30 December 2004

I love Long Island



The hot dog stand was located in a local parking lot, but police took that camper into custody along with the two women who were allegedly dishing out a lot more than hot dogs.

[. . .]

This morning, local business owners and neighbors are finding it hard to believe. Many here had no idea the two women running this ordinary hot dog stand in Baldwin were serving up more than the average fare.

[. . .]

Dep. Insp. Rick Capece: "When they {customers] were served the hot dog, the female behind the counter offered for money to expose part of her body. She then made an offer to perform a masterbatory act for the officer and then there was an offer made at a later time, another employee would be there to perform oral sexual act."

[. . .]


From WABC.

Ain't NY wonderful? BJ and a hot dog, please.

25 December 2004

Merry Christmas

Have a merry, happy, holiday season. All the best in the new year. Make a resolution to change your oil a little more regularly.

21 December 2004

New Yorkers . . . oy!

It's 6 fucking degrees outside with a 20 mph wind, and you're camped out on the street in the Bronx for Yankees tickets? And they say I'm crazy? You should see these fucking people.

17 December 2004

Shit

Don't wanna go in to work this morning. Just was looking at the local news and what do I see? Two of the kids from the neighborhood are in critical condition with massive head injuries. 7 of 'em packed into a Jeep Liberty (the parents' car) and they lost control and slammed into a tree at excessive speed. They were ejected. Now, I saw a picture of the car (yeesh) and if it's who I think it is . . . well, if there is a God, listen to me for once. I remember when these kids were born, their folks have been customers of Harry's for 25 years. It's gonna be a sad day. I recognized the place where they went in; it's on the shore road that winds around the marinas. Have I mentioned we've had a cold snap?

Parents, please, especially at this time of year, think twice about letting your kids take the car. Ask them where they're going and what they're doing. For two families, the holiday season will always be associated with this. Who the fuck made the law that allows teens to drive when they're 16? Jesus H. Christ.

I'm still looking for the link. Probably have one this afternoon.


Update: 14:15:


Link.

16 December 2004

Heh . . .

Had a cold snap over the last couple days. Real cold. Seems all the cheap bastids out there who didn't want a new battery when I told 'em they'd need one at the last service are calling for the last two mornings, needing a jump. What, now you're late for work? Like the old Fram commercial said, 'you can pay me now or you can pay me later'.

The Big Apple 500?

From Fox Sports:
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - International Speedway Corp. has paid $100 million to buy land in Staten Island to build a New York City track.

The land near the Goethals Bridge would house a three-quarter-mile track with 80,000 seats and a 50-acre group of nationally known stores. ICS officials said a New York developer, Related Retail Corp., will hold a minority stake in the venture

A short track? In Noo Yalk? Cool.

The only difference will be that they'll say "tye-ahs' instead of 'tars'.

15 December 2004

Good, bad, & ugly

Not necessarily in that order.



Would you let these men near your daughter? Probably not, but it would be smart to let them look at your car. L to R: Indian, Harry, The F-man.

13 December 2004

Custom Deluxe

Readers of The Alternate Brain know about my deal with the power surge that went through my house a couple weeks back (here and here).

Well, things are in the works. I still don't have my computer up, but the Mrs. has her new microwave and we replaced the TVs and VCRs. There's still more, but slowly but surely . . .

Anyway, Saturday morning, we picked up a VCR/DVD recorder to replace the VCRs. It's a nice unit (RCA) and the remote works the TV also. Fine. Now, our bedroom is custom, to say the least. The entire room looks as if you're under a leg of the Eiffel Tower. I did all the work myself. Not to brag, but it makes my point. The entertaiment center (also self-built) is part of the 'steelwork'. Unfortunately, with the old VCR gone and the new one having a DVD, I didn't need the old DVD player in there. Fine. Seems the new one didn't fit in the slot for either of the old units.

So, this weekend was spent rebuilding the 'leg of the tower' to accommodate the new equipment. Then there were other things I did 'while I was in there' (painting etc). Ya know, while getting new stuff is nice, the hassle ain't worth it. My old shit worked just fine. Today, after work, I gotta take my computer to a guy to determine whether it's fixable. Hopefully it is, so I can get all my stuff out of it. All my vacation pics for the last 10 years are on it, along with some important documents. Oy!!!

Now, if only the new waterbed heater arrives soon so we can get out of the guest bedroom. After sleeping on the pullout couch for 2 weeks now, I've been calling everyone who's ever stayed over here to apologize for the shitty night's sleep.

30 November 2004

Lost a customer

Lost a customer today, a guy who's been coming to us for 20 years. It wasn't because we fucked something up on his car, wasn't because he thought he was getting ripped off, no, it was because of my big mouth. Well not my mouth, but my keyboard. My boss, Harry, printed out a couple of my posts over at The Brain and left them at the shop. A couple of the ones where I call Bush a Nazi and so forth. This guy read them and lost it, calling me a traitor and a Communist, and said he wouldn't give Harry any more business until he got rid of me. I'm going to work tomorrow. I can't believe a New Yorker would get that 'red state' over some bullshit I wrote. I can't believe he's gonna take his car to one of the other rip-off artists around here. But hey, we're all entitled to our beliefs, right? The amazing thing, and I'm proud of myself, is that I didn't pop him one when he called me a traitor. The Mrs. would be proud of me, I'm maturing.

24 November 2004

Today

Today is our 14th wedding anniversary. Looking back, asking the Mrs. to marry me was the best decision I ever made. Hopefully, she will put up with me for many more. Happy Anniversary, baby. I love ya.

21 November 2004

Finale

The last race of the NASCAR season today. They're at Homestead and 5 drivers have the chance to take the whole enchilada. My guess, Jimmy Johnson or Jeff Gordon will win it, the whiny bitches. My hope, Mark Martin or Little E. Should be a good race. Hasn't been this close a finish in 12 years. The party starts at 1 on NBC.

19 November 2004

Remember When (While You Still Can)

I wrote this a few years ago and thought I would share it with you and make up for ignoring TF&G all in one fell swoop. You are the first to get (?) to read it besides a few of my ol' mo'sickle buds. I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope it brings back some happy memories.

As we approach the new millenium, it is good for us to realize that motorcycling is about to enter its third century. While most of us can't remember much about the 19th or indeed the first half of the 20th century, a lot of us here at the Old Riders Home can indeed remember a lot about the second half, and marvel at the advances made in the last fifty years, such as self-starters, reliable engines, good brakes, lights that actually let you see where you are going, and no center stands to take off before you go racing.

As we sit here rocking on the porch, in our rockers made of Lycett saddles and '49 Chevy pickup truck springs, we would like to take you back in time and revisit our salad days (whatever that means). Younger riders will be slack-jawed and goggle-eyed (no, not like when you take your goggles off after a desert race), and older riders, well, you are welcome to join us here at the Home if you Remember When:

-Motorcycles were cheap wheels.
-You stood in line at the movies to see The Pace That Thrills or The Wild One.
-You could get a new battery for your bike, in a pinch, out of the flashing light on a "Road Work Ahead" sign, and knew to pick the brightest one.
-You would try to get one last ride out of a worn-out chain, and were introduced to dirt riding when it snapped on a windy road.
-You stripped the lights, fenders, and road equipment off of a brand new Triumph so you could go scrambles racing.
-You threw away those same parts to make room in your garage because you sold the bike ten years ago and they were "old junk".
-You lightened the same bike by ten pounds by replacing the skid plate made out of a coal shovel with one made out of an aluminum grain shovel, and knew, deep down, that you were putting one over on your racing buddies.
-"Lucas" and "Industrial Light & Magic" didn't refer to state-of-the-art movie-making, but rather to your bike's electrical system.
-"Whitworth" actually meant "not worth a whit".
-You used fingernail polish on fasteners because Loctite hadn't been invented, and the clerk at the drugstore gave you a funny look and told you that shade went well with your eyes.
-Racing the next weekend was painful with two broken knuckles on your throttle hand.
-You made an air filter cover out of an aluminum sauce pan, and tried to polish the brand name off the bottom so it would look "custom". You always installed it so the handle rivets wouldn't show.
-An AMA membership cost $2.00 a year and you only joined so you could race, or get points on "Gypsy Tours".
-You raced desert and scrambles with the same number plate, and got a brand new, hand-painted steel plate in the mail every year.
-Guys rode Sportsters in desert races.
-You rode a desert race (and only one!) on your bike's factory rear wheel with a Sprung Hub.
-"Dual Purpose" meant you had a non-functioning taillight and a license plate off of another bike on your racer. This was so you could ride out to Mulholland Drive to practice on the fire roads.
-If you got caught doing that, all you had to outrun was a fire truck, instead of a helicopter and twenty LAPD patrol cars.
-A factory "D-P" bike was a Triumph Tiger Cub, BSA Starfire, Matchless G80CS, or a Harley-Davidson XLCH.
-You bought the XLCH because you thought the spring-loaded seat post would be more comfy in the desert.
-You thought the Goodyear "Grasshopper" was the ultimate off-road tire.
-A set of "Ekins pipes" was the final touch on your desert racer, and they looked and sounded bitchin'.
-The next week, you learned the importance of re-jetting for new pipes and how to replace pistons.
-The "Demon Tweak" for your Tiger Cub was a "Swedish Army" lower end and a set of "pink spot" valve springs.
-You traded in your old bike for a new one because you thought you might be able to go faster on one with a swinging arm.
-The lightweight class was dominated by bikes with names like "Francis-Barnett", "DOT", "James", and "Excelsior". You knew that DOT stood for "Devoid Of Trouble". Ha!
-You went to the newsstand to get magazines like "The Green'un", "The Blue'un", "Moto", or "Cycle Action".
-The weekly motorcycle newspaper was called "The Scrambler" and your name was in it.
-You owned a JAWA 175cc road bike and got the "Czechoslovak Motor Review" in the mail free every month.
-Officer Filker of the Alhambra PD did the road tests for Cycle magazine, in full uniform with gunbelt, and tested everything in the dirt including Harley-Davidson 74's and Vincents.
-Floyd Clymer rode test bikes while sitting backwards on the handlebars wearing a business suit.
-You thought you could save money to go racing, and ordered a copy of Clymer's "How To Cut Hair At Home".
-You couldn't get a date because of your haircut.
-The hot Italian bikes had brand names like "Ceccato" and "Bartali". You bought a service manual for your Ceccato and found out you couldn't read Italian.
-You saw your first Yamaha at the Catalina Grand Prix, and thought they would never catch on because of the ear-splitting noise they made.
-Gary Conrad won a desert race overall on a 250 Greeves, the first victory ever by a lightweight, and opinion was divided between those who said it couldn't be done and those who said it was a fluke and would never happen again.
-Greeves had an exhaust pipe cum skid plate called a "blooey pipe" that went back about as far as the footpegs and emitted a racket that would blow the ear wax right out into your helmet when they went by you on your XLCH, i.e. lapping you.
-You liked to follow two-strokes because the Blendzall fumes smelled good and made you feel funny.
-The whole aftermarket consisted of the Flanders Co., Milne Distributing, and that upstart Webco.
-Your off-road riding gear consisted of a set of Knapp 16" lace-up lineman's boots, which were delivered to your door, blue jeans, basketball knee pads, a sweatshirt or jumper with your club name, leather sleeves (except on hot days), a kidney belt with buttons, work gloves turned inside-out so the seams wouldn't hurt your hands, goggles from the Army-Navy store, and an open-face helment with a bandana around your face. None of it had any logos.
-The "Diamonds", "13 Rebels", and "North Los Angeles M.C." were some of the hot competition clubs.
-You worked as a motorcycle mechanic to support your habit. The labor rate was $6.00 per hour and you made a living. You had a nice pad, a new El Camino, a pretty girl friend and could afford to go racing every weekend.
-The shop owner's kid hung out at the shop a lot, and being socially deprived, thought an oil can was a squirt gun. He also thought you put him in the dumpster a lot because you liked him.

