DSC_5679That’s the label on just about the only mailbox in South Dakota that gets collected at 8 pm, This one’s in Huron. Behind it sits a massive and mostly empty former mail sorting center that used to speedily sort all the mail headed in and out of east central South Dakota. Today all the mail dropped in this box and for a hundred miles or so around gets trucked to Sioux Falls, a couple hundred miles away, for sorting. And while the box gets pulled at 8, I suspect the last mail truck of the day to Sioux Falls left hours before.

In compliance with federal law I duly deposited by properly stamped tax return into this box before the promised 8 pm collect time, and 2 hours later I doubt the Postal Service has moved it more than a hundred yards to the loading dock to await tomorrow’s truck to Sioux Falls. I’m not a tax protester, I’m happy to pay my taxes. But I do this as a protest against what Postal Service management has done to hobble what was once the world’s greatest postal service. I’ve been doing this remote post office mailing on tax day routine for a couple years now and my tax payment checks never get cashed until May at least. How the hell can a private business survive with that slow a cash flow?

Didn’t used to be that way… Before we had computers and cell phones we had a vast railroad network with at least daily passenger service on every track that stopped at most every town. If they didn’t stop, they literally caught the mail on the fly and threw bags of mail out the door as they passed the station. Every passenger train had a Railway Post Office (RPO) car, and post offices they were- Literally sorting mail on the fly as the train flew through the night. And every RPO car had a slot for deposit of mail.

Half a century ago you could walk over to the station, drop your tax return in the slot on the RPO car of even the day’s last train, and know that your tax return and check would hundreds of miles towards it’s destination and often delivered the next afternoon. And they call the gutting of our Postal Service and passenger trains “progress”?

 

Bulletin from the GHG world news center (crude alerting noises and lousy Morse Code in the back ground):

Yup, the EPA finally let VW sell the 20,000 or so new TDI diesel cars they had in stock when sales were stopped in late 2015. That would be uneventful, but they’re rebating them $5k and throwing in one hell of an extended warranty on the engine and emissions system. After a near two year TDI drought they’re selling fast, best make your move if you want one. Or wait for the 60,000 or so bought back latest generation TDIs to appear on VW used car lots, or Chevy’s upcoming Cruze diesel…

Gather a half dozen airheads, and (almost) any mechanical malady can be cured…

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And ’twas way more than a half dozen present at this springs North Florida Tech Daze, the official tally last I heard was that half dozen plus another seventy, and a few more that maybe wandered in later…

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That’s just a corner of the campsites, never mind those of us camped in cars, RVs, on the host’s couch(s), etc.!

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Even cannibalized a crash damaged airhead, frame was bent so the bits were silent auctioned off as a fundraiser for the FlAirheads… An hour later nothing but the bent frame and a few non wear items remained! Didn’t get a count on the number of bikes fixed, but the shop was full and busy the whole long weekend. Got my R80ST more together, would have gotten it looking more like a bike but has to leave the wheels and forks off so it would fit back in the Golf Variant.

All in all a grand weekend besides the bikes fixed, and well worth the trip to Florida. Had an uneventful trip home save for the Atlanta I-85 bridge burn down induced traffic congestion over a hundred miles away on US231 through Alabama, maybe more on that in an upcoming post. In the meantime, got the ST unloaded and it’s sitting on the dolly demanding my attentions!

Sadly must report that one of the great airhead gurus, “Oak” Oaklasen, passed to the great tech day upstairs this morning. Oak probably figured he could finally safely leave us airheads to play unsupervised when 70 odd of us showed up for Kevin Reiner’s north Florida tech daze last weekend.

More when I get my laptop back… Blogging on a phone sux!

I was on a roll- First the TDI “on loan” from VW makes it back from Florida with all 4 tires wearing evenly and slowly. Then I get serious about tractor shopping, and the Deere dealer that wanted list last year for a loaded tractor is now happy to supply the economy model and knocks 10% off the price before the negotiating even begins. I hint that Kubotas are still cheaper and he knocks another thousand off, getting down into the price range normally reserved for government buying pool bids. So I signed on the dotted line, and in a couple weeks shipping time my tractor should appear at the local Deere dealer.

Of course, solutions always create… More problems. I go to move the Ranger ’bout a week ago and am greeted by a suspiciously soft brake pedal. Turns out a rusty front brake line has decided to fail. The POS little trailer Roger saved from the dead a few years back ain’t up to the job, sagged rather badly when I put a Mini atop it and the Deere is damn near as heavy. The big trailer can handle the weight, but it’s own weight is pushing my luck hooked to the old TDI.

So I gotta fix the Ranger… Attempting extrication of the rusted old break lines, I suspect the “Jaws of Life” is the proper tool… Looks like Ford installed the lines in the chassis, then plopped the engine atop. Had to cut one line into 3 pieces to get it out. Unlike VW, Ford lists no proper factory fit brake lines for a mere 2 decade old Ranger, suggesting they be “fabricated” from lengths of brake tubing. Gee Ford, I though “fabricating” was your job? This means I journey over to the small town internet free auto parts emporium where the old Ford partsman holds court… This is the guy that found the missing link to connect the Rangers english rear brakes with it’s metric front brakes a few years back. This time his young apprentice of the female persuasion found the parts quite efficiently and for only $17 for 3 lines and a union.

Of course Ford was not about to let it be so simple- Get a line all bent up and squirelled in place and turns out Ford is mixing british and really old british threads again. I’d specced one line too long too, so back to the parts store. And did I mention that the front wheels are rusted to the hubs too? Decide to knock off early, and resolve to retire the Ranger out back when I get the brakes fixed and buy a new small trailer. Knocked off early and had a long lunch and coffee while I mourned what is probably the end of the Ranger’s working life.

