Category: Uberalley

Uber Alley – Marooned in Houston

On July 13, I had to drop a passenger at a Timewise (or some other sort of convenience store/gas station) and refund her partial fare.  I couldn’t very well charge her $4.80 for abandoning her to call another Uber  – while still 12 miles from her destination.

 I had somehow managed to vaporize most of the coolant and the remaining liquid boiled out the reservoir when I opened it.  I had to buy and pour in a $14 jug of overpriced coolant.  NOBODY has water at a gas station anymore – even for money.  Unless you count the drinking water they sell in bottles.  As it turns out, I should have bought that, because later, I managed to boil off the coolant again and be left dry and overheated.  The Culligan water bottles would have worked out be to less of a loss.

The problem is not the thermostat – as I had imagined – but the water pump.  Water pumps are typically mounted where they can be driven with a belt.  They are normally a half-hour (and under $100)  job to replace.  But this particular water pump is driven by the timing chain – not by a belt.  And the timing chain is sealed inside the lubrication system.  So, when the water pump begins to leak, it spills coolant directly into the engine oil.  That can quickly destroy an engine if not corrected.

Figure 1: Here, the timing chain cover (that seals the water pump inside the lubrication system) has been removed.

You may also notice that to get this image, the author had to photograph an engine that has been removed from the automobile.  I am told that it is possible to change the water pump without removing the engine – but that it might be easier to yank that sucker out!  In either case, it is expensive – very expensive.

You might ask yourself (as I did)  “What were they thinking?”

And see, now?  You have – as I did – assumed that the jackass Ford engineers – who thought this up – were actually thinking

This is an egregious imbecility that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to the vehicle owners.  Ford was being sued in a class-action that is currently dismissed.

 A quote from carcomplaints.com

February 15, 2020

— A Ford Duratec lawsuit has been dismissed, but the plaintiffs may have another shot to prove their allegations in court.

According to the Duratec engine lawsuit, millions of 2007-present Ford vehicles are equipped with the allegedly defective water pumps that cause engine damage.

The Duratec engines allegedly fail because coolant mixes with engine oil once the coolant leaks from the water pumps. The plaintiffs claim the engines may fail without drivers having any warning of the impending doom.

____________________.

Judge Laurie J. Michelson says she still finds the plaintiffs haven’t shown she made a mistake by dismissing the lawsuit, but the judge says she will reconsider her decision to dismiss the case with prejudice. Once all parties have presented their arguments, the judge will decide if the plaintiffs can file a second amended lawsuit.

carcomplaints.com

So, an expensive team of lawyers might be able to try again and see if they can come up with something the judge might like better.  You gonna pay for that?  Nope. Me, neither,

 Please notice that they have been building engines this way since 2007.  If you have ever in your life worked on a car engine, you know this is an irrational thing to do to an engine design and the fact that this happened in the first place is grievously irresponsible.  The fact that once discovered, it was not corrected is unacceptable.

The result is that the Explorer that I depend on for my livelihood seven days a week is now sidelined for at least three days – probably more.  And the cost of replacing a water pump has gone from two figures to four. Tack on the lost Uber fairs and the cost will exceed a month’s revenue from the Ride-Sharing Business of which I am now the proprietor.  Revenue – not profit.  To clear enough profit to cover this setback will take so long that I prefer to drop the subject right now, rather can calculate same.

Hasta Luego,

Steve      

Uber Alley – Rusty Bird at 288

In Houston:

Go South on Texas288 just South of IH 610 and have your passengers (you are driving – on a freeway – after all) look off to the right with cameras ready.  There, you will find a compelling field of Artwork on a scale seldom seen.  Too big for any gallery or museum – it comes out of Nowhere and slaps you in the face. So, ignore it if you are driving.  (Okay…well…I did not)

A few weeks later, I asked a local passenger about this.  Apparently, it came out of the HUGE pipe storage yard at Texas Pipe and Supply, which stretched back forever toward the West behind this Park.  I reckon there is a lot of scrap available and a lot of art-minded welders around.  Further investigation is in order.

If you really want to see this place – which I find is called “Electric Menagerie Park” – take the Holmes road exit and continue south past West Belfort to the entrance ramp to 288 and then pull off on the diagonally painted zone – and maybe farther to the shoulder of same – before you get out to look around.

Figure 1: Center: The Volkswagen “Bug” – Yeah, we get it! 😉 Left: Armadillo – have to expect that in Texas! Right: Cows on a ship propeller? – this one needs more investigation, perhaps.
Figure 2: There is nothing to give scale in this photo, but I reckon that bird’s head feathers are well above 20 feet off the ground. The bird’s red color seems to be the rust on its unpainted steel.

There is far more to be seen, but a ride came in shortly after I snapped a few photos.

Figure 3: A satellite photo of the area involved. I would say this is the bird’s eye view, but you saw that bird. He won’t be up here, anytime soon.

There is a lot more to see, but this is Uber Alley – after all – where random sights just appear out of nowhere, from time to time.  Then a ride comes in.

