2015-04-05

Wheeling trips

Today I went to Flagpole Knob near where I live. And a couple of weeks ago I went down to Big Boys Playground with a couple of friends and we messed around there.

Flagpole Knob

I actually got up this. This isn't part of the main trail, just something on the side of the trail that's fun to play on.



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We had a good time.

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I was messing around with going door-less for the first time. It's a pretty interesting sensation. Humans perceive inside spaces as much larger than outside spaces. Removing the doors turned my Jeep into an outside space, and suddenly it felt 2 feet narrower... crazy.

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Most of the trail was pretty easy, The photo above was one of the harder spots.



Big Boys Playground

Big boys playground has some good mud holes. The folks I went with had a pure trail-toy, an old toyota with a huge lift on it, so we had a lot of fun with that in the mud. I actually went through the spot he's in though as well and didn't get stuck.

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Here's their YJ going through that same hole

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And here's the YJ after we pulled it out, it ALMOST made it, but not quite

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My Jeep is in the background there. I actually winched the Toyota once as well, after they'd been playing in a deep spot. Though, the Toyota made it through another mud hole where it was clear up to the body. It's got an old 22R in it, something like 90 horsepower. He had it floored the whole way through the mudhole.

We tried the heck out of this spot, but with the mud on the rocks, there was just no way it was going to happen without some big tires and lockers.

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This is a slightly different spot

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Knock on wood, I haven't broken anything on my Jeep while wheeling yet. On Jane I once backed in to fallen tree which slide between the exhaust system and it's mounts, and I screwed several of the mounts. The exhaust is actually still tied on with para-cord - my hack at the time has held on this long. Jess knows about it.

Anyway, besides that *to date* I've avoided destroying anything (the dent in my front bumper doesn't count). It's part luck for sure. I'm also pretty careful despite occasionally trying some harder things.

Note, BTW, that the places I'm going here are frequented by vehicles. The first is a National Forest trail that's designated for this sort of use, and excepting just a couple of spots where people stop to play around on rocks or in a muddy spot, it's a strict trail that we didn't stray from. The second place is an offroad park. It's basically an old farm that someone has put to this use. So... if you're curious, I'm not tearing up random places in the forest, just keeping some nice roads from getting too overgrown to use :P.

2015-04-03

DIY: linseed oil treated cotton sheet tarp

Living in Virginia I ran in to some civil war re-enactors a little while ago. As I was looking at their stuff I got interested in the raw materials the used for rain gear, tarps, bags, etc called "tarred canvas". Tarred canvas is called that because it's literally canvas coated in tar. This material is very tough, and highly waterproof. Unfortunately, it also has an extremely unpleasant odor.

Upon doing a bit more research I discovered that the term is also used for basically any water-proofed canvas. For example, canvas that's been painted. Traditionally this was done with lead paint as the lead allowed the paint to flex rather than crack and fall off.

A 3'rd type I eventually discovered is linseed treated canvas. This fascinated me. Linseed oil is edible, and frequently eaten as a dietary supplement. It's also frequently used as a treatment for wood to help protect it from water.

Considering this, I decided to give it a try. I went to a thrift store and found a densely woven cotton sheet. I went to a hardware store and got a can of boiled linseed oil (boiled to make it thicker) and a can of mineral spirits. The mineral spirits thins the linseed so it comes out even when you treat the sheet with it, and then just evaporates off.

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You mix these about equal parts. For either a double sized sheet I used 1 quart of each. Mix these in a bucket, throw your sheet in, and swoosh it around a bit, working the mixture into the fabric and making sure it gets on all of it. Amazingly, the photo below is what was left in the bucket when I was done. If I squeezed the fabric though I could squeeze some out, so it wasn't going to hold much more.

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You need a double-clothes-line, if it touches itself as it's drying it kindof sticks and is annoying to deal with. So you want to hang it so no part touches itself. I suggest using clothes-pins to help keep it in place, something I didn't think of until half-way through it drying. Note that it takes a couple of days to dry, and if it rains the top flat part is going to collect water, which would be annoying.

