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"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spa 2 go - Back In Action - 7 of 7

Since moving to my new house, the S2G has been off active duty. However at the request of some visiting friends, the S2G was reinstated into active duty for the Labor Day weekend. The spa was in rough shape though fully functional; here is a list of some issues.-The top tube developed a leak at a fold.

-The new sensors has some corrosion on it (maybe I should not have given away my extra sensor).

-The lower fitting finally blew out, and is leaking

-air biscuit cover does not hold air

-cover is shredded so bad, it is barely even effective at holding the biscuit in place.

Even with all these issues the S2G still heats a tub full of hot water and brings smiles to many a faces. At one time we were able to get six friendly bodies in the tub. A new personal S2G record.

The key to S2G that is often over looked is the chemical levels. I once had someone tell me that she did not like using chemical in her hot tub. Instead she changed out the water once a week or so. Though she didn't add any chemicals, the fact the she and her family went in the tub daily changes the chemical composition of the water for the worse. In a year or so, the internal working of the spa pump had completed corroded due to the acidic water.

I too am guilty of not having perfectly balanced water chemistry. Though I try, the S2G has had organic growth occur on several occasions. The following is what I do to attempt to maintain proper water chemical levels. I have to admitted that I am no pro, and spa professionals reading this might gaff at my ignorance.

Since I was starting with a fresh batch of tap water, the first thing I needed to do was to add some shock. "Shock" is usually a mixture of chemical which attempt to establish a chemical base. Remember that because of the PVC composition of the inflatable tub, non chlorine based chemicals are a must. I use a bromine based shock. Instead of adding it directly to the water. I use a small container where I dissolve the solids into first. I imagine that this helps mix the chemicals and prevents the solid bromine granules from chemically burning the tub material as it sits. A note of spa chemicals; when possible buy solid granule type chemicals as oppose to liquid type. You get more for your money, as liquid based chemicals are simply a dissolved or diluted version; this is per a professional spa man. Next I filled my floating bromine feeder with tablets. You do not need to have a floating feeder, but I find it to be quite necessary in maintaining adequate bromine levels. Without one you would need to add bromine after every soak in order to maintain the desired levels. The bromine is key in keeping the spa sanitary and preventing organic matter from growing. Without it you will have a tub full of nasty bacterias from which infections might be spread or be caught from.
Update: I was adding some chems to my tub this morning and forgot a very important thing. It has to deal with dissolving chemicals in a little container. Always add power to water not water to powder. Though not too important with bromine and PH up, it is a good general rule to obey. If the dry chemical is to have a violent reaction with water it is safer to add small amounts of reactants (dry) to the water, then the other way around.

Testing the water is the next step. There are two types of water test kits. The dye drop kit and the test strips. Having used both, I find that the test strips are much easier to use. Each test strip has the ability to test several water chemistry attributes: bromine levels, PH, and water hardness are the ones I look out for. Simply swrill the test strip in the tub, and compare the resulting colors to the chart to read the levels. I can usually tell with just my nose what the bromine level is, however PH and water hardness are not discerned with a simple sniff.

From what I learned in high school chemistry, PH of 7 is neutral. A fresh tub of spa water should read close to that. However body sweat is very acidic and after a few soaks the PH will most likely be a lot lower than 7 (less than 7 is acidic, more than 7 is basic). Thus when buying PH solutions it is almost never necessary to buy PH down, always get PH up. Acidic water is the main contributor to corrosion of pump parts and sensors.

The final element of spa water chemistry is water hardness. I only recently began monitoring and adjusting my water hardness levels. Though hard water in not good, water that is too "soft" can leach electrons off the metal components further degrading sensors and spa components. This chemical I was only able to find in liquid form.

For the list of shortcoming I posted early, here are my resolutions.

-The leaking top tube was patched with a sealant. This is my new favorite sealing product. Bonds to most things. Dries quickly. Resist oil and gas. And remains flexible when dries. I did not empty the tube completely when I applied the sealant, thus a air channel was formed within the sealing agent. Therefor the repair only helped slow down the leak, and not completely stop it.

