With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

An awfully long drive just to sit on a couch

2011 December 13 00:21

I took a road trip this weekend (including Monday) bewteen two weeks of training. I drove 526 miles up and 538 miles back today. It seems like a long way to drive just to sit on a couch.

Getting on I-39 where it begins at Bloomington. Driving dead north--NOW we're getting somewhere!

There are a couple of big wind farms along I-39 in northern Illinois. Here's a side shot. The camper is a random occurence; the "bend backwards" stance amuses me. I presume it's because of the way the camera raster-scans the image.

For quite a while here, it looks for all the world like the road is goin to go between those two wind turbines, like the Gates of Argonath from the Lord of the Rings.

But the road turns eventually.

Some closer shots of turbines:

This is either a Unicycle built by B.S. Johnson of the Discworld novels, or else a new power line pillar with wheels for running the new wires.

I love the mural on the back of this truck.

In Wisconsin, I-90, 94, and 39 run together for a while. I-39 continues to the north, but I branch off to the west with I-94 to head towards Minneapolis/St. Paul.

It's been cold farther north. There's still snow on the ground.

And finally, at the end of the drive up, here's the river as I cross into Minnesota. Yay!

The primary reason for going on this trip was to surprise my brother by showing up to his 30th birthday party. Here's photographic evidence. I'm on the left, my brother Dave is on the right. Would you trust your computer to these guys?

The other reason I went was I visited Chippewa falls Monday (today). One of my stops there was the Chippewa Falls Museum of Science and Technology, which contains an extensive exhibit of vintage Cray hardware.

I'm sitting on serial number 1 of the Cray 1 Supercomputer. The computer parts are in the tall cylindrical section behind and above me. The wider part, that I'm sitting on, houses the power supplies. It was awesome seeing this museum. The early Cray systems defined the very idea of a Supercomputer, and were marvels of engineering and computing design. (At the left of the picture is a display with three floppy disks illustrating how storage has gotten bigger over time.)

The end-of-trip obligatory speedometer shot.

I bought this car just about exactly 2 1/2 years ago, and I've already put almost 55,000 miles on it. In a bit over 5,000 miles from now, it will have passed even the extended warranty that I bought for it.

Mooney panorama

2011 December 06 23:15

I went to Kerrville, Texas in October for the annual convention of the Mooney Aircraft and PIlot's association. A lot of folks flew into the convention. The Kerrville airport closed one of the runways and used it for parking space.

On Saturday afternoon, a few people took a van out to the airport to drop off logguage and stuff. I tagged along. These pictures are fun; you don't usually get to shoot photos while standing on a runway.

A panorama:

And the panorama larger.

But its not even a Volkswagen!

2011 December 06 04:08

I have a post about a car, that's not mine and not even a Volkswagen! I rented it on a recent trip to the San Antonio area and I have to say I was intruiged and impressed. The car was a Chevy Malibou, which is not certainly not a car that I would gravitate to, but I picked it with my usual Zen method of car picking. It wasnt' even the model that I'd picked when I did the paperwork, but that's what I ended up with.

The first thing, which was surprising and neat, is that it was so quiet. I think it's close to the quietest driving car that I've ever ridden in. It was just whisper-quiet. I liked the way it drove...it was nice and smooth.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. The car's intstrument panel was...different than any I've driven before. The numbers come from lights inside the dash, and aren't illuminated when the car is off; then the dials are just blank:

When you turn on the key, the dial nuumbers slowly fade in, like this:

where you can see the numbers are still dim. And here the self-test is done; the numbers are fully bright.

Oh, and it has a USB jack on the radio for power:

And I have to say--I've always liked the status displays that tell you that you've just engaged the cruise control:

Aaaaaaaand...if that wasn't neat enough, the dash status display will give you the pressures in the tires. Awesome!

What do your eyes see?

2011 December 04 06:42

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. I keep having these grandiose ideas of the really groovy stuff I want to blog about, but then I don't have the time to edit up the nice photo set, so the post gets delayed, and I don't write the post. I have trips in October and November that I have lots of photos that I want to document. Several interesting posts about airplanes and one about cars coming up.

One quick on that the pictures are ready for. I flew to a conference in Seattle early in November. On the way back, from SEA to ATL, I photographed this unique-looking river-convergence. Note the airport marked with green dots:

I didn't have my iPad along on this trip, but I figured that this formation of rivers, town, and airport had to be fairly unique.

It turns out that I was flying over "little Egypt", which is the very southern tip of the state of Illinois. Here's that same spot on the sectional on the screen of my iPad:

The town is Cairo (pronounced "kay-row", by the way). I find it often tough to figure out where you are when you're looking at stuff from an airliner, but this time I got lucky and managed to figure it out.

Defrost Coming Soon

2011 December 01 13:22

The Beetle's running great. I haven't assembled a second carburetor yet, but other than that my set up spare parts is getting close to done. Once that's done, I'll start working on taking it out on longer trips.

The heat's working great. I haven't measured it, but I suspect that driving down the highway I can get a 30 degree F differential above the outside temperature. To slightly imprive that, one of the things I need to do is get the rest of the air handling stuff finished in the front end in the luggage compartment. I worked on the gas tank a bunch last summer, and I really never got the rest of the trunk stuff re-assembled.

While I get a lot of heat out of the engine, the worst thing you can have in a forced-air system is an open exit that doesn't go anywhere useful. Most of the air tends to leak out there and mostly not go where it's supposed to. Right now, on each front side of the car, two of the defrost hoses are hooked up, but not all three:

What's missing are the vent assemblies that go from the vent box in the middle top of the trunk area to the dashboard vents. Fortunately, I was able to find the vents in their box that's been sitting around the garage for a year and a half.

There's a box at the top of the luggage compartment that takes outside vent and pipes it into the dash vents. It has valves to turn that air circulation off, or a fan to blow the air if you're sitting still. The fat tubes (blue dots) on the sides of the vents connect to the air box. The end slots connecto the dash board and put air out into the passenger compartment (green dots). The reason to connect these up for winter is that the remaining defrost hoses also connect to the vents (red dots).

There's going to be salt on the roads soon, so I don't know that I'll really get to driving it much more than I already have until spring rolls around again. However, this coming year, I should be able to start seriously using it and taking driving load off of my new Beetle. There aren't any significant maintenance items that are upcoming. The only one that I really should do soon is to lubricate the CV joints on the drive shafts, and that's something that can be done one at a time, fairly non-invasively. It's just messy.