Friday, May 30, 2014

HHH Day 1 band review

Boo and I camped the 9th annual Horning's Hideout Hootenanny over Memorial Day weekend.  We had a blast (see So Starts Camping Season 2014).  Here's our review of the 6 bands who played on Saturday.

Left Coast Country
As their name implies, these guys have some country flair, but it felt more folk/bluegrass than country.  The 4 main guys (dobro, bass, mandolin and violin) were well connected musically, standing in a tight circle just wailing away.  On the outside, both musically and physically, stood their departing guitarist.  He had a rockabilly thing happening that ran counter to the rest of their work.  The bass-man was described as the "knife and fork", probably because he was the time-keeper, the one who counted everyone in, and sang a bunch.  He even took a solo.  The mandolin player (Boo and I named "Red" for his big red beard) sang high, and brought the emotion or passion for everyone.  We greatly enjoyed the dobro player's vocal tone (butter) and hope that in the vacuum of the departing guitarist, he'll sing more songs.  As they finished their set, Boo and I agreed that Left Coast Country will probably be better without the guitarist, but they were a very strong start to the day.

HCH @Hootenanny
Hot Club of Hawthorne
HCH is a kind of old timey big-band jazz sound.  They had many instruments and they played them very well, but they didn't have the passion for the material.  While the guitarist / centerman (Jeffree White) played well, I think his being seated constricted his vocal range because he fell flat on some of the higher notes.  Overall, they were enjoyable, but not a group I would seek out.  If they're playing somewhere I was already going, though, I'd still go.

Wood Knot
Wood Knot @Hootenanny
Wood Knot had passion where HCH had skills.  These guys came out with their pants on fire and ran around on stage for 2 hours.  Having played on a festival stage before, I know the adrenaline surge that hits when you start playing.  If you aren't careful, you can burn yourself out.  Wood Knot played up against (and sometimes over) that line throughout their set.  Their songs were interesting, well chosen and lively, though the execution was kind of sloppy.  We both noticed the guitarist on stage right (grey hat in left edge of the picture) probably shouldn't play solos, or maybe at all, but who are we to judge?  Also, some songs just petered out or just stopped as if they were trying to figure out how to end the song as they were going, lost interest before the end and then started something else.  No, they were not segues.  With some practice, Wood Knot could be a really fun band to see.

Yur Daddy
Yur Daddy @Hootenanny
I admit that I braced myself for these guys.  Their name is un-impressive, drawing a pronounced eye-roll.  They were all wearing bandannas on their heads, as were the fans they brought.  Running against that headwind, they converted me.  They were great.  The keyboardist played the best electric piano of the weekend by far, and he was a guest artist for the day.  Wow.  They self-identify as reggae, but its more like a blending of ska and dance.  Definitely fun.  My only criticism would be in their set construction.  They jumped styles and tempos from song to song so much, it was hard to get a good flow going.  Just by rearranging their material, they could create an energy that slowly builds and falls, pulling the crowd in.  I'll definitely see Yur Daddy again.  They stayed all weekend, and partied in the bowl, even sharing a bottle of whisky with us.

Blue Lotus
As much as I was not looking forward to Yur Daddy, I was anticipating Blue Lotus.  Voted "best new band" by the Wow Hall in Eugene, these guys were headlining the first night of the festival.  The lead singer had a vocal tone and manner like Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders).  They stayed all weekend too, and generated a great vibe both on and off stage. Blue Lotus was a jam band, but they were almost too clean.  If we could take the songs and passion from Wood Knot and apply Blue Lotus' skill and polish, you'd have the next great band out of the North West.  After 45 minutes, I was checking my watch, which was not at all what I expected.  I don't think I'll go see them again, but if they're playing another festival, I'll give them another shot.  Frankly, I was hoping for something a little more raw and unscripted from a jam band.  Maybe I went in with my expectations too high.

the Hillwilliams
After Blue Lotus, the main stage was shut down for the night and a 10' by 20' canopy hosted the Hillwilliams and about 30 people.  Boo and I were among the 30 who fit under the canopy, but there were another 30 or more crowded around the bonfire outside.  More wandered the Shakedown Street scene running along outside.  These guys were a ton of fun.  The lead mandolin player knew how to work the crowd and keep everyone engaged.  By the 4th song, everyone knew guitarist "Daniel" by name, and would hoop and holler when he stepped up to solo.  He brought a sweet vocal tone too, making a nice contrast to the more gruff-voiced mandolin-man.  We enjoyed some nice banjo and sweet violin throughout.  Midway, we were treated to some guest guitar work by the lead man from HCH (Jeffree White).  We'll definitely check these guys out again soon.  They were just too much fun, making the canopy crowd a very intimate scene.

