A disabled Veteran's Trike

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A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Thu May 26, 2016 10:55 pm

About 6pm last night, I was headed to trooperchris's house yesterday for some remodeling advice, when I got a notification that a vw mechanic buddy had tagged me in a post on Facebook. At a red light, I check the post to find out that some on the Run to the Wall motorcycle cruise needed a VW head for his vw powered trike and was stranded at the Harley dealership. I was about 2 minutes away, so I called my buddy and said I'd stop by and check it out. My mechanic buddy works on modern VWs mostly, so he was pleading to the local VW community to help. My boy and I headed into the service door at the Harley dealership and waited for everyone to get off the phone. We met the service manager who had spread the word and we were quickly acquainted with Hal, from El Paso, TX.

Hal is a 100% disabled Vietnam Veteran who earned my respect jumping out airplanes into Vietnam. His doctor told him no more riding motorcycles, so he built a trike. He said he was going through a difficult time with depression and a buddy talked him into going to see the Wall. Every year, there is a motorcycle ride from California to DC, where they ride to the Vietnam Memorial on Memorial Day. Hal was convinced to make the pilgrimage 2 days before the ride came near by. He picked them in Las Cruces. He had just paid some guy named Rudy a pretty penny to build him a big azz motor. Hal The reason he needed a head was because Rudy had used a timesert/helicoil for the spark plug and it blew out just outside of Chattanooga.

When he noticed the engine was running rough, he tapped his helmet, signaling he was pulling over, and stopped. There was no obvious sign of trouble, so he started it back up and walked around back. THERE'S YOUR PROBLEM! Rudy's timesert had blown out, leaving a gaping hole in the head. When Hal went to turn the motor off, he bumped the handle bars to the side and the trike started rolling down the embankment. Despite trying to put it in gear, the trike knocked him down and ran over his legs. Undeterred, he got it fired up and drove it back up to the shoulder and onto the support squads trailer. He was towed into the Harley dealer where we met.

We discussed the repair process and I told him that I had an extra head that he could have. You'd a'thought I was offering him a kidney! He started discussing logistics and informed him of our local VW group's shop about 10 minutes away. He convinced the Harley guys to deliver his trike to our shop and we loaded it up. I made a pit stop by the house to grab the pair of heads I just so happened to have that were already machined to fit this size motor.

Hal asked what this would cost and I said, "Not a damned thing. You've already paid for it." He was ecstatic.

Within an hour, we had pushed him into the shop and there were 6 of us there helping out. One started cleaning up the new head while the rest tore into it. Hal began talking about his reasons for riding and the mission for the ride. It was an honor to listen to him talk while working on his trike. My wife stopped and got pizzas and we made a quick run to the store for sealants. Within 2 hours, we had selected the best head of the two and bolted her on! The moment of truth..... Brummmmm purrrrrrrrr perfect! Hal gave it a couple quick twists of the throttle, hopped on and tore up the parking lot. He rolled back in the shop to pack his stuff and say thanks. We got some photos, shook his hand and wished him well.

Hal's next stop was Wythville, VA, about 300 miles up the road and it was 9pm. He followed one of our guys back to the interstate with a rough understanding of where he was going.




We sat around for about an hour after that talking about what an amazing job we did, coming together and fixing his trike within 3 hours of notification and with only 2 hours of working on it. After hearing him talk, we knew how important it was that he make this ride. One of the guys said that Hal had shown him a picture of the bike he was going to buy yesterday at Harley. It was $27k but his bank wouldn't lend him the money. He was desperate to get to that Wall. I couldn't sleep last night as I watched the hours tick away thinking that he was getting close to Knoxville. Now Bristol. Up into Virginia. 1am- this is the earliest he could possibly have made it to Wythville. Good night.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Thu May 26, 2016 11:10 pm

This morning I woke up and searched social media for videos of the group leaving out of Wythville. Spiller Elementary hosed breakfast, but no one had a video. Finally, around 10:45, I saw a video of the group leaving town going under an overpass with the fire department hanging Old Glory up high.

I didn't see Hal.

I texted all of my friends to share the disappointment. In our haste, no one got his phone number. We got an address to ship the head back to (Hal guarantees that Rudy will send me a replacement head!). I posted on the Run to the Wall Facebook page, asking if anyone had seen Hal? No response.

