Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Sunday, December 8, 2013
The picture above dramatizes the impact friendships have had on us in perhaps the most tangible, indeed recognizable manner. Before meeting Brian and Jan Kenny, we wouldn’t have considered driving a race car at Laguna Seca, for instance, nor put plans together to drive Der Nürburgring Nordschleife and share a simple lunch together at the German track’s famous Grüne Hölle restaurant. Before we met Brian and Jan, would we have ever considered buying an RV and or join them with an almost matching red Corvette, as depicted above? Nevertheless, from the time we walked from our Corvette into our favorite Starbucks coffee shop, in Simi Valley, where out of nowhere a voice asked us, “do you race that Vette?” life hasn’t been quite the same for us. On the other hand, not for the Kenny’s, either, we suspect. I sometimes wonder what if we hadn’t responded, “yes, in fact we do!”
Catching up with an old school friend after decades without any communications turned out to be a highlight of 2012, but this year it developed further in ways that Margo and I were pleasantly surprised to see – who knew? It was David Roberts who, during a trip early in 2013, convinced us to buy the yellow Maserati we so love to drive. When we were in Australia this year, it was David who secured the services of a real racecar driver, and a red Ferrari, for a drive around the new Sydney Motorsport Park track that, as from 2014, will be the venue for the Sydney round of the Aussie V8 Supercar races. Can Iife getter any better than that?
For these tracks, it’s only a matter of time before she is approved for Group 3 and it would be a huge boost for her confidence when that eventually happens. On the other hand … maybe not? At the time, I made it to Group 3 in Colorado, you may recall from a blog posting of the time, after informing Margo of how, “I was a three!” without even blinking, she simply responded, in her best Polish accent, “so what, I’m a bush!”
As for Brian and me, the time came for us to hit unmovable objects – something everyone who takes their own cars to the track dreads. My big “off” happened early in the season, at Sonoma in northern California, where descending the esses I spun and backed the Vette into the wall. It turned out to be just an “informal kiss”, and less than a thousand dollars later the Vette was all ready to go again. However, this wasn’t the case for Brian. Leading a group of time trial (TT) cars at a joint northern and southern California NASA outing at Laguna Seca, and having just set the fastest time, on the slowest corner of the circuit – turn 11 – he had his Vette come around violently, spinning him into the protective wall alongside the pit entry. It was a huge incident and his Vette is yet to return to track duty, but I am sure Brian is looking forward to 2014!
Brian is now a participant in NASA HPDE events as a Group 4 / TT participant, and finally I am participating in Group 3 with NASA SoCal, NoCal and Rocky Mountains. I have to thank all those at NASA who have helped me develop as I have – it is much appreciated; and as often as I let them down with some of my off-track antics, it’s always good to eventually get there. I cannot leave this brief update without mentioning how, for the past two years now, when it comes to open lapping days at HPR, there’s been business clients who have braved the conditions to ride-along, as passengers, with us both. We hope that they have enjoyed the opportunities as much as we have enjoyed having them come out to the track.
Margo is warming to her new vocation as an association Chief Meetings Officer and a byproduct of her responsibilities is taking a hard long look at potential future conference venue sites. Independently, we have now looked at Minnesota (enjoying our time at the Mall of the Americas even if it is no West Edmonton Mall); Mobile, Biloxi and New Orleans along the Gulf of Mexico; and Dallas, Houston (if briefly) and San Antonio. Verdict, for those interested? San Antonio tops the list and as for the gulf, then perhaps Biloxi – of course, we found time to stop by Jimmy Buffett’s latest inroads into the casino business, stopping by Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant Biloxi.
The picture above is of Margo and Fiona, at a recent meeting held for Margo’s association, the American Congress of rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) here in Boulder. It looks like we will be hosting another gathering of volunteers and staff in January and we have to admit, the more involved we have become and the more we travel in support of their events, the more I agree with this major career change of Margo. Yes, a lot of driving is involved and a lot of stress is generated as she endeavors to ensure these events go off without a hitch, but all the same, with both of us now working out of our Boulder home proved to be one of the more positive life altering events we have experienced to date.
