You pick a title…I’m outta time!Thursday, September 26, 2013
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge
Oswald (Lee Harvey, not Mark) allegedly shot Kennedy from the right window, second from the top. I couldn’t even shoot a picture in focus from here!
Here my dad poses on the grassy knoll. I’m not sure where he was on November 22, 1963, but he looks a bit suspicious to me!
 I think it’s right that this hotel was bought, preserved, and turned into a shrine and museum for a great man. You can barely make out the Cadillac in the background, which is parked just in front of the infamous balcony and room.
These two cars (not sure if they’re the originals or facsimiles) were actually parked in those spots when that fateful event took place. Maybe someone can explain to me why the rooms starting in “3” are on the second floor, and the ones starting with “2” are on the first floor? I’m confused.

Ready…go! Okay, I’ve got 52 minutes to create, write, proofread this blog, then caption the photos and send everything over to NHRA.

You’ll have to excuse any poor writing, grammatical errors, and non-sequiturs (pretty much like you’ve done in every past blog…thank you very much!)

The reason for the rush is that I pretty much now live at Ontario Airport, and I fly out this afternoon for St. Louis. I was at the airport yesterday, the day before that, two days before that, and three days before that. I think you get the picture…I fly a lot!

Once I return from St. Louis (why did they choose that particular way of representing a Saint, whilst San Diego went with the Spanish version? And, if you’ve seen the movie Anchorman, you’re probably chuckling over the mention of “San Diego”) –wow, was that a long parenthetical phrase- I will only be home for one day, head out to Florida for an appearance, and fly from there into Reading for the Maple Grove race. From there I’ll fly back to Dallas for yet another appearance, and then home for a week before we load the RV and head to Vegas. Man, has this year been hectic!

We’ve started off well in the Countdown, making it to the semis in both Charlotte and Dallas, but that’s not going to be enough if we want to defend our title. Barring the ET record being reset (which it most likely will); I think it will take 15 round wins for our team to finish on top. That means we’ve got four more races to capture 11 win lights…a tough deal in any class.

Getting beat by Hagan in Charlotte was double frustrating, as we watched him widen his already “too-large” lead over us. At least we were able to return the favor in Dallas and close back up somewhat. Whenever two Countdown cars face each other, it isn’t just for the 20 points that a round win yields. It’s really a 40 point swing, and we really need to win a bunch of those matchups to get back into the lead.

I wish I could go on about all the things happening around the home front, but I haven’t been here enough to comment on that. Once I got back from Dallas, there was time to mow the lawn, work out, play a bit with Jason and Layla, and head back to the airport.

After returning from Memphis, I got to play with the kids, take Jason to and from school, and work out. Jenna keeps making me a work list, and I keep hiding it and saying I can’t find it! I also was able to repaint all of our expensive landscape LED lights that we paid so much for, only to watch them fade, rust, and corrode. Let’s hope that Rustoleum and elbow grease prevail in the next couple years!

I’m sure that I’ve done plenty more, my mind just can’t recall much right now.

Having some time to kill (man, I just realized that’s a poor metaphor for this story…sorry) before catching my flight in Dallas, my dad and I headed over to Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated on 11/22/63…nearly 50 years ago! I had never been there and, though the museum was closed when we arrived, it still was very intriguing to be standing where history happened. I will try to go back on my Dallas appearance and spend a little more time looking around.

In what I think is a very strange coincidental activity, just days later I found myself (I didn’t lose myself and then get found, it’s just an expression!) driving towards my Memphis hotel prior to the appearance I had to make, and a thought hit me (not literally, it’s just an expression!). I pulled over, got on the internet, and got the map coordinates for where MLK was gunned down in 1968.

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After our signing appearance, several of us went to a local barbeque place. My pal Chip Foose drew this in about 5 minutes for the waiter. I’m not sure if they billed us for the napkin, but this dude sure is talented.
It turned out that I was only a few miles from the Lorraine Hotel, and so I pointed the rental car that way. In another strange coincidence, (okay, maybe I’m stretching this a bit, but allow me some artistic liberties, please); this place also was closed…for remodeling. It’s hard to describe what a strange feeling -even more than standing in Dallas by the schoolbook depository- I had staring up at room 306 from only about 40 feet away, wondering how things may have been different had the bullet missed Dr. King.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff for now, and I doubt that these two visits are going to have me looking for other famous assassination locations to go scout (Ford Theatre, anyone?).

