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Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Mom's 1961 Plymouth Valiant
Mom puts her foot down! (and on the gas pedal)

After I was born, up until about 1964, my family lived in what's now termed "the inner core" of Milwaukee at 19th and Chambers. After marrying my dad, my mom had a driver's license but never drove a car. There were plenty of bus routes by our house and many stores nearby, so my mom never felt that she had to drive, and my dad didn't want her to. I remember riding on the bus with her and there was a big Sears store within walking distance of the 19th street house.

The neighborhood we lived in was deteriorating rapidly during that time and my dad decided to look for a house in a much better area on the edge of Milwaukee's northwest side. In fact, not long after we moved the big city race riots started all over the country and our old neighborhood was hit hard. I remember watching TV at our new house one summer night and they interrupted broadcasting, calling for all off duty firefighters and police officers in Milwaukee to report to work. My parents were sure relieved that we were away from all that!

After we moved to Lancaster Avenue, mom became increasingly frustrated by being in the "suburb" and not being able to go anywhere. There were no buses and at first we didn't even have curb, gutter and sidewalks! At that time, we had only one car, a huge pink 1957 4-door Chrysler New Yorker with a hemi engine in it
Our '57 Chrysler New Yorker

My parents had some fierce arguments and we were not privy to all of them but dad, I'm sure, would not allow her to drive the New Yorker. No one could figure out why he was so adamant that mom not drive. 

Mom had some money saved up and decided she was going to buy her own car, with or without the consent of my father. In a brilliant move, she enlisted the help of my dad’s older sister, Aunt Lorraine!

Aunt Lorraine picked up mom while dad was gone to work and they went car shopping. At the time I had no idea of what they were up to and came home from school to find a 1961 Plymouth Valiant sitting in the driveway. It was kind of an ugly light green 4-door. Mom spent about $300 for the car. I think Aunt Lorraine was there for moral support when dad came home the first night and helped in the ensuing confrontation. At first, dad would not allow the car to be parked in the driveway!
I was about 14 or 15 years old at the time. Mom was so scared to drive the first little while, she would have me ride along with her at night while my dad was working and ask me if she was doing OK! It wasn’t that long, however, before dad came to realize the benefits of mom having a car and being able to get around.

And mom helped train the Bridger boys to be some of the best drivers in the business!
My brother Russ writes: "The reason is that it was mom who took Dan and me to the Arlens shopping center parking lot at night so many times to practice driving, including sliding around on snow, at age 14 and 15.
        Mom had the guts and faith to trust us, and gave us her time to enable us to learn and practice. I remember in high school Driver's Education, while we students took turns driving with an instructor, he commented that I drove like an experienced driver, insinuating that I drive without a license. LOL
        Mom's training and trust gave us the love of driving, and eventually the valuable careers that we all now have. Allowing us to have motorcycles at 14 also helped. Her guts to finally buy a car and get a license, disobeying dad in all his power, showed us a commitment to follow your dreams. I remember him "lobbying" against her asking us if we are ready to see her die in a car crash!
        Well, mom proved him wrong and I think he grew to appreciate her new skill, grocery shopping!"

All four of us brothers now make a living driving. Our two sisters were never interested.

Years and years later, mom told me what she didn't know at the time: Dad considered himself (he was) an excellent driver and when younger dreamed of driving race cars. After getting married, finances were tight for so many years, he never carried liability insurance in case of an accident. That was illegal, of course, and he figured if mom started driving, the risk was much greater of an accident. I’m not sure how long it took but he did get insurance afterwards. I wonder how much trouble I would have had, being allowed to drive, if mom hadn't put her foot down.
Chrysler's Slant Six

Regarding that ugly green Valiant, I was less than impressed with the car when she got it. It had a 225 slant six engine in it with a push button automatic. However, after I started reading up on it, I found that Chrysler's slant six motor had a good reputation with car guys. The engine was tilted over 30 degrees for a lower profile and extra room under the hood. It was very durable and made very good power for it's size with tuned intake runners and exhaust flow. The aftermarket produced a ton of speed parts for it and I was actually getting prepared to buy some, as I thought that would be the car I would be allowed to drive after I got my driver's license. It was all for nought, however, as I got to drive the big hemi New Yorker after my dad bought another 1957 Chrysler. It had the same 392 hemi motor in it, but it was an Imperial, Chrysler's top of the line luxury car of that year. It had leather seats, power windows and all the options. So, prior to my getting a driver's license, my dad ended up selling the Valiant, but I wasn't sorry and I loved driving that ugly pink hemi New Yorker!
392 Hemi Chrysler
Other great car stories:
My three Camaros - One good, one bad and one great!
My first Corvette
My second Corvette
My Hemi Chrysler
Tribute to Junkyard Hans
My 1965 Buick GS 400
My Awesome Ridealong - Richard Petty Driving Experience
My 1993 Camaro Z28
1970 Pontiac GTO - Dick Hands Me the Keys!
I Drive My Buddies 1968 Plymouth GTX
Bullitt Car Chase - Behind the Camera Story
Mopar Man to Chevrolet

