Search Results for blazer

The last Blazer post

Well we sold the Blazer.  Took about 24 hours after Andrea advertised it at CPI.  Asked for $900, got $900.  Guess I should have asked for more!

We got it running and took it for a spin.  And when we got back in the driveway, I looked at Andrea and said.  “I think we should sell it.”  She thought about it for a second, and agreed.  It was simply a trust issue.  We wanted to be able to head to the lake, or hit the road in it to go somewhere, and there was always going to be that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that it could leave me stranded at any time.  In reality, we could say that about anybody’s car, but I just didn’t trust the Blazer.

We were honest when we sold it.  Said that it had a host of electrical issues when we got it, but we fixed what we think is all of it.  A ton of new parts.  I really hope it treats the guy well.  Said he’s going to use it for a huntin’ wagon.  Should be perfect!

It did feel a little weird for a while after it was gone.  I get too attached to vehicles.  But now that it’s been a day or so, I’m just thinking about the next big thing!  Haha.  El Camino again?

Advertisements

The Blazer has a name!

“Lazarus.”  It’s almost even spelled like Blazer.  So after a hot day under the car port and with Andrea’s help, we got the Blazer going again.  The fuel pump we sent back as bad, probably wasn’t bad after all.  I ordered a new sending unit that comes with new wiring for the pump inside the tank.  So after dropping the gas tank for the 4th time, and swapping out the units… vroom!  Fired right up!  Runs just like it did for the two weeks before it died last time.  It’s a relieving feeling.

Andrea doing some of the grunt work.

So after all this… I think we’re selling it.  No way will we ever get for it what we have put into it financially, I’m prepared for that.  But after fighting us every step of the way, I’ll be honest, I really don’t even like it any more.  It’s like somebody who you just get off on the wrong foot with, and after that first impression, it’s just too hard to give them a second chance.  I mean, heck.  The ENTIRE fuel system is brand new now on this thing, but I just don’t trust it.  For somebody else, it could go another 100,000 miles, I dunno.  And we originally settled on Lazarus because it was cheap and available.  We really wanted a pickup truck in the first place anyway.

So I think I’m going to ask $900 and see what we get.  We’ll lose some money on the deal, but we learned a lot.  I’d never dropped a gas tank before.  Fairly good at it now.  Never tore this deep into an engine before, and will be a little less timid to do it in the future.  So it’s not a total loss.  Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself.  Haha!

#*&@! @&$* BLAZER !@*$&

Okay, screw everything I said in that last post.  The Blazer is dead again and I think I’m done.

Blazer Update

Well, I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t progress any further on the Blazer without spending some money.  Now that the weather is nice and Andrea and I have been talking about camping a lot this summer, we decided that we need to get it running ASAP.  Especially since we’re already paying for insurance on it (which isn’t much, but still).

So I finally think I’ve got the fuel pump wiring straightened out and working like it’s supposed to.  I decided to tear into the engine and inspect the fuel injector and fuel lines for any leaks and see if anything under the intake could be causing problems.

Upper intake manifold removed. You can see the injector in the middle and the fuel lines on the right. Do you notice anything odd? Look closely...

WTF!? A HOSE CLAMP to stop a leak? Just when I thought it couldn't get more rednecked!

I was amazed.  To think that someone would go through all the trouble to remove the upper intake manifold and put it all back together and not spend the $50 on the new lines to just fix it.  You can see the bright silver finish from leaking gas washing the wall clean and a puddle of gas and gunk down by the bolt at the bottom.  “Well there’s your problem!”

So with new parts in hand we set out the replace the leaky fuel lines and the injector.

Old injector vs. New one. Pricey little bastard ($270). The old one's lines were so brittle they stayed in the position they were installed.

Yup... it's old.

Yup... it's new.

These are the nozzles that spray the fuel. Not the best technology today, but it works.

Old fuel line from inside the intake. This is the one that had small cracks leaking fuel inside the engine.

Those fuel lines were the hardest part of the job.  They were obviously installed in the truck before the engine was put in at the factory.  There wasn’t a whole lot of room and ended up having to get some smaller tools to get the job done.  But after a bit of swearing, we got ’em out.

Ready to install!

With all the stuff out of there, cleaned all the gunk out of the intake. Didn't worry about making it spotless... not like anyone is going to see it.

My favorite part. Looking at all the new stuff perfectly in place.

Andrea got her hands (and face apparently) dirty with this job too! I love having a wife that's interested in this stuff!

As we were putting everything back together it started getting dark.

Before I tried to start it up, I told Andrea that I was nervous.  That either it was going to do the same thing it was doing before, or it wasn’t going to start at all.  Turn the key…. and it cranks over but wouldn’t start.  I could get it running with some starting fluid, but it dies once all the fluid is burned up.  It’s just not getting any fuel.

So I’m thinking we’re gonna need a fuel pump too.  I don’t regret spending the money on these parts as the both were shot, but it sure would have been nice if that were it.  Future updates to come.  I’m definitely in too deep now to turn away.

More wiring woes (Not the Blazer)!

Would you like that toasted?

Tuesday nights Andrea bowls league, which means I usually get some Guild Wars time in.  So there I am trudging through the Ring of Fire in Hard Mode (geek), when Andrea calls.  I just figure she’s calling to update me on her awesome bowling results for the night.  Turns out she needs a ride home because it’s 10PM and her headlights won’t come on on the Mustang.  SUPER!

So not much we can do in the bowling alley parking lot in the dark, so we just left her car there and picked it up in the morning.  By the time I’d gotten home from work yesterday, my awesome wife ALREADY had her dash halfway apart and found the problem.  Someone had repaired one of the wires at the light switch at one point with one of those crimp connectors and it had burnt itself to a crisp to the point that the wire just fell out.  Ever since I got a soldering iron, I can’t stand those crimp connectors.

So Andrea did all the grunt work herself.  I just did the soldering and she got it all back together.  Had a brief scare when we tested our work and the lights still didn’t come on, but found that the power lead had came out of the harness.  Snapped that back in and viola!  And easy fix.  Well at least my part was!

Best of all… Cost to fix:  $0.00

What to do with the Blazer?

Worst case scenario should I go fuggin nuts.

