Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Old Nellie

  
What's wrong with this picture?
  There have been new cars in my friend and publisher Steve's family, but he let his wife drive them, then his daughter, while he always made do with junkers and hand-me-downs. His latest vehicle, a 1997 Ford Escort wagon, had 150,000 miles on it when his daughter gave it back several years ago. The car was just under a quarter million miles when he retired from the Polaris Snowmobile factory last month. Steve had nursed this vehicle along, replacing parts and changing oil as needed. It took him to work through summer heat and winter blizzards and also on jaunts to the recycling center down in Thief River Falls. He even went camping in the Badlands with it once.
  The very first time he drove it as a retiree, the engine blew up. Rather, the timing belt broke which allowed the pistons to bend the valves. He could get the engine fixed or install a rebuilt, but the car is not worth it. The local junkyard offered him $100. I counseled Steve to grab the cash and be done with it, but Steve said not so fast. He reasoned that the headlight assemblies he had just installed were worth something. And the alternator and the heater blower motor were both fairly new. Plus the exhaust system only had a few thousand miles on it. The fancy Alpine CD player must have value. Steve proposed to haul the Escort home and part it out, as the pros say. He could advertise for free on the local sell and swap site on Facebook. I warned him that his parts would get lost amidst the baby clothes and suggested craigslist, but he said craigslist is for predators. I fear the Escort will join his stable of ancient wrecks under the oaks along the creek, which is entirely his business.
  I am always happy to help Steve in his endeavors. He said he'd be able to get the Escort home on his own, but would appreciate my moral support. Last Thursday we drove to Jerry Solom's machine shop to borrow a trailer. The trailer was behind a tractor that we did not expect to start (it didn't). We removed the sides from the trailer, then Jerry used his loader and a chain to swing the trailer  away from the tractor. Steve had driven his '94 Toyota 4WD pickup to get the trailer, because the pickup contains every tool, chain or jack you would ever need to get a car onto a trailer.  But the truck was missing its right side mirror which Steve thought he'd need to back up the trailer to his car at the shop in Roseau. We pulled the trailer to Steve's place and transferred it to his '95 GMC conversion van. This van's not much to look at, but inside it's as plush as a Vegas bordello.
  We loaded all the tools we thought we'd need from the truck onto the trailer bed along with a set of ramps and tied them all down. Twenty minutes later Steve was backing up the trailer to his formerly faithful steed. The next time we load a car onto a trailer we'll do a couple of things differently. Number One: load the the front end of the vehicle first, so that most of the weight is over the hitch. The Escort had been parked front end first but we could have pulled it away from the fence to load it. Number Two: be sure the car is lined up straight with the trailer. It's really hard to make adjustments as you winch the car up the ramps, especially in reverse. We learned these valuable common sense lessons during the hour it took to get the car onto the trailer. Steve's puny lawnmower ramps impressed me by not collapsing under the weight of his car.
  Now it was time to chain the car to the trailer. It's embarrassing to have things fall off your trailer.  A jacket or a bucket of oil is one thing. But a red station wagon? Not good. Steve has this unusual chain for tough jobs. It's about 40 feet long, with two different sizes of links. There are hooks at each end and an extra hook welded on in the middle, plus a large steel ring welded on in the other middle. Steve has worked magic with this chain many times in the past, but I always stan aside when he gets down to it. Once the load is chained, you use a chain binder to take up the slack and prevent any movement. Steve had borrowed a binder from Jerry, plus he had bought another at Lee's Store on the way to town. You hook each end of the binder to the chain then throw the lever over and presto! your chain is tight as a tick. That's the theory. Steve struggled with this thing, but like Rubik's cube, it got the better of him. He tossed it to me and I scurried off to YouTube which only had videos of improved versions of our binder. Using more primitive technology, Steve finally got his car attached to the trailer and we drove home at 45 mph, hoping the State Patrol was elsewhere.
  Once home, we recruited Jackie to steer the Escort as Steve, his grandson, and I pushed it off the trailer. So if you need a headlight assembly for a '97 Escort (wagon or sedan) or your muffler is getting noisy, please check out the Roseau Area Sell and Swap on Facebook. Thank you.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Liberation

 
A toast to the Captain Morgan, wherever she may be.


  Our oldest son Matt, his wife Heather and their sons, Sam and Luke are moving back to the South Shore of Boston.  After four years in Lindström near the Twin Cities, they are returning to the town of Hull. One thing Matt liked about Minnesota is that he had a big shop with room to display his Captain Morgan sign.  Back in Massachusetts, he will still have a shop, but it will lack room for the display of large tugboat name plates. Last month, I asked Matt what he was going to do with Captain Morgan and he said he was going to leave it behind, either sell it at the yard sale or just leave it in the shop. Wait, I could not let this happen. Matt was planning a trip to Wannaska and I said I would take it.  I wasn't real enthusiastic about the sign. I love all things nautical, but I still harbor an irrational prejudice against South Carolina for starting the Civil War. I've been to South Carolina. It's beautiful and the people there are most hospitable, but history is a burr I can't get out from under my saddle.
  Ennaways, the sign arrived this weekend and I was asking Matt about its provenance. Matt currently works for Reinaurer Transportation Company, a towboat operation based in New York City. He works for two weeks and has two weeks off. He's been flying to New York from the Cities. After the move, he'll drive from Hull to his tug.
  Before he started  on the tugs, he worked for Bay State Cruise Co. This outfit runs cruise boats from Boston to the Cape and does whale watches. It's mostly a seasonal operation, but the company does take advantage of opportunities in the off season. In 2003, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier was planning to anchor off Key West to give its crew a week of R&R. Bay State sent Matt and a small crew aboard one of its vessels down to Key West where they would  shuttle sailors from the carrier to shore. About half way to Florida, Matt's captain received news that a storm was headed for the Keys and that the aircraft carrier was going to wait out the storm at sea. Matt's boat pulled into Charleston S.C. to await developments. They tied up in a disused Navy yard. During the day they explored the city and enjoyed the restaurants. Their boat had been stocked with several thousand cans of beer for the pleasure of the carrier sailors so Matt and his crew enjoyed some of that before it went bad. One evening they explored a derelict tug tied up near their boat. One thing led to another and soon Matt's Captain Morgan sign was under his bunk for safekeeping. The aircraft carrier never did visit Key West and Matt's boat went back to Boston.
  Matt and Heather had bought a house south of Boston too small to display signs in.  It wasn't till they moved to Minnesota in 2013, that the sign saw the light of day again. After Matt told his story we decided to do a Google search of the Captain Morgan. People badmouth the Internet. Yes it's a time waster and a purse devastator. It steals your identity and the trolls are wicked, but when you need some obscure facts, the good old Internet is right there. Matt and I were stunned as we read those facts. The Captain Morgan was built in 1906 in Newburgh, NY for the New York Central Railroad. She was unromantically named the New York Central No. 2. I imagine she shuttled rail cars around New York Harbor for the next fifty years until she was sold to the Bronx Towing Line and renamed the Colco. Here's where the story gets weird. In 1977, the tug was sold to Reinauer Transportation, Matt's employer! And what's more, she was put into service in Boston Harbor as the Arnold Lyons. A couple of sales and name changes later she received her final name. In 1999, she was "laid up" in Charleston. In 2004, the year after Matt visited her, she was scuttled as an artificial reef. The Internet does not say where. Perhaps that's best. We would like to know who Captain Morgan was. And Arnold Lyons too.