Monday, November 30, 2015

Full Circle

It's amazing the things we took for granted as kids.  Just outside my door lay hundreds of miles of trail in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains begging to be ridden.  And ride we did.  Three seasons of the year our ramshackle dirtbikes rolled and tumbled through the forests of upstate New York, (that is when they weren't upside down in mud holes or waiting for parts that the local dealer may or may not have ordered).  During winter, the fourth, and seemingly longest season of the year, with the wind off the east end of Lake Ontario howling and bringing with it cold white foot upon foot, we rode our equally ramshackle snowmobiles.  It's just what we did.  We never questioned it or had reason to think things would be any different.  Does anyone, ever?

What we never bargained for was that we would change and grow and abandon the forests that were once our playground.  Soon the silent standing wooden soldiers seemed to be encircling the perimeter of my prison.  The never-sleeping city called, with buildings that scarred the sky and hard concrete to pound your feet.  It certainly seemed crawling with life at the time, where everything was happening.  And maybe, for me, for a while, it was and I wanted to be immersed in it.

Two decades later now find me drawn to a few hundred acre plot of woods a ten minute drive from my home.  I find myself wanting to be immersed in this place, crawling with a different kind of life, always desiring to go deeper.  The wooden soldiers still mark the boundaries of my prison, only now my servitude begins when I leave their lovely, dark confines.   I long now not for the false halcyon days of youth, when I could barely change a spark plug let alone adjust a chain, but for the wilderness and the time to ride it.  Now.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Without the following sponsors my 2015 championship wins would not have been possible:

Offering Race Tech parts, Fox shock rebuilds and a wide variety of other suspension services.

Sportbike Track Gear, for all your riding gear, tires, helmets and accessories.  Top notch customer service and competitive pricing.

Bridgestone race tires available from Stickboy.

I promote these retailers not just for the support they give back to me and the sport, but because I believe in them and the people behind them.  They are the real deal, with a passion for racing that rivals my own, and it shows in the work that they do.  Kudos to them.

Special thanks also goes to: Phil Lee for continued inspiration, Mom and Dad, Taryn Young, Thor Lawson, Sean, Evelyne, Emily and all the WERA staff and officials who slave to make sure infantile egomaniacs like myself can get out on the racetrack, TCX Boots covering my little piggies on and off road, Bill Martovich, the grumpiest old man to ever tune an EX500, Kurt Kesler and Eric Crews for keeping it entertaining on and off the track, Joe Ball for never giving me an inch, Allan Doneth and Dalton Fuller at STG, Lee Fields for all the great photos and anyone who is working to bring roadracing to the Philistines here in the US.  Thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Run Like Hell

"If I stop to catch my breath, I might catch a piece of death." -Fugazi

My employment at a continuing care retirement community offers an almost too close for comfort view of the inevitable future we all face, for those fate deems should be allowed to grow old anyways.  On a daily basis I bear witness to the inexorable cognitive and physical decline that will claim all if given the chance.

Each of us deals with this intransigent, harsh mortality in different ways.  Some deny and hide while others stand fast with dignity and grace.  I've often been accused of rushing headlong into death because of my fondness for operating motorcycles at a rapid rate, but this is wrong.  My wish is not to die, but to stay one step ahead of Death for as long as I can, or at the very least to run beside it making obscene hand gestures, knowing full well I can't win.  Gravity will see to that.

And when my flesh finally fails and Death seizes its worn out prize, I can take satisfaction in the fact that I ran.  The whole way.  Like Hell.

There is always something coming for you.  In this case, it's just Joe.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Touch of Obsession

"I think you think too much." -soon to be ex-girlfriend 1997

The point is not thinking too much, but thinking too much about the wrong things.  I know now what is capable through focus, by thinking about the right things.  It's amazing how fear melts away when you know what is truly possible.  I set out to accomplish something few ever will.  Granted I understand it's not like I cured cancer or brought about world peace, but I did achieve something outside the cookie-cutter, socially acceptable mainstream, and I did it mostly my own way.  I followed the rules that I had to, broke the others I didn't and made up the rest.  And you know what?  It worked.

