Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Whoever said "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" must have owned old VW's. Today's post is all about my getting taught that lesson again. I probably won't learn, though. Fixing stuff on the bus is just too much fun. When the day comes that I don't want to mess with something on it, I'm probably not supposed to own it any more. Anyway, on with today's adventure...

Dang Stanky
In my last post, I mentioned something about the exhaust-y air getting pulled into the heat system. There are a few reasons for that. First, I put the heater unit inside the engine compartment. This made sense at the time because it created very short heater hose runs, minimizing possible air pockets. Second, I'm using a vanagon rear-heat unit which has just a simple open-end into which supply air rushes when the squirrel fan starts spinning. So, with the open-end facing the rear of the bus, and the bus standing still at traffic lights at rush hour, the exhaust that wafts out of the tailpipe is only a couple feet away from the fan. Net result: stanky air coming in. Is it broken? Not really.

pic from theSamba
When I first started working with the rear heater, I screwed a 4" vent stub around the open-end. I knew that one day I'd want to supply the air from somewhere other than wherever I put the heater unit. It's probably worth noting that the coolant supply and return lines for the vanagon rear heater unit stick out directly in front of the open-end. This wasn't a problem for the vent stub, but attaching anything else would require some rough stuff.

Rough Stuff
I had to go to Home Depot to figure out the thread size and pitch of the caliper bolts for the Jetta. Home Depot has one of those handy boards in the fastener section where you can take a mystery bolt and just keep trying different mounted nuts and figure out what its thread size and pitch are. Of course, this assumes the bolt isn't so trashed that it won't thread anymore... like mine was. Anyway, While I was at the Home Deopt, I got the great idea of getting some 4" drier vent to connect to the heater in the bus so I could get some fresh air up in the cabin.

Idea: Great.
Timing: Crap.

I got home with some flexible ducting and set up at the back end of the bus. I looked at the vent stub and the coolant lines and figured I could simply remove the top line, remove the valve, get the ducting on and install everything back in reverse. This sounded great, but the application didn't go so hot. The ducting needed to get beat up pretty badly to accommodate the coolant lines, the valve and the assembly tools.

Standing in Puddles
In the end, the supply air is much better, but the re-assembly left me with a leak. A bad one. The leak started out with a drip, and after about 20 minutes of driving it had evolved into a steady stream.

The drive home from work became a harrowing nightmare: defroster not only didn't defrost, it was actively fogging the windscreen. Did I mention the rain or how Portland drivers have their drive-stupid switches activated by precipitation? Now, add in a leak that's so bad, I needed to add water every 20 blocks. I stopped 4 times on my way home in rush hour traffic in the rain to add coolant. So sketch. My nerves were shot, but the bus was safely home without over-heating nor getting in a wreck. I don't drink very much nor terribly often, but I had a whisky rocks when I got home.

So, I'm down two cars at this point and leveraging Portland's mass transit system (TriMet) to get to work and back. Today, we'll get Flash's calipers fixed. After that, Hapy will move into the garage and I'll start on his heat system. Next time I decide I'm going to mess with something that isn't broken, I'll wait until I don't have another car on jack stands. Jeez.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Daily Driving

At some point after my trip to Boston, the clunking noise coming from the front end of my 2001 TDI Jetta (Flash) started to really get to me. I don't know if it was the weather changing or the car's growing desire to turn right, but I knew something was going sideways. Today's post covers that saga.

Rebuild Parts
from MetalMan Parts
I trolled around the internet and found some good pub on this rebuilding kit from MetalMan Parts. So, I hit the site, and made some decisions. First, I got the fuller kit with the TT rear bushings. While that cost a little more, I figured this was a replacement I probably wouldn't be doing again. I also got new front struts (COFAP for comfort, recognizing the TT rear bushings will stiffen the ride) and new strut mounts. I had read good things about a 1" lift kit from Evolution Import, and I got that too. A few days later both shipments had arrived.
Upon inspection, the MetalMan kit was pretty fantastic. Every fastener that needed to be removed had a replacement. They sent both sway-bar bushing sizes and replacement clamps. It looked great.
The Evolution Import kit wasn't as impressive, but it looked like what I expected from the instructions online. It was shiny and relatively simple. I ended up not putting the rear lift in, and the Jetta sits flat with out it.

