Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Of Faucets, E-bikes & Food

I kinda feel sorry for the few people who have recently subscribed to this blog. Instead of photos and videos of me gimping up rough 4×4 trails and camping in scenic spots, worrying in my own sheltered, suburban way about damaging the Mighty Furd or scrambling the contents of the Four Wheel Grandby, they (and you) get a few months of wintering in Yuma in a TT, and whining about how long my to-do list is. Don’t worry, spring will come. Until then, though…

The Legend of the Self-Healing Roof

Last summer took its toll in the Defiant, my 1994 TT parked near Yuma, Arizona. I had the rear roof vent cover replaced, since a Monsoon Season storm blew the cover right off. I had to hold the stepladder for the guy who got up there to do it for me, since he could have had a Bad Day while transitioning from the ladder to the roof and back. He had guts, I’ll say that for him. I replaced the cover gasket myself later, since he wasn’t stocking one in his van. That doesn’t require more than standing on an extension ladder and leaning way over. That might take care of the slow water leak when high winds come from the rear of the trailer during the occasional rain.

This is an old photo of the Defiant, taken before I added the Intrepid to the Mighty Furd’s bed.

What’s unusual is that the one-piece aluminum sheet covering the roof has somehow straightened itself out, pretty much. Before, it always looked like Two-Ton Charlie played football up there, the surface being dented and uneven from front to back. Now, the great majority of it looks good as new, except for the oxidation. My theory is that it was the daily expansion and contraction caused by the heat of the sun, since it always sounded like the crumpling of a soda can while the sun rose on it. Not no more, though. It’s quiet!

Can a Faucet Bring Joy?

The other issue that bothered me on arriving was that the original cheap plastic bathroom faucet base had cracked open, and water spilled out of it whenever the water taps were opened. No class. The kitchen faucet suddenly tended to drip, and shutting it truly off required a firm crank. So I splurged and ordered two all-brass faucets, the one for the kitchen having a neck that was high up, allowing pots to be filled without having to angle and dip them down into the sink. They’re both odd in that the handles rotate just 90 degrees with a positive stop, and don’t use conventional gaskets that take a set over time. They should outlast me.

Having them replaced cost an arm and a leg, but my aversion to opening up anything hydraulic was vindicated as a part broke late in the game, and a trip had to be made to Wellton’s hardware store to replace it before the water could be turned back on. This plumber service is one of those 24/7 ones, and had they come out on a weekend or toward the end of the day, that’d be all she wrote. That, and the agonized contortions needed in the very cramped space, particularly inside the bathroom counter, made me think, “Boy, I’m glad that’s not me!” I now smile every time I draw water, because these new faucets work the way that Gulf Stream should have intended in the first place. Then again, they never intended that anyone would spend more than a few idle weekends in one.

Bike Tires for Codgers

As for the Evelo Aurora e-bike, its rear tire, a Michelin Country Dry [2], wore through after just 1,800 miles. By “wore through”, I mean quickly into the fabric such that the inner tube was bulging out through the hole. I consider that to be pretty pathetic, compared to the bicycle tires that were made back in the Pliocene Age of my youth. Not having a working bike and BOB trailer meant that the Mighty Furd had to be used for laundry and local errands until a replacement tire showed up, a duty which it does not like. It makes one engine valve tend to stick, a trait that can only be removed by getting it up to temperature and holding speed with lengthy highway use.

The front Michelin when it was nearly new.

My goal in tire selection was to either find one with a tall tread and a center rib, or one with more ground contact, or both. Aftermarket bike tires today are all thin tread, because mountain bike enthusiasts today all tend to want something akin to racing tires. That means thin treads to lower weight and reduce rolling resistance, and very open tread designs for better grip on loose surfaces. Today, bike tire manufacturers all cater to these selling points because it draws in the bulk of of bicycle hobbyists who do not compete, but are saddled with the vestiges of a warrior mentality – warriors who wear Lycra with advertising all over it, which makes them feel like they’re sponsored pros, or could be. Now I’ll admit that a good (read: $$$$) bike feels like a tuning fork instead of a hammer, and reducing the rotating mass contributes significantly to that but, once you start depending on a bicycle for transport duty instead of joyriding, priorities shift, and flimsy racing tires are about the last thing you want to have to deal with. Okay, maybe Lycra is, but the point is that “dependable” outranks “fast” for mortals like myself, and the online aftermarket pickings are slim.

