Friday, May 12, 2017

Ferocity, speed and the color yellow - tales of grandchildren, packing and messing about in cars!

The drive between the village of Niwot, where we have lived for almost two decades, and the township of Windsor, where our new home is under construction, is never routine. The principle highway involved is Interstate 25 (I25), an arterial highway that runs from the Mexican border all the way up to Wyoming before joining Interstate 90, which is running east to east for most of the country. I25 sees a horrendous volume of traffic and for first-timers it’s always a shock to see how average speeds have crept up to where these days, if you aren’t maintaining a speed in the mid-80s, you will surely become responsible for creating a mobile chicane.

Vehicles on this road can behave badly and oftentimes prove unpredictable so routinely there are sizable wrecks for no apparent reason other than someone was distracted. This is a straight road with really good visibility. Well, most of the time, that is. However, this week there was a storm of biblical proportions that descended onto Colorado’s front ranges and the subsequent intense hailstorm brought traffic to a standstill. Fortunately for us, we were about a half hour behind the downpour but the residual hail was still visible on the highway as well as the median strip. We knew it had to be bad when we were passed by snowplows working their way down to where the hail lay the thickest.

For a brief moment, there was no difference between the hail on the ground and what we typically see in winter – just a white vista for as far as the eye can see. The damage wreaked by the ferocity of the storm was clear when we sat down to watch the evening news – hail damage to motor vehicles on a scale that was going to cost insurance companies many millions of dollars. It was only after we had safely returned to our Niwot home and parked the car in the garage that we understood how lucky we had been. Yes, we were out and about on this interstate in our ragtop roadster Cooper S by Mini! Hail coming down with such an intensity that it left nothing standing in its path and even the local Greeley Mall had to be closed after the hail took out the Mall’s skylights.

Talking about speed and ferocity, how quickly time has passed by – this was the month our grandsons turned two. After so many issues for Mom and Dad, to see the grandsons enjoying their second birthday was a real treat for Margo and me and we took time out from packing up our Niwot home to spend with them.  Our granddaughter Ella turned four just a few days later, and her Mom, our daughter celebrated her birthday three days after Ella’s. April proved to be a busy time when it came to unwrapping gifts!

For now, our kid’s home is located mid-way between Niwot and Windsor but with the move it will necessitate many more trips on I25. Perhaps not ideal for the Mini as it barely comes up to the top of a big-rig’s wheels; once we are settled into our new Windsor home we suspect it will be the turn of the Jeep SRT to tackle the I25. At least, with the SRT, we will have both size and speed on our side and can see a lot more than just the wheels of those big-rigs. Whatever transpires in the transportation department over the summer, we will work something out as there is no way Margo will accept any barriers that prevent her from spending time with the grandchildren!

Returning to the story about the construction of our new home, it’s hard not to comment about speed. When it comes to the progress being made to date, it continues to surprise and simply amaze us as with each day there are obvious changes taking place. Our options were clearly reduced once we had decided to build a home that had already seen its foundation poured, the framing completed and the roof attached.

Nevertheless there was plenty of scope for Margo and me to add a lot of personal touches. This customization was always something we wanted to do – it just wouldn’t be any fun building another home if we couldn’t be involved every step of the way – and it’s guaranteeing that nearby, there will not be an identical home. On the contrary, while the overall “craftsman” style projects a certain image, inside it’s all urban modern that’s modeled after a hi-rise penthouse condo we once saw and very much liked.

Perhaps there is no starker portrayal of the speed of construction than what is captured in just these three photos taken over a period of just four weeks. From framing and rough-in of plumbing and electrical, to partial dry-walling and the framing of the kitchen combination island and bar to where it was being left to dry in preparation for painting (which was completed just two days after this third picture was taken).

It was as if with each passing day something magical was happening each evening. Maybe no alien to us but certainly something extraordinary as we were very familiar with the process having lived through it all as our Niwot home had been built – but nothing quite prepared us for how quickly this group of subcontractors went about their work.  Of course, focusing on the transition happening in the main room with Margo alongside the bar seemed quite natural capturing as it were Margo in her most natural of settings!

Fortunately for our family, we are being given a very sizable garage for the style and layout of the home.  It’s only a three car garage but it’s deep and very high and of course, easily capable of carrying a lift or two so that our normal practice of keeping as many as five cars at a time can be sustained for many more years to come. There is constant back and forth on this topic about just how many cars are needed but even now, after almost two decades of being happily married, we never have been able to come up with an ideal solution and with each passing car show, we seem to add one more vehicle to our wish list!

Imagine then our surprise to run across a web site advertising the sale of a 2010 Maserati GT-S finished in bright yellow adorned with black carbon-fiber accessories! I have since posted the advertisement on Facebook and I dare say a number of you have seen it. What you may not know is that from the time we bought the Maserati, in yellow, we were reminded that you needed to be confident to drive a yellow Maserati.. And yet, on the occasion of the last time former CEO of ACI Worldwide, Ray Croghan  (a more confident individual you will never come across mind you), met with us in our offices in Boulder, he arrived in a bright yellow Porsche 911 Turbo – a color Porsche described as Speed Yellow. “With a description like that,” said Ray, “I just had to buy it!” Enough said. 

The contents of our garages have always proved to be a reflection of the state of our business. Starting out in business in 2009 and immediately following the Global Financial Crises meant that the early days were pretty hard going. Compounding the situation was that we were maintaining two residences with our primary home remaining Niwot but where, out of necessity, we also had a townhouse in Simi Valley. With both Margo and I working it necessitated having two cars in each location and when you threw into the mix that we made it our routine to drive between Niwot and Simi Valley, it also necessitated we had vehicles that could handle whatever winter threw our way when we crossed the Rockies. At one point we had six cars but that proved to be overkill and a lot has changed since those times.

