Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Mod Squad”

2018 Overland Expo, Day 1

This little guy was toddling around holding a pine cone in the Four Wheel display area, and was just so cute that I couldn’t help but take a picture (with parental approval). He looked to have just started walking a week or so ago, and had that hesitant high-step that makes you smile.

Friday was the start of this event, and this post is only a “photo essay” of that one day. Day 2 will follow, but that’s how it usually is, with Day 2 following Day 1. Some smart alack may argue using quantum physics or some such gibberish, but that’s how it is in my book.

The aisles were long, and the vendors plentiful.

The B.F. Goodrich test track was there to convince people that their KO2 all-terrain and new KM3 mud tire were capable performers. This is an interactive display: you sign up, and they let you get behind the wheel!

I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to do this. The guide has them stop right here, and then ease up and over. On one of three vehicles, the front tires were slipping a bit on the hard-pack dirt, letting the front end shift very slightly sideways under power. Anyhow, I don’t like to go over what I can’t see, despite the poles and flags. Too big a dose of adventure, I guess, and no roll cage. Are you up for it?

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An Unusual Weekend

Parked at the Cinder Hill OHV Area, at last. Whew!

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

This year’s Overland Expo West was the largest ever, (130,000 attendees total, I was told) with enough acreage of gewgaws to exhaust anyone but a marathon runner. Honestly, just about every permutation of any concept or product was there in enough profusion to eventually numb the mind. Each of the many aisle lengths appeared to be a quarter-mile long.

The traffic stack-up to get in a day early (on Thursday) was over 45 minutes, since I arrived just when the gates opened at 1 PM. The check-in procedure itself was painless, since there was no need to even get out of the vehicle. Then it was on to the Read more…

The Day Before

And I thought the Intrepid was a bit large. This Dodge Ram with XCamper was in the Little America Truck Stop in Flagstaff. It’s for sale, and no doubt they too are headed for the Expo.

Errand day went fine in Flagstaff, at least until I finished and parked in a Conoco lot north of town on US-89. A local fishing guide stopped by to ask about the Four Wheel and how difficult it was to lift the roof, so while his small child slept in his SUV, I explained the standard setup, explained the Grandby’s optional setup to support the old-school framed solar panels on it, then put him to work to lift the rear up. “Oh! That’s not bad at all!” he said, being young and fit. During our conversation, he told me that he grew up in Flagstaff and lamented the complete change in aura and events, going from lumberjack contests to politically correct eco fare. It’s always painful when a town loses its authenticity and differentiation, which in this case he blamed on transplants from Californistan.

Right after he took off, a guy pulled up and wanted to know if I’d like a TV. He had a smallish television and antenna that he claimed would pull in a station 35 miles away. Now, I desire to watch television about as much as I love going to cardiologists and dentists, so I politely declined. I was tired and figured a nap was in order, but the highway Read more…

Setting Up the Intrepid’s Solar Ground Panels

The video below shows how the Intrepid carries its two 100-watt solar ground panels onboard, and how they are removed and deployed. The usual setup on Four Wheel campers is to carry one panel by using two aluminum rails attached underneath the bed area of the camper, but there isn’t enough of a vertical gap between the camper and the truck’s cab roof to stow two 100-watt panels in this way. Plus, the then-owner of Four Wheel personally interceded on the phone to dissuade me from using that method due to his fear that the combined weight of the panels and the inherent violence of off-roading might cause delamination of the board used in that area. I had wanted to use adhesive tape rather than drill for machine screws through the board from inside the camper, something I’m squeamish about when accuracy is vital. It’s a moot point, though. There isn’t enough physical space available.

So I designed, prepped and had a highly experienced welder assemble an aluminum carrier rack that is bolted to the forward jack mounts of the camper. It’s a twin-track affair which carries Read more…

A Shocking Discovery

Huh? White, branded shock absorbers from a new car dealer? Don’t mind the squiggle at top center – that’s the VIRB’s default display that indicates where you currently are along the recording’s total path. (It has a GPS sensor.) Here, I’m just beginning to head east on a trail.

