Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kamik Pariots - The hi performance winter boot

There are people who like cold weather. However I have never meet anyone who likes having cold feet. During the winter months it is rare to see me outside in anything but ski boots or some kind of waterproof insulated winter boot. Last winter I had a write up about my Sorel 1964 Pac Boots.
These however are not the only pair of winter boots I own. My other winter boot are a pair of Kamik Patriots.

Kamik is a boot/shoe manufacture from our neighbors of the frozen north: Quebec Canada. Though you might not have heard of them, Kamik's parent company Genfoot Inc. was established in 1898; so they know a thing or two about making shoes.

When my old Sorels died (not my current 1964's), I decided to replace them with a pair of boots that are a little more high performance. The primary difference between this boot and a pair of Sorel type pac boot is the double boot aspect. Pac boots are double boots; meaning there is an inner liner/insulating boot, and an outer waterproof shell. The Kamik Patriots are not such a boot. The insulation is built into the walls of the boot. The result is a much better fitting boot; one which I can take long hikes or snow shoe without heel slip or fear of blisters. The Thinsulate Ultra insulation provide thermal protection down to -58 degrees F. Because of this single boot design, it is difficult to dry the inside of the boot. Remember that the average foot produces a pint of sweat a day. Airing the boot out is acceptable in drying them, however prolonged wear would result in clammy boots. A forced air or heated boot dryer is good to have/use if you were to use these boots all day, everyday.

The lacing system resembles that of a hiking boot. The four sets of corrosion resistant pivoting lower eyelets provides smooth lacing action and distributes the lace tension evenly over the forefoot. The center lace lock grab the shoe lace firmly and resist slipping. The upper speed hooks cinch the upper cuff tightly and seals out snow. The length of shoe lace provided however is ridiculously long. This isn't a big deal but very annoying since you will not be replacing new laces for your new boot, and trimming them will caused frayed ends.

Other features of this boot includes an anti bacterial foot bed, to help keep these boots smelling fresh after many pints of foot sweat. A large kick tab in the rear of the boot is effective for quickly kicking off your boots after a long work or play day. This tab also doubles as a retainer for snowshoe straps or similar, however it does not work as the rear latch tab of a pair of semi automatic crampons. The boot tongue is not connected to the rest of the boot at the top lace hook portion. This is in my opinion more of a benefit than a hindrance. Since this is a tall boot, the separated tongue allows an easy entrance of your foot. If the tongue is attached it would makes it difficult to get the foot in. If the tongue connecting material is made larger, to allow for easier ingress, the material would bunch up when the boot is fully laces. Because of this tongue separation, the boot is not waterproof to the top of its 10 inch cuff. If one steps into water above the lace lock, water will seep in. For me this is acceptable. After all these are snow boots and not waders. This tongue design also helps open the boot up to allow for improved air circulation to aide in drying.

My relationship with my Kamiks have not always been peaches and roses. When I first received my boots I noticed how stiff they were. Rather than being constructed of rubber, the lower portion of the boot appeared to be made of plastic. Squatting down would create a dramatic crease along the boot which would press onto your foot. This is the same crease that happens when you walk. With the lower section being so stiff this crease soon turned into a crack, which would let in moisture. This crack did not happen immediately but over a season of heavy use. I was very disappointed. With my recent experience with poor boot durability I was not looking forward to going through the warranty process. http://mrpulldown.blogspot.com/2009/09/trezeta-epic-boot-failure-part-ii.html

To being my warranty process I e-mail Kamik's customer service. They instructed me to ship in my boots. If they found them to be defective they would replace them. I did so, and after a week received an e-mail stating that a new pair of boots were in the mail to me. After another week I received a new pair of boots. WOW that is some customer service!! They did not hassle me, ask for purchase information, they just took one look at the boot and said, "that shouldn't happen", and replaced them. My new boot, though seemingly identical, has a rubber lower portion which will resist cracking.

By doing me right, some would say that I should fully support Kamik and not mention this transgression. However I think that this is an actual plus for the company. As I have said before: all products fail. What separates a good company from a bad one is their willingness to stand behind their products, and not to let the customer pay for their mistakes. In the future I will not hesitate to purchase another Genfoot INC. product.

Monday, December 21, 2009

2002, VW Eurovan Camper, $38,000

Update: After weeks of listing and many potential buyers, we took the camper off the market. We found that it was just too dear to us to get rid of. Sorry to the buyer that we pulled deal out from. And FYI $38,000 was a deal. Serious buyers that have been search for a camper like this were glad to pay that or more. Looks like there will be many more eurovan trips in the future.

Have you always wanted a VW pop top van, but didn’t want to deal with a slow hippie death box? Then this van is what you have been looking for. Modern styling, engine, and dual air bags. The VR6 motor pumps out 201 horse power, while getting 22 mpg on the highway. Only the 2001 to 2003 (last year) VR6 made 201 hp, the earlier years only made 150hp. This has been a great family van. However it rarely gets used anymore and I feel that it would be better if used by someone for its intended purpose as a camper rather than sitting in the garage. We bought this van new in 2002, and are the original owners. The first week of owning it, we had a set of custom seat covers made for all the seats. Thus the upholstery is in perfect condition. All service has been performed by our local VW dealer, with all service records available. Even oil changes and new tire were done at the dealer. This thing has been garage stored its entire life.

There are so many features on this camper that I have listed them in the chart below. A few of the highlights are: pop top bed, stove, frig, sink, thermostat controlled furnace, propane tank, fresh water storage tank, grey water tank, lower level bed (yes that mean a guest bed room), removable center bench, dual removable tables, new 2nd RV battery.

Things that I personally love about this van: Drives like a car, yet it is a camper. Despite the camper aspect, it is still a van and can haul a ton of gear. You can load several full size sheets of 4x8 plywood in it, though I have never tried. Did I mention it is fast!!

The camper currently lives in Ventura California. Please contact me for any questions or to set up a test drive and viewing.

Automotive Equipment
-In-dash air conditioning (CFC-free)
-Front and rear heating systems
-Power front windows with one-touch-down
-Power door locks (including side door and rear hatch)
-Cruise control with resume
-AM/FM/CD Sony Xplod stereo with six speakers
-Intermittent windshield wipers
-Beverage holders
-Interior lighting, front cab area and side entrance
-Power outside mirrors with electric defrost
-Rear hatch wiper and defroster

Technical Information
-2.8-liter, 6-cylinder VR6 engine
-Peak horsepower: 201 @ 4,500 RPM
-Peak Ft/lb. torque: 190 @ 3,200 RPM
-Towing capacity: max. 4,400 lb. braked trailer
-4-wheel disk anti-lock braking system
-Daytime running lights
-Front-wheel drive
-Fog lights
-Fully independent suspension, front and rear
-4-speed automatic transmission
-Low-speed Traction Control System
-Reinforced floor panels, B and C pillars
-Height-adjustable head restraints for each passenger
-Side impact beams in front doors and sliding door

-Child safety lock for sliding door
-LP gas and carbon monoxide detectors
-Fuel-tank capacity-21.1 gal
-22mpg highway, 17mpg city
-Front-wheel drive with 16" all-season tires
-Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering
-Fully independent suspension, front and rear
-Power-assisted brakes with load sensor
-Four-speed automatic transmission
-Four-wheel anti-lock braking system

