The first thing to go?

Is it eyesight or hearing?  Because both of mine are in a race to turn me into an old man!

Today… Today was the day that I had to note my eyesight failing.  I was trying to use a tape measure for some floor trim.  It was a low light situation and I had to do a round-about guess-ti-mate on the measurement.

I have been blessed to this point with pretty good vision.  I took a prescription 15 years ago when I left Toyota to work at a data company.  I was in front of a PC all day under florescent lights… I think that lended itself to my vision problems.  I could barely see at night on the way home from North Peoria.

After I left that job and went back to the dealership… I have generally not worn any specs. Like 99.9% of the time.  Occasionally with lots of driving or going to see a movie… I will take them.  (A movie looks like ULTRAHD vs HD with my glasses)

So… What am I going to do about it?  Probably nothing!  LOL.  I just need more light and I can get it done in the meantime.

Now my hearing… Thats another story.

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Ric Ocasek has left the building

I say that title with the greatest reverence…  If Elvis was king to kids in the 50’s…  Ric Ocasek was “king” to me in the 80’s.  I have had a heavy heart since hearing of his passing a few days ago.

I threw a few bits on Facebook this week talking about it…  Here is that post.  (because someday… Facebook is going to delete everything you all post on it!!!)

I actually have a lot to say about my love for the cars and Ric Ocasek. But it’s late and this week is going to be tough to blog about it. Here’s a few thoughts as they fall out of my head.

The Cars were an odd band on the fringe, and that was how I thought of myself as a middle school and high school kid. They were my soundtrack to life for a decade.

My kids know Candy-O front to back because it’s one of my favorite travel albums in the car.

I am stealing this line from Bob Walkenhorst… “there was a time when I did believe that I could remember every day I had lived. (Well, at my class reunion a few months ago, I found out that I have forgotten more than I remember since HS!). But! I still remember strange things like where I picked up certain albums…

To illustrate one instance of this… I can tell you that I remember gong to Tower Records in NYC when I was 11 or so… And picking up Ric’s first solo album… Beatitude. I played the hell out of that cassette. (Also picked up Elliott Easton’s solo record “change no change”). I was listening to Beatitude last week on Spotify!

(It’s not just this record… if I pull up my CD collection, I can tell you were I bought most of them. Who I was with etc)

I didn’t idolize sport stars or astronauts as a kid. Ric was my childhood hero… I read Rolling Stone every week for any news on the band (no mtv in Fairbury back then). I bought their book to know everything about them.

Ric was geeky… socially awkward and had looks that would never get the homecoming queen (but he did). If he could be successful in this superficial world that rewarded looks and celebrity… The rest of us misfits all had a chance!


I would love to tell you that I was a hardcore debut album guy when I discovered The Cars.  But I would have been 8 at that time.  No, I was a fan of the band like most people when the video for “you might think” came out.  I had no idea who these guys were.  And frankly…  The videos from Shake it Up looked a little scary when going back and looking at them after the Heartbeat City videos.

I had a solid foothold in the new stuff for a long time.   It wasn’t long before I started going back into the catalog to check out other “cassettes”.  I think the debut album was next…  Then Candy-O.  When I picked up Panorama… I was a little let down.  The music is great, but the production is muddy as hell.  I am a geek that way.  (Too Much Joy’s third album “Mutiny” always drives me nuts with its production as well)  I digress.  Panorama slowed me down.  I dont think I picked up Shake it Up for many years.   Then again…  Childhood memories are tricky to pin down…  It was probably 6 months.

Over the years…  In college especially, I was enamored with the debut album and Candy-O.  The production and clarity of those early records are a far cry from the nosiy and overproduced later works.  They made for CD’s that could be played at a very loud volume over my Polk Audio Monitor 10B’s.

As I have moved 30 years past those days…  Candy-O is the album that stands up the best for me.  Its all over the place.  Ric, Ben, David, Elliott and Greg (I know all their names without looking it up!)  are at their masterful best in 1979.  Rocking, quirky and strangely distant in its feel.  Its a timeless album that I think will be with me till I die.  Let that not be too soon.

