The Gift

There was a time before hand held devices, instant gratification and social networks.

A time when Christmas started after the Big Man himself, me, made his appearance at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and not at the end of September in the Dollar Store.

A time when stop lights would pause for the night and blink yellow or red. When the news programs of the day started at 10 p.m. and were followed by Johnny Carson. When televisions only had four stations and they would sign off shortly after midnight. Well, with the sprawl of Suburbia and the growth of the country during the 1960s the world had become bigger and the toys so much more than just wood and cloth. Well it has been said the world waits for no one, and here was proof.

Choo-choo trains and rag dolls had been taken over by Lionel and Barbie. Mattel, Hasbro Marx, Tonka and many more companies flooded the market and every child wanted at least three of each.
I had  decided to take a break—to streamline my operations. So I scaled back operations and decided to focus on one major gift a year. Regardless of age or gender, just one. Immortal as we are here at Santa, Inc., we have been dealt some laws which even we can not over rule. It was decided that the gift could not be monetary. It could not be a cure for an illness. We have no ability to change that man or ladies mind so they fall in love with you. My long time friend Cupid laughs hard at this one. The  gift that was to be personal and the person who received it had done something extraordinary and deserved to have their wish come true. And here is the caviat emptor—a gift could be forwarded to a loved one.

And, that rarely happened. But think about it, if you were granted a choice for a really great gift without knowing what may be, what would you do? So back to our tale. When you see a Santa in the mall. Department store, big box store, well, sometimes an a rare occasion one of them is one of us.
Surprise! Oh, we know. We have heard it all and well at times are hard pressed where to throw our hard earned talents to.

Europe, Antarctica, Asia, Australia and yes, America. North America this time around.
It was in a mall in the Denver metro area and low and behold this time it was me who was in the chair. Not Melvin, or Cornelius, my personal assistants for generations mind you. Me. Kris Kringle. St. Nick. Santa Claus. CEO if you will.

The Mile High City has always had a special place in my heart. The Queen City of the Plains has been a melting pot of cultures since it came to be. Maybe it is the high altitude or the melding of the Yankee meets Southwest culture, Denver has always been one of my favorites. On this snowy November day, right after Thanksgiving I was in downtown Denver. Right off of the 16th street mall. I had just attended a Breakfast with Santa event and had decided to walk down the mall and mingle with the people.   The smoky grey clouds hung low and the snow was falling steadily. The ground was snow packed and not treacherous, but that in between stage where as you step it is a soft crunch. The air smelled of kettle corn, hot coffee and pastries. The wind would gust on occasion and sting your cheeks, redden your nose. So many smiles and chattering. A man stood on a corner and was reading The Night Before Christmas to a crowd o rosy cheeked children. A young lad with dreadlocks was juggling tambourines and accepting tips. As I walked by I dropped a $20 into his hat. I kept walking toward the west end of the mall. The singing grew fainter. The smells in the air were replaced by diesel and grit. I paused to see a man try and create a better shelter with his cardboard box. A woman wide eyed and lonely walked by pushing a cart. And it was then I saw a tall man and two kids. The boy was a dead ringer for his Daddy and the little girl had the brightest eyes I had ever seen in a child’s face. I paused and noticed that each of them was pulling a red wagon behind them. Within each wagon were sacks of groceries, bottled water and socks. Their Dad was wearing a black pork pie hat. He was a broad fellow with bright eyes and a beaming grin. He was saying something to his kids when he saw me. Our eyes met and I knew this man. As a child I could see him from decades back and I remembered him. He knew who I was. Right there. It is rare that it happens and a select few adults have recognized me. “Uh, kids, I think you need to talk to this man,” is all he said. The little girl ran up to me and just hugged my legs. She was so shy and lovely. I tried to talk to her, but she buried her face into my shins and would not look at me. So I spoke, “Jo, you are so lovely! My dear girl come to Santa and tell me what is on your mind.” Her Dad lifted her up and the young boy walked up to me.  His eyes were so full of wonder. I got down on my knees and brought him in as I always do when I meet kids on the street. “Jackie, say young man, what do you want for Christmas?” I asked. His Dad stepped back and tilted his head back and laughed. The boy looked up at me wide eyed.  “Please, son, just tell ol’ Santa.” And he did. But beyond that he spoke of the wagons. Of hot summers and walking next to the Platte river. Of a hopped up go-kart and helping his Dad rebuild an engine. Of watching at night as his Dad put them to bed, then would work in the shop welding of working on Tiki statues just to earn money to keep their home a home. Of the love he had for his sister and how much his Daddy meant to him. “I have them,” the young boy said, “and that is enough for me.” Again I asked, “Son, what do you want for Christmas?”
And he leaned in away from his family and whispered into my ear. I listened. Carefully. I smiled. “Done young man. I can do that.”

