Thursday, July 27, 2006

The List

Every gearhead car nut has a list of some sort. The List – the cars that he or she would own “if only.” Usually, “if only” has to do with money. Most of us will never own all, or even some, of the cars on our list, because we generally seem to want some pretty pricey stuff. I may never own everything on my list, but I have begun to realize that things don’t generally happen unless they are motivated by a plan. They may not happen as a direct result of acting on that plan, but the occurrence generally has something to do with the plan in some way. For that reason, I feel it’s important for me to make my List. Even if most of it never comes true, there is a greater chance that some portion of my dreams will be fulfilled if I have these ideas written down.

Having said all that, it has occurred to me that it’s been an extremely long time since I’ve written a List, probably because I figured it wasn’t worth it, and I figured I’d never own them anyway, so what’s the point? Well, there’s some point to it. In my opinion, the universe seems to help us out when we make it obvious that we’re prepared for one particular thing or another.

So, here’s The List, or What I’m Prepared to Own. Some I think I would like to keep or try to hang on to, while I’d just need one summer or one year with them to enjoy fully. These things are not in a very particular order, although the GTOs are definitely hot ones for me.

1969 GTO Judge – I’ve wanted a Goat since high school. I have yet to own one. My brother owns one, a ’66. I want a black ’69 Judge with a four speed and a white interior. I’ve seen one in a book and I think they look amazing. I want to cruise down the road at night, flip up the hidden headlights, and shift into fourth gear while listening to some good music. This experience would be extremely close to heaven on earth for me.

1968 Golden Sabre GTO – Knaefel Pontiac made a dozen of these. I’ve seen a picture of one of them. It was white with gold rocker moldings and gold Hurst mags. I believe they also came with Ram Air V engines swapped in at the dealership. For Pontiac guys, this car is like owning a factory Hemi lightweight car. They’re very exotic and very fast. I have no idea how you would go about finding one. They’re like Shelby Cobras in that nearly all of the existing ones are accounted for by Pontiac enthusiasts. I think there’s a missing one out on the east coast somewhere.

1968 Royal 428 GTO - Royal Pontiac made just a few of these in '68. They'd just get in a 400 car and then swap in a warmed up 428 in place of the original. There was a car magazine that did a review on one of these cars immediately after it had been assembled. I wish I could recall the magazine. I think the car was red with black hood accents on the scoops. I've always liked the idea of a small(er) Pontiac with the big car's 428 in it. It just says, "Let's go shut 'em down."

Milt Schornack’s Royal-prepped 1969 Ram Air V GTO – This is the gold car, not the Crystal Turqoise and white car. I first found out about this car from Milt’s personal web site. I subsequently saw it on eBay about a year after that – perhaps in ’03 or ’04. It did not sell. I don’t think most folks had a clue as to what they were seeing. I love the paint scheme, and it still has the original mags on it from when it was first built. The look just screams sixties, and with the RAV mill I’m sure it screams down the road too. It’s a piece of speed history as well as a piece of Pontiac history. It was the last car Schornack put together involving Royal, if I’m recalling correctly. I think it was the second to last car that he put together in cooperation with Pontiac. He did have a ’70 Goat that he drag raced, but the ‘69 car was a street car. He kept it after the engine developed what I believe was a wrist pin problem and restored it years later. I would love to have this car. I think if I had this car I might not ever care if I had any of the other cars. It would flat trounce a Judge, mighty as they may be, and I really dig the human element that is present in this car. It was carefully put together by a select group of individuals with a specific goal in mind. I admire that sort of history, and appreciate all the care that has been put into this vehicle from its inception to the present. What an awesome machine.

1965 GTO – Naturally, I’d want a four speed car along with Tri-Power, perhaps in maroon or dark blue. I absolutely love the interior on these cars as well. I may be wrong, but I think the bucket seats on these were a one-year-only design. I dig it.

1970 GTO Judge – This one is a little more typical in paint scheme, but it’s not because I’m in love with Orbit Orange, rather, it’s because I like its presence in Two Lane Blacktop. I’d take the Judge emblems off and use Keystones as in the movie car. It would be a plain ol’ heavy street machine, simple as that.

