The schoolie project I helped Brian on is officially on the road as of today. He’s put weeks of time into getting it over the finish line these last couple of months, and it damn near killed him; I can’t imagine how much sweat equity he’s got in that thing compared to the relatively few weekends I pitched in. As the project moved forward, the scope of the project got wider, but he handled it with grace and wisdom; for my part I like to think I made some key suggestions early in the process that will have larger benefits for the family as they make their journey.

Date posted: August 30, 2022 | Filed under friends | Leave a Comment »

On or about Jen’s birthday we had a big storm blow through Maryland, and as it left, it took the scorching heat with it. Since Thursday it’s been averaging a beautiful 80˚, with sunshine and a light breeze pretty much all day. Poor Jen has been cranking on work for the last two weeks so we didn’t really get to do much on the day; I did get the family some delicious Indian food from Ananda and a slice of Smith Island Cake from the market down the street, which we enjoyed by candlelight at the table.

On Saturday we had a fun activity planned: Karean and Zachary drove over from Easton and we went to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone live. They project the movie on a huge screen over the stage, minus the music track, and the symphony plays along in time. The effect is stunning. So much fun! And the audience is into it. We had a blast seeing it again—so much so that I want to read the books again.

Sunday we packed up the CR-V (I got the A/C fixed just in time for the heat to break, but that’s timing for you) and headed to Bob’s house to visit and make some more repairs; I got the front hedges trimmed and swapped in a new sink faucet in the powder room. The hot water shutoff is leaking, so I had to crawl under the house to the main water shutoff (I’d like to punch whoever designed that house right in the dick) and then try to unscrew the valve from the pipe, but a combination of the angle, size of the cabinet, the wrong tools, and lack of patience got the better of me. I hung up my monkey wrench and made a note of what I’ll need for the next attempt.

Jen and I boxed up three cabinets’ worth of glasses in the kitchen so that I can pull them off the wall. Two of them have separated at the back, so they’re hanging precariously over the counter. My plan is to get them down onto the floor, rebuild the boxes, and make them sturdier than before. Then we can rehang them and make them useful again (it’s much cheaper than all-new cabinets).

I also tried to get the Chrysler started again, but for some reason that was being balky too. Spraying half a can of starter fluid into the carb got it close but not running, but I don’t know exactly why. I tested it for spark again, and that was fine, but it won’t catch. I think I’ve got to pull the carb off again and see if anything is wrong inside.

Date posted: August 15, 2022 | Filed under Baltimore, family, friends, general | Leave a Comment »

When I had the Baby taken out in 2017, the doctors had to do some extra cutting and trimming while they were under the hood, and one of the things they removed was my gall bladder. As a result, fatty foods and I have had a love/hate relationship: I love to eat them, and I hate what they do to me. When your gall bladder is AWOL, there’s nothing to break those foods down as well as they should be broken down, so things get unpleasant. I started taking ox bile supplements about four years ago, and while they seemed to make a little difference, it wasn’t the difference I was hoping for. My bottle went dry about two weeks ago, so I ordered a larger dose: I went from 500mg to 1000mg, and the capsules grew to the size of pool floats. I started taking them last week, and my body immediately decided that something was wrong. They gave me the world’s worst case of heartburn; it felt like I’d swallowed a hot toaster and it was stuck at the top of my throat. I had to go lie down, it was so bad. A couple of Tums and some time solved that problem, but I was still burping constantly for hours afterward. I’m not giving up on the ox bile, but I’m going to order 500mg capsules and take two a day in the hope that it’ll make a difference.

I drove to Easton on Friday afternoon to help Karean with a long-delayed project. One of the joists holding her deck up was rotted out, making a section of the floor right outside her back door sag. We’d tried to schedule something in the spring but the weather washed us out. This time there was rain in the forecast for Friday night, so I couldn’t take the Scout, and Jen needed the CR-V. I ran to the Bass Pro Shop and bought a cheap pair of strap-mounted roof racks for the Accord, installed them, threw my 28′ ladder on top. With a trunkful of tools and a change of clothes, Finn and I drove out and got to Easton early enough for me to cut the old joist out, pull the screws from the deck, and run to Lowe’s for a replacement before a giant thunderstorm blew through and drenched everything. We hung out and caught up that evening while the kids played video games, watched a movie, and hit the hay for an early wake-up. In the morning Karean and I walked downtown to pick up breakfast, then started replacing the beam. By about 11AM we had the new joist cut down and in place, and by 1PM everything was screwed in place and sturdy.

I had to pack up and haul ass back home because Jen was pulling triple duty at her Dad’s house taking care of him post-surgery, as well as trying to work and monitoring the dog, who was either out back hunting lizards or wandering the house whining. Finn and I transferred tools to the Scout and took that down, thinking there was work to be done, but we wound up taking it easy. He seems to be in good spirits, and apart from some minor repairs there wasn’t a lot we could do other than spend time with him, which I think he appreciated.

