The Ultimate Bundle!

Crazy isn’t it how certain phrases come in and out of fashion.  One that’s driving me nuts right now, and it’s often expressed in corporate emails, someone wants to “reach out to you.”  That just feels creepy to me.  I feel like answering, “You reach out to me one more time and I’ll have you brought up on assault charges.”

Here’s another one that’s been sneaking up on me, but it hit the conscious mind this morning when I opened the Sunday paper.  In the gob of advertising flyers, at least three were trying to sell me a bundle.  There was Best Buy wanting to sell me not just one appliance, but a “MAJOR APPLIANCE BUNDLE.”  Verizon upped the ante by warning me not to miss out on Sony’s “AMAZING BUNDLE.”  But in an apparent effort not to be topped, Direct TV offered “THE ULTIMATE BUNDLE.”  What, are they selling babies?  Of course all of these folks are hoping you’ll forget about the old fashioned use of the word, example: This stuff is going to cost you a BUNDLE. (1)

Back in the 1950′s my dad probably invented the idea of bundling stuff.  But he practiced it from the buyers angle.  Dad was a big “garage sailor,”  and Saturday mornings he’d head out early, with the Classifieds section of the newspaper as his guide and hit as many garage sales as possible.  Wherever he could, he’d bring several items he was interested in to the sales table and ask the owner what kind of a deal he could get if he bought all of them.  We kids had seen this maneuver so often, that we called it “the package deal.”  It got to the point where we’d be extremely disappointed if we couldn’t come home and tell mom about the great deal dad got on that mangle, the side horse and the ping pong table by putting together a fabulous “package deal.” (3)

Getting back to things that feel creepy, how about all those perverts out there?  I think there has been a rather consistent percentage of perverts in the general population since, well, forever.  Case in point.  The Idiotic Brother (no, not him!) he just sent me an email asking if I could remember a pervy experience from our old caddying days.  Jeez man, which one!  The one he was thinking of occurred on “Ladies Day.”  He was caddying for in a foursome of women, when a truck driver pulled his rig over to the side of the road, walked out on the fairway, and exposed himself!  Hey, Jimbo, did one of the women say, “Oh for God’s sake man, you’re gonna need more club than that!”

Just a year or two before that, I had an incident while out on my early morning paper route.  I’d climbed off my bike to deliver a paper, and when I turned around there was a guy standing by my bike.  I walked over and he put his hand on my crotch and said, “Has anyone ever touched you like this before?”  Yeah, right, all the time.  I somehow disengaged myself from this nut, stood up on the pedals and took-off.

I never told my parents about this, but I did confide in the Idiotic Brother.  There had come a point, I’m not sure why, when we had split his old paper route between the two of us.  Anyway, when I told him about the guy who grabbed me he said, “Oh yeah, that guy grabbed me once too!”  Gee, I wonder why he gave me that half of the route.  Can you see why I don’t trust him?

Moving on.  I was having my blood pressure checked by a very personable young lady at the doctor’s office last week.  We were talking weather, and I lamented the long dry spell we had been going through.  She said, “You know, I’m just an old farm girl, but my grand daddy always says, when the leaves turn up, it’s going to rain.  And this morning I saw those leaves were all turned up.”  I thought yeah, uh huh.  It wasn’t more than a couple of hours later that a pretty good rain spread over the area.  But there’s better rain indicators.  The next day I finished waxing the Camry.  Oh yeah, it rained even bigger that afternoon.  But the absolute best rain maker, guaranteed to bring on a real gully washer is when we call Mr. Squeegee like I did today to come out and wash our windows.  This is just fair warning, no matter what the forecast says, it’s going to rain beavers and battleships this Thursday night, mark my words.

Pony News
Just briefly, I continue on the paint work, that left rear wheel and axle housing, nothing exciting.

left rear axle housing 2left rear wheel, inside.2

I did make a purchase, however, that has changed things a lot.  Some of you will remember that I once wrote that one of the places where time seems to stand still is Gene’s garage, where all the Pony work is done.  I said that, because in four years  I can never remember the old clock in there having the right time.  Hell, most of the time it didn’t even run.  Well, check this out.

new garage clock

I’m not so sure whether this was a good idea or not.  It was kind of nice before, not knowing how the hours were slipping by.  Until next time friends, thanks for reading.
(1)  One exception, you can still view “classic” (old) posts of That Idiotic Tractor, bundled FREE at the website:  Remember, even though they’re reruns, if you haven’t read them before, or if you’re over age 65, they’ll be new to you.  Hell, every now and then I read one and can’t even remember writing it!  Choose one, or a bundle by clicking on the highlighted dates on the home page calendar.  It’s a bundle of fun.(2)
(2)  Footnote to the footnote:  This offer good only until such time as the much anticipated book “Classic Posts from That Idiotic Tractor” is published, at which time this website function will be disabled.   Hey, even TIT has a mercenary streak.  Go read ‘em, quick!
(3)  For you young folks, a mangle was a fancy, sit-down ironing device that housewives used for pressing shirts, slacks, etc.  Even in the 50′s they weren’t common, but by gum thanks to dad, our mom had one!

