Friday, November 10, 2017

Remember a Vet Today -- and Always


For 98 years, Americans have remembered those who served our country in uniform on 11 November – first as Armistice Day, and then, since 1954, as Veterans Day.

Here are some pictures of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that I visited on the bike today, though I couldn't get close enough for a picture of the bike and the monument together.

Lots of kids were there. 
I hope their teachers are telling them the
truth about our brave men who fought there.

Bucky reflecting on one of the panels
of names of those killed.

There were quite a few of these strange things with too
many wheels (except for the nearest one, that is). 

Actually, this is a display of the half-size version of the Wall that has been touring the country for over thirty years.  It is at the Blue Ridge Electric Coop garage on SC-123 just west of the intersection with SC-11. It will be there though November 13, 2017.

Tell a Vet today -- and every day -- that you appreciate the sacrifices they made for our freedom.

Monday, November 6, 2017

60,000 Miles and Counting

Well, it has happened.

....I have ridden my Ninja 60,000 miles!....

It has taken me since July 18, 2015 to log these last 10,000 miles.  I'm kind o' slow, I guess. 

Here's a recap, for those of you who don't know, I started riding a motorcycle (this motorcycle) in late 2007, at the then youthful age of 57.  I had been thinking about it for a long time, and a colleague at work encouraged me.  (Thank you, Jeff.)  I took the MSF Basic Riders Class, bought an almost new motorcycle, and set out to learn how to ride it.

Along the way, I have met people I would otherwise not have met, and I have gone places I otherwise might not have gone.  Some of those places are chronicled here in this blog of mine, along with the progression of learning how to ride, and a few other topics that interest me and maybe you, too. 

This momentous event -- reaching the 60,0000 mile mark, I mean -- took place on September 26, 2017, almost exactly ten years after I bought the bike.  In those ten years, I have had the bike out of the garage 728 times.  (Yes, I count.  I'm an engineer, don't you know.)

I note that I have not ridden as much since I retired from the job as I had anticipated.  It appears that I have been too busy with other things to ride as much!  I'd like to go more often, but I also can't seem to find a riding buddy who isn't working, and who wants to go to the places and at the pace I do.  (Let me know if you want to ride some time.)

I also have not written as much on these pages as I used to, because I tend to ride to many of the same places that I have already written about, so I don't want to bore you.   Sassafras Mountain (the highest point in South Carolina), Whitewater Falls, Table Rock State Park, Saluda North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a few other places that are beautiful and great places to ride are all frequent repeats.

One infrequent place I did go with a friend was the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley North Carolina back in July.  He rides at about my pace, and we had a great time riding up US-178, NC-215, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I enjoyed seeing the museum again, but my buddy had not been there before.  One of the museum's mottoes is "Our Visitors Are Like Family".  That is fitting.  Every time I have been there, each of the staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. 

Unfortunately, just as we were fueling up for the return trip, it began to sprinkle, then rain, then rain hard, then downpour for a good long distance on the way back home.  Noah and his Ark would have been welcome in a few places.  It dried up not long after we entered South Carolina.  I hadn't taken my rain gear 'cause it didn't look like rain, so I was soaked to the skin by that time.  We took it slow in the rain, and arrived without mishap.  Unfortunately, another motorcyclist was not so fortunate, as we passed the scene of an accident where he went down near Balsam Grove, NC. 

I have also grabbed a few tags on the ADVRider Upstate SC Tag-O-Rama, here, here, and here, and set a few challenging new ones.  (If you are interested in playing, all of the various South Carolina tag games are listed on this page.) 

I suppose you could say that I am mostly keeping to myself when riding. 

[Come on, Bucky, tell us where this latest mileage achievement occurred.]

Well, first a little history about where some previous milestones were reached:

Now, where did I reach 60,000, you ask? 

At a cemetery.

Yes, that's right, at a cemetery.  (So what was I supposed to do, fake the record of this historical event for the purpose of being in a more interesting spot?  I think there is too much fake news these days.)

Here's where it is, on SC-288, also known as Table Rock Road after the nearby geological feature and state park of the same name.

Click here for larger, interactive map.
Notice that the twisty US-178 is to the west, Table Rock State Park is toward the northeast, and the thriving metropolis of Pumpkintown is to the east. 

Actually, it turns out that this cemetery is an interesting place after all.  It is the Chastain family cemetery, whose several generations of occupants were born in 1743 or after, and who died in 1924 or before.  There are at least nine bodies buried here.

Here are some photographs.

That last photograph is the largest monument, and is nearest the road, announcing the presence of the graveyard.  Here is a list of those buried there, along with their relatives names:

Closer photographs of the stones are here, taken from the Internet.