Our business interests continue to grow in Sydney and we enjoyed dinning out with a business colleague, David Hughes of HP, with whom I worked back in the 1980s; Dieter and Chris Monch, who have been true friends as well as business associates for several decades, and indeed, in the case of Dieter, someone I consider as part of a small cadre of mentors I have trusted for many years; Sue Bradshaw of IR who so enjoys rescuing Greyhounds, as does our daughter, Anna; and Peter, Neil and David of Infrasoft, a true technology start-up in the best traditions of Silicon Valley start-ups. That’s right, doing everything on a shoestring budget even as they ship their first products.
However, the break in Sydney was more than just business combined with a working holiday. While I was able to keep writing and Margo stayed in touch with her events team, it was also a time to say good-bye to the city of my birth. I have siblings in this fine city, as well as a daughter, but it’s no longer home for me. For all the years I have spent living in the US, it was finally time to admit that with Margo, I had moved on – we have a grandchild! The upside of course is that Australia is a great vacation destination and we know the language and customs! It’s not that we will never return, but I suspect future trips will be on cruise ships out of San Francisco or Los Angeles as our love affair with long flights is definitely over.
What did he need the most? Already he had located a chassis and an engine but what were in need were sets of tires – for qualification and for the race. So yes, Margo and I were up for that, and for the first time Pyalla Technologies became an official sponsor for a Colton Herta race and we couldn’t have been any more proud than had it been one of our own children. In the picture above that was emailed to us on the day, you can see how generous Colton was in ensuring visibility for Pyalla Technologies and somehow, I have the sense that this could be the start of a longer relationship between us all – while we are a miniscule business entity in the grand scheme of professional auto racing, we enjoy it so and I have to believe, in the end, every little bit counts.
We were overcommitted for the month of November and couldn’t make the event but Colton performed extremely well given a year’s absence from karting. As for how Colton performed, perhaps it is best to simply quote Colten’s maternal grandmother, Jan Kenny, who told me, “After not competing in Karts all year, since moving up to Formula cars, it was fun seeing Colton back at the Supernats. After qualifying in the rain for two days, he made it into the final group for the Sunday event. I am proud of his achievement, he got everything out of the engine that he could.”
It’s now the holiday season. Thanksgiving is behind us with Christmas and the New Year looming. There will be gifts and much to eat, just as there will be ample time for even more story telling. Plans for 2014 will take form as we check the calendars – we hope to see David back here early in the New Year and we wish safe travel to Brian and Jan as they head to New York. We are limited to just one car for now – the winter weather turning nasty and relegating us to depending solely on the Jeep, summer tires and all!
Already our thoughts, however, have turned to spring and for 2014 to be a time for further exploring of the Americas. It’s dark when we get up and dark well before we have dinner. Thoughts of summers in Sydney aren’t far from our minds, particularly as I pay close attention each evening to the developments in the cricket contest for “the Ashes” under way in the Antipodes. The RV is in storage and the cars are on battery tenders, but soon we will be back on the road where once again, it will be a time to Buckle-Up!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The circumstances that led to this were not ideal, but the sight of this email more than compensated for what was happening around us. It was early October and we were in Sydney on a business trip to spend time with the company we are deeply involved with, Infrasoft. As it so happened, on this trip we were joined by Brian and Jan Kenny, business associates from Southern California, who have become good friends and who have now been featured in many of these posts, simply because they share the same passion we have for cars and for time on tracks. It was with Brian and Jan that we spent the day on the Nürburgring (Nordschleife), back in September 2010.
For this trip, the plan had been to head to the Blue Mountains, to the west of Sydney, but Mother Nature intervened at the last possible moment. As we drove our rental car towards the foothills, all we could see were plumes of smoke, and following a quick call to the hotel we were advised not to drive any further – the highway was being cleared of all traffic to make way for emergency vehicles. In what was later described as the beginning of Red October, as one local Sydney newspaper dubbed them, these fires made headlines across CNN and even NBC ,although the later didn’t quite master the geography involved.
