Monday, February 28, 2011

The Honda Snowblower- oil change - 2 of 2

It is Saturday morning after a huge snow storm. All the good people of Tahoe are out digging, shoveling, and snow blowing. The symphony of chugging snow blowers goes "budddddda" in my ears. A quick drive down any street will reveal that the majority of the instruments in this orchestra are made by Honda. In a previous post I mentioned that I once owned a Craftsman , but it wouldn't cut it for primary snow removing duties. Thus now I own a Honda.

Honda makes 3 two-stag snow blowers: the HS724, 928, and 1132. 7, 9, and 11 horsepower; and 24, 28, and 32 inch clearing path. Each model has the four variations: track drive or wheel drive; Electric start or pull start only. It is rare to find a wheel driven Honda snowblower. Though wheels are easier to steer, the traction provided by a tracks greatly aide in clearing power of the blower. The electric start, which sounds like a necessary luxury, is not. Typical starting of the blower is accomplished by the pull starter. The electric starter needs to be plugged into a 120 volt wall outlet for power, and is only used when the machine is having trouble starting. From my experience with Honda blowers, one pull is all that is ever needed to get it started. The electric starters are a useless feature, unless the engine is in bad condition.

There are other models of Honda snow blowers. I have seen a 5 and an 8 series, but those are no longer produced anymore. I ended up buying a 5 year old 928 track, with no electric start for $1500. I was looking for a 1132, but those are hard to find and expensive. The MSRP of the 928 is about $2750, but I have heard that dealers often charge more than the MSRP due to the high demand, delivery cost, and certain accessories that might be included. Even at 5 years of age, the 928 sold for more than half its original MSRP. These things hold their value well. I believe that when I eventually sell it I could still get $1500 for it.

The reason that Honda blowers are popular is because they can throw wet snow, guaranteed. Other blowers seem to have a hard time throwing wet snow any distance. This is a necessity with my 20 foot wide driveway. It isn't necessarily power that makes the machine throw the distance it does; since the previous Craftsman had the same HP rated motor (which actually seemed stronger). I think the distance is a result of auger speed. The engine on this machine runs like you would expect a Honda to run: Flawless. It starts every time with one pull of the start cord. No matter how cold or how long I have let it sit, it never fails to start right up.

The second feature that makes Honda work is the Hydrostatic Drive system, which has finite speed adjustments between 0 and max speed. The drive system is hydraulic, and allows the machine to drive forward as slow as you desire. This is important when chewing through a thick heavy berm. Go slow and allow the machine to work. Snow blowers with indexed speed controllers often do not go slow enough. I guess this could be modified by adjusting the amount of slack in the control cable (I just thought of that, and never tried it when I owned the Craftsman blower).

Other features that are unique to the Honda is the on the fly depth control. A foot pedal adjust the scraper to Low, Med and High. Typically I run the blower at Med. If I am trying to scrape up some snow which has been compacted I will use the low setting. High is reserved for driving the machine a long distance, where I do not want to scraper to catch on the pavement, when I want the machine to climb a snow pile, or if I am backing up and the auger housing is dragging a bunch of snow.

Recently I changed the oil on my snowblower. At first it is a little confusing. The case appears to be symmetrical right and left, and it is not exactly clear which is the drain and which the fill. What appears is that there are two drain plugs and two fill plugs. The draining and filling can be done by the holes on the left side of the machine. The picture on the right shows the fill hole (blue arrow), the drain plug (yellow arrow) sits above a small drain chute. Even with the drain chute, I had to fabricate a drain catch so that the used oil did not spill all over the snowblower's track and then onto the ground. On the right side of the machine, matching drain and fill plugs can be found (same blue and yellow arrow). Though both fill holes can be used to fill and check the oil level, the right side drain hole is not a drain hole. First there is not a drain catch, and second the plug/bolt is blocked by the chassis and not allowed to back out all the way. In one of the fill holes is a dip stick, in the other a plug. Checking the oil level from either fill holes yields the same results. The 928 take a tad more than a quart of oil to fill. I filled my machine with mobile1 synthetic, 5-30w.
While changing the oil, I performed some other maintenance. Checked the track tension. Adjusted the skidder height. Tried to clean out the air filter, only to find that there was none to clean. I guess snow environments do not have much dust to contaminate the carburetors.
This miracle of a machine does have its flaws. The handle bars are a little weak. Alot of torquing goes on when snow blowing. On many units I have seen tweaked handle bars. On one I have even seen a bar snapped off. The chute direction controller is known to freeze, and needs some persuasion to free, some grease in the track will hopefully prevent water from seeping in and freezing. All the controllers are cable actuated. Each cable has a bellowed seal at the end. These are critical for proper operation. If the cable/housing seal is compromised, water will enter between the cable and the housing. This will rust the cable and cause it to bind. Before the rust occurs, the water will most likely freeze and cause the control cables to bind. Finally a note on the shear pins. Unlike the craftsman, the shear pins on the Honda break very easily. Instead of an actual pin, the shear pin is a bolt and nut (10mm head). These appear to be special (weak) bolts. I have heard of people replacing the shear pin with a regular bolt in a pinch, and ruin the auger when they hit something solid. I am convinced that a grade 2 bolt (or slightly cut)would work, but have been reluctant to try after hearing such shear pin failure to fail stories.
Well there you go, a tale of two snowblower; and now I only have one!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tacos Jalisco - Kings Beach

