Finally…DSC_5742Deere’s prices dropped while beat up decades old tractors sold for damn near new price, so I bit the bullet and order one in early March. Came back from Florida and tractor hadn’t been delivered, told delayed ’til mid June. So I go and blow my wad on a new Golf TDI, then a couple days later the Deere dealer calls and the tractor’s in. Scraped the $$$ together to pay for it and they delivered it friday, and I’ve been playing with it all weekend.

The learning curve is steep, as Deere’s control scheme isn’t exactly “intuitive”… If this is a tractor the two pedals on the right should be brakes, not forward and reverse pedals! But I’m getting used to it and mowing the lawn as fast as I can slalom around the landscaping. Got a front end loader too so I can make the driveway respectable and clear off snow this winter. There’s a real 3 point and PTO out back, gotta shop for implements.

She may be only a fawn, but she’s a Deere!

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Last Thursday morning:DSC_5700

Last Thursday evening:DSC_5716

Long time readers who I haven’t put to sleep yet will remember that VW has been quasi-sponsoring my Gearhead gallivanting about the countryside with a guaranteed buyback offer, thanks to the encouragement of the EPA, CARB, and a bunch o’ greedy shysters. The deal was too good to resist- around $6000 bounty to let VW fix the offending TDI diesels to comply with just one aspect of ‘Merica’s oddball environmental requirements that they didn’t comply with, assuming EPA and CARB ever approve a fix. Or juicier yet, buyback for the September ’15 trade in value PLUS the $6k “restitution”= About what I paid for the ’13 “Jetta” Sportswagon TDI new! And pouring on the free “condiments”, VW allows 12.5K miles a year with no penalty and deducts only a paltry nickel a mile if you run over those allowances… And they gave us until the end of 2018 to turn it in! Thus was turned loose my “Fugitive TDI”, as I aimed to pile on the miles ’til the last day of 2018.

None the less, there were a few “bugs” in that plan… Like the Fort Myers VW dealer who botched an alignment, and the lack of new TDIs to trade for. Sorry, 30 MPG or less MPG is hard to accept when your TDIs have routinely given 40+ MPG for the last four decades. So I was resigned to replacing the ’13 TDI with a gluttonous “gasser”, and keeping the ’03 Golf TDI going as long as possible. Then EPA and CARB surprised us by approving a fix for the latest technology TDIs, the 2015 and maybe some 2014 models with the newer EA288 engine and Diesel Exhaust Fluid injection. Meanwhile, there’s no fix approved yet for the next oldest group of TDIs, the Passats with the older 70s based engine design and DEF injection. And for the 2009-2014 TDIs with the older engine design and no DEF injection, the outlook is grim… VW is already crushing some.

When the stop sale order on new TDIs came down in September 2015 there were around 12,000 new unsold TDIs in the U.S., and they’ve spent the last year and a half languishing in limbo at the back of VW dealer lots and worse. After a couple weeks of rumors, the stop sale order was dropped on April 14th and the TDI rush began! And I mean rush, with no advertising or even mention on VW’s website and aided by a $5k rebate and 0% financing, most of those 12,000 new TDIs sold out in days.

With the new tractor I’d set aside $16k for delayed until June, I e-mailed the two “nearest” (70 and 110 miles away) VW dealers on the 15th to check inventory status. Just about sold out in Sioux Falls, and a pair of Golfs and another Sportswagen in Mankato. Put my dibs on the white Golf on the 17th, and picked it up a bit over a week later after a minor feud with VW Finance who insisted on financing the car to get the $5k rebate… We settled on a token loan with 40% down that I’ll be paying back shortly.

So here she is, in her natural habitat:DSC_5713For those of you outside the midwest, Fleet Farm is sorta a Tractor Supply, all grown up.

Just breaking her in, so picked up a light load as I trained in the new TDI with her first pizza and Dew stop:DSC_5715Next day a bit tougher assignment with a Costco run:DSC_5725Big cooler, 36 cans of Dew, couple weeks worth of bread, ‘nanas, and a couple years supply of TP… And didn’t even have to fold the back seat down! Haven’t refueled yet and the current tankful was partly burned while under the dealer’s custody, but here’s the computer’s results for a 65-80 MPH 140 mile cruise to Sioux Falls and back:DSC_5726That 45 MPG beats the ’13 by at least 10%, and matches or beats my ’03 TDI and ’86 and ’79 VW Golf diesels, and this is a new tight engine cruising at higher speeds than were even quasi-legal in ’86 and ’79. This highlights my impression of the latest 7th generation Golf- In almost every way it’s better than the previous Golfs and TDIs. There’s a couple questionable “modern improvements” like the hiding of the door locks and having to go through computer “menus” to do stupid simple stuff, but in most every way it’s an improvement. And it got cheaper to boot- when the 7th generation Golfs came out VW added a cheaper “S” trim option in the U.S.A. and knocked a couple thou off the price. And by going back to the standard Golf hatch from the Golf Sportswagen I saved a couple thousand more- The Sportswagen’s extra foot of cargo space is nice, but that same foot moves the hitch a foot back and makes the shorter overhang Golf hatch a better trailer tower.

And what of that ’13 Sportswagon? Sitting at the VW dealer awaiting a May 10th buyback that will net me the price of a decent Airhead more than this new Golf TDI costs. But seeing that VW is now crushing TDIs, I may do the numbers again and maybe reclaim the ’13 “Fugitive TDI” and put on a few (hundred?) thousand miles before I surrender it to a date with the crusher. I still have 4 of the 5 Golf diesels I’ve bought since ’78, and with no new ones forthcoming to ‘Merica, I’m hesitant to give up my “stash”!

 

 

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?