Whose Fault Was It?

Here in the good ol’ US of A it isn’t so much what happened anymore, it’s whose fault is it that it did happen.  So, it was in that frame of mind that I began the accident investigation into how the fourth toe on my right foot became broken on Sunday evening.

Here’s what happened.  At approximately 6:00 pm on Sunday I was walking from my chair in the living room into the kitchen.  As I rounded the corner of the kitchen counter I caught my foot on a leg of one of the counter stools, and hit it so hard that I fell to the floor clutching my foot in pain.  The next 24 hours were taken up by a fitful night’s sleep, doctor visits and x-rays.  But this morning, with only the pain to think about and facing 3-4 weeks off of the bicycle, I thought it appropriate to try to get to the bottom of how I got into this predicament.

Now you might be asking yourself, how does my clipping my foot on the leg of a stool become anyone’s fault but my own?  The easy assumption would be to say that the whole thing is due to my own damn clumsiness.  But finding that an unacceptable cause, like any good investigator I looked deeper.  I asked myself, “Why did I clip that stool leg.”  Then I remembered that earlier in the day the man from Anti-Pesto was at the house for his regular preventive bug spraying.  In preparation for his arrival I had pulled the stool out of its normal position, so that he could more easily spray along the base of the counter.  Now again, the easy call would be to blame me, because after the guy sprayed, I didn’t put the stool back in its proper position.  But once again, upon looking deeper, I had to lay the blame elsewhere, this time on Anti-Pesto.  If that guy hadn’t come out to spray in the first place, no broken toe.  Was that assessment fair?

I decided, no, there had to be something else involved.  I thought back on how I had just finished my cocktail before getting up from my chair to go into the kitchen.  Hmmm, could I be charged with a WWI, “walking while impaired?”  Then it dawned on me.   I had just finished a new cocktail I was “experimenting” with.  I’m not sure what it is called, but I made it by pouring Campari in a glass over ice (I didn’t measure).  Then I put in a shot of Beefeater’s gin, and finished it off with some soda water and (in keeping with my nutrition advice) a slice of orange (to make it a “balanced meal.”  I have to be fair and say that it is possible that pouring that amount of alcohol into a person of my size could impair judgement and other things, like depth perception.  So my fault, right?

Emphatically, no.  That outcome being unacceptable, I analyzed the cocktail thing further.  Until recently I’d never even tasted Campari.  What got me hooked on cocktails with Campari in them?  Well, that’s easy.  Campari is made in Italy, and I tasted it for the first time on my recent bike trip to Italy.  And why was I in Italy, BECAUSE THE PRINCESS SAID I SHOULD GO.  It’s all her fault.  And once again it has been shown that thorough, scientific investigation yields the correct result.

Now that that is settled we can move on.  Look at this.

cannon ball

I was struck with how happy that kid looks and thought, yeah, when  I was nine, I’d a been one proud, happy kid too if I’d a found a live cannonball.  Hell, at 67 I’d be tickled to find one.  Of course three-fourths of the article ranted on about how no one should mess with live, civil war munitions, kind of ruining the whole fun of the thing.  Funny, further on in the paper I came across this ad.


Uh huh, I was just “thinking” the other day, Cremation, wouldn’t that be great… right.  When my “time” is near, I think I’ll just go cannonball hunting.  I’m pretty sure that just messing with a live cannonball would take care of everything in one “swell foop,” both the ashes and the sprinkling thereof.  Moving on.

Tractor News
Holy cow, that’s right, temperatures dropped into the 80′s, so I got a few days of work in on the Pony.  Here are a few pictures.

You may think you’ve seen these photos before, but actually what you saw were photos of the other side of the tractor with the wheel off.  Even though the Pony may have looked fairly complete, I had never gotten around to doing the inside of the left rear wheel and that axle housing.  By the way, you’ll note that I am wearing safety glasses and a mask.  The mask is to protect your Idiotic author from the lead most likely lurking in the Pony’s 60-year-old paint.  The glasses are to protect against pieces of wire that fly off the wire brush attachment to the electric drill.  Interestingly, three days after that photo was taken I felt something like a sliver in my ankle.  I got a tweezers, pulled on the offending sliver and found it to be a 3/8 in piece of wire from the drill attachment neatly imbedded in my ankle.  Like my dad always used to say before any of his three sons left on a date, “Always wear protection.”

