Anything Nostalgia Related.

Moderators: timetravel, ukdrn

 #38252  by ukdrn
 Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:50 pm
Ever year Baz Young makes a 2300 journey to race his Nitro FC at the Hot Rod Renuion.
He always post a very interesting diary of his adventure and with permission I'm re-posting here

Day 1

So it's that time of year when we find ourselves compelled to make the annual pilgrimage to the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield. It makes no real sense of course? Four days and 2300 miles or so dragging the "Down Under Thunder" funny car across America for what could only ever be a few seconds (less than 40 if you complete all 3 qualifying runs and make it to the final) of racing. And then doing the same thing back home again afterwards.
However, what the folks who've never been to this event couldn't possibly know, is the magic of lining up with dozens of other funny cars in the staging lanes, the packed grandstands, the legends of our sport that will be mingling throughout the pits and watching us try our best, spending time with our friends that we sometimes haven't seen for many years, and most of all of course, the thrill of nailing that pedal to the floor, unleashing that Nitro powered monster and letting it scream it's heart out out for those 1320 feet...
Very poetic - but before we get to do that, we have to get there... So for those that have followed our adventures in the past years, you'll know we travel with our motor home and trailer on what we call the "Walmart tour of America". Every night of our journey we pitch camp in the parking lot of the nearest Walmart and dream of victory. We left home last night and nibbled 150 miles of the journey to Pontiac, IL.
Our plan today is to make it to Oklahoma, Tulsa at least, but hopefully a little further, I'll let you know later.
For regular followers of our madness, I have been lax in not reporting our last couple of races. We had a four run match race with Doc Halliday at Union Grove over Labor Day weekend, they were all close but we managed to win all four. A couple of weeks later, we were part of a four car "exhibition" race at the Good Guys event in Bowling Green, KY. Fantastic weekend where we won two and lost two trying some different things in preparation for next weeks CHRR.
So if you happen to be traveling on I55, I44 or I40 over the next couple of days, watch out for us and give us a honk of your horn, we'll be the motorhome and trailer rocking along with loud music and happy faces...
 #38253  by ukdrn
 Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:52 pm
Day two of the "Walmart Tour of America" concluded 600 miles further towards Bakersfield than where we started this morning and we find ourselves in Tulsa, Oklahoma as planned. What a great day - perfect weather, great music (listening to London Gold through the Internet - - it was 70's Saturday today - perfect!!) and observing America along the path of the old Route 66.
I think America could be the least stressful place in the world to make a long road trip, big wide roads that just suck up the miles with (relative to the UK anyway) very little traffic. The countryside today was very pleasant with beautiful autumn (fall) colors and along the route there were literally dozens of places where you could buy restorable classic American cars of every type - if I ever get the time, I'll drive this road again and stop at every one. These were the cars of my dreams when I was a kid in England.
Another observation about traveling the highways of America compared to almost every other country I have visited (and I am fortunate to have been to many), is the proliferation of billboards advertising everything you could possibly need and a lot that you probably don't. In Missouri, the most popular adverts seemed to be for guns and dentures, so if you need either of those, pretty much any exit off Interstate 44 will get you what you need.
As we entered St Louis around lunchtime, there was a billboard for "Thunder from Down Under" (Almost the same name as our car - Down Under Thunder) - perhaps I could do some body-double work for them sometime?
There was also a "Fudge Factory" in a town en-route that should remain nameless that had the most bizarre name that you could possibly think of for such a business. Discretion forbids me from mentioning it here, but if you happen to be in Bakersfield next weekend, I might share it with you?
Looking forward to tomorrow and planning to get to Tucumcari (I think that's how you spell it) in New Mexico or beyond. This part of the journey last year was terrible with winds so high we had to pull off the road for a few hours. There'll be none of that for your intrepid travelers tomorrow, the weather forecast looks great.
I'll report again tomorrow, same Bat time, same Bat channel.... (You'd have to be a certain age to remember the Batman series with Adam West on TV to know what that means...)
 #38254  by ukdrn
 Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:54 pm
Day 3
Well that was a longer day than I anticipated... However, day 3 comes to a successful close after a dubious start - let me recount the day.
So this RV of ours has these legs that come down to level the vehicle on ground that isn't level; at the same time, it lets all of the air out of the suspension (and makes a great noise while it's doing it). So last night, on a sloped Walmart parking lot, we extended the aforementioned legs and released the air. However, when we started the bus and retracted the legs this morning, the suspension failed to pump back up and the whole thing was left sitting on the ground. After some deliberation, we decided to unhitch the trailer, reset the legs, retract them again and see what happens. Good news - with the additional weight of the trailer removed, the bus pumped itself up nicely and we were on our way (remembering to re-attach the trailer).
I thought we'd celebrate by having breakfast at a "Waffle House". I had 2 eggs over easy, bacon, hash browns, wheat toast and coffee. It was scrumptious!!! There was a gentleman sat next to us however who wasn't so enthusiastic. I overheard him say to his server, "excuse me sir, I can see the bottom of my cup through the coffee". The server replied courteously, "yes sir, how can I help you?" The gentlemen said, "well wouldn't that suggest that there's not much actual coffee in the coffee?" The server replied, "yes sir, that's how we make it here at the Waffle House? The gentlemen then went on to quote Confucius, and said that perfection is the enemy of good - therefore as long as he didn't expect perfection, the coffee was good enough. Quite philosophical I thought for a Waffle House breakfast?
Anyway, after another top up of 75 gallons of diesel or so, we were on our way, the old Route 66, appearing every now and then at the side of the highway. For some entertainment, we had written "Kenosha, WI to Bakersfield, CA or Bust on the back of the trailer, along with "Honk if you like Nitro Funny Cars" - you'd be amazed how many people over the next 650 miles apparently like Nitro Funny Cars - good to know huh?
While at the gas station, I decided to avail myself of the special, two pairs of sunglasses for the price of one ($15:00). I am constantly dropping my much more expensive sunglasses whilst out racing so these new ones will now form my new style at the track. One pair makes me look like one of the Blues Brothers, whilst the other pair makes me look spookily like Andy Warhol? Not sure whether I'll be wearing them or not? Pictures at some other time....
My plan was to get as far as Tucamcari, New Mexico today but as we got close and delved into the Walmart App on my phone, it soon became clear that there is no Walmart at Tucumcari, NM. Not surprising as it turns out there's only 5,152 people live in Tucumcari, NM (according to Google). So we carried on for another 170 miles or so to Albuquerque.
As we drew nearer to Albuquerque, the sky went very dark and when we checked the radar (image attached), it seemed we were about to get some rain, we did. I remembered my Dad had a saying whenever he saw a storm approaching, he would say "it's a bit black over Bill's Mother's"? I always wondered who Bill's Mother was? Apparently she lives where the rain is?
I never cease to be amazed by the grandeur of this country, with long straight roads leading into the sunset (and Bill's Mother's clouds) - Wayne took a photo that I think captures the moment? Excuse the bugs on the windshield, but I was driving as fast as I could...
As we parked in the middle of the Albuquerque parking lot, the Walmart security car appeared and I felt sure we were about to be asked to leave with our 77 feet of motorhome and trailer, but no, it turned out to be a very nice lady called Denise who simply wanted to have a look at what a Funny Car is... Wayne obliged, gave here a hero card and everybody was happy.
Tomorrow, as we're 170 miles closer to our goal than I had planned, I'm thinking about a visit to the Grand Canyon before resting at the Flagstaff, AZ Walmart facilities? If we get away on time in the morning, I think we might be able to do it - I'll let you know tomorrow...
 #38269  by ukdrn
 Wed Oct 21, 2015 10:23 am
Day 4 - You may remember from yesterday that we unexpectedly found ourselves 170 miles further along our journey than we had planned in Albuquerque, NM rather than Amarillo, TX ... this seemed like a good opportunity to take some leisure time today and visit the Grand Canyon before staying overnight at Flagstaff, AZ. This great idea fizzled away as we started to investigate how we would actually get there in our 77 feet of motorhome and trailer. With some guidance from people who had actually done this (thanks Jerry Clayton), we decided that a better plan would be to keep driving and get to Barstow, CA tonight so that we could arrive a day earlier than planned in Bakersfield.

Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention an interesting fact that we discovered yesterday as we were approaching Amarillo. I felt it was appropriate at the time to start singing that classic melody, "Is this the way to Amarillo" but couldn't remember who sang it originally. With the help of Google, we found that the song was written by Neil Sedaka and performed by Tony Christie. You probably all knew that? What you might not have known, is that the song was originally supposed to be called "Is this the way to Pensacola", however, the only place that Sedaka could think of that rhymed with "willow" and "pillow" was Amarillo - and the rest is musical history!! Never say I don't at least try to leave you wiser than you were before we started this...

Although we awoke to the noise of rain beating on the roof of the RV, that soon disappeared as we headed west towards Arizona and beyond. With 677 sun filled miles ahead of us, the day drifted by peacefully with classic music filling the bus and allowing me to howl away as though I can actually sing - Wayne carefully put his earphones on so he didn't have to listen to it - very rude?

Although we didn't have time to stop in Winslow, AZ like we did last year to "stand on a corner" and look at "the girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford", I did turn up the volume to "Take it Easy" by the Eagles as we drove past, as a mark of respect to my favorite band ever - I just can't help myself?

It was a fairly uneventful day with beautiful scenery and a constantly varying landscape of hills to climb, descend and then climb again. The most exciting part of the day was probably as I was cautiously going down a 6% gradient hill with the exhaust brake engaged and gently tapping the brake every now and then to stay at 50 or below on this steep and curvy decline, a not so cautious semi truck came hurtling past us at a very energetic rate of knots realizing too late that he was probably going too fast and standing on the brakes so hard that smoke was billowing from his wheels as he disappeared into the distance. We never saw him again so I assume he survived?

If you've ever travelled this route, you'll know that as you pass from Arizona into California, you have to stop at the Department of Agriculture checkpoint to confess if you have any fruit on board. I confessed to 4 apples and a banana which seemed to generate no interest at all. The Inspector asked me where I was from and what did I have in the trailer? I told him I was from Wisconsin and that I had a race car in the trailer. He then asked me if I had a "Cheesehead hat" with me? I told him that I did not but that if he wanted one, I would bring him one next year - he waved me through...

The balance of the drive was spectacular with the sun setting behind the mountains ahead of us, and finally, 12 hours or so later, the lights of Barstow twinkled in the darkness and the ever welcoming Walmart parking lot was waiting for our arrival...

