Monday, January 24, 2011

The International Year of the Cold Shop Floor

I have to caveat what I am going to say next by first saying that not having a job over that period in ’09-10 was very, very stressful – and I am just speaking for me I can only imagine how it was on Krista and others around me.

That being said, I did however get a ton of work done on the car. Also expectations of me were very low during that period. Everyone gave me space to focus on the job hunt and the car. Now that I have a great job expectations have gone through the roof and I don’t do myself any favors.

Since forever it seems like Krista has been sending me house listings. We have a house but we both know that we’re going to grow out of it sooner rather than later. To be honest, it’s Krista’s house. Her parent’s helped her buy it six years ago and she’s worked very hard to hang on to it over that period. Now that we both live here and I am working again its very affordable. So affordable that Krista has been constantly scoping for something bigger for both us to buy. I think its part of the “preggers” nesting process.

For a long time I owned a house. I bought it when I was eighteen and working in the laborers’ union. This was before I lost my leg. It was my dad’s idea. He was a genius when it came to things like that. Whenever we kids looked like we were making too money and pissing it against a wall he would come up with a scheme we could buy into to get us to save. For me it was talking me into buying the house on Erickson Drive in Red Deer.

I had that house for seven years – finally selling it in my last year of university to settle some school debt and buy a car. Over those seven years I had countless roommates and eventually that place became the party platform for the Red Deer Buccaneer’s football team after party scene (“lady, a lot of peoples husbands are in here”). Selling it made sense as I hadn’t lived there for almost 2 years by the time I sold it.

It’s strange to be 32 years-old and have the sale Erickson Drive be almost 7 years ago and the purchase 7 years before that. I bet even those friends/former roomies associated with that place reading this now are going to have a hard time believing that. We’re getting old.

Since getting married I have been rather staunch on the fact that we’d put at least another year into where we were at. I suffered a momentarily break in my resolve sometime last week. As I said, Krista is always sending me links to houses to look at and for the most part I do a pretty good job shooting down the listings. We currently live in what is known as a BOG (Bonus over Garage). This means that the bonus room sits atop the garage in the front. Essentially there are three floors plus a basement. Don’t get excited those three floors represent a total of 1700 square feet. Essentially it’s a staircase with rooms coming off of it. I have to state here that for the size it’s a great house – if I don’t Krista will most definitely temple punch me. However I have no interest in moving into a slightly bigger BOG.

I saw a house last Monday that, looked to me, if the price was right, could be a thirty year house for Krista, myself, Ruffin and, (soon to be) Junior. It wasn’t a BOG and hell, it had enough square footage to be a home for Junior and three, yet to be named, draft picks.

I was born in 1979 – The United Nations “International Year of the Child” and so was the house I liked and since then both the house and I have probably heard Abba’s “Chiquitita” enough times to want to strangle anyone named Bjorn. The place reminds me of the place my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Al owned in Calgary back in the ‘80s. It has the rough and tumble family-feel but still very elegant. The house also reminds me of those big feather bed land yachts from the ‘70s: The Lincolns, The Chryslers and the Caddies.

Oh, did I mention it also has a three car garage? Not that I noticed. Not I sat there and imagined a Snap-on tool box in the corner; and the TR6 in the farthest stall, the Belvedere in another stall and yet-to-be-named car-of-interest in the last stall (and the goofy looking ’06 Rav4 parked on the street) –not that I thought of that.

Being that this house just had a fairly major renovation, Krista’s interest was sparked also. I showed her the place on the computer in the morning before work and we both wrote it off as very nice but not something on our Radar for right now. Then later that day she phones me at work and says that she can’t stop thinking about that house. I feel the same. We drive over after work to take a look and are even more impressed.

I might have mentioned it before but Krista’s father is a retired engineer who now is a very accomplished finishing carpenter and cabinetmaker. He also worked for a home builder for a period overseeing major projects. To put it simply – the guy knows his stuff.

