Zero for 18…and out of luck!Thursday, September 11, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge
Here it looks like Terry Chandler is having to push start her latest donation…those darn Funny Cars! Also, look how much help us drivers are offering!
Here’s a great shot that Phil Burgess will appreciate. That handsome dude (no, the one standing up) is Jim “Superman” Nicoll, and I’m sitting inside the actual cockpit from his car that blew in half at the top end of the 1970 Top Fuel Indy final. I really look good in the seated position! Check on the shirt on Barry, looking on at right.
That gentleman in front of this car (I took the shot from the cockpit) in Ron Johnson, who owns four nostalgia car, including Tommy Ivo’s “Barnstormer”, which he graciously let me cackle…again, for the DSR open house event.
Phil recently blogged about this duo and car. Raymond Godman has been around since drag racing was commercialized, and cackling the car (though he’s hidden by what appears to be an autograph seeker!) is his old (I don’t mean it THAT way) driver, Preston Davis.
Not only did I get to hang out with Rocky and “Bones” Balough, but they let me hop in the old Big John Mazmanian ’41 Willys and fire it up whilst they set the barrel valve. I tried to convince them that a good burnout and launch was necessary to insure the timing was correct, but they didn’t bite!
Here’s a cat that I’ve wanted to meet for 20 years. So much so, I rode a one-speed bicycle from the opposite side of the track, all the way to the top end (yeah, yeah, Jack…we know…”uphill, into a headwind, being chased by dogs”…) just to chat and have a picture taken. Gordon “Collecting” Collett was as tough as anyone who ever strapped into a AA/GD.
My involvement with the various MTS military programs, as well as the Infinite Hero Foundation, has afforded me the opportunity to speak with hundreds of fantastic soldiers. Bill is retired Air Force, and his son Brandon is a Marine EOD bomb disposal tech, seriously wounded in what was a fatal IED incident in the Mid-East. Great guys, and very inspirational.
I must’ve known Jenna was going to take a picture, as I see I’ve put on my cleanest set of work clothes. After mounting shutter number one, it was time for a mandatory union break, lemonade, and a new pair of Mechanix Wear gloves.
Finally, I thought I’d won a race this year (albeit a four-wide), and then the judges tell me that Layla technically finished in front of me! Oh, the humanity!
Talk about short nights! Get it…funny stuff! Jason takes his swordplay very seriously, even if he’s at the Fair. I thought we should get to keep the armor and helmet for what it cost us to get in! Do you think medieval hookers worked Knights?
Now I hate to get all technical on the creative minds that assembled this show, but didn’t the Stegosaurus hail from the Jurassic period, whilst the T-rex (damn the movie, it too was inaccurate!) came on the scene some 80 million years later, in the Cretaceous? I’m just saying….

I’m just going to defer to Thomas Paine for my topic sentence, and stick with his sentiment that, “These are the times that try men’s souls”. Yep, after our team stumbled profoundly at Indy, we now officially are “out” of the Countdown. As in, ZERO chance of finishing any higher than 11th in the points standings. Wow…that hurts even now, over a week after smoking the tires first round in a heat that we easily should have won.

It’s now time to move on. Our Valvoline/Infinite Hero team still has six more chances to earn a Wally (or multiple wins…which I wholeheartedly endorse!). For Sterling, Bill, Chris, Nate, Marla, Jeff, and Rich, as well as Terry, Chris and Todd, I am so focused on getting them that trophy that they have sweated so hard to earn. The bonus bucks that come with a win are also well deserved by every member of this team. So, even though we certainly have heavy hearts, our goal remains clear, and our mission is obvious.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you who voted for me in the Traxxas Shootout. It also was difficult not to be a part of that, especially as the defending champions, but we had multiple opportunities to earn a berth, which we didn’t, and I was happy that Tim Wilkerson got voted in…he’s a very humble and deserving man. Alright, enough of the platitudes!

By the time this gets posted I should be well on my way to Charlotte, hopping on the 6am flight out of Ontario. I’m really looking forward to the BRAKES dinner and fundraiser Thursday night, but my enthusiasm really centers around the race itself. Though Todd Okuhara will obviously be most focused on trying to get Spencer Massey the World Championship, he still will be advising on our car, which has stepped right up since he came onboard at Brainerd. That gives me a lot of optimism heading into each race of this final stretch. Chis Cunningham now has had several races to become familiar with the DSR tune-up (he actually had a significant head start, as Bob Tasca has run our combo for a while now) and appears very confident, and Terry Snyder is back as the “right-seater” in the crewchief lounge. I think we can make some magic happen, soon!