When the Mighty Furd was having its front suspension rebuilt and new shock absorbers put on, all I looked at were the front shocks, which were easily seen. They’re black. I assumed that the rears were also black, since this set had to be ordered, and Ford won’t put on non-Ford parts that aren’t related to their OEM chain. They of course order a heap of parts from OEM vendors, most of which also sell aftermarket. But the original testing, evaluation and approvals of whatever they specify and order must run the gauntlet in order for Ford to be able to warranty them both as-delivered and as replacement parts. Dealers can of course install nearly anything the customer wants, but if they fail, you then only have recourse via the outfit that made the parts you wanted put on. Ford Motor won’t warranty them.

So here we have Ford-issued no-name shocks in front, and white Rancho shocks in the rear, and Ford Motor warranties them all for their usual two years. So the original black Ford-supplied rears are apparently out of production, and the Rancho-branded shocks are considered to be fully equivalent. This is not particularly surprising, since Ford now sells at least one pickup model wearing Rancho-branded shocks. As I wrote in an earlier post, the performance of this set feels equivalent to what the Mighty Furd was originally delivered with, unlike the Monroe Gas-Magnums that I later replaced them with.

Not being one to leave well enough alone, I was now curious as to what model of Ranchos these rear shocks are. After all, finding that out will in the future enable me to have them replaced with Ranchos all-’round, and more cheaply than having to go to Ford to get them. You can get any model of Rancho anywhere. So I emailed the “RanchoExtreme Team” to ask Read more…

Views of the Carnage

Just a few random shots of the Mighty Furd in the shop. These were taken by my intrepid service writer and texted to me. It’s now 5:15PM, so the thing fought tooth and nail on the front suspension. It’s just being finished up now, all work complete once the road test is done. I think we can all agree at this point that this should be the last post of its kind for awhile, eh?

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Labor Day

Not clean, but cleaner. On the left is what I started with, and on the right is a relatively clean but not pristine cleaned area.

One task that’s never mentioned with pop-up truck campers is cleaning the flexible fabric walls. That’s probably because there’s no glamor in it. But, it has to be done, and sooner rather than later. Today’s little exercise shows what happens when you don’t or can’t keep up with it. See, weekending with a Four Wheel tends to create minimal soiling issues with the fabric walls, and cleanup is easy using only a rag, water, and perhaps a very mild cleaning agent. A quick once-over does the trick.

In the case of a Four Wheel camper, a lower shroud on the roof closes over the structure below in the same way that a lid sleeves over a box. Thing is, such a large structure is not going to be able to fit the box tightly, or you’d have trouble seating the roof all the way down. The Four Wheel has a gasket along the front edges, but this provides a fit that can only discourage dirt from getting up into the folded polyester fabric. It can’t truly seal and prevent it. Result: protracted travel on dusty dirt roads is going to soil the fabric, and vibration from such roads will tend to grind the dirt into folds of the fabric that contact each other. Most of the soiling my camper shows is from dust collected during travel on such roads. This is unmistakable when you begin a day’s travel with a relatively clean top, and raise it at the end of a day to find it remarkably filthy.

If cleaned on a regular basis, such soiling does not present much of a problem. It’s quite quick and easy to remove with either water, or water and a mild bleach-free dish detergent. Detergent should be avoided if it isn’t required. If you’re on the road for months on end as I am, things get more Read more…

It’s All About the Electrons

As the song goes, “…You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone…”

While the Four Wheel Camper’s batteries and functionality depend on the sun, so does the Evelo Aurora e-bike’s battery – once I’m out on tour. It siphons power off the Four Wheel’s house pack to keep itself charged. All good things come to an end, and the original Evelo 48V 10Ah battery that shipped with the bike has now cycled enough times that it is no longer very useful for anything but the shortest, easiest errands. It actually began to sag a year ago, so this is a belated replacement. The spare battery that I ordered with the bike immediately showed signs of swelling and proved defective, so Evelo replaced it. That replacement broke an internal wire right after its warranty had expired, right at a place that was not possible for me to repair.

