Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A narrow escape from the Fram OCOD


What?  Disappointed by an oil filter?  You expected some sort of wild animal?

Don’t be thwarted so quickly.  It appears that to some vehicle owners this particular filter has become known as the OCOD.  The Orange Can Of Death.

Images of the thing unscrewing itself and somehow flying through the floorboard in a ‘Christine’ (old movie, possessed car) sort of rage are undoubtedly running through your head at this moment but it is more simple than that. 

The OCOD on the operating table.  Good ole Dremel.

Online reports indicate that it comes down to the way the filter is built (they use cardboard).  Our thoughts and research go with this along with the possibility that folks are running them far too long or in situations that they are not appropriate for. 

But, our thoughts do not make us experts in the field so after reading several horror stories of these filters disintegrating and destroying engines we decided not to continue the gamble of will it or won’t it.  On the recommendation of Nicole’s vannin buddies, a switch to the equally frugal, yet reportedly more well manufactured, Purolator L300001 was made (we reserve judgment since so far it’s just sitting there looking pretty in white).

                             Open sesame!

The rubber guy is the anti drain-back doo-hickey.  Some say that they fit a little too loose on the Fram but we were pretty sure that ours was working just fine. It was in place, all in one piece and still supple.

The culprits – top and bottom (circles) of the filter are made of cardboard.
Ours looked to be in good shape, were still well attached and were not brittle.

Our oil showed no signs of contaminants so there is still the mystery of the fibrous looking material we observed.  We’ve been using these filters for our last four oil changes.  This is the first one we’ve cut open.  Perhaps, one of the prior ones did disintegrate?  If so, we are happy that this one caught most of it!

Either way, we have concluded that we managed to escape the Fram OCOD (this time around) and until there are more consistent reports indicating they are more safe than sorry we will go with something else.

Speaking of something else, look who came by to say hello the other day.


Break time is over.  Now, go forth and do routine maintenance on your vehicle.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Step 2: Take a picture. It will last longer.

Step 1: Carry your camera.

We ran a beta test last week.  Each time we went anywhere, we left the camera at home.  Sure, we did it on purpose.  It was all part of our plan.  The goal / theory / hypothesis being if you don’t have your camera with you then all of the cool stuff will reveal itself.   OK, we made up the goal after we forgot the camera several times.  Whatever.

For those of you curious, it worked.  Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures to prove it.

Alright, alright.  We managed to find a few photos online to demonstrate and thankfully two cool things were well grounded.  So we were able to remember our camera the next time we went by and snapped these photos.

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      Holy Fungi Batman, that’s one HUGE shroom!

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Forest broccoli, anyone?  Fields of Deer Moss growing on the forest floor.  Vegetarian or not, we ate neither this nor the mushroom.

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Fun Fact: Large mats of this can take decades to develop.  Architects and model railway enthusiasts often use deer moss to make realistic looking miniature trees and shrubs.  True.  We found it on the internet.

And, on to the borrowed photos…

Nicole stepped in to cut a branch and when the ground moved she stepped back.  Closer inspection revealed a Pygmy Rattler.

He was a cute little fellow, timid and non-aggressive.  He tried his best to warn us, waving that tail all around to no avail.  Little to no sound comes from this guys rattle but their bite reportedly can still pack a punch (a theory we did not test).

Next on the list were in the ‘largest yet’ category.

1) Sure some think that deer are common and not all that exciting.  But in the case of this one (the largest doe we've seen yet) having a camera would have meant holding it in one hand while driving an ATV with the other in the off chance that it would suddenly leap out in front of you.  While we may not have captured a photo, the image of what might have occurred had we been going just a tad faster is a vision for which no photo is necessary.  True, use The Google and look for ATV rider collides with deer.  It isn’t pretty!  None the less… we found a photo (of a deer not a deer taking out an ATV rider because that would be gross).

To get the full effect, pretend you are riding an ATV through the forest.

2) Every time we have seen one of these we have not had our camera.  That tells us that we are not intended to capture our own photos but merely gawk at their wonder.  In this case, it was definitely the largest one we’ve seen.  Driving down the road back to our camp Darlene spotted something up in the distance and asked, “Is that a Jeep in the middle of the road?”  No, jeep.  Yes, large black bear.

