Category Archives: Projects

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!

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Careful What You Wish For

At the beginning of this year, I wrote an entry about how I wanted more projects in my life.  How I wanted to create things.  So far, mission accomplished.

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We finished our shelves down stairs.  They turned out pretty great I think.  We’ve already run out of room, but I have no regrets, as this was about as big as those shelves could fit in there.

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After that I started tearing into the Wrangler, which is still up on jack stands in the garage.  I have the feeling this is either going to end up being an easier… or much harder project than I have anticipated, but since the Wrangler is a bit of a toy, it’s been put on the back burner as we fired up all sorts of other things after it got started.

The biggest one has been the new floor, which has been pretty well documented on my Twitter feed @kartmaster.  I’ve helped putting down flooring like this before.  That snap together stuff.  But I’ve never been the dude in charge before so it was a bit intimidating.  Mostly because if I screw it up we have to live in it and look at it every day.

Sometimes people will say to me things like, “You should do that for other people and make some money.”  Here’s the thing.  This took me like a month… working after work.  Taking a day off when I just didn’t feel like it.  Getting mad.  Nah.  There’s a reason people pay other people to get this done.  And if I were to fall one way or the other from the DIY fulcrum, it would definitely be the customer side.

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We also sold the Cutlass and the red Jeep here this year too!  I’ll got into some more detail about the emotions behind all that in another post, but selling things like that is work.  I hate selling stuff, putting up with the people.  Wasting your time on the flakes.  But it’s done and I feel pretty good about how it all ended up.

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Selling those led to getting a truck.  I’ve never really needed a truck especially since we got the trailer.  Almost everything we’d need to do could be hauled around there.  But when we started riding ATVs, and as Luke gets older and we’re looking at getting a gas powered one for him, logistically it is going to be a lot easier to put his ATV in the truck, and the other two on the trailer.  Even with his little power wheels one now, loading up is a two person job to get Andrea’s beast turned sideways on the trailer.  So I’m looking forward to spending more time riding, and less time loading!

Of course days after buying the truck I was already diving into a project there.  On the test drive, I knew right away the first thing I would have to fix was going to be the seat.  It would slide around as you were driving like you were sitting on marbles.  It lead to feeling really not in control, haha.  “How hard could it be!?”  Turns out, actually, for once, not that hard.  I cobbled together some scrap pieces from around the shop, built some new bushings, put it all back together and it works great.

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I’m thankful to be able to do these sorts of things.  Thankful for Youtube mostly.  No matter what my problem, I’m NEVER the first person to have it and there’s almost always an ingenious way to fix it that I never would have thought of myself.  I’m thankful to have a wife like Andrea that trusts me to take these things on.  She used to ask me, “Are you sure we can handle something like that?” back in the day when I’d bring up a project.  Now she knows that… it may not go like we planned, but we’ll figure it out.

To be honest though, I’m ready for a break from some projects for a while.  I’m ready to get out and play.  We haven’t been riding at all this year except on the dirt roads around the house.  I have tools and piles of wood, or tires, or supplies everywhere.  I need to return to a normal resting state of existence for a while.  Careful what you wish for I guess.

So far… so good.

I had mentioned in the previous post that one of the things I really want to get back to is creating things.  Making things.  And thus far in 2019 I’m off to a pretty good start.  We built some under the stair shelves that turned out pretty great.  Not necessarily perfect, but I’m more than satisfied given the talent and tools that I had available.

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Overall since the holidays have wrapped up, I’ve been in a pretty good place mentally.  It’s so easy to stop and think about all the things you want to do, or want to have, then get sad that you don’t have them, or convince yourself that you’ve made the wrong choices to get where you are.  I think that’s a little short sighted.

Problem is that line of thinking has no end.  It’s a game with no way to win.  For example.  I want to build and make things, I also want to spend time with my family and have fun watching the kids grow up.  I want to fix up and restore the black car and the Jeep.  I want to play more games and get through some of them that I really enjoy.  I want to go see family more.  I want to ride ATVs.  I want to play D&D more.  I want to go on vacations.  I want to study Spanish. I want to stay home.

Choosing to do any one of those things, takes away from all of the others.  It’s the opportunity cost of making your choice.  Everything you choose to do comes at the cost of whatever else you COULD have done instead.  But I refuse to feel bad about these choices.  Because the option to do ALL of them was never an option at all.  You are only one person that can be in one place at a time.  To be disappointed that you can’t be everywhere with unlimited resources at all times is something silly to be upset about.

I’m putting my best effort into being thankful for the opportunities that I have to do any number of things.  To not be resentful of the experiences that I couldn’t have, but rather to be grateful for those that I did.

