Monday, June 26, 2017

Racewalk Results

Fun weekend. I did my 5K or a race of some indeterminate length Saturday morning. This was the second of the four race series we're signed up to run. All of these are just for fun - no prizes or awards - at small towns in the next county over. There was a real small group of us for this one, with maybe a few more runners than walkers. The instructions were to follow the course, come back into town and cross the finish line, then continue around the go-kart track back to the finish line again. First time I've ever seen that, but OK. 

The race started and I passed all the other walkers but when I looked back about a half mile into the race, there was a lady coming up on me. I picked up the pace and put a little distance between us and we stayed that way for most of the race until we came to the finish line the first time. I had a little bit left in reserve, so I was able to pull a little more of a lead when we went around the go-kart track. I thought it was just around the block but it turns out it was at least a half mile. When I hit the finish line the first time I was almost three minutes faster than my previous race but at least three minutes slower the second time around. My running buddy and a couple of other people had fancy-ass watches that said the race length was actually 3.6 miles rather than 3.1 like a normal 5K. Regardless, I knew I picked up the pace a bit and I'm starting to get my form back - which means I'm starting to look really silly like a real race walker should. 

I didn't realize the small town had this festival going on. The go-kart track was a street circuit around the town with hay bales, catch fence and bumper blocks. Practice was Saturday, racing was Sunday. I got a look at a few of the carts and they're the GP type - fiberglass bodies, two stroke motors with chambers and all that jazz. They had a drivers meeting that spilled out onto the track after the runners had made their way through but I had to thread my way through the drivers to finish up my lap. There was a parade right after the run, fireworks later that evening, entertainment, food trucks, etc. Small town fun. I'll have to remember the date for next year even if I don't do the 5 +/- K race.

Surly had taken the grandkids home for the weekend and when he brought them back he asked about swapping out the dropouts on one of his bicycles. He's putting together a designated track bike for an event he'll be participating in. In addition, he had brought a 20" BMX bike down and tossed it in the barn a while back. I needs a little TLC and when I saw the guy down the street was tossing some bikes and other scrap to the curb, I called Cuzzin Ricky and we went over and loaded up his truck. In addition to the 20" that's in the photo above, there was also a little bike with training wheels that should be just right for his grandson. I figure I can make one good one out of the two 20" bikes and then scrap the remaining parts. 

So I'm looking at a couple of bike projects in the near future as well as a couple more racewalks and an Indy car ride. Life is good!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Interesting Things

I was going to measure up the length of the posts for the deck off of the new barn, so I gathered up the tape measure, the level and a pencil. When I happened to look at the point on the pencil I saw a small hole in it. I turned it around and there was another one. This one was running parallel with the lead up under the paint. That's odd, I say to myself. Upon further investigation I find a bug of some sort in there. That would be the little devil in the picture. It was still alive but I've got no idea what it is or where it came from. The pencil was in a can with a couple other pencils and markers. The can had some dust in it from this thing gnawing on the pencil. I've got pine trees around the place that are dying off. Might be related to that. This one won't be doing any more damage, though. I think I'm going to check with my extension agent and see what he comes up with.

Rose hips. There's a bunch of them this year. I know they have many uses - they're used to make tea, they're high in vitamin C and the little hairs inside can be used to make an itching powder. You can also use them to propagate a new plant. I've never considered doing anything with them but I might look into a bit more while I've got a bumper crop and try putting them to use.

And finally, I walked down to the mailbox with the grandkids the other night. I kicked it into race pace for a little bit on the way back just to loosen up some for the 5K I'm doing today. The nine year old was running along side me and when I slowed back down he tells me: "I have to say, for an old man you're in pretty good shape." We'll see today if he's right or not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I took some time off from the shop projects when it was super hot to work on a few inside things that needed some attention. Actually, the Missus and I were looking into buying a house. It had been in her family for years and is in a nice location, unfortunately, it has been neglected for some time and it looked like it was going to be more trouble repairing and bringing up to code than we wanted to get into. While she was doing the leg work on that I was working on a couple of things that needed to be fixed around the shack but mostly I was thinking what the hell was I going to do with all the crap I've got if we move. I'm going to try and keep that thought in mind and let it guide me to keep throwing things out and downsizing some. We'll have to see how long that lasts.

Moving forward, I bought a couple of things for the wiring on the sidecar project. I bought a terminal strip and a trailer plug. The idea here is to wire the lights to one side of the terminal strip and wire one half of the trailer plug to the other side. I'll wire in the other half of the trailer plug to the bike so if I want to run the bike solo, all I'll have to do is pull the trailer plug apart, unbolt the chair and I'm done. 

The two pieces of sheet metal in the photo are for the VW job. I thought I had already cut a couple of pieces for that operation but couldn't find them the other day. The bucket of drops from the shear at work had just what I was looking for, however. I just had to cut it in half and clip the corners off. I still need to bend them but that should be easy enough. Finding time will be the issue again. 

The Missus and I will be looking after the grandkids for a week or so, plus my brother is coming to visit. Both of these are good things but will limit what I get done. It'll be nice getting a chance to catch up with my brother and I might coerce him into helping me on a couple of things I need an extra hand with. It'll be a different story with the grandkids. The long range weather forecast looks like rain most of the days they'll be with us. I'll have to look for some indoor places we can visit to keep them off the electronic devices and keep from driving grandma nuts if the weather keeps them cooped up in the house for a week. I like a challenge, though.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

End Of The Line.

I live not too far away from a railroad track - like only 100 feet or so. Just to the east of me was a switch that fed into the grain elevator. The track into the elevator was originally part of the Chicago & Wabash Valley Railroad. It was a little short line started in 1898 by Ben Gifford and was sold to the Monon after his death in 1913. I've written a little book about the history of the railroad, by the way, but I need to make a few edits and get permission to publish it from the Indiana State Archives since it contains some items from their collection.

What you see in the photo is the last of the line. It only got used in the spring to bring in anhydrous and then later in the fall to ship out crops. The line it ties into services another grain elevator along the way and then dead ends at the power plant about 10 miles east of me. However, with all the government regulations and the new found abundance of natural gas, the days of coal fired generating stations are numbered, so it won't be too much longer and that line too will be history.