Damn.  I missed a day of posting.  Oh well.  I’m back and beating my average.  =)

So the Blazer has been for sale for a few days now.  Gotten at least a call or two a day on it.  I don’t want to turn this into a complain-fest.  But I REALLY hate selling stuff.  Half the people that have came and looked at it so far act shocked that it has issues.  And the other half have been, “TOTALLY AWESOME“, then never hear from them again.  Okay.  I get it.  I mean, I’m the same way.  Always looking for the deal of the year.  I can’t hold it against anybody.

So the reality is what do I do with this machine.  I’ve been driving it to work this week and it hasn’t had any problem getting me the three blocks back and forth.  But I’ll be honest.  If I want to go across town, I take the Toronado.  Ha ha!  If I could figure out the bogging down thing, I wouldn’t hesitate to keep it.  But before I can get that far… I’m going to have to throw some money at it.  So I’ve been tossing it around in my head and can’t really decide what I want to do.

So here’s some options, regardless of your automotive knowledge what do you think makes the most sense.  Feel free to offer other options than the ones listed.  I am choosing to list them from “cheapest” to “fully financially committed”.

1)  Keep it for sale at $800 until it sells.

2)  Keep it for sale, but lower the price until I at least get what I paid for it.

3)  Keep it for sale, but keep trying to fix it in the meantime.

4)  Not for sale.  Invest in the proper tools to figure out what’s wrong.  Possibly (but rarely) ever use tools again.

5)  Not for sale.  Start replacing parts that might be bad (could be cheap, or end up being VERY expensive)

6)  Not for sale.  Take it to a shop and have them find out what’s wrong and then try to fix it myself.

7)  Not for sale.  Take it to a shop and tell them to fix it.

So there ya go.  I suppose this is a decision I should have made BEFORE I bought the thing, hehe, but I’m interested to see what folks think.  Now, I’m looking for candid opinions here.  I welcome those who would tell me how crazy I am for wanting to keep it, or those who think it has tons of potential.  It’d take a chunk of change, but hell I could drop a Chevy 350 in there if I really wanted to.  And that would solve my engine problems for SURE.

Well, I think the Blazer is up for sale.

I may have to take a blow to my pride, but I might have to admit defeat when it comes to the Blazer.  I was out today loading up all the leaves I’d raked up a couple weeks ago to finally haul them off to the compost site.  As I was hooking the battery back up (because it’s drains dead if you leave it hooked up) I was running through my head what could be screwed up with that thing again.  The truth is I really don’t know.  I’m almost sure it’s something electrical, but I don’t know where to start without throwing parts at it to get it going.  Could be anything from a $20 sensor, or a $400 fuel injector spider.  And unfortunately I don’t have the tools to test the different components correctly.

So I could take it to a shop and hope it’s not something ridiculously expensive to fix.  But if it turns out to be the injectors I can’t really justify the cost of getting it repaired at the shop just because of the multitude of little nickel and dime things that the thing needs.

So after much deliberation I think we’re going to put it up for sale for a little more than we paid for it since it DOES run better than when we got it and it’s a hell of a lot cleaner.  Then put that money towards something that I wouldn’t be afraid to cross a busy intersection with.

The irony is I made two trips to the compost site today and it ran better than it ever has for me.  So far every time I’ve drove it longer than 10 minutes it would die.  But I probably was running around for a good 30 minutes and while I still couldn’t get on the gas without it sputtering, I could just drive around normally with no problem.  Sadly I don’t think there’s a good chance it’ll fix itself.

So if anybody here want’s first crack it it, I’ll give ya the family discount.  😉

How Did I Get Here?

I don’t know how it happened.  But it happened all rather suddenly.  We became an ATV family.  I’ve always felt the same way about powersports as I’ve felt about exercise.  If there’s not a destination, if you aren’t GOING somewhere, then what is it all for?  You go around and around, end up in the same place then, big whoop.  It’s not for everybody, but turns out it’s for us.

It began probably almost two years ago.  A friend of ours bought an ATV, she rides along the river with her family and kept sharing all these fun stories.  “You should get an ATV!  You can come ride!”  Yeah, yeah.  That’s a lot of money, and more work keeping things running just to go tear it all up.  It didn’t sound that fun.  But…  here in town, several people have ATVs and they putt around town on them.  Now THAT’s more my speed.  I don’t need anything super sporty.  I’d just like to have one I can roam around on and take off the road once in a while.  And then maybe someday go down to the river and pretend I know what I’m doing.

So we bought the Green Arctic Cat.  It’s 18 years old, but it was 4×4, and ready to roll.  Not too pricey, plus we already had the trailer… so…

It had been a long time since I’d drove an ATV, so I wasn’t too sure of myself.  But it didn’t take long to get used to driving it around the neighborhood.  It’s a “farmer’s ATV” I called it.  Not fast, not flashy, not cool.  That checks a lot of boxes for me!  Eventually I loaded it up on the trailer, and took it down to the river for a little fun with Lucas!

It was all going great, until Andrea was out riding.  It was her first time out and I probably should have given her some guidelines.  But she’d taken Luke with her to ride, so I figured, “She won’t get too crazy with Luke on there.”  Well they didn’t get dangerous, but she got into some deep water.  I think maybe she was thinking of those Youtube videos of crazy people taking their $10,000 ATVs through 4ft deep water.  Except that this was an almost 20 year old ATV that was maybe 1/10th the cost!

Long story short, the starter went out.  ATV out of service.  It wasn’t her fault, but she still felt bad that it happened while she was riding.

Even still.  With one broken ATV, Andrea was still hooked.  We figured we’d get this one fixed quickly (spoiler, it’s still not fixed) and she now wanted one of her own.  Still dumb to the world of power sports we went to look at another smaller ATV in our price range.  It was more of a sport quad than mine, which she liked.  Ended up buying a two stroke Yamaha Blaster that was even older than the Arctic Cat!

Never buy anything from a redneck.  You’d think my Blazer experience would have been enough to teach me “never again” but NO!  Only problem.  It smokes a little bit.  Okay… a lot a bit, and would sputter when the RPMs got high.  I know that two strokes smoke, at least old ones do.  But this one was too much.  But it was a great DEAL right!?