Mexican food in California is about as ethnic as french fries are. However once in a while you find a taco joint that seems to transport you to Mexico just by stepping through the door. There are many places in the Tahoe area to get a taco or a burrito, but the best is a small shop in Kings Beach known as Tacos Jalisco. This "restaurant" is barely more than a taco stand. Situated a few doors east of the movie theater, Tacos Jalisco occupies the first floor of a residential type building. In many ways it is like stepping into the living room of the owners. A few tables and chairs are provided for patrons to eat while Mexican soap operas blast from the television. During the summer months an outdoor table/nook allows for some patio dinning.

Tacos Jalisco in Kings Beach is not related to the one located in Truckee. Nor is it affiliated with any of the many other Tacos Jaliscos that can be found in California. From what I could gather from the lady who makes my food (I assume the owner): they are from the Jalisco region of Mexico and they make tacos. It is basically calling it a Taco Stand, but from Jalisco.

Not only is this eatery authentic, it is a fully stocked taco/burrito restaurant. Where it is common for such small Mexican restaurants to only serve chicken, steak, and pork, Taco Jaliscos serves the full range of meats and sides including lengua, cabeza, menudo, and even shrimp.

So next time you are in the area, and am looking for some authentic "ethnic" food. Do not pass up Tacos Jalisco in Kings beach. You won't impress anyone with this hole in the wall glorified taco stand, but you will get your fill of some tasty eats.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reverse Osmoses Water Filtration

"Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." 75% of the Earth is covered with water and 75% of you is water. I guess that stuff is important. And because it is so important I feel that putting the cleanest water into our body is also very important. When I was younger we use to buy our water from water vending machines. A dime to a quarter would buy you a gallon. I remember spending a few hours every couple of weeks to fill old juice containers and 5 gallon water jugs. At the time we could not justify the cost of getting drinking water delivered, so that was our alternative.

What is it about tap water that is so disagreeable, it is regulated by the government to meet safety standards. The main issue I have with tap water is the amount of chlorine that is added to the water to insure that it is free of live microbes. Chlorine is not only a toxin, but is not pleasant to smell and taste. At one house we live at the pines trees near the lawn had light colored bark the first 10 feet up. I finally figured out that the height of the bleach bark coincided with lawn sprinklers. Years of soaking in tap water had bleached the color out of the bark.
Sometime in my adolescent years, our family installed a Watts 5 stage reverse osmosis water filter under the sink. When I finally graduated college and moved out on my own, I purchased a similar system and installed it in five various houses which I lived in. Clean great tasting water without having to lug jugs from the vending machine and without the high cost of water delivery.
So what is Reverse Osmosis . You might have heard the term before and considered it some kind of filtration method. You are mostly correct. RO refers to not only the process but the membrane used. The RO membrane is pressurized on one side with the "dirty" water, the membrane then lets only water molecules through while larger ions are not allowed to pass. Rather than being forced through the membrane and trapped, the majority of solutes and ions remain on the pressurized side and are discharged. Because of this fact the RO membrane last much longer than a filter which traps all the undesirables and becomes clogged.

A down side to a typical home RO system is that it takes four gallons of water of make one gallon of processed drinking water. RO systems also take time to process the water. A storage tank is required to accommodate the processed water. There are RO systems that do not waste any water, but uses an electric pump to provide the adequate osmotic pressure. I am not familiar with the exact workings of this type of system. Does it still discharge some "dirty" water so the RO membrane does not get clogged? How much electricity does it consume? Is it better to consume extra electricity or waste a few gallons of water. I believe that a four to one ratio is hardly noticeable to the consumer. If you drink a gallon of water a day, you waste four gallons of water. The most efficient low flow shower heads all discharge at a rate above 2 gallons per minute. You do the math.

