Konrad Urban. Thynk3r, Gary Miller, an I went for a jaunt through the black earth of Pine Island NY today. The theme was “show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” New bike, that is.
Konrad Urban. Thynk3r, Gary Miller, an I went for a jaunt through the black earth of Pine Island NY today. The theme was “show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” New bike, that is.
The Weather Gods had mercy on us.
I have a three day rule: Don’t start getting freaked out about the weather report for a motorcycle ride more than three days ahead of the event. The accuracy of the weather report is *still* not worth having a panic attack over until you get within the three day forecast timeframe.
With the ride planned for Friday, I looked on Tuesday… or I was going to when Bota beat me to it. The outlook was grim. 90% chance of rain Friday in NJ and MD. 20% on Saturday (small consolation), 80% on Sunnday. In other words: potential drenching on the days when we would have no choice but to do a 4 hour ride down and up. The “travel days,” where the motorcycling is potentially more of a chore than a joy. I am a bit weird in that I like the ride to and from the main event, as long as I am riding with friends. Especially the ride out. The anticipation builds and if things are right you are not in a hurry and can enjoy a simple ride. But if it is a monsoon, that sucks the fun out of it. Then it is a task that needs to be done to get you to the event, and I will deal with that, but it loses the magic.
Then again, this ride might have some maggot magic regardless of the weather. Mr. Furious had just acquired a Sena bluetooth helmet intercom, and he had convinced me to do the same. Konrad and Marcus already had them, and put them to good use a few years back on the Banjo Run. Later on we found that MJ and Thynk3r also had compatible units. So if the blurb on the box for my brand-spankin’-new Sena 20s was to be believed, we would be able to set up an intercom group between up to 8 riders!
I made sure my bike was fully packed and ready to roll on Thursday night. On Friday morning I would need to dial in to a meeting for work. I was on vacation, and I had a co-worker acting as my backup, but I’m a tool that way and I wanted to hear what was going on for at least the first few hours of the meeting. So I was ready to roll as soon as the maggots started arriving at my house.
First up was Marcus at 9:45. That was fifteen minutes early from the planned time. It had been raining hard all morning, but I was checking the weather radar. We were under a band of rain that was just about to peter out. After that was clear air out to Pittsburgh. More important, the next band of rain was a blobbly line running from the Southeast to the Northwest. My eyeball forecast told me that if we got into that rain gap, the further South we went, the further away the rain got. In other words, if we got moving SOON we could ride in a patch of dry weather!
I was starting to get antsy by 10:15, fearing that we would miss our gap. But Mr. Furious and Konrad showed up around 10:20 and so I calmed down. The plan might just work!
But the Equipment Gods were not going to let the Weather Gods show too much mercy. Just as he dismounted from his bike at the end of my driveway, Mr. Furious experienced a freak mishap: He dropped his helmet. Onto the pavement. Hard. Snapped off one of the visor retainer panels. Feck! He called for the box ‘o repair materials that he had given me as a gift last year, plus some packing tape. Jerry-rigged driveway repairs ensued and the visor was temporarily re-attached.and we were on our way. Next stop: Molly Pitcher Service Area on the NJ Turnpike, to meet Bota, Annie, MJ, and Thynker.
Before we even made it to the highway, mishap #2. At a traffic light (corner of E. Hanover Ave and Ridgedale), Konrad told me we had to pull in to the gas station. I vetoed that (wrong side of the street) and we pulled into the Agway. Mr. Furious had dropped his (prescription, transitions) glasses in the street. He and Konrad went back to search for them, while Marcus and I fiddled with the Sena headsets to set up communications. After maybe 20 minutes Konrad and Furious returned. The glasses had been found… crushed 🙁
Since we were there we took the time to set up the Senas for bike-to-bike intercom. Remember the promise that you could connect up to 8 headsets into an intercom group? We were never able to get more than 4. Pairing two was dead simple. Adding in a third also easy. Getting the 4th to connect? Well… we did it. Several times. But nobocy NOBODY could figure out what dance we did to get it to work. We would just tap in the first three, then everyone would randomly hit buttons until the 4th joined. Very frustrating. Maybe we should spend some quality time with the manuals but I suspect the issue is version compatiblity. Konrad and I were the only ones with the most recent 10s/20s models. Furious had a 10u which was a special one designed to integrate with Arai helmets. MJ and Marcus had older models, and Thynk3r was from another manufacturer. I have a sneaking suspicion that more than 4 headsets in an intercom group requires A) the latest firmware on all headsets, B) only recent Sena headsets, and C) a more complicated dance of buttons, since it is only the Sena 20s that supports that. The 20s has 2 full Bluetooth chipsets wired together, and apparently must act as the hub for 2 groups of 4 somehow.
Regardless, we departed once again, now about an hour late. Weather was holding at “overcast” but not raining.
With the communicators working, Furious called for a stop to make further helmet repairs. We were on Route 287 close enough to the NJ Turnpike that I asked if it could wait for 10 minutes. Furious said yes, so we stopped at the toll plaza at the entrance to the NJTP. Helmet communicators do indeed have a great deal of utility. Text messages were sent and received. If I recall, other maggots were already at Molly Pitcher and we were still more than 30 minutes away.
The stop lasted maybe 15 minutes while Furious adjusted his packing tape repair. We were off again and onto the Turnpike. The weather worsened slightly and we had some light drizzle. Not enough to harm us in our rain gear. Mr. Furious started his signature battle cry for this trip, shouting “PENIS” into the intercom whenever asked for a check in.
Bota, Annie, MJ, and Thynk3r were all waiting for us at Molly Pitcher. I started my tradition of blowing my stack for the weekend whenever someone asked me why we were late, or why we hadn’t left yet, or why we weren’t taking a different route. In fact, I was on edge for some reason the whole weekend. It did not take much to set me off. I blame work stress.
Most of the bikes in the group had large gas tanks, and we were slated to meet Scrounger about 60 miles away so only Marcus filled up at Molly Pitcher. So of course when we got on the road, ten minutes later Mr. Furious calls out that his reserve light just came on and we need to stop for gas.
The Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is a gorgeous bike. I love it. I respect it. I want to have sex with it. Mr. Furious is a FUCKING HERO for riding this beautiful Italian lady on a maggot ride. Dark grey with a fabulous red frame (not just ubiquitous Ferrari/Ducati Italian red… a deep rich red like arterial blood). The engine on the Guzzi is out and on display for everyone to see, and it is a mechanical sculpture representing purpose and simplicity. Did I say I love this bike?
Oh, it also has a tiny gas tank. From this point on Mr. Furious was careful to fill up whenever the opportunity presented itself, and there were no more low fuel lights.
But it did mean that we made another unscheduled stop at the next rest area. Those who had not fueled up at Molly Pitcher all did so here because… why not? Since the NJTP rest area gas stops are notoriously congested we ended up close to 90 minutes late at the end of the stop. Also, at this gas stop Bota asked if there was a Harley dealer nearby. My answer was A) Why are you asking me? B) There is ALWAYS a harley dealer nearby, and C) Okay, yes. I happen to know that there is Famous Mike’s HD in Newark DE right on our route. So a stop was planned. At the same time MJ asked what we were planning for dinner. Wut? Why do you ask? Because there is a BBQ joint near Famous Mike’s and she wants us to pick up food for tonight. I am watching my schedule sink rapidly to the bottom of the ocean, drowning.
At the end of the NJTP we lose track of Thynk3r. It is assumed that he has no EZPass. Knowing that EZPass is needed again in 5 miles to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge, we use the helmet communicators to plan our stop. We pull over and wait for Thynk3r after the bridge tolls. It turns out that he thought that WE were behind him, and had stopped to wait for us. Another 15 minutes delay added to the schedule.
Famous Mike’s (now Rommel’s) HD is only 3 miles past the bridge. We pull in and Bota goes in to get… A snap chain for his leather vest. THAT’S the crucial part we had to stop for. To save time, MJ heads off to the Sunset BBQ and Crab house to place our order. By the time Bota is done, Thynk3r decides he needs fingerless gloves and just as we are getting ready to saddle up to join MJ he goes into the store.
How do you spell “conniption?” Is it “kenipschen?” Whatever it is, that’s what I have. We are now well past 2 hours behind schedule. Scrounger texted us that he got sick of waiting for us and went on to Bing’s. By the time I calm down enough to ride, Thynk3r is back out of the shop (no gloves purchased… never asked why but that problem got fixed later). We head over to meet MJ.
The Sunset BBQ and Crab Shack is indeed just over the overpass from the HD dealer. it’s also a garden center. From seeing the proprietors, I think it’s also a Blues Heritage Site. The place and the owners look like they belong in Mississippi. Or at least South Carolina. Which is to say it is a really heavyset black woman and her silent but friendly husband. MJ has ordered a few dozen crabs, a few racks of ribs, and some sides. The crabs take some time to steam, so we settle in and wait. While waiting, Konrad and I decide we also need pulled port after the woman behind the counter came out and gave us all samples. We ask for hot sauce, and she insists that we have to taste it before she will put it on the pork. Hah! I scoff. I have survived Tincture of Flashbang. No so-called “hot” sauce can bother me. But to humor her I taste it. HOLY SHEEP DIP! It’s not flashbang, but it’s too hot for general consumption. Mild sauce, please!
Schedule completely thrown to the wolves, our next problem is where to put all the food. Nobody expected to need to take on extra items, so everyone was pretty much void of extra luggage space. MJ was able to consolidate and clear one saddlebag, and I was able to squish my sleeping bag. Others did likewise and we fit the food.
Under ideal conditions we would have gone overland and found our way to Route 13 so as to save time and avoid the building Route 95 pre-rush hour traffic. But after getting directions from BBQ lady and the Blues Man, I decide discretion is the better part of valor and put the maggots back onto 95. The alternative route from the BBQ folks was too full of “turn Left at the building where the old Dairy Queen used to be.”
Did I mention the weather? Other than slight drizzle at Molly Pitcher we had no rain. Weather radar showed our gap between showers continued.
And so we made it to Bing’s by around 6 PM. About 3 hours later than planned. Bikes were parked. Rooms and couches were claimed (it was a BIG crowd, even for Bing’s house). Ccarl arrives. Bottles are cracked open. A crab & BBQ feast is laid out. Bing and Brenda’s new French Boxer dog (Olive) is adored and petted. You know, the usual.
The Weather Gods had smiled upon us. Probably because Mr. Furious made multiple sacrifices to the Gear Gods.
Bing was the voice of reason and forced us to bed by 12:30 AM. Unlike the normal maggot trip, we had a hard schedule to keep to on Saturday. We had to be at the LLS Charity ride by 8:30 AM, or else. So we had to be awake by 7. So beddy-bye for all.
…Only to be awaken at 7 AM by Bing blaring the full-house audio system. Yesyesyesyes Dad. I’m awake. I have a “level 3” hangover (moderate headache, mouth like a toxic waste landfill, but no nausea) which is taken care of with some Advil. We saddle up, get breakfast at the former Holly’s (now a boring Royal Farms gas station/convenience store with the worlds slowest service). Then we head to the Poker Run meetup site.
This is where we see the magic of Scrounger’s borrowed Polasis Slingshot in action. It draws an instant crowd wherever it parks. Custom Chopper? Nobody interested. Boss Hoss? (the former king of drawing a crowd) ignored. Wherever it goes, people ask to take PICTURES of it.
The Poker run? It’s a poker run on the Eastern Shore of MD. Which is to say the roads are straight but scenic. The weather is perfect in the morning. Cool, dry, partly cloudy. As part of a Poker Run we move at a… measured pace. Some maggots might complain that it was too sedate. I say that a motorcyclist should be able to enjoy the ride without an adrenaline hit sometimes.
There is a beer stop on the Chesapeake Bay at Noon. For the last 30 minutes leading up to that we are apparently riding in the middle of some major Triathlon. There are runners, bikers, and probably swimmers everywhere. Police directing things too. The Poker Run gets separated into two groups and mine ends up at the wrong bar. So we go off-road to cut across fields, through people’s back yards, and over tiny foot bridges to get to the right place.
