Made it…well mostly

Drove something like 2500 miles, had my car broken into in Seattle, snowboarded in Grand Targahee, visited like 20 autoparts stores, almost broke down in the middle of nowhere, got mystery barista’s phone number, had a box for a car window, was profiled by the Colorado State Patrol(but let go), crossed two more states off my list, and the car broke down like two blocks from my parents house. All in all a decent trip.

I’ve nicknamed her RubySu…the subaru.

Ruby Sue the Subaru

You’re doing what?

Yes exactly.

I’m driving a 31 year old Subaru Wagon literally half the way across the country, over mountain passes during snow season. Well at least I will be once Saturday gets here. My route is still to some degree entirely dependent on weather conditions, but I suppose that’s part of the adventure. I’m excited to visit Montana for the first time and Coeur d’Alene certainly has a cool name. I may just discover and be accepted into a tribal culture of sasquatch near Yellowstone never to return to civilization. I am to some degree prepared and have shipped out survival supplies ahead of me to keep in the car for the trip back. I’m planning on doing a bit of snowboarding maybe at Mt. Baker and definitely stopping for a latte in Kansas City on the way back. Since the Fiat is down and out until I can procur a garage and my Honda has left the stable here is what all the fuss is about.

Ruby Sue the Subaru

1981 Subaru GL Wagon 4×4. Also known as the cyclops model because of the center “passing” light hidden under the emblem of the Pleiades.

The beard is very nearly 1 year old and I’m pretty excited to stitch my weekly photos together and see what it looks like in a slide show of beard growth. It’s been pretty cool to see a few of the guys at work growing out their own very impressive beards.

JHA's own Duck Dynasty

Phil Tuten and Eli Barb with some impressive beards.

When it hits the fan

What a week. I’ll refrain from giving the specifics of the biggest event and just say that God came through when no other solution was possible. Monday after a weekend of work some things came up that I guess I didn’t think much of at the time, but ended up being quite a big deal. I knew better and yet put myself in a difficult situation by the actions I chose to take during our weekend work. I guess I thought crossing certain boundaries were ok as long as it didn’t happen very often. Probably also a bit of it was that I was trying to take care of something that came up unexpectedly in a way that hid the shortfall in preparation. Even though we’d been pushing the whole week prior to this to prepare it still wasn’t enough. Either way it has been painfully(in a good way) pointed out that I need to rely more on the people around me even when I feel capable of taking care of a situation. So I got myself in a poo load of hot water and almost had quite a bit of free time on my hands. Most difficult situations I encounter don’t cause me to lay awake at night and literally lose sleep, but I definitely didn’t sleep a wink Monday night. Dad came up that night to advise, encourage and pray with me. Tuesday came and I really didn’t know what to expect. I came to face the music, to pay the piper, to go down with the ship, but was shown mercy coupled with grace. Now I move on corrected and wiser from the experience. Proverbs 20:30 says, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.” Some may look in from the outside and say well here’s a man not at all evil and this was unjust retribution for overly strict rules and regulations. I think though in this case the most difficult sins to be driven out can be those that we don’t quickly recognize for what they are. God had already been dealing with me on submission to governing authority just ask me about iPads and Nebraska’s fine state police sometime. However He wanted to drive the point home a little further and remind me that there are others also in authority over me whom I need to recognize as being placed there and show submission to as well. Secondly though I’m used to being able to do quite a bit on my own at work that I must recognize the importance of others in working towards a common goal. Having strong abilities and understanding is not a bad thing, but having pride enough in those skills to cause me not to engage others when I should is not wise.

