Category Archives: Uncategorized

Places and Things and Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pulled apart

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

Parts.jpg

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

bearings

bearings ready

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

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

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

tie rods.jpg

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

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

heater core

Can you tell which one is new?

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

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

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

At-The-Race

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

fast cars

Sure.. I can beat these guys.

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

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

at the line

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

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

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

pit crew.jpg

Damage Control

Today was one of those days.  When your day begins before you even wake up.  We lost a server for one of our radio stations early in the morning.  So my phone rang around 6:10am this morning with a co-worker informing me of its demise.  Of course we all always hold out the hope that a simple turning it off and back on will snap it back into routine order.  You’d be surprised how often that works!  This time, however, the situation was terminal.

Sparing the boring details of troubleshooting and hardware swapping, by noon we were back up and running.  Half the day shot in a week I really needed to get caught up.

I feel like a lot of my life recently has been in damage control mode.  Constantly just putting out the most raging intense fire that happens to be burning at the time.  It reminds me of the old Sim City 2000 game, where a plane would crash and a fire would break out.  You have this gigantic city that you’ve built, but it is at this moment you realize that you’ve only built two fire stations.  So as you race to contain the fire in one direction, it rapidly envelops your once thriving industrial sector in the other.  At some point you just hope the fire will run its course and that you can rebuild and move on.  It worked for Chicago.

No sweat.  Everything is under control.

No sweat. Everything is under control.

In the midst of all the perceived chaos, I did make time to go see the new Bond fild “Spectre” with Andrea.  It was pretty good, though I’d have to say my least favorite of the Daniel Craig films so far.  I can’t quite put my finger on why.  That’s still to say it was pretty damn outstanding.  I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to Bond movies.

It got me to thinking, about the constants in my life.  I’ve seen every new 007 movie in the theaters, on or close to opening day since Die Another Day in 1997.  My life, the world, it now feels SO different than it did in those days.  Back then the things I got excited about were new N64 games, ZIP drives, MP3s, and… well Bond.  Now a days I get excited about days off, getting to watch an uninterrupted episode of Cheers, and sweeping out the garage.  And well… Bond.

I suppose I really enjoyed it because it helped remind me that I’m still that person.  I turned my phone completely off.  Leaned into the girl that I love, and just soaked up something that JUST FELT RIGHT.

I hate to complain.  And I think for that reason, I need to write more.  The blog has always been a good place to blow off some emotional energy, both positive and negative.  Getting it all out there helps keep a bit more of an equilibrium.  Just putting all this down feels good. Feels… like old times.

Thirty Three

Well, yesterday was a great birthday.  At least as far as grown up birthdays go.  I had a regular old day at work.  But when I got home, Andrea and Luke made me a cake completely full of candles!  There was a lot of heat coming off that baby!

They also got me some pretty cool presents.  Luke got me an old… well it was new… the concept is old to me… video chair for the game room.  I haven’t sat in one of those since we had the ones back in Ingalls.  I seem to rock back much easier in this chair.  I think I just happen to be a bit more top heavy these days.

Andrea picked up an old Gamecube game for me, “Star Fox: Assault”.  I’d heard mixed reviews about this game, but I wanted to pick it up someday anyway and decide for myself.  Honestly, I don’t know what people are complaining about.  A lot of folks didn’t like the ground missions, but for me even those were still really fun.  I haven’t gotten anywhere close to beating the game yet, but the short time I’ve spent with it has been time well spent.

I also played a little Mario Kart 64 last night.  Got really close to a new best time ever on Luigi’s Raceway.  After all this time I’ve been trying some new strategies and taking new shortcuts.  But it’s always very satisfying when I land a time on the leaderboard.  We do a little Time Trial competition at the Nintendo 64 Forever Forum.  It’s fun to compete with some of the other members there and it keeps me motivated to continue to play and improve my times.

Tonight it’s more organizing around the house.  We finished painting the basement yesterday, so just a little touch up here and there where the tape pulled the paint off the wall…. and then start hanging up all the decorations.  I’m looking forward to making the room a fun space to hang out when people are over.

I guess at this point, birthdays really are just another day.  I remember when I was a kid, I NEVER thought that would happen.  Sure maybe other people.  But ME?  I’m going to have a big old party every year.  At that skating rink!  That actually still sounds like a lot of fun.

Luke’s Stunt Track

Andrea found a really great deal locally for a lady who’s son was selling all his Hot Wheels track.  Her son wasn’t into Hot Wheels any more and was all about Monster Trucks.  Luke on the other hand is nuts about Hot Wheels.  So they struck a deal and Andrea got all this plus a few odds and ends for $15.

