Category Archives: Automotive

Speed

I drove home yesterday from Howard Lake, MN in seven hours. Google tells me it is 496 miles. The speed limit varied between 55-60 MPH on Highway 12 between Howard Lake and I-94 at Sauk Center, to 75 MPH once I got out of Fargo.

I tend to drive 5 MPH higher than the speed limit if I can. It isn’t so high that a Highway Patrol would care about me, but fast enough that I can make good time. I admit my MPH got up to 90 as I passed some slow coaches here and there, I haven’t had a speeding ticket in 30 years.

I was probably too tired to drive safely once I made it to Bismarck, but my, was I ready to get home. The temperature dropped to 62° as I entered western ND in early afternoon. I understand it is a little warmer in MN!

How many speeding tickets have you had? What is the fastest you have driven? How do you keep cool in heat waves?

Automotive Aeronautics

Saw a news story yesterday about a Tesla flying into a building.  Watch until the end, because the last camera’s viewpoint is fascinating.

Of course, I assumed it was a Tesla that was driving itself.  Imagine sitting back in your Tesla, kind of paying attention and suddenly you are crashing into a building.  Turns out that it was a guy driving; he said he lost control.  Witnesses suggested he had sped up to make a light before the car took wing.  So the story isn’t as fun as a Tesla auto-piloting it’s way into a building – not sure what that says about me.

I’m thinking the driver was incredibly lucky – his entry point into the building was the glass window and door entry way; if he had sailed into some other part of the building at that speed, I wouldn’t be writing this story because the poor guy would likely be pushing up daisies. 

When was the last time you flew anywhere?  Any flights coming up?

Finally – Farming!

This week’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

Well, as I write this, we’ve had one nice sunny day. Finally got some ground worked up. It does dry faster once you open it up, but it’s pretty sticky yet. It is always interesting to me how different soil conditions can be in the same field. I took the ‘First Day of Spring Work’ selfie, packed my tractor snacks, and had my tractor buddy.

I did plant one field of oats; it wasn’t perfect but at least it’s in the ground. Hopefully the weather stays sunny and nice as predicted, and I will finish oats. The co-op called me and we’re coordinating corn fertilizer. Things are moving! Doing some tweaks on the new camera system inside the drill, but I think it’s going to be pretty neat. The photos show the empty tank, and then with seed getting low.

I have one neighbor whose fields are adjacent to mine. Met them along the fence line so we talked for a few minutes. Not any drier on his side of the fence.

 Baby chicks are looking good. They’re about Robin sized. We moved them to a bigger pen and I got them a bigger feeder. All they do is eat and drink.

I found a nest behind a building. It’s a mix of duck eggs and chicken eggs. I’m not quite sure what I’m gonna do about that yet. If I want them to have the best chance at hatching and surviving, I need to collect them all and put them in an incubator. I’ve already got a pen of baby chicks, so I’d have to find another pen for this batch. I can try to let the mama hatch them, and then moving them somewhere safe, but that means keeping an eye on her and the nest and trying to catch them some morning when they’re all on the loose (before the dogs catch them). 

Happy Birthday on the 6th to my wife. Happy Mothers day, too!

Any snacks you need for the road?

Recall!

As vegetarians, YA and I have a kitchen stocked a little differently than most of the folks we know and certainly differently than mainstream America.  So I don’t get too worked up about food recalls because it never affects us.  Until last month when a news story about Skippy Peanut Butter jumped out at me.  The photo on all the articles I saw were of Skippy Reduced Fat and Skippy Super Chunk – Super Chunk is what YA and I have in our cupboard.  We’ve tried lots of peanuts butters over the years, including the much-better-for-us co-op brands, but we always come back to Skippy.  That said, I was a little panicked when I read about metal fragments and that 60,000 jars had been recalled and Minnesota was one of the states.

