Troy's Blog

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I'm just a typical Dad. I have a good wife of 20+ years and 2 good kids. All 3, at times, contribute to my hair graying or falling out.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ready for Winter

Yesterday was the day at the DeWitz household to batten down the hatches and settle in for winter. Sean and I got the snow blower out, put the lawn mower away (needs an oil spring will have to do), got the garden hoses drained and rolled up, got the pots and planters in or at least moved from harm's way, and all that fun stuff.

We have a storage shed behind our garage that is the catch all for everything. The patio furniture is always packed in first. The table is too big to carry down the steps the safe way. It has to be hoisted overhead and carried down above the rail. I've done it for years and it is not a big deal. Yesterday, with the 40 mph winds, I wasn't sure if it would be my last year or not, but I made it. Next is the other large stuff: mower, wheel barrow, fertilizer spreader, edger, trimmer, then we start piling the small stuff on that. The trampoline cushion and mat, the pots and planters, the leaf blower, the hoses, the sprinklers (like we ever need more water in Fargo), etc, etc. The hardest part is making sure there is 1/2 inch of space so the doors can close until next spring. At which time I'll open the shed and swear at the mess I created last fall. Trust me, though - there will be a time in mid January when someone somewhere will need something....that's stored in the shed. It happens every year. So then it is digging the snow away from the door, chipping the ice, and opening to the not so well packed mess. Best case scenario.......the "needed" item can be seen - way at the back. Worst case, it can't be seen, I assume it is in the back, but after rummaging realize it is not there.

But, anyway, we got the doors shut and locked. The fun part of the day was taking my snow blower in for a tune up. In 1988 I sold my first car (well used by then) and took the proceeds to buy a new snow blower. The house we lived in had a single driveway leading up to a 2 stall garage BEHIND the house. I always knew the person who designed the "garage behind the house" had never grown up in ND. My point....we needed a good snow blower and the neighbor who had been doing our driveway had the balls to move. Back then, I even did some work for hire in the neighborhood. Not enough to pay for the snow blower, but enough to pay for gauze and ointment for my frost bite.

That snow blower has survived many a storm. The winters of 95-96, 96-97, and 08-09. I've done countless nieghbor's driveways. I've run several wood blocks, rocks, garden hoses, sprinklers, lawn ornaments, and stray pets through it over the years and have never done a repair except for the occasional spark plug and annual oil change. I've had it apart several times removing foreign, non snow, objects from it's mechanism, but nothing broken.

It has always needed full choke and it honestly had to be primed until the gas runs out of the carburetor to start. Yesterday, as we were getting it out and ready to be hauled to the shop, Sean asked why it had an electrical cord attached. I explained the trouble with starting a 8 hp engine when it's 30 below (leaving out his father's lack of patience when it is 30 below). So instead of moving it closer to an outlet (....let's look at that. First I'm too lazy to manually start it so pay for the electric start attachment, now I'm even too damn lazy to move it close to the outlet??!!)...I decided to try it the old fashioned way. Full choke, prime prime prime it until gas is running out the engine, key on, full throttle, and with ONE (yes, one) pull......boom, boom, boom, boom, smoke everywhere, machine rattling like a bucket of loose bolts, it comes to life and purrs like a kitten. Runs like a charm - always has. This thing doesn't miss a beat, as long as you POUR gas into it.

We loaded it on the trailer (see previous story) and hauled it to The Garden Hut. Neighbor Rob had started this business from scratch and it has really grown. I'd never been there so was anxious to see his new business (I have something else in mind, too). Sean and I get there, get it unloaded, do the usual small talk, and on my way out, Rob starts commenting about his new items in stock. Yeeessss, the real reason I'm here. I told him that the next time I need a new blower/mower, I'm doing away with one of each and getting a riding mower/blower. But that's a few years off......

Rob said "well, before you completely dismiss it, let me show you what I've got in back".

"I can't", I I rushed to follow him to the back. Sean was right behind me. I'm sure, going through his mind, was "oh, this is going to be good. Dad is going to sit on a riding mower, fall in love, and buy one. Besides that fun, when he has to tell Mom, I'll get to listen to him get in TROUBLE - AGAIN".

Rob took me back to furthest secret corner of the building. The place reserved for "showing" his best of the best. There it was. Spotlights shining like an epiphany from above on a brand new Cub Cadet "Cadillac of Cadillacs" garden tractor with a snow blower. I knew I didn't dare sit on it - as I hoisted myself up to the seat. The thing was like a stretch limo - and I like big cars. It even had a cup holder for my hot chocolate in the winter and iced beverage in the summer. Damn....I'd look good on this. I'd welcome the 3 foot chunk of icy sludge at the end of the driveway from the fk'n city plows if I had this machine in my garage. I'd be plowing FOR the city, instead of against them.

No, I didn't buy it. My mower is new and the blower works fine.

But (isn't there always a "but") as I was falling asleep last night, I started dreaming of me doing a "walk around" of my new machine. The final instructions before I took it home.

You know how when you start to fall asleep, you often jump because of some stupid thing in your dream - falling, getting hit, stumbling?? During the walk around in my dream I slipped on ice and woke up. I think in some sort of twisted way that Shirley was the patch of ice.

My brother in law, Jeff, is supposed to get the snow blower attachment for his new riding mower so he can endlessly brag about it when we're around - thus convincing US it would be a good idea to get one as well. I think my sister is his patch of ice. (oh, the comments that could come from that sentence).

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Since I bought my motorcycle earlier this summer, I've been wanting to take it somewhere fun to drive. The flats of Fargo aren't that scenic - Duluth and the Black Hills come to mind first. I'm not one for hours of interstate riding on a motorcycle so naturally, I'd have to haul it. Hauling it would involve two options - buying a pickup ($$$$$) or buying a trailer ($). The fewer ($) present, the better it'd fly at home so I decided to go with the trailer option.

