Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Racin': One Lap of America Day 6, Barber Motorsports Park

Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama (birthplace and boyhood home of Charles Barkley, so there's a Hoops connection, too) is one of the prettiest, most meticulously maintained racetracks in the country. They have a reputation for being terrifically anal about their facility and that reputation is somewhat deserved. If you put a jackstand down on the pavement, you have to have a piece of wood under it. If you spill fluids (oil, gas, coolant, whatever) on the paddock or racetrack, they will send you a bill for it. If you have an off and hit any of their precious Armco barrier, they will send you a bill for it (after writing up an incident report and having you sign it).

A story told to me was that when he was building the track, someone told Mr. Barber that "in that swamp the bugs will eat you alive." Throughout the facility there are metal sculptures, most of them of bugs of one sort or another. On the infield between a couple of straightaways there is a large spider (spyder?). If you look closely, you can see several little baby spiders around her legs (I'm assuming it's a mama spider).


On the wall of the timing/scoring building along the main straight, there is a very large metal wasp.


The funniest detail about that is that some birds have built a nest inside the sculpture. I didn't have my camera with me when I noticed that, otherwise there would be a picture of that as well. You can see a tiny bit of nesting material hanging out near it's left shoulder.

In addition to the track they have a museum which houses Mr. Barber's car and motorcycle collection which is truly astounding. I have visited the museum before (one weekend in 2006 while living in Hattiesburg) and spent several hours there looking at the vast array of cars and bikes. I have been told that 75% of his collection is in storage and only about 25% is displayed at any one time. That is amazing as well.

The track is a pretty place to turn money into noise. Because neither of us had ever run a lap at Barber and I had done both time trials at No Problem the day before, Francis was elected to take both sessions today. The day itself was gorgeous; warm, breezy, bright blue sky with some high clouds.


Really a great day to spend at the track. Even the bluebirds came out to watch us race.


Francis and I talked a bit and reasoned that even though either of us would be slow, he would be the much faster slow, so he went out. Here he is hanging out before the morning session talking with Brock Yates, Jr. and Jason Saini.


Francis' morning run was pretty good. He placed 49th with a time of 5:55.859, undoubtedly way better than I would have done.



At lunch time, they let the non-competing drivers out to do some laps around the track. I must say, I was intimidated by the track when I looked at the layout, but when I drove it I really liked it. There are some really cool corner combinations, a lot of elevations changes, and some decent straights. It also looks like a track that rewards practice. There's no way you could get this track down in 4 laps or even 8 laps. With a couple of days practice, it would begin to reveal its secrets. Anyway, I had a great time.

In the afternoon session, Francis ended up getting much more excitement than he had bargained for. In the picture here (taken during the morning session) he is coming up a hill and running parallel to the main straight.


The entrance is blind and uphill to the right. You're approaching the top rpm in 3rd in the Roadster, so are doing about 90 mph. During his first hot lap of the afternoon session, he got to the top of 3rd and shifted to second instead of fourth. When he let out the clutch, the wheels locked up and he went into a spin. He put the clutch back in, spun a full 360 degrees and managed to keep it in the middle of the track the whole time. He gathered himself back up and continued on, but he was shaken. The results could have been much worse (a blown motor or a significant crash) but weren't due to his quick reactions. Oddly enough, he didn't drop that far in the standings, placing 51st with a time of 5:58.602, only 3 seconds slower than the morning. Good job, Fran Diesel!

We packed up the car and hooked up the trailer and headed out of BMP, pointing north toward Joliet, Illinois. This was going to be the longest transit of the week, over 700 miles. We left at about 3:00 or 3:15 and were making good time going up I-65 in Tennesse when the axle on the trailer shifted (again) and the right side tire began rubbing against the frame and sending up a cloud of blue smoke. We pulled over on the side of the road to fix it. Right behind us a local fellow pulled over in his pickup and offered to help. About 15 minutes later one of our fellow One Lap teams (Tim and Robert in the red Miata) pulled over to help. It took about an hour to get it all set to rights, so we lost a bit of time. However, the fix is really good and is holding up well, so I am confident it will make it all the way back to Seattle.

Alabama experienced some devastating wind storms a little while ago. The evidence was clear all up and down I-65; light poles snapped in half or bent at crazy angles, swathes of trees chewed up and knocked down, road signs completely twisted or blown over.

I slept through a good portion of Kentucky and Indiana because Francis drove two tanks of gas in a row (we usually trade drivers at fill ups). I drove the last tank in to Joliet and the Super 8 motel at 2:35 a.m. on May 6. I didn't even bother to bring my laptop out of the car. I knew I wouldn't do anything with it.

Mileage today: 723
Mileage to date: 5,930
States covered: Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois
Wildlife seen: many snowy egrets and bluebirds (at Barber MP)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Racin': One Lap of America Day 5, No Problem

If you look at the 2011 One Lap of America itinerary, the track listed for Day 5 is Circuit Grand Bayou or some such nonsense. I have been to this track three times now (once for a BMW driving school and twice before with One Lap) and it has always been known as No Problem Raceway. Most of the stuff at the track, buildings, golf carts, paper ID bracelets, trucks, are all still labeled No Problem. It seems that someone new bought the track and wants to turn it into one of those country club type tracks like Monticello or Autobahn, so they had to give it a new upscale name.

Whatever. I'm going to continue to call it No Problem, the same way I call it Sears Point instead of Infineon.

So, we got to our hotel in Donaldsonville at 3:45. We stayed in bed until 7:30 and then headed out for the track about 15 miles further south into the bayou. No Problem is extremely flat and surrounded by woods and sugar cane fields. The track itself is relatively simple and I like it. Because I have done the track so much more than Francis, I did both the morning and afternoon sessions.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was the coldest day on record for that day since they started keeping track back in the 1950s. Maybe the locals were shivering, but most of the One Lap competitors thought the weather was awesome. It was a bit like a summer day in the Pacific Northwest; in the high 60s with a good breeze and clear blue skies.

Waiting at No Problem

Before the morning session I was hanging out in line with two of the guys in my run group, Chris and Joe. Practically no-one brings a stock car to One Lap. Chris is running that black VW. It's an R32 with a turbocharged V6 motor in it. His co-driver, Josh, was also the builder of the car. His work was absolutely gorgeous. Joe's car is that green Miata, the one with the supercharged motor in it. So my supercharged BMW is kinda normal in that group!

When you look at a racetrack the first thing you look at is the longest straightaway and then figure out how to get the fastest speed out of the corner before that as that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. The front straight at No Problem is mid-length, about 1,900' and is part of the run-off for the drag strip. You enter it through a long, sweeping right had corner that runs onto the straight between two lines of concrete barriers which are only one line when they are drag racing. You can really get the car leaned over pretty far.

Leaned over

Once you hit the apex of the corner, you begin stepping on the gas and unwinding the wheel so that you enter the straight in a smooth and undisturbed fashion.

Heading onto the front straight at No Problem Raceway

In the morning session I felt pretty good about my run. Come to find out I placed 55th with a time of 4:49.611. I find that kind of depressing. It's expected, but depressing. Neither Francis nor I spend much time at the track because we have so many other things to do in our lives. In fact this track time at One Lap is the first real track time we've had in two years. So, with no practice and not much talent, 55th is to be expected. I just want to be better than that. Unfortunately, the only way to get better is with seat time and I just have too many other things I'm interested in/responsible for to put that kind of time and effort into this.

