Every blog begins the same for me…typing the current date so as to keep track of each entry (and also to lend consistency to how I archive them in the computer). Though not intending today’s entry to mark any anniversary, it turns out today really is a milestone (of sorts) for me. Yep, exactly 300 months ago (or 9131 ¼ revolutions of our planet), Sergeant John Russell Beckman (for those of you who are totally confused…that’s ME!) was honorably discharged from the USAF.
As a 21-year-old car fanatic with several electrical/electronic certifications, a solid work ethic and discipline learned in the military, and marketable job skills, I did what any intelligent person would do: I took a job as the “diver” on Tim Grose’s nitro Funny Car, making UP TO $800 per month (minus expenses), and went on the road.
When Tim was unable to continue racing full time until securing more sponsorship (yep, even in 1988 it was all about the money), I began my near 11-year career as an elevator repairman.
That part of my career ended in 1998, when I gave one month’s notice in order to go work for Frank Hawley at the Drag Racing School (more on that later). In fact, if we still ran the Pomona location (the school is based solely in Gainesville now, though it travels to different tracks throughout the year), there is no doubt I still would be teaching on a regular basis.
I suppose I’m waxing nostalgic because of the date today, as it sure has brought back a flood of memories. I still am in touch with many of my military friends, and see several of them at various races during the season. I’m grateful to have a “job” that allows those sorts of reunions and interaction.(In fact, I’ll be doing something very special right before the Atlanta race which directly revolves around my military service. I’ll fill in the details on that when the time comes).
So much has happened since that day, twenty-five orbits around the sun ago (there’s a sentence you don’t get to write often!). Sometimes life since then seems like a blur, and the years have just flown by. It’s hard not to take some time and reminisce…until reality sets in.
Yes, today we are finishing painting the upstairs hallways and our new loft addition. Yesterday we did the common areas downstairs (the rooms will have to wait until another time…and much more caffeine). Next week the carpenters will start on the baseboard and crown molding (I told you winning the championship doesn’t come without its costs!), and in two days we should be pouring the last of the concrete before I can begin framing my overgrown storage shed (if you’re a regular reader, I believe we’re about 20 months into that project).
I have a stripped driver’s side windshield wiper to repair on the RV, an entrance door screen that mysteriously tore in Phoenix, and a few other minor fixes (“minor”, meaning that I THINK I can do them by myself) to accomplish.
The lawn needs mowing, Jason is doing T-Ball three days per week, and I still have to glue the bannister together and Bondo the floor sheeting (I definitely will have to explain that in a later blog).
Without any photos to sort, store, caption and attach, this entry has been pretty quick. Still, I have a full plate of chores and the clock is ticking, so I’ll try to wrap this up.
We have been scratching our heads at the lack of consistency from our race car at the first two races, but I’m confident we’ll figure it out soon. We plan on staying Monday after the Gators to test, and I sure hope it’s with a Wally safely tucked inside our transporter!
Speaking of Gainesville, I’m really excited about a couple of things I will be doing. First, on Thursday before the race, I will be inducting the team of Hirata, Hobbs, and Vodnik into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. I was thrilled when Bob Frey suggested to Donna Garlits that I could help out. I feel honored that I was asked.
Second, Friday night of the race Frank Hawley and I will be presenting a seminar at a local hotel. This is the first of what we hope will become a semi-regular program, and it’s the first time ever that he and I will present together. After I attended the Frank Hawley School and listened to the wisdom he had to impart, I quit my career, took a substantial cut in pay, and never regretted it for one moment.
If you’re going to be there for the race, I wouldn’t miss this deal for the world. Frank wanted it to be a sell-out, so he priced it at $59. It’s going to be first-come, first-served, so I’d lock your spot if you think you can make it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a driver, a crewmember, or just a fan, there’s so much fascinating information presented that it will blow you away. I’ll attach the flyer here so you guys have all the info. I’d love to see a bunch of my readers attend, and feel free to bring lots of questions with you.
Just none about how many times I’ve procrastinated in the last 25 years!
Stayed tuned, book now, time flies, and home improvement is inversely proportional to one’s savings account!
