All life’s a journey, but some of the best parts of that trip are when the wheels are rolling.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Arizona vacation with Mom: Phoenix and Mom's arival
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Arizona vacation with Mom: Made it to Arizona
Mar 31 2013: On to Arizona
As you cross New Mexico on I10 you make a gradual but noticeable climb to the continental divide near Lordsburg. From there you drop down on the west side of the divide and cross some flats where you can see dust plume 10's of miles away, too far away to tell if they are from vehicles or other such activity, or if the winds the signs along the road warn about are raising the dust.
Near the New Mexico/Arizona border you're climbing again, right up between Stern's Mountain to the north and Attorney Mountain to the south. (I wish maps included little explanations about how a place got named. . . That one might have an interesting story!)
|A Google-eye view of the abandoned S curves along the Union Pacific|
railroad just east of the Arizona/New Mexico border
The Union Pacific railroad roughly parallels I10 along here and at exit 3, not much more than a railroad siding called Stern's, I got off to do a little exploring. My map showed a foot trail of some sort along the flank of Stern's mountain and a close inspection of Google Earth reveals what looks like some really cool looking S curves that the tracks used to follow at one point, the usual reason being to flatten out the climb and/or reduce the amount of fills and cuts needed to get through an area, but have obviously been abandoned now, probably when the track was double-tracked through here at some point and either more powerful engines of the day could handle the steeper grade or more modern construction equipment and methods made creating fills and cuts more economical. (Curves create friction which results in more wear on rails and wheels and uses more fuel, so straight track is better if you can get it.)
Unfortunately I couldn't find a way to get close enough to the abandoned tracks to get a real look at them, nor was I able to find a foot trail, but I did spend a pleasant couple of hours away from the hustle of I10 exploring some rarely used roads along the Peloncillo Mountains.
Just on the Arizona side of the border I10 starts a long downhill slide towards Tucson through Texas Canyon which has all sorts of cool rock formations. The rest-area at mile marker 389 westbound, or 388 eastbound, is a convenient spot to stop and get a closer look. If you're not careful, while you're sitting at a one of the picnic tables with your back to the freeway you'll start daydreaming and just might start seeing ghosts of the Apache tribe members that inhabited this almost un-inhabitable area up there in the rocks. If you're even luckier you'll catch an eastbound freight grinding up the grade on the north side of the freeway.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Arizona vacation with Mom: Land of the free???
Anyway – enough ranting – I made it through the checkpoint and ended up in Deming NM for the night in one of the many, many campgrounds available in this little town. (I think they claim something like 27 campgrounds in a town of 15,000 people.)
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Arizona vacation with Mom: Reality bites!
Forward: In case you haven't figured it out, I don't post real time on the travel blog. It's a security/paranoia thing. In fact I'm way behind on posting some trips and this one was taken a little more than a year ago now.
Friday, April 25, 2014
More shade for the van
This little guy lets me monitor the signals available on the ODB2 port, (That computer diagnostic port somewhere under the bottom of the dash on all vehicles not old enough to be called 'classic'.) which means I can read diagnostic codes as well as monitor a number of different 'gauge' signals.
You remember gauges don't you? (Well maybe not if you studied the Gulf War in high school history.) They're those round thingies in the dashboard that told you what's going on with your vehicle before they were abolished by lots and lots of lights. (Like I really need a light to tell me my coolant system has overheated! I guess that's in case I missed the terrible noise coming from the engine and the billows of steam blocking my view!!)
I mean for crying out loud! My Sprinter doesn't even have a fuel gauge!! Instead it has this LED display like the signal strength meter on your cell phone, only with 10 bars instead of 5. So I'm driving along feeling pretty good with 4 bars of fuel when I noticed that at some point along this dark and empty road it dropped down to 3 bars while I wasn't looking. So does that mean I have just a little under a half tank and am going to make it to those distant lights I can see out there across the desert, or have I burned almost all the way through my '3' bar and am about to suddenly have less than a quarter tank with which to escape the rampaging coyotes and swarming tarantulas???
