Last night’s cold and gusty weather continued into today, freshly piled leaves cluttering up all the places I’d raked in the rain last weekend. I had guests coming to the ghetto garage, so I tried to church it up as much as possible. Ray arrived from PA early, and stopped to pick up coffee and donuts for me. Bennett arrived soon after, and then Brian, Dennis, Brian H, Carl, and Alan. We stood around and shot the shit for a little while, and then dove into our list.
The Hydroboost unit went in with little fuss, although I can’t take any credit because I wasn’t doing much of the work. Bennett, Ray and Dennis are the subject matter experts, so the rest of us sort of stood around in my crowded little garage and watched as they worked their magic. Bennett pulled the battery, removed the stock brake booster and cleared the lines.
Ray set up the aluminum standoff block and drilled new holes in the Astro mounting plate while Dennis pulled the assembly under the dash apart. Within an hour the main unit was bolted in place and the hoses were run. There was some concern over the hard lines going from the pump to proportioning valve but Bennett showed his skill with a flare tool and had new ones bent and fitted in an hour.
While we had the brake system pulled apart, it made sense to pull the wheels and go through the brakes. However, NAPA failed me on Thursday and did not put my order through for pickup on Friday, so the pads, calipers, cylinders and other parts I’d ordered never arrived. Bennett raided his considerable parts stash and brought a new set of front pads, but when we pulled the front wheels off and looked at the calipers (and banged on them with a hammer) it was clear we would need replacements. I started working the phone, and a different NAPA came through for us. Somewhat stalled, we took a break for lunch at the local diner, and by the time we were done the parts were waiting for us.
Back in the garage the new calipers went on smoothly, and we bled the brake system from the front to the back. A few adjustments to the pedal were made, a legacy vacuum hose to the old booster was plugged, power steering fluid was procured and added, and the truck was idling smoothly with no squealing from the pump. However, Brian noticed the rear passenger brake started leaking heavily, so we shut the truck back down again. Apparently the brake cylinder blew up with the increase in pressure from the pump.
It was 6PM, getting cold, and already dark, so we called it a day at that point. I’ve got a list of parts to buy for the rear brakes–mainly a spring refit kit and two new soft brake lines, because I have shoes and bought cylinders today. We’ll pick up part two in a couple of weeks.
How happy am I that the Eagles won the Super Bowl and the Patriots didn’t? Very happy.
Finn played soccer on Saturday and the coach put her in at goalie for the first half. I was initially worried, thinking that she might get bored and distracted if the majority of the play was far away from her and then suddenly right on top of her, but she did really well. The coach gave her five minutes of good advice, told her what to look for and how to set herself up, and she listened to every word. She was focused for the whole game, stopped multiple shots on goal, and by the half her team was up 4-0. The smile on her face as she walked off the field made my heart explode with pride. For the second half she played defense and did well, but I think I’ve got to work on ball-handling skills and her aggressiveness on taking shots. She treats the ball very gingerly and needs to get comfortable with hitting it hard and knowing where she wants it to go.
Afterwards we celebrated with a donut and then headed over the bridge to Easton for Zachary’s birthday, a Nerf dart war themed party held at the YMCA. The staff set up a room with obstacles and the kids chose weapons from a bucket of Zachary’s collection (Rob went a little crazy with buying and upgrading the Nerf gun collection; Zachary probably has 15 guns in various sizes and shapes) and they threw the kids in there for a half an hour to duke it out. By the time the staff blew the whistle the floor was covered in Nerf darts and jammed weapons. LJ and I loaded magazines and cleared jams and got things ready for the post-pizza rematch and I spent most of the second half in the room with the kids, fixing and loading guns for the kids. I might have taken a shot or twelve while I was there too…
Afterward, we went back to Karean’s house and let the kids play downstairs while the adults chatted over wine and snacks. By the time we got on the road, it was 8PM and Finn was beat.
A few months ago I switched DSLRs with Jen so that she would have the best one we own. The D90 I have is still a very good camera, but I haven’t used it much because I was shooting the Fuji almost exclusively in 2017. I charged it up today to carry it with me this week. When I turned it on, I got an error on the LCD reading r09, which means various things according to the Internet. It won’t autofocus or trip the shutter, which means something is wrong with the autofocus system. Either I have to clean the contacts on the lens and the body, swap lenses, format the memory card, reset the whole camera, or sacrifice a live chicken. None of the solutions online helped, so it might be that I’ve got to bring it in for servicing.
I got a really nice letter from Bennett, one of my local Scout friends, when I was laid up last month. He offered to get our local group of IH guys together and get some work done on Peer Pressure while I was laid up, the generosity of which blew me away. We set up a date in early March and he had me put together a list of stuff I’d like to tackle: Hydroboost, fuel sender, and maybe something else if we have the time.