Ah, those were the days, my friends. If any of those things ring a bell, come join us at the Home. Especially if you are still a motorcycle mechanic working to support your habit, still wearing your Knapp lineman's boots, open-face helmet and club jumper, have celebrated your thirtieth wedding anniversary (or your fortieth, or your fiftieth) with the same girl, still driving the same El Camino, still riding the same Triumph, Ceccato, or XLCH, still racing (probably in vintage events) and are trying desperately to order riding gear without a bunch of logos (you don't advertise without sponsorship, after all!) from Flanders Co. (Milne and Webco don't seem to be answering their phones of late). Come to think of it, if all these things are so, you probably always hear bells ring, and are perfectly happy right where you are! See ya on the trail!



14 November 2004

NASCAR

They're at the grandaddy of superspeedways today. "The Track Too Tough To Tame", Darlington International Raceway, is one of the oldest and most storied tracks on the circuit. Listen close to the stories Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach tell about driving around the place today.

I, however, won't be around the Blogosphere much as we're going over to the Indian's house to watch the race there. Starts at 1:30 on NBC. The points chase is close with 2 races left. Should be a good finish to the season. I'll have to admit that I might have been wrong about this new points system this year. It looks like it'll work out well.

12 November 2004

Today

We had the first really cold rain of the season. The one that lets you know that in 2 weeks it would be snow. It was a steady downpour that will go on until late tonight. Days like this are the ones you hate to be a mechanic. Of course, we had 2 road calls. Thankfully they weren't serious but we were wet all day regardless. Drippage from cars on the lift guarantees that. Perfect pneumonia weather. Thank God it's Friday.

10 November 2004

Great Minds.....

Contemplating conversion to Islam in his despondency over last week's debacle, James Wolcott reconsiders:
Until I can latch on to some religion I can call my own, I am going to make a different committment, which will at least keep me occupied from April to October.

I am going to become a Mets fan. A Yankees fan I could never be, and the hiring of Willie Randolph has persuaded me that the Mets are the team for me. It was a gutsy move, Randolph is a class act, and I'm now looking forward to spring training at Port St. Lucie. If only being a Mets fan didn't entail listening to Fran Healy, just about the worst baseball announcer ever, but most religions require suffering and sacrifice, and Healy fills the bill.

Wolcott is almost as smart as Fixer.

07 November 2004

NASCAR

Phoenix today. Ho-hum, either Little E, Johnson, or Gordon will win it. Newman on the Pole at 135 and change. 3 p.m. EST on NBC.

05 November 2004

Willie Randolph

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- New York Yankees bench coach Willie Randolph was hired as the New York Mets' manager, replacing the fired Art Howe.

Randolph, 50, received his first managerial job late last night and will be introduced at a press conference this afternoon, the Mets' media relations department said by telephone.

[. . .]


Not that it's gonna make a difference. The overpaid prima donnas will still manage to suck, but it's good to see a brotha get a manager's job. Too few of 'em at the top. Look what my boy Herman Edwards is doing with the Jets.

01 November 2004

31 October 2004

NASCAR

At Atlanta today. This is the fastest track on the circuit and there's the potential for the 'Big One' here. Pre-race starts at noon EST on NBC.

27 October 2004

Gold-plated crap

Oh, I've had one of those days. Been doing a job that I really didn't want to do. Harry didn't want to take the damn thing in either, but we ended up with it. The car is a 10 year old Taurus with 125K on it. It was rode hard and put up wet too many times during its life. Thing is, it belongs to the Indian's uncle, and we've known him for a million years, and he's a stubborn old goat. He pestered the shit out of Harry for months until he finally caved in. A while back it was drug in on the hook.

So, I have this car and Unk wants an upper end rebuild (cam, lifters, pushrods, cylinder heads, valvesprings, timing chain and gears, etc). Did I mention it was overheated and both head gaskets blown? Did I mention we only have 2 bays in the shop so I'd have to do this outside whenever I found time. Well, I just put it back together over the last couple days.

Now, this couldn't be the standard Taurus, with the 3.0 liter V6. Oh no, it had to have the optional 3.8L. A lot wider across the valve covers and a lot less room to work around it. You DON'T want to do motor mounts in one.

So I get it all together, everything hooked up, old oil out, 5 quarts of Castrol GTX 10W-30 and a new Motorcraft filter in, new battery, belts and hoses, new antifreeze. I hop in, turn the key and the engine spins but no vroom.

I turn the key on and off a couple times, listening for the electric pump in the tank do its 3 second run. Fine. I hop out, pull the cap off the pressure port on the injector rail and depress the schrader valve. Gasoline shoots out about a foot in the air. Good fuel pressure. I walk back into the shop and get my spark checker and pop the coil wire off the distributor and put the checker between the wire and the cap. No spark. Fine.

I go back in and get a 'known good' coil out my 'you never know' drawer in my toolbox and plug it in place of the old coil. I crank the motor. Vrooom. Good. Now I have to contort my fingers into positions God never intended to remove the old coil from the bracket and re-mount the new one. Remember what I said about that fat 3.8L? An hour later, I can finally start it and let it warm up. Well . . . no.

As I run it up (the thermostat isn't even open yet) I see a green fountain squirting through the grille. Great. Old radiator is rotted through. I guess that's how they overheated it and the impeller breaking off the water pump was a symptom of the overheat instead of the cause. Fine. Drain the anti-freeze back out and call the radiator shop and have a new one sent. Did I mention this car was in a minor front end acciddent a while back? Did I mention it pushed the radiator support back about a quarter inch? Did I mention the 3.8L V6 is wider across than the 3.0L? You'd be surprised how much a quarter inch means when you're trying to wiggle the radiator out.

2 hours later, the rad is in and refilled with anti-freeze. I hop in, vroom again. I let it run up, everything's working fine, but wait . . . what's that drip drip drip of red fluid coming from under the radiator? Oh yes, it's the rusted to HOLY HELL transmission cooler lines that decided to become porus when I had to disconnect and reconnect them to the radiator(s). Fine, it's not a bad drip so I can let the motor run through a full heat up/cool down cycle.

As I'm doing this, Indian and Harry come out, all happy that the bitch is finally running and we can get Unk off our backs. Did I mention he's stubborn AND annoying AND impatient? So, Indian says 'why don't you jump in and see if you get transmission application?'

A good idea. It sat for a couple months. might as well get the fluid coursing through the pumps, solenoids, and valvebody. I jump in, put my foot on the brake, and the pedal falls to the floor. Story of my day. That's when I threw up my hands, shut the bitch off, and locked it up. I'll diagnose the brake problem tomorrow and figure out why the master cylinder was empty when it came in full. It was just one of those days. The Great God of Auto Repair did not want that car to leave. It's leaving tomorrow if I have to push it down to the marina and off the boat ramp.

If there's a moral to this it's that a 10 year old Taurus with a million miles on it ain't worth the money Unk is pouring into it. And when you let an old car sit, shit breaks all on its own.

Update:

And far be it for me to forget (short-term memory thing) when I did make it go vroom, the clutch on the A/C compressor was jingling and jangling like Santa's sleigh. Wish I would have known it was shot while I had the cylinder heads off. Would have been easier to work on, but this car hates me. By the way, we call the thing Unk's Junk.

25 October 2004

New Tires

I went to Costco in Reno today and got a set of tires for Mrs. G.'s pickup. The old ones had 40K on them, not worn all the way out, but too worn to do another winter. We get a lot of snow here and traction is essential for safety, for steering and braking as well as going straight ahead. There's a big storm due tonight, and besides I had a $60-off coupon that would have expired in a few days. No time like the present.

In case you're not familiar with Costco, it's a chain of membership wholesale stores. They sell things in bulk and the price is right. Let me put it this way: If you buy some creamed corn, for instance, you'd better be in the mood for creamed corn, 'cuz you're gonna get a lot of it. If you need one of anything, go to W**M**t. If you need ten, go to Costco. Their selection of items is limited, but extensive nonetheless. Baby clothes to caskets.