The only other time I’ve been involved in a recall was about 12 years ago when a part on my Saturn was found to be defective.  That turned out to be quite an ordeal.  I called, took the car in and AFTER they took out the defective part, they realized that the new part they had in stock wasn’t for a car as old as mine.  Well, just put the old part back in until they can get a new part, right?.  Nope – the old part is designed so that once it comes out, it doesn’t go back in.   Then it turned out that since my car was older, they hadn’t actually started the production process for the needed part.  I was in a loaner (a very nice loaner) for close to 12 weeks.  But driving a loaner around didn’t trip any of my anxiety buttons like learning that my daughter and I might have ingested metal fragments along with our peanut butter.

Luckily I quickly discovered that the only Skippy products involved were the Reduced Fat versions and the creamy with plant protein added.  YA and I can’t stand the reduced fat (why bother even eating peanut butter) and I’ve never even SEEN the plant protein version.  (Isn’t a peanut a plant?  Isn’t all peanut butter plant-based protein?)

So I wasn’t in a panic very long but it was enough to get my heart going a bit.

Any good recall stories?

Losing Your Courage

I read in a family history book recently that my paternal great grandmother was described by her sisters late in her life as having “lost her courage”. The book doesn’t go into detail of what her sisters meant, or what losing her courage looked like. This, after raising twelve children to adulthood and operating a large, successful farm after losing her husband years before. She died in the 1930’s after a long life.

I wrote this Tuesday sitting in the waiting area of the hospital where my best friend was having surgery. We drove here early in the morning from a smaller town about 30 miles away. On the drive to the hospital all the warning and hazard lights on my van dashboard came on, the low battery charge came on, the van lights automatically turned off, and the radio wouldn’t work. We barely had enough power to get to the hospital. I got my friend checked in, and the van and I limped to a nearby car dealership. My courage level was about as low as my battery charge. I got a call about an hour later saying it was the alternator, and they would replace it by the end of the day.

I am strangely anxious about any sort of travel these days. COVID and its isolation, the political climate, war, all seem to have sucked all the courage out of me. I am brave at home, but not so much in unfamiliar territory. I realize I have little to really complain about, and I know I will find the courage to solve what are quite minor problems in the grand scheme of things. Why can’t things just go smoothly?!!

Is courage just a decision we make? How is your courage level these days? Any automotive repair stories to share?

Take a number, please

I recently visited the nearby Department of Motor Vehicles office to renew my driver’s license.

My oldest memories of visits to the DMV usually involved walking up to the dispenser on the counter and receiving from it a little piece of paper with a preprinted number on it.

It was a small thing, not more than two inches square, with a perforation to facilitate easy tearing off.

This time, I walked up to a table just outside the door to the office, with an employee seated at it. She had an instruction sheet with a QR code. I stood in line while a guy tried to scan the QR code. It apparently wasn’t working for him, so the woman pointed to the instruction sheet and told him to text this code to that number. He looked at his phone and, although I couldn’t hear precisely what happened, the face he turned toward the employee spoke of disappointment. The woman said, “Okay, I’ll go get you a number.” She went into the office and returned with a Post-It® note that she handed to him.

The next woman in line tried to scan the code, and then said, with an apologetic shrug, “I’m sorry – my battery’s going dead.” The employee responded, “Okay, I’ll go get you a number.” Another trip to the office, and a Post-It® note.

I was next. The instruction sheet with the QR code on it was covered in a somewhat rumpled sheet of plastic, so it was giving my camera a weird reflection, and after i had failed to get a good image for maybe twenty seconds or so, the employee pointed to the next part of the instruction sheet and said, “Text this code to that number.” I texted the code, and then it pinged back an error message that said, “Please provide a ten-digit mobile number or enter a valid code.” I read it to the employee. She said, “Okay, I’ll go get you a number.” Off to the office. Post-It® note.

At this point, I was considering making a comment on the process…maybe saying something like, “You know, I saw a cool thing the other day – it was this little dispenser on a counter, and you walked up to it and it had these numbers on paper, and the paper was perforated, so you’d tear one off. And it was sort of like, you know, a Post-It®, but not sticky.”

