Mid-Atlantic Countryside

Well that was an enjoyable week!   88 geocaches in 6 states (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, WV) with 375 miles of biking (and some Ubering) over 9 days.  Highlights were the guided tours of Gettysburg, PA (by a professional guide) and Washington, DC monuments (local, at night).

origroute

Pre-trip: This was about as bad shape as I could be in for the ride.  In June, shortly after signing up for the ride, I sprained my ankle on a hike.   Then in August, I caught some sweet bronchitis for 4 weeks: I was in not-so-great shape for the ride.

Day -1: Fly to Philadelphia.  A 6-hour non-stop + 3 hour time zone change + meeting two fellow riders at the airport to share a shuttle (that I ended up having to book) consumed the day.  The hostel was pretty far from public transportation or places to eat, but we found one that would deliver a tasty, greasy Philly cheesesteak:

cheesesteak
Philly cheesesteak with pepperoni, onions, and provolone

Day 0: Get my bike, ride around in Philadelphia.

The stories of aggressive Sports Fans and a recent viewing of Twelve Monkeys made me super leery about spending a lot of time in Philadelphia proper but, convinced by a fellow rider from Canada who wanted to explore, we biked from the hostel into downtown.

Ben Franklin is popular.

Ben Franklin statue, #947 of 1,433.

There are lots of row houses, something I vaguely remember from early childhood.  They must be pretty small, because people sometimes leave their pets outside.

Kitty wants to come back inside
Philadelphia
Bridge over canal

Day 1: French Creek State Park: Rain.  Valley Forge

I didn’t sleep well due to the First Day Of Tour jitters.  Also, the cheesesteak didn’t agree with me.  (Note to self: you are no longer 19.)  I was rearranging stuff for a while before going with the Showers Pass jacket.  I’d need it, as it rained moderately hard for the first thirty miles.

At the hostel

A few miles in, I had achieved wet rider equilibrium: soaked to the bone, but warm as long as I was moving.  I really don’t remember much except stopping to try to help out other riders with various repairs.  At one point, someone’s derailleur crapped out (new bike, too) and I stuck around until one of the ride leaders came.  I felt kind of bad, but it was really wet outside and this was kind of my only vacation.

Valley Forge National Park

While stopping at the restroom at Valley Forge National Park, I discovered to my glee I could shunt the hot air from the hand dryer into my jacket.  After about twenty minutes of this, I was feeling better and decided to tour around the park, getting virtual geocaches.  I thought I’d be clever and make my own route back onto course before coming to a bride that was out of service for the indefinite future.  Denied, I trekked back.  The rain stopped, but it was pretty gusty.

1871 Bridge

An hour later, the sun was starting to peek out.  I actually had to apply sunscreen, which was kind of nice.  

About this point in the day, I started having a lot of shifting problems due to a stiff link.  Each third pedal would skip gears.  Really annoying, too.  I plugged forward, albeit slowly.  One of the last riders caught up and, with his map wet, wanted help with directions, but didn’t want to ride at my extra super slow speed.  Cat and mouse ensued.

In camp, I got some help finagling the link free so the bike was ridable.  Two other folks with $6000 Co-Motion bikes were having minor issues and the guy with the derailleur was going to look for bike shop options.  The ride leaders told us that Pennsylvania bike shops are generally closed on Mondays, so we would probably be SOL, but we could try Hanover.

I had good cell coverage (and a backup power supply) and found a shop in Intercourse (snicker) Pennsylvania, located near Blue Ball (snicker), that purported to be open on Mondays.

Day 2: Get a replacement chain.  Buy groceries.

Rolling hills

This was a pretty area with rolling hills and, of course, Amish minding their own business.  As fascinated as I was, I respected that as best I could.  The cows, however…

What are you looking at, spandex-English?

I did find this gentleman rather majestic on his horse-drawn plow.

Plowman

Intercourse Cycles was pretty awesome in getting me in and doing the spot repair (replacement chain; and while we’re at it, let’s put new pads on the front).  While they worked, I went next door for espresso.  Yes, even in small towns, you have multiple caffeinated options!

Back on the road, and with a decent amount of time before I had to head back to camp, I enjoyed the rolling hills of Amish country.  I came upon a buggy and, not really knowing the etiquette, waited until it was safe to pass with a wide berth.

