Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vedauwoo Quick Stop

Just a fun little stop we did the nite before the car died (Thursday nite i think)
Vedauwoo is a magical little spot and i have now been there twice for only an hour or two. Hope to get back and so some climbing there for real soon. Plus it was quite dark.

Spearhead Mashup and Veggie Disaster Update

First some fun stuff. Here is the (still incomplete) mashup with the gps data as well as a few pictures of the hike. For the full set go here

View Larger Map

Now for the not fun stuff.

I am stuck in Casper till at least monday while i get the car fixed. Unfortunately I dont have the tools to do the repair myself. Let alone the means to procure a 1980s injection pump. However the shop i found in town had lots of old VWs in the lot, even an old Rabbit diesel truck!

Looks like ill be on diesel for awhile. Not much has changed though, i think i might hang in each location longer and forgo some of the longer trips (Alaska for example)

Now how to kill 3 days in Casper WY?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Death of an Injection Pump

Diesels are slightly different from gas engines, they work be compression, not spark ignition, and as such the fuel delivery method is different. Whereas a gas engine has spark plugs, and a distributor (or electronic fuel injection) a diesel has something called an Injection Pump. It is both the heart and brain of the engine. It acts as a lift pump to draw the fuel from the tank, (heart) it also compresses the fuel to hugely high pressures and delivers it to the proper cylinder. (brain). and all of this it does mechanically!

I am pretty sure mine has died. Here is the diagnosis.

Driving north from ft. collins to fremont canyon near casper WY. Not much power when running on Veggie oil. Thought it might be the wind.or the veggie fuel pump not delivering enough power. Switching back to diesel brought the power back.

Sort of felt like it wasnt getting enough fuel, especially on uphills it would sometimes hesitate like it was gulping for air (well for fue and getting air is more like it apparently)

Managed to get it to Fremont Canyon and camp Didnt think anything was terribly wrong. Just needed to run on diesel for a while and figure out the veggie later. Was pretty low on diesel , but definitely had the 10miles to get into Alcova and fill up.

In just a couple hundred feet it died on diesel in the morning. Switched to veggie oil, managed to go another .25 miles. died. Will turn over but not catch.

Thought we were out of fuel (diesel) and it didnt like the veggie oil without heating up. April went with a nice older guy (Mike) and got some diesel. There was defineitly a lot of air in the veggie lines cause i manually pumped it for a few minutes before it came out.

Managed to get the veggie out and the diesel to be the fuel going into the pump. But cracking the lines to the injectors and getting nothing. Getting closer here as i was getting fuel to the pump but not out of it. Both the return and the solenoid would spew fuel if you cranked it. Means that the low pressure side of the pump is delivering fuel, but its not spitting out the high pressure fuel to the engine. Has to be the problem.

Waiting for a tow truck now, guess ill have to take it to a diesel mechanic in Casper and get the pump replaced and put an end to the veggie story for now and just go on diesel. The repair might be a grand. I dont htink i have the tools to do it myself.

April has gone to Casper and is catching a bus to pocatello. Too much adventure for her. Yet to see if it is too much for me. More to come im sure.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Recovery Bouldering

Spent a relaxing day up at Horsetooth Reservoir taking it easy after such a hard day yesterday. Really neat spot with tons of perfect boulders that climb almost like the gym, but with all the benefits of being outside.

Didnt take many pictures... too tired but ill post one once the internet gets around to behaving itself.

Deciding what to do tomorrow. Probably going to head up to Wyoming as we slowly meander towards Pocatello and Idaho. Maybe Fremont Canyon near Casper. Having a huge supply of Veggie oil makes deciding to take a 4 hour detour to see an awesome place a no brainer.

Speaking of the car briefly it has been awesome since ive worked out the bugs encountered cross country. Runs awesome on the oil, have probably put 400 miles or so with no problems. Even took it up to 10,000 feet at RMNP all on oil and it ran great. One things i did notice is that it seems to want a slightly higher idle than the diesel does.

Ok time to make some lunch and head up north. I wonder if Wyoming has discovered the internet yet?

