100K

First useage of the one wheeled trailer.

So last week it finally happened. I managed to break the one hundred thousand mile mark on my trusty Honda ST1100. This odyssey started eleven years ago when I bought the old girl off of a Craigslist ad from a guy up north in the iron range of Minnesota. Over the years she has been the most dependable of all the nearly forty motorcycles I have owned over the years. My only regret is that I didn’t buy her new. Together we have experienced a wide range of riding conditions from snow showers to driving rain that would rival a hurricane to one hundred degree heat and below freezing temperatures. There were plenty of picture perfect rides too, the kind of sunny and warm days where you didn’t want to stop but your aching body wouldn’t continue. Through it all the mighty ST never wavered and always delivered miles of smiles. I was never stranded or had to walk home while riding the bike. Sure, there were maintenance items to take care of. When I first bought the bike both tires were nearly bald and the fork seals were leaking badly. The drive shaft U-joint wore out one time and I could feel a strange vibration at about seventy miles per hour. A replacement was found on Ebay and after installation the vibration was gone. The final drive flange had some wear due to the previous owner not applying grease when needed. Once again the part was located on Ebay and the miles continued to pile on.
Early on, I set a goal of trying to put on ten thousand miles each year. Most of the miles were put on commuting to work and home, although the bike took me on at least seven or eight trips to Davenport Iowa for the annual vintage swap meet and races. Also there was one trip to mid Ohio five years ago that added fifteen hundred miles over the course of five days. Some years I made the goal easily, other years I fell a bit short, usually due to weather conditions that shortened the riding season. I know there are guys that put on many more than that each season but most of them are retired or have better jobs with more vacation time than I have.
I never did have any kind of accident with the bike even though there were some close calls with critters and distracted car drivers over the years. I did manage to drop the bike in the driveway a few times when the weight got away from me, one time pinning me up against the garage door frame and cracking the fairing plastic in the process.
So the final tally of parts replaced to reach the 100K mark is this: Eleven sets of tires. One set every year, average life span of eight thousand miles. Three batteries. Three seats. The stock seat was horrible and after replacing it with a Corbin the bike became a true long distance touring rig. Four windshields. Two sets of fork seals. Three sets of brake pads and a rear brake rotor that got too thin. Four sets of spark plugs. Two air filters with the current one being a K&N unit. One timing belt, even though the old one really didn’t look bad. Replacing it gave me peace of mind. I started using synthetic oil after the first year and continue with Amzoil that gets changed twice per season, using twenty two gallons of oil over the years. Gas mileage is a very respectable average of fifty miles per gallon. With that average the bike has used roughly two thousand gallons of premium, non-oxy fuel. I check the valve clearance every two years. I have yet to adjust them, a tribute to Honda engineering.
People sometimes ask me why I continue to ride in all kinds of weather when other bikers have parked their rides. For me it comes down to a couple of reasons. First of all it is still fun. If you have the right gear you can stay quite comfortable even in the most challenging conditions. You can’t make the 10K mark every year by only riding when the weather is perfect, not in this country. Secondly, there will come a time when I may not be able to ride. With age comes all kinds of issues that limit riding potential. I might as well ride as much as possible now while I still can. And lastly, there are many friends, classmates and former customers of mine that can no longer ride, because they have passed on. I ride for them because they can’t. This 100K milestone is dedicated to their memory. Here’s to many more miles in the saddle.

