Product & Service Reviews Feed

No charcoal chimney necessary when using Tumbleweeds to fire up the grill - Grilling Good Eats

By Mike Thayer

You can start your charcoal several ways, you can use lighter fluid, you can buy those ‘Match Light’ briquettes, or you can do what I think is the best way to go (up to now) and that’s fire up your charcoal using a charcoal chimney. I don’t like lighter fluid for several reasons. I don’t like to store it, I don’t like running out, the smell can get on your hands and clothes, and inexperienced grillers tend to put too much on or start grilling over charcoals that aren’t really ready yet, giving your food that nasty fuel taste. Those ‘Match Light’ briquettes are OK, they’re very convenient, but they are more expensive and like the traditional charcoal/lighter fluid starting method, can put a fuel taste on your food if cooked over before the coals are really ready. Avoid the fuel taste risk completely and start your charcoal WITHOUT resorting to lighter fluid. 

I wrote an article awhile back about using Weber Lighter Cubes to start charcoal, a great product that eliminates the need for newspaper but is still a bit dependent on the use of a chimney.

TumbleweedEnter a game changer, Tumbleweeds, made by Royal Oak.  These things are great, so good in fact, they eliminate the need to use a charcoal chimney.  No more putting on the glove, no more handling a hot metal container, no more worries about some hot ash getting getting loose and hitting your foot causing a bit of pain because you're wearing sandals......

All you have to do when using Tumbleweeds is put a base layer of charcoal or chunks of your favorite wood in the grill (I like to use a basket in my grill), throw a Tumbleweed in, place a few more lumps, briquettes or chunks around it, light the Tumbleweed and let it do it's thing.  One 'weed' has about an 8-10 minute burn time and as that charcoal starts to gray, you can add more if desired.  This can all be done right where you wanted to dump the hot coals from a chimney, but no chimney is required!

Don't get me wrong, there's still the need to have a charcoal chimney on hand, especially for long cooks and adding additional coals to the fire.  But when first firing up the grill, a chimney isn't needed when using Tumbleweeds and they outperform Weber Lighter Cubes.

Tumbleweed lit
Plenty of room to throw some pecan wood chunks on top, no worries of putting out the Tumbleweed fire

For tips on how to use a charcoal chimney if you're not familiar with them, go to www.grillinggoodeats.com

Costing me about $4 for a box of 16 Tumbleweeds, that's 16 grilling events.  They can be used to start camp fires and outdoor fireplaces as well!  Very reasonably priced and outstanding at the task of starting that fire, I'm giving Royal Oak Tumbleweeds 5 out of 5 stars.

5 stars

Related:  Weber Lighter Cubes

Related:  Arranging Your Coals

 


Hotel Review: Red Roof Inn

By Mike Thayer

Red Roof InnI recently treated myself to a vacation, a few days of fishing fun on a lake in Missouri. It's my favorite kind of vacation, just the sounds of the great outdoors, appreciating the natural beauty, catching a few fish....

That being said, while roughing it in a tent had its appeal and saved me money on many a fishing trip, I've determined I'm really not into the camping thing anymore.  I've been there and done that, the camp fire, the tent, air mattress, all meals coming out of a cooler or cooked over the coals.  But in the heat of the summer and after being outdoors all day on the water, come nightfall, I want the comforts of air conditioning, the TV on and a good bed to sleep in.  These days when on vacation, the tent and camping gear stays at home.  I'm a hotel guy. 

There were several budget-minded hotel chains to choose from in the Cameron, Missouri area I was vacationing in and after doing some online homework, I went with the Red Roof Inn. It's been quite awhile since I've stayed at a Red Rood Inn, the online reviews were positive, the amenities looked great and the most important thing, the price was reasonable.

Red Roof Inn roomThis particular Red Roof has been recently remodeled.  Everything was new, to include vinyl floors instead of carpeting.  I got a room with a king size bed and the room itself was spacious, with nice desk space.  The amenities you come to expect in a decent hotel were all available and working, the Wi-Fi, a cable TV package with a good selection of channels and what I like about the room is something that often gets overlooked, PLENTY of outlets so I didn't have to hunt for any to plug my devices/chargers into.

The bed itself was quite comfortable and the linens were higher end.  This Red Roof - franchise operated - didn't cut any corners in the remodel.

