Monday, July 21, 2014

Dead Head Meet-up at the Movies 2014

There have been happenings in the car/bus space, but in the interest of space and a single focused post, today's post will just focus on going to the movies last Thursday.  

Dead Head Night at the Movies
Thursday, July 17th was the annual Dead-head night at the movies.  In previous years, these events have aired full-length concerts.  For example, last year (or the year before that) we saw the Sunshine Dairy benefit concert from Veneeta OR from 1972 called "Sunshine Daydream".  Having been too young to have been there at the time, it was great to see what the scene was like and watch them play a great show.  This year, the producers found the raw footage from the Europe '72 tour when they played in a tv studio for about 80 minutes.  A portion was later aired on UK's Beat Club tv show.

Beat Club
As a movie, it wasn't that great, but as a music fan it was really interesting to watch them as if they were working in a studio.  For example, they stopped "Sugaree" after the first verse because Phil missed a change and played "Playin' in the Band" a second time because Donna howled too loudly on the first take.  In both cases, the second run was better, so it was the right call.  I base my theory on the second "Playin" on a background conversation you can see between Jerry and Donna about standing further away from the mic.  Seeing Pigpen in such a diminished role was curious too.  Considering his health at the time, I wondered how he contributed in his last year while his "replacement" (Keith) took over and established himself.  Keith was almost inaudible through most of the film, only really peeking out sparingly on the later songs.

Beat Club Sound
The sound was very good and well balanced.  The film started with them checking the mic's and having side conversations.  Then, without much prompting, Bob shouts out a band introduction and they're off.  Like a show, it didn't seem as though they had a plan for what they were going to play.  In fact, they called Donna out to the 'stage' to sing on "Playin' in the Band" with a vague "how bout you come on up and sing on this" kind of vibe.  At the very end of the film, the band is playing a holding pattern coming out of a "the Other One" while Bob replaces a broken string.  Just as he gets it tuned in and the band starts to turn into a jam that's moving into a clear direction, the film suddenly ends.  Like a brutal cut in an old bootleg, the credits roll and you're left with that wondering of what came next.

Beat Club Filming
Staged in front of a green-screen showing tie-dyed sheets, the band was set up much like they would for a live performance (see picture).  Based on the staging, though, it seemed like they didn't know what to do with Donna.  When she was singing, she stood in front of Jerry, using his mic but forcing him back to his Wah pedal but out of direct line-of-sight with Bob and Phil.  When she wasn't singing, she stood in front of Pigpen's organ, blocking him from the cameras.  Still, considering it was 1972 and capturing live music on camera was still in its Woodstock-ish early years, it captured the band well.  Kieth didn't get much camera time, but Billy and Phil did, even though they didn't sing much (or at all in Billy's case).  Jerry and Bob were, of course, the focal point of most of the camera work, but that makes sense considering their lead vocals and guitar work.  It didn't appear that the band knew the cameras were rolling the entire time.  Prior to a few song starts, you could hear one or more of the members say "we're rolling" before they started counting into the song.

Full Bus
Unlike previous years, Boo and I piled all of the boys into the bus (Hapy drove great again) and shared Dead-head movie night with them.  Unexpectedly, they all took something positive from it.  T, for example, gained an appreciation for how Garcia approached and played the instrument.  He's heard their music before (obviously), but hadn't gained that understanding until he saw him play.  Interesting.  C appreciated what Billy could do on such a simple kit.

I was disappointed in the size of the crowd.  It was much smaller than the "Sunshine Daydream" year, but maybe there was a different local showing deeper into Portland which attracted some of that crowd.  If not, I'm afraid the numbers may not warrant airing something next year.  That would be a shame.  With all of the simulcast concerts from the 80's and 90's, there are many years worth of material left.

That's it for today.  I'll try to get another post in before the weekend.  Thanks for following along!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fun Family Functions

We all have family functions.  For lots of families, these are not exactly fun.  There are expectations and history that create stress.  We're pretty lucky.  My brothers, sisters, in-laws and parents all get along, for the most part.  In my last post, I mentioned the road trip to Nye Beach, but failed to mention that my younger brother and sister (as well as their families) and my parents were meeting us there.  I'll touch on some of the family fun today and wrap it up with home-garage stuff.

Who's Who
My sister, M, moved to Austin a few years back.  She and her husband, S, have since bought and sold a house, bought and performed construction on a second, had a couple of kids, etc.  They are very much Texans.  I hadn't seen their daughter (I) for a couple of years and had never met their 2-year-old (K3).  K3 is a pistol.  OMG, he is such a joy.  We played soccer, and laughed.  What a sweetie.

My brother, R, has been living in the greater Portland area since the late 90's, met and married a local (KG) and has a girl (A) and boy (N) of his own.  They are both very articulate for their ages, and can engage conversationally with adults with little difficulty.  A and I are great friends who Skype when they're apart.  Unfortunately, we're apart more than we'd all care for.  N and K3 became buddies too, though, playing toys together.  So, with that backdrop, we add 3 beach-side condo's and Newport's offerings.