Krista’s mother, the woman I referred to in my wedding speach as an “institution” worked in a real estate office for a period and has an eye for detail and design that is second to none. Those are only the accomplishments that pertain to this story – there are others.

Together I call Krista’s parents “The Re-Mod Squad”. Being that they are always excited when talk about maybe moving they were more than excited to look at the house from a foundational point of view before Krista and I got too excited.

It turns out the house was a joint venture “flip” deal between a renovator and the real estate agent. Unfortunately for this real estate agent his renovating partner performed a level of work far below my father-in-law’s standard. The words “Bush league“ and “Bullshit” were bandied about with wild abandon. I personally take shabby renovations with a grain of salt – people who watch a lot of HGTV are eventually going to think they know more than they do and do something stupid like pick up a brad-nailer. My father-in-law however takes it very, very personally. He saw the house at eleven AM on Tuesday and I believe he only calmed down about it yesterday.

Since that review we’ve decided to do enact the famous “Brucey do nothing plan”. I think I’ve touched on this before. If not, in his sage years, my dad became quite famous for being faced with a problem, doing nothing about it and eventually seeing the problem resolve itself. There’s a little more jujitsu to it than that but that’s the jist of it. It was quite the art to watch – when done right.

So we’re watching this house – doing nothing – to see if the price will eventually accommodate what needs to be done - I forgot to mention it needs to be reroofed also. This is all in the plan. But what I didn’t plan for are these other houses that I am being presented with. I failed to realize that I opened the door to a nesting preggers wife to now hunt for houses like as if they are mammoths with golden tusks. I have to now look at three tonight and none of those look like they are going to feel like a land yacht from the ‘70s. Also none were born in the “International Year of the Child” – some look like they were born in the “International Year of the Crappy Window Coverings”.

To get back to my original point, no one had any expectations of me when I didn’t have a job. In the end it’s my fault I opened the door to this. With employment come expectations.

Getting back to the important stuff; the temperature in Red Deer finally warmed up enough for me to get some work done on the Belvedere. One of my dad’s legacies is that the door to the TR6 room is sized exactly for a TR6. Anything bigger is SOL. The Belvedere is bigger so I had to work on it in the wilds of the open shop. I did however move it right up to the door so I was in earshot of the Barrett-Jackson on the tube. They should just be honest and change the name to the Barrett-Jackson Corvette auction. This year it was a pretty sad showing for cars – a lot of Chevy crap.

Friday night I got the slant 6 almost all unbuttoned from the car. This is the second time in my life I’ve pulled a slant 6 and they are fairly easy motors to yank – although all the space they give you on one side of the engine is balanced by all the space you lose on the other side. Fortunately the only really sticky spot was getting the passenger’s side engine mount undone. The trick to doing it – and I remembered this from when I did this back when I was 18 – is to undo the driver’s side mount, undo the exhaust at the manifold and then place a jack under the engine and lift the motor until you can see the passenger’s side engine to mount bolts through the hole in the K-member.

It’s important to note that I had to customize a box-end wrench (shave some meat off of it) to get it to backup the exhaust bolt closest to the firewall. I didn’t do this to a Snap-on wrench but an orphaned one.

I marked all the wires with masking tape and a marker as I disconnected them and bagged all my bolts to make the replacement easier. At the same time I decided I am going to cut the wires on the 330 and leave them connected to the replacement motor instead of disconnecting them. This will help me figure out the reconnection by color as well as my notes.

I waited until Saturday morning to get the bottom-end unfastened. I retired Friday night at around 12:30am and was back in the shop by 8:30 am. I’m not going to lie – I was really missing that heated floor when I was under the Belvy. It was reminiscent of working on cars when I was younger. Eventually my kidneys and ass got so cold I went hunting for the mouse infested moving blanket to lie on.

