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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

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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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All Aluminum Tour

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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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All Aluminum Tour

AA Hop On The Podium and Hit The Road

This is a post from my old “All Aluminum Tour” blog about Peyote—my race car and Nero, my Airstream-based car hauler and some crazy stuff I did in 2006-2007

19 June 2007
I never finished the previous post, and now I’m a whole track behind. I’m sitting in the paddock at Mosport, we just came here from Watkins Glen. More about that later, but here’s what happened at VIR:

So the Chapparal and the Scarab hit the straight and disappeared like the Roadrunner in the cartoons–suddenly gets small. Behind me was a very fast Lola. I knew he had four wheel disk brakes, weighed about five hundred pounds less, and had about the same horsepower. Of course, he didn’t have Peyote’s Mojo going for him. I pulled out a small lead and was pressing on happily when the turn four gremlins got me and I spun off into the grass. I locked it up quickly so I didn’t slide too far, watched the Lola drive past while I got the engine fired up, and got back on the track in fourth place.

I had to press very hard to catch the Lola, it took two laps to get back in contact. I caught him at the top of the uphill esses and passed on the outside on the last tight turn of the esses. Pretty much on the edge there, but I got it done. I pulled out a little lead and held it to the end, though the Lola made a nice attempt in the last few turns to nail me.

Pulled off the track and they waved Peyote to a nice little podium area with a surprising crowd and a lot of photographers. Chris Economaki interviewed me about Peyote and the race. He asked the classic question: “What is that thing?” and was shocked to hear it’s a Triumph TR3 in drag.

I got to spray champagne on a bunch of people. Tom Hollfelder (Chapparal) said “If you don’t spray me I won’t spray you”, so we just hosed the photographers.

Then we beat feet back to the trailer, loaded up Peyote and headed for Pittsburg to drop Diane’s car off at a dealership, and then on to Watkins Glen.

 

 

 

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Champagne, Hardware and Chris Economaki

12 June 2007 This is a post from my old “All Aluminum Tour” blog about Peyote—my race car and Nero, my Airstream-based car hauler and some crazy stuff I did in 2006-2007

VIR looks like a horse farm, or a really big golf course. There’s a nice hotel on the grounds overlooking several corners, a clubhouse/tavern in a huge plantation house, and they’re building townhouse villas near the Oak Tree turn. Pretty cool place.

The track is challenging, there are a lot of turns that simply don’t work the obvious way. In fact, there are a few that I never got close to mastering–I’m sure I left a couple of seconds out there on the tarmac. But it was a lot easier to start going faster at VIR than at Road America.

You couldn’t tell that though by my first session on the track. I spun three times–twice in turn four which is an odd left-hander that doesn’t seem to have an apex. This same turn played a role in the race as well. Fortunately, it’s a low-speed corner with lots of runoff. I also spun in turn 14 called the Roller Coaster, which is most definitely NOT a low-speed corner, and the grass slopes sharply downhill from the track verge. I went down the hill backwards–briskly. No damage, and I drove back to the track and continued, but it was a long drive back to the track.

My times got better quickly with each practice, as I found that some turns that I was braking hard and downshifting for could actually be taken flat out in fourth–if you did everything perfectly. I did one more very high-speed exit off turn 14 with lots of agricultural evidence everywhere in the car, but again no damage.

The organizers put me into group D, which is Sports Racers. No chance of an overall win unless the two fastest cars didn’t show up or took each other out: A Chapparal 1 and a Scarab. Peyote punches a lot over its weight, but there’s just no chance with cars like these. The rest of the field was just about as impressive–Jaguar- and Corvette-powered Listers, a Birdcage Maserati, a very sophisticated Lola, Elva’s, Jaguar C type, and a very fast 1958 Corvette. I had my work cut out for me. In fact, I went to the organizers and begged to be put into one of the groups that had Triumphs in it. I wanted a chance to race with George Wright, who is a heck of a good driver. But they said, “let’s see how you do in Qualifying and we’ll decide then”.

Friday night was the Black and White dinner–very nice. Good food and nice people. I slipped into the pool to cool off. I would have leaped in, but I need to keep the dressing on my ear dry.

I’m not much for sandbagging, and I qualified third with a 2:21: something, so that option was pretty much closed. Diane got me a cool suit to help with the 95-degree weather. What a great thing. I’m certain I was substantially faster just because my head was clearer.

Saturday night we had a party in the Triumph Ghetto. I had moved Nero to another area because I needed more power for the air conditioner. In the Virginia heat and humidity, the refrigerated air seemed more important than proximity to friends. Call me fickle. We took the projector and a selection of movies to the party, along with a lot of wine and a little beer. Great time, even though a thunderstorm dumped a huge amount of rain on us for about twenty minutes. We showed Rendezvous and Le Mans. I think we may need to open every movie night with a showing of Rendezvous.

