Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Miata Update #4

Miata Update #4

The end of this project is finally in sight. I drove the Miata on the road for the first time in four years. It was only a half mile trip, but everything worked. The car goes, stops, shifts, and turns without any funny noises, shakes or shedding of parts. It would've been nice to go farther but this was just a cautious test around the neighborhood... and my registration expired in 2007 so I thought it best not to attract any attention.

Most all the lights and exterior trim pieces are now in place. The paint buffed out fairly well, though I need to work out a couple remaining flaws and go back over the whole thing with some swirl remover for final polishing, but I'm feeling reasonably happy with the way it came out.

While pulling some of the old parts out of storage I discovered that the tupperware bins holding my carpets had become infested with mice - possibly the same mice that had been crapping under the hood and stuffing old insulation into all the car's nooks and crannies. Normally I try to respect living creatures... but they aren't welcome to live in my garage, especially when my carpets end up smelling like piss. So I dragged the bin out into the driveway, kicked it over, and watched the dog go bezerk trying to chase all the fleeing rodents.

With the carpet de-odorized and re-installed, there's still some work to do on the interior but like the paint, it's mostly down to tying-up loose-ends. While I was at it I also installed a new steering wheel - a gift from the same friend that made my aluminum shift knob after the old one was stolen during a break-in by some tweaker back in 2003.

In a lot of ways this car feels like an artifact. It has no A/C, power steering, or power door locks. There's even some primitive yet clever way of opening and closing the windows without the use of electric motors.

And aren't those one-finger door handles positively dainty?

I'm not sure they offer aluminum wheels as small 14 inches on new cars anymore.

The point of all this is that there's a sense of minimalism I enjoy that's unavailable in new cars, even in what passes for a 2013 Miata these days. It's kind of the polar opposite of traveling in a Lexus-like cocoon; loud, cramped, bumpy, and breezy, but fully engaging. The steering is direct and communicative, turn-in is immediate, cornering grip levels are high, and even with the top up there's a motorcycle-like sensation of speed. Now I remember why I held onto this thing.

Some time was also cleaning up the engine bay a bit by removing a few superfluous items, degreasing things, and hiding wires. Like everywhere else, there's still a bunch of details to take care of, but it's getting there. But for now, that'll have to wait until spring.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Black Friday Bargain: Franconia Notch Loop

Ah, Black Friday; a day fondly known for its frantic consumerism. In the modern spirit of the season I decided to get up well before dawn for a door-buster deal of my own; the Franconia Notch Loop.

Here's the details: start at the Cannon Tramway parking area and head up the Kinsman Ridge Trail over Cannon and the Cannon Balls to South Kinsman. Descend your choice of trails back down to the highway, then head up to Mount Liberty or Flume. Follow the Franconia Ridge Trail to Lafayette and descend the Greenleaf Trail back to the car. There are plenty of variations but it works out to 25-ish miles, 10,000+ feet of elevation gain, and 6 or 7 peaks over four thousand feet. What a deal! And I didn't even have to fight traffic around the mall or suffer through a big box store packed up like a Japanese subway car.

But enough with the indulgent self-righteousness. On to the pictures!

Today's Black Friday special was icy trail conditions. 

Good morning, New  Hampshire. From above Cannon Cliff.
You said it, man. An engraved granite bench near Cannon's summit.
Sunrise over Franconia Ridge. I have much to be thankful for.
The Cannon Balls lead over to Mount Kinsman.
This way.
North Kinsman summit.
Lonesome Lake
Rock hoppin' on the Cascade Brook Trail.
A mildly spicy river crossing.
Smooth sailing back down to the highway,
Not quite enough time to visit Mt. Flume today. That's what I get for being such a slow slug on the Kinsmans.
Cannon and the Kinsmans from Liberty.
Mount Lafayette
South view from Mount Lincoln.
Cool cloud shadows over the Pemi and the Bonds.
Lincoln from Lafayette
Lincoln's Throat and the Mullet Slabs seem to be forming up nicely. I'm sure they've already been climbed this year.
More icy BS descending the Greenleaf Trail.
Cannon from Eagle Pass.
Farewell for now.

And now for the numbers (because if it's not documented, it didn't happen):

Bah, humbug.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Miata Update #3

Oh look, another Miata post. 