Time to fly…literally!

Stay tuned, St. Louis has nothing to do with a whale’s body parts (see the movie), MLK was the man, and I want a Wally…very much! 


Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

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This is the original house color, and a rare glimpse of the upper accent color that never was to be. I bet the neighbors had a pool going on how many different colors our house would have on it.
Purely by coincidence, as I write this it happens to be 12 years to the day that the terrorists struck in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. My heart goes out to all those who still deal with the loss from that day.

My travel agent/paint and decorating specialist/wife just reminded me that I am “wheels up” at 6:35 a.m. tomorrow, so I better be productive today. Charlotte not only is the first race of the Countdown, but also the first of four in a row. That means my face is going to be scarce around the Beckman Ranch for the next month, and I’ve still got plenty on my “to-do” list (I tried starting a “won’t do that” list, but Jenna put an end to that when she showed me her “no more cooking” clause in our contract).

We’ve got a pretty good amount of things accomplished around here, not the least of which is that the house exterior painting is done. I am overjoyed more than you could possibly imagine. After purchasing a couple dozen (!) samples, liberally applying them to various areas around the house, spending numerous hours debating, deliberating, arguing, apologizing, and practicing ambivalence (it wasn’t too hard at that point), we picked our colors, signed the contract, and sat back to enjoy. That enjoyment lasted about two days, until Jenna nearly suffered a nervous breakdown (yes, I am exaggerating…slightly) because the house, accent, and trim colors really didn’t blend as well as expected. So much for all of our research and comparisons!

When Jenna informed me of her dislike for our sizeable investment (did I mention that we spent an extra $800 upgrading to the highest quality paint…and now we weren’t using most of it?), I was in Indy. I briefly considered staying permanently, but I do love and cherish my family… and my half-painted house. I told her just to have the painters stop, and we’d figure it out when I got home. Apparently the cellular connection wasn’t real clear, as she must have heard me say, “Just go ahead and sit down with your mother, choose some different colors, and we’ll be fine.” I lost the debate, we’re out two grand for the additional paint and man-hours, and the house looks great. I guess I still haven’t learned to pick my battles more carefully…

Actually, she did wait until I got back, the colors she picked were fine with me, and I think the improvement is immense. I still wish I had the two grand back, though!

See, I do have an excuse for not seeing our win light. All I could see was dashboard…and fire…and my life flashing before my eyes!
Bruce Tatman is one talented dude! He has drawn some amazing stuff for DSR that gets auctioned during our open house festivities. I think we’ll be auctioning Charger pieces next year!

Speaking of money, Indy was pretty good to the Valvoline/MTS Wounded Warrior team! We got our first “win” of the year (though not an NHRA national event, our Traxxas Shootout win was plenty sweet…and dramatic!)

After barely qualifying to be in the Shootout (since there weren’t seven different winners by the time the Shootout took place, they seeded the car with the most points of the “non-winners” into the field…and that was us). We were to have had three qualifying runs for the US Nats prior to the first round of the Shootout (one was rained out, so we only had two), and we still weren’t in the show when we pulled up to face Capps in round one of the S.O. (the first two rounds also counted as the last two rounds of qualifying). Todd and Terry stepped on it, and it not only got us the round win, but also solidly into the top half of the Indy show! Next round we had to get past the obvious fan (and Traxxas Company) favorite, Courtney Force. Once we did that, old Cruzer was waiting for us in the final, after winning both of his heats on holeshots. Gulp! Our Dodge Charger was flying in the final and I got my right hand on the parachute lever and was just preparing to lift and look for my win light when all hell broke loose. We broke a connecting rod, blew the top off of the motor, and scattered Valvoline and Dodge all over the track in perhaps the most spectacular finish to a specialty race. The trophy is amazing, weighing 42 pounds (that’s what they tell me, it felt more like 142 to me!), the crew was elated to get some bonus money, but it probably cost us money winning that one hundred grand. Still…it’s hard to beat that accomplishment. Oddly, the trophy probably weighs more than any of the remains of the body.