So you’d think all this would make for a full enough week in of itself…

Well to top this off I’d been working on my Honda in my folk’s garage getting it ready to sell. It’d been up on the jack for about two weeks while I encountered problem after problem with getting the lower control arm bushings pressed out and replaced. The problem, as far as I’ve been able to interpret it, is that because the front jack point is slightly off center it causes the front of the car to twist slightly when you jack it up. One side jacks up higher than the other which is not a big deal normally as this is something cars are engineered to handle. Unfortunately somewhere during this process I opened the passenger door to get something out and because of the slight tweak to body while up on the jack it didn’t latch back immediately and so sat barely opened and tweaked the whole week and a half until I got the suspension pieces all put back together. I dropped the car back down and closed the door, but went to open it later and it wouldn’t open. It was binding up against the body by the hinge. As my boss Dave put it, two steps forward and one step back. So here I was swearing, and I mean SWEARING, at my car, my beard waving and aflame with anger and rage. All this after having just seen God intervene in my life in one of the biggest answers to prayer I’ve experienced only a couple days before. Dad brought a tough, but necessary correction. He pointed out that whatever I touched was going to fall to crap while I was in this raging, unclear frame of mind, that I needed to walk away and that I needed to rectify my attitude. So in the end I loaded my passenger door into my car and drove it up to the Honda body shop to get fixed. It sucks that I’ll have to drop another chunk of change into it just in order to sell it, but that’s just how it goes.

Fortunately with this correction I was set to be able to approach my Fiat the day after and undertake my fourth or fifth attempt at changing out the struts. I’ve had to strip down and then put the whole assembly back together so many times I could do it in my sleep. First I thought I’d use the struts from the Yugo, but after getting the Fiat all stripped down and the strut assembly out of the Yugo I couldn’t get the top nut loose in order to use it on the Fiat…so I put it all back together. Second, I bought new X1/9 struts because the struts for the 128 are a bit more expensive and hard to find, but are basically the same as the easier to source X1/9 parts…basically the same is not the same. So after getting the Fiat stripped down again and ready to go with the new parts I had to put it all back together because the thread on the strut is bigger on the X1/9 strut and the pieces I have from the 128 don’t fit. So I put the old ones back on. Then after getting new pieces to fit the thread for the top part of the assembly and grinding away to modify the to work I peeled it all apart again to finally replace them…not so fast sucker. There was a second bell shaped washer underneath that also needed to be ordered to fit the larger X1/9 strut thread. So one more time I put it all back together and ordered hopefully the last part. Finally after receiving the new pieces in and still needing to modify them just so the nut will thread at least a little ways down I finally have the struts replaced. However since I also used the shorter X1/9 spring my alignment was now super wacky. The car is now a full two and a half inches shorter and has some pretty wicked negative camber and some pretty extreme toe-in. I thought I’d be able to drive it home, but I had to put off one more day in order to try a DIY at home alignment just so the wheels won’t squeal while driving in a straight line. So I read up some tips on slotting the top strut mount holes to gain back a few degrees of camber and had to figure out how best to do the toe alignment. Handy tip #1 a couple of linoleum tiles with grease in between them make for great slip plates in order to work with the alignment. 66 cents a piece and totally worth the money. So I read up what to do and after a bit of trial and error it’s at least decent enough to be able to drive. I’ll probably take it somewhere this week to get it done by a pro. While I was doing the work though I went ahead and jacked up the rear to try and fix the bad toe-in on the driver side tire, which actually went smoothly. I also ordered new lower control arms with new ball joints which go on this next week after which the front of Sweet Pea should be tight and smooth.

So I think partly because of all the crap that I seem to be encountering lately I’ve been struggling with a defeatist attitude. I’ve almost come to expect that things will be difficult and whatever could go wrong will likely go wrong. This is not really a response that I want to foster so I’ve got to work at it. The Dude from The Big Lebowski is probably not someone I’d tell a teenager to model their life after, but in one regard he certainly has a quality to be admired. The dude abides. A china-man peeing on his rug(not the rug man), having his head dunked in the toliet, a weasel being thrown in the tub with him, Walter’s crazy scheming, or any of the bizarre circumstances he encounters the fact is that the dude abides. He abides in his dudely outlook and response to the trials and tribulations of life. He is the modern day expression of the maxim this too shall pass. That’s something worth thinking over. No matter the difficultly, no matter the ease, no matter the good, no matter the bad; this too shall pass. The situations we’re encountering will eventually pass by; either by their remittance or through our ability to learn how take them in stride.

