Friday, April 25, 2008

Up and Down

Olivia is pretty impressive for a 31 year old truck.

This morning early we had to do a quick dash up a mountain (all in a day's work) in heavy mist before work. Last time I handed over the steering wheel to Favourite Man as soon as we hit the dirt. This time I went up the easier bit until the first very steep slope before exiting the driver's seat. And Olivia just kept going and going and going.

OK, maybe I approached some of the ruts at the wrong angle. We "got air" once as the back tyres spun briefly. But she does make it look easy sometimes. She may be slow and ponderous, but the engine does pull nicely.

Perhaps soon I'll even get up the confidence in her capabilities to try the Scary Hill all on my own. I may ask Favourite Man to step outside and well away though, just in case I don't get it right and we roll.... Wouldn't want him tossed around!

(We did have a bit of a scare at the top of the worst hill when she popped out of 4-wheel drive briefly. Eish. That plus temperamental brakes is not a good thing.)

Heading back down we passed a Forward Control on its way up. Landies definitely rule that lump of rock.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


A few months ago I gave Olivia an oil change. By mistake I put oil meant for diesel engines in her, instead of the petrol engine oil. Total and utter blonde day! But, as it was a rather large financial investment's worth of oil, we thought we'd go with it and see what happened.

Meantime, a thread on the Land Rover UK Forums mentioned diesel oil and petrol engines, so of course my virtual ears pricked up and I kept an eye on it. All sorts of fascinating info came out.

For one thing, diesel oil has scrubbers and cleaners in. You'd think this would be a very good thing - but perhaps not in an old Series engine. You see, sometimes a build-up of stuff helps protect the engine components (not a HUGE build-up, mind) - and scrubbing it off changes the entire way the engine functions. You start with a low compression engine, add a cleaning oil - and the compression may plummet further! You might also risk exposing problems that had been happily non-problematic under the gunge, or loosen up stuff that could damage the engine when it starts to circulate.

I've noticed the oil has gotten blacker quicker - so there is some cleaning going on in there. Also seems to need topping up regularly, but that's par for the course on a Landy. If it's not dripping oil, you don't have any.

I know these old engines are built to run on just about anything. They're made tough to deal with tough conditions, but they do still need love and attention, a careful eye to make sure they're functioning optimally. Choosing the right oil for the job is part of that.

Olivia has been going OK, as Olivia generally does. I haven't picked up any really big issues with a different oil going through her system. But I won't be diesel-oiling her petrol engine again, just in case. I'd much rather give her optimal ingredients to handle the roads she travels than take a chance.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Note to Commuters

Your need to beat me to the next traffic light with a roar of engines does not encourage an increase in speed on my part. We'll all get there at the same time anyway and I'm not putting foot to conform to your ideas of the speed limit.

Likewise, should you choose to travel in the slow lane, do not attempt to move me to the yellow line by flashing your lights, gesturing or otherwise being rude. There's a fast lane for fast cars - get into it.

If I do happen to move over and drive in the yellow line (for your convenience), it would be nice to have some sort of thanks or acknowledgement for my troubles. Also, if I indicate to get back into normal traffic to avoid a collision with a cyclist, broken down car, pedestrian or tractor transporting grapes - don't speed up and try cut me off. Be nice, be considerate, and don't make me slam on brakes until you have the chance to push past.

You may have petrol to burn in your tanks, and thus be able to ignore speed restrictions and logical gearing behaviour. I do not - I will travel at the most fuel-efficient speed for my truck, which happens to be the general 60km/hr speed limit you should be keeping to anyway. If you want to speed, don't try involve me in it.

My bumper is bigger and stronger than your plastic decorative one. You will come off second best if you cut me off. If you need to know why, you're welcome to join me for a brakes test in Olivia. Ditto for creeping up the exhaust pipe. That rear crossmember will slice your bonnet in half without feeling a jot.

You do not own the road. Driving at speed and swerving between cars is not cool. But then again, there's generally natural selection applicable to your type... Pity it usually has to involve innocent fellow-travellers and crumpled metal.

