slow leak updates
Sunday, April 23 2023
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
I got up first and started a fire to drive away the morning chill. Early this morning, the inverter had decided there wasn't enough power in the battery to keep powering the house, and I didn't want to start up the generator and have all that racket while Gretchen was trying to sleep. So I ground my coffee using a small inverter powered by a Ryobi battery. Later, though, once Gretchen was up, I ran the generator for awhile to give us more power than the sun was capable of doing (it rained all morning).
Later, while Gretchen had a long call with her sister-in-law, I looked into the problem of why my hotspot watchdog was no longer resetting the Moxee hotspot when it got into a situation where it could no longer connect. It turned out that the program I'd flashed onto the ESP8266 processor on its NodeMCU board had somehow gotten corrupted (I have no idea how this can happen; perhaps it was hit by a cosmic particle). To get it working again, all I had to do was re-flash its software with a known good copy on my workplace-issued laptop.
Later, down in the cabin basement, I drove some finishing nails part way into the wall so I could hang a number of tools such as pliers and wrenches. I also traced their outlines once I had them hanging so they can have permanent homes and I can tell at glance if any of them are missing. Organizational hacks, no matter how trivial, always seem to pay off.
Next I turned my attention to running electrical wires out under the east deck. I need more light out there to finish my styrofoam insulation of the east foundation wall, and my plan is to use that area for organized storage so as to take advantage of the rain shelter provided by the screened-in porch overhead. I drilled all the holes necessary to get wires out into that space, and perhaps next week I'll install some outlets and fixtures.
We had to leave the cabin fairly early this afternoon, so after eating some sort of bean, rice, and broccoli thing Gretchen fried up, we loaded up our stuff and the dogs and started driving. The ground was so soft from all the rain that I had a little trouble making it up the driveway. But then I realized that the warning on the dashboard about a low tire was not the annoying kind that bitches about a few psi needing to be pumped back in. (Our car actually phones such telemetry to a server that then emails such curated highlights to Gretchen, meaning nothing we do with that car can ever be considered private. We don't pay for this service; it just happens.) The error was saying, now that I was paying attention, that one of our tires had a pressure of zero psi. By this point we were out on Woodworth Lake Road, so I stopped the car and went to look at the tires. The one on the rear driver's side was completely flat. Oh shit! And our car didn't even come with a spare tire!
I'd put a couple cans of two different kinds of Fix-a-Flat-style foaming products in the car's toolkit to hedge against this possibility (though for some reason I'd balked at buying a 12 volt air compressor). But in my jittery panic, I failed to read the instruction on the cans and couldn't really get them to do much. They seemed to put some fluid slowly into the flat tire, but this didn't seem to be making it any less flat. Perhaps that liquid would seal the leak, but without an air compressor to fill that tire, the car would be undriveable. So, while Gretchen pursued the track of finding a tow company to respond to our emergency (hopefully one covered by our auto insurance), I walked back to the cabin to get a 120 volt air compressor (one I'd bought at the Tibetan Center thrift store) as well as the 120 volt Ryobi inverter and some Ryboi batteries. But, after a test of the inverter with the pump proved it didn't have sufficient watts, I scrubbed that idea and just brought the inverter, a hand-powered bicycle pump, and an extension cord.
Back at the car, Gretchen was running into trouble with Amica because she didn't have a record of what our member number happened to be. Further complicating matters, she was at the very edge of the area with cellphone coverage, causing the calls to drop at random. I quickly discovered that the 150 watt inverter I'd equipped the Bolt with was insufficient to drive my compressor. And when I tried to pump air into that tire with a hand-powered bicycle pump, I quickly discovered that wasn't possible on any reasonable timeline.
Without better options, I suggested we drive back to our cabin on the flat tire (it was about a third of a mile away) and use its 120 volts to run the compressor.
When I hooked up the compressor, it seemed to struggle to push air into the tire, claiming a pressure of 90 psi blowing into it when it was completely flat. I suspected that the Fix-a-Flat foam had clogged up the stem, and I worried I wouldn't be able to fill the tire. But then I saw the tire suddenly plump up and then I saw the numbers on the Bolt's dashboard giving me higher and higher tire pressures for that tire in real time. It didn't take long before the Bolt was no longer showing data about that tire at all. So Gretchen and I decided to drive on it while we could.
Gretchen was having a phone conversation with her brother was we drove down the valley on Fort Johnson Avenue into Amsterdam when the Bolt's dashboard started complaining about the tire again, which had fallen to 27 psi after about 17 miles of travel. I decided it best to try putting more air in the tire at a nearby Stewarts. But when I tried to use the free compressor, that failed because it couldn't overcome the huge resistance in the stem. But we managed to find an outlet to run our compressor, and soon we were back on the road again heading homeward.
