Monday, March 30, 2015

Legacy/digital tipping

I keep wondering why I get University of Rochester’s “Legacy” magazine, the intent of which seems to get me to bequeath a HUGE legacy to U. of R.
I didn’t attend U. of R., nor did my wife. The only U. of R. graduate in my family is my wife’s brother, who received his degree in 1964, and pretty much left U. of R. behind.
The only reason I think I get the magazine is my wife got treated at Wilmot (“will-MOTT”) Cancer Center, which is affiliated with U. of R. Medicine.
U. of R. Medicine is now the largest employer in Rochester, now that Yellow-Father (Kodak) is pretty much gone. U. of R. Medicine includes Strong Hospital, and Wilmot Cancer Center is part of that.
I also give money to Wilmot’s Palliative Care Center, who treated my wife her final days.
I usually give them $100, but they suggest $50,000.
Are they kidding?
I didn’t get to where I could crunch $50,000 by just giving will-nilly.
To me $50,000 is a chopped ’32 Ford three-window coupe with a Chevy V8.
Last night a report was on the national TV news about digital tipping, where apparently a calculator figures and adds your tip at checkout.
You punch in the percentage, 20%, 30%, or even 50%.
50% my foot!
They ain’t gettin’ no 50%!
I know restaurant waitresses (excuse me: “servers”) rely on tipping. Their wages are peanuts.
Where is the Big Man when you need him? (Be careful with this link. F-bombs galore.)
What do they think I am? A bottomless pit?
A while ago I was tipping 15%, but my wife badgered me up to 20%. Now they suggest 30%. 50% is outrageous.
Why don’t employers pay their help more and increase their prices to cover the added expense?
No, we gotta practice this charade of low prices and add a tip.

• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Homage to the SmallBlock

The original 265 ’55 Chevy SmallBlock.

“I am 14 years old; it’s 1958.
I pedal my ancient junky balloon-tire bicycle up to the Fairfax Shopping-Center parking-lot.
I see three Corvettes parked silently in front of the bowling-alley.
I go toward the Corvettes; two ‘57s and a ’56.
One ’57 is fuel-injection. Both ‘57s are black, the ’56 is powder-blue with a silver insert. The ‘57s also have silver inserts.
All-of-a-sudden four dudes burst from the bowling-alley and jump into the Corvettes.
I immediately pedaled my bicycle up to the parking-lot exit out onto the main highway, U.S. Route 202, a concrete four-lane.
I knew I was about to witness AN EVENT!
Sure enough, the three ‘Vettes roared onto the highway, then PEDAL-TO-THE-METAL!
Spinning rear-tires and the engines wound as high as they would go.
At least 6,000 rpm, maybe 8.
Clouds of tire-smoke.
I WILL NEVER FORGET IT! That’s goin’ to my grave.”
Chevrolet introduced a V8 engine of 265 cubic-inches displacement in the 1955 model-year.
It’s still being made, although considerably re-engineered since then; which makes it 60 years old.
The bore-centers are still the same as 1955, 4.4 inches apart.
It didn’t get named “the SmallBlock” until 1965, when Chevrolet introduced a larger engine called “the Big-Block.”
It had another nickname. The Big-Block was also called “the Rat-Motor,” because it could be so powerful. The smaller V8 was therefore called “the Mouse-Motor.”
A car-guy with whom I attended college, e-mailed me a Yahoo link of a story venerating the 60-year anniversary of the SmallBlock.
My response was what I posted above.
To me the SmallBlock was the greatest engineering achievement of post-war America.
Chevrolet had built a V8 in 1917, but since then was known for building drudges. Reliable transportation that could be called upon to cart Granny pillar-to-post, plus be cheap.
Such cars could hardly attract the youth-market. Chevy needed a V8.
The Yahoo story made the mistake of saying Chevrolet’s V8 was needed to make the Corvette attractive.
The ‘Vette certainly benefitted from the SmallBlock, but the SmallBlock was designed for regular Chevrolet cars.
The ’55 Chevy was a complete redesign. A break from past turkeys.
And you could get it with a V8, which made it attractive to the youth-market.
An earlier post-war Chevrolet V8 design was more a drudge-motor. It used rocker-shafts, just like most V8s at that time.
A simpler and cheaper design was wanted, which Pontiac had with its ball-stud rockers. Instead of a heavy head-length shaft on which to mount the valve-rockers, which needed machining, ball-studs, pressed into the cylinder-heads, were used to mount the rockers. Thus the heavy rocker-shaft had been tossed.
The rockers themselves were a simple pressing, machined for the ball.
And oiling everything was done by making the valve-pushrods tubes through which to pump oil; this dispensed with drilling an oil-gallery.
Ball-stud rockers were lighter and cheaper to manufacture.
Ed Cole.
Ed Cole had been brought over from Cadillac to shepherd the new ’55 Chevrolets. He pressured his engineers to design a better V8 in record time. —Clearly they were inspired; what they were doing was fun.
It could be said the Chevy SmallBlock is what put Old Henry’s FlatHead V8 of 1932 out to pasture. The FlatHead had been the foundation of the hotrod movement.
But the Chevy SmallBlock could be so much more powerful, hot-rodders were pulling out their FlatHeads and replacing with the SmallBlock. Plus there were plenty around, and they were cheap.
The FlatHead had a flat cylinder-head casting, much like a lawnmower. The SmallBlock was overhead-valve.
And with its light-weight valve-gear, it could be wound to-the-moon. As attractive as a high-winding Ferrari or Alfa-Romeo. In fact, some Italian exotic-car makers were putting the SmallBlock in their cars.
The car of my dreams. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

