Random Ramblings….

Wow…has it been a month and six days since I cruised around the speedway?? No wonder I’m getting complaints from the 3 people who check this thing! I thought I’d talk about a trip up to northern Indiana last Saturday until I realized it just wasn’t that intersting. Then I thought, well, maybe I’ll talk about my TV. Then I thought I’d just talk about anything that pops into my head. Done!

–The 500. What a race! Well, not really that great of a race, but there was a lot of action. We were in the 2nd row in the Tower Terrace. Vitor Meira’s pit was directly in front of us…20-some feet away.  Vitor didn’t have the best of days. First, a miscue on a pit stop caused a slight eruption.

I’m sure later he wished that fire would’ve put him out of the race, because he then would’ve avoided this spectacular crash, which broke two vertebrae in his lower back.

Vitor will recover, but he likely won’t be back in a car until the 2010 season.

–The TV. The television we have in our living room is rather smallish by today’s standards…about a 20″… however, I’d never think of getting rid of it for a larger model.

I aquired this Sony in the early 1990’s after my grandfather passed away. My dad & two aunts got it for my grandparents sometime around 1988. In the early 1990’s when my grandparents went into a nursing home, my dad asked if I’d mind living in their house until he & my aunts could get the place sold for them. I was down there for several months. I was probably 22 or so at the time, so my first sense of independence was rather enjoyable. My grandmother passed away late in 1990 and my grandfather in 1992. As a thank you for helping them out with the house, my dad & aunts gave me the Sony TV they bought for them….and I’ve had it ever since. The picture on it is still perfect. The fact that it belonged to my grandparents…born in 1897 & 1901…gives me a way to still stay connected to them, even though they’ve been gone for close to 20 years.

–Birthday Cruise. We had a nice, although short, trip out to Oklahoma from June 12-14. We took US 60 from Kentucky out to Oklahoma where we picked up Route 66. We stopped off for dinner at Lambert’s Cafe in Ozark, MO, the home of “throwed rolls”. The food was OK, but I guess the place is more of a novelty than anything. Yes, they have a roll guy who tosses rolls to you from the other side of the room.

We made our way to our friend Laurel Kane’s Afton Station. Afton Station is an old gas station on Route 66 in Afton, Oklahoma dating back to the 1930’s. Laurel & her former husband restored the station over the past 8 years and now it serves as a bona fide Route 66 tourist attraction. Laurel greets folks cruising Route 66 who stop in to take a peek at her collection of old signs and postcards, and David’s collection of vintage Packards and other cars.

–Tires & Turtles. I planned on getting a new set of tires for my Honda later in the year before winter. However, I checked out the web site for Tire Rack, with a distribution center located in South Bend, Indiana. I found a really nice set of BF Goodrich Traction T/A tires that were marked down to $39 from $63. After checking their reviews, it looked as if they performed well in the snow, which is a must for me.

Compared to the Firestones I had my eye on, I saved a whopping $170 by going up to Tire Rack. They had quite the facility. The mega warehouse is some 500,000 square feet and even has a little road course in front where weekend warriors come out to race.

The process took less than an hour by the time I got there. The operation is quite remarkable. The wheels and tires in the facility are all picked off the shelf, mounted on the rims, and then onto the car. But to see the size of the building is something to behold.

With new tires mounted, I made my way east on the Lincoln Highway to Churubusco, Indiana. I’d read where the annual “Turtle Days Festival” was going on, so I thought I’d make the drive over to see what it’s all about. Apparently in ’49, there was supposedly a turtle spotted in a farmer’s pond that had a shell so large that it could seat eight, as it was the size of a dinner table. My dad recalled when the hubbub of the Beast of Busco was going on 60 years ago. The festival was little more than a bunch of amusement park rides at the town park and a 150 year old, 165lb turtle named “Crunch”. It cost $1 to take a peek at Crunch. I’d still like to know how anyone knows how old this guy is.

Whether or not there was a turtle in that pond in ’49 remains to be seen. I give Churubusco all the credit in the world for capitalizing on it nonetheless. Afterall, it got me to show up and spend a couple of bucks in their town.