I started looking at new trailers; anywhere from $400 to $1,700. For $400 you got two small wheels and a frame made of Erector Set material. For $1,700 the trailer loaded itself. I was looking for something UNDER $300. All the used ones I could find in that range had been welded and badly reinforced or needed so much welding that I wasn't sure if I'd make it home with them.

It has been said a million times when out shopping for something....I can make it myself cheaper than that. Knowing that this is always(?) true, I got the bright idea of making one. That seemed like it'd get expensive in a hurry as well (the sum of the parts is greater than that of the whole theory). Scratch that idea. I'm not sure why so many of my ideas get scratched...I must be related to Ty (my brother).

After all these ideas, I read about people converting boat trailers to utility trailers. Larger wheels, heavy frames, axles rated for higher pounds...YES, that's it. And boat trailers are picked up fairly easily toward the end of summer - abundant and cheap.

So I began looking for those. As soon as one went up for sale, I'd call to look at it but it had already been sold. Or the trailer wasn't built like I needed it. It had to be a flat frame, not a bowed frame. Finally one Sunday, minutes before we were to leave for church, one popped up on the Internet. I emailed the party saying I'd be there right after church and to call me. Looking further at the picture, it was exactly what I wanted. I e-mailed again saying never mind...I'LL TAKE IT - call me - evening during church. I turned my phone on vibrate, sat at the end of the pew, and at the call, no call, no call. Great...someone else bought it, I thought. Luckily I got a call as soon as church was out - I was the first to respond to their posting so had first chance at it - Divine Intervention, I'm sure! By now, it was dark (we'd gone to the Sunday night service). I immediately drove to the trailer, looked it over, and damn near pissed myself with excitement as I handed the seller the cash. Exactly what I wanted!!

Of course, during this whole "looking for a trailer" process, my family had become bored and resentful of my struggles. They were all extremely excited that I'd finally found something. Upon bringing it home, honestly, you could see the disappointment in their eyes as they walked into the garage to see the FAMILY'S new trailer - yes, I was willing to share my prize. It was a 16' Lund boat trailer with all the trimmings. Roller arms, rollers, pads, guides, and a winch.....all necessary for a boat trailer, but not a motorcycle trailer.

The first thing I did was take off all the unnecessary items and reposition the hitch. There, it looked like a heavy duty jet ski trailer. I won't bore you with the constant harassing comments from the kids; let's just say they still weren't impressed. I moved it to the back yard so we could have our garage back and explained to the neighbors that, no, I was not going to hang a Sanford and Son sign in our this time we had 7 licensed modes of transportation - but that's a story for another time.

I loved (notice the past tense verbiage) this trailer; it was heavy duty but easy to move, well balanced and sturdy, step fenders and brand new 14" tires, and only $150 - what a steal....did these people know what they'd sold and how much more they could have gotten?

Labor Day weekend....I should repack or replace the wheel bearings. A boat trailer - the bearings had been submersed in water countless times. A fresh start wouldn't hurt.

Thursday night, I went to the back yard to loosen the lug nuts and make sure they weren't rusted on. "What the hell.....the lug nuts aren't the same size on each side". Upon further inspection, there was a reason it looked good - IN THE DARK!. At one time the axle had snapped and been welded on....but how good of a weld was it? With any weight and the right bump, would the whole thing fold in half somewhere miles from anywhere with my precious cargo strewn about. And the right hub was sealed, cleverly I might add, with a Mountain Dew can and a Coke can. Hmmmm.....and from there the $ started turning into $$ + $ + $ .

Now remember, I can buy what I deemed as the perfect NEW trailer for $900 at a dealer just out of Minneapolis. But Noooooooo.......I can build one for cheaper! Let's go down the checkbook register.




Trailer - a STEAL at $150

New axle and hubs - a lesson learned but still within budget - $150

Iron and welding to add a base and convert the "V" trailer to a square - excellent craftsmanship, hired out, not mine - $250

Iron to make the square back into a "V" as it looks better (this is starting to add up in $$) $25

Iron to make sides on top of the frame - needed $75

Labor for the last two - free so far....Thank you Ty for doing 75% of this part. I owe you.

Lumber for the floor and sides - well, I got a Fleet Farm charge card out of the deal and saved 10% plus got deferred interest- $200

Bolts and misc. clamps, clasps, tie downs, etc. (hopefully Ma doesn't see the Fleet Farm charge card bill) - $100

Primer, paint, and stain - we painted our first house for less than this but I need to protect my investment - it may soon be MY house - $75 (when exactly does that Fleet Farm bill come in the mail - could I have it sent to work instead of home?)

Lights - gotta be legal when I have to add a topper and live in my new trailer - $50

By now this thing is so damn heavy, I can barely roll it downhill. I'm going to need a trailer dolly for the front - $50 (or a chiropractor adjustment every time I move it at $35 each; opt for the $50 dolly).

Hours spent on this...I know it's well over 60. Taking it apart, putting it together, sanding, priming, painting, measuring, cutting lumber, wiring, etc. No fee....lots of experience

Flowers for the wife because she won't have stopped reading when she was told to $25

Bribery for the kids to quit bringing it up in front of their mother.....$25 x2

To review:

Unauthorized budget request - under $300

New trailer - $900

Reconditioned boat trailer that I got for cheap and would be an inexpensive "do it yourself" project - to date, over $1,200.

Proving to my wife and family that, yes, once again, I am right, I can build this for cheaper than I can buy it - not sure; had it happened....possibly priceless?

KJ....we'll be there next weekend, need anything hauled?