Saturday, November 05, 2016

Backpacking Curry

You may have recently read my post about having a great time in the rain at Goldmyer Hot Spring. Well this post is loosely related since prior to that trip I had decided I wanted to experiment a little with backcountry cooking.

You may be surprised to find that with all my backpacking experience, one thing that I lack is cooking experience. Usually I just stick with the unimaginative Mountain House dinner and instant oatmeal packets for breakfast. One major exception is when my friend Brent and I hiked the High Divide Loop around Seven Lakes Basin a couple of years ago. He was in charge of dinner for that one and he made a delicious chicken and dumpling stew. It was quite memorable.

One of the recipes I had selected was the Beef Curry Noodle Bowl from trailcooking.com. The week before the trip I wasn't able to get all the ingredients so I had to default to the ease of freeze-dried goodness.

Today, though, I decided to try out that noodle bowl for dinner. I wanted to simulate a field situation. That meant I was going to make it on my backpacking stove, outside, using only the tools that I would have available to me there. It was pretty rainy and I didn't want to bother putting up a shelter, so I just did it in my open garage.



Well, I guess I did use a stool and an office chair. I wouldn't have done that in the backcountry. The office chair doesn't fit in my pack.

Everything went very well. I cooked up faster than I thought it would and it fit just about perfectly in a pot that holds just under two liters of water. I used my Jetboil with the attachment for using it with regular pots. It would probably fit in a Jetboil Sumo cup, but I don't have one to try it out. If you care, it took about 22 grams of fuel to cook it up. (It would be interesting to see how much it would take with a Sumo cup.)

The noodle bowl was delicious. The question, though, is whether the extra effort to make recipes like these is worth it. For example, by the time I bought soba noodles ($3/package), dried vegetable mix ($18/lb(!) but at least you only need a little, about $2.50 worth) and beef jerky (about $5 worth), it cost more than a mountain house. Of course, those are usually two servings per mountain house, while this one was four servings. (I usually eat a 2-serving Mountain House on my own anyway.)

Ramen is a convenient backpacking meal but gets a bad rap for having lots of sodium. This recipe uses bullion which basically has the same amount of sodium, so it's a draw there.

This recipe requires a lot more prep at home before the trip and more pots (and therefore more dishes to wash) in the field. Trailcooking.com has lots of recipes for only a single pot and that's the only way I'd do it.

I guess what it comes down to is what you want to do while you're out in the field. Ideally, when you're out there you have lots of time because you're there to relax and kick back so taking extra time for meal preps shouldn't bother you. It was kind of fun to try something new. I'll probably do it again.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Goldmyer Hot Spring

 This month for our scout outing we finally made it up to Goldmyer Hot Spring. We've been trying to get here for the last few years and it's never connected. Finally this year we decided to make the reservation in January for our October outing. It was locked in there was nothing that could stand in our way.

I had heard the hot spring itself was cool, but in reality I was unprepared for how fun and cool it actually was. More on that later.

The first part of the fun was the road to the trailhead. According to the Goldmyer website, the Middle Fork Road is very rough and requires high clearance 4x4. That sounds like my kind of place, but usually those types of reports overstate the situation. Luckily, this one did not. It was all sorts of fun getting there. We passed many large holes in the road as well as two pretty good sized washouts.


On the way up we had a pretty constant stream of little misty droplets so I was getting a little nervous about the state of preparedness of the boys. It turned out to be the rainiest backpacking trip I've ever been on. It started raining in earnest 20 minutes into the hike and didn't stop until the early morning. Fortunately we had plenty of tarps.


We had some fun mushrooms growing on the underside of our dinner table log.


This dish was a mixture of two freeze dried meals, one alfredo and one beef strogoff. I called it strogofredo. I can tell you it doesn't make you want to spit it out the second it touches your tongue. They ate it all.


In the morning the rain had quit but everything was still soaked.  I love this Big Agnes Seedhouse tent I got this year. It is MUCH easier to put up than my last tent, which is perfect for when you have to do it in the rain.


 We had a pretty good little tent city going there. You can see everybody standing under our Kelty Noah's Tarp 16. We bought that a number of years ago and we usually don't use it because we don't stay in camps very long and we've had pretty good luck weather-wise. We were very glad to have it this time.


Here are some shots of the hot spring itself. The pools are all manmade, but you can see the hole in the rock in the upper left area of the picture. That's the cave that was hollowed out and then the opening was partially blocked leaving a 30-foot-long hot tub with a cavern ceiling. It was awesome.
 


