Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A recent Google search that found this blog:

They can at times be quite amusing. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that The PapaGolf Chronicles was most emphatically NOT what they were looking for, despite being the very top link returned:

pure de papa de kentuky fray chiquen

Can't please everybody, I guess.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back in the swing of things

I'll regret this during my annual winter bitchfest about the cold Ohio weather, but I'm going to say it anyway: it was too hot to fly this weekend. We all know, of course, that the heat alone cannot bear the full burden of the uncomfortable Ohio August and that the humidity is required to shoulder some of the blame. That's neither here nor there - it all came down to whether I could drag myself out in the muggy summer sauna to go flying. I could not. Besides the oppressive blanket of heat and haze, it is important to not that the co-pilot was out of town. Flying anywhere would have been all of the work, but only half the fun.

I had other stuff to do anyway. I'm behind on my game reviews, so I knocked a couple of those out. And I have a porch swing project underway that hit a snag last week. I fixed that. I fortunately had not glued the slats into place, so it was just a matter of unscrewing them and using a pair of more accurately cut spacers to reposition them as I reinstalled them. Sounds easy, but leave it to me ti find a way to make it hard. I broke one of the screws while I was backing it out. After the liberal application of the magical incantations I normally use in situations like this (refer to George Carlin's List of Seven Words You Can't Say on TV for the complete set) and some quality time spent with a pair of pliers, I got it removed and replaced. Here's the latest status shot:

The energy expended in vocalizing various combinations of the words soured my mood for woodwork, though, so I had to find something else to do on Sunday. I didn't want to be outside for any longer than it took for the promised thunderstorms to arrive, so I made a short road trip down to Circleville Raceway Park, my former go kart racing venue. I wanted to see what improvements they had made in the 15 years since I stopped racing, and to see if the older generation was still racing. I still have my old kart and engine, and I was curious as to what kinds of equipment I'd be racing against if I started again. Frankly, it didn't look like there had been any great advances since I quit. This venerable old European chassis might still be somewhat competitive:

Maybe a little refurbishment would make a good project once I get the porch swing done. I don't know if I'd ever get back into racing, though. I think that I might like to, but even with already having the kart and engine there would be costs. I'd need a trailer hitch for the Subaru to pull it around, a new helmet, and a new driving suit. That's close to $500 right there. Add whatever the kart would need - at a minimum that's a new set of tires. That's quite an investment just to find out that I'm older and slower and kart racing is behind me.

Now, a few minutes of 2-cycle Zen:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The inexhaustable, incredible financial benefits of airplane ownership

This must be what it's like to live in southern California: the same great weather day after day after day... you could get sick of that after a few decades I'm sure, but I sure am enjoying the few weeks of consistently fantastic flying weather we're having here in Ohio. Today was another perfect day to fly, and a good thing that it was, too! I had a chat with Co-pilot Rick last night during which he expressed his concern that he was to be demoted from Co-pilot to some lesser status because the Co-owner had found out that it isn't pure torture to fly with me after all. "Not to worry," I reassured him, "the Co-owner doesn't clean the bugs off of the wings, help push the airplane around, close the hangar doors, or any of the myriad other helpful little things that the Co-pilot does. Your job is secure."

Today seemed a great day to make a trip to one of my favorite secret places: the hiking trail at Rocky Fork State Park, down by Highland Co. airport. I also ran out of canopy cleaner while cleaning up the mess from the bug-strewn flight to and from French Lick, so after our hike we'd lunch on free brats at Clermont Co. airport, home of Sporty's Pilot Shop.

It's only a 13 minute flight between the two, so it was practically in the neighborhood. Sporty's does a great job on the brats, too. They have two or three different types, they provide ketchup, mustard, relish, and my favorite, a jar of hot horseradish. The brats are cooked on a charcoal grill, and have that perfect balance between charcoal charring and plump juiciness. Yummy! And free!! I've said it before, and I'll be saying it long after people are tired of hearing it: I don't know how you can afford to not have an airplane! Free brats, and no shipping charges on the canopy cleaner.

