Friday, October 31, 2008

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

I've always dreamed of going to Bonneville, both as a spectator and as a competitor. If you've seen the movies On Any Sunday or The World's Fastest Indian, you know the attraction. Go as fast as you can for one mile. I remember when I was in high school reading about George Roeder, Cal Rayborn, and for many years after, Don Vesco, racing at the salt flats. George Roeder set the land speed record for a 250 cc motorcycle at over 150 miles per hour. This was with a pushrod Sprint motor back in the 60's, as I recall. As the owner of several Sprints over the years, I can tell you with some authority, that's pretty damn impressive. Vesco built several streamliners and the Vesco brothers website has a film clip that allows you to ride along on a 450 mile per hour ride. Even though Don has passed away, there will be a Vesco streamliner back at Bonneville next year. The website says they are looking for people to partner up with. Man, I wish I could get involved with that deal.

Besides Bonneville and the Southern California Timing Association, there's also an East Coast Timing Association. The East Coast Timing Association has five events scheduled for 2009. Instead of a flying mile, they run a standing start mile and because I'm hot and heavy into the building mode, I'm thinking of what it is I should tackle next. I have a Sprint/Aermacchi motor and a frame that's a little tweaked due to a get-off at Daytona. I'm thinking it wouldn't take a lot to make it a lowboy frame and maybe even add a sidecar wheel to it. Both sanctioning bodies have classes for just about anything you want to run. It's not too difficult to get to North Carolina from Indiana and if that works out, the next step could be Bonneville.

The other idea I'm kicking around is to build myself a wooden boat. I've had this idea on the back burner for many a year now. Wooden Boat magazine ran a three part series (after talking about going to North Carolina, that would be pronounced cee-rees) back in 1999, on how to build the Martin skiff. It's a nice little rowing craft that's 13' long. It's lapstrake construction with a plywood bottom. Lapstrake boats have the side planks overlapping one another and are fastened with copper nails. When I built the cradle boat for my grandson, it was that type of construction. It makes a beautiful and traditional style of boat. I was able to build the grandson's without too much difficulty, even though I make absolutely no claim as to being a woodworker. One of the nice things about being a craftsman, though, there is a lot of carry over of skills. Visualizing the finished product, sequence of operations, layout and measuring - it's all pretty much the same regardless of the medium you work in.

So all I need to do now is keep making progress on the midget and the 900. If things go smoothly, I'll build a boat or another motorcycle. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Medal of Honor

I was in Indianapolis a few years back and ended up in the War Memorial. It's an absolutely beautiful building, both inside and out. The cornerstone was laid by General Pershing in 1927. There is a museum of military history in the basement. I learned who the Tyndall Armory, where the Golden Gloves are held every year, was named after. I also strolled around the rest of the building and was very impressed by the architecture and just the fact that such a building was ever built.

Off to one side there was a display about people claiming to be Medal of Honor recipients who weren't. The exhibit included some really nice black and white photos of some of the people who actually were recipients and a little caption of what they thought about the whole deal. The exhibit was basically about one man who is trying to stop this by exposing the frauds. It really pissed me off that someone would stoop so low as to try and pad their resume by claiming to have been awarded this medal falsely. The school I used to work at was named after a young man who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. He jumped on a grenade to save his buddies and paid the ultimate price.

In Sunday's Chicago Tribune, the lead story was about people who have claimed military medals in Who's Who and other places and they found 58% of the medals were unverified. It's really a good article and says something about the society we're living in. If you have a few minutes, I would strongly urge you to read it here. It's hard for me to imagine anything that's much lower than that. What is there to gain? Have they no shame? I just don't get it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Links and Blochs

I finally had a few minutes to figure out how to add links to the page here. The high mileage page has a couple of posts up now. I need to get the young man to do a little better job of proofreading before he posts but that's easily enough handled. The other site is for those of you who are book lovers. The Bookpuddle site is updated daily and usually has a quote from some author or a short poem, sometimes a cartoon. I read constantly and I have an interest in just about all subjects. This site fills in some of the gaps I wouldn't ordinarily take the time to pursue.

