Monday, June 29, 2015

Santa Clara by way of Wheeler

While so many folks around the San Francisco area were celebrating the Supreme Court decision to allow same-gender marriages, deadheads looked to the southern end of the SF Bay to the final pair of concerts to be performed by the guys who used to be called "Grateful Dead" on the West Coast. The well-heeled or well-connected got tickets at exorbitant prices while the rest of us watched with wonder... through $100 worth of simulcast access. Today's post is about how I saw the Santa Clara shows with some family and friends, complete with a bus repair adventure!

Getting Out
I've mentioned the MT3. Up until late Friday evening, our plan was to take a car and a bus (8 people) to my friend Mayhem's place in Wheeler to camp in the bus for the Santa Clara shows. As the evening got late, though, it was clear that Boo needed to stay home to get some work done and the MT3 wouldn't be going. So, rather than 8, only the older 3 boys (T, C and K2) got to go. My boy's mom got herself tickets, travel and hotel (once the support check clears, no one really knows where the money goes, do they?) to get down to the show in person, so T and C knew a little bit about the shows' significance. Saturday morning, I got up like it was a workday. I hit the grocery store for supplies, and loaded the bus. We were loaded with fuel and ice and ready-ish to go when Grateful Ed arrived with Belle.
MPG note: 35 MPG since the last fill. That's high, but should we factor in the top-off?

To Wheeler
With 2 boys in the middle row and T as my co-pilot, we set off following Belle to US26. As always seems the case, we were met with smiles and waves as we passed. Or, more often, when we were passed. Hapy ran great again, through troubled traffic between the US26/OR6 interchange through the US26/OR47 interchange. It's pretty farmland out there, but someone did something they weren't supposed to and for a stretch that should taken about 10 minutes, we slogged for over almost an hour and a half. In intense sun. Where no AC means hot driver. Still, the traffic let up just past the Dairy Queen in Manning, and we got back to normal pace: 55 downhill, 35 uphill. We proceeded like that through the Coast Range to the US101 interchange and down the 101. Just before Hug Point, Belle pulled into a view area with a deep lot. Driver Ed was hungry, so we parked with sliders facing each other, popped the tops and broke out the hoagies.

Summer Sights
No sooner did we shut off engines than the folks who had been taking pictures of the ocean were now taking pictures of the 2 buses. Of course, I should have too, but I was hungry... and then the small crowd formed, and there were questions to answer, and such. There's s great line in The Bus Movie about a menu of things you can ask, and how much you get to pay for the driver to listen to the question and maybe answer. Very funny, but I love talking to folks about the bus. You have to, if you're going to drive one. After the last visitor left, we fired up the buses and completed the few miles to Wheeler. I'd never been on the stretch of US101 just south of Manzanita before; it is very pretty and seems less touched by the micro-mansions that have appeared along other areas of Oregon coastline. As you pass through, do remember: the stop sign in Nehalem is right turn permitted without stopping. It creates quite the stir among the locals when someone stops and confuses everyone :)

Casa Mayhem
We arrived to two little Mayhem's watching the Octonauts with Grampa Mayhem. Some times, arriving at someone's house can be like arriving home, and Mayhem's felt that way. The boys settled into the easy conversations between familiars, and before long we were trading stories and laughing. Grateful Ed broke out the flags that usually adorned Belle and presented them off the front deck while I readied Hapy for "camping". The boys decided to sleep on the front deck with a view of the bay to wake to. Great choice. Once our sleep arrangements were set, we grilled up our traditional post-Jerry music food: meat snax. There's nothing quite like grilled steak in small bite-sized chunks, only improved by chilling after cooking and then service cold. Yummy.

Santa Clara, Day One
With food in hand, we fired up the simulcast of the Dead show going on in Santa Clara. The fine folks at Jambase (see here) have a much deeper set list and opinion piece about the performance than I could possibly create. I don't agree with their glowing report, though. I thought most of the performance was mediocre, the vocals thin, and the timing was off. There were a few missing pieces: first, none of them would assertively lead. Bob would try to get Trey's attention after he disappeared into his guitar solo (staring at his feet), only to become frustrated and give up on the segue. They almost gave up on the Eleven entirely. I would agree that the show-ending Morning Dew was pretty good. Bob found his vocal strength in time to nail that number. The encore Casey Jones (lead-vocal by Bruce Hornsby) should have reminded everyone that he has a great voice, and that was what singing in front of 80k people was supposed to sound like. The vocals was another missing piece. Furthur used to travel with backing vocalists to help make the sound fuller. Without them, the vocals were thin and pitchy. The last missing piece was the ability to either segue or stomp and ending. Most of the songs just petered out, especially in the second set. Lots of miscues and bumbling endings. Overall, those at Casa Mayhem reflected with memories of plain-Jane shows of years past, or some of the performances during Jerry's last year with us. Not good, but always hope for another day. Like the next day...