They brought in a couple of sections of track and I thought they were going to fix things up a bit. I should have known better. They used the sections to replace the switch instead. They just whacked the rails off with a cutting torch and then jerked the old rails over a bit for some extra clearance. No dignity to that death but business is business. The other tracks are currently part of the NS. Originally they were the Three I - Indiana, Illinois and Iowa - and later became New York Central. This section went in around 1881.

Obviously the C&WV wasn't set up for high speed service with only two bolts on the splice plate. This rail is some of the old stuff made by Illinois Steel Co, South Works in 1909. It also has the number 7506 rolled into it. I'm not sure what that stands for but the rail might be 75#. It's not very tall.

This is by where the old depot was located. Probably the base of a signal light. If they pull the remaining rails up, this will be the only thing left to indicate there was ever a railroad there. My buddy and I followed the old line from north to south back in the 70's. We spent a cold January day traipsing around to see whatever remnants we could find. It was still pretty easy to locate the railbed at that time. It would be a lot tougher if you tried it today.

My old farmhouse was built by Frank Lewis, who I believe was in charge of surveying for the line and who later became the superintendent. After it was bought by the Monon after Gifford's death, Lewis came with the deal and eventually rose to the position of superintendent of the Monon railroad as well. So the old shack has a little bit of historical significance. I'm not sure without checking my notes, but I think the original part of the house was built in 1903. There were quite a few houses built along the rail line to the same pattern, all known as Gifford houses. 

So the old railroad is no more. Likewise the the other one that runs by the house will probably be closing down in the future. They chopped the tracks off on the other side of the power plant years ago. When the power plant closes down that'll be it for that one as well. As a rail fan, it'll be a sad day. The upside, however, is that it'll probably make it easier to sell my place. Not everyone is like me and wants to live next to railroad tracks. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cry Me A River

Actually, no need to cry me a river - things are pretty good around here. Since it was blistering hot on Tuesday afternoon, I was inside and the old TV show Laramie was on featuring an episode with Julie London. Even though she didn't sing, I've had the song stuck in my head ever since. 

Woke up yesterday to the Washington shooting on the TV. Initially I figured it was some right wing whacko. Apparently I was wrong.This time it was a left wing whacko. End result still the same though. Maybe Cry Me A River is more timely than I thought. Especially when I later hear about a workplace shooting in San Francisco.

It's really bad when you need to swap out the flowers in your hair for a flak jacket. I'm beginning to think we're witnessing the beginning of the end. All great empires have fallen. Might just be our time here in the USA.

This seems to fit, somehow. It's time to stop playing games and all of us do what's best for the country in the long term. As individuals we should be good parents, love our neighbors, man-up and do the right things. Those in political office, stop the bickering and pandering. You're supposed to be looking out for out best interests, not doing what's best to get you re-elected. 

Be safe out there. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Janus Motorcycles Discovery Day

I went to Goshen, Indiana yesterday to check out the Janus motorcycles. First off, the little bikes are pretty cool. I rode three different models - one Halcyon and two Phoenix models. The bikes get up and go pretty well for a 229cc. In fact, if I were to buy one I'd probably change the countershaft sprocket by one tooth or drop a couple teeth in the back to give them a little more top end and lower the revs a bit while cruising. The speedometer needle jumped around a bit and the seats on the Phoenix models were a little hard but that's really my only criticism. The finish on the bikes is all top shelf. All powder coating on the frames and the sheet metal. Nice looking welds on the frame. Disc brakes front and rear. Pinstriping and lettering all looks real good. Depending on the model and the options, 270 lbs and about 75 mpg.

In the foreground is the new Gryffin model. High pipe, different seat, tires and handlebars but essentially the same as the Phoenix models like those behind it. I rode both the red and black bikes. They were set up a little different. from each other. The black one has a little more displacement and narrower bars. More cafe racer style and I thought more fun as well.

In addition to the test rides, there was a shop tour. Here's a stack o' fenders. To the left of these were tires and boxes of engines. The tires and engines are imported but a good percentage of the bike is made locally. I was initially wondering why anyone would choose Goshen to start a bike manufacturing business but after hearing how the company came about and the fact that there are a lot of good craftsmen and other manufacturers in the area, it makes perfect sense.

The front ends all use the leading link style forks. This too makes sense. They function well and if you add a sidecar, which they are making available by the way, they work better than most telescopic forks. The "pedestrian slicer" is an option. The number is actually the number of that model that has been built. If that was on the Halcyon model, that bike would have been the 22nd Halcyon built. Pretty cool, that.

Frames and forks waiting to be assembled. They've got a backlog of work. If you order a bike now, you won't see it until 2018. Good that they have a waiting list. That means they're selling them.

This is Richard, one of the principals of the company. I had an opportunity to chat with him a bit and found it most enjoyable. He designed the frame and forks. The frame design is based on the Norton Featherbed frame - can't hardly go wrong there, I would suppose. 

Pinstriping is an option but I think everyone who buys a bike goes that route. It looks nice on the tanks but I think it really dresses up the fenders.

I didn't put a deposit on one for two reasons. First of all, I've got more motorcycles than I can properly care for already. Second of all, is the price. By the time you get one tricked out like you want, you'll be looking at $7K. That's a lot of money for a small bike. In my case that would probably buy most all the parts I need to finish most of my project bikes and the VW. However, I completely understand the pricing. The bikes are a very nicely done, low volume item that has a lot of R&D money that needs to be re-couped as well as the fact that these people need to eat. 

Fun bikes, nice people. I very much admire what they are doing and wish them all the best. And they are putting together a WERA racer out of one of these things. They're hoping to make their debut at Mid-Ohio. That should be fun. They'll also be having more Discovery Days. Shop Teacher Bob says check 'em out.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hit The Deck

Started on the deck for the "new" barn. Not really so new any longer but in comparison to the other out buildings it's the newest of the bunch. When I poured the floor in the back of the shop I also poured a couple of piers to support this thing. Since the barn went up about six years ago and the piers got poured two years ago, it's about time to finish this thing up. I still haven't decided what I want for a railing and a gate. I've got a couple of ideas I'm kicking around. I need to do a bit more investigating and then git to gittin'.