But, we had to get there first. It looked like we might have to pass on the hike at Highland Co. when we were monitoring their radio frequency on the way there. I have never heard so many planes going into and out of that airport. It seemed almost as if we were flying into a fly-in, and I really don't like going to fly-ins anymore. The crowded landing pattern and the tendency for fly-ins to attract airplanes that don't have radios have soured me on the whole idea. I hadn't seen anything in the Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) when I was doing my pre-flight research, but they aren't always NOTAMed. We decided to overfly the airport nice and high, above all of the fray to see what was going on.

It turned out that nothing special was going on, and I couldn't see more than a few planes down on the ramp. We went out a couple of miles and dropped the excess altitude on the turn back towards the airport. I made a fairly decent landing considering that I'm not a terribly big fan of their runway. It has a pronounced slope to it, and both uphill and downhill landings can be tricky. Today's wind had us landing into the uphill slope. That's nice on landing, in a way, in that you can get stopped pretty quickly once you're down. Of course, the opposite is true on takeoff: it takes a lot longer to get up to speed. That situation was even worse today as I availed myself of the comparatively low gas price and filled up. With full tanks, two pilots, and an uphill runway, it felt like we were rolling through a deep puddle of molasses on take off.

Once we got into the air, the short trip over to Clermont Co. was uneventful. The free brats at Sporty's can sometimes draw a pretty big crowd, but we lucked out in our timing at arrived to an empty pattern. We were slowed down on the runway soon enough to make the first turn off where we were met by a cadre of Sporty's employees to guide us into a parking spot. The service there is phenomenal and they really make you feel welcome. A couple of brats and a transaction in the pilot shop later and we were ready for the trip home.

The plane wasn't a whole lot lighter than it had been when it dragged its reluctant tail out of Highland Co., but at least it was a level runway. It became quickly apparent as we were climbing out, though, that the ride home was going to be bumpier than our smooth ride that we had earlier in the morning. The sun was heating things up, and the air was riled up in response. Hmmm, hot and bumpy: that can mean only one thing. Co-pilot Rick would fly that leg. You don't get that kind of help from a co-owner, mind you, so I think his job is secure.

Now that you've had to read through all of that, here is a video of the whole thing:

Next time you'll know to save yourself some time and just look ahead for the movie, I imagine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A swing and a miss

I alluded to an update on the porch swing project, and here it is. It was time to add the back seat slats. There are 14 slats cut from 1x2s. The plans call for a 1 1/2" gap on each end of the cleat (the horizontal 2x4 that the slats are attached perpendicular to) and 1 3/8" spacing between each slat. The cleat is 42" long, so that should work:

14 (slats) x 1.5" = 21"
13 (gaps between slats) x 1 3/8 = 17.875"
2 (end space) x 1.5" = 3"

Total width: 41.875"

To get the spacing right, I cut 1 3/8" spacers from left over 1 x 2. I cut enough for the first seven slats:

Once the first seven were securely screwed in place, I used the spacers to position the second seven. That's when the problem showed up. There's not a 1.5" gap on the end of the cleat:

I checked the math a few times to be sure, but the fact is that I have spaced them incorrectly. The only way for that to have happened would be if the spacers I cut from 1 x 2 weren't the right size:

Uh, yeah, you think that might be the problem? Some of those were cut on the bandsaw, others on the table saw. I'm not sure which is worse, but I'm guessing the table saw. The width of the blade is such that there's a bit of a difference in each cut. I guess it all adds up. Easy fix, though: I didn't glue the slats, so I just need to unscrew them and try again with more consistently cut spacers.

Unrelated, Co-pilot Egg returned from three days at band camp this evening, and on my way over to the high school to pick her up, I made my normal reconnaissance of Bolton Field. It was the strangest thing. Out of the corner of my eye, and at a distance of over a mile, I could have sworn that I saw one of the vertical stabs of a B-24. That's impossible, of course, but the more I looked the more it seemed like it just had to be a B-24.

Insatiably curious about exactly this kind of thing, I dropped Egg off asap after picking her up at the school and headed to the airport. Lo and behold, my airplane spotting was, well, spot on:

Based on the sign they had hung on the fence, it seems that they are in town to sell 30 minute rides for a "tax deductible donation of $425." While I think it would be very cool to experience a ride in one of those venerable WWII work horses, that's a bit too rich for my blood. Now, if I were to get to fly from the right or left seat, well that would be different. I doubt if that option is available, though.