Speaking of books - I just finished reading Stand for the Best by Thomas Bloch. Thomas Bloch was the CEO of H&R Block and stepped down to teach middle school math at an inner city school. Interesting story of his development as a teacher and how that led to the founding of a charter school. He offers a very unique perspective on teaching. I thought it was important enough to read that I even paid regular bookstore price instead of buying remainder books like I normally do. If you teach or are interested in charter schools, read it. As an aside, he mentions he has done some bicycle touring on part of the Lewis and Clark trail and wants to do some more. Since he's only a couple of years younger than I, I think it would be pretty interesting if the two of us could try to hit a little more of the trail together. I'd like to eventually cover the whole thing, filling in the gap between Missouri and Montana. Plus, I'm sure I could learn quite a bit about teaching by comparing notes with Mr. Bloch.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Project Update

Tuesday night's open shop was pretty busy. Cuzzin Ricky got a little work done on his buggy seats, I got a piece cut out and tacked together for the exhaust collector on the 900 and I had several students working on various things. I usually don't get a whole lot done on my projects during open shop but that's OK. The students can work on stuff and it's nice to have a little fun type of education going on. I got one of the stub axles for the midget machined up over the weekend. I was planning on doing the other one this evening but I broke my glasses last night, so getting some new specs is the number one priority right now.

I got the midget nose pretty much put together and ordered some parts to start hooking up the brakes and throttle. I need to make some type of rear brake - I think I'm just going to go with a scrub brake - the only real question is will I rig it up on both rear wheels or just one. I don't know if the grandson's going to have enough leg to bring both wheels to a stop. I've got the dash and steering shaft mount in the works. I'm going to engine turn the dash after I weld a boss for the steering shaft on. It should look pretty cool when it's done.

The gym is taking off rather well. We've got a few regulars and we're now open three days a week. I can see this is going to take up a lot more time than I had anticipated but I'm at least going to make sure I'm working out while I'm there. A couple of good, hard workouts per week is just what this old man needs to keep moving. I do need to streamline some of the other things in my life if I'm going to be a gym rat.

The high mileage project is starting to move forward. The design has been pretty well finalized, we've got the October newsletter ready to mail and we're ready to start fabbing up the frame. We've gotten a couple of sponsors, so we've got a big enough purse to get us started. Lots of good things going on and more to come.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gatling Gun

I just finished reading the book Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel by Julia Keller. It's not so much a nuts and bolts about the Gatling gun but more a biography of Gatling and his place in history. Richard J. Gatling was quite the inventor and tinkerer as was not too untypical in the mid to late 1800s. He first became involved in the manufacture of farm machinery and developed his gun just in time for the Civil War. He was of the opinion that the efficiency of his gun would actually result in fewer deaths and bring about a quicker resolution to the war. Unfortunately, he neglected to factor in the reluctance of the military to adopt more efficient weapons.

The army was of the opinion that a machine gun was just not sporting. Even though artillery fire was being used, the only honorable way to kill one another was to engage the enemy mano y mano, preferably, with sabers drawn. Eventually the demand was great enough that the Gatling gun was produced by the Colt factory, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the American System of interchangeable parts. It was offered in several calibers including those with enough giddy-up to make it effective at ranges up to two miles. The design is still being used and the military has a new version capable of firing 50 rounds per second.

The book is very well researched and an easy read. It goes into the historical importance of arms development and some interesting Indiana history. Gatling is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, by the way. If you're a gun nut you might be a little disappointed with the lack of technical details but if you're at all interested in the Industrial Revolution or military history, I suggest you give it a read.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bailout's Good for Bicyclists

The 700 billion bailout for the greedy and unscrupulous, and of course, the just plain stupid, does contain one ray of sunshine. One of the bills thrown in with the bailout is going to be of some help to bicycle commuters. Federal road building funds are going to have to recognize that bicycles and pedestrians have rights and should certainly be included if we're ever going to break our dependency on foreign oil. The bill also contains provisions to reimburse companies for the benefits they offer bicycle commuters. You can read more about it here. While you're at the site, you might want to consider joining. The League has been around for a long time and they have your best interest at heart.

I saw a short interview with T. Boone Pickens on the news Tuesday night. Ole' Boone is all about promoting wind and natural gas but never once mentioned parking some of the damn cars. He did mention $300/barrel oil and $10/gallon gas. That would definitely tend to make a few of us park some cars. If the infrastructure was in place to ride the train, take a bus, ride a bike or walk before that ten dollar gas hit, it would certainly make things much less painful.