Gasser-style ’55 Chevy – any speed freak who has watched Two Lane Blacktop wants something like this, even if it’s just for a week. Flip front end, radiused rear wheel openings, mags, hot motor, four speed, no front bumper - the whole nine yards. I don’t necessarily want an exact copy of the movie car, but I want something that evokes that same feeling of simple, uncompromised, all-business power and acceleration. I might like it in white or black. Sometimes my brain gets all twisted and I think it would look good in heavy raspberry flake or gold flake with Cragar SS mags. I suppose that comes from watching all those great Gasser Wars videos from the Jackson Brothers. If you haven’t seen those vids, go pick ‘em up. They’re the most fun you can have legally.

1969 Mach I – Full-tilt. I’d want the Detroit Locker with steep gears, 428 CJ with shaker scoop (‘natch), four speed, yadda, yadda, yadda. I wanted a Mach I for a while in high school, although back then I liked the ’70 better. These days I prefer the dual headlights of the ’69 model. I have no idea what color I’d like, although I’m not a huge fan of red cars. Perhaps green. These cars, shod with some serious rubber and those fabulous factory Magnum 500s just look too tough. The fastback styling and the bulge in the beltline over the rear tire make them look super-hot.

1968 Coronet R/T – Don’t ask me where I came up with this idea – wait, I just remembered. This one is a real recent addition to The List, perhaps only a year old. I was looking up random Hemi stuff on the web. I came across a web site a guy had built concerning a car he and his brother had owned. It was a black ’68 R/T with the red stripe around the back. I saw a picture of that great taillight setup and thought, “Man, that’s one of the most sinister-looking machines Chrysler ever put together.” I’m not even sure what all power options you could get on one of these, but I’d go for a 440 for sure, a Hemi if it was available for that year. Who doesn’t want a Hemi?!

1973 Motion Nova - I want the one 427-powered ’73 Nova that Motion Performance put together (or maybe it was Nickey, I’m forgetting). I read a period article about this car. It was a review that some magazine did on it. They built it for some guy who I believe lived in or around the mid-northeast, like somewhere in Michigan perhaps. I guess they guy had it for several years and enjoyed the hell out of it. The dealer said that two or three years later the man got divorced and his wife brought the car back and demanded that the engine be swapped for a stock 350, because she was getting the car and didn’t want to drive such a hairy beast. Why she wouldn’t just sell it is beyond me. It’s possible she did it out of revenge on her ex-husband, because she knew it would bother him. At any rate, the engine was swapped out. The car is currently MIA. I owned a ’73 Nova Custom in high school. I have a small soft spot for them. Performance was on its way out in ’73, and the Motion/Nickey car was probably one of the very few that was ever fitted with a big block from the dealership. I always thought it would be nice to outfit this year Nova with some real heat, since many people malign it for its funky grille and heavy front and rear bumpers.

Nash-powered street rod – My dad is a Nash guy. He owns a ’53 Statesman and used to have a ’61 Metropolitan. A couple of years ago he sent me some email that was bouncing around on his Nash list. A guy was cleaning out his garage and had a finned aluminum Edmunds dual carb intake for a Nash straight six. Dad sent me a link to the pictures. The carbs and much of the linkage were there, although the head had portions of several fins broken off of it. Quite naturally, I freaked out over it and asked pop to find out if it was for sale. The short of the story is that the head is now mine. At some point I want to build up a late 20s or early 30s street rod with this head as its crowning piece of speed equipment. I’m used to the sound of a V8, so the idea of an unmuffled flathead straight six has got me pretty cranked. I believe I’d like to run shorty exhaust pipes right out the side and only baffle them if absolutely necessary. I don’t want to run a hood either, as the head/intake is far too cool to cover up. On this engine it is also interesting to note that Nash never had an intake manifold. Rather, the carbs bolted directly to the head. Fun old speed stuff!

30s coupe with Nailhead – I saw a picture in a book recently. The book is titled, simply, Hot Rods. It focuses on cars through the 40s with a heavy emphasis on Fords. There’s a photo in it of a kid driving what I recall as a black primered ’32 with a ’33 grille. The fenders and hood are off and you can see the Nailhead. It’s got copper steel wheels with rings and caps. Something about the look of that car has really stuck with me, and the allure of the Nailhead, with its instantly recognizable horizontal valve covers, is hard to resist. It’s a very late 50s or early 60s-style ride. I would like it with traditional roll and pleat interior with some sort of instrument panel transplanted from a differet 30s or 40s car. I really dig old dashes and gauge setups. They look like antique radios, and every one is unique. There were designed with far more style than function in those days, and you would find all sorts of different arrangements of gauges. For me that is part of the inherent charm of an old car. I understand that many people like the look or preferred reliability of digital instruments, but I want to feel like I’m sitting behind a Philco as I cruise around in the late evening.