To Create

I need to take some more time to sit down and make things.  It’s one of my favorite things to do.  Whether it’s something artistic, or something useful.  Putting something out there into the world is super rewarding.  I’m going to get there…

First things first though, you have to take care of the things you have to do.  Work, yes.  But I’m trying to weave more creativity in to my day to day hum drum tasks.  The trick is not spending too much time on it.  I work because I like my job, but I also work so that I don’t have to.  So that I can spend time with my family, so I can do some of the other things I always say I “don’t have time to do”.  But even in this time I need to find more opportunities to put a creative spin on the regular.  It’s easy with my show to try something new, see if it works or not.  Harder when you’re filling out reports or making schedules.  And I need to finish my Christmas shopping!

The internet is great for inspiration, but at some point you have to stop scrolling.  In my scrolls this morning, looking for Christmasy things to talk about on my show, I spotted a wreath made out of caution tape that someone had made for the police station they work at.  And I thought, that’s the kind of stuff I wish I could find time in my day to do!  Haha.  There’s always going to be the nay-sayers wondering if you used company time, or wasted office supplies.  But I feel like there should be a little bit of company resources dedicated to joy and comradery.

I’ve made quite a few things I’m proud of this year.  I made a mount for a light bar on my ATV, fixed and fabricated a new power steering bracket for the Wrangler.  I made a little plastic flip card for Luke’s bike that makes it sound like a motorcycle.  I made my awesome box for the trailer.  I’m just starting to feel the itch again I guess.

I want to finish our shelves in the basement.  We’ve had 3 holes in our walls for months now, and we just need to get some plywood and some trim to finish them off for what will be some really nice stepped inset shelves.  It’s a 1 day project and just need to do it!  I still want to make a MAME Arcade cabinet.  But that is a bit more of a financial restriction.  I need to build some easy storage for some of my tools and spare parts in the shop.  Most of that I can do with scraps I have laying around.  And there’s the big project of fixing the Jeep frame that I just need to start pulling things apart.  And there’s that Clarissa Explains it All podcast that I’m still looking for a dedicated co-host…

All in time.  I know.  I look back and I got more done than it “feels” like.  Not guilty or anything.  Just gotta make time for more.  Balance… balance is everything.  Balance is hard.

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!

A Day For the Toronado

It’s been over a year since the one and only time the Toronado broke down on the side of the road.  I’ve had it back together for a while, but I haven’t really given it any love until today.

Here it sits, like it has for months.

I tried to start it up and move it before Luke’s birthday party back in August, but the battery was dead.  I charged up the battery and the old thing fired right up once the fuel got pumped back up into the carburetor.

I pulled it into the garage for an oil change.  Our 3rd oil change in 24 hours in this garage.  Haha.

This is what dirty and neglected looks like.  Leaves, dirt, bird poo.  Time was starting to pass it by.  Sad to see it like this after all the work I put into painting it.

I washed out the engine bay.  Halfway because it was just nasty.  And the other half was because there were spiderwebs everywhere and I didn’t want any spiders hanging around!

I went for a short cruise and came back home.  I don’t have current tags on it right now, so I didn’t want to drive it too far.  And I need new ball joints before I really feel safe on the highway.  So it was just an Albert tour for today.  But I did make the point to BACK it into the driveway so the neighbors can tell it DOES run!  Haha.

So there we go.  The ball joints should be around $100 all together.  Then I plan on driving this thing!  Part of me wants to fix the hail dents, re-do the vinyl, get new bumper fillers and paint it.  The other part of me want to just drive it as a “beater” during the winter and nasty days so we can keep the Cutlass clean.  I’m really torn which way to go.  I just like this car so darn much!

The List

This will begin a difficult series of posts.  It’s the beginning of another fall sports season and there are a lot of teams out there making cuts.  They’re whittling their best players down to the best of the best.

Well when it comes to games, there are literally hundreds of phenomenal games out there that deserve to be played and re-played.  But if you had to cut it all down to a starting lineup, who would make the cut?

I’m going to go through my games in my collection and decide, if I had to leave it all behind and pick one game to represent each genre, one game that I could play over and over in that category, what would it be?  So I’m going to have to make some tough choices to determine my all time favorite game in each of the following genres:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Arcade
  • Fighting
  • First Person Shooter
  • Party
  • Platform
  • Puzzle
  • Racing
  • Role Playing Game
  • Simulation
  • Strategy
  • Sports

Did I leave out any important categories?  Let me know in the comments.

I’m going to have to leave some really great games on the shelf.  And just to warn you in some of the categories like Fighting, there WILL be some great games left out of discussion entirely because those are genres I just never quite got into and as such some iconic games I simply never have played. They will still be represented though.

Then my ultimate goal is once this list is completed, to PLAY these games, capture the video, produce it out and make a show out of it.  This will become my project for Friday night’s “Project Night”.  None of that can commence though until “The List” is finalized.

So check back soon as I make the final cut for my defacto “Sports Game”!

