Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wisconsin Weather

Well you know I never blog about the good weather in Wisconsin, so it must be snowing again... I almost posted last week with temps in the 70s at the start of November, just because it was so nice, but I didn't. However, it was in the 70s for three days in a row, then the 50s, and now we're on out third day in a row of flurries. Not flurries of sunshine. So far nothing sticking, but it is supposed to get more frigid, and maybe get up to an inch or two over the next couple of days.
Soon on tap also is replacing the brake pads and rotors on the Volvo. It would have been better when it was in the 70s!!!
And with this talk of snow, I'm looking at more of the 700c Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 35mm tires for Dr. Katie's bike.

Monday, November 3, 2008

House guest (guest worker program) Part Two

So on the second day we took on door number two. This was the door from the dining room to the screen porch. We found a great replacement that looks like this one at Menards, and put it right in. This was probably the easiest door of the three. While we had the old door out and were preparing to put the new one in, it started snowing!

Later that day, after mom left for her conference and Katie left for work, dad and I decided to try to clear some leaves out of the vent pipe from the downstairs bathroom. The outlet for the vent is almost even with the deck, and there is very little access to the duct. There was no cover on the vent to keep things out. We had to take off the first deck board in order to access the vent, and that was a chore in itself. Many of the deck screws were stripped, and others had broken off. Dad had to use the Dremel tool to make cuts in the top so we could use a slotted driver to remove the screws. When we got the deck board off, we discovered that not only were there leaves, but there was a lot of dirt and rocks in the pipe as well. Some sort of critter had made its home in the pipe, and had made it so that the air had nowhere to go as it was trying to be pushed out by the bathroom fan. That could help to explain why we had some mold develop in the basement during the summer. We cleaned the duct out, and the next morning went to the local Ace hardware store and got a bunch of stuff, including a damper/dryer vent style flapper to try to keep out whatever had been living inside.
At the Ace we also bought electrical stuff to wire up some switches downstairs so that we don't have to pull strings to get the lights to come on.
On Wednesday, the day before dad left, we replaced the front door. This one had a higher degree of difficulty, since we did all of the work from the inside in order to not have to completely take apart the trip work outside the front door. Here is the new front door getting ready to go in:
We really got a lot done while my dad was here. (by we I mean he got a lot done). We replaced three doors, wired lights downstairs to come on with a switch, cleaned out and insulated around the bathroom vent duct, poured a cement "transition" from the driveway to the garage where there had been a bit of a ditch, and measured for a bathroom project that he can work on next time he comes, provided that he ever wants to come back, since all he does is work when he is here. But I'll let him have a day off next time.
Thank you dad!!!!

House guest (guest worker program) Part One

So last week my parents came to town! It was nice to see them, although I only saw mom for a few hours between conferences in Chicago and New Jersey. But my dad was here from Saturday afternoon through Thursay morning. He initially didn't want to stay for that long, but we convinced him that there would be enough to do while he was here, and it turns out that we were right. There was plenty to do!
Saturday night we had a flank steak on the grill, blogged about the wine we had, and planned out the rest of the week.
We got up on Sunday morning and headed out to the Home Depot to get what was needed for the projects. The primary project would be to replace the three doors coming into the house. They were old and fairly drafty. We were not too happy with the choice of doors at the Depot, so we decided to head to Menards to see if they had a better selection. Boy, did they ever! I think I now have a new favorite home improvement store.
Here are three pictures of the first door we did, from the garage to the house. When we pulled out the old door, we found a void beneath the threshold, and needed to poor some cement in to support the door.
The second picture shows dad using the screwdriver from the Volvo tool kit to chisel out the recess for the strikeplate of the new lockset. Not having the right tools for the job was a primary mantra for the week.