Finally, you know I have no compunction about writing of things scatological, but how about that third photo…of my stool!  After my stool in the garage kept disappearing (OK, it wasn’t really my stool) Lynne got a fancy one of her own just for doing yard work, and she designated this one for my use only.  I couldn’t be happier.  Thanks, Lynne!

Gads, 3 to 4 weeks off the bike!  I guess that’ll teach The Princess a lesson.  Just sitting around here on my keester, I’m gonna drive her nuts!  Thanks for reading.

Your Primer on Italian Travel

With the Italy trip fresh in my mind, I thought some travel tips might be helpful to the 3 or 4 Americans who have not yet traveled there.  The rest of you, shame on you for getting there ahead of me, turning all of the Italians against us, and giving them an inflated idea of what their stuff is worth.  If you haven’t read the previous post, “I Waited 47 Years for That?” you should include that valuable reading as part of your trip prep.

Learning the Language
This is very important.  About 30 days before your trip buy an Italian phrase book, chuck it in your suitcase and forget about it.  Then start practicing your ability to speak very simple English words, but at about twice the volume at which you would normally speak.  If you use these things you have practiced you’ll find that they immediately label you as American, the Italian turns away in disgust and luckily you are saved from having to communicate.  Also, hand gestures, critical;  if you can point at something and say, “quanto costa,” (how much) you know 90% of what you need to know.

Vowels, the Italians love their vowels, and they pronounce them all.  Here is a partial list of the towns we rode our bikes through on the trip:  Figazzano, Monteguerra, Locorotondo, Mozzabrucio, Alberobello, Pietrapertosa, Laurenzano, Marsicovetere, Campomaggiore, Castelmezzano, Montescaglioso, and the winner with 7 vowels, Buonobitacola.  I’ll bet you wouldn’t even know if I made some of those up.(1)  By the way, this does not even include town names made up of two or more words.

When you come up on an Italian, never say “Buon giorno.”  Don’t even grumpily say “Giorno” in a gravelly undertone like they do.  This gives the Italian the false impression that you speak Italian, so that after he or she has spoken about three totally non-nonsensical sentences, wasting both your time and his, you have to break in saying, “no speeka di Italian.”  At that point you are both left frustrated, depressed and at a loss as to what to say next.

Buy some Euros from your local bank before you cross the pond and plant the idea firmly in your brain that a Euro is worth approximately 1.5 times what a US dollar is worth.  That way it will take at least 24 hours to forget there is a difference, and it won’t be until the second day that you are happily spending Euros as if they were the same as dollars.  You’ll breeze in and out of restaurants and retail establishments congratulating yourself on the wise decision you made to travel to this country where everything seems to cost about the same as in the US.  This works really great for as long as you are actually in Italy.  When you get home, however, and review your credit card and bank statements, ouch!

What to buy
If you want Italy to be around for a return trip, buy anything and everything that looks vaguely interesting.  The Italian economy is just barely grinding along, so your efforts are important.  Don’t concern yourself with cash versus credit, because Italians don’t pay their taxes anyway.  The tax laws there are merely suggested giving levels.

Seriously,  great things to buy to give as gifts or just for personal use:  linen items, leather goods, jewelry and clothes.  If the Italians have one thing it’s style sense, so on this kind of stuff you can’t hardly go wrong.  I bought a purse for The Princess at a store where the bag they put the purse in was better looking than most purses you see women carrying here in the US.  I’m not kidding.  The Princess gives her stamp of approval to all Italian gifts in aforementioned categories.  Finally, from this most catholic of nations be sure to buy plenty of saints medals to assure a safe trip home and to ward off the stuff that scares you most going forward.  If something frightens you, there’s a saint for it.  For example, The Princess is afraid of being attacked by loose dogs.  No problem, St. Vitus protects against among other things, animal attacks.  Here’s a photo of a statue honoring this great saint.

St. Vitus

What to see
Italy is just full of really old stuff.  Make sure you see a lot of it.  I don’t just mean the buildings.  As we rode the Italian countryside our group probably saw a million olive trees.  They all seemed kind of short and squat with incredibly thick, gnarly trunks.  I asked our Italian guide how old the trees were, and he said it isn’t unusual for the trees to be 200 to 300 years old, with a few still yielding fruit after 900 years!  That makes my mind spin.

The men are really old here too.  The typical Italian village square, or piazza, contains a war memorial, a fountain and about a dozen old men loafing about.  Here’s a photo of two such men.

Day 9, two old guys on a bench

I blew the doors off this guy as we climbed the hill leaving town, but some of the others weren’t so easy to beat.

