Monday, December 7, 2015

Yes, we have enough!

We have traveled some very familiar roads this past month. Even as the month ended up with the Thanksgiving weekend where we were pleased to have house guests joining us for the annual turkey fest, Margo and I could always hear the highway calling. A popular expression between the two of us, having spent so many years traversing the west, when having spent a full month at home was an anomaly, so this month included a return trip to where it all started for us. San Jose, California, and Silicon Valley.

As the picture above depicts, we spent the better part of a week at the San Jose Fairmont, an upscale hotel well suited for small to medium events and this one was very familiar. In our days as volunteers supporting the International Tandem User Group (ITUG) we had been fortunate to enjoy the two primary penthouse suits – the Presidential Suite as well as the even bigger, International Suite. Unfortunately, this time it was just a regular room, but with Margo once again volunteering to help out the organization running the event, the room proved to be pretty good.

My only remark concerning this hotel is that the original building is in need of repairs and a general “sprucing up” as it’s beginning to show its age and the overall wear and tear on the premises wasn’t hard to miss. The opportunity to spend several days in one place, meeting with colleagues we have worked with for many decades was a pleasant break even as it signaled the official end to fall – winter was definitely beginning to make its presence felt. 

In the days before we left for San Jose we had a couple of days of snow and for the first time, with the leaves well and truly gone, we were given a graphic reminded of why so many folks enjoy the Colorado lifestyle on offer along the front ranges. The Rockies consist of waves of mountains, the front ranges barely making it to 10,000 feet, behind them is the continental divide where the numerous 14,000 feet peaks can be readily seen – our home faces Long’s Peak, one of the more majestic peaks that is 14, 256 feet high that you can just make out to the left of the photo above. Occupying the center of the picture is the equally recognizable Twin Peaks. 

The visage of our home changes dramatically with the first snowfall. Throughout the summer, the trees in front of the house, now having grown to 30 feet or more, cover the porches and front entrance making it a little difficult to take in the true form of our home. But with the leaves gone and the distinct whiteness of winter flanking the ocher and stone structure of our home, it now stands out in stark relief against this backdrop of winter. If you scroll back to the posts of January through March of this year, you will see numerous photos taken from our home in winter and it’s a reminder to both Margo and me that there are many months to come before we see the return of spring.

However, we never dwell on what’s to come and for now, enjoying the first snowfall has been a treat and in typical Colorado style, where humidity never pushes higher than 10%, even now there is little reminder of this snowfall remaining. A couple of icy patches beneath overhanging branches on some side streets, but that’s about it. We put new tires on the Jeep SRT and that has made a big difference and with our Mini Roadster being front wheel drive, and on those tough mornings when the snow lays deep on the driveway, we have options!

The trip to San Jose though did throw a couple of curve balls our way. Electing to take the northern route over the Rockies and then down through the Sierras, we ran into a typical Wyoming winter’s day – wind-driven snow pushing across Interstate 80 where the gusts were topping 50 mph. Nothing we couldn’t handle, mind you, but definitely necessitating a hands-on approach along with higher levels of concentration. The trip between Laramie, WY, and Rawlins, WY, proved to be painfully slow, but it was just the beginning.

In the days before we took to the road I had removed the new snow chains from their bag to check how easily they could be installed on the Jeep. Installing chains on an all-wheel drive Jeep to ensure traction really did mean we were just a whisker away from the highway being closed – if a regular Jeep with good tire tread depth couldn’t make it unaided then nothing could. However, I wanted to be sure, but no matter how many times I tried to install the chains, I couldn’t complete the task; did someone say chains for this width and diameter wheel now standard on a Jeep SRT would be heavy? They were, and I struggled and busted my knuckles before I gave up.

Continuing our trip through Wyoming and into Utah, we were able to pick up the pace and the run down Nevada was uneventful. However, on the Sunday morning as we left Sparks, Nevada, a small township just outside Reno, NV, even though the skies were clear blue, by the time we crossed into California at Truckee we knew we were in trouble. Police and California Department of Transportation (CDoT) were manning checkpoints only a mile or so to the west of Truckee and all vehicles were being stopped and their road worthiness checked – a winter storm had swept in from the Pacific North West and snow was falling fast and furiously. Whether it was the Colorado plates on the Jeep, the new tires, or the visible emergency gear we were carrying that the inspector noticed, we were waved on through and given thumbs up.

Not so fortunate were a couple of young ladies in a Kia Soul just ahead of us. “Around you go and find yourselves a hotel for the day,” I overhead one inspector shouting over loud objections coming from the vehicles occupants. “You aren’t going anywhere in that car today.” As for me, “keep the gearing high and watch the summits – there have been five major pile ups ahead of you so just keep it to 30 mph, max!” Three hours later we had traversed the 30 miles between Truckee and Auburn where we just had to stop for the mandatory Starbucks Latte – we carry water all the time and we must have consumed more than a couple of bottles so being hydrated, as we needed to be, the Starbucks restrooms were just as much a priority. As Margo was keen to note, “Enough of this snow, already!”

Yes, we came across more than one wreck on the mountain with one a multicar pile up and on one occasion there was a distinct yell from Margo who was watching the mirrors with me. A minivan driver had lost control right behind us and was swerving violently across all three lanes. Not prepared to increase my own speed as it was a steep downhill grade, I watched the violence unfolding as I hoped for the best. By some miracle or another, the driver regained control and promptly dropped the speed to a crawl. Didn’t see this car again so we hope it made it. Our curiosity was raised, however when we came across two articulated mountain commuter buses in a ditch apparently one following the other right off the road. 

As for the return trip at the end of the week, it was blue skies all the way from California to Wyoming but once again, we hit trouble in Wyoming’s high country. This time, the stretch of Interstate 80 we had traversed on the way to San Jose was closed to all traffic – there were white-out conditions coupled with stretches of ice that had led to one accident after the other. But we had built an extra day into our itinerary so having checked into a hotel before midday, we simply took in the sights of Rawlins. Apart from there being a reasonable Thai restaurant downtown, let me tell you, there’s nothing much to see in Rawlins and the blowing winds appear to never let up!

Our time on track over these past eight years has taught us so much. Clearly, always staying hydrated no matter the temperatures is a very big lesson we learnt right out of the gate. Getting off cruise control in situations where traction is iffy is another big lesson we have learnt as well. But there’s much more – being attentive and watching everyone around you as well as always being alert about where to safely “exit the track” should an “off” be imminent.

