Friday, July 25, 2008

A Day at the Friend Home

Life around the Friend home is pretty dull. To give you an idea of just how dull it is, I thought I would describe to you a typical dull day...

Tuesday, July 21, 2008

Deb canned five quarts of beans today. This normally would not be noteworthy except she has no kitchen right now. The only burner available is the side burner on the barbeque grill, so the beans are boiled and then canned in the garage. I guess the one small advantage of this is that it keeps the heat out of the house. Which is good because we have been having unusually cool weather for the month of July.

In addition to not having access to a stove, Deb also does not have a sink. So there is a table in the garage with two large tubs where she washes the dishes. We fill the water glasses and the ice cube trays in the bathroom.

The reason for all this is I have been putting new countertops in the kitchen. Granite countertops. Somehow, everything I do is a new learning experience, and working with granite is no exception. I figured out how to cut it reasonably well so I have my table saw set up in the garage with a jig I made to help cut straight lines through stone. I do the actual cutting with an angle grinder and a diamond blade. Hand cutting stone is a rather slow process and creates enormous amounts of dust. So I set up a big fan in the garage to blow all the dust outside. So far this makeshift workshop works reasonably well. Except when Deb is washing the dishes. It makes for rather dusty plates.

With most of the granite mounted and grouted in the kitchen, I spent some time sealing the granite to prevent stains. While I was doing this, I had David replacing some hoses on a project we have going: a 1979 MG Midget Convertible. I had just obtained a license plate from the Secretary of State's office, so if we could get some of the last problems fixed up, we could maybe take it out for a ride this evening.

We bought the MG in May as a project car as it needed a fair amount of work. I got it for a bargain, mostly because it suffered a rather unfortunate fire in the engine compartment. The fire was started by a wiring fault and burned up many of the plastic and rubber parts in one area under the hood, and scorched the paint on the hood and the passenger side fender. Since then, David and I have been working on it off and on, rewiring the car, replacing parts under the hood, etc. We actually got it running this past Saturday. So we were both itching to take it for a ride.

With the granite sealer taken care of, I helped David put the front bumper on the car, finish some wiring, test the lights, and get it ready to go. We then squeezed in and took off to our first stop: the gas station. Three gallons of gas was enough to make the needle point to 3/4 tank, plenty for some running around. We took off down Baldwin street, intending to stop at a friend of David's, who shares his interest in cars.

We both decided that riding in a convertible is a lot of fun. Especially during a pleasant sunny evening. David commented that you really don't want your hand to hang too far over the side of the car. This car is small enough and low enough that your hand may actually drag on the roadway.

Two miles later, the engine suddenly lost power. We had enough forward momentum to coast into a side street before coming to a stop. It now refused to start. One minute it was running great, now, not at all. Hmmm. What to do? We didn't have the presence of mind to bring any tools along, but I did drop a cell phone in my pocket just before we left.

I called Deb. Deb, for all her many talents, is somewhat tool-challenged. But she came through after my descriptions of what I wanted and came out in the van with the requested tools. David and I tinkered and poked for a little while and then the engine inexplicably roared to life and stayed running. Must be some sort of fuel problem. I had Deb follow us home. We lost power once more and I managed to coast into the parking lot of a local pizza joint. This time, it started right back up again. We got some strange looks, driving this tiny car with no hood and a burned fender, and coasting into the parking lot entrance marked "Out", but, as they say, "any port in a storm."

All the while, Deb was shaking her head and calling up visions of a 1978 Winnebago Motor home, which died one of its many deaths in that very neighborhood about ten years ago (it also was a fuel problem; we ran it out of gas on one of our joyrides).

Once we got home, we pulled into the family gathering place (you guessed it: the garage). Now it seemed to be running just fine. Maybe we'll stick a little closer to home for a while.

Josh had just got home from work at the bike shop when we arrived home, and I think he really wanted to take the car for a ride, but it was getting late, and he still had a lawn to mow, so his drive would have to wait.

The phone rang shortly after that. It was someone interested in looking at the pickup. With four vehicles crowding the driveway, it was time to get rid of one, so we had the truck for sale. The only car that actually fits in the garage right now is the MG, and that just barely, because of all the other activity going on there.

The guy came about a half hour later. It was dark by this time so I had a flashlight to help him look the vehicle over. He was gone for while, test driving it. I think I heard the sound of squealing tires down the street. He then came back and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. With the condition that the truck was in, it would have been hard to refuse ANY offer. We filled out the necessary blanks on the title on the hood of the pickup, by flashlight, slapping at mosquitoes the whole time. Then I watched the pickup disappear down the street and it was gone, the last echoes from the hole in the muffler fading shortly after. After 15 years of ownership, it was time to sell it. Just to fill the tank with gas was pushing eighty dollars.

Later on that night, Deb awoke to the sound of someone walking around in the back yard. The motion sensor light on the barn had come on, and she heard footsteps and other noises. She had visions of whole armies of theives stealing all our stuff, but after she woke me up, the night was quiet, and the light eventually turned itself off. I solved this mystery the next morning. Two voles had fallen into Joshua's window well and were scrabbling about, keeping him awake. He could still hear them with the window closed, so he got up and went to the barn in search of something to aid in dispatching the varmints. That would explain the footsteps and the light being on.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I took David out for breakfast this morning and let him drive. He is just learning to drive a stick shift. At the first light, he killed the engine three times and we had to wait for the next cycle. So he was a little flustered by the time it turned green again. Adding to that was the fact that there now was a large SUV waiting behind us. He killed the engine twice more and was becoming quite agitated. I told him that he was not giving it enough gas. So the third time, as the light was turning yellow, he gunned the engine and we shot forward, engine screaming, gravel flying, and tires squealing. I think we would have done reasonably well on a quarter mile race track. The SUV didn't make it through the light and voiced his frustration by honking his horn.

Yesterday, I managed to replace the stove and sink in the kichen. The sink took me nearly all evening, but now Deb has her kitchen back. She managed six quarts of beans today and said it was infinitely easier than canning in the garage on the barbeque grill.

I had a few ideas on the fuel problem after doing a little Internet sleuthing. I began to suspect some scale or rust in the fuel tank which suddenly blocked the fuel line to the engine. I had David begin to take the fuel tank off while I glued a few more tiles down in the kitchen.

With the fuel tank off, we could see some large particles sloshing around with the gas. It looks like we found our culprit. We drained the tank and stuck a fan in the opening to dry out the inside. While it was drying I finished the evening's tile work in the kitchen. The tank couldn't dry fast enough for David. He was really itching to get in the car and drive it.

David and I vaccuumed out the particles in the now-dry tank and mounted the tank back on the car. With David at the wheel, we took off towards the church parking lot down the street.

This was a good opportunity to do a little more practice driving also. We drove circles around the parking lot for a while, and this car seems a little more forgiving than our other car. This one will actually lurch and buck and snort a few times and then start going when David lets out the clutch too fast. The Mazda just dies. We stopped and started and shifted until I noticed that the temperature gauge was hugging "hot". I had David drive it back home. Looks like there is some additional work to do before taking it on any expeditions.

So now here we are at the end of another day. With all the boredom in our day perhaps I should do something a little more exciting. Perhaps I'll take up watching TV.

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