35 Years to Life

Someone liked one of my recent training blog posts and started following my blog this past week.  I know this because I get a notification via my phone when it happens.  And this notification jolted me awake at 2am!  I have to learn to silence that notification!  But I always appreciate it when someone takes an interest in what I’m doing or writing about.

When I publish something it gets posted to the host website, wordpress.com, and it gets shared to a reader page.  I guess that is how they may discover my blog.  Other bloggers see these posts too.  Some find my posts when they search for “triathlon” or “running”, or maybe a race report for a specific race, or search for a specific tag.  Interestingly enough, besides my home page, my most popular blog is about my do-it-yourself electronic drum kit build that I did, and all I did was post it and walk away from it.  I never shared it on any forums or anything.

For me, this blog is about documenting my journey in my later stages of life so I can look back on it and reflect.  I write for me.  But there is a great satisfaction for me when someone hits that “Like” or “Follow” button.  I’m glad that something I shared is relatable to others.

So I checked on who liked my blog and it turns out he has had a struggle with alcoholism and has been sober for a couple of years now.  He uses his blog site to write about his journey.  I never did a specific blog post about being a non-drinker, but I may have mentioned it a few times here and there.  I gave it up in college, February 1985.  I was barely 21 years old, just getting started.  I did a dumb thing in a drunken, sleepwalking state and regretted it.  No, it wasn’t illegal, and I wasn’t even ridiculed for it – just some gentle ribbing and teasing from my friends.  But I was embarrassed and thought I could be a better person.  I never thought of myself as an alcoholic and I don’t think I fit that definition.  I’m just someone who said it was time to quit something I didn’t like just as I was getting started.

The original promise I made to myself was to no longer drink to get drunk, which is the exact opposite of what most college kids do.  I promised that I would only drink socially as long as I never overdid it again.  Well, a day without drinking turned into a week, which turned into a month, which turned into a year, which led to a decade, etc.  It’s been 35 years and 2 months and adding on day by day.

I never really missed it, and I certainly missed a lot.  Ice beers came and went in the late ’80s.  Wine coolers were a huge hit, too.  I never drank a single one.  I have no idea what makes a craft beer what it is or even what it tastes like.  Wedding toast?  I put a glass of Champagne to my lips and faked it.  Block parties?  I drank soda.

The current crazes are wines and whiskey.  My buddy has an awesome collection of whiskey/bourbon/scotch and the like.  I find it very interesting, but I am not drawn to it in any way.  He encourages me to give some a try, but I have no desire.

I truly don’t remember what being drunk actually feels like.  I couldn’t describe it to you.

So what has kept me on this path of sobriety for so long?  Not sure really.  Some people actually have an addiction that they have to overcome.  I wasn’t addicted.  I would never claim that I was an alcoholic.  I think that is an insult to those that struggle with alcoholism.  I didn’t even really enjoy the taste of alcohol, and I definitely didn’t enjoy the post-drinking hangover.  I quit drinking because I was embarrassed and just had enough will power to no longer do it.  I can sometimes challenge myself and get focused enough that I won’t let anything stop me from my goal.  Running marathons?  Doing an Ironman?  All tough things to do, but I focused on it and got them done.  Giving up drinking was just another challenge that went past the original sentence I gave myself – probation and don’t do it again.  Probation is way over now, and as an adult I think I could probably drink without being irresponsible.  But that’s not going to happen.  My sentence currently stands at 35 years to life.  I can do that easily.

So if my story of giving up something that everybody does and can provide you some inspiration to do the same, I would be thrilled.  Best of luck on your journey.

Heavyweight

I have become a fan of listening to podcasts recently.  I’m not sure why I avoided them before, but my son is a fan and puts out a podcast with his girlfriend that I enjoy listening to, so I started looking for other things that might be interesting.  I stumbled across a podcast called Heavyweight, where the host Jonathan tries to help people resolve something from their past that has bothered or troubled them.  Sometimes it results in getting the answer the person is seeking, but often the process just helps them find peace with whatever their issue was.  One episode dealt with Jonathan trying to patch up a relationship with his father and uncle.  Another dealt with a woman who was kicked out of her college sorority without any real reason and numerous years later she wanted to know why.  I really like the vibe of the show as well.  You get a sense of virtual hand-holding or a virtual hug being given.  I guess it makes you feel good.  If you’d like to give it a listen, I’ve included a link to the web page at the bottom of this post.

After listening to a half a dozen or so episodes I started to wonder what my heavy weight might be.  I have a lot of things that I wish I could change or go back in time and fix.  But it was a dream I had the other night about an old friend that made me wonder why I lost touch with this person.  It was troubling enough for me that I grew tired of thinking about the dream after waking up and got out of bed a half-hour early just to clear my head.  If I had the opportunity to be on Heavyweight I guess it might go something like this:

HEAVYWEIGHT – Today’s Episode:  Chris and “My Friend Joe From Work”

In 1986 I was fresh out of college and by August I had started my first ever real job as a forensic scientist trainee for a small, private crime lab.  The internship I had completed in my last semester of college had given me some confidence and I thought I was prepared for the job.

The boss’s name was Andrew, and he would not suffer any fools.  I was a fool.  I had no real idea of what was expected of me or how to take initiative and it showed.  My internship had provided me structure and gave me tasks to perform as I learned how to analyze the minute details of stuff that is evidence.  At this lab, it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t there to learn stuff, I was expected to know stuff and apply it.  I was learning the ropes as a trainee, except I wasn’t really a trainee in matters of scientific analyses, but rather a trainee for a period of time to see if I had the stuff to do the job.  Andrew once told me that he didn’t expect me to know everything, but he did expect me to try to find an answer to things I needed to learn.  That was good to know, but I got the feeling that if I didn’t start applying myself I was going to be gone.  I just didn’t know how to accomplish being more productive.