On the ride home the CR-V started having some issues when the AC compressor cycled on, so I told Jen to keep it off for the ride home until we can get it fixed. This means we’ve got three cars without operable A/C; the Accord is just blowing air and I pulled the condenser and ductwork from the Scout years ago (it never had a compressor.) So first up we get the CR-V sorted out, and then we’ll figure out what’s wrong with the Accord. Why does this kind of thing always happen at the beginning of a vacation or during the hottest week of the year?

Date posted: August 8, 2022 | Filed under family, friends, honda | Leave a Comment »

On our way down Congress Street in Austin last week, I was looking up at the beautiful neon signage when Finley said, “Look, there’s a Scout.” She was right: a red Scout II sat out on the street with the words Hotel San Jose on the side; apprently it’s pretty famous there but hasn’t moved much lately by the looks of the dried leaves on the front seats. I posted a picture on Instagram and one of the local Scout owners I follow liked it and asked if I was in town on Monday; she was going to be at a car meetup and would put the word out to the other Scout friends in town.

Sheepishly, I parked our rental Buick around back; lined up in front of the bar were a ’65 Chevy pickup, a ’70 Ford pickup, Lydia’s beautiful Scout II, an absolutely evil-looking early 70’s Nova, a ’56 or ’57 Belair sedan, and a mid 60’s Ranchero. After I grabbed a beer, I got to talking with Lydia and she told me about how she found her Scout; presently a couple of Scout 800’s rolled in, followed by a third she’d never seen before, and then a huge lifted Traveler. I met a bunch of new folks—atxscout800, seatruckn, and a couple of other folks not on the ‘Gram.

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We talked trucks and Austin and music and other stuff and generally had a great time. At one point I looked around and a blown El Camino had arrived, several customized vans, a first-gen Mustang, an absolutely spotless ’68 Pontiac Tempest, a beautiful ’60 Chevy Sport Coupe, and other beautiful cars. I hung around until about 10, when the crowd started thinning, and left with a sweet ATXScouts T-shirt, a couple of stickers, and a big wide grin on my face. Thanks, Austin!

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

Date posted: July 28, 2022 | Filed under friends, Scout, Trip Logs | Comments Off on Texas Meetup

This week I built an auxilliary fuel delivery system out of a boat tank, a cheap fuel pump, some spare wire, and $25 of hose. The tank is a 3 gallon West Marine unit I got on sale, with a quick disconnect and a handy gauge built in. The pump I found on Amazon, which pushes at 2.5—4psi. Everything I’ve read about the Carter AFB says it likes up to about 6psi, so I figure we’re in good shape. I soldered clips to some extra wire I had on hand and lengthened the reach of the pump, so we can disconnect it quickly from the battery if need be. The big question now is what size the fuel inlets on the carb actually are; I’ve got three Thermoquads sitting in the basement, but none of them have a screw-in fitting so I’m taking a wild guess, and the information on AFB carbs is spotty at best.

I built this to get the Chrysler moving under her own power, but the universe seems to have further plans for us. In the last month I’ve been approached by two separate people with Scouts who need help getting them running again: I drove Finn to karate practice a couple of weeks ago and one of her instructors told me she’s got a Scout under a tarp in her backyard. Naturally I offered my help to get it running. And last week a neighbor walked up the driveway and asked me for some help: his friend has a Scout that’s been sitting in a garage for years and he wants to get it running again.

Clearly I have been noticed as the Scout Guy, and more confoundingly, the Get This Scout Running Again Guy; I’m pleasantly surprised and somewhat intimidated by this development. Hopefully I can live up to it.

 

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

Date posted: July 1, 2022 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Recovery Items

Gas is still $5 a gallon, but that didn’t stop me from taking the Scout over the bridge to Chestertown to pick up a day’s work on the schoolbus. The forecast for the weekend was a beautiful 81˚ so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Brian has gotten a ton of work done since I saw it last—we put the battery box in all the way back in April—as Robbi and Matthew make firm travel plans for the fall. I pulled into the driveway to find a completely painted bus with scenes of kids and animals reading books from the headlights to the rear bumper.

The roof tent had also come in, and they’d put a platform down, screwed it into place, and hooked up the electrical system for the motor lifts. Inside, Brian had roughed in cabinets around the sink area and opposite the aisle for the locker fronts. Instead of using the locker cubbies they asked him to seal the doors and use the locker fronts as two swinging doors to conceal a set of sliding drawers.