Sunday I woke up feeling fragile again. I didn’t think I drank that much, but something apparently camped out in my mouth. I did the morning warmup and Peyote felt wonderful. We made that magic transition where some corners become a dance move and the cars natural turning rhythm clicks with the corner approach. Amazing when it happens. I had it going on three corners, including turn ten, where I’d been struggling.

For the race I resolved to keep the Chaparral and Scarab in sight as long as possible, using them as a mental tow hook to better my time. I stayed with them through the Oak Tree turn, but when they hit the straight it looked like a roadrunner cartoon–they just suddenly got small.

3 RESPONSES TO “CHAMPAGNE, HARDWARE AND CHRIS ECONOMAKI”
Bob Babcock Says:
June 12th, 2007 at 1:15 pm e
I always find myself flinching when the guy crosses the street in Rendezvous….he couldn’t hear him coming?

Rozier Says:
June 14th, 2007 at 6:13 am e
Great post…when will your book be in stores…by Christmas, I hope…

Cameron Healy Says:
June 23rd, 2007 at 9:38 am e
Hi Bill and Diane!

Enjoying keeping up on your exploits. Of course, we all suspect you have been sitting on your deck on Germantown Rd posting your fantasy trip, though it does sound pretty realistic!

It must be pretty hot out there in the east and midwest.

We are preparing to head up to Seattle next Thursday for the Historics and then back to PIR the following weekend. You guys will certainly be missed! With my inaugural outing with the 908 at Wine Country earlier this month, I managed to do a boneheaded move and hit the concrete wall at Infineon exiting turn 11. With three 935’s on my butt, I think I lost concentration, turned in too early and got on the power too soon coming out. Pretty embarrassing and did some damage to suspension and body around both left wheel wells. Of course, Mr. Earle had his chat with me and mentioned that I would not be invited back to a General Racing event for one year. Fortunately, they are not applying this to HMSA events. The car will be ready for Seattle. I plan to run the Pooper and the 908 both weekends.

All is well here in the Germantown hood. Take care and enjoy it all!

Cameron

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Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Golf and Guns

12 June 2007 Yet another post from my old “All Aluminum Tour” blog about Peyote—my race car and Nero, my Airstream-based car hauler and some crazy stuff I did in 2006-2007

After my nephew Eric’s graduation party Diane and I jumped in her car and headed south and east to Virginia and Virginia International Raceway, the next track on the tour. The plan included sightseeing via a route that added ten hours of driving but featured excursions in the Grand Tetons, a peek at Yellowstone, perhaps a shy glance at Mt. Rushmore. But our enthusiasm for added driving evaporated while rolling along in the flat morning light outside Twin Falls, Idaho. A continental breakfast from a highway motel is thin gruel for optimism–we reassessed the time available and decided to blast across on the short route.

The Bentley Continental Flying Spur is fabulous for cruising across the country. Besides the creature comforts, the wonderful W12 motor adds incredible depth to the gas pedal–at 90 MPH the car is loafing, getting 20 miles to the gallon. I expected lousy mileage with this three ton, 535 horsepower, twin turbo behemoth, but it sips gas until you do silly things with the accelerator. Use up a little more pedal and you’re doing more than 140, as I did when Diane dozed as we ran along a wide, flat desert road with no cars visible on the horizon. She’ll probably only sleep in heavy traffic from now on, I made the mistake of telling her. Otherwise, she’d have never known, the car feels no different at 145 or 55. And there’s still lots of pedal left, all the way to 195 according to Bentley. At those speeds this car would be a reasonable alternative to commercial airlines–but not in the USA.

We spent the next night in Steamboat Springs. We deviated from our minimum time route to take in some of the continental divide. Cut down past Flaming Gorge (amazing–I’d like to spend some time there soon) and down to the spectacular mountains of Colorado. Stayed in an expensive but unattractive Sheraton–built for skiing no doubt, with the last remaining “popcorn” textured ceiling (I hope) in any hotel in America. Had a nice meal in town and off to bed.

I’m not getting any exercise on this trip. eating dinner and hitting the hay has got to be the fast track to blubber. I need to fix that.

After you leave Colorado it’s a long, uninteresting drive, several very forgettable meals (you get very spoiled living in Portland–we have great restaurants) to Nashville, our next stop. I really enjoyed Nashville the last time we were here, and the Country Music Awards were going on, so the town was packed. I’m not a fan of shitkicker music, but there’s a lot of great music in this town, so we were looking forward to a night out. But we stayed a few minutes too long in our room, collapsed and wound up watching a movie. What a couple of slugs.

We decided to modify our route a little and take in some of the Smokey Mountains. Unfortunately, we chose to enter the park through Gatlinburg which meant we went by Dollywood. Bumper to bumper rednecks. Took forever to get past the hundreds of tacky attractions that were being picked over by fat families that looked like they should never have reproduced. Oppressive. Both Diane and I had stiff necks from the ugliness of the place. One of the businesses we passed was “J. Floyd’s Golf and Guns”. Seriously, I can’t make this kind of stuff up. You don’t want to slow play on that course.