By eleven AM I had everything unbuttoned and although the trans-mount/crossmember looked like it was going to give me a fight it and the driveshaft bolts came easy. By noon I had the engine and trans dangling from the end of the engine hoist like a giant marlin.

In other news I bought a convertible top for the TR6 off of EBay for 100 dollars and set it on the car. I don’t know much about it other than the box said BE-ATT and it looks good sitting on the frame. It won’t be until after paint until I can install it. Tops usually go for about 400 dollars so it will be interesting to see how this one installs. We’ll see.

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just a great car story to start the year - Part 2

I find it funny that ill-conceived adventures never start out seeming like they’re ill-conceived. Looking back now I can see the mistakes that were made. The major one was trying to do too much in too little time.

It’s a little hard to remember now but I believe Derek and I left Halkirk, Alberta at around nine in the morning. It looked to be a rather long and not very interesting drive but to spice it up a little bit I had planned to try and get a gander at the set of the Canadian TV show “Corner Gas” just south of Regina. This wasn’t a big draw but it was something to break the trip up a bit.

I wasn’t surprised that Derek and I traveled easy together. Both of us have plenty of stories and an innate curiosity about the world in which we live. The one bit of conversation stands out more than any other is him relating that 3D printers and prototyping technology was going to emerge as a game-changer over the next few years. I look back that only two years later and have to see that comment as relevant as the “Plastics” line from The Graduate. From Local Motors to Jay Leno’s Garage - 3D printing has played a big part of the car hobby – let alone the decentralization of car manufacturing and emerging small business in tech and other sectors.

It was a cold day, hovering around -15 Celsius but the roads were clear and the sun was bright. At about four in the afternoon we pulled into Rouleau, Saskatchewan, which was about 40 minutes south of Regina. This was our first stop in six hours of driving so we both we in dire need of public facilities. Derek occupied the one washroom in town and complained of a slightly upset stomach so I looked around for other arrangements to clear my bladder.

Being that Rouleau is the fictional “Dog River” from the marginal ( but slightly annoying after repeated viewings) Canadian show “Corner Gas” I decided to relieve myself on the service road alongside the highway so I could always point out where I peed when someone was watching the show. Other than a mockup of the gas station and Café there was little marking the town as Dog River but still neat to see.

By Six PM we pulled into a place called “Johnny Fox’s Restaurant and Pub” on the south side of Regina for dinner. A couple beers and burgs and we were back out on the road.

Although the road was now dark, and both Derek and I a bit weary, we were able to negotiate the last three and a half hours without incident. At about 11 in the evening we pulled into the Russell Motel of storied lore. Of course it was named “The Jolly Lodger” and didn’t fail to be every bit the dive I expected it to be.

We made sure the big Diesel was plugged in as we didn’t want to make that mistake. Russell was still suffering from an unrelenting cold snap. It had been a week since Derek and his fiancé had their adventure in Russell but still very cold.

We spent an uneventful night in the motel and awoke early to get some quick breakfast and headed out to the acreage where the Ford had been stashed for the last week.

The acreage wasn’t far out of town and when we arrived it became very obvious that the fellow that owned the place had a little car addiction of his own. The only thing that sticks out in my mind two years later is a 1964 4-door Chrysler Saratoga. The trip to California to fetch the ’64 New Yorker with Dad and my brother had only been eight months earlier. I asked the guy about it and he informed me that he picked up in Fort McMurray, Alberta in the seventies. He said it was the car he drove when he left that place for good. Apparently he stuck a drum of gasoline in the trunk, piped it into the fuel system and drove all the way home without filling up once. That would be a twelve hundred Kilometers or there about so maybe he could have done it. I didn’t do a close inspection of the car so I don’t know for sure.

Derek’s truck had been sitting in front of a garage for a week, out in the elements, so it was fairly unrealistic that it would start but we tried anyway. No go. In the ended we pushed the truck most of the way on to the trailer using a quite-taxed Chevy S10 pickup. When it looked like the Ford was about to slip off the bumper of the S10 and put a Ford-sized kink in the tailgate we cinched up the come-a-long and tugged it the rest of the way. It was a heavy beast.

