The Outdoorsy App: A Non-Review Review

The best part about the kids being in a scouting program is the excuse it gives us to get out into the great outdoors. The worst part about scouting is then sleeping out there.

After a series of shivering through near-freezing nights and huddling under nothing but a thin piece of treated nylon during thunderstorms, I decided that as much as I enjoy hiking, it might be nice to actually stay under a real roof during our next trip to the mountains. Luckily for me, my other half mentioned he was thinking the same thing.

He told me about an app he’d found called Outdoorsy.

Think of it like Lyft/Uber meets Airbnb/HomeAway. Only, instead of it being a ride-sharing program or app to let you rent out an unused room, you can use it to turn that depreciating asset/eyesore you call a recreational vehicle parked out front into a potential profit center. It also gives a person like me, the chance to actually try to see if RVing is the way to travel.

1998 Coleman Mesa – our home away from home for the weekend

It may be the fact that I live in an urban area and am centrally located between the mountains and the sea, but there were more than a few options for us to choose from when planning our trip. In the end, we decided to go with a 1998 Coleman Mesa pop-up trailer, which, thanks to its low profile, would allow us to travel around the sharp turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway and under NC’s historic stone bridges with ease.

It would also mean we would have a regular sized vehicle during the long weekend for taking us from one trailhead to the next. We thought that extra vehicle would be our truck.

Unfortunately, the holiday weekend meant we weren’t the only ones to hit the road for the weekend. Unseasonable highs hadn’t helped either as people, like us, sought higher ground and cooler temperatures.

We’d been stuck in slow-moving traffic for more than a couple of hours when suddenly the check engine light appeared on the dash. The truck began to groan. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were at the base of the mountains by this point, meaning our cell reception had already begun to degrade.

My other half looked none-to-pleased. He’d just gotten the truck, which is still relatively brand new, checked out by a mechanic prior to our departure. We pushed on, but at a slower, more careful rate. What choice did we have?

Her Royal Highness Approves

We finally limped into the campgrounds where my mom and stepdad (who’d had the foresight to drive separately) sat waiting. The sun hung low in the sky–too low to worry about pesky details like how we were going get home. We sprang into action. One crank raised the roof. Another lowered stabilizing blocks. We sweated in the effort, but it made me glad our rental harkened from good old 1998 when vehicle systems were still more mechanical than computer driven.

The most challenging part about the setup was figuring out where the various poles needed to shape the more tent-like portion of the camper, especially as the sun had fully set by this point, but even that didn’t take too terribly long. Soon we were settling in for a much deserved night’s rest.

Did I sleep better than I might in my regular tent? You bet I did. Though the camper shook anytime someone tried to sneak outdoors to … er… commune with nature, I remained thankful for the mattress under my back and the solid walls that could protect us against any unexpected change in weather.

We spent the weekend hiking and enjoying food cooked over the open flames of a campfire. My kids spotted waterfalls and at least pretended to be interested when the park ranger regaled us with the story of how the river running beside us got its name. Spoiler – it was violent.

Then it was time to return home. Cranks were turned in the opposite direction and support bars were safely stowed. The truck even managed to get us back home. Then all we had to do was drop the keys and the camper back with its rightful owner.

Would I use the Outdoorsy app again? Absolutely. I only wish I could give our truck an equally high rating.


Here are some additional pictures from our trip, which I hope you will enjoy:

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My Secret Addiction and 6 Amazing Photo Apps

My secret addiction - www.alliepottswrites.com #photoeditingtoolsIf you’d asked me a few years ago if I had any addictions, I would have said no. I told myself I didn’t have an addictive personality. It turns out I just hadn’t found my drug of choice – photo editing apps.

Like any drug dealer, these developers hooked me with the easy fix. Here – try this free download, it will turn your photos into amazing pieces of art in seconds. And boy, did it ever. Soon I was applying effect after effect to my favorite photos, but there was a problem. I liked too many of the results. I got into the habit of saving multiple versions of the same image, albeit with different styles, rather than just stopping at one.