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Toyota Troubles

It has been an interesting couple of months around here. After my trusty Subaru took on the semi truck and lost, I decided to park it until spring or until I could round up the parts to fix it. The plan was to drive the ’89 Toyota pickup the rest of the winter. That was working for about a couple of weeks and I even managed to make it home from work one day in a raging blizzard while driving the one-wheeled wonder, although I did get stuck at the end of our driveway and had to walk the last half mile home. In anticipation of driving it more in the snow and bad road conditions I even went out and bought new front tires for the thing. All was well until one day, leaving work, I stopped at the bank on the way home. Since it was cold out I left the truck run while I was in the bank conducting some business. After getting back in the truck and heading out on the street and as I shifted into third gear I heard a high pitched rapping, rattling sound, like the sound of an engine pinging because of bad gas, except louder. This was not a good sound so I backed off and slowed down. When I stepped lightly on the gas the knocking was back. Confusion reigned at that point. I was quite a ways from home and the noises this engine was making did not give me confidence. After driving on the shoulder for a while at about twenty miles per hour I determined that there was a certain amount of throttle that would make the noise worse, also any kind of a load like going up a hill. A quick call to my wife informing her of the situation and I told her I would to try and limp the truck home on the back roads, at a very slow pace. Off I went, slowly up the hills in first gear. On the down hills I could get the truck into second and third gear without any knocking noises. Sticking to the back roads was a safer, but longer way home. The trip took about an hour and a half and by the time I arrived at the homestead the truck was rattling badly and running on three cylinders, maybe even two sometimes.
So at this point we were down to one running car, my wife’s ’05 Subaru Forester, unless you count the VW Jetta but that was in storage at the neighbors place and the battery had been robbed to be put in the tractor. Things were looking grim for the home team. I did have a spare engine for the Toyota but that needed a head gasket replaced and that would take a week, possibly more to complete. I did some scouting for used trucks to buy and even test drove an older Chevy 3/4 ton with bald tires but nothing seemed to make me want to take the plunge. That’s when my wife suggested that I get the Subaru in running condition again. After all, I did drive it home after the accident and it did run just fine. It really just needed the drivers side door, headlight, fender and mirror to be road worthy. I found a good door, fender and headlight from a guy that my son knows who is somewhat of a Subaru rebuilder in Rochester. The mirror proved to be a little harder to find but an internet search of local salvage yards turned up one in Byron and so we made the trek one Sunday to get it.
After getting all the parts together it was just a matter of getting the car in my shop and setting aside a few hours to work on it. After removing damaged parts and some pounding and tweaking of bent metal, I had the thing road worthy in an afternoon. It looked better but was sporting a maroon left fender and door now while the rest of the car is black. It could still use a new hood as the old one has a wrinkle in the front that I just could not get straight but it still opens and closes just fine so for now I will just leave it as is. Just a fitting reminder of the accident that nearly took my life. It felt good and familiar to be driving the old girl again. Somehow I feel safer in the winter when driving the Subaru. I’m not sure why, maybe because it is all wheel drive and maybe because it sits just a bit lower than my wife’s Forester or the Toyota. Whatever the reason, it was good to have it back on the road.
The next project was the Toyota engine replacement. I ordered the required gasket kit and proceeded to remove the bad engine from the truck. Removing the valve cover did not reveal any cause of the knocking sounds as everything looked good on top. Even the spark plugs offered no clues as they looked like they were firing just fine. The problem must be lower down, probably a spun rod bearing or cracked piston. Whatever the reason, it will have to wait until I have time to dig into it further.
Once the new gaskets arrived it was go time on the spare engine that has been sitting on the shop floor for the better part of four years. Getting the head off and cleaned up was the most time consuming but that went fairly well and then it was time to install the engine in the truck. I had done this little operation four years ago when I first bought the truck as I had a spare engine from old Silversides that ran just fine. Maybe it’s old age getting to me but I just don’t remember the job being as hard as it was this time. After all the adjustments were made, all hoses and belts installed, intake and exhaust systems in place and fluids topped off, it was startup time! The old girl fired right up and settled into a fast idle just like always. A quick test ride was conducted and it seemed to run OK but there was a pesky check engine light that came on. This was something that the truck seldom, if ever has shown. A call to my son informing him of the situation was placed and he instructed me on how to check for engine codes. Since this truck is an older model, there is no serial port for plugging in a scan tool, the truck will “self diagnos” by jumping a connector under the hood and then watching for the number of times the check engine light blinks on and off. The results of this test revealed that the knock sensor was not working properly. I had no idea that the truck even had a knock sensor but it must have one. After robbing one from the bad engine and installing it in the good engine, no more check engine light was lit. Yes! We were good to go.