Destroyed My Arms on My Arms
I set aside the weekend to install everything, with the recognition that I would need to take the strut assemblies somewhere to get the springs moved from the old set to the new set. I'd also need to get the alignment done somewhere. Otherwise, I felt I could do everything else. 9:AM Saturday morning, I pulled Hapy out of the garage bay where he'd been resting since our active Summer and put Flash in his place. By 11:AM, his was on stands, the Panzer plate was off and I had my plan of attack. I'd start with removing the control arms. Once the old ones were off, I could easily get at the sway bar bushings as well as get the struts out.  The sway bar links came out with little trouble, but the 2 18mm bolts with point towards the rear were a little tight. I had to work them pretty hard, and I found my arms started to get sore. But that was nothing compared to the 2 bolts which fed up from below. I tried PB Blaster. I tried a propane torch. I tried this stuff from Amsoil called "toolbox helper". I went back to the torch. By late-afternoon, it was clear I wasn't going to get either of them off so I soaked them with the Amsoil stuff and let it sit overnight.

Sunday morning, I ate well, enjoyed coffee with Boo and then went back to the bolts. Within 30 minutes, I'd concluded that the soaking hadn't helped and I was stuck. My arms were really aching from the day before, so I started looking for options. Since the front end was in pieces, I couldn't easily take the car to someone to get the bolts off, so I hit craigslist for someone willing and able to do the work in my garage. I found a father-son team, and they were happy for the work.

now that's a breaker bar
MobilePDX is a father and son team who have worked on cars for years. Courtney is around my age (dirt is older, the internet is not) and has been wrenching on cars since he was a kid. They were organized, clean and left my garage in better shape than they found it. I'd originally intended to have them just get the 2 bolts off and swap the struts, but once they got going, it was just easier / faster to have them finish the job. They were able to get the passenger side bolt off with a breaker bar and youthful strength. The driver-side had to get ground down with an angle grinder. I'm not exactly sure how they got the bolt out after that. They followed my original plan from there, verifying my thinking... which is always nice.

Aw Nuts
After MobilePDX got everything back together, they discovered that the front caliper bolts were not grabbing into the hubs. Upon inspection, the threaded holes weren't threaded anymore. Neat. The proper repair is to over-drill the holes and thread in a helicoil (or something similar). That is what Courtney said and the chat-rooms agree with him. Others have used an oversized bolt that is so widely available both on the internet and the FLAPS (friendly local auto parts store), I'm inclined to think it is becoming a widely endorsed solution as well. While I sort this out, Flash sits on jack-stands and I am driving Hapy every day.

Hapy Hapy Joy Joy
I'm sure if I look back into this blog, I have many references of going back to driving the bus after a period of not driving him and expressing the pure joy of driving the bus. It really is awesome. The smiles, waves and conversations happen as much in the wind and rain as they do in warm summer. That's pretty neat.
I have continued my experimenting with the shift-point, shifting now around 3400RPM. This allows for the engine speed (when dropped into gear) to still have some turbo influence. So, he's got even more zip than the old 1700 had from the bottom to the top.
I just put 10 gallons into the tank, and I got over 28mpg since the last fill. Since there's a lot of city driving in there, I think I could have a viable city/highway mix guess: 27 city / 33 highway. Pretty fantastic. It hasn't been all smooth sailing though.

