Setting land speed records on the Alvord Desert

Steens from Alvord side Harney County, Oregon

Tires grumble in the gravel… no pavement found here…

Too far from civilization say highway commissioners…

And best drive slowly… protect car tires from rock cuts…

 Nothing worse than a flat tire… (unless it is two flat tires) …

Repair is hours away… weeks if you walk…

Behind the car… A plume of dust reaching out like a giant rooster tail…

Announcing our presence… pointing out our direction of travel…

To anything or anyone that cares…

From highway 78… we are headed south toward Fields…

And Denio… on the Oregon border shared with Nevada…

Passing between Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert…

A classic example of basin and range topography…

A pronghorn antelope challenged our car to a race…

Easily keeping ahead of us at 30 mph… we slowly pushed to fifty…

Then he (or was it she) put on a burst… maybe a world record…

For antelopes… only the Cheetah is said to be faster… barely…

The antelope left us in the dust… we admired its pace…

Crystals of ice landing on the hood of the car… precipitation…

Flakes of snow… transformed to liquid by heat from the engine…

Evaporating into the dry air… creating dehydration and drought…

It’s cold here at 4,000 feet… 23 degrees Fahrenheit this morning in May…

Minus five degrees Celsius sounds colder… but it is not.

A mile above us…  the crags of Steens Mountain range to our west…

Wrapped in swirling clouds of snow… drifting deep in winter…

The summit of Steens…  9,733 feet… warm in summer sun…

Melting snow water trickles down from the rim…

Forming a lake in the Alvord basin far below…

Once upon a time Alvord Lake was 300 feet deep…

Dare I say it, climate change evaporated the water…

Leaving salt pan… a perfect surface for setting speed records…

Dust devils spin on playa flats on the ancient lakebed…

Now called a desert… the Alvord… on our eastern flank…

Alvord Desert Harney County, Oregon

Dirt sailors delight in racing their land yachts on the salt pan…

Powered only by wind in the sails… what a blast…

Reaching a record speed of 126.2 miles per hour…

So much faster than the wind… hard to imagine.

Kitty O’Neil was here… December of 1976…

 Riding a high-speed tricycle to a world’s record…

For a woman… 512.7 miles per hour on the average…

She promised not to break the record of 630.4 mph…

Set by a man… and allow a man a try for the record…

She set the power of her tricycle at 60 percent…

The woman’s record was hers… she wanted more…

She wanted a second run… with boosted power…

But the man demanded his chance…

While lawyers wrangled a snowstorm set in…

Ending time trials for the season… no chance…

For man or woman… the season was over.

The man didn’t get his tricycle ride… too bad…

Once upon a time I piloted a fighter jet across this desert…

On the deck… not touching the surface… I pushed the throttle…

afterburner blazing… what was it like at 512 miles per hour…

Breath-taking… an adrenaline rush… lakebed ripping past…

Raising a dust plume while thundering across the Alvord…

Steens Mountain began looming large… rapidly approaching…

Can’t stop… take it vertical… climbing for sky… over the top…

People at the viewpoint… looking down on the Alvord…

Startled to see a jet flash past… upside down… afterburner roaring…

Doing a victory roll… mission accomplished…

Kitty has my admiration… she is on top of the list… in 2019…

Jessica Combs, driving a jet… a F-104 Starfighter without wings…

Named the North American Eagle… A missile with a woman at the controls…

52,000 horsepower… capable of super-sonic speed… she wanted to be first…

She had her eye on the top ranking… the fastest woman on earth…

Something went wrong… no explanation yet… she died in the crash.

She died trying… she said she had no fear… she wouldn’t stop trying…

Keep on trying. Don’t be afraid… keep on trying.

It’s her epitaph.

byLarry

Additional information: https://www.landspeed.com/project/vehicle

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Buying a Jeep Rubicon

The Rubicon

“I found a Rubicon for sale online… it’s located here in Gresham… it’s a 2013 model… It already has a roof rack and tent.”

My son has a 2012 model and has been bitten by the upgrade bug. He spends his spare time and cash looking for car parts on the internet. He has developed a fair amount of skill and numerous special tools for working on automobiles. He is working on me to join him. I drive a 1999 Chevy Blazer with 450,000 miles on the odometer… it’s due for replacement. Chevy refers to it as a 4WD, but I think that’s a bit of exaggeration. I want a real 4WD. When I shift to 4WD I want all four tires churning. The Rubicon has all the features I want including a navigation system.

“Where is it?”  I asked.

“Gresham Toyota,” he replied.

I am generally opposed to buying a Jeep from anyone other than an authorized dealer. Automobiles are complicated machinery controlled by complicated computers. Having technicians that are factory trained and using genuine MOPAR parts are an advantage.