One time I got scolded by Andrew for having my hands in my pockets.  He said it made me look like I wasn’t doing anything.  Thirty years later and I still avoid putting my hands in my pockets unless they are really cold.  I wasn’t given a key to the building at first and it took me probably at least a half year before I finally mustered enough courage to ask him for one.  Andrew seemed like he was testing me, to see how much I could take.  He set the tone for how I would approach my bosses in subsequent jobs – avoid them as much as possible.  When Andrew gave me something to do, it was more like a command rather than a request.  I was slow to find my purpose there, but there was one saving grace – Andrew’s son Joe also worked there and Joe and I hit it off from day one.

My first day on the job I pulled into the parking lot and parked my tired 1971 Oldsmobile 442 in one of the spots and knocked on the door.  Joe had been given the task of guiding me around the lab and showing me the ropes.  Joe was a couple of years older than I was and it was clear we liked the same things.  He saw my 442 and said he was into old cars too.  He had owned a 1974 Camaro that was stolen from Six Flags in Gurnee and he really missed it.  We talked about cars and music.  We both had older siblings that provided us with similar musical tastes.  He took to calling me Skippy for some dumb reason and we became buddies quick and had a lot of fun.

I gradually started figuring out how to at least look busy and productive and avoid having the boss screw with my mind.  I eventually grew to gain some of Andrew’s trust and I came to respect the man.  He was a tough boss, and I benefited from that.  I learned to figure things out and to take initiative.  But I might not have lasted very long without connecting with Joe.  Having the trust of the boss’s son was definitely in my favor.  Andrew eventually promoted me from a trainee to a Forensic Scientist 1, gave me a raise, and I felt like I had won him over.

Some of my fond memories of working with Joe were centered around our lunch break.  We would go grab something to eat or take our sack lunches outside to the picnic table in the grassy area near the parking lot and have lunch with a couple other coworkers.  Joe and I would finish eating and then grab a football or baseball and gloves out of our cars and play catch until it was time to go back inside.  I had a bocce ball set that I kept in the trunk of the car and we would have a great time putting our own spin on the game.  We often came back inside somewhat sweaty after a hot lunch break.

We talked a lot about our childhood.  We shared stories about friends and family.  Joe took pleasure in learning about my Kansas family background and I secretly wished I was Italian after hearing his stories of his family.  His uncle Rocco was a great source of stories.  Rocco played for George Halas and the Chicago Bears briefly in the 1940s, and would occasionally visit Andrew at the lab.  He was a character.

I would spend the weekends back home with my longtime friends, often telling them about what Joe and I were up to.  I always referred to Joe as “my friend Joe from work,” which made them roll their eyes.  I think they grew a little annoyed hearing about my friend Joe from work.

We did a lot of similar things in our respective childhoods, but he had more of a motley crew of friends.  Joe’s story of a buddy named Clifford, who’s dad would yell “Dammit to Hell, Clifford!” whenever he was frustrated with the kid, which I found amusing and still sticks with me today.  I catch myself uttering it still, even though I have never met Clifford or his dad.  He had this other guy he knew that seemed like that guy from the movie Sling Blade, and Joe would use that voice and say “Mmm…  I don’t know what all or what of it, or something.”  Such a corny saying, but funny to him and to me as an outsider as well.  Another kid Joe would talk about had a speech impediment and would say his phone number as “pipe-six-six-o-pour-pipe-seven,” that’s 566-0457 if you are wondering.  I heard that story so many times remember it like it was my own phone number.  I catch myself asking my kids to pass me something at the dinner table with the added instruction to not touch it, a nod to Joe’s story about his younger brother getting ice cream from a guy he didn’t like.  And I still occasionally will say “shep-up” for ketchup and “eegoot” for yogurt because Joe’s kids said it that way.

In the nine years that Joe and I worked there together, we had a lot of fun.  I eventually got acclimated to my purpose there and became productive.  Andrew was nearing retirement and was softening somewhat.  I think the prospect of retirement and his growing number of grandchildren were taking his mind off of work stuff.  Andrew did eventually plan to leave the lab, but before doing so he brought in his oldest son Charles to be the assistant director and learn the ropes.  I think his goal was to groom Charlie to take over, but I’m not sure that pleased the board of directors that were in charge of this little regional private crime laboratory.  They had let Andrew manage the lab his way and maybe they were looking for a change.  To Charlie’s credit, he had a more gentle and likable style, and with what little time I got to know Charlie, we got along quite well.

Andrew started spending less time in the lab and it wasn’t long before we learned that he had cancer.  Charlie took over the reins of the lab in an interim capacity as director and we soldiered on.  Andrew passed away in December 1992.

Then along came the Brown’s Chicken Massacre in Palatine, Illinois in January 1993.  Palatine Police contracted our lab for general crime lab duties, but we also assisted with crime scene processing and they requested our help.  I spent seven days there doing my best, assisting in the preservation of evidence that would eventually convict two guys of seven homicides.  But before the case was solved, it had turned cold as they say, and blame was starting to get cast our way for the lack of progress in solving these deaths.  Eventually, the laboratory board decided to make some changes and replace Charlie with another coworker he had trained.  First to go was Joe, fired by the new staff and Charlie was also let go.  The era of Andrew and his kids was over.

Even though I was upset that Joe and Charlie had been let go, I stuck around because I was a newlywed, had a mortgage and no other options for employment at the time.  Joe was kind enough to get me an interview with another laboratory in DuPage County and I was offered a position, but having to move and leave something that I had worked hard to earn my place at was hard to leave.  I felt like I had lost a battle but was given a reprieve and allowed to stay even though it was no secret I was fond of Joe and Charlie.  I wanted to be loyal to Joe and stand up for him and his brother, but I was scared.  I often wonder if Joe might have thought that I had betrayed him by staying.  I really don’t know.  I swallowed my pride, opted to stay and tried to become a team player with the new lab management.