Santa Clara, Day Two
Sometimes, the Dead was a Jekyll and Hyde routine. One night coming out flat and disinterested and the next night firing on all cylinders. With a train-wreck in the rear view mirror, we hoped for Dr. Jekyll on Sunday. We got something close to it. The JamBase folks liked it too (see here), but I think they again oversold how good it was. To their credit, the band tried much easier songs the second night, increasing confidence in the singers that Trey wasn't going to screw it up. Also, Trey pulled his head out of his ass and looked at the other members of the band for cues. There were still plenty of awkward endings and missed transitions, but the meat of the songs went well. Unlike the first night, when it felt like any song could fall apart at any second, the songs held together well the second night. The first set had many more songs sung by Bruce Hornsby and fewer sung by Phil, also good. The Death Don't Have No Mercy was probably my highlight of the 2-night run.

Like the night before, we wished John Kadlecik had gotten the gig, but after Kreutzmann's comments in late 2010, it comes as no surprise John didn't get the spot. Well, Billy, your chickens have come to roost. Warren Haynes is great, but John had the right vibe for the spot. If the band intended to do more than 5 shows, do a tour or two, for example, I could see the point in working with Trey. Eventually, he could be pretty good with this group. I don't think there's enough time for the band to fully gel before the final note in Chicago, much less before the first. I'll be watching anyway, because with Phil and Bob, you just never know. They've pulled some magic before.

Pair of Jacks to Open
Between the two shows, Grateful Ed noticed that the right rear tire on Hapy looked awfully low. He was right and it seemed like a simply fix, what with the full-sized spare sitting on the nose. While everyone else lounged about, I pulled out the BusDepot jack and started raising the bus. Within a few minutes, the jack got much harder to raise, but we couldn't tell why. Soon thereafter, the handle of the jack broke off. Drat. Good thing Belle is here with her original (40 year old) jack. Before we started this time, though, we pulled the sleeping bags and tent out of the back of the bus. Not much weight, but we figured it was better safe than sorry. The jack went in, the bus started to rise, and then the part that slips into the jack-point split in two. One flat tire, 2 broken jacks. So, we dug into the trunk of Mayhem's modern Lexus SUV for a third option before resorting to AAA. Since it didn't fit into the jack-point, we tried something entirely different: putting the scissor jack under the rear hub where the shock absorber is bolted. the wheel left the ground, and I was able to get the rim off the hub, but I couldn't get the tire and wheel out from between the hub and the rear wheel arch.

Now, we're really getting that Dead parking lot feel: solve with people. We arranged everyone around the rear corner of the bus, grabbing rear bumper or the underside of the body and lifter together while I quick pulled the tire out. The new tire, with much more air, couldn't fit in the same way and the hub was too low even if it could fit. We needed to raise the bus more, so we team lifted while Ed turned the screws on the jack. After a few attempts, we had it high enough to slip onto the studs. I threaded the nuts on while Ed lowered the jack. The boys quickly disappeared on their skateboards.

We left shortly after the second show ended. In fact, the show ended a minute or two after 11 and we were on Hwy101 before 11:30. We arrived home a few minutes after 1:AM this morning. Hapy drove like a dream. With a low purr, he took the hills well, carved the fog and never broke 192*. I had the opportunity to try the new windshield washer, and it works great, mechanically. I need to adjust the spray pattern: it currently shoots straight up, so if I'm driving fast enough, it ends up on the windscreen... sort of.

That's it for today. Next weekend, the Dead invade Chicago, and I'll be there by way of Grateful Ed's back yard broadcast, camping music festival style under the trees. As always, thanks for following along-

Monday, June 22, 2015

Coast Road Trip

With the arrival of the MT3, there has been considerable chaos. Still, we were able to pull off a family gathering at the Oregon Coast. Today's post covers that. For those only interested in hearing how the bus handled carrying 6 people plus coolers and luggage, I left that for the end :) I can't get to my pictures, so I swiped the one below from the internet. Neskowin looks just like this, and yes, the beach is that empty.

