Features

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge
Though sometimes they’ve got Jenna and I feeling “upside-down”, we are so fortunate to have two healthy and beautiful children. Here Butch Cassidy and the Sunflower-dress kid exercise the bounce house…and Jenna’s patience!

My life certainly seems to have followed a 4-cycle route, as the automotive internal combustion V-8 engine has truly shaped so much of my existence. Before you go thinking that Jack is getting all existential on you (or perhaps I had one too many explosions), I’m just trying to cleverly frame the opening to this blog.

For more than a decade, long before my pro career began, a fuel-burning Chrysler Hemi has been my main “motivation”, and lately that powerplant has been more than just my vocation. Back in December I had participated in the filming of a pretty cool show at Irwindale Raceway.  Heck, now that the producers have the product finished, why don’t I just post the link and you can check it out for yourself here. My clever reference to the Hemi powerplant will make a bit more sense after viewing the show:

Pretty cool piece, huh? Another fun day at the racetrack, surrounded by V-8 Hemi’s…and that’s NEVER a bad thing! Now, the REAL news around this household has to do with the fact that I just ordered my very own, honest-to-goodness, genuine Hemi-powered (not the 426 version…c’mon guys!) vehicle. Though I am certainly partial to the Chargers (I make my living in one), and I think I like the new Challengers even more (both a bit pricey for me though), my new baby will feature a bed on the back. Yes, El Cheapo del Norco (that’s me) bit the bullet and ordered a new Ram 1500. For over two years I’ve really wanted a newer truck, and finally I set a budget to pick up something nicer, newer, and obviously a marked upgrade over the old Nissan. Well, thanks in large part to my buddy Dale Aldo, who works for Chrysler and attends most races, I found out that, with my “team member” discount, plus the current rebates, I can get into something brand new for about five grand more than I was going to spend for used. Ad in the fact that I couldn’t find any crew cabs (the quad cab just doesn’t have enough back seat room for the huge kid seats. {I meant that the seats were huge…not the kids!}) with the options I wanted (sorry, but the Laramie version is a bunch more than I can spend on a pickup truck), and you can see how I arrived at this decision.

Though I had taken a couple of months to educate myself as to what suited my needs, my pal Matt Deane at Glendora Dodge (as well as fleet manager Tony Miller) guided me through my first “hands-on” day of looking hard at specific options. A visit to my local Dealer, Browning Dodge in Norco, sealed the deal. Manager Chris Muller not only hosted Jack Beckman Day there back in August of last year, but really went out of his way to help me get the perfect truck. It should arrive sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, and I must say that I’m really excited. Jenna got herself a new Flex 3 years ago, but I’ve only purchased two new vehicles for myself. The first was my 1985 Yamaha FJ600 (those initials spawned the “Fast Jack” moniker), and the second was my 23-foot RV back in 2000, specifically to tow my racecar and save on hotel expenses. As you can see, I’m not prone to “splurge” on myself with impulse buys, but this truck has me pretty jazzed!

If things go according to plan, I may have some other interesting stuff to share with you regarding my new pickup…fingers crossed!

On the racing front, I haven’t updated you guys since last I blew up in Atlanta. Well, I’m proud to report that Topeka was relatively uneventful, but regret to inform you that I broke your throttle cable bracket in the first round…sorry about that! That was a definite case of the proverbial $5 part potentially costing us the round win, as opponent Jeff Arend was only able to muster a 4.50, which really added some sting to a freak event.

Did you think I was kidding when I said there was a funny car in front of the castle?

Englishtown went much better, and we’re doing a solid job of carrying the Infinite Hero colors deep into Sunday. With E-town being the second race in that livery, we ran our round record up to 5-2 for our injured heroes. I truly thought we had the car to beat, but less than one foot into our semifinal round run against Cruz, we just blew the tires off. Again, the frustration was amplified by the fact that he only ran a 4.59, and that should have been a relatively easy victory for us. Breaking our two- race first-round losing streak was nice, but we really need to close the deal on one of these upcoming races and make a move up in the points standings.

I flew into Jersey early so that all the DSR drivers and crewchiefs could attend a function at the NJ Make-A-Wish headquarters. They had TJ’s car on display outside the “Castle” (not only is it shaped like one, but they do plenty of magical things for the kids there), and many of the staff came out to the track to see “what all the noise was about” (that was a clever reference to the decibels emitted from our fuel-burning hemi's…and THAT was another brilliant iteration of my engine- themed blog…damn I’m good!)

The next day I spoke at Sandvik headquarters in Fair Lawn, NJ. They tore down the old building and just completed a new one since my last visit. I was a bit disappointed when I found out it wasn’t constructed just for my edification, but it was still impressive. If you’re not “up to speed” (another good racecar allusion…you gotta keep up with me!) on the company, Sandvik is the world’s largest manufacturer of cutting, grinding, and machining tools. Twice they have been the primary sponsor on my car, and they will adorn Antron’s ride in Seattle. Great company, great people, and great new building…even if it wasn’t for me!

