Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Healing of Annie...

Guess it is pretty obvious, since we said that we were leaving Sevilleta, that Nicole finally figured out what Annie was trying to say all of this time.

Let’s see, previous to this post we covered the fact that the electrical components of the starting system had been dissected, cleaned, individually tested and found to be a-o.k.  We also covered the fact that Nicole had removed the starter, tested its components and cleaned it up which although it resulted in a great first start was apparently not the answer to the ongoing issue.

That brings us (first) back to the starter.  After Nicole put the starter back in she heard from one of her vannin buddies who had been away and was delayed in responding to photos she had posted.  He indicated that a part of the starter she neglected to put an great deal of focus on (cleaning wise) was one of the most important.  A little more research about starters and Nicole understood why.  This meant that the starter was coming off yet again and this time the sole focus was on cleaning up the seriously pitted solenoid plunger and contacts.  While these are parts that you can replace rather cheaply, it only seems right to first try to clean them since you have to open the starter up either way and cleaning is after all... FREE.

The Before... You may remember the condition of the plunger and contacts.

Although we had seen worse, they certainly were not conducting as well as they could.

                                The After... Smooth and Shiny.

                  These surfaces are ready to send some solid current.

Since she had it open again, Nicole went ahead and addressed one other thing she had previously let slide.  She went ahead and cleaned out all of the old grease from around the gears and lubed them with new.

So, starter solenoid and contacts cleaned and ready it was re-installed and the van fired right up!  Of course, she did.  She loves when we give her attention.  This however still did not solve our starting problems and they quickly returned.

That is when Nicole went into Voltage Drop testing.  This is some super cool and easy voltmeter testing that you can do to see if a cable, wire or other connection is ‘dropping’ voltage and therefore decreasing available voltage to specific parts.  No photos but also no real significant findings.  That’s a good thing on one hand.  On the other, it was back to the drawing board.  Oh, in the mix here somewhere new spark plugs were installed too.

At this point, attention turned toward the distributor.  Although cap and rotor replacement are a regular part of vehicle maintenance, ours were only a few years old and still looked and tested just fine.  The gap on the pick-ups could have used a little better set but it has never been a ‘primary’ problem set the way that it is and something made them difficult to adjust anyway.  Having tried everything else, the guys on the van forum suggested Nicole delve deeper into the inner workings of the distributor.

She found a lot of things that could use some help but they weren’t the cause of the new problems.

                   The shaft for example could use a good cleaning.

It was discovered that the bushings between the two plates were unevenly worn which caused the top (pick-up) plate to sit off level thus making the pick-ups difficult to set

                         and causing uneven wear on the reluctor.

Although these things weren’t causing the actual starting problems it couldn’t hurt to do a little fix’er up while it was apart.  Nicole figured out a way to shim the two plates so that they still moved as they should but now they sat level.  She then gently filed the reluctor teeth down so each was once again a straight surface.  Put back together the pick-ups were now able to be set to their very tiny gaps of .006” and .008” from the reluctor.

Sure, these things would make the distributor work better but they weren’t the problem.  Time to dig deeper.

                 Below the plates Nicole discovered one big pile of rust.

These are the weights and the cam that operate the mechanical advance in the distributor which in turn affects all sorts of important things like timing for one.  The cam, which is the first rusted part from the top (shaped like an upside down T) is supposed to move independently of the shaft.  It didn’t.  The weights which are the things below the cam were supposed to swing out and in based on cam action.  Although they could be manually moved out they didn’t return on their own and since the cam wasn’t spinning independently based on rpms, the weights were generally not moving as they should.

A little elbow grease and regular grease (to lube them after reassembly) and things were moving and behaving as they should.

Let’s see that before photo again...


And the after...

                                            Purdy Stuff

                                          So, from this...

                                              to this...

       with a little cleaning, filing, leveling, sanding and greasing then...

                                   back in the van it went.

Fingers, toes and eyes crossed and breath held, Annie fired up like a champ.  Sure, she always fires up the first time after we mess around with her.  However, it has been a little over five weeks and she is still starting really well.  We’ve also noticed better hill climbing and high rpm acceleration with the now working as it should mechanical advance.

And THAT (for the time being) is how Nicole cured what was ailing Annie.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ghost of Indianola, TX - In Flowers And Stuff

Indianola, Texas, is reported to be a ghost town.  We’ve seen some ghost towns in our day.  Some have a lot and some have a little but most of them have something.  In Indianola’s case (and admittedly we didn’t look too hard) all we saw were some plaques indicating where things used to be.