My afternoon session was somewhat better. I placed 49th with a time of 4:42.350. So, that proves I can get better, it just takes some time. I managed to shave 7 seconds off my morning time and moved up 6 places. I guess I'll have to be satisfied with small improvements because there aren't going to be any great big miracles here.

While I was banging around on the track, Francis was talking with Adam Hennesey, a mechanic who is a part of one of the other teams. He described the repair we could implement and gave us a list of what we would need to accomplish it. Now all we had to do was stop an another auto parts store.

After our second run, we packed up and headed for Leeds, Alabama, just outside of Birmingham. The route we were taking runs right through Hattiesburg where I lived for 14 months from December 2005 to January 2007. I knew right where the auto parts stores were and I knew that my second most favorite barbecue place was just up the street from there. We drove to Hattiesburg, did our shopping and then had dinner at Leatha's. It was as good as I remember.

We stopped for a sit down dinner partly because we had a relatively short transit, only about 450 miles. After dinner, filling our gas tank, and stopping for a venti Americano at the local Starbucks we hit the road with me driving. I drove until the next gas stop just outside of Birmingham. We got gas and, because it was only about 35-40 more miles, I kept driving.

When we got to the hotel we had proof positive that God protects fools. As I got out to go check in, I looked around for my wallet and didn't find it in the place where it usually is, or the other back up spot. At that point, Francis said, "Oh, my God." or something like that. He pointed to my wallet which was sitting outside the car, resting against the top just behind the passenger seat and right near the gas tank filler. It had sat there for 35-40 miles of 70-75 mph freeway driving! What a nightmare it would have been if it had dropped off. First, it is highly unlikely that we would have ever found it. Second, it has everything we need for the trip; my driver's license, credit cards, debit cards, cash. Everything. The reason it was there was because that's where I set it down after using the credit card at the pump while I was pumping gas. I forgot to put it into my pocket. When you get a bit sleep deprived, you can begin to mess up simple things just by not following through all the way to the end of a process. That one could have been a disaster.

We checked in relatively early, 11:00 p.m. Instead of going to bed, I began to work on the post on CMP. I had actually intended to bring it all the way up to date, but I didn't get CMP done until about 12:30 and then just wanted to go to bed, so I did.

Mileage today: 463
Mileage to date: 5,207
States driven through:(I've been thinking of adding this feature and will play catch up here) Washington, Idaho, Montana (70%)- Day 1; Montana (30%), North Dakota, Minnesota (95%) - Day 2; Minnesota (5%), Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana (30%) - Day 3; Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia - Day 4 (OneLap Day 1); Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina - Day 5 (OL Day 2); South Carolina, Georgia, Florida - Day 6 (OL Day 3); Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana - Day 7 (OL Day 4); Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama - Day 8 (OL Day 5) 20 states so far
Wildlife seen: lots of snowy egrets around No Problem

Racin': One Lap of America Day 4, Daytona (continued)

A couple of things I meant to add about Daytona.

One is a big miss on my part. When we went out to do the parade laps at lunchtime, I had my Flip video camera in my pocket and totally forgot that it was there. How cool would that have been to have in car video around the banks of Daytona? I know there are probably hundreds of YouTube videos of laps at Daytona, but none of them are shot from inside my car with Francis and I there.

In addition, before the first session, we did our first oil and filter change of One Lap.

Also, I have been remiss in recounting mileage.

Mileage today: 741 (includes all laps at Daytona and 1/4 at Gainesville)
Mileage to date: 4,744 ( includes the 673 from CMP to Daytona as well as Daytona to Gainesville to Donaldsonville)

Racin': One Lap of America Day 4, Daytona

Well, it has been several days since I last posted. I have many good reasons for that (mostly lack of time and very late nights) which will become apparent as I chronicle the rest of our One Lap 2011 adventure. As of now, One Lap has been over for two days, but I am going to proceed with our story.

We arrived in Daytona Beach, Florida at about 1:45 a.m. and crashed into our beds. We got up around 6:00, got breakfast and then headed across the street to the track. Daytona is an immense complex (more written about its immensity in my posts about the Rolex 24 from late January/early February) and Francis and I were incredibly excited that we would both get to run on the track. Francis took the morning session. Here he is waiting for his run group to start. Doesn't he look handsome and race-driverish in this picture?

What a handsome dude

Here he is coming across the official start/finish line. The One Lap start/finish line was actually on the infield between Turns 4 and 5 for safety and accessibility reasons, but this is a pretty cool picture and a testament to good (lucky) timing and good living.

The Winner

Once you come across start/finish on the tri-oval, you have to get the car slowed down from about 135-140 to about 60 or 70 in order to make the first turn into the infield. It's a comfort to have good reliable brakes. You go through the infield course and then go back up onto the high banks not all that far from where you left. From there you go through NASCAR Turns 1 and 2 and then onto the back straight. Two-thirds of the way down the back straight, you enter what they call The Bus Stop, a chicane that slows cars down to about 60-80 from a relatively high speed, probably 125-130 in our car. After the Bus Stop, you go back up onto the banks for NASCAR Turns 3 and 4 and then onto the tri-oval and the start/finish line. Total length of a lap; about 3.5 miles.

Hitting the bank

Francis had a really good run, placing 39th with a time of 7:18.230 for the three laps. So, he covered 10.5 miles in 7:18, that's an average speed of 87.74 miles per hour. Doesn't sound like much, but he was hustling.

At lunch time, between the morning and afternoon sessions, they let us out on the track to do several parade laps around the NASCAR oval. Speeds were limited to about 100 mph, which was just fine. It's hard to imagine that the stock cars run at speeds of 195+ on the same track. It gives you a whole new appreciation for their skill level.

The first time you enter the banking the whole world tilts. It is positively mind-blowing. Many people say they feel it is like driving in a tunnel because all you can see is asphalt in front of you, asphalt out the driver's window, asphalt out the passenger's window, and asphalt in your rear view mirror. We didn't have that problem as we ran with the top down. We could see everything.

Does the world look tilted to you?

I ran the afternoon session and proved once again that Francis is much faster than me. I placed 50th with a time of 7:34.518, so Francis was a little over 5 seconds a lap faster. Yikes!

Here I am coming out of the East Horseshoe and heading for the One Lap start/finish line. If you look very closely, you can tell it's me. It's hard because we wear the same driver's suit and helmet, but I have clear glasses and Francis always wears sunglasses. I'm kidding of course, it's practically impossible to tell who is driving. You're just going to have to take our word for it.

Coming around East Horseshoe Bend

Once we finished the session we packed up and headed out. The route book called for us to head right to Gainesville Raceway for some drag racing; a Low ET competition and then bracket racing. Francis and I had another stop to make first at a NAPA Autoparts store just down the street.

