Back to Road America

Another great race weekend at the Kohler race. Elkheart Lake is such a spectacular little town. I got out on the Starboard SUP board the furst day we got there.  Freaked out a lot of people. I had people stopping me in the street and at Gessert’s (the soda fountain/candy shop in Elkhart Lake) to ask me about it, and people following in boats to see how I was walking on water.

The festivities surrounding the race are amazing. Diane and I went to Siebkin’s bar on Wednesday night, before many racers were in town and had a blast. There was a funky local group playing (Bernico and Albers) and they were great fun to dance to. We talked to a lot of locals. Diane has a new favorite saying for everything, resulting from asking a local lady who had tee many martoonis (actually, beer) if she lived in Elkhart Lake. “Ahhforshunately” was the reply, pronounced with a dramatic expulsion of air.

I suspect I’m going to be tired of that long before she is.

Friday night we went to the Race Car concours in Elkheart Lake,  had an EXCELLENT meal at Lola’s on the Lake, and watched the race cars roll out of town.

Elheart Lake has at least three excellent restaurants–the Paddock Club, which has a deep and interesting wine list (we had a superb bottle of Far Niente ’05 chardonnay in honor of Gil Nickel–priced reasonably at eighty bucks), and a very good kitchen. The Lake Street Grill, with a wonderful bar (many microbeers on tap), a good wine list and good kitchen. We ate lunch there twice and throughly enjoyed it. I suspect dinner is excellent. And Lola’s, which is part of the Osthof. We generally avoid hotel restaurants, but Lola’s food was excellent and the wine list was impressive and reasonably priced. We tried Bruce’s Supper Club which was decent, but not great.

I finally got to meet Howie Wold. Great guy and fun to talk to. Ahhforshunately I didn’t have much time to talk since I was chasing a weird engine problem. About the fourth lap I’d suddenly loose a cylinder or two. If I got off the gas for about fifteen seconds it would come back, and the problem wouldn’t reappear until about lap four of the next session.

I checked all the usual suspects, nothing obvious, so I started “fixing” everything until it went away. Took the carbs apart, checked the plug wires and shortened #4 (been meaning to do that), changed plugs, adjusted the points, checked fuel pressure. The problem disappeared on Sunday, through devine providence I suspect.

My sister Diane and her husband Ed showed up on saturday to watch the racing. Jack Drews and his neighbor Chris made the four hour drive all the way to RA to deliver much-needed rear brake shoes (thanks again, Jack and Chris!). We went to dinner with Diane and Ed, Jack and Chris, then stopped in Elkheart Lake to look at the sports car concours. Made an early night of it.

Diane and Ed came back on Sunday to watch the races. I think they enjoyed it. Ed did the touring drive at noon in his Pontiac solstice. Both Dianes refused to accompany him, but he had a fine time.

I had some great fun racing with D. Randy Riggs driving one of Sid Silverman’s Listers. He drives it hard and well. We did a lot of lead swapping. Couldn’t stay with him in the straights, but since he has 500 more pounds and Dunlop tires I was able to reel him back in, pass a few times, and even pull out a decent lead once. But he doesn’t quit, and I soon found myself following him again.

We were doing that on Sunday during the feature race with a black Corvette Roadster in front of us. The guy was very fast down the straights but slow and squirelly as hell in the turns and wild in the Kink–off in the dirt on the apex, sliding around at the far edge of the track at the exit. Very unpleasant to be behind–he looked like he was going to toss it away any moment.

Finally he pointed us by in the straight after the kink, but as I passed him tucked in behind the Lister he swerved over as if to block me. I thought that was pretty weird, but even weirder was a complete Banzai move going into the corner after the straight (I think it’s called Canada Corner).  He was all over the place and I had to back off to avoid getting nailed. Of course he bogged as we came up the hill so when we went through what I guess is turn 10 (the one after Canada Corner) I pulled up  on the inside while he wandered out to the edge, then he came roaring across and ran me off the track. I hit the grass, locked up and finally hit the wall going slowly.

I pulled into the black flag station, asked the official to check my tire to make sure it wasn’t rubbing, and finished the race. Even with the delay I was first in class. Nice trophy.

The corvette driver was pitted close to me, so I went over to ask what was going on. First he told me the only car he had pointed by was a black and red Lotus, and I said “nonsense, you pointed the green and yellow Lister by”, so he said “I only pointed him by, not you” like I was supposed to understand his intentions at 120MPH. He gave me some nonsense about his staying on the line, which simply meant that not only did he run me off, but he knew he did it.  Then he launched into a ridiculous diatribe about me going off the track more than he did.  Clearly I’m not as good a driver as he is, which is probably why my little TR3-in-drag with one third of his horsepower is two seconds a lap faster than his best time when it’s not plugged up behind him at a grocery-getter pace in the corners.

I surprised myself and my wife by walking away. My brother Bob is probably reading this and saying “what!!!”  I guess I must finally have mellowed. I never even thought about adjusting his attitude with a 1/2” torque wrench. Well, not for long anyway.

And the truth is, I was behind him when he ran me off, so it’s my fault. I’d never do that to a competitor, and if I accidentally put someone in a tough place I’d be in their pit before their engine stopped, apologizing. I guess really I’m doing pretty well though. All these years of racing vintage cars and I’ve really only met one complete asshole. That says a lot for this sport. And it didn’t spoil the event for me. I had a wonderful time, Peyote ran superbly once the dropped cylinder thing resolved itself. I set a new personal record time for Road America of 2:42:something and got to spend time with a lot of really nice people. I repaired the damage to Peyote in about two hours time, using my tiedown strap to pull the frame out, and a trailer ball and body hammer to pound out the rumples.  You really can’t see the repair unless you know where to look.

Next stop is Brainerd, which is not on the schedule. I committed to it this weekend after being invited by Bob Youngdahl (I think that’s his name–my hideous memory continues to cripple me socially).  I understand Brainerd used to be called Donnybrooke, and if memory serves me (right!!) I think Peyote participated in the first race at that track.

I’ll look it up.

I’m going to spend the next week doing standup paddling and perhaps sailing in Door Country Wisconsin.

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