This is the changing cabana at the hot spring itself. It's a little ways from the camp area, so it's nice to be able to change into dry clothes before trekking back to camp.


Here's the proof that I was there, too.


I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pack Those Closets

A few weeks ago we decided that now was not the time to build or buy a new house. I couldn't stomach getting a brand new mortgage. The reality, though, remains that the house is pretty small so we have to address that and soon.

So what do you do? Declutter, reduce, organize. Develop a system, use the system.

Step one of that is to perform surgery on our master closet. I've thought for many years that I'd like to put an organizer into our master closet and we decided it could not wait any longer. Sketchup to the rescue.


Once I got it all squared away I decided on how to buy everything. Ended up using the Rubbermaid HomeFree closet system. Lowe's has some pretty good kits in stock, and they had the biggest kit on sale for a really good price. I bought three kits because I have this closet and one other to do. It worked out great.

We decided to paint the walls while we had the closet emptied out. That made the project a lot longer. I probably could have done it all in a day if it wasn't for two coats of paint.

I emptied the closet on Sunday night, Chelsea prepped the walls Monday morning and I painted the first coat Monday afternoon. Tuesday after mutual I ran up to Silverdale because that Lowe's had what I needed, then ran home and rolled on a second coat. Wednesday I started putting the organizer in and that took some time Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (tonight).

My garage is a mess.

I think it turned out pretty good. I left a perfect place to put the gun case which had been clumsy before and I set the height to fit a specific type of tote on the top shelf. It will work perfectly.

Before Painting
 
 After Painting

 Many shelves

 See, the gun case fits perfectly.

 There's the tote on the top shelf. I'll be buying a few more of those.

I'm glad to be done. Tomorrow it's off to find some bins and totes to complete the organization. This is going to be great.

***Update***

We LOVE this closet now. It fits more than we thought it would and it has helped us organize our bedroom so well. The only thing we are left to wonder is why we waited so long.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

It's November Again. Almost.

Man, this election year is a doozie, isn't it? I mean every election year is annoying and teaches us a lot about ourselves and our friends and neighbors, but this one...

Now, I'm about to spout off a bunch of political stuff. Please remember that I don't study politics, nor do I consider it a worthy field of study (Note 1), but as a citizen I guess I'm forced to face these clowns. So take my comments for what you will and please remember that nothing I say here will have any affect on the outcome of the election.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to tell you why voting for a third party is not a wasted vote and why the major parties want you to think it is. Then I'm actually going to predict the outcome of the election and tell you why I think it will go down like that. Now's your last chance to back out and stop reading.

The Third Party

It has been a long time since both major parties have produced such poor candidates at the same time. I really liked a piece I read in the Chicago Tribune that said this about the republican party (Link): 


"The mystery and shame of Trump's rise — we have red, white and blue coffee mugs that are more genuinely Republican — is the party's inability or unwillingness to repulse his hostile takeover." 

They said this about Hillary: 


"Clinton's vision of ever-expanding government is in such denial of our national debt crisis as to be fanciful. Rather than run as a practical-minded Democrat as in 2008, this year she lurched left, pandering to match the Free Stuff agenda of then-rival Bernie Sanders."

I also don't think we've seen third party candidates this strong in a long time. I particularly like Gary Johnson. He's not perfect, but who is? So we're here at the intersection of poor major party candidates and strong third party candidates. Unsurprisingly, we're starting to see statements from the likes of Bernie Sanders saying you shouldn't vote third party because this is no time for a "protest vote" (As if your only motivation for voting third party was as protest). This could as likely read "I gave this up so my party could win, don't negate my sacrifice." 

I also like this one from the Washington Post . This one states that a third party vote is not only wasted, but unprincipled. I suppose that is to say, "if you vote third party, my candidate may not win and you, therefore, have no principles."    

These kinds of attacks are coming from both parties. This is no surprise. Both parties are scrambling a little because of the situation. Both are losing ground in the polls with the folks who are not on one end or the other of the political spectrum. Both major parties don't want you to believe a third party vote is worthwhile because both realize this is an actual threat. Particularly more this year than it has been in a long time. Largely in contemporary history this is true. When is the last time a third party was on all 50 state's ballots? This year, however, has the potential to be historic. (Indeed, it already has been with the libertarian entry on all ballots and with the non-quality of the major party candidates.)

The bottom line is that I agree with these guys who say that the only truly wasted vote is an unprincipled one. No matter who wins. 
So, now you've come to the part where I predict the future and make other loud-mouthed and uninformed claims.

