Ruby’s trailer hitch

August 23, 2016



I’ll never belittle a factory-installed trailer hitch option again.  Sure, 1D6 Trailer Hitch without Ball cost $2110. and had never been used.   But I ran Ruby up the hoist, backed the four screws out of the cover plate, and slid in a 7 pin hitch adapter from

Next I slid a 7 to 4 pin adapter onto the wires from my fishing boat trailer and hooked it up.  Everything worked except the right tail-light on the trailer.  The wires were too short to turn right, though.  As I got ready to lengthen the wires I noticed a pinch which had broken the green wire.  An hour of splicing later, everything was set.

I started the car and the dash warned:  “Check your trailer lights!”  This icon wasn’t going away, so I got out, checked the lights, and returned.  Ruby was satisfied with this and gave back the normal dashboard display.  Next time I started the engine it was the same scenario, but I discovered I could outwit my nanny by simply opening and closing the door.

At least a $1000 premium for a gee-whiz warning on the dashboard?  Actually it’s the brake controller wired into the seven-pin socket which has raised my hopes*.  If the hitch is only to carry a couple of bikes, the sophisticated wiring and heavy-duty hitch aren’t worth it, but with the 20′ car hauler sitting next to the garage, the hitch package may provide real value.

*My son has assured me that Ruby will still need a separate brake controller to handle a trailer with electric brakes, but I have found online that the wiring, complete with a four-pin connector, are already in place in a nook just above the parking brake pedal.

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20160822_091945My neighbour joked about the last column which had a picture of Ruby on the hoist with a caption, “Welcome home, Ruby.”  Well, Ruby does look at home on a hoist.  The photo above may be a bit aspirational, but we’ll see.

Charlie commented: “Clearly this car has had an easy life in Vancouver;  likely seldom even getting up to highway speeds, let alone making trips into the mountains.  There is no substantial corrosion anywhere on the bottom of a 12 year-old car.  While Vancouver has very little bright sunlight, this paint’s brightness could only come from extended periods of inside storage.”

He further told me that the previous owner, a gold merchant, had bought Ruby from a friend of his in 2008, had it serviced by the same mechanic at a small shop, and then replaced it in 2016 with a new Porsche Macan.  When the Macan went into his garage, Ruby had been banished to a crowded outdoor parking lot for the first time.

The project of the afternoon was to track down a growl in the right front part of the running gear.  Drive shafts and brakes and rotors seem to be perfect, as are the tires.  We turned off the stability computer and ran the drivetrain with the wheels lifted off the floor. Things turned smoothly and without vibration, though the superior power of the front brakes caused the driveshaft to wind up a little bit when I shifted into DRIVE and released the brakes.  Charlie had warned me to start and stop very gently to prevent unnecessary strain on the drivetrain.

We checked the ATF level in the centre differential.  It seemed a little low, about 1/4″ below the fill level.  To access the front diff we had to remove the bottom plate, so we set about the twenty-minute job, eager to see what the bottom of the engine looks like.

It looks pretty good down there, though to check the fluid in the front diff we’ll need to be prepared to drain the fluid and refill it.  The fill plug is hidden behind a large strut, possibly requiring a specialized tool to open it.

These plugs appear not to have been opened in a long time.  I’ll check You-Tube for instructions, buy a supply of Porsche ATF, a hand pump for the fluid, and plan on a pleasant rainy day changing diff fluids.

Update: 21 August, 2016

The fluids in the three differentials checked out fine.  It seems the previous owner kept up with his maintenance.  So much for the rainy-day project, though I’m sure Ruby will provide many more.  The growl in the right front area of the car remains at pretty well all speeds.

Update:  22 August, 2016

My mother’s state-of-the-art wheelchair (which she doesn’t use yet) will in fact fit into the back of the Cayenne if I turn it on its side.  It looks as though the wheel is sure to hit, but it seems to brush the glass of the hatch without putting any pressure on it.  Her physiotherapist explained how to collapse the thing by removing the seat cushion and folding it, but I like the grab-and-stuff approach better if Mom needs the chair for an ice cream run.