I think Luke has already gotten $15 worth of fun out of it.  And it’s the first thing he talked about when he woke up this morning.  Hehe.

Toronado not fixed.

This is from a couple days ago, so consider it tape delayed!  If you follow on Twitter you know there’s a happy ending!

Clare Enfield

That's right, captured straight from my original Helen Hunt Gallery!

Every once in a while something happens you least expect.  Since WAY back in the 90’s.  (Ouch… it hurts to say “way” back in the 90’s) I’ve been wondering if I’d ever see this movie again.  Only You was a romantic comedy that I remember playing on HBO back when I was a kid.  I seriously have no idea why I glommed on to this film.  It’s really a cute show but at brief times the sexual themes (while far from explicit) were probably more than an 13 year old needed to be exposed to.  (Hey I turned out just fine, thank you.)  I never found the show on DVD, never hardly a frame of it to be seen on the internet.  Lo and behold it popped up on Netflix!

In retrospect this was a significant movie in that it began a long… I still refuse to call it an obsession… admiration of Helen Hunt’s popular work.  As I watched the film again for the first time in 15 years, it was amazing how much I remembered.  Made me wonder how many times I’d seen this show.  Infact I remember taking those monthly HBO schedules we’d get in the mail and finding each and every instance of Only You so I could be sure to catch every possible show.  (still… NOT obsessed.  I stand by it.)  But just little moments, mostly audio that felt VERY familiar.

Actually watching the movie again I think I finally realized what it was that drew me to Helen Hunt in a big way.  You aren’t going to believe me… but it’s… her voice.  I just can’t quite explain it but there’s something about her voice that just feels honest and comfortable.  I dunno.  Hard to explain.

Okay, enough weirdness.  So strange to travel down these old paths that just don’t quite fit any more who I am today.  Kind of like visiting your old elementary school and realizing the old hallways actually just aren’t as wide or tall as you remember them.  You feel like you belong there in your heart, but it doesn’t take long to stop and know that you don’t belong there anymore.

If you feel so enclined, enjoy Only You now available on Hulu & Netflix!  It’s not an award winner, but it’s a cute, albeit predictable movie.  And hopefully you can appreciate the role of Clare Enfield as much as I did back in the day.

 
http://www.hulu.com/embed/-y9-GBsv_ld91kujVTs4Dw

Nintendo Thumb

Man, this hasn’t happened for quite some time.  I set my N64 up in the bedroom instead of the basement because its just too damn cold down there right now.  I braved the coldness with my little space heater for about an hour before I just said “screw it” moved my basement tv and the N64 up where it was actually above 60.

I played for about another hour on Super Mario N64 until it’s time for bed.  I didn’t realize while I was playing… but once I got done I felt it.  Just that tenderness and almost a feeling like when you just start getting a blister.

It’s the dreaded Nintendo thumb!  An injury known to sideline some of the all time greatest players.  Even in my own prime I was set back a few times by the injury.  Right in the middle of working on world record Mario Kart 64 times.  I would try to play through the pain, but when you realize that you can’t make the same cuts and you just aren’t as fast injured… that’s when you realize you’re better served to sit out and get healed up.  Then you can be close to 100% when you get back into the game.  Happens to everybody, right?

After last night I’m up to 40 stars.  These are the easy ones though.  Some of these later are just going to be nuts.

I have not abandoned

It’s just been nuts lately. Plenty to talk about. No time. I’ll BRB.

New image up top.

Well I figured it was time for a new header image.  And since I’ve been feeling all nostalgic lately I wanted something that hearkened back to the early days of what eventually became this blog.

I wished I had a snapshot of my very first geocities website, but if the site hadn’t already been purged from Yahoo!/Geocities due to inactivity, it would be gone now for sure because it seems that Yahoo! abandoned Geocities all-together anyway.  But I still remembered the old address, and still have my first ever graphic I created.  All I needed was some kind of screenshot of an old browser.  A quick google image search for Netscape did the trick!

So I had to p’chop in the url, window name, and the banner.  But it looks halfway authentic, I think!

About me – Dec 12, 2009

Archived “About Me” page

Andrea and I during our visit to Yellowstone

Andrea and I during our visit to Yellowstone

If you asked Andrea to describe me, she’d probably say I’m goofy, funny, smart, devilishly handsome, and never wrong. She knows me so well! Okay, perhaps she wouldn’t say that.

For the most part I strive to keep things as uneventful as possible. Despite my efforts, it’s been pretty interesting so far. I got married to the most lovable girl in the world in June of 2008 (that’s Andrea). No kids…yet. Just a 10 pound cat and a 10 pound dog. They’re both very annoying in their own special way.