Cute, isn’t he?  The seat on one of our machines is duct taped together because one of these guys thought it would make a good lunch.  We’ve also learned recently that our interns saw a medium size bear climbing the chain-link fence and ducking under the barbed wire on top.  Hmmm… makes us second guess that joke our boss made about the fences being to keep us in since we now know they do not keep the bears out!

3) OK, this one is not so much in the category of largest ‘seen’ but in the category of largest ‘held’.  The other day at one of our volunteer orientations the Wildlife crew brought a baby alligator and some other critters for show and tell and hold.  Nicole accepted the offer to hold the gator.  Of course, we had not brought our camera.  So, here’s an internet pilfered photo.

Yes, Nicole did do the FSU Seminole ‘chop’ at least once.

And, on that note, we sure hope you are enjoying your fall.  The other day we gave a somewhat inappropriate but quiet “Thanks” for Invasive Plants. 

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They have provided a little fall color in our otherwise very green existence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Volunteers Work Is Never Done…

We broke away from two weeks on Yellow and ventured out onto the Violet Trail the other day for a little exploring.  It was time for a change and boy did we get one!  The Yellow Trail has a very open feeling akin to riding through the woods on a well maintained road.  It provides some really nice, pleasant rides.  The Violet is a more naturally beautiful trail.  It is very twisty, has lots of sharp turns and a tighter feeling to it which makes the riding a little more adventurous.

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This trail is denser than others and you feel closer to nature.
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It has a lot of areas where the trees arch over leaving ‘tunnels’ to ride through.
The Violet was extra adventurous on this particular day because the three inner sections haven’t seen work in quite some time.  Usually that means that the closed in feeling is just a little more close with branches and such whipping you at all levels as you ride.  And, yes, we were getting whipped good.  But on this particular day there were extra challenges.
2012-11-15 Ocala (26) We may be driving off road vehicles but even they cannot go over this.
Sand pines are super tall, skinny (by most tree standards), shallow rooted little boogers.  They are also growing in soft Florida sugar-sand.  So, if you blink or exhale in the wrong direction in this forest, listen for the tell-tale ‘crack’ and then cover your head because something is coming down.
2012-11-15 Ocala (2)Clearing trails is why we are here.
Our chainsaw course is not scheduled until December, however.  So…
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For now, handsaws are where it’s at!
This means that we had to make some choices because…
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we weren’t about to cut THIS by hand!
We marked trees that were too big for us on our map so that the currently certified chainsaw crew could head out to them quickly.  Seven other trees however did not escape their fate on this day and we did not escape a full-body workout.
2012-11-15 Ocala (20)Before – Trail Blocked2012-11-15 Ocala (17)During – Hi Ho, Hi Ho
2012-11-15 Ocala (25)After – Trail Cleared
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Before – After

2012-10-30 Ocala (23)Before.
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It is a lot of work and by the time we get back to the van in the evening we are exhausted.  But if you tried to get a word in edge-wise you’d have no luck at all because we are also rambling on excitedly about our next venture into the woods.

Well, time to rest up for next week.  Have a good one and

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take the time to shift your focus now and then…

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recovery by the Sea…

After the workout we received our first three days in the field we considered two days of lying around being lazy a much deserved break.  Then we got off our duffs and did what any respectable Floridian would do.  We went to the BEACH!

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Ah… the Intercoastal Waterway.  Just a few more miles and we are there…
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                    Oh, yes… toes in the sand and sea.
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                                   We have arrived!

Ormond Beach is a great location in this area. It is close enough to Daytona to still participate in the driving / parking on the beach experience.
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And yet, if you go to the end of that section, you find these…
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                                       And this…   2012-11-4 Ocala (7)
               No vehicles of any kind allowed.  Woot!

For the record, we did not drive Annie on the beach.  She’s not fond of swimming. So we paid a group of really nice palm trees a few bucks to watch her for the day.
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   She looks happy enough for her second trip ever to Florida.

It was a beautiful fall day with a cool breeze off the water.  A variety of shore and other birds entertained us and we watched a couple of dolphins play just off shore.