In conclusion, all I ask is that you be considerate to your fellow commuters, and if you're in a Landy - for goodness' sake wave back.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Olivia is not your average smooth rider. She's a Leafer, and her reconditioned leaf springs are bouncy.

I've noticed it lately on a particular section or two of road where there are the smallest corrugations or uneven bits in the surface. If you hit them at the right speed - which is generally the reasonably-slow speed Olivia's going - you generate a "wave" effect. As you bounce up and down, you hit the next one which keeps the bounce going! Throw in a high seat box with straight up and down padding, and you look like you're on a trotting horse in the driver's seat.

A while back I was trying to explain the feel of the ride to my boss. "Oh," she said, "I guess that's like when I put my car in Sport Mode and feel the bumps". Um.. no. Not exactly. I may have to give her a lift sometime to illustrate the difference.

There are many that look down their noses at Leafers in favour of the comfortable ride of coil springs. Yes, it's nice not to feel every bump in the road, but hey - this is a Series Landy, and feeling bumps is what it's all about. However, I recently had a passenger with a full bladder on board and I don't think he appreciated the effect! :-)

That's Series Landies for you. They chug along slowly, they bounce, they bump - but they go. Generally speaking. Which is really all you need out of a vehicle anyway.

Of course Olivia is the exception to the rule - which is why new shocks are on the must-get list. :-)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Woman's Place

I know the facts, but now and then I'm still gobsmacked that in this day and age women are still shunted to the side of the campfire.

Take the manly world of 4x4 ownership, for instance. OK - I'm not your average Land Rover driving woman. For one thing, I drive a difficult bitch of a beast that is constantly threatening mutiny. For another, I don't particularly mind getting my hands dirty or my head around her issues.

Which is why I had greasy short nails and ingrained muck for a couple of months recently. And why I hardly ever wear fancy clothes when driving my Landy - you never know when you might need to get into the engine or under the chassis to check something out, which is basically impossible when you're in satin and high heels.

I'm not an expert - I'm far from an expert - but experience has taught me a thing or two about Series Landys (with Favourite Man's help, and the advice of some other very wise folk online and offline). And I'm still learning.

But now and then a situation comes along where I do know a thing or two, having been there, done that. Where I'm in a position to give a spot of advice, having found the easiest and most effective way of doing something.

Yet as a woman I'm in the minority. I'm not meant to know things. I'm probably supposed to be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen", making the salads - not braaing the proverbial meat.

Time and time again I've found that sharing my knowledge leads to it simply being ignored. I can give long and detailed explanations, spout forth on the whys and wherefores of what someone else needs to know - but it's brushed away as the men get their word in, and their opinions get acknowledged.

Most times I simply shrug it off as "that's the way things are". I'm used to it. I'm accustomed to being ignored. But every so often it simply gets to me. And then I go blog. :-)

Dirty Girl

Olivia is not the cleanest of vehicles at the moment. She's been up a mountain twice in the last two weeks, a very dusty dirty mountain, in a manner which generated a coating of brown everywhere.

Add in early morning dewiness on the windscreen and bodywork, and she does not look at all good!

But there's a dilemma raging over this one.

Landies should look like they're doing Important Things, shouldn't they? Too clean and you're tempted to say "oh look, another bloke who likes to think he's tough, but his vehicle never goes off tar". Too dirty, and it looks like you don't care for your truck.

So Olivia's sitting at a bit of a semi-happy medium right now. Dusty - yes. But not so dirty that you can't see she's blue. Pity the windows can be a bit hard to see out of early in the morning against the rising sun.

I think my dilemma may be solved for me tomorrow. There's a massive cold front with lots of rain apparently on the way. I've sat at work watching the clouds moving in over the mountains, ever lower and thicker. By tomorrow it's going to not only be sleep-in weather, but Olivia may get a natural rinse-off standing around outside.

