Monday, October 12, 2015

Root Beer and Rustic Planters

I fixed chicken thighs for dinner Saturday night and we decided to open bottle number one of the four bottles of root beer that we purchased at the Root Beer Store earlier in the day.  We chose the Hippo Size tagged as a Jumbo Root Beer.  Small Bottle, BIG Taste.  I couldn't agree more.  Unfortunately we drank it semi-warm and the ideal temperature is very cold so I am not sure that the taste was the best it could be.  So the next trip to the store and we will get another bottle of this.  This one is not made with all natural ingredients but the Wintergreen flavor is definitely there.  A little stronger than Teddy's Root Beer.

Sunday night we went with Honey Root Beer, sweetened only with raw honey.  Pretty much the same ingredients as the Hippo but without the Wintergreen and the taste was definately different.  Mia said she liked it better than the Hippo but I found it to be way too strong and a little overpowering.  Pretty sure we won't buy it again, unless Mia wants it.
I have been working in the shop building planter boxes using old pallets for materials.  There are many videos on line showing how to disassemble the pallet to keep as much useable material as possible.  I usually cut the outside skids off with a circular saw and then pry them loose from the center skid.  This usually leaves two nails in each piece of wood that need to be dealt with.  If you have ever tried to remove a pallet nail by turning the board over and using a hammer to pound the nail out in reverse of the way it came in, you know that it is practically impossible.  The nails are usually wire gauge and very long causing them to bend as soon as you hit them.  
Back in the days of yesteryear I had a invaluable tool that I used while riding the fence line at the farm I worked on in Ephrata.  This tool was several tools in one, able to hammer, cut, pinch, and twist just about everything.  I never really needed any other tool, other than a stretcher, to work on the fence.  This tool has become invaluable again as I try to remove the above discussed nails.   Made by ChannelLock they are specifically designed for wire fence repairs.
In the picture below the pliers are positioned to cut the tail of the nail off close to the board.  You can see one of the cut nails just to the right of the handle near the polished area of the plier.

 Once cut short it is a simple matter to use the hammer of the plier to pound the nail out in the reverse direction and then use the head of the plier to remove the nail head.  It works like a charm.
It is much easier to pound out the short piece than it is to try and remove the longer one.  Note:  I hit the long one once with the hammer.

Once the nails are cut and removed I cut the pieces to length to build the planter boxes and then it is a matter of assembly.  Doesn't taken that long to make them.

Looking forward to planting flowers this coming spring at the trailer.

Hope all is well and thanks for visiting.

More Volkswagen

The CEO of Volkswagen of America, Michael Horn, testified before the U.S. House over site committee last Thursday.  I watched most of the testimony as he answered questions put to him by members of the committee.  It is obvious that this testimony comes very early in the investigations into what happened, who knew and why.  He was unable to answer many of the questions due to the "on-going internal investigation".  He made it clear that an outside, U.S. law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP had been hired to investigate this debacle.  He also distanced the U.S. arm of operation from those in Wolfsburg

Incentives on sales and bonuses on CSI are apparently being paid with no regard to sales goals or CSI reports.  In addition, Volkswagen wired "discretionary" funds to the dealer body to be used as they see fit to deal with customers and help with their operating expenses.  The amount of money apparently depends on the volume of the dealership.  Larger dealers got more monies than smaller operations.

Unfortunately, for the dealers this really solves nothing.  Customers are feeling cheated as are the dealers themselves.  Trying to resolve the issues by trading customers out of their diesel cars using the discretionary funds to bolster the deal will only cause further problems for the dealers.  Taking the  diesel models back on to their lots, unable the sell them, would lead to dealers to find storage for vehicles, monthly maintenance expense, flooring expense, and a whole bunch of other expenses while the dealers wait for the fix that will allow them to again sell the diesel that frankly the U.S. car buying public may not want.

Personally, I think everyone should sit tight until VW comes up with a solution or a buyback.  Of course it is only a matter of time before California or some other emission checking state will tell diesel owners they can't drive their non conforming Volkswagen.

Someone at Volkswagen AG did this.  Not Volkswagen of America.  Not your local Volkswagen Dealer.  Not the thousands of Volkswagen employees in the U.S.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Oktoberfest Sucks

Oktoberfest for a recovering alcoholic really sucks.  All these beer aficionados are out there enjoying their favorite beverage at many Oktoberfest celebrations all over the world.  I can't say that I was an aficionado in any way, shape or form because I consumed lots of beer, usually in a short period of time and some of the cheapest beers on the market.  Remember Near Beer?  How about the plain white box with the word BEER on the side.  Cheap isn't the word for it and I drank it like water.  Now in later life I think I have found what all those aficionados are enjoying only mine is non-alcoholic.

In this country there is another beer that is made and bottled by many different bottlers.  I have discovered it over the past couple of years and if you have read the blog before you probably already know where I am going.

I found the local Chapel to this beer several years ago but it wasn't until recently that one of their locations moved close enough to force me to take a short thirty minute trip.  The Root Beer Store opened a new location just south of us in Tacoma, Washington.  Today, Mia and I went to visit the store.
New Church in Tacoma

We walked in the door and found a table just a few short steps from the door with an ice bucket on it and seven bottles of root beer open and ready for tasting.  We tasted all of them and then spoke to the young lady running the place about our favorite Root Beer of all time, Monticello.  Bottled and sold only at Jefferson's Monticello we haven't been able to find an equal.  Monticello is $59.95 for a 24 bottle case shipped from Jefferson's home.  Shipping is additional.  I have heard that there is a product bottled by Dominion that is equal too or better than Monticello but we haven't been able to locate it locally.  So we are going to try to sample a few suggested by the young lady running the store.

