Gambler 500

My first Gambler 500 experience was an absolute blast. I heard it best described as a “Burning Man for Redneck, Car Nerds”. Even though Butterface, my team’s 1988 Mercedes 190E, didn’t even make it to the campsite in Chemult, Oregon, I still had a great weekend and the smiles per mile factor was through the roof. So many hilarious cars, questionable modifications, and goofy people having a good ol’ time out in the blazing hot desert.

Butterface

Purchasing and Wrenching

We bought Butterface, the 1988 Mercedes Benz 190E, from a lovely couple who were the original owners. They took great care of the car for almost thirty years, replacing the brakes, exhaust and spark plugs fairly recently. Sadly last October the car was in a front-end collision, so they sold it to us. We did all kinds of work to make the car run over the next several months, including removing the smashed front end, replacing the cooling system (radiator, fans, pipes, etc.), replacing the wheel hub on the driver’s side front, installing a CV radio, re-installing the interior panels and finicky seat belt, disabling the 30-year-old airbag so it didn’t explode in our faces driving off-road, the list goes on. We made some good modifications and some bad, but photos speak better than words here:

The Day Of

It’s the day of the rally, spirits are high, and high-fives are higher. We start the day by backing Butterface straight into the Doge (later renamed Dust Lord) in true Top Gear style.

We hit the road, heading south to Oregon City to pick up an OHV pass for the Doge. Things were going great, Butterface wasn’t running too hot, and we passed a few hilarious Gambler-mobiles.

Shortly after leaving Oregon City we heard a metallic thud, and my co-pilot (driving Butterface at the time) noticed the front-end of the car didn’t seem quite right. We initially thought something had gotten stuck in the brakes, as there was a metallic squeeling, rubbing sound so we pulled over in a brewery parking lot (sorry!) and took the front driver’s side wheel off. We didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, everything was still attached, brake pads looked fine, nothing obviously broken. So we threw the wheel back on and hit the road heading south on 99E. Well, just a few miles further down the road there was a very loud bang, and metal shooting out of the wheel of our car. Turns out the wheel bearing (at least the outer) had seized, failed and the pressure had exploded the dust cap and Mercedes logo disc off the car and across 3 lanes of traffic! We quickly pulled the shuddering car over, smoke pouring from the front driver’s side wheel. Little did we know at the time, this smoke was the outer wheel bearing metal fusing to the hub shaft. More on this later.

We limped Butterface to a nearby Napa Auto Parts store in Canby and the super helpful staff there found us the necessary bearings, grease, and a paper cup which we intended to fashion into a dust cap because surprise surprise, Napa doesn’t stock one for a 30 year old Mercedes. The Doge boys were getting hungry, and we knew how to repair the car at this point, so they hit the road and we found a Safeway parking lot to get to work. A few police-folk came by to make sure we weren’t dealing drugs and that we had enough water. All good, just a broken, unsafe to drive car ūüôĀ

We tore off the wheel, moved the brake rotor + caliper out of the way, and started pulling at the wheel hub. But low and behold, it’s stuck solid. We wrenched at it with every tool at our disposal but couldn’t get it off. We decided to see if we could limp it home, so we put it all back together again, drove it around the block and very quickly decided we probably wouldn’t make it home, so we called for rescue from my co-pilot’s wife and dumped the car on a quiet side street waiting for pickup from a local scrapper. And so our dreams of jumping a 190E over sand dunes ended, R.I.P Butterface.

The Event

My co-pilot and I ended up driving his perfectly normal daily-driver over to central Oregon then trading it out for mother-in-law’s 1982 Jeep Wrangler. We initially had some troubles starting it (turns out gas engines don’t work without gas) but once we got it going, what a champion! It hadn’t been driven in 1.5-2 years, but it never failed us all weekend. Well except when the rear bumper mounts were completely rusted through and the hitch-mounted rack (attached to the rear bumper, because racecar) sagged its way almost completely off. Anyway, the trip to get to Gamblertown was largely uneventful after receiving the Jeep, just loud, hot, and full of laughs as various shitbox cars with rattle-canned paint jobs followed us down the road.

Gamblertown, USA. What a wild place. This year’s event took place at, what I can only assume was an active, pumice mine. Cool right? Well, not really cool, just DUSTY. Incredibly dusty, to the point that my throat and lungs felt like I had smoked 10 packs a day for my entire life. Touring the array of Gambler-mobiles made me forget that I couldn’t breathe though.

We awoke the next morning dusty, scratchy, and excited to thrash around off-road with our new found friends. We hit the road, and it didn’t take us long to find other Gamblers off the side of a road in a pretty large sand dune pit cutting cookies, jumping dunes, and doing other dumb shit. We were so down. Too eager in fact, as we got both of our vehicles stuck in the soft sand, and had to rely on our new friends to tow us out, one with a F250 and the other with a hand-held electronic wench. After being rescued we watched a hilarious crew in a bone stock, Martini Racing liveried Toyota Sienna jump a dune and almost plow into an old Land Rover. Oops!