So now, how about a big fuck you to all the nay-saying, shit-talking, ineffectual little turds that never took a chance on anything, the internet tough guys running off at their keyboards and hiding behind avatars and screen names, the ones who "care not to come up any higher, but rather get you down in the hole that they're in".  I'll tell you, those Number 1 plates feel pretty good in my hands.

But the joy is short lived and I fear now I understand the curse of those who would undertake a thing and succeed at it: there is always more to be done.  Laurel resting is for the ones whose stories have ended, seeking tropical vacations and a comfortable chair.  I look back upon this season not to remember fondly or to congratulate myself, but as a reminder of how far I have come.  And as the starting point for how much further I have to go.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ton Of Bricks

Friday, October 23, 2015 4:18 PM

This being the final installment of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

"It's only once in the whole night that it shows.  He's given the orders and all the Mutants and S.O.B.s and everybody is gone for a minute.  He just sags in his saddle like an old man.  Then he straightens up and grins at me like it's funny.  He can't die...." Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns

I exit the Barber Motorsports Park racetrack for the last time and my 2015 race season comes to an end.  Ten weekends, ten thousand miles and ten thousand dollars later (or more, I haven't totalled it up) and all I feel is a sense of relief that it is over.  I'm too tired for elation at this point.  There is no grand celebration, just a small awards ceremony with 50 or so people in attendance.  Suspiciously absent are the men who finished second place to me, Kurt in V5 and Scott McKee in V6.  That's all right, I don't need anyone to pat me on the back, never have.  I knew going in that if I should achieve these goals, they would be personal and not particularly public or profitable.  There would be no lucrative sponsorship deals, beautiful women would not be hurling themselves at my feet and I certainly wouldn't be signing any autographs or appearing on Good Morning America to talk about my accomplishments.

That's ok, because somehow that makes it more pure.  To put your heart and soul into a thing for only the sake of achieving it, not for notoriety or compensation is a good thing, I think.  Don't get me wrong, if anybody out there wants to send me a bonus check drop me an email and I'll give you the address.

I wasn't thinking about any of these things as the sun sunk into an Alabama October evening and I loaded the two machines that had performed so admirably over the last seven months.  My mind was on the 700 mile drive ahead of me.  One last, ten hour gasp before home and rest and maybe just a little satisfaction in having done what I set out to do.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quoth the Hawk: "Ye Shall Be Four"

Friday, October 23, 2015, 3:53 PM

This being part XV of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

Cannonball Cobb soon finds his way by me.  I love the look and sound of the bike he is riding: Joe Pomeroy's Banshee/RZ engine hybrid in an Aprilia chassis.  The thing flat out works, obviously well developed, a real race bike.  I've often wondered what it would be like to own and race such a piece, something that is the class of it's field.  Built not out of budget, but for the utmost in performance.  Racing is never an easy job, but when you have the right tools....  (If I spent more time focusing on a career and making some money when I was in my twenties, instead of "finding myself", I might be in a better financial position to afford a machine like that.)  Hindsight.

Joe Pomeroy's hybrid

I watch as Cobb and the red rocket slingshot past me making that sweet, unadulterated two stroke song.  They are gone and I am left to my own devices in 3rd place.  Just as it starts to get lonely,  I hear what sounds like the faint throb of a v-twin engine.  My mind scrolls through the V6LW entries and I realize I have been caught in the talons of a hawk.  A Honda 650 Hawk that is.  It's Wade Parish, and he is all over me, all of a sudden.  It certainly feels like I have been swooped upon by some thundering bird of prey.  And he wants third.  Bad.

I know I can beat him if I pull the plug out, but there is much trepidation on my part about getting into a kerfuffle.  I have nothing to prove here by dicing and everything to lose.  The old axiom 'To finish first, you first must finish' has never been truer than this moment.  But my pride won't let me just roll over for this guy.  We go back and forth for a few laps.  Apparently from the stands it looked like quite a battle, but deep down I am holding back, afraid to crash.  This gives Wade and the Hawk all the impetus required and he makes the pass stick. My initial instinct is to chase down this raptor and tear it apart.  For once, maturity comes out on top and I let it go.  I finish the race in fourth. Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war.  Quoth the Hawk: "Ye shall be four.".