As proud as I was of the guys on Sunday, what we did Monday was even more impressive in my eyes. Jim, Kyle, Chris, Mark, AJ, Mudd, and Chris (under the guidance of Todd and Terry) stripped the car down, examined everything on the chassis, installed a new engine, replaced the burned up hoses, cables, wiring, and controls, and we came out first round and ran the quickest ET of the day! Our near-perfect weekend unfortunately came to an end after smoking the tires against Robert Hight in the final, but we all know that this team is capable of some magic during the remaining part of the season. I’m going to remember Indy 2013 for quite some time, and it’s not all because of what we did on the track…

Everyone on our crew treated Jacob well, including cylinder head guru Kyle Weekley. Keeping in mind that Jacob can’t see (and ain’t exactly slender), talking him into the Funny Car while the body was on it was interesting. I think this picture made it all worthwhile, Kyle!

Those of you who watched the ESPN coverage (all 11 hours worth!) saw my buddy Jacob was once again with us. He is such an inspiration, so positive and witty that you forget he’s blind…and he’s only nine years old (I’ve been telling everyone he’s 10, because apparently Jacob has taken to rounding his age up lately). Having him with us all day Sunday and part of Monday was so special, and I know if you saw his interviews you’re chuckling in agreement right now.

Having my dad there in the winner’s circle also made it a wonderful victory. I’m so glad he’s been able to come to many of my races and get to hold several trophies at the end of the day. I know he’s proud, and it’s nice spending time with him.

Our annual DSR open house was another success, and Don continues to impress me with his large donations to the Riley Children’s hospital in Indy. All of us drivers went over there on the Wednesday before the race to spend some time with the kids. We divided up and headed to different sections of the building, and Antron and I took the pediatric cancer area. It’s near and dear to my heart, and I’m comfortable talking with the patients and their parents. Plus, hanging with Antron is pretty cool, too!

In addition to “paying it forward” with the Riley hospital, we hosted two families through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) during qualifying. Jeff Wolf, our PR dude, set the whole thing up and made sure the parents and kids had a memorable day at the races. Jeff was also a star during our Riley visit, acting as a bearded au pair…cool guy.

Being involved with the Chemo: Myths or Facts campaign again this year has been very rewarding, and my other support roles for cancer patients and their families is, though sometimes very tough, nearly always fulfilling.

An interesting additional connection to LLS took place Thursday before the racing action. I did not attend the Hollywood premiere of Snake & Mongoose, the movie, (okay…I wasn’t invited), but I certainly wasn’t going to miss the release at Indy, complete with red carpet. The evening benefitted the LLS, and packed two theatres for the initial showings. I sat between Mark Oswald (1984 FC Champion and current co-crew chief for Antron…there’s yet another connection in this most ingenious blog!) and Alan Reinhart, and I hope no one thinks Alan and I are dating just because we shared popcorn…and the same drink…and held hands…and shared a seat.

For a movie that was shot in 24 days, on a tight budget with limited sets, I was pretty impressed. The old footage was bitchin’, the acting good, and the emotion much more than I ever imagined. Clearly Hollywood took plenty of liberties with characters and timeframes, but that’s to be expected. I really dig Robin Broidy, the producer. She seems very genuine and did a great job with the budget allocated for the film. Definitely worth seeing, even for those not into racing (which probably wouldn’t be anyone reading this blog!).

While at Indy, I stayed at assistant crew chief Terry Snyder’s house. He actually just bought it less than two weeks before the race, and it was a bit of a fixer-upper. I’m totally impressed with his skills with a wood planer, putty knife, and tile saw. I know how many hours he’s in the shop, and I couldn’t believe how much he got done at the house between our test session, the race, and the latest pics I saw from a couple of days ago. He’s half rebuilt his house, and I still have four pallets of masonry block sitting in the back yard…and my garage project is entering its second year! He and I hauled a couple loads from his rental place to the new house (I got to ride his Yamaha R-1…very cool), knocked down some unwanted shelving, and changed out two toilets (And no, I didn’t ruin the old toilets…that’s just a rumor!). Next trip I’ll pack my circular saw, Romex, and pipe wrench.

