My dad and I left about 7:30 Wednesday evening from Albuquerque, New
Mexico. He had picked me up at work. We drove back to my house and I packed
the last of my things while he grabbed us some food for the road. We filled
up with gas, and were on our way. The plan was to stop in Winslow for the
night and head out first thing in the morning. We stayed at a very nice Best
Western Inn there, right near the Wall Mart. The next morning we grabbed
some McDonalds and hit the road again (can you believe they don't super size
the breakfast meals in Winslow?)
My dad did the driving Wednesday night and Thursday too... He was feeling
well enough to do it, and I don't mind just riding, so I just kicked back
and enjoyed the ride. We stopped a couple of times for gas, and a couple
more for food. We hit a Jack in the Box as soon as we found one. My favorite
there is the Monster Taco. We don't have any Jack in the Box's in poor old
New Mexico, so we always make a point of getting our fix while out of state
:-) We got a couple of calls from Chris Stinson, who was well on his way
towards the Patch by the time we even got up :-) Chris left Winslow at I
think 3:00 a.m. or something out of control like that (LOL). But he called
us over the cell phone a of couple times.
We drove pretty steady from Winslow to Bakersfield; didn't get any
tickets! Of course with the golf cart on the back of the truck, it's kind of
hard to speed...but we kept up a good pace with as few stops as possible.
Before we knew it, we were rolling into the edge of town at about 2:00. I am
pretty sure we got out to the track around 2:30 because we went straight
there, and opted not to check into the hotel first.
We spotted Mr. Gibbs at the gate, and I was reintroduced to him as my
dad's "Oldest Son Ben." I kind of like that...makes me feel like
I'm mature or something. I told Mr. Gibbs it was nice to see him again, and
was told somewhat sternly, "It's Steve." So as we pulled through
(we were causing somewhat of a backup), I corrected myself and said,
"We'll see you soon, Steve," as we pulled around to unload our
A few minutes later, we were all set -- Golf Cart unloaded, wheel chair
strapped to the back, sunscreen, hats, and my dad's "purse" with
us, and we were cruising through pits by no later than 2:45. We stopped to
gossip with a few of the teams my dad knows. I wish I could remember names,
but I do remember faces and cars, and all were friendly. Many stopped what
they were doing to come over to our cart and have a quick word with us. This
seemed to be a theme for the weekend, as wherever we went, people seemed to
gather around my dad. We ended up stopped more than we were moving through
We came across Chris and his group from Winslow, and were informed that
"a pretty young blond girl over by the Vagabond car was asking if
"Wheels" was here yet." I was happy to hear this :-) and
Chris said, "I'm pretty sure she wasn't asking about Wheels,
though." Well, at least someone wanted to talk to ME this weekend! We
drove past the dragsters on "Memory Lane" and then headed up
towards where we knew the Fuller cars would be on display.
Before we got that far, I noticed the "pretty young blond"
Chris had been talking about. As my dad stopped to talk to another group of
people (like I said, I don't remember names well, so please forgive the
holes...I'm forgetful, and at this point, just a bit distracted :-)
Anyway...I made my exit at this point, let someone else have my seat on the
Golf Cart, and made my way down the top half of Memory lane to greet
Rachelle and her sister Jessica. I gave Rachelle the big hug I promised her,
and the three of us went walking towards the Fuller cars. I don't know
exactly what we did after that. I was just happy to see Rachelle again, and
we talked about the drives out there, how everyone was, and things like
that. Then I saw the cars.
Pete's car that Fred Vosk worked on wasn't there yet, but the Magicar was
there again, as were the Vagabond and S&H. (I know there were more, but
those are the only ones I can picture as I write this). They were all
stunning. Bill Pitts had added some Gold Leaf this year, and it came out
awesome. "The Vagabonds," AKA Terry and Larry, Jessica and
Rachelle, have done a tremendous job getting their car restored, and the
paint job is totally magnificent.
Rachelle and I walked around, checked on my dad a couple of times, and after
admiring the cars that made it out on Thursday, we talked to friends that I
hadn't seen since last year. I saw Bill Ott on Thursday, but didn't see the
G-man until Friday. I really love seeing these two guys at the CHRR, and
hope they'll be there next year. Their level of excitement and the amount of
fun they have just blows me away. The first time I saw them last year, G-man
was so happy to meet us, and so THRILLED to be out there, I thought he was
going to burst!
Anyway, after a few hours at the track, we were ready to head back to the
hotel to check in, get cleaned up, and go to the Double Tree for the
Thursday night "Informal Dinner." I enjoy this dinner the most of
all the ones the group has out there. I guess because it's small and
informal, but yet you're sitting down, so you can talk to people :-) Also,
there isn't anything "going on" that you have to pay attention to.
I bailed out early to go swimming with Rachelle and Jess at their hotel, and
I left my dad in the care of Chris Stinson. Thank you very much, Chris, for
helping my dad to his car many times this weekend so I could go and spend
time with Rachelle.
Friday morning we headed out to the track pretty early to meet the folks we
hadn't caught up with the day before. I got to see the Vagabond fired for
the first time ever. WHAT A SOUND! I watched a little bit of racing Friday,
but for the most part this weekend was meeting new people, talking with
friends, and just in general checking out awesome street rods and restored
dragsters. Hats off to everyone who does the restorations. I told Pat Foster
and a few others that not everyone realizes how much work that goes into
restore/recreate these old pieces of dragster artwork/history, but this drag
racing fan does.
Friday night was the "official" reception at the Double Tree.
My dad and I left early to make sure he got into the room at the end of that
long hallway where the deal was supposed to happen. I'm glad we did because
not long after we got there, the WHOLE PLACE was packed. I more or less just
hung out that night, checked on my dad a few times, and walked over to check
out the skate park across the way. I grabbed a burger at the Carl's Junior
across the way, and after the Andersons got there, Rachelle and I once again
took off to the hotel to hang out in the hot tub and watch TV.
