Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Clod on a Hot Tin Roof

Well, the sweat continues as preparation for departure approaches. Hopefully, today is the last day of the brutal stuff. Due to the unusual heat (94-98 degrees ever since my last post) not much has been accomplished. The heat also affected my route planning, since I had to start over twice as the situation changed…or didn’t. Now, it’s just plain late departure, which also dictates elevation changes. The Pima Air Museum is out now, and a more or less straight trip to trusty old Wickenburg and beyond is in. The rest will be common to many, but new to me. But that’s not the Big News! Read more…

It’s Past That Time of Year Again!

Just looking at this image makes me wince! Subtract one or the other item, and it’s all okay – energizing, even. Too many project deadlines in my past, I guess, with the vast majority being arbitrary.

This year, March 5-7 was National Procrastination Week! Naturally, right about now is the proper time for actual observance, in the spirit under which it was founded: humor. Take a human weakness, and celebrate it as if it were a good thing. If you have to force it to mean something, National Procrastination Week is really not a time for putting off essentials, but about setting aside the busywork that doesn’t count for much in the end, and reminding ourselves what’s really of value, and paying attention to that. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be captivated by the inconsequential…like National Procrastination Week. Its reminder to me is to take a little time to reflect upon what kinds of things I tend to put off, and why I choose those things. Plus, it also tends to evoke thoughts about priorities and time management. Things are set aside for a reason, not because they are crowded out by unreasoned chaos.

But there is unhappy news to report this year as well. In the past, the observance been criticized by humor-challenged control freaks who rarely pick up on either sarcasm or wit, and who assume that people are actually being encouraged to procrastinate. Seriously. But that’s to be expected by the few who just don’t get such things, and that’s okay. You just kind of ignore the Read more…

When a Photograph Leads The Way

D. McCall White, prominent automotive engineer, circa 1920. (The limitations of the photographic film most widely used at this time included an inability to capture blue eyes well.)

D. McCall White, prominent automotive engineer, in a marketing shot for his new Lafayette automobile for 1920. Clicking on the picture will allow view of a larger image. (The limitations of the photographic film most widely used at this time included an inability to capture blue eyes well.)

While I anticipated being carved up like a hapless captive at a Mayan religious offering last summer, I found the above photograph heading up an article in Traces, a magazine published by the Indiana Historical Society. They culled it from the photographic collection of one Robert Hamilton Scrogin, who was the principle driver of The Hoosier Motorist, a publication of the Hoosier Motor Club. Scrogins’ name was somewhere on that publication’s masthead from before 1919 to 1952. At that time, the rag served up club news, hotel and garage directories, trade news and travel articles.

Traces notes that the Hoosier Club’s origins evolved from a group that called themselves the Flat Tire Club, a collection of “automobile enthusiasts” in Indianapolis. This was an apt club name in that era, since the club formed in 1902, when the horseless carriage was an adventurous hobby for members of the upper class. (In those days, wealth alone didn’t cut it. You had to be considered to be of good breeding, the standards for which were judged by those of…good breeding.) 1902 was a bit of a milestone year for horseless carriages. Ransom E. Olds was the first to build his almost-affordable and very successful Oldsmobile Runabout on an assembly line, no doubt noticed by Henry Ford, who was still struggling unsuccessfully to build and market more upscale vehicles. Prior to that, these conveyances were built one at a time, on one spot on the floor that was surrounded by parts bins. It might be rolled closer to other bins along the way, but that was about it. This earlier method was hardly crude, since the market for automobiles was exclusive to Read more…

Trip Routing

 

 

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This post is definitely more about describing how I work out where to go and where to stop than it is about how you should do so. There is a right way to do things, and then there’s my way. I’m now seriously behind in routing my trip for the upcoming commute/touring season of seven or so months, but that won’t stop me from delaying that task further with this post. Procrastination comes in many forms and with many faces.

Assuming – and that’s a big, pending assumption – that the local medicos do not seriously interfere with my departure schedule or make it necessary to closely monitor dosage results in a way that is incompatible with living on the road, I should be able to clear out of here somewhere in the last half of March, when the temperatures ramp up.

