Battery Tie-down

Twice now I’ve had the battery break loose at the track. It’s held down by two small clamps that clearly aren’t up to the job. I’ve searched high and low for a solution, but nothing looked good to me. I found a couple of commercial solutions, but they are for the small marine or race batteries. I don’t want to downsize the battery because I don’t want to be forced to keep the car on a battery tender all the time. I want to be free to take my road trips that span as much as two weeks.

I found a couple of DIY solutions that looked promising. These were variations on using an aluminum bar. I found something at Home Depot that might serve: an aluminum bar 36″ long, 1 1/2″ wide, and 1/8″ thick. But I don’t have a vice, so it might be tricky to bend. A similar bar 1/16″ thick might be better, but I didn’t see one.

Instead, I picked up a tow strap. I looked for some material like this, but I couldn’t find anything that was just the strap material. Seems a bit of a waste to spend $20 for the little bit I need, but at least this way if I mess it up I have plenty of material to give it a second shot.

First, I measured the battery to figure how much strap I’d need, and added a couple of inches for safety margin. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to cut this strap, or how much it would want to unravel. So I started by taping both sides of my cuts. I mounted a fresh blade in my utility knife and started cutting. It was pretty easy, just five or six passes and I cut through.

To keep the thing from unraveling, I hit the cut ends with a torch to melt the material, cauterizing it, if you will. Sorry for the poor picture. A few seconds on each cut and it was a nice solid end.

Next problem was how to put holes in for the bolts. I picked a drill bit just smaller than the bolt diameter and went for it, one person working the drill and another holding the strap in place. Then we cauterized the holes. They’re just about perfect; you actually have to thread the bolt through.

The photo above shows the finished strap. The bolts and washers shown are the original equipment. We found a couple of bolts a little longer and with bigger heads, and an assortment of larger washers so there’s much more surface area holding the strap.

The finished product

I’ve had it installed two ways. One with the “5000 LBS” showing and one all black. Obviously, the two bolts won’t hold 5,000 pounds, but I think the strap is a big improvement over the stock batter restraints.

Shakedown Cruise

Sunday, April 7

After a ship gets a major overhaul or a crew change, it goes on a “shakedown cruise” to simulate working conditions and insure that all the ship’s systems are functional. Today I went with a small group of fellow LoCos on a pleasant little drive south and west of Denver to give the Elise a little shakedown.

The highlight of the drive was Tarryall Road. The club has driven this road several times recently but somehow I’ve never gone with them until now. Tarryall Road runs about thirty miles, from the little town of Jefferson on US 285 at the foot of Kenosha Pass to a junction with US 24 at Lake George. It’s a nice Lotus road – curvy rather than straight, featuring beautiful scenery and little traffic.

I very nearly described the town of Jefferson as “not much more than a wide spot in the road.” That would be incorrect. The word “town” is an overstatement. It’s one of those places on US 285 that is best described as “blink and you miss it.” It was founded in 1879 and in its heyday had a population of 55 and even had a hotel. Today, I conjecture that the only people who go to Jefferson on purpose, people who aren’t just blasting through on the highway, are hikers on the nearby Colorado Trail who come here to get provisions.

I understand the name “Tarryall” was coined by a group who discovered gold in the area. They thought there was enough for everyone and called their camp “Tarry-all”. I saw no sign of gold mining. In other streams around South Park there was extensive dredging in placer mines, but none here. And there were no tailings piles from hard rock mining. In the end it appears there wasn’t that much gold here after all.

Jefferson was founded by ranchers, and serves ranchers today. Driving the thirty miles of Tarryall Road we pass by dozens of ranches. Some are obviously thriving operations today, others are rustic to the point of near total decay.

Our lunch stop for the day was the Iron Tree Restaurant and Funky Town Brewery. The menu we ordered from was the brunch menu, featuring a number of variations on Eggs Benedict. I had their “Country” version: English muffin, sausage, poached egg, hollandaise sauce, with country potatoes. Quite tasty. None of us was daring enough to order beer with brunch.

Europa, Elan, 3 Elises. Not pictured: Esprit and Triumph TR 6

Okay, so what about the shakedown?

This was my first real drive with the car after our extensive repairs. I’d taken it around the block a couple of times and down to Ferrari of Denver for Ryan to do an alignment. But that was all city driving and not typical of how I drive it.

