Finding Ryomobile 2

Back in 2006 when I was searching for the Ryomobile, I found the perfect match in a Scion xB, and it has served me well over the last 4 years and 60,000 miles. But times change, and now that I’m thinking of spending a significant amount of time this Summer up on my property, the xB’s inability to navigate the dirt road leading up to my hut will be a significant drawback. While wrenching a 800lb trailer up by hand was fun, and hauling hundreds of pounds of supplies using a handcart gave me a great workout (you shoulda seen my abs), I’ll be completely honest and say, I don’t want to do that again. It’d be nice if I can drive up to my hut with supplies and equipment, so that I could spend less time hauling, and more time doing other things. The thought of having to spend half a day just to haul in supplies by foot discouraged me from going up there on a short trip this month, and when my tools prevent me from doing something, that’s when I know I need a new tool.

So, basically, I need a truck. An SUV would do, but pickup trucks tend to be cheaper, and also lighter and therefor more fuel efficient. Seeing how I’ve had the back seats in my Scion folded down permanently for the last year or so, I doubt I’ll miss the passenger capacity. But hauling dirt? Mmm. That sounds useful.

Of course, while trucks are great for going off into the woods, they’re not so great everywhere else. They get worse gas mileage than my puny xB, and they’re harder to park. So, seeing how I’ll probably be a city-mountain-hybrid Ryo for a while, would it make sense to completely ditch the Ryomobile? Also, I haven’t finished paying off the Ryomobile (I have about $4k left to go) and on top of that, I’m not exactly drowning in cash like I used to… So I have a few options:

  1. Trade in the Ryomobile for a truck
    Pros: This is the simplest option, and I could end up with a vehicle that could last much longer than what I have now, since trucks generally outlast cheap 4-doors.
    Cons: There are numerous downsides to getting a used truck. One is that you don’t exactly know what kind of condition they’re in, and they generally don’t come with any warranty (my xB has an extended warranty out to 75k miles). I’ll also be spending more money on gas, and would have to deal with all the headaches of owning a truck while living in the city (if I return to the city). On top of that, according to KBB, my xB has a trade-in value of $6500-7000, which means I only get $2500-3k after paying back what I owe. A decent truck will cost at least $10k, so I’d have to shell out cash, or go further into debt.
  2. Sell the xB, then buy a used truck
    Pros: If I sell the xB privately instead of trading it into a dealer, I can probably sell it for a higher price than the trade-in value. With another 15k miles left on the warranty, I’m pretty sure I can get a decent price, since buyers won’t have to worry about it falling apart in a week.
    Cons: Selling privately is a hassle. I’d have to get the car cleaned up, inside and out. I also might have to get some dents removed and the windshield replaced, and who knows how much that’d cost. Then, I’d also have to pay off the balance on the loan before I can get the title and sell it. And only then, would I be able to go buy a truck. Oh, and I’d have to deal with not having a car after I’ve sold the Scion but before I’ve bought a truck. I guess I could rent a car, but that’s more money I’d be spending…
  3. Keep the xB, buy a clunker
    Pros: I’ll get a truck that I can use for going up to my property, but I’ll still have the xB for all other times. Keeping the xB and driving it into the ground will also allow me to extract every last dollar of value from it, and frankly, it’ll probably last me at least another few years.
    Cons: I’ll have to spend cash on the clunker, while continuing to make payments on the xB. I’d have to pay double the insurance, two registration fees, and figure out what to do with one while I’m driving the other. A clunker also is more likely to just stop running, and when up in the mountains, far from civilization, I’m not sure I want to worry about that. Also, when clunkers die, they tend to require more money than they’re worth to keep running.
  4. Sell the xB, buy a clunker (or two)
    Pros: I’d have my truck, and I could also be free of debt, and possibly even come out ahead. If I can sell the xB for $8k, that’d give me $4k to spend on a clunker. Or two. It’d be kinda cool to buy a couple of ’89 Toyota pickup trucks, and use one for parts to keep the other running (well, and learn how to do that).
    Cons: I end up with a truck (or two trucks) that could die at any moment, and leave me stranded and immobile somewhere.
  5. Swap the xB for a truck with someone for the summer
    Pros: Surely there’s someone out there with a truck who doesn’t really need it and would rather drive a car that gets 33mpg for a while. I can use a truck while I’m up on my property, but I’ll have the xB when I come back to civilization. Ideally, this won’t cost me anything.
    Cons: I’m not sure this is something people do, and I’m not sure how I’d find someone trustworthy to swap cars with. I’m also not sure how the insurance will work out.

I think right now, I’m leaning towards either just doing a trade-in, or buying a clunker and keeping the Ryomobile, with a slight preference for the former if I can find a good deal. I saw a ’04 Toyota Tacoma today for a little over $10k. It was one of the smaller trims, which are also reasonably fuel efficient, so I probably wouldn’t mind having one of ’em as my primary car.

What do y’all think?

Wish List. Department of Defense, Serenity Valley


I just came across this for-sale ad for this piece of artillery. From the seller’s description:

This is a half-scale Napoleon cannon with a just under 1 3/4″ bore… sized for golfballs !!! The wheels are 30″ diameter and designed for live fire cannon use… they won’t be shaking apart anytime soon. The barrel is double sleeved with seamless tubing. It was originally a 2 1/4″ bore and then reduced down to take golfballs. It is approximately 36″ long, just over 5″ diameter at the breech and just over 4″ diameter at the muzzle. Barrel and carriage combined weigh approximately 475 pounds. Comes with everything you need…. powder, ball, fuse, all required implements for loading and cleaning, bore gauge etc. Even comes with a mold for making up 1 pound round shot from lead or wheelweight !!!