A righteous late 20s/early 30s sedan – I’m not 21 anymore. I hope to have a family at some point, and if I have a sedan for a hot rod, then I can pile the wife and kids in it and we can all run around together. Of course, I would like to make it shag-nasty and ultra-hot, but if it’s going to put on some real miles and I need to be concerned about reliability, I may have this one with some sort of traditional mill up front. Perhaps I’d go for a small Ford, however, if only to stay away from the “been done” vibe of an SBC. I don’t know how picky I am on that point, however, so perhaps it would end up with a 283 or a 327. I think I’d like it in white, with cut-down fenders in back and no fenders up front. I saw a photo of a sedan like this in Rod & Custom some years ago. I still have the vision in my head.

Hot Rodded Panel Truck – I just think they’re cool as hell. I’ve always had this ridiculous idea that I could tool around the Midwest doing gigs in a hot rodded panel truck. This is pretty unrealistic, in part because it’s a complete lottery as to what kind of parking arrangements are available at gigs, and it could be that I’d be forced to park an extremely fine machine in a very hostile environment. Here’s such an example: I was once parked right in front of the bar in a rather upscale neighborhood. It was the second night of gigging from Chicago to Michigan, we finished very late, and then had an 8-hour drive home. I was so tired that I didn’t realize there was a business card stuck under the windshield wiper. I was almost at my house before the slip of paper registered in my brain. I got out at a stoplight and pulled it loose. It was from a police officer. It said a bicyclist had run into my crappy minivan and that I could call the number on the card if I cared to make a claim or lodge a complaint or whatever. It was only then that I noticed that the antenna was bent and that there was a 6-inch diagonal dent in the right front fender. Fortunately, the van was pretty beat already, so I just laughed it off. If it were a ’52 Chevy with a nice paint job, however, I would have been at least a little bit upset. At any rate, I’d still like to have a panel truck to cruise around. It wouldn’t have to be built to the hilt, just have a nice exhaust note and decent enough power. I would definitely drive it to gigs when I knew there would be sufficient parking and/or security for it. This is one List car that came sorta/kinda close to being a reality. A few years ago I found a ’53 Chevy wagon in Texas into which a Chevy V6 had been swapped. I spoke with the owner about it. It seemed like I could really make this car a daily driver. One of the great folks from lived near the car and offered to check it out for me and take some pics. Well, it turned out that the car was rougher than the photos had led me to believe. From the new photos it appeared that I’d seen previous pics that had to be a few years old at the least. The paint was pretty flat-looking, and I saw some pics of rust that definitely had me concerned. I finally emailed the owner and told him it was too much of a project for me. A year later I saw it on eBay, and the seller was still using the same pictures yet again. I watched the auction and it did not sell. I didn’t follow it after that initial auction. Who knows what became of it.

1968 Mustang fastback – Green with Torque Thrust mags. Who doesn’t want the Steve McQueen machine??

1970 Challenger – These things are wide and low, and they look killer with a set of meaty rear tires. I’d take mine with a 440, thanks.

1970 AAR ‘Cuda – They’re bitchin’. There’s nothing subtle about one of these cars. I love the whole idea that they were created for the sole purpose of homologating the machine for road racing. Fantastic! Chrysler said, “Yeah, we want to race. So, you guys buy these wacky, drool-inspiring machines with side exit exhaust and three carburetors. Then we’re going to win some races.” Bring it to me!

1971 ‘Cuda – Gimme the Hemi, dude. Everyone wants a Hemi. I’d take a 440 too, if I could get a six barrel setup on it. I love the grille on the ’71. It looks like it’s getting ready to snort up the road and spit it out.

Early 30s coupe with Hemi – While we’re on the subject, I want another Hemi car, but this one would be a trad street rod with something like a 354 between the narrow frame rails. I’ve seen a video of one a guy put together. He goes driving it around on the street with the header plugs opened up. It sounds like sheer maniacal madness, and that’s something I can get behind. I’d want pie crust tires out back with whitewalls. Probably no fenders. Definitely multiple carbs – six deuces if I could make them work, eight if I could make THEM work. I think I’d go for kidney bean Halibrands or perhaps some other funky mag, like a Radir. If I had the Radirs, though, I think I’d just want them up front with maybe a steel wheel out back so it looks kind of hang-dog street-raunchy. Black? Black or gray primer? Gloss black? Copper? Oooooh…flat copper…maybe, maybe yeah.