Besides missing out on the Traxxas final vote/lotto drawing and losing first round to end our title hopes, there actually were some bright spots during my Indy trip. All of the DSR drivers again made the trip over to the Riley Children’s Hospital to spend time with some very sick, and very amazing, young folks. Terry Chandler, our own ‘Mother Theresa’, donated a really cool Funny-Car-themed transport device for the kids to utilize during their hospital stays. Terry gets embarrassed by any publicity, but she really has been a guardian angel to so many needy folks.

DSR ran our annual open house/car show/fundraiser, which again was a big success. Thanks to Mike Lewis and Don Schumacher, we again were able to present the hospital with a large check to help the children. I think that, to date, Schumacher Racing has donated over a quarter of a million dollars to Riley’s!

As this was the 60th anniversary of the US Nationals, there was plenty of nostalgia action around the track. I got to chat with several of my pioneer/legend friends, meet a couple more, and enjoy some great festivities that made this event even more special.

Just writing about all the great things I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in really underscores how fortunate I am. Yeah, I’m still feeling a little sorry for myself and the team, but life will throw these curveballs at you sometimes, and we all just need to pick our heads up and stay focused.

I wish that I could have taken a photo of 2-year-old Annabelle, who was going through treatment at Riley’s. Shy, bald, and not capable of fully understanding her circumstances, yet with the most beautiful eyes - and the ability to make you just fall in love with her- she is just one of the kids that make each minute we spend at the facility so important. That sort of connection and emotion happens over and over again when I am there. These things remind me that there are FAR more important things in life than winning championships and races…we are very fortunate to have our health and that of our loved ones.

Life goes on…even when I’m thousands of miles away. So, when I get home I do the best I can to jump right back into the “family thing”. Jason is back in school, where he attends 3 days a week (Monday and Tuesday are homeschool days), and Layla is still not potty trained.

Home Depot was about to put my face on a milk carton, as apparently they had to lay off three full-time employees since my garage was completed. Sure, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I swear I saw four or five of them tear up when I swiped my credit card there for the first time in over a month.

Yes, it was time to get back on the home-improvement wagon! I got the garage shutters mounted, which I suppose signifies the semi-official completion of that project. I shall not call it “done” until all the paving is complete, but my buddy Sully is so busy that I’ve been on a four-month waiting list to get the grading completed. Once we do that I’ll cover with a layer of sand, pack, rebar, and concrete.

I did manage to install three more LED retrofit lights, and now I think we’re down to only three more in the entire house. Damn, are those things expensive! I really don’t even want to know what I’ve spent on saving America’s power grid…but I’ll bet it’s a big chunk!

Jenna always tries to have some fun stuff for the kids to do when I’m home, so this time we all decided to get a cold at the same time. If you have young kids, you know how fun that is. Then, we got Grandma to accompany us all (on a 98 degree day) to the LA County Fair. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I really thought that I’d done my penance by attended the Orange County (a slightly smaller, but nearly as expensive, version) Fair last month…but I was mistaken!

Now, I’ve already got my radar up when it’s $19 a head to get in (keeping in mind that nearly EVERYTHING else is extra…that basically just lets you see the arts and crafts stuff), I’m feeling more alienated when we get hit for $10 parking (and no, that doesn’t include a wash and tire shine!), and I really start clutching my wallet when a lemonade REFILL cost $6 (what…no massage?). However, where these ‘academics of embezzlement’ really stick it to us is on the ride tickets. Yes, it’s masterful how they make you purchase tickets, which makes you feel insulated from spending actual “money” when you go on a ride. That being said, I’m good enough with numbers to know that, when they charged me 50 bucks for 100 tickets, then that would equate to roughly… oh… 50 cents per ticket. Are you following me so far? THEN, when the “admission” to a kid’s roller coaster is 14 tickets, I think anyone who has graduated the fourth grade could easily assess the situation, do the math, and equate that to seven bucks. For a kids ride? Are you “fair” folks inhaling? Wait…it gets even better! Most of these kids’ rides will either require a chaperone for the smaller ones, or your older kids don’t want to sit all by themselves…so mom and dad get to go along for the fun. Yep, the chaperone used to be free, but the old “carny criminals” closed that loophole. So, as Jason and I are twirling along on a third-rate version of a roller coaster, I’m wrestling with the paradoxical views in my head: I love my son so much, and these moments are priceless, versus; these “UN”-fair managers are gouging us deeply with their version of “Americana”, a shrewd lesson in capitalism from the originators of the “deep-fried, bacon-covered apple”! Hell, I was tempted to put my wallet in my front pocket when Jason, Layla, and I went down the giant slide: I was paranoid there might be sensors underneath picking up the magnetic strip on my credit card and charging me by the foot!

