Author Archives: Matt
The Time Machine
This car is such an interesting piece of my personal history. These past few weeks had been coming up on my 20th class reunion, and I knew it was going to take some work to get the car back on the road. So I took the opportunity to start going through everything and getting it sorted out. Throughout the process I decided to do a little cosmetic restoration as well.
If you don’t know the story on this car, it was my first car, the car I drove all through high school. In the late 90’s I plastered a deer going 55 mph. It busted the grill, knocked loose a transmission line and I got stranded. Dad had to come get the car running again so I could drive home.
The summer before college the car finally bit the dust when the transmission gave up. I got it towed back to the house and there it sat as I went off to K-State. Dad tried to sell the car, but no one wanted the old, beat up, used up, non-running heap. After a few years he decided he was either going to haul it to the scrapyard, or he was going to build it up and get it running again.
My dad is the reason this car still exists at all. From the very beginning. When we picked up the car before my freshman year of high school in 1996 it needed so much work. He agreed to help me work on it, if I paid for all the parts. It needed basically everything, but he got it road worthy again. He used old fence pipe to make a new exhaust for it. When I hit the deer, he fixed the transmission and even hand bent and welded up a new grill from scrap pipe he found laying around, that I chose to paint red to match the bowtie. And when I left for college he put a whole new drivetrain in it and gave the car a whole new life and personality.
So this car has now been a vein in our lives for almost 30 years. But what would it mean to “restore” a car like this? In my mind it wouldn’t make any sense to try to restore this car back to the way it looked when it was on the showroom. That’s a car I’d be completely unfamiliar with. We could put the gutless 305 ci engine back in it, but that wouldn’t be any fun. We could paint it a beautiful deep metallic paint, but would it even look right?
As I was bolting in the new grill and headlight bezels, tightening down the lugnuts on the classic Cragar wheels, filling in the paint chips, I stepped back and was a bit struck by an image that I hadn’t seen since I was just a cringy, insecure high school sophomore. But within seconds I already kinda missed the red grill and centerline wheels that I’d just taken off.
That car existed in that (let’s call it 2.0) form for longer than I ever knew it in the state we first bought it in 1996. So which car is more “real”? Which version deserves to be memorialized? You could easily ask a stranger which looks better and I’m sure the average Joe would pick the stock grill and chrome wheels. But I was talking to a high school friend about it and the first thing he said when he saw it was, “You saved the red grill didn’t you?” YES! Absolutely I did, for all the reasons he asked that question. In his mind, and to a great extent my own, that grill was an inseparable part of what made that car what it was.
Scars aren’t pretty, but they all have stories. Some scars come from a life saving operation. Some come from stupid choices that we are grateful to be able to tell tale of. Everything wears out, gradually losing its luster, its precision, and eventually its function. That happens to everything and everyone, whether we do anything with our time here of consequence or not. But our scars? Those are unique to us. They’re the marks left behind of our story. As permanent as we are. No one can take them, and no one can decipher them without the key you keep locked in your memory. Nothing is more unique and placed by our own choices and consequences than our scars.
But what image do you want to present to the world, or really to yourself? What do those scars represent? Shame? Regret? Pain? Do you choose to live with it and overcome it? Or do you choose to divorce yourself from it and move on separately, better than before? I’m not here to say which is right or wrong. Life isn’t about playing every hand perfectly. It’s about staying in the game, and hopefully having something left to pass to your partner if you’re lucky.
The night I hit that deer wasn’t a particularly pleasant night. But when I look at that picture above, even though it was taken 20 years after that night, I now remember my friends who drove me all the way home in the middle of the night. My Dad who spent the time to perfectly bend each and every pipe to match the contour of the car so I didn’t have to drive a jalopy. A contemporarily terrible moment, turned into a sweet memory of people who cared about me.
And so, I want to treat this car with respect. I could easily get carried away and erase everything about this car that makes it so personal. With that said, nostalgia is the art of remembering the good times in a way that is likely better than they were. And if this car isn’t rolling nostalgia, I don’t know what is. There’s balance to be found in there for sure.
My Dad asked me, “What are you going to do with the old wheels?” A question I’d already thought about and would have been surprised if he didn’t ask. As much as this car’s memory belongs to me, it belongs to him too. And my family, and the friends who grew up with it. I’m a steward of their memories as much as I am my own, and to think that my feelings about the old black car are any more valid than my Dad’s would be a bit like me thinking I’m the only hero in this story. Like I mentioned in the beginning. This car still exists today because of him. That car had those wheels on it longer than they ever had the Crager’s that I remember from high school. There’s no way that the wheels that are on it now are the “right” wheels.
Those silver centerline’s aren’t going anywhere. I told him, I’m keeping them, and I want to get some honest racing slicks on those things. He built this car to go fast, and those rims deserve to have the right tires to make it the fastest, funnest, wildest thing it can possibly be.