At $2750, it sounds like a pretty good deal. If I had that kinda money lying around, I’d totally get this and set it up on my property and lay siege on… I dunno, the other end of my property. Or maybe load it up with grapeshot and go huntin’.

Year Two

I left Google exactly a year ago today, which also means today marks the first birthday of this blog. But rather than look backwards at the year that was (as awesome as it was), I’m going to look forwards and celebrate the beginning of Year Two. Admittedly, when I started this blog, I had no idea whether there’d even be a Year Two. Hell, when I came down from the woods three months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if there’d be an Year Two. I might’ve told you that there was a good chance it’d just be Laptop in a Cubicle in 2010…

But here we are. It’s March. The days are growing longer, and even in this foggy city of San Francisco where I found myself taking refuge for the winter, the sun is starting to make itself conspicuous, more often than not. And like a bear awakening from hibernation, I can feel my heart stir. My mind, more so than in weeks past, is drifting back towards Serenity Valley. If there was any doubt in my mind whether I’d go back when I came down from the mountains in November, cold, filthy, and broke, there’s no longer any doubt. I’m going back. With my laptop and a rifle, I’ll go again.

I’ll also bring some soil and gardening equipment. My goal for this year is to start a garden, and the planting season is rapidly approaching. And so is the dry season. That means I need to start collecting water. The area gets 3.5 to 4 inches of rain in March, a little under 2 in April, around 1.5 in May, then less than an inch for a few months after that. So, I need to go set up a water collection system soon. Even then, I might not be able to collect that much water, but hopefully I’ll get enough for a tiny garden. At the very least, I’m sure I’ll learn a thing or two, and probably have some fun.

The tentative plan is to make it out there once this month to setup a water collection system, then go back next month to start a garden. I’m doing some traveling in May, but hopefully I can spend most of the summer months up there. There’s a lot to figure out in the mean time, but I’ll be sure to keep the blog updated… Welcome to Year Two.

It’s a bird! It’s a bed! Wait, it’s an earthquake shelter!

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January, I’ve been thinking a lot about earthquakes, especially now that I’m living in an old building in San Franciso; a dense city in one of the world’s most earthquake prone regions. Having grown up in California and Japan, earthquakes aren’t unfamiliar to me. I can remember at least two tremblers when I was a kid, where my parents raised us in the middle of the night and lead us under the dining room table as our home rattled around us. My grandmother’s house was destroyed in the Kobe earthquake in ’95, though she fortunately survived unscathed.

After I moved into my apartment in January, I had to re-build my bed frame, as I’ve always done. Bed frames are so cheap and easy to build, yet so expensive to buy. So building one, to me, is a no-brainer, though for this latest version, it occurred to me that an extra beefy frame could also make a nice earthquake shelter too. It makes a lot of sense. First of all, I spend about a third of the day in bed, which means there’s about a one-in-three chance that I’ll be in bed when an earthquake hits (and a better than 50% chance that I’ll be home). Secondly, a bed frame already needs to be fairly sturdy, and the bed frames I build have ample space underneath for storage, which would make an ideal space to take shelter. All I’d need to do differently is to reinforce some parts, and then stash supplies underneath. You can see some of the results below:

Above is a picture of my frame, mid-construction, flipped upside down. It’s basically a two-by-four frame with one-by-six slats on top. As you can see, the main improvement I made was to reinforce the legs in both axes using diagonal supports. Although not visible in the picture, I reinforced the cross beam in the middle since it spans 50+ inches and is only supported on both ends.

Here’s a close-up of one of the corners, where you can see the front head-board post stick up vertically. The 2-foot long leg and head-board post are both attached to both diagonal supports.

Here you can see the bed in its final place and configuration. You can see that there’s ample space underneath. I also placed the bed in the corner, where the walls will hopefully provide a little extra support, and also where I have a 2nd door that might give me an exit route. Under the bed, so far, I’ve stashed a 1 gallon bottle of water, a full 7 gallon water cube filled with tap water (which I’ll need to rotate every so often), and 2400 Calories worth of energy bars. That won’t last me forever, but should I survive the actual quake, that should keep me alive for a couple of weeks.

The next step is to shore up my supplies. For instance, I need to figure out what I’d do with waste products. I also might want a flashlight, some candles (because nothing warms up one’s heart like a candle light), maybe a space blanket, something that’ll make noise (or a SPOT) to alert rescuers, and so on and so forth. Most of these supplies would be good to have, even if my roof doesn’t fall on me.

To some of you, this all might seem like excessive paranoia. But the thing is, in case you haven’t noticed, earthquakes are real. They happen, possibly without any warning. But the other thing is, just a tiny bit of preparation could go a long ways. Reinforcing my bed frame cost less than $10 in extra lumber, and maybe an extra hour of construction time. A $1 container of water could keep you alive for an extra week or two. One of the last guys to be pulled out alive in Haiti survived under a desk, off of soft drinks, booze, and snacks for 11 days. So, the little things are nothing to laugh about, and the question shouldn’t be Why?, but Why not?. Finally, if you’re still not convinced, this rather sobering article about earthquake preparedness in the US might be a good read.