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Saturday, May 23, 2015

When I'm done with a car

It's done. We got rid of our 2002 Chevy Cavalier. The brakes: lines, rotors, and pads were gone. Also there was possibly a leak in the master cylinder. The CV joints were making clunking sounds. The exhaust system was held up with wire coat hangers. The body was kept together with a disturbingly large amount of spray expansion foam and fiberglass.

Surprisingly, the engine started. In fact, after sitting inside a giant snowbank for 4 months, it turned right over. The engine ran rough and big clouds of white smoke blew out the exhaust, but it ran. The smoke might have been something as simple as the gas going bad over the winter, or it could have been as serious as a blown head gasket.

What does one do with such a fine fine car? Trade it in? That would have raised the price the of the deal. Sell it to a 16 year old kid? How could I have slept at night? This car once collided with a moose.

We did the only wise thing and called the local junk yard. (I mean auto salvage.) They were willing to haul it away for free. The fact that they also wrote a check for $100 was a true bonus. We didn't lose a car, we gained another parking space.

This car died well. All the major problems happened pretty much at the same time. The worse is when a car keeps having $300 - $500 dollar repairs over a number of months. You tell yourself that each repair would be last, but it never is. The thing to do with such a money pit is to drive it behind the barn and put a bullet through the engine.

So now we have a nice new car. I expect to drive it until the wheels fall off, or we come to the end of the petroleum age. Whichever comes first.


Friday, May 22, 2015

The doomcasters

I must admit, I'm as fascinated by tales of doom and impending disaster as the next prepper. Over the years my attitude evolved. As a teenager dire warnings of civilization ending calamity sounded exciting. That's the same attitude that fills armies with teenagers as war sounds exciting.

As one gets older a bit of wisdom sinks in. A smart man prepares for possible disaster, but prays it doesn't happen. A wise man does what he can to prevent calamity.

It's like when I was first hired as a Firefighter. At 19 years old a big fire was terribly exciting. At 25 I'd look at the same fire and know it was going to be a long and miserable job. At 30 I really began to appreciate smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, safety inspections, and all those other boring things that prevent a small fire from becoming a big one.

Even though I recognized the value of mitigating disasters, I knew that they still happened. In spite of man's best efforts to impose order on the universe, chaos is always out there. People like to believe that bad things always happen far away and to other people. I know better.

One thing I've learned over the years is that the doomcasters are rarely exactly right. That's not to say bad things don't happen: they do. In fact by the very nature of the universe, given enough time anything can happen. Never focus exclusively on any particular doom scenario.

Be like a Fire Department. Have a variety of tools at your disposal. Train in how to use them. Be prepared to be flexible and to employ those tools in ways never dreamed of at the Fire Academy.

So have some basic survival gear: food, water, emergency shelter, medical supplies, training, security tools, and most importantly, a flexible mind. Rarely do disasters unfold as predicted. They are dynamic situations, always in flux and changing. Don't discount the actions of other people. They could help or hinder your efforts.

So listen to the doomcasters, if you'd like, but don't take their word as gospel.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fort Jefferson and points unknown

This nice areal view of Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas is now the desktop background photo on my computer. It's a US National Park about 70 miles from Key West. It's one of the places I've yet to sail to, but definitely want to go. If you can't figure out why from the photo I can't help you. There is no poetry in your soul.

There are a lot of places within reach of small sailboats that I haven't been to yet. The whole Caribbean is within relatively easy travel distances. Cuba too, for that matter, but the political climate is still not right for the average person to go there. Heck, for that matter, I've seriously had my eye on sailing the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) from Virgina to Miami -even have the charts and guidebooks. Life keeps intruding.

If I'm going to see these things in person I've got to get a move on. After all, at 57 I'm not getting any younger. Yeah, I'm not dead yet either. Many people don't even start traveling until they retire at 65 or so. There's even a guy who recently kayaked across the Atlantic at age 67. I don't just want to just see these places. I want to travel to them on a slow little sailboat. The journey is half the fun. Once there I want enough schedule freedom to really get a feel for a place. There's more to travel than ticking off sites on a checklist.

So what's the hurry, besides the regular count down of years? Things happen in the world. We are in a unique period of time when it is possible to travel to many different countries. Historically that hasn't always been the case. Things can change all of a sudden.

At 35 years old I was so injured I didn't know if I could ever do anything else ever again. It took a few years but I was able to regain enough of my health to enjoy life once more. Health and mobility are not to be taken for granted.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Where the days go

Some people really enjoy messing around with computers. I just want them to work. Getting this old and slow backup computer hammered into shape has taken longer than I like. For example, it took two days just to get it to talk to my printer. Finally I just kept updating Ubuntu operating systems until they were up to date enough. That takes hours of download time and hours of installation. Just walking away and letting it do its thing doesn't work either. Sooner or later a screen pops up and ask for my input. The whole process freezes until that happens.

That being said it is good to have the documents I needed freshly printed and ready to go. There is some satisfaction in getting this old machine to do what it should do -especially after pricing replacement laptops. Once I'm sure the old computer is stable I'm gong to try to move a bunch of files over from my dying laptop.