I get so attached to things. But it’s never the thing really. It’s the stories attached to it. How it makes me feel. The time of my life from 1996 to 2001 wasn’t perfect. But I really did enjoy it, just like every other chapter in life so far. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget who I was, or the people that made a difference then. If this car keeps me thinking about those things, then maybe I won’t.
So it’s been about a year since I bought my first motorcycle. It’s something that I thought about a lot ever since I was a kid. Actually as a kid I had a little Honda 125 mini bike that I used to ride around in the concrete waterway behind our house in Dodge City. I remember one day I was riding down there and some cranky lady rolled down her window on Avenue A that ran parallel and said, “You can’t do that!” I remember thinking, “Uhh… yeah I can”. I didn’t say anything though.
As I got older though, I got my car and never really had any other motor powered things. And I didn’t really want for anything other than a car either. Four or five years ago we got the Arctic Cat ATV and started riding down in the river. I always really enjoyed it, but there were times that it was hard to make the time to get down there and get all the stuff loaded up. So alternatively I would ride on the country roads around Albert. There’s some fun back roads around here and you get a totally different perspective on the land when you’re on the back of an ATV compared to sitting in a truck. I found myself thinking I wish I could ride this thing legally on the street to ride anywhere I wanted to go. Then I realized that motorcycles are street legal ATVs with less wheels. It was like a light went off in my brain.
Casually I started looking for motorcycles. I didn’t want a big hog or anything, and I was somewhat scared of riding to be completely honest. Youtube was a great resource on how to get into the mystical world of riding because there’s so many different motorcycles with different engine sizes, engine configurations, riding positions and different brands and different prices. Then there’s all the riding gear. It’s a little intimidating to just jump in unless you have somebody who can kinda guide you.
Eventually I decided that I wanted a cruiser, and something big enough to take on the highway so I could do a longer trip if I really wanted to. So with that criteria in mind, I started to narrow in on what I was looking for as I browsed things like Facebook Marketplace and local classifieds. There was a lot of stuff out there, but most of everything I was finding was too expensive, or needed a ton of work.
I stumbled upon a video on a channel from SRK Cycles about the Honda Shadow RS. It hit me that this was exactly the bike for me. It’s simple. It’s reliable. It’s big enough to go on the highway, and it’s retro. Sign me up! A few searches later I found a guy in Lawrence selling one. And thankfully it was in my price range! We made the deal and I drove up one evening and loaded it up.
It’s a 2011 Honda Shadow RS. It has a beautiful red white and blue paint scheme. It’s a 750cc so it has plenty of power for me. And it’s fuel injected, so no carb cleaning or anything like that. I wanted something for once that wasn’t a project, and so far a year in all I’ve done is put a new front tire on and replace the battery.
When I got it home, I didn’t even ride it around town. I was too scared of it. Haha. I immediately signed up for a MSF course which would not just help me get my motorcycle license, but it really would (hopefully) teach me to ride.
I would recommend any new rider to take that course, or really any rider that hasn’t taken one yet. It not only helped me get over the fear of riding, but it made me a better driver behind the wheel too. I see the road completely differently now. Things like watching the wheels on cars in an intersection help you notice whether that car is starting to move. Looking down lanes in traffic to see what the driver in front of you is going to be reacting to that maybe they haven’t even seen yet. And of course just the basics of maneuvering a motorcycle.
With my new found confidence and freshly arrived gear, I got home, laced up, hopped on the bike and hit the road. That feeling of freedom really reminded me a lot of the first time we took the Wrangler out with the doors off. You really do get a sense of freedom driving a motorcycle that few other vehicles afford you. The bike drove great, and while my confidence was shakey, I probably put 50 miles on in the first day.
Early on as I was coming home from work I knew I needed to stop and get gas. So I pulled up to the gas pumps in town and I don’t know what my brain was thinking. I guess it wasn’t. But I got off the bike… without putting down the side stand. What an idiot. It busted the left rear turn signal. I was so upset with myself, but I suppose I’m glad the bike didn’t go down while I was riding it. I picked it back up and checked around to see if there were any witnesses… There weren’t.
The first summer with the bike I rode it a lot! The kids were staying with Andrea so I roamed around quite a bit but never really took it very far. But I rode it to work almost every day. I started getting more and more confident. I started out taking back roads and low traffic places, but the more I rode, the less scary it was to take it through the middle of town. And in fact it’s a really great bike for just getting around town. Not super heavy, so you aren’t lugging it around. And it’s pretty maneuverable.
The first “out of town” trip came earlier this spring. I decided to drive it down to my dad’s. I knew it was going to be cold, so I put layers and layers and layers on. It was still cold. Temprature outside was around 40 degrees. I made it to Kinsley before I pulled into the park and warmed up. Just getting off the road made the 40 degree temps feel warm! I had figured it be around 60 degrees when I got to their place, but when I pulled into their driveway it was still only 52. I shivered and shook at their house for probably at least a good 30 minutes. I never before had been “chilled to the bone” but that did it.
