On Monday I took a day off work and drove out to Lewes Delaware to visit a nice guy named Lee, who has been quietly working on Scouts exclusively for the past ten years. His bread and butter has been the wealthy beach clientele who can drop thousands on a rig each year for upgrades, but he’s helped average guys out like me as well. He was kind enough to take most of the day to talk with Brian and I, and I didn’t have enough space in my brain to hold all of the stuff we learned. His shop is stuffed full of IH parts and gear; he has two gleaming 392’s up on stands being rebuilt.
He was kind enough to put our rigs up on his lift, and we went over the mechanicals from the underside. Brian’s truck is, of course, in excellent shape (Lee had worked on it for the previous owner, and actually was trying to help him sell it at one point) and he showed us how to add rear disc brakes with the kit he and his son developed for one of the larger Light Line vendors. Then we put Peer Pressure up on the lift, and predictably he found some things that needed attention before driving to Ohio: both of the right side wheel bearings are in need of replacement, and the tie rod end is shot on the passenger side.
There was some little stuff that can get fixed later: when we put the front brakes on we put the hoses on backwards. At some point if I’m feeling sporty I can remove the shim on the starter motor; that’s only required for automatics. And I’m going to have to replace the transmission mounts pretty soon, as they are toast.
I also learned that the belt driven spaghetti-hosed lump next to my battery is an air pump, designed to thin out the particulates in the exhaust for 1970’s era emissions laws. Lee pointed out all of the smog hoses I can get rid of to plug vacuum leaks and help the engine run smoother. When that day comes, I bought eight specially-designed plugs to fill the holes left behind.
While we were there a bright yellow Scout came in on a flatbed from Colorado, freshly bought sight unseen from the internet. We walked out and looked it over with him, and even that was an education for us both. Dig that crazy chrome rollbar. It’s pretty incredible what Scouts are going for these days, and from what he says, some of the IH-specific parts are getting as thin on the ground as the trucks are. I mentioned what I had squirreled away in the garage and he told me I was sitting on a goldmine—and not to throw anything away.
We sat and shot the shit until about 5PM, and paid him what he asked; his time was worth much more but he refused to take anything beyond that.
I hit the road and was lucky enough to avoid all but about 3 minutes of a downpour in Glen Burnie, which actually cooled me off a little bit. The truck ran great both ways and I can’t be more pleased with the heat matting. According to the Googles I put 234 miles on the truck, although the odo says 194 for various reasons.
We had Zachary and Karean over the bridge for a day at the pool and an overnight together. While they were there I stayed with Hazel, smoked a 2.5lb. piece of tri-tip, and farted around the house doing odds and ends. The weather was perfect, and when they came home we were able to sit on the front porch and enjoy a cool breeze coming through the windows. I took no pictures and enjoyed just being in the moment with our friends.
I had a great weekend with friends, and today I drove 225 miles today in the Scout to meet a new friend with Brian. I’m whupped from being on the road, so I’ll write more tomorrow.
I’m headed over the bridge tomorrow to visit a fellow who goes by the name scout_guru on Instagram. He’s got a shop at his house and for the last ten years he’s worked exclusively on Scouts, and I’ve wanted to stop by and visit since before the pandemic. We’ve talked on the phone several times and he couldn’t be a nicer guy; I’m looking forward to the trip and to shooting the breeze with him.
I was smoking meat in the backyard yesterday and as a result I couldn’t venture far. So naturally I did some small Scout stuff. The big project was to finish moving snaps on the snap rail, and to bust out the plastic polish to see if I could clean up the windows on the tan top. After about an hour of washing, polishing, washing and polishing, I got all three windows looking pretty good! It’s much easier to see out of all three of them now, and the top snaps in place much better.
I vacuumed out the dust, reorganized some tools, and threw Brian’s ammo can in the back to bring to him tomorrow when we meet up. The oil is full and looks clean, and we’ve got sunny weather forecast for the day, so I’m optimistic.
On my way out of D.C. yesterday I fell in behind this engineering masterpiece, and many questions were asked:
- What is that bar those shocks are connected to?
- What is that bar connected to?
- Do the bars act sort of like torsion suspension along with the springs, to slightly soften what must be a kidney-punching ride?
- How did this man add leaf springs and what are those leaf spring hangers connected to?
- How does this handle at speed?
I mean, it’s drivable, as it made it up to the District from South Carolina, but damn.
