Swimming with Sharks

Apr. 15, 2006 - Going home ...

... that last day of a road trip. You know that tonight you sleep in your bed, not a motel. You know that you won't be trying to be somewhere and measuring that need against a clock and a radar gun.


You like the idea that if the bottom end falls out through the sump you're close to home and not 1500 miles away.


And it's a short day too with only 500 miles to go.


You don't rush breakfast. You don't *have* to be out of town by 7:30 ... and you don't have to look at the map.


Pity they don't sell beer on Sundays because a case of Alien Beer (a Roswell speciality) would have been a nice souvenier. Check oil, tires, gas up. Buy 3 bottles of water. Clean the windshield.


A couple of hours unwind along the back highways.


There's a languid kind of slowness about the midday. The air is soft. Almost blurry. Oh wait that's sunstroke.


Still you don't  close the sunroof. You put on a hat instead.


The car has been good. You start doing all that mental arithmetic. Gas mileage. Distance and time. Average for the trip 85mph. Not bad. Hmmm ... 26.6mpg ... did I work that out right ?  Road trip ETA deadline disease creeps back in. You calculate 5 o'clock, that's not bad, maybe if I stretch the last tank I can shave a half hour off that and see how far the fuel guage goes.


Hey stoopid ... relax. You're not in a hurry now, the car's going to make it, you're going to make it.


Finally across the border back into Texas. I don't care when I get back now, I'm just soaking up the sublime way this old car still drives and eats up miles and miles and miles of highway.


When the signs reading out the distance to go to get to Fort Worth start appearing, I know I'm home. Never thought I'd feel so attached to my adopted home here in Texas as I do right now.


Cop car heading down the on ramp ahead of me. Merging at that almost high speed moment when little steering corrections are firm and driven down by the force of acceleration, that tight almost nervous way police cars correct their flight path when in pursuit. sort of squating down, urgent like. I know he'd spotted his quarry a minute or two before I came along and it serves as a reminder to pay attention. I could be next. I don't have a radar detector. 2,000 miles in a couple of days and no tickets at high cruising speeds. I think of Veronica's dad and remind myself I am lucky, just in case I forget.


We all forget from time to time. Those of us who don't ignore it completely I mean.


Doesn't your driveway always look good when you pull in from a road trip ?  Even when there's half the front yard tree on your roof, the other half across the front windows and garden bed, and mail flowing out of the mailbox and all over the front porch.


Ahhh .... home.

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Apr. 13, 2006 - ... Route 66 revisited

Up at 6:00am shower and pack, breakfast at 6:30.  Bacon and eggs old school, 5 cups of coffee and headed to New Mexico. Just like good old Bugs we'll be turning right at Alberquerque. Lotta Arizona to blow through before that though.


Over breakfast realize we only did about 450 miles yesterday. It just felt like 600. Today we're going to do 800+ and aim for Roswell NM. Gas up and check the oil. Hmm ... it's about a pint and a 1/2 down so that's 450 + 120 the day I bought it, oh wait a minute ... how low was it when I bought it ?  Did I remember to check ?


Oh well whack a quart in there and check it in New Mexico tonight. It doesn't burn oil visibly out the tailpipes.


Call Vernonica, her dad had surgery and is ok for now. The hospital hints heavily at every chance that this isn't a free operation. That must be nice.  B(


So we spend the day under the Arizona sun whisking across the old west and picking up bits of the old route (66) ... I'd call it a bit of a let down over the old days, all cut up and only accessed in bits and pieces, but at least what is left is still there and some of the little towns are having a bit of a tourism rebirth, so I don't think too much about what we have lost and focus more on what we still have.


By mid afternoon I think I have heard every country song known to man. Instead of going crazy I decide I'm a cowboy instead. I got a Route 66 ballcap here to wear so I think I can pull it off if I imagine the 633 has morphed into an F-150 pick up somewhere between Bullhead and Silver Cities.


The car is handling this road trip pressure so well that after about 1,000 miles something in the back of my brain snaps and decides to relax and abandon high alert. We're not going to throw a rod, spin a bearing or drop a valve at 90 miles an hour. We're going to make it, and make it without even sweating. The AC could start a snowfall inside this glass house but it's more fun with the roof open, even at 90mph.