The ride home was a lot more comfortable as I left in the afternoon and enjoyed 70’s and sunshine the whole ride back.
With the kids around it’s not as easy to ride, but I’m usually able to ride at least to work once a week. They want to ride on the back, and I’ll haul Lucas around town, but other than the driveway, I’m not quite ready to take Emma around. They like the motorcycle though and think it’s pretty cool.
Just a week or so ago I got back from my longest trip yet. I drove about 500 miles round trip to my friend Matt’s place in Kansas City. I took Highway 56 the whole way up there, which I guess I never really paid attention that it follows the old Santa Fe Trail. So there was a ton of places to stop and check out along the way. I didn’t stop at every historical marker on the way just because it would have taken ages to get there, but it was need to see so much history and so many towns that sprung up back in the days of the Santa Fe Trail and see what’s getting them by today. Some are doing better than others for sure.
Right now on long rides, I can get about 50 miles in before my butt starts hurting. A nice break helps, but then it starts creeping back in about 40 miles or so. I’ve looked into new seats, but I think the result is to just suck it up. Probably wouldn’t hurt if I decided to lose about 20 pounds or so too…
The only part of the trip I was nervous about was riding on Interstate 35 in Kansas City. But to my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all! Granted I wasn’t in rush hour or anything, but there was a decent amount of traffic. So I was pretty proud of myself for not chickening out.
I think one of the things I like the most about riding, is the solitude. On the bike, nobody can call me, nobody can text me, nobody can talk to me. It’s just me, my thoughts, and the outdoors. No interruptions. There are so many interruptions in life, both real and virtual. That there is some joy to being truly disconnected from it all.
Since I started riding, I’ve had a few people volunteer their “I used to ride until X” stories. And it’s not that I don’t think that kind of stuff wouldn’t happen to me. I mean, yeah, riding a motorcycle is in fact more dangerous than driving a car (which is already pretty dangerous). But for me that’s kinda the point. Every time I hop on that thing, I appreciate being able to do it. I appreciate the experience. Could something happen? Sure. Could something ELSE happen that takes me out? Inevitably. So why keep yourself from things that bring you joy?
Annual Blog Post
Well, looks like it’s about that time. Haha. I don’t post once a year here on purpose, it just sorta happens that way. It’s truly remarkable how fast the time goes. I remember adults lamenting about how fast time passes when I was a kid. To “enjoy it while it lasts”. It always felt kinda bitter in context when I’d hear it, but I suppose I’ve gained the perspective to understand it a little bit better. And if anything “enjoy it while it lasts” is sound advice no matter where you are in life.
It’s nuts to think that Lucas is only a year away from Middle School. He’s only a few short years away from getting his learner’s permit. There’s going to be so much change in the next few years in his life, and I’m really looking forward to soaking up every little moment along the way. He and his friends are starting to talk more about “who likes who” sort of stuff now. It’s fun to listen to him talk about it. It’s such an innocent/not innocent take. He was telling me a story about playing truth or dare on the bus. There was an awkward moment building up and it just happened to time out that the bus got to the bus stop and he just proclaimed to everyone, “I’m outta here! And I was off like a shot.” he said.
He’s pretty forthcoming and honest. Like he’ll admit that he uses “bad words” around his friends. And I don’t come down too hard on him other than saying, “If you know they’re bad you know those words can get you in trouble. And getting in trouble over a word is pretty dumb.” To which he’ll say, “Good point.” Haha. What a guy.
Emma has hit a freaking growth spurt! All of a sudden none of her pants fit anymore! I swear it was just a week or two a go they were all too big. She’s just about to turn 5 here in a couple weeks, and some of her 5T stuff, is just too small. She’s been scarfing up everything in sight. A pretty stark contrast to not that long ago when it was a high level negotiation to get her to eat anything at all.
I love the way her brain works. She loves everyone, everyone loves her. She’s insanely curious about the world, and super sharp and observant. One of my favorite moments is picking her up from daycare and taking her to pre-school. We have about a 30 minute drive every weekday and it’s so fun to pick her brain while she munches on the lunch I packed for her. (She’s the only kid I know that will eat the entire crust off her PBJ FIRST and then eat the rest of it)
We’ve gone over the last year and a half or so from counting and “What do cows eat?”, to talking about Ninja Turtles, how to bake, how the north wind is cold, and the south wind is hot, why turkeys aren’t chickens, and a very thorough analysis of Emma’s family tree, past, present, and future according to her.
I’m so happy I got to have both a boy and a girl. It’s so wild to see what kinds of things each gravitate to. Emma definitely draws more pictures of “friends, pets, unicorns, etc”, where as Lucas at that age was all about cars and tanks. He still is! Is it a boy girl thing? Did I subconsciously influence them? They are definitely their own unique complex humans for sure. They have their own big dreams, wants and desires, just like I do. And the time really does fly. Trying not to take any moment for granted.