As my camera roll filled up, I tried to regain my self-control. I forced myself to only save the best of the best. Unfortunately, this created a whole other problem. I wouldn’t save anything until I’d applied and seen everything. Over time, seeing the same effects applied over and over, I grew less impressed with the results. Sure, the app would release a new style now and then, but it could no longer keep up with my desire for a new, bigger, wow factor – for more, more, more.

I realized my one source for fun with photography was no longer enough to satisfy my needs. I decided to venture into a place I knew could provide more. I joined Instagram.

Suddenly, I found myself taking photos of the most random things. An empty park bench. A rusted bridge. Cherry blossoms separating me from a brilliant blue sky. My kids, long used to their mommy whipping out her phone to capture the moments of their childhood wondered why the lens was no longer exclusively focused their way. ‘Mommy might need this for her website or for a book cover,’ I’d reply, somewhat embarrassed.

My kids don’t read my blog, or they might wonder why they haven’t seen much crossover yet.

I may be a lost cause now, but I thought I should provide a list of free apps to avoid in order to protect yourself from a similar fate.

Prisma (www.prisma.com)

simple as pie photo effects - www.alliepottswrites.com

Simple as pie artistic effects

This was my gateway app. Once you grant the app access to your camera and your photos, all you have to do is select or take a photo and then press a single button to apply an artistic effect which makes your photo look like it was painted in the style of an artistic master. My personal favorites are the Gothic, Candy, Dreams, and Composition styles, but there are plenty of others to choose from. You can also control the intensity of the style with a finger swipe.

When I originally downloaded the app, it automatically cropped photos into a square image typical of what is posted to Instagram, but now allows for a full-screen image. Additionally, Primsa has launched their own social sharing site.

Canva (www.canva.com) / PicMonkey (www.picmonkey)

Canva before and after - www.alliepottswrites.comIf realism is more your thing, but you still like to add some oomph to your photos, Canva and PicMonkey both offer filters to adjust lighting, contrast, color, and intensity. However, both have their limitations, especially for the free versions. I use Canva if I am trying to also incorporate clip art, stock photos, or text. I used to use PicMonkey if I was trying to soften, sharpen, focus or otherwise add a zoom effect to a photo, but they’ve taken steps in the last few months to make more and more of their better features only accessible to premium users.

Which brings me to my most recent find:

Adobe‘s suite for the Creative Cloud. http://www.adobe.com

You may be more familiar with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, both of which are a far cry from being free, but Adobe also has a few ‘lighter’ apps which are powerful enough. Even better, you don’t have to have a paid creative cloud monthly subscription to use them.

So far I’ve used Adobe Photoshop Fix, Adobe Photoshop Mix and Adobe Spark Post.

Photoshop Fix

After

Before

This app does what it says. It can fix your photos via subtle tweaks. With built-in face detection, it can instantly smooth those pesky wrinkles away, boost your smile, and remove unwanted composition elements such as logos on t-shirts or photo bombs such as bunny ears through its spot healing tool.

Photoshop Mix

This app is designed to make it easy to swap out backgrounds or merge multiple images into a single composition. Want to make your friends jealous with an impromptu trip to an exotic destination, but short on funds? Simply take a picture of yourself lounging on your couch and replace it with a beach front chair.

Actually, it’s not quite as simple as the tutorial would lead you to believe. You have to pay extra care as you trace around the image you want to keep otherwise your results, with their jagged digital edges, will scream photoshopped. After spending far too long with less than ideal results, I recommend leaving this trick to the professionals.

Spark Post

If you are editing for a blog post or social media post, this tool packs some serious punch. I specified my preferred image size and uploaded a picture. The tool automatically suggested a color palette for my text based on the background image. From there I was able to change out layouts, adjust filters, and even add animation to my text with a few simple button presses. The only issue I had with the app is that it adds a watermark to the bottom of your graphic unless you also ‘share’ it with a friend.