The first door finished:

My mom arrived just as we finished this door, and then we made dinner, a pork roast with a somewhat spicy gravy. But at least now I know how to make gravy. Thanks mom!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Auto Shop Class

So, I didn't really have too much time to get this car stuff done, but the Volvo needed it. Especially since the T5 is now our only automobile. Tuesday I came home and pulled her up on some makeshift ramps and changed the oil. It was not too messy, but while I was under there I noticed that some oil had leaked, and is dripping slowly from the turbocharger. The cause is as yet unnown, as my ramps were not high enough to get all the way under there. I think the oil change went okay, but I inda wreced my thumb when the drain plug finally loosened and my hand slammed into something on the bottom of the car. Well, it wouldn't be working onthe car if you didn't hurt yourself, right?
So, since that Auto Shop 101 project was done, it was time to get started on 102 and maybe 103. Here is what arrived last week from IPD: Spark plug wires, spark plugs, distributor & rotor, torx tool set, brake fluid & brake pads (not pictured).So I removed my bike from the garage and pulled down the workbench to get started.First step was to remove the spark plug cover, which is the black piece on the engine that proudly says "Volvo 20 Valve." I noticed while taking it off that one of the special Torx screws that holds it on is missing, and another is stripped. The rest are corroded, so I'll need at least two, but may as well get all six new. They're $1 each from IPD.
I removed the spark plug cover and was surprised to see oil sitting in the indentations on top of the engine. It looks like oil somehow seeps up out of the oil fill cap, and then trickles under the cover. That is a bit of a relief, since I was a little concerned about the old oil on the back side of the engine, and I'm sure this is where it is coming from, not from a bad gasket.
So I replaced the spark plugs one at a time with Denso Iridium plugs. I'd had Bosch Super plugs, which were copper. I've actually heard conflicting reports. But it sounds like if you are driving a Turbo and really pushing it a lot, Iridium plugs are not as good as copper, since they run hotter and Turbocharged engines generate lots of heat. But they actually do better where you are in a lot of traffic or colder climates where the engine does not achieve as high of temp. Sadly, I don't take many spirited drives in the T5 these days, so I think these plugs will be good.
After changing each plug, I went through and replaced the wires with a higher-quality upgrade. The routing of the wires was a bit of a pain, especially trying to get all of the clips back in place. I did it pretty well, but then lost part of a clip that clamps down on all five wires where they exit the spark plug cover. It sprung out of my hands while I was trying to force it onto a wire, and fell behind the fuel injector rail, and then out of sight.
Here are the new wires installed. I decided not to do the rotor and distributor last night, because I had a lot of other stuff to do and was tired of working on the car!
So what is next? Brake pad replacement and brake fluid flush need to be done, and maybe my dad will be able to help with that while he is in town. Also I need to take the car in to have somebody look at the turbo oil leak and at least tell me what the problem is. I've also started to notice some noise coming from the fuel pump, which is located under the back seat/cargo area. Hopefully that doesn't go out!
Finally, a weather report: Bring clothes for rain/snow/wind if you are coming to Wisconsin on Sunday.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One Car Family!

We sold the Honda! It took less than 12 hours. We're now a one-car, six-bike family...
1994 Honda Accord Wagon. 127.5K miles.
Bought: 2003 for $4500
Sold: 2008 for $1700.
That is about the same return you'd get on a stock in the same period, maybe better. :)

The Garage Project

So I've had the goal since we moved into the new house of being able to park my Volvo in the garage. The garage is not big, and besides the car we want to keep bicycles and the lawn mower inside. There is a low ceiling in the garage, and I'm pretty sure it is not structural. The ceiling supports run perpendicular to the roof beams. I'm not sure what exactly is holding up the roof, but it doesn't seem like it would be these ceiling beams. Before I started this project, I took out some shelves that extended two feet out from the back wall of the garage.

I cleared out the attic area on the small side of the access, and removed the floor boards. Then I used my new reciprocating demo saw and cut out the beams. This allowed me to hang the bikes up higher, and park the car below them.

I saved the lumber, and removed all the nails. Too bad I don't have room to put any shelves in the garage!

Here is a picture from the "attic" looking down through the narrow access.
In the Next photo, I've taken off the "floor" boards.
Now, I've used the new sawz-all and taken out two of the beams!
There is a much better view into the "upstairs" storage area.
Success! It fits! But the car is so leafy and dirty...
Here is where we will keep the commuter bikes for easy access.
Notice that in this picture the car is clean, and in the garage so hopefully it will stay that way!