I found a post from a lady named Jennifer, who was blogging about her journey along this particular route. She was on her 6th year riding and raising awareness for military suicides and other POWs. Her blog was very inspiring about all of the money that was raised at each stop and what each speaker at the stops stressed. There were a lot of tear jerker stories. Jen explained how hard the ride into Chattanooga was, with the traffic and the difficult terrain/roads. That explains why Hal's engine got probably got hot and spit the plug. I decided to message Jennifer on Facebook to ask her to look for Hal when they stopped.

No news about Hal all day. I kept checking. Maybe around 5, they'll be rolling into Lynchburg, VA to their overnight stop and I'll catch a glimpse on a video.

My phone rings at 4:42 with an unknown number from El Paso, TX. ITS HIM!!! Someone gave him my number last night! I triumphantly answered, expecting a great, "I made it and I wanted to say thank you to you and your friends." Hal informed me that he was at a gas station and it was running rough. Since it was raining, he pulled the valve cover and noticed the #3 exhaust valve spring was collapse and messed up. He said he was done. He was getting really depressed and done with this stupid trike. He wanted to pack it up, ship the trike home and fly back. I told him he couldn't do that and to give me a few minutes.

We talked about the valve spring, what all could cause it, what else could be bad. How he should have brought the bad plug head so that he would have had an extra spring... I asked where he was. He didn't know. He asked someone at the gas station, "What city are we in?" Muffled response. "I'm sorry, what TOWN are we in?" "Roanoke." He informed me that he could see Berglund Chevrolet. I said sit tight.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Thu May 26, 2016 11:27 pm

I ran back to my desk at work and hopped on Facebook. I got on every nation wide VW group I was on and posted an URGENT message requesting help in Roanoke. In 30 minutes, a guy named Michael was on his way. I called Hal back to let him know that Michael would come to see if he could help and would know the local community better. Shortly after Michael arrived, he sent me a message saying that the valve spring was indeed broken in two and we needed another.

Since it was after 5, I started joining all the Roanoke VW groups and Central VA VW groups on Facebook to request help...stupid "status pending" prevented me from posting for help. Google revealed no parts stores nearby. Hal had already called the chain stores. I turned to the Planet's VW equivalent: Thesamba.com. They have a killer classifieds section that lets you search by zip code. I had the dealerships address, so I searched within a 10 mile radius and found someone listing engine parts. BINGO he had a cell number on his listing.

I sent Brian a message at 5:52, explaining the jacked up way that I got his info and why I was contacting him. He only responded with, "Can he make it to __________address?" I searched the inter webs and found it was just 2.3 miles from the Chevy dealer. I informed Hal and Michael that they had to make it to this address and "Brian," a stranger from the internet, would help him out. When I called Hal about 6:30, he was there and they were looking at it. Brian came out with a handful of springs.... SUCCESS!

The next few hours were quiet and I let them work, but around 7:30, I got a picture from Hal with the broken spring on a piece of cardboard. Finally, at 10:15, I texted Hal to see if they got it back together. He said he was in Lynchburg, looking for a motel. 8)

Tomorrow is their last push into DC. If Hal starts the journey tomorrow, the rescue trailers will at least pick him up and drag him to the wall instead of leaving him at the overnight stops. If he has to, he can ship it home and fly back. I am totally beside myself as to how this weird situation came to be. How I was within minutes of the dealership, had a head, had a group of guys to do the work. Then how i couldn't get in touch with him, but he found me. On top of that, he needed more help with my donated head, and through Facebook and a forum like this one, strangers to both of us stepped up and helped him out. It may have been a small thing, but it felt huge knowing how important it was to get him to that Wall.

If anyone watches any videos of them riding through, he is on the Southern Route in a Red VW Trike with Harley front end. He has large, long chrome handlebars and a yeti on the back.

It was truly and honor to help this man get closer to some closure. I hope our paths cross again!
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Thu May 26, 2016 11:34 pm

And for what it is worth, Hal was issued a POW/MIA/KIA name from the wall that he was going to find and trace his name. The guy's name is Howard Lull. Look him up, He was a little older than most soldiers at 42. I've never had reason to connect to the wall before, but when I make it to DC, it will now be MY mission to find Lull's name on the wall. Maybe I'll take the long road to DC like these guys did.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby itsmehb » Fri May 27, 2016 6:56 am

To N law, I read this forum every morning while having my coffee. This has to be one of the most interesting posts ever. I have a bud who was in that war. I know what the wall means to those guys. A BIG thanks from a forum member for your paying it forward.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Fri May 27, 2016 10:35 am

itsmehb wrote:To N law, I read this forum every morning while having my coffee. This has to be one of the most interesting posts ever. I have a bud who was in that war. I know what the wall means to those guys. A BIG thanks from a forum member for your paying it forward.