Italian Hotels
Bring a couple of things with you that you wouldn’t think to bring along on a trip in the US:  a few small packages of Kleenex, some good quality toilet paper, and a nice, big bar of soap.  In Italy there will be no Kleenex in your room, soap bars the size of postage stamps and a grudging amount of TP that is so thin, it’s transparent.  I’m pretty sure that the toilet paper thing relates to the bidet thing.  They figure that if you’re washing your hinder in the bidet, why do you need all that toilet paper?  But come on, it takes time to get used to those things.  I kept banging my back side into the faucet, shooting water all over the room, and still ended up needing the TP.  Sheesh!  The tiny showers, well they’re just impossible.  How small are they?  In one of them I dropped the soap, and there was simply no way I could pick it up without allowing my dripping butt to go out the shower door into the bathroom.

Without much explanation, I’m going to insert a gallery here, with just some brief captions. You can click on any you want to enlarge.

Just in general, we rode over 400 miles from the Adriatic Sea on the east coast to the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast and through the Italian states of Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria. (2)  I swam in both seas, rode up and down mountains, visited ancient cities, ate fabulous food and drank a lot of wine and cappuccinos.

One funny thing, that first photo, “My Motivation,” depicts the rocky beach in Polignano, and I didn’t know this until I got closer to her, but a beautiful woman in a bikini.  She was in the water by the time I approached her, but  I asked her whether the water was cold.  Although obviously not American or English, she did speak English and said, ” You just need some motivation.”  I thought well what more motivation do I need and headed back to the hotel for my swimsuit.  On the way to and from the hotel, the thought went through my mind, why not just bag this crazy bike trip and spend two weeks here with her.  I was in high spirits with a spring in my step as I hustled down the stairs that led back to the beach.  Alas, when I made the turn and the beach opened up before me my “motivation” was gone.  It wasn’t easy, but I eventually ducked my head under the icy water, as frigid reality set in.

I hope these travel tips serve you well on your trip to Italy.  Whether you follow them or not, it’s almost impossible not to have a great time over there.
Thanks for reading.

(1) OK, you probably guessed, the one I made up:  Mozzabrucio, named after my now favorite cheese, mozzarella, and my namesake coffee drink, the Brucio (an Americano with an extra shot of espresso.).
(2) Yes, that’s the same Calabria where the Pope just excommunicated mafia members who said they were good Catholics.  You go Pope!

I Waited 47 Years for That?

I know, I know, it’s been a long time, and I owe you one.  I got home from the two-week trip to Italy Sunday night.  I’ve been sending reports in from the road to family, but will reread those, boil them down and see if there is anything worth passing along.  If it’s worthless, you can be sure I’ll tell you about it.  In the meantime, I thought I’d just cover my visit on the last day to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Forty-seven years ago (1967), I was on an extended trip to Europe with a college friend and my cousin, Ed.  We had a blast, but unfortunately I picked up a nasty infection in Yugoslavia, so my time in Rome was spent in a hospital.  I lay there getting shots of penicillin while my pals “did the city.”  Ever since then, I have wondered what I’d missed by not getting to see the Sistine Chapel.  So I decided since I had a lay-over in Rome at the end of my cycling trip I’d take care of some unfinished business.

I had pre-purchased a ticket on-line before my trip, and since they are “timed tickets,” I bought one for 3:00pm on Saturday, my last day in Italy.  My plane arrived on time, I dumped the suitcase at an airport hotel, took a free bus back to the airport train station, took a train to Termini station in Rome and cab to the Vatican Museum.

Rome airport train

Isn’t that a great looking…train?  I got to the museum at 3:05, whew!

At the Vatican it was pandemonium.  My ticket said to present it to someone at the right side of the entrance.  There were probably 500 people there, I think qualifying them as a horde.  Tons of tour groups, all getting fitted-out with listening gear, being lectured to by earnest sounding men and women.  The tour guides were holding long poles, each with its own distinguishing flag or doodad, so that the guide could be found in the mob.

I finally found a guard, waved my piece of paper and was allowed to enter.  I thought, OK, I’m in, no waiting, COOL!  I’ll shoot to the Sistine Chapel, check it out and scram.  Ohhhh no.  This is the point at which the real pain began.  After another guy gave me a little ticket and map and waved toward the stairs (I was stupid enough to ask where the chapel was.) I joined the horde INSIDE.  This was the beginning of an agonizingly slow, forced march.

Think of the Sistine Chapel as the milk in the cooler at the grocery store.  You have to go through the whole store to get to the milk, and on the way, of course, buy other stuff on your way in and out.  In this case it’s the Vatican trinkets that are strategically placed along what felt like a one-mile walk to the chapel.  Take a look at this  little map they hand out, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Vatican Museum Map

The line in fact weaves through the entire Vatican museum.  From the cab I had seen it.  It covers at least several square blocks, maybe more. Imagine not a line but a mass of humans (some smelling, someone farting constantly, all looking dazed and unhappy) writhing like a big snake through stuffy, humid halls and rooms filled with ancient catholic stuff.  Some brought kids, oooo they were the most unhappy of all.  Every now and then there was a kind of “you are here sign.”  Oh my god, I have so far to go before I get to The Capella Sistine and the blessed cappuccino.  Yeah, next to the words, Sistine Chapel, the sign always depicts a nice steaming cappuccino.  What the hell is that about?