In my trips around the block, my first impression of the new motor mounts was mostly negative. The shifting is much improved, but the vibration of the engine isn’t absorbed by the motor mounts at all. It all goes into the car. My first joke was that it wouldn’t be long before the fillings got vibrated out of my teeth. I was sure Genae would never want to ride in the car again.

The trip across town did show me that it’s not as bad as I first thought. Once you get it above about 3500 rpm it gets, well, not exactly civilized, but certainly much quieter. When I first bought the car I had to train myself to keep the revs up over 3000 as it doesn’t do well at low revs. Now I have incentive to keep the revs above 3500.

Below 3500, you see, the car plays a symphony of rattles and buzzes. Every part of the car vibrates, and everything within it. All engine speeds between idle and 3500 set various bits going; as you run the speed up some rattles go away and other vibrations start. Think of it like an orchestra. Before the symphony begins, all the players tune their instruments; an unpleasant cacophony. But when the orchestra is in full song, it’s marvelous. Above 3500 rpm, to be sure, the car isn’t quiet, but it’s in full song – the players have stopped tuning and the music starts. I can’t wait to get it onto the track.

The other major work was the clutch. I will admit that I was somewhat concerned that I’d end up with a much stiffer pedal. But my worries were baseless. The new clutch feels pretty much the same as the original equipment. I’m quite happy with it.

So I’d say the shakedown cruise was a success. The car works wonderfully (if a bit of a rattletrap at low rpms) and I had a pleasant drive on some beautiful Colorado roads and had a nice meal with friends.

Maximum Distress, Part Last

Saturday, March 30

Technically, I may be premature in saying “Part Last”. We still have a few items on the punch list, but I’m happy to say that my level of distress is no longer at maximum: the car is put back together, sits on her four wheels, and has even been around the block. She both goes and stops.

Michael and Daniel spent quite a bit of time over the last week, most of it without my presence in the garage. Not surprisingly, things went much quicker. I’d like to chalk it up to my absence. At the grocery store, no matter which line I choose to stand in, it will be the slowest moving. In traffic, the lane I’m in is slowest and changing to a different lane won’t help: the slowness property follows me. So I say they could work faster without me in the room, but they tell me that things went faster because all the hard work was already done and all they had left was the easy bits.

A few days ago I had to go buy the fluid for the gearbox. Google told me it was available any number of places, but calling around the first place that actually had what I wanted was Peak Eurosport. So I headed down and picked it up. While there, I had a brief chat with Ernie. He had recently replaced the clutch in an Elise. He said it was hard enough with the car on a lift and couldn’t imagine having to do it on the floor. He told me the car he worked on had relatively few miles, only 20,000 or so, but it was a track-only car. He also said the clutch he replaced was in worse shape than mine was. I find that hard to believe, but Ernie’s a straight shooter.

So here’s a recap of what we’ve done since about the end of November:

  • Replaced the motor mounts
  • Replaced the clutch
  • New ball joints on the rear lower control arms
  • New hub carrier plinth bolts

Although maximum distress is over, we still have some work to do:

  • Fabricate an improved battery tie-down
  • Replace the wheel studs, all four wheels
  • Get an alignment

I’ll take the car to the track at the end of April for an afternoon of lapping. Need to get refamiliarized with her at speed before I hit the road for points east in May.

She’s back on terra firma!

Shortly after this picture was taken, I went around the block a couple of times for a quick test. When idling, the vibration from the solid mounts is… extreme. But once you’re moving it’s not nearly as bad as my first impression was last time I took it around the block. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been so long since I’ve driven it that I can’t make a proper comparison, or that it actually is better with all four new mounts than with just the fore and aft mounts. It also seems that the clutch feel isn’t noticeably different than the stock clutch (which is good) and that the gear shift is much improved (also good).

My crack team of mechanics has already identified a list of additional work we’ll need to do after the summer driving season. We’re thinking stainless steel brake lines and new rear rotors.

The only niggling item at this point is the one extra bolt we have left. The three of us looked the car over for about half an hour and can’t find anything amiss. In the end I found a cover for one of the motor mounts that we neglected to put back in. We’re thinking the bolt is for that. But I’m thinking we should have two bolts for that, not just one. Hmmm.