It’s a good stop, right on the bay. I’d go here to hang out on a Saturday in the summer. Watched Cigarette boats pull in and fuel up. Pitchers of Fat Tire are shared. I have that and some kind of Shandy because I don’t want to get wrekt.
Then it is off to lunch which is at a marina on the C&D Canal. That was nice. But I’m getting tired of typing and making up shit.
The final stop on the Poker Run is The Jetty near Bing’s house. Another nice dock bar on the bay. By now there is live music and a big crowd. We have some traditional MD bay drinks (Orange and Lemon Crushes). Listen to music, and find out that Mr. Furious won the Poker Run raffle! A lesser man would say that this was righteous payback for all his gear troubles the day before. But Mr. Furious is by no means a normal man. Instead, he donates his winnings back to the LLS charity and adds ANOTHER few hundred dollars of his own. The rest of the maggots bask in the reflected glow of his magnanimity!
But the weather has changed. Normal people would say “for the better,” but 90 degrees and bright sunshine can be bad for people in ATGATT motorcycle gear. It’s getting uncomfortably hot and so the maggots want to head back to Bing’s to switch into shorts and drink.
Annie had different ideas. She wanted to go to the supermarket to get food to make for dinner (Annie demands the formalities be observed regarding the entertainment of a party of 12 bikers) and the liquor store for Bloody Mary and Sangria fixins. Since I know where the supermarket and liquor store are, I am drafted to lead. Also because Bota is… in a state. A state of dubious fitness to ride. Konrad and Furious come along because… reasons.
It quickly becomes clear that the reasons for Konrad and Furious coming along are insufficient. So they leave after a few minutes hanging out in the supermarket parking lot. Meanwhile Annie is stocking up and Bota is shopping like a 3 year old. He is grabbing random stuff and throwing it in the cart, which Annie has to put back. When they come out, Annie sees me all alone and has a minor freakout. Because she has a full banquet of food and was counting on 4 bikes for transport. My bike has full saddlebags BUT I had half of them filled up with gear from other Poker Run riders (rain gear, cameras, etc). We were so short of storage that Annie had to carry some bags in her arms on the ride back.
The rest of the evening is another great party night at Club Bing. The only abnormal event worth noting was the giant hissy fit that I threw. The less said about this, the better. Suffice to know that it involved me screaming “FUCK YOU” over and over, and stomping my way out on the porch to be alone and stew. But by the end of the night I had calmed down.
MJ and I win the “stayed up latest” award. For me, that award was also the “sleep on the small couch” award. Bing’s house was FULL. Bota and Annie in the bedroom with the full size bed. Scrounger and son Ben in the twin bed room, and MJ in the other bedroom. Konrad and Marcus on the full couches in the basement. Furious in the full couch in the office. Bota fell asleep early and claimed the big couch in the rec room (That’s MY coudh!). So I got one of the 4 foot couches. So did Thynk3r so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
I had nightmares because I looked at the weather report. 100% chance of rain on Sunday. Crap.
In the morning we got up and I checked the weather report. Still crap. Check radar… Hmmmm… There is another one of those gap-in-the-showers things. So we plan our travel around it. And I’ll be damned… it works again! Marcus left early, but Bota, Scrounger, MJ, Thynk3r, Konrad, Furious and me all head out at the same time. Maggots peel off as necessary to get to their own homes. But other than a slight mist on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, it is dry all the way to the last split off. I head on 287 while the NY/CT riders stay on the NJTP.
For my final leg, around Piscataway NJ (30 minutes from home) it turns foggy and cold. It had been hot and muggy at the last gas stop, but now it was zip-the-vents-closed chilly. And foggy, which sucks for keeping the vizor clear. Ten miles later it is pissing drizzle in the cold fog, which is a visibility nightmare on a motorcycle. It does that all the rest of the way home for me. A whole 20 more minutes 🙂
Non-ride Report: Cars & Croissants Nov. 7, 2015
Shop Rite parking lot, Cedar Knolls, NJ
As usual, there was an amazing variety of vehicles at the Cars & Croissants meetup. These pictures are only the ones that I deemed “interesting.” There were tons of pedestrian Porsches, BMWs, etc.
Obligatory Cobra. This one is a Superformance.
What is this? It looks a bit too long to be an…
An MG? I guess. Is it stretched?
Holy crap! Yes, it’s stretched. To fit a Jaguar 4.2L V12! No wonder it sounded like Satan’s Chariot!
This MG is an unbelievably beautiful FrankenCar. THIS is why I come to C&C!
Ferrari… (yawn) there were a few others… not worth posting photos.
(snore) another Ferrari WAIT WHAT?!?!?
This is apparently real. Not a replicar. That is an honest-to-god ~$3 Million original Ferarri… ummm… Daytona or something? Sitting in a Shop Rite parking lot along with other more pedestrian cars.
Obligatory Ferrari motor shot.
Below: a bevy or britcars. By no means a comprehensive photo list. There were several Austin-Healys.
HOLY UNICORNS! An Ariel Atom?
Noooo. It’s actually a Superlight sometin’ sometin’. Made in the USA and shockingly street legal in NJ.
Engine bay shots. Forgot to ask what was inside.
More British Iron:
That’s a TV-fookin’-R
TVR Engine bay.
No Britcar section would be complete without a batch of Lotii (Lotuses?):
Later Esprit Turbo
Who brought this POS 2007 Elise Type 72D with a Sector111 Katana-2 Supercharger? It looks filthy, like it was autocrossed two weeks ago and not cleaned.
Aston Martin Vantage
The Aston has a gorgeous leather interior. I want to roll naked on those seats.
Here are some of the other cars I found interesting. This is by no means comprehensive; the turnout of diverse vehicles was truly amazing!:
Something American that I didn’t identify, but it had…
Lancia. There was at least one other Lancia and a few interesting 1980’s Alfa Romeos (one GTV6 that I recognized from previous C&C events, that had been race-prepped)
Something old I didn’t identify. Scott Colby said it was a Rolls, I think.
Another Unicorn: Tesla Roadster, pre “Model S” era
What is more American than a Dodge Viper? I Dodge Viper with a fuckin’ squinting eagle painted on the inside of the hood!
Nicely race-prepped BMW M3
Fiat X-1/9. I have a soft spot for these. Love mid-engine 4-cylinder rust buckets.
