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Can't keep a Stovebolter still
By Steve VandenBerg
Part Eight ~ How hard can it be to ...
get a car jack?
I see a billboard a ways off that has the name of some towing outfit and a call box. I get on my cell and call my cousin Craig in Las Vegas and tell him that I’m going to be running late. He asked where I was. I said, “In a desert somewhere between here and there.” He told me there was some tire shops up ahead. I tried to call the towing number on the billboard and did not get an answer.
I decided that since the air was still in the tire, I might as well see if I can make it to an exit and maybe find a tire shop. About 10 miles ahead I take an exit and see a shop. I asked the man if he has any tires for my car.
"I don’t have anything that will come close."
“Do you have a small jack I could buy?”
“No, but I’ll put your spare on for you.”
The guy points to a sign that he is standing in front of that states: MINIMUM CHARGE $100.
I drive away. I figure I can be stranded anywhere in the desert and it isn’t going to make any difference where I have the flat. I did get to thinking though. I figured that the guy had a pretty good racket going and preyed on people having trouble and charged them big bucks for it because they had no choice.
Then I thought to my self how hot it was out here and decided that they couldn’t get me to live my life out here for $200 minimum charge. I had a choice and I kept driving 45 mph.
I called Craig and told him I didn’t have a jack and that I was going to keep going until I could find a tire, or jack, or both. Just then I could hear the tire coming apart again. I said, “I gotta go” and hung up the phone.
The rubber chunk let loose. I waited for the tire to go down to the rim. It still held air so ... I kept driving. After about 30 miles, I turned off into a town called Baker. I started asking people if they knew where I could get a small jack, but no one could help me. It was 8 pm and everything was closed down. No jack, no tire shop and my spare was the 35 year old original Firestone Red line polyglass tire.
get alien jerky?
In another desperate attempt to locate a jack, I stopped at the Alien Fresh Jerky vendor stand. A giant bug-eyed alien sign looked down at me. I saw words that stated “AREA 51.” I thought it was kind of weird. There was an older Mexican gal and what I believed to be her son, who was about 15 years old. I asked them if they knew where I might be able to find a jack. The boy said he would look. He ran off and I talked with the woman. I asked the gal, “Are there were many aliens around?” She shrugged her shoulders and with a smile said,” I haven’t seen any around here.”
The kid came back with a small floor jack in hand. I asked how much he wanted for it and he replied, “$2000.” I told him that I wasn’t that desperate. The old gal laughed and the boy said to just take it. I honestly tried to give him some money for it and they both refused. When they wouldn’t take the money, I asked the boy, “You didn’t steal it did you?” He laughed and said that he hadn’t. I thanked them graciously and went on my way. I should have spent $10 on beef jerky, but the question came to mind that if it really was Alien Jerky ... did it really qualify as BEEF jerky? Was this the government’s way of disposing of evidence? Maybe I would have been surprised by its unique flavor. Well, if any of you ever get to Baker, Nevada, pick up a bag for me will ya? Ask the people if they remember a guy driving a Corvette stopping buy and asking for a jack. If they do, tell them I said hello ... and thanks again.
I filled the tank up with gas and picked up a couple more bottles of water as the image of Kelly handing me bottles of water and stating that I would be in the desert flashed through my mind. She had a serious look on her face. Now I was rationing for disaster. (When I got home, I had about 6 bottles of water in the car that I never drank.) I decided that since I had a jack and no tire stores were open, I would drive on the tire at 45 mph until it went flat. If I changed to the 35 year old spare, I would still drive 45 mph.
I drove another 95 miles to Las Vegas at 45 mph and the tire held. I got in around 11 pm and we put the Corvette in the shop. The name of the shop that Craig works at is N’ Sane. They build low riders and hoppers. They can jump a Blazer type vehicle 5 or 6 feet off of the ground (all four wheels at the same time). Some of these cars have a lot of bucks stuck in them.
Craig and his new wife Heidi took me to their 35’ camper to spend the night. They are in the process of finding a house. I slept on the camper’s fold down couch. I could feel the boards in my back and ribs. They had a small puppy of some sort and I taught it a new trick. It’s called Bite. Actually, the puppy reminded me of a cartoon with the thought balloon over the character's head. This puppy’s balloon only kept repeating the thought. "Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite."
Craig and I went to the shop that next day and discussed the tires on the Corvette. The tires were in very nice shape and looked like they were fairly new when it was parked 18 years earlier. They showed no evidence of cracking or abnormal wear. I had been prepared to purchase new tires before I left, but I thought they looked so nice and the Dutchman in me took over and I would give them a try. I knew this was taking a big chance ahead of time.
Let me give some good advice. If you buy a car with old tires on it, no matter how nice they look, just get some new ones right away and destroy the old tires. The new tire manufacturers are actually dating the tires and giving them a shelf life. If they are new, but have been sitting around too long, they won’t be sold. Old tires are dangerous. Get rid of them if you plan to drive on them. Period.
Craig and I loaded up the tires and rims and brought them down to a tire dealer. I bought some Cooper tires for all four corners of the Corvette and felt better about that. On the way back to the shop, I told Craig to stop at a Seven Eleven and pull up to the pump. He said that he needed gas so I thought this was my way to say thanks for helping ahead of time. A mere $52 later, he had a full tank of gas.