So let’s tear it apart and see what the problem is.  It’s just parts, right!?

So what was the problem?  Ok, quick 2 stroke engine school.  There are two seals on either side of the crankshaft.  Those seals have to be air tight otherwise the piston will suck transmission oil into the crankcase and burn it.  No sweat, change the seals… good as new, right?  Nope.

See that.  SEE THAT!?  So, that is a gouge by a SCREWDRIVER into an aluminum engine case.  The engine case.  That of which the entire engine is built upon.  Not by me.  Not by my screwdriver.  Somebody else.  Maybe the guy who sold it to us.  Maybe somebody before him.  But some cheap bastard who didn’t want to spend FIFTEEN DOLLARS on a seal puller jacked this engine up real good.

So options, what are the options?  Sell the Blaster for parts.  Take the loss.  Put the new seal in and just let it smoke and keep a spare spark plug in your pocket at all times.  Or, try to fix it.

Welp.  It’s all I could do.  JB Weld, we’ll see if you bring another miracle.  I filled the crevasse, pressed in the seal, and put it all back together.  I didn’t even know if it would run.  I let it cure for a whole week.  Not because it needed it but more because at least then it was Schrodinger’s 4 wheeler.  Until you try to start it, it both runs, and doesn’t run at the same time.  Finally got up the nerve.  It took several kicks, but eventually, it came to life!

I took it for a test drive, and it scared the CRAP out of me.  For a little 200cc, I didn’t expect as much power as it had.  It literally scared me.  It still smoked a bit, but eventually, the oil that had gotten into the crank case burned off, and it now just smokes “a lil bit”.

Since then it’s been a really fun ATV for me to drive.  That’s right… me.  This was originally Andrea’s remember?  But she never did get comfortable with the high revs of a 2 stroke engine.  A bigger 4 stroke has more low end power and is more forgiving about what gear you’re in.  She didn’t like how once you got into the higher RPMs the Blaster wanted to take off like a puppy ready to chase a bunny.

The plan is to sell this one, but nobody here likes it, which kinda makes me like it.  I’ve put a lot of work into it and it’s taught me a lot… so… I’m kinda attached now.  Maybe, I’ll keep it?  No matter what, It’s brought a lot of joy to us and the people we’ve been able to share it with, so I think it’s worth what we paid already.

So let’s do a head count.  1 broken ATV, 1 fixed ATV that no one wants to ride except me.  So what happens next… Andrea gets what she REALLY wants.

So here’s the secret to what Andrea likes: anything cooler than yours.  Haha!  She ended up getting a Honda TRX 450er.  This is a big girl 4-wheeler for sure.  Big size, big engine, fancy pants electric start, and finally… a helmet.  She likes it!  And she likes to ride it!  And it’s officially the newest vehicle we own, including the ones we drive everyday.  Haha.  She’s content and I think we’re finally set on the fleet.

Wait?  Whut?  Oh… no.  What about Lucas!  Heaven FORBID he be subjected to just riding with us.  Andrea found a little used electric powered on on the local classifieds.  Just his size.  Just his speed (slow).  Now we have another.

But remember that trailer?…. Too small.  Big enough for one.  That’s it.  Good greif… what a freakin’ hobby.  One thing leads to another and now we have a trailer big enough to haul all of this old junk around on.  FINALLY, we’re done, right?  RIGHT?  Gawd I hope so.

So what is so fun about it all?  How did we get in so deep so fast?  I mean the riding is fun, don’t get me wrong.  Even though I’ve only been down the trails a good distance only a handful to times.  With Emma being just a baby, we have never been able to go out as a family.  But the best part by far has been sharing the experiences with people.  Friends and family coming over and taking off for a ride with me or Andrea.  Watching people learn how to drive them, killing them, giving them crap about it, then watching them putt away once they finally get it down.  And then the big smile on their face when the get back to home base.

So with it being the middle of winter, and the holidays over, I have some work to do to get ready before spring.  Ranging from little things to big things.  The red one just needs the carb cleaned out and chain tightened.  The green one needs the engine put back together and new bushings all the way around, and the white one needs a new head gasket, exhaust flange, and a bunch of other stuff.

It’s been a lot of fun!  I hope that this summer we can spend more time riding, and a little less time shopping and fixing, haha!

Places and Things and Time

I like stuff.  You know things.  All the great advice for being happy though tells you not to put value into things, but rather put your value into experiences.  For me though, “things” tie me to those experiences.

Sure, it’s fun to get new stuff.  I enjoy it as much as the next person.  But I really like old stuff.  Things that have a story.  Things that bring back memories.  It’s not about the monetary value of the stuff.  When I’m gone, and no one cares about the stories anymore, all of my old stuff will just be junk.  And by the same line of thought, I don’t expect anyone else beside me to consider my stuff anything other than junk.  But let me tell you, I really enjoyed some old junk this past weekend.

Early summer in 1999 I quit my job at the IGA.  I worked all through the school year every year, and when summer came, I’d quit and soak up the long days with my friends Bob, Bef, Biebs, Chris and my girlfriend at the time, Andrea.  Ingalls, KS was far from the cure for teenage boredom.  So our cars and trucks gave us the freedom to break free of the predictable monotony of Ingalls and escape to things that at least by comparison were more interesting. We would spend nights and evenings fishing out at Dwyre’s sandpit, or Norb’s pond.  We’d drive to Garden to see a movie, or head to battle hill for an all night paintball battle.

Our good times were very much manufactured on the fly.  I remember one afternoon Bef in his 68 GMC and me in the 79 Caprice headed out to the Ingalls Airport and decided we were going to drag race each other there on the runway.  We rolled down the windows, lined up even with each other, and hit the gas!  The reluctant roar of both engines were followed by slow lurches forward, but all that mattered was who was going least slowest.  I don’t remember who won that race.  But I do remember one of the guys who worked at the airport running towards us out of the hangar shaking his fist and screaming something that I couldn’t quite make out over the roar of $30 worth of cherry bomb mufflers.

17 years later, the City of Ingalls and the Lions Club are organizing drag races on the runway at the Ingalls Airport.  And I still have that same Caprice.  They always say “you can never go back”, but damn… this is about as close as it’s ever going to get.  My stepmom, Carrie, asked if I was interested in going.  I played a cool “sounds like fun” attitude, but inside I was as excited as a 7 year old is for Christmas in November.  The day couldn’t get here soon enough.