The primary goals are just two: get to Illinois in time to plague family and show up for pre-scheduled annual appointments in that area, and hunt for cooler high-altitude air along the way, at least until the true long-distance commute begins. Secondary goals are to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, and then steer counter-productively back northwest to Prescott to see about installing rear air lifts on the Mighty Furdster. Then, according to plan, I hope to attend the Overland Expo West once again this year, not so much because Read more…

Politics as Theater

My daughter-in-law recently posted the video at the very bottom of this post on her Facebook page, which surprised me – but shouldn’t have. She is a thoughtful person who supported Progressive Bernie Sanders in his bid for the Democratic nomination, and she justifiably felt betrayed and outraged when Hillary Clinton conspired with the media to engineer him out of her way in a move that would have made Richard Nixon beam with pride. Then to try to bring the disaffected back into the herd, Hillary confidently assured them that her pick for VP was a True Progressive, which I was surprised didn’t make her nose grow to yardstick proportions. To ensure her success, the press understandably avoided checking this claim or bringing up any contradictions it presented.

What caught my attention in the first wave of protests in DC and in Portlandia was that Read more…

Gags, Humor, and Solar Power

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

The Morningstar Sunsaver MPPT.

I recently managed to replace the misbehaving Outback SmartHarvest 20A MPPT solar charge controller with a proper Morningstar controller, and now all is right with the world. The Outback was exceptionally naughty right out of the box, and its replacement was no better. The USA office of Outback appeared to be manned only with sales types and customer service reps, with no technical staff on board. The sole solution seemed to be trying another unit. So I did, but opted for the Sunsaver. Since I could not in good conscience sell or even give the SmartHarvest away, it is now residing in the local landfill, where it belongs.

With Morningstar’s remote temperature sender attached to one of my batteries, the Sunsaver now operates in tandem with their TriStar MPPT 45A. The Tristar handles everything coming in from the 360W roof panels, while the Sunsaver serves to feed power in from the 200W ground panels via the external rear wall plug that comes standard with the Four Wheel camper. (A simple internal wiring harness change was needed to feed both of these units to the same battery pack for my installation.) Four Wheel uses the less expensive Read more…

The Corvette Returns

Oh, the adoration just blooms in this 1974 photo.

Oh, the adoration just blooms in this 1974 photo. “I can’t believe I OWN this car!!!”

Awhile back, I wrote a post about the unhappy days I had with my special-ordered 1974 Corvette Sting Ray. It was a mix of wonderment and poor labor practices all rolled into one. It was the last of the all-fiberglass bodied ‘Vettes, the last of the 454 V8s, and the next to last year for convertibles (of that era). It was one of the last Corvettes to come off the 1974 production line. You can read about its checkered past in Listening to the Inner Idiot. I loved that car, and also loved getting rid of it in 1976.

Turns out that the “poor bastard” who then bought that car recently contacted me, not to curse me but to Read more…

Traveling at Warping Speed

Fascinating, no? No. But it will help in understanding this post.

Fascinating, no? Ahhh…No. But it will help in understanding this post.

I escaped from my local Ford dealer the day the other day, but sans shirt. The brakes had been acting up for months, a little at first and then a lot. Now, at 90K miles, they were grabbing at one or more spots as the wheels rotated, with too much stopping power alternating with too little. Pretty jerky, though they could still do a firm stop when necessary. But, it was to the point where the rapid vibrations needed to go away. There was no pulsing at the brake pedal, and no wobbling of the steering wheel, but the Mighty Furd is pretty dead in this regard. Feedback is not its strong suit. I’d recently had the wheel lugs reset to spec, using a torque wrench, since I couldn’t break them loose with a star wrench in order to be able to change a tire. Many repair places simply jam them on hard with a pneumatic driver which, at least with drum brakes, can warp the drum and cause the same behavior. It was worth a try. No soap, though. It was just as bad afterward.

I was hoping that the rotors (disks in the above illustration) were warped and could be machined back to a nice, flat shape. No soap on that, either. The dealership vowed that there wasn’t enough rotor thickness left to avoid going below spec on the minimum thickness allowed. As measured, the runout (disk wobbling) was bad, preventing any meaningful correction. I needed four new ones, which cost a pretty penny indeed, and I had them change out the brake fluid as well, which looked unhealthily dark. The pads, still the originals, were fine, which surprised me. Brakes have not been a trouble-free area for M. Furd. I’d had to have the rear calipers replaced quite some time ago due to freezing up and staying engaged, the result of letting the thing sit for weeks at a time over one winter. That promotes corrosion, which jams parts up and the brakes/wheels get pretty hot. Today, I was hoping that the cashier would not notice the tear stains on my cheeks as I swiped my overheated credit card.