We also took the kids to see the show, “Walking with Dinosaurs”, which was pretty cool. They had life-size “puppets” that were fantastic facsimiles of the intended reptile. At least I think they were life-size; from way up in the nose-bleed seats (the lower seats went for as much as $70 each!), that T-Rex only looked about the size of a Chihuahua. At least parking was free, and drinks didn’t cost two hours wages for the average person!

That’s about it for now. Thank you all for following me through another year of racing, kids, construction and life!

Stay tuned, don’t caulk your shutters, are the operators of fairs all billionaires?... and let’s hope the next big meteor isn’t coming anytime soon…extinction sounds so permanent!

When does this ride slow down?Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge
I suppose you could say that I took a “Themmie” photo at the Brownsburg Block Party, a first-ever event held at the town hall. Look, I see Eddie, and Richie, and Courtney, and Larry, and Leah-ie!

I’m not referring to my 320 mph car in the title, but rather to trying to squeeze a “life” into the moments in between runs down the track! The schedule this year has been maddening, with (counting the next four-in-a-row series to start the Countdown) 16 races in 21 weeks! Wait, it gets even better: if you’re part of one of the teams that tests the week before Indy (we did, but far fewer than years past were in attendance), then we are on the track 17 times. Basically, that’s five months of work with only four weekends off for the crew…can you imagine!

And, though I don’t work nearly as hard as Chris, Marla, Nate, Sterling, Bill, Jeff, or Richard, it’s hard spending that much time on the road. I’m fortunate that I have an understanding wife (I sure hope she reads this blog…love you, honey!) and an outstanding mother-in-law (she always reads it…hi, Cindy!) to keep the kids entertained, educated, and content.

The difficult part is prioritizing my time at home. There is a never-ending list of things that need to get done, a bigger list of things that SHOULD be done, but these are all trumped by the “kid stuff”: school, sports, and dad-time are a “must-do” for me, so lots of stuff can get pushed to the back burner. Having a wife with OCD (you still reading, dear?) doesn’t allow me to slack off as frequently as I’d like, so my “lazy gene” doesn’t get exercised as often as it used to.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I flew home from the Brainerd race and got to spend roughly 13 hours with the family before heading back to the airport to go test in Indy. I took off at zero-dark-thirty (good lord, am I overusing the hyphen in this blog, or what?), as Tuesday in Brownsburg I was attending the inaugural block-party for the city. It far exceeded my expectations, as several hundred folks showed up to get autographs, listen to the band, and enjoy a car show and cool event.

Wednesday and Thursday we tested between rain showers, making a total of seven runs. We hurt a couple of parts, shook and smoked a couple of times, and still I think this is the best test session I’ve had in years. Todd Okuhara, Chris Cunningham, and Terry Snyder put their heads together and really dialed in our Dodge Charger, and I truly am optimistic that we can put this Valvoline SynPower car in the Indy winner’s circle…I feel THAT good!

(Above) The PR guys at DSR thought we’d go a bit “over the top” with my ice bucket challenge, and they brought out the remnants of our Seattle body. Boy, if the combo of that explosion AND getting pelted by ice from 10 feet high doesn’t put me in therapy. (Below) Jamie, who does all of our clutch disk work at DSR, asked if I’d help his wife with her ice bucket challenge. Um….YES!

