Friday, December 28, 2007

Coleman Fuel in an Alcohol Stove

Popcanstove1.jpg
This is a popcan alcohol stove.

popcanstove2.jpg
This is a alcohol stove burning Coleman fuel.

Alcohol-fueled backpacking stoves are cheap, easy to use and very lightweight. Many people make their own from aluminum soda cans. A common question that comes up is can other fuels like Coleman Fuel, gasoline or kerosene be used in an alcohol stove?

NO THEY CAN'T!!

Those higher-carbon count fuels burn much hotter than alcohols such as methanol, ethanol or isopropanol (the three most common fuels used in alcohol stoves). That's one of the reasons you need to burn about 15% more alcohol based fuel in your car to go the same distance you would go running pure gasoline.

Let me talk a little about how the alcohol fuel stoves work. Once you light the stove it heats up which causes the alcohol inside the stove to vaporize and shoot out the burner holes. This vaporized alcohol ignites in a clear blue flame about an inch high. Since it doesn't burn super hot the alcohol vaporizes at a controlled, low pressure rate.

Now, replace the alcohol with Coleman fuel. This burns much hotter than alcohol so the Coleman fuel ends up vaporizing much quicker and in higher volume. To quickly for the stove to handle. It'll turn into a blowtorch. If it's made of aluminum cans it's quite likely it'll either blow up spraying burning fuel everywhere or just melt and spill burning fuel everywhere. If it's one of those high-tech titanium stoves it'll probably just blow up. Same with the brass alcohol burner found in a Swedish Mess Kit.

Comprende?

Adventure! Excitment! Explosions!

Crime in the Borderlands

I've mentioned many times in the past The Borderlands along Spring Creek can be a dangerous place. It's several hundred acres of wild space crossed with old trails just minutes outside Houston, making it one of the main dumping grounds for cars stolen by joyriders. Most of the time the vehicles that get dumped here are then torched, leaving nothing but a burned shell.

I guess when the stolen vehicle belongs to a Houston police officer criminals think twice about burning it.
stolenSUV.jpg

This Suburban was stripped and left on one of the "roads" (term used very loosely) in the Peckinpaugh Nature Preserve off Riley Fuzzel Road. The papers around it were forms from the Houston Police Department and when I peeked through the windows I could see assort peices of a cop's uniform.

I called the police and reported it. A bit later the mobile crime lab showed up and went over the vehicle dusting for fingerprints and stuff like that. I couldn't take any pictures of that.

So, here's a nice picture of Spring Creek.
SpringCreek.jpg

Adventure! Excitment! Crime!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One last Christmas post.

LAX
Christmas Eve, 2006.

Cookies.jpg
Christmas Eve, 2007.

The rest of the family is in bed right now. There's a small glass of brandy next to my computer. The day was filled with presents, food, family and joy. What a year, huh? It's hard to believe last Christmas was spent in an airplane heading to China. I like Christmas at home much better...

QualityTime.jpg
Poppawether and the girls watching some Christmas special.

NotQualityTime.jpg
Meanwhile Mommawether does the dishes. Misseswether gave up trying to drag Momma out of the kitchen years ago.

Hiding.jpg
Miniwether planned on hiding in hopes of seeing Santa.
And I helped!

Tree.jpg
Misseswether never had a Christmas tree as a child and always wanted on even if it were the cheapest, tackiest artifical tree ever made. This year I got her one. $14.00 on clearance at Target. Misseswether LOVED it!
Linus was right. It wasn't a bad little tree once it was decorated. I think we'll keep it.

Presents.jpg
Presents! It was pretty much a Princess Christmas this year. The girls got a bunch of Disney Princess dress-up clothes, Disney Princess books, Disney Princess Moon Sand play set, Disney Princess trampoline (which Mambowether went NUTS over) and I don't know how many pairs of Disney Princess shoes.

PeaceOnEarth.jpg
Of course, I did a little Christmas shopping, too.
Red Rider BB gun, FTW!!