Fix-It List
On an exceptionally cold morning, I discovered that the dash vents weren't quite aligned properly. When I went to fix it, I accidentally pulled the wiper electricals out of the switch. Turns out, that bundle of wires needs to go through the hitch in the center of the plastic "Y", not around it.
After fixing that in the parking lot at work, the heat is suitable for clearing the windscreen from mist or fog, but it smells like diesel exhaust. I need to locate a source for fresh air before I drive Hapy into real cold weather.
The fuel gauge needs to be replaced. I still don't know the actual capacity of the tank and guessing based on the mileage when I last filled isn't a reliable measure. Cold wet weather isn't the time to guess if you need fuel.
I didn't re-install the door seals after I painted the top 1/3 of the bus. This creates a pretty good breeze when travelling over 35mph. I need to install them. Of course, the old ones were pretty beat up, so I need to order another set.
The bus still has some rattles, and I think one of the door skins is the main culprit for most of it. Also, the other jalousie window is now making the noise the rebuilt one used to make. Perfect. Time to rebuild the other window.
Last, the brake warning light flickers at me. This usually happens when I remove or do something around the battery. Since I had to charge the battery before moving him out of the garage, this was self-inflicted. I think there's a fluid leak near the master cylinder, though, so I may have to do a fuller brake overhaul soon. Either way, I'd like so much for the flicker to go away, or just never happen.

That's it for today. Like usual, if I'm not posting, its because I'm working on one of the cars.... or traveling. Once the front brakes / hubs are solved, Flash will be driving again and I'll start knocking down the list above for Hapy. The good times never end. As always, thanks for following along, and please pray for snow. I'd really like to get some gravity testing in this winter and our farmers need the snow-pack for summer irrigation-

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Autumn in Boston

I know it's been a month. Where have I been? Working, mostly. I'm sorry I haven't posted. I'll get to some car stuff, but the bus has sat mostly idle (poor Hapy) because I haven't been able to get the rims done, so he's sitting on that old fading rubber. I have made a little headway on the rims since The Other One post. For today, the Boston trip.

The family reunion consisted of around 70 relatives all on my father's mother's side. His mother was a first generation US-born, so we had a healthy representation from her homeland: Ireland. Most of the 70 family members stayed at the Residence Inn in Chelsea. Why it is called anything about the Logan Airport, I don't know. It cost $30 by taxi from the airport, so it isn't exactly next door.

Chelsea looks really close to downtown Boston, until you need to get there by anything other than a private car (or Uber). The 112 bus runs from Haymarket Square, but it does a scenic loop before stopping at the hotel. In the end, we used the bus to get into the city a bunch, but used the cabs to get home.

Near to the hotel is one of the largest supermarkets any of us (including my Texas sister) have ever seen. We nick-named the Market Basket "Massive Market" for that reason. It was handy for grabbing go salads for lunch before heading into Boston. We were disappointed to realize that Massachusetts (MA) is effectively a blue-state for we non-natives. No beer or wine sold anywhere except a liquor store or bar. Ye-ouch that hurt... though it also meant we spent more time at the hotel bar... with many of our relatives... drinking late... and being loud. Take that MA.

The Burren
The weekend kicked off with an evening starter in the reserved back room of The Burren (in Somerville). I don't remember much of this evening except that I started my exploration of Irish Whisky here. There were lots of introductions, and then we switched venues to the hotel bar where things got a little more blurry. Since I hadn't really gotten any sleep the night before, I'll blame that. I crashed around 1:AM local time.

Harbor Tour
Having grown up in the North East, I'd been to Boston a bunch of times. I've seen the Red Sox win at Fenway. I've walked the deck of the US Constitution. I've shopped Quincy Market. I hadn't, however, ever seen the city from the water, nor had a real tour guide explain the sights. Our leader, Frank, organized a group outing on a triple-deck boat getting a full tour of the Boston harbor. Much like the Duck Boats, these boats must seem annoying to the locals. For a true tourist, it was really fantastic. I learned more about how the harbor was formed, the history of the various islands and of the landmarks than in all the trips I'd taken as a youngster. It was fantastic.

