I am still here, but busy.

58AH Sprite

58AH Sprite (Photo credit: cjzurcher)

I am still here, but full time employment has cut into postings.  Thank you to all who follow these for not giving up.  I will not promise to do better, but hopefully the ones that do get posted will be fun and entertaining.

So, what is new?  I have pretty much finished the Sprite Site/Man cave to the acclaimation of my man friends.  With some time on my hands to focus on other projects, my eye fell on the poor neglected Bugeye Sprite.  Pavement had not passed benethe his wheels for going on two years.  Quietly and patiently he as waited for some attention.  The bonnet (hood in American) has been lashed to the rafters so that all the bits and pieces that make it loud and work could be observed and fiddled with.  Late last week I made the decision that it should be put in place and the car driven.  The reason for the renewed interest in getting it back on the road was that I have become infatuated with FIAT‘s new little car the 500.  I became really excited when they introduced the ABARTH 500.  I looked at the price, performance and availability of the little skate and realized that I had something even more special asleep in my back yard.  The SPRITE!  So now I have been motivated to get the little rascal running.

Now the fly in the ointment.

Seems that during the spring, due to my in activity and neglect, a Wren couple noticed that the hood, suspended from the rafters, seemed to have been neglected.  I  surmise that this happened after I pulled out all of their carefully placed leaves, sticks and building material out of my wall hanging bin for bolts, nuts and washers.

Anyway, I did notice, a few weeks ago, that leaves, sticks and building material had been placed in the grill section of above mentioned bonnet.  However, in my enthusiasm for getting the bonnet back on the chassis of the Sprite, I did not notice that the space had become occupied, by squatters, no less.  I was in the process of re-installing hinge hardware when I started to remove this mass of debris.  In short order, a little brown bird, tail flipped up, flitted to an opening in the exterior wall, turned and started giving me an incredible amount of grief regarding my thoughtless, hamhanded intrusion into its domestic space.

So, it looks like the earliest that the bonnet and chassis will be reunited is after the hatch and the fledglings have departed.  My lovely wife has emailed me the hatch and flegling timeline…



My wife and I are off to Wyoming for a few days to say hello to my lovely mother, see relatives and good friends.  We are planning on cooking some wonderful food, drink some good wine, see spectacular scenery and stay warm.  It takes two hours to fly from San Antonio, Texas to Denver, Colorado, but around 5 hours to drive from Denver to Newcastle, Wyoming.

We will be stopping in Ft. Collins, Colorado to shop the Whole Foods store for groceries as Newcastle is a little limited in selections that my lovely wife deems necessary for ingredients.  She is a wonderful cook and demands that everything be as fresh as possible.  I know that Newcastle Pot Roast  and salmon are on the menu.  I see that she has printed out a recipe for baked oatmeal as well.

My challenge is to get everything that I want to take for the trip into one small duffel and one back pack.  I believe that I am up to the challenge however.  I secretly tested my concept while she is out.  We normally need to take a station wagon to carry all the stuff that we drag along.  This time we decided to pack like nomads.  Time will tell if it worked.

The toughest part is selecting clothes for a totally different ecosystem.  Tomorrow San Antonio will have a high of 81 degrees, Newcastle, Wyoming will have a high of maybe 38?  I don’t know if I own enough clothes to keep warm when it is 6 degrees.

I expect that the next posting will have  pictures.  Although I can tell you that we will be seeing Devils Tower, the Black Hills, Deadwood and Custer State Park with all of its’ buffalo and assorted critters.

Devils Tower

Stickley/Morris recliner

I am a trained Interior Designer, but have never practiced the craft.  I am drawn to interior architecture by the interplay of color, texture, furniture and stage setting.  I am most fascinated by furniture closely followed by fabric.  I am  at work in the manshed/Sprite site/carriage house plying my skills.  Things are moving along, and as in all labors of love, at a leisurely pace.  I am restoring an old rocking chair of unknown origin or history that has sat in plain sight and out of mind for over 10 years.  Last month I “discovered” it, sitting in the wreckage of the greenhouse (more on that later).  “Hummm”, I thought, “That would look pretty good here in the manshed.  Replace the very dated fabric upholstery, clean off the finish since it is starting to disintegrate anyway and see what we have!”  It is maple which means that it does not take kindly to staining, but stained it shall become.  The seating will be replaced with shearling.  Remember, this is going into a MANshed.  It will be stained with Minwax Jacobean, meaning it will be dark.  I had considered a black lacquer, but decided on the stain even though I know it will come out splotchy.