MMMMountains (Spearhead TR)

Wed 5-28

I managed to convince April that doing one long climb up in the mountains before I dropped her off was a good idea. I have been looking at doing something at Rocky Mountan National Park for a while and managed to find something on a peak called Spearhead in Glacier Gorge. 6 mile hike in with 3000 feet of elevation gain to 10 pitches of 5.6 in an alpine setting seemed pretty nice.

Got into RMNP late enough that i didnt get to use my America the Beatiful pass, too bad because the 30 bucks to get in pays for nearly half the pass. I am sure it will get alot of use in the coming months. Did the whole alpine start thing and managed to be up, eat a hot breakfast, make some tea, and be at the trailhead hiking by 6.

This is a truly beautiful hike, especially since we had arrived in the dark the nite before and the clouds were rather low as we started, as they slowly lifted the scenery just got better and better. You pass a bunch of waterfalls, "little" cliffs on the way to Mills Lake which is the start of Glacier Gorge. From here its another 3 miles to the base of spearhead.

An hour and a half late and only a half mile further along it was time to reconsider our options. Treading through waist deep snow for another 2.5 miles was not going to happen. Even if we had snowshoes the route wasnt ready yet. Still snow enroute and there appeared to be a ton of snow on the descent. I dont know about you, but descending from 12500 with a 1500 drop below you is less than desirable if there is snow and ice everywhere.

Looking around the cirque clockwise from left there are 5 towers then Longs Peak (way up higher) then Pagoda (with Cheifs head and spearhead below) then Thatchtop. Looked as if we could scramble up just to the right of the leftmost tower and get on that ridge and follow it back down towards the trail.

Well everything is harder than it looks, but we made it to the top of half mtn, after much snow wading rock hopping and 4th classing. Fun

The ridge down looked rather simple on the topo (thanks GPS) which it was for the first 800 feet of elevation of so. The last half cliffed off in both directions except for the guly we managed to get into. This was fine for a while but the last 500 feet or so I have named the Screefield of Hating. For those who arent familar with the loveliness that is scree, imagine a 500 foot tall pyramid made of marbles with you on top, and now imagine trying to get down. The trick here is to leave the majority of marbles where they orginally where.

From the bottom of this there was much collapsing with exhaustion, then a breif scare when we found some rather fresh mountain lion tracks, then scurrying, then relief when we got back on trail 15 minutes later.

Then just the slog back to the car to finish off an awesome day.

I think the whole off trail loop was only 2 miles, but it took us nearly 6 hours. Makes me think about how powerful these mountain environments really are.

Fun times though.

I think I may let April edit this post later with her comments interspersed. May make for a more humorous slant to things. Also once i finish uploading the photos for this trip ill add those and also try and do my first mashup with the GPS data as well as the photos geo-something-or-othered.

Goodness I like the mountains.

First Greasy fillup!!!

From Tuesday

Here are the pictures from the repairs yesterday. Glad i finally fixed that brake issue.

Got my first batch of oil today from a guy outside of CO Springs. Paid $38 for 35 gallons of filtered oil. Guy seemed to have a pretty big operation. Also does a blend that will run in regular diesels for about 2.99 gal. I would definitely recommend him to anyone in the area.

So if i do my math correctly here 35 gal * 44 mpg (The luggage carrier is really eating into the miles.... along with the 1000 extra pounds of crap in my car) = 1540 miles. Should do me for quite some time. I have a quarter tank of diesel left.... gonna try and see how long i can make that last.

Already had a spill. The guy overfilled my tank a bit, but luckily it just goes down into the tire well, and then out the back. My car is going to be a greasy mess by the time im down.

Ok time to go out and boulder with April and her family for a bit. Here are some photos of that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mountain Time Zone

No troubles with the tornado though it did provide some interesting pictures. It looked like the clouds were layered, very interesting. Seemed to pass about 20 miles south of us as we left Kansas

Got to Colorado and met up with Aprils' brothers at Meredith lake. Good times.

Now am hanging out in Colorado Springs. Did a little bouldering today near NORAD but mostly just decompressing from the drive. Likely to spend another day here before we head north and then west to idaho.

Might have a contact to finally get some oil up in the mountains.