–Deep South roadtrip! It looks as if July 4th weekend we’ll be back on the road. We’re in the early stages of planning a Great River Road trip, which closely follows the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll probably pick it up in St. Louis Thursday and have the next four days to explore. Not sure where all we’re going, but I’ve got a little route that would take us through 11 states in those four days. Not sure if we’ll follow it, as I’m leaving most of the planning of this thing to Jennifer. But stay tuned…I hope to have updates here, provided we have internet access.

So there you have it…a blog entry! Aren’t you glad you waited 5 weeks for it???


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A Lap Around The Indianapolis Motor Speedway…

If you’ve never had the chance to drive around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, well, here’s your chance…to watch me do it in the Corvair. Every Wednesday before the Indianapolis 500 is Community Day, where everyone can drive their own car for a lap around the famed 2 1/2 mile oval. Due to YouTube’s time limits, I had to break it up between two different videos. My apologies for Part 2 being a little chopped up. I was running out of space on my memory card and had to quickly do some deleting, as I forgot to bring my camera bag with me that housed a spare memory card.

I add some novice history throughout both videos, all of which at least sounds like I know something. Hope you all enjoy this little ride on this American icon, which celebrates its 100th year this year.

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A guy to cheer for…

My intentions at the beginning of May were to have blog posts of my days spent this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Well, after about the first day, I figured there wouldn’t be much interest in letting everyoen know that I arrived at the track, hung out in the garage, got some autographs, sat in the stands for a while, went back to the garage, and then went home. Come back the next day, repeat cycle.

Instead, the idea popped into my head last night to blog on one of my favorite drivers, John Andretti. In a sport where egos can run amuck, John first impressed me in the late 1980’s when he first appeared on the Indycar scene. He always seemed to a mild mannered guy who always had a smile. As a fan, John was an easy choice to gravitate to.

Even though John’s Indycar career started in 1987, he was no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Having been born into racing, John’s father Aldo (twin brother of Mario Andretti) had him at the track at an early age. This photo taken at IMS in 1967 shows (left to right) brother Mark, cousin Michael, John, and cousin Jeff.

John’s career has fluctuated over the past 20 years. After his Indycar options withered in the early 1990’s, John turned his attention to racing stock cars, where he has had a solid career since making his debut there in 1993. In recent years, John’s career has come in fits & starts since being released by Petty Enterprises in 2003, where he drove the famed 43 car for Richard Petty starting in 1998.

Since 2003, John’s been in & out of varies stock car series, but one good thing that came out of his semi-employment was the opportunity to return to the Indianapolis 500. Prior to 2007, John’s last run in the 500 occurred in 1994. But in ’07, he had the time and brokered a deal to run the Camping World car in that year’s 500.

Returning to the 500 again in 2008, John was already looking ahead to 2009. He convinced his now stock car sponsor, Window World, and his former boss Richard Petty to help him put together a team for the 500 with the assistance of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. To date, it’s not been the best of months, on and off the track. John’s dad Aldo has had some health issues and John’s car wasn’t getting up to speed in the first weekend of qualifications. That was compounded on May 10 when John smacked the Turn 1 wall, setting the team back even further. Right now I’d like to say that John’s safely in the field for the May 24th 500, but he’s yet to qualify. With 11 spots left open and upwards of 15 cars likely making qualification attempts, John and the team have their work cut out for them…and it showed Friday afternoon in their garage.

But despite all of the pressure this month has brought for John, he still has time for the fans. I was standing in the seats next to the entrance to Gasoline Alley watching the crews haul the cars back off pit road for the night. All the drivers either rode or walked back to Gasoline Alley. John’s crew pulled his car back, but John chose to walk and he was one of the last drivers to come through.

There were fans lined up on the north side of the entrance to Gasoline Alley waiting for any of the drivers to give them even a waive, as there were two fence rows separating them from the entrance. None of the drivers did…until John strolled upon the scene. He went down the line…at least 30 people long…and signed every item anyone had. There were a group of kids at the end of the row who I’m sure will remember the rest of their lives how John took the time to acknowledge them…just like how I remember in the late 1970’s when John Martin acknowledged a couple of us kids there on a 5th grade field trip.