This spring has been really pretty good. I’m settling into life a little bit now. The first school year after my divorce wasn’t “hard” as so many situations weren’t stressful because “you just have to do it” there wasn’t any choice to it. I liken it to changing diapers. Changing someone else’s kids diapers is a hard pass. But when it’s your own kids, you just kinda have to roll up your sleeves and get in there because no one is going to do it for you. Finding childcare, balancing work and home, staying up on projects and chores. It was just something that wasn’t going to take care of itself, so I just got in there.
The kids were gone most of last summer, and it gave me a chance to put some focus back on work and my new position. While the timing was good for that, when the kids came back for this school year, I really found myself off balance. Projects ground to a halt, I had a hard time keeping up on the house, the kids felt like they were in constant need. I was really searching myself to try and figure out what changed.
Looking back I think I was just expecting too much from myself. I was trying to squeeze too much family, too much work, too much everything else, into too little time. Still today I find a lot of my days booked, or scheduled out, or filled with stuff more minutes than not. But I’m getting more realistic about what I can and can’t do with that time. I was having a conversation with someone at work that I put on my calendar “Print document for Patrick”. That didn’t seem like something you should have to put on a calendar, but if I didn’t budget the time for it, it just wouldn’t get done. So I’ve really been putting almost everything on the calendar. I haven’t gone as far as “do the dishes”, however, if it’s something that’s really been nagging at me for a while to get done, I will absolutely put it on the calendar no matter how mundane it is so that I don’t end up spending that time somewhere else with something else. It’s really improved my mental health quite a bit.
And this spring has given me a lot to look forward to. I feel like I just sorta “made it through” the last year or so. But this spring I’m really starting to build towards the things I really want to do. I got the JetSkis sold. Those were just a big bulky thing sitting in my yard reminding me every day that they served no purpose in my life right now. They are gone. I just had one ugly loveseat in my family room, and now I’ve got a big ol couch and comfy recliner down there, along with a foosball table that Luke and I can throw down with at any moment. Luke has his own ATV now that we can all go out and ride together with. The van and the truck are both running great and I can hop in either of them and go anywhere without the stress they could explode.
I’ve really been enjoying the YouTube thing as a hobby. It’s been fun to watch it slowly grow from nothing. It’s still tiny, but it’s cool to put something out there and get feedback on it, most of it positive. Haha.
There’s just this feeling of optimism that seems like I’m gaining some momentum and it feels good. Today I’m going to enjoy a nice day outside finishing up the ground work in the yard and get some grass planted. By next weekend I’m going to have to mow, and I always look forward to time spent on the Ride King.
Summer is coming which means the kids will be out of school and my schedule will be changing a bit again. I’m sure that will come with another period of adjustment. But we’ll see how it goes! With Andrea back in Great Bend, the kids won’t be gone all summer like last time, something I’m looking forward to quite a bit.
I’ve been actually writing a lot, but it’s stuff that never makes it to the blog. Every time I check in here, I always tell myself that I want to do this more often, and I certainly don’t want to commit to that right now. But this has become a pretty remarkable archive of my life. One that I’m thankful exists and deserves that I continue to contribute to in some way. But for today, this is it.
It’s okay to be lazy (sometimes)
I go through phases where I mentally beat myself up for not getting done all the lofty plans I make for myself. I was laying in bed this morning before the kids woke up and found myself thinking, “Okay, how can I put this unknown amount of ‘me time’ to use before Dad mode has to kick in?”
Then the more I thought about the projects I could start or continue working on, I thought to myself, why do I have to fill every waking moment with some sort of accomplishment? Getting the kids up, dressed and to school on time is an accomplishment, having a productive day at work is an accomplishment. Finding time to play with the kids between making supper, doing laundry and hopefully staying on top of keeping the house clean is an accomplishment. That last one sometimes slides for a day or two! I came to the conclusion there in my bed that it was okay to take a few unknown number of available moments and let the world exist without me trying to improve it in any way.
So what do I do? Grab the computer and decide to blog. Another thing I’ve been putting off forever. Haha. What a hypocrite!
Don’t worry, I’m not writing furiously. I’m pausing a lot to take in my surroundings and bask in the tranquility. I hear the sound of Luke’s radio in his room. It’s funny how he sleeps with a radio, and Emma doesn’t. The hum of the refrigerator. And the faint sound of birds chirping through the closed living room window. The sun is just on its way up and I look forward to the mornings here in just a couple weeks where I can sit in this spot on the couch with a warm cup of coffee and open up the window and let the outside in. We’re not quite there yet. It’s 31 outside this morning!
A stark contrast to last night. I’ve never fallen victim to a panic attack, but I definitely hit my sensory overload yesterday. Luke had some friends over and they’d been playing, but it was getting close to supper time so everyone headed home. Luke was sad and angry that his friends couldn’t stay and that energy was being directed my way. I was folding laundry and wanted to get that task accomplished before I moved on to supper myself, and Emma asked for a hot dog. I informed her we were having ravioli and she lost it, and started crying like her dog died. She’d been a little short on sleep the night before, so she’d been quite the pistol all day. I also made my own mistake of having a YouTube video in one ear while I was working on laundry.
