Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Photographers always seem to snap the shutter when you are at your worst. Have something go wrong and the shutterbugs come runnin'.

I found these old pictures, taken by my Dad, while digging around looking for a lost software disc. They were mostly taken from 1985 at Waterford racetrack when I was competing in F-Ford.

The amazing thing is that it was more than 25 years ago. Ouch.

If you just looked at the pictures, you would think I was breaking down all the time. This is me coming home on a rope. If I remember correctly, we forgot to tighten a hose clamp in the fuel system. On the pace lap, gasoline started pouring out of the fuel cell and into the bottom of my seat. My ass was burning from the chemical burn (no fire) by the time I was half way around the pace lap. I pulled off and watched the festivities from a corner station.

Actually, I think I finished almost all of my races. I don't remember what happened here, but all four wheels are on the car, so it couldn't have been too serious. Yes, that's me in my spiffy driving suit with sharp red accent down the pants leg.

I pulled in this picture of my friend Greg, just to show that I'm not the only one to come home on a hook. Here the photographer got my better side. I'm the one with my butt to the camera, hariy legs, and a sunburned back.

Greg's car is a Titan Mk 6c and he and I were very evenly matched. Waterford had/has a great family atmosphere. If one of us had a problem, everyone you knew, including your competitors, jumped in to help.

Greg was a great driver but it took him a little while to get used to formula cars. He had been a rally driver and liked to back a car into a corner. That worked great on gravel, but really scrubbed the speed off on pavement.

Here is the start of a race. Again the photographer makes it look like my Lola is last, but in reality, the cars ahead of me are in a different class running slicks and I am on the pole of the radial tire F-Fords. Note the massive power squat as my huge 105 Hp engine accelerates.

This should be the checkered flag picture with me winning my class in the race. Unfortunately, the checkered flag isn't visible in the picture.

My car is a Lola T440 from the late 70's that I picked up for a song because it was in boxes. The radial tire class was great because the tires were weak enough that you could power slide the car around, even with the 105 Hp, pushrod 4 cylinder engine. Also, the tires lasted 1.5 seasons and the engine just needed the oil changed and the valves lapped at the end of the season.

A Future Racer.

This is the son of one of the mechanics from work. I hope he enjoyed himself, I know that I did.

A couple of other notes about the picture. You can see the radial tires, BFG Comp TAs. Also, the steering rack is raised about an inch with the body work bumping up to match. I needed the clearance for my shins. Finally, notice the silver VW pickup truck in the background. It was nice to be able to tow my race car with a little truck like that. That truck served me well, including a big move from Michigan to California.

The next time, I will pull up some people pictures and show what time and my Dad's camera did to some faces you may know.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stories Come from Everywhere

This has already been a special week. The beginning included part of Bob's visit and all the social activity that just naturally come with Bob. This week, we also celebrated my father's 90th birthday although it was like pulling teeth to get him to do more than go to lunch. I asked him what he had planned for his next 90 years and he just laughed.

This surprising story came from a chat in the locker room at the health club. I've often exchanged pleasantries with an older gentleman with a French accent. Today, I mentioned my father's 90th birthday and he said that he was only 1 and 1/2 years behind him. He asked if Papa was in any wars and I mentioned his role as a pilot instructor in WW II. At this point, my French friend told the following story.

He was 18 years old and living in Normandy when the Nazi troops arrived. There was a lot of activity in his village because the Germans were building the coastal defenses. He tried to stay out of the way of the Germans, but some soldiers, seeing him as a young man and a possible threat grabbed him and threw him down on the road in his village. They threatened to shoot him, but he was lucky and they let him go.

At one point, a tank was rolling through the village and was being guided by only one soldier on the ground in the front. To express protest, he grabbed some red paint and a brush and painted a red 'V' on the back of the tank. He got away with it, but realized later how stupid it was. The Nazis could have blamed anyone for his prank. Realizing that he was at risk from the Germans, he left home and moved to Paris where he thought he could disappear into the large city. But he still had to keep running as the Germans were now looking for him. Apparently, more than once he had to run from the Gestapo. Leaving Paris, he moved to a farm a few hours from Paris to live with relatives. He stayed there until liberated. While at the farm, an American pilot bailed out of his plane and was parachuting to the farm. Unfortunately, German soldiers shot at him from the ground and he was dead when he landed.

My French friend considers himself very lucky. He has two cousins who were not so lucky. One cousin was sent to a concentration camp for helping hide an Allied pilot. He never returned. Another was sent to a concentration camp in Germany and came back paralyzed on the right side. Apparently, a subject for German medical experiments.

It is so amazing to hear the stories of the great generation. I wonder how this Frenchman ended up retired in Chelsea.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Favorite Roads of 2010

2010 was an amazingly busy year. Amongst all the hustle, I managed to get to a few favorite roads, some new, some old friends. I decided to pick the top 3, along with maps of each. I wish I had pictures to better tell the story, but if the road is good enough, its hard to stop and take the picture.

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Number 3 is a bit of a cheat. Unfortunately, its not available to most of you, as it is a test road on a proving ground. In this case, Nissan's Arizona proving grounds and the road is called the "Marketability Road". In fact, most of Nissan PG is pretty featureless and totally flat. In the case of the "Marketability Road" they dug some small valleys and used the removed dirt to make small hills. The result is a road that combines bumps and curves, dips and yumps in a very entertaining way. Probably the SRT guys with their adaptive damping went the fastest, but even the van, with the addition of some grippy tires, was a hoot.

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Number 2 is an old friend up in Northern California. Cal Hwy 128 from Cloverdale to Mendicino is a wonderful, flowing, curvy road, but the best part is the scenery. It changes from rolling green hills, to forested mountains, to vineyards, to virgin redwood stands, and a rocky coast with cliffs crashing into the ocean. I was lucky enough to take this highway on a beautiful day in March on my new motorcycle, the ZRX.

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My absolute favorite of the year was one of those unexpected finds on the way home from down south. Kentucky Hwy 89 is 30 miles of empty, ever changing, and challenging road that rolls through the Daniel Boone National Forest. I rode it on the KLR in early fall and there were just enough leaves on the road to tell you that no one had been there for a while. My passing blew them away. The road starts narrow and following the edge of a flood plain in a narrow valley with a river wandering along the bottom. A little later, the road picks up a little width and the curves get tighter as it climbs into hills and to McKee, the only town along the route.

Leaving the town, it starts climbing and crosses over two small mountain ranges before flowing into a bigger town and the end of the road.

I hope the new year brings you new adventures and new favorite roads.