His Dad looked at me smiled that huge grin, shook my hand and they walked off. I looked at the man and said, “Edward, you have done wonderful with your kids. Merry Christmas.” His eyes widened. He laughed heartily and shook his head. We locked eyes and he said to me, “I knew you were real.” I nodded and winked.

Young Jackie was walking with a bit more of a bounce in his step. He looked at me and gave me an okay sign with his hand and a wink. Jo, as lovely as she is turned and smiled.

And there I was. A wish thrown my way and less than 30 days to make it reality.

I paused and leaned back against the building. Over the years, decades, centuries as I have tried to deliver wishes to young folks, occasionally a child knocks me back off of my feet. On this cheery day in downtown Denver little Jackie did just that. The snow picked up just a bit. The wind picked up and my eyes watered cold? Nah, just the beauty of one kids wish made me tear up.

However, a wish was made, and well, I had a job to do. I pulled out my phone and dialed my home base. Yes, I have a phone, its the 21st century. Don’t judge.

At Santa, Inc. we do have a budget, but I’ll be damned how the donations are endless. Our contacts would floor you. A few clicks and the project was ours. In fact, the one that Jackie had known about. We scooped it up for a song and before you can say Christmas Story that ol’ boy was on a flatbed and headed for a new life. I will not say where our work shop is. But I can tell you that FedEx, UPS, and the amazing USPS know us by heart.

One goal. One wish. 24 days.

On the 1st of December the project arrived. Complete, yes, but well, this old boy needs some loving. At Santa, Inc, we launch into a project full on. The old truck was disassembled. Stripped. Painted. Detailed.  And we leaned on our contacts, trust me.  Speed shops, Restoration shops, wrecking yards and old friends—Svigel’s. You know who you are. Little Jackie had one definitive request that we strived to accomplish. Make the ol’ pick up a daily driver. He wanted his Dad to drive the wheels off of it as he had years ago when he set off on a soul searching tour that took his father to the Northwest, to Canada then back down route 101 and along the back roads of the Southwest headed back to Denver. A new Ford F-100 with all of the bells and whistles will bring a 25 MPG, well, a mild flatty in a 64 year old pick was going to do that very well thank you. And in my eyes a ’53 Ford F-100 looks so much better too. The paint on the old pick up was faded in spots, but in over all good condition.  Fenders and body panels straight and rust free. A few dents, but patina is cool. So it was left in a faded light blue. Painted black bumpers and a white painted grille. We polished the stainless made sure the floors were solid and contacted the folks at Mar-K in Oklahoma for a new oak bed and stainless runners. From a secret stash we through an NOS seat cover into that ol’ boy and added rubberized floor covers. A set of twice pipes singing through some smitty mufflers. Black painted rims, poverty caps and wide white wall tires courtesy of Coker tires. It was December 20th when Cecil and I took that old truck for a lap around Santa, Inc.

Driving a vintage vehicle is unlike anything you can imagine. If you have ever done so you know it. You DRIVE it. One feels the road through the steering wheel. You have to work the accelerator. And the sound. The youth today may be enthralled with the thump and pop of those WSR’s, but the sound of a healthy flathead V8 through glasspacks. Well, it is timeless.

Cecil and I glanced at each other and just grinned. Our job was almost done. Time to make a delivery. 12:01 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, December 25th.

Edward had just wrapped up his duties at the little house of wonders on Pierce street. Stockings filled, gifts laid out in the living room. He was pausing to take it all in when he heard a sound in his driveway. A sound all to familiar to him.

Rrrrar-rrrarrrr-rrrrarrr-Vrooom!

A flathead V8 firing up in his driveway. Who was in his driveway this time of morning he wondered? Edward walked to back of his home, opened the door and walked out toward his driveway. His pace slowed. It was starting to snow and the delicate flakes danced lightly in the soft glow of the headlights of the old pick up. The exhaust burbled softly. Snow that had landed on the roof and hood had already melted up and was beaded up and running in rivulats down the old skin of the truck. On the roof was a huge red bow. Edward walked in a daze to the driver’s side door. Hanging from the handle was a tag that flittered about as the wind blew. He reached out and turned it over in his hand and upon it was written in script,

To: Mr. Edward
From: Santa

Edward opened the door and was awash in heat as the heater filled the cab with warmth.
He reached over and turned the key off. The engine cut off and Edward killed the lights. He pulled the keys out of the ignition and noticed the key chain had a key fob with his name engraved upon it.
Edward stepped back and took it in. 1953 Ford F-100. A short box pick up. His eyes filled with tears. He ran a hand along the fender and paused. The night was still. He could hear the dull hum of traffic and the soft tick as the engine and exhaust cooled.

How could this be?

Then he remembered the meeting with the bearded man on the 16th street mall and how his son had whispered to the old man.