Something with a blower – Wow, how specific is that? But this one I could at least combine with one of the others. Maybe I’d put the blower on the Nailhead coupe. All I know is, I want to know what it feels like to put my foot into the iron lung of a supercharger. When I was in high school I was at a car show and I overheard an older fella talking to another guy about the new engine setup in his street rod. He said, “It’s like having another four gears on top. I’ll never own another car without a blower.” Yeah, man. Right on. That conversation snippet is over twenty years old, and I’ve never forgotten it. You hear something like that and you think, “Holy crap. That’s somethin’ there. I wanna know what that’s all about!”

Willys gasser – I’m not too picky on this one, but I really like the funkiness of the ’38 or ’39 front end. I know that lots of those were converted to the look of the ’40 or ’41 just because ‘glass front ends were put on these cars for racing, and no one made ‘38/’39 ‘glass noses, so there ya go. However, I’d be perfectly happy to have the steel front, as it’d just be a street rod for me. I could go with either a coupe or a sedan. Maybe this would be the car to get the blower. It’d be nice to have a Hemi in one of these, like a 392 with multiple carbs. I’d want mags of the period on it, say Cragar SS, Torque Thrust, Halibrands, chrome steel slots, maybe even aluminum slots, but something that fits with the era in which these cars dominated the strips across America.

Late 60s Cougar – I don’t really know why, but having one of these for a while would be cool. I don’t necessarily need an Eliminator or anything like that, just a decent driver. I’d want duals and a nice set of Mag 5s or maybe some sort of 60s/70s aftermarket wheel. I like the look of the 427 scoops, so it’d be nice if the car had one of those on it. I’m not too particular on the color, although I wouldn’t pick red. I don’t even care if it’s a 4spd. This car would just be for casual driving fun. I dig the general styling, and the sequential turn signals are just too cool.

Nash Metropolitan – I drove dad’s a couple of times. In fact, when dad sold it to a couple in Florida, he had to have me drive it to a supermarket parking lot off of the highway where the car hauler was waiting to pick it up. I was the last one in my family to drive it. They’re such tiny little things, such an oddball in the history of automobiles. It was a big stab at what was then a niche market – the economy car. They seat two very comfortably; even though it looks like you’d never fit a human bigger than five feet tall into one. The look is all innocent fun. I think I might even like this car as a convertible. It seems like the perfect little pocket car to pull out of the garage on a sunny summer day and bop around town. The engine is so tiny the rear has gears in it that are literally along the lines of 5.13:1 or thereabouts. They aren’t even very expensive. Maybe I will own one some day, if only for a year or two.

I think there are many more cars that could go on The List, but I’m gonna stop there for now. Periodically I may have to update this, but it’s certainly a good start. What’s on your list? C’mon, you know you have one.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Left, Right, or...?

When Ben and I were at the track a couple of weeks ago it was apparent that the Chevelle needed work in a few areas. For one, the car has never been the greatest in the steering department. It’s got a ’71 Chevelle power box and pump, but it has always felt lazy and slow with very little road feel to it. It’s not even as good as how I remember my ’73 Nova’s steering.

Ben mentioned several times that at the top end of the track piloting the car was like steering a barge. He added that response from the car after the wheel was turned felt very imprecise. From the bottom of the track eve I could see the car wiggle as he made adjustments. This didn’t sit with me very well, as I feel my brother’s safety is at stake here. I was wondering what to do about it, however, and didn’t know where to begin.

The next week I drove the car on a 100+ mile trip to Bloomington, Indiana and back. Having several hours to myself in the car at highway speeds I was able to notice a pronounced lack of response from the steering. It wasn’t just slow, it was sloppy. I noted that if the car started to go left and you corrected to the right, it was not a smooth transition. Instead, the car would continue on its leftward course and then sort of jerk to the right. It kind of felt like bumping from left to right rather than steering. At highway speed I felt a bit uncomfortable with it. With the idea of my brother traveling over 100mph in it I felt like I was trying to get him killed. I was deeply concerned, to say the least.