I spent more money in my two weeks in Italy on cappuccino’s than on any other single thing. They’re really good! I thought, well, this chapel is going to be pretty damn special if they’re equating it to a cappuccino.

On we writhe. You can’t believe how happy I am that, as bad as this is, I’m not being lectured to besides.  With the tour guides poles bobbing in the crowd, the place is like New Orleans Jazz Fest, but in a stuffy, tight, old building, and without the jazz, the fun, and the sun.  So OK, it’s not much like Jazz Fest.  Every now and then there’s a little open space and I am able to slip ahead of a few people, but there are thousands ahead of me before we get to the much-anticipated holy Cappuccino Chapel.

In spots along the way there are opportunities to buy junk, catholic junk for the most part.  They don’t have one cotton-pickin thing here for a Lutheran.  I’m under orders from the Princess to bring back a good Sistine Chapel book, so I stop for a few precious minutes while many in the horde get ahead of me, damn! I find the book, whip out the Amex card and am surprised, but not really, that the Vatican does not take AMEX.   If the Catholics understand anything its money. I move on.

I begin to think I may have missed the chapel. Every room in the place has ceilings covered in frescoes.  Who painted this stuff?  Oh, OK , I haven’t missed the main event, only some guy named Rafael painted these, plus I still see the cappuccino on the sign.  In a brief interlude of “less horde” and more breathing space, I find that I am in the part called contemporary art, which means, this stuff is only about a century old. And, I like the works by Chagall, Diego Rivera, etc, snap a few pics for The Princess and move on. I’m beginning to recognize people in the line every now and then. We are compatriots in our agony, plodding forward.  Up stairs, down stairs, narrow halls, wide halls, I haven’t seen any toilette in a long time.  No wonder people are starting to get gassy, me too.
But I sense we are getting close.  A final few twists and turns and we enter a big room, higher than the others, with stuff painted on the ceiling.  Yup, sure enough, right smack in the middle, there is God…handing Adam a cappuccino.  Oh, you thought it was God giving Adam life?  No, it’s God giving Adam a cappuccino, which, in turn, gives Adam life.  Just to prove I was there, here’s one of my unauthorized photos of the ceiling.  I think it’s probably to small to see the cappuccino.

Cappella Sistina
It’s funny, the guards are constantly shushing people, because we’re supposed to be respectful.  There’s so much shushing it’s not a bit respectful.  Of course, no pictures are allowed, so like everyone else, I take a bunch of pictures, and move on.   One of the guides for the cycling trip was Italian.  He said, in Italy there are no laws, well there are laws, but people treat them like suggestions.

Then, on leaving the chapel it turns out, you can get a cappuccino, and you can get cafeteria food, even visit the separate Vatican pizza parlor.  Hell, by this point you’re so worn out you need nourishment of some sort.

But believe it or not, the exit is still many twists and turns away, the halls and rooms lined with books and trinket junk. This place is an absolute, Vatican money machine.  The final staircase is a death-defying, circular corkscrew (see map), after which if you can come through it standing, you are put in line for consideration as a Cardinal.  It took Michelangelo about four years to paint the ceiling; I think I managed to walk to and from it in just a little less.  When I finally hit fresh air outside, I am not kidding, I feel as if I have come through if not hell at least purgatory. Praise God!

I should be leaving for Florida to visit Mom tomorrow, but as punishment for this blasphemous post, God killed our refrigerator last night.  I’ll miss you, Mom, and Jim, but know that I am thinking of you.

Thanks for reading.

Squirrels Call for Gun Control

Ahhh, spring segues into summer.  On the “morning 40,” the smells of car exhaust, honey suckle and 3-day-old road kill mingle in the air.  And although a couple of weeks late this year, the local strawberries are in.  I was out in the patch for a second time today, and asked the lady in the row next to me to take my picture.

strawberry pickin

strawberry hand

As I look at that first photo, it’s funny, but I see a kid with an old man’s face, but believe me, it’s a happy face.  The second shot is, well, just one of those freaks of nature.  The guy in the weigh-in tent said that berries like this are caused by the way the bee pollinates the flower.  I guess you could say, “he had a hand in it.”  The berries have all been turned into jam, so once again there’ll be something sweet to enjoy all through the winter.