Scuderia Rampante

Saturday, March 30

This month’s Lotus Colorado meeting was held in Erie at Scuderia Rampante, a high-end Ferrari restoration shop. Calling the place a high-end Ferrari restoration shop is a bit redundant, I guess, but I think I can get away with it. If you had a Ferrari and wanted some work done on it, how far would you be willing to send it? They’re working on a car that, when they’re done, will go back to Hong Kong. I’m not sure there is anywhere farther from Hong Kong than Erie, Colorado.

They called the event a “shop tour”. That probably overstates it. To me, a tour implies some sort of guide telling us what we’re seeing: what’s important or interesting. Nothing like that today, we just wandered around the place. Several employees were there to answer questions, so we weren’t completely on our own.

This was not our first visit. We were here a few years ago. Not much has changed, and for somebody not very interested in cars it might be fair to ask what there is to see a second time. For those of us quite interested in cars, there’s always something to see. I’m not particularly a Ferrari fan – I’ll never own one and probably never drive one – but I think they’re fascinating examples of engineering and technology.

And it’s not just Ferraris. There are a variety of other cars there as well. Most are stored in a giant rack but a number are in various states of disassembly. To do engine work on most of the Ferraris, they simply remove the entire engine, transmission, and rear suspension and put that assembly on a table or rack.

As I said, I’m not that into Ferraris. For the most part, I can’t look at one and say, “That one is a 430 and that one is a California.” I don’t know what any of them is worth (other than more than I’ll ever spend on a car) or how much it might cost to have one worked on. On many of them, I’d guess a clutch service would go for perhaps as much as I paid for the Elise. So I won’t go into any detail on any of the cars I saw.

F40 and F50

On prominent display were an F40 and an F50 side by side. The F40 is the red one, the F50 is the black one. The F40 was built between 1987 and 1992. I have no idea how many of these they made. A quick look on the internet tells me if you want one today, you can expect to spend about $1.6 million. The F50 dates from 1995-1997. You’d need to sell two F-40’s and kick in an extra few hundred thousand dollars beside to pick one up. I’m guessing you don’t get to see these cars side by side very often.

Lamborghini 350GT

I know even less about Lamborghinis than I do Ferraris. This one is an example of the first Lamborghini model made. It’s a 350GT. They hadn’t yet started naming their cars after bulls. There was a 350GT and a 400GT. If I understood correctly, this car was an interim car – a 350GT with the motor from a 400GT, which makes it quite rare. Even so, it probably could be had (were you to find one for sale) for somewhere in the neighborhood of a million.

Cadillac Fleetwood

I thought the Fleetwood was interesting. I don’t know what year it was, but it was a giant. I believe this one is a 1952 Fleetwood Seventy Five limousine. It’s about a mile long and has more chrome on one car than on all Cadillacs built in the last decade. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the thing weighed. I was guessing it might be 6,000 pounds. That was way off. In fact, these cars were closer to 4,700. For comparison, my 1967 Imperial was 4,900. The Imperial had a giant 440cid engine, while this Fleetwood was motivated by an eight cylinder 331cid motor that cranked out 190hp. Again, for comparison, my Elise generates 190hp.

They don’t just work on cars here, they store them as well. I didn’t count them, but they can probably stack something like forty cars in this giant rack. I’m sure it’s quite the operation to get one off the top: move the bottom one out of the way, rotate the stack down, take the next one out, repeat. Every car in there looked to be hooked up to a battery tender, so you could just jump right in and drive them off, once you managed to get to the one that belongs to you. Not all of them are super-exotics. In this photo, the car on the other side of the Testarossa is a modern Ford Mustang. And there were a few examples of Detroit iron from the same era as the Fleetwood above.

Engine test

Here’s one of the engines they had taken out of the car. It’s the engine, transmission, and suspension. This one was hooked up to a device that lets them run the thing. I wasn’t in the room when they fired it up, but it was much quieter than I expected. I guess you’ll get that, given the size of the muffler hanging off the back.

It wasn’t just cars. In the back corner they had a little sitting area with a couple of stuffed bears (including a polar bear smoking a cigar and holding a pool cue), a couple of cabinets filled with knick-knacks, and some vintage race posters on the walls. This portrait of Steve McQueen caught my eye. It’s made up of articles, photos, and advertisements from magazines.

