Monday morning: I feel like I got hit by a truck. But we made a bunch of progress at the FiL’s house, and the Chrysler is one step closer to being on her own feet.
We began with more filing and organizing inside the house, and then I turned to the garage. First, I installed a fix for one of the rollers on the garage door, which had broken off at some point in time. At home, I cut down a plate of flat steel, bolted it the original plate, and greased the bearings. At Bob’s, I bolted the new assembly to the door. I put two nails in the ends of the tracks to keep the door from falling off when raised, and re-routed the spring wires to work the way they were installed—they’d fallen off the pulleys at some point, binding up the top roller, which led to it breaking off. With that done, I raised the door and assembled two wire shelves we’d bought for more storage out there. After moving a bunch of stuff out of the kitchen and organizing the shelves, I turned to the Chrysler.
All four tires are at least 40 years old, totally flat, and completely dry-rotted. I brought a quartet of new jack stands with us and started getting the car up on them starting with the front; in about a half an hour she was off the floor and ready for the next phase. I hit all the lug nuts with PB Blaster and moved to the spark plugs while they marinated.
The biggest concern I have right now is that the crank doesn’t turn. I don’t have a socket big enough to sit on the crank bolt—the interwebs tell me it’s titanic 1 1/4″ —but just putting a hand on the pulley wheel doesn’t budge it. That’s not a good sign. I don’t think I have a socket that big, so I’ll hit the Lowe’s this week and grab one.
Chrysler 440 plugs are apparently oriented almost horizontally compared to International’s design, something I wasn’t ready for; when I put an expandable funnel down the first hole and poured Marvel Mystery Oil in it, I promptly dribbled it all over the floor. I think I got each cylinder filled by tapping on the funnel, but I’m going to need an easier way to get the oil into the passages—probably a funnel mated to a hose. And due to Chrysler’s awesome engineering, one of my 9/16 long sockets is stranded on the #7 plug; they decided to route the steering wheel column directly behind it with about 2″ of clearance to spare, so I have no way to get the ratchet onto the socket without pulling a rusty heat shield off the column. It’s soaking in PB Blaster but I forsee a need to drill the bolts.
Moving back to the lug nuts, I got a bunch of them started and had Finn remove most of them. As they soaked they began to come loose, and one by one the wheels came off. The passenger side front was the most difficult; I had to bust out Bob’s plumbing torch and heat the nuts up in order to break them free. The passenger rear tire was frozen to the drum but all of the other wheels came off easily once the lug nuts released. Now I’ve got to find a local shop with a compatible tire in stock and get them mounted and balanced.
The carburetor is much simpler than my Thermoquad and came off easily—only three linkages and a couple of hoses. This car was built before smog laws went into effect so it’s blissfully simple compared to the truck. I’m going to soak the carb and get a rebuild kit ordered so we can have something useable to fire it off.
The new alternator is a carbon copy of the one I found in the trunk, but when I mounted it up I found that it sits way too close to the fuel filter and looks like it sits too low. I’ve got to find some good photos of an optimal installation and adjust it to fit better, then thread the belt back on. The connections on back are simple to understand. Once I have that sorted I have to move on to the cooling system, which is empty as far as I can tell.
By the end of the day, my back was singing Ave Maria and my stomach was grumbling loudly; we packed things up and got on the road at about 7. There’s plenty more non-car related stuff to tackle, but I’m looking forward to putting shoes on this yacht and setting her back down on the ground.
So plans have changed a bit and we’re headed back down to Lexington Park for more work at my Father in law’s. In looking at the Chrysler in the garage I’ve been putting together a plan to resurrect it, carefully, without blowing up the motor. Here’s a rough outline of the approach:
- Turn the crank pulley and see if the engine turns. If not—and in any case—on to step 2:
- Pull the spark plugs and pour Marvel Mystery Oil down the cylinders. I was able to get my spare 345 in the garage freed up and moving again with this technique, and I hope to god the Chrysler block isn’t frozen solid.
- Pull the carburetor off the engine, cover the inlet, and bring it home for soaking and a rebuild. Well, I’ve actually got several options here—
- I can rebuild it as best as I can to get things moving.
- I can buy a replacement Edelbrock or other aftermarket carb to drop on top of the engine, and get it running reliably.
- I can buy a rebuilt Carter AFB (the stock carb) from an online vendor and swap it onto the engine.
…At this point a rebuild is the cheapest option and I don’t need to have it run perfectly, just enough to get onto a trailer or move under its own power.
- Jack it up and put it on stands so we can pull the wheels off and have new tires put on. All four tires are completely shot, so this is mandatory. Plus then we can sweep underneath and see what’s going on with the exhaust and frame. One thing to remember: The driver side has left-hand threads and the passenger side has right-hand threads.