Corners and indeed cornering itself are approached so much differently now even if it’s all based on slow in, fast out, as we talk each other through every turn with respect to whether it’s best approached with a late apex or a mid-tarmac entry until we sight an apex. And then of course, working back from an ideal line when we know to expect less than ideal traction . It’s not just snow on the road but the further down the mountain we drove to where the snow turned to heavy rains, we watched as different vehicles began to aquaplane, but we were ready for these and experienced no difficulties at all. 

We continue to turn up at our local fitness center no matter the conditions and have worked the 5:30 am daily start into our routine. I have business calls with my European clients on some mornings but I work this into our schedule even if it means moving forward the wake time on our alarm clock. The upside benefits though are well worth the bleary eyes that often accompany our walk to the garage as after almost a full year of walking on a treadmill and working with a couple of the appliances, Margo and I feel fitter than we ever have been – well, at least for the past decade or so. Both of us have shed 30 plus pounds and are managing to keep it off, but more importantly, we have grown to appreciate that we needed to change our diets just a tad and this we have done.

Mind you, there’s still an afternoon martini but we have back off the volume in each glass by a couple of ounces.  Steak? Well, of course – but now just once a week and we have complemented our meat intake with fish as our local supermarket has been providing us with terrific red snapper of late that I just love to grill. A two to three pound fish, stuffed with a mix of limes, parsley and cilantro and then drizzled with a squeeze of lemon is proving to be unavoidable whenever we see the right fish on offer. As for pasta then yes, there’s still a little in our diets but down in quantity and you know the breads we like? Gone; eliminated completely … when it comes to dough, enough is certainly enough!

The Holen-Buckle kitchen continues to play a starring role as far as lifestyle in concerned. Visitors have often remarked about the number of ovens we have and the size of the preparation space but when it comes time for the festive season, then it’s all fully utilized. As is the warming drawer – a lifesaver for us when there are multi-course meals to be served. Call us old-school or call us fussy but we do not like to ever serve meals that aren’t piping hot and should you be invited for dinner, you need to be punctual as we “respect the menu” and serve the main course when it’s ready. There’s little tolerance in our family for a lackadaisical approach to mealtimes – whenever, or indeed whatever, doesn’t cut it and is not part of our vocabulary! As for the pears in the foreground they made it in to a delightful spiced pear pie ...

On the upside are some of the best meals this side of Sydney (and Warsaw, for that matter) and nothing delights us more than entertaining family and friends and whether it’s a more formal gathering in our dining room or simply sampling pieces in the kitchen, we derive considerable pleasure from seeing folks really enjoying what Margo and I have prepared. Regular readers of posts to this blog will have seen the many pictures of different meals as they are prepared and I will continue to include a photo or two. With winter bearing down on us we have now pulled out the slow cooker and it’s been pulled into regular service of late as the picture below clearly demonstrates. 

With winter comes the start of other rituals. Walking into the garage only a week or so ago I had to pull out the battery trickle-chargers and plug in the coupes. No option now to take these cars out onto the highways although we still keep an eye to the sky watching for a break in the weather. All the same, it’s kind of sad to see them lying idle as they await warmer days. Have to keep monitoring tire pressures and I have a tank on hand that I use to top them up as temperatures dropping below zero centigrade do their damage.

It is a small price to pay for living in a place where four seasons are clearly on show. We both would love to live in a warmer climate all year round but then, there are some aspects of the seasons that are special for both of us. Even as we know it will not be long before spring returns, at this time, we are in no rush. We have grandchildren now that need to be entertained and we have tress to decorate and more feasts to prepare. And with that, we reassure each other with every change of season, we have enough. Yes, we’re good and with that, there’s just one more martini to shake! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I see red, I see red oh, I see red!

Not to do an injustice to the lyrical skills of that New Zealand band, Split Enz, but truly, as I look around the township of Niwot I am taken back by just how popular maple trees have become, and this year the display has been fantastic. We have a number of maples in our own yard but they are puny compared to what our neighbors have planted and coming at a time when the golden leaves of the aspen trees have long gone, the splash of brilliant red everywhere you turn makes for a colorful vista. Winter isn’t too far behind the changing of the colors, mind you, but we will take the sunny days we have been enjoying without any complaints whatsoever.

All too soon, the reds of fall will join the golds leaving only the soulful pines to throw a little color across the landscape. But it’s not all sadness; winter does bring its own joys of course, and with the end of October we celebrated Halloween by staying right away from the house – with the distance that exists between homes where we are it’s a tough haul for the little ones to drag buckets up and down the cul-de-sacs. But the colorful display of colors, particular the reds, was helped considerably of course by the change in colors of the cars in the garage.

It was only a short time back that all but one of our cars was black – there was the Cadillac Escalade, the Nissan GT-R and the Viper SRT and really, as much as I like black cars and enjoy driving them, it was time for a change. Today we have a complete change in palate – there are no black cars and only one car isn’t red. As I look back on my life the role red has played (together with black) is somewhat uncanny and I am sure there’s folks specializing in what influences the colors we choose later in life, but my high school colors at Normanhurst Boys’ High School were red and black as were the colors of Nixdorf Computer and later Tandem Computers, as indeed were the colors of ACI Worldwide.

Earlier in the month we had the opportunity to meet with a prospect in Beaver Creek so we took advantage such an occasion offered by checking into the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt. A really good pub I have to say where the vistas too were spectacular. A chateau set high among the peaks it was clearly waiting for the first snowfalls of winter and with numerous ski lifts terminating on the grounds of the hotel, you can see why it becomes as crowded as it does when the powder piles high on the surrounding ski runs. Even without the skiers present, we were able to take our little “S’mores Package” that hotel guests are given out to a fire pit where we enjoyed the simple pleasure of turning marshmallows in the flames as we let our dinner settle.

We took the Maserati for the run up the mountains and even though we question our sanity in having such an exotic sitting in the garage just for the run into the mountains there’s definitely no question at all about the comfort it provides. It’s not a race car and it’s not really a sports car but as a grand tourer it excels and leaves its occupants unaffected by anything that may be taking place outside the vehicle. And there was plenty of disruption as anyone crossing the Rockies via Interstate 70 will tell you. From installing fire suppression systems inside of the Eisenhower Tunnel to completing a new tunnel that takes the interstate away from ongoing rock slides that disrupt the traffic on a regular basis, it was no quick trip up the mountains.

Of course, heading to Beaver Creek that is part of the Vale valley, we did stop for lunch in Vale at our “usual”. It’s a small restaurant called La Tour and it always has fish on the menu that’s just a delight to eat – its preparation and presentation is always first class. And the wine list is very intriguing, with wines (nearly all of them from Europe) with which we just aren’t familiar so it simply adds to the occasion. Getting away from the daily routine even where it’s just for an overnight stay is always something we enjoy doing and there’s rarely a circumstance we will pass up in order to pursue such outings – Margo sitting by the window enjoying the mid-morning sunshine a reminder of just how relaxing such breaks in the routine can be.