Camping Supplies
-Front seats swivel 360 degrees

-AC/DC/LP gas refrigerator (2 cu. ft.)
-Two-burner LP gas stove with stainless steel splatter shield
-Stainless steel sink and counter top
-2 Dining/utility tables
-Auxiliary deep cycle coach battery (130 amp/hour rating)
-AC-to DC power converter with coach battery charger
-Two 110-volt outlets, two 12-volt outlets
-LED monitor panel for water tanks, LP gas and coach battery
-Fluorescent lights over gallery and lower bed
-Incandescent light for upper bed

-Driver-side tip-out screened window
-Passenger-side sliding screened window
-Room darkening, pleated blinds for side windows

-Privacy curtains for front cab and rear hatch windows
-Tip-out roof vent
-Auxiliary water sprayer at rear hatch
-Marine grade vinyl flooring rear of driver's cab
-Optional 12,000 BTU forced air furnace

Safety Features
-Dual airbags.
-Height-adjustable three-point belts for front seats
-Height-adjustable head restraints for each passenger
-Energy-absorbing steel frame with additional deformation element
-Energy-absorbing steel body panels welded to a steel "safety cage"
-Side impact beams in front doors and sliding side door
-Dual diagonal braking circuits with Load-sensitive Braking System
-High-mounted brake light
-Child safety lock for sliding side door
-Shift Lock III (automatic transmission)
-Safety fuel tank
-LP gas and Carbon Monoxide detectors
-Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) protection on 110-volt outlets

Storage Tanks
-21.1-gallon gasoline tank
-12-gallon fresh water tank
-8-gallon "gray" water tank
-5.9-gallon LP gas tank

Dimensions Camper
-74"x43"bed for two in the pop-up roof
-Rear bench unfolds in to a second 84"x43" bed
-Length 17'
-Exterior height 6'5"
-Exterior width 6'3"
-Interior height 7' with top up
-Interior width 5'5"
-Curb weight (lbs.) 5,106
-Wheelbase 115"

Storage Areas
-Wardrobe closet with sliding door access-37" tall, 28" wide, 15" deep
-15 cu. ft. of enclosed cabinet space (including wardrobe)
-20 cu. ft. of storage behind and under the rear bench

Seating Comfort
-Two full-swiveling front captain seats with adjustable armrests
-Three-person rear bench
-Two-person center bench that faces forward or rearward
-Driver and passenger door storage pockets
-Netted storage pockets in rear hatch area
-Silverware drawer
-Roof-top luggage carrier with tie-down bars
-Center and rear benches are removable without tools

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Wiper Blades - More going on then you thought

As winter rolls in, I perform a series of winterizing steps for the car. Switching out to winter tires, filling the windshield wiper fluid reservoir with freeze resistant wiper fluid, placing rubber floor mats. Those all seems like sensible things to do. However another thing that I do is switch out windshield wiper blades. WHAT!? That's right windshield wiper blades. Ok for my wife's car I insensibly put on a warm fuzzy seat cover and steering wheel cover.

A windshield wiper consist of several arched springs and a rubber blade. The arches maintain constant pressure on the rubber blade against the windshield. If a section of spring arch is compromised it no longer pushed the rubber squeegee against the glass and a streak will form. During a winter storm as snow falls on you wiper, it fills the arches and prevents them from working. The solution: winter wiper blades.

Traditionally a winter wiper blade is constructed the same as a typical blade with one added feature: a love glove. The winter blade is covered with a thin flexible rubber jacket that prevents the snow from binding up the spring mechanisms of a standard wiper blade. Often times the end of the blades are capped with a red tip. This either helps identify that that are winter blades or to help locate the end of your wipers when scraping ice off your windshield. Does it work. They sure do. One thing however is that you can not replace just the rubber insert of a winter blade. Everything is covered. However these days it is almost impossible to find blade refills only. Most auto parts store only sell the entire arch assembly.

So why do I go through the trouble of switching out my wiper blades. The main reason is because I still have my old blades and want to use them up. Winter blades also cost a bit more then your standard blade so I rather save the hi performance blade for the winter when they are really needed. The summer sun really does a number on the rubber. When my other set of blades eventually wear out I will most likely just keep the winter type blades year round.

Recently a new type of wiper blade has come on the market. I refer to them as the curved beam type blade. This type of wiper blade provides good spring force on the windshield and do not have any arched springs to ice up. This type of blade, sold under many different brand names, work great during the winter.

Installing wiper blades is the simplest thing, and take literally less than a minute to do. At the junction of the wiper arm and the blade there is a small tab. Simple depress the tab and slide the old blade off. The new blade slides on and clicks into place.
Prolonging blade life. Often times at a ski resort parking lot, you will notice cars with their wiper blades flipped in the up position. Why do people do this? The reason is so that the blades do not freeze to the windshield and rip off when you engage your wiper. As the car is driven it heats the cab and the windshield up. After parking the car, and especially if it is snowing, the first bits of snow to contact the warm car melts. As time progresses and the car freezes the melted snow becomes ice and bonds your wiper blades to the windshield.
Wiper blades they are one of those things that seem so trivial unit you really need them to work. That is why it is standard equipment on ALL cars!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cutting Firewood - The Easy Way

With the arrival of the cold temps I really appreciate having a warm raging fire burning in my wood burning insert. However I spend alot of my time during the non-snowy months harvesting firewood. Maybe I just need to get myself one of these.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Bounty of Thanksgiving

Home for Thanksgiving is always so pleasant. Ripe back yard fruit. Plenty of food. Family. Warm weather. Though I love living where I do, a trip to southern California is always a welcome in winter.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pizza Night II - Trader Joe's Pizza Dough

A few nights ago I finally tried the fabled Traders Joe's Pizza Dough. Not having a TJ's in town makes their products slightly elusive. I have heard good things about their dough and was eager to try it out.

Of the several doughs I have tired this is the best!! It even beats my mother in laws home made dough. shhhhh don't tell her, I don't think she reads my blog either.

Available in three varieties: Regular, Whole Wheat, and Garlic and Herb. We sampled the WW and GH. I was most impressed with the WW, though I prefer the GH, the WW did not taste like cardboard; something I think most WW products taste like.
Muumm Muummm Pizza!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Changing a Car Tire - Part 1

It was late in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Thursday, and I get a phone call. "I'll be a little late, I have a flat tire" I hear the voice of my cousin say on the other end of the line. This last week as I was swapping out winter tires (no I did not get Trax for my car), it occurred to me that the simple task of changing out a tire is not always so simple, and to some daunting and impossible. The most common responds I hear from people that do not know how to change a tire is: that is what cell phones and AAA is for. Cell phones don't always work, and it can take up to two hours for a AAA service call to finally reach you. Having a flat tire and not being able to change it out is like shitting your pants cause your shoelaces were not tied and therefor you couldn't walk to the bathroom. Ridiculous; exactly.

