Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Surfing Chicago

24 August 2007
I’m in Chicago for a few days, waiting for Diane to return from a “girl trip” to Colorado. I’m holed up at the Four Seasons which is a short distance from the beach on Lake Michigan. So I planned to do a lot of paddling. Turns out that you can’t launch a surfboard from the beach that’s right at the north end of Michigan Avenue. I carried my Starboard 12’6″ down the tail end of the “Magnificent Mile” past Bloomingdales and Chanel, the Hotel Drake and onto the beach. Walked across the sand, tossed the board in and jumped on. I planned to paddle out to the breakwater and perhaps the big water intake that’s way out in the lake–they looked interesting. As I paddled I heard faint noises behind me, turned around and saw a flotilla of lifeguards in rowboats chasing after me, rowing as hard as they could. Of course, I was pulling away like they were at anchor.

But I turned around and paddled back to see what all the excitement was about. I don’t really want a run in with the Chicago cops–they have a certain reputation. I figured that might be a possibility if I dusted off their lifeguards.

Informed by a breathless kid that a park about four miles away was Montrose, the only beach that allowed surfboards, I went back to the Four Seasons, got my truck and Sam the Gay Dog, and headed there. Turned out to be a good choice. It’s a good place to paddle and there’s a dog park on the beach so Sam could get a run, try to screw every dog he saw ( Sam is actually more indiscriminate than gay), roll in dead stuff and run around in the water.

Turns out people windsurf from this beach quite a bit. Next day I went back at about eleven and rigged my Superfreak 8.0 after a half hour of paddling. The wind was shifty but strong. I don’t have a wetsuit or a harness with me. Turns out Lake Michigan is pretty frickin’ cold when you descend past the top few inches. I sailed a pretty long time considering I didn’t have a harness. I was about to quit when a new bunch of windsurfers came out and started asking about my board. They were all on fat Starboard boards with big slalom sails. I sailed with them for about an hour, then the wind started picking up and a rain squall went by.

The wind shifted to straight offshore, so I had a pretty tough time getting back, with the wind climbing steadily, and big gusts occasionally stretching my arms to the limit (okay, probably past the limit, my shoulders hurt like hell today). I was wishing for a harness and gave up on trying to get where I wanted to be and just aimed for shore. As it turned out, a fortuitous shift in the wind gave me enough angle on the port tack to get back to exactly my launch point. I pulled the rig out and started stowing stuff as the wind continued to rise.

I had just got into the truck and headed out to look for lunch when the wind rose suddenly to near hurricane force. I found a restaurant, ordered a beer and some ribs. and watched the war outside. The wind came up to a level that shook the building. Trees started falling. The rain was so heavy it looked like someone was playing a firehose on the windows.

I sat there warm and dry, contemplating what my evening would have been like if I hadn’t headed in. I figured I’d have been in Michigan by midnight. Long walk back. I hope the other windsurfers did okay, they were headed out further when I decided to head in. I told the lifeguards they were still out there when I left the beach. I assume they’re okay–nothing on the news about them, and the storm is headline news in Chicago.

First Minneapolis when the bridge went down, now Chicago when a violent storm knocks down trees that have stood for fifty years. Hmmm.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Amazing Car

12 August 2007
I really have my doubts about writing this–I’m feeling a bit superstitious about how good this trip has been going. But I’ll knock on wood and toss some Heineken over my shoulder.

Okay, that didn’t work very well.

What an amazing car Peyote has been. I can’t think of another car that could have done this expedition with such grace. Not only is the car welcomed anywhere, and our paddock constantly visited by people fascinated by the car and its history, but it’s performed beyond anyone’s expectations. Even mine and I started off amazed by it. It’s pretty much flogged every competing car it possibly could have beaten, and many, many cars that it should not have stood a chance against.

I really wish I understood why, but the more people know about making cars perform and handle, the bigger a mystery Peyote is. There is nothing about it that should enable this level of performance. Nothing all that trick in its motor, nothing magic in the suspension, it’s not light or sleek. It’s just fast.

Beyond that, it has stayed together while being driven at its limits for more than fifteen events–at least 5o races, qualifiers, warmups, test and tune days, and practice sessions–probably more like 70. It raced all last year without major work, and all of the All Aluminum Tour thus far.

In all that time it’s used up four sets of tires. Two sets of Hoosier Vintage TDs last year, a set of Hoosier Speedsters and Hoosier DOT radials for the last half of last year and most of the AllAluminumTour. I got a new set of Speedsters at the Kohler at Road America, and I suspect they’ll last past the end of the tour.

Most of the stuff that caused problems were my own silly mistakes: Mounting a fan using the stock through-the-radiator mounts (wore a hole in the radiator), mounting the same fan in the mouth of the radiator air inlet (blocked off airflow and caused overheating).

One throttle cable broke, the driveshaft bearings went south, I changed the oil a few times, swapped out a couple of gratuitous sets of spark plugs that were probably just fine, at Brainerd it needed to have a clutch hydraulic line repaired, and that’s it. The bins of parts I brought with me remain untouched. Not so much as a set of points, a condenser, a distributor cap. Sure, I’m chasing a high-speed miss that bugs me, and reverse gear is toast. But it is still race-ready, still competitive, still running as fast and hard as anyone could expect it to.

You’ve got to love a car like this. We’ll see how it does for the rest of the tour, but I’d bet it will continue to amaze me, right up to the CSRG race at Sears. What a car.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA I’m in Hell

Well, not really, but I’m not used to being so constrained. You pretty much need to watch kids all the time or they’ll disappear and go play with an electrical distribution panel or find a circular saw somewhere. I don’t remember my Mom worrying this much about us–she’d shove us out the door about age two and say “be back for the first day of school”.

I don’t know why that seemed so safe and acceptable then. We played cowboys and Indians in the back of Ringers Playground, on rock outcroppings that people would use for technical climbing today. We dug boards for our forts from salvage piles full of rusty nails and ancient drainpipes. Tetanus? That was probably the least of it. And as the Catholic church has amply demonstrated, there were plenty of predatory perverts around back then, there must have been secular ones, they couldn’t all have gone to seminary school. For that matter, I wonder when all the Protestant “youth pastors” are going to start showing up in court. I always thought those guys were strange. And what about all those weird “assistant scoutmasters”. But all I knew about was the occasional flasher, and that you shouldn’t take candy from strangers. I don’t think the word got around much.

Okay, I’m wandering, but now for better or worse we’re suspicious of anyone that takes more than one glance at the kids, and we want to shield them from all the hideous crap that I did to myself and others (like nearly burning our house down with terrible regularity, and electrocuting myself at least once a month).

James is easy–one word and he’ll back off from whatever he’s doing, though Diane had to remind him twice to stop leaning on big, buzzing box clearly marked “High Voltage”. Shea seems to have the survival instincts of a lemming. If you yell at him while he’s doing something potentially dangerous he’ll immediately try to undertake the most dangerous scenario. Tell him a lamp is hot and he immediately grabs the hottest part. He’ll run full speed down a steep ramp with a stone wall at the end, doing crazy feet and wagging his head to minimize any control skills he might possess. Climb to the least stable part of any structure. Leap in front of horses, wagons, and bicycles.

I feel like Spiderman, constantly deflecting falling beams, grabbing up falling bodies in mid-air, intercepting bicycles with my body. So if you bump into me at the race track next weekend, and the happy-go-lucky Bill seems a little haggard and haunted, don’t be concerned. I’ll recover. I’m not raising these kids, this is just a vacation. Ha. Ha. A VACATION.

For right now, however, I’m trying to decide if 1:20 is too early for a Martini.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Faster Grandpa, Faster

Okay, time for a beer. Maybe two. I love these kids, but…

We were a little lazy this morning, got up around nine and went to the Breakfast Buffet. Diane and I aren’t getting our fifteen bucks worth. Fruit and a bowl of oatmeal is probably not part of the model. But it’s easy, close, the boys like it, and it doesn’t require cleverness or decisive action, which I’m pretty damned short of right now.

We went to Fort Mackinac, which has an interesting history, including being the first fort taken by the British in the war of 1812, without a shot being fired. The British showed up with about 300 local Indians reinforcing their relatively small force and showed overwhelming strength to the 57 Americans holding the fort. They surrendered and were sent to Detroit, which seems like inhumane punishment these days.

I was reading the history plaques in detail, which of course meant Diane and the kids abandoned me and went to go DO something. So I’m a history nerd, sue me.

By the time I finished Diane and the guys were down on the parade grounds being drilled as volunteer militia. They marched around smartly (well, sort of smartly) and then the real fake soldiers did a musket drill, though they actually used cartridge breechloaders. Can’t be a stickler for historical accuracy at a tourist trap, it was close enough. Made a satisfyingly large noise and lots of smoke.

A quick and (surprise, surprise) mediocre lunch in the tea room and we were headed for the playground in heavy duty heat. Bad idea. James got a bit listless and uncomfortable though Shea ran like an Eveready bunny. back to town by horse taxi, then off to the hotel pool for a soaking in highly chlorinated water and little kid pee. Hey, I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. 85 plus degrees and they were still heating the pool. Is anyone paid to think?

We took the guys back to the room, basted them in the hot tub, then into the shower (bath for Shea) and off to dinner at the hotel’s fancy restaurant. I know, that sounds really stupid, but I reserved a table off by ourselves in the garden. James enjoyed it thoroughly, Shea tolerated it and didn’t disassemble anything. We had a nice meal that didn’t include tater tots for the adults.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Looking For Adventure In Whatever Comes Our Way

Get your motor running, head out on the highway…

So we’re in Mackinac Island, pronounced Mackinaw, as is the nearby Mackinaw City and the nearby Mackinac Bridge. Huh? Hey, it’s a genuine regional idiosyncrasy, one of those oddities like Regular Coffee in Boston (coffee with cream and sugar) that the endless boring strip malls and chain restaurants aim to stamp out.