Must… outbike…buggy

A mile later, I was dragging on an uphill and heard him clop-clop-clopping behind me, providing me some motivation to keep pedaling until I hit the flat roads again.

Day 3: Get to camp waaaaaay early.  Buy food.  Cook for 15.

Codurus State Park

One facet of these tours that I’m not super crazy about was the shared cooking.  In it, you and someone else are obliged to buy food (with shared funds) then cook a meal for 15 (13 riders + 2 ride leaders), clean and then have some kind of dessert.   I drew the longest day (in miles) of the tour, also somewhat tardy by my wanting to indulge in the Utz potato chip factory tour:

Utz potato chip factory

Very disappointingly, Snyder’s of Hanover, makers of awesome sourdough hard pretzels, does not appear to have a tour for hungry, pretzel-loving cyclists.

Bridge – photo by Phyllis Zitzer

And finally, I made it to the grocery store where we bought three meals’ worth of food for fifteen people.  Two carts, just under $400 worth because we over estimated the pasta consumption:

Groceries for 15: 3 meals, snacks.

We got into camp and found the van with all the cooking equipment hadn’t arrived yet.  (!!)  So we got started on dinner late through no fault of our own.   We made garlic bread (with real garlic & butter), spaghetti with meatballs, and a spinach salad with roadside heirloom tomatoes.  In retrospect, we overcooked.  I had intended for the garlic bread and salad to be consumed while we cooked the other stuff, but people didn’t quite follow and the garlic bread got cold.  (But, oh my, was it good.)

I ate, then slept, well.

Pasta for 15… and I really need to sleep now.

Day 4: Camp Misty Mount.

On these tours, I’m usually pretty excited to eat and get out on the road as soon as I can to enjoy my day at a snail’s pace.  However, the obligation of cooking requires one to unpack, set up, make coffee, cook breakfast, put out lunch stuff, wait for people to finish, clean, box up.  Fortunately, I had gone with Snacks I Like — candied ginger, mango, various nuts and salty pretzels — and had a relatively short ride.

I rewarded myself with picking up a bunch of puzzle caches I pre-solved.

This was a nice facility, apparently a Christian social camp during other times.  Although we camped in the field, they were nice enough to leave all of the dorms and common areas unlocked.  I got to do laundry, charge all of my devices, have a long, hot shower.  One of the other campers slept inside the common area to avoid the cold.

Day 5 & 6: Gettysburg.

Gettysburg and the Civil War were events that I was super oblivious to (thank you, Texas schooling) until I stopped on a business trip in 2008.  The magnitude is overwhelming.  I was looking forward to coming back and spending more time, up close.

Gettysburg

The tour included the interpretive film narrated by Morgan Freeman, whose marvelous voice would be fine for even reading cereal boxes.  The organizers made the next day short to accommodate an optional (yeah, right, as if I’m going to not do it) guided bike tour of monuments.

Gettysburg – John Warren, surveyor.

The tour concluded around lunch time, but could have easily been two days.  The guide was awesome and I have a better appreciation of the significance of Gettysburg and the sheer carnage (something I’d see even more of in Antietam).

Louisiana Memorial

Because this was in Union territory, most of the Confederate monuments were erected relatively recently.  Above is Louisiana’s.

Onto Maryland!

MD border

The ride to camp had significant elevation gain.  We had been repeatedly warned that Camp David was near the top of the hill and, under no circumstances, should we stop here and take photos.  Camp David, formerly Shangri La, is a retreat used by presidents.  It is, as they say, a poorly kept secret.  There are no signs beyond a couple of discreet “no stopping” and “no photography” icons.   The larger sign simply says this particular campground is closed.  More than one person knew someone who knew someone who didn’t adhere to the guidelines and found themselves enjoying some quality time with the US Secret Service.

Tonight, we had the luxury of cabins.

Day 7:Slave Auction Block, Harper’s Ferry, Brunswick, MD

Leaving camp required us to go right back up the hill, past Camp David, before plunging down.  My Canadian counterpart thought it would be amusing to take my photo while struggling up the hill… as he was right in front of Camp David.   As I crested it, I saw a van full of burly men, buzzed haircuts, zooming up.  Kind of feared the worst, but was too chickenshit to stick around and watch it unfold.

I’d later find out that the van’s occupants were late for work and waved at my friend before going past the gate.  My friend, wisely, chose not to press his good luck further.

