Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I started out looking for a door latch for the Exploder.  The front passenger door lock has been unusable for some time now and occasionally it locks up so that we can’t open it even from the inside.  For a while it wouldn’t latch unless we messed with it for a while.  We left it sit in Buchanan, took the Lincoln back to BC and then when we got back to Buchanan in the short two days we had there I tried to lube the latch in situ.  I would have preferred to get it out of the door but that appeared to be beyond my capabilities.  Just before we left an old bodyshop guy who is now retired in town and likes to drive around in his diesel Smart showed up and told me how to get the latch out.  So knowing full well that this will turn into an ordeal I nevertheless went in search of a replacement latch today.

The search started badly at one of those auto parts discount places.  The blond bimbo behind the counter should have confined herself to stocking shelves.  I dunno what possesses places like that to put idiots who don’t know parts and don’t know their system and don’t have a personality in direct contact with customers.  If she had half a clue about how to use the computer and a pleasant personality we might have been able to work something out but as it was she was stupid, clueless and unpleasant so I moved on to Merlin Motors, the local Ford stealership.

The guy there was pleasant enough and he quickly located the part I was looking for – in Toronto.  The price was plenty high but I would have paid it if he had been able to do better than 3 day delivery.  Then I had him check on the hood trim for the Lincoln.  Bear in mind now, we’re talking about a piece of chrome plated plastic, maybe 2 feet long and 3 or 4 inches wide at it’s widest spot.  OVER TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY BUCKS! Unbelievable.  Of course he didn’t have it either but that didn’t matter.  I told him I’d buy it online. 


Which is exactly what I did when I got back to the bus.  $35 for the hood trim plus $7 shipping gets it to Regina tax paid for under $45.  For the the door latch the total was $75 delivered to Regina which was a little less than half what the stealership wanted.  I don’t mind paying something for local service and it would have been nice to walk out with the part but these guys have to get real.  That hood trim will take all of 5 minutes to install and 4 of those minutes will be getting it out of the packaging – I’d hate to guess what a stealership bodyshop might think that installation was worth.

The rest of my afternoon was taken up with getting ready to touch up the paint on the Prevost.  I found a bodyshop supply place that claimed to be able to match the paint colour.  We’ll see tomorrow when I go to pick it up.  And I spent some time window shopping for a good air compressor and some air tools.  When we get back to Buchanan it will be time to retouch the very tired paint on the bus.  I’ve got some cracks in the fibreglass that I’m more than capable of patching with epoxy but I need to know that I can match the paint over top my patches.  We’ve also picked up a few scratches over the years and I’ve got some spots where the clearcoat has disappeared entirely.  I’m no bodyshop expert but I think I can do a 60/60 paint job – that’s one that looks good from 60 feet when the bus is going away at 60 MPH.  I hate to put much money into that because it is purely cosmetic and even if I paid a bodyshop the roughly $20,000 that it would take for a complete paint job, the bus would still be worth exactly what it is worth tonight, which isn’t very much.

Tonight we’re parked on the side of the street next to the Walmart on the west side of Saskatoon.  As Walmart parking lots go this is a very small one so we didn’t want to take up a bunch of valuable spots and I’m not sure we could have found room anyway.  Tomorrow we’ll move out to the 16 West campground where we’ll spend a couple of nights before we head east toward Buchanan.  I’ve got a client to see south of Lanigan but I don’t think we’ll be able to connect this trip because they are still seeding.  Its been extremely wet on the east side of the province and there is still a lot of seeding left to do.  I wouldn’t dream of asking a farmer to spend time with me while his drill is sitting (and most of them would tell me to go to hell if I did).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The road less travelled

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

We got off the beaten track a bit this week.  Travelling south down I-15 over the years we have seen the sign for “craters of the moon” but I have never paid much attention to it.  Evidently Marilyn has been more observant because she remembered it as soon as we came on the crater area a couple of days ago.  We could have stayed on I-84 into Twin Falls and then headed north up I-15 but Streets and Trips kindly pointed out that Idaho State 26, 22 and 33 would be shorter.  Now remember it wasn’t that many years ago that Streets and Trips conspired with my stubborn lunacy to get us stuck on a mountainside between Bryce Canyon and Flagstaff, so I didn’t immediately embrace the proposed shortcut.  After some further research though it appeared that the route was safe and since we weren’t in any particular hurry we meandered our way through the heart of Idaho on some very pleasant 2-lane highways.  And that’s how we came to “Craters of the Moon”.

It turns out there is a geologic flaw in the heart of Idaho that has allowed lava to flow out periodically over the last 16 or 20 millions years.  I believe that somehow this flaw is connected to what causes Old Faithful but I wasn’t paying that close attention to the multi-media presentation so I may have that wrong.  I’m sure Wikipedia will explain it better than I can if anybody really cares that much. 

As we headed east out of the moonscape we hit some miserable winds.  Fortunately they were behind us so we were likely getting exceptional mileage but they were also causing a lot of real estate to change hands.  As we got closer to the interstate I thought it would be wise to stop and let the wind die down a bit.  There were times when the visibility was seriously impaired because the local farmers seemed clueless about conservation tillage.  So we ended up having a 1-1/2 hour nap in the rest area beside the scale shack on the side of I-15.  The wind was still pretty bad when we left but it was starting to abate and by the time we got maybe a half hour up the interstate it was back more or less to normal. 

