Saturday, June 24, 2017

This time last year

Independence Pass, east of Aspen CO

Grab it

I want to lower my bed to give me more headroom when I use the bed as my chair. But there are things stowed under the bed that just barely slide in and out the way things are now. That means I need to switch to shorter things under the bed. Hurray for chain reactions.

One of the tall things under the bed was my tool box. I found a shorter box that still holds all my tools, though in a less organized way. Hurray for trade-offs. The old tool box had a place I could grab to pull it from under the bed. The new one didn't—until this morning.

I walked over to the small hardware store and, with the assistance of a pleasant clerk, got just the handle, screws and nuts I needed.

Now, along with the replacement for the standard size milk crate I was using before, there's plenty of room to lower the bed. After I do something about the plastic bin of clothing and stuff. I feel another Festival of Purging coming on.

Friday, June 23, 2017

I did my first brake job

When I got new front brake rotors and pads for the Rolling Steel Tent back in November, they told me my rear brake pads should be replaced sometime in the near future. The rear brakes aren't as critical because the front brakes do most of the stopping. But you still need rear brakes to keep the back end from coming around. And the rear brakes are your emergency/parking brakes.

With my limited gearhead knowledge I suspected replacing the brake pads wasn't rocket science. So I went on YouTube and, voila, an instructional video about replacing brake pads on 3/4- and 1-ton Chevy Express vans. Oh yeah, piece of cake. One wrench and a big C-clamp. Though it would be easier and faster if I had a better jack than the one the Rolling Steel Tent came with. And an air wrench. So I waited until I got to Forrest's place.

Forrest said I could get name brand, American-made brake pads online for a fraction of what a Chevy dealer or auto parts store would charge. So that's what I did.

You've seen this view before if you've ever changed a flat rear tire. The caliper looks all complicated and mysterious (which is what mechanics would like you to keep thinking) but it's actually rather simple.

As explained in the video I linked to above, there are two bolts on the back of the caliper that need to be removed (with a 17mm wrench in the case of the Express).

The bottom bolt on its way out

But, really, you can change the pads by removing just one bolt (the bottom one is easier to get to) and loosening the other so the center of the caliper swings away. That means you don't need to worry about the brake line. Then the pads just slip out to the sides.

Here's a comparison of the old and new pads. The old ones would still work a while longer, but now I won't need to think about them for the remaining life of the van.

Since the new pads are thicker, the pistons that press the pads against the rotor need to be pushed back into the caliper. That's what the afore-mentioned C-clamp is for. Unless you're Superman.

Just hold an old pad against the piston then crank the C-clamp as far as it will go. This is also easier to do with one end of the caliper still bolted in place. And with an extra hand to hold the caliper up. Thanks, Forrest.

Slide the new pair of pads into place, swing the caliper over them (which might require a little jiggling), replace and tighten the bolts, and there you go.

You don't need to take the old pads out to see how worn they are. And, hopefully, you don't find out by being unable to stop. With the wheel off (and maybe with it still on, depending on the vehicle) you can see the pads through the inspection window on the caliper. Here's the view with my new pads in place.

There you have it. It would've taken longer with the jack and tools I have, but I still could've done it, even out in the boonies. You probably could, too.

Interior wall going up

The main structure of the shower/bathroom is in place. It just needs trim, which can't be put in place until the ceiling, flooring and other things are done. So it's wall time.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This doesn't happen with the Rolling STEEL Tent


The rebuilding of the locking hubs is done. I think the answer was more beer.

Into the woods again

It was going to be hot in Ridgway, so I headed for higher, cooler ground. County Road 7 follows the East Fork of Dallas Creek, past Ralph Lauren's ranch, almost to the northern base of Mt. Sneffels. The road is good but deteriorates somewhat when it crosses into the Uncompahgre National Forest. Then it's lumpy and potholed but still easily passible in the Rolling Steel Tent. I wouldn't want to tow anything up there, though. But I don't want to tow anything anywhere, so take my opinion for what it's worth.

