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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Yesterday was bitchin'!

As we passed the “Welcome to Colorado” sign, I must have yelled “We made it to fucking COLORADO!” about four times. Minutes afterward, I saw my first tumbleweed in decades. I think I have an unnatural fascination with those things. We plowed right in to one, and I thought; “I hope it sticks in the grill so we can take a snapshot of it later.

Our travels brought us from the corn fields of central Iowa to a place that I can only think of as “cow-centric”. I mean cows.....EVERYWHERE. If you didn't see smelled them. Rolling the final 80 miles in to Denver, we get our first glimpse of the Rockies through the thick but mellow rain clouds off to our West. I'm desperately trying to enjoy the impending altitude changes, while squelching my fears about fuel mixtures at 8,000 feet.

The car has been running like a dream. I'm trying to repress my natural inclination to think, that we'll pay for this good fortune later.

Maybe we already have... but it isn't the car's problem, it's mine.

We arrived at an old friends' home in town, and what I thought was simple road weariness, has apparently evolved in to full blown sinus and upper respiratory shittiness. Luckily I was able to get a script for some antibiotics this morning, in hopes my nasal rebellion doesn't get worse...and eventually even goes away. We're taking today as our leisurely drive day. Soaking up great conversation until we hit the road again around 10:30am.

I've spent the last two weeks obsessing over everything mechanical on the car, that might cause us problems...the entire time neglecting my own mental health and sleep patterns. It caught up to me after two 14 hour drive days. My immune system decided to go tits up. Poor Gary will have to endure my whining, sniffling bullshit for at least another day. 

For posterity…here's a photo of Gary catching some ZZzzzs in Nebraska. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I can't hear you anymore

Well... it's been boring. No catastrophic failures. No suspicious noises (from the car at least). And no speeding tickets.

Topics of road trip conversation have included:

Female rabbits going on “Bunny benders” (don't ask)

Those poor bastards burdened with “adulthood”

Hey! There's an RV / Mobile Home MUSEUM in Illinois/Indiana! Let's hit that on the way back!”


How much of the corn plant is really used in producing ethanol?” If you saw the volume of corn fields that we've seen, you'd understand the urgency of this query.

As an added bonus: We passed a gigantic manufacturing facility for Barilla pasta. Wayyy cooler than Reagan's birthplace.

In short; We are in the middle of Iowa.

We're staying with an old grade school friend of mine (a guy I've known about 40 years), and his frightfully gifted family. The brain power in this building is a little intimidating. Even his young children are on some higher plane. I'm totally digging it. His kids created an “F Bomb Parking Only” banner. That's the first thing we saw as we rolled in to their driveway. Dinner was exceptional. Fresh beef, fresh corn (as if you had to ask), potatoes, and jalapeno sausage. Fresh baked cookies for dessert.

This road trip gig is pretty alright. 

I've decided that Indiana is my least favorite state for driving, so far. Even the rest areas are like mid 1960s YMCA bath houses. 

I've had a headache since 5:30am, thanks in no small part, to an infernal piece of hood trim, that sounds like a bottle rocket strapped to my temple at any speed above 45 mph. We were at it for 13 hours today. 

Duct tape helps.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The waiting is the hardest part...

So it's friday night. We hit the road on Sunday morning. I'm hoping to be on the road as the sun rises. That's the most spiritually connected time, to be behind the wheel of a classic car. I can't explain's clean and cool...and as light gradually breaks, the engine takes on its familiar rhythm at cooler temperatures. That's where its happiest.

I've gathered together way too many parts, tools, fluids, and gear, for this trip. I've always said that loading an old car up with 200lbs of greasy junk, ruins the romance of a great road trip... but this is 5600+ miles we're talking about. And even though I know every nut and bolt on the F Bomb, I don't want to leave some small piece behind, that might save me from a day or two of repair time/waiting for parts, while out on the highway. I've got everything from a used clutch disk to a ball joint splitter in my rubbermaid totes. Gear oil, brake fluid, coolant, even a spare radiator. My biggest concerns are high temperatures, fuel mixture in the mountains, and poor quality fuel. She needs to run on 93, with the current factory timing settings. Anything less and I'll have to dial back the ignition timing.

