Features

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge
Pam Robinson and her daughter Michelle, as well as administrator David Martinez stand tall and proud with me outside the new Vegas VA hospital. My fifteen trips to visit our troops are the hospital visits that I most look forward to!
With the big door installed, it really looks like a garage now. All that’s left is some detail work, then loading it to the rafters with crap that I no longer need!
Oooh…look how pretty and shiny! No, not me…I’m talking about the paint on the ceiling and walls! Silly reader.
Oooh…look how good it looks! Hey, this time I AM talking about me! Think Jenna would have been pleased if I would have left the inset partially primered? Yeah…probably NOT the best place to pull a practical joke on her.
 
When Ludwig Von Sunglasses grows up to be a famous pianist, you can say that you saw it here first! Notice Shortzart is the only one sitting on his feet…nothing a phone book won’t fix!
 
Here’s Stan Musical (I think that was really clever!) working on his hitting game. Sure, the blue jeans aren’t league-approved, but a guy’s got to be comfy!

After more than seven years of penning (typing!) this blog for NHRA, you’d think that I’d have all the tricks of the trade down pat. You know, like shortcuts to attaching photos, ways to expedite each entry, and general efficiency regarding writing about my life. Well, you’d be wrong!

For instance, I’d guess the best way to keep up with my own blog would be to peck out a paragraph or two each day, then submit a new entry about once a week. All you’d have to do to “bust” that theory is look at the post dates from my last 50 or so blogs…it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps the next logical tip would be to type out my submissions in the morning, after Jason is at school and before Layla is awake and screaming for attention. Then, my mind would be clearer, there’d be much less in the way of distractions, and eking out a literary masterpiece would be much less encumbered by life’s hectic pace. Again, that’s just not me.

Nope…old Jack prefers to wait until LATE in the evening, on the very LAST day I’m in town before flying to the next race, and do a mad scramble to see what I can come up with. I know it’s not the most sensible way to conduct a consistent, long-term personal blogging effort, but so far it’s seemed to work for me.( Funny, I thought I heard laughter in the background as I finished that last sentence….and I digress…)

So, as you may well imagine, I will be heading into the great blue skies tomorrow to try again to bag that elusive Wally trophy. Charlotte has been good to me, as I have won both the four-wide, and the standard format races there (I actually got the inaugural win back in 2008). I can’t think of a better time for our Valvoline team to break out and get on a winning streak, plus we have an awesome announcement/unveiling on Friday of the race. (Hopefully you guys can get some updates from the drag websites to see what I’m referring to.)

The Vegas race was quite a struggle for our team. We qualified out of the top half for the first time this year, running only well enough to get the 14th spot on the ladder. We also hurt parts on two of our aborted qualifying passes, which isn’t our style. Looking heavily outmatched by a much quicker (and consistent) team car, the Make-A-Wish ride of Tommy Johnson, Jr., I wasn’t feeling very optimistic Sunday morning. Still, we were able to rally, lay down a good winning lap, and again came “oh-so-close-but-not-enough” in round two against ANOTHER DSR teammate, the NAPA car of Ron Capps. We fell to tenth place in the points, but I truly feel like we are getting our stride and will have our day, soon.

We stayed on Monday for a planned test session, where we made three pretty decent laps. We wanted to test another supercharger plus a new clutch disk that will soon go into our rotation, and we were pleased with the results. Often on test days I will shut the car off well before the finish line, as running it past the point where the clutch locks up (750’ is nearly always adequate) really only adds lots of strain and wear to the entire package.

On the plus side, there were no major issues with the RV during the few days that we were there. Heck, there weren’t ANY issues at all until I pulled into the truck stop to refuel Monday evening. Jenna, Cindy and the kids had driven home Sunday night, so I was by myself for testing and the trip home. Anyway, when I shut the engine off, three of the awnings decided to extend themselves. Fortunately, THIS time the remote worked, they retracted, and that was that.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of the Vegas experience for me took place Friday morning. If you stay up on my entries, you know that I try to visit the military hospital at Nellis AFB every time we are in town for the races. To date I had done 14, and this time I was able to get over to the brand new VA facility for the first time. It’s very rewarding spending some time with the veterans, and I hope to get a longer opportunity during visit #16 for the Fall race.

Back home, with another week off between races, it was time to get some surfing in. It’s just so difficult to find the time, plus hope that the surf cooperates on the days that I’m available. Thank God for Rich Camou, who not only is an early riser, but a damn fine surf prognosticator. I can always count on Rich giving me the skinny on all things rideable (maybe that didn’t come out right?!), and he can always count on me to drop in on him and steal some of his waves. Reciprocity is a great thing!