There are several places to camp on the way to Blue Lakes trailhead, at the end of the road. Some are next to meadows, with fewer next to the creek. I like water. The large, tenacious flies in the area seem to have no preference.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Goodbye ads

I've turned off AdSense. It hasn't been worth it. Enjoy vintage RollingSteelTent.blogspot, now 100% ad free. Monetization isn't everything.

Cotton or down?

I'm camped next to cottonwood trees, and it's reproductive season. That means little fluffy white tufts find their way into the Rolling Steel Tent.

I also have a small leak in my down quilt. That means other little fluffy white tufts find their way into the Rolling Steel Tent.

It's like winter in June.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fillet of shower

It was time to join the walls of the shower to each other and to the floor. The assembly needed to be watertight, of course, which is no problem for Lou. He used to build wooden boats for a living. He uses this epoxy-based stuff. It fills, bonds, and seals. Sort of like super-duper bondo.

After the joints cure they'll be sanded and another layer of clear epoxy will go over everything.

Back road rendezvous

On the way back to Ridgway after a day at Alta Lakes I had the impulse to turn up Last Dollar Road. More curiosity to be satisfied. More experience to be gained.

I had pulled over to take pictures like the one above when I heard my name called. It was Forrest, Cyan and Jenya taking the slow, scenic route to Telluride. One of those weird intersections of random stuff I wrote about the other day. Good luck.

Jenya decided she wanted a photo of her very pregnant self with the flowers and mountains in the background.

Child number two just a couple of weeks away

Monday, June 19, 2017

High water

My friend Colvin recommended Alta Lakes when he read in a previous post I had been in the general area. I asked Forrest about Alta Lakes and he enthusiastically agreed. So here I am.

Getting annoyingly technical

ALTITUDE: Vertical distance between an object and the local surface of the Earth. In other words, height in the air.

ELEVATION: Vertical distance between the local surface of the Earth and global sea level. The local surface of the Earth will be either land or water surface. In other words, height on the ground.

So, unless you're flying, you get elevation sickness, not altitude sickness. And I'm camped at an elevation of 11,215 feet. Yet I'm not suffering elevation sickness. I'm suffering a bout of pedantry.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Good luck, bad luck, good luck, bad luck...

I don't believe in fate, predestination, karma or similar things. The world is just filled with the infinite intersections of random stuff. There's no supernatural intent behind any of it. Sure, I call it luck, but I don't think luck is an actual thing. Sometimes randomness affects me positively, sometimes negatively, but usually it's rather neutral. And sometimes "luck" is the natural consequence of things I saw coming, or should've seen, but I ignored, or hoped would turn out another way. Today was a grab bag of randomness.

It was laundry and supplies day. So after my morning routine I headed to Montrose. About five miles up the highway traffic came to a halt. I couldn't see the reason because of a bend in the road. Construction maybe? I put the Rolling Steel Tent in park and waited. And waited.

A vehicle or two would occasionally come the other way. The line would creep forward a bit. I waited. Some drivers ahead got out, walked around, talked with other drivers. Hmmmm. A DOT truck came by on the shoulder. That wasn't a good sign. Probably an accident. Very bad luck for whomever was involved. Relatively insignificant bad luck for me and the other drivers. If I had left sooner I might have avoided the accident. That would've been good luck, of which I would've been totally unaware, because nothing would've happened. If I had left at a different time I might have been in the accident. Very bad luck.

Then I realized I was in luck after all. I knew a detour. And I knew the detour because I had driven it while exploring, on a whim. "Where does this road go?" So I turned around to pick up the alternate route. Sweet.

The detour is paved at the beginning and end. The middle isn't. There was a steady stream of vehicles in both directions. They knew the detour, too. Lucky for them. Then one of them kicked up a stone that smacked almost directly in the center of my sight line. It made a chip about the size of a quarter. Aw man, bad luck.

But wait. It wasn't really bad luck. The rock didn't come through the glass. It didn't harm me. It just pissed me off a little. Besides that, I had already planned to replace the windshield because of a big crack. (Earlier bad luck.) More than a week ago I had talked to Forrest's friend who does auto glass work. He said he'd get back to me with an estimate. But he hadn't, which I thought was bad luck. If he had gotten back to me, and if the windshield had just been replaced, then it would have been bad luck of the sort that convinces me some malevolent force is out to get me.

