Sunday, September 30, 2018


New hat courtesy of Surly autographed by Helio Castroneves

Solar powered lights on the posts on the new veranda for when I'm sipping mint juleps in the evenings

Stainless angle to fasten the posts to the concrete piers. Need to drill some holes and then fasten them down but things are coming along.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Mr. Lucky

Cuzzin Ricky and I went to the sprint car races at Kokomo last evening. As we were walking up to say hello to the young man and his wife at the Amsoil tent, a guy asked us if we had bought our tickets yet. Rick told him no, and the guy gave us each a wristband that got us in for free. Last night's event was a make up date for a twice rained out event, not sure why the other guy didn't need his wristbands any longer but his generosity saved us $35.00 each.

After getting the wristbands and smiling at our good fortune, we talked a bit with the Amsoil guy and I bought a couple of things from him. Usually we just BS a bit and keep on walking but I wanted to try their gas stabilizer and their 2-stroke oil. Their products are expensive but seem to work really well, so I'll try it out. Amsoil being a primary sponsor of USAC racing always do a drawing for a couple of fans to watch the race from the infield. Rick and I both filled out the forms and I had my name pulled so we got to watch the main feature right by the winner's circle. We got to talk to the winner after the race for a couple of minutes and Rick and I each got a tee shirt out of the deal - not that I needed another tee shirt, but this one's a bit out of the ordinary.

Great night at the races. Thanks to USAC, Amsoil, the unknown wristband donor, and all the drivers for putting on a great show.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Corn's Gone

Farmer Zach showed up yesterday and picked the corn. It's definitely Fall if he's picking corn. That's a sign that I need to keep busy getting things done around the shack and working on some things in the shop before I need to run the heater when I go out there. I was planning on going back out to the shop yesterday and work on the trials bike but the Missus decided her life would be much more pleasant if some of the furniture got re-arranged. So I moved furniture rather than worked in the shop, but as Scarlett said: "Tomorrow is another day".

The Harvest Moon. Photo taken from the same vantage point as the combine photo above. Not much of a photo but now that I've got the veranda installed on the new barn, I'm planning on setting up the telescope out there occasionally and taking a good look at the moon and the stars. Should be a good place for viewing - high enough to clear most obstacles and very little "light noise." I would have set it up last evening but I still don't have a railing yet. I'm not taking any chances on falling off. Good timing on the day of the harvest, though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Trials: Education, Government Waste & Motorcycles

Here's a couple of things from Monday's Wall Street Journal:

There was an advertisement for the XQ Super School Project. I'd never heard of this outfit before. I went to the website and looked around but only briefly. Looks to be a project to create the high schools of the future. STEM seems to be the main focus and they appear to have some serious funding behind them. I need to talk to my buddy Kevin about this next time I see him. I think he's been involved with one of the schools that has partnered up with XQ. While I certainly agree there needs to be changes to the high school model, I'm a bit wary of buying in to any outside group with a lot of cash without knowing where the money is coming from and what the agenda is.

The second item was an advertisement from the Open The Books organization. This was a two page ad that had an open letter to President Trump on one page and a list of 100 examples of government waste on the second page. The examples are quite interesting: Mistakes and Improper Payments Distributed By 20 Federal Agencies - $1.2 Trillion for fiscal years 2004 - 2017, 35,212 Federal Lawyers - $4.8 Billion for fiscal year 2017, and my favorite, Payments To Gay Mexican Prostitutes For Safe Sex - $53,419 for fiscal year 2015. That right there is why we have the 10th amendment to the Constitution. I really don't think that's the type of thing the Federal Government should be involved with - especially when they have to put their hand in my pocket to pay for it. Hit the link and check out the list for yourself and then look at your pay stub. Imagine how much better it could be if your contribution to the Fed hadn't been wasted.

On a note closer to home, I got out into the shop yesterday and worked a bit on the trials bike. Surly had taken a look-see while I was in Alaska and made some suggestions. He's thinking the photo above is the right look. We're pretty much in agreement as to what needs to be done, so I started changing some things around. I now have the bike set up for a large battery. If I get a smaller battery I can change the width of the battery box and move it up a couple of inches which will allow me to move the fender forward. I found the specs for a small one on line that is 3/4" narrower and 7/8" shorter. That should make a big difference in the fender placement so I'll see about buying one in the next couple of days, cut the old battery box out, make a new one up and get it tacked in. Once I've got that, finish mounting the rear fender.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


I did a 3K racewalk yesterday morning. There were two women who took off and left everyone else in their dust right out of the gate. I've been beaten by the one on at least one previous occasion, and since I hadn't trained for this event, I figured the outcome was going to be the same this time. Yep, no different. I'd never seen the other lady before but she was clearly in a class by herself. She had the real goofy looking racewalk form down pat and was stepping out. I came in as the first male finisher which also put me as first in my age group - 50 and up. My running buddy got a second place in her age group. Pretty good morning for the two of us. Actually, it was a real good morning to just be out. Temps were in the high 50's about starting time with clear skies. Pleasant relief from the record setting heat earlier in the week.

