Zack's new wheels....

I took a risk vs. reward gamble on eBay and purchased a prior salvage rebuilt 2005 Honda Element EX for Zack. The car had sideswiped an embankment in Georgia in 2008, was a total loss by the insurance company, sold at an in insurance auction in Georgia and purchased by a guy in South Carolina who likes to rebuild salvage cars. He rebuilt it and drove it for 20K miles before tossing it up on eBay for an auction.

I ended up getting it for $6600. Add on tax, title, license, along with my $190 flight to Myrtle Beach and the expenses of driving it 1300 miles home (2 nights in a motel, 4 tanks of gas, 4 meals) and it came out within our expected budget of getting him a car that can last him a good 7 years or so. I put two new tires on the rear to match the 2 new ones the seller had just put on the car for another $250, had the alignment checked with the computer print out of the 4 wheels for $85 which showed some tweaking to the rear end was needed (two bent control arms) and I replaced the lower ball joint on the driver's side since the boot was shot. I decided to hit the bearings on the rear wheels as well since the noise was not like it should be. That all added another $1000 to the bill, but the car is safe and sound to drive now and in perfect alignment front to rear. Drives every bit as good as my red Element that has never been in a wreck.

Here's some shots of the car after the accident when it was sold as is at an insurance auction sale in Georgia in 2008:

insurance auction photo front side

insurance auction photo rear side

insurance auction full side

Doesn't look too bad, right? No doubt she took a good hit in the sideswipe/embankment hit which always raises concerns. Hard to imagine that the insurance company called it a total loss, but you never know how much the owner complained and pushed for it, rather than repair it. And every state and insurance company operates differently.

The main concern was any crush zone damage or under body frame design with the uni-body of the Element's design. Luckily, the frame was not bent, but some control arms on the right rear wheel were bent as I mentioned above. They tried to bend the metal back, but it is heavy duty stuff and I made the decision to replace for safety and security reasons. The guy I bought it from had a hobby and love of restoring cars that had been through minor accidents and has done quite a few cars over the years - and even a 34' sailboat that went through a hurricane! He made the decision not to do much more with the rear, although he mentioned to me he was surprised how loud it was while driving. Whether it was the alignment or the bearings alone - or a combination, once I repaired all of that it is no longer loud. Even with the open tread Wild Spirit Radial A/S tires, she's just as quiet as mine.

Here are some photographs of Mike rebuilding the two doors with Bondo...

Slow but sure

bondo storm cloud

coming along

bondo dust

it takes time

Mike in action

More bondo

And the finished product...

Maxxis Bravo 750 rear

Black is a very unforgiving color when it comes to showing dings, and you can see Mike did an excellent job of "home shop repair". The experience of having done quite a few of these over the years paid off in his handy work.

Detailed from top to bottom

Finished Right Side from rear angle

Finished Right Side from front

side element wild spirits

I'll probably change the spark plugs this weekend as that service is about due and I picked up the plugs at Advanced Auto Parts yesterday. I changed the oil last week and Mike had the differential fluid in the last 20K, so I'll wait another 10K or so before doing that again. I bought the jugs of fluid and washers so I can do it when needed. In fact, I changed mine in the garage last night and the process was a piece of cake. Zack's Element is really running well and no need to say he is beside himself with his "new" wheels. All said and done, the extra $1000 in repairs to fix the bearings, replace the control arms and lower ball joint and get it in perfect alignment was well worth it.

For whatever reason, it seems that all of our cars are needing tires at the same time. I just put Uniroyal Tigerpaws on the Mercury Villager van for Alexa. I'm getting Bridgestone Dueller ATP's from Sears on my Element next week. Two new NTB Wild Spirt Radial A/S for Zack's Element. And Tara's Mercury Mariner is still on the original tires at a bit over 60K on them and the weather cracking is starting to show and the tread is getting short. So I will start hunting for a replacement set for her as well. Talk about timing!!!! It's tire month here.


Sweet Pain!!!

9 days off the bike was rectified yesterday by a 30 mile road ride on the Dos Niner. The pain felt "oh, so good" as I pushed my way through legs that were turning over surprisingly well, but the effort was mind over matter in terms of the pain. I had to make myself push through it all.

