Thursday, May 22, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cocos Fire In San Marcos and Escondido

 When I woke up Tuesday morning, it was already very hot outside and we had a strong Santa Ana wind blowing.  My heart sank, because in Southern California that means wildfires are coming.  Sure enough,  there was a rather large wildfire in 4S Ranch called the Bernardo Fire.  Luckily, no one was injured and no buildings were lost.

However on Wednesday EIGHT fires broke out in roughly a ring around our house.  It was late afternoon when the nearest to us, the Cocos Fire, started and I raced home.  This is what I saw when I arrived.
 I grabbed the camera and ran to the windows upstairs.  The fire was behind California State University in an area known as Coronado Hills.  It is now being called the Cocos Fire because it started on Cocos Drive.  CSUSM was evacuated by the time I took this photo.
 It didn't take long for the fire to jump Twin Oaks Valley Road and catch the hills on the south side of San Marcos on fire.  It was definitely heading west as the smoke clearly shows.  My wife arrived home and we tuned to the news on both TV and internet.
 About 6 PM,  I opened the sliding glass door and was shocked to see this!  I took this photo from inside our family room.  I have zoomed in slightly, but this isn't too different than it looked with my naked eye.
 The fire was still raging in the Coronado Hills area.  At this time, I don't think any homes had burned yet.
 We took off the screen and leaned out the window upstairs by sheer coincidence at the same time the DC-10 dropped 12,000 gallons of retardant on the fire west of Twin Oaks Valley Road, in an area known as Discovery Hills.  It is one of only two passes the plane made that day.  It fights fires all over the western United States.
 A second snap of that same pass.  I am very lucky the camera was in my hand and ready when it made the pass!
 It had some effect as the flames did subside.  White smoke means the firing is dying out.  Black smoke means it has found new fuel.
 Unfortunately this was followed about an hour later with renewed black smoke in Coronado Hills.  We did begin losing homes at this point.
 Here are the flames racing down Coronado Hills towards the 78 freeway.  There are eucalyptus trees in the foreground - those trees are full of oil and go up like torches when fire hits.  Just to the right of those is an avocado grove.  Avocado trees stop the fire dead and are the best type to plant around your house here in Southern California.  This photo was taken about 7:30 just about dusk...the fire was going to obviously burn through the night.
And it did burn through the night.  I was at work during most of the worst of the fire, but you can find photos of the firestorm online.  The winds had shifted to be an onshore flow which pushed the fire towards Escondido.  When I got home in the afternoon, this is a photo I took from our rear windows.  The fire is further left (east) than the day before.  The area that had burned the prior day can be seen smoldering on the right.  And actually that area had burned again on this day.  Amazing that the fire went through and left enough brush to burn yet a second time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Polishing Your Car

 I have spent several decades now lovingly maintaining the outside of my cars.  This has been a labor of love and has taught me many lessons.  This post will document what I've learned so it can be used to maintain many more cars out there well into the future.  In case I get hit by a truck tomorrow. :-)

To start with, always park your car in a garage every night if you can.  Not only does this minimize what will land on your cars paint, but it also keeps dew from gathering on your car overnight.  Repeated cycles of moisture and drying definitely takes a toll.
 Washing your car.  How often should you wash your car?  That depends on many factors.  When my cars were parked outside,  I found I had to wash them every 1-2 weeks.  If I park the car in the garage, I can usually go 3-4 weeks.  It also depends on whether your region is windy, dusty, rainy, or snowy.

When it is time to wash, always ALWAYS wash your car in the shade, not in direct sunlight.  Usually this means washing it early in the morning or late in the day.  This keeps the paint from being hot which gives you more time to wash and dry the car without the water drying on the paint, leaving water spots.

Step 1 - Initial Rinse.  Spray the entire car with a hose with a nozzle on the end.  Wash off all loose dirt/dust that will fall to the ground simply by being pushed off with the force of the water.  Hit the wheels with a very firm spray of water to wash off the brake dust.  Don't forget to go in between the wheel spokes to get the interior of the wheel.  Finally, wash out the wheel wells.

Step 2 - Wash Above Beltline.  I recommend a sponge like this.  It is wrapped in a soft cloth and is very gentle on the paint.  Get a plastic bucket,  put in a nice car wash product like Meguair's for clear coat paint, and fill it with water.  Dip the sponge in and you are ready to go!

