Monday, December 10, 2012

Run, Bus, Run

Its busy time of year, and I'll respect your time and try to stay brief today.  The mountain got a ton of snow last weekend, but I didn't make it up there.  I spent some time with the bus, but no snow :(  Sorry for the lack of pictures.

Turbo Turbo'ing
The bus hasn't been producing the power I expected, especially on hills.  I kept battling a very short section of pipe in the charged-air circuit falling out at one end.  The pipe didn't have any kind of a barb on it.  So, it was held on basically through the friction of the pipe clamp through the rubber on the pipe.  When you figure that some oil makes it into the intake system, you can see why it kept separating.  I found a 4" long pipe (including the barbing) at ACE Hardware that fit perfectly.  The rubber sections had sufficient straight sections that I could adjust the depth of the new section of pipe within it.  A simple application of the pipe clamps and the system is well contained now.  Test driving, however, was stymied by the battery needing a charge.  So, when I moved out of the rental townhouse, I left garage-life behind.  This means that finding something as simple as a battery charger is not so simple... so getting back on the road took more than just a couple days.

Leak Leak Leak
I dare not look back through this blog to see how long I've struggled with the coolant leak, nor how many hours I've been frustrated by it.  I didn't check my coolant level before driving off to work this morning.  I should have.  The temperature rose no more quickly than any other day.  The heat through the defroster cleared the morning mist from the windscreen, and I was genuinely enjoying the drive.  That is, until the temperature hit and passed 190*.  The fans were on, but the temperature continued to climb.  Once it hit 200*, I pulled into a parking lot and topped off the coolant.  The drive home had another adventure I'll get to in a minute, but when I parked in the old covered spot, I could see a trail of coolant drops, telling me that the challenges I've had trying to get the coolant temperature sensor in right will continue.  I'm ready to call Justin.  I just can't lose any more hours to getting that c-clip, o-ring and sensor to play well together.

Not Limp Mode, Just Limping
A funny thing happens when the drive-by-wire signal from the accelerator doesn't make it to the computer.  The engine drops into a funky state and limits at 1200 RPM.  If 1 wire doesn't carry a signal, its okay, but if more than 1 fails, we drop into 1200.  I had this happen a few times before I messed around with the wiring up front.  I thought I blogged about that, but I can't find the posting.  I did it when I was swapping out the transaxle at MS' house.  It seems the other end (near the computer) needs to be fixed as I had "drop into 1200" issues.  One more thing to address in the parking lot.

That's it for today.  I'll probably be reaching out to Justin to help with that leak.  I just can't deal with it any more.... and seeing the coolant drips on the ground is starting to get to me.  Thanks for following along, and I'll post something more positive next time.  Honest! :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

White Friday 2012

First, to my readers from the United States, I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving full of your favorite delights.  I enjoyed family, food and football.  Watching the Lions finally win and the Cowboys lose to the Redskins were especially enjoyable.  I regret, however, that I was unable to get the bus operational in time for White Friday.  Again, the battery has inexplicably drained, and my charger is back in the storage facility.  I'll need to charge or jump the bus back to life and then drive around a bit before taking the journey to Mt. Hood.  I did celebrate White Friday at Timberline as planned, though, and I'm going to focus on that instead :)

Rain? What Rain?
Mt Hood Hwy
Starting on Monday, we watched the weather forecasts and snow reports.  Every one of them had some form of drizzle in the plan for White Friday.  I thought for sure that we would have a grey one instead.  All reports had the rain starting around noon, so Boo and I got ourselves out of the house early.  Well, it was early for us on a weekend day- 9:30AM.  Driving Flash with gusto, we got to Timberline before 11.  When you arrive at Timberline, you pass the overflow lot first.  This is usually your early signal of how busy the resort is.  Last year, for example, the overflow lot was almost completely full, and the runs were too.  This year, however, there were less than 2 rows of cars in the overflow.  Once you round the corner from the overflow lot, the main lot is visible on your left.  The main lot was less than half full.  Apparently, everyone else heard the rain threats and gave up on the snow.  Sucka's.

... and then there was sliding
mid-run under the Molly's lift.
Mt. Jefferson deep in the background
The upper mountain (Magic Mile and Palmer) was closed due to lack of visibility.  The clouds were low, but the wind was too.  Most of the lower mountain (Bruno's, Pucci, Molly's, Stormin' Norman, Jeff Flood) was open, though, with just Jeff Flood closed because it is the lowest of them all, and those runs were too soft.  Early season brings a funny split crowd.  There are a group of snow junkies who are quite good and a group of brand-new-to-the-sport folks.  On Friday, the junkies mostly went over to Stormin' Norman for the grind rails and jumps and the newbies stayed mostly on the beginner slope Bruno's.  This left the Pucci and Molly's runs lightly populated, leaving Boo and me some open terrain for fun.  The queue for the lifts were maybe as long as 5 chairs long at the peak with some runs ending with no line at all.  The snow was relatively well-tread, but there was an inch of puff on top and plenty of fluffy off the main trails.  We bounced through un-groomed moguls near the top of Pucci, raced down the Thunder bowl and carved Vicky's Run before stopping to meet my brother E and his daughters K&K for lunch.  E, K&K don't slide, but they love the snow.  They drove up just to visit the white stuff, make snow forts and sled.  After a brief visit, they headed for the out-of-bounds and Boo and I went back to carving.  After 9 or 10 runs, we called it a day.  No rain.  It was actually quite nice.

That's it for today.  I hope you all found a way to celebrate White Friday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weather Whether Whatever

Yep, its been a month.  I really don't know where the time goes.  When I look at my calendar for that past month, its been all over the place, so I can't point to one thing as my time killer.  I think its simply working too much.  I have had some time playing with the bus.  Boo and I hit the mountain for the first time yesterday, so I'll hit both of those today.

Whether Weather
When I first pulled the electronics together for the bus, I positioned the throttle unit (resistor pack that sends desired speed to computer) under the floor.  This area is protected by a square-ish pan with a couple of silver-dollar-sized machined holes that is supposed to be held on with 6 6mm bolts.  My bus being 40 years old, and having had multiple owners clowning on it, those bolt holes are not dependable.  For example, when I drove to the Futhur show I could hear the pan rattling in the wind.  Yikes.  Now, add the incessant rain we experience in the Pacific NorthWest and the sensitive electronics contained within.  Clearly, the bus was not ready for Fall, Winter and Spring.
First, I closed the machined holes with noise-reduction material.  This reduced the ambient noise as well. On top of that, I glued-in thin closed cell insulation for more noise containment.  I then ran 3/8" window insulation along the lip of the pan.  These 2 efforts solved the water problem, but I still had to get the pan attached to the bus such that the insulation would compress.  Since the bolts were rattling around the holes, I went to Home Despot and bought a handful of every bolt size from 6M to 8M in both metric and US sizes.  None of them worked.  So, I switched it up to thick (size 16) sheet metal screws, and sent one through the front-center and one through the rear-center.  The pan sealed right down and compressed the insulation.  Nice.  I tested the edges with a thin screwdriver, and I was unable to press past the insulation.  Problem seemingly solved.