Well, there's just a few sips of brandy left. I go back to work tomorrow to an empty lab. Everyone else will be on vacation. That's actually kind of nice because I can work without getting interrupted. On the downside, if something blows up there won't be anyone around to help me.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Adventure! Excitment! Love!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

Just wanted to wish y'all a most Merry Christmas! Cold weather has blown in here (54F), the house is filled with family. Christmas carols are fighting with football for audio dominance. Candy and cookies are everywhere. Miniwether is vibrating with excitement and Mambowether just put tape on one of the cats. What jolly chaos!

Hoping the same for y'all!

Adventure! Excitement! More Excitement!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Good Man

ElmerKleb.jpg
Elmer Kleb
1907-1999

I'm constantly searching for interesting places to go on the north side of Houston. My latest find is the Kleb Woods Nature Preserve just west of Tomball, Texas. This place is amazing. The land for this nature preserve originally belonged to Elmer Kleb, a hermit who lived on these 200 acres from birth to passing on. The house he was born in and lived for 92 years was built by his father. It had no power, no phone. I'm not even sure if it had running water.

Elmer lived his life as one with the land. He planted trees and gardens and grew his own food. He nursed many an injured animal back to health, in fact he shared his house for many years with a vulture he had healed. He asked nothing from anybody and just wanted to live free on the land that had been owned by his family since the 1840's. Of course, this meant the taxman came calling. Elmer had neglected to pay taxes on this land and by 1986 he owed the government $150,000. They were going to force him to sell a large peice of the land to cover these taxes and fines.

And suddenly the man who just wanted to be left alone ended up in the national spotlight. To make a long story short, in 1989, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), Commissioner Steve Radack, the Houston Audubon Society and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department joined together to save Elmer Kleb's land. They set it up as a future nature preserve. Mr. Kleb could continue to live there as he always had and then after he died the land would become a nature preserve open to the public. Elmer lived his simple life for five more years before finally passing away.

His house, guest house, and barn still stand. Visitors can tour his house from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday as well as check out the new. large nature center building on the property. The rest of the park is open from 7am until dusk seven days a week. His gardens still remain and are cared for by park volunteers. Two miles of woodland trails wind through the animal-filled forest. There's even a special camping area available only to Scouts by reservation.

It is a good place.

A very good place, indeed.

KlebHouse2.jpg
Elmer Kleb's house and one of his gardens.

KlebHouse.jpg
Wethergirls and Clarkettes at Elmer's door.

FuturePastFarmers.jpg
Future farmers looking at the past.
And Mambowether eating a pretzel.

Tractor.jpg
Elmer Kleb's tractor. It was really cool.

KlebStuff.jpg
Playing in his barn.

KlebPath.jpg
Walking under the trees in Elmer's footsteps.

Birds.jpg
Mama-bird Miniwether making a nest for baby-bird Mambowether.

BirdList.jpg
Speaking of birds...a list of all current species spotted there.

Frog.jpg
The girls prefered the frogs which were EVERYWHERE! This one pooped on Miniwether when she picked it up. That was pretty funny.

Go there. If you like this blog you'll love wandering Kleb Woods.

Adventure! Excitement! Land!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

She's Gone.

Phhhssssssssst!!!
The sound of my fire extinguisher.

Wedding.gif
Ten years wasn't long enough.

It seems like we just returned from our honeymoon. The next day as I headed back to work the radiator FELL OUT of my Honda Civic. At the time we were flat broke newlyweds surviving on love and ramen noodles.

I remember calling my boss and telling him I needed one more day off. I could hear the smirk in his voice as he laughed and told me not to wear myself out. As if. I spent the day wandering from car dealer to car dealer.

You know how everyone says "You'll know when you find the right one." They are absolutely right. Misseswether said my face burst into a radiant smile the first time I set eyes on her...

Oops, pronoun trouble. "Her" in the above sentence was Jade Hawk my 1997 Toyota RAV4.

JadeHawk.jpg
Jade Hawk, a thing of beauty.