He paused outside his son’s bedroom. Jackie was fast asleep and he hated to wake him, but he had to know. He entered and gently touched his son’s shoulder. Jackie stirred and then realizing it was Christmas, his eyes were then wide. “Dad, did Santa come?” he asked. He glanced at his son and nodded. “Did he bring the gift for you?” The father nodded holding back more tears. Jackie hugged his Dad fiercely. “I knew he was real! Let’s go out and look at it!”

“Son, I have to ask. Why didn’t you ask for a gift for yourself? Why did you give up the chance for something for yourself?” Edward asked Jackie looked up at him and then said,”Dad, you have taught me something that I treasure. And it is that giving is the greatest thing a person can do. That’s my favorite gift.”

—Dedicated to my friend Mr. Dale Sawin

Mr. Veeder’s Wild Ride

It wasn’t unusual for elderly Indy roadsters to be repurposed as short track cars. Many ended up at Oswego (NY) for example, competing as Super Modifieds. One 1957 Kurtis-Kraft 500 ventured west however, arriving in the Seattle area around 1960. I suspect that Ole Bardahl may have had a hand in this as his Ballard based additive company had a huge presence at the Speedway back in those days. In fact, in ’57 there were two Bardahl sponsored Kurtis roadsters in the 500. One was piloted by “Cactus” Jack Turner and the second by a New Yorker named Al Keller.

Keller competed at Indianapolis six times from 1955 to 1961, finally earning a top five finish in his final appearance. Sadly, Keller perished later the same year (11/19/1961) while racing in Arizona.

Interestingly, a young racer of the same name emerged as the driver of the Kurtis when it reappeared in the Pacific Northwest. Was this Al Keller a relation of the Indy veteran or someone that had simply adopted his racing persona? That is a mystery. Portlander Del McClure who raced against Keller, recognized his name but didn’t know him. ”Mid-pack guy”, was McClure’s comment. “We didn’t really socialize much with the Seattle guys,” he continued.

Long gone was the 252ci Offenhauser when Keller unloaded at Monroe (WA) and Portland Speedway. It was supplanted by a ground pounding Buick Nail-head boasting nearly twice the cubic inches. Bob Fadden was listed as the Owner/Mechanic and ultimately a turkey farmer named Bob Hamilton (based in Aurora, OR) agreed to sponsor the effort.

In the early seventies, Hamilton purchased the Kurtis and that was when Salem racer Earl Veeder Jr. got his chance behind the wheel. Veeder admitted to me years later that he didn’t have the finances to field his own car at that juncture in his racing career. He would show up at the track with his helmet and see what was available. Piloting a vehicle of questionable pedigreed had become “the norm” for Earl and he had a reputation for getting the most out of whatever he drove. The Kurtis/Buick was a rocket ship that was capable of smoking the tires the length of any straightaway. Fearless Veeder had no bitch about that but complained to Hamilton that they needed more tire. Apparently the budget minded owner had procured a boatload of M & H drag racing rubber at a bargain basement price and insisted that they use it up before he’d purchase anything else. And that was where things stood when the team made the decision to tow south to Altamont Speedway (near Tracy, CA) for a big open show.

On the banked half mile they would be competing against some of the best short trackers in the business: Uprights from San Jose, new Offsets and even rear engined, four wheel drive creations, so they needed to be on their game. Unfortunately in their haste to push Veeder out, the crew forgot to remove the plugs from his injector stacks. Most teams used a brightly colored, rubber ball affair that was highly visible and difficult to overlook. “Thrifty” Hamilton had decided to make his own utilizing sink stoppers that he’d purchased at the local hardware store and chained together. When the crew attempted to push start Veeder, the Kurtis balked as he goosed the throttle. Then the stoppers fell into the injection and jammed the butterflies wide open. The huge Buick exploded to life, taking Veeder from a rough idle to full throttle in perhaps two seconds. He pointed the roadster toward the high groove and somehow managed to keep it out of the fence. Down the back straightaway Veeder left a vapor trail then aimed for the pit entrance. (Hamilton estimated his pit speed at maybe one hundred mph?) He roared past his crew, brakes screaming helplessly, teeth clinched, hands firmly planted on the wheel and in his wake, wide eyed pitmen, railbirds and onlookers. It was miraculous that he hadn’t run over anyone. When he arrived at the end of the pit lane, where was he supposed to go? Veeder rejoined the race just as the leaders were passing by! And this is where the real racer showed his moxie- Veeder STAYED OUT! Up against the fence, throttle stuck wide open, brakes toasted, ‘Ol Earl hung with the leaders for a couple laps before coming to his senses and hitting the kill switch.

