Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Zed Progress Report

It has been a long stretch since I posted on the '79 Datsun 280ZX ("Zed") in my garage. Today, is your basic update.

Slow Paint Prep
I'll start with the not so great. Our final efforts last Fall to get Zed in a position for some progress on the paint did not really make a difference. The outer shell is pretty much in the same state: virtually rust free, but still not paint-ready. Not really even close. We were able to remove the tail gate and passenger door, though.

doors and tail gate off
The tail gate is held on by 2 hinges where each hinge has 2 nuts-on-studs on the gate and 2 nuts-on-studs into the body of the car. We removed the nuts on the studs protruding from the car. We'll separate the hinge from the tail gate later. The gate is held up by 2 gas-filled struts. These are original, and still hold the gate up very well. These are held onto a little ball-protrusion by a small bail. I flicked the bail to the side, removed the strut and then put the bail right back on again. I suspect these would be very hard to find items if we lose them. Before you remove the struts and then hinges, the electrical plug for the rear defrogger needs to be unplugged from the harness (rear end of the inside of the roof) and then fed back through the hole in the body. So, its: unplug/feed, remove struts, then hinges. Our install will be the reverse (hinges, struts, feed/plug).

The passenger door is pretty much the same thing, except the hinges are stacked vertically rather than horizontally. It is similar otherwise. We set a floor jack under the far end of the door to hold it upright while we removed the nuts. C worked the wrenches while I held the door steady. Once the nuts were loose, he unplugged the electrical, fed it through and then removed the nuts. One quick tug on the door and it was off.

Think Time
We spent quite a bit of time going through parts and planning our approach. Since the weather was pretty meh most of the times C dropped by, he focused on getting the carpets and seats cleaned. But there was a lot of time available to think about the project. For example, we have 2 sets of door cards, one set with some grey and one set that's all black. The all-black look pretty good, but they do not have window switch holes, they have manual crank holes. Do we want electric windows? We have the wiring, winders, even the switches. Maybe we put them in the center console instead of in the doors? Fortunately, there is plenty of time to think since the car is not in paint yet. We did decide, however, that finishing the paint makes much more sense than assembling any parts of the interior first.

cleaned carpet test fit
As part of the slowly-moving-things-forward effort by C, he spent a considerable amount of time cleaning the carpets from the DonorZ. These are a nice grey color, but there were rust stains, cigarette burns and filth rubbed into them. C used a combination of baking soda, vinegar and dish soap to scrub the carpets. Then, he left them for a few months. When he returned, he attacked them with the power washer. They turned out amazing. The elbow grease was important, but I think the power washer did the bulk of the work. And it was fast. After they were washed, we hung them over patio furniture under an overhang (out of the rain) to dry. When wet, they didn't look like much, but after they dried, they actually had a little sparkle to them. Now, cleaning can't fix burn holes, so we thought we should put them in the car so we could see where the holes show up. As luck would have it, they appear under the passenger feet, but C will have floor mats, so they won't be visible most of the time. If we couldn't solve for the burns, C was prepared to dye the carpets black. I'm glad he is sticking with the grey. I think it will help the black parts of the interior "pop" more, and the interior will be brighter during our long dark and gloomy months.

C crushing it
Speaking of the black interior, part of the DonorZ collection of parts were the seats. When the car arrived, these seats had grey aftermarket covers on them. They look okay, but after seeing what was possible with the carpet, C dug into the seats. Using carpet and upholstery cleanser, mixed with a small-area carpet cleaning machine, C was able to do a similar transformation on the seats as he did with the  carpets (see the picture to the right). We were able to determine why the seats had a cover, though: a black mark about the size of a disc-golf disc was on the seat where the driver's backside would go. After cleaning, though, it was only slightly larger than a deck of cards. And, it wasn't as dark. Perhaps, with a little more cleaning, that black mark could nearly disappear. Similar to the carpets, wherever he worked, they cleaned up very well. We may need to spend a few more cycles on them, but they already look way better than before, and they are 100% original Datsun 280ZX seats. This velour material isn't available anymore, so if we can retain it, the car will hold more value... and it will cost us less.

