Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gumbo Fest I

Last night was gumbo night at Casa-de-Dave. My friends Amanda, Amanda, David, Jane and Mason came over for a batch of chicken-and-sausage gumbo I brewed up. I used lots of vegetables...

... and a roux.

Turned out OK.

Jane brought over her own pot of gumbo, too! One of the beauties of gumbo is no two taste alike, and no one makes them the same. Having two gumbos, turned "gumbo night" into Gumbo Fest I. It was awesome to have a diversity of flavors to sample from. Jane makes an wonderful gumbo, with a very rich and hearty flavor. Yum! The flavor from her roux was really good!

Good food, good friends. The gumbos were good not only for the tastebuds, but for the soul too. That's what Cajun cooking is all about!

After my previous pondering of cold weather training... this forecast is encouraging:

Someone over at reported that Huntsville is in good shape as of yesterday. Should be fantastic out there by Saturday!

Ironically, I got a note today from an buddy living in Michigan. He just installed a heater in his garage. He's all happy because it can keep the temperature at almost 50-degrees! HA!

My buddy Tim calls this time of year the "silly season", because of all the craziness surrounding the holiday season. In motorsport, this time of year is the "silly season" because it's when everyone is out pandering for sponsorship money for next year. Let's be honest here - 'tis the season to go begging for money from anyone who will listen.

The last couple of years I was a silly season participant. I think I'm going to sit this one out, and concentrate on bike racing. One certainty of motor racing is the expense.

How do you make a small fortune in racing? Start with a big

Unless you have a lot (multiple millions) your opportunities for success are dependent on others willing to give you large sums of money. I don't like that.

What I do like about bike racing is that I far more control over the outcome. I'm dependent upon myself to do the training, maintain a good diet, and live a healthy lifestyle to acheive success. Self-determination is a wonderful thing. Only a fool would choose a sport (or life) where self-determination isn't available.

It's funny to look back on the last year. I started biking to improve my fitness for motor racing. Now the tables have turned! I didn't think racing a bike would be exciting enough. Turns out, cutting along down a downhill at 25mph trying to pick a good line as the terrain rushes up to greet you, while ping-ponging off of rocks is damn exciting!

I'm not giving up on motor racing. I'm going to build race team some day. Period. But for now, I've got some things to learn from bike racing. Things that will certainly help me later. They have already helped me in life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blocking Out A Guide Coat

Tonight I blocked out the MR2. Here's the process. Back a few days ago I shot the first two coats of plain K36 primer surfacer. In it's natural state K36 is very light gray - almost white. Then I shot another coat that was tinted with black base coat (DCC). I also reduced that mixture and shot it very thin and dry. Mixed this way, it sands off very easily.

This is a 'guide coat' that will expoose all of the hidden defects on the body. It will find all imperfections that are thicker than a layer of paint! It's almost impossible to see small imperfections, scratches, and waves in the primer - UNTIL the surface is glossy and reflecting light. Then they are glaring obvious. That's the last painting step, so we can't wait until then to fix them, without starting over completely.

Luckily, this is much easier sanding than stripping off the old paint. I simply loaded up some P180 grit paper in my blocks and went to town. Sanding leaves two different colors on the body, kind of like before with the yellow/red!

Because there are two contrasting colors, we can identify any high or low spots on the body. The block will simply pass over the low spots, leaving the darker primer. The dark primer gets taken off on high spots. They show up as white areas. Parts that are just right, end up speckled with both colors. Here's an example:

There are two low spots. One behind the wheel and another on the front of the door. These "bullseyes" are real obvious, aren't they? Spots that immediately turn white are too high, and need to be tapped down with a hammer, and then filled back to level with filler.

Finding the spots are easy. What can be difficult is deciding what to do with them. In some cases the filler has filled the defect. Here's a sample on the roof, where the dark coat of primer filled the defects. This looks rough, but it's completely smooth when passing the fingers over.

If the defects are still too low, they need to be filled with glazing putty before applying another guide coat. Then repeat.