Speaking of the car. Here is the daily litany of issues.

The coolant issues seems to be better. I am still topping it off in the mornings, but less and less each day. My hypothesis is that i lost alot more coolant than i thought and also made alot of air bubbles when i did the radiator hose repair. Now i am slowly working those out as i drive.

Fuel Enema

Driving through KS i noticed that we had only gotten 100 miles on the first quarter tank. And i usually get near to 175. Made April pull over and sure enough i was leaking fuel from the common return line. I had spliced together two hoses (the one from the 6 way switch is 5/16 while the barb on the return tower on the IP is 6mm. The plastic splice i was using was leaking, so i duct taped it and tightened the connection and managed to get to CO with minimal leakage. Today I made a real barb from a bunch of plumbing fittings (the two hose barbs and a union) tomorrow will see how that does, but likely much better.

The mysterious noise under the drivers side engine.

This has been happening for a while and so i wasnt too worried about it. Thought it was some old exhaust hangers making the exhaust rattle when i went over a bump. Finally figured out it had to be brake related as i could make it cease if i lightly press the brake over a bump. Still wasnt worried. When i got to CO springs, and went a little ways on a dirt road to a bouldering spot. on the way back it got way worse. Finally took the wheel off (man do i miss Seans car jack. almost might be worth the 100 punds) and check out the caliper. See the pictures of the wear on both the caliper and the inside of the wheel. Apparently the whole caliper was completely free floating and at least marginally floating for some time. Held in by two bolts ... NEITHER of which were there when i took the wheel off. Managed to find some at the local ace hardware, which has a far superior hardware section than home depot btw. should be all fixed up now. Will report later.

Still waiting for the day with no issues. Luckily has been small stuff i can fix along the way. Cant wait to report the day after i trip over the mountains.

Tomorrow is the first day i really have off from work. Still feels like a weekend trip. Maybe ill bust out some Imageware tomorrow.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


sitting outside of the gas station here, and the is a tornado chaser out front. should make for an interesting next couple of hours.

First Few Days

There is something strange about the day you leave on a long planned trip. I feel both completely ready and utterly unprepared. Somehow an elephant snuck into the room with me. I pulled out and realized i didnt know where i was going to sleep that nite. or that next. etc. Makes you wonder if you are ready for something like this. I am.

Everyone at the office got togeter and painted the car. Thanks Guys. Looks spectacular and the motorcyclists all give me a thumbs up.Was the best send off i could ask for.

Left 7 pm on the 23rd of May to Panasonic Youth by Dillinger (thanks dave for the reccomendation) . Uneventful trip out to Berkely Springs WV to pick up April. Got to Coopers Rock WV that nite.I have always slept at the campground on the Coopers Rock side, but its now 21 bucks (ouch) and was full. So the other sionde (Chestnut Ridge) was just as nice, and free since we left rather early. Hope i dont use up all my good camping Karma too early.

First BreakDown!!!

Yup not even 15 minutes into the second day I get a sudden overheat light on the coolant temp sensor. Pulled over, opened the hood to a huge pile of white, sweet (coolant) smoke. the coolant actively spurting from the upper radiator hose was a pretty good clue for the diagnosis. April was amazed at how fast i got it solved but i cant take any credit for this one.

In classic fashion i duct taped the hose back together and drove into downtown Morgantown whose Advanced Auto parts was able to supply the correct hose, and quicker than we could whip up some cream of wheat and some tea I had it fixed.

I know several people I know were betting on how far i could get, and Ohio seemed to be the strong bet. Well i only gotto WV, although sitting here in the passenger seat 12 hours later outside St Loius doesnt seem half bad.

100 miles on Veggie!!!

Thats right, after the big hill coming up from Wheeling, I switched over and drove the 120 or so miles to Columbus. Worked great, there is no transition time, and the only things different are strange looks and crinkled noses of those blowing by you as you do 65.

Only managed to do about 41 mpg on this first leg. However considering the mtns of MD and WV, the weight in the back and the huge sail i attached to the top of the car, its probably not half bad. My suspicion is that it was mostly the hills. We are nearing the next fill up and will likely do 46-47 mpg.