Also, Beatitude… Ric’s first solo album has been on my Spotify rotations a lot over the past few years.  Not sure why.  Its a bit of a dated synth and electronic drum period piece… But it seems I can overlook that electronic sound because I still know all the lyrics and great memories fill my head when I listen to it.

One last thought… If I wanted to visually remember Ocasek at his masterful best…  I think this video for “Magic” probably is it.  Full 80’s garb…  Walking on water to a crowd of freaks and geeks.  It was very symbolic of his persona and power to kids like me during the 80’s.  (Plus Easton and Orr are rocking in the background!)


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Chasing Buster

This story is just an observation that was rattling around my head the other day.  Why are old comedies dying? Where is the humor we used to love?


I had an opportunity to watch one of my all time favorite movies with my son the other day…  He is 15, and we are currently working our way through a pile of DVD’s from the 80’s and 90’s that I have deemed “educational”.  Past curriculum movies have included Animal House, Better Off Dead, Blues Brothers etc. I think you get the idea.


This session was National Lampoon’s Vacation.  The classic family road trip movie that follows the Griswald clan as they travel from Chicago to Wally World in Southern California.   To be fair, my son has seen quite a bit of this movie through bits and pieces over the years… But this was the first time he would be seeing the unedited version with its snippets of nudity and swear words.  (At least that’s what he told me!)


To be honest, the movie does not age that well.  Sexism and racism abound in these old movies, and I am sure this script would have been “nuked” by any studio head these days.  Its a great series of vignettes that create outlandish and uncomfortable situations. But as far as cinematic masterpieces go… Its a little thin.  Really, the joy in this movie comes from the lead playing dumb as well as any star has. Chevy Chase, an icon of the 80’s, was known for his “every-guy” looks and ability to take a fall on SNL fits the bill for a bumbling and out of touch father taking his family on a cross country vacation.  He is surrounded by other amazing comic actors who heighten any bizarre situation… Namely Imogene Coca and Randy Quaid. They put Chase’s skills to the test when they are on the screen together.


While we were watching this movie… I started to wonder what happened to Chase.  After the movie I did some digging. He is a bitter dude who is blaming everyone around him for his lack of career.  Read about his feud with Bill Murray. Its brutal. There are reports that he had a complete flameout when he joined the cast of “Community” (NBC sitcom about community college).  I had recently tried to watch his interview show on netflix… It was cute for an episode, but his antics with a glass of water became tiresome.  


Here’s the thing.  You can have youthful handsome looks and do physical humor to great effect…  It’s not expected and can surprise an audience.  


When you are closing in on the nursing home… And its all been seen before.  Its frightening and you start to get a little scared for the actor that he has not moved on for the past 30 years.  


This is not to say that old people cannot do physical humor… But it really is a focus in on Chase’s “playing stupid” act.  Its worn. It’s all been seen before. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of those little tricks and bits were done in front of by Brother and I by our Grandfather’s best friend.  


While I was thinking about where Chase is… I was reminded of a documentary I watched a few months ago… The Great Buster.  Buster Keaton was arguably the greatest physical actor of any generation. Prove me wrong! Regardless of your opinion… I think there are similarities in the careers of Chase and Keaton.  Both were stars in their youth and towards middle age. As they lost their looks and step… Audiences moved on.  


Keaton rebounded and hung around…  In the end, he started getting the recognition from a generation that would be more akin to his Grandchildren.  As Keaton’s career turned into that of an “old man” he became a regular with Frankie and Annette… You would see him in the background working some obscure part in any of their beach movies.  He was also ready to take on Twilight Zone or 60’s comedies like “A Funny Thing Happened on theWay to the Forum”. The guy worked and continued to love the job that made him the renowned name that he is today.

As I was comparing these two actors… And I realize this is a stretch for many…  I thought to myself, “Where is Chevy’s, Frankie and Annette?” Would he take the help if it was offered by the younger generation?  Chase, as shown to us by Buster, cannot rely on physical humor into his old age to pay the bills. We know he can play the straight man…  And we seem to be lacking the kind of actor in today’s movies. Watch his pseudo talk show on Netflix “The Last Laugh”. Where is his growth?  Why can’t he take on a roll like Mike Myers did in Inglorious Basterds and play a straight man once and awhile?  


