Well, it’s been a busy week! I finally got the new transmission in the Subaru the other day, after another trip back to Portland for more parts. For the first 100 miles or so, it was really stiff and noisy and not shifting smoothly, and I was starting to wonder when my bad car luck would end, if ever. Then, I guess the oil got to all the little places inside that it needed to and things quieted down somewhat and the shifting got much better. So, other than a host of other small problems like any car with over a quarter million miles on it might be expected to have, I have a decent car for daily driving again. Whew!

Here’s the new clutch all installed just before the transmission goes back in. The old clutch fork was just about worn through from lack of grease, and the axles were all loose and wobbly. I replaced those too, and now, with a quieter transmission, I can hear the noisy wheel bearings. Heh heh…

clutch cover

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The other big project this last week or so was getting shiitake logs inoculated. I went out into a little corner of woods by my barn and cleared out a bunch of small diameter alder, and cut it into 42″ lengths. Shannon and the girls stacked it up neatly and I ordered the sawdust spawn from Northwest Mycological Consultants in Corvallis, OR. It came about a week ago, and after I helped my neighbor Levi with his logs, I spent a day with Alice working on my logs and we got through one bag of spawn and about three dozen logs. Yesterday, Levi came over and we knocked out the rest of the spawn in a couple of hours. I still have some logs left over, so I will probably order another bag of spawn, maybe maitake, or one of the many oyster mushroom strains that are available.

It feels good to have gotten those things done, and just in time, since my work season is about to start in earnest. The first Elderhostel kayak tour of the season started Sunday night.

alder logs

I searched all over the place for another engine for my diesel VW, but I found nothing that I could use. I will eventually rebuild this one, but in the short term, I need something to drive besides the big truck. So back to car shopping for me. I decided that I wanted a wagon, and after the snowy cold winter we had here, and all the trips I made to Astoria over snow covered K-M Mountain, I decided to get an all wheel drive wagon. I considered Toyota All-Tracs, but they aren’t easy to find, and neither are parts for them. Subaru, on the other hand, has been making 4WD and AWD cars for a long time and Subaru wagons are pretty easy to come by. Plus, out of the seventy-odd cars I’ve owned in my life (truly! I counted them!), I’ve never yet owned a Subaru, so it was time.

My meager budget, though, narrowed the field considerably. I found a few beater Subarus on Seattle Craigslist for $1000 or under, but only one person would return my emails, so I caught a ride up north with my brother and bought this beauty for $860.

my new car

It has 255 thousand miles on it, which is a lot, but not necessarily fatal for a Toyota or a Subaru. This one had commuted from Roslyn to Seattle 4 days a week for years, so the mileage was mostly highway. The interior and body are pretty straight, the engine runs great, but the transmission has a strange noise in second gear. Which is how I managed to buy it for only $860.

This car drives great and it fits me perfectly; everything is in just the right place, unlike some other cars I’ve owned. But that second gear problem needed some attention, so I changed out the fluid to see what was up in there. On the drainplug magnet was a bunch of metal filings along with a few larger pieces. So this thing has a bad bearing and bad bearings don’t usually fix themselves. Fortunately, this transmission was way easier to find than a replacement for the Jetta was. The U-Pull-It yard on SE Foster in Portland had a half dozen manual transmission Legacies, and they only want $90 exchange for a transmission. So on Thursday, I made a pilgrimage to the wrecking yard.

u-pull it yard

I should say a few things here about my relationship with wrecking yards. When I was in high school, I used to drive out to the wrecking yards on weekends on the pretext of needing a part for my ’61 Ford pickup, and then spend the day just wandering around looking at cool old cars. I learned a lot about engines and transmissions this way. Later on, I started working in wrecking yards when I was 20 years old, and by the time I was 25 it had become my main career. I worked both as a “dismantler” and a parts counter guy. I also liked to take pictures in wrecking yards, and I once came across a very old yard in the Portland area that was just stuffed full of old European cars. I took a lot of cool pictures in that one.

But today, I had to stay more focused on the task at hand, so I didn’t get a lot of cool pictures. I found a Legacy wagon like mine with a transmission that appeared to have been rebuilt at some point, and the fluid inside was sparkling clean, so I set to it and a couple of hours later had this transmission on the ground.

new transmission

I also rounded up a bunch of spare power window switches and whatnot, a couple of new door handles and latches to replace sticky ones, a pair of door panels to replace the tattered ones in the back seat, a new speedometer head and a few parts for my brother’s Camry wagon. While removing a rear hatch handle, I found the remains of this automatic transmission in the back seat. A side note to Subaru owners: all the manual transmission Legacies in the yard were wrecked, but the automatic Subarus were not. Hmmm….

transmission parts