Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Pulling the pieces together; from technology to recreational, it’s all good!

These past few weeks it’s all been about the miles we have covered. Road trips took us to Dallas and then after just a few days back in the office took us to Las Vegas. As we work on this post we are looking at yet a third road trip, this time to southern California and then on up the coast to Palo Alto in northern California. It’s summertime so it’s not all that bad even if the temperatures have been scorching hot, but that’s the nature of travel at this time of year. It hasn’t been totally incident free, mind you, but the time out and about on America’s highways still beats standing in line waiting to pass through TSA security even as we hope our upgrades come through.

Dallas proved to be a fun place to visit. Actually, our conference was well north of Dallas as it was held in Plano. This has become a regular part of our summertime routine as we have been to this part of Texas a half a dozen times already in just the past couple of years. In a manner of speaking it has also kept us quite distracted as one group  of contractors after another have been walking through our basement as the work to complete our walkout basement continues. Plans call for a media room, bar and wine cellar, new offices for Margo and me, a number of bathrooms / powder rooms and yes, one more guest bedroom. And it will all open out onto a patio where we will be building in a grill and a fire pit.

Hopefully, as we just passed inspections covering HVAC, plumbing, electricity and framing the dry wall will go up while we are away and when that is complete, we will have a better idea of what we will be facing when it comes to furnishing and decorating. In the meantime we have been in no hurry to live our life in pieces as we watch construction happening all around us. However, the curtains have been chosen so at least the basics will be covered. There has been a lot of additional wiring made to ensure multiple speakers can be fed with soundtracks and music even as we are beefing up security. Getting our offices off the main floor wasn’t our original intent but after working as we have from a third bedroom on the main floor, we really needed a lot more space! So yes, we will be moving offices yet again.

Our most recent road trip took us to Las Vegas where HPE really looked after us. As participants in HPE’s independent bloggers program, we were HPE’s guest for the week and they did it right. First night’s welcome reception saw Margo and I join with other members of the social media community to participate in a fun night of golf – swinging clubs and hitting gold balls into the night from the top floor of a mixed entertainment facility. Not all that certain about just how much fun this would be we were pleasantly surprised by just how congenial everyone participating proved to be and yes, we can recommend a visit to Topgolf, Las Vegas – part of the mixed entertainment located at MGM Grand.

It was a perfect introduction to what turned out to be a pretty intense week as HPE really stepped up its game in terms of reassuring its customers that the R&D being spent was delivering the products and services that they needed. And by all accounts, HPE did exactly that. Ever enjoyed a convention where you had mirrored rock bands performing? By this, the main entertainment at the end of the conference was provided by One Republic, but in the build up to the keynote address the day before, they had a One Republic cover band playing for the audience as we waited the arrival of HPE CEO, Antonio Neri. As we saw at the HPE Discover event in Madrid last November, once again we had race cars on the exhibition floor – not quite as many as in November but still an attraction that pulled in a steady stream of attendees wanting to know what was up with a prototype race car being a part of a tech show.

Golf parties, rock groups, race cars and some great restaurants – HPE certainly pulled out all the stops for us. But for this trip, we resorted to driving a different BMW as the i8 that made the trip to Plano was involved in a very minor traffic incident that required some tender loving care once back in Windsor. It wasn’t a big deal, but it did mean we had to take the M4 to Las Vegas and it was quite a surprise. The heritage of the M4 suggests a brutal track-focused car, but not really these days. Competent enough on the track as it continues to be, it proved to be a pretty good touring car and neither Margo nor I were in a hurry to let the other take over driving responsibilities. Of course, too, once we had the i8 back in our hands we had to give it a thorough cleaning and our neighbor and good friend was quick to demonstrate how a leaf blower can become an effective drying appliance!

In the post of May 20, 2018, Friends – it’s all about time and timing! I wrote of how our good friends’ (the Kennys) grandson (Colton Herta) had managed a clean sweep of all three races at Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Never been done before and it catapulted him to the top of the Indy Lights series ladder. This month, it was off to Milwaukee and the Road America course – a massive four mile lap with elevation changes and just a mess of corners to master – where Colton continued on his winning way. He won the first race on Road America making it four in a row before working hard to fight off other drivers to secure second place in the second race. All of which is to say that he extended his lead in the series. 

The team has been doing very well – Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, a marriage of two royal families – is paving the way for a great career for Colton, but he still has to win and to date and, unlike last year, he is proving that his sophomore year is less about what-ifs and could-haves and better populated with podiums. For grandparents Kennys it is still all a whirlwind of activity as they plan their attendance at different events around the country, but now with a plane, the game plan has changed somewhat. The pieces most definitely fell into place for them this year and they are taking full advantage of the opportunities a quick flight in their plane now avails them -   our next trip that takes us to both south and north California will include a stop at the Kennys home so we fully expect to hear even more about their grandson. 

Two years into the Indy Lights program, Colton has only just turned 18 – his first win of the series last year occurred prior to him turning 17. Last year, when he turned a lap of the Indianapolis Speedway in excess of 200 mph, his dad, Bryan Herta, was being interviewed and when the journalist pointed out Colton’s average lap speed exceeding 200 mph you could tell Dad not only caught he breath but smiled as he muttered something like, “that was quick!” Now, it is really impressive and it shows that with raw talent and abundant opportunity, Colton has taken to open wheel racing unlike any other racer I have seen and he is certainly looking at an exciting future unfolding for him.

This summer I have been posting more about Kenny’s grandchild than our own grandkids, but with nannies and nurses now lined up and the whole family travelling in a car for a week to Minnesota to visit the other Grandparents well, we have not been spending very much time babysitting. Suffice to say our grandkids are growing and it is fun to watch them play together with trains, bikes and yes, cars! As for time with family, on this upcoming road trip, our stay in northern California will be very short this time but we are looking forward to seeing Margo’s niece Joanna and her husband, Jens, even if for a very brief time between meetings back down in Palo Alto!