Old Business
Just a bit of follow-up on that “hairy” story in the last post.  The Princess read the post (she never sees them before they’re published) and said that I got it wrong.  She claims she was not using a “dipilitater,” which is a thing for removing the pills that show-up on a sweater as it ages, but was using an “epilator,” which is for hair removal.  My opinion, she’s just saying that now, so that she doesn’t get any grief from you all, who are naturally concerned about me.  I’m pretty sure it was the dipilitater.

New Business
This news came in too late for the last post, but someone’s been shootin our squirrels!

Do you believe that?  One of the incidents took place right in my neighborhood.  As if crossing the street wasn’t hard enough for the little varmints, now they have to duck gun fire too.  Sheesh!  Like them, I like playing in the street (1), but I believe I’m going to give up wearing any clothing with fur on it for a while.  No sense taking any more chances than I already do.

Our local county and  city police hold a once-a-year “shred-a-thon.”  They limit the amount that any one person can bring to 5 file boxes, I suppose so that no businesses show up to do their shredding.  We took in two paper, grocery sacks full ourselves.  After the event the county reported that over 14 tons of paper had been shredded, and for some reason they wanted us to know that it was all destined to become toilet paper.  Seems appropriate to me that my sensitive information should go full circle and end up providing service to my sensitive hinder.

Oooo, this just in, I had another whacky dream last night.  I was in class to take a test.  It was a geography test, and don’t ask me why, but my current MD was the teacher.  I hadn’t studied for the test (naturally) and it feels this morning as if I spent half of last night staring at the test paper and wondering how to answer the questions.  I ended up with my head eventually drooping to the desk top as I fell asleep.  I awakened to an empty class room in darkness, except for a sliver of light coming in through the window where a cat sat on the window sill looking out.  Looking over at the cat I said, “Turn the lights on,” and he responded, “I don’t turn lights on.”  I thought, isn’t that typical; you can’t get a cat to do anything!

Pony News
Gene and I got the old boy running again last week.  I did give it a brief run out out to the street, so it does have enough power now to get in and out of the garage.  It doesn’t seem to be running smoothly yet, so there may be some more adjustment necessary.  We also added some radiator stop leak to the coolant, and so far the coolant has been staying put.  I’m crossing my fingers that we’ve solved that problem, because I’d hate to have to pull the radiator again and take it into the shop.

Finally, remember that post I did a few months ago entitled, Why Aren’t We All Italian?  Based on absolutely nothing, I espoused the opinion that Italians had more hair than people of other nationalities, and on that flimsy basis proceeded to other pronouncements.  Well, I’ve decided to actually research this issue, and in one of the most flagrant boondoggles of all time I will be writing off (as tax a deductible expense of this blog) a two-week cycling trip in southern Italy.  When The Princess (best wife on the planet) approved this trip, she did not realize that in order to do proper research I’ll need to see a lot of naked Italians.  I leave Sunday flying through Rome down to Bari on the Adriatic coast.  I’ll then be cycling across “the boot” to the opposite coast.  This trip could be done a lot faster, but you know…the research….

I’m certain I’ll bring back a few interesting stories from Italy and, of course, the results of my research.  Thanks for reading and “a dopo!”(2)

(1)  While doing “the morning 40″ on the bike, I’ve had a few notable encounters with squirrels.  One of them ran right through the spokes of my front wheel, while the other didn’t fare so well.  He zigged when he should have zagged, and I ran him right over.
(2)  No, this does not mean “you’re a dope.”  According to my handy Italian phrase book it means very casually, “See ya later.”

I’m Tellin’!

Just when you thought it was safe to read emails again, here’s the latest post from That Idiotic Tractor.

I’m sure if you grew up with siblings around like I did, you heard that headline a lot.  It was essentially a non-violent, first line of defense used to keep one’s siblings in line.  Example, your brother threatens to dig into your share of the Easter candy, “I’m tellin’!”  In my case there was always the older (idiotic) brother and then my younger (less idiotic) brother.  Unfortunately for me, the middle son (not idiotic at all), this defense tool was inoperable on the idiotic brother and very useful to the less idiotic brother.  The problem with the idiotic brother was that for a combination of reasons he was immune to the IT defense.  Jim was bad, my parents knew he was bad, and there was nothing that they could do to him that bothered him.  He just didn’t care, and so he just kept on being bad.  On the other hand, I was the “good” son, and therefore, I had a reputation to defend.  So when my less idiotic brother would threaten me with the IT defense, well I was vulnerable. (1)  By the way, I was able to protect my “good son” reputation all the way up until that unfortunate incident with the bourbon when I was in high school.