With the truck cinched down with the come-a-long, a couple of chains and boomers and a 4 inch flat strap – we were on the road. And hell, it was only ten-thirty in the AM.

We were in Yorkton by noon. I stopped at a Canadian Tire for some big zip-ties and wire to make sure everything stayed connected – that and I think it’s a law in Saskatchewan now that boomer handles need to be wired in. We grabbed a quick burger at the local Burger King and we were off again making great time home.

Although it was very cold out, the weather was clear as was highway 16 headed west. By Three thirty we were in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We were eating up Kilometers like nothing. A coke and some diesel and we were back on the road again for the final Stretch – 400 KM directly west into Halkirk, Alberta. If we kept our pace we could be having a late dinner at Derek’s fiancé’s family farm by eight-thirty.

After another easy 100 Kilometers the wind started to kick up and there was a bit of blowing snow. A nother 50 KM after that it was downright nasty. When the sun went down Saskatchewan’s hospitality disappeared. By time we hit Kerrobert it was a full-blown winter storm.

I remembered as we drove down the main strip in Kerrobert there was a Chinese restaurant that looked so warm and inviting but we had to push on.

After Kerrobert visibility came and went. We had periods that we had to stop and wait for the wind to die down for a moment before we could see the road and we had times when the road would change directions and we could see everything fine.

After about an hour of crawling along when the wind would allow finally everything disappeared. There was nothing. I approximate we were only about 20 Kilometers outside of Kerrobert but we could see nothing.

Even thinking about it now I get dizzy. There was a whiteout but on top of that there were big fluffy snowflakes coming straight at the truck. So many that they were hypnotizing. You really couldn’t focus. We were practically stopped in our tracks.

After a bit of sitting we finally decided to try and follow the lines in the road. I stuck my head out my window and Derek his and both looked closely at the road like we were trying to spot a contact lens. This strategy yielded very little other than frozen ears. Eventually we were completely disoriented. Derek yelled something about correcting my way (towards the middle of the road). I did and I did again and then I could feel the whole truck slide down embankment on the driver’s side. We hadn’t even realized we were over the center line – let alone the wrong lane. Everything was leaning towards me. Derek was higher than I was. We were in the ditch.

After a couple attempts I realized we were also very, very stuck.

You would think that I might have been very disappointed to be in this situation - stuck in a ditch, in a whiteout, somewhere in western Saskatchewan – but all I could really feel was relieved. After what felt like an hour of driving in whiteout conditions I was glad to be at least done with that. I was spent.

Derek had bought a mickey of Rye sometime the night before to drink when we reached Russell but we’d forgotten about it. He offered it to me now to take the edge off the moment and I took big slug.

I was content to sit there and wait out the storm while getting plastered. Barring that I thought maybe we could get a ride back to Kerrobert and get slammed in a Chinese Restaurant. I could not have perceived what actually happened but if I could have it would still have been in third place to my first two thoughts.

After about three minutes in the snow-filled ditch a fellow in a Jeep Liberty pulled up and offered us a ride. “Chinese Restaurant here I come,” I thought.

As I stepped out of the truck the wind grabbed my glasses and blew them off my face. They landed somewhere in the snow between my legs. I instinctively plunged my hand into the snow after them and came up lucky. I grabbed my overnight bag and made scrambled for the road. The snow was thigh deep and it was hard to see through the blowing snow and my wet glasses.

When I got up on the road there was a second vehicle along with the Jeep. There was on old boy in there with his wife and he was yelling something about getting in and also telling the Jeep driver to follow him to his farm.

I crawled into the back of the SUV with Derek and was glad to shut the door behind me. I looked down at my hand and realized I pocket-dialed my mom at one point during my escape. I quickly explained the situation to her and told her I’d let her know when I knew more.