But what I really want is a chair for my indoor study.  Specifically I want a Stickley/Morris/Mission style recliner.  Not a new one.  Oh no, but one with some miles on it.The originals were made with white oak and had leather-covered cushions.  That is what I am looking for.  The color of the leather is of little consequence.  The originals were made in the mid 1860’s by William Morris from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in England.  However, Gustav Stickley began making the chair using the Morris design in the early 1900’s.

Gustav Stickley

I have been looking for a chair for a several years.  I found one a few years ago, but the price buckled my knees.  I belive that I may have to build my own.  The design is not challenging, I believe my skills are up to it, but I know it will be frustrating.  I would a lot rather be sitting in one in my study, reading and sipping an adult beverage than in the manshed breathing sawdust, and throwing a ball for MacGuffin.

So folks, if you happen to have one in your attic that is looking for a home, please keep me in mind.


New from the Man Shed—“…Dragon Tattoo” bike

Honda CL350 built by Glory Motor Works via the blog THE SALVAGE YARD

This bike, a Honda CL 350 scrambler got me interested in the movie, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  I like the design of the bike.  I was not aware that Honda made this particular model, having spent most of my time focused on English bikes.  THE SELVAGE YARD blog describes the rational in choosing this particular model that Glory Motor Works built.  Glory said that they would envision Lisbeth Salander, the hacker, as not having a lot of money to invest in a bike, and that this type of bike would address her transportation needs.

To my way of thinking they did an outstanding job.  I see this bike as a mirror of the spirit of Ms. Salander.  Minimalist, dark, dangerous, intelligent, foreboding, efficient.  My attention is caught by the handlebar shape, low, not ostentatious and purposeful.  The sweep of the handlebar draws my eyes to the lines defined by the duel exhaust with minimal dampening and wrapped with a heat absorbing material replacing visually disrupting metal heat shields that would normally be found.  Between the handlebar and the exhaust my eyes settle on the modified grand prix seat set behind the minimalist fuel tank.  The up kick at the rear of the seat reflects a connection to the stock saddles of the American West while retaining it’s European racing heritage.  This creates a nice juxtaposition of several cultures:  western American cowboy, rough off road racer, classic European road racer on a Japanese made motorcycle.
Other interesting items that I saw was that the front tire is a traditional knobby scrambler style while the rear tire has a smoother pavement gripping tread.  I don’t know why it is set up that way, but it would seem to me that the bike’s handling may be affected.
All in all I find it a fascinating bike and one that I would like to have share space in my little shed.

News from the Man Shed

Triumph scrambler

I have worked on three things the last few weeks.  The first is to get over being sick so that I can breathe again without coughing.  The second is to finish work on levelling and stabilizing the back porch.  The third and most tiring is to understand the mechanics of this blog.  It has become so frustrating that I have resisted the wish to post pictures and communicate.  I seem able to do one or the other, but not both.  At least not well.  I’m a visual oriented person so I try to add color to a black and white world.  I like to add exciting, colorful pictures that add to the narrative.  This format is discouraging me in doing so.  This is the third attempt at adding graphics to my post.  I shall try again.  1930 Blower Bentley…NOT WORKING

Thoughts of an explorer

I am not sure if it is because it is a new year or that I am going to be sixty seven this month or if it is that I am contemplating official retirement, but a number of comments from friends the last few days have me thinking.  My friend Will challenged me to consider what might make sense or nonsence by reintroducing me to The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.  Then he quoted a bunch of other interesting thoughts, both his and others.

My childhood friend, Susan, forwarded a cute but appropriate video about creating art that fits nicely into my thoughts at the moment.  I’m sorry that I can not share the link because I am not yet technically savy.  You can pull it up on my facebook page.