I landed back home at Ontario airport at 3 pm on Monday, headed over to the Dodge dealer to place my truck order while the rebate was still current, then we sprinted over to Jason’s baseball game. It was one of the longer days I’ve had lately, and I hit the pillow at 11:15 that night.

Jason and his bestest school buddy Derek may be short on teeth, but they sure had a wonderful teacher in Mrs. Whitlow. I wish she could stay his teacher, but I take solace in the fact that Layla will be able to disrupt her class in four years!
I missed Jason’s piano concerto while I was on the road, but Jenna said he did an amazing job on “Chopsticks” (the song…not the eating utensil), and even got to take a bow.
There’s nothing like tying up a section of parking lot before a baseball game…hoping your kids don’t run out in front of a drunk and spill his/her beer.
Me, Kohl, Truman, Matthew, Jason, Jenna and Jeff enjoying ourselves at a memorable baseball game. Them Angels are exciting!

When the alarm clock went off at 4:15 the next morning, I really thought it was a cruel joke someone was playing on me. That wasn’t the case. After a shower, shave, making some coffee and oatmeal to go, I was in the PT (which is definitely NOT a hemi!) for the four hour drive to Las Vegas.

Before you go thinking, “man, Jack must REALLY have a gambling addiction”, I assure you that’s not the case. Frank Hawley was having a program that day, and I drove the two-seat dragster for the ride-alongs. Tom Bayer did likewise in the Firebird and, though I probably shouldn’t tell you what the event was, I will say that there were five nitro funny car drivers, plus one top fuel pilot, ALL from Southern California, present that day. That’s all you get….

It’s not like the pace let up once I got back home. Jason finished first grade, and our little man keeps yanking teeth out like he’s allergic to them. Number six fell two nights ago, and I’m going to leave a sponsorship proposal for the Tooth Fairy next time.

 His team lasted three games into the double-elimination playoff format, meaning they finished with something like 4 wins, 18 losses, and two ties (and I thought that I was having a tough year!). I do appreciate the experience he’s got from playing on a team, and our coaches were great with the kids this year…though I do believe all our blood pressures permanently increased from yelling at ‘deaf’ ears for months!

Several of his team went to see the Anaheim Angels last Saturday, and the game certainly did not disappoint. The last time I went to a major league game was to see the Angels back in 2002. I attended many a Dodger game in my youth, but I think it’s been 30 years since my last trip to see the Boys in Blue.

Anyway, the Angels were getting trounced, having only two hits by the seventh inning, and trailing 5-0. I was thinking perhaps it was time to head home, but fortunately we decided to stick around. After a 6-run bottom of the 8th, which included a grand-slam (a four-run homer, not the Denny’s breakfast), I think Jason experienced something rare and magical for his first major-league outing. Mike Trout is fast becoming one of the most popular players in the league, and he sure gained a lot of fans with that fantastic full-count blast. I can imagine how “bad-ass” that feels to accomplish something so cool.

Layla is talking more clearly every day, and I suspect that sometime in the next two months she will be easier to understand than her mother. You know I’m totally kidding on that one…it’ll take at least four months! Our little princess (and she just loves to wear her pretty Disney dresses) is one month away from “the big 3”. I suppose that also means she’ll be able to drive during daylight hours and vote in the primaries…how fast the time goes!

Apparently that was the extent of my fun, as the lack of waves has precluded any surfing so far in June. Instead, Jack got to do the maintenance on the RV generator. Funny how that thing holds more oil than any vehicle I have around here, except the Blackbird dragster.

Speaking of that, now that the ‘bird is safely nested (see how I used more ‘rhetorical figure of speech’ so wisely?) in the new garage, it’s time to put the trailer up for sale. Emptying everything out of it was much more labor intensive than I originally thought. Wow, was it ever packed with tools, gadgets, spare parts, and “stuff” that I forgot I had! Short of finding Jimmy Hoffa, or clay jars with ancient scrolls, pretty much everything else was in there. Once I got it emptied (thankfully I have a garage to stack all that extra equipment into!), it was cleaning time. I dusted, removed, soaked, sprayed, wiped, scoured, waxed, painted, and detailed until my heart’s content. Why is it that we take the best care of something once we decide to let someone else take possession of it? Point being, someone is going to get a pretty nice trailer out of this deal. It’s got tons of memories, and has carried my stuff to dozens of victories, a divisional and national championship, and two iterations of my dragster (it wasn’t always called the Blackbird). However, with two small kids and no spare time, it makes no sense to let it sit for three more years. Plus, we could use the cash and the backyard space. If you’re interested, shoot me an e-mail.
Here are the details on it:

 
Let the bidding wars start on the trailer that won it all…plus my own personal scooter…battery not included.
 
