Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I submitted ten puns to a contest, hoping one would win.

But no pun in ten did.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

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Gulf. Oil.

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By Daniel J. Linss - Editor

Jeff Botelho has dreamed of building a convertible roadster truck since he was 15 years old. Over the 20 years since then, he has driven trucks, bought and sold trucks, ran the family trucking business, and learned how to visualize something and then create it with his own hands. When it comes to trucks and trucking, this guy has seen and done it all. So, when he was invited to participate in the Big-Rig Build-Off in Louisville, KY (an annual competition pitting truck builders against each other), he figured now was his chance to put all of his skills to use – and to finally build his convertible. But, as you can imagine, it was no easy task.

The "crazy" idea of building a convertible big rig came to Jeff and his brother Jim after a driver rolled one of their company-owned Petes on its side. Jeff was 15 and his brother was 18. They thought it would be cool to remove the wrecked sleeper, replace the hood, and chop the top off the cab. When they went to their dad to see what he thought of the idea, he dismissed them as "young and naive" boys. But Jeff never gave up on the idea. Later, when a driver rolled over his 1991 Peterbilt 377, Jeff bought the rig and sold the components – but he kept the cab, because you never know when you might want to build a convertible truck or something.

Last year, Jeff was invited to participate in the 2006 build-off but had to decline because of previous commitments to customers. Jeff really wanted to participate, but business is business. And that was that – until our photo shoot with him last year in Pismo Beach for our May 2006 cover. After the shoot, we gave Jeff a few 10-4 t-shirts that just happened to feature a chopped KW wide hood, sitting by the beach, with the top down and bikini-clad babes around it. He took one look at that shirt and decided he'd better build his dream before someone else does.

Hoping to be invited to the 2007 build-off, Jeff really started thinking seriously about his hot rod truck. A few months later, he purchased a burned 1998 Pete and then sold everything off of it except the frame rails and suspension, thinking maybe he could use them later. When Bud from Stars & Stripes called to officially invite Jeff to participate in the upcoming build-off, he was more than ready. He now had a "reason" to build his crazy roadster, and a few vital pieces sitting in his yard to help get him started.

The rules of the build-off stipulate that participants only have 90 days to complete their project. By the time Jeff actually began working, he was already down to 83 days. With help and inspiration from his hot rod, low-rider and custom mini-truck friends, Jeff worked out a concept for his convertible that included an air bag system, a wild paint job and a totally "California" look.

After pulling the chassis of the burned Pete into their shop in Los Banos, CA and stripping it down to nothing but the two frame rails, leaving only the front and rear cross members and the junk suspension to hold the wheels, they loaded it up and took it to Solo Customs in Patterson, CA, where it stayed for 53 days while it was getting a custom 4-link suspension and air bag system (similar to hydraulics in a low-rider). Owner John Chamoro and his assistant Todd Sinclair, with help every day from Jeff and his friend Joey Jorge, transformed what started out as something that looked ready for the scrap pile into something truly amazing. The chassis and suspension was by far the most challenging endeavor of the project – and the most time-consuming.

To prepare the frame for the suspension, which would allow the truck to raise up or (more importantly) drop down eight inches at the touch of a button, a notch had to be cut into the frame over each of the rear wheels. All of the pieces for the 4-link setup, including the brackets, rods and bushings, had to be hand-built. The suspension was mounted on the outside of the frame rails to allow for maximum travel. The air system that lifts and drops the truck features four small air compressors, mounted between the frame rails, in addition to the big one mounted on the engine, and four extra air tanks, in addition to the two that operate the air brakes. The truck's stock compressor takes the system up to 120 psi, and then a one-way check valve allows the four extra pumps to take the four rear tanks up to 200 psi without affecting the two front tanks. And there is no waiting for this system to "air up" like most trucks – it happens immediately. With a 9-switch remote controller in the cab, the front and rear of the truck can go up, down, left or right.

While the suspension was being built, Jeff and the crew started boxing out the frame rails with quarter-inch steel plating – which meant that every detail of the frame had to be figured out in advance. Once the frame was boxed, there was no getting inside (with the exception of removable "inspection plates" at each wheel for easy access to the plumbing and electrical systems). When it was all done, every fitting, pipe, hose, bracket and component between the rails was either painted, plated, pinstriped or polished. Even the air lines going into the brakes were "hard-lined" with polished stainless tubing.