BC Football... sort of
After the tour ended, my brothers, my dad and I hit the mass transit to try to get to a college football game. As I've said before, try to fit a sporting event into your trip. At the very least, you can have that as a highlight. Well, the T is very efficient moving through the city so long as it stays below ground. The Green Line hits the surface near Fenway and then seems to stop every 30 feet as it runs along the Charles before heading south on Commonwealth Ave towards Boston College. To be fair, my dad did forewarn us that it would be a long-ish train ride. He was totally right. By the time we got to the BC stop (end of the line), we were famished and the game was deep into the 2nd quarter. We hit Crazy Dough's Pizza for grinders and slices of pizza rather than quick-foot over to the game. Delicious, and they had the game on the radio.

All full and fired up for football, we crossed Commonwealth and made our way across campus to the football stadium. We could hear the bands, so we knew it was halftime when we got to the ticket booth. "$40 each," the guy says. We point out that the game is half over, and he says "no discounts". Sorry, BC, but you gotta do better than that. We walked out, deciding that watching half a game for $160 just didn't pencil out. Instead, my dad gave us a sorta-tour of the campus. He got his Masters there many years ago, so it was really more of a tour of "there used to be a field over there" and "I think that used to be..". Regardless, it was really great to just roam with my father and brothers for a sunny afternoon.

North End Italian
No trip to Boston is complete without grabbing a meal in the North End. The Italian food there is the high mark for all Italian food, IMHO. Yes, Chicago, I've had Italian food in your fine city. Not as good. Frank arranged to a final big event upstairs at Riccardo's Ristorante in classic multi-course style. So good. I can't remember all the dishes now, but the salad, the fish and the chicken parm still resonate. My brother, sister and I had tickets to see our old friend Al perform as part of a comedy show, so we had to split before the desserts and coffee were served. Sadness. Based on the meal, I'm sure it was amazing. You can see a liquor store next door in the picture here. I didn't put that together when I first saw it, but my brother and his wife saw it, and got a couple bottles of wine for later. Smart move.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Al Park
Full of food and dressed to impress, we headed west to Cambridge (I think) to catch a backroom comedy show with our old friend Al closing the event. The line-up was hit and miss, but Al described the forum as a place where comics try very new rough material, so sometimes it zings and sometimes, well, it doesn't. Al was absolutely hilarious. He was always funny. He could always take a room full of people at a party and make them laugh. As a comic, he takes a room full of people and makes them laugh over and over again. Within 15 seconds we had tears on our cheeks and within a minute we couldn't breathe. He admitted afterwards that he used some battle tested stuff. It was really fantastic.
After his show, we closed the bar down visiting and remembering when like you do when you haven't seen someone in a long time.
If you're local and you read this in time, Al is performing in Vancouver WA Nov5 at Kiggins Theater. Otherwise, he's performing around Seattle this week and next.
We got back to the hotel in time to see the blood moon and have a few drinks with the relatives.

Quincy Market, Durgin Park and JJ O'Donovan's
After getting so little sleep for two nights in a row, you'd think I would have slept in on Sunday. Nope. Free breakfast can wake the Dead. We learned that a few folks had tickets to the New England Patriots game and others were going to catch the Red Sox later. I guess I see where I get that thing from now; family traits are funny that way. Anyway, my sister had a flight out that afternoon, and my dad, brother and sis-in-law wanted to hit Quincy market. Not a shopper, I figured I could people watch so I jumped on the bus and hit the Market. Being an absolute gorgeous day, the market was bumping. I collected a few Boston Bruin things and after Yelp searches and some aimless wandering, we all headed into Durgin Park for dinner. My dad's mom, the relative we had in common with all the family we came to meet, worked at Durgin Park during WWII. So, in a way, it was the perfect final meal before we started heading back to our respective homes. The food was okay, I got a weird tasting beer that they traded out for a whisky, but the service was good. As we were walking out, we saw the name of the bar next door: JJ O'Donovan's Bar. In a weird kismet evening, of course after we stumbled upon the restaurant my grandmother used to work in, we'd find a bar with her last name on the door. I immediately bought my dad, my brothers and myself T-shirts. hahaha. so much for that not-a-shopper thing.