Out of the City
It still amazes me how hard it is to get a group of humans to do just about anything. Kids especially. After talking about plans, setting expectations and defining what was going to be done by whom and when... rather than leaving around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon on Friday, we left as rush hour started at 5. I guess, all things considered, that's really not too bad. My folks, T and C all arrived within a few minutes of each other. After a few minutes of strategy, we combined 3 cars into Flash and Hapy: 10 persons in total. Since it was the first weekend after the end of the school year, I had reservations about how long it would take to get to the coast. We were pleasantly surprised.

The MT3 are natural travelers. I should have known this from their epic journeys from western Montana to western Oregon, but seeing it firsthand is pretty amazing. For such youngsters, they self-assign into seats without fuss, grab a pillow and a book and belt in as soon as you say "go". They don't complain, ask where we are or how long it'll take to get there... they didn't even ask to stop to go to the bathroom. Crazy. In fact, before we hit Dundee, the 2 boys were asleep.

No trip to the coast is complete without some mention of Dundee. For the unfamiliar, Dundee is a tiny no-traffic-light town in the middle of Oregon's exploding wine country. Once home to drab, empty storefronts, Dundee now houses many tasting rooms representing the vineyards from across Yamhill County. Sounds like a fun place to visit, eh? It can be... if its your final destination. The empty storefronts didn't slow down the passing cars nearly as much as the wine connoisseurs who flock to Dundee. To be fair, 99W chokes down from a 4-lane 55mph highway to a 2-lane 20mph drag to pass through the center of town, and has for 20+ years. The cork-sniffers just bring traffic to a stop when they want to cross the street, or make sudden left turns into particularly interesting looking wine bars. Neat. On this trip, however, Dundee did not slow us much at all, and we only came to a complete stop once between the 2 trips through it. Maybe its just too early in the season for wine yet. We did happen to notice during the coast-bound slog through town that construction has finally started on a by-way around Dundee for the Portland-to-McMinville (and beyond) traffic. Hazah!

Those traveling in Hapy arrived about 10 minutes after Flash. About 30 minutes before Flash arrived, my brother E landed at the beach with his 2 little girls. All told, there were 13 of us, pulling into Boo's friend's beach house. Boo had been going to this house since she was a very young teenager, and treats the house like the home she never had. The kids spent nearly all of the daylight hours on the sand in front of the house, digging holes or splashing water. A weekend without television or electronic devices had a calming effect on everyone, sending all of us home much more relaxed than we were when we arrived. Boo and I were the last to leave (with 4 kids in the bus), since we had to clean the place top-to-bottom before we left. We discovered a plumbing issue and had to solve that first, delaying our departure until after 9:PM. By leaving so late, however, we missed any traffic.

The bus ran incredibly well. From start to end, his temperature barely popped over 190*, and he took the hills well. At no point did I need to down-shift below 3rd, and that includes that massive hill on the US101 heading north from the OR18 / US101 interchange while loaded down with 3 adults, 3 kids, 2 full coolers and 6 people's luggage. The cross-winds from McMinville to the foot of the coast range made handling a challenge, but otherwise weather had no meaningful effect. After sitting on the driveway at the beach for 2 days, there wasn't a single drop of either coolant or oil. I checked both anyway before heading home and they were spot-on. Last, how was the mileage? When I filled up on Thursday (before our Jun18-21 adventure began), the fuel jockey topped-off the tank. This skewed the numbers downwards, but even with that caveat, we got 28mpg. Based on how much fuel was in the tank when the nozzle popped (as in, if we hadn't topped off), we effectively got 31mpg between the Hoot and the coast run. Carrying camping gear, coolers, and extra people through cross winds and over mountain ranges... Hapy killed it.

That's it for today. I am still working on the music review for the 10th Annual Hornings Hideout Hootenanny. Additionally, Boo and I hit another festival this past weekend, so I have another set of travel posts and festival / music reviews to come. Thanks for following along. It's looking to be a fun, travel-filled Summer!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Triumphant Return of the MT3

No, its not a punk band. The MT3 are the 3 young cousins from Montana who visited last Summer. Today's post celebrates their return for another visit.

Reflecting Back
Last August, 3 young cousins visited for a couple of weeks. To protect their privacy, we'll reference them as E (girl, age 9 at the time), R (boy 5) and E2 (boy 4). Their mom had to take a trip into Georgia, taking her oldest with her (A, girl 11). The kids were great. They climbed into their aunt's car after only knowing her a few days and drove 11 hours to our place with few issues. Looking back on their stay, I can only remember good memories. R riding a tiny kid bike we'd found. E playing with same-aged, new-best-friend "S" from down the street. E2 demonstrating great independence and cuddliness with his Aunt Boo. By the end of the visit, they had grown homesick, and greatly missed their mom. Our oldest, K, drove them home just before Labor Day.

