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Yesterday was one of those days that everything just went a little wrong. Maybe it was because I got up before 4 am to drive Trudi to the airport after a hard, hot day on the bike, I don’t know, but nothing seemed to be working well, especially my mind and body.

Anyway, I thought should change the oil in my diesel van. It takes 15 quarts of synthetic oil and by the time you add the new oil filter, it comes to about $125, that is doing it myself. So, it’s about a 10 minute job normally, but not yesterday.

When I got the van a few years ago, the oil plug was partially rounded. So, everytime I removed it, I pay close attention to get the socket on straight and tight. But, not yesterday. Yesterday I just fuckered it up more. And more. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to be able to use the 19mm anymore and the plug was toast. So I went in the garage and got a 24in Rigid pipe wrench to remove it. I got the jaws of the pipe wrench on the plug pretty good and couldn’t believe it wouldn’t come out. That just rounded it more and more.

I sprayed some rust penetrator stuff on the bolt, since it is a steel pan, steel bolt, sans copper washer, and let it sit. I got the pipe wrench on it again and nothing. So, I go downstairs and get the Dremel tool. I took the Dremel and cut the plug to a the size of a 18 mm socket. I tapped it on with a hammer, had a pretty good feel for it and then, nope, it just spun.

Finally, I just ground the bolt down to the size of a 17mm extractor I had. I’m not sure if it was removing the metal that was rusted to the pan or what, but the extractor removed the plug. I haven’t changed the oil since I drove the van up to Cable over Christmas, and that place is white with salt, but come on, that was ridiculous.

I went to the auto parts store to buy and new plug and couldn’t figure out what size I needed. I think it was a 14 x 1.25 pitch, but it didn’t look right. Anyway, I finally called the Ford dealer and they had a plug for $9, so I just drove there.

I got the plug and had the destroyed one with me and when I went to the cashier woman at the dealership, she knows me, she said something about it looks like I had some trouble getting it out. I told her that is is so weird how a 10 minute job can turn into a 2 hours job. And I got no satisfaction out of it at all. I told her the plug has been screwed up since day one, but I blew it initially.

She said it was patience. That the older we get, the less patience we have. We don’t do things as precisely as we used to because we lack patience. I agreed. Plus, I added I didn’t get much of a sense of accomplishment from solving the problem because I knew that I was going to get the plug out.

20 years ago I would have thought of the whole thing as a learning process and really taken some pride in solving the issue. I wouldn’t have thought of it as a waste of my time. I wasn’t patient from the start and that is what started the whole load of extra work.

Patience applies a lot to bike racing, especially when you’re racing alone. Since an individual rider doesn’t usually have a ton of impact on the whole race, that rider needs to allocate his/her energy very efficiently. I’ve met a ton of very, very talented athletics, that raced bikes, that didn’t have any patience. They never got to the next level because of it. They used all their energy, some of it just nervous energy, but most of it real, expended energy, on stupid moves and early breaks that had little chance for success. I felt bad for them because they didn’t have any ability to rein it in and just let the race play out as it normally would. Their impatience made it nearly impossible to get a result.

Anyway, it seems now like I’m always behind doing things. I’m not sure if it is just a perception or I am really behind. I’d think at this time of my life, I would have less stuff to do. It always seems more stuff to do. Maybe I just want to do more stuff, so there is a longer list, I’m not sure, but whatever the reason, the list just keeps getting longer. And I don’t have the patience, it seems, to just do things half-assed. I think I used to be able to decided what needs to be done perfectly and what just needs to get done. Now, when I do something, I want to do it exactly the right way, even if it doesn’t matter than much. Eventually, I just run out of time and do it mediocre because that is all the time I have left to do it. It is frustrating.

Okay, now that I have all that down, I can take a deep breathe. It didn’t help much that I nearly completely fell apart on the club ride last night. I finally just sat on and when they went hard at the end, I sat up. My legs didn’t feel that bad, I just had no energy. I probably need another rest day, off the bike, but sometimes those don’t really turn out to be rest days. Most my projects involve a big amount of physical activity. And the ones that don’t, I tend to just ignore.

Below are a few pictures of the drain plug, so interesting to me and no one else, plus a few old time photos I got from Jim Safford. He’s been taking photos for a long time and said he would send me some more after the Tour of California. I really should get all my pictures and slides turned into digital sometime.

Screwed up drain plug.

Screwed up drain plug.

Extractor that ended up working.

Extractor that ended up working.

New and old plug.

New and old plug.

This photo is from the Tour of Americans.  It's a team time trial, obviously.  I was winning the race at this point.  I ended up 2nd overall to Davis Phinney.

This photo is from the Tour of Americans. It’s a team time trial, obviously. I was winning the race at this point. I ended up 2nd overall to Davis Phinney.

I guess this is from the Tour of Texas.  That is Chris Carmichael behind me.

I guess this is from the Tour of Texas. That is Chris Carmichael behind me.

This is from Sea Otter, late 90's.  Seem a little muddy.

This is from Sea Otter, late 90’s. Seem a little muddy.

This is from Mammoth, early 90's.  I look a little scared.  This wasn't an easy descent.