She was year old and tricked out to the nines. Brush guard, dual sunroofs, manual transmission, awesome sound system, alloy wheels, running boards, full-time 4-wheel drive... Supposedly she was a show car used to introduce Toyota's new RAV4 line. My tiny 2-door model was only available for a limited time in the USA. For ten years she turned heads and drew smiles from people as we cruise by. People would stop me in parking lots to ask what she was.

I loved her and she loved me. I'd take Jade Hawk places most smart people wouldn't. She always got me home. The night Tropical Storm Allison hit I was out driving her around checking on the neighborhood. In the dark storm I couldn't make things out properly and suddenly found myself in water over the tires. She got me out of there.

Allison.jpg
Later, after the flood waters had gone down some.

Another time some guy in a parking lot decided he didn't like me or her. He came over and started yelling at me. I opened Jade Hawk's door and stepped out, towering over the guy. He looked up at me, then at my little RAV4, then back up at me and said, "Uh, sorry. I, um, thought you'd be smaller.", then he took off running.

For seven years Jade Hawk made my daily 106-mile commute almost relaxing and at 25 mpg, relatively cheap. On the weekends she'd find herself loaded up with ten 40-lb bags of mulch or a rocking chair or on occasion trees (the tops stuck out the rear sunroof) and never complained. When I changed jobs and my commute fell to 26 miles a day I thought she'd live forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

Driving home from work last Tuesday she popped out of 4th gear. I shifted Jade Hawk back into gear and made it home without any more trouble. I had been working my ass off for weeks and I was very tired that night so I figured I just hadn't shifted her into 4th completely. But by Friday she was popping out of 4th everytime I hit 45 mph.

The previous two Christmases she had ended up in the shop needing over $2000 in work each time. The hard years were taking a heavy toll on her. I figured anything that had to do with the transmission would cost in that neighborhood again.

It was time to let Jade Hawk rest.

I spent the weekend hitting car dealers (you should try it, it's very theraputic and no jury in the land will convict you). Sunday afternoon a deal had been made. Her trade-in value was $2000. After signing the paperwork I walked out to her, feeling like the boy in Old Yeller as he walked out to shoot his dog.

As I emptied her of my gear I had to look at her with honest eyes. Her paint was covered in scratches and chips. Her windshield was cracked all the way across. She was battered, drooping, and filled with mud from a hundred different hikes. She was still a thing of beauty to me and I mumbled apologies to her and patted her as I worked. The last thing I took out was the fire extinguisher I kept under the front seat. As I pulled it out the safety ring snaged on something and got yanked out.

Of course, I was pulling it out with my fingers on the trigger. It went off, filling the inside of Jade Hawk with a nasty yellow powder!

Aack!

I quickly threw everything into my new vehicle, set Jade Hawk's keys on her dash and blew out of there...

NewTruck.jpg
In my new truck!

Adventure! Excitement! Abandoning An Old Companion!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Quest for Fire

food.jpg
The Swedish Mess Kit is a classic piece of backpacking cookware. The kit consists of a brass alcohol burner, a fuel bottle, a pot, a pan, and a windscreen. It'll bring two cups of water to a boil about 5-7 minutes (depending on ambient temperature). It's cheap, incredibly effective, pretty much goof-proof and completely indestructable.

It also weighs almost three pounds.

There are lots of aftermarket options out on the web to drop this weight. They also usually require dropping big bucks on the part of the purchaser. Since my name is Merriwether not Moneywether I was limited on what I could afford to lighten the weight. Luckily, I could afford a big can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.

stove6.jpg
The large can of stew is 3.75" tall which is the perfect height to set a pot on over the brass burner. Air holes need to be cut in the can, a big one in the bottom (approximately 1" tall be 3" wide) and six or so 1" triangles around the top. I made the bottom hole on my windscreen too big so I covered it with a peice of expanded metal screen. You also need to cut out the bottom of the can so that you can set this windscreen over the burner.

stove4.jpg stove5.jpg
Sidenote: The black O-ring seen on top of the burner should actually be in the lid of the burner, not sitting on the burner itself.

