Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween, winter driving, Blue Knights and getting ready for the 2010 racing season

Three more days until Halloween. For our area, it looks like we’ll still have mild, although windy, weather. In the 20 years I’ve been a Police Officer in Beatrice, I don’t recall anybody being hit by a car or any other major incident. Everybody seems to behave themselves pretty well - at least the younger ghosts and goblins do. Halloween this year also falls on the night that Daylight Savings Time ends, and that will give the older people another hour to live it up, it they so choose. For those of you who are partying that night, PLEASE find a sober designated driver!

For parents, please stay with your child while they are trick or treating. Be sure when they cross the street, they do it in a well-lit area. Dress them in costumes that are easy to see and don’t obstruct their vision. In our small town, I don’t believe we’ve ever had a problem with tainted treats, but it anything is suspected of being tampered with, throw it away. Our part of town doesn’t get many trick or treaters, but Jan usually makes pre-packaged items and puts our name in it so parents know where it came from.

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It is still awfully early, but it looks like winter will be here before we want it to be. With the weather comes people driving in an environment that they need to take some time to get acclimated to.

The first thing we usually see is frosted over windshields in the morning. This brings out what I call the “peephole” drivers. You know what I’m talking about - you’ve all seen them and we’ve all been guilty of being one. Take a few extra minutes to scrape ALL the frost off your windshield, windows and rear glass before you move the car. If it’s still dark and you meet another vehicle with it’s headlights on, you won’t be able to see anything!

Be careful of “black ice,” which you won’t be able to see until it’s too late. If you should get into it, don’t panic and gently let off the gas. Don’t jump on the brakes - as you slow down, tap them gently. When there’s actually snow and ice on the streets and highways, be sure to give yourself plenty of extra stopping room between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you, as well as coming to a stop sign or stop light.

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I once stopped a guy who was driving in a heavy snow. He had only a “peephole” cleared on his windshield and about 4” to 6” of snow on the rest of his car, including the side windows. He went through a stop sign about a half block ahead of me without even slowing down. When I stopped him, he protested the ticket for running the stop sign because “there wasn’t anything coming.” Never mind that he couldn’t SEE if there was anything coming. I guess he ended up paying his fine for the stop sign violation and obstructed vision because I didn’t have to testify against him in court. Whether he believed it or not, he was a hazard on the road. I made him clean all his windows before I let him go.

Be sure to stock your food pantry BEFORE a storm hits so you don’t have to go out in it to get groceries or other supplies. When the snow is blowing and you can’t see a block away, you should be staying safe and sound in your house.

Like I’ve mentioned in the past, with the weather getting cooler, most of my motorcycle riding will be restricted to short day rides, and planning for trips in 2010. We’re looking forward to making the Blue Knights International Convention in Billings, Montana in July 2010. I’m also looking into hosting the Spring 2011 Spring Conference in Beatrice. That will be taking up a good amount of my time. Hotel needs to be finalized as well as rates, banquet lined up and activities as well as food and drink for the hospitality room. I guess it’s time to get busy!

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In addition to that, we’re trying to get one of our race cars as well as a trailer sold. I have some engines to freshen up. I did a quick check on the engine that Jeremy ran and maybe we didn’t hurt it too bad. Looks like a valve train problem. I won’t know until I start to get it apart. I hope to get the engine out and on the engine stand in the next week or so.

Thanks for checking me out, and be sure to leave comments.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

2009 Cool McCool 100

We were able to get a decent weekend weather-wise after the snow storms the week before. Jeremy and I got the race cars loaded up early on Saturday and were on the road for McCool Junction and the Cool McCool 100 shortly before 10 AM. Pretty good considering I wanted to leave by 9:30.

The skies were cloudy when we left. I thought I even saw a couple of raindrops on the windshield as we traveled west out of Beatrice. However, there was virtually no wind and the farther west we went, the thinner the clouds were. About 15 miles from the track, the clouds started to break up and the sun was shining. We pulled up to the pit gate just before 11:30, with just 2 trailers in line ahead of us. As I got out of the truck, another Beatrice regular, Brenden Stigge, was also there.

Once the pit gates opened, we pulled in and parked on the north side of Brenden. Their enclosed trailer would serve as a good windbreak later on in the weekend. We got the cars unloaded and last minute checks done in preparation for hot laps.

Alex Humphrey pulled in with Al’s car and parked straight west of us. I talked to him a bit and learned that Al had planned to go to a race in Nevada, MO but found a potential problem with his engine, so stayed at home. Alex had some problems with his car at I-80’s Cornhusker Classic and didn’t have it ready to go, so he’d already planned to drive his dad’s car at JMS. Al came in a bit later and was around all weekend to get the car set up for Alex.

