The heart of it all

XJ

(Photo Credit:  Will Oliver at Rocky Mountain Photography)

So many great stories happen on a daily basis in my world, if only we take the time to listen. Yesterday was one of those, I’d like to share them with you. All of the details may not be accurate, but this is what I saw and heard.

Paul and Christie made the trip to Colorado from Tucson, they race in the SuperMod trail class – it was the two of them and their two dogs in a cab-over camper pulling the trailer with the race car on it. During pre-run, something unloaded and pushed the radiator in to the frame causing a leak and consequently, overheating. A rescue mission was mounted and they returned to the pits. Looking at the car, they started taking it apart, a little internet research and Christie went looking for a bicycle tube to check the radiator for leaks. Josh had one that was bad on his mountain bike, so he loaned it out for them to use. A little soapy water and the leaks were identified on the first few fins. This being a Friday night in the middle of nowhere, a plan was mounted. Again, with the help of the internet, they located a welding shop in Denver that opened at 7 on Saturday morning. The race day schedule was a little unusual this time, so it appeared they might have time to get there, get repaired and get back in time for the race. Paul set his alarm for 6 a.m. to make the 50 mile drive. In the morning, as he was jacking the camper off the truck to leave for Christie and the dogs, the driver pitted next to him asked what he was up to. Explaining, Kyle offered his truck to Paul to go to town. Mind you, these two families hadn’t even been introduced yet. Paul hopped in Kyle’s truck and headed out. Meanwhile, Christie stayed to attend the driver’s meeting and keep us posted. A long day later, Paul was back with the radiator repaired, the car put back together and ready to take the start at 5:00. Not halfway in to the first lap, their overheating problems continued. Turns out the thermostat also needed a repair. Bummer for them, but they finished their lap and placed in the race. Christie told me after that they’re adding the thermostat to the list of spare parts they carry with them. Congrats on your never give up attitude, it is inspiring.

Let’s talk about Steve. Steve has been struggling getting his race car together for months. His motor has been at the builder for awhile now, with promises for it to be done, but no delivery date. On Monday, Steve posted about still waiting, a couple of guys offered some assistance, but most of it was out of his budget. Enter his co-driver, Tom, and his blessed wife. Seriously, this girl stepped up and saved the day. Here’s what she did: she approved the purchase of a new motor for her own car and loaned it out for race day! Who does that? Except a saint, knowing what can happen when you least expect it, there was a significant risk involved. The motor arrived at 6:00 on Thursday night. Around the clock effort for two days had pre-running missed, and most of the team on site on Saturday morning. The only thing missing were the driver/co-driver and car – no biggie. Steve’s wife paid his entry fee, expecting him anytime. I was told they should arrive around 2:00, no problem, plenty of time to make the race at 5:00. A little after two, the truck was finally loaded and they were on the road. They arrived in time for the race, signed their waivers, and took a rear start. Both driver and co-driver were a little frazzled so we suggested they take the course slow on the first lap and just learn it, there would be plenty of time to make up ground. They had a good first lap, on the second lap, about 3 miles from the start/finish line, we noticed the hood was up and they were driving fast – both looking around it as it was blocking their view. Pulled in to the pits and the hood was removed. They continued on, another good four laps in as they continued to make their way to the front of the pack. Started tenth, they were in fifth and then the axle broke, took out the transmission, the motor and started a fire. Fire is a great motivator, both bailed from the car, grabbed fire extinguishers and put the fire out. But after two solid days and nights of building a race car, their race was over. It was hard to see the disappointment on their faces knowing that the motor was a loaner as it was, I wished they had filmed the previous two days so we could show everyone the heart of a sportsman. Congrats to Steve and Tom, men in it for the love of the sport. You’ll get ‘em next time!

Paul and Kim are competitors from California. This is their third race of the season, the last two ended in rollovers. One of them a hard roll. So the goal this weekend was to keep it on four wheels. They drove the I-70 over the mountains to get here, some killer passes that slow everyone down, I know, I drove the XJ. They kept having overheating issues on the passes, so the last 200 miles took hours to complete. Since they’d had such a trial getting here, Paul decided that he would enter two classes and get the most of his race time. The first was the Mod Trail, of which his car qualifies. He raced an hour and a half and came out on top. His first, first-place finish. Immediately following was the SuperMod race, another hour and a half. With some struggles and perseverance, they finished on the podium in third. The awards ceremony wasn’t until 9:30, after the final race of the day. After three hours in the car racing, more than anyone else for the day, Paul made the ceremony, sadly, Kim did not. He said he tried to wake her, but she just wasn’t having it. When I was paying Paul for his win, I didn’t realize that this was the first time in a few years he had been on the podium and the first time ever he had won some money! Another testament to never give up!

