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 put-out, 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.