Finished up the first week of summer classes. Looks like a pretty decent bunch of students. My boss is still struggling with the new Learning Management Platform or whatever you want to call it. If or when he gets it figured out, he should have most everything ready for us adjuncts to use. From what I've seen of it, I think he figures that if I had to go through that learning curve, I'd just quit - and he's right. I almost feel bad for him but that's why he makes the big bucks. Take one for the team and all that.

The American Welding Society has a free on-line course on welding safety. I haven't checked it out yet but I'll probably take it. Always good to keep safety first and foremost in the welding game.

Heading to Janus motorcycles this morning to check out the little bikes I featured a couple of posts back. Seems they share a building with a brewery. If they sold bait & tackle or hardware, I'd be set. I'll get some photos and report back.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Odds & Sods

I found myself a new drill motor like I was looking for. It's got a keyless chuck and I would have preferred one with a key, but this one has a new and improved ratcheting chuck that's supposed to be the hot set-up. It's got an 8 amp motor, comes with a carrying case that's much too nice to use for a drill, and it has a lifetime warranty on parts and service. So if the brushes need replacing or the switch goes bad, I should be able to fix it myself or get it fixed. It also says on the box I can try it out for 90 days and if I don't like it, Ridgid will take it back. And it came at a real good price. Apparently Home Depot isn't going to carry this model anymore. Their loss, my gain. 

Cuzzin Ricky donated this to the cause. He's clearing out a shed in preparation for a building project he's looking at - probably figured it would be easier to give it to me than moving it twice. It's a Palmgren like they made a million of, however, this one has a swivel base which you don't see too often. The base isn't marked in degrees however. I'll get it cleaned up and painted and I can use it with my drill press that's going up top of the new barn.

The school house bell is blasted and ready for me to paint and build a base. I measured a few things and drew up a layout on the workbench to see how it would look and to get a material estimate. I'm looking at making the base out of 2" x 2" square tube that will be trapezoidal in shape when looking at it from the side. Not much to it. Just need to get everything cleared by the boss.

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. There was an editorial recapping the story in the weekend's Wall Street Journal. It mentioned the repair of the USS Yorktown that had "recently returned to Pearl Harbor trailing a 10 mile oil slick. Repair estimates ranged up to three months. Three days, ordered Nimitz. Fourteen hundred welders and shipfitters swarmed aboard. Three days later, the Yorktown sailed for Midway." It's amazing that they could perform the repairs in such a short time but if a similar thing occurred now days would they be able to find 1400 welders and shipfitters to be able to perform a similar repair? From what I've read both the Navy and the Air Force are operating with very few ships and planes if you compare the numbers to historical numbers. No capitol or labor to rebuild the fleet. This could get interesting one of these days.

One of my former students passed away last week. From what I understand, he died in his sleep. I'm guessing that the cause would be drug related but I don't know that for sure and I certainly don't wish to darken his memory if that's not the case. However, I heard on the local radio station last week that the police had three calls for heroin overdoses in the same day. The Chicago news also had a story about heroin overdose in Illinois and I read that a town in Ohio added on to their morgue to deal with the increase in overdose deaths and they're still out of room. Something needs to be done - I don't have the answer but there are too many young people dying senseless deaths. I've had several former students die from an overdose. It's heartbreaking to see all that potential go to waste. 

School starts this week and I'll be teaching pipe welding. Going to need pipe welders if they're going to rebuild the fleet. At least I'm doing my part. I just wish I could do something about the drug problem. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

One Step Forward - Two Steps Back

My wife's grandfather used to have a collection of bells - farm bells, schoolhouse bells, even a locomotive bell. He passed away quite some time ago and his collection went around the family intact but now it's being split up among a few of the relatives. The bell in the photo is one from his collection. It's a pretty big bell as you can see from how the parts fit in the back of a full size pickup. So my job is to get it cleaned up and painted and make some kind of stand for it so it can be displayed here at the shack. I dropped it off last evening with a former student who does a little sandblasting on the side. He cut me a decent price, so that'll make the clean-up go much faster and easier. I'll design some kind of stand while it's out so I can get it on display without too much of a lag.

Along with the bell came some hostas, which also required the installation of some edging, skimming off the sod, etc. That job's almost finished. I need to get some type of edging along the other side that will lay flush when installed so I can run the mower over the top of them rather than having to trim around them. I'll pick something up soon so I can be done with it.

Here's the real doozy. My driveway/lane is about 1000 ft long. It was getting pretty rough so I talked to the young man who farms my place and he agreed to bring the tractor over and give the lane a good going over. After he scraped it down a bit we agreed it could use some more stone so I hopped on the bicycle and went over to the hot-mix plant and ordered up a load. Normally the drivers are very good at tail-gating the load. This time, not so much. He managed to only get about 50 feet before he'd dropped the whole 20 ton load. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say, so I had him bring a second load. He did a fine job spreading that one. However, between the big tri-axle leaking some stone out the sides, and the farmer having to move quite a bit of stone with the bucket and the normal amount that escapes around the edges of the grader blade, I have quite a bit of stone I need to rake back out of the yard and into the lane where it belongs. 

You can see in the photo that there's about a foot that needs to be raked back in so it looks like the edge of the lane in the top of the photo. The far end of the lane, maybe 200' or so, doesn't need the raking, and since we didn't do all the way around the barn, when you figure in both sides needing to be raked, I've only got about a 1/4 mile that needs to be raked. Actually, I've got the majority of it done already. I'll go back out this evening after the sun goes down a bit and hit it again - might be able to finish today. Part of that depends on if my back holds out.

