacher I’d give the X-Rest a solid “B+” for it’s innovation, light weight, ease transport and of assembly.  My only recommendation would be to dip the lower part of the legs in some type of non-slip coating to resist scratching a vehicle’s paint-job if it were placed on top of the roof or hood.

Submitted by:
Peter J. Kolovos

——— End of Review ———–

Reviewers can connect with potential customers in a very intimate way through an honest evaluation of the product.  Reviews build trust in your product.  Small flaws in grammar or composition in the review help convince that the reader that the review was not a corporate fabrication from a paid talking head, but rather an honest evaluation from someone they can trust.  Less than stellar reviews are often more believable that glowing reviews.  Customers understand that no product is perfect and can be suspicious when reviews are overly flattering.

Product reviews are part of the precious dialog between you and your customers.  Embracing user reviews can give you an advantage over your competition.  Finding strategic users is the first step in encouraging the creation of third party reviews.  The next step is to get your product in their hands for them to test and evaluate.  Trust them to take it from there, using their reviews they create as a part of your website, public relations and marketing campaigns.  After all,  you worked so hard to get that product out to the market, now is the time to let the strategic users tell potential customers what a great product you’ve created.

Give me a call, or send me an email, if this was helpful or if you have topics that you would like to see in future updates.  Don’t forget to call when you are ready for us to contribute to the success of your project!

Cheers,
Montie Roland
President -Montie Design
montie@montie.com
800-722-7987

About Montie Design

Montie Design is a collaborative product design and  development firm with core competencies in industrial design,  mechanical design and fuzzy front end services. Implementing  a client-centric approach in taking products from concept to  marketplace, Montie Design balances vision with usability in  realizing products that are economical to manufacture, elegant and robust. The firm operates out of the Research Triangle  Park region of North Carolina with access to industry-leading  technology, resources and innovative thought. For more  information, visit www.montie.com.