I was very appreciative of the effort David made to get Brian and me the ride in a Ferrari and to get a good, close up view of Sydney Motorsport Park, formerly known as Eastern Creek. Starting in 2014 it will be the Sydney home for V8 Supercars, following less than spectacular support from all involved for the temporary street circuit set up each year around the site of the 2000 Olympic Games. From our very first outing on a track with National Auto Sports Association (NASA), Margo and I had continued with our “hobby” with the intention not so much to master a handful of tracks but, like golfers everywhere, to see just how many tracks we could visit.
David has visited us in Boulder a couple of times, and on his last visit he came with me for a couple of parade laps out at High Plains Raceway that was the subject of the February 18, 2013, post to this blog Roads less travelled … If plans develop, as he hopes they do, then there’s every likelihood we will see David once again in Boulder in the new year. It’s not every day that friends can pull a red Ferrari, literally, out of their hat and I have to believe our friends at NASA will be surprised.
This October’s road trip up and through the north east of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, gave us opportunity to showcase this part of Australia to Americans that had never been down under, and proved to be a real treat for Margo and me. The program was simple enough, as it included a casual drive to Queensland’s Gold Coast where we spent a couple of days (and where we walked a good part of the closed streets being prepared to host the V8 Supercars for the Gold Coast 600) before returning via the northern tablelands, that are a part of an area called New England. The picture taken of Margo and me was early in our visit to Surfers Paradise. The Gold Coast may harbor detractors down south, in the capital cities, but taken in small doses, it still holds a lot of appeal and it would be remiss of me not to include such a photo.
The drive up to the Gold Coast in our rental had seen us overnight at Terrigal and at Coffs Harbour. It may be a cliché, but even as I write this post, it seems just a few days ago that we were walking the main street of Terrigal looking for a café. For an early evening in October, the weather was already trending to the warm side and the afternoon we arrived in Terrigal we had to abandon plans to walk the rock shelf on nearby Avoca Beach, as the winds were at gale force – an early indication that Sydney was going to do it tough this fire season, a point proven, all too harshly, in only a matter of hours. However, before there were vacations to the Gold Coast, from the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, Avoca Beach had been our summer vacation destination – if only our parents had bought that block of land they had often talked about!
For me our trip back down the New England Highway brought back so many memories from my childhood. It was common in the 1960s for Sydney families to make the trek north and our family was no exception, but today there’s little to remind me of either the journey or the destination – the Gold Coast looks nothing like the swampy marshes from those times and there wasn’t a four-lane highway (almost) all the way to Queensland. However, the motel outside Grafton where we stayed was still there, as were the “milk bars” and cafes along the main streets of Tenterfield, Glen Innes and Tamworth. The stud farms of Scone and Muswellbrook were just as visible, although some of the dwellings looked palatial compared to what had been standing there in the past.
For Brian and Jan there were distractions as well – it was only a matter of hours after picking them up at the airport that Brian received calls about fires from recent electrical work and flooding from just-completed plumbing. Each incidence was handled remotely and ended up not being too much of a distraction, but mixing work with just a couple of days out of the office is always a tough to do. For me, it was always a case of finishing each day at the keyboard as on my return to Colorado, I had a series of back-to-back user conferences before making the drive to Orlando. Yet for Brian and Jan there was yet another distraction – their grandson Colton would be wrapping up his first year of open wheel, formula racing.
How well is Colton doing? As the picture below depicts, his collection of trophies is becoming quite impressive, the more so as what he now has on display are only those for first place. In turning to open wheel racecars Colton is making the first moves to follow in his father’s footsteps. He is also moving on from a very successful karting career, having won several titles in spectacular fashion, as already noted in prior posts to this blog. So it should come as no surprise that Colton, from his own marketing to everyone he could reach, will once again compete in Las Vegas in the karting SuperNationals against the best in America and places further afield. Last time I saw him race I walked down a lane of karts from Australia.