Not a bad place to spend a Saturday morning.

Maximum Distress, Part 4

Here we are, four weeks into a planned two week operation, and still plenty of work yet to come. I think I can safely say that “maximum distress” now relates more to Fripp’s sense of the term (Murphy’s Law) than my own distress at seeing my car in parts on the floor of the garage. It could be that I’m just becoming used to it in that state, or it could be that we’re finally making some progress at putting the thing back together.

Today we actually accomplished a few things. The transmission is married to the motor, the starter and master cylinder are installed, and although the car is still on jack stands, the motor and trans are supported by (half) the motor mounts instead of floor jacks.

Engine and transmission, not supported by jacks

It took a bit of jockeying to get the transmission attached to the motor. We had one floor jack supporting the motor and used two smaller ones to levitate the transmission into place. This was a bit of a challenge, given the cramped quarters. But when we finally managed to apply the correct roll, yaw, and pitch and got things lined up there was much rejoicing!

Michael announced that we’d just completed the hardest part of the operation. Then we went to work on installing the starter. We used various English swear words (English, not American) on the previous step but now upped our game. A quick search of the internet got us the proper Japanese swear words and we were able to compose an incantation that did the trick on the starter.

Both Michael and Daniel think we can get the rest of the work done in one more day, but I’ll believe it when I see it. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and what makes them think we’ll be any more efficient at reassembly next weekend than we’ve been the last two? We still need to replace the passenger side motor mount and install the trans studs for the fore and aft motor mounts. And we need to borrow the use of a press to remove and replace two ball joints before we can reassemble the suspension. When that’s all done, we can replace the wheel studs.

I’m happy that positive things are happening, however slowly. Distress is being replaced by anticipation.

Maximum Distress, Part 3

Just a quick update to the clutch job. We spent about four hours but made very little progress. We officially began putting things back together today, which is a milestone. The clutch assembly went into the car, and we replaced the driver’s side motor mount (three down, one to go).

The stumbling block today was mating the transmission to the engine. Because the car is so low to the ground, there’s no room to manoeuver. If we put the transmission on a jack, it’s too tall to get under the frame. If we try to put the tranny on a jack while it’s under the car, we can’t get enough leverage to lift it up. And it’s all too low to the ground for somebody to put his body under the thing to lift it up. We will reconvene next week for another go, adding another jack to the mix.

New clutch, installed.

At one point today, I expressed my amusement that even the internals of my car are green and yellow. The axles are green, and the new clutch is yellow.

Winterlude

It has been three months since I visited RMNP. Well, I was at the back country office last week, but that doesn’t count. I didn’t actually get into the park, let alone do any hiking. I tried back in January, but that was during the government shutdown. More recently I’ve had to schedule things around work on the car, so I haven’t had much opportunity. I finally made it happen today.

I was afraid it wasn’t going to come together. Due to the recent heavy snows, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get there in the Chrysler so I’d have to find somebody to go with who was willing to drive. Luckily, Ed stepped forward and volunteered to join me for a walk in the Park.

When we arrived at the entrance station, we couldn’t help but notice that the express lane was closed. And when Ed proffered his park pass the ranger asked if his car was four wheel drive. “We really discourage continuing unless you have four wheel drive.” We pressed on, undaunted.

The road was pretty slick right away, with ice just a few yards after turning onto Bear Lake Road. We took it easy, going slower than some 4WD trucks which Ed waved by us, and made it to the parking lot without any drama.

The plan was to take Ed’s route to Lake Haiyaha. This one never gets old for me. As I’ve said before, I’m somehow unable to navigate this route on my own. I keep thinking that I should be able to find my own way, and I recognize many landmarks along the way, but I can’t mentally string it together. Eventually, though, (I keep telling myself) I’ll get it figured out.

First stream crossing.

As I’ve mentioned, the Park as gotten quite a lot of snow over recent weeks. Even though Ed has broken this route many times this season, there is little to no trace of his trail. In the depths of the forested parts, I could make out a slight depression indicating his route. But in the clearings, where the wind works full time, there’s nothing. Ed tried pointing out the signs to me on occasion – “see that slight depression there?” – it was far from obvious anybody had ever been through here.

