it might be the end

of the road for my truck.

since sometime approximately coinciding with the onset of winter, i've been having cooling system problems. leaks, blown hoses, overheating, etc. i noticed when the truck was getting low on water it would overheat quickly when i got stuck in traffic. i tried winding the engine up a little while stopped in traffic and the temperature would go down. start driving again and the temperature returns to normal. this prob'ly happened infrequently for about a month- the month of December, which was was (predictably) more insane than normal, driving-wise. let it cool off when it gets hot, put some fluids in it. check the fluids a lot, fix everything that goes wrong as it goes wrong, never get the engine hot for long, baby it. but the killing blow might have come a week ago last Friday, Jan. 11.

cruising along in the morning on I5 southbound, in very light traffic (south of 128th in Lynnwood, for anyone that means anything to) with no problems, i heard a pretty loud bang, and it seemed like all the water blew out at once- very strange. never seen anything like that: huge cloud of steam, maybe bigger than any i've seen come off a vehicle. but the truck doesn't overheat, and it seems to be running fine. scratch head. consider worrying. consider not worrying. seriously consider pulling off the road. decide to pay attention and wait for a sign confirming that something is actually wrong...and keep driving. light a cigarette.

drive remarkably far with no problems, cynically acknowleding the way the hope that nothing's wrong struggles to overpower the certain knowledge that something must be. step on brakes as traffic thickens and slows.

slow down, speed up, slow down, wait- wait- ...yup. stop.

nod inwardly as temperature gauge rises rapidly. experience morbid satisfaction that world is operating as it should. weigh options. gauge position. (halfway between 175th & 145th exits in Shoreline, for those same few that means something to). weigh options: [1] exit on 145th (2-way 4-lane arterial literally miles from anything resembling a service station, for anyone who doesn't already know), or [2] drive approximately the same distance to a downhill exit which ends precisely at a gas station. wring hands, pull hair, gnash teeth.

decide to stick it out.

drive about 4-5 minutes in heavy traffic. listen to engine getting very loud- as i pass the point of no return- resembling the sound my '63 Rambler made, circa 1985, when i ran it out of oil, in what i didn't realize until this very moment- as i'm typing this- that that happened in the exact same place...22 or 23 years ago. wow.

ok where was i? my truck engine making lots of noise- getting damn hot- gritting teeth- approaching exit! coast as much as possible aaaaaaaand shut off engine! coast down exit ramp, turn key to AC position so the steering doesn't lock up, coast through S-cuuuuurve....to red light. growl. wait for a couple cars to clear the intersection. turn key- engine totally protests for the first time ever...but turns over. bump truck into gear, give it enough gas to pull right-turn-on-red U-turn into gas station parking lot, killing engine ASAP. park truck, pop hood, protect hand, pull radiator cap, retrieve water bottles from truck bed. light cigarette. slowly, carefully empty water from one bottle onto passenger-side exhaust manifold, avoiding the head and block. repeat with 2nd water bottle on driver's side. discover formerly-free air and water facilities have become coin-operated, and missing the water hose entirely. grumble. check oil. YIKES- very low. and strange; the truck doesn't go through much oil at all, and usually lights up on the dash before it's this low. shake head grimly.

take bottles inside and ask for some water. buy some oil. follow directions to spigot on far side of building, fill water bottles, walk back to truck, put 2 quarts of oil in. turn key to AC and check temperature gauge: acceptable. pour more water on exhaust manifolds, walk back, fill bottles, walk back, fill radiator. light another cigarette. cross fingers.

turn key.

truck starts right up, idles fine. sounds normal again- incredibly normal. too normal. pull truck around building, fill bottles, head for the road.

drive in off-and-on traffic to work (maybe 8 miles?) with no problem, waiting for the loud bang that says, "game over." it doesn't come. truck begins getting hot as i approach work.


fill all 5 water bottles with hose. fill radiator. check hoses and look for leaks. sure enough, it's slightly streaming out the bottom, just a little. exactly like it did the last 3 times i had to replace the water pump. experience the particularly irritating kind of annoyance that only comes when (you think) you know what you're in for. resign myself to fate.

drive work van home, get Loren from his mom's, deal with stuff i always deal with on the weekend. set up water pump purchase for following Monday, drive van to work, home to get pump. bring pump to work in the morning, wait 'til quitting time, start truck, pull into bay, start tearing it down. remove radiator fan cowling, pull off serpentine belt (bloodying face with cheater bar when the wrench slips off the stripped spring-tensioner bolt), disconnect a couple hoses....realize i have the wrong water pump; i have the compression-fit-nipple pump and need the threaded-nipple pump.

