Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Sound You Hear That Lingers In Your Ear

After driving 2 different vehicles without a radio for a while, today's post covers the little effort needed to get some tunes happening.

Back to the Future
we shall call it "DARK STAR"
1985 was an historic year. It brought us the first Back to the Future movie, Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and the Escort radar detector. Some things from that era have lived on (like the Back to the Future movie) and others, like the old radar detector, are probably sitting on garage shelves waiting to be discovered. In a very similar scene, one of Boo's friends found an old tape-deck stereo she used to have in her old Audi back in high school (in 1985). It was pulled when the car was sold, dropped back into it's original packaging and set on a shelf. Fast forward 30 years, and it was re-discovered.

The Sound of Silence-ish
Not having a use for a 30 year old car stereo, Boo's friend gave it to us. We have a couple of vehicles without stereos, leaving us to listen to the engine (what we usually do in the bus) or to rig some portable speaker solution (what we usually were doing in 2dot0 aka Dot). Boo and I had done both over the years. In fact, the bus hasn't had a stereo in it since I bought him, so even the concept of having music is foreign and awkward. I tried to get the 1985 stereo to work in Dot, but 1985 technology just doesn't install into 2001. With T driving Flash more than anyone else, he wanted a new stereo that he could one day move to his own car. That totally made sense, so we found him one and had it installed into Flash. This freed up Flash's original stock stereo. Now, we have 2 stereos. Kismet.

1985, meet 1972
it actually looks kinda okay 
Since I couldn't get the gift stereo working in the new-to-me Jetta, I figured I'd try to wire it up in the bus. I had already run power from the auxiliary battery to the radio hole, with an intention to "one day" have a radio. The old radios, though, are different than the modern marvels of today. Instead of shipping with a cartridge-like plug in the back, they have a bundle of thin wires back there. Some simple splicing later, and the radio is wired with some donor speakers sitting on the cab floor. Just like that, I have a radio. Now, there's speakers to mount, and more wires to run for more sound, etc, but as of now, I can listen to the radio. With one of those cassette tape -to- headphone jack input converter things from Radio Shack, I can route music from my phone into it. Wow... driving with music is neat.

Old Plastic
Of course, with a 30 year of radio, something isn't going to go pear-shaped. After installing the head into the dash, the little plastic volume and tuner buttons broke during re-seating. That was an easy fix with a couple of old-skool knobs from Radio Shack (I got the tape cassette thing at the same time). Oddly, those 2 knobs represent the most chrome on the bus.

Dot music
When the installers (Car Toys on Canyon in Beaverton, OR) removed the original stereo from Flash, they cracked a bunch of the plastic face. Adding insult to injury, they didn't mention it, so we didn't see the broken face until we got home. There wasn't much they could do about it, except apologize. They basically explained that the plastic was old and brittle. Having just broken the knobs on a stereo 15 years older, I couldn't exactly argue the point and the new stereo was installed very nicely. We had intended to take the old Jetta stereo and pop it into Dot, they being virtually the same car only a model year apart. With careful use of electrical tape, I was able to get the face to hold together and onto the head unit. This past weekend, I plugged the stereo in, entered the unlock code, and slid the stereo into the console of Dot. If you zoom in far enough in the picture here, you'll see the electrical tape surgery. That stereo can come out one more time and then its recycler-bound. Here's hoping that can wait a while.

The Sound You Hear
Just like that, half of the fleet went from no sound to music-capable. Fun stuff. That's it for today. As I make little improvements to the speaker set-up in the bus, I'll flap about it in future posts. In the meantime, this is a very "Agile" way of going after a problem: do the bare minimum to see if you're on the right track. Once you get buy-in on the concept, harden the solution. As you can see from the picture below, I'm still collecting feedback on the idea. The looks will be addressed later. I'll enjoy the music in the meantime. The old engine drone, that used to linger in my ear for up to an hour after driving a long distance in the bus may devolve into memory now. We'll see.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

the large magnets are actually holding the speakers in place :-D

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wheels, Studs, Chrome and Backspace

Today's post is about wheels, rims and going larger-than-stock. There are so many opinions on this topic, that finding the gems of key information in the sea of religious wars is really hard. Case-in-point, there are literally thousands of threads each dating back years, covering hundreds of pages on TheSamba. Seriously, try a search for "tire" in the Samba search engine. Ridiculous. Trying to find actionable intel is virtually impossible, but, frustratingly, it is in there. There are some great sites, though, and Google can help. I'm putting everything I figure out here so I can find it again later.

