August 2007

So we left the Chicago Four Seasons on Monday, headed for Limerock Raceway in Connecticut. Last time I saw Limerock I was about fifteen and it was a dust bowl as I recall. Pretty spiffy looking now. The roads leading south out of Chicago are not exactly scenic, we drove to Indiana to pick up Nero, then headed for Connecticut. I wasn’t particularly sleepy or hungry so we pressed on, finally stopping in the outskirts of Toledo, Ohio for dinner at a Lebanese place. It wasn’t bad, but I ate a little too much. So once we hit the road I started getting the nods. We were on a toll road, so there wasn’t much to choose from for places to stay. We finally wound up stopping at a travel plaza and just crashing in Nero. Sometime in the night the parking lot filled with big diesels, including one that parked about ten inches from Nero, idling it’s engine all night.


So it’s 3:54 AM and I’m compelled to write. I woke up at two with all this stuff in my head. The only way I’ll get some sleep is to reel it out of my mind and onto “paper”. Driving around the country endlessly is a serious education. Most of what I’ve learned I don’t like much. We have a wonderful country and we’re doing a lousy job with it.

I’m going to excuse one group from this rant: Farmers. Great job guys. Not only are most farms beautiful, they also appear to be run with pride, not only in the product, but also for the land. Remarkable, I’m honored to have seen your work.

The rest of you I’m not so impressed with. (more…)

This is out of sequence, I wrote it last week but didn’t post it.

We had an interesting race weekend at Grattan. The track is fun, bumpy and swoopy with lots of elevation changes and some interesting corners. The weather looked threatening, and ultimately cut my participation short, but we had a good weekend.

My daughter Cassie joined us at the track, along with grandsons James and Shea. They were camping in a tent, which seemed like an iffy proposition considering the threatening weather and Cassie’s bad back. But it’s less than an hour to their house, so it wouldn’t be that much challenge if it didn’t work out. As it turned out, Cassie’s back was fine and their tent was snug. (more…)

I’ve said before that Tony Garmey can be competitive in a shopping cart with a bad wheel. Here’s a picture I just recieved from Art Redmond, the owner of this Corvette, of Tony driving it at Monterrey this August, heading inch-perfect for the apex of the corkscrew, airborne.


I’m pretty sure I could get the front wheels of Peyote off the ground in the corkscrew, but I’d be headed for the hospital right afterward.

I got a call this morning from a guy in Chicago that reads the blog–called the four Seasons and asked for me I guess. I’m sorry that I don’t recall his name. I have such a FIFO memory. He just wanted to let me know that it would be a good idea to stay out of the water near Montrose today because the city was “opening the locks” which translates to “dumping raw sewage” after the big rain. I have a problem with chasing those blind snakes around, so I heeded his warning. He also told me how to avoid the lifeguards –valuable information if I was staying a little longer. Apparently they don’t have constant coverage, so you just leave when they aren’t there and hope your return is equally well timed.

Since I’m leaving on Monday, and Diane gets back tonight, I’m afraid I won’t get to experiment with that technique, but it’s nice to know there’s folks around that are ready and willing to lend good advice. Thanks a lot. Leave me your name in a comment and I’ll try to connect for a paddle next time I’m in town with my board. Might be a while, but you never know–I like Chicago a great deal. I’m really surprised at that. it’s a great city.

I’m in Chicago for a few days, waiting for Diane to return from a “girl trip” to Colorado. I’m holed up at the Four Seasons which is a short distance from the beach on Lake Michigan. So I planned to do a lot of paddling. Turns out that you can’t launch a surfboard from the beach that’s right at the north end of Michigan Avenue. I carried my Starboard 12’6″ down the tail end of the “Magnificent Mile” past Bloomingdales and Chanel, the Hotel Drake and onto the beach. Walked across the sand, tossed the board in and jumped on. I planned to paddle out to the breakwater and perhaps the big water intake that’s way out in the lake–they looked interesting. As I paddled I heard faint noises behind me, turned around and saw a flotilla of lifeguards in rowboats chasing after me, rowing as hard as they could. (more…)

We’ve kind of sucked at taking pictures this trip–not that we haven’t done it, but it’s very clumped. Diane will take the camera and shoot 126 pictures in an hour, and then put it away for two weeks. I’m even worse. I constantly carry a cell phone that takes superb pictures and I have 41 pictures covering two months.