That was it for day one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

So Starts Camping Season 2014

Hapy Memorial Day.  I just got back from a weekend of camping, music and relaxing.  Today's post covers that.

Starting Again
middle row seat = camp couch
It seems like every Spring-Summer, I troll back through this blog to see if I posted a list of stuff to bring camping.  Every year, I'm disappointed that I didn't create such a list.  I have one now... on paper, that I'll try to remember to post.  We knew that where we were going, once we were in, we couldn't leave, but our tickets and camping spot were paid for.  Also, we had almost no money and the only things we could buy while we were there would require cash.  So, with the added pressure, Boo and I set off to plan for a weekend with Hapy.  She's quite experienced with car-camping, so between us, we remembered just about everything.  In the end, we didn't want for anything, and we didn't spend a cent.  We did find that we were the only bay-window bus there, and we spotted 3 Vanagons, including one tin-top.  Hopefully, one of my fellow bus driver/readers will feel inspired to join us next year.

To and Fro
Horning's Hideout
The drive was incredibly easy.  I checked the fuel log and concluded that we didn't need fuel for our round trip.  So, we fired up Hapy and nosed West to Horning's Hideout (North Plains, OR).  He purred the whole way.  Between the spring dampeners, removing the window screens and all the equipment we were carrying, he made almost no noise.  The only racket came from the belly pan when we got near 60mph on the freeway.  The ride home was equally uneventful, enjoying the views out the window, and the music from an iPhone.  The driver's seat belt is becoming problematic.  I may have to break out the wallet and buy a new retractable set, replacing the recycled-from-a-Mercedes set I installed a few years ago.

Horning's Hideout
I hadn't been to Horning's Hideout in probably ten years.  The last time was for the McMenamin's company picnic where a band I was playing with had a spot on one of the smaller stages.  That stage wasn't even there anymore, and you couldn't really tell where it used to be.  I was able to find about where it was based on my memory of the view.  Horning's has had trouble keeping music because of neighbor complaints and unruly patrons.  We were especially grateful that they allowed this multi-band multi-day event take place.  The Hideout hosts a stocked fishing pond and multiple 18 hole disc golf courses.  Our focus was the main stage where 10 bands played over two days.  I'll review the bands in another post.  For now, I'll just focus on the event.

view from main stage
The Horning's Hideout Hootenanny was the brain-child of Scott McKay over ten years ago.  It started as a birthday party for him, and it's gotten bigger every year.  As Boo and I were saying our "thank you" and "good-bye", he described this year's event as the fulfillment of that dream.  It has been so successful, he's not sure how to move forward.  To grow anymore will require infrastructure, and more staff, probably more rules, and greater restrictions.  Facing that future, he posed that if he didn't do it, 100 people would probably show up anyway.  With the highest turnout ever, I think it also resulted in Scott's least sleep ever and shortest amount of free time to see bands ever as well.  For such a giving guy, it's truly a shame that he wasn't really able to enjoy the beautiful scene he created.  There were craft vendors, multiple food options (including coffee/espresso and smoothies), and even a pot-luck supper on Saturday.  He had the 10 staged bands, but there were pick-up jams happening in the upper camp zone all the time.  There was a 2-day disc golf tournament with prizes down to 10th place in multiple divisions.

I hope Scottie chooses to host this again next year.  Boo and I suggested a few ways to make it work, and he already had a few ideas of his own.  I think we will start with volunteering to help out however we can.  If we can get each attendee to do just one hour of effort for the greater good over the course of the weekend, we can keep the load at a manageable level.  Maybe then, Scott can see some of the bands he booked and not have that 100-mile stare from no sleep and managing chaos all weekend.

This has already gotten long, but I wanted to touch on how the bus handled camping after a Winter of improvements.  The new deep-cycle battery and supporting electrical systems worked almost perfectly.  The dome light, kitchen lights, and the 12V outlet by the slider door were flawless.  We strung up a set of 12V lights around the awning/canopy for night-time lighting, creating a nice mellow vibe.  The awning hadn't been used in years, and I'd lost the old rain-gutter mounts.  Instead, I used 2 vice-grips to hold the bus-side edge to the top of the pop-top scissor supports.  It ended up higher, and better, than before.  At a stop at Goodwill last weekend, I got a 4' square indoor-outdoor rubber-backed rug for outside the bus door.  I also bought a bolt of 2-tone blue fabric at the same Goodwill stop.  Between bands, Boo cut the material into thirds, creating 3 rectangular strips that perfectly covered the jalousie windows, the front windows and the windscreen.  It was so dark, we slept until 10 on Sunday morning; unheard of in the bus.  Last, we nabbed a full-size bed memory-foam from home, and used that on top of the stock cushions on the rock-n-roll bed.  Sleep was amazing.

