Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Brick in the Wall

In my last post, I described simply getting a new battery.  Its funny how something so small can create cascading issues.  I continue to wrestle with the electrical demon I unleashed, but on Saturday I did a little job on the interior getting a new interior skin on an otherwise really ugly wall.  I'll go over that today.

Where Was
that's one ugly wall
I readily admit Hapy is a frankenbus.  He runs a 1972 shell with a '72 Riviera top, '74 front seats, some bits of a '79 Westy camping interior, an '85 vanagon middle bench and a '98 New Beetle TDI engine.  3 years ago (See: From Fridge to Storage), I removed the fridge guts from the fridge cabinet because those old Dometic fridge's weren't very powerful nor useful.  The cooling element sits right in the middle of the opening, so you can only put small things in anyway, and I really prefer the portability and size of a basic cooler.  The empty cabinet provides some nice storage.

Last Fall, I removed and sold off the little kitchen to another fellow bus lover because I couldn't fit the kitchen and the middle bench seat (See: Vanagon Seat Install).  That left a very ugly interior between the old fridge cabinet and the backside of the driver's seat.  Since I'd already constructed door cards for the front cab doors, I figured "how hard could it be?"  Turns out, the answer is "easy!".

Where Is
measurements for wall-card
After measuring the space I wanted to have covered, and adding a 1/2" lip to fit behind the old fridge cabinet, cutting a card for the ugly wall was easier than the door cards.  Why?  This card has straight edges and 90* corners.  Part of the measuring took into account the fact that I install and remove the rear closet on the driver's side.  In Winter, especially, that cabinet is out, and the ski-rack sits there.  I cut the card so that it stops at the end of the fridge cabinet with an expectation to have a removable card to put in when the closet is out.  I'll do that later.

I figured out a few tricks with my tools along the way.  I have a right-angle, but to make sure I measured a consistent number of inches out as I created a line parallel to the edge, I put a spot of tape at the right length.  Then, I just needed to mark at the tape edge, slide the right-angle and repeat.  Then, it was a simple matter of aligning the dots with a straight-edge.  This removed the possibility of mis-measuring one or more of the dots.  Also, I used clamps and the steel straight-edge to set a fence against which I ran the Dremel-router so I got a nice straight cut.

card installed
The interior wall has all kinds of holes in it.  Some were put in by the factory for the original card.  Westfalia added some for the 1972 camper interior.  All thos holes made the interior look even worse.  Like the holes in the doors, the original card holes were a touch too small, so I opened them up with the steel-bit I used before.  I test-set the card, and eye-balled where the holes needed to be drilled in the card.  I actually guessed too good for a number of them, landing the card-hole right on top of the bus wall-hole.  This makes mounting the card challenging.  The clips have a small offset, so it's best if the holes are too.  Still, the resulting card looks fantastic.

I still need to address the old kitchen vent hole, as it doesn't have a corresponding hole in the wall card, nor anything blocking it up.  That should be relatively straightforward to solve.  I have the very rear end still needing a card too.  Well, there's always something.  That's the beauty of having the bus in this condition.  I can drive him every day and still enjoy working on him any weekend.  As always, thanks for following along...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Feeling Recharged

Maybe its the change in seasons, but suddenly, my volume of posts has dropped off.  Sorry volks.

Is that Allergies or a Cold?
I spent the last 2-plus weeks fighting off a cold.  It seemed to have the upper hand for a while there, but a prescription for Sudafed and lots of rest has me almost completely mended.  Yes, that's right a "prescription for Sudafed.  Apparently, Oregon's version of the DEA doesn't trust us with it.  Then again, the State doesn't trust us to pump our own gas either.  Anyway, the cold plus allergies and another job shift (still @ the same place, just more work added to my plate) has had me at a desk instead of in my garage.  I'm over 85% now and I was still able to make a little headway on the bus.

Now, THAT's 12 Volts
After trickle charging the battery for the last year or so just so it could have a charge most of the time, I finally shook free $180 for a good battery last Friday.  I'm continuing to use the stock battery location, even though the TDI batteries are so much larger.  With the fuel filter and cables running around the right side of the engine bay, getting the old battery out and the new one in was quite the game of Tetris.  Still, after about 15 minutes of huffing and puffing, the new battery was in, cables nutted down and I was ready to test fire.  Switching to the run position, I could hear the typical "snap" sound of the relay's getting energized.  I turned the key to start and the engine roared to life almost instantly.  Hazah!

I gave the old battery to Les Schwab as a core deposit and they noticed that I'd had the wrong battery all along.  Nice job, Batteries Plus!  Guess I won't be going there again.

The last time I swapped out batteries (I seem to have failed to document): something is shorting across the exterior light circuit so when I turn off the key, the engine keeps running.  Yikes.  I didn't notice this when I test fired in the garage on Friday, but I couldn't kill the engine with the key in the parking lot at work this morning.  I killed it by putting it in gear, but then I saw that the headlights were still on.  I vaguely remember this happening because I did something with the tail light wires when I shook the battery into place.  I'll root around and post what the fix was.  When I test fired in the garage, I didn't turn on the lights.  That's weird, but if I remember right, this was not a big deal last time.

