Storytime: UPS Truck

If you’re planning a trip to the desert southwest, binge watching Breaking Bad in the weeks before may not be the best plan.

 

My father and I found ourselves on House Rock Road, just short of the Utah/Arizona border, and about miles from Highway 89.  While House Rock Road is pretty decent, as far as dirt roads go, it was still rutted and washboarded, making the UPS truck a bit of a surprise.

 

We hadn’t seen any houses, just a small campground at the state line, and a white RV parked in the wash.  All the tires were inflated, nothing looked or smelled broken down.  Something about it was just wrong enough to shoot our veins full of adrenaline.  Thank the Breaking Bad for that, I suppose.

 

Curious, we approached the truck, growing more and more uneasy with each step.  Both of us were armed, standard procedure for us when venturing into the unknown.  Spooked, we were more concerned about what might be waiting for us in the truck, and less worried about how a broken down deliveryman would feel when approached by two men who could have been off the cover of a Soldiers of Fortune magazine.

 

Through the driver side window, we could see the keys still dangling in the ignition.  Anxiously we tested the back door, somehow certain a corpse waited on the other side.  A few packages, no dead people.  The scent of rotting flesh, real or imagined, led me to follow tire tracks to a wash, where it would have been so easy to cave the bank in over a dead guy.

 

We searched, and found no sign of a murder, grave, or lost and confused driver.  Still terrified, we decided to camp far away from House Rock Road, and in the evening, I called the local sheriff’s department to tell them about the truck, and provided the plate number.  They never called back, and for years, my father and I figured we had overreacted.

 

About three years later, a hiker found a body in the same general area.  According to the medical examiner, the body had probably been there for two and half to three years.  Maybe, just maybe, our fear was justified.

 

http://kutv.com/news/local/remains-found-near-utah-arizona-state-line

Leatherman MUT review

I purchased my MUT in January, and so far, I like it a lot, with only a few minor complaints.

The MUT, Military Utility Tool, was built for use with assault rifles.  If you don’t carry a rifle on a nearly daily basis, then some of the tools will be less useful, and it might be lacking in some other features more useful for civilian use.

 

Weight

The MUT is rather heavy, 11.2 oz or 317.5 grams if you prefer metric.  Compared to the Wave at 8.5/241, or the Skeletool at 5/142, it’s a bit of a chunk.  Because so much of it is for firearms (bolt override tool, disassembly punch, cleaning rod threads, carbon scraper) I guess they figure anyone who’s carrying a 7.5 pound rifle, along with spare magazines, boots, and possibly body armor, won’t mind the extra weight so much.  Considering the rest of the junk I carry around, I have no room to complain.

Less Useful Tools

While I’ve used every tool on the MUT at least once, there are some I could do without.  The carbon scraper isn’t especially useful, I’ve only used it to open boxes and locked doors.  The one time I used the saw was to cut some PVC so it would fit in my car.  The saw’s too short to be terribly useful, I’d rather have a second knife blade.  One to keep sharp, one for the dirty jobs.

The “hammer” adds some weight, and isn’t a very good hammer.  I’ve only used it to knock boards into place before fastening them.

The bolt override tool can make a reasonable lever.  Since the end is tapered, you can slide it under rat belts (zip ties) or straps, and then cut them with the belt cutter.

I don’t usually use the pocket clip, because the MUT’s pretty large to keep in a pocket.  It does work with the tool open or closed, and I do like the ability to clip it in my pocket when I’m in the middle of a project.

The safety is pretty much unnecessary, I don’t use it.

The belt cutter is always somewhat exposed, so it could potentially snag and cut things it shouldn’t.  This hasn’t been a problem so far.

I haven’t used the cleaning rod adapters, since every time I’ve needed one, I’ve had an entire cleaning kit, complete with handle.

Things I Like

The carbide wire cutters can be replaced, so I don’t have to worry about abusing them too much.  I feel like I could cut through a fish hook without too much trouble, which can be the only way to remove one from flesh.  If they do become damaged, two Torx screws hold them in place.

I’ve only used the punch a couple times, but I made a spike to replace it.  Usually I carry both.  After a few trips where a marlinspike would have been useful, I made one.  The next week, I used it to repair a tire near Goblin Valley.  The hole was small enough the standard reamer in a plug kit wouldn’t fit, I was able to open up the puncture with the spike until the normal tools could be used.  At some point, I might make a corkscrew to go with it.

The belt cutter is easily accessible, and is nice for cutting clothing tags, zip ties, tape, and cord.

Many times I’ve needed a hex or torx driver, and been happy to have those and a driver on my belt.  With the extension, standard hex shanks can be used, so I keep a few sockets in the Jeep.  A variety of sizes of screwdriver, flat and phillips, make the impromptu tightening or loosening job easy.  It’s nice to avoid trips up and down a ladder.

 

TL;DR

The MUT is big, heavy, but also has a lot of tools.  Since time to time, I do carry around rifles, it’s a pretty good choice for me.  I’d also recommend the Wave and OHT.  Gerber also has some nice ones, at more reasonable prices.