What had happened? I wanted to figure that out in order to avoid a repeat at 180K miles. I was stumped, because my sporty car driving days are long gone, and I now drive like an old man in order to keep the bucket rolling. Overheating should not be an issue in this case. I did some research, and found that disk brakes don’t warp, so my old school thinking was out. Hopefully, the runout on the new rotors is better than the originals. Turns out that for the Super Duty, letting it sit for weeks, as I did in its early life over winter as well as when boondocking with the Defiant TT, doesn’t just rust the brake pads into the calipers. It promotes corrosion on the rotor surfaces except where the pads are sitting. Then it more recently sat in Indy over the humid summer months, which may have finished them off. What you eventually get is a rotor with uneven friction surfaces, which comes out as what I had. It’s possible to catch it way early by swapping in semi-metallic pads at the first hint of grabbing, but really, not letting it sit idle for more than a week, and braking a little more aggressively may help me avoid this kind of Service Dept trauma quite so soon. I’d rather be replacing pads than rotors.

At this particular dealership, the sales people are required to chase down and chaperone anyone outside on the property. Doesn’t matter if you are “just looking” or are waiting hours and hours for your car in Service. They cannot leave your side, just in case you have a question or get a sudden, impulsive urge to buy a car right then and there. Their manager beats them soundly if they don’t. For Service customers facing trauma, maybe it’s also to keep you from wandering across the lot to the Chevy dealer next door, to the west. The Toyota dealer to the east is owned by the same guy as where I was at, so they probably don’t care so much when you go out that door. It’s kind of a forced intimacy, and the youngish salesman who followed me out sized me up and asked tentatively, “I…don’t suppose you’re thinking about replacing your truck.” That was a good guess on his part. I wasn’t. I don’t particularly look like an impulse buyer, nor do I look like an elderly version of a player. I don’t look like I have much dough either, truth be told. Short of a major engine failure or the impending signs of doom, the Mighty Furd shall retain the high honor of serving me until the day that it’s better off being dragged out and unceremoniously shot. But its memory shall live on, both in fact and in legend. Oh yes. So, we talked about how great it is to retire and tour the country most of the year, then winter in an RV park in Yuma. Tour here and there. Everywhere. He left after awhile. I couldn’t tell if he was more bored or depressed.

Brilliance Gone Bad

Notice the rust along the dark slats. This was in use for 9 months.

Notice the rust along the dark slats. This was in use for 9 months.

Last March, I departed Wellton, Arizona with what I hoped was a practical way to keep sharp kitchen knives protected, but handy. There are no reasonable (or safe) wall options for magnetic bars in the Four Wheel (unless you consider installation to the inside of a cabinet door safe), and no storage space for massive butcher block sheaths.

I decided to go with individual blade sheaths, partially in order to keep my options open for which knives to bring along on tour, and which to leave behind in the TT. In the hardware store I once worked at, they offered a knife-sharpening service, and card stock sleeves were used to safely store and handle the finished knives. Oh, that I had a half-dozen of those! There are all sorts of DIY sleeves on the Internet of course, based on Read more…

Traction Jackson

This is from an annual mud bogging event called Mudfest. This careworn 2WD Dodge pickup didn't make it through the trough of gumbo, but it wasn't from lack of trying!

This is from an annual mud bogging event called Mudfest. This careworn 2WD Dodge pickup didn’t make it through the trough of gumbo, but it wasn’t from lack of trying!

[This post is a long one, so you may want to read some and return later. I do not follow the convention of breaking it up into its components, since each of those components interweave with each other to some degree. When the overall topic is finding traction, I’d just as soon publish an article that can serve as a reference, than shotgun the thing just so I can get more web traffic, with the hope that you will consider subsidizing my lunacy. (That comes later, after I’ve established my empire. But don’t worry, I won’t be sending in Brownshirts or anything, for intimidation. They’ll be more like Desert Sage-Shirts, or possibly Taupeshirts… Camo has been SO overdone!) Thus if you have an interest in this traction topic, you can saw your way through. And if you don’t care to infect yourself with it, you won’t be subjected by its different parts for weeks.]

A frequent question I come across among campers in relatively small camping vehicles is “Do I need four-wheel drive?” If you’ve already been camping for awhile and have established the types of places you prefer, the answer is already apparent either way. If you are either an armchair camper planning to get out there someday, or already camp but want to expand the types of places that you drive through or to, the answer can be more elusive.

I’ve been working on this particular topic for well over a year, and the end result is markedly different than the start. I’ve dumped it and started over a couple of times in an attempt to get down to the nitty gritty of it. It started out as a review of all the different types of 4×4 driveline systems as well as tire types and their applicability to different terrains. I found that epic type of presentation to be more overwhelming and boring than helpful. So if you think this article is bad, you should have read its predecessor. While I consider it essential to understand certain basics of how your vehicle reacts Read more…

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