There was an ice machine just down the hall from my room and the stay included the typical complimentary breakfast consisting of cereals, waffles, donuts, biscuits and sausage gravy, assorted yogurts, fruits, juices and coffee. I could also make coffee in my room with one of those one cup coffee makers and there was a mini-fridge as well.  The maid service was also top notch.  This wasn't a noisy hotel either, I slept well, no noise distractions.

Costing me $65 a night, I enjoyed my stay at the Red Roof Inn and I'm giving them 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The room was comfortable and the price was reasonable. 

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

The Red Roof Inn visited on this occasion is located at: 

501 Northland Dr, Cameron, MO 64429

PH: (816) 632-6623


Product Review: Athletic Works Water Shoes

By Mike Thayer

20190501_200310-1Water shoes, a.k.a., aqua socks....  They're great for fishing, they beat any other foot gear when it comes to launching a boat or even if just bank fishing.  If you're stuck on the shoreline, water shoes give you the confident ability to wade out from the bank a bit and extend your casting range.  There's no fear of slipping on rocks and your feet won't feel like two anchors once you step out of the water because water shoes drain and dry so well.

So what kind of water shoes should you buy?

Last year, when taking a fishing vacation, I went cheap and while the shoes I purchased did the job intended, the quality was less-than-stellar.  What I bought amounted to a disposable pair of water shoes.  You can read that review here.

This year I spent a few more bucks and my focus was on buying a pair of shoes with a much thicker sole and hopefully, improved tread life.

I bought a pair of water shoes made by Athletic Works at Walmart for $10.

20190504_072015Athletic Works Water Shoes are easy to slip on and take off, they include a Velcro fastener for a nice, snug fit and most importantly, they're comfortable.  The mesh breathes and dries well and the tread held up nicely to three days of bank fishing, walking on rocky shoreline, on gravel paths, sandy beaches, through some muddy/grassy areas and side trips to town for gas and munchies.   Traction on multiple surfaces was never a concern with these shoes, they're solid.

Athletic Works Water Shoes gets 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  They're priced right at $10, comfortable, dry well, and the tread holds up.  This is a quality water shoe at a low price.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Valero has GOT to be THE worst convenience store chain

By Mike Thayer

According to their website, Valero is the world's largest independent petroleum refiner, and a leading marketer, ethanol producer and corporate citizen.

Their convenience stores however, are less-than-stellar.

ValeroOut and about running some errands one day, I decided I needed a snack, craving some Nacho Cheese Doritos, my favorite chip.  I pulled into the Valero located at 7101 E Lincoln St, Wichita, KS 67207.

I wish I hadn't.  A Grab Bag of my favorite chip and a 12 ounce bottle of soda cost me $4.17!  In contrast, that Doritos grab bag of chips and a Big Q fountain drink costs just $2.99 at QuikTrip.  And yes, I could have poured myself a fountain drink, saving on the drink price, but given the appearance of this store, I didn't trust how clean that fountain service area would be.  Some lights in the store were out, another was flickering, the floor needed a good sweep and mop and the price of gas has to be the highest in town at $1.95 a gallon.  The attendant on duty was less-than-friendly, no greeting as I entered, no smile.

I've visited other Valero locations before, and while they aren't as bad as this Lincoln location is, there always seems to be something that's not right.   I've never been impressed with how Valero presents itself to customers. 

I have to quit stopping at Valero convenience stores, I wouldn't recommend them at all!  Only stop at a Valero as an absolute last resort!

The Valero located at 7101 E. Lincoln Street in Wichita gets one out of five Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  They are NOT wallet friendly, the store wasn't clean and the service was sub-par.  

1 star

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


My Pen Is Stuck

By Mike Thayer

It happens to every writer, Pen Dysfunction.  It can cause stress, affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems.  It can be embarrassing, frustrating and may lead to a reduced desire to have a pen in your hand to do some hard writing.

A friend of mine has helped me through this problem by introducing me to a great product and that Pen Dysfunction problem has now been solved thanks to:  MyPenIsStuck
No more worries about a dysfunctional tool with MyPenIsStuck!  I no longer get
writer's block and because MyPenIsStuck makes every pen stroke enjoyable, there's no cramping! 

