Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Landy People Rock

Just for the record - I love Landy people! They completely rock.

I dashed down to town this afternoon to stock up on fruit/veg, then made a turn at my mechanic to get advice on where to have the alternator looked at (with discount for using his name), then stopped at Autozone to see if they had any new ones (no luck) - and on the way back made a random turn down a street where I thought I'd spotted an old Landy parked a while back.

Not only did I find the white S3 shorty I saw in traffic there, but also found the home of an orange 110 and a gigantic dusty orange Forward Control! The owner was out the front chatting to someone, and I asked if I could drool over his machines. Of course that led to an hour-long discussion on vehicles, a climb up into the FC to peer into the engine, some advice on wiring, and a second alternator ending up in my back seat "to try"! Only at the very end of our conversation did I remember to introduce myself... :) (And promptly forget his name - I'm terrible at things like that)

I also came away with phone numbers and names of a lot of very useful folk who have older Landies in the area - and a treasure-trove of parts, advice and help on offer. Seems the name thing is a trend though, as he didn't know the surnames of at least 2 of the guys, although they've known each other for years. Eish! Apparently there's a hell of a lot of us in the area. Even the owner of the Series I (that nearly made me crash into the car in front of me craning my neck to see it recently) lives just down the road.

Have promised I'll be back with Olivia sometime soon - and his alternator if it doesn't fit.

Yup, Landy folk are the best.

Expert? Ummm...

I look like I know what I'm doing - right? Well - generally speaking. Toolbox out, hands greasy, arms in engine, parts lying around, all that stuff.

Truth is - I'm on a huge learning curve. There's so much I still don't know, and things I'm figuring out as I go. Having a honking big manual and some online advice certainly helps a lot. But there's things I still don't understand too well, and others I'm learning only by trying. When folk get all technical, I often have to go look it up (bless you Google!). Sometimes I still won't know what they're on about thereafter, but I do know a lot more than I did 2 months ago.

Yes, I get greasy. I get things in my eyes lying underneath the engine. While down there I discover ancient wasps nests and garnered oily dirt hiding bolts. It's a whole different view from above - everything drips down, not up.

I tend to operate on the theory that if someone else can do it, there's a good chance I can too. It may take a bit of trial and error to learn, it may take me a lot longer to get it done - but I'll do it eventually.

As I mentioned yesterday - this is a journey. Of discovery, of learning, of re-prioritizing how my days evolve. Every day a little piece of knowledge gets added to the stores, and I get closer to being an Expert. In at least one thing (even if it's only how to put in an alternator, for now).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Alternate(or) Reality

Life's a journey. Sorting out a Landy is too. Both don't happen immediately or easily.

Take the Alternator issue. Seems my new battery is being worn down rather quickly and it's the alternator's fault (we think). There was a spare in one of the boxes, so I started to haul the old one out. It's now taken 3 days!

You see, I started it on the weekend (along with a couple other odd jobs), then realized the bolts were too tight to move. So sprayed on something to loosen them up and left them to soak. Next day - rain! No chance to work.

Today, by some fluke of luck, we were given the afternoon off. And the rest of the afternoons this week. So back to the alternator I went. And this time the bolts moved. Yay! Got it out, compared it to the new one... and noticed a couple of fitting issues. So I spent the entire afternoon fiddling with connections between bolts and holes, trying to find a way to both fit it in, and get it into a position where the fan belt runs straight and tight enough.

So far no luck. Darn. Along with trying, I also sat and looked at it, lay underneath and looked at it, stood and looked at it, and then also sat on a jerrycan and thought. These things take time, you see! :)

But there's tomorrow. I can always get it right then. And will also be making a turn past some folk who can check out the old one for me to quote on reconditioning or replacing (as a spare).

In the meantime the kid says I smell of fuel and oil again... :) He'd better get used to it! That's the scent of the journey.

A woman's place

I've noticed something interesting in the last 2 months. I've been involved in a number of 4x4 enthusiast forums online, and there's an oh-so-subtle undercurrent that I've picked up.

I seem to be one of the few women owners, and certainly the only one who gets her hands into the engine (apparently). The boys are more than happy to help out with info and such now and then - the boys on one forum that is. On another forum it's a different story. I could say something worthwhile - contribute to the conversation - and there's a few guys that will immediately dismiss my view, put me down and move on, or ignore me completely.

Seems a woman's place, in the offroad world, is not in the driver's seat! At least according to some.

I don't think they realize they're doing it. Maybe subconciously they feel I'm stepping on toes, infringing on the male world of outdoor rough and tumble, worming my way into that beer circle around the braai-grid - where male bonding happens, where men are the providers, the protectors, the Makers of Fire. And women are relegated to potato salad and kids duty in the background.

I thought it was my imagination at first. That I was reading things in to sentances, making moutains out of molehills. Granted, I'm still learning - I may get it wrong sometimes, and I do more reading than talking because of that. But it's happened nearly every time I've opened my virtual mouth, it can't be just in my head. So I've taken to saying little or nothing on that particular forum - just to be safe. I thought that kind of thing went out the window years ago. But maybe old habits die hard. Still trying to figure it out myself.