The last story I want to share is my friend Dustin. Dustin has had quite a bit of success with his racing, but he also works a full time job. He is racing the east Ultra4 series, so made the trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas a few weeks ago and busted up his rig pretty bad, overall, not a great experience. Next week is the Attica, Indiana race, so he leaves on Wednesday. That meant he needed to get the rig back together, needed to pre-race it for next week, and try to get it all done without taking too much time off from work. His brother is his biggest supporter, he said so from the podium. Kendall works hard to get the car prepped. This week, Kendall showed up with the car about 9 in the morning, Dustin had to work. Qualifying was at 11, first to qualify are the ProUTV’s, then the 4400’s. Kendall was all signed in, and prepared to qualify the car, but he was waiting for Dustin. Dustin calls to find out where we are in qualifying, it is after 11. He is flying down the freeway to get here on time. As his car rolls up to the start line, I’m not sure who is in it. I peek in, Dustin is in the driver’s seat, one of the other co-drivers is in the passenger seat. I slide the clipboard through the window net for Dustin to sign his waiver, and he’s off. The qualifying run is good for a fourth place start, which in turn becomes a second place finish. The dedication of these guys to their sport is good for the soul.

I’m always so proud of the men and women that we work with, thanks for showing your friends and families that something worth having is worth working for. Yes, there is hardwork, yes, there is heartache, but in the end, there is a story to tell and a lesson learned. No doubt there were more stories, these are the ones I heard.  I appreciate all of you, every day.

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America

Old_american_flagI love the idea of a TED talk, but I’ve never been invited to their stage, and do you know why…it’s because I am nobody and yet, I am every one of you. I have been young and old, I have been poor and relatively wealthy and middle class, I have been redneck and blue collar and white collar too. I have been single and married and divorced, I have been the minority and the majority. Roles change in our lives, we are never just one thing, we are the cumulative result.

The atrocities committed over the last few years and our reaction to them have me contemplating what is wrong? What has triggered this reckless disregard for human life. And while I’m not smart enough to determine, I know what the one, biggest thing is that I struggle with. It is the divisiveness of my country.

Remember 9/11? Fifteen years ago, 2,996 people died in an act of aggression on American soil. Do you remember how many gays died? Do you remember how many blacks died? Do you remember how many Republicans died? No? Do you know why? Because it didn’t matter, what we know is how many people died. We didn’t classify them, we didn’t automatically say it was a “fill in the blank” community problem, it was an American problem. It didn’t matter their nationality, their color, their religion, their education, their sexual orientation, their politics. What mattered was that it happened here. Do you remember the unity that was America 15 years ago?

I am tired of the labeling, the attack in Orlando was not targeted at the gay community, any more than the bombing at the Boston Marathon targeted the running community. The attack in San Bernardino didn’t target an “office” community, these acts are being perpetrated against all of us. We need to see them for what they are. We need to stop segregating and start seeing people, plain and simple.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and with that,
I pledge to take responsibility for my actions.
I pledge to take responsibility for my health and wellbeing.
I pledge to treat all people within our borders with respect:
regardless of age;
religion;
sexual orientation;
color;
politics;
education;
beliefs;
or occupation.
I pledge to live and let live.

Towards that end, I ask my government to NOT legislate:
My free will
My actions that harm no one
My decisions on how to earn and spend my money
My decisions on how to live my life.

I will serve and protect my family as my government serves and protects my rights. I will abide by all laws, rules and regulations and exercise my right to worship, vote and bear arms as I see fit, these rights afforded me by the Constitution.

I’m going to STOP being offended, STOP being right, STOP assuming others are out to get me, STOP labeling, STOP judging, STOP taking things personally and STOP being entitled.

I’m going to START respecting others, START serving, START caring, START living, START helping.

I ask my government to stop making new laws, new rules, and new regulations for my protection and simply enforce those already in place efficiently and effectively, and if unable to do that, repeal them so all citizens are treated fairly.

This is my pledge, this is my plea, folks, it’s time to stop separating our communities and work together for the America we all love.

Ode to the XJ

DSC_0124I have a love/hate relationship with the Jeep – well, with all vehicles in general. We own a few, you could call us car poor, but I think of us more as car rich. We have interesting vehicles with interesting lives.

There is the Volvo – not the yuppie kind, the house kind, we refer to it as the Taj Mahauler – it’s a Volvo 770 with a Cummins 500hp engine, it travels around the country acting as our home, the condo and the garage.

