Sunday, August 30, 2015


Looking at the "new" lot
Sitting is good right? The older you get the more that seems true at least. I know, I know you're supposed be active and not sitting all the time but I'm talking about sitting to relax, refect, and renew. 

I do sit all day long at work for the most part and I know it's not good. My back tells me so after nearly forty years of doing it. But having those get away "Sitting Places" at home is what I'm talking about. 

Looking at the house
I guess I've taken that to heart as all told I think there is twenty two or so outside seats around our place. From on the patio to the old swing in the trees to what I call the "Tree Patio" and off to the "new lot" and into the hammock, there are plenty of places to stop, renew and reflect. 

Some locations let you see the house, some let you see the road, some let let you see open aread, some let you see the sky while others let you see all the yard work you still have to get done. 

Looking a the work to do
They all let you see the world in a little different way if you just stop and let them.

Now let's just sit and think about that for a bit...
Looking at the road
Looking at the sky

Thursday, August 20, 2015


That's the hash tag for the HotRod magazine RoadKill webisode and I guess it's fitting. The web show, where David Freiburger and Mike Fennegan throw hot rods together and make a road trip out of it seems to strike a cord among the masses of gear heads around the states. I'm guessing it's backlash from those masses against the mega money built cars and trucks of today that we all think are cool but will never have the six figure pocketbook to build or own.

They definitely have a following and although I'm not always entertained by their builds or methods I do like how it seems to bring the fun back into hot rodding. Sure they are still sponsored and get freebies the rest of the rodding world can only dream about but they seem to end up making it feel like you could actually do some of that yourself... maybe.

With the RoadKill Takes America episode spending a couple days in Oklahoma and having enjoyed seeing and talking to Freiburger at Drag Week 2014 I couldn't resist taking a couple days off to see some of their builds on the Hallett road track, the Tulsa drag strip and follow along for a visit to the Hajek Motorsports Museum this summer. The produced version will not be online until December of 2015 and I can only hope that my face isn't in there somewhere but I figured it would be worth a little road trip.

In the spirit of #becauseRoadKill I decided to NOT take a daily driver and NOT take Interstates or Toll Roads to get there and back. I'm actually glad I did. Although more true along the RoadKill theme would to have been to take the recently running 69 Mustang, I am not THAT confident. Since the old 1988 TurboCoupe just turned over 200,000 miles I figured it would be close enough. Sure, it's a comfy car with cruise, AC, and lumbar seats but it does have a lot of miles, some scary squeaks and moans from the front end, the passenger window doesn't work and it smells like gasoline every time you park it due to a leaking fuel injector. RoadKill enough for me.

The events in Oklahoma included time at Hallett Raceway where it was supposed to be their Grandpa Charger vs the Vette Kart around the circuit. Although for the most part the cars were a bust with a wet track slowing the charger down and problems with the Vette Kart taking up the afternoon, the time with the crew was nice as there were only 30-40 spectators there. It was nice chatting with other RoadKill fans and fanatics as well with some of them following the crew from Michigan through to Ft Worth.

Next was drag strip night at Tulsa Raceway and spectators and RoadKill groupies could participate in this one so there was plenty of action on the strip from 20+ second hybrids to 8 and 9 second rockets. That was a good thing as Freiburger and Fennegan spent the whole evening doing #becauseRoadKill trying to fix the General Mayhem to get it track worthy. The 'big' event here was supposed to be the General Mayhem vs the Blasphemi blown hemi powered 55 of Fennegans. After getting the Mayhem driveable there was an attempt but Blasphemi wasn't playing and never made a full pass. The General did run a 10.666 once Freiburger ran a clean pass which is quit respectable with it's Hellcat transplanted power train.

The best part of the whole trip for me was the visit to the Hajek Motorsports Museum. Brent Hajek is a blast to be around and seems to have the back story for every one of the 48+ cars that were in the museum as well as the many others they have loaned out around the nation. Since Hajek is a big Ford partner, this history was mostly Ford which obviously works well for me. From Bob Glidden's Pinto Pro Stock to modern Cobra Jet Mustangs and all things in between it was very entertaining listening to Brent tell all. We even were able to hear the famous Ford GT-90 car start and rev up in the shop. You really don't hear too many concept cars run, let alone a 20 year old one. Nice.

