Howdy, Folks. WildcatOne here.
I just got back home about an hour ago. Cooling off, enjoying some tender vittles and sifting through a stack of emails, I'm glad to see everybody made it back safe and sound. I was gone for 7 days, and I found out when I saw what's stacked up here that I'm about a month behind, but that's about right for the way things go in Wildcat Country. I'm gonna give my take on that wonderful time...thing is, I keep remembering more and more after I type something, so I'm making a master file that I'll edit and finalize, copy out and paste into a post and try to get as much said as I can at one time...
The trip there and back was an adventure in itself. I kept George on a pretty strict agenda...no faster than 60-65 mph with an occasional spurt of 70 depending on the situation, and there were a few situations, but with the one exception of George taking a rock in the windshield this morning just South of Carthage, Texas, (it put a circular crack in the windshield just to the right of the rear-view mirror location, and there are 3 or 4 cracks all going in the same circle, about as big as a softball...I'm going to check in with a windshield repair guy before I order a new windshield, they might be able to fix that) there was no damage of any kind and he ran like a top all the way there and back. On the way there I missed the shortcut from Alba (5 to 137 to 63...the map didn't show 5) to Eddyville off of Highway 34 South of Des Moines and ended up driving all the way to Ottumwa, but a friendly convenience store guy gave me proper directions back to "Osky" and although I missed the presentation of the plaque to BP, I still managed to get there in time to have a wonderful dinner at Tacos and got to hang out with folks before heading to the motel that night.
George and I logged a little over 2,200 miles total. All the way there and back, folks were super nice and whenever I'd stop for gas somebody'd come over and chat with me about George and I met some really neat people that way driving across the heart of our great nation. Cars full of folks would pull up next to me, giving me thumbs-up and v-for-victory (or the peace sign?) and they'd honk and smile...bikers, tourists, cowboys, rednecks, rich guys, college kids, little old ladies, everybody dug the bug. I saw one other air-cooled Beetle on the road the whole trip, and that was 3 miles before I took my freeway exit coming home. One guy in Kansas City just went crazy over George at a QT and I ended up visiting with him for about 20 minutes at the gas pump before I had to go. I told him about thesamba.com, oldbugs.com and craigslist.org and I told him you can probably find as good or an even better one for what I paid or less on there, but I also pointed out that when I bought George from Kenny back in 2007, I didn't argue over the price because it was a good price to begin with for what I was getting. Anyway, Highway 71 in Arkansas between Fort Smith and Texarkana is fun to drive during the day (on the way there), but at night (on the way back), it's a nightmare ride on the back of a slithering black snake. It kept me on my toes, big-time all the way through that 150 or so miles. What was the hardest part of it was the oncoming traffic, most of whom were using their bright lights and didn't much care to dim them when they came up on me, usually in a curve or coming up seemingly out of nowhere on a hill. I came out of it a little shaken but also exhausted, and the trip from Texarkana to Shreveport between 1 and 2:30 Monday morning was challenging for me to remain alert and fully awake. I did a lot of singing, shifting around in my seat and shaking my head to make that last stretch. When I got to Shreveport I got a nice breakfast at the IHOP on I-20 (I dozed off in the booth for a few minutes) and then smooth cruised down to Bert's house, which is about 20 miles Southeast of the city. Got there at 3:30 and hit the sack around 4AM Monday. It was about like coming home from a gig with the band.
More on Bert later.
The trip home from Shreveport was uneventful except for the rock hit and it went by fast. I got here, fired up my computer and got going, but I dozed off for a couple of hours before starting this paragraph. It's great to be home. Tomorrow is my son Kyle's 25th birthday. It's unbelievable how fast life can go by. Make the most of it, folks. Every day counts. And love your kids. Before you know it, they're all grown up and you're old. I could go off on a tangent about that but maybe The Night Shift will have more of that in it...
