Archive for March, 2004

Heaven is a truck, that got stuck…

22 March 2004 at 10:43 pm
by Berck

Mobile, AL

Joanna and I have spent these past few days working on separate tasks, each with the hope of getting us closer to Oklahoma. She’s been packing her room up, and although there are quite a few boxes stacked in the hallway, it doesn’t look like anything is missing from her room. She makes lots of piles, and moves them around. She seems to be enjoying herself, moving things around, making piles.. She examines every item carefully, and puts it in a pile… It doesn’t really look like she’s made any progress over the last few days, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any hurry for her to pack either.

My days have been primarily consumed with endless stretches of auto repair, punctuated only with frequent trips in the Brenner’s minivan to the auto parts stores. Overall, I find that it can be rather enjoyable when I’m not frustrated. There’s at least a mild sense of accomplishment to be had in auto repair. This feeling is usually brief, and occurs just after the completion of one task but just before the embarkation of a new task. For instance, the truck ate a push rod, which I replaced for $3. But then I noticed fuel pump was leaking, so it got replaced too. Of course, the fuel line was badly rusted and had to be replaced since I destroyed it in the fuel pump replacement. This, in turn, led to an entertaining saga of 4 foot steel lines and a tube bender which ended with an amusing, though functional, connection between fuel pump and carburetor. Yesterday, after getting the truck all back together with its valves all properly adjusted and the rocker arms well lubricated, I proudly listened to the engine idle, hearing nothing amiss. That is, until I heard something a little funny… I couldn’t figure out what, until I noticed the radiator was squirting a stream of water onto the fan. A small leak, but it made me realize that I was definitely correct in thinking a new radiator was needed.

I went for a short drive anyway, up and down Eliza Jordan in the truck. It’s started to grow on me, this truck. It’s got loads of character, and something just feels right when you’re slowly cruising by the countryside in an old truck. The smell of spring mixes with crankcase fumes, and I’m glad that neither of our cars are boring.

The truck needs a fitting name…. any suggestions? I suppose I should get pictures online first… That might help.

Today, Sarah woke us up with information that Robert had found a Radiator shop that would be able to rebuild my radiator. We drove down to what Joanna calls the radiator dungeon, and the guy who was hoisting a radiator over a vat of cleaning acid asked what he could do for us. A welding torch flickered next to him, and the carcasses of more than a few radiators littered the grease-soaked floor. I explained my situation, and after consulting a book he pronounced that he would be able to do it for me. He said he’d have to order the core, and it wouldn’t be there until tomorrow, but he should be able to do it then. After leaving them with the truck keys and my phone number, we returned to the miata.

Without the truck to distract me, I was able to put the new alternator in and reassemble most everything before getting started on the new top. Convertible tops really are not much fun. It’s more of a job for a tailor than an auto mechanic. It’s one of those jobs which, if I ever have the money, I don’t think I’ll hesitate to pay someone else to do. If I get it all in without tearing anything, without any major winkles or water leaks, I think it will probably be a miracle. I’m not sure how I did it last time.

The latest issue with the truck is getting a hitch mounted. U-haul said they don’t have anything in stock, and that they’d have to build me one. It would take them 5-10 days to build and another 5-10 days to ship to the local store. It would cost a minimum of $350. That seems ridiculous. I’m hoping I can find someone who can do better.

It’s starting to look like this truck might not have been the brightest idea I’ve ever had. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever get to Oklahoma, as it seems like it’s getting farther and farther away the closer I try to get.

And to think, the cable guy was supposed to install the internet in our new apartment tomorrow.

And Joanna and I were going to celebrate her birthday in our new apartment.

Auto parts suppliers and beef Wellington

21 March 2004 at 1:16 pm
by Jonah

Mobile, AL

Yes, we’re still in Mobile. The truck is requiring a good bit of work, which keeps Berck occupied and gives me time to sort through my life as I pack up my room.