The lack of foresight in this country just amazes me. I remember the gas crunch of the seventies and Jimmy Carter putting solar panels on the White House. Here we are thirty years later and we're still arguing about the same crap. No one in Washington wants to take the reins and come up with a long term energy plan other than drive a hybrid or drill for our last drop of oil now. Of course, it may be that even if you try and get all the smart guys together, they couldn't come up with a reasonable consensus anyway. Gerald Ford tried that with the economy. When the WIN buttons couldn't do it, he brought all the great economic minds together and all of those the geniuses couldn't do it either. I read a book earlier this year by Lee Iacocca called Where Have all the Leaders Gone? and he hits the nail right on the head. It seems in both political and corporate America, nobody wants to make the tough decisions.

So, now that we've saved Wall Street and everyone with a mortgage, except those who've acted responsibly, of course, we can focus on what's best for our country - things like infrastructure and energy policy. So relax and take the kids for a walk, ride your bike and get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. I'm going to see the Superintendent to find out what benefits he's offering me for riding to work come January 1st.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hunnert Car Pile-Up

Went to the car show with Surly and another guy on Saturday at the Grundy County
Fairgrounds. They've about outgrown the venue judging by all the cars that were there. The show is for pre '64 traditional hot rods, motorcycles and the occasional bicycle. Lots of early 60's Falcons and station wagons this year. Plenty of open wheel cars with small blocks, early coupes and sedans, rat rods, lead sleds as well as swap meet and vendors, pinstripers and you name it. It's all there.

Some of the rat rods are just too ratty for my tastes. Just throwing crap together and calling it a car isn't exactly my cup of tea. I'm more impressed with good craftsmanship. Some of those rust buckets I wouldn't take for a ride around the parking lot, let alone drive them seventy miles per hour on I-80 to get there. I did like the chopped International truck with the flat bed, though. In fact, the latest issue of Invention and Technology magazine has an article about Glen Curtiss and his Aerocar. The chopped International with a fifth wheel on the back would be just right for pulling some type of streamlined/Art Deco trailer. I love those old trucks and the possibilities are endless when it comes to building a trailer. If I decide to upgrade from the teardrop, I'll have to see about building some kind of rig like that.

The silver rod is Back Seat Betty and is a product of Hot Rod Chassis and Cycle. I've seen this one in a magazine. It's a testament to the highest level of the fabricator's art. They've got a nice web site with pictures of this car and other work they've done. If you're into hot rods at all, it's definitely worth a look.

It was a good day for checking out the cars and gave us some time to talk about the louver press, since the three of us included a die designer, a machinist and a fabricator. Pretty much the triumvirate of talent required to actually get the thing built. The only thing left out of the equation is the time needed. That always seems to be the limiting factor. The midget would look really good with some louvers, though.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Midget Nose

I'm back working on the midget project, at least for the time being. The scatter gun approach to projects is not always the best but I think I've come up with the best solution to get the midget and the 900 done. I've got the midget on the west end of the big table and the high mileage team is on the east end. While they're working on their car, I can be working on mine. I can keep an eye on them and hopefully get a little bit done at the same time. I can work on the 900 in the evenings and weekends. I've set a mid-February deadline on the midget and a first of April deadline for the 900.

As the pictures show, I'm putting the nose together on the midget. I'm making it out of four pieces and welding them together. After I get it welded up, I'm going to cut an oval shaped hole and make some type of stainless grill for it. The pieces are a little rough right now. I planished out the big bumps but have some more smoothing to do. After I make the fourth piece, I'll smooth them up a little better, fit and weld them, then do the final planishing. I'm feeling pretty confident now. I wasn't so sure after having to bail out on the first piece I tried to make. I'm moving a little slow this week due to a nasty cold but I think I can have the nose done by next weekend and get a little more done on the headlight mount for the 900.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Hut One Hundred

Cuzzin Ricky and I went to Terrible Haute for the Hut One Hundred midget race this past weekend. It was the first time in quite a few years and there have been some changes but the racing was as good as ever. It used to be we went to the Hoosier in Indy at the fairgrounds on Saturday and then the Hut in Terre Haute on Sunday. This year in addition to the USAC midgets on Sat., they also ran a modified show.