This John Chastain (John Jr.) lived during the Civil War, and served in the Confederate Army. 
The most interesting marker for a man buried here, I think, is for one Rev John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain Sr., inscribed at the top on this more modern stone, along with a history of the family. 

Reverend Chastain was born in 1743 in Manakintown, Goochland County, Province of Virginia, fought in the Revolutionary War, and was a Baptist preacher, who traveled up and down the frontier, preaching and establishing churches.  He was one of the founders and the first minister of the Oolenoy Baptist Church, now located at 201 Miracle Hill Rd, Pickens, South Carolina, and founder of Crossroads Baptist Church.  

If I counted correctly, Reverend John fathered fourteen children by two wives.  
Click here for larger, interactive map.
I am sure, by now, that you are wondering about Reverend Chastain's nickname.  Well, legend has it that John Chastain's preaching voice was so loud and so ringingly clear that he was given the nickname of "Ten Shilling Bell".  Oh, that preachers were that forceful and eloquent today as he, perhaps was.  You can read more about the Chastains by clicking the links at the end of this posting. 

Getting back to the bike, there have not been any troubles with the bike in the last 10,000 miles.  It has been a joy to operate. Since I bought the bike slightly used, the odometer showed 60,640 miles total when I reached this milestone. 

Here is the victorious rider: 

I went on a little further that day, meandering around the country roads near the historic spot.   One place I went is to Table Rock State Park, stopping at the Pinnacle Lake overlook,

That bike kept wanting to pose for the picture.

and at the lodge,

Again, posing

and to see Table Rock itself, viewed from the park road. 

The day was a short one -- only 84 miles, but quite enjoyable.  When I first started riding, I never dreamed that I would ride 60,0000 miles and more on two wheels. 

I'll keep on writing here as interesting things come to mind, especially landmarks and good roads. 

See you on the [hopefully long] road ahead. 

Bucky's Other Milestones:

Chastain Cemetery References:
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Monday, September 25, 2017

Where 'Ya Been, Bucky?

I haven't posted since July, so you might wonder what's happened to ol' Bucky.

Well, I'm just busy with other stuff lately, so I haven't written much here.

[What kind of stuff, Bucky?]

Well, way back in 1979, my father-in-law bought a new car.  It was an Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale.  He kept it nicely, and when he wanted to get another new car, he sold it to us.

We still have it.

It has been in the garage since March of 1989 when we got it from him, and have only driven a relatively few miles in the succeeding 28½ years.

It has a 4.9 liter (301 in3) V-8 manufactured by Pontiac.  That year was just after the dust up and lawsuits that ensued when owners who thought they were getting "Rocket Oldsmobile" engines were actually getting engines made by other GM divisions.  This Pontiac engine has a Dualjet two-barrel carburetor made by Rochester.

Options include air conditioning, analog gage package instead of idiot lights, AM/FM stereo radio, cruse control, power door locks, and driver reminder package.

The red velour seats and the carpet are very nice, and quite comfortable.  The power steering provides effortless, one-finger steering, even when parking.  I like that a lot.  It is not like the heavy labor you have to exert with today's barely-there power steering. 

A trailer hitch, auxiliary transmission cooler, power CB/radio antenna, and curb finders were added over the years.  What are curb finders, you ask?  Well, they extend from the body in front of the right front wheel and behind the right rear wheel, and telegraph noise to the driver when parking that he is getting close to hitting the curb with the tires.

They work like a charm, and save the white sidewall tires from a lot of scuffing. You can still buy them. 

Everything on the car was original except the alternator, water pump, horns, master cylinder, ignition lock cylinder, headliner, battery, hoses, tires, speedometer cable, and maintenance items. That's doing pretty well for such an old car, I think. 

I decided to get the car out a few months ago because the garage I was keeping it in was no longer available.

...and I learned something when I got it out of there: Things don't work well on a car if you don't drive it regularly. 

So, I put my mechanic's hat on and set to work.

After so many years unused, it needed rear brake cylinders.  Both were seized in their bores, and would not actuate the drum brake shoes.  While I had it apart, I replaced the shoes and the various hardware that holds the pieces together on the brake back plate.  Not too bad a job, really.  The front disk brakes were OK. 

Next I tried to start the engine.  No go.  Cranked fine, but would not start.  I checked that there was gas, broke the fuel line and it spurted out as it should.  The gage showed full.  I checked for spark.  OK.  I checked for compression, and found it to be to specification, and nearly equal on all cylinders.  Good.  I rebuilt the carburetor, cleaned the EGR passages as long as I was in there, replaced the fuel pump, and changed the fuel filters.  (The original in the carburetor inlet and one I added in the line between the fuel tank and fuel pump.) 

Where'd the carb go?
Before rebuild.
Before rebuild.
The carb rebuild kit is a very nice one I bought from  I bought some extra fuel bowl gaskets because that gasket can get ripped a little every time you open the carb.  (I opened it a few extra times while I was troubleshooting the no-start issue.) 
EGR passages beneath EGR valve.