Who's it going to be. We have a guy who makes no effort to stifle the ignorant things coming out of his mouth, a woman who has shown capability as an administrator, but whose honesty and dedication to national security we are all right to seriously question, and the third party guys. 

I'm only going to talk about Johnson/Weld for two reasons. They are the only third party on the ballot in all states, and I like them the most. Also, I'm not interested in exhaustive research. This is my blog not a newspaper. I can say what I want.

These are two guys that have also shown ability for administration. Johnson did good things as a governor. Now, 2012 taught us that America doesn't care how good you were at being a governor, so that shouldn't matter. He's willing to give it the old college try, and to me that's more valuable than someone like Hillary who can do somethings, but surely has her finger in all the pies.

That being said, I actually think Hillary will win. As many have said, she is better connected, better at politicking, and probably better at rigging elections. I do not think Don will win because I think there are few enough people that are buying into his lines. Now, it seems like the people that like him are the people that have come to feel like they have no voice in politics anymore, the extreme right. 

The real problem with the republican party today is its failure to recognize change in the world and to unify along a common thread to make headway and actually deal with stuff. Instead there is so much in-fighting that the best candidate they can come up with is Donald...F**g...Trump. 

So, I think that Hillary will win and Johnson will come in second. And this may mark an inflection point on the demise of the republican party. A turning point election where it became doubly clear that new thought processes are required to meet new challenges. 

Remember, just because the two parties have been the main parties for decades, that doesn't mean they didn't at one point supplant another party. It's happened a few times in American history and saying it's impossible is foolish.

Thanks for reading. I'll be watching on election day.

Note 1: Please don't take offense. Study something good like history, economics, art, physical science. This is where the answers to political questions are found.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Re-shod the Steed

For a while I've wanted to build a new wheelset for my mountain bike. So far I've dabbled in the art of wheel building, and ever since I started playing around with it, I've wanted to scratch build a new wheelset.

For many bike mechanics, knowing how to build wheels is an important checkpoint in skills development, and for me, it's no different. The first time I did it was when I replaced the fork on my first full suspension mountain bike. The new fork had a different axle type, so I had to replace the front hub. I got it back together and it worked well.

The only thing holding me back was the wheels I had were working fine. But then, one day, they weren't. The rear hub bearings were shot and I wasn't able to get replacement parts for the OEM hub.

Pitted Races - No Good.

I went through several iterations of deciding what to do, including simply rebuilding the rear wheel with a new Shimano M525a hub. (That was my second wheel build and I considered it a practice for this build.)

At last I decided on a plan, ordered spokes, and waited for stuff to arrive. During that time I found some great deals on Shimano SLX hubs with centerlock brake rotors (which I prefer to 6-bolt mount). I was lured by the siren song and bought them. It was like  a Shimano Christmas. 


Alas, it was not to be. When they arrived I found I had made an important miscalculation. The hub flange diameter of the SLX hubs were much smaller than the hubs I was originally planning to use. Basically, this meant I would have to reorder spokes, and the spokes I had would not be usable.

So, facing extra expense, and worse, extra waste, I decided to send them back and return to my original plan.

Here's the setup.
Front Hub: Giant OEM (Reused), 15 mm thru, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rear Hub: Shimano M525a, 135mm QR, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rims: WTB ST i23 TCS, 27.5, 32 hole
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition Double Butted, 2.0/1.8 272 mm, 273 mm, 274 mm
Tires: Continental Trail King 2.2, Chili Compound with Protection sidewalls


Since I decided not to buy the fancier hubs, I had extra money for rubber. For a long time I've been a big fan of Continental Tires for bikes, especially the King series. Just before I sold my Trek, I put Trail Kings on it. My last mountain bike came with Maxxis Ikons, which I didn't care for. After a while I swapped those out for Mountain Kings. Now, my Giant came with Schwalbe Nobby Nics. I thought these worked well, so I wasn't in a big hurry to get new ones, but now I was at the intersection of new wheels and great end-of-season sales. I couldn't resist.


Passing the torch from the Schwalbes to the Continentals.


 And now for some gratuitous images.



I learned a lot by doing the build from the ground up. Spoke lengths have to be calculated very accurately and made to within a millimeter of the right length. I also made careful measurements on the wheels that I took apart and compared those with the spoke calculations to see what they did at the factory. Based on this there are a couple things I'll do different next time.