After two futile attempts at picking up our RV, the day finally arrived when it looked like we would be getting our company command center returned to us … after five months of being in the service bay. Well, almost; getting back into the driver’s seat, the steps once again wouldn’t retract. Unbelievable! Fortunately the problem was quickly diagnosed and even though the RV repair place didn’t have a spare part in inventory, fully aware of its history with us, the service manager pulled a working component from a new RV on display and facilitated an eventual departure back to our new storage facility. Utter relief and as we drove down the highway, it certainly felt wonderful to be able to read all the gauges and to see everything reporting normally. Later this month we will take it out onto the highway for an overnight test of all the systems and really, we can hardly wait to return to our former gypsy’s life!

As it so happens, we have a National Auto Sports Association (NASA) event scheduled for the end of the month so we pulled up the sight and registered for a return to HPDE 3 on the last Saturday of the month. We also took advantage of the events location at High Plains Raceway to book time on the Friday afternoon as it is an open lapping day for all NASA participants. With a little luck we will be able to have a client join us for the Friday affair and so fingers are crossed that this comes to fruition. As for the Corvette, Margo and I have now both driven it on nearby streets and it feels better than new. Suspension upgraded as were tires, brakes and a whole lot more – stiffer drive shaft, for instance, and a more reliable clutch. Only outstanding issue now is whether we make the grade. The car is the sum of many parts and with the pieces all back together again, it will be up to us to make it all work. Again, can’t wait to be back on track after nearly four years of absence – we both think it was late October, 2014 when last we were on track.

Our RV shop did do us the courtesy of washing our RV and, if you recall earlier photos, the difference is pretty remarkable. It is shining and the windscreen has never looked better. We still consider ourselves fortunate to have found a storage facility that is heated through the winter months very close to where we live, so no, there will be no more need to winterize and then summarize our RV. Translation?  Any good weather that comes our way during winter gives us an option to take the RV for a weekend vacation. We have so many parks just north of us – Yellowstone, Glacier and even further north into Alberta that we simply haven’t driven to so just in our conversations this week, we have more or less decided to look at heading up that way next year. 

This summer has seen us attending events where we have caught up with the HPE NonStop community – looking at how NonStop users will be piecing together solutions from a raft of new NonStop product offerings. We have picked up the pieces of our cars that we “scratched” and have them all back on the road including our beloved RV and Corvette. Glistening like new, washed and pampered as they all have been it’s finally dawned on us of how fortunate we are to be able to get out onto America’s highways and go wherever business and  leisure time takes us and we know that this is not always an option for many we know.

For as long as I can recall, we Aussies have always been told we are from the “Lucky Country” but you know, I don’t think we are doing it all that bad this far from Australia’s shores. Margo now prides herself as being an honorary “New Australian” but living as we do in America, getting out and about as often as we do, we can’t help but be thankful that so many moving parts – all those scattered pieces that make up our lives together – do on occasion come together and it’s all good! So, for those we are about to meet, we look forward to the occasion and for now, it’s back to packing our bags, pulling out maps and checking hotel bookings! Yes, Mr. Joe Walsh, Life's been good to (us) so far …

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Time in Leipzig provides time on track …

Leipzig; the home of Goethe – who knew? According to Goethe, “Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” I think that this has to be one of the better quotes of all time but Goethe didn’t stop there. He also said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” How cool – for years I have always thought about my high school motto, “Know Yourself” which dates back to Socrates who famously declared that the unexamined life was not worth living. When asked to sum up what all philosophical commandments could be reduced to, he replied: “Know yourself.”

Leipzig; located in former East Germany, it has morphed into an attractive city transformed in more recent times to were today it’s a wonder it doesn’t sit further up any travelers list of must-see cities. Did you know that the game of soccer, as administered today by the DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) was founded on 28 January 1900 in Leipzig? Margo and I had the opportunity to spend a week in Leipzig and while we were relatively naïve when it came to its history, all the same, ultimately working with clients, it was something we just had to do.  As Goethe so rightly observed yes, “Willing is not enough; we must do!”

When is a church not a church and when is a university a church? There was a church on the site of the university but unfortunately, the former Pauliner Church (which apparently was undamaged during the second world) was demolished by the East German government. Following reunification, it was the University of Leipzig that chartered new territory by creating an entirely new building, in the style of a church, to better connect with the past. The University of Leipzig is the second oldest university in Germany and this new campus structure it is certainly worth taking a look and it’s just a short walk from the city center.

This highlights one of the amazing sites across the city of Leipzig, reconstructing the past and repurposing former architectural gems has given the city a new lease on life and for the moment, it was the site of cranes pulling the city up out of the past in a way that purges much of its recent history that gives it the sense of truly knowing itself. Did you know Leipzig was at the heart of Germany’s coal mining industry – mostly brown coal that fired its furnaces and powered its economy – but the city took the decision to close it all down and turned all of the mines into lakes! Leipzig is now surrounded north and south with a network of lakes that you don’t really realize are present until you fly out of the city.

Margo and I were visiting Leipzig for a HPE regional user conference for the ecosystem of companies involved with HPE NonStop systems – consultants, vendors and yes, users. As much as many people may have forgotten about the former Tandem Computers systems of the late 1970s on through the 1980s, they live on as NonStop Systems wearing the HPE logo. Every time Daimler Benz builds a new manufacturing plant for its fabled Mercedes Benz cars, at least two NonStop systems are deployed – all those manufacturing robots are connected to NonStop systems and their every instruction is overseen by a NonStop computer. And they aren’t alone – Porsche very much relies on NonStop systems to this day. And the much ballyhooed Deutsche Bahn, the German Railway – yes, ticketing is done via NonStop last time I checked!

The city center is surrounded by restaurants and bars and on select days, becomes an open market. When the opportunity presented itself, after the activities of the day wound down at the conference, we found our way to one venue or another and perhaps the occasion that affected us most was that at 1:00 am, suffering badly from jet lag, we simply went to the city center and was able to sit down and order a meal. Try that in Ft Collins or Boulder and yet, for Margo and me, that is the quintessential characteristic of old European towns. We love it!

