Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shake, Rattle, Roll

Roughly once a week I take a trip down a very bad road to drop off some stuff. They're fixing the road, but this is Africa - in the months that I've been doing this, they've done about 500 metres of road and are now 100 metres away from my destination. On the other side of it. Which means I still get to travel the dodgy road.

It is, quite frankly, the worst tar road I've been on. It starts out well except for an occasional sunken trench. But then it deteriorates into 1km of hell. I can see my destination from the start of the worst section - but getting there... Potholes, canyons, random uneven bits. I have to take it very slowly and aim carefully - but I still end up feeling like I've been through a tumble dryer every time with my insides shaken to jello.

A few weeks ago I had some breakables in the back - old stuff, not necessary to reach the end of the road in one piece, but preferable that they do. Two minutes into that stretch I heard a loud crack, just as I hit a hidden hole. Oops.

Two weeks ago I not only had to dodge holes, but a run-away cow too, udders swinging as she made her escape across the road into the orchard beyond.

Last week it was a fleet of small horses trying to test Olivia's bumper...


And every week without fail it takes the entire trip home for Olivia to start feeling normal again. The springs creak, the gears feel funny, there are extra rattles and I'm convinced the engine is about to drop off it's moorings.

Fortunately Pedders handed her a set of new shocks and a steering damper a few months ago. It's made a HUGE difference to the ride, smoothing it out and making general travel quite comfortable. I'd hate to think what that road would do to our kidneys without them.

Still, I really hope the roadworks guys pull finger and get a move on soon. Traveling that stretch is starting to take its toll on the both of us.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I know I'm the eternal optimist, but sometimes I take it way too far.

Like the last post here about Olivia's wonderful fuel consumption. I've been down that road before, and should have known better. The chick is a serious heavy drinker and no amount of rehab is going to cure that it seems!

The wonderful fuel consumption led to a sudden dying - yup, tank empty, fuel gauge sticking. And then it happened again, when we thought we had a quarter tank. Fortunately it was just outside the gate and my very strong Favourite Man pushed all 2 tons of Landy (and extra one ton of chick in driver's seat) through the gate and into the parking lot.

Thus it was that we started to travel with R50 of petrol in a jerrycan behind the seat.

Last weekend it was time to attack the carb again, so I hauled it out, sorted out any gasket renewals, checked float levels and o-rings, put it back in - and then the beast refused to start. All day. Meantime Favourite Man had been fiddling in the dash with wiring, fixing stuff there and rewiring the heater to the back battery, then tackling the distributor to check points gaps. When Olivia got snarky about starting, both of us dived in to check our work!

Unfortunately it ended up to be my fault - I'd over-filled the dash pot and there was too much pressure for the moving parts of the carb to lift and let fuel in. Once fixed, she started right away.

But the thing with carbs is that once they're out, then in - they need tuning. And after a week of fiddling with mix and idle speed I suspect I still don't have it right. First she was running so rich that I used up R140 worth of fuel to go 50km. And ran out as she went up the last steep hill (see "always carry jerrycan with R50 worth behind driver's seat"). Then the mix was so weak she had no power. But the fuel consumption was better. So I set it richer again. And then decided it was too rich - set it down, and she wouldn't start.

Eish. Eish indeed.

Fortunately it appears Favourite Man may have found an Expert who knows about such things. We're trying to organize a meet-up so that, once and for all, I learn how to work with the Zenith Stromberg carb. And get Olivia running spot-on.

Before I have to threaten her with a heart transplant again...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Running Wet

It's raining like crazy here in the Cape - and Olivia loves it!

She really struggles against wind, which doesn't help matters when facing a gale-force one, but give her a tailwind or none at all, stick a bit of rain about, and she's happy as... well a Landy in a mudhole!

Case in point, today's commute. I did indeed battle against the wind all the way to work, but used surprisingly little petrol doing so.

On the way back, although her windows steamed up (yay for a fan! and hot air!), although it was the usual one-man-band of wipers, heater and lights vs eye on the battery guage, she ran light as a feather, fast as she can go, easy peasy through the downpours and road-streams. Her fuel didn't even drop.

Which of course had me worried enough to open up the tank, stick my hand in and make sure the fuel float hadn't gotten stuck again... And it hasn't. She had better fuel consumption today than I think she ever has. Add in a 75c/litre DROP in fuel price last week, and I'm pretty chuffed to be driving her regularly. She is the coolest truck out.

And she does love the wet. She goes and plays on the roads when the rains come down. She holds on to the tar and seeks out the puddles to splash in.

Which makes me loathe to see winter end (eventually).

Monday, September 01, 2008

Another milestone

Two years ago Olivia arrived on my doorstep! Wow... it's been indescribable. I've learnt huge amounts, conquered hills (literally and figuratively), and gained courage to "go beyond".

Yet I still keep hitting new milestones, learning new things.

Yesterday was another. It was the first time I've driven Olivia with something attached to her tow hitch! We had a quick run into Cape Town planned to pick up a load of stuff out of someone's garage, and Favourite Man decided it was high time I learnt what trailer management was all about.

Did I feel it behind me? You betcha. Especially battling a head-wind at the tail end of the worst storm in 7 years. But hey, I drive a Land Rover, and it's got a good deal of power provided you keep it slow and steady. We hit Cape Town in a skitter of hail, worked trailer and truck into the loading area, filled 'er up then headed home again - with a tail wind this time. Brief detour along Sea Point to get spattered by sea-foam blown in on the storm front - we missed the worst of it.

All in all this trailer lesson wasn't half bad. OK, it wasn't loaded up too much - in fact most of the goods fitted into Olivia's back, with only one heavy box in the trailer. But I was pleasantly surprised that I managed turns etc with relative ease.

One more notch on the belt this morning. Millions more to go.