Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the category “Mod Squad”

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?

Read more…

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…

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again!

The Bridge of the USS Defiant as it was in 2013. It’s pretty much the same now, except for a thick layer of paperwork needing to be scanned or otherwise dealt with.

I’ve got this big-screen iMac, circa 2009, and it’s proven wonderful both for critically editing and cleaning up film photographs to make art prints, and also simply to be able to work on one document while another reference source is on the screen right beside it. Its screen sharpness is fabulous, which makes me wonder why Apple later upgraded it to just barely beyond the visual limits of human eye resolution. Apart from being a marketing brag, what’s the practical use for all that extra cost? No matter. I was pleased to be able to concentrate on my workload rather than have to frequently troubleshoot why my computer suddenly couldn’t find my printer.

Regardless, the iMac has been a real workhorse right up until Apple emailed me in 2013 that too many of the special Seagate hard disk drives (HDD) they use were failing, and would I please take my iMac to one of their authorized service centers for an HDD replacement at no charge. I found this notable because they knew I was several months out of warranty and Read more…

The Busy Bee Syndrome

In the same way that a 1960 Cadillac is a motorcar, this vintage Holiday Rambler Aluma-Lite travel trailer brings a touch of magnificence to the concept of Wretched Excess. I’ll have to ask what length and year it is, but it looks like 33′ at perhaps 10,000 pounds loaded. Unlike the prestige nameplates of today, in its prime the quality of Holiday Rambler materials and construction was high, and upscale meant more than gewgaws posing as “amenities”. The brand has since been bought and sold a few times, and the current owner manufactures only motorhomes now.

It really has been an activity scramble here, more so than upon arrival “home” in past years. I’ve been reviewing what has and hasn’t worked out well on the road, then researching each area and addressing it in some fashion. That review ranges from rig hardware, devices and software, to myself. The Four Wheel pop-up truck camper itself was notable for its pronounced absence of issues and inconveniences. The solar system I added on worked, yet didn’t perform as hoped for. I’ll detail that once I physically fix the problem.

The Corsair Voyager Slider X1. Read speeds are okay, but God help you when you need to write data to it. And this is the replacement I received when the original scrambled and went unreadable two weeks in.

My laptop, used among other things to edit and store photos and videos, was positively glacial in how fast it could call up, process and transfer data files. That was my doing, because I’d been having to rely on using an external USB3 thumb drive as the hardest working drive, the internal drive being very fast but too small in capacity to hold all that’s needed. The USB drive proved fine for simple file transfers, but when thrashed hard while programs pulled and pushed data to “live” libraries, it suffered constipation (not to mention abdominal cramping and gas) from the get-go. Simply closing or quitting my photo editing program took minutes for it to button itself up, instead of seconds. Sorting through some halfway affordable solutions took quite some time, as did the “how-to” of replacing a main drive with no risk of losing anything. (Hint: always have a Plan B available for when Murphy’s Law kicks in.) Updating the operating system in a majorly way sometimes causes one or two third-party programs to Read more…

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 Read more…

The ARB Digital Tire Inflator

Airing back up after a rough trail has just gotten a lot faster, more convenient, and more accurate.

I’ve mentioned this product before, but it’s worth reviewing again for anyone who airs down tires more than occasionally. This post is more video-centric, but you can get more product details here. Most four-wheelers (day-trip rough trail enthusiasts) approach readjusting tire pressures like many campers approach basic no-frills overnighting. They rough it, and enjoy jettisoning convenience. They poke something/anything into the tire valves to let air out, and periodically check pressure with a pocket tire gauge. Then to air back up at the end of the trail, they monitor the built-in gauge on their favorite air pump. Since their vehicles are light and typically use tires that Read more…

I Had the Cutting Board Blues

The 7-minute video below presents two ways to address kitchen knives that seem to dull too quickly – the Epicurean Cutting Board and the Edge-Mag knife sheath. They are both very good products that are worth their price – except that the Edge-Mag needs an easy mod before it should be put into service. As-is, I can’t recommend it. Modded, it’s a definite winner.

The presentation itself is not a winner, there being two strikes against it. I’ll mention my end of the difficulties below, and save the hardware geekoid aspect for another post. The non-geekoid aspect of the geekoid aspect is simply the toll that age and heavy use take on electronic gizmos. Much like myself, they get cranky and obstinate. They develop quirks. Thus in this video, you’ll notice audio volume changes, tiny pieces of the video missing, and audio going out of sync. I’m working on exploring the issue and getting the bugs out of the process, but whether I will succeed or not is unknown at this point.