Today Bose returned the repaired surround sound unit for the RV, so I got that all put back together and reinstalled…and it seems to work! We also have a problem with the home surround sound, and this one may cost us even more. This house was prewired with speakers, plus it had three rooms connected for sound. I added speakers and controls to the loft once it was completed, but none of it works now. Yep, our Costco Panasonic DVD/AM/FM/surround sound (which never had enough power for the factory home speakers) finally kicked the bucket. Truth be told, I think Layla had something to do with it. Our little two-year-old has that “can do” attitude - meaning she thinks she can do anything-, like inserting the 6th DVD into the rack. Problem is…Panasonic designed it to hold five! I completely disassembled the unit, scratched my head, waved a wand and a dead chicken (It was frozen. The chicken, that is…not the wand) over it…all with no luck. We’ll be using a bit of the Traxxas bonus money to purchase a new DVD player, and this time a more powerful amp to power the surround sound system so I can shake the room when drag racing is on TV!

I probably should wrap this up. It’s dinner time, then I have to watch Jenna pack my suitcase for my early morning flight. Then I’ll let her bath and shave me (did that sound funny?), read me a bedtime story and tuck me in. I hope my flannel jammies are comfy!

Stay tuned, America is still the greatest; I dig McEwen, Prudhomme, and Traxxas, and replacing toilets is crappy work! 

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Actually, the title makes perfect sense. Ask anyone who has done any major home remodeling lately, and I doubt you’ll get any disagreements. Conversely (not the shoe company, I’m referring to “on an opposite note”), anyone who has ever participated in any sort of cash-raising event would certainly agree that “fundraising” should not start with the word “fun”. And conversely one more time (which means “opposing the latter, but in agreement with the former statement”)…has anyone made the correlation on the first three letters of “congress” yet?

I digress. I a nearly forgot where I left off. You regular readers know that my memory (and we may as well throw in my facial recognition skills) leave a lot to be desired. Typically I start a blog by downloading pictures of my activities since my last entry, and that sparks enough neural firing and synaptic action to get my fingers dancing on the old “qwerty keyboard” (I take no credit for either naming it, nor laying out the keys in that fashion).

I digress. Had I actually taken more pictures, I think I’d have some pretty cool stuff to tell you about. For instance, I got the motorhome dinette seats back from the upholsterer (Raul’s in Ontario, and I will use them again), only to discover that someone must have sat on one of them after I dropped them off. Several of the studs/brackets on the bottom were bent, and one had cracked the welds. Typically I’d be pretty ticked off with something like this, but since I own a welder, seldom use it, and think I’m FAR more talented with it than I actually am, I was sort of euphoric! I did intend to take a photo of me re-welding it, but I think my concerns about such things as fire extinguisher proximity and wire speed settings overloaded my conscience mind and allowed me to forget the pic.

To say I was overjoyed at having to spend $598 dollars on our little money pit would be an understatement. Anyone who has ever owned an RV will empathize with me, and believe me when I tell you that the longer they get and the higher the window sticker price, the more headaches they will provide, and those migraines get more costly.

I digress (that’s a lot of backing up for one blog, Jack!). Having crossed another item off our motorhome improvement list, the next item scribbled in my shorthand pertained to the surround sound system. Memo to me: RVs HAVE NO NEED FOR SURROUND SOUND! It’s just one more thing to “act up”…and ours was. Bose customer service was very friendly and helpful, so much so that spending $210 (that does include shipping) to fix something with super low hours on it really seemed kind of pleasant to me. I feel like digressing again….