  • 26-foot Pace Shadow (white) enclosed trailer. 10,400-pound capacity. Twin 5200# torsion axles with EZ-lube and 4- wheel electric brakes. 8 foot inside width. 8’ beavertail. 8 foot ramp door with 12-inch flap. Aluminum wheels and fenders.  Extra wide 36-inch side door.  2 5/16” hitch.  One piece aluminum roof. Built in 1995. Many upgrades, including:
  • 54-inch tongue for RV towing, equipped with Tuff-Tow wheels at front to reduce hitch load             
  • Extra interior height (6’9”), walls and ceiling are white aluminum; floor is polished aluminum diamond plate                               
  • Set up for dragster up to 245-inch wb with <42 ½-inch front width; includes tool box, cabinets, wardrobe closet and work surfaces. Can haul auto up to 17’10” as-is, or 19’10” without wardrobe cabinet.
  • Generac  5200-watt generator w/remote start. Custom aluminum large-capacity fuel tank
  • Craftsman 1 ½ hp, 4 gallon compressor, plumbed with inside and outside fittings
  • 110v lights inside and out. 12v lights inside plus ramp loading light. Two 500 watt outside lights
  • 3 inside and two outside 110v outlets
  • 5 D-rings for vehicle tie-down
  • Air conditioner plus one roof vent
  • Two in-floor storage compartments for spare tires and equipment
  • Electric heavy-duty tongue jack
  • Pit Pal products: aluminum storage rack for oils, etc., rack for 15 gallons of fuel, rack for floorjack. Includes aluminum jack.
  • 12v battery with charger/maintainer
  • Front stone guard (aluminum diamond plate)
  • AM/FM cassette player with amplifier
  • 225 /75R15 trailer tires. Tires are 4 ½ years old but have less than 1,000 miles on them.
  • 5 spare wheels and tires. 2 spare Tuff-Tow tires and wheels
  • Comes with 50cc scooter. Very clean, less than 500 miles.
  • Priced to sell at $9,250; contact me at jack@gofastjack.com

Okay, now that I’ve turned Phil Burgess’ website into a classified ad consortium, I shall wrap up the blog. By the time this gets posted, I should be well on my way to Bristol. I actually fly into Knoxville, which is a solid two hour drive to Bristol, but knocks nearly $400 off of the airfare. I try to treat Don’s money the same as I treat my own, but I’m not looking forward to that drive, especially late into the night on Thursday. Actually, I’m hoping that I miss my return flight Sunday, as I plan on spending some quality time with my crew in our first winner’s circle of the year!

Stay tuned, buy a trailer, buy a truck…get a hemi, and go fast!
 

Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Right now I find myself in a rare situation (at least since I became a father) of having some “idle time” (pardon the pun). It’s not that I don’t have plenty of projects, it’s just that I don’t have enough time to really even start one right now. I just came in from the backyard, and I was really tempted to start digging a trench to add another sprinkler in an area that’s perpetually brown, when a quick glance at the watch brought me back to reality. With Jason having “half days” this week at school, I need to leave in a few minutes to pick him up. What I would have accomplished in my few minutes of shovel work basically would have left Jenna and the kids with a big, nasty, ugly hole right on the edge of the driveway, and it may have remained that way until after I got back from E-town, which is about 10 days longer than my wife would tolerate. Nope, for once I let prudence dictate my decision to NOT start a project (normally, laziness controls that just fine, thank you).

That hissing noise that originally took me outside was the sound of money flowing into the atmosphere. Yep, I just refilled the propane tank on the forklift, and apparently the fitting to the tank had developed a slight leak…about $22.00 worth! So, with that repaired, I’m just going to have to satisfy myself with a blog, a quick workout, and a trip to the airport to head off to Topeka.

Lest you think that I’ve been lazy lately, I’ll assure you that’s not the case. I’ll discuss the Atlanta events in a moment, but just wrap your head around my activities since then:

Man, there are rocks in them thar hills. Living on a huge chunk of granite has some serious disadvantages when it comes to digging. Having a friend named Randy Sullivan has some huge advantages when it comes to solutions!

Due to the rain delay, I did not land back home until 11:30pm Monday night. Because Jenna’s mom Cindy was visiting her father Bill back in Delaware for the past week, my lovely wife was home alone tending to the little ones (or, “Hellions” in this case). To make things easier on her, I just left the car at the airport this time (typically I either will be dropped off or, if an early morning flight, Jenna and Cindy will retrieve the car to avoid airport parking fees). Anyway, I got back home shortly after midnight, and at 8am the next morning, Mike the Entertainment Center Guy (not sure if that’s his legal name, or just my description, but you get the picture) was here to install Jenna’s new 401k TV holder (meaning that I, the Captain of Cheap, would have put the money into a retirement account…but Jenna chose differently).

Once Mike got started, I headed outside. I unloaded all the dragster body panels from the trailer (see last blog), reinstalled them on the dragster, and attempted to use the Nissan to back the trailer into its spot. When all that resulted was tiresmoke (this trailer has a Tuff-Tow device on the front, and backing up is quite a chore), I enlisted the trusty Clark (that’s “forklift” for the uninitiated) to do the job. When it ran out of propane just as the trailer was back in position, I reverted to using the Nissan to push the Clark into its proper parking position (that was easy!).