I thought, though, that the woman at the table probably doesn’t appreciate smart-alecky customers. So I accepted my Post-It® and said “Thank you.”

Got any smart remarks you’ve wanted to make but haven’t?

Ooops

I like to think of myself as a decent person – not a saint, just a person who likes to do what she thinks is the best thing to do in the moment.

A few years ago Dunkin’ Donuts opened a shop on the corner of 66th & Penn.  This is smack in my stomping grounds – the area that encompasses my hardware store, the library, the post office, the gym, the drugstore, and on the rim of the perimeter, Target.  This means I have way too many excuses to be driving by that intersection; I stop at DD at least once a week, sometimes two.  Did I mention they have a drive-thru?  Once this past winter, I still had my pajamas on when I picked up my two long johns and coffee.

Yesterday morning, just after I had placed my order through the speaker, I looked up to see the driver of the black SUV at the pick-up window drop their box of donuts onto the ground.  The box flipped upside down but didn’t open.  The driver’s door opened and I expected to see someone bend over to pick up the box.  Nope.  The door just stayed open and eventually the Dunkin’ Donuts employee passed out another box.  The black SUV drove off, leaving the box of donuts on the ground.

When I pulled up, I said to the employee “Are those donuts in the box?  Shall I pick it up?”  The employee rushed to say I didn’t need to do that.  But the idea of some employee having to put on a coat, walk out and around to pick up the box that the SUV driver have dropped really bugged me, so I opened my door, picked up the box and handed it through the window.  Two employees thanked me profusely.

As I drove home I had several thoughts.  Why didn’t the SUV driver pick up the box after it was dropped?  Why didn’t they take THOSE donuts?  (I know my donuts – I can’t envision any of the donuts were damaged in that short fall.  Was it really such a big deal that I picked up the box – to have TWO employees thank me?  Why didn’t I KEEP the box myself? 

Who would have thought one quick trip to get two long johns (I had other stops, this wasn’t the only reason I left the house – I swear) could generate so many questions and considerations?

If you were going to get something free today, what would it be?

Bags

This week’s Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

The weather warmed up and I got the car washed. For now.

And now It’s snowing and cold again. Oh well. It’s January in Minnesota.

The ducks and chickens did enjoy the melting snow and grass coming out of the snow; they really like having some dirt to scratch in. Everyone was enjoying the sun.

 The chickens don’t like to walk through too much snow. They’ll do a little, especially if they know there’s some dirt beyond it. Except this white chicken.

She doesn’t seem to care about the snow. Kelly calls her “sturdy and hearty”. Yeah, well, she’s something all right. She’s mean too. She will cut you! Reach under her for an egg and she’ll bite and twist and not let go!  

Daughter and I took all three dogs to the vet this week; they all needed shots. And we got ice cream. Also signed papers for the loans for corn and soybean seed. And on the way home, picked up a ton of ‘egg layer’ ration for the chickens. Thank goodness for pallet forks.

We pour a 50 pound bag of egg layer into a container mounted on the wall, then fill the chickens feeders from there. If I leave the bag on the ground, the chickens will peck a hole in it. And I don’t use enough to warrant getting it in bulk.

It makes me think of how much stuff used to come in bags. I’ll be interested in Clyde’s memories of this.

For my dad, I suppose in the 1940’s there wasn’t so much stuff in bags as they used their own corn for seed and there wasn’t commercial fertilizer or feed supplements. In my childhood, we were always going to pick up feed, seed, fertilizer, and supplements. There were always bags of something around.

I remember a truck coming late winter early spring loaded with several tons of fertilizer bags. I was too small to help or maybe in school, but one day the corner of the shed would be filled with bags of corn starter fertilizer. Seems like those were 60 or even 80 lb bags. My dad was strong! I think he worked a lot harder than I do; just the sheer physical labor of everything back then compared to what I do now. When planting time came, he would load those fertilizer bags into the truck and then dump them into the planter every few acres. Those bags were handled 3 times. Now I get it all delivered in bulk truck, put in the wagon, and unloaded via auger. Pretty easy for me.