I apologize for my lack of pictures.  The belly pan work was performed without the benefit of adequate light, so there were limited opportunities for taking pictures then either.  It looks like the drizzle has finally ended, so I'm going to head outside and address the turbo outlet that seems to loosen almost every time I drive the bus.  Once that's done, I just need to solve for the rear cabinet and protecting the electronics hidden underneath it.  Then, the bus will be ready for taking the family to the mountain regardless of the weather.

from 2011-2012 season a-top Palmer
Sister Hood
If you've read this blog long enough to have read entries from last Winter, you're already pretty well aware of my love of snow.  Season lift tickets went on sale a few weeks ago, and I outfitted the family with passes.  Of course, the kids keep growing, so 5 out of 6 of us got new boots (even me; mine were shot), and we spent last weekend at Next Adventure getting extra snow pants, a jacket or 2, etc.  As I write this, I'm starting to figure out where my month went... anyway, Boo and I took a test-flight to Timberline yesterday in my Jetta (bus may go next time).  T-line always has the glacier to slide on.  They call it the Palmer Snow Field; I call it the Palmer Ice Sheet, but either there was snow on Thursday, and it hadn't warmed above freezing since.  As we drove through Government Camp, all the trees had a light snow-dusting on them.  SkiBowl has a couple of inches and even Summit has some.
The road to Timberline was snow covered, but sanded.  We realized our chains were still in storage, so the slight drifts we experienced had us a little on edge.  Still, we made it to the parking lot unscathed.  It was cold.  I mean cold cold.  Almost 0*F cold.  And a wind.  Take the cold and the wind, add that you're suspended in a chair 30' above the ground (and above the tree-line) and finally add that this was out test-run and we both inevitably forgot something.  We couldn't stay very long.  We got 2 runs in and called it a successful test.

That's it for today.  I hope to have the bus winter-ready by ThxGiving so we can take the bus to Timberline for White Friday.  It would really make my season if I could bring my 2 favorite things together.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Renegade

In my last posting of the Summer, I mentioned this cool new non-aqueous (no solvent) cleansing unit.  I'm gonna flap about that today, but first a little flashback.

Worst Boss Ever
Carl's truck looked like this
We've all had some pretty bad bosses.  After a rough meeting last week, some of my peers were concerned about how my current boss was doing things.  Well, I tried to assure them that I've seen far worse and my skin was thick enough to take it.  It was recalling a boss I had when I was 19 and doing lawn maintenance for a living that helped them understand.  This boss, let's call him "Carl" was the biggest a-hole the small city of Albany NY could contain.  Carl didn't pay payroll taxes, or offer any benefits other than an envelope of cash at the end of the week.  He drove us around in his red dump-truck, hauling a trailer of equipment, and we would mow lawns or perform clean-ups where ever he stopped and pointed.  Grass clippings and other debris would go into the truck bed.  When the bed got full, he would dump it illegally in one of a small collection of spots he knew about (empty, no trespassing areas usually).  Now, put all that aside.

the Renegade
Carl was about 5'4" tall, thin as a rail, mostly bald and more ready to throw a punch than a drunken sailor on leave.  He knew our names, but chose to call us other things instead, mostly "lapper"' though none of us knew what that meant.  He yelled often.  He insulted more.  But beware the lapper who didn't do what he wanted the way he wanted in the time he wanted.  Some of my co-workers found themselves abandoned at a job site, having to find their own way home.  The worst, though, was when he got in your face and started really yelling at you.  He'd get all wound up, and then pull out his upper rack of false teeth.  Spittle flying out of his mouth, he would poke you in the chest with his false teeth.  One time, I remember him doing that because I had set the mower one 1/2 setting too high on a particular lawn.  Wow.  Worst boss ever.  I ultimately lost that job because I went on tour with the Dead for a week and he refused to pick me up again.  He did me quite a favor.

view of the washing attachments
MS, my real estate agent, has many jobs. One of them is as a dealer in this Renegade machine. The Renegade is a non-solvent cleanser. It has an integrated filter unit, and it re-circulates this biodegradable cleansing material so it is self-contained. The filter needs to be replaced occasionally, and the cleanser needs to be replaced every so often too. The waste cleaner is safe to go down a standard drain. Pretty neat. The power of this thing is pretty amazing. With the integrated scrubbers, heating unit and light, and the large wheels, it's mobile and can wash all kinds of different shapes and sizes. I had an oil leak and I was able to get many parts completely clean using the Renegade. I just wish it had a drain attachment so I could slide it under the bus and wash the engine. I cleaned all fasteners that I touched, my bumper mounts, even my bumper. Very cool.

That's it for today. I'll update the post tomorrow with some pictures of the Renegade. It really is an amazing bio-friendly cleaner.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Transition to the New Transmission

This should be brief today, but every time I say that it's long anyway. Hahaha... It's been a productive and fun few weeks, but I'll focus on bus stuff today, particularly on the test drives and changes I made.  Next time, I'll post on the current run of Furthur shows I hit this past weekend.  I think I left off with the transaxle in, but before any driving.  Let's start there...

Where's that Confounded Gear?
I figured when everything aligned on install that the shifting would be relatively close.  It was... Until it wasn't.  The initial drive away from MS's house was triumphant, but starting in second.  I couldn't find first.  Down the hill we went (Boo following in a chase car), and had to pull left onto a busy road at the bottom from a dead stop.  After fiddling a bit, I found 1st, moved through 2nd and 3rd to a cruising speed of 35mph at an engine speed in the mid 2000's.  Perfect.  The whole drive home followed a similar pattern of 1st gear going missing.  We hit a short stretch of freeway and I got up to 60mph on the entry ramp but near 3k on the tach, though.  I had some coolant leaking challenges that left the bus stationary while I thought on how to fix.

Wheeler Dealer
When I chose to watch something on tv that isn't sports or a movie, it's usually either Family Guy or this British show called Wheeler Dealers (on Velocity).  If you aren't familiar with the show, one host works the buy and sell end of the used car market while his partner fixes them up in between (Wiki Link).  It was while watching this show that I realized my mistakes with the cooling system.  They showed how they bled the air from the cooling system by getting the engine up to temperature, opening up the heater and then removing the cap from the overflow bottle.  The key is leaving the engine running during this process, and letting the air bubble up through the overflow bottle.  Keep adding coolant/water until it stops bubbling, and it stays at the full line.  After I did this, I stopped having coolant leak issues and odd pressurization happening.

Shift the Shifter
bubble wrapped 002 on my carpet
While I was solving the leak issue, I continued to test drive the bus, but the gear seeking got worse.  I decided that the limited-throw Skat shifter wasn't helping and it could actually have been harming the break-in of the transaxle. Fortunately, I'd only driven less than 20 miles, but I bought a replacement original gear shifter unit from Always VeeDub in Portland.  By following the instructions in the Bentley (hold the shifter between the seats near the floor and set the ball & pin first, then tilt the shifter upright while holding the base firm), the shifter set in within 15 minutes.  I was able to adjust the shift action somewhat, though I will need to do more.  Currently, I can find all gears consistently, though it does pop out of 2nd when I rev up and then pull my foot off the pedal.  When I get some time, I'll mess around with that some more.

Now, I have an old transaxle sitting in my living room, with a Scat short-throw shifter a-top it.  I'll probably sell the shifter, but I need to get rid of the transaxle.  It's a runnable gearbox, and a suitable rebuild candidate / core, so I should be able to find someone who can use it.  I have driven the bus to work every day this week, as well as to the Further shows in Troutdale all last weekend.  Lots of time grinning behind the wheel for sure.  That's it for today.  More next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Meeting Beaverton's Finest

I'll get to the bus test drives and such, but today I have to share a story from last night.

The Set Up
Boo has been working an unsustainable number of hours lately.  I like to complain about my schedule, but like I said in my last post, this is the most productive period of the year, so of course I'm working a lot.  Still, my hours pale in comparison to hers.  Beyond just working 7:AM past 7:PM during the week, she worked yesterday from 7:AM and didn't get home until almost 10:PM.  With a schedule like that, and a small condo full of people, we agreed to take a walk to de-pressurize.  I've mentioned before how I dropped an offer on a short sale house back in May.  This house is within a short walk of our condo, so we drive or walk by with some regularity just to make sure everything is okay with it.  Last night's walk was another one of those.

Since I placed the offer, the owners have moved away, leaving the house vacant.  Unfortunately, when they left, they weren't overly concerned with the state the house was in.  There's trash along the side and the yard and gardens have become wild.  It looks vacant.  Since the walk was too short to truly get the pressure off, we decided that we'd work off some stress by pulling weeds out of the driveway concrete.  This is where things turned a little weird.