I figure I would layout some tire changing tips. With the proper technique anyone can do it; it does not matter how strong you are. I will break up this into two parts. Part one is how to change a flat tire on the roadside. Step two is how to change your tires quickly in the garage. This second part especially pertains to changing out all four tires or rotating your tires.
Preparation-At some point you should make sure you have everything needed to change out a flat tire stored in you car. Only three basic items are needed: jack, lug wrench, and a spare tire. When checking you should make sure that the spare is inflated properly. Other items that you might need are hub cap removal tool, lock lug nut "keys", wheel chocks, hazard single (flares or reflective triangles).

Lug Nut Removal-This should be the first step. With the vehicle parked on a level surface, the lug nuts should be "broken" when the car is still on the ground. Broken refers to loosening the nut but not removed. It is much safer to do so with the car on the ground as oppose to being in the air. Things that might cause difficulty: Hub caps. Some wheels have a hub cap that need to be removed before you can access the lug nuts. Don't be fooled by the fake lug nuts on the hub cap. Most caps can be pried off, some require a key or a hex tool to remove (take care of this in the prep). Some lug nuts are keyed for security reasons. Make sure to have the key. Finally lug nuts might be torque enough that will make it difficult to remove. A LN is suppose to be torqued to less that 100 ft/lbs. A stock lug wrench is typically more than a foot long, and the average human is more than 100 pounds. Thus if you stand on the end of the wrench you can most likely break it free. Remember to make sure the wrench is properly seated on the nut. Really it is so easy even a kid can do it, though the wrench handle should be on the left side of the nut for removal, the kid in the picture surely is tightening the nut.

Jacking-The next step is jacking up the car. Each manufacture supplies their cars with their own jack and jacking location. Part of the prep work is to know where on the car to jack. These locations are different between makes and models. Most cars seem to jack on the pinch weld at a location designated by a notch. German cars often have a jacking port, and solid rear axle trucks typically jack on the axle itself in the rear. Prior to jacking make sure the car is parked on a level surface, and set the parking break. For added security, place a wheel chock or large rock/piece of wood against the wheel opposite the corner being jacked up.

Lug Nuts-Now that the flat tire is in the air, and the lug nuts are loose, the next step is to remove the lug nuts and then the wheel. The term lug nut is generic. Some cars (Audi's) have lug bolts. Their function is the same. The thing to remember is not to lose any. Lug nuts/bolts are very easy to lose working on the side of the road in the dark.

Removing Wheels- Most of the time the wheels just come off. However sometimes a wheel could be stuck. Some wheels are known as hubcentrics, meaning that the wheel rest on the hub and sometimes they are stuck on. A good jerk will often times free the wheel from the hub. Sometimes however not. A whack with a large sledge hammer will almost always work. But often you do not have a hammer when stuck with a flat on the side of the road. A kick with the heel of your foot is the final option. Be aware that kicking the tire could cause the car to fall off it's jack. Locate your body so that the car will not crush you when it falls, and block off extra wheels and tires for added security. You can even place large solid objects under the car which are larger than you so that the object takes the weight of the fallen car.

Installing Wheels- This could be the hardest part of the job. Wheels and tires are heavy. Roll the wheel in place. Line up the studs with the holes in the wheels, this is the most important part. Rotate the wheel so the holes are properly orientated. I use two different lifting techniques. One is to put your leg against the tire. Hold the top of the tire and lift and roll the tire onto your leg then slide back onto the studs. The other way is the squat in front of the wheel. Grab the lower portion of the wheel and rest your forearms on the inside of your knees and shin. Using your calf muscle lift the heel of your foot of the ground, your forearms and the wheel. Line up the holes on the wheel with the studs and push the wheel towards the car. Once the wheel is hung on the studs, thread a lug nut on. Cars with lug bolts come with a thread blank, a bolt with no head. Thread this onto the hub to act as a stud to "hang" the wheel on.

Tightening Lug Nuts-Once you get that first lug nut you should tighten the lug nut all the way. The important thing here is to make sure the wheel sits flush against the hub. Push the wheel back as you tighten. You do not want the wheel to be cocked on the studs. Once that first lug nut is in place the plenty of stud thread should be exposed to easily engage the rest of the lug nut. Snug all the nuts in place. Lower the car off the jack. The final step is to torque the lug nuts. Torque should be done with the car on the ground. Most lug nuts are speced to be tightened between 80-100 foot pounds. A foot long wrench handle and 100 pounds will generate 100ft/lbs. So if your lug wrench is 16 inches and you weight 150lbs. A little more than half your weight on the end of the wrench will suffice. You should also tighten the lug nuts in a cris cross pattern to ensure the wheel is seated properly. Then go back and re-torque the first and 2nd lug nut.

And just like that, you are rolling down the highway again on your way to stuff your face full of Turkey and mash potatoes.

Update: I got into a debate last night on whether it is proper to tighten the first lug nut all the way, or if all the lug nuts should be threaded on prior to them being tightened. First off tightened is different then torqued. The idea that all the LNs should be installed then tightened in a criss cross pattern is to insure that the wheel sits on the hub flush, however it does not guarantee this. You can easily tighten the first LN and have the wheel cocked sideways on the studs and then only when the second LN is tighten pull the wheel flush. Doing it this way might bend the wheel or jam the wheel against the studs and still be crocked. Tightening the first LN and taking extra care to make sure the wheel sits flush has a few benefits. You can make sure the wheel is flush because you can see the length of stud exposed in the wheel holes without the rest of the LN in place, and insure that they are equal length. Once the wheel is set you don't have to worry about it and just drive the rest of the LNs home. Some wheels have very deep LN holes and it is difficult to start the LN on the threads of the studs. The greatest benefit I find is that with the wheel seated all the way, is that you have the maximum amount of thread exposed to work with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hot Springs Spa - I'm back in the saddle again!

Soon after my Labor Day party I decommissioned my inflatable Spa 2 Go hot tub in a fanfairless ceremony attended only by my dog and I. Actually the dog left half way through the events. However this was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to begin working on the abandoned hot tub that came with the house.

When we moved into the house, a none functioning hot tub made by Hot Springs Portable Spas sat in the yard. I am not sure about the "portable" part of the name, this thing is not going anywhere, easily. The only information we were given on its condition was that they thought it needed a new heater element. Opening up the access panel I found that the heater element housing was coated with a patch material that looked like plaster. With some help from my father in law, we poked around the electrical controls and concluded that everything was functional. I filled the tub and fired it up. The heater element was getting power and after several hours a noticeable increase in temperature was observed. However the heater element housing repair was not holding and was leaking. Thus the system was shut down and the tub drained so that additional sealant material could be applied to the housing. Once the system became water tight a tub of 102 degree water was produced. I was slightly troubled by this success, since the thermostat control was maxed out. I did not complain too much as I enjoy a beer in the tub after our first snow storm of the season. A weekend of hot tub soaking was all the spa would muster and soon the temperature dropped to 95 degrees.

Upon opening up the panel I was quickly able to identify the various components of the spa. I was greateful that the spa system was pretty simple. The experiance gained from the S2G was very handy.

1-Flow sensor

2-Jet pump


4-circulation pump

5-high limit sensor

6-temp control sensor

7-tub light


Cracking the control box I was greeted with a slew of electronic components. Once again it was a relatively simple controller. Rather than have an all inclusive circuit board that does everything, this controller was old school; a bunch of relays, switches, potentiometer, and a few circuit boards made up the brains of the spa system.

