Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another Piece of History is gone

In the mid 1990s I used to windsurf a lot. Often I would participate in the annual Milacs Lake crossing. That particular crossing race in September of 1997 turned out to be a windless one and the Saturday morning race was postponed until the next day. Looking for something to do we saw an advertisement for a lake lot for sale on Crow Wing 11. What the heck lets go look!
So we soon found ourselves on what would soon become our lake place on Crow Wing 11
From the shoreline, across the bay we could see the neatest old trestle bridge! This was the first time we saw the Akeley trestle bridge. While it certainly wasn’t the only reason, the view of the trestle bridge was a contributing factor to why we thought the lot was cool and ultimately bought it.
We even walked down the bike trail to see the trestle bridge.
Up close the bridge was high and very cool!
The trestle was built over a hundred years ago so the trains could haul the logs harvested in the nearby forests to the sawmills. Akeley was a booming community in those days. Not so much today.
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Over the century the once strong bridge that carried tons of logs over the Crow Wing River has become old and tired and only carried bicycles across the river recently.
under bridge

One day in the fall of 2010 across the lake we could see a crane working on the trestle.


A exploration trek down the trail reveled that the crane wasn’t repairing the bridge but replacing it. Blasphemy! The cool old trestle bridge that had stood for soon long and made the view across the lake so unique was no more!
Replaced in a couple of weeks with a much lower new iron structure with a much higher load carrying capacity, but missing any history.
Margaret tried to put the old one back, but couldn't get in the crane.

We can’t see the new bridge from the shoreline anymore its too low. Our view from the shore is no longer the same, but nothing ever stays the same. And that’s probably a good thing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Closing the lake is always an Adventure

The final closing of the lake this year is going to take two weekends. One (October 2nd) we were going north to the lake on Saturday morning to mow the lawn and clean the leaves out of the gutters, as well as the final issues that have to happen before it freezes hard. Then the following weekend (October 8th) the coach is going to go south to spend the winter in the big storage shed in Little Falls that it spent last winter in.
imageFriday night the 1st of  October after finishing yoga at the gym we came out and got into the jeep to find the tire pressure alarm blinking brightly in the dash. Along side of the blinking alarm was the pressure reading” 24 PSI in the left front tire. OH OH. That’s not good. It was fine an hour and a half ago on the way to the gym and now’ its 10 PSI low.
There is a Goodyear tire store on the way back to the apartment so we stopped there on the way home. Maybe we can just fill it with air and it will be fine for the trip to the lake tomorrow. (Wishful Thinking!).
At the good year store we filled the tire with air and the helpful attended (Ha Ha) pointed out that the tires needed to be replaced anyway and the front end was out of alignment and should be fixed, but he was quite busy and certainly couldn’t get to it tonight but if I came in early tomorrow and ordered tires he might be able to fit us in later in the day. So after filling the tire we left with an $800 quote for 4 new tires and instruction that we needed to order them tomorrow by 9:00 to get them installed by 5:00. While I knew I needed new tires (there is already 55 thousand on them) I was hoping to get by till November. (Now is not a convenient time to shell out a lot of money).
image Early Saturday morning 6:00am we headed down to the garage to load the Jeep and check on the tire. I didn’t need to even check the pressure on the tire to know we weren't going to the lake today. The tire was down to 14PSI barely drivable. Before it was completely flat I drove it down to the Goodyear store, and was going to leave it there and have them put the 4 new tires on it. Maybe we could go to the lake Sunday.
imageI was at the Goodyear store at 7:00 (when the web site said they opened) but the sign on the door said they weren't open till 7:30. I sat there waiting, watching traffic on the road when I saw across the street a brightly lit open Tires Plus store!
What the heck…. I walked across the street and went in. To my surprise they could have the 4 tires delivered and on with the alignment fixed by 10:00am. BONUS…… they were were going to charge $100 less than the Goodyear store. No thinking required. I got the jeep and dropped it off at the Tires Plus and walked back to the apartment to wait till 10:00am.
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At 10:00am just as promised the jeep had 4 new tires and we were on out way to the lake just a few hours late.
The drive to the lake was spectacular the colors were peaking along Hwy 10 to “Up North” and the colors were vivid. The color show continued at the lake!
The sumac was bright red along the lake shore.
The lake was empty and the water was crystal clear.
After mowing and cleaning we even had time to shop in Walker at Reeds for new cloths for Margaret’s trip to Ireland.
Happy hour and then supper in the coach, before early the next morning we backed the coach out of it’s summer parking spot onto the driveway so it would be ready for the trip south next week.
Next weekend we have Friday off.
Next Weekend.
CaptureFlash back to last spring when we received in the mail a notice from Newmar and Freightliner that there could be a potential problem with our steering on our Dutchstar. It seems occasionally some bearings failed in the steering gear and it became difficult to steer the huge machine while on the road. (Not a good situation!) So Newmar and Freightliner wanted us to take the coach to an authorized Freightliner dealer for an inspection. This being a bit of a pain to just jaunt over to the nearest dealer we put it off until the time we were going to put the coach away for the winter. So Friday October 8th we have an appointment to visit the Freightliner dealer in St Cloud.
If were are LUCKY it takes 20 minutes to inspect it and we get to go back to Little Falls and store the coach. If we are not lucky it will take 4-5 hours to fix and Saturday we can go back to Little Falls.
imageThis will be interesting to get to Freightliner by 10:00am so there is enough time to fix the coach if necessary we need to leave the lake by 8:00am. To get to the lake by 8:00am we need to leave the apartment by 4:30am. (For those of you not familiar with this time of day it occurs very very early in the morning when it’s very very dark out.)
Up at 4:00am out the door and on the dark roads for the trip north. WOW traffic is great. Imagine that.