Evelo sells its replacements at $700 per – almost three times the market cost of this battery voltage and capacity. They are nice batteries, since they come with a marginal-quality spring carrier rack on top of the case, and they are well-protected against weather except when their spring-loaded charging port covers refuse to stay closed. The Aurora’s frame carries its battery case in a steel tube perimeter hoop, which gives it some protection in a crash and allows it to be key-locked in place, a useful trait in urban environments. It’s a well-integrated system that allows the battery case to be buried halfway down into the hoop, which allows a seatpost carrier to be installed above it if need be. But an average of $233/year for e-bike batteries, especially at this minimal capacity level, is simply not acceptable to me. Time for a change. Many e-cyclists would toss the whole thing and start over with a vintage bike and a gas engine drive kit, which is much cheaper and faster on the level. They don’t do so well at inching up steep, rough trails and I’m not yet ready to start packing cans of gasoline. But it’s a choice.

The Evelo battery with a seatpost-mount carrier above it, which is used to hold a basket.

Since I’m not really conversant in e-bike geekdom, all I knew was that how the battery cells were wired up together was referred to Read more…

A Punch in the Solar Nexus

My thought diversion for today is an update on the Intrepid’s solar system. I mention it because, it now being January, the sun arcs low enough in the sky to starve the flat-mounted 360-watt roof panels. This is not a surprise to me nor too many other people. Since these panels are trying to recharge some 420 amp-hours of battery capacity while a 12VDC compressor fridge is running for unusually long periods of time in hot weather, this power drain and poor panel aiming tends to prevent the pack from reaching and holding its 14.4V peak for its intended 3-hour span. So, the 200-watt ground panels were deployed everywhere I camped, when practical, and re-aimed throughout the day. In a cloudless sky, this combination can get the pack fully charged by 2 PM. Partly cloudy skies slow or prevent that, obviously. The main culprit is the inability to aim the roof panels toward the sun, but a close second is the unusually long runtime of the Dometic compressor fridge. In a marginal charging situation, it pulls enough power and runs long enough to prevent a full charge, and that can be a battery killer. Combine that with clouds, and you have an undesirable situation, even with the ground panels deployed. These were my thoughts as of last fall, anyway.

None of this is a problem over the winter months in Yuma, since the fridge is off and nothing else is pulling power, either. However badly oriented, the roof panels alone can easily recharge the pack then. Were I to have to keep the camper in service over the winter, some changes would be needed because that fridge would be on. The first impulse was of course to increase panel wattage, but this is not a practical option for me. There’s no more space on the roof for additional panels. While I could theoretically add another 100W ground panel or two to pump 300 or 400 watts through the separate Morningstar 200-watt charge controller (a good way to increase charging in poor sun conditions), my storage rack is maxed out and, as far as space in the truck cab and camper goes, there’s no room at the inn. I’m already panel-heavy. Enough with more panels, already! Important note: Don’t try this at home. Don’t exceed your own controller’s Read more…

Remounting the Four Wheel Camper

Step 2 of the process: get to the motel.

If you’ve been keeping up with the previous fascinating accounts on this blog, then you’re aware that the Four Wheel Grandby camper in the bed of my F-250 has managed to shift to one side, this being the second time. This one occurred late in the game because I hadn’t had much of a chance to hit rough trails until earlier this year, 2016 having included a minimum of “campsploring”. What’s odd is that both front camper mounts were still tight in spite of the shift, while one the rear showed only a small of loss of tension. That’s not good, since it indicates that, as long as the bed sheetmetal itself is not deforming, the mounting points in the bed are not spread out sideways enough to do any more than hold the camper down.

Whining to Adventure Trailers, my camper dealer, netted an appointment and much brainstorming about ways to end this shifting around, because it’s very unusual. In preparation, I bulked up on aluminum rails that could be mounted to the bed to cage in the camper, plus a bunch of different types of fasteners. That’s an undesirable approach for a couple of reasons, but I figured I’d better show up with a Plan B in case the existing mounting points were already as well-located as they could get in the Ford’s bed. Just in case the rails had to be installed as the solution, Adventure Trailers allotted six hours to get me back out of the shop.

Prescott is a 250-mile, four-hour drive from Wellton,  so showing up at the shop by 8AM would require Read more…

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