Thursday, January 23, 2014

I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!

From the moment you cross the border, rolling west on I-10 into Texas, you know things are different here. Crossing the border the first sign you see is for exit 878.

As in, 878 miles from this exit to the next state line, wherever that is. Over a day's drive away.

It might not register immediately but to see a number like that on an exit sign strikes you as odd before you notice the giant American flags waving, the increase in industrial activity and the fact that everyone has suddenly started passing you at 80 mph.

Texas is certainly a different country. We crossed into Texas on the 5th of December with the family minivan full of Caitlin, Lyle and Myself, and my dad close behind driving a very overloaded and underpowered 26' box truck, towing my F100 behind. It took about two days pushing hard from North Carolina to get to Austin. After moving just over a year ago from Wisconsin to NC, I was prepared for the sucky-ness of moving cross country with an entire house full of junk and more shop stuff than any reasonable person would bother moving across town.

Nonetheless, I got rid of lots of stuff once again, packed for a whole week prior to moving, and thought that I was hedging myself against repeating the mistakes I made last year. Only to find out, there are so many new and terrible mistakes to discover. No way around it, moving across country sucks sucks sucks. The hardest part was probably getting rid of the project cars I had acquired in NC. My escorts, both of them, had to get sold at a hefty loss. Then the Subaru had to go... this was the tough one. The short version of the story is that I ran around trying to get rid of this thing for a whole week prior to leaving, Finally coming down to $1000 and nobody would buy it... they aren't popular cars in NC especially with rust and 250k miles... Finally I threw in the towel and parked it at my co-worker's house and told him to sell it if he could (just heard from him that his wife got in a bad car accident and now he can use the car and is going to pay me for it, so it all worked out in the end).

Either way, sometimes, when you're as dense as I am, you have to learn things the hard way. In this case the REALLY hard way.  I spent god-knows-how-much on my red escort rebuilding the engine, only to never hear it start and sell it for 300 (100 less than i paid for it) and I spent a very long hard night on the Subaru replacing head gaskets and sealing the transmission leaks (and 3-400 bucks) only to have it be 'worthless' and sell it for 1000 less than i paid for it, after investing over $4000 in the car over a 2 year period.

The lesson to be learned here is this: don't throw money into a car you don't plan on keeping. Even if i had scrapped the Subaru when the tranny started leaking, i would have been miles ahead. I got attached to it, because it was/is a good little car with a lot of life left in it, but that clouded my judgement. Same thing with the Escort... never should have bought it, never should have put the money into it.

The bigger lesson is to prioritize those things that you think are important and that make you happy. I wasted way more time than money on cars this last year thinking i'd get rich off them, then thinking that i had to recoup what i had wasted and throw good money after bad. In the end, the best purchase I made was my truck, every minute of working on it has been enjoyable and I know that i'll be keeping it forever so it is worth making it the way i want it.  Get rid of the stuff you don't care about before it drags you down. I moved 14 bikes to Texas, and now i'm spending 200 bucks a month for a storage unit to keep them. Several of them I no longer have any attachment to. I'm still telling myself that i just 'have to get them running' and i can sell them for more money, instead of focusing that time on my son, family and projects that I do care about. Stupid.

So why am I writing all this? I'm not sure, as a reminder perhaps. Something for posterity. I'm getting back into the blog thing again. North Carolina was like mental hibernation for me, my job was dead-end and depressing, my life was stressful (partly because of these stupid projects) and we had no friends (except for Chris who moved after a couple months) I stopped the blog because I stopped doing work I was proud of, because I wasn't mentally creative or socially fulfilled.

Coming to Austin has been an awakening. We have friends already here. I got to spend a night with ACR, most of who I had never met, and it was like getting together with new-old friends. Lester and Austin mopeds is fantastic, and my new job is great. All my stuff is finally together under one roof so I can get work done when i do have free time, and I'm more excited than ever for a couple big projects that are coming together.

The Truck- is my 1968 Ford F-100. Its fantastic. I was calling it 'Buck' after my dead granddad who had the same truck, but the more I drive her, the more I'm convinced she's named Caroline. 1968 is OLD compared to what i'm used to working on. Its shocking to think that this truck was made the year we landed on the moon... or was that 69? I dunno... either way same time frame, these guys at ford couldn't figure out how to make an electrical connector and dudes were getting blasted across the universe by NASA. Anyhow, the 'build thread' is on a forum for '67-'72 "bumpside" ford trucks here:

THE new 'shop' is a 10x25' storage unit a couple miles from my house. It costs $200 a month, which is outrageous but there isn't much else available in Austin. We're living in a 6 month lease apartment right now and trying to get into a house with a garage but the Austin housing market is bonkers. The population growth is staggering here and I really feel bad for the folks who have been here 20 years or more, who've seen the tech boom (IBM, Dell, Intel, Texas Instruments, National Instruments, AMD and a bunch more tech companies that blew up in the last 20 years are located here) completely decimate what was a nice small town and turn it into a raging metropolis.

Its hard to explain to folks who haven't seen the growth in Texas firsthand, but its basically like everyone from chicago moved to Madison over a 10 year period. And since most of the jobs here are good, engineer-type jobs, everyone has crazy money laying around. Plus a lot of the folks have moved from places like california and made millions selling their homes there, and can afford to buy anything they want.

That leaves regular middle-class folks like us out in the cold. The only affordable neighborhoods are kinda rough, and even what would be nice little average middle class neighborhoods have seen property values skyrocket. 1800 bucks a month rent for a 2 bedroom house is not uncommon. Even small and average sized houses are renting for well over $2k a month in nicer neighborhoods... bummer.

The Peugeot TSM project is really just getting fun. I spent an entire saturday piecing it together out of boxes and trips to the hardware store. I always said I'd only get a TSM if i got it cheap and if it was ratty enough that I didn't feel bad about chopping it up.

This is how she came to me: (nothing is bolted down, just kinda sitting there)

After a day of reassembling the bike with Lyle.

Well, thats what happened. I think i gave the guy like 200 bucks for it or something, might have been 150. He started the 'restoration' and did a lot of the grunt work... it had been used as a dirtbike so I certainly appreciate him cleaning it up and painting the frame (rattle can but very well done) everything else was in boxes and lots of random hardware was missing, plus dumb stuff just mis-assembled. Either way its getting a Doppler 50 kit and i'm doing something cool with the pipe.

Yep, that's a dirtbike pipe. From the measurements I've made (really sloppy) its short and fat. Its also made so much better than anything on the moped market. Its going to mount really easy, I have to do some cutting apart and re-welding, but really minor compared to what i thought i was going to have to do.

The best part is that its going to swing with the engine so it should be pretty sturdy. My goal was to have the only joint be exactly where the engine pivots so it only articulates a couple degrees. That is exactly what will happen, plus the pipe will be mounted in like 4 different places, and its made really well, so it shouldn't break.

BUT WAIT THATS NOT ALL! Holy crap there is tons of ground clearance under this guy. Like miles, i can totally roll curbs, ditches, sidewalks. It was really killing me thinking that i'd have to loose clearance running a big french pipe, but this should have plenty.

Cool cool, i'm also building a MERA 80 to go on my general... maybe more on that this weekend if i can get it all together.

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