That's really all that's happened over the last 8 months. C has been working very hard on getting through, arguably, the hardest year in US high school: Junior year. So, that should be his focus. Hopefully, once school lets out for Summer, he will be able to get this project moving forward. I know he wants to drive it, and he definitely enjoys working on it. And, he has really only gotten to do the inglorious parts (paint stripping and cleaning). Finding the time, regardless of how old you are, seems to be a common challenge. Once the work shifts to paint and assembly, I have the feeling that time will suddenly be more abundant. It usually is for me, anyway.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

JRAD - Eugene Show Report

The second half of the usual postings when we take Hapy somewhere interesting. My last post covered the travel part. In summary, it was great, but there were some things that shook out that need to get fixed before the next trip. For context, I had never seen this band before, but I had heard some concert footage, so I had an inkling of what we might expect. On to the show!

We arrived around 5. Since the gates opened at 530, we figured there would be some happenings to witness or partake in. We were routed to the parking lot near the Science Center, which I found odd, and we found ourselves in a small lot with a collection of Vanagons. We parked along the VW bus row, put up the pop-top, set out the colorful rug, the camping chairs and table and set to pre-funk. Our neighbor Vanagon had a big barbecue they had just fired up and while the scene was small, we had a tailgate vibe happening. Seeing how we were in the shadow of Autzen Stadium, that vibe was all the more appropriate. We were met by Boo's sister E and her husband H and, after a spirited beverage, we walked the short trail over the stream to the venue.

The Cuthbert
The Cuthbert Amphitheater max's out at 5000 people, but it wasn't completely full for Joe Russo's Almost Dead (JRAD). The very far corners of the upper lawn could fit a few people, but otherwise, the place was effectively full. It's a nice place, where everything is easy to get to, the lines are short and the view of the stage is really good. Even the pitched lawn isn't as steep as the lawn at, say, Shoreline in the Bay Area. I have only seen shows from the upper lawn, but I have heard that the seated area is really nice: flat ground for dancing would be especially welcome. We didn't arrive terribly early, but we were able to get s spot close to the separation between the upper and lower lawns, fairly close to the center,  but still over to Phil's side (stage right / house left) a little bit. Unlike when we went to Further here, there were a lot of teenagers this time. There were enough there for Boo to comment that the hippie cycle must be starting up again. Based on what we know of the EDM scene through T, "love" is moving in and "hate" is moving on. Very nice.

The band was supposed to go on at 730, and they were fairly punctual. I hadn't been checking my watch, so they must have been within 20 minutes of their scheduled time. They started up with a smoking Althea that highlighted solo's from both guitarists and the keyboardist before rolling into a Truckin' that rocked. Crescendo after crescendo between the verses. They were riding another crescendo as they were concluding Truckin' and jump-stepped into Cassidy. One bar they were playing Truckin', the next Cassidy. Seamless. So good, and after a Tennessee Jed they closed the first set. "4 songs," you ask. Yes, 4 songs in an hour and they never stopped playing the entire time. The second set was a mind-blower, opening up with a Blues for Allah (King's Solomon's Marbles) and Here Comes Sunshine. The Help on the Way into Slipknot was super tight, but they raised the bar further with a drop into Feel Like a Stranger before continuing Slipknot into Franklin's Tower. The Franklin's closed with a classic Slipknot reprise. Again, they never stopped playing the crowd didn't stop dancing, and the back and forth energy was amazing. The set closed with a Good Lovin' and Mighty Quinn encore, but it was the Help-Slip-Stranger-Slip-Franklins that had my head shaking afterwards.

For anyone who wished they could have seen the Dead in their energy hay-day (1970's), when they would play marathon shows with super high-energy, you should check JRAD out. They have that youthful energy you can hear on those old Dead bootlegs, that Dead and Co can't get anywhere near. My opinions on Dead and Co are well documented (See Why Does Dead and Company Suck?). Seeing the Dead songbook get lit up like I'd never seen before just further underscores the mediocrity of Dead and Co. So, if you want to reminisce, play remember-when, cram into a huge crowd and see something mediocre-bordering-on-bad for upwards of three-digits US$, by all means go to Dead and Co. You've been warned; if you already have tickets, I'd suggest you do the lot scene and scalp them to someone less informed. If you want to hear what those songs are supposed to sound like, witness some amazing solos, vocals that are on-key and energized, and get your back broken by some jams that will dance you into traction, go see JRAD. It will cost you less, the venue will be smaller, and it will blow your mind how good these songs can sound when they're played by skilled, young, inspired musicians.

With Quinn echoing in our ears, Boo and I sat with E and H. We all glistened with sweat from dancing, though the warm day had long turned to cool evening. The crowd started to make their way to the exits, each looking a little dumbfounded. Or maybe it was the drinking and smoking that created those vacant stares. No matter. We joined the throng working their way to the exit, and could overhear conversations, elated over certain aspects of the show.