Screw them. I like it. Smells like an adventure to me, and I’m always looking for it. It’s why I’ll risk ptomaine in a greasy spoon rather than eat in an Applebee’s. Of course up here in the land of deep fried pickles and cheese curds you’ve got to be on guard. Double up on the Lipitor and eat all the fruit you can find. Vegetables? Light yellow carrots boiled to submission and swimming in butter just like Mom used to make just doesn’t qualify as a vegetable. Neither does creamed spinach.

Mackinac is pretty cool. We’re staying at the Mission Point something-or-other: Inn, resort, spa. A nice little place though odd in its customs and a little tacky in its old age. But I like it pretty well. No air conditioning–just thousands of scruffy box fans. Probably like Monterey–it’s never hot enough at night to justify AC. And the fans probably keep down the bugs. Brriinng, splat. The leading edges of the fan in the doorway are brown with chitin and bug guts.

Most of the hotel food around here is “all you can eat” buffets, and from the people in the dining rooms, I’d say they can eat a lot of that deep fried cheese covered broccoli (“look, Margie, I’m eating vegetables”). I am NOT making that quote up.

Diane and I ditched the kids at “kids club” from nine to three. We rented bikes and rode around the island. A pleasant cruise of about nine miles. It would be nothing on a modern bike but it was a decent workout on a big fat single speed coaster-braked cruiser. We came back to the hotel and I took my Starboard SUP out for a cruise. Paddled down to the main harbor–about a mile, then out to a lighthouse, and back to Mission Point where I found Diane calling from the shore, anxious to get to our haircut appointment.

My hair has reached critical length. Since it only grows in wispy tendrils on top, when it gets long I start looking like a lumpy version of Doc in “Back to the Future”. Unless it gets wet, then it looks like I’m aiming for a bad combover. I needed a major buzzing.

Of course with Diane’s conservative sense of timing we were more than early enough to have lunch first, so we pedaled to the Grand Hotel, a huge white pine pile that looks like a major conflagration waiting to happen. Most of these turn of the century all-wood hotels are long gone, to termites, maintenance or limited local fire departments. The Mackinaw FD must be pretty darned good–luck alone couldn’t account for all the huge wooden houses that have survived here. I suspect they aren’t horse powered.

The Grand Hotel charges twelve bucks admission for you to eat in their restaurants or trod their hallowed ground. It’s a pretty impressive place, and the charge might be a good idea to keep the riffraff out (which Michigan seems to have in particular abundance), though if the two guys in front of us that happily whipped out their credit cards to pay the admission were any indication, it’s not really working. It’s also not keeping out the hordes of badly behaved kids in the dining room.

Okay, I have a question. Why is it the hugely fat kids that are yelling, pushing each other, and taking handfuls of toothpicks to jab each other with, while the healthy looking kids are behaving politely? I know I’m stuck on this subject, but it keeps getting shoved in my face.

The buffet at the Grand Hotel was pretty impressive, and you could put together a healthy and tasty meal. Lots of salad stuff, big tomato slices with basil, balsamic vinegar and buffalo mozzarella. Oysters on the half shell, asparagus, shrimp, lots of fruit. Of course, there was also lots of deep fried and over-sauced stuff as well, and a huge dessert selection that was mobbed with people who should never, never, ever touch cheesecake ever again.

James and Shea behave remarkably well at the table–what I’d expect from James, but a surprise from Shea. then again he’s never nasty or intentionally misbehaving–he’s just easily distracted and zooms beyond hyper without a backward glance. It might just be relative behavior. Compared to the two miniature walruses whose parents were blithely letting wrestle between the tables, Shea is a model of deportment.

After our haircuts, we picked up the guys from Kids Club–they had a great time–and rented bicycles for them. Or rather a bicycle for James and a tagalong trailer for my bike for Shea. We went around the island for the second time and stopped for dinner at a bistro. Honest, it was called a Bistro.

We had just gotten settled when an incredibly obnoxious foursome sat at a table near us. The most irritating member was a loud, foul-mouthed female (I’m not calling her a lady, and I’m much too nice of a guy to call her a cow). They got progressively louder and I started fuming and Diane tried to keep me from telling them off. Screaming “fuck” when you’re ten feet from a couple of kids isn’t a good way to stay on my good side. I was just about at my limit and was ready to push my chair back when Shea lost his lunch–dramatically and comprehensively. Actually, it was dinner and a big serving of Superman ice cream an hour or so before. Superman is blue, red and yellow. Mix in a hot dog and too much ketchup and it’s pretty spectacular. By the time I got Shea back from hosing him off in the restroom our friendly foursome was gone–they didn’t even finish their beers.

If I had only known in advance I would have figured out some way for him to spew in the cow’s lap.

Of course, there were unintended consequences, like the poor lady at the table on the other side of us, enjoying a quiet glass of wine, who spent fifteen minutes with a menu three inches from her nose like a shield while Diane cleaned up. Diane has a pretty tender stomach too, I’m surprised she didn’t join the festivities.

On a positive note, I didn’t finish my chicken–look at the calories I avoided. And the funniest reaction was from James. He looked a little blue in the gills at first. Diane said “go to the bathroom and Grandpa will help you”. He said “No, I’m okay now” and resumed eating. Diane said that almost pushed her right over the edge a second time.

This grandparent stuff is tough.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Yoopers

We’re headed north through Michigan farmland to spend a few days on Mackinac Island with two of our grandsons, James and Shea. James’ full name is Christian James Patterson but when he was four he decided his name would be James. Not Jim or Jimmy: James. If you called him Christian he’d say very politely “you mean James, Grandpa”, but he absolutely insisted on being called James–still does at age ten.

Diane says Shea, who is four, is like a car alarm. “Bweep, bweep, boop, boop, boop, yamahamahama” constantly making some kind of noise and trying to climb on everything. He likes to wander away and give Diane minor heart attacks. I think Diane is going to have him fitted with a shock collar. Fun and sweet little guy though, even if Diane is drinking a lot more wine in the evenings than normal.

Michigan is like a painting, beautiful, but nothing there. Unless you’re really into corn. The demand for ethanol must be having a big economic effect, there’s corn everywhere you look. Pieces of land that were probably fallow for 30 years are covered in corn.

We started looking for a restaurant, drove probably 60 miles before we found one. It offered “all you can eat Tacos”. One was all I could eat. What was I thinking, Mexican food in Michigan? The place was packed, the food sucked. Really sucked. Really. Sucked.

I sound like a disgruntled yuppy fussbudget. I’m not. I just like good food. I think a Burgerville hamburger is a damned good meal. I lived on beans, rice, oatmeal and corn tortillas when I was broke and living in my van. I butcher my own deer and elk, catch my own steelhead and salmon. I love a good hot dog. But shit is shit.

I’m also certainly not skinny–6’2, 240 pounds. But holy cow, most places I go in mid-America I’m a skinny fit dude. People in Michigan seem to be topping the scale–they are enormous. I got a fair amount of flack for saying Americans are fat (though it’s patently obvious to anyone that leaves either coast) but brother Bob (who also gave me flack) sent me a link to a very spooky set of maps showing the percentage of people that are obese. More than 25% of the people in Michigan are obese and the percentage is rising fast. I’d say 60% are fat. Never saw so many fat kids in my life. I’m not talking chubby, I mean fat, as in the “hardly can walk” kind of fat.

We’re in St. Ignace this morning, the gateway to the UP or Upper Penninsula, where the locals call themselves “Yoopers”. Sounds intelligent. We’re taking a ferry from here to the island. No cars on Mackinac. Horses, bikes, and walking. Should be interesting. Just a had a truly hideous “homemade” breakfast. I’m taking my Starboard on the ferry (I hope). We forgot the camera, but I have my cell phone, and I’ll try to do better about shooting pictures.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Bunch of Old Liars

7 August 2007
I had a great experience before I picked up Diane at the Minneapolis airport–I went to a meeting of the Old Liars Club, a bunch of racers that have been getting together in Mendota Minnesota for lunch once a week–for the last 46 years!

Diane was scheduled to fly in about two PM, and the restaurant the OLC meets at is close to the airport, so the timing worked out very well. I hauled Nero and Peyote out to the restaurant and parked on the street. I hung out with Howie Wold in the bar until the group convened. Amazingly, two of the guys that showed up that day had driven Peyote back in the sixties–Scotty Beckett and Tony Kinnaird. The other guys at lunch were Dick Lind, Tom Countryman, and of course Howie Wold. They all had great stories, and even though they’ve probably all heard each of them a hundred times, they humored me by telling me about Peyote, the guys that built and raced it, and their racing buddies. What a bunch. No wonder this car is so special, the people were just amazing. I wish I could have met them all. Unfortunately, while cars can be immortal, the people that make them special are not.

I could have hung out all afternoon, but Diane might have been a bit put out. We finally had to stop talking and go out to show them Peyote and Nero. I think they were relieved to see that it’s still a pretty grubby, rough looking pile. Unfortunately, my sweaty driving suit was in the hot garage section with Peyote–I hadn’t had a chance to get to a laundromat. Maybe it added some period authenticity.

Nah.

I think they also like Nero pretty well. It fits Peyote so well, a little funky too, but it performs a lot better than you’d think it would.

I had a great time, then raced off to the airport to pick up Diane. What a neat day.

Thanks, Howie and the rest of the OLC.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Racing at Brainerd

6 August 2007
Peyote has a lot of history around here. Many of the people that stopped by said something like “I never expected to see that car again–I remember Peyote from when I was a kid”. far fewer people asking what it was–many of them knew a lot more about the history of Peyote than I did.