Next it was time to put the RV onto the street so Sully could unload the big backhoe/hammer combination and get it up in the yard. After a ten minute orientation and proper controls, I spent the next two and a half hours jackhammering and moving dirt…and doing my best not to run into anything or tip the big Deere over. I thought I was doing pretty good in my new position as a heavy equipment operator, until Randy showed back up and did in 25 minutes what took me 150 to accomplish!

I actually didn’t finish up with all the hammering until Wednesday, so the next phase will be bringing in a much smaller tractor to do the grading for concrete.


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Fan Jeff Reader shot these photos from the stands, and I suppose they need no explanation.
 
I got in a decent workout (as in, “lifting weights”) before I did my cardio (as in, “mowing the lawn”), then it was time to take Jason to baseball practice. That was Tuesday! Yes, the life of a Pro drag racer is glamorous indeed.

I had mentioned that I’d let you guys know about the race in Atlanta. The good part was the company that showed up. My dad, our buddy Bo, Diane Kolb and family, and Air Force friend Bruce Stansel all decided to show up for Georgia’s rain. Also, for the first time in 23 years, the Dougherty family, who live close to the track, came out and cheered me on. So did Porsha Chalmers and her fiancée Jim, and fans/friends Pat and Jim Robinson…and it didn’t help!

Nope, I just as soon would have preferred to stay home and sleep in the way our Southern Nationals turned out. Saturday’s first qualifier we popped the windshield out when the safety shutoff device disabled the fuel system after detecting high “pan pressure”, which typically means the car has scuffed a piston, which possibly could result in a big explosion. We sometimes disconnect the pan pressure sensor for eliminations, as it is not mandatory, but we leave it activated for qualifying nearly all the time. The problem happens when the system shuts off the fuel but the throttle is still wide open (the driver can’t possibly react that quickly), causing a lean condition that can “pop” the burst panels. In this case, it split the windshield all the way down, necessitating a mild thrash to install a new unit before the last qualifying run.

Apparently the new windshield was bad luck! It appears as though our car lost a valve liner, causing an intake valve to stick in the guide, blowing the whole deal sky high (if you saw the coverage, you know what I mean).

Sometimes Jason likes to help me workout, and here little Swarzenblueeyes gives his biceps a workout. Next we’ll focus on abdominal exercises!

I stayed and helped the crew until past midnight Saturday, and they were still working when I left. Not only was it a 45 minute trip to the hotel, but they were back at the track at 7am for a LONG Sunday! If you think being a crewmember is the most bitchin job a person could have, you may want to spend one weekend with a fuel team and see how hard these folks have to work. We were in the lanes at 7pm Sunday; eight hours behind schedule due to rain, when NHRA postponed the race after the fifth pair of dragsters ran. Originally they were going to wait 15 minutes for the sun to shift enough so the right lane driver could see the Christmas Tree without staring directly into our Red Dwarf star, but by the time I hopped out of the car and took my helmet off, NHRA had decided to finish the race on Monday.

So, our tired group had spent 13 hours at the track to accomplish little more than warming our car one time. Monday we were back even earlier to try it again. I wish I could say our results were commensurate with our efforts, but it appears we ran right over some oil in the right lane and smoked the tires just after leaving the line. A very frustrating and expensive weekend, not only for us, but for several of the DSR teams. Thankfully Antron and TJ were not injured at all in their “mishaps”, so we’ll lick our wounds and head to Kansas.

Well, now that I’ve got Jason to and from school, got in another workout, and got caught up somewhat on the computer and mailings, it’s time to go add to my frequent flyer miles and hopefully add to the trophy collection.

Stay tuned, keep your pan pressure low and your outlook high, and no more explosions!


 

Heading into the marathonFriday, May 16, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge

Whatever rest we were going to get, whatever breath we were going to “catch”, and whatever projects needed to get done…BETTER be done by now. When I hit the airport tomorrow, it will be for the first of 13 events in 16 weeks. Yep, we’ll do three-in-row, take a week off, four-in-a-row, take a short rest, the infamous three-in-a-row Western Swing, catch a quick breath, and then hit Brainerd for the penultimate (tough word to work into a blog!) “regular season” event. Some teams will get to take a week off before heading to Indy for the biggest event of the year, but we absolutely will take advantage of the test session at that track to ensure the best chance of: a) defending our Traxxas Shootout title; b) finishing strong going into the Countdown; c) taking home the Wally from the US Nationals, and; d) ALL OF THE ABOVE!

My point in telling you about this certainly isn’t to complain, but rather to emphasize the point that NOW is the time for teams to get their acts together. We can all afford to struggle several times during the first 18 events of the season, and hope to be “hitting on all cylinders” (boy, that’s a terrible metaphor for a race car driver!) during the Countdown. That being said, take a look at the Funny Car points right now: Currently we sit in 6th place, but we’re barely one round out of 4th. In the other direction, 10th place is only three rounds back, and 12th is less than four!

With only five rounds separating 4th from 12th, teams simply cannot afford to be struggling at this point in the season. In four months we will have the potential of earning points in 48 rounds of competition. Once we get through Indy on Labor Day weekend, I think we’re all going to realize that half the season just flew by in a blur…and I hope our team is smiling big!