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Last night I rigged up my new tarp by setting rocks against it and tying around the rocks. I made the mistake last time I was testing a new tarp material of doing all the sewing first, and I decided not to repeat that mistake.

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It wasn't an extra hard rain last night by any means, but I'd guess that it rained from around 2am until I got up this morning around 8, and there was a decently hard spell in the middle. There was no drip-age at all, and little dampness, the inside side of the tarp was the tiniest bit damp, but less so than I'm used to with plastic tarps. I would definitely use this as a tarp in the future and not worry about it.

The fabric feels like it might even work as a poncho. It's hard to know what the whicking behavior will be, so that will be an interesting test. That test is going to take some sewing first.

One downside of this tarp is that, being made from a double-sized sheet it's not quite big enough. It's okay, but I would like to have at least another foot of length on the tarp. I felt the need to stake out the middle of one side as well as the 4 corners, even for one person. I believe going to a queen would actually resolve this, and make it large enough to fit two people instead of one.

I'm really excited by this material. If I made a tarp and a groundcloth, and one of those doubled as a poncho (assuming the wicking works out not to be a problem), and the other doubled as bag I roll my gear in and diamond hitch to my pack frame, I could potentially get rid of most of the gear I have that needs to be plastic, opening the door to a more primitive style of backpacking. One remaining item is my sleepingbag, although I recently discovered that leaves will often work so I might be able to do some trips without it now. The last plastic item is shoe soles. After much consideration it's unlikely I'll ever give up rubber shoe soles, but if that is the only modern material I carry on some trips, that could be pretty cool.

UPDATE

My mother pointed out something really important that I forgot to mention. Linseed oil soaked cloth will spontaneously combust if not fully dried before folding, or even wadding up. I know someone who nearly burned down their house with a linseed soaked rag they tossed on the floor. So be careful.

Also, Linseed oil fumes are pretty hard on you, and this should all be done outside. Be careful you get the oil pretty dry before you crawl into such a shelter as well, to help reduce the fumes.

The above is true for linseed oil itself. But note also that "boiled linseed oil" is usually not pure linseed oil, so it has stuff in it besides what you would eat. Pure linseed oil is a common dietary suppliment, so it's safe to assume it's no big deal to get on your hands. Boiled linseed can be pure, but usually isn't. Usually it's actually got other not so great stuff thrown in there to help it harden. There's a more complete explanation here: http://www.instructables.com/answers/Linseed-oil-health-dangers/. When I've finished spoons and the like I've used pure dietary linseed oil, purchased from a health-food store. It's annoying and takes a lot of coats.



2015-04-01

DIY: PVC bike rack

The trails around here are just too perfect for it, so I finally went out and got a mountain bike recently. 5 minutes up the hill by car and I'm at some of the best mountain biking I've ever seen, but I have a job and in the evening I want to spend my time on the trails, not climbing that paved hill. IMHO, this is what cars are for. So, I needed a bike-rack.

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I've got a Jeep wrangler. I wanted to be able to swing the door open without the rack in the way so I didn't want to deal with a hitch rack. This was my plan from the start, and I installed new hinges on my swing gate as one of my first modifications, to accommodate the weight of a bike-rack and bike in addition to the large tire. When I went looking for a tire-mount bike-rack I quickly discovered that a decent tire-mount bike-rack starts around $200. That's insane for what amounts to a couple of aluminum pipes bent in a pipe bender, a bolt or two, a little rubber, and some webbing. I thought about making one and decided eh, I really just want to throw money at this problem and solve it.

But then I started reading more details and found that NO tire-mount bike-racks would fit my 33" spare tire with low backset rim. So, not only would I have to pay $200, but I'd have to modify it even still! That was just too much.