Dancing With the Devil

Been a while since my last entry. Sorry about that! Anyway, last week was an up and down, rollercoaster ride for me. Monday: back to work, nothing too strenuous there. Tuesday: started out fine. I put in an extra hour at work because I needed to have Friday off for my scheduled colonoscopy. (Yeeha). Heading home from work I stopped off at the Quick Trip store on 65th street to fill up my Subaru Outback that is my trusty winter ride. With that done, I headed north on Hwy 52 towards Zumbrota and home. About a mile south of Pine Island traffic was the usual mix of rush hour commuters, big trucks and such. Roads were dry and even though it was dark, traffic was moving along at a brisk 70 plus miles per. A large semi came up behind me north of Oronoco and pulled out to pass. As he got along side of me he seemed to slow a bit and so we were side by side for a good half mile or so. At that point he started to back off just a bit and I thought he might be getting ready to move into the slow lane, where I was. Suddenly, I noticed his headlights were awfully close to me in my left rearview mirror. It looked like he was crowding me in my lane. Right after that I heard a crunch and felt the Subaru skid sideways right in front of the truck. Things happened in rapid succession after that. There was no time to react and I couldn’t believe he had hit me at first. It felt like being pushed by a freight train sideways down the tracks. Since my cruise control was still set, the car shot across the road and into the median but not before the semi gave the car a final spin so that I was facing backwards and still travelling seventy miles per hour alongside of the big rig. I remember seeing the headlight of the truck very close like a large unblinking eye staring me down before entering the ditch and hearing scraping, crunching sounds. The sensation of being pushed by a freight train stopped only to be replaced by the feeling of going backwards rapidly. Instinctively, I clamped on the brake pedal. Not sure if that helped or not but the car spun around and faced forward at that point, while still travelling at nearly highway speed. As I veered down the embankment the catch fence appeared and with no steering control the car slammed into it and bounced off, careening to the bottom of the ditch and coming to a welcome stop a hundred yards or so from when I first entered and not too far from the Pine Island County 11 overpass. A small puff of smoke or steam came from the left front of the car that shone in the smashed out headlight. With the car still running, I unbuckled my seatbelt and attempted to exit out the drivers door. No luck with that as it was jammed shut so I climbed over the console and popped out of the passenger side door. Another car came to a stop on the left shoulder. A middle aged lady emerged and tentatively asked if I was OK. I said I was. Looking up the road I saw the offending truck with its right blinker on but instead of pulling over, to my amazement the truck just kept going. A quick call to 911 was placed. The dispatcher took my location and assured me that a state trooper was on the way. I turned my attention to my good Samaritan lady. We compared notes as to what just happened and she said that she was behind the truck and saw the whole thing unfold in front of her. She told me that at one point I was traveling backwards in the ditch, something that I already knew. She also graciously offered to stay and wait with me until the state trooper arrived to give her statement. I stepped around to the drivers side of the damaged Subaru to survey the damage. In the dim light of the overpass streetlights I could see that the driver side door was caved in, the left front fender was mangled and the headlight lens was smashed. There was a large black patch on the left side of the rear bumper, left by the semi’s front tire, no doubt.
I should have dropped to my knees and thanked God for sparing my life at that point but I didn’t, too jittery with adrenaline flowing and quite miffed by the truckers actions, both before and after the accident. Another good Samaritan stopped his pickup on the southbound exit ramp and made his way across the highway to check on my welfare. I asked him if he had a flashlight and he pulled out his cell phone. I popped the hood on the car and we both looked for any fluids leaking out like oil or antifreeze. Seeing none, I closed the hood and thanked the man, who said he was a truck driver himself, for stopping and to please be careful when crossing the highway back to his pickup. The trooper arrived shortly after that. He took the lady’s statement, then sent her on her way and asked for my license and insurance info. I was still shaking enough that it was an effort to retrieve the cards from my wallet. He headed back to his cruiser to file the report and I took refuge in the Subaru to stay warm. I placed a call to my wife informing her of the events and to assure her that I was OK and the car might be drivable. She wondered if she should start heading my way and I told her to sit tight unless I phoned needing a ride. The trooper came back with my license and a business card with his name and a case number on it. He suggested that I try driving the car up out of the ditch and carefully cross the highway to the right shoulder. That went pretty well because there was very little snow in the ditch and the Subaru is an all wheel drive model. I stopped again on the right shoulder of Highway 52 and the trooper told me to try driving it home unless there was a problem and then to pull over and he would call a tow truck. I thanked him for his services, shook his hand and headed slowly for home. The car drove just fine but every time I hit even the smallest bump I could hear the front fender scraping on the left front tire. Arriving home a few minutes later with the adrenaline shakiness gone, I had a chance to reflect on the events that had just transpired.
As a longtime biker and frequent traveler on Highway 52, I have an accepted level of risk every time I strap on my helmet and swing a leg over my motorcycle. This also transfers to every time I click the seatbelt in a car or truck. There is not too much that happens on the road that scares me, but this episode did. Big time. I had questions to answer. As I looked around my shop and saw unfinished projects, I had to wonder: What if my life had ended right there by the Pine Island exit six days before my 58th birthday? I have things to do, grandkids to play with, inventions to complete, rides to go on, music to play, sunsets to enjoy. All of that could have been taken away in the blink of an eye. The fact that I escaped the violent energy of the accident without a scratch when I could have easily been squashed like a bug leads me to just one conclusion: I had just been the recipient of a modern day miracle. And more than that, God has more plans for me. At this point I don’t know what exactly that will be but you can bet I will be paying attention. I made a pledge to my wife to be a better husband that night and also to be a better father, grandpa and Christian as well. I have forgiven the truck driver for his mistakes and prayed that he has learned a thing or two and that he made it home safely that night to his family as well. For that’s the only way to move forward after something like this happens. You may say that I was just lucky to survive such a thing but I say God has given me a second chance at life. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. For I have danced with the devil and I fear him no more.

