Road Trip: Author Slips, Engine flips!

The Princess reads all these things, so I might as well admit right at the outset that (once again) she was right and I was wrong.  With that out-of-the-way, we can proceed, but let’s start at the beginning.

After making a bunch of phone calls, I found a machine shop in Durham that had the right equipment to jet wash (clean) The Pony’s engine.  This isn’t just about the way the engine looks, but about the fact that the engine was so gummed-up internally that it needed to be thoroughly cleaned-out.  Just a brief digression and a suggestion, Durham has for many years been home to the Durham Bulls baseball team.  As we head into the 2010 baseball play-offs (Go Phillies), right now would be a great time to rent the movie “Bull Durham,” with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.  The Princess and I consider this to be one of our all-time, favorites.

Back to the story, this morning Gene helped me load the engine into the trunk of my car.  After leaving Gene’s, I stopped back home to pick up a few additional items to bring along.  It was during this brief stop that The Princess popped into the garage to check-up on me.  She looked into the trunk and inquired as to whether the engine would stay put like that.  I had it sitting upside down on a piece of plywood.  I tried to rock the engine and said, “This thing ain’t going no where,” and with that I was on my way.

I don’t hardly ever go into the big city, so naturally I got incredibly lost.  In the process of making one of my many turn arounds looking for a street that I never did find, I heard (more felt) a big clunk in the trunk.  I pulled over, all the while praying silently to my self “Please don’t let there be a big dent in the side of the car,” to check out the situation.  The crazy engine had actually flipped end over end into the side of the trunk, but thankfully without inflicting damage to the car.  I just hate it when out in advance of some totally unpredictable event The Princess calls one like this.  In a Dr. Seuss book he’d sum it up, “The big hunk in the trunk went clunk, and that’s what she’d thunk!”  Dang it!

I rearranged the engine in the trunk, called the shop, got more directions and finally found the place.  By the time I got there I was a nervous wreck, and in that condition I had to try to make sense about what I wanted done to some true engine experts.  It turned out the guys in the shop were really nice and interested in my engine, The Pony and the project.  The shop was huge, full of massive pieces of equipment and jumbles of engines and pieces of engines everywhere.  In this photo, I have strategically placed The Pony’s engine in the foreground (like you would if you were trying to make a fish you’d caught look bigger) and behind you can see a portion of the shop.  The big guy in the back is Robert and he’s standing with the other machinist at what was pointed out to me as being a milling machine.  That’s the machine they’d use if my engine needed its “fire deck” fly cut.  This is “engine speak” for giving the top of the block a new surface, but I wanted to use those cool new words I learned.  We’re hoping The Pony’s engine doesn’t need this procedure.

I asked to see the place where they would do the jet wash, and that’s what you see in the next photo.  There is one small room dedicated to this machine and process.  That big green tank is filled with steaming caustic soda.  That stuff is so strong that Robert said it would eat the aluminum engine tag off the side of the engine, so I asked him to please pop it off before the engine goes in for its bath.  I don’t even want to know what happens to the many drums of nasty looking stuff that were sitting all around in this room.

I also left some valves with Robert, as after the cleaning he will likely be grinding the valve seats, and he said he’d need at least one valve of each type (exhaust and intake) in order to do that.  

So, the guys were great (though I did get some teasing about how small my engine was), and they actually took a phone photo of the cover of my tractor manual that shows a picture of The Pony.  And the shop itself looked impressive to me.  But I was still wondering if these guys were true pros and if this was the right place for my engine.  It was something that I saw high up on one of the walls that convinced me, and this was it.  Now, ladies, I apologize, but guys, don’t forget that you can click on this image to make it larger.  The guys in the shop saw me photographing this and asked if I was married.  I said that I was, and one of them said, “Oh, your wife going to be mad!”  I said, “Nah, she’ll be fine with it; she already posed like this for my blog.”

It was cousin Bill, by the way,  that recently asked that my posts include more pictures, so he needs to take some of the blame for this photo.

Well, I knew after seeing this poster that these guys could do the work, but due to the keyed-up state I was in and sometimes perhaps not fully communicating, I’m not totally sure what they’re all going to do to my poor little engine.  But I’ll find out early next week when they call me.  Keep your fingers crossed!


3 responses to “Road Trip: Author Slips, Engine flips!

  1. I am thinking of forwarding the latest post (including poster) to all the pastors on our church staff.
    Weeeeellllll—maybe not.

  2. Yes.

    I’ve suggested to Gene that you outfit your rig as a ten-speed and pedal it across the lower forty-eight on the”Bring Back Sanity Tour”, kind of like Richard Farnsworth in David Lynch’s The Straight Story.

    Congrats on your heroe’s journey. It’s mythic…

    Cheers to a fellow badass…


  3. Lovin it…keep it goin. I am kind like living vicariously through you. Always wanted to do something like this. I like bro Jim’s efforts also but this is much more personal and faster.

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