Hello, the neighbors
We spent about 20 minutes pulling weeds and then pushed the results into a pile in the center of the drive.  there wasn't a yard debris barrel around, so we just left it there and set off back home.  As we stepped into the street, we could see first one flashlight and then a second approaching from 2 different directions on the street.  "Curious," I thought.  These flashlights accelerated towards us and behind them were 3 members of the Beaverton Police.  Apparently, they also are aware of the house being vacant.  So are the neighbors.  Our efforts to make the driveway a little less trashy attracted someone's attention, and they called the cops.  Nice.  While Boo explained to a female officer, I was talking to another, detailing our short-sale offer woes and our desire to not have the house become overly neglected before the paper-chase completes.  They accepted our story once I offered MS's contact info and they inspected the pile of weeds in the middle of the driveway. (queue a line from Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant about the tools and shovels and the garbage in the back of a red microbus).

So Much for Stress Relief
The flashlights snapped off, we turned to leave and the Beaverton police disappeared into the dark.  We started walking home while I shared tales of being shaken-down on a nearly bi-weekly basis while I lived in Las Vegas many years ago.  Boo would have none of it, completely overcome with the craziness of her work schedule and lamenting that we can't simply pull weeds out of a driveway without it going sideways.  I do have to admit, we're a long way from being neighborly.

Good Dude Deed Doers
In my youth, my friends and I would spot a car in the parking lot with their lights on and try to turn them off, calling ourselves the "Good Dude Deed Doers".  Nowadays, car alarms and theft paranoia prevent such a neighborly demonstration.  Instead, announcements across a PA system in a crowded mall are how car lights are resolved.  Nice and anonymous.  No community needed.  When I think about our weed-pulling, and how it was initially misinterpreted as potential property damage, I'm saddened.  Adding to that disappointment, the neighbor who saw us in the driveway chose to just call the cops rather than actually watch what we were doing.  Had s/he taken an extra 10 seconds, s/he would have seen we were simply pulling weeds.  A strange thing to do at 10 o'clock at night?  Yes, but certainly not harmful.  Ultimately, I'm grateful that my new neighbors keep watch on my soon-to-be new home, though.  The alternative of vagrants breaking in and camping there is far less appealing.

That's it for today.  I'll post some test drive thoughts next time.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Transaxle Transition

I heard once that the most productive time in the US is between Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day.  Something like 40% of all work is performed in this period.  When I think about it, it makes sense.  Come Thanksgiving, the holidaze kicks in.  Shopping, vacations, etc through NewYears.  Then, the Winter blues take hold, and sun-seeking vacation get-aways.  Not that I take those, mind you.  Then there's Spring Break, Spring fever and then end-of-school Summer break.  Family vacations end at Labor Day, school starts, so no one is taking vacation, etc.  With this in mind, my work load is peaking, so I've been too distracted to get back to the blog.

Transaxle Arrives
starter adapter on new
I've already mentioned the gearing, etc. in another posting, and that I got it from AA Transaxle in Seattle. Daryl shipped it in a basic cardboard box wrapped in bubblewrap.  Crazy, but simple.  Since I'm living in a condo without a garage, I was in a bit of a spot for doing the work.  Boo had a funny idea of doing the work in my real estate agent's (we'll call him MS) driveway as a motivation to get a house solution.  So... we asked and that's where I did the transaxle swap.  Since I packed my storage space thinking it was only going to be a couple months, finding my tools and the ATV jack adapter was a fun adventure but I was ready to go leading into Labor Day weekend.

Out with the Old
Dropping the engine has become a bit of a predictable system now.  Disconnect the coolant, fuel, and support the engine with the adapter/ATV jack.  Disconnect the axles, lower electrical, exhaust and intake (with intercooler).  Last disconnect the rear engine support and bellhousing support bolts.  Lower the engine and transaxle as a unit.  Once on the ground, I removed the starter and the other 3 bolts between the engine and the transaxle.  Separating the 2 components was simplified with a furniture dolly (covered with a tarp) under the transaxle and simply pulling on the front mount.  The input shaft slide off of the clutch.  I pulled the transaxle into MS's garage, cleaned up my workspace and called it a Saturday.

Prepping the New
'72 stud on left
'75 stud on right
The nose (front) mount on a '75 transaxle is not identical to the nose mount on a '72.  Fortunately, the mounts attach to the transaxle the same way: 2 bolt holes.  The '72 has longer studs, though, so if you do the swap, the studs need to be swapped with the mounts.  The new transaxle was completely redone, but came without a throw-out bearing.  I know the one that was on the original 002 was relatively new, but I put on a new one anyway.  It made a racket during the initial tests at first, but its nice and quiet now.  Getting the wire clips from the throw-out bearing onto the arm takes a little willingness to get after it, but its much easier if you put a longer crescent wrench onto the clutch activation arm and press the bearing hanger away from the depths of the bellhousing.  Attaching the starter and adapter were straight-forward. That old fast-forward adapter needed the custom detailing to fit the '75 002 as well (I did this before.  There's a post in the archives).  I replaced the radiator fan switch, but I haven't seen it actually work yet.  Too paranoid; I hit the manual switch first.

When mating a transaxle to the engine, it is important to remember one key thing: remove the mounting studs first.  In reading this, it seems obvious, but when you're removing things, its easy to overlook.  After some sweaty attempts to get the transaxle on (input shaft aligning with the clutch), and a beer in the shade, I remembered.  They were easy to back out and slide back in through the ears of the bellhousing easily too.  Once the studs were out, the input shaft slid easily into the clutch and with a little twist of the transaxle, the stud holes were aligned.  Minutes later, the transaxle was torqued down, the starter was wired and the deal was ready for re-install.  I took the opportunity to get the engine harness buttoned down right, and put a new c-clip on the temperature sensor.

In with the New
new throw-out bearing
on input shaft
Classic instructions: install is the reverse.  hahaha... it was that instruction for the control arm replacement in the library that started this blog all those years ago.  Raise the nose of the transaxle more aggressively than the engine.  The shifter needs to get over the rear beam.  If you planned ahead, and put the shifter cage on first, you'll appreciate it later.  I hadn't planned, and regretted it.  Once the shifter clears the beam, raise the engine with the ATV jack into place.  Test alignment with the bellhousing mounts, and when its aligned front-to-back, install the rear mounts.  Then install the nose mount, and then do the bellhousing mounts.  That takes a second to write, but many minutes to get done.  I packed the tranny-side of the CV joints, peanut-buttered grease into the valleys where the CV joints mount, and wrenched it together.  All the remaining electrical bits from underneath were all i had energy left for and I called it a Sunday.  Finish the job by reconnecting the coolant lines, fuel, electrical.  Install the intake and exhaust.  Fill with coolant and burp the system.
I've been having issues with that burping bit.  In fact, I spent Monday wrestling with coolant leak issues, and trying to get a replacement c-clip onto that coolant sensor again.  That thing has been killing me.  I think there's air trapped in my cooling system that's creating funky pressure issues and the weak point is the temp sensor.  So, that's where the coolant leaks out.

What to Do with the Old?
On Labor Day, I drove the bus home.  The coolant leak appeared to be resolved, and he drove unbelievably well.  The amount of pep even in the lower gears was fantastic.  We played it safe at first, taking city streets, but he was able to cruise at city speed limits in the low 2000's (RPM).  Just to see how he'd respond, I spun onto the freeway for one exit, and I got up to 55MPH on the onramp with RPM headroom.  Fantastic drive home.  Since then, I've returned my tools to storage, and I have the old transaxle... sitting on the floor of the bus.... making the bus smell like axle grease..  What to do with a viable 002 transaxle?  Sell it to a dune buggy guy?  Sell it to someone who wants a rebuild core?  Welcoming ideas.