After moping around a while, figure I might as well work on the R80ST in the living room, the shop being rather drafty. Been hanging bits back onto the frame and decided it was time for the forks to rejoin the frame. Had just dug out the little plastic cups at the top of the fork lowers the other day and fitted fresh felts in them. Put ’em on, damn they stick with the uppers when I move them… Are the felts too thick? Take out the felts and they still won’t stay in place, probably worn out. Had another one and some old felts, where’d I put them? I give up, I’m veggin’ out front ‘O the TV rest of the day!

Maybe I need some motorvation to finish the ST rebuild… Maybe take it to north Florida Tech Daze?

And not by intent.

First I got waylayed by politics, came back to Minnesota to fight the re-election of our democratic party “machine”. Put that in parenthesis because they’re amateurs by Chicago standards, but I was tiring of their financial success while losing elections. Lost that battle saturday, so was hoping for more time to get back to gearheadin’.

In the meantime GM, noting that France may be about to leave the EU along with Britain while the US is about to leave everybody, up and sold their Euro operations AKA Opel & Vauxhall to PSA, FKA Peugeot & Citroen. And here I was trying to get away from politics! I’m sure the decision wasn’t exactly political though, more so an admission that GM can’t compete for the favor of the world’s most critical drivers in Europe. And while GM claims it’s North American product line won’t be much affected, a lot of GM’s best cars and especially some of the Buicks and Cadillacs have Opel roots.

Then while waiting for that news to distill, GM’s telecom vendor AT&T drops the price of UNLIMITED data via OnStar to $20 a month! I’ve shopped the recent unlimited wireless price war and found AT&T wanting, best they’re offering me with union discount is $85 a month but no “tethering” with the cell phone as a “hotspot”. I ended up switching to T-Mobile and will be saving around a hundred bucks a month with my heavy usage, but the thought of living in a new 50+ MPG Cruze diesel with all you can eat data for $20 a month on top of it sounds irresistible.  And as a concerned Ford stockholder, $20 a month mobile communications could steal a lot of our sales…

But there had to be a dark side to this deal… GM would love to know where there cars are and whether you’re overloading or overspeeding or overdoing something or other with them, but that can’t be worth that deep data discount. Then I shopped AT&T’s site, wondering if any similar deal was available for Fords, etc.. Turns out that AT&T has a cell modem that fits other brands too, but no $20 a month deals. But the “hotspot” plugs not into the “cigarette lighter” plug, but the OBD plug! These hotspots are just dumbed down cellphones and about the only connection they need is 5 volts DC at a few milliamps for power. So why risk wrecking that expensive and legally mandated OBD plug that was never designed to have things hanging from it for long? Sure, maybe a few fleets want that data to track vehicles and drivers, but most mobile hotspot sales ain’t to fleets. But somebody must be willing to forego a lot of revenue for all that data and control… Hacking of GM and FCA vehicles via wireless has already been demonstrated.

Then the new Secretary of Transportation answered my question, or at least provided more queries. Unlike most of Trump’s picks, Elaine Chao was actually confirmed without much drama because she’s an old school republican and a straight shooter. And shoot off she did, ‘fessin’ up that Trump and the GOP’s infrastructure plan was pretty much privatization, which means toll roads. And how do you collect tolls with no toll booths on 99% of our highways? A little dumbed down cell phone with government mandated GPS that lives at the end of your OBD plug! It’s startin’ to make sense…

On a brighter note, after GM ‘fessed up that they can’t compete in Europe, Ford announced that the Mustang is outselling the Porsche 911 in Germany, and they have no plans to leave the world market!

 

 

dsc_5668Mostway through February, and the Naples boosters have yet to make their usual breathless announcement of how great January’s tourism biz was. Given that December 2016 was a let down from previous Decembers, I think this means that January was really slow, and they’re hoping for a better februrary or the rest of the year so things average out and then they can announce breathless record tourist biz for the winter season or year or some time or other announcement.

Half of Florida tourism’s problem is exhibited above… The lake is at 42 degrees north in Minnesota and the temp is just north of 60 degrees, and what remains of that ice may not be long for the world. We’ve already had ice out on some of the ponds, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see ice out on a shallow lake or three tomorrow. Kinda blows the incentive to travel to Florida… But talk of global warming is pretty much forbidden amongst the Florida tourism boosters, so they’ll have to come up with more “creative” explanations for the sagging tourism numbers.

Florida tourism’s other problem is equally unmentionable… No PR flack employed by the boosters of one of America’s reddist counties is going to admit that the spectre of a President Trump is scaring off foreign tourists. But the analytics don’t lie (though some of the analysts do), and web searches from several foreign countries on Florida tourist websites are down by double digit percentages. No surprise that I heard fewer foreign language conversations and even English english in Florida this winter, and traffic seemed a bit less but still too slow. Heck, even the Canadians seemed to disappear for a few days around the inauguration. And if the Brits and even Canadians and tourists from a bunch of other countries not on Trump’s list of “Moslem” countries are staying away, I doubt many wealthy Arabs will grace us with their presence and tourist dollars either.

But Florida tourism boosters, don’t give up hope yet…

Winter storm watch for hereabouts on thursday and friday. So I might come back for a few weeks and spend a few bucks at Micky D’s supper clubs and I can’t make it to Naples and back without buying a least a tankful of Florida taxed fuel. So ya, I might drop a whole $20 to the state of Florida in taxes on my next visit.

But I’ll try to drop more in the donation jar at the next Florida Airhead Tech Day… Worth every cent!