A Spaced Odyssey
N.B. All units in this article are SAE. This work is the property of JRP Press; any unauthorized distribution, reproduction, modification or transmission is expressly forbidden.
Another week, another 3700 miles.
It was around midday on Tuesday July 22nd; I was flying down Haight Cres. at 30 mph in reverse while Brent headed back into his house for some forgotten sleep gear. Packing for a week long thrash to Bowling Green Kentucky isn’t easy. It wasn’t long, however, before Brent was tooling along behind my sisters Olds as I rode the door handles back to my place, got my stuff, hopped in the van and we went on to pick up Ed.
We stopped on the way out of town at Mr. Sub, because there’s always something good goin’ down at mister sub. Brent and Ed ordered sandwiches while I ordered chocolate milk… then a turkey sub once they quit laughing.
Once on the highway I engaged in a full bore lesson about farming for Brent and Ed. It seemed like the thing to do after seeing all the poor examples of hay bales along the sides of the road as we drove. I had to set the record straight about that and a lot of other things. It seemed like only seconds for me and only hours for Brent and Ed until we reached Regina. We hit a seven eleven for some mags and chow and a pizza joint for the washroom of which the c-store was unequipped.
Before long we were in Redvers where we stopped for the night at Ed’s Grandmothers place. We all enjoyed a good home cooked meal while watching some 80’s game shows. We then viewed some more modern game shows, made some near-futile attempts at internet connectivity and enjoyed the last few hours of normal sleep we’d get for close to a week. We left Ed’s Grandma’s on the same roads we went in on, which roughly resembled those in Iraq following the Gulf War. Luckily they slowed us down enough that we stopped near a concrete pig in the ditch, on which I had a nice ride and photo op. Ed and Brent had neither.
I was on the horn to Ian before at 6 am before we were on the road, making sure that he was ready to hop in the Van when we hit his town. He was, and he was ready for our call for some bad directions to his house once we entered the ‘Peg. We made a short stop at the bank and at a BK before being Pembina bound. Crossing the border was uneventful for us; 3 Generation-X looking guys in a van full of coolers full of Coca Cola Classic and Molson Canadian. It wasn’t as uneventful for the wholesome appearing family ahead of us whose van was being torn apart by customs agents. We showed our Id and were on our way across the border for some fuel.
We had a full afternoon in the heat and wind of North and South Dakota, stopping only to fuel at the Pump and Pak where the Putzmiester truck had pulled in just ahead of us. Towards evening the skies went dark and the winds blew high. Tuning into several of the 100’s of FM radio stations constantly available let us in on some warnings of very severe weather. Brent fought the temptation to push the van further into the triple digits in an effort to outrun the storm. Luckily, we were able to keep ahead of the tornadoes, and as night fell continued delving deeper into the US of A.
It was around 10 pm when we pulled into a truck stop. After hitting the fuel pumps hard and the toilets harder, I somehow ended up in the driver’s seat. As I pulled around back of the place a prostitute slurping back a 6 pack of Bud tried to flag us down. She jumped in front of the van but I was able to swerve around her, lighting up one front tire as we merged back onto the interstate whooping and hollering like Bo and Luke Duke. We were approaching St. Louis. There were lots of 6 lane wide roads narrowing to single lanes bordered closely by 5’ tall cement barricades in that town, so needless to say a lot of wear on the tires sidewalls and my companion’s nerves occurred during this escapade. I drove until daybreak when the amount of state troopers pulling vehicles over made my decision to give up the wheel. Brent felt like drinking some coffee in lieu of the sleep that he didn’t get all night; we pulled into a gas bar and got supplies. On our way out we heard a 3rd gen Firebird scraping its lowered exhaust on the pavement, and turned to see its rollover-tested body panels. It would soon become apparent that either these cars were very common in this area of the United States, or we were part of some kind of psychological experiment being performed by the government to test the effects of viewing these types of vehicles on foreigners traveling long distances in Mopar products. Either way the 90/10 rule was in effect. 90% of 3rd Gen CamBirds appeared as rough as or rougher than this one did, whilst the other 10% appeared “normal”.