As his father, Bryan told me in a recent email, “I don’t really know how to describe the joy and pride I feel watching Colton race and start to have his own success. Certainly the normal parental pride is there, but more than that I think the fact that he is doing this thing I dedicated my professional life to, and doing it very well, makes me feel like a little bit of me is out there along with him. And last week was a real highlight for me, to see him competing on the same track as Alex Tagliani, Scott Dixon, and nearly a dozen successful professional Indy car drivers and seeing him right in the mix, at 13, really I don’t have the words.”
The leaves in Boulder have turned golden and have started to fall. Winter is not too far away. The Gold Coast, Colton’s gold medal performances and the red Ferrari, too, are now just fond memories. Next year’s travels and events are already taking shape. As I walked down my driveway, where I took the photo below, there was no escaping how quickly this year had gone by and yet, I have never dwelt too much time on the past. I have not enjoyed quite the business success Brian has experienced and I will never experience the thrill of winning the way Colton has, but it is contagious just being around such people.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Earlier this month, I spent the day out at High Plain Raceway (HPR) driving solo as Margo had commitments she simply couldn’t ignore. Being a new grandparent, opportunities to spend time with the granddaughter are not invitations easily turned down, so I would be spending the day, trackside, and alone. The picture above best describes the conditions but also my mood. As much as I really looked forward to spending time on the track, it’s a lot more fun when Margo is around, participating, and sharing in the adventure.
And an adventure it remains – every time either of us gets behind the wheel, pulls the straps of our safety harness tight, fires up the engine and heads to the grid, the adrenalin kicks in and it all gets serious in a hurry, but in an anticipatory, “wonder what’s going to happen?” manner, as we look to see who will be joining us on track. Will there be aggressive drivers prepared to steal our apexes? Or, will we be left alone to circle at our own pace? No matter; for this day, it will be a team of one and with nothing to share it will become a time to strengthen the brain’s memory-muscle paths as I drive numerous sessions with as consistent a lap time as I can muster.
The plan was for three 30-minute sessions in the morning followed by three in the afternoon for a total of three hours on-track time. This is aggressive and ambitious, as at organized events we typically drive four 20-minute sessions. As much as this sounds rather simple, the mental aspects of driving quickly during these organized events soon drains away the adrenalin we may have experienced earlier and the 20-minutes is as much as we can mentally handle under most conditions. Unfortunately, this outing at HPR was to be anything but routine!
Before this post appears, Margo will more than likely have added a post of her own on that trip to the western fringes of Colorado so I will not cover that excursion. However, the picture above of Margo was taken in Aspen, at the rugby field, leaning against the goal post, a few blocks from the center of downtown Aspen. Every year there’s a competition that draws players from all over the world but the loudest accolades are always reserved for the local team, The Gentlemen of Aspen. Through the years I have played and followed Rugby, never before have I ever heard of a rugby team mentioned in the same breath as gentlemen so at some point, Margo and I will make time to watch a game or two as the competition comes around.
In just a short period, we had driven to Atlanta and back and with the drive to western Colorado, we added yet another thousand miles to the Viper’s odometer. However, by no stretch of the imagination were we done with our cross-country travels. If the year had begun with multiple trips to the West Coast in our trusty Escalade, then the closing months of 2013 will be best remembered for our trips east. As much as we really enjoy track days, and our time out west, each time we head east it’s a whole new adventure as we find new roads to explore. No sooner had we returned from checking out whether the colors of Fall were on display then it was time to prepare for the drive to Ontario, Canada.
The route across was straight forward – get to Mississauga as quickly as possible. Departure was originally planned for the Sunday following my track outing to HPR but the experience of getting the RV and trailer off the ridge where we live made us pull forward our plans. And a good thing, too, as more rain was forecast for Saturday night. Checking out the street closures noon time Saturday, we found we were down to just one route out of town so we headed back home, threw together the belongings we would need, and headed for Kansas immediately.