Consider it pure joy dude, when you face gnarly trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces wicked awesome perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4(The Dude translation)

As an additional Fiat update Sweet Pea’s original engine is at the machine shop and it should be getting worked on in the next few weeks. I’ll soon have at my disposal one more working Fiat after I get the engine pieced together and dropped into The Swede(my yellow 74 128, still working out a nickname for it). This is extremely exciting.

w00t!! - John Titor has nothing on me.

When the moon hits your eye

Lately I’ve been hitting the streets during the late hours to get in a few miles on my bike. You might think this is a bit crazy, but so far I’ve found that the later that I go that the safer I feel. Traffic at 11:00pm on the secondary streets is much lower than during the day and after 1:00am is almost non-existent even on the main roads. That late at night the weather is perfect for riding too because the heat of the day is over and it has had a chance to cool off allowing for a rather pleasant ride. My average in town ride has been 25 miles and each time I’ve followed a slightly different path. Depending on my motivation there are routes I can go that are pretty much flat and easy or I’ve got the choice to push myself and take on some wicked gnarly hills should I want to.(west from Galloway station up towards Home Depot particularly sucks). I’ve been tracking my rides with a really cool cyclemeter app on my iPhone to show speed, distance, route and a number of other stats. Cool to know how many calories you’ve burnt or the amount of ascent/descent in a ride or just see your average speed.

I started piecing together a bike back around April so I could go riding with my buddy Greg. I way overpaid for the frame after finding it on CL offered by a hoarder up in Strafford. At the time I was just trying to find a bike of the same model as the Trek that I had just sold a couple years ago after I had failed to continue riding after a short lived bit of motivation to get back into biking. I decided I may as well just sell it, which was a terrible choice considering it was in immaculate condition and had pretty decent components as well. What can I say I was an idiot and some dude got a great bargain.

Well anyways after I got home with this new frame I inspected it a little closer and realized just how much I had overpaid the previously mentioned hoarder. The crank sprockets were bent and had dug into the aluminum frame gnarling it all up, the components were junk and just the overall condition of it was complete crap. I felt like just quietly admitting defeat and throwing it into the dumpster, but instead I decided to sink a bit more cash into it and try to salvage the situation. I stripped everything off; the bars, cranks, brakes, levers, shifters and anything else that would come loose. Then I started researching exactly the components my old bike would have had and began scouring online bike shops and ebay for each piece. The Shimano Exage brake levers that release the wheels by pressing a little button which gives slack to the brake line weren’t the easiest to locate, but I ended up finding them on ebay from a bike shop in France for only 20 bucks. The triple front crank from the Shimano RX100 series was kind of a pain to find too and when I did find one it came as part of a set so I ended up with a couple duplicate items. In the end though I was able to find all the parts I needed, but before I put them on I had to address the frame which still looked like garbage. So I began to sand…and sand…and sand. Eventually I turned to my dad’s electric drill and a wire brush to speed up the process a little. (as a side note wire brushes tend to shed/shoot their little wires everywhere during the process. For three months following I’ve been finding them with my bare feet still embedded into the carpet in my apartment) With the old paint stripped off I took her down to mom & dad’s to clean, prime and paint. Considering this is only the second thing I’ve ever painted in my life I’m actually quite pleased with the outcome. I went with a green pretty similar to Sweet Pea and after the guys at Sunshine bike got everything put back on for me and the bars wrapped with yellow tape it looks pretty freaking sick if I do say so myself…which I do.

So anyways I’ve been using nocturnally themed names for each of the different night time rides I’ve done so far.
Midnight Club
Night Burn
SPF 1000
Goodnight Moon

Riding 20 or 30 miles is fun, but it’s also been immensely fun riding down to the store instead of driving or riding in to work a few times. It’s good to be a bit more active especially with all this extra beard weight.

Johnny Popper and Ms. Allis

Friday Dad and I were moving tractors around to free up some room in their carport for my newest family member Lemondrop. Amazingly enough Dad has the magical touch and we almost almost had the John Deere started just from cranking over the flywheel. Close, but no cigar though and we ended up having to pull it out with the Allis and pop the clutch while being towed to get it going. Mom was shocked, Cassie was fearfully curious and dad was pumped. I took plenty of pictures and video to document it all since this is probably the last time we’ll have her started up and running.