- Install the alternator. We found the original alternator in the trunk, removed at some previous time, and I have no idea what’s wrong with it. A $40 replacement from Rock Auto is packed and ready to put in.
- Drain and replace the oil. God only knows what’s in it, and it’s a quart overfull anyway. So that’ll come out and be refreshed.
- Test the ignition system for spark. I have no idea what condition the coil or points are in, so I’ll bring a spare set of plug wires from the Scout down in case one or more are garbage.
I put the pod on the roof of the CR-V this morning so that we can throw the useless tires up there and bring them back up here; I’ll order four new tires and have them mounted and balanced locally, then bring them back down and put them back on. I’m going to try and get through as much of the list as I can—I’ll probably only get up to #4 before we run out of time.
I spent the weekend down at my father-in-law’s house emptying about twenty years of stuff out of his garage. We rented a 20 cubic yard dumpster, which looks very big in the driveway, but fills up very fast. I drove down solo on Saturday morning while Jen was working and waded in to the debris, first finding a way to grease up the wheels on the garage door and get it raised out of the way. Then I started moving things around and working with him on what to keep and what to throw away.
It’s been a delicate balance. I’m not there to just empty the space out, so I had him stand with me for as much as possible and give the thumbs-up/down on all of the major items. There were a lot of things he’d forgotten were in there, including two lawnmowers he didn’t recognize, and overall he was happy to see most of it leave. It was fun to find something obviously important, walk it over to him, and see his face light up with recognition.
While I worked, I consolidated a bunch of different things—tools scattered throughout the garage all got collected on the workbench and later sorted into shelves out of the way. Military gear was assembled and stored safely in two new plastic bins. Important papers were gathered in one place. All of the toys and children’s books were set aside and later stored in a cabinet up off the floor and out of the way. All of the electric tools were tested and tossed if they weren’t functional. We got rid of a lot of ancient technology: both lawnmowers, two CRT televisions, and two weed whackers—one big enough to warrant handlebars and a support strap. Heirlooms like family chairs and sleds got hung on the wall, up and out of the way. By the end of the day I had most of the left bay clear and the car uncovered. I got some dinner, took a long hot shower at the hotel, and got a terrible night’s sleep (mostly climate-control related).
Sunday morning I brought Bob a chocolate donut, finished my coffee, and got back at it. By noon I had the far side clear, all of the boxes stored away, and the inside of the car cleared out. Jen and Bob started chipping ice from the ancient freezer by the back door, depositing about ten gallons of ice on the side lawn to melt. When it was empty I manhandled it out into the back of the dumpster and pulled the door off. After that it was mainly cleaning up after ourselves and finding places to store stuff until we get some shelving to help organize.
I took a little time in the afternoon to find the hood release on the Chrysler and pulled it open to find a dirty but mostly intact 440 with a single-barrel carb and no alternator. Talking it over with him, he agreed to let me try and get it running again, so I’ve got a shopping list for future visits and a plan for how to get started. And luckily I found a working set of door and ignition keys to make the job a little easier.
By the end of the night I was a sore, tired mess. The dumpster is full and will be hauled away tomorrow. The door (mostly) goes up and down by itself, and I’ve got the broken part in my toolbag to source some replacements. Most importantly, we’ve got more room to move and store things as we help him sort out his house.
Back in 2007, when he retired from the Navy, we bought Jen’s Dad a shiny new PC laptop, traded his work email for Gmail, and basically have been providing tech support long-distance since then. It’s been a bumpy fifteen years; providing over-the-phone repair service on a PC is like describing a giraffe to someone in Japan via morse code.
To quote the Captain himself, recent events have overtaken us, and it became clear he needed an upgrade. I did some looking and some thinking, and decided we weren’t going to buy him another PC—there’s just too much distance between my ancient knowledge of PCs and where they are now, and as we all know they can get fucked up in a hurry by anybody with two fingers. He’s always been averse to Macs for reasons I won’t get into here, so the obvious answer was out.
However, Finley’s school computer has impressed me over the course of the last two years even though the software provided by the school has been utter dogshit. They issued Lenovo-produced Chromebooks to the kids before COVID, and hers has been pretty bombproof with hard daily usage. I figured an OS that’s easy enough for a teenager to
not break use is perfect for a senior citizen to use; he’s only on there for email and the web anyway.
Looking around, I got a 14″ Lenovo Chromebook for a decent price at Best Buy and brought it with us to his house last weekend. Booting it up for the first time, I wound up fighting a weird verification problem that was only remedied by updating his OS. The problem there was that he’s has a DSL line and a 10-year-old wireless access point with 802.11X—limited to one connection. So the OS update took all day.