I’m currently working at Eagle Radio and Hull Broadcasting in Great Bend, KS.  People ask me what I do there and it’s kinda hard to answer.  I am on air occasionally.  7AM – 10AM Saturday mornings, but outside of that it’s pretty random depending on who’s on vacation and whether there’s any remotes going on.  I get to work on our webpages, make commercials, do traffic logs and a whole variety of stuff.  It’s fun being able to have a hand in a little bit of everything, but at times it can keep me feeling a little spread thin.  All in all it’s worth it though.

Our Geek Station

Our Geek Station

I can’t deny my geeky-ness, so I’ve decided to embrace it. And don’t let Andrea talk any smack about me. She’s just as geeky as I am. I enjoy working on computers, and every time I make an upgrade…it’s just a matter of weeks before she has to have a BETTER upgrade in her computer. She’s weird like that and I love her for it. I most certainly wouldn’t have married her if she were a “normal” person. We do lame things together like sit next to each other on our computers and send instant messages back and forth. Or team up in a game of Rise of Nations, form an alliance and annihilate the rest of the world. So before you ask to come over and visit…know what world you’re stepping into!

My 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado

My 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado

Another obvious obsession of mine is cars. I’m no mechanic, but I enjoy getting outside and turning the wrench, letting off some steam. It’s almost therapeutic. I bought this 1985 Toronado Caliente back in 2006. The paint was faded, exhaust rusted out, headliner sagging. I’ve put a lot of work into it and like to think it looks halfway respectable now. It has over 230,000 miles on it and still runs like a champ. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive this baby anywhere! It’s comfortable, quiet, and a true example of 80’s luxury. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m proud of it. Click the picture of the car to the left and it’ll take you to my Picasa gallery where you can check out more pictures if you’d like including some mid-work shots.

Original KartMasters Webpage logo.  Cir. 1997

Original KartMaster's Webpage logo. Cir. 1997

The website here has really evolved over the years, dating back to the early days of Geocites.com, when you could get a free website WITHOUT all the ads plastered all over the place. There I cut my teeth on basic HTML, rambled on about my Nintendo 64 games, and created the first “Helen Hunt Gallery”. I clearly remember, the banner above was created with Ulead PhotoImpact 3 (I think it’s up to 12 now). I recently tried to track down the old site, but it had been abandoned for so long, it was apparently purged.

Some time later I began talking to another Helen Hunt site owner, Justin. Who was trusting enough to send an $80 check through the mail to form a partnership that gave birth to somefantastic.com. It was a shared domain that we used to host our websites for a good two years. From here The Helen Hunt gallery reached its pinnacle. Several GoldenEye Fest were organized and reported on. It was truly a golden age for the website.

The Update Bus

The Update Bus

As time went on life happened. We all agreed not to renew somefantastic.com and it soon became a spam search placeholder. My site was revamped and hosted on Dad’s Ucom webspace, where it still resides. From here the site slowly started to take the blog form which it holds today. However it was cumbersome to update, and consequently, rarely was. Although this generation of the site is famous for creating the Update Bus! A photoshopped image of Christian band Disciple’s tour bus.

In 2005 I signed up for my first blog. I created a profile at Blogger and began blogging away! All of the old Blogger posts have been archived and are still accessible here on bgwillers.com. The service was horrid however. The site was frequently down. And at times when it was up, posting was impossible. I don’t know how much hair I ripped out after making long eloquent posts, only to have them lost to the mists because of a Blogger error. Shortly after being introduced to WordPress, I moved the blog to where it now resides.

So I guess I’m the guy in charge around here. But I do share the site with a few close friends and family. Of course everyone is welcome to read and comment. However, there are a few other contributors here on the site besides myself.

Biebs

Biebs

I’ve known Biebs for a long time. We ran around doing all sorts of stupid crap in middle school and high school. We’ve just seemed to keep in touch ever since. Tech savvy and artistic…and single, ladies! Be sure to check out his website at www.biebsworld.com.

Mom showing off her super power.  Hidden attack cats.

Mom showing off her super power. Hidden attack cats.

I’ve known Mom for a long time too! Ha ha. She’s always hung around the website offering words of encouragement or asking what the hell I’m talking about when somebody goes off on a big tech post. She’s a healthy dose of common sense and just as annoyed with the world as everybody else around here!

Andrea not looking at the blog.

My lovely wife Andrea. She doesn’t post here much. But I’m sure it’s because she’s doing far more important things. Like being nice to me, and teaching me to be organized. She’s the light of my life and I’d be in big trouble if I didn’t give her permission to post on the blog!

So now you should know a little more than you knew before. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the site!