Here’s a news flash: Howie Wold was at the track on Sunday and told me that real Peyote was actually involved in the building of Peyote MK II!! The car had already been named Peyote after a friend of Bill Ames made the comment “where you guys on drugs when you built that?” But Bill’s girlfriend took a trip to Mexico and brought back some Peyote buttons as a joke. I guess these guys were always up for anything because they ate some while they worked on Peyote MKII. They woke up the next morning sprawled all over the garage.

BIR is a surprising track. It’s kind of the middle of nowhere, Brainerd is a rundown mid-sized town with nothing I could find to recommend it. The surrounding area has been strip-malled to death, there’s nothing but chain stores and restaurants, no local culture at all. Nearby are some very nice lakes, but that’s it. then there’s this track, with as much infrastructure and sophistication as Road America. Not what I expected.

The track itself is interesting. There’s a super long dragstrip straight (slippery in the staging area) that leads into very fast turn one. I think even modern race cars can take it flat out. Turn two was also flat out for Peyote, though it was a bit bumpy and blowing the line could result in an excursion to the woods. After turn two there’s a chute into three, which is a tight 130 degree right hander that I took in second gear. Lots of sliding and throttle steering. Then a long chute to turns four and five that are almost close enough together to treat as esses–but not quite, then a long chute to six which is tight enough to use second at the exit. Long chute to 7 and 8. Seven is almost flat out but you need to set up for eight, so I braked a little at the entrance to get a better exit from eight. Turn nine is flat out under a bridge, but the exit of the turn is a wall which puts a big penalty on blowing the line. Long chute to ten, which is tight enough for good passing except that it leads onto that long straight again, which means you want good exit speed. All of the cars I was playing with had a lot more power, so I got passed in the straight a lot, but I’d get them back in turn one or two when they lifted or braked.

Once I got the line down in the first practice I was able to go flat out through 1 and 2 as long as there was no one on the line in front of me. I told people it was that third testicle I grew at Mosport. Actually, it felt pretty safe, Peyote does high speed turns very nicely and it feels magical. The tail comes out a little bit, the steering gets a little light, and you watch the apex come sideways, but it’s all very predictable (as long as nothing breaks).

I heard that anything close to two minutes was a good time, the best Peyote did was 1:57:7something. That qualified me in the top four or five, though for the final race on Sunday I was gridded seventh because there was a little crowd of fast cars doing 1:57. Cool, lots of folks to race.

The two fastest cars were a brutally quick Shelby GT350 and a March sports racer. Then there was Bob Youngdahl’s Porsche-powered Elva, another Elva, a Whale-tale Porsche with a huge wing added, and a couple of other sports racers. I got a decent start but got outpowered up the straight, there were a lot of cars in front of me. Fortunately, they were all taking a classic wide entrance to turn one and lifting. I stayed flat and went up the inside, passing a whole knot of cars and getting into third place. That didn’t last, a few cars caught me in the chute between one and two and then were too deep into the turn for me to repass when they braked. I got by a couple of cars in the tight stuff and was back into third, but then I couldn’t pull out enough lead to stay in front down the straight. We went back and forth like that for several laps, but I was getting ahead of the pack later and later in the lap, which meant they were getting farther ahead at each lap. For a while I could still stay in contact because I’d catch up in turn two, but we got into traffic and I lost contact with Youngdahl. So I battled with the lady in the Whale Tale for a while. As long as I could draft her for part of the way down the straight I could stay in touch. We had some good corner battles, but she finally got away from me down the straight. I think I finished fourth.

Nice track, nice weekend, good people. But now I get to pick up Diane at the Airport and go have some fun with two of my grandsons. On Monday I’m going to the Old Liars Club in Minneapolis for lunch–a bunch of guys that raced in Peyote’s era. Should be fun. Then I pick up Diane and head for Michigan.

3 RESPONSES TO “RACING AT BRAINERD”
Rozier Says:
August 6th, 2007 at 12:04 pm e
B:
“…I told people it was that third testicle I grew at Mosport…”
That, my friend, is not reporting…that is art…
Whoa…
B.

cassie Says:
August 6th, 2007 at 3:05 pm e
dad,
love reading your blog, need to add more pictures.
the boys are looking forward to seeing you guys – keep asking when you’re getting here.
its been a trial…lol can’t wait to see you both
love
c

Gary Says:
August 6th, 2007 at 7:12 pm e
Hey,
I was cruising east on Hwy 29 between Abbotsford and Wausau and passed an old Airstream that someone had augered a hole into the back…as I am passing I see an older dude with a windsurfer, a bike and some other toys loaded on the truck……I had to jump on the “allaluminumtour” site and see what this was about. Cool adventure!!!!!
I am heading over to Michigan on the 17th but to take in the NASCAR race. I will watch for you on the road again.
Good luck keepin’ the “vintage aluminum rod” racin’ across the finish line!
Gary

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA A Real Donnybrook

6 August 2007
I was in Minneapolis the day the bridge went down, dropping Diane off at the airport. She needs to fly back to Portland to spend time with one of our dearest friends who is having a recurrence of breast cancer. While she’s gone I’m going to be racing at Brainerd, a track that used to be called DonnyBrooke after two Minnesota racers who were killed at Road America. Peyote competed at the first race at DonnyBrooke and was built in Minneapolis/St Paul, so it’s a real homecoming for Peyote. I hope it’s a good one.

We spent the night before at a motel close to the Minneapolis airport and Mall of America. I’m a fan of the free enterprise system, and a guy that’s driving around the country racing a crusty old car needs to hesitate before he tosses rocks. But YUCK. If there’s a temple to excess then MOA is probably it (maybe I need to visit Dubai before I decide on the winner).

It was really tough to see Diane go, even though it’s only five days. You’d think we’d be sick of each other, but spending so much time together makes me realize how much I enjoy her. We’re having a great trip together. Sam is grumpy too. But we dropped her off and headed to Brainerd, MN and BIR (Brainerd International Raceway). I got to Brainerd a couple of days early for the race so I dropped off Nero at the track and tried to find a nice place to stay on one of the many lakes. Unfortunately, none of them take dogs, so I was stuck with the Ramada. Too bad, there are some really nice places, but Sam goes where I go.

I checked into the motel, turned on the TV, and saw the earliest report on the bridge collapse. It had literally happened a few minutes before. Felt very surreal, I was just there. I don’t think I traveled over that bridge but certainly could have. I watched the coverage for quite a while, hoping for good news. I guess in many ways it was very good, that school bus full of kids could have been upside down in the river. But I feel very bad for the folks that are waiting for news that can only be sad.

I spent most of Wednesday paddling around Gull Lake. The very nice people at Quarterdeck Lodge let me use their beach to launch. I would have stayed there but no dogs. They were very apologetic, but they had an unfortunate incident with an allergic person and changed their policy. Understandable, but unfortunate. I saw the “villas” they offer. Nice. Would have been the perfect place to stay, I probably wouldn’t have camped in Nero just to enjoy the facilities for the little bit of time I had on race days. As it was I checked out of the Ramada a day early and stayed in Nero at the track–it’s nicer.

The Starboard 12’6″ proved it’s versatility once again, giving me a nice long paddle around the lake, then a great sail in the late afternoon. The wind was strong enough to wish for a harness. I’m probably going to have to pick one up if I get anywhere where windsurfing isn’t just something you see on TV. The Superfreak 8.0 sail is so good that I forget how good it is (if that makes sense). It just works, all the time.

Next: Racing at Brainerd

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Standing Down In Door County

30 July 2007
Fish boils, miniature golf, big powerboats, crowds of souvenir shoppers–somehow it’s all fun. Diane and I are having a good time spending time in Door County, Wisconsin waiting for the next race (at Brainerd, in Minnesota–a track Peyote raced at back when it was a pup.

Man, it’s easy to see how people get so fat here. It’s terrifically hard to find something healthy to eat. Diane and I ordered baked chicken yesterday at what was supposed to be a nice restaurant and got what looked like Shake n’ Bake. By the time we scraped all the greasy crap off the chicken we had a pile on our plates that looked like two servings of stuffing. I’ve been trying to minimize the effects but I bet I’ve gained five pounds here, in just a week. Plus there’s enough food on every plate to feed three people. We’ve been eating out a lot–got to quit that. There are a few nice restaurants, the rest are tourist traps and burger joints. One excellent restaurant in Ellison Bay–T. Ashwell’s. Wonderful staff, knowledgeable bartender, excellent food. The wine list is short, but extremely well thought out. Worth a detour if you’re anywhere within a hundred miles, because as near as I can tell it’s the best you’ll get in that radius–and maybe a lot further.

I’ve been doing a bit of paddling and sailing on the Starboard 12′ 6″. If this board surfs well then it’s a real winner. It’s as stable as the Laird, but it turns beautifully, you can climb all over it (except that the nose is really slippery–I can’t find surf wax here in Wisconsin. Heck, in Maui every convenience store has a selection), and it glides like no other board I’ve tried. It never seems to stop moving. It’s also beautiful


Starboard 12’6″–note the mast base and the nice carry handle. I wish it had a bunch of tiedown points. I’ll add those when I can.

I took the board for a long paddle the other day, and then did some sailing. There’s a long dagger fin you can put in as a centerboard that let’s you point upwind really well. With the relatively light wind I figured that was a good idea. the wind was gusty at first, making me wish for a harness. I tried running upwind, and it pointed so well that I decided to run downwind to check out some houses that looked interesting along the shore. I ran downwind a couple of miles and then decided to return. Bam, the wind died to a soft breeze.

On a regular windsurfer I would have been well and truly screwed, but with the SUP sailer it was just boring. I stood next to the mast and tacked my way slowly back. Took about half an hour, but I made it back. Good thing, I looked at a map later and discovered the road turns away from the shore for a long way. I would have been tramping through people’s yards. Rich people from what I could see, and I suspect they might not have liked my invasion.


