Building Foundations, Beater 4x4s and Julie Andrews

Post by blogger | August 5, 2008      

The mountains of our dreams.
A “Sound of Music” moment being had by Julie Andrews.

I’m feeling like a contractor these days, constructing a big solid foundation for those Aspen mansions I used to carpenter in my distant past.

Only in this case, the “mansion” is our mountain lifestyle, with support being things such as repairing our home and vehicles — getting ready for what I hope is another big winter of backcountry skiing.

We’ve been in our house for almost twenty years now, since we did extensive renovations in 89/90 transforming it from a “scraper” to a cozy super-insulated domicile. It’s been the perfect place to raise a child, enjoy our marriage and run a home business (post office, library and coffee only blocks away). More, our little home has been base camp for a beautiful string of adventures, many of which you can read about here.

But the first second law of thermodynamics applies to houses and vehicles, just like it does to the cosmos (and knee joints). Ergo, everything is always melting down to its component atoms.

So this summer has been one of running sheet metal skirting around the house to protect our foundation, re-roofing leaky sheds, getting the lawn perked up and numerous other manly endeavors. Shoot, my son and I even rebuilt the door on our kitchen oven.

All this is not without angst, however.

They say men think certain kinds of thoughts on average of once every three minutes. In my case, those thoughts are not what you think (disclosure: at least not all the time). Instead, while I stuff gaskets in oven doors and tweak my knees crawling around our stem walls, I’m lusting for verdant alpine meadows next to gently riffled high lakes where trout yank a well placed leader — and driving our Jeep or hefting a backpack, and distant thunder telling me I’d better set a taut tarp before brewing up.

I call the above “Sound of Music” thoughts. Honoring the eponymous 1960s film in which Julie Andrews does her over the top exuberant performance of said song while strolling through a surreal alpine meadow somewhere in Austria.

(Just to show I haven’t totally given up my mancard for bringing up what’s possibly the ultimate chick flick of 1965, I found this trivia from Wikipedia to be worth a chuckle and perhaps a bonafide “3 minute man thought”: Julie Andrews was on late night TV later in her career, after she’d appeared topless in some movie or another about 20 years after Sound of Music. During the show, famed comedian and host Johnny Carson thanked her for “showing us that the hills were still alive”. Great moments in TV history? You bet.)

The mountains of our dreams.
The Silve’ recently turned 100,000, and has some body damage, so it’s now officially a beater and I’m buying a Carhart jacket and moving to Lander.

But I digress. To bring back the manly component of this discussion, let’s talk U-joints. Specifically those in our 2002 Chevy Silverado pickup.

Nope, we haven’t sold the thing yet because of gas prices. Instead, we picked up a Nissan gas sipper called a Versa (automotive equivalent of chick flic), and kept the big truck for work and play, figuring it would sit unused for at least several days a week and thus not damage our wallets too severely.

So as part of this summer’s foundation building I’ve been going though the truck. The brakes are fixed now, oil changed, stuff like that… but I knew the rear driveshaft U-joints probably needed a go. Check it out:

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Look at these U-joint cap bearings! Amazing the thing didn’t fall out in the middle of a trip. It was getting so hot the seal melted. Carnage like this, now that’s manly stuff.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
For all you home mechs out there. We don’t own a U-joint press, instead I use two methods for swapping the things. If I’m on the trail and the yoke is steel, I just beat ’em out with a hammer and correctly sized sockets used as mandrels, then tap the new bearing caps back in the same way. At home, I still do a lot of pounding, but use a big C-clamp as a kinder gentler press where possible, especially in the case of an aluminum yoke like that of the Silverado drive shaft.

What else is going on around here at WildSnow HQ? Looks like our brand spanking new Virtual Private Server is dishing out our website like it’s supposed to. Nice and fast, virtually no downtime other than scheduled maintenance. Wow, one less thing to stress about? Like I said, foundations…and now I can’t get that song out of my head. Oh the trials of blogging.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


13 Responses to “Building Foundations, Beater 4x4s and Julie Andrews”

  1. Rahul Dave August 5th, 2008 10:18 am

    Lou, Sound of Music is the ultimate climbers flick…:-).