Eddyville. What this post revolves around. I followed the Stimpys to the track Saturday morning after running George through one of the car washes in Osky...met the manager who works part-time as a preacher and I hung out with him for 10 minutes or so and he gave me a great little sermon about the glue holding everything together and how it applies to the salvation of mankind. He was great. He made sure George was sparkling for the trip to the track. So we get there and I made arrangements to race. I was in and out of tech in a matter of minutes and I used the 20 bucks Bert gave me to get in with. I signed up for test and tune. I got 3 runs. My competition number was 7163 and I listed my sponsors as Draglist.com, The Pee Wee Bowen Band and The Phantoms Klassic Kruisers. The DragList Super Crew had a real nice pit area close to the concession stands and staging lanes with lots of tree shade, grass, bottled water, lawn chairs and we were within a few steps of the nitro funny cars, Danny Miller's Plastic Fantastic Rear Gears Maverick and Roger Stanke's...uh...I never did learn if it was a Mustang or a Plymouth Arrow but the Twin Cities Shaker and the Plastic Fantastic were 2 outstanding cars, set up differently and interesting to compare, but the fire-ups were great because we were downwind and we got to weep in the yellow clouds of the gods. Prominently displayed were Gary's excellent DragList.com Nationals IV banner and the Painter Tom Tribute banner, which we all signed and a significant number of folks made donations to his family. BP put the DragList 2009 calendars at the souvenir booth and they were all snatched up by the crowd. They're all gone except for the few that BP saved. Life is good.
Stimpy and Mrs. Stimpy's wedding was beautiful, funny (Thanks to Zappy and Linda) and full of surprises. I played the keyboards for it, set it on "Church Organ" and I played 3 tunes: The wedding march, the newlywed theme, and "When A Man Loves A Woman" during the Nitro Nuptials. Zappy's boom box had minor malfunctions but we did get it to play the great CD that his son made for him of hot rod songs. Stimpy and Mary were a beautiful couple, and good sports for the hilarious, iconic gifts and symbols that Zappy created for them and Linda handed them during the presentations and vow recitals. Zap made good use of the mic, he had his notes clipped into the pages of a National Dragster which stood for the missal, and his and Linda's outfits were awesome...blue and black psychedelic tuxedo with the trademark Zappy flames and pants stripe and flaming shoes, touched off with a "Z" necklace...he had what a lot of entertainers wish they had...not just stage presence, but total command of presence...and he was great...it was wonderful and everybody was at once moved and joyous in the event. Zappy is one very creative and classy guy and his sketch was entirely done in drag racing jargon, which as we all know can be interpreted many ways, and every vow he had Stimpy and Mary say "I will" to got laughs from us all. After it was over, my face hurt from smiling so big all the way through the whole thing. Gary video'd all of it and it was a highlight of that beautiful day. I told Zappy, you get a system down on this deal and you could go into business. You could do the national tour and do this, man. Fix up a portable chapel... Lemme go with ya. We'd book 3 or 4 weddings per event...and get to make the whole tour to boot...yet like so many things that are simply done for love, this will most likely remain a once-only feature of the DragList Nationals IV. Congratulations to Scott and Mary; many happy years to you both. It was great to meet you, Zap and Linda and Susan.
Gena and Iowa Al were busy taking pictures all through the entire weekend, I've seen Gena's and BP's and they were great...Al's will be forthcoming. BP was all over the place, being BP and helping folks with whatever they needed. Jason was in charge of the cart and he gave me a ride to the tower so I could retrieve my competition number to shoe-polish it on George's window. Other than the nitro cars, DragList had 2 cars there that ran. Jeff Spears' Camaro, which I thought was awesome, and George. We were both signed up for test and tune, so we raced each other. I can't think of a more lopsided matchup so the competition factor never came up, but I did get to make a few jokes about George. First pass, I got on my cell phone and called my cousin Bert in Shreveport, who had gone over George with his posse of Bug Doctors before I made the trip, making sure George would perform well throughout the whole journey. I sat the cell phone down on the seat and left it on right before I did the burnout. Zappy and Gary made starting-line adjustments to our windshield washers, Zappy pounded his fist on George's hood and gave me the thumbs-up, and we rolled forward and got staged. I did what I was supposed to do...my reaction time was less than a second (we used a .500ths sequence on the tree) and my ET was less than a minute. Not bad. Jeff was out on me by a full length by the time we'd passed the tree, and as I went through the gears I saw him out of the corner of my eye (I stayed focused on the track in front of me. I did a Mike Singletary act. My eyes were wide open as big as half-dollars and I did not blink), I could see him quickly shrink away in perspective. That Camaro is a great street car and it performed excellently on track. Jeff was ready to make the turnoff by the time I crossed the stripe. My time was a 12.54 at 53.71. It was fun! I picked up the cell phone and told Bert thank you and he was delighted to go along for the ride with me. The time slip guy wasn't pleased, though. He told me to hang the ^#(% up and drive...I did a little explaining about who I was talking to and why and he ended up telling me OK, that's good that you called the man.