My career at the lab would last only a couple more years.  I  like to blame OJ Simpson for me losing my job.  The murders essentially put the forensic science field under its own microscope as OJ’s defense team tore apart the experts and made them look inept.  The board of our private lab didn’t want our lab to be scrutinized, so they decided that pursuing an accreditation status with a lab governing body was the way to go.  One of the accreditation requirements was that anyone working in the lab had to possess a natural science degree, and my major in law enforcement and minor in chemistry didn’t cut it. The official wording was “your position was eliminated and replaced it with one needing different educational requirements” or something like that.   I was told thanks and good luck and escorted out.

I phoned Joe right after that and informed him that I had been let go.  We chatted briefly and he seemed like he was moving on with life.  I think that is probably the last time I spoke with my friend Joe from work.

In the mid-2000s, I ran into Charlie when we were subpoenaed to testify at the Brown’s Chicken murder trial.  We were being deposed and spent a couple of hours together sitting on wooden chairs in a sterile old courtroom office.  We chatted about how our lives had changed for the better since being gone from the lab and I think we were both relieved to hear each other say things were going great.  I asked about Joe and he said that Joe hadn’t really talked much with him.  That was a big surprise to me because they were all such close-knit siblings.  I could sense that Charlie had the same feelings and concerns about his relationship with Joe that I had.

When Facebook came along and I finally jumped on board, I searched for him and did not find him.  That wasn’t surprising to me as Joe was a pretty private guy.  But I did find that his son was there.  I sent him a private message, telling him who I was and asked if he could tell his dad that I had been thinking about him and tell him hello.  He replied that he would.  I didn’t really expect it to evoke a response from Joe, and I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t receive one.

And with that, I moved on from thinking about Joe unless something triggered a memory.  I stopped dwelling over a lost friendship until the dream that I had once again rekindled my curiosity.

So here’s where Jonathon from Heavyweight would ask what do I want to accomplish.  Do I want to reconnect with Joe?  I’m not really sure.  I guess I am more prone to let sleeping dogs lie.  But I do have questions.  Did I do something that made him mad at me?  Did he just decide to walk away from the past and look ahead to the future?  Is he doing well?  Does he ever think about me?

I was curious about my old lab and a search for information on them found that they had changed their name and moved from their original location.  As I looked through the website I discovered that a couple of employees that I had previously worked with were still there and looked to be doing well.  And then I found an article about a celebration of the lab’s 50th anniversary, and there was a picture of Joe.  I was a little shocked.  I never would have thought that he would reconnect with them after the history of what he and his brother had experienced.  He was there to receive an honor in memory of his father Andrew and Andrew’s contribution to the establishment of the crime lab. I guess Joe felt that it was a sign of respect and important enough to honor it.  He had a lot less hair (as do I!) but overall looked great.  That kind of gives me hope that maybe he isn’t avoiding me on purpose.

Maybe seeing his picture is enough.  I guess I will honor his privacy and let it be.  I still have fond memories.  I don’t want to ruin them.  Writing this was pretty cathartic for me.  So, to my friend Joe from work, if you are out there, I still think of you and hope you are doing well.

Your old friend, Skippy.

 

Heavyweight – by Gimlet Media

Today I Learned… Cross Country Skiing Is Fun!

56 years, 2 months, and 16 days into my life I found out that I actually like cross country skiing!

Now this isn’t my first attempt at XC skiing. Kari and I bought some skis for ourselves Christmas 1992. We took them out to the local park and fell down numerous times and had some fun. We got busy with our young lives together, having kids and moving that most of the time the skis were tossed up into the attic and forgotten about. We tried again shortly after moving into our current home, probably around 2001, but after trying them out on a very difficult place to ski, we brought them home and put them back into the attic again.

Flash ahead to February 2019 we decided to haul them up to our lake home in upper Wisconsin and give them a try up there, a place where winter is serious about being winter. We drove to a place called Minocqua Winter Park where they have numerous groomed trails. However that day the park was hosting a XC ski race, a marathon actually, and after deciding we’d be too embarrassed in front of this group of people we opted to head home and try them out on our frozen lake. That went well until I fell and my 25 year old ski boots ripped apart in the most comical way. The boot literally ripped itself from the sole and left the sole on the ski that was quickly skiing far away from me!

Me holding the ski with the sole of the boot still attached. Looks like I need some new ski boots.

We came up north on January 1st, 2020 to spend some time before the holidays were over and tried to give XC skiing another go. I think we were all a little nervous when we got there, but we checked in and strapped on the skis and found the easiest trail we could find. We all struggled a little at first and there were a few falls, but we quickly got the hang of it and off we went.

My three snow bunnies on the Cookie trail.

Ashley seemed to struggle a little more than the rest of us, falling on her tush enough times that she was having some pain with that. So Kari and her headed back to the chalet and Rebecca and I attempted to complete the loop.

I think we were having more fun taking selfies.
That hill looked seriously dangerous!
Last selfie out on the trail.

I forgot to start my watch’s XC ski app right when we started, but I did hit the start button after about 15 minutes of skiing. When Rebecca and I got back we had gone a little over 3.5 miles in an hour and twenty-one minutes. After reuniting with Kari and Ashley and finding out that Ashley was feeling pretty sore after falling so much, we packed it in and headed home for some much deserved hot chocolate. I can’t wait to go back!

2019 Running and Triathlon Year in Review

 2019 RUNNING AND TRIATHLON YEAR IN REVIEW

I had another great year of running and creating memorable moments in 2019.  So very thankful that I can still do what I enjoy doing and reflecting back on the memories I made.  I have kept track of my running miles since 1989, so I only tally up the number of runs, miles, and time spent running in my stats.  Here’s how 2019 went for me with running and triathlon.

JANUARY – Not much to reflect upon here.  Most were treadmill runs and nothing out of the ordinary.

  • Total Runs:  14
  • Average Weekly Miles:  22.4
  • Total Hours:  11.8
  • Total Miles:  89.5

 

FEBRUARY – Another winter month to get through and focus on recovery.