The weather for the past week has been brutally hot and humid; not as bad as the west coast, but pretty miserable for an average Maryland summer. Saturday was hot enough that after a 2-mile hike with the dog, I felt like doing absolutely nothing around the house. Seeking air conditioning, I decided to try and return my Gap jeans at a Gap Factory store about 15 minutes away from here, and was annoyed to learn they don’t accept returns from the parent brand at the factory store. I’m gonna have to travel further to get my money back.
Finn was off with a friend so Jen and I spent time together with Hazel doing some light shopping. While we were in the hardware store, the first in a line of thunderstorms started hammering the roof of the building, so we took a moment to sit with our nervous dog and then hightailed it to the car during a lull. It poured on us all the way back, and at exactly the same time on the road down into Ellicott City, it dawned on us both that this might not be the safest way home. We detoured up onto Route 40 and made it home safely; Catonsville only had a light sprinkle while areas to the east and west of us were flooded. To celebrate cheating death, we binged all six episodes of Loki until bedtime.
Sunday was much cooler due to the storm, so I was a lot more motivated. After looking over the compressor and unplugging all the other items on that circuit, I fired it up, painted the shutters white, and hung them back on the house. It’s nice to have them up but I don’t think the color is working for us. We’ve ruled out red, as we don’t want this place looking like a giant USA-themed birthday cake. I suggested gray to Jen and she seemed to like the idea, so I’ll do some Photoshop renders and see if I can mock up a shade we like.
I then put a ladder up and sprayed out almost all of the rest of the siding. There’s one place at the edge of the east wall I can’t reach—my ladders aren’t tall enough—that I’ll have to hit with a roller from the roof of the bathroom. I was able to scrape and paint most of the siding on that eave with pole attachments but I have to move to the back wall to get the inside.
This morning I got an email from UMBC that said they are going to disable my account, as I am no longer an employee of the university. I can’t say that I was hopeful they would ask me to teach a new class—or actually interested in doing so—but it’s kind of a robotic way to close that chapter of my professional career.
One of the primary reasons I wanted a Scout was because the truck was designed to be convertible by cigarette-smoking men in the 1960’s who barely considered passenger safety or crash protection. Having a soft top for the summer is a primary concern, and something I factored into the purchase of both my trucks. I was lucky—both came with soft tops. There was a decade or so where nobody was making new ones—Kayline went out of business in 2001 and Bestop decided there wasn’t enough money in it and focused solely on Jeeps. Softopper is now making new units which are by all accounts excellent, but are eye-wateringly expensive—so I feel better about hoarding them. At this point I’ve got three:
1. The original Kayline top from Chewbacca, a snap-close model, in a color called Nutmeg, which is a medium brown color. I think this would look hideous matched with Peer Pressure’s blurple, so I’ve never installed it. It’s in very good shape—the canvas is clean, the zippers are all intact, the plastic windows are clear and mostly unblemished, and it has been sitting in cool storage for ten years. When I sold Chewbacca to Brian I was going to give it to him as a completion present but got a great deal on a used tan top and gave him the choice of the two; he liked the look of the tan top better (I agreed with his preference). I have the whole hardware kit for this— a set of padded bows, metal door frames, snap bed rails, and windshield rail.
2. The black Kayline top that came with Peer pressure, a Fastrac model, in black vinyl. This was used and in somewhat rough shape when it came to me on the truck. There are a couple of holes over the rear seat which thankfully haven’t gotten any larger. The zippers are plastic and work reasonably well but some of the tracks have come unstitched on each side. The windows are still mostly clear but need a good polishing, and the plastic tracks along the bottom edges are still in good shape. I have the entire hardware kit for this top. I’ve modified this one with snaps on the canvas door flaps and metal door frames to replace the useless velcro it came with, and it makes a huge difference.
3. The $50 tan top that’s currently on the truck, which is another snap model. The canvas on this one is in excellent shape, which is shocking. The driver’s side zipper has come almost completely off the canvas, and the rain flap over the passenger door is also coming unstitched. All of the windows are very clear, but there’s a vertical split on the driver’s side about four inches long. I have the entire hardware kit for this also. I modified this with snaps around the door canvas as well.
All of these need a good cleaning and the windows need polishing. Somewhere I’ve got some Meguiar’s plastic polish that can be applied with a soft buffing wheel that will help with visibility through the windows. At some point I need to wrestle the tan top inside and restitch the zipper, or find someone in Annapolis with a sail repair business who can fix it up for me.