Diane got some shots of my long, boring tack back. Pretty sail, eh?�

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All Aluminum Tour

AA Back To Road America

Another great race weekend at the Kohler race. Elkhart Lake is such a spectacular little town. I got out on the Starboard SUP board the first day we got there. Freaked out a lot of people. I had people stopping me in the street and at Gessert’s (the soda fountain/candy shop in Elkhart Lake) to ask me about it, and people following in boats to see how I was walking on water.

The festivities surrounding the race are amazing. Diane and I went to Siebkin’s bar on Wednesday night before many racers were in town and had a blast. There was a funky local group playing (Bernico and Albers) and they were great fun to dance to. We talked to a lot of locals. Diane has a new favorite saying for everything, resulting from asking a local lady who had tee many martoonis (actually, beer) if she lived in Elkhart Lake. “Ahhforshunately” was the reply, pronounced with a dramatic expulsion of air.

I suspect I’m going to be tired of that long before she is.

Friday night we went to the Race Car Concours in Elkhart Lake, had an EXCELLENT meal at Lola’s on the Lake, and watched the race cars roll out of town.

Elheart Lake has at least three excellent restaurants–the Paddock Club, which has a deep and interesting wine list (we had a superb bottle of Far Niente ’05 chardonnay in honor of Gil Nickel–priced reasonably at eighty bucks), and a very good kitchen. The Lake Street Grill, with a wonderful bar (many microbeers on tap), a good wine list and good kitchen. We ate lunch there twice and thoroughly enjoyed it. I suspect dinner is excellent. And Lola’s, which is part of the Osthoff. We generally avoid hotel restaurants, but Lola’s food was excellent and the wine list was impressive and reasonably priced. We tried Bruce’s Supper Club which was decent, but not great.

I finally got to meet Howie Wold. Great guy and fun to talk to. Ahhforshunately I didn’t have much time to talk since I was chasing a weird engine problem. About the fourth lap, I’d suddenly lose a cylinder or two. If I got off the gas for about fifteen seconds it would come back, and the problem wouldn’t reappear until about lap four of the next session.

I checked all the usual suspects, nothing obvious, so I started “fixing” everything until it went away. Took the carbs apart, checked the plug wires and shortened #4 (been meaning to do that), changed plugs, adjusted the points, checked fuel pressure. The problem disappeared on Sunday, through divine providence I suspect.

My sister Diane and her husband Ed showed up on Saturday to watch the racing. Jack Drews and his neighbor Chris made the four-hour drive all the way to RA to deliver much-needed rear brake shoes (thanks again, Jack and Chris!). We went to dinner with Diane and Ed, Jack and Chris, then stopped in Elkhart Lake to look at the sports car Concours. Made an early night of it.

Diane and Ed came back on Sunday to watch the races. I think they enjoyed it. Ed did the touring drive at noon in his Pontiac Solstice. Both Dianes refused to accompany him, but he had a fine time.

I had some great fun racing with D. Randy Riggs driving one of Sid Silverman’s Listers. He drives it hard and well. We did a lot of lead swapping. Couldn’t stay with him in the straights, but since he has 500 more pounds and Dunlop tires I was able to reel him back in, pass a few times, and even pull out a decent lead once. But he doesn’t quit, and I soon found myself following him again.

We were doing that on Sunday during the feature race with a black Corvette Roadster in front of us. The guy was very fast down the straights but slow and squirrelly as hell in the turns and wild in the Kink–off in the dirt on the apex, sliding around at the far edge of the track at the exit. Very unpleasant to be behind–he looked like he was going to toss it away at any moment.

Finally, he pointed us by in the straight after the kink, but as I passed him tucked in behind the Lister he swerved over as if to block me. I thought that was pretty weird but even weirder was a complete Banzai move going into the corner after the straight (I think it’s called Canada Corner). He was all over the place and I had to back off to avoid getting nailed. Of course, he bogged as we came up the hill so when we went through what I guess is turn 10 (the one after Canada Corner) I pulled up on the inside while he wandered out to the edge, then he came roaring across and ran me off the track. I hit the grass, locked up and finally hit the wall going slowly.

I pulled into the black flag station, asked the official to check my tire to make sure it wasn’t rubbing and finished the race. Even with the delay, I was first in class. Nice trophy.

The Corvette driver was pitted close to me, so I went over to ask what was going on. First he told me the only car he had pointed by was a black and red Lotus, and I said “nonsense, you pointed the green and yellow Lister by”, so he said “I only pointed him by, not you” like I was supposed to understand his intentions at 120MPH. He gave me some nonsense about his staying on the line, which simply meant that not only did he run me off, but he knew he did it. Then he launched into a ridiculous diatribe about me going off the track more than he did. Clearly, I’m not as good a driver as he is, which is probably why my little TR3-in-drag with one-third of his horsepower is two seconds a lap faster than his best time when it’s not plugged up behind him at a grocery-getter pace in the corners.

I surprised myself and my wife by walking away. My brother Bob is probably reading this and saying “what!!!” I guess I must finally have mellowed. I never even thought about adjusting his attitude with a 1/2” torque wrench. Well, not for long anyway.

And the truth is, I was behind him when he ran me off, so it’s my fault. I’d never do that to a competitor, and if I accidentally put someone in a tough place I’d be in their pit before their engine stopped, apologizing. I guess really I’m doing pretty well though. All these years of racing vintage cars and I’ve really only met one complete asshole. That says a lot for this sport. And it didn’t spoil the event for me. I had a wonderful time, Peyote ran superbly once the dropped cylinder thing resolved itself. I set a new personal record time for Road America of 2:42: something and got to spend time with a lot of really nice people. I repaired the damage to Peyote in about two hours time, using my tiedown strap to pull the frame out, and a trailer ball and a body hammer to pound out the rumples. You really can’t see the repair unless you know where to look.

Next stop is Brainerd, which is not on the schedule. I committed to it this weekend after being invited by Bob Youngdahl (I think that’s his name–my hideous memory continues to cripple me socially). I understand Brainerd used to be called Donnybrooke, and if memory serves I think Peyote participated in the first race at that track.

I’ll look it up.

I’m going to spend the next week doing standup paddling and perhaps sailing in Door Country Wisconsin.

ONE RESPONSE TO “BACK TO ROAD AMERICA”
Bob Babcock Says:
July 23rd, 2007 at 3:23 pm e
I’m proud of you Bill….course I still woulda popped him.

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All Aluminum Tour

AA Nero At The Airstream Factory

16 July 2007
Jackson Center, Ohio. It looks just about like it sounds. Sleepy. But Airstream is here, and what a company this is. They really take care of their brand–they treat their customers like they are part of the family. Hard to believe in this age where customer service usually means a phone conversation with somebody in Bangaladesh who has absolutely no ability to help you.

We had made our appointment for service before the PVGP, but at the driver’s dinner we met Dutch Mandel from Autoweek, who enjoyed seeing Nero and Peyote. Turns out Dutch knows the president of Airstream, so he sent him a email that we were coming and suggested that he’d probably like to see Nero. He told us the president is a car guy. Very nice of Dutch.

We arrived the night before and took advantage of nice park they’ve set up for customers–a free, full hookup camping area they call Terraport. In the morning we did the paperwork and turned Nero over to the service techs who swarmed over it, looking over the brakes, checking out the leak we have in the grey water tank, changing the shocks, and looking at the air conditioner. Turns out the drums were too far gone to turn, so we’re in for new brakes all around. The grey water leak is going to be hell to fix, the tank was displaced sideways by the hit and some fitting is probably cracked on top.

I should have opted for the disk brake conversion, it’s about a grand more, but the money didn’t matter that much, I just didn’t want have to wait another day–it’s a fairly lengthy installation. As it turns out we have to wait anyway because they only had four drums in stock. Bad decision on my part, I’m sure the disks are a worthwhile upgrade.

What a luxury it is to have other people doing the work I normally have to do on my own. We were here for about an hour when the guy in charge of the repair center came by and said the president, Bob Wheeler, would like to meet us if we had time. We wound up having lunch with him. Great guy, very fun to talk with. Facing the usual business dilemnas but very appreciative of the brand legacy and momentum that he’s inheirited. Its also nice to see that he’s so well respected and accepted at Airstream. Many of the emplyoees we met have been with the company for just about as long as Bob has been alive. Their respect and affection for him and the company are obvious.

So Nero will be here at least one more day waiting for two more brake hubs. I’m not sure how long the leak will take to fix. We might just have to call that too nasty for an on-the-road repair and wait to get back home. I have this nasty feeling I’m going to be pulling the waste tanks this winter. Its just the greywater, and we’ve confirmed that it’s not in the body of the tank. If we’re just careful not to let the tank get full it should be adequate to get by.

Diane and I are staying the night in Lima, Ohio. Quite the garden spot. I believe every chain restaurant and business I’ve ever heard of is represented here. New heights of absolute mediocrity. We had an absolutely pointless dinner at a Tumbleweeds Sedona Grill, a characterless chain whose only advantage was that neither of us had ever heard of it before.

Now we’re staying at a holiday inn. Can’t wait to get Nero back.

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All Aluminum Tour

AA Pittsburg Vintage Grand Prix

16 July 2007

The great week continues. We towed through the center of Pittsburg to get to Schenley Park, a very pretty park in the Oakland/Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburg. Beautiful homes, quiet streets–hard to believe they can run a race here. We got to the paddock and were directed to an ideal spot, where we could park the trailer on the grass in the shade of some huge trees and paddock Peyote on the street right in front.


Great paddock spot

Sam is always willing to help with lunch. Never trust a dog to guard your sandwich. Diane no longer signs on to the waivers as “Crew”. She pencils in “Personal Chef”.


We spotted this somewhere on our ride. Glad to see they’re keeping the Ho’s busy.

