Five months since I last wrote. The last track event I documented was Indianapolis. Since then, I’ve driven at Roebling Road Raceway four times, Road Atlanta twice, VIR thrice, NCCAR once, an…
Five months since I last wrote. The last track event I documented was Indianapolis. Since then, I’ve driven at Roebling Road Raceway four times, Road Atlanta twice, VIR thrice, NCCAR once, and Mid Ohio for three events logging 30 additional days on track.
AND I’ve attended three club races: twice with Swami Mike (48 Hrs of Sebring and RennderMeister MidOhio), once with Tex and Vader (SAARC with SCCA).
AND I’ve instructed two students, gaining certification as an instructor with two driving clubs.
Driving is progressing slowly but surely. I continue to experience small triumphs and large blows: “You have no business being at Chin.” In the meantime, my neglected blog sat, gasping for air, its agonal respirations uncomfortably rasping against my conscience.
Then, out of the blue, came a day flush with abnormally large quantities of vexation, perspiration, and foul language. Still: Your heroine struck gold! Inspiration to write again!A young gentleman named Roman. Former law student, current truck driver.
I’d just wrapped up 5 days at MidOhio, bruised and torn after suffering scathing reviews from Swami and others at Chin. Driving back home for Lexington, OH had proved a nightmare. The Pig was in “limp-home” mode and couldn’t top 45 mph going up hills on the highway. Towing Moxie and the trailer was trying. There was no operational A/C, my turn signals didn’t work, and Piggy couldn’t start with out a jump.
All I knew was that I HAD to get out of “limp-home”. The whole week, Swami’s valiant Sir Truck had patiently jumped Piggy every morning. Moxie did so every evening. Vader provided text-support on the return journey: “Just pull over and disconnect the positive node on the battery. It’ll reset the computer codes.”
Easier said than done. The battery change operation on a Mercedes R Class is a 6 hour job. But, in desperation, I resolved to bite the bullet.
Pulling over on the highway welcome center at the NC State line, I accidentally entered the parking area for tractor-trailers. There was no going back to the ramp, so I parked the rig. The operator’s manual showed that the battery was located beneath the driver’s seat, and would require a 6mm hex wrench. It said the carpet had perforations, needing “extra force” to pull it up.I set to work. Guess what?? It was a 10mm hex, there were no perforations in the carpet. My tool kit contained several box cutters; all were flimsy plastic covering thin blades. The carpeting was over a centimeter thick and needed more than just “extra force.” Hacking through it was a slow and painful process. Finally, managing to pull back the front panel, I looked down to find my gloves shredded in three spots. Red sticky stuff emerged. Pulling off the gloves I found where the knife had jabbed my fingers. Both hands slowly began a burning throb, with the rear panel still left to go. This wasn’t gonna cut it. I looked around to ask someone for a good knife.
A muscular young man wearing athletic attire walked toward me, heading for his truck. I stopped him. He had a military issue knife, and stood by patiently while I stabbed into the plush foam. We chatted. I gave him my card. We said goodbye. After he left, I uncovered the contents of the compartment: It was not a battery. Really. THERE WAS NO BATTERY BENEATH THE DRIVERS SEAT.
I was at my rope’s end. Was driving since 7 am, it was now close to 5:15pm. Guess what?
I ACTUALLY GAVE UP! Yes. I accepted my limping fate and pulled onto the freeway. It took me another 3 hours to get home. Big T and the babies noticed when I arrived, and hugged me. Of course, the puppies did too.
That night, I thought of Roman. What would his life be like? And, in parallel, where would my journey take me? I’d been told by more than one person: I’m a failure as a driver. A blinding fatigue ushered me into dreamlessness.
Two days later, I got this note:
Yes, it is me, Roman, the trucker who gave you my tactical knife (lol) to cut your battery out. I just wanted to share something with you. The moment I met you, I didn’t think much of it, but as soon as I left, I realized that you planted a remarkable seed in my mind; You’re a mother, a doctor, and a race car driver and you’re happy. Why can’t I be? You inspired me to follow my dream to pick up law, again (I dropped it because of expenses and stress), and get into racing my motorcycle. I will include a few pics. And thanks for the motivation, I will never forget it. Wishing you all the best!