First of all, we had one heck of a time figuring out how to get a couple of tickets and pit passes reserved. Fortunately, my people were able to stay on it and get things squared away. When we got there to pick up the tickets the ticket office wasn't open yet, so we had to waste a little time talking to other race fans doing the same thing. No big deal, we had no place else to go and plenty of time to do it. Plus, it was a beautiful day for a little bench racing. After getting our tickets we wandered the pits and checked out the midgets, the modifieds and some of the drivers. We met a real nice young man, Justin Grosz. The kids a junior in high school and moving up from karts to midgets. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling him I'll be rooting for him. It's always the kiss of death when I pick someone to root for. The poor kid couldn't get the car to light off even though he got pushed all the way around the track twice for hot laps, once for time trials and once more trying to make the main. I'm always ragging on these young guys about doing something with themselves and this kid is, even if he didn't make the show.

I also ran into a former student at the races. He just graduated this past year and he's all about race cars. A real nice young man who is already working in a good construction job. He was there to cheer on another local kid who was running in the modified show. He said there were several more of my former students there as well, all rooting for their buddy. Just an entry in the small world department and a shameless plug for the tech students.

We also saw Pancho Carter, one great racer from the past. I think he's a team owner now. He should know something about midget racing. He was a USAC midget champ and he won the Hut One Hundred twice. He also had a long career in the champ cars. You can always tell a former Indy car driver by the way they limp.

The actual racing got under way a little after seven and the modifieds couldn't make more than about three or four laps without bringing out the yellow. By the time they got finished with the heat races and the main, it was about ten. The midget show started about 10:30 and, of course, had a red flag about the time they got into the second corner. They got everyone pushed off again and just about the time they took the green, Shane Cottle, who was involved in the red flag accident, took his place at the back of the pack. When the green flag dropped, it was Katie bar the door.

Midgets on a half mile dirt track are always worth the price of admission but this was one tremendous race. Cottle moved up through the pack like a man possessed. He had a couple of yellows work in his favor and was leading the race by a half lap when they red flagged it for a fuel stop. The midgets aren't really setup for running fifty miles at a time so everyone topped of their tanks and it was a twenty five lap shoot out to the finish. He wasn't near as dominate after the stop and slid as far back as fourth at one time but did finish the race in second place.

Things finished up at just about midnight, which is about the latest I've ever been out at a race track, with the exception of the old days at Broadway Speedway in Crown Point. They used to run damn near 'til the sun came up. Even though it was a late finish, it was well worth it. Midgets on the dirt - you just can't beat it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

When It Hits The Fan

After reading in the paper and hearing on the news of all the trials and tribulations of the folks in hurricane country and the massive bailout proposal, I'm really starting to wonder about the people of America. I saw the people of Houston on television and they were running out of gas, water and everything else including common sense, apparently. I realize the people of Houston don't fully represent the people of Texas but I can't imagine any self respecting Texan not having five gallons of gas and some extra water when given a weeks notice. People running out of gas because they are driving all over looking to buy gas? That's just plain silly. Have we as a nation just decided to roll over and leave everything to the government? Have we all forgotten the old joke: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help"? Where in the constitution does it say the government has to look out for people who refuse to help themselves or get caught up by their own greed, regardless whether that's an individual or a big bank. What about the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared?

As I write this it is still possible for the Cubs and the White Sox to meet in the World Series. If that happens, I'm fully convinced the end is upon us. That being the case, no amount of advanced planning will help. If however, that doesn't come to pass, maybe we should start thinking about looking out for ourselves. Maybe start putting together some emergency supplies - flashlight, radio, water - that kind of stuff. Think about what it would take to live for a week if the house gets flooded like many of them around here were recently. Just take a little responsibility for your own well being and exercise a little of the pioneer spirit. Me, I'm thinking concertina wire around the perimeter would be a good start.

The original settlers were hardy people. The majority of people 100 years ago lived under worse conditions than most people now days experience when they go camping. No phones, television, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, automobiles - all of the things we take for granted. Get some candles or a lantern, lay in some provisions and start thinking about taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Get a little exercise so you're not going to have the grabber the first time you have to walk a few blocks.

I see the habits of the parents reflected in their children every day. While many of these kids could actually hunt and fish to provide some sustenance for themselves, a whole lot of them are totally dependent on mom or grandma for everything. For many, there is no work ethic, no sense of pride and certainly no thought of self-reliance. Maybe every school should have some mandatory type of Outward Bound program? It's getting hard enough to field a football team around here. Or anything else that requires much in the way of hard work, for that matter. We need to toughen up quite a few of the little darlings both mentally and physically. So this fall, take the kids camping. Swat some skeeters, eat some burnt food that's been garnished with ashes, do a little hiking and top it off with an ice cold shower and a trip to the pit toilet. They'll thank you for it later.