Unencumbered by needing to buy food or cook, I enjoyed the slower pace to geocache.  (Hint: under the sign)

Crystal Grotto

There was a nice cluster of puzzles in Antietam explaining how much the undulating terrain played into completely unnecessary carnage of the battle.

Antietam Station, near Sharpsburg, MD

The most unexpected thing I saw was in Sharpsburg (a geocaching called my attention to it), was this:

From 1800 to 1865, this stone was used as a slave auction block.  It’s remained here for 150+ years as a sobering reminder.  Wow.

Our route then joined the Chesapeake + Ohio (C+O) towpath.  On the way to Brunswick, I crossed the bridge into Harpers Ferry for some more geocaches and to revisit the town on foot.

Harpers Ferry

There is an interesting viewpoint where you can see the confluence of the Shenandoah River joins up with the Potomac River which continues south past Washington DC into the Chesapeake Bay.

Harpers Ferry

In town, you can see markers showing the flooding over the years.  According to the earthcache, 1996 saw two floods of 29′ or more.

C+O Trail


Day 7: DC or Bust.

C+O Canal

The C+O towpath looks like this for a long time.  The canals (left) have gone unused, leaving stagnant water and algae pools.  It’s dirt and generally fine on slightly-deflated 28C tires.  (However, I would have preferred wider, especially later.)

Lock

Every few miles, the path opens up to a picnic area or local access.  There are a series of towpath houses for the former operators of said towpath (when it was a thing).  They have been preserved and are, apparently, rentable for overnight stays.

Canal house

Continuing south, closer to Great Falls, MD, the locks are also in better shape, though not typically used for the original purpose.  The park also gets very crowded and extremely difficult to ride on.

Functional Lock

Inside Great Falls Park:

Great F
Great Falls Park, MD

The most jarring experience was emerging from the C+O Towpath onto random Washington, DC, streets.  The directions were hard to follow and I was soon relying on Garmin auto-route to get to the Washington Monument.

Washington Memorial: does it show?

I was glad to get to the Hostel when I did because a presidential motorcade had occurred an hour later, severely delaying the rest of the group.  Meanwhile, I enjoyed a good hosing off and pizza.

One of the local ride leaders offered to give us a nighttime tour of the Washington, DC monuments, something I could not pass up.  This was the closest I’ve ever been to President Obama!   There were some locals who apparently set up a kiosk on the street and extol their unique interpretation of Biblical Apocalypse.

Among the highlights were the Korean War Monument, with its subdued lighting.  The facial expressions communicate a lot:

Korean War Memorial

The size of the Vietnam Memorial was stunning.  The names are ordered by year of death.  The full moon reflecting on the bricks added a somber note.

Vietnam Memorial

What trip to DC would be complete without visiting Giant Abe?

Lincoln

Last stop before heading back to the Hostel was the Capitol Building.  We had unencumbered access to bike around it.

Capitol Building

Day 9: All good things…

The trip description originally suggested we’d be taking Amtrack back to DC, but nope, pile into the van, bikes on top, and drive.   I think we were all pretty tired from being up so late, but the tour was totally worth it.

Van back to Philadelphia

I hung out in Philadelphia airport watching the Washington – Philadelphia game in a sports bar with a local fan who seemed like an okay guy.

The Mintern

In retrospect, there were signs that The Intern might not work out:

  • The child of a friend of the family of a Senior Executive
  • … touted as an upperclassman from a well-known engineering school, but was just starting a search for an internship in mid-June
  • … hasn’t been vetted or spoken with the hiring manager, but was slated to start Tuesday.  The IT folks love the smell of an unnecessary fire drill in the morning!
  • Intern shows up and wants to do Data Science!
  • …using only the skills he currently has (texting, Google queries, watching cat videos)
  • …because he’s actually a freshman
  • …and is only doing this because His Mom pushed him to get a job through a friend of the family.

Despite being given a clear set of tasks and the offer of tutoring from the team, this was not the experience The Intern had in mind.  He left after day three.  A weekend conversation between His Mom and the Senior Executive filled in some of the details.  The Intern would not be bothered with the courtesy of sending the hiring manager an explanation, even in email.

I have never seen our IT staff so giddy to delete an account.

