Monday, January 31, 2022

Back in Arizona near the BANWR: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

Spent yesterday driving through New Mexico along the I-25 Super Slab and ended the day under gray skies.

I would end up spending one night only as I was fleeing the cool weather that was plaguing the area for the next few days.

Today, Monday the 31st of January, I spent the day driving to Arizona using the I-10 Super Slab.  Made stops for gas in Lordsburg, NM and got water for the fresh water tank in Willcox along with topping off the propane tank.

Fog-covered Truth or Consequences

Things got progressively warmer and sunnier as I progressed into Arizona!

Got to a campsite next to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, located about an hour or so south/southwest of Tucson on AZ 286.  I've been in the area before on other camping trips and its pretty close to the Mexican border.

It's also along the somewhat narrow strip of "warmest weather" for Arizona.  Even then, it's supposed to be somewhat cooler next week or so as another cold front moves through!

That's Baboquivari Peak to the left of the VRRV

I took Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Sidecar Rig to the nearby group campsite where I'd camped before for pics under mostly cloudy skies:

And then the sun came out, that and some post-processing resulted in this version:

I hope to spend at least a week if not two at this location, exploring the area further than ever before.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Back in New Mexico

 Today, after being home since the 20th of December last year, I hit the road once again seeking warmer climes.

We've had two good snow falls in the last week or so in the cesspool that is the Metro Denver area.  We got perhaps 4 inches of snow each time in my home neighborhood.  Here's how things looked on Friday this week (yesterday):

I got going after a slight loop to return some library books by 9:45 AM and by 13:30 PM I had arrived at the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge.  Located near the small town of Maxwell, NM; its a small refuge whose main feature is a large lake created by a dam.  Not much else, it's surrounded by prairie terrain and the birds I saw were geese only.

The turnaround loop next to the campsite row

Campsite Row

Can you spot Umarang on the far shore of the lake?

I'm just spending one night here, making my way further south tomorrow and eventually being close to the border with Mexico where it should be warmest; for this time of year anyways.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sammy Maintenance, Engine Coolant Baselining and Minor Fixes

Just a record of some of the work done on the Sammy these last couple of weeks.

Servicing 4WD Locking Hubs:

The passenger side manual locking hub had gotten more and more difficult to turn from the Free to Lock position and back to Free.  Turned out the actual dial mechanism was in need of some oil lubrication.  The insides were clean and still lightly greased.  Cleaned off the old grease and applied new coat and re-assembled.

left to right: left hub cover, left hub, right hub cover, right hub

Gear Oil using components check:

Checked and topped off the Sammy's transmission with about 3 ounces of  80w90 Gear Oil before it started coming out of the inspection hole on its right side.  Rear differential needed less than 1 ounce, front different didn't need any and finally the transfer case required perhaps 2 ounces before fluid dribbled out of the inspection hole.

Cooling Performance Baselining:

After rigging a downstream overflow bottle for the coolant reservoir, I tracked over several drives, the temperatures at several points on the Sammy's engine to ascertain baseline figures when things seem to be running within cooling specifications.

I also have quite taking said fluid from the overflow bottle and putting it back into the radiator.  The stock reservoir you see, remains at the full mark, so I know there's coolant that can be drawn back into the radiator as needed.  So far, after three separate drives, all coolant levels remain stable.

Here's the points on the engine I'm monitoring with a touchless thermometer each time I stop and park after driving it for at least 5 miles and having seen the temperature gauge on the dash panel stabilize in the middle of the gauge's range.

Note: Image source is, I removed some items from their diagrams to clearly show where the measurement points are located.

The two empty bolt holes on the left forward edge of the cylinder head.
Average: 177°F (highest: 190°F)for upper hole
Average: 222°F (highest:234°F) for lower hole.
The gasket you see above is the head gasket which I'll be eventually replacing.

Empty bolt hole on the engine block itself, forward left corner.
Average temperature 197°F (225°F)

The intake manifold's second intake tube
Average temperature 144°F (highest 166°F)

The coolant thermostat's cover 
Average temperature 197°F (highest 209°F)

Defrost Vent: No air flowing from driver side vent

Last couple of times I'd actually felt like turning on the heater on in the Sammy and setting it to defrost the windshield; I'd noticed no air flow on the driver side.  Not good as ice would form of course.  Each time it had happened I'd had to wipe things down with a paper towel.

Today, I got around to seeing where the problem was, it turned out to be a simple issue:  The feed tube from the heater up to the vent had been knocked off somehow:

So glad it was an easy fix.....I'd started the diagnosis thinking of how I'd have to contort my body to get at things behind the dashboard!  Someday I've got to trace and tidy up the mess of wires you see.  I believe most are involved with the radio.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Selling the Sammy - Nope

I placed the Sammy up for sale via Craigslist and Face Book Marketplace today.