The conference in Leipzig follows other conferences in Germany that Margo and I have attended. Dating back to the early 2000s, we spent a week in Berlin in 2005 when I was the Chairman of ITUG, the International Tandem User Group and then again in 2009 for the NonStop Symposium. In 2009 I made a solo journey to Darmstadt for a similar conference just as I was setting out on the adventure that eventually led to the creation of my new company, Pyalla Technologies. Finally, in 2012 both Margo and I made it to Dresden for the same conference and these trips do not include the time we have vacationed in Germany or the many times we transited through Munich or Frankfurt.

Today we have a fondness for Germany and whether it’s the pork knuckles in Munich, the sausages in Frankfurt or simply the beer everywhere, the times we have spent in-country have always been warm times for both of us. When it came to Leipzig, however, there was a special treat install for us as one of the participants at the conference underwrote an “optional tour” of the Porsche factory in Leipzig that included a couple of laps around FIA-approved circuit with a Porsche factory racer behind the wheel.

Once again, a clear sign that Leipzig was a lot different to when it was part of the former Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR). Just imagine it – a Porsche factory in a land that only knew the infamous cardboard-finished Trabants! OK, so it has been elevated of late to almost cult status, but honestly, there is no getting around it. The Trabant was a terrible car. But fast forward to today and Porsche builds Panamera and Macan cars where once there was nothing. While you cannot take cameras or smartphones onto the manufacturing and assembly lines there is no denying how close to ballet the process has become.

However, the true fun for the day was the ride in a new Panamera Turbo – all 500+ hp. For some reason, understanding we were from the U.S. the pro took to drifting at every opportunity so much so that entering a “bus stop” corner sequence, his approach was such that we close to entering the sequence backwards before a very rapid steering correction saw us exit perfectly. Impressive car control to say the least but when I mentioned he was giving up ground to the Porsche ahead of him, he quickly accelerated to finish up right on its bumper!

Cool cars? Oh yes! But would we buy one? Well, now that you mention it there was one Porsche that Margo and I kept going back to and even though they are made back up at the original Porsche factory outside Stuttgart, it appears you can have any of the 911 range shipped to Leipzig for customer delivery and oh yes, time on the track in an equivalent car (not yours, mind you) just for fun. Sitting in front of the entrance to the Porsche customer center, pictured earlier in this post, was a new Porsche GT3. Not the more famous GT3 RS model but just the regular GT3. Now there was a proper car!

On the other hand, it always comes back to “instead of what” as with limited garage space, what car would we give up? Having just leased a new BMW M4 (with the competition package), and finally in our hands following the mandatory BMW break-in period that limited us to just 4000 rpm, its proving a blast to drive. The i8 remains our go to car for touring but what the heck, the M4 may shortly share that role when it comes to business trips not quite so far away. But looking at the picture below, you just have to love the color scheme? 

Knowing yourself in our family means knowing what next you will find fun to drive and we do know enough about ourselves to know that we derive a lot of pleasure from the many drives we take. But then, there’s always time on the track that provides us both with even more fun. “Knowing is not enough; we must apply,” means that writing about it is only satisfying up to a point but doing it is a whole lot better.

Our club, National Auto Sports Association (NASA) will be holding a track weekend at our nearby and yes, favorite track, High Plains Raceway, at the end of July and we are making plans to participate. I have now become a columnist for the NASA publication, Speed News, and my first column appeared in the June 2018 issue of the magazine – look for it if you are a member of NASA. I am writing from the viewpoint of a HPDE Driver – that is, someone who participates in the High Performance Driving Event program and hopefully, each column will prove entertaining reading.

However, with our time in Leipzig including our time with friends and colleagues who joined us for the conference and our time dining out every opportunity we had, our time on track was a mixed blessing as it only added spice to the conversation about just how soon we would be hands-on ourselves. The Corvette is now fully prepped, we have (finally) our RV back in our hands after five months in the shop and we have a trailer in excellent condition. So, yes, surely it really has become time when as Goethe encourages us all to do; “we must apply!”

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Friends – it’s all about time and timing!

You know who your friends really are when after you leave your former residence in Southern California to return to Colorado, they go and buy a plane. Yes, for them it is a pleasant one day flight with stop overs in Sedona for a late breakfast and then a final fuel refill in Santa Fe. Yes, they did that and they have come across to spend a week with us as they head off to Indianapolis for the end of May racing calendar that culminates with the running of the Indy 500. Good friends indeed and ones we cannot see often enough. And the timing couldn’t have been any better since we too will be heading for the airport this weekend as we take off for Germany.

Through the years we have spent vacations with them in Europe and in Australia but it’s now been quite a few years between drinks, so as to speak. Fortunately, we will be opening calendars to check dates in 2020 – it really needs that much planning to pull off.  Their business has really taken off and Brian being the sole proprietor of a general contracting business he remains very much hands-on so there can’t be too many days spent out of the office even if his office is a GMC Sierra truck! On the other hand, flexible options when it comes to time management means he can take time for a visit and we really do like to entertain them when they are here – did we ever mention in the past that these were the folks who introduced us to the nightly ritual of green (apple) martinis?

If you happened to be wondering whether we managed to squeeze in a flight with them then wonder no more. The weather proved favorable and one morning, Brian returned to the airfield and retrieved his Cessna from the hanger where it was being parked and with no additional encouragement required, we were quickly lifted into the sky – what a fun flight. Brian and Jan have been flying for years and as two people experienced in all that is needed for a safe flight we couldn’t have wished for anything better.

The highlight for us was a flyby above our home in Highlands Meadows where the unmistakable layout of the golf course was hard to miss. Our new home is in the middle of a construction zone but all the same, it was really a nice sensation to see just how our home presented itself even as the new homes were being completed – our soon-to-be next-door neighbor just happens to be a family that owns the largest GM dealership in Ft Collins. Serendipitous, you think? Well, that new Corvette ZR1 might be in the mix if we play our cards right. From the air, though, the biggest revelation was just how many lakes and ponds there are along the Colorado Rockies front ranges. I guess we weren’t prepared for that surprise but surprising it turned out to be – no wonder there are so many boats parked in storage facilities flanking both sides of the interstate from here to the Wyoming border! 