Watching Whales, not the Temperature
low tide
Unlike the Oregon inland, once you cross the Coast Range, the temperature remains much closer to the 40*F-60*F range.  In Winter, while we're looking at snow temperatures, the coast rarely gets that cold (though the wind is brutal).  In Summer, we may be sweating 80*+ days while the coast is a mild 65*.  The 5 days we were in Newport were incredible weather-wise.  High's in the mid 70's and overnight lows in the 50's.

As the title suggests, we saw whales.  There's a pod of about 40 grey whales who live year round in the waters just off the coast between Newport and Lincoln City.  On 3 successive nights (July 2nd, 3rd and 4th) from the condo balcony we saw whales spouting at high tide.  The first night was particularly spectacular with multiple spouts blowing simultaneously and at least 5 different whale-back sightings over the course of about 30 minutes.  KG had been coming to this spot for over 30 years and had never seen whales.  Upon hearing this, we were all the more appreciative of the sight we'd witnessed.  Of course, we were so awe-struck, none of us thought to take a picture.  Drat!

Sand Castles and Sand Sliding
Below the balconies, was a beach of duned sand.  Apparently this was somewhat rare too, for the beach was usually flat.  Back from the highest tide's edge, the sand had been shifted by wind into what looked like a series of trenches with steep sides, but only a couple of feet tall.  These created effective, but sandy, wind blocks that we and others used for building beach fires.  With all of the boy energy being fed into air-soft guns, Boo and I expected them to use the trenches and play guns.  Surprisingly, they didn't.  They used the trenches as starting points for elaborate sand castles.  So, with garden shovels instead of toy guns in hand, all of the boys (K, K2, K3, T, C, and N) set to building things.  The bigger boys also discovered a steep bank of sand that stood over 30 feet high a little further north.  They would one by one jump from the top and do their best ski/board imitation down the bank.  Apparently, K2 was hitting 360's by the time they stopped for good.

Hatfield Marine Science Center
We spent a day at the Hatfield Marine Science Center too.  We all highly recommend it.  It is officially free (though donations strongly encouraged), and about 1/3 of the space is dedicated to interactive exhibits.  The remaining contains tanks of sea-life and presentations on waves, oceanography, climate change impacts, etc.  I hadn't been to the science center since NOAA moved in next door.  NOAA's influence can definitely be felt now, and its a good thing.  All of that research now has a available-to-the-public outlet at the Science Center.

Devil's Lake
In my last post, I mentioned the Devil's Lake day-trip.  Devil's Lake is a small lake (3 square miles) and seemed to be for boating than beach/swim access.  R & KG found a city park that had a boat launch, but more importantly a lake-beach and a huge playground to play in/on.  The younger kids had a blast.  It was fun, but it was after K and K2 had left.  This made T and C sad, and less active.  We truly have become a completely blended family when we don't feel complete because some of the boys aren't there.  I had heard that this was a family maturity state, but I hadn't seen it coming.  The boys are back together again after a week apart, and it really is a homecoming.

Home Garage
bulb on left has lost its dimple
After coffee Sunday morning, I wanted to find the oil leak and solve the persistent tail-light issue.  Starting with the tail light, I discovered that when I installed the battery I must have bumped the tail light assembly.  This bump flattened one of the dimples in the brake/running light dual-filament bulb.  So, the bulb wouldn't sit in the holder correctly, causing a short across the positive contacts of the bulb.  By swapping out the bulb, the problem went away.

The oil leak still escapes me.  I cleaned the underside of the bus engine with brake cleaner.  It seems like the oil is coming from the turbo-side of the engine, maybe from the low-pressure oil return?  Since the oil level isn't meaningfully dropping, I'm not convinced its the problem.  Next, I checked the oil level in the transaxle.  On the transaxle, "full" means the fluid level is just under the fill hole.  I opened the fill hole while the rear of bus was up on ramps and none dribbled out.  No bueno.  I shot in about 1/3 of a bottle before it started dribbling.  I think we have our oil source.  The trick is figuring out where it's coming out.  I don't see a source on the outside, and the clutch doesn't seem affected, so if it's coming out from the output shaft end, we haven't noticed it yet.  Curious.  I may need to drop the engine and separate the tranny and engine to be absolutely sure.  Since everything is running fine now, though, it will wait until camping season ends.  Of course, that's how adventures begin.

More next time...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Nye Beach Road Report

We took a road trip to the Nye Beach district in Newport Oregon over the July4 holiday.  This and the next post are dedicated to that trip. This one is just the travel report.

just North of Newport on US101
Getting Out of Dodge
Boo has a saying that goes something like "people will do what they want to do".  If you have a house of 6 people, all 6 need to want to get their collective stuff together and out of the house relatively early in order for you to get out early.  I had high hopes for being on the road by 11, but it was closer to 2 before we shoved off.  Ultimately, this worked out for the better, since that meant we could carabus with K driving his new-to-him Subaru named Kirby.  This split up the passengers and the payload too.  Still, Hapy was loaded down with 2 coolers full of food, all of the clothes, pillows, blankets, and most of the dry food... and 4 of the 6 travelers.