DashDaq to the rescue! Seems the signal that used to be sent to a 'regular' fuel gauge is still there, you just have to know how to get to it. Fortunately my DashDaq does know and can tell to within 1 one tenth of 1 percent how much fuel I have in the tank. (That's if I use a digital display, but I find it a little disheartening watching the tenths click down when bucking a headwind so I stick to an old-fashioned dial type gauge for that reading.)
There's lots of other useful 'gauge' signals available off the computer too.
I have mine set up to show:
Engine load: This one helps me treat the van gently. If I see the load getting up over 80% and staying there it's time to think about slowing down or downshifting (Yes, the automatic transmission will downshift on it's own at some point but you have to remember that the factory set the shift points for maximum fuel mileage with drivetrain wear being a secondary consideration.)
Manifold air pressure: There's a turbo under the hood of this thing and manifold air pressure is another way of monitoring the strain your drivetrain is under, as well as keeping an eye on the turbo health.
Fuel mileage: Sometimes it might be easier on the nerves to bury my head in the sand on this one, but - well - I seem to be addicted to watching this number fluctuate as I climb hills then coast down the other side, though I am tempted to turn it off when pulling the trailer!!
Ambient air temp: I don't know, I just think its good to know if that wet looking bridge up there might just be covered in ice, or, on the other end of the scale, if your brain is going to boil when you leave the air-conditioning.
Engine coolant temp: I'd much rather know ahead of time that the engine is getting hot. That way I can slow down or even pull off in a spot of my own choosing. The alternative is to wait for the dash light to light up and then panic. I'm not good with panic.
Exhaust gas temp: Another good indication of engine load. And since the Sprinter is a diesel with a soot filter, I can see when a 'burn-off' is under way to clear the filter because the exhaust temp shoots up by about 500 degrees. This helps prevent me from freaking out when the fuel mileage drops during the 12 or so miles it takes for the burn off to finish.
I could go on for a while more about the capabilities of the DashDaq but this was supposed to be a simple post about a short project.
You see, there's a reason your dash indicators are buried way back in there where the sun can't get to them very easy. It's because they're kind of hard to see otherwise. And the DashDaq suffers from the same problem. In fact it's amazing how many different sun directions can make it nearly impossible to read.
My first attempt at correcting this situation was OK, but had two major flaws. Even though the dash cowl is close to the right side of the DashDaq and I didn't think I'd need shading on that side, the sun still sneaks in there with annoying frequency.
And here you can see the gap between the cowl and the DashDaq. This lets a surprisingly bright band of light through and turns out that's pretty annoying too.
So the fix was to start over. This time I cut a piece of the black backer-board long enough to wrap both sides as well as the top of the DashDaq. I also scored and bent down about an inch of the board which will eventually fit in behind the DashDaq blocking those sneaky light rays.
After making the bends I glued the splice-plates in place, keeping them there until the glue set with clamps and a few brass weights.
Added a couple Velcro dots (I know, I know, I'm supposed to write 'hook and loop' rather than Velcro unless they actually are Velcro brand dots, which I didn't bother to check, but I don't actually talk that way, saying Kleenex and Velcro and Xerox with no regard to registered brand names so why should I write that way??) The notch over there on the left is so the cable can be plugged into the back of the DashDaq
Stick the matching dots onto the back of the DashDaq, clip off the protruding square corners to give the shroud a little class, and we have liftoff! Better sun shading and no light leaking in around the edges.
Since I got so long-winded at the beginning of this entry I think it might have taken more time to write it up than it actually took to complete the project!!
Monday, April 21, 2014
Pedernales Falls: Birds and fuses
After a leisurely start which included revisiting Twin Falls for some early morning photos, which didn't happen because I didn't want to wait for the fog to burn off, I headed for the bird blind.
