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And no way do I want the job. Heck, VW needs an army of bloggers and other “social media” hacks. The sum total of communications I’ve received from VW about my “dirty diesel” is just slightly above zero, and that was about a month ago. With the exception of the cheerful chatterings about the latest VW product on the blog and FB page linked off, VW media is still stuck in the age of “Mad Men”.

In the absence of VW’s input, the interwebs are quite humming with the news of VW’s (mis)management of this media apocalypse… Just read and you’ll learn of VW’s MSRP exchange offer to an owner, the problems of VW’s last undocumented and stealthy (you might want to invest in an OBDII lock) emissions “fix”, retrofit vs. buyback costs, ad infinitum. You’ll find more info over at as well as the expected damning condemnation of the evil polluter VW over at (one of the few online forums I haven’t been banned from, though I’m workin’ on it!), as well as, Reuters, and the euro press.

So without any real work I now know that my “A6” Golf Variant will need a few thousand $$$ worth of DEF injection hardware to comply as well as a reflash. I know that somewhere on the order of closing on ten million vehicles are in violation worldwide, and VW has a tenth of a trillion in available assets to fix or replace them. That would suggest that buybacks are out of the question, at least if VW crushed the cars like the environmentalists wish they could watch and gloat over. And thanks to the internet I know there’s a strong market for used VW diesels in plenty of places that could care less about emissions, markets that are so strong that used VWs from Europe and America are often exported to them. Google VW’s fleet of auto carrier ships and their routes and you’ll see that they’re running empty back to places like Brazil and Mexico anyway…

So intense is VW’s silence that I held this story expecting them to disgorge a late friday afternoon news dump regarding their friday meeting with CARB, maybe even describing just what the heck VW intended to do. Not a peep from VW, as CARB got to control the story with the head of the board hinting that she expected those “dirty diesels” to be exiled from California if not the planet. Heck, it’s to the point where the average VW owner knows more about the “dirty diesel” recall than most VW employees, unless they goof off and surf the web a lot at work. Wonder if has been blocked on VW’s network?

Admittedly, hierarchical corporations with their military model management have a hard time with flat forums like the internet, where everyone is a producer as well as consumer of news and may and will pop the story that sinks or saves a corporation. Back when GM’s corporate future was in doubt and GM’s paid bloggers extolled the virtues of massive SUVs and Caddies while buyers were more worried if the company and dealers would be there to service them, a small army of labor and activist bloggers sold the GM bankruptcy plan to a doubtful nation and congress. They saved GM not by extolling the dubious virtues of a Suburban, but by telling the hard truth- a total liquidation of GM would turn a recession into a depression, and as we have seen, GM could be saved and along with  a million or better jobs.

VW, there are thousands of underemployed VW fanatics out there that would be happy to tell your story, and I doubt they’d complain if you paid them to. You could use that army of social media operatives to fit your story to the memes of both the left and the right, appealing to both the lefties that are bidding up microbusses to insane prices as well as the anti-EPA fanatics of the right. Let your social media operatives test messages and trial balloon solutions. Give the VW owners who feel abandoned reason to believe that you still care about them, and their cars will soon be fixed, even though they don’t necessarily need to be fixed.

Or you could just ignore this whole newfangled internet thing and even the dead tree media and just go bankrupt, taking down the Euro economy with you…




I last wrote a none too complementary but thoroughly deserved live blog of BMWMOA’s attempt at a rally in July, and hoped I could go back to ignoring them for a while. But Noooo!

So a few weeks back on one of those now increasingly common days of weather really too crappy for riding, in a fit of bored web surfing I wandered over to the BMWMOA forum for the first time in months. What’s this, they’ve closed the venerable St.Louis suburban office with no warning? Yup, with nary a footnote in the board minutes nor public discussion the BMWMOA headquarters has disappeared, though management claims they’re moving in with the devil AKA BMW Car Club of America in the shadow of BMW’s South Carolina auto manufacturing plant.

The story winds on in now 18 pages of angry discussion by the BMW faithful and heretics on the BMWMOA forum. It is admitted by management that they fired the four paid staffers in the Saint Louis suburban office with no advance warning, and after in some cases decades of service it sounds like they were given only minutes to clean out their desks. Those four were the whole remaining headcount but for one manager and a subcontractor or two who worked off site, down from a onetime headcount of 15 or so before BMWMOA’s members found better uses for their membership $$$.