I only hope the wind decides to blow from all directions equally so she's thoroughly cleaned, and doesn't end up with everything sparkling except her downwind butt...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Celebrity in the House

Favourite Man has been published! One of the awesome things he made for Olivia the Landy is featured in this month's Land Rover Monthly magazine, with the photos he took of the process. Quite co-incidentally, the final page faces an ad for a commercial cubby box that looks completely inefficient next to his strong and sturdy one. :-)

I'm so proud of him I could burst. Go FaveMan!

(cross-posted to ...seekingserenity)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


There I was, happily chugging through town on the way to work with a grin on my face, when Olivia sighed. I pulled over and revved her, and she was OK. A half-kilometre down the road she sighed again. This time I headed down a side street to check things out, as I don't fancy being stuck in the middle of commute traffic on a road with no shoulder space and taxis speeding by!

Well, in the process of checking things, I tapped the fuel guage. And, instead of the wonderful fuel consumption I had been getting, the just over quarter tank that should last me another two days, the guage plummeted and hit zero.

Oh dear.

Well I trundled back slowly toward town (mostly in neutral, to the irritation of a gold-bedecked woman in a BMW behind me that obviously had a fuller tank than I did), parked up behind the library, drew a few bucks half way through town, and walked to the end of Main Road to get a couple of litres of petrol. The only other fuel stop in town seems to be closed for repairs. From there it was home to phone work and tell them I'm on my way (cellphone is currently not happy) - and then back to the petrol station to feed the hungry beast once more.

On to work, slowly. The less petrol I burn the better... which is a mission with the hills I have to conquer daily.

Olivia's called the "petroldief" (petrol thief) by Favourite Man. Today it's a name she definitely deserves.


Monday, April 14, 2008


I've mentioned how night driving Olivia keeps me on my toes and on edge... but what I haven't mentioned is the day-to-day frights she likes to give me.

Take this morning, for instance. I was in to work a bit later than usual after having some business to take care of elsewhere, and as I arrived and parked I noticed something dripping out of the wheel arches and off the rock sliders onto my parking place. Oh no, now what!

Drips usually mean a trip to the parts shop, once you've found what essential item has deigned to break without warning. And the very last thing I need now is another Landy parts trip.

So there I was in my work clothes on hands and knees, peering under the truck and trying to find the source of the leak. I stuck my fingers into it and smelt it - and it wasn't petrol or oil, it was water! But there's no water pipes in that area to spring leaks... what on earth IS IT????

And then I remembered. I'd just driven in through the sprayers watering the lawns outside the office gate. The road had been covered in water and I'd gotten a light misting of the windscreen that had dried by the time I got out of Olivia. But the wheels had thrown up a good deal of water from the road into the wheel arches and onto the bottom of the rock sliders - and that was now dripping off.

Sjoe. What a relief.

Right, Olivia - that's your scare for the day used up, you hear?!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Just like her human, Olivia is not fond of getting up and going to work in the dark. But the seasons are changing so rapidly lately that she's had to put on her lights when she leaves, and sometimes even gets to use her fog lights!

Of course, with the onset of colder weather, she's not only trying to be difficult by starting with effort - but she decided it's time for the fan/heater switch to break and the heater tap to stick closed.

Yes, my Series III has a heater - and it's not just engine heat through the firewall. It's a proper fan setup that uses water circulated from the radiator via an inline screw thing that's either open or closed, so once the engine starts to warm up you have warmth literally on tap!

Well, first chill in the air and suddenly she goes cold on me. The switch we thought was such a good one gets all loose and simply stops functioning! True to form, it's just before the weekend so little Ms Attention Monger can get her fair share of fiddling in. The switch we had lying around isn't a two-speed one, nor is it a perfect fit - but it's fitted. The sticking heater tap in the pipe from the radiator has been loosened by Favourite Man and is letting warmth through. Just have to remember to keep it closed tomorrow when we have a sudden blast of hot day.

Now all we need to sort out is the darn windscreen wiper on the driver's side. Before it starts raining in earnest...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Adventure with a purpose

A post on one of my email forums recently has lodged itself in the "adventure" braincell in my head and started to use up a significant portion of my imagination's RAM.