At CMP in South Carolina we discovered that we were losing fluid out of the differential (the part of the car that takes the rotation of the driveshaft and turns it 90 degrees to power the wheels (all cars have them, some in the front, some in the rear, some at both ends)). We were both concerned because if you lose all the fluid, the gears in the differential get really hot and essentially weld themselves together. When that happens, the drive wheels lock up solid and you lose control of the car. We were not interested in that happening, so we had been monitoring the situation.

The problem is relatively common; a mechanic in the group told us that it was probably the O-ring on the output flange and that we could just top up the fluid for now and then fix it later. First, though, we had to get the drain/fill plug off the differential cover. BMW and other German automakers use a 17mm hex key to take the plug off. This is a distinctly uncommon part and size, American manufacturers use a much different system. No one on One Lap had one that we could borrow, so we went to the store to see if we could get one along with some heavier weight gear oil.

They didn't have one, but Francis McGyvered a solution for us. Did you know that if you take a Torx T-60 socket, punch the shaft out of the socket and turn it around, that you now have something pretty close to a 17mm hex key socket? I didn't either, but I do now! We put more fluid in (not much actually, the diff holds about 2 quarts and we put in about a 1 - 1 1/2 cups), got everything packed up (we were doing the work in the NAPA parking lot) and then headed for Gainesville.

I was pretty pessimistic about our chances of even running at Gainesville. We had lost a lot of time putting the fluid in and it was getting to be late afternoon/early evening as we headed across the Florida peninsula. Sure enough, the Low ET competition was over and they had begun the first round of bracket racing. We talked to the organizers and they allowed us to make a Low ET run, but not to be in the bracket racing. We lost points because of that, but were not all that concerned as we really never had a chance at a good finish in our class anyway. Francis ran a 14.334, good for 39th place. He has actually run a 14.00 before. Had he done so, we would have been in 36th.

So now it was getting to be about 7:30 pm. Gainesville is about 110 miles from Daytona and about 600+ miles from our next stop, Donaldsonville, Louisiana. 7:30 p.m. is not the best time to begin a 600 mile transit because you end up getting in extremely late. In our case, extremely late turned out to be 3:45 a.m. on May 4. Now you know why I didn't post that day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Racin': One Lap of America Day 3, South Carolina

I have not been able to write the past two nights as we got in at 1:45 and 3:45 after the last two transits. It's only 11:30, so I'm feeling significantly better.

So much has happened in so short a period of time. We have a ton of pictures and have had some very cool experiences. I'll try to share a flavor of it with you.

When last I wrote, we had arrived in Lancaster, South Carolina. Monday morning arrived with a warm and sunny welcome. We made our to Carolina Motorsports Park, about 15-20 minutes away. Usually when we do One Lap, Francis and I split the tracks. CMP was his as he has done it before and the learning curve for him will be less steep than for me. I've done it once in the past too, but his experience is more recent. Anyway Francis got himself ready, donning the track suit we share and heading down toward where he had the car parked.


Francis did a great job driving; he usually does. Here he is hard at work between Turns 2 and 3 at CMP.


He placed pretty well (44th with a time of 6:02.474 for three laps) and brought us up in the standings. We're not all that concerned for a number of reasons. One, our car, though considered powerful by most people we know in our regular existence, is considered somewhat mediocre here. At One Lap 500, 600 and 700 horsepower cars are common (and the thing most common about the highest horsepower ones is how often they break). Two, neither Francis or I works hard at being an excellent track driver. I would say it is more within his grasp than mine, but neither of us is putting in the effort to get there. To do so would be to diminish something else in our lives and is a choice we have consciously made. Three, we do not get the opportunity to practice on these circuits on a regular basis. Practice is good; more practice is better. So, when we do well, we're happy, but we also know that we are probably going to place in the 40s or 50s overall. We're here to have a good time.

In his second session, Francis put in another great drive; this time placing 28th with a time of 5:46.867. It's not possible to compare the times straight across because they changed the track configuration, but it was still a great effort. Here he is charging down the front straight at over 100 mph.


I mentioned earlier that the higher horsepower cars break more often. We have had an extraordinary amount of attrition over these past few days. At CMP, no fewer than 4 cars broke. This Porsche Turbo overheated and spread coolant over about 1/3rd of the course. Bad Porsche! Bad!


The theory here is that on oil feed line to the turbo came loose on this Mitsubishi Evo. Spraying hot engine oil onto a turbo that is glowing red is generally a great recipe for fire. That's what happened here.


Another Mistubishi Evo cracked its turbo housing. The hot gasses escaping from it fried the shifter mechanism (the turbo was blowing extremely hot air directly on the shifter cables and melted them).


There have been other casualties. Those are the ones I have pictures of at the moment. Fortunately for everyone, the only casualties here have been mechanical; none of the broken cars have caused injury of any type to any of the drivers.

We left CMP in the mid afternoon (3:00 ish) and drove 140 miles northwest across South Carolina to the BMW Performance Center for an autocross on their driver training course. We received an excellent visit from Kevin York, a racer and driving instructor I've known for several years and a man I consider a good friend. Francis placed 47th. Here he is taking off.


Once we were through at the BMW Center, we packed up and headed for Daytona Beach, Florida. We arrived there at 1:45 a.m. on May 3. It was late, so I didn't do any update on the days activities, even though they had been quite exciting.

It is now early morning (12:44 a.m.) on Thursday, May 5th. I am quite tired and even though I still have two days of adventures to share stories about, I am going to bed. Tomorrow will be another jam packed day and then we have a 700 mile transit to start at the end of it. If I don't get some sleep, I will not be very useful on the drive. Francis is driving Barber Motorsports Park tomorrow. It is a new circuit to both of us, so it should be another adventure. Good night, all.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Racin': One Lap of America Days 1 and 2

We started the official part our One Lap adventure yesterday in the morning rising early and getting ourselves over to Tire Rack for the wet skidpad event at about 8:00 a.m.. The drill for each of the events is similar. Show up at the prescribed venue. Empty all of your stuff out of the car, both to make it lighter and less dangerous (you don't want to have a bunch of distracting stuff flying around when you are making speed). Compete in the event. Repack the car and trailer. Move on to the next event wherever it may be. For this first event, it was only 8 miles away from our hotel, an easy transit.

A skidpad is a circle of concrete or asphalt usually 200' or 300' feet in diameter. Car manufacturers, tire manufacturers, tire resellers (like Tire Rack) and car enthusiasts use them to get a systematic idea of the handling properties of either a tire or a suspension component or set of suspension components. The idea is to drive around the circle as fast as one can in one direction for a few laps and then reverse and drive in the other direction. If you carefully time how long it takes to get around the circle you can use that time and a little bit of math to figure out the average speed around the circle. It is possible (don't ask me how, because at the moment I don't know) to convert that speed into an g rating. This is the most common way that all of the above folks refer to the performance of a tire; i.e., "it is capable of generating .95g on dry pavement."

So the first One Lap event is a skidpad event. In addition, because wet tire performance degrades more quickly than dry performance, the first skidpad event is always done in the wet. Sometimes Mother Nature cooperates and rains all over you; other days you have to make your own. Tire Rack's skidpad is fully plumbed with sprinklers to keep the entire surface completely soaked.