Veggie Car Update

So I have had a chance to put a few miles on the old girl this fall. A few things became apparent early on. I spent some time chasing electrical gremlins for a while, not sure if they were age related or just the fact that the car has sat in storage for too many years. First off the headlights needed to be replaced as they were fogged over and just not bright enough for highway use. After doing that, I discovered that the dimmer switch made the left headlights go out when it was on high beam. After some trouble shooting I just decided that there was a fault in the wiring somewhere and so I just ran new jumper wires between the left and right headlights. Problem solved. Then there was an issue with the backup lights staying on all the time. Removing the bulbs was an easy fix for that.
The front struts had to be replaced as the front end of the car would bounce all over the place after hitting a good sized bump. I found a pair on Epay for cheap and installed them even though I had to make a makeshift spring compressor out of a couple of C-clamps. Kids, don’t try this at home. The car rode much better after that. I had a chance to drive it to work for a couple of weeks and run some errands as well. In the process I

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put about a thousand miles on her. Gas mileage was pretty good too, about 44mpg, although I was hoping for 50. I think maybe trying to stay with traffic on highway 52 affected that a bit. Also, the odometer was acting a bit wacky for a stretch and so that might have an affect on mileage.
There was an issue with anti-freeze leaking and so I have had to replace a few hoses in an effort to correct that. I even replaced the thermostat and had a bit of a challenge doing that as well. Seems those crazy German engineers put the power steering pump right in the way of one bolt that needs to come out. Curses!
Last week I noticed quite a bit of growling coming from the drivers side and I suspected a wheel bearing. Sure enough, inspection of the old bearing revealed a pitted race. Years of sitting probably factored in there too. After getting a couple of new bearings from the boys at NAPA and installing them, things were much quieter.
The heater blower did not work either and after disassembling part of the dash to get it out I determined that the squirrel cage was seized up. A little penetrating oil on the shaft and working it back and forth got the fan to spin freely. The only other problem was the blower switch. It would only work on the high setting, no medium or low. Better than nothing on those cold mornings but I will be looking for a new switch or maybe I will just rewire it to be on medium speed all the time.
Starting the beast when cold continues to be an issue. If the air temp is freezing or below the car must be plugged in for at least an hour to have any sort of chance at starting. That’s not a problem if you are just running to town and can leave the car running. It will restart in the cold if not left sitting for more than three or four hours, however, that is not much good when I’m at work and the car sits for eight or nine hours. Rather than take a chance or being embarrassed by a non-starting car at the end of my shift I have decided to put the car in storage for the winter. The thing really runs well down the road and is fairly quiet inside the cab. It does not get strange looks from anyone like the old Geo-trike did and that’s just fine with me. Next spring I plan on playing with the veggie oil conversion again and so I will keep you updated on that little adventure at that point.
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Too Much Stuff

While it has been some time since my last post that doesn’t mean there has been nothing to write about. Just the opposite has occurred, leaving me precious little time to put things on this-here blog. I will hereby try to bring you up to speed, dear reader. First, we became grandparents again, this time of a baby girl, Mirielle. She’s growing like a weed and has recently started crawling, big time. In my experience, after the crawling stage comes standing, walking and then running in short order.

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I have had time to play with the diesel Jetta somewhat and even had it running on veggie oil, briefly. It needs more work to be road ready, however, and so that is my next challenge, before the snow flies, hopefully.

