Friday, June 20, 2008

Muscle Beach - Seaside, OR 2008

Every year, my family and I take the first weekend after school lets out and head for the Oregon Coast. Well, it seems like every year anyway. this year, rather than gonig to our usual haunts around Newport, we got a beach-side room at the Best Western in Seaside. They allow dogs (we have that 90 pound Yellow Lab), so it seemed like a great opportunity to see a part of the coast that we haven't seen in years. We looked back and realized that we hadn't ever been to Seaside and it had been over 10 years since we'd been to Cannon Beach (the next town South). I ducked out of work around noon on Friday and beat-feet home so we could get to Seaside ahead of the traffic.

When I got home, the kids were more than ready to go, and the dog knew something was up. Once I grabbed his leash he knew he was coming and he started jumping straight up and down. I could barely hold him back on the way to the car and had to load most of our stuff around him. We hit the street about 2, all loaded down, drinks for all, snacks in a pile, sunroof open, dog smiling.

The drive to the coast was relatively uneventful. the mercedes continued to have trouble maintaining speed on the hills and we had to do that "play with the climate controls" thing to keep the vacuum leaks at bay. We arrived in Seaside around 4, easily found the hotel and pulled into the 1/2 full parking lot. We took a spot kinda far away from the door so the dog could get out and we wouldn't hassle anyone else. He was very excited, as were the boys. While the Mrs. checked us in, the boys and I took the dog down for a sand visit. 15 minutes later, we were walking our dog through the hotel lobby on the way to the room. The parking lot had an unusual number of classic cars in the lot, but we didn't think too much of it at the time.
We unpacked, exhausted the dog in the sand and tried the pool before dinner. We tried, and were very happy with, the hotel restaurant. At this point, we were very happy with our destination.

big cars
The following morning, we discovered that Seaside hosts a classic car rally every Spring, and our weekend was that weekend. This made for an unusual backdrop for the remainder of our visit. When we walked through the shops, we had thick crowds in the streets. When we went to breakfast at the Pig 'N' Pancake, there was a 15 minute wait for a table. BTW, the service and the food quality at that Pig 'N' Pancake that day was awful. the only saving grace was the woman that was filling water glasses. Otherwise, everything else was pretty poor. It was after breakfast and wandering the streets a little bit that we first started noticing general characteristics about the crowd. Most of the rally-goers had a "lived a hard life" look to them. Hard-worn faces that rarely smiled or expressed emotion. NASCAR jackets and "ford sucks" t-shirts. Generally speaking, the crowd was pretty rude, actually. There were, however, many examples of kindness and generosity too. One woman was letting little kids climb into and behind the wheel of her mid 60's classic Mopar. I'd hear comments like "I used to have one like that, but mine was a 64..." or the like. When I asked the kids which ones were their favorites, they couldn't really tell me. I don't know if it was because all of the cars were American made, and all we own are German, or if it was because there were so many, or if it was because so many of them were so tricked out, it was hard to compare. My favorites were pure stock original cars. There was one Plymouth Fury from the mid 60's that had the original paint, interior, etc. It looked like it had been babied its whole life. Sweet. We rode the bumpercars, bought trinkets and some made-in-store ice cream that was phenomenal before heading back to the hotel to exercise the dog.

small people
We took him out to the beach which was a little busier than it had been the afternoon before, but it was still deserted by east Coast standards. There wasn't anyone within 100 feet of us, so we unleashed the dog and started through the dunes. We could see other off-leash dogs running around, so we didn't think much of it. He had been off-leash for about 30 seconds when he spotted someone walking her 2 dogs - one tiny one about his size. So, he bounded over to say "hi". The woman was not happy to see him. She started kicking him and yelling at him. He looked confused, but sniffed her dogs anyway until relenting to our calls to come. She then started yelling at us, and we retorted about not having to kick the dog. I think she exhibited a special kind of stupid for kicking a dog she didn't know. That's a great way to get bit and spend your Saturday night getting shots at the county hospital 20 miles away. That didn't sour our mood though, we just went to another spot and let the kids build a huge castle. The dog stayed on-leash for a while, but we freed him after about 30 minutes so the mrs could play ball with him.
We tried a local place just off the seawall for dinner after some of us checked out the "gem show" at the convention center. The show was a bust, but the food at the restaurant was good. The following morning was Father's Day, and the hotel had an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet where kids 10 and under eat free. My 10 year old took that as a challenge and ate a plate of egss, hashbrowns and fruit before putting down a tall-stack of pancakes. Again, the hotel restaurant was great. The service was awesome (Athena, IIRC), and the food was good - much better than the previous morning. After breakfast, we decided we would checkout before one last blast on the sand. We packed up pretty quickly and I went to the car to move it near our end of the hotel. I found a folded note on the windshield. In the past when I've gotten these, its been "call me when you sell your car". This time it was "you're an ass" because I wasn't completely straight in the spot. I was, however completely between my lines, and no part of the car was within a couple of inches. It seems some folks just have it so rough that they have to vent frustration whenever the mood strikes them. Too bad it has to be at the expense of other people's joy. "Whatever," I said, and we loaded the car. My wife wanted to share the note with the hotel folks, so while she did so, I walked the dog and minded the boys on their bicycles. When she returned, we finished the load-up and rolled out.