Berck thinks he’s found the source of the clacking in the engine. One of the rod tips had nearly broken off. We were lucky; if we hadn’t replaced it, it could have mucked up the engine pretty good when it dislocated completely. So hopefully a five-dollar part will solve that problem.

Berck is also worried about the radiator. It doesn’t seem to be cooling as well as it should, but new radiators for this truck apparently don’t exist anywhere. There’s a company called Radiators-R-Us or something that say they can BUILD us one…but that will take a few weeks and 3 to 4 hundred dollars.

Fortunately, Berck discovered that the thermostat was a rather high temperature one. He thinks if we run without one or with a much cooler one, the truck will do much better pulling a trailer.

My birthday is March 23, but we celebrated last night (in case I wasn’t around by then). Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner, and I replied with the same answer I’d been giving her for nearly all of the last 15 years: beef Wellington. It’s kind of a tradition. Mom answers with, “How about steak and shrimp kabobs?” and I say okay.

This time, Berck was present. “Beef Wellington? What is beef Wellington?” I told him I wasn’t really sure because I’d never had it, but I’d always wanted to try it. “You’ve been asking for the same thing for 15 years, and you don’t even know what it IS?” Then he turned to Mom. “She’s been asking for the same thing for 15 years, and you’ve never made it for her? She’s your own daughter! In my family, we ALWAYS got WHATEVER we wanted for our birthday dinner.”

Mom mumbled something about not knowing how to make it but then started scrounging through recipe books. “Well, it’s not good enough for Martha Stewart,” she said, slamming one thick book shut. In the end, she decided the recipe in the Joy of Cooking was best.

If you’ve never had it, beef Wellington is an entire beef tenderloin smeared with mushrooms and pate and wrapped in a puff pastry crust to be roasted in the oven. It’s a ridiculously expensive dish, the main reason I never got it for my birthday. Fortunately, beef tenderloins were on sale this week at Bruno’s for $9.99/lb. Mom thought she’d just buy some pate to save the trouble of making it, but 8 ounces cost $10, while a cup of chicken livers cost 99 cents. She made a marvelous pate, which we kept dipping spoons into, lamenting that we had nothing in the house worthy of coating with it. It amazes me that something as disgusting as liver can be so easily transformed into something so delectable.

There are several stories about the origin of beef Wellington, although all agree it was named after the famous British general who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Some say he insisted this dish be served at any official dinners he hosted. Others insist that while the dish is named in honor of the duke, he was actually so impartial to food that many of his cooks quit, feeling their talents were utterly wasted on his palate.

Mom did a fabulous job. The beef was cooked to perfection, a deep pink throughout. She also made an amazing spinach and strawberry vinaigrette, salad. Steph brought her famous hot potato salad (a mouthwatering combination of potatoes, bacon, cheese, and butter that, given the opportunity, Berck will eat every last morsel of as quickly as possible). Berck cooked some wonderful fresh asparagus. Uncle Dave made me a beautiful cinnamon cake topped with slivered almonds and huge slices of fresh strawberries. It was the best birthday meal I can ever remember.

But if we’re still around on the 23rd, maybe I’ll get another one. I called the apartment complex in Oklahoma, and the lady in the office moved up our move-in date, no problem. We’ll get there when we get there, I guess.

Purple truck

20 March 2004 at 9:16 pm
by Jonah

Columbus, GA — Mobile, AL

Well, we made it all the way to Mobile.

We picked up the truck from the shop this morning. Cliff’s mechanic friend Les had done all sorts of wonderful things to it (like adding an overflow bottle to the radiator…it’s an old oil quart bottle held in place by zip ties, but hey). He was even able to adjust the valves, well, all but one. He told us he was really worried about the rear tires…dry rot.

So we headed on over to the place both he and Cliff had suggested, American Tire & Auto. There was quite a line, so they told us to come back in about an hour. We found an Advanced Auto and got a VW air filter that will fit just fine until we can get a fastener for the existing filter (which the hood has been holding in place). We also found a Lowe’s to copy the key, but they said they didn’t have any that old. We went back to the tire place and waited some more.

when they were finally ready for the truck, they told Berck, “Uh, you’re gonna have to drive it into the bay…none of us know how to drive it. Then they tried to balance the front tires, but it just wasn’t working. We ended up with four new tires…white walls! And one of the old ones is serving as the new spare…the old one looked very bald, like it had been used as more than a spare. We discovered why the rear tires hadn’t matched…one side is half an inch thicker than the other.

