Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More 2010 Line of Duty Deaths; Blue Knights at Chesapeake, VA; Progress on the race car; Beatrice Speedway releases 2011 schedule

Since I talked about the LOD death of Weld County, Colorado Deputy, 8 more law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in the United States. As of today, 156 officers have lost their lives in 2010. Of these, 55 have been killed by gunfire. The Officer Down Memorial Page reports that the next highest cause of death in 2010 has been from automobile accidents. That does not include motorcycle accidents, of which 5 officers died.

The latest reported death was that of Officer Andrew Rameas of the Harker Heights, Texas Police Department. Officer Rameas was killed while providing a motorcycle escort for a funeral procession through Killeen, Texas on December 20th.

Of the 5 reported LOD deaths on motorcycles, four were in Texas and one was in Louisiana. The one in Louisiana also involved an escort; however, it was a parade escort.

Texas has had 16 officer LOD deaths, while both California and the Federal Government has had 11.

The National Transportation Safety Board released figures that showed that in 2009, 4,400 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. Miles traveled by motorcycle are on the increase, and will probably keep increasing as the price of gasoline keeps going up. I know that if it weren’t for having a motorcycle, there are a lot of places we’ve been that we couldn’t have afforded to have gone to. We’ve ridden close to 150,000 miles since I got my first Gold Wing. We got our ‘06 in July 2006 and currently have 32,000 miles on it. Many of those miles have been going to and from Blue Knights events. We plan to attend the Blue Knights International Convention at Chesapeake, Virginia in July of 2011. We will be doing a lot of sightseeing on the way there, once we get there and on the way home.

Given my occupation and my off duty pursuits of motorcycle touring and stock car racing, I am statistically more likely to be killed at work or play than the average person on the street. A few years ago, Jan & I both had our wills drawn up. Three years ago, a Gage County Deputy, who was also a volunteer firefighter, lost his life in a house fire. Shortly after that, officers in my department received data sheets to fill out with all our last wishes to include pallbearers, songs and music to be played, etc. This is something I haven’t done yet, and it’s something I really need to finish. I plan to finish our my career, retire, race every week and ride a million miles, but JUST IN CASE, I really need to finish filling out that paper!

Speaking of Chesapeake, the time will be here before we know it. I need to start planning routes and how long it will take to get there and home. Jan reminded me she will have to get her calendar marked so she will know how much time off she will have to take.

I’m spending some time in the garage working on the race car on my days off. I have most of the interior fitted and spot welded into place. I’d have liked to have spent more time working on it tonight, but I’m running out of firewood for the woodburner and it was getting pretty cold so I knocked off.











Beatrice Speedway has put up their 2011 schedule. They still haven’t put out anything about factory stocks & pro-ams being able to run together in 2011.

The season will kick off with Spring Nationals on Friday March 18th & Saturday March 19th. Sport compacts will be on the program on Friday and factory stocks will race on Friday. April 9th will be Test & Tune and the season will start on April 22nd. This will be the latest starting date in recent memory, but Beatrice always seems to have a lot of rain-outs the first part of the season, so maybe this will eliminate the rain-outs.

With the price of gasoline already being $3 a gallon, I probably won’t be going to Columbus this summer. Of course, maybe a sponsor will step up and offer to keep my hauler full of fuel for me…..  That's about as likely to happen as me winning an A Feature in 2011,





Friday, December 3, 2010

Beatrice Speedway 2011 schedule?? Cooperation between racers

It’s December 3rd, and still no word out of Beatrice Speedway about what will be happening in 2011. I sure hope something comes out soon. I’m not the only one - there was a question posed this afternoon on the Beatrice Speedway message board on DirtDrivers.com about when the schedule would come out. The Beatrice Speedway website still hasn’t had an update - the last time that happened was August 24th.

I have heard from what I consider a reliable source that the Fair Board will make a decision on the Beatrice Speedway website in the next week. I hope this comes to fruit and changes are made SOON!!

Judging by the classifieds section on DirtDrivers.com, a lot of people are either updating equipment, selling out, or changing classes. I’ve been asked why I don’t change classes - maybe go to a Sport Mod. There are many reasons for me not to change classes.

According to a poster on the message board who calls himself Salty Dog “ ernie would run last if they gave him an unlimited budget! “ I know who “Salty Dog” is, and I wonder how he came to that conclusion. He constantly posts complaints about how long race programs last. He must turn into a pumpkin at 10 PM. I know that Salty Dog has been around racing a long time, but for the life of me I can’t remember ever seeing him drive a race car.