I was determined to correct the problem. I got online and did my research. I went to the wonderful web site,, where I am a member, and culled the fabulous tech forums for all kinds of info. I found I had several avenues available to me for steering box rehab or replacement. I would have preferred to do some home engineering work and swapped some newer gearbox parts into the current box, which would be an inexpensive fix, but not very easy or fast to accomplish. One of the items which I have in very short supply right now is spare time. I knew that even though I had a number of the parts for this venture, it would take forever for me to actually do the work. Hell, it had taken nearly two years just to get the brake system done.

In the interest of saving loads of time and getting my brother safely back on the track as soon as possible, I found that I could order a fast ratio steering box from AGR complete and ready to bolt in. Naturally, the installation will not be as quick and easy as I’ve made it in my head, but at least the box will arrive all set to go and I’ll have removed a whole world of possible problems and frustrations from one area of the swap.

I called Summit today and placed my order and was very pleasantly surprised to find that they would be able to have it at my doorstep before the weekend. Woohoo!

Now you’ll all have to wait breathlessly for my next blog detailing my swear-filled new box installation. Should be a real hoot. When it’s done, though, I’ll bet the ‘Velle feels like a completely new car. I’m really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grab the Opportunity

Andrew and I had a really great ride on Sunday. The weather was extremely fine, especially considering that this summer has been liberally peppered with rainy days.

However, I had only gotten in a few hours of seat time. After meeting Andrew’s parents and riding a few short miles with he and his dad I’d had to break from our trio and head back to Indianapolis to meet a friend for church and to subsequently play a gig downtown. I felt refreshed, but a little bit cheated at the same time.

Monday dawned clear and sunny. I checked the forecast: cloudy with a 20% chance of rain all day. I decided against riding to work, but by noon I was thinking that had been the wrong decision. It looked great out. What’s more, I had begun to think that the remainder of the day was not one to be spent away from the road. Andrew himself had said a week ago, “This summer it’s almost like you have to grab the opportunity when the weather is good, because it just doesn’t stay that way very long.”

It was about 2pm and the weather was indeed good. I called Andrew. “What are you doing this evening?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I rode my motorcycle to work,” he said leadingly.
“Really?” I said, smiling. “Well, I was thinking that tonight would be a fine night to go out for a ride.”
“I have no problem with that, sir,” he replied.

I arrived at his apartment around 6:30, gassed and ready to go. Funks packed up some belongings in his new waterproof saddlebags, and we took a look at the map. I had originally wanted to take in some roads to the west, but since it was evening we both figured that riding into the sun for two hours wasn’t the coolest idea in the world. Andrew suggested south, and I said that I’d been considering that as well. After picking over some possible routes we decided to make a quick run down I-65, hopping off at SR44 and heading west from there. We’d wind down southwesterly on a combination of 135, 252, and 45, which would eventually put us in Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University, a number of good friends, and a fine restaurant called The Trojan Horse.

I led the way south. Wind was noticeable for me on 65 as my jacket isn’t vented, and I had to keep it opened up somewhat so I could get some airflow. I was again wishing for a better summer riding jacket. I asked Andrew about it later and he said I looked like a large, misshapen, black balloon blowing down the highway. Am I cool, or what?

The highway was a snooze, but once we pulled off and headed west on 44 it was worth it. I felt like I had arrived at a singular moment in time. The sun was about an hour from setting and it cast warm goldenorange glow over everything. We’d gone from a highway full of semi trailers and cars to a quiet state road bordered with nothing but fields, farmhouses and trees. I felt like I was living a moment in some great story, like this simple act of riding through the Indiana countryside was actually part of some amazing accomplishment. It was gorgeous, and I hope that I never grow tired of a those sights. It’s those moments that I’ll remember when I’m too old to get on a bike anymore. Decades after I’m gone this fabulous machine will belong to someone else. Perhaps it will be gone from my possession before I myself am gone. To think of it that way, I can only own the machine temporarily. In a greater sense it will never really be mine. The things that are mine, however, the things that no one can separate from me, are these memories which the bike helps me make. So even though I have purchased an amazing piece of machinery, I’ve done myself a greater service by making all these new memories available.

We continued on our wanderings towards Bloomington, cutting through little towns like Mt. Pleasant, Morgantown, and Samaria. In Morgantown I nearly took out one of the locals. There was a cat trying to cross the road from left to right, and another motorcycle was coming from the opposite direction. The cat saw the other bike and ducked back. It tried again, however, when I pulled closer. It got halfway across, stopped, looked at me, took a few steps, and then when I was almost upon it the fuzzball shot across in front of me. I had to grab the brakes to keep from adding another feline soul to the firmament.