Back at home, and with his Google account information in hand, I got him up and running in minutes, and his account settings transferred over painlessly. I got into the ChromeOS settings and enlarged the fonts and screen for him, and reset the Gmail interface back to its old default—where it doesn’t try to sort what it considers “important” emails up front and hide everything else. I suspect they pushed that change, he didn’t know about it, and a lot of his email was hidden from view.
We have yet to put it down in front of him, but I’m already feeling better about this.
- The entire family slept in until about 8:30, the hound included. Sweet sleepy bliss.
- Jen and I took Hazel for a 2-mile coffee walk in the sunshine for breakfast. She turned to me behind the coffee shop and kissed me, eyes twinkling in the sunlight. That was probably the best part of a great day. And Hazel didn’t drag too much.
- We got the truck out and drove into Ellicott City for a rental ladder and some supplies. I shot a selfie.
View this post on Instagram
- At home, I put the ladder up and finally cut in the new wall paint in the stairwell. Then I scraped and mudded some cracks in the corner, let that dry, and rolled ceiling paint everywhere I could reach on the ladder.
- On my way back from returning the ladder, a beautiful blue FJ40 Land Cruiser pulled in behind me and waved. He followed me down Main Street in Ellicott City where we got more than a few smiles and thumbs-up.
- I heated up the smoker and cooked 2 lbs. of salmon for dinner. The recipe was a bit sweet and spicy for our tastes, so I’ve got to find another that gives us more smoke up front. But it was easy, and fast.
- We spent 45 minutes on a FaceTime call with our niece and nephew, enjoying their conversation and seeing a lot of their tonsils.
- I finished off the last of Jen’s homemade Key Lime Pie ice cream, which was delicious.
I enjoyed a quiet birthday weekend with family and friends. Karean and Zachary drove over from Easton and stayed at the house with Finn and Hazel while Jen and I went out for dinner in the city at a french restaurant called Duck Duck Goose. Jen powered through an oncoming migraine until we were served cocktails, and was able to beat it back enough with vodka for us to enjoy our meal. The duck confit wasn’t as good as Le Petit Louis, but I enjoyed it very much. We had a table inside but it seemed like the heat was set to “blast furnace” so we sat outside on the sidewalk, where we got to enjoy a lot of people-watching and pot smoke.
Fell’s Point is the same in some ways but a lot different in others. The center section of Broadway feels the same to me: busy bars and restaurants, lots of people on the street, lack of parking spaces. What struck us was the area around Fell’s and how much it’s changed; the whole east side, which used to be empty brownfields, is now high-rise condos and storefronts. It used to be when you passed SoundGarden the buildings were boarded up and the parking got sketchier. Now there are Porsches parked in valet spots and electric scooters lined up along the curb all the way to the water.
On Sunday we rose late and drove back into the city for brunch. Our first pick had an hour and a half wait so we drove further into Canton and parked in front of our second option. There was an hour wait there, and being ravenously hungry, we stopped in at a local coffee bar to get some snacks while waiting for our real meal.
The rest of the day was very low-impact. We were all pretty tired and so retreated to opposite corners of the house to recover quietly.
I brought one of Dad’s old BASF jackets home with me when we cleared his stuff out of the house; at one point the Germans thought a canary-yellow nylon jacket was a good idea for swag. I would have kept it but it was an extra large and just didn’t fit, so I donated it to Goodwill this weekend.
I took Zachary and Finley snowboarding yesterday, taking advantage of President’s Day and a rare burst of sunny 60˚ weather in our area. We got on the road as early as we could (Zachary stayed the night) and were at the ticket counter by 9:00. Waiting through a long line at the rental counter, we got sorted and were on the slope by 10AM.
Both kids picked it right back up where they left off in 2019 even though they’ve both grown a foot and their center of balance had shifted. Zachary fell a few more times than he wanted to, but I talked to him about the fundamentals and we did a couple of runs together where we just worked on control, braking, and basic steering. He made it off the hill with some bruises but talking about coming back.
Finley surprised me. She started out needing help getting on the magic carpet lift but ended the day riding it herself with no fear at all, threading through traffic easily. By 1PM we’d stripped down to long-sleeve T-shirts under the warm sun.
We left at 3PM, tired and happy, talking about returning next year—hopefully I can arrange another trip this year, before Christmas).
Christmas snuck up and walloped me on the head this year, and while I was on the floor it ran out the back door and was gone.
Jen prepared a fantastic Advent calendar of fun activities for us, and while I enjoyed them all I’m already missing the leadup to the big day. In some respects, Christmas itself was a letdown; I had more fun doing fun things with the girls—the symphony, ice skating, a cocoa and Christmas light tour, fancy French dinner, egg nog tasting, making cookies with the family—than I did on the day itself. Don’t get me wrong, we all had a great time, and Finn was well feted with gifts. But my favorite part is spending time doing things with the family and finding fun together, even if sometimes we have to force our moody teen to participate.