Though I was highly disappointed that our Valvoline NextGen Dodge wasn’t able to get out of the first round at the season opener in Pomona, it’s tough to feel “down” right now. The weekend (at least up until 5.34 seconds into the fourth pair of Funny Car in round one) really went wonderful. It was hectic, to be sure, but very rewarding. Before officially kicking off our 2013 racing season in this blog, let’s take a step back…
Our test in Vegas three days before the start of the season didn’t go too well. It was cold, and we only made it down track one time in four attempts. I know how frustrating that is on the crew, as they always give their best effort, whether we set the national record or smoke the tires. Personally, I prefer the record runs! Perhaps the highlight of the Vegas excursion was my trip home. Good friend and National Dragster writer Kevin McKenna was at the track shooting some photos (I think that was just to cover his butt for all the gambling he did), so I withdrew my plane ticket and hopped in the car with him. We got to shoot the, uh…whatever it is that guys shoot… during a three and a half hour car trip.
By the time that Kevin dropped me at my car (which I had left at Ontario airport the day before), I was so tired that it was tough driving home. Besides trying (and I emphasize, “trying”) to nap during my flights, I had gotten four hours of sleep each of the last two nights. That may work if you’re an artist, but it isn’t fun when you have to give four separate seminars for your sponsor and need to deliver an effective and concise speech each time (that would be my Sunday night in Nashville), or when you’re accelerating from zero to 300 in four seconds (that SHOULD have been my Monday in Vegas, but it turned out to be some serious tire shake a couple of times, which is always good for a sleep substitute!).
Ozzie, Christian, and Bo. Not only am I the youngest guy in this photo, but also the shortest, palest, and least muscular. I need to get some new friends!
From left to right, Don Long, Bob Beckman, Bill Schultz, Walt Rhoades, Dennis Murphy, Brent Cannon, Billy Scott, Spider Razon, Donny Hampton (sitting), me, Larry Bowers, John Rasmussen, Phil Burkart Jr., Joel Embick, Frank Genco, Rod McCarrell, Carl Olson, and John Hansen. How many laps do you think this group has made down the quarter-mile?
Valvoline’s Rob Clendening actually looks right at home with the surfboard, and that signature on it looks familiar to me. Now that it’s passed the peer-review and engineering evaluations, we’ll move into sea trials when time (and the wife) permit. I can’t wait!
Dick made me this awesome necklace, but we were unable to find a chain that would support it (plus it made my neck hurt). We’ve decided to make a keychain out of it, which begats the question: “Is that a #1 in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?”
This is one of those “special moments” that you always dream of, but are never sure it will happen. Not only are the rings cool, but those presentation boxes rock!
Tell me the artist who engraved this had to lay off the caffeine for a few hours! (So his hands didn’t shake…that was a joke).
If you ever see this ring on an episode of “Pawn Stars”, call the cops, then call me immediately. Either it was stolen, or Jenna needed money for new carpet!
While in Nashville, I got to take a picture with Ozzie Smith (the baseball player, not the rock singer), Christian Okoye (the NFL Running Back, not the religion), and Bo Jackson (definitely NOT Bo Diddely). All three of them were extraordinarily receptive and easy to talk to. By the way, all of us were guests of Valvoline at the O’Reilly Auto Parts manager’s conference. I also got my photo taken with Mario Andretti, but at 11:20 pm he looked like he’d had quite enough chatting for the evening, so I don’t think I made his Christmas card list.
Once home, it was back to projects as usual. Jerry came by, we finished wall forms for the last concrete pour for the garage, and easily passed inspection. Hopefully I’ll be done cementing things shortly after the Phoenix race.
The Thursday of Pomona I was invited to a really cool event put on by Brent Cannon. It was a “reunion” (though much less formal), open to all former Top Gas racers. There were some heavy hitters in attendance, and each person spoke for several minutes about their experiences “back in the day”. I love being a fly on the wall during get-togethers like this, as the bench racing stories are irreplaceable.
Friday, after qualifying low for the day (and #1 overall), I headed over to the Wally Parks NHRA Museum to be part of the Night of Champions panel, something I have been honored to do several times.