But the color red only tells part of the story. There’s still the red Corvette Z06 sitting in the garage now equipped with new brake rotors and pads – StopTech supplied the rotors, Hawk supplied the track pads. We have a bothersome check engine light associated with traction control, active handling and the ABS that will need to be sorted out even as we know the tires are shot. The Vette is a bit dicey out on the highway right now – but with spring, on goes a set of Toyo R888s, I suspect.  This, however, isn’t the story of red that I had in mind. For me, any story featuring the color red has to include references to wines. Yes, a good wine from Australia particularly from a select paddock in South Australia and oh, yes, even up in the Hunter River district, has been a perennial favorite in our family.

Ever since we met the Kennys of Simi Valley (and yes, a red Corvette too)it’s been Martinis along with the occasional Campari and soda – at least it is reddish in color. Martinis have become our family go-to drink at the end of day as we attempt to wind down, switch off, and enjoy whatever is left of the evening. I have had the good fortune of late to entertain clients at the house and our hospitality has always included the proverbial Martini but then again, our penchant for Aussie red wines borders on historical significance so more often than not, it’s a trip to the cellar that’s called upon.

 Now we have a new favorite Martini, quite by accident, really. Fair enough, it started earlier this year with our trips to Las Vegas where the bars, both in the Venetian and Encore, served fabulous pear Martinis and with our recent sojourn at the Park Hyatt, we discovered yet another variation. Throw a little ginger into the mix, add just the tiniest amount of squeezed lime to the already lavish splashing of pear juice and you have something special. Yes we have enjoyed “pear-fect martini” as well as the “pear-o-sol martini” but a casual stroll into the local Williams Sonoma saw us encounter a mix of pear, ginger and lime in proportions I can only describe as exquisite – throw a little nutmeg on the surface of the pour, and there you have it. A delightful aperitif! And one, captured in the photo below,  that was about to be enjoyed.

But wait, this isn’t the end of our encounter with the color red. Yes, over the past couple of weeks we have been digging deep into the wine cellar and have pulled the cork from a fine 1993 Penfold’s Magill Estate, not to mention a 1996 Brunello to die for. And the good thing here is that even as we have been raiding the wine cellar with gusto these past few years – when we sell the house, why should we pay to have the wine cellar moved – all that’s left is monumental and we are having great fun enjoying the vintages remaining. And no, you will not likely hear of all the wines imbibed – we have a 1996 Penfold’s Grange still holding up well, not to mention a double magnum of 1998 Lake’s Folly for connoisseurs who know of the skills of the late Dr. Max Lake.

At this point I would like to add how green with envy I am of the young Colton Herta – yes, as his siblings tell me, “we all want to be Colton!” It comes up in blogs fairly regularly but for most of 2015, young, 15 year old, Colton has not been present in Valencia, California but rather in Woking, UK, driving for the famous Carlin racing team. If you aren’t familiar with Carlin racing their most recent graduates have included the likes of current F1 drivers Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen. Good company to keep for sure, but to get a ride with this team, you need to be special and Colton for all those who have kept up with my posts for the last couple of years know of how special Colton is – and he is just 15.

Campaigning a full season with “the FIA F4 concept – branded the MSA Formula – Certified by FIA, Powered by Ford EcoBoost – is one of the most exciting developments in junior motorsport for decades,” according to the Carlin web site. And yes, from being mid field at the end of the first half of the season and running on tracks he had never seen before, apart from simulators, Colton blitzed the field to record more points and more wins than anyone else in the second half to close out the season in 3rd place. Oh yes, he’s the real deal.

Perhaps the most complementary of remarks about Colton’s performance came from his fellow Carlin teammate who went on to win the series, Lando Norris. When asked by an interviewer from Carlin, about the biggest challenge he had to overcome during the season, his response was telling. “My biggest challenge came from within the team itself in the form of Colton … the guy I had to beat in the second half of the season was Colton. And he was in the same car and had the same team around him so that really pushed me hard.”

When asked about whether having a teammate like Colton was a positive force on his season Norris was again very positive. “I loved working with Colton it was really cool. We are really good mates and he pushed me hard from the very first test to the final race of the season … He also challenged me for wins throughout the season which led to a great battle between the pair of us.” What does his famous dad, Indy team winner, Bryan Herta, have to say about young Colton? Well yes, “he came on strong,” during that second half of the season even as, “From my point of view, I’d just say I am a proud father who is enjoying immensely seeing his son make his way in the world and finding great success.”

Standing on the podium as the winner of the final race of the season, it’s clear that there’s a ton of determination resonating from that youthful countenance and while it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he will remain with Carlin for the foreseeable future. The investment he has made in learning these British tracks should stand him in good stead should he elect to try his hand at more senior formulas. Oh yes, Colton is more than “red-dy” to take another step up the ladder to yet bigger things to come!

While we haven’t any firm plans to return to Europe any time soon, the potential for Colton to progress further has Margo and me ready to make a quick dash should the circumstances develop where we can follow Colton more closely – I have said this to other family members already, but it was back in 2004 that Margo and I watched the Monaco Grand Prix where another youngster, driving for Jaguar F1 (yes, Jaguar) was making some pretty good moves – Mark Weber. It was only a few months later that he was recruited to drive for Williams that eventually led to his lengthy stint with Red Bull.

So yes, in the sport of motor racing, there’s many variables but the one that counts the most is winning and should the next move by Colton put him into a field where he is highly competitive then who knows! As for the headlines following the last event in the series it would be hard to beat the one that appeared on the MSA Formula web site, "Herta hurtles to a season-capping Ford-powered victory at Brands Hatch."

Living vicariously through the dedication of others is easy for me. But before I wrap up for the month, I must make mention of the ongoing struggle by the twin grandsons of Margo. For three weeks now, our routine has been most unusual, to say the least. The alarm goes off at 3:30 am and we dress quickly and head to the Presbyterian / St Luke’s Medical Center in Denver – a 70+ mile return trip. The smaller of the twins, Evan, has been readmitted and has undergone procedures to make it possible for him to take on sustenance – yes, still many vital pieces that the surgeons have been gradually piecing together, one surgery at a time. But I have to admit he has done admirably and should be discharged shortly.

Given that we had an early winter snowstorm one morning, and with constant road works along much of I-25, I am driving Margo to the hospital where she spends eight hours relieving other family members who worked the night shift. I then do the return trip anytime between 11:00am and 1:00pm. For both of us, notorious night-owls, it’s been quite a change in routine. In bed by 7:30pm (perhaps 8:00pm) wouldn’t have been something I would have predicted we would be doing had you asked me just a year ago. On the other hand, as the picture below depicts, Margo derives a lot of joy from the twins!

