Archive for June 18, 2017

Motomaggot larva ride report June 17, 2017

If we are ever to get the larval maggot Josh elevated to full biker status, he is going to have to get more comfortable in the saddle. As his mentor, I have been very busy this Spring and thus delinquent in forcing his training regimen.

Both Josh and I were free this past Saturday morning, so during the week we locked in a plan to do some ride coaching from 9:30 to 11:00. I did not look at the weather report.

On Saturday morning, I got up and prepped the Buell to meet josh. I did look at the weather report, and it showed a slight chance of rain (10%) up until Noon, then a Very Serious Chance of rain after that (like 80%).

So I says to myself “If I get there by 9:30 and we ride for an hour, I’ll be able to make it home before the deluge.”

I did not look at the weather radar.

Got to Josh’s garage early, maybe 9:10. This time, the bike had a fresh battery and his Sena helmet communicator was fully charged. We were set to go with no delays.

But…

There was something funny with the self-storage garage unit where he keeps the bike. The roll-up door seemed stuck, and once it was up it was not stowing properly. It was flopping down inside the garage unit.

Being brilliant engineers, we decided to go inside the garage and pull the door down so we could get a look at the mechanism. We did not bother to remember whether this door had an automatic latch which would lock in place once the door was closed.

So we close the door, using the headlight of the running Moto-Guzzi for illumination. “I see yer problem right here… the coil spring which is used to operate the spool that helps lift and store the roll-up door is broken.”

Okay, let’s open the door and tell the storage company they need to fix it.

Lift… nothing.

Yank… nothing.

Grrrr, *strain* *grunt*… no budge.

Is… this… door… latched now? Neither Josh nor I can recall.

Are we locked in a garage with a running motorcycle breathing carbon monoxide? Ummmm, yes.

Shut the bike. Pitch darkness.

Well, at least we have cellphones and we can use Google to get the phone number of the office for the storage company so they can walk 50 yards to let us out.

But one last try to lift the door, with both of us this time. THIS time it budges. Of course! No recoil spring = no assistance lifting the door, so it only felt like it was latched.

We breathe the outdoor air as Free Men once again.

Now, what to do for a training ride? This storage unit is on the corner of a pretty nasty pair of roads in Metuchen, just across from Cross Country BMW. I suggest we start by going there and doing some parking lot practice. Josh is not so keen on that. Uh-oh. That’s like 100 yards away, with a traffic light. If that is too scary, then where else can we go?

I suggest an alternative: we can make a right turn out of the storage lot, head to Route 287, ride for 5 minutes on the highway and then hit the extremely large parking lot of Telcordia on Centennial Road in Piscataway. I figure this will also be vetoed because it is much farther and involves highway riding.

However, with minimal encouragement, Josh agrees. So I coach him through the turns and de-rusting his clutch skills, and we make it to Telcordia lickity-split.

This turns out to be a brilliant plan. The Telcordia parking lot is MASSIVE and empty, and has a private ring road connecting the front and the back of the building. We practice clutch work first, then move to left and right turns withing the markings of the parking spaces, then circulating the ring road to run up and down the gears, and finally figure 8’s and tighter turns.

we do not look at our watches

We do not look at the sky.

In our defense, Josh was having a huge amount of fun. This was working out well.

Until the first drops of rain hit. Then we decide to head back. Before we even get half way to 287 is is coming down like Bangkok in September (or whenever it rains like a mofo in Southeast Asia). In 30 seconds everything not warded by Gore-Tex is soaked through. For me that means my pants and gloves. For Josh, that means everything except his helmet and boots, but they fill up from water dripping off his pants.

We looked for a parking lot to stop in, found a company lot and then discovered they had absolutely zero awnings or overhangs, so we took partial refuge under a tree.

THEN we checked our watches and the weather radar. The storm had not come early; we had lost track of time while riding, and it was in fact 11:45, right up against the predicted deluge. Weather radar shows no mercy, so we Cowboy Up and ride in blinding rain back to the storage unit. It’s only about 10 minutes, and even the cars on the highway were creeping along at under 40 mph so while I would not do this for fun, it was not life-threatening.

Of course we were super drenched by the time we parked. Weather radar showed that the downpour would be over in maybe an hour, so we decided to go grab lunch. After checking out some places, we settled on a Taiwanese street food place in Edison. This area is very asian, and you can count on Chinese restaurants that cater to real immigrant Chinese people. Places where they don’t even speak much English. In this one, the waitresses were accent free, but the food was absolutely native. Meaning not a single item you’ve ever seen on your local Chinese restaurant menu. Good stuff, but best not to think about the ingredients too much.

By the time we were done, the rain was over. My ride home was saved by the heated grips which kept my hands from seizing up from the wind blast on soaking wet gloves. My torso was fine (thanks, Aerostitch!) but my legs were also coated in sopping-wet denim exposed to 70 mph wind. I’ve had worse rides, and I’ve had better rides.