It was a cool sight to see the 30 or so people along that fence and the 10 or so up in the stands next to it cheer and applaud John when he signed for the last person in line. When it comes to the fans, John gets it. He’s a guy you want to cheer for. 



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Earth Hour 2009: Watt’s the use?

As I begin typing here at my well lit desk in the middle of “Earth Hour 2009”, I felt compelled to comment on this non-event. Looking at the Earth Hour web site, you’ll find a bunch of participants with pictures of themselves on Flickr holding candles. I’m really thrilled they feel better about themselves. I’m not posting to rip on the entire green movement….it’s the phonies I have issues with.

I have friends on both sides of the political aisle who call themselves green. Fortunately they don’t ram it down anyone’s throat. Even though I’m not the greenest person around, they have my utmost respect. Why? Because they walk the walk. A couple of friends went solar  in their Tulsa home. Yeah, I’ve got a few CFL’s in my house, but I also have my share of the time tested incandescent bulbs. I’m a little old school when it comes to my light bulbs. But as I mentioned, I’ll run a few CFLs to push down my light bill a bit. So my purpose in using a CFL is strictly for monetary reasons.  Just something about the warm glow of an incandescent bulb that a CFL can’t compare. Plus, it’s a part of historical technology that I’ll do what I can to keep from disappearing.

But, back to Earth Hour. I’ve got a bit of a problem with this whole concept. It appears to be a whole lot of symbolism and very little substance. I saw a sign tonight at an eastside coffee bar touting Earth Day and to come in & celebrate at 8:30. I can only guess they shut down the lights & had candles burning. And I imagine they, like just about every other participant of this “glowious” event blew out the candles and flipped the light switch to the on position at 9:30:01 pm.  I’d love to ask some of these people that if it’s soooo right to flip your light switch off and live by a candle, then why not do it 24/7/365? What, not practical? Hmmm??? Then what was the point of your little vigil tonight? Was it just to tell yourself “I care”? Feeling a little trendy, are we? Yup, that’ll get it done.  Talk to me when you throw enough solar panels on your roof to make your light meter run in reverse or start repurposing and recycling in a meaningful manner. Otherwise, don’t throw your shoulder out patting yourself on the back.


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Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motel: 1963-2009

This week, demolition crews will knock down the final wall of the 96 room Brickyard Crossing Inn, originally dubbed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motel, which was abruptly closed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in December.

(courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway, circa 1966)

Opened in 1963 outside of Turn 2, the IMS Motel was never an architectural masterpiece, but it had plenty of memorable guests during its 45 year tenure on West 16th Street. Many celebrities throughout the years attended the Indianapoolis 500 and most of them stayed at the IMS Motel, given the fact today’s upscale hotels in Indianapolis didn’t exist in the 1960’s. Names like James Garner, Jim Nabors, and Paul Newman  made it their home while in town for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Many a driver stayed there during the entire month of May, most notably 4-time Indy 500 winner AJ Foyt, who typically passed on the luxury motor homes for a comfortable room at the motel.


Newman’s roots with the speedway and the motel run deeper than his celebrity. He filmed many scenes from the 1969 movie “Winning” at the speedway and the motel, co-starring Robert Wagner and his on-screen and off-screen wife Joanne Woodward. Probably the most memorable scene from the movie was when Newman’s character, Frank Capua, returned to the motel after leaving Gasoline Alley and caught Woodward and Wagner (his team mate in the movie) “in the act” in Room 212.


When I found out the motel was going to be leveled, I was hoping to be able to get access to the room so Jennifer & I could get current day photos of the room and do some side-by-side shots from the movie, much like we do on our Road Trip Memories blog. I went straight to the top and wrote a letter to IMS president Joie Chitwood, but to no avail. I got a nice “Sorry Charlie” e-mail from the IMS public relations department a few weeks later. Hey, I tried! Hopefully Joie enjoyed the issue of American Road magazine that I sent him along with my letter. 😉  The last photos I took from there during demolition, Room 212 was still hanging on….although gutted and broken.

