Monday, February 29, 2016


For the last 10 years I have driven a 2001 Ford Focus.  I inherited it from my Grandmother when she passed away.  This is it:

I know a lot of people will say, "Why drive a Ford?  Don't you know it means, "Fix or repair daily?"  Well, I have to say that this Ford Focus has needed 10 times less repairs than my Saturn SL2 did.  And that Saturn was supposed to be a higher end vehicle that was 100% made in the USA.  So my Ford is now 15 years old, and I have been really lucky, in that, it just hasn't needed much work on it during it's lifetime.

I think where a lot of people mess up with Fords or vehicles in general is that, they don't do the maintenance on them that they should.  This past weekend I went a bit crazy with the upkeep.  But, I truly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It started with my driver's side headlight.  I noticed that it was dim, and the bulbs probably needed replaced.  I had replaced them three years ago because I believed they where still the original light bulbs, and they were severely dim. 

It was when I took it apart I noticed a problem.  The bulb had all sorts of gunk on it, and the actual plastic headlight unit was melted on the inside.  This is probably due to the insane mechanism that is used to hold in the light bulb.  I think it came apart when I changed the bulb three years ago, and it didn't hold the light in place.  Therefore, the light bulb melted the inside of the headlight unit.

So it was time to get a replacement headlight unit.  I took Dad down to LKQ (You Pull It) auto parts.  They have almost 2000 vehicles on the lot.  Dad and I walked over to the Ford section, and I saw it immediately.  Another Ford Focus.  I got closer, and saw it was also a 2001.  I walked up to it, and saw the whole front end was missing, except the driver's side headlight.  I thought, "Jackpot!" 

It had taken five minutes to walk out to the field, and three minutes to take the headlight off the Focus.  And the good news is that it only cost $30.00 for the part.

So we went to the auto parts store to pick up all the things I needed to do some basic maintenance.  I needed the new headlight bulbs, oil, filter, windshield wipers, windshield washer fluid, air filter, and a cabin air filter.

To make a long story short, we got the headlamp and new bulbs working.  Although, the old bulb cover did not fit on the newly acquired part.  So I ordered one from my local Ford dealer.  But so far the replacement headlight is working.

I was able to get the windshield wipers on, and the wiper fluid added pretty quickly.  I then changed the air filter after pulling four long screws.  The funny thing was the air cabin filter.  I never knew I had one until I checked the FRAM filter website.  So I found where it was supposed to go, took apart everything, and found !!!!!  nothing.  There was never one put there.  Which is kind of a relief since I would have felt stupid having never changed one for 15 years. 

The next day I changed the oil and filter.  I gave my car a good scrubbing, and I used some decent foam glass cleaner to clean all the glass.  So my car is in good shape.  I had already checked my fluids and tire pressure a few weeks before.  So everything is as it should be. 

The only thing left is to stop by Elder Ford and pick up the light bulb cover.  In a weird tale, it seems that Ford made a production headlight, and a replacement headlight.  They took different headlight cap covers.  The headlight that I took off the Ford Focus in the field must have been a replacement headlight since it took a different cap.  That's why my cap didn't fit the replacement headlight.

So my cost for this adventure?  It was $30 for the headlight, $4 entry fee for two of us, $96 for all the parts at the auto shop, $5 to buy new car wash soap after the old bottle ran out, $8 for the new cap.  So figure $143.  It's a bit for the average person, but still better than a car payment.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Bass! Part 5, The Real Punk Rock Bass

So I have had a long series of posts about this bass.  Here are the previous posts.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

So what could possibly happen that this time around with this bass?  To make a long story short, I have already replaced the pickups, the bridge, the pickguard, and moved the output jack.  I also refretted the neck, because honestly, those frets where more or less falling out of the neck.

But after a bit of time, I had to realize that the neck was hopeless.  It was so warped that it had dead spots on it no matter what I did.  So when Guitarfetish had a sale on factory blowout parts, I searched for a bass neck.  Guess what?  I found one.

So I got it for a nice price of $30 plus shipping.  I think the S/H was around $10-$15, but I can't remember.  I got a good deal on it because it had not been cut for a nut yet.  So I cut the slot, and then had to order a bone blank from Hong Kong.  I could have bought it locally, but they want $10-$12 anywhere I looked.  So I bought it for $1.51 (shipping included) from China. 