 

Image credit: Melrose Municipal Schools
Image credit: Melrose Municipal Schools

 

Geobiking Philly to DC

The excitement of visiting colleges with my daughter, her applying to the short list, and waiting on the results has is over and I’m seriously craving a week unplugged from work.   I’ll be taking an organized ride in October from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.  Since these trips are as much about seeing different things as the Zen of cycling, I’ll also be stopping for geocaches (and other site seeing) along the way.   And maybe butterscotch Tastycakes, Cheeseteaks and those legendary tomatoes I’ve heard about.

I spent a good evening wondering if there was an efficient way to generate a “Find caches along a bike route.”   Having plotted the estimated route with Google Maps, using its delightful Bicycle Routing option, I had a rough idea where I’d be visiting:

Google Map version
Google Map version

I was hoping to use this to guide me with Geocaching.com’s “Find Caches Along A Route” tool.  For trips in the west (like this), the tool plus clever battle-shipping of pocket queries has been good enough.  On the east coast, the tool’s auto-routing via turnpike or Interstate (but not, say, the C+O Towpath) makes it cumbersome.  Even trying to force it (the two circles) is futile:

The Geocaching.com tool really, really wants to stick to turnpikes and interstates.
The Geocaching.com tool really, really wants to stick to turnpikes and interstates.

It’s really bad on the leg from Harper’s Ferry to Washington, DC — I could not get it to recognize the C+O Towpath because, look, there’s a huge interstate!

A coworker reminded me of the Map My Ride tool, which is really well-engineered for generating bike routes.  What it offers above that, though, is the option of exporting said route to a KML (used in Google Earth) or GPX (used in Garmin GPS) file.  I built this:

Map My Ride works supremely well. It's built for this sort of endeavor.
Map My Ride works supremely well. It’s built for this sort of endeavor.

Trying to generate a set of geocaches from this was pretty involved.  Google Earth’s user interface confounds me.  (I find I’m shouting at it: stop. moving.)  Garmin Basecamp is a promising candidate, but didn’t seem to work with so many points.  Project-GC, which has completely upped the bar on geocaching stats, only does a point-to-point route with no fiddling.  I’d have to generate eight separate groups.

Project-GC is sooooo close to what I want.
Project-GC is sooooo close to what I want.  It just lacks multiple points, and the option to reroute.

I settled on this GSAK macro.  When fed an al dente KML file, it merrily generates bounding rectangles within ~1 mile (changeable) of the route. Next, I let GSAK fire off a bunch (120!) API calls of caches within each little box. It finished before I brought the takeout home.

Polygon-ized routing
Polygon-ized routing

Next steps are to whittle down the list of 1600+ caches to a reasonable number – focusing on the non-traditional or well-favorited.  I have already started solving a crap-ton of puzzles at each endpoint, Just In Case I’ll be riding over one.  Of course, since geocaching is also about numbers, I’m trying to figure out a scheme to make a side trip into Delaware (via train ride back?) or New Jersey (perhaps simply crossing the bridge from Philly) so I can say I have cached in both of those states.

Downtown Philadelphia
Downtown Philadelphia: Visiting in October.

Just skimming through the route, the two parts I’m most eagerly anticipating are the ride through Gettysburg — I last visited in 2008, astounded by the enormity of the place — and the ride along the Potomac from Harper’s Ferry to Washington, DC.

If you give a Mouse a cookie (Electrolux style)

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll get crumbs and chocolate all over their clothes. When they get crumbs and chocolate all over their clothes, the laundry piles up.  When the laundry piles up, you will need to use the Electrolux front-loading washing machine.

When you do several years-worth of laundry in the Electrolux front-loading washing machine, you’ll eventually discover it was leaking all over the floor.    And you’ll call a repair person.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  And another.  And another.  Four will tell you Electrolux front-loading washing machines are “bad news” and decline to fix them.  The fifth will tell you he’s on injury leave (we wish him a speedy recovery), and the sixth will say he will fix it, but the earliest appointment is in two weeks.

When the sixth repair person tells you it’s going to take two weeks, you accept the appointment.  The next day, as clothes pile up from mice eating cookies, you realize schlepping twelve loads of laundry a week to the run-down Issaquah laundromat is Non-Optimal, and you research.