The milk cows got protein supplements added to their feed. I used to buy that in bags. Fifty pounds each, and I’d get 500 or 1000 lbs. Sometimes 2000 lbs at once; it just depended on the checkbook I think. Eventually I put up a bulk bin and then I could order a ton or two and another truck with an auger would unload it. I still carried bushel baskets of ground corn to the cows, but it was a bulk truck that delivered the corn and unloaded it into the barn. When we picked our own ear corn, we had to grind it before feeding it to the cows. After I went to shelled corn, the co-op would crack it before delivering.  I remember dad having a “hammer mill” to grind up the corn. The mill sat down by the barn and first he’d have to shovel ear corn from the crib into the truck, then shovel the corn in the hammer mill, which pulverized it via swinging metal bars, called hammers, hence “Hammer mill”. (Let’s not forget, he may have had to pick that corn by hand, throw it in a wagon, and shovel it into the crib in the first place! Read more about hammer mills here: https://tinyurl.com/4tjv8ac4

Eventually he bought a ‘Grinder Mixer’, which was a hammer mill and tank on wheels. We took that to the crib, shoveled the corn ONCE into the grinder, added minerals if needed and it all mixed up and it had an auger that we could unload into the barn. I shoveled a lot of ear corn to grind feed. Had to do that every 10 days or so. The mixer held about 5000 lbs.  And you don’t see them too much anymore. Different ways of feeding cattle that are less labor intensive.

My seed still comes in bags, but for the bigger farmers, some of the seed is starting to come in bulk. Soybeans mostly. Sometimes wheat or other small grains depending how they do it.

Before I bought the pallet forks and had this building, When I got chicken feed or milk cow protein, it was put in an old building called the ‘blue building’ because it used to be blue. It was faded and dull white as I remember it. When we picked up the feed from the coop, it was loaded into the truck from their pallets by hand, then unloaded at home, bag by bag into the blue building.  Then I’d haul them to barn as needed, usually 4 or 5 at a time every week. There was a just a lot more daily chores. And it wasn’t “work”, it was just part of the day. I was talking with daughter about that. I never said I was “going to work”, it was just “going outside” and that might mean milking cows, grinding feed, hauling bags, or who knows what.

Have I mentioned how hard my dad worked? So much has changed, so much has gotten physically easier in farming.

What do you think of milk in bags?

More or less bags in your life these days?

Carwashes

Today’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

It’s January in Minnesota and it’s cold and the duck pond is half frozen over. Plus the car is a mess and it’s too cold to get it washed.

When I was growing up, this wasn’t considered a problem. Other than spraying the car off with a hose once in a while, or letting it sit out in the rain, I hardly ever remember getting the car washed. Kicking off the snow warts was about all that was involved in exterior maintenance of the car. Maybe that was just us. The first car I remember was a Chevrolet; a Bel Air or Impala, or maybe Caprice. They all kinda looked the same, didn’t they? Pea Green. And a Chevy C20 truck that was blue. But I don’t remember either ever being washed or cleaned in any manner. And they weren’t rust buckets.

I got to thinking about carwashes. I remember taking my cars to the hand wash places before prom or something important. Not being really familiar with how they worked, I ran out of time before I had washed all the soap off. I drove out and was drying it outside when the guy who ran the wash, who turned out to be a guy I knew, came over and asked me what I was doing and told me to run it back in again and rinse it off. He paid for that. That was my first car wash lesson.

I have a carwash membership these days. I average about 2 washes per month, which is almost cost effective. I do like the convenience of just being able to go whenever I want. And they’re nice people and I like it when the woman who is the owner is on the wash line because I know I get a better wash when she’s there. I tip the guys too, I think that helps. I don’t get too many washes in January or February. (Another time I sure wish I had a heated garage). And those nice warmer late winter days, there’s 15 cars in line at the wash. Even 5 cars back it takes 20 minutes to get into the wash so I need to plan accordingly and decide if it’s worth it. And it’s just going to get dirty again so I need to justify it in my mind that at least I’m taking the first layer off.