1-sensor inputs


3-thermostat controller

4-light switch

5-power in

6-power out to either circulation pump, heater or jet pump

7-power out to light

8-power out to either circulation pump, heater or jet pump

9-jet switch

10-jet on indicator light

My first inclination was to change out the heater element, since that is what the previous owners thought was wrong with the system. However based on some of the "johnny homeowner" repairs I found around the house, I was not so sure that PO thoughts were very reliable. At that time the voice of my old boss popped into my head. He use to say: do not use the "shot gun" approach to repairs. Shoot blindly and hope to hit something. Instead of just replacing parts and hoping that one of them solves the problem, you should figure out what is wrong with the system. I never thought the term "shotgun" approach was very appropriate, instead I think "machine gun" approach paints a more accurate image.
The first thing that I wanted to check was to make sure that the heater element was functioning properly. Messing with the temperature controller yielded clicks from the relay. A relay is a mechanical switch that turns power on and off. Signal voltage from a sensor is very low, and can not power the desired device, thus a relay is needed to handle the power demand of the device when a switched signal indicates it to do so. Tracing the wires back from the heater, I found the particular relay which powers it. This typical relay had six leads, or three pairs. In each pair a lead is for the positive terminal and one for the negative. One pair was for the signal voltage, one for power in and one for power out. I approached the system at a steady state with the thermostat set to max and temp of the tub at 95 degrees. I then took a volt meter and probed the leads. One set of leads showed 120 volts (the spa is a 120 volt system), and the other two showed nothing: the relay was off. Wiggling the temp setting switch around would result in a click. At this time two sets of leads showed 120 and one set show something like 12 volts: the relay was on. Setting the thermostat lower and allowing the system to reach steady state yield a 85 degree spa, turn the controller up would click on the relay. This meant that the heater was turning on and off and that most likely the heater could heat the tub past 95 degrees if the controller told it do so: the heater was good.
When my Spa 2 Go was not able to sustain temperature, the culprit was a failing temperature sensor. So I went to pull the two sensors. However this was a little more involved since I recently epoxied the sensors in place to stop the leaks. So now I had to remove the entire heater housing and bring it into the shop. Once inside I took a Dremel with a small cutter, and with the precision of a dentist went forth cut the the sensor free. With both sensor out I proceeded to test their resistances. Experience from the S2G told me that both sensors of a two sensor system do not fail at the same time and the same rate. The resistance of the sensors were the same at room temperature, a few hundredths of an ohm off, but that is nothing to worry about. Placing the sensors in a bucket of hot water yield an identical drop in resistance. The senors were most likely good. However I eventually found a graph of the sensors that plotted resistance vs. temperature. There was an off chance that the sensors were failing at the identical rate and was causing my problem. But based off the the graph my sensors appeared to be in great shape.
The next logical component that might be the source of my low resulting temperature was the thermostat controller. I however did not have a good test to identify if the current unit was functioning properly or not. All indications pointed that this was the culprit: consistent temperature (I was able to set it to a lower temp and have it stay at the lower temp), wiggling the switch would cause the relay to turn on. Though I was not 100% confident in my diagnosis, base on the process of elimination I was 90% sure. I found a replacement part on-line and speaking with the very helpful tech support, made me feel even better that the part in question was bad. All said and done a new thermostat controller was in the mail and my bank account was $80 leaner. I was taking a risk by not confirming the part was bad, since electronic parts are non refundable, however a house call from a spa repair person would typically incur a $200 bill for the first hour without the cost of parts. A few weeks had also elapsed and the need for the hot tub to be functional was beginning to become dire.
A few days later the part came. I finished epoxying the heater housing and reinstalled all the various components. In a day and a halve's time the tub was filled with 108 degree water.
Bang bang, mission accomplished.
I felt quite a sense of accomplishment and the punch line for old joke about the enigneer and the chalk came to to my mind. One dollar for the chalk, $499 to know where to put the "X".
Now to get the tub up onto my deck.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Moto Jack - a trail side work stand

Changing the tires of a motorcycle first requires the removal of the wheels. If your bike is equipped with a center stand this make the task a bit easier. If your bike did not come equipped with a center stand adding one could be difficult. I have always been told that a proper sized milk crate or a five gallon bucket is suitable to use as a work stand. I removed my wheels with the aide of a bucket. However what is one to do if you are out on the trail and suffer a flat. How would you support the bike while removing the wheels to change a flat. Five gallon buckets are difficult to ride with. Though I have seen many pictures of bikes propped up on log and rocks, there is a better option.

One clever member of ADVrider.com came up with a bucket substitute. When setting the bike onto a bucket one usually leans the bike onto its kickstand so that one of the wheels is off the ground, then inserts the bucket to rest upon. The side stand simply replaces the bucket and suspends one of the wheel off the ground. Which wheel off the ground is determined by the placement location of the the stand. Towards the back of the chassis or swing arm and the rear wheel is off the ground, toward the front and the front wheel lifts.

The addition of a strap depressing the front brake adds to the stability of the bike when the rear wheel is elevated. When the front wheel is in the air simple leave the bike in gear to lock the rear wheel.

The prototype stand was made of steel but now they are all made of Aluminum. So light and easy to store. At home however I will still use a real moto stand. Hopefully I will never have to use this product for its intended purpose, but for $20 and a pound or two of weight it is well worth owning.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Road Trek - Lifting a 94 Dodge Van

A friend of mine recently purchased a Road Trek Class B motor home. It is built on a 1994 2wd one ton Dodge Van chassis. The coolest thing about this little camper is just that: it is little. It is the size of a full size van, yet it is completely self contained: hot water, shower, toilet, stove, furnace and fridge. Cool as it was he complained that it would bottom out on the smallest of bumps. What condition are your shocks in?: new. I was doubtful that it was actually "bottoming out". Worn out suspension components, such as ball joints will often cause a clunk which could feel like the suspension hitting the limits of its travel. However upon a visit to his place reviled that in fact his suspension could be BO.

The suspension appeared to have sagged, though the tell tale negative camber of lowered cars or those with sagging springs was not present. However the lower bumper stop (B) was less then 3/4 of an inch from resting on it's stop. Comparing the the available travel for compression (C) verses the allowable for rebound (R), shows that at the vans current ride height an estimated 25/75 ratio of compression/rebound existed (that is being generous, in fact it seems like it was closer to 10/90). 50/50 is more typical with some more aggressive sets ups at 75/25. In the picture to the right you can see both the rebound (UB) and compression bump stops. Notice the deformation of the lower bump stop from repeated bottoming out.

This last time my friend came to visit he drove his Road Trek out. Naturally I wanted to help him fix his BO issue. I figured a new set of OEM springs were the best solution. I wanted to install some lift springs to gain him some extra lift but was afraid that such a modification could lead to fitment problems, misalignment, or a harsh ride. Better leave it stock for this weekend job on someone else's rig.

I had spent some time looking for a reference on the spring replacement. None were found. I guess Dodge van owners just drive around sagging.
The front suspension is a double arm coil spring over shock set up. The coil spring sits in a bucket within the front cross member/frame. The lower control arm holds the lower half of the spring in place. The shock runs though the middle of the spring, attached to the frame on one end and through a pin bolted to the lower control arm on the other. Though the the shock run through the middle of the coil spring, these were not consider "coil overs" because they were not attached together, each attaches to the frame and the suspension via its own mounting location. The lower arm is a single pivot modified channel, with a compression rod.