In addition to my oft-sought-after lawn maintenance skills (pushing a mower comes natural to me, as I’m used to having an engine out in front of me!), there still is plenty to do on the garage project. Though completion is tantalizingly close to occurring, I’m running out of time before the season gets super hectic, and I really want to start loading the new building. Hector got all the drywall taped, mudded, and sanded while I was in Vegas, so I went to town with a brush, a roller, three and a half gallons of primer and 2-plus gallons of semi-gloss White Shadow. It may sound complicated, but it really was just six hours or so of back and forth, up and down, side to side…and repeat. I got pretty good at it, but it wasn’t without its hassles. The ceiling was definitely the biggest pain. The ladder proved too cumbersome, so I again enlisted the faithful milk crate. By the time I finished the 400 or so square feet, my neck was plenty sore from tilting my head all the way back for better than two hours. I have a much deeper appreciation for Michelangelo, and I feel we are kindred spirits now. Sure, his work on the Sistine Chapel probably will endure slightly longer than mine, some may argue his mural took a bit more skill than mine, and one could make the point that paint quality has improved over the years, making his effort all the more impressive, but I still digress…He and I have more in common now than ever. And…if you still think he’s cooler than me, let’s see him suit up and hop into a fuel coupe for a blast down the track! Yeah…I didn’t think so!

I also cut, installed, nailed, patched, sanded, caulked, primed and painted the door casing for the small garage door. It looks good, I didn’t hurt myself, and I feel like a proud parent!

I’m excited that my new garage door (the big one) was installed. I think I’ve opened and closed it a few dozen times, just to get the feel for it and imagine what may roll through it in the years to come…

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in any past blogs, but when we moved here in August of ’09, it was for one reason: my wife insisted. Yep, for better or worse I understood, and I’m now starting to get the “for richer or poor” part, loud and clear. I distinctly remember her, like a nine year old kid begging for a puppy dog, telling me over and over again that she would, “never, EVER ask for ANYTHING else again”…and that’s a quote.

Clearly she had her fingers crossed, or I was just a stooge to believe that vow. Anyway, once she saw that I had all my painting stuff out, Jenna decided that it was time for color change number three to go up adjacent to the stairwell. She said something to the effect that THIS color was THE ONE; having less yellow, providing a subtler, brighter presentation to the world. Whatever…here comes the ladder…

Also, our enormous living room obviously is just too big. You see, the wall-to-wall entertainment center/bookcase that we had purchased for the old house (and to me it looked and functioned just fine in this place, thank you very much!), now had to go. Jenna has had visions of a custom (that means, “expensive” in any language), built-in (that means, “even more expensive”) unit that provided that feng-shui (I think that’s a curse word in Oriental) that we so desperately needed. I’m not sure if the sarcasm is coming through the keyboard as heavy as I intend it to, but I shall endeavor on.

What this all means is a tremendous investment in a piece of furniture that basically will stay with the house, really won’t increase the resale value, but hopefully will do wonders to improve the marital bliss that we so fortunately enjoy.

Oh, yeah: Our 47 inch TV is no longer going to work, either. Truth be told, I knew it was time to upgrade on that end. It looked so huge in the old house, but really was a bit small with the depth of this living room. I was thinking we’d really take a leap and jump clear up to a 60”, and the prices aren’t so bad on those. So, when Jenna sent me to Costco to pick up our new unit, I didn’t realize we’d need a moving van and the forklift to get it here. Seems my myopic (which could be taken in a couple of contexts) and lovely bride decided that the 75-incher was what we needed…and now we have!

Of course, the TV stays in the box until the cabinet maker finishes the built-in, which I’m told will be about 6 weeks (and 3 pay periods) from now. Until then, we shall suffer through staring and squinting at the miniscule 47” version. 

Jason started piano lessons last week, and he appears to be pretty quick at picking up the basics. We ordered him an entry level keyboard so he can practice at home, so now I can enjoy the mellifluence of my seven year old Mozart-in-training, AND watch Hitler invade Poland on History Channel…all 75 inches worth…AT THE SAME TIME!

I continue to help coach Jason’s little league team (and test my patience), and last week we were able to take most of the kids to the local semi-pro field to watch the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (I can’t make this stuff up!) play. Before the game, all the little-leaguers were able to take the outfield and enjoy coaching from the players in various disciplines, such as running, throwing, fielding, listening….well; three out of four ain’t bad!

I need to sign off for now. It’s well past midnight and Beethoven has school tomorrow.

Stay tuned, prime first, C Major sounds cool, big screens are big-bucks,use two hands to catch pop flys, and paint up, Daniel-son!

 
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