Drag Race Central - Harrisburg, Pa.
©2001 Bill Ott
Monday, June 11, 2001
The world that we used to know,
People tell me, it don't turn no more,
The places we used to go,
Familiar faces that ain't smilin' like before*
Says who? Just spent the weekend back there, and you know what? The faces are smilin' even bigger smiles than before. Oh sure... everyone was a little choked up when the names of the recently deceased were read. As a few are eulogized by friends in attendance (What? No time allowed for rebuttal?), I'm reminded, through personal experience... the pain in your heart, will slowly be replaced, after time, by a smile on your face when their name is mentioned. Besides, you can really lay it on thick and heavy when they ain't there to challenge your stories of their accomplishments, or, lack thereof.
So how did we wind up in Seekonk, Mass., on a Sunday afternoon you ask? Glad you did. Now I can go back and start at the beginning instead of three quarters of the way towards the end, which, by the way is NOT where I planned on starting this thing in the first place!!! You see, I'm on vacation this week. Now, the first thing I do when I'm on vacation is to quit wearing a watch. If you haven't ever tried it, I recommend it... highly!! Once you can lose track of the hours, then losing track of the days comes easy. And if you wake up in the middle of your vacation and realize you don't have ANY idea what time OR day it is, then damn it, you're having a good time!!
Back to Saturday morning, Harrisburg, Pa., 5:45 AM. Packed the car (a rented Mitsubishi Eclipse DE Coupe) last night... just threw everything in the trunk. I hate clutter in a vehicle when I'm driving. Besides, I need a lot of room up front for the forty-eight (48) CDs I brought along. Dire Straits "On Every Street" will be the featured album on the start of today's ride.
Hey, did I mention that this morning we're heading for the Charlestown (Rhode Island) Dragway Reunion and Ed Sarkisian Benefit IV? We'll be stopping on the way in Cumberland, R.I. to get a room and visit our old pal Jack Brady, his Fiat Topolino, and his family. We should be there in about six or seven hours. Heading north on I-81 with 'Calling Elvis' flowing out of the speakers and no other traffic on the road, it's time to see what this Eclipse will do. It did good.
Changing highways about 30 minutes north of Harrisburg, we turn east on I-78, straight into the rising sun. It sure is green around here this time of the year. Man, what a beautiful morning! With the sunrise straight ahead, the cool morning air, and the rolling hills. Sometimes you wish these moments could last all day... but then they wouldn't be special, would they?
Around Fredericksburg, we're running through a construction zone. Single lane, Jersey barriers on both sides. Cool... 'The Bug' playing while I'm driving through the cattle chutes... "sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug." Strausstown exit, listening to 'Heavy Fuel'... "if you want to run cool, you've got to run, on heavy, heavy fuel." Shartlesville, two miles, 'Ticket to Heaven' fills the car..."got my ticket heaven, and everlasting life." Welcome to Hamburg, Pa., as I'm listening to 'My Party'..."ain't running out of nothing, in my deep freeze." Passing exit 13 (New Smithville) starting down the big hill overlooking Allentown the laid back 'How Long?' in the background... 'how long, before you wake up, and find you're good man gone?"
Great timing. just as the last song on the album fades, we leave the interstate at the Cetronia exit and head for Dunkin' Donuts. There's one tucked away in a strip mall here that only the locals know about. No standing in line for coffee, day or night. This one's a well-kept secret. Someday I'm going to publish a book... The Truckers Guide To Dunkin' Donuts and Low Underpasses, I'll put it in a rack in every Truck Stop in the country. It'll be a best seller and I'll be rich. As I turn the volume up to hear what that racket is on the FM, I realize I'm listening to the absolutely WORSE version of 'Desperado' that has ever been recorded. The Eagles should sue this guy. No wonder I lost interest in country music years ago.
Back on ol' I-78 heading towards New Jersey, can't help but notice the increased volume of traffic, and it's only 7:15. Why *to hell don't all of these people stay in bed, after all IT IS Saturday! Got a great CD of old guitar tunes that'll help pick up the pace... we'll be in the New York City suburbs soon. Time to get my head in the right place. One last chance to sit back in the seat, relax, and drink a little coffee, but first let's start that CD. WHOA!!!! The roar of a single stroke drum roll blasts me into the back seat as the Ventures kick off 'Walk Don't Run'. Guess who forgot to turn the volume down?
Hell, I needed a good wake up call anyway.
Northbound on I-287 I come up on a New Jersey State Trooper writing some guy a speeding ticket. But get this... the car has two state of the art bicycles on a rack over the back bumper. Now I ask you, if these people are concerned enough about the polluted air and the looming energy crisis to ride bicycles, why *to hell are they speeding up and down the highways in an S.U.V.?
As I'm getting near the Tappan Zee Bridge, the traffic is getting crazy. I'll be picking up I-95 at the Connecticut line soon. At exit 33 in Bridgeport, I'll stop at the Flyer Diner for breakfast. Never stopped here this time of the day, but I always stop in the middle of the night in the big truck. Plenty of room to park and the local bears even let you park out on the street at night, as long as you shut the engine off. Breakfast at the Flyer was good, as always.
After a couple more uneventful hours of driving, I'm in Cumberland and checked into the motel by 12:45. After stretching out for a while it's time to call Jack. There's going to be an informal get-together tonight at the Seekonk Speedway, so I guess we'll make some plans for it. When Jack answers the phone, I can hear the desperation in his voice. It seems he pulled the engine and tranny out of the altered to put in a new flywheel and clutch, and buttoned it all back together. When he went to start it, he found that the boltheads on the flywheel were too long and wouldn't clear the back of the block. So he pulled it all apart, ground down the offending bolt heads, and was in the process of putting it all back together, again. And yes, he could use some help.
Piece of cake! By 4:30 the 'ol Topolino is up and running again and a little after six we're in Seekonk. The track was open and there was some kind of a roundy-round race going on. The Reunion is going to be in the grassy area to the right of the track. And Bob George's crew had a huge canopy set up and the barbecue grille was smokin'.
Had a chance to visit with Bob when he wasn't as busy as he is going to be tomorrow. He informed me that I was going to get the Long Distance Driving Award and that tomorrow's barbecue banquet was 'on the house'. Why else did you think I drove all of this distance? All kidding aside, Bob's hospitality is legendary and Bob and his wife Jane spare no effort to make you feel at home.
Got a chance to hang out with Don Roberts and his dog (didn't catch the dog's name) and Jeff Howe (who evidently left his dog at home). Garry Winslow was there. Garry is a partner with Dave Vermilya (remember the Marshall and Vermilya AA Fueler from the left coast?) in a machine shop in Wareham, Mass. Garry used to work at Engle's, grinding cams back in the 'Cam Wars' days. There was a few others there, I apologize for not remembering their names or for overlooking anyone else I visited with.
As darkness started to set in so did the mosquitoes. They grow 'em big in these parts, too. Time to drop Jack off at home and head for the motel. 'Gonna sleep real good tonight... 5:00 AM was a long time ago.
'Gotta be at Jack's early tomorrow to get the Topolino loaded up for the show.
I won't be posting the report for Sunday's activities until Thursday. Hey, I'm on vacation, remember? I'll be leaving first thing in the morning for a few days of R&R in Shenandoah National Park. Stay tuned. More old B.S. later.
* © 1972 W. Becker & D. Fagen
ABC Dunhill Music