I guess the only sad report to make here is that it was only a matter of a few weeks back when they sold their track-focused Corvette (it’s just a coupe, Brian used to say about the car, as it had its flanks enlarged and many components beefed up) and after almost ten years of track outings we shared with them, we know our own Corvette is lonely tucked away, as it now is, at our offsite storage facility. But I am sure that will change as the weather improves and already we are looking at our own calendar sorting out when we can head to the track for open lapping days as well as to at least one track weekend with NASA – the National Auto Sports Association. As for the vehicle we rely on to tow our trailer and Corvette, our RV that we use as the company command center, well fingers crossed. We should be able to pick it up in a week or two as the end draws now to a major home overhaul. 

On the other hand, one very practical outcome from having good friends visit is that it motivated us to finish a couple of projects. In this case, with no indication that there would be any more snow falling any time soon, it was time to finish furnishing our main entertaining deck – it’s always been our plan to be able to support evening dinners for six in an al fresco environment. Big lanterns with candles, a grill and yes, even a cooler-on-wheels (loaded with drinks), all that was missing was the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Unfortunately, here in Colorado, there’s no such luck and we will just have to settle for the cheers and yelps of joy coming from the golfers sinking putts on the 17th green we overlook.

However, what we have now achieved is support for that six-place setting that we excluded from the original design of our main floor. Yes, we kept a formal dining area but that was it. And who needs a formal dining room anyway these days … OK, so we struck some common chords here lessening the formality and adding more capacity to serve wine. Who could argue with that? But outside – well it soon became a question of ownership. Did we own our outside deck or did the mosquito? Unprepared to forfeit valuable real estate we fought back – yes, we sprayed every surface with something the mosquitoes didn’t like, turned on the overhead fan and installed candles everywhere and so far, it looks like we succeeded in reclaiming our own backyard!

Contrary to popular belief there is more to life than golf and, for Margo and me, it more often than not comes down to enjoying the simple comforts life affords us. Maybe we will tackle that maddening game at some point in the future but for now, watching a game unfold in front of us more than satisfies any imminent urge to go and play the game.  And yet, when it comes to simply observing like many of you, I suspect, we watch a lot of home shows on television that highlight how best to decorate and, for the most part, we switch off. We have our own ideas and our own creative juices and you have likely followed the progress we have made through the posts to this blog. Bottom line? We go our own way, right! 

The ultimate accolade though came this week – the developer of the entire estate dropped by to ask if they could bring a couple to our home to show what could be achieved with their floor-plan. Wow! When it comes to new homes, apparently most folks need gentle prodding to better visualize outcomes as their newly purchased home finishes being constructed and to imagine how best to fill the empty spaces that inevitably develop during the construction phase! Even more interesting is the surprise over how effective a little splash of color can prove to be and in this regard, when it comes to our home don’t ever go looking for beige or pastel! 

Brian and Jan didn’t just fly to see us. They were on their way to Indianapolis to see their grandson Colton race in the Indy Lights series and in the days that followed their time with us, Colton would be on track both Friday and Saturday circulating not the big oval everyone associated with Indianapolis but rather the infield road course first developed when Formula One came to Indy. Now, the year to date for Colton had produced mixed results and he certainly hadn’t been too thrilled with the outcomes of the four races to date. With grandparents watching from the Andretti VIP pavilion, the pressure was certainly on Colton to pull something out of the hat. Well, actually no, not really – there really isn’t any way to put pressure on Colton as his fellow competitors are quickly coming to appreciate.

Lagging in the Indy Lights standings and sitting mid pack, the weekend proved eventful for Brian and Jan as yes, first race and first corner, Colton was pushed all the way back to second last. No worries as he stormed through the field to win! As for the second race well he was once again pushed back on the first corner but this time only to fourth so it was only a matter of times for him to work his way up through the field. And oh yes, with three laps to go, he made a phenomenal pass to take and then hold the lead. Two races and two wins and no the standings have been turned upside down.  With promotion of the last race in May at Indy for the Indy Lights competition it was good news for us all to see Colton featured front and center of the advertising now being released by Indy.

In two weeks’ time on Indy race day, he will compete one last time in May at Indianapolis but this time, it will be on the big oval. Always a challenge but somehow, it’s hard to imagine Colton letting the pressure get to him and while Brian and Jan had to fly back to California and will miss this race, I am sure we are going to hear all about it as the race unfolds. Finding time is always tricky to manage when you have a business and working the calendar to find opportunities to get together seems to be getting harder and harder to do. And yet, somehow the timing does sort of work out and we do enjoy time spent with friends. Shortly we will be heading out of town but that is another story for another time and oh yes, while Brian and Jan were with us, we signed the contract to complete the basement – maybe they should stay away as these quick visits of theirs is costing us a lot of money. Just kidding, as they will always be welcome to bring a little bit of California with them and to stay at, dare I say (at this time of year) – our own Windsor Castle!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

“Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, the boid is on the wing.”

Oh yeah, the “grass is riz” and the “boid is most definitely on the wing.” Or to say it another way, our ever-present flocks of Canadian Geese have finally headed north and as beautiful as they are to watch in flight I am rather glad that they have elected to move out for the summer, and the grass freshly planted last fall is greening up nicely. Spring is a time for rebirth, regeneration and yes, a time to simply kick back and watch Mother Nature do her thing. It’s been quite a while since Margo and I were last in New York, but just running across this phrase atop the post brought back memories – we need to head back to the Big Apple soon, if only we could find the time. 

The business of Pyalla Technologies, LLC, has really picked up over the past year and we are being constantly kept on our toes – this weekend we are off to Northern California, our former home for many years when Margo and I both lived and worked in Silicon Valley. It’s good to visit, even if we no longer yearn to live there anymore. Why would we? It has become crowded, expensive and yes, awash in shabby, barely livable dwellings. Very much like Sydney, as it turns out – what is it with these Pacific coastline cities? The only one that really makes any sense at all in terms of livability has to be Canada’s Vancouver.