  • Total Runs:  10
  • Average Weekly Miles:  15
  • Total Hours:  9
  • Total Miles:  60

 

MARCH – Ironman Chattanooga training begins! I chose to be a little loose with the training this time around starting out by following the “Just Finish” plan but then decided to commit to the competitive plan like usual.  I did drop the swimming down considerably, mostly just doing two 45-minute swims per week.  The monthly totals for March reflect what miles the beginning stages of the plan prescribes, plus some time off for a trip to Nashville to see some colleges with Rebecca.

  • Total Runs:  12
  • Average Weekly Miles:  12.1
  • Total Hours:  7
  • Total Miles:  48.3

 

APRIL – Weekly training going well, as long as I don’t ruin things for myself.  For example –  I’m My Own Worst Enemy

  • Total Runs:  16
  • Average Weekly Miles:  23.8
  • Total Hours:  14
  • Total Miles:  95

 

MAY – Still swim/bike/run training and getting into the swing of things.

  • Total Runs:  18
  • Average Weekly Miles:  24.8
  • Total Hours:  13.3
  • Total Miles:  99

 

JUNE – I officially kicked off the racing season this month with a 5K and a sprint triathlon in June.  (See below for the race reports.)

 

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Me with my Short Run on a Long Day 5K age group medal post-race, trying to stay dry.

 

  • Total Runs:  20
  • Average Weekly Miles:  30
  • Total Hours:  17.5
  • Total Miles:  119

 

JULY – Time for a vacation and some more racing!

 

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The final stretch of the 2019 Manteno Tri.

 

  • Total Runs:  20
  • Average Weekly Miles:  33
  • Total Hours:  19.5
  • Total Miles:  130

 

AUGUST – It got hot just as the training ramped up big time.

 

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Just two Ironman trainees wondering why we love this sport so much.

 

  • Total Runs:  19
  • Average Weekly Miles:  38.4
  • Total Hours:  23.4
  • Total Miles:  154

 

SEPTEMBER – September came with the wrapping up of 30-weeks of Ironman training and racing a very hot 2019 Ironman Chattanooga.  Even with the heat and all the suffering, it was an epic day.

 

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The first 100 feet of the Ironman Chattanooga marathon leg.

 

  • Total Runs:  19
  •  Average Weekly Miles:  36.7
  • Total Hours:  22.5
  • Total Miles:  146.6

 

OCTOBER – I debated with myself as to whether I should defer the Chicago Marathon to 2020 seeing that it was two weeks after Ironman Chattanooga, but I committed to it and decided to see if I could parlay all that Ironman training into another Boston Marathon qualifier.  I did!  But not by much.

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If it wasn’t for the crappy winds, the day would have been perfect marathon running weather.  
  • Total Runs:  15
  • Average Weekly Miles:  24
  • Total Hours:  13.5
  • Total Miles:  95.7

 

NOVEMBER – Looking back at 2018, November 2019 was almost a mirror image in terms of the stats below.  I ran a couple of races, which probably did more damage to me than good.

2019 ACE Wheaton Hot Cider Hustle Saturday (30 of 1951)
The start of the 2019 Hot Cider Hustle, Wheaton, IL.  I’m in 2nd place!  It didn’t last long.
  • Total Runs:  13
  • Average Weekly Miles:  21
  • Total Hours:  12
  • Total Miles:  84

 

DECEMBER – I paid for the four races I did, which ended up causing me some weird leg left leg/knee pain.  I never had pain in the rear portion of the leg/knee area before.  It wouldn’t hurt during the run really, but afterward, I would have some dull pain that would linger.  I would rest it a few days and then feel fine only to go back out and get the same result.  I decided to shut down running on December 26th for the rest of the year.

  • Total Runs: 12
  • Average Weekly Miles: 17.9
  • Total Hours: 11
  • Total Miles: 71.5

 

2019 RUNNING TOTALS

  • Total Runs:  188
  • Average Weekly Miles:  25
  • Total Hours:  174.5
  • Total Miles:  1193.2

 

LIFETIME RUNNING TOTALS (31st Year of Running)

  • Total Lifetime Runs:  4777 – 154 runs per year average
  • Total Lifetime Hours:  3509.5 – 113 hours per year average
  • Total Lifetime Miles:  26188 – 844 miles per year average

 

2019 RACE REPORTS

I had a pretty successful year racing again, getting some more age group and finisher medals to add to my collection.  Here are the summaries with a link to the race recaps.

 

TRIATHLON REVIEW

I think I had a pretty good year with triathlon.  Ironman training went well and ended with a very good effort on an extremely hot day in Chattanooga.  And I medaled in the other two sprint tri’s that I did, which is always the goal.  I’m really looking forward to another year of racing.

SWIM TOTALS:   Total Swims:  34  /  Total Distance:  69,461 yards (39.5 miles)

BIKE TOTALS:  Total Rides:  132  /  Total Miles:  3694

 

GOALS FOR 2020

In May I registered for a race that had piqued my interest.  The race is called the “Big Hill Bonk” (read about it here: My First Ultramarathon?) and is in Beloit, Wisconsin in early April 2020.  It’s an elimination/last runner standing type race format in which you run a 4.16-mile loop in an hour and keep doing that until only one runner is left.  So this run could be my first ultramarathon if I decide to keep going past eight loops.  I was training pretty well for it and starting to build some decent weekend long run miles, but the leg/knee injury thing has screwed up my training.  I think I will still be able to get to the starting line and get in enough loops to push me over 50K.

I decided to take a year off from running the Chicago Marathon.  I have legacy status, so I should be able to sign up again in 2020 for the 2021 race if I want to.  My Gunner teammates and I were discussing doing another Ironman in 2020, but I’m not sure how serious everyone is.  We’re at the point that we have done the races nearest to us and may to commit to traveling farther to do a different race, or just sign up for one we have already done.  A lot of the fun in doing them is experiencing a new race locale.  I hear that Ironman is returning to Idaho in 2021, so I definitely have it on my must-do list.  If the Gunners shoot for another go-around I will definitely be in.  I just have to fit it around getting my youngest off to college.  I’m not missing that.