That’s it. It’s amazing how many interesting cars live in the Morris County NJ area, and how cool a plain C&C event can be, even on an overcast November day. Sure, when they run it at Paul Miller Porsche they get a bigger turnout, but it’s mostly plain-jane Porsches and Ferraris.
On Friday I had a business meeting in Princeton, NJ, about 90 minutes from my house. My co-worker Brian had just bought a Tesla P85D – that’s the Performance model with dual motors and over 650 HP (going to 760 HP when the “Ludicrous Speed” firmware update goes in any day now!). On the way home, Brian let me… no insisted that I drive the car all the way back. Brian is a really trusting guy 🙂
That’s me, driving the P85D for the first time. The video does NOT do justice to the experience. I have driven or been driven in some very Hi-Po cars. 850-HP Mustang GT500, 750 HP Viper, and some heavily worked Grand Nationals/GNX, all driven very hard by crazy owners (or myself). I have taken a 150 HP motorcycle on the drag strip and wheeled the first 60 feet. NONE of that compares to the feeling of the Tesla. The key thing is that the Tesla produces peak torque from a dead stop, 0 rpm. So the first half second of the launch is like nothing a gasoline-powered vehicle could ever do (except maybe a purpose-built top fuel dragster).
Watch the video: when I punch it, you see the camera jerk. That is impossible to prevent. If your head is not held against the headrest, it will smack into it. You get the same sensation in your inner ear and in your gut as you get on a modern high-end looping roller coaster. I am not kidding when I say that there is a moment of dizziness as the car takes off.
I tried some fast turns, just to see how it feels. The specs on the car put it at way over 2 tons. It certainly does not feel like a sports car. It feels very… Solid. Like a really big Benz. Part of it is that the weight is carried very low. All the batteries are under the floor. So when cornering hard in a fast sweeping turn, there is zero roll and absolutely zero looseness. The car is very tight and the steering has no lash in it so it feels like a high-end GT sedan should.
The car itself is beautiful, in metal-flake blue with tasteful carbon fiber accents:
And yes, here is proof that it’s a real P85D:
It has a roomy trunk!
The interior is absolutely worthy of the rather steep price. Reminds me of a high-end German car. Apparently it’s totally customizable, and the buyer gets to pick what kind of leather, headliner, dash accents, etc. It has by far the largest touch screen I have ever seen in a car for the dashboard management system:
That is at LEAST a 22″ screen, and it controls everything. There are only maybe 4 physical buttons in the dash. The rest is software controlled.
And you can do amazing things. Like, you can control the suspension height and the car will remember the setting for that exact GPS location. So if you have a speed bump in your neighborhood that you need to manage, you do it once and the car will lift it’s skirt over that bump every time in the future.
You can also make changes to things like the degree of simulated engine braking. You may note in the video that I comment on this; Brian had the car set to very heavy “engine braking”, so you drove it like… an electric car (duh!). Lift the throttle past a certain point and it would go into regenerative braking so that for 90% of the drive I never had to touch the brake. And I was reassured that when it brakes harder than a certain degree, it also lights the brake lights so as not to confuse the cars behind you. It was a little unusual at first, but I got used to it quickly and I could see that you might want to set it that way.
If this is the future of electric vehicles, Bring it on! This ain’t your father’s crunchy-granola Birkenstock-wearing hair shirt suffering Electric Vehicle. The Tesla is totally amazing, and I think this was Elon Musk’s plan; build a car that people actually desire. Make it so cool that people see an EV as a thing to aspire to, not something you do because it’s good for you.
The Tesla P85D is like eating your steak, not eating your vegetables. And that is a very good thing.
I’ve been doing more and more track days and autocross events over the past decade, and there has been one common thread to all of the times that I’ve put wheel to track:
I’ve started the day with a raging hangover.
Why would someone go to a racetrack and risk thousands of dollars in damage to a beloved car (and possible bodily injury) at anything less than 100% physical and mental capacity? Because I have good friends who live reasonably close to all the racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. So I stage my travel from a friend’s house, and inevitably there is catching up and drinking the night before.
This time I swore it would be different. No hard alcohol would cross my lips, and I would be at the Starting Line SCCA Autocross training event at Bader Field in Atlantic City fresh as a daisy and ready for action.
And so I did as I promised: no boozing on Friday night. I merely stayed up until 2:00 AM catching up with my old friend who I had not seen for at least… a month. Tech inspection was set for 7:30 AM, so I had to wake up at 5:30 in order to have time to shower, shave, eat breakfast, and travel the one hour down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City.
My alarm app went off at 5:30 sharp. Shower? Shave? nobody will see my face inside the helmet! snooze. It went off again at 5:40. Breakfast? Overrated! Snoooooze. At 5:50 I dragged myself out of bed, threw on my racing suit (shorts and a t-shirt… this is only Autocross, ferchrissakes) and hit the road. At least I had the sense to top off my gas tank the night before.
Bader Field is on the bay side of lovely
Newark-by-the-Sea Atlantic City NJ. It’s a disused airport that now has a minor league baseball park and acres of empty tarmac just begging to have cones sprinkled about for automotive fun. Which is exactly what the South Jersey chapter of the SCCA does, at least once a month during the racing season. This weekend was to see one of the regularly scheduled Autocross races on Sunday. But I was there on Saturday, for the all-day Starting Line Autocross class. For $325 I was promised a full day of training that would slash many seconds off of my pathetic dilletante’s lap time, plus add a year to my SCCA membership and give me free entry to one South Jersey SCCA autocross. Presumably they were expecting that the students would stick around for real event the next day, but I was on a time-limited kitchen pass because my elder child’s high school graduation party was on Sunday, and if I was not there grilling for the relatives I could pretty much kiss all my motorsports privileges goodbye forever.
So there I was, sleep-deprived and looking forward to a long day of hard driving followed by a 2-hour slog back home before a major life event party. Irresponsible, you say? I say “what kind of a father would I be if I did not demonstrate PASSION for automobiles to my children?”
I had enough time during tech inspection to break out my trusty 12V “Taurus SHO Spare Tire Alternative” and up-pressure my tires from the factory spec 29 PSI to an Autocross-hard 38 PSI. Note to self: remember to drop the pressure back down before going home on the GSP!