The official version is that BMWMOA will re-emerge in shared offices with the likewise failing BMWCCA, and it’s now admitted that BMWMOA will have all of one (1) employee there. Then they’re going to move into brand new offices with museum right next to the BMW Zentrum visitor center and driving school, surrounded by rainbows and unicorns! And surely BMWMOA would be showing us gorgeous artist’s depictions of all this wonderfulness on their Facebook page, except all the 2015 content on their Facebook page has suddenly disappeared, including a long thread of member’s disapproval of the whole hijacking of the BMWMOA HQ.

So you might want to hold off on renewing your BMWMOA membership for a bit… Heck, if they can make the home office and Facebook page disappear, they can make the corporation’s assets “disappear” too! Same for volunteering for next summers national rally, etc… Will there even be a BMWMOA then?

Good think we’ve got another club, the BMW Riders Association…




In the past couple years, at a cost of at least $3000, VW has twice obliterated any rust out on my 2003 Golf TDI. Yup, VW is crazy enough to offer a 12 year rust warranty here in the rust belt, where nothing ferrous makes it anywhere near 12 years without oxidizing. Even gave me a free loaner car, and last time ’twas an Audi to boot! When I picked up the 2003 last summer from the latest repair, I told ’em “see you in 10 years with the 2013″… But looks like I’ve won the VW lottery again already.

Now my 2013 Golf Variant (Sportswagon for us North Americans) TDI is of course one of 400,000 of the infamous emissions “cheaters” that VW has to bring into compliance and/or pay something like a $37,000 PER VEHICLE fine. That means my little TDI “truck” is probably going to get the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) emission control system it should have had in the first place, gratis. The result should be better MPG, from 40 and even unheard of (for VW diesels that ain’t towin’ somethin’ big) high 30s MPG to the normal mid 40s TDI MPG. But it’s taking a while for VW to figure out where to put the DEF tank, get the EPA’s blessing, and get all the parts built and installed to pull off this six figure recall.

In the meantime a few TDI owners who worry too much about abstract concepts like “resale value” have been going nuts, egged on by dim bulb environmentalists who think we should get bought out for 100% of original retail price, fantasizing that we’ll take the cash straight over to the Nissan or at least Chevy dealer and by a Leaf electric or at least short range Volt electric with backup gas motor car. Go ahead. make my day!… I’ve got my eye on the new Chevy Colorado diesel, which puts even more of a dent in the environment than the TDI. But no way can even a cash cow like VW buy back millions of cars.

So to quell these nervous Nellies, VW is offering a $1000 “Goodwill Package” to owners of the affected TDIs, consisting of a $500 debit card usable only at VW dealers, a $500 debit card good anywhere Visa is good, and 3 years of “roadside assistance” for those that haven’t learned to work jumper cables and change tires, or maybe lost their keys in the whorehouse where they spent the “good anywhere” money. Having waited till the Firestone tire recall was almost over on my Ranger so I could milk every millimeter of treadwear of the “bad” Firestones before I cashed in and got the replacement free Goodyears from Ford, I’m already gaming this one out… The cards only good for a year, and the 2013’s got 35k miles and 3 years of warranty left, and VW foots the bill for the 30K service. Got a year to pickup the cards. maybe hold off and use the dealer card for the pricey 40k service? And heck, don’t even have to use the card for the 2013, can always use it to buy goodies for the 2003 that “honestly” pollutes more than the 2013 “cheater”. Heck, VW is giving the dealers a $2k kickback on used affected TDIs, which means a ratty 2009 Jetta with the help of the $2k dealer kickback could be cheaply acquired which would then entitle me to another “$1k goodwill package”… I need to prowl the back of a few VW dealers lots!

Now with all this “free stuff” being laid on by VW, one would think the political party blamed for all the “free stuff” would thank VW, and maybe even offer a tax break for all the crocodile tears “pain and suffering” I’m going through. But said party is also the party of environmental excess at times, and sure enough a couple of senators promptly called VW’s gift inadaquate and demanded full price buybacks.

Buybacks? Heck, I’m lookin’ to build up my fleet with more of these “undervalued” TDIs!

Long time readers of this serial assault on english grammer trying to pass itself off as a blog will probably have noted a white pickup shaped blob in the background of more than a few garage photos. Well, what with gas prices low and the ’98 Ranger’s mere 92,000 odd odometer miles staring me in the face, it’s time to bring the Ranger outa the background. The aforementioned Ranger could and has passed as a work truck, thanks to it’s “fleet white” colors, short cab, long box, and once painted steel wheels with genuine “doggie dish” hubcaps, same as come on a Crown Vic Police Interceptor… Can’t get more “fleet” than that!