MyPenIsStuck

MyPenIsStuck - Your Mind May Wander But Your Pen Won't

  • This is a GREAT GIFT on so many levels!
  • Conveniently available - Everyone should know where their Pen is.
  • Comfortable Grip - Fits well in your hand.
  • Fine point - Makes every pen stroke enjoyable.

Order your fully functional MyPenIsStuck today!

Also available on Amazon.com

MyPenIsStuckNotesNeed a Quickie? 50+ Sticky Notes Included

This product will put a smile on your face, every time you use it! 

Mike Thayer, Bachelor on the Cheap

 


Service Review: CarStar Collision

By Mike Thayer

20181130_092826So while inside my neighborhood grocery store one day picking up a few items for the day's evening meal, somebody hit my parked truck.

As I'm walking outside with grocery bags in hand, I notice a strange man standing by my truck, talking on his cell phone. 

He sees me approach and asks, "Is this your truck?"

And then I see it, my front bumper dented in and pushed downward, a broken front grill and the hood slightly dented and out of alignment.

Obviously, I wasn't happy and did not understand how somebody could hit a parked truck.  But at least the guy stuck around and owned up to hitting 'ol Nellie.  He hit the gas instead of the brake, he did quite a bit of damage to the nearby cart corral too.  He was a super nice guy, he hit my parked truck, but a nice guy.....

We exchanged insurance information and in working with his insurance provider and reading some online reviews, I decided to get my truck repaired at CarStar Collision.

What a great decision!

From the time I dropped off my truck to pickup, everybody at CarStar Collision was super friendly, informative and exercised great care in getting my truck repaired in a timely fashion and done right.   

20181222_100808-1My truck is a 1992 Ford F-150, an older truck, so parts aren't easy to come by.  CarStar Collision went over the repair process with me in detail, letting me know that if the search for original parts didn't produce quality replacements, then they would search for aftermarket parts.  Their communication is fantastic, frequently providing me with updates on my truck.  I was very impressed, quality meant everything to them in getting this job done and done right, even on an older vehicle that, well, isn't as purdy as she used to be back in the day.

The results speak volumes on the quality work that CarStar Collision does, see for yourself! 

CarStar Collision gets five out of five Bachelor on the Cheap stars for their TOP NOTCH customer service and excellent repair work.  Thank you!

5 stars

Located at 606 N. Webb Road in Wichita, I highly recommend them should you need the services of a body shop.

(316) 652-7821

606 N Webb Rd,

Wichita, KS 67206

 

 


Hotel Review: Family Budget Inn

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I recently treated myself to a vacation, four days of fishing fun on a lake. But unlike last time, roughing it in a tent and having to pack things up early with the threat of a golf ball size hail storm looming, on this trip I got a hotel room.

There were several budget-minded hotel chains to choose from in the Bethany, Missouri area I was vacationing in and after doing some online homework, I went with the Family Budget Inn.  I've never stayed at one before, the online reviews were positive, the amenities looked great and the most important thing, the price was right!

20180912_144314I got my room, a queen size bed, microwave, mini-fridge for just $50.50 a night!  And I did my room reservation direct with the hotel.  Part of my research was seeing how cheap I could get using those "low price" outfits like Travelocity, Booking.com and Priceline, but the best they could do was match the already low Family Budget Inn price, so why bother with a site like Expedia, which can lead to getting pummeled with unwanted travel "extras" in your email for car rentals, plane tickets, etc.  In my humble opinion, the ONLY thing those booking sites are good for is to find hotels and compare prices for the area you'll be staying in.  But once you find what you're looking for, do the actual reservation direct with the hotel.

The Family Budget Inn I stayed at was very clean, the room was huge, the bed was comfortable, the staff was super friendly and all the amenities measured up as viewed online.  The location was super convenient too, just off Interstate 35, I had easy access to several gas station/convenience stores, a number of restaurants, a Walmart and my favorite store - a Dollar Tree!

Family Budget Inn
Best room rate in town

The Family Budget Inn, located in Bethany, Missouri gets five out of five Bachelor on the Cheap stars!  You just can't beat everything you get in a room at this place for $50 a night.  Three key words to remember, clean, quiet, comfortable!

5 stars

Spend Wisely My Friends.....

 

 


Shopping for truck tires with a budget in mind

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

When I bought my 1992 Ford F-150 three years ago, she had 112,000 miles on her and about a half life left on a set of Goodyear Wrangler tires, which are rated as a 50k tire. 