We got the call to draw our numbers for starting positions and transponders. Jeremy decided he wanted me to draw for him, too. I drew 23 for me and 36 for Jeremy. As it worked out, he would start out behind me in the same heat.

Jeremy had never even seen the track before, let alone raced on it. We looked over the track from the catwalk and I pointed out what I could to him, noting that he should be especially careful about coming out of turn 2. That corner has historically eaten up a lot of cars.

We finally got the call for hot laps. When we got on the track, it was already getting dry slick. I was still feeling my car out, and only got 1 ½ laps in when the engine quit and I dropped to the bottom of the track on the back chute. The way it sounded, I was sure I had a problem with the distributor. I had a spare on the trailer and knew it would be faster to just change it rather than try to trouble shoot it. Once back in the pits, we checked for spark and sure enough, there was none. We got the distributor changed and the timing set in a few minutes. Check tire pressures on both cars and top both fuel cells off and we’re ready for our heat race.

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I lined up on the outside of the 2nd row, and Jeremy was no the inside of the 3rd row, At the drop of the green, the pack was off. Into 1 and the car on my inside didn’t turn, hitting me in the left front. Jeremy went by me on the bottom and that was pretty much the last I saw of him. My car felt OK as when I turned the wheel, the car turned and felt like I had all my tires under me. I kept it going and finished the heat race, passing Jeremy on the last lap when he spun out in front of me. That would be the only time all weekend I finished ahead of him.

When I slowed after taking the checkers, my front end felt funny. Once in the pits, I found that the contact on the first lap ruined my left front wheel and shredded the tire. Both were brand new when I got the car 6 weeks ago.

When the line-up came out for the B Feature, I found I was on the inside of the 5th row with Jeremy starting behind me because of his spin-out. Once again, we topped off the fuel and checked air pressures. Track was smooth so we dropped the air pressures by 2 lbs. There were 15 cars scheduled to start the B Feature; the top 10 would go to the night’s A Feature. The top 6 out of that would be locked in to Sunday’s A Feature. Everybody else would have to try to qualify all over again.

By the time we got back out, the track was pretty rubbered-down and it looked like the bottom was the fast way around. But, some cars were also working about half-way up the track in the corners. It had been pretty dusty earlier, but it looked like we would at least be able to see when we got onto the track.

Once again, when the green fell, Jeremy went by me almost immediately. A few laps later and the yellow came out for an incident on the back chute, just ahead of Jeremy. Under yellow, my car didn’t feel quite right. It took a lap to figure it out, but for some reason my brakes were dragging quite a bit. I managed to finish, however, neither of us were able to finish far enough forward to make the evening’s A Feature. When the checkers fell on the B Feature, racing was over for both of us.

Sunday morning dawned brisk and windy. We had a good spot in the motel lot where we could unload and work on the cars. I changed rear calipers as those were the ones that weren’t releasing. However, once everything was done, the brakes were still hanging up. Further checking found that a plastic brake line going to the rear brakes was pinched, making it act like a valve in the line and locking the rear brakes. Once that problem was taken care of, the brakes worked fine.

Once again, Jeremy had me draw for starting positions for both of. I didn’t do a very good job of things, drawing 83 for me and 86 for Jeremy. We were once again in the same heat and starting in the back. With the brakes working right, my car was better, but even though Jeremy started behind me, he took the bottom on the drop of the green and finished ahead of me. However, only the winner went to the A Feature and everybody else had to go to the B Feature. The top 12 from the B Feature would fall in at the back of the A Feature.

The weather had warmed up nicely; however, the wind picked up pretty good. Once again the track stayed smooth, but got dry slick in a hurry. It started out dusty, but by the time we hit the track for the B Feature, it wasn’t too bad. Even starting in the back, I could see fairly well.

At the drop of the green there was a mad scramble to get to the front. Jeremy started ahead of me and I was hoping to stay with him. However, he drove a great race and once again finished ahead of me, taking 7th. I got the final transfer spot - 12th. We were both in the A Feature!

We didn’t have a lot of time to get things ready. Set out a couple of tires in case of a flat. Jeremy said he’d had a miss in the engine the last few laps and we checked over all his spark plug wires, but didn’t find anything. We’d already changed a right rear on Jeremy’s car as that tire looked almost like a slick. The dry slick track was taking its toll on tires this weekend.

