Saving The Old Rustbucket--My 1982 FJ40 Tale

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Heavier Than Air Tech

"yes you can fly faster than sound and turn upside down, and you can hover, land in my driveway and shake, but I,my son, can get up, take a piss, grab a cup of coffee and read the latest edition of Penthouse"
Capt.Pete Donato KC130driver...BA09 1984

Lee thought you would appreciate this..Lee
Don't know how I missed this...Thanks, but Capt. Donato and I aren't on the same page.

He's correct of course, but why fly a bigass tanker the size of a 3 bedroom house when you could be having fun like this...

Lynx Helicopter landing on ship in rough see - YouTube

Cruiser content: My old CH-46 was big, ugly and slow, but somehow it always got the job done. You might even say it was the Land Cruiser of helos. :cheers:
 

kling-on

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Sea Knight said:
Don't know how I missed this...Thanks, but Capt. Donato and I aren't on the same page.

He's correct of course, but why fly a bigass tanker the size of a 3 bedroom house when you could be having fun like this...

Lynx Helicopter landing on ship in rough see - YouTube

Cruiser content: My old CH-46 was big, ugly and slow, but somehow it always got the job done. You might even say it was the Land Cruiser of helos. :cheers:
Wow that's cool

Sent from outer space via my mind
 
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Dale Jr. at The Rabbit Ear

Mother thinks the road is long and lonely,
Little brother thinks the road is straight and fine,
Little darlin' thinks the road is soft and lovely,
I'm thankful that old road's a friend of mine.
--Townes Van Zandt

New Mexico Ho! We turn West onto Texas State Highway 15 and aim for the mountains. It may be flat as a pancake here in the panhandle but less than 400 miles ahead there's slopes covered with fresh powder, a mountainside lodge stocked with ski bunnies and hot buttered rum, and a big crackling fire. All those lodges have massive rock fireplaces with fires that never burn out and don't need tending, and there's never a shortage of hot chicks warming by the fire. I know this because I got a nifty Ski Colorado travel brochure in the mail just before leaving Texas, and of course I take everything in there as gospel. But come on, you know none of that glam is waiting for me and The Turtle. Anything more glitzy than the Glancy Motor Hotel makes us uncomfortable, and I guarantee you none of those bunnies would ever show up at your door with a home made roast beef sandwich and a pitcher of sweet tea. But I do have a plan. Dalhart is 90 miles away. Then it's a short 35 mile hop to Texline, and across the state line we'll be in Clayton, New Mexico. That's about as far as I care to travel on a 16 gallon tank, which should work out perfectly. Clayton usually has cheap gas, and also happens to have one of the best greasy spoon diners in northern New Mexico, the Rabbit Ear Cafe. It's around 0930 as we pull out of Spearman; I figure we should hit Clayton just in time for a late lunch. Out of Clayton, it's another 85 miles to Raton. We'll be there before dark and camp for the night at Sugarite Canyon, just outside Raton. It's a fail safe plan. Yeah, sure it is.​

We stay on straight two lane county roads across the panhandle, smooth sailing all the way. The Turtle is getting a power boost from a stiff tail wind. I wouldn't be surprised if we're knocking out Prius numbers here, possibly as much as 12 mpg. Radio is a big fail in the great wide open--plenty of stations if you like livestock reports or screaming evangelists, but screamers scare The Turtle, so we rely on vintage Cash, Van Zandt and Keen to help us pass the time. Sure 'nuff the miles go by quickly. In Dalhart we turn northeast on US 87, a mostly four lane highway that leads all the way to Raton. I couldn't have ordered up better weather conditions--a friendly sun, cloudless blue skies, and 60 degrees. Cash...​


I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the deserts bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere.

We pull into Clayton and I'm already breathin' that mountain air. Approaching the Rabbit Ear I'm also smellin' enchiladas, chile rellenos, green chile cheeseburgers, home made sopapillas....Well, maybe I'm not really smellin' anything yet, but I know it's there. From outside, the cafe looks like a biker's hangout and I'd guess a lot of folks see the row of Superglides parked outside and drive on by, but I'm not those folks and I know the bikers are only there because they appreciate good chow. Heck, they don't even serve alcohol. Park at the edge of the lot, go in, same familiar Cowboy-Western decor, same familiar smells, and even though I'm there early the place is packed. I'm glad to see nothing has changed. They offer me a complimentary cup of joe while I wait; I sign my name to the list and take a seat on a long bench outside the door, right in front of the Harleys, young couple in LL Bean on my right and two burly biker guys in leather on my left. I see the lady sneaking peeks at the bikers from the corner of her eye, then turning up her nose and screwing up her face like somebody had just ripped one off. This is great. I love people watching. A couple more bikers ride up and I'm thinking about standing so they can sit next to the LL Beaners, but my name is called before I'm able to try my little social engineering experiment, and now I'm inside and seated, Robert Earl Keen's Front Porch Song lyrics in my head: "...a steamin' greasy plate of enchiladas,with lots of cheese and onions and a guacamole salad..." Yeah man, road food.