Newman was a fixture at the speedway for decades and became a car owner in the 1980’s for Mario Andretti. He made his final appearance at the speedway during qualifications for the 2008 Indianapolis 500, just four months before losing his battle with cancer to watch his rookie driver, 19 year old Graham Rahal, qualify for his first 500.


The other more notable guests to stay at the motel were none other than The Beatles during their 1964 tour. Legend has it that during their stay in Indianapolis, fans were tipped off they were staying downtown at the Essex House Hotel. Their manager then put all four in one room at the IMS Motel.

Thus ends a piece of the history of the century old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The adjoining Brickyard Restaurant and Flag Room Pub remain open for business with no plans of closing. The future of lodging at the speedway is uncertain. With the Town of Speedway undergoing a major redevelopment plan coupled with a struggling economy, it might be a while before anything transpires, but early indications are there’ll be a more upscale hotel and conference center sprouting up near the site of the former IMS Motel. But whatever replaces the IMS Motel, it’ll have a hard time matching the history and lore of what stood before it.


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Milton the Monster of Kentucky…

Funny how things get unlocked from deep within the bowels of our memory banks. Jennifer & I were down in Madison, Indiana  last weekend shooting some then & now photos from the 1958 movie Some Came Running, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine, which was filmed in and around the Madison area.

We had several screen shots from the movie that we brought with us so we could recreate various scenes how they look 51 years later. As a Rat Pack fan, it was VERY cool standing in the same spots where Frank & Dino stood. We were talking about one scene this morning that was filmed at the end of the movie across the Ohio River from Madison in a cemetery. She asked me if the location of the cemetery was still considered Milton, KY, which I believed it to be, and that opened up a vault in my brain where I sung the end of the Milton the Monster cartoon…”I’m Milton….your brand new son”. I have no idea where that came from, but I do remember seeing it in reruns back in the 70’s. Fortunately, someone uploaded the opening of Milton the Monster on YouTube.

I must admit, my rendition of that end was spot on!

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Back in my saddle…

Having one car and combining that with the work schedules of two people can be quite the juggling act. Just leaving an extra 10 minutes in the morning so we’re on time for work can make things seem like a Chinese fire drill around the house at 7:40am. Such has been the case the past 2 1/2 weeks while my beloved Civic has been in the body shop.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, my Civic was assaulted in the parking lot of a hotel we were staying in near the Indianapolis airport. Today I picked it up from Speedway Body Shop and as expected, I couldn’t be more happy with the work they did. It went from this mangled mess….

to this finished product:

And now that pesky lock works like it’s supposed to! The window also cranks better than it ever did. I won’t go as far to say this unfortunate incident was a blessing, but well, it’s in better shape than before the attempted break in, so I’ll take it! I just about had a stroke when they gave me the invoice (all paid for by the good folks at American Family Insurance). I was told last week that the door panel had to be replaced because after they worked on it, the new handle wouldn’t fit right, so they went ahead and got a new/used door panel. That added another $291 to the grand total of $1,938.14. Ouch! That’s half of what I paid for the car 2 years ago! But they did a great job and I really like the little extra things they do, like washing the entire car after they were done, as well as vacuuming it and doing the windows. It’s those little things that sell me.

So now my world is back at center. Today was a very good car karma day. I got my car back looking better than it has since I’ve had it, and I went into the license branch this morning and got my new IMS plates for both the Civic and the Corvair.  halloffameIn an amazing sight never witnessed before, I walked in the door, got both registrations, paid and out the door in 20 minutes. Even more to this record setting performance is that when I walked in, I didn’t even need to go to the counter to get a number. As I approached, one of the clerks at the multitude of desks waved me over. What!? I didn’t need to sit and wait for my name to be called? I don’t think this event of biblical proportions will ever be witnessed again. But if you wish to witness where it happened, just head to the Indiana BMV branch on South Emerson Avenue in Beech Grove. You’ll have time there to reflect…while you wait for your name to be called.  😉


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