The couple that picked us up seemed very nice but the road situation hadn’t changed since the time I entered the ditch and, to add an extra element to danger, I believe our driver had a few cocktails in him. For awhile it was really touch and go.

Eventually, after a couple of false turns and corrections, which I had no idea how he was even doing that well as there was nothing to see from the back seat, we pulled into a farm.

I can’t for the life of me remember the couple’s name but by looking around it was clear that they had grown kids and grandchildren. They set Derek and me up in a room off their kitchen which had a pair of twin beds made up for their grandkids. With the snowstorm the way it was I could overlook the fact that my foot and most of my ankle was going to hang off the end.

After we settled in and caught a little of the Golden Globes award ceremony on the TV we were fed a dinner of toast, blood sausage and milk. I was glad for the hospitality but couldn’t help but think about how nice a short tumbler of rye would feel in my hand and some greezy Chinese food in my belly.

After dinner we retired to the living room to some more Golden Globes.

I’m not sure how I haven’t mentioned this until now but the guy from the Jeep was shacked up with us also. He really didn’t want to be there but our hosts insisted. It was a while before we got it out of him but he was just out of the army and was trekking from Toronto to Vancouver. He must have been pretty pissed to be stuck in what he must have looked at as a fly-over province. I’m not sure what it was but I found him creepy and was glad he was going to be sleeping in the basement.

At one point, after dinner but before bed, the husband installed himself into a contraption that looked like a very large gerbil wheel with the treads missing and rotated until he was upside down. I guess it’s what is known as an inversion machine. All he said to mark this was “don’t mind me boys” and just hung there until I eventually got creeped out enough to arc off to bed. I believe it took Derek another thirty minutes to get that creeped out.

I remember being up at six the next morning and being told that the fellow from the Jeep had already left. Without breakfast (which was alright with me as I didn’t want to know what followed a dinner like the one we had the night before) we (Derek and I) were loaded into a Toyota pickup with the farmer – who, luckily for us, was now right-side up. From the contents inside his truck it became clear to me that on top of being a farmer he was also contracted to operate the wells in the area.

The farmer had called the local tow truck and, although it wasn’t a tow truck that arrived on the scene, it was a large Chevy Duramax Diesel dually with a long rope – which was good enough for me and eventually good enough to free the Dodge, Ford and the trailer (Enter anecdotal-ly evident Chevy vs Dodge vs Ford remark here).

After being freed from the ditch and we did a shakedown on our rig we arced in to Major, Saskatchewan to settle up for our tow and to get some breakfast. It is because of this story and the trip to KC chronicled earlier in this blog that I no longer have an AMA card but now have an AMA Plus RV card. Not that I ever drive an RV but it seems anytime I need help I have a trailer on behind me. They phoned in the card in at the garage and dinged me for the trailer.

Derek and I were then directed to the only restaurant in town – the “OK KAFE”. The restaurant turned out to be a converted mobile home. There was very little to distinguish it from other mobile homes other than a sign that said “OK KAFE”. We had a good meal there although the choices were rather limited. This place had the menu from the diner in the movie My Cousin Vinnie. The one that simply said: Breakfast… Lunch… Dinner. We went with the breakfast and were happy we did. A couple cokes for the road and we were off again.

Only two hours to eat up that Monday morning and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way to Halkirk. After a quick lunch at Derek’s fiancé’s family farm, where we regaled them with tales of Saskatchewan, I was off to Red Deer to drop the Dodge and trailer then home to Calgary and bed for the rest of the day.

Looking back on it now it was a good trip. I had a lot of fun. I think it’s noteworthy to point out that the Ford has done very little since being in the province. It might be in the same spot we put it when we off loaded it two years ago. I believe it might be retired now. And if so what’s better for an ugly old truck that’s been all over American and a tour of middle Canada then to live out its last days on an Alberta farm.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just a great car story to start the year

Ordering some parts from Drakes and off to start pulling parts off the car this weekend. Thought I'd start the year on a good note and share one of my favorite car stories. Cheers...

