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DSCF0122Railroads are hard to kill… It took overbuilding and competition by Interstate Highway subsidized trucking to bring down the legends like the Milwaukee and Rock Island, and much of those railroads are still turning a profit under other names. The weakest railroads having been sliced and diced by the bankruptcy courts, the 21st century has seen no big railroad bankruptcies. But CPR was the third of four railroads the late Hunter Harrison trying to downsize to even higher profits and it shows… Here’s the 2014 edition with much more detailed decorations, including the rooftop Christmas tree that has disappeared. The Holiday train had even better power in previous years, with a new 6000 horsepower GE instead of the current 2000 horsepower rebuilt GP20.


Over these last few years there have been regular rumors that this years Holiday Train was the last… I was told the 10th anniversary train would be the last, and here’s the 20th, and the performances and CP workers dedication to the train are as good as ever. DSCF0144Bungling CEOs couldn’t kill Canadian Pacific, the only railroad I know of with an archivist on staff, Maintenance Of Way workers that still tend the track side grave of a co-worker that died building the railroad a century and a half ago, and will send a locomotive to do a whistle blowing slow roll by at the internment of a deceased child railfan.

DSCF0133But you can’t kill a great railroad… CP Holiday Train, highball!



This is why I’m not too concerned that my trailer park landlady is trying to evict me so she can get outa my 99 year lease and flip the lot into more profitable short term rentals. This is why I really don’t care that there doesn’t seem to be a VW dealer in south Florida that can do an oil change, never mind an alignment without trashing the cars suspension. This is why I really don’t care that there’s one old skool BMW dealer left in the state,

Was planning my usual migration to my tin shack in the swamp otherwise know as Naples, usually undertaken after the December city council meeting. But after a cold november and a weekend dump of 8 inches, the weather cleared up and now we’ve got highs above freezing every day and no snow in the forecast= May as well hang around to catch the CP Railroad Holiday Train and the Dakota 38+3 Memorial Ride!

Then I receive a slanderous Certified Mail greeting from the aforementioned landlady’s purported lawyer claiming my trailer to be a fire hazard and worse and demanding my and it’s removal from the “park” that same day. Called the landlady to inquire what the problem was and she informed me that the tattered tarp on the roof of the “Florida room” AKA tin shed trying to pass itself off as a living room needed to be removed. OK, I can do that as soon as she drops the eviction so I can actually set foot in her “park” to effect said tarp removal. Says she’ll call her lawyer and get back to me… Now this is the lawyer who represented her in a previous eviction of a paid up tenant just because said landlady wasn’t allowed to bless a sale of the lease, resulting in six figure legal bills when her lawyer lost the case… I fully expect to be served with an unlawful detainer, TRO, and probably some homemade “parking tickets” too as fast as the mail can carry them.

So listen up, Florida promoters… We northerners (ya, we noticed the confederate elements in your flag) probably don’t need you anymore!

And a full house it is…


Winter means time to bring the bikes in for a bit of R&R and clear some space in the shop in case I need to fix a four wheeler. From left to right is the now whole R80ST awaiting a few finishing touches to it’s restoration, the $25 Yamaha MX250 barnyard find, my brothers XS650, Guzzi Quota, and the R100GS. Behind the dueling dual sports is a Motorvation Spyder sidecar that’s moving back to the ST after a couple years of  being motivated by the GS.

Still trying to get motivated to make it to Florida… Weather has been nice other than last weekends 8 inches but dry weather forecast for the next week. Hoping to make my Teamster retirees lunch and get some fresh photos of the Holiday Train and Dakota 38+3 Memorial Ride  this coming week before I surrender and head south.


Long time readers have probably noted that I’m a fan (or sucker for) cheap mass produced stuff. For example, without Costco’s $8 100 liter stack-able and nest-able molded plastic storage boxes my life would be totally disorganized instead of merely disorganized. Thanks to Costco and the plastic molding industry, my car and bike parts are neatly separated into their own exclusive 100 liter boxes and stacked 5 high in the back room awaiting the call. But I wanted more… For $8 total waterproofing was probably too much to expect, and they will take on a warp if you unevenly load a hundred kilos of whatever in ’em.