    Ok I kid, but the opening sequence with the joy on JA’s face, the open meadows and peaks above, and the lyrics of climb every mountain are like an anthem:

    Climb every mountain, search high and low/Follow every byway, every path you know./Climb every mountain, ford every stream,/Follow every rainbow, ’til you find your dream!

    A dream that will need/all the love you can give,/Every day of your life/for as long as you live.

    Climb every mountain, ford every stream,/Follow every rainbow, ’til you find your dream!

    Putting a skirting, wow that must have been a lot of digging! Any reason for metal vs rubber (conductive vs insulative?).

  2. Lou August 5th, 2008 10:32 am

    I agree, it’s actually pretty cool in a campy sort of way. Sort of like John Denver?

    That said, I hope my wife doesn’t see this, otherwise I’ll have rent it!

  3. Bob Johnson August 5th, 2008 11:22 am


    The u-joints remind me of my old TR6 half shafts, new u-joints were as common as changing the oil. As for the stem walls, ain’t it fun crawling around under the house. Although the u-joint days are over, the visits under the cabin continue.

    The real reason I am responding to your blog is to simply say keep up the good work. Your website educates and amuses on a regular basis, albeit at the expense of the work day. Nothing wrong with a little day dreaming. Thanks.

  4. Keith August 5th, 2008 11:34 am

    Just to nerd things up, your summer is actually following the 2nd law of thermodynamics which can be stated as “a system will trend toward disorder unless energy is invested to maintain order.” I’m sure you can appreciate the idea. I’ll stop there since I can’t really write out any of the equations or calculus that could really take this blog entry to the next level. Pity 🙁

  5. Lou August 5th, 2008 12:17 pm

    Keith, dang, and the amount of time I spent researching that post! And to think I didn’t look up laws of thermodynamics! My editor is going to fire me! (grin)

    I guess I should edit the post (grin), otherwise it’ll fall into, yes, disorder.

    Bob, thanks for the ataboy. Indeed, working hard this summer to keep regular and hopefully amusing/interesting blog posts coming.

  6. Njord August 5th, 2008 1:28 pm

    I cannot believe I just watched that entire Sound of Music clip thinking that Julie Andrews might actually flip up her shirt… (it is YouTube after all!)

  7. Lou August 5th, 2008 1:44 pm


  8. Christian August 5th, 2008 2:20 pm

    You and Lisa should probably compromise and rent.

    S.O.B. movie info link.

    Good call on the U-Joint preventative maintenance. I snapped one in my old Ford pickup going through a decent sized mud puddle on the way back from skiing the Griz a few years ago. Thankfully it was the front drive shaft.

  9. Lou August 5th, 2008 2:46 pm

    Yeah, and if your rear driveshaft drops on the highway from a forward U-joint failure, it can dig into the pave and pogo your truck up, causing a nasty accident. Common to see a drive shaft retainer (simple metal hoop) on lots of trucks, to prevent that and other nasty things from happening if a U-joint goes.

  10. adam olson August 5th, 2008 8:43 pm

    You should be using that nice bench mounted vice to press those pesky u-joints into place. Use 1/2″ sockets on each side while pressing, and ditch the cumbersome c-clamp. The vice only requires one hand to operate and has a nice square press action w/ lots of torque.

    Good job on the chores!


  11. Lou August 6th, 2008 7:06 am

    Adam, good point. I do use the vise sometimes but it doesn’t open quite wide enough for this job. It’s a pretty beefy vise so when things fit it makes a good press. If the U-joint caps are not too stuck the clamp and some pounding work pretty well. But I probably need to just get a small bearing press and be done with it. But that takes up a lot of room to store.

  12. adam olson August 6th, 2008 7:48 am

    Sounds like you need a bigger vise too! You can never have enough tools, eh.


  13. Lou August 6th, 2008 8:42 am

    Adam, you are correct.

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