Monthly Archives: May 2012

Protective Moose & High Water Warnings Issued

After a week of rain and melting snow fields, Interior rivers are at the tops of their banks. A friend out on the Chena over the weekend in his canoe, found himself, his passenger, and his gear floating in the chilled water after being upended by a torpedo (floating tree). Sadly, I do not have a picture of that.

The moose calves are “dropping all over town right now”, according to Alaska Fish & Game. Which means that mother moose is anxious, ornery & extremely protective. Everyone talks about the dangerous grizzly, but moose stompings out number bear maulings by a wide margin.
“Those cows are so defensive of their little babies. They will literally stand there on the edge of the woods watching you, and if you take one step into their personal bubble, they’ll come out hooves flying.” — Jesse Coltrane, Biologist, AKF&G

And that is a sight to behold.
I’ve been chased by a mother moose once, and witnessed a pissed off cow attack another cow moose when a young calf followed the wrong mother for a few yards. The offended cow reared up on her hind legs and let her front hooves fly out at the unsuspecting cow. Within seconds both cows had their hooves flailing wildly. It was quite the sight. Oddly enough, approaching via stealth mode a half mile away, was a grizzly with its nose held high in the air. It was dead on the track that the cow & calf moose had taken just thirty minutes before.

All in a day in The Backyard.

As expected…

… metal roofing & blood thinner mix poorly.

28 May 2012

Power, Power, Power

In all honesty, I would have been happy with a Bobcat, but I was given a John Deere backhoe, because “bigger is always better”. I had canceled the delivery on Friday due to a week of straight rain over ground that was still frozen just a few feet below the surface. Every path to the new cabin site was a mucky mess. Then I was told that the backhoe had been delivered a day early, and it was sitting in a driveway about a half mile from where it was suppose to be.

We would figure out a way to make it work. Sorta. Somewhat. In a manner of speaking.

The ground was, of course, too wet for such a large piece of equipment, which is why I thought a Bobcat would be more productive. But one plays with the equipment that’s delivered. I cut down a forest of trees that were in the path, we did a good job of getting the drive “formed”, considering the melting muck. There was no chance of getting the backhoe into where the new cabin will go, however. So the actually site work, and the new hole for the outhouse will have to be done at a future date. Tomorrow the Typar will go down, then we will start to haul rock (re: tailings) in, and build the new driveway from the current drive out to the new cabin location.

The backhoe is a blast to run. In fact it drives easier than The Rover, and with about the same amount of levers. I think The Rover might be a tad faster on the road though. Overall, an extremely hectic weekend, but a very productive one as well.

The ‘Oxford & Cambridge’ Question

‘Cambridge and Oxford’ on the Stillwell Road, Burma.

A while back, Alex asked me a question on why these two Rovers were called Oxford & Cambridge. I was then scolded by another reader for not giving more information in that post on “The Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition”.
Well, I was traveling without the laptop, and uploading posts through the phone is simply a pain in the arse.

In 1955 six Oxford & Cambridge students set off overland from London for Singapore. It turned out that only one student, Nigel Newbery, was from Oxford, but the name of the expedition stuck and the two Land Rovers were then referred to as “Oxford” and “Cambridge”. In fact, they were painted Cambridge blue and the darker blue of Oxford.

The expedition left Hyde Park and crossed the English Channel to France. From there they traveled through Monaco, Germany, Austria, Jugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaya and Singapore. The trek to Singapore took 6 months and 6 days, traversing 18,000 miles.

Oh Yeah…

I’m back in Squarebanks. I suppose it’s expected that I share that little tidbit of info.

So I climb into the modern Chevrolet Silverado after weeks of double clutching in the Land Rover, only to have the serpentine belt jump a pulley and then snake its way around the entire engine compartment, leaving little rubber flakes scattered about under the hood. I am now forced to drive the Beetle down to NAPA to get a new belt for the truck. When I parked the Bug last fall, it had a wheel bearing going out.
Back to the Chevy: It now appears that the alternator has also gone out of the Chevy, so I drove the still squeaking Bug to the jobsite, completely loaded down with painting equipment. I’ll probably have to haul two fives of paint tomorrow in it as well, but I’m holding off on strapping the 7′ step ladder to the VeeDub’s roof rack.

The new alternator should be here tomorrow afternoon for the Chevy.

I also considered buying the bearings & seals for the Beetle, but 2/3’s of the needed parts were not in town.

Welcome back.

Rover Adventures Under the Big Sky



We had a little bit of everything on this day.

First there was the stark surrealness of Little Bighorn. Quite honestly, I don’t care that the edit feature on this computing device does not recognize “surrealness” as a word, because I control this blog, not the Ghost of Steve Jobs.
I found out that one can piggy back onto the wifi of a tour bus in the parking lot of national monuments. Up till now I thought the buses had no real function.

When one wanders for too long among the dead, one must pay the price of the rising mercury. It was 92 when we passed through Billings.

