Monday, September 24, 2007

Dallas drag race

Last Friday I took the day off of work to go up to Ennis for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals. Rather than ride straight there, I turned off the interstate to follow TX 7 to Kosse and then north on 14 from there. This took me through a bunch of Falls county, which I had only been through the corner of and through Limestone county, which I don't think I'd ridden through yet.
This time I decided to spring for nicer seats- in the super seats section, which are just to the (driver's) left of the track, tilted to have a good view of the whole track without having to crane over the rest of the hordes. The seats there have backs, although they're still stadium bench seats. My seat was closest to the tower and was in the shade from about noon to 4, which was very nice in the intense sun of Friday and Saturday. It wasn't particularly humid and the ambient temp wasn't real high, with a nice breeze, for qualifying. Eliminations on Sunday the weather was completely different- humid, very little wind and overcast. There was about a 20 minute delay for a little drizzle during the first round of funny car, but it was nothing like the downpour the previous year or what happened in Houston.
The crowd was a lot smaller on Friday, so it was easier to navigate the pits and get driver cards and autographs. I didn't wind up getting many autographs this weekend, but I did get Jeg Coughlin Sr's. I talked briefly with George Smith about the Buell motor they run in pro stock motorcycle- 160 cubic inch 60 degree sportster ohv motor. After the race I got to ask one of Tony Pedregon's crew guys about the body- he said Roush makes the bare body and they add the windshield, firewall and supports and everything to attach it to the chassis. I also talked with one of Larry Dixon's crew guys about the injector scoop and other engine stuff.
Qualifying's most spectacular moment was when Scott Palmer's engine let go and there was a huge fire ball early in the second session. Friday night qualifying is always awesome with the 8 foot flames lighting up the night. There were good runs in all the sessions, but more notable was that Robert Hight and Doug Herbert failed to qualify. It was also disappointing that Gary Densham bumped in and then was immediately bumped out again in the third session.
Eliminations started in the usual way, which I love- American flag parachutist during the Star Spangled Banner and then immediately firing the first pair of top fuelers. Other than the brief rain delay, pro eliminations went pretty smoothly. In the second round of TAFC, there was a big oildown that I missed- Bob Newberry was leaking something, which he ran over and almost took out the Christmas tree. That caused enough of a delay that they decided to push off second round of TAD to let the pros come up. Second round of pro eliminations was completely overshadowed by the big John Force-Kenny Bernstein wreck in the shutdown area. I was watching the scoreboards at that point, which showed Kenny having gotten a holeshot win over John. I didn't see the actual wreck, but it was clear something wasn't right because it looked like a sandstorm at the far end. Nobody moved for several minutes until the word came that John was alright. The ESPN camera showed Kenny getting out right away, but nobody knew what had happened to John. Bob Frey relayed little bits of information, but he didn't seem to know more than anybody else. All that I could see was every single Safety Safari vehicle, an ambulance, a tow truck and I'm not sure what else. A number of the drivers came out from the staging lanes and Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson, the next pair on the line, got out of their cars and out of some of their equipment. After they got everything cleaned up, racing continued. The semifinals of funny car was just Cruz and Tony Pedregon having singles since John and Ashley Force weren't there. The pro stock motorcycle final had the dramatic holeshot win of Peggy Llewellyn over Andrew Hines to make it into the "Countdown to 1" for the series championship, as well as getting her first career event win.
The ride home was going along alright until I got to Waco and traffic came to a dead stop. It was terrible all through town, speeding up only to come to a stop again. The traffic continued to suck ass from there on south, going from 65 down to 50 for no apparent reason all of a sudden. The speed picked up briefly in Belton when it opened up to three lanes, but slowed down the second it went back to two lanes. It continued to suck all the way to Williamson county when it opened to three lanes for good. Once the third lane opened, I took it and hit the throttle. I didn't let up until I was going 88 mph. It moved from there, but there were far too many idiots going absurdly slow in the ultra-fast lane and wouldn't get out of my way, like the guy who was going 70 I came up to at 77 and didn't get over even though there was room. I got home about 9:15 and read the paper while watching the ESPN coverage of the race until I fell asleep on the couch.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cooper's, Inner Space Cavern, and Cannibal Corpse