The Eighth Sign of the Apocalypse

The actual list of the seven signs of the apocalypse varies by religion and culture, but all agree on the eighth sign: the one day of my three day vacation that best fit the schedule for taking a rare PapaGolf day trip with the Co-owner dawned cool, dry, and calm, and was forecast to remain that way during the entire day. A perfect flying day that perfectly fell on a day that was available for flying?? The end must be near! Sell short on oil company stock and enjoy your few remaining days!!

The Co-owner has only flown in Papa once in the three years we've had him, and that was a short hop to Urbana for breakfast. The problem is air sickness, and the only cure for it is to only fly when the sky is glass smooth, it's not too hot, and it's not too windy. Those are rare days indeed, particularly in August. But the Weather-out-the-Window(tm) forecast looked great, and the goblins at NOAA agreed: great conditions all day!

I had laid the groundwork of the flight the previous day my asking the Co-owner if any of the trips I have described previously here in The Chronicles appealed to her. "Well, I don't read your blog very much," she replied. Hmmm. Pilot's choice then, and after briefly considering Burke Lakefront or one of the Bass islands I figured that I had left my exploration of French Lick incomplete on my last visit. Besides, the stated purpose of that trip in the first place was to reconnoiter it as a possible trip for the Co-owner. That decision made, I expanded the boundaries of my weather checking to include southwestern Indiana. The answer remained the same: perfect weather. The flight plan indicated an hour and fifteen minutes in the air. Doable, but right on the fringes of morning bladder capacity. We'd have to use the full capabilities of Papa. No lollygagging on this one. Full speed ahead!

The temps being nice and cool and the barometric pressure still in the low 30's allowed for a relatively quick climb to 5,500', our (miscalculated) cruising altitude. I realized later that I should have been at 4,500' or 6,500' on the westerly leg. Duh. A mistake like that comes from being a little more stressed than I would have been on a more normal trip. Just as it is when flying with Co-pilot Egg, I have to concentrate more on finding a comfortably cool and smooth altitude to provide a good ride. I can't just shrug and endure the sweating and the bumping around like I usually do.

There's also a little additional tension on my part because the stakes are always a little higher when 2/3s of the family are involved. But the pressure to keep the ride fast and smooth gets even worse when the persistent calls of nature become too obvious to ignore; it seems that coffee has nothing on tea when it comes to encouraging throttle-to-the-firewall flying with its strident demands to be released from its most recent captivity in furtherance of its life goal of returning as rapidly as possible to sea level. The avoidance of descending down into the bumpy air, where the sloshing would be excruciating, kept me high and fast as we approached the airport. For the record, we hit the left downwind to French Lick's runway 8 at 160 knots, which was only slightly faster than our ground speed as we headed to the separate rest rooms in the terminal upon landing.

The shuttle from the hotel arrived soon after the FBO called them, this time in the form of a fully loaded Buick minivan. Plush! We asked to be dropped at West Baden Springs hotel since Co-pilot Rick and I had only had a few minutes to poke our heads into the lobby on our previous trip. There was a lot more to explore.

But first, lunch at Sinclair's:

I forget what the waitress called that, but it was a toasted crisp with roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese. It was tasty enough, but we were pretty hungry and anxious for lunch to arrive. I like to eat light when faced with a flight home, so I ordered the grilled chicken Cobb salad:

The Co-owner chose the french onion soup, lobster salad roll, and a petite salad:

The waitress informed her that she had made an excellent selection. Reacting to my crestfallen look, she belatedly threw a "You did too" in my direction, but I'm pretty sure she was just trying to make me feel better. I guess I should have gone for the lobster. And I had been tempted, for sure, but the Cobb salad promised bacon. And I love my bacon. The chicken was very good too, although the salad was made up of those weird pieces of flora that you would normally target with Ultra-Strength Roundup.