Saturday, though we were again the quickest in the final session, we were bumped down to #2 by Courtney Force, who went on to win the race. Still, it was a great day with some special surprises. Valvoline supplied perhaps the biggest. I have become so close to many special people there, and our relationship extends far beyond our common interest in increasing their market share. They really do go above and beyond to take care of people, and I realize how lucky I am to be affiliated with them. Well, seems that Shelley Austin and Rob Clendening somehow got ahold of my wife (I don’t mean like they kidnapped her…I mean that they contacted her on the phone), who then got ahold of my friend Rich (that BETTER have been on the phone, dear!), and the end result was that I was presented with a one-off surfboard in our pits. It’s one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever got, and I can’t wait to get it wet. I’ve been told I’m crazy if I take it out in the surf, but I don’t believe surfboards are made to hang on the wall…at least not until they’ve propelled you through the surf several times. I stayed up late last night selecting and ordering the fins for it, and I’m anxious to get out there and show it off.
Good friend Dick Vandermeer made me a present that is totally cool. He used his fancy new plasma cutter to duplicate the #1 on our car, complete with the names of all the Funny Car champions within it (my number doesn’t have my name in it, but Dick added it in his creation). It was thoughtful, it was meticulous, and it IS totally bitchin’!).
Sunday morning all four of us Full Throttle champions were given our rings and jackets during pre-race festivities. It really sank in when Tom Compton helped me put on the greatest piece of clothing that a Funny Car driver could ever want. And I got a ring, to boot! There’s no question that the ring is special, but it’s over-the-top huge (like in, “Mr. T-huge”), and my piano-player’s fingers aren’t really fond of jewelry. I think I’ve worn my Super Comp championship ring twice, and the newest one is way too loose on me. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they sized me for it. Either that, or my fingers have lost a lot of weight since November. Don’t look for me to be sporting that big, fat ring out in public anytime soon, unless I get a huge gold chain and wear it as a pendant around my neck.
That was pretty much the highlight of my Pomona, as things went to hell shortly thereafter. Our car dropped the number seven cylinder less than two-tenths into the run, and that was all she wrote (by the way, who exactly is “she”, and what did she write?).
Watching Antron crash from my vantage point on the starting line was frightening, and there were some tense moments before he got himself out of his car. He’s a wonderful man, a great driver, and the perfect teammate. I just hope he doesn’t become addicted to Ben Gay.
Phoenix has been great to me many times, and I’d love to knock out our first win early in the season. Our MTS/ Wounded Warrior paint scheme will debut there, and I hope tons of fans come by our pit and fill out a postcard to a wounded hero. It will make such a positive impact to so many deserving people, and I’m proud of Rodger and Karen Comstock for caring so much.
Perhaps the best part of my Pomona weekend was that THIS time the motorhome started up Sunday night, and I was able to drive it home! Sure, we had a leaking faucet, but these sorts of things are to be expected in expensive RVs…aren’t they?
Monday my dad (he and Teri weren’t smart enough to book an early flight back to Dallas, so he was stuck helping me) and I went to work servicing my land yacht. I’d feared making the attempt on the oil change, as the 40 quart capacity seemed daunting. Fortunately, thanks to a previous blog, reader Bob Rock dropped me off a behemoth of an oil drain pan. Not big enough to capture everything in one load, mind you, but I’ve gotten pretty good at screwing a drain plug back in, even amid a torrent of continually draining oil. Turns out all my paranoia was for naught, as the oil pan only held 32 quarts, without the filters. Piece of cake!
The filters, however, were another story. My jumbo diesel oil filter wrench was no match for the pro wrestler who must have tightened these monsters at the last oil change. No worries, I reasoned, and grabbed a strap wrench to use in conjunction with the filter wrench. Though I did turn an interesting shade of purple while straining against both implements, the filter refused to yield. Since more nearly always is better, I tried two strap wrenches in tandem with my filter wrench, and if I screamed at the top of my lungs and pushed until I felt dizzy, I’m fairly certain I saw the filter move about .050, only to settle back the instant my muscles fatigued. Before I brought out the hammer and drove a screwdriver through the filter, I enlisted the aid of a pry bar, against my filter wrench, in tandem with both strap wrenches. Though it took at least four attempts per filter to get them moving in the right direction, I finally won that battle. By this point my dad had about half of the nine total gallons of fresh Valvoline poured into the crankcase. I also think he may have been concerned that I would have an aneurism (or crap myself) after all the straining. Fortunately, I went zero-for-two on those.