We set everything up early. We heard the paddock really fills up. Some folks say not to get there early because there’s no security on Thursday night and it’s a “bad” neighborhood. Actually, the neighborhood is fine, what they really mean is that there are hordes of gay guys that use the cul-de-sac that becomes the paddock as a spot to get together. Yes, “get together” is a euphemism–there were funny white ballons everywhere on the paths in the woods.

Other participants told me the gay guys get pretty testy that we’re in their spot. I figured we could survive that. Diane said “should we be concerned about a drive-by slapping?”

One of our neighbors recommended a local restaurant on Murray street called “Ma Provence”. Turned out to be a spectacular little bistro. We had one of the best meals of the trip. Murray street is interesting–lots of delis and little grocery stores and shops. It’s a Jewish neighborhood with a surprising number of orthodox and Hasidic Jews walking around. Turns out there’s a Yeshiva school nearby. I grew up near Brookline, Massachusetts and a lot of my friends were Jewish, but you rarely see an orthodox Jew in Brookline–my friends were about as Jewish as I am, except for ethnicity and moms that cooked wonderful food and were on their case constantly.


Yes, that’s a hydrant next to that rock wall just past the jersey barriers

The PVGP is pretty much a week long deal. We went to a very nice car show on Tuesday on Walnut street, and the black tie thing I already wrote about. Nice people everywhere, but the nicest is a guy named Danny Yanda. Never saw him without a big smile on his face, and he was constantly dropping whatever he was doing to help us out. He walked halfway across the golf course to show me where to get a free beer, shepherded us around the car show, showed us places to eat, introduced us to everyone. Just an amazing guy.

Friday night there was a wonderful driver’s event at the conservatory, an amazing place on its own, but it was full of Dale Chihuly glass that was there for a special garden installation. Absolutely spectacular. At the walnut street event, Danny had introduced us to Steve Weber, the media director for the event and got him to give me one of his fine cigars (I had asked where I could buy one). Steve was at the event with Dutch Mandel the editor of Autoweek, and we wound up back at Nero smoking my Pinar cigars, drinking some Professional Small Boy brandy and talking to the wee hours.

What was I thinking? I woke up at 7:00 feeling pretty frickin’ fragile, and had to go out and drive this spooky circuit. Twenty-two turns, innumerable elevation changes, stone walls, curbs, bridges, hydrants, hay bales, slippery stripes, manhole covers, a hugely crowned, variable surface–and that’s the fun part. During the race on Sunday while we were behind the pace car a deer stood in the street and stared at us. On two occasions chipmunks ran in front of me. Nice.

You are aware of the walls and innumerable other hazards every second that you are on the track. They call it a five-tenths race, but it’s not really. You’re driving ten-tenths, but half of your concentration is taken up by the little guy in your head screaming “holy shit!!!”


It’s hard to drive well when the little guy in your head won’t stop screaming

I never took anything that I considered to be a line around any corner. I was constantly mistaking the fast corners for the slow ones (which, given the large penalty for error here was a lot better than the other way around). I assumed my times would suck out loud, but Peyote came through as usual and I qualified fourth in the sports racer/formula car class. I was certain that there was an error, there was some pretty hot iron there, including a Cooper Formula One car with a very zesty 2.5-litre motor. I turned a 2:25 something, which everyone said was pretty good. The competition ahead was a very, very fast Elva MKIV, the F1 Cooper, and Lotus 19. All were driven by guys with lots of experience at the PVGP track. Behind me was a horde of fast sports racers and open wheel cars, mostly Loti with a smattering of Elvas.

Before the race on Sunday I had long talks with myself: “you have ten events to go, no reason to push it here, it’s too dangerous. You’ll smash up your car and the tour will be over. Don’t even try to hold onto fourth, just cruise. There’s a bunch of people here with fast cars who know this track, no way you’ll hold position”. I also told that to everyone that would listen–setting low expectations I guess. Either that or I was really talking to myself.

Burt Levy came by my paddock and gave me a lecture that repeated the litany in my head. I was well prepared to be rational.

Then the green flag dropped and I tried my best to shove my way into first before the hay bale chicane. Almost made it too, but the Formula One car was too quick. My resolve to be rational was pretty much a lightweight memory. The Elva got by me and started working on the F1 car. I figured he’d get him eventually since he turned 2:16 in qualifying, which is close to record time I understand. But in the meantime, the battle was slowing both of them, so I worked on trying to slide by both of them while they scrapped. I think the Elva got by the F1 car in the second lap and started pulling away. I was working on the F1 car too, but he was so fast when he was pointed in the right direction that it was difficult. In the meantime, I had a Lotus 18 (I think) working on my tail. I finally got past the F1 car at the entrance to the Serpentine, and thought I could stretch a lead down those tight turns, but he came roaring back and blew past in the straight after turn 1. With the F1 in front I couldn’t get away from the Lotus where I was faster, so he started chewing me up and eventually passed me. A lap later the F 1 car retired but my tires were so toasted I couldn’t haul in the Lotus.

With second place out of reach, and no one in my mirrors even in the longest straight, I decided to slack a little and be certain the car would survive. Especially since my tires were like gum. As I passed start/finish they held out a noose, which is their signal for the last lap. So I cruised to a relaxed third.

They had an award ceremony after each race–bottles of Crown Royal for first through third and a really cool looking trophy in each group for a competitor that showed the best vintage spirit. or traveled the longest distance, or something like that. Always a good idea in vintage racing to keep people from racing for trophies. They had a hay bale podium set up, pictures, interviews and all that. It was fun. Diane didn’t know it was going on so there aren’t any pictures. Somehow they didn’t wave in the Lotus so they thought I was second. I kept saying “no, I’m third, the Lotus was second” but in the confusion, they gave the second place winner’s bottle of Crown Royal to the guy they were giving the special award, who was a guy circulating in the back of the pack in a noisy special that was actually uglier than Peyote. The second place guy walked back from the paddock. I don’t know if they ever fixed the snafu.

I was pretty happy with third. I turned a 2.22.227. Pretty interesting time since Peyote’s traditional number is 222. I think the car is trying to tell me something. Like maybe it’s all the car.

Bill to Peyote: I already know that.

Here’s a bunch of pictures. Great event.

Here’s something you rarely see at the average vintage race: A crowd. The park was packed and it’s huge.

This is the special that won the “vintage spirit” award. Nice guy, I enjoyed talking to him. We determinied that his car is indeed, actually homlier than Peyote.

All the car clubs turn out, there were a lot of pretty street cars.

That green and red monster up front of the grid is the F1 car–lots of motor, probably too much for this track.

When in Rome. This place just called for some nice champagne.


“Winner Winner Chicken Dinner”. I don’t really know what that means.

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All Aluminum Tour

AA A Little Stand Up Paddling

16 July 2007

What a great week! I got a fin for my standup paddleboard and spent some time on Lake Arthur, cruising around. This Starboard 12’6″ is a really great board. It’s a super cruiser. I have no idea what it will be like in waves, but it’s great on a lake. Very stable, but it turns very well. I find I’m standing very far forward on it. One stroke of the paddle accelerates the board and leaves it coasting for an incredible distance. I paddled about two miles, then headed back to the truck for the sail because the wind was picking up. I paddled into a stiff breeze getting back but had no problem thanks to the cruising ability of the board.

I rigged my new Superfreak 8.0 sail and was blown away how great the setup looks together. My sail is red, white and black with a Tsunami wave in the upper panel in white and black. The board is red, black, white and light wood, with a white deck pad. You’d think I picked all the colors very carefully to coordinate, but it was completely accidental. Looks absolutely amazing.

I put the centerboard fin in because the wind was flukey, and the board points amazingly well. I had completely forgotten what it’s like sailing a windsurfer with a centerboard. It pointed so close I’d swear I could go directly upwind.

With the stability of the board, tacking and jibing was totally simple. I stayed dry the entire afternoon. I sailed from the finger where I put in, on to the main lake and well up the shore–probably four or five miles one way. Then the wind got flukey so I made a beeline back so I wouldn’t have to walk.

Sure was nice to be back on a board.

Next–the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

ONE RESPONSE TO “A LITTLE STAND UP PADDLING”

  1. paddledaddy Says:
    Hi Billb:
    I am just getting started in standup paddleboarding using old widsurfer boards, the 12′ Munoz, and ocassionally borrowing a JL 11 X30, but have been surfing and kayaking for some time and have some experience owning an early windsurfer as well, (although that was quite some time ago.) I have read just about everything you have posted on the net about stand up paddleboards and have found your advice to be extremely helpful, particularly because I am a beginner and weigh 215 pounds which means most of the advice from highly skilled skinny framed types doesn’t work well for me in watersports. I know your experience with the 12’6”Starboard is limited but I am wondering if you could do a comparison between that board and the JL11X30. I am trying to decide between these two boards for use in Florida where I will use it to explore protected bays closer to home durring the week and take it to the beach to catch our smaller mushier waves on weekends. I am particularly interested in comparing their stability, glide, wave catching ability and handling in waves. What is your opinion so far?
    Thanks,
    pd
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AA Hangin’ in Nero

11 July 2007

As Steve McQueen said in the movie Le Mans: “For those who do it well, racing is life. Everything else is just waiting. ” I don’t know about the “do it well” part, but we’re sure waiting for the Pittsburg Vintage Grand Prix.

We’re still at the Lake Arthur Family Campground. Pretty much the only people here. There are lots of “seasonal” trailers (I suspect people leave them here for years–cheaper than a vacation home). We see one other couple on occasion and sometimes a flock of kids suddenly appears on bikes, but it’s otherwise completely silent except for birds.

We’re finding it oddly enjoyable, once I stopped being so frantic.