So, one day I went down to home depot (or maybe lowes, whatever) and stared at their pipe selection. I had originally been thinking metal, but when I saw the PVC I realized how much better it would be. It's lighter, easier to cut, easier to bond, and won't scratch the finish on my car, rim, or bike-frame. This means no need for all the complex rubber doodads, no hours of hack-sawing, etc. Perfect. Standing in the store I came up with a somewhat complex design involving a hinged bar that would lock open, like you have on the lid of a trunk, to hold the whole thing rigid. I bought all the stuff I needed for ~$30.0. Beat $200 by quite a lot!

A few days later I grabbed the stuff and just started building. With PVC you can test fit everything which is super helpful. So, I did only the most minimal of sketching and measuring and then just went by eye. I got it half-way built and realized my idea wasn't going to work. The hinged bar sitting at a 43 degree angle between the horizontal and vertical bars was going to hit the bike-frame... duh. Then I looked at what I had and realized it didn't matter. I didn't need the brace at all since the rope hold it at the right angle. I had made the design far more complex than it needed to be. In the end I only used maybe $15 in materials, probably a bit less. I drilled 2 holes in the wrong places, but that's fine..

This evening I finally took it for it's first spin, just over the ridge for a nice evening ride. Because of my bike's very tight frame geometry it's a little bit harder than optimal to get on and off, I have to tip the wheels towards me, seat away from me quite a bit to get it over the "hook" at the end of the bars. Still it's well within reason, and it means it's really secure once it's on, which is awesome. I tied it on, but just for comfort, I didn't really need to since it has to turn almost horizontal to come off. Seems like a fair trade.

So, if you're looking for a cheap bicycle rack, here's a dead simple design you can build in an afternoon. The construction is pretty self-evident from the photos.

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There are a few interesting details though. Note how the top bars sit over the tire so that the rear cross-bar is actually behind the tire. This means the rack is stable and kindof "on the tire" before you even tie it on. That's nice as it makes mounting it really easy.
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The P-cord holding it on is tied to the top with double constrictor hitches on both sides, effectively making them permanent.

At the bottom under the tire I have an alpine butterfly in each side that I use kindof like a truckers hitch to help me get it tight, then I just tie it off with 2 half-hitches.

If you've never glued PVC together you may want to look it up. Note that I test fit everything and then knocked it back apart with a hammer. For the final fitting after gluing I also knocked it together with a hammer. Be careful as PVC can shatter, I did in fact shatter one elbow, a rubber mallot or a block of wood between the hammer and PVC may be in order. To actually glue it you use 2 different products. First you use a prep, then a glue. I used these

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Note the of the materials in that picture, one is purple. It tends to run all over. So now I have white pipe with purple streaks covered in mud. Fine, and functional, but I decided it was worth a tiny bit of effort to make it not super ugly.

Most paint won't stick to PVC. I went to a hardware store and simply asked what would work and they pointed me at this stuff. It seems to have bonded okay, we'll see in a few weeks. I spent as much time painting it as I did building it. I did a lot of coats trying to get good coverage.

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Oh, one more heads up. Note that I'm a small person, my bike has a tight geometry, and it's a 650b (meaning not that large of wheels). My bike's rear wheel comes out flush with the right fender. A bike with a more horizontal top-tube would have less trouble with this, but that gets offset by larger bikes or bikes with more open geometries. This property is not particular to my rack design at all and is relevant for any rack carrying bikes cross-ways on the vehicle, but it's a consideration. I personally hate having stuff hanging out to catch on trees and the like. So think it through for your bike and your vehicle. One advantage of making things yourself is you can make them custom for your needs.

No doubt I should throw some legal disclaimer in here to not be an idiot, bla bla bla... So... you know, be careful and try not have your bike and/or rack fall off your car, it'd be embarrassing. If you don't know knots, maybe use truck tie down straps or something.

So, there you go. A functional bike-rack for ~$15 bucks. Makes you wonder how they get away with charging so much doesn't it?