It’s been an incredibly busy summer…. and I’ve gotten WAAAAAY behind in posting about it. I’ll catch up over the next few days… have a lot to talk about:
Not that you really care about this list… but without it, I’d forget what I need to post about. Stay tuned… more to come….
Had a great run last weekend with the Tar Heel MINIs, plus a few others from around the country who came to join us. Many folks met Thursday night in Waynesboro, VA at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and started out on Friday morning. Work intruded on fun for me, so I couldn’t get away until mid afternoon on Friday, and met up with everyone for dinner Friday night in Sparta, NC. Had a great day of driving on Saturday, spend Saturday night in Asheville, and Sunday morning drove the rest of the way to the southern end of the Parkway in Cherokee, NC. Sunday afternoon, I led a small group on the “long way” home, up to Waynesville, NC and down the insanely awesome NC215 on what we dubbed Blimey’s Tour of Terror. Gawd, I love that road… climbs 3000 vertical feet to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Devil’s Courthouse, then drops 3000 feet on the other side. 35 miles of twisty bliss.
I was at MOTD6 this past week. It was a blast. I drove the Dragon several more times. Including at night, which is when I really enjoy it… though I enjoy other roads there even more, like NC28 (”Hellbender”). But the Dragon is definitely very technically challenging, and frankly can be pretty treacherous, as my friends Matt and Kara can attest. But I was looking for a different kind of challenge….
For the last couple of years, I had noticed a strange “path” at about milepost 4 on the Dragon… in the middle of a hairpin curve called “Parson’s Curve”. The path had a gate across it, and a Do Not Enter sign. Last year, there was always road equipment or a truck parked there, blocking the path. I was always curious what that thing was, and where it went.
The PDX (Portland) MINI Club took a weekend trip to one of my favorite places last fall - Orcas Island. Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands, in the northern end of Puget Sound. There are no bridges to the San Juans… so most people arrive there by ferry (private boat and small plane are your other options).
As much as I’d like to take this same trip, it’s a bit far to drive (about 3.000 miles each way). So I started thinking about what we could do closer to home that would have a similar “cool” factor. Well, North Carolina has its own gem of an island - Ocracoke. This former stomping ground of Blackbeard the Pirate has a lovely little village and 16 miles of the most beautiful undeveloped beaches in the United States. I polled our local club and lots of people were interested in a weekend run to Ocracoke - so we scheduled one! It’s pretty much impossible to get lodging for large groups during the season - so we picked one of the last “pre-season” weekends.
Blimey was still clean from the car show yesterday, and it was beautiful today - so I went for a drive and shot some pics. They’re on the NEW “Blimey Photos” page!
Some members of our club got us into the Raleigh St. Patricks Day parade today - and also got us invited to enter a car show being run as part of an event at a local shopping area. The parade was a blast - most folks decorated their cars for the occasion (some more than others) and we drove the route in “S” curves… it was like being in the “Italian Job”, but in super-slow-mo… the crowd loved it!
So I’m doing the 4 hour drive home last night after a day of business meetings on the road. My friends who have spent time in Germany always lament at the sorry excuse for drivers ed and driving standards we have in this country, and I emphatically agree. Last night, I witnessed MANY examples of asinine behavior…
My least favorites:
One: The jerks in large trucks (big rigs or panel trucks) who feel the need, in a 65mph zone in a congested section of I-85, to pass another truck at a speed of 67mph, because the other guy was only going 66mph, thereby occupying the passing lane for 2 minutes to make a single pass… while the prevailing speed in the fast lane in that area is 80mph+…
Two: The complete idiot in the Chevy Cavalier who was employing the exact same passing strategy, except they were passing an “undocumented Mexican immigrant” in tiny pickup truck, in a 55 zone, in an entirely wide open and deserted area of divided 4-lane. I patiently waited behind them until they were several car lengths in front of the pickup. Still cruising maybe 2mph over the posted limit, in the “fast lane”… I quickly and politely flashed my lights once in a courteous request to pull over. Instead they shot me the bird, and SLOWED DOWN to come back beside the pickup, where they maintained their position…
I flashed again. They shot the bird again. At this point I turn on several hundred watts of high beams, xenons, and rally lights, and leave them on, illuminating the interior of the POS Cavalier like a magnesium flare… they turn on the bird, and leave it on, and maintain pace… then they slow further (to about 40mph), allowing the pickup to overtake them on the right… I drop back a bit, they anticipate my move, and they move into the right lane to block… doofus… I instantaneously kick in 15psi of boost and overtake on the left, then move back into the right lane like a courteous motorist when it is safe to do so.