So I been on the lookout for some sturdier tool boxes with gasketed gates for water proofness and easy lockability. I’ve found a too small 10 liter or so box on closeout at Lowes and 20 and 25 or so liter boxes in Stanley and Dewalt brands, same company. But I really had my eye on their DeWalt “Tough System” boxes, a neat little system of interchangeable boxes, carriers,etc.. FFI: Click here for link. So comes black friday and Home Despot has a 3 box set with integral 2 wheeler for a hundred bucks, and they even had them in stock so I pounced. Been busy neatening up the house until I realized I should be getting packed for my annual migration to Florida, which provided a convenient excuse to quit cleaning. So today I finally got around to load’n ’em up with tools, here’s the “little” 15~ liter box…


This is a remix of the “quick service” toolboxes I put together back in the 70s, problem was that my old cars needed tools aboard but the ‘hood I lived in meant I dared not leave them in the car. So I filled one of them then new fangled plastic tackle boxes with rachets and sockets up to around 3/4″, wrenches in the same sizes, screwdrivers, and assorted useful odds and ends. The whole package weighed under 10 kilos and was thus easy to tote in and outa the car for safekeeping. This remix is even more commodious, and holds a few more of my last 4 decades accumulation of tools… Heck, with everything I got in this “little box, I may never need to open the “bigger” box…


I apologize, I haven’t managed to fill this box yet either… Maybe I “need” to buy more tools! Paper towel roll provided to help ya gauge the size and because I was too lazy to pick it up. Got a screw jack, big wrenches, pry bar, tire kit, and some spare ‘lectric bits in there and still room to spare. Don’t know what I’m gonna find to fill the “big” box…


What the heck am I gonna do with all this space? Did a test fit and found I can fit a 2 person tent, 2″ thick ThermaRest, and 3 season synthetic bag in their without even having to slam the lid closed, never mind sit on it. Gonna hafta buy more “stuff”…


Here’s the whole assemblage together, the bottom box has wheels and the handle folds down to clear low hatchbacks and such. All the boxes lock together for stability, or unlock and rearrange them for tight fits. For a gearhead with a half dozen cars and bikes and hacks in regular use, the versatility of these boxes is a dream come true… I can grab just the top box for short trips on the newer bikes or cars, or the whole arsenal of tools when wandering farther from home with the “historic” vehicles. And please note that the ST in the background is now pretty much completely assembled and even runs, and please don’t ask what’s up with the pillow on the couch… I’m cheap!

They’re back to regular price today, but the way the retailer’s promotions work we’ll probably see them on sale again soon. I’ll certainly grab more boxes or another set, could put my whole camping “house” in the bottom box, a week’s clothes in the middle box, and makeup (who am I kidding, us ol’ ladies fill our makeup bags with lotions, pills, cough drops, etc…) in the top box. 80+ liters of secure waterproof storage for a hundred bucks… can’t beat a deal like that. Good readers, please use to comment feature to let us know if you see these on sale. And DeWalt, if you think I’m a good “influencer”, send me a free set and I’ll be happy to tell the world that you tried to bribe me!

I was ready to spend over $1000, and bumbling retailers left most of it on the table!