The driver’s meeting was the usual stuff. Blah blah blah safety blah blah blah have fun blah blah blah volunteer based sport so all of you will be doing cone duty when you’re not actually driving blah blah blah…
WHAT?!?! Cone duty? Fookin’ CONE DUTY? When you pay $300-odd dollars for a track day at a road course, THEY provide the corner workers and send someone to turn down your seatbelt and put a mini mint on your driver’s seat between sessions. I have done occasional Autocrosses before, and normally you do one session of cone duty to support the racing. Today we were going to be doing more or less constant cone duty. In the summer. Thank God it was about 73 degrees and overcast… for now. Also, this was a class made up mostly of Autocross n00bs (like me) who were undoubtedly going to be punting cones across the pavement right and left.
But I jest! Cone duty is part of the charm of Autocross. And you should always suffer for your passion.
And so the training began. The schedule was to do slalom, skidpad, and figure-8 drills in the morning, followed by a full-on Autocross (at least 14 runs each) in the afternoon. All sessions would start with the student at the wheel for 2 runs, then the instructor would take over for 2 runs, then back to the student driving for the rest of the time. This was an excellent approach, IMO. It gave the chance to first feel the exercise, then see how it’s really done, then spend the lions share of the time working towards matching what the instructor had done. For the morning exercises, there was an instructor in the car giving pointers the whole time.
I started on the slalom, and it looked like this at first:
Okay, so the camera takes 15 mph off the speed but even so I was slow. My instructor had me work on rythm, setting up for the next turn, and feeling the loading on the tires shift from left to right so that I was maximizing grip throughout the rapid waltz through the cones. After some pointers and seeing the instructor do it, it looked like this:
See how much faster that looks? No? Well, it was. My instructor was elated. She said that I “got it” and that I had mastered the slalom.
Next up: Skidpad & figure-8. The drill here was to feel the limits of traction, find out how throttle can control over/understeer, and for the bold, some controlled power sliding.
Watch closely. I am power sliding on the exit to many of those turns. I’m so proud. So was my instructor. I get another gold star for mastery. And one of the best parts of the skidpad? Hardly anybody launched a cone into the grass!
The figure-8 was the same idea, but with left & right transitions added, and a mix of sharper turn radius for complication. The GoPro ran out of battery, so no video for that.
NJ cuisine lunch was provided: submarine sandwiches… I mean “hoagies” (this is SOUTH Jersey, which aligns with Philadelphia vernacular). I set up my folding camp chair and table to prove that a Lotus Elise can travel in STYLE. I also applied more sunscreen, because our 73 degree overcast day had turned into an 80 degree cloudless day with a UV index of 11.
I must admit that I was feeling both eager and whipped for the upcoming full-on Autocross. The lack of sleep was catching up with me, and the slalom cone duty had involved some fair amount of sprinting to replace cones before the next student ran you over. The hoagie helped, as did about a gallon of water and Mountain Dew.
For the Autocross session the drill would change to 2 runs behind the wheel, 2 runs observing the instructor, 5 runs behind the wheel with the instructor shouting orders, and finally 5 runs solo, honing your skills and chasing the instructor’s lap time.
We were divided into two run groups. I drew short straw and ended up in group #2… cone duty first, race second. But first we walked the track…
Although walking the track was not behind-the-wheel practice, it was a very integral part of the training. We walked the track with a group of instructors who took us through the thought processes of reading the course. They pointed out that although there were over 200 cones on the track, there were only 12 cones that mattered. These were mostly cones at the apex of turns, but even the apex didn’t matter on some turns. The trick was learning how to identify the high value turns where you could make or break your run, and differentiate them from turns that merely kept you from short-circuiting the course. After we walked the track with the instructors, we walked it again alone. I would have walked it a third and fourth time if they let me. It was clear that memorizing the track was going to be a key to good lap times. There were also pointers about starting out with a fast run, and then building upon that. This because in a real Autocross you do not get 14 runs. You get maybe half that many, and so you need to start from as high a position as you can in order to maximize your lap-to-lap improvement.
And so I baked in the sun while the first 10 students did their laps. I noticed that this was about a 40-second course. Meaning the instructors were doing it in the 37-second range while the students started around 46 seconds. Uh oh. It was 2:30 by then, and I was beginning to feel we might not get our runs in.
Then disaster struck. From my cone worker position I was facing the intercoastal waterway and the casinos of Atlantic City. My fellow student on the other side of the track was facing the entrance to Bader Field, and he suddenly got agitated. I turned to look and saw five (5!) police cars slowly driving the taxi ways. They were certainly coming for us.
Things ground to a halt for an hour. We were in the dark, reluctant to come in (because, y’know, police) but feeling silly just standing around. Eventually someone realized that we had cell phones with the email from the Starting Line people in them, so we called their number. The cops had arrived because they did not see the paper permit for the use of Bader Field on file. This was a bureaucratic screw-up that they should have been more accommodating about fixing. They KNEW that the field was used for these events fairly frequently. Eventually they got to the right assistant deputy mayor and we were allowed to continue, but now hopelessly behind schedule.
Starting Line stepped up and made it work. They really kicked it into gear and started running 3 cars on the track at a time. A little nerve-wracking for us cone workers, but it got the first run group done in short order and it got me on the track.
While I was waiting for my instructor, the Starting Line people allowed us to take hot laps with the non-instructor volunteers, who were all very good Autocrossers. I rode several laps with Nicole, the wife of one of the Starting Line guys. This was an excellent thing to do since it gave me more time to memorize the track, and see how it should be done. Nicole drove a prepped Honda Civic, and she was hella aggressive!
Finally, it was my turn. My instructor, my LADY instructor was an SCCA pro running in the fastest, most competitive class at a national level. She had been giving me gold stars up until then.
Now… I brought shame upon her, upon my dojo, and upon the spirit of Emerson Fittipaldi. I was not fit to the laces of the pilotis of the lowliest experienced Autocrosser. “I saw you do the slalom PERFECTLY before! Why do you dishonor me by screwing it up so bad now?” I was running 45 second laps 🙁
I wanted to tell her that it was because I could only perfect ONE part of the course at a time right now. That I had just improved these skills but they had not yet become muscle memory. I wanted to, but I did not. I just begged forgiveness and tried again.