At last we arrived in Bowling Green. It was a record setting run; we had left Winnipeg at about noon and it was now 8:00 AM. As the early morning sun streaked across the Denny’s parking lot we streaked inside for some food. I could taste the Pine-Sol from the early morning grill cleaning in my Grand Slam breakfast.
We returned to the campground. We had been out of the air conditioned van for some time now, and our bodies were gradually adjusting to the constant onslaught of heat and humidity inherent in the southern US. Brent was comfortable dozing off in his folding chair while Ian Ed and I took off to check out some local spots. We made a stop at TEA to see how Brian Tooley was doing, and to make sure everything was a go for the Dyno Day that was to take place in less than 24 hours. The Holley plant looked enticing the first time we drove past, so we tried to get to it again. After an unnecessarily long search we came upon it from the backside, found the public parking lot, and went to loiter in their heavily air conditioned lobby while inquiring about public tours. It was our good fortune that one was scheduled for that afternoon.
We managed to fill the time until then, picking Brent up from the campground and possibly getting something to eat. We arrived back at Holley just as someone was attempting to steal a BMW 3 series parked across the street while police cars cruised past without interest. We went inside for the tour. It started with a display of Holley’s history from the early motorized bicycle days and racing heritage to their current place as one of the largest producers and distributors of aftermarket performance parts for all makes of automobiles. It was mentioned that the only two parts you’d need to buy from other companies in order to build an entire engine would be the block and the crank. Continuing on with the tour, we were able to see some of Holley’s positive displacement blowers being tested. We learned that all of the casting for Holley is done out of house in California, but all of the machining is done on site, often with antiquated machinery. These machines are old, but they still do the job in an economical and efficient fashion. Holley is looking towards the future with the development of their impressive ignition and fuel injection systems. They are beginning to further enter the cylinder head development world as evidenced by the presence of several new CNC machining and mapping machines on site. These machines are going to take the place of work that was currently being done at AFR. The tour finished up with a look at Holley’s engine and chassis dyno’s, a few impressive and not so impressive show cars, a BG carb sitting out of the way on the floor and a sticker laden late model mustang with a new nitrous system rolling in looking very hot and tired. There was only one thing that bothered me about the Holley plant, and that was the apparent lack of hearing protection worn by the workers. It seemed to me that they were all going deaf.
It was a hot Thursday night in Bowling Green, and more and more people were arriving for Corral Day each hour. We had a descent showing for supper at Fazolis (An awesome Italian fast food joint). The same evening we went to check out Scotties, a local performance parts shop in an effort to find some unleaded race gas for Shawn Donkin. It was closed.
Thursday night came and went with a mild amount of drinking and loitering taking place. Everyone got to bed reasonably early because of the dyno day taking place at TEA the following morning. Nobody got up very early, and sweat was beading on my forehead as the crowd decided to go to Dennys while valuable dyno time clicked away…
It turned out I didn’t need to worry about getting started early. The day went very well and the employees at TEA worked very hard to keep things running smoothly as car after car spun the rollers. All mustangs all day, from Matt Granzow’s near-stock 95 GT to a Marks 700 hp ProCharger equipped fox body. Jeff Lange’s killer solid cammed R-blocked 347 put 420 HP to the wheels and put ideas for awesome street small blocks into everyone’s heads. Marks car took the breath out of everyone’s lungs when it went WOT on the dyno, and the slicks grew enough as they spun up that the left rear contacted the inner fender sending out a plume of tire smoke. After the dyno run was aborted and some sawzall work was done to the sheet metal, the car was ready for another pull.
Monsoon like rains only briefly disrupted the action and every car that was meant to dyno was able to. Brian was very generous when it came to settle up for his staff’s hard work and the wear and tear on his equipment. TEA is a pretty cool operation all in all, their CNC machine ran all day porting heads, and their new mapping machine allows any head port profile to be mapped, analyzed and copied at will.