Ashamed that I’d not prioritized writing, I replied with thanks. Guiltily, I realized that my writing did matter. Many months ago, Swami had said to me “Writing is serious work. It changes lives.” Although I knew that to be true, I felt surely that couldn’t apply to my amateurish efforts. I’d brushed it aside. Roman hit the message home.
For you, for Roman, for my children, and for myself: I hereby resurrect this blog.
You mustn’t swim till you’re six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be.
But splash and grow strong,
And you can’t be wrong,
Child of the Open Sea!
En:DUR:ance (noun) — the power to withstand pain or hardships; the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.
I’m a deliberate writer. It’s complicated being multilingual. Five languages. Not to sound whiny or something, but, each sentence is potentially embedded with grammatical explosives. Maybe it’s this one. Or this one. Or the next one. I write something, and in that moment I beamingly admire it’s alleged linguistic splendor. Then I re-read it, cringing at my hideous clunky, boorish, abominable construction. Revising, editing, revising, editing.
To what end this humbling chore? A mirror reflecting imperfection. Ineptitude. Incompetence. Ignorance.
Why, when time-demands fight tooth and nail for every last shred of my battered schedule, try to persist?
Stubbornly, I wrestled alone with this question for weeks. Each time I resolved to ditch the blog, something pulled me back. Finally, I asked a friend.
“Honey, I may be quitting the blog. It’s too much.”
“Yeah. But I know you won’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not a quitter.”
He’s right. The truth is, I love words. And word-crafting, perhaps because of my lack of instinctive skill, is a labor of love. I’m not a natural born racer. With driving, I’m playing the long game, and I’ve progressed. As a five-year old who struggled to master the doggie-paddle, I’ve grown into an adult who physically craves a swim. The lesson here is that nothing is static. Although I fumble around to find words and phrases, it has become easier with practice. Perhaps I won’t always be so short of time.
I’m busy and I’m behind on the blog. My notes will likely be brief, less frequent, or even more clumsy, stumbling or inelegant. But not forever. Reminder to myself: I’m in it for the long haul. There may be some changes ahead. Please don’t hesitate to share your feedback. Remember, YOU are a very important part of this story. And, as you know, “Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme.”
“I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
After Indy, I have driven at four more HPDEs: Roebling Road Raceway twice, at Road Atlanta again, and at my home track. Moxie’s first visit to VIR.
Other things have come up along the way, some delightful and some difficult. And, as often happens, adversity has a way of putting the mundane in its place. On this Christmas Eve there is much to be thankful for. Ergo the Light entering the wound.
There are some big changes ahead: all good but requiring efforts from me that I’m averse to. To paraphrase the carrot-stick model of motivation, I’m only sometimes motivated by the stick of fear…Not really the best approach when, in fact, there can be much to fear.
In finding ways to address my unfortunate obstinacy, I must cheat my inner donkey, drawing it out by listening for what calls to me. Once that playful hope of delight is kindled, I’m helplessly enchanted. Aversion shifts to focus, to obsession, and the sweet fruit of promises fulfilled awaits.
When passion compels, there’s my secret sauce! Illusion, you say? Perhaps. But it’s not a bad gig when a sweet sublime tune carries your name. Of course I don’t need to tell you. You know this…you’ve been there.
The fact remains that I don’t love the all tasks I must address in the next 15 days. But I’ve found a path (perhaps an illusion, but who cares really?) to clothe them in passion.
Alas, both passion and wounds will allow the Light to enter our souls. The master teaches: “Stick with it!” Just as the best track instructors have said to me “Stay in it!” I intend to take charge of as much as I possibly can. Join me. Plan to choose passion first.
The rest is the surprise.
From my home to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings.
I left off here: Awesome Without Borders had granted me $1000 to drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Thanks to the additional generosity of many folks, I obtained needed supplies. Amazingly, my hubby was unaffectedly excited about Indy. He doesn’t love cars, but is a Hoosier born and bred. Perhaps the Speedway itself struck a chord that resonated. For the first time ever, Big T actually considered taking vacation days to pit crew for me. Although that didn’t happen, knowing he tried mattered to me.