When you research, you discover a metric crap-ton of search engine optimization going on to dozens of links that ultimately look like the same company trying to sell a repair manual for $20.  When not deploying a middle finger at the attempt, you keep on researching until you find an exploded parts diagram to give you the idea of the complexity.

With an idea of the complexity, you saunter over to www.repairclinic.com for a no-bullshit video and diagnostic tool.  When you iterate through their top four things to check:

  • Water connections
  • Wastewater connection
  • Bellows — this is the rubbery gasket thingie that sits between the door and the spinning drum.  It was not leaking but, after seven years, it was really nasty and was on the “to replace anyway” list.
  • Wastewater pump — this is on the bottom, front, right of the washer and seemed very plausible.
Washer bellows
New washer bellows

You realize that your Electrolux front-loading washer is a complex machine that, unlike every other appliance owned, was designed to be serviced by human beings.   A single Phillips screwdriver and a copy of Cryptonomicon (to prop up the front of the washer) were all I needed to get this far:

Okay, it's apart. Now what do I do?
Okay, now what?

When you get this far, you realize the top four options on RepairClinic were wrong.  The live drip from above is your clue: the cold water valve was leaking from the solenoid on the water valve.

When the cold water valve continues leaking from the solenoid on the water valve, you order that part from RepairClinic and a bellows (out of stock at RC) from Amazon, both delivered via two-day air.  You also know the water faucet shutoffs aren’t working.  Nor is the whole-house cutoff that you really should have gotten fixed in 2002.

While you ponder this, you look for a plumber in a hurry.  When you are in a hurry, you get a guy young enough to be your son, and equally as experienced.  He will charge $250 for the two faucets plus $500 for the main house so this doesn’t happen again.  When he attempts each repair, he needs to take a trip to Home Depot for parts.  When he makes the trip to Home Depot, you begin to rue hiring this person.

The next day, laundry piled higher, you can remove the old parts, and see the corrosion on the blue and yellow thingie where water was leaking at the valves for who knows how long.  And when you do, you will admire the buckling of the hardwood floors refinished in 2010.

Water Pump
Water Pump

After catching up on a week’s worth of laundry, you will realize that summer has passed and it is time to put the house fans in the crawlspace for the season.  When you’re in the crawlspace, with your spider friends, you are curious and wander back to this:

Water pressure regulator. Reduces the higher pressure in to a 25 - 75psi range.
Water pressure regulator. Reduces the higher pressure in to a 25 – 75psi range.

When you see this, you wonder “What the hell is that thing” and do more research, because whatever the hell it is (water pressure regulator, likely the original unit installed when the house was built 30 years ago) is leaking.  Having well-adjusted household water pressure is a good thing, because you want adequate flow, without tearing the valves apart.

When you have a bad experience with a plumber, your first reaction is to try the next job yourself.  However, when you think of all the times you’ve done plumbing, you get sad.  When you get sad, you ask around for a recommendation for a professional.  A professional plumber will have a backlog, but in the meantime, you can answer some Plumbing Questions like “How big is the line?”  When you will make another visit to the crawlspace, much to the delight of your spider friends, and measure the pipe (1″):

Measuring the pipe
Measuring the pipe

You’ll notice how quiet it is this part of the evening.  Except for a disturbingly audible “drip drip drip” on the plastic vapor barrier.  When you hear an audible “drip drip drip” on the plastic vapor barrier, you become sad again because you need another plumber.  However, while you’re down there anyway, you’ll want to look for what’s actually leaking, just in case it’s something that your skills can make less worse.

When you look for what’s actually leaking, you’ll notice you’re directly downstairs from the whole house cutoff replaced the prior week.  When you go back upstairs, you decide to inspect the work a little closer.   When you inspect the work a little closer, you notice something wrong:

Hint #1: putty. Hint #2: The leak
Main water cutoff: What’s wrong with this picture?

When you pick your jaw up off the floor, you’ll say “holy crap, I’m not a plumber, but is that putty?  Being used as a pipe patch?”   The prize, a soggy piece of drywall, is slightly more adhesive than plumber’s putty, which is normally used in sink drains because it’s pliable, water tight but completely lacking adhesive properties necessary for a 50 psi line. 

When all between an active leak is a sad piece of plumber’s putty, you shut the water off, causing a ripple effect in the time-space continuum that manifests itself as every female member of the household having the urge to go to the bathroom right now.  There may be yelling.  When there’s yelling, it’s hard to explain to the plumber’s company’s answering service that their employee did a non-optimal job, please come fix this now.