Ego?  Clutching youth?  Just an asshole? I add that last part because there are stories at every corner that would portray the actor as “hard to deal with”.  Sounds like a report card from grade school. Everyone can outgrow that phase, unless this is where they are growing into. But honestly,  money talks. If you have the chops and can fill the seats, nobody is kicking out off the stage.  

Whats most interesting about this is… Why do I even care???  Hard to say, but I think my love of old school physical comedy sometimes makes me hyper-aware of these trends.


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Aiden is a dork


For all of those people who follow this page strictly to mock Aiden…

Please do your worst.  He deserves every bit of the damage you can unload on him!


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Family Vaca 2019 – Seattle

Angela and I visited the Troll back in 2004 when we were on our Honeymoon…  We made it back today… Nearly 25 years later.  A few things have changed with us… But the Troll still looks the same!  Good for him!

Here is our route…  Generally…  Crater Lake was a bit ambitious…  We agreed we would do it again… But I am not sure!  That was a drive!

Here is the link to the updated Photo dump on Google Photos.


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GSMTR 2019

Article I wrote for the Fort’s Trail Team Page.    
Matt is watching Trey’s underside coming down a “moderate” trail
To start the story of our Trail Team trip to Tennessee this spring… We need to go back to October 2018 in Arkansas…  The Southern Cruiser Crawl in Hot Springs. As you know from our previous ventures to SCC, this is a favorite haunt of the Trail Team and we were there again in full force at last years event. It’s a tradition that our guys buy into the saturday night charity raffle at SCC and this year we all walked off with some great prizes.  One of them was Jake’s certificate for a free entry to the Great Smoky Mountain Trail Ride, donated by Southeast Toyota Land Cruiser Association.  The event is held at Windrock Part in eastern Tennessee in late spring. It was decided then that the group who were present for SCC would make the trip to GSMTR.  (Thats a lesson for you other TLCA events… 1 registration for free turned into 6 total!) Only a handful of our crew in Fort’s Trail Team have been to Windrock, Jake, Stork and Chism made it down for the Appalachian Trail Roundup a few years back.  Of that crew, only Jake was making this trip.
The 4runner Salute!
It was 5 greenhorns and one veteran.  But, as we later found out while venturing around the park, it would take a long time become a veteran at Windrock. We left as a crew of 6 trucks from Fort’s on Wednesday morning.  The drive has you go from Indianapolis, to Louisville to Lexington and straight south…  All told… It’s 550 miles and 8 hours of driving. Anyone with a V6 was making this in 2 tanks…  The V8 guys seemed a little thirstier! Windrock park is 73,000 acres of wooded Tennessee knobs, hills and rocks laced with gravel roads to get you around.  In between those service roads are a variety of terrains that go from moderate (Blue Trail) to difficult (Black Diamond) to extreme (Double Black). We spent the first day getting our feet wet in the park.  We picked up maps in the office (Pro Tip, these are the best maps we have ever gotten at an off-road park) and headed into the trails without much thought about where to go.  That worked for a while, but after a few hours we found ourselves doing a few circles on some trails that didn’t quite follow the map. The goal was to have lunch in a spot that would give us a scenic view.  That didn’t happen and we ended up eating lunch in a 6 way crossroads for 45 minutes or so.
Now at most Off Road parks…. You would expect to see a couple dozen trucks pass by while you are sitting at an intersection like this.  If we saw two trucks, I’d be lying. We saw a couple of side by sides and a jeep… But other than that, we were out there on our own. The park is massive, and its not something I can’t stress enough.  Our experience with off-road parks has always been something much smaller.  You go run a few trails… Then come back to the pavilion and eat lunch… People relax and tell some stories, meet new friends, or even take a siesta before heading back out for more fun.    It doesn’t work that way at Windrock. Once you are committed to some trail time in this park…. You should plan to be out all day, and return when you are done for the day. Fortunately, we had all planned for eating on the trail that day and had packed our coolers accordingly.  The smart guys had brought chairs. After lunch, we meandered on some blue trails towards the western side of the park.  The trail markings were becoming clearer and we started to get a better sense of where we were at.  We spent another 3 hours going around small rocky hills and thickly brushed trails. Unfortunately… As we wandered to the end of the park… We started to wonder if we could get out!!!  The trails end near the edges of the park, and we soon worried that we would have to backtrack the whole trail system to get to an exit. (In a small park, this is not a problem, here it could be another 2 hours!)  Harper ran ahead on a trail that was marked dead-end… We were skeptical of the markings because our GPS’s were all saying that this was 4×4 road that exited on a paved road. Thankfully, this one did end up on a road.  Not sure you can get so lucky every time so take this story as a cautionary note.   A couple of us ran into town for provisions… Others stayed and had the provided Taco dinner in the pavilion.  (Which I heard were far more delicious than the Chik-Fil-A that we had in town!)
Harper’s 4th Gen
Day 2 had us back on the trails with a little more confidence… And a plan!  We had studied the map and decided to hit the eastern side which had some long stretches of blue trail.  We were all wanting something more difficult than the previous day. Again, Windrock demonstrates its massive size.  In order to get to the inlets for the trails we wanted, we had to leave the park and drive through town… And then drive another 20 minutes on county/state roads for the entrance.  This is great, but we are all aired down to 15 to 25 psi… Its a slow slog on the pavement with tires that mushy. Again… This park has you plan differently! We took green trails back to the beginning of the blue and began a great run of scenic and challenging driving though the lush Tennessee backwoods.  There were areas and roads that appeared to be chiseled from rock… There were other spots that had 18” to 24” boulders cast down the roadway like it was class 5 riverbed…  Sans the water. All in all… The blue trails were fun… But, we were kinda hoping to find a black trail to see if the grading was the same caliber as these blues. Honestly, the blues were not anything we had been threatened by to this point.  There were a few blacks off-shooting from our route, unfortunately as we came upon the trail guides, they were marked for quads and bikes only. (Eric didn’t see that part in the map legend that describes each trail… Because that’s really hard to read while driving!)