often the parts stores get the wrong part, but i couldn't remember which was on my truck (it could be either) and had to guess at the parts store; it's my bad. grimly acknowledge the truck will not move in its state of disassembly. put everything except hoses back together. pull truck back out into lot. drive van home, to parts store, exchange water pump. experience relief they have it in stock. bring new water pump to work. miserably fail to again summon the motivation to fix the water pump after work. very busy, all week....decide to fix truck on Saturday.

which brings us to the present, precisely 11:47pm PDT, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2008 A.D.

figured i'd throw that in there, since this post is obviously not going to post until early Sunday morning.

drive to work on Saturday. pull truck in bay. re-disassemble everything i already did. drop appropriate number of bolts and fasteners into engine cavity, skin knuckles in predictable ways, remain calm, try to be methodical despite everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong, a pattern which would continue until my efforts were exhausted. remove remaining hoses and water pump mounting bolts, pull water pump free of block. comes loose, but still stuck. hmmm. realize i missed the Dastardly Bastard hose that's never been removed (only disconnected at the water pump in the past) at the top of the water pump, due to its position (buried under the air conditioning motor, and the bracket it- and the alternator and some other stuff- is mounted to. loosen clamp, attempt to pull water pump from hose, watch hose tear effortlessly. swear loudly, knowing i must go to parts store. remove air filter assembly, remove air conditioning pump from mounting bracket and set to side, remove alternator and mounting bracket (without disassembling) and associated crap, loosen now-accessible rear clamp on Bastard 4" slightly angled hose. remove hose with malicious intent.

attempt at great length with inadequate tools to remove fan clutch assembly from old water pump, eventually crushing old pump blades from spindle with vice. clamp newly accessible spindle in vice and forcibly remove fan clutch assembly with reluctant disregard for scoring the huge fan clutch assembly mounting nut.

go to NAPA (closest store). attempt unsuccessfully to buy a chunk of the same-size hose. no can do, they sold out of (what they identified as) 1-1/4" ID radiator hose a couple hours ago, some guy bought it all up. great. helpful-but-ultimately-unhelpful sales associate finds a pre-formed hose that has a section on one end with approximately the right length to "match" my hose...for $15. realize i should have measured the pump fitting before i left. buy hose, and a putty knife to help scrape the rest of the gasket material off with. sigh. return to truck, methodically final-clean the water pump mounting surface. debate whether to attach fan clutch assembly to water pump. hmmm. disinclined to hold new water pump in vice after watching last water pump destroyed. prepare gasket and mount the water pump.

realize with horror that the last bolt (one of the far shorter ones, on the passenger-side bottom) will thread but not tighten: STRIPPED. since the bolt hole on the water pump is a pass-through hole, the threads must be stripped in the block. imagine a bell, tolling once, faintly, in the distance.

pace. review options. only one option: try it. torque down water pump as well as possible. wrap bolt in...first choice would be aluminum foil, second would be teflon tape....have neither...screw it: electrical tape. it will almost certainly melt but i just want it to grab a little- and see if the truck holds water. check new hose. too big. i knew it! dammit!

drive back to NAPA for smaller hose. NAPA is closed. realize i should have tried the hose FIRST and that it's getting late, 6:30pm. i'm 6 hrs into a project i've done previously (more than once) in 2-4 hrs.

drive to Schucks in Rainier Beach (much farther), get the right hose, return, install hose and all remaining hoses, replace alternator and mounting bracket and associated crap, replace air conditioning motor, replace air filter, serpentine belt. scratch head about how to install fan clutch assembly to water pump. hand-tighten fan clutch assembly to water pump as well as possible while holding water pump pulley as steady as possible, with very limited success. scratch head about how to hold pulley still. try unsuccessfully to feed something through tiny, much-closer-to-the-center-in-the-new-water-pump pinhole in water pump pulley. scratch head. feed tie line through pinhole, hoping i can make it feed out from behind the bell of the pulley- success! tie off line to rigid air-conditioner pipes, torque down fan clutch assembly hard enough to break tie line. guess that it's on tight enough that it won't fly off while idling long enough to determine if the thing holds water or not. hope i don't shred my hoses if it does fly off.