After lunch we wandered through the atrium for awhile, visiting the various shops and boutiques, and just soaking up the environment:

Yeah, fly out to French Lick to drink a bunch of tea! Hadn't we just tried something eerily similar, albeit with the tea drinking before the flying to French Lick? No, I don't think we'll be attending the Afternoon Tea! But a brief sojourn on the veranda was nice:

The thing I most regretted not having time for on the first visit was a walk through the gardens. They're not Versailles, of course, but very impressive nonetheless. I had brought the camcorder because it's lighter and easier to carry around, but the garden made me regret my decision to leave the good camera at home:

Some of the Jesuits that lived at West Baden from '34 to '64 are buried there:

Having spent a few hours enjoying a self-guided walking tour of West Baden Springs, a change of pace was called for. We hopped on the shuttle bus for the short ride over to the French Lick Hotel and Casino. The shuttle driver remembered me from the last visit and knew that I liked taking pictures, so he stopped in West Baden's upper parking lot for me to take a picture of the hotel:

The first stop was the casino, but we didn't do any gambling. It turns out that our currency was no good there because it was, well, actual currency. It's all about touch screens and magnetic stripe cards these days. You have to get a card to slip into the machines to play any of the slots, and that felt too much like a reverse ATM to me. I like the feel of coins dropping in, and I like the sound of coins dropping out when you hit a payoff. Electronic beeps and red LEDs counting up and (mostly) down doesn't do a thing for me; if I wanted to play a video game, I'd stay home and play a video game.

We didn't stay in the casino long before the noise and futility of it drove us out to look at the hotel. I had seen most of the French Lick Hotel on my previous visit, but we still managed to find some things I had missed.

Well, I had seen this wall of all of the Kentucky Derby winners before, but I stopped for a picture this time:

According to the shuttle driver, all Triple Crown winners from the very start can have their bloodlines traced back to a single sire: Peter the Great. Parts of Pete are reportedly buried over at West Baden, and there is even a stone memorial to him there. I'm not 100% convinced of the claim that Peter the Great was in the blood lines of all of the Triple Crown winners, though. Peter was a Standardbred. Triple Crown winners are all Thoroughbreds, aren't they?

Unless the shuttle driver was referring to The Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters, which consists of the following horse races:

1. Hambletonian, held at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey
2. Kentucky Futurity, held at The Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky
3. Yonkers Trot, held at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York

But if that is the case, it's somewhat disingenuous. Without a modifier, "Triple Crown" to most people refers to the Kentucky, Preakness, and Belmont.

As we were walking around the hotel, the ever-observant Co-owner saw signs pointing to The Garden. The Garden in this case was quite small and not nearly on par with the one at West Baden, but there were a couple of things of note:

Chess with huge wooden pieces make look like fun, but that knight weighed about 60 pounds. I couldn't move the Queen at all.

The mineral water that made French Lick famous in the early twentieth century spawned the growth of one of the biggest employers of the era, Pluto Water. Which was, of course, a company that bottled and sold the water from the Pluto Spring:

We didn't go down to the well to take a look, but a couple of other folks that did reported back that it smelled pretty bad. I guess that means it's good for you. It was advertised as "America's Laxative" with the slogan "When Nature Won't, PLUTO Will". I'm not surprised at all that it had an unpleasant smell, now that I think about it:

It was getting to be about time to start the arduous journey back to the airport. The ride back is a little harder to get than the initial pick-up because a lot more hotel guests are up and about and wanting to be shuttled between the hotels. The airport trip breaks the rhythm of their transfers, so it can take awhile to squeeze it in. After a couple of trips between the two hotels, our shuttle driver gave up and called the Buick minivan guy to take us out to the airport.

Papa needed gas, so I topped him up while the Co-owner got settled in. I had planned a 5,500' cruise back to Columbus, but the nifty new cloud gauge indicated that a higher altitude would be preferred if we wanted to get into the smoother, cooler air above the clouds. Unlike the last trip's 11,500' altitude, we were comfortably on top at 7,500'. We had benefited from a nice tailwind on the way out that gave us a respectable 160 knot cruise speed, so I had braced myself for a much slower trip back. It turned out pretty well, though: we made 153 knots on the way back. That was nice! It got a little bumpy for the last 15 miles as I had to descend down for the landing, but it was a short enough approach that the Co-owner reported only mild queasiness.