Mind you, I have NO interest in “racing” a teenager in a POS bone-stock Cavalier on ANY day - there’s no sport in it, and I don’t want even idiots like this to kill themselves when I’m nearby… and I have even less interest in it at the end of a 12 hour workday in my last hour of drive home. I just want to motor. But this nimrod moves back into the left lane behind me and takes up the chase. I resume my V1-aided cruising speed and watch the Cavalier in the side mirror. Eventually, fear of losing their license if they were to happen upon a state trooper overtakes their testosterone level, and they slow back down to something approaching their original speed, as me and my blazing rally lights disappear up the road.
WHY do kids feel compelled to behave this way? I was just driving, minding my own business, and they decided that the left lane was somehow their God-given property and I was unreasonable to want to make use of it for a moment or two… Argh… Back 20 years ago, a buddy and I fantasized about the ultimate automotive accessory, the “Asshole Missile”, that, once launched, would seek and destroy such wastes of oxygen. I went so far as to figure out how to make PVC launch tubes for Estes rockets to fit on my roofrack… I’m about ready to revive that design effort…
My birthday is on Sunday. I got myself an early present today. I took the day off and went to Virginia International Raceway (VIR). I was a VIRgin before today. Never knew what I was missing… OMG, this is gonna be addictive.
If you’re not familiar, VIR is a motorsports park very close to the North Carolina border - about an hour and a half from my house. They have several track configurations - the longest “full” track being 3.27 miles, with some rolling elevation changes and lots of corners. Many great drivers have raced here - including Carrol Shelby. It’s awesome. There’s a cool “Hot Lap” walkthrough of the “right” way to drive it (definitely NOT the way I drive it yet) on this page.
VIR does an annual “Holiday Laps” event for charity - you drive pace car-led laps, no passing, about 30-35 cars per group, for 20 minute sessions (about 6 laps). For a $25 donation to charity for each session. Shhh. Don’t tell anybody or the whole world will show up next year…
Six intrepid THMMC MINIs showed up on a cold, cloudy day today…
With his badazz new centercaps
and one new recruit
It’s always a good sign when the pace car looks like this…
There were lots of other cars there, too…
The Carolina Mustang Club…
Shelby Daytona Cobra coupe (thanks pbraun!)
The General Lee
I was proud of my 215/45R17’s…
Several new GTO’s
Max & Killer ran the first session
Here’s some video of my first session - I got to chase the GTOs. They could leave me on the straights, but I could catch them in the corners…
Maybe next year I’ll move Boddington the Bulldog out of the way… but it’s kinda fun watching him turn his head to always watch the swinging medallion. Well, it’s fun for the first 30 seconds. Then you just wish he was somewhere else.
I hit 104 on the back stretch one lap… would have gone faster… but there was some slower traffic in front of me… and I averaged 14mpg. Who says motorsports isn’t green?
In session 3, I handed a young man in an RX8 his butt… I was ALL OVER him… of course, he thought an “apex” was a divorced gorilla, and that he got bonus points for only using the middle 10′ of the track. So I could of been all over him in my momma’s Buick. If you want to see a driving style that can be improved, here’s his cornering…. but he had iridescent green wheels and a loud exhaust - and we all know it’s more important to look good than to be good - at least that’s my approach…
If you want to read up on what could be improved with his driving style, my friend MidnightDave wrote an excellent post for track driving novices.
Of course, at the same time, a guy in a huge heavy 4000lb Audi sedan was ALL OVER minimark (including through the corners) who was ALL OVER me… of course, the Audi was an RS6, which is a beast of a family sedan… and the driver was no slouch, either (former VIR member and Touring Class racer)…
Most of us ran three sessions - they were starting to spin things down around 4:30, and the hot Porsches were starting to show up for the REAL racing…
But that’s an EXPENSIVE hobby…
What a great day. Can’t wait for next time… I now understand why someone would buy a membership at VIR…. Hmmm….
In retrospect, I wasn’t very kind or instructive to the young man in the RX8. My apologies - I’ve removed a term for “novice” that I shouldn’t have used (that I myself have been called many times). From the looks of him, I have about 20 years and 500,000 miles more driving experience than the the young man, not to mention 20 more years of watching NASCAR races on TV… and I personally didn’t drive any better or differently than him about a year ago. My mother could certainly NOT take him in her Buick - though I MIGHT be able to, but I hope the young man will take some HPDE courses so in a year or two he can hand me MY butt… It wasn’t a race - but I just hate to see anyone not get the most out of a very good car on a very good track. I’m fond of RX8’s - wanted one in a bad way when they were introduced. I personally am very bling-heavy, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want a clown car with British flags all over it, so I hope he enjoys his wheels. I hope he had a good time and comes out again! I don’t raise my kids to talk down to people in that way, and my parents didn’t raise me to. I’m sorry if I hurt any feelings.
What a GREAT weekend! About 40 MINIs and their pilots / co-pilots made it to Fontana for the 1st to-be-annual MINIs Slay the Sleeping Dragon Nov 2-4. This started out as a few folks saying “Let’s go to the Dragon this fall” and picking a weekend that worked. Next thing you know, it’s an “event” and lots of folks are coming and we’re planning drives and activities and dinners… A HUGE Blimey-sized shout-out to Jason / 1QukMINI for making this happen - this thing was ALL him (or at least 92% him) and I think it was FABULOUS.