Never one to leave well enough alone, I started digging into the wiring that went to the power source/central speaker for the surround sound unit. Wow, did someone at Monaco appear to love their cannabis! I just don’t understand how some folks keep their jobs when they wire like Ray Charles on Ritalin. I spent an hour redoing some of the connections, and I hope the result is TV sound that WORKS when the unit is turned on!

I picked up a couple kids from the store and brought them home in the pickup, and the planter where once grew expensive plants now has sprouted two nice ladders. In fact, it appears the Beckman’s are having a ladder sale in this “before” photo of the casa.

The house painters officially started today. I don’t mean “officially”, like they had a parade out front or mounted my key to the city of Norco up on the eaves, just that they actually put some paint on the house today. I’ll be on a plane Tuesday (which will be “today”) to many of you reading this blog when it’s fresh, so the bulk of their work will be done while I am in Indy, and I’ll come back to a completely painted house (or someone’s in deep doo-doo!). So far, so good, and I’m actually looking forward to and excited about how much better the place will look. I laughed when they covered the Nissan pickup with plastic to prevent overspray, and I even offered the guys a few bucks if they could just mask off the tires and spray it all one color. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind if they rolled it on!

I suppose I should give you guys a “race report”. Brainerd was our second poll in a row, and we’ve qualified no worse than second in the past four races. That’s the good news. (Man, would I like to take another of those “digresses” right about now and avoid talking about the racing stuff!). The bad news is that we’ve only won three rounds of racing in those events, and haven’t been past the second round. We “qualified” for the Traxxas Shootout (though we all kind of feel more like we limped into it, getting in as the car with the most points that had not won a race). We clinched our place in the Countdown. Now, we need to win a race.

Towards that end (there’s a weird saying), we made nine test laps in Indy on Wednesday and Thursday after Brainerd. The guys didn’t understand why I would fly home Monday morning, only to get back on a plane Tuesday afternoon to head to Indy. I told them Jenna would explain it to them! Even if for only one day, being with the family is so important.

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When Jenna said her and Layla were working on toilet training, I didn’t know that meant learning to inspect and repair all models!
I think we were productive in our test laps. Putting big numbers on the scoreboard is really important during qualifying at the NHRA races, and getting to the finish line is the name of the game during eliminations, but testing really is a different animal. Often we make partial runs to evaluate changes. If you make a big change to the air or fuel supply to the engine, running it too far on the first test run can have some catastrophic results. Also, running it much past where the clutch locks up (usually anywhere from 650-850 feet) just puts more wear and tear on the parts. My point is, if you follow NHRA.com and are disappointed with your favorite team’s numbers, it may be that they are utilizing testing for its real purpose: trying different combinations and dialing into them.

Having four days in a row at home now seems more like a month. Last Saturday Jason had his first Winter League baseball practice, and I’ll again try to help with the coaching when I’m home. He starts first grade on the 28th, and is enrolled in a charter school. Monday’s and Tuesday’s are home-school days, and that should get plenty interesting for our lazy little man. I have a feeling Jenna’s going to need plenty of paper, pencils, Tylenol and Kahlua (the first two can be used together…the last two shouldn’t).

Layla is cuter by the day, busy growing her teeth and her vocabulary, and perfecting her spoiled Princess attitude (she gets that from her mother, but Jason’s laziness must be from his paternal great-great-grandfather…or that guy’s great grandson…ME!)

Stay tuned, opt for the fake leather, always solder your important connections, and keep your fingers crossed!



Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

The Sonoma race marked the Beckman family’s return to the wonderful world of RV’ing, yet this trip provided little in the way of excitement (which is EXACTLY what I prefer). Sure, we did have an extended fuel stop down the road from the racetrack in Vallejo, but we eventually straightened that out. Initially both of my credit cards appeared to have been “cancelled”, but upon calling their customer service, it appears that they simply don’t trust any transaction in Vallejo…so I’m guessing one could consider that a “high crime area”. I just made sure to keep one hand on my wallet while filling the RV with $400 worth of premium diesel (there’s an oxymoron if you know anything about refining crude oil into fuel). Hey, now that I think about it, I WAS robbed in Vallejo!

