King of the Mountain

Right after Cisco Live I packed the car and headed out for Colorado. I loaded up the tent, sleeping bag, backpack, and general provisions for driving a 30+ year old car a long distance. Honestly I’m pretty impressed that RubySu and I made it all the way out to Pike’s Peak and back. When driving an old and somewhat sketchy car your expectations and plans have to be pretty flexible. You’re encouraged to pull off to the side to take in the scenery…while the car cools down for a bit. You learn to get out of life’s fast lane and take it all in…because in this car there is no fast lane. It’s a bit of a trip back in time; in my case to the time before the invention of A/C. I think our parents and grandparents had a lot more reason to hate driving across Kansas than any of us do today. 100+ degree temperatures in a metal box scooting across the prairie can make even nun want to kick the habit. As Calvin’s dad would say, “It helps build character”. In these circumstances you learn how to react to emergencies and inconveniences with a much cooler head. Now I know what to do when my car is billowing smoke out the exhaust when coming down a few thousand feet of elevation…nothing. That makes the car guy in me cringe, but in this situation I just had to hope it stopped when I hit Kansas. It did and she ran like a top all the rest of the way home. (I just found out today that someone from JHA actually saw me somewhere near Colorado Springs tending to my car.)

I drove to Pike’s Peak for the chance of a lifetime. I went to see one thing; Sebastian Loeb become King of the Mountain. I truly think you’d have a hard time finding someone better suited to take on the Peak. Seb is the ultimate rally driver, he knows how to push his cars to the absolute limit of control and no further. He’s been perfecting his skills for years in the WRC and he out performs everyone in both speed and consistency. He especially excels on tarmac courses and is backed by a company extremely motivated to take back the mountain. One of the attributes I like about drivers in the WRC is that there is an air of humility about them. I think it’s because each of them know that at any moment the slightest mistake or mechanical failure could cost them the race. Rally races are as much about endurance as they are about speed. Knowing when to push and when to pull back. This is why Seb is uniquely prepared for this race. It’s a different type of race than we traditionally see in the states and so we don’t have home grown competitors able to compete at the same level. If we devoted more time and interest to this sort of racing it’s not unreasonable to think that we could produce a few top notch drivers to compete. However, even then I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see a driver better suited for this challenge than Monsieur Loeb.

And he did it. Loeb conquered the mountain in an amazing 8 minutes and 13 seconds. It’s hard to find a frame of reference for how amazing this feat truly is when looking at past races. Making comparisons between years isn’t particularly fruitful because the race course has evolved slowly from all gravel to all tarmac. Each year as more tarmac is added times naturally improve. Comparisons should only be made between years when the course has been the same. 2012 and 2013 are the first two years entirely on paved roads. However, you also have to consider weather conditions. Last year I heard there was rain near the top which resulted in slower times. So the full minute and a half difference between this year and the last isn’t quite the full story. For a better perspective Pike’s Peak 2012 record setting driver Rhys Millen had an impressive run this year at 9:02, but was still a full 49 seconds behind Loeb.

It’s hard to say how long Loeb’s time will stand and allow him to retain the king’s crown. I’d like to think a very long time, but I’m pretty biased because of my love for rally racing. Who knows, maybe it’ll stand until I race Sweet Pea up the mountain to claim the crown.

I’ve also got a few pictures from my adventures at Gatorland. We went there one evening during Cisco Live.

Rally America 2013 100 Acre Woods Rally

This is my first attempt to provide a Rally Guide for spectators of the 100 Acre Woods Rally. I hope this information can be used to help plan your trip, set your expectations and familiarize you with the area.

This event happens around the third weekend in February and is part of the national Rally America circuit. People come from as far away as Michigan, New York and Texas just to be a spectator for this event. Big names like Ken Block and Travis Pastrana regularly show up for this woodland adventure. Newer Subarus, Mitsubishi, and Fords make up the front of the pack, but it also attracts some older vintage cars; Volvo 242s, late 60s VW Bugs, Saab 96, and Datsun 510s. Potosi hosts the super special in the park which is a short track preview of what can be seen out in the woods. The Parc Expose in Salem on Saturday morning will be the perfect chance to see all the cars up close and possibly get some autographs signed. Weather for this event is varied. We’ve seen snow covered roads, years with so much rain that some stages are washed out or canceled, and in 2012 extremely dusty conditions. About the only thing that remains constant is the cold…and it can get cold. Stages are run during the day and up until about 8 or 9 at night. One of the highlights for me has always been the Polish fans that come down to support the Art Logistics drivers. They’re always very animated and help liven up the stages by waving Polish flags and singing. Essential to enjoying these events is coming ready to have fun and all of our Polish fans are well aware of this.