Francis and I have, over the last 6 runnings of One Lap, developed a system for sharing the events. He usually lets me have my pick of them. I am smart enough to know that he should get some that he will enjoy. Anyway, with some of them we just pick and over the years, I have been the one elected to do the skidpad events. We put a new tire on the car this year, a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports. This is Michelin's newest tire in the Pilot series, which is their highest performance series of tire. For the past couple of years (after Bridgestone stopped making the Pole Position SO-3) we have been using the Michelin Pilot Sport PS 2 tire. They are discontinuing that tire and replacing it with the Super Sport. They claim that is has dry performance as good as the PS 2, wet performance that is better than the PS 2 and almost 2 x the durability. I will have the opportunity to test all of those claims during this 18 day period. So far, their claim that the wet performance is better is absolutely true in my book. My wet skidpad result was .778 g, good for 22nd place overall. We are off to a good start.

The next event took place at Grissom Air Force base in Peru, Indiana, 82 miles south of Tire Rack in South Bend. The local SCCA (Sports Car Club of America, not Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) chapter put on an extremely well organized autocross for us. Autocrossing is an automotive competition usually held in a large parking lot, or in this case an the apron of a military landing field. A course is laid out on the surface using cones to indicate the direction you are to drive in. You are timed from the start line to the finish line. Low time is the winner. Your time is measured to the thousandth of a second. For this event each One Lap team would get three runs; the best of three would count.

For the inexperienced, and that would include Francis and I, at first it just looks like a giant sea of orange traffic cones. Once you get a chance to walk around it a bit, it becomes more understandable. Francis ran the autocross for us, so he did the walkaround. For his first run, the first time he had ever done an autocross and the first time Francis had driven the Roadster at competitive speeds in almost two years, he ran a (don't remember the decimal portion). Not great, considering that the fast time of the day was 50.4xx, but not horrible either as there were many competitors at 67 or more seconds. On his second run, having familiarized himself with the course and the Roadster, he cut 4 seconds off and ran a

By the time he got ready for his third run, Francis was relaxed and ready to go for it. The weather was sunny and windy, but it was a perfect day for a short-sleeved, top-down autocross drive.


After sitting in the staging lanes, he rolled up to the starting line and, on the starter's signal, took off!

Take off!

He flew through the course and posted his best time of the day, 56.775, on his last attempt. He was flying low moving through the cones.

Flying low on the autocross

We repacked the car and trailer and headed for the next event, a time trial on the Summit Point road race course. Summit Point is in West Virginia, up near the pointy part of the top of Virginia. We actually stayed at a Shoney's Inn in Winchester, Virginia for the night. Summit Point is 550 miles from Peru, Indiana, so we had several hours of driving to do. We arrived at Shoney's at 1:45 am today, so I did not spend any time writing a post (which is why you are getting two days in one right now).

The Shoney's was nothing fancy anyway and I would have been surprised if they even had wireless access. We slept there for about 4.5 hours, got up and headed for the track. That may not seem like very much sleep, but it was horizontal, quiet, and vibration-less. All three of those are not achievable in any car, so even a shortish sleep in a hotel is preferable to none at all. Summit Point was about 15 miles from our hotel, so we got there around 8 or so, signed in at the gate (at every venue you have to sign a waiver that says something to the effect of "If I maim or kill myself or anyone else, I will not hold the organizers responsible." You don't have to sign, but if you don't, they don't let you come on the property either) and proceeded to the paddock where we parked and got the trailer unhooked and the car unloaded.

We decided that I would run both time trials today and Francis would do both of tomorrow's at Carolina Motorsports Park. I'm in pretty much the same boat as Francis; I hadn't driven the Roadster at competitive speeds in almost two years. To say I am rusty is a disservice to oxidizing metal. I have never run this track before, so that added to the difficulty factor.

Because Summit Point is relatively close to Washington, D.C., many of the BMW club members in the Capitol Region regard this as their home track. An old One Lap competitor/friend of ours, Neil Simon, who lives in D.C., was there. He's not competing this year, but came out to say hello to old friends. He took me into the track's classroom and explained the racing line on a big map of the track. The racing line is the theoretical fastest way around the course. That explanation is all well and good, but doesn't really give you any of the visual landmarks you need when negotiating the track at speed.

I was really nervous about my first run. The combination of a long lay off and a brand new unfamiliar track was part of it. The other part of it was my competitive nature bashing up against an honest evaluation of my skill level. To put it charitably, I'm not that fast. After my first time trial, I found our just how not-fast I was.

For any of the road race time trials, the procedure is the same. You are directed out onto the track and given the opportunity to run one reconnaissance lap. You cannot learn a new track in one lap, but it is better than nothing. At least all of the corners won't be a total surprise. After your reconnaissance lap, you line up at the start/finish line with the others in your run group. You are waved off one at a time, with enough space between you that there generally won't be any possibility of passing or getting passed. You run three laps and then come in off the track.

In our run group I was slotted ahead of Pete Zekauskas. Pete and his brother Matt have been running One Lap at least as long as Francis and I. They are really good guys and are fun to hang around with. Unfortunately for me, Pete had done a driving school at Summit Point a month or so ago, so he knew the track. With him behind me, I wondered if he would pass me. The Roadster is much faster in a straight line than their car, but skill in the corners and knowing how to set up for them, is a large advantage.

My first lap was ok. I was getting a feel for the track. Here's as picture of me coming through Turn 10 and onto the front straight which is pretty long.


The car is just coming down to the apex of the corner and is leaned over pretty well as I am already on the gas and accelerating through the corner.

On lap 2 Pete had caught up with me by Turn 10. Here he is chasing after me on the main straight.

Being chased by Pete.

I'm actually pulling away from him here because I have way more horsepower and torque, but he would catch me later in lap 3. As I came out of turn 1 and 2, I noticed that I had not turned the automatic stability control off. This is a good thing to do on the track, but a bad thing to do on the street. On the track, you know it is off and are aware of the trade offs; you get better performance but need to be careful as you could spin out if you put too much power down in the wrong place (like in a wet corner). I had forgotten to do this; it would bite me. Because the ASC was on, when I hit the gas in a slow corner, the wheels would want to spin. The car, sensing this, would cut back on power and make things slow down for was seemed like an eternity. Not what you want to have happen when you know someone is chasing you.

Pete caught me in the back section of the track and I let him by. If someone comes up behind you, whether it on the track or the highway, they are going faster than you. The polite and courteous thing to do it to pull over and let them by. I was polite and let Pete by. Unfortunately that slowed us both down. I ended up in 66th spot, running a 5:10.844 for three laps. That meant that I would start in the very last run group in the afternoon session.

As we waited what seemed an interminable amount of time, it began to get dark and sprinkle rain. I remembered to turn the ASC off this time and felt much better about my run. Here I am running through Turn 8/9 and working hard. Francis found a great place to take pictures from on the back side of the course, a photographers' platform at the top of a grandstand.

Working on a good line.

You can see just how dark it had gotten. Here's a shot of my halfway through Turn 9 and accelerating toward the track out point.

Driving out of the back side of Summit Point

Unfortunately for me, the time clock does not lie. I actually had a slower time in the second event, posting a 5:20.985. This was good for 65th place and will definitely drop us in the standings.