So what are the five stages of water filtration? The unprocessed water first enters the system and is processed by three filters. A pre or sediment filter, and two carbon block filters. These can be seen in the first picture as the largest, three equal size filters. These three filters do the bulk of removing contaminates from the water. The three initial filters are a standard size and can be purchased from any hardware store. Instead of the set up I just described (stock configuration), I have opts to use two sedimentt filters, a 10 micron and then a 1 micron, followed by only one single small pore carbon block filter. After being filtered by the first three stages, the water then enters the RO filter stage. The RO components sits horizontally atop the three first stage filters. This part of the system is the most complicated and includes pressure regulators and discharge lines. The dirty water is discharged into a drain line and the processed water goes into a storage tank. After four filtering stages the water is ready for drinking. The final filter is a carbon scrubber which removes any unpleasant tastes and odors that might have resulted from sitting in the storage tank. This final carbon filter is the same as the kind found on refrigerator ice maker. Finally the ready to drink water is dispensed through a tap which sits atop your sink.

Installation of the system is fairly easy. The filters are a free standing unit and can easily fit under most sinks. I have once placed the unit in a neighboring cabinet and simply ran the lines through a small access hole. Next you will need to tap into the cold water line. DO NOT USE HOT WATER for the system. The hot water will cause the filter membranes to expand and prevent water from passing. This has been known to cause filter systems to explode. The intake water is collected from a simple "T" fitting that is screwed in line to the line which delivers water to your faucet. The green line in the picture goes towards the RO system. A valve allows the intake water to the RO system to be shut off. This is helpful when maintaining the filter system as you still have water for the sink and dishwasher. The drain line is the only part of the system that is semi permanent. From the first picture you can see a transparent line connected to the sink drain line above the trap. A hole must be drilled into this pipe and a saddle installed. This is not such a big deal when the system is removed, as the hole is easily patched with a dab of epoxy. If a more professional solution is desired the length of pipe can be purchased for a few dollars and pre-treaded collars makes replacement a breeze.

The part that can be the most difficult in the installation can be the drinking water faucet. Most kitchen sinks come equipped with a minimum of three access holes, most come with more. The three primary access holes are intended to the used for a standard three hole type faucet. The other holes can be used for sink sprayers, soap dispensers, dishwasher vents, or drinking water faucets. In many of the rental homes, a unused hole was capped by an easily removed cover. In other homes I simply removed an unused soap dispenser or a sink sprayer. In my current home I had four holes in a stainless steel sink. I opted to cut a fifth hole so that I could retain my soap dispenser. Cutting a hole in SS is easy. If you have a porcelain sink, you might considered freeing up an existing hole. Porcelain is difficult to cut and can easily crack. One option is to use a single hole faucet in a three hole sink. Instantly you now have two accessory holes available. Another option if you have a sink top dishwasher vent is to get an under the sink vent, though this might be a function of the dishwasher and not so easily accomplished.
One interesting thing that I found out about these filter systems is what is known as an air gap. After installing the filter system at some locations a gurgling sound could be heard in the still of the night. I discovered that this was not caused by a troll living under the sink, but by the air gap. Many states require that an air gap system be built into plumbing. An air gap is a vertical space between the faucet and the drain that prevents contaminated water from flowing back up into the faucet. To tell you the truth I do not fully understand the mechanics of the system but know that it is required in California. Not all states require an air gap, thus you can find non-air gap type faucets for sale. I do know that having this air gaps opens up an acoustic path to the drain; and when the RO system is working a slight gurgling can be heard as waste water drains.
Is all this worth it, can't I just buy bottled water?? Since I have moved and installed this system into 5 different homes; my answer should be clear. If you drink bottle water exclusively, you should take one of those bottles and...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tire Chains, duallies and trailers

For most of the nation tire chains are as common as Yetis. Even those that live in snow country often do not know about these traction devices. I guess when roads get icy people just slide around and play bumper cars. This is not true however for one group of highway users: commercial truckers. These guys are required to chain up anytime the roads are covered with the white stuff and there are hills. Though most of us are not commercial truckers, at times almost anyone can fall into this category. For example if you are driving a moving truck across the country and towing a car trailer; bam- you are now a commercial trucker.