And this ain't a rant - just an observation. :) I'm not unsubbing in protest or any such weird stuff. I'm learning how the guys see things, and adapting so I don't step on any toes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Driving Ms Livi

Imagine, if you will, sitting in a tank. All you can see out the front is a limited horizon framed by two small glass windows, some of which is used up by a spare tyre on the front. A portion also being consumed delicately by a woven dream-catcher hanging from the rear mirror. You can't see much out the sides - right next to you is yet another small plate of sliding glass, the aft windows are plated up and you forgot to adjust the side mirrors before you climbed in. The back view is half-blocked by a big spare wheel. That's what sitting in Olivia is like.

Add in a very upright sitting position and not much leg room to work pedals - but gears that sometimes require quite a reach to the left, especially the elusive Reverse. A seatbelt of the solid old variety - it doesn't retract, you fling it over the back of the seat or down the side when not in use. No extra cushioning, no plush carpeting, no moulded-to-body seating (and there are only 2 seats) - this is one vehicle made for durability and practicality. You climb up-and-in, not sink down-and-in (especially if you're around 5ft5 as I am).

Now, along with your shrunken view and bolt-upright high-view stance, surround yourself with a big engine and a ton or two of bodywork, and you may start to imagine what driving Ms Livi is like.

However, words cannot convey the unique Landy smell of oil, fuel and dust. Nor the sound of an engine roaring to life. The leaf-springs and shock absorbers ("absorbers" being somewhat of a misnomer, as you do feel every bump) articulating what the road beneath your wheels is doing. The feel of weight moving up a hill and momentum-in-weight going down (hoping the brakes are sufficient to the task - trusting they are).

The first time I drove her I wondered if I would be equal to the task. I was still learning the gears, testing the controls, figuring out the levers and knobs, finding my way around power play and braking distance, gigantic turning circle and steering wheel nearly as large. There were things rattling around all over, guages to decipher, wideness and length to judge.... That first drive in a different vehicle does take some doing! I've always been one to tune in completely to what a vehicle does - it's small sounds, little movements, the "talk" below the noticeable. Some need more listening than others to know their throbbing hearts.

But as I've sat with her, and driven here and there (no long trips until I check one or two things through), and discovered her secret hiding places, found what makes her go (and stop) - I've realized we're going to get along just fine. More than fine. Driving her is a pleasure. An adventure. Nothing to fear, in spite of her size and weight. The more I learn about how she operates, the deeper she works herself into my life.

So I'm driving Ms Livi. Olivia is getting out and about. I'm tuning in - and now that I've adjusted the mirrors, who cares about the limited view. I can see all I need to, the rest is pure instinct. Melded to machine, and off we go.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Of Fuel and Filters

It wasn't easy getting Olivia home. When I bought her, she was sitting in Joburg, 1,500km away. And once I'd found transport, she wouldn't fit on the carrier! But eventually she arrived in Cape Town and a friend took me through to get her.

It was a mission to get her started, as the batteries (both of them) were "pap", but once she was going it was OK. Except....

About 10km from home she suddenly died! Happily puttering along and suddenly there was nothing. Fortunately the friend (who was driving behind me) knows things about cars. We jump-started her (for the third time), or at least tried to. Still nothing - sounded a bit like fuel starvation. So out came the Big Tow Rope (see her pic 2 posts below) and off she went. Towed by a Hyundai - but heading forward at least.

We tried another start near home before we took on the mountain I live on. Still no luck, so up we went - all ton or two of her, loaded to the hilt with ammo boxes, equipment and such, hoping the tow rope would hold. We made it to near home where just a short tow was left, but my friend was unsure he had sufficient traction to get her up the last, worst hill. So there she stood. Fortunately another guy dropped by with his Landy (to drool at mine), and we managed to get her right to my place with a bit of effort.

And then came the search-and-fix part. After a lengthy chat to the previous owner, it was time to check out the fuel filters. And the pic in this post is what I found! She has two filters, this one being an "extra" in-line one, and it was literally clogged with mud. The engine-bay one was also quite filthy. Out they came, replacements in (another learning curve - fuel tends to drip out of engine-bay filters once you loosen the bolt at the bottom... and washing one's eyes with fuel is not a good thing), and she finally started! YAY!

While chatting to the previous owner, I'd sorted out which tank belonged to what guage/lever, so now most of the fuel stuff is worked out. She has 3 tanks - a total of 175 litres (though I've been warned not to over-fill one of them). The fuel pump ticks along happily on start-up, so we're getting there!

Step one in getting to know the Landy / getting the hands dirty completed. And this fuel filter saved for historical purposes... perhaps I should frame it! :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Meet Olivia!

Our newest member of the family is a 1978 Series III Land Rover called Olivia! She's had quite a few adventures already, having travelled all the way from South Africa to Ethiopia, and a good few places in between. She's one awesome beast.

Adventures start here...