I've mentioned Richard Atwell before. He's like the new Bob Hoover for bay window buses. I've never met him, but we've emailed over the years. His site (www.ratwell.com) has a section on tires, and it, like the rest of his site, is much more geared towards those who wish to keep their bus as stock as possible. There is a short section about going larger than stock, and the show-your-work math helped me build a spreadsheet to figure out what rims would work. If I can figure out how, I'll upload that spreadsheet so you can leverage it too. If I don't, this is a neat calculator I stumbled upon after I'd already created the spreadsheet.

Anyway, with the info from RAtwell in my head, I found a set of Mercedes 15" aluminum 5x112 rims with flaking chrome. Yucky looking but the $50 price was right for perfectly round, undamaged rims. I started my usual way: learn how to remove the chrome first, then see if it makes more sense to pay someone else to do it. Well, with muriatic acid, it is possible to remove the chrome at home. This is strongly discouraged. No matter how many sites say that it is easy and you can handle muriatic acid safely with the right gloves, etc, the resulting chemical (Cr-6) after the stripping is highly toxic. Think "your own personal super-fund site" or Erin Brockovich. There is a reason why chroming companies are disappearing across the US. The waste produced is some of the nastiest stuff around. In short: don't do this.

So, if I can't do it, I can pay someone else to do it, right? Yes. In Portland Oregon, August 2015 it will cost $100 per wheel for an environmentally responsible shop to do it and it will take up to 6 weeks to get them back. So, my $50 rims just became $450 rims. Hmm.. Maybe I can simply scuff them up a bunch with sandpaper and paint them?

That's what she said
With the reality of stripping the chrome still stinging, I thought I'd test fit these things while I thought about it. The memory of the failed jacks (see Santa Clara by way of Wheeler) still in my mind, I slid a 2-ton floor jack under the shock absorber mount and pulled the driver-side front wheel. The kinda grody 15" rim's holes aligned, but the rim couldn't slide home. This brought up my first new discovery: many MB rims, like the ones I got, have 12mm bolt holes, some have 14mm holes. VW buses need 14mm, so the stud is too thick for the hole. This can be resolved with a 9/16" or (better yet) 37/64" drill bit, shaving that little bit of material out of the hole so the stud's fit.

Missed it by ~20mm
I also noted that the thickness of the rim at the bolt-hole is much thicker than the old steelies. Yeah, that's obvious, but its about 20mm thick. The existing studs aren't long enough to stick out the other end with enough threading for the wheels to be safely held onto the hub by lug nuts. These studs aren't very expensive, and many people claim swapping out the studs isn't that hard.
used without an "ok"
from AirCooled.net

For posterity, I derived these numbers from GermanSupply.com. The bay-window bus studs are all press-in, after 1970:
Rear (drum brakes): 37mm long, 14mm thick
Front (disc brakes): 44mm long, 14mm thick

If I were to replace the studs with a set that would fit, I would need 57mm rears and 64mm fronts (stock plus 20mm) plus or minus. AirCooled.net has studs available which are close, and after conferring with John, the 2.2" (55.9mm) should work on the rear and 2.5" (63.5mm) should work on the front. I know my history enough to know that it could take me a day per wheel (I'm slow. I make mistakes and I don't like doing too much at once). Once I run that math, I expect mounting these $50 rims to cost me thousands in my usual charge-myself-$50/hour planning. Before I take that plunge, I switched my focus to thinking about simply buying rims from Cip1 or jbugs.

Rub Rub Rub
nicked from JBugs
There are all kinds of really nice looking, shiny rims on the market. They so pretty. Unfortunately, the new rims out there are not designed for the rear fenders of the bay window bus. Those rear "flares" don't flare out very far, and most of the rubber above the top of the rim is covered by it. This limits the ET the bus could support.(from RAtwell's tire section: ET is German for Einpress Tiefe. and it's the measurement in mm from the rim center line to the mount where the brake drum or hub contacts).

The websites don't publish the ET of these new rims. They talk in terms of inches of backspace. Backspace is the distance from the inner lip of the rim to the wheel mounting face. Since we know the backspace and the ET for the stock wheel, we can figure out the ET, though. Ha! The stock rim has a backspace of 4.75 inches and an ET of 39mm. Most of the new ones have a backspace of 3.75 or 3.5 inches. These lower numbers push the wheel further out from the hub, lowering the ET. If you've ever tried to put tire chains on the stock rear tires, you know there simply isn't that much room. Once we add in the section width, pretty much any tire that isn't one of those extreme low profile (requires special tire-mounting equipment) tires won't fit. Still, let's do the math: 1 inch equals 25.4mm, so shifting the ET of 39mm down by an inch puts it around 14 (39-25=14). I ran another math model where it was closer to 20, but the point is the same: the new rims are designed for a Vanagon at best, but more likely a beetle or squareback. Some metal work, either to the rims or your rear flares, will be required to make them fit.