Deep drifts

My snowshoe experience is fairly limited. I make it out only once or twice a year. So I couldn’t help but tell Ed that this was by far the deepest snow I’ve gone through. He responded that it doesn’t get much deeper. Even on snowshoes, we were often sinking knee deep. We went through a few drifts that were waist deep, and on the steeper uphill sections it was tough going. Of course, Ed was in the lead, so he was doing much more work than I was.

It was cold and windy, but that describes most winter days here beneath the Divide. At lower elevations, it was clear blue skies, but here clouds flew above the mountaintops and snow flew along the ground. It wasn’t so overcast that the sun didn’t make shadows, but it was overcast enough that the sun seemed small and distant. Surprisingly, given the amount of wind, the trees were laden with an amazing amount of snow.

In the end we didn’t make it to the lake. I needed to be back to Lyons by 3:30 or 4:00pm, and our progress was slower than usual. And, frankly, it was a fair amount of work plowing our way up the hillside. When we finally stopped, Ed guessed we had maybe another half hour at the rate we were going. Sure, I’d have liked to visited Haiyaha for a quick look at the always interesting ice there, but I’m not bothered we didn’t press on.

It was yet another beautiful day in the Park.

Maximum Distress, Part 2

Things did not go as planned last weekend with the clutch replacement. By now, we had hoped to be able to take the driveshafts to a shop to have them reconditioned and to take the flywheel to a machine shop to have it resurfaced. Neither of these things has happened. We were unable to disconnect the driver’s side driveshaft from the transmission, which was proving much more difficult than expected. Getting to the flywheel would be easier; we just ran out of steam.

Yesterday Michael and I tried to pry the driveshaft out of the transmission without success. Last weekend we tried to do this when the transmission was still on the car using a slide hammer but had no luck. Doing this with the transmission off the car adds somewhat to the degree of difficulty because it’s hard to keep it from moving.

So our first task today was to remove the clutch assembly from the car. The friction disk looks okay. Compared to the new part, the old one appears to have about half its life left. The flywheel also looks to be in good shape. In fact, it’s good enough that we don’t see the need to have it machined. Both these observations fit with my self-assessment that I’m kind to the equipment.

Friction disk

The pressure plate is another matter. The plate itself is okay. It’s just that it was tearing itself apart in an apparent effort to divorce itself from its neighbors.

One bolt hole was completely off, two more were seriously cracked

I will probably never know exactly what happened as a result of the spin. Perhaps this part was already failing. I do know that I didn’t have any abnormal noises before the spin, but did hear something I didn’t like when driving the car around the paddock afterwards. The noise was gone by the time I got on the highway. I’m pretty sure that noise was the debris inside the bell housing.

Inside of the bell housing scored by debris

The diaphragm spring has also seen better days. Looks like the throwout bearing was grinding it away. The throwout bearing is why we embarked on this repair. It’s visually intact but when you spin it, it makes an obvious noise. I hate to think of how this would have turned out if that little sucker wasn’t crying out to be replaced.

Diaphragm spring wear

We finally did manage to get the driveshaft out of the transmission. We oriented it so the bell housing was on the floor (well, on boards actually) with the driveshaft pointing up. Both Michael and I had to stand on it to keep it from moving while Daniel went at it with a big pry bar. Our first few attempts fell short, but we finally overcame friction and got it removed. High fives all around and break out the beer.

We still need to use a press to get the driveshafts disassembled to the point where we can take them to get reconditioned. Michael has that lined up for later in the week. We’re finally nearly almost close to half way done.

HD 29 Day at the Capitol

Wednesday, February 13

My representative in the Colorado House, Tracy Kraft-Tharp, hosts a day at the Capitol every year. At least, I think she does. This is the third year I heard about it but the first time I’ve attended. Of course, it always happens on a weekday and it took me this long to decide it was worth taking a day off work. Being curious about how our democracy really works, I should have done it sooner.

This is the agenda we received:

  • 8:45 am : Meet at the foot of the main staircase on the first floor of Capitol building.
  • 9:00 am : The House convenes, we will be sitting on the House floor.
  • 10:30 am : A couple of options:
    • Tour of the Capitol building
    • Public Health Care & Human Services Committee
    • Senate Education Committee
  • 12:00 pm-1:15 pm : Lunch in HCR 0109 in the Capitol Basement.
  • 1:15 pm : Business Affairs & Labor Committee (in the Legislative Services Building, on the corner of 14th and Sherman St. The meeting is in room LSB A.)