I thought it best that Gretchen lookup various auto shops in Albany to see if they could fix our tire. So she called a couple places that were open, but they were all swamped with work because they only had one mechanic working on a Sunday. It was looking like we'd have to drive our car all the way home.
The Bolt told us the tire had dropped to 27 psi again near the I-787 interchange, about 34 miles from our last stop. I kept driving all the way to the Selkirk exit and got off there, and Gretchen navigated me to a Stewarts on 9W. The outlet most similar to the one at the other Stewarts was totally dead, but I managed to get juice from an outlet behind the ice machine. From there, we stuck to 9W so we'd have more rapid access to 120 volts should it become necessary. We'd never driven on that part of 9W before, and there were some amazing things to behold along the way, such an abandoned cement factory. At one point the road narrowed down to just one lane to pass under a railroad track, and we had to obey a traffic signal so as not to run into some other car traveling the other direction.
We were near Saugerties when the dashboard once more told us we were at 27 psi. But this time I decided to just get back on the Thruway and drive to the Kingston exit as quickly as I could. I dropped Gretchen off at the park & ride with the Forester and continued all the way home. When I got there, the slowly-deflating tire still had a pressure of 21 psi.
It bears mentioning that I've driven cars several times with various slow leaks in their tires, most memorably a rental SUV in Costa Rica back in 2019. But this was the first time I've ever driven a vehicle with the ability to provide real-time updates about the state of the tire pressure. In the past I'd have to stop every now and then to check the tire, often having to push and kick them because I had no suitable measurement tools. Not that getting such information made driving the Bolt any more fun; if anything, watching the pressure slowly tick downward contributed to a lump of anxiety in my gut that made it impossible, for example, for me to enjoy any snack food that Gretchen had offered.
I celebrated successfully making it back home after despite such an ordeal by drinking just a little too much gin. Oscar, who had missed several feedings of wetfood yesterday and today, was also desperately starved for affection. So he, Diane, Ramona, and I all cuddled together on the laboratory beanbag while watching YouTube videos about Jessie Lee Ward, one of the worst of the MLM influencers. She has it all: dangerous and nonsensical woo-woo health beliefs, a desire to eat an all-carnivorous diet, treating her subordinates to cult-like horrors, strident anti-vax sentiments, and, recently, stage IV colon cancer that she's having trouble blaming on anyone (and that she intends to fight with ozone therapy instead of the doctor-recommended chemo).
Another thing that happened was that my brother Don called me from Virginia mostly to talk about the elaborate Lego kit he'd gone into debt to buy a week or so ago. It's called the Material Handler, and he's had more luck assembling it than he had with a Lego forklift. But he recently discovered it didn't have the right number of some tiny part (it is made of over 800 pieces). It bears mentioning at this point that Don is anything but detail-oriented, precise, or organized. So it was possible it did have all the necessary parts and he was confused. Or he'd lost the necessary parts under some bigger part. Or the whole thing had exploded when he opened it and the necessary part was under some of the considerable clutter at Creekside. What I'm saying is that Occam's Razor makes it unlikely that Lego packed the wrong number of a certain part. In any case, Don wanted me to help him get the part. This confronted us immediately with a communication issue. How was Don to communicate the part he needed. He started out describing it physically. But after about three, he loses the ability to count things. So him providing me an accurate number for even how many holes or tabs a part contains was not going to happen. Maybe he could get the overall shape right, but Lego makes many thousands of different pieces. Fortunately, however, Lego prints a manifest of the parts in every kit, and Don was able to find that. I then told him to look for the part that he thought he had too few of and then give me the number of that part. Those numbers are seven digits long, like a phone number, and I know Don can read and remember phone numbers. So I had him read me the part number. And then I had him read it again. It was different. I thought maybe the majority of three readings would be the ticket, so I had him read the number a third time. It was different again! I don't know if the problem was tiny print and him not having his reading glasses (which he says he uses now) or that he didn't think it was important that I get the precise number. But soon I was infuriated, saying that I need actual information, that I have to know the precise part number in order to do anything at all from my end. Eventually he managed to get me a number that matched his description of the part when I looked up the number in an online Lego database (yes, there is such a thing). But then we had to figure out how many of that piece he was missing. "Several," he said. This threw me into another fury. How could he not know how many of the part he was missing? That should've been the first piece of information he brought to me. Clearly he thinks I can solve his problem through some sort of magic involving my mastery of (and access to) the Web. It would have to be magic, since his ability to articulate the actual problem was so lacking that I would have to have magical powers to have any ability to solve it. I told Don to get back to me when he had better, more precise, actionable information, and I ended the call.
A rainbow that came after the rain this evening. Looking eastward from the solar deck at Shaupeneak Ridge. Click to enlarge.
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