To get the truck even lower, Jeff opted for low-profile car tires. He took his ten aluminum wheels to Santa Clara, CA where his cousin, Alan Botelho, runs a machine shop. Using a large lathe, Alan machined off the inner bead of each rim to accommodate the high-performance Pirelli 305/35 ZR24 tires. Jeff had a hard time finding rear fenders with the proper radius, but he eventually discovered that a set of old Hogebuilt half-fenders for a medium duty bobtail truck (which he just happened to have laying around) were perfect. But he only had a set of two, and he needed four. Jeff called his friend Bob at Cherokee Truck Parts and begged him to "pull some strings" with Hogebuilt, and three days later Jeff had another exact set of half fenders delivered to his front door. He then fabricated custom brackets and welded them to the axles.

Apparently, the latest craze in custom cars includes getting it low enough to drag the frame on the ground – a practice called railing – which produces a light show of sparks as the car (or truck) rolls down the road. Jeff wanted to be able to drag his light bar, so he fabricated it out of thick steel plate and then welded it directly to the frame. He also attached a strip of titanium to the portion of the bar that would drag. Titanium produces a brighter light, more sparks and can take a lot of abuse. Within the light bar, he mounted six small oval-shaped taillights (with the Peterbilt logo laser cut into them) that are completely flush with the bar. The process was too extensive to get into all the details here, but the end result is a perfectly smooth light bar with six lights and no bolts or gaps whatsoever.

When it came time to install the drivetrain, Jeff decided it would be easier to downsize the motor and transmission than to deal with the size and weight issues larger models would create, so he dropped in a small, chromed-out Cat 3116, (tweaked to 300 hp) and an Allison automatic transmission. This change forced him to make custom motor mounts and brackets, as well as a few other "adjustments" under the hood. Not liking the way the factory steering box looked, Jeff replaced it with a hydraulic steering system out of a Caterpillar loader. He then covered the firewall with a sheet of polished stainless steel.

Now that the chassis and drivetrain were complete, it was time to start working on the cab, which, of course, came from that wrecked 1991 Pete 377 that had been sitting in his yard for nine years. Jeff brought it into the shop late one night and then just sawed off the roof. Dave Jones of Jones Performance fabricated custom fiberglass fenders for Jeff and Mike at Roadworks provided the side hood panels and a few other custom body pieces. Jeff did some fancy work on the windshield, too. After chopping eight inches off the top of the windshield mask, he cut it loose from the cowl and slid the bottom center of the windshield forward two inches to give it more of a "V" shape, then pushed the top back one inch to give it more lean, and then riveted it all back together. Adrian Rocamontes of ACW Specialties (last year's build-off winner), built the body skin panels for the back of the cab. Now complete, the cab and hood were almost ready for paint.

With only one week to go, the cab and hood still needed to be painted, the interior needed to be done, and quite a bit of assembly was still required. The five-man crew of painters from Cen Cal Creations, led by Rich Gallindo, did all of the interior, as well as the paint. Rich and his assistants (Will, Kenny, Tony and Chivo) worked their magic in a very short time, creating a unique fiberglass interior that feels much like an airplane cockpit – everything is integrated into a smooth and clean "shell" that wraps around the two leather seats, including the shifter, the air brake knob and a bunch of stereo speakers. There are no gauges in the dash (yet) but there is a flip-out DVD screen audio deck. It's a very simple, sleek interior, complete with a billet steering wheel and custom pedals.

With the interior done, it was finally time for the paint. The painters sprayed the cab and hood "Botelho Blue" like all of Jeff's working trucks, and then covered the fenders with multicolored green and orange flames and skulls. By now, everyone had been working for two or three days straight without any sleep, and it was the day before they were supposed to leave for Kentucky. At that point, they decided that there just wasn't enough time to flame the rest of the truck, so they just started putting it all back together. At noon on Sunday (the next day), they fired up the truck for the very first time and it sounded great. Now, they were beginning to think that they might actually leave on time that day at 4:00 PM.

But when they fired it up again later to load it, the fuel pump took a dump. Jeff made a few frantic phone calls and had a replacement lined up for first thing in the morning (Monday). By noon, the pump was replaced and they fired it up again. Everything seemed fine and then the power steering pump quit working. Jeff was at the end of his rope – exhausted and frustrated, he collapsed into a chair and fell asleep. While he slept, a local Caterpillar mechanic named Harley Duarte showed up and fixed the pump in record time. The guys woke Jeff up, loaded the truck, and then took off for Louisville – and 31 hours later, they were at the show – a little late, and extremely tired, but they made it. Unfortunately, the truck did not win the build-off, but it sure did turn a lot of mid-westerner's heads.

