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The Project The Sage on 10 Jan 2009

Cycle of Life (Part 2)

It was a few weeks after Polar passed that I got an email from Bruce Whiteside. Bruce runs the rescue where we adopted Oscar.

I know this is most likely very poor timing with Polar’s passing, But that is why I am writing this. Some people need to wait for the pain to heal and some heal the pain with by choosing to share their love with another needy soul.
You have probably read about Ripley the pup that was found about 3 or 4 months ago and has been staying with us. She has had a couple of homes she was going to go to, but of the 3, 2 were like you, they had a recent loss and just not ready yet, the other wants her but they never respond to us when we ask a question or return calls. We think the wife wants her, but the husband does not and deletes the messages. So we decided if that is even a possibility, we will not place her there.

Of course Mrs. Sage and I are suckers, so I agreed to take a look on the way back from a visit to my parents. She was very friendly, and came right toward me when she ran through the door from the back yard. Bruce has about 10 dogs at times, so his place is a little “Berner” ranch. All the dogs were checking us out.

We made an agreement to “Sleep on it” and although it was hard to leave after our two hour visit, we manged to escape. By this time we hit a Taco Bell for lunch, Lynda and Martha were starting to push hard to get her, but the conversation was tabled.
On New Year’s eve we had a family meeting and decided to move forward. Arrangements were made, and Lynda and Martha went down to get her January 3rd.

She is hands down the most well behaved pup I have been around. Friendly, but then she calms down and just hangs out. Oscar is adapting, but a little taken back. They do get along.

I am still struggling with Polar, and she has a number of characteristics that he had that remind me of Polar, but beyond those moments, she is an excellent sassy little girl and we are welcoming into our house.

Daughter Sage mentioned “Cycle of Life” and it really is something to think about.



The Project The Sage on 15 Dec 2008

The Cycle of Life

Polar Coming HomeOn December 8th I had to make the decision to have Polar put to sleep. He was our family’s six year old Bernese Mountain Dog, and my traveling companion.  I don’t normally talk about non VW stuff here, but he was a part of this world of mine.

I don’t get sad very often but I am now.  All I can do is tell you the details…

We started seeing a drop in energy with Polar two weeks before Thanksgiving, and he developed a hot spot. Xrays produced no evidence, and blood tests were normal. After the Thanksgiving weekend his appetite dropped, and we didn’t notice that Oscar (our other Berner) was stealing his food. By mid week last week, he stopped eating, lost 6 pounds, and by Saturday we were forcing fluids with a baster waiting for our Monday appointment in GR Vet with Randy Carpenter.

Monday was an exhausting day. 7:45 we went to our vet for a liter of fluid, Noon we were in Grand Rapids getting Xrays and Ultra sounds, 3:30 we were at a Cardiologist, and by 5:30 Polar and I were on our way to MSU.
Polar Sunday before he passed away
When we arrived, he had developed spontaneous pneumothorax, and
couldn’t breath, then when they found bleeding, the decision became
clear. He went with that staunch dignified look that held back the
obvious pain. I sat there balling and comforting him.
Polar in ColoradoPolar with with us almost exactly 6 years, he was my dog, going to work with me most days and traveling to 21 states and Canada. We were preparing to do the Shore to Shore trail next summer; Empire to Oscoda. We had worked up to 20 miles a day. We hiked in Colorado to the continental divide, and most of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. He was the best trail dog I have ever had, staying out 20 feet and coming back to “check in” every so often.

We also lost Mrs Sage’s 19 year old cat in August, it’s been a tough year. We are lucky to have our  rescue Oscar, but it’s sad to see him look out the window for Polar. Eventually we will start wanting the activity level in our house back to normal, but it will be a while for me to be ready.

MSU has not yet determined the cause, prelim results showed unusual activity in the lungs, but no conclusions. I will post here when I get results.

EDIT It was determined to be Carcinoma in the Lung and Adrenal Gland. Polar had a highly malignant epithelial neoplasm, first on the Adrenal Gland then into the Lungs.  There was no more specific diagnosis at this time, but they could pursue this if necessary.