We stopped at a parts store on the way back and someone mentioned that the truck outside had gas leaking from it. When we got outside, I noticed that it was Craig’s truck leaking the gas. He said that always happens when he fills it up and he needed to put a new gasket on the tank or something. After seeing that all day at each stop, I told him next time I’ll just pour the gas on the ground so his gasket wouldn’t leak.
As I inspected the car further, I decided that the rear wheel bearings seemed loose. I decided I needed to take a closer look. The rear wheel bearing grease was thick like taffy and the bearings were looking glassy. Time to replace them. I had a heck of a time getting the grease out of the hub. The grease was hard. This wasn’t the kind of shop that did vehicle repair, but a specialty shop, so many tools that I am used to, were not available -- like a parts washer. I found a plastic pan and Craig had some kerosene. Taa Daa! A parts washer.
I had a brush and started cleaning. It took an awful lot of time trying to locate a tool that I needed, or organize a ride to the parts stores, etc. We had to make two trips for the tires. I called ahead and told them what I wanted and they said they had them in stock. We brought them down to the tire shop and they told me that they didn’t have them and tried to sell me another tire. I said “No” and they said they would have to get them brought in from another store. It would take an hour. So it took two trips to get tires.
If you think about the size of Las Vegas and how much time you spend at lights, lines and explaining yourself to others, you will realize that this tire thing just ate two hours out of my day. You could figure that every time you had to get parts or something, you could easily kill an hour each time. If you think of how many times I have talked about parts girls already, you may realize I killed a lot of time while chasing down parts for the Corvette.
As long as I am on the subject of getting parts and parts girls, I did not see one parts girl in Las Vegas. So, you can imagine the extra time it took to get the correct parts in this town. I did see some girls with the right parts in Las Vegas, but the parts had nothing to do with my Corvette and they looked a little cheap. They just happened to be asking a lot more than they were worth I imagine.
replace bearings alone?
We made a trip out to the parts store and got some new bearings. Now to drive the new bearing races in without damaging them. I just did an old trick I had done years ago in the Harley shops. I took the old bearing races that I pounded out of the hubs and ground down the outer edge so they were smaller than the replacement bearing races. I could pound on them instead of the new bearing race and it would provide an even surface area against the new race. When the new race was bottomed out in the hub, the old ground down race was small enough to get back out of the hole.
I decided to take a look at the knuckles in the two drive shafts at this point. They were filled with old hard grease, too and starting to burn up. Now four new knuckles were on the list. There happened to be four new knuckles in the boxes that were packed in the Corvette among all the parts, so I decided to use them. Nobody knew where a driveline shop was, so I had to do it myself.
This shop had no press and that worried me. Taking them apart was not the problem, but putting them together could be tricky because each knuckle had four sets of needle bearings on them. If those needle bearings came out or got damaged while trying to pound the needle cage into place, it could ruin the whole knuckle set. I had to use one of my expensive Snap On sockets and by the time I was done with these knuckles, I’m sure that the Snap On man would not warranty that socket any more.
The first one was the trickiest. The second was easier and the third one … the last two knuckles in the boxes were a different size. So back to the parts store for some more knuckles. By the time I got done with the fourth one, I was getting pretty good at it. Getting the drive axles off and on the Corvette was a special pain in the rear end. Each one of the u-bolt nuts had to be aligned just right to get my wrench on it. So that meant I had to turn the ignition on to unlock the shift lever, shift it into neutral, and then crawl under the car to turn the axle to the right position by hand to get my wrench on it. Then I had to crawl out from underneath and shift it into park again. Then I could crawl under the car again and turn the nut 1/8 turn at a time until the nut was off. Then, crawl out again to put the car into neutral, crawl under and turn the shaft, crawl out to lock the tranny, crawl under and turn 1/8 turn at a time. I had to repeat this for all eight nuts taking it apart. I didn’t have to lock the tranny for the initial snugging of the bolts, so that saved me some up and down and crawl in, crawl out on the floor. Then one more full sequence again to tighten them up once they were snug. That is 16 times I had to repeat the full sequence, and eight times for a half sequence. That was tiring.
Now that may not seem like a whole day's work and it probably wouldn’t at home, but I had to rely on Craig’s availability to drive me to the parts store or to get the tires, etc. It was a long day. We had a MacDonalds breakfast that morning and when Craig wanted to leave the shop, it was around 10 pm that night and I still hadn’t eaten. I had Craig get me a MacDonalds again and worked until around 11:30 pm.
to buy a round in Las Vegas?
After we finished up, Craig and Heidi took me out to a casino for a drink. We were served and I put a $20 on the bar. Craig asked what I was doing. I said that I was trying to buy a drink. He replied, “This is Las Vegas.” I drank my drink. Nobody paid for the drinks. We ordered another round and again I pushed my $20 out onto the bar. Again Craig asked what I was doing. I said I was trying to buy a round. Again he replied, “This is Las Vegas” and again nobody paid for the drinks. I had to ask Craig what he had meant by that because I thought of how meaningless it would have been if he would visit me and I would say to him “This is Sioux Falls.” I still would have to pay for the drinks. Craig informed my little South Dakota hillbilly mind that if you put money in the machines for gambling, the drinks are free. Ooohhh. I see. This is Las Vegas! Craig, Heidi and I got back to the camper after getting some tacos and I had to cash it in. You see, this is Las Vegas!