1. I'll order 14 mm nipples instead of 12 mm.
2. I'll add 1 mm or 2 mm to the calculated spoke length because it would provide a little better thread engagement with the nipple.
Having the extra length on the spokes might make item #1 less important, but we'll see.

I can't wait to get them out on the trail. That will be the true test. Will I have nipple breakage due to over tight spokes? Will I have rim cracks for the same reason? Is my spoke tension even enough? How long will I go without having to retrue? The answers to these questions will determine whether I got a passing grade or not.

The next step is to decide if I'm going to switch to tubeless.

Here's the reading and study list.
Master Wheel Building DVD by Bill Moulds
The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt
www.wheelfanatyk.com
Sheldon Brown
Approximately One gajillion Youtube videos

Spoke Calculators
DT Swiss
Pro Wheel Builder

Market Forces

Yesterday I met with a contractor to investigate building a new house. The folks I met with were very nice. They are a well-known builder in the area that has been highly recognized as providing quality services. I was referred to them by someone who had used them to help build their house around 15 years ago. It surely was a different market then.

The meeting was highly informative on some aspects as well as deeply discouraging on others. I learned that my numbers for site development were very much inadequate where I had considered them well-padded. They repeated the mantra that 2-story is cheaper to build than ramblers.  They told me about the absurdity of the North Kitsap real estate market including instances of $400K-$500K houses being sold for cash without even making it to market because it was sold within whatever real estate office was listing it. And they told me about FHA 203K Rehab loans that I might be able to use for a renovation, if I chose that instead of a new build.

They also told me about the pitfalls of owner-building. The pitfalls they told me about were almost verbatim from what the several owner-building books that I've read had told me they would say. They said the main difficulty was finding subcontractors, and that was what was causing me the most heartache. They also told me (indirectly) they are not willing, under any circumstance, to give out subcontractor referrals. Again, in alignment with the reading.

All in all, very useful. Those guys are clearly talented builders, but talent only gets you so far. At the end of the month, you still have to know how to work the business. They sincerely wanted to open my eyes to the process and let me know what was in store, whether they built my project or not.

Being equal parts thick-headed and belligerent, I do not consider the project dead. Delayed, reconsidered, reshaped, but not dead.

My main problem is the market. The market is pretty silly right now. Again. See the aforementioned absurdity of the North Kitsap market. Things down in Port Orchard are not much better. In the meeting, they said one of the reasons that happens is people see the dollar signs when they find their house is worth a bunch and decide to sell. They are then successful pending the purchase of a new place. Now the pressure is on to get the new place. Figuring they are making out like a bandit on their old house, they are willing to plus up the offer a little to ensure success. Realtors will encourage this. After all, 6% of more is more than 6% of less.

Soon, the guy down the street sees the success of his neighbor (whether or not he knows that they ended up spending the extra them made to get into the new house) and decides he wants to realize the same benefit. Probably by this point, the talking heads on cable news or MSN.com are saying that the market is great, and you should totes sell. Pretty soon things compound and you have a silly market. Personally, I view buying in a silly market to be a poor financial decision embarked by folks with more money than sense.

In all fairness, the vast majority of people have more money than sense, the only variable is exactly how much money we're talking about. It's just as stupid for a guy like me to buy a house for $700K as it would be for somebody with a much lower income to buy my house. The foreclosure would  be unavoidable either way. I mean, I still consider the timing and purchase price of my house to be the worst financial decision I've ever made. Even after seven years. When you think about it, though, when it comes to houses, most people just have more ability to contract debt than sense.

I guess that's what it really comes down to. For my next house, one of my absolutely non-negotiable requirements is that I don't have any mortgage insurance. I'd like it to be a 15 year mortgage, but that's not as important as no mortgage insurance. Right now, in this place, at this time, that's not likely to be possible.

I don't want to make a move in a silly market, but I can't ignore the fact that my family needs more space. As for now, it's more closet organizers and a few more trips to goodwill. One thing I have going for me is that I really do like this house.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Out of Commission

I hate to say it, but my mountain bike is out of commission. Hard out. It's a wheel hub problem and if you keep reading you are in terrific danger of hearing all about it.

I have very little experience with bike wheel hubs. Especially the "cup & cone" bearing type (which most of them are unless you paid more for the bike than your first car). Right after I bought this bike I was thrown into learning about hubs by the failure of the freehub, the part that goes click-click-click-click when you stop pedaling. On the first trail after assembling the bike the freehub broke and I could no longer pedal. Fortunately, I was on a hill and was able to coast most of the way back.