Start at the top of the car.  The roof and windows.  Then the hood and trunk lid.  Rinse the roof, windows, hood and trunk lid.

Now go around the sides BEING CAREFUL NEVER TO GO BELOW THE BELTLINE.  Most cars have a well delineated crease in the side which I call the beltline.  The picture below shows such a beltline on a Mustang.

Rinse the car after sponging the sides above the beltline.

Rinse the sponge.  Put the sponge away.

 Step 3 - Wash below beltline.  Use an entirely different sponge for this.  I recommend just a simple kitchen sponge.  Since it looks different than the above beltline sponge, I never mix the two up when I wash the cars next time.

Sponge below the beltline, rinse the sponge, and put it away.
 Step 4 - Wash the wheels.  I recommend a different color sponge for the wheels, again so it will not be mixed up.  In this case, I was transitioning my below beltline sponge to become the wheel sponge.  I would use a new below beltline sponge for the next wash.

Get in between the spokes and reach as far back in the interior of the wheel as you can.  Wash the tires and the lip of the body that wraps into the wheel wells.

Rinse the wheels.  Rinse the sponge.  Put the sponge away.
 Step 5 - Clay Bar.  This step does not need to be done with each wash.  In most cases, you will only need to do this yearly or every other year.  Once a year run your hand over your hood after you've washed it and it is still wet.  Does it feel silky smooth, or can you feel contaminants still stuck to the paint?  If you can feel contaminants, it is time for the clay bar!  I use Zaino clay bars but I'm sure there are other fine clay bars out there.
 After you've washed the car,  leave the paint wet.  Take out a new unused clay bar and knead it.  Flatten it out and let it glide over the paint as you hit the same spot with the hose.  This ensures there is enough moisture to not scratch the paint.  Once you have done this a few years you can get a feel for when the paint is wet enough not to need a simultaeous hose running...but wait a few times to try it.  Better too much water than too little.

Do NOT apply pressure to the clay.  Let it glide over the paint with your hand just directing it.
 Every once in awhile, look at the bottom of the clay.  Is it dirty?  If so you are getting contaminants off the paint!  Knead the clay some so that you put clean clay on the paint when you lay it back down.  Repeat this over the entire car, focusing mostly on the roof, hood, and trunklid as most contaminants reside of horizontal surfaces.

When the clay looks clean as is shown in this photo,  you know you're done.
 Step 6 - Drying.  Towels should be fairly big and fairly fluffy.  They should have no stitching or embroidery that can potentially scratch the paint.  Obviously they should absorb water well (you would be surprised at how many towels don't!)

Use a different towel for above the beltline and below the beltline.  Start with the windows,  then roof/hood/trunk,  then the sides.
 With a towel that has been moistened from drying the rest of the car,  dry the door jams and inside the trunk lid.   This is one of those little details that really makes a car pop.
 Don't forget the crevices specific to your particular car.  For example, most trucks have this little hidden area below the tailgate.  Cleaning that will really pay off in appearance.
 Step 7 - Polish.  I used to use carnuba wax to polish my cars, but that is very very labor intensive and time consuming.  I discovered the Zaino polish over a decade ago and have used it ever since.  It is easier to apply, to take off, and smells very nice as well!

I order it online and when I receive it, I mark the date on the bottle so that if I have some left over, I know when it is too old and should be tossed.  (If it is over a year old, I toss it).  ALWAYS polish your car in the shade, preferably in a garage where contaminants can't blow onto the paint.  I also recommend the temperature to be in the high 70s to high 80s.   If it is in the 60s the Zaino will dry too slow and take all weekend,  if it is in the 90s you'll still be okay but drying times are too fast to be optimal.

How often should you Zaino?  It depends on if you garage your car, if it sits in the sun all day,  and how dirty you get it overall.  At a minimum,  Zaino your car yearly if it is garaged and treated lightly.  If your car goes through more severe conditions, I would recommend every 6 months.

 Zaino will send you an applicator with your order, use that to apply the Zaino.  In my case I had leftover Zaino and had already discarded the applicator, so I used a cloth baby's diaper.   If you do this, make sure to fold it so that no seams or stitching touches the paint.

Put a small amount of Zaino on the roof and spread it around with the applicator.  Make sure there is Zaino on every little bit of paint.  Apply it very thinly as all that really matters is what is touching the paint - if you apply it thickly you are just wasting polish AND it will take much longer to dry!

