March 12, 2007



Got up at 6:00 and woke Reba up so she could go get ready to go, and managed to sleep a bit longer in that fitful, half-awake way when you try to wake up but you're dreaming you're eyes won't open and you're in an office with people working and you tell them you're sleepy and they tell you to open your eyes but you can't and it feels like they've got sand and glue in them so even though you try you can't until WHOA! It's time to wake up!

I remembered that Saturday that I slept so late after everyone had left to go do their own things, and it put me behind in all my important chores, so I went ahead and forced myself to get up around 7:00 and get the day going. Got the kids up to start getting dressed, started up some laundry, and got to work on the first car project, namely figuring out why the Focus smells like gas.

Went outside, jacked it up, looked all around for leakiness, and could only see the parts where it had previously leaked. Drove it and got it filled up and came back, jacked it up again, and was gratified to see that the filler tube I thought I hadn't tightened enough was indeed nice and leak free. The only problem is that the gasoline odor was back, and with no visible leakage, that could mean only a couple of things, neither of them good.

One, I had either left a hose loose on the top of the tank when I had previously dropped it to change the fuel pump, or Two, I hadn't tightened the hateful blue plastic retainer ring sufficiently to keep the juice inside.

As I said, either thing would require me to once more drop that tank down and mess with it. I think what's happening is the latter, since it only happens when it's full of gas, then dissipates when the tank level drops. It's probably seeping out around the retainer ring, since I was too lazy to put in a new rubber gasket.


Well, don't fill it all the way up sounds good to me.

By this time the Reba and the three older kids were ready to leave for the building, so after I bid them adieu, I settled in for a long day spent with just Tiny Terror and myself.

You know what? I don't think I gave her any breakfast. As I was trying to recall all this, I think we skipped that part of the morning completely. Maybe Mom fed her before she left.


Oh well, what's a little food when there are parts to buy! Called the other parts place down the hill (more of a parts supply place than a mainline mass market retailer) to make sure they had a set of plug wires for the old brick, which they did. Got Cat dressed (more or less) and made her quit whining by promising her that if she would be good and help me, I'd take her to Sonic for lunch and then we'd have a picnic on the old footbridge over the Cahaba. (Not a current picture, but still a good one.) THIS she understood!

Off down to the foot of the hill, walked in and saw that the genial old fellow (who smelt of stale coffee, Marlboros, and grease) already had my set out there waiting on the counter. THAT'S SERVICE, my friends!



Admittedly, they were top of the line, and had the nice metal shields on the plug ends, and all that, but that's still awfully steep. Then I saw the list price--$132. I figure I must be getting a real deal.

Paid, and went back home ready to get started.

As I mentioned, I don't know how long ago this was done, but I know I haven't done it. (I could look at the voluminous records kept by the previous squirrelly owner, but I didn't want to.) Anyway, it's been idling rough for a year now, and although the mileage is relatively good at around 21 mpg, I keep thinking it could do better. New ignition parts might be the trick.

First thing was to replace the rotor button and cap, which turned out to be more trouble than I gave it credit for being. Seems the rotor takes a bit of persuasion to fully seat itself, but I didn't know this until I cranked it and the whole distributor cap was wildly oscillating like a Tilt-a-Whirl. After a few smears of silicone on the underside of the rotor and then a polite tap with a screwdriver handle, it was where it was supposed to be.

BUT, before all that, there were the plugs to install. I was a bit fearful of what I might find--carbon, or worse, oil. Happily, they were each and every one a nice shade of toasted bread, with only one having a bit of tan-colored scaley stuff on the ground electrode. The center electrodes, though--oh, my. They were all nearly burnt down to the insulator. No WONDER the thing has been running rough and hard to start in the cold!

In with the new set (actually, these are done one at a time to keep junk from blowing into the cylinders) and after a bit of a brain cloud with the screw-on tips (which weren't needed with the type of wires I had) that caused me to have to REMOVE all the little screw-on tips, the wires were all snapped on, and the engine cranked to life. Again, there was the slight mishap with the bobbling distributor cap, but after that was squared away, things worked just like they should.