-The cracked and leaking lower fitting was very bad, for it happened the night before the guest were to arrive. I was kicking myself for not repairing the lower fitting when I did the upper one. The water had taken 2 days to heat, and to proper repair the fitting would require the draining of the tub. Even if I used the caps to seal the power pack intake and exhaust holes, I would have had to removed the power pack which means disconnecting the air jet intake, which water would have flowed out from . My new favorite sealant was of no help and was not able to patch the large leaking crack. Instead, at the suggestion of my wife, I wrapped many length of duck tape around and fitting. And guess what it worked. The leak was reduced to a small drip and after a week has completely stopped.

-The leaking air filled cover and the torn cover is more of an annoyance than anything else. I still use both, and flip a section of ridge foam insulation over it to keep the wind from blowing the air biscuit away and to help with keeping the water warm.

-Upon closer inspection, the corrosion on the sensor is from the spring coil part at the top of the sensor. I think the spring coil is there to support the sensor wires. This part must not be made of the same stainless steel as the fitting, for they do not see any rust. The cause is most likely due to water left in the S2G power pack when the unit was stored. This is noted and water will be drained out of the power pack at when the unit is taken down and stored next.

Soon the S2G will be replaced with a more permanent hot tub. At that time all or parts of my S2G will be up for sale. Please contact me for any presale request.

Hope this series of Spa 2 Go articles have been helpful to you all. Please leave comments or your own S2G repair tips, "how to's", and stories.
Soak ON!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Headlight Polishing

Back in the day, the headlight of your car was a sealed unit. A glass enclosure the size of a box of tissue, which contained the reflector, and the bulb, made up your headlight unit. Often times this sealed unit contained two bulbs, one for the low and one for the high beam. My 1996 Nissan Pickup truck still had sealed units. When your headlights burned out, you needed to replace the entire unit. However most modern cars stopped using this type of headlight set up. Instead most auto manufactures opt for a replacement bulb type of set up. My 1990 300zx was this type, so it is not just based on year. Why did this switch occur? Let's list the pros and con's of both type of headlights.

Sealed Beam Pro: Robust pre manufactured unit. Damaged headlight easily replaced.

Sealed Beam Con: Wasteful, perfectly good lenses, and reflector replaced when only the bulb is burnt out. Sometime lamp replacement requires the re aiming of the head light.

Bulb type Pro: Easier to replace burnt headlight. Though the bulb is not always cheaper than the a sealed headlight unit. More integrated headlight design. Auto designers have more freedom to design a headlight that fits the car. This has almost completely eliminated the pop up head light. Ability to use different types of bulbs.

Bulb type Con: Damaged headlight cost alot to fix. Headlight lenses often discolors with age.

This last issue is the topic of our post. When replaceable bulb type headlights first came out the lenses were made of glass. However that trend was short lived and almost all cars use plastic these days. Over the years (sometimes not even many years) the headlights become hazy or begin to turn yellow. This really effects the amount of light thrown out onto the road by your head lights.
(This is the headlight before polishing. It is not too bad however the difference was noticeable in light output.)

The solution: polish your headlight lenses. Almost all plastics can be polished. That includes eye glass lenses, and headlight lenses. Polishing is usually accomplished, by a buffer using a series of decreasing grit polishing agents. A fine wet sand followed by a fabric or foam polisher with a liquid polishing agent. The foam polisher to the right is what I used. However if you do a search on-line there are many different ways to accomplish this task.

I bought a prepackaged headlight polishing kit from HF tools.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

North Peak - Summer Ice Climbing

"Your going ice climbing!? In August (8th)!!??" The was the response I heard when I told people I was planning to climb an ice route up North Peak. It is not commonly known, but there are over 1700 permanent bodies of ice/snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, 118 of which can be considered true glaciers. This number is for the Sierra Nevada's alone, and do no include the robust California Glaciers of Shasta and the Cascades. (map is borrowed and route shown is not the one described in this trip report)
Sometime in college I became enthralled with climbing big frozen mountains. With a background in rock climbing and backpacking, add to it a few books and movies on Everest, put an ice axe in your hand, and stand on top of a big cold mountain in winter at sunset, and you have an instant lifelong passion. However climbing mountains in the winter is a suffer fest, which is at best enjoyed in small doses.

Glaciers are most spectacular when experienced in the summer. Only then can you appreciate them. Their fight for survival against the heat, a reminder of ice ages of the past, and old man winter's year long grasp. In the winter, when all is covered with snow and ice, a glacier is just another girl at a beauty pageant. In the summer however, when surround by rock, it stands out and commands your full attention, like the one girl you share your bed with.