Ten days prior to departure, I began the loading process. After an 800 mile drive to University, we said goodbyes apprehensively to our firstborn. The young freshman didn’t look back as he joined his new friends for dorm hall meeting. I encountered a jumbled emotional mix. But that’s another story.
My lovely family drove back to North Carolina, and I was left headed with my rig to Naptown.
Let me pause here for a moment to describe the magnitude of the event that was organized by Mid-Ohio Region Porsche Club of America (MORPCA): Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has existed for 105 years. It has only ever hosted races. There has never been an amateur event for non-racing purposes.
Being an elite track, while very welcoming, IMS had regulations designed for professional racing only. This was a three year endurance effort of planning for MORPCA and IMS. There are many things about this event that were unusual. Some were logistical puzzles. Others were sheer super-coolness.
Upon arriving in Indianapolis, Moxie was pre-tech inspected by Brian at European Auto Sports. A hidden gem of a shop, specializing in European performance cars, Brian himself has a racing pedigree as former Crew Chief for Michael Andretti. He gave Moxie the once over, signed my form, and accepted no payment. #whataguy!
Thursday I chased down some racing brake pads and hunted for rotors. I wanted to be prepared at track in case I needed spares. Thanks to AIM Tuning Indy Miata, I got what I needed. By afternoon, I was ready for the MORPCA tech line. Normally, inspection happens on-site at the track. This means you can drive your rig there, get car inspected, unload, and are ready to go the next morning.
However, IMS wasn’t available the night before. The organizers had to arrange for tech inspection at a NON-track venue. Can you imagine this scene? 270 track cars, loaded onto 270 trailers, being driven by 270 tow-rigs, and 270 drivers (not including crew/families/groupies) all lining up in the back parking lot of the Wyndham.
Seriously? But it worked like a charm! Within the space of three smooth hours all had completed tech inspection. Registration, wristbands, and information sessions were incredibly well organized. Waiting at the end of the line was a sumptuous buffet with robust quantities of delectable hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided. Kudos to Kevin of MORPCA and his leadership team!
The atmosphere was festive. People greeted each other joyfully, after all, it was Indy. The MORPCA organizing team went out of their way to welcome outsider like me into the fold: Special thanks to Kevin, Chip and Dave. At registration, I met two advanced solo women drivers. LadyLambo, smiling with kind eyes, introduced herself warmly. She drove a peridot green Cayman R, and is an instructor with PCA (and other HPDE clubs) and for Teen Safety Driving. We were assigned to the same garage bay. ProPorsche, an athletic-looking blonde, works professionally as an instructor at the Porsche Driving School at Barber Motorsports Park. Her garage was near ours, with her black Corvette Z06.
The registration cost of the MORPCA mid Ohio region event was nearly $800, which seemed high at first. But honestly? This was the most well organized, lavishly appointed, pleasant experience I have ever had at ANY HPDE EVER! Dinners and breakfasts were included in the registration, as was individual garage space for each driver! (Also, I should mention, there were excellent dining and wash-up facilities nearby each garage bay. Showering between sessions is critical for me to stay cool when driving in warmer months.)
That Thursday night, after registration, Indy Pro driver Dan Clarke presented an overview of the track. Most present had never driven here, and had been using Dan’s in-car videos to prepare. I slept restlessly that night. I dreamt of my children and Bianca, my 911.
For the first time ever, I would face a new track without an instructor.
Arrival at track was early, allowing time for the nearly 300 rigs to unload. En route, I stopped to fill the fuel jugs. Track went hot at 8:00 am for the instructors to take the yellow students for a ride. My run group (B1/PCA White/Intermediate Solo) would be next, at 8:30. The MORPCA team proved their mettle by ensuring that all unloading was done seamlessly, for people to grid by 7:50 am.
After unloading my gear and parking Moxie in her bay I checked oil, tire pressures, and gas. I thought she needed gas. Hurrying to drivers meeting at 8:00, I decided to gas up afterwards. But drivers meeting started late. And ended late. They were calling our session.
Most of my run group gridded up quickly. Could I risk it? My gas gauge was unreliable: maybe I had enough gas? But then, did I want to be THAT guy? That idiot running out of gas very first session, making the entire session black flagged?