The route back home? Well that was another story. Being as far east as we would be, we just had to drive past Niagara Falls and the road would then take us down through New York and Pennsylvania making a visit to Wellsboro, PA, impossible to ignore. The picture above is of us both fronting all the falls – from left to right, the American Falls with the Bridal Veil next to it and then further to the right, the Horseshow Falls denoting the Canadian side of Niagara. All of this was captured by Margo in the video below. Before we headed to the falls, a colleague had suggested we take a short side excursion to the city of Niagara on the Lake and this we did – and what a bucolic village setting this turned out to be. A definite must-see for anyone visiting these parts!
Even as so much has changed in the years that have passed – almost 50 years have passed – the town itself had changed little. The hotel he had stayed in was still there as was the diner and the picture of me below shows me at the town’s major intersection with that diner in the background. As for the factory, unfortunately with the passage of North American free trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mergenthaler moved the whole operation to Mexico (as did Corning we were told) and the town took a big hit. Before Margo and I drove back to the main road, I did buy a tee shirt and I will wear it to my next family outing in Sydney when next I get there.
There will be more days on track, of course, even as there are more miles to be covered by car. Already there are plans in place to drive to Orlando for Margo’s big end of year event. On the one hand you can argue about how educational travel really is, even as you can persuade others of the immersion of the senses that naturally occur. It’s still just driving down roads you have no real understanding of where they will take you even as you try to stay hydrated all the time. Modern smartphone technology means you have a camera with you at all times, and that too, is a good thing.
Nevertheless, there’s still a great sense of adventure about taking these journeys and just having the opportunity to do this – a girl from Poland and a boy from Australia – is reward enough to generate the desire to keep on doing this for as long as we can. Without delving into clichés this is definitely becoming a journey without end and for that, Margo and I remain extremely grateful that we have been given the opportunity to drive and to keep on driving! There’s still so much more to come …
Friday, September 27, 2013
This year we took the Viper for the trip – roof down; not so much fun when we passed feedlots, but otherwise pleasant – and something that has also become part of our Labor Day tradition. Pictured above, on the streets of Aspen, it looked right at home in this mountain town.
As we try to do every year, we stopped for lunch in Vail. This time we stumbled upon a restaurant we had never visited before; lunch was great, and the place had a really nice atmosphere. It was called La Tour. If you are looking for somewhere nice to eat the next time you visit Vail, I strongly recommend the place. In the photo below, I am clearly enjoying the salmon salad! This restaurant is just off the eastern entrance to Vail and not that hard to find.
Each morning we headed into Palisade for breakfast and each time we looked for a peach dish but found one only once. However, on Sunday, there was a farmers market and peaches were available from almost every stall. These peaches did not disappoint, and as you can see in the photo below, Richard was admiring some.
It is the scenery that sets this place apart – see below the photo Richard took as we began to explore the place:
As for what the car museum contains, the car pictured below was bought at an auction for a cool $3 mils! Just so it can be on display? Whatever… It is an Oldsmobile F88 and the only one ever built. Claimed to be the world’s rarest car, it was built as a concept car and displayed as GM’s Motorama “Dream Car” of the 1950s.
As always, we made a detour from Highway 141 and took the Highway 145 exit to Telluride. It is a great village, and when we first went there, back in 2003, I did not know that it is quite famous – I just really liked the views… Back then the town was nearly empty, but this time, as it was the holiday weekend with the annual film festival under way, the place was full of tourists.
Before heading back to Boulder, we enjoyed another great trip that took us up and over the Grand Mesa … and back into Grand Junction via Delta. We took Highway 65, and while we had seen signs on the interstate marking the exit, we had never before been on this road. Now it’s something we are keeping in mind for the future, as the views from the top of the Mesa were spectacular.