After returning from Kentucky, Jeff had the rest of the truck painted and then we did our photo shoot. What a great time! Special thanks go out to Francisco Murillo for getting the rig ready for the shoot and helping us out all day. Some other folks that Jeff wanted to thank include Tuey Dickerson, Rocky Machado, Paul Gaxiola, Rodel Melgoza, Danny Flores, Jimmy Greer, Junior Coria and Jeff Coria. Jeff also wanted to thank a few other companies that provided parts or services for his truck including PPG Industries, Double JJ Enterprises, Valley Chrome Plating, Addictive Audio and Tri Valley Truck & Glass. Last but not least, Jeff wanted to give special thanks to his wife Rosie and their kids, Taylor and Jeffrey, for putting up with him through all of this, as well as his sister Dianna Alexander, his brother Jim, and his parents, Jim and Alvina Botelho.

Jeff is proud to say that he will never forget the look on his father's face when they wheeled the truck out of the shop for the first time and dropped it on the rocks in their gravel yard (hence the "On The Rocks" name they gave it). It was a "Kodak moment" in Jeff's life that he recorded with his own eyes, not a camera. And after everything was said and done, Jeff handed the keys of the truck to his dad and said, "It's yours." But his dad did not accept it – not yet, at least. He told Jeff, "You worked hard on that truck – go out and have some fun with it, and when you're done, if you still want to, you can give it to me then." Being a man of his word, I'm sure Jeff will honor that deal – but not before he has a lot of fun with his finally-realized dream – a convertible big rig roadster. No, it wasn't easy, but fulfilling a dream never is – that's why so few of us ever do it. But win or lose, Jeff Botelho will always be a champion in our book!


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Just a pretty flooded meadow....


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Plain Clothes Officer Pulls Gun on Man for Speeding; Police Threaten to Jail Him for Recording the Incident

Whatever you do, don’t speed to work in Maryland. Apparently, the cops in that state believe the appropriate way to handle speeding is to use an unmarked car with no lights or sirens to cut off the speeder, forcing them to stop, then jump out the car with no uniform or badge and fail to identify them self while he pulls out his gun and orders you off your vehicle. That’s what happened to Anthony Graber, who admitted to speeding. He was cited for doing 80 MPH on the highway. Fortunately for us, the story gets more interesting.

Anthony was riding with a video camera attached to his helmet to record his venture. It was still recording when it caught the cop acting like a thug.

The full video...

The incident itself raises some interesting questions. First of all, the officer here comes off as an impulsive thug, not the image we should expect of our law enforcement officers. Second, as a concealed pistol license holder, I would probably interpret this officers actions as those of a car jacker or road raging murderer. If this happened to me or someone else who was carrying, it might have resulted in the officer and/or the motorist being shot. Not wise, officer.

But it gets worse…

A month after this incident cops found the video Anthony posted on youtube. Apparently furious that their behavior was exposed, they showed up to his home with a warrant for his arrest for felony recording without consent from the other party. Maryland is a two-party consent state for audio recording, but that is usually never upheld when there is no reasonable expectation of privacy – such as on the side of a busy road during a traffic stop. They also confiscated his cameras and computers. Anthony now faces five years in prison, but it seems likely the case will simply be thrown out. We’ll see. I think Anthony might be looking at a fat paycheck at the end of this.

After spending 26 hours in the Baltimore County Jail, Anthony Graber still doesn’t understand what he did wrong.

Sure, the 24-year-old man admits to speeding on his motorcycle, but does that merit having a plainclothes cop pull a gun on him?

Does that merit six state troopers raiding his parents’ home and seizing four computers at the crack of dawn?

Does that merit getting charged with a felony and threatened with five years in prison?

Of course it doesn’t

This is nothing but an obscene case of police intimidation. A Constitutional violation against a man who has served six years in the Air National Guard and who has never been arrested before.

A knee-jerk reaction from the Maryland State Police after Graber posted the video of the cop pulling a gun on him on Youtube (video is below).

That cop’s name is Joseph David Uhler, in case you were wondering. He has no business wearing a badge.

So how come he’s not being punished?

Well, we already know that answer. He’s above the law. They are above the law. The Maryland State Police Department, that is.

Why else would a judge sign a search warrant, allowing them to raid Graber’s parents home at 6:45 a.m. on a weekday, detaining his entire family for 90 minutes, forbidding his mother from going to work and younger sister from going to school while they rummaged through the family’s personal belongings?

And that judge’s name?

That’s a secret.

“There is no signature from the judge on the paperwork,” Graber said in an exclusive Photography is Not a Crime interview Thursday night, just hours after he was released from jail.

“They told me they don’t want you to know who the judge is because of privacy.

Is this America? Where cops are allowed to violate your Fourth Amendment rights – not to mention your First Amendment right to film them – on the approval of some secretive judge?

Well maybe not all judges agree.

“The judge who released me looked at the paperwork and said she didn’t see where I violated the wiretapping law.”