Regular readers will know that I'm particularly concerned with my landings when carrying a witness, and you can probably imagine that landings made with the Co-owner on board are the second most stressful what with wanting to make a good impression and all. The first most stressful being those occasions when the most critical and vocal judge is aboard: none other than Co-pilot Egg. Well, not to worry: neither was a greaser, but both were good. Egg would have been cool with them, and that's a pretty good yardstick to use.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Morning bombing raid repelled

I've been forcing myself to ignore the glorious flying weather we've had thus far this weekend, hoping to save the gas for a trip on one of the first three days of the (non-) work week as I take a another short vay-cay. Work has been hectic and it's been hard to get time away, but as it appears that there will never be a good time for me to be off I decided to try to squeeze three days in while co-pilot Egg is off at band camp. The work going undone and the remorseless deadlines approaching like runaway freight trains will surely weigh heavy on my mind, but that's a burden I'm willing to live with. The cost of being more or less an individual contributor is that the work that would have been done on those rare off days just piles on top of the rest of it. Coming back from time off is like coming home to find that the sink drains were plugged and the water left running. The temptation to avoid all of that by just working all year with no time off is always there, but in the interest of mental health must be ignored.

I managed to fill my time sufficiently yesterday to distract myself from the aching desire to be in the sky ("Think about baseball. Think about baseball."), although neither of my two efforts at productive labor worked out all that well in the end. I did some work on the porch swing that turned out sub-optimally (the topic of a later post) and I did the cropdusting that the yard needed so horribly to get control over the clover invading from the yard next door. That in itself went well enough; it was the unforecast rain that came out of the blue (so to speak) that washed all of the weed killer off in the late afternoon that was the problem.

This morning was even better weather, and my general mood was in strong need of improvement. But... I still wanted to keep the gas. I decided I could afford a short dawn patrol, though, as a compromise. It's good that I did! As I climbed out to the West at a brisk 1,300 feet per minute, I saw a formation of clouds approaching my base. Well, to call them 'clouds' is an aggrandizement. Soon-to-be clouds. Cloud fetuses. Baby clouds. In other words, wisps. They were at the stage of development where they're still not opaque; kind of the jelly fish of clouds, if you will.

They were approaching down low, under the radar. 3,000' to be precise. They were formed in waves, like a bomber formation. I climbed above them and maneuvered to put the sun at my back in the classic attack position. I chose one, got it aligned in my sights, and rolled into a steep bank and dive towards my selected target. For the next ten minutes I swooped and dived and turned, thrusting and parrying against the unstoppable fleet. Some I just skimmed across, others I blasted right on through. Up, down, right, left, G's piled on and taken off. Quick glances at altimeter and airspeed to ensure that both were giving sufficiently high readings, and equally furtive glances at local landmarks to maintain my position away from the airport and small towns, situational awareness being somewhat important as well. Finally, out of both ammo and stress to be burned, I decided to return to base.

"Now where in the hell did Lilly Chapel go???," I asked myself as a quick scan failed to find it. I had been keeping pretty careful track of where I was, but suddenly Lilly Chapel was nowhere to be seen. "Well," I figured, "there's only one place I haven't looked." A tight bank and a glance straight down the wing solved that mystery. Right on top of it. Convenient, that. Almost as if I had planned it that way.

Back to Bolton to land with a 9 knot crosswind from the right, which is not always conducive to a good landing. Today was the exception, though. There was a little swoopiness in the flare, but the touchdown itself was very smooth. Just like a European campaign trip: no bounce. I taxied back in and did the requisite post-flight math:

.27 hours on the tach. 15 minutes, or close enough to it. Two gallons of gas. About $11. The smile? Priceless.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The saga of the flat tire (cont.)

After finally getting a handle on the jack, so to speak, I got the bike-tire spare mounted, tossed the still hot & smoking flat tire into the trunk, and get the heck out of Dodge. I'm not a fan at all of these mini-spares that have replaced the full-size (read: actually usable) spares we used to have. Driving on the bike tire didn't feel much better than driving on the flat had, but at least there was no smoke or smell. But a 50 mph limit when using the spare? Afraid I just don't have the bone in my ankle that will allow me to do that; I did 60. Painful, that.