Did I mention that they sell tires? I've been getting good price and service there for a long time, and I don't even bother checking anywhere else any more. You get free flat repair, rotation, and re-balancing forever with purchase. Their adjustment policy is always in the customer's favor and handled with courtesy, the way it should be. I got there one minute after opening time and was tenth in line. By the time I got to the service desk, there were ten more behind me. They sell a LOT of tires.

Well, remembering Fixer's post on the subject of lugnuts, I decided to watch the tire guys and see if they had read it.

They put Dakota Sue (we name every member of the family) up on a 9000lb side post frame lift manufactured by Western Lifts. It had a picture of a rootin'-tootin' cowpoke on it. They removed the wheels. Duh.

This is where it starts to get good. One guy removed the old tires and mounted the new ones. He handed each one off to the balancer. The balancer took each tire as he finished it and hung it back on the wheel studs with one lugnut to hold it in place. Then, two guys with air wrenches, one on either side of the vehicle, lightly rattled the lugnuts down to center them.

Then they lowered the rig 'til it was about six inches off the floor. A different guy went around the truck with a wheel chock and a torque wrench and torqued the nuts in a cross-pattern. He left the torque wrench on the last lugnut, wheel chock under the tire, and hollered "fore"! I ducked, thinking I was gonna get a Topflite in the jibs any second!

Now, double-checking wheel installation is nothing new, but I've never seen this: Yet another guy came by and made sure the torque wrench clicked on every lugnut, again in a cross-pattern.

I think they have done this before.

I thanked them for torquing the lugnuts, mostly so they would know somebody noticed.

I headed for home with my new tires, happy as a clam. Tires wear slowly and you don't notice the deterioration of the ride quality until you get a new set. The truck rode like brand new. If you're interested, this is my second set of Michelin X Radial LT 235/75X15. All-season, mud & snow rated. Quiet and smooth. I like 'em!

Oh, yeah. I think the tire guys must be regular readers of TF&G. They knew what they were doing. Why go anyplace else?

Condolences

To the crews, family, and friends of Hendrick Motorsports from Gordon and me.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 24, 2004) - Hendrick Motorsports officials have confirmed that an airplane owned by the organization was reported missing and downed today. The craft was en route to Martinsville, Va., from Concord, N.C.

The following is a full list of passengers: Randy Dorton, Hendrick Motorsports engine director; John Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports president; Jennifer Hendrick, daughter of John Hendrick; Kimberly Hendrick, daughter of John Hendrick; Ricky Hendrick, son of Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and owner of two NASCAR teams; Joe Jackson, sponsor representative; Scott Lathram, employee of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; Elizabeth Morrison, co-pilot; Richard Tracy, pilot; and Jeff Turner, Hendrick Motorsports general manager.

Hendrick Motorsports asks that those affected be kept in your thoughts and prayers, and respectfully requests that privacy be considered throughout this difficult time.


22 October 2004

Don't Just Stand There Like A Lox...

Guys like me n' Fixer take looking under the hood of our rigs for granted. It's a given. After all, since we have to fix anything that goes wrong ourselves, instead of just throwing money at it like most folks, we have a vested interest in catching problems while they are small. You do too. Read this article on MSN. It will give you the basics. If you are a granny, handicapped, or a pretty young girl who doesn't want to get out of the car because you forgot to dress this morning, the station attendant will be glad to help, or me n' Fixer, if we're there.

21 October 2004

Getting Started

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post. In it, I mentioned that my snowthrower wouldn't start. It was basically my own fault because I left it outside since the last time I used it and didn't do anything to prepare it for storage other than drain the gas out of it, which turned out to be the culprit. Cuttin' to the chase, it started, finally, but it wouldn't have without my years of experience as a mechanic, although, actually, any kid in Auto Shop class could have got it going. So I thought I'd share the story and maybe save you some grief and money in the process. Small engine mechanics will have a contract out on me in ten minutes, but I am fearless when it comes to educating the masses (all five of you).

Even after my power came back on, the machine still wouldn't start. Being a trained, experienced mechanic (I hate the word 'technician'. It took me years to become a mechanic and I am proud of that title) I knew, or at least suspected, that something was wrong. I went from being a guy with a snow removal problem to being a wrench in a twinkling and started in on it.

There are three requirements that need to be met before a four-stroke, internal combustion, gasoline engine will run. It makes no difference to the cosmos whether it's a 3hp Briggs & Stratton lawnmower mill or a 3000hp Pratt & Whitney Cyclone aircraft engine. Simplified a little bit, they are: Compression, spark, and fuel. It is best to check them in that order, but a lot of people don't. They are the ones who cause themselves a lot of extra work, which is OK unless they are charging you for it. When you find problems with any one of these, you must correct it before you move on to the next one.

Compression: Basically, the engine's ability to wad up the fuel-air mixture so it will burn rapidly. A useful by-product is keeping oil from running out of your tailpipe and $2.50 per gallon gas out of your crankcase. You can check it with fancy gadgets like a compression tester or a leak-down tester, but I used the fanciest gadget of all on my snowthrower: the same finger I am typing with right now. After unscrewing the spark plug , I did the first two checks simultaneously, being multi-tasking capable. I put my finger in the spark plug hole and hit the starter. Pfft! Blew my finger loose from the hole. Compression.

Spark: Ignites the now-compressed fuel, causing the whole mess to want to do it again. Again, you can use fancy gadgets but what works best is to put the plug wire on the plug, lay the plug on a good ground (not THE ground. That would take extra plug wire and wouldn't work anyway), hit the starter and see if the plug fires. On the snowthrower, it did not. The electrode end of the thing was dark and slightly wet, indicating a fouled plug. Cleaned the plug, re-tested. Spark. Goody!

Re-inserted plug. Still no start. Drat! On to step three.

Fuel: Gas, dummy. I just wanted to keep to my format. I knew it had new gas, as opposed to last years paint brush cleaner because I put it in myself. After removing a cover designed to keep snowballs and ice cubes out of the engine, I squirted some gas into the carburetor. The engine started and ran. It would only run for a second or two using this technique and I decided it would be too much trouble to keep doing this as I have a big driveway, so I kept looking for the problem.

It appeared as if no fuel was getting to the engine. Note: 'fuel' and 'gas' are words used interchangeably, but they are not the same: 'gas', more properly called 'gasoline', is the liquid component of 'fuel' which is the gas-air mixture that reaches the engine. The carburetor is the Mixmaster that accomplishes this miracle of chemistry.

But, but, but...the spark plug had been wet. What on Earth is going on here? Lights on in yer head, dipshit! Water!! Water will wet a plug just fine, but the engine won't run on it. Good thing, too, or the oceans would be vast wastelands and there'd be piles of salt everywhere. But I digress. It may have been condensation formed out of the air, or maybe it was rainwater from being parked under the eaves, but somehow a tiny bit of water had gotten into my float bowl. It doesn't take much. I drained the float bowl by means of a spring-loaded little drain whoozy (technical term) and Voila! the engine, she fire right up!

A little reassembly, a little fine tuning, and my machine was ready for the task at hand. Which was to see if the rest of the damn snowthrower worked, but that's another story.

Now, I know that I'm not the only guy whose snowthrower (aka Driveway Grooming Machine) didn't work yesterday and I also know that not everyone can fix it themselves and had to take it to the Small Engine Emporium. The job took me a lot less time than writing this post, probably thirty minutes if you don't count my looking around for stuff and brain fade, but it cost those guys a pile, probably $30-$50, maybe more, and you just know those mechanics are gonna find something else wrong in the process that will ultimately cost even more. Unless it was a Honda. Those things are insufferably reliable.

One of the reasons I learned to do this mechanical stuff was because I couldn't afford to pay somebody to do it for me. I still can't bear to pay for something I can do myself, and this has carried over into my prowess as a homeowner: Maybe I can't build a house or bike, but I can damn sure figure out how it works and fix it.

20 October 2004

Ready For Winter? NOT!

Last night, we got a foot of snow. I have lived in snow country for a quarter-century and know all about snow. Nothing could surprise me, and I am always ready for it, right? WRONG!

Mrs. G. got me up at seven. I figured I would have to go out and clear the snow off her car so she could go to work at the 'numbers mine'. Nothing unusual about that.

What was a little unusual is that it was very quiet. As the fog of sleep rose from my brain, I noticed that the TV news was not on, and that it was unusually dark in the house. When I stumbled to the living room, I noticed an array of battery-powered appliances in play. Lanterns and a portable radio. The radio was issuing warning of chain controls and road and school closures. The power was off. The wife poured me a cup of hot coffee out of a thermos. Thank God the power outage held off until the coffee was ready! And that Mrs. G., experienced mountain woman that she is, had the acumen to decant it to keep it warm. We've done this before.

I cleared a path to the pickup and pushed and pulled the snow off it with my 'Sno-Ho'. That's a gadget, not the hired help. Finished it up nice and neat with a snow brush.

Then my attention turned to the driveway. I poured fresh gas into my snowblower and plugged it in. It wouldn't start. Duh. It wouldn't start with the rope either, no doubt because I haven't run it all summer. Who does? I figured Mrs. G. could back down the driveway OK and I would clear it later.

The type of snow we had last night is called locally 'Sierra Cement'. It has an exceptionally high water content and weighs about fifty pounds a shovelful. Awful stuff, not the nice light powder seen in ski hill ads. It happens when it's just barely cold enough to snow (about 37 degrees F.).

Well, the pickup's tires wouldn't cut through the snow, but rather packed it up under the tires and rode up on it 'til it hit a soft spot and then sank in it. Mrs. G. put it in low range and punched it (on my advice, of course). The truck went about two feet backwards and then turned almost sideways in the driveway and stopped. She went in and called work to tell them she'd be late and I went for my trusty cordless snowthrower, aka snow shovel. It didn't take me long to clear the snow away from all four tires and a little patch (to gain momentum) behind it. By this time the power company guys were here and parked right across my driveway, so I tracked them down and asked them to move their truck, which they did. They owed me. They had to borrow MY ladder to see if I had voltage to my house so maybe it would be my fault the power was off all over the neighborhood and they wouldn't have to climb any poles. This time, I backed the truck out. 'Bye, honey, see ya later.