Tree Hugger, at the lead.

At the head of two trails..  82 and 83… There is a high road and low road “route” that take you around American Knob (cowpunk band name idea!).  The merge onto 82 looked a little daunting, it was up a hill with some severely cut grooves around some boulders. If this trail had been marked black… I probably would have stepped out of my truck and double checked the route.  But this was still “blue”. To this point. Blue had not meant anything that we could not conquer with ease. I lined my 2010 4Runner up and ascended the hill with a moderate clip to fight off gravity. I dodged the first obstacle and then quickly made a zig to the left to get some traction on the rocks and boulders that looked the least scary.  Physics got the best of the truck and I was suddenly stuck underneath with neither forward nor rear movement. Jake and a couple others were yelling for me to stop, as it appeared I was making matters worse. I was high centered on my CBI skid around the transfer case area. We tried a couple different wheel directions.  Tried all the of the fancy controls on the ATRAC, Diff Lock…  We didn’t try a different driver! But I did have plenty of spotters with experience.  I was “treed” up on this boulder. Fortunately, we had just installed a new 12,000lb line and control bezel on my Smittybuilt XRC winch before this trip.  I was ready. We found a tree on center and started the arduous dance of back and forth with the winch and truck drive-train to get off of the protruding rock.  When your muffler is getting crunched… You get amazing noises from the spring loaded connections in the exhaust line. (Trail damage this trip is underneath). Harper got Tree Hugger in line and I got to the top. Once I was on top…  Its was decided that this was not a trail for the whole group!  Jake and his 2017 TRD PRO Runner were certainly capable… But was it worth the risk of damage to his new truck.  Same thing with Trey and his new Tacoma. Ultimately, Scott and Harper decided this was a route their 4th gens would take with me.  Harper made it up and made it look easy. Its amazing what aggressive tires can do in these situations. Scott’s route was based on the muscle of his V8 engine…  He nearly jumped the boulder… Only to end up with 1 wheel hanging off the obstacle at the top. Smittybuilt winch to the rescue again!
Recovering Mountain Goat, Harper at the ready
Once we gathered back on the merge point on backside of American Knob…  We decided that the Windmills and overlooks might be a fun way to decompress!  Again, the mega park had us driving for a while… But when we found the overlook…  It was worth the trip. I have no idea how far you can see from these hillsides… But it felt like being on top of the Sears Tower (I know I know…  Willis Tower is what you call it these days) with a view of trees for 10 miles through the “smoky mountain” haze. Towards the end of the second day of wheeling.  We found a rocky little hill climb and started heading to the top.  It was a soft pile of yellow rocks sitting in orange dirt. We hadn’t seen much action in the past hour…  So, this was a welcome distraction. Tree Hugger made it to the top with little incident… The rest of the group followed.  Jake told us as he got to the top that he had blown a tire… Every rotation of the passenger front wheel let off a little air hiss. For the record…  If you have followed us at all…  You know that Jake somehow takes the brunt of trail damage and field repairs!  Not sure why… He is not the craziest person on the trail… He is actually one of the most reserved.  Here was another incident that we can use to prove our trail prowess. A multiple patch repair. Tree Hugger was holding an ARB tire repair kit.  We started adding plugs to the sidewall of the Falken until it stopped hissing. Then we added two more plugs for good measure. Jake had a Milwaukee portable compressor that we set to 35psi.  That little guy worked for about 10 minutes before shutting off. The tire did not appear to be leaking. In that 10 minutes, Jake found 4 or 5 places that had a tire near the park. They were all $50.00 overpriced!  