Sunday July 11, 1999 Two Long Weekends
Sunday July 11, 1999 - 10:02:45 PM

My back is stiff and sore, but it's the kind of stiff and sore that feels pretty good. I fixed one of our cars yesterday. Another one of them still needs some work. These cars have made it a long weekend, but let's start back a little further...

Diligent readers (translation: Hi, Dad!) may remember the family reunion I mentioned in the July 3 edition. Did you have a good time, Roger? Did you meet a lot of fun relatives? No and NO. I met several relatives, there were probably twenty people there counting the eigth of us (Ruth, Isaiah, myself, Ruth's folks, aunt and brother, and Cousin Pat from Arizona), and of them all I remember are two possibly three that offered anything other than the required civility. ("Oh, Hi! What a cute baby!..." and then moved off blabbing away to someone else ignoring us "Anyway, So-and-So, like I was saying, blah blah blah"). It was a LONG day since Ruth's mother insisted we arrive by 11:30 am. There was to be a catered dinner at 5 pm, so you can imagine how the day drug on. I was glad I had those library books! I mean, hey, if nobody's going to bother to notice me (or even us, that is the RELATIVE and the relative's hudband and baby!) then they can not notice me reading a book! I wasn't the only one who felt this way. My wife, her aunt and Cousin Pat all had understandably ruffled feathers. We've already planned NOT to attend the next one coming up two years from now.

Now we zoom forward through time to Friday. (Mainly because I don't remember anything to write about until Friday.) Friday morning when I logged into my workstation I seemed to get no response, so I hit the reset button and logged in again. This time I could see that it was doing something, but

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As it turned out, one of the main computers on our network had crashed and was down all day. This just happened to be where all the stuff my group needed was located! The CEO, however, said nobody was going home so guess what we did all day? Basically two things: surf and loaf! Yes, amazingly, Friday I did ZERO work for 100% pay! I need more days like that.

I do NOT need more nights like the one I had Friday, though. My wife and I decided to go to a restaraunt about 45 minutes away. We had also decided to let her folks babysit Isaiah. On the way to drop him off, I realized I was very tired so Ruth drove to the restaraunt. The trip took a little longer than expected since the rain coming down almost created a white-out condition, but we made it to our destination and had a good dinner together. I was refreshed and drove from the restaraunt. It was a good thing I did, too, since our car began to show exagerrated symptoms of a problem it has had for a long time. This car, our 85 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, has had charging problems for months. I have been putting a battery charger on it every night to top off the battery and it gets me back and forth to work every day (35 miles one direction) as long as I remember to do so. Well, I had not driven it to work this Friday. I had driven our third working car, my 79 International Harvester Scout. I usually don't drive it because it gets about 10 miles to the gallon, but I enjoy driving it, so I occaisionally do. I figured that since the Ciera had gotten an extra whole day on the charger it should be just fine. This figuring turned out to be dead wrong. Not long after leaving the restaraunt, the car started to demonstrate an unnerving bucking behaviour it shows when the battery is getting low. I was confused since the battery should have been topped off. Very soon, though, when I saw the dash lights begin to dim, I said "Wife, we're having a problem..." Sure enough the car died. The battery was flat. Luckily, when the car first started having this problem, I spent about $80 on a most handy device which you plug into a wall outlet to charge, that can be used to jump start a car. We drifted to the shoulder of the highway, I put the thing on the battery, and we waited about 10 minutes for some charge to transfer. The car started and made it a surprisingly far distance, but we still had to repeat this procedure two more times- with diminishing returns each time. At this point let me sat to those who aren't religious that religion DOES have benefits. I would have a hard time naming coincidence as the source of the fact that our car died the last time going down a hill 3 blocks from home with just enough momentum to drift casually into our driveway exactly as I would have done under power! Ruth and I were both relieved, but neither of us was surprised. Like I said, although it is rather simplistic to put it so, it is nonetheless true that religion DOES have benefits.

I think the problem with that car is due either to a loose alternator belt, a bad alternator, or a loose belt AND a bad alternator. I tightened the belt and had the battery tested. The test was good, so once the battery has charged removed from the car, I'll reinstall it and find out if the belt was the culprit. The immobility of the Ciera, however, forced me to focus my attentions on the 85 Toyota Celica we call Popeye. It was still functional, but had been running extremely poorly and getting very bad mileage. I suspected, based on its behavior, that the problem had something to do with the aspiration of the fuel injected four cylinder. I didn't have a definite idea what was wrong, but I figured the first step in doing anything would be to take off the air intake chamber and have a look at it. This figuring turned out to be dead right. In addition to being just generally filled with baked on black crud, I found a vacuum port totally clogged with more of the same black, crunchy, burned oil smoke junk. To make a long story short, (sheesh, says the harried reader, this is the short version?) 4.5 hours and 3 cans of carburetor cleaner later, the car runs better than it has since we bought it in 97! That isn't the end of the weekend's mishaps, though.

I was in such a hurry to slap it back together and take it for a test drive that I forgot to replace a rather important hose. Why the engine coolant has to flow through the air intake chamber, I'll never know, but I do know from experience how far I can get in this car with the water blowing right out of it. The hose went from the thermostat housing into a port below the throttle body. Before, that is, I modified it to go from the thermostat to the atmosphere! The thing that really killed me, though, was that the one tool I needed to reach the clamp, (still on the hose but nigh on inaccessible) my needle nose pliers, were at home and not in the toolbox in the back of the car with all my other tools. We were on our way to my Mom's house for dinner and eventually made it after having to stop and cool down three times. After dinner my Mom and Ruth went to Target to get diapers and new needle nose pliers while I stayed at my Mom's house with Kroger and Isaiah. I don't think I would be nearly as stiff and sore if it hadn't been for this final, unplanned repair, but the car is finally FIXED and I can feel proud of myself for that. Now, if I can get the Ciera going, I'll call myself the King of the Kilobuck Cars.

But I'll reserve this title until BOTH cars run right.

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