Now for one of a series of exciting interludes penned by my good friend Ed Donais, lightly edited by yours truly:
While Jimmy and the others played on the Dyno, Brent and I decided it was time to head over to the Corvette Plant, learning a valuable lesson in the process.
Lesson learned: Never wear open toed shoes if you actually want to get into the Vette plant.
This hard learned lesson had us making a run for the campground to grab some “sensible shoes” so we could make it in for the last tour. We learned a second lesson as well: The bigger the hurry you are in, the better the chance of getting lost. We were still able to get back to the Plant for the last tour of the day and got to see these beautiful cars built right in front of us. It was very cool experience.
As was the case the previous year half way through the tour torrential rains came through, prompting us to wonder if we had found high enough ground for the tent or if we would face the same scenario we had last year (4 inches of water in the tent, everything soaked). We made out quite well with only a few things waterlogged.
We then went on to the Corvette Museum where we met up with Jon-Stu, Ike, Paul, and Dan Shade. We proceeded to check out the museum and the history of the Corvette by first going into the theatre to watch a presentation. It seems to me I had gotten up on the stage and done something stupid which brought cheers from the somewhat leery family cowering in the back. I then thought it was time to look into the reason why the show was late by looking through the projection hole. I had just gotten my eye up to the hole when the light flashed on, darn near knocking me off the seat back that I was standing on. Again the family cheered!!!
After the show there were some very cool cars to see and some interesting information to learn. We ended our experience at the museum by hassling the employees to fix the penny squisher that had stolen Dan Shades penny and would not work without the aid of the employee. On the way out to the van to head back to the campsite I recognized Holly from Alabama, and her boyfriend fill from Alaska. We made some introductions and then headed off to the campsite to wait for the crew to get back from the Dyno Day.
It had been a great day, but our smooth sailing was to come to an end. I was rolling out of the TEA lot with Matt Granzow when we saw James and his cousin asleep in James’s black Fox GT. I told Matt to hit it and we burned the tires past them, but they failed to awaken until we backed up and screamed at them for a while. We finally got going but about block and a half from TEA I saw James’s car head into oncoming traffic. It swerved back into the proper lane, then back into the oncoming lane again before accelerating and then crashing over the left hand curb into the ditch with the brakes locked. It turns out James had fallen asleep at the wheel. The right front tire was flat, and I figured we’d be unable to push it up out of the red Kentucky mud. Matt and I went to the campground for help. I was sure by the time we got back the car would be towed away and James and his cousin would be in police custody. Instead some other Corralers had arrived and not only had they got the car out of the ditch, they had nearly gotten the spare installed.
Everyone was pretty hungry at this point, so we headed back to Fazolis for some supper.
After supper, another event I organized was to take place. I was impressed with turnout at the Friday night cruise at Auto-Zone. About 50 cars showed up and we all hung out for a few hours. For me, the highlights of the show were a 5.4L 32V Cobra and an awesome 1986 GT set up for road racing. Nobody made enough noise or did enough burnouts to attract the police, so everyone pretty much left when they felt like it.
After the cruise, Friday night was lived in the usual spirit of corral-day-evening craziness. More and more people piled into the campground as vast amounts of alcohol was consumed and many stories were told. I’m sure those people that chose to stay in the city had an equal amount of fun, sitting on one of the king size beds in their comfortable air conditioned hotel rooms watching pay per view wrestling. The campground was hopping long into the morning, when some of us decided to try and get some sleep in futile hopes that Saturday wouldn’t be spent in a daze of hunger and fatigue.
Morning came on time as usual, and everyone was scrambling to get to the track as early as possible. A huge lineup of Mustangs and other Fords streamed into Bowling Green Raceway, their exhausts combining into a thunder that hung in the air with the clouds that I (and everyone else) prayed would not rain out our event. Driving this far to end up spending the day playing cards at a crappy restaurant in BG would be a tragedy. I was pushing GTLuke’s 351’d 86 towards the tech area when Chris showed up with a big sack of biscuits. They were from McDonalds… he was giving them out for free and I was only too glad to take a couple since I hadn’t had time to eat breakfast. Two recurring themes for Corral Day are no food and no sleep. No food isn’t such a problem since I carry a substantial amount of excess energy around with me at all times, but the lack of sleep really gets to me… I digress, that story will come later.