Needless to say, the team was never invited back to Altamont but it wasn’t the end of Veeder’s association with Hamilton. The two remained friends (practically neighbors) for the remainder of the turkey farmer’s relatively short life. Earl Veeder Jr. raced until he was nearly seventy and died of heart failure “in the saddle” so to speak.(He was participating in a midget race.)

The ’57 Kurtis-Kraft 500 had long life ahead of it as well. The Buick Nail-head was replaced by a 302ci Ford with Gurney (Westlake) heads and shipped to Pennsylvania for a ground up restoration. It is said to reside somewhere in a New York today, in a private collection.

Note—A big thank you to those who generously offered their recollections and photos which enabled me to retell this story: Jerry Burkholder, Ralph Hunt, Bill Nootenboom and David Veeder.


I am Coming Home

A cold wind blew as I stepped off of the Greyhound bus.  I paused and hoisted my duffle bag. The Cummins wound up and the bus was off. Chasing that lonely black rib bon  delivering her passengers to their destiny. Blowing snow and blurred vision, slick sidewalks and all, I began to walk.

I had left 5 years prior and, well, had fallen by the wayside.  Ma and Pa did not approve of my actions. My little brother was barely ten and he idolized me. Sis, well, she had long since boarded the train and had head west to look for her own place in the picture shows. She didn’t care.

Never did.

I took a few steps toward where 9th was a straight shot to my old home, then paused.

5 years had been gone and I felt as if I was not missed. Years before that, three kids and two parents wrenched apart by hungry mouths and longing for better days. As a GI, I felt part of something, finally. I was part of a unified group. We were a team. Boris, Jeb. Tye. Jesus.

It was different than “home.” We felt part of something. I sighed and walked a few steps an stepped into the Tip Top bar. I was in my dress uniform still with my Army Air Corps hat on.  When I stepped through the door, a gust of cold air followed suit. I stomped my feet and shook my shoulders to get the rest of the snow off of me. All eyes turned to me. Behind the bar the bar keep turned his gaze to me, still polishing a beer schooner. His jaw dropped and his hands relaxed. We locked eyes and the glass hit the floor, shattering. He gaped. “You are the Lawson boy!” he said. I stepped back a touch and nodded. “Yassir,” Clem and Jody are my parents. We live on 9th up yonder,” I replied.

“Boy, step up here,” he said. And I did. The bar keep paused to pick up the shattered glass. His skilled hands did so and he never even grazed his calloused fingers. Years of practice, I guessed. As I got to the bar he had already pulled a glass of beer for me. I watched the bubbles chase a spiral in the glass. The pale yellow liquid steadied and was so damned inviting. I grasped the cold glass and glanced up to the bar keep. His eyes were shining. I had seen this gaze so often since we had rolled into Paris and beyond. Eyes rimmed with tears, pride. Hope. It is a look that has kept me alive, really.

“Thank you.” And he lowered his head, and then another voice echoed his.
“Soldier, thank you so much sir, thanks. God Bless you. Thanks.”

And what ever I had held within myself had fallen by the wayside. I was a half mile from home. In my mind I saw Pa by the radio. A can of Falstaff by his left hand. The paper a messed up adin his lap. I could hear the clinking of dishes as Ma was washing and thinking of what to prepare for dinner that night. Did they think of me? Wonder about me? I did not know.

I drank my glass of beer and exchanged many hugs and shook many hands. I had entered the bar at a quarter until 1 and had left at about 3. A little less lonely, yet.

Still.

A half mile walked in a snow storm can be many things.  A dreamscape or a longing for brighter times. But for me, I was in the middle. As beautiful as it was to see my home town embraced in white, I thought of that winter across seas in Europe. A driving storm. Crimson stained snow and the smell of diesel and fear. At this point, I could see my home.  On the door was a wreath. In the window hung a blue star flag. That rocked me back onto my heels. I walked gaped mouth forward and then noticed the hand written notes on the sidewalk in chalk, smeared but still visible. All words about me.

One step, two step, three step, and then knocked.

A second knock and the door opened. Pa gasped, Ma shrieked with glee.
“Welcome home, Boy. I am so Thankful for to see you,” Pa said.

I looked at him and again, was taken back by that certain look in one’s eyes. Thankful.

Medford Swap Meet

This year I wanted to go to the swap meet in Medford, I had never been before. At the last minute, one of my friends became available to make the 5-hour drive with me, he hadn’t been either. We rolled out headed south on I-5 around mid-morning I think, on the Friday before the Saturday-Sunday meet and I delivered papers in Salem, Albany, Eugene and Springfield on the way down. My friend, Jim didn’t know we were taking the “scenic route,” but he didn’t demand to let out once we were in Salem, some 40 plus miles from home.

Rich Wilson, the promoter for the meet and for the Big car show in the spring, always puts on a great event and treats his guests very well. I wanted to go so that I could “cover” the swap meet here in the paper and I’m glad I did.

