My last picture of Todd. Though it may look like he and Terry are working on some trick new part, it’s a REAL long story. That’s the shower valve from my motorhome, and we were not able to save it without performing a “spool-valve replacement surgery.” Yep, another $65 towards the RV fund. At least no one gets scalded anymore.
Joe and Anna Woyjeck, with a tribute to son Kevin and his fallen comrades.
Halloween, 2013. By the look on Layla’s face, you’d think she overheard her daddy badmouthing Disneyland. Oops! She’s the cutest mini-Minnie Mouse I’ve ever seen.
Hmmm… trying to condense what has happened into a semi-coherent blog (which might be a first for me!) is going to be a bit tough, so strap on your reading caps, and here we go…
When I last left you guys, we had just gone through a disappointing Maple Grove adventure, again leaving without a trophy. That trend unfortunately continued for the remainder of the season, though we still claimed a “win,” albeit in the Traxxas Shootout, which didn’t give us a Wally. Pomona was also incredibly disappointing, losing first round (though we did clinch third place in the standings). However, Vegas to me was the toughest race of the year, but not due to results (we made it to the semifinals). Without going into a lengthy diatribe, Todd Smith was let go Sunday afternoon. It was tough for me, tough for the team, and I will miss him very much. I wish Todd the best in tuning Brittany Force’s Top Fueler for 2014, as I know he is a dragster guy at heart.
For Pomona Todd Okuhara stepped in, but our car just refused to be consistent after running the quickest FC lap of Thursday. Speaking of that day, that was it as far as scheduled runs at NHRA national meets for Thursdays. Finally NHRA has made the move to bring the Pomona races into line with the rest of the schedule, with two runs on Friday. I like that much more… less standing around, more parachute packing!
The Pomona memory that will stay with me regarding the 2013 Finals had nothing to do with our performance. I don’t know if you will recall back in June when 19 firefighters lost their lives in Arizona, and we ran a tribute decal for the group, and for Kevin Woyjeck, a Southern Californian who had toured our pits the year before. Joe and Anna, Kevin’s parents, both came out to the race with our mutual friend, Tim Takeshita. We presented a photo of the entire crew taken with the car back in Norwalk, with the tribute sticker. It seemed like such a small gesture for two great folks who lost so much, but they were so grateful to us. Also, thanks to Rob Clendening of Valvoline, who also is an EMT and is good friends of the family, we ran another tribute sticker for Kevin and all the Granite Mountain Hotshot men.
During the off-season I kept getting phone calls from assistant crew chief Terry Snyder, letting me know as one-by-one our crew guys took positions on other teams. I don’t blame the guys at all, as they needed to look out for their livelihoods. Because the crew chief is in charge of hiring the crew, and we had yet to bring in a chief, it put the guys in a difficult position wondering if the “new guy” would bring his own team in and lay them off. In fact, Terry and I are all that is left of last year’s team… everyone else is new to the Valvoline/MTS Dodge!
Don hired veteran tuner Rob Flynn to head the team, and he and Terry slowly assembled the other seven components of what I think is going to be a great team. I’ll bring you up to speed on the guys (and one gal) in a future blog. I am excited that we will be basically starting from scratch and can hopefully pull together as a group and do some amazing things.
Lest you think I’ve been avoiding the computer due to a keyboard allergy, or “sensitive fingertip sensation” (okay, I made that up), I have been keeping busy. The kids are doing great, and we’ve done our best to keep them entertained. We’ve taken them to Knott’s Berry Farm several times, which I prefer wholeheartedly over Disneyland. Before you “mouse-fans” start blasting me about the advantages of “the happiest place on earth”, allow me to defend myself: Disney will set you back $92 for ONE park ($137 if you want to wait in line at California Adventure as well), or $669 for a season pass (a mere $499 if you’re willing to have a bunch of black-out dates). For $84, Knott’s will let you in all year long! I rest my case, your honor. Knott’s also was cool enough to give free admission to veteran’s the entire month of December (you knew my cheap butt must have had an angle!). Anyway, they’ve got enough stuff there to keep the kids and us adults entertained, and we’ll be back.