My cookpot was some garage sale find. REI has a similar one for about $16, but again, that seems a little rich for my blood. Everything (including a snuffing lid, matches and a lighter) but the fuel bottle fits inside the pot.

stove2.jpg

stove.jpg
Everything packed up and ready for adventure. Total weight with plastic spoon, fork, and empty fuel bottle: 1.145 pounds.


Damn, what a lame post.

Adventure! Excitement! Eating!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

TRFing

I'm driving home with Misseswether asleep in the front passenger seat and the Wethergirls passed out in thier car seats. Dusk is here on a cold November evening but the car's heater makes it nice and toasty. A block of Tom Petty is playing on the radio and absolutely everything is right with the world.

There's a special feeling of happiness that's only available to good husbands and fathers. It happens as you drive your sleeping crew home after a wonderful day where everyone had a wonderful time and now trust you to protect them on the long drive home. If brandy was an emotion it'd feel something like this. Warm, glowing, safe, and loved. It doesn't get any better than this.

We had spent the day back in the 16th century. It was cold, overcast and windy but everyone was in good cheer. Musicians played, comidians comedied, jugglers and beer wenchs juggled. Food was eaten from sticks. Shiney metal objects were purchased. Mini, Mambo, and Misseswether danced. Daddy carried. I love the faire!

FamilyTime.jpg
Alas, silk and drool don't go well together so we went ungarbed. This was the first time in ten years and fifteen faires that we didn't dress the part. It felt really weird.

E-Muzeki.jpg
E Muzeki, one of my favorite bands.

EMuzeki-3.jpg
Mambowether and Misseswether grooving to E Muzeki's gypsy beat. Mambo was spellbound by all the musicians at the faire!

Pony.jpg
For Miniwether, it was all about the rides. We did the giant swing, the ponies, the 3D castle of terror, and others that I've lost count of. The girls is like daddy, she likes to be moving.

MiniAndDaddy.jpg
Love.

MamboandDaddy.jpg
Love, plus maybe a hint of confusion.

QueenBonnie.jpg
Queen Bonnie defines all that is good with RenFest patrons.

Santa.jpg
Old, old school Father Christmas. Miniwether asked him for "princess dress-up clothes", Misseswether asked him for music books, and Mambowether asked him for "Gaaa!". I'm very curious to see how Santa interpets "Gaaa!".
Sidenote: If you think Santa has a big smile in this picture you should have seen him with the three hot co-eds sitting on his lap a moment before!

asleep.jpg
Asleep.

Life is very, very good to me.

Adventure! Ecitement! Renaissance!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Roads?

Where we're going we don't need roads.
-Dr. Emmett L. Brown

Roads.jpg
What to go for a ride?

Question: What do you get when you cross a town's 100th anniversery with a mad scientist in possesion of a flux capacitor?

HistoryBabes.jpg
Answer: Historical Babes!

So, Friday I got an e-mail from a VIP at the company I work for. She was desperately in need of some people depicting the past one hundred and next one hundred years of Tomball, Texas. It's the town's centenial and she and some of her neighbors were building a float for the town's huge birthday parade. Oh yeah, the parade was Saturday morning. Apparently, tales of my adventures have made it up to the Hallway of Power and she was hoping I might be able to help. I spent a few minutes formulating a plan then e-mailed her back.

Sidenote: If your plan involves accelerating a parade float up to 88 mph, be sure to warn the marching band in front of you first. Those kids playing the tuba aren't know for their nimbleness...

Rocket.jpg
A JATO covered in aluminum foil and glitter is STILL a JATO.

Ah, time travel. I don't know of anything that can lead to more wacky adventures, strange paradoxs, and new verb tenses. Of course, this one was no different. I mean, if that can of paint hadn't be sitting there I might still be locked in a jailhouse in 2107! And don't get me started on the dangers of pre-generational nookie. Trust me, first names are not enough when you rescue a beautiful schoolmarm from a burning barn then end up hiding under a haystack all night while evil desperados are out searching for you. Get her full name! It'll save a lot of ooky feelings later on when you flip through old family photo albums.

But I digress. To make a long story short, the float was loaded with people of different time periods, tuba players can throw their instruments suprisingly far, and hopefully Monday I'll learn if the float won "Best in the Parade". If not, I may have to fire up the time machine again...