After carefully dodging several requests for the ALS “ice bucket challenge” (I do many things for charities, and “jumping on the band wagon” never has been my thing), Laurie Baker of Infinite Hero finally got me to succumb to the pressure, and I did my thing to raise money for a worthy cause. I also got to be on the “other” side (perhaps now I have also overused my allotment of quotation marks for this blog!) of the bucket, becoming the dumper (which is WAY better than the dumpee, if you ask me!). By the way, the meter just went to critical mass regarding parenthesis and exclamation point usage, so I better tone it down…

You can watch it here:

While at Indy, I stayed with Terry and used his trusty ’88 Nissan Pathfinder (heck, with no power, no radio, and no a/c, I felt right at home!). At 4:15 Friday morning I headed back to the Indy airport, found a spot in long term parking (can’t wait to pay that bill when I get back!), and hopped on the 6am back home. Spending 3 ½ days at home doesn’t seem like much, but we managed to condense quite a bit into 84 hours. 

I just took a break to have dinner. Poor Jenna; she took a comprehensive food allergy test and found out she’s allergic to just about everything. She is on a 4-day rotating diet that requires frequent trips to the grocery store for fresh food, and multiple dirty dishes each meal as a result of preparing what basically would be food for a sick, diet-restricted orangutan. Now, before you think that I just referred to my wife as a wide-faced simian, that’s not the case. I have the utmost respect for her iron willpower and motivation to stick to a regimen in the hopes of feeling “good” on a consistent basis.

My (not as comprehensive) allergen panel showed that I’m only allergic to work, and good advice (which Jenna’s nagging could be…at times). Man, am I glad she only reads the first few paragraphs of my blogs! So, I just got done eating cabbage, lentils, mushrooms, and fish. Those are quite possibly the four food groups I like the least. Thank goodness my rotating diet (I wrote it myself) includes Mint and Chip ice cream later!

Anyway, I was telling you what we’ve done the past few days:

The day after returning home, I took Jason to get his soccer pictures taken with his team, the Thunderbolts. Next, we headed over to Lowe’s so Jason could participate in their “Junior Builder” event, where the little ones get to hammer a pre-made project together and take it with them.

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It’s not that she has a big noggin’…just a tiny body. Our little princess showed off her one-piece at the beach.

Once he and I returned home, we packed up the family, including Cindy (hi, Cindy…don’t tell Jenna I made fun of her food, please!) and headed to Huntington Beach. I hate the beach! Now, I know that sounds really counterintuitive from a guy who loves to surf, but I think I can clarify: My Irish, Norwegian, Welch and German ancestors must have included some albinos, because me and the sun don’t seem to get along too well. I’m the guy that everyone “ooh’s and aah’s” about, because I can turn some intense shades of red, pink and purple from sunburn…and I have had dozens of “doozy’s” over the years. Yeah, I’ve gotten blisters as big as your fist from a “casual day at the beach”…so my memories of all things coastline are riddled with pain…literally. Also, that damn sand is hard to walk on, makes a mess, and gets in everything you eat. Nope, I just like to put on my wetsuit, paddle out for two hours, then pack up and head home. But, we live in So Cal, and the kiddos don’t get to go to the ocean very often, so we needed to do this for them. I had fun, bought Jason a boogie-board and pushed him into several waves to let him get a feel for it, and enjoyed the family time. I was pretty smart with the sunblock on the back, shoulders, neck, face, legs and feet…and figured we wouldn’t be there long enough to necessitate hitting the chest and stomach. Jenna had other plans (I think she wanted to spend the night on the sand!), and I once again look like lobster-man (from the chin to the belt).

The next day I was up early, hitting the surf at Manhattan Beach with my friend Rich. Sure, my stomach hurt while lying on the board, but at least the wetsuit gave me an SPF of about 3000! We were nearly done for the day when a fire department helicopter buzzed overhead and made some announcement over their PA system while about 1000 feet south of our spot. Seems four great whites were spotted (Google it: Great Whites at Manhattan, Aug 24) around some of the long distance swimmers. Enough fun for me for one day…I had chores to do!

Back home, it was time to put on my Lawn Care Professional hat and chase the mower around the yard for 45 minutes. Jason even managed to complete two laps around the back lawn before giving in, though he did use the self-propelled mode. Since I’m not big into cardio, my guilty conscience dictates that I use manual power…unless I’m low on cabbage and lentils!