So, just about the time I'm ready to hit it hard on my own projects, something else comes along. Nothing new there. However, the old homestead is looking a bit nicer now. So that's good. And the lane shouldn't need much attention for a couple of more years. That's even better. It's back to work next week. Not so crazy about that but that'll pay for the stone and the trees I need to have taken down. Moving into a little condo is looking better all the time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Since I was able to finish up several projects around the shack, I got back to work on the sidecar project. I've got the fender pretty much finished up now. It still could use some planishing to smooth it out more but it's time to move on beyond that. I can do that next winter.

I needed to make a bump-out for clearance on the axle. Originally I thought I'd try to bump out the sheet but decided against that and went the make it out of a separate piece route. Of course this still involved making a piece to make the piece, but it came out rather well. 

Finished fender looks pretty sexy. The more I shine it up the more obvious the need for further planishing but even if I leave it as is, it's not too bad. Besides, it's supposed to be the kind of thing the passenger would be clambering on and about so you wouldn't want it finished to too high of a degree. I do like the solid rivets rather than "Pop" rivets holding things together.

While drilling the holes for the rivets, my Milwaukee 3/8" Hole Shooter quit working - I think the switch gave out. Of course the switch is no longer available so I grabbed the old Van Doren to finish up the job. This monster is actually only a 1/4" drill motor even though it's about twice the size of the 3/8". Grabbing this one was easier than walking out to the other barn and getting my cordless but it's tough to handle one-handed. Especially without breaking that small #30 drill bit. 

I looked at replacement corded drills on Amazon from both Milwaukee and Dewalt. The only Milwaukee I saw similar to what I have has a keyless chuck. While those are handy, for a heavy duty drill I'd prefer a chuck that requires a key. What I'd really like is to just be able to replace the switch on mine and move on from there. This is the second Milwaukee tool that's broken that I haven't been able to get parts for. Of course both of them are old enough to vote. The new Dewalt I looked at has a little less power and it's made in China. I'll do some shopping and see what I can come up with. I could probably get by with the cordless drill but when working in the shop having to have a cord isn't much of a handicap and they are a smaller than a cordless with comparable power.

Next up on the sidecar is the wiring. I've got the two lights that fit in the tubing that I need to wire in for tail and brake lights. I get that done and I'll be ready for powder coating or paint.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Photo From Here

Busy couple of days. Saturday morning I ran the boxing gym and then Cuzzin Ricky and I did the dead relatives tour, cleaning up the markers and planting flowers at the cemeteries. It was a beautiful day to be out and about and the cemetery where our fathers are buried has been around for quite some time so it's almost like a park with big shade trees and lots of plantings. Both of our dads were veterans of the "big war" so have the bronze military markers. We always trim the grass back from the edges and plant some flowers. It's not much really, considering what they did for Rick and I as well as the country.

Sunday I did a 5K walk. My running buddy did the 10K run. Neither event was a competitive event just for funnzies. I was the first walker in, but again, it wasn't a competitive event - good thing because my time wasn't all that good. However, in my defense, after passing everyone I opened up a pretty big lead on the rest of them so I slowed down a bit. It was a good morning to be out. The weather forecast was calling for rain but it was nice and clear. Two good days in a row. Kind of a rarity around here lately. 

I watched most of the Indy 500 later. I tuned in right after Scott Dixon's horrific crash. It's amazing he came away from that one with only very minimal damage, probably pretty sore today, however. I watched until the half way point then cut some grass before the rain was due. It got pretty cloudy and looked like it was going to just as I finished the front yard, but it never did rain. I came in and watched the finish of the race. Not quite as exciting as last years on track finish, or the ambulance ride later with the cousins, but congrats to everyone on the Andretti team.

Today's the actual holiday, so we should all pause and give thanks for all those who have served and gone on but give thanks also to the Boy Scouts, members of the American Legion and the others who plant the flags on the graves every year. If we can remember all those who have died in the service to our country, maybe we won't have to keep having wars. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

50 Mile Challenge

Looking for a workout? Howza 'bout walking 50 miles in under 20 hours? Saw this interesting item at The Art Of Manliness about Teddy Roosevelt challenging Army officers to walk 50 miles and later JFK picked up on the theme and brought the challenge back again. I remember lots of people taking Kennedy up on the challenge. Maybe it's time to bring it back again. The Art of Manliness is going to do some kind of Strenuous Life thing, of which the 50 mile walk will be part of. They apparently haven't fleshed all the details out yet about what's what with their Strenuous Life, but it looks to me it will somehow be a take-off from Roosevelt's idea that every man should be physically fit and not always take the easy way out.

If you follow the link back, you can get a better idea of what Roosevelt and Kennedy had in mind and their rationale behind it. Might be a worthwhile goal. It'd be nice to see some of the young adults getting out there and doing something. Walking the 50 miles would be tough enough but probably harder still while trying to look at the screen on your phone while doing it. Of course the phone would be handy to order carry-out along the way.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


A former student of mine sent me info on the Janus brand of motorcycles. Like with so many things, I wasn't aware of them but they're offering two models of 229cc bikes and they're made in Goshen, Indiana, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from the shack here.

That's the Halcyon model pictured. Pretty cool little bike. The Janus folks are offering ride days, which if you buy a ticket will give you a shop tour, test ride and who knows what else. A ticket is $25.00. I've been wanting to get over that way and check out the Studebaker Museum anyway. Looks like a good way to squeeze in a two-fer.

Thanks for the tip, Tim.

As I'm sure all you motorcyclists out there have heard, Nicky Hayden succumbed to his injuries from the accident he was involved in. RIP "Kentucky Kid".

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Couple of Good Guys and a Bunch of Bad Guys

I'm just finished reading Good Friday On The Rez by David Hugh Bunnell. In the book the author mentioned the Native American runner Billy Mills.

I had forgotten all about this. Of course, I was 14 years old at the time so it's been over 50 years ago but it was one of the most stunning upsets in Olympic history. Watch the clip - amazing finish! And when you finish the clip you might want to seek out Good Friday On The Rez to read. Lots of good history about the area around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation including the 1973 Wounded Knee incident/occupation. I do remember that happening. I might have to re-read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It's been years - I could do with a little refresher.