We carried on exploring the area which, by the way, is FULL of ATV trails, forest roads, washboard-y gravel roads, and other prime places for off-roading. Highly recommend the Deschutes National Forest area around Chemult and La Pine, Oregon.

Near the end of the day our two-vehicle squad lost each other, and decided to call the Gambler weekend quits on our own accords due to the incredible amount of dust and dirt in our lungs, and general exhaustion from wrestling cars around off-road in 90 degree heat all day. The Gambler 2018 was a huge success. I had a great time learning more about car mechanics, doing dumb stuff in the forest, and having out with my fellow car nerds.

What’s Next?

Preparations for next year

What to bring for next year, in order of importance:
1. more reliable car
2. two-way radios
3. respirator and/or mask
4. bug spray
5. tow and ratchet straps, and more bungie cords
6. another pair of shorts (its so dusty out there!)
7. a hand-held electronic winch, or one on the car that A) works and B) we know how to use
8. sun screen

Gamblerwagon++

Requirements for our next ride include:
1. not in a front-end wreck
2. able to drive it when we buy it (running)
3. higher availablility of parts (buy something less German, and newer)
4. manual transmission so I can learn to drive one better
5. all-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
6. something we can ideally keep for more than one year, and build upon. And also use for more than just the Gambler

So in short we’re thinking a late 90’s / early 00’s Subaru wagon of sorts, with a raise, chunky tyres, light bar and a full length roof rack. To be continued…

Missing Emojis

Here’s an ongoing list of emojis that I wish were part of the Unicode standard

  • zombie or walking dead
  • blushing face that isn’t a smile with a slight blush
  • hug that doesn’t look like two high-fives

Perfectly Normal Cars

I was driving to work a while back¬†and came across three of what I think are the¬†best looking “normal” cars (read: normal cars as not sports cars) in one 15 minute drive…

  1. Ford Fusion (Americas Gen2: 2013-2015…): Aston Martin grille

    (Image: Wikipedia)
  2. Mazda 6 (Gen1: 2004-2008, Gen3: 2011-2015…):

    (Image: Wikipedia)
  3. Dodge Dart (2012-2015…):

    (Image: Wikipedia)

I’ve actually driven a Dodge Dart, not bad at all for a normal economy car. Would have been more fun in manual, the auto had a bit of a mind of its own…

Sangean WR-22

Wow it has been a long time since I’ve posted on here, oops! Anyway, today I’m going to give my initial impressions of my new Sangean WR-22 bluetooth FM radio / alarm clock. I purchased it so that I could be awoken to music in the morning (or news, depending) rather than the super obnoxious “beep beep” of my old buzzer-alarm clock. Much more pleasant to wake up to!

Pros:

  • sound quality is great for only having one speaker, a little bass heavy but that can be adjusted
  • setup is pretty easy with the menu and spinning tuning dial for selection, however turning on and off an alarm (say for a day you have off work, or don’t have a set wake up time) is kind of a pain
    • you have to scroll through all the alarm settings to turn it back on again, as if you were setting up a new alarm for the first time. no quick toggle to turn on/off a saved alarm
  • easy to read screen, button layout pretty simple and well labeled
  • looks sharp and modern, but not too over the top. Top and front pieces on black model appear to be glossy painted metal, as opposed to brushed metal or coloured wood
    • might be a magnet for finger prints…
  • granularity of volume control (a pet peeve of mine) is just about right; small notches!
  • bluetooth is easy to pair, although I’ve barely used it. Haven’t used USB or Aux yet, but I’ll try those out at some point.

Cons:

  • no quick toggle to turn saved alarm on/off
  • options for screen-dimming could be more granular
  • option for leaving only clock display on constantly would be really nice for bedside alarm clock usage
  • sleep timer setting should use scrolling tuning dial instead of holding sleep button (control scheme inconsistency with other settings)
  • unfortunate that you can’t charge a USB device which using another mode, or while the radio is off (standby mode). Would be perfect for charging a phone overnight…

Best IPAs Across the 50 States

I got the idea to start this list from a Scitimes article, however I didn’t agree with a lot of the IPAs they chose (or that the rankings on sites such as BeerAdvocate chose), so here’s mine. This will be a continuously updated list as I travel to more states and try more IPAs across the country.