Pushing 136,000 miles now, 'ol Nellie needs a new pair (set) of shoes!

I've been impressed by the ride and treadwear of the Goodyear Wrangler.  It's considered to be a tire that falls into the 'budget' category of tires, and while a new set of Wranglers was definitely on my shopping list, I was open to other budget-friendly tires without sacrificing quality.

The shopping criteria was $90 - $125 per tire, all terrain, rated for at least 50,000 miles.  Sure, I could get tires cheaper than $90 each, but they would be rated under 50k....  For those of you that live in Valley Center, that means a properly maintained 50k rated tire is expected to last about 50,000 miles.  Quality truck tires start at $90 and up.  I'm budget-minded, not cheap. 

Now 'ol Nellie is a 2WD, she drives a lot of city miles, a fair amount of highway miles, a few country miles, hauls a load once in awhile and needs to navigate roads for all conditions, wet, dry, muddy, slushy, snowy.

Here's the homework/evaluation info, starting with what I'm already familiar with first:

Goodyear WranglerGoodyear Wrangler:  All Terrain, 50K, $96 per tire - Cost for 4 prior to install:  $384.  As stated earlier, I like how they ride, I've been impressed by the tread wear and I'm not bothered by any tread noise.  Wranglers have gotten me through all kinds of weather and on all kinds of road surfaces.

Firestone DestinationFirestone Destination:  All Terrain, 50K, $116 per tire - Cost for 4 prior to install:  $464.  I'd be shelling out another $80 for a set of four of these tires vs. the Wrangler, that's almost another tire in price!  And for the same mileage rating of 50k?  No thanks.  I dismissed this tire on price alone, outright.  The tread pattern, the ride, the road noise, all became irrelevant, immediately.

BF GoodrichBF Goodrich Advantage TA:  All Terrain, 65K, $114 per tire - Cost for 4 prior to install:  $456.  This tire isn't quite as expensive as Firestone's and it has a better mileage rating.  But is another 15,000 miles worth the extra $72?  Will I even still be driving 'ol Nellie at that point?  Shhhhhh, don't tell her I said that!  And is this tread pattern aggressive enough for all terrain needs?  If this tire can't throw a little mud, I have no use for it.

Cooper DiscovererCooper Discoverer:  All Terrain, 55K, $123 per tire - Cost for 4 prior to install:  $492.  This is the most expensive tire of those evaluated.  I would be paying out $108 more for a set of four of these tires vs. the Goodyear Wrangler...  Not only is the price of a tire far higher, but it's for just 5k more in a tire rating.  No thanks, and like the BF Goodrich tire, I don't see this tread pattern as being aggressive enough for all terrain.

General GrabberGeneral Grabber:  All Terrain, 60k, $99 per tire - Cost for 4 prior to install:  $396.  The price is attractive, so is the tread pattern and for just $3 more per tire vs. the Wrangler I could get another 10,000 miles in tread wear....  But the online reviews steered (get it, 'steered'?) me away from buying this tire.

The online reviews for all the tires researched were all over the map, from ratings of 1 to 5, a 5 being the best.  In reading some of those low ratings however, I have to question the knowledge of the buyers, saying things like the tread didn't last long, already gone after 11,000 miles.... That's horse manure!  Hey Sherlock, perhaps you need an alignment and try checking your tire pressure once in awhile!  Tire ratings for mileage are pretty accurate folks, something you can count on - IF you take care of your tires! 

I take caution in putting too much stock into online reviews - they include bad ratings from stupid people who don't know what an alignment is, for example - but overall, they do provide a gauge of sorts in prepping for a purchase and a number of VALID negative reviews on a specific product can raise some red flags.  A higher average rating is a good thing but be sure to look at the number of reviews.  Volume matters, the more, the better.  Don't take a high average rating with only 12 reviews too seriously.  Here's how the online rating averages stack up from a variety of review sources to compile at least 100 reviews (1=sucks, 5=great):

  • Goodyear Wrangler: 4.9
  • Firestone Destination: 4.8
  • Cooper Discoverer: 4.6
  • BF Goodrich Advantage TA: 4.2
  • General Tire Grabber: 3.7

Why was the General Tire Grabber so low in the online reviews you ask?  For the most part, the negative reviews were about the rough ride and tread noise.

So which tire did I decide on?