It was GREAT meeting lots of new friends. Can’t wait to motor and visit with you some more.
(Photo by Twister’s daughter!)
It was especially awesome spending lotsa time with my now-good buddies MINI_Bee (Jack) and Xiek (Jason). You guys rock.
Jack made a great highlight video of the weekend. I especially like the segment on “Blimey’s Run” (I have no idea why I like that part). The first part of that segment has MINI_Bee following me along the Cherohala Skyway - there are 18 other MINIs behind him… it was a fantastic 144 mile round trip from Fontana, across the Dragon, TN-72, TN-360 and the Skyway, with lunch at the fantastic Sweetwater BBQ in Robbinsville. Someone referred to it as an “Indy race through the mountains” but I can assure you, no racing activity occurred. That would be illegal. But it wasn’t a sightseeing run, either.
(Photo by SgtPepper)
Great spending more time with all my THMMC brothers and sisters, too. As always, it was a BLAST. (How could it not be with MidnightDave around?)
(Photo by RideInMyMomsMini)
Dave did a good job of providing a “G-Rated” version of my weekend, fit for consumption by the public authorities and my insurance agent:
Paul is a wimp and doesn’t know how to drive. He barely had his car above 11 miles an hour the whole weekend. He brakes to a stop before curves. He cried constantly because he had to frequently pull off and let everybody else pass anytime he was in front of anybody in any vehicle, including a 60 ft tractor trailer full of mattresses. He kept the top up the whole time, and the heater blasting. He does not even own a Union Jack do rag, so it certainly was never on his head. Oh, and nobody likes him, so he didn’t have any fun the entire weekend. He wouldn’t even lead his own ride, he just stayed at the lodge playing cribbage with some old guy with no teeth. Jason had nothing good to say about him either. Don’t even think he chugged maple syrup at the dinner–he was a no show.
Here’s the THMMC gang (plus MINI_Bee) at the Chilhowee Lake lot, at the north end of the Dragon, on late Friday afternoon:
We did a smaller, but awesome, midnight run of the Dragon on Friday night. Here’s the photo of our scaled-down “bat signal”…
Thanks to my bunkmate and newly-realized fraternity brother Matt / MDK for putting up with me and my sounds and smells…
Thanks to Rebecca for MAPLE SYRUP - I thought I knew what that was before, but I had NO IDEA…
Thanks to Dave for helping salvage our disc golf round. Thanks to Rich for spelunking for my disc…
I made it about 90 minutes down the road with MDK on Sunday morning on the way home. Then we stopped for gas… and Blimey started pulling back toward the mountains… I ended up taking the LONNNNGGGG way home (added about 3 hours) and drove back across the parkway at Devil’s Courthouse, took lots of pics, drove Bat Cave / Old Fort Road, and finally got my fill of twisties - at least for THIS weekend…
Can’t wait til next year. MOTD is a blast, but it’s almost overwhelming… this was much more intimate. I think I’ll be doing BOTH from now on…
I’ve never seen a simpler thing
Than the little MINI oil filter o-ring.
It’s nice and small and rubber and black,
Doing it’s job, filling a crack..
Time to change my oil, same as before,
Didn’t seem like much of a chore.
New oil and a filter, actually kinda fun,
Only half an hour and I was done.
Tools put away and trash in the bin,
I opened up the door and climbed right in.
Buckled up and turned the key,
Oh, that engine sounds sweet to me.
I record the miles and the work done then,
I pulled out my journal and my trusty pen.
I sat there, idling, and filled out my book,
No reason to give things a second look.
As the engine turned, I was quite unaware
That my wonderful O-ring had developed a tear.
And as a result of my tiny mistake,
My new batch of Castrol was becoming a lake.
Done with my logbook, I put it in gear,
Time for me and Blimey to get outta here,
You’re chuckling by now, but this is no joke,
“OH MY GOD, LOOK AT ALL THAT SMOKE!!!”
The stream of new Castrol had found the exhaust,
And finally there was a sign that oil was being lost,
Smoke poured from the bonnet, a huge cloud of white,
and in through the vents, OH MY what a fright!
I pulled to the curb and switched off the key,
No idea what was happening to Blimey and me.
But I hop out of the car and into the rain
And see a sign that this is gonna be a pain.
Pulled off the filter and saw the big tear,
No idea how that thing got there.
Put a new ring on and 3 more quarts
No worse for the wear, except for my shorts.
Two thousand miles later, everything seems OK,
But I’ll always have a memory of the oil change day.
Oil changes are easy, just one little hitch,
When you change your filter o-ring, don’t tear that little b!t@h!