The arrival of spring is not only a time to watch grass grow but also the time to bring the cars out of hibernation. Sports cars aren’t all that useful when road temperatures drop below 40F so onto battery tenders they go, often times for four and even five months. Here in our family that means two or three cars are seldom driven although this year, winter was a lot milder and we had opportunities to drive them all at one time or another. The arrival of spring also means it’s time to prep the Corvette for track days and this year, we are making plans to squeeze in a few open lapping days at our nearby circuit,  Denver’s High Plains Raceway, with perhaps a weekend or two at a NASA club event. NASA is the National Auto Sports Association and has nothing to do with those other intrepid souls who leave our atmosphere. Nothing is set in concrete at this time however, but the Corvette is ready to go with all maintenance tasks complete – and it is a very long list.     

Thumbing through all the receipts I can confirm that our little red Corvette has had its shocks replaced with heavy duty Bilsteins – a more sports-oriented set-up. The drive shaft too was replaced with something much beefier as the old drive shaft was bent. Brake rotors have been swapped out for vented StopTech rotors and Hawk High Performance Street pads installed. The braided stainless steel brake lines – the last foot or so of lines terminating at the calipers - have been returned to their original rubber line configuration as the braided lines were interfering with the ABS, Active Handling and Traction Control processor. Motul DOT 5.1 brake fluid replaced the original fluids in the brake lines. Also replaced were the two catalytic convertors that failed over the winter and yes, new tires were mounted replacing tires that had suffered through 30 plus on-track sessions and the Corvette’s battery was replaced. For a fifteen year old car it still looks and drives like new and with only 24,000 miles on the odometer, it’s a car we will keep for many more years. 

Looking inside the Corvette it still is in original condition with the exception of the harness bar and six-point harness. We work hard at maintaining the appearance of the interior which has always been a challenge given the dust we accumulate on track mostly at desert circuits. Running with windows down and with the occasional two-wheels (and yes, sometimes even four-wheels) off-track, we have removed an awful lot of dirt over the years. But this Corvette is the ideal weekend track car as it’s light, relatively powerful and best of all, not overly burdened with electronics – the “nannies” that help out when needed are pretty rudimentary and for the most part, non-intrusive, making for a car that gives you a lot of feedback with the ability to tell you exactly what you are doing wrong even as it generally gives you time to recover. Well, nearly always!

At this time of year, I am reminded of the lines from an Alfred Tennyson poem, “In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Although, I have to admit, whenever I read this line I am always reminded of the opening line of a Disney cartoon that paraphrased it to say, “It’s springtime when a young man’s fancy turns to … baseball!” With an eye on the television set I am watching to see if Colorado’s Rockies baseball team take the field for their “opening day” as light snow has just begun to fall and the temps have dived below freezing. 

On the other hand, with the first quote of this post, “Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, the boid is on the wing” being a reference to Brooklyn, it only makes sense to mention the Yankees baseball team. For the uninitiated, there is a connection between Corvettes, racing, friends of the family, baseball and the Yankees as our good friends, Brian and Jan Kenny just happen to be the grandparents of Indy Lights racer, Colton Herta. And as fate would have it, Colton drives for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, an organization owned by none other than George Steinbrenner IV. 

This has been the subject of previous posts but what I am reminded of this spring is that last year, in his first public appearance with the race team, Colton had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch of a spring training game featuring the Yankees! Now that’s a sporting cross-over you don’t typically encounter within the racing community. As reported at the time, “Whether on track or on the field, spring is an exciting time in sports with the start of racing and baseball seasons. Though Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta has already participated in his own version of Spring Training with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tries series, he and Steinbrenner Racing’s team president George Michael Steinbrenner IV will join the New York Yankees in theirs at the March 7 game versus the Tampa Bay Rays.” All I can add is to repeat what I have often stated in this blog, “we all wish we were Colton!” And where was the game played? Well, at George M Steinbrenner Field, of course.

Colton’s second season in Indy Lights – and yes, he was crowned Rookie of the Year in his first season of Indy Lights racing – started a short time ago on the streets of St Petersburg, Florida. The highlight of the weekend was a podium finish in the first race but then, when it came to the second race of the weekend, during a tough dual for P1 with another really good racer, he managed to record an unceremonious introduction to trackside tires he didn’t know all that well. But that’s racing and he continues to be quick in much the same fashion as he had last year so fingers crossed for even better results next outing. All up though, we are looking forward to seeing some exciting racing from Colton and the team.

Throwing out the first ball at spring training – for the Yankees, no less – running flat out in an open wheeler around the streets of St Petersburg, and closer to home, watching the grass grow and trees bud – well it has to be spring, right! With the attention that our Corvette is getting of late it’s as almost if we have nothing else to drive. When it comes to this week’s go-to car, taking center stage, we have to admit, is the new BMW M4 – what a car! 

It has become Margo’s first choice for trips up and down the front ranges and even though neither of us has fully exploited the capabilities of the M4’s engine we know that engine is champing at the bit to be let go. We still need a thousand plus miles to show up on the odometer before BMW advises using anything more than 4,000 rpm and for an engine that easily swings past 7,000 rpm, it should be a whole new ball game when that day comes!

It was this time of year back in 2015 that we made the quick dash from Simi Valley California back to Boulder in order to catch the birth of our daughter’s twin boys but we didn’t quite make it as surgeons intervened. It all seems so long ago now and if you want to catch up on that initial drama, you can read the post of May, 2015, The trips we plan but seldom stick to! Fortunately, this month is a more joyous occasion as all the grandchildren celebrate their birthdays around the same time (as does our daughter for that matter), the only difference being the boys are going to be 3 while the young lass will be five. As for the mother then that is a completely different story as with this handful, it may no longer be the age but the mileage!

I would like to say that our granddaughter, Ella, takes after her grandmother but that may be a stretch unless of course, you take into consideration her already blossoming sense of fashion. Despite their own circumstances, our daughter Anna’s family is starting to take shape in the sense that routines have started and school is beginning., Grandchildren never stay small however and while this is a good thing it’s also a terrible reminder to both of us about the passage of time – yes, another season and as much looked-forward-to as it is, it is still one more season we cannot put back in the bottle!

Spring is definitely a time to watch the grass turn green as birds fly overhead. It’s a time too for baseball here in America as the boys of summer begin another season-long 162-game marathon. Cars will be returning to race tracks – hopefully, even our own Corvette. Family gathering will center on grills and not hot plates and trips will be planned with visits to family and friends squeezed in even as we start longing for the first snowfall yet again. Change truly happens as seasons bring a reminder of years passing by but then again, nothing really changes – just the backdrop and the characters crossing the stage! 

