Brian (Mr. Scout) and I have had a longstanding plan to go up and visit Barnes IH in Pennsylvania, from way back when I was just getting on my feet after surgery. We made a plan months in advance, which I now know was part of a nefarious scheme. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

He picked me up last Saturday, early in the morning as I was mowing the lawn for Jen. She had planned a tea party for Finn and a bunch of her friends that afternoon, and I wanted to help out as much as I could. Because Brian is the kind of person he is, when he offered to edge and blow the front walk I took him up on it without a second thought. Once that was done I kissed the girls goodbye and we hit the road for Pennsylvania.

On the way up we had plenty of time to catch up and talk about life, which is something I don’t get to do with many of my friends. Brian is an honest, open guy, and we’ve always been able to talk about real stuff without feeling weird. It’s something I don’t often get to do outside of talking with Jen, and it felt good.

The second half of the trip to Barnes IH, after getting off the highway, is through beautiful rolling hills and past picturesque farmland. His place is a converted horse ranch, and he’s got a gigantic modern barn with storage and workshop space, a parts counter, and restoration shop in the back. We got to talking and quickly found where the circles overlap in our Venn diagram of friends. Then he took us on a tour of the shop, which absolutely bowled Brian and I over. he’s got about 20 parts Scouts outside the shop which he’s slowly picking over. We then hopped in one of his running Scouts and checked out the back section of the farm where there’s a patch of woods and another 40 trucks in various states of decay.

Back at the shop we talked over how we’re going to get Brian his next Scout, lamenting the fact that they’re getting harder to find these days and the prices are going up rapidly. I talked to him about a rewire job in Peer Pressure, which will take some saving and planning, but something that’s desperately needed. Then he took us to the storage sheds where he’s got probably 100 motors of various sizes, shelves of engine parts, and transmissions waiting for buyers. Next to that there’s another barn, originally set up as horse stalls, now filled with sheet metal parts. It was like Valhalla.

We said our goodbyes after about an hour and a half and then set course for the Strasburg Train Museum, something I’ve seen on maps and heard of but never visited. The facility is huge and stuffed with trains mainly from the Pennsylvania Line, but also some from other operators as well. The exhibits inside are all in excellent condition, gleaming and refurbished like new. There are side exhibits with storefronts and railroad epherma, and a whole room dedicated to model trains for kids to play with.

We got out of there at about 2 and hunted down some food at a local brewery. The food was good and the beer was delicious. At that point we figured the day was getting long, and Brian told me the junkyards were closed at 4:30 (I believed him) so we drove home and parked in our quiet driveway. We walked inside and I found that there were about 80 people in my house waiting to surprise me. Jen had pulled off a FANTASTIC bit of chicanery and organized a post-cancer belated birthday party for me. I was absolutely flabbergasted. My family was in the dining room, my work friends were in the living room, my Scout friends were in the kitchen, the neighbors were in the hall, and everybody else was tucked into corners throughout the house.

She’d done the work of ten people in six hours–and that was just what she’d moved the minute I was out the door. She’d been working on cleaning up the house for the last month, claiming it was past due for a deep clean, and dropping hints about parties for Finn as her cover story. She got me good.

The rest of the day was like a wedding: I talked to everyone I could for as long as possible, but I still missed out on people here and there. It was amazing to have most all of the people I love in one place and laughing together, and I was humbled they were all there for me. Thank you to everyone who came, and the biggest thanks of all go to my girl for such a special day.

Date posted: April 29, 2018 | Filed under cancer, family, friends | Leave a Comment »

I was anxious to get the Scout on the road after getting back from Colombia this weekend, but I knew there was an issue I needed to address first: the passenger door latch mechanism had spun forward so that it wasn’t engaging the door pin, so the door wouldn’t close. I’ve been through this before with the driver’s door, and eventually swapped out the mechanism for a spare I’d pulled from the Wheaton Scout. As I dug into this latch I realized I was going to have to do the same thing for the passenger  door. The complicating factor is that the latch assembly is tucked tightly behind the rearward track for the door glass, and won’t come out without the track out of the way.

(Purple over gold poly. Gorgeous, I know. This is after the glass came out).

