Saturday, February 26, 2011


Doug, in a comment on my memorial to Bob Wilson, said that we could fill a blog with Bob stories and I agree. I won't bore you with multiple Bob stories, but I will tell this one.

During the week before Bob died, I was working in California and Bob emailed me to suggest that I give him an email on the weekend if I had some time to talk.

On Saturday afternoon, while at work, I started thinking about the old song, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, and the tune just popped into my head. I hadn't thought about this song since I did a post on it more than a year ago. Here is a cover video of it by Reckless Kelly where the words are pretty easy to understand.

At the end of the workday, I bowed out of dinner with the other guys and went to my room with the idea of talking to Bob. Since the hotel phone is so expensive, I sent him an email to call me at the hotel and found myself perusing the internet for different versions of the Vincent Black Lightning song.

Of course, I never got a call from Bob, he was already gone.

The last verse of the song is when the James, the motorcycle rider is dying. The lyrics to the song go,

Says James "In my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won't do,
Ah, they don't have a soul like a Vincent 52"
Oh he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
Said "I've got no further use for these.
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome,
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home"
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

I think Bob would have rather seen angels on Guzzis or Ducatis, an Ariel is close enough.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Memory of Bob Wilson, 1952 - 2011

On Saturday, Feb 5, 2011, Bob was riding his motorcycle on a group ride in Arizona. Although not riding fast, something happened. Bob low-sided the motorcycle and slid into a guard rail. He died instantly.

Bob has been a good friend for more than 30 years. It is taking me a while to get used to the idea that he is gone.

The last time I talked to Bob, he called to tell me about an wonderful ride he had on his motorcycle. Winter is peak riding season in Arizona and Bob was enjoying the good weather and good riding. Of course, he is gone much too soon, but I have to believe that Bob died doing something he loved. I'm pretty sure that Bob would have said that, if he had to go, this was a pretty good way.

Bob's Moto Guzzi Breva 750

Bob was people person. The chain of friends across the country and around the world is testament to that. Smart, curious about the world, open to learning about other cultures and other people's life experience.

The last 10 years haven't been kind to Bob financially, but if you ask him about it, he would tell you that he wouldn't change it. Living on less taught him how to simplify his life and to value his friends. From a Chinese student friend who was working her way through college in the US to dinners with Dale and Sandy and all of their stories. From his neighbor, the woman Buddist monk to his friend, the New Mexico golf pro and teacher, the people he met and became friends with changed Bob's experience and made him a different person. He would tell me that, if he had stayed at VW, his life would probably have been easier, but he wouldn't know who that guy was, and he wouldn't have missed the experiences for anything.

A small story with pictures to remember Bob by.

When we worked together at VW, Bob was our boss, but he also took a one year assignment in Germany. On the day before he returned from a year away, we decided to pretend that we had been using his office as a parts storage room.

"Hey, why is my office door closed? Why is everyone hanging around the office watching me?"

"What are you guys up to?"

"What the heck?"

I will miss him.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Waterford People

Here are a bunch of pictures that were on the Waterford disc from my father. The first is a picture of the first lap of a race taken coming out of Skeet House and headed to Hilltop. The Porsche leading the pack is Vic Skirmants. Back then, he was just a good Waterford racer, but later on, he became an icon to the bathtub Porsche set.

The first day of driver's school, I met Greg and Grant, two guys from London with a well prepared Titan. That first weekend they were tent camping at the track and being sprayed by errant shotgun pellets from the club's skeet range. I thought that was a pretty poor way to spend a race weekend, so by the next race, they were camping in my house instead.

Greg is the man with the Labatt's hat. Grant is guy with the 7 Up bottle. I can't help but notice that we were all running around without shirts and otherwise minimum clothing. I don't remember it that way, but it must have been a very hot period when we were racing. Just think of the fun of putting on Nomex long underwear, a two layer racing suit, a balaclava, helmet, and gloves for the race.

By the next season, they both started showing up with girlfriends which soon became wives. Somehow, I never took the hint and was always the bachelor host. Here is Liz, a key part of this crew. I should have one of Grant's girl, but oh well.

A little cheesecake from Grant.

Now for the Chrysler group, a few of you will remember Kim Lyons, a very smart man, now retired. Kim spent a few years engineering a Lamborgini Minardi in F1 for Chrysler. When he came back, he made and published the first SAE paper on an automatically shifted manual transmission that is the forerunner of current high tech transmission. He used a Neon transaxle case with March F1 gears and shafts inside.

And of course, a young Dave Dobry. I've often wondered how Dave manages to look so young in retirement. Now I realize that he looked even younger when in his 20's.

As for how these pictures ended up on the same disc, I don't know. Dan Champney has been a friend since high school and helped me crew the race car. The first shot is Dan from that period. The second shot is Dan from a later period.

Finally, I couldn't get away without showing a picture of an Opel GT in race clothing. My father bought an Opel GT at my urging when I was turning 16. Actually, I tried to talk him into a Lotus Super 7, but the Opel was a GM car,so technically legal for him to drive as a company car. Together, we had a lot of fun with that car, so it was nice to see someone racing one years later.

I guess that as I post this, I have missed a warehouse open house. This will have to substitute for a walk down memory lane.