I cant' say my little trip went without some drama myself but I did make it back in one piece and that's what matters. However, I'm going to have to do some debugging on the TC as once I got past the noisy passenger window, the double try 3-4 gear shift, the freezing up AC evaporator, and the general squirrelliness of worn out front end, I started getting dropping oil pressure and increasing temps on my way to Hajeks Museum. I know these are factory gauges and a guess at best but they have been stable in the past. First I thought it was low on oil as it does use it and I had driven 325 miles or so by then. When that wasn't the problem I just kept on keeping on and enjoyed the stay at the museum. On the way back, the problem persisted. Under constant load the oil pressure dropped down to the danger zone and temp inched up. Clutch it and coast and oil pressure goes up. Hmm...

Once I hit Guthrie on my back road way back home, I turned off the AC trying to see if that was the problem. Shortly thereafter the temp spiked up and she starting billowing blue smoke out the back. At that point I figured I had been "RoadKilled" and turned off on a side street to assess the damage and try to think who had a trailer and liked me enough to rescue me an hour and a half from home.

After letting it sit a few minutes I fired it back up and immediately noticed no radiator fans running. Ah yeah, I had bypassed the computer control at one point to have one fan always on. Quick check and the patched in "temporary" wire had lost connection. Pushed it back in and now we have fan. No more blue smoke either... kind of odd but I wasn't complaining. Maybe that fixed it.... Nope. Oil pressure still drops under constant load but temp was stable now. Limp mode home I guess.

My solution was to chug up the hills and watch the oil pressure drop and then clutch and coast down and watch the pressure rise. Got me home but I didn't make any friends of those following me for sure. Still a mystery as to what the problem is but hey, it wouldn't have been an adventure otherwise, I mean seriously, #becauseRoadKill.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Mentor Lost - Godspeed M J Madden

Although you know it was inevitable, the news of someone that was a huge influence in your life passing away is never easy to hear. M J Madden passed away July 9th, 2015 making me once again stop and recount my life, my blessings, and the opportunities that have made me what I am. M J made it to 84 years of age and was likely as busy as he could be until the end. He never seemed to stop getting things done even in the later years when I'd see him around town or at the post office and we'd get to chat or catch up.

He was actually just a bit younger than I am now when he hired me back in 1979 to be a draftsman. I was barely 20 years old, still in college for my Drafting and Design degree, and was looking for a "real" job. I happened upon a friend from the drafting days at votech, Glenn Burton, and when I mentioned I was looking he said to check in with MJ and his business Tel-Elec Consulting Engineers in Tecumseh as Glenn was working there and they needed help. I did, and the next thing I knew I was hired as a newly instated draftsman. The company was small, three owners, a secretary, and a couple of draftsmen, but it was new and exciting to me. 

I drew, and drew. The engineers would take field notes and rough drawings and the draftsmen would turn them into engineering drawings for review for Southwestern Bell Outside Plant replacement. In other words cable replacements in the field. Things were moving along well with good business and then things slowed way down. I figured I'd be laid off, but M J and the other owners kept us on even overlooking a few of us playing Frisbee behind the building when there was nothing to do. 

Soon however, business picked back up as M J and the other owners expanded the work and the area including work in Texas and before long Tel Elec has purchased an empty building on south Broadway in Tecumseh and fully remodeled it with individual offices, a big work area, kitchen and more. High times for a 20 something to have his or her own office back in the 80's. My work expanded as well, soon I was the one helping or even taking my own field notes as to what and where to place telephone cable and how to do things. The big push then was Southwestern Bell had to eliminate all their "party lines" where two or more houses shared the same wires and therefore were limited on their phone use. Amazing to think now that just thirty years ago that was the issue when today billions of people have their own personal mobile number. Times have changed. 