Welcome home, Ruby!

August 17, 2016


The voice on the phone from Livingston Vehicle Transportation in Vancouver had told me that Invoice #104*77 would arrive on August 15th, at the latest, but I could call back next Friday.  She  gave me a Montreal number.  Surely enough, Ruby arrived on the train over the weekend, but it took until Wednesday morning for her to end up on a truck, destined for Doug’s Towing yard just outside Embrun, to arrive between 10:00 and 12:00.  Doug promised me he would call the instant that my Porsche arrived.

At 12:00 I phoned.  Doug enthusiastically told me, “They’re just unloading your Cayenne now.”

“I’ll be there in an hour and thirty-eight minutes.”

Our first sight of Ruby was a little pathetic.  Some wag had parked it straddling a large mud puddle — real, beige clay, the stuff that sticks to everything.  What paint wasn’t spattered from the puddle looked very clean and shiny.  It must have had a good ride on the rail car and the truck, but puddles are puddles.

Livingston Vehicle Transportation had done the job well which they had contracted to do.

I made departure arrangements with the genial guy in the office and started Ruby up.  As soon as I moved forward an alarm went off:  “Parking brake is still on,” or “Release parking brake,” or something.  Here I was, stopped in a muddy, crowded parking lot, with very little idea of how to release a stuck parking brake.  While I fussed, Bet stepped out of the Lexus and walked toward me holding her phone out.  Column after column of “How to free a stuck emergency brake” appeared.  Bet had resorted to the Porsche owner’s secret weapon, Google.

Most of the articles suggested worrying the release handle until the problem went away, and so I did, but not before sending a distress text to Charlie.  By the time he got back to me I had the car moving properly, but I was too confused about the ventilation system to check for texts.

And it was HOT in this truck.  Fortunately the route from Doug’s Towing to Smiths Falls involves a number of short drives across paved concession roads with no traffic — a perfect place for me to sort out the dashboard of a Cayenne.  Why do they have two speedometers, two temperature gauges, two range meters (saying different things), and many other switches and buttons I was unable to fathom?  And acronyms!  Why do Porsche fanciers love acronyms so much?

As I roasted my way through a burnt-fingers exploration of the air conditioning controls, the sight of the Lexus cruising serenely along in front of me, the cool Lexus, chilled seat and all, that stately old gray car looked pretty good to me.  The es330 was all about passenger comfort, and its designers did their job well.  I can’t say the same for the Cayenne S dashboard controls engineers.

Gradually as I worked my way through all logical combinations of controls and vectoring flaps, I decided to try the counter-intuitive step of punching the icon which looked most like a defroster.  Swoosh!  Serene air all around me.  I wondered if anyone else has tried that before?

I opened the sun roof, but found it was just too hot.  I preferred the air conditioning.  And to think my initial plan was to buy a Miata.

Incidentally, the Cayenne drove and rode very well, but operator comfort comes first.  Performance is well down the list on a first drive.

I stopped for fuel in Smiths Falls and Bet cut for home.  Freed of supervision, on the way home Ruby stretched its legs enough to impress me with its power.  It will pass on a two lane highway with ease equal to that of the Lexus, but while the Lexus will top out at 110 or 115 km/hr on a typical pass, Ruby must be slowed down from 150 after an equal acceleration interval.  This will take some getting used to.

After three and a half hours of driving and trouble shooting, we arrived home exhausted.  Ten minutes later Ruby was hauling us to a local restaurant for a meal.

New toy, eh?




How do we prevent the next loner terrorist?

First and foremost, stop using the names of those who have committed acts of destruction. It is critically important that the media cease and desist from glorifying the actions and the names of these misfits. That photo of the jerk with the old deer rifle on Parliament Hill has probably done more to promote this brand of nihilism in Canada than any ISIS propaganda.