Then there’s the challenge of stuffing pictures into the blog. With a high speed Internet connection it takes a minute per picture, but through my cell phone it’s ten minutes. I just got an unpleasant surprise on my cell phone bill–on our trip to Mosport I used my cell phone data connection and incurred $850 worth of roaming data charges. I have an “all you can eat” data plan through Cingular (the NEW AT&T, whoopee!), and never thought about roaming, but the folks at AT&T did a nice job of negotiating that charge down to about $250. Still unpleasant, but not quite the Royal Canadian screwing I was queued up to receive.

So anyway, here’s a gallery of some photos from the journey.

There’s something wrong with the software I’m using–it’s scrambling some of the captions I wrote, and every time I go back and delete the ones that hook to the wrong pictures, it screws up a few more. I’ll try to fix it later, but if the caption looks inappropriate, that might be the reason. The order of the pictures also gets screwed up sometimes and a lot of pictures are skipped. I’m working on it.

I’m going to go back and stuff some photos into the posts, but thought I’d collect them here for the regular readers. And we’ll do better as we go along, honest

I really have my doubts about writing this–I’m feeling a bit superstitious about how good this trip has been going. But I’ll knock on wood and toss some Heineken over my shoulder.

Okay, that didn’t work very well.

What an amazing car Peyote has been. I can’t think of another car that could have done this expedition with such grace. Not only is the car welcomed anywhere, and our paddock constantly visited by people fascinated by the car and it’s history, but it’s performed beyond anyone’s expectations. Even mine, and I started off amazed by it. It’s pretty much flogged every competing car it possibly could have beaten, and many, many cars that it should not have stood a chance against. (more…)

Well, not really, but I’m not used to being so constrained. You pretty much need to watch kids all the time or they’ll disappear and go play with an electrical distribution panel or find a circular saw somewhere. I don’t remember my Mom worrying this much about us–she’d shove us out the door about age two and say “be back for the first day of school”.

I don’t know why that seemed so safe and acceptable then. We played cowboys and indians in the back of Ringers Playground, on rock outcroppings that people would use for technical climbing today. (more…)

Okay, time for a beer. Maybe two. I love these kids, but…

We were a little lazy this morning, got up around nine and went to the Breakfast Buffet. Diane and I aren’t getting our fifteen bucks worth. Fruit and a bowl of oatmeal is probably not part of the model. But it’s easy, close, the boys like it, and it doesn’t require cleverness or decisive action, which I’m pretty damned short of right now.

We went to Fort Mackinac, which has an interesting history, including being the first fort taken by the British in the war of 1812, without a shot being fired. The British showed up with about 300 local indians reinforcing their relatively small force and showed overwhelming strength to the 57 Americans holding the fort. They surrendered and were sent to Detroit, which seems like inhumane punishment these days. (more…)

Get your motor running, head out on the highway…

So we’re in Mackinac Island, pronounced Mackinaw, as is the nearby Mackinaw City and the nearby Mackinac Bridge. Huh? Hey, it’s a genuine regional idiosyncrasy, one of those oddities like Regular Coffee in Boston (coffee with cream and sugar) that the endless boring strip malls and chain restaurants aim to stamp out.

Screw them. I like it. Smells like adventure to me, and I’m always looking for it. (more…)

We’re headed north through Michigan farmland to spend a few days on Makinac Island with two of our grandsons, James and Shea. James’ full name is Christian James Patterson but when he was four he decided his name would be James. Not Jim or Jimmy: James. If you called him Christian he’d say very politely “you mean James, Grandpa”, but he absolutely insisted on being called James–still does at age ten.

Diane says Shea, who is four, is like a car alarm. “Bweep, bweep, boop, boop, boop, yamahama” constantly making some kind of noise and trying to climb on everything. He likes to wander away and give Diane minor heart attacks. I think Diane is going to have him fitted with a shock collar. Fun and sweet little guy though, even if Diane is drinking a lot more wine in the evenings than normal. (more…)

I had a great experience before I picked up Diane at the Minneapolis airport–I went to a meeting of the Old Liars Club, a bunch of racers that have been getting together in Mendota Minnesota for lunch once a week–for the last 46 years!