I had a lot more fun painting my little boat. Of course, nothing is ever direct. I picked up a new belt sander at the building supply store. Then I went back, returned it, and got the correct belt sander. Of course, it was at the store that's 50 miles away. After the boat was patched and sanded I found my paint had gone bad. Since I never really liked that color, sorta a sick yellow/gold, it didn't bother me all that much.

Just about any other color would be an improvement. I had my lovely wife choose the color. After all, she was the one picking up the paint. She chose a nice red brick color. I thought she must have put a lot of thought into it as it looks really good. As it turns out she was tired, her feet were sore, and the paint was already mixed so she didn't have to wait.

So where are the pictures of the new paint job? Well, there's this program I need to download them from my camera and I haven't loaded up the software yet.

. . . it's on the list . . . the ever growing, never ending list.



One of my loyal readers sent this podcast link about vacations. It's worth a listen.

There's quite a bit of science behind the idea that vacations are very good for us. It's something I've always suspected. Hey, if a little vacation time is good, a whole lot more must be better, right? After all, the good effects of a vacation only last a few weeks. That tells me that maybe we are not wired to work 24/7.

The United States is the only industrialized Western nation with no mandatory vacation time. Not only that, we do a pretty dismal job of taking what little time we do get. Contrast that to European nations where 30 vacation days are pretty common. It's pretty normal for people in Europe to take a month off in the summer. Guess what? It's not the end of the world when people go on vacation. Perhaps the benefits outweigh the downsides?

The reader who sent me the link said he hard time finishing the podcast. The truth hurts. He saw how his bosses manipulated him into working instead of going on vacation. (I don't think he'll let that happen again.)

My lovely wife thought I could use a vacation. A vacation from what you might ask? After all, we just spent months travelling around the country, camping and boating. She figures that I'm the guy doing all the driving, set up, and keeping the van and boat running. With that in mind she booked a cruise to the Bahamas. Someone else can drive the boat.

I was a bit surprised. That's not the sort of thing she'd normally do without asking me first. She thought I might say no so she made a command decision. Like a good husband I finally agreed to being pampered and waited on. See what sacrifices I make?


Monday, May 18, 2015

So now that we are back from camping

. . . we made plans to go camping.

We've booked some nights on the coast of Maine in early July. We reserved some time at a campground we've been going to since the kids were little. Now they have kids of their own and they are still going to the same place. The campground has been run by the same people all these years and now we are almost like family.

Many years ago my lovely wife and I poured over a Woodalls Camping Guide and circled a bunch of campgrounds that looked interesting. One day we drove around checking them out. Many campgrounds looked good on paper but we got negative impressions when we went there in person. A few times the facilities still looked good in the real world, but the campground management were grouchy and unfriendly. The place we ultimately decided on turned out to be better in person and the owners were really nice. We much have chosen wisely as now three generations of my family have camped there.

After that we'll try a night or two in a new place. Then we hope to connect with friends who'll be camping at a third place. They are the set up people for an event the following week. The campground should be just about deserted except for the advance teams. Could be interesting.

We don't even know yet what we'll take for camping gear. If the weather looks iffy we'll most likely take the converted ambulance/motor home. It's weather tight, has a lot of comforts and there's almost no set up time. Should the weather look good we might just go back to a more minimalistic camping and throw a tent in the car. Even after a few years of van comfort we still enjoy being in a tent. Maybe we were nomads in a previous life.

There is on big advantage to using the small car: parking. Maine coastal towns have narrow twisty little roads and parking is at a premium. In the past parking the van has been tricky. I've done it and can do it again, but sometimes that involves parking much further away than we'd like.

Whichever vehicle we use, we plan on taking our inflatable kayak. Can't go to the coast of main without paddling in the ocean.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nicks and Dings

One good thing about building your own boat is that you know how to repair it when the time comes. My little Ooze Goose project boat got a little touch up after a hard winter's use.

There was the spot on the cabin where we broadsided a bridge near John Pennecamp State Park in Florida. Tidal currents can be tricky. The little boat picked a fair share of scuffs when the boat and trailer disconnected from the van on the highway. We had a harsh landing on a rocky lee shore on Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Just loading and unloading the boat all those times did a bit of wear and tear -to say nothing of thousands of miles bouncing along on the trailer. I should be grateful it's in as good a condition as it is.

I mixed up a batch of thickened epoxy and touched up all the rough spots. I replaced my broken belt sander so it shouldn't be too hard to smooth everything out. A bit of paint and it'll be better than new.

While I was at it I replaced the cabin hatch with one of my own design. It should do a more effective job of keeping water out of the cabin.

Weather permitting, it should back in the lake in a couple days. At the same time I'm working to get my Oday 19 ready. Progress is being made on the conversion to electric auxiliary power.

Once both boats are back in the water I'm going to finally finish up the Ooze Goose sailing rig. While I was gone for the winter a local Maker's Space has set up in town. They have some heavy duty sewing machines that should work just fine for making sails. I've got a barter deal going with them so it won't cost any money.

Building our own boat is kinda like painting a painting. When do you know it's done? At least paintings aren't normally exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Good thing I enjoy tinkering with boats.