We packed up the car and hooked up the trailer. We were the very last competitors to leave the lot. We pointed ourselves toward Kershaw, South Carolina and Carolina Motorsports Park, 400 miles away. Because we were leaving at 3:30, we got into our hotel by 9:30 p.m.. I've spent the time since then downloading photos from the camera to the computer, uploading photos to Photobucket and writing this post.

I have more to write about why I come on One Lap and some of the conflicting emotions it brings up in me, but it is now after midnight and I am going to sign off for the night. I will write of this another time. 6:30 a.m. wake up calls come early.

Mileage today: 445 (including Summit Point track miles)
Mileage to date: 3,330
Wildlife seen: Francis saw two deer and we think we saw a coyote in North Carolina.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Racin': A day without Driving

Francis and I spent the day in South Bend, most of it at the Tire Rack facility. After waking up and getting breakfast, we drove over there and began our preparations. We washed the car and then applied all of the stickers to it. Once that was complete, we did our technical inspection.

The tech inspection is pretty minimal; they expect you to have gone through the car mechanically. All they are doing is checking your racing suit and helmet and that you have all of the approved stickers on in the correct places.

One of the coolest things about One Lap is that is like summer camp in a way. You see the same folks year after year; there are always some new ones and some who do not return, but you just pick up where you left off a year (or three in our case) ago. The camraderie of sharing this crazy automotive adventure is infectious.

We spent quite a while wandering around talking with all of the competitors we knew and meeting a new bunch of folks as well. It's really interesting to see what cars people bring, what they have done to cars the have run before, and generally what's going on in their lives.

In early afternoon, we changed the brakes from our street pads to our race pads. We'll run those for the next week now, changing them once we get back to South Bend on Saturday, May 7. We had a drivers' meeting at about 4, then packed up and came back to the hotel.

Francis is out driving around in the Roadster. It is a beautiful sunny day, windy and somewhat warm; a welcome change after three days of rain and snow. He's going to see if he can find an aerosol cleaner for our MAF (mass air flow sensor). It has been suggested that if it is dirty, it may be contributing to the misfire codes we keep getting. We'll see.

Miles driven: incidental
Wildlife seen: none.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Racin': Driving to South Bend: Day 3, Esko to South Bend

As I stood in the bathroom at Mary and Phil's house this morning brushing my teeth, I looked out the window and saw snow falling to the ground. There was a light dusting on the Roadster from overnight, as well. After having breakfast, re-packing the car and saying my goodbyes, I started out at 8:00 a.m.. The time and temperature sign at Esko High School read 8:03 a.m., 34 degrees.

I drove into Duluth encountering the second worst traffic of the trip, it took about 30 minutes to go 5 or 6 miles. I crossed the river into Superior, Wisconsin and then headed south on Route 53. Just out of Superior it started snowing and continued snowing for the next 100 or so miles, until about 50 miles north of Eau Claire. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, just a lot of miles on Interstate 94 heading east through Wisconsin and then into Illinois.

The trailer is behaving itself, but that one headlight we worked on Monday night is out again. I don't think it's the bulb, but we're going to have to do some investigating to make sure.

Chicago was its usual traffic fest (yes, it was the worst traffic of the trip). To top that off, the tolls are outrageous when you are towing a trailer. I probably dropped about $20-25 in the area right around Chicago.

I just got back from the South Bend Regional Airport where I picked up Francis, my son and co-driver. We'll be joined at the hip for the next 8 days of automotive fun and mayhem.

Mileage today: 570
Mileage to date: 2,202
Wildlife seen: 1 osprey (also, I forgot to add that yesterday I saw a wild turkey and Tuesday I saw 6 pronghorn antelope and a crane (I think it was a sandhill crane but am not sure).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Racin':Driving to South Bend: Day 2, Billings to Esko

Not much excitement today, just a lot of time in the car.

I got up at 5 and was on the road with breakfast in a Mickey D's bag by 5:50. Before I got going I checked the fault codes in the computer. I had misfires on 4 different cylinders; 1, 2, 3, and 4. I also had an oxygen sensor (pre catalytic converter) limit on cylinders 1-3 and 4-6 (which makes sense with all the misfires). Nothing much to do about it at this point, just keep an eye on it I guess. I did put that one bottle of fuel injector cleaner in the gas tank yesterday. I'll do another one tomorrow, or maybe wait a couple days and do it.

I drove 829 miles in about 12.5 hours and am now in Esko, Minnesota at my sister and brother-in-law's house. Normally when I'm driving to One Lap, the weather is good enough for me to roll with the top down. So far, the top has been up almost the whole time. Yesterday, it was raining off and on all day. Today was the same. When I got to Moorehead (first city in Minnesota across the Red River from Fargo, North Dakota) I put the top down as I finished getting gas. That lasted for about 50 miles. Up ahead as I drove east on Highway 10 I could see dark grey clouds. I figured that I would be getting rained on soon, so I pulled over and put the top back up.

10 minutes later I was driving through a snowstorm. Then I remembered, "Oh, yeah. I'm in Minnesota. It snows on Mother's Day sometimes." Still, it made me nervous. Even though the road stayed bare and wet, you never really know what the traction is like until you lose it. Not cool, especially when towing a fairly heavy trailer. The snow kept up through most of central Minnesota and turned to rain as I approached the Duluth area. My sister, Mary, and I went out for a bit and as we returned to her house, it started snowing here. As long as it doesn't stick, I'll be ok.

Mileage total: 1,632
Wildlife seen today: 3 bald eagles, 5 pronghorn antelope, many hawks hunting by the highway, wild Canada geese (not like those fat, tame ones around Greenlake in Seattle)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Racin': Driving to South Bend: Day 1, Seattle to Billings

Got to bed last night at 11:30 after packing the trailer and working on the headlights with Francis (one was burnt out, the other had to be aimed better). I got up at 3:00 a.m. so that I could get out of the house by 4:00. I wanted to get to Missoula, Montana in time for lunch with our other son, Walter, who goes to school at U of M there. I got there, but it took some doing!

Everything seemed fine as I headed east on I-90 out of the Puget Sound lowlands and into the Cascades. It started to snow just before Snoqualmie Pass which made me a bit nervous because I have high-performance summer tires on the car and they are as wide as steamrollers, not the best for driving in snow. In addition the rubber compound in the tires is meant to work in the Spring, Summer and Fall. In the cold it gets quite hard. Luckily the air temperatures were not that cold. I hit snow several more times during the day, but the roads stayed bare and wet, so it was quite safe.

On the way up to Snoqualmie Pass, the car started running really rough and immediately threw a Check Engine light. The car felt like it did the time I blew a head gasket, with two cylinders not firing properly. If I blew a head gasket, my One Lap adventure would be over practically before it had gotten started. I was seriously worried. This time, it felt like only one cylinder had dropped out. I started to come down the other side of the Pass and pulled off the highway at Cle Elum to take a look. I shut the car off and restarted it and it ran on all 6 cylinders. Yay! I still have to pull out my code reader and take a look at what faults are stored in the computer, but will probably do that tomorrow morning before I take off.

