Friday, February 22, 2008


Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of winter? I'm not. Especially winters where the snowfall total is more than I am tall, the windchills are below zero for days at a time, and even the plow trucks get stuck. Winter Wonderland? Sure, if by "wonder" you mean “I wonder if I’ll make it to work today… I wonder when I’ll feel my toes again… I wonder if I should buy a few more sets of long underwear... I wonder if I still have ears...”

Our one-year-old snowblower is going to need a major overhaul if summer ever comes, because it has seen some very hard use this winter. I think the racecar has seen less abuse in 30 years than the snowblower has seen in 3 months. I should be thankful that snowblowers don’t have logbooks. That would be an embarrassing read: “Crashed into ice-packed snowbank; repair auger hood damage before next snowfall… Stalled by choking on heavy snow; check engine case for cracks before next storm… Rolled, total damage to everything, tech sticker pulled…”

Last Sunday was a refreshing change. Instead of shoveling ice and snow, I spent the day shoveling ice and water. The mercury finally poked its head up over the 30 degree mark as a warm (storm) front came through town. For the first time in months, we got rain instead of snow. It was a terrific opportunity to get the two-inch layer of ice off the driveway, but underneath the ice was a lot of water. The rain and melting snow combined to make some epic puddles (which couldn’t get past the snowbanks on either side of the driveway into the soil which was frozen anyway), so I basically worked on corralling the water from the garage to the street, which was also flooded and iced over. I was thrilled with the rain, but I also wasn’t sad when it finally changed to snow in the afternoon.

Fortunately, the warm weather (well, relatively warm) gave me an opportunity to finally get the car up on stands, and just in time too. All that water in the garage has now frozen into a fascinating display of freeze expansion. Depending on your point of view, the garage floor looks either like a 3-D map of the glaciers during the ice age, or like a snapshot of the tide coming in. The ice actually sits up so high that it just touches one of the rear wheels, which is hanging 2 inches off the floor.

That’s enough talk about winter. I’m getting cold.

I mentioned before that this is the first time that I’ve had a running car in my garage during the off-season. I’m used to panicking with a three-page to-do list a couple of weeks before the first event, so this is an unusual situation for me to say the least. I do have a brief list of projects to keep me busy, like fixing some stripped threads on the gearbox and re-doing a hasty exhaust repair, but the car is essentially ready to run. So what do I do now?

My other big area of indecision is in planning the 2008 season. I have a list of events I really want to run, but they don’t really add up to a season. I’m looking at an SCCA Regional here and a Midwestern Council race there, but I’m not leaning towards a commitment to any one series right now. Each group has at least one event that I'm willing to miss the other group's race for, so I won't be running a full season with either group.

Another question mark on the horizon is my license renewal. Because of my abbreviated 2007 season, I ran enough races to renew an SCCA Regional license, but not enough to automatically renew my National license*. For an extra fee I can apply for a waiver to renew my National license, and for another extra fee I can also apply for a waiver to renew my Midwestern Council license. MC will let me run on an SCCA license, but I won’t be awarded any points (which won’t be a big deal if I’m not running the full MC schedule anyway, since I won’t be in the running for a championship).

Here are the not-quite-set-in-concrete, definite maybe events that I’m considering, possibly:

April 19-20 Driver’s School & Race, MC, Blackhawk Farms
April 27 SCCA Regional Race, Blackhawk Farms
May 24-25 SCCA Double Regional, Grattan (MI)
May 31-June 1 SCCA Double Regional, Road America
June 29 MC Race, Blackhawk Farms
July 12-13 SCCA Double Regional, Blackhawk Farms
July 19-20 Driver’s School & Race, MC, Blackhawk Farms
August 9-10 (a busy weekend) MC Race, Blackhawk
(or) SCCA National, Grattan
(or) SCCA Double Regional, Mid-Ohio
August 30-31 SCCA Double Regional, State Fair Park
Sept 13-14 SCCA Double Regional, Road America
Sept 21 MC Race, Blackhawk Farms
Oct 18-19 SCCA Regional, Blackhawk Farms
Oct 25-26 MC Race, Blackhawk Farms

Whoops, that’s 13. Not that I’m superstitious, but let’s put the June 8 MC Race at Autobahn Country Club on the list too.

My only complaint about that calendar is the same as in many other years: The events are clustered, with back-to-back events separated by long gaps. The back-to-back events at Blackhawk are not too tough because the setup doesn’t need to be changed, but going from Grattan to Road America to Autobahn can be tough. In addition to the major wallet strain, you have to schedule a gear change during the week. That isn’t a big deal for some people named Nicole Temple who can change gears in 15 minutes, but when it takes you an entire evening (hi, that’s me), the week gets pretty hectic. Unload the car Sunday night (if it’s not too late), clean the car and get the tools back together Monday night, nut & bolt Tuesday, change gears Wednesday, load the truck Thursday so you can take the car along Friday morning so you can leave from work Friday afternoon. That doesn’t leave much room for actually fixing problems.

But thinking about it again, the first back-to-back like that is the Memorial Day weekend at Grattan followed by a Road America event. RA is so close to home that I wouldn’t have to load the car until Friday night after work, or even Saturday morning (plus we have a holiday on Monday which will help). The trip back home from RA Sunday night will get us home early enough to get everything unloaded and cleaned up so we can start working on the car on Monday. And the next event (MC at Autobahn) is Sunday only, so I could drive down Saturday night or (ungodly early) Sunday morning, so that’s another half-day on my side at least. The other nasty back-to-back is the September Road America event followed by an MC Race at Blackhawk. The MC race is also a one-day (Sunday) event, which gives me Saturday to finish the car, after an early evening the Sunday before. So what am I worried about?

*To renew an SCCA Regional license, SCCA requires completing 2 Regional races. To renew an SCCA National license, SCCA requires 4 Regionals, or 2 Nationals and 1 Regional, or 3 Nationals. I ran 2 Regionals plus 2 MC events which are not officially recognized by SCCA for licensing purposes.