For anyone taking the drive into Colorado it is hard to miss the welcome signs at every major state line, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”, and each time we see that sign, we know we have only a couple of hundred miles to cover before we are back home once again. To many this signals the presence of golden colors but as cities grow and suburbs spread, the wide open grasslands of the prairies are being developed where non-native trees are making the presence felt.

With late fall, the colors of autumn are now picture card “pear-fect,” even as we are “red-dy” for the coming of winter and looking forward to a spell of time together in front of the fireplace. With window curtains thrown back and the lights dimmed and a return to baked diners and hot soups, with major festive occasions just around the corner, we are once again about to enjoy the other delights of Colorado most people associate with the state. Snow!   

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A tale of two cars and of paths not taken

I am running around town these days in Margo’s Mini Cooper S Roadster and having a blast and I am reminded of just how much fun driving can be once you strip away much of the technology. Yes, it’s a stick shift with six forward gears and yes, it’s really light and yes, I know, it’s tiny. But that’s what is providing the almost instantaneous feedback in any road conditions I encounter – and yes, the continuous feedback through the seat of the pants is unmistakable. Put a tire off the pavement and you know immediately you have been a little too aggressive. As for the shifter, the third to fourth gear plane is the natural plane and it’s pretty strongly sprung and engaging first gear can be hit-or-miss affair. On the other hand, I am now mastering the quickly-to-accelerate third gear launch. Then again, as the picture above notes, it was Margo who received the instructions on how best to operate the Mini. 

It was back on Thanksgiving 2007 when Margo and I had made it to Singapore, once again, for the short holiday break. Without laboring the point, for a couple of years we flew to Singapore for Thanksgiving dinner on Singapore’s south-east shore where we dined on a mixture of chili and pepper crabs. One of the true culinary wonders of the world! That a family would simply walk onto a plane and fly all the way to Singapore for a meal and then be back in time to pick up work the very next day is a story for another time. However, back in 2007 our hotel, the Marriott on the corner of Scott and Orchard Streets, was the temporary HQ for Audi when Singapore was one of a couple of locations around the world from which the then-new Audi R8 was launched – a story I used to great effect in a post to my business blog, Legends!

To say I was enamored by the R8 would be an understatement. No one was more surprised when the host of the launch offered a signed edition of the first promotional book on the launch of the Audi R8 that I beat off a group of children to correctly answer a question about the Audi grand prix cars of the 1930s and so score the book. And I still have it. But alas, I do not have an Audi R8. As fate would have it, our taste in sports cars took a decidedly Asian twist following the launch of the Nissan GT-R at the Los Angeles motor show held late in the year 2008. My initial enthusiasm and belief the GT-R would shake up the industry was reflected in the post of October 7, 2008, Almost ...

As history now records, and has been covered here in this blog more than once, Margo and I proceeded to purchase not one, but eventually two GT-Rs (a 2010 and a 2013), but as technically brilliant as they both proved to be and as exciting as they were to drive, after all the money we spent on them they proved to be rather boring. So predictable in their capabilities and so much better than we were prepared to push them – no, we never once took them onto their home turf, a road course – they are no longer a part of our lives. Gone in essentially 60 seconds. Driven to the wholesaler as the lease was about to expire to score a handful of dollars.

Nothing at all remains to remind us both of six years of ownership of the pair of GT-Rs – and the garage doesn’t look quite the same without them! As for the Maserati GT-S well, having witnessed the departure of both the Viper and the GT-R, Margo reiterates frequently of how the Maser appears to be anxious as it awaits it’s long term outcome; to paraphrase a popular song, “will it stay or should it go, could we ever really stand to let the Maser go,” comes to mind! Who knows, the picture above may be the only keepsake we have of GT-R and GT-S come 2016.

All of which is to raise the point – what about the Audi R8. Whatever happened? Turns out that the path we took led us in a different direction altogether. Recent conversations between Margo and me have frequently lamented on what was possibly one of the worst car-buying decisions that we ever took and that brings me full circle and back to the Cooper S Roadster. Perhaps the least expensive car we have ever purchased, and with little to no research being done, we have scored one of the more exciting cars we have ever had the pleasure to drive. And where has it been since we bought it? 

For more than half of its life with us, this Mini has been on battery trickle charges as we proceeded to cover most of the continental US from coast to coast. From Santa Barbara’s shoreline and the road course in Sonoma to the sands of the dunes on Cape Hatteras. It has been the necessity of our business pursuits that has seen us spend so much time in the company command center and as we pulled into the drive after the most recent trip, the odometer ticked off 40,000 miles. And it’s been just four summers! The map of the U.S. where the roads we take are highlighted in yellow and keep as a record of where we have been is both tatty and torn with earlier highlights already fading. But as I just read this morning, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

“Off the coast of Carolina
After one or two (martinis)
I believe we found our stride …”

Before joining Tandem Computers in 1987, I spent the previous year in Raleigh N.C. While Raleigh was a pretty place the humidity in summer proved too much even for a lad from Sydney, so when the opportunity arose, I drove my beat up jalopy to the coast. After arriving in Raleigh I had purchased a high mileage, rather tired looking, powder blue Pontiac Grand Prix with the baby V8 engine, of course. It never ran right and tended to overheat on a whim but I was able to make it all the way out to the Pamlico Sound.  This time around, listening to the radio, we heard the words of a Jimmy Buffett song, Coast of Carolina and it seemed more than appropriate for both of us even if I did mess with a word or two.

Wandering the streets, checking out the shops and in general, spending a lazy day by the sound proved to be a cool way to just chill-out! But as I looked towards the horizon, and to the outer banks, I wondered whether one day I would make it out to those sandy islands and with fortune smiling kindly on us, as part of this business trip to the East Coast, Margo and I made the drive down from Reston, Virginia, to Cape Hatteras where we spent the weekend camped at the KOA facility at Rodanthe.

The past is most definitely a foreign country as sections of the cape look a lot like they did when I first journeyed out this way thirty years ago. Very little appears to have changed, especially the beachside communities south of Nags Head. With summer vacationers long gone, it was easy to get around and bars and restaurants were only lightly filled. The campsites were quiet as well and there was ample room to sit down and relax each afternoon even as we shook Martinis each day at 5:00pm and only after a lengthy stroll along the shoreline.   

Initially, we had planned on putting the Mini on our trailer and taking it with us, but as this was the first time we would be driving our company command center east of the Mississippi, and given that our route would take us through the back roads of West Virginia and Maryland before we passed through the township of Leesburg, Virginia, it wasn’t something we were happy about doing. So, yes, discretion overcame any enthusiasm we may have had to take the Mini and as it turned out, this proved to be the right decision. Maybe next time!