Like many of you, I keep a good mental list of things I need or will soon need and watch for good deals, so I was ready and able to spend some serious money. I refuse to shop on thanksgiving, so first stop friday was Bomgaars, a midwest farm & hardware store where most everything was 20% off (% off is much better than a few select low quality items on sale). The strange logic of Bomgaars’ dicatates that you pick up a 20% off coupon by 10am which can be used all day, so I hopped back in the car and headed to Mac’s Hardware in Sioux Falls where tools were 40% off ’til 10am. I got too many tools already, but found amongst the junk tools a gear puller I needed and a small hatchet/hammer for camping. On to Home Despot where the $7 27 gallon storage boxes were MIA, but the DeWalt waterproof “tough system” tool boxes I’d been eyeing for a while were still around, so I scored a 3 piece set for around a hundred. Need a nose jack/wheel for a trailer, but the line to pay up at Northern Tool was hopeless so I retreated to the sanity of Costco for lunch and a few items. Stopped at Bomgaars on the way home and scored some LED trailer lights, but the 600 pounds of wood heating pellets I was going to buy? Looked like all the new help they’d hired had torn open most every bag while learning how to run the forklift. Of 8 bags on the first pallet only 2 were dry, and the second pallet they got some more forklift practice bringing in was no better=No sale!

Wasn’t planning to make the 110 mile drive to Mankato on Saturday, but with my major source of heating fuel full o’ wet pellets and Fleet Farm offering them for half a buck a bag less and they were probably dry, I hooked on the trailer so I could double the load and headed that way, while debating if I should stop by Harbor Freight and get the motorcycle lift I’ve been needing for years. Decided heat for the winter was more important and scored 1200 pounds of wood heating pellets which will probably get me thought the winter and a couple small items, but the “tough boxes” I was hoping to add to the set from Home Despot were nowhere to be found.

So Sunday brought good driving weather and I was still short the motorcycle lift and 27 gallon boxes. Harbor Freight’s website can’t do real time store inventory and no point in running 70 miles to Sioux Falls with the trailer in case they had one. But 40 miles away in Brookings Lowes’ website promised the same boxes and some shelving I needed too. Browsing Lowes I drooled over an awesome USA made supersized tool box, damn near $800 on sale but it’d be the last box I’d ever need… I’d a bought it but I didn’t have the trailer with. Found all of 2 storage boxes in definitely the wrong aisle where they’d probably been abandoned so left them for a more desperate customer as they were the last in store, their inventory said 10 in store and those were already sold. Settled for the shelves and a digital infrared thermometer for my SIL with numb hands, and at checkout was charged full price for the shelves, headed for returns and got my money back=no sale! Later read that Lowes’ website crashed and while back up, inventory hasn’t been updated in days.

So I tried to spend a couple thousand dollars this black friday weekend and incompetent retailers left over half of it in the table. Traffic was light all weekend and parking plentiful, so I’m not the only discouraged consumer. Online competition ain’t killing retail, it’s their own sloppy inventory management, underpaid and undertrained workers, and arrogant refusal to listen to customers that’s doing them in. And if I can’t even buy half of what I went shopping for because it’s lost in the store if it ever even made it to the loading dock, how much is this retail dysfunction costing the economy?


There’s a great thread on ADV about the sales, including some big discounts at Bob’s BMW, Aerostitch, etc.. on just about everything. Here’s the link.

Made my usual rounds today, started with Mac’s hardware where tools were 40% off this morning, amidst the stuff I already have and the junk I scored a torx wrench set and a gear puller. Home Despot produced a set of 3 DeWalt “tough boxes” complete with gasketed top doors and a 2 wheeled carrier for $99. Northern Tool didn’t have that great a deals and the line at the cashiers was long, so I walked in and right back out. Costco yielded a waterproof “point ‘n’ shoot” camera, whose benefits you’ll soon see here on the blog… My baby SLR is suffering mechanical failure. 20% off on most everything at Bomgaar’s farm store, but most all their wood heating pellets had been ruined by some sloppy forklift handling that tore the bags followed by a rainstorm when they stored them outside. Did score some LED trailer lights though…

So happy (bargain) hunting, and please use the comments feature to share any finds!

OK, I been sluffin’ off, probly even sleepin’ on the job… So another turkey roast is overdue. And gawd, in my absence, have these turkeys been multiplying… In this target rich environment, where do I start?