Thanks. After he left out of our shop in town, someone mentioned that we had just made a huge deposit into our karma bank account. The majority of us that worked on his trike responded with comments to the effect that he had already paid for it and we had owed him all these years. I know you saw this as paying it forward, and for anyone else we would have done the same thing and felt like it was paying it forward, but with Hal, we felt like we were paying it back.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Fri May 27, 2016 2:56 pm

Hal just sent me a text message saying that he made it and thanked me. He said we would be in touch soon.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby Von » Fri May 27, 2016 4:08 pm

That is awesome. More than awesome. You and your friends were in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. And you did it.
Hal did earn it... but it's still a deposit in your account.

In 97 I rode my Harley to Richmond to visit family and timed it to ride into DC for that run. It's an amazing experience and I'm glad you helped Hal do that. ... even cruising Sturgis with thousands of other bikes paled in comparison to hauling --- down Independence and Constitution Avenues to make the square around Lincoln Park. Crowds of spectators (and cops) cheering while thousands of us blatantly broke traffic laws in honor of the Fallen...

I definitely recommend visiting The Wall. I've been twice and it affected me deeply both time. I'm not a veteran, have no family that went to Viet Nam. But, as an American citizen and a human being, seeing The Wall is still a very important event in my life. That and seeing the Constitution.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Fri May 27, 2016 4:38 pm

That's cool that you have done the ride! I would like to, but I think I'll need something a little bigger than a my Vespa clone scooter...

We visited the wall when I was a kid. My father was in the middle of the draft age (born in 46). Both of his parents were doctors, so higher education was on his radar. He ended up in college and eventually medical school, getting deferred both times. When he got out of med school, he was drafted. He made it through the physical assessments and was awaiting shipping out to boot camp when they canceled the draft. Needless to say, he was relieved. He was willing to do his part, but he was relieved. He lost a ton of his friends and fraternity brothers during that time. When we visited, it was lost on me why all of these people were crying. I remember dad searching for all of his childhood friends and crying. One of us asked mom about it and she explained. I'm still not sure it made sense to my 7 year old little brain. We wanted to run and play on the mall.

When I went to architecture school, we studied the wall because it had simplistic beauty and broke the mold of every other memorial. Maya Lin nailed it. The reflection. The names. The sinking terrain. Everything. It was actually considered so counter to the expectations, that they built a secondary monument, the Three Servicemen to satisfy those who criticized Maya Lin's wall. Needless to say, there are very few pictures of people going to visit the Three Servicemen...

I'll go back and check it out one day. Hopefully soon.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby Von » Fri May 27, 2016 9:07 pm

Oh, I didn't go up in 97. It was '04... I think... 97 was a very eventful and sometimes traumatic year so I slip up sometimes and think everything happened in 97.. It was almost as bad as 2013 was.

But me and my daughter flew to DC in 96 when she was in the national spelling bee and we visited all the sights.

I remember some people were disappointed in the Wall when it was unveiled. And just looking at it in pictures and video I could see that.... but in person.... totally different story. You're right, it is perfect.

Walking from the Lincoln memorial with hundreds of people chattering and yacking away.... winding through the path... then clear the bushes and you're in front of the Wall. Total silence. Literally could have heard a pin drop.

The architecture is a perfect complement to the emotional impact inherent in a memorial. The architecture may actually amplify it.

In 96 my daughter was 11 years old and even she was completely silent when we were at the Wall.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby gruff54 » Sat May 28, 2016 7:19 am

Got choked up reading this. A big "Thanks" to you, your friends, and the others who helped along the way.

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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby DSUZU » Sat May 28, 2016 4:16 pm

God bless you for doing that. You went above and beyond. If the guy needed a pick-up for his spirits, what you did had to provide it. Good on ya. FWIW, I have never been to the wall, but I have been on the USS Arizona Memorial where they have a huge wall at one end with the names of the 1177 men who instantly perished there. Pretty much the same serenity. Dennis
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby wmorrisiii » Sat May 28, 2016 5:32 pm

Nicest story I have heard in a long time. Those of us of that time remember this war well and also how a lot of these guys were treated when they returned home. Congratulations to you guys for giving this man the help he needed and an incredible memory.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:43 am

Hal sent a picture of his Trike on on Tuesday off to the side of the Lincoln Memorial. I was so happy to see that he had made it. He told me that after the struggle of making it there, his wife had surprised him by flying in to spend the weekend with him. He told me that she flew back and he intended to make the ride back to El Paso.