Between then and now, plenty of life happened.  All of the work stuff and Luke’s school stuff, that I had expected, but Andrea’s mom’s health was starting to take a turn for the worse.  We decided that if she was willing, she could come stay at the house with us here.  We both knew it would bring a huge change to our daily life and what we’d grown to call “normal”.  As each week passed, she simply wasn’t getting better.  After a few scares and close calls, Jesus called her home.  Our life that had been less than normal, and for Andrea more challenging than ever, all of a sudden to a big punch straight to the face.

Working on the car had been an afterthought for weeks.  Instead I’d been building wheelchair ramps, juggling schedules to help with Luke so Andrea could go with her mom to appointments.  And taking evenings after work to get everybody out of the house so everybody wasn’t confined to the house until we all went crazy.  Suddenly, none of that mattered any more, but if life was now anything, it was less “normal” than ever.

A few days after her mom’s passing, Andrea said to me she felt like she just needed to get away and go spend some time with her aunt.  I told her to sleep on it, and if she still felt the same way in the morning, that she should go.  That next day she booked a flight to North Carolina to spend the week.

Luke went to stay with Andrea’s sister.  And I was a bachelor with one week to go before the race.  I had a pile of parts to put on the car, but nothing had gotten started.  At the time it just didn’t feel important.

The first night coming home to an empty house I mostly just sat and thought about everything that had transpired over the last 8 weeks or so.  8 weeks doesn’t seem like a long time when you think about life.  But it’s shocking how quickly 8 weeks can change your life.

Eventually my thoughts turned to the weekend coming up.  For a while with everything going on I did think about cancelling.  But I knew people were looking forward to it and even for Andrea it was going to be a pleasant distraction.  So I started tearing parts off getting ready for the new.

pulled apart

Ever since we got the car when I was 14 years old, it’s always driven like a yacht on choppy seas.  It started out I was just going to do an alignment, because the steering wheel was crooked and the wheels weren’t quite parallel just by looking at them.  But after I got the wheels up in the air I started checking out other parts.  The steering coupler in the shaft was worn out causing a big deadzone in the steering wheel.  The idler arm was toast, and so was the center link.  The tie rods weren’t terrible (must have replaced those at some point) but since they were less than $10 each… might as well replace them while everything’s apart.  Then I checked out the ball joints… after 37 years the original ball joints were still riveted in place!  So with the determination that the whole front steering needed replaced, I ordered up a pile of parts from RockAuto.com.

Parts.jpg

First thing I tackled was the wheel bearings.  Never done this job before.  Removing the bearing races was more of a challenge than I expected.  I remember the guy at Autozone asking if I wanted to rent a slide hammer to get the old ones out.  “Nah, I have a shop press.” I answered puffing up my chest.  “Oh.  Ok.”  He said.  What I found out is that the press is SUPER for installing the new bearing races.  But doesn’t really help you get the old ones out.  I remember thinking.  Boy.  A slide hammer would sure come in handy…  Nevertheless, I got it done by using the handle of one of my other tools and a rather large hammer.

bearings

bearings ready

With safety in mind I knew it needed a new gas tank.  One time when the drive shaft busted Dad pulled the car over on to the shoulder which angled down pretty good.  I noticed at that time that gas was dripping down onto the hot exhaust.  We played it pretty cool, but deep down I was ready to run.  Before we went out to the race, I knew I had to get that replaced.  Actually found a replacement gas tank at Autozone to my surprise.  And from experience I’ll tell you changing the tank on a 79 Caprice is quite a bit easier than it is on a 94 Blazer.

Next was the part that I dreaded the most.  Ball joints.  They just aren’t fun.  Grinding the rivets off takes forever.  And punching the rivets out is even more of a pain in the ass.  I end up using a combination of a screwdriver to pry up on the old ones and punching down on the rivets to get them out.  It just sucks.  Getting the lower ones out wasn’t difficult at all.  But pressing the new ones in was a nightmare.  They make the new ball joints bigger than the originals on purpose.  Thinking that after all this time a car has probably had it’s ball joints changed a few times and the hole it fits in has gotten a bit stretched out.  Well… since this old beast had NEVER had its ball joints changed, these new ball joints were a SUPER tight fit.  I kid you not, it took two whole nights just to get 4 ball joints changed.  You couldn’t pay me enough to be a mechanic every day.

After that I figured I was pretty home free.  Except that then I couldn’t get the tie rods to separate from the center link.  No problem.  I’ll just take the center link out with the tie rods still attached.  Except I couldn’t get the center link separated from the pitman arm that connects to the steering box.  I hammered away for probably 45 minutes.  Until finally I switched to a different sized fork, the one that I thought would be too big.  A couple solid smacks it came right apart. All about having the right too I guess.

tie rods.jpg

So after some cleaning, it was finally time to start putting things back together.  First the idler arm, the center link.  The spindles back onto the new ball joints.  The tie rods to the center link then to the spindles.  Before cinching everything down, one last look over everything.  Cranked down all the nuts and greased up the new joints and packed the new bearings.  The last part of putting it all back together was finally fun.

The Friday morning that I was supposed to leave, I still had to put in the new heater core.  I had gotten all the prep for that done at 4am, got a couple hours of sleep, and the new one went in with only a few problems.  I couldn’t use the original retaining bracket since the new heater core was slightly different than the original.  Nothing a few zip ties couldn’t fix.  No one will ever see them since it’s covered up by the heater box top.  Hehe.

heater core

Can you tell which one is new?

With everything finally put back together it was time to do the alignment.  I bought some neon orange twine and lined it up to be exactly parallel to the rear wheels.  I then set the alignment for the front wheels and some how, some way got each wheel set with just 1/8th of an in inch toe in.  I felt pretty good about it, and the car drives insanely better!  Now I just need new shocks….