Today's Realities
Again, to protect the innocent, I'll omit some details about what motivated this most recent visit. Suffice to say, the kids returned to MT, but they did not enjoy the kind of stability and safety young ones need to thrive. When Boo learned to what degree their condition had deteriorated, we welcomed them back for another stay. This time, it may last longer. Possibly a lot longer. In E's case, this could be a new long-term reality. It started with a phone call on Wednesday, followed by some deep discussions between Boo and me on Thursday, a car rental on Friday and a there-and-back drive to MT on Saturday and Sunday. A, now 12, did not want to join her brothers and sister, and remained. This may or may not stay the case, however. In the meantime, the MT3 arrived tired with little in terms of belongings. They took to the house like old friends, though, and quickly fell asleep in their designated beds.

What of Tomorrow
What about tomorrow? I don't know. I don't know how long they will be with us, but we are going to operate like this is the new reality. We are re-arranging rooms, adding beds and dressers, digging out old toys, etc. The larger family has really reached out already, and the kids are feeling just for broad their support structure is. For example, we hit my brother's house for his son's birthday party and there were, like, 25 family members there. It was a party of kids putting on skits and plays for each other, eating pizza and making ice cream sundaes. A new future with 3 more kids should scare me. Doing the math, that brings the total to 7. Kids need stability and security. I can't give them DisneyLand. We can't easily give them Oaks Park, but we can take a drive to a little kid birthday party in an old VW bus.

That's it for today. I do want to point out that every one of folks Boo and I talked to before collecting the MT3 were supportive. Not only have they voiced support, we have been asked about hand-me-down delivery times, and given kid-sitting references. It really does take a village to raise a child; it is just incredible watching the village marshal when the child(ren) arrives.

Friday, June 5, 2015

2015 Hoot

A year ago, Boo and I took Hapy to our first Horning's Hideout Hootenanny (HHH). Today's post is about our triumphant return this year.

Pant... Pant... Pant...
After a crazy can-I-finish-it month of April and May, we entered Memorial Day weekend with a bus in one piece. I took the bus on a few short test drives, starting the Tuesday evening prior to Memorial day with T. We simply drove down our street, turned up the hill, drove about 500 feet and drove home. Thrilled, we parked and called the bus ready to roll. I drove the bus to work that Thursday, to prove that he could handle traffic, as well as to get him all the way up to normal operating temperature. While a little nerve-wracking to drive to work with a mystery car, I was grateful for the proof on Saturday morning.

proud owner
Saturday, we awoke having done virtually no planning nor packing. We hit the grocery store the night before, so we had food and drink, but nothing else was ready. I've lamented preparing for the first camping trip of the season before, never really being sure you had everything you needed. This time, the week leading up to the trip was 80* or hotter and we were super-focused on getting the bus ready. So, we didn't notice that the weather forecast changed, leaving us a little under-dressed for the Hoot. Still, the camping stuff is pretty well sorted now, so packing is simply tossing a couple of storage shelves worth of stuff into the bus, some clothes and the food and we were off.

We stopped first at the fueling station. Since the last filling, we pulled 32mpg. Again, that's amazing, and its starting to appear to be a trend. After a final stop for forgotten bits, we headed for highway 26 West and Horning's Hideout.

When I re-assembled the bus, I neglected to install the outer door seals in the front doors. One of them was damaged anyway, but because they were not in, the drive at highway speed was louder than it used to be. Boo and I agreed that putting outer door seals in before the next, longer, drive would be a good idea. Unexpectedly, the overall noise in the bus at city-traffic speed is quieter than expected, especially after removing all of the wood floors and leaving the steel floor in the center of the bus uncovered.

Give a Hoot
Scotty with Hapy
Since we slept a little later than we had meant to, hadn't packed the night before and had to make a couple stops before we left for the Hoot, we arrived a little later than we wanted to. Still, the first band started at noon and we arrived at 12:15. Close enough.

So, what's the Hootenanny anyway? Starting 10 years ago, the organizer (Scotty, in the pictures) decided to celebrate his birthday with a few bands, some disc-golf and whoever else wanted to join in. 10 years later, he throws himself a birthday party requiring a staff of 23, 12 bands over 2 days and a disc golf tournament that attracts up to 500 people. For Boo and I, it represents the start of the music festival season with a very mellow send off. The attendees are an interesting blend of disc-golf fanatics and jam-band music fans. While there are a few that cross-over between the groups, most disc-golfers miss the daylight music, but make the evening shows so there's a good sized crowd after dinner.