Download video: MP4 | Ogg | WebM

Utah…t you tah a Fiat?

7 states
2534 miles
94 hours
60 mph
172.19 Gallons at 616.44 dollars
4 nights sleeping outside
5 bags of pistacchios
1 tow bar
2 beards
=1974 Fiat 128

From June 2-6 I drove out to Salt Lake City and back to pickup another Fiat 128. I already had some vacation time saved up that I needed to use or lose and this car popped up a couple months ago so this was as good an opportunity as any to travel a bit, visit a couple states I haven’t been to before and pickup another Fiat. The car itself wasn’t in as good of condition as I’d hoped, but I suppose I should just expect every Fiat to be worse than I’ve imagined it or the owner has described it. I took the tires off Sweet Pea(my 72 128) and I had planned on unhooking the axles from it once I got there in order to tow it, but quite honestly once I got there I thought it wasn’t worth the hassle and I’d just tow her as is. Not necessarily the best or recommended method for a four wheel tow, but I had to be realistic about it and it would have taken me more hours that I didn’t want to spend to get it done. So screw it, it’s not like it’s a Dino, this is just a little Italian bread box. Maybe next time I’ll just take a trailer…or maybe next time I won’t drive to SLC at all.

Wyoming was by far my favorite state on the way out and in particular the city of Laramie. I had gone on a slow incline up interstate 80 when just after a national park the road began it’s descent over 5 or 6 miles down into the valley where Laramie is situated. Seeing the city suddenly emerge from the peaks and spread out like a blanket on the valley floor brought to mind how I’d pictured Laketown in the Hobbit to have looked, minus the lake of course, eerily similar though the way the city sits in isolation from the rest of the world. When entering the city it seemed very similar to Colorado Springs where we spent a week last summer. A very relaxed town, cooler weather still at the beginning of summer and all sorts of interesting things to discover in the area. I can definitely see myself going back to visit Laramie. I spent the night about an hour past Laramie near Elk Mountain for the most relaxing night of the trip; pulled back near a national forest area, a full moon, and no sound of civilization.

I arrived in SLC on Monday afternoon. Brandon, the seller, and I worked for a few hours to get the car ready to tow. He was immensely helpful getting the tow bar fastened to the bumpers and helping just in general getting her ready for the long haul. We shared a couple of beers, well 3% Utah beers if that’s really a beer, talked about cars, life and generally had a very pleasant afternoon. I had thought about staying at Camelot hostel that night, but decided to forgo it and just get back on the road. BTW traffic around SLC is thick.

I then turned my gaze towards home. Monday night I spent the night by a river near Lyman, WY and Tuesday night I crashed just west of Wakeeny, KS. The night near Wakeeny in particular was especially nice and quiet. As I woke up there were deer in the fields on both sides of me and the golden color of the wheat was slowly being brought to light by the rising sun. On the way back I even came across Westfall which reminded me of World of Warcraft so I had to stop and take a look. It was so close in appearance to the Westfall from the game that I’m almost certain this little town is the namesake for the location in the game.

Finally after hours and hours on the road and drawing nearer to home I spied a motorcycle in the rear view mirror which ended up being my parents coming back from their trip to Arkansas. After having traveled 2500 miles we both arrived at their place within 10 minutes of one another.

An interesting trip, though maybe just a bit too long for my liking. I’m supposed to go back there later this summer with some guys from Emmaus, but I’m not sure I feel like going back at all.

The Dark Horse won at Queen City Beard and Mustache Championship

I beard…a lot, but tonight I received the shock and joy of a beardtime(lifetime) when I won first place in the Queen City Beard and Mustache championship in the ‘full beard’ category. I really can’t believe it still because there were so many other incredible beards up in that category. There was a guy with a kilt and a massive Braveheart beard, a guy with a beard down to his belt line, a Dos XX guy too and dozens more with just straight up incredible beards. When I saw how many other entries there were in my field with much more impressive beards I wrote off the remote possibility that I’d even place and just hoped to have some fun. My Mom & Dad & my sister Cassie even came out to support and root me on. So I’d like to say thank you to all the other guys who entered, it was an honor to be among such great beards. Thank you to the judges for your kind ratings. Thanks to my family and friends for your support of my bearding. And thank you Lord for blessing me with this great beard.