I only mention all of this by way of explaining why it doesn’t bother me to “tell” on myself (like the idiotic brother, I just don’t care anymore), as I did in the last post, or as I’m going to do next.  A little while back The Princess bought a thing called a depillatater, not sure of the spelling there. (2)  It’s a battery operated thing for hair removal.  Now you might think that because I’m nearly bald, I don’t need to worry about hair, but I do.  In fact, even though I’m bald on top, I’m fairly hairy on the bottom.  So I was thinking that since I’m in bike shorts so much and for hygiene and comfort purposes, it might be a good idea to run the “tater” over my bottom.  Even though above and beyond the call of duty for a wife (let alone a Princess), I asked The Princess if she might do me a favor and mow my butt.

Right away I should have suspected something when she jumped at the idea.  So, up in my bathroom I leaned forward on the counter and assumed the position.  The next thing I felt might have been the depillatater, but it felt more like a cattle prod.  I jumped about 6 inches off the floor.
“Holy Moses, take it easy with that thing.”
“Oh for crying out loud, don’t be such a sissy.”  Well, she went at me twice more, I mean barely touching my sensitive heinie, and each time, “youch,” I jumped probably even higher than the first time, I guess because I sensed it was coming.  That was that.  As she mumbled something about how men just can’t handle pain, she took that nasty tater and left.

You might think that that’s the end of the story, but if so you’d be wrong.  In the mornings, I shave in the shower, by feel only, no mirror.  I only lose a major piece of my face maybe once every six months.  Last Sunday I was having a leisurely soak in the tub and noticed my razor lying there on the edge.  Hmmm.(3)  Just like every six-year-old cuts his own hair with a scissors (at least once) I was inexorably drawn to that razor and the idea that while lying there in the tub I could easily shave my butt.  I went at it.  Over and over again I raked that razor over my posterior until it felt as smooth as, well…a babies butt.

Everything seemed great until I got out of the water.  Jeez, that feels a little raw I thought.  Within half an hour I had a raging case of razor rash.  About two hours later I went on a three-hour bike ride and that riled it up even more.  Treatments of lotion and baby powder have had some minimal effect.  Now several days later as the new hairs start to grow in I’ve got another sensation, as if I’m sitting on a pin cushion!  You should see me shift around in a chair trying to get comfortable.  Ok, “bottom” line, this was an incredibly bad idea.  If just one person has been saved disfigurement and pain by reading this, well then my experience will not have been in vain.  Remember, as tantalizing as an idea may be, whether your six or sixty-six, if it involves your butt, and something sharp-edged, think twice about it.

Moving on.  I’ve got Pony news.  When I took the carb apart, I found that the needle valve was “hanging-up,” that is, when the float would drop, the needle wouldn’t.  Turns out that the Chinese had put a rubber tip on the needle which on exposure to gasoline got more “gummy” as time went by.  Maggie sent out an all metal needle to replace the faulty one, and after installing it, I’ve got the carb put back together.  Here are a few pictures of the needle valve.  Remember, you can click on any of these to make them bigger.

The first shot shows the needle stuck in the up position, the second, the way it should be, and the third a shot of the needle itself with the offending rubber tip.

Gene and I have never had an easy and accurate way of turning the engine over slowly, so using some plumbing pipe and a 5/16th inch bolt I made a crank.  Here are a couple of shots of that.

The crank was useful in measuring the valve tappet gaps, which is the job we tackled next.  And holy buckets, we found that the No. 4 cylinder exhaust valve had loosened-up and had a huge gap.  See photos below.

That gap was around 1/4th inch and was supposed to be .012.  Between the carb problem and this tappet issue, I’m feeling pretty good that we have found and solved the power issues we we’re experiencing last fall.

Finally, on the last trip out to visit the Pony, I cut, reshaped and rerouted the gas line from the sediment bowl (fuel filter) to the carb (see pic below).

new fuel line

Then, in the category of housekeeping, although no Cost-O-Meter expenses have been incurred (4), the GuineaPig-O-Meter got a little bump.  I visited my friends in UNC’s EPA lab, and I made another sputum donation ($50).  On top of that, I got another little surprise.  The Princess noticed that an old broken earring I found on a bike ride (and which had been in Poodie’s (5) possession) was 14k gold.  Good eye, Princess, $18.

I believe that’s it for right now.  I’ll keep you posted on the Pony, as we should be cranking him back up soon.  Happy holidays and thanks for reading.


(1)  My psychologist and TIT contributor, Dr. Reinhold Boehmke, advises that this situation is just one of the many factors contributing to what he calls “mittel Kind all gescrewed-up syndrome.”
(2)  Not a “tater” from Depilla, or Oregon, or anywhere else.
(3)  Ahhh, the germ of an idea.  If I could only have known then how bad it was.
(4)  Don’t bug me about the cost of the new crank ($13).  That’s a tool, so doesn’t count.
(5)  If you don’t remember our Poodie shrine of stuff found on bike rides, here’s a photo of him.

It’s Hoops Time!