Chain control laws might seem straight forward. If there is chain control and you have a two wheel drive car you need chains. But there are a few details that might not seem so apparent. First let me state that this is California chain control laws , which I am covering. Most other states do not have as strict of laws, especially pertaining to passenger vehicles.

Three levels of chain control exist R1,2 and 3.

-R1 states that any vehicles over 6000lbs must have chains on. If you are towing a trailer you must have chains on. If your trailer has brakes you must have chains on the trailer.

-R2-all vehicles except 4 wheel drives need chains. 4wd's need to carry chains (though this is not usually enforced, I have been stopped once and turned around cause I was not carrying chains in an AWD car).

-R3-All Vehicles need chains.

Usually the road is closed before R3 control statuses are reached.

Because of durability, traction and cost, most large commercial trucks run ladder type chains . In fact cables are not allowed on large trucks and trailer. In most cases chains are only required on the outside tire of a dual tire (4) axle, or dually. A common trick used by truckers is to drive the inside tires up on a set of blocks. This puts the outside tire off the ground, making chain installation much easier.

So next time you are driving in the snow and you can not stop, get stuck, or spin out, just know that there are traction aides available.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The recent storm has brought a TON of snow to the area. Starting Tuesday night, it has already dumped up to 8 feet in places by Friday morning. We got about 5-6 at the house. That is right we measure our snow fall in FEET not inches. The amazing thing is that it is business as usual. Roads are opened and people still go to work. Well sorta. Playing hookie to go skiing is as much a part of living in Tahoe as anything else.

I snapped this picture of someone in the Squaw Valley Ski Resort parking lot this morning. It is a good storm total indicator. Though it makes for a really good picture, this is not something that is recommended. CLEAR THE SNOW OFF YOUR CAR!!!! That could be a couple of hundred pounds worth of snow. And when it flies off and hits a car traveling in the opposite direction, the results have been fatal.

Till next time, enjoy the snow, and be safe out there!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

B&D Ski Crampons on G3 Onxys

It seems like there is a new ski gizmo released for purchase every day. Though most are gimmicky and can be passed up , ski crampons are not one of them. When going up hill with skis we typically relay on skins. However if you are on an icy side hill, skins provide no grip. In some cases you can remove your skis and boot up sections with regular crampons attached to your ski boots. In some cases, such as breaking crust snow, booting will result in exhausting post holing.

With every new back country ski set up, I often have to come up with a new pair of ski crampons. Most crampons attach to the binding and thus new bindings mean new cramps. Ski crampons should also be matched to the ski in size. You would not want to run a 100mm wide cramp if your skis are only 80mm at the waist. And it is not possible to run a 80mm cramp with a 100mm wide ski. Thus if you step up significantly in ski size, then you will need new crampons.

When I got my G3 Onyx Bindings the Onyx crampon had yet to be released. Thus I had to look else where for my crampon needs. I knew that not all cramps attached to the binding; some attach directly to the ski. From some searching I found B&D Crampons . Looking at their website I did not see a set up intended for the G3 Onyx. So I contacted Bill Bolllinger at B&D ski gear for some help. Do not confuse B&D with Black Diamond, which is often referred to as BD. Bill sent me out some parts and soon I was out in the shop doing some crampon fitting.

The B&D crampons are affix in a manner similar to that of Dynafit crampons. A circular slot allows to cramp to slid on the ski and hinge. A mounting block is provided (circular slot) to affix to the ski deck with two screws, if your bindings are not dynafit. Because of this universal mounting block these crampon can work with almost any ski provided there is enough clearance or space between the toe and heel units of the binding. Now comes the tricky part. If the crampon is allowed to hing something needs to apply downward pressure to engage the crampon into the snow/ice. Typically it is the boot that provides the downward force, but not always. If the binding is a "platform" type the platform will make contact with the crampon instead of the boot. Because of these facts, each crampon/ binding type combination is custom. A Dynafit Vertical ST and a G3 Onyx, though both "tech" style bindings, will need different crampon configurations. After some fiddling I found the right combination of parts to make the B&D Crampons work with Onyx bindings and Garmont MegaRide boots. The basic Dynafit type crampon, attached to the ski with the small metal mount, and an F1/F3 style dual height riser. No additional spacers are needed.