I smoke too much on road trips. When I finally quit that's going to be hell to pay. We reach Alberquerque and stop for gas, then straight out of town.  Lisa departs to see old friends. How can you have old friends at 22 ? Afternoon rush hour this place is mad. I get off I-40 and head south to Roswell. The sky descends into a purple/pink then orange glow fading to blue black.




It's dark before I reach Roswell. Lights off and back on. Another truck. Lights off and back on. I figure they get the message. Sometimes they obviously don't. Some trucks carry a lot of big lights don't they ?


Cruise the main drag of Roswell NM. Find a motel. Go get some dinner. Room was so cheap I decide I deserve to split the differance on Lobster and Giant Shrimp. Now that was a good decision. Have a couiple of quick beers and off to bed for the last sunrise on the road. I remember to check the oil and it doesn't need any. 880 miles. Hmmm ... maybe I didn't top up after picking it up afterall, or where did this mornings quart of oil go ? 


Road logic. If it doesn't need any oil be happy. Don't try to figure out why it doesn't need any oil. Try to find a CD you haven't found yet so you can pass on the country music replays for maybe a couple of hours. Fall asleep like you've been binge drinking for a couple of days.


Don't dream of smoking engines and 4 quarts of oil on the pavement. Definately don't dream of what your rocker cover looks like after you open a hood that looks like a greande went off in the air cleaner.


Sweet dreams baby. Dream them sweet.

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Apr. 12, 2006 - ... day two dawns.

Six o'clock in the morning. What is that noise ?!?!


Bugger, just a motel alarm clock I put on the other side of the room so I'd have to get up to turn it off.


Motel mornings. Turn the TV off from the night before. Kill the AC because living inside an ice cube isn't exactly the greatest idea when all you're wearing is a T-shirt. Go and see just how bad the shower is. Yup. It sure is clean but I'd prefer some water pressure and a hot/cold faucet that didn't make finding the right temperature an excercise in frozen sunburn. I'm sure that cheap motels are the plumbers revenge on America.


Always make sure you put something out to leave behind in your room that you'll remember 200 miles from now.


Try not to make it a cell phone without a PIN lock on it.


Bag over my shoulder, I wander down to a diner for breakfast. Stare out at morning commute downtown Salinas going to work for another day. Nice day too. You tend to notice these things on road trips. Esspecially when you're killing time in prelude to cutting another check for the 25 year old BMW you just paid for yesterday. Has the money pit begun already ?


I decide to chance it and go down to Autowerks early (it's like 9:00am now) and make a futile gesture of asking if the parts have arrived yet. I spot my red bimmer sitting in the car park and I know it's going to be awhile yet. Geoff the owner tells me that the parts shouldn't be too big a deal since they're already hanging off the right rear axle of that red BMW 633 parked outside.


I'm away !  It's not even 10 o'clock in the morning. Even the bill for the work wasn't outrageous. Jerry checked a few other things out for me while it was up on the hoist and prnounces it good for the trip back. He knew what nightmares were fighting my brain for status as the center of the universe. I'd go back to that shop (Autowerks) for work on my car anytime. Great shop. I've seen hundreds. I might even drive 2,000 miles back there for the next big task if I get a wild hair up my ass for another road trip.


I pick up a few items at the supermarket and head south out of town. Looking for Hwy.1 and the pacific coastal drive that you just can't help anticipating. In my usual fashion, blunder along following my nose DON'T LOOK AT THE MAP. It always works out more fun if you don't look at the map.


You know you've found Hwy.1 when you have a cliff on one side, and the ocean on the other.


And the windiest two lane road in the solar system dividing the two.


The steering of this 6 series. SUBLIME turn in and tenacious ability to draw a tighter line when you go in deeper than maybe you should. These Khumo 50's aren't bad at all. Work that gearbox. Wow, I think I even remembered how to heel and toe. 25 years old and this car wants to rock!


Now, a word about traffic. Hwy.1 tourist traffic. I don't think I've seen that much blue hair at a rotary club meeting. Work your way along. Use more 2nd gear than you might have planned. That hi-flow muffler doesn't sound half bad bouncing off a rock wall. Sunroof is nice. Let's more of the sound in. TURN OFF THE STEREO.


