Sunday, August 27, 2017

Catching up...a little

Blogs take time.  They also need proper content.  I don't find my life that exciting and it's hard getting time to post anything of interest.  Family consumes time.  So do hobbies.  Thus something must give and I'm forced into having it be this blog.

Okay, so after sitting for five years-ish I got our VW Bus running again and quite easily.  A shot of gas dryer, a 1/2-gallon of fresh gas, and charged the batteries (starter and camping).  A few cranks and she fired up and was 100% drive-able.  Seriously!  So the Bus is back in the shop and the camping trailer is being stored outside.

Oh yeah, we ended up buying a 1976 Apache Royal pop-up travel trailer from my buddy Martin a couple years or so back.  It's got more moving around, storage, and sleeping space plus a mount for a propane tank that feeds a 3-burner stove and interior heater.  The missus is much happier with it and she did a bang-up job cleaning it and having curtains made for it.  I rebuilt the seating and we replaced all of the sitting and sleeping foam.

The Meat of this Post

I finally got a real weather station, well, at least better than the common house-hold type with a single external sensor.  It's an AcuRite 01536 5-in-1 PWS -- Personal Weather Station -- and I have it connected to Weather Underground (  It was not a simple decision on where to mount it as there are specific factors that need consideration for optimal placement and, of course, getting permission from the Dept. of How The House Looks From The Street officer 😉

Since placement is going to be a compromise with an all-in-one station I spent several hours on the best placement of ours.  It finally came down to mounting it against an existing fence post that borders our backyard and asphalt driveway but 20 feet, 8 inches in the air.  While I wanted to go 30 feet that would have required guy-wires for stabilization and a lot more engineering effort.  As it stands now, using 1 inch black pipe in two 10 foot segments, topped with an 8 inch by 3/4 inch black pipe that the weather station mounts to.  This gives the "tower" enough stability to keep from swaying in low wind conditions.  We'll see what happens when the winds get above 15mph but until then I'm confident it'll be fine.

The weather station uses 4 AA batteries and I use the remote battery pack to make changes easier.  The top fence post bracket is meant to unbolt and the tower itself unscrew from the base, thus allowing me to perform maintenance on the PWS when necessary.  The base was generously smeared with grease so the tower pipe won't rust into place and I sprayed the entire tower & power wire with silicone lubricant spray to provide some water-resistance and stink to deter squirrels and other critters from wanting to climb it.  Actually, my only real concern is a bird nesting or pooping in the rain catcher 😒

1" black pipe coupler welded to baseplate.

Cement anchors used to mount base plate.

Base plate mounted and ready!

 Below is the adapter.  The weather station mounts to it exactly like it would if I used the  base mount that it came with.  I mounted the weather station, marked the two mounting holes, drilled the holes, and then tapped them so the screws fastened into the 3/4" black pipe.  I used Loc-tite small screw thread locker to keep them secured.
1" to 3/4" transition.  The weather station mounts to the top.

Top fence post mount below.
Pipe clamp hole drilled and tapped on each end.

Alternate holes off-set drilled for mounting to 4x4 fence post.  This keeps the screws from hitting each other.
Only three coated deck screws per side are necessary.

How the top fence post mount works.  Small screw thread locker used here as well.

It took over 6 hours to plan, shop, and build the tower with the top fence post bracket taking the largest amount of time since I had to make it.  Here it is after my son and I put it up the following morning:
Here's the finalized weather station tower.

Works!  Up and running since August 20th.
I'm really happy with this weather station so far and VERY happy to finally have temperature, humidity, barometer, wind speed and direction as it exists at my house, not for some generalized area.  I also have a second, remote thermometer and humidity sensor in another room that the weather station display reads.
Hmm, 75-F in that room...must be a south-side location.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Catching up

In July I got fed up with the A/C constantly running.  The house would just not keep cool.  In the winter the heat was on a lot as well.  Time to insulate that lousy attic!  Damn, more money leaving my savings.

Here's a glimpse of the pathetically insulated attic with the walking boards removed:
Looks like the original rock wool and boy has it settled!  The space in the upper half of the attic, where the bedrooms are, was just as low.  No wonder the house kept getting hotter at night instead of cooler, all that heat was soaking into the living space.  Grrr!