The Wagon (’57 Bel Aire). (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I’ve never owned a SmallBlock, much as I venerated ‘em.
All through high-school and college I dreamed of owning a ’55 Chevy SmallBlock with four-on-the-floor, like the one pictured.
My parents got a ’57 wagon with a 283 SmallBlock. It was so much more pleasant to drive than our ’53 Chevy.
It would get up and go; 283 four-barrel with dual-exhausts and PowerGlide.
If anything, it was a little scary.
I used to take off the air-cleaner and wind it out in the PowerGlide’s lo gear.
I got 80 mph on the impromptu quarter-mile on Shipley Road. —That quarter-mile is long-gone. Suburbia grew up around it; it was open fields when I was in high-school.
I thought the world of that SmallBlock. I had the number “283” on the wall of my room at my college rooming-house.
Chevy had the makings of a great pony-car with that motor and four-speed, but Ford beat them to it with the Mustang.
And Ford was doing it with a motor patterned after that SmallBlock.
In fact, every Detroit V8 came to use engineering concepts pioneered by the SmallBlock, like ball-stud rockers with stamped rockers.
This included motors much larger than the SmallBlock.
And ball-stud rockers allowed splaying the valves for improved breathing, a concept introduced with Chevrolet’s Big-Block.
The SmallBlock had to be redesigned to meet economy and emission requirements.
What Chevrolet didn’t do was convert it to double overhead-camshaft four valves per cylinder.
But it can still be quite strong.
I remember SmallBlocks converted to race motors; 302 cubic-inches or so, 400+ horsepower. Now the NASCAR SmallBlock gets over 700 horsepower from 358 cubic-inches.
The ’57 Rochester fuel-injection.

A ’63 fuel-injection.
As first introduced in 1957, fuel-injection was aimed at getting maximum performance from the SmallBlock; which it did: 283 horsepower from 283 cubic-inches, one horsepower per cubic-inch; a landmark.
Fuel-injection was more even than carburetion. With carburetion the end cylinders might get a weaker fuel-charge than the middle cylinders under the carb.
Fuel-injection reversed that, supposedly by delivering equal fuel-charges to each cylinder.
Fuel-injection could more easily meet emission requirements, for which reason it was re-introduced. Carburetors are sloppy.
Today’s fuel-injection is far more advanced than 1957, or even 1964, the last Corvette with Rochester fuel-injection. Now it’s computer-controlled to more precisely meet emission requirements. Every car on the market is fuel-injected. Carburetion is gone.
So it’s hard to think of the modern SmallBlock as the same motor introduced for 1955.
But it’s the same bore-center; 4.4 inches between bores.
Go back far enough and the SmallBlock was state-of-the-art. Until about 1980 the SmallBlock was the preferred performance engine.
Even now the most desirable engine in a hotrod is the SmallBlock Chevy.
The fact it’s still being made, although that’s debatable, says General Motors rested too much on its laurels.
But it also attests to how revolutionary the SmallBlock was. For decades the SmallBlock was the pinnacle of performance.
350 SmallBlock crate-motor.
Detroit has taken to manufacturing crate-motors, complete engines for installation in anything, like hotrods or custom-cars.
The SmallBlock is the most popular crate-motor.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bach’s birthday

Johann Sebastian Bach.