More troubles with the Coolant system!!!

Nearing Indianapolis got the same overheat as before (doing 80 uphill passing a truck) but when i came off the gas it returned to normal and i was able to keep driving at 70 just fine. Did this twice more (at lower speeds) before i pulled over and topped off the coolant. This is more indicative of the earlier problems I had with the hose routing before. Basically the resevoir has tobe the highest point in the system and some new issues are contributing to this not being as rock steady as before.

We fixed the hose routing before leaving so that the hoses will not be as high as the resevoir. The bigger problem is that for some reason the coolant level in the resevoir drops when the accelerator is pressed. If the level drops enough one of the temp sensors is exposed to hot air and immediately is tripped. My suspicion is that when i replaced the upper radiator hose i either didnt fill it completely or that i introduced new air bubbles. I think that this drop is proportional to the amount of air left trapped in the system. When you press the accelerator you are pressurizing the system, and that air compresses leaving less volume and hence the drop.

This is perhaps substantiated in that i have had to continue to top off the coolant during the day, as the level is dropping. So either i am slowly working out those bubbles, or something much worse is happening. As there is no leakage under the car, the only other place it could be leaking is into the tank through the sweat joints. If this is the case i am f-ed for veggie for a while and might as well switch the system back over to straight diesel with the smaller coolant system. A couple more days of driving should prove this out.

Sorry for all the technical talk. Hopefully the pictures satiate.

Wonder where i will sleep tonite?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vamanos a las montanas

Strangely sitting in the Orlando Airport, I feel like a million days from going on this little trip of mine. However tomorrow afternoon is the date. Wish me luck... here is the tentative schedule for those how care

-CO (unknown location) to see Aprils' dad at a lake.

-Pocatello ID

-city of rocks

then who knows...

praying to the veggie gods right now. Still havent found a source of oil for the beginning of the trip. Hope to find one for the way out.

Peace out

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Current Status

Ok I look to have run out of time, but i seem to have enough things running to get myself started.

-The fuse issue seems like it was happening because the fuel pump was running dry, and when it clicked over was drawing way more current now that it is running veggie oil. It uses the pumping fluid as the lubricant as well. No more problems there.

-The coolant temp light kept going off, which seems to be fixed... I re-routed the hoses so that the flow goes like this Head -> Heater Core -> HotBox -> Tank -> Water Pump -> Engine rather than like i had originally designed as being Head -> Hotbox -> Heater Core-> Tank -> Water Pump -> Engine. the difference seems small but it did two things. One it allowed the hoses to be lower (they need to be lwoer than the coolant reservoir. Also the restriction through the core seems to help keep the level a little more constant, before when you revved the engine the coolant level would drop 3 inches. Yikes. This was exposing the temp sensor to engine exhaust which is marginally hot.

- got the tank buttoned up

- lots more insulation

-electronics seem to be working great

-aforementioned shelf is money.

-using an old compy battery backup as my inverter. hardwired the cables that usually go to the battery (12V) to my back battery. instant 700W inverter.

hopefully someone will let me have some oil.

Electrical System

Here is a schematic for the electrical system in the veggie VW

Been working frantically getting everything wrapped up. Done maybe 20 veggie miles. Had to fix a weird coolant issue with the hoses being higher than the reservoir. Also Eliza built me a sweet ass shelf to cover the important bits of the tank.

More pics as soon as it stops thundering.

T-minus 5 days. eek eek

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Great Success!!

Soybean oil smells like burnt popcorn....

more details in a few.

Seems to be a few electrical problems (blowing fuses) as well as some air in the gargantuan coolant system. But too bad though!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Closer and Closer

Late Nite Veggie update:

It appears i will be working late on this thing until it starts running. Not a bad time actually tonite, got a lot of things done didnt seriously mess up anything important.

Lets see...

Problems Solved

1. All the connection on the tank are brazed (though poorly) Luckily this is just splash protection mostly. As the nylon nuts i epoxied onto the bottom of the HE and the lid control the correct depth for the HE. Most important the solder joints i made and was unable to test till i brazed the lid on worked perfectly. Fuel and coolant mixing would be quite bad.