Andrew and I talked about the ride later, and I was pleased to hear that he enjoys riding through those little towns as much as I do. Seeing my surroundings this way really drives home the age-old saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” I’m also surprised that, even though I have to keep my eyes on the road while I’m riding, I still seem to be able to take in a lot of the countryside somehow.

The final leg of our trip to Bloomington was along SR45. On the map it had quite a few squiggles in it, so I figured it would make for an entertaining part of the trip. I was pleased with my choice later when Andrew pulled off his helmet and said, “Man, that part on 45 was awesome!” Not only did we have curves in abundance, but the scenery surrounding us was wonderful, thick with full summer greenery, trees, and the occasional expanse of flatness from a pond shimmering with the setting sun. It made up a relatively short portion of the ride, but it was very enjoyable.

Once in Bloomington, we hopped over to the Trojan Horse and ordered up some saganaki (flaming cheese with pita bread), and gyros. Funke and I were both starved, and I think he was ready to order double portions on everything. While eating, Andrew phoned our friend J.J. who works at the local paper. J.J. was on the clock that evening, but Funks and I determined that we’d buzz by the office after work and say hello. We didn’t kick back too long for dinner, as it was already getting late. When we got back out to the bikes I noticed that our amazingly excellent parking space right in front of the front door to the restaurant had gotten us a sap shower from the overhanging trees. That’ll be fun to clean up.

We buzzed over to J.J.’s work and were given a short tour of the place. While Funks had worked there for a time about five years ago, I had never been inside. We met some of the folks J.J. works with, and then we were given a quick tour of the printing press. If you like machines, well, a printing press is machinery on a grand scale! This press is a small one, but it still occupies three stories. The ink is shipped in 55 gallon drums, and the rolls of paper weigh one ton each! We were shown an example of the printing stages used to make a photo, and it was interesting to see that the majority of the color that is used is blue. For some reason I’d thought that black would be used far more, but such is not the case.

J.J. also took me to the photo “lab.” I guess you have to use that word loosely these days, because most of the photo work is being done digitally these days. There aren’t even any light tables in the room anymore! I asked double-J what kinds of cameras his photogs were using these days. He told me he’d have to check that out for me. I’m trying to get back into photography, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that stepping up to digital would be a good move. Last night provided a little more information in my research.

Our gracious host had to get back to work, so we thanked him and saddled back up for the ride home. There was a quick stop at the edge of town to pick up some fuel, at which point I was slightly disappointed to see that the highest grade of gas was 92 and not 93 octane. I know it’s not much, and maybe it makes no difference in reality, but the R90S does knock under hard throttle occasionally, and I feel better feeding it the highest octane possible whenever I’m able.

We were going to head up SR37 and then cut over to SR67 for variety along the route home, but Andrew had checked the time again at our gas stop, and it was already 11pm. He suggested, and I agreed, that we really needed to get ourselves home at some semblance of a decent hour, and so our final leg of the journey was a straight-through route up SR37 to Indianapolis. The only things of real note were that the weather was cool and accommodating, and there were a few wisps of fog that added some visual interest along the way.

Arriving home at 12:30, Andrew and I talked briefly. He was going to take the Honda back to his apartment and ride to work the next day rather than storing it at my place as is his usual practice. I thanked him for riding with me, and he took off as I flipped the lights on in the garage. The radio comes on with the lights, and I thought it was all too fitting that Rush’s “Red Barcetta,” an ode to vehicular mischief, played as I stowed the machine until the next ride.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ride to the South Pole

As Andrew said, "Take that, Mr. Hillary." Funks and I have now riddern our motorcycles to the South Pole and returned unscathed. Heck, it wasn't even chilly, although the parfait I had was excellently cool and creamy.

All right, enough of the foolishness. The South Pole is a little local ice cream joint up in Tipton, IN, Andrew's childhood hometown. When he asked me where I wanted to go with him Sunday morning I said, "You're always talking about running up around Tipton, and I've never been there with you. Show me around up there."

When we headed out it was about noon and neither of us had eaten breakfast, so I suggested we head towards any sort of destination that served food...and ice cream, if possible. Funks suggested the South Pole, and I was whole-heartedly in favor of that idea.

