Wednesday, November 30, 2011

3 Months, 19 Days, 1 Hour & 14 Minutes

With December beginning at midnight tonight, I figured it would a good time to launch the official “John's Old Truck Countdown to Spring 2012.” Each weekly post between now and then will begin with the number of days left until the cover comes off the truck. Of course this is New England, which means March 20th, 2012 could be a sunny 65 degree day, or could see us buried under a foot of snow. Hopefully Mother Nature will smile on us, especially given the brutal weather year we've had in 2011, and we won't have to delay the unveiling.

So how brutal was the weather here this year? Well, we kicked it off in grand style in January with more snow than I can ever remember seeing in any full winter in my lifetime, most of which came in less than a single month. I seriously thought it would be July before the last of it melted away. Thankfully, that prediction didn't come to pass.

In early June, what was later confirmed to be a tornado came right between our house and our next door neighbors, taking down the 30 foot tree at the edge of our yard and two 50-plus foot trees directly across the street, roots and all, like they were match sticks. The path of destruction was very easy to see as we looked back through the woods toward the houses behind us, then on across the street, with all the downed trees falling in the same direction. The root ball of one of the larger trees directly across from us was taller than the ranch house it just missed when it fell. Yet again, in the space of a few short months, it was one of the craziest weather events I have ever witnessed.

As I recall, it wasn't a horrible day. Maybe a little cloudy. Then seemingly out of nowhere it got very dark and windy very fast. I remember thinking “Could this be a… Nah, tornadoes don't happen here.” Meg's daughter Catherine and I, who were the only ones home, really should have been in the basement at this point. But all either of us could do was look outside and wonder what the heck was happening. As I was looking out the door at the driveway side of the house, hoping the truck would not be hit, I heard that 30 foot tree on the other side coming down. A little scary to think about, actually. In the end we were extremely lucky. No damage to the house or any of our vehicles, and Meg made it home safely (after navigating a maze of detours) with our friend Lynne, from a couple of towns away where they were giving an estimate for their summer gardening business. Our power was out for about three and a half days, but that was minor compared to the damage suffered by many other people in our area.

Then came Hurricane Irene at the end of August. It might have officially only been a tropical storm when it hit us, but that was little consolation to all those on the Connecticut coast who took the full force of the storm, suffering unbelievable damage. Most of the state was left without power. We were out for a little less than two days, but again very lucky compared to many who were out for a week or more.

Finally (hopefully – we still have to go through December), two days before Halloween, a freak snow storm blew in and buried us under nearly a foot of very wet, heavy snow. Some areas north of us got more. And with many leaves having not yet fallen, that meant a LOT more trees coming down and yet another extended power outage for much of the state, with most school systems shutting down for a full week. At one point I joked to Meg, who's a school teacher, that I hoped she was enjoying her April vacation. Somehow she was able to refrain from throwing anything at me.

Unprecedented January snow, a June tornado, an August hurricane and a Halloween Nor' Easter. I guess the locusts missed the memo or we probably would have seen them too. Rough year for sure. But we made it through, thankful for our good fortune and hoping for the best for all those who were hit far worse. Here's to Mother Nature giving us all a big break in 2012!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rest in Peace, Mr. George

George Russell was one of the good ones. In addition to being a friend and neighbor for many years, he was a licensed plumber who came to our rescue more times than I can count. Whether it was no heat upstairs, a malfunctioning toilet downstairs or some other plumbing related problem, he never failed to come up with the fix we needed, and always showed up with a big smile and a genuine "Hey how ya doin'?" And kind soul that he was, he always refused to charge us for labor.

I'm not sure how calling him "Mr. George" got started, but I'm thinking it was probably when Meg's girls were little, before I came on the scene here in New Milford.

The last time he stopped by was maybe six weeks ago. For the umpteenth time he fixed our minor issue and we chatted for a few minutes. As he was leaving he said "Hey, how's this old truck doin'? I see ya out here workin' on it all the time." Indeed, there were many waves between us as he passed by in that big blue van of his.

George died at his home on Sunday November 20th, 2011. He was 68.

Rest in peace, Mr. George. We're richer for having known you, and we'll miss you very much.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hibernation Time

The fuel stabilizer has been poured into the gas tank, the repaired cover is back on the truck, and Johnny will now count the days until Spring 2012. Tried to fire it up one more time before the cover went on, but the battery had apparently been done in by the freezing temperatures we've had over the last couple of nights. She cranked very slowly a few times and quit, as if to say "Um, yeah. Don't think so. Thanks for that fresh antifreeze. See ya around April."

I really wanted to have it rolling before this happened, but just couldn't come up with the cha-ching for the brake drums and front bearings we need. Hopefully the job situation will improve and come Spring I'll be driving this truck for the first time. That will be another video for sure! Speaking of that, the views are adding up at a pretty good clip for the first video. It's getting 80 to 100 hits every day. Very cool!

The weekly posts will continue, so keep coming back! And of course, please feel free to share the blog with your friends. Thanks!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Puttin' the Name Out There

While digging for an extension cord here in my computer cave the other day, I came across some stencil letters I've had sitting around for years. I knew I was going to have to take the cover off the truck to make some repairs (a couple of minor tears from the previous winter had become worse with the weight of the freak snow storm two days before Halloween), so I decided to take advantage of the great weather we've had this week do something with the old letters.

Many people have stopped to ask about the truck as they drive or walk by, a couple of them going as far as pulling into the driveway to ask if it's for sale. The answer to that, of course, is always something like "Not for a million dollars, my friend. But thanks for stopping!"

