We just heard through the grapevine that our old friend A., who has been in the local Scout scene longer than I can remember, passed away in December. I remember him as a wealth of information from back in the old IHC Digest days, before I’d even met him. When someone would complain about a particular part or the size of a fastener, he would email the list moments later with the exact name of the part or the correct size and pitch of the particular bolt. When I was having issues with the throttle cable on Peer Pressure during the first shakedown trips, he saw a picture I’d posted of the bracket, recognized it as the cable for an automatic, and sent me the correct bracket from his parts stash. He was always up for a Scout adventure, even if he habitually showed up late—that was understood.

He’d moved out to the country a couple of years ago and found a different job, and it sounded like he was happy there from what we heard. I was shocked to hear the news, and I’m sad to hear of his passing.

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

Date posted: January 8, 2022 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Milestone

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I got a text Christmas afternoon from Brian, who had been browsing Marketplace and found a 31′ Airstream Sovereign for a ridiculously low price and mentioned he was going to look at it at 8AM the next morning. Being an enabler, I invited myself along and promised I’d arrive at his doorstep at 7:30. Which meant I had to get up and out the door by 5:45.

Having successfully roused myself, I did in fact make it to his house by 7:30 with a fresh Boston kreme donut. We loaded up his truck and struck out for the border of Delaware, where we found the Airstream docked next to a large garage.

Waiting for the owner to come outside, we looked over the exterior and found it to be in excellent shape. The aluminum siding wasn’t too oxidized, and the tires held air (but definitely need to be replaced). All of the access doors were present. The glass looked OK, and while crazed from the UV coating having delaminated, wasn’t cracked. When the owner came outside he told us to have at the interior, and we stepped inside and backwards into 1974. 90% of the original cabinetry is still there. He’d ripped out all of the carpet so we could see the floor was in rough shape around the edges—a common problem with all Airstreams. The beds were present, and the rear bathroom fittings are all still in place, but spotted with mold and dirt. I poked around other areas and found a lot more rot in the floors, but agreed with Brian that the bones were in good shape. He ran back outside to do the deal, and within a half an hour we had it hitched to his truck and were on the way out the driveway.

Taking the back roads home we avoided the 5-0 and made it safely to his house without intervention or tire blowouts. We then surveyed what he’d just bought and came up with some plans.

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Plan One is to sit on it for a few months and flip it when the weather gets warmer. The seller claimed he’d had people from all over calling him about it; Brian got it for a stupidly low price. I have no doubt he could resell it for more money. And some of the interior parts might fetch good money on the classifieds market; there are curtain fittings and appliances that would be impossible to fabricate today.

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Plan Two is to gut the interior and replace the wooden floor. We’ve found several how-to sites with advice on how to do it in sections without lifting the whole shell off the frame. With that done, we could fix up the outer shell (fix the windows, etc). and sell it as an empty project.

Plan Three is to fix the floors and build out the interior with the basics—a working kitchen, bathroom, beds, etc., and keep it as inexpensive as possible to maximize the profit.

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Plan Four is do do Plan Three and then install custom accessories for the buyer—upgrades to the kitchen, add solar power, or other high-end options.

The important thing is that we’ve got to finish the bus by late spring, so the Airstream will be parked for a while waiting on that to finish and a new garage to be erected at Brian’s house. When that’s done we can get it inside and really start tearing into the project to see what’s there.

Date posted: December 27, 2021 | Filed under friends, general, photo | Leave a Comment »

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Date posted: December 21, 2021 | Filed under family, friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

I got a text from our old friend Brian H. asking for a little help jockeying cars around in his new garage, and pleased to hear from him, set something up for Saturday morning. He and his wife  bought a house out in the country with multiple garages and a lot more space, and he’s picked up a couple of new projects to play with as well as helping Bennett store some of his fleet.

After walking the dog, I warmed up the Scout in the driveway, looking nervously at the overcast sky. The weather report did not call for rain until late that evening so I waited for the defroster to blow condensation off the windows and set out on the road. Brian’s new spread is in a still-rural part of Ellicott City, and his house is tucked in between a horse farm and a stand of woods. I  passed Heavy D (Bennett’s truck) in the driveway and parked down by a three-bay garage where the two of them stood talking. We stood around and caught up for an hour or so—it’s been several years since I’ve seen Brian—and then I got the tour of the barns. He’s got an incredible setup; lots of room, lots of excellent tools the homeowner left behind, and tons of possibilities.