Sam thinks this place is Disneyland. He gets to run like a wild dog and chase rabbits. The big field behind the trailer has bunnies and groundhogs. Diane thought I was being cruel to the rabbits at first, but I know those are professional rabbits, and Sam is an amateur dog. He’s more likely to start quoting Shakespeare than he is to catch a bunny. He’s hysterically funny to watch–he dashes at them, they cut through the hedge and out the other side. He loses track of them and wanders around trying to pick up scent while the rabbits watch, bemused, from fifty feet away. Occasionally he’ll randomly catch sight of them and tear off in their direction, only to be outmaneuvered effortlessly once again.

Nero is turning out to be simply a great rig. We thoroughly enjoy our time in it. Last night we had cocktails outside with Boz Skags playing, I made a greek salad and pasta with pesto, some extra fresh basil chopped in, and had a nice Australian Chardonnay. Chilled fruit salad and iced cherries for dessert.

After dinner, I had a nice Pinar Cigar, some PSB brandy, and we watched an episode of Nero Wolfe projected against the side of the trailer. Pretty damned idyllic.

Everything fits into the trailer nicely. The kitchen is wonderfully efficient. The couch is firm enough to sit comfortably on, but when we turn it into a bed the inch of Tempurpedic foam on top of the standard seat foam makes the bed supremely comfortable. The foam guy who made the cushion foam for us in Portland sure knew what he was doing. I haven’t had a backache since we started sleeping on it. In contrast, when we stayed at the William Penn Hotel and the Chateau Frontenac in their nice soft beds I was crippled every morning.

I’ve made an appointment to get Nero repaired and a few things upgraded at the Airstream factory on the Monday after the PVGP. Jackson Center, Ohio looks to be about four hours away and it’s more or less on the way to Road America. The big repair is the drain tanks–they were struck by a chunk of tire carcass on the way to VIR. The grey water tank is leaking and the handles of both cutoff valves were knocked off. I can still operate the valves, but I need to use pliers to do it.

The same chunk of tire also ripped off one of the electric brake wires on the left front wheel. It tore the wire right out of the coil, so it needs replacement, not repair. Of course, the trailer has five more wheels with operable brakes, but I want it fixed. I’ll have them check all the other wheels and replace the shocks at the same time. I’m also going to have them replace the air conditioner unless they can just supply a new control cover. I made a replacement cover from aluminum because the original cover was badly yellowed and looked awful. My aluminum cover doesn’t direct the airflow as well as the stock one did and it makes the unit inefficient. I should have just painted the plastic. Might be nice to have a more modern one anyway–this one draws a lot of juice.

In the meantime, we’re hangin’ in Nero, enjoying the downtime. FedEx is supposed to bring a fin (actually two) for my new Stand Up Paddleboard today. If it gets here I’ll go paddle and sail on the lake. The new board is excellent–it’s a Starboard 12’6″ woody that’s extraordinarily light, fairly stable, and glides beautifully even without a fin. I took it out yesterday and amazed the bass fisherman “Whut th’ heck is that?”

Lake Arthur is big. I understand it’s reclaimed strip mines. Doesn’t seem to be any private homes on it, just a big church. Seems strange that it doesn’t get a lot more use, being only fifty miles from sweltering Pittsburg.� I suspect they limit the size of the outboard motors–even the big pontoon boats have little ten HP kickers.

ONE RESPONSE TO “HANGIN’ IN NERO”

  1. Bob Babcock Says:
    I bet the folks at Airstream are going to be real interested in your mods Bill.
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All Aluminum Tour

AA Catching up, Boston to Beaver Run

10 July 2007

I’ve been neglecting the blog, mostly because I was spending time in Massachusetts with family. We had a great time seeing everyone. My Mom is healthy and pretty spry for an old broad (she’s probably reading this so there’s a kick to the shins in my future). I got to see my brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, and a great hoard of kids at the family reunion in Falmouth. I simulated stand-up surfing by standing in a canoe and acting as a gondolier for Diane (my board didn’t arrive due to a communications SNAFU). Took Mom into downtown Beantown and pushed her around in a wheelchair to make it easy on her knees. Good exercise for me, and entertaining for Mom.

Then off to Beaver Run. We stayed one night at a KOA that demonstrates the K stands for Kwality. Yikes! Most of the trailers there had been there a long, long time. Big families living in small trailers. The manager directed us to a spot near the edge of a slope that approached cliff steepness. Down below was a beaten up fifth wheel trailer with most of the busted barbeques in Pennsylvania arrayed around it. Very scenic.

When we arrived there was howling that sounded vaguely like country western music blaring through a very low-fi PA speaker by the pool–with not a single lead-licking soul around to enjoy the ambiance. I asked the manager if they were going to be shutting that off anytime soon. He looked a little putout, but shut it off. I would have done it for him–I have wire cutters. Next door was a family of twenty or so living in a camper and some tents. That’s what I like about Kamping, ‘murrican style.  About the same population density as a public housing project.

We got to Beaver Run the next morning and asked if we could set up the trailer. We weren’t sure about the paddock arrangements, but since there was really only one place to connect to electricity our choice was pretty simple. We set up at the outer edge of our heavy-duty extension cable range to decrease the likelihood of needing to move. My first thought was to not set up much in case they wanted me to move, but I decided that was just asking for eviction, so I set up everything. Then we bailed to Pittsburg to stay at the William Penn hotel, where we had stayed on our first pass through Pittsburg. They probably forgot me, but they remembered my truck and Sam, the Gay Dog. Sam makes friends everywhere. He’s thinking of starting his own blog.

Walked around downtown, had some mediocre meals, and watched a GREAT fireworks display right from our hotel room. Of course, Sam spent most of that evening huddled in the closet. Not brave.

We’ve found out subsequently that the really interesting parts of Pittsburgh are NOT downtown. It’s Shadyside and the general area above the bluff that separates downtown from the rest of the city. Really a neat place, and some fine restaurants and traditional bars of outstandingly greasy character.

On to BeaveRun. A neat track, short, but interesting. About 1.5 miles and a good lap for a sports racer or an FF is 1:02 or thereabouts. I got down to 1:08 and didn’t think I had a lot more left. Maybe two seconds if I had a week and some new tires. I have eleven events on my Hoosier Speedsters, that’s probably 50 heat cycles. At this point they will never wear out but they definitely don’t stick wonderfully. I’ll need to get some new tires before the Kohler at Road America. No time to get some before the PVGP.

I was chasing overheating problems all weekend, with a deepening dread that the problem was in the guts, not some adjustment. Actually, as it turned out the problem was my dipshit mechanic. At Watkins Glen I had a radiator leak develop next to one of the plastic rods that hold on my electric fan. I did a JB weld repair which is holding very nicely, then mounted the fan to the nose of the car so it could blow some air at the rad when I’m sitting on the grid. I finally realized while staring at the car on Saturday afternoon just prior to pulling the head that I was blocking off half of the intake area. I pulled the fan and immediately the temperature dropped to a normal 220 for the hot day and hard laps. Of course, Mr. Moron left the high point vent plug loose for the second time on this trip, so I blew out coolant during the morning warmup on Sunday, but the temperature stayed low so I knew the problem was solved.

Saturday I needed to leave the track early to get ready for a charity ball at a local country club. When we signed up for this thing I thought it was a driver’s event. Not. But we had fun and met some nice people. Great band too, but this was the first charity event I’ve ever been to where the booze wasn’t free. If you’re doing an auction you want people sitting loosely on their wallet. Everything went cheap. Someone should probably tell the organizers that the five hundred bucks they saved on hootch cost them ten grand in bids. But it’s not my rodeo.

Anyway, for the race on  Saturday I begged my way into group two (ground pounders) instead of group six (formula cars and later sports racers) because they lead off the afternoon and I needed time to squeeze into my tux (no, the weight loss thing isn’t going that well, thanks). I had a blast playing with the big guys even though I didn’t finish the Saturday race (didn’t fix the overheating until after the first race). It would have made more sense to change groups but I was having too much fun with the big guys. So I begged my way into staying with group two. The organizers thought I was nuts, but they let me do it.

Sunday I started from the back of the pounder pack. A twenty lap race, so plenty of time to work on that. A bunch of Shelby GT350’s, Camaros, a Devin-like special with a V8, a 914-6, a Cobra and some other interesting big iron. I started moving up fairly quickly, though these guys block unintentionally all the time just by being so twitchy under braking. I found several places to safely outbrake them and started moving up one or two cars per lap. It was really fun.

When one of them would repass me in the straight I’d use a sleazy technique to ensure a good lead on the next lap. As soon as they got on their brakes (way early–they need lots of room) I’d slide in front of them and touch my brake pedal just hard enough to flash the brake light. I could hear the tires squeal even over Peyote’s ample noisemaking as they locked up, trying to avoid turning me back to beer cans. Of course, I didn’t really brake for another 200 yards, but I’d have ten car lengths at the exit of the turn and a lot more exit speed. Lovely, and fun.

I finished fifth. We did a couple of laps behind the pace car near the end of the race, but I wouldn’t have improved my position. A couple of 1:08’s would have been good for third, but I didn’t have it in me. I’m blaming the tires, but I wasn’t driving all that well at the very end, not sure why. Not bad for starting at the back of a bunch of behemoths. People were very pleased with the show. I had dozens of people drop by the pits to say how much fun it was to watch and a few of the big bore guys came to see what the heck I had for a motor. Most of them had no idea Peyote is just a little ol’ TR3 in drag. What a car this little bastard is.

We moved to a nice little campground near Lake Arthur (Lake Arthur Family Campground). Simple but uncrowded and pretty. I want to paddle my new Stand Up Board (a Starboard 12’6″) which finally arrived, but it didn’t come with a FIN!! There’s not a lot of surf shops in Pittsburgh, so I’ve got to figure out a way to get one.

