Friday, December 28, 2007

Coleman Fuel in an Alcohol Stove

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This is a popcan alcohol stove.

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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.
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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.
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Adventure! Excitment! Crime!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One last Christmas post.

LAX
Christmas Eve, 2006.

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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...

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Poppawether and the girls watching some Christmas special.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Elmer Kleb's house and one of his gardens.

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Wethergirls and Clarkettes at Elmer's door.

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

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Elmer Kleb's tractor. It was really cool.

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Playing in his barn.

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Walking under the trees in Elmer's footsteps.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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In my new truck!

Adventure! Excitement! Abandoning An Old Companion!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Quest for Fire

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!