We decided to look at the Rubicon.

 

2013 Jeep Rubicon

At first blink the tires appear huge.   Chances are that neither you nor I can change a tire on this rig. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble climbing into this Jeep. It’s a giant leap for mankind… I need an elevator… retractable steps cost $1,700.

A second blink revealed that the Free-spirit rooftop tent had been removed. The roof rack support remained in place. I wonder about the tent… an $800 value.

The greeters… Sales Associates… rushed out to make initial contact. Friendly folks… we got to know most of the people working at Gresham Toyota while we were bartering for the Jeep.  

The Jeep was priced at high Blue Book.

There were issues… we needed to negotiate.

A walk around revealed the body had about a dozen strange dents… as if it had been a target at a golf ball driving range… or at the mercy of someone with a slingshot loaded with marbles.

The Jeep is not stock; it has been modified with a 4-inch lift… 40 x 13.5-inch tires… no records for who did the work… or whether other elements had been modified too… like steering… braking… differential gears etc.

Suspension and steering appeared to be modified… no clue on the differential gearing.

The jeep travels well but a test drive indicated the speedometer wasn’t matching with GPS… the GPS was about 10 mph faster than the speedometer… the engine was struggling reaching for higher RPM.

The speed difference is significant. According to the Jeep manual If the speedometer is left uncorrected, there can be a major degradation in the performance of the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), transmission shifting, and engine performance. Whoever modified this jeep did not make the speedometer correction for the larger tires.   

Some of the remote controls on the steering wheel do not function.

The cruise controls did not engage.

The navigation system: the splash page lights up but does not progress to a navigation display.

There was just one key for the Jeep. That meant another key is wandering around. I’m at the age where I keep a spare key on a cord around my neck to use when I lock the other key inside the vehicle.

CARFAX wasn’t much help for a maintenance history, but the last entry was a failure to pass a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) inspection. Living in Oregon with a Multnomah County address means I cannot license the vehicle or transfer the title to my name.

At this moment the Jeep is at an authorized Jeep dealer where the service department is trying to resolve the DEQ issues.

The story will continue to evolve.

ByLarry

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Learning about Logging

  Sticks and Stones Break My Bones

“Don’t stand directly in front or directly behind the machine.  It throws sticks and stones.”

forestry mulcher at work Fern Hill Land Clearing

[photo by Larry]

Good advice from the operator of the mulcher who was giving us a demonstration of his forestry mulcher, a grinder powered by a 299 D2 XHP Cat.

Having recently clear-cut about ten acres of trees on my ancestral home property I face some difficult decisions. The logger stacked the slashings in preparation for burning… the standard practice but esthetically ugly.

Slashing stacked for burning: [photo by Jan Jackson]

I applied to the Oregon Department of Forestry for a burn permit. The inspector counted the piles of slash (170), an estimated 700 tons of burnable material.

Burning is not a happy choice for my neighbors. Air quality suffers. The thought of seven hundred tons of greenhouse gases and particulates released into the air bothered me.

The soil suffers too. How much harm is caused is debatable.

In my younger years we cleared ground to grow strawberries… we burned stumps left by loggers in the heyday of the “cut and run” timber barons… for years after we could still see where every stump was located… our plantings would be stunted or die. Apparently the soil had been sterilized.

I am not happy with the idea of burning the slashing… polluting the air… sterilizing the soil.

A neighbor recently purchased a forestry mulcher, so he suggested an alternative option.

“Mulch the slash piles and let the organic material slowly rot into soil. It’s Nature’s way of supplying nutrients to trees.”

I have already paid the expense for having the slash stacked. Mulching is relatively expensive. Big mulching machines cost big money… operators cost big money … I’m a small forestry operator. Ten acres is a drop in the ocean of forest land. I don’t reduce costs by operating in volume. My “renewable” forest is forty years away. I will be long dead and gone.

The economics of “cut and run” are appealing. The next generation will bear the burden of what I do. I won’t be around to see another forest growing on my land, but I am around to see the piles of slash mar the scenery. I feel an obligation to use best practices, restore the forest and remove the ugly stuff.

Replanting the trees is required… that’s not an issue… removing the slash is the issue. I can mulch, burn or I can leave the piles of slash and plant trees around them. Ten years from now the piles will not be visible. Eventually the slash will rot into the ground. The nutrients will be slowly added to the soil instead of rapidly released by fire.

The question is: what is the best practice?

No one is willing to state the best practice at this point… so, what I do is up to me and my conscience.

 “Be not the first to try the new or the last to lay the old aside.” Alexander Pope

What would you do?

Stay tuned for the big decision.

Consult with Fern Hill Land Clearing About Mulching

For more information about soil nutrient chemistry Click here.