The Goodyear Wrangler.  The price was right, the reviews were good, confirming what I already knew about Wranglers.

'ol Nellie has a new pair (set) of shoes and she looks PURDY!

Related:  https://www.tirerack.com/tires/reviews/MenuServlet?search=surveyComments

Related:  https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tires.htm

Related:  https://www.1010tires.com/Tires/Reviews/Light+Trucks+and+SUVs 

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


Product Review: Water Shoes by Wave Runner

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

Water shoes, a.k.a., aqua socks....  They're great for fishing, they beat any other foot gear when it comes to launching a boat or even if just bank fishing.  If you're stuck on the shoreline, water shoes give you the confident ability to wade out from the bank a bit and extend your casting range.  There's no fear of slipping on rocks and your feet won't feel like two anchors once you step out of the water because water shoes drain and dry so well.

So what kind of water shoes should you buy?

Don't go cheap.  That's what I did on a recent vacation and while the shoes I purchased did the job intended, the quality was less-than-stellar.  What I bought amounted to a disposable pair of water shoes.

20180603_080959I purchased a pair of Wave Runners at Walmart for $7.99.  They are a slip-on style, comfortable, the sizing is good - I wear a size 12 - and they fit nicely, the mesh breathes and dries well.  My only real knock on these shoes is the tread.  It's minimal.  As you can see from the pics, the tread is quite worn, after just two days of use.  Traction will most likely become questionable during my next fishing outing.  They're fine on sand, or perhaps at the pool, but I won't be able to trust them on mossy surfaces or sharp edged rocks/shells when wading into that next lake or river.

If you're in a pinch and/or forgot to pack your quality water shoes, the Wave Runner is OK, but know that it's a very temporary water shoe solution.  For $8, they did what I needed them to do on a two-day fishing trip that included a lot of bank fishing/wading.

Wave Runner water shoes gets 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  They're inexpensive, comfortable, dry well, but the tread doesn't last.  Spend the money on a water shoe with a thicker sole and better tread.

2 stars

 


The worst car charger on the market is made by iWalk

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I recently assisted one of my sons with a phone upgrade at the local Sprint store, he got a Samsung S-9, nice phone.

While there and a bit of traveling on the agenda, I also picked up a 4.8 amp dual USB car charger, made by iWalk.  

First mistake:  Paying too much for the charger at a phone store, higher markup vs. say, Walmart.  Yes, I must admit, convenience got the better of me.  I paid $24.99 for the charger.  Sprint also offers dual port car chargers made by other vendors, but they're more expensive.

Second mistake:  This was an, "Oh yeah, I need one of those," impulse buys.  I didn't do any homework on this product, no asking around or reading any reviews regarding quality or performance.

iWalk 4.8A dual port car charger
iWalk Car Charger broken after first use

Long story short, I made the purchase and not two hours later decided to give it a try, my phone needed a charge.  Not only did I open the box and see a white charger inside even though the box said and the picture showed I was buying a black one, but guess what, the tip that engages the vehicle power port was not attached to the body of the charger, the insulator inside the cone tip was broken.  What was supposed to be a one piece gadget, was in two pieces, inside guts exposed.  I took the product back immediately and made an exchange, this time checking the product with the sales guy, opening up the box to ensure the charger wasn't broken.  This one was in one piece, not two and by gosh it was black just like the picture on the box!  But it wasn't removed from the packaging for a more detailed review.......  Could'a, Should'a....  Shame on me.

So I start traveling down the road, plug the charger into the port, plugged the phone into the car charger and so far so good.  My phone was at 23% and had charged up to 47% when I arrived at my destination.  I unplug my phone, pull the charger out of the port and guess what?  The tip remained in the port, same issue, broken insulator, rendering the charger useless.  Time for a refund.

iWalk Car Chargers Suck
Broken car charger tip

I'll be going for a different tip design with my next charger and it won't be anything made by iWalk.

The 4.8 amp dual USB car charger, made by iWalk gets zero out of five stars.  Even if this was a shipping issue, not the fault of iWalk, it begs the question, "They make it so fragile that a dropped box renders the chargers packed in the box useless?" 

I obtained two chargers and they both had the very same issue.  Chargers made by iWalk are NOT Bachelor on the Cheap friendly.  They suck, they're fragile, they're over-priced.

0 stars