UPDATE (2014-06-26): the root cause is either a bad ground or a wiring funkiness in the right rear tail light.  The brake alarm light illuminates sporadically while driving with the headlights on.  I removed and messed around with the dual-filament brake/running light bulb, but I haven't yet fully fixed the issue.  More to come..

The bus starts and runs great now, with the new battery.  I swear, somehow its actually quieter and the gears are easier to find.  I'm sure I've lost weight and look more attractive now too.  Great stuff getting the right battery for your vehicle.  That's it for today.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


It's been an odd couple of weeks and I apologize for not posting something.  I reference two major starts as "commencement".  The first, the beginning of a driving history after an accident and the second a post-high school life.

Alex Reiger, He's NOT
On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, T was asked to play taxicab for his brother.  C had a lacrosse game in Canby at 6, but his lacrosse equipment was in Beaverton and they both had been over-nighting at their mom's house in Lake Oswego.  This meant T had a couple of hours of driving to do in rush hour traffic, ending in the confusing street-design around Canby High School.  Not a good set-up.  They almost made it without incident, but while trying to navigate the weird streets off and around the high school and 99E, he got into a fender-bender with a local.

27 8x10 Color Glossy Pictures with Circles and Arrows and a Paragraph on the Back of Each One
The "local" was a brash and unpleasant 20-something woman driving a relatively new, but woefully uninsured Kia.  While T was found mostly at fault because he was turning left as she was trying to go straight at an intersection, the way the scene went down has me wondering if we got the full story.  Flash had his front corner on the driver's side folded in, damaging the front fender, bumper and hood.  The left-turn signal doesn't work correctly.  Her car got a dented driver's door.  T had already crossed the first of the 2 oncoming lanes and was driving quite slowly.  She accelerated into the intersection.  Did she think she was going to be able to dodge around him?  When T and C drew the scene, and played it out with matchbox cars, things didn't add up quite right.  Lesson learned here: immediately after impact, start snapping pictures with a cell phone of the damage, the intersection and parts of the cars which were not involved.

Show Me Yours, I'll Show You Mine
After the impact, both cars drove to the side to exchange information, but she had no insurance to share.  Just a phone number.  Multiple witnesses saw that and heard everyone say they were unhurt.  Yet, a couple of days later, the other driver was claiming her car was undrivable and she intended to make medical claims against our insurance.  I guess she saw an opportunity to get 6 months of free massages and a full body paint job on her car.  Multiple phone calls, phone tree navigations and conference calls later, T was assigned more than half of the blame, but not sole responsibility.  The other driver tried to get insurance after the accident and then filed a claim with them too.  Hilarious.  That was shot down, and now the insurance folks have put the sheriff onto her case for driving without insurance.  So much for those free massages; instead she gets SR22 insurance (read: more expensive) and possible license suspension.  Neat.  Then, there's the attempted fraud.  If she had realized she was driving illegally, maybe both sides could have just walked away without reporting to insurance.  Now, everyone loses.

We have had good happenings too.

Yes, that's plain awful.  Sue me.  K attended a challenging high school and prioritized an after-school driving job over studying during his sophomore year, digging for himself a deep grade hole he almost couldn't climb out of.  But he did.  His junior year, he prioritized the Science Fair over all of his other work, and again, he found himself in a hole, but not one as bad as the year before, and again dug his way out.  This senior year, he again got an after-school job and through determination and focus he graduated.  Like Hollywood movies, the big ending is all the more satisfying knowing the main character had obstacles along the way, met those challenges and ended victorious.  That was the story line of K's high school career.  Greeted with loud cheers from his brother K2, mother & father, his paternal grandparents, his step-father and step-brothers, K produced a huge smile as his name was read.  He crossed the stage as if on air, and in his usual floppy way found his way back to his seat.  As the graduates left the auditorium, K skipped.

And now what's next?  He's 18 and high school graduated.  Boo and I returned home from the post-commencement brunch puzzled by that thought.  He's the first of the 4 we will see leave the nest, and he's setting a great example of how to transition into independence.

Car stuff:  I did the rotors and pads on Flash a few weeks ago, didn't apply grease nor anti-squeal goop and regretted it.  I did them again, and now they're dead quiet and stop well.  Goes to show that anti-squeal goop isn't snake-oil; it actually works.  I haven't been able to play around with the bus other than fiddling with his shifter again.  I was able to drive him to work every day last week, and that was a true pleasure.

I guess that's it for today.  Thanks for following along, and Hapy Last Day of School-

Monday, June 2, 2014

HHH Day 2 band review

Boo and I camped the 9th annual Horning's Hideout Hootenanny (HHH) over Memorial Day weekend.  We had a blast (see So Starts Camping Season 2014).  Here's our review of the 4 bands who played on Sunday.