Jen’s intention was to make a St. Mary’s County Ham and fried oysters for Christmas dinner, so she went to our local butcher and asked for a Country Ham, which is what the recipe called for. This means different things to different people; what she got was a salted and smoked ham in a bag, a dry slab of meat designed to survive a voyage around the Horn of Africa. This is not the correct ham. She read up on this and did her best to make lemonade out of jerky by soaking it for a day, but what we got was a ham that was saltier than anything I’ve ever eaten. Bummed out, we took a vote and decided to ditch the rest of it. For the record, what you ask for is a corned ham.
Last night Jen used a recipe from St. Mary’s County to make oyster breading and fried up a batch for dinner. This was much more successful; we gobbled them up quickly and enjoyed every bite.
Hazel gave the family a Roomba, after I’d heard lavish praise about it from my sister. I unboxed our new unit and set it up to run on Christmas afternoon (I spent about an hour doing the New Account Signup Dance with iRobot, Nintendo, and several other companies) to clear the floors of pine needles and paper shreds. About 1/2 hour in I was getting worried because it was leaving large swaths of floor untouched and seemed to be interested in returning to the bathroom several times, but when it finally returned to its dock to recharge the floors looked worlds better. I know it’s just mapping our floor and selling the data to various government agencies, but it seems like a good tradeoff while our daughter claims she’s allergic to chores.
In preparation for a shiny old IH fridge sometime in the spring, I put the garage fridge up on Freecycle with a couple of pictures and waited for someone to contact me. Within 24 hours I had three bites, and then I had to figure out how to get it out of the garage and into the driveway by myself. I cleared a basic path and muscled it down and out of the main doorway, and a man in a pickup truck hauled it away. Now I have to stop myself from filling the big empty space with more crap.
Saturday’s Advent activity was ice skating, which we haven’t tried in three years (has it been that long? jeez) when Finn was 9 inches shorter. We went to the local skate rink during open hours and got some rental blades, then cautiously hit the ice while Mama watched from the sidelines. Finn was all knees and elbows because her center of gravity has changed so dramatically in the last couple of years. We only made one halting loop around the rink before she asked to use one of the skating aids. I followed her around until it looked like she had the hang of her balance, and then we did a bunch more loops by ourselves. After two circles she made better progress and was soon skating by herself; as she built confidence she got better. It was great to be back out on the ice, and this time I didn’t get a pair of skates that compressed my ankles into dust!
I got a text from Brian in the middle of the week asking if I was available for a day’s work on the bus while they had a film crew on site, so I shuffled some plans around and loaded up the Scout. The plan was to get the folding seats mounted and then see how everything else fit into place; in the month since I was out there last the two couches for the rear came in, along with a ton of electrical gear.
I drove out the night before and stayed in the guest room so we’d have an early start. The weather forecast was in the 40’s so I packed and dressed in layers—bike tights under my work pants, and a fleece over a long-sleeve shirt over a thermal. Even so, in the shade it was chilly. We put a charger on the bus battery to get it started and pulled it out into the sunlight, where I could see just how good the floor turned out. Not one of the squares pulled up—everything laid down perfectly flat and straight.
We quickly got to work, first trimming unneeded hinges from the backs of the seats and cleaning them up with the angle grinder. I hit them with some paint to cover the bare metal.
From there we started cutting plates for the seats as the owner and film crew arrived—a nice young woman with a simple camera rig who set to work shooting what we were doing. Brian got the metal cut and I crawled under the bus to start setting the plates and hardware. By about 12:30 we had both folding seats mounted in place, and tested folding them down into the bed, which worked like a charm. We then bolted the swivel chair to its base and roughed that into place with the refrigerator to see how much room we’d have for the kitchen area: It’ll be tight but it’ll work. While we were doing that, Matthew was assembling the two couches for the back section, and when his wife and one of their sons showed up we put them in back to see how that would work.
They were thrilled with all of the progress and now that they can see how things are setting into place it’s easier to see what space is available for what. Brian and I roughed out some ideas for electrical components—we need space for a fuse box, an inverter, and a splitter, among other things—and started sorting out how we’re going to run wiring for lights and sound. By 3:30 we were getting very cold, so we started cleaning up and hit the road home by 4. The Scout wasn’t pleased with the cold but ran like a sewing machine there and back.
Yesterday was a wash because of a bad stomach bug, but I’m back on my feet and running again. We have plans for a fancy meal at Le Petit Louis in Baltimore tomorrow night, and I figure much like the Wizarding World in 2020 we’ll sneak in just under the wire before Omicron hits hard. And Christmas is just around the corner!