Category Archives: Travel

Subaru Outback Emergency Rear Hatch Release

I’ve been looking at the idea of using our 2011 Outback as a quick overnight camping solution for times when I’m out on the road for dance calling gigs. With some minor rejiggering and construction, it is easy to put a twin mattress in the back of the car for short term camping.

As part of that investigation, I was looking into how one could get out of the rear hatch in an emergency. There is no inside door handle, button or similar in the rear of the Outback of this model year. Apparently, the rear is not subject to the same emergency release requirement (law?) that is now addressed in vehicles with an enclosed trunk, so there’s no emergency release handle or similar. Searching around on line found no information about a solution – so I worked on figuring it out myself and here’s my write up of how I enabled a tool-less emergency exit release.

There’s a small plastic cover on an approximately 1″ x 1″ hole at the bottom center of the interior hatch panel with a small slot or indentation where one can pry off that cover. But the slot is on the bottom, so would be impossible to access with the hatch closed – not the best engineering attention to detail! With the hatch open you can easily (but carefully to avoid damage) pry the cap off.

Click on any of these images to see larger ones with detail

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Access Hole Cover
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Access hole to hatch release

Inside the hole is the hatch mechanical release mechanism. In this close-up you can see a triangular-shaped white plastic part in a curved slot. This is the hatch release. Moving the part towards the metal bracket will release the hatch catch and allow you to push the door open. Great!

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Release mechanism detail

As I didn’t want to simply keep the cover removed, I came up with an easy way to remove the cover in an emergency. I drilled a small hole just over the diameter of a small cotter pin and put that through the cover hole, spreading and curling the tabs to secure it on the inside. The cotter pin’s head loop was just big enough to thread a keychain ring through to use as a pull. The result is quite unobtrusive but easy to use when needed.

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Cover with drilled hole and parts
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Cotter pin tabs spread out
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Cover with pull installed

I’ll feel much more safe knowing we can now easily open the back hatch from inside whenever needed.

BTW, an additional search while I was writing this up uncovered this thread which talked about the release but not how to access it without a tool, as I detail above.

Better Than a Rooftop Box – Take 2

After a bit of a delay I finally got around to finish painting the trailer begun some time ago. I think it has turned out really well but is eggregiously over-engineered – hence it has a new acronym-derived nickname: MOET (Massively Over Engineered Trailer). At least it should last for a good long time!

Here’s some shots of the (mostly) finished product, which is painted with Interlux Brightsides marine paint using the “Roll and Tip” method. There’s just two things outstanding for this right now – I have the vinyl to sew up a matching yellow spare tire cover and I’m in the process of designing a new LED-illuminated license plate holder to mount on the back center of the box (you can see the power connector for this is already installed in position). Yes, I’m not satisfied with any pre-made ones on the market currently. 🙂

Click on any of the images below to enlarge the picture.

Front3-4Front View – Note the shiny paint!

Rear_3-4Rear View – Showing changes from the original version including illuminated guide posts and high signal lights

Rear-OpenHatch Lid Open – With revised integral wiring channel for compartment lighting

Ear-FrontFront View of Added “Ear” – I needed a way to mount the guide lights which would allow them to clear the lid rim

Ear-RearRear View of “Ear” – Additional turn/stop signal light and guide light wiring is routed through here into box. Note the quick disconnect to allow removal of the guide posts for storage.

Driver-Rear-WiringChannelDriver Side Wiring Channel – Including protective cover for wiring junctions and switch for lid LED light

Pass-Rear-WiringChannelPassenger Side Wiring Channel – All wiring is routed inside dry fitted 1/2″ PVC pipe to protect it from cargo damage

Better than a rooftop box, and roomier too!

I’m one half of a “new parents” team focused on our little daughter. Wow, kids require so much stuff!

So, we were planning an extended car trip and I knew we were not going to be able to comfortably fit all her stuff and support equipment into the car, with our own adult stuff, and still allow for us to feed her on the fly in her carseat in the rear. I knew this would mean external storage space but I hated the idea of one of those big rooftop boxes.

Why? Primarily two reasons:

  1. Gas mileage impact: sort of like dragging a rooftop sail down the road, this was going to cause some serious drag
  2. Access challenges: getting to the box on the roof and getting stuff into and out of it was going to be a pain. My back is not what it once was…

So I was thinking that a small enclosed rental trailer would be the ticket. Something like this one. Once I calculated the cost for our extended trip, I figured I could build one for the same or less money (than either the trailer rental or buying a good rooftop box) and we’d get to keep it for future needs. New project!

So I end up buying a Harbor Freight trailer frame kit. This ships-in-two-boxes kit comes pretty much complete but completely disassembled. They intend for you to add a make-your-own simple plywood platform and an optional stake side kit to complete it, which they supply basic plans for in the assembly directions. As I wanted to haul stuff in complete weather protection, I had to come up with a better solution.

My design ended up being a weather-tight wooden box made primarily from two sheets of 4′ x 8′ marine-grade plywood and a couple of 1″ x 4″ x 8′ poplar boards. It has a pretty simple but very effective gasket system, much like a refrigerator door (so effective, I find that opening it requires waiting for the resulting air lock to release!). Stainless hardware enables a swing open lid and good security. Upgrades include an LED trailer light kit (with the wiring harness expanded to include a dedicated ground wire throughout) and an interior LED light fixture to view the contents at night. Also a spare tire and mount (modified to go on the front surface of the box instead of on the frame tongue). I came up with a PVC pipe wiring channel to protect the wires underneath and keep the box weathertight.