The return trip was a little more interesting. We stopped at a farmer's highway-side market and bought a flat of fresh strawberries and some fresh asparagas. Both have been very yummy. About 20 minutes from home, we blew the passenger rear tire. After driving narrow windy coast-range roads, we were lucky enough to have the blowout on the widest stretch of freeway while driving in the right-hand lane. 10 minutes after the flap-flap-flap noise told us we were flat, we were back on the road, full-sized spare installed and a note-to-self to re-shoe the car the next week.
Of Seaside, I have to say the townsfolk, the store owners and the people at Best Western were great. They showed patience for the teeming crowd of car fans, and a level of service I wouldn't have expected from such a small destination. The muscle-car people, however, were not impressive. There was considerable trash considering the number of people, and the interactions I had with most of them were not very pleasant. Like with all groups, there are those that cut across the usual grain, and we found some of them. Unfortunately, it seemed to me that this group, pulling from 4 states, was not terribly impressive.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cleaning a TDI Intake

Shortly after I posted my last entry, I cleaned the intake manifold from the TDI. Removing the EGR and the intake was very easy, actually. the only trick was not shaking it on removal - you don't want any soot particles to fall into the combustion chamber. Now, you'd think the engine gets rattled all the time just running, and there's pressurized air running through there, so "how could a chunk of soot just fall into the intake?" I don't know, I'm just doing what the mechanic-man said: don't let any chunks fall into the head. I ran a quick vacuum against the head to make sure I was clean, and cleaned up the exposed head with some solvent. Nice and shiny now.

Cleaning the intake was a dirty job. First, dug around with an assortment of screwdrivers and chisels, getting as much of the gunk out as I could. Then, I reamed it out with a short stretch of cable attached to the end of my drill. If you're thinking of doing this, get a stretch of vinyl covered cable about 18" long and cut about 3" of the cover off the end. Home Depot sells 2 kinds of cable and I suppose both could work. I used the thicker one, but I don't think it makes much difference. Anyway, thread the cable through a short section of steel pipe. I used a 6" stretch that I had lying around for when I eventually build my BioDiesel reactor. Using the pipe as a handle, you move the cable around the inside of the intake, being careful of the drill speed. I had the cable run a little too fast a couple of times and it almost bit me. Do this job in disposable clothes and put the intake inside a cardboard box when you're running the reamer. Black goop flies everywhere otherwise, and its really hard to clean up afterwards.

After reaming it out, I submerged my intake in grease-cutting soapwater for a week while I flew off to Boston to help my folks move. This proved to be a waste of time and soap, but I think it might have softened up some of the baked-on stuff. After multiple washes in a soap-water bucket, I went a different route. I had a gallon of diesel in a travel container, some carb cleaner from when I was trying to get the old air-cooled engine running and brake cleaner. Of the 3 which do you think was most effective? The BioDiesel.

First, I soaked it for a couple of days in pure carb cleaner. At one point I was afraid that it could damage the intake, but it just removed some of the gunk. Quick wash in soap-water, and I started spraying brake cleaner. That got the outside nice and clean, but had almost no effect on the remaining black residue inside. Then, I tried that container of diesel. I poured some in, swished it around, and poured it off - black. The inside of the intake, however, was getting shiny. I did this a couple more times and then washed it in soap-water again. There were a few little crud-balls that I worked out with a rag afterwards, but 90% of the intake inside was shiny under a light. I wonder how effective this would have been from the get go - just drop it in a gallon of BioDiesel and let it soak for a while. I still want to thread strips of rag through the intake and buff out any little bits, but I think its pretty much clean.

I have to re-direct my time again. This time, its to the old Mercedes wagon (w123) my wife drives. Its time for the valve adjustment, replacing the valve stem seals, a couple of vacuum actuators are bad, etc. So, since cleaning the intake, I've been diagnosing problems on the wagon, and have spent no more time on this. I'll be spending all of next weekend on that car, but then I should be able to refocus on the bus again. Last weekend, we went to Seaside and experienced their "Muscle Beach Weekend". I'll post on that later--