Yesterday (Saturday, March 21st, 2015) was Johann Sebastian Bach’s 330th birthday.
March 21st, 1685.
I don’t know what to say, since I blogged Bach’s birthday before.
I know as a classical-music junkie, I’m supposed to venerate the three “Bs,” Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
Bach is a slam-dunk.
Brahms ain’t bad, although about the only composition of his I can identify is “Academic Festival Overture.”
To me, Brahms is comparable to Saint-Saëns, Ravel, or Claude Debussy.
Beethoven is more important, the best of his genre, which includes Tšaikovski and Rimsky-Korsakov.
I know quite a few of Beethoven’s compositions, like his symphonies and piano sonatas.
Bach I can listen to all day. Most of his compositions are extraordinary, especially the Brandenburg Concertos, “Sheep May Safely Graze,” “Air on a G-string,” and “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
I always like that filigree he puts on top of the melody-line, or sometimes underneath.
But anything of his is worth listening to. There is stuff by both Beethoven and Brahms I consider forgettable, but not Bach.
Perhaps my greatest joy in attending Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”) was discovering they were into Bach.
So began my feeding-frenzy, gobbling every Bach composition I heard.
If anything, their penchant for Bach made me a Bach-geek.
They went overboard about it.
Every four years they’d do a Bach-festival; mine was my senior year.
I was recruited to do a Bach poster, so I did one of Bach winking.
The powers-that-be were extremely incensed. It was as if I had pilloried one sitting at the right-hand of Jesus.
They didn’t understand — I thought the world of Bach.
Of course they misunderstood; I was a ne’er-do-well and of-the-Devil.
Pointing out my appreciation of Bach made no difference.
“That Hughes, he’s always mocking.”
they made me a Bach-geek, and I wasn’t mocking.
Almost 50 years have passed since that contretemps, and I’m still a Bach-geek.
The last rock album I bought was by Def Leppard in the ‘80s.
I still have my Bach albums.
Def Leppard I gave away.

• “Houghton College” in western New York, is from where I graduated with a BA in 1966. I’ve never regretted it, although I graduated a ne’er-do-well, without their blessing. Houghton is an evangelical liberal-arts college.
• “Hughes” is me; Bob Hughes, “BobbaLew.”