I was wondering, is there a blogging rule on how often the subject of “pooping” is fair game?  I mean can one go to that “well” too often?  Because of some concern on this point I went back and checked my old posts and discovered that my previous poop post was published on November 4, 2012, “How Low Can He Go.”  Heavens, I missed pooping on the entire year of 2013!  Ok, so surely under anyone’s rules, another poopy post should be allowed at this juncture.

It was a couple of weeks ago that I threw caution to the wind and broke a cardinal rule established following the last poopcident (described in that earlier post).  The rule is:  Never eat two donuts before or during a bike ride.  It was a cold on a recent Sunday morning, and since I had to wait for the day to warm up, I had a lot of time to goof off first.  The first nail in the coffin of that Sunday was my trip over to Monuts Donuts.  Of course, nails two and three were the delicious frosted hoops I consumed before leaving on my ride.  Then I suppose you could say that nails four and five, (the fried chicken and sticky bun consumed at the half way point of my ride) pretty much cinched it that I was going to go DOWN.  I didn’t know it then, but the process had been set in motion, and now it was only a matter of when.

I’m not going to draw this out, so I’ll just cut to the unfortunate and painful denouement.  About 10 miles out I began to feel the unmistakable first signs of “intestinal distress,” and as I approached the outskirts of Chapel Hill the cramps were severe.  I was now in the city though, and started to panic.  Where could I bail to and do my duty without making a display of myself.  Then, along the road I saw a group of three big telephone switch boxes, fabulous!  I hopped off the bike, dragged the bike into the brush and headed behind one of the big boxes.  Oh the relief!  I tidied-up a bit and feeling better started to head back to the road.  Ah no, not just yet.  Rushed back behind another one of the boxes and, well, you know.

Just when I was feeling MUCH better I heard a vehicle pull up and stop.  What the “&^@$” is going on?  You’ve never seen a guy hike up his drawers so fast.  Now, after having soiled the area around two of the three boxes I charged out of the weeds, grabbed my bike and saw the vehicle.  Unbelievable, it was the AT&T guy, in his van, come to work on the boxes on a SUNDAY?  Just as I saw him, he saw me.  I mean, poop, we made eye contact, so I couldn’t very well just leave and let the poor guy step on a roadside IPD (improvised poop device).  Can you imagine the damage one of those could do!?  So, as demeaning as it was, I walked up to the guy’s door, he rolled down the window, and I admitted my crime.  “I just took a ‘dump’ behind your boxes,” I said, ” so watch your step back there.”  The guy did NOT look happy, but had said nothing by the time I was up on the bike and peddling down the road.  Thank god that in biking gear and helmet, all of us bikers look the same.

Alright, that should take care of us for another year, but along those lines… hey, let’s talk about toilets.  The Princess got a bit too energetic with the cleanser recently and scrubbed the laminated finish right off the toilet seat in her bathroom.  So, after pestering me for a couple of weeks, we finally went out to Lowe’s to buy a new seat.  This is the kind of project that you think is going to be easy, but turns out to be a big huge pain.  There were at least twenty (probably more) seats displayed on the wall.  How do you choose?  Well, first you cull out all the circular ones (our toilet is oval), then all the cheap plastic ones, and the colored ones, and the squishy ones and the wood-grained ones and then you’re still left with about half a dozen.

We finally picked one out, brought it home, and since I didn’t read the instructions (naturally, I mean how hard could it be?) it took me way longer than it should have to install the stupid thing, and in the end, I’m not even sure if I got it right.  I guess if I hear screaming from the “biffy” I’ll know something’s amiss.  But job done, I gave the thing a try, and holy poop, it’s the neatest thing.  Turns out we bought what they call the “Whisper Close” option.  The box, now that I looked at it, says that this feature eliminates slamming and pinched fingers…well ok.

I can’t really properly explain how cool this is, so I made a short YouTube video for you, which you can access by clicking right here. Ladies, if you have a guy around the house who refuses to put the seat back down for you, this baby is the ticket.  I like watching this seat close so much, that I find myself going into The Princess’s bathroom to pee, just so I can watch the cover close.

Pony News
I did go out to Gene’s last week and got reacquainted with the Pony.  He was a bit miffed at the lack of attention, but I’ll start making up for lost time soon.  In an attempt to get to the bottom of the “lack of power” issue that came up at the end of last season, I tackled the fuel system first.  I removed the sediment bowl and gas line to the carb, drained the gas tank, and removed the carb.  Next I’ll be taking the carb apart and checking the jets.  Then while the carb is off, Gene and I are going to check the gaps on the valve tappets.  I’ll let you know how that all goes in the next post.

But I’ll leave you with this little limerick:

Just one donut, gives reason to lament.
Certainly two would be heaven-sent.
But I’ve got a suggestion
That’s good for digestion.
Give up that second one for Lent.

Until next time, thanks for reading.