And I have to say, Catherine was a great help through the whole process. She even got to wear her own pair of blue nitrile gloves to keep her hands clean, which she thought was super keen. She would fetch tools for me and throw boxes away, and was kind enough to go get my shop manual so I could remember the proper firing order, (1-3-4-2, by the way), and asked what this was, and that was, and what those were, and generally hung around far longer than I ever thought she would. Of course, she's still a kid, so as her attention wandered, she went and bothered the cat for a while.

SO, time for a test drive, and LUNCH.

Cleaned up, gathered her up and off we went. Now I might be full of wishful thinking, but ol' Järn felt like a brand new car--well, almost. But a lot more peppy and without the shakiness at idle he'd had before. So, that turned out just fine.

Stopped at Sonic--

cat passenger.JPG

--got us a couple of sandwiches and some drinks, and off to the park. Where a lot of other folks seem to have had the exact same idea we'd had. But it's a big park, so we weren't crowded at all.

Sat on the bridge and ate our foods (and judging by this photo, hers must have contained Valium)--


--and looked at all the attractions--several folks had their puppies out for a romp, so this was almost more interesting to her than her meal, although in fairness to her, I was equally distracted by the couple of folks who'd brought out their Alfa Romeo roadsters (both red) and were parked on the green plain upriver from us and were taking photos of them. One was a particularly nice little boattail model that looked much better than it seemed to run.

Anyway, she hurried and finished her food and ran over to insert herself into someone else's family--

river cat.JPG

and I finished up my sammich and just relaxed. One thing I noticed on the steel girders of the bridge is something I had previously overlooked--the name of the foundry town molded into the steel--

lack of want-to.JPG

I like stuff like that.

Also like playing with rocks, and one of the things she's been wanting to do since the last time were were there was go skip-rocking, the less-well-known designation for the pasttime of rock-skipping. So we walked across and down onto the bed and began looking for likely candidates.

skip rocking.JPG

She finally got enough practice to where she could reliably skip them at least twice, which did her no end of good. It was getting time to go, though, since I had one more car-related task to get done. Of course, she begged and pleaded and wheedled, but I managed to distract her with the promise of a rousing bout of Pooh Sticks.

Oddly enough, she didn't remember what this was. I guess it's been a while since we read Winnie the Pooh. We gathered up a batch of sticks and went back onto the bridge, and with great fanfare dropped them over the side and ran to the other to see whose would come out first. She won most of the times, which also make her feel super terrific happy fun!

Which is good, because we spent the NEXT hour waiting at the Express Oil Change for them to do a radiator flush. Another task that's been on hold since I bought the car, even despite the dire warnings of the previous owner that it was time to have it done. And it is important. I'd just not gotten around to it. And despite knowing how to do it myself, I wanted someone else to do it, simply because it's messy and tiresome and I didn't want to fool with it.

I also didn't realize it was going to take an hour, though.

Anyway, they fixed me up and I was ready to go again after unloading more cash. ::sigh::

Home, met Reba leaving. She'd intended to come back from church and drop off the kids and go shopping for some pants for herself, but apparently decided the martyrdom of taking the other three kids with her to go shopping was a worthy way to go. I asked her if she didn't want to leave them with me, and she just shook her head no and drove on off.

Eh, whatever.

I had things to do--namely, more laundry.

Did that some more as Cat played on the computer, then went and began changing all the clocks in the house. No use waiting until 2 a.m., am I right?!

Then I took a shower and collapsed on the couch for a while. Reba and the kids finally showed back up sometime around 7:00. They'd found all kinds of things to spend money on. Some of which were even necessary! Rebecca was especially pleased to find some cute tops to wear. Since she's been playing soccer, she has lost close to twenty pounds, and looks much better in her clothes now. And feels better, too, which explains the fun she was having doing a fashion show for me.

Supper then, baths for everyone, then to bed.

Sunday was much less busy...

Posted by Terry Oglesby at March 12, 2007 11:31 AM