The coolant and fuel filters were nearly uneventful, except for the fact that one of the fuel units was most definitely NOT the correct replacement. Seems that more than one company makes a model S-3230P fuel filter, and they look nothing alike. The old one went back on, and I’ll attempt to do a better job of ordering a replacement next time.
The euphoria I was now feeling (or was I just still lightheaded?) dictated more work, so I got the generator serviced as well. About this time, my dad must have had his fill, and he and Teri headed for the airport. Fortunately, the Zahorskys showed up minutes later, and I had another work partner. William, who clearly didn’t learn his lesson back in November (he, Staci, and daughter Kristen stayed with us for several days, and he helped me with several projects), found himself back in the motorhome, this time rebuilding the kitchen faucet. Between the two of us, a trip to Home Depot, some steel wool, Vaseline (hmmm…odd visual) and elbow grease, the unit is now working like a champ.
Today I waited until it started raining pretty hard before washing the PT. Sure, it may seem counterintuitive, but it REALLY needed to be cleaned before we hook it to the back of the RV and drag it 400 miles down rainy, dirty highways to Phoenix.
When home, we like to partake in family-style events, such as this OSHA-approved obstacle course, complete with garbage cans, tables suspended in midair, and pallets balanced precariously on uneven surfaces. Apparently the kids forgot to wear their helmets and pads, but we did have an operable fire extinguisher within easy reach!
This blog took about two hours longer to write than most, but not because I was out of ideas or that I was typing slower. Nope, seems Jason really hadn’t paid much attention to my two prior lectures regarding excess use of toilet paper, and failed to mention to anyone that the toilet wouldn’t flush. I was alerted when Jenna was shot gunning towels at Staci to throw on the floor, and all the while the water kept on running! Yep, it was loads (bad pun) of fun, two rolls of paper towels full of bliss, one package of disinfecting wipes of fulfillment, and 75 plunges worth of joy. However, the greatest moment came when Jenna was able to call the plumber back and cancel the $95 service call…life just doesn’t get much better. And there’s another great reason NOT to wear the championship ring around the house!
We’ll pick Jason (the professional wiper) up from school tomorrow before hitching up and heading out, and we should pull into the track parking lot sometime about 1 am. I need to be in my pit by 8 am to film a segment for a local news station, then on the track at noon to help with the media-race coaching. After all this, sometimes it’s actually less stressful when I’m strapped into the race car…and I can’t wait!
Stay tuned, don’t waste toilet paper, my ring size is 10 ¼, and I don’t envy plumbers. But most of all…Antron is okay!
Sorry if the title caught you off guard, or if it offended anyone. Come to think of it, if you read this blog, I’m guessing that you’re not easily offended. Anyway, the title was a construction reference, of course. And, man, has my life been all about construction lately. However, in an effort to have fair and balanced reporting, let’s catch up on “all things Jack” that don’t involve a hammer or saw:
We tested for several days in West Palm Beach, Fla. We made some pretty stout early shutoff runs, but we also faced some frustrations during our 15 passes. That, in and of itself, (who the heck made that figure of speech up?) isn’t unusual for testing. After all, we decided to go with a different style “cannon” (not as in, “something loud that shoots out projectiles”, but rather, “a hydraulic clutch controller that allows the throw-out bearing to move during the run”), and we were trying a few different style clutch disks and levers.
That being said, we still felt like we had some unresolved issues in the fuel system. That, plus the fact that the last day was a complete rainout (we had intended to do at least 3 runs that day) sort of forced our hand. We now will make a stop in Las Vegas this Monday (as in, “3 days before Pomona…THAT Monday”) and make several short runs to take advantage of our changes. Though I’ve got plenty of stuff to keep me busy all the way up until the Winternationals kick off, I’m certainly cool with dialing-in our Valvoline/MTS (more on that later) Charger.
The issue is (believe it or not)…time.
Sunday I was airborne at 6am to make my way to Nashville doing an appearance for Valvoline that went until 11 p.m. Then, early Monday morning I headed straight to Vegas for our aforementioned test. I landed at 10 a.m., and we’d like to warm the car by 9 (If you’re also having a hard time with the math on that one, join the club). We’ll do the best we can, and hopefully the track will let us stay a bit later to get all the runs in. Monday night I will fly back home.
All my movie star friends. I’m the good looking one in the middle. No, not the one wearing the blouse with all the buttons…look slightly left!