Spectator Points
There are multiple spectator points Friday and Saturday. Generally though you won’t be able to see every point and it’s a good idea to pick out two for Friday and possibly three for Saturday.  It takes between 30-45 minutes to travel between some of these stages and depending on when the start times are it can be tough to make it between consecutive stages. Many of the spectator points are run twice over the course of the weekend and it looks like  they’ve tried to stagger the stage times a bit  to allow spectators to travel between different locations. Just don’t get caught trying to squeeze it all in and miss the stages altogether.  After you’ve arrived it is essential that your cars are only parked along one side of the road. This will help make room for emergency vehicles. You’ll want to drive in and turn your car around so you can make a quick exit after it’s over. These are smaller country roads and are almost entirely dirt and gravel. If it rains the ditches can be quite soft; don’t get stuck. Be prepared to walk quite a ways up to the spectating area. How early you arrive will determine how close you can park.

At the spectator point the road marshals will have caution tape setup to specify where you can and can’t go. They’ll indicate whether you can cross the road and at what times. If the crowd gets out of hand or unruly it is within the marshal’s power to cancel the stage. Double Zero and Zero cars will precede the racers down the track to alert everyone that the stage is about to start. Before these cars arrive make sure you’re in the spot that you want to be. You will not be allowed to cross the road after these cars go by. Show up early for the stages and you’ll get a great spot. If the area is filling up respectfully ask if it would be possible to extend the caution tape further to allow for more front row viewing. Getting nasty gets you no where.

Items to bring
1. Noisemakers!!! When those cars come screaming around the corner its great to cheer them on by making some noise. Air horns, cow bells, shofars, and anything else you’ve got that makes noise will work.
2. A small cooler is perfect because you’ll be out in the woods for a couple hours at a time. Stash away food and drink. We’ve seen one or two stages where local school booster clubs will be selling hot dogs and drinks, but it’s never a guarantee.
3. Lawn chairs and stools come in handy while you’re sitting in the woods. I’ve even seen short step ladders used to help give photographers a better view of the race.
4. Cameras are great to help you capture these amazing cars emerging from the woods and flying by you at break neck speed. Make sure your camera settings are dialed in for outdoor lighting and fast moving objects. Cameras that can take multiple shots in quick succession come in very handy. If you have a zoom lens then break it out. However, be aware that lots of dust and rock can be kicked up by these cars.
5. Warm clothes are very important; especially after dark when the temperatures begin to drop rapidly. You’ll thank yourself for dressing in wool socks and windproof garments.
6. TP…just in case. A few points will have porta-johns, but I’d be prepared all the same.

