Friday, January 15, 2010

It doesn't appear to be working...

Someone once said that time was invented so that everything doesn't happen at once... It doesn't appear to be working.

The Bing has landed, and the brakes are really, really bad. Returning home yesterday I found the car veering sharply off to the left when I applied the brakes, and then it felt like they were not disengaging... I had to accelerate against this huge drag... it sounded horrible. Driving in Guaymas is like a video game- untrained drivers lurch onto the road without looking, without warning, swinging wide into oncoming lanes to make their turns, some drive at 10 miles an hour, others race past in huge SUVs, bus drivers use their size to bully everyone on the road, and then there's me in my 39 year old VW bus with brand new paint and bad brakes, working on an ulcer. At least I had a windshield this time, so I could see the horror in front of me.

Once home I took a hot shower, a pain pill and got in bed. With a vow that the brakes would be the first thing I would do to the Bing the next day.

So today came along like Guaymas at rush hour.

There was my usual Friday morning breakfast meeting at Tequila's. The 1st Mate showed up, and came over to see the Bing.

The BING. Through the new windshield you can see the Westfalia
Captains chairs I've installed. They're heaven on your buns and back.

S and B stopped by to say that B wants to buy the Westy (which is in the bodyshop now) and will have his bank in Scotland wire the money to my account. The money should arrive in a week.

I drove out to the ranch in my pickup to get all the parts that came off the Bing when I started sanding and patching... mirrors, lights, radio antenna, etc. The truck has been acting up... and today it was really bad, stalling every time I made a turn. It was my suspicion that when the fuel was low in the tank and I made a turn, the fuel pump would take a big gulp of air and send that to the fuel injectors and the motor would stall. It would start right up until I made another turn... so my answer to this was to add fuel and the problem disappeared. Except recently it started doing it with over a quarter of a tank on the gauge.

I had a moment of clarity.
What if, I asked myself, the conditions in the truck haven't changed at all, but my information is bad? If the gauge was reading higher than it should, it would explain the symptom. So, I filled up the tank and the problem went away. Bad gauge. Good thinking. Pat self on back.

I got home with the lovely chrome parts, some of which had gray primer on them (blame body man worker #1 in 2003) and no paint remover. I went to the hardware store and they had no paint remover either. Another moment of clarity.. I went to the grocery store and bought a small can of brush-on oven cleaner. It works beautifully. Pat self on back.

I also brought home a pair of saw horses and a 4x8 foot sheet of plywood. This is my work table in the house now, for doing the interior parts of the Bing. I have an industrial walking-foot sewing machine I'll use to do my tucking and rolling. With that set up, I started pulling door panels off, and then remembered my vow...

I jacked the front of the van up and started pulling off the calipers (the 1971 VW van was the first year they used front disk brakes on the bus- cool!). I found the pads were pretty much frozen in place against the disks, and a leaky fluid reservoir. I also found that the hydraulic lines were original equipment (that is, 40 years old) and they almost crumbled in my fingers. My plan is to replace every hydraulic hose and fitting in the bus before I drive it again, unless I get suicidal or something.

The calipers and drums/disks will go to the machine shop for rebuilding, and I will be going to a variety of places to get my hoses, lines, fittings and brackets. And then I'll pull off the rear wheels to check the brake shoes and drums, wheel bearings, etc. I may pop new shocks in there too. There's a LOT of bumps in Mexico's roads.

I discovered that the 1st Mate was sold the wrong tires for the van also. Because of it's design, the Bing needs to have a reinforced sidewall, truck rated tire. Most people don't know this, but the VW bus was rated to carry a one ton payload. That's ten 200 pound guys. More than most pickup trucks.

If the Westy really does sell, I may use part of the proceeds to buy some spiffy alloy wheels and the Continental tires I put on the Westy last year.

So that's it. Turned out to be fun, but I knew it would. It always does.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Bing and the Duck

Among my possessions is a 1971 Volkswagon van that I started to rustproof about 7 years ago. (It didn't seem that long, now that I think about it). I brought it down to Mexico in 2003 and hired a guy to sand and prime the vehicle while I worked on SV Bliss in the San Carlos dry storage workyard. My stateside address at that time was on the northern California coast, and the spindrift was eating up the car. It belonged to the 1st Mate for years, and when we parted company she gave it to me (bless her heart).

When the 1st Mate and I moved to Mexico (Christmas 2005) this car was placed in storage in California. We retrieved it, and the rest of our belongings in the spring of 2007. It then moved out to the Flash workyard where it sat until this year.