Tomorrow - a detour south and west to avoid the the carnage of the mudslides on 58, find somewhere to wash off the grime of 2400 miles and then finally to Auto Club Famoso Raceway just outside of Bakersfield. The California Hot Rod Reunion beckoned, we came, we saw, now we just have to conquer..
 #38270  by ukdrn
 Wed Oct 21, 2015 10:23 am
So day five is drawing to a close and we have finally arrived at the Autoclub Famoso Raceway - well, nearly arrived, but not quite!! Let me expand...
The day started (as the last several days have) in a Walmart parking lot. This one, in Barstow, CA. When we arrived last night, the parking lot was relatively empty and we parked (as we usually do) towards the back, away from the store. There were several other RV'rs there and we settled down for the night.
Because it had been a particularly long day, I set the alarm with a little extra "bed" time. What I hadn't considered (seems stupid now?), was the possibility of getting blocked in by cars as a result of the later start!! Anyway, with the help of Wayne guiding me in a 138 point turn, we made it out of the parking lot and down to the "Flying J" truck-stop for our last fill of diesel, a fresh tank of water, a refill of propane and a "dump" of the other fluids!!! It seems there isn't anything that Wayne s prepared to do with the utmost of enthusiasm?
Next stop - the Blue Beacon truck wash, south of Bakersfield. It's important that we look the best we can at this "Grand prix" of nostalgia drag racing.
However, I'm not so sure the truck will still be clean when we get up in the morning? When we arrived at the track, we were greeted with the sight of dozens of haulers, motor homes and trailers parked outside of the track on the dusty foregrounds. For reasons known only to themselves, the NHRA have decided that nobody can enter the track until midday tomorrow? A little frustrating after trying so hard to get here a day early and have some extra time to prepare ourselves. Hey ho - no problem, just the way that it is...
On the other hand, I got a call from broadcaster (and all-round good guy) Donnie Couch to invite me for an interview on Speedscene (Live) later this evening. Donnie and Darr Hawthorne, gave me a call and were very kind to me with their questions, and Donnie said that he had enjoyed our "FaceBook Walmart Tours" each of the last couple of years and had kept up with our progress this year as well.
Now I don't know whether it was the effects of the (single) beer I'd just had or some other rush of blood to the head, but live on their radio show, I called out my good friend, Cruz Pedregon (who of course is sponsored by Snap-on) for a match-race to be held between he and I during one or more of the qualifying rounds this weekend. This happened once before a couple of years ago at Cordova, IL - and Cruz beat me by 3/100ths of a second... REVENGE WILL BE MINE (I hope)
So that's it, the first chapter of this epic tale is over, we made it safely to the track (well almost anyway) and are ready now for Chapter 2, the pre-race preparations, pit set up etc ready for qualifying on Friday. I'll be reporting back tomorrow night with our progress and details of any stories that emerge through the day - it seems there's always some story to tell???
 #38276  by ukdrn
 Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:36 pm
Sorry I'm a bit late with this post from yesterday (day 6), but we were pretty busy all day setting up the pit. (Weak excuse, but I'm sticking with it?)
So we picked up our passes and other assorted forms to be completed from the NHRA "will call" and proceeded to wait in line (several lines actually) to be let into the track. We are directed through the staging lanes to the track and then diverted up the return road, all the way to the track turn-offs and back down into the pits led by Gino (without his dog) to our pit space. We're getting excited now...
Wayne set to work immediately (of course) whilst I "dithered" around greeting old friends and having fun. It's amazing to watch Wayne at full tilt, maybe that Red Bull stuff he drinks actually works? I've attached a few pictures to show how it works - easy if you have a Wayne running the show!
We had a few little jobs to do on the car, replace a couple of EGT's, prepare some bearings etc, etc... In the process we discovered the burst plug on our CO2 bottle had burst? Not sure how, maybe the change of pressure coming over the mountains? Anyway, with help from fellow racers - we're back in business again and glad we found it early.
By chance (I assume), our friend Kurt turned up with Cruz's beautiful "California Charger" and parked right next door - Cruz arrived later and property values have soared around here since his arrival!!! The match race discussion was avoided, I think he's nervous??