Heart pounding, with trembling hands I hoisted the 5 gallon jug, siphoning in gas. By now, my run group had left the grid. Gearing up, my harness got stuck but I couldn’t see where. I got out, removed my helmet and fixed it. But when I reached grid, the next session was lining up. The grid worker waved me away. I had missed the entire session!
Fighting the bitterness rising in the back of my throat, I sat watching my run group pit in. I bit my lip hard and tried to breathe deeply. I drove Moxie to the garage.
But the rest of the day went well. I was glad I’d done my homework: For 2 weeks, I had been watching in-car videos by pro drivers daily, and had practiced by visualizing the course. Also, I’d printed aerial views from Google Earth to plot the driving-line. MORPCA had sent out a link for two Pro Coaches track walks. I knew the configuration well.
The Indy GP course has minimal elevation change and only two decreasing radius turns. As is often the case, it appeared deceptively simple on video. Driving the course, the challenge became clear: the turns are very closely spaced together. By the time you exit one turn, you are already in the middle of the next turn. All of Friday, I had no choice but to work on my vision. The track itself forced me to think two turns ahead.
Another surprise: I felt very comfortable in my run group. When registering, I had requested to be put in the lowest run group with an instructor but the registrar had bumped me up. In B1/Intermediate solo, I wasn’t the fastest, but certainly not the slowest. Overall, I kept pace just fine. Amazingly, I was NOT the greenest driver by a long shot.
Throughout the day, I chatted with Lady Lambo. That weekend she wasn’t instructing, but still generously shared her knowledge with me. Another first for me: this very experienced driver expressed an interest in hearing my technique, and exchanged ideas for how to approach some tricky turns: in particular turns 4 and 13. This reciprocity was entirely unexpected! Surely she was just being kind…but maaaaaaaaaaybe just maybe…… could it possibly be….that what I was saying made sense?
Late Friday afternoon, Moxie’s calipers made an odd grinding noise. I worried that I had burned through my brake pads. I asked LadyLambo if she could tell. We realized the only way to be sure would be to remove the tires. I discovered the jack I bought was too high to fit under Moxie. I borrowed my other neighbor’s racing jack and (for the first time ever!) put her on jack-stands. Track people are incredible: LadyLambo and CaptainF-16 showed me how. Yeah…that’s how big a doof I was. Chip Vance from Auto Assets in Ohio stopped by and very kindly pulled off the wheels. My brake pads were FINE! Well over 50% thickness! When I offered payment, he declined.
Fears put to rest, I enjoyed my final session on track. By Friday’s end, I felt I’d comfortably handled turns 2 and 3, turns 5-6 and the 7-10 complex.
After garaging Moxie and a quick shower at the hotel, I returned to the IMS Museum for the reception/dinner. What an experience! While people mingled near the buffet, I slowly drank in the automotive history on display. Before leaving, I stopped at the gift shop and bought T-shirts for friends and family. Except Hair-Gel…None on display were to his taste, so I bought a beanie.
Saturday morning, I felt fresh and ready. I knew what to do: turn in sooner for 4 and brake later/harder into 12. Turn 13 kept surprising me with its acute angle which made me slow getting on the gas at turn 14. Oh yeah, Also?…brake later at 1. Still had ZERO visual cues for optimal turn in there.
My third session Saturday would be an in-car coaching session with Dan Clarke himself! And I was in for a treat: SpeedyDan gave consistent directions, turn after turn after turn. Gas gas gas! Brake hard! Now! Roll it, roll it, roll it.. Now! Breathe the throttle, breathe it. NOW eyes up, eyes up, eyes up!…On the gas on the gas on the gas! It felt exhilarating to carry faster speeds into turn 1, 2 and 3. I went into 4 slower and came out faster. Braking later than I could ever imagine, I carried more speed into turn 7 and (as often happens) found it was so much easier to take it and 8-9 at higher speeds.
Afterwards, Dan sat with me to review his notes. I could see what I’d fumbled, and where I’d progressed. He hopped out to for his next student.