The Hydroboost project involves removing the big stock brake booster and replacing it with a GM hydraulic unit sourced from an Astro van and hooking it into the power steering pump. What this does is improve overall braking power, allow for added stopping power in the event of an engine shutoff, and make more room in the engine bay. Back in 2013 I assembled all of the parts but stalled out, because I don’t trust myself enough to follow the sparse instructions found online or bleed the brake system correctly by myself.
Clockwise, from upper left: Astro brake unit, power steering hoses, power steering adaptors, aluminum standoff block, brass fittings.
So I’m sending this photo over to Bennett and Ray, the acknowledged experts, to make sure I’ve got everything I need. I’ve got to pick up new brake fluid for sure, but hopefully everything else is correct.
What did we do on Thanksgiving Day? We did absolutely nothing. And it was glorious. We spent the entire day in our PJs and started out by making mountains of pancakes, then devouring them in front of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The less said about the parade the better, but it’s free and it lasts until noon. Then we switched over to the Westminster Dog Show and ate some snacks. At 2 we ordered Pho, so by 3 we were enjoying that in front of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–the book of which we finished the night previously.
In the middle of the movie Karean stopped by with “some Thanksgiving food,” which turned out to be enough Thanksgiving food to feed us until next week. Huge trays of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, beans, gravy, and cranberry relish, with rolls and pie to finish things off. She stayed and visited with us for a while until her ears started burning and then headed back to her family’s meal. We immediately dug into some pie and ice cream and finished the movie, which was good but not as epic as Azkaban. Then we had a late dinner of turkey and stuffing while we watched the first part of Azkaban again.
I’ve been getting cards from friends and family ever since this process started, and I’ve kept them together in a stack so that I can write back and thank everyone for their love and support.
I shot the photo above with the f/1.4 Nikon lens I bought a couple of years ago, and as much as I want to love it I’m going to just retire it. Pretty much everything I’ve shot with it looks fuzzy, foggy and out of focus. I’ve got an f/2 manual lens I got with an old Nikkormat camera that shoots cleaner, clearer, and sharper stuff more reliably, and honestly I think I’m over the razor-thin depth of field thing now in favor of better composed photos. I’m leaving the manual lens on Jen’s D90 from now on, as I’ve traded her my D7000 in the hopes she’ll like it more.
We had a real nice turnout for our Maryland meetup last night, although Brian and I were the only ones to show up in a Scout. Erik and Brian came over from the Eastern Shore, and our two Brians came even though they don’t currently own IH. Bennett surprised Brian with a check from partial proceeds of the auction at Nationals this year, which was super cool of everybody there. We caught up over beers, told stories, and made tentative plans to get together in the fall.
Our weekend was full of activities, starting with Finn’s first soccer game of the season. They’ve had a total of one practice since the season started, rain having washed out all of the scheduled meetings, but her coaches did a good job herding the cats and getting the girls to remember how the game is played, where they should go, and what the rules are. Finn did really well on defense, but got winded on offense pretty easily. Her team has several very good players who carried the team early, and the Fireballs won the game.
From there we picked up a friend of hers for a playdate in the Scout, stopped for a celebratory donut, and then I got to work bagging up 1/2 of the acoustical tiles in the attic, which had finally succumbed to repeated cycles of heat, moisture, and cold and dropped all over our stored baby gear. In four hours, I had it all bagged, the contents of the attic vacuumed, and everything rearranged. Jen offered all of Finn’s old clothing to Christi and Glenn for Ruby, so this week she’s going to go up and sort through the piles to see what goes and what gets sold. I also used our $10 handcart to bump the A/C unit down from the attic and stick it in the back of the Scout.
That evening we had friends come for dinner, and stayed up late eating, drinking, and sitting in front of a roaring fire to roast marshmallows. Sunday morning revealed a house destroyed by the girls, a kitchen destroyed by dinner, and two sizable hangovers. The girls went to church and I continued working around the house until the afternoon, when we had another family come and join us for dinner.
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I got an email last week asking if I’d like to teach a class next spring, which sounds really good. While it’s not a senior-level class (I think the full-time faculty claimed those for themselves) it’s one Jen and I have taught before, so I won’t have to worry about developing a syllabus while I’m down for the count.
We’re also building a list of stuff that has to get done before I can’t get up off the couch; This includes stuff like pulling all of the air conditioners from the windows, stocking up our inside wood supply, putting the hardtop back on the Scout, and kegging a batch of beer. I’m sure there are more that I’m not thinking of, but I know it’s going to get longer.