I was supposed to go to a baseball game my grandson was playing in later in the afternoon but I got a frantic call from my running buddy about the time I was getting ready to go. The guy who was lined up to wrap hands and work the corner for a couple of the fighters from the gym couldn't make it, so I went to the fights instead of the ball game. I enjoy the fights and I don't mind helping out, but I don't want it to be interfering with my grandpa duties. The Missus went to the game and the grandson has a few more coming up. I'll be sure to make a few of them before the season is over.

Got some good news the other day about the Missus - her cancer is still in remission, so that's a relief. I go for a stress test in about a month to find out how I'm doing. Should be just fine. That was part of the reason for the racewalk - studying for my stress test. Actually that was the first run/racewalk my running buddy and I have done all year. I'm going to try and get at least one more in this year. Lot different from a few years back when my buddy Kevin and I agreed to do at least one per month. I think I got in 13 and he did 15. If I remember correctly, two of those were half marathons. Put a lot of miles in that year but those days are over. I track my resting heart rate and it's about where I like it to be, indicating that I'm in fairly decent shape. No reason to over do it. 

Chilly last night. Winter's not too far off. Time to get a few more things done outside yet this year and make some more travel plans. I got my tourism books from California and Nevada. Going to have to sit down with Cuzzin Ricky and see what we come up with so I can get states number 48 & 49 in the books. 

Have a good week.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Goodbye Old Paint

I got a call from the neighbor yesterday - needed some help bleeding the brakes on the old Dodge. That's done so I can move it down the road now. He wants me to make a project for him - so no actual cash exchange, just another project to work on.

I got the job for the Missus done Wednesday evening. Had some welding and machining both on that one. Had to ream the ID on some tubing so another piece of tube would fit inside it. Then I had to mill some slots in one end of the tubes and fit a collar like on a bicycle seat post to pinch the tube that goes inside. Then weld the new tubes on a cart to replace the old ones. It was a little more than I wanted to take on at the present time, but now Momma's happy. And that's always a good thing.

Speaking of Momma, she told me the other day of a school here in Indiana that served a couple of breadsticks as the main entrée in their cafeteria for lunch. When the parents complained, they were told that there was cheese sauce the students could have to give them some protein with their meal. I had a similar conversation with the lunch lady at the high school one time - made her cry in fact. I felt real bad about that, but you can't defend breadsticks and nacho cheese sauce as a healthy lunch no matter what you say, or the federal guidelines say.

Last but not least, I got a haircut and an honest to goodness barber shop shave the other day. A former student of mine attended barber college and I saw that he was working not too far from the college so I stopped in and got the works. Nice haircut, trimmed up the beard and got a shave with the hot towel treatment both before and after the shave. The young man did a real fine job and gave me the senior discount. It's always nice to see my former students making good. He's looking to open his own shop locally as soon as he gets a few bucks ahead. I hope so. Nice young man.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Harvest Time & The Grim Reaper

Ran into a bit of a snag on the brake repair on the Dodge. I got the rubber hose fixed but when my ace helper started pumping the pedal to get the line bled, something above started dripping down. Looks like one of the hard lines I had to unhook decided to leak as well. There are two lines running side by side to each other, both are vinyl coated except where the spacer block goes and that appears to be where the leak is coming from. I decided to bail out and just take it to my neighbor. He does good work at reasonable rates and I won't have to worry about the new owner having an issue.

Monday was Constitution Day. It would be awfully nice if those in Congress actually knew what was in the Constitution and tried to uphold it. The federal government is supposed to have very limited powers. Things in this country would probably run much smoother, and more economically, if the majority of the powers remained with the states as things were meant to be. Hillsdale College has a free course on the Constitution. I'm planning on taking it this winter. A democratic republic requires an informed citizenry.

It's harvest time - they're picking corn all around my neighborhood which means a lot of big, slow moving farm vehicles on the roads. Plus, the County tried to convert most of the paved roads around here back to gravel by covering the roads with those damn tar & chips. Be careful out there, especially those of you who ride. You turn onto a side road and you can find yourself in loose gravel where there used to be nice pavement.