Here's after the requisite 15" of blown-in to get us up to code, R-19:
Bales of insulation are used to contain the fluff.
Looks like it snowed but, man oh man, did it make an immediate difference with how often and how long the A/C kicks on.  This was definitely worth it and was less than two thousand dollars with no interest for 18 months all thanks to Home Depot.

Trailer Improvements

I finally got all the parts needed and installed to make our trailer more versatile.  I used an Anchor-Trax kit from, L-track (exact same stuff as Anchor-Trax and what I'll refer to it as) from, and cargo quick-nuts from  The L-track allows flexible tie-down locations.  The stainless steel cargo quick-nuts are flush mounted so they won't damage anything placed on them but allow me to securely mount my motorcycle chock.  Though they come with a lock-washer I also used blue thread-locker as backup.
The L-track is the silver and black bits on the perimeter.

Cargo quick-nut, top view.  The screw above threads into the center of the quick-nut.

Bottom view of cargo quick-nuts.

Motorcycle chock mounted to trailer using the cargo quick-nuts.

Mia ragazza aboard.

The L-track in use, holding the ramps from slipping away.

Centered and less than 70 pounds on the tow hitch tongue.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Productive weekend.

A couple weeks ago my good friend Brian brought my Type III engine back to my place.  As a box of parts!  It's okay, he was taking it apart carefully and seeing if it would spin and thus figure out where it failed after the Pikes Peak drive to the hotel.  After pretty much taking it ALL apart -- like, splitting the case open -- it turns out that the front bearing (the one behind the flywheel) spun, thus blocking off oil to it which caused it to friction-weld and stop the engine.  Everything else looks really good so damage was minor over-all.  Engine is wearing very well, or should I say, not wearing.  Regular oil changes with a full-flow filtering system really seems to help keep the engine in top shape...cuz I ain't easy on her!  I'll get pictures up soon...

Busy weekend for me, which is satisfying.  On Saturday we went to the Portland Auto Show to check out the new models and, for me, the exotics and higher-end cars.  Kind of disappointed with the Audi interiors, very mono-tone & bland.  VW has stepped up their game and they look better inside.

Insulated the furnace air return in the attic space.  Not difficult, just time consuming, particularly the taping.

It wasn't leaking air but as a precaution I sealed the seams.

Insulation, HVAC foil tape and 175W area flood lamp!

Done!  R6 foil-backed wrapped ducting.
The turn that goes down to the furnace in the garage.

Next, I replaced the tank guts in the master bathroom.  You'd think that would have been easy but the POs (Previous Owners) used Jacuzzi toilets and good freakin' luck finding parts for them, they SUCK!  I was able to find a generic 3" flap and squeeze in the water flow valve/regulator.  Now it doesn't leak nor waste water down the drain while filling the tank.

Lastly, I replaced the rear brakes on the Passat.  That was the easiest job by far.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sunshine, on my roof top, makes me happy!

Okay, yeah, I'm behind on my blog so here's a partial update...

Well, we are now a provider of electricity for the power grid!  The last week of December the SolarCity crew came to our house an installed our solar array.

Before (click on images for larger view):

View from the back-yard.
Street view, facing the front of the house.
Ignore the tangled cable mess, that's left-over from the cable.

They got it up in a day and, because our house is a little funky in where the meter and breaker box reside, finished the meter install the morning of the next day.

During the install:

Here it is installed and since the panels are below the peak you can't see it from the street - nice!


If you look really close you can see the second meter on the lower left side of the house.

The extras

Breaker box feed location is bottom left.

Two inverters -- yeah, we are pumpin' the juice!
Second meter is at the top left with the inter-lock below it.
And finally, the receiver that transmits our monitoring data.

Last week we passed the Washington County inspection (the whole system is permitted).  Today PGE came by, inspected and approved our system, and TURNED IT ON!  YA-HOO!!!

Our system is 8.64 kW DC using two PVI-3.8-I-OUTD-S-US-NG-Z Aurora inverters.  And that's about all I can really tell ya.  Look at the Residential site at for more info.  It cost us NOTHING, SolarCity too care of everything and their customer service has been fantastic!  We are leasing the system for under $60/month, will have a lower electricity bill guaranteed, and have the option to out-right purchase it at fair-market value after five years if we so desire -- which we won't because they monitor the system, insure it, maintain it, etc. so why would I want to take all that up when my life is busy enough as it is?  So far I'm a very happy camper...bring on global warming!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Little Engine That Could, Did, and Is Now Back Home

Some updates here...