Speaking of flying, I’ve done LOTS of that lately. Yep, two days after flying back from Florida testing I was back on a plane, heading to…wait for it…Nashville (of course). That visit was to film a segment on PowerBlock TV, hosted by Courtney Hansen. She’s definitely a gearhead, was very cool to spend time with, and apparently ain’t all that bad looking (so I’ve been told). We also had our Schumacher Electric/ Battery Extender-bodied racecar in studio, and the show will air in March.
From Tennessee, I flew home for four days, and then back on the road for four more (that’s a lot of “4’s” in one sentence). Yep, I went from Ontario to Denver to Detroit…and stayed. Motor City was my goal, and my destination was the Chrysler Headquarters. Mopar hosted several of their champions, including Alan Johnson and me. Joining us were Jonathan Start and DJ Kennington, both nice dudes and championship drivers.
The tour of Mopar’s building was spectacular. At 5.3 million square feet (I didn’t measure to verify, but it was big), I’m told it’s second to only the Pentagon in office building size. Jenna told me that wasn’t important. Anyway, I wish I had three days and the necessary clearances (as in “security”, not like in an engine) to see more of what they do. Checking out the 2015 Challenger, the clay modeling rooms, and the SRT design works (none of which I’m allowed to mention, by the way, so keep your lips sealed!) was quite a treat.
From Detroit, I hit Chicago for a layover, then arrived in snowy Salt Lake City (that’s in Utah, for ye who are geographically challenged). I was there to give a speech in support of my work with Amgen. Their “Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts” campaign was fantastic to be involved with, and I was honored they wanted to have me speak to so many of their employees. I just wish I had brought a warmer jacket.
Every good construction project starts with a pool table, a floor jack, 4 furniture dolly’s, and some muscle from your mother-in-law!
This is BEFORE. A beautiful area with a vaulted ceiling, but a pain in the neck to get up on a ladder to clean the windows. My solution: simply add another floor and the windows are within easy reach!
I believe I am caulking (which is NEVER a joking matter!) and Blake is making sure that Jason doesn’t make a run for it and dive off of our new elevated platform.
I can’t recall if this is before or after I cut through the alarm cable while lowering the A/C vent.
Once Ed and I attached Dixie cups to the ends of the wire, it was much easier to hear each other!
If you really want to itch, this pink stuff will do the trick! Perhaps the most interesting part of this project was an epiphany I had while at Home Depot: Jack, Ed, and eight 25-foot rolls of R-30 insulation will fit INSIDE a PT Cruiser (though you do have to slam the side door and the rear hatch!
Chris and Todd after hanging all the sound board and drywall. Two things to notice: That patch behind Chris was preexisting and covered with trim (and appears to have been installed by a blind seven year old). Also, tattoos seem to be “in” for drywallers. Technically, Todd is considered a “rough carpenter”, no jokes…please!
After my speech, I took part in an NHRA teleconference (while idling the rental car in the airport parking lot), then checked out the Vegas airport on layover while on my way back home.
At home, if it hasn’t involved manual labor, it’s been all about computers and alarms. We now are on modem #4, and this may be the one to fix it. Our internet story sounds a bit like the end of “The twelve days of Christmas”, featuring: “Four new modems, three providers, two computers, and a trouble call from A.T…T” (Thank you). While the gentleman from American Telephone and Telegraph was bypassing all the cool electronics our 2004 home came pre-wired with, I just knew it was worth $130 to “uninstall” the internet from every other room it was prewired into. Later, good friend Brent Cannon took a look at his work, and cleaned up several things. He also noticed that our alarm was incorrectly wired, meaning it would be incredibly simple for someone to tie-up the phone line, break into our home, and not ever worry about the alarm company being notified. Three and a half years…and a bill every month. Talk about a false sense of security (kind of like my Thursday run at the Finals…if you know what I mean)!