Repeat this for the hood, trunk lid, and sides above the beltline.  Use a separate applicator and do the same below the beltline.

Step 8 - Remove Polish. Let the Zaino dry.  You'll know it is dry when you run a finger through it and it comes off in sort of a powdery fashion onto your finger.  If your finger just smudges the Zaino around and it feels wet, it is not dry yet.   It will take 1-2 hours to dry if the temp is in the 80s, longer if it is cooler outside.

Zaino offers blonde towels to remove the polish and I highly recommend them.  They are extremely efficient at getting the Zaino off and will make your life sooo much easier!

Once the Zaino is off, apply another coat.  If this is the first time the car is being Zainoed, I recommend 3 to 4 coats.  (I can get 3 coats out of 1 bottle of Zaino).  If the car has just been clay barred,  I recommend 3 to 4 coats.   If you are just touching up and existing Zaino polish job, 2 coats will suffice.

 Step 9 - Spray Seal. Once you've put on all the Zaino coats necessary,  use a clean cloth and go over the car with Zaino Grand Finale!  This will remove any excess polish you missed and give the car an excellent shine.

Note that it is not usually to discover polish that you missed as the week progresses.  If the car is relatively dust-free still, you can hit it will a cloth to remove.  If the car is already dusty, I recommend waiting until the next wash to get the excess polish off.
This is the end result!  It is one wash past waxing (so I could get excess polish off) and ready for the world!

Enjoy your car.  And treat her right!

Our Automotive History

 I've been thinking about the cars we've owned lately and thought I'd make a quick post about it.  My first car was this 1965 Chevrolet Impala SS.  My father let me buy it when I was 15 and it occupied my time before I had a license.  It had a 327 4 barrel and about 105,000 miles on it when I bought it.  Those are our dogs Jose and Bernie standing in the shade beside the car shown at 1411 East Will Rogers in Stillwater, OK.

It was in a bit of rough shape, most of the body panels had some sort of bend, but it was mine.  I only had it one year because my next car popped up at such a deal I couldn't pass it up.  I sometimes wish I still had this Impala as I now have the funds to give it the TLC it so truly needed.  And it is a classic design that is still very popular today.
 One day when I was putting gas in the Impala, I saw this 1970 Cutlass S sitting at the station with a "For Sale" sign.  Woody, the owner of the station, said the owner wanted $775 for it.  I offered $700 and it was accepted.  Woody said she originally told him to get enough $$ for four new tires on her new car, and he told her to ask more.  So $700 it was.
 Here it is after a good wash at my parent's house (1411 East Will Rogers, Stillwater, OK).  This is the last photo I have of it before I had it repainted 1977 Corvette Silver - the paint job was a graduation gift from my parents.  This Cutlass had a Olds Rocket 350 2 barrel.
 Here it is parked outside my apartment on Airport Road in Stillwater, after the new paint.  I loved this car so much I kept it for 12 years - and sold it for $1100 - $400 more than I paid!  Before that happened, I drove it to northern California where I met my wife and got married.
 This is the car my wife owned when I met her - a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. I absolutely loved this body style.  We received many compliments on it, even though the passenger side was caved in a bit by the previous owner.  This car had a 351 Cleveland V8 that was not the original motor.  Obviously this car had a rough life before my wife bought it.

As much as we loved it, we had to sell it when it became problematic.  We had to have the rings replaced when it started smoking like crazy.  More problems ensued including the transmission and we eventually sold it.  The guy who bought it apparently neglected to change over the title because we received a notice from Washington state saying they found the car on the side of the highway!  These photos of the Gran Torino were taken at the Driftwood Apartments at 1200 Plumas Street in Yuba City.
 We replaced the Gran Torino with this 1980 Pontiac Sunbird that my father made payments on while I was in college.  He/we paid something like $2500 for it.  It had NO options on it, not even air conditioning which was rough in the central valley summers.  Someone had installed an aftermarket sunroof in it that leaked like crazy.  But it provided good gas mileage and the Iron Duke 4 cylinder was quite reliable.
 After our first son was born, my father also gave us this truck - a 1969 Dodge D-100.  This was another vehicle that had led a very rough life before my family owned it.  The passenger side was caved in and the bed was in very very poor shape.  But it came with a free sheet of plywood to cover that up!  ha ha  This truck was built back in the day when pickup gas tanks were in the cab, behind the seat.  The sound of gas sloshing around was a bit unnerving.
 This is the truck that made me understand trucks.  I had never really considered owning one before, but after living with this one for a couple of years I was hooked.  They are so convenient it is hard to imagine living without one now.  Alas we had to sell it when I graduated college and moved to Southern Calif.  The new owner was thrilled to have it and my dad told me later he would see it around town with a lot of new work done to it.  I hope the new owner restored it.  I very very rarely see 1969 Dodge pickups any more.  They are almost all gone.  These two photos of the Dodge were taken on Gray Avenue in Yuba City.
 ...and we still had the Cutlass at this point! Here is an older photo of it, shown here on Airport Road at Boomer Lake in Stillwater, Oklahoma before I moved west.

