overland

Travel | Milwaukee Trip – Part 1

Travel | Milwaukee Trip – Part 1

We had planned a trip up to Milwaukee for a while now. There is an annual Bead & Button show there, with classes and a lot of vendors, so with my wife being a beader, it provided a great excuse to head out to the midwest. We lucked out and were grateful that we had family come into town to watch our little guy and dog for the week. Our first leg of the trip was to Cleveland, which would be the halfway point for us on the way up to Milwaukee. This was a pretty uneventful ride, and we left at a decent time so traffic wasn’t that bad and we had smooth sailing. We only stopped for gas and hit up a Hardees for lunch. We apparently were a bit excited to get this trip going, and actually forgot that we were supposed to make a stop on the way. We made it to Cleveland around dinner time on Sunday. The hotel mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of stuff open at this time, but pointed us to a couple of areas where we may find dinner. Being in the truck all day, we decided to walk down to the water front and check out a few of the sites. The road outside of our hotel ended at Lake Erie and the water front area, so off we went. The lake front was undergoing some renovations, so we imagine there will be more activity there in the future, but we did manage to climb these rather large steps to see the skyline. It’s a pretty cool view, even with the overcast weather. On the way to the water front, you pass the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was closed at the time. Truth be told, we actually weren’t really that gung ho to go in anyway.

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Cleveland skyline from Lake Erie

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View across the tracks to a train station.

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Birthplace of Rock & Roll with the Hall of Fame Museum in the background.

We headed back downtown. The majority of the city was pretty quiet. The Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were playing in the NBA finals, though in California. However, the Quicken Loans Arena was hosting a viewing party, so we started to see the trickle of fans in their Cleveland gear. We headed to the Historic Gateway District. The main road leads to the Arena, so it was loaded with people. The Gateway is a pretty cool area, a portion of it is only open to foot traffic and there is a lot of activity happening. There were a bunch of restaurants and bars in this area that were actually open. Many bars were getting ready for the game. We saw Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro, though we weren’t in that state of mind, so we ended up eating at Zocalo. It’s a Mexican Restaurant & Tequila bar, and an empty outdoor seating area. With all the people walking through, we wanted to maximize our people watching. They age Tequila onsite, so when I ordered a margarita, I had to try their Zocalo. To be honest, I think this may have been a waste. The margarita tasted like many others, and thinking back, no need to use the good liquor in a mix drink. We ended up ordering way more food than we needed. We had some confusion on sizes, as we thought the menu was indicating one of each (Tacos, Empanadas, etc), yet they came out in groups. So we essentially had three of everything. The food was decent, but the location was all that was necessary.

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Zocalo – The entrance is through an ally.

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Margarita, salsa, & gaucamole.

After stuffing ourselves, we meandered back to the hotel to call it a night. We had been on the road all day, and needed to plan our next day. At this point, we had realized that we missed a stop, and wanted to make sure we coordinated the rest of the trip better. During this coordination we realized that we wouldn’t be able to hit up Great Lakes Brewing during this trip. This was high on the list, however they were not a walkable distance for dinner, and they opened later on Monday than we wanted to delay getting on the road again. Especially since we had to backtrack to stop in at our previously missed site. So after a good nights rest and solid breakfast, we got back on the road to head to this missed site, which is Smucker’s.

The beauty of going on trips and traveling through America is you learn so much. We had never realized that Smucker’s was in the heart of Ohio, that they owned a lot of other products other than Jelly (the biggest shocker being Jif Peanut Butter), and that they would have a place for you to visit. We stopped in at the headquarters first, which is located at 1 Strawberry Lane in Orrville, Ohio. I love it when business brand like that, and continue to get a kick out of the street name. Must say though, the store was a bit of a bust. We were hoping for unique items or even lower pricing, however this is not the case. The store itself is pretty cool, and there is a cafe. In the middle, there is a sampling station, where they will provide samples of some of the products. But the majority of the items available are stuff you can buy at your local grocery store for the same price. The other let down was on the designer side, as we thought the colored glass in the back of the store was going to be jelly, alas its just colored glass. We made sure to grab some JIF socks and Smucker’s t-shirts though as well as pick up a few jars due to convenience.