It’s up to you, Canadian journalists, all of you, to shut down that impulse you all have to make stars of these isolated failures.

I suggest that from this point on we use Orwell’s unperson to identify each wannabe terrorist, providing a simple identifier such as “Parliament Hill unperson” or “London unperson” to distinguish among them.

We must no longer provide the significance of remembering their names.  That tribute is for veterans who gave their lives in service of Canada.

Legislation has required a number of changes in the diction of journalism, particularly in the areas of race relations and gay rights.  Would it be too great an effort for Peter Mansbridge to refrain from rolling the name of the latest miscreant off his tongue and reconfigure his script to avoid saying it?

This morning our dog summoned her mistress with a series of bemused barks at the front screen door.  Bet commented:  “It wasn’t her intruding-car bark.  She seemed to know it was you, but she didn’t understand what that yellow thing underneath you was.”

After considerable thought I had hopped onto one of the bikes in the garage and ridden it around the lawn, nearly falling off, twice.  The forks of modern bikes don’t have as much caster as the old iron ones of the 1970’s.  I’m sure of that.  They steer harder too, I think.  I soon learned that it would not steer itself, and that I would have to turn the handlebars, not just lean.

On the other hand a Bandit with disk brakes (I don’t know the language yet to describe the other features) has front shocks and many gears with toggles for shifting, rather like a Porsche.  It’s light and taut and far too good a machine for my toe-dip into the maelstrom of physical fitness.

Gradually I became more confident with orbits of  gravel and lawn, and glided down the long driveway with growing trepidation.  Memories of wipeouts on fresh gravel flooded back to where I desperately wished I could shift my weight further aft, away from the front wheel.  No chance on this bike.  Then came the U-turn at the paved road:  turn up the hill or down?  I chose down, only to feel the front wheel start to slide on the sand washed onto the road by yesterday’s rain.  I kept the bike upright, thereby losing the downhill apex of the turn and steering perilously close to the end of a culvert.  The only way out was to track through a flower bed, but I stayed upright and the front shocks protected my arthritic wrists from vibration, so that was a win.

Then came the climb up the 500 feet to the house.  With any other vehicle the slope is not significant, though it does help a 2WD tractor push a bucket of snow all the way down and across the road, regardless of traction.  Backing up same hill in winter without tire chains on the tractor is out of the question.  Still, it’s a gentle slope compared to that of  Young’s Hill Road, which I’d have to master if I ever work up the nerve to leave the property on the bike.

Downshifts are effortless on the Bandit, even for the uninitiated.  I tried to maintain a decent pace, because after all, it’s a very gentle slope.  Legs quickly began to yelp, but I persevered, adding extra power with the balls of my feet. Feeling a bit gassed, I rode the bike back into the garage and dismounted without mishap.

Conscious of the precise location of every muscle the bike had used, I winced my way back to the recliner in the living room, the unfinished cup of coffee, and my computer.

By the end of the week I should be ready to tackle the hill.




“It’s not adventure until something goes wrong.”  Yvon Chouinard

I couldn’t believe it.  Today I got lost on a paved road.

Tom and Kate Stutzman offered to drive us to Hotel Kenney for Sunday lunch, so Bet and I cheerfully loaded into their shiny Hylander named “Pearl.”  Tom showed us the many features of the SUV and even pulled from his wallet the slip from Canadian Customs which forbade allowing a Canadian to drive it — on penalty of confiscation of the vehicle.

Had I been driving, this adventure would not have occurred, because I wouldn’t have missed the turn to Elgin.  But I wasn’t, and the road surface was new and black, and I don’t remember the road sign.  To be kind to myself, perhaps it wasn’t there.  Harder to believe was my failure to notice the two bridges and the hydro lines, but I guess I was distracted by something.

In any case, it seemed to be taking a long time to come out to the road that joins up with the Davis Lock Road, so I asked Bet to check the map on her phone.

No service.