The meet was small, or should I say the venue, the Jackson County EXPO, right off the freeway in Central Point offers plenty of free parking and room to grow bigger in years to come. Though small there were lots of enthusiastic vendors on hand with some great treasures. I didn’t go to find stuff necessarily, but I did have a couple things I intended to look for. I didn’t expect to find them really, one was a Nova door and the other was a Bose Accus-ti-mass in home surround sound system and surprise, I found them both! I’m just kidding about my looking for the surround sound system but, there was one there and the price was right, so it came home with me, whadda treasure!

Jim came with a small list of miscellaneous things he needed for his current Model ‘A’ project, not necessarily expecting to find them but he found them ALL, brand new, and cheaper than he had recently priced them all at other vendors on line. And all from the first two vendors that he came across after entering the building. He was tickled.

I’ve been going to swap meets for years. I used to find NOS cool stuff a lot years ago but not so much anymore. I was totally surprised to see a pair of brand new, in the original boxes, Corvette aluminum valve covers with the staggered holes! NOS! And then a little later an NOS pair of chrome 327 stamp steel valve covers like would have come on a ’66 or ’67 L-79 Nova, in the original boxes. Impressive! I have never seen either of these items, NOS, before.

Rich also promotes the “Medford Rod & Custom Show at the same location in the spring. I’ve been going to that one for a few years now and it’s always worth it. Keep both of these events in mind for next year and plan to attend. You’ll like what Southern Oregon and Rich Wilson have to offer.

American, Mike Goulian wins the Red Bull Air Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“As a kid, I grew up every Memorial day with my dad watching the Indy 500 on TV,” said the breathless Mike Goulian in the Media Center after a highly emotional day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I am an open wheel guy… knowing all the names, all the people, all the tradition… I never thought that I would kiss the bricks.”

Only a mere 20 minutes after that statement, the exhausted American pilot sat on the front straightaway of the most iconic racetrack in the world with his hands over his eyes. Were those beads of sweat or tears? Maybe both.

A departure from their regular motorsports programming, IMS has hosted the Red Bull Air Race series for the last couple of seasons. The league boasts eight events across three continents with competitors from around the world. The only two races in North America this year are in Indianapolis, IN and Fort Worth, TX to end the 2018 championship campaign.

All races are run on slalom- style courses set roughly 83 feet above the ground. Outlined by large white and red mesh pylons, the pilots regularly fly over cityscapes, oceanic coasts or in this case – a permanent speedway. Pilots try their hand one by one on the makeshift track in search of the best time. Penalties such as flying too low, too high or even at the wrong angle result in added time.

“They want to go as fast as they can, but they have to fly our rules,” says Head Judge and Race Director Sergio Pla Merino. “There are cameras and sensors all over the plane and we can see it all here (In Race Control.)”

Last year Yoshihide Muroya of Japan won both the race and the championship in one carefully maneuvered swoop. Rain and high winds plagued the pilots on race day and it was a hard fought-battle against difficult weather and dancing pylons.
In thick Midwest humidity, the hangar (paddock) was quiet and laid back race morning this time around. The two days of practice gave no indication as to who was going to end the day on top. The finicky Indiana heat stumped mechanics and pilots alike and many complained of frustrating engines temperaments caused by the wet air.

Preparing their birds for battle, mechanics busied themselves in taping up every possible seam to make their planes that much more aerodynamic.
“I don’t know how much this really helps,” chuckled Goulian’s mechanic, “but I don’t want it to be the reason why we don’t win.” The strategy, no matter how miniscule, seemed to have worked.

Mike Goulian was one of the first to take flight in the final round of the day. Set up elimination style, pilots are pitted against each other in seven heats. The fastest of the pair moves on to the next round as well as the ‘fastest loser’ of the initial phase. The field is paired to eight pilots, then down to a final four.

“We knew that if I flew cleanly in the round of eight, we could pull it off,” explained Goulian after the fact. “Pablo, my mechanic stuck his head in the cockpit just before I went out and told me ‘don’t go crazy, just be good.’”

Goulian and team waited in painful anticipation as the three other finalists took their shot at the win. In a particularly tense moment, Canadian, Pete McCleod cut loose with a wicked fast lap, but couldn’t knock Goulian off the top spot. “It is difficult to sit there and watch guys like Pete try to hunt you down,” grinned Goulian.

It had been ten years since an American had won on American soil in this series. Veteran Kirby Chambliss was the last to do it in Detroit in 2008. Upon hearing this, Goulian was hit with another wave of sentimental realization.

“The emotion of one of these days is so high and so low and so high again. My legs almost gave out underneath me there when I found out that we won. It’s special for your family and for you to know that hey- (my team) today just completed a little history in a place that wreaks of history.”