Alabama: Good People Hitchhiker IPA
Alaska: Alaskan White IPA
Arizona
Arkansas
California: Russian River Brewing Pliny the Elder
Colorado: Boulder Beer Company Mojo
Connecticut
Delaware: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (haven’t had a 120 yet…)
District Of Columbia
Florida
Georgia: Terrapin Hoppsecutioner
Hawaii
Idaho: Woodland Empire City of Trees
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan: Bell’s Two Hearted
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri: Boulevard Brewing Co. The Calling Double IPA
Montana:
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York: Double Take Brewing Double Take IPA
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon: Ninkasi Tricerahops
Pennsylvania: Victory Hop Wallop
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah: Uinta HopNosh (formerly Hop Notch)
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Spotify Irritations

To continue today’s theme of bitching about perfectly good things, I turn my attention to Spotify…

  1. why can’t I organize playlists? why can’t I at least view them in alphabetical order?
  2. I shouldn’t have to save an album to download it (cache it) to my mobile phone
  3. where did the queue and play history go? Those were useful, bring them back
    1. it would be especially cool if I could change the content of the right “social” panel to display the queue and play history…
  4. why can’t I collapse sections of the left panel (mainly local media…)?
  5. Spotify (desktop client) should merge the top menu bar and search bar into one, the top border and menus are just way too fat
  6. why can’t I search within a playlist? or filter anything? at least I can sort, but that’s not enough.
  7. from the desktop client (or web client), why can’t I tell my mobile phone to start caching an album/playlist/etc.? would be super nice to initiate this download from the client I’m currently using, rather than having to dig my phone out and re-navigate to what I want to cache…
    1. EDIT:¬†why is finding the option to automatically download/cache “Saved” albums to a mobile device so hard? (Walkthrough on how to do it here)
  8. can we get some more genres in the Browse “Genres and Moods” section please? Hardcore, Trance, split Indie and Alternative…
  9. feature request: seamless playback when connecting a mobile phone to a specific wireless network
    1. specifically, when my mobile phone comes within range of my home network, begin playing the song I’m currently listening to on the Spotify instance attached to my home stereo. This way I can take my headphones out and keep hearing the same song, at the same place, out of my home stereo. Might have to play the song temporarily out of both devices to ease hand-off…

VW Golf R SportWagen

While yes, the new VW Golf R SportWagen answers many car enthusiasts’ prayers for a rapid hot estate car that doesn’t blow the bank, it’s not quite perfect, for two reasons.

  1. ¬†It’s missing the most crucial ingredient: the VR6 sound track
  2. the quad exhaust tips

The first one, sadly, won’t ever be “fixed” I’m sure, due to increased pressure to attain better MPGs and decrease the impact to the environment. However,¬† I’m fed up of hot hatchbacks having dual catback exhaust with quad tips, plus it’s even more obscene on a 4-cylinder car.¬†Bring back the single catback centre-mounted exhaust damnit!

 

Fix those things, and I might consider one. Maybe…

 

Character

Firstly let me explain this, as a car person we often describe certain cars as having character, a personality, or some sort of x-factor which really sets it apart from others, as well as creates an emotional bond with its owner. This tie often isn’t entirely logical. For example, it is widely known that Alfa Romeo makes great, but generally unreliable sports cars. Somehow this trait, which would normally be seen as a negative, helps to define the character of the car, and in doing so creates a bond and a fanaticism amongst Alfa owners. The saying goes something like “You’re not a real car person until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo.”

This notion of a car’s character being partially defined by its downfalls, its foibles if you will, is something I know well with my own car and my attachment to it. The S60R has a turning radius which may as well be measured in miles, not feet. It is atrocious. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if the engineer(s) who designed the steering subsystems and chassis were fired for creating a car which is damn near impossible to drive in cities, or park in tight lots. But every time I have to do just that, and when the wheel is rubbing the inside of the wheel well, I can’t help but smile and laugh. Maybe it’s pity, maybe I just think it’s pathetic; I’m not sure. But it helps to strengthen the bond between me and my car.

Therefore, the question I would like to explore today is why do we view cars as having this character, this passion and soul, which is often defined by negative aspects or performance downfalls, but at the same time we view computers as being cold and heartless.

Let’s start at the beginning: cars boomed in this country because they symbolized freedom, and allowed owners to travel to new destinations with ease, in style and comfort. Sure, cars are tools which are used for the sole purpose of getting us from point A to point B, and that journey is most often the part of a car experience which people love the most. But at some point cars became more than just a tool, they also became a way to express oneself. Also, we generally live with and spend more time with one particular car than we do with one particular computer, since technology in the PC and mobile industries is expanding at such an incredibly rapid rate, and since cars are significantly more expensive to buy and own. So we gain more of a long-term relationship with our cars than our mobile phones for example. Also, 9 times out of 10, the effectiveness of a car both as a transportation machine and as an emotional relationship isn’t marred by the test of time. A car doesn’t necessarily become less useful as it ages, whereas a computer, again mostly due to the rapid innovation in the industry, is out of date and effectively useless just a few short years after it was shiny new. Hell, one could even put up a good argument that older cars are better than newer models because they often have more character. But that is a topic for another time.