Okay, so this was ridiculously long.  Once I add the pictures, this will be epic-long.  Sorry.  I could have done this over the course of multiple postings, but its been 2 weeks already anyway.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feel Like a Stranger

Its been almost a month, and so much has gone on.  I couldn't possibly cover everything in one post, so I won't try.  I will come back and post about the adventures the last month of Summer has presented, but just to wet your appetite... Ashland camping trip with local swimming holes, transaxle arrival and replacement, discovering a new aqueous-based (non solvent) cleansing unit, test driving, end-of-Summer at Oaks Park, school starting... So much to cover.  Since i haven't been around for a while, it seems appropriate that I start with the road trip to Ashland.

Gonna Be a Long Long Crazy Crazy Night
swimming hole upstream from
Lithia Park, Ashland OR
It seems like the amount of time you need to spend preparing for a trip is completely independent of the number of nights you'll be gone.  Instead, it increases exponentially by the number of persons under the age of 25.  Now, my early-20's readers may take offense to this, but just for a second consider how long it takes to get all your friends together and go somewhere.  Now, think about how fast you can get out of the house when you do it by yourself.  Going to the bar?  By yourself, it takes 5 minutes to find your keys, ID and hit the lights.  Add 2 friends and it takes 40 minutes to get everyone off the couch, finding the bottom of their warm-up drinks, through the inevitable restroom stop, etc.
Extend this simple bar example to a camping trip, and you have the recipe for a very long night prior to leaving.  In fact, the night got so long, we didn't even leave on the original departure date.  We left a day late.  Now, to be fair, this wasn't exclusively because we were shepherding 6 persons.  Boo had to work the first 1/2 of the departure day, so it was 1 on 4 getting the boys going.  It was a losing battle, but I tried.  Ultimately, Boo and I were getting the last of the stuff in the cars around 2:AM.  We left 5 hours later.

Out There on Neon Avenue
Evans Creek swimming hole
outside Rogue River OR
Since I didn't have the new transaxle done, we decided not to drive the bus to Ashland.  We could fit everyone, but a 52mph top speed for 8 hours of driving was more than I thought any of us could take.  Instead, Boo and I took K2 and C in my Jetta and K drove the SUV full of stuff with T (capital letter overload).  We stopped at a Jack in the Box in Eugene for breakfast and made Rogue River State Park by 11:30.  After changing our site from D32 (all-sun all-day) to D2 (almost all-shade all-day), we set up camp and spent the early afternoon lounging.  The boys, of course, couldn't take the slow pace while Boo and I were on 4 hours sleep and needed down time.  Turns out the river is now too dangerous to set foot in now that the dams have been removed.  Its an "attractive nuisance".  So, the boys took off to the town of Rogue River and found a local swimming hole on a creek tributary to the river.  Boo and I met them a couple hours later after stomping around the little downtown of Rogue River.

So Let's Get on with the Show
The purpose for the Southern Oregon trip was to visit with family from Austin and San Diego, and we met up with everyone the next day in Ashland.  We played in the hotel pool with cousins and then met for a big (50 people?) party to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday and my brother's father-in-law's 90th.  Family pieces clustered around Ashland that evening while others attended plays (its Shakespeare Festival afterall).  That became the recurring theme for the weekend; different assemblies of family gathering together at Lithia Park while others attended plays.  We campers usually arrived last, and didn't see any plays, but we had a great time connecting with folks we hadn't seen in a long time.

Inside You're Burnin, I Can See Clear Through
Myrtle Creek swimming hole
We left Rogue River State Park a day earlier than we'd planned.  When we arrived, they were in the middle of a heat wave (over 102* for the day-time high on arrival day), and even the overnight temperature didn't drop below 80* the entire time we were there.  Sleeping in that kind of heat is just very hard.  In the interests of having good sleep at least one night before returning to work, we left.  Before we got as far as Roseburg, though, we were itching to get off the road and have a snack.  Out the window we could see a lazy creek flowing way down below, so we grabbed the next exit, talked to some locals and found a swimming hole to while away the afternoon.

and the Wheels it's Smokin' around Midnight
We pulled around 8:30 and it was just getting dark.  With 4 boys helping, we had the cars unpacked, camping gear stowed and a huge pile of laundry and dirty dishes.  Boo and I started cleaning up and worked late after the boys went to bed.  I tired and crashed too, but Boo kept at it until everything was done.  It was a fun trip, highlighted by swimming in random spots all over Southern Oregon.

That's it for today.  I'll post back in a few days about the transaxle install, test drive, Oaks Park, etc. Now that school has started, there's just that much more going on.  More to post about, I guess.  Thanks again for following along, and if you get some time, check out my friend Ed's blog: Gr8tfulEd

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vanagon Seat Install

Today starts my vacation, yet I'm getting one last post in before I go.  I wanted to give an update on both the Vanagon loveseat as well as the transaxle.  I've kinda wasted the afternoon, so I'll probably keep this short.

Love Seat
what goes with green/blue plaid,
grey, white, and blue?
Why, TAN of course!
Ok, maybe calling it a loveseat is a bit much.  Its a tan 2-seater bench seat from a brown Vanagon.  Once installed, I'll have a '79 Westy folding bed seat, front seats from a '74 and a bench seat from a Vanagon.  It will be a true franken-bus.  Sue me.  I'll be able to carry 5 people (plus me driving), and camp once we get there.  Try that with a stock VW bus.  Anyway, on to the progress report.  In order to fit the bench, I had to pull the stove/sink unit.  That cabinet now adorns my living room floor, but it makes ample room for the loveseat.  Once I made space, I aligned the rails with the seat by aligning the seat mount holes with the mounts within the rails.  I then duct-taped them together and put the whole operation into the bus.  With some wriggling, I set the spot front-to-back by lowering the folding bed and putting the bench up against it.  My thinking was that I may want or need to carry something long while also carrying some folks.  I was able to carry my entertainment center on that folded down section before.  Now I'll be able to bring 3 friends to help me move it.  Last time, I could only bring 1 friend... and he wasn't exactly thrilled at that prospect.

rear left rail location
westy fridge cabinet in
upper right corner
I marked up the wood floor with pencil so I knew where to put the rails and then pulled the seat out again.  Remove the rails from the seat and set the rails back in place.  I then set to measuring all over the place so I was sure that any hole I drilled in the floor wouldn't hit the radiator, the supports, the main front-to-back beams, the brake lines, etc.  I managed to miss everything important on my first try.  Hazah!  I drilled out 6 holes to 3/8" and wrenched bolts through.  From the underside, I lock-washered and nutted the bolts down. Last, I re-inserted the seat the "normal" way by sliding the seat onto the mounted rails.  Done.  All told, it took a few hours, but I move slow.

Well, we're behind schedule a little bit on the transaxle.  The CM code transaxle used the early gear sets and Daryl only had the later sets on hand.  With one of his guys out sick (or following a band around the country), he was behind schedule anyway, so this just put us a few more days out.  Unfortunately, those few days are probably the diffeence between having the new transaxle in time for the trip to Southern Oregon and not.  So, the bus may not go.  We'll see.  If the transaxle arrives tomorrow, there's still time.  I need a few days to do the work (see: I move slow) and we leave in the middle of next week.  Sigh.  So close and yet not quite close enough.
right edge of seat & slider

That's it for today.  The next time we go for a spin, we can carry the whole family.  We'll just be travelling at a max speed of 52MPH for now.  More next time and thanks for following along.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

One Slammy of a Sammie

A few years back, I worked at one of those Internet startup companies.  I had a lofty title and a pile of worthless stock options.  My situation was pretty common in the computer business at the time.  As Wall Street started to figure out that most of these companies were glorified Ponzi-schemes, the one I worked for strove to stay open by moving out of our fancy downtown digs in the emerging "Pearl District" to a zoning experiment in Beaverton called "the Round".  Originally intended for condos, the 4 story building was virtually vacant a full year after completing the bones.  No one wanted to live there.  So, they dubbed it "office space", and we moved in.  Of course, it was still the days of perception, so lots of customization was done to the space including open stairways and the like.  Well, it was still an open sewer compared to our last location, with a junkyard out one window and an abandoned building out another.  When contrasted to the bustle of downtown hip Portland, I was less than impressed.  Driven to find something remarkable, I would foray out at lunch.  One of my greatest finds is the subject of today's post.

