Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the doghouse...

Sometime last spring, my van's heating and cooling system failed in the sense that I could no longer direct the air anywhere in particular. It was stuck on the floor, which wasn't particularly helpful for refrigeration.

No matter; I ride a motorcycle almost exclusively in the spring, summer and fall. Still, there are those times...

        ...and, after all, winter is coming: I can't operate this vehicle without a defroster.

Well, I knew that, because this happened before, there was some nasty work in the offing. Julene remembered that the last time, the mechanic reattached some hose to the engine. Yeah, back when I was a child, the manifold vacuum was used to operate many things—using amply large-gauge rubber tubing. Not everything is electric even today.

Well, for the Chevy Astro van, there's a "doghouse" that encloses the back end of the engine compartment isolating it from the cab. The operating manual has instructions and illustrations on how to do that. This doghouse cover must be removed because the hose connects underneath it. It also connects up in a place accessible from the front mixed in a bit with large aluminum tubes that appear related to refrigeration. (I'm not verifying all I'm saying 'cause I'm way past interested in auto mechanics at this point in my life, but most of this is accurate I think.)

At first, I couldn't find any tube likely to the one in question. And the doghouse wouldn't come completely out of the van without removing one of the seats. As (bad) luck would have it, my brother has the same vehicle (a little newer) and the same problem at the same time. If that weren't convenient, his second son married the daughter of the guy who, Julene thinks, fixed this thing the first time. So, a little networking and a visit from my brother after calling the mechanic and he found the broken tube exactly where he learned it would be.

The problem is this tiny gauge (1/8") tube is cooked by the engine over the top of which it's routed, become brittle and ultimately breaks. Mine broke next to the repair splice from the first time. The splice was still good; much of the rest of the tube was brittle.

We went to get a replacement from AutoZone, but they only had ¼" gauge tubing and some tubing connectors, none of which really was the answer, but we were in hard way, night was falling, etc.

We clipped off the tiny hose from its nice factory ends (rubber elbows that mated with a T connector in front and a nipple on a connector at the back under the doghouse) leaving short stubs of that tubing, still not brittle, and cleaned the latter up. We force-fitted these good bits of the remaining skinny tubing into nylon connectors from an $8 box of a million different size tubing connectors purchased from AutoZone, and heated up the ¼" tubing ends to go over the other end of the connector.

This, plus hooking it back up did the trick. My brother did his this morning and reports that it all went much faster as he'd been in on most of the job at my house.

Here are the puzzling bits I learned performing this repair. I'm hoping that after the search engines crawl my post, these points and my account will help someone else.

1. You need a large-gauge star drive to remove the two upper screws holding the console to the frame over the doghouse.

2. In order to remove the upper, passenger-side screw holding the doghouse to the firewall, you must have a flat-blade screwdriver at least 18" long. Nothing else will reach in there because there's precious little room left between a duct and the doghouse.

3. The tubing is tiny and the end under the doghouse is on the driver's side very near the throttle body.

The rest of what's going on is fairly obvious.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Twenty-seven years ago today, about the time I'm writing this (between three and four in the afternoon), my wife and I got on our motorcycle and headed up to a specially scheduled venue for a party we'd been planning for some time. We were a little tight on space in our tiny car, and we needed to get a few things ready anyway, so we planned for her mother to follow a little later with our three children aged seven, six and four.

Everything was already set up and waiting for us. There were treats including a cake as I remember (no, really) and drinks and even staff to wait on us, hand and foot. The children and their grandmother arrived in plenty of time for the party to start. The only one missing was a special invitee, whom we'd not really met before.

He arrived a little later.

One could accuse him of arriving "late," and certainly he didn't arrive until after all the other guests, but maybe just a little like a wizard, he didn't arrive early or late, but precisely when he meant to.

A great time was had by everyone and we all got along with him so well that we invited our honored and newly met guest to come home with us.

And so he did.

And we've all been delighted by him ever since.

Happy birthday, Thierry Daniel Bateman.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Death of a tabernacle

As announced yesterday, the Provo Tabernacle is no more. The outside walls will be restored, but the interior, the seating, the gallery, the choir seats and organ will never see the light of day again.

This edifice burned down last December. See story here.

The Church has decided to turn it into a temple. Understandably, the Church is not in the business of rebuilding community centers for secular benefit. However, failing to restore it to its original purpose makes for a very sad loss in that this building has stood for over 120 years as part of the community not only in terms of its spiritual usage, but it has, just as the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, served a local community's other needs. In Provo's case, this has meant hosting concerts (including an appearance by none other than Sergei Rachmaninoff) and community musical programs, school commencement exercises, university student piano, organ and other recitals, and it has served as home now and then to organizations such as the now defunct Utah Valley Choral Society. It has seen many performances of Handel's Messiah.

From a more conventional viewpoint, it long served as the site for stake conferences of various local stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And it served the Roman Catholic community at least once or twice for Christmas Eve mass.

One of the more delightful aspects of this beautiful old building was that it hosted ecclesiastical meetings in a comfortable context and secular events in a cozy, inviting atmosphere appreciated by many Utah Valley residents be they Mormon or not.

And, there is really nothing in terms of a venue that comes close to replacing it.

On the plus side, most if not all of the block immediately south will include considerable green space that the City is hoping will attract people, and therefore shoppers, to central Provo which has for decades defied all efforts at reinvigoration.

Over the years, many Utah communities have learned the lesson that their tabernacles are similarly doomed as they no longer fit a growing Church's agenda or purposes. One by one, these historic structures have either fallen to the wrecking ball or, as in the case of Vernal and Provo, been converted to other purposes, temples in these two cases, a museum in another. Sadly, it's a rich legacy we're losing.