We got to work trying to diagnose a faulty electrical motor on the roof tent, then moved inside to work out cabinetry. I cleaned, painted and installed a floor baffle for the heating hoses directly under the kids’ seats, and when that was done we set up an assembly line to cut and build the shelves and drawers. By 5:30 we had those in place and then installed a shelf cubby over the captain’s chair on the passenger side, which will be mirrored on the driver’s side over the kids’ seats.

I hit the road for home at about 7, driving into a beautiful setting sun over the Bay, feeling very fortunate for the ability to work with my hands and make visible progress on a project with a clear end goal.

On Sunday we packed the CR-V and headed down to Bob’s house to continue sorting things out. After eating lunch I headed out into the garage to continue working on the Chrysler. When I was there last, there was no spark at the plugs and I didn’t know why. I’d bought a $9 tool to test it conclusively, and my suspicions were correct. The next point of failure were the points and condenser inside the distributor, so I swapped those out with some new parts in about 10 minutes. With Bob behind the wheel, we tested for spark again, and there was success!

I squirted some gas down the carb and had him fire it off, and it caught and turned over for a few seconds until the gas evaporated. A couple more tries, some more gas, and she caught and ran—loudly and choppily, but she ran! The smile on Bob’s face was huge.

The next steps are to buy a boat tank—basically a small jerry can designed for a motorboat with a built in float and pump—and hook that directly to the carburetor. That will take care of providing fuel. If I can keep her running from the carb, we can test the transmission to see if she’ll pull out of the garage, and I can pull the drums off the rear wheels to diagnose the brake system. I’m sure that will be a leaky nightmare.
I’ve already cleaned the front seats off with 50/50 water and vinegar to kill the mildew growing there, but the back seats need extra love and attention. Getting it out into the driveway will also let us wash off 40 years of dust and grime and really assess the condition of the paint. There are a thousand little dings and chips from being a shelf in the garage for years, so I know it’s not going to be perfect, but I bet we can cut and buff a shine back into the paint with some work. I also want to use some engine degreaser and the pressure washer to shine up the engine bay.

If I’m completely honest, a part of me didn’t believe I would be able to pull this off; I’m mechanically adept but this project is a lot more than I’ve ever attempted, and there were many places I could have screwed it up. I like to think I’ve learned to be patient and careful as I’ve gotten older, and that approach paid off with every obstacle the car threw at me. The next couple of months will prove out the theory, I guess.

I had Monday off, so we all enjoyed sleeping in. Jen took care of some work in the morning while I pressure washed the front stairs and fooled around in the garage, and in the early afternoon we drove out to Frederick to spend a little family time together. We got some lunch at the Tasting Room, which was about ten steps up from where we took Bob for dinner (the Cracker Barrel was the only place open without a half an hour wait) where we sipped fancy coctails and ate a delicious late lunch.

From there we walked through the town, stopping in various stores for Finn to shop through. I found a cheap Django Reinhart LP at the used record store and Finn found some inexpensive jewelry. We stopped and met several dogs who all put Hazel to shame for their calm and relaxed natures. She was our alarm clock, so at about the four hour mark we headed for home. We all spent the evening quietly doing our own things, enjoying the cool breeze, happy to be together.

Date posted: June 21, 2022 | Filed under cars, family, friends | Leave a Comment »

Saturday morning I was happy to have downed a tall glass of water and two Advil before going to bed; I woke up with a clear head but a tender stomach, and there was heavy lifting to do. A while back I helped some Scout friends save an old IH fridge that was sitting in the basement of a house up in Randallstown. We hauled it up out of the basement, wheeled it out into the back of Bennett’s truck, and moved it to Stephen’s house in Towson. He’s downsizing and gave Bennett and I first right of refusal; I was the first to say yes. But first, we had to get his second Scout and a tractor up to his new house—both of which don’t run. No problem. 

Bennett brought his brother’s towing rig and trailer, and I met him up at the house in the Scout. It was a beautiful day for driving and pushing and hauling—I was glad the air was cool, as it helped me feel better as the day went on. I pulled the battery out of PP to use for the winch on the trailer, and in about a half an hour we had the Scout strapped down and ready to go. We ran that up to the new house and parked it in a spare bay in the garage, then headed back to the house to handle the tractor. Thank GOD it was a Cub and not a full-sized tractor; It was sitting in a barn on the back corner of the lot, so we had to push it all the way out into the road to get it ready for the trailer. While Bennett got that winched on board, I towed a boat out of his backyard and into the carport with my Scout, and then backed up to his front door with the tailgate down. After some careful pushing and pulling, we got the fridge out over the threshold and strapped it flat on the bed of the Scout.

Leaving my truck behind, we rode the tractor up the second house and got it into the barn there with a minimum of fuss. After a bit of lunch we rode back down here to my house, and got the fridge out of the truck and into the garage, where it stands now. I’m waiting for the refrigerant to settle before I plug it in, but Monday I plan on giving the outside a good clean and shine to get it ready.