The lot scene outside, though, was nothing like the "old stadium days", at least not the little lot we were in. The crowd disappeared rather quickly. So, while Boo and I scarfed down a salad, our neighbors would wave and drive off. Maybe the Shakedown Street was on the other side. Maybe there wasn't one. It didn't matter, really. No one hassled us out of the lot, so we enjoyed our cool down, and rolled away when the mood was right. In retrospect, for all I know the lot scene in the 70's was more like that.

I can't say enough about how good JRAD was. We loved Further, but their energy was different too. Further was more of a revival-meets-reunion kind of energy. Just love, and happy to be here while we play our favorite tunes in a nice-to-hear way. Great vocals and JohnK's guitar work was amazing. JRAD is such higher energy, raging guitar solos like the way Warren Haynes shredded when he toured with "The Dead" 10 years ago. Now, add a guitarist who can add bits like an Allman brothers musical interlude like JRAD has. That's special.

Thanks, as always, for following along. More Summer music fun ahead.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

JRAD - Eugene Road Report

The first of the usual 2-part post when we go on a trip to see something interesting, this post covers the travel to and from, how the bus behaved, etc. JRAD (Joe Russo's Almost Dead) played the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugere, so this trip the down-and-back for that show.

Getting Out
We have gotten our packing and departure steps down to a fairly good science. Our gear is stored all together on a pair of racks in the garage next to Oliver (the MG) so loading up is fairly fast. We replaced our 10x10 again; it seems these things only last a single season anymore. The new one was the exact duplicate of the one we had last year, only not constructed as well. Regardless, it went into the bus with the low-back concert chairs, classic camping chairs, folding table, cooler, sleeping bags, etc. Once ready to go, I turned the key on the new ignition to start... and nothing. Great. The test drive a week ago didn't shake out whatever spirit was preventing us from leaving. Quick time-check... if I can't solve it in an hour, we're taking another car and solving later.

With Boo near the rear bumper, I tried turning the key a few times. We could hear a click, so there was hope. After a couple more tries, we could determine that it was coming from the electric bundle in the spare tire well: my wiring. Fun. So, we switched spots, and I could tell the clicking was one of the relays that linked the ignition from the front of the bus to the TDI ignition switch in the spare tire well. I disconnected and then reconnected all of the wires going in and out of that relay and verified that the grounding wire was grounded. Tested the key again, and he fired right up. I concluded that the signal wire leaving the relay had loosened itself, so the disconnect-reconnect solved the problem.

We drove to the corner fueling station and tried to add some fuel. I say tried because the tank was nearly full from last June when we had the ignition fire on the way home from 4Peaks. One more thing to remember next Fall for winterizing: drain the tank. So, we had a tank of year-old fuel and no time to deal with it. So, with a thought about old fuel, we headed for the highway.

On the Road
After a few initial studders, Hapy drove through the local highways well. The "studders" were just that: momentary engine stammer followed by normal running after that. He idled steady at the traffic lights, so we decided we would keep going. We hit some getting-out-of-town traffic as we left the greater Portland area on I-5 South, but it had cleared by Wilsonville (like it usually does), and we were cruising at 60mph. Once past Wilsonville, the speed limit goes up to 65mph, but most traffic accelerates well past that. I drive as fast as Hapy's temperature will allow. Since it was an 80*F+ day, the air temp didn't really factor in, but I could tell that the more I tried to stay at 60mph, the more his temperature would hover at 192*F. If I dropped down to 55mph, his temp would sit at 185*F. Since his normal operating temperature (NOT) is 190*F, I figured I could stay just under 60mph and he'd run well. I was right, and left his speed hovering between 58 and 60 the rest of the way. After Wilsonville, an early bay appeared in front of us. We paced with them until they got off at Woodburn. We flashed lights, exchanged peace signs and continued on our respective journeys. Love bus folks.

We stopped at the Flying J truck stop near Aurora for travel snacks and beverages, and found ourselves behind an RV running the same 58mph pace once we got back on the I-5. That RV set our pace until we were well past Covallis, The drive itself was fairly uneventful. The wheels held the road well, and I didn't have to fight Hapy for control the whole way like I used to. The only times of trouble were when a semi-truck passed us, and created wind turbulence. Fortunately, that didn't happen very often; I think the road was kind of quiet, actually. Another advantage to leaving town in the early afternoon instead of at rush hour.

