Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Operation "Johnny Paycheck" Update

Back in January, I whimsically revealed Operation Johnny Paycheck, essentially predicting that I was heading for Retirement. Well, Phase 1 is pretty much done. I said I was taking 15 weeks off and I've taken about 13, with the other 2 planned out already. I am now about 3 months into my supposed final year, with 9 more to go. Happily, I don't seem to be wishing the time away, or hoping it goes quickly...probably the opposite actually. Winter was good, and the summer even better. One significant happening was the acquisition of a new-to-me camper van. I can't seem to get by without one, so when my old one revealed the sad extent of its rusting carcass, I jumped at the opportunity to "upgrade"...

This thing is a veritable Beast, and in its present form, addresses many of the gripes and complaints I hold against these things. First, the body is in good shape. Second, it's the 4WD version with plenty of clearance. Third, it's engine has been superseded by a 1.9 TDI Diesel that delivers north of 30 miles per gallon. Since I've owned my old one for 16 years, I'm somewhat aware of their intricacies and shortcomings. Nothing's perfect of course, and I do still have some gripes and complaints, but hey ! Hopefully in retirement, I'll be happy to tackle them.

Other than that, things are busy. October's almost gone, and Christmas is approaching...one more photo before I sign off...

resting at Moccasin Lake, or Island Pond :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Vanagon "arse" end...

Vanagons (Westys) present some challenges with respect to packing, road-trips, access etc. Options are limited, and most people elect to attach things to the outside in order to maintain some living space inside the vehicle. Putting things on the roof is one option but it can create drag, and it can make it difficult to raise/pop the roof up. There is a nice luggage area on the section of the roof that does not raise up, but it is not very big. Another option is to attach things to the rear but that also has drawbacks; racks etc that attach to the rear lift gate make it difficult to raise the hatch for routine engine compartment inspection or maintenance. This is a bigger issue than it sounds because experience will teach that this access is crucial with a rear engine Vanagon that is 30+ years old. The best options for overcoming this are systems that swing open, away from the rear to allow access without removing gear and cargo. There are several options, and while not the strongest, the most economical and versatile (unless you fabricate your own) are the swing-away components available from GoWesty. They are not cheap, and the Canadian Dollar value for U.S. stuff does not help either. Nevertheless, I have added bits and pieces to the point where I now have 2 of these setups, one on each side. They present plenty of options, separate bits and pieces, and make it easy to add your own racks, boxes etc. Below is a shot of my setup. I have the basic swing-away with the universal ladder rack addition. The 2 black "cages" near the top are ATV gas can carriers from Princess Auto. Below that, are 2 5-litre rotopax knockoff gas cans. On the left, I mounted a cheap aluminum trunk, also from Princess Auto. On the right, I have the accessory shelf from GoWesty and a Plano storage box. There is also room to stack an identical second Plano box. The ladder rungs can accommodate various bike racks...options are almost limitless.
One issue is the taillights can be a little obscured. I have a plan to overcome that with some additional lights mounted somewhere on the racks. Another is your friendly mechanic can find it annoying to work on your van with these things fitted. While they swing open rather easily, they stick out then on both sides and can be a problem in a garage bay. Luckily, one bolt in the edge of the bumper is all that needs to be removed so I often remove mine before I take it to the shop.
Overall, I'm very pleased with this setup. I still have my old Paulchen rack that attaches directly to the hatch, but I find it annoying because raising the hatch is difficult, &/or you need to remove stuff in order to do so effectively. Pack-Rat that I am, I can't seem to part with it...
My earlier setup

Earlier setup with "brother" fabricated basket

Friday, February 9, 2018

Winter Reprieve

Over the last 12 months, I've taken off in an airplane 50 times, from 16 different airports. From normal sounding names like Toronto and Halifax, to the more unique ones, like Kuujjuaq and Nuuk. It's been fun, if not a bit hectic at times. After today, I start a 5 week "stay-cation". It's winter around these parts, and I deliberately have no real plans. I'm a bit concerned, thinking of course of the "fail to plan, plan to fail" mantra, but I'm hoping to enjoy the agenda-less period...we'll see how that goes. Actually, I do have some plans, but they are more like a wish-list with emphasis on "no pressure.
Let's see how this unfolds...