In between phone calls to India to reinstate my credit, my buddy Dave Rieff phoned. He really cheered me up, as his day was going SO MUCH WORSE than mine! Basically he called to let me know that he was stuck in an airport in Omaha, wasn’t going to make it to San Francisco on time, and was electing me as his official replacement for the evening. Dave was scheduled to emcee (there’s an odd word) the 7th annual Eric Medlen Nitro Night, a fantastic fundraiser for some wonderful charities. I’ve attended every one of them (with Rodger and Karen Comstock), paid attention to former emcee Bob Frey’s every word (and style!), and knew Eric well enough to feel comfortable stepping in. “Stepping in”…that could mean a couple of things!

Y'know, some things just GO together…like a nice red wine with a golden Wally!
Here, Autumn Hight takes a “selfie” of her and Jason, while Layla looks on
Like flypaper for kids, one could derive hours of fun watching this! I’m trying to devise a way to do this backstage at pre-race ceremonies to trap all the other Funny Car drivers!
First look at our new mini-Charger that we’ll debut in Brainerd. Please don’t let any of the Force people see this (lots of secret technology!).span>

I think the night went well, we heard some touching Eric stories from his mother Mimi and some of his other friends, and we raised some hefty funds to help others. The big ticket item again was a custom engraved wine bottle donated by Jim and Angela of Doc’s Trophy Shoppe in Napa (the town, not the auto parts store). I say “again” because last year Jim offered to make me a bottle for myself, but we instead agreed that having one to auction would be much more worthwhile. It was! I believe the two bottles have raised more than $6000! Jim and Angela blew me away when they ALSO presented me with a bottle engraved for our championship. Very cool stuff, and they do phenomenal work if you want to look them up. Very unique and cool gift idea…and the wine inside is a bonus!

Qualifying No. 2 for the second race in a row was cool…doing it with our fourth 3-second timeslip was fantastic. Losing to Courtney in the second round on a holeshot stunk. That’s twice in the past few races that I have had the faster timeslip, but not the win light.

Sunday after the finals I helped scoop ice cream for the Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social, which has become another popular yearly event to honor our late friend. My right forearm was pretty sore the next day (And, yes, it WAS from scooping ice cream!), but it was all worth it. While all the fans were enjoying the ice cream, the track was opened up for those interested in strolling onto the tarmac that just produced 300 mph nitro finals. It’s pretty cool to watch the surprise on fans’ faces when they step right out of their shoes due to the traction compound being so sticky. Robert and Adria Hight’s daughter, Autumn, took Jason out there, and Layla wasn’t far behind. They had a blast losing their shoes time after time (the things kids find interesting!).

We got back home Monday evening, dumped and unloaded the RV, did laundry, and packed my suitcase (okay, Jenna and Cindy did everything except the dumping part, but I should get extra credit for hazardous “duty”…pardon the pun). The next day I was on a plane to Seattle, as Wednesday I took part in the NHRA Media Day. Not only that, but I made about 20 passes in the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School two-seat dragster. Last year we did a similar program, and the track really felt it was an excellent way to reach the media and many local politicians. I’d say we definitely got their attention.

Thursday I was a guest at Carl and Jillian’s annual car show/ race promo event. Those two always put on a great program, and I did a Q & A program with some very knowledgeable fans.

Seattle was a rainout for the Pro cars on Friday, meaning only two qualifying shots to get in. Watching our teammate Ron Capps fail to make the field in the NAPA (the auto parts store, not the town) car was a huge shock. We only made it down the track on one of the two runs, but we certainly made the best of it, nailing our first pole of the year. Let’s not make any crude jokes about “sitting on the pole”… I’m going to go with, “qualified number one” to describe the outcome!

And that’s the last good news. We again missed the tune-up first round and were sent home early by Johnny Gray and company. It seems that some of the early season bugs that had plagued us have come back the past three races, but we have a plan:

Right after the race, crewmember Dan Murphy flew straight back to Indy while the rest of the guys loaded up the rig for the road. Dan will be leaving the team to work full time in the chassis and fab shop in Brownsburg, and he was making sure that our new car was ready to assemble as soon as the trucks rolled back into the shop. Yes, we will have a new crewmember (Chris…though this really could get confusing with two “Chrisses” now!) AND a brand new car when we roll into Brainerd. I think this is exactly what we need to get back into the hunt for the championship (and get our first win of the year).