Thursday, March 19, 2015


I guess you could call me a bike-geek.
I still have three. Two are mine, plus I have one my deceased wife used long ago.
All are “10-speeds,” although my wife’s and my earlier bike are heavily modified, three sprockets up front, six in back, 18 possible speeds.
My most recent bicycle has 12 speeds; two sprockets up front, and six in back.
I’m not a bike-racer. It’s the simple enjoyment of the freedom of riding.
The J.C. Higgins.
My first bicycle was a 20-inch J.C. Higgins purchased brand-new from Sears where my father worked a second job. Probably the only thing brand-new my father ever purchased for me.
He taught me to ride it. He’d run along behind and hold the seat.
I promptly rode it head-on into a maroon ’47 Ford sedan. They never saw me, and my mother noisily insisted I never saw them.
She collared the mayor of our town, who lived nearby, and they started cutting the grass on the vacant lot across from our house.
I survived, of course, but I dented the front-fender of that Ford with my head.
I was taken to the hospital by the only doctor my mother could raise, a Catholic for crying out loud. My mother was evangelical Christian, as was my father. —Both dead set against “Cat-lickers.”
But I did see the oncoming Ford. What I was trying to do was avoid a skid on sandy pavement. —But my mother was always right.
They X-rayed me at the hospital, and released me right away. No broken bones, and I didn’t even need stitches.
My J.C. Higgins was a mess. Both the front wheel and front fork were destroyed.
But my father got it repaired like new — AMAZING!
I was then restricted to riding sidewalks, mainly around the block.
I did this counter-clockwise, because that way included a long downhill. I’d ride my bike as fast as I could — dreams of the Indy 500.
I mounted a rocket on the handlebars, and called my bike “The Red-Rocket,” because it was red.
But I quickly outgrew the J.C. Higgins, even though I started with blocks on the pedals.
My father decided to recondition his old balloon-tired Columbia 26-incher. He had a shop do it in nearby Camden (NJ), and had it painted red.
It was pretty to look at, but rode awful. The bearings were rusty, like pedals and wheels.
It was so hard to ride my father decided I needed a better bike.
So we went back to that same shop, and purchased a recently reconditioned 26-incher. It was navy-blue, and also pretty.
But it liked to derail its chain. I’d ride a while, and suddenly ZOOP! The chain had derailed off the front sprocket.
I probably rode this bike at least three years, and the derailment problem was the final year.
I remember the chain derailed as I quickly rode away in fear from a girl I lusted-after chasing me on her bike.
My father decided to try again. We went back to that same bicycle-shop, and purchased a bike that hadn’t been reconditioned yet.
It was an insanely heavy RollFast spray-painted flat black. It had front-suspension, a heavy rear rack that would support a rhinoceros, and a tank with a non-working horn. A non-working headlight adorned its front-fender.
Kids in our town had bikes like this, heavy with lights, mud-flaps, and gizmos. One had a radio in its tank.
But they weren’t crudely painted flat-black with spray cans.
And front-suspensions were usually chrome. Mine was spray-painted aluminum.
That RollFast was junk when we got it, and both tires went flat about three miles from home.
I went to a gas-station and blew both tires. Their air-supply was direct to their 100 pound-per-square-inch air-compressor.
It not only blew both tubes, it shredded both tires, ancient whitewalls.
I had to walk my bike three miles back home, tires flapping.
I had to save for months from my allowance — my father refused to spill for new tires. “Let this be a lesson to ya!” he said.
Our family then moved to northern Delaware, and that was the bike I took.
The RollFast. (On my way to the Pennsy main.) (Photo probably by my sister.)
I stripped it to lighten it, and reversed the handlebars. I also got a speedometer for it, so I could see how fast I was going down Beaver Valley Road hill. 50 mph!
This was the bike I rode all through high-school, and used to ride down to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s New York City/Washington DC electrified line. —Where I saw and photographed GG-1 passenger express-trains. As I’ve said many times, the GG-1 is the greatest railroad locomotive ever built. I’m a railfan, and have been since age-2.
My front-axle broke, and my father had a friend where he worked fashion another by threading a rod. We couldn’t purchase a front-axle long enough. The front-suspension used a longer front axle.
I took that bike to college, but not my first year. Prior to my sophomore year I repainted the bike yellow with red hazing.
I also constructed a heavy plywood box I put on back in place of the rack.
I rode it some, then loaned it to a guy in the class ahead of me. He tried to destroy my bike, I guess getting even with me for rebelling against his class dominance. I saw him riding it, and he was doing wheelstands, slamming its front-end into the pavement.
He did successfully destroy it; broke the frame or something.
I had to take it apart and bury it in woods next to campus.
I decided to try to assemble another bike before my junior year. At that time, and earlier, there were two types of bikes: American heavyweight, and “English.”
An English bike was much lighter and had a three-speed Sturmey-Archer rear hub.
There were only two sprockets, front and rear, but the rear hub was three speeds activated by a pull-chain and cable to a tiny handlebar-mounted thumb-lever.
“Free-wheeling Hughes” on the English.
I decided to buy and recondition an “English.” I found one, and repainted it the same as my RollFast: yellow with red hazing.
I got it assembled and took it to college, where it became my freedom-machine. When I tired of studying, I’d blast south of town as fast as I could, to ride the circuit. About 15 miles over rural back roads.
They were flat and fast. I’d cross the Genesee River (“jen-uh-SEE”)
and go north along the east bank of the river. I’d blast north to Fillmore, then turn south down Route 19 back to campus.