That's really it for the trip. I didn't get into getting to know the relatives. It was pretty amazing, on top of all the stuff I described above. We got to really visit with Katherine, our cousin who currently owns the family farm back in Ireland. She represents the current member of a family line of land-holders stretching back hundreds of years. Wild stuff. I, like everyone else who was there, hope we do this again in two years on the family farm like they did two years ago.

Friday, October 2, 2015

United Sucks

After a couple of weeks of move chaos, and no sooner had the boxes been unpacked, I took a 5 day trip to Boston for a huge family reunion. Today's post covers the travel part of that trip.

Size Matters
I don't fly very often. When I do, I usually fly the same airline round trip, so I don't really have a sense of how different the airlines are. On this trip, I flew United from Portland to Boston (through San Francisco) and Alaska (direct) on the way home. They are radically different. United is a huge airline flying all over the world, but the number of centimeters between the leading edge of your seat and the rear of the one in front of you is staggeringly small. Alaska, on the other hand, is a smaller carrier who is just really getting started in international flights. The space between the seats, however, is actually quite comfortable as compared to United. Since I wasn't traveling to fix anyone's car, I didn't have even a tape measure with me, so I can't provide hard numbers. I just have simple anecdotal evidence.

Broken Plane. What a Pain.
airplane igniter
Adding insult to injury, my connecting United flight from SFO to Boston was stymied by a broken plane. The symptoms were not terribly unusual: all the lights and cabin air jets suddenly stopped operating while we were at the gate. I've seen that happen often on working planes, but this time it happened a lot. The pilot said something about the "igniter" after we had pulled away from the gate, taxied partway down the tarmac, and started turning around. Turning around is never a good sign. We returned to the gate, and a mechanic got on. After a while we were told that we'd be on our way in 15 minutes. Then we were told the plane was broken and we needed a new one, so everyone had to get off. I bee-lined for the c-store and bought a beer.

The Airport Bar
small portions & large prices
I drank a Stella, wandering around the terminal cul-de-sac and found another gate advertising a flight to Boston. "Sweet!" I thought and got into the queue at the desk. Minutes later, I was 5th in the stand-by list. Unfortunately, United had overbooked all of their flights to Boston that day (and probably other destinations and dates too), so they were asking ticketed passengers on that flight to accept $1200 in travel vouchers to fly the next day. They made no such offer to the folks on my flight. Instead, I headed towards an airport bar & grill and found my brother heading the other way. He was getting on the $1200 voucher flight. We grabbed a bite and a beer at the Lark Creek Grill and then I watched him board.

The Wait
SFO gate
By now, my flight was over 3 hours late for departure. We had been informed that they were hoping for a new plane by 4. 4 became 5 which then became 6:30. After nearly 6 hours of lolling around the San Francisco airport, we were ready to board. Had I left the airport and hopped a BART train, I could have spent the afternoon in downtown SF, but United hadn't been transparent about how long the wait would be. I suspect they knew all along, but chose to string us along instead. The flight itself was tight-packed, but we arrived just after 3:AM, Boston time. I read a bunch of my book, and napped as best I could in a seat that couldn't recline.

Paul's Revere Cab Ride
Since the flight arrived so late, the free shuttle from the hotel was not running, so I grabbed a cab from the taxi-stand. The cabbie was a local from Revere, and we talked up a storm the whole way. He knew where he was going, didn't bounce me all over the place and was genuine. Frankly, that cab ride was the best part of the trip since getting dropped at the Portland airport by T in the A4 at 8:00 the prior morning. $30 later, I was collecting my room key. I keyed into my room just after 4:AM.