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Heavy Hitters In Lightweight

Friday October 23, 2015, 3:39 PM

This being part XIV of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

Two hours prior I nailed down the first half of my goal: the WERA V5 national championship on my Kawasaki EX500.  With the Alabama afternoon waning and my strength flagging, I must attempt to secure the second half: the WERA V6 Lightweight national championship on my Yamaha FZR400.

My hope is that this will prove an easier task than V5.  I have a substantial points lead over the rest of the field, any finish in the top five will wrap it up for me.  There are two motorcycles/riders that I am going to be very hard pressed to keep up with, let alone beat out there.  The first is Scott McKee on his FZR, a very fast combination that I have yet to best in competition.  The second is someone I have not met that others in the paddock are calling a "ringer", by the name of Ted "Cannonball" Cobb, reputedly an instructor for the Schwantz Racing School.  He will be riding Joe Pomeroy's hybrid, some sort of hot-rod Banshee/RZ motor in an Aprilia RS250 chassis (I think).  I do not expect to beat him.  I refuse to crash trying to keep up with either of them when I am so close to completing the "Spencer" (read about "Speculating the Spencer" here).  It feels a lot like now or never.

The problem with racing two different motorcycles, at least for me, is that it splits your attention.  The EX500 stops making power at 9k RPMs, the FZR does not start making power until 10K.  The brake set-up on the EX provides much more feel, but less stopping power than the FZR.  The FZR top speed is near 140 mph, whereas the EX might hit 120 with a good tailwind at Road Atlanta.  The Yamaha is generally four seconds or more faster a lap depending on the track.  I drag toes, knees and footpegs on the FZR, but other than my knee puck slightly skimming the pavement, nothing touches down with the EX.  All of these seemingly insignificant nuances cost time on the track as you adjust from one machine to the the other.  I've said it before, but it's a lot like having two girlfriends and trying to remember which way each one likes to be touched, get it wrong and she just might scratch your eyes out.

The start of the race proves interesting.  The clutch decides to play grabby and I get a huge wheelie that has me shitting my pants wondering if I will throw the championship away by looping it on the line.  I fan the lever and the front wheel drops, then comes back up again.  This time I ride it out, right into the lead.  I'm sure McKee will get his usual slow start and then come charging up, with Cannonball either in front or chasing him.  McKee gets by on the exit of Charlotte's Web and I decide to hang with him for a bit.  It's not easy, that FZR pulls so much harder than mine, despite both of them having the 489 hybrid motor.  And I know Cobb is back there as well.  I'm not worried about him, if he is as experienced as they say, he will be able to make short, safe work of passing me and I will be left alone cruising around in third by myself.  Then all I have to do is relax and not do anything stupid for eight laps and I can be #1 for the second time today.  At least that's what I hoped would happen......

Leading the V6 race, but not for long.

Me, leading McKee and Kurt into Charlotte's Web

Anyone who thinks that vintage racing isn't close and exciting needs their head examined!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Other Fish Fried

Friday, October 23, 2015 1:34 PM

This being part XIII of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

The moment finally arrives.  I am on the V5 grid at the WERA Grand National Finals, with the EX500 race bike barking and shaking between my legs like an epileptic junkyard dog, my stomach churning like a washing machine full of rocks, waiting on the goddamn green flag.  I see the flagman's elbow twitch and I'm off.  My head clears, I know what I need to do and I have six plans to help me do it.

I get the holeshot briefly, but Joe Ball is up on me as well as Kurt.  Kurt attempts an outside move coming down the hill into the left-hander that is turn one.  He gets his front wheel about half-way by my machine when I decide I am not going to let him pass me.  I refuse to let him have the line, I will not back down.  My corner speed pushes the bike to the outside at the exit of turn one, forcing Kurt to back off or make contact with me.  I wager some swapped paint and possibly hurt feelings that he will back off before I do.  He does.  This proves the decisive move of my race.