With the work done and a quick road test from Andrea, it was time to hit the trail.  The car made it clear out to Cimarron with little fuss.  Dad got to take it for a spin around town.  I was happy for him to do so since he built the thing into it’s present form.  Except that every time I’m in the car with Dad… something breaks.  As we’re heading back to the house and Dad is gunning it around corners raising all hell across the town, I notice a CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK coming from the rear end.  We get home and I look under the car and can’t seem to see anything out of place.  Oh well.  If the car breaks on the track, we’ll figure something out.  Too late to do anything at this point.

I was up at 6am on Saturday morning.  Got my self cleaned up for the day and went to grab a cup of coffee.  The night before we’d fuel up the Black Car and the RV.  So pretty much all we needed to do was hop in and go.  We set out for the track around 8am.  When we got there there weren’t but maybe a dozen cars there.  Already though, they were cars all over the map.  From fairly stock cars to full blown track-only drag racers.  None of the workers really knew what was going on.  I thought this would be a pretty interesting day.

At-The-Race

Around 10am things started to get a little more organized.  We had a meeting with all the drivers who were there so far.  They made sure everybody knew this was just for fun, and to be safe so they’d have the opportunity to do it again.  Perfect.  This was going to be just my speed. And by my speed, I apparently mean slow.

fast cars

Sure.. I can beat these guys.

I will say, I have never driven anything faster or with more power than the Black Car.  But man compared to a lot of other cars there, sometimes it felt like I was just putting along!  Don’t get me wrong, it was still a blast!  I won I would guess 3 out of 20 races.  But I had fun every single time I went down the track.

It was such a cool feeling to pull into the box, light up the tires and smoke them.  Then back up to the line just like you see the big cars do.  Then everything after that happened real fast for me.  I’m sure after you’ve been at the line a hundred times, it all slows down in your mind.  But man from the moment they stage you to the moment the light comes on feels like a blur to me.  But then you hit the gas and go.

at the line

There’s definitely a skill to drag racing, and one I never mastered that day.  I spent most of the day trying to figure out how to get a good launch off the line.  I would spin my tires every time and the other cars would just drive away from me.  Maybe it was my tires, maybe it was my car, but I have a feeling it was the driver.  I saw cars with smaller tires than me get a lot better start!  So I do have a new respect for these drivers, as it’s more than just mash the gas and go.

I just enjoyed being there and being in the middle of it.  We love going to the drag races here in Great Bend.  But here I was really a part of it, even if not the star of the show.  I like to think there were people out there in the crowd rooting for me as the underdog.  It was fun to put the Black Car out on the track and see what it could really do.  It helps me decide the direction I want to take it in the future.  And it was just a great day to spend with the family.

Plus… I got to drag race on the Ingalls Airport runway again.

pit crew.jpg

10 Years of the Blog

Wow.  This is a bit unbelievable to me.  But the blog just turned 10 years old yesterday.  January 17th, 2005 I made the first post.  That’s a longer length of time than it feels like.  Because for me… it just feels like a short while ago.  But in 2005, ten years before that, I didn’t even have the internet.  THAT feels like a long time ago.

Then I start to think how much my life has changed in these past 10 years.  That’s when the time starts to add up and it starts to make a little more sense.  When this blog started, I was living in my tiny studio apartment in Milford, KS.  That place was certainly nothing to brag about, but it was perfect for me.  It was like a bedroom with a stove, sink and bathroom.  And that’s all I really needed.  I was only a couple steps from the refrigerator, back to the couch, or to the bathroom.  I’d come home from work at about 12:30AM and sit and play Final Fantasy X-2 while drinking Kool-Aid and eating pizza rolls until about 3AM.  In the mornings I’d get up and go for a walk down to the lake and just sit there and watch the boats and birds on the water.

Of course it was also the first place I was truly on my own.  Dad or roommates weren’t helping me with anything.  I had just dropped out of K-State and with that meant I had made the choice to enter the big mean world.  Luckily the Milford apartment was $260/month, all bills paid.  Even though I wasn’t making a lot of money, I was finally getting ahead and felt like I could start building towards something.

I’m not sure if it was the solitude or the little bit of extra money I had, but I started taking on a few little projects.  In that Milford apartment, I built my very first PC.  A Celeron D 2.26 Ghz, 256 MB DDR RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive, NVidia GeForce MX 128 MB, DVD-ROM/CD-RW.  It cost me $500 for everything, with a big old CRT monitor included.  It wasn’t a speed demon even by 2005 standards, but I sure was proud of it.  Even overclocked it to 3GHZ, hehe.  It just feels like I had so much more time to tinker with stuff back then.

And I definitely had some goals.  After hitting a deer, (last straw in a long line of hitting things, or things hitting me) one of the top priorities in my life was getting a new car.

 

I wasn’t quite ready to take that plunge yet though.  So my solution at the time was to rig up a 12v floodlight I bought at Wal-mart for like 6 or 7 bucks so I’d have 2 headlights and I at least wouldn’t get a ticket.  I remember wondering if it would even work.  But I figured, electricity is electricity.  So a few snips of the wire, and some electrical tape, and boom!  I was almost technically street legal again!

Ha ha!  I had forgotten about the Mountain Dew bottle propping up my other headlight.

I drove the car like that for almost a year and a half.  It still ran, the AC worked, I probably could have saved it pretty easily if I knew what I were doing.  But I was mostly just dumb.  The last winter I had it, the heater stopped working (probably because it was leaking coolant…)  But exhaust fumes also would seep into the cabin, so you had to have the windows down when you were driving or you would literally asphyxiate.  By now Andrea and I had moved into an apartment together in Manhattan; I remember driving home from work one night after DJ-ing at a club until 3AM, it was below zero, I had no heater AND had to drive with the windows down.  That’s when the new car hunt started hot and heavy.

Life kept churning in the meantime.  Andrea and I pretty much knew that we were going to be getting married.  But we were going to wait until she graduated from K-State.  We decided to move in together and get an apartment in Manhattan.  Boy was that an adventure.  I quickly realized how good of a deal I had.  We looked at a bunch of places.  Most of them were either way out of our price range, or total crap holes.  We eventually settled on a 2nd floor apartment at Evergreen Apartments in Manhattan.  $600 a month plus utilities.  But I was full time now and had somebody to share the expenses with, so it seemed like it made sense.