Looking at my own directions, I started pulling the butterfly window but soon remembered that was not necessary. I cranked the main window down, pulled the clips off the scissor assembly, unscrewed the tab atop the butterfly frame and pulled the window out of the way. The track came out easily but the rivets holding the screw plate to the track finally gave up and broke off after repeated abuse.

(Broken track on the bottom: note the mounting plate has come de-riveted. Two spares are at the top).

Luckily I had pulled two spares from the Wheaton Scout. There was a bolt stuck in one of the screw holes, so I hit it with PBlaster, then heated it up on the bench grinder, and with a set of channel locks it came right out. The latch assembly and track got hit with some white lithium grease before I bolted them in, and the whole door went back together quickly. Then I tore the driver’s door down and did the same with that assembly to get the window moving more smoothly on its tracks.

(Bad latch on the right. The cam was not under tension from the spring, so it barely worked).

Once everything was buttoned back up I took her out for a spin around the block and the first new gas she’s had since December of 2017. The brakes feel tight and even–the pedal is firm and catches much quicker than the old manual booster ever did, and the truck doesn’t pull to either side like it used to. I still have to adjust the drums by reversing and braking, but overall I’m thrilled with the upgrade.

As I drove down Frederick Road, I caught sight of the Diesel Traveler coming my way and waved to the owner, who passed me on the narrow street. I turned around and gave chase but lost him as he crossed Rt. 40. At some point, I’ll catch up to him.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 29, 2018 | Filed under Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Back on the Road

  • I’m home safe from Colombia.
  • Finn and I went yard-saling on our bikes this morning. I paid too much for her first fishing rod.
  • Jen made us gigantic french toast for breakfast when we got back.
  • I tore down the doors on the Scout and replaced the passenger’s latch, which was broken. Then I took it out for a test ride and saw the red Traveler, which is now olive green.
  • I tilled up the mound where the maple tree stood in the back yard and got it ready for planting.
Date posted: April 28, 2018 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

I’ve posted 5,200+ photos to Flickr since becoming a member in 2005, so it was with trepidation that I learned they were just bought from Yahoo Oath by SmugMug (a name I’ve always despised) after Yahoo let them gather dust in a corner. Glenn Fleishman says we don’t have to worry, that SmugMug isn’t going to fuck it all up. After a decade of nothing, I guess I might have a little hope it’ll get better… (previously, previously, previously, previously, previously)

Date posted: April 26, 2018 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

There’s just way too much to catch up on posting here, even from before I left for Colombia. I’m laying in bed waiting for a melatonin to kick in so that I can be up at 5:30AM to catch an Uber (illegal here in Colombia, but not policed) to the airport. It’s been a whirlwind three days on the ground, and I’ve learned a ton of things that should come in handy for my next shooting trip. I’ve been traveling with a colleague from work who speaks fluent Spanish and that’s helped us out of a dozen jams throughout our trip. She was also handling a second camera, so we’ve got more than twice the footage I would have shot alone, and that’s an added bonus worth the price of the extra ticket.

The film we’re putting together is about the city’s attempt to put in a bikesharing system to capitalize on its miles of bike lanes. Bogota is huge, a sprawling city of eight million people nestled up the side of a mountain. The traffic is terrible, so we’ve spent about 8 hours in cars transiting from one place to another over three 12 hour days. The city wakes up early and goes to sleep late, and people are out everywhere all the time. We’ve had an excellent stay, met tons of friendly people, ate lots of delicious food, and enjoyed our brief time in the city. Now, it’s time for bed.

Date posted: April 26, 2018 | Filed under travel, WRI | Leave a Comment »

Date posted: April 25, 2018 | Filed under travel | Leave a Comment »

I’m laying in bed after a long first full day on the ground in Bogota. We got up at 6:30 (5:30 EST), had breakfast at 7, and were on the roof of a building shooting by 7:45. Apart from a half an hour for lunch, we were on our feet shooting all day, up until 6:30PM. There will be more to say about the trip (and the weekend) later, but right now, I’m going to bed.