This is a new thing since I was here last. A small garden with nice, really nice, bird-blinds to either side, each of which looks out onto a fenced in feeding area. I've said before that I'm no expert and field guides are frustrating, (Like using a dictionary, you have to already know [how to spell the word/what you're looking for] in order to find it!) but I've made an attempt to identify the birds in these photos.
|I know! Where's the purple?|
But nobody bothered to get my opinion on just what this bird should be named
|I wonder if that hummingbird over there waited 30 minutes|
after eating to get in the water bubbling over that rock??
|White-winged dove hanging around the cactus.|
|In fact several birds seem to find that cactus interesting.|
I must be missing something
|Apparently I wasn't the only one as this Western Scrub Jay|
|found this upside down stump more to his taste.|
|Neither one of these guys seem to have put much effort into|
|their disguises. No fake beaks, walking on all fours, not even any paper wings!!|
|Maybe that's why this Goldfinch seems to have a little attitude.|
|Even experienced birders find sparrows a challenge so I'm not going to|
try and identify which one of many this might be.
|But I think this one with the big black eyes might be a Fox Sparrow|
|And I'm going to call this one a Henslow's Sparrow|
|Spotted or Rofous-sided (depending on what part of the country|
you come from) Towhee.
Not the best photo but I was shooting through glass which confuses my camera
|Who, me? No, I'm not the one using up all the hot water!|
When I got back in the van and turned the key - nothing! OK, this isn't good! Try again. Yep, still nothing.
Dash lights up: check, headlights come on: check, battery voltage is good: check, starter starts: I said! starter starts: nope.
Well isn't that about as much fun as a stick in your eye!!?
OK, think. Like most vehicles these days the Sprinter is computer dependant, but I could hear the security system sense the key-fob and unlock, there were no lights on the dash that shouldn't be there, and by using the DashDaq I could see there were no error codes from the computer. Oh great!! Just great!!
At least I have one bar on my phone and my GoodSam roadside service is paid up through 2016. In fact, I'm a long ways from anywhere so should probably go ahead and call to get things started. (No pun intended but if the van want's to go ahead and start now I'm not going to complain!) If I can figure it out on my own I can always call back and say 'never mind'.
Call; punch a couple buttons to work through the menu; get a live person. First question; am I in a safe place? Well- pretty much, unless those thieving rodents back there in the bird blind decide I'm easier pickings. A few more questions and TJ is going to work on getting me some help and will call back in no more than 15 minutes.
OK, while I'm waiting let's check the owner's manual.
What to do if: Engine doesn't start and you can hear the starter motor working
Nope, not that one
Engine doesn't start, you can't hear the starter motor working, the yellow DEF light is lit
Nope, not that one either
Engine doesn't start, you can't hear the starter motor working Oh! Wait, phone's ringing.
Towtruck is on the way, it will be here in 2 hours then another 2 hours to the dealership and TJ already checked, they'll be able to look at the van right away. (Of course by then all the mechanics are going to be wanting to do is go home and kick back with a beer.)
OK, where was I? Oh yeah.
Engine doesn't start, you can't hear the starter motor working: check the battery disconnect switch.
Well it's obviously not that, everything else electrical is working, but I'll check anyway.
Nope, not it.
Engine doesn't start, you can't hear the starter motor working: starter motor is defective, contact an authorized service center.
Well that was a big help!!!!
Looks like I'm in for a long wait. In the mean time, this van has a ton of fuses. In fact it has three different fuse blocks. I know because when I first bought it I checked them all to make sure I had spares for every fuse. In fact here's one in the manual that says starter motor! Fuse 23, a 25 amp fuse in block SRB. Except the only 25 amp fuse in block SRB is for the Center Console 12 Volt Outlet. I know because I pulled it and checked that there was no longer any voltage on the Center Console 12 Volt Outlet. (And no, the starter motor didn't miraculously start working. . .)
It took a while, standing on my head there under the dash, but I finally figured out which was fuse 23, only it was a 20 amp fuse, not a 25 amp, but the good news is it's blown!!
OK, I have 20's and 25's I can replace it with. I haven't messed with any of the fuses before so it must have come from the manufacturer with the 20 in it so let's put a 20 back in.
And we have ignition!!
Call TJ back and cancel the tow truck.
Thinking back on it, when I got to the bird blind there was a class C that pulled out just after I parked. Since they had been sitting in the best spot to stay out of the way of other vehicles I started back up and moved once they were out of the way. I may simply be making things up now to settle my nerves, but I seem to vaguely remember bobbling the key when I started back up. Maybe I double-tapped the starter which blew the fuse???