With the glaciers of the world retreating, I wanted to experience more of my local glaciers before they become extinct. A recent trip to Glacier National Park in Montana, left me with a sunken feeling, as the massive glaciers I witnessed 15 years ago have almost all disappeared. In a few years the park should most likely have to change its name to Dirt and Rock National Park.

North Peak is easily the most popular California summer alpine ice climbing route. However I have never done it. I did not even know about it till I started doing research for a route this summer. Its short approach, and average grade, make it a very popular introductory route for the local guide companies.

North Peak is located just north/east of the Yosemite National Park boundary. It shares a ridge with its famous big brother, Mount Conness. The trailhead starts at Saddlebag lake. Saddlebag lake road begins on Tioga Pass (SR 120) just east of the Yosemite Park entrance. The road is partially paved, and can be accessed by most car. The Hoover Wilderness, which the peak lies within, has no visitor quota. One can easily pick up a wilderness permit the day of. We picked up on at the Bishop Ranger Station, however a Ranger mans the Kiosk at Saddlebag lake Friday through Sunday, and permits can be obtained from him. He say his waking hours are typically 6am to 9pm.

From the over night parking lot we found a trail on the east side of the lake. A water taxi can be used to cross the lake $8 round trip. Starting the hike at about 7 PM we hiked into the night. The temperature was cool in the 50 and dropped to low 40s high 30s in the middle of the night. At the southern end of Steal head lake we made a left onto a spur trail then overland towards Cascade Lake where we made camp for the night. We made hot food and repaired Roger's boot that had blown up on the trail. See:http://mrpulldown.blogspot.com/2009/08/epic-boot-failure-trezeta-double.html

Our small food sack was place on top of a short V1 boulder with no tampering. However the tea bag I left under a rock was chewed through.

The next morning we set off for the peak. We gained the North Peak Glacier via the last vegetated ramp on the left. The morning temps was in the low 60s. The night before we arrived saw temps down in the low 20s. However one or two nights of freezing was not enough to form solid ice out the neve that had resulted from a month of warm nights. Once on the glacier one gets a good view of the three snow/ice filled chutes. The left couloir looked steep and narrow. Too unstable with the soft snow to even consider. We cramponed up at the base of the glacier and walked to the burshrund for the right couloir. The shrund was small and did not span across the entire base of the right couloir. At the shrund we roped up and I took the first lead.

Ice screws were not particularly effective in the soft ice, though the longest of the screws bit firmly upon their last few threads of engagement. Without snow protection, I climbed close to the left wall, and protected the climb with primarily passive rock gear. My original plan to simultaneous climb were abandoned. The lack of solid ice protection coupled with a mountaineering boot which sole and crampon were held on by zip ties and toe clip straps, did not inspire the confidence needed for such rope travel. Instead we did the climb in about 4 pitches.

Once at the saddle of the ice we removed our crampons and moved onto rock. A few hundred vertical feet of "California" fourth class lead us to the summit. Do not over estimate this portion of the climb, for I encountered a stiff section of exposed rock, with a high pucker factor. Roping up for this portion could be considered, however it is extremely lose, and the chance of your rope knocking free a rock is almost guaranteed. Careful route finding could have yielded a more forgiving path.
At the summit we meet a Yosemite firefighter and his scientist friend. Our stay was short, as we started the decent. A walk off the back side could have been accomplished, however we chose to leave our ice gear at the saddle, and thus needed to down climb the fourth class section. Beware the lose rock. From the saddle I glasaded down the wet south face snow field. We then slowly made our way around the western shoulder of north peak, till we found a suitable place to descend back to Cascade Lake.
A miss communication resulted in light food rations for the night. One packet of ramen, and four packets of oatmeal were all we had for dinner and breakfast between the two of us. I have brought my fishing pole and had seen strikes on the water surface of the smaller of the Cascade Lakes. However the fish were after flies and had no interest in my lure. Without floating agent and a bobber, my poor flies sunk. However pity was taken upon me and I soon reeled in a small trout which I fried up as an appetizer to our main course: one pack of ramen.
Though I ended the trip with an empty stomach, my glacial desire was completely filled!