Joe gets by me and takes the lead somewhere around turn 5 or 6 and I throw Plan #1 out the window.  I am now working Plan #2, which is to let him tow me around the track and away from Kurt.  There is no plan to battle Joe unless Kurt starts hounding me, in which case I will have to get by Joe and use him as a buffer between me and Kurt.  Joe starts pounding out fast laps right away, but I am all over him.  There are one or two spots where I could attempt a pass, one of which is Charlotte's Web (turn 5) where I crashed passing him last season.  I can't risk the championship for a race win, so I shadow instead and we begin our 8 lap dance.  Let him set the pace, and breathe.  And wonder where the hell Kurt might be.

At the start of lap 3 I have to know and risk a glance back.  He hasn't shown a wheel at all, and I wonder if he is stalking us, waiting.  There is no chance of hearing the FZ600 against the raucous din of two barely muffled EX500s at full chat, and I would hate to find myself suddenly pounced upon by a stealthy Yamaha 4-cylinder.  I initially see nothing immediately behind us, so I look a little farther back and just catch a glimpse of a red bike and white leathers, Kurt.  I estimate him to be about four seconds back.  I relax just a bit, knowing Kurt can't make up that kind of time if Joe and I continue our current, fervent pace.  As long as I don't crash.

I start thinking how sweet it would be to completely redeem myself after last year's disaster by beating Joe, winning the race and the championship all in one fell swoop.  I remind myself of the last sentence in Plan #5 "Do not attempt to beat Joe unless it can be done easily.".  Our bikes are so evenly matched that there is no way to outpower him.  We are riding in almost perfect synch, opening the throttles at the same time, braking, shifting, seemingly breathing at the same moment.  If I needed the race win, I could force the issue, start running up the inside and try to get him to make a mistake, but I don't need to.  I prowl and stalk and look for weaknesses, figuring he will make at least one mistake sooner or later, but he doesn't and neither do I.  I follow him so intently the checkered flag waves without me even having noticed the halfway flags or the white flag.  It takes a few seconds for the realization to set in.  I just clinched the WERA V5 national championship.  I did it.  My eyes tear up briefly, but then the serious voice inside my head tells me, "Don't crash on the cool down lap stupid, now you've got the V6 race with the FZR.".  My work is not done.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Six Plans

Friday, October 23, 2015 12:30 AM

This being part XII of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

I turned in early, expecting another restless night.  At least tomorrow it will be over one way or the other.  I can't recall the last time I poured myself so entirely into an endeavor and then teetered so closely on the precipice of success.  The entire foundation I spent the last year building (the last 3 or 4 years really) now hung from a single, gossamer thread.  It's a nauseating, free feeling like the fall off a cliff to know that you have now stacked your training, experience, preparation and all the other mortally flawed, doomed to die hominine machinations up against whatever esoteric schemes fate may have hidden up her sleeves or down her garters.  You might as well be playing blackjack with the house hiding all its cards.  

Whatever tomorrow's outcome, I know that life will go on.  I also assume, that unless I am killed in a freak racing incident, my existence is going to continue as well.  If not, than better a life lived in pursuit of something other than safety.  I've handled defeat and failure before countless times, I can do it again if necessary, but not without a fight.  And a plan.  Six of them to be precise.

I wrote them all down, these six plans.  I revised some and scrapped others as available intelligence changed.  I took into account every probable scenario for the V5 race that did not involve me crashing or having a mechanical problem.  I studied the lap times, watched videos, followed competitors in practice.  I took notes upon notes for over two months.  These six plans were burned into my grey matter.  And while each was significantly disparate (not desperate!), they all shared the same outcome: finishing ahead of Kurt.  Any of these plans could be modified on the fly, or swapped for another in an instant.

Would six be enough?