That's it for today.  As I mentioned above, I reviewed the bands separately; see these links for day One and Two.  It was a fantastic weekend. Hapy drove flawlessly, the company was spectacular and the energy of the whole event was deliciously mellow.  More next time-

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Whatcha Hiding?

I realized that I hadn't posted about the screens I have been working on, or at least I can't find a post where I did.  So, I'll get remedial and cover that today.

In the later year campers, there is a closet blocking most of the left-rear window (on the driver's side, but all the way to the rear).  The driver couldn't see out this window anyway, so it doesn't create a blind spot.  I thought it would be neat to create a few screens to put over the window since the only thing a passing motorist would see otherwise is the backside of a closet.  When I built the ski rack (see Rack 'em, Snow Bum), I realized that I needed a screen if for no other reason to hide the equipment.
snow-themed screen lying on my garage floor
In the interests of spending no money, I went digging through my supplies.  I found the ceiling panel from the donor bus from which I got the Riviera Top.  It didn't fit my bus, and I didn't need it anyway, so I didn't bother with it.  Some careful measuring later, and I had 3 equal-sized screens that each completely blocked the rear window.  I set them on top of one another, and drilled mounting holes through so they would all mount the same.  Last, I held one against the inside of the window and marked drill holes in the steel.  A few minutes with the drill later and I had 3 interchangeable screens.

work in progress. top screen is the "Furthur" one
bottom screen was 1st draft layout
I base coated 2 of the screens with the same bright white that I painted the front bumper (see Front Bumper  part 4), thinking I'd use them as a landing zone for themes of stickers.  I hadn't really thought about what all of the themes would be, but I figured I'd have at least the one about snow.  For that one, I drew mountains based on pictures of various resorts around the Pacific NorthWest (the top picture).  Whatever stickers I had, or acquired, for snow would go on that screen.  I used the other white one first, just to block out the sun last Fall when I went to Eugene to see Furthur (see A Tale of Two Trips).  I just taped a picture and some inspiring words on there as a placeholder.  This Saturday, I completed my vision for a screen dedicated to music and music festivals: completely covered with images of ticket stubs plus the VW-your-face that was on the original screen when we went to Furthur.  I don't yet have a plan for that last screen.  Maybe, I'll use that as a spot for stickers, pictures, etc dedicated to camping, for those trips we take that aren't music-venue focused.

installed screen viewed from the outside.
That's it for today.  I've been driving the bus to work lately.  With the mufflers on the pop-top springs (see Spring Sprang Sprung), its conversationally quiet at idle.  With the window rebuilt (see Jalousie Window rebuild), its quiet enough to have an "outdoor volume" conversation while driving.  Its pretty fantastic.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flash Panzer Plated

I had an unexpected gift this past weekend.  My wife, Boo, took a brief trip to the OR coast with a girlfriend, so I had Saturday to myself.  It being NHL playoff season, I caught 4 games, of course, but I also finally addressed the old Jetta, Flash, with a long-awaited Panzer plate.  I'll give a run-down on that today.

Panzer Plate?
Evolution plate
So, what's a Panzer Plate?  In the early 2000's, VW engineered a very tall diesel engine to tuck under the bonnet of the Jetta IV, Passat and New Beetle.  I say "very tall", but its really relative to the available height between the underside of the bonnet and the ground.  From the factory, the underside of the engine was shielded from the ground by a thin sheet of padded plastic.  This kept dirt and small gravel from getting up under the hood and into the engine bay, but did little to protect the engine from rocks, manhole covers and any other kind of road-borne debris that we regularly encounter.  The most exposed part of the engine, down below the front beam, is the oil pan.  Many engines have given their lives to road hazards because the hazard popped a hole in the pan and all the oil ran out before the driver knew anything was wrong.  There are aftermarket oil pans to help address this, but they don't act like a skid-plate defraying the impact along.  They are designed as a hard-edge that is simply strong enough to take a frontal impact.  I'm not convinced they can withstand the same abuse that a skid-plate can.  If they did, off-roaders would do that instead of installing skid-plates.