Arriving at the lake just as the sun comes up over the eastern shore of Crow Wing 11 Its time to start the coach and hook up the jeep for the return trip to St, Cloud.
I tried an new approach to hook up this time. After backing out on the road I backed the coach  back into the driveway again, to hook up the jeep. This worked much better than hooking the jeep up out on the road. (Much Safer!)
Packed up, airbags are aired up and ready to head south for the  inspection in the early morning light.
Once on the smooth pavement of Hwy 64 south the coach cruises smoothly and comfortably with no traffic in sight towards it 10:00am appointment  (Traffic should always be this good!)
After 6 hours of driving we are now at Freightliner  in St Cloud with the right vehicle in our possession.
The coach and jeep waiting in the sandlot next door while we check in.
Are you feeling Lucky!
Why yes sir I am! The steering gear is good! No need to fix it! We are on our way back to Little Falls and the coach’s winter parking spot in the big barn.
Once again the coach is packed a way for the winter and after 9 hours on the road we are back in the apartment feeling melancholy because the summer is over and the cold is coming .

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Last of the Summer at the Lake

This summer has been an absolutely great summer. Just the right temperatures and the right amount of rain. The grass was green, the hammock was out all the time. There was a warm breeze blowing off the lake. Generally you couldn’t have asked for a nicer summer.
There was no new construction projects this summer and the hammock owner spent a lot of time in the hammock!
Beware! shadows always lurk in paradise!
Sitting on the deck late one afternoon a strange smell permeated the normal summer smells of pine needles and flowers. What’s that smell the lady of the house asked?
I don’t know said the hammock owner, but it smells like sewer. I got up and checked the holding tank on the coach. Nothing coming from there. A bit of wandering and inspecting soon narrowed the offensive odor down to the engine bay on the coach. NOT GOOD! What can smell like rotten eggs in there? Further inspection and poking determined that the odor was coming from the batteries. Hydrogen gas was being vented form the engine batteries because they were boiling and very hot! “Yikes”
Quickly I ran to the garage, and got the tool box and pair of gloves and removed the smoking battery.
A check with the volt meter indicated that the chassis batteries were being heavily charged by the Xantrex inverter below and it appeared that one of the batteries could not take it.
Since it was late in the day and everything appeared to be normal now with the boiling battery removed I shut the battery compartment and adjourned the technical foray in electrical systems and headed to happy hour.
Early the next morning just before breakfast the offending odor returned. Since I knew right were to look this time I headed for the battery compartment again and sure enough the second engine battery was now venting hydrogen. Now I’m thinking bigger problems than just a bad battery and I shut down the electrical system.
After breakfast I put on my dress shorts and with my handy volt meter started tracing wires to see what was going on.
Turns out that this large relay circled in red below is constantly engaged connecting the coach and engine battery systems together so as long as the Xantrex converter is running the coach batteries are being charged.
A little more poking and I discovered that I could pull this fuse circled in red below and cause the relay to disengage separating the battery systems. That fixes the immediate problem for now until I can get new engine batteries and determine what the larger picture here is about the connected battery systems and potential over charging.
After packing everything back up leaving the fuse out for now I returned to my hammock to ponder the electrical puzzle and I spent the rest of the weekend between the hammock and the hot tub. (Life is rough)
Next weekend is Labor Day weekend and there will be plenty of time to work on the coach.
Back in civilization again with access to a high speed internet connection, the research on the electrical problem started in earnest. Electrical schematics and parts descriptions were downloaded, RV repair forums were searched, and a picture and a plan starts to form.
Several owners have seen problems like this on their coaches. Usually the problem is bad or old batteries. If one cell is bad in the battery it cannot take the constant charge rate that is applied when the relay is open.(Which was the case with my batteries).