They rolled out the red carpet for us, and I made sure not to make fun of hockey players whilst within earshot of these two giants.
We’ve been to two hockey games at the local Ontario Reign facility. The first one was the game that I blogged about just before the Finals, and Jason got to drop the opening puck. It was really cool seeing him getting to try new things and enjoying it so much. He and I also rode the Zamboni machines during intermission, which was pretty cool for the first two laps. The next eight or so circuits around the ice were a bit awkward, as my parade-wave technique was starting to feel a bit silly… or perhaps it was the low temperature?
I took Jason out to a local radio-controlled airplane field to check out the action. Stan Wagner, whom I met when he used to be with NHRA parking control, apparently is the god (lower case ‘G’) of all things with propellers and remotes, and he let Jason do some flying. Very cool stuff, and I can see doing more of that in the future. The costs are surprisingly low, and the battery powered engines eliminate the noisy gas and nitro (listen to me complaining about noise!) issues.
We’ve also taken in the Science Center twice, went to Disney on Ice, toured the Nixon Museum and Library, took a Christmas light tour with Jon Ewald, and watched the Rose Parade floats being assembled. If asked my honest opinion on enjoyment, I’d have to answer: yes (twice), no, yes, yes, and yes. Sorry, honey… I know it’s very important for the kids, but can’t I stay home next time Mickey straps on ice skates?
While Layla sleeps, the rest of us (including Grandpa Bill) were given a guided tour of the Rose Parade float assembly area in Irwindale. This place was impressive, and huge! I think they did 13 of the 40-something total floats in the parade. Buster, who works tech for NHRA, gave us the gold-star, behind-the-scenes, top-secret, “for-your-eyes-only” experience (maybe I overinflated just a bit for effect).
Jenna’s grandpa Bill came out for Christmas, so much of what we did was during his action-packed 10 day stay. Bill’s wife of 67 (!) years, Inez, passed away last year, so I know the holidays were bittersweet for him, but we sure loved having him come out from Delaware.
If all this wasn’t enough, I’ve also done two NHRA Museum functions, spoken at four classes for the Doug Herbert BRAKES program, participated in a career day at a local Middle School, and hit the surf several times.
However, my off-season objective has centered around home improvement projects, and I’ve been plenty busy on that end. First, it was time to finish the multi-tiered, multi-yeared, “Great Wall of Norco” build. For the latest edition of this, I hired semi-retired mason Marvin, heretofore known as “Marvin the Mason.” Marvin and I knocked out the last section (okay, I still will have a couple very small segments to do once my new garage is stuccoed, but this was the last of the “biggies”), all 46 feet worth, in half a day. I’m glad I had his expertise; otherwise my wall would be curved, out of plumb, and dangerous to sit on! I will say that my forearms and back were ten kinds of hurting the next day
Titled, “The Many uses for the Nissan, Chapter 176”, I believe 14 was the number of 94 pound bags of mortar and concrete. Funny, they felt more like 194 when I had to unload them!
Before I started building the walls of my garage, it was time to backfill the side wall. I was going to tackle it by hand, but heavy-equipment buddy Randy Sullivan talked some sense into me. For $85, I got a Bobcat rental for half the day, which was a salvation. Not only did I save my back and shoulders, but Jason and Layla got some quality tractor time with dad. The only downside is that those little dozers have zero suspension, and my kidneys got a real workout with the 80 or so trips I made across the yard. Still, WAY better than using the shovel and wheelbarrow!
Speaking of which, yesterday I got done digging the trench for the electrical service to the garage… all 108 feet! Yep, this one had to be done “old school,” plus I had to push about 13 loads in the wheelbarrow UP the steep ramp in the backyard and dump it on the top level. To say that I’m sore today would definitely be an understatement. My calves were so sore I was thinking about sleeping on the couch, just to avoid walking up the stairs! I’m actually not too upset that Rich didn’t call with a surf update this morning, though I should be good to paddle tomorrow if there are any waves.