He also suffered Pneomothorax when the staff punctured his lung while attempting to drain the chest of air build up.

Thank you for all the kind words, reality is settling in, every time I speak to him and he’s not there. It’s just a sad time for us, but all my VW friends have made it more comforting.

The Project The Sage on 25 Oct 2008

It’s Winter Once Again

The clouds above the barn, and the brisk wind coming off the lake are telling us that winter is fiercely coming toward home.  In the last few weeks, I have been moving things around.  One day I had the a Ghia, and 4 of the split windows out in front of the barn as I cleaned out all the junk inside.

If the lessons of last year’s freeze in have taught me, it’s to be prepared.  This winter I am going to work on the 65 Camper interior and engine, the squareback engine, and I am going to clean out the 63 deluxe.  In order to do all of this, I needed things placed in the proper places.    I also decided that the best way to stay focused on my real projects, was to clear away everything else.  So last weekend, Matt and I moved 6 engines from upstairs to the cellar.  All the “extra” parts are also in the basement.   Now there will be nothing stopping me from the work I expect to get completed.

Sunday Night: Rain and snow showers. Some thunder is also possible. Low around 35. Breezy, with a west wind between 20 and 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Monday: Rain and snow showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 40. Breezy, with a west wind between 20 and 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Monday Night: Rain and snow showers likely, becoming all snow after 2am. Cloudy, with a low around 32. Northwest wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Tuesday: A chance of snow showers, mixing with rain after 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 39. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Tuesday Night: A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 30. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday: A chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45.

1977 Campmobile &The Project The Sage on 23 Oct 2008

“But how many run?” 4 words that mock me.

I am getting a little frustrated, or depressed, or just plain hazy lately… It’s fall in my pinky of the world. October has been an amazing month. The weather has been quite cooperative for those of us who don’t want to see the summer be chased by the pending snows of winter. The temperatures have been holding and we had what many agree was the most perfect weekend of the year. Indian summer is a magic time. Unlike the Dog Days of August or the still crisp June days filled with mosquitoes, Indian Summer has an air of excitement with pending changes of weather and no bugs. The leaves are turning, grapes are in their crush and the autumn harvest is winding down. It’s a stealing moment, a final hurrah.

My lovely wife had to travel to her childhood home to tend to a sick father, and I had a date with a campground. My children have an annual fall festival at school, and we were asked to join a elite group of people who camp out the day prior to the event. This was yet another perfect chance to show off the Westy. We loaded, chopped the firewood, and headed across town to the campground.

Since we are a Midwestern destination for recreation, going to a commercial campground no matter how nice, is a synthetic experience. But with it’s proximity to our prized Vasa trail, this one was acceptable.

We arrived, and opened up the bus. I escape for an hour on my bike, and return just in time for the first growlers opening. Handcrafted beer solves so many of life’s problems. I am sitting in my easy chair, with my beer; Heavenly.

As the evening progresses, the kids worn down from the endless games and tags, and rides, and runs… They head for bed. Quiet and calm (and more beer).

It is at this moment with it’s blend of euphoria and intoxication, that we are joined by the evening’s buzz kill. SHE (it’s always a she) and her happy go lucky hubby join us at our fireside. We continue on with conversation and my life’s work comes up in conversation. I begin rattling off my crop of OG metal when, as if subconsciously, SHE utters the words… “But how many run?”  Those words, so sweetly uttered, hit like a bullet through my heart. An uncomfortable silence sucks the air out of our little circle. Quickly (recognizing my complete moral devastation), one of the more socially skilled in the group makes a conversational right turn. The subject never resurfaces.

What is it? Why does my hobby scare them? I didn’t suspect her of being that way. SHE doesn’t drive an over inflated SUV. SHE has sweet kids, and a great husband. But in one moment, like bad news from a cop, my weekend is soiled. Fortunately, I was well oiled. I was able to let the comment slide down my back.