So all at once, I had an angry 9 year old accusing me of being the reason his friends have to eat food, a 3 year old crying desperately for a hot dog, and guy trying to fix a Commodore 64, all hammering at my mind simultaneously. It was so frustrating in the moment. Like everyone had a problem that I was supposed to fix for them, and I had my own stuff too!
I pulled the earbud out of my ear first and just stood there for a second, listening to the sobs of “Hooooot dooooog! Hooooot dooooog!” I looked at Luke and asked him to give me a hug. He’s pretty easy to talk down with hugs and that worked. Emma I just calmly doubled down on the no hotdog business and started the ravioli water boiling and went back to laundry.
Emma wandered into her room and continued to cry, not for a hotdog, but now mourning the loss of the hotdog that could have been. I’m not sure how long she cried, but I finally noticed she had stopped sometime halfway through the ravioli. I went in her room and she was passed out in her bed. Tuckered out from the day. The meltdown wasn’t really that I wouldn’t give her a hotdog, but rather, she was just tired. But being as it was only 5pm, I thought Oh Hell No! Were not going down for the day at 5, she’ll be up at 3am! SO I had to lure her out of bed. But I couldn’t offer her a hot dog of course, so I settled on a cookie. The offer no kid can refuse.
Luckily she hadn’t fallen hard asleep yet and the cookie didn’t spoil her dinner. We all ate ravioli, and Luke’s friends showed back up after supper time, so he got to go back to playing. And everything sorta just took care of itself.
It’s so hard in those moments though not to just get angry at your circumstance. To feel like “this isn’t fair”. And in those moments I just try to think instead, “this is happening right now”. Disassociation is definitely my favorite coping mechanism!
As it got later and friends went home, bedtime routines here got started, I really wanted to finish my SE/30 video I’ve been working on. But I decided to play some Minecraft instead with Lucas after Emma went down. Later as I tucked him into bed he said his prayers and he thanked God for getting to play Minecraft with Dad. Nothing quite melts your heart like hearing something like that. I ended up feeling pretty good about my choices for the day.
It was now about 10:30. I still had high hopes of getting the rest of that video shot, but before I knew it, it was morning. I made the mistake of laying in bed until Luke fell asleep, and darn it if I didn’t end up asleep too.
So Sunday remains. Will I get that video done? I dunno. I mean it will get done someday and in the meantime I’m going to probably get a lot of other useful things done too. Everything has an opportunity cost and you have to come to grips with not being able to do everything in the world ever. Choose goals that are important sure, but don’t forget to choose what’s important in the moment too when life presents you with the choice.
Youtube and Things
I’ve started a journey that is sure to detract from the blog even more than Twitter has already done. I’ve started creating videos for YouTube. I’ve posted some videos on YouTube in the past, but I’m starting to create content that is somewhat… watchable? Well, at least entertaining to an audience. Now that is certainly a very small audience, but one that if they ever find it, will really appreciate it I think.
My content is a bit all over the place, so I was trying to think of a theme that ties it all together. I didn’t really want to box myself into making one certain kind of video. After a while I imagine that just feels like work. I don’t see YouTube being my primary source of income ever, so it better be enjoyable as a hobby. So I decided the theme should be “Being bad at fixing things, but succeeding anyway”.
The inspiration has just come from so many people that say, “I wish I knew how to do ____ like you do.” Well you can. You just have to tolerate being bad at it.
I’m now 24 hours into trying to create some system disks for my Macintosh SE/30. It’s been a video series that I started, did a really bad job re-capping the motherboard, but so far it’s working anyway! I’m sure that some people would see my method and cringe, even get angry that I’m “destroying” a classic computer. But if it works? Plus I think a lot of people would dive into whatever that thing is that they’re interested in, but there’s so much gatekeeping that goes on with the elitists in that field, that people are way too intimidated to even start.
Even if you don’t have all the experience, or the best tools, or whatever. Who cares. Take on a project and see how it goes. It won’t be perfect, but to expect your first project in something to be perfect seems like a pretty unrealistic expectation.
Just like making these videos. I know the sound and editing isn’t the best. But you publish them anyway, and hope that you learn something to make the next one better.
I’ve been enjoying it so far. It’s been a little frustrating at times, but most of the things you truly care about should frustrate you at times. It means you really care.
So I’m going to get back to this video. As for right now, to see the content just search “Matt Althouse” on YouTube. Right now I have 35 subscribers, so give me a boost! I think if this continues to be a focus I’m going to have to open a brand channel so I have a few more options with what to do with it.
Okay. Back to “work”, which by work I mean my hobby. Which is a pain in the ass sometimes. Like work.