I read Crooked Politics In Northwest Indiana by Jerry Davich before I started Good Friday On The Rez. As the title implies, there's been some shady politicians in my corner of the state for a long time. The only real surprising thing is the fact that it's a short book. When working in East Chicago I had the dubious honor of doing some work for a couple of the headliners. I made a couple of wrought iron pieces for Mayor Pastrick's summer home as well as dealing with a couple of the double-dippers that worked for the school city as well as the civil city. A couple guys I was familiar with did some jail time and a couple of them went into witness protection. If I remember correctly, one guy was an athletic director or something and he fled the country when the Feds got too close. Interesting years. Pretty good book, also. 

I've been doing well on the book count - 27 so far this year. I took Hero Of The Empire by Candice Millard with me when I went to Louisiana and got that one knocked out. I've read some on Churchill in the past but didn't know a whole lot about his involvement in the Boer War. Seems he was pretty arrogant as a young man and could be rather grating but you can't argue with success. 

I'll have to take a couple of the books back to the library this week and see what else they've got on the shelves that strikes my fancy. Surly gave me a book on the Shackleton Expedition to read and my buddy Kevin, who loaned me the Millard book, gave me another one to read as well. Maybe try those next.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I looked into the details of the Nicky Hayden accident and it appears he's in very critical condition with multiple fractures as well as a serious head injury. From what I read he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle in Italy. Hayden has had a very successful racing career and been very popular with the fans, me included. Let's hope for the best.

While watching the flat track race last night, they mentioned the AMA Class of '79 and the charity they set up to help injured riders. I heard about this last year when Surly and I attended the race in Peoria. They've raised quite a bit of money so far but when it comes to the types of traumatic injuries motorcycle riders sustain and the resultant medical expenses, there's always going to be a need for a bit more money. You can make a tax deductible donation here.

Looks like today is going to be much nicer. The sun's out now and it's mid 60's. We must have gotten several inches of rain yesterday and from all reports, there was a tornado sighted not too far south of me. As soon as it dries up enough I need to clean up and mow the dog's "poop park". I've come to the conclusion what with taking care of the dog, cats and chickens, and of course the recent dealings with the raccoons, I spend way too much time dealing with poop. Spending Sunday afternoon on the business end of the pooper scooper and the old reel mower is a good way to keep me humble, I guess. Like the old joke about the guy cleaning out the elephant pen at the circus when asked why he didn't get a better job and replied "What? And leave show business?"

Have a good week and be safe out there.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

More Things

Photo From Here
I don't need anymore rolling stock around here but I'd love to have one of these. I'm hoping the new Jeep truck will be something I can love - 2 door, 4 wheel drive, suitable for a plow and pulling a trailer, and reasonably priced. I wanted to get a new truck before I retired but since I won't be driving much after December and the truck won't lose much more in value being 14 years old already, I can wait another year, I suppose. However, if all they offer is a 4 door or some kind of extended cab, I won't be happy. I'm not at all in favor of a truck that has a cab longer than the bed but that seems to be most of what you see on the road these days. 

The weather went from 90 degrees and sunny to 50 degrees and rainy with a few more rainy days on tap for this upcoming week. Kind of limits outdoor activity but it's time for me to get back in the shop and start doing something constructive anyway. Getting back to work on the sidecar and the VW would be a good thing. I have been picking off some of the easy things on the list. 

Of course if I sit on my ass and watch motorcycle racing I won't get much done. I tuned in to the Sacramento Mile flat track race on FansChoice TV last night. It came on at 8:00 PM local and the main event finished up a little before midnight. Indian once again filled the top three spots with Smith winning for the seventh time in a row. As a bonus they had the Robert's TZ750 out on the track before the race. I got a chance to see that thing run a couple of years ago in Indy. That's worth the price of a ticket. Also, they mentioned that Nicky Hayden has been involved in some type of accident and is in a bad way. They didn't give any particulars so I'll have to look into that later today. It's bed time now.

Things On A Saturday Morning

From the Indian e-mail I received, Indian once again swept the podium at Phoenix. Racing today at Sacramento. There's a live stream available. If I can remember, I'll see if I can watch a bit of it later today. With the success they're having, I would imagine Indian is working on a street bike to capitalize on that success even as we speak.

I had some success taking care of the last, hopefully, clean up from the raccoons in the shop. I replaced the ceiling sheets and most of the damage was in fact limited to just the two sheets. Judging from the amount of poop, it was either one raccoon that had been getting up there for a long time or it was a whole gaze of raccoons that had been visiting. Quite the mess. It was a little tricky putting the replacement sheets up by myself but I managed. They're 1/2" foil faced foam so they aren't heavy but they are a bit unwieldy when working off a ladder by yourself. I managed, however, with the help of a "Tee" stiff leg I made up out of scrap lumber. Job's done, shop's cleaned up and it smells much better out there now.

There was an editorial in the Wall Street Journal the other day once again addressing the issue of whether college education is really a necessity. The article mentioned welders again, which just warms the cockles of my heart, the amount of money that can be made and the why people are attracted to going into the trades rather than continuing with higher education. Why, most of the young people chose a skilled trade because they didn't like school. No kidding? What a surprise. 

I also saw a story on the internet (but forgot to book mark)  about Baltimore schools. Seems that at several of the schools, no student scored at grade level in math or English. Not a single one. I wonder if the curriculum in those schools includes shop classes? Not STEM or Project Lead The Way but good old fashioned shop classes. If your graduation rate is 50% and no-one is passing the "big test", maybe it's time to rethink the education philosophy and go back to the 3 R's and basic hands-on education - Practical Arts, Manual Training, Industrial Arts, whatever works to get the young people interested enough in school to attend and stick around long enough to graduate. Not to mention, if you can read a tape measure, add and subtract fractions, work with the tools and are reliable, you also are employable. 

I read the other day that Ariens, located in Wisconsin, can't find enough qualified help so they're bringing in Somali refugees to fill the positions. Maybe they should be bringing in refugees from the Baltimore School District, where they spend $16,000 per student per year to educate them, by the way. If you gave me ten of them and the $16K each, at the end of the year I guarantee you as long as the students were willing, I could teach them everything Ariens is looking for at their welder job posting. 