The box is coated with West System marine epoxy currently and will eventually have a marine one-part polyurethane paint finish for better appearance and UV protection (have to wait for warm weather to apply it – all the assembly and coating to date was done in my residential basement due to sub-freezing weather!).

I’m really pleased with the result! The MA RMV had no issue in registering it. The trailer is barely noticeable in towing (~1500 miles so far), and seems to have little or no effect on our gas mileage. It swallows 4 large plastic storage bins and some additional bulky gear and is easily loaded and unloaded. The interior stays perfectly dry, even when using a power wash on it (I built in a boat drain plug just in case, but there is no need for it now). It is so light and well balanced that I can easily disconnect and wheel it around with one hand while still drinking a coffee with the other.

This photo make the trailer appear larger than it is - the top comes just about up to the bottom of the car's rear window and it is much narrower than it.

My only complaint is that it is so compact I can barely see it out of the rear of the car – which makes backing up a real challenge! Basically, once I see it on either side of the car while backing, it is too late – the trailer is at a significant angle already. I may need to add some lights or poles to show the corners of the box for backing up. But for now, I generally find it easier to just pop it off the car’s hitch and wheel it where I want to put it than try to back it up any distance.

Will update this post later, once the final painting is completed.

Update 12/14/13: I finally finished this project in early fall of this year with some other enhancements besides just painting, check it out!

A Glorious Spring Day at Mt. Auburn

This weekend was a pure delight in New England. After all the rain and flooding we had a fantastic bit of warm and sunny weather. Of course, after a winter spent indoors, this meant everyone wanted to get out and enjoy the day.

We chose to take a stroll at the Mt. Auburn Cemetery. For those of you that have heard some of the details of Sage’s and my story, Mt. Auburn figures prominently. So it is no surprise that we took the chance to stop in there again and take some shots for our wedding web site. Here’s a few others to give you an idea of what a special place it is. Click on any image to enlarge it.

Ball Five, Strike Two!

Caught a vintage base ball game in Harwich today.  Providence Greys vs. Olneyville Cadets.  Time warp back to 1884, where 6 balls are the rule and getting hit by a pitch just counts as one of them — you could be hit 5 times more before taking your base.  The overhand pitch has just been made legal.

It was an interesting event — many of the players came out to talk with the spectators before the game and shared the rules and their passion for the game with us and showed some of the equipment.  Lots of history too.  For instance, it turns out that in this year (1884) the Greys won the first of what became the World Series, taking all three games vs. the New York Metropolitans (yes, they still had to play game 3)!

Providence player
Providence player

Then it was finally time to play ball!  The bats are really heavy and the balls very bouncy compared to modern equipment — add to that the lack of gloves for anyone but the catcher and you have a lot of activity going on.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Waiting for a fielded ball
Waiting for a fielded ball

See for more about this interesting topic.

Paddling against the tide

Today’s adventures were as follows:

  1. Multi-hour kayaking trip on the Herring River from sea, upriver and back again.  Let’s just say what we expected to happen with the tide change at mid-point did not go as planned.
  2. Dinner at Regatta.  Mmmmm.  Thanks Peggy and Bob!
  3. Contra dance (celebrating a windmill installation, held outdoors, under the stars) in Marstons Mills.

Another nice day on the Cape.

Wellfleet Bay, Cape Cod

Today’s soggy day adventure involved a visit to MassAudubon’s Wellfleet Bay sanctuary.  One of the benefits of supporting MassAudubon at certain levels includes the ability to bring guests to visit any of their sanctuaries for free — you can guess whom I brought with me today ;-).

This is a wonderful place — not only is it a beautiful sanctuary right on a tidal marsh on the bay (great views!), but it also has an extensive wildflower garden, camp and instructional center.

These facilities utilize a whole slew of “green” technologies that I first became aware of when looking into possible co-housing communities a couple of years ago, including: a grey water system (which is recycled to service the garden), rainfall capture into underground cisterns for additional landscape use, composting toilets (which foam when you use them :)), active and passive solar, extensive recycled materials used in construction and lots of other unique ideas that I hope to apply myself to a home soon.  These taken together have qualified the center as a LEED Platinum building, the highest level certification.

We spent a good deal of time at the sanctuary but had to finish up and get back to meet up with SB’s folks for dinner.  On the way back, we stopped by at the Island Pond Cemetery in Harwich (ca. 1778).   As my grandmother would always say when we passed one: “a nice quiet neighborhood.”  Yes, this is a cemetery in a marsh overlooking Island Pond, located on an eponymous named road, right in Harwich Center.  We stumbled upon it last year when looking for the Lavender Farm.

Like most early New England towns, in Harwich you could live your whole life within just a few miles.  I noted in this case just how compact things were/are: at the entry of the short road, which is the only way into the cemetery, on the left is the monument works and on the right is the funeral parlor.  Just a few doors down are the old storefronts where you could buy your goods, the town’s major churches, town hall and the old academy school.  Pretty much everything from birth to death and beyond, right there in a tight little group.  My, how our lives have expanded in scale since then!

The reason this caught my attention last year was stumbling upon the following gravestone.  I don’t know whether this reflects better the burden these folks carried through life, or how they felt upon it ending.  They certainly wanted to state it out loud – this is quite a large/prominent stone.  We have to hope the little local shop at the end of the road got the commission of making it!

A heavy burden to carry...
A heavy burden to carry...