Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm Pooped

Day 1 is complete, and I'm wiped out.

The morning began with too little time to eat breakfast (got some coffee, though!), $4.00/gallon gasoline, a wet seat, and a cool-shirt that wasn't flowing. An inauspicious start, to say the least. Oh, yeah: and our first session on track was only about 4 laps. Apparently they were running behind and wanted to stay on schedule.

There was also a SuperPerformance Cobra that tried to take turn 14a upside down before our session. Curiously this was not the fast line through the turn.

The second session was much more intense. I was surprised that many people were giving me the signal to pass. There are a bunch of VW R32's in my group, along with a handful of mildly exotic sports cars, and one Porsche 911 Turbo (he passed us all a lot), but by and large I was chewing up the mirrors of slower traffic throughout the run.

Somewhere in the middle of it I got the signal to pass coming onto the front straight, but the driver signaling didn't let up on the gas, so I had to make a late pass. Now, it takes a second or two to collect your wits after passing someone to figure out what's next. Unfortunately, I took too long, went way too deep into the braking zone for Turn 1, and slid off into the grass. Oops.

The car was fine, my instructor didn't have too much negative to say, and when I pitted in, I simply told the guy in the pits that I got on the brakes too late, and off I went. I was totally panty-waisting that turn for the rest of the session, and most of the 3rd (and probably even part of the 4th), but I did learn the proper line through HogPen, which is where I spun off the track last year. That turn went from being terrifying to my biggest thrill on the course. Holy smack, HogPen is freakin' awesome.

I had fun today.

Sorry, Tripp: no photos. I thought about it and then left the camera at home anyway. While there are a bunch of VW's and Porsches here, there really aren't any hyper-exotics at this event. Well, except for the Ariel Atom I got to ride in...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Roll Call in the Sleep Inn Parking Lot

2 Miatas (including mine)
3 Z06 Corvettes
1 E30 BMW
2 VW R32's
1 2007 MINI Cooper S
1 Formula Ford
1 Dodge Viper
1 Porsche 911 GT3
1 Porsche Cayman (no badging, but it might be an S)
2 Ford Mustang GT's

I'm down in Danville for 2 days for a HPDE (high-performance driving event) put on by TrackDaze. It's 2 days on the track at VIR, where I've driven twice before, but the difference is seat-time with an instructor and the right to pass slower traffic.

I'm super jazzed about it!

I got down here this afternoon around 4pm and headed over to the track to unload & prep the car. Swapped the wheels, mounted the cool-shirt's cooler in the boot, and ran all the electrics that I'd need for the event.

Then it was time to hob-nob. First up was a guy in another Miata, and from the looks of his car, he knew what was what. Evidently not: he bought the car already prepared and had a look of trepidation when he got close to mine. He must have asked about every single component of my car. It was cool, though, to see the enthusiasm and curiosity that only comes with being new to this racing thing.

Then I spent some time with Ashley (of RiverCityMINIs fame) and his buddy with the 944. Yummy cars... Eventually my eyes settled on a familiar looking vehicle: an E36 M3 that I've seen several times behind Mr. Kimmelshue's house. The fellow unloading it didn't look familiar, though, so I introduced myself. It turns out Chris is poison for other people's wallets, too, as this guy got into track events after talking to Chris.

Anyway, the guy couldn't have been nicer, but while he was releasing the tie-downs that held the car onto the trailer, we were probably flapping our yaps just a bit too much, because he forgot to put the car in gear. When he let the last strap go, the car just started rolling. Both of us had a moment of "hey, is that supposed to happen" before panic set in. I foolishly tried to stop the 3000lb+ car by pulling on the A-pillar. No dice. Then I figured that since the car came with brakes, I might as well use them. I dove through the window (the car was still about a foot or so of the ground) and cranked the emergency brake. 5 feet later it stopped, but it could have been much worse.

15 minutes later, we saw what "much worse" meant. There were a number of cars in line to be tech-inspected. The last two were a Cobra and (I think) an R32, in that order. The guy with the Cobra hopped in, fired the motor, put it in reverse, and slammed the R32, to the utter amazement and stupefaction of at least 10 onlookers, including the R32's owner. Yikes!

Hopefully, that's the worst I'll see this week, but horsepower and adrenaline are closely related, so wish me luck...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wait, how old am I?

So that's the question that I find myself facing this week. Tomorrow's my birthday, and a curious thing happens when you have a baby: you cease to exist as a separate entity. The first time someone asked me how old I would be on my birthday this year, all I could think was "19 months". I think it took about 15 to 20 seconds for me to come up with "32", and that was based on some shaky math.

Yes, I'll be 32 tomorrow, but it's really not much of a watershed event. It's a day that I get to spend with my wife and child, and that's really all I care about.

Enough sugar and fluff...