This is from Mammoth, early 90’s. I look a little scared. This wasn’t an easy descent.

24 thoughts on “Patience

  1. Stu

    Steve, do you still have that red, white, and blue Schwinn frame? Those look so awesome….

  2. J

    you really ought to be using a copper washer and should lube the threads of the plug with the oil. i’m sure you knew that though 😉

  3. becomingblue

    I went through a similar hell trying to get a lug nut off one time. It was one of those anti-theft things. By the time I was done, I must have had 15 different tools around me and my blood pressure was likely off the charts. And I wasn’t having to work under the car to do it. Life’s a journey, ain’t it.

  4. Jeff Werner

    I had success getting my family’s old photos scanned for me at
    They had a -40% off sale at one point so I just threw all my old slides and negatives into a box, shipped them to Scan Cafe, and three weeks later I got them back, plus a download link and CD of all the digital scans. Your decades of photos online would be a venerable archive of American cycling, Steve.

  5. Francisco Mancebo

    v brakes, narrow bars, 26″ wheels (with tubes) and no sleeves. I’ d be terrified

    funny how the atb has developed, we must have been sadists back then. The answers were right under everyone’s nose for a long time – disc brakes, tubeless, wider bars and 29″ wheels. 3 out of the 4 had nothing to do with technology, just convention. Take a modern, $500 29er on that same trail and you’d have a huge grin instead

  6. channel_zero

    I probably need another rest day, off the bike, but sometimes those don’t really turn out to be rest days.

    Are you surprised you fall apart at the end of the local training ride while doing a huge block of volume and probably intensity? Get some rest before your body forces you to rest.

  7. Fergie

    Ah, I remember JogMate. That grey chaulkie protein toothpaste…guess it’s ot aroud anymore…
    Sure you must have a good story or two from that time.
    If you have some left,it might be good to mix in some tile grout!

  8. James Mosley Jr.

    Those Bolle’s that you are wearing on Wheaties Schwinn remind me, of my old Oakley Lights.

  9. PinHead

    I use one. If someone opens it up and I don’t notice an oil slick the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster, I deserve to drive off with no oil in my engine. Someone could just as easily slip under my truck and dislodge a standard bolt with an end wrench if they were hell bent on draining the motor.

  10. Jeff Werner

    I can’t tell if this company’s lack of a marketing budget or brand awareness—the site’s banner literally just says “Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.”—is intentional or not, nor if it makes their Jog Mate product more appetizing and scientifically credible , or less.

  11. ScottO

    I think having your guts twisted in knots and no power is your body trying to force you to rest. And then going and doing a long hard road race…no wonder you fell apart on the training ride.

  12. chris

    Maybe you got dehydrated from running around, and beer and coffee, and bike riding.

  13. mike crum

    be thankful you changed your oil when you did, not after a long 10 hour day.

  14. Howl

    Steve, the last photo should be titled “Big Guns in Malibu” 😉
    For feral kitty, start feeding near an open humane live trap and gradually move the feeding bowl further into the trap as the days go by and be sure and put some catnip in the trap as well. Your vet might have a trap to lend you or the local Humane Society will likely have one. When kitty is finally going all the way inside to eat (used some canned food if necessary to get kitty all the way inside), set the trap door with smelly cat food inside and when kitty is trapped, head to the vet pronto for rabies shots, worming, spay/neuter + a check for ear mites.
    Vet will sedate kitty and s/he will feel pretty good upon waking, so likely will totally forget the trauma.

  15. MV

    If you have a little stick welder you just weld a large nut on the stripped plug.

  16. Brian

    I think you used alot of patience with the drain plug and you did learn some things. In the end, you got the job done when most people would have failed. So, feel good about that. Here’s a some tips for the future oil changes-
    1. Do not overtighten the drain plug. If you need to use a torque wrench to cure yourself of this, then so be it. Look up the torque value. It is not much.
    2. Always make sure the drain plug is in good condition. Make sure the threads are undamaged and not crossthreaded. If the plug threads are in bad shape, you will ruin your drain pan and will have an even bigger and more expensive job on your hands. Also, make sure the portion where the wrench fits is sharp and not rounded or you will be going through this same ordeal again in the future.
    3. Make sure your wrench or socket is the proper size, in good condition and of good quality. Poor quality or worn wrenches and sockets do not fit well and will round off the drain plug. Metric for metric…
    4. Remove all that rusty damaged metal around the drain, clean it and then paint it with a rust preventive paint. RustOleum works good.
    5. Never overtighten the drain plug.
    6. If the vehicle uses an oil filter, change it at the same time and remember to always coat the rubber gasket and threads with oil before installing. Do not overtighten. Hand tight is fine.
    7. There should be a copper, aluminum, or plastic washer that goes under the drain plug and against the drain pan. Use it or you risk cutting into the drain pan with the plug and enduring another wrench tossing ordeal. It also makes the plug easier to remove. No antiseize and no threadlocker anywhere for this job.
    8. Did I mention to not overtighten the drain plug? How about the oil filter?
    9. After you’ve checked for oil leaks, give yourself a reward for a job well done and drink a couple of Coronas.
    10. Do not overtighten anything. Or did I already mention that?


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