Saturday, November 23, 2019

Is This Going To Get Me In Trouble?

This one has served the family faithfully for 15 years. Now it's time to turn in into the funmobile. It's narrow, nimble, and already has old paint and dings so some desert pin-striping will just add character.

The 215/60-16, 26 inch diameter Pirelli tires came off after

the car went up on jack stands so I could remove and replace the leaking steering rack and upgrade the struts and springs on all four corners.

The various boxes of parts arrived faster than I expected.

The standard springs and 130,000 mile plus struts were swapped out for new KYB Excel struts already assembled with all new parts and new King extended springs. These springs are about 30% stiffer and stand 1.3 to 1.4 inches taller.

The tires were replaced with General Grabber AT2 tires. I don't know what I'll put on when these wear out since they just quit making them, at least in the 215/70-16 size. These tires are a snitch over 28 inches in diameter - the biggest tire that will fit without getting into extensive mods. That gives me another inch of ground clearance.

As long as I was at it, the cracked plastic drip pan under the engine was replaced with an engine skid plate from Primitive Racing. They were my source for the struts and springs as well.

The last thing to do was to get the wheels aligned since removing and replacing the struts and steering rack changed everything. I called a recommended local shop and they could get me in after lunch.

Nothing like having the right equipment instead of rolling around on the floor.

I wasn't surprised that most everthing showed red, but I was surprised as to how close it was considered I'd just literally eyeballed it. Twelve minutes from when it rolled on the rack, it was all aligned and I was ready to go.

Needless to say, I needed to "test" it by visiting a road I'd never tried before. If I'd stopped 8 inches sooner for this picture, it would have had two wheels in the air. With over 11 inches of ground clearance and reasonable approach and departure angles, I'm expecting this will be a very effective desert rambler.

Guess this says it all. Now I'm dreaming about the White Rim Trail...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

There's the Question - What's the Answer?

There's a big question mark out in the desert east of Rincon, New Mexico that's been bugging me for a couple years. It's only visible to people who know how to look for it. It's in one of the six counties in Southeast New Mexico that I hadn't cached in yet which tantalized me more.

With the temperatures dropping, but not yet freezing, it was time to check it out.

In 2004, we purchased a new Subaru Forester for BJ. In 2017, we bought her a new Subaru Outback and gave the Forester to our daughter and her husband. When they recently bought a pickup, I got the now surplus Forester back. This trip was going to be a good test of its health and possible confirmation of a concept I had for it.

I left home after church and headed east, knowing that I was going to be pushing against sunset by the time I got there. The last 4 or 5 miles was nicely graded gravel county roads.

I found a spot to park just as the sun was disappearing. My overnight project was to confirm that I could sleep comfortably in the back of the Subie. I'm glad I'm not an inch taller, and I may be making some additional mods to improve that application.

With the sun up the next morning I headed out on what turned out to be a 6 mile hike through the desert.

I located and signed all 37 caches in this series, but because they were challenge caches I couldn't claim all of them yet. Four of them were challenges with requirements that I don't yet meet.

With the challenge question out of the way, I headed north towards Spaceport America to pick up a couple caches in Sierra County before headed to Las Cruces for more caches and a spot of BLM land to call home for the night.

I stopped by White Sands,

and toured some of the statuary in downtown Artesia as I worked my way east, visiting those last remaining counties.

I was planning to stay near Hobbs, but still had some daylight so after snagging one cache in Gaines County, Texas, I turned around and headed southwest. I was just east of Carlsbad when the light got low enough that it was time to find a spot for the night.

The next morning, I continued south of Carlsbad. I made a stop for a virtual cache at Rattlesnake Springs which turned out to be a beautiful place, especially with the early morning reflections.

I swung through a bit of far west Texas to pick up three more Texas counties.

I'm not sure what the numbers indicate but this picture sums up that day. Windblown and dry.

All in all, it was a good test. The Subie performed well, got 60% better gas mileage than the truck, and had just enough space for a quick and dirty solo sleep space. Time to start modifying it into a desert runner.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

It's a Big Boy!

Twenty-five Big Boy locomotives were built for Union Pacific in the early 40's and were operated for nearly 20 years. UP acquired 4014 from a museum and rebuilt it in time for it to feature in the 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike this summer. They're now taking it on a tour.

I knew of a place a ways from the main road where there was a small bridge over a wash and a slight uphill grade. I was hoping it was far enough away that it wouldn't be overrun with other sightseeing folks looking for a rare sighting.

I took a chair and some snacks and headed out a  couple hours ahead of schedule, settling in the shade where I had a decent view and could take a few test shots.

For an engine that weighs 1.2 million pounds with 16 drive wheels, it sure was quiet!

4014 was running late. It had departed Yuma late, and as a result had been side-tracked several times while paying traffic moved through. It finally showed up nearly 2 hours late.

I figured with the grade that the train might come through slower than it did. It was running considerably faster than the freight trains,

which didn't leave any time to compose shots.

I was just glad that my Pixel phone shot as fast as it did.

Looks like the engineer had someone looking over his shoulder.

And with that, my less than 30 second meeting with railroad history was gone.