This weekend was fun. Hot (oh my god...) but fun. Saturday started with a really great, laid-back breakfast at Feathernesters in Lakeside. The place is a local kitsch shop with a tea room, and their food is superb. They do a bunch of pies & pastries, but we restrained ourselves to some very fluffy pancakes, tasty bacon, and an english muffin for the little man. Yum yum yum.

Then it was off the the Richmond Raceway Complex for the National Street Rod Association's Richmond Nationals. Thousands of street rods (read: cars from the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's souped up and maintained to a level of perfection that is only attainable by the retired or the soon-to-be-divorced) were gathered on the sweltering pavement, and while they were beautiful, they did not engage Alastair's attention. The heat sucked us dry, but we managed to have some fun, and doused the boy with a full bottle of water (straight shots to the face, and he loved it!).

Saturday afternoon we pulled out his baby pool and did some front yard swimming. That kid does love some water!

Sunday was spent on yard work and home repairs during the day, but an absolutely fabulous dinner with friends. It's easy to fall out of touch with friends, and you don't realize the tragedy of that fact until you lose them forever. I'm very blessed to have friends who realize how long it's been and how important it is to sit down for a relaxing time together.

Chris, Terry, Jeff, Evelyn, Amanda and I (and Alastair, of course!) went to Nacho Mama's and spent 2 wonderful hours eating, chatting, gossiping, and acting like fools. It was great, and I think we should make it a more common gathering. The only person missing was Mariah, but we spent a good deal of time talking about how much we miss her (we miss you, Mariah).

What a great ending to a great weekend. I hope we do it again soon.

In 2 days I'm off to VIR for a high-performance driving event. It will be 2 days of flogging the Miata on the race track. Mmmm, yummy...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't you buy no ugly truck

That used to be the tag-line of a local used-car/truck dealership in town. I haven't heard it in years, but it leapt forth in my mind today.


I've had the desire to buy a truck for a long time. 4 years ago, I missed my chance to own one for $450 at a silent auction. The inherent utility of a truck is such that almost every household ultimately needs one: bringing large things home where delivery is cost-prohibitive (sometimes 15-20% of the total purchase price!), hauling stuff to the dump, moving, and if you get a 4x4, getting around in the Winter. To say nothing of the ability to tow your own car to the shop for long-term work, and then being free to keep on motoring.

Recently the Miata's transformation into a race car was completed, and with that came a number of concessions to the race track that make street-driving very unpleasant, like a roll-cage that's hard to climb over, an extremely loud exhaust, and the utter lack of ventilation inside the car. Oh, yeah, and the windows don't roll down: they're either on or off.

So the two have been converging: I still want a truck, and I still want to race, but now it's not really all that much fun (or safe) to drive the Miata on the street.

Real story:

I've been looking for older 1/2 ton trucks so that I can tow, but with A/C and a radio for those long trips. I started with hope, saw a bunch of clunkers, and eventually found the truck I wanted. It was a retired VDOT truck with 151K miles. That sounds like a lot, but diesels run forever. Specifically, it was a 1992 GMC Sierra 1500 with a 6.2L naturally aspirated Duramax diesel. It had a tow package, A/C, automatic transmission, and for that touch of ultra cool: the VDOT light-bar was still on it!

Did I mention it was orange? Like exactly the same orange I want to paint the Miata?

So I made an offer, that offer was accepted, and today I went to test-drive the truck. In a rare moment when luck and logic meet, I called my buddy Jay at Elliott Tire and asked if, since he was already doing some work for me, I could bring the truck by for a look-over.

I got to the dealership and found the hood up with a battery charger connected. The dealer told me that he'd had to install a new alternator, and that he "was losing more and more money on this deal" (like that was my problem!). Anyway, I took the truck and drove it over to Elliott Tire. It was a slow and laborious drive as I figured out what was where, how to do stuff, and I was excited.

Things took a turn when I parked the truck. I got out, handed the keys to the mechanic, and heard with horror the sounds of a dead battery. They tried to jump it. They tried to jump the other battery (it has 2). They tried to charge the battery, whereupon the 2nd battery started smoking. We're talking 5-packs-a-day kind of smoking, with battery acid bubbling over the side.

Yeah, I'm not buying the truck at this point. We're just in "salvage the day" mode.

Ultimately we wound up leaving the truck in place (another dude who's very familiar with that family of engines pointed out a fuel leak, and we'd already identified a possible oil leak) and went back to the dealer. He wouldn't make eye-contact.

See, that battery wasn't a truck battery. It really wasn't even a car battery. Jay's mechanic suspects it was a lawnmower battery! He also said something was putting a massive electrical load on the battery, even with everything disconnected. They further suspected that the starter had destroyed itself in all the efforts to get it started.

Another guy in the shop was telling me about horror stories he's heard about some of these cheapo dealers. One evidently put sand in the transmission to mask slippage!

So Jay's going to give me the number of a place that rents trucks by the day, but for considerably cheaper than what I've seen elsewhere.