JMS tries to keep the show going and usually gets each race lined up in the staging area in plenty of time. They were already calling us to come to the staging area, so we got strapped in and waited for the other cars to start to line up. Sitting where we were, I didn’t know if there were a bunch of yellows, but it was a long wait. I’d decided to get out and go to the bathroom when cars finally started to go to the staging area. Once we were lined up, the official motioned us to go to the area where we would wait for the race ahead of us to get done.

Another long wait and I could see the lap counter on the infield at 20 laps. There was a lot of dust again so they watered the track and rolled it in. I couldn’t take it any longer - out of the car and made a dash for the restrooms about 200 yards away. I got back to my car in plenty of time, as the green was just coming out to start the hobby A Feature. NOTE: Petition the track for a port-a-pot on the northwest corner of the track.

Getting strapped back into the car, I still had plenty of time to relax and think about the upcoming race. I could see there was still some dust kicking up, but as the race went on it wasn’t as bad. As we pulled onto the track, it looked like a pretty good surface. In a couple of laps we’re lined up and the lights are flashing on the back chute. Out of 4 and we’re green. Let’s go racing!!

Jeremy started a couple of rows ahead of me and when the green flew, he went to the bottom of the track in 1. There was a big group of cars there but he got through the corner and onto the back chute, picking up a couple of spots in doing so. I’m still right on the back bumper of the 15s, who started on my inside.

A few laps in and there’s a big mix-up and spin on the back chute just ahead of Jeremy. We both miss it and when things are sorted out, a couple of the cars involved are out of the race. Another pits for a tire and is back on the track, picking up the back of the field.

I’d started 22nd and as I counted back while we were under yellow, I’m thinking I’m in 18th or 19th. Jeremy is about 5 or 6 spots ahead of me already. The green waves again and we’re back to racing. Once again there’s a bunch of cars just ahead of me all running fender to fender. A lot of rubbing going on. I pass a couple of cars and there are others dropping out. The 15s and another car rub pretty hard, and on the next lap, the 15s slows with a lot of smoke. He’s done for the night.

When the checkers fall, we’ve had a decent night. Jeremy took the white flag in 6th place, but the engine had developed a miss. On the last lap, the oil light started to flicker and he lost some spots, ending up in 9th place. Jeremy shut the engine down as he crossed the finish line. I finish 10th, but was so far behind Jeremy that I didn’t catch up to him until he rolled to a stop on the back chute.

Hopefully, the weekend helped work out some bugs in the new car. Once the cars got home and unloaded, we were able to better assess what direction we’ll be headed for 2010. We have the SCS car and our old trailer up for sale - I’m just too old to keep 2 cars going to race every week. I say this every year - and sometime I will actually follow up - I really want to spend more of 2010 taking some trips on the Gold Wing. The Blue Knights International Convention is at Billings, Montana in July and that is one trip we definitely want to make.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Internet and other scams

With the advent of the internet, there are many scams coming to the general public. Being in law enforcement, our department receives at least a couple of calls a month from somebody who has either lost money or been contacted, either by phone, e-mail or snail mail, in regards to being scammed.

Being around stock car racing, one learns quickly what an expensive sport it is. One way to save some money on parts is going on the various message boards and advertising the items you are selling or trying to buy. However, you have to be careful about accepting money orders, cashier’s checks, etc for merchandise you’re selling.

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A couple of years ago, I advertised my race car in the classified section of I received an email from a guy who identified himself as “Jerry Thomas.” He wanted to know if I still had the car, if I had pictures, what was the bottom dollar, etc. However, in reading through the email, I saw a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, as well as sentence structure that wasn’t quite “right.” I replied with a couple of pictures, and he answered that if I still had the car, he would buy it. I asked where he lived so we could make arrangements, but he would not answer me.

Jerry then sent me an email and told me to take the ad of the website and that he would be sending me the “funds.” He told me when I received the “funds” to deposit them. However, he told me he was sending me substantially more than what I was asking for the car. He wanted me to send the extra money by Western Union back to him so he could pay his “shipper.” By now, I knew this just had to be a scam.

In a day or two, I got a UPS envelope delivered to my door. Inside were three money orders for $890 each. Keep in mind I was asking $750 for the car. Within the hour, I received another email from Jerry, telling me to immediately cash the money orders and send the balance to him so he could get his “shipper” on the way.

The money orders looked good, but I called the number listed on the back of the check to verify that the checks were good. The security division was able to quickly tell me that two of the checks had already been cashed and the third had never been issued and was cancelled. The checks that had been cashed were both for substantially less than what the checks were made out for.