My guide coat found lots of defects, but less than I had anticipated! My goal was to have the body flat in two guide coats. It's going to be close.

I have no regret about stripping the existing paint, as it was very uneven. If I hadn't, I'd be doing as much sanding NOW chasing down the defects as I did THEN. Work wise, it was a wash. But now I've built up the new paint on a good base.

One more note. I noticed something unexpected. My panel edges have been looking ragged and unsharp. The belt line break along the side looked really bad. But after blocking out, it's sharpened up! That's a relief. I was worried they were going to take a bunch of work to get looking sharp and defined.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Weather Adaptations

Last night was my first ride in almost three weeks! My how the weather has changed! Cool weather is here to stay, but training continues. I hope to adapt to the conditions and continue to ride outdoors on all but the worst weather days. I know people from the great white north manage to survive (and ride) in far, far, far colder and drier conditions. Apparently it's something you "get used to". This is the first time I've ever tried. Only time will tell if I can adapt.

The other alternative is riding indoors on the trainer. That is so incredibly boring to me; I don't see myself sticking to an aggressive training program that relies mostly on the trainer.

I'm hoping to overcome or adapt to these winter riding issues:

  • Dry air wrecks havoc on my skin, lips, eyes and nasal passages. I'm a gulf-coast guy. Humidity is my friend. Within 15-minutes of leaving the house, my lips were chapped, my cheeks wind burnt, and my eyes were tearing up due to the low humidity. I have to find a solution to this, else its trainer time until March for me!

  • I found it difficult to judge exertion levels in colder weather. Breathing in cold, dry air burns my nasal passages, throat and lungs. I can't judge if I'm breathing hard, or it's just painful. My body responds to the cold, dry air by producing tons of mucus which also makes it difficult to breathe. This all conspires to make it difficult to tell just how hard the cardiovascular systems are working.

  • Muscles cramp differently. I hardly ever get muscle cramps - in hot weather. But when I do, it’s from overuse. In the cold, cramps come with under use! I had to stop for a red light and thought I'd be asking for a ride home!

  • Joints stiffen up in different ways, too. I have a bad habit of locking my elbows when riding on the street. In warm weather, I just relax and the stiffness subsides in a couple of seconds. In the cold, the stiffness turns in to a cramp that takes several minutes to alleviate.

  • You don't sweat very much, but still need to drink water! Dehydration is much less obvious. In the dry air you lose a lot of water through the lungs via respiration. I had to constantly remind myself to drink.

  • I need to adjust my heart rate zones for the cold weather - I think. It seems that for an equivalent amount of muscular effort my HR was about 10 beats/minute higher. I'm giving this some time because I need to refine my perceived exertion in the cooler conditions. I'm also curious to see what happens with warmer clothes, too.

  • I can't figure out the clothing issue. I'm not sure what to wear in cold conditions. Wind+bike speed = big wind chill factor. So covering the skin seems to be a solution. However, being sweaty underneath covering clothes doesn't seem like the right solution, either. I've got some experimenting to do here.

Cold weather activity is new territory for me. I'm hopeful that I can come up with solutions to speed adaptation to the conditions. It's going to be a fun winter!

Monday, November 26, 2007


That is a picture of my newly rebuilt rear shock for the Stumpy. First action - RIDE!

Unfortunately, I missed the last couple of weeks of nice weather. When I last rode my bike it was 85°! Of course on the Gulf Coast there are only two seasons, and now it's the other season - too cold. BRRRRR! I'm going to have to get some proper cool weather biking wear, or hang it up until the too hot season gets here.

Regardless, I'm just happy to have wheels again! Weather forecast looks good for the weekend too. Huntsville drys quickly, so that or LakeLake is a possibility!

The Social's Sign Again
I'm convinced someone that works there is dyslexic. Truth be told, I'm mildly dyslexic myself. It's why I handwrite in all caps. Every now and then I write my N's backwards just like is on the sign, too...

Holiday Trifecta

I managed to pull off the holiday trifecta: I traveled too much, I ate too much, and I drank too much!