Smart phones on wheels: Back in the not so bad old days we judged a vehicle by it’s performance, comfort, and economy. Then some too clever product planner decided that we wanted to take calls from telemarketers while driving and bluetoothed our cell phones into their speakers and added a mic which makes for all sorts of future automaker snooping mischief.  It gets worse…

Just in case you refuse to connect your smartphone to your car, the automakers then proceeded to put a cheap cell phone in your car. In most cases they couldn’t resist the possibility of a continuing source of revenue and service reminders and thankfully charge to turn it on, thus mine is off. It gets even worse…

If a cell phone in the car is good, surely a touch screen tablet would be even better? Well, no, especially when you hog a square foot of dashboard turf with it. We drivers like nice big gauges in front of us with the heating controls, radio, etc. in the center with controls we can work by feel. In contrast a “touchscreen” strangely has no feel… Which means you need to take your eyes off the road during all of driving’s challenges to see what bit of the screen to touch to turn on defrost. It gets even way worse…

So here we are, veering from fog line to fog line trying to turn on defrost, and probably about to crash. The automakers solution? Automated cars! Yes, the automakers who brought us all of the above cyber stupidity will drive us, directed by the google that can’t even find my house!

Time for some 2 wheeled relief…

So you wander into the nearest motorcycle dealer, which most likely is a Harley dealer. It’s filled to the brim with what look like 1960s motorcycles and clothes and just about everything else you can fit a Harley logo on, and it’s all over priced. Harley’s best years were a century ago, then they got lucky and the boomers bought them. But the boomers are more likely shopping for wheelchairs than 2 wheelers now. So you try the next dealer, which turns out to have similar wares to Harley but for some half hidden overhead cams and maybe some forlorn Victories and a dusty crashed Slingshot waiting months for parts. ‘Merican motorcycle industry, lose the cruisers… There time was a century ago, they were dated by the ’50s, and unsalable now!

Hungry now, you stop by the truck stop for some voluminous grub. You get to taking with a young lady that’s running an aero Mack with a single drive axle that cruises at 1100 RPM and gets 9 MPG loaded, or talk to her at least when she’s not being interrupted by the guys bragging about their juiced up long nose Petes and KWs with the huge bull bars. And when they’re not bragging, they’re complaining about the 5 MPG their blunt nose trucks get and how they’re not making any money. Guys, trucking is a business… Lose your “road warrior” aerodynamic disaster area on 18 wheels.

Got my limit o’ turkeys, so the Porsche SUVs and outa warranty BMW’s will have to wait for next year. No problem, given the current rate of vehicular devolution, I’m sure we’ll have plenty more turkeys to roast next year!


Been seven years since I started this blog, and I’ve gotten the itch to make some changes, hopefully for the better. I read through the whole seven years of bloggin’ and IMHO it varies from good to occasionally great to “I wrote that?”. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for improvement…

Seven years brings a lot of change too- For example, electric vehicles are no longer a joke and will be treated as such. Media has changed too, so I’ll be giving the blog some social media exposure. And every aspect of life, even ridin’ and drivin’, has gotten way politicized- For example Donald Trump is now the greatest threat to american auto makers. But as a recovering political hack, I’ll try to keep the politics in it’s place. And while looking to the future, I’ll try to honor gearhead history of the per-internet era and answer the unanswered questions… Like, did Porsche design the Corvair for Chevy or vice versa?

Buckle up and/or get your helmet on, it’s gonna be a wild ride!

They’ve been on a wild ride at Ford lately, sorta like when your teenage kid tries to come up with a clever story to explain the fresh dent and engine knock in the family car after you let them solo with it. First version of the story was that Ford was diving deep into electrification and autonomous cars to get a head start on the future. What actually happened was that Ford added diesel options for the F150 and Transit Connect and dropped the Focus electric and C-Max hybrids, then paid way too much for an abandoned train station and other dilapidated real estate in Detroit. This failed to provide the desired jump in stock value to benefit the close to retirement Ford execs with stock options, and in fact the stock has been on a slow slide downward.