This is Plan #1, in the lead and pulling away.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Engine Runnin' Hotter Than a Boiling Kettle

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 12:30 PM

This being part XII of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

Lunch break.  One session in on the FZR and one on the EX.  Both are running well, it seems to be the rider struggling to get up to speed.  The temperature has nearly doubled since this morning, hovering around the 80 degree mark now, just starting to feel a bit hot.

On an interesting note Kurt told me he had his FZ600 (the bike I have to beat in V5) on the dyno last week because they changed the type of fuel to get more horsepower.  He and Huey from Marrieta Motorsports have been messing with the jetting all morning, running up and down the paddock.  I can sense a little urgency in Kurt's voice.  From experience I know that you cannot tell shit about carburetion running up and down in the pits, you've got to get the thing out on the track to see what it does.  I wonder if Kurt has made a final mistake that will cost him the V5 championship, before even lining up on the grid. This is going to go one of two ways, either he will continue to struggle and have to race with less than ideal jetting, or he and Huey will find the magic combination and the bike will run circles around the EX.  If I had to lay money, I would put it on the former.  Without proper time and testing, it is the devil you know that proves better almost every time.  I know this from hard earned experience.

Either way, when that green flag flies, you have to ride the goddamn thing and you have to ride the shit out of it.  My EX does not have the power, the handling or the brakes of Kurt's FZ, but it is lighter, has more tractable power and a very hungry pilot behind the bars.    

Kurt coming for me on the newly jetted FZ.  Would it be enough?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Foot On The Pedal, Never Ever False Metal

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 5:37 AM

This being part XI of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

Finally I can lie in bed no longer.  I head to the showers, praying for hot water and solitude, which at least gives my brain a little something to chew on.  I get neither hot water nor solitude and come out of the shower frustrated and hypothermic.  I am cleaner, but freezing and I am pretty sure there is still some soap in my ear due to rushing out of the frigid water.

The ambient temperatures are in the mid 40s, which would normally not be an issue for my Yankee blood, but a few years in the south have acclimated me in the exact opposite direction.  I used to shovel snow in a t-shirt and shorts, here I am in a winter hat and coat feeling like a pussy.  At least racing in full leathers at 100 degrees F is no longer a problem.

The electric heater is positioned strategically under the FZR, which has been draped overnight with a gargantuan cover.  Ahh the foibles of racing vintage machinery!  I still struggle to call both of my 1990s race bikes "vintage", but I also have a hard time believing I have achieved the seasoned age of 41, so maybe it's just denial.

The process now is to get both the EX and FZR started and warmed up and through technical inspection.  This proves to be more difficult than I imagined when the EX refuses to start.  I normally never have issues with the Kawasaki so it is rather disconcerting when I get nothing more than a random fire on one cylinder while spinning it up on the rollers.  This bike needs to run today as I plan on focusing most of the practice day riding it.   I am not prepared to fiddle fuck around with this thing right now, so I wheel it off the starter swearing and mumbling under my breath.  I'll try the goddamn FZR, the heater has been underneath it for nearly an hour.

The FZR is a bit reluctant, but eventually fires.  After the obligatory warm-up ride through the paddock I take it to tech, knowing I have a whole other can of opened worms to deal with.

After a quick inspection two issues reveal themselves on the EX.  First, it is flooded.  Second, the Keihin carburetors have somehow managed to pop out of the carb boot on one side.  I must not have got it fully seated before tightening the clamps.  I take care of that, install new plugs and the old girl fires easily.

There will be between four and six practice sessions throughout the day today and I plan to get down to business in all of them on the EX, burning up the old slicks before mounting new ones at the end of the day.

My mood is not a social or jovial one.  I am in a very serious state of mind.  I came with a job to do, and hell or highwater I aim to.

Attack mode in practice before the GNF.  No screwing around.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Sleep Til....

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 3:18 AM

This being Part X of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

It never ends, as far as racing is concerned.  After arriving last night there was still the matter of unloading and setting up, a task that takes an hour all alone.  Technical inspection was also open, but I found myself simply too spent to bother wheeling the bikes down there in the dark.  I cooked a quick dinner on the camp stove, crawled into the van and went to sleep, forgetting to brush my teeth.