It’s not the first time, sadly; these people with the lack of insight, lack of imagination, lack of adventure. What is wrong with rust and dirt? Are we so septic a society these days that such beauty as a VW is worthy of mocking. This has me looking at the Hoodride movement in a whole new way, (but not for very long).

Road Trips The Sage on 22 Jun 2008

Litchfield 2008

May was filled with decisions this year. The first full weekend was the Michigan show, the second weekend was either Litchfield or the Grand Daddy of them all; the VW Classic in California. The 2006 classic was quite a show with numerous people whom I have met online in attendance. 2008 was again to be a good show, but as the show time approached, I again needed to make a choice.

Litchfield “Bug In” is comprised largely of people from the Atlantic Coast; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. 80% of the vehicles were bugs, hence the name. There were 4 Type 3’s and a some neat buses, but all and all, it was the rain that seemed to be the main attraction. We arrived about two in the afternoon. Like before, I am driving a Toyota to a VW show. Luckily, Glenn Ring had driven a Honda to the show, and given his level of knowledge within the community, I figured I would simply be ignored.

Glenn is a pretty neat guy. He knows quite a bit about performance engines, and owns a 1974 bug he has had since new. After Martha fell asleep, he and I sat up and talked about things for a while.

RAIN killed this show for me. Despite having a chance to meet numerous people I had conversed with online, the rain prevented us from actually spending any time sitting around talking; which is a big part of many shows. Jon and Lindsay were busy selling parts, Rob wandered around looking at things, as Martha and I did.

My favorite car was this 1958 Karman Ghia convertible. This was owned by a guy named Rob whom I had a chance to speak with. He purchased it restored, but he has a vast knowledge of the older VW”s (pre 1960). It took about a dozen photos, in hopes it might inspire me to do something about my Ghia’s. I hasn’t yet.

There are certain times of the year when the weather can be predictably good or bad. It seems, talking to many of the regulars to this show, that you can depend on rain. I can honestly say after looking at rows of near mint condition bugs, that they just don’t do anything for me. They are great cars, but they don’t deliver a punch for me like buses do. Speaking of buses, I did find a few with Hurst bumpers. I know that an SO Westy camper is out of my reach, both for practical reasons and in terms of cost/benefit, but they are so cool. Maybe it’s the gadgets, maybe it’s the practical nature of them, but it is why I am doing all of this.

My trip was just getting started, for when I left Litchfield on Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I headed for Manhattan. We stay at the Pod when we are there.. Lots to see and do. I had a chance to get a really good camera, and Martha visited American Girl Place.

After a few days in NYC, we headed to Princeton PA to see Steve Hamliton. Steve married My wife and I in Vail. He has been a good friend since 1983. He now works at Princeton Seminary, and it was nice spending the evening meal with him and getting a tour of the campus. Martha is really interested in campus life, and it wouldn’t break my heart if she wanted to go to Princeton. While there, we spend about 3 hours at “The Princeton Record Exchange”. This is perhaps the best used CD store in the US, and I have had the pleasure to go to dozens across the country. What makes this place so good? You can find titles here used, that I couldn’t find new just about anywhere else.

Once we left Princeton, we headed home. It was a long haul, and The Penn Turnpike is really boring, but we got there in about 15 hours.

Road Trips The Sage on 15 May 2008

Everybus 2008

TeddyIt was one of those times where I really let down my own schedule. I had purchased the 1969 Westy in anticipation of doing some road trips before selling it. But since the fall trip that afforded me the opportunity to meet Russ Wolfe
presented me with some maintenance issues. The engine was rebuilt in February at my buddy’s shop. We redid the heads, and replaced the Cylinder, Pistons and Rings. New Spark plugs, oil cooler, and completely clean case and tin.

Everybus was to be the first show I could go to in one of the 8 buses that I owned at the time. When it came down to the departure date; I lost my nerve. It’s wasn’t because the engine wasn’t ready to go, it was because I hadn’t driven it enough to be confident, and I didn’t have a connection in the Blue Ridge Mountains like Russ in Iowa.

