Today's blog might ramble a bit, but I'm going to start out with a look back at Epping, although I have to start today's blog with that headline because, well... I wasn't there! I didn't get any lobstah, nor did I get any chowdah, and I didn't have to remember where I pahked my cah, which is probably a really good thing considering the massive fan turnout and the therefore unavoidable crush of traffic descending on New England Dragway every day.
Just like most of you, I was dialed in, tuned in, and paying rapt attention all weekend, with the NHRA.com "Audiocast" going most of the time, along with the "Live Timing" app, and ESPN3.com, whenever it was available. On top of that, there was much texting and talking going on as well, so much so that I almost (almost) felt like I was there. By every single reputable account, it was an unqualified smashing success. Probably beyond anyone's wildest dreams or hopes, I'd say.
New England Dragway is clearly a bit on the "rustic" and historic side when it comes to so many of the stadium-style amenities we now see so often and pretty much come to expect, but the one thing they weren't short on was hospitality and a great fan experience. I probably got a dozen texts or Facebook messages from various drivers and crew members, and the most common comments were "elbow to elbow" or "wall to wall" followed by descriptions of the fans that mostly orbited around the sentiment that they were extremely friendly and over-the-moon excited to see the big show, the NHRA Mello Yello show, finally come to their New England backyard.
The traffic was tough, and even though Tim tends to leave at the crack of dawn even in places like Topeka or Pomona, where there's no fuss and no muss getting in, he said they still sat in traffic for 45 minutes on Saturday. They didn't make that mistake on Sunday, and frankly I'm surprised he didn't sleep at the track just to absolutely make sure there was no issue getting in. We've seen this before, at various tracks when they're added to the schedule, and I'm sure the track staff and the local law enforcement folks were taking notes and watching carefully, to see how they can alleviate the back-ups in the future.
In terms of qualifying, we stumbled a little bit there by having an unfortunate bit of parts breakage (a clutch lever) in Q2, which was the clear "home run session" for everyone. We were one of the quickest cars in Q1 and Q3, and even got a bonus point out of it, but when you spin the tires at pretty much the hit of the throttle in Q2, on Friday night when the conditions were prime, you're lucky to be anywhere close to the top half, and we were 11th.
Tim the crew chief, however, told Tim the driver to hold and and buckle in tight for round one on Sunday, and sure enough we ran our best lap of the weekend by a long way, putting a 4.09 on the board to win our 12th round of the season. All good. And then we lost traction in round two and our day was over. Courtney was in the other lane, and she ran good enough to beat just about anyone, but it would've been better if we gave her a tussle right to the stripe. So we went 1-1 and if you do a statistical analysis of doing just that (going to the second round) the numbers would tell you that overall that's a good thing, and over the long haul if you did that every race you'd probably finish in about 6th or 7th place, since you'd be one of the best eight cars at every race and it's unlikely the other seven were always going to be the same. But... The way the standings are, and the lack of any breathing space between about 4th place and 10th place, meant that our 1-1 record on the day actually dropped us two spots, down into the No. 8 position in the standings. As I said on Facebook "Geez, we won a round and dropped two spots. I'm glad we didn't win two rounds, then!"
So now two of the four races in succession are over, and yes I do feel a bit guilty about not being there, but in two days I'll be packing up and heading for MSP to hop down to ORD and the weekend in Joliet. I don't even dare tell you how nice the weather forecast is... Someone may jinx the whole deal, but it won't be me.
Here on the home front (the multiple-homes front, as it were) this week is one of those odd ones where Buster and Boofus and I are here in Woodbury while Barb is back out in Liberty Lake, although (and this is where it gets even weirder) she's not even staying at our house out there! Turns out, the executive team from Itron is having a full staff "retreat" where they all go spend a few days at a remote site, so they can eliminate distractions and get the most done in terms of meetings and strategy sessions, and that remote site happens to be Northern Quest Resort and Casino, which is right by the Spokane Airport. So I'm here, the fuzzy boys are here, Barb is out there, but no one is at our Liberty Lake house. Go figure.
Speaking of the boyz, and so many of you constantly do, they are adapting so well I wonder if they'll remember our Liberty Lake house when we get back there in September. I know they're feeling at home because of one word: Elephants.