DSC_4785The downside of all these plain Jane work truck bits is that after 18 years in the rust belt, they’re more rust than paint. Rust is an odd and obscure malady in Rangers, seems that on the 2nd generation (and unfortunately the last our unfortunate USA market saw) Rangers the cabs and bed are pretty much immune to the tinworm while hidden away, the frames and critical mechanical bits like brake lines rust out.

DSC_1493That rusty frame passed the Toyota “ball peen hammer test” and has now been thoroughly doused in Rustoleum’s finest, and just about everything having to do with the brakes in the back half o’ the truck has been replaced. So with frame integrity insured for a few years at least and the Ranger’s big mechanical bits not even halfway through their generally acnowledged couple hundred thousand mile life, I commenced the Ranger reboot. Normally I don’t bother documenting such things, but if any of the folks from the NTEA Work Truck Show are still regular readers, this ones for you- The Ranger is typical of the vehicles that a lot of cash strapped fleets have laying about, and with a new replacement pricing out in the mid $20k range even at fleet prices, reworking the work truck is a good investment. I’m also going to be refitting the Ranger for it’s changed mission- When I bought it in 1997 the “work” was hauling building materials to rehab a 110 year old home, now the “work” is hauling whatever a one acre orchard needs and the odd “old iron” headed for preservation if not restoration.

Having made a “NAPA run” motivated by the current 20% off bucket sale, I restored function to all four settings on the heater fan switch by replacing the thoroughly rusted out collection of resistors used to sop up excess electrons and slow down said fan to less than Weather Service reportable velocities. Next up was replacing the original serpentine belt, original because of the difficulty of finding one that fits! I first picked up a spare on sale at Fleet Farm a decade or more ago, and when it didn’t fit suspected it was for a non air conditioned Ranger. NAPA got stumped on this one, producing a slightly too short belt also. Looking about the web, I found almost every aftermarket purveyor of parts listed the same too short 882 millimeter belt for this application. Then I wandered over to and found an 887 mm. belt listed, and in the discussions at an OEM Ford 891 mm. belt was mentioned. So off to my old faithful “internet free” small town very FLOPS with the old belt, Ford part number still visible. The old guru of the parts counter, speaking from a quarter century of experience as a Ford partsman, found a proper OEM replacement in their Sioux Falls warehouse… Picked it up next day and the Ranger finally has a new fan/alternator/power steering/AC compressor/etc. belt. Finished that ’bout 4 pm, and killed another hour before supper replacing the busted tailgate stay cable.

‘Tis plenty more to do- I don’t remember changing the antifreeze, so when I quit goofing off writing that’s probably up next. The Mobil 1 0W-30 oil is great for winter starting, but it’s been in the crankcase at least 5 years and 2,000 miles, so it probly should be replaced… Though the cheapskate in me says leave it ’til the scheduled oil change at 95k miles. Ford list no change interval for the automatic transmission and I did the transfer case per Ford’s recs at 60k miles, but noting the rust on the dipstick those fluids will be changed too.

And those rusty rims… Gotta go! I ground through the surface rust on the spare wheel in the picture which is the worst, and it goes deep. Wheels and tires are pressure vessels, and SOP now is to replace them every ten years for consumer grade ones. The tires were a gift from Ford to replace the suspect original Firestones, got plenty of tread but with 2001 date codes they gotta go… Ever see (and hear) a decade old steel belted radial’s rusty belts surrender with an explosion? So I’m combing Craig’s List and the local U-Pull salvage yards for wheels, might get lucky and find some usable tires on said wheels, otherwise it’s off to Costco for new “boots” for my “baby”. The rusty bumpers aren’t so critical, If I can’t find decent replacements I’ll strip and repaint ’em.

Well, better get back to work… That coolant refuses to change itself!

DSC_4781They always hit you by surprise, just when I’m frustrated by up to year long waits to get a new sidecar built and the ridiculous prices asked for what few used sidecars are for sale, a deal pops up outa nowhere. In this case Guzzi collector Eldo Mike in Illinois came into a Motorvation Formula II sidecar less the fiberglass body, and it was surplus to his needs. We agreed that $500 sounded reasonable, and unlike last year when I let a similar deal get away because I didn’t want to make a special 1400 mile trip to do the deal, I jumped at the chance.