Eventually I went solo, and this is what I did:
There are two runs in that video. The second run was my fastest of the day: 39.04 seconds. Not too shabby, given the instructor had run 37 seconds. Here is my final run, with the instructor coming out with a clipboard to tell me the good news. Now sensei was HAPPY:
I was elated. I felt that I “got” it, and that with a little practice I could shave a second or more off my time. I knew where I hadn’t pushed it hard enough, where I was dogging it, and which turns had room for the most improvement and HOW to get that improvement.
The day ended with hats for everyone, another gallon of water, admonishments to come back and redeem your free racing coupon. Also a caution not to hoon it up when leaving the field, lest the cops be even less friendly in the future. I hustled out of there so I could do my familial duty.
Around 20 minutes up the Garden State Parkway I remembered that my tires had +9 PSI in them. I didn’t want to know what happens to Toyo R888 grabby-grab tires when run on the highway at that pressure, so I pulled in to air them down and get a Red Bull to keep me awake and alive on the way home. At the Parkway service area, I had “Lotus Moment;” While sitting on the ground with the tire pressure guage, a very pretty woman in a black tube dress asked if she could take a picture. “Sure,” I say “give me a second and I will remove the chubby troglodyte from the frame.” She laughed, and got what she wanted. A picture of a gorgeous car without it’s less-than=gorgeous driver.
Made it home before dark. Sore. Exhausted. Supremely satisfied.
Stevadoo got back into the MC world earlier this month by buying a 2005 Yamaha FZ6 from a coworker. It only had 3,996 miles and cost $3,200.
Stevadoo’s wife was in Maine for her sister’s *surprise* second marriage, so he took the opportunity to go west. The plan was to head towards Fredericksburg and the Texas hill country. But first he had to negotiate the Katy Freeway, aka I-10. Recently expanded, I-10 is big – really freakin’ big. 26 lanes big. That is not a typo; in each direction there are 4 service lanes, 6 main lanes, and 3 HOV lanes. Getting to an exit from the HOV lane is an ordeal that looks like this:
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Signal, look, turn.
Turn right onto your cross street.
Luckily the I-10 was pretty empty at 7 AM on a Saturday, so Stevadoo had the HOV lane to himself (motorcycles count, yay!). But needless to say, riding on the superslab sucks. Even if you are going 75 MPH minimum (that’s the speed limit!) dodging the F-350 duelly super cabs is not fun.
The first destination was 135 miles away: Buc-ee’s in Bastrop, Texas. Buc-ee’s is a Texas institution and was voted the #3 best awesome roadside eats by Jalopnik.
They, like Texas, are big. The newest one has 60 (count ’em sixty) gas pumps. Inside it’s 68,000 square feet. Note that most large Wal-Marts are less than 99,000 square feet. It has all your normal c-store goodies and sodas, plus a slew of Texas memorabilia up to and including $1,000 smokers and BBQ grills.
Stevadoo just had a sammich.
Just past the Bastrop Buc-ee’s the plan was to get off the beaten path. This side of Austin is not really the Hill Country yet, but even highway 71 is basically an interstate highway. But at least you get to drive by La Grange. I do not mean Joseph-Louis Lagrange, the scientist who developed Euler–Lagrange equations for extrema of functionals. This was the city in Texas where there was a really good brothel, as heralded by the musical “the Best Little Whorehouse” in Texas and ZZ Top’s eponymous song. The Chicken House, doncha know.
Anyhoo, Stevadoo took route 21 which was a pretty good motorcycle road to the southwest. There was a little rain, but nothing more than a few big raindrops that soon stopped. Stevadoo was surprised to see signs for the Circuit of the Americas, where he will be going in October to watch the Formula 1 event. And hey, they were giving tours! So he ponied up his $25 for a 1 hour bus tour and got on with the show.
The first thing he noticed was that at turn 1, there is a huge elevation gain. He’s seen both F1 races that happened on this track, and this wasn’t really shown. But it’s a big hill!
Stevadoo’s seats will be in the turn 12 grandstand, just to the right of the tower. In the foreground is turn 1.
View from the tower. You can see above the red stripe that there used to be some Texas stars painted on the pavement. Well it turns out that Bernie Ecclestone didn’t like them, so he forced the track to paint them out. Jackass.
Next up Stevadoo continued south on 21 to San Marcos. Fortune smiled on him again has he ran across a Commemorative Air Force (formerly Confederate Air Force, but the
Northern Aggressors Yankees PC patrol didn’t like that name and they forced them to change it because hey, didn’t we win that fucking war?) hangar. They had a bunch of interesting planes, none more so than a flying B-25 Mitchell. You know, the kind that Gen. Dolittle bombed Tokyo with. There was also a pair of AF trainers that had been painted up to look like Japanese zeros for the film Tora! Tora! Tora! Some very nice guys there, too. If he had $425 to blow, he’d go for the B-25 ride on July 4th weekend…but he doesn’t.
Next up was a little stretch on I-25 South to Braunfels. This is one of the larger towns started by Germans who emigrated to Texas. As the story goes, they came here and saw tremendous fields of waist-high grass, so they moved with their cattle and pigs. Turns out that the soil was very fragile, and after only a couple years the animals had trampled it down to the limestone. Whoopsie.
Route 46 over to Boerne was nice, but route 16 up to Kerrvile was sublime. This was the real hill country with actual hills. Worth all the super slab riding. Route 16 up to Fredericksburg was fast and scenic, but at this point Stevadoo was over 300 miles for the day and he’s fragile, so he was getting pretty tired. The finest room at an EconoLodge was procured and he slept the sleep of a tired, happy motorcyclist.
Sunday AM he headed out to Johnsonville, the town near President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ranch. It was founded by his uncle, Mr. Johnson. It’s not very big so Stevadoo didn’t get to see a big Johnson, other than the one in his trousers.
But for historical edumacation, Stevadoo stopped in to see the Texas White House and took the tour.
LBJ had a Ford that he used for hunting on his ranch. Note that there is a wet bar in the back seat. His favorite drink was Cutty Sark and Fresca. Really!