But the key thing is Josh got in some major practice. If we can do this again (minus soaking) next Saturday, I think he should be able to do it alone without and escort. A little bit more after that and he should be safe to ride in a Maggot palaton.

 

Speed Week Lite: real car maggots like to go racing!

June 2, 2017

SWL 2017 group photo

Only the hardest hardcore drivers who stand erect among the wilted car maggots attend Speed Week Lite 2017… and here they are.

Bing put out the call. Since many of the car maggots complain about having to get up early and go racing at Speed Week Classic (the one that happens in the fall), he was going to host a Speed Week Lite for the express purpose of going racing at the Chesapeake Region Porsche Club of America (PCA) Autocross event in Easton MD on June 3, 2017. This was originally to be held at the Easton municipal airport, but it got moved to a disused Black & Decker factory parking lot when someone forgot to file the paperwork with the FAA.

The course was to look like this:

Easton Industrial Info

Turnout for SW Lite was… lite. Scott, Josh, and I met up at Noon-ish on Friday to drive down., Scott in his MB SLK, me in my Lotus Elise, and Josh in the passenger seat of the Elise. This arrangement made for some significant cargo problems. We all packed extremely lite, but there were still 2 full face helmets, plus camera gear, plus duffels, plus gifts of liquor and tobacco for our host. The weather was perfect, and I wanted to take off my roof, but on the Lotus that comes completely off and stows in the area that Lotus jokingly calls a “boot,” leaving no room for any other luggage. So normally I put any cargo on the passenger seat. Except that would be occupied by Josh. Luckily, Scott is a good sport and offered to take some of the gear so Josh would not have to sit with it on his lap for the four hour ride from NJ to MD.

Oh, and why was Josh a passenger and not a driver? Was it because Josh drives a car that sucks for Autocross?

No, that is Scrounger‘s excuse.

Is it because Josh can’t read cones and is afraid he will DNF?

No, that is Zig’s excuse.

Is it because he flew in from Florida and has no vehicle?

No, Andy does that and just rents a Hertz V6 Camaro and drives it anyway, and devil take the rental agreement.

It was because Josh’s perfect-for-autocross Volkswagen GTI was overdue for an oil change and he didn’t want to risk damage.

Fine. We accept your excuse. Take your passenger seat and prepare to be our errand boy and valet for the rest of this trip.

For me the ride was a bit nerve wracking because I was technically still “at work” in the afternoon and had 2 hours of conference calls to take. I used Josh as my phone valet because there is no hands-free kit in the Lotus. He would dial the numbers and operate the mute button while I used a headset and kept two hands on the wheel. Still, the Lotus is a twitchy little beast on the highway, and microphone management sent us wobbling in our lane every once in a while.

we were fully fueled up from the start, so we only made one stop on 95 in Delawhere for caffeine (both in and out). At the same time we hit a spot of traffic which is torture on a roofless manual transmission no-compromises sports car. 20 minutes of stop-and-go had me cursing my decision not to cut the corner onto Route 13.

We arrived by 4:15 PM, greeted by Bing, Brenda, Kayla, SHelby, and Olive. Bing informed us that there was only one other potential SW Lite attendee: Carl Spackler, and we weren’t even confirmed on that. Fine. Who cares. Fewer whiners to bitch about the early start or the fact that we would have to drive cars fast.

Deer plus Lotus and SLK

Wildlife like to join in on the wild life of the drivers of Speed Week Lite 2017

 

Pizza was ordered and consumed with drink valet Josh’s newly created drink on Bing’s brand-new dock bar. BTW, the as-yet-unnamed drink is constructed thusly:

  • 1.5 ounces Patron Mocha Tequila
  • 1.5 ounces some brand of Chocolate infused Vodka
  • 4 dashes of Mole bitters

Yeah, that sounds kind of gurlie but it’s basically pure alcohol at about 75 proof. It drinks like a silk rope hangman’s noose. A few of those helped us agree on a respectable yet sane bedtime of midnite, with alarms set for 6:45 AM to allow a 7:15 departure for Easton.

In the morning we found that Carl Spackler was waiting for us in the driveway as we pulled on our pilotis and fireproof suits. So at least ONE other car maggot has some guts.

 

the following pictures courtesy of photo valet Josh:

 

SCIENCE affixes his numbers with trusty blue painters tape. Look for it flapping in the breeze in the videos…

 

Scott putting on his numbers

 

SCIENCE tech inspection: “Where is your frunk?”

 

Scott tech inspection

 

Walking the course is good. Walking the course is your friend. It prevents the dreaded DNF and reduces cone dragging.

Note the dude with the epic beard on the left… he was driving an MGB with a Chevy V8 motor, but he never once actually finished the course. He missed the last cone just before the right turn into the skidpad every single time. While we were walking the course he commented several times that he would never remember the proper path. I guess he was right on that!