 We took the Sunbird and Cutlass with us when we moved to San Diego - here is the Sunbird in front of our first southern Calif apartment in Mira Mesa, in front of 9605 Gold Coast Drive.  We ended up owning this car for 9 years - it had about 150,000 miles on it when we sold it.
 But before that, we sold the Cutlass and bought this 1986 Pontiac Grand Am SE.  We really needed a 4 door car because our second son was about to be born.  This was a great little car also with a nice V6 in it that was pretty powerful for the time period.  I can't remember exactly what we paid but it was in the $9000 range.  We bought it at C & M Chevrolet in Kearny Mesa.  It wasn't even on the main lot yet when we bought it, they had just taken it in on trade.  The woman who traded it in was getting a used 2 door version.  Not sure why.
 We sold the Sunbird for $500 in 1991 and bought this 1989 Dodge Dakota.  I'm fuzzy on the price for this one too, but think it was about $9000 also.  It had 27,000 miles on it and was loaded with options, including a V6.  I loved this truck and kept it even after I got a new truck.  After 15 years, I ended up giving this to my son while he was away at college in northern Calif.
 We still had the Grand Am at that time.  It was doing an excellent job hauling our growing family around.
 We kept this car for 150,000 miles and 7 years.  When the boys started entering their teen years, this car felt a little small on long trips so we started looking for something larger.  We sold the Grand Am to a friend of ours.  He loved it too, but someone ran a red light and creamed it while he owned it, which was the tragic end to the Grand Am.
 And while we kept the Dakota...
 In June 1995, we bought this 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan from Kearny Mesa Dodge to hold our growing boys.  This body style had just come out and I don't think there were more than a dozen of them in San Diego when we drove this off the lot.  We had waited for it to reach production for about a year and when we saw this one on the lot, we had to have it.  I can't remember the exact price but it was around $30,000 after tax and license.  This thing was fully loaded and had the larger V6 engine.
 Here is David about to leave for soccer practice.  This van really fit out family at the time.  It is hard to beat a minivan with teenagers in the house.  We owned this Caravan for 6 years and 100,000 miles.  GM was about to close down Oldsmobile and was offering killer deals on their cars, so we sold the Caravan and bought...
 ...this 2001 Oldsmobile Alero at Rorick Olds/Buick.  One boy was away at college by now and the other had his own license, so there was really no need for a minvan any more.  A four door car worked just fine.  This Alero also had the V6 engine and was nicely optioned.  It had a fair amount of power and was a great size - not too big and not too small.
We kept this car for 5 years and 100,000 also but eventually traded it in on a 2 door car once our youngest son moved on.

 Somewhere around this time, our neighbor moved to Coronado and wanted to sell his 1990 Miata.  This was the first year of the Miata and the car was in great shape so we bought it for $5500.  This car had no options on it, but was very fun to drive.
 We had originally intended for it to be our son's car when he turned 16, but figured out it probably wasn't the best idea to give a convertible with no rollover protection to a new driver, and it didn't have any room for hauling his friends around anyway.  So we bought him a different car and I kept this one.
It was a great little car but we started driving it less and less - mainly because it didn't have a/c.  That is something that I didn't think a convertible in southern California would need, but I was mistaken.   That also hurt resale a bit as most people who looked at it decided not to buy when they found it didn't have a/c.   I think I ended up getting $4000 for it.

 I haven't shown any of our current cars, but they show up in other posts here and there.  As they become former cars of ours, maybe I'll add them to the bottom of this post.