Browsing "Driving"
Oct 9, 2012 -

Feeling Rather Electrically and Automotively Competent

Today was the first really nice day we’ve had in a while and it was time to tackle two troubleshoots that have been keeping me up at night.

The first was in regards to my battery bank. I thought it was working fine, but I missed one not-so-minor test when I set up everything and I discovered this during a power outage the other day. We lost shore power and I lost all power. Uh, what?! My first thought was that the battery disconnect was still on, but nope. So I went into the compartment, traced the wiring, and, I-can’t-believe-I-did-that, I had missed a wire! And to add insult to injury, I didn’t have enough space left on the fuse bolt for this wire!

I was going to do like a couple of other folks and run a cable from the fuse to a longer conductive bolt, but something told me to consult my mother. She informed me that you can buy bolt extenders, which are essentially long nuts (imagine 10 or so nuts stacked on top of each other as a solid piece). So I made arrangements to borrow my mother’s car to go buy the the right size extender for the fuse bolt.

The extender screws onto the existing bolt and then you screw a new, longer, bolt into the extender. I got a bolt with a head, so I inserted the new bolt into the lugs for all my positive wires, screwed the extender into the fuse, and then screwed the new bolt into the extender. Mission accomplished!

I wish I had a picture of the set up, but they came out blurry. This should be better than nothing:

The second problem was in regards to my truck, as hinted to by the fact that I had to borrow my mother’s car. Coming home from Saint-Bruno the other day, my truck started to make an odd noise in the engine compartment. When I got in, nothing was smoking, but the compartment felt hotter than it should. I conceded that there was something really wrong with my truck and decided to stop driving it until I can take it in to a mechanic.

A lot of my troubleshooting happens during lucid dreams and I woke up this morning with a DOH. The last time I had trouble with the truck, she was fine after adding oil. I checked the oil level this afternoon and, sure enough, it was super low.  Carquest Auto Parts is right across the street from the home store, so I went there after and picked up oil as well as a headlight lamp for the driver’s side of the truck as those things really do go out in pairs!

The manual for my Ford Ranger says it needs 5W30 oil, so I thought I’d be in and out, but there was a dizzying amount of 5W30s available! I decided to ask for help and the nice older gentleman at the cash told me I was holding the correct oil, but that their ‘house brand’ was cheaper by a couple of bucks. Whenever someone tries to sell me something cheaper than what I’ve picked, I’m led to believe that the salesperson is looking out for my best interests. Don’t burst my bubble! 😀 I also remembered to pick up a funnel!

I came home, did the electrical modification, then got the hood of the truck open. I started by replacing the lamp and it was more difficult than doing the passenger side as there were a few things in the way, but I got it done. Then, I added oil, a little at a time, until there was enough. While I was elbow-deep in the engine compartment with my hands filthy, I caught the eye of a little old lady walking her dog and she grinned at me. I guess she doesn’t see that many gals (much less ones in skirts) working on their trucks!

The engine started a little roughly, but that’s not worrisome as the truck has been sitting and, as per Ken, is coming on due for a tune up. I let her run for a bit, then took her around the block. No odd noises!!! I still need to get that tune up done and have the front bearings looked at, but it looks like disaster was averted.

I know I probably sound like an idiot because checking oil levels is so basic, but I’ve never, in my 10 years of vehicle ownership, of which eight were with brand new cars, had to worry about such things. Now, I know, and I’ll add it to my routine. Moya and I are still just starting to get to know each other and once we get the kinks worked out, everything will be just fine. I love driving my truck! 🙂

What’s next after doing a little electricity and automotive work? I’m thinking of cooking myself a nice dinner. Guys, I’m a catch and I’m available! 😀

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Batteries, Driving, Electricity, Maintenance & Repair, Technical    14 Comments
Aug 15, 2012 -

Quick Round Trip Into the Laurentians

This afternoon, I set off for Deux-Montagnes, on the north shore of the Saint-Lawrence in the Laurentians, to help an aunt with her computer issues (she’s a Mac user, obviously).

