Sunday, August 2, 2020

More Silver Subie mods

After the June trip, I had a couple more mods that I wanted to add to the Silver Subie outfitting. It needed more ventilation, shade, and a spot to sit while logging geocaches or doing research for upcoming trip waypoints. A shelf assembly could help while reducing the amount of slope on the bed.

While I was making stuff in the shop, I fabricated some magnetic strips. My first attempt with screens for the windows had used flexible magnet strips but they didn't work well at all. This time I made them from 1/4" plywood with rare earth magnets epoxied in place and covered with a layer of fiberglass.

The shelf assembly was designed so that it could stay in place even when the back seat is up in the "normal" (at least for most people) position. It still has 10 inches remaining when you get to the black stripe. It works well to hold the computer and I can sit in a folding chair without banging my knees against the always dirty bumper.

The next trick was some shade. I consulted with the smart one in the family about building a shade / netting structure for the back of the Subie but by the time we were done penciling it out, the material, zippers, and other accoutrements were approaching the cost of a ready-built option.

It's MUCH bigger (8x8 would be a better match) than I would prefer and the height makes it a bit challenging to put the rainfly on by myself, but it does provide much improved ventilation. It also vastly improves the glare on the computer screen. A side benefit is that it can stay in place to reserve the spot if I'm basing from one location for more than one day.

There's one more significant addition in progress, but I just discovered a couple torn CV boots that put the additions on hold while the Subie get a pair of spanking new axles.

Meanwhile, I finally got permission to place the last of a set of five field puzzle caches that I built a couple months ago. Not to worry, there's a newer one in the shop that's also waiting for property owner permission.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

More Challenging

Temps in the Phoenix area have been their typical summer 110+ which meant it was time to look for more elevation. I spotted a set of six challenge caches just west of Flagstaff that looked interesting, and with elevations above 8000 feet, the weather should be somewhat cooler. I was part way done with the latest set of mods for the Subie, so it seemed a three day trip was in order.

I drove as far as the signage would let me and then started up the hill. The first portion of the trail was clearly a road, but also clearly signed such that motor vehicles weren't allowed. There had been a fire through here years ago, but the forest of pine trees was developing nicely.

There were five challenges that surrounded the rim of an old volcano, with a sixth one down in the crater.

These caches varied in age from 7 to 10 years old, but don't get much traffic.

I started with the 5th of the series and then worked clockwise around the rim while keeping an eye on the dark clouds gathering over Humphreys Peak. Between the second and third cache that I did, it opened up to good views of the lake / mudhole in the crater.

The elevation was high enough that there were still some spring flowers in the shadows.

By the time I'd finished the five caches on the rim, I was debating about the last cache in the crater, but the low point in the rim was in line with where I'd parked the Subie and the last cache didn't get visited much with only 24 finds in 10 years.

As usual, online maps aren't current. It sure looks like a road to the bottom of the crater, but the nearest legal parking is just about where that road exits the lower edge of the picture.

By the time I was getting close to the car, the black clouds over Humphreys had moved and it was starting to rain, hard!

It wasn't long and the chuck holes had turned to mud puddles and water was running down the ruts in the road. I departed the forest and headed to Williams for my boondock location. Even though I was still over 6000 feet that evening, it was toasty warm after the rain quit.

The next morning, early, I headed to Kingman for the final qualifier for another challenge cache. Kingman is way too low for a summer overnight so after the event I turned around and headed to Prescott where there are a bunch of new challenges. I didn't get them all, but I did get one for my 7,000th find (excluding lab caches.) Camp that night on Mingus Mountain put me over 8,000 feet.

Time to head home - more projects for the Subie.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How Challenging Was It??

Seventeen days / sixteen nights & 5,200 miles later, I think we've given the Silver Subie a pretty good test. It has its limitations, but some of those are likely to keep me out of trouble. All in all, it was a very successfully trip!

I decided to do the trip in a clockwise direction to give as much time as possible for snow melt in the Rockies. Much of the trip was high country, intentionally, to keep temperatures reasonable. I crossed the Sierra twice and flirted with it one other time. I lost count of the number of times I crossed the continental divide.

Day one was primarily a positioning day. Day two was a bit emotional as I spent time at what remains of Manzanar, one of the camps where we interned citizens who were the wrong color. This happened to be the same day the President was using military to move protesters so that he could do a photo-op in front of a church.

While BJ and I have driven Highway 395 and California 49 with the Scamp, it was much nicer driving these narrow (sometimes VERY narrow) and curvy roads in the car. It was much easier to find places to pull off and enjoy the views.

Very nearly all of the National Forest and National Park campgrounds in California were closed as they were in some other areas. Those that were open seemed to be open only if you held a reservation. It just helped confirm my intention to social distancing by boondocking.