So it was that monday morning I was headed south and east in no particular order in the Golf Variant TDI. Worked out the route on the fly, decided to visit three former Hostess bakeries on the way and get some more pictures ‘case they disappear. I keep telling myself I should let this old stuff go… Heck, I last worked for Hostess in 1992! Then I remember that “historian” is included in the “duties” of us old farts, and decide to make one more pilgrimage to these “temples of baking”. ‘Twas a good thing, because I discovered a few new aspects of the Waterloo bakery… It appears to be the company’s first “modern” single level bakery, but was built in 1929 at the close of the golden age of bakery building with all it’s gaudiness. So here we have Mediterranean tile trim with the arched windows made famous by Ward’s Buffalo bakery masterpiece…


Fortunately this gem has been saved by the city of Waterloo and will take on a new grain fed life as a brewpub. And to provide contrast with this missing link of bakery history, the original three story bakery is right across the street for contrast. After that the Davenport bakery was a bit of a less grand letdown and the Peoria bakery was plain ‘n’ grimy, the saving grace being the old “Butternut Bread” signage. Amazing how the same Shulze bakeries that built the national register “temple of baking” on 55th Street in Chicago could build something so plain. Then again, I finally found Continental’s Chicago southside bakery a few blocks away, and it’s pretty plain too.

Stopped at about 5 at Costco crosstown in East Peoria for supper and blew half an hour of daylight on Wyndham hotel’s website trying to make a reservation until it crashed. Having given up on Motel 6 I joined Farmer’s Union to get the 20% discount at Super 8 and Wyndham’s other brands, and do far it’s been working out to about the same price as Motel 6 with fee WiFi and breakfast, but no free or paid hookers, “shooting galleries”, and fights in the lot. Did find one roach though, and looked and smelled like the manager’s whole extended family was in residence.

Next day began with a wet two lane excursion complete with an unscheduled and unmarked detour in the best ILDOT tradition. Met Eldo Mike at his hanger/Guzzi parts stash and after a short inspection paid up and loaded up. If you need old Guzzi parts, sounds like he’s losing the hanger storage space. On in the wet and westward on I-64 through St.Louis, where aquaplaning and multiple accidents made even an Interstate snooze white knuckle interesting. Never did run outa the rain, and after another near half hour struggle with Wyndham’s website scored a cheap room in Des Moines.

WiFi worked, but the breakfast was mostly DIY waffles with thinned sugar free syrup… Yuk! Two laned my way north and west as the drizzle;e and then even rain returned, with a few snow flurries just as I pulled up in front of Motorvation Sidecars in 37 degree and windy temps. Spent a couple hours exploring the history of my newly acquired sidecar before I left around 5, Minnesota greeting me with snow squalls as the temps had dropped to barely above freezing. Looked like a blizzard for a few minutes as I and the squalls collided, though the snow melted quickly on the warm roads… A hint of things to come. Got home ’bout 7, and turned on the heat for the first time this season!

Noting that the new naked Formula II is the lightest sidecar I own, thought it would be a good match for my lightest street bike, the R65LS that resides in Florida. Had the similar R80ST conveniently parked in the living room, so I lined up the new hack alongside and did a test fit… Without the body in the way, looks like I can get it in with a 50 inch or less track, with a body on the closest I can get an F2 to an airhead is about a 56′ track width. That wide track on the 55″ wheelbase R65LS makes for a bit too much push on braking and pull on acceleration. But with the track down to 50″, this looks like a workable combination. So after a thorough checking out and repaint, looks like the “new” stripped F2 will be going to Florida to mate with the LS… Maybe a Naples Airhead Tech Day sidecar mounting demonstration?

Now I just have to watch the toy and hardware departments for a body…

First, an update: researchers have now found all kinds of diesel cars exceeding emissions standards in “real world tests”, and VW wasn’t the dirtiest. Nobody is testing gas powered cars, while electric car advocates cleverly ignore the fact that their wundercars merely relocate the smog to much bigger smokestacks, usually located where the poor folks live. Around the world, politicians have been piling up the environmentalist points by decrying VW for crimes against something vague or other. Meanwhile, VW quietly admitted fault and promised to recall and repair something on the order of 10+ million cars.

No doubt by now VW is the laughing stock of the faculty lounges of business schools all over the country. Future MBAs will no doubt be educated in “how VW blew it”. SOP in big biz when they screw up is to deny, delay, and dump blame on everyone but themselves for their screwups. Heck, if real MBAs were running VW, they would have quickly peddled their only sizable American asset, the Chattanooga assembly plant. They then would midnight online file a pre-packaged bankruptcy of their American operations, leaving consumers and dealers scrambling for pennies on the dollar just to fulfill warranty obligations, never mind billions to fund the diesel recall. Slip the petty and billions in cash back to the homeland and sell the inventory of new cars that don’t meet Euro 6 to the 3rd world markets where they’re still debating Euro 4. Lean on the unions who’ll pressure the EC to let VW off with a stern warning and some tree planting and maybe some more solar cells, while turning loose the enthusiasts to spread the love for the brand and the right wing “Friends of Smog” to pressure the politicians. The american big three have the strategy down to an art, and if the EPA caught diesel pickups cheatin’ on emissions, they’d probably end up defunded and they’d do a recall to remove all the particulate filters and DEF tanks so patriotic owners could roll coal all over them ferrin’ hybred and ‘lectric cars!