Midday Saturday, LadyLambo had experienced some transient visual changes while driving, and had pitted in early. I was on grid when she came in, but was tipped off by CaptF-16 that she had gone to the EMS unit. I went to check in on her and found two EMS staff standing with her. They said they didn’t know what to make of her symptoms.
LL consented to my examination: A quick neuro screen showed zero focal findings. Immediately relieved, I suggested electrolytes: gatorade and a banana. She remained, understandably, shaken and decided to rest in the infirmary. Eventually, she felt ready to try another session on track…just to see how the first 3 laps went. She’d pit in if it felt bad. Happily, she completed her entire session and felt fine!
That evening was the final reception at the track. The MORPCA organizers had somehow managed to get access to the dining pavilion nearest to the track. I puckered up at my chance to kiss the fabled bricks.
By Sunday morning, I’d dropped my lap time by 30 seconds from Friday’s first session. LadyLambo had decided to leave early on Sunday, so we said goodbye and promised to meet again. The rest of the day was an exhilarating blur! I was faster! I passed several cars! I even had an off (onto grass) after overcooking turn 7! Here I was, a mere 3 days short of my 47th birthday, driving my race car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What an immense gift I had received from my family, Awesome Without Borders, my other sponsors, Swami Mike (who provided text-support all weekend!), my instructors, and my friends. The humility and gratitude washed over me unexpectedly, as I snuck in a solitary moment over lunch with my track notes.
That evening, after track went cold, I had planned to load up The Pig Rig and drive partway home. But my college kiddo’s credit card had expired. So, instead The Rig and I drove an hour and half to drop off Cufflinks’ fresh card. I had hoped to buy him dinner. When we met, he was very sweet. He hugged me, and helped me realign the spare tire rack. Some dorm friends stopped by to ooooh and ahhh over Moxie. Clearly, my son was busy, happy, and didn’t need me there.
Driving away, exhausted entirely, I slumped over the steering wheel, feeling famished. I had another hour and half drive to the hotel.
Heading out of town, I noticed a drug store flaunting a temptingly empty parking lot. Parking the rig, I went inside to use the ladies room and pick up a picnic dinner. As I paid for the fruit and cheese and salad, I impulsively told the clerk “Gimme a pack of those Marlboro lights.” I smoked my first cigarette in 19 years. Immediately followed by my second cigarette in 19 years (which I photographed). I left the rest of the pack on the smokers bench at my hotel. It would have worked equally well to get a tattoo, but I don’t do tattoos.
In predawn darkness, The Pig Rig and I drove home, 700 miles. We arrived 13 hours later in time to pick Hair Gel and Diva up from school. After many hugs and kisses, I moved Moxie and the tires into the garage, and drove the trailer to Buddha’s shop in Raleigh.
By clinic the next morning, I had a fresh manicure and a new attitude.
Yes, yes, yes.
I know you’re wanting to hear the Indy Story. I’m working on it. (I swear. Really!) But today something is happening at VIR. It marks an important milestone in my development as a high performance driver.
Today the Northern New Jersey Porsche Club of America (NNJR PCA) is hosting its 2015 annual High Performance Driving Event (HPDE) at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
One year ago, that event was the subject of my first ever blog post. That was a seminal driving experience for me in many ways. At the 2014 NNJR PCA VIR HPDE, I showed some unexpected maturity by self-demoting to Yellow from Blue (because Blue and White were driving combined sessions). Could I have imagined that I, being recently promoted to the coveted Blue run group, would pull myself back? But it was the right thing to do.
One year ago today, Mr. Le Mans coached me my first time driving in the rain, and he taught me to relax and laugh and enjoy myself behind the wheel. In doing so, I got faster, better. Last winter, due to family illness, I had to be overseas for several weeks. Earlier he had accepted my invitation to write about his trip to Le Mans, and during my absence his comprehensive detailed accounts of his European journey were published. They’re excellent! Check them out! https://fastdrivermom.com/2015/01/26/to-lemans-and-beyond-part-one-by-larry-schmidt/
And Agent 007, although he wasn’t even instructing me that weekend, applauded my fledgeling passes–really, 3 caymans!– in my Green/Yellow run group. For the first time ever, I was NOT the slowest on track. Agent 007 has style, speed, Southern courtliness, and the courage to promote me!