As the work changed new opportunities arrived and others faded away. One major project I'll never forget was here I was, a 20 something in Tecumseh Oklahoma leading the job to design and deploy the CHATLOS system for downtown Dallas and its urban areas. I'm can't remember if that was an acronym or a product brand but the short version is this involved computerizing the air pressure system for telephone cables in the underground manhole system in Dallas and some surrounding telephone exchanges. There were specs for where to place monitoring sensors and where to place monitored air injection points but the rest was for us to figure out, design, and generate the drawings to install all these pieces of hardware to make this work. 

Some other big projects that I could not imagine myself handing off to a 20 something draftsman was the LROPP, Long Range Outside Plant Plans for a lot of local and Texas SWB exchanges. These were bigger, deeper, projects with plant inventory, land use review and density projections, plant and  electronic "pair gain" planning and more. Each project took months and we did quite a few. Of course I was looking at how to automate all this paper generation back in the day and had setup several templates and forms on our DEC dedicated word processor system that stored all this on 8 inch floppy disks. It saved us typing time, made it all look uniform and more professional. I have no clue how well the long term plans worked out but I remember bits and pieces of the Shawnee plan we did and do remember projecting growth on the north side more than the south back then. Of course today it likely really doesn't matter much with wireless service and high speed digital electronic voice over IP traffic but it was crucial back then to have a plan.

M J and partners Larry Epple and Gary Vanmeter are one of the main reasons for my Information Technology career. As a side project Tel Elec purchased a Digital Equipment PDP 11/34 mini computer and had some big plans for selling time share and software services. Although in the long term things moved too fast to make this happened, we did end up with some steady customers for several years that hopefully at least made it worth while. It did for me at least as they gave me access to this new machine and I spent many hours behind a VT100 terminal learning how to code better in its version of User 11 and BASIC. I remember converting a program source code I found that would calculate the elasped time of a drag race car based on the parameters you input for horsepower, torque, traction, weight, etc and then plugging in numbers and waiting... and waiting... and waiting... as the machine crunched the code and gave the answer. I finally added some code to light up the little status LEDs on the keyboard as the code worked through its stages so I'd know how close it was to done. 

This was the mid 80s and the market wasn't clear as to which "PC" was going to rule the world but M J and staff knew the mini world was going away and the PC world was coming so we did buy a PC to start using. There were even big discussion on becoming a re seller for computers in our area so we purchased a CP/M 86 based system and I remember doing a few things on it. Shortly thereafter, the PC/MS DOS operating system was obviously the future and we picked up a Wyse clone 8088 system with 640kb of RAM and a whopping 10 megabyte hard drive... 10 meg, not Gig. I figured I'd never fill that much space up. That is about 1 or 2 of today's digital photo on your smart phone. 

I learned a lot about word processing, spreadsheets and databases on that machine. It was what I cut my PC teeth on and helped me move from the Sinclair, Vic 20, and C64 days of computers at home to a Commodore PC clone. The PDP mini still was the workhorse though and we hosted time share and software development for the City of Tecumseh and ran water billing for a local rural water district. 

In the late 80s the consulting business started slowing down and MJ had problems finding more work. He was traveling a lot in Texas but continued to find jobs to bid on and kept many other contract engineers busy. Most worked out of their house at that time so the office was pretty empty. I always wondered if the doors would be shutdown someday but even after I left in 1991 to take a computer based job at the city of Tecumseh after they moved off our billing system, M J kept the company running from what I know. 

M J never seemed to sit still in the years I knew him. Early on he was always on the phone, traveling, finding jobs or making contacts. Even in his years after shutting down Tel Elec I'd see him running around town, staying busy helping out his son-in-laws business or checking mail at the PO box in Shawnee. He was quite the inspiration and always had a positive outlook, even when business seemed slow and the future looked not so bright. 

Fortunately I did have enough common sense to tell him in the last couple years how grateful I was for his mentoring and the opportunities he provided to me over those early years of my career. How his influence gave me great confidence that I could do more than I may have thought I could. 

His response was honestly shocking. Intead of saying your welcome, he THANKED ME for what I did and told me I was key in keeping the company going in some of those lean years. Quite moving to hear that but I guess not surprising knowing his nature. 

Godspeed M J Madden, you will be missed on this side...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

If cars could talk...