My initial trail had me using the plastic block spacers. However when on the top climbing bar, the crampon would not engage the snow. Thus the taller post is required. Even with the taller F1/F3 spacer the crampon does not engage the snow to its full depth. I do not believe that the Onyx bindings are any taller than Dynafit. Due to the mounting tab set further back, the crampon contacts the boot at the arch or the highest location of the boot. This is similar to what happens when you run a F1/F3 style boot and B&D crampon set up.

An alternative to using a boot contacting spacer on the crampon is to use a crampon lock. The lock fixes the cramp onto the deck of your skis. This provides the maximum contact of the crampon with the snow/ice. Because the crampons is fixed on the ski, they are not allowed to hing. This results in you having to lift the ski with each step instead of gliding the ski along on the snow. If your bindings do not have a clear shot of the deck between the toe and heel pieces, you can mount the crampon in front of or behind the binding with the lock to hold it down. This allows a large degree of verisitlity with a difficult to set up crampon binding combo.

Ski crampons are a personally must for me. I tend to carry them on every back country ski outting I go on. I find that they provide the much needed grip in icy situations and even help me gain some purchase when it is steep and slushy. So the next time you are headed out into the backcountry, leave the American Express at home, but make sure to pack your ski crampons with you!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ken Block - Gymkhana 3

Ken Blocks Gymkhana videos have been one of the most viewed clips on Youtube. The much anticipated Gymkhana 3 did not fail to live up to its hype. You might notice that I never posted a link about GymK 2. That's cause it SUCKED. Don't even bother looking it up. This is the first Gymkhana that Ken's does his thing in his new Ford Focus. To the die hard Subi fans this is quite a heart break. But this new video has some tire squealing action that any motor sport enthusiast is sure to love. This video is titled "part2". Part 1 is a music video by the Cool Kids about Ken; Stupid, again not worth viewing. Ok enough of my editorializing: ON WITH THE SHOW!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Diapers and Poop - Newborn 3 of 5

Eat, sleep and poop. It's that simple. NOT!

Believe it or not, there is alot to discuss when talking about baby shit. In fact the original topics which I planned to discuss in this single post have seem to have a blow out, and require more than one post to cover. Let's go head and just talk about diapers and poop type today.

The modern disposable diaper is amazing. Soft and leak proof. Scratch free Velcro fixes this high tech marvel around your babies bottom. The gortex like one way membrane wicks liquids away from the skin. A dry powder absorbs the liquid and transforms into a gel. These things cost about a quarter each, can almost hold a gallon of water, and they will never bio degrade. Oh yeah, your baby can go through ten a day. Even the greenest parent, that use cloth diapers, can not avoid using them once in a while: in between wash, travel, longer changing intervals, and dryer skin. We try to use the more environmental disposable, though none are biodegradable. The ones that leak gel pee beads are avoided, though the only reason is I don't want little gel pee bead on my babies junk.

If you do not wish to add to landfill waste, you might chose using cloth diapers. Today's cloth diapers are much improved from the car washing rag with the extra layer in the middle held on by safety pins. Modern cloth diapers can be pretty fancy and easy to use. We use a brand of diapers called Fuzzy Bunz . They are a one size fits all diaper that adjusts as your baby grows. The diapers have a water proof outer and fleece inner. A thick removable fleece pad does most of the absorbing work. Several snaps along the outside allow for a custom fit. Our greatest fault with the Fuzzy Bunz is the fleece material. It tends to hold oders. Extra washing cycles are required in order to achieve a desired level of cleanliness.

Another popular brand of cloth diapers are G diapers . There is a replaceable section in the middle. This section can be reusable or disposable. The outer pants is suppose to stay drier, and not need as many or much washing. These seem like a better option due to the fact that you can throw away the center section or boil them, when they become too stinky. G-diapers however are not one size fits all. Thus you will have to buy several sizes as your baby grows older.

If I lived in an area with a diaper service, I would be very interested in using such service. Around here it is not even an option. Washing diapers is gross. But it is not as gross as if you had to wash your own diapers, if you had to wear them now. I don't know, just something I thought of more than once when washing the little guys stinkies. I believe that overall using cloth diapers have less of an impact on the planet, but not by much. A considerable amount of water, energy and cleaners are required to keep the diapers clean. If you use a diaper service add to it the gas required, to pick up and drop off, to the overall carbon foot print cloth diapers have. For us we seem to use both cloth and disposable regularly. Like everything there seems to be a fine balance of which to use and when. When at home we typically use the cloth diapers. When going out we use disposables for a couple of reasons. One is that you can just toss them instead of having to haul them home. Two, they tend to hold more fluid and are less likely to leak. Because of the second reason, we also tend to use a disposable at night. Finally disposables seem to keep the babies skin dryer. So if diaper rash is becoming an issue we might use the throw aways till the rash clears.