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One of many test drives.

In addition to this, I have changed jobs again. No more working nites at the factory for me. Ten years of that abuse is about all I can handle. People have asked me what was the deciding factor in the job change. While there was a myriad of things that factored in, the real biggie was the chance to work the day shift for a change, and to live like a normal person again. My co-workers had a hard time with the change and made it clear that I would be missed by shrink wrapping my motorcycle on my last day in a last ditch effort to get me to stay. Isn’t that all you can really hope for, in the end?  That you do your job well enough so that folks want to shrink wrap your vehicle in an attempt to get you to stay? IMG_20160504_182941

This spring I also sold another icon of my youth. This ’71 Honda minitrail Z50. This one is the exact color and year of my first motorcycle. My brother and I rode the heck out of one of these back in the day but sadly, have no pics of the bike. I have owned this particular one for ten or twelve years or so, only rode it a few times. It has been parked in the corner of the basement covered up the rest of the time, only to be uncovered and admired briefly when special guests visit. I finally got to the point of hoping it would go to a good home, plus I really needed the cash for some bills. So I put it on the list that is Craigs. Lo and behold, a former classmate is the proud owner and it will be in his personal collection of vintage Honda minibikes from now on.0214161557

My son also got married this summer to a wonderful schoolteacher lady. It was probably about time as he isn’t getting any younger. Their wedding was in June with the honeymoon in Seattle and surrounding area in mid August. IMG_20160618_174929

In addition to all this stuff happening, I have been pretty much living on my mowers this spring and summer. Regular rainfalls make for good crops but also for endless lawnmowing, sigh. That about sums it up for now. I’m sure to have more to blog about soon.

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Back in the saddle.

 

Veggie Car, Phase 2

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OK, so phase one was acquiring a suitable candidate to convert to a veggie car and get it running. Check. Even though that process took about six months to complete. Not to get it running, just to get the title straightened out took that long. The folks at the DMV sure know how to drag their feet. Jus’ sayin’. So phase two involved lining up a supplier for waste vegetable oil and getting it filtered and ready to use. Check. I talked to the local café about getting their oil and they were more than happy to accommodate me with a weekly supply. I just need to provide them with empty barrels, not a problem. After doing some Youtube research about veggie oil it would appear that the best way to filter the stuff and get consistent results is to use a centrifuge. This device takes out the solid particles and any water that may be lurking in the oil. Trouble is, they are expensive, the store-bought ones are anyway. About a grand or more, ouch. What to do? Light bulb moment! I will just build my own! 1206150953

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These pics are the start of my bowl. I found an 8″ chunk of solid aluminum in my collection of stock and proceeded to start whittling. This was then bolted to an adaptor that mounted on an electric motor that spins at 3450 rpm. This whole assembly is then installed into a five gallon bucket on three legs. Ta da! Centrifuge, cheap! Add in some plumbing and a drain valve for the clean oil to exit the bucket and away we go. The thing actually works but my used electric motor has some play in the bearings that will have to be addressed in order to eliminate some mild vibrations. Here is the finished product. 1227151621

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Stay tuned for phase 3…

Mailbox solution

1109151000Been a while since my last post. Yes, I am still alive. Here’s a pic of my latest project as a solution to a vexing situation with my mail carrier. Seems that the boxes I get on occasion are too big for my regulation mailbox and the United States Post office has a policy that if a driveway is longer than 1/2 mile, they do not have to deliver. Our driveway is 1/2 mile and maybe one hundred yards long. Sometimes the mail carrier will deliver packages to the door, other times they won’t, depending on their mood, the weather or what phase the moon is in. When that happens, the mail carrier will put a pink slip in the mailbox notifying me that they are holding my box at the post office. I will then have to drive the five miles to town to retrieve said box, costing me time and gas money. If the notice is delivered on Saturday, I have to wait till the following Monday to retrieve my package, causing delays in my service. This situation has torqued me off to no end on numerous occaisions. So, as a solution, I crafted this little beauty out of aluminum deck plate salvaged from Ol’ Silversides after she went to the crusher. It is just a little bigger than the standard Postal Flat rate boxes that I usually get and I made it to accommodate two of those boxes if needed. The other day it got put to use. Hopefully, this will eliminate a lot of pink slips from the Post Office and cuss words from me.