Hope Glimmers?
There's one last glimmer of hope for a relatively quick swap rim: the newer Passat rim. The newer Passat, and some Audi's, were shipped with a 15" steel wheel on the 5x112 base. Unfortunately, the center hole for these rims are closer to 1.5" than the required 2.5" needed to clear the grease caps and castle nut on the old bus. I hapen to have a set of these 15" rims. Of course I do. You knew I would. I've read about expanding the center hole, but tire shops won't do it out of fear of getting sued. Gotta love the American system sometimes. Anyway, it is entirely possible to figure out the right line to cut and then cut it with a special drill bit, or a Dremel. Frankly, that sounds like a bad home-mechanic idea. The probability of making the rim unusable is pretty high. And, while the tire shops fear lawsuits, they fear someone getting hurt or killed because of one of their rims failing even more. That fear is contagious; now I fear that too. I suppose, if I knew a tire guy who could assure me that it could be done right, maybe my fear could be eased. Until then, that set of rims will sit, and eventually fall onto craigslist for someone to use for snow tires.

I'm back to the original grody-looking rims. I picked up a 9/16 drill bit last night, and tonight I'm going to have a go at one of the rims.
UPDATE (August 24th, 2015): 9/16 is too small. While it did shave some material away, 9/16" is 14.29 mm and the threads are bigger than .29 mm. I have since ordered a 37/64" (14.68 mm) and a 19/32" (15.08 mm) bits. I'll update once I've determined which one worked best, removing the least material.

Thanks for following along... if you did. There's many hours of research distilled down into about 1400 or so words.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

1... 2... 3... 4 Peaks

Over Summer Solstice, a 3500 person music festival called "Four Peaks" takes place just outside Bend Oregon. Boo and I went to our first this year. Today's post is a review, of sorts. I apologize both for the lateness of this posting as well for the lack of posting the past month. I've had some weird health things going on (bad lethargy) so finding energy to post about things just wasn't happening.

Anemia, Dust and Allergens
Not exactly "Lawyers, Guns and Money", but my trifecta for Four Peaks was somewhat misery-centered. I'd been feeling lethargic, and no amount of testing resulted in any useful information or actions. Basically, I was tired all the time. Any activity, even just walking across the room would spike my heart rate. Adding insult to injury, I was coming off a cold, allergy season was in full swing and Four Peaks was held in the central Oregon desert. As a result, Boo and I spent a lot of time near the

Four Peaks vibe
We love Four Peaks. The energy was positive and groovy, the people were friendly and the staff were awesome. As I mentioned in the Finding Waldo post earlier, we didn't see a single over-indulged person. The servers in the beer garden were on top of it and the White Bird tent folks must have been too. The times I passed by the White Bird tent, it was empty, so maybe we have the attendees to celebrate. Even though we mostly stayed away from the crown at the stage, we met tons of bus people, though, and we saw more splitties (4), bay-windows (16) and vanagons (literally dozens) than we'd seen at any festival or show up to that point. We were parked next to a '71 westy, for example. Boo and I would take walks around the lot/camping scene and talk to fellow festers, both bus owners and tent-folk. Everyone was just having a great time.

Melvin Seals and the JGB
Boo was awesome. Her patience for my lethargy was greater than my own. I wanted to see music, but it would wear me out just walking to the stage. So, we saved up all of our
energy on the second day for Melvin Seals and the JGB. If you aren't familiar, this group is made up of parts of Jerry Garcia's old band, including Melvin Seals on the keys. In the picture on the web, they show a long-haired guy on bass, but we had someone else playing... and he was fantastic. I hadn't ever thought of "Cats Down Under the Stars" as a funky tune, but the bass line he was laying down made that song boogie. Great stuff. The backup singers took me back to Jerry's old "windshield wiper" backup singers, complete with their synchronized side-to-side stepping while singing. They were great, the crowd loved them, and danced like each song was a set closer. I spent all of my energy for the day, and shuffled back to the bus to rest afterwards.

Poor Man's Whisky
Parked on our other side was a group of 3 families each from one of the 3 nearest states: Oregon, Washington and California. The guys had all gone to college with the front man for Poor Man's Whisky, so they had a special connection to the festival. They were adamant that Boo and I make it to see them, even if we missed the rest of the festival. So, that was our one target for the third day, and we weren't disappointed. While not as groovy as Melvin Seals, they pulled off some great stuff.. like a bluegrass version Pink Floyd's "Time". Having never seen them before, I loved their range, and everything they did, they did well. I'm sure they only get to Oregon for festival season, but if they make it back in the darker months, we'll definitely go.