At Little Bighorn, I met a fellow who was driving up to Chicken, AK to work at a mine. He had a Toyota pickup with one of those little Scamp trailers behind it. He said he’d watch for me on the highway up, and that he’d stop if he saw me on the shoulder. Note: he didn’t say he’d help, just that he would stop. The conversation made me wish that the Rover was running a little better.

We experienced head winds between Billings and Bozeman that made me cuss & cringe. I saw a wild turkey cross I-90 that was felled by a gust and bounced several yards eastbound until it finally gained its footing and dignity. The poor bird had my sympathy, and I told the turkey so.

The NAPA electric fuel pump crapped out on me while climbing a steep incline. That was discouraging. It either died or could not pass through the vapor lock veil. I pulled off at the next exit & replaced it with the backup pump while parked in a field.

We hit a t-storm west of Bozeman that forced me to pull over because the wiper couldn’t keep up with the rain and hail. Hail makes a very unique sound on an aluminum roof, I must say.

Crossing the pass into Bozeman was torture. That’s all I’m going to say.

Finally, I exited on Hwy 2, which took us on a beautiful drive through a river valley to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. It turned out that the place was packed with kids on some sort of retreat, but I stopped anyway. For the most part they avoided me, but I did overhear the quote of the trip so far when a group of them walked to the shower house as I drank a scotch & read some Hunter S Thompson. One of the guys in the group said, “That guy is living the life… He has a fucking treehouse on his truck.”

Little Bighorn




It was a very early start for our first full day in Montana. Which I dutifully used up walking the grounds of the 1876 battlefield. The ranger gave a great talk about events leading up to & including the battle. Afterwards, I found it hard to pull away from the place, but eventually I managed as the temps began to climb.
Little Bighorn is a very spiritual place, and well worth a visit if you’re traveling through the area. Last Stand Hill has a beautiful view of some magnificent country, but it wasn’t hard to imagine the chaos of that battle that altered the lives of so many people.

Custer National Forest


The view from my tent:
Custer National Forest, Montana.

Custer National Forest

A nice drive without the headwinds, and the MPG rose back up to 13.5. I’ve given up on the idea of anything higher than 14 without doing some engine modifications.

I stopped earlier than I had to with the gain of an hour heading into mountain time, but I reached my goal of Custer NF, with free camping, so I pulled off, set up camp, then hiked about until hunger overcame me. It’s a beautiful forest, with stunning open vistas once one gets away from the main roads. I stumbled upon a herd of pronghorn today while out walking. They allowed me to get fairly close, so they must have known I was unarmed. I also walked up to some bovines, one of which allowed me to scratch between its ears.

The gas tank has made it two driving days on the Ivory soap.

I ran into another Alaskan here in Custer. I wasn’t overly chatty, which seemed to put him off a bit, but it wasn’t worth the effort for me to try to talk over that knocking, diesel Suburban of his.





Mighty Missouri

In hindsight, taking U.S. 212 may not have been the best idea. There were two major detours, which ate up a lot of time and had me seemingly driving around in circles for hours At one point, according to the GPS, I had driven 50 miles only to get one mile closer to my destination. That was discouraging.

Heavy winds had me at 50 mph much of the day and without the overdrive, so the mpg dropped into the dreadful range. The ride at 50 mph on nicely paved roads is actually quite smooth in The Rover. It gives you a lot of time to think, and I hate to admit it, but I spent much of today dreaming about flying down US 212 in my old ’66 LeMans.

The gas tank had developed a seepage from at least one lower corner seam. Frustrating since the tank has been on the truck less than 3 years, but no sense crying over gasoline stains on someone else’s driveway. I tried an odd remedy, and coated both lower seams with Ivory soap. As strange as it sounds, it did stop the leak and when I stopped for the night the tank was still bone-dry on the outside. I have no idea how long it will hold up, and I do have a tube of Seal-All for backup, but so far the bar of Ivory has held its own.

With the late start due to soaping up the gas tank, and with the detours & headwinds, I would have stopped 90 miles back at Fisher Grove, but the park was closed, so I pushed on to Whitlock which edges the Missouri River. By 6:30pm the winds had died down enough to get into overdrive and everyone in SoDak seemed to have gone to dinner. The highway was quiet; I drove for miles and miles where the only things I saw join The Rover on the road were the pheasants. I didn’t realize how much I missed pheasants until I saw them flush from the shoulder as The Rover approached, gliding through the air, then hitting the ground at a run and zipping through the grass with only their tailfeathers showing their route. I do miss pheasants.

I stopped to fill up a couple of towns back. The station was old school, requiring me to pump the gas before I paid for it. I almost forgot how to go about it. When I went inside, someone asked if that was an International I was driving. I told him it was a Land Rover, all the while secretly happy he hadn’t confused it with a Toyota. Eventually, I found out he wanted to buy my truck, so I asked what his offer was. “Are you serious?” He asked. “Yep,” I replied. “Well, I don’t rightly know. What would you take for it?”
“At this particular moment in time, I would take a 1966 Pontiac LeMans with a 326 and a Hurst 4 speed. ” I said.
There was a period of awkward silence, so I added: “I’m not fussy about the color.”