Why 9 days off?

A trip to Champaign-Urbana, Chicago and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina had me gone. I picked up a Honda Element for Zack in Myrtle Beach and drove it home on Monday and Tuesday. 21 Hours of driving in AC had my legs feeling the effects of sitting that long and every time I got out of the car for a pit stop, I felt my age as I stood to unfold myself. Wednesday and Thursday was filled with getting the basement back into shape, yard work and final paperwork of the insurance nightmare of getting the house repaired. Roof is done, basement is done (a bit of touch up painting to do down there). The shed arrives on Wednesday. Painting was delayed this week for whatever reason, but I am assuming the heat/humidity.

Tara and I will go and ride in the benefit race/ride tomorrow. The G88 will be 88 kilometers of gravel on the west side of Des Moines. I will certainly be riding on the casual side of the speed coin considering my time off the bike.

Today, off to Kansas City with Zack to watch the Yankees/Royals game.


Storm Aftermath...

Progress is being made, albeit slowly, on getting things back to how they were before the storm hit. Insurance adjusters, contractors, decisions, paperwork, phone calls, appointments, repair work, etc.... have all been the order of the day since July 23rd.

The front half of the roof has been repaired with new shingles, the back half is scheduled for next week. The carpet was installed in the basement yesterday. A new shed has been paid for and ordered (due to arrive in 2 1/2 - 3 weeks). The exterior of the house will be washed, bleached, repaired and painted starting next week. The air conditioner that flew over the fence will be fixed next week. The last order of business will be the fencing as we had been waiting on our neighbors with their fencing decisions. In both cases, they were told by their insurance companies that they would not get the money unless they installed the same or very similar fences they had. So that means we can stick with our gates and rear fence as they were before the storm hit, but I will wait to have them done until the neighbors fences are installed. No time line on that, yet.

Our dear friend, Gayla Tighe, who was injured in our home after the tornado is recovering in the hospital. She suffered a spinal cord injury and spent the first week in critical care. She had surgery to fuse two vertebrae which was successful. This past weekend, she began moving her legs and this week finger movement is beginning again. Prognosis is 6 - 8 weeks in the hospital with rehab to continue for months beyond. These first two weeks are crucial in terms of what movement she regains as it will set the tone of her longer term recovery. We all remain hopeful, positive and supportive of her recovery.

It has been frustrating in the midst of everything to go through the process. State Farm has been wonderful. Citibank Mortgage has been the speed bump. Due to Iowa law, the checks from State Farm to pay for the damage repairs are made out to the homeowner as well as Citibank. Citibank requires us to sign the the check, send it to them for a total of 7 documents (the signed check, loss summary, W-9 for each contractor, a contract for each contractor, a waive of lien for each contractor, etc...) at which point they will issue us half of the amount of the check. Once 95% of the work has been done, we are to call Citibank and they will send out an inspector to view the work that has been done. If it meets the inspector's approval, Citibank will send us the remaining 50% of the check. So, if you don't have a spare $20K sitting in your emergency cash fund to get the work started with deposits, and paying for things up front, you have to make an agreement with each contractor on how paying for the work is going to be accomplished. Deposit, payment in full at the end. No deposit, payment at the end. 50% up front and 50% at the end. Deposit or no deposit and payment once Citibank releases the moola. And on and on. Pretty much a major catch 22 that still leaves me scratching my head. You can't start the work because you don't have a spare $20K, but Cititbank won't give you the money to start until the work is finished.

The actual tornado took 3 - 5, maybe 7 seconds at most to do the damage. But the weeks involved and energy spending lining all the repair work up are a full time job that requires the patience of Job.

I did manage to slip away for 2 bike races to temporarily take my mind off of the task. My body was in no condition to race at Boone 2 days after the tornado, but my mind needed it. Pretty much the same this past weekend at the Buck Hill race in Minnesota. The mind needed it, but the body wasn't in the same time zone as my mind.

We will pick the final exterior paint color today (looks like we are going one shade darker green than before - unless the final vote trumps that). In the meantime, we have had an additional 4 inches of rain since the tornado and we are all going down to the basement every few hours to make sure the sump pumps are working and nothing else is happening. Looks like 4 days of sunshine starting tomorrow which is nice...