Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to use up a day

Nothing in Olivia is ever fast.  Here's how to use up an entire day in and around Cape Town.

We have a nifty little device called an FM Protector - it's not only a tracking device, but also does some pretty fancy telling of information like whether you've hit something or not :-)  With Olivia's speedo still awaiting re-installation (scratch that - we have a "new" one that's waiting to go in after the old one conked), we've had to find other ways to determine distance and speed.  This is it.  I can grab a map of where we've been, as above, or print out a summary of distance travelled - and then get horrified at how few kms we've covered vs fuel paid for...  See maximum speed achieved, whether your battery is holding charge, any funny incidents on the way - and all of it viewable via a live web interface in case Favourite Man wants to stalk me from home base and check where I'm at (in case I need to collect something nearby).

Nevertheless, today's travels were many, wide, and varied.  We saw opposite ends of Cape Town, some pretty cool sights, and spent the day trundling around meeting interesting people and collecting interesting e-waste.  And yes, it took the whole day because we're in a 35 year old Land Rover that doesn't break any speed records, not even downhill with a tail wind.

But hey, we did it in Olivia.  And that's very, very cool.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


They say those who refuse to learn from history will be destined to repeat it...

Today I did so - and also came close to making history!

You see, I almost set Olivia on fire.

Post-engine-swap, we discovered Olivia's big spare back battery (truck size) was kaput, and it's come out leaving a battery box with insulated terminals lying loose, ready to pop in a new one.  While we were at it, we took out the bits that hold the battery in place and had them re- sandblasted and galvanized, as they were looking a bit grotty.

Now truck batteries are pricey, and thus far we simply haven't been able to afford a replacement.  So we've been travelling and doing all our electrics off the front main battery while those insulated terminals lie quietly in the back battery box.

Today Favourite Man and I had a bit of a tour of Cape Town planned for business purposes.  We got through a good few appointments before we had to load up Olivia with old computers.  One of which I put in the battery box so nothing else would fall in and short things out..*

5km down the road Olivia suddenly started jerking, something smelt like burning electrics, and then we started seeing smoke...!  Panic stations, everyone out.  Favourite Man grabbed the keys and headed for the fire extinguisher at the back - and then shouted "the fire's here!".  At the same time I was heading toward the bonnet, next in line for the keys to unlock it, shouting "the fire's here!"

Yup, that computer had positioned itself perfectly on top of the terminals, shorting out the live one onto the bodywork and metal computer case - causing a chain reaction all the way up to the engine bay, where one terminal of the battery was peacefully starting to smoke...

Oh crap.  In a word.

Everything checked and disconnected, computer REMOVED from battery box by Favourite Man, attempt at re-insulation without insulation tape (now inserted into vehicle for any future needs), and I gingerly turned the key.  She started.  Sjoe.  We limped to our appointment a few hundred metres away, then made an executive decision to cancel the rest of the day's stuff and head home.  Carefully.

On the way Favourite Man did some MacGyver stuff with a plastic Coke bottle to keep the live terminal off the metal of the truck, removed appropriate relays, and admonished me properly.

We were very lucky this time.  No fire engines or insurance claims were involved.  We may, however, need to replace the battery as it doesn't seem to be holding charge like it did earlier today.

And history repeating itself?

See here, here and here.  One would think I'd learn my lesson hey!


* Disclaimer.  Just because I can.  I honestly thought those wires at the back were dead, insulated beyond doing anything like this.  I'd seen things fall across terminals before when the back battery was in and uncovered, leading to sparks and horrible stuff, and in my inifinte wisdom had thought putting something IN the box would prevent anything else FALLING in.  Needless to say, the sooner I get a plank or other cover over there for the short-term the better...