It’s probably not ideal to travel through the Smokies two days after you cross the continental divide. Pretty, but not that impressive. It would take a lot of mountains to scrape off the slime of Gatlinburg.

We made it to Raleigh and picked up my truck at the airport, then beelined to VIR. I picked up the trailer from the raceplex and went looking for the Friends of Triumph folks. We parked close by our friends and started setting up. It was oppressively hot and humid at the track, but what a facility! It’s the most beautiful race track I’ve ever been to–lovely grounds, wonderful buildings all done like an upscale country club. I got Peyote unloaded, replaced the seal and driveshaft, got it all buttoned up and we’re ready to race.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

Sorry, Can’t Hear You, I Have A Banana In My Ear

30 May 2007
Well, actually a cancer, but it’s the same principle. And the cancer is now sliced into 10-micron slices and arrayed like purple Proscuitto on slides in my doctor’s office. Now I can’t hear you because my ear is full of at least ten pounds of gauze.

Before anyone freaks, it’s just Basal Cell, about the least scary of the whacky things our cells do when they get bored and decide to try uncontrolled growth as a hobby. The most unpleasant thing about it is the hole the size of a jumbo martini olive in what used to be a very shapely ear. There’s very nice skin graft on it, but if it starts growing hair I’m going to have a tough time mowing it. The doc says that won’t happen, but he seems to have a puckish sense of humor.

This all started when I got back from Maui and started getting serious about having my racing physical. When you become a geezer like me you have to have one every year. While I was at it I decided to see a dermatologist (okay, Diane flogged me into it) and have him look at my vast collection of moles. I’ve been having a spot in the bowl of my ear that bleeds a little, then heals, then bleeds. The dermatologist did a punch biopsy of the site and said it might be nothing, or it might be Basal Cell Carcinoma, but not to freak–the cure rate for Basal Cell is super high.

Incidentally, if you have one of those little spots that bleed, or some white, flaky crusty spots on your nose, chest or back, or a pearly-looking pimple that never goes away, don’t regard it with suspicion for a year like I did. The hole they have to gouge will be smaller if you go see someone right away.

So after I flew home a few days ago for my nephew’s graduation I received the biopsy results. Bingo, Basal Cell. If you’re going to get skin cancer it’s the one to get. The surgeon found me a spot on his calendar for a consultation today, but when he looked at it, found out I had been ignoring it for a year and found out I was headed off to go racing for four months he decided to do the surgery right then. I didn’t even get up off the exam table.

He didn’t want to wait until October when I got back. Good thing–it turned out to be wandering toward the ear canal. That would have been messy.

Had to remove quite a bit more than expected, I probably had it for some time. He grafted in some skin from my neck right behind the ear, so all the pain is in one general area of my head. Not bad, just irritating. I’m supposed to spend the next few days being a couch potato, so I can’t finish cleaning my shop as I planned. I’m about a third done. The place looks like someone ransacked it. Nice to have a medical reason to screw off. I swear Diane thinks I slipped the Doc fifty bucks. That’s just simply wrong, and an insult to the medical ethics of Doctor Pokorny. It was a hundred.

Pretty interesting surgery–he took a circle out about the diameter of a good cigar, right in the cup of my ear. Since he had to excise to bare cartilage and there’s no blood supply in the cartilage to feed the graft, he removed the cartilage under the excision. I should get something cool stuck in there, like maybe a pencil holder or a flashlight. Could be very handy.

The surgical method is called Mohs–they section and microscopically inspect the tissue they remove to ensure they have it all. He had to extend the margin twice. Then after he had the graft in place he was showing Diane the slides and said: “whoa, what’s that?” He spotted a tendril of growth that had escaped him. Back in he went, and cut out another little moon-shaped section, and pronounced it perfect. Had to harvest another chunk of skin to patch the new spot so now I have two graft areas.

This surgery has about a 99 percent cure rate. If he hadn’t been showing off the slides to Diane I might have been one of the one percent-ers. It’s very worthwhile to have a really cute wife.

We’ll check in with the doc on Sunday morning (what a cool guy!), and if everything looks fine, we hop in Diane’s Bentley and head for VIR. I’m racing at the Gold Cup there June 8-10, then it’s off to Watkins Glen. Hope to see you sometime on the tour. But if I don’t respond when you talk to me, I’m not ignoring you, it’s probably just a banana.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Road America

28 May 2007
Racetracks are unique places. Tense places. Where to paddock, where’s tech, register now or later. Am I driving down a dead end that I’ll have to back this frickin’ fifty-five feet of truck and trailer out of? Road America was all that in spades, especially since it’s really big. The track is huge–over four miles long, with facilities and grounds that dwarf most tracks I’ve been to, all maintained like a private golf course. As I was pulling into the paddock area dotted with hundreds of big semi-truck rigs and trailers milling at random I spotted a familiar face–Bill Hart on Tony’s Hodaka pit bike. Billy led me to the grassy area Tony had pitted in and I joined them with Nero. I got the trailer set up, extracted Peyote from its tight fit in the back, and went searching for registration.