He also had an Amphicar! As the story goes, he would drive it into the nearby river and frighten his unsuspecting guests.
He spent about 25% of his presidency here. This was facilitated by the runway on the ranch that could handle a Lockheed JetStar. Not a bad way to commute.
After visiting the LBJ Ranch, Stevadoo had to start making for home. He made some good travel road decisions (route 165 / 2235 from Blanco to Wimberly and route 159 from La Grange to Bellvile), some bad ones (Route 290 / 71 from Dripping Springs to Bastrop) and some terrible ones (route 529 / 290 from Cypress to home – seriously, route 290 is a big fucking road why should it be ‘closed for the weekend’?!?!)
Home, tired Sunday at 6 PM. 625 miles on the clock.
I tried. God knows I tried. Two separate calls for Catskillcade 2014; one in May concurrent with the running of the Kentucky Derby, destroyed by the Alpine Club work weekend. One in June concurrent with the Preakness, wiped out by bad scheduling and a general malaise amongst the Maggots. There was a day when I could rally the Maggots with one well-crafted email. Am I losing my skill?
As a consolation ride, I put out the call for a Saturday day-ride on June 14. Only 4 Maggots answered. Konrad Urban, Thynk3r, Safety Man, and Mr. Furious. Scratch that; make it THREE Maggots. Mr. Furious would not ride, but offered his house as a waypoint on the ride.
A more creative Logistical Officer would have planned a new route that hits strange and wonderful roads, sights unseen, and new adventures to be discoverd.
But I am not that Logistical Officer. This week I am Lazy Logistical Officer so I planned the trip to take the tried-and-true route upw 23 to 97, through Hawk’s Nest, across the Delaware at Narrowsburg, lunch at the Alpine Haus (not Alpine CLUB) in Honesdale PA, then down 6 and 739 to Dingman’s Ferry and Mr.Furious’ farm in Hampton/Newton NJ. Maggots have practically worn wheel-ruts on this route, but we haven’t done it in over a year so it’s fair to repeat it once more.
The meeting spot would be Kosco Harley-Davidson on Route 23. Not a single Harley on this ride, but Kosco has a policy not to stomp any foreign bike riders before Noon on weekends. Plus my Buell gives us partial immunity. I arrived at 8:45, slightly early so that I could walk to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee. Probably the most harrowing part of the whole day because shrubs force you to walk on the shoulder of busy Route 23. How ironic would the headline be? “Motorcyclist killed while walking for coffee?”
Everyone arrived on or close to schedule, and we were off on the ride. An immediate gas stop was called by Konrad because Maggots do not just lack creativity today, they also lack planning skills. At the gas stop we lost Safety Man. Ten minutes into the ride and 25% down! He had a server crash at work, and as a small business owner he had to respond. Buh-bye, Safety Man! See you next time.
Next stop: High Point NJ
Why stop here? Why not! Sure, it costs $5 per vehicle to get in, but I wanted pictures. This time we did the ascent without oxygen, all 2,000-ish feet of it. The obelisk is finally open again for visitors to climb, but aside from lacking creativity and planning skills, today the Maggots also lacked stamina and chose to just enjoy the view.
After High Point, we went through Port Jervis to the inevitable motorcycle spot for a nice Saturday: Hawk’s Nest on Route 97 in NY.
Somewhere in this picture is a tiny Konrad Urban hammering the Angeles Crest Highway of the NY Metro Area:
Surprisingly there were only three other bikes at Hawk’s Nest. On a day like today I would expect dozens.
Route 97 was perfect. Empty of traffic to allow lawbreaking speeds up it’s 20 miles of fast turns. We made it to Honesdale PA and the best German food in the Northern Delaware Valley by 1:00
Our dirndl-clad waitresses served us wurst platter and the best potato pancakes anywhere. A few steins of Spaten Pils were lifted, but only in keeping with moderate motorcycle safety.
Thynk3r got a bit carried away while ordering and asked for a side dish of “all the different kinds of pickles you have.” The waitress (shown above in Thynk3r’s warm embrace) just blinked, like Thynk3r was speaking Swabian to a Bavarian. “What do you mean?” She asked. “All your different varieties of pickles; bring us a plate with an assortment. If there are too many, you pick ones that go with our wursts” said Thynk3r. Or at least that’s how I heard it.
Rather than making a face or getting surly, our motherly waitress said: “we only have one type of pickle. The best kind. I’ll bring you those.” Konrad mumbled something about this being Honesdale PA, not some Artisinal Pickleria in Williamsburg Brooklyn.
The pickles were indeed the best.
Bloated on Bratwurst, Krainerwurst, Polish Kielbasa, and Goulash (with shared strudel to put a final plug in the esophagus), we head down Route 6 through Hawley PA and along Lake Wallempaupak (spelling?), peeling off onto Route 739 through Lords Valley (and passing right in front of the entrance to Casa de BOTA West), we stop for gas and biology just outside Dingman’s Ferry.
And a nicotine hit:
And to ogle cars returning from the Chatterbox.
Then it’s across the only family-owned bridge that I know of ($1 per bike, please):
Konrad Urban lead us along county roads (great!) to the a Horse farm of Mr. furious and his life-partner:
Furious-spawn and hand-made Koi pond designed to calm the Fury:
Whereupon we were served burgers and chips, given some beer, and allowed to burn tobacco:
Thynk3r demonstrates Maggot dessert technique. Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate and whipped cream. Call it “Maggot S’mores”
We spent over three hours hanging out. Partially to process the beers through our finely tuned liver-factories, but really because maggot camaraderie is just THAT good.
I don’t know which is better; the riding or the company. Like dark chocolate and Redi-Whip, each enhances the other beyond the simple combination of the two.
The ride home happened at sunset and beyond. Konrad led us on the better way back to Route 15, and we zipped up every vent we had for the shivery ride home (68 degrees at highway speed in summer gear).
Its always better after the drugs kick in. A few bats, a lizard man, each punctuate the surreality of modern life, an inflatable suit to soften the centurion’s spear. Maggot trip. Meeting BOTA, but no drugs this time. I was going to have to slay this dragon, meet this challenge without chemical support. Soon, I’d be a suit again, trading the currency of my life for plastic trinkets on the Isle o’Manhattan.