Armitage Park
We pulled off at Coburg, thinking we would grab a camping spot at Armitage County Park. This is the same campground Hapy, Boo and I used when we came down to Further in September 2011 (See Furthur - To Eugene). The campground this time was very different from when we were there almost 8 years earlier. For one, it was practically full and second, there weren't any fellow concert-goers. The sign out front said there were 2 RV spots: #13 and #17, so we backed into #17. While I set up the little tent (shed), Boo headed to the front desk to check us in. She returned displeased. While the site was marked as open, the camp people decided that we should move to a tent spot instead. Okay... So, we moved, and saved $10US for the trouble. Turned out both #13 and #17 went unused that night, so the camp lost out on $10. Meanwhile, the tent spot was bigger and more shaded, so it worked out better for us anyway. We just didn't have an electrical post on our site. Fortunately, the group-sire next to us (also empty) had one, so we charged phones there in the morning.

For that past few years, my allergies have been effectively stopped by acupuncture. I realize that's hard to believe, but I used to take multiple medicines every day, year round. At least 3 years ago, I started getting pins stuck in me and that's made medicines a very rare thing. I have had to take something maybe once or twice in the spring since I started with the pins. Unfortunately, that all became unraveled in the parking lot at the Cuthbert.

After we set up the shed, and loaded it with whatever we didn't need in the lot, we drove the short stretch down Coberg Road into Eugene and to the venue. We were parked on the opposite side from where we usually parked (near the disc golf), over by the Science Center. This was a very small lot, but many VW's, and it was the open-early lot, so there were folks BBQ'ing, and such. My allergies kicked in almost immediately. They didn't meaningfully affect the show, but they did impact the next day or three.

Getting Home
I'll post about the show in another post. The drive from the show back to the campground was as uneventful as the drive to the show earlier. Temps stayed predictable, steering was predictable, traffic was non-existent. We fell asleep fairly quickly after 3+ hours of dancing and awoke the next morning to the crashing of the dumpster. Ah well. We dragged ourselves up, used the free hot showers, made coffee and oatmeal, and considered the day. The shower helped wash off pollen, etc, but the residual histamines from my allergies were still a problem. We decided that lingering another day was probably not a good idea, rather, it made better sense to start heading home. We took in the river for a morning meditation before we broke camp, and packed Hapy.

We headed north on I-5, but found that the traffic was very different from the traffic we enjoyed on the way down. There were many semi-trucks and they were all moving very fast. At 58mph, the trucks were blowing past us, buffeting the bus, and causing all kinds of steering difficulties. By the time we were approaching the Halsey/Brownsville exit (216), I needed to get off the freeway. So, we took the scenic route home. From Halsey, we took 99E up to Tangent and then OR35 to Corvallis. We picked up 99W there and took it through the sleepy country towns of Polk county. Somewhere before Tangent, I started to notice that our top speed was getting artificially limited. Our acceleration in first and second was pretty good, and I could feel the turbo kick in, but I couldn't feel the turbo in 3rd or fourth, and fourth gear was just a dog. Feeling glad again for not being on the interstate. I concluded that the cheap clear fuel filter had gunked up from the old fuel and that was limiting our speed. Would have been an easy fix if I had a spare onboard. I used to keep one in the tool box and another under the rock-n-roll bed, but I appear to have stopped doing that. Note to self: keep spare filters, just like you keep spare fluids, onboard.

rear driver window dolled up for JRAD

By the time we hit Monmouth, we were ready to eat. So, we hit the local Burgerville. I can't remember a nicer fast-ish food place. A fellow patron held the door open for us on our way in (and her way out). The restaurant, though fairly full, was quiet. There was a large family sitting in the center, taking up 3 tables, celebrating someone's birthday, and even they barely made more than low-conversation noise. The service was fantastic and food delivered to the table much faster than I remember Burgerville to be. Boo and I split a 1/4 pound burger and a salad. Back on the road, we stayed on 99W to outside McMinnville which we avoided on the OR18 bypass before re-joining 99W through Dundee and Newburg. In Sherwood, we hopped onto the familiar Roy Rogers Road to cut over to Beaverton, avoiding Tigard and more traffic.

old fuel filter after removal
It was a great trip, and overall Hapy performed very very well. I know there are a few things that need to be addressed before our next trip (listed below). The fuel, fuel filter and the rear brake adjustment are the most pressing.