Once through tech and the pits, many racers immediately hit the track, and many uh, “showers” hit the show lanes. The first few runs down the ¼ would be precious as nobody has a chance to drag water to the line and there’s a nice thick layer of fresh VHT laid down. I don’t really recall any ET’s, since none in our traveling party were racing cars, but I believe a ’03 Cobra was putting down some mystical 12.7’s. I wish I could remember what a 351 equipped Lincoln LSC was running, the car was amazing. I managed to snap a few photos of it with the hand strap from my camera before the lens, and a few of it in the pits that didn’t turn out
It turned out it would remain hot, partly cloudy, and dry for most of the day. I continued my starvation diet, bypassing the overpriced offerings at the track’s canteen save for a 6 dollar bottle of water. The day was spent watching cars make passes, wheeling around the pits chatting w/the Dedpedal crew and everyone else, and scoping out the Lightnings, Cobras, GT’s, LX’s, Cobra R’s… well there was an example of most every late model Mustang you could think of. There was an awesome FFR Cobra at the event and since I plan on building one someday I checked it out and tested the interior for room. I’m glad I continue to lose weight as time goes on, because big people don’t fit in a AC Cobra replica like this one very well. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like ripping around in a 2000 lb car with 500 hp at the wheels. This particular car had a 302 with an aftermarket top end and cam, I believe it was running in the 11’s.
Holley and a few other parts distributors/shops had booths set up close to the track. Holley raffled off a Nitrous kit while their supercharged truck ran terribly slowly down the track. They need to do some work to that rig to keep up with a stock Lightning. Maybe it was just the heat and lack of traction.
Later in the afternoon I was walking around the pits taking pictures while avoiding Rob Jr. riding around on the Dedpedal gas powered scooter when I noticed a beat looking 99+ GT parked at the end of the return road. It turns out there had been an accident on the track. My buddy Ed had been racing Dan’s 99 Cobra vs. this green ‘vert that was on the bottle. Ed’s competition was running radials and had serious traction problems starting at the line and ending when he got sideways and backed the car into the wall hard. Luckily, this was the only serious incident of the day. It should be remembered however that Bowling Green Raceway always claims the lives of a few limited slip differentials each year. Nobody knows for why for sure, but it’s rumored to have something to do with the paltry amount of water in the burnout box. Mark’s car also had some tough times. Once fired the air/fuel charge must have felt claustrophobic in the cramped cylinder so it burned a quarter sized hole through the head, finding liberty in the engine bay.
The day was winding down, it was time for the annual Corral Day awards ceremony. Frozen Fill won the long distance award for flying executive first class from Alaska. Zarr won Bob Cosby’s poster child award for causing the most decisive amount of grief for the Corral’s most respected moderator. I believe a group photo was taken at some point, before everyone left, likely with the same thought in their head, “I haven’t eaten in 12 hours. Let’s find some food.”
A few of us ripped around in Chris’s TFS equipped reef blue coupe and Paul’s LX hatch for a couple of hours looking for a non existent buffet pizza place Ed said was around. After finding the joint condemned we cruised to a restaurant called “Melrose Place.” Despite its weird name, the small pizzas the bulk of us ordered were pretty good and the Mr. Pibb flowed nonstop.
Well, it was Saturday night. The last chance to party and hang out with everyone before we left for home the next morning. Really, it was more of the same, changing tires in the campground, drinking beer having an all around good time. I think the general level of drunkenness was highest this night, approaching out of control. The most hardcore of the group managed to stay up until dawn before passing out on picnic tables, truck beds, or together on plastic tarps.