And to cap it all off, the new Secretary of Education gets booed at a commencement ceremony where she's the headliner. This at a Black college, when the Secretary has spent a size-able chunk of her fortune trying to get vouchers and charter schools to help students like those in Baltimore get a decent education that will allow them to get into college. 

It's about time we all start pulling together in this country, whether you're talking education or national politics. Put aside our differences long enough to hash out workable solutions. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. Ask Indian the key to their success. I'm sure teamwork is number one. It sure would be nice to see a "podium sweep" in K-12 education sometime.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Five Years Gone

Brother John in a photo I took about 40 years ago. He's sitting on the back of my old 50 Chevy truck I fixed up. Those were good times back then. Johnny's been gone 5 years now as of today. It's always a shame when someone is taken from this earth too early but to me it seems especially bad when you're so close to being able to retire and enjoy the fruits of your labor.When you finally have time to relax a bit and spend time with the grand-kids, go fishing, travel or whatever else that brings you joy. In John's case, he squeezed a lot of living into his time on this earth - just as it should be.

Me? I'm spending way too much time dealing with raccoons. I left the doors of the shop open the other day, thinking I was going to go back out after supper and do a little something. The wife went up town, I fell asleep in the chair and when she came home she said she heard something in the shop. Groggy old me heads outside to close up the shop and put the chickens away and sure enough there was another coon up on top of the shop. It went down inside the wall somewhere and I locked things up. I didn't notice anything the next day but if it went out, that means it could get back in again. The only place I can think of is a gap along the front of the wall and the roof. I made a couple of sheet metal pieces to close things up. I'm hoping that will do it finally. 

I made some rhubarb bread the other evening. The loaf on the right side is missing a couple of pieces. As soon as it was cool enough to eat, I cut a slice off, buttered it up and chowed down. Tasty. So tasty in fact, I made a couple more loaves the next day as well. It freezes well.

I need to get the SV uncovered and operational sometime soon. It's time to ride. Past time, in fact. Same thing with the fishing pole. I haven't been fishing in a long time. Need to re-order my priorities a bit. And quit the job. 

I spent half a day trying to get my contract for summer school taken care of with the new electronic signature jazz. I finally gave up and went to school to try and resolve it. I pulled it up on the computer there and the secretary tried to make it work but didn't have any better results than I had. She finally gave up and just printed me off a copy to sign and then sent it on its way. We've also got a new learning management system going into effect soon. I went to an orientation meeting and wasn't at all impressed with the change. If it wasn't for the fact I promised my boss to finish out the year, I'd just drag up at the end of summer and be done with it. I've been down the "change for the better" road too many times without things really improving much. I'm pleading ignorance on this new change. When someone other than me gets it up and running, give me a shout. In the meantime, I'll wait in the truck.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Vacation Time

Still playing catch-up from the Louisiana trip it seems. I had to replace some of the plants in the garden that got frost killed. I sketched up a design to help with the high school team that is going to a welding contest. Welded up some parts for the ring at the boxing gym with some more pieces still to come. The pieces in the photos are to hold the planks for the ring floor down. I still need to make four wall brackets for heavy bags. Did some more yard work and managed to get an eighteen mile bike ride in on Sunday morning. I've still got a stack of magazines to work my way through but I've managed to keep up on the book count. I've got 24 read so far this year, that being the only thing I'm ahead of schedule on.

I'm officially on vacation for three weeks until summer school starts. I haven't prioritized the to-do list yet but I think I'll just wing it. Whatever I feel like working on when I wake up in the morning, that'll be it. As long as I see some progress every day, that'll be good enough. I looked for a couple of race walks to compete in but a couple of the ones I've done in the past no longer offer race walks, just runs. Maybe just devote my exercise time to training for the bicycle race in July and see what I can find for a race walk after that.

Lots to do - some fun stuff, some not so fun. I got serious about cleaning up the mess from the raccoons. Respirator, rubber gloves and Pine-Sol. I threw a bunch of stuff away and scrubbed the sidecar down real well. I would have done it before I left for Louisiana but I didn't want to take a chance on coming down with the hantavirus or some kind of gunga-lunga while I was gone. It's a lot cleaner and it smells a lot nicer out in the shop now. I didn't even want to go in there with what I had going on. I still need to replace a couple of the ceiling sheets. Fortunately, the ones that need to be replaced are right in the middle and won't require any trimming or anything special. Take two down, nail two up, throw the clothes in the washer and shower up.

I do want to get in good enough shape to ride the Panhandle Pathway this summer. Actually, I'm pretty close to being in shape for that already. Ride down, camp for the night and then ride back the next day. Won't be like Bronson but I've done my share of cycling around the country. Just human powered rather than V-Twin powered. I'd still like to do that motorcycle trip, however. I know it wouldn't be the same as when I was an eighteen year old kid. I should probably reconcile myself to the fact that boat's already sailed but I doubt if I'll ever truly get over not having gone. Should have replaced the stolen Sprint with the 500 Triumph and hit the road regardless what it took to make it happen. One of the few regrets I've got for something I didn't do - got plenty for things I did do - but only a few for the ones I didn't do.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

RIP Mike & Joe

Michael Parks passed away recently at the age of 77. He's best remembered for his starring role in the Then Came Bronson television show from the late 60's. Bronson was must see TV at Shop Teacher Bob's house back then. I had my Sprint and he had his Sportster but when the going got tough on the TV show, the Sportster morphed into a Sprint. There was also a feature length movie and a Bronson book that I remember reading. That was great entertainment for a guy right out of high school who dreamed of doing just what he did. My dream never came to fruition primarily due to someone stealing my bike right before I was planning on booming out, but I still might be able to make the big trip some day.  More likely, I'll order up the TV series from Amazon with my gift card I got for Christmas. 