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Smucker’s Company Store & Cafe

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Smucker’s Company Store & Cafe Interior

We got back on the road and pushed on. Most of this leg of the trip was through America’s heartland, and mainly farms. We did stop at an Arby’s for lunch, but not much else big happened until we got to South Bend Indiana. We had to stop in at Notre Dame and see the Football Jesus, as well as get our stadium picture (here is a link to the stadium picture). We were a bit surprised at Notre Dame, granted we didn’t drive through the whole campus, but a lot of it looked fairly new. I was expecting a more historic look I guess. And for some reason, I thought the Football Jesus was right next to the stadium, it is across a lawn near the stadium. Amazing how distorted things can look on TV sometimes. After driving around and trying to secure the best angle, we got back on the highway. We got bogged down once we hit Chicago. Not sure if the expressway would have been better, but we were right in rush hour, so we got to enjoy the skyline for a bit. We finally made it to Milwaukee. After settling in the hotel, we ventured out to grab dinner. We were pretty tired at this point, and didn’t do a lot of research on where to grab a meal. We also knew we would be there for the majority of the week and had time. Rock Bottom Brewery was right around the corner and looked over the river. Rockbottom may be mainstream now, but it holds a special place to us. When we first met during a school trip, the first place we officially had dinner at was a Rock Bottom. When we moved to the DC area, we frequented the Rock Bottom in Arlington, and we have hit many others in other cities. They have a great location, with plenty of out door seating, bar, and grill space. This wasn’t open at the time, and it started raining when we were seated, but we were still able to look out at the sites. It was nice to just chill after a long two days of travel, and so we hit the sack after dinner to relax.

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University of Notre Dame – Football Jesus

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Rock Bottom Milwaukee – Our View

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Rock Bottom Milwaukee – Entry & Signage

References

Zocalo Mexican Grill & Tequileria
2071 E 4th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
216.781.0420
www.zocalocleveland.com

JM Smucker Company Store & Cafe
333 Wadsworth Road
Orrville, OH 44667
330.684.1500
Smucker Company Store Website

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556
574.631.5000
www.nd.edu

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
740 N Plankinton Ave #1
Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.276.3030
www.rockbottom.com/locations/milwaukee 

4Runner – Timing Belt & Water Pump

4Runner – Timing Belt & Water Pump

Started 8.16.2015, finished 8.20.2015

The 4Runner has some miles on it, a little over 180,000, and so I want to make sure that I’m doing some preventive maintenance.  This rig was very well taken care of before, but I enjoy knowing everything that has been replaced.  Gives me piece of mind. It is recommended to check the timing belt after 60,000, and replace at 90,000.  I believe we were pushing the latter on the current belt, so I am replacing it.  While in there, might as well take care of some of the other items that tend to have similar life expectancy, such as the water pump, and other belts.  It was recommended to change out the thermostat, but I didn’t read that till after tear down begun.

There are a ton of posts on forums (www.t4r.org and www.yotatech.com to name a couple, though I’m sure there are many other forums that have this as well) and plenty of videos on YouTube.  I found this post most useful though:

http://www.4x4wire.com/toyota/maintenance/timing_belt/

I also referenced this video on YouTube more than the others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xv11NRc5Xg

Because there is so much already posted on doing this work, I don’t want to provide a step by step, but did want to mention a few hardships and tricks we figured out.

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Getting to the spark plugs and wires.