I shot “Jerry” an email back and told him I would send the money to him as soon as the money orders cleared my bank, and that it could take as long as 21 days. He said to keep in contact with him. Every couple of days he would send an e-mail asking if I had to money yet and I’d tell him the bank was still processing the money orders. In the meantime, I kept asking him where he lived, but he would never answer me.

There are free programs on the internet that allow you to find out where an e-mail has originated from. Early on, I used that to track Jerry’s e-mails and found that they were coming from three different computers located at the same address. That address was in Nigeria!!

I finally sent Jerry an e-mail back and told him the bank would not cash the money orders because my name was hand-written in instead of typed in. He told me he would “contact my client” and have “more funds” sent to me. Another couple of days and I get another Fed Ex, this time containing five American Express Travelers Checks for $500 each. The first problem had already arisen - American Express does not have $500 Travelers Checks!!

To make a long story short, I kept putting Jerry off, then I told him I would not wire money to him for his “shipper,” instead I would give the “shipper” the cash when he came to pick up the car. Jerry started whining about that, saying that wasn’t the deal. I told him that was the only way the deal was going to go, and he then demanded his money back, threatening to go to the FBI if I didn’t return his money!

I shot Jerry an email back and told him if he was going to notify the FBI, to be sure to contact the Omaha office, as that was the closest one to where I lived. I also gave him the correct number. A couple of days later, I shot him another email and asked if he’d heard anything from the FBI. I told him if I did not hear from him I’d be spending all his money on Christmas presents for my grandkids. Another day of not hearing anything and I sent another email explaining that I am a police officer and I already knew that he was actually in Nigeria. I told him he had better be watching over his shoulder because some day he would be sitting at his computer trying to scam somebody when he felt a tap on his shoulder and I would be standing there with an International Arrest Warrant.

Since the money orders weren’t cashed, there wasn’t a crime committed. If I had cashed the money orders, I’d have been the one on the hook for the money, and the scammer would have been off scott-free.

There are a lot of variations of this, including people actually getting a letter in the mail along with a check. The letter says the recipient has won a lottery and they need to cash the check and send part of it back to pay the “fees.” I’ve worked several of these and done some follow up on them. I’ve contacted the companies the checks were written on and in each case the checks were fake. The companies had been plagued with these fake checks for some time.

I currently have the SCS race car advertised on dirt Today I received an obvious scam email from “Donna Salter.” The context of email follows:

“Good Day,
I saw your advert posted am so much interested in buying your older SCS stock car and firstly i will like to know your last asking price for it and i also hope is in great condition.. so get back to me ASAP and i look forward to hear back from you.

The email address is from a United Kingdom address. I can’t believe there isn’t a race car for sale closer to the United Kingdom than Nebraska! I guess I’ll see how much I can get this scammer riled up!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Octoberfest 2009

After spending a good portion of my free time the last three weeks working on getting the race cars ready for Octoberfest at Beatrice Speedway, I’m not sure if we will get to race. Not because of some unexpected mechanical bug, but because when I got up a little while ago, there was SNOW on the ground!! Not much, mind you, since the ground is still too warm for the dreaded white stuff to stay for very long, but snow nonetheless.

I didn’t go to the track last night as I figured one day of freezing would be one day too many. From the looks of the results posted on the website, there was a good field of cars. I heard Beatrice Fire & Rescue leave the track and head for the station at 11:20 PM. I wonder how many people were left in the stands. The weather last night was clear, calm and as soon as the sun went down, it was COLD!!

I keep hearing about how Congress is spending billions of dollars to keep “Global Warming” in check. Here’s news for our Congress - I DON’T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING!! I keep pretty detailed records on my Gold Wing, especially when it comes to changing oil, putting gas in it, etc. In 2006, the last time I put gas in it was in December. The following year it was the middle of November. As much as I love to ride, if this weather doesn’t straighten up soon, you probably won’t see me on the Gold Wing until spring!

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I’ve gotten cold at the race track before, but March of 2008 was the first time I was in a snowstorm while waiting for the races to start. We went to Thunderhill Speedway at Mayetta, KS to race on a Sunday afternoon. The forecast called for high temperatures of 50. I knew as we unloaded that the temps were nowhere near that. We went out and rolled the track in, then pulled back into the pits to get ready for hot laps. As we pulled back into the staging area, it began snowing!! It was not just a few flurries, as for a while visibility was about a hundred yards. It didn’t last long, though, and it quit while we were on the track, before the green came out for hot laps. I thought that would be the coldest weather I would ever race in. However, there’s the distinct possibility that it will be colder today if the races come off. The predicted high for today is 38 degrees. I hope I can find enough warm clothes. I do know where my long underwear is because I only just recently put it away.