After an interminable tech inspection, I got out onto the track for a practice run. Wow. I felt totally lost. We did five laps and I still had no idea how to drive the track. Not only are there long straights everywhere that you need to carry exit speed for, but most of the corners look alike, so there’s no telling the fast, early apex corners from the slow, late apex tight buggers. I’ve been doing a really lousy job of taking pictures, and I forgot to trigger the in-car video camera at EVERY practice and race, all weekend long–not a single shot. What a knucklehead. But Diane will be with me when I get back to Virginia and she’s the official photographer, so it will get better soon. But here’s a video Tony Drews shot of the track during our Group 4 race (they put Tony in the same group as me because his TR4 has disc rear brakes). Tony Movie And here’s a photo I shot with my cell phone camera of a little town I passed through. I think it was in Montana, but I’m not sure. My cell phone has an amazing camera–5 megapixels and Zeiss lenses. In fact, it’s a really great cell phone in every way– the first one I’ve ever not HATED.

If you click on this picture it will go to full 5 megapixel resolution so it will take some time to load, but you might be interested in seeing the kind of photo this N95 Nokia phone is capable of.

Went to a restaurant named Schwatrz’s for dinner with a bunch of guys from Friends of Triumph (FOT) and had a great time. Then back to the track and slept in Nero.

Friday
I had two practice/qualifying sessions. They’ve put Peyote in the Sports Racer class so there’s little possibility of an overall win, so my goal is to beat all the Porsches. I’ve got a long way to go. I’m turning about 2.55 and they’re down at 2.44 but I’m certain I can gain at least ten seconds. I didn’t have an official time because Garmey swapped transponders between my car and Bill Hart’s. Pretty good joke, except timing and scoring, detected the error and didn’t give us times. Billy talked timing and scoring into redoing the time sheets. I did a 2:49.

Peyote received a steady stream of visitors in the paddock. The Prodigal Racecar–returning to its home track. If everyone who told me “I used to work on that car, with Bill Ames and Dewey Brohaugh” really did, then neither Bill nor Dewey ever had to spin a wrench. A lot of people were very excited to see the car though. Most of them haven’t seen it run since the eighties when Pat Starr drove it. Pat Starr is actually here, driving his Morgan.

There was a Bratwurst & Beans Motrah dinner (Morgan Triumph Healy–there’s a special MOTRAH race here this weekend) dinner Friday night. I love Bratwurst, but I bet I’m going to have had enough of it pretty soon. Kas Kastner gave a little speech, and Jack Drews presented me with the Bill Ames Memorial award. There’s some pretty neat folks that have won that, I’ll have to live up to it.

I went to Seibken’s bar afterward. What a place. It reeks of racing and fifty years of guys with motor oil in their veins bullshitting about how fast they are. It was pretty crowded. A group of bachelorettes from Green Bay showed up dressed in whacky wigs, having a party for a bride to be. They were pretty wild and they came to the right place. I hung out for a while and watched the festivities, then gave a ride back to the track to a thoroughly toasted mechanic who was insistent about going to another bar, which fortunately was closed.

Saturday
The MOTRAH qualifying was right after the group four qualifier so I was moved to group three which is the group with most of the Triumphs and other little British cars (LBC). There’s two very fast Austin Healy Sprites in the group so I set off chasing them. I passed one pretty quickly and settled in behind the one in first place to learn the track. I stayed tight on his tail, figuring out how to manage some of the corners that were slowing me. I finally passed him but found I was making serious errors in some of the corners so I tucked back behind him for the last two laps. I turned a 2:44.7. Pretty good improvement, though I think there’s still a couple of seconds of improvement left.

We’ll see. If I can pick that up I’ll be ahead of the Porsches in Group Four. I suspect I can do that. Big surprise for them.

The MOTRAH qualifier rolled out behind the pace car just as it started raining. I had put my Hoosier DOT (semi-slicks) radials on to try them out on this track–worst possible time to try that. By the time we were coming onto the starting line it was raining steadily, so I pulled off to the pits. No point in damaging the car in a practice session. I have a long way to go.

Went to the SVRA dinner. More Brats. Hmm. I went to Seibkens with Jeff Snook and met up with Jon Wood and Keith Files. Wound up going to another local bar, pretty interesting place. Turns out Jon is the original pinball wizard. I left fairly early and hit the sack. I’m on the wagon because of medicine I’m taking, so bars are not as entertaining as they usually are.

Sunday
I tried the DOT Radials during the warm up. Wow. They absolutely rock. I was pretty sure I could pick up two seconds with them.