Before we launched into the timing belt and water pump, we changed out the spark plugs and spark plug wires.  This is just part of the maintenance that I wanted to do, and has nothing to do with the other project.  I picked up some NGK Iridiums and NGK wires.  I’m a bit partial to NGK, but that may have to do with me being an Amsoil dealer and NGK having a past relationship.  I’ve also used them in my motorcycles and are pretty happy with their performance. Toyota recommends the use of double electrode plugs, but after reading through a bunch of threads, figured the single Iridium would be fine.  There is also a bunch of discussion on using a mix of Denzo and NGK, as that is how it came stock.  However, there is a bunch of evidence pushing towards this theory, that the engine each half of the engine was manufactured in a different factory, and each factory had its own preference.  I pulled all Denzos out, so obviously the previous spark plug change by a Toyota dealership didn’t warrant a mix.  This change was fairly easy, the passenger side especially.  The driver side required a little wiggling of parts out of the way, but wasn’t an issue either.  We cleaned up the coils and added some dielectric grease.

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Plugs and wires all done, nice and clean.

My dad was in town for my son’s first birthday, so I luckily had a helping hand to tackle this. The tear down to get to the timing belt and water pump started easy enough.  Drain the radiator, remove fan shroud, fan, hoses, radiator, belts, timing belt covers, etc (the link above has a nice step by step).  The part that got us was the crank nut.  In posts and videos alike, there is a reference to a specialty tool.  I have yet to see a manufactured tool though, and many look like some welded scrap metal put together.  This tool is supposed to hold the crank pulley while the nut is loosened.  This nut requires 250 pounds of torque, so it’s on there pretty good.  We of course didn’t have the tool, or scrap metal and a welder to make our own.  My pneumatic impact wrench couldn’t shake it, and we bent many screw drivers and allen wrenches trying to hold the pulley while using the breaker bar.  My friend Will came over to see if he could help, but it wasn’t budging.  After speaking to another friend of mine Jazz, who was a mechanic back in the day, he recommended isolating the flywheel.  I’m chicken when it comes to sticking screwdrivers into flywheels, or many other parts of vehicles that screwdrivers are not supposed to be stuck in. So the project grounded to a halt.   Sadly, my dad had to fly back home and couldn’t help me finish this project.

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Removing the fan and belts.

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Removing the covers and exposing the timing belt.

The next day, Jazz was able to stop by.  We first tried to access the flywheel by going through the transmission access plate.  However, he wasn’t able to get a good enough angle.  So he took the starter off.  My shop is a bit limited on tools, so we headed to the auto store to pick up something a bit more substantial.  He was able to jam a tie rod separator tool (think hefty tuning fork) into the flywheel.  It was amazing how little effort it took now to get the nut loose.  With the nut and pulley off, Jazz had to head home.  It was already late, and I spent the majority of what little time was left in the evening putting the starter and access plate back.  Apparently, putting the rig in 5th gear and e-break on helps loosen it too.  I can’t say that it would have worked, as I didn’t see that till later, but worth a shot.

With the nut now off, the following day saw a lot of progress to some degree.  With everything off, it was easy to remove the old water pump and replace it with the new one.  I changed the o-ring seal for the thermostat and cleaned up the hose connections.  I made sure to scrap off the old gasket.  It was recommended to use a 400 grit sand paper.  I did so, but also used a razor, as it was a pain to get your hand in there to scrap.  Carefully putting the water pump back on as to not mess up the gasket and sealant.  One note here, when putting the thermostat back in, make sure you have the little whole at the top, in the “noon” position.

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Water pump removal.