Yesterday was the 48th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix - long time ago now. When I first started teaching I was at a regular comprehensive high school in the inner city. They held a battle of the bands that was open to the community. I went because some of my students were playing. A guy showed up to play that was dressed just like Hendrix. This was probably '76 or '77. Big bell bottoms, head band - pretty much just like the photo of Hendrix above - the cat could play pretty much like Hendrix as well. Picking with his teeth, playing behind his head, the whole deal. I don't think I ever knew who the guy was and I never heard or saw him again, but he sure could play.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Not My Idea of Fun

I've got the old Dodge sold to a former student and one of our first Golden Glove champs. The deal is I'm going to swap out the tires from the Dodge to the Ford and then he can come get it. The Dodge tires have a more aggressive tread pattern and since I'll be commuting this winter again, I'd prefer those tires on the Ford. They both have about the same mileage on them and they're the same size, so why not? I cut him a righteous deal on the truck, explained about the tires and the other things that need some work, so all is good. Except when I went down to pick up the garbage can the other night the brake hose on the left front decided to call it quits. Damn! At least it was in the driveway and not about the first stop the new owner was making out on the highway.

I decided to work on it out in the drive by my shop rather than pulling into the new barn and taking a chance on running it into the back wall. The weather here of late has been ideal and we've got a few more nice days forecast as well. First off, the rims were rusted onto the hubs. Some Blaster and a few whacks with a big hammer broke them loose, however. Why the tire places can't put a little grease around the hub and some never-seize on the studs is beyond me. Anyway, the rest of the job went about as you would expect for something covered in rust and brake fluid. I did manage to get the bleeder screw out without incident - patience being the key here. I soaked it with Blaster, tapped it a few times, then clamped a good pair of Vise Grips on it and tapped those with a hammer. I repeated this a few more times, then called it a day. Came out in the morning, sprayed, tapped and out she came. That Blaster is good stuff.

I've got a back brake that's hanging up. I'm going to see if I can get the truck over to the neighbors and have him bleed things and while it's on the lift, check the back brake and maybe take the tires off to do the swap depending on what he's got going on. The new owner says he can take care of the back brakes but I'd feel better if I knew what he was going to have to deal with. If it's something big, I'll knock a couple more bucks off the price of the truck.

I finished up the decking on the barn veranda the other day and got a few other little things done outside. I've got some painting to do and this is great weather for that. I'd actually prefer that to dealing with the old rust-bucket Dodge. Always something but could be worse.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cannon Ball

I got a phone call late Tuesday evening that the Motorcycle Cannon Ball Run was coming through Indiana not too far from my place. I had to work yesterday but my boss was kind enough to cover my class for about 45 minutes so I could sneak out early and check out the bikes when they stopped at Kersting's in North Judson. I'm not sure how many bikes are entered in the Rally but there were at least 50 while I was there. Everything had to be pre-1929. There were a bunch of Harleys and Indians, Hendersons, Excelsiors, a couple of Brough Superiors and single cylinder Triumphs. Mostly solo rigs but a couple of sidecars in the mix. One of the hacks had a wicker chair on it - that was cool.

I had ridden my bike to work but wasn't sure if it would be worth riding over there, so I didn't take a camera with me. Bad call on my part. But it was a great day to be out on a motorcycle. I've only ridden my motorcycle a few times this year but after seeing all the old bikes in the Rally, I was thinking that would be a real fun deal. I'd like to do a trip to California but the Missus is going to veto that one. She doesn't care much for me commuting, in fact. I've been fortunate to travel quite a bit the last few years, so I'm not going to press my luck on the motorcycle trip but I've been thinking of making that trip for the last 50 years. I do think that she'd be OK with something like what Moto Quest offers as long as it was a group ride.

I did run into a few guys that I hadn't seen in a while at the Rally stop. It was nice catching up with those guys - something to be said for being retired. One of the guys I saw was also the guy who was kind enough to give me the heads-up about this deal. He's also one of the guys I rode the Cowboy Trail with this summer. We talked a bit about doing another bicycle ride as well as a trip to the  Barber Museum. That's a place I need to get to. They have a vintage weekend coming up soon but I've got too many things going on right now to try and make that. But from what I understand, it's a must see place.

The folks from Janus motorcycles were there as well, by the way. Not too far from their place, actually. Would have been a lovely day to be out on one of their little bikes.

Glad I went. Best of luck to all the entrants. Wish I was riding along.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Get Lean - Read a Book - Buy New Jeans

"Go without a coat when it's cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it's all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without. In times of hardship, you find out what you're made of and what you're capable of. If you're never tested, you'll never define your character.