Anyway, Jenna phoned the company, who sent out a tech, who verified the hook up was wrong, fixed it, and charged us ZERO for the call. Jenna then followed up with a customer service call, only to be told there really wasn’t a problem, they couldn’t verify if someone had “altered” their original install, and they’d reluctantly give us a $160 credit out of the kindness of their hearts. This is where the you-know-what hit the fan. DO NOT discredit, patronize, or lie to your customers!!!! This company, who shall remain unnamed (ADT), did every possible “dodge” in the customer service handbook before Jenna finally got to speak to a manager. After 3 minutes, we were refunded EVERY PENNY we had spent with them since day one. The manager also commented that this was the easiest decision she had made all day, as we had complained about various issues from virtually the beginning (all related to the install issue), and everyone involved on their end had simply dropped the ball. Lesson learned here: Stay the course and stand your ground when you are justified…it will always be worth it (in this case it was worth $1591).
Speaking of large sums of money, this brings me right back to all the goings-on in the home improvement department, and should explain why Home Depot stock has risen in the past month. Not content to simply “milk” my ongoing backyard project, we decided to pull the trigger on our living roof “loft”. It just made sense: wait until three weeks before the season officially kicks off, right in the middle of travelling all around the globe, just when the temperature reaches the low for the year, and dive right in to a major construction project.
Fortunately, I know people. Todd Henry, who was a student at the Hawley School (he actually traded a bathroom build in our shop for his tuition), was definitely the right guy for this project. Todd is one of those guys who get 11 hours of work done in 8 (kind of the inverse of me). Between Todd, his son Blake, and me; we cut out strips of drywall horizontally around the entire room, mounted full perimeter continuous ledgers, hung the floor joists, and installed the subfloor sheeting in two days! Todd said call him back when I was ready for drywall.
About that time is when I started racking up more frequent flyer miles, and then it was time for electrical work. I know enough about electron flow to get myself into serious trouble…but I got people! This time, Ed Kryzwicki got the call. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I met Ed while working at the Drag Racing School. Ed races Super Comp, and is one helluva wiring guy. He and I installed 11 lights between the two levels, added outlets, switches, speaker wiring, and cable for TV. Remember, this isn’t new construction, and we tried to minimize making huge holes in the drywall. I got tapped to do the attic crawling, but we finished everything is just over two days.
Next, we needed heat! Though I was able to relocate the downstairs vent lower to clear the soon-to-be-installed crown molding, there was no way I was going to tackle adding two more vents upstairs. That chore, and a cool $500, went to a professional.
Salvaging the existing bannister was very important for this project, and I’m fairly certain that I’m close to expert status on that now. Ed and I ripped it out without damage, Todd did most of the finessing on the reinstall, but I spent plenty of time in between making sure everything was cut correctly, cleaned of all nails and glue, and sanded back smooth. It’s really going to look terrific when we’re all done.
Todd and crew were back today hanging drywall, and tomorrow it should be textured, sanded, and complete.
We basically are paint and carpet away from being done with the addition, and that’s great. What isn’t great is that Jenna wants to repaint all the common areas on both floors, and that may require more time than we have. I hate to farm out work I can do, but we may have…get this: “Painted ourselves into a corner”! Get it? Okay, bad pun. Also, the only thing I know about carpet is that I get yelled at when I get mud on it, and Jenna wants all new carpet…everywhere. I’d love to write an article about how fast one can go through a championship bonus, but it’s a little depressing right now. I need to remember which students of mine do carpet.
While all this was going on, Jerry (and his son Jerry) finished off the form boards for the garage wall, and I’m six vertical rebar away from being done with my wall trench. Though I certainly won’t win any contests for time, I’ve managed to form the trench, lay all the horizontal rebar (basically everything laying around the yard that I don’t want to have to take to the dump), and get half of the verticals in. I should be able to call for an inspection as soon as my schedule allows, and I’d love to pour concrete shortly after the Phoenix national event.
I’ve got my Valvoline diesel oil and all the filters to service the RV; I just am out of time right now. I hope I can squeeze that in between Pomona and Phoenix, but that only gives me a day and a half…we’ll see!
I mentioned earlier about MTS being back as a major player on our car. Currently Valvoline will be the primary for 10 races, five each with the same green scheme from last year and with a similar outline but red. Mail Terminal Services will have a very unique design at seven races, with a tribute to our injured soldiers. Not only will fans be able to write a message to these exceptional service people, but MTS will donate $1 for every postcard signed to the Wounded Warrior Project. I can’t wait to get started. The program will launch in Pomona, and Phoenix will be the debut of the car.
I’m also thrilled to be able to strap into the car with the big “#1” on it in just a few days. I’m sure this season will have emotional extremes, but I am so honored to be able to get back out there and defend our championship.