Beaverton Sub Station
Front Entrance of
Beaverton Sub Station
Situated against the train line that runs through the center of downtown old Beaverton, is perhaps the best sub shop in the greater Portland area.  Sure, there's Kornblats if you want specialty sandwiches, but for a pure sub-shop experience, there is none better than Beaverton Sub Shop.  Chuck, the owner and main behind-the-counter-operator, hails from Chicago.  From the Cubs hat to the quality of the meat, he's all-Chicago.  He has a thing for trains, and his decor reflects that interest and the rail-side location with pictures and artifacts from railroading.  Even the menu has a train-car metaphor.  6" sandwiches average around $5 and foot longs are around $10.  The rolls are huge.  The dressings remind me of the subs I used to get at the deli as a kid growing up in New York.  Very Yummy.  From the day I found them as an employee at an Internet startup thru today, I try to make the Beaverton Sub Station a regular stop.

Bus middle-seat Update
Yesterday, I drove over to Always VW and picked up some mounting rails for the middle-row seat I got in Eugene a few weeks ago.  Not knowing how they originally installed, I was glad to be there watching it get removed from the donor vehicle.  4 bolts hold the seat to the rails, 4 bolts hold the rails to the body.  Simple simple.  I'm assuming that the Vanagon has a set of nuts welded into the body, and I won't have that in the bus, so I'll need a buddy (or careful vice-grip use) to get the rails bolted in safely.  If I can suffer today's heat, I'll be removing the sink/stove unit and start looking at seat placement.  If things go well, maybe I'll have the seats in by the end of tomorrow.

Daryl at AA Transaxle in Seattle is just completing the transaxle rebuild.  I've had a few questions about what I'm doing for gearing, etc, so I'll lay that out here.  First, we started with a '75-only (CM code) transaxle.  It has a stock 4.86 final drive (ring & pinion) like the Vanagons do.  We're leaving 1st and 2nd gear alone. For 3rd, we are using an aftermarket, hardened 1.14 and we're pairing that with a .73 4th from the same company/family.  This combination should provide the right power (HP) to torque curve intersections.  I intend to run my stock 14" rims and rubber through the Summer.  If money appears, I'll slap some larger (in diameter) tires on the 15" rims I have in storage.  I may just wait for Winter and slap 15" snows on instead.  We'll see.  Regardless, the transaxle should appear this week, leaving me next weekend to get it installed if I'm going to run it down to Ashland for our family reunion.  It feels tight, but do-able.  I just need a place to do it, and to dig through my storage facility to get some specialized tools... like the ATV-jack adapter I built.

That's it for today.  Time to drink some coffee and get to pulling that sink/stove unit. I'll update with some pictures. Posting from an iPad doesn't seem to support uploading photos. Grr...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Enter Summer, exit posting

Yes, I'm alive. Like so many folks in the Pacific NorthWest, once Summer weather arrived, I stopped using the computer when I wasn't working, and got to playing. I do have some personal and bus updates, though, so I'll bang that out before pouring myself a welcome-to-weekend mojito.

just making a point...
As much as the news folks talk about how "bad" the real estate market is value-wise for sellers, it is very hard to find a good deal as a buyer. When I moved out of my townhouse apartment in mid-March, I started looking for a house, agent and mortgage lender and all. Within a month, I had an offer on a house, but between the banks holding the mortgages getting in the way, that house is still unsold. My offer expired, and I restarted it, but in the few days between, someone else got into the bank's radar system and they're in first position now. Apparently banks think serially, and can only address one offer at a time.  Fun. It's a good thing other businesses don't operate that way.  So, I offered on another house. And another. And another. All told, I've laid offers on 5 or 6 houses now. Most of them still haven't been sold and my offers just expired along the way. I think I just may get this last one, though. I put an offer on it in late May. Yes, that's right, late May. I have been extending and re-extending on this one.  I've been told that I might expect an acceptance of my offer by the end of next week, or early August.  I'll post a picture when that happens, so until then, here's a generic "Bank Owned" sign.  Yeah, like that's gonna get you to place an offer on it.  Prepare for weeks of no contact from the selling bank, and make your offer expiration date something you can live with, yet recognizing that the bank will not get it together within 60 days of you popping an offer on it.

So, how much of the real estate market / housing problem is being created banks who can't get it together? Had this been a normal deal, I would have gotten an accept, decline or counter-offer within a few days. By the bank adding in the 10 extra weeks, it looks like the houses are staying on the market an extra 70 days. That makes the market look falsely bad, like you can't sell a house because it's still dropping in value. The truth is, the market is coming back, based on what I'm seeing in terms of buyer traffic, but with the banks extending the process by literally months, it paints a different picture. One the news folks continue to hawk on the nightly's.

Microbus slightly too micro
note the overhang
I've been trying to figure out a way to fit 6 passengers into the bus, so we can take the whole family in one car. Boo and I toyed with the idea of buying something just for this reason, but cars are just too dang expensive. I said, "with a small fraction that money, we could get the bus to do it."  So, while Boo drove my TDI Jetta to Montana with her 2 boys, I drove her car to Eugene to get a free (yes, $0) middle-row Vanagon bench seat. When I got it home, I did what anyone would do: try to fit it. Fail. From the edge of the Westfalia sink/stove unit to the edge of the sliding door is 39". The width of the benchseat with the cushions scrunched is closer to 42" (see overhang picture on the right). Add on 3-4 inches for the arms, and it totally won't fit.... with the sink/stove unit in place. I intend to pull the sink/stove to fit the bench seat, and build a new cabinet that's just 16" deep (or 7" less deep than the Westy one). Then, the seat will fit, and when removed at a campsite (or ski resort parking lot), the cabinet can be usable. I will probably forgo the stove, and only do a splash sink with a wide counter where we could use a Coleman portable stove instead.

Microbus to get macro-speed
upper frame width pushes
lower frame away from cabinet
Last, I finally have arranged for a new transaxle from AA Tansaxle in Seattle. Daryl and I have figured out the details, and he will be starting the construction on Monday. If all goes well, it will be crated for shipping by the following Friday. Then, I'll just need to find a spot to drop the existing engine/transaxle, remove the old tranny, attached the new one and re-install. (note to self: get a new throw-out bearing just in case) Dropping the engine/transaxle isn't hard, but mating a new transaxle while leaving the engine under the bus may be. Remember how far over to the side I needed to tilt the undressed, un-oiled, no coolant engine to get it under the rear valence? I wouldn't want to try that with the fluids in, nor with all the other parts attached. Better to just separate and mate under the belly of the bus. Lots of muscling ahead, I'm sure. I'll post pictures, etc.

That's it for now. With Summer in full swing, I doubt I'll be online too much. I'll try to get better about it. I have a big road trip to Ashland planned, if all goes well, maybe the bus will go too....

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Light a cigarette, attract a bus

Most folks have heard of the old "Murphy's Law": that which could go wrong, will. I counter that with the Paulie Axiom: the moment at which you give up on something happening is the exact moment when it takes place. I've seen this play out often enough that it is more than coincidence. There's something in the ethos that triggers when you give up, or mourn the loss.

Early Morning U-Turn
Years ago, when I first moved to the Portland area, I got a 3rd floor walkup on NorthWest 22nd near the Good Samaritan Hospital. Neat old building. I got my first Portland job parking cars between SW Oak and Stark on 2nd. In the morning, I would walk the block or so to 21st and pick up the #17 bus downtown. On mornings when the bus was late, I would invariably give up on it and start walking. I wouldn't get more than a block down 21st before the headlights of the old #17 rounded the corner from further uptown and I'd turn around and quick-foot back to the stop. This happened frequently, but it took a few years of reflection to really note the pattern. On the days the bus didn't arrive, I just walked the 30 blocks to work.

