After a long and fruitless hunt for a "bargain" roaster (you know... one that's used, but in fantastic shape, yet selling for less than half what it would go for new - {they do exist somewhere}), we finally settle on the Quattro Millenium 15Kilo sold by Roasters Exchange. It's a demo unit of a discontinued model. Kinda like new, but lightly used under strict supervision. ;-) It doesn't have all the fancy computer profiling gear that comes with the more modern roasters, but then, I was brought up on an old Diedrich 12K without so much as a bean temp probe. This does have a Watlow 935, so there must be some kind of temperature control going on in there somewhere.

For freight, Dan, of Roasters Exchange, recommends Yellow, so it won't have to go interline. That way if there's any damage, the two lines can't point fingers at each other. I agree that's probably the best way to ship. Ok, so the Roasters Exchange folks say they'll call as soon as they get the balance, and let me know the shipping details. The call never comes. We finally call them, only to find out that the roaster has already shipped. We get the PRO number and look it up on the Yellow site. Hey, it's in Duluth! It ought to be here tomorrow! Debbi calls Yellow to verify and then the equipment rental place to let them know that Wednesday is the day we'll need that skid-steer with the pallet forks.

Ok, so the blocking got screwed up on the truck the roaster was on, and it spent an extra day, apparently around St. Cloud, but it should be here tomorrow (Thursday). Call and postpone the rental. Work on some more wiring and insulation.

All right. Today is the big day!

As Debbi leaves for work, she hollers out, "Good luck!"

"Arghhh! Don't SAY that!"

"Well, what do you want me to say? 'Break a leg?'"

"Just don't say... that. It implies you're about to embark on something out of the ordinary, and alerts the Fates to potential. Just act as if it's a day like any other."

The call does come from the Northway Carriers driver early in the morning, saying that he'll be here sometime between 11 and 12. I ask him to call back around 9:30 to verify, since I only have a 3 hour rental window of the skid-steer, and will probably need at least an hour to get it.. At 9:15 he calls to say he'll be here in an hour, and that I'll need some chain because the pallet is 12 feet up the trailer, and it's a big one, about 10 feet, and he has no way to move it to the back of the trailer. {Ten feet? Nah, it can't be that long} I'm thinking about the utility trailer safety chains I have hanging in the garage, and about the tow rope behind the seat in the truck. I'll figure something out when the need arises. I've got to scoot now if I'm going make it to Bemidji and back before the roaster arrives.

Rats! That tire with the slow leak is down again. I plug in the compressor, move the Neon out of the way, wheel the compressor out to air up the tire, and am off. During the rental transaction, the guy behind the counter has to stop a couple times to answer the phone. I check my watch, thinking I should still be able to make it back before Northway. We go outside and hook up the trailer, which has the hydraulic braking mechanism built into the tongue. I've hauled those before, and they've worked slick. The harder you hit your brakes, the more force is applied to the tongue, which then applies a proportional force to the trailer brakes. In theory, it's better than electric brakes.

I pull over to the pole barn (where the chains and tensioners are), and drop the trailer ramps while the rental guy (wish I'd caught his name) goes to get the skid-steer. He drives it on, and chains it down to the trailer, and I'm thinking, "Now that chain looks long enough to come in handy for later.." I get a quick lesson on the Daewoo controls, and wave adios. {Daewoo, don't they make stereos? I was expecting Bobcat.}

The 8 miles or so on US-2 from Southside Rental to our turn off is a very long 8 miles today indeed. I am preoccupied, and I suddenly realize my right turn is coming up. I apply the brakes, but instead of any appreciable slowing, my tires just slide. Foot quickly off the brakes... and out of the corner of my eye, I see a white 18-wheeler turning where I had just missed. I bet that's him. I go up the couple hundred yards to the next median crossing, and hang a U-y. Back around and take the same left the white truck, my truck, just took. I floor it, and the 318 struggles under the additional 2 tons or so to accelerate, to catch up with that truck... but it's nowhere in sight.