EDC (Every Day Carry)

We all have things we carry every, or nearly every day.  A casual look at Reddit’s EDC thread shows certain trends.  Often you can tell a lot about a person by what they have in their pockets, and if the person in question knows what EDC means, they probably carry at least one knife and a flashlight.  Here’s a look at the normal contents of my pockets.

Leatherman isn't paying me.

Contents include:

  • Key ring with attached monkeyfist.  I slide it under my belt or let it hang out of my pocket, so I can drag my keys up from the bottom of my pocket.  Also on the ring is a military can opener, and…
  • Leatherman Squirt ES4 Circuit Breaker with a small knife, scissors, file, screwdrivers, and of course, bottle opener.  My favorite feature–instead of pliers, it’s equipped with a set of wire strippers.
  • Hazard 4 Kevlar Wallet holding cards and some cash, that’s about all
  • LG Slider Phone because data plans are expensive, and I have a
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab A replacing my Nexus 7.  Wifi is so easy to come by, and much of what can be done on a smartphone can be done on a tablet.
  • Handkerchief is not pictured because it’s gross.  Useful for everything from bodily fluids to engine oil.
  • Lighter lately I’ve been carrying a Zippo with butane insert, sometimes I carry a regular Zippo, or just a bic.
  • Single AAA Flashlight Useful for finding your keys when you drop them, looking under the hood, and a million other things.  Also a good backup in case you forget your headlamp when camping.
  • Tiny Adjustable Wrench for wrenching small nuts and bolts.
  • Zebra Mechanical Pencil 0.5 mm of course, waterproof, good functionality, writes on waterproof paper well.
  • Leatherman MUT A tool so versatile it deserves and will receive it’s own post.  Multitools are rarely the best tool for a situation, and almost always better than nothing.  The MUT has a lot of features, especially with the
  • Leatherman Bit Kit and Extention Flathead, Phillip’s, torx, and hex.  The extension adapts to standard hex bits, as well as the Leatherman ones.
  • Half a Nylon Spudger Spudgers are useful for poking and prying at electronics without breaking them.  Also, with a hole in the middle, they do a good job of holding a
  • Custom Threaded Marlinspike After a rafting trip, and several situations where a marlinspike would have been useful, I decided to add one to the MUT.
  • Blackhawk Rigger’s Belt because you never know when you might need to rappel from a helicopter.  Also the MUT, bit kit, extension, spudger, spike, and wrench live in MOLLE pouches on the belt.

That’s about it.  How about you?  What’s in your pockets?  And what else should be in mine?  Comment below.

One Year

I can fly a plane!
Taken by UVU CFI Joshua Smith, SMIJ

A year ago, today (I started this post when it was still Saturday) I achieved something I had dreamed of for longer than I could remember.  I successfully completed my Private Pilot checkride, and earned a pilot’s license.

Flying is expensive, and I haven’t been in an airplane since my checkride.  Every day, I think about the 58.8 hours I spent as a pilot, especially the 9 hours as PIC (Pilot in Command), for 7.5 hours of which I was the sole occupant of an aircraft.  It’s slightly surreal to be handed the keys to a $125,000 aircraft and sent on your way.

My experience as an aviator was incredible.  Never have I worked so hard, or been rewarded so greatly.  I learned and and perfected skills such as situational awareness, planning, risk management, crew resource management, and task management.

 

Perhaps it was a mistake to pursue the dream of flight without the financial means to see it through to the end.  But I don’t think so.  Flight was one of the greatest thing I’ve done.  Even though it almost physically hurt to attend an airshow today, and see all the planes I am qualified to fly but can’t afford, I remember the peace I felt and my love of flight, driving me towards my next flight.

The photo was taken by my excellent flight instructor Joshua Smith, aka SMIJ.  I’m holding my temporary license.

Lake Powell Rant

Lake Powell is a misnomer.

The word “lake” suggests something natural, a low point in the land where water collected.  Ducks swim, fish leap, reeds grow on the sides.  Perhaps trees grow on the shore.

Lake Powell is a reservoir.  Previous to the monstrous Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River flowed uninhibited through Glen Canyon on through the Grand Canyon.  Now much of Glen Canyon is submerged under the almost stagnant waters.  Tourists in houseboats distribute rafts of trash over wonders they could scarcely comprehend.

Along with the Anasazi ruins, the town of Hite was submerged.  To add insult to injury, the Hite Marina, named after the soggy village, is now rarely used due to the low water levels.

Perhaps most offensive of all, they named the reservoir after the one armed explorer, John Wesley Powell, who explored the river gorge now covered by the reservoir.  More insulting than naming a shopping mall after whatever was cut down to make room, one has to wonder what they were thinking when they chose a name.

Whether the Reservoir is and was truly necessary is yet to be seen.  The water and power it provides will hopefully become less essential as we move towards more efficient management of resources.  As silt fills the reservoir, and the zebra and quagga muscles clog the machinery, alternatives must be found.  But as long as the Reservoir remains, we can be certain people will be dragged around by speedboats, most too young to remember what used to be.  A canyon was sacrificed for water and power, and most who benefit are unaware.