2018 Northwest Art and Air Show Festival

I am used to getting up a 0 dark hundred in the morning for a car show. This morning was a little different. The show was in my home town of Albany. The only reason I was up and out so early was to watch the balloons go up.

Hot air balloons launch real early in the morning when the air is calm. The Art and Air Show Festival is a big weekend event here in Albany. The festival consists of hot air balloons, craft booths with just about everything from photos, to art work, to paintings and much, much more. There is also food vendors, live music, fireworks, and last, but not least, a car show.

My friends and I like to show up to the car show early. This way we can see the see and hear the other vehicles rumble in. In some cases you can hear a hot rod or race car come in before you even see them. One of those cars is a ‘62 Nova Pro Street drag car. Paul and Kathy Campbell of Albany owns this beast. It runs the quarter mile in the low 9.00 seconds.

Part of the festival is events at the local airport which is right across I-5 from where the car show is. As we sit there, shooting the bull we can see all the different aircraft take off and land.

We can see everything from a biplane, ultralights, home built aircrafts, to watching a Lear jet take off.

Ok, back to the cars show. Now I love any car with fuel injected velocity stacks, big wide tires and wings, like a Can Am race car. In my opinion wings should be on race cars only. I bring this up because of one car that has been around Albany for a while. Blaine Blood drives a ‘23 T bucket with big rear tires, side pipes and tall staggered velocity stacks feeding a small block Chevy. From a distance it looks great, up close you find the truth, The stacks are fake , they cover a 4 bbl carb. Don’t get me wrong, this car still looks and sounds so cool.

On the other end of cool cars is a 1964 Amphicar. You know, one of those cars you can drive down the boat ramp at a lake and just keep on driving. The amphicar is owned and driven by Fred Calosso all the way from Florence, that is Florence, Oregon, not Florence, Italy.

The car show is sponsored by Lassen Toyota and put on by the Willamette Chapter of Studebaker Drivers Club. So, next August, if you are in the Albany area stop by. Where else can you see a car show with a great variety of vehicles and an air show. Not to mention it is all free except for parking. That will cost you 5 dollars. There is something for everybody. If you come don’t forget to come early. The hot air balloons launch at 0 light hundred, at sunrise.

The Last Beaches of 2018

One of the fun weekly events that we have in the Portland, Oregon area is “Beaches Summertime Cruise-in. It happens every Wednesday June through September at Delta Park from 3pm till dusk. Usually the first one in June is simply massive. All those latent “gotta go cruisin’” juices just waiting to get out, I guess.

The same is usually true for the last one of the year as well. This year though, because of the unseasonably nice weather, I think, someone made a command decision to bump it out one more week making the last one October 3rd. The turnout was good, but I’m told the last one in September was huge. Oh well. If you’ve never been or if you go every week, don’t forget to the first Wednesday in June 2019. It’s impressive…
These a pics from the October 3rd Beaches, 2018.

WELCOME HOME

It was November, 1954 and the instructions were simple. The hostage exchange would take place at 32 degrees North by 108 degrees West. In the most south western corner of New Mexico, AFOSI agent Gilbert would travel from his home base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to this desolate corner of New Mexico to meet for a pre-arranged swap.   Being in the military, vehicles were not the utmost of performance caliper. Gilbert’s prize for his trip was a 1954 Plymouth Savoy 4-door sedan, painted in Air Force blue and stripped bare.

The high desert is cold and unforgiving. Across the landscape out crops of sagebrush and yucca struggled against the continuous harsh winds whipping out of the North. Gilbert had driven 600 miles to this spot and then, per the instructions, had taken a right off of where the compass would nail down his exact location and travel a ¼ mile down to an abandoned grange.   He parked the Plymouth, stepped outside and paused. The sun was a dull nickel like disc hidden behind a dense fog.

New Mexico. Land of Enchantment. That is the state’s motto, and as the wind howled past him he took it all in.
Rolling hills, painted deserts. Mountains carved by wind, water and time.

No wonder this was where the exchange was to take place.

Gilbert walked into the old building. Paused, pulled a Pall Mall out of the pack and lit up. He took a hard drag and was looking for a place to sit when a voice from his right snapped his senses.

“Well done. Your penchant for timeliness is what I had hoped for. It makes all of this so much easier.”

Dressed in black suit he stepped from the shadows. “You were here all along I take it?” Gilbert asked. He was tense, Gilbert’s left hand had stolen into his jacket pocket and his pistol was in his hand. Hidden behind sunglasses (who wears sunglasses inside? wondered Gilbert), the contact took a hesitant step back. “Easy now, I am unarmed. Per the agreement, this is a peaceful exchange. Remember?”