We were given a list of parking lots nearby, but I decided that rather than spend $10 to $16 on parking I’d take the train. That meant an earlier departure, but I wouldn’t have to worry about arriving at a full parking lot and needing to search for an alternate. The train stops at Union Station and I’d take the 16th Street Mall shuttle to the Civic Center station across the street from the Capitol. Based on the train schedule I’d have a few spare minutes to check out the environs.

Capitol Building, west side

I’m sad to admit that I’ve lived in Denver (or hereabouts) for forty years and have never set foot in the Capitol. The building sits on top of what is now called Capitol Hill but was formerly called Brown’s Bluff. Although Colorado was not yet a state during the Civil War, the building is surrounded by reminders of that war. It is bounded by Lincoln St. on the west and Grant St. on the east and by Colfax Ave. on the north and 14th Ave. on the south. At the top of the steps in front of the west entrance are a statue of a Civil War soldier flanked by two cannons. On the exterior wall by the doors are two plaques, one with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the other memorializing General Logan (whose street is a block east of Grant’s).

Lincoln, of course, was President during the war. Grant was the Union’s most successful general and later served two terms as President. Logan was also a general, and later served as Senator from Illinois. Schuyler Colfax was a founding member of the Republican Party, an energetic opponent of slavery, and eventually Grant’s Vice President. He is one of only two men to serve as both Speaker of the House and Vice President. Sherman St. is also here; or it would be if the building wasn’t in the way. I’m guessing that Sherman St. is named for the general and not his younger brother who served as Senator from Ohio (author of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act) and Secretary of State under McKinley.

Denver is the Mile High City. The local sports teams would have you believe the football field (Broncos Stadium at Mile High) or the basketball court is a mile above sea level. They may be, for all I know. Of course, the area is not exactly flat and any number spots may be a mile high. But standing on the steps near the door of the Capitol you are a mile high.

Mile High step

Once inside, I made my way to the base of the staircase in the rotunda. After everyone arrived, we made our way to Tracy Kraft-Tharp’s office where we discussed our plans for the day. Our first stop was the floor of the House.

The House convenes every day of the session. This is generally a short meeting. Most of the public business of legislation is done in committee meetings and hearings. Before the call to order (and to a lesser degree, during the session) the room is in a state of pandemonium. The legislators and guests on the floor are in constant motion, squeezing past each other, exchanging greetings and having short conversations. The general dress code of the legislators is business attire, but many avoid the staid shades of blue, gray, and brown and sport bright colors or plaids. Not quite as loud as the attire of commodities trading floors, but reminiscent of them nonetheless.

Our group, on the floor of the House

The session was called to order at 9:00am. First there is a prayer, then the Pledge of Allegiance. Next is the roll call. Legislators get no sick days; by the end of the roll call, a board shows who is in attendance and who has an unexcused absence. (Later in the session I did hear one or two legislators request permission to be absent at tomorrow’s meeting.) After the roll call was the approval of yesterday’s journal. The journal is essentially the same as minutes for a meeting. These were approved by a voice vote, in spite of the “nays” sounding louder than the “yeas”. I learned later that this vocal disapproval is a standing joke.

Floor of the House

Next, various guest groups were announced. These included us, the HD 29 group. There was also a group of international students and an LGBTQ group. Then a number of members announced various events scheduled for the next day or two.

With all the preliminaries handled, the House got around to some actual business. For today, this was just two items: consideration of two Senate Joint Memorials. A “memorial” in this context is a petition. The Colorado House of Representatives is asking the Federal Government to take some action. Both of these had to do with water issues along the Arkansas River.

First was about the Arkansas Valley Conduit Project. This is a project that was originally approved in the Kennedy administration. It is to provide filtered water ready for treatment to forty communities east of Pueblo. My understanding is that the project is still uncompleted. In any event, the water provided to 15 of the 40 communities violates national standards for radionuclides. The second item calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge sections of the lower Arkansas River. The riverbed is full of mud and debris as a result of flooding and is in some places sixteen feet higher than usual. Because of this mud and debris, flooding is occurring quite often. Both items passed, but it is expected that neither of these issues are likely to be acted on by the Federal Government.