Photo From Here
Joe Leonard also passed away recently. While Bronson was riding around the country, Joe Leonard was racing around the country. He was a successful motorcycle racer starting in the 50's and then switched over to cars. He ran at Indy as well as on dirt tracks. His Indy car rides included Offy and Ford powered cars as well as a ride in one powered by a Pratt and Whitney. Again, for a young man who followed motorcycle and auto racing, I knew the name Joe Leonard. Unfortunately, like many Indy car drivers back in the day, he kissed the wall and sustained career ending injuries.

Rest in peace, gentlemen. For the rest of you: "Well, you hang in there."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Education Rant - (But Just A Short One)

There was an editorial in the Wall Street Journal last week concerning the apprenticeship model BMW is using in South Carolina. "In Germany, half the graduates of high schools and junior high schools choose a track that combines training on the job with further education at a public vocational institution." Hard to argue with the success of the German education system, that's for sure, but one thing that's never mentioned is the role unions have played in education. Companies relocate to the South to get away from unions but historically, the unions are the ones that have been supporting the apprenticeship programs. If you move away from the unions, where are you going to get qualified people for technical jobs? Sure there are vocational schools, but with the rising cost of secondary education you are going to be shutting more than a few people out. Also with the elimination of many vocational programs at the high school level, it's not surprising that young people aren't thinking about a skilled trade as a viable career option. 

It seems the movers and shakers in education always want to use "best practices" but only if those practices agree with their personal philosophy. That philosophy being more testing and less skills based education. After watching a couple of twenty-somethings a couple of weeks back attempting to use a hack saw, it's obvious that we've neglected to teach any type of hand skills in school. It's also no surprise that it's hard to find qualified people when you don't teach skills in schools or through apprenticeship programs any more. Maybe the big muckity-mucks will start looking at the best practices of Germany and Finland so we can get our education system back on track.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

National Teacher's Day

Today's National Teacher's Day. I had some really good ones as a student and I worked along side many a good one - ran across a few turds as well - but every profession has a few of those. I know first hand the role we teachers and coaches can play in the lives of those we teach/coach and it's a tremendous responsibility but also a tremendous opportunity. In spite of all the damage that has been done by the politicians in the last few years, teaching is still a very rewarding career and one that I still enjoy after over forty years in the profession. 

Thanks to all my teachers and coaches I've had over the years. I'll share all my successes with you and take the blame for all my failings - after all, you're teachers, not miracle workers. To the rest of you teachers and coaches out there, keep up the good work and thanks for all you do.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fight Wrap-Up

"Bazooka Joe"

We arrived in Louisiana on Sunday after the "interesting" drive down. Joe didn't have to fight until Tuesday, so we had a chance to get settled in and relax a bit. The fights started Monday with half the weight classes, the others having to weigh in and compete on Tuesday. Weigh-in went well - never a worry with Joe. I was a little concerned because I didn't get my passbook signed. Apparently it wasn't an issue because rather than initialing the book,  they had little stickers printed up but they weren't distributed until Thursday.

Joe's fight was good, other than the outcome. He lost a 3-2 decision. I had him winning the first round by a close margin, losing the second round and then winning the third round by a huge margin. He must have hit his opponent with 100 jabs the last round snapping his head back each time. I would have scored it a 10-8 round if I was judging, but of course, that's not how it works. Joe took the loss well. He was disappointed, naturally enough, but he was extremely well pleased with his performance, as well he should have been. It was the best he's ever fought. Most everyone one on the team believed he should have won, including Sugar Ray Seales who came along in a coaching capacity. If you don't recognize that name, Seales was a Gold Medal Olympian and a serious middleweight contender. He knows boxing. 

Sugar Ray has taken a shine to Joe and offered up a lot of good advice to both Joe and I. Two pearls of wisdom that stuck with me were: "When you're doing nothing, do something." "When your coach tells you to run three miles, run three for your coach and then one for yourself."

There seemed to be a lot of split decisions at the tourney, including 4-1 decisions. It makes you wonder what the judges are looking at if four of them score it for one fighter and one of them scores it for his opponent. Also one of our fighters was involved with a dirty fighter in his bout. The opposing fighter head butted him, put his forearm across his throat, he even hopped up so he could hit our guy with a shoulder under the chin. The referee didn't call the other fighter on any of the infractions and our fighter totally lost his cool. Needless to say, that didn't turn out well. The opposing fighter got his comeuppance the following night but that didn't help our guy since he was already eliminated. I came away from the fights a little perplexed. It's hard to coach someone when you don't know the criteria the judges are using to score the fight. I know what they're supposed to be. It just didn't seem like there was any consistency to the scoring. 

The Indiana Golden Gloves franchise is nothing but the greatest in its treatment of the fighters and their coaches. They gave us a very generous per-diem  for our meals and they were very generous with the travel money. They're always professional and it's a pleasure working with all of them. Also they have scholarship money available for fighters that can be used for college or trade school. All you have to do is compete in the Indiana Golden Gloves and fill out the paperwork. If you're from the northwest corner of the state, get in touch with me and we'll get you in shape to fight next year so you can help defray your education expenses. 

All in all, it was a great experience for both Joe and I. Next year's event will be held in Omaha - hoping to be there!

P.S. I wasn't able to participate in the 5K race walk due to going to Louisiana but I looked up the results. I definitely would have won an age division award. They were giving medals out for the top three finishers and there was only one contestant in my age group. Would have finished no lower than second. Actually, he had a pretty slow place, so I should have been able to easily win my age group. No complaints, though. Not often do you get a chance to compete at the national level in amateur boxing.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Throw The Jab, Baby!

I must have heard "Throw the jab!" at least a thousand times this past week. Always good advice, of course.

Quite the trip. We left a week ago Saturday mid-afternoon for Louisiana and the National Golden Gloves tournament. Lightly raining in Indiana when we left, hit Illinois and the rain intensity went up and down. Rained hard while in Missouri - gully washer hard in fact. We stopped for the night and the storm woke me up. I looked outside and it looked like a hurricane. Wind howling and the rain coming down in sheets. The power went out in the hotel while we were eating breakfast, so we had to finish in the dark. Rain continued to plague us as we journeyed south. I-55 was one lane in Mississippi about 40 miles north of Jackson due to downed trees across the road. I didn't hear for sure but I'm guessing it was a tornado that might not have have touched down that caused it. The weather finally cleared up about the time we hit Lafayette, however.