But, you take what you can get! We figured this bit of afternoon drama was a good place to stop for the day.  Now… The long path back to the main entry trail began. It took nearly an hour to cross the park and get to the formal entrance.  Jake watched his on-board tire monitors the whole way back and found that our patch was holding. We got back to the camp and headed for dinner at the Pavilion.  Friday night was burgers and dogs covered in your event admission.  This was my first chance to sit down with a couple locals putting on the event.  I had sought out Jason Hoffman for the past two days. He is one of the hosts of the Toyota Trucks and Trails Podcast.  We had been chatting back and forth over the past few months, and we wanted to meet up. After dinner we sat down and were talking about his show…  It was then that I discovered he was the VP of the SETLCA. As we chatted, Jamie Murphy, the secretary, sat down with us and I asked some questions about the event.  I knew the event had been going on for a long time… 29 years. But when he told me that they had registered over 200 trucks for this year… I was blown away! This park is soooooo big, you really can’t feel the crowd.  This event had moved to Windrock a few years ago and now has the space to grow. As they keep fine tuning, they are moving some future dates as well. I met a few people at the pavilion that night and had a moment of realization that even though the faces were 100% new to us…  They all love Toyota trucks and anything that has to do with off-road, gear or travelling all over this hemisphere. There is a community within TLCA that makes traveling anywhere to any event feel like you are among family.  When Jason’s wife said she had had enough of this truck talk (and mosquitoes) she gave me a big old hug that made me feel like we had been friends for decades.
After dinner and chatting, a few of us decided to head back on the trails in the dark.  We headed back to the lookout point and were blown away by the view that a full moon and clear sky were presenting.  What during the day had looked like thick green forests with no civilization in sight now showed off ribbons of lights.  Roadways and small towns were all over the horizon. Saturday, I had to blow out early with Trey.  We both had graduation commitments on Sunday. The rest of the crew stayed behind for one last day on the trails.  Jake got his tire fixed up that morning and the team sought out the “tunnels”. I’m waiting for a full report, but it sounds like these long caverns are akin to a sensory deprivation chamber.  Pitch black and filled with water.
Pet friendly atmosphere.
That night, southern style BBQ Chicken and pulled pork were the menu. The food, its just one more reason to come to a park during these group sponsored events.  Jake sent me a picture of his plate as a reminder that leaving early deserves punishment. I was also missing the best part of all TLCA events, as per tradition, they hold a charity raffle.  This years proceeds were going to the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation.  Nearly $25,000 in gear were up for the grabs. Just $100.00 in tickets won Scott a voucher for Upper Control Arms and a brand new Power Tank setup.  That’s a bargain! Also of note, for the first time ever, Jake came back win-less from a raffle? He did snag two t-shirts from mid-air… So he wasn’t completely empty handed! Sunday morning, the rest of the crew broke camp and headed home.  Fortunately there were no more incidents with trucks, tires or ignition coils… Just a big May rainstorm to wash the trucks on the way through Indiana. This was a fun trip with new folks and new trails.  Regardless of not winning any more tickets to future TLCA events at the GSMTR raffle.  You will likely see this whole crew in Arkansas at Southern Cruiser Crawl for another SCC in 2019. See you on the trails! Eric Stahl Links:
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Class of 1989