Yeah, don't you buy no ugly truck.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Busy Little Bees

Even in the midst of my yuckyness last week, I managed to fill every second of my weekend with activities.

Saturday saw Amanda & Alastair off to early yard sales and a trip to the park, while I lay around recuperating. Then Jeff & Evelyn came over for lunch, and after they left, it was off to a RiverCityMINI's barbecue. I came home from that an hour later so that we could hit the Filipino Festival, a block away from home. After eating some tasty Filipino food, it was back over to the barbecue for a right proper dinner (and a very tasty one!).

Home, bath for baby, bedtime for baby, and videogames.

Sunday was an autocross, mixed in with baby splinter-removal.

This week people are coming by the house to bid on bricking the edge of the driveway, and Alastair's going to spend at least one night with his grandparents so we can see The Bourne Ultimatum.

Amanda's also trying to figure out when she can go to Seattle to visit Susan, and I'm planning a post-Labor Day beach trip, all the while trying to figure out what to do for my birthday (anybody want to race go-karts?).

It's busy time when it should be dog-days time.

But maybe it's not really all that busy: maybe I'm just recovering, and it seems busy to me.

Enough about me; how's the baby?

He's great! Yesterday we danced around in the living room for a good long while, watched some Sesame Street, and rough-housed on the sofa for a bit. Every afternoon usually sees us wrestling, playing hide & seek, and chasing each other around the house. There have been lots of frozen treats in the last week, too, as I try to heal my throat, so Alastair has been in ice-cream heaven.

BTW- Anybody know why Bruster's on Staples Mill was closed on Monday night?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tonsillitis Sucks

Wednesday evening I started to feel light-headed right after dinner. Shortly thereafter, my eyelids got warm, which is always my first indication of a fever.

Thursday I took off work, and it was a wild roller-coaster of a day, going from freezing in my bathrobe under sheet, blanket, and comforter, to burning up in nothing but underwear. At one point, I went and sat on the front steps to warm up (it was about 102F out there, actually a little cooler than I was). I slept, I ached, I began to feel pain in my throat, and the most exciting symptom of all set in: reduced perception of light. It was like someone had dialed back the electrical service to our house by about 15%.

At the height of my fever yesterday, I was at 103.4, but 2 hours later I was barely touching 101.

This morning I awoke with a much nastier feeling in my throat, a fever of 100.8, and decided it was time to see a doctor (especially when Amanda's mother suggested it might be strep--yuck!).

A trip to Patient First, a negative strep test, and a fusillade of antibiotics. I've felt pretty stable most of the day: a little headachy, lots of naps, but no major temperature swings.

Hopefully the worst has passed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beach Vacation 2007

What we agreed to and paid for (back in September 2006):

A week-long celebration of Chad's birthday, lots of booze, and a room in a big house.

What we got:

A wedding
A baby shower
3 birthday parties
Yelled at
A math problem*

Moving on...

We did have a great time, and watching Alastair play on the beach was nothing short of heaven. He had so much fun covering himself in sand and letting the surf wash over him. We played in the waves, crushed sand-castles, sifted for stones, played Where's-The-Baby, and frolicked like champions.

I watched my little man eat crabcakes and pickles, discover a deep love of NASCAR and motocross, and obsess over dirt and basketball.

Amanda and I got some much needed time together without household responsibilities (although we did wash all the dishes in the house one night since nobody else seemed interested).

And we got to spend a week with Susan, which was a lot of fun.

Amanda reconnected with an old friend from college, and our little 'uns played together for a good while.

It was fun, but the traffic and the attitudes detracted from the experience. Will we do it again? Sure, as long as we know in advance what we're getting into, and those plans are protected from change.

*The house cost $7400 for the week, and featured 8 bedrooms. We bought one bedroom for $900 for the week, and assume that the other bedrooms went for similar prices. 7 bedrooms were fully occupied for the whole week, equaling $6300. Another bedroom hosted a number of "floaters", or people who may not have chosen to stay the whole week, or who came by themselves. Floaters paid $65 / day, and at least one paid for the whole week: $455. At least three other groups of folks came on Wednesday and stayed thru Saturday: $585. Shana's parents stayed two nights, and assuming they paid $65 as a couple, that raises us to $7470. All of this does not add up to the total number of people who stayed in the house. At least 2 or 3 other folks showed up during the course of the week, and at least one of them did not pay to stay. At an inside estimate, assuming Kent and Raleigh were only there for 2 nights ( can't remember if they were there for the wedding or not), we have a total financial contribution of $7730, for a profit of $330. I say it's an inside estimate because Grandpa didn't sleep in a room. Did he pay, or was his share donated by the family? I'd say it's easy to assume closer to $1000 was collected in overpayment, even with the freeloader(s). Did my overpayment go to paying for the wedding, or did it get pocketed? If my estimates are even close to accurate, and considering the weight of a full-room share as opposed to a single-share, I figure about $100 should be coming back to us.