The trip back was pretty much uneventful - just long. I drove straight thru with only a bit of rain. Mostly it was beautiful sunny weather with temps in the 70's. We left at 8:00 Saturday morning and got home at 2:00 this morning. Over 1000 miles. We took a different route coming home to avoid the flooding along the Mississippi River even though it was longer. I don't know if that was necessary but for everyone's peace of mind, seemed prudent. Couldn't avoid the road construction but at least I didn't have to try and navigate through construction zones in monsoon rains in the dark - just construction zones in the dark. I'm beginning to think there is never a time I-65 is not being worked on. However, we made it home safe and sound. That's what counts.

I'll fill you in on the boxing next post. I've got laundry to do and grass to mow.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


The Cajundome. The Golden Gloves finals will be held here on Saturday night. Hope to be working a corner but we'll have to see how things work out. It'd be nice to have a national champion from the club. We've had quite a few state champions in the lower divisions but this is the first time our club has a guy fighting in the nationals. This is my second trip to the nationals as a coach - Jimmy won the state title when I was coaching him way back when and we went to Denver for the nationals. Good experience for both of us. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Louisiana Bound

Photo From Here
Heading down to Louisiana for the Golden Gloves so posting will be a bit light. Hope my boy does well. It's a long haul down there and back but should make for a nice little vacation regardless of the outcome of the fights.

I haven't really been anywhere in the last couple of years - at least not anyplace I haven't already been to before. The only problem with this trip is that I've been to Louisiana but I still haven't made it to California and Nevada. I would have rather gone west rather than south, especially since I'll have to ask the Missus extra nice if I want to make that trip yet this year. With all that's going on in the news, I'd like to finish up the states on my bucket list and then just plan on staying close to home. Of course, if you've got the ramblin' fever, sometimes you just need to go.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

It's a start - a couple of pieces for the sheet metal roller I'm going to make. I've got a couple of other pieces gathered up also. I need to make a trip to Tractor Supply and see if they have the hubs, bushings and sprockets I need. If not, I should be able to order those items from MSC. I'm planning on building it over vacation between spring and summer sessions at the college. I should be able to complete it then as long as I have most of the parts in house. With a roller I should have most all the equipment I need to do motorcycle and automobile sheet metal work. I'm thinking about buying a plasma cutter but I've got ways to shear sheet metal and saw or flame cut heavier material.

I got my peppers and my tomatoes planted the other day along with some glad bulbs and a couple more lilies behind the house. The pepper plants in the photo are a couple extras I planted on the south side of the shop. I need to trim back a tree so they'll get more sun yet and I still need to get a few other things planted but things like radishes and carrots I stagger the plantings anyway. Not sure what else I'm going to try and get in - cucumbers for sure. I'll decide when I go to TSC for the roller parts and peruse the seed rack.

I got the shop racoon proofed. At least I think I did. Doesn't look like there's been any more activity in there. I've still got a lot of cleaning up to do. I'll probably have to take some of the ceiling sheets down and replace them. I'll also have to decide what I'm going to do with some of the things the raccoon pooped on. Probably end up just tossing most everything. Time to start down-sizing anyway.

And one last item that points to how far we've fallen when it comes to using our prehensile thumbs: I was working in the lab and I observed a couple of the machining students using a hack saw. The project requires a stud to be threaded into a block of steel and then trimmed off to a specific length. The instructor has them thread a bolt into the block, cut the head off with the hacksaw and then mill the stud to the proper length. Simple enough but it was quite obvious that several of them had never used a hacksaw before. The saw was going every which way - one guy was even sawing using only one hand. There was nothing wrong with his other hand. I guess he figured it just wasn't worth the effort to use both of his hands. If what separates us from the apes is the ability to use tools, we might want to bring back shop class to get these boys an opportunity to learn how to use basic hand tools.

Those boys could learn a few things from Primitive Pete like I did back in the day.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Weekend Welding

Cuzzin Ricky and I went to the USAC Sprint Car races at Plymouth Speedway Friday night. It was the first time either of us had been there. Nice track - 3/8 mile dirt, stadium seating and 5 buck pork tenderloin sandwiches. It was a great night for racing other than the temperature - low 40's by the time the feature was run. I thought I had on plenty of clothes but I was still pretty chilly by the time we headed for home. The race itself was great. 30 lap feature and not even a single lap run under the yellow. Easy drive over there as well. Have to watch the schedule for more open wheel events there in the future.

Saturday I worked on Rick's trailer. I had the plate to mount the winch all set to weld on, just a matter of grinding off some paint where the welds were going and clamping it down. 

I had to cut out the tube that supported the top rail in order to mount the roller guide that the cable runs through. I made up a couple of angle iron braces to bolt the guide to and welded those in place.

He wanted a couple more tie-downs in the middle of the trailer, so I had to weld one of these in on each side. The loop that holds the "D" ring in place is wider than the channel the frame is made from so I had to remove the wood planking so I could weld the loop from the bottom side and I made a plate to go over the top of the loop that I could weld to the frame rails and to the loop since I couldn't weld it to the inside of the fender. 

Took me a bit longer than I had figured but mostly that was because I hadn't seen all the parts before the trailer arrived. If I had seen everything before hand I would have had everything ready to go. Not really a problem, though. It was a nice day to be outside welding and using the tools. Rick tells me I've got a free haul coming if I ever decide to drag home a farm truck! Always good to have one in the bank.

Got some other spring-timey chores done on Sunday. Took the covers off the air conditioners, did some yard work and some piddly things on the to-do list. Need to do a bit more with the garden and then get things in the ground. It's starting to look kind of scary if you pay any attention to the news at all. A couple of big cities lost power last week, things even more shaky on the international scene and lots of store closings across the country. Definitely need to have the garden going as well as checking out the rest of my "preps". Things just might come unglued one of these days before much longer. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Have a good week. Be ready.