Ok, this traffic is getting too much. Let's pick up that hitchhiker. Backpack in the trunk, go. Nice girl from Germany. Likes BMW's. Things could be worse. We could be in a Dodge Caravan with peeling paint.


Now we have to play "survey the road across the inlet to the next headland." See what's coming along the half a mile of visible road on the other side so we can commit to the pass going down to the switchback up ahead where we'll lose sight of what's ahead when you're still only halfway around the traffic. This is why you're trailing in second gear. Launch velocity. Work it like that for 40 minutes, boy this car snarls when you push it a little. Nice.  B)


Solid brakes (well yeah, you just paid to have the rear ones rebuilt a few hours ago) and really great road holding. Smooth. Fast. Did I say nice yet ?  How about REALLY FREEAKING NICE.


My passenger remarks "you drive fast" and well ... yeah ... how can I not ?  It's a 633CSi and it might be old but it's beautiful and still althletic.


The day winds on, we depart the coast and drive over the hills to Bakersfield. Lisa wants to go to LA but I want to go to Texas. The desert road will win this discussion. The western sun and dirt and rocks beckon. She decides to go to New Mexico instead.


Point the car at I-40 East and hammer down. Stereo on now, wish I brought more than a dozen CD's with me. I know I'm about to hear more country music than mankind knows exists, beaming out from 100 little radio stations no one has ever heard of. Dans Furniture Emporium on 3rd and Main is having a sale this weekend. Doesn't matter what town you're in Dan is having a closeout sale on something.


An hour after dark we make Needles on the Arizona border. I know my lights are working because every truck we see gives me full brights to let me know. Hmmm ... so there's something else to look at later, why I have no ability to drop my lights off high beam. Old car wiring. Situation pretty normal, been here before. At least BMW don't don't use Lucas for an OEM electrical supplier. At least I hope they don't.


Time to find another motel. Which means pull off the highway and park, they are everywhere out here. I guess we've done 650 miles today. Not bad for a late start and the coast road. Henna (color and now name of this 633) has been a brilliant little low flying Lear jet. We really did fly the last 4 hours or so.


Time for executive jet pilots to get some sleep before another early start in the morning.

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Apr. 11, 2006 - The mad dash begins, if not for ...

Well I made it to Orange County LA to sell my truck, no problem there but the traffic through San Bernadino, OMG !  I've seen less waiting in line at 6 Flags on the 4th of July ... never again will I complain about traffic in the D/FW area ... the guy that bought the truck was a cool dude and he had this really nice 5Racing Cobra in the garage .... drool.


Ok so I will complain about the traffic in the D/FW area at some point in the future.


Stayed the night in Orange County and flew up to San Jose the next morning with the northern commute class. Flying to work, weird.


The Henna red 633 was waiting in the hills of Santa Cruz when we got there ... the PO picked me up at the airport naturally. Everything checked out although as usual there were more things I was a bit suss about in the flesh than had been apparent over the phone and in the pictures ... gotta expect that. They were all realtively little things so I put it down to "you gotta commit at some point" and I did need to be back at work in 4 days and I really didn't want to fly back without no car to drive when I got there. I guess I painted myself in a corner there but we all have to be idiots at some moment in our lives. I tend to be an idiot over attractive old cars !


We fired it up, took it for a burn and everything seemed good. Forked over the money (didn't even haggle) and grabbed the title and took off for Fort Worth Texas, 2,000 miles away.


2 miles down the road, it died. I called the PO but he was pretty much "start it up again, it'll be fine, it's probably a relay" ... I knew where that was going to end up. It did start and off we went again.


All was well but I was tentative, feeling it out. Made it through the hills (nice steering, handled really well) and pointed it at Monterey for the coast road, first leg of the trip. Destination, Moro Bay along Hwy.1 then across the mountains to Bakersfield.


Somewhere near Salinas, the rear end started to howl. It progressively got worse, although touching the brakes it went away. Disc harmonic, a dragging caliper or shot wheel bearing I suspect. Great. 70 miles from purchase, and already in trouble. Dived off the interstate (101) and drove into Salinas. Right hand turns at slow speed, it was positively scary sounding. Everyone was looking at me, I do believe I proved you can drive so far down in the drivers seat only your eyes and top of your head are visible above the dashboard line.