First I traveled up to my parents house in northeast Texas.

My folks live on Toledo Bend Lake. The lake borders LA and TX. It is in the middle of no where! Let me put it this way... my folks are almost an hour from the nearest Wal-Mart. Although there is a lack of shopping, there are plenty of trees! Here's what the roads look like around here...

they all look pretty much the same! Note that these would be some great roads for training, with the rolling hills, and almost non-existant traffic.

I arrived at my folks house and immediately began eating! We had the traditional Thanksgiving day dinner. My mom makes the best cornbread dressing! Wow! Turkey, ham, glazed carrots, cranberries, homemade bread, etc... I stuffed myself! Yum!

The pictures above are a bit deceiveing. The weather was nice when I drove in Thursday morning. By that afternoon it was cloudy. By the evening it was raining.

It was still raining Friday and the temperature was 35 to 40-degrees outside. It never warmed up all day. Perfect gumbo weather! Being Cajun, one of our Thanksgiving traditions is taking the turkey leftovers and making gumbo with it. Which was perfect for the weather. This is what a Cajun means by "gumbo weather".

The other family tradition is watching LSU vs. Arkansas football game, which is played on the Friday following Thanksgiving. This year ' s was supposed to be pretty special because we had a shot at the national title. Let's just say, I'm glad the gumbo was good, because that was about the only good result of the day...

I traveled to Lake Charles on Saturday for the marriage of my friends Bryan and Sarah. Despite the cold and rainy weather it went off without a hitch. The reception was fun. I took many pictures, but curiously this is the only one of the bride and groom together...

Sarah (the bride) is from Louisiana, and an LSU graduate. Bryan is from Texas. Each having pride in their respective states, Bryan requested a Texas-shaped groom's cake. Sarah provided it, as he wished... just with a little modification!

Of course no reception would be complete without a 2nd line dance!

After the reception we went to L'auberge du Lac casino, for drinks. We also watched some our friends gamble away much money. I'm not much of a gambler. I usually end up walking away with more than I started, but never enough to get excited about... so, we hung out in the bar and had drinks for the most part. Drinks were cheap. Which was good, because we had lots, and ended up hanging out until 5 a.m. Why not? I didn't have to drive away from the casino.

I stayed in a room at the hotel portion of the casino. This was a bit disappointing. The room was rather expensive when I booked it. For the cost, it wasn't that nice. Honestly, the Hampton Inn in Rockport has nicer rooms for less than half the price. It didn't even include internet access! It was availble for a mere $12.99/day. When I'm paying over $200/night for a room, you'd think they could include it! Don't get me started about how far away you have to park too...

EDIT: I know why they charge for network access... they don't want customers in the room... they want them on the gambling floor!

Oh, no pics from the casino. They don't allow pictures, as we found out! Ooops.

I grew up in a small town. Lake Charles was a BIG city to me! We went there often when I was a kid. I wandered about town on Sunday morning before heading home. After living in Houston, Lake Charles no longer feels "big". Interesting how perspective changes.

I also passed a store on Ryan Street. This store has been open since I was a kid. It never struck me in my youthful innocence that the name of this store could be funny. But it did this time, so I stopped and snapped a photograph...

Once again, changed perspective... The family that....S&M's together stays together I suppose...

All-in-all a good holiday weekend.

There is much to look forward to this week. I'm planning on cooking a gumbo. I've been waiting for weeks to do this. Finally, we're seeing some cooler weather... I'm excited!

And if the weather cooperates, I'll be able to finish painting the MR2! (finally)...

I'm also excited to get the bike back this week, and it will be fantastic to get back on the wheels again...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Filling Day.

Wheeled the car out after the rains stopped today.

Today's task: fill the deep defects, dents, etc on the body.

Uh-oh, the car's spotted again!

It's not snowing in that pic, that's just the dust flying around! Here's the back corner, re-repaired. It was tricky to work the curves of the body, while taking out the dents and waves of the panel. But with some patience I got it down.