After returning from Seattle, I didn’t have anything to do for a week! It was such an odd feeling to have so many consecutive days at home…something that hadn’t happened since early May! Fortunately, Jenna made sure my list runneth over, and we tackled a couple more projects.

For one, I insisted that we spend some more money on our motorhome. Yes, I was tired of not putting labor and money into our 45-foot “vacuum-cleaner-of-cash”, so it was time to remove the dinette booth and take the two halves to be reupholstered. The bottoms of the seats are brown leather, but the top is apparently made from a combination of baby seal hide, bald eagle feathers, white rhinoceros horn, and mermaid tears. Okay, it’s some “Ralph Lauren” limited edition fabric, but good luck finding that!

Once I loaded them into the back of the trusty Nissan to drop off, I decide that I’d much rather spend the next 45 minutes purchasing and installing a new A/C belt on the truck before leaving…but it was cool inside and 92 outside!

When given my options for recovering the seats, I felt like offering the Nissan as partial trade. The fake leather option was expensive, and the real leather choice would involve me leaving my left arm. Now the problem is finding a material that matches the couch. Or, we could just put a clear slip cover over the booth and line it with $5 bills…that would be cheaper!

Speaking of money, it’s time to paint the outside of Beckman Manor. Actually, it was time when we moved in; we just had other priorities to keep us busy. We still have some of the championship bonus money, and this is something that should make a huge and dramatic (aren’t those words really synonymous the way I used them, which would make my grammar redundant?) difference in the look of our humble abode.

Somewhere after sample 17 I started to tune out. THEN, we started lightening (as in tint, not weight) and darkening some of these to make it even more confusing. Thank goodness Jenna didn’t decide to blend a couple of these together!
Obviously this was another “dress yourself” day for Jason, as he chose his basketball uniform to help dig (OK…he didn’t help much!). If you look closely you can see the overloaded recycle bins, the chain still attached between the palm and the truck, and the careful measures taken to prevent any further damage to the pickup.
Former Mayor (now councilmember) Kevin Bash and former councilmember (Now Mayor) Kathy Azevedo with current key holder…me! I tried it in every Challenger on the Browning Dodge lot, but I couldn’t seem to wedge the plaque into the ignition slot.
There’s only five (if you don’t count Buckwheat the horse or anyone in the background) folks cuter than me in this photo. They didn’t let me keep the cowboy hat, but the saddle sores were complementary!
With her fishing cap/cowboy hat shim, mermaid shirt and pink fluffy skirt, Layla certainly took her first horseback experience seriously. She was VERY upset when it was time to get down. Yes, a nag on the saddle. Oops… I mean a saddle on the nag!
Designed for little kids, this car was harder to get into than my Charger! Layla really liked getting whipped around the corners, and Jason was in hot pursuit.

As one knows, when deciding to paint, one must choose one’s colors carefully. Acknowledging that women in general see colors in more variety than men, and that Jenna specifically sees “red” when I challenge her on any of her decorating, I have been subjugated into, say…a “lesser” position of decision making when it comes to these things. I think my wife may even be a tetrachromat, but please don’t tell her I called her that!

I had what I felt was a lead pipe-cinch way of choosing the correct color palette: ask the folks down the street (whose house I REALLY like) what color they used, order 25 gallons of that, and apply liberally to the sides of the house.

Jenna wasn’t so easy to convince. Let’s just say that we’ve visited four paint stores for three different brands and seven separate grades of about 20 different colors. I’ve worn out three paintbrushes applying samples to various sides of the house (Jenna and Cindy have also done plenty), and our neighbors must think we’re patterning our house after the Partridge Family bus!