One of the biggest ideas though, I think, is that it is never humorous when a computer doesn’t work precisely well for the task at hand, whether that be a $150 tablet, a flagship mobile phone, a $4000 gaming computer, or a massive server farm. It isn’t funny when all of the sudden Skyrim decides to freeze up after you’ve been working on a quest for over an hour, or when your term paper in Word doesn’t save properly , or your Windows PC has a “Blue Screen of Death.” But if your car decides it wants to make funny squeaky noises, or shake when you go above 75mph, or only turn over and fire up after holding they key in the ignition for more than 30 seconds, it doesn’t phase us in the same way. Just as when another human has an oddity, or a disadvantageous trait like a lisp, or a limp, we don’t automatically start yelling obscenities at them (as we would a computer), or stop being their friend.

Computers are but tools, appliances, if you will. Cars, well, they’re a little more than that. They are often created by hand by other human beings who impart some sort of magic, a little x-factor into every car they create, bringing more life into their creation and therefore making us as the driver feel more connected (both physically and spiritually) to the car. At the same time, most car people (or even non-car people) would be really sad and depressed if their car were to be heavily damaged, stolen, or wrecked. But if a stick of RAM in your computer dies? Whatever, buy a new DIMM for $30 and you’re on your way. No emotional pain or suffering required.

 

That ability to reach deep within our emotions (often through humour) as a bi-product of being significantly “closer” to other human beings, I think, is the difference between the character of computers and cars, and why we still view computers are purely lifeless tools and appliances, much more akin to a toaster than a pet or another person. If computers ever want to become as emotionally connected to humans as cars are (without getting into a computer-in-brain scenario), they need to have more characteristics of a human, more entertaining foibles, more passion, more soul.

The question now becomes, do we want that sort of relationship with a computer? Speaking for myself, I know I don’t. (Why did I waste my time writing all this then…)

Best and Worst Album Beginnings

Best

Black Label Society – Mafia

“Fire It Up”: really cool guitar at the start, slow fade in, riffs, winning. That is all.

Tool – 10,000 Days

“Vicarious”, probably the best known Tool song, and also one of their best, is a really good song to start an album. It starts slow, builds, has a monster drop, and powers through all the way into the rock greatness. Plus, the lyrics are entertaining to think about, a interesting take on humanity: “Vicariously I, live while the whole world dies. Much better you than I.”

Slipknot – Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses

This album is great for many reasons, but the key of which is that it is a great blend of slower, more melodic songs such as the first song on the album “Prelude 3.0”, then almost immediately backed up by more typical Slipknot metal thrash and excellent noise like “Three Nil” (as a side note, what’s up with this album and the number ‘3’?). “Prelude 3.0” starts calm and quiet, with some louder sections, and then fittingly ends with “and now it’s over. No!” to say “hey guess what, we’re just getting started.”

Worst

Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape

What is the first thing I want to do when I put this album on? Skip the first track and get going with “Monkey Wrench”, not only because it is a fantastic song, but also because “Doll” is a slow, relaxed start to an album that isn’t particularly slow or relaxed. Now, I’m not saying that the first song on the album should be “Monkey Wrench”, nor anything as intense, but it should get the listener excited for the rest of the album, get the blood flowing a bit. “Doll” should be at the end.

Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze

While pretty good for a slow, quiet song, “This Lullaby” really doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, especially the song that succeeds it, “Medication.” I remember thinking “did someone put the wrong disc into my CD case? This doesn’t belong at all” when I first listened to this album.

any album whose first song is called “Intro”

Come on artists of the world, you can be a little more creative than that! If your first song is an intro, either call it something, or fold it into the next song and don’t have a dedicated “Intro” track. If you have an “Intro” track on your album, I will skip it. Period.

Backends Continued…

Seriously BMW? You make some of the coolest cars on the market today (and tomorrow), including the soon to exist, and totally awesome 2015 M235i, but just can’t figure out how to make the back look like something you wouldn’t mind following (because let’s face it, you’re going to be following the M235i, it’s going to be mighty quick).

http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/1946pz7g70yyojpg/ku-xlarge.jpg

Nice wide mouth, the signature kidney grilles aren’t connected to the headlights (good, they’ve been learning something!), and the gentle flowing curve from the tapering of the headlights back across the doors and rear quarter-panel looks really sharp. Too bad the back is such a mess of different design ideas and lines…

http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/1946q030lyxygjpg/ku-xlarge.jpg

Photos from Jalopnik.com

Come on BMW, there’s still time for you to make this car look great!