+ still need to clean up the wiring in the spare tire well. Maybe it's time to use the plastic relay holder thing that the TDI-engine relays are in for my custom relays
+ drain the tank of the old fuel OR add some fuel stabilizer / diesel fuel stuff that the boaters use
+ replace the cheap clear fuel filter. Get a few spares.
+ adjust the rear brakes a little tighter. Not sure they are really doing anything.
+ get front end alignment done by a shop. Steering was way better, but there could be improvement.

Thanks, as always, for following along. I'll post on the JRAD show soon.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Seasonal Cleaning

Okay, so this won't be a very exciting post, but it's how I spent a weekend. After pulling off the winter car-cover, I couldn't help but notice just how dirty Hapy got over the winter. You'd think, with a cover, he would look pretty much the way he was when the cover went on, but that's just not how it works.

Winter Plan
Moisture gets under that cover. To keep the inside of the bus healthy all winter, I pull the cushions out of the pop top and lay them on top of the seats. This prevents moisture from getting trapped between the cushions and the poptop, or between the cushions and the bed floor. I will usually pull out the extra foam bed mattress and thick blanket from the back deck too, and stow them inside the house. Then, the thin original pad gets partially stood up. Again, this is to keep moisture from getting trapped.

Last, I have a set of rechargeable desiccants I rotate in every couple of weeks. These Eva Dry things (I got a 4-pack of E-500's a few years ago) are pretty clever. You plug them in, and the moisture they collect steams out, turning the little dots from a purple color through pink to blue. It usually takes a few days for it to completely turn, but once that happens, I swap it out with one inside the bus, which I put in the center of the bus, on top of the seat-back of the middle row seat. If I rotate the driers often enough, and if I did the cushions correctly, everything inside is ready for a new season without a big mold effort first.

Spring to Action
The uncover effort starts with little ceremony. I simply wait until it looks like the rainy season is over and pull it off. It takes all of about 5 minutes to go from covering the bus to stowed in it's stuff bag. Next, I'll pop the top up, and check for leaks. Assuming I don't find any, I'll inspect the cushions looking for mildew or mold. As I clear the cushion, it goes back to it's designated spot. Once the inside is in order, I'll put the deep cycle battery on the charger overnight. This year, I was charging the battery while swapping out tires.

With the battery full, it's time for cleaning. As I've said before, television shows about cars do not do the amount of cleaning justice. Seriously. For every few minutes of wrenching time there are hours of cleaning. Otherwise, you're taking a dirty part off another dirty part and then sticking either that same dirty part back on, or installing a new one... on top of that grime. That's silly. So, you clean the parts before you disassemble, clean them when they're apart and then clean them again after they're put together. That's a LOT of cleaning. That only accounts for those parts. At some point, you need to do the typical car owner cleaning. With a bus that has a fiberglass top, "typical" cleaning isn't exactly typical.

Scrub -a- Dub
Every Spring, I clean the pop top outside. I'm not very tall, so I need a 6' ladder on top of the garden hose, a scrubby sponge and a tub of fiberglass shower cleanser. Yeah, that's right: bathroom cleanser. It is gel-coated fiberglass just like your fiberglass shower, so it's the best stuff for getting it clean on the first try. I simply hose off the top with the most powerful setting to get stuck-on stuff off of it. Then, I'll apply cleanser (I use Soft Scrub w/bleach) and scrub with the itchy side of the sponge. I'll work sections that can be easily and safely reached from the ladder. Then, hose that off, hose another section wet, move the ladder and repeat.

With the top cleaned, I switch to more standard car cleanser in a bucket with a car-wash sponge. Then, I wash the pop top again, but this time with the car wash. I think this helps the gel-coat, and it helps to carry away any leftover residue from the bathroom cleanser. Once the top is done, I raise it and then I work my way around the rest of the bus, getting him clean top to bottom. This way, I get the tin-top between the bellows and the drip-rail that is covered by the pop-top when it is down.

Now, with Hapy freshly cleaned, with new tires, and safe brakes as well as all the other fixes since last June's ignition fire debacle, he is ready for a Summer of travel and adventure. We start very soon with a trip to Eugene, followed by our annual trip to 4Peaks. Additionally, we have a camp at Honeyman State Park in August and a return to Eugene for String Cheese in September. We have some home repair plans for July, but I'm hoping we get a weekend away in there somewhere as well. Regardless, there will be many road reports and friends met along the way. Thanks, as always, for following along, and I hope our paths cross in person somewhere along the way.