With the water pump done, it was time for the timing belt. I removed the idyler pulleys, timing belt, and covers.  Comparing the timing belts, I realized that the new one didn’t have the marks to align TDC.  After I slight freak out and some research, this apparently isn’t an issue.  I also noticed that one of my cam pulleys had shifted and was no longer aligned.  I was able to adjust it back into place.  If you have the “special tool”, you can use it for that adjustment as well, but since I didn’t, I just used a ratchet.  I’ve heard that’s not the best thing to do as you can loosen the pulley if you aren’t careful, but I didn’t have many other options.  Once aligned, I tried to put the belt on.  This was near impossible, as I couldn’t slip it over all of the pulleys.  I tried to sneak it through with the top idyler pulley off, but it just wasn’t budging.  Looking back at the instructions I posted, I remembered that a bunch of other items needed to be removed to make this easy.  I was hesitant, as some of the posts and videos I saw, showed people doing the whole operation without removing all these additional parts and pieces.  Looking back, I should have just followed his very thorough instructions.  Not sure how some of those other peopled pulled it off, but I’m obviously not them.  In order to loosen the tensioner idyler pulley, I had to reduce the tension.  In order to get there, I had to unbolt the power steering pulley and the AC pulley, and remove a few other plates to gain access.  Using budgee cords to hold some of these parts in place so that tubing and other connections wouldn’t stretch or deform.  With the tension low, I was able to get the timing belt on, aligned correctly, and ready to go.  After putting all that I just had to take off back on, it was late again and time to call it quits for the day.

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Releasing the tension.

Now going into my fifth day of this project, which some say was a three hour job, I was happy that this was just a finishing day.  Time to put everything back together.  This was the least crazy day, as it was just bolting everything back in, adding coolant, and reconnecting everything.  While the radiator was out, we made sure to spray it with water to clean it.  There was a significant amount of dirt build up, so a good idea if you wheel with your vehicle.  We also used a brillo pad to clean the hose connections, since you want a nice tight seal for those areas.  Once all back together, I crossed my fingers and started her up.  So far she is running well.  I have had a couple of Check Engine Lights (CEL) come and go, but she had that issue before hand (the O2 sensors are playing games with me at the moment, and I’m steadily changing them out as well).  The only thing that I have noticed so far is the power steering belt squeaks.  It’s pretty tight, so need to look into that a bit more.

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All put back together and clean.

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Finished

It was great to get to know my rig more by doing this process.  Luckily I’ve bought myself 90,000 more miles before having to do it again.  I’m sure doing it a second time will be easier, but hopefully that will be a while.  If you aren’t very handy and haven’t done any work on a vehicle, I would definitely recommend you take this somewhere to be done.  There were a few moments where I found myself severely concerned about having messed up the engine (if the timing is off, things can go very bad).  I would also do the water pump, thermostat, and belts while in there.  Glad that’s done, so now onto the next thing.

Recovery Gear Tool Box

Recovery Gear Tool Box

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Previously I had a big plastic foot locker that was from my college days that I would cram a bunch of random camping and recovery gear in.  It wasn’t very organized, and was kind of a catchall for any off-road trips that I may have been headed on.  With the addition of the winch, picking up a tree saver (had the tow strap already) and a couple of other items, I decided it was time to have a tool box that would cover the recovery and tool basics.  I didn’t want to pick up one of the very pricey options that you can find all over the place, and after searching Home Depot and Lowes, finally settled on a box that I saw for sale at Lowes.  It’s pretty sturdy, has a gasket to protect the interior from water infiltration, has a nice handle, and was a decent size.

At the moment, here is what I packed into it:

  • Tow strap
  • Tree saver strap
  • Camo tarp
  • Bear Grylls Gerber knife w/ fire flint
  • Gloves
  • Entrenching tool for shoveling needs
  • Axe/Machete sharpener
  • Knife sharpener
  • Head lamp
  • D-Ring
  • Safety glasses
  • Winch remote
  • Machete
  • Survival waterproof bag (has more fire starting material, 550 paracord, and other survival odds and ends)
  • Bundle of rope
  • Carabiners and other fasteners
  • High calorie nutritious snacks
  • Not Pictured – allan wrenches, screw drivers, and some other tools

I think over time, some of this will grow and develop further.  Some of these items may end up finding other homes, but for now, I felt that this covered at least a decent amount of  my recovery and tool concern for the time being.  Wasn’t able to add some of my other camping gear, and I’ll have to find a temporary home for the growler cooler. I’m planning on adding a drawer system and some other storage components that will help down the road.  Still think this is a good start none the less.