Monday, January 30, 2017


I've been wanting to get out and travel lately. Since my wife became ill I haven't really been anywhere. Now that I'm tied up for a while with work, I thought I'd revisit Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. I rarely re-read a book but since it's been probably 30 years at least since I read it, I'm hoping it will be like meeting up with an old friend - familiar but new at the same time. Off I went to the library in search of Blue Highways and I came across Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories From The Road  by Heat-Moon so I grabbed it instead. This one came out in 2013 and is a collection of his short stories. I'm about half way through the book and it's most enjoyable.

Apparently, he lives in Rocheport, Missouri which is on the Katy Trail. In one of the chapters he describes the Katy Trail which runs along the Missouri River and was also the path Lewis and Clark took when heading out west. My cycling buddy and I rode the Katy Trail on the first of our long distance bike rides together. Big time fun and it led to us undertaking several other long distance rides. I remember us stopping in Rocheport for breakfast one morning - cool little river town.

There is also a chapter in Here, There, Elsewhere about beer. Interesting perspective on real beer/ale as opposed to what is passed off as beer by the big brewing companies. I've maintained for some time that the downfall of America began with the introduction of light beer. He doesn't go quite that far but he does make an excellent case for craft breweries, micro-breweries and taverns of the traditional type. And, he of road trip fame, was willing to travel to distant locales to support his hypothesis. I like that.

In addition to Blue Highways, I've also read his River Horse and PrairyErth. The Missus and I followed the Santa Fe Trail westward in '96. My cycling buddy recommended PrairyErth to me so I took it along on the trip, reading it in the evenings after we had stopped for the day. The book is about Chase County, Kansas and we stopped in at the courthouse and signed the visitor's log. I think it would be safe to say William Least Heat-Moon put Chase County on the map judging from the visitors who have shown up at the courthouse from all over the world. Again, an excellent read.

I saw that he also has written another book, Roads to Quoz. I'll have to see about that one after finishing off Here, There, Elsewhere. Maybe then I'll get back to Blue Highways. None of this is going to help quell the itch I've got to travel, however. I've still got my four states to see in order to have been in all fifty. A train ticket to Reno with a paperback copy of Blue Highways to read along the way could help scratch that itch. Better still, a motorcycle trip out west. Pickup US 50 in southern Indiana and head west all the way to Cal-ee-for-nye-a. I doubt if you can find many three calendar cafes anymore, though.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Jeep Truck

Photo From Here
The Missus told me she had heard that Jeep was planning on bringing out a new pickup truck. After checking into it a bit, it seems they are planning on doing an overhaul of the Wrangler due out this year and then building the truck version off of that in 2018. When I was shopping for a new vehicle last time, I wanted a small truck. I was looking for something like the Dakota I used to have. Four cylinder, 5 speed manual, eight foot bed. Good mileage, cargo capacity and big enough to haul a small trailer. However, no-one makes an animal like that anymore. There's a couple of mid-size trucks out there but most of them have cabs longer than the beds. I don't need a back seat. I own a car. I need a truck so I can haul things, not people.

I'm sure the new Jeep won't look like this, but I dig this thing. Not at all practical for around here but man does not live by practicality alone.

Both Photos From Here
This I could live with. This is a concept vehicle from a few years back. Since the old Dodge will be 15 years old next year, might be time to trade it off and get something to haul my little teardrop around and see a bit more of the country while I'm still able.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One Step Closer

We had a tremendous day around here on Saturday - sunny and 60 degrees. Not at all like what a normal January day would be. I went to the gym in the morning, came home and tackled a few little things outside and then threw the big doors open in the shop and worked a little bit on the sidecar project. 

I needed to fill in a small spot on the floor and fasten down the front of the fender. Fortunately, I found a piece of diamond plate big enough to do the job without having to order in a piece. After cutting it to fit, I bent up a piece of 3/16" aluminum flat bar to match the contour of the fender, drilled and countersunk a couple of holes for the Dzus fasteners, and then welded it on to the floor plate. Punched and dimpled the fender for the Dzus fasteners and I was set. The fasteners have the "wings" on them to be able to turn them without tools but those are only temporary. When I get everything ready for final assembly, I'll swap them out for ones with screwdriver slots.

Next up is to make the fender skirt for the inside of the wheel. I'm thinking about making another hand grip on the outside. I should do that, if I'm going to, before I close the wheel opening on the outside. It's not supposed to be brutally cold or anything this week. Maybe I can get the inner skirt done in the next few days.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


The recent Vintage Motorsport magazine e-mail had both of these. They're part of the upcoming Mecum auction taking place in Vegas soon. If you're flush with green and are looking for a bike, you should be able to find something to your liking. I went through the catalog and there's everything from scooters, to cruisers, old to new. A beautiful '68 Triumph Bonneville caught my eye, as well as several things of Italian origin. I don't need anything else with wheels under it but I'd love to be able to fly out there, buy the Bonnie or something similar and then ride it back home. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Virtual Welding

Here's a short promotional video about the Lincoln virtual welding machine. It features, among others, my boss, one of my students and a co-worker.