To and From
Hapy drove great, both there and back. The Central Cascades were some of the steepest and most turn-y roads I'd driven sonce the engine transplant, so it was a great road test. I did have to drop into 3rd a couple of times on the way there. That could have been attributed to all the water, food and ice we were carrying. The drive home included a temperature scare. Driving west on OR20 out of Sisters, there is a long steep grade. Hapy's temperature steadily climbed until we almost hit 200*. We pulled over into an overlook, and set up a lunch picnic while he cooled down. After the picnic, I started testing the cooling fans, and sure enough, one of the fans wasn't spinning when the switch flipped. I'd seen this before, though when I went digging into the archive, I can't find any postings about it.

In 2012, we drove to the Further shows in Troutdale at the McMenamin's. The parking was rutted and bumpy. It was so bumpy that one of the wires for the cooling fans shook loose, so the coolant wasn't getting cooled off. I had to diagnose and fix it on the side of I-84!

Well, this time, I figured that out before we even pulled to a stop, much less after looking at things. The "lot" for Four Peaks is just open meadow, so there are lots of bumps and tire ruts creating quite the chatter as you leave. Of course one of the wires shook free! I identified the bad connection, fixed it and we were on our way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fare Thee Okay

Independence Day was observed here in the States a little over a week ago. For Dead-heads, it was the celebration of the Grateful Dead turning 50, so there was a little extra celebrating. Today's post hits that. Beware: limited bus content.

Not Exactly Chicago
Mayhem's Further 2012 shirt
Similar to the pair of shows performed in Santa Clara, 70k people who could come up with the scratch to fly, hotel and see the "Core Four" (Phil, Bobby, Billy and Mickey) in Chicago jammed the city for the 3 day weekend. Like the weekend before, I connected with my friends Mayhem and GratefulEd for a camp-in viewing of the simulcast. Rather than haul out to Wheeler, this time we were in the swanky confines of Lake Oswego: a much shorter drive. GratefulEd, however, had set up The Wall of Sound - the home edition on his back deck. We had a projector beaming the visuals and a much larger crowd than had been in Wheeler tuning in. There were no arrests, no staff pro's or GDP uncover agents. Instead, we had meat snax, liquor and no-wait restrooms. Kidding aside, GratefulEd and his family were wonderful hosts.

Similar to the Wheeler shows, I arrived early, set up Hapy for the lot scene / camping and cracked a beer. After all the festivals and events, I've gotten it down to less than 30 minutes from pull-in to fully set up, complete with awning, middle row pulled out as a lot-couch, bed set up with curtains, etc. Mayhem joined me for some classic lot-style pre-func'ing and then we headed around back for the main event. Boo arrived late, missing part of the first set.

... but Not Exactly the Grateful Dead either
lot ready, 2-bus style
Once we got everything set up, it was up to the Core-Four-plus to provide the evening entertainment. Like the Wheeler review (see: Santa Clara by way of Wheeler), I won't bore you with set lists or a review. The fine folks at JamBase have a more than sufficient rose-colored-glasses review to read. All three shows were better than Santa Clara, but that's really not saying much. None of the three shows were on-balance better than the Furthur shows I'd seen. The last show was probably their best, giving reason to believe that if they kept at it, they could probably sound pretty good. Trey just wasn't as connected as he should have been, and the band wasn't as cohesive.

I trolled around JamBase between the Santa Clara shows and Chicago. I noticed that only Phil from the Core Four had tour dates. Billy and Mickey haven't been playing much in a while so, to me, this just further supports my belief that Bobby has a health issue that he hasn't disclosed, and that's why Futhur stopped touring. JohnK and Jeff are touring under the Golden Gate Wingmen, additionally supporting that Bobby isn't playing anymore (Jeff was his long-time keyboardist). That's really too bad. Love you Bob.

left-side rear-window blind
No Grateful Dead related music venture is complete without some side adventure. With a venue like Lake Oswego, I didn't expect much in this arena. I actually brought a book so I wouldn't get too bored. Luck smiled on me, though. For those not in Oregon nor a part of any marijuana legalization effort, you may not know that pot became legal for individual use on July 1st. Since we were celebrating "the 4th", weed had been officially legal for 3 days. 3 days, man. 3 days. As I turned Hapy off the freeway on my way into town, I saw a sign announcing a visit from Tommy Chong at the functional glassware shop just outside Lake Oswego. And just like that, we found our adventure: let's meet Tommy Chong.