 

Bing in full racing regalia. There is no way for a human male to be any more virile than by being behind the wheel of a racing car on a racing track while racing. Gaze upon him, and weep for your miniscule manhood!

 

 

SWL 2017 staging from Bing

There were some lesser cars at the Porsche Club of America event. We tried not to make them feel to pathetic.

 

 

 

 

Here are four of my five runs:

Run #1, with an instructor because of all the DNFs we witnessed during Heat One. I wanted to be abso-fucking-lutely sure I knew the course

Run #2, putting in the real speed

Third run, experimenting with the tricky upshift in the slow first box-turn

Fifth and final run

Full race results found here, in case you want to know who among us was fastest:

http://live.axti.me/results/41HB3N3Z7

The racing was over by about 1:00 PM and we were hungry and thirsty, so we voted to accept Bing’s suggestion that we go to the “best Chili’s in the state” just down the street. To this I must note that the very concept of “best Chilis” of any type seemed weird, but it turns out that maybe this chain joint has gotten just a smidge better since the last time I set foot in one over 15 years ago.

After lunch I got ambitious and decided to rig the GoPro on the roof arch of my car and set it to time lapse mode. With shots spaced one second apart, the 30 minute drive back to Bing’s house should take just over a minute on video. This has always worked well as part or Mr. Furious‘ highlight reels from motorcycle trips, so I figured I’d give it a shot. But the car had been sitting in the sun for over an hour. And it is black. So it was hot, too hot to touch, and I felt the GoPro suction cup mount go kinda squishy as I affixed it to the car. This worried me enough to have me reach up and check that the camera was still in place every few minutes.

Like an old gypsy woman, my premonition was correct. About 15 minutes into the drive on Route 50 I reached up to check and found nothing but bare metal. FUUUUUUUUUuUuUuUuUuuuuuuuck! $300 of camera and mount were surely crushed on the road behind us. I had flashbacks to Mr. Furious earning his nickname on the ride back from Deal’s Gap in 2008. I was last in line behind Bing, Scott, and Carl, and I pulled over to the shoulder to decide whether I should circle back and look for the wreckage.

But Josh looked back first, and… Miracle of Miracles, the camera and suction cup mount had hooked themselves on the louvers of the Lotus’ engine cover! So I asked my camera retrieval valet to grab it toute de suite, which he did. This kind of thing could have ruined my SW, but instead I was giddy. But the Camera Gods were not to let me off that easily. It turns out that I hadn’t set the GoPro up correctly, and it was not in time lapse mode. It was in normal video mode, and I will post the final 20 seconds of the huge 15 minute file here, once I get a round tuit.

Surprisingly, I caught up with the rest of the SW crew in short order even in the heavy-ish Route 50 traffic. It’s good to have a small car that can zip in and out of traffic gaps. It’s also good for making left turns across highways with feet… no YARDS to spare before oncoming death. I really don’t see what all the fuss and horn blaring was about. Ignore Bing if he claims I did that with only inches of safety margin.

Since we were back by around 4:00 and there was nobody to bitch about it, we declared a 45 minute siesta and set smartphone alarms. After a refreshing power nap, we hit the Pontoon Boat to meet Brenda at the Redeye Dock Bar where she was holding a raffle for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I once again tried to set the camera up for time lapse to capture the boat ride, and once again it failed me.

Drinks… live music… sunset over Kent Island… really the best kind of finish to a day of racing.

Bing captained the pontoon boat back to his house and fed us home grilled wings, and we emptied bottles of rye and bourbon that I had left at his house on previous trips. And we burned the gifts of tobacco, sending aromatic smoke rings up to the Gods of Motorsports, who had smiled upon us well that day.

Sunday morning we got up fairly early again, around 7:00 for some of us. 8:00 for others. We were in no hurry, and somehow the discussion came to questions about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quattrofoglio. Someone remembered that they had reviewed it on The Grand Tour, so we fired up Netflix and watched that episode on Bing’s massive 78-inch TV. After the show we were feeling peckish, so we fired up the pontoon boat again, collected Olive in her doggie life vest (she’s a sinker) and headed to The Jetty near Kent Narrows for Bloody Marys and brunch.

Bing and Olive SWL 2017

I hear tell that dog owners and their dogs tend to start looking like each other.

 

Bking and Olive side view on a pontoon boat

French Bulldogs make good boat pilots

 

After boating back to Bing’s house, we bid farewell and headed for home ourselves. One last motorsports experience was listening to the NASCAR race being held in nearby Dover Speedway on the local country music station. The weather continued to be almost perfect, with only a small bit of drizzle hitting us around halfway up the NJ Turnpike. Josh was dropped off back at his apartment, and I made it home just after my wife & kids got back from a weekend at the Alpine Club (famed location of the Catskillcades).

If you were not there, you should be very jealous and have a heightened sense of FOMO for next time.