Last night (Monday) we went to the car show on Walnut Street in Shadyside. Diane and I had a really great time. The cars were just so-so, though maybe I’m spoiled by the Hart collection, the Jon Shirley collection and all the great cars in the Northwest and California. There was a Jag XKE race car that I’d give a kidney for (though who would want mine) and a nice gullwing. There was also a Spitfire that looked like it was painted with rattle cans and some stuff that looked like basic grocery getters. But the people are great. Fun to talk to, wonderfully friendly and unaffected. Diane wants to adopt the extended family that we sat with at the Saturday Gala and then ran into again at the race on Sunday and the Walnut street show. I don’t know exactly how that would work, but they sure are great people.

Next weekend is the PVGP. Shenley Park is a thoroughly intimidating track. 22 turns, constant elevation changes, trees, hydrants, stone curbs, bridges, a huge crown on the road and sewer covers everywhere. Looks like fun. More later.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Montreal and Quebec City

25 May 2007
Headed out from Mosport giving brief thanks that Peyote and I are both in one piece and still ticking along. We stopped at a KOA in MalloryTown which should be renamed MosquitoVille. I’ve never been attacked so vigorously, and I’ve fished the tundra in Alaska. We retreated to Nero bringing along a large colony on our bodies that immediately dispersed throughout the trailer. This caused a brisk session of bug whacking that lasted about an hour and freaked Sam the Gay Dog out completely. He decided both Diane and I had undergone some kind of Jack Nicholson “The Shining” transformation. All woof and no play makes Sam a very dull dog.

On to Montreal in search of breakfast. A pretty cool looking town, but not that easy to get around in with a 34-foot trailer and a one-ton Ford. Gave up on finding the right area for culinary inspiration, had a mediocre breakfast that cost us a couple of hours of wandering downtown and headed to Quebec City. I must say that Montreal has the coolest tourist information place I’ve ever seen, and the nicest people running it.

We’re staying at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, and as we drove to the hotel through this enormously interesting city we decided we needed a second day here. The streets got smaller and smaller until it felt like we were threading a Greyhound Bus through Montmartre.

The entrance to the hotel is on a tiny square through a narrow stone arch. I had to circle the square, running over the curbs on each corner, to get our truck and Nero lined up for the entrance. When I turned the truck into the entrance Diane started twitching. Cars and cabs everywhere, no room to maneuver and no way to see what I was about to run over.

Yes–I drove right through that entrance that was clearly designed for a horse and carriage. I had inches on either side for clearance.

She jumped out of the truck and ran to get the bellman who brilliantly maneuvered me through the maze, pulled aside some stanchions and directed me to park right next to the hotel under the exit arch. He said, “how long are you staying”. I said “two days” and he said, “let’s leave it right here”. Cool. Big tip.

Had a perfect late lunch, and now we’re hanging out in our room. Here’s Nero at the Frontenac and some basic tourist shots that have probably been taken by everyone who ever came to the city with a camera. Yup, I negotiated that tight right turn into the arch, and the courtyard was full of cars when I came through.

Yeah, it’s kind of picturesque.

Happy to see you too.

Aluminum shingles!! I love it!

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Mosport and on to Quebec City

I’ve got a lot of photos to post, I’ll have to go back and add some to previous posts.

Mosport went just about as I thought it might. The relatively small field of sports racers whittled down a bit through mechanical attrition and wall-related modifications. I finished the feature race in eighth overall, third in my class, which was also dead last overall, and dead last in my class. Humbling, but not as humbling as leaving with a crunched or toasted car, as many in the group did.

I got my times down to 1:40:something which is pretty good. It would have been good enough to win either of the production car classes, which is where I sometimes fit better. Lola T70’s and even Lotus 23C’s are not very rational competition for a TR3 in drag. On the other hand, I did have someone to race with, and that wouldn’t have happened in the production classes, so I should quit whining and admit the organizers picked the right place to stick Peyote.

Still, I’m not used to being lapped by the race leaders. Peyote didn’t like it at all. I think it blames me. Hell of a nerve it’s got–I think it could have shown a bit more top speed.

I also got to race with the Filson Falcon, which I’ve heard about many times over the years. It looks like Peyote’s slightly more shapely brother, and the owner drives the wheels off it, so it was fun battling with him. He had a bit more power–but not much, Peyote had a bit better handling–but not much.

Did I mention that this is a really tough track? I can’t think of any other track that I used my transmission and brakes so little. One brief excursion to second (turn five), one downshift to third (turn 9), one hard braking point (turn five) two brake “brushes” turn two and four. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s fourth gear, stand on it, and turn in VERY precisely.

Very.

Did I mention that in turn two you need two hands to hold your cojones, leaving none to steer?

Did I mention how I sat in the car for a few minutes every time I got back to the paddock? Just needed a little time for reflection and meditation. Nothing dramatic, I’m not going to become a monk or anything. On the other hand I might become a nicer, more caring person.

Nah.

ONE RESPONSE TO “MOSPORT AND ON TO QUEBEC CITY”
chuck Says:
June 26th, 2007 at 8:47 am e
Bill,
I really enjoy your posts — what a summer!

Rained hard here Sunday. Today it is in the eighties. Sad I am only watching this weekend at the Historics. Hope they will let me in to do the Columbia Classic since I will have done 5 ICSSC novice/area races by then so should not be considered a pure “novice”. Course that only works if the TR5 hodls up.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Holy Mosport

24 June 2007
I thought Watkins Glen separated the men from the boys. Mosport makes Watkins Glen look sane. Most of the turns seem to have been designed by the Marquis de Sade. Off camber downhill blind corners. A lot of them.

Here’s a blow-by-blow. It’s worse than it sounds. A lot worse. Starting with Turn One off the front straight you slice across the track right to left and drop down a hill that lightens Peyote’s front end so much it feels like I have power steering towards, dropping towards a corner that you can’t see the apex or even the midpoint of. Of course it’s off-camber. Why wouldn’t it be? They tell me it’s possible to do it flat out in fourth, and I think that’s true, but I’d have to go back to the trailer for a third testicle. You exit the apex in a bumpy drift across a wide concrete repair patch with substantially less grip, slide out to the gator bumps with the throttle buried, gather up the car and what’s left of your composure and head towards the blank cliff called turn two.

You can’s see ANY of the turn at the entrance–just a hill crest with a lot of rubber streaks on it. You come into the right of center, drop over the brow, and aim for an apex about halfway down the hill. Make that properly and the car starts sliding away to the right in the off-camber steeply downhill section that lightens up the front end and compromises your steering. You drift out, point the car at the second apex and its wide repair strip, and hang on. Turn in too soon and you’ll run out of track briskly. Do it just right and you end up in the gator bumps and make it back to the black stuff just before the bumps end.

You let the car keep swinging so the nose points left to the entrance of third. Incidentally, you really haven’t used the brakes at all so far–just little chicken stabs to make you feel better. If you try to brake as you head down the hills in the off-camber turns you’ll be dragged way offline and probably won’t make it back.

Third is a right-hander with a decreasing radius, and of course, it’s blind and has a big repair strip you need to negotiate. It’s also flat out in fourth, though you do get to brake a bit before turning in.

Turn four is a downhill swoop that’s unbelievably steep and it twists left as you drop. You don’t brake at all heading into it, and the wide base makes it safe (SAFE!?!) to go through it flat out, but the pucker factor as your car gets pulled offline and seems to be headed directly at a grove of big, firm trees is simply amazing. Nope, amazing isn’t the right word. I’m not sure what is. You’re less than halfway around the track, and you’re scared spitless.

As you exit four there’s a short straight that you brake hard on once the car quits sliding right. It’s a very short chute. Five A and Five B are tight right turns with an uphill run into 5A that is steep as a cow’s face. I tried a bit less braking on one lap because I figured the steep ramp would pull the car down enough. I got airborne and wound up going backwards off 5A, so I didn’t do that again. You shift down two gears to second, drift through 5a and punch the throttle for a second, then lift and turn into 5B. You slide all the way through this turn, sawing the wheel and getting as much power down as you can because you’re exiting onto a long uphill straight.

Turn Six and Seven aren’t turns at all for a car with a weenie little motor like Peyote. I get up to about 120 MPH at the end, which is, of course, a steep uphill crest that you can’t see beyond. There are lots of skid marks on the crest, but I have to sail right over it, flat out, brush the brakes for luck and turn in to eight at full throttle. It’s a wide corner that looks tight but isn’t, I go all the way through flat out in fourth. Of course, you have to get the line just right or you’ll hit the wall. Someone didn’t yesterday, and he’s in the Hospital, though it looks like he’s okay. His car is an expensive cube of wadded F1 hardware.

After eight I lift, blip and downshift to third, get back into the gas to settle the rear end and push into nine, a thoroughly unforgiving, decreasing radius, but puzzlingly fast corner. Then a short chute to the hard right-hander of turn ten, which empties onto the straight.

It’s exciting all the time. My heart is pounding just writing about it. No rest, no letup, no room for error or concentration lapses.

I’m doing a decent time, but it’s just the car. I haven’t done a single turn with any kind of skill or consistency in the three days I’ve been here. In many ways, this is the most difficult track I’ve ever been on. They race motorcycles here. That’s just crazy. I wouldn’t think of riding a bike here.

More on the art and culture of the area next time. Very funny place. I like these Canadians, but they sure have funny ideas about race tracks.

There was a nutball Canadian with a car called “The Filson Falcon” that looked like the big brother of Peyote. I think it had a straight 6 in it but it might have been V8. It was quick as hell in the straights, a bit of a handful in the turns, and the guy drove the wheels off it. I had a blast racing with him and I kept having the strange feeling I was looking at my own car. An out of racecar experience? Why do you think they call it Peyote.

ONE RESPONSE TO “HOLY MOSPORT.”
Marty Says:
June 25th, 2007 at 4:24 am e
Glad you enjoyed Mosport.