Lost, Found by the Disinterested
Years earlier, when I still lived in upstate New York, I had spent the day in the park with my friends, playing footbag and listening to music on a boom-box. It was getting late, and the afternoon was turning to evening, so we started to get ready to leave. It was then that one of my friends discovered that he had lost his keys. We had been all over the park, so the probability of finding them, especially in the increasing dark, was very low. I said as much and (bad friend) didn't invest in the search. While the others crawled around on the ground, I just kinda wandered around, waiting for them to give up so we could go home. That was when I found his keys. By accepting that they would not be found, they presented themselves to me. The one who lost the keys was split between anger that I didn't actually look and relief that they'd been found. He resolved to relief, but I don't think he ever forgave me for not "really helping".

Light a Cigarette, Attract a Bus
Years after living in NW Portland, I was again dependent on Tri-Met. I was living on SE 22nd, working graveyard shifts in a produce warehouse while going to Portland State full time during the day. Crazy. I got a full sleep every other day, and took a 2 hour nap the other day. Anyway, unlike when I lived in NW Portland, I couldn't just walk to school. Since the buses running down the Mt. Tabor incline to the bridges over the Willamette run so often, any waiting is caused purely from them being full to capacity by the time they get below 26th. I found, though, that when you just gave up on a bus stopping anytime soon, and lit a smoke, a bus would appear. Too often, this happened just after lighting, so you had a spoiled cig without any of the satisfaction of having laid a drag onto it.

Over the years, this axiom has presented again and again. When I describe this phenomenon to folks, I am usually greeted with a story that demonstrates it. From giving up on finding a purse along an abandoned highway only to spot it in your headlights moments later to finally getting hold of someone on the phone to let you into a locked building just as someone else brushes past you to unlock the door, there is a strange phenomenon happening. It's the Paulie Axiom - the moment at which you give up on something happening is the exact moment when it takes place.
As I complete this atypical posting, my good friend Justin is celebrating his successful completion of his degree program. It took me 10 years from high school to university graduation, and Justin followed a more greatly challenged path. I'm sorry I can't be there in person to toast you, Justin. It may just be a piece of paper to some, but yours is a true measure of determination and courage. Sincerely, congratulations.

Thanks for following along. I'll return to my more typical rankings next time...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Can You See Me Now?

EDIT: the new Blogger removed this post for some reason.  Hopefully, it doesn't happen again.
Daily driving has surfaced a couple items.  I'll hit those today.  The coolant levels appear to have been resolved, though I expect it to return.  The bus continues to weep oil, but I can't tell from where.  I may just wash it off at one of those places where you can wash your car yourself (not a machine), and see if I can find the leak when it's clean.  If this doesn't get too long, I'll finish off the snow season.

Light It Up
original on left
new on right
I was having troubles with my rear lights, so I finally ordered new rear tail light housings a few weeks ago.  The original ones were really getting tired.  The connections were falling apart, the housings themselves were fractured, and he grounding back-plane was all rusted.  When I removed them, the passenger-side dual-filament bulb (brake & running light) was full of fog.  The reverse bulbs were either missing (p-side) or the wrong size.  They were held on with packing tape.  Yes, it was so ghetto, and most importantly, they didn't light reliably (not surprising, considering the condition).

The new ones cost around $50 each from  They don't come with backing nuts or washers, though, so if you buy a pair, you need 5mm washers and nuts from the hardware store.  That's inner diameter; an 8mm socket fits it.  Apparently, the rear left corner was damaged by a previous owner, so the new housing didn't fit exactly, but it fit close enough.  Thinking I had it all solved, I started testing things.  I had blinker problems on the left side and either the brake light or the running light on that side wouldn't work.  I found a bad ground as the cause for the blinker, but I couldn't find a cause for the funky lighting.  After a couple hours of head-scratching, I finally tested the bulb.  One of the filaments was bad.  Ha!  Just goes to show that even though you may be driving a 40 year old relic, you need to start your issue diagnosis the same way as a new car: check the fuse, then the bulb.  The left dual-filament tail light is still a little spotty from the bulb not locking in tightly.  The reverse lights still don't work (low voltage problem), so I'll be back in there eventually.  I'll think of something.
change wires one at a time

Floor It
I mentioned getting the accelerator bracket fixed a few weeks ago.  Its been great driving around with that much response.  The clutch, though, was getting less responsive.  The cable was new when I put it in, and I think it has finally set its broken-in length.  So, I slid under the bus and tightened the cable by 2.5 turns (5 180* turns).  Now, I don't need to mash my left foot all the way into the carpet or goose the throttle to get the gear to set.

Enter Summer

Boo and I hit Mt Hood for one last time on Mother's Day weekend.  A friend of ours has a cabin near Welches, and we stayed there Saturday night.  We hit Timberline after stopping for coffee's and headed to the top of Palmer.  The snow was surprisingly good down through the middle of the Magic Mile section where it turned really soft.  It was a day of highs and lows that way, though.  With the boys playing lacrosse, we feared it would be our last time up, and it turned out to be so.  We both took pretty major falls in the transition from firm to soft snow, and no one wants to leave hurt.  On the emotional high-side, the view and weather were incredible.  We could see 2 snow-capped peaks to the south: Jefferson and Bachelor from the top of the Palmer run.  The biggest emotional curve-ball, though, will wait for another day.  We'd love to get back on the snow again, and though Timberline continues to get snow, our season passes expired.  With a day-lift cost of $60 each, its not too likely we'll go.  But... one-run only lifts are $15 each for adults and $9 for kids and seniors with a Family 4-pack of $42 (2 adults, 2 kids).  Hmm...

The boys' school year ends this next week.  It seems crazy that Summer is already here.  Weren't we just sliding in the snow?  Where'd Spring go?  Well, here in the Pacific NorthWest, June is usually solid rain, so I'll get that reality set-in before the heat of Summer sets in.  Thanks for following along all these months (years, even), and I'll be back again soon..

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Did I Stutter?

As I expected from all this daily driving, a new issue would arise.  Today is all about that.

On the drive into work on May23 the engine suddenly shut itself off 3 times.  First as I was pulling onto Walker Road off the 217, again on driveway off Jenkins and last in the parking lot while I puttered looking for a spot.  Some quick research showed me that the main power relay (Relay 109) really sucks on these ALH TDI engines.  Apparently, folks buy them in bunches, and keep spares in their glove box just in case these things happen.  So, I ordered a couple from ($10 each plus shipping).  In my classic impatient way, I bought another one at Discount Import Parts (DIP) on the corner of Hall and Scholls Ferry Rd (Progress exit off 217).

Relay 109 Symptoms, but not 109
Thursday night, I tried swapping the relays, but the same effect happened.  Friday night, I tried some additional diagnosis with Boo listening while I tried starting / runing him.  As we talked about possible causes over breakfast this morning, she hit on it: it starts fine, but when you try to just run him, he dies.

Dang, it was me!
solenoid over zebra
striped rear of bus
I drove back to the bus this afternoon.  I grabbed one of the ignition relays that I put in to spook the ignition key action (see Inch by Inch) and headed for Radio Shack.  I got another relay there, but their supply of wire ends has turned to crap, so I hit O'Reilly's for wire ends (I got some heat-shrink too, but forgot electrical tape).  Back to the bus.  I started un-taping the wires from their respective ends and found 2 loose ones.  First, was the juice from the battery headed for the "run" relay.  Second was the connection between the 2 relay send signal wires and the one-way solenoid.  That one-way solenoid sends juice down to 2 of the 3 major spots, so this was a big deal.  Once these were repaired, the bus is road-worthy again.  I intend to return to the bus with the heat-shrink (and a lighter) and really seal up all of those connections.  With all the use the bus has been getting, it is crucial to have the wiring done for keeps.  This serves as a good reminder to myself: fab with the long term in mind.  Don't just do enough to get it to work.   Do it right enough so that it will last a while.  I put it that way because it is easy to over-engineer things for "lasting a lifetime", when you're just going to change your mind about things a few years from now.