It was a nice place, especially at first.  For the first time on my own, I had ROOMS.  And a dishwasher.  We were closer to our friends.  There was a lot good about it.  But it was my first taste of apartment living.  Hearing neighbors arguing through the walls.  People coming and going all the time.  The guy upstairs that moved his furniture every Sunday.  It was a good place, but we both knew we wouldn’t be there forever.

In September 2005, we adopted Nala.  It was just a few days after moving into the new place and Andrea was super anxious to have a pet.  I’m sure she would have preferred a dog at the time, but I don’t think she could convince me.  Plus we didn’t exactly pay for the optional pet deposit at the apartment either, so a cat was easier to conceal.  Haha

This blog itself continued to morph.  I’ve been on WordPress for a long time, but originally the site was hosted on Blogger.com.  For a while in 2005 I actually hosted the blog on a webserver on my own computer from home.  It was really a mess though as Cox was blocking port 80, which is the default HTTP traffic port.  But it was the motivation to buy BGWillers.com, and I ended up doing some crazy port re-direct stuff that was just messy.  Plus if my computer restarted or anything like that, the blog went down.  It was the motivation to eventually move to a WordPress site that’s been so much better.

At the end of 2005 I got a new promotion at work, I went from just night time DJ, to Assistant Program Director, Music Director and Afternoon DJ.  Geesh.  I’ve been wearing multiple hats for way too long.  And I got my first desk at work!

Pretty big milestone that for some reason I never wrote about on the blog…. in the spring of 2006, I asked Andrea to marry me.  I guess I never wrote about it because we actually called and told everybody the old fashion way, so everybody already knew.  It was super cheezy how I did it.  I took her out to lunch at the first place we met (Arby’s).  Then we went out to Annaberg park and while we were sitting by the water, I popped the ring out and asked her.  I remember before she said yes, she said…. “BUT YOU DON’T HAVE A CAR YET!”  We had talked before that we did want to get married, but before I could buy her a ring, I had to get a new car… for my own safety.  So she was definitely surprised when she saw the ring!

Not long after that, I was able to get a car.  April of 2006 I picked up the Toronado.

I never bought the Toronado because of its looks.  I bought it because it fit some very specific criteria.  1. It ran and drove well.  2. I knew I couldn’t afford a mechanic, so it was similar to the Caprice which I had at least done oil changes on.  3.  The interior was in pretty good shape for the age.  4.  It was super cheap.  I paid $625, which I thought was a pretty good deal at the time.  Almost 10 years later, I guess it was.

But I literally had no idea how to work on cars, beyond an oil change and changing a tire.  I knew lefty loosy, righty tighty.  That was about it.  That’s why when I hear people say, “I wish I could work on my own car like you do.” I just think… no you don’t.  You don’t want to work on your car.  Haha!  And there’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s call it what it is.  If you want to learn how to work on a car, any car.  Just buy a cheap old thing, and find the stuff that’s broke.  Then Google how to fix it.  Congrats!  You’re me!

In July 2006, the site officially moved over to WordPress where it’s been ever since.

January 2007, the olde Pontiac 6000 found it’s final resting place at a Salvage yard in Junction City.  For months I’d been trying to sell it for a couple hundred bucks.  Nobody wanted it.  And I don’t blame them.  So I drove it to the junk yard, and they gave me $50 and I signed the title over to them.

Later that year in May, after 2 floods and the police visiting the neighborhood more frequently, Andrea and I started looking for a house to rent.  It was much the same story as when we were apartment hunting.  Everything was super expensive, or super crappy.  Sometimes both.  Houses like we really wanted were renting for $1,500 a month.  Eventually we found a tiny little house in Ogden that we both liked.  It was $700 a month, so it was an increase over what we were paying, but it was halfway between her work and mine.  The landlord seemed like a nice guy so we went for it.

Oh yeah.  Seeing that car under the cover reminds me!  The El Camino!  I almost forgot that fit into the timeline here.  I actually picked it up for $250 with a ton of parts BEFORE we moved to Ogden.  Which meant I didn’t have anywhere to keep it.  So knowing we were moving, I just parked it at the radio station.  It had a ton of parts in the back, which just looked like JUNK to everybody else, so before I started catching greif I threw a car cover over it.

There was a lot of new-ness going on around that time.  Because literally the day we moved into the house in Ogden, Andrea came home with a new dog.  I wasn’t too sure about having a dog.  Every dog we ever had was an idiot.  But Daisy and I hit it off pretty well right out of the gate.  Something about moving to new places that makes Andrea want pets apparently!

In September 2007, Andrea made a big decision that really changed the trajectory of our lives.  She decided to quit K-State.  It was not a decision she made easily.  But she decided it was right, and I was going to support her.  Until this point we’d kind of just been in holding, waiting for her to finish.  The house in Ogden never really felt like the place we were going to be very long.  My workplace at the radio station had been changing and it was looking like there was going to be very little opportunity to advance my career.  The wedding was on hold until she was out of school.  We were just kind of waiting around for the “next” thing.  So when she made that decision, it was like this speed limit sign on life got taken down and we were both free to go full throttle.

To start with, Andrea just needed to get a full time job.  So she took a job at Ray’s Apple Market in Manhattan and began working full time.  We started to really feel like grown ups!  Over the next several months we didn’t really know where life was going, but I felt like we could take it anywhere we wanted to go.

In the meantime, I was working on a little project.  Man I had so much time back then!  Were the days longer?  A panel at a time before and after work… I was painting the Toronado.  It took several weeks but the finished product was worth it, and I’m proud of it to this day!  Even though it’s seen better days.

Winter of 2007 brought an experience I’ll never forget.  On December 10th, we had an incredible ice storm.  We were out of power for 5 days.  Andrea and I were going to work just to be warm!  It also brought about the demise of the El Camino which took a tree limb to the roof when the landlord came to cut it down.

If 2007 is when the speed limit sign came down, 2008 is when we went full throttle.

It began with all the wedding plans.  We had finally pinned down a date of June 14th, 2008.  We were furiously planning away, all the while I was looking for a new job.  I drove all the way out to Gove, KS to interview for a Farm Service job that I didn’t completely understand.  I’m glad I didn’t get it because there would have been even fewer opportunities to grow at that position.