I had fewer than 70km to drive to get there and it took me two hours. It’s amazing that there is a bridge linking PEI to the mainland, but there is not yet a tunnel or bridge linking the two shores of the Saint-Lawrence to bypass Montreal. What a nightmare of construction, potholes, traffic, suicidal and murderous drivers, construction, more potholes, more construction, and more crazy drivers. I have got to stop taking the 10/Champlain Bridge/Décarie Expressway/40 west route. It was good back in the day (and the most direct route to Ottawa/Gatineau), but it has been a nightmare for many years now.

The trip back was slightly better, but I had dinner first to let the bulk of the rush hour traffic go past.I tried out Tako Sushi in Saint-Eustache as it was on the way home and I liked the name (tako is Japanese for octopus, my favourite kind of nigiri).

It was good, if a little expensive, but I was given three pieces of octopus instead of the two that came with the order. I didn’t ask why, but I checked the bill and I was definitely charged only for two. How nice of them!

The spicy tuna roll was good, too, but I could have done without the tempura. And I really like the mango roll (rice, nori, mango) in lieu of cucumber. Mango in sushi really works for me even if it’s not traditional.

The miso soup was hearty, but had way too many mushrooms. I’ve decided that since miso soup is usually close to $4, I am going to stop ordering it in restaurants and get an extra nigiri instead.

For the drive home, I took the 13 south, amazed that the 13 north was at an absolute standstill. The 40 was backed up several kilometres before the exit, so I continued on the 13 to the 20 to grab the Honoré-Mercier bridge to take me to the 30 on the South Shore. Traffic on that route was slow, but better than on the 20 in the other direction, which was also at a standstill.

I still managed to miss my exit after the bridge because there was too much traffic for me to merge into the left lane and I had to get off at the next exit in the wrong direction and loop around. I got all the lights through Sainte-Catherine/Saint-Constant/Delson. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get onto the 30 and speed eastward. Forget grabbing the 10 (construction), so I took the next exit, Grande-Allée, to arrive at my mother’s via Salaberry Boulevard (basically the ‘back roads’ way). All told, the drive back took only 75 minutes.

My mother and I did some renos when I got in. I’m now off to collapse.

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Driving, Quebec, Restaurants, Technical, Travel    1 Comment
May 17, 2012 -

Saratoga Springs, NY, to Chambly, QC

I had a slow morning at Saratoga Springs. The cats certainly were in no rush to go anywhere:

I enjoyed my quiet little corner of the raceway parking lot:

I backed right into a corner, just because I could:

The raceway was a long ways away:

I got the rig as squared away as I could and took off around 10. I was really impressed with the signage right at the Jefferson Street exit. It was certainly more helpful than my GPS, who told me to navigate to such and such a street:

I meandered my way to I-87 north and got off two exits later to take highway 50 north to Saratoga RV Park. Their dump fee is $20 and it’s just that, a dump fee. There is no potable water for filling an RV holding tank. They also sell propane and it cost $50 to fill the on board tank. Propane is the only thing I’ve found to be much cheaper in Canada than the US; this price would be exorbitant in Whitehorse, but was cheaper than in Washington State. That sure was an easy $70 for these very nice people!

Before heading back on the road, I parked the rig to the side so I could change into a nicer skirt (I’d worn grubbies to dump!). In a moment of perfect timing, the phone rang. It was the adjuster from Aviva wanting to let me know that the cheque was in the mail. She also asked me when I’m getting the other repairs done and I asked her to please give me a few days to breathe and think about this when I get to Montreal, a place I wasn’t at yet. I told her I’ll be filing my reimbursement claims shortly.

From the RV park, I was able to continue on highway 50 north to I-87, so the RV park wasn’t really a detour. It didn’t take long to reach the scenic and isolated Adirondacks. It is a rather long stretch after Saratoga Springs before you reach civilization again in Plattsburgh and you have to go through the scenic Lake George region.

