My name is Chuck. I live on the west shore of Michigan, a little less than a mile inland of Lake
Michigan in the Village of Douglas. Been here since '86, living in a house that's 160 years old
despite having been built by people who clearly had no clue what they were up to and apparently
where under the influence of debilitating substances while they were about it. I love my house
and I still have it, but I got married in 2002. Moved about a mile to the south end of town to
a twenty acre property of cool old cabings that my wife and sister own. I can hear the big lake
better from my new abode, being about a half mile closer, plus it generally stays a good 5°F
cooler. Summer temps seldom top the lower 80's and winter stays mild, unless the big lake freezes
over. You can check out some pictures of it, and even arrange to rent a cabin from us at
Douglas and its neighbor to the north, Saugatuck, are situated on opposite sides of the Kalamazoo
river, sharing the harbor and the tourists. We're a highly favored summer destination for rich
Chicago people, or FIP's, as we call them. Fucking Illinois People. The two towns are protected
from the weather by a line of dunes to the west, sometimes approaching three hundred feet in
height. One, Mt. Baldy, is topped by an AN/FPS-14 SAGE Gap Filler radar, which touches on another
interest of mine which I hope to include on this site in the not too distant future. We're about
nine miles down the shoreline south of Holland, and about seventy miles north of the Indiana
state line. We have many (many) art galleries and the Chicago Art Institute's Ox Bow fine arts
camp on the old channel, adjacent to the dune covered ghost town of Singapore.
Alas, the piece of shit Aubrey McClendon wrested Singapore and the surrounding 400 acres of
totally undeveloped (with the exception of Frank Denison's scumball son's house) lake front
dunes and beach grass from the hands of the many folks and organizations who had been trying
for decades to secure and preserve the old Denison property and merge it with the Saugatuck
Dunes State Park. This was, and still is, the last remaining undeveloped river mouth on the
shores of Lake Michigan! We made an offer of $38.5 million which was inexplicably not acted
upon by the trust controlling the property for a few years, at which point they instead accepted
McClendon's offer of $39.3M. Their excuse was they were legally bound to act in the best
financial interest of the trust, but they didn't explain how that was compatible with paying
the enormous property taxes in the interim for a measley $800K extra. Note also that it was never
explained how the sleazeball son walked away with a chunk of property in the transaction.
Anyone smell a steaming pile of shit in all of this?
The good news is that the ball of shit McClendon just snuffed himself, about a week prior
to my writing this. While that's a cheerful turn of events, it does not promise the property will now go to public use
because there is plenty of rich filth (is that redundant?) around to make a grab for it again; those
to whom too much power and money or too many possessions is never nearly enough. Where's
imminent domain when the rich man holds the real estate? That's a serious question with
very serious consequences in our country and particularly here on the west shore of Michigan.
We have another similar ass maggot living on the channel in Holland who decided to block
the only access to the lighthouse, access that the public has had use of for all of its history.
Why did Holland not simply sieze the land by adverse possesion?
Anyhow. Check out some of the local pics on the menu. It's a pretty place.
A little about my career, if I can stop ranting for a paragraph or two. For 36 years I
worked for an aerospace company. The first few years I was a Pratt-Whitney certified TIG
welder, primarily welding F-100 afterburners for the F-16 fighter, mostly Zone IV afterburner
heat shields, a very picky and complicated job that I got pretty good at. Most of my years
there, however, were spent designing and building automated equipment the company used in R&D
and production to test turbine engine fuel systems and components, mostly for aircraft but
some big ground power stuff too. Never lost my love, or knack, for picky Heliarc welding,
though, and made it a point to stay in practice.
One of my finest test stand creations is used to calibrate afterburners for the Pratt-Whitney
F-100 powered F-16, and aircraft which has enjoyed a sudden resurgence in popularity since
our then prez George W. decided to do Act II in Iraq and fucked up the world.