Roads1.jpg
Trust me, I'm a doctor.

Adventure! Excitement! Excellent!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh, so THAT's what it's like...

Dude, you've gotta stop stepping on copperheads.
-Clark to me last Saturday

copperhead.jpg
I call the big one "Bitey".

I find it rather interesting that my first impulse when encountering a dangerous situation is to try and take a picture of it, especially when it involves venomous snakes. Apparently I clipped the tail of this copperhead as Clark and I were bushwhacking down to a sandbar on Spring Creek. He didn't strike at my heel, I didn't strike at his head. We parted with feelings of mutual respect (in theory, I can't really say for sure what was going through the snakes mind. It could have quite possibly been something like "Yeah, just keep walking heatsack!").

bushwhacking.jpg
Bushwhacking.

Clark and I had both been under a lot of stress and so we told our wives "See you tomorrow" and heading into The Borderlands. Our goal was a secluded sandbar half a mile from anywhere. Hey, we'll take what we can get. Once there we set up camp and made ourselves comfortable.

camp1.jpg
Clark's bivy, my tarp.

Clark's self-inflating sleeping pad got put in storage while they moved so he had to resort to laying down on a pile of grass which he reported to be quite warm and comfy except for a few twigs.
GrassMat.jpg
Doing it the Les Stroud way!

I did my usual sleeping bag and tarp thing. However, the sand and later on the dew was annoying. I have a nice bivy tent and will probably start using that instead.
MyCamp.jpg
I call it "Camp Lazy".

We had the camp set up by 4pm and spent the next hour collecting wood. We thought it might get cold that night and past experience has taught us you can go through a lot of wood in even a small fire if you need it burning for hours. The basic rule of thumb when camping is collect as much wood as you think you need and then double it!

After that it was time to cook supper. We both took the easy way and had bought dehydrated meals. His was beef stroganoff and mine was some Jamaican BBQ Chicken. Clarked liked his but mine tasted like the boiled sock of a leper. It was NASTY! Luckily, I had something else in reserve: STICK BREAD!

stickbread2.jpg
Yummy!

There are many, many stick bread recipies. I got mine from my old Boy Scout Fieldbook. It's as follows:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dry milk
2 teaspoons baking powder

to which I also added garlic powder and ground Italian herbs. All these were mixed together in a ziploc bag and packed out to the fire. When it was time to cook it I added water to turn it into dough.

stickbread1.jpg
Too much water made it too sticky. Ironic for stick bread, huh? Still worked though.

This ball of dough was wrapped around a debarked, green stick about an inch in diameter and carefully roasted over hot coals (avoid actual flames, they burn the bread).
stickbread3.jpg
Oh man, the smell of campfire and garlic bread. I want to buy perfume that smells like that for Misseswether!

Clark and I were both exhuasted from our jobs so rather than stay up late talking we just went to bed.

SEPARATELY!!

We both slept like logs through the night and morning found us refreshed. I boiled some water taken from Spring Creek to make my breakfast, though with some trepidition. Oh, I wasn't worried about drinking water from Spring Creek, I was worried my dehydrated ham/cheese omelet would taste as bad as last night's Jamacain Chicken leper sock. Luckily I was presently suprised, the dehydrated eggs, though looking like some sort of styrofoam packing material, turned into a pretty delicous breakfast. meanwhile Clark had tea and poptarts.

Boiling.jpg
Boiling creek water.

breakfast.jpg
Hey, it doesn't suck!!

Clark.jpg
Morning tea

poptart.jpg
Toasting poptarts

After that it was time to break camp and head home. We doused the fire, policed the area, packed up and heading back through the woods. It was that point when it hit: nothing had really happened on this adventure.

Sure, I almost stepped on a copperhead but it didn't bite me. Nor did we get caught in a massive lightening storm, almost drown, get lost, chased by bulls/pyscho hermits, or anything else that makes my life interesting.

Oh well, maybe next time...

Adventure! Excitement! No, just peace and quiet!