Because of the numerous bare metal spots, it was time to re-shoot DPLF primer on the bare spots.

I learned a couple of things since my first priming shoot last night. I have two hoses attached to me when spraying. One hose for breathing air, and a seond for the paint gun. Getting hoses on wet paint is a big no-no. Let me tell ya' the person that invents the cordless paint gun will be very wealthy!

Dragging two hoses around is unwieldy. They get tangled, kinked, and hung up. So I taped them together so they get dragged around together, and no more tangles! It's just like a diver's hose now.

I also wear disposable "booties". They work great at keeping overspray off the feet or shoes. But for some reason, there is a bunch of excess on the "heel". I nearly tripped about five times last night by stepping on this "heel" flapping around. So tonight I folded it over and taped it.

These wheel covers RAWK. Because the car gets wheeled into/out of the paint bubble, masking the wheels is impractical. These covers have a spring wire and they just snap over the wheels. Presto! No masking.

I re-shot the car, and the results were pretty good. Here's that back corner again...

The process of actually spraying the car goes really quickly! As you can see I'm happy with the results! Next up: K36 Sandable Primer.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

From This...

To This...

Been a long time coming - the MR2 now has 2 coats of DPLF epoxy primer! I've put a lot of time and effort upto this point. Tonight was the first time on this entire project that the car looks better on completion, rather than worse!

Everything went completely smooth today. Painting really is the easy part! I imagined the paint going on something like spray paint, from a can. No. It's completely different. Completely better! Between the better quality of paint and an adjustable gun, the painting process is much more controlled. I ended up with only one small run... not too bad.

I can't say enough about the gun I'm using. It's a Devilbiss GTi Millenium. I'm shocked at the lack of overspray. Parts that I expected to gather tons of overspray, just didn't get touched by the paint. I don't think I even needed to cover the garage floor! The atomization really is great, too. But beware, it's the gun is an air hog.

I intentionally did not take great efforts to control the dust on this layer. I wanted to see just what I could get away with. The answer - very little. There were a lot of dust nibs and several doggy hairs! I'm going to have to do a much better job of keeping dust out of the paint bubble - especially for the clear coat...

As with all primer, every single defect now shows! This is a good thing, because the time to take care of them is now. After the color coat goes on, its too late. There's still a lot to do, including some more sanding of the filler I'm going to slather on tomorrow.

Oh what a fun day!

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm Ready To Shoot My Car

Wednesday night was spend hitting all the little detail areas. For example engine louvers. Since the MR2 is a mid-engine car, cooling the engine compartment is a challange. The wise Toyota engineers provided these louvers on the engine cover to allow air to flow through...

Luck for them, they didn't have to paint them! I also stripped down the quarter panel. I knew there was a repair made on this panel. After seeing the handiwork on the paint, I wasn't sure what I'd find under the filler. So, I buzzed it off with the grinder. It was actually an excellent repair. Oops.

Tonight, me and my buddy Mason taped and masked the car. I estimated this would take about 2 hours. Wrong. It took all evening! Masking is kinda like wrapping a Christmas gift.

Let's just say you don't me and Mason wrapping any presents!

I had hoped to get the epoxy primer on tonight. That was the goal. But the masking just took too long. This is the third night in a row of working until almost midnight. Now isn't the time to lay down paint. I'm absolutely exhausted.

The weather forecast is calling for a good chance of rain for Saturday and Sunday. This may cause me some grief. I'll have to dance around the weather and shuffle my schedule around it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ready to Take On Ralph Macchio

The original plan for painting the MR2 was simple. Just, prime over the existing paint applied by the DPO*. But the more I looked at the existing paint, the more concerns arose.

First, I found a couple of spots where the filler was popping off, and not sticking to the substrate. Not a good sign.

Second was the thickness of the exiting paint. In spots it was THICK. Like almost 1/8" thick! I really didn't want to put 3-4 more layers on top of that! In spots it was too thin, and barely had adequate coverage. You could see thorugh the original red color bleeding through. Getting this leveled flat would be near impossible. At best, it would require a *lot* of sanding.