As a Christmas present my wife gave me a book, Divinity in Disguise, by Kevin Anderson.  “And what is the cost of that jewel of great price we call wisdom?  Not three thousand, not even three million dollars—just three decisions:  the decision to give ourselves fully to all the joy and pain that come with loving others deeply; the decision to make our lives more about spiritual growth than growth in our bankrolls or our egos; and the decision to focus our existence on a higher purpose, a noble mission that allows us to give away what suffering and joy have taught us about soulful living.”  Mr. Anderson goes on to quote Henry David Thoreau, “I have learned this at least by my experiment:  that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  And finally, at least in this blog, he quotes Jane Welsh Carlyle:  “I am not at all the sort of person you and I took me for.”  Exciting stuff.  Now go buy his book for more interesting observations.

While this is beginning to sound like a review of other peoples’ work I would like to add a few of my own observations.

  • I have owned expensive cars, horses and watches.  I now don’t.  I am happier.
  • I have tried to gain fame and importance.  I now don’t.  I am happier.
  • I rubbed elbows with the rich, famous and powerful.  I now don’t.  I am happier.
  • I have a lovely wife, good food, good wine.  I am happier.
  • I have a pound hound rescue dog that loves me.  I am happier.
  • I have some good friends, a stove in the shed out back and some plants that depend on me.  I am happier.

As my favorite Episcopal priest, James Hugh Majors, taught me, “I’m better’n I deserve!”  Amen.

1970 Monaco Grand Prix

I am a petrol head, car nut, all those words that describe an automobile aficionado, apply to me.  I am particularly attracted to German, English and Italian sports cars.  I love sports car and Formula One (grand prix) racing, so it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to my trip to Monaco for the 1970 Grand Prix.

I was living in Germany and in July 1969 I bought a new BMW 2002. I had it modified by the German tuning firm ALPINA.  They tweaked the  engine, suspension and modified some body panels to accommodate far wider wheels.  It was a German hot rod.  I used it as a daily driver  and took it to racetracks around Germany on weekends.  I believed that I was a pretty good driver. 

This was the car that I took to Monaco.  I drove from Karlsruhe south through Switzerland into France.  The roads through the Swiss and French Alps were narrow and twisty.  They were exactly what I had hoped that they would be.  I could fling the little BMW into the turns and then punch it going out of the turns onto the short straights.  The way that it held the road was incredible.  While the acceleration wasn’t as good as the larger 6 or 8 cylinder engines that powered larger European cars, the changes made by ALPINA made it astonishingly fast.

Coming out of Switzerland dropping into France I noticed a Mustang following me.  I knew that as big as the Mustang was and as small and tightly suspended as the BMW was there was little chance that the Mustang would be able to keep up for long.  I was not amused that it didn’t drop back as I became a bit more aggressive going into the turns.

In fact, it was getting closer!  I knew that the Mustang had greater acceleration, but it carried a lot more weight.  It could not corner as well as the BMW, but it was obviously gaining on me.  The driver acted as though I was holding him up!  Down and around the twisting road we raced.  When the road straighten a bit, the Mustang blasted by me, it’s raucous exhaust thundering off the canyon walls as it accelerated hard and disappeared around a tight bend.  I was incredulous!  Passed by a big lumbering American car.  It was embarrassing.

My ego was so bruised.  I backed off and continued on down the road at a slower pace, enjoying the road, the handling of the BMW and the scenery of the beautiful Alps. After a little while the road dropped into a village. There, at a small gas station, the Mustang was accelerating away.  I needed fuel, so I pulled into the spot where the Mustang had been.  As I got out of the car an attendant came rushing over.  I knew what to expect because it happened to me a lot when I drove into small villages.  The attendant would want to know all about the BMW.  But it was different this time. The attendant was animated and had a huge grin.  Between his broken English and my limited understanding of French I came to understand that the driver of the Mustang was a Frenchman, Jean Pierre Beltoise.

The name was familiar to me.  He was a Grand Prix driver who would place 8th on the starting grid at Monaco in the next few days.  My ego soothed, I continued on my journey to Monaco thinking of the brief time that I had diced with a Formula One pilot on a tiny road in the French Alps.