I've farted around with the thing and I'm not sold on the advantages of it, personally. My biggest problem with it is we only have one of them. It works well if you partner people up but with the eight week format of our classes, we don't have the time to cycle everyone through the virtual welder before getting them out on the real thing. It's fun to play with, however.

You can set up different scenarios where you'll be welding, different welding processes, different electrodes, material thickness, joint types and positions. The machine will tell you if the parameters are within the required range and then grade your performance on things like arc length, travel angle, speed of travel - all the things you would be looking at if your were actually welding. The view through the helmet is pretty realistic and you have to chip your slag like a real weld. And it has sound effects! 

It has the potential to save a lot of money in material and consumables but the machine is expensive. You'd have to use it a lot to get the payback, however. While it simulates the welding processes very well, I'd like to see it make smoke and spit out sparks as well. Then you'd have something.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I'd finished reading I Had to Survive by Roberto Canessa and mentioned it to Surly. He recommended  I read the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Interesting book. The author's father was shot down over Germany while piloting a B-17. He was unable to get out of the plane and rode a chunk of it down from an altitude of 27,000 feet. Surprisingly enough, though badly injured, he lived through that only to be facing a German farmer pointing a pistol at his head. When the farmer pulled the trigger, the gun failed to discharge, literally dodging a bullet. The author goes into more details of his father's story at the end of the book after relating many other incredible stories of survival including that of Roberto Canessa, not all of which end well.

I suppose most every man has wondered at one time or another if he had what it takes to come out on top in a true survival situation. The Deep Survival book brings together some commonalities of the survivors as well as describing how the brain functions when in serious trouble. With all the interest in "prepping" on one end of the spectrum and safe spaces and trigger warnings on the other, what's really going to happen if there's a serious national event like the grid going down for a month? What happens to the preppers who haven't prepared well enough, say their food or water supply runs out. Does being a prepper make you a survivor or just put you ahead of the curve. Will all the "snowflakes" leave their safe spaces and become survivors.

I just recently saw the documentary on the Blizzard of '49. Good Lord, what a storm. If I remember right, however, there was only one fatality. Now those people were survivors. Also, last Thursday was the anniversary of the Children's Blizzard. I recommend reading the book on that one. While it's a tragic story, it really brings home the fact that Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress.

The appendix of the Deep Survival book discusses living your life while balancing the risk/reward ratio as well as offering some things to consider if you ever find yourself in a survival situation. Additionally, there are of course things that you can and should do to prepare if you're going to be involved in a risky hobby or adventure and the book lists several of these. Since these seem to be somewhat risky times with both politics and the weather causing major issues, you might want to look in to preparing yourself for some unforeseen situation. Reading Deep Survival would be a good start.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Photo From Here

Great photo of Katherine Hepburn. Now that the cold weather is here and it gets dark early, I should mix up some fresh chemicals and make a few B&W prints. I haven't done any photography work in quite a while. I should see what I've got for film and maybe shoot a couple of rolls of medium format and maybe a few shots with the 4x5 as well. Of course getting out would somewhat be weather dependent and around here that could be just about anything. 

Last weekend the daytime temperatures were in the teens. Wednesday the Missus and I had dentist appointments that had us driving through fog on the way in, and a serious thunderstorm on the way home with temperatures increasing from high 30's through out the day until they hit 55 at 8:30 that evening.. I had gone out into the shop earlier in the day and worked a bit until I ran out of propane for the furnace. I loaded up the tank and took it over to get it refilled. It's a fairly large tank - about 42" tall and 16" in diameter. I dropped it off outside by where the route driver fills his truck. I went back yesterday to pick it up and the tank was frozen to the ground. I borrowed a hammer from the guys there, thinking I could tap around the base and break it free. No go. One of the mechanics got a strap, wrapped it around the tank and gave it a jerk with his pickup to break it free. They're forecasting temps in the mid to high fifties next weekend, so I'm planning on getting out and doing a little ice skating this weekend. Crazy weather, even for around here.