Sunday had to have been one of the most exquisite riding days of the entire summer, although that isn't saying much as we've been plagued with rain most of the time juxtaposed with extremely hot and humid days on the rare sunny ones. There was absolutely nothing to complain about this day, however, and we motored happily past rows and rows of tall, green corn, and the low fields of beans.

Andrew took me past his old family home and through the middle of town where an amazing oddity exists: a dealer for Ural and Moto Guzzi motorcycles. Yeah - make sense there'd be a dealership for those in the a town like Tipton! I'll bet the rent's cheap though, and Andrew says he does a booming internet sales business as well. More power to him. I'll have to see if we can't stop in there sometime and examine the premises.

I had to call my ride short due to an evening engagement. It was a wonderful day for a ride, however, and I certainly appreciated it after having hardly touched the bike in two weeks. It did a good deal to make up for our planned ride the preceding Friday which we'd had to cancel due to rain, of course.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Worth the Drive

Yesterday the band had a Sunday afternoon gig in a park in Bloomington, IN, which is about 90 minutes from where I live. Temps were not ideal, having hovered in the low 90s all weekend, but the summer has been so rainy I was excited about just being able to see the sun.

I worked on the door lock part of the day, sweated a good deal, and considered driving the Chevelle to the gig. It was hot. The Chevelle has 3.73 gears out back. It hadn’t been driven at all in the past two years save its recent trip to Muncie Dragway.

It was Yes/No, Yes/No right up until the end when I decided, screw it, it’s a car with wheels. I’m driving it.

I got all the gear packed in and took off. My first stop was a gas station, as I only had about a quarter of a tank. I stopped in at the only gas station between my house and the highway. I pull up to one of the pumps and there’s a little sign taped to the grade selection button that says, “Sorry, no mid-grade or premium.” That’s actually the third time this has happened to me this summer, and at two different stations.

Well, I had a quarter tank which would easily get me to the station on the south side of town right where I pick up the state road to Bloomington. No big deal. I pull away from the pump, and as I’m pulling out into the street a station attendant standing next to the tow truck says, “Yeah, man!” I look over and he’s smiling real big at the car. I smiled back and took off. It’s those little things in life that make it worth living.

The drive down to Bloomington was hot, and I had every vent and window on that vehicle cracked wide open. About halfway down there someone in a red Doge Ram pickup eases by my and honks. It’s Smokin’ Dave, the bass player for the band. I spend the rest of the trip trying to keep up with him as he cuts between everybody who impedes his 70-plus speeds. It kept the tach revvin’, but I was worried I’d be late, so I hung with him. Not my favorite scenario.

The gig was hot. It was really, really, really friggin’ hot. I hadn’t grabbed any water before I left, and they didn’t have any for us. The wonderful gal who puts the shows together got us some midway through, however, and that saved the evening.

After the show I loaded up the car and talked with the Brookshire brothers, a sibling rhythm section from town. They were both really diggin’ the Chevelle. It was nice to hear some compliments and to talk cars for a while. It made the drive feel worthwhile, even with the rush and the heat.

After packing up I had dinner with some local friends whom I don’t get to see often enough, and then I headed for home.

The drive home, now that was something special. I was under no time constraints, the heat was gone, and all I had to do was keep the pedal steady and listen to the radio. The soft, faded glow of the dash lights was soothing; the rumble of the dual exhaust just loud enough to let me know it’s there. I was in the middle of a moment that I had idealized since I put the key in the ignition and lit out for Bloomington earlier that day. I was suddenly reaping the rewards of all my efforts for that day, and so I sat there behind the wheel, quietly enjoying the hell out of every second of it all the way home.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sooner than I thought

Please excuse me for quoting myself, but it's pertinent. From my last blog: "With all the improvements out of the way I think there's going to be some opportunity for both motorcycle riding and drag racing before too long."

I didn't realize how right I was! I drove the Chevelle to work on Thursday, and everything worked just fine. I figured that the only other test left was to run it at the strip. The planets had aligned, and I actually had a free night on Saturday. I called my brother on Friday and said, "Hey, the Chevelle's brakes seem to be working fine. I got some decent street tires on it, so it's ready for a trip to the strip. I have Saturday off. You wanna go racing?"

His reply: "WHAT??!!! YES!!!!"