The next bit of excitement occured at the first gas stop. I decided to push all the way to Ritzville, forsaking all the open gas stations at Moses Lake. I have this thing about getting the most out of every tank of gas. I want to keep driving as long as possible and stop as infrequently as possible. Pushing gas stops helps me do that, but it can make things nerve wracking on occasion, like this morning. When the Reserve light comes on, I know that I have about 30 miles before the tank runs dry. When the light came on, I was passing a mileage sign; Ritzville 31 miles. I knew that if I got there, I would be running on fumes. I wasn't actually all that worried because Francis and I had put a 6 gallon container of gas in the trailer, but it is a bit of a pain to do it on the side of the road if you don't have to.

Anyway, as I was pulling in to the Shell station in Ritzville, the engine coughed. I had just made it. The Roadster drank 13.298 gallons of premium. The specifications in the owner's manual say that the tank capacity is 13.2 gallons including the reserve. I guess the extra .098 gallons went into the filler neck. That is cutting it much to close and I have modified my behavior somewhat. The worst part of this is that the car got 17.19 mpg on that first tank. The trailer is extra heavy this year will all sorts of tools and stuff. Probably too heavy, but there's not much to do about that except to consume the consumables as quickly as possible. We have a cooler strapped to the tongue of the trailer with 36 Diet Pepsi s and 30 16 oz Talking Rains. That's about 57 pounds of liquids, not counting the ice! Guess I'd better start drinking.

Across the street from the Shell station is a Starbucks. I had finished my morning coffee brewed at home and was ready for another, so I drove across the street and into the parking lot. As I did, the wheels on the trailer locked up. They shouldn't as they are just spinning freely on the axles, so I got out to look. The passenger side trailer tire was wedged against the back frame and the driver's side tire was wedged against the front frame. The curbing on that street in Ritzville is very steep. I must have hit it at an angle and twisted the axle on the leaf springs. I dragged the trailer forward into the parking lot and got to work.

I could see that all I had to do was jack up the trailer, loosen the bolts holding the axle to the leaf spring via two big U shaped bolts and then move one wheel forward and the other wheel back. It took about an hour to get that done, but I did get it done. Those bolts are really tight now. I rewarded myself with the Americano that I had been wanting since earlier.

I was pretty nervous getting back on the highway and up to speed, but everything seems to be holding together well. I've put almost 600 miles on since the repair. Of course I am obsessively checking it each time I stop for gas or food or whatever, but it is holding up so far.

I called Francis to let him know about the Check Engine light and the trailer snafu. He was impressed with the way I McGyvered the axle. Later in the morning, he called me and suggested that I run some fuel injector cleaner through the motor. I've never done that before and now that this supercharged S52 motor has 203,000+ miles on it, maybe it's about time. I picked up some at an auto parts store in Missoula after lunch with Walter at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries and put it in at my next gas stop in Butte. Gas mileage had been in the 17s all day; very depressing. The tank with the injector cleaner came in at 19.25 mpg! God, I hope that continues.

I'm in a Motel 6 in West Missoula and am going to bed soon. I've traveled 803 miles today and have another 800 mile day in front of me tomorrow if I am going to get to my sister and brother-in-law's house in Esko, Minnesota as planned. Going to get started at about 5:00, so I'd better get to bed soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Racin': Preparing to Leave for One Lap of America 2011

The past week has been full of preparations for One Lap of America 2011.

The Roadster spent last week at Car Tender getting its needs attended to; new tie rods, new front hubs and bearings, new front brake rotors, rebuilt front brake calipers, a new pulley/tensioner assembly for the supercharger belt and a new blower belt as well, new front wheels and four brand new Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. It was not a cheap week to be the owner of the Roadster.

The trailer is getting refurbished as well. Francis has been doing all of the work on that. He made sure that all of the lights work, paying particular attention to the grounds for them and buying a just-in-case replacement set (guaranteeing that we would not need them). New Bearing Buddies on the wheels will ensure that there is always grease in the bearings (no more road side repairs at 8 pm on a Sunday night in Oklahoma, thank you very much.). In addition, he raised the spring perches in the back so that we would have more tire clearance when the trailer is heavily loaded.

I'm going to leave work early today and do a final bit of shopping for stuff for the road and then go home to pack the trailer and my bag for 18 days on the road. I expect that by the time May 13th rolls around and I am back in Seattle, I will have covered about 10,000 miles. I'll be writing posts from the road.

I leave tomorrow morning at 4:00 a.m. heading east. I'm going to stop in Missoula, Montana for lunch with Walter and then end the day in Billings.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Readin': G-Dog and the Homeboys

After reading Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle, S.J., I wanted to read that book's predecessor, G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles by Celeste Fremon. The first edition was published in 1995. The new edition that I read had been updated with an Introduction and Epilogue by Celeste written in 2008, along with a forward by Tom Brokaw.

Ms. Fremon originally intended to write a simple Sunday magazine article on Greg Boyle. She became so interested in what he was doing, and eventually, so involved in it, that she came to write G-Dog. It is an extraordinary work as it portrays East L. A. Mexican-American gang members, not as the monsters they are characterized as in the news, but as the human beings they are in all their flaws and glory.

It is obvious to me that she gained these people's trust because the interviews in the book are extraordinary. The general structure of the book is a chronology of the work Father Boyle did over 6 years in East L. A.. At the end of many of the chapters there is a break and then a first-person narrative by one of the young men or women she had come to know. These are probably the most heartbreaking parts of the book. They speak with such honesty and in so many cases with so little hope. I found myself wanting to reach out to them to give them the boost up and out that they needed. I also knew that most of what was written happened 15 or more years in the past, so that lots of life had happened to them since then.

In her Epilogue, Ms. Fremon is eloquent and factual about what will work to fix the gang problem. It is not the standard societal response of more prisons and tougher sentencing; all that does is perpetuate the problem. The fix is harder, but so much more worthwhile; it involves making a commitment to work with these people and put in place the structures that will help them to build resilience in their lives. I don't intend to rewrite the book here, it is all very well done and said much more eloquently than I could manage. I found her arguments to be sane, evidence based and profoundly sensible.

I know that a long-term commitment to people is what is needed to help them break cycles of poverty, intergenerational abuse, and long term traumatic stress. I can only hope that more people with the ability to offer help will actually do so. G-Dog and the Homeboys is proof that this approach works, as long as there are structures in place to make it work.

Readin': Two Books by Tarquin Hall

I've recently finished two books by Tarquin Hall, The Case of the Missing Servant, and The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.The books are mysteries and they share a protagonist, Mr. Vish Puri, founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd. The stories are set in India. Mr. Puri lives in Delhi, actually what was once a rural suburb that has been swallowed up by the city as it expanded.

Vish Puri, as a private investigator spends most of his time on marriage cases. In India with all its arranged marriages, there is a need, as the society expands, for someone to be able to vet a possible marriage partner. In the past when village life was slower and everyone known, it was easier for families to do it on their own. Now that things have expanded and mixed to a great degree, that is no longer possible. Vish Puri serves that need.

Each of the books sets up a devilishly deceptive case well beyond the standard matrimonial investigation. In each Mr. Puri makes use of the many operatives that he has working for him. They all have interesting nicknames that he has given them; Tubelight, Facecream, Flush, Handbrake, and Door Stop (the lazy office boy).