It wasn’t quite a 14- second pit stop, but I’m trying to show Jason how to use tools correctly. Ironically, everyone on the crew is STILL trying to teach me the same!
At the Discovery Science Center, the kids wanted to try on some props from the Mythbusters exhibit. I think they look a bit like Police attack dog…err, maybe, “puppy” trainers!
Next it was time to rotate the tires on Jenna’s Flex. I showed Jason proper jacking points, how to use a breaker bar, torque wrench, and air impact, as well as proper tire inflation techniques. He just wanted to know why my arms and belly were so red!

With evening upon us, I was running out of time and needed to make a command decision: wash…or oil? Jenna really wanted me to wash and detail the Flex, but Cindy’s Honda Fit was due for an oil change, and I’m going to be out of town for a while. I decided, “oil”, and broke out the NextGen Valvoline and all the requisite tools. Now, even though Jenna’s got a dirty car, I can go win Indy with a clear mind, knowing that Cindy is riding on 34 psi in the tires, full fluids, fresh oil, and a clean engine compartment.

Having a couple minutes left before dinner, I was able to finish off my tow dolly project. My parts had come in, so I installed the pan pivot bolt (I just wanted to use that term to sound intelligent), the new chassis pivot pin, and one axle bearing cover/cap.

Today was Discovery Science Center day for the kids, as we wanted to see the Myth buster’s display before it closed, and our season passes were itching to be used. After we returned home I took Jason to his soccer practice, and I managed to squeeze a workout in (and another of Jenna’s famous home-haircuts) before starting on this blog.

Though this may not seem overwhelming to most of you, keep in mind that I’m still trying to help out with all the incidentals around here, get to my e-mails, and interact with Jason and Layla as often as I possibly can.

Tomorrow it’s off to Indy, but perhaps (and I hope Jenna’s back to reading this part of the blog) I can wash my baby’s car and score some husband points!

Stay tuned, use sunscreen, use a torque wrench, rotate, inflate, and don’t agitate (eat your cabbage and lentils)!

Also, I want to thank all of you who voted for me in the Traxxas Shootout. I really appreciate your support, and I think we could give all of you something to smile about if we are fortunate enough to make it in!

Vote early…and vote often!Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge
Just for old-time’s sake, I pulled last year’s trophy off the shelf…and darn near dropped the thing on the floor. I forgot how heavy it is, and I’ve forgotten how great it felt to hold a trophy over my head. I think we’re gonna fix that…soon!

Yes, that sarcastic phrase (which probably originated around the corruption of Tammany Hall, NY, in the 1800’s) was meant to peak your interest in what will be one of the shorter blog entries of my long and somewhat illustrious career.

In case you don’t know, voting for the eighth spot in the Traxxas Shootout began Sunday, and goes on for about a week. Though voting certainly does NOT guarantee admission into the exclusive race, it absolutely helps.

The way the last spot is chosen is basically done like a lotto, with Ping-Pong balls tumbling around in a pressurized clear container. Eventually one will be pulled, and the driver belonging to that ball (apparently my title wasn’t the only tongue-in-cheek phrase) is in. It’s that simple.

So…the balls will be doled out based on the percentage of fan votes that each driver receives. If Tim Wilkerson gets 50 percent of the vote, he will have 50 balls in the container. If he gets 10 percent, he will have ten…and so on with each driver eligible.

I believe there are 6 of us: Wilky, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Tony Pedregon, Bob Tasca, and me. The rules state that all of us must be present to have our…err…spheres dumped into the hopper before the drawing, and that will take place in downtown Indy the Wednesday before the race, August 27th.

Though we lost in round two in Brainerd, it sure looks like I’ve got my old hot rod back. With Todd Okuhara leading the charge and Terry Snyder back on board, Chris Cunningham and the crew really stood tall in making several changes and getting our setup back in the groove. We gained one round on Timmy and now are 16 points (less than one round) behind him in the battle for the final Countdown position. In case you haven’t been keeping up, it’s nail biting time!

Now that I feel we have a great chance of winning races (I’m leaving at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to head back to Indy for two days of testing, which should further help our cause), I’d really like to be seeded into the Traxxas Shootout. Heck, the last winner’s circle I was in was nearly one year ago, when our Valvoline team won the Shootout in the most dramatic fashion ever: on a holeshot, and blowing the body off our Dodge Charger in the lights!