My original intention was to disconnect the lower ball joint from the knuckle and drop the lower control arm. This was more difficult to do then I imagined. The lower ball joint sat tightly in its tapered fit and did not want to separate. I could not get a separator tool in there due to the tight fit. Though I started hammering a pickle fork into the cavity I soon stopped cause I did not want to ruin his ball joint or BJ boot. Instead I removed the upper control arm mounts. The UCA is a dual pivoting "A" on a cross pin. The pin is attached by two bolts to a brackets on the frame. Once removed I "flipped" the entire assembly down and freed the LCA, which still had the knuckle, brakes, and UCA attached to it. Once the LCA was free we were able to pull out the coil spring. The UCA cross pin bolts to slotted holes in the bracket, the positioning of the pin is responsible for camber and caster adjustments. Be sure to mark the location of the cross pin in relation to the frame/brackets prior to removal.

Comparing the new spring with the old springs was not very satisfying. They were the same height. I just hope that the break down of the spring was caused by metal fatigue and was not visible. The new coil was not exactly the same as the older one either. The windings of the coil were tighter.
The first side took us 3 hours to do. The second side 20 minutes. After we tightened the last bolt and lowered it to the ground I took an "afterwards" measurement. The van sat almost three inches higher. After settling, I figure we would have gained two inches of height. Test drives proved that the spring replacement was a success and the van no longer bottomed out!
Below is a step by step procedure for spring replacement:
-Jack up vehicle
-Set on jack stand
-remove wheels and set underneath the frame
-Mark upper control arm cross pin location
-remove two brake line brackets
-remove shock lower mount (two bolts on a small cross pin)
-remove bracket holding the lower bump stop, compression rod, and sway bar
-unbolt upper controller arm cross pin
-unbolt shock upper mount nut
-remove coil spring
Installation is the reverse of removal (ha ha, I hate it when I read this in repair manuals, but it basically is). The most difficult part is to reattach the UCA. The bolt and large nut on the cross pin in particular. You can reach behind and lift the nut in place, or attempt to shim the nut into position and fish for threads with a too short of bolt. A second set of eyes looking through the open hood is needed to align the cross pin back in position.
And there you have it one Dodge 1 Ton Van lifted two inches!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hitchhikers Guide To Tahoe

Hitchhiking is one of those big No No's your mother warned you about. It is akin to eating Halloween candy with an open wrapper. Like Communism the idea is good, but a few bad apples spoils the whole damn bunch. I have to admit I have hitchhiked a few times in my life. The situation were usually rather dire, and the risk in hitchhiking were outweighed by the benefits. In ski resort towns however hitchhiking is much more accepted as a form of reliable transportation. I regularly give hitcher a lift as does the local population.

So why is it now ok to do so in this situation. My primary reason is pity. Ski resorts employ alot of foreigners to work for the seasons on a J-1 work visa. These J-1s are usually upper middle class colledge kids from South American countries (Brazil). Without cars they have to rely on public transportation, which if any of you have used... I'll stop there cause I doubt most that read this have never ridden a bus other than a school bus from your earlier years. So if I see someone standing on the side of t \he road wearing a ski resort jacket and I am heading in that direction, I will usually stop and pick them up. I do not pick up smelly homeless dudes, however ever skiers and boarders are a group of people that I will give rides to.

Seeing hitchhikers often, I can say that some of them do not know how to properly hitch, thus I wanted to write a few guidelines to make it easier and safer to do so.

For the Hitchhiker

-the most important thing is to stand in a spot that a potential ride giver can pull off the road. Do not stand on the side of the a busy highway with no shoulder, or simple walk with your thumb out.

-Know where you are going, and a good location that to be dropped off. Do not make your driver turn off the main road or deviate his course to make the drop off. Drop off locations should be always on the side of the street they are already traveling.

-If hitching at night stand under a street light.

-If the driver can not take you to your final destination, consider waiting for the next driver, or know of a good intermediate location where you might be able to pick up your next ride. Don't be dropped off in the middle of nowhere.

-Be safe. Try hitching in pairs, and it is ok to refuse rides from shady looking drivers in windowless vans.

-As a rider your job is to engage in lively conversation if the driver wishes to do so.

For the Drivers

- No need to go out of your way to give someone a ride. Be it a lack of space in your car, or if you know that you are not going to at least the next major point along the route.

-Do not stop in a dangerous location. Be sure that you are able to pull completely off the roadways when picking someone up.

-First thing to do when approaching a potential rider is to ask where they are going, and is it possible to give them a ride. If not simply move on. There will be someone else.

-Do not expect the rider to pay for gas.

-Be safe. A single woman should not pick up a group of scruffy looking guys!

Both hitchhiking and giving hitchers ride can be DANGEROUS. I can recall several true hitchhiking horror events that have made our local news. I am not trying to influence you to partake in this form of transportation. These are just some guideline if you already do so.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mattracks - Snow tires no more

Winter is almost here. And like most who live in snow country, it is time to unearth the winter/snow tires, and transform our cars for the season. This year however I was think that I might do something different. I really want more snow performance. Thoughts?

The only company that I could find which manufatured these tracks is Matttracks.


I could not locate a company called "Trax"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Its got that Octane stuff! The myth of Super Unleaded

Last night in Reno I stopped by a "VP racing" gas station. And behold they had 100 octane at the pump for $7.59 a gallon. I did not know they sold racing gas at the local pumps. So for all you high boost and high compression ratio folks: eat your heart out.This is a good time to talk a little about octane. It is very misleading that higher octane gas is better for your car. This is a myth perpetuated by the fact that high octane gas is labeled as "Super". Why run regular when you can run super. Higher octane gas actually has less energy per mass then lower octane gas. The reason it is, is because octane is needed is to delay combustion, and absorb energy.

In an engines combustion chamber, or cylinder, a volatile mix of air and gas is introduced. This mixture is then compressed with the piston. As the piston compresses the gas mixture, it is adding mechanical work energy. If the engine is built as a high compression ratio (the amount of space in the cylinder when the piston is at the bottom of the stroke vs the top), say 10.5 to 1 and you are running low octane at sea level, the piston can introduce enough energy to the mixture to combust it prior to the piston reaching the top of the stroke, and being lit off by a spark from the spark plug when the engine is ready. This is actually the basic theory behind the diesel engine, with its super high compression ratios of 20+ to 1. Instead the piston is still moving up and has not reach top dead center when the mixture goes boom and wants to push the piston back down. This is very bad and usually blows hole in the top of pistons. I believe this is called pre detonation, and it is the worst thing that can happen in a not enough octane situation. Lesser degrees of this are known as detonation, and pining. Octane is added to allow the gas to accept more energy and not pre detonate, and only fire off when at the correct time by the added energy from the spark.

So if you do not have a turbo/super charged car, or one with relatively low compression ratio (8 to 1), getting high octane gas is a waste of money. At higher elevations lower octane is required as well, due to lack of oxygen making for a less volatile gas mixture. For example my 10.5 to 1 compression ratio car runs fine on 87 at 6000 feet. "What about the additives they put in the gas that are only available with Super?" one might ask, "aren't those good for my car?" My car runs on gas not additives. If I want fuel injector cleaner (which is what Techtron is) , I buy it at the store and add it to my tank at suggested regular intervals.