Mr. Chong has been on tour himself, in a way, doing personal appearances at head shops in support of some personal-use products with his name on them. Neat. On the 5th, he was scheduled to appear at Mary Jane's House of Glass, and he did. The scene was, in a word: weird. The parking lot was roped off for pedestrian traffic, so many people were parking at the Taco Bell next door. In the center of the lot was a circus tent where beverages could be purchased and consumed, and a band was tuning up to play. Between the tent and the front door of Mary Jane's, there was a queue forming for pictures with Tommy Chong. Curious, we passed the queue and entered Mary Jane's. If you've never been in a functional glassware shop, it's hard to explain. Picture a 50' by 50' square commerce-space with glass cases pointing in various directions, all filled with glass pipes. No objects d'art, no brass, no wood, nothing else. Just pipes. Oh, and some incense in the corner. In the corner along the front wall, but opposite from the front door was a table behind which sat Tommy Chong. "$40 a picture," a young woman exclaimed as we entered. Yeah, I'm not paying $40 for a picture with Tommy Chong. No offense, Mr. Chong. We just stopped by to say "hi", so we did.

Mayhem took it one step further. Concluding that Mr. Chong probably didn't have a place to watch the final show featuring the "core four", Mayhem tried to engage is a simple conversation with Mr. Chong. Apparently, that was outside of what the Mary Jane's folks knew how to handle: so, you don't want a picture with him, so you must need to be in the autograph line. No, we don't want an autograph. "Would you take a picture with him if it was free?" Sure, so long as we get to ask him a question. Well, that proved quite difficult, but Mayhem got Mr. Chong invited to our streaming picnic thing.. and found himself in a rather awkward picture with Mr. Chong. Neither of them looked like they wanted to be in a picture. Afterwards, I noticed the look on Tommy Chong's face was the same in every picture. He was a perfect look of "really? this is where I ended up? how did this happen, man? can you help me outta here?". Sorry, Mr. Chong. We tried to spring you for a few hours.

Bid You Goodnight
The final show was just that. For those who were there, I'm sure it felt like closure. For those of us watching from home, we got an extra special post-show interview with Bobby. In answer to the question of will we never hear you guys again, he responded without hesitation that we'll see it again, or something very similar some time real soon. Thanks for stringing us along, Bob. We hope you're serious and we'll see you and Phil on stage together again. We'll have the bus ready to go whenever you declare the next Furthur show... please make it on the west coast :)

Bus Content: I adjusted the windshield washers with a push-pin in the tiny washer nozzle. Now, it streams into the upper half of the windshield dead-center of the wiper path. Perfect.

That's all for today. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Finding Waldo

One more post before I get to the band review for the Hoot. I guess I just don't want to do that. Anyway, today is a take on those who weekend-warrior themselves into trouble. We call them "Waldo".

Who's Waldo?
One thing that seems to appear at every festival or jam-band parking lot is that one guy/girl that didn't know their psychic limitations and over indulged on something. Maybe it's a person standing way off by themselves screaming into the air, or a person passed out under a car, half-eaten hot-dog still in their hand or simply someone so messed up they are simply mumbling and drooling. Boo and I call this person "Waldo" in memory of the one such case that landed in our camp at the Black Sheep Family Reunion last Summer (See: Black Sheep Family Reunion).

The 2015 Hoot had a Waldo too. Waldo and his girlfriend set up their tent near us that first day, and set immediately to drinking. I'm totally down with that. For a 3-day music festival, though, pacing is important and food is a necessity. They had neither, and quickly found themselves on the ugly side of the generally groovy support staff. Admonished multiple times, they were threatened to be kicked out of the festival for repeatedly peeing on the road rather than walking the shorter distance to the flush-toilet restrooms. Awesome. At one point, we spotted Waldo barely sitting upright on the hill so we gave him some water. He wasn't able to form words, but there was clearly gratitude on his face. We think they were ultimately kicked out because when we arose on Monday morning, they were already gone, though they had been raging the night before when we went to bed. Neat.

Like I said above, there's usually one at every festival. The Hoot is rare in that the indulgence is usually very low, and the crowd is calm. Don't get me wrong.. its a party, just the party-goers know their limitations. Except for the inevitable Waldo.

