Monday, August 19, 2002

Mind the Needful.

Racing. Boy howdy, I like racing. Here is a summary of my weekend of racing.

After working too much all week, I finally am done, and can get all ready for racing. Friday is my pal Rebecca’s birthday, and she has requested visits in SF. So Sara and I figure the best way to do this is take 2 vehicles, so I can continue on to Sears Point, and she can return to San Jose. We will follow each other to Rebecca’s place in San Francisco, then find a parking garage to safely lock up the truck with the bike and gear.

I’ve been rushed all week, my brain is not quite banging on all cylinders, and I get onto highway 280 to head to San Francisco. Then my cell phone rings. Sara wants to know what I am doing. Apparently, I am driving the wrong way. South instead of North. Doh! We make some navigational corrections, and eventually make it to SF. Find Rebecca’s place, find a garage, deposit the truck, and pile into the Mighty Festiva. Pull out of the parking spot Sara found, and ask Rebecca how to get to ChinaTown.

HA! We are already at the entrance! Sara puts the car in reverse, and returns to the parking spot. Tee Hee! We wander into Chinatown looking for some dinner. And see tons of tourists. All wearing the exact same fleece jacket. SF is cold at night. And if you are traveling from anywhere else in the US, in mid August, you ASSUME it will be warm. Then you are freezing cold, and see these fleece jackets for sale, “ten dollah! Good price for you!” Well, and maybe some people from San Jose, who may have brought a lightweight jacket, and driven your boyfriend around in your Festiva….

I try to convince Sara to buy a fleece jacket, but she says she will be fine, and we find a place for dinner.

Rebecca and I have a beer apiece, and some food, at some place. I am convinced now, if I return to Chinatown, I will do two things: I will make sure to get a restaurant recommendation before I go, and I will buy a bamboo “coolie” hat to wear out at the races. We leave the restaurant, and are walking back to the car, and all the shops are closed or closing. Oh yeah, Charles is right, it IS colder outside now. Yep, that fleece jacket is looking more and more like a good idea. Too bad the shops are closed.

Finally, just at the exit of Chinatown, we see a shop that is open. TWELVE dollah! OH NO! for the “open late” shops, fleece is more expensive! But Sara buys one anyhow, and it does its job wonderfully.

We get in the car, Rebecca calls Eric (the Loser), he is home, so we drive over to his place to use bathroom, admire COOL collection of blades and stuff, pick up the Boi, and head back to Zeitgeist, a mad biker bar http://www.sonic.net/~wwpints/zeitgeist/

Sitting outside in the back, we drink some beers, (except Sara, yay! Sober and focused is GOOD) and talk some smack. Then the Tamale Lady comes by, Eric buys a bunch of veggie tamales, and a knit cap as a gift for Sara who is cold.

There is a description of the Tamale Lady: http://www.crackmonkey.org/pipermail/crackmonkey/2000q3/014254.html

At 2am, they kick out butts out, and we drive back to Rebecca’s. Find a parking place, crowd into her apartment, and she cues up some horrible zombie movie. Then the 3 drunks pass out, while Sara watches the Zombie movie. About an hour later, Sara is poking me, saying “this is too gross and too silly, and too bad, wake up, let’s go”

So she drops me at the parking garage and heads back to San Jose. I get my truck, drive downtown, cross the golden gate bridge at about 3:45 am in the fog, and drive up to Sears Point Raceway. The gate is locked, I park my truck, and sleep in the cab, for about 15 minutes, till some JACKASS arrives gets out of his truck, and starts talking, in a LOUD voice, till they open the gate at 6:30.

I want to get out of my truck and slaughter this JACKASS. I want to shoot him. No, I want to use a knife and gut him like a deer. No, I want to reach into his throat and pull out his esophagus. No, I JUST want 1 hour of sleep. BLAH BLAH BLAH. He just prattles away to anyone who will listen. Finally they open the gates, and I go in to park and set up pits. Register, see friends, say hello’s, and realize: I look like hell, my head hurts, and I am not in the best of moods. I only had like, 3 beers! Dang, I am a lightweight now.

The morning was a blur, but the first call for practice, and I was there. The bike is not running as good as it has, it is definitely tired. Maybe a clutch will help? But I run respectable times.

The whole day is a blur actually, I visit people, I make rounds, I talk smack, I practice, I remember nothing.

I did run a brilliant round with my pals Dick Rossi and Mike Barentson. They had mentioned “slow down, let us ride behind you” well, as soon as Dick got past me, damned if I did not have to work my buns off to catch up! He has improved amazingly. I had some brilliant ride with Sue, I diced with Stevie, and still, a blur.

The AFM has changed the track configuration to run the “AMA Turn 11” which is, to quote an AMA racer “rinky dink” There is this huge world class racing facility, and as you get to the end of a straight, there are parking fucking cones set up to show a cut-across. No, this is not a turn, it is a detour. Across a bad bit of pavement, too sharp, off camber. This is not a turn, this is an invitation to an accident.

NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE gets this turn. Every line, every time is different. POOPY! My pal John Anner crashes and breaks his collarbone there in practice. BOO! Get well soon John, you inspire me. John runs a really cool company, has a beautiful family, is in great physical shape, is a chef, handsome dickens, and pretty damn fast on a bike. For one of us old farts. Best wishes John, get better.

End of the day, I went to shower. Sears Point has “public” shower set up, with 4 shower heads. I turned them all on, pointed to the center of the room, and had a hot, steamy, nice shower. Shampoo, and conditioned, TWICE!

Went back to the pits, pre-registered and pre-teched for Sunday, cooked some hot dogs, got cold, talkd smack with Julia and Mark, What a cute couple, she loves him tons, and he dotes on her, it is so cool.

Talked with Adam, Nikky & Chris, Watched Chris burn a cardboard packing bit onto his pizza, laughed, talked more smack, then slept like a ROCK in the back of my truck. Rock. It was cold, I was wrapped up in blankets, I snored like a dog, and drooled. Yummy! I wish I had Sara’s twelve dollah fleece jacket.

Sunday morning, I felt 8 MILLION times better. I know practice will be cold, I know the turn 2 will suck, I go slow. Very slow. But I work on my lines around the track, I am steady and repetitious.

All racing is Hurry up and Wait. We practice at 8am, for 15 minutes, then have nothing to do till race #7, after lunch, around 2pm. Hurry up and wait.

Rebecca arrives, and we wander around and talk to friends, watch some racing, sit in the pits, make fun of people, take photos, harass Jack Walshe, my identical twin cousin, you know, I met Jerri Grindle’s family, her MOM came from way far away to visit and watch Jerri race. How cool! Jerri is one of the smoothest racers I know. Her lines are well thought out, consistent and amazing.

So eventually, our race comes around. Hop on the bike, in leathers, gloves, etc, tell Rebecca to come over, I am gonna tell her a secret, then I bite her ear for luck, no secret! And slap down the helmet to go.
Hot lap is not so hot. My bike will no rev over 10,000 rpm. Usually it runs at about 13,000. Is it the clutch maybe? I do not know. Coming into the carousel turn, my nemesis, I see my pal Holly doing turn work. I honk (yes, the cow bike still has its horn) but my head is still not in the race.

Grid up, watch the flag, it goes green, I dump the clutch, and nothing happens. NOTHING. For what feels like an eternity. Then the bike starts moving forward. I see Richard www.rka-luggage.com Battles do a great power wheelie and keep on trucking. I see some flashes as I pass some people.

I picked my way through some traffic, but it is NOT my usual decent start. I see the back of Jack’s leathers, and think I will chase him and Jerri, then Lisa comes from out of no where, and is right in front of me as I am accelerating up a hill. Again distraction. Lisa is very tall, and when she is tucked in on her bike, her arms and legs look really long. But oddly, I focus right on her butt, and start thinking what kind of underwear is she wearing.

I am in the middle of the battle for turn 1, and I am thinking about women’s underpants? Maybe I need to get out more.

Instantly refocus, make the turn, and start working back into the pack. Behind Lisa. She is fast, but we use very different braking points. I find myself braking way too soon, instead of passing. No, not the underwear, there are just too many bikes trying to go through the same place at the same time.

Finally the pack stretches out a little, and we can concentrate on the line. Someone crashes, and I zip past Lisa. Well, you cannot do that. So I slow down and wave her back by. The AFM rule is NO PASSING under a yellow flag. Yellow flag means danger on the track. But sometimes if you are really moving, it is dangerous to slow down, so you make the pass, then wave the rider back by. Remember this, we’ll be seeing it later in my story.

Lisa nods as she goes by, then she like finds some rocket power and really moves ahead of me. Like, in the “wow, she is sooo fast” kind of way. So I am riding like a madman to keep up, and the space is getting bigger and bigger. I steal a glance behind me, and there is a BIG gap to the next person behind me. It is Jim Race. He has a “built” motor. I know if he catches me, he will beat me.

And then I lost the race.

What? Well, once you make the mental decision that you cannot catch someone, it is done, you are over. And I did, and I was. Still running consistent speeds, but I was not gaining any. I started rolling off a little bit, you know, to take the corner a little easier, not to risk falling. And I hear James Gardner’s voice in my head. James, “Old Man” James, OMJ, my racing mentor. Telling me “damnit Charles, you are racing. Drop the hammer, PIN it, run that bitch into the redline and hang on for the ride” So I screw it back on. Whuppah Whuppah Whuppah! And get a little faster.

Another quick glance behind me, and I see Jim Race catching up, but slowly. I need to go faster.