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Bennett took me out for a ride in his Speedster while the sky was still clear, and we got it out on Rt. 40 to hear the engine wind up. It’s a really nice little car. It’s a replica that was made professionally about 30 years ago, and since buying it he replaced the original engine with a bigger unit built by a VW race specialist. It’s been sitting for a long while so he’s got some work to do getting the carburetors to run correctly, and the brakes need to be gone through front and rear. The gel coat is dull so the red doesn’t shine as much as he’d like, but now that he’s got a warm dry space to store it, he’s planning on buffing out the color and making it shine again. It’s a fucking blast to drive in, and larger on the inside than it looks. However, on our way home the carbs flooded so we sat in a field waiting for them to drain, and limped home on what sounded like three cylinders.

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From there we looked over the main barn where Brian has his Edsel stored on rollaway carts and his Dad’s old Dodge D-100 in a state of disassembly waiting on some love. The day’s mission was to pull the box off the Dodge and store it in the back of the pole barn, then move the Edsel around to the back so that there’s more room up front for Heavy D to sit next to the Dodge. After a little consultation we got the box up and over on to some sawhorses, and the Edsel slid around back, easy as pie. He’s put the Edsel on hold while he gets the Dodge closer to running, and he’s got his hands full there. The Edsel has a fresh new engine installed and ready to go, and he’s made progress with the body, but there’s a lot more to accomplish.

Meanwhile, his house needs work along with all of those projects, so he’s got his hands full! He took us on a tour of the main floor, which was completely remodeled before the purchase, and then the basement, which holds almost as many horrors as ours did when we bought it. We sat and ate some pizza and caught up some more, and it was great to just hang out and be with friends for the day.

Along about 2:30 Bennett and I got ready to head out, and Brian sent me home with the smaller of the two blasting cabinets he inherited with the house—a beautiful Eastwood side-loading unit with a light and vacuum port on the back.

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I got home at about 3 and did some work around the house before getting a shower and dressed up for our Saturday advent activity: seeing the Cirque Nutcracker at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. We drove in to the city and got to the BSO an hour ahead of time, which allowed us to relax with a drink before the show and people watch. Our seats were high on the fourth level but we could see everything and the sound was perfect. The production is incredible, featuring  acrobats, jugglers and aerialists, and we were all captivated through the whole thing. It was lovely to get dressed up with my ladies and feel fancy for an evening after two years of living in socks and pajamas. As the lights went up after intermission and the first performers came back out, I reflected on just how lucky I am to have great friends and a beautiful family, and how much I’ve enjoyed the leadup to this holiday season.

Date posted: December 12, 2021 | Filed under cars, family, friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

I was a good soldier and took my cold medicine and got lots of sleep in the week before Thanksgiving, and actually made it up there in good shape. I think perhaps going from steam heat to forced hot air made my sinuses mad again and I came back with the same cough. Since then I’ve been sucking down the gold syrup during the day and the green before bedtime, and I’m just now beginning to get through the day without blowing my nose constantly. I think a weekend of good sleep and exercise will have me back at 100% by next week.

One of our Advent activities this year is snowboarding with Zachary, with a date set for next Friday. I downloaded the rental forms from the resort to fill out ahead of time and ordered a new set of snow pants for Finn to wear from Amazon. Next up is buying tickets. I think she can use a pair of my gloves instead of buying another $50 pair from the pro shop. We still have to work out transport logistics with Zachary but I’m looking forward to another good day on the slopes with my bros!

Date posted: December 3, 2021 | Filed under friends | Leave a Comment »

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Saturday morning the family rose, grabbed a quick meal, and put on warm clothes so that we could help organize and distribute Thanksgiving meals for a church in our neighborhood. As part of the food drive we did a couple of weeks ago, our church partners with others to collect and donate food, and we signed up for another morning of service. We parked front of a long line of idling cars, then walked to the back of the church house where tables were set up and people were busily building boxes of cans and bags of dry goods. Jen and Finn dove into the tent and got to work, and I made myself useful at a pile of boxes along the driveway, stacking and moving things from one place to the next. When the cars started coming in, we all hustled to fill them with food. It was a bit chaotic at the beginning, but the joyful congregation and good cheer kept the mood light and the work easy. The last of 200 turkeys was loaded in a car at 10:40, and the final car drove through at 11:30. We helped clean up as much as we possibly could, then had a slice of homemade cake and some hot chocolate and said our good-byes, happy we’d been able to do some good.