I was amused when we started to hit the bilingual signs. Quebec does have some bilingual signage near the border, but the English is in tiny print, as per the law, while the French on the US signs is the same size as the English.

I’m always amazed by how quickly the landscape changes before Plattsburgh. One minute, you are surrounded by towering trees and the next you are in open cultivated land full of neat orchards.

It was going on 2:00 when I hit Plattsburgh for lunch. It was a bit of an emotional stop in that the last time I ate at the Applebee’s there was with my dad in late 2006. He was having a rare good day in his final stages of terminal colon cancer and we were on what turned out to be our last road trip together, just a quick border run, because he got tired so easily. I remember so clearly our discussion that day, with him making me promise that I would from then on make changes that would make me happy rather than satisfy other people in my life. Little did we know that less than two years later, I would be setting off on a great adventure. But I digress.

The border was nearly upon me, but I had one more stop to make after lunch. I pulled off in Champlain to get half a tank of gas, at a whopping $4.03 a gallon, the worst I’ve seen on this trip! A fill would have been $200, which is still cheaper than anywhere in Canada right now.

The knots in my stomach tightened when I reached the point of no return:

Left: Canada. Right: last US exit

It’s amazing how returning to my own country is more stressful than entering another one.

Croft asked in a comment if I was planning to cross in French or English. This was something that I debated and I finally decided to let the guard’s accent answer the question for me. I got a woman with a very thick accent when she spoke English. So I decided to cross over in French.

I was asked how long I was in the US, the purpose for my trip, how I met my friend in Virginia, and if I owned the motorhome. Then I got asked a question I could not answer and I froze: what was my license plate number? The car and the rig are one number apart and I can never remember which is which. I was just about to offer to jump out and check when the officer asked if I had my registration on hand. Oh, yeah. Duh. I got the right papers out and told her. She ran the plate number then asked the value of the goods I’d bought, if I had booze, drugs, or personal weapons on board. And that was it. The last time I had an easy clearing like that was back in 2005! I’ve been grilled harder coming back from a Walmart run! WOOHOO!!!!

From the border, it was just 45  minutes to my mother’s. I arrived, got level, and accepted a cold beer! That and getting the bike out of the living room were the only things I planned to do tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll deal with getting some water on board, plugging me in, and getting me hard wired to the internet.

The drive today was really difficult and I am exhausted! It was windy, but I also think my suspension needs to be looked at. I started to notice that the roads felt really rough well before my accident, so I’m sure the issue is not related to it, but it seems worse now that I don’t have the toad. I just find that I’m bouncing a lot more and hearing things shift around in the rig. Tioga George just got some Bilstein shocks installed and I’m hoping that a simple cure like that is all that’s needed. It just seems that if I don’t have a perfectly smooth road I’m more bouncing than rolling down the highway and having a lot of side to side movement. I just did some quick research and it doesn’t sound like I have a major or unusual problem, but I’m astounded by how differently the rig handles solo!

Finally, I want to, again, raise both my middle fingers to the guy who honked at me for going 5 miles below the speed limit on a narrow, twisty road and to the guy at the shopping plaza in Plattsburgh who honked at me because I wasn’t turning fast enough for him. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!

And I would like to end by quoting T.S. Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

I have complained bitterly about how rude and rash are Quebec drivers. But having just traveled the breadth of the United States, I have to say that Quebec drivers were a breath of fresh air. After weeks of having the cars behind me whip around me at a highway on ramp, making it impossible for me to merge, it was a breath of fresh air to have the column of cars behind me wait patiently while I got over safely. And then I got caught on autoroute 10 in construction and traffic (its usual state) and everyone gave me my space and made sure I had enough room to change lanes. Merci beaucoup!

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Canada, Cats, Driving, Insurance, Law and Government, New York, Passport, Personal, Quebec, Technical, Travel, USA    9 Comments
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