I try to like anything that someone has put anytime into. To each their own, that’s what I say. Sure I tease Chevy guys a bit but it’s all in good sport. I try but there is one vehicle that just has me absolutely baffled on why anyone would want to have anything to do with it at all. It’s the 1960 Ford F100 pick-up.

Almost all car models go through an awkward stage if the model gets some years behind it. The Pontiac Aztek only had an awkward stage and the current incarnation of the Dodge Dakota is going through an awkward stage – that’s one ugly truck.

Almost exactly two years ago I was introduced to one particular 1960 Ford F100 that is part of a story too good not to share.

It was January of 2009 and my father had only been gone for barely three months. Over Christmas I had devoted a lot of thought to my career and decided to resign my post as GM of a software company. It had been a crazy three years since University but I was now burned out and apathetic. Since the announcement of my departure my main duty there consisted of conducting a lot of knowledge transfer and introducing new employees (hired to replace me) to clients. Between my apathy for my job and my grief for my dad I was in a pretty anxious mood – I wanted to do anything but sit still. Eventually this energy would be funneled into the TR6 and this blog but I was still months of from that conclusion.

Meanwhile somewhere near Duluth, Minnesota, a guy, who at this point, I had barely met, was preparing to drive north and start a life with his Canadian fiancé. Fresh out of the service and college he thought some new scenery would do him some good – a fresh start. I imagine the thought that he was less likely to get “Stop-loss” in Canada might have entered his mind also. We’ll call him Derek for the purposes of this story.

Some years back he had inherited this brown 1960 Ford truck from his father and had decided to drive that into Canada in tandem with a minivan he borrowed from his brother in exchanged for his Toyota Tercel wagon. The truck was in pretty good shape as it held daily driver status up into the mid-90s and was still seeing annual insurance and registration renewal.

The plan made sense. With the van and truck he could get everything up there in one move. This fiancé would drive the van with some of the load and his two faithful golden retrievers and he would drive the truck with the remainder of his stuff – easy. This is the kind of planning and logic you expect from ex-military and a Masters candidate in Environmental Sciences.

I’ve never been in the military and nor do I think I would make a good soldier. And it might surprise you but even though I attended college and university – I am a horrible student – I have the attention span of an eight year-old with two liters of Coca-Cola down his gullet. Those differences aside I can really relate to the thinking that went into this process: Two cars – one trip – all in and done.

They left Duluth on a cold January morning. Derek, his Canadian fiancé and his two golden retrievers struck out for Alberta, Canada.

I knew Derek because his fiancé was a friend of mine from university and a former employee. In knowing her I know why Derek never related the message that the coolant system on the truck had a major leak into the cab. He did however have to relate that the cab heater on the truck didn’t work. It was either come clean or come up with a story why he was bundling himself in a Skidoo suit and had to pull over to scrape the windshield every 45minutes or so. Adding the information that the heat wasn’t working because the heater core leaked like a pasta strainer might have pushed her over from “reasonably outside her comfort zone” to “there’s no way in hell we’re doing this!”

The goal of the day was to make it to Manitoba and hopefully into Saskatchewan. And believe it or not they did that. They put almost a thousand Kilometers behind them that day in a 20 year-old minivan and almost 60 year-old pick-up.

That fact impresses me to know end for two people from my generation. It’s anecdotal of course, but I match it against a comment I heard around a table a couple years back made by another friend’s girlfriend: “My dad’s going to trade in my 4-Runner as it almost has 100,000 KM on it now – he wants me to be safe”. This is the generation I grew up in – it’s not right but I’m accustomed to hearing that rather than about a trek like this by two echo-boomers without the support of long wing of their parents.