Last night we parked in Skip and Maria’s yard outside Helena and had a great visit with them, their granddaughters, their daughter and their daughter’s great dane.  I love that dog and it seemed happy to see us again too.  Its like a medium sized domesticated horse.  This morning we lounged around drinking coffee and eating Maria’s fresh cinnamon buns.  Then we headed north and crossed the border at Coutts around 3:30 this afternoon.  Tonight we’re in our favorite campground – camp Wallyworld – this time in Lethbridge.  Tomorrow we’ll take a leisurely run up to Airdrie and by Monday night we hope to be back in Saskatchewan with the Malibu in tow.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hot and dry

Its nice to see the sun for a change.  Pacific Northwet weather gets tiresome after a while so we’re appreciating the sunshine here just outside Boise, Idaho.  I’m wrapping up a project down here – I kind of forgot to post for a couple of weeks.  We made a hurry up trip east from the Island, stopped briefly in Buchanan and then headed back to Alberta and finally south through Bonner’s Ferry into Idaho.  I guess we were busy enough that I didn’t have much time on my hands to write a post.

Marilyn has been making good use of the dry weather by repairing the varnish job that she did last winter.  Evidently the wall was so wet when she refinished it that it actually molded behind the finish.  There were several sections in the bedroom that were quite disgusting when we got back this spring.  That was a big disappointment because she put in a lot of work last winter refinishing the bedroom.

Yesterday I hooked up a new to us satellite internet system.  I decided to leave the old system on the boat but we still needed a system for the bus so I cobbled together one out of used parts.  The guy that sold me the system is still in business but he’s a bit of an asshole about returning emails.  I contacted him about buying a new system, he responded right away and then he completely ignored me for 2 weeks.  By the time he finally got around to replying I had put together a system for about half what he wanted for a new one.  So I’m money ahead and he’s out a sale plus he will get my undying scorn whenever I have a chance to mention him.  The business to avoid is Tech Mobile Communications and the particular individual to avoid is Armand Lalonde. 

I had a full afternoon of grief getting all the pieces of the new system to talk to each other & I still have one modem that I couldn’t get to work but this posting is being done over the new system so the system definitely works.  Post-boat I have become much more obsessed with having spares for all our mission critical systems.  I include internet access in that list because both of us depend on that access almost as much as we depend on phone access – perhaps more so.  The result of that obsession with spares is that I now have 4 modems.  I can only have one commissioned at any one time but I should never be without a modem.  And on the subject of mission critical systems – the genset worked flawlessly on the way down.  I’m sure its just biding its time but while its working it is very pleasant.

Tomorrow I’ll go back out  one last time to pick up my tools and check the system.  Assuming everything is OK I’ll ship the tools  and we’ll be out of here Tuesday morning.  We’ve got some friends in Helena that we haven’t seen for a year so we’ll stop there on the way to Airdrie where we’ll pick up the Malibu and head east.  By the time we get it back to Buchanan, Goodspirit Lake should be warm enough for waterskiing.  I don’t know whether my old carcass remembers how to do a deep start but I’m going to find out before another month goes by.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My favorite thing to do

It must be – I do it often enough.  I’m talking about fixing my generator.  Nothing serious – this time – but nonetheless my hands are covered with genset grime because I have spent the last 24 hours wrastling the beast in and out of its hidey hole. 

On the way home from Texas we had a fail to start incident.  Nothing unusual in that – we’ve been having fail to start incidents as long as we’ve had a generator.  I am getting faster at diagnosing the problems – all that practice isn’t going to waste.  This time the run solenoid wasn’t pulling in.  The way both our Onans work is that the run solenoid is spring loaded to hold the governor against the fuel shutoff.  Unless the solenoid is energized the governor won’t pass any fuel.  So that was the immediate cause but figuring out why it was doing that was another matter altogether.  In the interest of getting home I simply unbolted the run solenoid and we ran the generator under close supervision and only when absolutely necessary.  The problem with that “solution” is that the genset had no way to shut itself down if it got into serious trouble.  Gensets spend a lot of their lives running unattended so they need to be able to shut themselves down if they run out of oil pressure or overheat.

These older Onans have a reputation for having a needlessly complicated run circuitry.  I spent some time trying to figure out why I had no power to my run solenoid but finally decided to do as many others have done and bypass the complicated Onan circuitry completely.  So now in the place of all the Onan ground based circuits we have one simple little cube relay.  When I start the engine that relay is powered and therefore open because it is normally closed.  That means that initially the run solenoid is unpowered but as the engine turns over and the oil pressure comes up the oil pressure switch opens, dropping the ground to the cube relay.  Only when that relay reverts to closed does the run solenoid see power and open the governor.  In a sense my system is an improvement on Onan’s system because the engine doesn’t start until it sees oil pressure.  Today I added a further refinement when I moved the run solenoid ground so that it has to pass through a normally closed thermostat mounted close to the exhaust.  I’m not sure what temperature I should be using on that shutdown but I’m starting out with 105C because that’s what I bought.  The thermostats were $7.99 shipping included from China for 10 pieces so I’m not out a lot if it doesn’t work.  My digital thermometer has a dead battery & we didn’t have a spare onboard so checking the temps will have to wait for tomorrow. 