Four Peaks
I think the Four Peaks Music Festival was the exception that proved the rule: we couldn't find Waldo. There were lots of partiers. On that first night, we couldn't go more than 10 minutes without hearing someone shouting "One!... Two!... Three!... Four Peaks!" from the distance. Hilarious. There were plenty of Walking Dead in the camping zones in the morning, slowly shuffling from their respective bedrolls to the porta-potties or the food vendors. At no point, though, did we see anyone completely blotto, incoherent or out of control. Like all the other festivals we go to, there was a White Bird tent, so maybe the White Bird volunteers were able to find Waldo before we did. Maybe we just simply didn't venture out from Hapy enough to do a real search. I'll just go on believing that it was a festival of fest-hardy folk who knew their limitations, had a f-ing blast, but never got too over the top.

That's it for today. I'll keep searching for Waldo. Boo and I scored an unexpected invite to the NW String Summit, so it looks like there's at least one more festival for us this summer.. so, we'll have at least that one more opportunity to play "Where's Waldo".

Monday, June 29, 2015

Santa Clara by way of Wheeler

While so many folks around the San Francisco area were celebrating the Supreme Court decision to allow same-gender marriages, deadheads looked to the southern end of the SF Bay to the final pair of concerts to be performed by the guys who used to be called "Grateful Dead" on the West Coast. The well-heeled or well-connected got tickets at exorbitant prices while the rest of us watched with wonder... through $100 worth of simulcast access. Today's post is about how I saw the Santa Clara shows with some family and friends, complete with a bus repair adventure!

Getting Out
I've mentioned the MT3. Up until late Friday evening, our plan was to take a car and a bus (8 people) to my friend Mayhem's place in Wheeler to camp in the bus for the Santa Clara shows. As the evening got late, though, it was clear that Boo needed to stay home to get some work done and the MT3 wouldn't be going. So, rather than 8, only the older 3 boys (T, C and K2) got to go. My boy's mom got herself tickets, travel and hotel (once the support check clears, no one really knows where the money goes, do they?) to get down to the show in person, so T and C knew a little bit about the shows' significance. Saturday morning, I got up like it was a workday. I hit the grocery store for supplies, and loaded the bus. We were loaded with fuel and ice and ready-ish to go when Grateful Ed arrived with Belle.
MPG note: 35 MPG since the last fill. That's high, but should we factor in the top-off?

To Wheeler
With 2 boys in the middle row and T as my co-pilot, we set off following Belle to US26. As always seems the case, we were met with smiles and waves as we passed. Or, more often, when we were passed. Hapy ran great again, through troubled traffic between the US26/OR6 interchange through the US26/OR47 interchange. It's pretty farmland out there, but someone did something they weren't supposed to and for a stretch that should taken about 10 minutes, we slogged for over almost an hour and a half. In intense sun. Where no AC means hot driver. Still, the traffic let up just past the Dairy Queen in Manning, and we got back to normal pace: 55 downhill, 35 uphill. We proceeded like that through the Coast Range to the US101 interchange and down the 101. Just before Hug Point, Belle pulled into a view area with a deep lot. Driver Ed was hungry, so we parked with sliders facing each other, popped the tops and broke out the hoagies.

Summer Sights
No sooner did we shut off engines than the folks who had been taking pictures of the ocean were now taking pictures of the 2 buses. Of course, I should have too, but I was hungry... and then the small crowd formed, and there were questions to answer, and such. There's s great line in The Bus Movie about a menu of things you can ask, and how much you get to pay for the driver to listen to the question and maybe answer. Very funny, but I love talking to folks about the bus. You have to, if you're going to drive one. After the last visitor left, we fired up the buses and completed the few miles to Wheeler. I'd never been on the stretch of US101 just south of Manzanita before; it is very pretty and seems less touched by the micro-mansions that have appeared along other areas of Oregon coastline. As you pass through, do remember: the stop sign in Nehalem is right turn permitted without stopping. It creates quite the stir among the locals when someone stops and confuses everyone :)

Casa Mayhem
We arrived to two little Mayhem's watching the Octonauts with Grampa Mayhem. Some times, arriving at someone's house can be like arriving home, and Mayhem's felt that way. The boys settled into the easy conversations between familiars, and before long we were trading stories and laughing. Grateful Ed broke out the flags that usually adorned Belle and presented them off the front deck while I readied Hapy for "camping". The boys decided to sleep on the front deck with a view of the bay to wake to. Great choice. Once our sleep arrangements were set, we grilled up our traditional post-Jerry music food: meat snax. There's nothing quite like grilled steak in small bite-sized chunks, only improved by chilling after cooking and then service cold. Yummy.