The wife was on her way and the power guys had found the problem a couple of doors away. They were up a pole in their cherry picker about 200 feet up, I say again, up, my neighbor's driveway. Bad fuse in a transformer.

I noticed my neighbor, Toni (short for Antoinette, not an Italian poufter boy), blocking the street with her Land Cruiser so I sauntered over to see if I could help. Dig one out, dig two out, what's the diff? The street had been packed down real good by traffic and was real slippery. I was a-slippin' an' a-slidin' but I finally made it over to her rig just as her idiot kid got out and put the other front hub in. Just as she pulled away, she told me that her aspen tree was bent over the power lines behind her house and would I tell the power guys. Sure, I would. So I schlepped up my neighbor's driveway, two steps forward and one step back on the packed snow, and told them. Then I damn near slid all the way back to the street on the snow that had been packed down by their big truck. It was fast, 'tho.

The power came on shortly and I made more coffee, re-educated all my appliances as to what time it was, fired up the 'puter and here I am. I still have to do the driveway and the plow just went by so I also have a nice berm in my driveway to remove. This kind of snow is so heavy that an 8hp machine will only blow it about three feet and won't even touch a berm, so I'll be well re-acquainted with my 'idiot stick', aka snow shovel, by the time I'm done. It's still snowing, too.

They say the Inuit people have 50 words for snow. So do I, and 49 of them aren't very nice.


19 October 2004

Kids & role models

Now, I don't have kids for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I never thought I would have been a good dad. I was a wild man when I was younger and my job in the military was a dangerous one. I didn't expect to live long enough. When I met the Mrs, she was on a career track and she did not want to derail that by having children. Fine. Now, in our mid-forties, we're still having too much fun and we're set in our lifestyle. The dog does nicely.

Harry and the Indian don't have kids either. Dead Ed has a daughter. My point is that I've been thinking that my premise of not being a good role model was wrong. You see, we've always had a kid working at the shop up until Ed came to work there. Teenagers who we knew and who wanted to make a few extra bucks.

There have been five or six over the years and I've been thinking about how they turned out after Harry, Indian, and I have had such a big influence on their lives. Let's say that we're not the parenting type. All of those kids got an education working for us, and not one you could get in school. By the time they were 15, they could curse like sailors, had their first taste of beer, ditto on reefer, had been sexually harassed constantly, treated like niggas, and got every shit job in the shop. I was thinking about that and figured we could probably all be arrested for corrupting minors. And then I looked at where they are today.

Of the six I can remember off the top of my head:

  • One is a principal in a local school district.

  • Another has his own tree service/landscaping business in New Hampshire.

  • One is just entering the management ranks at the Long Island Rail Road.

  • One owns his own boat repair shop not far from our shop.

  • One owns his own auto repair shop in a town close by.

  • And one just made his first million as a software designer.


  • While they learned a bunch of vices from us, they also learned about honor, integrity, how to treat a woman with respect, and the value of a good education. They all stay in touch and they all agree that their experience working with the 'crazy old guys' taught them more about how the world works than anything they learned in school. All are successful. While to look at us, you wouldn't think of us as role models, but guess what, we are and we're good at it. I might not have kids of my own, but I'm proud of the things I've imparted to these young men. We might not have done it in the most PC way, but we helped shape a group of young men to become the next generation of community leaders.

    16 October 2004

    I hate Brooklyn & Queens

    Well, just driving in 'em. That's why I live out on Long Island. If I had to drive in the 5 Boroughs of NYC every day, I'd go Monster Garage with my Cowboy Cadillac and it would be outfitted with rocket launchers and 20mm miniguns. The Bar Mitzvah was a well done in a beautiful temple under the Brooklyn Bridge. A hearty mazeltov to Fred and Evelyn, you have a son you can be proud of, thank you for letting us share the day with you.

    Now to the good stuff. NASCAR under the lights at Charlotte on NBC at 7 ET. Night races are always good and Charlotte is a storied track.

    15 October 2004

    Plug It In, Plug It In

    There used to be a gadget you could get for your car that was guaranteed to ease the tension on those long drives, boring commutes, or in your driveway.

    It was called the 'Auto Suck". It was advertised in the back of men's magazines and I have never actually seen one in a store, so I guess it was 'mail order, delivered in a plain brown wrapper' only. It plugged into your car's cigarette lighter. I won't get too graphic about what it was supposed to do for you as Auto Shop classes all over the country read this blog for credit and we wouldn't want to warp young minds. They can do that for themselves like we did. Come to think of it, that's a pretty good description of what the 'Auto Suck' does.

    One word of caution: Don't plug it into an old MGB or anything with a 'positive ground' system. Reverse polarity, you know. Injury could occur. Don't ask me how I know this.

    13 October 2004

    More on Bonneville and Natural Gas

    This item appeared in today's Sierra Sun, my home town paper. In light of yesterday's post on The Salt and Fixer's post on blowing up a local car dealer (from inside the men's room, no doubt), I couldn't resist. Besides, it's fun.

    Kids, and especially boys, often have a fascination with speed and cars when they're young.

    If that's true, I hope I never get over being young.

    The current land speed record for a wheel-driven car was set in 2001 by Don Vesco. He drove his "Turbinator" car 458.44 mph over the course at Bonneville.

    On the salt flats this week, Lessman will run with a 600 horsepower CNG engine that he predicts will get him up to 300-plus mph. Eventually, for the record attempt, turbo chargers and a nitrous oxide system will bump that horsepower up to around 2,000, which he believes should allow him to better Vesco's mark of 458 mph.

    Slim Pickens' final ride in Dr. Strangelove comes to mind.

    "One of the things that's cool about it is you go out there and you do all this stuff and it's simply because you like to do it," he said. "There's no money in it. It's really the last true amateur auto race of significance in the world right now. All the other auto races - NASCAR, Indy cars, drag races - have become so commercialized that it's tough to be involved anymore because it costs millions of dollars. And this stuff you can still go out and it's strictly amateur: If you set a world record everybody comes around, buys you a beer, pats you on the back and gives you a $25 trophy."

    That's the spirit.

    Disclaimer

    Wasn't me:

    (New York-WABC, October 12, 2004) — A natural gas explosion caused the collapse of a car dealership on Long Island, injuring several people.

    [. . .]

    12 October 2004

    Yankees

    I'm not a Yankee fan, but the series with the Red Sox starts tonight. I root for the Yanks because my Mets ain't in it. (Duh.) Thing is, even the fucking Mets kicked Boston ass. The Curse will continue.

    Bonneville

    One of the best reasons to go to Utah. Go see some neat pictures posted by the Southern California Timing Association. Results and souvenirs, too. Click on "Bonneville" and "Speed Week 2004".

    11 October 2004

    Harry and firearms

    As you've read here, we at the shop are a little off kilter. And like anything else, it starts at the top. Harry's had a thing with firearms for as long as I can remember. Boy can throw a knife too. He'll stick any knife in anything at 30 feet, fucking amazing.

    Anyway, the point was firearms.

    One night, many moons ago, when we were all younger and crazier, Harry got himself a .357. Now, Indian used to have a little side business at the shop at nights, paitning. He'd generally do murals on vans, motorcycle tanks, shit like that. He kept all his supplies in the shop, in an explosion-proof UL and OSHA approved cabinet. Double wall, metal, lock, a good sturdy unit. Remember, safety is no accident.

    Well, we were hanging around this night and Harry brings the .357 in. Nice revolver, the barrel looked more like a fucking artillery piece. Anyway, Harry hadn't even fired the thing yet and the range in town was closed at that time of night.

    Well, we put our heads together and thought it was a good idea (Indian and I didn't need much coaxing) for Harry to fire it at the explosion-proof cabinet. Hey, it's explosion-proof, right? I mean, the slug would penetrate the outer wall, probably, and deform enough not to go through the inner wall of the cabinet. Makes sense, right? I mean shit, we watched a bunch of cop shows.

    So, we crowd to the far corner of the shop, about 40 feet from the cabinet. Harry takes aim and pulls the trigger. Well, the double wall theory didn't hold up in the real-world test. Slug went through the outer wall, laughed at us as it went through the inner wall, and laughed even harder when it hit the gallon can of laquer thinner just inside the cabinet.

    When the thinner blew, the locked doors of the cabinet contained the explosion, well the first one. When the quart cans of urethane paint, 6 of 'em followed like automatic weapons fire, went, the cabinet gave up the ghost. The doors blew apart and we hit the deck, pieces of the lock going through the wall above our heads, followed by unexploded cans of paint. Woof. Ain't doing that again.

    Another time, Harry got a new spear gun. Harry scuba dives, been on all the big wrecks. He brings it in and it's really cool. I ask him if he ever shot it at anything. He says no, it's brand new. As we're talking about it, Indian goes to the bathroom. While he's sitting in there, reading porn, Harry thinks the spear would stick into the bathroom door. Also a good way to fuck with the Indian. Hey, I'm game.

    So, while I'm standing there giggling my ass off, Harry takes aim at the door. Well, that theory didn't work out too well either. Spear went RIGHT through the door. Two seconds later, Indian opens the door, still sitting there with his pants around his ankles, the spear stuck in the wall, inches from his leg. Never seen an Injun turn so white. We don't play with firearms in the shop no more.

    Well, it's a good thing we can fix the shit out of cars.

    10 October 2004

    Kansas

    The NASCAR boys are in Kansas today. This should be a fast one. Qualifying at 178 mph.

    08 October 2004

    Evap Scam

    There's a new one going around and I figured I'd warn you.

    As you know, all cars available for purchase in the United States are controlled by computer. Using a bunch of sensors, the computers adjust the air/fuel mixture constantly to assure optimum performance and fuel economy. One of the systems monitored by the processor (in cars built after '96, earlier for those tree-huggers in California) is the low pressure side of the fuel system. Namely the fuel tank and the atmosphere in it above the surface of the fuel. The air in your fuel tank is concentrated with unburned hydrocarbons, basically evaporated gasoline.

