Sunday, December 18, 2016

Serpents, or belts, or a serpentine belt

It was a nice, quiet, and peaceful drive from Palm Springs, CA to Yuma, AZ.  I spent about a week in Palm Springs and was expecting to get to Yuma before noon (11 am California time).  I was well on my way to making it with 20 minutes to spare until I noticed something strange.  The battery wasn't charging and the engine temperature was pegged.....  HMMM....  Thought it was a fluke so drove a few more miles to the second exit, but with quite a few miles in between..

Soon as pulled into the gas station parking lot saw a trail of liquid on the pavement behind me...  Soon as I found a safe spot to park, I turned off the engine soon as possible to prevent any potential damage, or minimize any damage from occurring..

The sight was not welcome.....

It was definitely not welcome.

There was liquid flowing out of a tube.  Upon further investigation it was the overflow tube from the radiator that was spewing radiator fluid..  So, the temperature gauge wasn't lying, phooooey....  Stood around, scratching you-know-what, trying to think of what could be wrong.  Nothing, on the surface, looked abnormal, yet something was clearly wrong.

Crawled underneath and looked around, nothing...  Yet something...

Went inside and grabbed a fleshlight, then crawled underneath again, randomly looking around...  And suddenly, found something abnormal, something unexpected....  Something not so good, even bad...  There was no belt so saw the butt-crack....

The serpentine belt disappeared, well, mostly disappeared, yet found some fragments, as in this photo.  Pulled this from behind the radiator fan blade so there must've been quite the breakdown.  As can see, there's not much left to it..

Queue backward a few years when I replaced the alternator....  This was a chore, mainly from the standpoint of not having a third, or fourth, hand.  And such was the case here.  It took me over four hours to get this fixed, only because didn't have that third hand the whole time.

The process for the alternator was pretty much the same here, with exception of physicall removing the alternator and doing those tests.  But, speaking of the alternator, the pulley was gummed up something serious.

There was also the matter of cleaning out the old belt fragments.  This took me some time and in the picture you can see some bits and bobs.  Started manually peeling them off by hand and got what I could, but there was still gunk down in the groves.  It almost seems that, when the belt truly broke, it wrapped around here a little and probably gooified some.  Grabbed a flat head screwdriver and put one side (of the slotted end) into each groove and turned the alternator wheel.  Had to do this several times to finally get the gunk fully out, and it was truly gunk.

After using the screwdriver then gave it a final cleansing by spraying it with some carb cleane I had, and used an old sock to wipe away the gunk.  Repeated this three times until it looked decent.  Looked at the other places where the belt passed over and nothing else had to be cleaned!

Putting the belt on over the fan is actually quite easy.  As I was trying to figure out how to, it all came back to me from when watched the mechanic replace the belt once.  He, and I, slid it right over the fan blades, rotating them as you go.  It can be kinda seen in the picture that there is another belt in the way, one for the air conditioner (which still haven't fixed).  Removed the secondary belt from the air conditioner compressor, which was fairly easy.  After that it was a straight shot to get it seated on the top most grooved thing (for the fan).  Then had to replace the AC belt.

Now the time consuming part came, and that was to slide the belt all around, getting the belt tensioner out of the way too.  Long story short, and boy, was it long, is that had to loosen top bolt on the alternator, remove the bottom bolt (so it could swing free.  Then, and only then, lift up the tensioner and slide belt onto alternator, and voila...  Life is grand.  I could've removed both bolts from the alternator, though it's a royal pain the u-know-what to get it back.  Not that this whole process was ideal, but still...

What had to work with
Now, the part where really, truly, needed a third hand, was putting the bolt back into bottom of the alternator.  THIS was the problem.  However, had a knight in shining armor come by just at the right time.  He held the tensioner up and out of the way (with a breaker bar of course) as i finangled the bottom bolt in place.  Took some doing, and with him helping, that doing was only a couple minutes.  Once the bolt was started, drove it home with a socket and the ratchet, then tightened top bolt.

I then thanked the mysterious stranger, we exchanged some pleasantries, and he was off to the Rainbow Gathering, which is supposedly someplace nearby in the desert.  This guy, and bunch of his friends, ran one of the soup kitchens at the festival.  A HUGE thank you to him, wherever he is!  I did give him a Christmas Present of sorts as a way of saying thanks!  Without him would likely still be there.

At times being single is horrendous, and this was one of those times.  Now it's time to get a spare serpentine belt....  Here is an album of few more pictures, for those interested.  Not much there though there might be a gem or two to clarify things...