A trip to sunny California is now under way and we will be spending a full week away from our Windsor home. It has been a long time since we have been out on America’s highways, but we cannot wait. For the past three months we have been working from our home office and while it’s been a fun time – yes, our curtains and drapes finally were all sorted out and are now hanging where they should – but for Margo and me, there is no substitute for being out and about, greeting friends and colleagues and making further observations on life.

As it so happened, we were jolted back to reality the day we left Windsor as snow overnight and temperatures well below freezing wasn’t what we expected. Even so, it didn’t deter our plans or lessen our spirits for the journey. Yes, “the grass is riz and the boid is most definitely on the wing” and hopefully, by the time we reach California we will get to see the state as sunny as we remember California from the time we lived in the Golden State. On the other hand, it is the time when change happens so we will take in our stride whatever we find. And with this, the only thing left for us to say is spring? Bring it on!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Change … in with the new; out with the old!

It never ceases to amaze Margo or me how quickly change can happen. After weeks of research on a number of cars, Margo walks onto a showroom floor to view a car not under any serious consideration and falls immediately in love with the color. The business of Pyalla Technologies continues to do well and Margo has found her niche as managing editor of the digital publication, NonStop Insider, we launched almost two years ago (with the help, of course, of our good friends in Scotland at TCM Solutions). If you have a technical inclination and perhaps more than a passing interest in what is happening today with NonStop Computers (formerly, Tandem Computers) then yes, check out the web site for NonStop Insider and page through a couple of Margo’s editorials. 

As of right now, however, a quick peek inside our garage will reveal that our trusty 2012 “Chilli Red” Mini Cooper S Roadster is no longer. In its place you will see a 2018 BMW M4 with the Competition package, of course. As for the color, well that’s a story all by itself. Turns out it isn’t a common request to order an M4 painted Ferrari Grigio Medio, but the M4 can come with the same paint you usually only ever see on a Ferrari 458 Italia – just like Quattroporte sounds so exotic in Italian (and a lot better than the English equivalent, four doors), Grigio Medio rolls off the tongue a whole lot better than “Medium Gray!”

Speaking of Quattroporte, yes, Maserati, our former Maserati GT-S, came in the same color as FCA paints Ferraris – what Maserati calls Giallo Modena. Just the name is a clue to its origins and again stirs the passions much faster than saying, yellow!  Having had a Maserati painted with Ferrari yellow and now a BMW painted Ferrari gray, all we really need next is a real Ferrari painted well, perhaps Corvette Blue! No, seriously, the color of Margo’s M4 is eye-catching to say the least, sometimes radiating a greenish tinge and under different lighting, more of a blue hue.  Needless to say, it’s a long way from being close to the eye-catching Chili Red of our Mini! On the other hand, we are getting closer to having red, white and blue in the garage!

For a family that has strong ties to GM, as we have moved from GMC to Cadillac to Pontiac and yes, Chevrolet Corvette with regularity over the years – two GMC Yukons and three Corvettes (there is still a Corvette parked in the garage) – seeing the M4 at rest alongside the i8 wasn’t something we expected. And yet, Margo has favored the marque for many years since she bought her first BMW in the early ‘90s – a BMW 540i. Here the story line shows a few twists – my first BMW was purchased during the years I spent in Canada and was a hot BMW 530i. Since then we have owned an M3, now an M4, two 7 series and yes, the i8. Who knew?

Speaking of the Corvette, we are awaiting the arrival of new catalytic converters at our front door after which it is a trip to the nearby Chevrolet service bay for them to be installed. Even as we prided ourselves on how few miles we have on our fifteen year old Z06, the lack of miles accelerated the demise of our cats – and no, they aren’t an inexpensive feature to replace. Our first indication we had a problem was the Check Engine light, but the cats weren’t the only problem that surfaced this month. That triple threat of Service ABS, Service Active Handling and yes, Service Traction Control appeared as well. Our friendly Corvette tech pulled a tech note from GM that highlighted we may have introduced this problem ourselves, as some time back we had swapped out rubber brake lines with stainless steel – appears they mess with the electronics so we are reverting to rubber.

Let’s see how this turns out as the number of times we have had the triple threat displayed on our console has been too many times to recall. The new cats were just delivered as I was writing this post so it will be off to the dealer for installation – and no, we aren’t going with the original Chevrolet Corvette parts ($3,500+) but rather after-market from Summit Racing ($750) on the advice of our good friend, Andy Green of A&A Corvette Performance, Oxnard California. If they are good enough for Andy then they are more than good enough for us. 

I wonder what they call these problems in Italian – probably a lot more exotic and yes, a lot more expensive, I suspect. The recent move to leasing BMWs hasn’t really come about by accident – keeping separate out private and company cars makes book-keeping so much easier (and cheaper) as we can account for our time in each more easily. As it now stands, we have the Jeep SRT and the Corvette Z06 for private use and the BMWs are for business where we see most of the miles tick over as we continue to drive to business events and meetings rather than fly – and you wouldn’t blame us, would you, with all that’s happening on planes these days. Margo still shudders at the time at LAX when I was threatened with arrest over such a silly act, standing in the security line.

After writing the previous post I was asked whether our Corvette Z06 would receive a franchise car endorsement. Well, as we were writing that post there was some debate going on as to whether we should swap the Corvette for a new model as our local Chevrolet dealer had the ideal Z06 car on their showroom floor – a 2017 7 speed manual with the Z07 performance options. Wow – and guess what; it was also painted Torch Red, the same as our current Z06. Turns out, smarter minds prevailed and as we own the Vette outright and have it set up as our track toy, it made little sense to buy one more.

We have kind of done the Corvette thing for now and unless the new ZR1 blows our doors off, we will be playing a wait-and-see game over the new C8 iteration that is promised to be mid-engine for the first time. So, yes, the Corvette is a franchise car in every way. For the time being, at least … 

The really big news fortunately is that our RV is about ready for pick up. Just a few weeks shy of having to return the RV for de-winterizing, it has spent many months in the shop being reworked. Mechanically, it’s all good with the only change needed was with two of the house batteries. As for the inside of the RV, we are waiting to see how the corrective measures taken to redo wallpaper, some fixtures and hardware  including items that have been on backorder for over a year. There were some Tiffin recalls to be attended to and just in general, many times to be given a once over as durability isn’t a strong point on even the finest of RVs. 