I am awakened from strange dreams with bad breath and a frozen right foot that somehow found it's way out from under the blankets.  The night had turned cold and there was a heavy dew.  My first thought is that the FZR is going to be a bitch to start later.  This is a motorcycle that absolutely hates any weather below 60 degrees F.  I dragged my electric heater all the way here to Alabama to assist, but that is about four hours off.  I attempt to make my way back to some of the more pleasant dreams after brushing my teeth and thawing out my purple foot, but the inky, bruise-colored restlessness that is my usual sleep has all but evaporated from the chilly van.  I close the windows I left open, put on the winter hat I bought at Tractor Supply with the baling wire and decide the electric heater is too far away to go crawling around for it now.  I lay back, staring at the headliner I re-did myself, noticing all the places where I fucked it up and then fail entirely to stop thinking.

Much like our human opponents, the mental ones also seek any crack or crevice to gain a finger-hold.  In these dark, cold moments of sleeplessness self-doubt tries to rust away the soul, leaving cancerous little rents in the fabric until nothing remains but a moth-eaten shell.  All the voices of indecision, conformity and self-loathing grow into an obstreperous clamor.  Defeat and failure loom out of shadows, more frightening than any childhood spectres.  I chuckle softly at their attempts to sway me and their power vanishes.  I have more important things to think about.    


Monday, November 9, 2015

Smooth Sailing Into Shit Talking

Wednesday, October 21, 5:48 PM

This being Part IX of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

Aside from two mild heart attacks, one that occurred as a result of a clunking in the front end (turned out the hood wasn't fully latched) and the other resulting from the apparent loss of my only credit card (found between the seats on the floor of the van), the remainder of my trip to Barber is a quiet one, marked only by the humming of the tires on the tarmac.

As usual, the Barber Motorsports Park staff is friendly and helpful, corralling late arrivals such as myself at the entrance to allow those who came earlier to enter in a fair and ordered fashion.  This new practice breaks the tradition of the "WERA Stampede", read more about that here: STAMPEDE!

Eventually the expensive motorhomes, toy haulers, trailers and sprinter vans file by me and I am allowed to follow.  Standing in line to sign the waiver and purchase the wristband that will allow me access to the track, I hear a voice shouting my name.  It's Kurt, my would-be arch nemesis, the man I have to beat in order to win the V5 championship.  The friendly banter begins, then our eyes meet and I can tell the game is afoot.  I sense him searching for any sort of a finger or toe-hold on the smooth appearing granite face that is my exterior, looking for any crack in the veneer that could bring the whole thing tumbling down.

I decide to give him one and tell all about my mechanical troubles en route to the track.  He appears sympathetic and says, "Man, you look tired."

Tired of head games maybe, I think.  The truth of the matter is he wants a repeat championship and I have no intention of letting him have it, under any circumstances.  Obviously we like and respect each other, you could even say we have become friends over the last year, but that all stops as soon as the tires hit the race surface.  I expect him to come at me with everything he's got and I sure as shit won't pull any punches out there either.  Short of making physical contact or taking each other out, anything goes, and I am not above a little rub here or there if necessary.

The points chase is about as close as it can be.  I have 65 points to Kurt's 69.  The Grand National Finals races pay out double points, if I finish ahead of Kurt, we tie.  The tie is then decided by finishing order at the Finals, so I win.  Tooth and nail, hammer and tongs, it promises to be interesting.      

This is exactly where I need to be on Friday, ahead of Kurt and pulling away.  This pic is at Road Atlanta September 2015.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Self-Reliance 2

Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 2:42 PM

This being Part VIII of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

My close proximity to the Tattooed Twosome gives me a three-ring-side seat to their automotive woes.  Mr. Ironic is clueless, he returns from the parts store with the only slightly less clueless employee.

Mr. Ironic: "We're travelling and the car just started smoking.  I think maybe it's the battery?"  (two points awarded for knowing what a battery is and that a car has one)

Mr. Employee: "Yeah, you're gonna need a battery."