As for our last road trip to these parts, back in 2013, we covered roads a little further to the south.  We had taken the Nissan GT-R and to this day, it’s been Margo that made the drive from just outside Knoxville, Tennessee, to Ashville, North Carolina, via the Tail of the Dragon – the notorious and technically challenging, Highway 129. Margo’s charge up and over the mountain was captured in a photo or two and can be seen in the post of August 29, 2013, Tails of Dragons, Plates of Gumbo and Streets of Bourbon.

The only other time spent on this road was when we first encountered it a couple of years earlier and I was behind the wheel of our Cadillac Escalade. My experience in driving the Tail of the Dragon in the opposite direction and in a 3 ton SUV was covered in the post of October 28, 2011,Taming the Dragon? As we took in the vista of the shores of Rodanthe, there are still times when I miss the GT-R. Godzilla, as the press aptly named the GT-R, originated in the sea after all, and I could only imagine seeing it appearing out of the pre-dawn gloom that greeted us each day.

The route out of Boulder that we chose took us north to I80 before cutting back down through West Virginia (which we passed through three times, a little of Pennsylvania and Maryland before entering Virginia and with each state line we crossed, the road surface became even worse. With so many cones on the road, it was almost as if we had entered the RV in an autocross event. However, the signs of real activity were rarely sighted such that eventually we couldn’t distinguish stretches of interstate under repair from what looked to be abandoned. And the RV paid a price for these deteriorating highway surfaces.

The lengthwise twisting the RV chassis proved too much for the bathroom mirror and it came crashing down, surprising us both. It didn’t shatter as it’s not made of glass, fortunately. Then the end panel of a long drawer underneath the dining table seats broke free as books and magazines moved sideways with such a force the light nails used to retain the end piece didn’t hold, spilling the contents out across the floor. And oh yes, once again, the doors on cupboards alongside the main living room slide-out eventually became loose and tore out another decorative section of the main slide’s frame. All maintenance items, yes, but a constant reminder that combining a home with a chassis has its downside. Overall though, it’s still a great place to prepare meals. Strawberries and cream, anyone?

While we elected to camp at KOA campsites on the way over, the return trip was something we were going to be more spontaneous and it would depend on just how many miles we had to cover. Our initial plan was to stop by Raleigh, but we had to delay our departure from Cape Hatteras by five hours such that what we had thought would be a solid three day drive to cover 2,000 miles became two and a half days. Catching the late afternoon rays exiting Raleigh, we pulled into a rest area off Interstate 40 and made the decision to drive deep into the night and aim for a WalMart parking lot outside Knoxville, Tennessee.

Monday we rolled off 580 miles, followed Tuesday with 720 miles that took us to Kansas City, Missouri and another WalMart parking lot that then left us with a moderate 625 miles to traverse Wednesday. All quite manageable really – and yes, our experience from our many years of track experience really helped. Stay hydrated at all times; seriously. No carbs and especially, no sugar, and the miles rolled off rather effortlessly even though making our way over the Smokey Mountains in the dark meant we missed seeing the colors of fall as the trees were just beginning to turn with the change of the season.

Our haste to make it back to Boulder was a mix of needing to be back in the office and, following the  news that the grandson still in the intensive care ward was coming home Thursday, there was no way that grandma was going to miss such a home coming. To have lived through the many months that followed the arrival of Aiden and Evan delivered after only 28 weeks gestation and as sub one kilo infants with all sorts of troubling medical conditions, is as close to a miracle as Margo and I have ever experienced and there will be much more written about them in future posts. But for now, it’s just time to thank everyone for the prayers and support and to acknowledge that without the care of some supremely gifted medical staff, the outcome of the boys’ lengthy stay at the hospital could have been very different.

The difference in weight between the two boys has narrowed considerably over the past couple of weeks and now the smaller of the two boys, Evan, has closed in on his twin brother to the point where very soon, there will be little to tell the two apart – yes, they are identical twins. In a way, this takes me back to my opening remarks although it’s nothing quite like the dramatic life or death situation we have gone through daily, with respect to the twins. 

We made a mad-dash back to Boulder in the RV in April following their birth and we have made another mad-dash back to Boulder for their homecoming. But really, from Margo’s perspective, we didn’t have a choice and yet, looking into the garage, could we have made better choices over the past five years? Without dwelling too long on the topic, each time we open the door to the garage, we look at the cars parked inside the garage with emotions not too different from what we experience with our offspring. These cars in a way have become the surrogate children we never had and the emotions run every bit as deeply!

In Las Vegas there’s a company, Exotics Racing, which provides access to an array of exotic sports cars for a fee. Should you elect to take their cars out for a spin, then there’s a short road course set up in the car park of the Las Vegas Speedway. Over the years the portfolio of cars has been enhanced to where today, there’s something for everyone’s taste, Mini excluded. What caught my attention just recently was that the price for taking either the Nissan GT-R or the Audi R8 on track for five laps was the same - $249 for either car. 

Six years ago we elected to buy the Nissan over the Audi but now, we realize that either way, choosing one over the other really came down to personal choice as the differences between the two have narrowed over the year and no, there’s really no mistake in choosing either one. Nobody will ever say that these cars are twins, identical or otherwise, and yet they were both designed around the same time, with essentially the same goal in mind. And on reflection, we are just happy to have been fortunate enough to be able to count the GT-R as one of our most favored children!


Rather serendipitously, as I wrapped up this post Saturday evening, with the street lights just coming on, I walked out onto the main floor verandah to find a silver R8, identical to that we saw at the car’s launch, parked right outside the house. Who knew! Coincidence or not, all the memories from that trip to Singapore came flooding back – yes, the legends did come to Singapore all those years ago.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Moving on and yet, no lessening in our desire to be mobile!

On a long and lonesome highway, (west) of Omaha
You can listen to the engine moanin' out its one note song ...

This past month was very much about motion. And mobility! Or, sometimes, the distinct lack of motion, as on one occasion I walked into the garage only to find it empty, except for a couple of motorcycles. As I wrapped up last month’s post I ended with the observation on how, only a short time ago, we had more cars than garage spaces and that perhaps we had culled the herd just a little too thinly, even as the highway beckoned. But yes, we still had the motorcycles, right?

Well, not exactly. Taking the big Honda VTX 1800 (that’s 110 cubic inches for the metric challenged) out on the road for just the second time this year I only made it down to the local gas station before it too came to an inglorious end. No manner of coaxing could get the big twin to fire up so it too was hauled away on a flatbed trailer. As coincidence would have it, the driver of the tow truck was the same operator who retrieved the Maserati a few days earlier and his bemusement over our misfortune was hard for him to hide – ouch!