I had all day at work to stew about the imminent slow drive home and what to do about replacing the tire. It's a Yokohama Advan which, as (my) luck would have it, is a $200 tire. That went flat at 18,000 miles. I found that fact to be quite irritating, and got to wondering if it would be covered under warranty. Note that I am not that naive, normally. I know that a tire warranty is more useless than last week's lottery ticket. At least the lottery ticket has a one in gazillion chance of paying off; I don't think I've ever heard of a tire warranty paying one red cent. Or one Yen, for that matter. But I thought it was at least worth asking the dealer.

The dealer is, of course, over on the home side of town, so I had to make the 35 mile loop on the bike tire. I just snugged in behind a big, slow truck and slowly cruised along, wondering if the bike tire had a ten mile limit similar to the low speed rating and what exactly I was going to do when it blew out. I don't carry a spare for the spare, after all. There's a dealer over on the work side of town, but I wouldn't have been able to get a ride home from there.

I dropped the car at the dealer and headed home to await their verdict. It was quick. "Tough Sushi, buddy, warranty won't cover it. Oh, by the way, because you have an all wheel drive car and they are sensitive to disparities in tire size, you need four new tires."

18,000 miles on a $900 set of tires before needing full replacement? Not that impressive. I told him to "not take this the wrong way, but if I'm buying four new tires to replace a set that got my all of 18,000 miles, I'm shopping it around." He took it fine; they're a car dealer, not a tire shop.

I went back to the dealer and moved the car across the street to Tire Discounters. I've been wanting to throw them some business for a couple of years now. Back when they first opened, I brought one of the Miata tires in for a patch after it had picked up a nail. (The Miata was a nail magnet for the first couple of months that I had it - three in two months!!) When I went to pick up the repaired tire and asked how much I owed them, they just waved a hand and said don't worry about it. I haven't forgotten that, and it is exactly the type of great service that I miss so much these days. I wanted to reward them with my (paying) business.

It wasn't to be. Don Quixote had his windmill to joust with, I had this written Yokohama warranty with more flowery, promising language than a wine review. The Tire Discounter guy wasn't a Yokohama dealer, though, so he couldn't address its applicability, veracity, or utility. As he put it, "it pains me to do this, but I'm going to have to send you to Discount Tire." Now, me having just had a birthday numbered in the high forty's and therefore having become incrementally more forgetful and confused, I had to look at the sign on the side of his store to determine just why, in fact, he did not know that we were already at Discount Tire. Ah! We were at Tire Discounters, the polar opposite of Discount Tire. I could see why it pained him. Those two must surely be mortal enemies.

It pained me, too. Not only because I wanted to give Tire Discounters my business, but also because going from one to the other involved another drive on the bike tire, which surely at that point must have been close to having given its all to the cause. Nothing for it, though, so back on the road. Only to find Discount Tire closed for the day at the late hour of 6:20. Now that's the kind of customer-friendly service to which I have become accustomed. I decided then and there that if the Yokohama warranty was not going to contribute to the cause, the bike tire was going to get yet another road trip back to Tire Discounters.

The key to the car was slipped into an envelope and tossed into the feeble looking night key depository. As I was doing that, I thought that if I was ever on the lam and needed a car, I'd just find the nearest Discount Tire and grab a key out of the box. Upon a few seconds more thought, I realized that that wasn't such a great plan. The car I'd be stealing would probably have a flat tire, and recent experience has shown me that you won't get very far on one of those.

The Discount Tire guy called me at work first thing in the morning, which is a bad time to catch me on Wednesdays due to a weekly report that I have to do - it's a long, detailed process to put the report together and I hate interruptions while doing it. He told me that the tire wasn't covered under the warranty because it had road hazard damage, which is a catch-all for every tire failure imaginable. Again, you'd have better odds with a lottery ticket. Anyway, I told him to just lock the key in the car and we'd come pick it up late, late at night, long after they've closed and gone home. Like 6:30 or so.

About ten minutes later, I got to thinking that I might be letting my dedication to Tire Discounters influence my decision making a little too much, and there was certainly a lot to be said for just having the tire replaced where it was and not having to drive around on that bike tire anymore. I called the guy back and asked him what he could do for us. He said that we were right on the edge of being able to replace just the one tire, and that if it was his car, that's what he'd do. $226. I told him to go ahead and do it.