    These hydrocarbons are pollutants, so the pressure of the air pocket in your fuel tank is measured and the vapors are recycled into the fuel system, to be burned in the engine instead of vented into the environment. In other words, the processor knows if your gas cap is loose or missing, or you got a hole in the tank.

    When the computer sees this condition, it records a trouble code and turns on the 'check engine' or 'service engine soon' light on the instrument cluster. You see the light and you come to me and say 'fix it'.

    It's first question I ask when regular customers pull in with the light burning and the car seems to run fine. "When was the last time you got gas?" Seems that some of the paper assholes who run ripoff shops have figured out a new scam. It generally happens at full-serve stations.

    You pull up to the pump and tell the nitwit what you want. "20 bucks regular, please." And dipishit fills you up, reinstalling the cap when he's done. But he doesn't tighten it all the way. Rat bastid leaves it a little loose and you drive away. You go a couple miles and ta-da, the light comes on. Where do you go? Back to the dipshit who sold you gas. He says, 'we can scan the computer and see what's wrong', and charge you $75 bucks for the scan. 'You can pick the car up later', he says.

    You come back at 5 o'clock and you get the bill for the scan and for a coolant sensor, or some other not-too-expensive one so you don't feel like you're getting ripped off too bad. All he did was tighten your gas cap as soon as you left and cleared the evap code from your computer. Boom, no light, you're happy, money well spent.

    You think you're getting a deal because what he's told you is PFM (Pure Fucking Magic) to you. He's got you thinking thousands and $125 doesn't seem so bad. So, heed my words, Lugnut.

    If your service engine light comes on within a couple hours of you getting gas, tighten the cap util you hear a few clicks. Something to listen for if you go full-serve when the spooge puts your gas cap back on. If it don't click, it ain't tight. Boy, that sounded Johnny Cochran-esque. The light should go out on its own in a few hours or over night. If not, have a guy you trust look at it.

    About a half dozen of our older customers have fallen for this from the same guy near us. Harry's debating paying him a visit and explaining the rules.

    06 October 2004

    Don't Step In The PC

    NASCAR is getting pussyfied just like the rest of the Nation. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was so happy to win Talladega (Look at that sonuvabitch GO!) that he said a second grade naughty. Here's the article in the Washington Post and excerpts.

    Stock-car racing built its fiercely loyal following on the backs of its drivers' domineering personalities: the raw grit and rough-hewn wiles of Junior Johnson; the dignity and determination of Richard Petty; and the heart and stubbornness of the late Dale Earnhardt. Now that the sport wants to reach a mass audience, longtime fans fear it's racing too fast to lose its vernacular -- shedding its past as if it were an embarrassing family secret.

    Yeah, like Junior Johnson never said "shit"! He plows barefoot behind a mule, fer chrissakes! Well, he used to. These days he wears shoes.

    Asked during his post-race news conference about the prospect of being sanctioned for his remark, Earnhardt said, "If anybody was offended by the four-letter word I said . . . I can't imagine why they would have tuned into the race in the first place."

    Hey, lookie here NASCAR, this ain't a gentleman's sport, and trying to make it so is like putting lipstick on a pig. A lot of fans are country folks who learned "shit" as their second word, right after "shovel". It IS barnyard language, and that's all it is. City guys like me an' Fixer musta learned it somewhere else, but we know what it means and how and where to use it. A racetrack is an appropriate venue given the context of Jr.'s use of it.

    Hell, I wouldn't wanta blurt out "shit" at the croquet play-offs, but I bet the players do it sometimes.

    Given the acts some of the stick-and-ball guys commit, Dale's utterance ain't (you should pardon the expression) shit, and those guys don't lose championship points. For rape and murder. Hell, they don't even have to WIN to get their money like racers do.

    Fining Dale and taking his points away for this dinky crap is turning a (unisexual) manly sport into a prissy TV game fit only for girlie-men. If that's the demographic you're after, you're on the right track, NASCAR.

    Lugnuts

    Yes lugnuts, Lugnut. You know, those little things that hold your wheels to your car that you never think about, until you get a flat. It's the only time you think about them and it's usually to curse me for putting them on too tight with my impact wrench. (That sounds pornographic for some reason.) If I didn't, you'd be the first one to sue my ass if you lost a wheel on the highway, so fuck you.

    First off, locking lugs. You don't need 'em, even if your rims are gold plated. If you're like most folks, you've lost the key already anyhow. Do you know how many I have to get off without the key? If I, or some nefarious character, want your wheels, we'll get 'em without much effort either way, locks or no.

    Second. When you have your tires replaced, have your guy replace the lugnuts too. It's a little extra on the price, but it's worth it for safety. Everybody in the business uses impact wrenches and eventually the threads in the lugnuts get stretched. A lot of shops don't give a shit, but if I notice this happening on a customer's car, I'll replace the nut and sometimes the stud too.

    Ideally, lugnuts should be torqued to a specific value. It's in every owner's manual. But (there's always a but), if I took the time to torque all your lugnuts (sounds like porn again) the labor on your new rubber would be more than the tires cost. Besides, I don't have the fucking time, neither does every other shop, so out comes the impact wrench. 50,000 miles later, you got stretched threads.

    Now, odds are, you'll never lose a wheel due to a single faulty lugnut. But just say another, or two more loosen up somehow. Now you run a real risk. There are reasons why the car makers put four or more lugs in a certain pattern. It's to distribute the stresses your wheel encounters over the largest area. When a couple lugnuts loosen, the incredible stresses take a real toll. Also, have your mechanic check the holes in the wheels that accept the lugs. If they're oblong, oversized, or egg-shaped, you're compromising your safety.

    And a final note. To all you nitwits who just have to have aftermarket wheels and don't want to spend the money for new ones, spend the bread to get the correct lugnuts for that wheel and for your car. I've seen too much stupid shit happen thanks to the wrong lugnuts for the application.

    Listen to me, Lugnut. Make sure your nuts are covered. Have your guy check yours at the next service. Which, by the way, should happen in less than 3000 miles, right?

    05 October 2004

    What'd I tell you?

    And what did Gordon tell you two weeks ago?

    Make sure you have -20deg. windshield washer fluid. Don't use water. It's a royal pain having to unbolt the reservoir and take it in the house to thaw out. Beer works, but it's a waste, and that cheap Vodka (you know, the kind you put in the Gray Goose bottle when company's coming) is too thick.

    Turn on the heater to make sure it works. You haven't used it all Summer and if it doesn't work, or dumps coolant all over the inside of the car, best to find out now.

    Check the wiper blades by squirting some w.w. fluid and see if they wipe it off. CAUTION: Don't turn them on without first peeling them loose from the windshield or you're liable to get to see them yank the little motors right out of the cowl!

    Get the Fixer to check your belts and hoses. When they get dry and worn and cracked, sometimes they'll freeze up and either break, or else yank all the teeth off the flywheel when you try to start the engine

    [. . .]


    Well hell, guess what? The weather got a little cool here in NY last night. Weather nitwit says we're gonna get our 1st frost tonight. I had 5 cars come in on the hook today for dead batteries alone. I've been bitching to our customers since August to have us do our 'winter service', just in case we have a cold snap. Not only will you shit when you get the towing charge (if you don't have AAA) but you might not get your car back today becasue I had to order a couple oddball batts we don't stock. If the Interstate (Interstate Batteries, in my humble opinion, are the best) guy gets to us today, they'll be driving. If not, they'll be getting a ride to work tomorrow. Before I left this afternoon, our appointment book was filled for the rest of this week and all of next week thanks to the cold snap. It ain't like I don't say this every year.

    Listen to us, Lugnut. Go get your car looked at, have the oil changed, and have everything checked out for winter. Besides, I HATE having to push your piece of shit around the yard once the wrecker drops it off.

    04 October 2004

    Thanks

    Thanks, Fixer, for adding my name to the masthead. That's a big deal and I'm moved by it.

    Fixer invited me to contribute to The Alternate Brain a little over a month ago, and to The Fixer more recently. Depending on whom you believe, he either tracked me down with dogs, or I was left on his doorstep in a basket.

    Like the fellow said after he jumped off the thirtieth floor of the building as he went by the fifteenth floor:

    "So far, so good!"

    Congratulations

    To all the folks involved with SpaceShipOne for their record breaking flight today. You guys are my heroes.

    You Tell Me Your Dreams And I'll Tell You Mine

    I was reading SouthKnoxBubba this morning and came across his post about the booming opium trade in Afghanistan and it reminded me of the time I smoked opium. I think the statute of limitations has run out, so I'll share it with you.

    It was on Christmas Eve, 1979. I was working at Harley-Davidson of Glendale in Southern California. I was working on a '57 Sportster that belonged to a guy named Barney who was a hillbilly from Southern Ohio. Nice guy. It was getting late, but I wanted to finish it before I went home.

    Now, Sportsters have a train of camshafts, four of them, one for each valve. They come in all sorts of configurations but generally they come in sets. Not on Barney's bike. He had three 'P' cams and one 'Q' cam. He had finally scored the fourth 'P' cam at a swap meet or something, and I was installing it. It was a big find for him because it was the one with the magneto drive on it. Sportsters had quit using magnetos years before.

    Since it was late, Barney was hanging out in the shop watching me work on his pride and joy, when, out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to smoke some opium. I said, "Sure. I'm not doing anything important, just timing your cams and magneto." He said, "Oh, that's OK" and stuck a hot soldering iron (he may have wiped it off first) into his stash and stuck it up my nose.

    Well, I finished the job OK. I may have worked a little slower than usual. Came time to fire it up and Barney said to me, "You better let me do it. She's a little tricky to start", so I let him. I was a little afraid to try it anyway as older Sportsters tended to have weak mags and kickstarters and they can slip through and hyper-extend your knee in a heartbeat.

    I stood and watched. It took him twenty-seven kicks, due no doubt to a weak magneto. Barney turned to me with a big opium-eatin' grin and said, "Cool, man. You fixed it. Sure started easy. Merry Christmas!" and roared off into the night.