Coming around the carousel turn, I see a green bike down, waving flag, and orange leathers. I think it may be Vlada, a new racer, very fast, but does not hang off. He leans the bike over to near impossible angles, and just GOES. I hope he is okay, but keep racing. As I get out of the carousel, there is a straightaway, then 2 right turns, that make a big, gentle U-turn if you do it right. And I see a lapped rider, slow as molasses, just ahead of me. Gotta make quick work of him and keep the gap open between me and Jim.

As I see a bike lowside and go sliding. Green bike, Orange leather. This time it IS Vlada, I recognize the yellow helmet. The lapped rider slows WAY down. I do not know why. And I am wondering who crashed in the carousel. OH MY GOD. It had to have been my pal Adam Fernandez. Had to be. DAMN IT, and he is quick. He did not need a crash, he just got a new job. His girlfriend Nichole will freak out. I wonder what kind of underpants she wears? Okay, back to racing brain…. Work for me brain.

I pass the lapped rider on the outside, if I slow down, I will crash in the turn. BUT! There is a waving yellow flag. I need to let the lapped guy pass me back before I can continue.

And the FUCKING BASTARD is like, touring. Sitting bolt upright, going 5 miles per hour.

I wave for him to pass me, and he will not. Jim is catching up!!!!

If I do not let him re-pass me, I will be protested. PASS ME YOU RAT! Jim! Right behind me!

He is not. I think he is going to park and take pictures of the flowers. I do the ONLY thing I can. I NAIL my brakes, so he is forced to slingshot by, then I pass him on the other side. It is obvious to the corner workers, he has re-passed me, and I can continue racing. Jim!

By now, Jim Race is here, right on my ass. The last laps are gonna be tough. He HAS motor all over me. We start sparring, he shows me a wheel, I accelerate madly. I am taking turns MUCH faster than before. I will do what I can. In turn 11, he goes on by. And motors away on the straight.

Some how, I manage to stay right on his rear wheel. Go COW go! We swap places a little, go around the track at lightning speeds, till we get to the start finish, Jim in front, and they show the white flag. We have 1 lap. This is the Make or break. I HAVE to pass him. I nail the carousel turn, just spot on, at speeds un tested before.

But not good enough. I show him a wheel, and he motors away on the straight. We get into the “S” curves on the back of the course, and I am inches from his rear wheel. We come up on Julia, she is breaking in a new motor, and just over a crash. How will we pass her? I just follow Jim, wherever he goes, I am going to be close. I try to late brake him into turn 11, and stuff up the inside. Yep, last minute heroics. OMJ in my head “go, I did not train you to ride like a wussy boy. Nail it!” and I do. And I squirt past Jim. I have him. He is mine. Just a few feet to the start finish line. I am tucked in, I am crawling under the paint, I am wringing that Holstein cow’s neck for every ounce of power. Do not look up, do not move, keep it nailed, there is nothing you can do but finish.

Just at the line, I turn my head, and see he passed me, by about 6 inches. He beat me by a nose. BUT! He is a pal, and it was a GREAT race. We make the cool down lap. I try to convince Holly the corner worker to flash me, using the universal biker shirt-lifting signs for “show your tits” but she won’t. She is refined and all.

We come into the pits, and Jim & I shake hands and tell each other how amazingly fun that was. At the pits, there were a bunch of people milling around. Apparently it was a mad fight to won, and the announcer picked up on our antics. Folks came by to offer congratulations and stuff. It was fun, I was wore out.

Pack the truck fast. Often people ask why I pack up so fast after my race. The answer is simple. I am running out of energy, and if I do not pack, I may not get it done, I may bonk.

Then wander around and ask. Vlada is back in the pits, his bike does not look bad. Adam managed to break his collarbone. Chris Vargas and I pack up Adam’s truck for him, cause he is out to the hospital. Some other folks crashed in the race. Phil Douglas crashed in turn 11, I heard, so I go over to check on him. He is okay, the bike is not hurt too bad. I am certain he was having suspension problems. J (Phil is the class sponsor, AND owns a suspension shop)

Lots of chatter, lots of hugs, lots of time to go home, and finally I leave. Rebecca follows me to San Rafael where we stop for a bite to eat, chat a little about how wonderful the Loser is, and how much I like Sara, and how good it is to have friends.

I take the 580 exit, and bypass SF. I call my folks, my aunt, and OMJ on the cell phone, just to talk and catch up. Finally, I pull into San Jose, to the condo, start unloading, and am mobbed by kids from the neighborhood. It is odd, because I have not seen them before, but they introduce themselves, are very polite, ask questions, etc. So I try to be nice and respond, while unloading. They seem like pretty nice kids, tell me they HAVE seen the dirtbike out on the street, and will try to wave and warn me when the undercover cops are in the neighborhood!

Wahoo. Get upstairs and give kisses to my sweetie, do some showering, start some laundry, clean spam out of my email box, and then we go grab Eric Bong (not Rebecca’s Eric, Lissa’s Eric) and go to my favorite neighborhood joint, Alberto’s, for some food. Home and sleep like a rock.

Racin is fun.


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