It was this same weekend, a year ago, that crazy-fast SwamiMike offered me a right seat ride. And a lifetime supply of track knowledge, complete with sarcastic sound-bites. With his relentlessly perfectionistic standards, his willingness to speak the truth, and goading me into proving him wrong, I have learned a thing or two from this dude. He has indelibly changed my life.
And, exactly one year ago, Vader taught me how to take Oak Tree using a skipped gear downshift technique, coached me on getting in touch with my inner-bitch, AND begged Mr. LeMans to trade his student for ME! I’ll never, ever, ever let him forget it. His patience, willingness to teach, endlessly egging me on, ragging and prodding and high expectations are one third of the reasons I push myself.
When I started out last year, I had a clear, definite plan.
My plan was to sit in my car alone the entire time between sessions on every single track day, because I was the only brown woman who wasn’t working in the kitchen. Instead, I was embraced by the warmth of sincere friendships, practically a family of track brothers and sisters. These relationships, unexpectedly, have become intertwined into my real life just as those I cherish and treasure with my long-time friends and family. And, like all true and important friendships, they’ve brought me richness, wisdom, humility, courage, frustration, growth, joy, gratitude and love.
My plan had been to stick with driving only at VIR until 2017, when my youngest would begin high school. Instead, I drove 5 track configurations this year: VIR Full Course, VIR North Course, Road Atlanta, Indianapolis Motor Speedway the Grand Prix Course, and Roebling Road Raceway. Four of them, solo. I am now driving in the PCA White/Intermediate Solo groups and Yellow/Solo with Chin.
My plan had been to drive Bianca forever, in her original, unspoiled, fully Audrey Hepburn condition: pearls, and heels, and eyeliner, and silk stockings. Instead I am driving Moxie–a modified gladiatrix in body with the engine of a little momentum ballerina, pulling no punches in her suspension and brakes, with growling exhaust and some serious street smarts…More like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver or Niki Minaj when she was blonde. Moxie is illegal for streets. So I have a trailer now as well.
I have relied heavily on the kindness, love, and understanding of my husband and children. And on the sustained, enduring, endlessly patient teaching of my instructors and coaches. And on the faith that you, my family and friends all over the world, have kept in my growth. And on my benefactors’ and sponsors’ ongoing generosity and support. And on your readership. The blog has only survived because of my readers.
There is no way that I could ever have persisted in my driving journey this far, this long, alone. I am here today as a driver because of you. Thank you.
I was an Awesome Without Borders (AWB) grantee. Validation indeed. An entire committee of complete strangers… believed in my cause! Thank you AWB!
The public release date was later, so I kept it private. That afternoon, Swami texted “Congratulations!” Punky and Swami are chums from way back. Evidently, she’d told him. And had forwarded him my emotionally overwrought acceptance response. He thought it was fake. “You have the lingo down pat!” his email chortled.
I told Big T and the kids at dinner. They cheered! Even Cufflinks! Little Diva exclaimed “Mah bebbe girl will be on TeeVeee!” and kissed me! Next morning I called Yanni, Buddha, Kivinski and Vader. The grant check arrived. I registered. Remainder: $200.
Late summer blurred past, and the focus zoomed on college-transitioning Cufflinks. It felt so emotionally complex, so intense, that some days Indy never blipped the radar. Crazy, I know–but true.
But ever-vigilant helpless-track-junkie-boy Swami’s understated excitement was infectious. Playfully bantering about Hello Kitty livery designs, the happy goofy track-talk kept my heart from breaking over my kid leaving home. Gradually my thoughts on Indy lit up. “You’ll need new tires!” advised Swami. With alleged budget shredded, that was impossible.
Then, one evening out walking, Big T spoke:
“Honey, won’t you need new tires?”
“Not really. Mike says I should get some.”
“Let’s get you some! Besides, your birthday’s coming up.”
He logged into Tire Rack. I stood at his elbow, biting my lip. Salivating. He didn’t notice. My knees melted as he clicked the “Pay Now” button…OMG. New rubber!