Map of EB TripI loaded my Toyota with camping things, alcohol, and Polar. The drive was to take two days with 1700 miles round trip. I left in the afternoon and planned to make it to Columbus OH. I drove and drove, it was a nice day. When I got to Columbus, I decided to wash Polar. He had his usual spring stench, and being presentable is always in dog fashion. We found a PetSmart with a U Bathe, and he was clean. We ended up in some little town south of Columbus for the night.

The next morning I was on my way. I headed through Athens, and Ohio University. I used the computer lab for a client call and to check my email, then I continued on my journey.

I enjoyed the mountains in West Virginia, but much of the rest of the trip was just roads.

GoldieI arrived, and drove into the circle where the VW’s were parked. I was looked at and after I paid my entry fee, I relegated myself outside the ring next to a fifth wheel owned by some guy who was from the Thumb area of Michigan. I walked around, and finally stumbled on to Teddy. He is a jeweler from Columbus who is a regular on The Samba. We talked, I looked over his spotless 71 Westy named Goldie that he had just sold.

We did what any good VW people do who don’t (actually) have VW’s we started drinking. After a while of walking around looking at the show, I went on a walk.

Desiel Engine SplitNice WestyNice 62 Double Cab

Absolutely a great trip. There were numerous Split windows and dozens of people I had come across online. Most notable were Lovethosebuses from Canada, Jon and Lindsay from North Carolina, and Lou and Lis. Lou is retired and spends much of his life eating, planning on eating, cooking or talking about how he just ate. I met him origially at the 2007 Buses by the Bridge show in Arizona, but I don’t remember and neither did he. His wife has a really nice earlier bug, and he has a pick up and a 61 Westy. I almost forgot to mention John. He arrived late, left the same day and said about 50 words the whole time. He is a fireman from Durham, and the type of guy that when he speaks, it’s worthwhile. I (on the other hand) too often go for volume.

Most of the rest of the show was pretty normal. Walk around, drink, meet people (Rooster and his crowd were fun until he pointed his Mamma’s gun at me). I brought some parts of my own to sell, but I only sold the gas gauge from my parted 66 to a guy named Mark from South Carolina. It covered gas money.

Ted, John, Stacy, Lou, Sage, Lindsay, and JonThere was a blue grass band that was pretty good Saturday night, and a barbecue for everyone that was fabulous. It rained and that sort of dampened the experience, but it was fun.

The drive home was pretty normal, you just want to get home. Somewhere in West Virginia my rear shocks failed after all those miles pulling too much weight behind my truck. I bounced the rest of the way home, I thought polar was going to puke.

Although Everybus was fun, I read that they have moved it to the fall for 2009. I probably won’t go back to this one. The FMBC is a pretty tight group, and it is sometimes hard to get to know people when they are there to see old friends. I am sure that where ever I go, I can find Samba pals, and I will plan accordingly in the future for that.
CTS would have been a great show and a better choice, but it was my daughters birthday that weekend, and let’s face it; my little girl is much cuter than the average bus owner…

The Project The Sage on 09 Mar 2008

The Barn

The Barn became a solution to a problem that was created in the fall of 2006. I have 23 POS cars parked in a back 40 of my buddy Tommy’s property. Then one day I get the call;

“You need to get the shit out of here”

I wasn’t surprised about the call, but it I still wasn’t ready for it. Now what?

I drove past this barn that was about a mile up the road nearly everyday. Then one day there is a “for sale” sign up. I thought to myself that might work.

I start trading phone calls with the guy who owns it, he also happened to be the selling agent for the house I live in when I bought it. My goal is to rent the barn, his goal is to sell it to me. After long rounds of waiting for him to call me back (this is a negotiation necessity) , I finally suggest that I would consider a “rent to own” concept. This is great for me, as I am more interested in the “rent” part, and he thinks the place is sold. The way the project is going, I might want to buy the thing…

Barn with snowThe barn has three levels: Basement with a dirt floor and poured cement (not concrete) walls, the main floor, and a upper level, which is really just a few barn board that run across the beams.