At any rate, I've lost so much time that if I don't head for home now I'm going to end up in Austin traffic, and my nerves are already jangly, so home it is.
And thus the trip ends.
|My hikes this trip|
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Pedernales Falls: Wolf Mountain and more miles
| Unlike yesterday which had absolutely clear skies all day,|
this morning there were a few wispy clouds to spark up the sunrise
|The trail starts out from the trail0head very promising.|
A nice stroll through the trees
For the first few yards from the trail-head it's a nice walk through the trees but that doesn't last long. At the end of that wooded stroll you come to the real trail which is more road than trail. This is becoming more and more common. Not all that long ago as a park ranger you expected to be hiking trails on foot, humping all the supplies you needed to patrol and maintain them on your back, but those days are fading fast. I suppose that's to be expected in this day and age of volunteer park personnel. You probably can't keep many of them around long if you make them carry chainsaws, gasoline and shovels on their backs instead of motorized transport.
|but quickly turns into more road than trail.|
that little hump right there at the end of the road is Wolf Mountain,
a stop along our way today.
|It's hard to tell from this photo, but that Prickly Pear is actually growing out|
of the tree that has fallen across the upper end of Regal Creek. It's hanging there
10 feet above the ground.
The park guide claims the Wolf Mountain trail is 6 miles long and challenging. I'm not sure about the challenging part, I think it ranks more like moderate, but I have no idea where they measured from and to because my round-trip hike was 8 miles long. Maybe I just wandered around for those extra 2 miles??
|Wouldn't this make a fantastic coffee table!!|
At any rate I still fell 2 miles short of the daily average of 10 miles for a loaded oxcart traveling the Santa Fe Trail. I don't know why that always sticks in my head but it's a benchmark I measure most my hikes against.
|This Mark Chalberg of scout troop 101 was busy earning his Eagle scout badge|
back in 2010. I ran into half a dozen of his map and bench projects
scattered around the park.
At any rate, much of this hike was uphill - well - exactly half of it anyway - and, like vehicles, I clearly get less mileage to the gallon going uphill, but unlike vehicles, my mileage doesn't improve on the downhill-side. . .
|And I made good use of many of them!! Like this one|
|up on the side of Wolf Mountain with great views of the river below.|
|Sometimes it's hard to tell natural limestone ledges from man-made rock walls.|
|This tree, with its dark, twisted branches reaching out to engulf me in its embrace reminded me of so many|
Disney adaptations of the Grimm's tales I watched as a boy. I could almost hear the evil cackle it made as it reached for me.
|Finally, on the far side of Wolf Mountain, the 'road-trail' petered out and I was hiking a proper trail down through the cool woods towards Johnson Spring.|
|Oops, need a little trail maintenance here. This probably came down during|
the ice storm of a few weeks ago.
|Just off to the top right of the photo, Walnut Creek disappears back underground|
|But right here there's enough water for a few creatures, such as the water-walker sitting in the top right and casting his|
space-pod shadow on the bottom of the shallow pool,
|or the big fat tadpoles squirming around on the bottom.|
|A little further downhill the trail pierces this dry-stack rock wall|
|probably built by the Johnsons to protect a crop from the livestock. Can you even imagine the hours of hard|
work it took to enclose a multi-acre field?
|And this is what remains of the house the Johnson's lived in|
|Nearby I found another weathered relic of days long past|
|And this is why the Johnson's chose to build near here. The clear water of Walnut Creek re-emerges from|
underground, flows briefly across the rock
|then makes a short drop into this pool which I'm sure was deeper in the days of dipping a bucket to haul water back|
to the house.
|I think this bench has seen a few too many butts, including mine!|
|Are we there yet?? Nope, not quite. Another mile and one more creek crossing before we make it back to the van.|
|One of the perks of being park superintendent.|
|This residence sits on the site of the mid 20th century two-story ranch house that burned to the ground back in the 60's or 70' and is just a short ways above the pool formed by twin falls.|