I back the car into the garage so that I can open the door to get out. There is no passenger-side access to the car while it is in the garage. The garage is quite narrow, and as I'm backing in, there are only about 3-4 inches to spare between the mirrors and the garage door frame. My brother won't be allowed to move the car in or out of the garage!
This project is pretty much done. I need to mount a support for the commuter bikes to that they don't fall over while propped on the wall, and I think I'll repair the concrete where the garage meets the driveway. There is a pretty decent curb there now.
The next projects will be car-related, as I need to work on brakes, oil change and spark plugs and wires.

My New Commuter

So, finally I've found time to post about my new cycle. It has disk brakes, an internal 8-speed transmission, and I put on a custom carbon fork to make it lighter and smoother. I also added a luggage rack on the back to hold panniers, and fenders to keep myself clean and dry in inclement weather. All-in-all, it is a pretty nice ride. I'd like to maybe get some longer cranks (they are only 170mm, but I have 175mm on my other bikes, those these feel like small circles). It was $750 for the bike, $45 for the rack, $45 for the fenders, and $200 for the new fork. It brings the total up to about what Katie's commuter bike cost. But we save about $50/week by not driving to work, so they bikes pay for themselves.
My total is now five bikes. Four in Madison, and my old mountain bike back at my parents' house. I will be getting rid of Ol' Red sometime, which will leave me with just the nice road bike, the fixed-gear (regatta bike), and the commuter.
This step of adding more bikes has led us to the decision to get rid of the Honda. If you are in the market, look at this on Craigslist.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Game On...

I've got the essentials on order:
  • Spark plugs
  • spark plug wires
  • distributor cap & rotor
  • brake pads
  • brake fluid
  • brake bleeder
  • oil
  • oil filter
Next up is clearing the garage, washing & waxing, and when it arrives, getting to work. When I'm not at work.
Also today we got a new battery for the Honda. We hadn't driven the car in 2+ months. The battery was dead, but fortunately we got a pretty good exchange fomr Sears on it, since it was less than 2 years old. Katie washed it today, and we're putting it on Craigslist! Goodbye Honda!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mr. Handyman

So I have the goal of fitting my car into the garage for the winter. However, that has not been possible. There are lots of shelves and other stuff in the garage. And we also want to keep our bikes (at least the commuters) in the garage. (that is actually a whole 'nother post: I got a new commuter bike! Check back soon...) The garage is not too big, either. It is a total of 10.5 feet by 18 feet.
So one step I had to take was to re-arrange the (road) bicycles. I moved them from the wooden rack/stand that had held them in the apartment to newly installed hooks parallel to the wall. I would say the far wall, but it is actually quite close. There is also a ladder hanging along the wall.
On the wall opposite the bicycles was a workbench protruding two feet from the wall. Not a ton of space, but enough to work on small projects. Above that are some long, narrow shelves. So I decided that I would like to clear up the space. I bought a reciprocating saw from the Home Depot, and cut the bench about four inches from the wall, then put on some hinges, and attached legs with another set of hinges. I then added a safety straps so that. Just in case. It latches with a sliding bolt into a hole in the shelf above.
I'm the first to admit that it is not pretty, but it actually looks better than it did before. And it enabled me for the first time to pull the car all the way into the garage!!! (But the camera batteries died before I got a picture.) I will need to take out another set of shelves in the back of the garage (about 28 inches deep) and find a new home for the lawnmower in order to make it work to keep the commuters and the car inside, but each weekend I'm getting closer.
I'll be posting more blogs now that I'm doing more around the house. Be sure to check back for pics of the new commuter bike, pics of the Volvo in the garage and updates on the T5: oil changes, brake fluid changes, new brake pads, new plugs and wires and the exterior treatment.
Finally, check out the link on the right for the Three Dollar Connoisseur. We know the posters (Poseurs?)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

House Pics. Front door, then garage, then window wells

Here are pictures of the garage back door

Here are pics of the window wells. the pics are a little mixed, but there are a total of three pics of the "good" window, and the rest are of the bad one.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Could it be? Snow?