She remains drive-able of course and will be used as camping towed vehicle until sold.  The plan then is to get Martha's Honda CR-V to be flat-towed by mounting a tow plate and acquiring required items such as an assistive braking system.

The decision to sell has been long in coming.  A final discussion with Martha this morning solidified the decision to sell.  We don't want to put more money into the Sammy and I'm not comfortable with the idea of replacing the head gasket myself.

Realistically, yes, I could probably do it but then what will break next on this 35 year old car?

While she's great off-road, being able to go places I wouldn't dare to go; her performance on paved roads is not enough for us.  If she could only 55 mph on the hills this wouldn't be an issue but there you go.

IIWII:  It Is What It Is.

Update: January 21

Though there were several "inquiries", it wasn't till a call today by someone asking to come by to see the Sammy tomorrow that I realized I wasn't ready to let go of the Sammy.  The FB and Craigslist ads have been deleted so we'll see how things go!


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Taking the Sammy to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

As part of the testing I'm doing since putting in the Bar's Head Gasket Sealant, I drove the Sammy for about 4 hours with several stops in between to take pictures.

I drove to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR which is located in the right center of the cesspool that is the Metro Denver area.

The buffalo/bison weren't real close to the Wildlife Trail; which is a scenic auto route that loops through the NWR.  So out came the Sony HX-80 with its zoom abilities.

Still, the weather was very nice and warm.  I think we would get up to 63°F today, it sure felt nice.

Longs Peak

If you look west from the refuge, the cesspool's 
downtown skyline is quite evident

Yes, quite a bit of post-processing required due to the very flat light this morning while I was at the NWR.  (Gotta love the dehaze function!)

No pics of the Sammy.  Sorry.  I am happy to report though that she doesn't seem to be loosing coolant anymore.  Hopefully this will last a long while until I "gird my loins" and undertake the job of replacing the head gasket myself or sell the Sammy.

Update, January 13: Coolant still being pushed out onto the reservoir bottle and thence onto the secondary catch bottle I rigged.  Combustion gases still leaking into the cooling system you see.  Oh well, at least the Sammy is not spewing coolant while driving along.  A head gasket replacement is in my future, hopefully not too soon.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Shock Absorbers for the Sammy and deciding re Head Gasket Replacement

Before I get into this posting, have you noticed I've added "tabs" or pages beneath the header pic.  I know, old feature, yet I invite you to peruse them.

Last month, December 18 to be exact, I noticed a leak in the Sammy.

I'd mentioned it on the post for the day, but only briefly.  

Here's a close-up pic of the Sammy with the leak in question.  At the time, whatever had leaked has splashed out onto the outer surface of the left rear tire:

At first, given the splash marks, I thought the Sammy had developed a leaking brake cylinder again.  I'd replaced it during the summer trip of 2021 you see, so was a bit troubled by this fast failure.  I initially attributed it to my "lack of expertise" rather than a failed unit.

After visiting the museum that day in December, I headed on over to the AutoZone where Mike W. works.  Mike is the Sammy Guru in TorC (Truth or Consequences), NM.  We both took a closer look and determined that no, it wasn't a leaking brake cylinder.

Instead, it was a leaking shock absorber!  We could see droplets coming off the shock absorber for the left rear wheel.  Sigh.

Mike said there was no rush to replace it, but it was better to do it sooner rather than later.

Fast forward a few days, I was home again and I ordered replacement shock absorbers.  The Christmas holidays however, delayed shipment of the shock absorbers till the first of the new year.

The shock absorbers arrived Wednesday, January 5, just before our first snow of the new year.  So it wasn't till yesterday, Friday the 7th that it was "warm enough" to do the work.

Some notes for future reference:

Rear Shocks are Doetsch DT3095
Front Shocks are Doestch DT3333

You need a long flat tip screwdriver or similar tool to "lever" the shocks off the mounting bolts and back on.  A plastic coated dead-blow hammer won't work due to the Urethane inserts absorbing the shock of the hammer blows.

Once removed, and before attempting to mount the new shock, lightly grease the mounting bolt's smooth portion to facilitate installation.

The first shock absorber took me over an hour, with the practice and experience gained, the second shock took less than 15 minutes!

A short test ride confirmed that the new shock absorbers stayed in place and my suspicion that it wouldn't cause a noticeable improvement on the Sammy's ride.

These vehicles are just too light you see.  Mike W. confirmed for me that I'd not feel a difference until I put a heavy load in the Sammy.  No idea when or if that'll ever occur based on current usage forecasts!

Still, it's done, and ride performance tells me no rush to replace the front shock absorbers at this time.