With that in mind, I’d really appreciate your vote for me. I’m attaching the link, and apparently it can only be done on Facebook. Heck, I don’t even know how to get on Facebook without Jenna at the keyboard, but I trust that all of you are far smarter than me. If you’ve already voted for one of the other drivers, that’s fine. If you haven’t, and you like what you’ve read here, that would be cool.

All right, I’ve been home for 6 hours, replaced the battery in Jenna’s Flex (man, did that car know exactly when the 3 year warranty was up!), took my waste oil to the recyclers, stopped in Home Depot to tell all the employees I’m still alive and well (I even let them scan my credit card for old time’s sake!), got in a workout, tucked Jason in, and now it’s time to get 4 ½ hours of sleep and start all over again!

Stay tuned, Jaxxas for Traxxas, be green with your oil (and your old batteries), Back Jack, and c’mon Top Ten!

“Guy stuff” for $400, Alex!Thursday, August 14, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge

If you didn’t get it, the title is an ode to Jeopardy. If you still aren’t getting it, Vanna will be over tomorrow to explain. The point is, I’ve got some “man” stories to impart this blog, so pull up your Barcalounger, light up a stogie, pour that Jack and Coke just right, and settle in for some good reading (the prior sentence was in no way meant to construe that women, children, aliens [legal and otherwise], left-handed people, liberals, or lawn bowlers are excluded from reading my diatribes. Conversely…I can use the support!).

Seattle…Seattle…Seattle, what else can I say? We did so-so in qualifying, and again ended up with a first round matchup against Tommy Johnson in his John Collins-tuned Make-A-Wish Charger. I certainly picked a fortuitous time to have my best light of the season, as we barely got that one by one thousandth of a second! By “best” light, keep in mind that if we drivers just roll the car a few inches past the point where we lit the stage bulb, basically we’re just manipulating the numbers on the timeslip, trading ET for reaction time. That is because we have lessened the “rollout” distance, which is the amount of inches the car has to travel (after we’ve launched) to activate the ET clock and stop the reaction timer. On paper, my .071 isn’t the lowest reaction that I’ve had all year, but I’m telling you that my eyes, brain, and right foot worked better than any other time lately, as that light came from a shallow-staged (barely lit the stage bulb and didn’t creep in any further) position.

And then came round two, which didn’t exactly go as well. If you saw the coverage, obviously you know what I’m talking about. Against Alexis DeJoria, I again gained an advantage on the starting line, and it looked like we were driving to victory when my Dodge Charger turned into a convertible, then into 674 souvenir pieces. It was frustrating to lose, it was frustrating to blow up, and it was frustrating to cost DSR so much money for one run. However, blowing up a nitro funny car, then jumping out with your arms in the air…THAT’s Manly!

The toughest part of that run was that it was the last run for Rob Flynn and me as DSR teammates. Don wants every one of his seven drivers in the Countdown, and we’re sitting in 11th place and down to two races. Rob was let go, and Todd Okuhara will again call the shots for me. I’m excited to be able to work with Todd, who was my first crewchief when I came to DSR in 2006, but I also will miss Rob and hope that he’s back out as a tuner, soon.

I have three highlights from Seattle: Number one has to be Rodger Comstock making the final round in Super Comp. He drove great and came within .02 of bagging a Wally, something that Karen was able to do in class eliminations earlier this year. Number two is making about 20 runs in the Frank Hawley School 2-seat dragster again at Seattle. The past couple years we had done this on Wednesday, but this year we ran after all Saturday action was completed. It was lots of sweat, but lots of fun!

I saved number three for last, as it truly is the most poignant. Hopefully you all know about the Infinite Hero military challenge coins that I take with me every run. In the beginning of this program, I conservatively figured we could raise 10 grand just with those… and I wasn’t even close. Most races average about 27-28 hundred dollars, and in Denver we had our best race ever. That was expected because we not only ran the Infinite Hero body that race, but we also had a huge push on the program, including a hospitality event. I was very pleased when we tallied $5300 for the race…I felt Manly!

So, when Sonoma rolled around, back to our Valvoline colors, I was blown away when we were able to hit $4800 from that race. I had no idea why we had sold so many more coins, unless my facial hair and muscular physique served as an inspiration to all you fans!