Taking this all in good humor, I had the tow truck deliver the ailing Honda to the local Mini dealer where on Monday Margo and I walked into the showroom and picked out a nice, clean, used 2012 Cooper S Roadster by Mini – the rather curiously shaped Mini that looks quite good with its ragtop retracted but yes, a little odd with it in place. Chili red, so the description of its color read, and that pretty much sealed the deal and now, once again, the garage is full once more but this time, with three of the four vehicles being red whereas only a matter of months ago, three out of four were black! 

And whether it’s a sign of the times or not, the net horsepower inside the garage has taken a huge hit along with the changes, but for now, the Mini Roadster is proving to be a delight to drive and it is front-wheel drive that, with a good set of winter tires, should prove to be more than suitable go-to car once winter arrives.

However, this really has been a month of almost continuous motion and the addition of the Mini Roadster represented only the prelude to a series of acts that followed. Business took us west once again and with dreadful fires raging up and down the west coast it wasn’t all that clear which vehicle we would take, but that decision had essentially been made for us when we put the program together several months earlier as following meetings in southern California, including impromptu meetings with investors as well as in northern California with clients, the weekend that followed would be spent in Sonoma. Not wine tasting this time, but rather, to take in the spectacle of the final event of the season for the Indy Cars.

For first time readers there is a back story here that has been developing over the course of several years. From previous posts, way back in 2009, around the April timeframe, we first met good friends Brian and Jan Kenny. Pulling into the parking lot of the local Starbucks coffee shop in Simi Valley, a voice called to me from one of the outside tables, “Do you track that Corvette?” Without pausing for too long, I responded, “Yes, I do!”

And with that simple exchange, we have been good friends ever since enjoying numerous vacations together, all well documented in posts to this blog.
  Furthermore, there has barely been a track outing that hasn’t been attended by both families and our decision to buy the company command center was influenced by the Kenny’s, once we saw how comfortable track weekends became with adequate air conditioning on hand.

And so it was that we would be heading out west in the company command center and would be relying on it for all of our transportation needs. It seemed like it was only a few weeks earlier that we had driven through this part of the country with the Corvette on a trailer, but this time, there would be no car behind us – just eight days in the RV. But what made this a very special occasion for us was that we wouldn’t just be hanging out with the Kennys, but rather we would be experiencing life first hand on the perimeter of a real Indy team, Bryan Herta Autosports (BHA). 

In 2011, Herta’s team had won the Indy 500 so it was quite the opportunity for us to see just what all the hoopla surrounding the Indy series was like – up front and very personal. Bryan is Jan Kenny’s son-in-law (and yes, father of Colton Herta, whose adventures in the U.K we have been following), and turned up at one of our cookouts with his driver, Gabby Chaves. 

Having been to several F1 events – the last being Monte Carlo in 2004 to watch Mark Weber drive for Jaguar (long before either his stints at Williams or Red Bull) – Indy is so much better in terms of being fan-friendly. For car enthusiast like Margo and me, it was a real treat to be able to interact with teams and drivers and the Saturday “meet the drivers” program, where any race fan could chat with any driver, was certainly a refreshing change from the anonymity that surrounds F1.

For me, there was no way I would miss an opportunity for a chat with former Indy Series champion, Wil Power so after a short wait, I was able to walk up to him and no sooner had I said, “G’day mate!” the response from a fellow Aussie was immediate. Later in the day, I was able to go to his pit and see him preparing for his record smashing qualifying drive and although he didn’t finish the weekend with the results he wanted he certainly proved entertaining on track!

You may be able to afford the price of entrance to an F1 event, but there’s just no way to get close to the teams (for mere mortals such as ourselves) and yet, with Pit and Garage passes firmly in hand, we were able to wonder among the race cars and chat with the teams. For me the real highlight was when Bryan Herta invited me to come to BHA Race Control during final testing session. Like many racing enthusiasts I have seen the video of engineers hunched over monitors but never really knew what they were looking at nor did I really have a sense of the attention to detail that was spent on every single component making up a race car.   

Handed headsets I was able to step up onto the podium where team members monitoring the telemetry streaming in from BHA race car #98 could be seen and I could listen in as engineers discussed the fine tuning that needed to be done to keep improving the performance of the Chaves’s car.

The afternoon before Margo and I had been just a few tires distance away from legendary Roger Penske, the “captain”, as he followed the progress of one of his drivers and so to be right in the mix of the organized mayhem, up and down pit lane, that is final testing as I had been, courtesy of BHA, was something I will not easily forget. 

As for BHA’s driver, when it came time to race Sunday afternoon, Wil Power wasn’t the only driver providing entertainment early in the race. As the green flag dropped to start the race, Chaves was almost half a lap behind the field as he experienced difficulties in firing up the #98. Even with the rest of the racers slowing down for the rolling start, Chaves was driving flat out and only a couple of laps into the event, Chaves was recording lap times better than Power and several other drivers. It was unfortunate to see Chaves fall victim to some untimely yellow flags but overall, Chaves is proving to be a driver to watch – and yes, as the season ended, BHA driver Chaves won the Rookie of the Year award!

There were moments back in 2008 when Margo and I turned up for our first track outing with our club, National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and had the opportunity to take our road car out onto circuits dedicated to racing and where it all became very serious very quickly as we realized just how fresh a novice we were and how with each new track, the tinge of excitement didn’t diminish in any way. But nothing truly prepares you for that step over the line from amateur to professional and that tinge of excitement was quickly replaced by awe.

These were very special people gifted in ways I barely comprehended. Yes, corners still need to be approached on the same basis as we do on track days – brake, turn-in, apex and exit – but the combinations of mechanical grip and aero packages allow Indy cars to essentially defy physics and the brutish nature of acceleration and braking is indescribable and must be viewed to be appreciated.

Our campsite was immediately behind, but a little further up the hillside from the hospitality suits, but it still gave us a great view of the drivers as they exited turn 1 and then swept by turn 2 before disappearing around turn 3. We could also view the big sweeper, or carousel, as turn 6 is called, as they drove up the “drag strip” to the hairpin. From there we could watch drivers come back down through the esses before tackling turns 9 and 9a before disappearing behind the grandstands. 

I only mention this as it is a sore point for me as my only time on this track, during the second session, I didn’t make it out of those very same esses, backing the rear of our C5 Corvette Z06 into the tire barrier between turns 8 and 8a. Was I able to learn anything? As Margo reminded me, more than once over the weekend, this is not a novice-friendly track and the many concrete barriers aren’t vehicle friendly either, so no, this really is a track for the very experienced driver and not one for the meek of heart to tackle!