"I can't. I already locked the key in the car."


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A moment of flowing Zen

A short video of The Falls(tm) at The Farm(tm) from last Sunday:

Try it in HD if you can.

This is the Greenville Creek, as seen from our camping area on The Farm(tm). It's also where my first dog, Habu, is buried. She loved springing from rock to rock and catching (in her mind, anyway) little wavelets created as the water breaks around the rocks.

Those rocks are a part of my indentured servitude childhood. The fields on The Farm(tm) have a lot of rocks that float up from year to year, with sizes ranging from baseball to watermelon. The larger ones present a risk to the health of the plow blades, so there was a concerted effort made to remove the rocks before the plowing for the next year's crop. We'd walk up and down the fields, picking up any rock larger than a softball and tossing it into whatever we were using to haul rocks in our group. Choices ranged from the front bucket of a Ford Jubilee:

to a trailer pulled by an old Farmall H:

Naturally my favorite job was driving the tractor (either one, although I preferred the Ford) although that lost some of its appeal after the day I drive the Jubilee off a 4 foot bank and into the creek. Well, 4 feet at least. Maybe more. I'm trying to guess conservatively. I was about 14 at the time so things probably looked bigger to me then, particularly as my life was flashing before my eyes on the way down to the creek. It took a Mack truck with a Holmes 750 to pull it back out:

That looked pretty big to me at the time too. Oh well, it's probably a good thing to learn early in life that tractor brakes on 1050's tractors are essentially useless. At the time of the dunking, I was dropping a bucket load of rocks culled from the fields over the edge of the bank as part of a years-long effort to stop the erosion of the fields from the creek flowing by. Not all of the big rocks out in The Falls(tm) were carried there by us, but a lot of them were.

The creek runs all the way back up to Greenville (of course!) and there is a canoe/kayak launch point there. I hope to some day kayak from Greenville back down to The Falls(tm), a distance that I'm guessing to be between 8 and 10 miles. The only thing stopping me is that I have no way of knowing the conditions of the creek. I'm primarily worried about getting stuck by a tree fallen across from bank to bank. The kayak is pretty heavy - I'm not sure I'd be able to get it over a good sized tree. I need another kayak so I can bring a team mate along to help with things like that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Subaru engineers don't know jack

Well, I actually like both of my Subies. Great cars. Except...

As I was driving along to work this morning at oh-dark-thirty, the Legacy started wobbling around a little bit. At first it felt like the effects of a strong, gusty crosswind, but a quick call to the Bolton Field AWOS reported winds at 4 knots. The wobble quickly progressed to a pronounced wiggle, and was soon accompanied by a sound that could only be a flat tire. Not keen on changing a tire on the side of a dark highway, I took the next exit. Which put me in a dark, downtown parking lot. Fire pan, fire. Short leap.

Given the environment I found myself in, I thought it better that I just change the thing myself once I'd waited long enough for it to stop smoking - it got pretty hot flopping around on the highway - rather than call and wait for roadside service.

The cooldown period gave me plenty of time to get the jack out of the trunk and make all of the other preparations for the one wheel pit stop.

That's when I ran into the very best of automotive engineering: the scissor jack:

Think, for a moment, about the usage cycle of a scissor jack. It goes under the car, so its first useful mode is fully retracted. It jacks up the car, the tire is changed, and it is fully retracted again to lower the car. So, how does Subarau store the jack in its nifty custom fit piece of foam? Fully extended, of course! You have to retract it all the way before you can get started on changing the tire, and that is not as easy as it sounds. You have to attach the turning handle and find a way to hold the extremely light jack still while simultaneously using both hands to manage the unwieldy jack handle.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. So I asked myself why they would store it that way. After all, it's useless in its stored form, so why do it? The best theory that I could come up with to explain it is that they showed an extended jack to a focus group and asked them to identify it. "Jack!" Then they showed a fully retracted one to the same focus group. They looked at the flat, black metal box and said, "Dunno!"

Well, that's my theory, anyway.