Certainly the biggest project I’ve got going is the backyard garage, and it’s finally shaping up in a great way. Saint Sanchez, my buddy Jerry, has been The Man on this one. Without him I’d probably have something that resembled the old Little Rascals club house. Jerry, who spent years as a framer (houses, not pictures), knows all the codes, tips and tricks to do it in the proper order, and do it right. I barely know which end of the nail to hit with the hammer, but that hasn’t stopped me. Just to be cool, I had us do all of the wall framing by hand, but the novelty quickly wore off, and the pneumatic nail gun became my best friend for all subsequent steps. Jerry comes out each Saturday, and I spend the remainder of the week chasing lumber, brackets and hardware, and priming and prepping stuff for his next visit. Occasionally I’ll finish whatever we didn’t get done by sunset, but I’d be lost without his guidance.
Well, that’s obviously not everything I’ve been doing for the past 10 weeks, but it’s enough to let you know that I haven’t been completely lazy. I hope that all of you have a great 2014, and I very much am looking forward to getting back into the winner’s circle soon. Our team will have new faces, our car will have a new look, but we’re planning on going “old school” and taking home some trophies!
Valvoline again will be primary on 10 races, and we probably have another 3-4 committed as of now, so I have also spent a portion of the off season speaking with companies and trying to shore up the other 10 races. I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks they know a company that could benefit from the exposure our team and NHRA racing can provide… I’d even thank you personally on my blog!
Stay tuned, use a nail gun, wear gloves, digging trenches sucks, (but not nearly as much as having a ladder collapse underneath you!), and Disney is still overpriced.
Hey, the first one hundred (thousand) readers who correctly determine where I will be this Wednesday night can qualify for a special discount ... to a hockey game! All you have to do to be eligible (reading comprehension could prove quite helpful about now) is follow some basic directions. Hope to see you there...and no fighting!
Stay tuned...keep your Zamboni in good running order, and checking isn't as efficient as charging...on your credit card!
Ontario Reign vs. San Francisco Bulls
Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7:00 p.m.
Citizens Business Bank Arena 4000 Ontario Center Parkway • Ontario, CA 91764
Save up to $9 per ticket! Click here and enter promo code SPEED!
About the only highlight of a disappointing weekend in Reading was getting to spend some time with Bob Frey. He only came out for a few hours on one day, but he made a point to stop in the trailer and say hi. Charlie Neilson of NHRA was once a crewmember for Kenny Bernstein, and the two handsome guys in the crew shirts belong to our team!
Before you jump to conclusions and think that my title was an expression of disappointment at the way our title defense season has progressed so far…it’s not. Sure, I’d love to be leading the points, have several race wins, and feel confident that our Valvoline/MTS team had locked up another championship, but things don’t always go the way you want.
Heck, we haven’t had a bad season at all. We still have two more shots at the “Wally”, we banked the Traxxas Shootout, and we’ve been to three finals and again are solidly in the top five with a shot at the points title. I’m very confident in Todd, Terry, Mark, Jim, Kyle, Chris, Chris (the keyboard isn’t stuck…we have two), Brian and AJ, and we should be proud no matter how we finish. That being said, a couple of wins sure will make everyone smile!
My title was alluding to coaching Little League. Yeah, the winter-ball program at Norco, consisting of 6-8 year olds, has been medically proven to cause ulcers, early aging, and nervous twitching. While on the road nearly non-stop for the NHRA four-in-a-row schedule, I felt bad that I couldn’t help out with Jason’s team and watch my little guy do his thing. After being home for two weeks, which equals four practices and two games, I’m kinda thinking I was lucky to be absent! Strapping into the car to face John Force in a final round is a walk in the park compared to trying to keep 10 youngsters focused on the same thing for more than 30 seconds. I just may be a better driver after all these “tests” bestowed upon me by the aptly named, “Pirates” of Norco. I know I have more gray hair!
We’ve been plugging away at the home projects, whether I’m here or not. Jenna had the front planters redone in solid gold while I was racing (She tells me those are real plants, but I saw the bill…they must be precious metal!), and we just reseeding and aerated the lawns. I also got to replace a ground fault receptacle and outside light timer in my spare time, and yet the list hasn’t seemed to have shrunk one bit!
