Monday, April 29, 2013

Some Forest. Some Not So Forest.

We’ve been working our way North to our next volunteer gig.  The plans were to boondock in the forest along the way.  Many of our target locations were still closed due to impassible roads or other safety issues resulting from Super-storm Sandy.  We’ve managed to do pretty well considering.   

2013-04-20 Santeetlah, NC - Campsite (2)
                           We had sites like this…

2013-04-20 Santeetlah, NC - Scenes (6)
                  With views like that…

2013-04-20 Santeetlah, NC - Dogwood Tree (1)
                             Things were blooming…

                In booming ways… (at lower elevations)

Despite Spring being in the air, evenings in the North still get chilly now and then. 

2013-04-20 Santeetlah, NC - Darlene's New Hat
                  So, Darlene made herself a new hat!

Daytime temps were gorgeous though and made for some great exploring.

2013-04-21 Paint Creek, TN - Falls

The critters were out and about in and around the lakes at our campsites.

2013-04-23 Walnut Flats, VA  - Bull Frog (1)
2013-04-23 Walnut Flats, VA - Salamander (1)
2013-04-20 Santeetlah, NC - Grasshopper

And when we were spent from admiring all of our beautiful surroundings

2013-04-23 Walnut Flats, VA - Hand Pump (1)
       Darlene went to work to provide a little refreshment!
2013-04-23 Walnut Flats, VA - Hand Pump (3)

2013-04-27 Forbes State Forest, PA - Campsite Lake (5) 
We started thinking that the things we were seeing were a lot like where we would be spending our summer.  Lakes, waterfalls, mountains, forests. 

2013-04-21 Paint Creek, TN - Falls (2)
            Thoughts like that can make a girl real happy!

They also make her anxious to see where she’ll be living for the summer.  So, even though our site doesn’t open for another few weeks, we did a drive by / walk through the other day.

Our Corp of Engineers campground has two distinct sections.

2013-04-27 Tub Run Campground, PA
                       Section one - where we will live.
2013-04-27 Tub Run Campground, PA (2)
Section two - mostly non-electrical sites closer to the boat ramp.

These two sections are divided by a creek that runs behind our campsite.
2013-04-27 Tub Run Campground, PA (1)
       This is the view from our picnic table / van windows.

The trees in the area have not even gotten their leaves yet.  Just over the mountain at a ski resort in WV there was some snow still on the runs.  It seems that we may get a glimpse of the foliage going through just about every season before we leave. 

A few more shots to hold you over before we sign off of the net for a good while… 

2013-04-27 Tub Run Campground, PA (3)
The white sand marks the swimming beach at our campground.

         Our portion of the river / lake is a no-wake zone.
2013-04-27 Tub Run Campground, PA (5)
Well, guess we better get to stocking up on our food and other essentials.  We’re due to report in two days.  No matter which way you drive it, our trip to the ‘big city’ (or at least someplace with a Wally World) goes up and over and all the way back down the mountain on roads with runaway truck ramps.  We’ll save that trip for only once a month!

2013-04-27 Tub Run Campground, PA (6)
Truth be told… even if the roads were flat we probably wouldn’t leave our area all that often.  Within just a few miles of our camp are natural waterslides, some of the best kayaking and white water rafting on the east coast, waterfalls, bicycle rail-trails that run across several states, cute little towns and parks and way more hiking / walking trails than we could ever cover in just one summer. 

Well, we’re off to explore.  Until next time…

2013-04-27 Ohiopyle State Park, PA (1)
                          Keep it sunny side up!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

One Thing Led to Another


Nicole decided to do a simple repair on the van the other day.  She was just going to replace one thing.

                               Doesn’t this look simple?!

                          Just an everyday sort of project!

Truth of the matter is she did plan to do a simple replacement of some old parts.  These parts…

                                  Those are sway bar links.

We have yet to find a part on Annie that is not original 1988 stock and after twenty five years together two metal parts tend to become one.  The plan was to get the old ones off in any manner possible and' ‘simply’ put the new ones on.  After some effort, creativity and very powerful tools, off they came.