Vivid Curve
pulled from myspace, but its Vivid Curve
Imagine this scene.  It's the morning of day two after a late night of music (past midnight) and unofficial partying.  From the main stage, a long low drone rolls up the concert bowl to those sleeping in hammocks and tents until finally they slowly drag themselves into the morning light.  With the approaching march of the zombies, Vivid Curve starts up a set dressed in bathrobes and toasting the crowd with mimosas.  Upon the conclusion of this comical intro, Vivid Curve erupted in a psychedelic frenzy under-pinned by a didgeridoo and a talking drum played by a chap in a viking helmet.  Rhythmically supported by an Okee on a drum kit and a tie-dyed mountain-man on a washboard, the seemingly mild-mannered lead man leaped around with his acoustic guitar entertaining us with spoken word and melodies.  Boo and I were blown away.  These guys were amazing.  Their set flew by, and we loved every minute of it.  We will definitely seek these guys out.  By far, Vivid Curve was the biggest pleasant surprise of the weekend.  They simply crushed it.

Joy Tribe
Joy Tribe was interesting.  Following Vivid Curve wasn't easy to start with, and the beautiful sunny morning started to disappear as they took the stage.  None of that helped.  Adding insult to injury, the lead vocalist's main vocal range was squarely in the same range of notes and close in tone to what the guitarist and trumpet player were doing.  As a result, you couldn't make out anything she was singing.  I think they purposely had the vocal and trumpet lines match, but the mix was not quite right.  They tried to compensate by boosting her vocal near to the point of feeding back the mic, but I think the guitar needed to be quieter or the whole band needed to focus on dynamics: play quieter while she's singing.  The lead vocalist played sax and flute, exposing how multi-talented she is.  Unfortunately, it wasn't easy to engage with the band because of the loss of fidelity of the vocals.  Like a couple of the bands on the first day, I'd probably stay at a venue if they showed up and started playing, but I wouldn't seek them out.

Lewi Longmire and the Left Coast Roasters
rain? what rain?
Lewi Longmire is a Portland icon.  I'd never had the pleasure of seeing him play, and now I look back on those years with regret.  He and his band were fantastic.  They found that careful balance between energized and professional that neither Wood Knot nor Blue Lotus could find the day before.  They reminded me of Derek and the Dominos in terms of vibe and sound.  While the rain poured down.. and then sprinkled... and then poured... and then sprinkled, their sound slowly drew folks out from under their tarps into the sand pit.  By the time they finished their set, there were multiple pop-up canopies and 40 people dancing in the rain.  Powerful stuff.  Lewi was probably the best start-to-finish band of the weekend; most professional and arguably the most magnetic.  I will definitely seek Lewi out.

Garcia Birthday Band
I hadn't seen the Garcia Birthday Band for years.  Since then, it seemed like just about everyone in the band has changed.  I know Jon's been there since the beginning and I recognized him, but no one else.  I knew my old friend Steve had stopped playing keyboards for them years ago; it didn't matter, though.  They are still the Portland-area Grateful Dead cover band, so if you want a taste of that shuffle beat, they are the only game in town.  They're much tighter than they were when I saw them play on the lawn in Troutdale way back when to celebrate Jerry's birthday.  Still, I think they made a mistake booking a week full of shows prior to headlining the closing night of the Hootenanny.  They didn't have much energy.  It felt like they were tired, and wanted to rock, but just couldn't.  There were flashes of "here comes something", but that wouldn't last.  I'll see them again, and I won't wait as long.  Turned out, we waited less than a week and drove the whole gang out to the Rock Creek Tavern in Hapy the wonderbus.  The bus drove great and the band played much more energetically.  Boo and I were talking about going to their Fest in August, but its adults-only, and we have the full brood that weekend.  For those thinking about it, look to see what other acts they're bringing (I suggest Vivid Curve and Wood Knot :-)) and whether they're playing 5 straight nights before it.

Monday Morning
Unannounced and without pretense, there were two last artists performing on Monday morning while folks woke up, cleaned up and packed out.  First, someone made their way to the center of the concert bowl and played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.  Well executed, and, once completed, whoever it was disappeared as quickly and quietly as s/he arrived.  Second, a guy with long blonde dreadlocks and a Cello set up under the canopy where the Hillwilliams had played late the first night.  He had a couple of effects pedals routing his sound through the small amp he was sitting on.  With that simple set up, he created basic loops on top of which he then solo'd.  He was joined at points by a woman on a cajon.  It was almost spiritual how the Cello cut through the morning dull.  When the morning sun broke through the clouds, a younger woman would compliment the music with free form dance behind the musicians and a screen, casting a willowy shadow.  It was a very cool effect.  I don't know who they were, unfortunately.  I'll update if I find out.  Regardless, it was a very foggy-morning-after way to end the festival.

That's it for the HHH reviews.  We had a blast and are ready to reserve our spot for next year.  I hope some of you can tear yourselves away from your typical Memorial Day traditions and help create a bus-zone under the trees at Hornings next year.  Thanks for following along.  Maybe I'll have more bus content next time.