2. Those nylon nuts are working perfectly.

3. I finally made the fuel sending unit I found on a lincoln continental fit in my rather flat tank. First the floater was way to big with too long of a throw. Cut it off to no avail and eventually tried a ping pong ball, which had lots of promise.... very buoyant, right size etc. however because the ball is so smooth the epoxy didnt adhere to the ball.

Finally after looking for some foam, I realized that we have a ton of foam shoes in the back so one particularly unattractive one has been sacrificed to the veggie gods. Should be fine as the foam is non porous (wont suck up the veg oil.

Here it is installed.

4.Installed the HotBox into its permanent spot, with rubberized standoffs! Even attached the flare connection for the veggie feed, as well as the hotbox output to the heated fuel filter.

5. Painted the Tank!

Mainly the only troublesome bit was the brazing not going well at all. The key here is that though we have two torches going concurrently, its still not enough heat with all that metal nearby to absorb the heat we put in. So the metal never really gets hot enough to take. bummer.

Ill likely have installed pictures tomorrow as i hope to get nearly all the install done tomorrow. Just gotta epoxy the lid before i can fall asleep.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ajax Rendered with Maxwell

ajax_rendered_maxwell, originally uploaded by dominic.albanese.
Just a quick test with a wonderful model by Jotero. Typical of the scan data i usually work with however. Wanted to try a little bit more of a studio setup, lots to learn.

Reason for Living

Just one of many...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

First Post! and VeggieVW update

My subtle attempt at connecting with the world. As many have guessed I have uprooted myself from day to day life and am about to take a little trip out West to go climbing, adventuring, and *gasp* learn something about myself.

As you may kn0w I have recently bought myself a truly amazing piece of machinery.

This beauty is a 1985 Volkswagen Golf. 1.6L diesel powerplant. Automatic nothing. In fact the only piece of electronics required to keep the thing running after it is started is a fuel solenoid. No ignition timing, no engine computer nothing. Just your foot and an acceleration cable.

Wasnt running when i found it being neglected in Southern PA, but after a full rebuild, and basically replacing everything imaginable on the car its in tip top road-tripping shape.

Now the diesel part is where it gets interesting. Otto never thought that his engine would run off of fossil fuel. Instead it was going to run off of Vegetable Oil. The fall of fossil fuel prices gave rise to our current dino based mobile fuel technology.

Going on a cross country roadtrip with 4.50 diesel seems particularly insane, despite getting near 50 mpg (i do only have 52hp) However i have reverted back to the 1890s and will soon be motoring about on vegetable oil.

Waste vegetable oil to be specific, as in the stuff behind those greasy restaurants. If you know me, it is to know that i have no qualms living off the waste of our society.

I am supposedly an engineer so instead of buying the kit and installing in a week or so. I have designed, built, and cursed my way through doing this myself. Result, 4 months and im not even done yet. In any case here are some progress pictures.

Here is an overview diagram. Ill explain it later in depth but interesting nonetheless.

This is the engine compartment, not much worthy of note here just standard fair. Can barely see the hotbox and the heated fuel filter on the passeneger side.

HotBox (my front heat exchanger) with 6 way switch on top (thanks Ford) and the two fuel filters. The right is off a mercedes 300D and will help preserve all that heat ive gone through the trouble of adding.

Heat Exchanger for the tank. Enough to get the sludge moving and up through to the main HE and the engine.

Sweet baby Jesus! I actually bought a new part to put in this thing. A Walbro low pressure fuel pump. Runs off 12 V and should be just enough to get the fuel moving. Mostly to help out my injection pump which is already working triple duty. Also has a 18 inch dry draw so i can use it to prime the system on those days of catastophic failure.

The beast (with HE inside) 25 gallons. And it only weighs 100 pounds. Good thing i got new rear struts. Custom reversed engineering using some technology from work (thanks guys)

Lastly on the in process stuff my cool new Coolant isolation system. Just in case the hot box or anything else in the Veg system springs a leak i can switch back to the german engineering and thusly much more reliable system that came with the car.

Ok Thanks for bearing with me. Hopefully be back with some updates soon. Only 2 weeks till blast off!