Stay tuned, pack your bags, get it plumb, level and straight, and watch us in Pomona!
Though I need no excuses to procrastinate on my blog entries (I do fine on that without any help, thank you!), my PC (which has not been acting very “PC” of late) is about to become RIP. Seems that 6½ years is about all one can expect from a processing unit, and it’s been giving us fits lately, making it difficult to keep up on anything requiring the use of a keyboard. Throw in internet issues, 2 dead modems, and it’s easy to understand how I’m so far behind.
This morning at 6 a.m. PST I was “wheels up”, (and fast asleep) on my way to West Palm Beach to get a week’s worth of G-Force therapy. We’ll be running our Valvoline car (which will feature two different paint schemes this year, the newest being the Max Life “red” car) Tuesday through Saturday, and I’m thrilled to see what our Dodge Charger looks like with that big #1 on the roof!
I really am looking forward to the debut of the new MTS: “Mail for Wounded Warriors” paint scheme, which will run at six races this year. Rodger and Karen Comstock have again gone far above and beyond to help our military personnel, and I’m so proud to be associated with them in this endeavor to support our heroes. Closely following the outline of the “Mail from Home” program, fans will be able to fill out a postcard at the races, which will be forwarded to a recovering soldier. The boost to morale will be worth every penny the Comstock’s are investing, but they’re not stopping there. MTS also will donate one dollar to the Wounded Warrior Project for every card filled out at the races! As a military veteran and a proud American, I can’t wait to get started!
In between kicking my computer, switching e-mail providers, and spitting on modems, I actually have been able to get some stuff done around the house.
Here’s where we spent a chilly New Year’s Day: at the Zoo. Here, Layla hangs around the old nag (and there’s a goat in the picture, too!).
On the RV front, I was close to throwing the step away and just carrying a crate with us in order to get in and out of the motorhome, but I finally was able to weld, grind, adjust, drill, shim, cut out and re-weld, lubricate, rivet, align, scrape, sand, prime, paint, grip-tape and clear, and reinstall a step that seems to be working fairly well, thank you! I also ordered and replaced an entire bank of 12-volt circuit breakers, had the awnings over the four slides replaced, installed 10 new Die-Hard batteries, and am awaiting my Valvoline shipment before I dive into a 40-quart oil change (that should be interesting....I’ll keep you posted).
I flew back to our shop on Dec. 20 for the Christmas party. I wanted to thank all the support crew at the shop that don’t come out to the races, and I also filmed a short video for Valvoline and got fitted into the car. We’ll be running last year’s car (with a new “front half” on the chassis), but we have changed a few things in the cockpit and needed to make sure my cup holder is still within easy reach.
My flight home from Indy was special. All told, I spent 15 hours in either an airport or an airplane. No one’s fault, just a combination of a short delay due to a maintenance “issue” (there’s a euphemism for you), a reroute to avoid missing my original connection, and some weather delays that made for an unforgettably special day in my life.
Also in December, I spent a few hours out at Pomona Raceway helping with the Doug Herbert BRAKES program, which is always a rewarding experience for me.
I bid a tearful ‘good-bye’ to my championship trophy...at least for a month. The judge recommended a trial separation, as apparently I had become too possessive. Okay, Mopar requested it for an event in late December, and I will be flying out there in late January for another get-together, and what should be a tear-filled reunion with “Wally”. I did make sure he was well-packaged before his first-class flight to Detroit, so he shouldn’t have any bumps or scratches when he comes back to Norco for good. I just hope he hasn’t gotten any tattoos or Botox since he left.
Here’s Randy supervising, Brandon breaking rocks, and me wondering how the hell I was going to break through this vane of impenetrable granite. This stuff was worse than reinforced concrete, and the Home Depot jack hammer did nothing (except cost me $70).
We’ve done quite a few family outings, trying to maximize our time together during Jason’s holiday time off from school and Cindy’s work schedule. The gals took Jason to Disneyland (thank God I no longer am expected to attend those expensive forays!), and we all partook of the Aquarium of the Pacific (they have fish), Universal Studios (they have outrageous admission prices), and the LA Zoo (they’re supposed to have animals, but half of them must have been on vacation or huddled away from the cold when we went).