realize the fan cowling doesn't fit over the fan clutch assembly without the fan blades loose. remove fan blade assembly from clutch assembly, try to feed cowling in. no. works coming up, but not down; the edge of the cowling catches on heat-sink grooves in the clutch assembly at this angle- it's impossible. swear loudly! break out brand-new battery-operated sawzall (19.2V Alltrade/Kawasaki brand, xmas present from my folks- thanks again), repeatedly shoo Chowder away from large reciprocating saw blade, deftly cut clean arc through cowling bottom one-handedly, while holding the cowling with the other hand, removing just barely enough to clear the fan clutch assembly. install cowling and upper radiator hose. cross fingers. pour water in radiator, waiting for leaks. huge leak! wtf? oh. did that last time, too- forgot the bottom radiator hose, the one that's a lot harder to do once it's all back together...but not impossible. install hose. fill water bottle, pour in radiator, check for leaks. nothing by the stripped bolt. good. nothing out the bottom where it was leaking before- also good. tiny, tiny leak seems to be coming from...where?....the upper radiator hose? no way. wierd. that hose is new, and the clamps on right, and it's the most accessible piece of the whole job. check clamp. repeatedly top off radiator, waiting for water to settle, until full. try to figure out how water is leaking from upper radiator hose....jiggle connection a little-

SNAP! plastic upper radiator nipple breaks off effortlessly, taking a jagged, sizable piece of the radiator top with it. realize the BANG i heard when all the water blew out of the truck was the radiator blowing it's top. experience wonder and amazement that i managed to make it about 16-18 miles to work with a blown radiator, and that the engine still runs. wonder if the 20 or 30 teflon-enhanced oil filters i used for 10 years (until they recently became unavailable) has anything to do with that. realize that it's now 9:30pm and there's no way this truck will be road-worthy today. weigh options.

coat edge of broken piece and edge of hole in radiator with thick coat of tube-gasket adhesive/maker. set in place as well as possible and apply pressure by wedging edge of radiator hose against the nipple. stuff another piece of hose between the radiator cowling and the broken piece on the other end. realize there's no way this can work but still hoping against hope that it will be enough to get the truck on the road....long enough to replace the radiator.

pull truck out of bay (experience mild relief that it's able to move out of the way!). realize engine seems to be running rougher than normal. it's firing smoothly, started easily, responds to the throttle strongly, but is vibrating more than normal. realize i know this engine really well, having run it and worked on it for the last 12.5 years. acknowledge that this means something is most likely out of balance with the water pump, and/or i did actually damage something when i overheated it. run engine for a few minutes and watch fan clutch assembly....it's a little rough looking but not too bad. it doesn't have to be that bad to completely fry things. acknowledge that the temperature outside has been hovering in the low 30s to low 40s with high precipitation and the gasket material i'm trying to use as a temporary seal on the broken radiator piece will likely never set up in these conditions- let alone the 3-hr normal set-up time.

clean the place up. drive the van home. light cigarette. write blog post.

sign off, thinking it's time to buy a new car, knowing i don't have the money to...let alone the time to find one, or a vehicle to drive around and find one in, except the company van (which may also be on its last legs due to a serious suspension problem in the driver's-side front wheel). and i predict my boss's patience for me borrowing that van is going to be understandably limited...

you MUST have wheels to work 37 miles from home and ferry a kid back and forth, etc. i need to buy a car, like...now.


it got big

a month and a half since i turned 40 and i still haven't posted anything.

as if nothing happened at all...except (obviously) things did.

where to start posting about them? argh! everything just gets big.

that's the phrase my friend Pat and i came up with (many moons ago) to describe a circumstance in which two people (usually two who are very close) are having a conversation about something, and one is explaining some (often very complex) concept to the other, and while the explainer endeavors to express that concept in exactly those terms which fully and accurately convey that complexity, simultaneously avoiding digression along any of a seemingly-endless torrent of pertinent tempting tangents, he realizes that ultimately, though his expression of the concept remains unfinished, its full meaning yet undefined, the listener has intuitively identified with the concept, in all its subtlety and complexity, rendering the explanation prematurely complete (and/or moot).
less often (but no less appropriately) it can be used by the explainer as a term to indicate his inability to continue the explanation in the face of insurmountable tangent formation.
it may be used (possibly, but not necessarily, in combination with the first example) in cases where, during the explanation, it becomes apparent to the explainer that the language itself has no words for expressing the fundamental essence of the concept being explained (which, incidentally, does not preclude the possibility of the listener's understanding).
it is sometimes used as an escape route for the explainer when it becomes clear that the explanation is inconvenient, annoying, or otherwise unwelcome to the listener, or the explainer determines mid-explanation that the effort required to finish the explanation isn't worh it.

in proper usage, when any of these circumstances occurs, the next appropriate thing for the explainer to do is immediately discontinue the explanation and utter, "...it got big."

(please note that there is some lingering uncertainty regarding whether or not the appropriate subsequent response from the listener is, "shboing.....shboing shboing."

this whole post seems to be a demonstration of the inability to refrain from following a tangent, as i mentioned in the

...it got big.

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