The country of India and its inhabitants are as much a character in the stories as anything else and it all rings very true. Mr. Puri is of Punjab descent and I am beginning, now that I have finished the second book, to be able to read without constant reference to the glossary for the names of foods, rituals, and small common expressions. In fact, I now know a couple of swear words in Punjab!

In each book, Vish Puri is able to untangle what seems to be an impossibly difficult puzzle with persistence, a remarkable ability to disguise himself, his many operatives, and an extraordinary understanding of human nature. Each book is quite satisfying and stands on its own; no need to have read the first in order to enjoy the second.

The books are relatively recent. I hope that Tarquin Hall is hard at work on a third Vish Puri mystery, as I await it with eager anticipation. Let's hope that Vish has a long run as a character; I quite enjoy him.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Racin': Videos of The Rolex 24 at Daytona

Last weekend, Francis and I journeyed to Daytona Beach, Florida and Daytona Speedway for the 49th running of the annual, season-beginning sports car race. We left Seattle late Thursday night and arrived in Orlando around 7 a.m. on Friday, picked up our rental car and drove about an hour north to Daytona Beach. We spent much time walking around the Speedway which is truly immense. Once you see the videos you'll have an idea of just how huge it is.

On Friday afternoon they held the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a race for two different classes of cars; Street Touring and Grand Sport (the hotter of the two). The race was either 2.5 or 3 hours long, I can't remember which. I also had not yet remembered that my Flip Mino HD was in the pocket of my vest, so there are no videos of that race.

We checked in at our hotel on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores after the race. It was fantastic. Right on the beach with nothing between us and the sand except for a patio with a hot tub and swimming pool built into it.

Saturday morning the weather was absolutely gorgeous; mid- to high-60s, no clouds and bright blue sky. There was a whole bunch of racing related stuff going on at the track, so we got there around 10 am. Little did Francis know that we wouldn't be leaving for another 13 hours! This was my third time at the Rolex 24, so I knew what a cool phenomenon a 24 hour race is; he had yet to learn.

For a good portion of the day we sat very high in the main grandstands, almost on the Start/Finish line and just 5 or 6 rows under the suites. All of the videos are taken from that vantage point. You can get a sense of just how big the place is when you see the videos. The main NASCAR oval is 2.5 miles around. The Rolex 24 uses all but about 100 yards of the track, but adds a long infield section for a 3.56 mile total lap length.

The first video was shot on Saturday afternoon after a full-course yellow (caution). The field gets all bunched up behind the pace car and as they come off NASCAR Turn 4 and onto the front straight, the pace car dives into pit lane and the field goes roaring by. Turn your sound way up and you'll get a sense of just how loud those suckers are!

The next video is also of a restart, this one taking place on Saturday night after another full course caution. I stayed with the lead car for a long portion of the complete lap so you could get an idea of how fast they are going and how big the track really is (and also how excellent our seats were).

The last video is the most unusual one of the trio. Every year during the running of the Rolex 24 at about 10 or 10:30 p.m. they have a fireworks show. It's not all that long (and I didn't capture the very beginning of it), but it's a pretty high quality show and it's all going on while the racers are screaming by at 160+ miles an hour on the back straight. The shoot the fireworks off from the middle of Lake Lloyd. I don't know if you noticed in the two earlier videos, but there is a lake, a 24 acre lake, along one side of the Daytona infield. When they originally built the track, they dug all the dirt to support the 31 degree banking in turns 1 -4 from the middle of the track. Once they saw the size of the hole, they decided to fill it with water. The lake is actually large enough for them to hold water skiing shows on (and they do). Anyway, the fireworks are cool and just a bit bizarre.

About a half hour later, after 13 hours at the track, Francis and I went back to our hotel and grabbed about 6 hours sleep. Sunday's weather was even better, being a bit warmer and with a bit less breeze. We returned to the track around 8 am after checking out of our hotel and still had 7.5 hours of racing left to watch. We only got to see 6.5 hours of it because we knew that we had to leave enough time to drive to and navigate the Orlando Airport for our 6 pm flight. The Rolex 24 is a cool event. I think Francis may be addicted; I know I am.

The really cool thing is that we get to run on that track in that configuration during One Lap of America 2011 in early May. I'll write more about One Lap in future posts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Readin': Tatoos on the Heart

Fr. Greg Boyle has written an incredible book. It has been a while since a reading a book has affected me so often. I found myself tearing up over and over again reading the stories of his experiences in the Los Angeles projects.

Boyle has been a Jesuit priest for 25 years and has spent most of his time in and around the same parish in L A situated between two housing projects, home to many of the gangs. He started an organization called Homeboy Industries whose motto is, "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." The organization gives jobs to as many gang related individuals as they can and helps them up and out.

The book, subtitled The Power of Boundless Compassion, is astonishing. In it, Fr. Boyle explains his ministry, and by extension, our call to ministry in eloquent, poetic terms. The book is truly inspiring and one whose impact will be with me for a long time. His theology is sound, compassionate and grounded. He illustrates his points with stories of his homies and the experiences he has had with them. I read it for the stories to begin with, but realized shortly after beginning that this was an intensely spiritual work. It should give anyone who is struggling with work in what may appear to be a hopeless situation the fortitude to persevere. I know it has inspired me to look at my life and what I do with it in a new way.

A life-changing book, if you let it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hoops: Dawg Bites Wildcat; UW 85 - U of Arizona 68

Last night's game at the newly renamed Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundsen Pavilion proved to be as good a game as many people predicted. With UW at #1 and UA at #2 in the Pac-10, it promised to be a good one.

It was.

The game was tight for much of the time with the Huskies generally keeping a 5-8 point lead, but letting it dwindle down a couple of times and even having Arizona get ahead a few times. With about 5 minutes left in the game, UW started pulling away, eventually winning by 17.

Isaiah Thomas (22), Justin Holiday (22), and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (18) proved their worth once again as they combined for 62 of UW's points. IT and MBA seem almost hard-wired together they are playing so well. Several of Zeke's assists were aimed right at MBA and he delivered each time. Two assists come to mind; both alley-oop passes. The first, to MBA floated high to the right of the hoop as MBA grabbed it in his right hand and thundered it down. The second went to Venoy Overton, which was, in itself, quite a surprise. With V coming in from the left baseline, IT hung the ball up to the left of the rim. V grabbed it with both hands and flushed it down. Both moves brought the raucous crowd to their feet.

Arizona is a good team. One tactic they used well that I thought should have been called more closely though, is their screening. I have nothing against a team that sets a good hard pick on an opposing player. That's an essential part of the game and one that every good team must learn to cope with. What I have a problem with is when the screening player moves with the defender after the pick to continue keeping them out of the play. This gives an unfair advantage to the offense because the defense is now playing4 on 5 with one player completely screened out. From my vantage point, that's what Arizona was doing very effectively. Maybe I'm becoming a UW homer, but I don't think we do the same thing when we're on offense. Our picks are clean and we use them well, both on the ball and away from the ball to get shooters free.