Sunday we hit the road back to Bob’s house, where I put the shiny rebuilt carburetor back on with a new gasket, and swapped out a 40-year-old Die Hard battery with the Die Hard battery from Peer Pressure. After re-mounting the alternator with some large nuts acting as a bushing, some careful checks, and with a fresh new fire extinguisher, I hooked the battery terminals up and we waited to see or smell any smoke. There was none, so I squirted some 50-1 gas into the carb and had Jen fire it up. The starter works, and the engine turns over, but I couldn’t get it to catch. There were several times when it sounded like it wanted to, but we just couldn’t get it to go all the way. Figuring it could be a spark issue, Jen and I drove down the street for a new battery, coil, plugs, and a ground wire.

I installed everything, got it all buttoned up, and had Bob crank it a bunch of times, but still couldn’t get it to fire. I know there’s a spark issue, and without my multimeter or the correct plugs for this engine, there wasn’t much else I could do. So I packed up my tools and satisfied myself with wiping mildew off the vinyl with a vinegar solution to bring out the shine. The front seats look much better and the door cards shined up really well, but the back seat is the worst. I’ll deal with that when we can pull it out into the sunshine.

Date posted: May 29, 2022 | Filed under cars, friends | 1 Comment »

Welding class is beginning to wind down. We spent half last night’s class burning wire on MIG machines, practicing lines and tweaking settings. SO SATISFYING. Then we went back into the classroom and reviewed welding symbology for the final test next Thursday. I’m very interested in continuing lessons with MIG in particular—it’s the best of the methods for working on cars, and offers the most flexibility—but I just made a down payment for Invisalign to straighten my teeth, and I’d like to pay that off first before I do anything else.

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There are four shiny new Hankook tires mounted and balanced to the crusty Chrysler rims I brought home, waiting to be reinstalled on the car this weekend. When I got them back from the shop I sprayed the rims with Simple Green, let them soak while I took the top off the Scout, and then power washed everything. They look no better but at least they aren’t covered in PBBlaster and cat litter anymore.

Doing my research last night I searched locally for anyone else with a ’66 Chrysler and found a guy in Accokeek with a set of fender skirts for a ’66 Newport, which is the body style Bob’s 300 is based on. His  car has one good and one rusty replacement fender skirt but the parts-hoarding part of my brain is screaming GO GET THEM as loudly as it can; I’m ignoring that voice until I know the car will run. The sheet metal on Chrysler products of that era changed year over year, and from the research I’ve done there were only 2,500 of these convertibles made which makes replacement parts more scarce than Scout parts.

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Meanwhile, in other Rare And Unusual Items news, we’ve got a date on the books to move the fridge I helped rescue from a basement in the Before Times. It’s looking like a Scout moving and wrenching day is on the books for Saturday, which includes hauling a friend’s roller Scout and tractor up to his girlfriend’s house, moving the fridge down to my place, and putting a windshield in Bennett’s truck. It should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends.

 

Date posted: May 20, 2022 | Filed under cars, friends | Leave a Comment »

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.

Date posted: March 22, 2022 | Filed under family, friends | Leave a Comment »

After three years of trying, we hosted a dinner for our excellent neighbors last night. Our menu was requested by Finley: smoked brisket, mashed potatoes, and salad, which sounded great. Jen bought a 16 lb. side of brisket that I cut in half and covered in a homemade rub Friday night. Saturday morning I had to run out for more hickory chips and a chimney charcoal starter, and got the beef on the grill at about 10:30. By 1:30 it hit the target temperature (which was just in time, as I’d run out of chips 20 minutes before) so I brought it inside, covered it in marinade, wrapped it tight, and put it in the oven to finish cooking (this isn’t technically cheating, as the meat isn’t smoking anymore). It turned out excellent: tender, moist, and full of flavor. The top half was a little more fatty than I prefer, but the lower section at the tip was absolutely perfect.

Jen found an excellent cocktail for us to serve: Suburban Anxiety. A lavender lemonade sounds like it could go horribly wrong but we found it to be delicious and sneakily alcoholic. Also on the menu: Blood & Sand, a Scotch-based cocktail I had several years ago at a neighborhood cocktail hour. It wasn’t as good as I remember, but then, I’m not a professional bartender mixing with top-shelf alcohol (I used a bottle of Dewar’s left over, I think, from the wedding). As it turns out, there was unintentional symmetry serving a Blood and Sand with smoked meat; looking back at that 2015 post, it turns out I’d tried using the smoker that same weekend for the first time to smoke a chicken—and failed miserably.

It was lovely to sit in front of the fire and have friends over and talk about adult stuff (and cats, and comic books…) and be social after so goddamn long; it made cleaning the house that much more worth it.

Date posted: February 27, 2022 | Filed under friends | Leave a Comment »