Diane was scheduled to fly in about two PM, and the restaurant the OLC meets at is close to the airport, so the timing worked out very well. I hauled Nero and Peyote out to the restaurant and parked on the street. I hung out with Howie Wold in the bar until the group convened. Amazingly, two of the guys that showed up that day had driven Peyote back in the sixties–Scotty Beckett and Tony Kinnaird.  The other guys at lunch were Dick Lind, Tom Countryman, and of course Howie Wold. They all had great stories, and even though they’ve probably all heard each of them a hundred times, they humored me by telling me about Peyote, the guys that built and raced it, and their racing buddies. What a bunch. No wonder this car is so special, the people were just amazing. I wish I could have met them all. Unfortunately, while cars can be immortal, the people that make them special are not.

I could have hung out all afternoon, but Diane might have been a bit put out.  We finally had to stop talking and go out to show them Peyote and Nero. I think they were relieved to see that it’s still a pretty grubby, rough looking pile. Unfortunately my sweaty driving suit was in the hot garage section with Peyote–I hadn’t had a chance to get to a laundromat. Maybe it added some period authenticity. Nah.

I think they also like Nero pretty well. It fits Peyote so well, a little funky too, but it performs a lot better than you’d think it would.

I had a great time, then raced off to the airport to pick up Diane. What a neat day.

Thanks Howie and the rest of the OLC.

Peyote has a lot of history aound here. Many of the people that stopped by said something like “I never expected to see that car again–I remeber Peyote from when I was a kid. far fewer people asking what it was–many of them knew a lot more about the history of Peyote than I did.

Here’s a news flash: Howie Wold was at the track on Sunday and told me that real Peyote was actually involved in the building of Peyote MK II!! The car had already been named Peyote after a friend of Bill Ames made the comment “where you guys on drugs when you built that?” But Bill’s girlfriend took a trip to Mexico and brought back some Peyote buttons as a joke. I guess these guys were always up for anything, because they ate some while they worked on Peyote MKII. They woke up the next morning sprawled all over the garage.

BIR is a surprising track. It’s kind of the middle of nowhere, Brainerd is a run down mid-sized town  with nothing i could find to recommend it. The surrounding area has been strip malled to death, there’s nothing but chain stores and restaurants, no local culture at all. Nearby are some very nice lakes, but that’s it. then there’s this track, with as much infrastructure and sophistication as Road America. Not what I expected.

The track itself is interesting. There’s a super long dragstrip straight (slippery in the staging area) that leads into very fast turn one. I think even modern race cars can take it flat out. Turn two was also flat out for Peyote, though it was a bit bumpy and blowing the line could result in an excursion to the woods. After turn two there’s a chute into three, which is a tight 130 degree right hander that I took in second gear. Lots of sliding and throttle steering. Then a long chute to turns four and five that are almost close enough together to treat as esses–but not quite, then a long chute to six which is tight enough to use second at the exit. Long chute to 7 and 8. Seven is almost flat out but you need to set up for eight, so I braked a little at the entrance to get a better exit from eight. Turn nine is flat out under a bridge, but the exit of the turn is a wall which puts a big penalty on blowing the line. Long chute to ten, which is tight enough for good passing except that it leads onto that long straight again, which means you want good exit speed. All of the cars I was playinq with had a lot more power, so I got passed in the straight a lot, but I’d get them back in turn one or two when they lifted or braked.

Once I got the line down in the first practice I was able to go flat out through 1 and 2 as long as there was no one on the line in front of me. I told people it was that third testicle I grew at Mosport. Actually it felt pretty safe, Peyote does high speed turns very nicely and it feels magical. The tail comes out a little bit, the steering gets a little light, and you watch the apex come sideways, but it’s all very predictable (as long as nothing breaks).

I heard that anything close to two minutes was good time, the best Peyote did was 1:57:7something. That qualified me in the top four or five, though for the final race on Sunday I was gridded seventh because there was a little crowd of fast cars doing 1:57. Cool, lots of folks to race.