Anyway, it was a great game. Well played by both teams.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Readin': The First Rule

I have a weakness for what I consider to be literary popcorn; the modern detective novel. I tend to go through them relatively quickly, usually just 1 or 2 sittings. As a result, I almost never buy them in hardback, only paper.

My latest read has been The First Rule by Robert Crais. Mr Crais has a series of books out whose main character is a wise guy private eye (my favorite kind, along the lines of Robert Parker's Spencer and Marcus Didius Falco in Lindsay Davis' series) by the name of Elvis Cole. Elvis has a partner in his Los Angeles-based detective agency named Joe Pike. Joe is the sidekick Elvis needs when the going gets rough, sort of like Hawk is to Spencer.

Mr. Crais has started writing books that feature Joe Pike as the main character with Elvis serving as sidekick when there's some detecting to be done (Joe is more of a doer than a detector). The First Rule is the second Joe Pike novel. The third, The Sentry is already out in hardback, but I'll either have to wait a year for the paperback or get it from the library. I just can't justify $25+ for such a short read.

Joe is a man of action; a former Marine, former mercenary, former L.A. cop. He has been described by another reviewer as " a Zen warrior-priest" and that seems a pretty accurate assessment. He's entirely self sufficient, deadly with weapons or without, and a truly decent guy. One thing I really like about Crais' writing is that his characters are real and believable. I end up caring a lot about Joe and Elvis because I have witnessed them do so many good things whether those things get rewarded or not.

The First Rule tells the story of what happens after one of "Joe's guys", a former mercenary that Joe hadn't seen in 10 years, is executed (along with his whole family) in a home invasion. Joe gets involved and gets to the bottom of it, but not before running into the Serbian gangs, the ATF, and a plot to get 3,000 AK-47s into the country.

I love Joe's sense of loyalty and his willingness to put everything on the line in order to find out what went wrong in Frank's life and make sure that justice is served. The ending is quite surprising, but also very satisfying. The bad guys get it, in the end and the good guys come out ahead. We get to see a surprisingly tender side of Joe in his relations with a 10 month-old that is a part of the story.

A very satisfying and recommended read. If you haven't every read anything by Robert Crais, I probably wouldn't start with this one, but you could as it stands on its own well.

When I read an author, especially if they have a series of books, I like to start at the beginning and then move through the books in chronological order of publication because then you can see how the author develops all of the individual characters over time. Also, so of the little references made to previous adventures become much richer if you have already read those.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Raisin' Fish: The cycle starts again

This morning at 8:30 I picked up 70,000 coho salmon eggs from the Skykomish river strain at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's Issaquah Hatchery. I brought them back to Lake Forest Park and McAleer Creek and Francis and I loaded them all into the incubator. For a video overview of the process, scroll down a couple of posts for the 4 videos I put up a couple of weeks ago. The middle two will give you a good idea of what we did today.

Now the daily vigilance of checking the outlet pipe of the incubator begins. As long as there is water flowing out there, then there is water flowing through the system. The eggs should hatch in the next couple of weeks. From there it'll be another 3.5 months (more or less) until they are ready to release. The whole process is driven by the temperature of the water that the eggs/alevin/fry are in. The warmer the water, the faster they grow. Of course, the colder the water is, the more oxygen it carries, so there is a balance to be achieved there (not that I can really do anything about the temperature of McAleer Creek beyond making sure that we have lots of overhanging vegetation to shade it so it won't heat up unnecessarily).

I love working in the water with the little fishes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Readin': Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand is a great writer. She writes non-fiction that reads as well as any novel. Her first book was Seabiscuit in 2000. That book was quite popular and very good. It eventually got made into a movie and rightly so. Because she can tell a story clearly and well, because she is able to bring the characters in her stories to life in a way that makes us care about them, because she is able to convey the inherent drama in the story she is telling; her books already read like a movie script.

Her latest book, Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is no different. The main focus of the book is Louis Zemperrini. Louie was a boyhood hooligan and an Olympic runner who came close to breaking (and perhaps would have had things been different) the 4:00 minute mile barrier. He ran in the 1936 Olympics in the 5,000 meter race as a 19-year-old against 26-30 year olds and placed fourth. It was only the fourth time he had run a race at that distance.

World War II intervened. Louie became a bombardier in the Army Air Force, the precursor to the USAF. He was aboard a B-24 that crashed in the Pacific while looking for another plane that had gone down. He and the other two survivors spent 47 days on an inflatable raft, longer than any humans had. At the end of that, they were, unfortunately, picked up by a Japanese boat. Louie spent the next 2 1/2 years in various Japanese POW camps.

Unbroken is a brutal, hopeful, magnificent book. After reading it, I have so much admiration for what people are able to overcome. Louie had a hard time for several years after returning to the US, but in the end made it. He's still alive, at least he was at the time the book was written.

Reading either of Laura's books is a sure bet. They are both awesome.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hoops: Dawg Bites Duck, UW87 - UofOregon 69

Last night's game at Hec Edmundon Arena was bittersweet. Bitter because Abdul Gaddy will not be playing the rest of the season; sweet because Terrence Ross absolutely torched the Ducks he was so hot.

It was easy to see that the team misses Abdul. He was sitting on the bench in street clothes where he'll be for the rest of the season after tearing his left ACL in practice on Wednesday. He provides such a calming influence when he's running the point. You could see the Dawgs were in need of some calming during the first half. We shot pretty poorly (17-38, 48%) which allowed Oregon to stay close, ending the half up 39 - 33. Our poor shooting had little to do with Oregon's defense; it seemed like we were rushing things. Abdul would have calmed that down.

The second half was a different story, though it didn't look that way at the beginning. The Oregon Ducks came out with a lot of intensity and actually led the game at one point; 42-21 with about 2 minutes elapsed in the half. The lead traded back and forth for about 5 minutes with the Ducks staying in it well during that period. However, they could not sustain that intensity. At the 13:31 mark we pulled ahead on a 3-pointer by Scott Suggs and then motored steadily away, finished up with a cushion of 18 points.

Isaiah Thomas (20) and Terrence Ross (25) combined for 45 points, most of them in the second half. At one point Zeke was bringing the ball up court, drifting just left of center. From the far right corner TR flashed his hand up and took off for the hoop, slashing quickly across the court. Isaiah let a pass fly high, Terrence gathered it in and thundered home an awesome alley-oop dunk. Beautiful stuff to watch. Terrence had his best game yet. He sure doesn't play like a freshman, even though he is. I'd imagine he's going to be getting alot of those minutes that used to go to Abdul.

MBA had another solid game; 13 points, two blocks, and 8 rebounds. Scott Suggs chipped in 13 on 5-8 shooting; 3 of 5 from 3 point range. Justin Holiday had 7 and Darnell Gant had 4. Venoy Overton started the game in Abdul Gaddy's place, but he seemed oddly ineffective as a starter. He's been at his best coming off the bench and getting into the head of the man he's defending. I'm guessing it's going to take him some time to adjust to this new role. I hope he gets the time to make the adjustment.

Although I am a U of Oregon graduate (Masters in Computer Science-Education in 1986) I found that at no time during the game did I find myself rooting for the Ducks. From the beginning I pulled for the Huskies. Odd how loyalty to a team works.

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.