So Ford top management decided that what the world really wanted was hatchbacks on tippy toes called SUVs and kicked the Focus outa their U.S. lineup and put the Fiesta and Fusion on notice… Despite the fact that buyers with late 20s median ages and six figure median incomes lined up and laid down deposits to buy every $40k Focus RS they could build. And with Ford finances hemorrhaging to pay for development of all these electric and autonomous vehicles that not much of anyone seems interested in buying, Wall Street got worried, so after buying up all that future office space Ford announces layoffs of thousands of white collar workers.

But despite top management inattention, Ford’s business of actually building vehicles has been going pretty well- Ford has best in class vehicles in many segments like pickups and full size vans and it’s new world market F-Max heavy tractor just won the International Truck of the Year Award. Ford never much mentioned these accomplishments and the F-Max is darn near a corporate secret here in North America, so the stock slide continued.

When all else fails, blame the ad agency… So Ford brought in a new agency and gave the old one a consolation prize. New agency has to do something “impressive”, so this weekend they’ll debut the new “Ford Proud” ad campaign. But in the last few days the “collaboration” being discussed between Ford and VW Group was rumored to be something more, like a merger. Unlike a lot of mergers a lot of the press thought this marriage made sense, but Ford promptly walked the merger rumor back. Here was chance to merge two great automotive and institutional traditions with complementary strengths… But Ford was too “Ford Proud” to even consider it.




‘Case you’ve been wondering what I been up to…

Been blogging since 2012 on auto, motorcycle, and logistics issues over at my Gearhead Grrrl blog. Cut my teach in political writing over at the old then moved over to Kos for the Dean campaign and have been their ever since. Used to make the “rec page” regularly, but by 2016 the Bernie and Hillary camps and who knows how many troll farms and their ‘bots had hacked the system, and my upgrades to the “rec list” became rare. Since then us indy bloggers have Kos’ own growing staff of writers to compete with too. ‘Bout a year ago I started cranking out a monthly “Outreach Officers Report” about rural democrat’s issues, which succeeded in riling up some big city Democrats despite being appreciated by a few readers. Kicked outa the MN DFL party for supporting the candidate who ultimately got the most votes in the primary my writing was censored. ‘Bout that time I also figured out that I could accomplish more to elect democrats and move the country in a progressive direction from outside the democratic party than within, so I decided not to run for re-election as a party official and start this “Sassy Democrat” blog to bring my “wisdom” to a wider audience.

I had visions of invigorating coverage of the midterms followed by chasing the presidential candidates ’round Iowa and down the campaign trail to the conventions. But the reality has been different- Despite rare new content the “Gearhead Grrrl” blog usually gets more views than “Sassy Democrat”. My political writing ain’t the only one starving for lack of views- Other day a professional writer for a political blog noted the consolidation in the online news industry was about to put him out of a job. He partly blamed Facebook for this, with viral spread of their stories squelched amid Facebook’s crackdown on politics. Even political advertisers seem no longer welcome at Facebook- A friend, definitely a real live human and not a ‘bot, is having difficulty convincing Facebook that she’s a real advertiser with money to spend.

No surprise… I suspect Facebook and other social media at least tolerated politics to attract eyeballs, but now that online ads are passing TV ad spending Facebook can be choosy. And while political ad spending is outa control it”s still only about a percent or three of total ad spending every other year… Facebook can bring in more reliable revenue from car ads with less hassle than dealing with political campaigns. And I have to admit the consumers of my gearhead writings are a better audience… They can understand and appreciate a reasoned and logical discussion, while a political article usually dies if it doesn’t have the issue de jour like Kavanaugh has been for the past weeks in the title.

So with the current level of disinterest I’ll probably let this political blog die after the election and return to writing about old motorcycles and whether anyone is actually in charge at Ford these days. But then again, you readers might change my mind…