I am very optimistic about our chances to not only make a solid move up in the points, but also to get our first win of the season soon and lock a spot in the Traxxas Shootout. I think our showing in Houston last race supports my enthusiasm.

Not only was Houston our best showing of the year by far, but we debuted the Infinite Hero car and started doing some serious fundraising for our wounded veterans. If you guys aren’t up to speed on what I am doing for the rest of the year (not just at the five remaining races where we fly the Infinite Hero paint scheme), allow me…

Nearly every squadron in the military has what is referred to as a “challenge coin”. You’re always supposed to carry your coin, as at any time a member of your (or another) unit can “challenge” you to see it. Let’s just say that many a round of drinks were grudgingly purchased by those who left their coin in the pocket of their work pants!

This is what the challenge coin looks like on each side. The purple inlay will be on the limited edition coins after E-town. The only difference in the ones I am doing now is the colored inlay…still a wonderful souvenir for a great cause.

Anyway, Oakley decided to do a little spin on that theme, and produced some cool looking souvenir items for the Infinite Hero fundraising effort. Apparently, starting in Englishtown they will provide me with some limited edition versions, which only I will be able to give to the fans. However, I didn’t want to waste any time raising money to assist our soldiers, so here’s what I am doing: Each and every run I make for the rest of the year I will carry several coins, either in my firesuit pocket or in a container bolted to the car. After every run, on a first-come, first-served basis, fans who donate $100 or more to the cause will get an autographed challenge coin from me. All you have to do is come by the pit and let me know.

The feedback from the inception of this program has been so strong that we are attempting to make it possible for folks who aren’t at a race to be able to donate online and have an autographed coin mailed to them. I’ll keep you updated on how that’s going to work.

As you can see, that’s another upside to going rounds: more opportunity to generate “nitro coins”, and more funds raised for rehab, counseling, and other worthwhile projects for those who gave so much.

Just in case you think (maybe because of my reference to resting in the opening line) that I’ve been slacking lately, let me assure you that this airshow attending, palm tree trimming, light replacing, garage finishing, wall restoring, toilet tank tuning, sprinkler line digging, dragster towing, baseball winning, and rocket launching daddy has been quite busy, thank you.

In the background is a C-53 that actually flew WWII combat missions. In the foreground is a seven year old whose father clearly let him dress himself!
A P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-38 Lightning look small, slow and out of date being chased by an F-22 Raptor. That’s what 60 years of evolution looks like!
Even though I removed the four doors, these things were still HEAVY. You can already see the unit sagging…and it didn’t get better after this! Fortunately, Jason did provide plenty of help as a video documentation specialist.
At least there was plenty of room to get the unit past the RV up to the new garage. This time Jason supplied his expert navigation services in the Nissan, and I did the photography.
After I got done carefully chiseling and grinding out the old mortar, this was my pallet, ready for my art to be applied…
I wonder if Michelangelo had to work in this conditions?
While Truman, Melissa and Jeff work on their projects, Greg and I show off our revolutionary rocket design. Check out Jason’s austere piece…it smoked all of us!
Jason and Truman got to meet an astronaut, while Layla walked around in the background looking for bugs!

On the third we got wind that Chino airport, which is a modest field but features a cool museum and is home to many restored and flying WWII aircraft, was having an airshow. I attended so many military airshows in my youth and teens, and I was just addicted to all things flying. I suppose that listening to jets nearly non-stop for four years during my service may have jaded me a bit, as I haven’t been to a show since I was discharged (that’s a military term…not an awful medical reference) back in ’88.

Well, Jason said he wanted to go, even though it was 97 degrees, so us boys made the trek over. Actually we were forced to take a mandatory detour through a local International House of Pancakes…there was no avoiding it. I shall endeavor to explain this to you: After five months of eating gluten free, my yearning for those buttermilk delights from the IHOP had only grown stronger. Plus, Jenna finally found a nutritionist that doesn’t seem like a “quack” (that’s an awful medical reference, not the sound that a duck makes), and I needed to have some gluten in my system in order to do the food allergen blood test. Man, did I apply the glutten (with two “T’s”) to the gluten. And I digress…

The airshow was all WWII and Korean vintage planes, but still very enjoyable. The only modern aircraft that flew was the F-22 Raptor. This craft basically is taking over as our front-line fighter plane, and it is spectacular. This is the first time, other than watching take-offs and landings at Vegas during the races there, that I saw the Raptor in action. That thing seems to defy physics with some of the maneuvers it can pull off. I wonder if it’s allergic to gluten?

One of the last things I needed to do before being able to “use” my new garage was to relocate some cabinets from the house garage up to the backyard. I’d already moved these units once, right after we first moved in, so I thought it would be a snap. They were “built in place”, which means that the installers start at the wall and work their way out, stapling the cabinets together until they end up with the finished product. So, moving them is much tougher than moving, say, a Home-Depot style unit. This I learned on the initial effort, but I apparently forgot. Also, I didn’t truly appreciate how heavy, cumbersome, and weak they are until I had to load them (by myself), strap them, drive them up into the backyard, unload them (solo), drag them into the garage through the dirt, uphill, with no shoes, by myself, and then stand them upright (did I mention that I had no help?).

