Monday, June 4, 2012

Meeting a driving challenge & having a couple of adventures along the way..

Since I really don't have much time to play with cars this year, a challenge presented itself when my wife's parents demolished a very old house with perfectly good traditional clay fired tiles.
We could have them for free if I'd collect them!

Our company had done some business close to Osaka so whilst driving up to Okayama in December to meet our customer and complete the transaction I thought I'd have a first stab at it.

Arriving a day earlier I drove our Hiace to the site some 650km to Shodoshima island and loaded it with the help of my bother in law. I hadn't up to this point realised just how heavy and how many different tiles there were. Then it begun to dawn on me as the van struggled to it's bump stops and begun to resemble a Californian low rider. Being a Diesel 4WD I knew it could handle the trip as far as the drivetrain went, but what concerned me was a lack of braking, suspension and overloading of tyres.
I eased it onto the road for a test drive and found although very heavy, it still cruised OK. I'd just have to drive very steadily to avoid breaking tiles or the vehicle!

Early the next morning I caught the ferry and as I left the car to go and relax in the lounge I looked at the rear tyre on the passenger side. Was it on something that was making the tyre deform or was it losing air?

I probably had around 2 tons of load inside, maybe, actually most probably more as I'd filled it with as many as it could accommodate, shielded by a raised plywood box to avoid damage to the interior.
I came down 2 hours later to find that tyre completely flat - it had split when going over something hard & protruding!
The standard jack was of only basic use - deforming under the car's weight, but would raise almost to the point of taking the wheel off the ground...

So I begun looking around for another jack...

A Japanese truck driver returning to his cab kindly came to the rescue with a much heftier bottle jack fir a 5 ton axle which we managed to slide underneath with the scissor jack to help initially raise the chassis. The spare wheel was finally on & the car lowered to the ground just as the boat's doors begun opening at Kobe port.
I thanked the old man for his great efforts, said a short prayer and headed for Kansai airport where I was to meet my friend for the next 2 days for some fun & business at the same time.

I hadn't been able to find a replacement tyre so I got a couple of cans of emergency expanding foam and set off into the early evening. Fuel consumption was about 10-15% more and I didn't go above around 90 km/h, keeping lots of distance with cars ahead, etc. The car made it, but I knew I had to find a better way than using the Hiace & inexpensively - as paying a proper truck & driver to do this work's very costly in Japan.... and so are these tiles, usually!

So for another trip about 8 weeks afterward I rented a diesel truck and made the 650km trip to Kobe & Shodoshima.
Arriving around 5pm we spent about 2 1/2 hours loading and securing the tiles before going to my wife's parents for the night. We were greeted with great food as usual, followed by dips in the local natural hot spring.
On our return by the time our heads hit our pillows we were fast asleep.

The truck was riding very low and once again was very overloaded, but surprisingly it didn't get onto it's bump stops and drove absolutely fine. I did have concerns it might beach itself on the steep loading ramp for the ferry, but it was fine.

We made it home within 48 hours of leaving, having unloaded it all and separated the many different tiles into neat piles.

We have one more load to go and collect with the remaining 35% of tiles, as well as my wife's old Piano to bring for our little ones to learn with. Maybe later this month... !

These tiles are intended for use in improving the roof over the walkway at the back of the house and possibly for re-roofing the storage barn when we get around to re-building it in a couple of years.... as a small guest house.

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