For the Motrah race I was gridded fourth–there were two modern Aero-8 full-on race cars in the first two places. How these guys belong in a Vintage race escapes me. Then the really fast Austin Healy Sprite of Dave Jahamiac, then me.

I figured I’d smoke the Healy with the slicks on–wrong. I was very fast in the corners, but he was running away from me in the straights. I finally realized that the bigger rubber was actually slowing me down in the straights. I lost a full second with them on. I also had a nasty vibration near top speed that suddenly would quit when I reached max speed… I was only getting to 6400 RPM at the end of the straight instead of 6800 as I was earlier. Jahamiac was able to pull away from me as we climbed the hill of the front straight even though I had higher exit speed on the last corner than he did. The bottom line was I was getting better cornering ability but the increased friction of the tires, and perhaps their underinflation, was slowing me where it really counts at Road America–in the long straights. I felt kind of stupid about shooting myself in the foot like that. I finished third–behind the two Morgans and Jahamiak. I consider that second since the Morgans don’t count any more than an F1 car would if it were stuck in this group, but they were fun to see on the track.

They awarded prizes for the first finisher from each marque–I was the first Triumph, so I won a really nice Seiko Chronographic watch. I was really pleased to get it. I have a few nice watches, and I rarely wear them, but I’ve been wearing this watch all the time, ever since I got it. As I understand it, Joe Alexander and Alexander Racing donated the watch, so thanks Joe.

When we got the race results I realized Jahamiak probably would have had me even without the tire fiasco. My best time with Speedsters was 2.44.something, he was doing 2:43’s.

In the group four race I changed back to Hoosier Speedsters and even put an extra pound of pressure in each to reduce rolling friction. I was gridded about mid-pack, behind all the serious sports racers but ahead of the other production-based cars. At the green flag I charged into the middle of the sports racer pack, passing a number of cars. I expected a number of them to come barrelling by after we got through the first turn, but they never did. It turned out that my most aggressive competitor was a Lotus Super Seven. He and I battled for the lead in our private little race, swapping a number of times. He finally faded back–I think he overcooked a corner, and I was able to pull a reasonable lead and hold it to the end.

I finished first in my class–which wasn’t very hard considering I had about fifteen seconds a lap over the next car in the class–and about seventh overall. I accomplished my goal of beating the Porsches.

After the races, I Loaded up Peyote and headed for Virginia. Before I left, Kas Kastner loaned me a set of lectures on CD, one set on Ancient Egypt, the other on Ancient Greece. Kas told me that the Egyptian one was really good, so I popped in the first lecture, assuming that I’d swap to something more entertaining as the night wore on and I needed stimulation. As it turned out, the lecturer is tremendous and the subject is fascinating. I listened to 28 of the 40-minute lectures by the time I got to VIR.

Making my way through Chicago was the most unpleasant segment of the trip so far. What a nightmare the highways around the city are. The GPS guided me right through the middle of the city. If I had known I probably would have figured out a way to skirt it. I wound up sleeping in a roadside rest area about twenty miles out of Chicago–exhausted. It was noisy in the rest area with eighteen wheelers idling everywhere and trucks coming and going all night. I slept like a baby: Slept an hour…cried an hour…slept an hour…

Monday morning I got rolling bright and early. Ate a bowl of cereal in the truck and craved coffee until I stopped for Diesel and filled up my mug with hideous dreck. It’s not easy to get a decent cup of Joe. I rolled on south, learning about the dynasties of Egypt and sliding by identical strip malls, one state to the other. I finally reached West Virginia and as I climbed one of the rolling hills I saw a tire carcass in the middle of the left lane. I was safely in the right lane, but along came a pickup doing a good 80 MPH and ran right into it, flinging it against the trailer. It hit my grey and black water drain pipe a hard blow and then slid backw to my power cord storage box, wiping it off the trailer. The box and the power cord were dragging behind the trailer so I pulled over into the breakdown lane. There was precious little room between the breakdown lane and the traffic, so I was in a tough spot to work. I jury rigged the power cord, threw the box into the trailer, and made my way to an exit.

At the exit, it became clear that the drain pipe was knocked loose from the tanks somewhere. Not good–it’s a lot of work to access the tanks. I reinforced my jury rig and made some more miles, finally stopping in a KOA campground about a hundred miles from the track. I got the trailer hooked up, dumped the tanks, and refilled my freshwater tank to see if it had any damage (nope). Then I reworked the electrical connection so I don’t need the box. I spent a comfortable night, got back on the road early, and made my way to VIR.

I had made arrangements to leave the rig at the RacePlex at VIR while I flew back to Portland for my nephew’s graduation. The VIR Gold Cup isn’t until June 8-10. The plan was that I would fly out on Thursday, which gave me a fair amount of time to work on Peyote. I wanted to track down that nasty vibration. But now I also had to work on Nero. I spent some time assessing the damage to the waste tanks and determined that I couldn’t tackle the job in the time I had available. So I buttoned it up and got to work on Peyote.