Next day, SweetandSourSwami emailed with subject line: “An Idea”. He had designed a windshield banner using the AWESOME WITHOUT BORDERS logo. In typical off-handed delivery he gave step-by-step details for execution. Stuff I wouldn’t have thought of in a million years: Banner width, letter size, the margins from windshield edge, and so on. “RA will flip!” Swami predicted. It was a brilliant idea! What better way to thank Punky?
I was pumped! I proudly showed Vader the banner! As we spoke, a lightbulb popped on. “Hey, maybe I can sponsor you! Put my stickers on your car for Indy,” Vader offered. And, so began a week-long ridiculous haggle-fest. Days later, a malodorous stench emerged. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t worth it. I offered to put Vader’s beach rental stickers on my car without any money changing hands. Did Vader continue to argue with me? He huffed and fussed and I cajoled AND we sorted it out. We are still BFFs.
Searching for reputable decals shops, I found Christopher “Jeep” at Carolina Banner in Durham. He was clearly busy, but patiently answered my questions about vinyl finish types, opacity, pricing. Back in January Kivvi had floated developing an FDM logo. I had allowed my busy life to punt it. Bad move. Now I stood facing Indy, with my silver ballerina sparkling, starkly logo-less.
Costs were adding up fast. The remaining $200 partially covered the AWB decals. European Performance of Raleigh and NewsBlues.com stickers, without vector images, cost six-fold. I had to do what was right, and told Jeep I could not afford any decals that said FastDriverMom. He proofed me some anyway. As I fretted over them, I glanced up to see Jeep looking my way. I was wasting his time. My face flushed hot. With an embarrassed a laugh, I jokingly asked if he’d consider a discount if I put a Carolina Banner sticker on Moxie.
“Sure! Why not?” My jaw dropped.
In fifteen minutes flat, he devised a quick-and-dirty logo. I had a logo!
Matt from Leonard’s trailer hitch had contacted me about sponsorship. Specifically, a giant Leonard’s sticker on Moxie’s bumper. Eventually, his boss couldn’t get corporate approval. This was a loss.
There was another upcoming cost: In July, my sons’ friends met Moxie for the first time. Moxie’s doors have always been slightly misaligned, the fenders buckling a smidge if opened too fast. Nothing major really, and gently treated, they worked fine. One kid, a big fella, (6’3″ 200+ lbs) in a single excited ungainly swoop, effortlessly forced the door. I winced as Moxie released a metallic groan. I took a photo. Swami and Big T both said: “Air scoop maybe?”
At Johnson Body Shop on Iredell Street in Durham, I met owner Mike Philips. As I described my difficulty, a smile grew on his face. “I can take care of it. It won’t cost you anything. No need to take her off the trailer. Bring her over Friday.” I did. In less than 60 seconds, he was done!
With Moxie on the trailer and packed for Indy, to practice driving the Pig as a tow-vehicle, I took a trial run up to VIR. At the TMI Pro shop I bought four 5 gallon fuel jugs. I wasn’t taking any chances with $10 gas again!
All of Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to packing for my son. Freshman orientation began Tuesday. All packed and loaded, kids on board, early Monday I picked up the new Toyos from DigiBrad’s.
And drove 800 miles.
I would return as a different person.
“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”
These are the words by the man who taught me (and probably you) to read. Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. And even in the middle stages of my life, so often, his words ring true. There is some solace in knowing that I am not alone in feeling this way.
Many things are going on in my “real life” with which I need not bore you. Several major events have occurred in my “track life” as well, the details of which I’ll share, in due time.
In the meantime, I am cheated by the swift clock and my exhausted, ridiculously ailing body: both are real and immutable limitations.
Guess what? I despise limitations.
I’ll find a way. I always have.
All this to say: Since the Indianapolis driving trip, life events have limited my writing time. Normally, I devote a minimum of 8 hours a week to writing. Recently, not so.
Just to provide and update, below is a list of track-relevant events over the past 35 days. Once my writing returns to schedule, I will continue to publish track write-ups in chronological sequence. It’s better that way, for OCD-management purposes.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway driving August 22-24: PCA B1/Intermediate Solo Run group. I survived! I made friends! I dream of going back!