What is less surprising than bleach-blonde women driving German SUVs thru the drive-thru at Starbucks and a parking lot full of Toyota Priuses at the local Whole Foods market? That's right: snow in Madison.
I know, I hear you saying " It is March! Average high temps should be in the 50s and lows should be in the mid 30s!" Well, never mind that stuff. It is still below freezing, and we're getting more of the white stuff.
The end (or at least a respite) could be in sight. We are slated to get above freezing this week every day, starting tomorrow. Night time temps will still be freezing, however. We won't be headed for any records as far as length of ice cover goes unless the ice sticks around until June 3. The latest date for the ice to clear is May 6, and that was in 1856! If it takes until the end of April we will be at 127 days. The average date for the ice to break up over the past 50 years is March 31st. Since 1990, the ice has been clear no later than the 11th of April.
Even though we are only nine days into March, I'm not apprehensive in my prediction that the ice won't break until April 15th.
One more thing about ice: most of the side streets in town are horrible. Many are deeply rutted with ice "medians" and kerbs. Once you are in the rut, there is no getting out. most of this is from snow that fell 2 or more weeks ago.
Bring on Spring!!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ice Bike 2008

The rain last weekend cleared much of the snow off of the ice on the lake, and made it tempting for me to head out onto the lake. Many days there are hordes of ice-fishermen in the middle of the lake, almost forming a small town. I'm not sure why, but they tend to clump together. Maybe these guys are just always taking them to the same place.
Part of the ride on the lake was on a tin layer of crusty snow which provided pretty good traction. The rest was on bare, slick, shiny ice that would have made a zamboni driver jealous.
It was a bit tricky at times where the ice was shiny, but not smooth, on the way back to the path I rode at a pace no quicker than a walk. but I did stay upright. I probably could have gone faster, but I'm old and afraid of falling...

So, how long does the ice usually last? Check it out here...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ugh. Winter is not over

Well, it should not have really come as a surprise, but winter is still here. Last night when I went to bed it was 48 degrees. When I woke up it was 28 degrees and there was about 1.5 inches of snow. The temps dropped all day, and it is now about 20. But it was a nice weekend and the temps should be in the 40s again this weekend!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Road Trip!

Okay, So after a tough week of colder weather and without somebody sweet nearby to inspire me to expound upon the ins and outs of Wisconsin weather and culture, I'm back with a new post. As I write it is 48 degrees!!! It is raining, but this "warm" rain is supposed to turn to freezing rain, then sleet and snow and we should get another 3-4 inches...
This weekend brought warmer weather and a road trip to "The Bays" (Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay). Sturgeon Bay is located in "Wisconsin's Scenic Door County", which is "the finger" of Wisconsin sticking into Lake Michigan.
I drove by Lambeau Field, and saw both Lombardi Ave and Holmgren Ave. Green Bay is pretty unique in that it is a town of 102,313, but it is home to an NFL team. I would bet that there is not other town/metro area with an NFL team that is less than one million people. I would also bet that there are fewer than 10 of those NFL players who live there year round. Green Bay is very much a working-class town with small homes, rusty cars and lots of factories making cheese, paper and steel. Now that I've been there, Green Bay is no place I need to go again.
We drove on Sautrday to Sturgeon Bay, located in Door County. Dor County is sort of like Cape Cod or Nantucket for the midwest. There were lots of cars from Illinois (FIBs). There are lots of vacation homes and resorts in Door County, and, tellingly, many wineries. I don't know if many grapes are grown on the finger, but people up there have figured out that the rich tourists will pay good money to go to a winery and taste some local wines. There were also lots of expensive stores selling "fashionable" clothes for older women at high prices.
It seems that Sturgeon bay is a popular spot with the legions of boaters who cruise Lake Michigan in the summers, but there was definitely no boating going on this time of year! There were lots of people out on the ice, but they were in fishing tents or on snowmobiles. It was pretty impressive to see that much water frozen thick enough that people were confident (foolhardy?) enough to take their power equipment onto the lake.
In news more close to home, ice on Lake Mendota was 30 inches on Saturday, reaching the upper limits of the boring tools most ice-fishers use to reach the lake.