Tomorrow I'm spending a few hours with the car on a lift at work, laying my eyeballs on every nut and bolt under the car. Checking fluids one last time, and touching every bit of fuel line, to check for weak spots. Nearly everything at risk, has already been replaced about 5 years ago... but I'll feel better knowing I've looked at it again. Fresh ignition points, re-set the timing, and it's GO time. Of course I have mundane tasks ahead, like laundry, buying ice and water, and spending some cherished time with my father, before I head to bed on that final eveining. I know I won't be able to sleep a wink... but that's OK.

Our goal is to stay with old friends in Ames Iowa, on the first day. Slogging across Ohio and through Chicago's potential traffic snags. This is the part of the drive I want to get through as quickly as possible. From there, it's off to Denver, where more old friends await us. After Denver, we'll take a leisurely drive to Los Gatos spanning three days. The route from Denver to California is unknown. We'll make a decision eventually. For those of you in to data, here's the stats on the car:

1972 BMW 2002tii.
10:1 compression
stock engine, bottom end rebuilt last winter
4 speed transmission
3.64:1 differential, freshly re-sealed
new, genuine BMW radiator
electric aux 12” cooling fan plus stock 400mm fan
Bilstein HD shocks
all new bushings, ball joints
stainless exhaust
no radio / stereo

…I mean it *HAS* a radio, but no speakers. I take comfort in knowing the shy and feeble little green light will slowly come on, if I rotate the dial on the left. That's all I really need. 

Edit: Oh! And here's a photo of the current console, complete with the gifted speaker grill featuring a karmic road trip gift, from a great local 2002er, hanging from the knob!

All other elements of the car remain stock and "as original", with the exception of Recaro E21 sport seats.

4800 rpm all day...every day...for 12 days. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

"Yes, I wash my car"

     I watched their jaw drop as I said it. Believe it or not, I really DO like the thing to be clean.

     My stewardship of this car revolves around the basic premise that I respect it. That means respecting the mechanical components as well as the history it has accumulated over the last 44 years, since it was lovingly crafted by some (and I'm going out on a limb here) hungover Bavarians.

     I don't lay dirty or heavy tools or other objects on the paint (or what passes for paint) and I really don't like seeing people rest beer cans on it…although I refuse to be uptight about it. It's a car to be saved and enjoyed by everyone. I like seeing people smile.

     So, in preparation for next week's drive, I have washed it. With real car soap. And I even cleaned the wheels…by hand…with a paint brush. And I put stuff on the rubber and vinyl to give it a little sheen. And the clock even works.


Observe how the water glistens off the thing, like dew on a young lily petal! Like a newborn fawn or baby bunny, waking up after a summer dawn shower!

Yeah. It's just like that. 

Follow along with the F Bomb's adventures!

Watch THIS for a little background on our journey, beginning next week!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It's official. I have a co-pilot


As much as I try, I'm unable to really capture Gary's energy, personality, or history with mere words. Here's a guy, that once waited for eight hours with me, at an upstate New York rest area, while I was stranded with a borrowed BMW 2002. But it goes so much farther than that.

     The back story: It was 2003 or 2004. I was asked to drive a friend's car to Hartford CT from Baltimore MD, so that the folks at my destination; “Sports Car Restoration”, could perform an estimate on some minor touch up work. The guys at SCR live and breath 2002s. Since I was having them do all the metal and paintwork on my own car at the time, this was an easy favor. The car was already beautiful...and remains so to this day.

     On the way back, it lost a head gasket. This was years before I owned a cell phone. I called the guys at SCR using one of those “pay phone” thinguses, and they said Gary (who was having them restore his own 2002) was on his way back to New York City, but hadn't left yet. Gary got on the phone, asked where I was, and proceeded to drive about 70 miles to meet me. He then used his phone to call a flatbed truck, and we waited. And waited. And waited. We followed the truck back to Hartford in Gary's other 2002, and arrived around 10:00pm. After the formalities of unloading the car and handing the keys over, he offered me a ride back to New York, where he'd make sure I had a train ticket back to Baltimore. I somehow arrived home, in the back of a taxi, around 5:00am. Longest Day Ever.....and the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

     Now that Gary and I have been friends for a few years, I realize this is just pure, standard behavior for him. It's just what he DOES. I moved back to Western Pennsylvania about six years ago, and (as fate would have it) landed a job about 4 miles from Gary's farm in Evans City (yes, film geeks.... THAT Evans City). I signed a lease and kept in touch with him, occasionally seeing him during visits to the shop to talk about our mutual love of 2002s. Gary still owns the very same 2002tii he bought new in 1972. One day, he offers up this tantalizing statement; “You know, I have another one behind my barn. Are you interested in it?” The rest is history.