Santa Clara, Day One
With food in hand, we fired up the simulcast of the Dead show going on in Santa Clara. The fine folks at Jambase (see here) have a much deeper set list and opinion piece about the performance than I could possibly create. I don't agree with their glowing report, though. I thought most of the performance was mediocre, the vocals thin, and the timing was off. There were a few missing pieces: first, none of them would assertively lead. Bob would try to get Trey's attention after he disappeared into his guitar solo (staring at his feet), only to become frustrated and give up on the segue. They almost gave up on the Eleven entirely. I would agree that the show-ending Morning Dew was pretty good. Bob found his vocal strength in time to nail that number. The encore Casey Jones (lead-vocal by Bruce Hornsby) should have reminded everyone that he has a great voice, and that was what singing in front of 80k people was supposed to sound like. The vocals was another missing piece. Furthur used to travel with backing vocalists to help make the sound fuller. Without them, the vocals were thin and pitchy. The last missing piece was the ability to either segue or stomp and ending. Most of the songs just petered out, especially in the second set. Lots of miscues and bumbling endings. Overall, those at Casa Mayhem reflected with memories of plain-Jane shows of years past, or some of the performances during Jerry's last year with us. Not good, but always hope for another day. Like the next day...

Santa Clara, Day Two
Sometimes, the Dead was a Jekyll and Hyde routine. One night coming out flat and disinterested and the next night firing on all cylinders. With a train-wreck in the rear view mirror, we hoped for Dr. Jekyll on Sunday. We got something close to it. The JamBase folks liked it too (see here), but I think they again oversold how good it was. To their credit, the band tried much easier songs the second night, increasing confidence in the singers that Trey wasn't going to screw it up. Also, Trey pulled his head out of his ass and looked at the other members of the band for cues. There were still plenty of awkward endings and missed transitions, but the meat of the songs went well. Unlike the first night, when it felt like any song could fall apart at any second, the songs held together well the second night. The first set had many more songs sung by Bruce Hornsby and fewer sung by Phil, also good. The Death Don't Have No Mercy was probably my highlight of the 2-night run.

Like the night before, we wished John Kadlecik had gotten the gig, but after Kreutzmann's comments in late 2010, it comes as no surprise John didn't get the spot. Well, Billy, your chickens have come to roost. Warren Haynes is great, but John had the right vibe for the spot. If the band intended to do more than 5 shows, do a tour or two, for example, I could see the point in working with Trey. Eventually, he could be pretty good with this group. I don't think there's enough time for the band to fully gel before the final note in Chicago, much less before the first. I'll be watching anyway, because with Phil and Bob, you just never know. They've pulled some magic before.

Pair of Jacks to Open
Between the two shows, Grateful Ed noticed that the right rear tire on Hapy looked awfully low. He was right and it seemed like a simply fix, what with the full-sized spare sitting on the nose. While everyone else lounged about, I pulled out the BusDepot jack and started raising the bus. Within a few minutes, the jack got much harder to raise, but we couldn't tell why. Soon thereafter, the handle of the jack broke off. Drat. Good thing Belle is here with her original (40 year old) jack. Before we started this time, though, we pulled the sleeping bags and tent out of the back of the bus. Not much weight, but we figured it was better safe than sorry. The jack went in, the bus started to rise, and then the part that slips into the jack-point split in two. One flat tire, 2 broken jacks. So, we dug into the trunk of Mayhem's modern Lexus SUV for a third option before resorting to AAA. Since it didn't fit into the jack-point, we tried something entirely different: putting the scissor jack under the rear hub where the shock absorber is bolted. the wheel left the ground, and I was able to get the rim off the hub, but I couldn't get the tire and wheel out from between the hub and the rear wheel arch.

Now, we're really getting that Dead parking lot feel: solve with people. We arranged everyone around the rear corner of the bus, grabbing rear bumper or the underside of the body and lifter together while I quick pulled the tire out. The new tire, with much more air, couldn't fit in the same way and the hub was too low even if it could fit. We needed to raise the bus more, so we team lifted while Ed turned the screws on the jack. After a few attempts, we had it high enough to slip onto the studs. I threaded the nuts on while Ed lowered the jack. The boys quickly disappeared on their skateboards.

We left shortly after the second show ended. In fact, the show ended a minute or two after 11 and we were on Hwy101 before 11:30. We arrived home a few minutes after 1:AM this morning. Hapy drove like a dream. With a low purr, he took the hills well, carved the fog and never broke 192*. I had the opportunity to try the new windshield washer, and it works great, mechanically. I need to adjust the spray pattern: it currently shoots straight up, so if I'm driving fast enough, it ends up on the windscreen... sort of.