Saturday morning I led a chapter ride to Cooper's BBQ. I realized late the night before that I had left the maps of the route I'd printed at my office. So after breakfast I rushed over to my office, grabbed the maps and rushed to the dealership, where there were already a number of bikes. Fortunately Joe was already there and had everything under control. The turnout was pretty good- 11 bikes, 12 people. The ride was nice except for a few sections of construction where it was one lane and we had to wait our turn. After the last one, we were stuck behind this slow moving SUV for a long time. There was no line when we got there about noon. I got a half chicken, which I don't think I'd ever had there before. I didn't realize, but it is clearly the best deal they have there- only $5 for a half a chicken (and it wasn't like it was game-bird sized). I ate the leg, wing, thigh, and had most of the breast left over for dinner. It was tasty and juicy, but very messy.

From Cooper's I decided that rather than head home, I would head across 29 to Georgetown and see Inner Space Caverns. I got there just before the 2 o'clock regular tour left, but I was interested in the "wading tour" which went into three more rooms that the regular tour wasn't going on because of some flooding that left a section of water you had to walk through. Largely to avoid the tons of rugrats, I opted to wait the 40 minutes and pay extra to do the wading tour. It turned out to be the best tour I've probably ever been on. I was the only one to buy a ticket for that wading tour, so it was me and the guide and a photojournalism student from St. Ed's who needed a special tour because she had a tripod to take pictures. We had to bring flashlights because some of the lights still weren't working from the flooding. When we got to the wading portion, it really wasn't bad, it wasn't even deeper than my boots and was only about 50 feet long. I was most amazed by the amount of formation growth that occurred since the cave was discovered and developed 44 years ago, due to high water flow. There was a stalactite hanging from one of the original bore holes that looked to be almost a foot long. That's compared to Carlsbad Cavern where they have some one inch stalactites that have grown in the 100 years since it was developed.

After going home and cooling off for a little while, I got on the Night Train and rode down to San Antonio to go see the "Metal Blade 25th Anniversary" show at the White Rabbit. I had heard of a number of shows at the White Rabbit, but I'd never been. It wasn't hard to find, and I parked right in front. It reminded me a bit of the Back Room, but it also had a courtyard outside with picnic tables and the band merchandise. At first, while the sun was still out, it was pretty warm outside and not too bad inside. As the night went on, it got sweltering hot inside, it felt like 95 degrees and 100% humidity. There were lots of fans on full blast and they opened up some doors, but it was really hot all night inside. There was a huge rush between bands to cool off outside.
The supporting acts- The Absence, Goatwhore, The Red Chord, and The Black Dahlia Murder were all pretty good, they got about a half hour each. Apparently none of them had roadies, so they were doing their own sound setup. Cannibal Corpse came on about 11:15 (they had 2 roadies setting up the stage). They played quite a few songs I wasn't familiar with and about as many that I did know. They did several off of their latest, Kill- including Make Them Suffer, Five Nails Through the Neck, and The Time to Kill is Now. The singer "Corpsegrinder" elevates headbanging to a high art in my mind. Unfortunately the stage height was such that it was hard to see much of him other than his hair when he bent over to do the windmill. He often did a move where he would do a few whips, and then start windmilling. Toward the end there was a mosh pit almost the size of the whole club. They played until almost 1am. The singer from Black Dahlia joined them onstage for the last song.
I had a much harder time getting back on the interstate that I would have thought. There were no signs directing me as to how to get back on. I could clearly see the massive elevated highway, but it didn't have a frontage road like everywhere else in Texas. I weaved back and forth under the road until I finally saw a sign for a ramp to get on I37 (I was apparently following it south instead of I35 north). I jumped on and was on my way. I stopped for a caffeine and sugar boost in New Braunfels and finally got home at 2:30, making for a very long and varied day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