     Seven weeks after I dragged the car from the back of Gary's barn, he and I cruised on a seven hour road trip to North Carolina, for “The Vintage” annual event focused on classic and vintage BMWs. As we rolled in to the parking lot, there were standing ovations. This car...and Gary... ooze positive energy.

Mojo is its own fuel.

     Along the way, we talked about everything under the sun. Sex, Drugs, Rock N Roll, Movies, Wine, Cars, Travel.... and we still haven't finished running out of things to talk about. We made a superb traveling team.

I'm as flattered by his desire to go with me, as he is for my request that he be my running mate for this high mileage, high speed tomfoolery. He said to me, after he made the decision; “Look! I wouldn't go on a cross country trip with just ANYBODY, you know. I rely on known talent, for such an adventure!”

Me too, my friend. 

Photo Credit: Linda Lovecraft

Saturday, July 2, 2016

This is going to be long. Because it needs to be long.

     “Overwhelmed” is the word I keep typing in each and every “thank you” message I write. I've spent the last hour writing them to people that have chosen to offer their support (financially and otherwise) for this insane road trip in a crusty old car.

     I'd like to state publicly and for the record, that choosing a fund raising site for this cause was not an easy task. The world is so full of injured and damaged lives. Inequity. Need. True need, that asking for help in the pursuit of my own ridiculous travel goals seemed almost insulting to those that use such fund raising websites for softening the absolute devastation that comes with life's pain and loss. I've experienced loss. I'm intimate with it. I'll leave it at that, for now.

     While formulating the plan to raise funds for this epic adventure, I decided to do a quick “self Google” - just to see what kinds of things people might find, if they didn't already know about me or this weird little car I chose to save and drive. What I found was heartbreaking in the finest manner imaginable. There, six or seven links down, was a GoFundMe site started by someone I have never personally met, dedicated to raising money so that I could fix up my car. The BMW 2002 community is a tightly knit one. Given the kind of support I've witnessed, over the last few years of ownership of this particular rat, I can't say I was thoroughly surprised by such generosity. Our little group is famous for it. I guess it was just my turn to be on the receiving end. From what I could tell, the GFM site hadn't ever gone “live” and was sort of a pipedream of good karma, perpetrated by a fellow, former 2002 owner. I was floored, and forced to think about a few serious issues, regarding the frivolity of such fund raising, and what I really wanted and needed out of this road trip and why it was important. I'll get to that another time, but here's the thing I need to share with you all, and what became the weight that tipped the scales for me, when pondering the guilt of using a fund raising site for my little adventure.

     The man that started the previous GFM site on my behalf, himself benefitted from such a fundraiser. Organized and perpetrated by the very same 2002 owner group that I consider family. His needs were different than mine. Very different. About 12 years ago, his wife was in an absolutely devastating automobile accident. The impact of her head and brain against the door glass of her own car, left her in a state that can only be described as “shattering”. I cannot dictate with accuracy the condition of her mental, emotional, or physical condition in the days, weeks, and months that followed her injury, but I can tell you I was given a small window, through which to see the emotional destruction, and eventual, never ending process of rebuilding, this event had on her husband and family in every aspect of their lives...minute by minute.

     I am reminded almost hourly, that my problems are so very small. Let me assure you – I have them. And I am not very skilled at asking for help. This later point was made very clear to me in recent weeks.

     The fact that a human being, who himself, had endured such a life eviscerating experience, and who turned to the generosity of others to help heal some of the wounds, chose MY SELFISH CAUSE to champion a few months ago by creating a GFM site dedicated to me, razed me level with the earth. He writes poems about his feelings and frustration and gratitude, that his wife is still alive. The kind of poems that made me cry openly when I read them, yesterday. If he thinks I'm worthy of this generosity, that's good enough for me.