We had originally planned to load the 6x last night, then Jeremy was going to pull it to work. As soon as he got off work, he was going to head to the track. However, the schedule was moved up and with the questionable weather, I plan to take one car to the track, then return and get the other car. He will come to the track with the other trailer when he gets off work. If we get the plug pulled before he gets off work, we won’t have to unload his car in the weather.

If we do get weathered out, we will still have the chance to race at McCool Junction next weekend. The Cool McCool 100 is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, October 17th & 18th, and we are planning to make the trip out there with both cars. That will be the end of the season for us.

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Just got back from the Women for Racing pancake breakfast. The races are cancelled. Here’s hoping next weekend is better and we can finish the season with good weather.


One of the hazards of being a law enforcement officer is the possibility that you may not be coming home at the end of your shift. The stark reality is that in 2008, 138 Law Enforcement Officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Of these, 39 were from gunfire, 12 were struck by a vehicle, 12 were by vehicular assault, 9 were from motorcycle accident and 35 were by automobile accidents.

So far in 2009, there have been 90 line of duty deaths. These include 34 by gunfire, 4 struck by vehicle, 9 by vehicular assault, 3 by motorcycle accident, and 27 by automobile accidents. Beginning in 2000, the U.S. has lost 299 Law Enforcement Officers to traffic accidents. The only thing that has taken more officers’ lives in that time period is gunfire.

I feel fortunate that in my 25 years as a Police Officer, nobody I have worked with has been involved in a serious accident. I remember, way back in the Training Center, it was drilled into our minds that we are responsible to drive with regards to the safety of the public as well as our own safety. Driving with red lights and siren doesn’t mean we don’t have to watch for civilians.

I worked an accident many years ago involving an ambulance. The ambulance was bringing a heart patient in to the hospital and was struck by a car at a busy intersection. I was a mile or so away when I get the call, which was dispatched as a possible injury accident. Dispatch told me a vehicle was on its side and there was already an ambulance on the scene.

I responded with red lights and siren, but I also was careful. At intersections with stop signs, I slowed down and nearly stopped at least once for other traffic. I wasn’t going to do anybody any good if I didn’t make it to the scene. When I arrived on the scene, I found it was the ambulance that was involved in the accident. The driver ran a red light and was broadsided. The driver told me he was going 55 to 60 MPH with his red lights and siren, and that he did not slow down for the intersection, even he had the red light. It was a warm day and the other driver had his windows up and air conditioning going and never heard or saw the ambulance until they collided. Fortunately, there were only minor injuries and the patient made it to the hospital in a different ambulance.

A story in the Las Vegas Review Journal prompted me to write what I’m writing now. Late Wednesday evening, officers were responding to a call. Witnesses claim that the patrol car was going at a high speed and was not using red lights or siren. A car pulled out from an intersection and the officer swerved to miss the car. The patrol car rolled and the officer who was driving was killed. His partner is listed in serious condition. In reading the first account of the incident, I couldn’t help but notice that the officer who died was thrown from the vehicle.

I started looking through the Officer Down Memorial Page ( ) to see how many officers are killed each year in automobile accidents. I was amazed as I read through these accounts at how many officers apparently were not wearing their seat belts. Many officers were ejected from their vehicles, which would not have happened if they were wearing their seat belts.

I am as guilty as the next person of not buckling up. We get a “hot” call and pile into the car and take off without buckling up. But, there are many times when we are initially detailed that another officer gets there before we do, and the call ends up being nothing. It’s not worth risking being hurt or worse - BUCKLE UP!!

Another thing I noticed was the amount of accidents that happen in less than ideal conditions. Rain, snow, darkness, etc. Sure, we’ve had some pursuit training, but the practical, if there was one, was under controlled conditions. Slow down a bit!

I had the opportunity to attend the Nebraska Law Officers’ Memorial dedication in Grand Island, Nebraska this spring. It was a fitting ceremony. The names of all fallen Nebraska officers were read off during the ceremony. The names are on the memorial. Unfortunately, another name has been added since the dedication.

I hope to some day be able to attend the Law Enforcement Memorial Week in Washington, D.C. This is during the week of May 15th each year and included activities all week dedicated to the memories of fallen officers as well as helping the survivors heal.

In a few more years I intend to hang up the badge and gun. I hope that I won’t be attending any funerals before then, irregardless of why that particular officer did not come home at the end of their shift.