Well, there's still daylight left, so I'm gonig to take a celebratory drive down the way to Taco del Mar to celebrate with a burrito.  As always, thanks for following along and more next time...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zoom zoom

It seems that I've been gone long enough for the blogger format to have changed.  Apologies to my regular readers for both my delay and for any weirdness caused by the new blogger interface.  It'll be a basic update today, just touching on bus stuff.

Daily Driving
The ol' bus and I have been a tight-pair the last few weeks.  I've been driving him to work and back pretty much every day.  I've noticed a few things that are curious, but not necessarily alarming.  First, the coolant level continues to drop, but I can't spot a leak.  Also, the pressure (or is it vacuum?) build-up is so pure and strong that after a drive the coolant bottle is nearly empty.  When I remove the cap of the fill-bottle, coolant splashes back in all the way to the full line.  Crazy.  So, I hear the low-coolant alarm in the donor dash, but it doesn't necessarily mean I'm low on coolant... I really over-filled the bottle this morning.  I'll post what happens.
Second, there's an oil leak.  I don't know where it is, but the bus definitely leaves his mark when I park him. I think the oil line to or from the turbo could be it, or its the oil cooler or maybe the underside of the oil filter housing.  Regardless, I'll find a dry day next weekend and tighten everything.  I was just under there last weekend re-tightening all the coolant line hose clamps.  There's always something, but that's part of owning a 40 year old car.

Acceleration Interruption
fixed and re-installing
On the way home from work on Friday May 11th, I had a breakdown in the left-hand progress (not turn) lane during rush-hour.  The accelerator suddenly dropped to the floor and I was rolling without throttle control.  The RPM's dropped to 900, so I quickly scanned the traffic on Hall Blvd (in Beaverton).  I was unable to slide right, so I took a left turn into an apartment complex parking lot through the oncoming traffic.  Sketch.  I removed the front belly pan and discovered that my hack-awful welding job on the accelerator resistor bracket (see Accelerating Slowly) had failed.  Dandy.  With my welder deep in storage, getting this fixed could have been a real time killer.  Fortunately, Boo has a local mechanic guy (Johnny) who can do small welding repairs, so I asked him to do it.  Less than an hour (and only $15) after I gave it to him, the weld was done and the whole thing was painted.  I can''t find a business name for Johnny's garage, but the location is (9085 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Highway, Beaverton, Oregon).  Great guy.  Talk your ear-off, if you let him, but he'll fix your car for a fair price.

Since I've neglected the blog a bit, I'll post again in a couple of days covering snow and personal experiences.... and, of course, another bus conundrum. :)  As always, thanks for following along, and another apology for my blog negligence.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Natural-born Amusement

More fun tales from the last 2 weeks.  Its been busy, and the bus is back home and daily-driving again.  The joy of looking out the windscreen of a bus is unlike anything else.  Even when looking at a dreary gray morning through barely caffeinated eyes, it brings deep deep joy. 

Big Ol' Rounder in my Foldin Bed
First things first, I'm fully moved into Boo's place.  My boys and her boys have really gelled, and the few nights a week when we're all home are rowdy and fun.  Its a little crazy come bed-time, though.  the place is small, and wasn't really built for 6 people to sleep in, so its a little crowded.  Between a loft space and a bunk bed, though, everyone has a spot.  Add one more, though, and we'd need a cot in the hallway.

Man Comes By Lookin' For His Hat
One of the challenges of temporarily staying somewhere, is finding your stuff.  Most of my things are in storage, but there are some regular things that need to find homes.  From bills to car keys, basic processes have had to change around from when I had my own place.  A month into it and we're down to the last few things that need a system.  This included where to park and how to best make use of the bus.  For the last 3 weeks, I had been parking the bus at various locations near my old apartment.  I'd move him from one spot to another or from one parking lot to another every other day.  This kept the towing companies away, but it was annoying.  At least the engine was getting started, but it wasn't really even getting warm.  But, it was the system until yesterday.

On the Road Again
Yesterday, Boo grabbed the keys and dashed over to where we'd last parked him: her friend's apartment complex parking lot.  She had never driven him before, but she's driven a bus before.  She got him home and the report wasn't completely rosey: "its hard. I couldn't find 1st or 2nd consistently. He played Alpha (male) on me."  Yeah... that transaxle has been a beast since I bought him.  I know a new one is in order, its just a question of finding $1500 - $1800 plus a core charge.  Regardless, she got him home.  Now, I'll be driving him to work, she'll be driving the Jetta and her 16 year old (K) will be driving her old car.  This leaves an old Mountaineer out of the rotation and back at the stable.  Since it gets about 8mpg, this should save us some money, longer term.  Since the HOA rules for teh condo-complex forbid any work being done on the bus while parked in the lot, I'll be parking on the street for those days when I want to work on something... like fixing the shift linkage... or the cabin lights... :)

Natural-Born Amusement
It felt great to wind-up the bus this morning.  He's as peppy as only the TDI could allow, and I only had a can't-find-the-gear moment once, while trying to down-shift into second as I passed through a busy intersection.  No worries.  As he gets used to being driven, the gears get easier to find.  And there's always that promise of a new gearbox with hopped up gears...  He didn't even get to thermostat-open temp (185*) before I got to work, so I'll have to take longer drives to prove out his real road-readiness.  Camping season approaches!

That's it for today.  Thanks for following along.  Now that I'm driving him every day, I expect to have more relevant adventures to document.  Besides that, camping season is coming, and there are things I'd like to have ready for this Summer of fun.  It should be a fun Spring!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

... and a Stella at the Stube

Today is all about weather, sliding and moving my bus around.  No new work, but I have a couple of codes to chase down.

Spring has Sprung
It is definitely Spring in the Pacific NorthWest.  The temperature has risen into the 50's(F) during the day and we're enjoying that donut-hole of dry weather in the middle of our typical wet season.  If you don't live here, the rumors of our rains are generally true.  The "spring" rains start in February and continue nearly unabated until Independence Day.  There is one exception to this: April.  Since I moved here 20 years ago, a hole in the wet season has appeared covering most of the month of April.  Last week we entered April, and the hole hasn't been as pronounced as other years.  Since Spring Break has ended, and the kids are all back at school, it seems yet another creul joke has been played upon them: Rain for the week they're out of school and the second week back it's in the 60's(F) and dry.

T Birthday? T-line
It was T's birthday early last week, so Boo and I took the whole brood of bears up to Timberline on Sunday as an early celebration.  The conditions were really good.  By this time of year, you start expecting Spring (a euphemism for bad) conditions: slushy, bare patches and generally slow.  Timberline, however, had very good conditions, especially further up the mountain on Magic Mile.  The snow was powdery and there was hardly any wind.  The rest of the mountain was okay, but there were slow spots.  The bigger boys played on the terrain parks, and had great things to say about the jumps.  Across the resort, though, the place was not busy.

... and a Stella at the Stube
riding Pucci lift
Yesterday, neither Boo nor I had our boys, so we took a late run up to the mountain for some afternoon snow.  Unlike the week prior, Magic Mile was the worst snow of the day: heavy winds made getting off the lift almost dangerous.  The granular snow wasn't much fun for sliding either, but it was fast!  We spent most of our time working the slopes feeding into the Jeff Flood and Pucci lifts.  There was a new half-pipe at the top of Pucci that we didn't see until it was our last run, unfortunately, but that will bring us back next week.  Timberline closed the mountain at 4, but we'd only had a few hours of snow-time, so we packed up and drove the 20 minutes to SkiBowl.
Rather than jump right into any "should we slide" decisions, we hit Beer Stube and grabbed a couple Stella's.  We watched fellow snow-lovers work their way down the lower bowl face and the rail-riders in "Jesse' Flight" terrain park from our window seats.  One beer later, and we decided we'd take a couple runs.  We did Random on the Upper Bowl face and discovered a new large jump terrain park at the end of Dog Leg.  I tried the first jump, had bad body position on my board and landed flat on my back.  I finished the run and took 2 more, wanting to conquer the jumps.  Ultimately, those really large jumps are more that I should be starting with.

