To the beautiful lady I married, and for what we made together.
First and foremost, Happy Anniversary, Jen. I love you.
We did not have any spectacular anniversary plans because we drove down to my Father-in-Law’s house to continue helping him sort his house out. We got a lot done in two days—not as visually impactful as previous weeks, but we’re making steady progress.
I drove the Scout down separately from the girls because I had it stuffed with tools and four new tires for the Chrysler. The first thing I did after we got settled was to jack up each corner and put new shoes on the old girl; she looks so much better sitting on fresh tires. When that was done I jacked up the front end, put a 1 1/4″ socket on the crankshaft, and gave it a tug with the breaker bar. It moved! Putting a socket wrench on it, I got one full revolution going both ways, which means it’s free!
Next I pulled a heat shield off the steering column so that I could get a smaller ratchet on the socket stuck on cylinder #7, all the way up front on the driver’s side. With some careful maneuvering I got the socket and the plug off, and dumped some Marvel Mystery Oil down that cylinder as well. Then I replaced all of the plugs with fresh ones and reconnected the old wires (new ones are on the way).
Then I pulled the alternator off, flipped the bracket around and re-mounted it; it fits much better but I need to find some bushings to help secure it in place (I’d guess the originals fell off when the old unit was pulled in 1980). When I’ve got those I can mount it up permanently and hook it back up to the electrical system.
- Clean and rebuild the carburetor. I’ve got a kit coming with new gaskets, needles, floats, and hardware. I’ll douse the whole thing in brake cleaner and get it set up for surgery tomorrow.
- Order plug wires, a rotor for the distributor, a new coil, and some fan belts.
- Order a drum brake kit for the fronts—If I can get it to stop reasonably well when it’s running, I’ll drive it to a brake shop and have a pro go over the whole thing properly.
- Read up on testing for spark, using a multimeter to test the coil, and diagnosing distributor issues.
Other than that, I did a lot of stuff around the house, like fixing his garage door, fixing a window, further organizing his garage, and hauling a load of stuff to the dump. It was unbearably hot this weekend, so I was covered in grime at the end of both days. But I had fun driving the Scout—even in heat, it is a ridiculously fun road trip vehicle—only having to pause under a Shell awning for an hour to let a thunderstorm pass by.
Too much going on for updates today, so here’s a picture of my girl from 10 years ago when the weather was warm.
10 years ago today.
We had guests over for a lovely dinner on Saturday night, and I figured I’d set up some soft jazz in the background for mood music. I’ve got an iTunes library with a real nice jazz collection that I’ve spent years curating. For a long time, all it took to work was to have iTunes running as a shared server and the AppleTV would pick it up on the network; I could scroll through the shared media from there and play that through the head unit into the speakers. So that’s what I did.
But Saturday our AppleTV didn’t see the server; an app is supposed to pop up called “Computers” and from there the library is visible. But I didn’t see that. I checked the connections and realized the AppleTV was on the wireless network, so I hardwired it: still no luck.
Thinking it could maybe be that the ancient version of iTunes 10 I’m running downstairs (the server is a 2008 model and maxed out at OS 10.7) isn’t compatible with the AppleTV, I figured I’d bypass that and started hunting for old laptops from that era which could still talk to it. I’ve got an ancient Powerbook G4 running 10.6 in the basement, so I dug that out and booted it up to see if I could access the shared library. Success! I moved it to the den and balanced it on the receiver, then plugged an iPod input to the headphone port. But from there I got nothing; I guess the mini headphone jack isn’t compatible with that port.
The receiver has a big Spotify sticker on the front, so I checked into that as an option. For some stupid reason it needs an app on your phone, which is a ridiculous situation and one I can’t use anyway—I’m still on the free account and it requires a paid subscription. So I just tuned into the local college radio station and we suffered through some hair metal.
This morning I did some sleuthing and happened upon a random comment on Apple’s boards which led me back to iTunes on the server to check whether I was still logged in to the iTunes Store: I was not. (How I ever got logged out remains a mystery). I logged back in and presto! the server popped back up on AppleTV.
Here’s a shot of Finn from eight years ago.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Wow, I hadn’t realized the fireplace mantel is fifteen years old this week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This picture of a pie on fresh snowfall represents the only pictures I took the whole time I was in New York; I completely failed to pull my camera out for anything else other than taking a picture of the login details on Mom’s FIOS router. We had a great time; Finn and I drove up while Jen stayed home with the dog, and Renie cooked dinner for the family at her place. We had a delicious smoked turkey with stuffing, potatoes, peas, and cranberry sauce. Then we all rolled in to the living room and napped in front of the football games while Keighty wandered in and out of the room looking for leftovers on the floor.
The rest of the weekend was super quiet. We stuck around Mom’s house and hung out, mostly, until we decided the backlight on her TV was going out, and drove out to Costco to buy her a new one for Christmas. It took Renie and I only about an hour to get a new mount installed on the wall and the TV hung, and All Was Right With The World. There was a re-awakening of Dungeons & Dragons to keep Finn occupied, and I led she and Renie around The Keep on the Borderlands slaying goblins until their characters were almost dead.
It was blowing light snow for the last two days we were there, which was a nice way to usher in winter, even if it made the first hour of our drive south wet and messy. But we got on the road early and got home with no problems. The CR-V took us 700+ miles with no problems, and is now at the garage getting long-needed work done to the front struts. The front end was sounding more and more like a NYC taxi every day; this is an expensive repair but one that will hopefully keep the old girl on the road a while longer. Sometime early in the New Year she’ll go back in for new control arms and bushings, but that’s another paycheck away.