Kart Racing Enduro Sept 6: First time I ever drove a Kart. My team-mates were, thus, at a disadvantage. Tex set the record lap time for the race. In our last stint, we ran out of gas.
Roebling Road Raceway Sept 26-27: Mosquitoes, rain, sand, and age cannot obscure the charm of this track! With remote coaching from my erstwhile Swami and my bro Vader I arrived feeling prepared. This, supplemented with on-site coaching by TheBoaters, allowed me to I tackle it solo. And I will return.
Thank you, my friends, readers, sponsors. Thank you, my track mentors, coaches, and instructors. Most of all, thank you my ever-patient and supportive family. I’m humbled by your generosity, and honored to share my driving story. Without you all, I wouldn’t have a driving story to share.
“You must be my lucky star
‘Cause you shine on me wherever you are.
I just think of you and I start to glow,
And I need your light, oh baby you know.
Star light, star bright, first star I’ve seen tonight.”
My little Diva rolled her eyes as I danced in the kitchen with hip-swiveling Madonna-esque gyrations.
Lucky me! Picked from the waitlist! Driving The Brickyard!
“Shine your heavenly body toniiiiiiiight” … With a final hip thrust I uncomfortably bumped back to reality. The celebratory air hissed from my party balloon. My track kitty was empty.
Brushing aside thoughts of Indy, I focused on performing the necessary due diligence of sending out emails, networking and seeking ideas for sustainable funding. My notes might desiccate in junk folders, but I would try.
Who could I write to?
I scanned through old emails for people who had shown support. So many people had so generously given their thoughtful advice. Race team owners, Spec builders, European marque specialty shops, PCA members, DE instructors, women’s marketing experts, factory racers, and, above all, my instructors. Who could give me ideas? Who would have connections with sponsors? No, not Pirelli…. I meant: Oil of Olay? Dove Soap? Heck, Tampax even!
I pondered my list, digging through old folders. There, I found an email from months back. Subject line: “I honestly thought you were a prankster” It read: “I have some contacts in the industry. Stay tuned.”
Deciding on three names, I dispatched my pleas that morning. Only ONE wrote back. Punky!
PAUSE! Backstory here…. eleven months ago, I was a new driver and blogger, when Swami befriended me. Like little kids drooling over baseball cards, we exchanged photos of exciting cars we each read about, marveling over specs. I’d sent him a new Fezza, coveting vast car-purchase allowances. He mentioned a friend who could afford it…but probably wouldn’t want one. “By the way, you might like to read her blog.” Describing her as a fascinating person, he sent me a link.
It turned out, “The Punk Rock Fairy Godmother of Feminism” (let’s call her Punky) has a remarkable story. A charismatic, pioneering woman, she began as newscaster in the ’70’s, when men unequivocally dominated the field. The first female anchor in Nashville (Oprah Winfrey followed second), Punky was at the cresting wave that revolutionized gender-biased media presence. Cutting-edge as a philanthropist today, women’s equality remains focal. Inspired, I followed her writing.
That morning, she wrote: “I want you to apply for a grant ASAP,” sending a link for Awesome Without Borders (http://awesomewithoutborders.org/), a grant organization which partners with The Harnisch Foundation (http://thehf.org/), of which she is president.
My clinic wasn’t quiet but, by squeezing my no-shows, I roughly blurbed and submitted my story. She pinged me: “I don’t see it in our system.” I had misfired to the wrong chapter. For the next hour, she shepherded me through submitting. Honestly? I was stunned. This assistance was a gift so rare, so unexpected, so validating. I wanted to express thanks, but she’d think I was flattering her. So I didn’t.
I was floored the next morning by a gut-wrenching virus. Missing clinic, I lay in bed, sucking frozen gatorade between WC trips. Ten hours later, as the bug relented, I logged onto my email where the accumulated clog of messages waited. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. I looked again.
It was from Awesome Without Borders: Congratulations! You are an AWB Grantee!
I couldn’t believe it! It mattered to someone!
Emotionally overwhelmed, physically drained, I sat sobbing at my keyboard. All I could muster were some raw, unedited words of thanks.
Indy wasn’t just a dream anymore!