I start back to school next week. Not really looking forward to working after having a month off but I'm sure I'll be fine once I get back into the routine again. I got caught up on a lot of little things while I was off and even though I've got a project list that's still a mile long, mostly it's just my stuff and not the honey-do things. I'll get started on an exercise routine, set aside a couple hours every day for project work and then just keep on keepin' on. You all do the same.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Educational Items

"Back when I taught at UCLA, I was constantly amazed at how little so many students knew. Finally, I could no longer restrain myself from asking a student the question that had long puzzled me: "What were you doing for the last 12 years before you got here?" - Thomas Sowell

1. Mr. Sowell recently retired and this quote was taken from his last column. I'm only vaguely familiar with Mr. Sowell's works, but since I started teaching at the college I've wondered the same thing. How did you guys get into college with your skills? Going along with this, I started a Facebook page a couple of months back - now that's one big sinkhole of a time waster - and it didn't take me long to discover that many of the people posting should have paid closer attention in English class over the years. Granted, some of the cell phone shorthand is to be expected, and people probably don't put a lot of thought into posts of cat videos or their grandchildren, but still, if you're going to send it out into the world don't make yourself look totally illiterate. The stuff I write here is not always grammatically correct. I write in "conversational" sentences, if there is such a thing and I think much faster than I can type which can lead to some interesting sentence structure. Normally, however, I try to write a post then come back later and proof read it. The cooling off period allows me to catch most of my mistakes.

2. I checked the National Endowment for the Humanities site to see what they were offering for summer workshops and seminars. Nothing much that an adjunct welding instructor would qualify for but they are offering the program at the Henry Ford again for K-12 teachers. I've attended three of these summer workshops on the subject of the Industrial Revolution including the one at the Henry Ford. Besides learning quite a bit of history, at the Henry Ford we rode the steamboat, the steam locomotive, toured a Ford assembly plant, did an after hours tour of the grounds of the Greenfield Village, and had access to areas of the Henry Ford normally off limits to visitors. Shop Teacher Bob highly recommends the NEH summer workshops. You can find the info here.

3. The  most recent Imprimis from Hillsdale College delved into education issues. Hillsdale has successfully started sixteen charter schools with more in the works. These offer an education based on the classical model with Latin, history, literature, philosophy, etc. being taught. The chairman of Hillsdale's education program has written a series of standards for K-12. The standard for each grade takes up only about a half sheet of paper but according to the author, if the child can do the things on that half page, he/she has learned a lot. Mostly it seems to be common sense vs Common Core. You can read the whole article online here

4. I just finished reading Generation Debt by Anya Kamenetz. Interesting look at how young people are struggling to get a decent start in life - college loan debt, credit card debt, lack of jobs (especially those with benefits), and other factors that play into keeping them from having their slice of the pie. The book was written in 2006. After the meltdown of '08 and the following years, I'm sure things haven't improved much for those who fall into the 18 - 30 year old category. Looking at it from my perspective, I see things differently than the author but that's to be expected. However, when things are tough, that might be the time to look to your elders for some advice. As the book mentions, though, many of the older people they look to for help are people with problems of their own. The book does a really good job of explaining the problems and the issues facing young people trying to make their way in the world but I wasn't real impressed with the solutions offered at the end of the book. Here's a couple of things I would offer: Understand fully the economic concepts of compounding interest and opportunity cost. Have marketable skills. Get a job and do not quit that job until you have a better one.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ice Racing

Surly and I met up at Cedar Lake yesterday to check out the ice races. I was wondering on the way over if they were going to have any sidecars and, sho - nuff, they did. I talked to a couple of the guys about the bikes. Three of the rigs were just set up with a third wheel. The Sportster in the top photo was actually set up for a passenger. However, the course they ran on was just an oval, so all a passenger would do for you would be additional weight over the drive wheel. The sidecars can run screws in the front wheel only, so they don't build up too much speed. Apparently the trick is to cut slits in the knobbies to get a little more traction and refine the handling by moving the sidecar wheel for or aft as needed.

In addition to the sidecars, they raced quads and solo rigs. Most of the racing was without spikes around the oval. Not real exciting to watch when you're standing on the ice in 15 degree weather. The bikes with spikes, however, that was a whole different story. Instead of running just on the small oval, they raced on a big slalom course - and race they did. One guy took off and left the pack but he dropped out before the half way point in the race. He was flat gettin' it. Most of the rest of the racers were no slouches either. 

This is the first ice race I've been to since the early 70's here at the same venue. There were a few years back then when there wasn't enough ice to race and I guess everyone gave up. They started back up again a few years ago. Glad I went, in spite of the cold. I was dressed warm but my feet were getting cold about the time the main was over. It's supposed to warm up tomorrow again so I'm planning on heading back out to the shop to do a little more on my rig.

The group that put the show on can be found on Facebook:  MotoOnIce Cedar Lake, if you're interested.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

15 Year Pin

I renewed my boxing license a couple of weeks ago and shortly thereafter received this in the mail - 15 year service pin from USA Boxing. I don't know if this is something new for them. I never received a 10 year pin, but regardless, it's a nice touch. They also have online clinics now. In order to renew your license you need to attend a clinic every two years. In the past that would require me to travel to Indy. Now everything can be done online. Since there have been some rule changes, I was a little concerned about taking the required exam but after reading through the material and watching two short videos, I passed with flying colors. Since I've obviously been around the sport for a while, I probably shouldn't have been too apprehensive but I would've felt like a real dumb ass if I had failed the test.