Derek an his fiancé made it to a little town on just on the Manitoba side of the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border called Russell. They check themselves into the motel and decided to go out to dinner. The temperature in Russell was -40 degrees Celsius which, just so handily, is -40 Fahrenheit. They left the truck at the motel and took the van to dinner. The plan was to use a magnetic block heater Derek had brought for the trip as the truck was originally from Texas and wasn’t equipped with one. When Derek retrieved the heater from the back of the truck he grabbed it by the cord. It was so cold that the cord broke in half in his hand. Now without a block heater he would have hope for the best in the morning.

On the way back to the motel from dinner, because a ridge of snow a snowplow had left, it was impossible to see the curb separating the motel parking lot from the service road running parallel. Derek’s fiancé accidently struck the curb with the van and the cold weather matched with the force shattered one of the large side panel windows on the wagon portion of the van.

Being still another day’s drive from home Derek thought to make sure not to panic or get angry but went and found a large piece of cardboard to use a temporary window and go to bed – tomorrow would be better and they could make the rest of the way home.

The next morning Derek awoke nice and early, he promptly dressed and went out to fire up the truck and van. Reluctantly the van started as it had been plugged in but the truck wasn’t even coming close to firing – it was frozen solid. Prepared for this Derek pulled a tiger torch and propane tank from the back of the Ford and set it up under the truck.

It wasn’t long before the truck was warm enough to start up. Derek set it up on fast idle and went to work getting ready to leave. After the bags were in and the torch was put away looking under the truck he noticed that the engine was pouring out oil. It was just raining oil. In his haste to get going he had melted an oil line. The rate oil was pouring out of this truck it wasn’t going to make it far. Derek turned off the truck and went back inside the motel room to make a plan. His fiancé was starting to look rather worried as were the dogs.

Beyond the motel, a gas station and a restaurant there was very little in Russell that was going to help the situation at this point. Derek decided to leave his fiancé and the dogs in the motel room and head 100 KM Northwest to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, for tools, a hose or/and, worst case scenario, some chain or rope to pull the truck the rest of the way home with the van. It wasn’t a great plan but it was a plan.

He was gone for a long time – so long that his fiancé, the dogs and their bags were kicked out of the hotel room. The fiancé and the dogs, with no real other options, huddled in the cold cab of the 1960 Ford waiting for Derek’s return. All three of them, the fiancé, dog 1 and dog 2, were sharing worried looks back and forth and forth.

All told Derek had had been gone for more than three hours. When he returned he found the hotel room locked and empty and his ’60 Ford locked and empty. Starting to worry a bit he drove around to no avail. With little else to do he then decided to get down to the business of attending to the truck – hopefully someone would show up.

In the back of his mind he thought the dogs could be at a local shelter with a Dear John not pinned to one: “Dear Asshole, I didn’t sign on for this – good luck – I fed the ring to one of the dogs – not telling which one”. That was in the back of his head but he was hoping there was simpler answer. A few minutes into his repair attempt a van pulled up.

Out came the dogs, his fiancé and a couple friendly locals. Soon Derek’s wasn’t the only head under the truck.

Sometime before Derek came back from Yorkton a local family was out for breakfast and noticed the unfamiliar early model Ford sitting in the motel parking lot. I, personally, suspected that one said to the other: “That’s one ugly pick-up – let’s go get a closer look”. But that’s purely speculation. The closer inspection revealed beyond the truck there were, at least, two species of mammals inside.

One local approached and after knocking on the window it rolled down to reveal a half-frozen 20-something girl on the verge of a breakdown and two anxious golden retrievers. The couple invited the frozen refugees to join them in their van and for coffee at the local café. Over coffee the fiancé explained their plight while at the same time the dogs hung out in the van. I imagine there might have been one exchange that included the fiancé passing a note and saying if I don’t make it, if this crazy bastard kills us both, see that my family gets this (again just speculation on my part).

After some ineffective backyard mechanics it was put to Derek that there was a mechanic with a shop near town. His fiancée thought this was a great suggestion. Derek relented – defeated – he let them call in the mechanic.