My eye is always drawn to abandoned structures, especially those that reflect some quality construction. This one was in Harney County, Oregon, not far from the one and only geocache I've found in Harney County. With the exception of the broken windows, this place looks like it could be livable. The barn was built of stone as well.

I wasn't surprised to see visitor centers and other businesses closed. I was a bit surprised at the number of caches that weren't available because they were inside businesses or visitor centers without noting any access limitations in the cache description.

By the time I got to the high country of Colorado, most of the snow was gone. There was a big bank of snow on a side road  just a few hundred feet from the top of Rabbit's Ear Pass so I got to do a bit of hiking to pick up the first cache in one of the counties.

Choices, choices. 

I lost count how many times the Subie and I crossed the Continental Divide. At least twice on this day approaching Leadville. Leadville was a disappointment but the South Park region of Colorado was amazing! High elevation, rolling hills, open grassy meadows, etc. I want to return and spend more time there!

As is so often the case, the highlights weren't anticipated. One of the highlights for me was a cache that I'd selected because it sounds like it had a good view. Turns out, it overlooks the Arkansas River as it enters the Royal Gorge. The cache had not been found for over three years. Rust, history, railroad, whitewater, lonely cache. What more could you want?

Before the trip, I'd checked online and it looked like none of the pie places in Pie Town were open, but when I came through mid-afternoon on my last full day, the Gathering Place was open. They didn't have the New Mexico Apple that I was dreaming about, but...

A blueberry / peach pie had just come out of the oven. I made a place for it in my kitchen drawer and let it cool down while I put some more miles behind us. I could honestly say it didn't keep well, but I don't think I'll clarify that statement.

All told, I added 56 counties to the map and completed the Utah's Nearest Neighbor Challenge (GC2375Q) that had been the primary impetus for the trip. This challenge has only been claimed 14 times since it was published over 10 years ago. I also got the last two altitude bands I needed to complete Altitude Belt Challenge (GC56F47). It would only be honest to admit that I signed the log for the Absolutely No Life Challenge (GC56GY8) but I'd qualified for it before I left on the trip.

I've got a couple more projects to do on the car before I do another major boondocking trip with it. It needs a sliding shelf under the foot of the bed and I need to create a windscreen / shade for the open hatch area. The kitchen setup worked well EXCEPT that it needs an effective windscreen (or trips that aren't as windy as this one was.) More power and a low range gearbox would be nice but those are the things that likely keep me out of trouble!

Sunday, May 31, 2020


One of the blogs I read regularly mentioned that Blogger had a new blog development format so I decided I'd give it a try. Like anything new, I'm not sure yet...

It looks like this is going to be one of those years. With the exception of the year that BJ's back was a major issue, we've traveled every summer for the past 10 years or so. This year is going to be a bit of a challenge to see if I can check out some back roads while avoiding people.

Over a year ago, I noticed a challenge cache in Utah (GC2375Q) that requires you to find a cache in every Utah county as well as every county that borders Utah. I'm only missing 3 counties in Utah, one in Nevada, and a couple handfuls in the NE corner. Like most projects, it's grown more complex. I'm only short 4 counties to "black out" Nevada. Harney County, Oregon is the only SE Oregon county I'm missing... It leads one to wonder how far could I go?

While I have a plan, it's hard to say how this will turn out. It's dependent on boondocking locations with manageable temperatures and state guidelines with enough flexibility to allow solo travel.

I've figured out a way to get a bit of circulation if I'm sleeping in the car, and I'm taking my Hennessy Hammock along for those times I might have an appropriate tree to hold one end.

The car has a fresh oil change and is loaded with food and drink and all the other supplies and equipment needed to avoid people while enjoying some lonely roads. Should be fun. We'll see how far I get. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Avoiding Idle Hands

With the Governor continuing to encourage us to stay home, my idle hands continued gravitating towards the garage. With the kitchen for the Subie done, it was time to start creating future smiles.

As is typically the case for my gadget caches, I started with Baltic birch plywood to build the boxes.

Yes, that was boxes - plural. It's always more challenging to build several different caches at the same time. There's some process advantage, but since I'm too lazy to draw up designs, there's a lot more thinking time to keep the details separate.

I've used baltic birch with a seal coat of epoxy since I started building gadget caches 4 1/2 years ago. I've discovered the limits of that construction tends to be 3 to 4 years in our climate, so 18 months ago I started adding a layer of 4 oz fiberglass cloth on the exterior of the boxes. I figure that will add at least an extra year, even if I don't do any other maintenance.

The glass cloth should be just enough extra strength to eliminate (I hope) the weather checking that starts around year three.

This one is a design that I've had on my list to do for a couple years. The conceptual test had worked well, and I've had the bits and pieces in stock for a long time.