New Mexico is famous for green chiles, and no one grows them better. Not even close, and here at the Rabbit Ear they buy their chiles fresh from local farmers. It's the next best thing to picking them yourself, and on request the cooks will smother anything you order with green chiles--omelets, fries, burgers, enchiladas, you name it, they'll do it. I haven't had a real meal since yesterday noon and the problem now is that I want everything on the menu. Restraint is important, so I compromise and order an assortment ala carte--smoked chicken taco, cheese enchiladas, a chile relleno, borracho beans, and naturally there has to be flan and sopapillas for dessert. That's right. I want it all.

I clean my plate, actually several plates, and I'm feelin' no pain. The waitress asks if I'd like anything else, then before I can answer she starts laughing and says there's probably nothing left in the kitchen. The tab is something like $12. Try to find a deal like that in the big city. I make a pre-departure pit stop and start waddling out to The Turtle when I think I see someone in the cab. Behind the wheel. I've gotten into the habit of leaving the truck unlocked because the door locks tend to jam, and it's just easier to leave them open. Nothing in there worth stealing but the head unit and my crappy GPS, and they're securely locked in the Tuffy. First I think that maybe one of the bikers is trying to steal The Turtle? That wouldn't be difficult because there's a jerry-rigged ignition setup anyone could jimmy, probably because of the Camaro steering column. Instead of inserting a key into the steering column lock, you stick it into a little hole in the dash. Mounted in the hole appears to be a keyed ignition lock, and maybe it is, but any key will work. A nail file would work, but I quickly dismiss the biker theory as ridiculous. Those Harleys cost several times what the 40 is worth, and despite the cultural stereotypes I think most bikers are standup guys.

As I get closer I can see that it's a kid behind the wheel. A good looking little Hispanic kid. I stop a few feet away and hear him making engine sounds with his mouth. "Vroom, vroom," and he's even making different sounds when he shifts, or acts like he's shifting. He's hanging on to the little go-cart steering wheel like he's Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Daytona and every few seconds he leans into to it, towards the door like he's taking a curve and yells "Hold on!" He even makes screeching sounds on the turns, and he's pretty good at it. I'm convinced. I walk on over to The Turtle and I'll be damned, there's a little girl in the passenger seat, and she's strapped in with the lap belt. The little boy isn't buckled up because he's sitting on his knees. He can't be more than eight years old, and she looks around five. This is interesting, but what the hell? Where's the parents? I get to the driver's side window and it's cracked a couple of inches, just like I left it. I say "Hello," or something to that effect, and the boy says "You like my ride?" He's not the least bit embarrassed, makes no attempt to hide or make a run for it, and the little girl just smiles and waves at me. She's missing a couple of teeth, a cute toothless grin. Small as they are, it took some effort to get in there. They must have used my mounting technique, foot on the slider, grip the grab handle on the cage pillar and heave ho. Whatever, they've had their fun and I'm ready to go so I say "OK kids, that's enough. Climb out and let me get going." The little boy says "I'm takin' my girl for a drive," and he doesn't budge. Looks straight ahead, grips the wheel, and more "Vroom, vroom." I decide to open the door and coax him out and dammit, he's locked the door. I politely ask him to open up and just as politely he says that his mother doesn't allow him to talk to strangers. Yeah, but she allows him to steal cars? This is above my pay grade, and I need help.

I go back to the Rabbit Ear and tell the hostess chick that there's two adorable kids locked in my truck, and I wonder if they belong to any of the diners. She's busy and distracted and I guess she thinks they're mine. She says "Why don't you just unlock the door?" BECAUSE THE KEY DOESN'T WORK! I just thought that, didn't actually say it. No help there, and about that time the manager walks up. I explain my predicament and point to The Turtle. He says "Nice 40." Really, he said that. Then he tells me that he'll be right back, goes into the kitchen and comes out with an attractive youngish aproned lady. I assume she's one of their cooks, and the missing Mom. He says something to her in Spanish and she doesn't look pleased. This is one of those times I wish I'd paid attention in class, because my Spanish is pathetic. I can say "Uno mas cerveza, por favor Senorita" with the best of them, but that's it. Before I know it the aproned lady is halfway across the parking lot. She stops at The Turtle, strikes the familiar hands-on-hips Mom pose and says "Arturo, open that door and come out here." "And your sister too." She means business and Arturo is out of there and standing by the truck in seconds. He can't be more than four feet tall and his sister looks about six inches shorter. Mom is angry, but he's grinning ear to ear, like he just won the race and stepped into the victory circle. She says "Apologize to the man," and then she apologizes too. She tells me to check my "car," and if he caused any damage she'll pay for it. There's no damage. How much damage can a four foot tall fifty pound kid cause anyway? Arturo tells me he's sorry, extends his hand, and says "That's a really cool steering wheel man." He has a nice firm grip. I like him. He knows how to pick a ride. We shake hands, I mount up, and drive away with Arturo and his sister still standing there, flanking their Mom. I hope she goes easy on them.
 