However, the new ones would not go back on.  We knew that the passenger side coil spring was on its last leg but we hadn’t planned on replacing it right now.  Removing the links seemed to accentuate the droop to a point where it seemed silly to put brand new parts on just so they could be abused by the aging spring.

And that is how ONE thing led to another (and another, and another, and…).

     Classic Mopar coil spring / isolator and new coil spring / isolator. 

The suspension system is essentially built ‘around’ the coil springs.  In order to take out or put the coil springs in you have to release a good portion of the front end suspension on each side.  Things like the upper and lower ball joints, the strut rods, the tie rods, the brake caliper, the steering knuckle and wheel hub assembly.  Stuff like that.

Being new to this sort of job, it took Nicole about six days to read about and complete the passenger side.  Learning curve intact, the driver’s side took only a day and a half.  She learned a LOT.  Most important thing she learned is that even once you know what you are doing, this is a job that will wear you out! 

She also learned that knowing the tools you need for the job and making sure you have them instead of having to improvise or search for them can make things go a lot quicker.

Discovering additional parts that need replacing once you are into the job can make things go a lot slower (but that’s all a part of the deal).  Once into the project, she discovered that on both the driver and passenger sides the protective layer of our brake line was cracked and on the driver’s side the upper ball joint needed replacing.

See the crack in the hose just above the metal that leads to the caliper?  This exterior black hose is the protective layer for the actual hose that contains the brake fluid.  Although they were not yet leaking they were now vulnerable and also 25 years old.

The old ball joint on the upper control arm soaking in a variety of releasing agents!  It had a lot of slop to it so we decided that it had served its time.  Yes, it was original.  Shesh!  They just don’t make ‘em like the used to.  Kidding, of course.  We’re holding out hope the new parts last one quarter as long.

                       Strut Rod Bushings… Classic and New.
The old bushings while not completely torn up were cracking and we were getting some play in the strut rods.

  Even off of the car, these old guys squawked pretty loud when rubbed together!
              Replacing them eliminated our recently very SQUEAKY front end. 

New coil springs, coil spring isolators, sway bar links and bushings, strut rod bushings and one upper ball joint later, Annie was back together and ready for a ride over to Adam’s Affordable in Tyrone, GA (PLUG for our friends!).  Adam and Daniel said they would check over Nicole’s handy work before we hit the road.  They also said they would do the brake lines for her since no amount of reasonable force or releasing agent was doing the trick on the very old parts.

While Annie was visiting with them, Adam discovered that one of her belts was separating.  We knew they were long overdue for replacement and being busy with other endeavors (read: doing absolutely nothing because she was exhausted!) Nicole decided to let them knock that out for us too.

In the end, the ‘simple’ replacement of sway bar links turned into…

R & L Sway Bar Links and Bushings
R & L Coil Springs and Coil Spring Isolators
R & L Strut Rod Bushings
R & L Flexible Brake Hose
L Upper Ball Joint
Four new belts

We are also now the proud owners of a grease gun so that we can keep up with the regular maintenance of our new and like new (done a year ago) suspension parts.  They’ll get lubed every oil change.

Shew!  That was a lot.  Oh… and we guess you want to know how it all turned out?!

Well, only a week after Nicole tightened up and cotter pinned the last castle nut, Annie became a DRAGON slayer!

Tale of Dragon Map

They say that the North Carolina locals call it “That Damn road to Tennessee”.  Nicole called it ‘AWESOME!’ and wore a permanent grin as she tested her suspension handy work on all 318 Curves.  When all was said and done, she was one proud Mama as Annie handled each and every one of them like a much younger version of herself.

That’s our girl!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Long Goodbye To Florida

Believe we were discussing flying things.  Here’s those things and other things.


kite bird

                              Pretty bird has a secret.
                            Holy Crickets, Birdman!

                      New Bird (for us) Alert! – A Limpkin

             And three more we don’t recall seeing before…

                  Yellow Crowned Night Heron - Mature

              Yellow Crowned Night Heron – Immature
                        Green Heron – No Age Specified

                    And then there were random photos…

And with that, we made a run for the border.  Although technically…
                           we’re still in the south.

                                Keep an eye out.
         We just may post some more photos now and then.