    It was indeed a Merry Christmas Eve. After about sixteen kicks, I thought he'd be mad at me, but he was delighted! Everybody sees things different, I guess.

    What was the opium like? I can't remember.

    03 October 2004

    NASCAR

    At Talladega today at 1:30 EDT on NBC. Should be good. There's always the potential for the Big One here, if you like seeing torn up equipment, but a few of 'em have been caution-free. As always, go Rusty!! (Even though he's a rich wingnut, as Gordon says.)

    02 October 2004

    So?

    So, whaddaya think? I changed the name 'cause Gordon carries a lot of water around here and it's only right. The colors and fonts are changed 'cause I'm trying to make it easier to read for us old folks. I'll be making a few little tweaks here and there. As I said below, comments welcome, good or bad, or suggestions. If you think telling me to go fuck myself is a novel suggestion? I've been told that more times than I can count.

    Just wondering, does the name make it sound like Gordon and I are a gay couple? Not that there's anything wrong with it.

    01 October 2004

    Don't be alarmed

    Trust me, I know what I'm doing. Well, maybe. But I'll be making some changes to the way this place looks over the weekend, hopefully for the better. Comments welcome when I'm done.

    30 September 2004

    Uh, I got some bad news

    Shit like this happens once in a great while, but we lost a motor in a BMW today. Thankfully, it wasn't our fault. Thing let loose when we cranked it up to 60 mph on the dyno for the New York State Vehicle Emissions test. Number 5 piston took leave of the connecting rod at 3500 rpm. Yeesh. Man, I've seen and heard motors blow up close at least five hundred times over the past 35 years, and I still never get used to that sickening sound. Totally destroyed two spark plugs when the Number 2 followed a second later. Ripped the valve cover off and found some flotsam and jetsam up there too. Now it's a cast iron and aluminum boat anchor. It's a bitch having to call a customer and tell him that his Bimmer just went bye-bye. Another bitch is that he's Harry's neighbor. It was one of them days.

    29 September 2004

    Way to go, boys

    The Ruttan boys, Dick and Burt, have been heroes of mine for a long time. I raise my glass in your honor tonight, gentlemen.

    MOJAVE, Calif. - The SpaceShipOne rocket plane landed safely here Wednesday after a successful tilt-a-whirl start to its bid to win a $10 million prize for private spaceflight.

    28 September 2004

    Tire Day

    It's raining like a bitch (you think these storms could dump all their moisture on Florida instead of bringing some up here), and I had 4 sets of tires to do 1st thing. Shit went downhill from there. We had a week of sunshine and everybody forgot how to drive in the rain. Let alone all the school-related people who only had to drive to the Poconos and back during the summer. Let's hope the Mrs. gets home smoothly, as opposed to last night.

    27 September 2004

    Just an update

    Believe it or not, Dead Ed is back out the hospital and home. Didn't think he'd make it this time. If he was any less stubborn or belligerent, he'd have been dead by now. He called this morning, said he'd be in tomorrow. When I saw him last week, I figured him for a goner. Amazing.

    Roll 'Em

    The other day, Fixer went on (or off) about some strange, NY State-regulated cigarettes that go out when you ignore them. Significant others will do that too...but I digress. I know all about cigarettes going out. It's become a way of life for me.

    Mrs. G. and I both started smoking in our teens, independently and many miles apart. After several years of marriage, she decided we were going to quit, so we went to a 'quit smoking' deal at the Nugget in Sparks, Nevada. They don't have these in California because it's illegal to smoke in a business, but we're close to Nevada so we went.

    It was fucking awful. There were about a hundred people there in a conference room. The moderator issued everybody a stale cigarette and proceeded with his lecture on the dangers of tobacco, the addictive process, etc. Then he told everybody to light their cigarette and that they had two minutes to smoke it. He put on a gas mask. That was without a doubt the smokiest room I have ever been in, maybe even more than the shop when something needed a top-end job. People were coughing and retching and puking. When the bedlam subsided, the crowd had thinned out. I wouldn't have left for anything. This deal cost $49.95.

    Then the guy hypnotized everybody, the whole roomful at the same time. Except me. I had a loose tooth and was wiggling it with my tongue and didn't get all the way under during the group trance. Then he planted a post-hypnotic suggestion that we didn't want to smoke anymore, snapped everybody back to this world and told them that they could help themselves in their goal by purchasing his anti-smoking products on the way out. Of course he did a brisk trade in these.

    Think this is all a big crock?

    My wife hasn't smoked a cigarette in the twelve years since. I must have been more hypnotized than I thought because, while I didn't quit smoking, I quit buying tailor-mades and started rolling my own. Mrs. G. lets me smoke in certain rooms of the house, so that's OK.

    Problem was, I couldn't hand roll a smoke for sour owl shit. I'd been rolling funny cigarettes for twenty years, but I used a little rolling machine. So I used that. One day it broke and I had to roll one or go nuts, so I did. Once my fingers got used to it, I did fine. Now my smokes look like they're factory rolled, if I want them to. As soon as I can get some sheets of computer-ready cigarette papers, I'm gonna print my name on my smokes!

    There's advantages to rolling your own. Yes, they go out when you set them down. This saves money. I can smoke one cigarette for an hour, like when I'm blogging, instead of lighting up an expensive one every twenty minutes like the tobacco companies want you to do. Time it. You'll be dazzled. I learned to buy my Bics in the 5-pack. People think you're poor, so they offer you cigarettes. You find out that a lot of people roll their own.

    There's disadvantages as well. If you roll kind of loose, they'll burn little holes in your shirt. You spit out little pieces of tobacco and find them later, like on the monitor. The cops look at you funny sometimes. Sometimes you'd rather smoke than roll, but roll you must. You have to plan ahead when you go out and either roll up a few or take a pouch with you, but you adapt.

    It's a lot cheaper. A 6-ounce can of Top or Bugler costs $7.49 at Costco or an Indian Smoke Shop and lasts me about two weeks. Indian smoke shops are giving state governments fits. Good. "Ugh! You, me, cheat Great White Father. One can Top, please." Around here, we have the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and they have a shop right on the state line. The stuff costs more at drugstores, but you can buy .65 oz. pouches to get you to a cheaper joint. There's more expensive brands if you're the snooty type.

    Let's roll.


    25 September 2004

    Jersey Steve

    Stole this whole article from The RN&R. I worked at Shoeman's about ten years ago. His name ain't Shoeman, but that's all I'll say because he might have his picture up in a post office somewhere still. He got that name from working in a shoe store when he first moved to Reno. Did pretty good at it, too. The guy could sell icebergs to Eskimos and charge them for shipping. He's a good guy and it was a good job.

    Fix-it man
    Steve Shoeman

    By D. Brian Burghart

    Shoeman’s Custom Cycle, 275 E. Fourth St., specializes in Harley-Davidson repair, restoration and custom fabrication. The showroom is filled with pretty much anything a motorcycle rider needs, with a bunch of extra stuff thrown into the mix. The labyrinth only gets more cluttered with motorcycles and parts on the way up to owner Steve Shoeman’s inner sanctum on the second floor above the shop. “It’s our own Winchester Castle,” he says.

    How'd you get started in motorcycles?

    I started playing with motorcycles fresh out of high school. I bought a Harley-Davidson at 18. Couldn't afford to pay someone to fix it so I started learning on my own. I came out here on my motorcycle in 1981. [I'm from] New Jersey originally. We've been open 15 years, 16 years in November.


    I remember your shop being over closer to the hospital.

    I was there from '88 until last year. That's when we came over here, bought this building, a friend and I.


    Is that an indication of your success?

    I would say so, yeah.


    It's huge.

    It's my attempt to keep up with the dealerships, the popularity of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in general.


    What do you think of this trend toward custom bikes?

    It's great. Anytime you have sparked real interest in motorcycles, it does nothing but good things for business.


    Are people sticking mainly with the Harleys?

    Harleys and some of the aftermarket, the Big Dogs, the Victorys have been real popular. Indian, obviously, didn't make it. I bought a bunch of their stuff at auction when they went on the auction block.


    Are you integrating that into your bikes, or keeping it pure?

    The Indian, the modern-day Indian, the one that just went out of business, was a copy of a Harley-Davidson anyway, made with different sheet metal. There is no real purity or anything like that. A lot of the parts cross over, and I'm using them the best way possible because I stole the stuff, pricewise.


    What is the biggest misconception the public has toward motorcycle riders?

    The motorcycle riders of today are mostly either retired or doctors, lawyers--professionals. You've got to remember, you've got a $20,000-plus motorcycle, and it's not something that anyone needs. It's a pleasure craft as opposed to a necessity. So anybody that owns one, it's disposable money. Most of the people who own them today are successful businessmen or family men or professionals that have extra money, extra cash.


    It's not those bikers like from ...

    Like from the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose. It's totally different nowadays. I have doctors, lawyers, judges, dentists, TV advertising guys.


    What do you think fuels the trend toward custom bikes? Harleys especially, are customized right out of the factory. But everybody seems to be ...

    Gravitating toward the chopper look?


    Chopper look, yeah.

    The Discovery Channel has a lot to do with it. It's great. Those two shows, American Chopper and Monster Garage do nothing but spark more interest and enthusiasm to the sport, which is all it needs. Once somebody gets on a motorcycle, it speaks for itself. The TV is generating that interest.


    Do you have people come in and ask you for things you can't do--antigravity machines or something?

    [Laughs] There's very little we can't do here. We do everything in house except bore cylinders. I could do them here, but it's cheaper and easier to have somebody else do it. Everything but painting and boring we can do here.


    Every time there's a sudden enthusiasm for motorcycles, I always feel like, "OK, here it is. Next, interest will drop off, and I'll be able to afford one," but it seems to keep going up.