Man! He couldn't have gotten that far ahead! Up to the stop sign, where there's an unimpeded view ahead for a mile. Ah, there he is! About a half mile ahead. Our driveway only has a 20 ft. culvert, for an effective width of about 16 ft., so I really don't expect him to go down the driveway, but in case he does try, I want to be there ahead of him. He pulls off to the side of the road, and as I brake to make the turn, I feel more sliding under me in the mud. Man! Is it mucky out today, or what! I pull down the driveway, and off to the side a bit. It's a couple inches drop off the main part of the driveway, but I'll back onto the driveway empty.

The offloading is fairly uneventful. The driver has managed to scoot the roaster back to within 3 feet with his pallet jack, so I just take a small bite, drag it back flush with the trailer, and then get under it with the full length of the forks. Then there's just the small matter of adjusting to the counterintuitive action of the left pedal which seems to want to make the forks go up when my foot thinks it's saying "down"... Well, except for the fact that the roaster is up against the right wall of the trailer, the truck is up against the edge of the road, and I've gone in at just a bit of an angle. If I continue straight back, I'm headed for the ditch. If I try to pivot a bit to get straight with the road, the roaster goes into the side of the trailer. I'm about half way out with it when the driver suggests pulling forward. He moves the truck up about 5 feet, leaving the whole 1210 lbs. precariously hanging farther off the forks than on. The roaster isn't attached to the pallet in any way either, so every tiny movement of the forks is amplified and the roaster gyrates radically, independently of the pallet on which it sits... after I manage to get pallet down the driveway, I get out of the skid-steer to open the garage door. I hop back in, hit the go levers, and it feels like a brake is engaged. I double check the parking brake. It's off. I lift the safety bar and drop it hard. Still no go. I look around for any kind of control or button, or knob I might have missed, but there's nothing. I'm baffled. The driver, who has many hours experience on these things, is also baffled. Finally, I nudge the forks down a hair, and this inexplicably releases the brake. Eventually the roaster ends up in the shop side of the roastery/shop/garage, and when I take a cursory look for damage, none is apparent.

Whew! So far, so good. The hard part is over, right?

I give the driver his check, and he's leaving in his original arrival window.

I don't want to have to back onto the road fully loaded, so I'll just back out empty, come back down the driveway in reverse, and load up. Heh. The trailer seems to be giving more resistance than it should. My tires keep spinning, and I have to keep pulling forward. Back, spin, forward, back, spin, forward, back. Maybe a dozen times and I'm still not halfway to the road. I do finally make it out, turn around, and then back up the driveway. The chain has been draped over the Daewoo this whole time, but it picks now to fall off, and get run over. <sigh>

I pull the skid-steer onto the trailer, dig the chain out of the mud, and lash everything down.

Daewoo loaded up

Oh. That tire is a bit low again. Give it more air, and let's just get to Bemidji and back and hope it doesn't leak that much that fast.

I go to start the engine. There's a bit of a click, and nothing else. <heavy sigh> What is with this day?!? I pop the hood, and take a look. The positive lug seems ever so slightly loose. I trudge the 75 feet of soup back to the garage and grab the rubber hammer. Give the cables a couple of love taps to make sure they're well seated, and try again. Nothing. Take the Neon key off the ring and leave the rest of the keys in the truck ignition. Pull the Neon around, hook up the jumper cables. A quick spark at the positive terminal of the truck battery, and then nothing.

What's that noise? Sounds like... no... The slow-leak tire appears to have transformed into a fast-leak tire. The white liquid latex of the fix-a-flat I added last week is escaping its donut prison, hissing, bubbling, and laughing at the engineers who ever thought a mere rubber tire could contain it.

laughing latext

I call Southside Rental with the bad news, no spare, no battery, and ask if they want to come retrieve their equipment. Luckily, there's no one else scheduled for it, so I am graciously offered the rest of the day to get it back, no charge.