After a two-year absence from the track by both Ben and the Chevelle there was some dusting of cobwebs to be done, but the overall experience was fantastic. Ben made it to the fourth round thanks to some stupendous red-lighting by his opponents, the brakes were great, I took a bunch of pictures, the weather was gorgeous, we got it back into the 12s, Ben cut an awesome .034 light, and the only thing that went wrong with the car was the negative battery cable coming loose after we'd gotten it all ready for the drive home.

We were both feeling pretty good as we headed home in the fading midwest sunlight, the car rumbling past farmhouses and fields of Indiana countryside. I flipped on the radio and leaned back on the passenger side of the bench seat. We talked a bit about the day, and how much we enjoyed everything, and then Ben summed it all up: "That's what I call a Saturday."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It Just Keeps Getting Better

I took off Monday this past weekend to make my Fourth of July weekend four days long. The band was only playing on Saturday night (shocker!), so I was able to take advantage of a pretty open schedule this weekend. Man, I was oh-so-ready for it!

Friday night I worked on the wheel for the Chevelle a bit more. I got to a stopping point with the stripping/derust process and managed to get both primer coats and both finish coats on it before I went to bed. In between all that my buddy Andrew showed up and helped me get the front wheel remounted on the R90S. By the time I got the second finish coat on the Chevelle wheel I was toast and so was Andrew, so we called it a night.

Early Saturday morning I cleaned up my cluttered back hall just a bit by taking two hubcaps for my minivan out of the corner and putting them back on the van where they belong. It still looks ugly, but at least I have more space in the hallway. After that, I was back out in the garage. The new/used flourescents from dad were going to need a power source, so I wired up a new outlet. I put it on the switched circuit so that they would come on with the rest of the overhead lights when I flipped the wall switch from the door. I then got down to the business of wiring a new cord onto the light that was positioned near the doorway over the motorcycle. I managed to get all of this done, plus some other general cleanup work, before having to leave to go play a gig. Just having the one light up and burning was amazing. It was so much easier to see! Both lights would be fantastic!

Sunday was a day of rest, quite literally. I awoke for church to the sound of Andrew firing up his '76 Honda 750. What a great way to be awakened. I caught him before he took off to meet his brother and told him I might catch him later. The weather looked like crap on the forecast, but by the time I got back from church it had improved dramatically, so I hopped on the S and took off for Brownsburg, Indiana. I met with Andrew and his brother, David. We talked a while, David took off for Tipton, and then Andrew and I spent the rest of the day riding around the near south-westerly portion of the state. It was great to have the S back up and running again. Although hot, the ride was invigorating.

Monday was spent out in the shop again, of course! I got the second flourescent wired up. Once plugged in I found that this fixture was, unfortunately, a dud. I lamented that fact for about five minutes, and then decided I'd just buy another one. Andrew showed up about that time, having graciously agreed to lend a hand that day, and he accompanied me to the hardware store. Checking my numerous lighting options at the store, I chose one of the new low-temp fixtures that will light up at temps as low as -20 degrees. That'll be a big help on the occasions in the fall and early spring when I'm out there cussing the cold. The new fixture came without shades on it, but Andrew and I found that the old shades fit on the new fixture with almost no additional work. Bonus! From the look of it you'd never guess the light fixture was brand new, and that's how I like it!

We made two other stops on our trip to get the light fixture. We had brought the wheels with us and were going to try and get some tires put on them to finally get the Chevelle fully street-ready. The first shop got a size for me, but they were out of stock. The second shop nailed the size and had it in stock. Fortunately, our second stop was to be at the auto parts store for cleaning products for the bikes, and the parts store was in the same parking lot. While the tires were mounted we went and ogled stuff that makes machines shiny. I picked up about forty bucks worth of liquid and not-so-liquid products and we hit the door.
Back at the tire shop we grabbed the goods, paid the damage, and sped off with a back seat full of new hides.
The rest of the day was spent finishing up lighting chores, mounting wheels, taking the Chevelle to Steak & Shake, and doing some cleaning of the bikes.

By the end of the day there had been great progress. The garage is now really starting to look like a shop with all its snazzy full-brightness. The Chevelle is capable of doing some more extended cruising and testing of the brakes. The R90S is (somewhat) cleaner than it was on Sunday.

On Tuesday I wired up yet another switched outlet which feeds the light over the work bench and a radio, so those will also both come on when I hit the wall switch. In addition, I made some progress on installing a new door lock. The lock should be finished up probably next weekend.

With all the improvements out of the way I think there's going to be some opportunity for both motorcycle riding and drag racing before too long.