The sad part is that we never bought those peaches. When we looked at them we were still digesting lunch and didn’t feel like eating another thing; then the market closed and there were no peaches to buy! We didn’t stop by wineries, either. Just ran out of time. Next year?
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Yes, there is a pattern here … RUGs development involved travelling around the world and a lot of socializing, while the Finance Committee job involved a lot of lengthy spreadsheets and analysis of revenues and expenses. I see it as fluff and stuff, and I am sticking with this view.
Our first exciting stop on the way to Atlanta was Bowling Green, KT, where the Corvette factory and museum are located. National Corvette Museum is an incredible place, and we spent quite a few hours looking at Corvettes of all colors and ages. Here I am, sitting in front of the Museum awaiting the opening of its doors – we arrived early to have time to see it all.
The displays were pretty spectacular; I took a snap shot of one that I particularly liked:
As our next stop on the adventure tour was New Orleans, we stopped by the New Orleans booth to see what it had to offer. ACRM was thinking about considering New Orleans for our annual conference, and I was curious if it really recovered from hurricane Katrina. The booth proved to be among the biggest of the cities represented and lived up to the New Orleans image, complete with live entertainment!
Shortly after visiting this booth, we were off to the real New Orleans for Gumbo and Bourbon … Here I am on the corner of Orleans and Bourbon streets, perhaps the most famous intersection in the French Quarter – and yes, it was oppressively hot!
I have to admit that I now totally get the song by Jimmy Buffet, “I will play for Gumbo”. What a great dish, and one of the places where we went for lunch served a particularly delicious version of this New Orleans specialty!
Unfortunately, I did not feel that New Orleans would be a good venue for the ACRM conference; while the French Quarter recovered nicely, the areas outside this little touristy spot were not inviting, and there is much work that needs to happen before the town returns to its former glory.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Would our good fortune hold up for the entire month? Would July deliver on the promise of summer and delight us all, or would it see return visits to Corvette Spa? Perhaps more worrisome still was that as I looked at the calendar, July was just back-to-back activities with few days open for supervising repairs. Of course, the family looks forward to a fun weekend each July as our club, National Auto Sports Association (NASA), takes over the High Plains Raceway (HPR) track outside Byers, Colorado, and when combined with a Friday open lapping day, gives us the opportunity to use up all the tires, burn through the last of the brake pads and leave with every fluid overheated, the red Vette just crackling and popping as the heat of the car dissipates.
July along the front ranges is always very hot and there’s every possibility that afternoon thunderstorms will develop, interfering with any evening plans under consideration. For our weekend at the track we would be taking the company command center as we would be entertaining business colleagues flying in from California. Brian and Jan Kenny have become part of the family these days, but it’s Brian’s business acumen I have to value the most – Brian may be in construction, but like me, as a contract wraps-up and the deliverables all approved, it’s a case of working the phones to find additional business opportunities.
In her post of a few weeks ago, Family vacations with grownup kids? Margo provided plenty of insight about how it all turned out so I will not retell the story. The upside was that with the RV set up as it is now, I was able to continue to work from the road – an objective or ours from the first time we took the RV on the road – and the inconveniences of close quarter living didn’t turn out quite as dreadful as I had initially thought. That’s not to say there weren’t times when all parties questioned the sanity of travelling like this and for those who thought it would be a vacation, well, air travel looks a lot better with this adventure behind us. From the picture above, it’s easy to see that I did find a few times where I could just sit down, look at the lake, and take it easy and for that, I am extremely thankful to all who did give me just a little space to chill!
On the other hand, don’t let anyone – particularly family – tell you that times spent alongside the marshes that skirt the lakes of Minnesota aren’t without its downside. Critters of every size inhabit the reeds and these denizens of the lake include everything from annoying Mayflies and Mosquitos to turtles, loons, and stalking cranes each trying to outdo the other in the ways that can annoy you. Whether it’s the pesky Mossi’s stings or the quacking of the crazy loons, the background hubbub was a constant presence, 24 X 7. Then again, high in the trees alongside the lake, there were American Bald Eagles nesting and their occasional majestic flights overhead were magical to witness.