Saturday changed my life. I got to sit in a nostalgia front engine digger
while they fired it off. I had helped Terry mix fuel the day before, and she
had given me a great big thank you already (I was more than happy to help
mix NITRO! -- who wouldn't be?) But I guess she wanted to make sure I was
hooked on nitro racing forever :-)
I was standing around after they had fueled the Vagabond, just wanting to
be on one side of the motor or the other to get the full effect of the
zoomies and the most nitro smell I could. But Rachelle walks over to me with
the silver facemask worn by whomever sits in the car while it's running. She
tells me to "turn around" and as I my heart jumps, hoping this
means what I think it means (they CAN'T be wanting ME to sit in the
CAR!!!!!) I say, "You're not putting that on ME are you?" She
says, "Sure we are; you're getting in the car!"
My heart jumps, and I'm already stunned. Then Terry is helping to tighten
the mask (I'm glad I had it on...I love nitro as much as the next race fan,
but it's a bit much when you're sitting practically on top of the engine!)
Then Larry comes over to make sure I know what to do. OK, I think to myself,
only three things to do: 1) Hit the start switch when Larry nods, 2) Engage
the fuel when Larry waves, and 3) Cut the fuel when Larry gives the cut
signal. Simple, I can do that...
So.... Larry runs the starter to check oil pressure. Then Larry runs it
again and nods. I hit the switch. It starts, but someone didn't drop the
line in the alcohol fuel bottle fast enough, so it goes out. Try again, and
this time I hit it and it roars to life..."only" on alcohol fuel.
After Larry checks a few things, he motions to engage the fuel, and as they
pull the fuel line out of the alcohol and plug up a spot by the blower, I
engage the nitro. A second or so later, the alcohol is burned up, and it's
running on POP!
The cage is rattling so much at this point I feel like I'm in a total
body footsie-wootsie machine on nitro! (You know those things at the fairs
that give you an automatic foot massage for 25 cents?) I've never felt
anything like it! These cars (for anyone who doesn't know) shake you so much
at an idle, that you can feel it in your brain casing :-) Then Larry got a
semi-evil grin on his face, and opened the butterflies on the blower, just
for a second, but WOW! WHAT A FEELING!!!!!! He revved it I don't know how
many times, but it could not have been enough for this goat farmer turned
computer nerd, turned nitro junky!
For me it was an awesome and awe inspiring experience. I kept trying to
imagine what it would be like to sit in a car like this as it idled up to
the starting line, and then put my foot down on the loud peddle and try to
keep it under control for 1320 feet. The power in these motors, while
running on nitromethane couldn't have impressed me more. Thank you, Larry
and Terry, for giving me one of the most awesome experiences a racing fan
could hope for and definitely the most unique!
After they shut off the car, and the crowd that had gathered stopped
cheering, Rachelle and someone else wanted to help me out of the car. I
didn't even want to move. I took off the facemask, inhaled a breath of nitro
infused air, and just sat there. I said, "I don't think I can stand
up," and so they made like they were going to help me out. I think they
thought I was wedged too tightly, but I said, "No, no -- just let me
sit here for a minute. That was AWESOME!!!"
The Cacklefest later in the afternoon was a REAL treat; makes me wish I
had been alive to watch drag racing back in the day. I got to stand on the
back of Bill Pitts' station wagon and videotape him push starting the
Magicar, with Jeep in it, on the way towards the starting line.
WOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!! I felt like I was part of history or something :-)
Someday I'll say, "I was at the first ever Cacklefest!"
Saturday night was the RCS dinner. In-N-Out burgers were awesome. I served
up some goat cheese and crackers to all the tables, but was feeling pretty
tired. I once more left my dad with Chris (thank you Chris), and Rachelle
and I headed back into town to watch a little TV before she dropped me off
at my hotel so I could get to bed.
Sunday seemed like a half day at the track compared to the others -- it just
seemed to fly by. Saw Mousie Marcellus and got to hear the story about the
"Why is Willie smiling?" picture. I love listening to Mousie's
stories; he's truly what drag racing is about! Before I knew it though,
Sunday at the track was over, and we headed out to the In-N-Out for the CHRR
I loaded up our golf cart and handed out the last of our cheeses and the
last of our dash plaques from the Charlestown Dragway Reunion. We headed
over to the In-N-Out, where we had their awesome burgers again, and watched
as they fired the Vagabond and the Magicar at the same time :-) WOW, what an
ending. We headed back to our hotel, and I got dad all set for the night.
Then I headed over to say goodbye to Rachelle and have one last meal at Jack
in the Box.
Don't know how to thank everyone for including me in your reunion! Ma
Green, you're wonderful. Mr. Fuller, your cars are amazing. I'm privileged
to have met Mrs. Fuller, and Steven and Eric and their families, Jim
Sorensen, Pat Foster, Fred Vosk, Tom Hanna, Bill Pitts, Bill Ott, Jerry
Gross, Mousie, Mark Hovsepian, Chris Stinson, Mr. (STEVE ;-)) and Mrs.
Gibbs, Darrell Tedford, Red Greth, Bill Turney, Larry and Jamie Steinegger,
and Jack Harris and the Posse (great job out there). I can't even begin to
thank everyone for being so kind to me and to my father, and for all the
work all of you do to keep this sport alive, and more importantly, to keep
nostalgia racing alive. I love seeing front engine nitro diggers/altereds
Thank you all so much. If I didn't list you, I'm sorry, but thank you all
the same because everyone made this trip amazing for me.
(Son of Harrison)