Make eye contact with no one. the howling got worse, but dragging the brakes silenced it. Will I make it to the end of the street before something seizes solid or collapses ? Not the kinds of thoughts you want to be having 2,000 miles from home on a very limited budget.


Luckily I puilled into a car park to assess the situation ... a carpark belonging to Geoff Fritz's Autowerks, an import service center specializing in BMW/Mercedes/Audi. They whipped it onto the hoist and a really cool mecahanic called Jerry Skelton checked the bearings (all good) and then the rear brakes.


Seized rear caliper on the right. Just what I expected (and prayed for) as that wouldn't be too expensive (I hoped) ... turned out these guys were really good, really accomodating (they promised as soon as the parts arrived, I'd be first out) and so at 4:00pm off I went on foot with my bag over my shoulder to find a nearby motel. Parts had to be ordered from Los Angeles, time to pray for speedy delivery.


Spent the night walking around the old town in Salinas (nice place) and had some great Thai food for dinner, stopped by an old "English" pub for a beer, then off to the motel and an early night. Called Veronica to see how her dad was doing (not good) and sent an angel off before falling dead asleep. Whatever I faced next I knew it wasn't as bad as somebody else was facing.

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Mar. 21, 2006 - Bitter Sweet

What a couple of days it's been.


I sold my truck privately at the very last minute before I was going to take it to the dealer and sell it to them ... this was good because I got a little more for it. No sooner did I get off the phone late that night to the new owner, then I got an email from the guy with the '82 633 I had been trying to track down from an add he posted back in February. I duly bought that little ripper of a 633.


The buyer of my truck agreed to pay gas (actually enough to get me to LA for delivery and back again with the beemer) if I saved him shipping by driving it to LA. I saved myself the shipping back of my new CSi. You'd almost think you were blessed with good luck at this point, the price I paid for the 633 was $2,500 less than comparable ones went for on eBay over the weekend, and I don't even think they are as nice as mine, although one did have half the milage on it, but was bone stock.


Mine has some cool mods and even some restoration, so I'm as happy as a rabbit in springtime.


You just never know though. Here I am preparing to depart in the wee small hours on the first leg of the trip to LA (from Texas) with several alternative routes, so I can see how I feel about where I stop and what I see along the way. I got Robben Ford and Pink Floyd and Stevie Ray CD's for the kenwood and a bunch of my favorite old tapes as well.


Reliable old Nikon is primed with some Fuji 400 and some 1600 for the night/dusk shots ... and we're ready for a road trip to celebrate both my recent good fortune and the aquisition of that lovely hole in my finances it's sure to burn.


Then I get a call from my friend in Europe. The poor part of Europe, the eastern bloc part of Europe. Their father had a heart attack. He's in hospital but they need to operate. This is bad in two ways.


1. You don't want to have serious surgery in some parts of the eastern bloc. Basically the parts they call the eastern bloc.


2. If you don't have any money (and medical insurance is ... ahh ... probably not in the dictionary) ... you don't want to get sick, ever.


Well they don't have any money. I was sitting here the other day lamenting how little wiggle room my budget has for this 633 CSi and contemplating how tough it might turn out that I'm making it my daily driver when I get it back here. I just can't afford two cars right now, yet I dreamed of this beemer, and I believe in going after your dreams even though you'll look back and ask yourself later what the hell you were thinking ?  Oh wow I thought on the weekend ... it's raining cats and dogs and now I can't go ride my Triumph.


My friend has a father in a hospital in a part of the world that you just don't go to hospital in. With a serious heart condition.


And no money. AND they're a student so getting money is ... well it's going to be like me getting Natasha Kinski to fall in love with me. Suddenly I don't feel so good getting a bargain $5,000 classic beemer when there's $3,000 between my friends father and hearing them laugh again.


I don't know what I'm going to do. I may just go to the bank and beg them, at least they have banks here that you can beg.


I'm still going to do this road trip, but what I'll be thinking about isn't what I figured on two days ago.


Thank the lord, each and every one of you, that you're living here in the USA and that the word "options" is one you can afford to forget as often as I have.


3 days from now there's going to be a Henna Red 633 CSi navigating the roads of the land called melancoly.

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Mar. 18, 2006 - Ok, I'm diving in !

