We made it

It’s not too many people that get to have their second honeymoon before they’ve been married for a year. Of course it’s not many people that break down in their 33 year old Subaru wagon in the middle of Nebraska, sell it on the spot and have their mother give them a ride home from their first honeymoon either. This trip was rather less eventful then the last attempt. We rented a Mazda from Thrifty that we’ve dubbed “Tiny Van” (must be said in the Fat Albert voice) and decided to revisit beautiful Kearney, Nebraska on the way. We stayed at the Ramada again, ate at Napolis again, and took pictures near the Sapp Bros where we broke down. Ashlee got to cross off two new states from her travel list and we finished the first audio book of Little House on the Prairie…don’t knock it guys it was actually pretty enjoyable to hear about frontier life. Now begins the most relaxing week of our entire life.

Great Scott!

Tonight Ashlee and I had one of the most hilarious experiences I can remember. We went downtown for the movies in the park summer series where they had a free drive-in showing of Back to the Future. After the movie was over everyone was starting to pack up and head out. Since we weren’t in any rush we hadn’t packed up our blanket yet, but quite a few people had already left. Out of the blue a little boy, probably only 5 years old, walked up to us like he was going to say something. When he didn’t say anything I asked if he was looking for his parents. He didn’t reply, but proceeded to lay down on our pillow and blanket. I tried to ask him what his name was, what his mom’s name was, what color car they have, but his only replies were a sheepish, “I don’t know.” About two or three minutes had gone by at this point and I was trying to figure out how to find out some details from him so we could help. Ashlee looked around and noticed a guy that was hurriedly running back and forth franticly looking around where everyone had been sitting. She dashed off across the field to see if he was looking for this little boy. The sense of relief was apparent on his face and he carried off the little tyke to their car.  We laughed all the way home that we almost adopted a little boy tonight.

Bittersweet Farewell

The day finally came to let an old friend pass on. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I haven’t had a car more memorable and fun in my whole life. I first drove her home at 55mph from Denver in a 15 hour straight shot. Your name (a bit of a misnomer) was lovingly given by friends. Together we spent blustery winter nights plowing through new snow. She put the best 4x4s to shame. We traveled to the Rally races to give her a taste of what was in store for her and I. We had a scare when her heart gave out, but I breathed new life into her with a transplant. Time, age and circumstances caught up with us though and we eventually realized we wouldn’t see those dreams materialize. Our time together was short, but meaningful. Farewell Sweet Pea.

Book the First

“When I first met Belloc he remarked to the friend who introduced us that he was in low spirits. His low spirits were and are much more uproarious and enlivening than anybody else’s high spirits. He talked into the night; and left behind in it a glowing track of good things. When I have said that I mean things that are good, and certainly not merely bons mots, I have said all that can be said in the most serious aspect about the man who has made the greatest fight for good things of all the men of my time.”

I read this short passage by GKC the other day and it made me think; am I this sort of man? A man who at my low is still full of life and high spirits. This transition into married life is a lot to get used to. Especially for a person who up to this point has led a very separate life. One in which solitude could be enjoyed at any time. Long hours driving with just my thoughts. Riding my bike late at night through the darkened, silent streets. Adventures that may put me amongst other people, but still allow for the feeling of separateness or isolation. Time alone can definitely be tough, but being thrust into a life without any time alone can be downright brutal. Without that wilderness or alone time I start to feel light headed, overwhelmed and then eventually discouraged. It was at this point of discouragement when I read this passage. I determined at that moment that I don’t have to go down to the depths because I am not a dead man. I have been filled to the brim with life and life abundantly. I have drank from the rock that gives life. This is not a message of personal power or strength of will, just a reminder that I have been recalled to life.

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.

Year of the Beard

I’ve grown facial hair for a long time. I’ve had big civil war style muttonchops, giant goatees, mustaches of various successes, hipster hawks and soul patches. No matter what though the beard always reappears. For some time I’d wondered how long I could grow a beard without any trimming in a single year. Then in November of 2011 a situation came up and the only way I knew how to respond to it was to shave my head and beard. Sort of an Old Testament putting on of sackcloth and ashes response. After that passed over I found myself with the unique opportunity to give myself a beard for my birthday…a BEARDTHDAY if you will. So on December 9th 2011 I made sure I was clean shaven when I went to bed so that I’d have my first birthday present when I woke up. It was time to see just what I could grow unhindered. Over the course of the year I made sure to stop each Friday wherever I was to snap a shot. It was pretty cool to look back at each Friday and see just where I’d visited over the course of a year. Chicago, Colorado, Kentucky, Utah, Kansas, Washington, the Oregon Trail, helping friends move, out on my property, at work in our data centers, driving in my car, out at the movies, visiting my parents or just at home in my apartment. It was an especially rewarding experience because during month four I entered and won my very first beard contest here in Springfield. Later I found out that the best and most unexpected purchase of the year ended up being a pair of five dollar sunglasses. They instantly transformed me into a seriously cooler looking dude as soon as I’d put them on. I could have picked up an instrument and stepped out on stage with ZZ-Top and no one would have been the wiser. My beard’s starting to grow in a few white sprigs too which I really dig. I’m not sure I’ll be able to look back and pick out a more transformative year…and not just for my face. What a year; it was not good, but it was good to have been.