Since I’ve been a single dad, I started thinking about picking up a second vehicle for hauling the kids around. I have the Silverado, which is an extended cab. The back is roomier than the extended cabs of yore, but on a long trip, that back seat is really cramped. Emma’s feet touch the seat in front of her no matter how far forward you move the front seat. So I started looking at older SUVs, and even minivans.
Looking cool wasn’t a priority. I really wanted something roomy and with the kids traveling 4 hours twice a month, I wanted something they’d be comfortable in. As I was browsing local listings, a couple of these vans would pop up into my search. But most of them were rusty, or busted up. So my focus kept going back to SUVs and minivans. I almost bought a Toyota 4Runner, but it already had 250,000 miles. There were several minivans in my price range, but the more I looked at vans, the more I kept seeing conversion vans.
Then suddenly, this van popped up on Facebook marketplace, and it was in Great Bend! I messaged the seller right away and even though the listing hadn’t been up for a day yet, he said he had 4 people coming to look at it the next day. Maybe… maybe not. You never know. But it was a nice looking van from the photos. So I made time to go look at it that night.
I had the kids wait in the truck while I looked it over. It was definitely old. 1993, but there was no hidden rust, all the fluids checked out. It started right up. If nothing else I figured it was worth the risk. So we bought it that night. The kids LOVED it instantly. So much room inside. They thought they could run around inside while I was driving, but they were a little disappointed when they found out that they had to stay buckled in their seats. But when we got the van back home, they got to unbuckle and roam free. They put all the shades up, and down, and up again, and back down, and then Dad told them to stop.
They loved the fold down bed. Again they were bummed that they couldn’t lay down in the bed while we were driving. But if we decide to go camping some time, this will be better than a tent!
The story of the van involved some long trips to Denver in the mid 2000’s for cancer treatments for the previous owner. Then the van set for a long time, like 10 years in a barn. So that’s always a little bit scary when a vehicle has sat for a long time. The biggest problem was the tires. As best I could tell by reading the codes on the tires, they were from 1998. Yikes! That’s some old rubber. They looked fine, but I didn’t want to risk a blow out with my family on the road. So the van sat for a couple weeks until I could get some tires.
I decided that I wanted to save a little money since I sorta blew my budget on the van itself. So I ordered tires online. I figured I could just swap out my own tires. When I was a kid I replaced my own bike tires all the time. WEEELLLL. This was a little harder. These tires were super old and had become “one with the rim”. I tried busting the beads loose with my shop press, and nothing doing. But after a trip to Harbor Freight for some tire changing tools, I eventually got it done. And still saved about $200 from going to a tire shop. I definitely worked for it though!
Much to my satisfaction, the tires didn’t leak air, and honestly below 70 miles per hour, they are balanced great (total accident).
Since then I’ve been driving the van quite a bit. I take the kids to school/daycare and they love it. The only other immediate problem I had was that the heater didn’t work very well. I pulled off the heater hoses and flushed out the cores with a garden hose and a bunch of brown nasty water came out. After that the heater worked AWESOME! Here on the last trip the heat started to fade a little bit, so I bet there’s still more sediment in the coolant that is getting caught up again. I might have to flush it a few more times as we go, but it’s easy to get to right under the hood and only takes about 20 minutes.
Non immediate stuff includes the “party/mood” lights. They blow a fuse instantly when you try to turn them on. So I have to try to find the short there. That’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. And the rear blower fan is seized up. That’s a pretty cheap part, but so far I haven’t found any way to get all the trim panels removed without destroying everything in the process. So that’s going to have to wait until the kids are gone for a little while before I attack that. I suppose that I could just go back to the truck for kid hauling purposes, but the front blower does a good enough job keeping everything nice and toasty.
So it’s been the butt of a lot of jokes. I’ve heard them all already. But it’s spacious, it’s comfortable, and it gets pretty much the exact same gas milage as the truck from what I’ve measured so far. There’s plenty to work on like any old car, but I kinda dig that stuff. I took the kids 2 hours to meet their mom this weekend, and Luke said he felt like he was in an airplane. Haha. Perfect.
Adventures from Computer Reset: Chapter 1
So I had a lot of items to choose from for my first project from my Computer Reset trip. I decided to go with one of the oldest machines I picked up. A Pentium I Micron Millennia from 1996. Now Computer Reset was a computer repair / reselling shop. So there’s a good chance that everything that’s in there is broken, and sure enough this one needs some help right off the bat.
When I opened up the case, I was surprised to find how clean it was inside. The volunteers at Computer Reset have done a lot of work, but it’s still far from the cleanest place on earth. I did see a few cockroaches scatter when I moved certain boxes, and a lot of stuff was covered in a varying degree of what we will just call dust. If you want to get more specific, your imagination is the limit. So when I opened this up, it was honestly cleaner than most of the PCs I work on for people in their homes!