All that moving around was not too kind to some of the bracing, which I replaced after getting everything mounted. Oh, perhaps this is the time where I should tell you that I also had to shave 2 1/8” off of the back, up to a distance of 37”…THEN I was able to mount them! Yeah…that was fun.

I also ran out of excuses as to why I couldn’t finish the wall repair. When we dug the footing for the garage and had to do so much jackhammering (with a 2000 pound unit attached to Randy Sullivan’s huge excavator), it seems that many of the wall caps (and one block) fell victim to Sully’s hydraulic wrath. I didn’t want to repair them until we were done making a mess (which it seems we are…for now). So, I got out my hammer, chisel, die grinder with diamond wheel attachment, rebar, mortar, grout, and as many tools as I thought would make me look professional. It turned out very nice, but I definitely should not quit my day job.

It was about this time that I could tell Jenna was getting upset that I was ignoring her, so I rebuilt the last toilet in the house (I don’t mean that we’re down to only one commode in our residence…I meant that I had already rebuilt the other three, and number four was last on my list!), and trimmed the palm trees. Getting that high up on the ladder always concerns me. Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “why was Jack on a ladder rebuilding a toilet”, then you haven’t been paying close attention! Yeah, I’m a little apprehensive about heights (not the kind that race Funny Car, I’m talking about the excessive elevation kind!

Once I got through the “Jenna list”, it was time to dig up, locate, splice and rerun some sprinkler lines that will run under one of the short walls that I built adjacent to the garage. Then it was time to replace the $100 light that got knocked over when the RV slide mysteriously decided to extend on its own one day…what fun!

Hey, I’d love to finish this blog tonight, but it is 12:30 in the morning and I do need to take Jason to school in the AM. Fortunately my flight tomorrow isn’t until noon, so I actually will have time to complete this literary masterpiece sometime between 9:15 and 10:45 manana. G’nite!

Okay…got Jason fed and off to school. Today his class is practicing for their first play. I won’t be here, which is tough, but when I am home I try to do as much as possible with my little man. Last week we packed up Grandma (she’s fairly easy to load) and the kids and headed over to the Boeing Corp. in Huntington Beach. They were hosting (along with the Discovery Science Center) a “rocket” build and launch for kids of all ages. The task is to construct a homemade rocket from a 2-liter soda bottle and a kit which includes fins and various around-the-house items for a parachute and nose cone. The objective is total time in the air. Once you complete the build, you fill your rocket with as much water as you think will be optimal, and then head over to the launch sit.

Once your rocket is inserted onto one of the fixtures, it is pressurized (they tell me all stations are supposed to be the same pressure) before you press the release lever and “let it fly”. If all goes well, your rocket attains a reasonable altitude AND the parachute slows its descent to gain more air time. Let me digress…

We were met at the Boeing facility by Greg and Didi Stanley. I met Greg back in 1998 at the Hawley School, and we have been great friends ever since. Though he lives in NorCal, we spent many a weekend hanging out at National and Divisional races when he raced Super Gas with his homebuilt S-10 truck. I don’t get to see Greg often anymore, as the Pro racing limits my time, and Greg sold his operation a few years ago.

Anyway, Didi wanted to surprise Greg with an early present for his upcoming 50th, so she planned a mini vacation for them in SoCal. And, what better way to spend your vacation than launching soda bottles with your buddy and his family?

Which brings me back to my story…

While Jenna assisted Jason building what I thought looked like a lame, bland, “lucky-if-it’ll-fly” effort, Greg and I teamed up on what I knew would be the star of the show. We elected to go with three fins instead of four for less aerodynamic drag, and we even profiled our leading edges to gain a bigger advantage. I custom made probably the coolest parachute that had ever been developed by a hobby rocketeer, and we carefully chose just the right amount of water to ensure a high apogee (that’s a rocket engineer term, cuz that’s what I was feeling like). While in line for the launches, I tried my best not to snicker at Jason’s crude-appearing effort, and I even helped him fix his nose cone when it fell off. I just hoped he wasn’t going to be too hurt at the disparity between our two rockets once they launched. I don’t think he was…

Watching many of these builds disintegrate at liftoff, I became a bit nervous about how ours would perform. Many a launch ended with what looked like confetti, as the fins, nosecone, and parachute often went their own separate ways barely 5 feet into the launch. Some efforts went reasonably high, but nearly no one’s parachute system seemed to work, greatly limiting the amount of time the rocket spent in air.

Now, if a question on the TV show Jeopardy featured the answer, “3.14”, an intelligent person may answer, “the first three digits of pi” and be correct. However, that also would be the answer for Greg and mine’s rocket attempt, though I think the guy on the stopwatch was slow activating his button. Ours went up about 30 feet…and came straight down with a thud. When Jenna and Jason shot a 6.84, also without parachute assistance, I learned a valuable lesson: crude is better! Though NASA may not agree with my assessment, I have the data to support it!