Returning to full time residency in Niwot saw us trim back from six to five cars and eventually, four. We went from three motorcycles to two and then, in 2014, back to just one motorcycle. But we did add an RV and a trailer so somehow, that never-ending cycle of needing to buy new tires continued unabated. Being in business has made as big an impact on what’s in the garage as has the number of residencies. As anyone who contracts their time and energy to others can confirm, there’s little stability provided even as the work is always challenging. On more than one occasion, we have walked into the garage and pointed at one car or another and remarked, “It’s time to let that one go!” Both the Viper and the Maserati met their fate as a result of such conversations but now, we are back to looking at where we will spend the winter?

It’s been covered many times in previous posts to this blog but the unanswered question had always been – when will we sell our Niwot home? The new chapter in our lives we are about to start was triggered by the sale of our Niwot home and downsizing to our new home in Windsor has given us pause to reconsider our plans for the winter. Clearly, having an RV with the option to park it anywhere for the winter, appeals to both of us. Las Vegas? Scottsdale? The Florida Keys? Depending on the duration we plan to leave two cars with the RV – one full time and one the commuter (unless of course, it’s the Keys and we fly)!

Point is, as business continues to look good and the time to move into our new home approaches, maybe, just maybe, we can re-buy “old yellow” as after all, we know who has driven it and we know how well it’s been looked after!  I guess like many others, there have been cars we owned that in hindsight, we regret ever having sold or traded so maybe, just maybe, this car finds its way back home. On the other hand, maybe not! As so many songs suggest, you can never go home.

And technology continues to move on – for almost the same price you can get a brand new Chevrolet Camaro LT1 with the 1LR track-focused option and that’s one serious car. With a back seat, too! But talking of speed and velocity and indeed ferocity, once again family discussions about cars, children and grandchildren, and yes, our soon to be new home life, this post wouldn’t be complete without a reference to our good friends Brian and Jan and their grandchild, Colton. Even as they left for a sojourn in Italy – a place they visit these days with a somewhat monotonous regularity – there aren’t all that many conversations where the topic of Colton is not included.

When it comes to messing about in cars Brian, Jan, Margo and I have certainly enjoyed our fair share of rides. From being passengers in Ferraris on a race track in Sydney to Lotus Exiges that we drove on Nürburgring’s  infamous North Loop – Grüne Hölle’s Nordschleife, to a pair or rentals on Germany’s autobahns, to travelling together in a rather small Lexus along the east coast shoreline of Australia, there hasn’t been all that much we haven’t driven. Prior to buying our Maserati, the Kennys had bought an Aston Martin and then there have been the red Corvettes we each continue to drive.

On the other hand, when it comes to Colton, the variety of cars he has driven makes whatever we want to talk about pale in comparison. A LeMans prototype (in a 25 hour endure)? Check! A first up, an international formula racing debut in Sepang, Malaysia with the AsiaCup Series, coming away with two wins and a need for a bigger suitcase? Check! The UK-based MSA Formula series and Euroformula Open Championship open wheelers? Winning numerous times? Check! A full-on Indy Lights race car? Check that too and just as importantly, he keeps on winning! 

Pictured leaving the pits at the Barber road course outside Birmingham, Alabama, it was just his second weekend of racing Indy Lights cars having come off a very successful weekend back on the street course of St Petersburg, Florida.  Only a month ago he racked up a win and a second place as he began his rookie year – only just turning 17, and setting yet another record. On this occasion it was for being the youngest ever winner of an Indy Lights race.

You could say the pressure was on Colton now as his capabilities had clearly been demonstrated to where all other competitors were no longer going to take his presence in the races for granted.
  Whereas the race weekend in St Petersburg had been held under relatively clear skies, it simply bucketed-down at Barber. Heavy rain preventing any qualifying runs for the second race of the weekend. 

Not to worry, after starting P2 in the first race and being involved in a racing incident that sent him to the back of the field, he finished in tenth place but that was enough to maintain his points lead. Which was a good thing as with qualifying washed-out, the grid position for the second race was awarded based on then-current standings in the championship. Giving the pole to Colton in this manner meant the competition really had no chance and even with one tricky full-course yellow flag restart, Colton as they say, bolted crossing the line almost ten seconds ahead of his nearest rival and extending his points lead to 16 points! 
And for that other pair of grandparents, it couldn’t have been sweeter as they had made the trip out to the Barber track just to watch him. Did we also mention that this was the 400th running of an Indy Lights race which meant Colton is written into the record books one more time? 

And when you can, check out the video Brian created
featuring highlights of all that transpired over the weekend
(and look for some cameo appearances by some famous people):

In case you were wondering about just how serious this is for Colton, they are now a quarter of the way through a sixteen race schedule and he is the only two time winner to date and the points leader. The prize? For the winner of the series there is a $1 million scholarship with a guaranteed entry in next year’s big event, the 2018 Indy 500. Only issue for Colton should he go on to win the series, he will need special dispensation because of his youth but then again, he has always had to overcome that obstacle.

Messing about in cars, watching our new home taking shape, keeping up with the grandkids while always trying to stay dry, well, it could only be springtime in the Rockies.  There continues to be a lot of packing still to do even as Margo has managed to do most of it. There will be a lot more distance covered up and down I25 before we take up residence in our new Windsor home, with or without a yellow car, even as we head into some of the stormiest weather that Colorado can produce given the ever present cycle of summer thunderstorms that arrive with clock-like regularity. Then again, would Margo and I ever see life being anything other than one terrific ride that we share with a lot of good friends? I don’t think so … 

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