    I, personally, thought '03 was going to be the start of the decline. That was Harleys' 100th anniversary. After that, I thought it would be harder to get everybody geared up for something. That was the big crescendo. But so far, it hasn't seemed to drop off much. Interest is still high, but production is high also. There's no waiting list, backlog, like there used to be. The price has come down on used bikes. Everybody's asking a lot of money, but that was five years ago that they were getting it. Now they're not getting it.


    What question should I ask that I haven't?

    There's not really much you haven't hit on. We have more experience, and we're better equipped to do anything that relates to Harley-Davidson than anybody else in town. We have a full-service machine shop, custom fabrication. We have a bar right next door. It's part of the deal--our own beautiful custom waiting room.


    Is there a reason to come here instead of going to a dealership?

    One reason is that the dealership won't work on anything more than 10 years old--90 percent of them. There are a few that still do, but most of them don't find it profitable. We, on the other hand, do anything back to the '20s and '30s up to present-day motorcycles. We're more mechanics and technicians rather than parts exchangers and installers, which is what the new dealerships have--guys who just exchange parts, they don't troubleshoot and fix motorcycles. They don't understand the theory behind it.


    What's your favorite motorcycle?

    I'm a panhead fanatic. They were made from '48-'65. I have a stock 1948 that a friend of mine's granddad bought right off the showroom floor. I'm the second owner of that bike. It's damned near like it was when it was on the showroom floor.

    24 September 2004

    And just a bitch

    I hate these fucking cigarettes that are fire-safe. It sucks especially when blogging and they go out. If I want that, I'll smoke a bloody joint. Thank you very fucking much, Governor Pataki. And you know that little fucking troll Bloomberg had something to do with this too. I hate people who try to save me from myself.

    Parts guys, revisited

    Talked about their ineptitude the other day. And then Gordon and I got into a conversation about my penchant to blow shit up. (I'm in italic.)

    This is New York. EVERYBODY has an alarm so they can annoy their neighbors in the middle of the night.


    My buds in Reno love to go down rows of apartments at 3 AM with the straight pipes on their bikes. They claim they can set ALL the car alarms off!


    I keep bugging the Mrs. to get me an RPG or two for Christmas. But so far she ain't budging. She says they'd be too many burning cars in the neighborhood.


    [. . .]

    I guess the fires would melt the batteries and the alarms would shut off if the explosion didn't knock the cables loose.

    All them fire engines might keep you up, though.


    Shit, I'd gladly forego sleep to blow something up.


    And then I sent Gord here and here. He got a big kick out of this:

    [. . .]

    Or you say "watch this" as you light the flammable, atomized atmosphere you created in the bathroom with copious amounts of BrakeKleen, WD-40, and other aerosols that shall remain nameless. Man, you could smell it coming out of the bathroom door in the shop, the one we had wedged shut with the salesman inside. I took out my lighter and held it to the crack in the door. Indian said, "Do you think it will light?" And I said, say it with me now. "Watch This!" Man, the look on that guy's face when we opened the door after the explosion. He still had his pants around his ankles but not a hair was left on him. Like I said, bad things happen.

    [. . .]


    What is your fucking point here, you ask? We know you're an idiot, but what does this all have to do with parts guys?

    Well, that salesman I blew up started out life as a parts guy. Did the job for about 20 years before they made him a salesman. He was one of the best that ever worked behind the counter. Even though he's retired, he hasn't lost much. He still brings his car to us. Yeah, even after I blew his ass up. This guy knew the ins and outs of everything on a car, from acorn nuts to zerk fittings. No mechanical ability, but he knew his parts and it was a pleasure dealing with him. He's a prick, just like most everyone who makes their money in the car business, and the reason I blew him up, but guys like Charlie set the gold standard for parts guys. I have to admit I'm spoiled. When I'd call him, he got me the correct part each time with a minimum of effort on my behalf. He knew enough to ask the right questions to send me exactly what I wanted, not 'something close'. I tip my hat to him, and the parts guys who make the effort to know their job and do it professionally, and when they get the right parts to me in a timely manner, they make me look like a miracle worker. I wish he wouldn't have retired. Mainly because he's good and secondly because he hangs out at the shop two days a week, breaking my balls. He knows when I've had enough when I ask him:

    "Charlie, do I have to blow you up again?"

    23 September 2004

    You BONEHEAD! Pt. 2

    So, after I got my parts from Ford and put this bitch back together correctly, guess what the problem was? The display in the radio was draining the battery, eventually killing it. I thought I heard the guy shit himself when I handed him a bill for $1735 and change. My last word on this. If you don't know, DON'T TOUCH. It'll cost you more in the long run.

    A-Slippin' an' A-slidin'...

    Here's an article about our beautiful California Summer mountain weather.

    "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes. It'll change."

    This is part of my build-up to a post about Tire Chains and Other Traction Devices.

    22 September 2004

    It Ain't Magic, Dipstick

    Reading Fixer's post about the Wire Cutter From Hell got me to thinkin'. Ready or not, here it comes.

    When I was in 'Sickle School at L.A.Trade-Tech the instructors told us to listen up in Electrical class, because if we knew electrics real well we could always get a job on account of a lot of guys didn't know much about it and wasted time and parts on electrical problems. So, we listened.

    They taught us about electricity, AC and DC. What it was and what was necessary to create it on a bike. Same as a car. Same as a nuclear power plant, for that matter.

    They taught us Electron Flow Theory and Conventional Flow Theory, as some bikes still used the latter at that time.

    They taught us about Voltage, Current, Wattage, and how they relate. They taught us Ohm's Law 'til we knew it backwards and forwards, because you need to.

    They taught us about resistance, capacitance, conductance, inductance and the effect of dissimilar metals on one another. We learned the Right Hand Rule and The Left Hand Rule.

    They taught us how electricity was generated, rectified, stored, and distributed.They taught us about generators, alternators, solid state and mechanical voltage regulators, excited fields and electrolytic capacitor battery eliminators.

    They taught us about batteries, sponge lead, sulfuric acid, and sulfation. Vibration, too, but that was a whole separate class.

    They taught us about ignition, lighting, charging, starting and accessory systems.

    They taught us about headlights, taillights, turn signals, horns, switches, relays and wiring. We learned about starter motors. We learned how many accessories were TOO many accessories.

    Then they started teaching us what could go wrong. This part was easy, because there's only TWO things that can go wrong with an electrical system. Some technogeeks think three. It's an ongoing argument. Yawn.

    Then they taught us how to troubleshoot and how to use a Volt-Ohmmeter.

    Then we took written and practical tests.

    Then, and only THEN, were we allowed within ten feet of a motorcycle with wirecutters.

    That was over thirty years ago. The stuff mechanics (I refuse to use the word 'technician'; that's somebody with a clipboard and pocket protectors, like a service writer) have to deal with these days, like microprocessors and EFI, makes that stuff look pretty Stone Age.

    It's still all true, though, and they still have to know it.

    You BONEHEAD!

    This came up in the 'comments' section over at The Alternate Brain while pulling Gordon's leg a bit.

    I asked you the same question on another post. I was wondering if it was me. What can I say, I enjoyed the '70s. I'm in the troubleshooting phase right now. The bright side is that it's not deleting the comments themselves. I'm checking the scripts, but I spent the day unfucking up an alarm uninstall.

    "Drop the cutting pliers and step away from the vheicle".

    They took the alarm out and the car don't run. No timing signal, no injector pulse, nuttin'.

    "Dude, it was an aftermarket install, why you cut up the FACTORY harnesses, you bonehead?"

    I'll figure it out.


    It wasn't anything I could do and Haloscan fixed itself, but I charged Gord $50 anyway. But my point was the Lincoln Town Car that some genius went nuts with a pair of cutting pliers. Mr. DIY kept getting a dead battery. Fine. Ya think maybe he'd check the battery? Maybe check the alternator? Nah. He does the next best thing. He listens to his buddy who "knows something about cars". A leap of faith if I'd ever seen one. His buddy says:

    "It's the alarm system."

    And Bonehead believes him. Pardon me for a minute while I laugh hysterically. Yes, I know it's your only transportation, but I just can't help myself.

    He would have still been okay at that point if he'd brought the car to me and said:

    "Hey, you think you can get this piece of shit alarm system out of my car?"

    When I determined it didn't run, I would have run over with a set of cables, jumped it, and brought it back to the shop. I would have figured out what was wrong with it, and then made a determination about the alarm. But . . . no.

    He and his buddy thought that they could figure out what was factory wiring and what was the local alarm installer's. Harry, Indian, and I can tell the difference. Sadly, he couldn't. So instead of finding a bad battery (the real cause of the no start, maybe an alternator when I get it running), I'm waiting for the main electrical harness to the processor from the Ford dealer. Don't bother asking what this is gonna cost, it's dinner time and I wouldn't want to ruin yours.

    LISTEN to me, Lugnut. DON'T CUT WIRES WHEN YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA OF WHAT THEY DO! Jesus H. Christ, do you think I like watching grown men cry?

    21 September 2004

    Religious Differences

    I have now read all of Fixer's "Wisdom" posts. He's messing with my head. Since yesterday he added about a hundred of them. They're sure worth reading, 'tho, well worth the time, and if you haven't, you should.

    However (long pause) I see our first religious difference of opinion. More culturally significant than Dem or Rep, left or right, Miller or Bud, Coke or Pepsi, or legs v. boobs.

    He's a Ford man.

    Friends don't let friends drive....Fords.

    I used to be a Chevy guy, but now I'm in the Mopar camp. He'll probably say I'm a flip-flopper.

    If you ask Fixer what FORD stands for, he'll probably tell you it means "First On Race Day."

    What it really means is "F**kin' Okies Really Dig 'em."

    He probably drinks Pepsi, too.

    Parts Guys

    Now I appreciate a good parts guy. Being in the business some 30-odd years, I've happened upon my share of great ones. Seems they are getting rarer and rarer nowadays. Jesus H. Christ, today I had the local idiot send me 6 pairs of front brake rotors for a Jeep Cherokee and all of them were wrong. Took me to stop what I'm doing, bring an old one down, and match it up with his shit. So there's 45 minutes out of my day with a car tying up one bay. Have I mentioned we only have 2 bays? Incredible.

