A Really Large Bridge

When I lived at Shoal Creek I was faced with a moving puddle about 30 or so feet across at the wet parts.  From bank to bank, though, it's closer to 50 feet, which makes for one helluva clearspan bridge. Since most of my then 120 acres was across the creek, I needed a Bridge. A serious, hardcore brdige. A bridge that makes you think, "Yeah, that'll do." Contractors were quoting north of 20 grand for anything of usable size, so that was out. Now bridges are Hardcore Bare Knuckles Engineer Stuff from the word go, right? So there gotta be a book somewhere on how to build 'em.

Each beam weighs about six and half  tons and is reinforced with surplus prestress cable I found in six and eight foot chunks.  There are twelve cables arranged six over six, three inches and six inches from the bottom respectively.  The beams were simply formed up with wood and poured with concrete. Concrete has great compressive characteristics, but is fundamentally useless in tension. The bridge is designed so that the top of the concrete fails in compression before the reinforcing steel hits yield. This means that the bridge starts cracking if you about to take swim, as opposed to just dropping you in the river. I always apperciate a little notice before something fails catastrophically, even if I am doing something silly like driving a concrete truck across a little bridge in the woods.

The concrete design was straight from the Civil Engineer's handbook although the crane operator was worried about them breaking "like barbeque potato chips"! 

I've been meaning to put a booklet together on how to build a cheap bridge, but just haven't gotten to it as yet. The whole thing, excavation, formwork, concrete and crane didn't total five thousand bucks. Which isn't a lot for a bridge you can drive a tank across! This thing is rated to 45 Tons, and we've tested it to 20. Didn't move a bit.

The first pic is of Merlin Ramsey, owner of the cleanest crane in three states, flying one of my homemade concrete bridge beams  into place.

I can tell you from experience that with the exception of a live band, nothing draws a crowd like a crane.  The second pic has my neighbor Frank Hedrick and Jeff The Mason helping me and my Dad land the second beam.  The huge block in the background is the concrete abuttment set back from the water far enough to not disturb the bank.  With the exception of the new DOT Special bridge, there's been really no environmental impact at all.


Moto Guzzi California Special


My buddy Dave has a pile of Moto Guzzi bikes, more than ten, and probably less than fifty. Probably. He's not exactly sure how many, and more importantly his wife Lonette has no idea whatsoever. Short version of the story is that I've ridden more than a few of them, and I really liked the Guzzis. So, back to eBay to find a good, clean, fixable bike. I ride my Guzzi everywhere in good weather, across Blood Mountain, the Tail of the Dragon, out to TWO, Copperhead Lodge, and of course to work. The Guzzi engine is mounted sideways, from a Harley standpoint, or folded up slightly from a BMW standpoint. The V-twin engine has a cylinder sticking out in the breeze left and right of centerline, which means both cylinders cool equally, and provides a very symmetric set of lines to the bike. The only other 90 degree V engine I know of in production was Porsche's 928, which see below. There's starting to be a pattern, here.

Here's the patch artwork for the Hogan's Goats MC, which started out a kind of a gag. An old friend now gone, Gene Alexander, was the original Hogan. If you know the story, you know about the HUGE campouts we used to have at my place in North Carolina, and about Gene stumbling into the fire having drank, well, probably as much as the rest of us. We cut a few CDs, the bands played all night, Dave cooked and a legend was born. A few hundred of us ate, drank, danced, bathed in the creek, got lost in the woods, took a lot of pictures, and raised a lot of hell, but a decade later only the memories and the music remain.

Damn, what a good time! Ride 'em easy, brother. Ride the GOAT!

Concrete Hot Tub


I wanted a hot tub, but couldn't get my mind around all that ugly fiberglass. Before the RV drivers chime in, remember, we're talking about a Hot Tub here! Things have a True Nature, as Lao-Tze would have it, and Tubs should be wood, or iron, or stone. You know, something traditional and heavy-looking. So, as usual, I wander off in the woods to build something for the archeologists to find and future generations to have trouble moving.

Like the stonework at the front gate, the Tub was a lot harder to decide to do that to actually just go and do. The slab took 42 bags of concrete and 4 bags or Portland cement, the walls about the same. The interior is tiled for durability, and to keep me from having to learn to plaster. Since my make-up water system runs continuously, changing the water ever 24 hours or so, there's no need for chlorine or bromine, which means that the pH of the pool is about that of local spring water. I'd expect the tile job to last well into the next century, although I may have to regrout it. Well, someone might.

Many thanks to Art at Almost Heaven Spas. Art's such a laid back, chillin', hippie kind of guy that you might forget he's a degreed engineer and knows this stuff stone cold. A EE like me too.What a bro'! I took Art's PVC fittings and formed them up in 4" thick concrete walls, plumbing them all together with lick 'em and stick 'em PVC. This stuff is easy!. The heat is electric (what else?) and a little blue LED light makes the tub look inviting at night.

Since the Tub is located next to the creek, I dug a dry well and circulate spring water right thorugh the tub and back out. No chemical smell, no bacteria. I run an ozonator just to say there's one there, but as one friend put it: "It's like cracking open 50 cases of Evian and jumping in." Yeah!


Pick A Pair Of Porsches

I can already hear you thinking "Here we go, the guy's lost his mind." but lemme tell you The Tale before you naturally assume the worst. A few well-known almost facts:

Everyone knows these things, but since only one of them is true, an older Porsche is cheap, cheap, cheap! The pair of beauties in the pics? There's not ten grand in the both of them and that's after restoring to factory new specs. Now, if you treat these girls like Chevys they can become high maintenance nightmares, but that's been true of every high performance machine I've ever owned (and close to 50% of my dating relationships). By keeping a log and maintaining the car like an airplane - on a schedule, not when things break - I've had better service reliability from my 25 year old 928S than most people get from new cars.