Spent some time talking with your Mrs. (Ms?) at corner 3 on Saturday.

I’d be happy to forward some pics I took – I just can’t seem to decipher your email address on this blog. If you would forward it to me I’d be happy to send ’em along.

In any case, glad you enjoyed the track – we sure enjoyed your being here. Hope you come back again!

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Watkins Glen

20 June 2007
As my friend Tony Garmey says: “Boys need not apply”. Lots of pucker factor at the Glen. It’s easy to wad your car up into a little ball, as numerous people did this weekend. It was a strange event – HSR is really weird. At least half the cars on the track were modern, some of them the current year!! In the GTP class, there was an Audi A8 that raced at Le Mans two years ago and the Bentley GTP car that won in 2005. They combined my group (2) with group 3 which had a fleet of 914-6 Porsches on big slicks and 300+ HP motors, lots of 911s and sports racers. Interesting group.

The track is very fast, and there are Armco barriers everywhere. There’s a twisting uphill left followed by a funnel of Armco leading over a bridge that drops to the right. You have to thread the needle and make the apexes flat out in top gear. Interesting. Yeah, that’s the word I’m looking for: Interesting. I’m saving “Terrifying” for Mosport. More on that later.

Very impressive track and a nice funky town. Lots of history in this town, but it doesn’t quite have the close integration of track and town that you see between Road America and Elkhart Lake. Still, there’s definitely a racer scene at the Seneca Lodge bar. We went Friday night and it was packed with the usual set of geezers with greasy nails, talking racing.

Diane and I camped at the track in Nero, stuck out in the boonies a bit because we wanted power for the air conditioner. It was 95 during the day and stayed pretty warm at night, so the refrigerated air was a big deal. The paddock marshal actually directed us to a good, centrally located site that had power, but an official from the track came by and told us we couldn’t paddock there–reserved camping, he said. Of course, the twenty or so spaces stayed completely empty throughout the weekend, but I’m sure he felt good about his job performance giving us the boot.

Watkins Glen is a tough track. Not particularly hard to learn–I had the general direction of the turns down pretty quickly–but to be fast you have to really hustle the car through some turns that would definitely not forgive errors. The most intimidating turn for me was the little bend just before you go over the bridge. The Armco funnels down as you cross the bridge, and both the left bend and the right turn before it are flat out in top gear. But of course, you have to hit the apex perfectly to thread the needle on the bridge, and then there’s another downhill right onto the back straight that’s hardly a turn except in Peyote I was going 125 MPH as I negotiated it and drifted to the outer edge of the straight.

I did the test and tune day on Thursday, and was progressing reasonably on lap times, getting down to about 2:29 by mid-afternoon. The sports racers and faster Porsches were screaming past, but I used them to guide me through a turn or two, learning their lines. By the end of the day I was staying in touch with them through the turns–they still disappeared down the straights.

Friday in practice I saw what most of the competition was on–full slicks! So I took off my worn out Speedsters and put on my DOT radials. No point in taking a knife to a gun fight. I pulled out a 2:21: something on Friday morning, the best time I managed all weekend.

As I said in the previous post, HSR is a run-what-you-brung organization, and even though people say SVRA (same company owns it) is more strict, I think those a pretty relative terms. Many of the cars that run here wouldn’t be accepted by any West Coast organization except SCCA Vintage. It’s not surprising that you don’t see many great vintage cars here–no point in taking your five million buck Ferrari to a race with 300 horsepower 914-6’s with flares and huge slicks.

Peyote was in Group 2 which was running with the “historic” cars in group 3. In some cases, I think “historic” meant it was running in SCCA last year. After the first qualifying practice on Saturday, I was second in group 2 and 23rd overall in the 48 car field. Not too bad for the new guy. I had hopes to move up a bit.

During the qualifying race on Saturday I finished first in group 2, and 20th overall, but my time had slipped backward about 1.5 seconds to 2:22: something. Traffic.

One of the faster 914-6’s hit the wall at the entry to the straight. Wadded the car up, probably hit at close to 100 mph. The driver was fine but the car looks done–wadded into a square package about 1/3 the length of the original car.

Saturday night there was a barbeque on the lake in the town of Watkins Glen. Nice evening and really good food. We were going to go back to the Seneca Lodge but both Diane and I were too sleepy. Wobbled back to the track and crashed in Nero.

Sunday my race wasn’t until 3:30, which was a good thing since I found a little radiator leak. I put an electric cooling fan on the radiator last year, using those plastic push-through mounts. That might work OK for a street car, but I developed a small leak at one mount. I spent the morning repairing it with a little JB weld and delicately restoring all the bent fins in the radiator. Got it all buttoned up and ready to go in plenty of time, so I spent the rest of the time getting the trailer prepped to go.

Time to RACE! I was gridded 20th, got a great start and went right up the outside of the pack, entering the first turn in about 8th. I got down through the esses without losing a place, across the bridge, onto the back straight and a bunch of 911’s went blasting by. Got passed by a very fast TR4 (can’t remember the guy’s name–excellent driver) at the entrance to the bus stop chicane, repassed him in the heel of the boot, came up the hill to the front straight turns and BAM, something popped in the engine room, sending steam everywhere. I lifted and looked at the temp and oil gauges. Oil was fine, temp at 230, so I limped to the pit entrance and exited the track. Turns out that my screwball mechanic left the high point vent on the cooling system finger tight. What a moron. Got to fire that clown.

I filled up the cooling system after everything cooled down a bit, idled back to the paddock, checked the compression–looks okay. So I’m probably OK for Mosport. Packed up and hit the road.

Watkins Glen to Mosport
We drove along Lake Seneca to the town of Seneca looking for dinner. Didn’t find anything promising so we wound up eating at a family restaurant near the highway. The menu was surprisingly ambitious and the food was decent. We drove along Lake Ontario looking for a motel or a campsite–nada. So we took the navigation systems cue and tried a hotel in a nearby town called the Hamlin Inn. When Diane was talking to them they seemed a little shocked that anyone would be calling about availability.

Clue number one.

She also asked if they had nearby parking for our long trailer. After some consultation that sounded like a comedy routine from my end, they decided that there would indeed be adequate parking.

Clue number two.

So we drove the six-mile detour to Hamlin and located the Inn. From the motorcycles parked outside and the crowd of locals drinking beer and hooting on the front porch it was clear that while we might have found a bar I would enjoy, we had not found reasonable accommodations. We traveled on down a two-lane country highway, with me nodding and biting the inside of my cheek to stay awake. We finally found a basic roadside rest area with a sign that simply said “Parking, 1/4 mile”. It was quiet and a long way from any civilization, so I convinced Diane it would be perfect. And indeed it was. We slept well and continued to Niagra Falls in the morning.

Nero is actually great to sleep in. Quiet and comfortable, the bed is very nice with a layer of Tempurpedic foam on top of the standard foam to support seating.

Niagra was fun. We walked along the cliff top to American Falls, took some pictures, then took the elevator down to the Maid of the Mist to see the falls close up. Neat experience. Surrounded on all sides by Chinese and Indian tourist, we stood in our genuine recyclable plastic ponchos and watched a million tons of water pour down. Very worthwhile. Then we hopped back in the car and made out way through customs.

They have a special line for RVs and busses in customs, but we were the only ones there, so we bypassed the hordes of cars and got our own inspector, a young kid who was much, much more interested in Peyote and my FZ1 Yamaha than anything else. I could have had a bale of Marijuana in Nero and he wouldn’t have glanced at it. Boys will be boys. So customs was painless.

My navigation system is clueless about Canada. I’ll get a card for it when I have an opportunity, but for now, according to the GPS screen, we are floating in space with an occasional road nearby. We stopped for lunch in Burlington, west of Toronto, and had a spectacular meal at a restaurant called Pepperwoods. It’s been so long since we’ve had careful cooking and skillful use of good ingredients we ordered a huge medley of appetizers–way too much–and got to-go boxes. We went for a walk to take the edge off the stuffed feeling and found a Belgian chocolate shop where a charming Belgian lady and her son who owns the business, hand make spectacular chocolates and offer excellent coffee. We couldn’t pass that up, so we got some to put in the refrigerator, even though we know it compromises the beauty of the chocolate, it doesn’t affect the taste much.

We made it to Mosport about 4:00, had to wait until 5:30 for the track to clear so we could cross it (Nero won’t fit through the tunnel) and we got one of the few spots with adequate power. We spent a comfortable night in Nero and headed off to explore. We don’t need to be back to the track until Thursday morning (though we’ll get there Wednesday night just to be certain).
We decided to go to Rice Lake, a large lake about fifty miles from Mosport. On the way, we stopped for a late breakfast in Port Hope. Turns out there’s no nice funky little breakfast place in Port Hope but there’s a couple of good lunch spots. One called Zest opened at 11:30 and the menu looked nice, so we walked around the town awhile and had lunch there. Excellent Nicoise salad, a really good bottle of Provencal rose to suit the warm weather, and of course some frites, since we’re in Canada. Everything was wonderful.

We continued on to Rice Lake and a lovely place called the Victoria Inn. Classic old home converted to a nice Inn, right on the lake. Canoes, swimming pool, lovely dining room, etc. Spent a nice afternoon. I had a minor disaster with a canoe in the high wind–it wanted to blow away with me in it. Only some fairly frantic paddling and getting close to the trees got me back to the wharf. I fell in while I was launching it, providing no end of mirth to Diane. Had a nice meal, a post-prandial stroll along the lake. talked to a few fisherfolks, and back to the Inn in the twilight. Very classical and relaxing. So now to bed.

ONE RESPONSE TO “MORE WATKINS GLEN”
Bob Babcock Says:
June 22nd, 2007 at 9:54 pm e
Tell Diane we need documentation of events like you falling in…she needs to have that camera ready.