If the Ironman thing doesn’t pan out and I survive the Big Hill Bonk run, I may look to sign up for a 100-mile ultramarathon.  I have a local friend who is fond of the Tunnel Hill 100 Miler in southern Illinois, but I have also eyed the Hennepin 100 race out by Sterling, Illinois.  We’ll see.  Got to get some experience first.

 

 

 

Confessions of an Un-peaceful Peaceful Sleeper

an amazing run

Last night I was enjoying a really deep sleep.  Honestly, most nights I enjoy a really deep sleep.  Now, you might ask how does one actually “enjoy” a deep sleep?  Well, I’m not sure really, but when the bedquake hit, it jolted me from the deep sleep I was enjoying and I was now no longer enjoying it!  A bedquake?  What’s a bedquake?

A bedquake is something my wife Kari has invented in order to prevent me from having a really deep sleep.  It’s a tactic she resorts to when the foot rub on my calf doesn’t work.  The foot rub on the calf is only good to disrupt my sleep if I’m not that deep into it.  One night I was just dozing off and could feel this strange calf massage thing going on.  I thought, “huh, that’s strange,” and just rolled over and went back to sleep. But…

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My Search For American Muscle – Part VII

I have been so busy training for Ironman Chattanooga and the Chicago Marathon this summer and fall that my search for an old car to buy has kind of taken a back seat to all of that.  The summer and fall have been so busy that when I finally was able to not be burdened with all that training, I realized that summer has passed me by!  And now that the summer cruise season is over I’m not sure I want to seek out a car to buy right now.  But in my own defense, I have spent nearly every night looking at ads for old classics and searching for what might be that special one for me.  It seems like I will be forever looking.

I haven’t ruled out any of the muscle car era classic cars at all, but I have really narrowed it down mostly to the 1967 Plymouth GTX and the Dodge Coronet R/T for some reason.  Those two sister cars just catch my eye.  We had a couple Plymouths when I was a kid, so maybe that’s why.  I’m also limiting myself somewhat by also hoping to buy a convertible because that would be cool.  However, there are only so many of that year/make/model out there in the 50+ years that have passed since they were created.  And as I look at more and more of them I have really learned a lot about them.  And some of them make me question their authenticity.  Here is a story of a recent one.

BUYER BE QUICK!

I was scanning the Hemmings.com page like I do almost every night when I noticed a new listing for a 1967 GTX convertible for sale in Florida.  It was somewhat of an odd listing because it only had one photo and not much detail regarding the car.  I saw that it was listed as being from Lakeland, Florida, which rang a bell for me because there is a classic car shop there called Primo Classics.  Sure enough, this car was one of their listings.  Now I have looked at their listings before and am usually very impressed with the cars they have to offer and they present them extremely well.  Maybe it’s the Instagram-type photo filters or something, but they really pop off the page when you are looking at them.  But this listing was different.  It didn’t go into detail and there was only one photo of the car from quite a distance away.  That wasn’t in their typical style.

 

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This was the original photo.  Not anything like what Primo Classics puts out on their website.

 

The car was listed on Hemmings for about a week and then it was gone.  I went to the Primo Classics website and now there were a ton of really nice photos of the car, but the word “SOLD” was present at the top of the page.  Still no detail about the car at all.

 

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1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible briefly listed for sale in Lakeland, Florida.

 

 

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Same GTX with the top up.

 

 

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The interior was just as nice as the exterior.  Note the 150 mph speedometer, a standard feature of a GTX.

 

I would have loved to own this one.  From these photos and the rest of the photos posted online, I definitely would have inquired into it.  Just not quick enough I guess.

 

BUYER BEWARE!  

Being slightly puzzled by the quick post and sale of the car, I wondered what was going on with it.  So I dug a little deeper and took a closer look at the photos and saw the fender tag.

 

 

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The photo from the fender tag of this car from the website.

 

Fender tags were used by Mopar to detail how the car was built and were usually just screwed into the inner fender well of the engine compartment.  The numbers under the letters and the numbers along the bottom have special meanings and there are plenty of websites out there to help you decode them.  So I went to one of the decoder websites, put in the above info and here’s what I found:

First line:  g 0 is unknown; u 1 means the car was ordered.  

Second line:  R 1 is an AM radio; Y 1 means it has a black convertible top.  So far, so good.

Third line:  A 2 is a 2.94 to 1 axle ratio;  H4X is a trim color code, in this case, vinyl black seats;  LL1 corresponds to the exterior paint color, Dark Turquoise;  UB I think means the upper door frame color, black in this case.

Uh oh, now we are starting to have some issues.  The axle ratio was pretty standard for the GTX, but the trim color of this car is red, not black.  Also, the car is clearly painted dark red and not turquoise blue, and also dark red instead of black on the upper inner door frame.

Fourth line:  RH27 is the code for a Plymouth Belvedere II convertible;  31 is a 278 c.i. 8 cyl. engine;  5 is a 3-speed automatic transmission;  315 is the tire size, 31 means 7.35 x 14” black wall tires and the 5 means the spare had the same;  306 means it was built on March 06, 1967;  02025 is the production sequence number.

Okay, now there are a TON of red flags, most glaring is the RH27.  The 1967 Plymouth Belvedere and Satellite were basically the same car with some differences in trim and options.  The GTX was the top-end model of the Belvedere after the Belvedere I and II.  A real GTX fender code would read RS23 for a hardtop coupe and RS27 for a convertible.  If you look at the picture it shows that the fender tag is applied with a couple of Phillips-type screws, so these things could be taken off and swapped around very easily.  This tag could have been original to this car with some GTX upgrades added later on, upgrades such as different paint and GTX trim to make it appear to be a GTX.  One of the hallmarks of a GTX is that it had a special chrome flip open type gas cap, special to only this model in 1967.  These can be added pretty easily, and to the untrained observer, it would probably be unnoticeable.  Also, GTX’s only came with a 440 cu. in. or a 426 cu. in. HEMI engine.  This tag doesn’t indicate either of those.