Wind-Blown Journey is the Destination
Since we were leaving town before rush hour, and it was mid-week (Wednesday), the traffic was trivial.  The drive out of town was trouble- and worry-free.  We followed the same route I took with T and C on our first camping trip with the new engine (see: One Small Step for Van...) down Roy Rogers and again as we entered the farmland of outer Beaverton, we expressed thanks to all of those who helped us along the way.  It's a tradition now.  We waved at the NAPA in Sherwood who helped us on that trip and again told the tale of how they helped us solve a hose-coupling design flaw.

Yamhill county grape region
Once we were outside of Sherwood, the towns are spread further apart.  First Newburg and Dundee, then Dayton, McMinnville.  By McMinnville, the increasing cross/headwind started to make steering an adventure.  If you haven't driven a bus or other tall flat-sided vehicle, you don't know the true terror of having the wind suddenly shift you 8 or 10 feet to the side.  It wasn't that bad, but with those kinds of memories in mind, I could feel the stress creeping in.  So, we stopped at the Dairy Queen near Sheridan for cheap eats and a couple Blizzards.  Shortly after leaving Sheridan, the flat farmlands give way to the Coast Range foothills, and corresponding forests.  The winds slowed as we passed the Spirit Mountain Casino and our adventure shifted from holding the wheel against the winds to climbing steep inclines.

For the most part, we were able to maintain the speed of traffic (55 MPH) through the foothills, the Coast Mountains and even along the 101 to Newport.  Of course, there are always those who want to go faster and will express themselves as they pass.  How sad for them that they are unable to enjoy the beauty around them and can only focus on the endpoint of their drive, spreading negative energy as they go.  There were a few longer inclines which were especially challenging.  There is one run south of Lincoln City that I had to run up at 35 MPH in third gear.  Even with the new engine, pushing over 4500 pounds is hard.  At no point along the entire run did Hapy's engine temperature go above 194*F, and every time it rose above 185*F it was during a long hill climb after which it immediately dropped back to 185*F again.  All told, he ran extremely well, pulling us into our destination around 6.
Devil's Lake

At Nye Beach
Hapy was warmly welcomed by the family when we arrived.  Little cousins who hadn't met him before climbed around inside, clearly amazed at seeing something so old.  We realized that Hapy is one month older than my younger brother and brother-in-law.  Funny stuff.  While at Nye Beach, we didn't drive almost at all.  We carabus'd with K, and sent him and brother T to the store for forgotten foodstuffs in Kirby.  We took one drive up to Lincoln City on Saturday to visit Devil's Lake.  The drive into Lincoln City from the south was a slow plod because of some road construction, but otherwise, it was just another mellow smiley drive in a 40+ year old microbus.  We put his pop-top up at the lake, creating a private changing area for us.  The nieces especially liked that.

I have discovered that Hapy is leaking some form of oil, but I can't determine the source.  When I check his engine oil level, it checks out virtually unchanged, but he continues to leave little puddles.  The drip also gets caught in the passing air and is creating a spotty film on the rear of the bus.  Me no likey.  I intend to dig deeper into this leak this weekend.  I think it's transaxle gear oil.  We'll see...

Happy in Hapy along hwy101
We had "check-out" at 11 on Sunday morning.  I quote check-out because there wasn't anyone to hand a key to, and no one was waiting for us to get out so they could get in.  Honor system, though, had us out of the condo by 11:30.  We didn't really have an agenda, so we pointed ourselves north on the 101 seeking coffee.  We couldn't find an easy-to-get-to coffee shop anywhere on the 101 through Newport, Depot Bay and most of Lincoln City until almost the end of town, there's a Starbux on the north-bound side.  To be fair, we could have tried to turn left across 2 lanes of southbound traffic and then try to turn left back afterwards, but this was end-of-holiday weekend traffic.  No chance.  With coffee's in-hand, we set off into the bumper-to-bumper traffic.  I could create an entire post about the ridiculous driver behavior we saw.  Maybe I will, so I'll leave it out of this report.  Needless to say, there were unexplainable traffic slowdowns and delays.  We stopped at the Dairy Queen in Sheridan again for a late lunch, and tried the trucker scales on OR18.  We scaled out at 4550 pounds.  While the outside temperature rose up into the mid 90's, inside the bus wasn't uncomfortable.  In fact, we didn't really notice the heat until it was time to unpack the bus.  After 2 prior attempts to have a coast trip without an issue, this, our 3rd try, was successful and issue-free.

270 - total miles traveled
26.2 - miles per gallon

That's it for today.  More next time on Nye Beach, the family visit, the condo's, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, fireworks, Devil's Lake, etc.

Sunset at Nye Beach