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

America's First Automobile Race - Chicago

Article thanks to Links provided:

America's First Automobile Race, 1895

Henry Ford receives most of the credit for the development of the car in the US (see Henry Ford Changes the World, 1908), however, he did not produce the first American automobile. This distinction goes to the Duryea brothers - Charles and Frank - who created their first gasoline-powered "horseless-carriage" in 1893. Like the Wright brothers, the Duryeas were bicycle mechanics with a passion for innovation.
A Springfield newspaper announces
the appearance of the Duryeas' car
Sept. 16, 1893
The brothers built their first car in a workshop located in a building in downtown Springfield, MA. Their new invention was rolled onto the city streets for testing in September 1893. It sported a one-cylinder, gasoline engine and a three-speed transmission mounted on a used horse carriage. It could achieve a top speed of 7.5 mph.
The following year, Frank developed a second car with a more powerful two-cylinder engine. It was this car that he drove in America's first automobile race on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1895. The race was sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald and ran a 54-mile course from down-town Chicago to Evanston, Il and back.
There were five entrants in addition to Duryea: 2 electric cars and 3 gasoline-powered Benz machines imported from Germany. The race started in the early morning in snowy conditions. A little over 10 hours later, Frank Duryea was the first to cross the finish line having survived a journey punctured by numerous breakdowns and repairs. He had averaged 7.3 miles per hour and took home a prize of $2,000 ($49,500 in today's money).
"After a stop for gasoline, and a four-minute wait for a passing train at a railroad crossing, we continued."
Frank Duryea described his experience in his autobiography:
"I now started with draughtsmen on plans for a new car, of which I had, from time to time, been making rough sketches during the past summer. But my work was interrupted by the necessity of preparing the old car for the race promoted by H. H. Kohlsaat of the Chicago Times-Herald. This race was set for November 2, and as driver, the Company sent me out to Chicago with the car on that date. Only the Mueller Benz and the Duryea cars were ready to start, so the race was postponed to Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1895...
Thanksgiving Day, when it arrived, found me again in Chicago with the car...
A heavy snow had fallen during the night and we experienced hard going as we drove out to Jackson Park from our quarters on Sixteenth Street.
Of nearly a hundred entries, only six cars lined up for the start. Of these six, two were electric vehicles entered by Morris and Salom of Philadelphia, and Sturgis of Chicago. Of the four gasoline-engined vehicles, H. Mueller & Go. of Decatur, Illinois, R. H. Macy & Co. of New York, and The De la Vergne Refrigerating Machine Co. of New York, each came to the start with an imported German Benz. The Duryea Motor Wagon Company's entry was the only American-made gasoline car to start.
The word ‘go’ was given at 8:55 and the Duryea was the first car away.
With me as umpire was Mr. Arthur W. White. The machine made good going of the soft unpacked snow in Jackson Park, but when we came to the busier part of the city, the street surface consisted of ruts and ice hummocks, in which the car slewed badly from side to side.
While still in the lead, the left front wheel struck a bad rut at such an angle that the steering arm was broken off. This arm had been threaded and screwed firmly to a shoulder, and it was a problem to extract the broken-off threaded part of the arm. When this was finally accomplished, we, fortunately, located a blacksmith shop where we forged down, threaded and replaced the arm.
Charles Duryea in the brothers'
first car
While thus delayed, the Macy Benz passed us and held the lead as far as Evanston, where we regained it.
Having made the turn at Evanston, elated at being in the lead again, we started on the home trip.
We had not yet come to Humboldt Park when one of the two cylinders ceased firing...
This repair was completed in fifty-five minutes and we got going, feeling that the Macy Benz must surely be ahead of us, but learned later that the Macy did not get that far. Breaking the way through the snow in Humboldt and Garfield Parks furnished heavy work for the motor, but also indicated that all competitors were behind us.
After a stop for gasoline, and a four-minute wait for a passing train at a railroad crossing, we continued on to the finish in Jackson Park, arriving at 7:18 P.M.
The motor had at all times shown ample power, and at no time were we compelled to get out and push.
After receiving congratulations from the small group still remaining at the finish line, among whom were the Duryea Motor Wagon Company party, I turned the car and drove back to its quarters on Sixteenth Street.
The Mueller Benz, the only other machine to finish, was driven across the line at 8:53 by the umpire, Mr. Charles B. King, Mr. Mueller having collapsed from fatigue."
    Duryea's account appears in Duryea, Frank, America's First Automobile (1942); Berkebile, Don H., The 1893 Duryea Automobile, Contributions From the Museum of History and Technology vol. 240, 
Smithsonian Institution (1966).