So is this car a Belvedere II cloned into a GTX or a real GTX?  Let’s also look at the VIN.

 

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The VIN on the Plymouth.

 

Right away there is a huge red flag.  As noted above, RS23 is the code for a Belvedere GTX coupe, not a convertible.  So now we know that neither the fender tag or the VIN is accurate to the car being presented as a 1967 GTX convertible.  My guess this car was originally a Belvedere II in Dark Turquoise like the fender tag indicates, with the VIN tag added from some totaled old GTX found in a junkyard somewhere.  The rivets holding the tag on in the picture are fairly consistent with what Mopar used, but the tag almost looks glued on.  Heck, the glue that was used to mount this VIN tag has pushed out along the edges and through the rivets, and the guy’s fingerprint appears on it where his glue-covered finger pushed it into place!  Plus, if you Google Plymouth VIN rivets, you can see that they can be bought pretty easily.  VINs and fender tags can be recreated too if you look hard enough.

I searched this car some more and found a listing for it in Carlisle, PA, a popular locale for auctioning classic cars.  I searched their listings for auctions and found a Fall 2019 auction held in Florida, and there it was:

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A real GTX would have sold for closer to $50,000.00

It’s a nice car, a well done cloned GTX, but it is being sold as a real-deal GTX and that upsets me.  This is why you take your time and look into what you are buying.  I’m not sure how this car even has a clear title.  Sometimes I feel rushed into jumping on a new listing, but learning to slow down and do your research can save you a huge headache in the long run.  Buyer beware for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Search For American Muscle – Part VI

PART VI – GETTING TAKEN FOR A RIDE

Buckle up for another rough ride.  I’m pumping the brakes again.

I was excited to find another 1967 Mopar B body convertible for sale on Hemmings the other day.  This one is a Dodge Coronet R/T and it looked awesome, light blue with a white top and white interior, and riding on period-correct redline tires.  This car was being sold by a Dodge dealership in Sioux City, Iowa and I clicked on an inquiry tab and asked about the car.  A salesperson got back to me really quick, and I was getting that feeling you get when you go to a dealership to kick some tires and get the “buy it now” pressure pitch.  I could almost picture her wearing a plaid jacket and white dress shoes.  I was trickling blood in the water, and the shark had sensed it.

 

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A recently listed light blue 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T convertible.

 

The car was described as being a favorite of the dealership owner, kept at his house and that he personally enjoys driving it.  It was listed for nearly $50,000, which is a little higher than what I have seen a few of them sell for.  I let her know that I was interested, but I had to consider taxes and shipping, and that the asking price was pushing me over budget with all of that.  She inquired as to where I lived and advised that I would pay taxes in my state.  Then she offered the car for $49,000 with shipping.  That’s still pretty high for me, but it was in line with what these cars typically sell for.  I was interested for sure.

After that sales pitch, I advised her that I was reluctant to buy a 50+-year-old car without seeing it run or at least a video of it.  The website had a short video, but there was no sound and the car wasn’t moving.  I asked if there was a video of it driving and she provided this:

 

Lots of wind noise, but it runs and drives.  Did you notice anything different about the car?  It was the first thing I noticed as soon as it came into view.  The dealership removed the period correct and totally awesome redline tires and replaced them with white walls.  Not a deal killer for me, but I dig that redline tire/Hot Wheels look.

Since there are only so many of these cars available out there, I decided to see if I could dig up any history or information on this one.  I Googled the VIN and got only two hits.  And the first one was an a-ha moment.  I had seen this car for sale before.

When I peruse the Hemmings classifieds I usually skip over the cars listed for auction, as I am just not familiar with buying a car at auction.  There are rules and hidden costs involved, and if you aren’t able to be there in person to see the car you have to rely on just a description.  Plus you still have to get the dumb thing home somehow.  But I do look at the listings of the cars that I am interested in, especially the ’67 B bodies.   This particular car had been listed on Hemmings about 4 months ago as part of a Mecum auction listing.  Here is a photo from that listing:

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The car hit the auction block in the Phoenix area in March 2019 at no reserve and sold for $35,000 plus a 10% commission, for a grand total of $38,500.

 

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No reserve on this car and the buyer stole it.

 

The other Google hit was for a website called Rick Carey’s Collector Car Auction Reports, and it provided a ton of insight into the car:

“Restored and clean underneath. Redone to appropriate standards for what it is, but done on a budget and indifferently presented with some age and a few miles since the restoration. – The Glendale bidders clearly saw this Coronet for what it is and priced it appropriately for its weekend driver condition.”

Mr. Carey thought that this car sold well for $38,500 and that the new owner will enjoy his weekend driver.

So how does this Coronet go from being recently required 3-4 months ago, to being a “favorite of the owner who loves to drive it,” to being turned around and offered for sale at a markup of $11000?!  I think the reason the owner “loves” it is because he’s trying to flip it, and he stands to make quite a profit.  This was not settling well with me.

Now this happens all the time, and I get it.  The Olds 442 I drove last year had a price of $45K and after I passed on it, I found it for sale in Ohio for $55K.  This owner runs a new car dealership, selling classic cars on the side, and is in the business of making a profit on those great deals he finds.  Truthfully the car isn’t really priced out of what the actual value is.  My last post about losing out on another one of these cars, almost identical to this one, sold for $48000.  So it’s a fair listing price.  It’s just that he stands to make a huge profit, and I’m not sure I’m the one that wants to please him in that way.

I decided to reply with what I now know about the car and offered a low ball offer, an offer in which he still stands to make a profit, but just about half of what he was looking for.  His salesperson rep wasn’t having it.  She came back with what she offered before -$49K and delivery to my driveway.  I’m mulling it over.

I’m looking to take a ride in a classic car, not be taken for a ride.