Opposite us is our good friend Richard Townsend with his amazing Nitroholic car, I think he's made the most progress in the shortest time of any of us in this game. Great guy and a great team, however, I should warn the readers of this daily dribble, you should accept his hospitality with caution and only if you have a particularly strong constitution - his margaritas could kill an elephant!!! Thanks Richard...
So with the sun setting on another day, we're looking forward to Jerry, Evon, Kenny and Thomas arriving today and our team will be complete except of course for my sweetheart Veronica and our puppy, Sophie who couldn't make the trip with us this year - we are missing you both and wish you were here.
Just a little more preparation and the tech inspection today (Thursday) and we'll be ready for qualifying on Friday. Watch this space...
 #38277  by ukdrn
 Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:37 pm
ay 7 and only one more sleep until qualifying time...
I enjoyed today a lot as I had many visitors from both the UK and Australia stop by to say hello and wish us well - some old friends and a few new ones too.
First to arrive was my old racing partner and long term friend, Mickey Moore from England, not far behind him came Norm and Herb Andrews. Tony Betts arrived and is very excited as he's getting to drive Richard Hartman's car this weekend. Apart from this happy group of Englishmen, my oldest drag racing friend who helped me build my first race car some 40+ years ago, John Wright and his lovely wife Lesley arrived sporting a couple of very stylish cowboy hats. Separately, Roy Wilding and Lesley Prior arrived and my pit was beginning to feel like I was back at Santa Pod in the late seventies...
Not to be out done - my friends from Australia then began to turn up, including Paul Shackleton who has brought his magnificent "Shack Attack" funny car all the way from Australia to be driven by Clint Thompson. This is the car that I drove in Sydney last year to my quickest ever E.T.... it's a great car (built by Bob Meyer and could do very well here at the CHRR. Along with Paul was Damon Paton who crews for Paul and did a great job when I was down there driving in November.
Jerry and the team arrived around 5:00 pm and not long after that, we fired up the "Down Under Thunder" for the first time on this trip and she sounded sweet... We've made some significant changes to our tune up for this event and I'm hoping against hope that we've got it right? I suspect it's going to take a record E.T. for us to get into eliminations - keep you fingers crossed for us will you?
We waited all day for the Tech inspection but gave up and put the car away at around 8:00pm. I hope he comes early tomorrow (Friday), our first qualifier is at 11:00am!!!
I was glad to get an early night to bed - feeling tired and need to be on my game for the first run..
 #38278  by ukdrn
 Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:38 pm
And on the 8th day, Bazz hoped he would be qualified for the California Hot Rod Reunion - but tragically, not yet...
So today was the first two of three attempts to qualify.
I thought I was ready for round one but it seems I had an itchy trigger finger... As I sat behind the start line watching Cruz Pedregon and Tony Betts both leave with a massive shake, rattle and roll away from the start line, I determined I should be ready for a similar experience.. In fact want happened was that the car left reasonably well got to about 200 feet, shuddered only a little, I instinctively shifted into high gear to settle the car when it surely didn't need it, pulled the engine down way too early and ran a 6.27 at 231mph. Looking at the data afterwards, it's probably a miracle it went as quickly as that after such an early shift - cockpit error, my fault, sorry everybody.... However, no damage to the car, she leaked down perfectly and just needed more fuel and oil to be ready to go again..
Round #2.... With only minor changes to the tune up, I was ready to stretch her legs on what is clearly a fantastic track. Much better run this time, although the car was shaking unusually hard for some reason during the second half of the run. Nonetheless, my foot was buried to the end and we squeezed into the fives with a 5.995 at 239mph - better but not good enough to qualify.
We finished the day in 18th place, two spaces behind the bump spot of 5.904.
We took the engine apart (of course) and had just one piston and sleeve scuffed. As the guys re-assembled, they found one of the bolts that holds the injector to the blower had ripped itself out of the aluminum threads and gone missing - probably as a result of the shaking around it got on the last run? A helicoil borrowed from our friend Richard Townsend solved that problem and the Down Under Thunder got out to bed ready for her last chance to qualify tomorrow.
We now have to turn some "tuning knobs" harder to right, and have a last ditch effort to qualify - wish us luck and I'll let you know later how we get on.