Let me take this moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas too!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Quartzsite, AZ

First, this is NOT a political statement, though found it interesting that a hat like this was made for a little town in the middle of no place.  From what I understand it's fallen on lean times in a way as number of RV'ers coming here have dropped substantially.  This is seemingly due to some things a mayor did.  Think it had something to do with sales tax, other tax, or some other thing like that, but not overly sure.

There are a few reasons decided to spend some time in Quartzsite.  First is that I know someone who winters down here from the Seattle area, and he invited me to visit him at the park.  Second is that had to waste some time to meet up with a friend in the Palm Springs area as he had left a water regulator in Vegas.  I had no intention of going to Palm Springs this season, but that's another story.

Chicken Fried Steak
There are a couple distinct Quartzsite specific "attractions", namely among them is a rock gem show of sorts.  This happens in January and it draws people from all over the world.  Wasn't happening during this visit.

Another big event that happens is the "Big Tent" in February.  Again, this wasn't happening at this time.  I did go there a few years ago, and while interesting, not much I was interested in, plus there were too many people.  It's generally full of all sorts of RV products, supplies, etc.  Amazon had a good sized booth there looking for Workampers.

Surprisingly there were also quite a few good restaurants, and the overwhelming majority of people I met were awesome!  I went to one restaurant, Mountain Quail Cafe, away from center of town a little and attached to an RV park.  The first time I went there, for lunch, the service was awesome, and food was good too, so went back couple more times.  Most places that have had chicken fried steak at it's truly icky, but had a good feeling about this place in that had it the following two times, and it was delicious.  Tender and fork cuttable (yes, incorrect word), it was simply amazing.  Still not as good as Dishner's (in Coos Bay, OR), but it's the second best, and large gap in between.

One surprising thing I found here was they have a very good sized little airfield for RC planes, or other RC aircraft.  I had come out this way to see Celia's Garden Ampitheatre, which was, umm, lackluster to say the least, but this was kinda neat.  It was so neat that I got myself an RC plane, which haven't flown yet but will when get to Yuma.  It's a public park too!

Hi Jolly Monument
One of the big draws of Quartzsite is all the BLM land where people can boondock for free, or very little cost.  Boondocking is camping overnight without any hookups, such as electricity or water.  Most people who do it long term have solar panels, and they go into town periodically to fill up with water and dump their tanks in town.  Am sure others rely on generators to charge their batteries, instead of solar panels.

Of course, there's a plethora of RV parks, in which I stayed in one of those.  It was a little pricey, $175 + tax for a week.  Paid $23.11 in additional taxes, which I find very high.  There was a "Trans Lodging Tax" as well as a hotel tax..  To me it seems as if those are kind of the same....  Needless to say it's unlikely that will stay at this park again, though might check out other parks.  In contrast, people who have a full time trailer there spent $1,840.00 a year

Someone else told me of "Hi Jolly"...  They wouldn't say what or who this was, just that there is a monument dedicated to Hi Jolly, and that I had to discover and check it out..  Naturally it intrigued me..  As it turns out it was a camel driver.  The sign below give the full story.  The ashes of "Hi Jolly" are supposedly in the time capsule at bottom of the monument.

Hi Jolly explanation sign
I do find it somewhat troubling what the US Government did to the camels after it was deemed the experiment was a failure.  It seems, according to this sign, that they let the camels free and roam the desert.  This sounds pretty nice for the camels, unless they were overly domesticated by that time.  It could've been a hardship on them to forage and find food after some time being cared for by the US Military at the time, or the camel's could've welcomed it.  It just seems a little inhumane to me, but the camels are supposedly buried here too.

Now, at the RV park I stayed at, they had a Saturday morning breakfast that served Biscuits and Gravy, which was actually quite tasty.  At this breakfast was talking with this older married couple about places to check out, such as Hi Jolly, airfield, etc.  They then reveled me with stories of an abandoned gold mine..   Curiosity sunk in and off on the scooter I went!

Most of the road was pavement though the last mile or few was hard packed gravel / sand / other stuff, with a few dips and twists and other funnish type of terrain.  Granted, it's all still desert so not much in the way of trees and shrubs and anything like that.  But at the end was a literal gold mine.

Remnants of Gold Mine
Well, a discarded gold mine.

I did not see a no trespassing sign until was leaving, and the fence was in disarray.  Did see some signs of recent activity there from who knows who, but while I was there didn't see a single soul.