I also interviewed with a few radio stations.  The one that made the most sense was an Afternoon DJ in Great Bend, KS.  It was $100 a month MORE than I was making in Junction City.  And they were a growing company.  It seemed like a good opportunity.

So on the week leading up to our wedding, we got all packed up.  A huge storm came through and pounded hail across the area and brought a tornado that sent us seeking shelter at a friend of ours in Manhattan.  It left the Toronado battered, and all of our stuff soaked in the horse trailer that Dad was pulling to help us out.

So that week, Andrea and I moved to a new town, started a new job, and got married all at once.

The rest of that year we spent getting settled into our new lives.  Andrea started a job at CPI, a financial retirement company in Great Bend.  We we doing pretty well and started knocking out her student loans.

In August we took our honeymoon to Hawaii.  Wow what a place.  The whole time I was there I was just soaking up everything and trying to remember every little moment.  I knew it would be years before I ever got to go back, so I wanted to be able to remember everything.  It was an amazing place.

Things were going pretty good, I was making friends at work.  We were getting settled in to our new lives.  But things started to go south at the radio station.  There were talks of cutting people.  The general manager left.  The exciting growing company that I had interviewed with started to go south fast.

I remember the day the owners came in to talk to each of us one on one.  They talked to me first (big mistake).  They told me they were going to offer all the other programming people sales positions, and they wanted me to run all the stations by myself.  I told them I had to think about that.  I went back and told the whole crew what was happening.  All of us but one quit that day on the spot and I went off to work at Dillon’s stocking produce full time.

It was surreal.  I don’t remember being all that angry about it.  But all of a sudden, where we had this big outlook and plan for life, where we felt like we were really gaining some traction, it was like the rug just got pulled out from underneath me.

Working at Dillons was nice though.  It was super low stress compared to the situation I had just come from.  I had time to think, even while I was working.  All the management kept complimenting me on my work ethic, which was basically just showing up and doing what I was asked.  I didn’t mind going to work, and honestly I wasn’t making a whole lot less money.  I had actually considered riding out Dillion’s and seeing how far it would take me.

But I still had a friend in radio.  Kenny Titus, who I actually worked with in Junction City, now worked at the Eagle Radio station in Great Bend.  While I was with Rocking M, he had asked if I’d come over and interview for a position, I had just started and didn’t want to bail on co-workers that I really liked for the competition.  Well, come a year later, I’m working at Dillon’s and another position opens up.  It was basically a paperwork position.  But it was at a radio station and was a couple bucks more an hour than I was making.  Financially it was a smart move, so I actually gave Dillon’s the opportunity to match the salary, and would really have considered staying if they could.  So I accepted the position.  Worked out two more weeks at Dillon’s and then made the move.

My first day on the job was the last day of a couple that had worked there for a while.  So the whole crew went out for drinks that night.  My second day on the job was a company picnic, where they took a cooler of beers and cooked out at the lake in town.  So my first two days involved drinking paid for by the company.  Haha.  I was liking this!

So it’s 2009 now.  And it’s crazy to think about how much my job has changed since then.  I still do a few things that I did when I started there.  But it’s become a whole lot more than that.  On one hand it’s hard to believe it’s been almost 6 years at the station, and on the other it seems like a long time ago.

A couple months into the new job, and listening to Trading Post everyday, I made a huge mistake.  I bought the Blazer.  Oh man.  This thing was so hacked up it makes my head spin.  I’ve never been so pissed off at a vehicle before.  I think we dropped the gas tank four times and completely re-did the fuel system before it started running right.  At that point I had so little trust in the vehicle that we put it up for sale the next day.  I almost broke even on the thing, but I was glad to see it go.  I saw it driving around for a year or so afterwards, but I haven’t seen it in a long time.  I assume it’s finally been laid to rest.

2010 I think was the year I finally got settled into Great Bend and it started to feel like home.  I enjoyed work.  Our house wasn’t where we wanted to stay, but it was perfect for now.  We’d been making new friends, and I had time to relax and enjoy things.

That year I really got into Guild Wars.  Andrea and I had been playing off and on since we lived in Manhattan, but now I was really growing to love the game.  Guild Wars 2 still seemed like a long ways off and it was fun taking the heroes and doing all their builds then going through and steam-rolling everything.  I’d spend hours farming gold out by Lion’s Arch, and even now I have more gold in that game than there is stuff to spend it on.  It’s one of those few games that really hold a sentimental charm for me.

I also took the time to restore this old radio that I gave to Dad & Carrie later for their anniversary.

In December 2010 we had some new neighbors move into the house behind ours.  We’d been pretty lucky with our neighbors up until then.  We had a college girl that lived by herself.  Then an old lady.  But these two kids were 100% white trash.  They were knocking on our door to borrow stuff all the time.  The cops were over there at least once a week, and people were coming and going at all hours of the night.  I started to become really uncomfortable at my own home.  I knew we needed to start looking for something soon.

About the same time we bought the 1987 Cutlass from some friends of ours to replace Andrea’s Mustang which was becoming more problematic by the day.  So what’s the solution?  Obviously to buy something older!  Although we probably wouldn’t have bought it if we knew what was coming.

Hello!

I remember when Andrea told me she was pregnant.  I honestly at first thought she was just joking.  We’d been trying for a while, and then stopped trying and took more of a, whatever happens approach.  So when she told me, I seriously just thought she was just kidding.  Once I figured it out though, I was happy, scared a bit.  But I knew that there was no turning back, and from that point forward life was going to be different.  I wasn’t really sure how, but I knew it would be.

We still had talked about moving every once in a while.  The ghetto neighbors behind us were always up to something.  Then one day they brought home a little pitbull puppy.  They wrapped some chickenwire around a couple trees in the yard and put the dog in there.  That was the day we really got serious about moving.

A friend I worked with at the other radio station in town lived in Albert and had recently bought a house there.  He told me about a house across the street that was for rent.  We went out to look at it, but I knew it was a pretty big house and I still had memories of house shopping in Manhattan.  I figured there was no way we could afford it.  But we went and looked, and it was only $75 a month more than what we were paying in Great Bend.  I made triple sure Andrea was okay with living in a small town, but she really liked the place.  So we decided to make the move.

