Jan 2012

Blog, North America


Love-Hate Relationship

When I ride our Vespa, I look like an idiot.  Vespas nowadays are of a size in relative proportion to a grown human’s body.  In 1963, Vespas were made to fit the bodies of prepubescent Italian girls.  The fact that I’m 6’3″ and male, and the fact that I have an ultra-feminine matching white helmet, make me look like an idiot.  My love for our Vespa, Cicilia, makes me blind to the fact that I should be embarrassed to be seen in public on it.  I love her, our sweet Cicilia. One day a couple of years ago I was riding her to work when, to my utter surprise, her rear wheel shot off for no apparent reason.  I crashed, Cicilia got scratched, and I scuffed up my stupid-looking ultra-feminine matching white helmet.  I love Cicilia, but she breaks down just about every week.   Love-hate relationships.  Everybody has one.

Yesterday I held myself suspended upside-down in Nacho’s door frame for the better part of the afternoon as I guess-and-checked my way through the entire fuse panel in an ill-fated attempt to track down a short in our electrical system.  The hunt for the short started when I decided to change Nacho’s battery.  I bought one of those super expensive Optima batteries, hacked the posts off, and shoehorned it into the too-small battery compartment under the seat.  I hooked up all of the wires and turned the key.  Nothing.  Fast forward two full days.  Nacho still won’t start, no short found.  Love-hate relationships.  Some people have two.

Today I finally found the problem.  Turns out that, despite all signs pointing to a short in the system, there was no short in the system.  That $200 Optima battery turned out to be fried.  I checked it a million times with a multimeter and always got over 12 volts, but the moment it was loaded it would drop to 2 volts.  Not really Nacho’s fault, but I was still hating life.  A quick battery swap, a few replaced wires, some soldering, and we had ignition.  I also finished hooking up the battery separator, so now our starting battery will automatically jump itself to our house battery if it needs help starting.  Someday we’ll look back on this project and say it was worth it.

It’s not all work and frustration around here this week.  On New Year’s Eve we took to the mountain bikes one last time.  We met up with a group of characters from Flat Tire Bike Shop in Cave Creek and headed out to the Black Canyon Trail.  I’d never ridden out there before, but after having done so I’d say it’s some of the better desert riding I’ve done.  Swoopy, fast, and rocky.  Also apparently treacherous; Ernie blew a tire in a hard corner and wrecked, Breon toppled off of a ravine and was stopped by a palo verde tree stump to the back, and Heather suffered a leg would during the Breon rescue maneuver.  Not to worry though, as secret agent Johnny Utah was along for the ride, and his squad of Blackhawk rescue copters were undoubtedly waiting to swoop in at the first sign of real danger.

Afterwards we rendezvoused in the parking lot for après ride beers and bratwurst.  Saturday, 75 degrees, clear skies, friends, bikes, beer, and barbequed brats.  It really doesn’t get much better than this.

As a Vanagon owner in the throes of a love-hate relationship, no perfect weekend would go unpunished.  After adjusting and de-winterizing Nacho’s water sanitation system, I flipped the switch to the pumps. I heard the water rush from the tanks into the pumps, wind its way through the filter and light, and head back toward the sink.  And then I heard the spray of water splashing behind the cabinets.  Suddenly I remembered that one night this Fall when it froze before I had winterized the water system.  I guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow.  If everything goes well, and if Nacho serves up some love, we’ll be in Mexico on Tuesday.

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  1. Ann Patsy

    Hola! Don’t by-pass the boojum tree forest in Catavina…one of my favorite places…the boulder fields make for splendid camping~~~ Hope you’re having a blast!!!

    Comment by Ann Patsy on January 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  2. David Beierl

    You probably should check the posts on your new battery – your symptoms are exactly what’s expected if you cut the posts on an Optima battery without reconnecting inner and outer posts.

    From the Vanagon list (signup at http://www.vanagon.com , click Community tab):

    On Jul 30, 2011, at 10:49 AM, Andrew Martin wrote:

    > Karl is correct. Each post has an inner and outer post that need to have
    > good contact to make 12V. The battery will put out 12V to a multi-tester
    > but the voltage output will plummet under any load.
    > I recently cut the posts off a brand new Optima Yellow Top for a client. To
    > reconnect the inner and outer post I drilled a 1/8″ hole in the inner post
    > and used a wood screw to attach a washer to the top that spanned the entire
    > post (s). For my application I absolutely needed the posts/screws/washers
    > to be nearly flush with the battery case; the wood screw head was nearly
    > flush with the washer. I thought I had photos but I can’t seem to find them
    > :(

    Comment by David Beierl on January 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm

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