    I've pored through my share of parts books, and I know some shit can be very vague, but when I see some pimply-faced kid who don't know the difference between a Cherokee and a Grand Cherokee (a minor difference to civilians maybe, but something a parts guy should KNOW), it makes me want to scream. So I did. Not at the kid but the owner, whose answer was 'he's new.' Well fucking supervise him then goddammit!

    Ah, I feel better now.

    Welcome to New York

    Just don't bother trying to get around today. While I love New York, there are problems with being the Crossroads of the World. Today, President Bush, Senator Kerry, and the U.N. General Assembly will all be in town today. All the traffic reporters are telling everyone to stay away from the section between 30th & 50th Streets , east of 5th Avenue. The East Side is gonna be a parking lot today. Yeesh!

    20 September 2004

    Winter Prep

    Since I got snowed on yesterday and today and you probably didn't, I got to thinking about Preparing For Winter.

    First thing when it started snowing, Mrs. G. and I headed to town to get necessary supplies.

    We started at the local Hardware Store/Tourist Trap Boutique. I got a spare gallon of windshield washer fluid ($1.49 on sale) and Mrs. G. got a Columbia fleece jacket (also on sale).

    Then to the supermarket. There are many hardships we are willing to put up with in order to live up here in the mountains, power and cable TV outages, etc., but running out of jalapeno-cheese foccacia and garlic & herb crumbled Feta ain't on the list.

    Now for the car:

    Make sure you have -20deg. windshield washer fluid. Don't use water. It's a royal pain having to unbolt the reservoir and take it in the house to thaw out. Beer works, but it's a waste, and that cheap Vodka (you know, the kind you put in the Gray Goose bottle when company's coming) is too thick.

    Turn on the heater to make sure it works. You haven't used it all Summer and if it doesn't work, or dumps coolant all over the inside of the car, best to find out now.

    Check the wiper blades by squirting some w.w. fluid and see if they wipe it off. CAUTION: Don't turn them on without first peeling them loose from the windshield or you're liable to get to see them yank the little motors right out of the cowl!

    Get the Fixer to check your belts and hoses. When they get dry and worn and cracked, sometimes they'll freeze up and either break, or else yank all the teeth off the flywheel when you try to start the engine.

    While you've got your wallet out, have him check the battery electrolyte's specific gravity and clean the terminals. A frozen battery makes a great emergency parking brake, but it won't start the car very good. Also if your battery is weak, when you turn on all the accessories, you can watch its sides suck in.

    Get him to check the temperature protection level of the radiator coolant, which is supposed to magically morph into anti-freeze at 32deg., but might not if it's old or if you've been adding water all summer. If you had to add a LOT of water, keep your wallet out.

    If you live in Nebraska leave NOW to go to the Fixer's shop.

    If you have four-wheel-drive, you probably haven't used it all Summer either. First, check that the 4WD lever is still there. (Yeah, I know they use buttons now, but I have an older model, but not old enough to have more than ONE lever.) If it's there, engage the locking hubs (I know: older models, but this is one part that seizes up from lack of use), shift into 4-wheel and drive a few miles to see if it works. You don't want to find out it doesn't while you're trying to climb Granny's hill on Thanksgiving, unless you like sliding backwards onto a state highway. Don't ask me how I know, but it's thrilling!

    Put some Lock-Ease in the key slots on the doors. You can always thaw them by urinating on them, but this may be considered bad form in the parking lot at work or at the mall. Keep a large screwdriver handy to pry the doors open after you unlock them.

    It's smart to carry a set of snow chains . DO NOT buy a set and throw them in the trunk. Have them fitted, unless you LIKE laying in the snow trying to either shorten or stretch them with your fingernail clippers. I'll have more on installing and driving on chains (aka slingin' iron) in a later post. Got to keep you on the edge of your seat in anticipation, after all!

    Now you're all set. Let them Northers blow!

    A Transportation Classic Bites The Dust

    Since Mr. and Mrs. Fixer are just back from Jolly Olde England, I thought this was apropos:

    "LONDON — Ding-ding! That old-fashioned red double-decker bus, the one that has graced scores of movies about London and become an international symbol of Britain, is tooling off into the Waterloo sunset."

    Read the whole article in the LATimes.

    You don't suppose that Mrs. F.'s purchases from Harrods collapsed one of these in the middle and burnt out its clutch, do you? Bloody 'ell!

    Work 2

    So, what's the 1st job I get when I get in? Something easy like an oil change? Hell no! I got a set of cylinder heads waiting for me. So much for easing back into work. And, me being the engine guru, Harry and the Indian felt no qualms leaving them for me. Harry said I was probably having too much fun over the past few weeks and he wanted to bring me back to reality quickly. It worked.

    On a sad note, Dead Ed, our office weenie took a turn for the worse this weekend and had to be hospitalized once again. Talked to his Ol' Lady this morning and she says he probably won't be coming out this time. According to her, he'll be lucky if he makes it the week. As I've asked in the past, if you're the praying type, say a little one for him. Shit, say one for me. If he goes, I'll have to answer the phone and make out bills all the time. Oy!

    Work

    Well, after being off 4 of the last 6 weeks, I have to go to work this morning. Motivation is sorely lacking. Oy!!!!

    Later.

    19 September 2004

    But it itches

    Lugnuts? I had them when I was a kid. A shot of penecillin cured it. Ha!

    Oops! Linkage

    Fixer has kindly pointed out to me that, in the "information age" I need to put in more information for you.

    If you would like to know more about the AMA, click here

    Or about how to find the good racing on TV, click here

    Hope this helps.

    Race Mechanic? Bah! Humbug!

    A friend of mine, who was once a top-rated Harley-Davidson factory race mechanic and now owns a business manufacturing and distributing high-quality performance accessories, told me this story from his own experience.

    Once, many years ago when he was just getting started in the motorcycle industry, he applied for a job at an old-line Triumph-BSA dealership. He was a racer and thought he'd add "racing mechanic" to his then-fairly-skimpy resume. The dealer took one look at this and said:

    "Race mechanic? Shit, race mechanics put one part on, polish it up, and stand back for twenty minutes admiring their work. Useless bastards! I'm trying to make money here. Hit the bricks!"

    In this dealer's experience, my friend was not exactly over-qualified for the job.

    This same shop, which was located on a main drag in the San Fernando Valley, had their sign mis-spelled, in bright red, three foot high letters, "TRUIMPH-BSA". I pointed this out to him one day. He said he'd never noticed it but would check it out. About a year later I was riding by and noticed a ladder and a sign painter tending to the sign. He was re-painting the sign, again in bright red, but did not correct the spelling!

    At least they spelled "BSA" right.

    Kopp-Carr In Hot Pursuit

    BLACK HILLS SPEEDWAY, Rapid City SD, a half-mile dirt oval, was host recently to the premier flat-track series in the U.S., the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Progressive Insurance Dirt Track Series. That's a mouthful, huh?

    The "Speed Channel" program condensed the evening's entertainment into a one-hour show. The events are not available live, more's the pity. Good coverage at any rate, with highlights of the heat races and semi-mains which transfer riders to the 25-lap Main Event, and complete coverage of the Main.

    The heats were pretty good racing, as were the semis. One semi had to restart twice as three riders were involved in two separate incidents involving one rider getting run over and two other riders using the words "endo", "head first", and "hay bales" in the same sentence! Good clean fun!

    The Main Event started fast, with Harley-Davidson-mounted Joe Kopp, number two man in the points chase for the championship, getting the hole shot over Chris Carr, H-D, current National Champion and points leader. Kopp got a pretty good lead, but Carr ran him down and passed him with a good outside pass on about lap 10. Carr later claimed he was just setting Kopp up for a later pass , but that circumstances forced him to pass at that time. Kopp stayed close to Carr, with two other riders close behind him, and re-passed Carr on the outside with three laps to go. Carr didn't have time to re-pass Kopp, and said he "almost got off twice in three laps" trying. Good, close racing.

    Carr stays in the points lead, but Kopp narrowed the lead from 29 to 25 points. There are several races left and Kopp is going for the championship. Will he make it? It's anybody's guess at this point. Stay tuned.

    "Speed Channel" broadcasts these things on an irregular basis, usually late on Saturday night, so check your listings and TIVO up!




    Stock Cars

    NASCAR today, 12:30 pm Eastern on TNT. They're in New Hampshire. Should be a good race, even though my boy Rusty Wallace has no chance whatsoever.

    18 September 2004

    Single Track Mind

    Thanks, Fixer, for letting me contribute to "The Fixer". As if I haven't screwed up "The Alternate Brain" enough, I'll try to do good here too.

    I've been riding motorcycles for 46 years. All my arms and legs still work, so I must have learned something. The brain damage is from something else, the 60's maybe.

    I've been a motorcycle mechanic since 1971. I worked on my own bikes before that, but I thought I'd like to actually do it for a living and, since you couldn't get a job without experience, I enrolled at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, major in Motorcycle Repair, for two years. Should have taken the AA degree that came with it, but didn't think I needed it. I've worked in many shops, on many brands, and have had my own independent repair shop.

    I've learned enough about the damn things to know when to run like Hell but I'm stupid enough not to sometimes when I know I should. I don't make rookie mistakes (much) anymore and I learn something new from each job.

    I'm not as "former" a mechanic as Fixer says. It's more like I'm "in recovery". I still keep my hand in. Motorcycles get in your blood, that's no shit. My dear departed Aunt Florence once told me "motorcycles are just a phase. You'll get over it, hopefully before you get killed on one of the damn things."

    Well, it's been nearly a half-century (shudder!), and I'm still "in a phase".

    I really like to work on English bikes, and I particularly like single-cylinder jobs from any country. One or two cylinders (the latter are better for blowing up air mattresses) are all you need. Simple. Basic. Used to be cheap wheels, not so much anymore.

    So much for now. I'll be back. Rants, screeds, diatribes, philosophy, metaphysical certitude, funny stories, and life's little lessons are all in store.