I then cut it ever so nicely, and got it to fit.  I wish I could say the same thing about the neck.  The neck pocket was a little tight, so I had to shave off a bit of the underside of the neck to get it to fit.  But this bass is so beat up, what's a little damaged to one side?

But I had forgotten one thing.  The original tuners were crap.  So I went back to Guitarfetish, and ordered some cheap bass tuners $17.95 plus $12 shipping.  So my "cheap" project is not starting to get so cheap anymore.

The one thing that made me completely hostile was not the tuners themselves, but the screws that came with it.  I ended up breaking two screw heads completely off.  I've never had that happen in the entire time I have been repairing guitars.  Now, I had it happen twice on one project.  Just complete POS screws.

So let me get everything added up.

Bass - Free!
Bridge - $20
Pickups, pots, and parts - $65
Pickguard - $17
Neck - $40
Tuners - $30
New Strings - $20
Time working on bass - ... a lot.

Total - $192

Mmmm.  Maybe I should have just bought a Squier?  I mean, it still doesn't exactly play that great.  The neck pocket is too deep.  I mean, I'm already shimming the crap out of it.  I might have to shim it some more.  It's just been a money pit.  But I only have myself to blame.  I can never let a project go. 

And to be honest, if I did want to part it out, I can still do that with some of the parts.  Namely, the pickups, bridge and neck.

But still, we don't do this for the money.  We do it for the love of music.  But man, does music have to be so expensive?  If I ever fail as a musician I can always use this as a boat anchor.  I wonder what a fishing Captain makes?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Nature's Classroom and the Little Chomping Machines

When I was in sixth grade my elementary school class took a trip to "Nature's Classroom."  For those who don't know, "Nature's Classroom" was where students learned about the outdoors and nature for five days.  Now a days, it's only three days.  Here's the link for those who wish to know more.

I think it's a great program, but honestly, I found it kind of boring.  Anything and everything that we did there I had already done with the Boy Scouts of America.  There was one day that we shot B.B. guns and archery that again, I found boring.  Why find shooting a B.B. gun exciting when I was already shooting a shotgun out hunting?  Why find shooting a simple bow exciting when I had already shot a somewhat expensive compound bow?

Now don't get me wrong.  There were a few exciting moments.  But there was one moment that I look back on, and wonder if it was age appropriate. 

As I said, I was in sixth grade which meant I was eleven years old.  I can't remember if we went in the Fall or the Spring.  So that would have made it 1987 or 1988 when I went. 

Near the end of the week we were all given nets and told to pick up a few critters in the Hillsborough River.  We mostly picked up fish along with a few crawfish/crawdads.  We then took them back to a wondrous room.  It was filled with all sorts of tanks of fish, more fish, different types of fish, rabbits, Guinea pigs, baby chicks, mice, turtles, and one tank that held two juvenile American Alligators.

These alligators had to have been born recently.  They were only about 14-16 inches and most of that was tail.  I mean, I had a pet bearded dragon (later in life) that was as big as these alligators. 

Now what made this interesting was that our instructor told us we could pet and hold the rabbits, Guinea pigs, mice, various other animals, and ....... the alligators.  I thought, "wait, we can not only pet, but hold the alligators?"

You have to remember this was either 1987 or 1988, and the American Alligator came of the endangered species list on June 4th, 1987.  So being able to legally hold one was kind of surprising for a kid.

Our instructor took some of the crawfish we had caught, and then feed it to the alligators.  I have to say, it kind of surprised me how an alligator ate.  They would literally crunch the crawfish in three bites, and then shallow it.  You could heart the crunching and everything.  Even as tiny as those gators were, they had some powerful jaws.

Our ever so gracious instructor told us we could handle the alligators, but not to put our fingers near their mouths.  She had a kid who did that a few months back, and it wasn't pretty.  And after I saw what the gators just did to the crawfish, I had this horrible image in my head of those gators stripping the flesh off of a kid's finger.

But yeah, I had to handle those gators...... but very carefully.  I ever so carefully picked up the gators (one at a time) around the middle making sure to keep their mouths away from everything.  The funny part is that they didn't squirm around or anything.  Anyone who has ever had an iguana or a bearded dragon knows they don't like to set still if you hold them for too long.  These gators didn't mind being held.  They didn't move their feet around trying to climb on or up me. 

In the end it was the one big thing that I remember from Nature's Classroom.  But I am still kind of split.  Was I too young to be handling a chomping machine like a baby alligator?  Or, was it important that I was able to hold them since I remember that moment to this day?  Maybe I should have just played with the bunnies?