You see, when they really get wound up and have one of those play spurts that can last anywhere between a minute to 15 minutes, they chase each other around the house at full speed, hiding behind corners to scare each other, just generally going all-out and being totally beyond control. They make so much noise they sound like a herd of elephants running through the house. When they do this, and Barb and I are in the living room watching TV, we just look at each other and say "Elephants!"
Last night, they had their third or fourth full-on "crazy go nuts" elephant session, and it was hilarious. I can never seem to catch them on camera or with a video (one of these days I'll get them on video, and I'll prepare for it to go viral) but just watching this session was laugh-out-loud funny, and at least three times one of them would run so fast around this place he'd catch up to the other guy from behind, sneak up behind him, and then make his brother jump straight up about a foot in the air. Then, off they'd go again.
After about 12 minutes of this insanity, they both ran out of gas and caught their breath for a second, right in front of me. Normally, you'd see this iPhone pic and figure it was just Buster and Boofus relaxing, but if you look at it and think about how nuts they'd been right before this, you can see it in their eyes. They were nuts.
Barb and I also went to a Twins game last week, on a spectacularly beautiful night for baseball. We obviously no longer have our season tickets, but I scored a couple of "Dugout Box" seats on line, and we got to live the big life sitting down there. Your seat bottom is cushioned, you're not too far from the playing field, and you even get a private concession and restroom area! Pretty cool... And the Twins won, so it was a perfect evening.
That private concession area is under the main grandstand, and we quickly learned that it's connected to all the private walkways the team staff uses to get to various parts of the stadium. All sorts of familiar faces were walking through there, including one big furry guy with huge eyes. His name is TC, and you'll see his photo with Barb in the gallery today. TC is a great mascot, and everyone at Target Field just loves him. As Barb said, when she spotted his big ears from around the corner, "Hey, you're never too old to have your picture taken with TC..." I agree.
Another photo in today's gallery is of a very bright green jacket. I got it in 1979, when I was member of the Medford A's in the Northwest League, playing baseball and riding buses for an entire $800 per month (which I thought was pretty big money). It was an official custom-embroidered Oakland A's jacket, with my name on it, and it was my pride and joy back then. Right up until the big club sent me that fateful certified letter I had to sign for. You know the one... The one that informed me that my baseball services were no longer needed. At that point, I gave the jacket to my sister Mary.
And here we are some 33 years later, and on my birthday a box showed up at our door here. Within the box was that same Oakland A's jacket, a little the worse for wear but still very bright green. Mary said "I'm pretty sure every member of my family has worn this at some point. We're lucky it still has sleeves..." What a GREAT birthday present that was. And what a great sister I have (two of 'em, actually). Thanks Mares!
I still dig the A's logo on the upper chest, with their old slogan "The Swingin' A's" stitched on the front. They also had a pair of white spikes as part of the logo too, since they were the team that was first to wear white shoes, and they still wear them. I clearly remember arriving in Medford that summer and having to scramble to find a local sporting goods store that, luckily, had white adidas baseball spikes in stock. A little work with a green marker, to color in the three stripes, and I was in business... I'm sure I still have those shoes somewhere in one of my old duffel bags...
On the baseball theme, but from the current day, it was funny to see a photo posted on Facebook from the TV coverage of the NCAA College World Series. Take a good look at it in the gallery. Apparently a college education (or at least a grasp of basic spelling) was not required in order to be the person selected to make the special banners that are on top of the dugout in Omaha. Sheesh...
A beautiful night for a ballgame... Great seats, too!
And to wrap things up today... A reminder and a sneak peek!!!
This weekend, we're not only kicking off the fan vote for our newly designed Team Wilk website, we're also running a special edition body to support that promotion.
So.... A) Remember that voting begins on Thursday, June 27. Go here to vote: http://vote.timwilkerson.com/
And... B) When you see the strange car that is seen in the final photo in today's gallery, remember that's Wilk! The car supports both LRS Web Solutions and DotNetNuke (DNN) the company that is teaming up with LRS to get us this fabulous website makeover.
Vote early, vote often! Seriously, because you can indeed vote as many times as you'd like.
Off to Chi-Town on Thursday. It will be GREAT to get back to my team and back to the track... Let's go!!!