Seattle…$7000 plus! There must’ve been something in the air in the Pacific Northwest, as we just blew all past records away. But really, the “number 3” I was referring to earlier didn’t have as much to do with the amount of coins we sold as much as how some of them were taken. Friday I was approached by a couple celebrating their 33rd anniversary, and the husband is a Vietnam Vet. They handed me a stack of new $100 bills, still in the bank wrapper, totaling one thousand dollars. Owen and Belinda asked that one coin be signed for them, and that I was to distribute the remaining nine to other veterans of the Vietnam War. I thought my weekend couldn’t get any better, but let me tell you, of those nine other coins I “gave away”, the reactions from those former soldiers was beyond words.

 Imagine being in a group that went to combat for your country, in an unpopular war, and came home to protesters who were unable to separate the cause from the character, basically alienating our heroes who performed selflessly. Well, to see a couple of them moved to tears, and the appreciation not only from them, but also their families. In fact, I don’t think I had a single vet come over when Alan Reinhart and I made the PA announcement. The family members brought them over, as the vets seemed reluctant to ask for anything free. I just wish I could adequately and eloquently describe how special an experience that was for me. Thank you, Owen and Belinda!

Three tie-downs, two moving blankets, a jack and two jackstands, one 2014 Dodge Ram, one 1948 piano, and an 8x5 trailer. THAT’s what a man’s made of!

Before I tear up, let’s get back to some machismo stuff! Ellen Tobler, a dear friend and also Rahn’s wife, was getting rid of the piano at her house. Jenna wanted it, so I went and rented a trailer and hitched on to the new Ram. Seems all my friends were sick, out of the country, down with bad backs, or didn’t answer their phones when I called around for some help, so we just headed out to Huntington Beach anyway. I figured I could always go rent a day laborer once I blew out my back, knees, and testicles trying to load this, and Jenna thought she’d be calling 9-1-1 at least once that day.

This piano is real special to Ellen, and even more so to her 90 year old father, Norman. Seems the grandparents had presented it to Ellen’s folks for their one-year anniversary, back in 1948! Knowing it had a lot of sentimental value to Norm, I was very respectful of handling it. Actually, I told him that he and I should be able to load it by ourselves…and the women could sip lemonade on the porch. Either his hearing aid wasn’t turned up enough, or he’s just a smart cat, ‘cause he just ignored me and coached from the sidelines. Long story short, Ellen, Jenna and I got it loaded without much difficulty. I don’t think my wife has much faith in me, but Ellen now thinks that I have chimpanzee strength…so that’s pretty manly in my eyes!

Unloading was a different story. Buddy Jim was the only one dumb enough to answer his phone, and he said he’d head over after work to help unload. Knowing he was probably stuck in traffic, I killed as much time as I possibly could; undoing all the tie-downs, folding up the moving blankets, blowing the dust out of the keyboard area, etc. The biggest issue was that, unlike at Ellen’s house, I couldn’t settle the trailer wheels into the bottom of the driveway apron and reduce the ramp angle significantly. I wound up jacking up the front of the trailer, setting the rear on jackstands, and saying five Hail Mary’s. Old Skeptical Jenna couldn’t believe we were going to attempt to unload (or, “dismount”) by ourselves, but by this point I could smell the testosterone seeping through my pores (or, maybe it was just B.O.?). We DID get it unloaded (and nearly into the house), but I was glad when Jimbo showed up. I’ve never raised my voice so much to Jenna without getting slapped…but I kinda liked it. Made me feel like Bogart. 

Needing to further my manhood still, I hit the waves with Rich down at Sunset Beach. Once done with that, I was all set to wrestle some alligators, but apparently there aren’t any in Southern California. Lucky reptiles!

I was wondering why my arms looked sunburned…now I think I’ve figured it out!
I know the axles look backwards, but the experts say this is the way for proper weight distribution. I suppose we’ll know pretty soon whether all of Jason’s 15 minutes of hard labor were worth it!