Explored the grounds a little bit.  There was an RV there, under a shelter, that looked somewhat lived in, but again, no sign of life at all.  It was an older RV, probably from the 80's or so.

Illustrious mine shaft
Exploring the abandoned machinery was pretty awesome, though it took me a while of searching to find out where they supposedly extracted the gold ore from.the ground.  After a good 30 minutes of wandering, exploring, poking around, finally found it.

It was hidden behind some of the dirt piles.  The conveyor belt didn't even go down this road, nor was it "close" by.  Everything on this site was fairly packed together, but the mineshaft was just in an odd place.  At end of this "road" is entrance to the tmien.  I did take a look into the tunnel and saw it kept on going down and down and down, at a good grade but not overly steep.  It seems to be about as steep as this road leading down there.

At least on this upper part looked like they sprayed hydro cement to shore up the walls and ceiling, as far as the eye could see.  There was a chain link gate with a padlock there that didn't want to cross, in no small part due to the chained gate.  Plus it was awfully dark down there.

To close this off, here's a picture of Bob surveying the landscape!  He's leash "trained", in that trained to take me for a walk on the leash...  Paisley is in the background.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Tie Down Straps

Since started doing the RV thing have gone through a couple different sets of tie down straps and different methods of securing my scooter (and now motorcycle) to the RV.  Don't ask me why, but I entrusted my valuable Scooter to none other than Harbor Freight Tie Down Straps.  I, mistakenly, thought that all tie down straps were more or less created equal..  BOY, was I wrong.  I should've taken the leap much much sooner.....  And so should YOU!  In my opinion anyways.

The two, HF on bottom
I knew no better and didn't realize what true quality was.  I delayed the inevitable and have gone through a good 20+ tie down straps.  Probably should've gone through many more, though at times I'm a tad bit stingy...  Hence why scooter fell off back once.

As can be seen in the picture on the right, the Harbor Freight straps are on the bottom, and the new one is on the top.  Just looking at the side view, thickness of the webbing material is night and day.  Hindsight being as it is, the Harbor Freight one feels like paper compared to the cardboard'y thickness of the new one.  Granted, the new one is new and so will wear in time, though the quality difference is very visible.

The new straps are from Ratchet Straps USA,  It seems as they're a manufacturer of these, but at the very least they're a purveyor of fine ratchet straps...

My order consisted of two different items, the first was a set of straps, and handlebar wrap around tie down things, with the second being straps to tie down the rear of the bikes, plus a couple extra for grins and giggles.

Now, remember, I am very very very happy with these, but there are a few things I would've done different, hence this post.

For the Strap and Handlebar set, I would've done these things different, not that anything is wrong, just personal preference
  • Went with 6 foot straps instead of paying extra for 10 foot
    • Though 10 foot straps are more flexible in usage
  • Increase Handlebar strap length to 18+ inches
    • it's tight fitting when wrapping around handlebar, still works

A great thing I upgraded to was the safety hooks.  These are called Safety Latch S-hooks and cost an additional dollar.  What this does is make the S hook end be something similar to a carabinar, which will help prevent it from unhooking in times of crisis.  It accomplishes this by having a spring loaded piece of metal that closes off the opening.  Though anything can still happen, having this makes it a little less likely, more peace of mind.

Yellow = new
The other set of straps I ordered, in yellow, is just a standard run of the mill bunch of ratchet straps.  Nothing special and nothing out of the ordinary.  Like the strap and handlebar set there are a couple things I would've done differently...  Still nothing wrong, just personal preference again.
  • Would've chosen straps with a closing end, such as caribinar, snap hooks, soft loop, or safety S-hooks
    • Prefer safety S-hooks but couldn't find them..  20/20 vision of course.
  • Would not have purchased extra length and chosen 6 feet
  • Fixed end length might have increased a little, this part is irrelevant for my use
Am very happy I chose the somewhat heavier duty one inch strap.  It adds an extra little comfort factor.  There is a greater chance that the hooks will slide off without any safety features, as mentioned above, but don't envision that happening.

My order included 10 straps, four for the front (as part of the handlebar kit), then 6 for the rear, with four being actively used and the other two as backups.  Am still hanging onto the Harbor Freight straps as a backup backup with the hopes that will never go back to them except to strap stuff to the scooter for transport from store to RV.

If ever have the need for additional straps, one guess where I'll be ordered them from....

You guessed it, Ratchet Straps USA!

P.S. - Someplace, for at least some of their straps, there is an option to choose webbing made in the U.S.  Unsure where it could be.