I decided to sell the VW Westfalia and finish up the Bing... I wanted to drive this car south instead of the Westy. So, I started sanding, removing rot, painting primer, etc until I fell off the ladder and injured my ribs. Up until this time, we called the car "The Gray Van" because it had been covered in gray primer. Before I fell, I had the local paint store mix up a gallon of deep red paint, which reminded me of bing cherries, hence the new name.

I contacted my good friend Earl, and he introduced me to a body shop owner in Guaymas who had taken the name, "El Pato." (It is customary here, in this region of Mexico at least, for auto painters to adopt the name of some creature. "El Pollo, El Pato and El Raton" are working locally. Certainly there are more). El Pato looked over the van and gave me a price of 7700 pesos, which I rejected as too high. I told him I wouldn't pay more than 5000, but I could provide all the materials. He agreed to the price and gave me a list of materials, in addition to the paint I had brought with me. The paint store in San Carlos charged me less than 300 pesos for the remaining stuff and I took it out to the Duck. The Duck looked over the dings on the Westy and priced it at 2500 pesos. Pretty good, I thought. So the plan is to drive the Westy to pick up the Bing this afternoon and leave the Westy with El Pato, then take the Bing to get a new windshield and bring it home. The Bing will be my new daily driver.

Recently I purchased some stuff for this car: Two gray captain's chairs from a Westy owner on the east coast of the US, two louvered windows from a guy in PA, 4 yards each of light and dark gray naugahyde, an in-dash cd/dvd/ipod player, an external oil cooler, an aftermarket cruise control, a 2000 watt inverter and two heavy duty golf cart batteries, and rain gutter clips to build a custom roof rack. From our old RV I salvaged some aluminum awning parts to build an awning off the roof rack I have planned. I also salvaged a 300 watt car amplifier, a 7 inch flip down video screen and a backup camera. I'd like to take the fancy wheels off the Westy for this car, but will probably just get new wheels and tires when I sell the Westy.

I will bring a 4x8 sheet of plywood and saw horses to the house and set up the industrial walking-foot sewing machine to do the interior panels in two-tone gray naugahyde. There's some great instructional videos on youtube for auto upholstery.

I'll be chronicling my progress here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Some people...

I've had to institute comment moderation. A recent comment on this blog included a link to an oriental kiddie porn website. It would seem that are lives and activities are sometimes defined by the worst of us. Just take an airline flight in the USA to get the point.

Some people...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I fell off a ladder day before yesterday. I was arranging the shade over my workspace next to the Flash, when the flimsy ladder I was using slipped and I landed on my right ribcage on the side of a dinghy on the ground. I fell about nine feet. When I hit the boat I could actually see my ribs deforming and the lower right part of my chest move to the center of my chest. It was remarkable.

Of course it hurt like hell.

My brain started screaming panic, but after a second I just muttered to myself, "It's just an injury." Then I took my first breath, and once through that, took another.

Of course it hurt like hell.

A bit dizzy and wobbly, I got up and covered up my tools, locked the gate and drove home.
Once at home, I fired up my computer and Googled "rib injury." I called the First Mate and told her about my mishap so someone would know, and after a brief discussion, drove to "Rescate" to have the ribs wrapped. Rescate is our local Mexican-manned First Aid and Ambulance station in San Carlos. It's supported by the residents of our town through a variety of means, mostly fundraising events.

They gave me some lightweight drugs and taped me up. Then I went back to the house to consult with my next door neighbor, Dave. Dave is a retired physical therapist, specializing in sports medicine. He was so good at his job, he worked on the Olympic teams. So after a several minutes with Dave, I knew that I needed to get x-rays, and I would not be getting a lot done on the Flash, or the cars or anything else for a few weeks. Dave gave me a couple of Vicodin tablets he had, and I went home and setup a comfortable chair in front my computer to watch dvds while the drugs kicked in.

At one point, I sneezed. Of course, it hurt like hell.

My plans to head south for winter cruising are now postponed for a month while I heal up. The 1st Mate came over with extra pillows and white dogs, and we made plans to go get x-rays the following day. After the Vicodin started working, I was able to crawl into bed and get some sleep. I've had worse nights.

The x-rays show no fractures, all normal. So, according to Dave, it's all soft tissue stuff. Still very painful, but I will recover faster than if there were cracks or breaks. I figure it's God's way of telling me to slow down.

My plans now evolve around getting the Bing finished at a bodyshop. Getting the Westy up to the states and on the market. Getting the 2011 database designed for our next book, getting some old graphics files replaced in the book we do, and taking it easy. I'll hire somebody to clean up the workyard, put all tools away in the trailer and tow the trailer next door to the secure yard. Heal and go.

This morning, while surfing around I ran across this quote, which I try, in my humble way, to emulate:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
-Robert A. Heinlein