I called the local bike shop, but they were booked three weeks out. No way was I going to wait that long. Next I called the guys I bought the bike from, Chile Bikes in Moab, to see if they could sell me some parts. Not only did they have the parts, but they sent them for free since I had just bought the bike. Good people over there.

So replacing this thing was my first foray into bike hubs. Well, after a few Youtube videos I thought I was ready. I'm happy to say that I made the repair, reassemble hub and wheel, and put a year of riding on it.

The hub is clamped into an axle vise on 
my mill table for adjustment.
Then recently I started to notice some little wobbliness in the back wheel. Nothing major, just a little movement that didn't seem right while riding. Then I adjusted the hubs a little. I didn't seem to help and I started to feel a strange vibration. Right at 15mph the bike would take on this vibration. It wasn't a lot, but it felt like the whole bike vibrated. I was curious, so of course, I monkeyed with it.

This is what I found.



What you are looking at is the cone from each side of the hub. The picture below shows how all the parts go together to make a functional hub. You can see "Bearing Cup" and "Bearing Cone" and it see why we call it "Cup & Cone".


(Image courtesy of kiethonearth.) 

So, normally, the cone surface is nicely polished so that the bearings can roll smoothly across it in their interminable journey round and round the hub. As you can see from the first two pictures, this smooth journey has been rudely interrupted by the presence of some fairly deep pitting.

From the outside, this kind of damage would manifest itself as a feeling of grittiness that you would feel if you used your thumb and forefinger to rotate the axle while holding the wheel stationary. The axle may even bind a little if the pits were bad enough.

Being my first bonafide failure with regard to hubs, I have to investigate this and find out the cause. The main culprits are insufficient lube, over-tightening, or under-tightening. (Cup & Cone bearing require a pretty good "feel" to get right.) My money is on insufficient lube, since it was drier that I thought it should be at disassembly. The good news, though, is the hub races are OK, which means if I can get parts, I can save the hub.


So that's where I am. I want to fix this so that I can say I saved it, but I've also decided to build a new wheelset. The awesome wheelset is another post for another day, and since I'm pretty excited to be doing another wheel build, I'm sure it will end up reported here.

The wheel build parts are taking their sweet time getting here, and I haven't been able to locate new cones to repair the old hub. So now it's the waiting game. In the mean time, my bike hangs like a slain beast awaiting the butcher's block. Hang in there buddy.

Update: I learned from the Giant dealer that getting replacement cones for that OEM hub was basically impossible. That's unfortunate, but it kind of changed my plans. Even though I've already bought rims and spokes, I decided to use the new Deore hub I bought to rebuild the back wheel with the existing rim and spokes. This is the most budget solution to get things running again.

In a couple of months I'll buy new (better) hubs and do a complete front and rear wheel build. That will get me 1. SLX level hubs front and rear, 2. much better rims, 3. double butted spokes, and 4. Centerlock disc brake compatibility (which I prefer).

The main concern with this is that I have to buy hubs with a close enough flange diameter to be able to reuse the spokes. The Shimano hubs I'm planning to buy are close enough that it will still work.

I rode this bike to work today and it feels great.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Here's Something Fun

Today's post is another one of those "engineer monkeying around in the garage" posts. It's fun though, because it's the first productive usage of the mill drill that that I've had in my garage for the last couple of years. It's not on its table yet, so I have to work on my knees, but that will come.

Anyway, the foot rest on one of our kitchen chairs broke. You can see the mis-colored piece in the picture. This was a test fit of the test piece.


And when I say it broke, I mean it really broke. The tenon broke off of one side. Behold. Normally to fix this you would need complex woodworking machinery including (but not limited to) router, this cool jig, and a table saw.


So after I thought about it for a while I came up with this idea to use three dowels to replace the oval shaped tenon. Here's a picture of what they look like while drilling the hole. 


I used a forstner bit so that I could drill away part of the adjoining dowel. Regular drill bits would wander when adjacent to a dowel, but forstners are designed to drill a hole with essentially a flat bottom. Here's a shot of the setup. I had to put the drill head all the way at the top of it's travel to fit the piece. I held the bit with a 3/8" R8 collet.  


 Here's a shot of drilling the test piece. You can see how the middle dowel gets partially consumed. This worked out really well because it allowed each dowel to fit very snugly with the next.


 Here's a shot of drilling the actual part.


Now my chair is all back to good. Finally.

Well that was fun. Now I have to get the lathe going so I can make some bike tools.