Birthday to Beardthday 150pixel images

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

One Year Ago or This S*** Sucks

One year ago I had this to say, “I’m looking forward to this Christmas as well as the new year. I’m content and hopeful and encouraged and ready to see what will happen this next year.” If I had known then what I know now I’d have probably hidden out under a rock to let the year pass by and come out again like Rip Van Winkle. I can’t remember a worst year in the entire Book of Eli. My failures have spanned all disciplines; girls, house, cars, work, girls. It has just kept on coming. The discouragement has been overwhelming at times and at the end of the day I’m not sure if I’m stronger in my faith or just weaker as a person.

Francis Schaeffer wrote,

The Christian life is not an unbroken, inclined plane. Sometimes it is up, and sometimes -we must all acknowledge if we are not deluding ourselves – it is down. While it is not possible to be more or less justified, it is possible to be more or less sanctified. Justification deals with the guilt of sin; sanctification deals with the power of sin in the Christian life, and there are degrees in this.

This is somewhat of an encouragement to know that my justification has not been undone even though the discouragement has definitely resulted in a decrease in sanctification of myself and life. There have been times this year of great satisfaction and contentment; earlier this summer, I can’t remember if it was before the disappointing appraisal or after, I picked up bike riding again and I can remember sitting on my stoop after a particularly long ride taking in the summer air with a cool gatorade. I’m fairly certain I even audibly voiced my contentment with life even if it meant staying indefinitely at chateau de Woodgate(my crappy cheap apartment). These simple moments are what are stolen so easily; whether by distraction or deception Satan has drawn my eyes and heart away and the contentment disappears.

Schaeffer goes on to say, ‘When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God or have ceased to be submissive to him.’ Ouch I didn’t need that conviction too. Where has my contentment fled and what’s in the way of my submission? Trust? Have I trust enough to be led in a ways that I would not choose? Is what I fear about the future robbing me of the present? The very real possibility of never finding a wife, never building a house, never racing a rally car, no thing for which I had hoped. I stare at these prospects somewhat paralyzed. I’m the first to rejoice at the blessing of others and I would say the last to covet what another has, but the root of this sounds an awful lot like coveting.

Schaeffer…again,

Does this mean that any desire is coveting and therefore sinful? The Bible makes plain that this is not so – all desire is not sin. So then the question arises, when does proper desire become coveting? I think we can put the answer down simply: desire becomes sin when it fails to include love of God or men. Further I think there are two practical tests as to when we are coveting against God or men; first I am to love God enough to be contented; second, I am to love men(mankind) enough not to envy.

So I’ve got that second part, but I think somewhere along the way I skipped over the first. I am missing part of the equation and probably the most important part, emphasized here by guess who. ‘”The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” The order is in three steps: rejected, slain, raised. “And he said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” The order – rejected, slain, raised is modeled for us in Christs substitutionary death and is the order of true spirituality.’ Again, ouch. When the heck was it that I thought this cross and denying of self would include indulging oneself in whatsoever satisfaction one can garner out of this life and his surroundings?

As Christ’s rejection and death are the first steps in the order of redemption, so our rejection and death to things and self are the first steps in the order of true and growing spirituality. As there could be no next step in the order of Christ’s redemption until the step of death was taken, so in the Christian there can be no further step until these first two steps are faced – no in theory only, but at least in some practical practices. Rejected, slain.

Made it…well mostly

Drove something like 2500 miles, had my car broken into in Seattle, snowboarded in Grand Targahee, visited like 20 autoparts stores, almost broke down in the middle of nowhere, got mystery barista’s phone number, had a box for a car window, was profiled by the Colorado State Patrol(but let go), crossed two more states off my list, and the car broke down like two blocks from my parents house. All in all a decent trip.

I’ve nicknamed her RubySu…the subaru.