Spectator Points A, C, D, E, & F

Overview

Honda, truck, Fiat, Honda truck, hitchhike, push, walk, tow, Fiat, Honda

Well to be a traveling beard you have to do as the name implies, travel. As of late though my mode of transportation has been less than reliable from week to week. While battling problems with the Honda I’ve had to rely heavily upon the Fiat to fill in the gaps. However it has had it’s own problems too. We drove it up to watch the Rally races at the end of February in Salem, Rolla, Steelville area and she drove like a dream the whole way up. We even got pulled over for speeding by the highpo. Speeding in a car with 50 horsepower, it can be done. The second day though while we were winding our way into the back woods it started to cut out and bog down. This is not a good development on a one lane dirt road that curves unexpectedly, crosses rivers and the altitude climbs and drops dramatically while being followed by scores of other cars on their way to the spectator points. Fortunately it held out enough to make it into and out of the first stage of the day, but on our way to the next stage and after having more problems we decided to cut our loses and head home. We didn’t feel like taking the risk of getting stuck in the way of spectators and rally cars alike in the back woods of central Missouri. Good call. About 5-10 minutes outside of Rolla the Fiat rolled to a halt. Nothing we could do could coax her back to life. Dad and I walked a few miles up to a gas station and called home. Between calling and being picked a few hours later up we ran into Henry. Let me tell you Henry is a good guy to run into if your car is on the fritz. He helped tow the car back up to the gas station and even helped us do enough preliminary troubleshooting to get the car running again, albeit roughly. And then even after he left Henry was still on the job checking car manuals and the local parts stores to try and help us out. You couldn’t ask for a better person to cross paths with. The next day we came back up and towed her home. I then spent the next 5 hours working with the distributor, coil and timing to try and resurrect life into this fallen beauty…nothing. Well I can’t say nothing, there was a whole lot of frustration and confusion(and probably swearing) about what was the true root of the issue. A week later with a clear head and a fresh outlook I got everything set back to its proper state and even drove around town without a problem. Then about the time the automatic choke warmed all the way up though(that’s the closest I can figure) the car started behaving poorly again. I limped her back home and later on in the week went to remove the carburetor to order a rebuild kit and while taking it off the intake manifold I noticed a few loose jet screws on the top of the carb. After tightening these back down whoa black betty bam-a-lam and everything is back in working order. Strangly though the exhaust expansion chamber in the meantime has developed quite the embarrassing rattle, bad enough to try running without a muffler for a little while. While sounding super cool it is just a bit too loud for even me to handle so back on it went. At least she’s running though…for now. Then finally today my honda woes are at an end. After replacing basically all the front end suspension components, motor mounts and then having Honda re-replace the axle shafts that a local shop had done already then voila no more violent shaking car.

I don’t know what I’ll do now that I have two fully functional cars again. Hopefully stop dropping cash into a bottomless bucket long enough to get the land that I’ve been looking at purchased and a home build started. I say home, but the term I favor is Harage. That’s a house collapsed and merged together with a garage. Work areas that flow together with and are an unseparated part of the rest the house. In my mind this is a way to merge relaxation space with project space allowing use of the whole house with minimal disruption to flow, maximum use of resources across spaces, a warm shop area to work in, the ability for people that don’t care to get their hands dirty with a project to still come over and hang out in comfort, and enjoy the media benefits in the home while working on a project. It also facilitates a constant reminder and opportunity to work on your current project because it is basically sitting in your front room. 20 acres, a harage and a slew of Fiats to work on. Is there a better dream? Well there probably is, but for now this is the goal ahead of me.

WRC to Sufjan

If the WRC came to the US where would an epic location be for it to be hosted?
Grand Canyon? Tennessee/Kentucky hills? Death Valley? I feel like championing this cause, but if a bad location produces a poor turn out then that’s it. It’d be years before they even thought about trying it again. Could we even pull it off in the states? We already have so many spectator restrictions and low turn out(in comparison) for our Rally America that I can’t imagine we could produce a turn out for the international drivers that they’ve grown used to elsewhere. Kudos to Ken Block for sticking to a second season in the WRC too. He had a tough year, but is giving it another go. Why didn’t Travis Pastrana make the switch over? He’s shown the most potential and put in a number of years at the top of the pack, but instead of crossing over to the big leagues this year he choose to defect to NASCAR. I mean seriously Pastrana, NASCAR? That’s not quite the edgy type of motor sport that we’re used to seeing you compete in. Sure you would have been competing with the likes of Loeb, Latvala and Solberg, but the determination and drive that you use to push anything on two or four wheels to the limits may have proved a match. You were crucial to our hope for rally to have a resurgence in the states, but now you’ve thrown in the towel with a sport arguably more boring to watch than the PGA tour. Where’s your lust for thrill and excitement now?

But I digress, and probably into complete randomness.

Driving the Fiat has been quite an adventure. It snowed last week after I’d just outfitted new tires onto the old steel rims and so I’ve been driving it around through all of the snow and ice. It gets around amazingly well for such a little guy and minus a couple minor situations that I was able to rock myself out of it didn’t get stuck at all in the snow. If you were one of the lucky spectators you may have seen me sporting a rad blue motorcycle helmet and ski goggles drifting around town at speeds in excess of most 4×4 trucks and the occasional sporty Subaru.