Alas, after delaying the painters twice and stocking up on enough samples to be able to paint every school project that our children ever bring home (as long as they like a grey/brown/beige hue), I think we’ve nailed it! Forget Bison and Alexandria Beige, never mind Tony OR Shenandoah Taupe; don’t even think about Weimaraner, Nordic Gray, Cabot Trail or Stardust…we’re sold on…ah, heck, I can’t even remember WHAT we picked anymore!

I won’t even go into our accent color, the trim color, and how we narrowed it down to four possible shades of white for the fascia !

Aside from paint, the other “hot” house project is redoing the planters. Yes, we’re digging up all of the planters that we planted several years ago and changing things up. To me, it’s a bit like investing your money into something you think will work, watching as it grows, nurturing it along with care…then throwing it all away and starting all over! To Jenna, it represents contentment and purpose. I’ll just keep digging and planting until she tells me I’m done.

Speaking of digging up planters, I got most of the palm tree dug out (In Jenna’s defense, this was a two-trunk palm of which one had died, so we really did need to remove it) and was trying to pull it out of the ground. In my younger days I would have just muscled it out, but older bones have forced me to be more clever. “Force multipliers” can help tremendously. For instance, shovels, pry bars, and wheelbarrows make projects much easier than trying to do everything by hand. So do Nissan pickups…at least mine! Yep, it was just too tempting to not resort to something that I could chain to the palm and let rip. The forklift was tantalizing, but too time consuming to clear out of the garage. Besides, the pickup was just begging to have the clutch overheated! With Jason as my co-pilot we had that thing drug across the driveway in less time than it took to undo the chain. Unfortunately, without the benefit of the forklift I was stuck loading that damn thing into the garbage can the old-fashioned way.

Lest you think that’s all we got done around here, think again! The real fun was on the weekend, where Saturday I was given the “Key to the City” for “Horsetown, USA” (That would be Norco, CA). My friend Diane Kolb, who has been an amazing asset to my continuing search for marketing partners, did all the logistics with the City Council and the Norco Chamber of Commerce to celebrate “Fast Jack” Beckman Day. Browning Dodge was kind enough to host the event, and we had some pretty cool iron show up. In addition to many awesome street rods, Dennis Murphy’s Ground Zero (the first Funny Car I ever drove) was brought out by my other buddy Dennis, as in, “Swearingen”. Sharai Steinbacher of the NHRA Museum brought out her vintage Nova, and the Tocco, Harper and Garten Fuel Altered was present.

If I tried to thank everyone that had anything to do with this event, I’d probably fall woefully short, and I certainly don’t want to hurt any feelings. It was very cool to see so many old friends, fans, and gearheads show up. Getting the key was icing on the cake, though I’ve already tried it on the doors of Bob’s Big Boy, Starbuck’s, and Wells Fargo…all without success!

As part of the ceremony, I of course had to wear a cowboy hat and hop up on a real horse. I even held both kids for a few pics. Layla loved it, Jenna got some photos, and Jason got puffy eyes and nasal congestion. No wonder he’s not an animal lover!

On Sunday we took the kids the Knott’s Berry Farm (an amusement park not far from Disney Land). Actually, I can tell you exactly how far it is from Disney…precisely $30 per adult! Throw in a AAA (that makes four “A’s” in a row!), or in my case a military discount, and the five of us (Cindy went) got in cheaper than one adult and one child would at “Walt’s House of Overpricing”. Heck, a season pass at Knott’s is less than ONE ADULT TICKET at “Dizzy- from the –cost- Land”! I don’t think I’d been to this place for about 40 years (ouch!), but it was very cool, and a good value (as opposed to that other place, the one with the pickpocketing mouse).

Usually I’ll end a blog by telling you that I have to be on a plane early the next morning. However, due to some superior planning on my part (plus the fact that Jenna was watching ‘Dancing with the Stars’ on TV, and I can’t stand it so I ended up on the computer), I actually have an entire day at home tomorrow.

Unless you count those projects Jenna has planned…

Stay tuned, bend your knees when you shovel (and use your Nissan to prevent strains), let your wife choose the color(s), don’t let your wife choose the plants, and I’ll let you know if my wife likes the upholsterer! And remember next Aug.10 to enjoy “Jack Beckman Day!”

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