Rally America – 100 Acre Woods 2012

Dad and I spent Friday and Saturday watching the Rally in the woods up near Salem Missouri. Fortunately this year there weren’t torrential rains ahead of the rally and we were able to see stages on both days…and we also didn’t break down in the Fiat this year either so that was an added bonus. My respect for Ken Block continues to increase because of his willingness to participate in this rally whenever he gets the opportunity. He may not be the best WRC rally driver, but he’s out there putting forth the effort and it makes me proud to know he’s doing it with panache and style.

We’ve also been doing a ton of work out at the property lately which has been fun on all sorts of levels. And the other day I even got to drive a big truck while helping Sesha move. How neat is that.

Peoples is Peoples

In the comments someone wrote this, which I thought displayed Pete’s sentiments exactly.
Translation: “Take a place like NYC. Lots of people, right? Living life and working their jobs. But the city isn’t alive. People being there makes it alive, and people are pretty much alike everywhere. Not like architecture, which is very different everywhere. Like tomatoes–no two are identical, but they’re all tomatoes. Life is dancing, and music, and fun, but also doing mundane things–and everyone has a balance of fun things and tedious things. Everyone experiences it.”


On this day of love or day of sadness depending on your current status I wanted to revisit one of the best bands for either condition on this day. I can remember the first Copeland show I went to; it was up in Kansas City at some little crappy venue where they played with Lovedrug and Veda. This would have been during the era of their first album Beneath the Medicine Tree. I don’t remember much about the show quite honestly except for how much I was now in love with Kristen, the lead singer from Veda, when she came out and rocked the house down. The rawness of her performance meant you could tell that she wasn’t one to hold back even one ounce of energy. Back to Copeland though. They’ve been a constant companion for close to 8 years as I’ve navigated the dangerous waters of love and relationships. Allowing me to grieve, to be hopeful, to be content, just to be.

Here’s my breakdown of the Copeland albums though.

Beneath the Medicine Tree – Good for pining away or nursing a wound or shouting in defiance. There’s not a better album to accompany you through your mid 20s.
In Motion – This was a great one if you happened to be with someone. You have my attention though slow on the album was a crowd favorite in concert. When Aaron Marsh would choose to push his vocals to their edge and really, I mean truly belt this one out there then their music achieved epic status. The high that his raw falsetto imparted would last for days.
Eat, Sleep, Repeat – I’ve not really figured out where this fits in the emotional spectrum. It’s probably the album I listen to the least out of all of them. The last song features piano instead of their normal guitar driven sound and really shows the versatility of this band. It starts at a quiet and gentle ballad, adds some strings, a deep bass tone, builds up bigger and then softly closes out with just vocals at the end.
You are My Sunshine – Peaceful and content afternoons in the evening are coupled well with this album. Wasn’t sure I like this album at all when it first came out, but the DVD that came out really sells this and I this probably has uprooted Medicine Tree as my favorite Copeland album
Dressed Up and in Line – Is a mix of early songs and a couple re-releases. Not their greatest, but there are some real gems on this album and if you’re willing to wait out the hidden track there’s just about the greatest rendition of Black Hole Sun ever released. John Bucklew belting out in terrifying wavering tone and off-pitch confidence never fails to put a smile on my face. One of the few times you get to see a bit of the humor from the band break through into their music.
Know Nothing Stays the Same – If you’re feeling vintage
Sony Connect Sessions – An acoustic set for the vulnerable; very mild, but very pleasing.

Finally in the most unlikely of places you’ll find one of the most beautiful mixtures of metalcore and indie emo. Underoath released the album Their Only Chasing Safety and the very last track Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape will give you goosebumps. It can be a love song from Jesus or a confession to him of the hurt and pain. I’ve never encountered another song that could so masterfully mix these two genres.

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