I still like this place.  It’s more than I think we deserve a lot of the time.  Then there’s other times when the basement leaks and the carpet starts to mold that I’m ready to start looking for new places.  Haha.  But generally I feel like we’ve got it pretty good!

In June I touched up Andrea’s Mustang one last time before we sold it to her niece.  She’s still driving it, but desperately wants something new.  Hey… that’s a familiar feeling.

The days until we were parents were flying by.  Seemed like every week we were doing something new to prepare.  Baby shower, baby stuff shopping.  It was hard to imagine at the time we were doing all this preparation for a little person we hadn’t met yet.  I tried to imagine what it was going to be like, but it was hard to.  We were installing car seats, and high chairs, and they set empty while we kept getting closer and closer to the due date.

People can describe to you all day long what it feels like when your child is born.  But it’s one of those moments that words simply can not do justice.  From the moment you hear his first cry… it’s suddenly real.  You are just completely overcome by joy, love, responsibility, and fear.  Pretty much in that order.

My life has changed in ways I couldn’t even comprehend since Luke has been born.  I was just talking to somebody to day that with a kid, you think about your life, and how busy you are and how tough it is to get by, that you wonder how you’ll be able to do it.  I wondered where we’d find the money, the time, and the energy to be good parents.  The answer is you make sacrifices.  Andrea and I both have sacrificed a lot since Luke came around.  But the thing is, I don’t know that I could tell you exactly what we’ve given up and I certainly don’t miss most of it.  Those things have been replaced by something so much more rewarding and exciting.  Watching Luke grow up is a joy I can’t imagine trading for anything.

Life kept going, and going faster and faster.  But with a new gravitational pull.  Andrea and I haven’t changed as people.  I still work on the cars, they keep breaking.  We still play games.  But all that feels like an outer layer of who we are and our family is now the core.

It’s so much fun to share the things that we love with Luke and to watch him grow and create his own thoughts around them.

From this point on pretty much everything seems like it happened yesterday, or at most just a few weeks ago.

There’s still bumps in the road.  But they don’t seem to rock the world quite as much as they used to.  Maybe that’s a sign of stability?  Maturity?  Or just the fact that those things don’t matter as much any more?  I’m not really sure.

I’m still finding time for little projects, though they are usually low cost endeavours.  In spring of 2012 I planted my first garden.  I grew potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes.  It was fun, but I sure am not a natural at it.  I still haven’t figured out how to keep all the bermuda grass from choking everything out.

Luke continued to grow, and I was shocked how quickly babies become little kids.

The garden kept growing too.

With everything going on, I was still finding time for one of my truly favorite past-times, gaming.  Guild Wars 2 was coming out and I was super hyped.  I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition so I got early access to the beta test of the game.  It really truly blew me away, how big and detailed the world was.  Andrea was content to keep playing GW1 though.

And Luke kept growing, and we keep sharing experiences with him.  We got to watch a solar eclipse together in May 2012.  It’s hard to believe he wasn’t even a year old at this point!

And as I’ve had less time to play games, collecting them has become more of a thing.  The thing that’s shocked me the most is how into it Andrea has gotten.  I think she gets just as excited if not more so than I, when we are able to add something new to the collection.  But it’s something that I have to keep a mindful grasp on, as things like this have gotten me into trouble before.

Then, in September 2012 we hit a roadblock.  The Toronado broke down, and I couldn’t get parts to fix it.

We were a one car family, so it was time to do something.  We had some pretty good savings, but we didn’t want a car payment.  The thought of that was pretty gross.  So we were looking around for vehicles.  We test drove a few, but the all seemed like crummy little cars.  I would have been happy with another grandpa car, but Andrea really wasn’t for that.  So we looked for a good three weeks or so.  Then I saw this red Jeep sitting on 10th St. in Great Bend.  I took it for a test drive.  Showed it to Andrea and she was on board!

We are getting closer to the present day.  As I look back through the blog at my posts, I really start to realize that I feel like life now has a momentum that’s greater than my own.  I have the ability to shift its course, but in general it’s on a trajectory that’s taking me with it.  Most days I figure that trajectory is up.  But some times it takes a little course correction.

As Luke continues to grow up, I can’t help but think of my own childhood.  How much fun I had.  I try to think about the things I cared about then.  I didn’t care about our car, or the house we lived in.  I cared about my room, seeing grandmas and grandpas.  Playing, and having fun.  And those are the things I try to spend more time actively focusing on, rather than the stuff, and the career.  Those things are important, but man, I think kids really have it figured out.

In May 2013, I got the opportunity to get my first ever car back.  Dad asked if I wanted it, and I sure wasn’t going to say no!  I don’t think too many people can say they still own their first car.  It’s got a whole lot that needs done.  But there’s still plenty of time… I think.

Later that year, after moving Luke out of our bedroom at LONG last, I began to build the Retro Room upstairs.  It’s cool to think about how far that has come in just a short amount of time.  What will it be like in 10 years?  Yikes.

Already, Luke is two years old.  Holy cow!  Time has really flown by.  He’s walking, talking, and really he’s his own person now.

In October 2013 I got to go to my very first Nascar race!  It was super cool.  Nascar is one thing that has kind of gotten away from me in the busyness.  But going to the race is just as exciting as I’d hoped it be.  It’s a completely unique perspective that everybody should do at least once.

One thing is for sure, as Luke keeps growing up, each Holiday is more fun.  It reminds me of how potent the different holidays were for me as a kid.  They were truly magical.  Special days that let you do things you just couldn’t on any normal day.

In the last year, I haven’t spent as much time on the blog as I have wanted to.  But it’s so much fun to go back and look at all these different memories over the past 10 years.  Without the blog, I’d still have the stories to tell, but I wouldn’t have the same kind of perspective on all these different events.  It’s my own sort of scrapbook I guess.

In some ways, life has changed a lot.  And in others not so much.  That’s the same for all of us I suppose.  I wonder whether this will still exist in another 10 years.  I wonder how much the internet will have changed and if these kinds of platforms will still be able to be accessed.  Or will it be like the old dial up BBS servers of the 90’s?

Time will tell I suppose.  I’m sure it will live on in some fashion.  Life for sure will keep going.  I’ll keep posting here as long as I’m able… just hopefully more often!