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Looks like you could turn a lump of coal into a diamond in that belly button.

fuel mileage tech
fuel tank capacity tech (I thought they were 18 gallon tanks!)
ignition switch tech
door lock tech

Keep 'em coming, I'm learning a bunch!
 
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Looks like you could turn a lump of coal into a diamond in that belly button.

fuel mileage tech
fuel tank capacity tech (I thought they were 18 gallon tanks!)
ignition switch tech
door lock tech

Keep 'em coming, I'm learning a bunch!
Hope I didn't overload this chapter with too much tech. Just tryin' to give everyone their money's worth.

Don't forget there was also road food tech.

FWIW, the stock fuel tank through '78, the one that's mounted under the PS seat, has a 16.4 gallon capacity.

Aftermarket poly tanks such as CCOT sells only hold 12 gallons.

'79+ tanks mounted between the frame rails have a 22+ gallon capacity.

That little boy, Arturo, was cool. I forgot to put this in the story but after I approached the truck and asked him to get out, just before the second "Vroom, vroom," he belted out at the top of his lungs "GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!" I should go back and add that to the tale.
 

1911

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Eaten at the Rabbit Ears many times. As a matter of fact, I was just through Clayton and Raton yesterday. Kind of like Deja Vu all over again! Thanks cuz.
 

Jacket

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Still goin strong! Pictures are unnecessary; I had the cook/mother as more of a Penelope Cruz in my head....

Maybe you should work a bit of Tom Waits Goin' Out West into the story. :D

I got hair on my chest
I look good without a shirt


 
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Eaten at the Rabbit Ears many times. As a matter of fact, I was just through Clayton and Raton yesterday. Kind of like Deja Vu all over again! Thanks cuz.
I had some difficulty getting through the Rabbit Ear Cafe episode. Had a sudden hunger attack and had to take an enchilada time out.

Wish I'd known you were traveling that road this week. I'm trying to remember the location of an old abandoned motel, I think near Des Moines, right side of road heading North. Any help?

Still goin strong! Pictures are unnecessary; I had the cook/mother as more of a Penelope Cruz in my head....

Maybe you should work a bit of Tom Waits Goin' Out West into the story. :D

I got hair on my chest
I look good without a shirt
You're image of the Mom/cook is correct. She was a lot closer to Penelope than Salma. I just posted that pic to, ah, tittilate readers.

Appreciate the Waits suggestion. I'll take it under advisement. Funny you should mention him. I was listening to some old Tom Waits while writing the Spearman chapters. I don't think The Long Way Home is on any of his albums. This is a crappy video, not even a video, but a great song IMHO.

Tom Waits - The long way home - YouTube

And then there's the Norah Jones version--

Norah Jones-The Long Way Home - YouTube

Thanks gents :cheers:
 
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Danger Will Robinson, AKA The Colorado Girl

I'm gonna drive all night
Take some speed
And I'm goin' out west
Where they'll appreciate me
Goin' out west
Goin' out west
--Tom Waits


With my belly full of green chile enchiladas, it seems only fair that The Turtle gets some love too, so we tank up with unobtanium, non-ethanol gas, and pick up a few snacks for the road. Back at the Rabbit Ear I'd spied another 40 in the parking lot, a stockish light blue truck with faded paint, home made bull bar and an old 8274. It looked like a serious work truck. I'd intended to have a closer look and try to find the owner, but by the time Arturo is finally extracted from The Turtle, I look again and it's gone. Nothing else to do here, so we continue northeast from Clayton across the "empty corner" of New Mexico. Between Clayton and Raton there's 85 miles of nothing. This is a transition zone between the Texas high plains and the Rockies. There's no agriculture and much of the land looks desolate, because it is. This is grassy prairie best suited for raising cattle. You drive past grasslands interrupted by ravines and washes, ponderosa pine and juniper trees, and as you near the Rockies, occasional hilly outcrops and volcanic peaks begin to appear. There's not much in the way of civilization. Des Moines is the largest settlement on the highway, a sad little one gas station village with a population of 143 and not even a single traffic light.​

At this time of year, most travelers on this road are either on their way to ski country, or returning from ski country, and they're all in a hurry. It's a two lane mostly straight road without shoulders, and that causes problems. The 65 mph speed limit is routinely ignored and for years, the Clayton-Raton corridor has been the site of more fatal accidents than any other stretch of highway in the Southwest. Something to think about when you're chugging along at a 60ish clip and being passed by Porsches and Bimmers blasting past at 100 mph plus. Today is no exception. I'm barely out of the Clayton city limits when a Corvette and a Porsche pass me at Mach 1 speeds, one in the oncoming lane, with several other cars in hot pursuit. It's not a bad strategy, pick out a speeder and let him run interference. Evidently that's what everyone is doing except me and The Turtle.​