As you may have guessed, we are back in Buchanan.  We left the Island about noon on Monday, caught the ferry to Horseshoe Bay and then drove like mad until we got back to the little house on the prairie.  Its pretty wet out here.  We didn’t see a single drill in the field all the way home.  There were a few set up in yards obviously ready to go but absolutely no sign of field work anywhere. 

Since we got back we’ve been in a mad scramble to get ready to leave again.  Aside from the already mentioned ongoing generator repairs I had some work to do on our other major piece of shit equipment, the Ford Exploder.  When we left it here in March we couldn’t use the front passenger door.  Apparently this too is a known problem.  Their door latch mechanisms rust up and you can only open the door from inside, if you are lucky.  Some owners have to resort to crawling across the console to get out whichever side is still usable.  Ours wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t use it but it was hard to open and sometimes didn’t want to close.  Yesterday I managed to get the inside panel off the door but ran up against a wall trying to get the mechanism removed.  I think you have to take out the rear window track and I’ll want a lot more time on my hands to tackle that one.  Instead I filled the latch up with weasel piss, worked it a bunch, opened and closed the door several times and I made some serious improvement on it.  I’ll keep filling it up with 3-in-one oil which is my current weasel piss of preference and hope that it doesn’t let us down on this trip. 

The last major piece of work I’d like to get to is doing a grease job on the Frenchy-bus but our neighbour says we’re getting rain tomorrow.  If he is right the grease will have to wait.  Today I pulled the plugs on the tag and steer hubs and added oil to a couple of them.  The engine fired up first turn and I either fixed our headlight problem from the winter or postponed fixing it – not sure which yet.  Tomorrow we expect to be back on the road by early afternoon and will likely get to the rest area at Maple Creek tomorrow night.  So I better get back to work now.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Don and Darlene

We met some good people over the years that we spent in Whispering Pines and we have stayed in touch with several of them.  Last weekend Don & Darlene arrived from Alberta to spend a week out here.  As we have done with other guests, we waited at the yacht club reciprocal dock and they caught a cab from the airport.  Then we hustled out of Tsehum Harbour to get out ahead of a low tide because the water in there can get really thin on a low. 

We had planned to drop the prawn traps and spend the night anchored close by but the weather was so nasty that once we got the traps down we decided to just go back to the dock at Cow Bay.  By the time we got to the dock it was calm but how do you know?  When we got to the dock Lance was loading prawn traps onto Currie’s Mermaid. 

The commercial prawn season opened out here yesterday.  Lance can haul about half the traps he is allowed to set on his boat, which is typical for the prawn boats we have seen out here.  Usually they get the boats loaded up with half of their traps the night before opening and stack the balance of the traps on the dock.  Lance wanted to fish further away from Cow Bay so he didn’t want to return to the Bay to pick up his traps and he figured the docks where he wanted to fish would be full of local traps so he hired Currie to ferry his traps out to where he would be fishing.

On Tuesday morning we went back to Saanich Inlet, pulled our traps and then anchored in Tod Inlet, just outside Butchart Gardens.  I can’t remember if I was in Butchart Gardens when I was a kid – I likely was because mom & dad like d to visit that kind of place.  They pretty well leave me cold – I appreciate how much work it must take to maintain them but I’m just not sure why anyone would bother.  This one must be a little gold mine though so that would be a strong motivation.  It cost $120 for the 4 of us to wander around inside the park for maybe 3 hours – it seemed longer. 

We spent a pleasant night anchored in Tod Inlet with Shirley and Gerry on Seagate and they joined us for the rest of our week.  On Wednesday we headed up Sansum Channel into Chemainus and across to Telegraph Harbour on Thetis Island.  That was where Lance was waiting to drop his traps which worked out well for him because Marilyn had baked a big batch of bread while we were underway.  We rafted up to the Mermaid for a visit and dropped off some cinnamon buns.  Lance’s crew was busy baiting the traps.  They use both the prawn bait pellets that we have been using and larger bait cans with anchovies inside.  The theory is that the bait attracts the prawns and the anchovies feed them to keep them around. 

After a night in Telegraph Harbour we came around through Houston Channel and Trincomali Channel to Ganges Harbour.  We’ve anchored here before but never tied up in town and never spent much time in town.  Its pretty yuppified and overrun with greenies but otherwise a very pretty place.  I’m sure we’ll be back but I really need to print up some “I heart farmed salmon” bumper stickers.  I think they’d be a big hit in this town.

Today we’ll hang out at the dock, wander around town a bit and end up back at the dock at Sidney North Saanich yacht club.  We had planned to finish up Don and Darlene’s visit with prime rib at the club but when Marilyn phoned to confirm our reservation yesterday Isobel told her that the cook had abruptly quit.  So I guess we’ll be having drinks at the club and something on the barbeque.