Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cycling the Highwood Pass - Thwarted by Rain

I had a spectacular plan for this weekend.  But the weather is not cooperating.  

"Rainfall Warning in effect...Rainfall totals approaching
100 millimetres are likely by Sunday morning."

This weekend was the last chance this season - I'll have to wait for next year.  I'm going to write about it anyway because is is such a cool trip.

We planned to camp in Kananaskis and do the famous ride on highway 40 (paved) before it opens to vehicle traffic on Sunday June 15th. The highway is closed from December 15th to June 15th to reduce the impact on Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the area. The ride is popular and really unique because you can ride anywhere on highway - there are no motor vehicles. It is 17 KM to the pass, with an elevation gain of 536 meters on the way up and and exhilarating coast back down.   We did this about 10 years ago, and I am hankering to do it again.  Will you join me in 2013?

Here is a Calgary Herald article about it and a gallery of photos .
  • Highest paved road in Canada
  • 34 KM round trip, two to five hours.
  • Weather and road conditions: Peter Lougheed Conservation officer duty desk at (403) 591-6309.
  • Start: 50.716,-115.10868  Winter gates at junction of Highway 40 and Kananaskis Lakes Trail
  • Summit: 50.598913,-114.989444
  • Summit Elevation 2206 Meters (7239 Feet)

View Larger Map

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ladder Repair Part 2

Click here for part 1

Last week in part 1,  I discussed the parts for RV ladder repair, in particular the "Star Fangled Nut".

With the parts in hand, I began by disassembling the ladder.  

The at the top of my motorhome the ladder is firmly connected, well sealed and in great shape, so I decided to leave it as-is. I began by disassembling all the standoffs connected to the side of my motorhome.

Many of the bolts were rusted in place and I had to cut them off.

 Here is a standoff with the rusted star nut inside and the bolt rusted in place.

I drilled out the bolts.  In a few cases the only way I could get the star fangled nut out was to hammer it through to the opposite end.

Here are all the parts laid out, with one reassembled standoff. (P.S. Note the longer bolts are not stainless steel: later on I had to replace these as they started to rust.  Make sure ALL bolts are stainless steel.)

It is tricky to get the star fangled nut into the tube.  I slowly tapped it into place, watching to keep it aligned.

Before attaching each standoff to the sidewall, I put a generous amount of butyl putty on the end of the standoff. Butyl putty comes in a roll, and is called "putty tape".

I trimmed off the excess putty.

The bottom of the ladder was a challenge because it joins to the sidewall with no standoffs.

The star fangled nut must be assembled to the mounting bracket.  I braced the bracket against the sidewall with a piece of wood and used my hands to hammer the ladder onto the mounting bracket.

The nut would not go all the way into the tube.  I used a right angle screwdriver to get in behind the mounting bracket and loosen the bolt. Then I pounded the ladder again into the bracket to force the nut in a little further. I repeated this several times to get the nut about 3/8" into the ladder end.

Right-angle screwdriver

I applied putty, and attached the bracket to the sidewall.  A long screwdriver was very handy for this job.

I attached the rest of the standoffs to the ladder.  The job is complete!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ladder Repair Part 1: What the Heck is a "Star Fangled Nut"?

In recent years the ladder on the back of my RV has become a little rickety. 
Some of the horizontal tubes, called "standoffs" have begun to loosen and come away from the brackets where they attach to the sidewall.

In the picture below, you can see how the standoff tube is pulling away from the bracket.

I pulled the standoff tube away so you can see what is inside.  Lots of rust, and not much to hold that tube in place.

The star-shaped gizmo inside the tube took a lot of research to figure out.  I went to the local RV Parts supplier.  After much discussion and poring over a parts catalog, they identified it as "Standoff Nut". Below is a photo of what a new one should look like.
Image credit:

The RV parts store had to special order this.  MSRP in the catalog is about $9 each, they said they would cut a deal and charge me just $6.50 each.  A week passed, and the nuts got back-ordered, and then two more weeks passed.

In my frustration, I did some research.

It turns out that this is a very common part in bicycle repair.  Bike mechanics call it a "Star-Fangled Nut".  Every bicycle has one of these in the headset, where the fork and handlebars join the frame.  If you search for "Star Fangled Nut" you will easily find them on the internet.  

These nuts also go by a couple of other names too.  Sometimes they are called "Star Nuts".  One company calls them "Tube Connecting Nuts" and uses them to construct shelving.  They are also used in the marine industry to build and repair the ladders that attach to the sides of boats.

My local bike repair shop had drawers full of them in a couple of sizes. They charged me only $2.50 each!  At that price I bought ten and they threw in four connecting bolts which I could not find in the right size at the local hardware store.

If you want you can buy a replacement for the entire standoff, complete with star fangled nuts and retaining bracket, here is an example on for $14.95. 

That's probably what an RV technician would do to save time. However I chose  to replace just the nuts and connecting bolts because:

  1. I want to use the original mounting brackets and
  2. I'm not sure if all the star fangled nuts need to be replaced only four of the ten seem to be loose, and
  3. the bottom of the ladder attaches to the mounting bracket without a standoff tube.
I'll start work today and the repair will be my next post. 

Click here for part 2.