Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chuck the Writer and the Pontiac 6000

As many of you know, I own a 1991 Pontiac 6000 and I absolutely heart my car. I actually had to take it away from my grandmother, who at the time was 92 and who possessed both near-blinding cataracts and a totally valid Massachusetts driver's license.

Of course, preventative maintenance is important when you're driving a 18-year-old car all over the Northeast, and something had been bothering me about the car of late. In the morning, or the first start of the day, the car would struggle a bit to get out of first gear, and then WHAM it would move into the next gear. For the rest of the day, everything in terms of gear shifting would be fine, but it was almost as if the car itself didn't want to wake up and go to the day job. "Yo Chuck man, let me sleep a bit and look cool in the driveway."

So I thought to myself, when was the last time I changed the transmission fluid in the car?

And for the life of me, I couldn't remember ever changing it - and the car's up to 134,000 miles driven!

Of course, this necessitated a trip to my local Valvoline center (for those of you who know me, I'm extremely particular about where I take the 6000 - it's either the Valvoline center for fluids like oil changes, DePaula Chevrolet for mechanical issues, and Sears Auto Center for tires and the like - after what happened with Pep Boys last November, I basically only use them for things like headlight bulb replacements). They hooked my car up to what looked like a vehicular IV machine, and shoved a tube down the car's transmission fluid intake valve.

Then the crew at Valvoline started up a pump, and I watched as cherry-red transmission fluid came out of the tube, and coffee-black transmission fluid was sucked out of my car. Apparently this is how one changes transmission fluid in high-end vehicles like Mercedes-Benz cars, so I went with it. 20 minutes later, my car had fresh transmission blood in it, and the car immediately seemed to respond well. The hard shift from first to second gear was not as hard as it once was, meaning I may have saved my car from the dreaded TTT - the Terrible Transmission Termination.

I went back to Valvoline the next day, and they topped off the fluids (apparently after it cycles through all the nooks and crannies of the transmission, it needs to settle, and an extra half a pint needed to be added). Just more preventative maintenance to keep the 6000 running for another photography road trip this weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chuck the Writer gets back on the road again

This is going to be the eighth weekend that I will drive to various cities in the Premier Basketball League, in an effort to take action photographs and keep a photographic record of the action in the PBL's second season.

This weekend the plan is to actually hit two cities on one day. The Rochester Razorsharks are hosting the Mid-Michigan Destroyers at about 2:05 pm Saturday, while the Buffalo Stampede will welcome the Manchester Millrats on Saturday night at around 7:00 pm. I need to get to the MMich-Roch game, because I have yet to acquire head shots of the Mid-Michigan Destroyers (including their scoring sensation, Odgra Bobo, who is currently 2nd in scoring average in the PBL this season). I've gotten head shots of the twelve other teams in the league, so now's a chance to add the Destroyers to the list.

As for Buffalo-Manchester, the Stampede have added some new players and gotten rid of others, so I need to do an "update" and get new head shots of guys like Chuck Reed, Gallo Cham and Derick Payne.

Next week is another trip to Montreal, to photograph the Montreal Sasquat'ch against the Wilmington Sea Dawgs on Saturday. This is important, in that the Sasquat'ch lineup is entirely different from the last time I photographed them, so I need head shots of virtually the entire team.

The only other "scheduled" trip I need to take is on March 14, when the Halifax Rainmen come to Buffalo to play the Stampede. Halifax's lineup includes two players I haven't gotten shots of yet - AJ Millien, currently the league's leading scorer (he was with Augusta but was released before Augusta got close enough to a city for me to photograph them), and John Strickland (he played with the Albany Patroons a couple of seasons ago, he's a big beefy presence on the floor but his free throw shooting is scarier than Cloverfield).

The playoffs will be coming up soon after that, and hopefully I'll get to some of those rounds, as well as to the finals. Not discounting anything any team has done, I just hope that whoever does make the finals, that it's within driving distance for me (i.e., Rochester, Manchester, Vermont). Not that I wouldn't discount a finals between Battle Creek and Halifax, but those are going to involve plane trips (one-way from BC to HFX is over 1,400 miles - or 22 hours of straight driving).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chuck the Writer with New Article in upcoming RoadKing

As soon as the link is made available, I'll post it here -but here's the deal.

About two months ago, I got a tip about an open-air museum in Hillsborough, New Hampshire - Dick Kemp's Truck Museum. Dick Kemp passed on a couple of years ago, but hundreds of Mack Trucks and Sterlings and Dodges and Buffalo Springfields are all still on his property and still available for viewing. I took photos at the site, interviewed some of Kemp's close friends, and the article will appear in the next issue of RoadKing, which is scheduled for print on the first of March.

RoadKing is a free publication, available at all TravelCenters of America truck stops throughout the United States; the articles are also available at I've written for RoadKing for the past six years, and it's one of my favorite publications - it allows me to write articles about travel, car culture, and other fun things. It's the publication that helped me win my first competitive writing award, and they've always been in my corner when it comes to ideas for new articles here and there.