Three Generations. 89, 69 and 49.

I was fortunate to have the time to sneak away from our graduation activities for Summer this weekend, to run over to my old Ala mater for our 30th class reunion dinner.  Prairie Central Class of 1989.

We were having a small get together in Fairbury that day for some family members that came in from Detroit for the aforementioned graduation. So, timing was all kind of working out for a change.

I was actually nervous upon entering the school. Its changed drastically since we left years ago. The old building has been torn down and just a few bits of the structure I used for High School are still standing. The main part, the gymnasium where we had the banquet, is the last substantial piece. As soon as I walked in from the south entrance… I had a good feel for where I was. It was just a matter of asking for directions to where we were meeting.

Now, I had no idea what to expect… Lots of people?… No people?… Who was too know?… But I was certainly more optimistic for a showing than what had arrived. Myself and 5 other classmates? Add on two spouses and you nearly fill one table! That’s out of 126 (best recollection) who graduated in 1989.The class of 89!

We all laughed and made the best of it. Other than Eisemann… I had pretty much kept up with the others at the table. It was fun to see people face to face for a change instead of “liking” their stories!

Now, I could argue that the reunion being held at the school does remove some fun. I even said that same thing that very night.  Ultimately, I dont need a beer in my hand to keep a conversation.  So, this was not a deal-breaker.

Here is the part that is hard for me to grasp until I get there. I knew a lot of people at that event outside my class. Not tons mind you… But I was part of three generations who graduated from a Fairbury related school over the past 60 years. My step dad’s brother, Terry, was also there with his wife and my mom’s best friend Lulu was there as well.

Sylvia, Marie, Luann, myself and Terry

Its apparent that I have some lineage in this town that I no longer call home. That was a little sad for me that I have shut down the legacy of family members who will graduate from Fairbury.  Is this life altering and a tragedy?  No. But its something I recognize. Traditions sometimes end… Sometimes they pickup somewhere else. Though I doubt my kids will have the same kind of reverence for Mackinaw and its HS that I had after spending 19 years will at least half my graduating class.

I was genuinely thrilled to take a picture with my Grandmother and Aunt at the event… It was really my motivation for going in the first place. Seeing old friends like Tom, Megan, Cindy, Mary, Eric and Amy were bonus!

When my 40th anniversary comes around, will we have Marie here for her 70th? She’s trucking along pretty good right now… You never know. Heck… Whos to say i’ll be here?

It was a good night, regardless of the count. It is worth noting that the older classes had more people than the younger ones… Sometimes the conversation and laughs are worth more than worrying about getting a drink. (God that sounded “on-high”. Not my style, unless its litter!)

Maybe I’ll make it to the class cookout in August.

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The Graduate

Summer knocked it out of the park… Won a couple scholarships and awards as she walked out of High School. Very proud… She’s a far cry from the student I was!
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Mechanics for Momma’s

Love doing these segments with CJ from Mix 106.9. Check it out!

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Snowy Drive – 1.19.19

8 minutes of your life that you will never get back. Dont say you were not warned!

Music by They Might Be Giants

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