Gilbert nodded. He removed his hands from his coat and slowly raised them palms out showing he had no weapons. The contact relaxed and his thin lips spread into a smile revealing a large smile with too many teeth for just an instant, and then gone. Gilbert narrowed his gaze. Outside the sky had gone grey. The windows of the old building had lost the glimmer of sunshine and now were succumbing to the tendrils of condensation brought on by low hanging clouds and a fog-like condition.

“I have been told that you have brought with you today the bodies of those who had perished here in an unexpected tragedy. That by those who have sent me, to retrieve them, that all knowledge and the official knowledge of what had happened on that day 4th July, 1947, shall and will be eradicated from the official record in return for those who had been deemed missing since day 2, July 1937.” The contact in the dark suit spoke fluidly.

Gilbert nodded. “Let’s proceed, then.” The pair approached the door and Gilbert slid it open. Where once a sky that was so blue it hurt his eyes, had been now replaced by a dense fog.  The dark stranger walked past and from out of the fog his mode of transportation was there.  Gilbert paused.  His contact walked to something from out of a dream.

Long. Low.  Blacker than lust. Sleek. It just sat there looking as if it was going 200 m.p.h while at idle. Out front were a quartet of headlights and a hood long low and smooth. The windshield arced back at an impossible angle.  The top was radically thin and flowed back as if sculpted by wind.  The trunk was smooth and large and rising from the quarter panels were two razor sharp fins with an angled red tail light lens in each. Gilbert gathered his thoughts and asked, “What the Hell is that?”

The contact that was walking toward the trunk paused. He turned and spoke, “Wait 6 years. Beyond that this car will rattle imaginations for almost a century.”

Gilbert followed and as the contact approached the trunk Gilbert asked, “How many bodies ya think can fit in there?”
The contact paused. Gilbert would later state he saw a flash of green from behind the dark glasses. The contact replied, “Enough to solve a problem.”

The pair walked to the Savoy. Gilbert opened the trunk and as they as a pair unloaded the cargo, Gilbert noticed the contact wince and shudder. The contact was saddened and horrified.   There five total. Only two were complete bodies. Two had been almost obliterated by the crash and one had been partially examined. The contact snapped his head toward Gilbert. “We do not disassemble bodies. Never have. What kind of species are you?”

“I don’t know at times actually,” was all that Gilbert could reply.

The contact walked back to his vehicle, opened the trunk. Gilbert assisted as the bodies were placed inside. Then, the contact walked to the passenger’s side door and opened it up.

A man and a woman from out of a distant memory exited from the dark beauty. Dazed, the pair looked around. A wind had started to rise and the fog was starting to lift. The contact looked at Gilbert and took a step toward him. They shook hands and the contact walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and with a soft hum, the dark ride began to rise. Slowly upward. When it had risen to about 10 feet, the pods in the rear bumper lit up in a blue and orange flame and with a soft whoosh, the finned dark ride rapidly chased the sky and disappeared.

Gilbert walked to the pair who had stepped out of the mysterious machine.

The sky had once again returned to that incredible blue. Fred Noonan took in his surroundings, then fell to the ground and sobbed. His hands caressed the soft earth. The pilot turned to Gilbert and he said, “Welcome home Miss Earhart.”

The Greatest Spectacle in (dirt track) Racing

Brady Bacon wins the inaugural BC39 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A certain amount of skepticism comes with the first of anything new—even for an establishment as old and renowned as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track itself began construction in 1909, the first Indianapolis 500 came in 1911. It was decades before another series turned laps on the hallowed grounds.

A dirt track has been whispered about around ims for years, but different logistical problems prevented it from coming to fruition. President of the Speedway, Doug Boles teamed up with a local dirt track promoter and the Clauson family to make the dream become a reality. Thus created a tight 1/4 mile dirt track in turn three of Indy the Driven2SaveLives BC39 event was born.

Bryan Clauson (aka “BC”) was a phenomenal Hoosier dirt track racer that climbed the ranks to national recognition. He has many accolades in the racing world, top marks include the 2014 Chili Bowl winner and three Indianapolis 500 starts. In 2016 Bryan lost his life due to complications from a midget accident and the racing community was shaken.
Only a year prior, we lost IndyCar driver Justin Wilson in a racing incident as well. Wilson’s brother Stefan teamed up with the Indiana Donor’s Network to create a new campaign called “Driven2SaveLives.” Both Justin and Bryan were registered organ donors and each were able to save five lives. To honor Bryan’s legacy, Driven2SaveLives came on board to support the BC39 race, gain awareness and “race to end the wait” for life-saving organ donation.

The stage was set and it was an emotional evening from the start. An unprecedented 115 cars were ready to rumble on Wednesday night, September 5th. They came from all over the country to participate in the first eve, many of which ran with Bryan at one point in his career. The star-studded roster included 24 usac midget feature winners and series champions including Dave Darland, Christopher Bell, Tracy Hines, J.J. Yeley and more. nascar drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Landon Cassill both fielded entries and Conor Daly carried the flag for the IndyCar series.