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Operation "Johnny Paycheck"

As I plan on exiting my current employment situation somewhere around mid to late 2019, I have launched what I jokingly refer to as “Operation Johnny Paycheck”. Older folk like me will likely get the reference immediately. I say jokingly, and without malice, I wish to migrate from “Take this job and love it” to “Take this job and shove it”. This plan actually began last year, when I reached the astonishing age of 55. Phase one generally unfolds in 2018, wherein I will hopefully enjoy 10 weeks of holidays under Leave with Income Averaging provisions, along with a mandatory 5 additional weeks of annual leave. So, with 15 weeks off, I’m beginning to nudge towards “semi-retirement”. Before this finishes up, I should be into year 30 of my employment with the Canadian Hydrographic Service. Unless something exciting happens to alter my wishes, I will be leaving once I have accumulated a full 30 years. If God spares me, I’ll be 57 years old at that time; Not exactly Freedom 55 but not too bad. Let’s see how it unfolds…

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Obvious Hiatus

Circumstances have resulted in me back burnering this blog; back in April, I embarked on what was to be a 3-4 month assignment in Ontario, a significant change for me. The 3-4 months is turning in to 7-8 months. This, along with plenty of Facebook and Instagram activity, has meant that not much blogging happens. I'm undecided about how things will unfold. Honestly, I've put plenty of things on hold. I'm hoping to return to some semblance of normal by December...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Is Charcoal "better" ?

I've always been a fan of charcoal, and over the years, I have gone through several different variations of charcoal grills. Cutting to the chase, I recently bought an Eco-Que from MEC. It's the 12" square version, so it does not really have tons of space. Nevertheless, I thought it might be interesting, and it sure was/is. The big claim to fame is that you only need to use 9 charcoal briquettes for each session. Also, there are 3 different methods of arranging the 9 that afford 3 different levels of heat. Recently, I employed the method of standing the 9 pieces up vertically, for the highest heat output;
As you can see, it's a neat and tidy arrangement, and with the pyramid shape, the heat is quite well distributed...
The foil liners are an available add-on that makes clean-up a bit easier. 
This method, however, produces too much heat for most cooking tasks, so I don't think I'll be using it again.
As you can see, it was difficult to keep the meat from burning. In future, I'll probably use the "middle" method, where you lay all 9 pieces down on their side. Actually, it's probably best to use a dozen or so pieces in this configuration, but it works well, with less intense heat.
Even with the high heat, the t-bones were quite "salvageable"  :)
The Que also comes with a nice cover, and with its ability to fold flat and store in a nifty carrying bag, I think it'll become a well-used addition.
 Pictures above and below show the medium heat method, which is by far the most suitable for burgers, steaks etc.

The only real drawback with this BBQ is the stainless steel grilling surface is difficult to clean. I think I'm going to try and fit some sort of replacement grill, consisting of several rods or something, in order to make clean-up easier.
For the low-heat method, you actually remove the holder that the 9 briquettes sit on, and place them on a lower surface. I used that method once but it took way too long for things to cook. I can't see a use for such a low-heat output...perhaps it might work for smoking something.
They also sell a 12" grill surface that can apparently be used to fry eggs and bacon etc etc. I'm a little skeptical of that, but mostly because I figure food will stick to it, but I might be wrong.
My final judgment is that this is a good unit, and while not light enough for a backpacking trip, this will easily find a home for car or canoe camping. The only real negative is that cleaning the grill requires work, but then again, most do.

Operation "Johnny Paycheck" Update

Back in January, I whimsically revealed Operation Johnny Paycheck , essentially predicting that I was heading for Retirement. Well, Phase 1 ...

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