But VW ain’t that kinda company.

Been three days since I rolled outa the RA rally in Harrison, so a final review of that rally is in order. Besides, I’m all fired up to do an update on the developing VW diesel soap opera, and need to close the books on this rally season.

Despite the site being a high class dump, I slept way better at the RA Rally than at most. I take that back, most dump sites, er excuse me, “sanitary disposal sites” around here seriously overcompensate with well tended landscaping and such and at least the front office is spotless. Outback, that’s another matter… Boone County, Arkansas Fairgrounds just push the manure to the edge of the camping area and let it sit, leaving it to the embarrassed city of Harrison AKA our hosts to turn their Public Works folks on the problem with Kubota bucketfuls of lime. And so it was all week and weekend, with the RA and city struggling to make the fairgrounds a passable rally site. Meanwhile, the blessings of the rural Ozarks were on display- country quiet and dark skies lead to the aforementioned easy sleep, and the Harrison “micropolitan area” of 50,000 odd souls was big enough to provide most anything a visitor needs without the traffic jams and tourist traps of overrun Branson just up the road.

But yes, there were complaints, and I heard an earful- That may explain why I and a few others were informed by saturday afternoon that the county was giving us the fairgrounds rent free. To top it off, word spread that we could stay over into monday if we wished, though the buildings with flush toilets would probably be locked up sometime monday. That’s a marked contrast with the usual fairgrounds rules, which require complete clearing of the grounds and a full inspection on sunday, and sometimes by noon. That suggests that while Harrison is undeniably behind the curve, they’re workin’ on it, as we saw the grounds improve markedly during the event. RA deserves credit for this too- It was easy to find the rally chair on site and problems were dealt with as quickly as possible. Contrast the agility of RA with the hierarchy that is BMWMOA- Submit a complaint and it might get denied at the board meeting at the next MOA rally, after you’ve been banned from the MOA forum, blamed for MOA’s ongoing loss of members and volunteers, and maybe been hung in virtual effigy in the MOA offices too. Thus I rate the RA rally a B thanks to their efforts, while the MOA rally continues it’s underachievement with a D rating… If MOA puts on a great rally, somebody screwed up!

‘Tis also the end of rally season for me, and most of us that live north of the Mason-Dixon line. ‘Twas a good ride, fourteeen rallies from the Florida Winter Rally in January to this past weekend’s BMWRA Rally in Arkansas. With the exception of the BMWMOA which seems to be constitutionally barred from throwing a great rally, every single club worked their butts off to produce the best rally possible. Which leads us to the number one reason rallies rise or fail… The site!

The Florida national guard, South Dakota state parks, Airhead Roger in Naples, and cities of Soldiers Grove, Atchison, Grand Marais, Elkader, Harrison, and a campground whose name I forget near Belmont, Wisconsin have embraced their rallies and are better economically and culturally for it. When a few hundred or even thousand motorcycle riding “culture vultures” make the rounds of your historic district, eateries, and shops while educating the locals that not all motorcycles are two wheeled tractors, that’s a good thing for all concerned, besides the notable boost to the local economy! But Billings and an unnamed campground in Galena, North Dakota state parks, and an unnamed resort in “the Dells” see riders as a cash cow to be milked… 5000 or so riders will now only stop in Billings for a short night’s rest if they’re dead tired, and that campground in Galena charges near as much to pitch a tent in their pasture for the night as a room goes for in Dubuque, 20 miles away, and there’s no security at the gate, and North Dakota had the stupidity to charge us even more for a thursday night tent site than Galena! And the Dells Rally that’s provided a profitable season extension may be no more, victim of the resort’s high rates and resultant falling attendance.

So rally venues, here’s the recipe for success: Embrace the rally, make it a weekend community celebration. Don’t just rake in the profits- Reinvest in site facilities that, what the heck, are gonna benefit the community for years to come anyway. And BMWRA, after the bills are paid, how ’bout donating some of the rally profits back to Harrison and Boone County for improvements to the rally site?


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