Another reason to consider using cloth diapers is the cost savings. If you calculate the number of disposable diapers needed over the coarse of your babies life, then compare it to the initial cost of cloth diapers, it is instantly apparent that there are some cost savings. What is not easy to factor in are the additional cleaning cost; water, electrically/natural gas, and cleaners. We did not find this to be a noticeable increase however. Finally you need to factor in the cost of partial disposable diaper use. This could vary greatly based on user habits. After all these points have been considered, we still concluded that we were going to use cloth diapers.

Well just how stinky is it, what should I expect. Most of us have some first hand experience with diapers. Either a little sibling, have been around a baby. The first poopie diaper you change at the hospital will trip you out. Instead of resembling something your dog left you, it is a black tarry substance called meconium . That is what was inside your babies gut when it was on the inside. While in the interior they don't poop. Talk about not shitting where you sleep. Meconium is normal and really sticky. It doesn't smell but is very difficult to wipe off. After a few meals of breast milk, they will poop out what is best described as orange yogurt. Texture, ingredients and smell are fairly well match to the description. Not sure about the taste. This stuff is easy to deal with on a grossed out factor. It is all by design to slowly break us into the parenting thing. Wait till they are 6 months old and eating solid foods. The worse part of this yogurt poop stage is that it is not absorbed well by either disposable or cloth diapers and blowouts are common. If your baby drinks formula its poop will be more brownish. This just goes to show that formula is NOT the same as breast milk.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Darren Rahlves Downhill Banzai

This last weekend was the 2nd stop on the Rahlves Banzai tour at Kirkwood. If you have not heard about it, the Banzai is your old school down hill race; from the top of the mountain to the bottom, off piste, four at a time, first person down wins. I was not at Kirkwood this last weekend but did whiteness the January race Alpine Meadows. The terrain was harsh, and the competition was steep. The top purse of $10,000 is drawing top skiers from the area out of the wood works to compete. For those of you who are planning on competing in the finial March 12-13 Sugar Bowl Banzai, you better get those legs strong and your wits stronger. Here are some takes from the Alpine Meadows comp. Ski hard, go fast, and take risk!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Some time in the late eighties a carton was aired that made an impression with at least one child; Robotech. A blend between Top-Gun and Star Trek, this weekday afternoon cartoon will take a seat between G.I. Joe and Transformers in the cartoon hall of fame. Though not quite as popular as the other two mentioned shows, the cult following which resulted could not be matched by either of the other two cartoon super shows.

Netflix, long had series available to rent, however the DVD's were constantly "lost", and made it not attractive to start the show. I had only watch a few episodes as a child since I was not allowed to watch weekday television. Recently Netflix made the entire series available for instant viewing. The short episodes are perfect for the attention challenged.

According to viewers the show only gets a one star rating, so why do I think it is so great. The show was intended for pre-teens and not the middle age super critics that hover about
the Netflix cyber domain. The show stood out amongst the other cartoons for its adult subject matter, which gave it an aire sophistication that pre-teens were drawn to.
The sage is broken down into three distinct series: the Macross Saga (Veritech), the Robotech Masters (Hover Craft) and the New Generation (Motorcycle). The Macross Saga however is the one that everyone remembers, as the other two series appear to be fillers. I am currently and slowly making my way through the Robotech Masters.
This seemly innocent cartoon series help teach hard life lessons to pre-teens, who are about to enter their teenage years. Mixed into the flashy anemia style graphics is the story of war and love, and the human races fight for survival. Shocking lessons of death and depression are gently introduced. Unlike The Simpsons or Shrek which were graphically designed for children yet much of the subject matter is for the adult viewer, Robotech told a story in a manner specifically for a pre-teen audience. With nudity, alcohol abuse, sex and violence, it is a surprise that the show was ever allowed to air.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Silvretta Pures on Karhu XCD Guides

A friend of mine came over the other night to mount a pair of backcountry skis. He had bought a pair of used Silvretta Pures and wanted to mount them on Karhu Guides. He has scoured the Tahoe area in search of a mounting jig, but none were to be found. So he came to the house of Silvretta to get er done.