I took that bicycle everywhere, to class and daily chapel. I’d chain-lock it to wrought-iron stair-railing, or anything else stationary and substantial.
I parked it in the shower-room of my boarding-house, although once I found it outside hanging on a gutter.
People wanted to steal my bike, which was why I chain-locked it.
But one afternoon I rode a 10-speed Schwinn. I decided a 10-speed was in my future. Lightness combined with gearing for hills.
After I got married, and moved into an apartment in Rochester (NY), I went to nearby George Rennie Bike Shop, and purchased a new 10-speed Frejus “Tour de France,” $135 (a fortune back then). It was light and had sew-up tires glued to tubular wheel-rims.
The Frejus four floors up in our first apartment. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Those sew-up tires were poorly suited for commuting on Rochester’s streets. Glass chips and sharp stones were always blowing the tires, and sew-ups were very hard to repair.
So began my effort to make my Frejus more capable of commuting. I had clincher-rims installed, which would allow much more substantial tires, less likely to puncture and easier to repair.
With clincher-rims the tire in cross-section is shaped like a horseshoe, and expanded clasps the wheel-rim. With sew-ups the tire fully encases the tube and is sewn together. That tire is then glued to the wheel-rim, which is also fully enclosed (tubular). If you blew a tire you had to unglue it from the rim, then take apart the tire by undoing the sewing to get at the inner-tube.
About all you could do was replace the entire tire, and then you had to reglue it to the rim — very messy!
Rennie gave lessons in bike-repair and wheel-lacing; that is, lacing the spokes of a wheel to mount wheel-rims to a wheel-hub.
I did same, and constructed my own wheels with a six-sprocket hub and heavy-duty clincher rims.
I then took on the front sprocket, and converted it to three from two.
But in so doing I was getting away from the Campagnolo parts used by Frejus (“Kamp-en-YELL-oh”). “Campy” parts, made in Italy, were supposed to be the best.
I was also making my bike heavier, although it was still pretty fast on the flat.
Then one day someone opened the right door of their car as I passed on the right.
I crashed into the door, and continued over the bike handlebars. The car was a hardtop, and the window was down.
The crash bent the front-fork beyond repair, but also bent the frame. I installed a new front-fork, but the bike rode slightly cockeyed.
Not bad, but cockeyed. A Tour-de-France had a lot of rake in its front-end, so liked to go straight. Even though the frame was slightly bent, the bike was still pretty stable.
I rode that Frejus a lot. I commuted to work with while I worked at the bank. (This didn’t go over too well; no self-respecting Kiwanian would ride bicycle to work.)
After the bank, I rode it across Rochester to buy supplies for my photo darkroom.
We bought a bicycle for my wife at Rennie, a Raleigh 10-speed. But it was heavy; more a town-bike than a road-bike.
We looked for another, and bought a used Peugeot PX-10 (“poo-zhoh;” as in “oh”) more like my Frejus.
I modified it quite a bit, also making it 18-speed, and installed a new front-fork that supposedly gave it more rake. But I had it wrong: rake is determined by the angle of the front fork-tube, which on my Frejus was quite raked, but the PX-10’s fork-tube was nearly vertical. Rake was not determined by the trail of the front-fork.
It was whippy when we got it, but my different fork made it whippier.
Whippy or not, my wife preferred it.
We rode quite a bit, even did about 90 miles in one day. It included a long steep hill we had to walk.
We began riding with the Rochester Bicycling Club, weekend rides of about 30-40 miles.
It became apparent that not only was I not in prime shape, my Frejus was heavy. It weighed 26 pounds, most of which was my modifications.
A better bike might weigh 10-15 pounds less, which affects your climbing hills.
By now my Frejus was 20 years old, so I began looking to replace it.
I considered aluminum-frame bikes. Rennie had died and his shop was out-of-business, so I tried a Cannondale from a nearby bike-shop. But it was so stiff that signified “heavy” to me, but it wasn’t.
I also found an aluminum-frame “Specialized” racer from a bankrupt bike-shop that I could have had for peanuts. The shop’s owner was dismayed I was offered the bike for less than cost, but his attorney told him to shaddup.
I should have bought it, or the Cannondale, but Cannondale at that time was only available as a complete bike, as was that Specialized.
I wanted just a frame, to which I would add Campy or Shimano parts. Shimano is Japanese, and now to me they seem better than Campy.
I shopped around, and decided to get a DeRosa frame. They cost a fortune, but are steel. For the way I ride, I probably would have been better off with a Cannondale aluminum frame. They’re not as compliant as a steel frame, but I’m not riding 100 miles.
I’ve ridden the DeRosa and it’s too springy. The bottom-bracket, which holds the pedal-crank, flexes on downstroke. The front sprockets don’t remain vertical when I pedal hard.
A DeRosa frame may cost a fortune, but may not be worth it. Cannondale’s aluminum frame might hold the bottom-bracket right.
I had to dicker a lot with the DeRosa’s front derailleur to compensate for side-play. The sprockets would hit the derailleur on downstroke.
But the seat was perfect, the handlebars too.
Plus it fit; it was sized right for me — my Frejus was always a little long.
And tire-design had advanced. The bike has clincher tires on clincher rims, but all are extremely light.
I started running to get in shape, including foot-racing. So bicycling became back-burner.
Beyond that we got a dog — I now am on dog number-six — and I can’t take my dog along when I ride.
Years ago I rode with dog, flatout, as fast as I could go, maybe 30 mph. The silly dog would run out ahead of me through yards; come-and-gone in a second.
The dog loved it, BOOMBITY-ZOOM, but she got hit by a car and was nearly killed.
So now everything sits downstairs in my basement. The Frejus has become a bicycle-trainer on a rack, devoid of its front-wheel, my wife’s PX-10 is moribund with my wife gone. And my DeRosa hangs on a maintenance-rack, tires flat.

• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• Bikes seemed to run in three sizes: 20-inch wheel-rims were for small children, 24-inch for bigger children, 26-inch were for adults.
• We were living in south Jersey when I began riding bicycle. Our family moved to northern Delaware when I was 13.
• My college was “Houghton College“ in western New York, from where I graduated with a BA in 1966. I’ve never regretted it, although I graduated a Ne’er-do-Well, without their blessing. Houghton is an evangelical liberal-arts college.
• The “Genesee River” is a fairly large river that runs south-to-north across Western New York, runs through Rochester, including over falls, and empties into Lake Ontario. Houghton College was in the Genesee valley, not far from the river.
• “Frejus” (“free-jis”) is a high-dollar Italian bike-maker.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

No more

The other night (Sunday, March15th, 2015) I got one of those phonecalls I wish I hadn’t answered.
It was to my cellphone. I don’t even answer my landline any more. It’s usually someone wanting money, a telemarketer or a bleeding-heart charity.
My landline doesn’t have caller-ID; in fact its ID function is turned off. It does have voicemail, so I figure if the call is important they can leave a message.
My cellphone does have caller-ID, and if I get a call from someone in my contact-list, it names the caller.
Sometimes I get a call from someone not in my contact-list, so I don’t get a name, but I get a phone-number if they have caller-ID.
What I’ve been doing is answering anything from my local area-code, 585, because it’s usually someone I know.
No more. 585 or not they can leave a message.
Not after this strange call, which was from 585.
After struggling through various hellos — it sounded like my nephew in northern DE — ”This is a courtesy-call,” the dude said.
“From who?” I should have asked.
“We’re suspicious of your data-usage. It’s out-of-site.”
“Funny,” I said. “I haven’t used any data all day.”
“You’ve exceeded your minimum data-usage by $260.
You gotta watch your data-usage.
I’m gonna go ahead and charge this to your account.”
“Whaaaa?” I said. He was talking so fast I couldn’t understand him.
“Too late, it’s already processing,” he snapped.
“Whatever,” I said, and hung up.
You gotta do better, dude. I’ve already had my credit-card bank call three times to report unauthorized charges to my account.
They were much more professional.
I’ll bet this month’s cellphone bill looks no different than last month’s. If it has a $260 data-charge I’ll call my provider.
Once they called to report I’d exceeded my minutes allowance. That was when my deceased wife was in the hospital, and we didn’t know any better.

• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer almost three years ago. I miss her dearly.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Red arrow points at new running-boards. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Last December, while driving down to south Jersey to visit cousins and my 84-year-old aunt (their mother), I noticed a recent Ford Escape in a rest-stop parking-lot along the Pennsylvania-Turnpike Northeast-Extension.
It had running-boards, and they looked pretty good, as if the Escape had originally been styled with running-boards.
They masked or replaced the original rocker-panels, which I don’t like with their sculptured embossings.
They look like a factory part. I was tempted but didn’t ask.
So recently I asked the parts-guy at my Ford dealer if Ford made running-boards for the Escape.
They did, and they looked like what I had seen.
461 buckaroos. That’s a fairly sizable investment in a car I really like.
“Oh, so you can more easily step into your car?” a friend asked.
“No,” I said. “Because I think the original rockers look stupid.”
$64.50 to install ‘em. I had the Ford-dealer do it.
I’ve done things like this to previous cars. No bug-screens, tinted windows, wings, or side-window rain-visors.
Above all, no flames, and no chain-link license-plate holders.

• “FORD” stands for a number of things: -1) is “Fix-or-Repair-Daily, -2) “Found-on-Road-Dead,” and there’s a third which I won’t divulge in the interest of good taste and decorum.
• My car is a 2012 Ford Escape.
• A railfan friend of mine wants to repaint his silver Ford Econoline van with Santa Fe’s warbonnet paint-scheme =

Warbonnet Santa Fe passenger diesel.
Don’t know as he’ll actually do it — mostly just talk.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Free-wheeling Hughes

“Free-wheeling Hughes.” (That’s their caption.)

Last night I went through my old college yearbooks looking for the “Free-wheeling Hughes” picture posted above.
I’m doing a blog on bicycles I have owned, and it depicts one of those bicycles.
I found myself thinking “My, how my life has changed since then.”
The picture is 50 years old; it’s in my 1965 college yearbook.
My college class graduated in 1966; our 50th reunion comes next year.
I’ve never regretted attending Houghton (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”), an evangelical Christian college.
That’s despite my being a ne’er-do-well who graduated without their approval, who almost got kicked out three times.
Houghton is the first place I found adult authority-figures who valued my opinions. Prior to Houghton I was told I was despicable and of-the-Devil.
I found myself wondering who of my classmates died.
I know of at least three:
-1) is Jim Francis, who I think was killed long ago in a car-accident.
-2) is Sharon Heritage, long-time wife of Johnny Angell, also in my class. Sharon died recently.
-3) is my wife of 44+ years, previously Linda Button, who died in 2012 of cancer. She also was a graduate of the Class of ’66.
I was in my Woody Allen phase at the time of this picture, which explains the glasses.
I left that behind long ago. I no longer wear glasses.
And of course a lot has happened since that picture. I was 21 in that picture; now I’m 71.
That hair is now silver, and I now have a beard — also silver.
For seven years I was unemployed, although I was trying to establish myself as a freelancer, first as a photographer, then as a word-slinger (writer).
I had been so screwed-up by my childhood I needed time to make sense of myself.
Then in 1977, 11 years after graduating, I went with bus-driving, a supposedly temporary job that lasted 16&1/2 years.
Bus-driving ended with my stroke, but I recovered well enough to begin employ with the Daily Messenger newspaper in nearby Canandaigua, the best job I ever had, mainly because they encouraged my being a word-geek.
I might still be there, but I began having dizzy-spells, a side-effect of the blood-pressure medication I was taking at that time.
So I retired from the Messenger, but early enough to beat when it changed owners, and I would have been laid off.
A lot of water has gone over the dam since that picture. I count 11 cars; and my taste in cars fell back from wanting a Ferrari to just wanting my car to start, and not need maintenance to run.
I got my motorcycle-license maybe 30 years ago, and have owned six motorcycles. I even got back to riding motorcycle after my stroke.
We also got a dog, and now I am on dog number-six. All have been Irish-Setters, and three died of cancer. The one I still have is almost 11, and still very spry.
I look at this ancient picture, and do I see all that coming?
Especially 44+ years of marriage to a the best friend I ever had.

• “Hughes” is of course me, Bob Hughes, “BobbaLew.”
• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs. My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.