This concluded the business for the day, and the motion was made to “lay over the calendar” to the following day. That’s a motion to adjourn. A voice vote was taken, and just as the motion to accept yesterday’s journal was loudly voted against, this motion was also passed in spite of a raucous “no” vote. The session adjourned at 9:40am.

For the next couple of hours we split up, with the choice of a couple of committee meetings or a tour of the building. I opted for the Senate Education Committee where HB19-1008 was discussed. That’s a bill sponsored by Rep. Kraft-Tharp to bring shop classes back to schools. I think it’s unfortunate that shop classes are generally no longer offered and was quite interested in seeing how this hearing went, but unfortunately I had to take some personal phone calls and missed most of it. Rather than go in and out of the room between calls, I wandered the building.

Senate chamber

I really love these old public buildings. The Colorado Capitol was built over a fifteen year period and completed in 1901. It is mainly open space, with the large chambers (Senate, House, Supreme Court) and offices situated on the exterior walls. On both the north and south sides of the center dome and rotunda is a large atrium. The offices house the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Treasurer as well as many (most? all?) of the legislators. There are also some small meeting rooms. (Larger meeting rooms are in neighboring buildings.)

At the time it was built, the cost was about $3 million. It’s impossible to know what it might cost if built today. (The use of local materials actually increased the cost of construction. It would have been cheaper to ship marble from Italy than to transport it through the mountains.) The exterior walls are made of granite from Gunnison, the foundations are sandstone from Ft. Collins, and two different marbles comprise the interior. The floors are yule marble from Marble and the rose onyx wainscotting is from Beulah.

View from above the grand staircase

The stone in the floors looks fairly uniform to me. But the rose onyx has quite a bit of variation from place to place. I’m told that more than a thousand likenesses have been found in the in the stone, some resembling famous people. I couldn’t find either George Washington or Molly Brown. I didn’t see anybody else, either, but just as you can find all sorts of things in cloud formations, I’m sure you can see a variety of sights in this stone. Colorado rose onyx is so rare that all the known supply was used in the construction of this building.

They just don’t make buildings like this any more. There is a considerable amount of detail hand-carved woodwork that would be prohibitively expensive today. Also, there’s quite a bit of worked brass in the light fixtures and balusters. Ornamental iron is common, making up the risers in the stairwells and in the interior windows (for example, in the walls between the stairwells and the atria.) On the first floor there are also some interesting murals, featuring man’s use and transformation of Colorado’s terrain with some poetic captions.

Dome, stained glass Colorado figures, Presidential portraits

On the third floor under the dome are portraits of all the US Presidents. Well, almost all: Trump’s portrait isn’t there yet, although the little brass marker is present. Above the presidents are stained glass likenesses of various important figures in early Colorado history. Although I recognized many of the names, the stories of these men are mostly forgotten today. There are stained glass panels in several other places in the building, not limited to early Colorado history, and sometimes not limited to Colorado.

After exploring the building, I found the rest of the group and together we had lunch. After lunch we went next door to the Legislative Services Building and sat in on the proceedings of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee. This committee is chaired by Rep. Kraft-Tharp. We heard three bills: one on cryptocurrencies, one on reform of regulations of professions and occupations, and one on criminal background checks.

I’ve never been to one of these meetings before, and although I had copies of the bills I spent my time exploring instead of reading them. I didn’t take very good notes, but the process went something like this: the bill’s sponsor testifies and is questioned by the committee. Then witnesses are allowed to testify and be questioned. Next, amendments can be made to the bill. In the end there are a few possibilities. One is a motion to move the bill forward in the process and another is to postpone the bill indefinitely. Indefinite postponement is essentially killing it. After either of these motions, there’s a roll call vote on that motion. (Two of the bills passed the committee, one was postponed indefinitely.)

Rep. Kraft-Tharp urged me to testify, but I didn’t really have anything to contribute. On the regulation reform bill, there was one issue I might have spoken about, but it was clarified by the questioning from the committee.

This part of the process covers a portion of what happens to a bill in a committee. There’s much more to it, of course, but I haven’t seen any of it first hand. After a bill is passed by the committee, it may get routed to another committee. When a bill survives the committees, the entire House gets to vote on it. It will then go through the Senate and if they make any changes there’s some sort of reconciliation process. If it passes both chambers, it goes to the Governor for signing (or veto).