I suspected the problem might be the driveshaft, so I put the car up on jackstands, pulled the driveshaft and all four wheels, and headed for Danville–the nearest town. In Danville I found a good tire shop that could check the balance of the tires and learned that there wasn’t any driveshaft service shop in the area. The tires were way out of balance, and the driveshaft looked fine as far as my visual inspection by feel was concerned. So I decided to put the car back together and see if I could get back to Portland a day early. When I got back to the track I remembered that the seal on the input shaft of the rear end was leaking a little, and I knew I had replacement seals, so I decided to replace the seal while I had the driveshaft off.

I pulled the seal and discovered that my replacements were the wrong size. Since I couldn’t reassemble the car without the seal, I decided to bring the driveshaft back to Portland and get it checked out. I loaded Peyote back into Nero, tossed all the loose parts into it, cleaned up and headed for Raleigh-Durham airport. I had a flight out the next morning.

I did a drive-by of the airport to see where I had to go in the morning and figure out the parking situation. I needed to leave the truck for two weeks–I didn’t want to do that in some short-term lot. The Raleigh-Durham airport turns out to be one of those multi-mega cloverleaf nightmares–I had no idea where I was going. Even the GPS was lost. I finally gave up and found a nearby Marriot to spend the night. I figured they could tell me how to handle the parking. Imagine my surprise when they told me I could leave the truck there for free, and they’d shuttle me to the airport! What a great service.

After a restless night, I caught my plane to Cincinnati and then on to Portland. Uneventful flight except they wouldn’t let me bring the driveshaft in my carry-on (it’s short enough to almost fit in my daypack). Apparently bludgeons are a concern. Whatever, I went back to the desk and checked it through to Portland then worried all the way about what I would do if it didn’t make it. I should have measurements of the closed and open lengths of the driveshaft so I could get it duplicated, but I don’t. It’s not a stock triumph one–it’s been shortened at least ten inches. Fortunately, it made it to Portland without drama.

Read magazines, watched half of a really bad movie (Catch and Release), ate rubber chicken. I was very happy to be home and see Diane.

I took the driveshaft down to Driveline Services who quickly determined that it was ready to come apart like a cheap suit. One yoke was totally hosed, the bearings were starting to brinell, and the caps were rotating inside the yokes. Good thing I didn’t have the right input shaft seal or it would have probably come apart at VIR. There’s nothing more than a little aluminum between me and the driveshaft. I might have to look at that. I have all the parts ready to go back on the car, including the right seal. I also turned out a tool on my lathe to make replacing the seal a more precise job.

On Friday I went to PIR to watch my friend Cameron Healy drive his new 906 Porsche at a Lotus Club track day. What a great car. Cameron’s going to have a fine time with it, I’m sure.

Cameron and his new toy. I’m still figuring out how the autofocus works on my phone’s camera.

Saturday we met Cameron and his wife Suzy at Scott Paul winery in Carleton, OR. A small winery he’s a partner in. They make great pinots and import fine burgundies from France. Had a nice picnic with Cameron and Suzy, tasted some nice wines and called it a day.

I’m spending the week until we get back on the road cleaning up my shop. It’s a nearly hopeless task, but I’m chugging away at it. I’ll start posting again once we’re on the road. Until then, be safe, have fun, don’t fight.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA First Race of the All Aluminum Tour: Pacific Raceways

Everything secure in the trailer, I patted Diane and kissed the dog (or maybe the other way around) and headed down the driveway with Nero in tow. I tested the new skid plates by scraping Nero’s butt briskly on the bottom of the driveway (they work!) and headed for Pacific Raceway in lovely Kent, Washington.

Road songs:
I always trust Frankie to settle my butterflies, so I put “Sinatra & Sextet, Live in Paris” in the CD player. What a great album. I’m not wild about the first song “Goody-Goody” but the rest of the album is pure gold. Somehow whenever I listen to this recording I can feel how it must have been to be in Paris in 1962. By the time I reached Centralia, I’d listened all the way through a couple of times. I hadn’t listened to any Billy Joel in ages, so I put in his Bridges album. I can’t imagine what it must be like to work with him. I bet he drives the other musicians insane. Every song is so tight, I bet it requires endless rehearsals and a lot of studio time. I finished up with Sting.

When I stopped to fill up with diesel I noticed that the middle left tire on the trailer was flat. I had checked the inflation the night before. When I tried to fill the tire I could hear a whistle from the middle of the tread, and sure enough, there was what looked like a nail head. Fortunately, it was a full-service gas station(!) and one of the guys came out and said–I can plug that without pulling the wheel. He yanked out the “nail” with some pliers and it turned out to be a piece of aluminum about half an inch wide and an inch long. The plug worked fine and I was back on the road in minutes. Seems to be holding air just fine, but I’ll probably replace it. Though I have to say, I couldn’t tell the tire was flat until I looked at it. The trailer towed just fine. One clear advantage of triple axles.

