Corbin's Treehouse - Corbin Dunn, Santa Cruz, CA
Plug Bug

Archive for October, 2016

Plug Bug: The bug is squished… I was rear ended!

It’s a sad day in electric-ville. I was driving the electric bug to work at about 6:45 am on Highway 85, trying to enjoy my morning commute by working on learning some Japanese words for an upcoming trip. Listing to to language stuff on audio is awesome, and I really enjoy learning new things. Now at this time there was already quite a bit of traffic, which I consider the plague of silicon valley, and it slowly came to a stop in the #2 lane. Yeah, that is CHP speak for the second lane from the left.

Then I saw it happening. I always look in my rear view mirror when traffic slows down or stops, as I like to be prepared for the unexpected, and this time it actually happened. The car behind me, a 2001 Ford Escape XLT, didn’t slow down and rammed into the bug’s rear end at quite a fantastic speed. I was holding my foot on the brake, and in hindsight I probably could have softened my blow by letting the car move forward and whacking the guy in front of me. Instead, my neck took the brute of the force with some strong whiplash.

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The woman’s air bag went off, and she was disoriented with a cut lip. My neck was sore, but I otherwise was fine. At least so far, as this just happened this morning, and my body might take some time to feel the effects of the accident. The woman’s car doesn’t have too much damage, but the bug didn’t fare so well in the impact.

The bug wouldn’t move; the ignition was disabled and the throttle wasn’t working. I also couldn’t move the shifter — something was really messed up with the transmission. It is actually good that the car’s power source was disabled on impact. I have one of the main contactors to the controller hooked up to an inertia switch. The inertia switch is a simple little device that on impact will provide a hole in the 12v circuit to cut power. I discovered it works a few years ago when I hit a major pothole on Highway 17 and got stuck on the side of the road for a few minutes before I realized what happened and reset it. It worked great in this case; it immediately cut power to one of the two main contactors and starved the controller from having high voltage power. It requires a physical reset by pushing in on a button, but it is located in the rear trunk motor compartment and I couldn’t get it open. I also wouldn’t want to reset it until I made sure that the electrical paths were all sane and not shorting out on anything like the body frame. Conversions usually keep the high voltage pack isolated from the chassis. Normally a car’s 12v system will have the 12v ground hooked up to the body of a car, but that isn’t safe to do with the high voltage pack.

At first I couldn’t push the car off the freeway and thought the transmission was locked completely, but I realized I had put the e-brake on before I got out of the car to see how the lady behind me was doing.

Of course, I called 911, and the cops came within minutes. They were very friendly and I was happy to have them around to help make things feel a little safer. Luckily the traffic was bad, and not moving too fast to present an extra dangerous situation.

I had AAA tow the car to my house, and now I’ll have to deal with the other person’s insurance to get the car fixed. What happens depends on the extent of the damage, and I’m not planning on doing the work myself. The transmission is spewing out oil on the ground…so that means something bad happened inside it. The motor was probably impacted and pushed the tranny forward and broke stuff inside it. I have a feeling that the tranny and motor are damaged, and possibly the controller. I won’t know until I take the bumper off, and I am not going to touch the car until a claims adjuster first takes a look at it.

The rear engine deck lid is destroyed; there is a hole it from pushing the release hatch through the metal. I’ll need a “new” one from a salvage vehicle…which might be hard to come by. Matching the paint is going to be impossible, since I did a custom job on it…which means the car probably will need to be repainted. The bumper is wrecked…the rear panels are damaged and need straightening, and the light is destroyed. 

The car managed to remain whole and without major damage until today. That is from 1969 until 2016. Forty-seven years. Almost half a century, and then this happens to me. I blame distracted drivers looking on their cell phones. Don’t do it!

I’m quite sad. I have a strong attachment to this car, as I know every little part on it.

PS: I’m okay.

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Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 4 – Leveling and Gluing Together

The kayak is starting to look like a real boat! First you have to level it, propped up on some sticks/sawhorses:

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Then install the bulkheads:


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 And finally, start gluing it together with some epoxy/wood filler mix. 

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Things I’m learning as I go:

  • I should have put the stitch holes a little closer together; this would have allowed me to use less filler; a smaller filler line (closer to ¾” wide instead of bigger than 1”) would weigh less. 
  • Using tape to create smooth lines is pretty nice to do. The directions recommend this…but I practiced with and without it a bit. The front and rear hull areas are for storage, and won’t be seen regularly by me, so I don’t mind.
  • The top coat of ‘unthinned’ epoxy will run down to the center. It is important to clean it up a bit afterwards…and you can keep doing it for a bit of time with the slow cure epoxy and still have it look good. I didn’t do this on one side and it is rather thick.


Next up is the middle section! It is more important, and will have some fiberglass cloth over it for additional reenforcement of the cockpit.

Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 3 – Stitching

I got to the stitching part of the “stitch and glue” kayak build! It didn’t take very long….the kit was easy to work with.  I had to push my tablesaw off to the side to make some more room for things.

Here are the sides; they are stitched on the ends with 18 gauge copper wire:

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 The bottom pieces are stitched together and then set on top to become the V bottom of the hull. I wasn’t sure which side was front…but then it became obvious (initially I had it flipped the wrong way). It only aligns up one way, and the front (bow) has a nice sweeping line, whereas the back has a flat end.

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The sides were then stitched to the bottom. I ran out of copper wire. The instructions recommend taking the wire as a roll and cutting it into thirds to generate wire pieces that were 2.5-3” long. However, this produced some slightly longer pieces, and because of that I was short a bit of wire. Luckily Home Depot sells it, and for $5 I had 25 more feet of wire.

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Next the hull is flipped right side up and you setup some sticks to remove any twist in the body..

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It’s going together a lot faster than I expected! But the glassing is going to take quite a bit of time…

Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 2 – Setup and Gluing

The kit came about a week after I ordered it. The delivery company received it in SFO, and was reluctant to deliver it to me right away — they wanted to wait an extra week or so because I was “on the edge of their delivery area”. I complained…and they rescheduled things and delivered it the next day. I didn’t want my fragile boat parts sitting in a warehouse for a week with the possibility of getting damaged.

The kit arrived fine! The delivery guy almost forgot the second package. He dropped me off the big package and we started chatting a bit about my electric VW bug. I walked into my garage, not realizing there were two packages, and was taking a look at the delivery list. It said two items…so I ran out to the guy’s truck; luckily he was still idling in my driveway and hadn’t driven away yet! He apologized, and quickly grabbed the smaller second package that contained my epoxy.

 Here is the kit as it comes:

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To build a 16’ kayak means I need at least 16’ length of space in the garage. I cleaned up my long tabletop, and started gluing together the long sides:

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The Bessey clamps hold together scarfs really well!

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 The next day I had to do a little cleanup on them. Some glue oozed below, but it was really easy to plane off and sand smooth. 


Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 1 – Choices

I’ve been wanting to build my own kayak for quite a while. Ideally I want to make a strip-style kayak; something out of locally sourced redwood would be awesome! For now, I decided to start with a stitch-and-glue style build. They are pretty easy to do, and will give me some starting experience with fiberglass.

I’ve been eyeing kits on Chesapeake Light Craft for some time now. There are so many choices, so it was hard to choose exactly what would suite my needs. The first thing I had to figure out was what are my kayaking goals? The main goals are to cruise out on the ocean at a decent pace and be able to do some casual fishing from it. That means I need something somewhat stable. At first I was thinking of the “Wood Duck” kayak, as it looks great for fishing. But the size is small, and it seems to be designed for calm waters; something like a lake or pond. I then settled on the Chesapeake models; they seem to fit the bill, but I wasn’t sure what size to go for. The 16 LT model seemed to be the best for me; they say it is suited for someone 125-175lbs, and it is highly stable. The longer ones seemed better suited for heavier people, and the smaller ones were for lighter people. The LT model is just a tiny bit smaller than the regular 16 model, and seemed perfect! I also considered the Shearwater 16 — this is also a beautiful kayak, but seems a little less stable. I really like the “hybrid” option that has a plywood stitched bottom combined with a beautiful cedar strip plank top. 

 So, I decided to go ahead and order the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak:

Right now, it is $100 off at $899 for the complete kit, and includes a few other accessories for free. The kit’s parts probably aren’t the highest quality (the seat is foam cut outs), but it will get me a taste for what I like and don’t like in a ocean kayak, and I don’t have to think about sourcing the individual pieces and wood.

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(Picture source: Chesapeake Light Craft)

Hitch Install on Tesla Model S

I needed a rack for my Tesla Model S; shoving a mountain bike along with a few unicycles in the back just wasn’t cutting it. Plus, in the winter I want to take snowboards and skis to Tahoe, and needed a good solution. I figured I would get a roof rack, but quickly discovered that the solid top Model S can’t support a rack; you have to have the panoramic roof option! So, the only thing I could do was to install a hitch. Luckily, EcoHitch makes one for the Model S:

Here’s my geared 36 unicycle dangling on the edge to see if it will work:


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The install wasn’t too bad to do at home. I was a bit nervous about getting the bumper off..but the instructions worked fairly well. On newer cars with Autopilot you have to disconnect a  cable on the right side before pulling the bumper off; otherwise you will rip it out.  I broke two plastic snaps on the inside paneling.. but they were hardly doing anything, and I can probably get some new ones easily if I want. There was also one snap on the underneath of the car that was longer than all the others….and I wasn’t sure where it went! I marked all bolts, but the plastic snaps I thought were all the same. I unsnapped a bunch but couldn’t find a matching longer one. Strange…

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It isn’t too bad at a standard charging station; I have yet to try a supercharger with it:

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