For another solution read about BioChar on CountryTravelerOnline:

Story ByLarry

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My First Jeep

I remember my first Jeep.

We… my wife and new born boy child… lived in Portland during the early 1970’s… NE 47th and Wisteria… I owned a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport… “four on the floor” and all the cockpit instrumentation of a jet airliner. I kept it garaged at night. During a home remodel session… electricians needed access to the electrical panel in the garage so that night the car was parked on the street in front of the house. The next morning it was gone.

Two weeks later city police found it… trashed…  in a secluded spot in the west hills of Portland. “Trashed” really doesn’t do justice to describe its condition. There was nothing of value on or in the car… the hulk that was left looked like it had been run over by a bulldozer. I needed a new car.

I wanted a 4WD jeep.

While growing up I had access to 4WD rigs. My dad had collected several army 4WD rigs of various sizes to supplement his logging operation… he was an experienced backyard mechanic as were most men in his generation and occupation. When I was old enough to want a car of my own, he pointed at one of the junk cars in the backyard and said: “Take it completely apart and put it back together. Then we’ll discuss your need for a car.”

I wanted a jeep… I owned several other cars first… hand-me-downs… no jeeps.

When the insurance settlement for the Chevelle arrived, I began jeep shopping.

Dad was in town to visit so we started down the list of newspaper advertisements. I found an interesting modified jeep and made an offer… when the dealer found out I lived in town he balked… said the jeep wouldn’t pass DEQ inspection… he wouldn’t sell it to me.

 I bought a jeep pickup from a private party… buyer beware… a 1965 Jeep Gladiator J 300 half ton… used and abused. I drove it around the block… shifted it through all the gears… 4WD included… it tended to jump out of second gear… a common complaint about a jeep… I didn’t spend much time in second gear, so I didn’t worry much. The jeep had been used to haul a camper in the box… the previous owner cut access panels for storage in the side of the box… welded the pieces back eventually… the jeep was rough in appearance, but it appealed to me and the price was right.

Dad suggested I bring the jeep down to the ranch where we would give it a proper inaugural lube job. He removed the lube fill plug and checked the oil level in the front differential gear box… no oil in reach of his finger and he could feel grit. We pulled the inspection plate and found the reason why. The ring gear had no teeth… polished clean… the pinion gear needed replacement too… all the debris fell to the bottom of the case which explained the grit.

After we replaced the damaged differential gears, we discovered the gear problem migrated to the transfer case… we replaced several gears there… The jeep still jumped out of second gear, so I suspected damage to the tranny as well… the tranny gears looked in good shape… so maybe not being able to maintain second gear fit the common complaint. We surmised that the previous owner must have shifted into 4WD when he bought the rig and left it there… eventually beating the gear train into silence.

The jeep was not a family vehicle… unsuitable for two adults and a child… it was my work car and play car… several years later the engine disintegrated and was pronounced permanently dead. The jeep retired to the backyard for the next 40 years and became a “parts” car for other projects.  The tranny and transfer case were sold off to someone who needed to fix their rig. The jeep collected rust, moss… more character.

1965 Jeep Gladiator J 300

My son thinks it is worthy of resurrection, so it has joined Grandpa’s Jeep in the lineup… my son’s jeep… my jeep… Grandpa’s jeep… three generations of jeep drivers.

We have a suitable engine replacement… all we need is a tranny and transfer case.

Stayed tuned for the adventure.

Story and Photo ByLarry

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Nice buck… a Large Forked Horn

“Nice buck… a large forked horn… he’s beginning the rut too… look at his neck… run little doe.”

We were watching a video we captured of Columbia Blacktail deer… buck and doe… a daytime video of the buck… unusual behavior for him…  not unusual for a doe, but the bucks prefer to hide during the day and feed at night.

The deer apparently noticed the camera… they looked directly at the camera several times.

Having recently purchased a Browning Trail Camera, the Dark Ops Pro XD, I am learning the technique of capturing wildlife videos. Browning claims this camera is “invisible” but judging from the reactions of the animals I have photographed they seem to be very aware of the camera.

The doe triggered the camera… she was on the move when the camera began recording… The doe may be escaping the attention of the buck rather than the camera, but the buck looked directly at the camera immediately and seemed nervous the entire video, glancing in the direction of the camera. I suspect both deer are aware of the camera.

The breeding season (referred to as “the rut”) for this species has just begun, evidenced by the swelling of the neck on the buck. Usually, the bucks “get stupid” during the rut, throwing caution to the winds… but this one is clearly distracted by the camera, whether it is noise or light I have not yet determined.

Look at the YouTube video of the Columbian Blacktail doe and buck and judge for yourself.

story and video ByLarry

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