Ah yes, the wiretapping charge. That old standby that cops use when you happen to videotape them in public while they are on duty when they have absolutely no expectation of privacy.

Sure, the First Amendment supposedly allows us to photograph police in public. Numerous court rulings have determined that.

But now cops have turned to irrelevant wire-tapping charges to crack down against those who video them in public.

Those laws are designed to protect people whose voices are recorded in telephone calls. You know, when you actually have an expectation of privacy.

Fortunately, most judges end up throwing these charges out of court when the cops don’t have an expectation of privacy.

The case against Graber began on March 5 when he was speeding on his 2008 Honda CBR 1000RR motorcycle on Interstate 95. He had a video camera strapped to his helmet and was filming the ride.

He sped past Uhler’s unmarked car, who claimed he was popping a wheelie while traveling 100 mph.

And Uhler was only “visually estimating” his speed. He did not have a radar gun, which usually means it wouldn’t stand up in court.

Graber also admits to speeding past a marked car. However, he never heard any sirens behind him and even at one point in the video where Graber looks back, the only car behind him is Uhler’s unmarked car with no lights.

That was when Graber was already exiting the interstate. When he came to a complete stop behind the other cars at the exit, Uhler cut him off and hopped out of his car with a gun drawn, never flashing a badge and not identifying himself as an officer until several seconds later.

Uhler never mentioned that he pulled out his gun in his report.

But he did mention that he spotted “a strange looking object on the operator’s helmet that was later realized to be a video camera.”

And he did mention that he cited Graber a single citation for traveling 80 mph in a 65 mph zone.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Graber decided to post the video on Youtube, which made Uhler look like a thug.

In fact, if you look at the video, you’ll notice Uhler glance at the marked unit behind Graber and moved his gun behind him, as if trying to hide it from the other officer, before tucking it back into his pocket.

After all, an officer is only supposed to pull out his gun if he believes his life is in danger. Surely, that doesn’t happen with every traffic stop. Does it?

Ten days later, Uhler discovered that Graber posted the video online. Two videos. A longer one without audio and a shorter one with audio.

That prompted Uhler to issue an arrest warrant against Graber, citing that “Graber did not inform Tfc. Uhler that he was recording him by video or audio, thus violating criminal law 10-402(b).”

He also tacked on the charges of “reckless driving” and “negligent driving” to the arrest warrant.

And then six cops raided his parent’s home where Graber is living early one morning.

“They spent 90 minutes there,” he said.

“My mom had to go to work and they wouldn’t let her. My sister had to go to school and they wouldn’t let her.

“I just had gall bladder surgery and had bandages on my stomach.”

In fact, after a phone call to the commissioner, that was the only reason they didn’t arrest him on the spot. They told him he had to turn himself in when he got better, which he did.

“I just wanted to do the right thing,” he said.

When he showed up to the jail, they set his bond at $15,000, which is a little extravagant considering there is a maximum $10,000 fine for a wiretapping conviction.

He spent 26 hours in jail before he was released upon his own recognizance. The judge who released him took one look at the report and said that it didn’t appear he violated the wiretapping law.

“She said, ‘I have no idea why you’re charged with this’,” he said.

In fact, Maryland requires there to be an expectation of privacy in order to make that charge valid, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State courts interpreted laws to protect communications only when parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy

The incident has left Graber with a serious distrust of police.

“I’m now afraid of the police. Afraid of what they can do to me. I’ve never been arrested in my life before this,” he said.

He is now making arrangements to sell his motorcycle because he doesn’t feel comfortable riding it anymore.

And he is waiting for his preliminary trial to see if prosecutors will decide to pursue this case.

And as for Uhler, well he’s still roaming free to terrorize the citizens. Just as he did in Graber’s video.

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One of those side by side atv things ripping up Pike's Peak....

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Best Party Sangria Recipe


* 1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja, Zinfandel, Shiraz)
* 1 Lemon cut into wedges
* 1 Orange cut into wedges
* 1 Lime cut into wedges
* 2 Tbsp sugar
* Splash of orange juice or lemonade
* 2 Shots of gin or triple sec (optional)
* 1 Cup of raspberries or strawberries (may use thawed or frozen)
* 1 Small can of diced pineapples (with juice)
* 4 Cups ginger ale

Pour wine into a large pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the lemon, orange and lime into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges (leaving out seeds if possible) and pineapple then add sugar, orange juice and gin. Chill overnight. Add ginger ale, berries and ice just before serving. If you'd like to serve right away, use chilled red wine and serve over lots of ice. However, remember that the best Sangrias are chilled around 24 hours in the fridge - allowing the flavors to really marinate into each other.