TDI Codes
So, with all the fun snow out of the way, I mentioned the shift linkage in my last post.  The linkage is still held together with a zip-tie.  I'm only driving the bus around 200' every other day lately, though, so it isn't a big deal.  I'll explain the 200' thing another day.  Today, let's hit the Check Engine Light (CEL) codes that are being thrown by the computer.
First, I'm getting a P1403 which decodes to "Exhaust Gas Recirculation System 17-00 Control Difference Readiness: N/A".  Since I blocked off my EGR system (its a '72, so no smog test, the EGR clogs the intake with goop and I run B10, so my emissions are still better than the old '72 engine was), this code should be expected.  I can get a computer modification (aka tune) that deletes the EGR, but that's money, or I can ignore it.
Second, I'm getting a P0380 which decodes to "Glow Plug/heater Malfunction".  Yeah, I've seen this one before.  Either the glow-plug harness has become unwired again or some other wire bit has broken free.  Regardless, neither are a big deal, especially as Spring approaches and glow plugs aren't really going to be useful for a while.

Friday, April 6, 2012

When in doubt, over-estimate

In my last post, I thought that I'd be finishing the apartment move that day.  Well, I was wrong.  Again.  So, today, I will remind myself how important it is to be fair to both myself and whatever project I am working on and over-estimate the effort.

On Saturday, I did move a bunch of stuff: an extra bed from one friend's place to another's and everything I could carry down to the garage from the upper levels.  The big things I mentioned in that last post were moved... on Sunday.  And, I loaded the bus a few times on both days.  Sunday ended with me loading the bus to the gills with stuff, but running out of time to get to the storage place before they closed.

Tax Man Snow Therapy
Mt Hood at Sunset
from atop SkiBowl
Monday, I had to pay the piper, and have my taxes done.  As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I divorced last fiscal year, but with my withholdings not adjusted until mid-year, I hadn't had enough pulled out.  So, I owe a big chunk o' change to Uncle Sam.  Grr..  My tax preparer is in Gresham, and I kinda knew it was gonna be bad.  So, I prepared for the worst by loading my snow gear into my car before heading East.  Once I saw the amount due, I knew snow therapy was in order.  On the side, here, is a picture I took from the top of the upper bowl at SkiBowl before taking the plunge down "Radical".... my first run down a black on the upper bowl face.  The snow was crusty on top, requiring jump-turns rather than edge-to-edge transitions, but it was fun.  Ultimately, I slid on different trails for about 2 1/2 hours and then drove home.  It didn't reduce the bill, but it sure got me "right" with it.  My advice to a reader who may be heading for divorce: change your withholdings early and over-estimate your potential tax burden.

One Screw Short of a Linkage
linkage drawing
courtesy of Bus-Boys
On Sunday, the shift linkage failed on the way out of the storage facility.  It was the only run my brother went on, and the first time he rode in the bus since the drive to Furthur.  So, I'm not saying he's a jinx, but everything was fine, until.. :)  At the front (FIF) of the 002 transaxle, a rod sticks out.  On the end of the rod is a small square cage-looking thing (see picture) that is attached with a screw (part "R"), which is then wired in place.  This cage mates with the linkage running back from the front of the bus in a true VW way.  The cage has a plastic block on either side.  Each plastic block has a round hole in the center of it.  Through this hole, a metal sleeve is threaded, and through a round hole in the rear-end of the main linkage.  This sleeve handles the stress of the shift manipulation, resisted by the transaxle through those plastic blocks.  The sleeve has these indentations which act like a nut so when a screw so threaded through, it is held together.

On Sunday, it became un-screwed.  Or should I say, the screw worked its way free at some point and the sleeve broke-free, dropping one of the plastic blocks on the ground and making shifting impossible.  The screw was no where to be found.  My brother and I were able to find both plastic blocks and the sleeve though.  In rooting through the rock'n'roll bed, I found a zip-tie.  I mashed the plastic blocks and sleeve together in the linkage and threaded the zip-tie through the sleeve.  Zip-zip, we have linkage.  I've driven the bus this way a few times (to storage and back), and its worked fine.  I intend to find a bolt and lock-nut so it can't work its way apart again.  Again: over-estimate your bus' ability to work parts free and make use of lock-tite and locking washers and nuts.

Okay, so that was pretty long.  I guess its been a busy week.  On top of all that, there's work issues, I'm looking at places to live more permanently and continuing to move stuff.  The moving is about done, and the apt gets cleaned next.  This time, I'll estimate the effort to take the better part of a day rather than assume a couple of hours :-D

Thanks for following along...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Moving and Moving

Has it really been a month since I last posted?  Apparently so.  Its been a hectic March, so I apologize for the radio silence.  Its still crazy, so this will be brief, but should get you all caught up too.  Lots of work stuff has been going on, but I won't bore you with those details.  Let's just say I've been at work a lot.

First, my landlord chose to increase my rent by $80/month when my lease renew was up.  Seeing how my income is year-based, there's little I can do to bridge that gap other than cut spending elsewhere.  I'm already kinda near the bone spending-wise, so I decided to counter their proposal with a move-out.  This is where things get a little interesting.  I thought I had until the end of April, but it turns out the lease was through the 11th, so I had to get crackin' on finding another place to live, packing up stuff, and moving.  I have all that resolved temporarily, but I'm still vacating the old apartment.  In fact, I've used the bus for a large bulk of the transportation.

Water tight?
In my last post, I talked about getting the little clip on from the bottom to get the cooling system to seal.  That was the ticket, it turns out.  After multiple trips over the last week or so, he hasn't dripped a drop of water.  Oil, on the other hand, he continues to spread in little drips.  I'll solve that later.  Before I could really use the bus to help haul stuff, I had to make sure he was water-ready.  For those of you not in the US Pacific NorthWest, you may not know just how wet it is here right now.  We have had rain almost every day since my last post.  With standing and moving water on the streets, parking lots and just about everywhere else, I needed to be sure the bus could keep going if I hit some.

So, the weekend I gave notice, I slid under the bus and did some less-than-permanent adjustments to some wiring.  The radiator fan related wires all trigger off of a relay.  That relay is now wrapped in plastic wrap.  I know, that sounds positively awful, but it works, and the relay has stayed dry through this weather.

Next, I removed the belly pan from under the cab.  After a good cleaning, I covered the inside with vibration noise reducing sheets.  This should reduce a little road noise as well as seal off the small drain hole.  I then caulked the front and sides of the pan and re-attached it.  I know that if I hit a big enough puddle, water could come over the top of the support members, but that's a problem to be solved later too.  For now, I'll avoid large puddles at speed.  I didn't seal the back, thinking that any little bit of water that got in would need a way out.  So far, the caulk and hole patch work very well: electronic accelerator and brake pedal switch have been working perfectly.

And Moving
After the minor water-proofish modifications, the bus was ready.  I have driven him to and from a storage facility as well as to/from another apartment nearly every day for the last 2 weeks.  He has started right up, driven with pep and carried every burden I put inside without issue.  I have 2 or three large items left and then the usual debris that needs to be resolved, but my move is about complete.  The bus has been a great way to move in a steady downpour, keeping my stuff dry without tarps.

I need to figure out how I can park both my daily driver and the bus at the new place, though.  Unlike the old place, I don't have a 2-car garage.  So, I'll annoy my neighbors for a while as I resolve this.  As I mentioned earlier, this is a temporary housing solution, so I'll be moving again pretty soon.

That's it for today.  I've avoided my moving tasks for long enough this morning, and need to get back at it.  Today, I'll be completing the packing of the garage, and moving those big items I mentioned.  That will leave the final sweep for stuff, a trash run and then the final cleaning.  Moving is such fun...