Project Night: 1

What a rockin’ success!  I went into today not knowing for sure what project night was going to be.  Ultimately I envision some large time consuming project that I can whittle away at every Friday and maybe on weekends.  Something like building a MAME cabinet.  But I haven’t quite narrowed down the sweet spot of awesomeness and what we can afford right now.  So for tonight, I decided to do a little one night project.

I had an old 2×4 screwed to the wall a while ago that I used to hang the shovels on.  Well since then, I’ve out grown it a bit.  I’ve gotten tired of walking around tools or propping them up in a corner, so I figured a great project for tonight would be to do something about it!

It really doesn’t get more simple.  I took some more 2×4 and screwed them into the wall where the studs are.  Then just used regular nails for the “hooks” to hang the tools on.  It’s ghetto fabulous, but at least it’s organized.

Most of my projects take three times longer than I plan on them taking.  So I usually plan on them taking that long (yes, it’s a vicious cycle).  But tonight went about as quick as it should.  Well, almost.  I guess it took twice as long as it should because the battery for my circular saw kept dying.  It just doesn’t hold a charge anymore.  So it took me about 30 minutes to cut a 2×4.  So I guess it was about right.

I then started looking around and thinking, what else can I hang and get off the floor?  That’s when I saw the car ramps and noticed they had a nice little hole in them, perfect for hanging.  So I got some more spare fasteners that I had and made new perches for my car ramps and wheel chucks.  Got ’em off the floor and since they hang under the cabinet, they aren’t in the way.

It was a good night for sure.  I freed up some space and in one car garage like mine, space is a premium!

I look forward to the next project night.  I’m almost more excited to see what the next project will be that will make life even better!

Retro Game Night!

FFVI Cart on Shelf

I’m so excited.  I have officially dubbed Tuesdays as Retro Game Night in my house.  You’re probably thinking, I could play retro games every night around here if I wanted to.  And I COULD, but then I couldn’t get a lot of other things done, be it gaming, or actual, you know… responsibilities.

So I decided in order to be able to enjoy a few of the things I’ve really been wanting to do, and not just plow through them one at a time like it’s a job, I would take different nights of the week and dedicate them to different areas.  All part of this preparation and organization kick I’m on lately.

Monday – Guild Wars 2 Night: Officially started last night as Andrea and I were playing through with her new character. This game is incredibly fun, but will literally consume every minute of your life you’re willing to throw at it. Part of this new schedule is to keep me from spending ALL my time playing GW2. Haha.

Butt Kicked

Tuesday – Retro Game Night: A night to play anything not in HD. That’s (begrudgingly) how I’m defining “retro” gaming these days. Right now I’m focusing on Final Fantasy III. It’s tough because it’s been so long between play sessions I’m having trouble remembering what to do next. Hopefully playing on a more regular basis I can follow along a little better.

Wednesday – Guild Wars 2 Night: Because honestly this game deserves 2 nights a week. It’s the game I’m most interested in right now and the game I’m having the most fun with. These game night themes aren’t the same forever. But this is how it is for now.

Thursday – Automotive Night: This makes the list because generally I kinda like working on my old cars. And matter of factly, I NEED to work on these old things to keep them running. Basically there’s only one thing that matters when you’re driving old cars on a daily basis like we do. And that is fix things faster than things break. If you can do that, it will last forever.

Friday – Project Night: This one I’m most excited for. Mostly because I don’t know what my project is going to be yet. Ultimately I’d love to build a MAME Arcade Cabinet. But this night will rely on funds being available for big stuff. But right now I know there’s plenty of little projects around the place here that I need and want to get done. And this sets aside some time to do those.

So there you go.  This whole idea is all about making time for the things I want to do.  I’ve felt so busy since Luke was born.  But hopefully putting a little focus behind my recreation, I can not only actually get to them, but also enjoy them.  All to often I feel like I’m just plowing through something I’ve wanted to do, making it something I have to do because I don’t know when I’m going to get back to it.  This adds some structure.  And it helps me remember I will get back to things, so I don’t have to force my way through them.

We’ll see how long this lasts.  I get on these kind of kicks then eventually they fizzle out for me, but right now, I’m pretty excited about it.

An $8.00 Project

Well the biggest glaring flaw on the Jeep to me was the paint on the rear vents between the window and the hatch.  After years of UV rays, the paint had begun to bake off.  Not sure why it hasn’t effected the rest of the Jeep, but I’m not complaining.

So I stopped by Autozone and got an $8.00 can of Duplicolor “Chrysler Flame Red” and set out to clean ’em up.

Here you can see a previous picture that shows where the paint was gone behind the windows.

They come off pretty easy.  Even so, I busted one of the mounting pegs when I was pulling it off.  A little super glue overnight and it seems like it’s holding strong.

They didn’t turn out perfect so I might pull them back off sometime down the road and redo them, but for now.  They met my “better than it was” standard.