There wasn’t anything too surprising or unexpected in here. It was a decently equipped machine for 1996. Plenty of RAM, CD-ROM, a Diamond Stealth 3d video card and a 10BaseT ethernet card. We didn’t get our first Windows PC until 1997, but even then this machine would have blown it out of the water. The only real problem it has is that the hard drive appears to be dead.
So swapping a hard drive is easy enough, except that over the years most of my IDE hard drives have either died, or been shipped off in old computers as hand me downs to other people. So I picked up about half a dozen IDE drives at Computer Reset, but I went through every one of them and they all appear to be dead. Some more convincingly than others. One actually started transferring files then suddenly started making a violent shrill sound that sounded like it was going to send shards of the platter hurtling into the room at any moment.
The inevitable doom of every spinning hard drive is something that in life, probably makes me contemplate my own mortality more than any other. You see, hard drives dying isn’t a new thing. I’ve had many die on me over the years but when one did, I always just went and got another spinning hard drive to replace it. They were ubiquitous. But now as more and more of them give up, and there aren’t really any to replace them that aren’t themselves already about to die, I can’t help but think about how no matter how normal and mundane every day may seem to be, there will come a day where you can never have a day like that again. It may seem normal, or even frustrating for my kids to leave the table a mess, smear applesauce all over it, and leave their toys around, but someday not only will that not exist anymore, but I won’t even be able to re-experience it again save for some pictures, videos and memories. Eventually, everything comes to pass.
That got pretty deep.
So after trying six hard drives including a 150 Gig one that showed up as an 80 Gig in BIOS here, I didn’t have any luck. The best I could get is that the install disc would create the MSDos partition and then hang on reboot. Once it did that, that drive was hosed (at least on this machine) I’m sure I could format it in a different machine, but I would have to get out ANOTHER PC that has an IDE controller in it and I haven’t been up to that task… yet.
Instead I ordered a compact flash to IDE adapter. I love the sound of spinning hard drives, especially these ones from the mid 90s, and the clicking of the heads. But as much as I love working on these things, I don’t want to wonder if I’m going to have a new project on my hands EVERY time I power a thing on. This should be reliable, and easily swappable to other machines. I can easily back up hard disk images on my server for most of these old machines that don’t require that much space at all.
So that’s coming Tuesday. I look forward to spending some time learning my way around that and getting it up and running with a classy Windows 95 setup and maybe even trying to play games or send a Tweet or two from the Micron Millennia!
Long Long Time
I still think about this blog from time to time. Believe it this is the first post of 2020 here. That’s pretty incredible. I’m not going to bother going back and recapping what’s happened since the last post. You can check out my Twitter @kartmaster for that. I think I decided to pop open the blog mostly because I wanted to write on the new MacBook Air.
I ordered this thing a while ago, and so far I’m pretty impressed. I’ve had some old Macs… back when they called them Macintoshes… But this is the first contemporary Mac I’ve ever owned. With all the new specs and what not. It’s an “M1” Mac, which is Apple’s basic processor that they use in the iPads and whatnot. Such a weird experience, because this thing is honestly fast! And I’m used to comparing mobile as slower. I know there’s going to be faster machines that come out in just a month or two, but for now it’s pretty neat to be able to use a machine that’s so snappy and responsive towards basically anything that I ask it to do.
Definitely still getting used to MacOS though. Everything is just sorta opposite that it is in Windows. Almost like one is trying to make it look like it’s trying too hard not to be the other one. Not saying who’s copying who. Haha. But other than the growing pains of learning a new OS, I’m getting along okay.
Also just got back from Computer Reset in Dallas! How cool was that! Just stack after stack, after stack of vintage PCs and stuff! I wish that I would have brought home more, but I was pretty happy for what I ended up with. Plus it was a fun trip. It’s been a while since I headed out on an adventure. I covered almost 1,000 miles in two days! Dallas seemed pretty cool. Definitely would like to go back there when time permits.
Man, I’m starting to drift off while I’m writing. I’m going to have to call it a night.
No. I’m not dead.
So Many Pies
I feel like I’ve got a little bit of something in everything right now. “A finger in every pie” I believe the saying goes. I’ve gotten the opportunity to dive into a few more projects here recently, and some still waiting to get done.
The Basement has been sitting in pre-construction phase for a while now. After the flood and ripping everything out, then flood 2, I’ve been a little gun shy to put it all back together. But my Dad kinda has been leaning on me to get past the fear that it might flood again, and start rebuilding, so I have. We got some drywall put up and I almost am done putting in another in-wall shelf that Andrea and I have talked about for years to go under our TV. We’ve been making some visible progress, and that feels good! We should have some help coming this weekend to finish off the drywall. That would be fantastic. Then it can really come together after that.
For fun I’ve been having some good times with the Apple IIe from the side of the road, cleaned up and restored that. Stopped short of retrobriting it because a) It’s not too yellowed, and b) I’ve seen some of those projects go bad. So I’ll leave it be. I’d like to find some junk electronics to test the process on and see what works.