I got to the track and set up. Diane and Sam the gay dog showed up about an hour later in her Bentley, demanding a Gin and Tonic as quickly as humanly possible. We had Cameron and Art join us for dinner and a few glasses of wine. Then we set up for Movie Night–with “the Italian Job” playing on the In Focus. I need to rework how we do the sound, but otherwise, it was great. A bit cold though. We had about ten people join us for the movie, but most left before the end to either hit the sack or get warm. A few people watched it all the way through, and I thought I did too, but this morning I realize I hadn’t seen any of the chase scenes. I tapped out and woke up for the very end.

Today is a test and tune day. I don’t remember whether or not I paid for it. I need to decide whether or not to run Peyote–I think I’ll be better off going over the car instead of putting hours on the engine.

Race Day 1:

I took Peyote out for practice and it was running beautifully. I raised the tire pressure a pound on all corners to 18 psi cold. Did qualifying before lunch and wound up fifth with a 141.something. Not great, I’ve done 1.39s here on Vintage TD tires and I’m running Speedsters this year, but satisfactory for the first time on a track this year. Denny Hatch put his Pooper (Porsche-powered Cooper) on the pole, with Cameron Healy in his Pooper in second, then Jack Goffrette in the Victress and Kurt Delbene in his Lola.

I was hoping for one of the typical Peyote-Pooper battles but I knew I’d have some challenges getting by Jack and the Victress. That Corvette motor makes it tough to stick with in the straights, and he tosses that heavy car into the turns better than anyone would expect. Worse yet, Tony Garmey is driving Art Redmond’s ’57 Corvette this year, and I knew he’d come blasting past at some point if I got tied up. It was shaping up to be an interesting race.

Sure enough, Tony toasted me at the start and so did Steve Clarke in his Lola, so I was in seventh. I got by Steve pretty quickly but Tony is always tough no matter what he’s driving. I pushed him hard in every tight corner, trying to help him warm up his drum brakes. He finally started overheating and pointed me by on the long downhill run to turn 3a. As I passed him I saw a little daylight around the Victress as well so I tried to duck under Jack. I didn’t work, so I was stuck behind him for a couple of laps. I finally got under him in the long sweeper (2) and pulled out enough lead so he couldn’t quite catch me in the chute to turn 3, and then I stuck him behind a bunch of formula Vs we were lapping and I was clear. Jack can’t pass those little Vs very easily–he’s afraid he’ll crush a couple.

Kurt Del Bene was right ahead and I got him in Big Indy, and started chasing Denny in his Pooper. Cameron was long gone–a little silver dot at the end of the straight.

Denny was lapping fast but his rear end was sliding more than normal. He finally pulled off with an oil leak on his rear half shaft. It was lubeing his tire nicely.

I thought I might have a chance to reel Cameron in. With no one close by I thought his concentration would lapse, and sure enough, he was picking daisies way up ahead, but with three laps to go my engine noise suddenly tripled and I thought I’d blown a rod. I pulled off and shut down. As I climbed out I could see that the exhaust manifold had just come apart–a minor fix. What a relief.

Day 2: Sunday in the first race I started mid-pack and worked my way up to second. Cameron was well ahead again with no possibility of catching him once I worked my way up. I got some video of the race–I’ll edit and post it later.

For the second race, SOVREN did a standing start. Cameron started back in the field a bit with Denny, while I was on the first row in second position. I got a decent start but Cameron, Jack, and Denny out-powered me down the straight so I was in fourth going into turn two. I got under Jack in the Victress right away and was right on Denny’s tail. We completed a few laps and Denny pulled off with problems leaving Cameron and me to play.

We had a classic Peyote-Pooper duel, with Peyote’s bigger tires giving me an advantage in turn two and nine, while Cameron had the advantage in most of the other turns and the straight. I finally got past him in turn two and managed to pull out a slight lead.

We swapped the lead back and forth numerous times. Cameron had a partial spin in turn 3a that gave me a good lead. I pressed hard but got held up in a pack of Formula Vs. I could see Cameron tearing up behind me, really coming on fast. I came up on Billy Hart in the Fantuzzi Ferrari and he REALLY didn’t want me to lap him, so Cameron caught up while I struggled to get past Bill. Cameron passed me going down the straight and banzaied through turn two where I expected to get past. He held the lead all the way to the checker.

Great fun, great racing, great guys. I’d rather finish second with a great battle than first all by myself.

I packed up and headed out. Really hard to leave Diane behind, but I’ll be with her in ten days. You’d think after more than fifteen years of being together that we’d be fine apart, but we seem to get more inseparable every year.