Based on the above mentioned fact, I did not fill up my truck last night with 16 gallons of 100 octane gas. Cause hey, if 91 is consider SUPER...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alcohol/Beer Can Stove

Several years ago I was introduced to a beer can stove on a group backpacking trip. One particular member, an ultralight backpacker, brought his usual getup, which included a home made beer can stove. He was kind of a douche and did not par take in group gear or meals, but that's another story for someone else to tell. But his beer can stove was very interesting.

Essentially you can burn two types of alcohol for cooking. Solid and liquid. Solid alcohol is best known as Esbits tablets. Esbits tablets are usually used with a holder or wing stove, and you simply light the tablet on fire and heat up your cookware. Sterno cans is another form of solid alcohol usually used in chaffing dishes at buffets.

Burning liquid alcohol is a little more complicated. I suppose you can simply pour a bit of alcohol in a small pan and light it on fire, however this does not burn efficiently. If you remember your high school chemistry: solids do not burn. And in fact liquids do not burn either. Only gas vapors burn. Liquid and solid alcohol must first go through a phase change or two before it going into its flammable vapor state. Holding a flame to an Esbit tablet first liquefies some of the alcohol then vaporizes it. Liquid alcohol evaporates into gas form and readily catches on fire. Simply burning the evaporated vapors do not provide enough heat for cooking purpose. In order to provide enough fire power, one must first pre heat the liquid alcohol and provide a large amount of alcohol vapor. To do this a stove must have vapor generating chamber.

The basic design of a beer can stove is to use the bottom portion of two cans. Cut the center out of one can, and slip a ring of aluminum can material in between as you nestle the two halves together. The ring should have several holes punched out of the bottom to allow the alcohol to flow from the inner chamber to the vapor generating outer chamber. Many small holes are then punched in the top portion of the outer chamber to allow the pre heated vapor to escape, and combust. So there you have it, a camp stove that cost almost nothing to make.
Beer can stoves have been around for a long time. There are even a few commercially produced versions; Trango for example makes one. So why have you not heard of them. Well these stoves require a bit of tinkering and are not good for anything more than boiling water. There isn't much money to be made from manufacturing them either. For the camping masses this is not the stove of choice. They have limited power and will have trouble melting snow for drinking water, and generally do not simmer. However these stoves have quite a cult following amongst the ultra light gear geek crowd. A quick goggle search will yield many sites documenting the finer details of beer can stove construction.
Having spent many nights consuming various beers to find the perfect combination of cans, and punch holes in cans, I finally gave up. A beer can stove seemed to be more of a hobby than an actual piece of outdoor gear. I could never give up packing my ol trusty MSR Whisper light, and I usually cook meals which require a little more than boiled water.
Recently my interest in beer can stoves were peeked again. Within the depths of advrider.com is a vendor section where people sell all kinds of things, including their home grown products. A particular Shady Rascal produces and sells his own version of a beer can stove. http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=431851 Instead of using a beer can he uses aluminum beer bottles. He also rivets the two halves together. This solved three of my primary issues with the beer can stove. Durability: crushing the stove in my pack (1), and the two halves coming part (2), and having to tinker with a poorly built prototype (3). For $7 and $2 shipping and handling, you can get one of these built stoves (or you can make it yourself). I bought two.
Though I have not extensively field tested this product, initial back yard test results are promising. Who knows, maybe one day you will find me atop some mountain cooking my top ramen with a beer can stove!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shinko 244 - New Tires for the DR

It seems that I am never satisfied with the way a product comes to me from the factory. Everything I own needs to be modified. However with my new to me dual sport motorcycle I decided to take a new approach. Modify things only that need it. In other words if the stock part does the job and I do not break it then do not change it. For example, the factory skid plate provides very limited protection. It protects the engine from a direct frontal hit, however the bottom side of the motor is completely unshielded. My initial though was that I needed an after market skid plate. But based on my new philosophy, I refrained. Instead, I try to take notice how often I hit objects on the factory skid. The answer is none. Sure it is a sign that I am riding fairly easy non aggressive terrain. If I was to make contact with a rock at speeds it would be very bad. However this is a risk I am willing to take. If I start noticing stick marks on the factory skid and/or frame, then I would consider getting an after market bash plate.

S0 this motorcycle came to me with road tires. The previous owner used it to commute to work on the road. I tired riding the local trials with these tires and it was unacceptable. The first thing that I needed to modify were the tires. A dual sport bike can run the entire range of tires, from road slicks to motor cross knobbies and everything in between. Tire manufactures rate dual sport tires based on percentage of time ridden on dirt vs pavement. Typical ratios are 80/20, 50/50, 20/80. This ratio riding surface ratio, can almost be directly translated to the ratio of rubber vs voids. The more voids a tire has between the rubber blocks/tread, the more it is considered a off road tire. Though some tire manufactures might list very specific percentages 95/5, I would still categorize them as one of the major three combinations. 100% dirt or street is not listed in my three categories. 100% road tires are obvious, however the label of 100% dirt is not so. A 100% dirt and 20/80 street/dirt tire might look the same as far as how aggressive the tread is, however a 20/80 tire is DOT approved for road use. The three tires I have pictured fit the three categories I mentioned earlier.

Since my time on the bike is split 50/50 road and dirt I choose a tire with similar characteristics. Enter the Shinko tire company. Shinko is a Korean tire company that has recently entered the market. Most of their tires are copies of other companies thread pattern. However since many of these patterns are copy righted, they buy the molds of discontinued models from other companies. The second tire pictured is a Shinko Model 244. Though it looks like a fairly aggressive knobby tire the blocks are closely spaced and provides a good amount of contact for pavement pounding. Both Kenda and IRC have tires with very similar tread patterns. Several reviews of this tire were mostly positive, and above all they are CHEAP! One common complaint of the tire was that they "chunked" easily. Chunking refers to losing chunks of the rubber tread. This is usually caused by long high speed run on pavement, on heavy bikes. 2 hours +, 70 mph +, 650cc+. It is also a good idea to heat cycle the tire a few times prior to a long pavement ride. This is true for all knobby or semi knobby tires. Heat cycling a tire simply means to run them a few times prior to a long ride.
The tires performed as well as I hoped. I really do not have much to compare it to. Road manners were not much different than the slicks I have on previously, and dirt performance increased significantly. The front tire however is not the grippiest on the dirt and I might switch it out for a full knobby in the future. For the price, though I can not complain. I paid under $30 for the front and under $40 for the rear. That is cheaper than the tires I run on my mountain bike.
I changed the tires at home. The front tire was much easier to change than the rear. I did not use a rim lock on the back for the the PO did not have on in there already. I did nothing to balance the tires and do not find them to vibrate noticeably. In the future I might use balancing beads. This is one mod that I found to be worthwhile!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn Climbing at Lovers Leap

For my brother, life is about two things: surfing and climbing; everything else is work. Six months after moving into my new house he finally came to visit. He had been busy "working", all summer, though he is unemployed. He had recently heard and read about Lover's Leap, as the best climbing in the Tahoe Area, and wanted to go. Though I was not very familiar with the area, I had climbed there once before. Luck would have it that the weekend this Southern California boy decided to visit, was the first real weekend of fall, complete with one of the largest October snow storms I have seen.