Why United Sucks
There are lots of reasons why United sucks, but the airline flight attendants are not among them. United had the same crew who was supposed to run the original flight (12:30 planned departure) work the actual flight (6:30 actual departure). The attendants are only paid for time in the air, so while they also had to wait around, they probably lost out on some income on a connecting flight out of Boston too. United sucks because they overbook their flights. United sucks because they cram in at least one if not multiple extra rows into their planes, making the trip even more unpleasant. United sucks because they offer hollow apologies to the inconvenienced: go to this obscure web site that you better write down as we say it because you'll never be able to navigate there on your own (go here) and we'll offer you $100 of flight vouchers so you can have another god-awful experience. United, you suck. I spent more than that on the airport food and the taxi. $100 of flight voucher is not an apology; it is a middle finger. Fine. Here's two right back at ya.

That's it for today. I'll follow up with some actual family reunion stuff. Honestly, the trip was great after the United nonsense was over.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gotta Keep Moving

Sorry its been a few weeks since I last checked in. Since the last time I posted, there have been 2 big things going on that are post-worthy. No bus content today :-(

The company I work for moved my department a few miles down the road, so that created quite a bit of chaos and distraction. It's not terribly interesting, but its real life. I moved to Beaverton to radically reduce my commute from a 45 minute one-way drive. For some, that might feel like a dream commute compared to what you drive now. To me, spending 1-1/2 hours sitting in heavy rubber-banding traffic was too stressful. After so many years, I knew my odds of getting into a wreck, and recognized I'd dodged the odds for so long, I was due. So, I rented a place less than 2 miles from my office. Perfect. On a really bad traffic morning, it could still take me 30 minutes in a car, but I could ride a bike in less than 20 minutes consistently.

The new office is 8 miles away, in Hillsboro. The mass-transit options are few. The space is nice, but with an office so far away from so many of our respective homes, I wonder how long it will be before folks decide the commute is too far, and there are viable alternatives closer to home. We'll see.

Before the divorce, before the separation, before I was asked to spend a couple of years sleeping in a guest room, I had made a commitment to my boys to gift $1k to help them get a car. At the time, the plan was to get a $1k car which needed work, and then work on it together as a project. By the time the boy was 16 and ready to drive on their own, he would have a car that he had spent years getting to know it, and pouring sweat-equity into it so he would treat it well. He would also know how the systems worked, and how to fix many of them. Well... what was listed in the first sentence got in the way of the original plan. Fast-forward 4 years and the first boy is now 17.

Weekend before last (on Sep20), he and I drove to a small town outside Seattle to size-up a 1997 Audi A4. He had been looking at Subaru sedans. He and I agreed that Subaru's are grossly overpriced in this area, so he widened his search to other all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles. He discovered that the A4 is widely available, and not nearly as highly sought after in the PacNW used market. So, when he found this one outside Seattle, we went for it.

It took us 3+ hours to get there, trading driving responsibilities and connecting on school, college prospects, etc. The A4 is a black quattro with heated leather seats, etc. The couple who were selling it were deep Audi people. This one was their first. They have since owned at least 3 more, and were driving another one when they met us. Since this was the first, there were subtle customizations (HID headlights, lowering springs, improved speakers, etc) that further
improved the value. It had been in a low-speed nose-bump accident, but otherwise the exterior and interior were perfect. The test drive cemented our opinion of the car: it handled extremely well. The steering was smooth and responsive, the brakes were as well, and neither influenced the other. The gas was quick, the clutch acceptable (very short pivot point) and the power very good. There were some issues (power locks broken, the dented front, no heat nor AC and a broken wiper motor), so we offered a couple hundred less than his asking price.

T drove the new A4 home, leading the triumphant parade from Seattle down the I-5. He got it through DEQ the new Tuesday and got plates on Wednesday. The insurance for it was only $10 more a month than the Saturn he had been primary driver on. The final price was $1300. So far, worth every penny.

The commute I described at the beginning I now get to drive my old friend Flash (TDI Jetta). So, the longer commute isn't all bad. It's actually kinda nice to drive him again. I got home late last night from a trip back east. I'll post on that soon. That's it for today. As always, thanks for following along-

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Other One

I watched the Netflix original documentary "The Other One" over the weekend, today's post is mostly about that. I'm sure there will be some bus / travel content mixed in somewhere. The documentary is a somewhat autobiographical look at the life and times of guitarist Bob Weir.