This is Chewbacca as they dragged her out of Brian’s garage. God, what a sad sight.
The local Scout guys are getting together next week to catch up, which will be great–I haven’t seen anyone in over a year. I’m hoping a few of the guys I haven’t met yet will show up. There’s Dwight, who lives right near the train station I use, who has a pretty green Terra. I’m going to send another email to the guy with the diesel Traveler I saw last month. And, there’s another new Scout in our neighborhood, under a tarp by the high school. I’ve stopped over there a couple of times but it’s always under cover. I’m going to ring the doorbell this weekend and see if the owner is home and likes beer.
I’m writing from an uncomfortable IKEA couch in the living room of our rental, which is only steps from the beach and is thus the most awesome IKEA couch in Delaware. It’s day 13 of our two-week vacation and I’m trying not to accept the reality of our impending drive home on Saturday; we’ve got one half-day on the sand left and then we are slaves to a typewritten sheet of directions on the fridge: make the beds, vacuum the floors, lock the windows, set the AC to 77˚.
Our stay has been lazy and carefree and unstructured as possible, which is exactly the way we planned it. Slow mornings to rise, gather some breakfast together, form coherent thoughts, and begin organizing for the beach. Make some sandwiches, pack a cooler with water and alcohol, grab some cheesy-poofs and find a dry suit to wear. Grab a towel, drop clean clothes off at the outdoor shower, and assemble downstairs at the beach buggy.
We have experienced the luxury of a beachside house twice. It is the difference between carrying everything for a five hour stay out to the sand or just grabbing a chair and a cold beer. This house is perched between the road and the edge of the barrier channel between Delaware and the bay; the public access path is steps from the driveway across the road. It’s only just on the other side of the road, but it means we must pack like the Joads heading to California every day. The buggy carries our chairs, the tent, the umbrella, all the toys, the cooler(s), a couple of floats, and the kite. Wide wheels make it easy to pull over the sand, and it collapses into a packable unit. After a couple of days we got the assembly of our beach camp down to a science, and learned what had to come with us and what we could leave behind. I also learned that the Coleman half-tent I got on sale at Amazon was worth less than what I paid for it.
The first week we shared with Karean and Zachary, and it was good for the five of us even though there was a giant empty space where Rob should have been. Karean brought a picture of the four of us, which we’ve kept on the shelf since we got here, and I find myself looking at it multiple times a day. For the first few days Zachary obsessed over Minecraft until the iPad mysteriously disappeared but once he’d forgotten about it he and Finn settled in to an easy working relationship. Our days were relaxed and the weather was excellent; the first few days the water was balmy and mild. We took a break from the sun on Wednesday to hit Rehobeth for some games and fun, and had some dinner in town to break things up.
On their final day, Karean and I walked out to the beach to scatter some of Rob’s ashes in the water. I stayed several steps behind and tried not to intrude, terrified I would say something/the wrong thing. I watched her from the tide line until she beckoned me down into the water. She gave me a handful, which I gripped in one hand as I said a prayer to the ocean, and I let the wind take it from me.
Rob and Karis joined us for our second week, and we’ve integrated them into our loose routine. We got chased from the beach on Monday by high winds and Tuesday was nothing but driving rain. Wednesday cleared up, but the wind was still strong and the surf powerful. Thursday the water was placid, and Rob got Barrett slowly over his fear of the water by early afternoon.
Finn was lucky to find a friend a few houses up the beach, named Jenna, and they quickly went off together to collect horseshoe crabs, spin cartwheels, and jump in the surf. I walked over and chatted up her parents, who seem like lovely people, and Jen and I breathed a sigh of relief to know she’d have a playmate her age for our second week. On Wednesday they were nice enough to invite Finn back to their house, so we paid it back by taking her into Milton for some ice cream.
Harvey kicked the shit out of Houston but seems to have affected us only slightly; apart from Wednesday’s storm and the rough surf on the days before and after, we’ve enjoyed warm, calm weather with only a few overcast days. Overall, it’s been an ideal two weeks, and we’re already making plans for next year.
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Since hosting my parents earlier this year, I’ve been working on a recipe for Manhattans so that I could prove to my father they don’t need to taste like turpentine. I followed some recommendations from Esquire and wound up with a midlevel rye whiskey and vermouth, which made a middling Manhattan. When Matt came into town, he gave me some advice on better quality ingredients. When we hit the liquor store upon arriving in Milton I picked up some Bulleit rye whisky and a bottle of the only sweet vermouth I could find. This made a shitty Manhattan. Later I was able to get a bottle of Dolan vermouth and this made all the difference in the world. I’m now at the end of the Bulleit but will be looking for some Blantons when I get home.