So first thing is new chassis batteries.
Second several of the long term coach owners that have learned by the school of hard knocks, do not allow the coach and battery systems to be connected constantly as is the design of the system. They leave them disconnected most of the time allowing them to connect only a day or so before they want to start the coach. This allows the chassis batteries to charge enough but doesn't constantly charge them while the coach is plugged into shore power. Chassis and coach batteries are fundamentally different batteries one is quick start the other is deep cycle. Optimum charging patterns for these are different and while they can be connected for short time frames long term connections of the systems could be bad for one set of batteries or the other.
So the plan on Labor Day is install two newly procured chassis batteries to the tune of $250, and monitor the system closely. Long term when connected to shore power on an extended basis disconnect the systems until the chassis batteries need a charge.
Labor Day 2010
Saturday morning Labor day weekend dawns gloriously over Crow Wing 11, as documented by Margaret below. ( I was sensibly still in my warm bed at this time of the morning)
First thing this weekend is put in the new batteries.
imageSupporting the old adage that nothing is ever easy my conscious wouldn’t let me put the new batteries in to the old rusted battery tray that was corroding and full of battery acid.
It looks like this battery venting has been going on for a while because on closer inspection of the battery compartment there was some long term corrosions apparent and if left unchecked would destroy the tray in the future. So the whole tray was going to have to come out and be sanded clean and repainted with rust proofing paint.
What was going to be a simple “put in the new batteries”, turned into a day long cleaning, and painting adventure.

All of the inside of the battery bay then the tray components themselves.
Finally the tray is all cleaned and the the painting begins.
Nothing is every easy! On disassembly the big bearings that slide the tray are found to be full of dirt and grim and need to be removed and cleaned before reinstalling them.
A job well done! New chassis batteries, new hold down straps, nice clean well operating battery tray. Much better!
After the work is Happy Hour on the dock for the last time in 2010, because tomorrow the dock and boat lift come out for the winter, and the hot tub and water get drained for the season.
Summer is almost over. That’s always sad, but there is never space for something new until something old moves out of the way. That’s a good thing!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A New Camera

Guess what? We got a new camera. We REALLY needed a new camera. We only had 5 already. (Doesn't everyone have 5 cameras?)

Ok maybe we didn’t REALLY need a new camera, but It was a really cool camera so what the heck. (and its officially Margaret’s good camera, but she does let me touch it when it isn’t working right)

Welcome the SONY NEX 5 to the household. Now this isn’t just an ordinary camera. So small that you can almost fit it in the palm of your hand, but with big professional quality lenses that takes outstanding pictures. Did I mention the 1040 HD videos that it does as well as the 14 megapixel images, and don’t forget the sweep panorama that it takes automatically. WOW! Why didn’t we have this sooner? Oh it just came out that’s why.

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Here you see 3 of the 5 or so cameras we have. The photo below is taken with my Motorola Droid cell phone camera. Only 5 megapixels, so not so great on quality, but handy because it’s always in your pocket.


Here (below) is the new Sony Nex 5 sitting in the palm of my hand (photo taken by the small Sony Cybershot 7 megapixel shown above). The Nex 5 is a 14 megapixel camera big on quality small on size, and capable of taking better photos than my big fancy Olympus SLR the largest camera in the photo above.


The two big boys pictures side by side (below). To date the Olympus has been responsible for most of the high quality pictures we have taken in the last few years.


Here is a photo taken by the Nex 5. Many more pixels higher quality. You may notice in some of the Blog photos lately the higher quality pictures from the Nex 5


Life is rough,and we never get anything new to play with( you should feel bad for us). image

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