We have a 2005 Mini Cooper S that I ordered brand new 10+ years ago, Miss Sally resides in Idaho with a daughter because we don’t have a place to carry her.

We have a 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser, a big blue tub that is like riding in a fish tank, there are so many windows, Lola resides in Utah with a son because we don’t have a place to carry her (do you see the theme here?)

And we have the 1992 XJ. No name on this one, because she fills so many roles.

You see, I’ve always been of the belief that cars have a singular purpose, to move you from one place to another. You get in, you turn the key, you go from point A to point B. It wasn’t until the XJ appeared in my life that I recognized that vehicles have so many more uses. In the case of the XJ, a typical week looks like this:
Monday: Load in to the garage and tie down (this is where the Volvo steps in)
Tuesday: Arrive at destination, emerge from garage and take a quick look around; Load dirty laundry and head to nearest town; load clean laundry and find a grocery store – new title of Grocery Getter established; Back to event site with my people, take another look around
Wednesday +: Loaded with stakes, bases, cones and all manner of other materials – back breaking work for the next few days – new title of Motorized Wheelbarrow engaged
Saturday: Competition day – lots of opportunity to use my Warn Winch and my JM Rigging Recovery Rope – I am loaded with competitors and raced to the wreck, over and over again – today’s title is Recovery Rig
Sunday: Clean up day – reloaded with expended Maxxis tape, stakes, cones, etc.
Monday: Load in to garage and tie down – REPEAT

My XJ has so many other roles besides point A to point B, I sometimes don’t recognize all we put her through.

She’s in the shop again this week, not because she’s broken, but because she needs an upgrade, today it’s steering. She’s quite the little harlot, she sleeps overnight in strange shops on a regular basis. She has parts from all the best places, gifts to her to keep her in tip top shape, almost as an escort accepts gifts from the men she pleases. My little XJ gets around.

She started with humble beginnings, a 1992 Jeep Cherokee, originally white in color – we think. Next stop was Off Again Offroad, a shop in Farmington, New Mexico owned by the late, Harold Off. Harold built our girl from the ground up. Steve Nantz at Moab 4×4 Outpost added the signature red bumpers, we bought her in this condition from Grandpa, of Grandpa’s Garage when the 98 Grand we were driving decided she’d had enough.

The first addition were Brown Dog Motor Mounts, installed by Mark Munson at Munson’s Rod Ship in Vernon, Texas when we added rocksliders. Next overnight was Brian and Levi Shirley’s shop in Dodge City, Kansas for some frame stiffeners from Ruffstuff. A quick stop at Blue Torch Fab in Birmingham, Alabama added a custom grill. Then came a month at Fly-N-Hi Offroad in Phoenix, Arizona – a major upgrade was in order, Curry Axles, ARB lockers, an Atlas from Advance Adapter. Crown Automotive sent brakes and boomerang shackles. Parts Mike built the brake assemblies and hubs. The rear springs came from BDS Suspension. Fox Shox were installed, Spidertrax sent the spacers and wheel adapters. Artec provided the battery holders for the dual Optima batteries. Ron Davis fabbed a custom radiator, Sparks Pro Racing build a purple transmission for her.

Externally she got some upgrades too, we won’t mention the green door, but KC Hilites provided lights; American Rock Rods, the hood vents; Roggy Enterprises fabbed the rear corner protection and the skid plate. One Works took care of the roof rack mounts and tire rack. She has Raceline Wheels and Maxxis Tires, a Lowrance from PCI, a Stashkan. The Rock Hard roll cage is the newest addition. The interior isn’t pretty, neither is the exterior but she is rock solid.

The latest additions have been a long-arm kit from Clayton Offroad, a new motor and the installation of a Genright gas tank at FatBoyz Motorsports in Colorado Springs. New ring and pinion from NitroGear (after a little mishap on I-70) and now Rockware is adding the right steering. It may not seem like I appreciate all of these companies and people, but I do, so much.

They make it so I can treat the XJ like all other vehicles, I get in and turn the key and she goes, from Point A to Point B, just like she’s supposed to, it’s not my fault that there is usually a rock or two somewhere between those points.

My ode today is because I’m a little stressed…everything takes longer than I think it should, but having never turned a wrench on this vehicle, what would I know?  Hell, I rarely even put gas in her, I’m hardly at liberty to say what she needs.  So to all of you with a little engine that can…appreciate her and the ease she brings to all the other days of your life, even if she’s not available to you today.