The bottom floor is currently storing the engines and transmissions. It would be sweet to pour a concrete floor and put in a workshop. It would be easy to insulate the ceiling and keep this area heated. The main floor could fit 8 vw’s if I really crammed it full, but right now I have 5 buses, and the squareback inside. The third level could be reinforced to become a perfect parts storage area.

There are two flaws with the space. The first is the barn wood floors; uneven, with holes and large cracks. This makes it a challenge to roll around on a creeper or move my tool chests. I could put in a plywood floor with shims to level out a “working area” and I probably will this summer.

Building the TroughThe second flaw is a bigger problem. The roof is tin and delivers a load of snow precisely in front of the doors after each heavy snow. Sometimes this just means that I need to shovel for half an hour to get in, but if we get pounded with snow like we have in February and March of this year, then a solid ice block is created. Add a few days of rain like we had, and forget about it . It has been 5 weeks since I secured entrance to it. Saturday was a nice day. Even though it was 22 degrees. I decided to try to get it open.

Loaded with 3 shovels, a hoe, an axe and a hammer, I dragged my kids out to work onOpen this. Now living in a mining town for 5 years taught me a few things; A) Anything can be removed with pressure and force. B) Rocks are harder than ice C) Most chain gangs are successful because they use free labor and the work is simple enough for anyone, even kids. I decided the first step would be to remove snow… this took the 5 foot mound down to about 3 feet. Next, create a trough behind the block of ice in front of the door. Then, start chipping the ice between the door and the solid block… This needed to be gentle work, because we could easily damage the thin steel walls of the barn.


We chip and muck (a mining technique) and slowly, over a period of two hours, we get to within 8 inches of the ground, and hit solid ice. It is time for Calcium Carbonate. I purchased a large bag for this occasion. We put a generous heap across the edge of the block of ice and call it a day. Wine makes a wonderful muscle relaxant. My kids each took hot baths that night.

Heater meltOn Sunday, we return to find that the Cal Carb did it’s job, and the block of ice is now filled with holes. A little chipping with a hammer,we get the track clean enough that with a little pulling, the door opens. Then we can attack the ice with heavy tools… 70,000 BTU’s of heat can really finish a job off well. Once it gets fired up, the track, the block of ice, the channel all start to turn to water and wash away.

Clean TrackHopefully this will stay like this for a while, and I can start to work on the right door, which is still in the same condition that I found the first one in on Saturday… just a little pressure and force and it will be open. The best part: I now can start on the Squareback engine.

1969 Westfalia The Sage on 29 Feb 2008

My big mouth.

In my previous post, I was complaining about going from a main seal replacement to a more robust renovation. Well… I am now $700 into the project, but the engine is in excellent condition.

Getting the bus back on the road was a bigger chore than I thought.

This is not the real SageChallenge One: I assemble the long block. This required tracing all the threads on the block, and taping out 3 that had snapped off screws in them. For the most part, the long block went together well. I learned how to install cylinders on the rings, the wrist pins went in without much trouble, and I torqued everything down. It was later discovered that I have forgotten the tin that goes between the pushrod tubes and the cylinders. It took an extra 67 minutes to pull the heads and install those. We noticed that the push rods were really straining on the rockers. I had to move the rockers back quite a bit.

Challenge two: Building up from the long block to the complete engine was pretty easy, but we installed a few things out of order, so when it was time to put the intake and carb on, we realized that the generator should have been the last thing to place. It also took some extra time to paint the tin, and sandblast everything clean.

Challenge three: Engine installation. This was the hardest part. Mostly because we had to fabricate so much stuff. I had removed the metal spacers from between the case and cylinders, which made the exhaust off set by 4 mm. Now we are trying to drill out cast iron… We got the holes opened up enough so the silencer fit the exhaust holes on the heads.