I take the battery out and lug it back to the garage. One of the cells is a bit low, so I add just enough water (soft, but not distilled)to cover the plates. Hook it up to the charger and let it go while I go figure out how I'm going to take a tire off with a bunch of extra weight on the ball, and soup under foot.

I put a chunk of 2x6 down for the trailer jack, and 2x4 for the bottle jack. I do NOT feel like lying down in the mud to stick the bottle jack under the axle. That would just remind me too much of being in the Army... come to think of it, I remember a mini-pallet in the roastery, so have a platform to keep out of the mud while I take off the tire. I am reminded of REFORGER... '86 was it? where we had a tent city in a mud field, and pallet boardwalks from tent to tent to tent.

jacked up

Strange. Once the tire is off, it doesn't leak. I flex the area around the leak. Psst. Let go. Silence. Hey, a magic hole. It opens if you touch it... closes when you let off. That's why the thing goes for weeks without needing air sometimes, but needs it in two hours other times (today). I decide to chance it, and put the wheel back on.

magic hole

I reinstall the battery, and the dome light is good and bright, but as soon as I turn the key, the light goes down to barely dull orange. Ok, it's definitely shot. I grab a plastic bag, put the battery in that, and then the bundle in the trunk of the Neon. I slam the trunk shut, and head into the house to lock up.

Now that everything's locked up, where did I put that car key? (remember, I'd taken it off the ring) After retracing my steps 3 or 4 times, I decided that I must have locked the key in the trunk. <yet another heavy sigh>

After climbing into the trunk through the back seat, and actually retrieving the key from where I feared it would be, I head to the auto parts store in Cass Lake, having decided that as long as the tire isn't flat when I get back, I'll drive on it.

The guy at the auto parts store asks where Two Loons Coffee shop is. (He actually looked at the name on the credit card.) I explain. He likes good coffee. I'll bring a sample as soon as we're cookin'. I install the new battery, and thoughts of bad starter, bad connection, etc. dance in my head as I tentatively turn the key. Brrm! The exhaust noise sounds somehow throatier with this new battery.

All right, that tire is still up, though a bit low. I pull the tire gage out of my front pocket... THAT'S where I left it! and see 24 PSI. Not too bad considering that I couldn't find the gage when I aired the tire, and have NO idea what it was to start with. I head back to the garage, plug in the compressor, and... nothing. Flick the switch off and on. Nothing. Check the circuit breaker. It's on. <yet another heavy sigh>

I check the tank pressure, and there's 42 PSI. That ought to be enough to top off the tire. Wheel it once again out through the mud, and manage to get the tire to about 31 PSI (normally run at 32 empty, or 35 with a load on). I guess that'll do 'er.

The tires slip a bit as I take off...

soupy muck

soupy muck 2

but I make it out the driveway, up the 3/4 mile to pavement, and do NOT stop at the stop sign... just slow down very slow. As I give 'er some gas, the wheels spin, and I am still attributing this to the loose gravel there. The next stop sign is at US-2, where I think I'm fine to stop... so I do. As I go to take off, I have to give it a lot of gas, and I don't move. The trailer brakes are locked up. Great. They don't when they should, and do when they shouldn't. I check the emergency cable to make sure that didn't somehow get pulled, but it seems to be in order. I can't go forward... how about back? I can back up with no problem at all. I get the truck and trailer off the road somewhat and contemplate backing all the way back home. (2.8 miles at this point) Nah... forward... somehow...

I give 'er lots of gas, and let out the clutch, but those brakes are tight! I had managed to move out onto the road again, so I back off again. Just as I go to take 'er out of gear, I notice a bit of a forward roll. Wha??? but my foot had already gone over to the brake. Locked again. The light has dawned though. I back up, do not hit the brake, and then try forward. It doesn't work the first time, but it does the second try. Creep to the stop sign. No traffic. Go!

The tire isn't flat even after many minutes of jawing with the rental guy (who also likes good coffee), and I make it home without further incident, and finally, FINALLY, get to take a bit of a closer look at the roaster...


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