A couple I am close friends with have been doing Labor Day weekend various places in Texas for a number of years with a group of other friends. This year they decided to go to stay at a campground on Lake Buchanan, right next to the dam, and they invited me to join them. A couple months ago, I rode with Jimmy and Eddie to check the place out and it was pretty nice, so they reserved an RV spot and a cabin.
I had dropped my Fat Boy off at the Harley shop for its 70,000 mile service and asked for it to be done on Thursday, giving me plenty of time to get ready to go to the dam Friday after work. I went to the shop Thursday after work and it wasn't even close to being done, and they promised it would be done the next morning. I left my office about 4:30 Friday afternoon to pick it up and it still wasn't ready. It was 6pm by the time I was checked out and ready to leave. Since I was way behind what I had been hoping for, I left my car at the shop and took off for Buchanan. Leaving from the shop instead of my office, I took a route that brought me through a terrible bottleneck of traffic. I ran into rain in Marble Falls, so I stopped and put on my rain gear. Traffic was slow in town, but once I got through it the rain stopped. I met up with two of the couples at a Mexican restaurant down the road from the campground. When we left it was raining, so we all put our rain suits on for the short trip back the campground.
After a night of waking up every couple hours to try to find a comfortable position on the couch of Eddie's motor home, I got up for good around 7 when Eddie got up. We didn't actually leave for breakfast until almost 9:30 and I was hungry. After breakfast we went by Dave's mom's house to get some goodies. From there, we went to Longhorn Caverns for a tour. The cave is nice, but not a lot of drip formations, mostly interesting passages, and some crystals. It's kind of sad that they blocked most of the entrances and the bat population that was once in the millions is now almost nonexistent. Also, when the cave was developed, they broke the faces off most of the crystals so they look pretty but totally unnatural. We went back to the campground and went for a swim in their really nice pool, which is basically carved out of the rock. Once I dried off and got dressed again, I left the rest of the group to go to San Antonio for a Slayer concert. I got to my seat right at 7, just as Bleeding Through was starting. They were pretty good. I was surprised but kind of glad that Slayer was playing before Manson. The set change didn't take long and Slayer was on kicking ass. They put on an awesome show, I had a really great seat in section 104. When they started "South of Heaven," two sets of speakers arranged in an upside down cross pattern lowered from above, and from there they went into "Raining Blood." They finished up about 9:15, I would have loved much more. The set change for Manson took ages. The PA music was pretty good, most people liked when Pantera's "Walk" came on. It was 10 when they cut the music and house lights, but nothing happened for a couple minutes, and then they played prerecorded music for at least 5 minutes. After 4 songs, I decided that was enough for me and I started making my way out. I took my time walking out, and had to rearrange some things on the bike before leaving. I got home about midnight despite being pulled over by a state trooper and given a warning.
Sunday morning I woke up about 7, had breakfast and rode my bicycle to the Harley shop to get my car, which took about 25 minutes. I drove back home, showered, dressed and left on my bike about 9am, rode straight to the campground and arrived about 10:20. The rest of the group got back from breakfast about 20 minutes later. Jimmy's friend Joe showed up with his pontoon boat to give us a ride not long after that. After getting changed and ready for the ride, we all boarded (including Buddy the dog) and set off to laze about on the lake. We just rode around, drinking beer, snacking, jumped in the water a couple times, looked at some of the fancy houses, and not doing much of anything. It was overcast so we weren't roasting and we didn't get rained on. We got back to the campsite about 4 and started getting ready to cook burgers and hang out. Jimmy went back to Joe's, then they drove to camp with Joe's wife. We stayed up too late and had too many beers.
I woke up kind of hung over in the morning, had a couple Advil and started moving. Everyone packed up before heading to breakfast. After breakfast we went our separate ways, me following Jimmy. We took some back roads and wound up on Hamilton Pool road. The water had gone down and the silt cleared, so we made it across the Pedernales just fine. I got home about 1 and started watching qualifying from Indy and napped for a while. It started raining in the afternoon so I didn't go rollerblading and just watched drag racing all afternoon. I started falling asleep again about 9 and finally gave up and went to bed at 10.