Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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Storm Highway by Dan RobinsonClick for an important message
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                   Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 5:20PM

Event vehicle work, continued (part 5)

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With yet another March day breaking 70 degrees yesterday, it was a perfect day to be outside. Work kept me indoors until late in the evening, however I did get a little time in on tweaking the mobile chase setup.

Safety lights/strobes: Today I removed the strobe heads and took them down to the basement workbench. I masked the amber lenses, then gave the brackets and wires a coat of black spray paint (above). Once that dried, I loosened the screws on the back panel of the truck cab, just enough to get the strobe wire through, and re-mounted the strobe heads. The result looks much better than before (right), but I'm still not 100% satisfied with it. The connector plugs for the strobe bulbs are huge, and won't fit down behind the paneling - even after I cut most of the bulky plastic protrusions off of them. I'll just have to cut the plugs out altogether, and splice the leads together with mini wire nuts to get everything to fit. I don't really like that, as it will make the system harder to remove (the wires will have to be disconnected to get out from behind the paneling).

That said, the way the amber strobe heads look now is beginning to grow on me a little more, at least to the 'chaser' side of me. They are not too garish, and with the cleaned-up look that the black paint affords, they actually are starting to look like they belong there (not too out of place). I may just leave them for now, but I reserve the right to change my mind later.

click to enlarge

Camera shelter: Another project I'm saving for Raleigh is the construction of a stowable camera shelter to replace the main benefit of the Freestyle's rear liftgate. As of now the original plan hasn't changed - just a large umbrella with a base modified to fit on the bed rail, into one of the rear stake holes. Basically a return to the method I used on my old Ranger. The challenge is going to be where to store the umbrella. It has to stay in the bed, as wet umbrellas aren't nice things to lay on top of cameras inside. I don't like the sound of that, just remembering the task of having to store an umbrella in the old Ranger. Umbrellas don't weather the full-time elements well, and a deteriorating umbrella laying back there is a little too 'hillbilly' for me. It would also need securing back there, as wind catches the fabric and tries to lift it upward. I'm thinking about a tube or a ski case to hold both the tripod and the umbrella, so I'm planning on hitting some sporting goods stores this weekend to look at options.

Power switches: This is a new item that has arisen from having to plug and unplug the inverter power (for the dashcam) every time I drive somewhere. I know after enough of that, the cigarette lighter plug contacts are eventually going to break or stop making contact (no cigarette lighter plug I've known has been built that well). So, I'm trying to figure out a way to splice in an inline switch on the wire just outside the plug, so I can just leave the inverter line plugged in. Again, the requirements that it be unobtrusive and look good is narrowing my options. It needs to be small and black to match the wire. Inline lamp switches won't work, as they all use those annoying 'blade contacts' that simply pierce the insulation to contact the wire. I want something with the more substantial screw terminals.

Jotto desk: The Jotto mount is still a thorn in my side, as I still haven't figured an acceptable way to mount and stabilize it that will meet the following requirements:

  • No drilling of mounting holes. This is a big problem, as the Jotto base is designed to be permanently bolted to the floor using sheet metal screws, which requires drilling holes into the floor. If the base is bolted without drilling, it will need to be to the passenger seat mounting bolt (via a custom bracket) - a problem, since the bolt on my Ranger is about 4 inches back under the seat. I have not found any other realistically possible mounting locations.
  • Must be easily removed and re-attached.
  • Must leave the passenger seat open for use (no brackets or supports stretching across the passenger space).
I'm getting to the point now that I may just not use the Jotto desk at all, and just look for another product. Too bad, because it has always been a comfortable solution and has held up perfectly over the past 5 years. I have seen a desk that is designed to be mounted to the seat bolt, with a main support that has bendable joints to accomodate weird mounting configurations. The Jotto was an expensive desk, so I'd rather find a way to use it. So, for now I'll just continue playing with ideas to that end.

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