Hal called last night and I was excited to hear the post trip report and all of the fun things he got to do and see with the thousands of other bikers. He started in with, "It seems like every time I call you, I'm needing help..." Oh great! Where are you this time? It turns out that he had a large oil leak and was about 100 miles up the road from us at the Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg exit next to the Bass Pro Shop. It was about to storm so he got situated for the night and we started scrambling to figure out how to get him taken care of.

In Chattanooga, we have two VW groups- the one that goes to meetings and the other that doesn't. I've been a part of the one that does the monthly buffet meeting for about 7 years ago, but the other one sprung up as the "un-club club." This un-club club started as a local chapter of a nationwide group that started in Knoxville. The Knoxville Club that goes to meetings was too stuffy and a couple guys decided to create an un-club, club. Shortly after the un-club formed, one of their founders died in a car wreck on the side of the interstate after breaking down and getting hit while working on his car. That was tragic, but it got the club a whole lot of national attention. With the huge growth, our local chapter decided that it would probably be best to distance ourselves from the trash that was getting posted on the Facebook group with all of the new members (Hitler stuff, nudie girl photos, etc). It made it hard to be associated and get people to come to our events. With all of that said, we have a ton of friends and acquaintances in Knoxville, about 20 minutes from Hal!

We talked to one guy who was close to our group and he said that they could help out, but the confidence wasn't there. He could get it to some guy's shop, but what would that entail? Working him into the workflow, shop rates? No one had a trailer (WTF? you have VW but no trailer?!?). So we decided last night that since he was 127 miles from our shop we would either send someone up to get him today or have AAA yank him 99 miles closer and then we'd go get him after work. I have triple AAA and in a classic "bait and switch," they upped my coverage for free last year to include Motorcycles. I have a Vespa clone and I don't go far at all... Then they tried to charge me an extra $70 for my wife and I to have motorcycle coverage when we have to renew next month. No thanks, but I'll take the free tow for Hal! We ended up not needing it as Mike, one of our guys who moved up from Houston to start anew and join our group volunteered his trailer if someone else would tow it. Nathan said he would work a half-day and go pick up the trailer to get Hal.

So around 12:30 today, we are starting on rescue #3 for Hal! More to come later tonight!
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Fri Jun 03, 2016 2:21 pm

Two of our buddies set out yesterday around noon to go get our buddy. They had him back to our shop around 5:30 and the team started rolling back in. We commenced to pulling his engine out because the oil cooler HAD to be bad, right? That's the only way that we could have a so much oil pouring out of this thing and all over the front side of the engine shroud. Clifford pulled the plugs and noticed that #3 was fouled, but not with oil. It smelled of gas. Once the engine was out and the oil cooler was off, it was evident that the seals weren't bad... There was a crank case breather on the back of the fan shroud and it appeared to be overflowing.

We decided to put the engine on a test stand and do a compression check. Fortunately, we had modified a shopping cart with an extra transmission housing for just such a thing! We covered the vitals (oil cooler holes) and bolted it up. The needle wouldn't move on #3! :shock: We tested #4 to test the compression tester. 150psi...ruh rho raggy...

While unbolting the head, we all took guesses at the surprised that awaited us. Hole in the piston? Collapsed rings? Bad valve? I guess nothing, trying to be optimistic. I was wrong! The top of the piston was beat the hell and a chunk was missing. There was a hole burned in the side of the piston. Spirits dropped. What can we do? Where would we find an oversized set of pistons and cylinders? What about a good set of heads that aren't beat up that have been machined to match this sized pistons and cylinders? Seth had a set of brand new 90.5s. I had one good head left from the pair that his first replacement head came from. Seth said his pistons were at his buddy's shop, which wouldn't be open until 5am.

Then we discussed why this was happening to #3? First a blown plug, then a broken valve spring, now a hole in the piston. Something wasn't right. Ok, so we patch him up and send him on his way. What happens if he breaks down again? He only has 1,500 miles to get home! We should put a different (and STOCK) motor in his trike for him.