"America's First Automobile Race, 1895", EyeWitness to History, (2006).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Truck Driver and the Periodontist

Having spent almost 35 years driving trucks, I've had to work at keeping up with with my dental hygiene.

That has not been easy as I was lazy during my adolescent years and had to have the good work of a Milwaukee dentist in the 1970's to cosmetically repair my teeth. My mom babysat his kids while he was in dental school and gave us a substantial discount for my family after he established his practice. I was out living on my own, the cost was a wake up call to me, and afterwards, I improved my brushing and cleaning habits considerably.

As all over the road drivers know, it's hard to brush and floss regularly on the road and you have to make time for it if you want to keep your teeth.

After I was well into my 40's the regular dental office I was going to in Salt Lake City told me that I was developing some issues with my gums that a regular dental hygienist could not address with cleaning (gingivitis). They did not have a periodontist in house that would take my insurance, so they recommended another to me.

After an initial consultation, the periodontist  told me that if I got the issues resolved with my gums, there was no reason that I shouldn't be able to keep my own teeth for the rest of my life. So I had some procedures done to repair and restore my gums, which was not inexpensive. After my first visit, the next appointment was with his dental hygienist for a thorough cleaning.

All turned out well with the treatments and after I completed them, I decided to stick with him and his hygienist for future preventive care and cleanings. Figuring, at my age, I had less worry about cavities and teeth and more about concerns with my gums and soft tissue. And that's what I have done for the last 15 or so years.

A couple days before my scheduled cleaning last month, the office called me to inform that they needed to change my appointment time on my scheduled day. The clerical guy said that their regular hygienist was no longer "with them" and that Dr. B***s himself would do my cleaning. That was fine with me and went over a couple days later at the new time.

The thought did cross my mind wondering how long has it been since he cleaned teeth, but, I figured that I would be getting a real periodontist to check on my mouth for the price of a hygienist's cleaning. Upon arriving, the male clerk led me to the office with the cleaning chair and the first question he asked is if I wanted gas? I thought "why the heck would I want gas for a simple cleaning?" and said no. That was my first clue.

The "clerk" then put the napkin around my neck and arranged the tools. In came Dr. B***s, who I hadn't seen in a long time because I hadn't had any problems and he said hello. As I sat in the chair, I noticed that the clerk did not leave the room and acted like he was going to assist the dentist. I thought that was strange as I never had two people give me a cleaning before. The dentist again asked if I wanted gas? "No", I said. He then said that he was going to apply a numbing solution to my gums with a Q-tip like thing and that's when I really began to worry. Afterwards, the clerk operated the suction device while the dentist began the cleaning.

What followed was the second most painful dental experience that I can ever remember having! I could tell he was not used to handling the cleaning tools and was not holding them like I was used to seeing. He was cutting deep into my gums and blood was spurting everywhere. The only thing I could remember that was worse was when I had my wisdom teeth pulled many decades ago. I'm sure I had such a grip on the armrests that my knuckles had to have been white. That 40 minutes or so was absolute torture and I was never so happy to get the heck out of there!