The only other option also required a *lot* of sanding. That was removing the DPO's work back to the original paintwork. I tried to rationalize every possible reason NOT to do this, but in the end, I decided to take the paint down to the OEM coating.

After a two full days of sanding, 90% of the DPO yellow paint and primer is off of the MR2!

No wonder the Karate Kid could kick butt! It was a lot of work. But, I have no regrets. I'm lucky I did this. In spots, the primer was too thin. The paint had not cross-linked (cured) properly, and was just waiting to blister up. Had I painted it like it was, the solvents in the fresh paint would have gotten underneath the yellow topcoat and bubbled up, causing blisters.

The existing yellow paint wasn't mixed correctly either. In spots it just crumbled away under the sand paper (not enough activiator). In other spots, it was like sanding glass (too much activator). The paint wasn't mixed thoroughly enough or accurately. Here's a hard thin section (under the block) and a too thick section all in the same photo - HA!

The hardest parts were the nooks and crannies. Sometimes you have to get creative with things like windshield washer hose. What the heck it fit the body contour perfectly!

All work was done under the supervision of my buddy's dog. His name is Puppy. Here he guarding the sandpaper.

Today my arms are sore as heck! I'm going to have arms like Popeye before this project is finished! The good news is - this stage is done. Next, I'll grind off the filler spots, put a prep-wash on the bare metal spots, and then shoot the epoxy primer.

Timing and weather gets critical now. The epoxy primer must be coated with the K-36 primer-surfacer within 7-days. If not, it means more sanding. The weather plays a part as well. I need stable temperature for about 6 hours. Hot or cold doesn't matter so much. What's important is that it doesn't vary too much from shooting the paint until it flashes off. There will be much studying of the weather forecast tonight!

What a Shame.

Another Heights Blvd. house reduced to landfill material. I'm sure the next step will be to cut down the trees on the lot. My guess is that it will be replaced with another McMansion, built to within 18-inches of the lot line.

Make no mistake, I'm all for progress and property owner's rights. But, one of the things that attracted me and many others to the Heights was the greenspace - houses that actually have yards and trees! Most of the new "townhomes" are built so close together they put down gravel between them. They don't even leave enough room to pass a lawnmower between. Naturally, the trees have to go too.

What a waste.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Back From ...

I've been putting off a business trip down to Aransas Pass for a while. Being bikeless and shiftless, I decided to make the trip last week. No worries about messing up the training schedule this week!

Lucky for me the hotel I stayed at in Rockport had this:

So I managed to get a few "miles" in despite having the Stumpy in the shop. Cool!

Despite traveling down to Aransas Pass half-a-dozen times, I've never been into Corpus Christi itself. I had some spare time on this trip, and decided to do some exploring. Grabbing a map I noticed that highway 361 goes from Aransas Pass to Mustang Island then back into Corpus, where it meets with Hwy 35 to complete the loop to Aransas. Perfect.

After crossing a bridge to the barrier island, you have to take a ferry to get to Port Anansas.

This wasn't shown on the map. It was a nice surprise. I haven't been on a ferry in years. After getting onto Mustang Island I stopped to check out the beach. It was windly, cloudy, and chilly, so I didn't hang out long. The beaches are pretty nice down here. The water is definately nicer than in Galveston.

In the distance I spotted a caisson (aka. Toadstool) with a jack-up boat working.

Leaving Mustang Island you go across part of the bay on this little strip of land...

Then I went through downtown Corpus to complete the loop back to Aransas Pass. Corpus is a bigger city than I thought.

I drove by the USS Lexington, docked just outside of downtown. I want to go back and see this when I have more time. I'm a big WWII history buff, and certainly much history was made aboard that ship!

As I was leaving Corpus the cold front that caused overcast sky was moving back as a warm front inversion. It made a really cool cloud pattern in the sky. This was the best picture I could capture... it was a pretty dramatic effect

As with all trips, it was good to get home. The weekend was spent working on the MR2. More on that later...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Who Remembers High School Chemistry Lab?