Which One?
full metal jacket Panzer Plate
There are at least 2 skid plates available on the market, one from Evolution and one from DieselGeek.  I've heard there's a VW one made of steel, but I've never seen one.  I tried to find one via an on-line vendor, but it wasn't nearly as clear what I was looking for as, say, a rear tail light.  If VW makes one, why wasn't it part of the car in the first place?  Or, why wasn't it part of a recall once they realized it was necessary to save your engine?  Last, why are they so hard to find?  Sigh.  Anyway, I read a little about the Evolution, and it seemed as good as the Dieselgeek one except for issues stemming from the way the oil-drain hole was engineered.  There was some feedback about the support around that hole actually causing a puncture in the oil pan.  Yikes.  While that played in my mind, the need for the "full metal jacket" available from Dieselgeek was a real decider.  I had long lost the padded plastic shield and the side supports went with it.  All-in, I paid around $380.  That's painful, but killing the engine would have been 10x that cost.

It was so easy.  I read the printed instructions while watching hockey Friday night and they didn't make any sense.  Re-reading with a beer didn't help, so I just pulled out the parts and made sure I had everything in the parts list.  Check.  Saturday morning, with KBOO's bluegrass show playing in the background, I drove up on the ramps and took my college try.  Once you get under the car, the instructions make sense, everything is where they describe them to be, and it all fits right together.  Even the RivNut installations were easy.  It took me less than 3 hours to get the thin aluminum sides in, the front mounting posts in and the Panzer plate on.  Before KBOO switched over from bluegrass to the Grateful Dead & Friends show, I was done.  Shazam!

Unrelated, I drove the bus to work today.  So nice sitting behind his steering wheel :)
More next time-

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hanging Cards

Today, I'll cover getting the door cards hung.  They still need vinyl or carpet, but they are now hanging on the doors.

Clarity, maybe
I re-read some of the posts about the door cards.  While my detail was accurate, I don't think the high-level explanations were very helpful.  So, first, I want to fix that.  I bought a bag of 100 rubber door clip-seals and clips from BusDepot so I can hang the door cards properly.  Like it says on their website, the bus-specific seals and clips aren't available any more, so the common-use ones for all the other same-era VW's are all they sell.  These are a little larger, so the holes in the door need to be opened up a little bit with a drill.
vapor sealed

I used kitchen garbage bags as a vapor barrier between the door card and the steel door.  To attach the vapor barrier, I used 3M's version of BlueTak (available at Office Depot) spread in 1/4" wide strip around the edge.  A circle of sticky stuff was run around every door-clip mounting hole as well as the pull handle mount holes, the window winder and the latch pull.  After the vapor barrier was in place, I pressed the door seals (cone-shaped rubber bits) through the vapor barrier into the holes.  The barrier, because it was a kitchen trash bag, stretched, but didn't break.

The door cards were cut with a Dremel from 1/8" MDF I bought at Home Depot.  I drew the shape of the door card using the old worn-out and beat up card I had lying around.  I traced the holes for the window winder, door pull and latch.  Last, I drilled out the holes for the door card clips by driving a 3/8" drill bit through the original card and into the MDF.

Clipping Cards
MDF card clipped in
Once the cards were cut, the vapor barrier set and the seals inserted, it was time to get the card installed with the clips, starting with the passenger door.  Based on orientations I'd seen on the internet, the clips should have slid into the MDF so the clip was on the point closest to the edge.  This was mostly true, but each clip setting required some tweaking to get it perfect.  I mirrored the clip placement from the passenger door onto the driver door card, and it required tweaking anyway.  Once on the door, I attempted to get the door pulls, etc installed, but the holes didn't align perfectly anymore.  They are close, and with a little shifting, they fit.  I recognize, however, that the pulls and such won't fit so perfectly once a material is on top of the MDF, so the holes will need to be increased a little bit.  More fun for later.

Anyway, the cards are now in, and I found and installed the old foot-kicks against the front of the cab.  The front area looks a lot better.  The old kicks are in pretty horrible shape, though, so I'll probably get a new set of all-plastic from BusDepot.  I may cut new ones by tracing the old ones, but I'll need to figure out how to keep them from getting wet.
9th & Salmon, Portland

Its been an interesting few weeks.  NHL playoffs, the Premier League is winding down and T worked through getting his driver's license.  Last, T had prom this past Saturday.  Through a fluke of events, I met his group of friends between the limo and the restaurant.  The blurry picture on the right, here, is of him and his date as they enter the restaurant... as viewed through my rain-drenched windscreen.  They are the blurry black spots in the center of the picture.  I posted it in the spirit of the name of the blog, its a view from a bus-driver sitting in a VW Jetta :)

Thanks for following along.