Date posted: April 24, 2018 | Filed under travel, WRI | Leave a Comment »

The tile guy came back today and laid down the grout throughout the bathroom, and it looks great. All of the strange areas between tiles are gone completely and I don’t see any variation at all, which is a big relief. I think he was happy to get the check and get out of here.

Unfortunately I fucked things up by not specifying the right wire for the underlayment. Because of the way we originally wired the room (for just the floor heat) and the late decision to add a wall-mounted heating fan, we kept one circuit in the panel, and I was supposed to specify 240-volt wire for the floor heat. 120 is more common, so that’s what he put in. We can’t run both systems on one wire, so I’ve got to have the electrician come back out and fish wire through the walls to support the wall heater. Which is not going to be easy or cheap.

Date posted: April 16, 2018 | Filed under bathroom, house | Leave a Comment »

My Scout friends came back on Sunday to help me button up the rear drum brakes on Peer Pressure. When last we left off, we’d put new pads and hoses on the front discs but when we pressurized the system one of the rear cylinders blew out under the increased pressure from the hydro-boost. It was getting late, and everyone was tired, so we agreed to meet again to finish it up. In the week following I bought a new set of drums to match the shoes I got with the Scout, as well as a full spring kit and two adjustable valves.

Bennett and Dennis came by in the early afternoon, bundled up for the freakishly cold weather (the day before, it had been sunny in the high 80’s) and we set to work. First we jacked up the rear and put the axle on jack stands. Then we pulled both wheels. I told Dennis I’d never done drums before, only discs, so he sat with me on one side while Bennett had the other side to himself. We pounded and pried off the drum on the driver’s side, mangling one of the clips in the process, and tore down the drum.

Dennis stepped me through the rebuild process patiently until we got to the clip that had been mangled, and then I had to get on the phone to find a new one. Luckily a local parts store had the kit we needed in stock, so we ran out to grab it.

I had inherited a set of brake shoes when I bought the truck, so it was a bit of a toss-up whether they would fit in the drums I got from NAPA. It turned out I needn’t have worried, and they went in without a hitch. Somehow Bennett got his side’s clips, springs, notches and pins aligned correctly and installed before Dennis and I did.

The shoes on the truck were still in excellent shape (as were the drums, actually) but we replaced everything while we had it open. Bennett had to reflare both brake lines because the fittings had rusted to the cylinder, which took time. Then we bled the whole system out, reflared a leaky fitting, and bled it again. At that point everything was holding pressure so Dennis fixed the brake light switch and we opened the barn doors for a test ride.

The difference is immediate and dramatic. The pedal throw is similar but the brakes dig in and hold a lot faster than they ever did before; the whole truck comes to a stop much faster and with purpose while the old system took a lot of frantic stomping and swearing to work. It’s going to take some getting used to, but that’s the kind of progress I like. It’s great to finally have this project completed.

I’m continually amazed and humbled at the generosity and patience of my friends, and I am thankful for their time and expertise. And they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. I really don’t know how I would pursue this hobby without them.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 15, 2018 | Filed under friends, Hydroboost, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on New Shoes

There’s been a lot of small stuff going on around the big stuff, so I’ll just list it out here.

  • Last weekend I got my first haircut since cancer. Things look MUCH better now.
  • The event I shot at the National Geographic Society this past week went off without a hitch. Mae Jemison was amazing.
  • I shot with a Canon 5D Mk4 at the event, and I am in love with that camera. More on that later.
  • Today we washed and vacuumed both of our cars for the first time since cancer. What a difference.
  • Speaking of cars, the CR-V has been off the road for weeks with sketchy brakes. It now has new calipers on the front and things are much better.
  • Tomorrow my Scout friends are going to stop over and we’re going to finish up the rear drums and leak test the system. Hopefully Peer Pressure will be on the road by Sunday evening.
  • I’m going in to the hospital this Wednesday for a 4-month cancer checkup, CAT scan, and general update.
  • Jen is going to be my production assistant at the shoot in DC this Thursday: she’s learning how to shoot video and I will be grateful to have her there with me.
  • I’m officially headed off to Colombia in two weeks to shoot video for one of the programs at WRI.
Date posted: April 14, 2018 | Filed under cancer, general, travel, WRI | Leave a Comment »