Live Classic Rock Songs That Are Better Than The Studio Versions

an amazing run

I was listening to Classic Vinyl on SiriusXM radio in the car the other day when they played the original studio version of Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band’s Turn the Page, and it didn’t seem right.  It sounded different in my ear, as I was used to the live version of the song.  That got me thinking about live versions of rock songs that are much better than the original studio version.  Songs that if the radio DJ was going to play that one specific song, he or she would grab the live version over the studio version every time.

Not sure what propelled the popularity of live albums during the 1970’s.  You don’t see them being as popular in later decades.  Live music and concerts were growing to huge proportions in the 70’s.  It may have been a money grab from the record label, but I’m just…

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My Search For American Muscle – Part V

PART V – STRIKE ONE!  STRIKE TWO!

Welcome back to my dumb journey of trying to find a muscle car to own.  I say it’s a dumb journey because, well, in all honesty, I’m a dummy and I am in charge of this quest.  Once again I find myself sitting in a chair driving a keyboard, instead of feeling the wind blow through what little hair I have left on my head behind the wheel of a classic car.

I’m up to Part V.  Let that sink in.  I started this search back in October 2018.  I came close to owning what I thought was the one, test drove it, and then said I better keep looking.  That car is gone now, as well as the second one I had my eye on.  After that, I focused on a couple of other cars and had been watching them pretty closely.  Both were Mopar B bodies from 1967.  Both had been for sale for a couple of months.  Now both are gone.

(I had written about both of these cars before, you can read more at the links at the bottom of this post.)

 

STRIKE ONE!

The first car was a 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T for sale at Cruisin Classics in Ohio.  It had pretty good provenance, as they say.  The owner had been a Vietnam vet and acquired it when he got back home.  His name was on the paperwork that was in a posted picture and I researched him and found out he had passed away.  The car had been sold a couple of times prior to being bought and offered for sale at Cruisin Classics.  Tons of paperwork for the car as well.  I studied the pictures thoroughly and the only thing I could see wrong with it was a small paint chip on the front right fender.  Not a big deal, but I wondered why they didn’t try to fix it or at least cover it up with photoshop.  The trouble for me with this car was that it was in Ohio and I am in Illinois,  and I’m pretty busy to take time out to go see it.

I do most of my searching for cars on the Hemmings website.  I was checking my list of favorited cars and noticed it was no longer listed on there.  I double checked the listings for Dodge Coronet R/T’s and it was nowhere to be found.  I pulled up the Cruisin Classics website and sure enough, it was listed as SOLD.  To add insult to injury, I follow them on Facebook and they posted the car had been shipped to Phoenix, Arizona and enjoying new ownership along with this picture:

 

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Photo credit:  Cruisin Classics / Facebook

 

It looks like it is sitting next to a 1967 GTX convertible, too.  Now we are just pouring salt into my wounds.

 

STRIKE TWO!

The second car that I lost out on was local, and I had no reason to have not gone and looked at it.  Well, that’s not true.  The main reason that I hadn’t gone to look at it was that it was priced at almost $60,000.00.  This car was being sold by Auto Gallery Chicago and was located in Addison, Illinois.  I have followed this one a while as well and the dealer eventually lowered the asking price to $54,900.00.  Now I was a lot more interested.

 

 

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Photo credit:  eBay / Auto Gallery Chicago

 

 

They offered the car up for sale on eBay several times and I bid on it and won the auction two of the three times, with it going unsold after not reaching the reserve price each time.  It was put up for sale again on eBay just yesterday and I put in my max bid again.  I also promised to invest my Saturday and go look at the car.  I checked my email today and saw a notification from eBay:

Dear eBay Community Member,
The bid that you entered for the item has been cancelled. You can view the reason provided for the cancellation by selecting the (bid history) link from the individual item page.

What gives?  They canceled my bid?  Why?  A check of eBay revealed that the auction was no longer active.  Ah, now I am starting to see the light.  I checked the dealer website and sure enough, the car is no longer listed there.  Someone came in and bought it.

 

TIME TO DIG IN 

So it’s time to keep looking.  I’m still interested in the 1968 Buick GS and a 1966 Pontiac GTO convertibles that are being sold by Primo Classics Intl., located in Florida.  Both cars present themselves nicely but seem below market price for some reason.  I will have to look a little closer at them.

I used to tell the kids I coached on my baseball team that you will never hit a pitch if you don’t swing, and I certainly can learn from that.  I haven’t been swinging.  I’ve taken too many pitches.  Time to keep swinging, even if I just foul a few off.  Sooner or later I am going to connect.

 

Previous musings on my car search:

My Search For American Muscle – Part I

My Search For American Muscle – Part II

My Search For American Muscle – Part III

My Search For American Muscle – Part IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Search For American Muscle – Part IV

PART IV – This Is Way Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

Time for another update in my search to add a classic car to my garage that I will probably only drive twice a week!  It’s been almost two months since my last update, but it isn’t because I have slowed or stopped my search, it is just taking much longer than I thought it would.  First off, winter is a tough time to buy a collector car.  You don’t want it outside in the snow, and definitely shouldn’t be driven on salty roads.  Buying a car in winter would mean I would have to store it inside, which means that I would have to park my regular driver outside.  I don’t want to do that either.  Also, it’s easy to get excited about a car you find for sale, but after the experience of looking at that Oldsmobile back in November and almost rushing into a purchase that I might have regretted, I learned to slow my roll, so to speak.  Lastly, it seems like the “pickin’s” are kind of slim, especially since I have limited myself to just a few makes and models.

Speaking of that 1967 Olds 442 convertible that I passed on, I found it for sale at a classic car dealership in Ohio, with a new sticker price of about $8000 more than when I almost wrote a check for it.

 

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Here’s the same 442 I drove with Kari back in November, looking shiny in Ohio instead of my garage.