You should be able to click on this photo to enlarge it and read.

Honestly, we were not too disappointed that Indianola’s Ghostly Image was lacking in actual buildings and such.  It has a really neat history remnants or not.  Besides, we weren’t there for the apparitions.  We were there because you can stay right on the bay or (in our case) the lakeside for the low low price of ‘free’.

We’d been looking forward to getting back near the water but were surprised to
also see a lot of blooming going on.

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   The Lantana was blooming in all sorts of colors (this photo and previous).

                We’re still working on identification of the new flowers.

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   Meanwhile, just enjoy the colorful show as we did - sans the particulars.

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        Most of them are new for us and probably in the ‘weed’ category.
                   Like this one which is possibly Blue Eyed Grass.

                       We’ve got nothing against weeds this pretty.

                            An unexpected visitor to our photo.

              Pretty sure this is Stachys Sylvatica.

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                     Firewheel aka Indian Blanket just starting out.

                                               In its glory.

               Close-up of the Firewheel’s Friend.

Pretty sure at least one (perhaps all) of these next three are called Wind Flowers.


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          Whatever they are, they had quite an impressive little cone.

This will forever be known as the Musket Flower in our book because when she
first saw it Darlene said to Nicole, “Oh, musket flower.  Musket flower!”  To
which Nicole responded, “O.K. Let me get my camera ready.”  Nicole then said,
”Wow, I know that plant but I’ve never heard it called a Musket Flower.”  When
she had finished a really good laugh Darlene then clarified, “No, I said MUST GET
FLOWER.”  She meant that Nicole should take a picture of it!

                              She took several.
A close up of the Sea Purslane flower (aka Musket Flower).

        The Mountain Laurel bloom was just beautiful!


                           It hosted these very large seed pods.


                    Coral Bean aka Cherokee Bean

                             Yucca pre-bloom

            Yellow Primrose considering a presence.

                                  In full glory

                                         Done but still pretty


                                              Pea Family

It wasn’t all flowers.  This Green Lacewing stuck around for a
bit and tolerated a camera nearly touching its wings.

    It was so relaxed that it started showing off its Spiderman-like abilities.

                                  Not to mention those eyes!

There was yet another arachnid butt surprise waiting upon computer review of
these (we think) Crow Poison flowers.

When you are so focused on focusing your focus on something so tiny (the flower)
it can be difficult to see something even tinier (the spider - butt).

                                            Wading Willet

                                             Flying Willet

This fella thought he’d get a better look at the fracking mess that the fracking dust
combined with rain made on our windows when we drove down the Gate Guard Highway.  He’s on our back window, by the way.  It and the rest of the van was freshly speckled.

Have you ever seen those little gnats that swarm around the flowers in the grass?
We count four on the yellow flower in the above photo.

Did you know that they are secretly laughing at you and your ‘Ewe, they’re all
over me’ dance?

Speaking of flying and potentially biting and stinging things.  Nicole took one for the team to grab this close up.  Imagine trying to hold the camera still while this one is chomping down.


And now back to a few pretty things to ease your mind...

                        Assumed to be in the Nightshade Family.

            In the pretty little yellow flowers family.

               The anticipation of what this will be is so awesome.

Speaking of awesome.  Isn’t this dried up version of whatever it is that looks
like a flower... awesome!?

                   New Discovery #1: This pretty purple flowered vine.

        New Discovery #2: Nicole can get her camera to look down inside.

                     Male and Female Ruddy Ducks - Lifers for us!

                 The Paintbrush were out in force

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                                     and looking spectacular.

Our first evening in this wonderful spot ended with the makings of a pretty nice sunset over the water.  We went to sleep in anticipation of a nice long stay in this location.

With it, however, anticipation does not bring result.  We were awoken in the middle of the night to some really fierce wind and driving rain.  Now, we’ve been through plenty of both of those and normally the small profile of our little rig tends to shake them off pretty well.  On this particular night though something was different.  There was a knocking on the roof and a vibration all along it.  The solar panel appeared to be catching and upward draft of some sort.  We started up the van and attempted to reposition her.  Then we opened the front doors to remove our screens so that they wouldn’t get torn.  In the process the driver’s door was ripped out of Nicole’s hands and getting it closed completely was more difficult than it should have been.

So.... with a wonderful day behind us we opted to store those memories and make the one a.m. trek inland to Wally World where we hunkered down on the windless side of the building between many other vehicles and promptly passed out!

All things considered, it felt really good to have finally gotten back to the coast.