I think I’ve got the guy to help finish the back wall, and we may try to tackle that between Vegas and Pomona (I don’t mean geographically…I mean chronologically). Soon I will need to put together a lumber list and began stockpiling for the backyard garage, and I’m sure Jenna not letting me off of diaper duty just because I’m holding a hammer!
I did get to hit the surf with Rich about a week ago; I just wish I could have done it two or three more times. Don’t tell Jenna, but I’m thinking of sneaking out there after we return from Vegas.
Speaking of Vegas, we’re leaving in 6 ½ minutes. Okay, we PLANNED on leaving by 4 pm (I am writing this Wednesday afternoon), but Beckman’s don’t do much on time (no jokes about my lights, please!). It’s been so hectic trying to get everything done around here, and the kids are always the priority. This morning we took Jason and Layla to a local farm as part of Jason’s first grade field trip, and those are the moments that you don’t want to regret missing. Besides, who could ever replace the smell of cow dung, the bite of horse flies, and the shoe-covering dust that this trip yielded?
If any of you are going to Vegas, Ron Capps and I will be at the premiere of Snake & Mongoose Saturday night at the Orleans. I’ve already seen it, but you know I can’t resist a free movie ticket, and Jenna gets to come with me this time. Cindy will be riding out in the RV with us, so she volunteered to babysit. My dad and Teri are driving out from Texas, so I’ll see if they want to tag along as well.
Aside from coaching ball, the other grueling things in my life lately consist of: washing the RV (it seems to get bigger every time); going to Chuck E. Cheese for a kid’s birthday party (that may even top baseball on my “don’t ever volunteer for” list!; and my new diet. Yep, Jenna thinks I may have a Gluten intolerance (I know I have a Chuck E. Cheese intolerance!), so she’s eliminated that from my diet. Unless you count me stopping at Panda express on the way home from surfing, which didn’t sit well with the Queen…oops!
On one hand, I’d have to say that I probably feel better. Having that “brain fog” so often is something I assumed got worse after my chemo and I probably was just stuck with it, but it certainly could have a lot to do with what I eat. On the other hand, Gluten is just so damn good! I’m not sure I can live without bread and all those other delicious things that seem to be bad for me. If I seem cranky and irritable at the races, blame it on the diet. However, if I seem sharper and more focused, then my wife is a genius!
Perhaps the coolest thing I’ve done lately is head up with Brent Cannon to Bakersfield Friday for the California Hot Rod Reunion. Plenty of legends of the sport were there, and Frank Hawley even showed up. He and Brent and I hung out for more than an hour in the stands watching the fuelers run and enjoying a great day. Normally we would have gone Saturday, but that four-letter-word prevented it: “b -a- l- l”.
We took the kids to see the Titanic museum in Buena Park. It’s only been there a few months (the display, not Buena Park), and was definitely worth it. You can actually touch a part of the hull, which is really surreal. To think that ship sunk over 100 years ago, and sat undiscovered for three quarters of a century is mindboggling. The fact that these artifacts were retrieved from nearly two and a half miles down in the Atlantic just adds to the mystique. There are several museums around the world with recovered pieces, but the collection in Orange County would justify a trip there. I’m not sure who’s idea it was to bring a ceramic toilet back up from the depths, but it’s in a case for all to see (I was going to say, “for all to enjoy”, but that could be taken wrong!
If there are any typos in this blog…sorry! I am out of time, and we’re hitting the road for what I hope is a fantastic weekend.
Stay tuned, man the poop deck, sell the farm, ADD and baseball are a bad mix, and so are “Jack and Chuck E. Cheese”!
Oswald (Lee Harvey, not Mark) allegedly shot Kennedy from the right window, second from the top. I couldn’t even shoot a picture in focus from here!
Here my dad poses on the grassy knoll. I’m not sure where he was on November 22, 1963, but he looks a bit suspicious to me!
I think it’s right that this hotel was bought, preserved, and turned into a shrine and museum for a great man. You can barely make out the Cadillac in the background, which is parked just in front of the infamous balcony and room.