This is another situation where a little skill, sweat and elbow grease can get you a helluva nice result. On the other hand, I so could have bought a used Hyundai (with no air-conditioning) for the same bucks an saved myself all this work ...

1988 924S

When I was in college, I pushed around a white, 1977 924 with a cracked cylinder head that my bud Wayne Harris sold me for cheap, thereby launching me on a career of fixing cars. When I got the machine she had a cracked head, buggered CIS injection system, aftermarket turbocharger, hot-wired cold start valve and leaky accumulators. Herbie Yates, who can fix anything that burns fuel, taught me how to wrench Volkswagen / Porsche / Audi style, and how to keep from having to wrench so often. All throughout college I fixed, tweaked, modified and played. Driving new cars where things -actually worked- got me out of the weekend maintenance habit, but I still miss working on engines and electronics. Busman's Holiday, I know, but it can be extraordinarily relaxing to break rusty bolts after a long day of Mathematics and Management.

This car came from eBay for $2500, and needed some interior work, basic maintenance and minor bodywork to be straight, clean and ready to roll. Did all the usual bits: timing belt, rollers, balance shaft belt, brakes, and the expected cap, rotors, plug wires and all rubber hoses and belts. With 60k original miles, this car was a lucky find. I added four (4) new Blaupunkt speakers in the OEM sizes and locations, a new Alpine radio to drive them, and XM. In case you're still on the fence, XM Rocks. BPM, Chrome, Watercolors, Bluesville. Oh HELL yes.

OK, back to coffee and gear grease --

Since I had four (4) sweet 16" telephone dial wheels from the 1978 928 roller, I simply swapped them over and gave the 924S (which had 15" telephone dials) a more aggressive, but still OEM look. The 924S is my daily driver and she really eats up the mountain roads from Shoal Creek Falls to my factory in Copperhill. There's something to be said for the Old School; no ABS brakes, electronic suspension or gyro stabilized headlights (no joke, the Benz has 'em).

Always doing my level best to keep North Carolina's DOT in exciting skidmarks, I found myself rocketing down NC-208 near Hot Springs at well over double the posted speed limit. Hooah! With enough power to really climb the mountains and the positive control for me to feel comfortable doing a four wheel drift in the curves, the 924 was a fantastic find. Especially with some killer tunes on board and someone who enjoys the ride.

1981 928S


This car looks fast, and it is. With a 4.7 liter 90 degree V8, it was one of the fastest cars of it's day. Now, not so much. The Mercedes S500 is faster, and many newer sports cars (and sports sedans!) are too. Still, she handles wonderfully, like nothing made before or since. If you haven't had the opportunity to drive a 928, you'll be really thrilled to try one out. The machine runs like it's on rails -- absolutely nothing unsticks this monster. I've taken mountain roads posted at 40 in the 924S at 70 MPH only to find I can do them at 100 in the 928! The car's not even close to loose, I've just run out of cool -- this way, way too fast to be on the ground. I guess it's true -- Nothing Even Comes Close.

The Black 928 was another eBay special, found in New Jersey and brought back with my Dad riding shotgun on a three-day Cannonball odyssey to Atlanta. The car had close to 100k miles on it and required a good bit of attention, but nothing THAT difficult or expensive. Some of the highlights:

As usual with 928's, the engine was bulletproof but the accessories were dying from lack of maintenance. No big overhaul needed, just a lot of little picky things. Stripping the interior to metal and re-doing it all was a good move: not a squeak, rattle or noise, which is a lot to ask of a car old enough to vote and almost too old to join the Marine Corps. The '81 is a sweet machine, but the GTS is, well, ...

1995 928 GTS


OK, every car nut's got his dream and the 928 GTS has always been mine. Able to hammer 100+ MPH over the speed limit (assuming it's posted at 70), the 928 GTS is the final version of Porsche's monster aluminum V8. Punching out just under 400 HP, the mostly-aluminum GTS is still the fastest production car ever built. Woohoo! The boys in Zuffenhausen stopped making 928s in 1995, and made only 110 that year, 14 of them with stick shift. My baby above is #31.

Mods include:

I can't tell you how happy I was to get my mitts on a clean, well-tended stick-shift GTS with only 30,000 miles on the odometer! Cole Palen would have understood that these cars need to be driven not just waxed and fawned over, and drive her I do. The GTS rumbles like a tank, and flies like nothing but the Cozyjet. Why they stopped making these I can't imagine, but for the price of a new mid-line Lexus or BMW, the GTS is many, many times the car. Like my bro' Jerry once said about the Czech-made L-39 Albatros: "That's a lot of machinery for very little money." No doubt. This is one machine I'll keep in the stable for years to come.

Final Thoughts

Cars are just transport, and don't mean a thing. Of course, like anything else, they will it you let them. People spend huge dollars on new cars only to find they've purchased half-baked electronic prototypes and self-obsolescent junk. I've had friends tell me that they can't afford anything cool to drive, and others say that luxury cars are wasteful. To both camps, I'll give you this: here's three beautifully restored machines that together and finished cost less than a lot of new cars, are currently NOT taking up landfill space, and are more fun to drive than anything else I've ever tried at any price. You CAN be cheap, environmentally conscious and still have a helluva good time. Like my crew chief and IA friend Valerie would say: Got Wrench?


email to: root@gregrichter.com

| Home | P l a n e | P r o j e c t s | S C P & L | A n i m al s | G a r d e n | O p i n i o n s | P h o t o s |


Copyright 1996-2007, Poosty, Woosty and Camo -- The Cats.
All rights reserved.