Tim and Diana Clauson-Bryan’s parents, fielded a couple of cars in their late son’s honor and in a tearful twist of fate, both were in Victory Lane by the end of the qualifier night. Tyler “Sunshine” Courtney from right here in Indianapolis won the first heat race of the night and later on, 15-year-old Zeb Wise of Angola, IN had a daring win in the Stoops pursuit race. Inches off the wall for laps on end, it was easy to identify why Wise was Clauson’s protégé.

“I figured I couldn’t follow everybody around the bottom or I’d lose spots,” said Wise. “I tried the top side. I was patient with it, figured it out and came through the field.” Win in hand; Wise became the youngest usac feature winner in history — poetically beating his mentor, Clauson, in the process.

On Thursday, mother nature did not cooperate. After weeks of torrid heat, the skies opened up and poured for hours leading up to the green flag. Fans, drivers and crew waited skeptically for the track to dry. After a delay in action, USAC announced that the surface has been prepped and ready. Although the first couple of mud packing sessions were… tough, the track worked in quickly and racing resumed.

The storm did not scare the fans away. The following morning, the Indy Star reported that over 13,000 people were in attendance and the grandstands were completely sold out. By the time the A main squared up and the 4-wide salute laps were completed, everyone was on their feet.

39 laps for Bryan’s car number, each more exciting than the last. Cullman, AL native Kevin Thomas Jr. led early on, with Courtney hot on the trail. Two grooves distinctly started to develop. Cars piled up on the 14th lap and all were able to restart.

Shortly after getting back to action, Broken Arrow, OK native Brady Bacon’s light knock came to a pounding on the door as he took jabs for the lead. He tried low, but couldn’t make it stick, pulling the front two wheels off of the racing surface.

Once the leaders caught up to traffic, Bacon got to cooking. A beautifully executed slide job through turn 4 earned him the lead and that was all she wrote. Chad Boat slid into second in the closing laps, Thomas clinched third, Courtney fourth and Christopher Bell clawed his way from 17th to finish 5th.

“This is definitely extra special…” said the ‘Macho Man’ in Victory Circle “It is obviously very special that (Clauson) opened a lot of doors to make a lot of things happen that would have never happened without him… He has done a lot of things for a lot of causes even since he had been gone and that shows the impact of his personality on the whole world.”

The stroke of midnight ended the festivities and race fans both familiar with this genre of racing and not went home content. From the start, Bryan was smiling down on this event. He would have loved to race a midget at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

All morning and day leading up to the first heat race, we were skeptical that the weather would allow such an event. Lightning, thunder, and rain threatened at a distance but just before the big drops fell, a striking double rainbow appeared over the oval.

In a choked voice over the track’s loudspeaker rang the words we were all thinking. “And there he is, Thank you Bryan.”

2018 SALEM SHOW AND SHINE CAR SHOW

I have been to and entered a lot of car shows over the years. I always ask where does the entry fee and all the proceeds go? Some of the answers I get are we have not determined yet, a charity, or a good cause. This show was for a great cause. Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Oregon chapter. From what I saw the veterans did a lot of the work. Everything from registration to coffee and doughnuts, to help parking the cars.

One thing I really appreciated was the respect shown. When the Color Guard presented the flags and the national anthem began everyone stood at attention, removed their hats and showed their respect. It was really great.

Now on with the show. You name it and it was there. I have not seen a DeLorean in a long time. When I saw it I thought where do you get the fuel for the flux capacitor? Just a reference to the movie “Back to the Future.” When was the last time you saw a ‘67 Rambler American. It looked bone stock on the outside with a beautiful orange/gold paint job. But the killer is it has a 401 V8 engine with 2 Holley 4bbl carbs. There was a beautiful ‘84 Chevy Monte Carlo, custom paint, lots of chrome and hydraulic suspension.

Three other cars that caught my eye were a Porsche, a Cadillac and a Corvette. The 1955 bright red Porsche 356 Speedster was flawless. Looked all original and I think it would be a kick in the rear to drive. Also in the line of vintage vehicles there was a 1951 Cadillac four door, all original, grey in color with a back seat big enough that I could crawl in there and take a nap. Now on the other end of the spectrum was a 2006 Corvette. This car is the best of both worlds. A great looking show car, but the driver Larry Holt races it also. The Silver State Classic Challenge is a timed open road race for 90 miles in Nevada. In 2017 Larry averaged 124.996 mph with the highest speed up to 165 mph. I asked Larry, “What it was like out on the open road?” One of the things he said was, “don’t forget to breath.” I’m breathless just thinking about it. With three WWII airplanes flying overhead in the clear sky and knowing that we are helping our veterans, it was a great day.