So, I did the next best thing (no, not cage fighting) and started cutting, banging, welding and grinding on the tow dolly. You know, the word “dolly” is totally screwing up my man-blog, but I’ll have to roll with it. If you recall, I noticed the passenger side wheel canted quite noticeably just before we were due to pull out of the driveway for our trip to Sonoma, and this is the first chance I’ve had to get to it. I cut off the spindle mount brace, lined everything up (that’s a much longer story than the three words I’ve allocated to it here!), welded like I was getting paid by the pound of wire I burned through, and ground down my abhorrent beads until I thought no one would laugh at me. I then threw some Rustoleum (that just sounds macho!) on the mess and called it a day. Okay, actually I had to spend an hour just grinding the pan pivot bolt off (it was not budging…not even with my ape-like attempts and neighbor Matt’s breaker bar). Once the replacement bolt arrives, that project is off the books! If anyone sees us on I-15 the weekend of the Vegas race, and our tow dolly is missing the right side wheel, you’ll know just how good my welding skills really are!

I’ve been trying to workout as regularly as the race schedule will allow, and let’s be honest; sore muscles and the sound of metal plates clanking together is about as masculine as it gets. Plus, I need the increased strength that resistance training provides.

Case in point: Tonight Jenna had me hang her new mirror in the stairwell. I know what you’re saying…”How tough can it be to mount some polished glass on the wall?” Well, my naysaying reader, apparently my wife buys things at Pottery Barn by the pound. This expensive (did I mention I picked it up yesterday and loaded it into the bed of my Ram pickup…the one with the Hemi?  Yep, the ‘V’ in this guy’s V-8 stands for “Virile”!). Anyway, this thing was “two-people heavy”, as in, “Holy Sh@$%! Heavy”.  Based on the price and the weight, I’m figuring there’s quite a bit of gold inside this thing. Seriously, though, at 75 pounds, it took a “real man” (plus his wife and mother-in-law, a 16 foot plank across the stairwell banisters, AND the Little Giant ladder) to get this mounted. Done!

Last blog you saw the beginnings of the pinewood derby car Jason and I were building. We got that finished (and when I say “we”, you dads of seven-year-old boys know what that means!), I made a transport cart for it, and it’s getting packed for Brainerd. Apparently DRAW is having several drivers build these, the fans will pay to “rent” each car for heat races, and the proceeds go to help racers. Neat deal, but I’ll be devastated if our car doesn’t set low ET. I hadn’t built one of these since I was 8 or 9, so I educated myself online quite a bit, but Jason and I still wanted to build something with a bit of character, so we certainly didn’t go with a guaranteed design. That being said, I got my lead wheel balance weights and postage scale out to get this thing as close to the 5 ounce max limit as possible, put my center of gravity right where the internet gurus say to, got the graphite powder packed to install just before handing the car over in Minnesota, and am hopeful that we at least win “Most Manly Father and Son creation” (if there is such an award). If not, I just hope we don’t finish last!

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Exhibit “A”, your honor. To have Jenna accompany Layla, this “awesome” (yes, I am being highly sarcastic) ride set us back $6.00. Those genius carnies!

Though not listed as “mannish” on my list, the family headed to the Orange County Fair for the final day last Sunday. These “carnies” have things figured out; they make you buy a card with “credits” instead of paying cash for a ride, and they’ve lowered the height limit for many rides, PROVIDING that an adult accompanies the child. And, OF COURSE, they charge for the child AND adult! Yes, my friends, it’s a carnival of cash, a highway robbery on the Ferris Wheel…and yet we all still take the kiddies there! I’m just hopeful that I’m out of town the entire time the LA County Fair is in Pomona. If I have to see one more clown, smell one more bushel of corn-on-the-cob being barbequed, or stand in one more line to plunk down 20 bucks for credits to get on two lousy rides, I’m going to show them who the real man is!

Okay, I’ve calmed somewhat. By the time you read this I’ve caught the 6am flight to head to Brainerd. I have an autograph signing at the Wal-Mart in Baxter from 5-6:30, and that’s a good 2 ½ hour drive from the airport. After that, I’m all about getting our Valvoline SynPower car into its first winner’s circle of the year. The crew just front- halved the car, so we’re solid to finish the year with that chassis.

I’m ready to show the rest of the funny car field the taillights of this dude’s Charger. I’m ready to be, “the Man”!

Stay tuned, stay manly (only if you check “male” on your forms, otherwise stay girly, but still giggle at my blog), “fair” is the LAST word they should use to describe those events, Pinewood Derby cars rock, but Dodge RAM’s with Valvoline in the crankcase rock harder!

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