Monday, February 24, 2014

Mechanical Failures

I am a service manager at an automobile dealership for my day job. While performing routine maintenance on most vehicles, I also regularly have to play ‘doctor’ and sometimes break bad news to the owners regarding major repairs. Often I get questions such as “what caused it?” or “was it something I did?”
Many times the response is as simple as explaining that their vehicle consists of different mechanical systems, and anytime you have something mechanical it is prone to break due to rotating parts and wear over time.
What makes certain mechanical devices extraordinary are the ones that can keep things simple with fewer moving parts and survive over time.
In 1910, John Browning, who was a firearm designer for Colt before launching his own firearm manufacturing company, developed a repeating pistol. The U.S. military began trials for their next carry piston with six manufacturers. One by one, pistols were eliminated due to failures until Colt and Savage Arms remained. Over a two day period, with John Browning observing the trials personally, his M1911 pistol fired 6000 rounds without failure. When the pistol became too hot, it was simply dipped in a bucket of water to cool it down to continue testing. Over the same trial, the Savage failed 37 times. A simple but tested design that proved to be the hallmark for future firearms.
Now, why am I paying attention to mechanical failures? Well, for one I went through one on something I did not expect the other weekend. I have experienced failures before, even on firearms. I once had a shotgun fire with the safety still engaged. Fortunately, the person that was holding it had the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and no one or nothing was harmed in the accidental discharge. Not only did it teach the person that was holding the shotgun a little respect for potential mishaps, but it reinforced something I already knew. I knew things like that could happen because it is mechanical in nature.
The weekend in reference I was setting up a new bow. The bow did fine. The problem came with my release. For those that do not know, a release is a device that has a set of jaws that hold the bow string while drawing and holding. When the shooter is ready to release the string, his finger or thumb, depending on the style, squeezes a trigger which opens the jaws.
I was getting ready to pull the string back on the bow to check if the peep sight, which is located in the string, was positioned properly for my line of sight. Just before drawing the bow, I decided to nock an arrow on the string ‘just in case’. The person who was installing the peep sight asked was I going to shoot since the sight was not properly tied in yet, but I explained I was not going to shoot but I wanted to be safe instead.
The reason it is safe to actually nock an arrow on the bow is a ‘dry fire’ can destroy a bow. So, if I had an accidental discharge, an arrow would fly and the bow would be intact.
Forethought is wonderful. The release I have had since 2005 and shot thousands upon thousands of arrows with broke, releasing the arrow down range, lodged high on the wall 30 yards away. Bow was ok, arrow was salvaged, two people completely startled but ok, and a broken $45 release.
You cannot predict when something mechanical will fail. You can do everything possible to prevent it from failing and take precautions in case it does.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Road Trips Tips

Valentine’s weekend is here and occasionally, even the most dedicated outdoorsman needs to reward his spouse for her understanding of your last few months of manly activities. A cross-country road trip can be fun, interesting, and exciting as well as just the ticket to an eventful time together. They can also be boring, tiresome and expensive, so here are 5 tips to make your trip a memorable experience.

Get everyone involved in the planning.

When taking the family with mixed ages and interests, it can make the drive more bearable if everyone has something to look forward to along the way to keep the trip exciting. Look over your route and see if there are any points of interest. On a trip to Niagara Falls we planned our lunch break at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, and then stayed in a hotel two blocks away from a haunted cemetery in Pennsylvania.

Prepare your vehicle.

Before you leave make sure you check your vehicle’s tire pressures and fluid levels. If you are making a 2000 mile round trip and your oil change is due in 1000 miles, get it serviced early. When planning your trip do an online check of gas prices in the different states you pass through. For instance, filling up in South Carolina when you still have a quarter of a tank of gas can save nearly 50 cents per gallon over fill-ups in North Carolina or Georgia.

Take periodic stops, not frequent breaks.

It is important to take breaks, but not too many. Usually a stop every two to three hours allows the body to stretch and stay alert. People with ailments such as diabetes may need those stops closer to the two hour mark to prevent swollen feet and legs and help with blood circulation. A hunting trip to North Dakota with my father included stops at nearly every Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s and Gander Mountain along the way, which was conveniently spaced about every two hours of drive time. Another trip involved us stopping at each state line rest stop we passed and getting photos next to the welcome signs.

Ride comfortably and pack smart.

You have to be comfortable on a long road trip or it will wear you down quickly. Wear slip on shoes while driving so you can remove and put them on easily. Do not keep your wallet in your back pocket in order to prevent a tired and hurting tush. Keep items you can use on the trip near hand while packing clothes and beauty items in the trunk or storage compartments. Keep a small cooler with drinks and snacks nearby.

Change the return route.

Make it a true adventure. If you can alter the return route without losing too much time or miles, it will keep things fresh for the whole trip. New places to stop and explore and different scenery will make everyone happier. One trip we planned carried us through mountains and Amish country on a weekday while heading towards our destination, while the return trip was along the East coast passing through New York City, Baltimore and Washington D.C. during the weekend, thus avoiding traffic woes.
And if the cross-country trip doesn’t work out for a Valentine’s surprise for her, just make sure you don’t buy her a toaster or new ironing board. That probably will not work out very well. In fact, you may receive a gift from her afterwards that resembles a to-do list that will last you through next year’s Valentine’s day.