Because I’m more cheap than enthusiastic, and want a tread that will last for years, I opted for more ground contact in the hope that this would slow tread wear. The winner was a “Serfas Drifter City Reflective”, an urban-use tire that makes no claims to off-roading performance. The “Reflective” part of the name refers to a thin whitewall that reflects light for night riding. That makes it either a safety boost or an aiming point, depending upon one’s outlook after years of riding bicycles on roads and highways. This 65 PSI tire is an oddball, having an “inverted tread design”, which means that instead of it having knobs sticking up from a thin carcass, it is a reasonably thick slick with some depressions molded into it

A whitewall by any other name…

This may not be as bad in sand and thick dust as it appears at first glance, because the cutouts may tend to cup the ground and decrease sand’s tendency to shift out from underneath the tire. That is my theory and my hope. In practice, it does feel quite secure in deep sand, but I’m cheating by mounting it on the tire that’s carrying most of the weight. The front tire, in this case the Michelin, has a light load on it and is the one busily trying to dump you in sand. Whether the Serfas would decrease this wandering steering effect can only be answered by mounting one on the front as well. That won’t happen until the front Michelin wears out, which could take awhile because I modified to Aurora to pedal upright. That moved a lot of (my) weight from front to rear.

The front Michelin (left) hasn’t actually worn much. Obviously, the new Serfas is on the right.

Keeping the Michelin in service next to a center-rib tire highlights its penchant for creating vibrations on pavement as it rolls from one knob to the next, while the Serfas urban tire is of course glass smooth. But can the Serfas Drifter City work as an all-round duty tire? Only time will tell. I can say one thing: the tread cutouts are oddly generous, and shaped such that I wouldn’t corner these things real hard into a turn on pavement. Their length makes much of the contact patch simply disappear.

Electrons and You

The Aurora’s spare battery went bye-bye some time ago, and opening up its case recently showed that a wire flexed at a connection point and eventually broke off. It’s a weird setup, and I’m not sure how to get it reattached, or whether that effort would even be worth it – it’s always been the poorer of the two, despite being a replacement for the first spare I received from Evelo. That one had swelled and was a bit of a hazard. Although Evelo handled the return at their expense, these big lithium batteries are considered to be hazardous materials, so it took weeks to arrange the paperwork. They can ship one out, no problem, but for mere mortals to do the same from a small town is an ordeal.

Whoever makes these may use Samsung batteries, but brand doesn’t count for much if their assembly into a complete pack is poorly done.

The original battery is fading fast now from pure wear. That, and I’ve been charging it fully, and it turns out that these can have a much longer cycle life if they’re charged just to 90% or less. That cuts range on each trip, but at these prices it’s worth the trade-off. I noticed that its wire connections are discouraged from flexing by silicone at each joint, unlike the spare. But at $700 a pop for a battery that won’t last more than three years in my usage, I’m dead set on finding a workable alternative. So far, I haven’t found any alternative packs that will fit inside the Aurora’s battery case. In the end, I settled for a $230 battery pack that is a rough equivalent in performance and has its own case, with electrical plugs. I’ll have to jerryrig a mount for it on the bike’s battery platform, as well as work out a plug difference. The new battery uses plugs that are the most common in e-bike applications (and desktop computers), while the Evelo battery includes a bike harness plug type that is close, but no cigar. One of its three blades is turned sideways, resulting in a plug that will lock you into Evelo’s pricey but problem-prone packs. More than an hour of standards searching turned up nothing like it. On my request however, Evelo did send me a source for these oddball female case sockets, claiming that people have actually used computer cords to plug their (non-Evelo) batteries directly into 120VAC power outlets. That would be exciting to see, and to time the arrival of the fire department. I have a fairly simple solution in mind, and will write about it in detail here and on the Pack Mule page once I complete it. That completion part may take awhile. I’m pretty busy.

