Some Random Stuff

Yeah, this might be a placeholder post, I’m still avoiding just buckling down and posting the five or six half-finished posts I’ve started.  Sorry, Amy. I’ll get on that real soon.

Random thoughts:

  1. Perhaps twitter has fried my brain and I can’t write more than 140 characters at a time?
  2. This is a weekend of some historical significance–
  3. Three years ago, The Shaner died.  RIP, my brother.  I haven’t been on a motorcycle since.
  4. Two years ago, I was at Norwich University graduating from my Master’s program.
  5. One year ago, I was at my brother’s graduation in Houston, obsessively checking the iPhone for updates on the Stanley Cup Game Seven, and texting my favorite hockey fan about it.  The next day, I drove one of my brother’s  cars home from Houston to Kentucky solo.  That was a LONG trip.
  6. Tonight, Dad and I met the guy who builds covered docks down at the lake.  I hope this covered dock thing actually happens.  You have no idea how much easier it would make life down at the lake to not have to struggle with that messy, nasty “canvas.”
  7. Nashville once again reminds me it is a fun town…I had a great time on Monday at the NHL Tweetup and flood relief fundraiser.  There might have even been some photos. Shortly after that photo of me was taken (you did look, right?), the ladies confiscated my belt clip for my iPhone.  Katie called it “Chick Repellent.”  Ok, so looking at the photo…she might have a point.
  8. Mike is here tonight, we continued our tradition of watching non-family-safe movies while he’s away and has the chance to do so.  Tonight’s selection: Shutter Island. Freaky.
  9. I got the Jetta back!  More testing is needed, but we think it was all due to a faulty crank sensor. Time will tell.  For the first time in my life, I now have a backup vehicle.  It’s about time!
  10. I’ve managed to spend time in Nashville the last 2-3 weekends (I think), it’s all a blur.  It’s true what they say about time seeming to go faster as we age…is it really June already?  I never thought summer would get here, now it’s flying by WAY too fast.
  11. I’m still hoping to make it to Wisconsin for a summer visit, but I don’t know if my [lack of] “vacation” schedule will allow for it.
  12. I’ve been slacking on the running due to injury and illness.  Time to get back on the horse.  Also:  Strength training.  Time to push through the soreness and pain.  Ouch.
  13. I discovered there will be a Field Day operation here in Hopkinsville.  I think I’ll offer to help out as an operator rather than try to set up my own single-op station.
  14. Clark Milam is the best dog ever.
  15. Oh, and I hope to cross a couple of “bucket list” items off this weekend.

Finally…I’ve been staring at this quote from a text I sent a while back for too long and I need to just drop it here and get it over with because I’m sick of seeing it in my drafts folder:

“I just wonder if anyone in the old Nashville crew ever wonders what happened to that Chuck guy from Kentucky.”

When I wrote that, I was kind of maudlin.  Now, after some recent events…I’m cool.  The old reliable Nashville crew never forgot me…and there’s some new members that are all kinds of awesome.  With that, I’m out…time for bed.  Friday tomorrow!  Oh, that reminds me:  Fridays used to be party nights…now it seems they’re for rest, packing and preparation for the weekend, and it’s not just me doing it.  We must be getting old.  Heh.

Automatic Pilot to Tennessee

This was a comment from one of my facebook friends about a book called “North Toward Home.”  I loved it, because it spoke to me as someone who drove back and forth to Tennessee so often last year.  The part about “automatic pilot” really got me:

“It’s the title of one of my favorite books – a perennial summer read. One of my favorite passages is the one I thought of when I posted my status last night: ‘In a fast car, a man can almost make it to Tennessee on automatic pilot, driving the straight, level road in a kind of euphoria, past the cotton fields and the tenant shacks, the big plantation houses and the primitive little Negro churches, over the muddy creeks and rivers, through the counties with the forgotten Indian names – Leflore, Coahoma, Tallahatchie, Tunica.'”

After I left law school, I could not drive to Nashville without feeling terrible…nauseated, even.  In fact, I only made the trip to Nashville twice in maybe six months afterward, in both cases to help Mike and Ashley with their moving process.  After that, I avoided making the drive to Nashville for years, unless I had to go to the airport.

After last year, I have a lot of practice making that drive.  Now, the trip to Nashville seems to fly right by–funny how that works.  All it takes is the right motivation.