Barely had we made the campsite comfortable than it was time to pack up. Through the experience of the Kennys and our association with Bryan Herta Autosports, we were able to come in a little earlier than other spectators and stay through Sunday night so we didn’t have to battle with the traffic and when it came time Monday morning to head back to Colorado, the departure was uneventful. And once again, we chose a less travelled route where at this time of year, the vistas were picturesque. With overnight stops once again on the parking lots of WalMart Super Centers in Elko, Nevada, and Rifle, Colorado, we were able to cover the 1,300 miles return trip without a mishap – something we continue to relish as we click off many more miles on the company command center.

Margo and I have really begun to settle into this lifestyle where the RV is giving us opportunities to go pretty much anywhere in North America. This is our fourth summer of RVing and one thing we had told ourselves was that for this to be fun, we wouldn’t be letting the RV sit for long in storage. All the while, the miles tick on by and after only four summers, the odometer is about to pass 40,000 miles. What would be the point? For the same money, perhaps even a lot less, we could be staying in five star hotels but that would involve flying and the skies over America are no longer the friendly skies of the past.  And that is very much the point, today. We have our office with us and we have a packed wardrobe that allow us to conduct business and we have the food and drink we like – it is truly our home away from home and of late, it’s been just a little sad to see each journey come to an end. But would we give up the opportunity to being mobile and to be able to go pretty much anywhere we want? Not likely!

It would be remiss of me to finish this post without just one more mention of either our grandchildren or the continuing adventures of that other Herta, Colton, the grandson of our friends Brian and Jan. Our preemie sub one-kilo identical twin baby boy grandchildren, Aiden and Even, are now well on their way to being healthy normal boys.

Aiden is home with the family and the progress being made by Evan suggests he too will be home shortly. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been drama along the way, but getting the whole family together under the one roof is going to make life for the parents so much easier and that’s a circumstance everyone involved is looking forward to. 

As for Colton, well the tables are turning and turning fast. After recording how young Colton scored his first podium in the MSA Formula championship being held in the U.K, he then scored another before the mid-season break where he spent time back home in California. I can only imagine the discussions that must have taken place between Herta senior and junior, and first week back not only did he score a couple more podiums but two 1st place finishes.

This proved newsworthy and was the focus of a Racer magazine article by Robin Miller, Another high-speed Herta This was only the start, as the following weekend he took the checkered again only to be dinged 5 seconds following cautions for wheels off the track (I think those “whingeing poms” are at it again), but still another two 2nd places. And then again this weekend as I write this post, Colton lands another 1stand 2nd. The picture above shows just how close the finish was with Colton (low side on the track) beating his teammate (and overall series leader) by “0.250 seconds, the closest finishing winning margin so far this season”. After three weekends of racing, following the break, he is now threatening to take over third place in the championship and he’s the youngest driver in the series even as he races on unfamiliar tracks!

Yes, this past month has been all about motion and for Margo and me, it was pretty much perpetual. The garage looks a lot different and not having had an opportunity for track time hasn’t proved as distressing as I had thought it would be at the beginning of the year when we made the decision to take a year-long hiatus from such adventures. You could say we have more than made up for it with where we have been and that too is pretty much the point. As a full time writer and blogger, it’s mandatory to be observant and with all that we were exposed to in August, the stories will only keep on coming and that’s movement at an entirely different level, but for Margo and me, every bit as enjoyable! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

With places to go and plans in place, the wheels fell off …

“Like somebody has taken the wheels off your car
When you had somewhere to go, well, it's annoying
Not going to get very far, I know …”

These lyrics by Sir Paul McCartney pretty much sum up the way the month went. In all the time Margo and I have been on the road I have never found myself looking into our garage and seeing no cars – nothing. Nada. Zilch. The iconic scene of Cadillacs, pictured above and buried nose-first into a field west of Amarillo, pretty much sums up how I felt as I scrambled to find a set of wheels for the family. Fortunately, our daughter stepped in and lent us her Toyota for which we are both highly grateful.  

The month started with us already well into our long drive through the south western states of the U.S. As this was a business trip with several meetings scheduled and presentation to be given, we were definitely going to need a car. Needless to say, it was back to doing what we like to do best – hitching up the trailer and towing the ever-faithful, multi-purpose, C5 Z06 Corvette. We have grown to really love this car and having as much power as it has on tap, it’s a blast to drive. I know it’s really a track car and I’m confident it will be back on track shortly, but as a touring car it surely delivers!

As for the trip itself, it would be a 4,000 mile trip featuring many different vistas where some of the roads driven would be a first for us. When the trip was over we found we had driven another 750 miles in the Corvette so our three weeks on the road saw us completing just a tad less than 5,000 miles. If you pull out a map of the U.S. you will see we followed a simple rectangular route but that doesn’t do the story justice. Not even Google earth can tell you what we encountered on this trip.

Turning east to go west may not be intuitive, but following Interstate 70 east out of Denver for a hundred miles would allow us to drive due south into Amarillo, Texas and then on into the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex. We then drove back to Amarillo, and followed Interstate 40 all the way to Kingman, Arizona, where we would take the cut-off to Las Vegas.  I still cannot get my head around the juxtaposition of Cabo san Lucas and Lake Como with Bellagio clearly visible!

It was then back on familiar roads as we headed down Interstate 15 to Barstow, CA, for a run through the Mojave Desert and on into Simi Valley, after which it was a simple case of turning north on California highway 101 for the run to Palo Alto. Homeward bound we followed Interstate 80 to Fernley, NV, where we cut across to U.S. route 50 – the loneliest highway in America, which we followed all the way back to Grand Junction before completing the journey on the original highway, Interstate 70.

As surprising as this may be, nothing quite prepared us for the surprise we had driving across Texas. The recent rains that had flooded much of the state have made it as green as I have ever seen it – more like parts of the UK or even Ireland. Layers of green upon green with new-filled lakes still overflowing their banks and where standing pools of water were present in every field we came across. Of course, this would be in stark contrast to what we were to encounter in California, but it too is a reminder of what can happen when you just add a little water. Skirting the Texas hill country to the west of Austin it wasn’t so much the green that interested us but the reds and browns of the meat to be found at the lone star state’s famous smoke house BBQ establishments.

Pulling into a parking area we saw on the outskirts of Stephenville, a township just before we left Texas Highway 281 to join 183 for the run into Austin, we came across Hard Eight Marketplace and the smoked brisket and sausage was just what we were looking for – standing in line and watching the staff slice off pieces of meat was quite a treat and for those a little more familiar with the protocol of ordering directly off the grill, service was fast. For Margo and me, it was the experience that counted as we sampled different cuts before completing our order. Great folks and terrific hospitality, with the real country Texas very much on display.