Another side project is an old Dell server that I’ve absconded from work. It was taken out of service several years ago, and honestly doesn’t even have a TB of storage across all the drives. But it’s a thing I’ve been playing with, the ultimate goal is to set it up as a file server, and VM box for emulating retro operating systems. So far I have Windows 95 up and running.
I’m still studying spanish, though more passively. I need to get back to it actively, I still expose myself to spanish media, my devices are in Spanish. But I want to make another hard push leading up to the new Animal Crossing game coming out in March. I have resolved to play that game from the beginning in Spanish only. It should be fun!
Basement is the big looming thing though. I want to get that put back together to the point we can get the carpet ordered, which is still a few months away at this point with all the painting to do even after the drywall is up. So I’m trying not to look TOO far down the tunnel.
After that, it will be time to tear into Andrea’s ATV and see what’s up with the engine. It runs, but it makes an awful noise. I don’t know if it’s a bearing, a piston, or what. Won’t know until we tear it apart.
It all gets done… slowly!
The State of Things
I am in my zone. For whatever reason I feel like a lot of stuff has been coming together. Yeah sure there’s a lot out of place, but nothing that I feel like is out of control. We’ve had a tree fall on our house, well a big part of one. A flood. ATV problems. Car problems. Budget problems. But all that seems like stuff that we can knock out just given enough time. All the imporant stuff is great.
Emma is growing so fast now. Every day she is picking up new words and phrases, she is starting to be able to communicate. It’s a little bit of a relief. Every stage is a lot of fun with kids, but communication sure makes the job of parent easier in a lot of ways. She wants to be involved in everything, absolutely everything. Yesterday I was going to run out to the shop real quick to get some tools for the basement, and she absolutely would not stand for letting me go alone. She had to tag a long and see what’s up. And then she followed me down to the basement and took some screwdrivers and went around touching it to various things and promptly exclaiming “I did it!”. Then she grabbed the hammer and put a couple new dents in the walls before I could notice…. oh well. It’s all getting rebuilt anyway! At least I have an expert in demolition on my team.
Luke is in 2nd grade. That’s incredible. I hope he’s enjoying growing up. From about 3rd until 5th grade I remember having the time of my life. He’s a smart kid but takes a little pushing to get going. But it’s so cool when he wants to learn about something and gets totally into it. For the longest time he was all about Titanic. It was Titanic everything. Right now he’s getting into games and stuff. I had my first parent scratching my head at a video game moment when he wanted to play Robox. I had just assumed it was a Minecraft knockoff. But when I started to read about it… I was way off. If anything it seems more like “Second Life” for kids. People can create these different scenarios that you can play and partake in. And that means that people can create ANYTHING, and the internet being the internet… it’s not all wholesome, even if it is wrapped in this kid themed playground. So we locked down his permissions. He can’t chat with anybody, he can only play approved scenarios. But you know, he’s 8 years old. He’s a good kid, but at 8, you still trust pretty much everybody.
Andrea and I got to go on a little impromptu trip together a couple of weeks ago. The kids went to stay with Andrea’s sister, and we decided we were just going to go hop in the Jeep, camp at Wilson then drive. We had the top off the Jeep and got a bunch of sun on day one. I myself got a little crispy. I think Andrea did okay though. It was hot as balls at Wilson Lake. Not bad in the shade, but there wasn’t hardly a tree big enough to catch any. We ended up spending time sitting on the ground in the shade of the Jeep drinking all the water we brought with us.
After that it was fun just to explore the countryside. We generally stayed off the highways. We found the Geographic Center of the United States completely by accident. Just little stuff like that. Exploring, being together, wind in your hair sorta thing. It was a good time, but I think we both also appreciated home when we got there.
And on the homefront the basement is the big looming project. It feels really daunting to be honest. We are still doing de-construction and clean up. There’s so many little things, and I want to make sure all the mold is as dead as I can get it. I know mold can always come back if it gets wet down there again. But I just don’t want mold to find a way to start going again under normal circumstances. It doesn’t smell all musty down there anymore, which is a good thing. I think we’ll get to the point here in a couple of weeks that we can start hanging sheetrock again. We want to build some shelving into the walls for the media stuff while were at it. Kind of like the bookshelves under the stairs. I guess it will go quicker if we don’t have to be careful this time! Haha.
But where’s all the money for it come from? Well, we have some savings, but we’re pretty good about earmarking our dollars and what they are saved for. We have some money saved up for an insurance deductible. We think we can use that and take some from a few of our other goals to get this done. I’m planning on doing all of it ourselves, except for the carpet. I love learning new skills, but carpet is a job that doesn’t look fun, or sound fun, and if I mess it up, I’ve wasted a lot of expensive carpet.
So that is the current state of things. A little off balance it feels. But excited to have the projects that we do. Now I just need to get cracking on all of it instead of playing Rocket League and Octopath Traveler in the evenings… but those are goals too!