If only cars could talk... What stories and memories they could tell. For me personally the three cars in this picture would have many stories to tell. They have all been in my life one way or another and had pivotal moments and memories attached to them.

The 69 Mustang and I go way back to 1974 when it first came into my life. I actually remember seeing the car for the first time on North Louisa just south of Jefferson school. I could not believe my Dad had found this orange, jacked up, mag wheeled Mustang for me, a 15 year old motor head that had already been through the bicycle, go kart and motorcycle phases... Well, maybe not phases as I'm still interested in that stuff today, but Dad saw and drove my interest and helped me through learning about those things. 

The first couple years where pretty quite with the Stang, both figuratively and literally. I left it pretty stock but couldn't help "tuning" the 351 Windsor two barrel motor and painting a few things up under the hood to make it look cooler. However before I was out of high school the hot rod phase started and one pivotal moment was when I chose headers over decorative "side pipes". I really was going to put some simple side pipes on the car like was cool in the day, but picked up some headers and Cherry Bomb style header mufflers instead triggering the performance spiral that took over. In the end the car was not very streetable and a followup rebuild didn't make it much better. What was to be a rebuilding of the drivetrain turned into a 20+ year ordeal and rebuild including a new shock tower, battery tray, floor pans and more... much more. So as of today it runs, doesn't quite drive, but is making its comeback and I'm guessing feeling quite proud.  

I wonder what it thought as it sat outside through many hard winters and summers unable to move and missing it's heart and soul of engine and transmission. Ten plus years ago I tore it completely down to do all the major work and at least finally got it back indoors so it wasn't beat down so much by the weather. I'm pretty sure it gave up on me more than once as time dragged on and progress was slow or no progress at all for months. Other projects were getting attention such as the Turbo Coupe, SVO Mustang, the old 4x4 Ranger and Austin's project cars. Maybe it did see the slow but growing parts pile that would eventually bring it back to life and held onto hope. Maybe it wondered if that moment would ever come. 

The moment did arrive during the week of June 22, 2015 and through seven straight days of getting it back together it was close enough for the old car to limp onto a trailer and make the ride to the Knights 30th annual car show. Maybe it remembered being at the 1st annual show in 1986... or maybe it's gotten old and can't remember some things like its owner does, no telling. In any manner the future is looking up so far and it had a day in the park to sit next to an old buddy, our old 1980 Trans Am that it shared the driveway with decades ago. Maybe they talked about old times as well?

Speaking of the Trans Am, it was in our lives during a short but important time period. Before we sold it to Jane Wright, the Trans Am was my daily driver in the middle 80's and took Karen and I around quite a few states. It took us on early vacations and our honeymoon to the Gulf coast. It was the factory silver color back then and nearly new. Being able to sit in the car once again recently brought back many memories of those times. At one point Jimmy and Jane had to get rid of the old bird but now it's back in their hands and with old friends. In fact the car has memories of taking them on their honey moon as well so I'm sure it has many stories to tell about both our families. It too sat unused and unloved for some time before Jimmy brought it back to life and likely has its stories of abandonment out in the hot and cold. 

Jerrys beautiful 78 Camaro looks just like it did 30 years ago. It too continues to hold a special moment in Karen's and my life as this was the actual car that we first met in on June 29th, 1980. The car could likely tell the story better but Jerry and I were cruising around Kickapoo in his car since for one, mine was a 1967 Cougar "rescue" car that, although a fun daily driver with my old original Mustang motor in it, was nothing to really look at and Jerrys was a nearly new Camaro. Jerry saw a girl he knew, Crystal, that he wanted to talk to again and she happened to have a friend named Karen with her. Jerry and Crystal jumped in the back seat and I ended up in the front driving with Karen in the passenger seat. We both remember that quite well actually. The Camaro may have been wondering what the heck was happening but we had a good evening getting to know each other and three years to the day later Karen and I were getting married to each other in 1983.

Now 35 years later, all three cars were sitting in Boy Scout Park together for the 30th Knights show. The first time likely that they were all in the same spot at the same time. I wonder what stories they were sharing with each other while we all sat around and caught up on the missing years ourselves?

If only...