                                                                   - Henry Rollins

September is National Preparedness Month. When we went to the midget race the other day, I would say the majority of the people in attendance were definitely not in any shape to do much of anything of a hard, physical nature. However, this is the kind of event that attracts a lot of typical old guys, so you wouldn't expect a lot of lean, mean characters in that demographic. Many of them I'm sure were veterans who have been tested in the past, however, and have defined their character in battle. Definitely guys I would want in my corner, but it sure wouldn't hurt if we all hit the gym occasionally. Especially since today is 9/11. Good time to remember what can happen at anytime. I saw a television commercial put out by the State of Illinois about getting a kit together for disaster preparedness the other day. If I lived in Illinois, first of all I'd be looking at moving, but I definitely wouldn't be looking to the government for any help during a time of disaster. We'll see how the people on the east coast are doing in a few days if Florence progresses inland as they say it will.

When you hit the gym and get yourself lean you're going to need some new jeans. I came across the Texas Jean Company here the other day. Jeans made in America at a reasonable price. I lost some weight this summer preparing for my bike ride and for health reasons so I'm in the market for a couple of pair of new jeans myself. I'm going to order a pair or two and check them out. 

September is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. If you want to be truly prepared, you need to take control of your health and get checked out. Prostate cancer is 100% treatable if detected early.

National Read a Book Day was Sept. 6th. I'm a little behind on promoting that one but I have been reading some books. I'm on number 16 for the year - nothing like I've been doing the last five years or so but I was planning on taking the year off. I just finished the The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck. It's the story of him and his brother following the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon pulled by a team of mules - good story, highly recommemded. I'm also about two-thirds of the way through Sex, Lies & Handlebar Tape. The story of bicycle racer Jacques Anquetil, the first five time winner of the Tour de France. Interesting story, worth reading if you're a cyclist.

I think I've got most of the bases covered as far as disaster preparation goes now. I'm always reading trying to keep my mind sharp. I hit the gym, ride my bike and walk on a regular basis. I've got some extra food and water, along with candles, flashlights, batteries, etc. I've also got some extra dog and cat food, plus some kitty litter. Hopefully I'll never need any of the emergency supplies but if nothing else, they're a hedge against inflation.

Remember 9/11, and all the people who have experienced losses in the wildfires and other natural disasters lately, and all those preparing for the approaching hurricane out east. on the home front, get ready for whatever comes our way.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pie "R" Square

Usually the punch line is pie are round, cornbread are square. This time pie are rectangle. The Missus made a grape pie for me as she usually does when the grapes are ripe. This time, for what ever reason, she tried a little something different and made it like you would apple slices or something. I'm certainly not one to complain where pie is concerned, so I've been working my way through it. I will say the filling is a little thicker this time so if that was what she was working on, mission accomplished. Even though it's not quite as pretty as the round ones usually are, it's every bit as tasty.

I got some help yesterday from a few of the big strong guys from the boxing gym setting the veranda up. Everything went fairly smoothly until it was standing up about seven inches too high! Apparently when I wrote my measurement for the height of the legs, I had meant to go from the top of the deck surface rather than the bottom. I assembled the frame of the deck on the floor of the barn and then stood it up out of the way. I wrote my number down and put an arrow on there but when I took it outside and flip it around, I went off the wrong side. I thought about double checking it since it had been a year but like a dumbass, I went ahead and put it together. A little embarrassing, to say the least.

I got the legs chopped off without any mishaps and the whole thing is up and plumb, so all is good now. It didn't actually take that long to fix my screw-up. After standing it up and discovering my mistake, I decided I'd take a break, eat lunch and address the issue later. I already had a pretty good idea on how to handle it prior to going in for lunch, but it cases such as these it's often better to take a step back and think about it a bit. Fortunately, not only do I have enough tools to build things, I've got enough tools to fix even a major screw-up like this one. I had it finished a couple of hours later. All it took was some planking, cribbing, two floor jacks, a circular saw and some layout tools - gave me some practice for later on when I have to cut the top of the posts to length after I get the railing finalized.

The weather is supposed to be good this upcoming week. Maybe I can  get the back corner posts and the decking on one of the nice days.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Hard to beat some classic rockabilly! If memory serves me correctly, Surly and I saw Carl Perkin's coat in a little museum right next door to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel many a year ago - right up there with seeing Elvis's K Model in Niagara Falls and some of the other arcane things we've seen over the years.

Made it back to work this week. I was a little happier leaving the school in the afternoon than I was at six AM when the alarm went off. It's a small class and it looks like my substitute got them started off on the right foot. Should be painless enough in spite of the fact that I'm back to setting an alarm clock a couple days per week.