The girl at the counter asked us if we were going to restore it. It really is a restorer’s dream. It’s got all the insignia, all five hubcaps (yes, even the spare). And we bought it to haul a trailer.

Berck is worried. He says it’s not cooling as well as it should. A new radiator costs $300 (yikes). And the truck started making a clacking noise as we headed down to Mobile.

But the new tires took care of the vibrating problem. It cruises fairly well at 55, 60 mph.

Truck purchase

17 March 2004 at 5:45 pm
by Jonah

Mobile, AL — Columbus, GA

Well, we made it back to Mobile. But now we’re in Columbus, GA. We bought a truck last night in Atlanta. It’s a 1962 Ford unibody that’s kind of a maroon color (that looks pink under street lamps). It’s in amazing condition for how old it is, and everyone we’ve talked to says it will retain it’s value. We’ll probably be able to sell it to someone who wants to restore it, no problem.

We picked up a washer and dryer from Berck’s dad’s storage unit in Douglasville, then drove down to Columbus to sell Cliff Bennett the Camaro. We spent last night here with the Bennetts, and we’ll spend tonight here too.

We took the truck to Cliff’s mechanic, who did all sorts of things to it today. He thought this evening that he could adjust the valves, but it won’t be ready until the morning. We hope it’ll take us all the way to Mobile tomorrow.

The truck doesn’t like going much faster than 65. Berck has his doubts about its ability to pull a trailer, which is why we bought it.

The long haul

12 March 2004 at 7:33 pm
by Jonah

Lake Arrowhead, CA — Dallas, TX

Well, we made it. To Dallas anyway.

We left Lake Arrowhead yesterday at about 11 am PST and got here today at 3 pm CST. We stopped in Thousand Palms, CA for our last In-N-Out burgers, maybe forever. Berck drove till right before we hit Phoenix about 5 pm MST. Then I drove through rush hour traffic, on past firefighters putting out a car totally consumed by flames, into the night and the rain. We had decided to continue driving through the night because it had gotten unbearably hot in the desert during the day. We needn’t have worried; rain followed us from mid Arizona through Dallas (it’s finally stopped raining, just overcast now). But camping in the dark in a torrent was out of the question, so on we pressed. We stopped to fill up and change drivers. Berck put Rain-X on the windshield and decided to switch the wiper springs, since the driver’s side one kept skipping up and down the glass. Unfortunately, the spring launched a vital part into the dark, and we spent an hour searching for it in vain. Fortunately, the Rain-X worked wonderfully, since now we only had one windshield wiper. I read Gogol out loud to Berck until the road got too bumpy, then slept soundly till we hit El Paso and had to stop for gas again. Then I drove, consuming an entire package of sunflower seeds by the time I finally gave up sometime after dawn at a truck stop west of Abilene. I propped up my head with Berck’s sleeping bag stuff bag and was asleep in seconds.

Three hours later, Berck went inside the truck stop and came back with a Starbucks Frappuccino (which he downed immediately), a Dr Pepper, and a gigantic Snickers bar. I kept sleeping till he got gas again outside of Ft. Worth.

I keep asking Berck if it’s alright to go to sleep. I feel very much like my head is about to fall off.

We’re heading for Mobile in the morning, though we may have to stop in Tyler (and the nearest Advanced Auto) to get a new alternator. Berck just got his replaced in December, but this one’s now got a bad (and very noisy) bearing. Plus the car has developed a new rattle. I keep telling Berck it’s the missing piece of the wiper blade assembly, but he doesn’t believe me. Hopefully, a new wiper part and header will be waiting for us in Mobile. Until then, the car sounds pitifully loud.