The small community of Strawberry California is not known for much. Most who know of it, know it as a stop along Highway 50 right before South Lake Tahoe. However a lucky few know it as the home of Lover's Leap. The sign on the side of the highway says Strawberry California population "50". Its most popular attraction is the Strawberry Lodge and Strawberry Market. Located in Eldorado County, this Strawberry should not be confused with the two other communities of the same name which are also located in California; one in Marin and the other in Tuolumne county.

Many years ago my then to be wife and I spent a romantic new years eve night at the lodge. A harrowing introduction to cross country skiing was experienced the next morning. Off in the distance I could see a massive looming rock formation behind the lodge: Lover's Leap. When I returned home I started researching climbing the rock. Scanning the SuperTopo website, a 5 star 5.7 route appeared: Corrugation Corner. Perfect cause I only lead 5.7 trad. The more I read the more I was excited. Sentences like this, "this is one of the steepest climbs in this guide and one of the steepest granite 5.7’s you will find anywhere. Instead of following the main corner, the route often pushed you out on a horrendously exposed arĂȘte..." made me want to do this climb even more. What finally sealed the deal was the free topo provided by SuperTopo. Thanks again Chris!!



This last Sunday conditions were quite different than the time I did it about six years ago. We had waken early and was on the road by eight. It had been storming the day and night before but only a light dusting fell at my house. Even though LL is considered Tahoe, the drive there took over an hour and a half; it's a big lake! Halfway around the lake we went from fall to winter, as the landscape was covered with 2 inches of snow. When we arrived at LL the winter landscape was still present. We racked gear at the car while answering question to many onlookers shocked that we were climbing in this weather. We even got a "better not" remark from a well bundled up lady. I parked the car in the "day use" area and paid the self pay fee. I was glad to pay the fee, anything to help out our state parks, and it was good karma for a day such as this. All set we shouldered our packs and were off tromping through 2+ inches of fresh snow.

As we climbed out of the camp ground and onto the old Pony Express trail, an open view of LL great ed us. It is the largest granite "rock" I have seen outside of Yosemite. Sure there were granite mountains which are larger, ie Tahquitz, however that is not one single bubbling mass of quartz, feldspar, and mica. The corner which Corrugation Corner laid upon is instantly apparent. I don't know if it was the dusting of snow, the dark wet face, or the cold that gave the rock its menacing look. I shuddered thinking of being on the middle of that rock clawing and scraping my way up, then patted myself on the back, knowing that I had successfully climbed the route in the past.

Soon after monk boulder and the cut tree across the trail we turned right onto a climber's trail at the center of the lower buttress. We made our way up and to the right. To our delight we found a two pitch over hung section of rock call Dear John Buttress. The second pitch was ridiculous, however on the first we found a nice 5.9 and a high grade 5.10. My brother lead the nine and we top roped the ten. With frozen finger tips we packed up and moved on to do some more exploring. Though it never seemed like we were on trail we soon found ourselves a top the ramp which lead to C Corner. The falling snow from the night before did not stick to the rock face. Instead it cascaded down until it settled on the ledge. I remembered the ledge being wider when it wasn't covered with frozen water.

Being atop the ramp, brought me back to the first time I stood at that spot looking at the rock wall ahead of me. It was many years ago and I was in my climbing prime. Back in those days I lived the sport. I preferred the title rock climber over engineer, outdoors man, even Mister. With My Wife To Be, we had climbed in most of California's popular climbing area's. We'd hit the climbing gyms on the weekdays and travel to find rock on the weekends. Scrambling across the then dry ledge, it was little more than careful walking. I think it was fall and though there were several obviously climber's cars in the once free parking area, none were to be found on our corner. The base of the climb has a open area, and without exchanging words MWTB flaked out the rope as I finished racking gear onto my harness. I tied into the rope and did a quick check of each others gear, and stepped off the dirt onto the rock.

It is moments like this that I love the most about climbing. The clarity it brings. The mix of fear, and excitement, allows me to push away all thoughts and concentrate on the task at hand. The first pitch went by smoothly. On the second pitch the exposure was intense and I made a belay anchor on a "whales belly", a large smooth sloping ledge. As MWTB came into view I could tell she was mentally exhausted. The last piece of protection prior to the belay was a well sunk nut in a tapered slot, my favorite nut: a home made double tapered number "7". With my name stamped on the side it fit every time I drew it. A good attribute of a nut, when at the time of it's creation, way before LL, my rack consisted of three cams and a sparse set of passive pro. In her frustration she could not free my nut and we left it to continue off the climb. The third pitch topped out easily and we had an enjoyable hike off LL and back onto the Pony express trail. That was the last time my wife climbed a multi pitch route with me.

Those quick memories flashed in my mind and passed as I took a step down towards the start of Travelers Buttress one ledge below the main ledge CC was on. The sky had turned angry when we at the base of TB and decided to head down. Someone had been up there that morning and we followed the two tracks back to the PE trail. We returned to the car only to find two climbers racking up in the falling snow. They were about the depart the parking lot and head up to the rock. We told them that Dear John Buttress was dry and wished them luck. We then quickly jumped in the truck, fired up the engine, and cranked the heater.

I know that my days as rock climber are over. Sure I still rock climb many times each year, however I no longer wear that title. I gained what I needed from it: the ability to move over rock confidently, the mental strength to over come my fears, and the clarity needed to concentrate on the task at hand. As my brother and I warmed ourselves with a cup of tea I realized the most important thing that I gained and continue to gain from rock climbing is the time spent with those that I love.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For Sale - 2007 Vento Phantom Scooter - SOLD

Today a nice girl gave me the cash for the scooter. It sold for much less than I hoped however it will be making someone else happy. She has a torn knee, and can not ride her bike. The idea of driving around town in her car all summer was too much for her to bear. At least this way she can still ride.

Sad is the day when I am putting a member from my very own fleet up for sale. Up for sale is a 2007 Vento Phantom Li 150cc scooter. Asking price is $1400, however any offer will be considered. Below are a list of key features

-EPA and CARB approved. Difficult to find California street legal scooter
-Front and rear disk Brakes with front ABS
-12 inch Kenda Dual sport tires

-CVT automatic transmission

-Electric start with Kick back up

-80+ mpg

-Trunk, rear rack, glove box, and flat floor. This thing is a two wheeled pickup truck.


-popular and reliable Honda GY6 based motor.

-Ca registered till July 2010

-Great Condition!

I bought this for my wife as a Valentines day present. After a trip to Asia we were very impressed with the scooter as a form of transportation. Not willing to spend the 4 grand for a Honda we opted to go the Chinese scooter route. The Honda GY6 150cc motor is the most popular scooter motor. The scooter was ordered from an on-line vendor and arrived in a box. It took a little bit of time to assemble and to work out some of the kinks. Since then it has performed flawlessly.