It's interesting that an aircraft designed in the early '70s is still doing a good percentage
of the murder in the company of its F-15 predecessor and contemporaries, the F-18 and A-10.
At the same time, over-complicated and breathtakingly costly F-22's, B-2's, and F-35's just
sit on the ground and/or the drawing board, performing what I suspect is their real and only
design function; sucking money from the struggling middle class taxpayer's pockets and
transfering it to those of the wealthy upper management of the defense corporations. Each of
latter three aircraft share records of enormous cost overruns, stunning lack of reliability, and none
fielded in any serious numbers in any place where we are picking fights that our razzle
dazzle technology has proven unable to win, anywhere in the world. And whatever happened to
that rediculous joke of an aircraft, the F-117?
The division I worked at was developing F-35 afterburners, which in themselves were clearly
designed to be tax payer money burners because effectively overhauling that design will be a
real challenge. And overhaul it you would most certainly need to do. It is one big resonating
gob of multiple welded and brazed subassemblies that act like tuning forks, each at different
engine operating regimes, gauranteeing indemic stress failures which will be extremely difficult
- read, expensive - to repair due to the sheer number of braze joints. Watching one of these
jokes in a vibration test was fascinating, as all the different elements came to life in their
turn during a frequency sweep.
Anyhow, I did everything from designing and machining the parts for my machines to writing the
programs, but I would have mostly called myself a programmer working primarily in Microsoft's
Visual Studio development environment and mainly using Visual Basic with some Visual C thrown
in here and there. Also, heavy emphasis on AutoCAD and database programming.
About the best job I could dream of, within the parameters of working for the man, but them's
a depressing set of parameters and I finally decided, with my retirement basically secure (or
as secure as anyone's these days), that it was time to explore a wider range of options. So, at the age of 54, I gave
the boss - a decent dude who shared my interest in travelling on motorcyles and vacuum tube and
vinyl audio - about two years of notice before bailing on him.
Now, after a few trials and tribulations, I'm finally dabbling in my long held interest in
abstract metal sculpture, something I hope to flesh this site out with a bit. I also do some
welding for other local artists and drive what we call Interurban busses part time in the
two towns and surrounding township. The job is a real hoot, particularly in the summer when
we host a non-stop tourist carnival for a couple of months, with me and the other drivers moving
through the middle of it, shooting the shit with visitors and summer people, taking them where
they need to go and getting paid for it. How do you beat that?
I am, by pure chance, an avid motorcyclist. A friend kept trying to sell me a '72 Honda CL350
Scrambler back in the '70s. I kept telling him I had no use for motorcycles, but one day he called
to announce his barn had fallen on my car. He proposed trading the Honda for the flattened Renault.
I suddenly found I had an interest after all. Wound up being better transportation than even an
I rode that poor 350 to hell and back in the woods and dunes. Only a Gold Wing could have handled
worse off road, but I didn't know any better. Just figured I wasn't very good at it. Progressed up
through an '81 XL500, then maniacally rode an '83 CR480 for a decade and a half. What an
incredible machine. Taught the meaning of the phrase 'never say die'. Lent new meaning to the
phrase 'when in doubt, gas it', and revealed a few situations where it wasn't valid with that
much eager horsepower.
Marriage has shortened my annual three or four week tours to one or two weeks. My little rides
are mostly focused on the North West these days. Been hitting Sturgis since '82. I think I've
missed it four times since then. Makes a good starting spot for points west.
I felt nothing but contempt for street bikers during that period, but it occurred me the
street bikes themselves might have some potential in the cheap traveling department. Bought
an '82 GL650 Silver Wing, a truly piss poor motorcycle, then an '84 V65 Sabre. The Sabre, a
natural and wonderful traveler, was the catalyst (with the help of Old Grandad) for many
noteworthy stories. Amazingly, I survived. Mostly intact even. I think I beat some long odds
to do it, though.
Well. That CL350 was well over 300,000 miles of motorcycling ago. I still have the '84 Sabre,
now with over 110K on it and once again my current ride after putting over 150K on an '85 I
bought for a spare in '87. I'd have bought some spare legs, too, if they'd been available.