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No trip to the shore is complete though without some good old fashioned sea shell collecting.  And there, glimmering just offshore, was a starfish.  What?  Starfish don’t glimmer, you say.  Well, this one was a real diamond in the rough.

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                        Have a shimmering day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Volunteer OHV Trail Maintenance… Week 1

We survived!

After spending a few weeks getting oriented, certified and such, this week we were set free for three days to work the trails ourselves.  Each morning we did a pre-ride inspection on our machines, filled out the required paperwork, put gas and oil in the vehicles, cleaned the air filters if need be and then we were free as birds to wander (um, I mean work) the trails.  We suited up covered in the required head to toe garb with the additionally required first aid kit and fire extinguisher and a service radio (which we are required to use to call Central Dispatch and inform them where we are going, on what and when).  “Central. Stone and Colvin are leaving the OHV Center on ATV’s and going to the Yellow Trail.”  “Central copy that.  Stone and Colvin leaving OHV for Yellow 08:30.”

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A map of the North OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Trails.  All of the colored / squiggly lines between the roads 19, 316 & 150 would be OHV trails.  The ones on this map encompass approximately 135 miles of the 200 miles of trails available to ride.  Do you see the red square?  That is where we live.

The machines of choice this week were ATV’s (or Quads as some folk call them). 2012-10-30 Ocala
                    Yes, Nicole is under there somewhere.
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You should see it when she is riding and her bandana covers her mouth and nose.
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And here is Darlene.  She’s taken like a pro to these machines having never ridden one before the certification course.
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On this ride, Darlene was in charge of ‘The Baby’ which is otherwise known as the Forest Service Radio.  The government entities are not fond of folks who lose these high priced items and so a harness is required for carrying.  

The task for Week 1:  Trim / Cut / Chop 7 miles of the yellow trail and Monitor / Inspect another 7 or so for safety issues, hazards or problems with signage.

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So, we ride along and we look for trouble spots and clean them up.  Sometimes we discover whole sections that have grown in and really ‘squeeze’ the trail.  Those can take up to an hour or more to clear.  We’re talking an hour or more to cover only .1 miles.   

The tools:  hand saws, ratcheting clippers and gas powered hedge trimmers.

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We have other hats, as you will see later, but we quickly discovered that working in this environment with a motorcycle helmet on (while it can be terribly hot) is really quite nice.  We can walk full on into our work with essentially ‘no fear’.
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The phrase “It sure is a good thing I have a helmet on!” is exclaimed several times each day.
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Nicole tries out the gas powered hedge trimmer for the first time.
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Now that is a face that expresses the pure joy power-tools deliver!

Make no mistake about it.  The work we are doing is hard.  The temperatures right now are still quite warm especially when you are covered from head to toe.  The creatures are many.  Nicole was bit on the neck the other day by a cute little green caterpillar.  When she grabbed him to take him off of her he pooped on her neck and then her pants.  Needless to say, his cuteness factor went to negative numbers at that point. 

But the work is rewarding in several ways.  We know that we are doing a service for both the Forest Department and the Riders by making the area safer for everyone.  We also know that you have no idea what a workout really is until you go out and cut the forest by hand which translates to… ‘We expect to be in darn good shape when all is said and done!

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         And then there is the fact that THIS is our ‘office’.

Oh, and in the category of Things That Do Not Suck there is always the 12 mile (or more) round trip ride through the forest on an ATV to get to and from your work site.

To add fuel to the awesomeness fire, it doesn’t hurt that during the week it is just us, the forest and the critters.  We do not see another human the whole day.  But the critters are out and about.  Three baby bears the first morning and a mama on our third.  Loads of others we will probably spend all five months trying to capture on camera since they typically appear when our hands are gloved and unable to work the darn thing.

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These two, like the bears we’ve seen, were just hanging out on the trail.

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    No, trees do not get married in the Ocala National Forest.
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But they do get marked with white rings as habitats for the RCW’s.
    The Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers are a protected species.

Well, that’s the story of Week 1 and we’re sticking to it.  All in all, it was hard but rewarding work.  Two days later, however, we are happy that we still have two more days before hitting the trails again!  Three days on and four days off. 

Wait, when we first hit the road we had every day off.
What’s wrong with this picture? 

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                     Absolutely nothing in our opinion.