There's a few blokes heading off on a 4x4 trip to Botswana, which is nothing new. Guys go places every weekend! But these guys are going to "find the Lost City of the Kalahari" as mentioned in 1883, sought for by Allan Paton, and brought to life in a Wilbur Smith novel.

OK, so they probably won't find it. Scientists and expeditioneers have sought it in vain, and zooming around in Google Earth yields nothing. But still - what a good excuse for a trip to the desert!

And that got me thinking. Too often our road trips and our away-treks involve simply going to somewhere and then coming back again. We may have mini-adventures along the way by accident, or take in some sights, or do the tourist thing in parts unknown, but we've lost that sense of "let's go find new lands!" that started the whole itchy feet characteristic generations ago, and which today makes some of us squirm at our deskjobs.

Look at guys like Livingstone, or more recently David Attenborough. They went on quests to find the different, the unexplored, the unknown - and experience one hell of an adventure in the process.

So perhaps we can't all grab National Geographic Society funding, or get the BBC to back up our travels. But there are places and purposes that we all too often ignore in favour of just "going somewhere".

Me, I think it's time to get a different mindset going for Olivia's travels. Even if it means chasing after a legendary city or lost habitat. ESPECIALLY if it means just that. It's time to recapture the sense of wonder, the search for the mysterious and the interesting. Go off the beaten track and be amazed.

Which reminds me... there's rumours of a plain of fossilized dinosaur eggs, and forgotten trade route civilizations somewhere in the Gobi Desert. There's the Mountains of the Moon with landscapes seldom seen and pockets of vegetation with undiscovered species. There's the deserted mansion in the forests of the DRC - and the strange patches of grass where the forest ends and mountains begin. There's the hidden oases in the Sahara where crocodiles thrive.

I feel a rather lengthy road-trip coming on! :-)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Landy Wave

The Landy Wave is a strange thing - and it fascinates non-Landy drivers to no end.

You see, if you drive a Landy, you are required to wave at other Landy drivers on the road. This can be done enthusiastically with big grins (as when two Series drivers cross paths), sedately and sophisticatedly (as when two men greet each other with the "man nod" - a dropping of the chin without too much smiling), or by raising a few fingers as you pass (which some reckon indicates the number of oil leaks on your vehicle to the other driver - in which case, some of us need to wave with our toes too).

But not every Landy driver seems to know the rule.

Anyone driving something newer than a 90's Defender seems to be immune to other Landy folk - or just plain stuck-up. Well, generally speaking. There are exceptions.

Then there are the 130 Double-Cab drivers - only one of whom has ever bothered to wave back, even though we're driving similarly kitted-out vehicles, with an apparent passion for the marque. But apparently not a passion for the Landy community.

There's the Disco and Freelander Moms - those who use their vehicles for kid-carry only, and who have probably never noticed that they're driving LAND ROVERS, or that some idiot in a Series III is trying to wave at them. In fact, I've only ever once had another woman wave at me...!

But I think I've figured out the problem with the non-wavers, and it's not just a single issue:

1. They may be first-time Landy owners who have no idea what the Wave Tradition is. They may simply have bought one because it serves their purpose or their image - without having a forgone passion for Land Rovers in general. (These may also be the blokes who sell them and buy Toyotas :-) ) It's a status vehicle or was a good idea at the time. There's no sense of history, and Landies definitely aren't part of the family.

2. Those new vehicles are very "cushy". You have a radio you can hear, you have soundproofing so the outside world and the engine bay don't intrude. You may have tinted windows - seperating you from the rest of the road users. You probably have comfortable seats and (dry) carpeting underfoot. So you're in your own little world, and simply don't notice passersby. Quite the opposite when you're not only trying to prevent deafness over engine noise, but going slowly enough to actually look at your surroundings as you drive.

3. It's much easier to notice a fellow-overlander with his pimped ride than a run-of-the-mill commute car - and sometimes those newer Landies do unfortunately fall into the latter category. Discos are a dime a dozen on the roads, but I have yet to see another Landy that looks like Olivia. Anywhere. She stands out, as do a few others I've seen around town, and those are the blokes who always wave.