I don't know how much longer I'm going to be involved with the sport. I cut back when the wife got sick but then jumped back in when Jimmy got hurt. I need to exercise for my own health's sake and there's no better place to work out than at a boxing gym. I know Jimmy appreciates my help but he also understands my situation. Probably my best option is to go in when I can, help out when needed and not give it another thought until next year when I need to decide if I want to renew my license again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sidecar Fairing

Photo From Here
Oh, hell yes! Tell me that doesn't look like fun.

Full Fairing from Air-Tech that would fit the 900. Price is close to $400.00. I don't think that includes the windscreen, so add another $100.00 minimum, plus shipping and you're looking at close to $600.00 to the door. If I tackle making my own, material and shipping would be half that. Of course I would have to factor in about six months worth of labor the way I work. I could use the practice, though.

Photo From Here
I always liked the look of the Rickman bikes. Something similar to this fairing would be cool - kind of a 3/4 fairing. This would be within the limits of my talents, I would think.

I'll keep working while I'm cogitating.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


I pushed the VW out of the shop so I could get a little work done on the sidecar rig. I got the fender braces tacked on, the floor sheet fit up and a couple of Dzus fasteners installed to hold the rear of the fender in place. I still need to add a piece that will tie the two fender braces together underneath the top of the fender and then I can finish fastening the fender down. When I have the fender firmly mounted I'll make the skirts to completely cover the wheel. I'm not sure how I'm going to hold the floor sheet in place. Maybe some 3/16" "Pop" rivets. Once the frame is painted and the lights are wired, I shouldn't have to remove it for anything. I'm still kicking around the idea of adding a brake light on the back of the fender. Just might keep some knucklehead who's gabbing or texting on the cell phone from running into me at a stop light.

Anyway, big leap forward. It's supposed to get cold again for a few days so progress will slow again but I've got plenty of other things to keep me busy until it warms up a bit.

If I leave the sidecar attached all the time, maybe go whole hog and run a full fairing on the bike? If so, buy one or practice my panel beating skills some more and see what I can do? 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Roll Hoop

Finished up the roll bar for the VW - at least the hoop that goes behind the seat. I've got a tube bent to wrap around the top, front of the car already but I'm not sure I'm going to go that route. If I put that tube in I'll need a couple of other tubes that run from it down to the floor along the windshield post to tie everything together. Things are pretty cramped up front already. I might just go with a couple of tubes running to the back. That'll give me a four point system, which is four more than are in most cars. It's not going to be a race car - just a fun little parts chaser and a technical exercise.

The bottom photo is a detail of the wraparound bracket for the tube with the seat belt clips. If you look close you can see the clips tacked on in the top photo. The bolts will be replaced with a couple of quick release pins.

Off to a decent start for 2017. Barring an accident or a health issue around here, looking forward to getting quite a few things finished this year. And if not finished, at least having some fun working on things. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

First One For The New Year

Put the jig I made this past year to good use the other day. I'm working on the VW and needed a way to keep the safety harness from slipping off the top of the seats and the shoulders of the occupants. I already had a roll hoop bent up that fits right behind the seat. It has a tube running from side to side near the bottom already. I'm not planning on putting the back seat back in, so I was going to use the that bar to support a platform to make the area behind the front seats a cargo area. I decided to add another tube about 16" above that one. It will have some clips to keep the shoulder straps in place and will be easily removable if I need to put something large back there.

In the top photo are a couple of bushings I made up to go through the tube. I'll pick up a couple of quick pins to hold the tube in place rather than bolting in. The bottom photo shows the clips to hold the belts in place. I bent one end of them after the photo was taken. They'll run parallel with the tube but the bend will bring them up about 3/16" in order for the belts to slide under them. When I get a little further along, I'll post another photo of the completed assembly.

I bought a muffler for another of the bike projects I'm working on sporadically. This was on sale from Dime City Cycles - figured it was a good time to buy it. It came with adapters to fit from 1-1/4" - 1-3/4" head pipes. I actually don't have a lot left on this one to finish it up. If I'd work on just one of these projects at a time I might have gotten one of them finished by now. However, I'm still operating under the premise I need to gather most everything of the parts and tools I'm going to need after I retire, the school money stops flowing and I have to live off my Social Security check. With that in mind, I've been looking at getting a few things from Strong Hand Tools. They sell a line of clamps and magnetic alignment tools that would make life much easier for a guy who works solo all the time, especially when TIG welding.

I managed to finish off 2016 strong and I've got a good start on 2017. Here's hoping 2017 will be a good one for all of us.