After all the incidents we lived through last year with what had to be replaced, add in what has now been done and theoretically, we should have close to a new RV to break in. With almost 60,000 miles on the odometer after six summers, we have certainly gotten good use from our company command center. Throughout the summer months it has been our go-to vehicle for driving to technology events and conferences across the country. It’s seen both coast lines and touched both the northern and southern borders. The way it is set up so that I can work from the onboard office means that my time away from our home office is every bit as productive and no matter where we park it, there are always clients who want to drop in even if for just an evening martini.

From a company marketing perspective, it has been the perfect tool helping us promote Pyalla Technologies and as the summer rolls around, we expect to be hitting the highways once again. Without the Mini it will be our track car, the Corvette, that will be doing double duty as our towed vehicle and that isn’t entirely a bad thing to have to accommodate. And thankfully, Chevrolet makes good air conditioners and on that score, the Corvette has never let us down. It’s always been such a cool car to drive! But for now, we can share one last photo of the Mini present in the garage only hours before it would become homeless. Oh well, no franchise tag for the Mini but who knows? 
Margo really loved that toy so you can never say never, now can you? On the other hand, “Arrivederci, Mini” – now that doesn’t sound so bad, does it!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

“Franchise Cars” and the mistakes we have made …

I am not sure if we have made a mistake or not, but after owning almost nothing but black cars it seems red is now the color. The occasion that triggered the lineup above, right outside our new Windsor home, was basic – the Corvette was off to the local Chevrolet service facility to have it’s serpentine (OK, fan) belt replaced after fifteen years, a clogged air filter swapped out for a new one and yes, for the second time in its history, a fresh replacement battery. Against the cobalt blue sky we saw this morning after a number of really cold days, it was in stark contrast to the cars – as for the color of the house, well it kind of blended in with the scenery. As for the BMW i8, being a color other than red, it simply didn’t make the cut this time around when the photo was taken – but it wasn’t our fault. No mistakes were made at the time of purchase as there wasn’t an option to purchase a red i8. 

Car and Driver columnist John Phillips wrote in the January 2018 issue of the magazine, “Car enthusiasts are defined by their vivid mistakes.” For several years now, at this time of year, when it looks like winter has left us and it is the time for flowers to push up past the winter debris, I have posted about the four or five cars we should consider having in the garage. These posts now are a walk down memory lane for Margo and me but at the time, living out of two homes well, a home and a condo, meant we did have five cars and for a brief period, six. And there were always two and for another brief period, three, motorcycles.

Today, however, we have fewer cars and motorcycles than we once had but we continue to maintain a big RV – our company command center – along with a Featherlite aluminum car trailer. This seems to meet our needs very well as across the portfolio we have the RV, the SUV, the track car, the supercar and yes, the Mini Roadster which is our round-about-town car particularly loved when springtime truly arrives and the ragtop can be lowered. Far removed from either our Corvette or Viper ragtop roadsters, the Mini is still a six-speed stick shift and for the opportunity to row-your-own gears, it is a delight to drive. And "very torquey" at that, with its turbo inline four cylinder engine meeting the tarmac via tires that really grip and there isn’t a traffic light derby we can recall ever losing – at least for the first hundred feet or so. But the real purpose of the trailer is to give us a means of transporting our red cars either to the track, or as more often is the case, to business meetings and corporate events as finding parking for the RV rig often leaves us far from where we need to be. And it won't be long before another track season begins for the 'Vette.

NFL football teams along with other professional sports programs I seem to recall have an opportunity to tag a good player and call them “franchise players!” The concept is that, baring exception circumstances, the team elects to keep this player no matter what state of affairs exist concerning his playing status – he simply is too good to lose to free agency or anything else. Like a whole lot more money. At this time of year, when all you can hear on television sports programs is the upcoming NFL player draft, and with the thoughts of the cars we have garaged at the house (and offsite now at our new heated storage facility) still very much on our mind, I have asked myself, why haven’t I declared some of the cars we have owned through the years, franchise cars! Never to be traded or sold, but rather, kept until their replacement parts supply dwindles to where you have to know a person who knows another person who is good friends with yet another person who just might be able to find that part you desperately need.

Back when we did have a majority of black cars, the local exotic car showroom unloaded a selection of them on our driveway as part of the initial sales effort working to sell our home in Niwot. We sure were surprised when the eighteen-wheeler showed up on our doorsteps early one morning and unloaded a nice selection of cars – all white. So it seemed like a good idea at the time to insert our own black vehicles in with the group, alternating black and white. I would like to say that the F-Type Jaguar was ours, but it wasn’t. On the other hand, the Nissan GT-R and the Dodge Viper ragtop roadster didn’t look out of place behind the Maserati and the Lamborghini Gallardo. Of all of the cars, on that day of hijinks, my drive was the Gallardo, as our architect had taken it to show to a nearby client and couldn’t engage first gear – so he called me. Of course, I jumped and engaged first and drove it back to our home much to the surprise of those attending the event. “Who are you?” came the refrain from those who watched me step out of car. On my own driveway …

There have been numerous posts to this blog written around this time of year that takes stock of the cars that are either lining our driveway or are sitting curbside in front of our home or even parked in the garage. And on occasion that has led me to ponder that great question of what cars we need to own and yes, how many. More often than not the answer came to five and while this may seem extreme, at the time it has made sense. That is, until we hit a rough patch when all five cars need new tires, but that’s another story for another time. Whether you think it’s important to have a get-around-town car, something that is better suited to winter mountain driving or that it is really important to know the difference between a track car, a sports car, a grand tourer and an exotic may not be the real question, but then again, it is completely un-American not to have as many cars as you have garages. Sometimes, more!