I called around and asked everyone in the club that goes to meetings. Its a very structured group and the kingpin is a guy named Zen. He is, like his name implies, very zen. He is the lifeblood of the club and when a tough decision needs to be made, getting him on board typically swings the masses. He is also a very giving soul. We had just put on a car show in April that raised money for the local Ronald McDonald House and each year, an engine builder donates an engine to be raffled off. Now, each year, we give out 150 trophies and after last year's fiasco of rain during the award ceremony and trying to ship trophies all summer, we made the decision that you have 30 days to claim trophies, prizes, awards, giveaways, etc. When I shipped out the trophies two weeks ago, I had to step over the giveaway motor in our club trailer. :roll: Now, why would someone not come claim a free motor that they won?

So I talked to all of the other club officers. Everyone pretty much agreed that we were "covered" as far as the unclaimed motor was forfeited, but that doesn't absolve us from a bad rap if dude shows back up asking for his motor. Every year, when the engine is given away, the builder offers to buy the motor back for cash from the winner for around $400. We decided that putting a price on the motor was the best thing we could do and, if the winner shows up, offer him a cash settlement and say that we couldn't store the motor indefinitely. The club that doesn't go to meetings said they would offer $500 for it so that Hal could get on down the road.

We snuck off while Hal was sitting there trying to figure out what he was going to do. We picked up the unclaimed motor around 9pm and got backed up to the shop door. When we carried it in and set it down, his eyes lit up and he was asking what is THAT?!?! One of the guys said, that's your new motor. He took his glasses off and made a comment about trying hard not to cry.

We threw it up on the test stand and it fired right off! We ended up having to swap his clutch on, switch exhausts and reconfigure the fuel pump (mechanical vs electrical) and the throttle cable. We adjusted the valves and she fired right up and purred really nicely. He pulled out of the shop around 1:00 in the morning and headed on down the road.

I hope that's the last time I work on that trike. I don't know what more I have to give!
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Fri Jun 03, 2016 2:38 pm

Some more photos
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99 VX
96 Rodeo Build thread
1975 FJ40
69 Beetle
84 Westfalia
70 VW bus turned camper
86 VW Diesel Golf
07 Frontier V6 6 speed
1999 4Runner Limitee- wife's
2004 Genuine Stella Scooter
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N law
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby Von » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:11 pm

N law wrote:I hope that's the last time I work on that trike. I don't know what more I have to give!


My Dad was always fond of reminding me that "No good deed goes unpunished." It's true.

But this is a good deed that will reward you in the long run... but yeah, get him home quick before you run out of fingers.
2004 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP
1990 Trooper 2.8 V6 Auto (Wrecked... sent to the crusher)
1993 Shortbed, regular cab Z71 (Donated to step-son #2)(deceased, parted out)(Forums for GM and fullsize 4X4s suck... so I'm still hanging out here)
1965 Ford Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe 289 & 4 speed (some assembly required)
1968 Kaiser M715, Chevy 350/700r4, stock NP200 and 5.87 gears... prepping for Ford 390/T-18/divorced NP205 transplant.. .just because.
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:20 pm

Haha, that's not my finger! That belongs to the big ugly guy sitting on the blue bucket!

I feel like no good deed goes unpunished fits in this scenario, but if we can make it work out, I'll sleep better. He has plans to do the ride next year, but on a bike with a warranty!
99 VX
96 Rodeo Build thread
1975 FJ40
69 Beetle
84 Westfalia
70 VW bus turned camper
86 VW Diesel Golf
07 Frontier V6 6 speed
1999 4Runner Limitee- wife's
2004 Genuine Stella Scooter
Image
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N law
Almost Joe Isuzu
 
Posts: 2579
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:30 pm
Location: Chattanooga, TN
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Re: A disabled Veteran's Trike

Postby N law » Sun Jun 05, 2016 10:48 pm

1500 miles later and Hal is back home! He had one issue with it running rough at idle and found out that the timing was off. Then he had the points close up so be readjusted them. He also noted that there were zero oil leaks which is huge for a bug motor!
99 VX
96 Rodeo Build thread
1975 FJ40
69 Beetle
84 Westfalia
70 VW bus turned camper
86 VW Diesel Golf
07 Frontier V6 6 speed
1999 4Runner Limitee- wife's
2004 Genuine Stella Scooter
Image
User avatar
N law
Almost Joe Isuzu
 
Posts: 2579
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:30 pm
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Has thanked: 17 times
Have thanks: 63 times


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