That's it for today. Next weekend, the Dead invade Chicago, and I'll be there by way of Grateful Ed's back yard broadcast, camping music festival style under the trees. As always, thanks for following along-

Monday, June 22, 2015

Coast Road Trip

With the arrival of the MT3, there has been considerable chaos. Still, we were able to pull off a family gathering at the Oregon Coast. Today's post covers that. For those only interested in hearing how the bus handled carrying 6 people plus coolers and luggage, I left that for the end :) I can't get to my pictures, so I swiped the one below from the internet. Neskowin looks just like this, and yes, the beach is that empty.

Out of the City
It still amazes me how hard it is to get a group of humans to do just about anything. Kids especially. After talking about plans, setting expectations and defining what was going to be done by whom and when... rather than leaving around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon on Friday, we left as rush hour started at 5. I guess, all things considered, that's really not too bad. My folks, T and C all arrived within a few minutes of each other. After a few minutes of strategy, we combined 3 cars into Flash and Hapy: 10 persons in total. Since it was the first weekend after the end of the school year, I had reservations about how long it would take to get to the coast. We were pleasantly surprised.

The MT3 are natural travelers. I should have known this from their epic journeys from western Montana to western Oregon, but seeing it firsthand is pretty amazing. For such youngsters, they self-assign into seats without fuss, grab a pillow and a book and belt in as soon as you say "go". They don't complain, ask where we are or how long it'll take to get there... they didn't even ask to stop to go to the bathroom. Crazy. In fact, before we hit Dundee, the 2 boys were asleep.

No trip to the coast is complete without some mention of Dundee. For the unfamiliar, Dundee is a tiny no-traffic-light town in the middle of Oregon's exploding wine country. Once home to drab, empty storefronts, Dundee now houses many tasting rooms representing the vineyards from across Yamhill County. Sounds like a fun place to visit, eh? It can be... if its your final destination. The empty storefronts didn't slow down the passing cars nearly as much as the wine connoisseurs who flock to Dundee. To be fair, 99W chokes down from a 4-lane 55mph highway to a 2-lane 20mph drag to pass through the center of town, and has for 20+ years. The cork-sniffers just bring traffic to a stop when they want to cross the street, or make sudden left turns into particularly interesting looking wine bars. Neat. On this trip, however, Dundee did not slow us much at all, and we only came to a complete stop once between the 2 trips through it. Maybe its just too early in the season for wine yet. We did happen to notice during the coast-bound slog through town that construction has finally started on a by-way around Dundee for the Portland-to-McMinville (and beyond) traffic. Hazah!

Those traveling in Hapy arrived about 10 minutes after Flash. About 30 minutes before Flash arrived, my brother E landed at the beach with his 2 little girls. All told, there were 13 of us, pulling into Boo's friend's beach house. Boo had been going to this house since she was a very young teenager, and treats the house like the home she never had. The kids spent nearly all of the daylight hours on the sand in front of the house, digging holes or splashing water. A weekend without television or electronic devices had a calming effect on everyone, sending all of us home much more relaxed than we were when we arrived. Boo and I were the last to leave (with 4 kids in the bus), since we had to clean the place top-to-bottom before we left. We discovered a plumbing issue and had to solve that first, delaying our departure until after 9:PM. By leaving so late, however, we missed any traffic.

The bus ran incredibly well. From start to end, his temperature barely popped over 190*, and he took the hills well. At no point did I need to down-shift below 3rd, and that includes that massive hill on the US101 heading north from the OR18 / US101 interchange while loaded down with 3 adults, 3 kids, 2 full coolers and 6 people's luggage. The cross-winds from McMinville to the foot of the coast range made handling a challenge, but otherwise weather had no meaningful effect. After sitting on the driveway at the beach for 2 days, there wasn't a single drop of either coolant or oil. I checked both anyway before heading home and they were spot-on. Last, how was the mileage? When I filled up on Thursday (before our Jun18-21 adventure began), the fuel jockey topped-off the tank. This skewed the numbers downwards, but even with that caveat, we got 28mpg. Based on how much fuel was in the tank when the nozzle popped (as in, if we hadn't topped off), we effectively got 31mpg between the Hoot and the coast run. Carrying camping gear, coolers, and extra people through cross winds and over mountain ranges... Hapy killed it.

That's it for today. I am still working on the music review for the 10th Annual Hornings Hideout Hootenanny. Additionally, Boo and I hit another festival this past weekend, so I have another set of travel posts and festival / music reviews to come. Thanks for following along. It's looking to be a fun, travel-filled Summer!