Jason is more than halfway through his basketball season, and we’re pretty sure he’s going to have to look elsewhere for a career. He occasionally cries when things don’t go well during practice or the games, and that’s always fun to deal with. I have been helping head coach Eric and am the “de-facto “assistant coach, so having the child that so effortlessly blends his ADD with pure anguish over a missed rebound is the gift that keeps on giving. I try to encourage him to practice, but that’s a bit like pulling teeth.
Speaking of teeth (and giving myself an ‘A’ for a perfect segue), our little guy lost his first one on Jan 6. It fell out on its own, so there was no physical trauma involved, but Jenna and I sure are retrospective. It’s such a milestone event, and it means he’s getting older! Soon he’ll have facial hair, kids, and a wife that nags him...just like his dad (sorry, honey!).
We had to make holiday cookies for Santa, so the ladies rolled dough, Layla worked the oven, and Jason again sported his Boise State colors. Obviously it was a “dress yourself” day!
Though Jason certainly is growing, he very much is still our little boy. He’s the only kid I know who hid behind the couch for fear of being scared while we played Layla’s “Tinkerbell” movie. He also cried several times last night at “Monster Jam”, most notably when the Maximum Destruction truck lost in eliminations. Jenna and I try so hard to teach him sportsmanship and how to deal with defeat, but maybe he’s on to something with the crying deal. I may give it a try this season and see if it helps.
Christmas was pretty cool, as we just hung around the house and had a fairly mellow day. That worked out well for me, as I was nursing a sore back. Seems Jenna felt that our one-year-old was ready for a complete faux kitchen assembly...and the operative word there was, “assembly”. It only took me about three days to get it all bolted together upstairs, then it needed to be put down next to the tree once the kids were asleep on Christmas Eve. Weighing every bit of 70 pounds, it was a delight to carry it down 16 steps with one arm...by myself. Afterwards, I looked in the cupboard portion of it for some Ibuprofen, but no luck.
When time permits and help is available, I’ve been doing what I can on the backyard projects. Jerry has nearly completed the forms necessary to pour the side wall for the garage, and I’m closing in on forming the footing for a 46-foot wall in the top of the yard. The goal is to only have to pay once for a truckload of cement and the pump necessary to get the mixture into the backyard. My friend Sully (Randy Sullivan) has spent many an hour back there, as has his son Brandon. We’ve moved truckloads of dirt (part of the yard looks kind of like the jumps at Monster Jam), jack-hammered out thousands of pounds of granite, and hauled tons of rebar and lumber around, just to try and save a few bucks. Had I hired the job out, it would have been done over a year ago, but I will have saved probably $20,000 or more with the help of Randy, Brandon, Jerry, Chris, Ryan, and a couple other hardy souls. Neighbor Curtis has kept me honest, (he’s a structural engineer), and I do enjoy participating in the labor, though my back has been reminding me how old I am for the past couple of weeks.
Jason and I hadn’t been hiking in quite some time. The view was pretty spectacular from this peak, which is less than a mile from our house. Getting up there was another matter entirely, especially the parts where Jason rode on my shoulders!
Speaking of back (segue #2), Jenna informed me that the internet coupons she purchased for Jason to go to one of those trampoline places were going to expire last week. In case you didn’t notice, I used the “plural” reference, meaning that I too was expected to partake of the bouncing. My pleas for leniency fell on deaf ears (four of them, if you count Jenna and Jason), so dad got to sweat for two hours, much of it several feet off the floor. I’m pretty sure a chiropractor wouldn’t recommend that sort of therapy for a sore back.
I figure that after two or three runs in the Funny Car this week, I’ll feel way better or WAY worse...we’ll see. I’m having Jenna pack the Tylenol just to be safe.
One of my friends, Brian Chalmers, passed away the day after Christmas. I have written about Brian and his wife, Porsha, many times. Both Marines, Brian contracted ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) more than five years ago. Though he never said a word to me (not because he didn’t like me), we communicated well during our visits. Porsha sent me many photos after his passing, and I’d love to share some in a future blog to not only honor the Chalmers, but also for awareness of the disease. Their story is incredible, and I wish Porsha and son Matt only the best while they adjust to the loss of an inspiring man.
Stay on track, protect your back, keep your batteries charged, and you can lose your baby teeth...but don’t lose your Wally!