Also last night I had a dream that I was in a large choral ensemble singing Vesuvius from Sufjan Steven’s latests album The Age of Adz(pronounced odds). It’s pretty ridiculous how great his new album is. If you think you knew what he was capable of before or if you’d drawn a box around Sufjan and marked it indie folksy hipster then get out your magic marker and cross out folksy and insert 80s tronic. Ok so not much of a stretch, but it’s quite a deviation from his previous work. I’ve been a fan since ’04 and was pretty used to his old material so you’d think the new album with its electro-synth experimentation would be lost on me. It fits quite well though and seeing his music mature and expand into new areas has been quite fulfilling even for the spectator. I went to see him at the Uptown Theater in KC a few months ago unsure of what would await me there. Three words, ‘Beards and Boots’. When the king of all hipsters calls a convention his followers turn out in droves to show their support. In tribute to his older material on the album Seven Swans he started out the show with a climactic banjo driven rock version of the title with the same name. It was incredible. You’d never be able to guess the the depth and room available to push and drive the song to such new heights. The concert then proceeded into another hour and a half of digital and analog give and take. From song to song he’d demonstrate his prowess to fill the expansive hall with such large tones and melody that you’d think the whole world had to be dancing along with you. Then the advancing tide would draw back to the sea and the intimacy of his music would convince you that he was playing just for you. With a build up from incredible MUTEMATH, Murder by Death and Phoenix shows earlier in the year this was a fitting Zenith for my 2010 musical thrill ride. It’ll be interesting to see what 2011 holds.

Via con Dios, I’m off to my spanish class at OTC.

100 Acre Woods Rally

Here’s a quick taste of what my dad and I went to see this weekend around the Salem Missouri area. This was the second race on the national Rally America circuit. The 100 Acre Woods Rally 2010. We met people in from northern Iowa, Fayetteville Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and a few people from Springfield. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more rally wannabe Subarus parked in one place. I had to work hard not to have all wheel drive envy in my measly two-wheel drive civic. The Polish guys during stage 5 whooping, hollering and blowing their air horns almost made this feel like a WRC event…almost. Besides the big dogs Travis Pastrana, Dave Mirra and Kent Block; the highlight turned out to be an unlikely VW Beetle and an older Volvo. I’ll try and peice together some of our video and post it soon so you can get a better idea of the race and skill involved. But for now enjoy the photos.

It’s official…

that I’ve been playing Rallisport Challenge 2 way too much on Xbox lately and it is beginning to effect my driving habits. I’m alive one more day in no small part thanks to the Lord’s great graciousness. He doesn’t always save us from our stupidity, but I’m sure thankful for those extremely noticeable times that he does. I came around a corner after coming up over a crest going about 50 or 55 that goes into a pretty decent little right turn. As I started into the right turn it became pretty immediately apparent that my rate of entry was too fast and I was going to have to slow down to take the corner. So I put a a little bit of the brakes on at which point the rear tires lost grip and decided they wanted to switch places with the front tires and so came around to the left to do so. And now I was sliding to the left and backwards towards the trees which were formerly on my right. When I came to rest I was sitting in the same lane looking in the opposite direction with trees on my left instead of on my right where they were a few short seconds before. The neighbors in the area were probably wondering who on earth just died in a horrid car accident, but thankfully no one…this time.

Conclusion:
He has some work for me to do and didn’t want to let me loose yet. And that I should probably be a bit more careful and hold off on the rally driving maneuvers until I’ve had a bit more track time and some tires with a bit more grip.

View Rallisport Eli in a larger map
You’ll have to zoom in on the map to see all three points.

A bunch of random things

A word about the new edition to my family. I flew out to Denver last Thursday to pick up my beautiful new baby Fiat. Well not exactly baby, she’s almost 37 years young. Actually I think her birthday from the manufacturer is coming up here shortly.  A 1972 Fiat 128 with a whooping 50Hp in an 1100cc motor with only 78,000 miles and those cool tires are 1971 MOMO magnesium 13″ rims…I think they’re probably worth more than the car. She was quite a trooper and made the slow drive across Kansas to Springfield in just a shade over 15 hours and it only took something like 7 Red Bulls to make it. Might I just add that’s a long stinking drive to drive straight through. Here’s a few pics when she first came home and a few after I got elbow deep into the dash to clean out wasps nests and misc crapola. I’ve already finished wiringup those cool Hella lights, replaced a rear strut, oil, plugs, fixed the window washer, removed pounds and pounds of wasp nests, and sadly removed the AM/FM radio with it’s 3watt sound speaker…yes the one speaker it had :) Here’s some shots of her and what she’ll eventually become and even a few youtube videos of a couple just like her in the field. Man doesn’t that throaty voice just make you fall in love.

Videos

Yes she even had a lead role in CHIPS during an episode.