Now that I have a bike and my wife no longer rides, the Vento rarely gets used. It is still the prefered bike to run to the grocery or liquor store with, due to its storage capacity and ease to ride. We just feel bad having the bike sit most of the time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pouring a Concrete Slab

Owning a house mean an endless slew of home improvement project. I knew this going into it, and looked for a house that was already remodeled and did not need vast improvements. I have enough projects planned that I did not want to add home projects to the list. However with my personality, the projects seem to simply appear out of the necessity to repair or to set up my home to my liking.

The first and largest project we started was to rebuild the deck which was in poor structural shape. This post is not about that project. But part of the deck job was to move my shed to its permanent location under the deck. My Keter Pent 4x6 shed has been with me through several different homes. http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspxProdid=11486578&search=keter%20shed&Mo=3&cm_re=1_en-_-Top_Left_Nav-_-Top_search&lang=enUS&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&Sp=S&N=5000043&whse=BC&Dx=mode+matchallpartial&Ntk=Text_Search&Dr=P_CatalogName:BC&Ne=4000000&D=keter%20shed&Ntt=keter%20shed&No=1&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Nty=1&topnav=&s=1

Since it is plastic and built from several interlocking pieces, it needs a flat base which to sit upon. If not the shed twist and flexes exposing gaps in the interlocking joints. The spot which I chose to place the shed was not level and rocky. In order to create a suitable base, I decide to pour a small concrete slab. In the past I have set the shed on driveways and even on a leveled brick paved base. The slab I intended to pour did not need to be perfect. It did not need to take much load and did not need a perfectly level smooth finish since it was going to be covered up.

The first step was to build a frame or a form for the concrete to be poured into. I decide that the frame would be a permanent leave in place one, so I used either redwood or pressure treat lumber for prolonged life. I rough fitted the pieces of the frame by digging a small trench which to lay the lumber within. The frame established the shape, size and levelness of the finished slab. It was therefor important to make the frame square and level. I was fortunate in the fact that the concrete slab was enclosed by the footing of the deck. This allowed at least one of the two free sides of the form to be locked in place. A 2x4 was used between the house and the slab, and one between the existing slab and the new one. This allowed a separation between the old and the new slab. It also allows the new slab to move independently of the old to reduce cracking. I was not sure, but decided the new concrete should not be right up against the house. In retrospect, it might have been better to do so, so that no water would seep in between the new slab and the house. However without the fourth leg of the square frame it would have been difficult to keep every thing in place.

On the morning I had planned on doing the work however, there was a power failure. So all my cuts were made using a gas powered chain saw. Good thing these were not fine finishing cuts.

Because I did not need the slab to take any substantial loads, I wanted to use as little concrete as possible. I collected rocks from around the yard and broken concrete chunks which I was about to take to the landfill. Reduce Reuse Recycle. I used these to fill in the major voids of the fill area. Each piece was carefully fitted so that it was stable and would not shift easily. I took a long 2x4 which would span the length of the frame and drew it across the entire frame to ensure that none to fill material was protruding above the level of the frame.

Next I mixed several bags of concrete extra soupy so that it would flow into all the crevices around the fill rocks. After each pour I would use my long 2x4 to scree the concrete, just like doing so with the rock filler, this made sure that I did not have any bit of concrete which would protrude above the level of my frame.

Hand mixing of the concrete was accomplished in a wheel barrow with a gardening hoe. The mixed concrete was either poured directly from the wheel barrow or shoveled into place. A concrete trowel was used to smooth out the surface.

After four 50lb bags the slab was only partially complete. I had extra bags of concrete lying around from my deck project, which is one reason why I started this little project. But I still needed to make a hardware store run for more concrete to complete the job.

At ten bags I called it quits. I could have used one or two more bags to make the surface perfectly level, but this was good enough since no one but myself would even know there was a hand poured slab of concrete under my shed.

Here is the finished product. After a day or two of curing I moved my shed in place. I do notice the slight unevenness of the slab some of the floor board flex before they come into contact with the solid floor. However I am quite pleased to have the use of my little shed again. That is one project I am glad to have checked off the list. NEXT!

Friday, September 25, 2009

1994 Suzuki DR350se

Traffic seemed especially slow this particular afternoon about a month ago as I was driving home from work. In retrospect, I doubt that anything was different than the norm with regards to traffic flow, but my excitement made the world seem to spin in slow motion. Once home I jumped into my truck and was headed off to Reno. The night before I have removed my camper shell in anticipation to carry a large new purchase. If everything went right I would be hauling back home a new to me motorcycle. Though I have had several motorcycles in the past, never was I considered a full time rider. My motorcycles were always either half broken or borrowed.

I had been searching for a dual sport motorcycle to purchase for some time. A dual sport is essentially a street legal dirt bike. Aside from the obvious features that would make a motorcycle street legal: headlights, brake lights, turn signals, speedometer, etc; they usually have tuned down suspension and often, more stringent emission controls. Living in the People Republic of California, I had to either find a CARB (California air regulator board) approved bike, or a used bike (7500 miles). This limited my choices, including most of the cheap Chinese bikes that have been hitting the market. Size was another consideration. At my current elevation I lose about 20% power from the engine. A fine line is walked between power output and off road handling ability.

For several weeks prior to this evening I have been searching for a Suzuki DR 350se. The "S" was for street, and the "E" for electric start. The used dual sport market is hot. Dual sport shoppers apparently missed the memo stating that we are currently in a recession. Or they did and are trying to help the country by spending their way out of this crisis. Several of the sellers I have contacted had sold their bikes before I had a chance to take a look. The dual sport sector of the motorcycle culture is the fastest growing subdivision (unsubstantiated claim) . Due to shrinking public lands for non street legal dirt bike riding, many MXers are turning to dual sports to expand their riding range, since street legal vehicles are still required on most dirt roads. Also the fact that loading a bike into a truck to drive to a riding location is such a pain in the ass, a dual sport solves this problem by allowing the rider to simple ride to their riding location; sure makes sense to me. The ever increasing gas prices have made many people look towards cheaper two wheeled transports. The utilitarian, Swiss army knife aspect of dual sport motorcycles appeal to the adventurous nature of those who would consider using a motorcycle as transportation.

This particular evening I was traveling to Sparks Nevada to look at a 1994 DR 350Se with 8100 miles on it. The thing was in great shape. I took it for a quick spin around the block and decided that it was going to be mine. I paid $1800 cash.

The next day I spent the morning at the DMV. In 3.5 hours, I had the bike registered, a licences plate, and a motorcycle riding permit.

The next day I had gotten insurance. $45 for six months.

The bike gets 65mpg.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trezeta Epic Boot Failure - Part II

After several weeks I finally got a responds from Trezeta Boots, or the parent company. It seems like they are not willing to stand behind their product, below is the final e-mail respond I received. Oh well. I never found Trezeta boots to be exceptionally well made or designed. Of the few pairs I have seen, their life spans have been: average or low, their comfort: average, their styling: bland. Their current lineup is very minimal, consisting primarily of hiking boots and shoes. Of all the quality Italian shoe companies, this unfortunately, is not one of them.

For the whole story:

"I received the pictures and saw them with the line Responsible. I am so sorry to have to inform you that they are out of warranty since you bought them eight years ago. It doesn’t matter if you used them few times, also lying without using the glue and spare parts can get damaged. Best regards Erminia"