When I got home from dropping Jason at school, Layla was already up and downstairs (that’s a confusing phrase…let’s say she was ‘awake’ and in the lower level of our dwelling). She had opened the pantry, got herself a box of cookies, and had neatly organized them on a chair while she munched a few and carried on a conversation with the rest (they were animal cookies, so I guess she isn’t crazy). We spent some quality time cuddling, I got her a fresh diaper, and then it was time to finish talking to you guys. I sure do love my kids.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of milestones of sorts. First, Jason’s baseball team broke its perfect streak. Yes, after 15 games and probably 30 practices, our White Sox had yet to win! Sporting a record of 0-13-2, it had been an arduous, patience-testing season for our band of ADD ball handlers. When we finally broke through for the first win, the kids didn’t seem too phased. Us coaches were all hugging, kissing (okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit), breaking down in tears, and uncorking champagne. Suddenly the White Sox were unstoppable, dominating the division and continuing their winning ways (translation: we squeaked out two more wins). With six teams in the division, it appears that four of us are fairly evenly matched, and the win typically goes to the team that hits the fewest  batters with pitches, and chews on their gloves while in the field the least. The Yankees are a notch above the other teams, and at the top are the Dodger, who stacked their team with the older, bigger, better players. Those happened to be the last two stops during our regular season, and the outcome was predictable. If I told you we scored the same number of runs in each game, and it’s a round number (think, “very round”, as in a geometric shape), then I think you’d accurately guess the results. Still, it felt good to finally beat something other than our heads against the wall.

MacGyver would have been proud of me! All it takes its some basic tools, an old pickup truck…
…and an older forklift, and there you have it!

The other milestone that I was referring to involved my Blackbird Super Comp dragster. I don’t think the trailer had moved 1 inch in our backyard in over three years, and the car has sat quietly inside. Well, now that my garage in done, it was time to put a car into it. Since the El Camino is a distance away at the Comstock’s car museum (and I have no way to tow it back here), then the dragster made the most since. The plan is to empty out the contents of the trailer and put it up for sale. What happens with the racecar is still up in the air.

Putting the dragster in the garage was an easy concept to grasp, but the logistics were considerably tougher: With a long wheelbase, a terrible turning radius, and a steep ramp up into a dirt area with a tight turn into the garage, this effort took some ingenious planning and execution.

Who am I kidding? What it took was a floorjack, the trusty Nissan, the forklift, 3 ratchet straps, one slightly smoked clutch, a shovel to repeatedly dig out the tires of the forklift, and some old plywood to mitigate the old Clark from spinning the tires and sinking into the dirt. It also took a couple of hours, and several glasses of water. At 102 degrees, I think I picked the most opportune day to spend playing in the dirt.

After all was said and done, the dragster was in the garage safely, the Clark was no longer stuck in the dirt, and the Nissan clutch is just fine. The bumper may be a little worse for wear, but that’s just splitting hairs.

Okay, I’ve got to finish packing and hit the road for Ontario airport. It’s time to head to Atlanta and go get our trophy!

Stay tuned, rockets and airplanes rule, don’t bet on baseball, and shoveling dirt is hard on the back!

Heroes and parades, bubbles and eggsThursday, April 24, 2014
Posted by: Jack Beckman, Valvoline MaxLife Dodge


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Mary and Gary Linfoot continue to sacrifice every day for defense of our way of life. They gave…now it’s OUR turn!
 
Contrary to what I thought, apparently the race in Charlotte was NOT intended to get this team started on our winning ways. Nope, it appears that the gods of racing did not favor us during the four-wide event this year, as we fell from competition in round one by .000. No, that’s not a typo…had we been one- stinking -thousandth of a second better, it would have been the Valvoline team (and not eventual winner Robert Hight) advancing to the “semis” (it’s a bit confusing for the four wide, so I won’t elaborate on how the second round and the semis are technically one and the same).

What was awesome about Charlotte actually took place long before we even warmed the car up for qualifying. We did the official press conference and unveiled our new “Infinite Hero” car, which will debut this weekend in Houston and run five more times during the season. It’s simply one of the most bitchin’ looking funny cars ever, AND the cause we are helping is something that everyone can support with pride.

Please take a moment, log onto infinitehero.org, and check out how you can be a part of helping our wounded veterans.

Gary and Mary Linfoot were on hand for the conference and debut of the car, and they put a true face on why this cause is so important. Gary spent 23 years in the Army, and was a Special Operations helicopter pilot. When a mechanical failure caused his craft to crash, Gary spent four years confined to a wheelchair. I believe there is no hope to reverse his paralysis, but through the help of Infinite Hero, Gary was provided an “exoskeleton” to enable him to stand up and actually walk again. Meeting Gary, as well as his wife Mary (who is a hero in a different capacity and just as important to the IH cause), was very inspirational for me, making me want to put in the extra effort to ensure the maximum success with our campaign.

I would like to stress the point that our racecar not only doesn’t cost the foundation one dime, but that all expenses to provide this awareness platform for our troops were covered by two very special folks: Terry Chandler and Don Schumacher. Those two combined to pay the entire bill for each and every race where we will proudly carry the purple and black into competition.