Food, Wonderful Food

Whoa! Utensils, stat!! Now that’s what I call a proper diet. All the major food groups that I’m aware of are here, except for beer and sorghum molasses. I can feel my arteries congealing already!

The same diet that has worked well for me seems to need some basic adjusting or, more accurately, corrective changes. The long-term aftermath of having one’s chest pried open, along with heavy doses of antibiotics and a couple of CT scans with dye seems to have added to the aftermath of an earlier colonoscopy procedure. My digestive system never did come fully back on board. So, one of the more impactful items on my to-do list is to research how to work my way out of the blessings of modern medical science.

That’s problematic, because if you listen to the evangelists condemning every edible except for a very few items only available at specialty stores in major cities, you’ll think that you are about to succumb to self-poisoning any day now. They tend to think more in terms of ideology and morals, and the vehemence of their arguments is such that diet has become a fair second to politics as the new religion. One expert’s claims directly contradict another expert’s and they both cite studies, so who do you believe? Listen long enough, and you begin to think that our ancient ancestors lived solely on a half-dozen plants, most of which are rarities found only in the Andes mountains or the Ngogo bog, and the other two you’ve never heard of in your life. As with anything, going with whatever is most popular is about as hazardous as going extremist.

I’ve always been a sucker for sodas and sweets, so when I saw this, it made me think.

So, as with anything, I’ll have to pick my own path, which is also very time consuming. The solution is complicated by my 8-month travels, and the fact that unprocessed things like produce can be difficult to get in towns where the food selection is just a step above a gas station convenience store. So there’s ideal, and then there’s realistic. I’ll spare you what I finally settle on, since that would amount to just one more bleat source on the “best” diet, which you don’t need more of. Then again, you don’t need fascinating blurbs on 23-year-old RV roofs, modern faucets, bike tires or e-bike batteries either, but since I spent actual money on those, I need to work through that trauma here on the blog.

Grand vistas are nice, but it doesn’t take those to make camping remotely so rewarding for me. The little things add up.

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6 thoughts on “Of Faucets, E-bikes & Food

  1. Linda Sand on said:

    We stopped doing colonoscopies when I realized how much it was ruining gut biology. We need those colonies in our digestive systems. Sure wish I didn’t hate yogurt.

    • Yeah Linda, especially the plain yogurt, unsweetened. I gotta get back to that, since refrigerator space in the Four Wheel will not hold tubs, which are the only way to buy the “good” stuff. I sprinkle a little vanilla extract on it to make it almost palatable, and drop a few blueberries in. On the advice of a very knowledgeable friend, I lean toward hard-to-find whole milk yogurt. Plus, I gotta get one with lactobacillus acidophilus in it. I’m also supposed to drop some kinda little seeds in there, but I forget what they’re called. After that, it’s all voodoo.

      I agree – I think I’ve had my last colonoscopy, especially since it won’t be long before they say not to bother. I think it took three months before I’d recovered from it. Then it took an additional couple of months to recover from having seen the invoice.

  2. A roof that fixes itself.. hard to beat that!

    • I can’t be sure, but as I climbed up to survey the wreckage, I think I faintly heard the theme song from the original Twilight Zone TV series. I had just finished complaining to the repair guy how wavy it is while I clambered up to hand him a can of silicone spray, and…

  3. Ummm – me too. My 2003 Coachmen has to have all plastic roof vents replaced this year due to suffering through Florida summers. My sympathies. The last 3 days of rain came pouring in – luckily the worst leak was over the shower and not over the bed. you know – good news/bad news

    • Thank you! Micro-tragedies like this give those of us in RVs a common bond, it seems. These vent covers look to me like a great opportunity to load plastics with UV inhibitors, but that might boost product costs by a small percentage. Since we are the owners and not the initial buyers of these assemblies, price becomes the priority over durability, just like the faucets. The thing about Florida that sticks in my mind is: it’s not exactly what I would call a dry heat! Got sweat? 🙂

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