We had left the company command center in Arlington for the weekend and took advantage of having the Corvette on hand to catch up with business colleagues and good friends in Austin.  Of course, Saturday evening would kick off with more smoked meat and this time, it was Austin’s famous Iron Works Barbecue where our hosts, Lyman and Jane, took us before we walked the town stopping in for a couple of nightcaps. Margo and I took every opportunity to sample Austin night life and yes, this is a town we could easily “adjust to” should the opportunity ever arise. But next stop? Las Vegas! 

By chance, there would be one more side trip before we pulled the rig into our usual site at the Oasis RV Park on the southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard. Rolling through Seligman, AZ a little ahead of plan we turned away from the interstate, rig and all, and drove the 60 to 70 miles of route 66 that took us through “Radiator Springs” (officially, Peach Springs) and into Kingman, AZ. Fans of the Disney / Pixel movie, Cars, will find the township every bit as forgotten as depicted in the movie and like Eureka, we wondered how much longer it will survive should they continue to let route 66 deteriorate. 

As for its title of America’s mother road, that too will likely fade from memory with the passing of a generation or two, which will be sad and with its demise you will no longer be able to get you kicks on route 66. This day, there was plenty of cars and even more motorcycles but it still left us wondering about its future. Then again, how lonely can route 50 really be? At one point I stopped the rig and walked to the middle of the road where I went down on bended knee, right on top of the lane markings on route 50, looking west with absolutely nothing on the road for as far as I could see and took the photo, above.

Neither of these famous routes are the highways of choice for big rigs and semis, that’s for sure, and the last time we drove route 50 was almost twenty years ago when we transported our BMW M3 convertible back to Boulder. Lonely, today? There were times where ten to fifteen minutes would pass without another vehicle to be seen! As for route 66, I rode it once, a decade ago, on my motorcycle, but that is a story for another time. 

On that previous trip across route 50 we had spent the night in Eureka in the small main street hotel alongside Eureka’s opera house. It’s still there but just about every other store is now boarded up and it’s kind of sad to see this once prosperous mining town dying the way it is – for sale signs on just about everything, but apart from a number of motorcycle groups that stopped by for gas and food, the signs of decay and neglect are reminders of just how many small towns out west, particularly those away from the interstate highways, will probably completely disappear in our lifetimes.

Much as we do when we take the rig to road tracks out west – Willow Springs and Buttonwillow both come to mind – we take advantage of a variety of places to camp overnight. KOA in Amarillo was a first for us this trip but after not enjoying our time at the Sam’s Town, the KOA site in Las Vegas we had tried back in June of this year, Amarillo’s KOA was a lot more enjoyable as they had a number of pull-through sites capable of accommodating our 60+ feet of length. In Arlington we also stayed at another KOA site and both provided good accommodation and we can recommend them both as good places to camp. 

However, KOA sites weren’t our only camp sites as we still take advantage of WalMart’s RV friendly policy whenever we can. The WalMart in Winslow, AZ, just off Interstate 40, is a great place to stop for the night and more than makes up for the disappointment we had a few years back with Flagstaff, AZ, where overnight RV stops are prohibited by city ordinances. The other really good WalMart site we like is in Fernley, NV – just outside Reno – where there’s more than enough space even for our rig. The good thing about WalMart is that when you plan ahead and know you will be taking advantage of their hospitality, you can restock your RV with food so that allows you to maintain an abundant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

On the other hand, we have become familiar with numerous truck stops where we can overnight and not stand out in the crowd. Green River, UT, is one such site where over the years we have spent many a night. Although, with familiarity comes understanding and should you, like us, pull into this truck stop, head for the north east fence line as this takes you well away from the big rigs running “reefers”, a reference to the refrigeration units that have to run continuously, and pack a number of such trucks together and your chances of a peaceful night deteriorate considerably. There’s another such site outside Beaver, UT, we also have used in the past but it’s not one we would recommend as it’s difficult to get into and out and a few miles further south, there’s a WalMart that’s more accommodating.

However, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this past month saw a multitude of little things escalate rapidly to where, with the month coming to an end, we saw all of our cars disabled. The warning signs first appeared when we were camped in Arlington with the casual comment from another camper that one of the tires on our trailer looked a little flat. It sure was with a nail right through the tire that necessitated a quick trip to Sears for a much bigger Craftsman jack, which we duly bought. As the picture below indicates, track time in the Corvette with multiple wheel changes under our belt, saw Margo and me working in the heat of the day to pull the spare off its mount to swap with the damaged tire one, it turned out, a local Firestone shop in Las Vegas repaired for free.

That was only the beginning, unfortunately. On a drive to the post office in the Maserati the week we had returned home the front tire completely peeled off the wheel. Our Maserati’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) had only stopped registering a couple of weeks back so have to believe we had a slow leak and with reduced tire pressure, it simply came apart on a slow speed turn as I parallel parked. With no spare provided it was a case of calling for a tow and dropping off the Maserati at the village import dealer best equipped to handle the car, we were down one car for the count.

Unfortunately, that morning I had dropped off the Corvette for a service and Margo had the Jeep. With the RV going in for a scheduled service, the driveway was looking rather barren but that wasn’t the end of the saga. Just a couple of days later, the Jeep picked up a nail and down went its tire, but no worries, I whipped it into the local tire shop for a repair, it was going to be dodgy as the nail had penetrated the tire right on the transition between tread and sidewall, but we patched it anyway. A couple of days later, down went the tire again and this time, it wasn’t repairable. Having already ordered a set of front tires for the Maserati from Tire Rack, it was back to the web site for yet another tire – the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is not really a Jeep and has a very limited choice in tires given that Jeep squared up the wheel size so each tire is a 295 X 45 X 20. Yes, we would have to wait.

But we still had the Vette, right? Not so fast, as a routine service highlighted we had no brakes - the rear pads were down to 0mm (and squealing incessantly in protest) and the fronts, they had a little less than 3mm – ouch, not a safe proposition to take on the road. So, no cars and Margo and I looked at each other. We need a fourth car – but what? And seriously, only a few months back we couldn’t park all cars in the garage and now this! Who knew … 

Summer has still many weeks to go and with fall we head into the best driving time in the Rockies so we will just have to wait and get everything back on the road before making any further plans for road trips. Conferences, meetings and events will still be in the calendar but we will have to simply rest a spell. But the roads do beckon and there are places to go – so yes, as the month comes to an end, it’s more than annoying for someone to have taken the wheels of our cars!