Besides the music and disc-golf, there are vendors. Boo and I trolled the booths before we set up in the music bowl on the first day. One woman had Indian tapestries, there was a couple slinging tye-dyes from an ancient yellow school bus, an espresso cart, T-shirts, etc. Central to the car-camping side of the bowl was an old green school bus from Montana running a wood-fired pizza oven. Their call for "pizza" during song breaks became a dependable running joke through the festival.

There have been concerns about whether the Hoot can or will continue at Horning's Hideout. Last year, some attendants were unruly, creating noise the Hormings objected to. This also made Scotty question the integrity of the event, and whether it could continue. We saw some curious behavior, mostly from the Trust-afarian couple next-door, but the security folks contained things very quickly. For the most part, there were lots of returning families with little kids, twenty-somethings playing disc-golf and a virtual melting pot of good vibes folks otherwise.

Band Preview
I'm going to dedicate another posting to a deeper review of the bands, but there was a strong crop this year. Returning favorites from last year included Yr Daddy, the HillWilliams, JoyTribe and the Garcia Birthday Band (GBB). Returning after a few years absent, were Kina Lyn and Jesta. New to the festival were the Grateful Buds, Bottleneck Blues, Rainbow Electric and Shafty. Urban Shaman was new, but featured most of the folks from Vivid Curve (one of my favorites from last year). The music was good, and while the styles were not as widely varied as last year, the music-fans had a great time.

entrance volunteers
Leaving the Hoot is hard. It lasts for such a short period of time, and just about the time you get your groove for the event, its time to go. We took our time, enjoying our coffee and slowly pulling our things together. We weren't hassled out at all. We took that as a good sign for how the Hornings considered the event. We talked to Scotty about the event both on our way in and on the way out. Based on those conversations, and his stage announcements, it sounds like my fellow Hoot-villers collectively behaved much better this year, and the Hornings will welcome us back next year. From Boo and me to the Hornings, thank you.

That's it for today. The drive home was uneventful, though I think my tires are low on air. I'll post a band review soon, hopefully before I forget all of my mental notes. As always, thanks for following along-

Hapy at Hoot

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Putting it to Bed

By now, most of the hard parts had been completed. Today's post covers the final bits and pieces, putting the project to bed, so to speak.

Rock 'n' Roll
bed, before
With the bare floor painted grey, the first of the last phase was getting the rock 'n' roll bed in. I'd pulled the contents out prior to its removal, but the bed is still pretty hard to move around by yourself. Still, with a mixture of dragging and heaving, I got the bed up and into place... without making the floor look too shabby in the process. Since the floor no longer had wood sheeting on top of it, getting the bed to align with the holes on the top of the engine bay wasn't quite as easy. It found it's home, though, and I was even able to get the little 2-bolt bit from the passenger tire well to slide home.

In the Light
Under the bed fits the auxiliary fuse box and battery. While in previous incarnations of this set up the battery powered a few different things, all it powers now are lights and 12V adapters. I already touched on some of this effort in an earlier post (see bump bump bump under "Cabin Lights"). Once locked in, I could move on to the refer cabinet.

bed, after
The Crunge
The fridge cabinet had previously just floated around, but I hadn't known that until removal day. Between removing the rear closet and the stove/sink, it held in place through simple inertia. There is supposed to be a bolt that threads into the fridge from the bed. That's now back in place and the cabinet is locked in tight. Between the fusebox and getting this cabinet in place, there were some wire-management issues too, but they're all well routed now, so no furniture is sitting on top of a wire. I still need to get the shore-power capable of charging the battery or simply feeding the lights and such, but that's something for another day.

middle seat in
We're getting near the end. I put in the rails for the middle row seat, following the holes and some blurry photos I took from the prior install. Without the wood floor in place, it seemed like the rails synch down tighter, but really, they were just lower, making the placement of the seat in the rails a little harder. After first just setting the rails in and finding that they were too close together for an easy fit, I took another tack. With the bolts in finger-tight, I tapped the rails as far apart as I could make them. Then, tightened them down for a fit. The seat slides in as easily as it used to (which isn't all that easy). I may need to Lithium grease the rails so the seat goes on easier.

In the middle picture, you can see that I've covered the rear driver-side window. I posted in "Whatcha Hiding?" about the screens I made a few screens to cover that window. As a final preparation, I painted the side that faces the inside of the bus with the same grey paint.

Well, that's really it for getting the bus back together. I was able to get it all done before the Memorial Day weekend so I'll post on that next time.