Cleaning out the Jetta

Cleaning out the old car today, I found:

  • One more disc golf driver.  Sorry, guys.  I’ll make it up to you this season.
  • Long green drinking straws and their wrappers from Starbucks, used for drinking from a Venti Unsweetened Iced Coffee.
  • I was supposed to sign and mail this form back to one of the schools I refereed soccer games for.  Sorry about that.
  • Verification from an old bank statement, showing the time where I gassed up on at the Shell on White Bridge with butterflies in my stomach–killing time before I went to watch “The Tingler.”
  • Inside the door, the tags from the now-favorite quarter-zip olive green sweater I purchased on one of many trips to Target.
  • A pile of unread magazines, catalogs and mail from October, which is when I apparently began living out of my car after the hockey season started.
  • Quite a lot of little white Jackalope hairs in the trunk that were picked up by my travel bag on a wood floor in Nashville, along with that promotional “backpack” they gave out at a Preds game.  Inside was a game program from that night:  December 26, 2009.  Happy Birthday.

The Jetta’s Final Weeks?

For almost ten years, I have driven the same car: A silver 2000 Volkswagen Jetta. This was my first new car, purchased shortly after I started with 3M in the summer of 2000.  Considering its age and the miles it has seen, it’s been a great car. This car has been to Bismarck, ND in the dead of winter for New Year’s Eve; over to Richmond, VA for a consulting gig I did;  down to Wilmington, NC to visit friends; and even all the way down to Orlando and Destin, FL.  This car has seen some things–and it’s hit two deer, two cats, and at least one, maybe two dogs in the 300,000 miles that are on its odometer.

I always say that there are two types of Volkswagens: Total lemons, and those you can drive for the rest of your life.  This one is probably the latter–as long as I can get it to start.  While this car is “a great runner,” it recently developed a problem where it doesn’t want to start, but only intermittently.

The Jetta in the Great Ice Storm of 2008
The Jetta in the Great Ice Storm of 2009

Here is what happens when it acts up:

  • I can almost tell as soon as I turn the key to start cranking the starter that the car is going to give me problems. It sounds like everything is normal, but the engine does not “catch” and start up. It sometimes seems like the engine is trying to start “harder,” but that could just be because I’m bucking it with the starter longer than normal and hoping it will finally catch.
  • If it won’t start, I can “roll start” it by letting it go down the hill and then popping the clutch. When I do this, it will start up immediately.
    When the car is going to start, it does without hesitation.
  • Generally, the problem seems to be more of a “hot restart” issue, meaning: If I drive to the grocery store, I park and stop the car for 20-30 minutes. Shopping done, I get back in…it won’t start—but not all the time. However, if I drive to work in the morning, leave the car for eight or more hours, come out at the end of the day…it starts right up. So far.

I posted this problem to facebook a week or so back, and got some suggestions from some of my more mechanically-gifted friends:

  • Get a VAG-COM and read all the sensors, look for things out of spec
  • Check the Mass Air Flow sensor
  • Maybe a weak fuel pump? (But why does is start when I pop the clutch?)

My dad suggested I call a local retired mechanic who used to work on Volkswagens. I finally felt like I found someone who at least knew about basic troubleshooting. His advice was to perform some of the following procedures the next time the car acted up in order to try to isolate various systems and determine where the problem might be:

  • Spray some starting fluid into the air intake and crank. (Fuel flow or air mixture problem?)
  • Pull the center wire from the distributor and see if it will spark (be careful!)
  • Put the same wire back, but only insert it partially—see if it will “pull spark.”

Ok, so these sounded like reasonable ideas to me. Here’s the thing: All of these procedures are to be attempted while the car is in its “stubborn state,” refusing to start. Since I talked to the guy, the car has not refused to start. Not once. I turn the key, the engine lights right up. Naturally. So, I’m driving around with a car full of tools ready to troubleshoot a problem that is refusing to present itself. Needless to say, this is very frustrating.

I think I’m going to give this car another week or two. Beyond that, I simply have to consider another vehicle. I can’t keep driving non-stop to every destination and refueling with the engine running. I can’t go on not knowing when I might get stranded. A “good runner” it may be, but if I can’t trust it to get me home from the grocery store, it’s not much use to me. God help this car if it ever causes me to miss a Predators game. I’ve got a streak to keep alive.