With 2,000 plus miles covered in just the first week of July, the miles I really wanted to do were atHPR and so, only the day after returning from Minnesota, we welcomed the Kenny’s. Re-reading my previous post, Getting much needed seat time – but will it be enough? it occurred to me that I may have inadvertently “put the mockers on” Brian. Readers may recall how I made the comparison between HPR’s prairie corkscrew and it’s more famous bigger brother, THE corkscrew at Laguna Seca. While we were by the lakes, Brian was on track at Laguna Seca participating in a joint Northern California – Southern California NASA event. Limited to racers only, drivers in HPDE4 / Time Trials were permitted to participate and Brian had worked hard, only a few weeks earlier, to graduate to this level, the highest attainable in the NASA HPDE program. Brian also had to get his red C6 Coupe Corvette checked out and certified to participate – a much more complex procedure than the “Tech Inspect” we had been used to in previous outings with NASA.
Laying down a couple of blistering times that easily moved him to the top of his group, Brian slammed into the concrete barriers protecting the pits as he exited Laguna Seca’s turn 11 – the last turn before coming onto the main straight and the location of the start / finish line. The impact was so severe that it pulled out the red flag effectively ending the session for all involved. Apart from a few aches and pains (that still persist), Brian suffered few aftereffects but it was a big hit all the same. Sharing commiserations of our almost back-to-back infringements with the walls of famous tracks, Infineon and Laguna Seca, had never been part of the plan but here it was, the much anticipated HPR weekend and the Kenny’s were without the Vette.
Not to worry, Margo and I informed them. We have more than one car in the garage so how about the Viper? At first, I thought about letting them both drive our Vette while we drove the Viper but previous outings by Jan and Brian two years earlier clearly demonstrated their liking for “the snake” – so Margo and I would continue with the Vette. And no, it took little extra convincing on our parts that this would be a wonderful alternate plan as they looked, a little worried of course, at the healing process their own Vette would be going through in the weeks to come. As the photo above captures, the thunderstorms did come late Friday afternoon and the downpour was torrential. I was just about to fire up the BBQ when it hit us hard but after it passed, there was ample time to relax with a traditional trackside martini!
As for our time on track it followed the usual pattern for our weekends at HPR. Friday saw both families sharing their respective cars as all parties worked on the seat time. He track throws many challenges at you all of which are well known to us and yet, each time we visit the track, it takes more than just one session to become reacquainted with all of its nuances. In time, brake points recede a little as we all tried not to over-brake and the never-ending torque from both cars allowed us to cut back on gear changes that, at times, only succeeded in unsettling the cars. Watching Brian from turn one, late Saturday, I caught a glimpse of him attacking other cars while in the Viper and the way he went about dispatching them was fun to see – clearly, no evidence of any hesitancy on Brian’s part following the incidents at Laguna Seca just the week before this outing.
The weekend at HPR was eventful for one reason. After participating at NASA events with the Rocky Mountain region, I finally passed evaluation to participate in HPDE Group 3 – the group just below HPDE4 / Time Trials. I had already been participating in HPDE3 events of NASA in Southern and Northern California but I had made a mess of earlier opportunities with the Rocky Mountain club and it took me two years to recover. The instructors involved, fortunately, were extremely kind hearted and gracious (even as I had to learn humility in face of my own stupidity), and coming off the track that final time, with approval to run with HPDE3, I tore into the command center and in my broadest Aussie accent, I informed Margo of how, “I was a three!” Without even blinking, she simply responded, in her best Polish accent, “so what, I’m a bush!”
We are not the only folks on track in July as the Kenny’s were anxiously tracking the results of their grandson, Colton Herta. To suggest he is a phenomena or a gifted natural is too early an assessment to be making, however the early signs are that he is way, way, past the skills either Brian or myself possess. Graduating into open wheel racecars at just 13 and campaigning in both the F1600 where, at last count, he has won six of eight events as well as the Skip Barber program. Even as I wrap up this post, news comes from Lime Rock Park of how Colton, running in the Skip Barber program, came away with a second on Friday followed by a first on Saturday!