I suppose this is an accurate reflection of my activities over the last few months as I've been stuck in kind of a post-Hardrock hangover and haven't been running much at all. Fall is drawing close and I need to get this car done before it slips through the cracks. Currently it's still stuck in project car purgatory - not road worthy, yet not crushed and on its way to China to be recycled into cheap patio furniture. This is a very dangerous place for any car to be, especially one that's not considered especially collectible. Like that white Miata I bought.

Do you see this? This is what happens.

So, what follows is really a condensed summary of many days of work and frustration, encompassing four separate paint spraying sessions, many, many hours of wet sanding, quiet contemplation, and occasional outbursts of profanity.  

Here's my makeshift paint booth and masking job. You might notice that the car is already blue - keen observer that you are. So why paint it blue again?  Mostly because I botched the paint badly enough the first time around that I had to redo it (yet again). 

In an effort to keep dust from drifting up off the floor and getting into the paint, I tried laying down some plastic sheeting. This turned out to be a comically bad idea as the lightweight plastic got sticky from paint overspray and clung to my shoes like a giant piece of toilet paper. When I tried to walk, I ended up dragging half the floor with me. Note to self: next time use paper.

As with every time I've tried to use a spray gun, my paint came out with quite a bit of orange peel and a few runs. Pretty much the only way to fix this it to wetsand... a lot. The funny thing about wet sanding is that if you take off too much paint you break through into the gray primer underneath, and the only way to fix it is to repaint that part of the car. Then you get to wet sand it again!

So now I'm left with a reasonably smooth but dull finish. Time to break out the power buffer!

That's a little better.

Amidst all that, I managed to re-assemble most of the body panels - doors, bumpers, fenders, hood, and trunk lid - which is more time consuming than it sounds. It takes special attention and adjustment to get everything lined up correctly, to get the doors to close and latch smoothly, and to make all the body panel gaps even.

Finally, some visible  progress. Sleep tight, little car.

With the hard part out of the way, now I can move on to the mechanicals and putting everything back together. Spinning wrenches suits me much better.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tecumseh Thursday

Mighty Mount Tecumseh; the lowest and perhaps easiest of New Hampshire's 48 four thousand footers. This mountain was one of my first forays into peakbagging way back in the fall of 2003. Back then I was slower, heavier, and burdened with a backpack crammed with stuff. I didn't know what I really needed, so I just kept packing things in until the bag was full. Two liters of water, a ski parka, a half dozen flannel shirts, and a comically large digital camera. I sweat and panted and probably took four hours to do the 5 mile and 2,200 foot round trip, but I learned.

Almost nine years later (has it really been that long?) and I was back to visit Tecumseh for the umpteenth time. Though I was here only a few days ago, I decided to focus on just this one peak as an after work adventure. In many ways, the trip would be similar; I'd pant and wheeze and return to the parking lot feeling thoroughly worked - except this time I'd be trying to make the round trip in under 60 minutes. Rather than a 30 liter pack I'd have... a pair of shorts. And some shoes. And a tiny headlamp in my back pocket (you know, for safety).

Starting my GPS as I passed the trailhead sign, I rock-hopped across the stream that starts the trail, and ramped up to a full-on run. Normally I run much slower, at a pace that I can sustain all day and sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate between different grades of fast. Is this a half-hour race pace or a full hour race pace? Who knows? Just keep running. I probably went a bit too hard down low and ended up paying for it higher up when I had to walk a few of the steep sections.

Experiencing familiar trails at a hard run is very different from walking them, you almost experience the ground under a microscope. Your vision gets narrowed and you focus on the next few steps in front of you in close detail. Minor changes in steepness and footing take on a whole new meaning that I never got at a walking pace. Unlike some people, I won't try to say that any one pace is superior to another, they're just different. Sometimes I like to hike, sometimes I like to run, and sometimes I like to run as fast as I can.

I tagged the summit cairn in 36:25 and immediately turned around to begin the descent. Running this kind of technical downhill is always fun and stimulating. It's a challenge to scan the ground ahead, planning out the next few foot placements and trying to ride the line between speed and control. I was wearing a new pair of New Balance MT1010s and was happy to find that they grip wet rock marvelously and still offer just enough underfoot protection for this kind of terrain while still being light and flexible. As the trail leveled out near the bottom I stole a glance at my watch and saw that things were going to be close if I wanted to go under an hour. Splashing through the stream crossings, I picked up speed and popped out of the woods and back onto the pavement, stopping my watch at the trailhead sign in 59:05.