These two cars (not sure if they’re the originals or facsimiles) were actually parked in those spots when that fateful event took place. Maybe someone can explain to me why the rooms starting in “3” are on the second floor, and the ones starting with “2” are on the first floor? I’m confused.
Ready…go! Okay, I’ve got 52 minutes to create, write, proofread this blog, then caption the photos and send everything over to NHRA.
You’ll have to excuse any poor writing, grammatical errors, and non-sequiturs (pretty much like you’ve done in every past blog…thank you very much!)
The reason for the rush is that I pretty much now live at Ontario Airport, and I fly out this afternoon for St. Louis. I was at the airport yesterday, the day before that, two days before that, and three days before that. I think you get the picture…I fly a lot!
Once I return from St. Louis (why did they choose that particular way of representing a Saint, whilst San Diego went with the Spanish version? And, if you’ve seen the movie Anchorman, you’re probably chuckling over the mention of “San Diego”) –wow, was that a long parenthetical phrase- I will only be home for one day, head out to Florida for an appearance, and fly from there into Reading for the Maple Grove race. From there I’ll fly back to Dallas for yet another appearance, and then home for a week before we load the RV and head to Vegas. Man, has this year been hectic!
We’ve started off well in the Countdown, making it to the semis in both Charlotte and Dallas, but that’s not going to be enough if we want to defend our title. Barring the ET record being reset (which it most likely will); I think it will take 15 round wins for our team to finish on top. That means we’ve got four more races to capture 11 win lights…a tough deal in any class.
Getting beat by Hagan in Charlotte was double frustrating, as we watched him widen his already “too-large” lead over us. At least we were able to return the favor in Dallas and close back up somewhat. Whenever two Countdown cars face each other, it isn’t just for the 20 points that a round win yields. It’s really a 40 point swing, and we really need to win a bunch of those matchups to get back into the lead.
I wish I could go on about all the things happening around the home front, but I haven’t been here enough to comment on that. Once I got back from Dallas, there was time to mow the lawn, work out, play a bit with Jason and Layla, and head back to the airport.
After returning from Memphis, I got to play with the kids, take Jason to and from school, and work out. Jenna keeps making me a work list, and I keep hiding it and saying I can’t find it! I also was able to repaint all of our expensive landscape LED lights that we paid so much for, only to watch them fade, rust, and corrode. Let’s hope that Rustoleum and elbow grease prevail in the next couple years!
I’m sure that I’ve done plenty more, my mind just can’t recall much right now.
Having some time to kill (man, I just realized that’s a poor metaphor for this story…sorry) before catching my flight in Dallas, my dad and I headed over to Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated on 11/22/63…nearly 50 years ago! I had never been there and, though the museum was closed when we arrived, it still was very intriguing to be standing where history happened. I will try to go back on my Dallas appearance and spend a little more time looking around.
In what I think is a very strange coincidental activity, just days later I found myself (I didn’t lose myself and then get found, it’s just an expression!) driving towards my Memphis hotel prior to the appearance I had to make, and a thought hit me (not literally, it’s just an expression!). I pulled over, got on the internet, and got the map coordinates for where MLK was gunned down in 1968.
After our signing appearance, several of us went to a local barbeque place. My pal Chip Foose drew this in about 5 minutes for the waiter. I’m not sure if they billed us for the napkin, but this dude sure is talented.
It turned out that I was only a few miles from the Lorraine Hotel, and so I pointed the rental car that way. In another strange coincidence, (okay, maybe I’m stretching this a bit, but allow me some artistic liberties, please); this place also was closed…for remodeling. It’s hard to describe what a strange feeling -even more than standing in Dallas by the schoolbook depository- I had staring up at room 306 from only about 40 feet away, wondering how things may have been different had the bullet missed Dr. King.
Okay, enough of the heavy stuff for now, and I doubt that these two visits are going to have me looking for other famous assassination locations to go scout (Ford Theatre, anyone?).
Time to fly…literally!
Stay tuned, St. Louis has nothing to do with a whale’s body parts (see the movie), MLK was the man, and I want a Wally…very much!