To be fair, the nav system on the Hylander didn’t offer much help, save to assure us that we were, in fact, on a road.

Everyone in the car seemed quite prepared to heap the blame on me for this cosmic trick which had transported us into some alternate dimension of winding asphalt road lined by trim lawns and neat houses.

“Where are we?”

We stopped to ask a group of three examining a jet ski on a trailer in a driveway.  The smiling woman who responded to my plea found our plight the inspiration for no end of comic riffs, the gist of which indicated that we were exactly in the middle of nowhere.  Every place we knew was precisely twenty-five miles away, down that road we were on, or back the other way.

“Where do you buy your groceries?”

“Seeley’s Bay, or Kingston.”

About there I tuned out.  We left our joking hostess.  Tom drove down the road a bit and made a left onto another road.  A series of rather nice houses floated by as we meandered around corners, passing a bit of water, first to the right, and later to the left.  Then came a large campground on an unnamed lake.  Somewhat later we came to the bridge across the Rideau Canal.  Tom traded a couple of American cigarettes to the bridge master for a map.  Hwy. 15 and Elgin lay ahead.

When I checked Google Earth I realized that the turn I had missed lies 800 yards from the entrance to Hotel Kenney.  The lesson from this?  Don’t miss that turn or you’ll end up in Battersea.






According to the voice on the phone at Livingston, Ruby has now “railed” and should arrive on August 15th at the latest.

Unfortunately Livingston does not offer online tracking on rail shipments.  I expressed my regret to her about this, as I enjoy using Google Earth to follow my purchases across North America.  It’s a way for a stay-at-home farmer to learn a bit of geography.

The nice lady had no comment on this, apart from a suggestion that I call back next Friday for further details.


My wife and I spent last weekend with the other Cayenne in the stable, the silver one our son used to tow the heavy trailer from Vancouver to Ottawa.  Bet loves to drive the thing.  There’s no doubt that its handling is a quantum leap ahead of our reliable, but aging Lexus.  In fact it was a little terrifying to get back into the Lexus after seat time in the Cayenne.  The Porsche is very tight, steers intuitively, treats bumps with derision, and stops with a satisfying brutality.  The Lexus’ brakes are a little loose (less drag for improved fuel mileage) and its aging suspension is just fine on smooth pavement, but becomes tentative over uneven city streets.  214,000 km will do that to bushings and shocks.  The much younger suspension of the Porsche (122,000 km) makes up considerable ground in ride quality.

On the other hand, three significant advantages allow the Lexus to outclass the Cayenne on a hot-day visit to a nursing home:  the es330 passenger seat adjusts to the perfect height for my mother to back up to the rocker panel, sit down, and swing her arthritic knees into the car.  The Porsche seat adjusts down low enough, but the high bolster on the edge makes a safe landing impossible for Mom.  Charlie’s car has optional 19″ wheels while Ruby has 18’s, but I doubt if the Porsche’s bolstered seats will be suitable for expeditions with Grandma.

The other Lexus perk?  Front seats are not only heated electronically, they are cooled.  Few people like this feature, but Mom and I both enjoy it a lot on a hot day.  As I drove the Cayenne, regardless of the quality of its air conditioning, things just got hotter and hotter and my back kept sticking to the leather seat.

Finally there is the issue of fuel consumption.  The V6 Lexus has delivered flawless performance on an average of 9.0 litres per 100 km over the last 112,000 km.  Charlie’s Cayenne showed 12.5 on the gauge.  Mind you, this would have included a cross-country tow with an 8.5 X 20 enclosed trailer, a morning running laps at Mosport Raceway, as well as a life of city driving, but fill-ups with high test are nearly double the cost of those of the Lexus.

It looks as though the Lexus and/or the very economical Scion xB (also with a height-adjustable passenger seat) will remain in the stable for the foreseeable future, though I’m very much looking forward to the day that Ruby de-rails.  A Cayenne is simply a gas to drive.



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