Spent last night reading paint "p-sheets". These are instructions from paint manufacturers detailing how to mix their paint. Automotive paint sure has changed over the years. Long gone are the days of mixing paint and thinner sloshing it around, spraying it and waiting for it to dry.

Modern paints require an exact amount of paint + activator + reducer. For primer it's 2-parts paint, 1-parts activator, 1/2-parts reducer. Basecoat is 3-parts paint, 1-parts activator, 1-parts reducer. The surfacer, clearcoat and sealer are three different mix ratios. You get the idea.

Dr. Oey... thanks for teaching me how to carefully mix up my chemicals in highschool chemistry lab! I'm gonna need the experience.

And to top that off, for each paint type I'm using, there are about 3-4 choices of activator type, depending on temperature, baking method, and topcoating time. Temperature being the most important. Who can predict what the temperature will be in Texas this time of year?

Just like highschool chemistry lab, I'm going to have to buy several activators and experiment. At $60+ per quart this going to be some expensive experimentation.

This project's grown out of hand. It started out that I was going to do the prep work and hire out the painting to a shop. But shops either a/wouldn't touch a car prepped by someone else b/wanted to do a el-cheap-o $500 job or c/ wanted to do a $5,000 restoration show-quality job.

After the frustrating experince of looking for a shop, I decided to tackle this myself. Painting was the one area of a car I didn't have a working knowlege of. I can do just about anything mechanical on a vehicle, but paint and bodywork were a mystery to me.

I've taken it as a great opportunity to learn something new. Like so much in life, the experience has taught me a thing-or-two about myself.

Before this, I never realized what a perfectionist I can be! Body work will bring out the prefectionist in you, for sure! There are always blemishes somewhere on the body to be removed. It's an interesting self-struggle to decide when to say "good enough".

It's always fun trying and learning something new!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bikeless Day 3

I dropped the Stumpy off at West End Bicycles during lunch on Friday. The bad news: the shock has to be sent off for repair. This will take atleast a week, more likely two. The good news: it will almost certainly be under warranty.

I left work early to look at getting a backup bike: either roadie or hardtail. I didn't really find what I wanted off-the-shelf. No one stocks a bike spec'ed like I want: a mid-range (not top of line) frame with near top of line components (XT or Ultegra).

Of course shops don't stock this way. They stock with lower components to keep the retail price down. In some cases you can move UP the line in frame and DOWN the line in components. This of course allows a higher zoot bike frame (by name) at the minimum of price.

From sales viewpoint this makes perfect sense. For me it doesn't. I'm shopping components and frames not so much price. I couldn't find what I wanted in stock... There's no point in waiting weeks for a custom spec'ed bike, or time to have the components I wanted upgraded. Disappointed and dejected I slithered home.

Lo and behold a deal arose for a hard tail bike that is sort of my dream bike. Not sure if the guy want's to part with it for a reasonable price, but I'm finding out on Monday.

Call me Bubble Boy! I finished up the painting bubble Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. My friends cracked jokes about the lumber yard being out of popcicle sticks... har-har!

Look at my expert joinery...

That's a joke! This only going to stay up temporarily, so who cares what it looks like?!

Before I could hang the sheeting, I needed some light. I placed the lights to eliminate shadows. Shadows make it tough to tell how thick the paint is being sprayed on. I ended up with four dual-lamp flourescent fixtures on the ceiling and two on the side. I think I'm going to add one more on each end, too. Now the garage space is lit up like a TV studio!

Next comes the plastic sheeting...

Here is a little trick. When you put the sheeting on the "ceiling"; first staple it all the way down the side of the garage like this...

Then work back across the ceiling toward the center. If you don't, it's almost impossible to get the sheeting straight while working with it over your head.

Here's the finished bubble outside and inside...

I haven't framed in the exhaust filters yet. They going out the garage door. The problem is, I need to get the car in and out of the bubble through that garage door too. The filters will have to be removable. Some head scratching yet to be done!