On another subject I have the steps ready to take up to the trailer and install so we can enter and leave the back door.  Unfortunately the weather has gone to heck and we are getting buckets of water and frankly I don't want to go up and play in the wet.  The other thing on the steps pictured below is a rustic planter box made from recycled pallets.  I think I will be building more stuff with used pallets.

Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Volkswagen 2

In the eighties and nineties Volkswagen suffered from slow sales amid quality issues.  The bad news continued into the early 2000's as VW continued to quality issues as well as delays in introductions of new models.  In the mid 2000's VW started to show some signs of life.  Their quality issues began to fade and with the introduction of the 2006 models their fortunes made a turn for the good.  In 2009, VW introduced the common rail diesel technology.  They were betting on this technology to increase their sales to meet the target prediction of 800,000 vehicles sold in North America by 2018.

VW continued to push the dealer body to remodel their facilities, add shop space and parts area for the coming onslaught of service work.  At the same time, VW was improving some in the annual JD Powers study that ranks manufacturers.  Slight improvements brought more push from VWoA on the dealer body to comply with all kinds of standards as well as have a Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) equal to or better than the national dealer average in order to qualify for bonuses and trips sponsored by VWoA.

A customer who didn't like their vehicle could easily torpedo a dealerships CSI report.  While some dealerships seemed to excel at getting good CSI others struggled as customers were bombarded with phone surveys nearly every time they visited the dealership for any kind of service work.  I can tell you from experience it was a day to day struggle working with an autocratic company to try and get any kind of results or help.  Instead of looking at their dealers as partners they insisted that everything be done their way.

Now VW has been caught in a scandal.  They have admitted wrong doing.  The dealers are left with vehicles they can't sell and the future looks bleak at best.  As with the CSI reports where the dealers many times were broadsided by a customer that was actually upset with the manufacturer, the dealers are being blamed by some for the debacle that Volkswagen has created.  They aren't the bad guys.  Volkswagen did this to the dealers as well as their customers.  Now the franchise dealers are left to try and pick up the pieces.

In my experience, Volkswagen has never been an easy manufacturer to deal with as a franchised dealer.  I wish all the dealers the best and hope that some how this can be turned around and fixed.  I hope that VW evaluates their strategy in North America and becomes more of a partner with their dealers and less of an adversary.  VW does build some fun cars to drive.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Years ago when I was much younger I found myself drawn to an economical, funny looking, little car from Germany that had very little power when compared to the American muscle cars of the period.  It was the 60's and lots of younger folks found the Volkswagen Beetle since they were very economic to operate and you didn't need a bunch of special tools to work on them.

In 1967 I purchased a brand new Beetle from a dealership in Bellevue, Washington.  I chose a cobalt blue one that had a stock white interior.  I wasn't to hot on the white interior so the dealer swapped me for a black interior from another bug on the lot.  It was an easy swap.  The only option that I got was a Blaupunkt AM/FM radio that wasn't even stereo.  FM was becoming the thing to listen to and I had never had one in any of my previous vehicles.

Credit to for the picture
Over the next two years I would meet Gene Berg and Donald Ruckman and join the newly formed Northwest VW Club.  My future wife and I used to enjoy the outings to the ocean and up to Canada that the club organized.  There was an element of the club that spent time studying the German engineering and working to make the little engine produce a bunch more horsepower.  Before long, Gene Berg had started a business modifying the little engine and even developing parts to make it go faster.  It wasn't long before a Gene Berg modified VW Beetle showed up at Seattle International Raceways and became feared by some of the American muscle cars in bracket racing.

I slightly modified my Beetle and began to run it in the local Autocross and Rallye classes.  I did okay but at that same time a smaller car that looked like a matchbox on wheels was eating up every class in Autocross.  The Mini had invaded the Autocross courses though out the U.S. and it could corner on short tracks like nothing else.

I began working for Volkswagen at a dealership in downtown Seattle in the late sixties.  I worked as a parts advisor, warranty clerk, service advisor, assistant manager, parts manager, and finally service and parts director.  I moved from dealership to dealership as my career advanced.  I spent many years with Volkswagen and watched as the product slowly deteriorated as we moved into the eighties.  The once funny, economical car could no longer meet the new U.S. emissions regulations, sales were dropping as customers went for newer front wheel drive technology.  VW was forced to move from the air-cooled engines to the more conventional front wheel drive water pumpers.  A few years later, 1978, VW would open a plant in Pennsylvania and make a rather weak attempt at building the Rabbit in America.  It failed from the start.  Comparing the German version with the American built version and one could easily see the quality differences in body fit, finish and overall quality.

It was during this time that I was a service and parts director at a local Volkswagen dealership.  It was incredible difficult with very little factory support and vehicles that had obvious manufacturer issues. I finally got tired of telling owners that they were driving the best in German engineering and I quit my job with no prospects for the future.  It was difficult to deal with the day to day customer issues while getting no assistance from the factory.  The technicians were upset with the time allotments given for warranty operations and the owner was always getting calls from upset customers whom we were unable to satisfy.  VW sales dropped significantly over the next coming years and the factory decided to shut down the Pennsylvania factory in 1984.

I moved on to a different manufacturer as a parts manager where I remained for several years until I learned of a dealer who was seeking an experienced parts manager for his Mazda, VW, Subaru franchise.  I applied and got the new job.

Tomorrow I will continue the story.