I figured if all the people who have stopped to ask are any indication, there's a good bit of curiosity among all the passing traffic, so putting the domain name on the side of the truck might bring some additional visitors to the blog.

The passenger door is not as easily visible coming up the hill, but I will put the logo there as well, and on the cover after it goes back on. And of course it will remain on the doors after we finally hit the road again, until I can afford to have the truck painted.

Obviously, I'm hoping to sell a few shirts to help with the restoration of my truck. But this blog is also about simply exercising my life long love of writing, connecting with others with an appreciation for the subject matter and living a dream I've had since I was 17 years old. I'm far from being a marketing expert or web traffic whiz, so I don't know what kind of audience we'll end up with here (of course I would certainly welcome any help anyone from these areas might be willing to offer!). But it will be fun regardless.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who's Drivin' This Thing?

Mother nature certainly works in mysterious ways. A major northeast snow storm dumped about 10 inches of wet, heavy snow on us Saturday, two days before Halloween. Can't remember anything like it in my lifetime. And with many trees still hanging on to their leaves, that meant a lot of them came down. Talk about a huge mess. Initially there were something like 800,000 people without power in Connecticut alone. Several school districts in our area have cancelled classes for the entire week. We were among the very lucky ones here. Our power went out late Saturday night, but came back on Monday afternoon. Reports are saying some will be in the dark until at least Saturday.

As a result of all this, the truck sits covered. Looks like we'll have to wait for spring to get it rolling, unless we get some Indian summer and I can manage to come up with the money for the front bearings and brake drums I need at the same time. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, I suppose. I've waited 30 years to drive this truck. Pretty sure I can handle a few more months.

In any event, I thought this might be a good spot for "John: The Interview." I got the questions from one of the truck message boards I'm on and thought it was a great idea. But it looks like they've discontinued the feature since I haven't seen anyone's interview posted, so I figured I would post it here. Hope you like it!

1949 Chevrolet 3100, 5 window
Green (originally blue)
Powered by a 1961 Chevy straight six
Chrome package, three on the tree
To get it running again: New gas tank, new fuel pump, rebuilt carburetor, rebuilt starter, tune up

What is your name?
John "Perry" Schneider (Perry is the radio name I have gone by since I started in the business in 1984)

Please share a few things about yourself:
I was born in upstate New York and grew up in Connecticut, where I live with my better half Meg. We have two dogs, two cockatiels and a bunch of chickens out in the back yard. Nothing like fresh eggs for breakfast! I also love Pop Tarts (sometimes toasted, sometimes right out of the package) with my morning coffee. One of those kid things I never got over, I guess. Hobbies include playing guitar, softball and of course fiddlin' with my truck.

How long have you owned your truck?
About eight years.

What made you decide to buy this truck?
I've been in love with it since my older brother drove it home from Missouri in 1981. He used it as a work truck for a couple of years, then parked it in his garage, where it sat until his kids became old enough to drive and he needed the space, and Meg worked a deal with him to make it a birthday present for me.

How do you store your truck?
Outside, unfortunately. We don't have a garage. It had been garaged the entire time my brother had it, and for about six years after we got it, but we had to bring it here to the house when the guy storing it for us needed the space. I do have a cover for the winter.

What do you enjoy about your truck the most?
The thought of just driving it down the road, with either Meg or my dog riding shotgun, and maybe a bale of hay in the back for the chickens.

Who or what was your biggest influence in building your truck?
The memory of Mom, who passed away right at the time the truck came into our family. Today would have been her 80th birthday.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced in working on your project? How did you/do you handle it?
Unemployment. I lost my morning radio job in November of 2010 when the company decided to consolidate their operations. Of course, this means there is rarely any money to spare for the truck project. I handle it by doing as much work on it as I can that doesn't cost anything, checking out the truck forums for ideas, and watching re-runs of "Overhaulin" for inspiration.

What/who is you favorite/best part source?
I have used LMC, Classic Parts and Chevs of the 40's, and been very happy with all of them. I've also been able to get a few things locally, which is great.

What are some things that have helped your project to be a success?
The willingness of friends to lend a helping hand. If not for my friends Brian (who rebuilt the carburetor and helped me get the new fuel pump on) and Jim (who got us the spark we needed to get the truck running again and is helping with the wiring), this truck would still be silent.

What is the history behind your truck?
Perhaps the best thing to do here is just direct you to
the first post on my blog. It covers everything from my brother's purchase of the truck up to now.

What do you use your truck for?
Nothing yet, since I still need bearings for the front and a couple of brake drums. One front and one rear were bad when I sent them to be turned. As soon as we get that little issue solved, we'll be able to do the brakes and "take 'er down the road!"

What is your favorite memory with your truck?
Without question, the day this summer when we got it running again for the first time since 1984. Here's the video.

Whats your favorite modification done to the truck and why?
Up to now, the main mission has been to just get it operational again. Other than that I plan to keep it mostly original with a few modern updates.

If you had one thing to do over on your build, what would it be and why?
I'd probably have someone who knows what the heck they're doing reupholster the seat. My effort works but looks pretty lame, especially since I figured out after it was all done that the cover is on backwards.

What are your future plans for your truck?
If finances ever allow, we'll do a full frame off restoration, drop in a V8 to replace the old Stovebolt, add AC and lay a nice hunter green pearl finish on it. Until then I'll still get endless joy out of just driving it.

What words of advice do you have to people who are just starting out with their project?
Don't be in a hurry to get things done. If your story is anything like mine, your truck is a labor of love. If you take time to enjoy the process, the final result will be that much better, and finally getting behind the wheel in your completed truck will be that much more rewarding!