Here we are, only hours later and fortune has allowed me to begin the journey into the sharkpool.


That Hennarot (German for "redhead") finished example over there top right ?


Yup, that's the one. Nice '82 5 Speed with professionally fitted Euro'spec bumpers.


Really nice interior. I mean sexy nice. COLD COLD COLD air conditioning according to the owner, who I choose to believe. That matters a lot in Texas. It's probably more important than good gas milage. Nice 7 series wheels and brand new tires. Bilsteins and those cool springs I see mentioned here a lot, but can't remember the name of. Aftermarket stainless steel tailpipes and muffler.


Hope my neighboors don't all have car alarms, I get home after dark A LOT.  B)


Good grief it even has a decent stereo in it!  This will be important on the way home to Texas from northern California as I try to mask out the sounds of the ZF gearbox telling me things I don't want to hear yet.


Hennarot, from what I can research, a pretty rare color for these cars, and it's the factory paint job. Am I right ?


Of course, there are a few issues, it's 24 years old, right ?  The drivers window doesn't work. Diasaster !  There's a paint chip in the chin spoiler on the left hand side. It doesn't have fogs. It doesn't have electric seats (that's a good thing in my mind) and there is no OBC to have in some variety of not quite working state. It has the "little" 3.2 motor rather than the big 3.5 (I'm going to cry now) ...


... but it is MINE. I have my ride to the South East Sharkfest now. Look forward to meeting you all, just look for the Euro bumpered red/orange machine with the chrome wheels and the tent pitched next to it, as I won't be buying a hotel room I don't think.


I bought the best I could find, just like you all told me to. My room money is in the 6'er I bought.  B)

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Mar. 18, 2006 - Hmmm ... finally I blog and it's a friggin BMW that's going to be to blame!

Ok, here we go. Blogging.

Why ?

Because I am in that scary first phase of hunting for a 6 series Beemer and I have no money. Not that blogging will alleviate any of that, but it will allow me to entertain you with the great chaotic gaping maw of a black hole I'm sure to find myself in.


Oh of course I have enough money to make the purchase, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts I won't have the money for when the auto transmission drops out halfway back to Texas as I drive over the Rocky Mountains with snow starting to fall.


I'm just going to share what this sharkfest mania is for me, from the very beginning ... and see where it takes me. Somewhere I'm not right now I'm sure.  If I make you laugh, even one time, or shift uneasily in your seat as you think "oh dear, this can't be good" ... well that's why I'm going to do it. I'm sure I'll get some advice from the old guard and believe me when I say I know could use every bit of it.


Let me see ... eBay ... do I go for the immaculate BBS wheeled glorious looking white one with all the great bits (suspension rebushed, SLS replaced with Bilsteins, vented discs, spotless looking, nice stereo) but 190,000 miles ... settling in around $5k ... or the 1 owner stocker for $6k but without all the modernization ... what does 100,000 miles "in the bank" buy you if it costs $1000 more and you only have enough to buy it anyway ?  Maybe the $4k one with a few of receipts and a little rough in the interior, but with a manual transmission (no $4k auto trans. repair bill just to get moving again) is the way to go ?  I know the way to go is to buy the BEST you can afford and that $1000 spent now on an upgraded or low mileage aspect will pay you back more than saving $1000 and having to pay for it later.


$1000 right now is a LOT of money to me. What an idiot I am ! Friggin sharks.


I'm needing that miricle called a "bargain" where I get a $8k car for $5k. Lucky me.  B]


EBay I love you and I hate you at the same time.


I'd buy that Hennarot Red one with the Euro. bumper conversion in a heartbeat (roadfly classifieds) if he'd just answer my email. Screw eBay auctions, too much stress.


Meanwhile it's raining, I have no car and I sold my truck to go swimming with sharks. I have my old Triumph 900 Supersport but riding in the rain doesn't feel like fun today. Staying in, on the internet, trying to get my own shark without getting my leg bit off is where i'm at, if I don't clean up the house that is. Everyone knows I won't be cleaning the house although Lord knows I should. I wonder what Veronica would say ?


Wish me luck, with no checkbook I'm going to need it.


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About Me

The adventures of a financially strapped lover of 6 series BMW's, among other things.