Category Archives: Projects

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.

Jeep gets new exhaust

So literally the day after we bought the Jeep.  The Check Engine light came on.  Took it to Autozone to read the code and it said “Catalytic Converter Efficiency Low”.  Basically on these new fangled things, it has not one, but two oxygen sensors.  One in front of the cat converter, and one behind it. It compares the two readings and if they are too close, it deduces that the cat isn’t doing its job and should be replaced.

And because I want to save the planet… we’re fixing it.

I test fitted everything together.  We got all the parts from, since the local Autozone & O’Reilly’s couldn’t get the front pipe.  With a handy discount code that almost payed for the shipping, everything came out to just a couple bucks over $300.  Not bad considering a exhaust shop was going to charge $400 to JUST replace the cat.

Getting the tailpipe out was definitely the hardest part.  I tried cutting the pipe, but the exhaust pipe cutter I got on load from AutoZone was junk.  So luckily the old muffler was so crusty, I just hammered on the pipe until it popped out of the muffler.

My little jack is small, but it has served me well for the cars we’ve always had.  The Jeep is about 6 inches higher off the ground though.  And fully extended my jack didn’t even reach the undercarriage!  Forced to make do with what I had, I came up with the above scary setup.  Luckily I didn’t have to actually be underneath the Jeep while it was jacked up like this.  Because that’s some serious red-neck engineering right there.  If I want to keep working on this thing, I’m going to have to get a bigger jack, that’s for sure.

I had to jack it up to get the tail pipe over the axle, and I had to unbolt the track bar and drop that down too.  After that, it was pretty easy to pull the old crusty one out and slide the new one in.  Then I promptly put the wheel back on and got the vehicle back on the ground and off of that crazy ass setup!  I could just see a cinder block exploding and the whole thing crashing down.

I had to make one more cut in front of the cat and after that, everything came out with relative ease.

The whole job was prompted by the check engine light, but it was also a good excuse just to redo the whole exhaust because it had some definite leaks.  The old muffler was just plain wore out.  It had pinholes from corrosion all over it  and as you can see above was super crusty.

I didn’t get any pics of the re-assembly process because once it all started going together, I got on a roll.  Hardest part was getting everything lined up and tucked up as good as possible.  I probably straightened that muffler 10 times before I tightened everything up and it’s still crooked… oh well.  Nothing I can do about it now as it’s all locked in place.  And it’s not like anyone will see it anyway.  It is nice to see the fresh exhaust in there.  Feels rewarding.

Seems like it did what it was supposed to.  It’s definitely quieter.  We cleared the check engine code with our new code scanner.

I have to say, it was super nice working on something that wasn’t rusted solid like our other old cars.  The O2 sensors and even the bolts going into the exhaust manifold all came loose with relative ease!  Is this why people don’t usually drive 30 year old cars?  Haha.

Another Project Radio

These seem to gravitate towards me.  Jamie and Bryan got this for me for my birthday this year.  Man is it cool!  It has a phonograph, cassette deck AND an 8 track!  All the good stuff!

I hooked it up to Andrea’s speakers, we plugged it in and it seems to work fine.  Other than the selection switch is pretty finnickey so I need to get some electronics cleaner and clean all the contacts there.

It needs a good cleaning, but it should be a trusty radio!

It’s Finished

I don’t have pics of the completed project, but here’s a quick picture I snapped right after I picked it up from the upholstry shop.

I’ll get some better pictures as soon as I can.

You know I really like working on cars, but I can get frustrated.  Especially when I’m on a time crunch.  I don’t like having to have a car back together by the next day so it can be on the road.  Sadly we only drive projects around here!  Haha.

I think it turned out pretty good though.

Sorry I’ve Been Absent

It’s been busy.  I had mentioned in previous podcasts that I started playing Metroid Prime with the intention of playing it until completion.  Well the bad news is I’ve been too busy to play any of it for the past two weeks.  But then again, I haven’t really been doing any gaming at all INSTEAD of that, so it’s not like I’ve been “cheating”.  Though Andrea and I did play some Mario Kart 7 on 3DS tonight.

Other than a whole lot of travel this month.  Here’s the big project that has kept me most busy.  The vinyl top on Andrea’s car.  It hasn’t been too bad.  I just hope I’ve done everything well enough that the upholstery shop will put the top on.  My biggest fear is that I get it all prepped to go and they’ll say I didn’t do something right.  Ugh.  Let’s hope not.  Really just want to get this done!

Here’s some pics of the process.  I’m only going post a few of them on the front page, so click through to see the rest!

This is what was underneath when we took it off.

Here’s the old vinyl that was flapping in the breeze.

Uh oh. This can’t be good. Got most of the old glue sanded off. But the paint underneath is pretty flaky, so a lot of that is going to have to come off too.  But what is that drill for?

I had to drill out all the rivets holding down the trim pieces that go around the edges. Kinda apprehensive about drilling holes in an otherwise nice car. But must do what must be done. I was afraid this was going to be tedious work, but the drill chewed right through them!

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