One thing that I noticed was that the size medium bindings were rather larger, and would not adjust down to his 305mm boot sole. Most medium AT bindings seem to accommodate a size 8 mens, even the older 500's. But not the Pures. So before we mounted the bindings we had to cut them down. Silvretta bindings are the only bindings I know that can be made sorter by simply cutting down the rails. Though the steps involved are basic, I would not call the task simple. First you have to figure out how much to cut. I thought that the binder should be in the middle of its adjustment range after it had been cut down. Next we punched out the roll pin that held the rails in. Cut down the rails to the predetermined length. Re-drill the roll pin holes on the new ends of the rails (this was the the most difficult part, a drill press would have helped significantly). Then reassemble.

The picture at the very top shows one binding disassembled. There are roll pins located both in the front and the rear of the binding. We drove out the front pins, removed the heel unit by unscrewing the length adjustment, and slide the unit all the way forward. This left us with only the two rails and the rear connecting piece. With only two rails it was easier to hold in a vice for drilling. A hacksaw was selected for cutting down the rails. A few quick strokes and the rails were shortened. As I mentioned earlier, drilling the holes were the most difficult part. Not only do you have to make sure they are in the right location along the length, but the two holes in the right location radially. I recommend using a smaller drill and drilling both holes in one pass. Then enlarge the holes if needed. There is a chance that the first hole will already be large enough since it used as a guide for the second hole. Marking the hole location by inserting the rails into the binding is a good idea. But I would not use the front section of the binding as a drill guide. You can increase the hole size of and not allow enough grip for the roll pin. Here is another write up on shortening Pure bindings .

Once the binding was shortened, it was time to drill some holes and mount up the binding. Since the hole pattern for the Pures differ from teh 500's. I did not have a paper template that would work. The 500's were the only binding that came with a paper template, a very good one too. Instead I downloaded one from, click here for the link. The trick to using these templates is to draw an accurate center line on the ski. I will not go into the step by step details of mounting this binding, as it is covered over on Wildsnow .

What was more unique than the Silvretta Bindings, were the skis which they were going to be mounted to: Karhu Guides. Karhu ski Company is best known for its cross country skis. Specifically back country type XC skis with metal edges and scales. Their XCD series at the time of release toted the widest production fishscaled patterned metal edge ski: the Karhu Guide. At 78mm underfoot, it was a downhill ski with the ability to go cross country without skins. Why fishscales and not skins? Though skins are still required for climbing anything that is very steep, often times the terrain encountered is more rolling. This type of terrain can be frustrating with the constant attaching and removing of skins. With such a wide patterned base fairly steep hills can be conquered without having to put skins on.

The fishscale bases themselves are unique. The term fishscale is often used generically for any patterned bases that provides "one way" glide. Most fishscales are not fishscales at all but machine cut angled grooves in a flat base. Producing fishscales requires the bases to be molded with the fish scale pattern. This is more expensive, but results in better grip and better glide. Cross country skis that have scales are often called "waxless". Waxless referes to the fact that you do not need to apply kick wax to grip the snow. Kick wax is a special type of wax that not only provides grip but also glide. Though kick wax is typically superior to scales, it needs to be matched to the snow conditions and temperature. If you have the wrong type of wax on it is possible to be left with a pair of skis that either does not provide any grip or any glide. Typically "waxless" type XC skis still require wax. They need a glide wax like any other downhill type ski. This is because the base material is made of petex which is porous. If the base material is dried out they will absorb water from the snow and clump. The Karhu XCD series of skis uses an "Omnitrak" no wax base. The base material is not the standard petex, and is not porous. It is more of a plastic like material. It truly is a no wax base. In the season and a half of use they have never clump or had snow freeze to them. Though what might first appear to be a maintenance free miracle, the Omnitrak base does not glide as well as a conventional waxless base. Oh well; you win some you lose some.

If you are looking to buy a pair of Karhu XCD Guides you might find that some of what I talked about to be not longer true. The Guides are no longer the widest production metal edged skis with a patterned base. That title is now given to the Rossignol BC 125 with a 95mm waist. If you have been shopping for a pair of Guides you might find that they are in very short supply. K2 Sports, the owner Karhu Skis, has discontinued the Karhu XCD product line. They are now producing them as Madshus Annum. The Annum is the same ski but with different graphics.

Now that these babies are all mounted up let's go out and ski them...