 

 

THE DANGERS OF EBAY AND AUTO AUCTIONS

I should just rename this quest as “My Search For a 1967 Plymouth/Dodge B-body Convertible” because that is kind of what it has become.  When the search began I was mostly looking for a 1970 Chevelle SS or an Olds 442 from 1967-68.  I found that I really like the 1967 cars in general, they are probably my favorite muscle car year.  But after looking at the cars from that era, the Plymouth GTX and the Dodge Coronet R/T just get my motor running (pun intended) for some reason.  A couple of cars that I mentioned last time are still out there and I like them, but I’m still looking for one that isn’t that far away and would allow me to take a quick drive to go look at it.  I have recently found a couple GTX’s that fit that need.

Car #1

First up is this 1967 GTX convertible located about 25 miles from me:

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I first found this car by searching on eBay, where the starting bid was around $35,000.  Now I like it a lot!  So I bid on it, with my max bid at $44,000.  I think it is worth more than that, I was just being conservative with my bid.  I was the only bidder and I didn’t hit the reserve auction price when it ended.  The dealer rep sent me a message through eBay informing me that the car had its original window sticker and build sheet.  That’s great and pretty rare to have the window sticker, but I’m not buying it for the window sticker.   So I went to their website and looked for more info.  There they had the car listed at $59,990.  Now I had sticker shock.  No wonder I didn’t hit his auction reserve price.  Most of the non-Hemi 1967 B-body cars I have looked into have sold for around $50,000 or under on average.  He was asking way too much.

It hits all my wants:  GTX with a 440, a convertible, and it is local.  I should buy it.  But it has some cons too, mainly that it is all blue, which is a lot of blue.  I bet that dark-colored interior heats up pretty hot in the sun with the top down.  The driver side armrest on the door has a crack in it.  You would think that a car that is sporting a decent restoration would have had that issue addressed.   I also noticed that the tail lights were mismatched.  The 1967 Belvedere had two styles of tail lights, one with a chrome strip and one without.  This car had one of each version.  The dealer also adds that it has “Protect-o-Plate” which is wrong.  Protect-o-Plate was GM’s warranty plan, Plymouth had a similar version called “Certicard.”  All of this makes me think he hasn’t done his research on this car.

 

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You can see the mismatched tail lights above.  The left one doesn’t have the same chrome strip next to the trunk lid that the right one has.

 

 

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The blue interior with the cracked armrest.

 

I decided to keep an eye on this car and saw that he listed it again on eBay.  I found myself bidding on it again, this time with a max bid of $46,500.  I was bidding on it against another bidder, but he was a bigger cheapskate than I was and the auction ended somewhere in the upper $30,000’s with me being the max bidder.  Then I noticed that on the dealer website they had dropped the for sale price from $59,990 to $54,990!  They came down $5000!  I was starting to believe my patience was paying off.

It was listed again on eBay again this past week with the usual $36,000 opening bid.  I bid again but pushed my max bid to $48,000 just to see if I was getting close to the reserve price.  This time I had some serious competition in the bidding wars.  I quickly got outbid until the auction ended with me losing to a max bid of $48,300, which didn’t meet the reserve, and the car didn’t sell.  It’s now listed again on eBay with a “Buy It Now” price of $59,990!  Did we piss this guy off with our low bidding?  Their website still lists it at $54,990.  I guess I might have to find some time to actually go up there and talk with them about the car and actually see it and maybe even drive it.  Heck, I may find out that I’m not in love with it, just like I did with the 442.

One thing I need to be cognizant of is that whether buying a car through eBay or at an auction like Mecum or Barrett-Jackson is that without seeing it, I’m not sure what I am really getting.  That is what is making this quest so difficult.  Some of these cars are too far away for me to go see easily, even though I’m drooling at the photos on the auction and dealership sites.

Car #2

I went back to the old Google machine and found a newly listed GTX for sale online located coincidently enough about 10 miles from the one above, so again it’s really close to me and might warrant a trip to go see it.  The downside is that it is a hardtop, not a convertible.  The positive – 4 SPEED BABY!

 

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An actual outdoor photo of the car superimposed on a dumb display background.  Not sure if this color is the same Dark Metallic Blue as the other car.  It looks to be a lighter shade blue, but that could just be because the picture was taken outdoors.

 

 

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Another blue interior that looks to be in great shape, but with 4 on the floor.

 

 

I like it, but again my eye is catching things to be leary of.  There’s a photo of the engine bay that shows that the radiator at some point in its life had a leak and has a bluish copper oxidation type material on it.  Not sure if it is still leaking or not, but that could be a red flag.  My coworker and fellow car nut Carl thinks that may be a sign of the engine running hot, and might have a good point.  I think it may just be an old car showing its age.  The thing is though, my brother was the mechanic in the family, I am “handy enough to be dangerous” with tools.  I wish my brother was still alive, this search would be much easier and probably would have been over with by now.

The website does not list a price for this car.  Even though it’s not a convertible, I may have to inquire about the price and go take a look see.

Car #3

The surfing the interwebs for cars is something I spend my evenings doing, and I still look at the offering from all of the big three.  Although I am not much of a Ford guy, the most recent issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine featured a 1967 Ford Fairlane GTA, which looks pretty cool.  I may have to look at those a little closer too.

But this 1968 Buick GS convertible definitely caught my eye.  The first impression is that the photos jump off the page.  The sky blue color really pops.  I must have a thing for blue.  Another thing that caught my eye was the price – $34,900!  Now we are talking!  But the car is in Florida.  And closer inspection of the photos show some little things here and there that give me pause, mainly the door and trunk gaps, but cars built in the 1960s weren’t really that high on that type of quality.  My inlaws live in Florida, maybe I could get my father-in-law to go take a look at it.  I can hear him now:  “It’s very nice.  It’s blue.  It has four wheels.”  That would be the assessment I would probably get out of him.

 

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Pretty sweet!  400 cubes.  Very sexy curves!

 

So that wraps it up for this edition.  What it is coming down to I guess is that I am going to have to get off my butt and actually interact with these sellers to make a decision one way or another.  I need to get on it – summer is coming quick!