Hasta Luego, Steve  

Uber Alley – Camouflage

Foreword:  I am fully aware of the stereotypical reputation of posts about cats.  So, I promise not to post anything like this again for at least a year. 😉 Posted: 6/27/2020

Some pet owners attribute human-like characteristics to their animal friends. But, some alleged domesticated cats have unique dog-like traits and other qualities that defy description.  Locally, there is this dingy-gray cat named Pepper (but referred to as the Princess, for her attitude) who is the same color as some spots on the concrete driveway.  She frequently likes to play “chicken” with the multi-ton Ford Explorer I am backing out of the garage (as I set off to drive for Uber – that’s the connection, you see).  In the pre-dawn darkness, as imaged by the back-up camera, she appears as just another spot (albeit a moving one) on the driveway.  I take great care to not let her become a literal spot on the driveway.  This is the same cat who will jump into open cabinets despite the dishes there found and climb into empty boxes (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Pepper in a box

Unlike most sane cats, she loves to get in the car and we have to tell contractors and movers in the area to double check their trucks before they leave.  She would sit outside the neighbor’s window and torture the poor dogs in the house.  She hopped in the Ford while I was unloading from a One, Two, Three, Etc. road trip and I found her as I took the car to turn it around.  So I drove her around the block instead.  Far from cowering on the floorboards, this one. See figure 2 below  

Figure 2: Not cowering on the floor

This feline is watched over by a woman who calls the cat “Princess” while referring to herself as “Abuelita” (Grandmother).  Abuelita makes every effort to comfort the Princess – even to the point of providing her with a special chair, covered with the cat’s own blanket and a pillow included.  Please see figure 3, below.

Figure 3: Luxurious repose prepared for Pepper

The Princess, however, rejects the throne and prefers to spend her time in a more rustic location.  Please see figure 4, below.

Figure 4: This is where she really wants to be.

So, this is the lunacy that (to some degree) makes the rest of life bearable.  😉

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Uber Alley – Idle Airliners

06/20/2020

IAH is the code for Houston Intercontinental Airport.  They tried to get the coveted HIC code (for Irony’s sake), but it was already taken by Iscor Heliport in Pretoria, South Africa.  Likewise, HIA was already taken by Lianshui Airport in Huai’an China.

During the Great Communist Chinese Virus Panic of 2020,  IAH was reduced from five operating terminals to two and a unique situation took place.  Since air traffic was cut to the bone – and some sawing of the bones was underway – there was a ridiculous excess of airplanes.  And, just what does one do with such an excess?  The first thing you might think of is to put them in hangers.  However, it should occur to alert readers (all y’all) that because an airline only makes money when they keep their planes busy, there is a ridiculous shortage of hangers in the current rigamarole.

Well, airplanes (especially the busy ones) are outside probably 98% of the time and they are designed to do just that – through rain or sleet or gloom of night.  So, what you do is park your airplanes where there is secure outdoor space.  Conveniently, airports are some of the most secure outdoor spaces around and what you can do is park those idle airplanes along the aprons that line the runways.

In my Transportation Business I have occasion to visit airports – in the current narrative, IAH.  What I noticed, repeatedly – as I drove the approach to the terminals – was a long chain of airplanes along a runway apron.  I estimated their number at about thirty – because counting airplane tails while driving a passenger to his flight is considered unprofessional.

But that does not mean that I cannot deliver the passenger to his terminal and then drive out to where I can find a fence along that particular stretch. Thinking of security, I decided not to tell where this is.  Anyway, I was able to count 26 parked planes and capture some photos of same.  The view is obstructed by the fence (Figure 1), but I managed to sneak a glimpse of a few planes through the spaces in the chain-link hurricane fence (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Airplanes with not much to do
Figure 2: A view through a space in the fence grid.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Uber Alley – Introduction

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a sea-change is a change brought about by sea: Full fathom five thy father lies … / Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change. This meaning is the original one, but it’s now archaic. Long after sea change had gained its figurative meaning, however, writers continued to allude to Shakespeare’s literal one; Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, and P.G. Wodehouse all used the term as an object of the verb suffer.

Merriam Webster

Having discovered that six decades of life “unqualifies” me – despite over four decades of experience – my life suffered a “sea change”.

 After Going Walkabout for about five years now, it becomes obvious that I need to be my own boss.  Mostly this is because I can count on me to give me a fair break.  I won’t reject me for being old.  I won’t coerce me to violate DOT guidelines.  I won’t resent me for having more technical knowledge than me or for speaking my own language better than I do.  I won’t assign myself menial tasks (which I would cheerfully carry out, anyway) in a forlorn attempt to convince me to quit and I won’t set myself up to fail.  Yup, that’s what I learned.

My Walkabout was the result of an early – and involuntary – retirement.  It was complicated by winding up as the sole survivor among my parents, dementia suffering stepmother and cardiac-failed 59-year old sister.  

That is what happens when you continue to survive because anybody can just up and die.  Life goes on and I hope that my wife and children will live long and prosper.  Make no mistake – I fully intend to do so myself for about five more decades.  I decided at age 15 to live 100 years more.  As I am now 65 and work about 35 hours a week, swim an average of a half-mile per day, have lost about 80 pounds and I still mow my own yard – I do not think that goal to be unreasonable.    

But the post is called Uber Alley for a reason.  I am now a humble Personal Transportation Contractor and I find that every day is a unique adventure.  In that sense, it is somewhat like over-the-road (OTR) trucking. I start out at five or six in the morning from the house or the gym.  I have wound up in places like Prairie View, Pasadena, The Woodlands, Rosenburg, Needville, Texas City, Seabrook and Galveston.  While I have had some repeat passengers, I can count them on two hands – out of 1348 trips in nine months.

There is enough to write about and it promises to be just as interesting as the Going Walkabout series that started this whole imbroglio.  I stumble across things that should serve to illustrate the stories with photos and I’ll include some here, just to get started.  I won’t be posting pictures of the passengers – for obvious reasons. 

Below is the Main Street Wharf, in downtown Houston.  I was just about to go see it up   close, when another ride came in and I had to leave.  That is a lot like OTR, as well.

Figure 1:  Just pulling into a parking spot to stop and sanitize the seatbelts, I found this.
Figure 2: About the closest I got to the Wharf before another trip called.

Hasta Luego,

Steve