Off to Indy today for the midget race with Cuzzin Ricky. Should be a great show. I cancelled out the bicycle ride I was planning on riding with my saddle pal on the 16th. I just didn't want to devote the time to training when I have other things much more pressing that I should be attending to. Not so pressing that I'm going to stay home from Indy, however. Hopefully it'll be a bit cooler today, we've had temps in the 90's of late.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Still trying to get back on track after the Alaska trip. Between the time difference and catching up on the chores, not much to report on. Mowed the grass twice since I've been home, including putting on a new set of blades. Made a big dent in the mail and magazine pile. Went to a party for my brother's 50th wedding anniversary - very nice by the way. Got a chance to see some family I don't see too often and a couple of our neighbors from when we were growing up. One of them a pretty spry 96 years of age. Also fixed up a bicycle for one of my former students and as a bonus, sold him my old pickup. I need to swap the tires out with the new one before he takes possession, but I've got a few other things in line ahead of that.

Got a dentist appointment this week, going to the midget race in Indy, going back to work again, and I've got a few guys lined up to help me stand the barn veranda up on Saturday as long as the weather co-operates and I've got a job to do for the Missus that's getting to be a priority. So that pretty well fills up the dance card for this week.

I've got a few more things I need to tend to before the weather starts closing in. A bit of painting, some more yard work and a bit of lumberjackin', along with finishing up the veranda when I get it stood up. I need to get the decking and the posts installed at least, then I can make the railing and the gate at my leisure.  Surly made a few suggestions on the Rickati project that are pretty good. Hopefully I can squeeze a bit of time in for that project before long as well.

I read that the average life expectancy for a man in the US is 83. As of today I'm counting backwards from 15. Not much time when you think about it.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Alaska Wrap Up

The trip inside Denali was the highlight of the trip, as you would expect. It's millions of acres of unspoiled wilderness and home to the Big 5 of Alaskan game: grizzly bear, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and wolf. I saw four out of the five. No wolf, but they said the wolf is rarely seen from a tour bus. The bus driver kept a tally of what we saw and said we saw 16 grizzly bears. Our total count was 22, if I remember correctly, but she said some of them were the same bears coming out as we saw going in. She's the expert, so I'll go with that. We also saw lots of moose and caribou, one lone Dall sheep initially, but later on a bunch of about ten or twelve. We also saw a ptarmigan, golden eagle, trumpeter swans, magpies, a harrier hawk, and probably others that I can't recall at the moment.

The top photo is the cabin we stayed in, aptly named Denali Cabins. Nice little place to stay for the three of us. They had a shuttle that picked us up from the train station and it was where the tour bus for the Back Country Adventure picked us up. The Talkeetna Lodge was the nicest place we stayed but the Comfort Inn in Anchorage was also nice - just nothing out of the ordinary other than the stuffed grizzly bear and animal mounts adorning the walls in the lobby. The Talkeetna Lodge also had a stuffed grizzly on display. This one was shot by a ten year old girl with a Remington Model 70 in .375 Holland & Holland. She had her shoulder outfitted with some type of armor to absorb the recoil. That's a pretty incredible young lady that could do that. But that's Alaska. No shortage of incredible stories or people up there.

Other than the airfare, everything except the bus tour was included as part of the train fare. It wasn't cheap but all we had to spend our money on once we got to Alaska was meals and souvenirs. The Comfort Inn had a complimentary breakfast, so we got three breakfasts on the house. The train offers several options for tours. We booked "Just the Basics" and I would definitely recommend taking it, especially if time is limited. We booked an extra day in Anchorage at the start of the trip but I wouldn't do that if going back. Our flight out at the end of the trip didn't depart until 11:15 PM, so we had a full day to sight see and buy souvenirs after already seeing the downtown. I would like to take one of the flightseeing trips up there. Our last day was a beautiful day - would have been a good day for it. I have no idea what that would have cost but since the weather is always pretty sketchy that time of the year, you'd have to just wait and see on the weather until you got there.

All in all, great trip. I don't normally spend a lot of time with the one cousin, so it was good spending some time with him. Cuzzin Ricky and I are always traveling together but normally it's just a quick overnite trip to the races if it's not just an out and back. Now we'll have something new to talk about on our trips. The staff on the railroad and everyone we came in contact with were all friendly and helpful. Our driver on the Denali bus, Missy, was fabulous.

I just briefly looked at a couple of the tours Moto Quest is offering. I also looked up a trip to Ireland and sent away for a visitor's guide to Nevada and California. I'm not sure what's next on the travel agenda but as long as I'm going to teach a few more classes, might as well spend that money on travel.

Enjoy your holiday. It's for all of us working stiffs. I don't do much anymore but I already put my 50 years in. Be safe and have fun.