Got the engine that I borrowed cleaned up and sent back off to Nebraska.  While I was placing the engine on a pallet a neighbor, John, stopped by and we chatted a bit.  Turns out he works for a packaging company and said he could help me with shipping the engine.  So over the course of a few days he would bring supplies and we would build the box around the engine.  John did a great job and we built a first-class box!  I got it shipped out to Shakey at the end of August.  Here's some pictures of it:
One of the anchors.  Lag bolted in, she ain't movin'!

John and the lid he built.

Boxed up and ready to drop off at the shipper.

Where are we going to go camping?

That's all we kept hearing from Ronin.  The fuel injection (FI) on the Bus wasn't running reliably, running on three cylinders mostly instead of four.  A compression check showed that the engine was still good, averaging 137psi/cylinder.  I drove to Brian's so we could install carbs on it.  Due to missing parts we couldn't but we did fix several major oil leaks: Pushrod tube seals and a sucked in valve cover gasket.  The drive home was slow as only three cylinders were powering the 1.5+ ton brick.

At home I changed out the other pushrod tubes and the engine was done leaking.  Brian came up for a visit and fixed the carbs and got them mounted to the engine after I removed the FI, the engine looks much cleaner without the FI octopus on it!  Engine ran but not well.  Martin came over another weekend and adjusted them for me as well as got the engine timing dialed in better.  Because the Bus is 1976 it has to go through the sniffer test at the DEQ.  Had it been a '75 it wouldn't have required it...  With the FI the engine will pass, no problem, but with carbs I had serious doubts.

Come DEQ testing day the engine failed brilliantly.  Ronin and I hopped into the Bus and hoped for the best.  Before arriving I choked the idle by-pass needles down as low as I could to help the engine run leaner and thus "cleaner".  After finally making our way through the queue we parked in the bay, ready for our test.  The attendant said that, at idle, he was reading 3000 on the hydrocabons which was beyond the 300 max limit for this vehicle.  I laughed.  He said with them that high he wouldn't be able to measure them at higher RPM.  I told him that it was no problem and what I expected.  I left the DEQ station, put the idle by-passes back to where they were, and we went to mommy's work to have lunch with her.

Loaded up and ready to go!

Even though the tags were expired we decided to finish off the summer by going camping anyway.  Long story short, my friend dropped the ball on securing reservations so we ended up getting one night at L.L. "Stub" Stewart park.  Naturally, on the drive there I was followed by a Hillsboro patrol car and then, once out of town and on the back roads, a motorcycle cop!  Seriously?  Luck was on our side as they both ignored us and went about their merry way.  "Hey Sweetie, this is still insured, right?  Cuz if we get pulled over we need proof of insurance otherwise they could tow us" I asked...

The camp ground was quite nice and we set up camp.  We couldn't secure another night so by mid-day we went back home.  The Bus was running un-smoothly (best way to describe the induction system) and the tranny was giving me serious grief.  The two puddles of tranny fluid on the cardboard mat under her butt told me that she really needs to be rebuilt.  Sigh.

So I'm done with the Bus for now.  At a minimum I need the tranny rebuilt.  No doubt it's the original.  Something needs to be done with the induction system, I just don't know what.  I'm still trying to save money so I can get my Jetta's tranny rebuilt and the turbo system installed at the same time since the shop will already be in there...  No progress on my Squareback's engine.  Brian is waiting for me to come down so we can crack it open together but finding the time, sheesh!...

I've decided on the shop interior.  Plywood on the bottom 4' with sheet rock the rest of the way up.  This allows the bottom quarter of the shop to take abuse and easily secure stuff (like shelving) to the walls and have the upper 3/4 of the walls for my paint work since dry wall makes a much better substrate for paint and is more fire retardant than plywood.  Now to find some money to get working on it.  Freakin' never ends, does it?

Yesterday I finally got a few of the local Sport Classic owners in the area together at the Ducati dealership, MotoCorsa, for an informal coffee & meet-n-greet.  Great dealership and the boss and one of the employees each have a SC!
Kimberly, Patrick, Jeff, and Rick.

The End
 (for this post)