In the meantime, because the tan top is a snap model, I drilled one of the two snap rail sets out to match the existing holes in the bed rails. The driver’s side went on with a little finagling. Once it was mounted I found that the front snaps went on easily but the back snaps were too high by about 2″ at the endcaps. The way the top fits, the edges will never reach the snap rails, even when it’s heated up by the sun. The passenger side went on easier, and I dug into my snap replacement kit and installed four new barrels on each side so that I can (mostly) close it up with the bows loose. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was.
Finn and I used to love to watch a show called Yo Gabba Gabba on PBS when she was a toddler, a show which defies easy description but we both loved.
One of the highlights of the show was when Biz Markie came on and did Biz’ Beat of the Day; I think Finn was a little confused by it but I was happy to see him getting some love. We got tickets to see Yo Gabba Gabba live at the Lyric and took her to the show, and they did a great job with getting the kids up to dance and sing, like they do in the show.
But the highlight was when Biz Markie came out and did a live beatbox, AND THEN BUSTED INTO YOU SAY HE’S JUST A FRIEND. All of the toddlers in the audience were shocked when their parents got up and started singing to the song, and it was awesome.
RIP Biz. Gone too soon.
I got bloodwork back this morning, and some things are looking up and other stuff is kind of meh. White blood cell counts are rising slowly, but not where they were 10 months ago. Lymphocytes spiked to almost where they were in 2017 before radiation and chemo—a good sign. However Neutrophils are back at their 2019 levels, and red blood cells and platelets dropped slightly. When I see my oncologist in October for the 4-year checkup, I’ll get some more information on what all this means.
Somehow, the axis of the earth shifted beneath my feet, and I didn’t feel a thing.
When I was a teenager, in the heady days of MTV and before the second wave of video games hit, we had only a few things to do to get out of the house. When we were too old to build forts in the woods or make jumps for our bikes, we bugged Mom or Dad to drive us to the Mall, where we could go hang out and wander for hours and maybe meet up with our friends and not look like miserable lonely schlubs. I’d spend a half an hour in the Koenig Art Emporium, looking at brushes or expensive oil paints; I’d go to the poster store and maybe buy a cardboard-backed picture of a Porsche or a Lamborghini. I’d go to one of the two music stores and agonize over whether I should spend $15 on a cassette that might only have two good songs on it. And I’d always stop at the Gap.
The Gap was my touchpoint for fashion in the 1980’s; I wasn’t a Chess King guy (we quietly made fun of the pleated slacks, Capezio and black fedora set in our high school) and I had more style than Sears or K-Mart offered. The Gap was always mobbed. They played decent music, and all my friends and I bought clothes there. I worked for months to afford a fleece-lined denim Gap jacket. I had the Gap’s version of Jams when Jams were cool. I had multiple Gap polo shirts, alternating those with J. Crew polo shirts which hid my pencil neck—I only popped the collar a couple of times, I swear.
I still buy Gap jeans, as they have a wide selection of available styles which still tend to fit me in a 25-year-old way and not a Dad way, and usually it’s a breeze to buy them online during a sale and have them delivered—if they don’t fit, you run them back to the store. After I had a wave of knee blowouts in my “work uniform” this winter, I ordered three pair to replace the fallen soldiers. Two fit as advertised, but one pair was so skinny as to be latex, and I can’t rock that look without major ball squishage (I’m so old I remember when the Gap’s clothes were all 14 sizes too big). They’ve sat in the bag patiently, waiting to go back for a couple of months now, and my blood draw this morning took me in that general direction so I stopped in to the mall to return them. Donning my mask I noticed several shuttered storefronts (the beads and baubles store is gone; the Apple store moved further down the row and has been replaced with a Lululemon store. Macy’s is closed, darkening one whole wing.) When I reached the storefront where the Gap was, I was faced with a boarded up wall.
I was momentarily flabbergasted. Having a mall without a Gap is kind of like having a hand with no thumb; inconceivable to a child of the 80’s like me. They’ve been in dire straits for a long time now, so I can’t say this is a complete shock. But I figured with Columbia’s clientele and proximity to middle-class shoppers, this would be one store that would have stayed open. The closest I’ve got is a factory outlet in another nearby mall, and hopefully they’ll honor the return. If not, I’ll have to squish my balls into some skinny jeans and pour another one out for the inexorable march of progress.