When junior plumber comes back and spends three hours, he will  produce this:

Take two
Take two.

This new, left-handed valve, though substantially less leaky than the previous attempt, still has a minute leak.  But the situation is under control (for now).  With a very moist wall, a trip to Home Depot for a humidifier is in order.

When you run a dehumidifier, it pulls water out of the local surrounding.  When run in a bathroom, that is most likely the toilet.  To prevent this, apply some plastic wrap in a way that feels like some college prank.

Bad news comes in threes.  While spending the last sunny Saturday of (possibly) the year, I tented off an area with plastic to set up the dehumidifier and emptied the tank three times a day, much to the delight of my spider friends.  In anticipation of plumber #2’s visit, I removed the tent and discover a slow drip in the sewer (!) line heading out of the house.  Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Stinky Leak
Leak #1 on the poop superhighway.

When plumber #2 showed up to replace the pressure regulator, I asked him about the sewer and the whole house valve.  (No. Way. In. Hell. I’m calling back the original guy.)   The sewer is going to require another visit: all those junctions on the poo superhighway mean the whole thing needs to be cut out and plumber-healed.  He can’t do it today, because there are custom parts he doesn’t carry with him, but suggested I schedule it with his wife and he’ll make the list.  “Do you have a bucket?”

Leak #2
Leak #2: from the kitchen sink/dishwasher

The first night, the bucket had a gallon of aromatic water in it.  Emptying this much was going to be far more awful, so I researched options to temporarily minimize the leakage.   Collars (neoprene sleeves with radiator clamps), caulk, and various tapes come up as options.  Ducdt tape seemed viable, until I actually started doing it and realized how bad it is around gaps.  Electrical tape, however, worked really well.  The drip was effectively stopped.

Professional plumber came back ten days later and, in less than an hour, had all of the sewer stuff taken care of.  He spent a little longer (an hour and a quarter) removing and replacing the whole house cutoff again.

Cutoff #3
Cutoff #3

Total time: 2 1/4 hours at $200/hour plus another $120 in parts.  Totally worth it to have it done correctly.

How To Earn $200,000 And Just Get By… Bogus meme

One of the unfortunate aspects of Linked In is the abundance of stupid or bogus memes.  When someone gets really bad, I disconnect them.  However, a meme that recently caught my eye was this graphic titled “How To Earn $200,000 And Just Get By” with a link to a viral-wannabe ad (that I didn’t watch).

About five minutes of research confirmed that the author of this piece needs a different kind of help.

Warning: may contain bad assumptions
Source: may contain up to 50% bad assumptions

First, the author needs to hire an accountant.  Not only are the wrong base rates being used for taxes (overestimating it by $6k), there is also no evidence they’ve taken allowed deductions (standard deduction, mortgage interest childcare).  Net salary is closer to $146k.  (Source: IRS Topic 751)

Their cost of childcare is about 2x national average for a center-based childcare.  Savings: $12k.  Source: The Boston Globe.

The author feels entitled to take two $4k vacations, which is the average cost per week for an affluent family of four.  (Source: American Express.)  Since things are so tight, perhaps a staycation for one?  Savings: $4k with virtually no effort.

Gas is too high.  Assuming $4/gallon, 20mpg, 12k miles a year, I come up with $2,400 savings.  (Gas is currently under $2.05/gallon  Source: AAA).

Mortgage seems a skosh high.  If their house is $700k (based on the property tax note), and they have 20% down and a 30-year note, they should be able to get a monthly payment of ~$2650.  (Source.)  Savings: $4,200.

So with an hour into it, I found ways to shave the “what’s left” to be closer to $48k.  With that margin, I would pay off my Consumer Debt (unspecified in this), ditch the BMW for something modest, max out my Roth IRA contributions, and add to a 529 college savings.

One hour, and I saved them $40k
One hour, and I saved them $40k

In other words, we should not be rallying to the original author’s aid.