Mr. Ironic: "You think I should just buy one?"

Mr. Employee: "Ummm....yeah?"

Mr. Ironic: "Can you put it in? I don't know how to do that."

Mr. Employee: "Sure can, come on back inside and we will get you fixed right up."

Miss Ironic: "Can the dog come in too?"

I do my best, but fail utterly at holding back a derisive snort from my position under the front of the van.  It's the dumb leading the blind out here.

Ultimately, I finish the job and arrive at the moment of truth as the sulfuric Saturn and its motley crew drive out of the parking lot with the most expensive battery Advance sells, while acid from the split battery is still dripping out and covering the undercarriage, wiring, brake lines etc..  Oh well.  I start the van and immediately the voltmeter jumps to 14.5 volts.  I shut it off, look under the hood for good measure, checking the belt, connections and keeping an eye out for tools or debris left behind that could come back to haunt me.  Five by five.  Time to roll.

I can't help but feel like I've accomplished something.  Twice unforeseen obstacles have appeared in my path, and twice I've handled them.  I'm sure there are quite a few people who could swap an alternator in a parking lot, but I would be willing to bet nowadays, in the world we live in, there are quite a few more who couldn't.  Two of them just wheeled down the road in a Saturn that stunk of rotten eggs.

I think about the race season so far, and realize it has been nothing more than obstacles that needed to be overcome as well.  I know what I have to do and after today I feel a calm and surety that I will do it.  Momentum is on my side.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Annoying, Ironically

Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 2:18 PM

This being Part VII of a Racer's Final(s) Diary

"Making payments or repairs, either way the man's got you by the balls." -My Brother

The kaput alternator is finally wrested free from the confines of the engine compartment without permanent damage to the vehicle or my body.  Now to install the new one.  Somebody once told me to budget 3x as much time to re-assemble something as it required you to take it apart.  Great, that means I should only be here until about 6pm, with a 5 hour drive ahead of me.  It's better than the alternative.

As I am playing grease monkey, a teal colored two-door Saturn coupe of roughly the same vintage as my van (mid 90s) wheels into the parking lot near me.  An acrid smoke is rolling from under the hood, and something is leaking all over the tarmac.  I recognize the smell instantly as sulfuric acid.  Somebody's battery has a major issue.  It's burning my nose hairs and making an already unenjoyable situation less pleasant.  It gets worse.  Both doors open and a tattooed, pierced hipster wanna-be trying desperately to grow his ironic blonde peach fuzz beard, with that silly shaved on the sides, long and greasy on the top haircut that they all have nowadays exits the driver's seat.  His equally tattooed, pierced and ironic girlfriend gets out of the passenger side.

Now I could have ignored all this frippery with nothing more than quiet stereotyping and judgmentalism on my part, but for what happened next.  The lithe, illustrated young woman, who has at least another 10 socially acceptable poor decision making years ahead of her before finally settling down and becoming a career woman, wife and mother, leans the front passenger seat forward and releases the largest canine I have ever seen, which immediately bounds toward me.  I drop the socket that I had just finagled into place for the 19th time, free myself from the engine compartment, wielding a 12" ratchet in my defense.

While not a dog hater, I take a very dim view of any animal that would approach me at such a rapid rate.  I am fully prepared to clout this beast directly on the nose with China's finest pot-metal if it becomes necessary.   Thankfully it does not.  Illustrated young woman regains control over the ravenous creature just as I upgrade status to DEFCON 1.  She shoots me a dirty look, as if to say it's my fault her dog is ill-behaved.  Yup, she'll make a great mom someday.

To belabour the point, she continuously walks the Hound of the Baskervilles back and forth in front of the van while I am trying to get the goddamn serpentine belt lined up properly.  It's the last part of this job, I am sweaty, bloody, tired, covered in grease and parking lot grime, late, on just about my last nerve and this poison dart frog looking bimbette parades Cujo within just inches of my toes while I am trying very carefully to get it right? Seriously?

Some men find these things cute.  I consider them a nuisance species.