Well, the second run came up. This time we switched lanes and Jeff had Gary in the seat. We did our burnouts and this time George's tires spun (a little)...felt good...we very carefully staged and again we got the green, no fouls. Right off the line, I heard an ear-splittling PING!!!!! I jumped. I said what the...and I didn't see Gary's tail lights by the time I'd gone 60 feet. I just concentrated on staying straight and making the pass...but about a hundred feet before the finish line I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Gary back at the starting line. I backed off and coasted through the traps. I am in the habit of using my directional signals before I turn, so I turned on the right-hand turn signal before I made the turnoff <g>. The time slip guy came up reading my stuff and he says "Say, you ran 5 mph slower on that pass than you did the first time. What happened?" I looked at him and said "Tire Shake." I ran a 13.41 at 48 mph on that pass, slowing on the top end...I got back and found out that the 10" rear end on Jeff's Camaro blew at the hit...that was a bummer...and that's drag racing...but once Gary and Jeff got it back on the trailer, they got with Danny Miller and made arrangements for a new 9" unit to be procured within a week or so, and next year's performance promises to be a best-ever outing for this great car and team. I was proud to be on the same track with those guys.
So, the third pass came up, and a few minutes before the call I ran into BP and Gena and I told 'em, look. I have 3 passes today and I've already made 2. Anybody want to take George for a spin? BP said sure, I'll do it, so I put BP in the cockpit for the solo pass in the "money round". The tower guy saw BP in George and he said "That's BILL PRATT driving that Bug! Maybe he can get some speed out of it!" I said that would be nice! I was up there with BP till he staged and Gena took pictures of his run. He went easy on my stuff and ran about what I did on the second pass. But he passed the turnoff and I yelled "My God! The chute didn't come out!" BP drove down to the oval track and came back around the return road from there. It was a fun day racing. I ended up receiving the street car champion trophy that night. I have it on the mantle in the Shrine to Bad Taste...but look, y'all. I know it's the process of elimination and that's how the system works, but let's get some race cars out there next time...If Jeff's car hadn't had that problem, he could have just about come back and made a second pass by the time I finished my first one in George...I know it's tough these days. I had money put aside for the trip and George isn't a race car. Street ride, yes, but this was for me, a tongue-in-cheek "victory"...I got to make jokes about it, but for DLNsV I want to see some DragList action out there. It isn't about the racing part, I know. It's about the people and the experience of us all having fun together...but a few more race cars would be great, ya know...I hung out with some racers there and had a great time with them...the 2 guys with the Bantam altered that were staying at the Motel we were at were a real hoot, and we joked and shared stories of life and...of life...they were great guys and so was the guy pitted next to us with the rare Monza Pro ET car. Nice guy and a technical whiz, he lost 2nd round at the tree. He was a very interesting racer, with his own way of doing it. He was different than most others and he had an outstanding race car to show that was not only set up differently but was also a rare version of the line of car that he chose.
When BP handed out the trophies that night before we devoured Greg Green's delicious barbecue dinner that he prepared for us along with Rapid's 168th Birthday cake, I was given the trophy for longest distance driven. I gave it to my cousin Bert when I got to Shreveport on the way back, for his hard work and organizing 2 guys and himself to get George in top shape for the trip. I also went in his shop and took the 2 DragList.com stickers off of George's side windows that I put on for the race and I put them on his 2 tool boxes that he has in his completely stocked-to-the-rafters shop he has back behind his house where we worked on George. He was again delighted. Bert is a hero of mine. Not a nicer guy walking around but steet-wise and savvy with an encyclopedic knowledge of automotive performance and connected to the right people to get anything done he has on his schedule. His work on George got me there and back in one piece and I could think of no one more deserving to have that 2nd trophy. Billy got a trophy for travel story, as we all know his truck made it to Atlanta but couldn't go the distance, which is a shame because Billy's car is such a fine work of art and he backs it up with great performance. Billy built that car from the ground-up with his bare hands over a 5-year period of tough times and setbacks, but what he has now is gorgeous and a real threat. I was sorry Billy didn't get to come and I was on the phone with him all weekend. He's already planning next year's trip, this time focusing on the transport. The car's fine. Hats off to Billy Mac for his effort and his great heart.