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I headed over the bridge on Sunday morning to put a day’s worth of work in on the schoolbus, which has been sitting patiently in the shed since we stopped work in October. The first job was to unpack the bench seats and do a test fitting to see how they looked. We unpacked one and set it up on the floor of the garage, finally figuring out how the folding mechanism worked so that we could convert it into a seat (they ship flat). We used an angle grinder to take a third folding section of the bed off the back—there isn’t enough room to include it, and they don’t need it with the way we’re organizing the space. Then we hauled it into the bus and sat it in place, making some test holes to figure out where the seat bases will land. When that was done we unpacked the single seat and put that in place to test the pass-through space. It’ll be tight, but it should work.

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Repacking the seats, we sanded the high edges of the floor down, put about a thousand flooring nails in place, and applied leveling mud to the surface to smooth it all out. By the time that dried it was getting dark, so we set up a light and got to work laying floor tile. We started up front and worked our way back, and with Brian prepping the floor and laying tile and me cutting tiles to fit, we cranked it out pretty quickly. Even so, by the time we finished it was 7:30 and while he cleaned up the surface I ran around and threw all the tools in the truck. We then had a minor hiccup when the battery on the bus decided it was too weak to turn the motor over, so we found some jumper cables and started it from Brian’s truck. It was 8PM when we left Rock Hall and 9:30 by the time I made it home to the girls.

Meanwhile, Jen had been at the ER with Hazel for four hours, who had been acting strangely all morning. They were swamped so it took a long time to be seen, but when she was examined and an X-ray was taken, it turned out she is backed up worse than the Long Beach dockyards. They did some, uh, work to help the situation but it’s going to take more long walks and some time to clear out her pipes. So she’s moping around the house with her bonnet and a disturbed look on her face. Here’s to hoping the deliveries start back up again.

Date posted: November 22, 2021 | Filed under family, friends, hazel | 2 Comments »

Our neighbors invited us to come out and play trivia with them at a local restaurant on Monday night, and because we really like them and we love trivia, we readily agreed. They have a big banquet room below the main bar where tables were set up, and by the time Jen and I got there most of them were full with big groups of people. Our team was just the four of us—but we were a pair of Trivial Pursuit veterans and a pair of internationally educated British expats. We started out strong, and the sports-related questions were some easy softballs I was able to field. We took a few hits midway through the game, but wound up tied for first place after the final question. The woman running the event held a tiebreaker and because we were able to estimate the shoe size of the Statue of Liberty, we won a $20 bar tab!

Date posted: October 27, 2021 | Filed under friends | Leave a Comment »

Morrises

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Hay Ride

It's the Great Pumpkin

Date posted: October 18, 2021 | Filed under friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

Sometimes being the Scout Guy in your neighborhood can bring unexpected benefits. About 10 years ago I bought a local Scout with some friends, towed it out of his driveway, and split up a bunch of parts he had stashed in his garage. (Part of me still kicks myself for not having bought the whole truck, but whatever). Yesterday afternoon he stopped by the house and dropped off a few more things he’d found stashed away; apparently he’s doing a deep clean and found a set of new steel endcaps, a cab mount, an armrest, and a jar of fasteners somewhere in his garage.

I asked several times if I could give him anything for the parts and he declined, so I offered him a ride the next time he was around.

In the meantime, the upcoming weather looks pretty clear, so I think I’m going to drive the Scout back over to the Eastern Shore for the week.

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

Date posted: September 26, 2021 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Surprise

This morning I drove over the Bay Bridge to meet up with my friend Brian at his new house, and from there we drove to a field behind an abandoned house to look at a short gray schoolbus that’s going to be the focus of much of my September. We crawled in, on top of, and underneath the whole thing, looking at what’s there and talking over what needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.

The first thing that needs to happen is a lot of demolition; the previous owner had done some modifications to the interior that aren’t going to stay—a janky bed frame in the back, a sink and cabinet made from 2×4’s, a set of seats cobbled together from a couple of minivans and the original bus seats, etc. When that’s all out, I’m going to rip up the hastily installed laminate flooring and the rubber bus matting underneath until we get to the marine plywood at the base. When the interior is gutted, we need to build a rack for the roof from box steel to hold a platform for a 4-person tent made by a guy in Colorado who doesn’t return phone calls, install a rooftop A/C unit, mount a portable diesel generator behind the rear wheels, and source and mount three underside storage boxes around the chassis. I have no idea how we’re going to do half of this, but we’re going to have fun making it work.

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For a good portion of the day yesterday, this site and my other two were down due to some form of DNS failure at my web host. I don’t know what happened but it all came back up sometime this afternoon. That’s the first hiccup I’ve experienced in the last ten years or so; I wonder what happened.

 

Date posted: September 2, 2021 | Filed under friends, geek | Leave a Comment »