Odds were in favor of needing them.
I've been nearly everywhere in this country that a motorcycle can take you, including Alaska,
and a number of places most would say they can't. Sabres handle wonderfully in the dirt.
Not something you'd expect from a 600lb muscle bike.
Your host, enjoying a prime spot in the shade at the Sturgis rally.
Unfortunately it's not the Sturgis of old. A bunch of profiling lawyers and yuppies, all looking
bad in their Motor Clothes, have replaced the gangs and wild people. Where people hid their
trailers if they didn't have the balls to ride, now they brag about what they paid for them.
Where there were no cops in sight, gangs of them now roam the streets looking for trouble and,
of course, imagining some if they can't actually find any. Oh well.
A friend who rides Beemers got flagged down one day by a guy who offered him a couple of German
motorcycles for free. The price seemed reasonable to Bill and he came into possession of a basically
complete if somewhat rusty and bird shit encrusted '57 Zundapp KS601, with most of another for
spare parts. I saw. I lusted. I eventually gained ownership.
The bike was so damned cool. Plunger suspension, shaft drive. And the same year as me! Although I
have since determined it was probably a leftover '56 stamped '57 by the dealer. Makes no difference.
I love it. What a metamorphosis. I find that 28 HP suits me just fine for mellow cruising, down
from 122 (while everybody else is going up past 180 horse!). Even hope to ride it to the Antique
Motorcycle Club of America's Blackhawk chapter fall motorcycle meet in Davenport Iowa some day,
just across the river from my home town of Moline Illinois.
I bought my first Dodge Power Wagon in '77, a basket case '68 WM300. It persisted as a basket case
for a number of years. Also in '77, I bought my '65 W200. In '81, the '68 WM300 was elevated to the
status of spare parts by my purchase of the '65 WM300, featured on these pages, which itself is
slowly degrading to spare parts if I don't intercede pretty damned soon.
Somewhere in all of this I bought a '64 D100. The intention was to use the nice body on the '65 W200,
which I am finally getting around to, sort of. It's currently undergoing a slow frame off restoration.
It has always had a 225 leaning tower of power, and still will, albeit line honed and balanced. This
is what happens when you have the machine work done by an old schoolmate who now makes a living
building racing engines. I may even go all out and put one of the old Holley progressive two barrels
on it, but I don't know. I like my one holer Carter quite a bit.
There's a Dana 60 with a Sure-Grip in the rear, from the era when that referred to the clutch type
Dana posi. Got the standard 3000lb 44 in the front. The light duty 44 pinions are a bit marginal in
the strength department, but this one has a
in it, the good old Torsen with the 9.5:1 torque bias ratio. I'll put up with the strength issue
unless I happen to find a 60 with a Torsen, about as likely as winning the lottery. I know of no
differential that does the job so seamlessly and completely. Currently has 4.88's, but I'm going back
to 4.10's. I'm also replacing the New Process 435 with a 540 five speed that has the same U-joint
yokes the W200 came with. A comment on the strength of the W200's drive train considering the tranny
came out of a school bus, which I lived in for awhile. Yet another story.
The 38.5 15 Gumbo Mudders, alas, shall be retired to the basement. Mud is hell on a truck, and it's
nearly impossible to find a good mud hole in Michigan anymore, unless it's got bleachers running
down both sides. Not my style. The truck will instead receive its first set of good radial snowies
(always had bias plys), and I'll pray for genuine Michigan winters once again.
This truck is certainly not unstickable, but if it goes down, it does it on an even keel with all
four rotating together. It will nearly always back out after struggling to a halt going in, and even
if it fails, observers are never left unimpressed. The old W200 ain't so fast, but it's surprisingly
certain. I'll get some pictures of it on the site sometime, when it's past the stage of just
collecting leaves and crap.
Last updated 03-10-16
mechanique at wmol dot com