If you missed any of them, perhaps the ones that really stood out were those of 2011, 2014 and 2017. Some of them only make oblique references to the collection but if you scroll through them, sure enough you will come across the references to what really is required when living in a state that has such extremes of weather. If you want to follow these links, you will get the picture, so as to speak:

March 13, 2017

February 15, 2014

Sunday, December 25, 2011

But here is the thing. If we could declare some cars as franchise cars, after all these years which ones would Margo and I choose? Well, to start with, we don’t have pictures of some of them, but the second Mazda RX7 I ever owned, the 1994 model that we called “the glove”, as it was a car that surrounded its occupants in a manner that was more akin to being swaddled than anything else. This was a car we should have kept and even today, as we turn up at road courses around the west, there are still a lot of these cars in the hands of bona-fide racers! But another car of the same vintage also is one that I know Margo will always cherish – her BMW 540i. Remember it? Before there was an M5, BMW responded to the inroads that Lexus and later Infiniti were making into the German Lux business by releasing “the Tiger!” Slamming a quad cam 32 valve 4 liter engine into the much lighter 5 series body while not having quite the impact that was made by Mercedes Benz when then independent AMG released “the Hammer” a hot-rod E-Class variant, but all the same, the Tiger was a whole lot of fun to drive and we kept it for more than a decade.

If the mighty 1994 RX7 was a glove then what could you call the 2008 Gen IV Viper SRT/10? It too quickly earned the glove tag as it was an even tighter fit when seated than the RX7. But when we consolidated homes and brought back to Colorado those cars we had in California, we faced the somewhat ridiculous situation of having more cars and motorcycles than we had room for – something just had to give. At the time we had two Corvettes, the Viper and a Nissan GT-R and the Cadillac Escalade. The Vettes were our track car but then it kind of got a little silly – the GT-R was our grand-tourer, the Viper our sports car and well yes, the Escalade was our around-town, all-season, SUV. But if the Viper was a candidate for being a keeper under the franchise banner then it was a car of a completely different color that really hit the mark.

From the time we first saw this Maserati it was controversial. It wasn’t immediately “love at first sight” – it was bright yellow, for crying out loud. As one Maserati enthusiastic suggested to us much later and after we brought it home, “you have to be very confident to drive yellow!” Over time it really grew on us and make no mistake about it, Maserati has the best exhaust note of any car we have ever owned and as best as we can tell it was a completely natural sound, not subject to synthesized augmentation as is often the case today with newer cars. We drove it everywhere – to Toronto and back, through the Canyon Lands and Natural Arches parks in Utah on down through Telluride. We drove it all over the west coast but as much as we were tempted, we never took it on track, although the only other yellow Maserati GT-S we ever saw was trackside, Sonoma, where a serious racer was indeed tracking it. 

So here we have it. Just the RX7, the BMW 540i, the Viper and the Maserati were cars we should have tacked on the franchise label. What of the Nissan GT-R? We had two GT-Rs, a 2010 and a 2013 and boy, were they fast. Wickedly quick under all conditions that gave us our first ever experience with a double-clutch automated manual gearbox. Diving into a turn and being able to pull back the levers and drop three gears in an instant – wow! But it wasn’t a car that you warmed to and after having had them in the garage for six or more years, we didn’t miss their absence even after a few days. And of course, the hole in the garage was soon plugged!  

It was on a weekend trip back from San Francisco, driving the Maserati, that we made the decision to buy the BMW i8. Well, to be truthful, not really. Margo and I faced a predicament. The day before we left for San Francisco we were shown a brand new Corvette Z06 in black, but with yellow double-stitching surrounding the plush leather interior along with yellow powder-coated brake calipers. The complete opposite color scheme to the Maserati. Why not buy the Z06 as a kind of complement to the GT-S, we thought? And then while on the road, our BMW salesman phoned us to inform us he had found the very i8 Margo had wanted and he was prepared to deal. Which car, we thought. As we pulled back up the driveway at the end of the trip, we had made the decision. We just liked Corvettes too much. But not everyone was convinced and on her way into the kitchen the following morning, Margo simply said, “we’re buying the i8!” 

Now that we have had the i8 for two years, does it earn the franchise tag? Well, no, actually. We love it and every time we drive it, we are impressed. But does it bring the same wide smile to our faces that the RX7 and Viper did all those years ago? And the answer is no, not quite! This may shock many car enthusiasts to hear, but what the i8 has kindled is an anxious wait for what’s next. This seems to us to be very much a case of work in progress and the fact that BMW didn’t want to sell the i8, just lease it, tells us that they want it back for some reason and we think we know why. The i8 is generating so much data about the car, and us, they want to run a whole bunch of analytics against its computers to see how it behaved under the stresses of daily life. However, it came oh so close to getting tagged with the franchise label. On the other hand, it was all pretty exciting the day we picked it up and it was left to Margo to make that all-important first drive home from our friendly BMW dealer.  

On the other hand, the i8 does represent the future but Margo and I aren’t really enthralled with all that we see. It may have looked right at home when we lined up all the black and white cars on the driveway as we had done only a short time before the i8 arrived. However, as one motoring journalist noted just this month, “We live in a time of unprecedented speed and power from even the most mundane new cars, but also a dwindling connection between driver and machine. New cars have grown heavier, more complex, and less engaging, their engineers seeking to eliminate the drawbacks of the average commute.” And we agree, wholeheartedly! “Performance has become less a metric for a company’s engineering skill than a solved-for-commodity, reliable and friendly.” Yuck; not a future for cars I am anticipating with anything close to the levels of enthusiasm I once enjoyed.   

Yes, car enthusiasts may very well be defined by their vivid mistakes and as we are car enthusiasts in every sense of the word, we have made many. We put on a lot of miles as we continue to cover a lot of territory ever since we elected to drive and not fly. And we love the journey a lot more than the destination and this has been true for us for decades. But even as we put a lot of miles on the cars and even as we adjust each time to the idiosyncrasies of the chosen car of the day, gloves or otherwise, we consider our mistakes and wonder. Could we ever live with just three vehicles? Or two, perhaps? At some point this is a conversation we have to have, but for as long as we are as young as we are today, that day is a long way off. And we are just itching to kick off our next trip and which car we take well, who knows. It just could be something entirely different, yet again!