The rest of the day was filled with moments of very minor good and bad luck. It all averaged out, though. In fact, I'm ahead of the game because I'm here to write about it all. But if a meteorite smashes into the van as I sleep and turns me into a smoldering grease spot, it will be because I've blasphemed fate. Which doesn't exist. Neener neener neener, come and get me.

Steering and stopping

The stock steering link on Forrest's Isuzu NPR wasn't the right length to work with the new four-wheel-drive front end. No surprise. Isuzu engineers design their steering with the idea some guy in Colorado might want to take one of their work trucks off road.

So Forrest and friends adjusted the steering link's length by cutting it and welding on a new end. Function and clearances were checked. It's good to go—where you point it.

New calipers and pads were also installed. Because stopping is an excellent thing.

Carnivore night

It was past time for the manly rite of barbecuing. Lou fired up his Coleman portable grill, Forrest supplied the rib eyes, and I did the dishes afterward.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gears and beer

You know the mechanical work is getting serious when they've got a pile of front hub parts, a greasy shop rag and a locally brewed craft beer.

Another thing off my to-do list

When I first got the Rolling Steel Tent I installed a brake light down on the rear bumper because the regular brake lights are kind of high and might be out of someone's line of sight. More lights are always better. A while back I noticed the metal housing was kind of rusty. That's not cool.

So I removed it today, disassembled it, sanded it and sprayed on several coats of paint. Then, rather than watch paint dry, I had lunch and took a nap. Because we retired old farts can do that.

That looks better

Back in place and ready to go

Today's Technical Tip: When working on your back under a vehicle, you will get dirt in your face, maybe in your mouth.

Keeping the water in the shower

While I was away, Lou did the final fitting of all the shower stall pieces. He had even applied the first coat of epoxy. This morning we sanded the first coat and applied the second one. My job was to mix the resin and hardener while Lou rolled it on.

I think it's against wood finishing regulations to wear a Hawaiian shirt while applying epoxy. But Lou is a rebel.

Road trip, part two

After finishing yesterday's post I knew I wanted to take the longer way home. I'm glad I did. The climb up Highway 145 from Cortez to 10,000 foot Lizard Head Pass is easy and pleasant. It was autumn the first time I made the drive and all the cottonwoods were golden in the morning light. They were just their standard green this time, but it was still a nice trip, with the Dolores River at my side.

The town of Rico is along the way. It's another former mining town teetering between decay and gentrification. They hope to snag some of the tourist dollars, but I think most travelers would rather continue on to Telluride. However, the real estate market is hoping to entice those who have been priced out of the big resort town up the road.

Lizard Head Pass really appeals to me, even thought I haven't been able to spot the mountain that's supposed to look like a lizard's head. Alpine meadows, coniferous forests and striking mountains. I spent a couple of hours there in a semi-meditative state.

And just north of the summit is Trout Lake. More hanging out ensued.

I skipped Telluride. The bluegrass festival is on and it would've been a pain to get into town. Some other day.

There are side roads up into the mountains I want to explore. They're a good reason to keep coming back.


This is how I found Forrest and Cyan when I returned from the road. No tools in hand, but deep in discussion about the engine of Cyan's truck. If you ever need ideas for couples time...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The C. W. McCall web of interconnection

C.W. McCall is the stage name for William Dale Fries, Jr.

William Dale Fries, Jr. worked in advertising. So did I.

Fries/McCall wrote and performed Wolf Creek Pass. I just drove through there.

Fries/McCall moved to Ouray, Colorado, and was elected mayor. Ouray is ten miles from where I'm staying, in Ridgway.

John Billings, of Ridgway, makes the Grammy Awards. He also casts Rubber Duck hood ornaments (from the song Convoy) for Fries/McCall. I've toured Billings' shop. Forrest has a Rubber Duck and I painted the eyes and cigar for him last year.

I guess all that's left is for me to bump into Fries/McCall on the street. And I'm not even much of a fan.