I did some research. The first carwash was created in 1914 in Detroit. Workers pushed the cars through an ‘assembly line’ process and each person had a dedicated job. By 1920 some carwashes had large, shallow, pools to drive around to clean off the tires and undercarriage before moving into a stall for cleaning. The first automated wash came in 1951. 

There have been a lot of innovations and changes. It was interesting to read how brushes were a big deal and if they made to much noise when scrubbing, people didn’t like that. White wall tires were hard to keep clean and several methods were tried including boys in a 4’ deep pit on the sides to scrub those whitewalls with a steam cleaner or brush. Or the method of attaching a log chain to the front bumper to pull that cars through. That worked as long as the driver followed the rules; Sometimes it would pull the bumper off the car. That was fixed by going to ropes instead of chains so at least the rope would break before it pulled the bumper off.

And the carwash people used to get in the car themselves, which some people didn’t like, or maybe the drivers didn’t like the claustrophobia caused by a tunnel, so the washes got taller and wider and windows got added.

Some washes can handle 250,000 – 300,000 cars annually. Or more. *

Considering how much a car costs now, it’s worth keeping clean. Plus, it just feels better to drive a clean car. In fact, that was a jingle from a local carwash place 30 years ago. “You’ll feel better driving a clean car!” Mermaid Carwash hired a lot of high school kids. He paid a bonus if you kept your grades up. I knew a few kids that worked for him and it sounds like he was a good boss. Eventually he was bought out by a chain.

It will warm up here soon then I’ll get the car washed. The truck too.

Ever been part of a carwash event?  Tell us about your carwashes.

The Water Tower

I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for forty years.  Not that this had made me an expert, but every now and then I feel a little sheepish about what I don’t know.

On Christmas Day YA and I drove to Hudson to have dinner with friends.  These friends just moved to Hudson in June, so this was the first time we would visit them in their new home.  I let YA put the address into my phone’s GPS.  YA has been on a campaign to change my GPS of choice from Google Maps to some other direction-finder.  She is convinced that my difficulties with Google will be solved with this new app (I am constantly confused when Google changes the perspective while I’m driving; oftentimes I think I have more time before a turn and then suddenly Google zooms in and I’m either missing the turn or swerving quickly to make it.)

The fact of using GPS is a little frustrating to me.  As a teenager, driving all over the suburbs of St. Louis, I don’t ever remember getting lost or turned around; I certainly didn’t have a city map that I consulted.  I’ve thought about this a lot over the years as I’m pretty sure my penchant for getting turned around is getting worse as time goes by.   And what I’ve come to is that GPS is what’s making it worse.  Prior to the internet and GPS, if you went to a friend’s new house, you’d call them up and ask for directions.  You’d usually get a mix of “go two miles, then turn left at the Shell station, then go four blocks and turn left on Discovery Street, we’re the fifth house in on the left, white with green trim.”  This seems highly sensible to me.  Now I just turn when I’m told; I’m not keeping track of how many miles or blocks I’m going and not paying attention to what’s on the corner when I’m turning. 

Anyway, the new app that YA likes shows where there are traffic signals along the way.  It also shows some landmarks (although not helpful in terms of where to turn).  As we were driving over the 94 bridge toward St. Paul, I noticed the GPS noting “The Witches Hat Water Tower”.  I looked up and there it was – as clear as day over the trees – and definitely living up to its name.  The water tower, which sits in Prospect Park, was built in 1913, designed by Norwegian-born architect Frederick William Cappelen. 

I used to work in St. Paul so I used to drive over the 94 bridge 10 times a week, not to mention all the other times I’ve driven that direction over the decades.  I have not once noticed that there is a water tower that looks like a witch’s hat.  Not once.   I’m thinking that maybe I should keep using the app that YA prefers – who knows what else I’ll find!

Once you’ve driven someplace, do you remember how to get there the next time?