I made it to a Wal-Mart parking lot in Spokane and spent the night. Pretty cool of Wal-mart to allow that.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Maybe Not So Ready

This is a post from my old “All Aluminum Tour” blog about Peyote—my race car and Nero, my Airstream-based car hauler and some crazy stuff I did in 2006-2007

May 7 2007
I was washing Peyote this afternoon and started the motor to dry it off. While I sat there revving the motor to repressurize the accusump I watched the water pump inlet hose squeeze itself down flat. Okay, that needs replacing. Then I looked down at the motor mount and noticed it looked funny–broken of course. The engine sounds sweet though.

Obviously, I’m not quite as ready as I thought I was. And I whacked myself in the face when I was winding the hose up on the rack. Nice cut and a potential shiner. What a klutz.

I made a new set of motor mounts for Peyote. I took stock ones and ran countersunk bolts through them into nuts that I welded into holes I drilled in the opposite face of the mount. I wound up with a reasonably flush surface. The idea is that the bolts can still wiggle to reduce vibration but the mount can’t tear. In reality, I don’t think I’m getting much vibration damping–the car is noticeably buzzier. Oh, well, as long as it doesn’t affect the engine. I don’t really like all the stress that soft mounts place on the transmission case anyway.

I loaded up Peyote late in the afternoon. Not much room left in the garage once the car is in. Today I’ll be finishing up little things, checking the tongue weight, and fiddling. Tomorrow I’m going to go have the trailer weighed to see where we came out. Thursday morning I hit the road for Seattle and the trip begins. Four months on the road.

Should be interesting.

Categories
All Aluminum Tour

AA Nearly Ready, New Toys

This is a post from my old “All Aluminum Tour” blog about Peyote—my race car and Nero, my Airstream-based car hauler and some crazy stuff I did in 2006-2007

It’s pretty funny to read this post from the perspective of 2019 and today’s smartphones, but that 2007 Nokia N95 was one hell of a powerful package.

May 6 2007
I’ve been working like a dog on the trailer, doing last minute things for the trip, which starts next Thursday. The skid plates are done, I’ve reworked a lot of the storage, Diane has had an endless list for me that seems to be finally complete. I’ve been through a battery of doctor visits, for my race physical, a problem I’ve been having with my hip (I’m falling apart like a cheap suit) and a dermatologist to check out my zillion moles. I got all the paperwork done for race entries. And I’m putting together my first few music playlists.

One of the items on my list was a better way to connect to the internet on the road. I did some research and decided a new cellphone was in order. I plan to use WiFi where I find it, but most of the time I’ll be using a GSM phone as a modem. I wound up buying a Nokia N95 on eBay and having Cingular provision it.

I don’t usually get too excited about technology–I’ve been playing with this stuff far too long–but holy smokes what a cool piece of work this thing is. It will be months before I figure out how to do everything it does, but so far I’m blown away. I never wanted a crappy camera in my cell phone, but now that I have a great one (5 megapixel, ziess lens, excellent focus framing and zoom features), it’s pretty useful. I’m not ready to set the Nikon D80 aside, but the picture quality from this tiny device is remarkable.

The MP3 player is better than an iPOD because it has built-in speakers that are absolutely astonishing–both for volume and clarity. I can’t understand how they did it. It also plays videos (though it’s only 2GB of storage) and the screen is superior to my video iPOD.

Bluetooth and wifi are remarkable–I connect to my WLAN in the house and don’t have to use Cingular’s data service. You can also Skype right from the phone. But it also acts as a GSM modem for my laptop (though not in Macintosh mode–I have to boot Windows–yuck). I have been able to get iSync to work with the phone to keep the calendar and phonebook up to date–there’s a plugin for iSync available on the Nokia site.

The GPS that’s included is a little slow to locate satellites, but it works very well. The maps are very up to date, as is the location database. It shows some restaurants in Portland that are less than a month old.

The phone supports video calls (though Cingular doesn’t yet). I tried one using my wireless network and was able to send video to my computer from the phone. It will be interesting to see if cell phones are the way that we finally get standardized video phone calling. Dick Tracy had it fifty years ago.

One interesting if trivial ability is that you can associate an MP3 song with a particular phone book entry. So when Diane calls me the ring is Bruce Springsteen singing “Sad Eyes”. Beats the heck out of some goofy synth ringtone.

This phone is not available in the US yet. Mine comes from Hong Kong and the maps for the GPS defaulted to Asia. But everything is in English and it works wonderfully. Usually when the US carriers get these kinds of phones they have a lot of the features turned off to keep from cannibalizing their expensive services. For example, the phone supports WiFi and VOIP, so any person who is usually within a wireless network doesn’t need phone service to use their phone. It also doesn’t need the expensive data services the carriers supply. Since my phone didn’t come from these bandits it has all the features enabled. Of course, I’m going to need a carrier anyway because half the reason to buy it is internet access on the road. But it’s an interesting development.

I’m absolutely amazed that so much technology and such great design can be levered into a tiny, lightweight package. It’s only a little thicker than the Razr I hated every day I owned it, and it weighs less.

So far, so good.