Working furiously for the previous two days to finalize my chariot, I’d finally used olive oil to lubricate my over-sized digits penetration between the forelegs of my steed, installing a new H7 night vision subsystem. No more blinding those who had the misfortune to meet me upon the highway.
Sallying forth that day felt like the 1915 Dawn Patrol, what adventure! I-95, well known territory, little did I know that I would immediately be challenged. A late model Altima, a cell phone, and a moron all converge in time and space, trying to bring my day to an abrupt end. Unsurprisingly, my cat-like reflexes. 40 years on a motorcycle, and an over strong latte served me well. Avoiding death like a piece of well-chewed lobster roll on a gravel driveway, I persevered, arriving at 32 Carman apace. Surprisingly, the Prince of Pause, seemingly having turned over a new leaf, was sans Annie and ready to rock.
Immediately, we sallied forth. The throbbing bassline of Congo Man punctuated my highway ride, conjuring visions of sunshine and new beginnings in my overactive hippocampus. Unfortunately, my new reality included all manner of overcrowded roadway. Finally entering New Jersey, my GPS squawking incessantly as it tried to guide me, it finally threw up its hands, screamed ‘I don’t know,’ and sent me spinning down Route 4 while BOTA helplessly continued down the obvious path. ‘In 8 miles, continue straight’ it said. BOTA was going to have to find his own way I figured, and continued, cracking the throttle because THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS GOING TO GET THERE LATER THAN HIM. This little bit of confusion actually was one of the luckiest parts of the ride, no only did I immediately shed the traffic of the Jersey Pike for a more bucolic thoroughfare, but I actually made Chatterbox before anyone but Mr Furious!
Our destination – always a trip – played true to form. An initial circuit, displayed a fine selection of decrepit ‘faces of meth’ rejects, guinea tees, and bodybuilders, all strutting with their particular pose near the rides which defined them. Sliding into my personal space, next to a tricked out Ol ’55, with skulls, ‘Perfect’, I thought. I dismounted and sought a private place to drain a vein. Emerging, relieved, I spied BOTA dismounting and chuckled softly to myself. ‘Its gonna be a good day.’ It seems BOTA’s cigar scent overtook Pagan on the road, and these fraternal brothers rolled into the venue as one. Soon, Conrad Urban, with Mr Furious arriving in his Vette, now with gas and our lunch group was complete. Oh, except for MJ.
Eating at the Chatterbox is like a dystopian nightmare, fueled by the ketamine dreams of Bloomberg’s City Minister of Soda Sizes. Health food it ain’t. It does however, provide ample media for artwork.
‘Where’s MJ?’ ‘Fuck it, lets order.’ ‘She’s a big girl.’ Such was the tenor of the conversation, showcasing the extreme ‘we will leave no maggot behind’ ethos that permeates the maggot mindset. Shoving lobster rolls and pierogies down our respective pie-holes, we finished, burping and wishing we could fart less circumspectly. Finally MJ arrives and we kindly suggest she meet some local outside and finish her lunch while we suit up. Again, its just the care we all take with each other. MJ don’s Pagan’s mantle, finds the most toothless possible compatriot to bend her ear and wolfs down her medium rare burger standing in the parking lot. Fine dining at its most elegant!
We are off! We wend our way through a beautiful scenic, although extremely circuitous hour long ride, the 20 minutes ride to the palatial BOTA estate.
Surprisingly (not!) we arrive and Scrounger and Annie (the two bitches) have prepared a most excellent appertivo, as the hours ride has allowed us to digest our Chatterbox repast, and craving alcohol we proceed to eat for another two hours. I had selected James Pepper 15 yo 100 proof bourbon as my light accompaniment to the Plan B Cookies. It was a welcome and effective stress-reliever.
Feeling peek-ed, we collectively realized that the what we really needed was some divey-bar action. Driven by passion, I mounted my bike, while all the ladies piled into Annie’s designated driver-mobile. Unable to negotiate the 25 steps to the cars, and seeing that he drove a similar marque, Mr Furious invited Scrounger to pilot his jalopy.
Leaving the bar, and feeling as though there had been of dearth of ingestion, and not wishing to feel weak, we decided to head home to continue the fasting, where we could at least allow Mr Furious to uncurl from the fetal position, and hose the vomit off his chin. Reminded by his spittle flecked cheeks, punctuated by tiny, tiny bits of carrot and lobster, our appetites returned – luckily as the bitches had prepared a worthy feast – which lay spread before us like the dark expanse of Kansas as you leave Missouri.
Its all dark, as I lay, heart pounding, headache, a twisted feeling in the pit of my distended stomach. Fitfully, I turn. A light. Turn it off you idiot! What the fuck! Its like a glowing section of rebar, heated then shoved into my eye. Its Pagan. I knew it! The closeted motherfucker finally showing his true colors, while I lay helpless. Thankfully, the darkness envelops me, and I am back in the womb, oblivious to any violation, real or imaged.
6am Sunday. Time for the news. Uh-oh, unfamiliar cable setup, and my hungover state allows no inspection nor reasoned analysis…fuck it. Netflix. Comedy. Certainly, one of the bitches will appear and make coffee, I’m still hoping to be rich one day too.
As Maggots awake, its clear that my dreamed and expected Sunday AM ride will go unrequited. Barely conscious after our recent fast, we can only think of breakfast. Time to turn the bike around, move the cars and let the home-bound maggots, eg those with ‘responsibilities,’ make a vain attempt to meet them. Elegantly, with the wisdom borne of years of riding, I seamlessly navigate my steed as required.
The remaining Maggots, achieve our morning meal, return AB to her support vehicle, and BOTA, Conrad U, and I set out on our our homeward ride. Another adventure under our belt, our shared experience having strengthened our brotherly commitment.
Took a TON of pictures at Cars & Croissants today. Amazing car hangout; about 40 Ferraris, 12 Lamborghinis, half a dozen Lotuses, several more exotic models. More Corvettes and Porsches than you can count. Odd thing: Only ONE Viper and One Buick and ONE Ford GT… look through the pictures to see if you can find them!