So unfortunately, it's time to say bye to Dr. B***s, as I will not go through that again. He's a really nice guy and a great periodontist, but that was ridiculous. Just so happens that Mary's nephew has gotten out of dental school and has started his career as a dentist for a firm not far from us, so I will change over to them for my next visit. My lesson learned!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oh No! Our Daughter Gets Her First Car - Updated

Fall, 2012: Our 18 year old daughter obtained her first job a few weeks ago and is on the way to growing up and making her own way in the world. The job is in retail with varied shifts, weekend hours and of course the busy Christmas season coming up. A problem then developed of how she would get back and forth to work, as one of our vehicles was not always available. A second problem then became, how was she going to pay for a vehicle, as we are not in a position to buy her one and she was going to have to budget for all the costs of owning a car.
I had been talking to a guy at work that had a $2500 used car for sale that was supposedly in very good condition. After seeing a couple pictures of the car and knowing how he takes care of his vehicles, we informed Tauni to see if she would be interested, which she definitely was. Since she had a savings account at our local America First Credit Union, I suggested that she and her mom go down there and see if she could qualify for a car loan. They actually quickly qualified her with proof of employment, but without any credit history, the interest rate would be about 13%. If Mary was willing to cosign the loan, the interest would drop to about 8%. Since she has always been thrifty with her money, mom and I agreed that we would trust her to follow through and be responsible for the loan. (However, I would not suggest this as advisable for all kids!)
So the next step was to send them over to look at and drive the car. As it was very clean and appeared to be in good shape for a 150,000 mile car, they drove it over for our mechanic (Brent) to take a look at and see what he thought. The owner had even given us a Car-fax report which turned out clean. He gave us the thumbs up and we made the deal with Will. The credit union would not give the funds out until she brought in her first paycheck, which took a few days.
As I was doing some research on that make, model of car, we discovered some unsettling information. It’s a 1999 Honda Civic with a 5-speed manual transmission and just happens to be the second most stolen car in America! The first most stolen car is the Honda Accord. In fact Will, who sold us the car, told us that it had been stolen twice in the past. I had previously owned  a 1990 Dodge Shadow  and that car was stolen in Las Vegas, so I know how easy those cars with manual transmissions are to steal. All the thief does is, after gaining entry, whack the ignition switch on the steering column with something and break it off. You can then stick a screwdriver in there and operate the car just as if you had the key! From what I have learned, it is extremely difficult to even find a steering column from an old wrecked Civic in a junkyard, as so many are needed to fix the stolen cars!
Since my Dodge was stolen (and recovered) in the late 90's, I have been using “The Club” on the steering wheel of my newer Dodge Neon. A simple device that you can buy for about $30, it’s a lockable bar that extends over the steering wheel that impedes you from turning the wheel as you sit in the driver’s seat. The device is not a guarantee, however, as you could take a bolt cutter and cut through the steering wheel to remove it. It is a deterrent though and hopefully would send any prospective thief who doesn't happen to be carrying a bolt cutter down the road to an easier target. If you drive one of these easily stolen vehicles, you may also consider installing a hidden battery or fuel cut-off switch hidden in the vehicle.
So, Tauni’s first ride sits locked away behind the fence until next week, when she can get it inspected, licensed, insured and theft proofed before she takes off! I remember the feeling I had when I bought my first car. It was exciting!
If anyone lives near Salt Lake City and is in need of a reliable, honest mechanic that charges fair prices, let me know in the comments section or email me at the address in my sidebar. I will get you the name, address and phone number of Brent!
Tauni's newer ride.

Update: August, 2014 Well, it's almost two years now and Tauni's first car experience was a success. No accidents, one minor speed ticket, it didn't get stolen, and the car still ran great with no major breakdowns. She made all her payments on time every month and was able to save enough to pay the loan off early.
After obtaining a new job, which necessitated a much longer commute, she decided on purchasing a newer car a couple months ago. She found a good deal on a 2011 vehicle and we were able to sell the Honda for $2000, which helped in the affordability of her new purchase. With her now excellent credit history, obtaining financing at a decent interest rate was no problem. Good job Tauni!
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Surviving a Highway Dust Storm

Article thanks to and the Arizona Department of Transportation. Links provided:
Aug, 2014  Dust storms, in an instant, can dramatically reduce visibility and create driving conditions that can lead to major chain collisions. The biggest mistake that drivers make is failing to pull completely off the road when they see a massive cloud of dust approaching. Here’s some advice, provided by the Arizona Department of Transportation, to educate your fleet drivers on how to respond to this extremely dangerous weather event.
  • Always avoid driving into or through a dust storm.
  • If you encounter a dust storm, immediately check traffic around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
  • Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway -- do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can.
  • Don't stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane. Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
  • Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.
  • Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
  • Stay in the vehicle with your seat belts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
  • Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.
To watch a video about staying safe during dust storms, click on the photo or link above.