By the way, both QuadraJet Parts and The Carburetor Shop have good online troubleshooting sections.

Alas, the engine still would not run well.  Rats.  Now what? 

I put in more time with the thinking cap on. 

By using my little remote video camera inserted through the filler pipe, I found that the fuel tank was pretty corroded inside, and I found that the tank was nearly empty instead of nearly full as the dash gage had indicated.  I figured that by the time I cleaned the old tank and coated the inside, I could replace it with a new one from Advance Auto Parts.  It turned out that the fuel gage sending unit was corroded too, causing the needle to show that the tank was full.  So I replaced the fuel tank and sending unit, the latter including the fuel pickup and return, and the sock filter.

Are you old enough to remember that the fuel filler pipe is behind the rear license plate on these cars?

I also checked for the integrity and correct routing of all vacuum lines using this diagram.

To be sure everything was ready to make the car drivable, I also replaced the spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor, and spark plug cables.  Despite the air conditioning compressor and evaporator housing positioned above and near the right bank of cylinders, the spark plugs are easy to reach and change.  That's good! 

After all that, and a tank fill up of fresh non-ethanol fuel.  It started and I went to adjusting the idle mixture and RPM with this tool from Advance Auto Parts, .AutoCraft AC667.

I had not rebuilt an automotive carburetor for more than twenty years, so I had to be careful to relearn my skills there.  For that matter, I have not driven a car with a carburetor since this one went into storage.  After all that work, the engine now starts and runs well.  Whew.  Looking back, I can now see that the real problem with the engine not starting and running well was probably decade-old, sour gasoline in the tank.  If I had drained that, I might have gotten by with a lot less work, but changing everything that I did resulted in a reliable, clean fuel system, and other well-functioning engine systems as well. 

To finish it off, I flushed and refilled the cooling system, changed the oil and filter, replaced the battery, and put on a set of new whitewall tires. It is getting difficult to find whitewall tires now, as many cars don't come with them any more.  I think they look good on older cars like this one, so I had to find them.  WalMart to the rescue with Hankook Optimo H724.   They seem to ride and handle nicely.  The tire jockey at WalMart noticed that the right side of the car sits slightly lower than the left due to age.  He therefore deduced that the shock absorbers were bad.  That shows that even someone who works with cars every day has no idea about the function of the vehicle's springs vs. its shock absorbers.  Sad. 

Now some lipstick and powder for this old girl. 

The body side moldings were yellowed and coming loose, so I bought a new set from ebay seller automotiveauthority, cut them to fit properly, and put them on.  The moldings come with sharply tapered ends on front and rear, but those ends do not look anything like the originals on the car.  

Ugh.  Ends not at all like the originals.
I cut and glued the proper end configurations, using 3M Plastic and Emblem Adhesive, so they look right.  I took a lot of pain to get them positioned in the correct place and on straight.  I used an aluminum straightedge I bought at WalMart and stuck a self-adhesive magnetic strip to the back to help keep the moldings straight and lined up from one panel to the next. 

Configuring the ends to look like the originals:  



I put clear nail polish on the cut ends as instructed by the seller so the thin chrome film won't peel off.   

The front and rear ends of the moldings are made like the originals and look quite similar.

The rear bumper fillers were originally made of a flexible material that was turning yellow and literally falling to pieces.

I bought a new set from ebay seller vpexpressparts and finished them with primer, color coat, and clear coat purchased from Automotive Touchup

They came out very nice.  The new pieces are harder plastic than the originals, but with some trimming and filing, they fit pretty well.  The color matched well, and the aerosol paints seem to be top notch.

The trunk mat is original and like new, and the spare tire, jack, and hold down hardware are as they were when new.

The spare wheel cover is one I picked up many years ago just for this car.

Now I have a 38-year old car that looks very nice.  It has only about 86,000 miles on it, and runs well, drives well, and stops straight. It is surprisingly peppy for the engine size*, curb weight**, and carburetor type.  The body has never been damaged, it has the original paint except for the bumper fillers, the engine has never been touched internally, it doesn't burn oil, and the air conditioning works. I have the original Owner's Manual and other literature, as well as a Service Manual. 

I splurged a bit and bought a "1979" license plate for the front from ebay seller theoldcarlover.   He sells them with any year you want. 

See what you think of my "new" car.

I have driven it a bit, but still don't have a garage for it.  Reluctantly, I have it up for sale. 

Wanna buy it?  SOLD!

Next time, I'll write about motorcycling.  I promise.


*     140 Hp at 3600 RPM, 235 ft lb torque at 2000 RPM, 4" bore x 3" stroke, 8.2:1 compression ratio.
**   ~3583 lb.