First, an Apology
the man, the legend
After watching the documentary, I think I understand now why Bob stopped touring. In my blast of the Fare Thee Well shows (see: Fare Thee Okay), I kicked up a rumor that maybe Bob is sick. Maybe he is, how the hell would I know? In the documentary, you can see small glimpses into his daily life with his family. I hadn't really thought much about what an endless life on the road must be like. Personally, I'd hit the road, catch a few shows and be back in my normal routine after being gone for maybe a week. Bob spent most of his life from 1970 through 2013 on the road. I feel the heel for actually getting upset that he was going to stop. I have teenage kids, so I can absolutely relate to his unspoken motivation: I've spent too many years away from them, and I only have a few more years before they leave me to start their own lives. It totally makes sense.

Maybe I'm in an apologetic mood. Watching Jerry's daughter Trixie describe the burden Jerry felt really got me. Similar to my guilt over wanting Bob to tour more, I feel awful knowing that my friends and I who simply wanted "more" were part of the dynamic that led to Jerry's demise. Of course, Jerry owned his decisions, and after the diabetic coma in 1986 he chose to re-introduce heroin, but how great must the pressure have been? 20+ years under the radar to have In the Dark and Touch of Gray to launch them into stadiums. I was just a teenage kid, not knowing any better when the change happened, so I'm not sure what to do with this feeling. I'll go with "I'm sorry Trixie. No other guitarist could make me smile the way your dad could. It was magical and better than any other stimulus available at a Dead show."

Where's Phil?
As present as Bob's relationship with Jerry was in the documentary, his relationship with Phil was absent. As a bass player, I was expecting a great deal about how he and Phil worked together. Consider too, how many years the 2 of them toured together as Furthur. I think Bob looked at these later years as more therapeutic than anything else, working through his mourning for Jerry, the man best described as an older brother figure. Bob and Phil spent so many of those late years together, I'm surprised and a little disappointed that Phil wasn't involved in the documentary project at all. As I think back, I don't think he was even mentioned by name, which is a little weird. Phil was effectively lumped in with Keith, Donna and John Constanten.

John Barlow
Some of the best parts of the documentary, to me, didn't last long enough: the parts that focused on Bob's approach to the instrument. Maybe the producers and director thought that the average audience wouldn't be as interested. Personally, that's what I really wanted to hear: how did he construct songs with Barlow, where did Barlow go (why did he and Bob stop working together), what are Bob's triggers for changing his voicings on songs, etc. Still, getting a long-overdue reminder of his humanity and personal limits was welcomed. It was a good watch, and I'll watch it again. Knowing Bob's current life situation, I think it's time we went to him rather than continue to wait for him to come to us.

Ok, some bus stuff
I spent some time working on scraping the chrome off those 15" rims. I used a Dremel to soften up the skin and then used a putty knife to get under the edge and peel away some chrome-skin. Overall, 2 rims are almost completely cleared of chrome. As time presents itself this week, I'll hopefully get after the other 2. I am not up for driving too far on those old tires. They are over 10 years old, and spent far too much of their life sitting in one place. After the tire fail in Wheeler (see:Santa Clara by way of Wheeler) I'd rather drive contemporary transportation until the rims are cleared, painted and new rubber slapped on. Net-net, the bus may not be operational again this dry season. Oh well.

As always, thanks for following along. I'll be keeping my eyes and ears out for a Bob Weir show announcement. Maybe he'll be ready to hit stage about when Hapy the wonderbus is ready to hit the road. It would be really great to have the two in the same location one more time.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hoot 15 bands

Yeah, it has gotten out of hand about how long this has taken. The bands were good this year, albeit more "Phish-like" than the wide-spectrum show last year. In order of appearance-

Hootenanny Band Reviews
Grateful Buds We missed the beginning of their set, but they are a heavily blue-grass influenced Grateful Dead-ish band. Think Dead covers with a banjo, but better than that.