Removing Scratches from a Garmin GPSMAP 64s screen

A year+ of hiking has wrought havoc on the screen of my Garmin GPSMAP 64 screen in the form of numerous scratches from the unit rolling 70 feet down Rattlesnake Ridge viewpoint (when the carabiner prematurely unclicked) and rubbing up against several rock faces as I scooted along a narrow ledge to get to some insane geocache.  By last week, it was seriously hard to read:

Scratched Garmin Screen
Scratched Garmin Screen

Garmin offers an out-of-warranty repair for $99 (and three weeks), but since this is largely external damage, I looked into options for replacement glass.  The only one I’ve found was some dude in the Russian Federation offering one for $32 and six weeks.  Before I tried that, I considered some other options:

Toothpaste – this made no difference, but my GPS briefly had a minty-fresh smell to it.

Brasso – This removed the minty-fresh smell and replaced it with a petroleum distillate smell.  The screen seemed slightly shinier, but the scratches continued to mock me.

Headlight restoration kit – for about $12 (Amazon Gold Box), the kits include a spindly thing that fit in a drill, three grades of sandpaper and some polish.  This worked better.

Step 1: Disassemble the GPS.  There are six 1.3mm Torx screws on the back.

Disassemble the GPS.  There are six 1.3mm hex screws on the back.
Hex screws exposed.

Step 2: Gently pry the two sections apart a tiny bit.  The screen and antenna assembly (bottom) are just sitting on the case.  You’ll need to pry up the bottom, then slide it to the right so the antenna comes out of its shell.  You can then leave everything else connected to the “bottom” of the case.

Innards
Innards.  The front of the GPS is facing down.

The combination will look like this:

Sensitive electronics

Put this part in a dry place.  Now with the plastic shell, push the keyboard membrane until the whole thing pops out:

Pop out the rubber keyboard membrane.
Pop out the rubber keyboard membrane.

There are a lot of scratches on this screen!

Scratched screen
Scratched screen

Since I was going off the headlight kit directions, I taped off the other plastic bits of the case.  In retrospect, I don’t think this was particularly necessary since the screen juts out just a little bit higher.

Taping off the case bits
Taping off the case bits

Step 3: To the extent you can, clamp the GPS body to something that’s going to hold it firm, because you’ll want both hands to control the spinney motion of the drill.

Step 4: Dab some water on the pad/GPS.  Using the 800 grit sandpaper (the coarsest), sand the screen.  You’re going to feel bad about doing this, but it’ll get prettier.

Dab some water on the screen and sand.  You'll want to keep the screen wet throughout.
Dab some water on the screen and sand. You’ll want to keep the screen wet throughout.

As you sand, the screen is going to get a little goopy.  That’s okay.  Just keep adding water occasionally and sanding as evenly as you can.

Step 5: Switch out the 800 grit sandpaper for the 1500 grit sandpaper.  On the Goldilocks scale, this is “mama sandpaper,” not as gritty as the 800.  Repeat keeping things wet and sanding as evenly as you can.

Clamped in case after step #2
Clamped in case after step #2

This was the stage where I decided the masking tape probably wasn’t necessary, because guess what gets gradually sanded off?

Step 6: Rinse everything off and inspect.  The glass may be a little hazy.  If you see signs of the original scratches, repeat the two previous sanding steps again.

Step 7: Rinse everything off and swap the 1500 grit for the 2000 grit pad.  Repeat.  The more time you spend using 2000 grit, the better the results will be.

Step 8: Dry the screen well.  The headlight kit came with some goo that you dab onto the cloth pad and use to polish the screen.  You’ll want to keep it moist.  Also plan to spend a lot of time on this step.

Step 9: Rinse and inspect.  If everything looks great, remove the tape, clean both sides of the screen with Windex and reassemble the GPS.  If the screen isn’t clear, you will want to polish it some more.

Step 10: Dry and clean.  Assemble the GPS and test.

Final
Final

What can go wrong:

  1. You still have scratches: start the sanding process over with the 800 grit paper.
  2. Screen is hazy: Try polishing more with the 2000 grit.  If that’s not doing it, back down to 1500 a little bit, then go back to 2000.  Again, the super fine 2000 grit should make it look beautiful.
  3. There is a round spot in the middle: This can be caused by uneven pressure applied by the drill spinner thingie.  Your options are to either live with it — which is fine if it’s subtle — or get a block sander, the 800 grit and try to smooth it out.
  4. The case doesn’t go back together: It’s hard to see in the photos, but there is a rubber gasket that goes around the perimeter of the case.  Remove the six Torx screws, gently open the case, and reseat the gasket into the detente.