All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable day. There are a couple reasons I’d like to go back and do it again. There’s a tour of the dome that I’d like to take. I’d definitely like to get a closer look. Also, I’d like to see a session of the House (or Senate) when a bill comes up for a vote to see how that process works.

Maximum Distress, Part 1

I’m a big King Crimson fan. On one of their live albums they have a track called “The Law of Maximum Distress”. I learned this week that that is Robert Fripp’s name for Murphy’s Law. I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not like Murphy’s Law is a constant companion for me. But Murphy does show up fairly regularly. By titling this post “Maximum Distress” I’m not suggesting that everything is going wrong.

Distress is defined as “anxiety, sorrow, or pain” or “to give simulated marks of age or wear.” In psychology it is “unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact your level of functioning.”

So why am I talking about Murphy’s Law and anxiety or marks of age or wear? Well, this weekend we embarked on a program of winter maintenance for the Elise. Perhaps “embarked on” isn’t exactly true. She’s been parked for a few months now. When last we discussed the car, we had replaced two of the motor mounts. Timing is everything: when test driving the car, we couldn’t help but notice that the clutch’s throwout bearing was making noise. If we’d have noticed this before our work we’d have combined the jobs and saved some effort.

In any event, it’s time to do some major work on the car. It’s not just replacing the clutch. In addition, we’ll take the passenger side driveshaft to a local specialty shop for refurbishment (the CV joint boot is weeping), we’ll replace the two remaining motor mounts, and we’ll replace all the wheel studs. For good measure, when we reassemble the rear suspension we’ll take the preventive action of replacing the hub carrier bolts.

The reader may recall that the motor mount broke when I spun the car at my last track day. I was running on slicks and made a slight error that resulted in the most violent spin I’ve ever encountered. Actually, it’s the only time I’ve spun the car except when I had a mechanical failure. That’s happened twice, both times a sheared hub carrier bolt.

I don’t know one way or another whether this spin caused any of the other damage we’re addressing, or whether it’s just wear and tear. I’d say “normal wear and tear”, but because I’ve done on the order of forty track days (and the previous owner did quite a bit of autocross) I don’t think it falls under the “normal” category. And although I’ve only run slicks a few times, running on slicks radically increases the forces on the car.

And so it begins…

The original plan was to take a day one weekend to dismantle the car to get to the clutch. One day the next weekend we’d replace the clutch and put everything back together. In between, we’d take the driveshaft in for servicing. (We could do that work ourselves, but parts alone from Lotus cost more than having somebody else do it.) Some online research led us to a nice writeup with plenty of photos. This guy indicates the clutch job will take twelve hours for first-timers.

Now, of course, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not doing this myself, no matter how good the instructions are. I’m software, not hardware. I will mostly stand around trying not to get in the way while Michael and his friends do all the work. I’ll run to the store if we find we need something, and I’ll supply the pizza and beer.

Suspension disassembled

So when we got started yesterday, we planned to have everything taken apart by the end of the day. It was Michael and Daniel doing the work, and our good friend Murphy showing up a few times to lend a hand. At the end of the day we were still quite a way away from our goal. This is where Maximum Distress comes in for me. I’ve watched everything get taken apart. Car parts are everywhere. We’ve used every known size of wrench and socket known to man, even had to go out and buy one we didn’t already have. It would be a slight exaggeration to say it looks like a bomb went off in the garage.

Motor dropped

We worked seven hours yesterday, and Daniel came over again today and we spent another five. The fellow who wrote up our instructions said the whole job would take twelve; we’ve got twelve hours into it and we’re not quite at the halfway point.

Transmission

I have every faith that Michel and Daniel can put it all together. There really isn’t any doubt in my mind. But it’s all too much for my pea brain. Given an infinite amount of time and a patient mentor and I could probably do it. I’d undoubtedly have a few extra parts left over, and I’d have had to do many of the tasks two or three times because I put something together upside down or backwards. It would by my hell, my Maximum Distress.

Finally, the clutch!

I’ve now adjusted my expectations. I’m thinking it’ll be two more weekends before we’re done. We managed to leave enough room for Genae to park her car, so at least she’s not relegated to the driveway. But the bad news is that Michael put a bit too much effort into this given his recent back surgery. He’s now in a solely supervisory role.

More distress soon!