Now, as to the replacement of the Head Gasket in the engine.  Back during the summer trip of 2021, clouds of smoke on engine startup due to coolant leaking into the combustion chambers had led to me planning on getting help at the Samurai Rally in KY.  I'd even bought via Amazon, a kit with all the seals and involved gaskets.

However, prior to reaching the Rally, I'd tried K-Seal's Head Gasket Sealant and Repair.  It had, seemingly miraculously, cured the leak and no more clouds of smoke upon engine startup.  This meant I didn't have to ask for, and take the time away from the Rally's activities, of generous fellow Samurai drivers who'd informally volunteered to help do the replacement during the rally.

Fast forward to the November-December camping trip:  The Sammy had started going through coolant again but no clouds of smoke on startup.  Hmmmm.

Tried more K-Seal but still I'd find the coolant reservoir empty after a drive or two.

Overthinking things as I tend to do (yes, I'm working on not doing that), I lost many worry cycles thinking about it.  Finally got to the point of asking my regular mechanic for a quote on replacing the head gasket early this week.

The shop came back with an estimate of over $2600!  This included a worst case estimate of having to also replace all the valves, a machinist shop's time to evaluate and if needed machine and replace new valves!  I questioned them on the machinist portion and the shop had doubts about getting OEM valves.  

Even so, and yes I could find new valves online just fine; even discounting the machine shop's work and labor, the cost to replace the gaskets would be around $1600+.   Not good.

So, for now, I'll just keep adding coolant and oil when needed.  After discussing it with Martha, we just don't see a need for long term commitment to the Sammy.  We see, once the VRRV is no longer a viable option, a truck and travel trailer in our camping future.  

Update: January 9
Put 1/2 bottle of Bar's Head Seal Blown Head Gasket Repair (HG1) into the Sammy's radiator.  Test drives since then seem to indicate it worked.  For how long is something to find out.  Hopefully, a very long time.

Update: January 13

Well, using the funnel kit method, I found that there's still combustion gases leaking into the Sammy's cooling system.  Not at idle, but when at higher RPMs, i saw bubbles and coolant surging out of the radiator and into the funnel.  Oh well. 

Bottom line, will keep restoring overflown coolant into the radiator at day's start of driving and hope things don't get worse too soon.  A head gasket replacement is in my future as was always the case.

Monday, January 03, 2022

A Snowy Ride for Views of Mount Evans

Sunday, January 2

A bit warmer today, with temperatures in the low 20s which would "soar" into the low 30s by lunch when I returned home.

I rode Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol, towards the nearby border area neighborhoods between Arapahoe and Delbert Counties. aka the Rocking Horse neighborhood.  These are large homes with sizeable land around them, and yes, with horses out in the pastures.

I rode about quite a bit once there, exploring old photo shoot locations, checking out a couple of unexplored roads, and ended up using previous shoot locations anyways.

The common theme, as alluded to in the title of the post, was posing Scarlett with views of distant Mount Evans in the background.

Mount Evans is one of Colorado's Fourteeners and the closest one to the overcrowded cesspool that is the Metro Denver area.  It is also one of two such Fourteeners which is accessible via car all the way to the top!  Not in snowy weather of course, the road up is closed in late October/November and not plowed open till late March the following year.

I used the zoom capabilities of the Sony HX-80 camera for the following two shots.

As usual, the grip covers and heated grips kept my hands warm while wearing lightweight summer gloves.  I also would remove the gloves, placing them on the port side engine jug/cylinder.  Upon returning to the rig, I'd don the warm feeling gloves over cold fingers.....a nice feeling.

Got back home before lunch with no issues and with roads rapidly starting to have their thin snow cover rapidly melting.  Messy conditions.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Scarlett is out for Sprouts!

First ride of 2022.  Happy New Year!  

If you've not done so, please check out the 2021 Year in Pictures in the previous post.

Martha, my loving wife, is cooking another ribeye roast and requested that I fetch some fresh Brussel Sprouts.

So, I geared up and made Scarlett ready for some light snow riding.

Of course, before the snow-covered roads were all mucked up and then probably cleared up, it was time for some pictures at the usual spots nearby.

The snow and clouds made things pretty much monochromatic but I processed the second version of each picture as a Black & White print...see what you think.  I

 actually like the "spot of color" that good old Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig, provides.

Pictures taken, I motored on over to Sprouts, a grocery chain, which was on my way home and procured the sprouts requested:

Apparently Sprouts has expensive sprouts....oh well.

Rode on home through neighborhood streets still covered in about 3" of snow or so, with no issues.

If you've not done so, please go to the previous posting to this one, it's got a video with a recap of some of the pictures I really liked from 2021.