The Big Thrill was provided by Rapid and that wicked funny car. I've bragged on Rapid a lot in the past, but what I said then pales in comparison to what I saw him do Saturday. He and Mark Warden driving the Twin Cities Shaker were scheduled for 2 runs that day....the first round was in the afternoon, the track had so much bite, the air was cool, dense and dry, and those cars were set on the razor's edge. They both did their burnouts and staged, and when they got the green, all hell broke loose. It all happened so fast I can't really say exactly what happened, but what I think I remember was seeing Rapid getting all 4 wheelz off the ground at 330 feet, Mark and Rapid fishtailing, bouncing, jumping off and on the throttle, I could swear I saw the profile of the Maverick at 500 feet, and Mark went across the centerline when they entered the traps, taking out the timing cones which went flying in all directions like an incredible orange styrofoam starburst. They looked so close that they probably could have reached out and high-fived each other. Both cars had damage from the tire shake and the violent jerking around that they both endured during that run, but both drivers were fine. I told Laura: "That was the WILDEST drag race I ever saw!" She calmly turned to me and said "Oh, you haven't seen him race very much, have you?" The second round just had Rapid out there because Roger's car wasn't able to make the call. Mark lined up in a golf cart next to a dry-hopping Rapid, being a good sport and it was a great show...then Rapid made the run, and I've never seen a car go that crazy....it jumped, it stood up on the tire, it shook like it was in a blender, lurched around and flopped like a fresh-caught bass...Rapid legged it all the way, getting every inch out of that track and every drop of that nitro blasted out of the headers. You hang out with Rapid and he's a great guy, always ready to discuss the sport and he tells it like it is and he is a fine gentleman. But he has a special gift that not many people have. As a race car driver, I've never seen anyone handle unpredictable on-track violence with such a cool hand,. He not only handles whatever that monster dishes out to him, he CONTROLS it with reflexes and skill that I cannot fathom. Rapid is, simply put, a phenomenon in my world. I watch him perform in pure awe.
I hung out with Rich, one of Danny's crewmen that night when we were having that great barbecue dinner and I asked him about those runs. He kind of shook his head and said "well, we did hop it up a little today....we're used to running in the heat on hot tracks but this day was way different for this time of year...but Randy got it down the track. I don't see how he did it, really..." Rich is about 6-foot-7 and he's a soft-spoken, plain-talking guy. Danny and his crew as well as Roger and his guys were all super-great to all of us, as were the track people at Eddyville Raceway Park. In fact, the people of Iowa were all super-great to me the whole time I was there. They were happy to meet me, do business with me at the stores I went to, talk to me about George and the DragList Nationals, and so on, it is one of the most wonderful places I've ever been to. Thanks, DragList for having this event where it is and who it's with. It's the perfect place for us.
The cafe down the street from the motel deserves to be brought up because not only did they have the best breakfasts I've had in years, their prices and the family atmosphere they have there made us enjoy the meal that much more. We thought we were badass with all our red DragList shirts on until a biker gang showed up in full road regalia...it was kind of a self-effacing moment but it turned out they're Christian bikers and they were cool people and we got to hang out with them and talk about our adventures and wish each other well...to sum it all up, I can only say that this was a weekend and a trip that will be remembered by me as 3 days of perfect fellowship and fun. I met and made new friends, I got to know friends I already had by meeting them in person for the first time, and I got to see friends again that I looked forward to hooking up with after 3 years.
Boyd and Susan. Danny and Gena. Paul and Linda. Randy and Laura. Scott and Mary. Al and Sandy. John and....next time I want Debby there with me...with US...
As Billy Mac says, "Long Live DragList!" I have no doubt it will. See you all next time! And thanks.
Last edited by WildcatOne
on Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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