Thirsty, sweaty, and satisfied, I got in my car to head home. A couch-free evening well spent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waterville Value Pack

Sometimes the only thing that makes any sense to me is running. Daily life is noisy and confusing. Running in the mountains is simple and quiet, where all I know is that I need to get from one place to another. Instead of work and chores and politics, I can just worry about weather, pace, fueling, and finding water. I'm in charge. I make all the decisions and there's no one there to second guess me or dictate what I can and can't do. There's no temptation to blame anyone else, either. I suffer my own mistakes.

The best thing for this is mountain loops. I prefer them 20-30 miles in length, with 8,000 feet or more of elevation gain and a few peaks along the way. Planned correctly, these loops scratch all the right itches. I get to revisit and explore, make thorough use of the day, blow off some steam, experience a little isolation, and get some training in. I can leave my car in one spot and return to it at the end of the day, no ride needed.

Last Sunday I put together another one of my loops, this time in Waterville Valley. The plan was to park at the Livermore trailhead and run up and over Mount Tecumseh to Tripoli Road, then pass over Mount Osceola and down to Greeley Ponds. From there, I'd link up a few connector trails over to Livermore Road, scramble up the North Slide on Mount Tripyramid, descend the South Slide and run back to the car. This totaled up to about 25 miles, 8,500 feet of gain, and five ranked four thousand footers.

The day started out rather wet and humid from the previous night's rain and I was drenched by the time I summited Mount Tecumseh. It had looked overcast from down in the valley but I got a few views from above the clouds near the top.

Off to the East, I could see the three peaks of Mount Tripyramid, with my afternoon route up the North Slide clearly visible.

The run down off Tecumseh follows an old logging road for part of the way, with good footing and a really mellow grade. A little over a mile on the dirt Tripoli Road and I was working my way up to the outlook on the main peak of Mount Osceola. Below, you can seen the connecting ridgeline that the trail follows over to Osceola's East peak.

Descending off East Osceola is kind of a pain in the ass. The trail is steep, rough, and slick and makes for some slow going down to Greeley Ponds.

At the ponds, the clouds had begun to part a bit and let some blue sky and sun shine through.

The Greeley Ponds Trail is in pretty rough shape after being washed out by Hurricane Irene last fall. The nearby river has been diverted in a few spots and turned the trail into a streambed.

I had to walk in the water for a few short stretches but otherwise didn't find it to be a big deal.

Here, I made something of a mistake. My original intention was to take the Flume Path and Old Skidder Trail over to Livermore Rd., but I got the urge to explore the Kancamagus Brook XC Ski Trail instead. Both trails go to the same place, so it shouldn't make much difference, right?

Shortly after the junction I found a few old buckets hanging on some trees. Leftovers from logging operations a generation or two ago.

The trail followed an old logging road and was pretty overgrown in many places, but not too difficult to follow. Often the ground was soft underfoot and I would squish through mud up to my ankles.

And then... the old road led into a swamp. One minute I was walking merrily along, the next I was thigh deep in a bog, trying to figure out how to get out without losing my shoes. The farther I went, the worse it got. I tried bushwhacking along the edge of the bog without much luck and was seriously considering turning around, but I only had about a 1/4 mile left to reach Livermore Road, so I ended up just struggling through. You know that scene in the Never Ending Story where the horse sinks into the bog? The experience wasn't far off that.

Finally back on dry land, expressing my regards for XC ski trails in the summer.

While the swamp kind of sucked, the North Slide is always fun. 1400 feet in a half mile up an old landslide? That's more my style.

Part way up the slide you hit some open slabs and can see back towards Tecumseh (left) and the Osceolas (right).

This trail has something of a notorious reputation among hikers but I think you'd be hard pressed to actually fall down it for any significant distance. The bigger danger comes from loose rock and I had to be careful not to dislodge anything on a few people I passed below.

By the time I topped out, I was running pretty low on water. I scooted down the South Slide and was happy to get to a clean stream near the bottom where I could refill my bottles before the last stretch of trail back to my car. Seven and a half hours of peace, quiet, and simplicity and I was ready to face the world again.