There's a state maintained rest area about forty miles West of Clayton, the only available pit stop before Raton. I've been driving less than an hour but after several big tumblers of ice tea, a preemptive head call seems in order. In fact as I near the rest stop entrance, the idea swiftly moves from the preemptive category to urgent. I pull into the nearest parking spot, execute an olympic caliber rolling dismount, and as I sprint for the men's restroom I see the faded blue 40 again, parked at the opposite end of the parking area. Aha, another opportunity to meet the driver. There's a crowd inside and I have to wait my turn. Several excruciating minutes later I exit the restroom and the mystery truck is gone again. Gone, or it was never there to begin with and I'm hallucinating, which isn't out of the question. Too much green chile will do that to you, and besides, weird things have been happening since The Turtle and I hooked up. I walk around for a few minutes, flex my butt cheeks, then mount up, and we motor on down the road.​

Minutes from the rest area I see orange "Construction Zone, 'Road Narrows to Single Lane,"and "Flag Man Ahead" signs. There's a flag man, a fire truck, two highway patrol cruisers, and further ahead a plume of black smoke rising from the right hand side of the road. There's at least a dozen cars stopped at the flag man, and a state trooper walking from car to car. He eventually gets to me and wearily repeats in a monotone voice the same words he's just spoken to everyone else. There's been an accident in the construction zone. An 18 wheeler has run off the road. There's two other vehicles involved, one in a ravine. Possible fatalities. Wreckers and ambulances have been requested and the road will be closed until cleared. Two hours minimum, possible three. He advises that we can turn around, or wait. A couple of cars make u-turns and leave, but most of us stay put. It's only 3:30 and I'm two days behind schedule so I decide to wait it out. No point in backtracking and renting a hotel room in Clayton when Raton is only fifty miles ahead. The Turtle has dual batteries so there's plenty of juice for tunes. I also have the other survival essentials--water and a couple of bags of salted nuts. I cue up good old Townes, Live At The Old Quarter. It's a two disc CD and by the time Van Zandt goes silent, we should be moving.​

I'm goin' out on the highway
Listen to those big trucks whine
Yeah white freight liner
Won't you steal away my mind.

Halfway through "White Freightliner Blues" I begin to see snow flurries. Little flurries. It isn't that cold and the flakes aren't sticking, but it's definitely snow. I have a good vantage point from the lifted 40, a clear view over most of the vehicles in front. Several cars up, halfway to the flag man, there's a Range Rover with ski racks on top. It's the tallest vehicle in line other than mine and I don't have a good line of sight to the next car, but I see a couple of young college age guys get out of the Rover and go to the car in front. They repeat this several times, and then two other guys get out and do the same. The second two I see are holding cans of Coors. Yep, definitely college guys. I'm not paying that much attention. If I think anything at all, it's probably that they're traveling in tandem with another car load of skiers, frat brothers or something. So I'm listening to music and wondering if I can make it to Sugarite Canyon outside Raton in time to pitch my tent when I see the blue 40 pull out of the line of cars and onto the grassy apron on the right.​

Ah New Mexico ain't bad, Lord
And the people there they treat you kind.

A tall blonde gets out and starts walking purposefully back toward The Turtle. Pony tail, jeans, cowboy boots, flannel shirt, down vest. Jeans are well worn, definitely not designer. And I can see that they fit really well. She comes to the passenger side window, looks in, looks at the Confer bench seat in back, then comes around to the driver's side.​

Her: "What happened to your kids?"
Me: "What?"
Her: "Your kids, I saw you with them at The Rabbit Ear. Where are they?"
Me: "Oh, those weren't my kids. That was Arturo and his sister."​

She's puzzled, but relieved. Then...​

Her:"Want a beer?"​

All this time I'm thinking she must be part of the ski party. I immediately think of a lame cop out.​

Me: "No thanks, I don't drink Coors."​

She looks highly offended.​

Her: "I don't drink that $hit. I've got Moose Drool. And I may have some stout too. I'll be right back."​

And just like that, she's gone.​


Yep, that's right....to be continued. :grinpimp:
 
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Fact Checking

I've been asked by a MUD fact checker if the New Mexico road block girl really had Moose Drool AND Left Hand Milk Stout, or if I made that part up.

Here's the truth. She had most of a 12 pack of Moose Drool and only one LH Milk Stout. Being the gentleman that I was, I drank the Milk Stout for her. It was gettin' warm and I was afraid it might have gone bad. :smokin:
 
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