In both contests Colton he is up against drivers much older than him with a lot more experience. The photo above was taken of Colton in the team garage, on scales, as the engineers work on fine-tuning the setup looking for that little extra something that will translate into a wining advantage. However, it was this latest outing at Buttonwillow that may prove to be a significant tipping point in Colton's career as he made it into a “best upcoming youngsters” segment in the nationally televised program on Speed TV, Wind Tunnel. A small video clip was played for viewers and you can check it out for yourselves by following this link, dubbed The Pass.
Watching the video clip it’s not hard to imagine how the nickname of the “little assassin” came about – the two cars he passed after waiting for a mistake by one of them, was to move him into the second place. You do get a brief glimpse of the leader at one point in the video but it didn’t take Colton long before he caught him and then passed him on the last corner before the start-finish line even as the white flag came out, signifying one lap to go. Taking the lead this late into a race has become a well-known trait of Colton’s dating back to his days in karting.
This winning pass can be seen in the clip, I call The Exhale (see above, inline). Pretty much everyone watching is now growing accustomed to Colton winning and yet, so many breaths were being held as Colton approached that final turn. Yet it was inevitable. He passed, he won, and everyone exhaled. Colton didn't win every race this weekend but overall, his winning percentage at this stage in his career is outstanding. (The videos came to me courtesy of Brian and Jan.) Once again, and somewhat surprisingly given his commitments to formula racing, Colton expressed an interest in participating at this year’s SuperNationals karting event to be held in Las Vegas in November, but needed a little sponsorship help so Pyalla technologies “Track Days” was very pleased to help out. The story will continue I am sure of it!
Minnesota! HPR, Byers! Moreover, the month was only partially behind us but more was to follow. Readers may recall how Margo had written in her post of June 2, 2013, Clubs that Accept Me as a Member about our participation in an event organized by the Rocky Mountain Maserati Club. When it had come time to drive a fun-filled three-stage rally, we came dead last by miles. More than 200 miles, as I recall. Joining the club once again for another fun-filled rally seemed too hard to pass up on, so we registered for a weekend gathering that would test our rally skills yet again. The event would take us to the mining town of Leadville, Colorado, where we would overnight in a restored hotel, heavy with the atmosphere of years past. The Delaware Hotel was more of a period piece than what you would expect from a hotel with every single piece of furniture available for purchase.
Across the street was the Manhattan Bar. Extremely fortuitous as after a hard day behind the wheel, trying our hardest to solve riddles and name sites, we came last, again. Fortunately, this time it wasn’t by 200 miles and in fact, we tied for last with folks in a glorious Maserati Marek SS. Definitely nothing to be ashamed about and the opportunity to be that close to something very famous more than made up for our own misfortune. After taking an RV to Minnesota, then being on track in the Corvette, it made perfect sense to us to seek out a little downtime behind the wheel of a “grand tourer”, savoring the sites at a much more leisurely pace and without the interruptions family life so often produces.
Was so much time spent on the road confirmation of true summer madness? Did the time behind the wheel more than compensate for the other distractions of the month? July proved to be a crazy time for us, no doubt, but looking at the calendar for August (and indeed, September) it only looks to be getting worse, not better! However, the Vette is in one piece and very straight. No damage done, this month, with tires and brakes in good shape and capable of supporting a few more outings. The regular touring cars are all looking good (we do need to drive the Viper somewhere far away) and the RV remains a delightful way to move between points A and B even if it does mean we are “on business”. Ahhh, I love the smell of high octane gas burning early in the morning as the sun makes its first appearance above the horizon. We may indeed be crazy, but if that’s the case, leave us be. There’s still so much more to enjoy – out there, on the highways and back-roads of America!