Myself, I fell asleep around 2 am in a tent after carefully rigging the zippers with the corkscrew on my Swiss army knife to prevent teabag attempts. I’m unsure of what time I awoke, but it was still dark and I needed to take a leak. Both Ian and I were sleeping on the bare floor… while I was buggering with the zipper he woke up and we headed to the john. What awaited us there would have jarred even the most stolid and brave citizen… For some reason the lighting was extra bright. I made my way to an empty stall, swung it open and went about business, trying in vain to read some of the Corral Day related graffiti scribbled into the walls. What was disturbing was the volume of people in the building. There were way too many for a public washroom, standing all over, brushing their teeth and talking quietly in some alien language. I shouldered a few of them aside so I could wash my hands… I missed the wastebasket with some paper towels I had used, and all of the people were looking at me and gasping as I backed out the door and ran back to our campsite. It was like my mouth was filled with glue, when we got back the die hards sitting around the campsite started jabbering to us, words we couldn’t understand, and I could formulate no response. Upon waking the next morning I discussed my experience with McNiven. He mirrored my sentiments, and we agreed to never speak of the incident again.
The sun crawled above the horizon at some point, and we Canadians woke up. Like it or not, it was time to leave for home. While packing up we went to various tents and aggravated the occupants until they came out to share in some goodbyes. It was still before breakfast when we left, but that didn’t matter since we weren’t eating anyway.
My memories of the ride home aren’t too distinct. Maybe it had something to do with the 8 hours of sleep I had accrued in the past 4 days. After spending some time on the interstate, passing the “Home of the Neon” (dodge neon), a bunch of cool old vehicles and the Goat Boat, we stopped and I picked up some bad donuts to eat. As we passed directly through the greater metropolis of Chicago I was thinking, “Man, all the vehicles on the road are brand new”. I was heartened to see an old 70’s era boat pull alongside, and chagrined when the driver’s side front tire blew out sending rubber chunks flying and the front end sinking like the Titanic. The driver gritted his teeth and wrestled the car to the shoulder. Later I tried to take some pics of an attractive Mitsubishi with a more attractive pilot and co-pilot, but thanks to my outstanding photography skills and Wal-Mart camera I had less than stellar results.
We ran into severe weather once again at some point. I have to say that the thunderstorms I’ve driven through in the US have been pretty impressive. I can’t formulate a valid comparison between them and the ones up here though, as I haven’t been fortunate enough to drive into a really bad one in Canada. Once we cleared the heavy rains we found we were heading into a major center. A long black column of smoke drove skyward ahead, we all wondered what was burning; a fire truck flew past us on a service road. The freeway was short a few lanes up ahead. We spent a good deal of time waiting to drive past the problem, a burned up Jeep Cherokee with its occupants standing alongside conversing with firemen.
Hey, it’s once again time to hear from Ed!
While driving along what was supposed to be the bypass around Minneapolis/St Paul a malfunction at the junction occurred. Somehow we ended up taking the wrong exit which turned us around and took us right back into the center of the city.
Once we got back onto the highway heading into the Minnesota night we decided it was just about time to get a little bit of a bite to eat. It was getting late and our options were decreasing rapidly, but we found a Burger King that still had its drive though open, picked up our bounty and got back on our merry way.
Still in Minnesota the fuel gauge was looking rather hungry so we had to find a gas station. Being that it was so late open gas stations were not jumping out in front of us. We saw an exit that claimed to have a gas station so we took it;at the end of the exit at the lights onto the main road we witnessed a car load of guys drop off their buddy off beside a Poly-John at a roadside construction site then leave.
We found the gas station where we filled up and I decided to try out the New Blue Pepsi (which can only be described as the most vile thing to come out of the Pepsi factory to date.)
After leaving the gas station I noticed that the high classed Dodge Dakota sitting in front of us at the light had the most high tech fuel cell he had ever seen: what looked to be the typical Wedco red 5 gallon jerry can with fuel line run in through the cap held on a with a high strength black rubber tarp strap wrapped around the handle and hooked to the frame.