4. There's the stuck-up problem. "I drive a better car so I'm not going to stoop to your level". This is a sure indicator that the driver is not a Landy Person, but merely a Landy Driver.

5. They could be having a bad day. Hey, it happens. You're distracted by the constant drip of rain on your accelerator foot, or you've had to push the beast out of a puddle when Lucas the Prince of Darkness struck your electrics, or you're simply concentrating really hard on maintaining your braking distance (a serious matter in most Landies). Not everyone starts to smile when they get in the driver's seat - and sometimes you'd rather be left in peace to mumble and grumble about your damn truck than acknowledge a happy Landy driver with not a care in the world.

But still - I think every Landy should come with the sticker at the top of this post, which a Landy group in the Netherlands (I think) has had printed up. Every new owner needs to be aware of the Landy Wave - before the Jeep blokes overtake us in friendliness, helpfulness and community spirit (yah.. right....).

Thursday, April 03, 2008


One of the things that attracted me to old Land Rover ownership was that this is the quintessential African vehicle - that it's been used throughout the continent and you'll always find spares for it.

Or at least that's the theory. Reality is you spend ages trying to source stuff!

Wouldn't it be nice if you could get Land Rover parts online? If you didn't have to phone the world and find a trusty supplier at a decent price, but could simply go to a central website, check the cost, order and pay online - and get the stuff the next day, delivered to your door.

Of course that's not going to happen.

For one thing, Landy parts are all too often "recycled". You find a bloke with a scrapyard, go dig through his shelves and piles of metal, and haul out a forgotten but apparently still working part to stick on your truck. Or you take a bit off someone else who is upgrading or changing things. Such is the joy of having Mecano-set vehicles. Mix & match. But this way you get something that does or doesn't work, no guarantees.

And then there's the "quick, everyone make a buck!" thing. Where, to get a proper new Landy part, you have to go via an official dealer - and what costs you 8p in the UK suddenly comes in at R40 here! With difficulty. There will be umming and aahing before you manage to squeeze something out of them. And they'll charge you exorbitant amounts simply because they know you can't get it elsewhere. Customer service? Not a priority.

Then there's the friend-of-a-friend option, who knows a good guy on the inside who has contacts with LR and can source all sorts of goodies. Usually. But he may not be able to come up with that one part unavailable from everyone else.

Hence my desire for an online site to price things (new or used), check availability, order and get. One that's cost-effective and not a rip-off. One that can source exactly what you want and get it to you without hassle. Perhaps even one where that bloke who has been stockpiling parts for years suddenly lists everything he has for the rest of us to buy.

And why do I want this? Because I am about to phone the local Land Rover dealer for parts pricing again, and we all know how that went last time.....

Photoblog: Road-trip

Olivia is looking SO good these days. This was taken on a bit of a road-trip this past weekend, way out at Rooiels (which turned out to be a nasty, nasty place).

She also got a little bit of "hill descent" in... :-)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Every now and then Olivia likes to surprise us. Just to check that we're paying attention, you know.

On Saturday evening we toddled off to Gordons Bay along the N2 in the face of a stiff wind. When suddenly the bonnet flew up! Big fright all round, and a quick pull-over to close it, then a slow drive to a safe side road to fix it. Good thing the toolbox always goes with us.

The bonnet closure is a pretty simple device. It's a pointed bolt that screws into a nut located on the other side of a lip of metal - the spring goes between nut and end of the bolt, and the point of the bolt goes down into the bodywork. Nothing overly fancy about it.

But the nut had ripped through its hole under pressure from the prevailing gale, leaving the closing mechanism down in the bodywork! Sjoe.

Well we managed to get it back in and tightened - at least Favourite Man did, at the expense of his palm which had to push the pointy bit of the bolt with force up into the bonnet again. Back home he put on an extra washer between nut and metal lip to keep it on the right side of the bonnet, and included a bit of Locktite so it won't come loose again.

We lost one of the rubber bushes that surround the bonnet hinge in the process, but I'm glad it wasn't any worse. It could have been a complete and utter disaster.

We're awake now Olivia - you don't have to try that again.