Bottleneck Blues I thought they'd be a blues band, and at points they were. At other times, they were more of a middle-of-the-road rock power trio. Pretty good festival music, and the crowd liked them even if most were busying themselves with setting up camp more than grooving.

Joytribe One of our favorites from last year, and they held up to a foggy memory. Lead singer can belt, and her multi-instrument skills are better this year than last. Very fun, active, get-your-body-moving music.

The Hillwilliams were one of the bands we loved last year. These guys rocked the late-night tent last year, though we missed their late show this year. Solid blue-grass / country / Americana music.

Kina Lyn and the Hat Rack Kina can wail. I mean fantastic pipes. The only weak point in their performance was in her rhythm guitar playing: it jacked the beat. They should add a second guitar so she can focus on singing which she does incredibly well. Her singing was so strong, that I really can't remember the Hat Rack. It's almost like seeing Big Brother and the Holding Company back in the day. You remember Janis just wailing, but the band? Shrug. Can't remember. Keep the guitar for writing, Kina. Great stuff.

Jesta wasn't as good as I had expected them to be. Think Phish-like songs with odd segments cutting against the groovy. The vocals weren't terribly strong and the vocal lines weren't very advanced, but the instrument musicianship was really good. Maybe they should pair up with a stronger singer who can write vocal lines?

Urban Shaman is a new formation of Vivid Curve. We absolutely loved Vivid Curve last year, so we were very excited to see their new formation. Unfortunately, part of what made Vivid Curve so good was the charisma of the guitar player. Without him, Urban Shaman lacked the draw-them-in magnetism. The didgeridoo was, of course, spot on, and the drummer was so much the same, he even wore the same hat as last year. Still, without the guitarist, they weren't quite as good.

Rainbow Electric Of the run of bands, Rainbow Electric may have been the weakest, but I think its probably better said as least experienced. They looked under 21, but had a great vibe. They were just new at the game, and didn't have the chops or material to carry a full set. Given time and practice, they'll be good.

Yur Daddy Last year, Yur Daddy arrived with a huge entourage. All weekend, the YurDaddies walked around with bandannas around their heads to draw attention. They had a dedicated camping zone. When Yur Daddy took the stage, their crowd jammed into the front of the concert bowl. This year, the entourage didn't come to the Hoot. That changed how Yur Daddy played. Their songs were the same, but didn't have as much life. The solos were good, but didn't have that cock-of-the-walk energy that was prevalent last year. We're still Yur Daddy fans, but missed the energy they had last year.

Shafty We'd never seen Shafty before, though I've seen Phish a few times. Shafty does a very good carbon-copy of Phish. Extremely good. If you like Phish, you can close your eyes and imagine Trey and company when you hear Shafty. If you've never seen Phish, and want to experience their sound in a tiny venue with less than 100 people, go see Shafty. Great show fellas; you should have closed the first night if not the whole festival. I'm not a very big Phish-head, but you really nailed it.

Garcia Birthday Band Somewhere along the way, GBB changed guitarists. I don't know when, and I can't tell from their website, but the guy who started the whole thing isn't in the band anymore. Oh well. I think that makes the entire band has turned over since I first saw them play under the trees out at the Edgefield to celebrate Jerry Garcia's birthday so many years ago. Since they cover the Dead, I'm probably a more harsh critic of GBB than everyone else. Still, they played a good show, and ended the festival on a high note.

Again, I'm sorry its taken me so long to get this out. It was a great summer music festival season, so I'll blame the delay on my going to more festivals and trying to keep my notes clean. Next Summer, I intend to start the season right with the Hootenanny again. We're going to hit Four Peaks and I want to make it to Pickathon. I'd like to add in another festival that I've only just heard of, like Summer Meltdown or maybe mix it up and hit a hemp festival. We'll see. Planning for next summer festival season is only a few months away :)