The Mother’s Day Present

Returning from MidOhio was an epic journey. Oh, wait….last time it was also an epic journey thanks to The Pig right? Hum….well, this epicness was different.

So, anyhoooo…

Goofy but sincere and (truly!) faster than you might expect in a Miata. Part of the drama was that I lost my iPhone, so I have to conjure up old pics. I hope to find it soon, becoz I’ve some great pics of my MORPCA friends.

In May of 2016, as a decadent Mother’s Day gift to myself, I’d scheduled SEVEN days on track at the MidOhio Sports Car Course. This track is like a very strict professor, one who knows it and carries some conceit about that. It’s quite brutal when the wet stuff starts falling from the sky. They say “it’s like ice!” but that’s not true. It is far more treacherous, and even in broad daylight a sprinkling of rain will morph MidO into the evil nocturnal twin of your average icy road… the dreaded Black Ice. This is because of a special “glazing” that has been applied over the racing line which improves the grip when it’s dry.

The apex at Turn 6, aka Madness. Photo credit: Car and Driver Magazine

Nevertheless, I adore MidOhio for so so so many reasons. Some I cannot share, but I can say it has five blind turns, tons of elevation change, and is truly a “drivers track” due to the high level of technical driving skills required to drive it fast. MidOhio does not suffer fools gladly. It’s intimidating, and the locals who drive it several times a year speak of it with affection and familiarity. They know its secrets.

And I? All I had a was a cheat sheet from Lady Lambo, this link to Car and Driver Magazine, and the bitter memory of last year’s humiliation.

I’d left heartbroken last year and hadn’t learned the track well enough. I’d make up for that this time around for sure, I’d thought. Did I?

The answer was a big fat smelly greasy

Rained on Friday, hailed on Saturday, and subfreezing but sunny start for Sunday.

Friday, after surviving two VERY wet sessions, on the 2nd lap of my third session I skidded at turn 1 going 25mph. I was off the glazing, but I hit a puddle right at the spot where the track has a negative camber. According to one observer I “very gracefully drifted off” right into the red metal armco on the outside wall just beyond the bridge. That night I awoke at 2 am, mentally replaying the incident: I realized my error was not just going too wide, but I’d also pushed in my left foot and in so doing had disengaged the rear wheels’ traction making the off essentially inevitable. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Ugh.

Indignity taunted me as the black flag waved. The tow-truck to pulled me out of the mud pit.  The fender shredded the tire as I drove around the course into the pits, I could smell it. I spent the rest of the day and much of Saturday morning learning how to remove a fender and pounding it out. The tire was shot, but a friendly Spec Miata SCCA racer offered a loaner for the right rear. By midday Saturday, the car was ready to go on rain tires, and I logged 2 full sessions.

Sunday morning arose bright and sunny! But was freezing, and didn’t warm up much–highs were around 40. Eagerly, I swapped out the rains for the slicks. I worked efficiently, but on the first lug nut of the last wheel I made a silly mistake, and stripped it. It HAD to be rethreaded, and cost me one session. Second session on Sunday my engine temperature gauge was running above 210 degrees F even while I was at speed on track. Normally, it sits at around 160 on a warm summer day, and this was alarming to see on a cold day. I pitted in early and waited for it to cool. When I finally opened it, the radiator was bone dry with the coils visible. So much for the tech inspection performed just 4 days earlier back in Raleigh.

Moxie doing her thing heading out of Thunder Valley, past Turn 13 just before the downhill entry into The Carousel.

Eventually, I drove one last session before the grunt-work of loading and storing my trailer. I had no tow vehicle with me, but a lovely woman who is an accomplished sailboat racer was kind enough to offer me a tow. Her skill in backing up the trailer was formidable, and I watched agog in admiration! Her kindness after such a weekend filled with challenges warmed my soul, and allowed me to leave track with a big grin.

I’d survived, I’d learned a lot, and my green student (a young man driving a 944 Cup Car!) had done very well. I’d enjoyed some good food and some outstanding company with GermanHat (my garage-mate who drove an electric blue stock GT4) and the usual MORPCA gang (undoubtedly one of the friendliest PCA regions around: Thank you Mike S, Kevin, Chip, Bob, Lorraine, Jeff, Dave, Betsey, Patrice, Lisa, Michael, Steph and the steadfast volunteer crew.)

When I returned home, after obligatory dramatic complications which I’ll spare you, I immediately set to work washing pots and pans to make amends for my absence.

I’ll be home this next weekend and then back to MidO for more. Of course, Mother’s Day being a holiday of sorts, I despise it. Nevertheless, it’s a good enough reason for a second helping.

But MOST of all, I fully intend to deliciously enjoy the sweet moments with my family this weekend. As the poet says of the present:

“Take a luxurious bite
out of the present,
and whistle along the road
of your destiny.”
THIS is what it’s all about.  My family, my moments. And, for you: yours!

This time I will care less, and not go gunning for an A. My focus will be on each moment and improving my technique. I’ll reach for the apples, not for the clouds. I invite you to do the same.

At the risk of a yawn at your end, I’ll go ahead and share a much-loved poem.Mid-Ohio63.00fabf263d1d5221c203022d60b289b8


by Pablo Neruda

present moment,
as a wooden slab,
immaculate hour,
this day
as a new cup
from the past–
no spider web
with our fingers,
we caress
the present;we cut it
according to our magnitude
we guide
the unfolding of its blossoms.
It is living,
it contains
from the unrepairable past,
from the lost past,
it is our
growing at
this very moment, adorned with
sand, eating from
our hands.
Grab it.
Don’t let it slip away.
Don’t lose it in dreams
or words.
Clutch it.
Tie it,
and order it
to obey you.
Make it a road,
a bell,
a machine,
a kiss, a book,
a caress.
Take a saw to its delicious
And make a chair;
braid its
test it.
Or then, build
a staircase! Yes, a
the present,
by step,
press your feet
onto the resinous wood
of this moment,
going up,
going up,
not very high,
just so
you repair
the leaky roof.
Don’t go all the way to heaven.
for apples,
not the clouds.
Let them
fluff through the sky,
skimming passage,
into the past.You
your present,
your own apple.
Pick it from
your tree.
Raise it
in your hand.
It’s gleaming,
rich with stars.
Claim it.
Take a luxurious bite
out of the present,
and whistle along the road
of your destiny.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was the pen name of the Chilean poet, diplomat and politician Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pseudonym after Czech poet Jan Neruda. In 1971, Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Neruda often wrote in green ink because it was his personal symbol of desire and hope. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez called him “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.” (Source: Wikipedia)

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