Turns out, the conceptual test was inadaquate. My design tolerances were tight enough that when fully loaded there was too much friction. I thought it might have been a high maintenance cache, so I took a detour and created a totally different design with the container.

This is another partially formed idea that had bounced around in my head for at least a year, but recently another cacher provided some input that allowed this one to see the light of day. It's reprentative of how I sometimes feel these days - a bit unhinged.

If that weren't enough, I got a bit wired on this one. We'll see if it makes people light up.

There's more to this one but you'll have to find it to find out.

All of these are designed to mount on 4" parking lot light poles. They seem to be safer there than hanging in trees out in the forest.

Cachers (including me) talk disparagingly of lamp post caches aka LPCs, but I doubt these will fall into that same category. Now all I have to do is convince the right property owners to host one of these on their lamp posts.

My anticipated road trip for August has cancelled for this year since it involved large international gatherings. I'm hoping things open up enough that we can go wander some back roads.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Time for a Kitchen

Our shirt-tail relatives at Glory Farm are building a kitchen this year. In an effort to keep up, I decided to take my woodbutcher skills to the garage and build a kitchen also. Of course, my kitchen is going to be a bit smaller...

Sometimes, I like to do fine finish woodworking. In this case, toughness trumps looks. No fancy joinery, just pin nails to hold it while the Gorilla Glue dries on the fancy two level structure.

The top section will have a flip top and a divider to separate the heavy stuff from the easily crushed, perhaps more important stuff like cookies and chips.

The only reason I used walnut for the doublers was because I had a left over piece in the scrap pile. Since I rarely draw any plans for my projects, it was less exciting to build the drawer after I had the cabinet constructed.

The drawer is divided like the upper section and is notched for a flat removable cover over one half of the drawer.

I'm kind of wishing I'd used oil based varnish for that golden glow instead of the water based (and water clear) version that leaves the cabinet looking pale.

Looks like these two pictures are out of order. Had to make sure the drawer fit before putting in the divider!

The drawer rides on full extension, heavy duty slides. The flip up top opens and jams nicely against the upper door frame when it's almost vertical. Sometimes you get lucky!

The shelf on the left rides on the shock tower at the forward end and an angled brace at the back. It will fit a 20 liter jerry can if I can find one with the vent in a better location. The unit is just long enough that the drawer pull clears the back door by 1/4 inch. No chance of the drawer opening by mistake!

With my kitchen done, here's hoping I get to use it this summer!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Have a Heart

As has been my pattern for the past several years, I took the Scamp to Quartzsite and Yuma for several weeks in late January and early February. On my list of things to do while there was to purchase 40 or 50 small ammo cans. In past year there has been a vendor in the swap meet that had 30 mm ammo cans for $5 each, but this year he had none - zip - zilch - nada!

I'd been day dreaming about putting out a themed geoart but with the lack of ammo cans that had been the basis (at least in my head) I had to shuffle a bit. I finally found a source for inexpensive candle tins that would serve as the containers for much of the series.

I'm a fan of letterbox style geocaches. The posted coordinates take you to a starting place and then descriptive directions lead you to the actual cache. This series of letterboxes was based on the concept of love letters. Ideally it would have been in place for Valentine's Day but it was not to be.

Dromedary Peak was visible from much of the area where the caches were placed and was often used as a baseline to orient the seekers.

The posted coordinates were chosen to create the shape of the geoart, and then individual directions were created from each of the posted coordinates to final placement. It took an average of 30 minutes each to chose a final location, take final coordinate readings, and write up the directions to navigate from the posted coordinates to the final location of each cache.

Even some of the cactus decided to play along.

There were occasional cattle trails, but almost always headed somewhere other than where the next cache was placed. Avoiding thorny stuff is a key skill for this series!

Sometimes a route would be obvious, other times it might require a significant detour to avoid heavy growth.

There's a cache out there somewhere - I'm sure of it.

Sometimes the obvious saguaro served as "signposts" in the directions,

But sometimes they weren't as obvious from a distance.

All told, the 41 letterbox caches spanned over 5 miles of desert as the crow flies. The reality was that straight lines between caches wasn't possible so the hiking distance is considerably more. Only a very small handful are near roads, assuming your definition of "road" is loose enough!

In addition to the letterboxes, Cupid put out 17 Wherigo caches - mostly in the form of preform tubes - to create the arrow portion of the geoart.

These were published in early March and have seen more traffic than I anticipated. Most of the smart folks have broken it into 3 or 4 different days but there have been some that did it all in one day. It's out of town far enough, and enough work, that physcial distancing for cachers hasn't been an issue!

For some reason the pictures disappeared from this post and then the post itself disappeared, so this is a rebuild for the record.