The other strike is that I do not particularly enjoy being in front of the camera in the few videos that I create, for reasons that become obvious once you take in the footage. But some presentations for topics become more communicative when a human being is there, yapping at you. It looks more like an honest word-of-mouth recommendation than some kind of paid viral product sales job. I enjoy the creative process of making videos, but I do not enjoy being in them.

From the start, I wondered “Why bother with a video with its setup, capture and editing, when I could just take a few snaps and write that I like these two products?” After all, a writeup is so much easier. And then people will never discover that I pause and say “Umm” a lot when I try to speak while I’m waiting for the next thought to rattle down the pipe. “Why bother” is that video is a realm that I’ve done a few times out of necessity. You’d think that if you can capture stuff in photographs passably well, then capturing them in video surely can’t be much of a difference, right? Nope. There is remarkably little similarity, other than looking through a viewfinder and pressing a button. If you want to get past the home movie stage, it’s a lot more complex and more involved. A really good video never reminds you that it’s a video about something, drawing attention to itself. It just presents its topic, and that’s what you dwell on. I don’t know how easily this skill comes to some people, but as for me, no, I can tell it doesn’t. It requires a different way of thinking and approaching that I’m simply not used to. It also requires a lot more energy and effort, start to finish. But, since I find it interesting and mysterious, thus you are made to suffer for my art, my learning process. I certainly prefer that to my having to suffer for it. So, out they come one by one, here and there. Fortunately for you, you can let them pass by unwatched, and no one’s the wiser. Win/win!

I’ll insert here a loose quote from Martin Scorsese, the noted film director, who I guess has either semi-retired or has a lot of nervous energy. He’s running ads promoting his new course on film directing. I’ve seen it here and there on the Internet. In it, he notes something in his fast, clipped tone, something a lot like, “When you’re starting out at this and have gotten a chance to take on a project, if you watch that day’s footage and don’t become physically ill – and I mean physically ill – then you’re doing something wrong.”

Well, I’ve done some event coverage videos in my former life that I thought were okay for what they were, at the time. Car shows, gymkhanas, road races, mud bogs. Many were merely photo stills with Ken Burns slow-zoom effects and soundtracks, and some were real action videos. Some were a mix of the two. I posted them, proud and happy. Event coverage means that they must be done and posted in a very timely way, so they don’t need to be filmmaking epics. Then on a passing whim, if I watched any one of the “real videos” a few months later, it became obvious that it had problems. I can’t specifically identify a fix to a lot of those problems, but they are certainly there. I can smell the faint stink wandering between capture limitations, editing issues, and sound. Rewatch the same video a year or two later, and it’s an embarrassment. The raw footage is okay – you can only get certain set vantage points at an event with one guy and one camera, after all – but the editing, the way the final presentation comes across, is head-in-hands awful. It’s not that I had learned a lot in the interim, but that I’d finally been able to separate myself from the work enough to be objective.

The difference between me, a guy just goofing around with a camera, and a trained and skilled pro, is that he can see his mistakes the first time he looks at just the raw captures of the day. Me, I’m glad to have gotten anything at all, so my disappointment usually takes months or years after the project has been completed and posted. I may not know how to do a certain part of it better, but I do come to know that something is seriously wrong…eventually. The pieces do not fit, or do not work together to do what I was assuming they did. If nothing else, I want to move that sense of disgust much further forward. Thankfully, I have never recognized enough at any one viewing to become physically ill, despite the stakes being personally quite high for me at the time. But, I do recognize – with considerable delay – that the bulk of video work that I post is at kindergarten level. That’s humiliating of course, but it also makes me want to be able to sense what’s wrong during the process, and see some options on how to address it. These days, I can only do so much with the equipment I have, the energy and time periods that I have available, and the simple types of pieces that I want to do. I don’t even need to get good. I just want to get to that point where I can look at it later with the same viewpoint I had when when I first completed it.

The video above? Well, it’s horrid too, but at least it’s obvious what’s wrong, and what would be needed to fix it: raw footage without glitches in it, more aggressive editing to shorten it up and give it a sense of direction, and certain casting/personnel changes. I’m doing what I can to see what can be done about them, although there aren’t a lot of options for problem #3. Still, as far as I’m concerned, this is progress already – I’m recognizing specific problems during the editing process. Oddly, the whole goal is not to get to where you the viewer enjoy watching any videos that I may churn out while I continue to fumble around with this new-to-me format. That is of course important to me, but when push comes to shove, the absolute priority is that I progress enough in the process such that I’m satisfied with the end product. Unless I like it first, I can’t really hear whatever you might have to say about the effectiveness of the presentation (not the topic itself). Are we having fun yet?

Post Navigation