All of you should be familiar with Mr. Schumacher, but many of you may not recognize Terry’s name. She is an incredible lady who also felt strongly enough about helping out seriously ill children that she personally funded an entire season for the Make-A-Wish race team, similarly helping that cause use racing to increase awareness and funding for a much-needed program. I couldn’t possibly express in words how proud and thankful I am towards Terry and Don.

I think the lower section of the left wall turned out real nice. It’s hard to tell if this looks like a surgery center, OR more like Dr. Frankenstein’s lab!
Carpet remnants from the house…check. Attic Insulation…check.  Grandpa’s old homework desk…check. Two kids ready to convert dad’s new garage into their own play house…you bet!

By the time this blog posts I should be well on my way to Houston, and I’m really getting “jacked- up” (I suppose I’m allowed to say that!) about hopping into our Infinite Hero Dodge. Later this year we again will run the “Wounded Warrior Project” paint scheme, and as a veteran it gives me such satisfaction and pride to be able to do something solid for our injured vets.

Lest you think that I’ve been slacking on the home front…err…you may be partially correct. (I wonder if subconsciously, knowing the garage project is nearing completion, if perhaps I have “milked” a couple of items of completion). That being said, I pretty much am done with the detail work on the inside, finally finishing the cover on the last lower section of wall. I really wanted to cover the three-foot-tall concrete wall that makes up the footing on the property-line side (it also doubles as a retaining wall for the dirt slope) with polished diamond-plate aluminum, but I really didn’t feel like spending another $550 just to look cool. Drywall wouldn’t look good and would surely get run into several times, paint wouldn’t cover all the imperfections, and I don’t have enough Valvoline decals to completely cover the wall, so I had to brainstorm.

I went with the material that is used for dry erase boards because: it’s white and shiny, it would only take four sheets, its low maintenance, AND…it’s less than $70 total to finish the wall! Once I got it all cut, glued on, topped with molding (then painted and caulked that)…I was a pretty happy camper. Once back from Houston I will remove a large cabinet from the main garage to install in the new project, then I should be ready to start cramming a bunch of random “stuff” into my new baby.

I actually have already packed about 1/3 of the attic. To appease the wife, I have emptied quite a bit from the house closets, so she now can fill THOSE with more crap…but HER crap! Boxes of National Dragsters, old car magazines, and trophies not only from my bracket racing days, but a couple dozen dating back to the late ‘70’s from my BMX adventures. While going through boxes and deciding what stays/goes, I’ve come across many things that have sparked some memories. I actually found the timeslips from the first day that I ever raced on a dragstrip. I wish they were dated (this was back in 1986 and Lubbock filled theirs out by hand), but they still are cool to me. I’ve got marbles from the 1940’s that belonged to my dad, I’ve got his father’s World War I Army uniform (!!), baseball card sets that I purchased in the early 80’s and just left in the boxes, and certificates and training manuals from my time in the Air Force.

It’s neat digging through that old stuff, but it’s also easy to get caught up in it all and waste half a day.

Fortunately, I didn’t have half a day to waste, as we had family stuff to do….

Baseball is at least two (sometimes three) times a week, and our White Sox boast an unblemished record. Yep, we have lost every single game (and we’ve played quite a few!) we’ve played! Actually, I think we may have tied once (like that will get us into the playoffs!), but who’s counting?


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Proudly wearing my Oakley Infinite Hero glasses, sporting my “participant” ribbon, and working on my parade walk, here I dodge horse poop and follow my son and his posse as they fling candy to the unsuspecting throngs of onlookers.
 
Norco has lots of parades, I think so the residents can show off their horses on Sixth Street. Many of the little leaguers were invited to participate in one the day before Easter, so I felt obliged (Jenna made me) to help out. While Jason and the other ball players threw candy to the spectators, I got to walk along next to their trailer, doing my best to avoid all the trophies left in the road by the hooved manure generators. I don’t know what these folks are feeding their horses, but I was in total disbelief (and disgust)!

Speaking of Easter, of course we did the requisite egg-dying and hunting. I am proud to say that no eggs were harmed in the making of our Easter. Okay… about 5 didn’t make it…but it was Layla’s fault.

We also took the kids back to the Discovery Science Center, as it apparently was the end of “bubble month”. I may have my opinions on the excitement I feel at staring at translucent orbs of soap, but I dare not “pop the bubble” of my children when it comes to their fun. Also, Jenna made it clear this wasn’t a “voluntary” assignment for me.

Other than that, there’s not too much excitement to report at Beckman Central, unless your idea of fun is running sprinkler line underneath the footing of a wall, or having to dig down through 4 feet of dirt on the other side to make the connection. Nope, that wasn’t very enjoyable for me, either. However, mounting exterior gable lights on both sides of the garage wasn’t the hardest project, nor was mounting an additional handle on the garage door. Seems there’s always two or three more detail items that get added to the list…

Stay tuned, support our troops, don’t pop people’s bubbles, and definitely don’t step in horse poo. 
 

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