Soon a tow truck was on the scene and the truck was gathered up and gone. Now there was nothing more to do other than to check back into the motel get something to eat and go to bed.

The next morning Derek woke up early gathered up his fiancé, the dogs and their stuff and headed to the mechanic’s farm to hopefully retrieve his truck. Although the mechanic stated that he had worked late to repair the truck he suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to drive this truck the rest of the way home.

“800 and some clicks? You’re going to have problems.”

This was all Derek’s fiancé needed to hear.

“Hey and did you know you have a major coolant leak in the cab? “

This was more than she needed to hear.

They were already a day behind. And the mechanic had offered to store the truck until he could fetch it. But the truck was the least of his worries. All his tools were in the back of it; more than 2000 dollars worth of table saws, drills and such. It was a tough decision but in the end it he decided to jump in the van with his fiancé and leave the truck not knowing if he’d ever see it or his stuff again. Make no mistake, as a married man, I know he made the right decision, but I can imagine it didn’t sit well.

They made the rest of the journey without any major or minor hassles. It was loud with a homemade window but no major hassles.

Two days after being back in Alberta I get a call from Derek’s fiancé and she told me this entire story. After hearing – laughing – then relating my empathy – I offered to help. At this time my father’s ’03 diesel 2500 Dodge 4x4 was doing nothing more than hauling garbage to the dump every two weeks and I had access to a bobcat trailer so it seemed natural that offered my services.

I’d met Derek twice at this point and both times I enjoyed his company. Having a beer with a guy is somewhat different than traveling across two provinces with him but I thought “What the hell? I’ve got nothing else to do”. That was my attitude heading into 2009. I really had a devil-may-care look at the world. I wasn’t suicidal but I was really rather melancholy and apathetic to my plateful of life. This trip seemed like a great distraction.

It was set that we would leave early the next Saturday morning. I’d have the truck and trailer ready and gather him from his fiancé’s family’s farm on the way. One day to Russell and one day back. The trip broke down to almost 900 KMs each day – a bit much but very doable.

Little did I know that this story was far from over…

To be continued…

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year – A New Post

I’ll be honest, I’m a little sick of myself – I have had an overwhelming period of windfall over the last quarter of 2010. Nice to have - but it’s not very interesting reading.

Now up a couple of rungs on Maslow’s tree I have become rather obsessed with not resting on my laurels. I am very focused on my career – if my career were a pony I’d be brushing it and hugging it every day.

To that end I am enrolling in a PMI course at the local Polytechnic school (if I write it here I have to follow through – that’s my rule). I am also focused on my health as I’ve stopped drinking and cut out fast food as part of my 2011 regiment. The drinking thing is until the weekend after the kid is born (May) and the fast food thing can be forever as far as I’m concerned. With success has come fat – I’ve gone soft on you.

At the same time these are great problems to be focused on. Remember last year at this time? Look back I’ll wait… I was staring down the no job situation (hadn’t hit panic yet) and had the wedding course coming up. Weird how things are like that – I probably have a child birth class coming up.

Related to the other thing I am focused on resolving: I had the pleasure of firing up the little orange car on Boxing Day (day after Christmas for you Americans) for my Uncle Jim, Jer, Don, cousins Stu and Pat and second cousin Darcy. Almost all of them had not heard the car since it was last on the road in ’81. It was fun to show it off.

One of my uncles even said – when he heard it run – “geez, I remember trying to get the courage up to ask Bruce to drive it back then.” He would have been around 19-20 years-old at the time.

I’m glad for the time off from the blog and hope everyone comes back to see how this concludes. I have a lot to say – that’s the upside of not writing for a month – so I hope everyone comes back to follow it into the home stretch. I’ll do best to keep it interesting… and on Tuesday.

Welcome to 2011.

Angus Sutherland

Caretaker of his father’s TR6