According to Russ Wolfe the 1969 bus is one of the hardest VW’s to reinstall the engine. It uses the4 bolt system like all older buses, but because it has the newer transmission, it requires a crossbrace at the rear of the engine. This leaves about 4 inches in which you have to work to install the engine, so that you are above the engine mount ears on the bus, yet below the engine area deck so you don’t scrap the tin. It took use 90 minutes to get everything in. Then I start hooking up the engine. I discover that the accelerator cable is lodged between the transmission bell housing and the engine, that I just finished bolting together. AHHHHHH SHIT. It took two hours to undo and redo the engine from the transmission again.

What I have learned: I learned that I must spend a few hours making exactly sure of what parts I need and order them all a once. I have learned to know how the tin goes together before starting to rebuild the engine. I have learned that the accerlator cable likes to be a pain in the ass. I have learned that you triple the time you think it should take, then double that. You should also do this with the cost. I have no learned to walk away from VW’s, and to answer Hazet’s question to me, I have not yet learned whether I’m stupid or an idiot, but I am leaning toward idiot.

Totals: Cost $690.77, Hours: 42, Blood: Less than a pint, Damage: Scratches on thumb, bump on head, grease embedded in hands.

1969 Westfalia The Sage on 19 Feb 2008

Nothing is ever easy part 1332

This sucksIt was to be a simple day. An hour to remove the engine from the compartment, another to replace the throw out bearing and main seal. I even allowed an hour and a half for re-installation.

But simple days aren’t part of this adventure. No, this is a project when 3 wheels on a car that has been sitting for 30 years will spin easily…. Then the last is locked so tight, you have to melt the shoes off after cutting open the backplate with a torch.

This sucks So I pull the engine, it took twice the time thanks to the hack job someone did on securing the heater flaps to the cables. I get the engine out, and the main seal (the reason for this situation) was as dry as a bone. However, oil was leaking from the cylinders at the block, the cylinders at the heads, the intake manifold was leaking, as was the oil pump nuts…

In 5 minutes it went from a 3 and a half hour job, to two weeks, and $200. Now I am replacing every seal, the clutch, the oil cooler, and all the rusted out tin. Since I have the time, I am also having Keith in Houston redo the carb, which was monkeed with by Ebert March. Ebert isn’t worth mentioning much, except it always seems VW’s that have his magic touch, are available for sale, usually not running.

This sucks I have order the parts. Russ came into some Tin, Bus Depot helped me out of $137.50 and now I clean the engine, the compartment, and anything else I can access while I wait for everything to arrive… At least she will run like a clock when I get it back together.

The Project The Sage on 31 Jan 2008

Snow Cold and Cranky

Wintertime Blues January hasn’t been extraordinary this year, but it has really placed a crimp on my project. The barn was constructed in such a way that the snow slides off the roof and right into the path of the slider door. This requires much shoveling before I can get the door open, so I don’t open the door very often.

We did have a bizarre thaw in the second week of the Month. This was nice as the temps were in the 50’s and all the snow disappeared. I was able to unload the 65 bus of its booty. I have vocalized to a number of people that I am resembling a horder more each month that I continue to collect VW stuff without liquidating as scheduled.

To combat this concern, I completely cleaned out the T3 Squareback. I also purchased garbage bags, an act that refreshingly inspired me to clean the place. The garbage can hadn’t been emptied since taking occupancy. Old Ken Senior had a lot of crap shoved in these cars. I keep dreaming that I will find a roll of $100’s here or there, as did his son who thoughtfully checked ever nook and cranny of the cars he sent to the crusher.

I have also outlined the parts liquidation on a spreadsheet. I have to enter this as inventory before filing taxes this year. I run simple cash accounting.

Other than emptying out the Squareback, I have been mostly surfing The Samba and other places without a sense of purpose. The cold is too cold for me, and despite the heater that can heat the entire place, I have no desire to turn wrenches on 3 degree metal.

I did get the 69 Westy out during the thaw. It will be getting a new throw out bearing and main seal when I can get it into Tommy’s shop. Let’s see if it warms up.

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