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 »

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!

* * *

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.

* * *

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 »