Having very little common sense I grabbed the camera and hopped out, getting right under the truck in order to get a real good picture of the high tech unit (someday hoping to replace the stock tank in the mustang with such a fashionable piece), sadly this seemed to have angered the Minnesota Mexican owner of the Dakota who hopped out of the truck (spewing expletives not suitable under the harshest conditions) and demanded to know what I was doing (shaking his fists, and generally freaking out). I used a Jedi mind trick and was able to talk himself out of what most certainly would have been a painful exchange of blood sweat and tears (most likely all would have been mine). The unhappy individual sped off leaving a trail of gas from the poorly sealed fuel tank in the hopes that he did not drive over any lit cigarettes along the way.
We traveled on into the Minnesota night with no more real excitement/drama.
We found ELVIS!!!!!!
Our next stop was very exciting to us when we found an old withered up version of ELVIS working at a gas station, he had lost a little weight and had not aged gracefully, but hell it was better then being dead!
We continued on into the night and arrived at the border around 4 am, again we had some good luck here as we followed a farmer pulling a loaded horse trailer up to the gates. Since they were busy with him we gave our ID’s and they let us pass through. We were very happy about this as the van was literally filled to the brim with drag tires and rims that Ian and I had bought down south as well a bunch of other stuff that would most likely have the border guards telling us to empty the van for inspection. It was an engineering miracle that we had gotten things in the first time let alone to try and do it again.
We made it to Ian’s house around 5 am hoping he would fire up the stove and hook us all up with some bacon and eggs, but he came up with some lame excuse about people sleeping, so we said our good byes and continued the last leg of our journey.
We were getting close to Esterhazy. Night had come and gone, as had the food we picked up at BK. I guess we had dropped Ian off in Winnipeg too. I found a discarded whopper JR. on the floor. Being the comedian I am, I decided to pitch it at a road sign. My judgment must have been impaired, because I unwrapped the burger first… I threw it out the open window and it flew apart, missing the sign by miles. Disgusted, I watched it fly behind us as my eyeglasses flew off and into the slipstream around the van. What happened next was nigh a miracle. Not only did we not drive over my glasses when we backtracked, but I found them on the road and in perfect condition. Let it be known that I’m 6’3” tall with ~20/300 vision. I can’t see my glasses when they’re sitting on a table in my house. Brent and Ed were really understanding about the whole thing.
Ed and I were riding up front so it was with some difficulty that we communicated our desire to stop for food in Esterhazy to Brent, who was sleeping in the 3rd row seat. Ed knew of a restaurant that served a great breakfast. I had pancakes, and toast, and bacon, and sausages, and coffee, and God knows what else on a huge platter for like 6 bucks Canadian. That beat the 12 or so dollars it cost to eat at Denny’s over the border. The exchange rate is killer when it comes to eating at restaurants down there.
We were in Saskatchewan and we thought that our adventures had come to an end. Nothing but some lazy afternoon cruising into Saskatoon. We were mistaken.
Somewhere just out of Yorkton we came upon a 4 door Olds that was loitering along behind some other cars. The old woman at the wheel was kind enough and let us by. Unfortunately her mood seemed to change and for some reason she went flying past us some time later. She then pulled into our lane and slowed down. Each time we attempted to pass, she sped up. She passed other vehicles, then we did, then we attempted to pass her as she reduced her speed to 10 or more below the limit, but every time we’d see a puff of black smoke from her tailpipe as she went WOT, kicked the tranny down and pulled away. Our overloaded Dodge was helpless. I made this terrible situation a case for my philosophy that every vehicle should have at least a small shot of nitrous installed. I don’t think we ever passed her; we eventually stopped for gas and rid ourselves of this horrible menace. There are rumors that these events were captured on video, but apparently the tape has gone missing.
So that’s it. We were home. It was a helluva trip, something that can only be understood by people who are privilege to the same grit as we. To most it seems insane to put on that kind of miles for a one day event. I agree, so next year hopefully we can get going earlier, leave later, and spend more time on the road. It’s like horsepower: if this much of this experience is good, more would have to be better, right?