The two  fastest cars were a brutally quick Shelby GT350 and a March sports racer. Then there was Bob Youngdahl’s Porsche-powered Elva, another Elva,  a Whale-tale Porsche with a huge wing added, and a couple of other sports racers. I got a decent start but got outpowered up the straight, there were a lot of cars in front of me. Fortunately they were all taking a classic wide entrance to turn one and lifting. I stayed flat and went up the inside, passing a whole knot of cars and getting into third place. That didn’t last, a few cars caught me in the chute between one and two, and then were too deep into the turn for me to repass when they braked. I got by a couple of cars in the tight stuff and was back into third, but then I couldn’t pull out enough lead to maintain the lead down the straight. We went back and fourth like that for several laps, but I was getting ahead of the pack later and later in the lap, which meant they were getting farther ahead at each lap. For awhile I could still stay in contact because I’d catch up in turn two, but we got into traffic and I lost contact with Youngdahl. So I battled with the lady in the Whale Tale for awhile. As long as I could draft her for part of the way down the straight I could stay in touch. We had some good corner battles,  but she finally got away from me down the straight. I think I finished fourth.

Nice track, nice weekend, good people. But now I get to pick up Diane at the Airport and go have some fun with two of my grandsons. On monday I’m going to the Old Liars Club in Minneapolis for lunch–a bunch of guys that raced in Peyote’s era. Shoudl be fun. then I pick up Diane and head for Michigan.

I was in Minneapolis the day the bridge went down, dropping Diane off at the airport. She needs to fly back to Portland to spend time with one of our dearest friends who is having a recurrance of breast cancer. While she’s gone I’m going to be racing at Brainerd, a track that used to be called DonnyBrooke after two Minnesota racers who were killed at Road America. Peyote competed at the first race at DonnyBrooke, and was built in Minneapolis/St Paul, so it’s a real homecoming for Peyote. I hope it’s a good one.

We spent the night before at a motel close to the Minneapolis airport and Mall of America. I’m a fan of the free enterprise system, and a guy that’s driving around the country racing a crusty old car needs to hesitate before he tosses rocks. But YUCK. If there’s a temple to excess then MOA is probably it (maybe I need to visit Dubai before I decide on the winner).


It was really tough to see Diane go, even though it’s only five days. You’d think we’d be sick of each other, but spending so much time together makes me realize how much I enjoy her. We’re having a great trip together. Sam is grumpy too. But we dropped her off and headed to Brainerd, MN and BIR (Brainerd International Raceway). I got to Brainerd a couple of days early for the race so I dropped off Nero at the track and tried to find a nice place to stay on one of the many lakes. Unfortunately none of them take dogs, so I was stuck with the Ramada. Too bad, there’s some really nice places, but Sam goes where I go.

I checked into the motel, turned on the TV, and saw the earliest report on the bridge collapse. It had literally happened a few minutes before. Felt very surreal, I was just there. I don’t think I traveled over that bridge, but certainly could have. I watched the coverage for quite a while, hoping for good news. I guess in many ways it was very good, that schoolbus full of kids could have been upside down in the river. But I feel very bad for the folks that are waiting for news that can only be sad.

I spent most of Wednesday paddling around Gull Lake. The very nice people at Quarterdeck Lodge let me use their beach to launch. I would have stayed there but no dogs. They were very apologetic, but they had an unfortunate incident with an allergic person and changed their policy. Understandable, but unfortunate. I saw the “villas” they offer. Nice. Would have been the perfect place to stay, I probably wouldn’t have camped in Nero just to enjoy the facilities for the little bit of time I had on race days. As it was I checked out of the Ramada a day early and stayed in Nero at the track–it’s nicer.

The Starboard 12’6″ proved it’s versatility once again, giving me a nice long paddle around the lake, then a great sail in the late afternoon. The wind was strong enough to wish for a harness. I’m probably going to have to pick one up if I get anywhere where windsurfing isn’t just something you see on TV. The Superfreak 8.0 sail is so good that I forget how good it is (if that makes sense). It just works, all the time.

Next: Racing at Brainerd