Even though I’ve been around stock car racing since 1973, I did not get behind the wheel until 2002, when I was 50 years old. For the most part, I have to fix anything that gets bent or broken. If I’d started driving these things when I was 18, like a lot of the people out there, maybe I’d have gone faster or would go faster. No matter where I finish at on the track, I do the best I can. If I see that the leaders are coming up on me, I try to stay out of their way. If I can run with somebody, I will do it, but I am also careful to not run into them in order to make a pass on them. Change to a faster class - nope!! I am going fast enough right now, and there are times I go fast enough that I scare myself!!

Ever since we started racing, we’ve been careful about how we spend money. I have always had a very hard time asking anybody for money for anything, and racing is not a money making venture. Expenses and costs go up, but purses don’t. For somebody just starting out, it will take 3 or 4 seasons before an operation such as ours starts to have spare parts. The first two seasons we raced, we did not have a spare engine.

We’ve had a lot of help along the way. We’ve been given used wheels and tires that other racers were throwing away. When we first started racing, we didn’t have a garage or a trailer to haul the car with. Tom & Lori Wolf let us use their garage in Blue Springs. Flip Bitting let us use his trailer. The garage wasn’t insulated and Guy Brollini gave us a small wood burning stove to heat the garage.

Ron’s Automotive in Beatrice allowed me to use their parts washer when I needed it. We didn’t have a welder for the first couple of years, and Jeff Shew let us use his shop and welder. Pat Wells at NAPA in Beatrice did a lot of machine work on our engines over the years and on some of it I am sure he did not charge full price.

Over the years, Blue Knights Nebraska I have given us sponsorship money. Early on, we also got a little sponsorship money from Huston Motors and Penner Insurance in Beatrice. Most recently, Fashionette Salon and Nancy Gerdes, C.P.A./ P.C.  in Beatrice have been my main supporters.

While racing is a sport driven by money, it is also a lesson in cooperation between competitors. I have borrowed tools and parts from other racers, and have also loaned tools and parts. I’ve had racers want to pay me for the parts, and I simply told them to bring me the same part the next time we saw each other. I can’t think of a time when they didn’t do that, be it a fan belt or a control arm. I’ve even loaned out an engine for a few weekends after we got to the point where we had a spare available.

New tires now cost $94 each and some of the more well-funded teams have new tires every 3 or 4 weeks. I’ve been able to buy the used tires for a fraction of what new ones cost. I’ve also been given tires that were in a lot better shape than the ones I have been using. I had a guy who owns a Sport Mod team give me 11 tires, 4 of which had only one race on them. He also gave me 4 wheels that he could not use. When I asked what I owed him, he told me “Nothing. If somebody else needs some of those tires, let them have them.”

I usually go to the track by myself or with just one pit crew member. However, once our pit stall is set up, our numbers fluctuate. I’ve always had plenty of help from the teams pitted near me. I’ve pulled in with a flat, thinking I was done for the night, and just like that, a half dozen guys are changing the tire for me so I can get back out.

I’ve had pictures posted showing the work I’ve been doing on my car during the off season. Believe me, I don’t have the tools, know-how and expertise to make a firewall and floor pan for my race car. However, there are other racers who do. Rod Latta told me to get the materials and he would cut & form everything for me. All I will have to do is take it home and weld it together.

Speaking of which, I found that the sheet metal is supposed to be available in Beatrice. I called a week ago and was told that I could pick up what I needed on Wednesday. I called Rod and made arrangements to have him cut & bend everything on Thursday evening. I stopped Wednesday afternoon to get the sheet metal - they were STILL out! It MIGHT be here today…… We’ll see if it is or not. So much for “buying local?”

As you can see, racing year in and year out on the local scene really comes down to cooperation between all of the racers in all of the classes helping each other out. Without that cooperation, a lot of us could not afford to be involved in the sport we all love.
Al Humphrey - Midwest Speedway, Lincoln, NE 1976

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Hacked" on Facebook; No, I am NOT selling out and retiring - YET!! I-80 announces $25,000 to win Late Model show

Imagine my surprise Saturday when I logged onto my Facebook page and I saw my status: “blog update. I'm selling my race car. Any bidders? I'm quiting my job and leaving town on my motorcycle.” When the time comes, I may post something like that, but it won’t be for a couple of years, anyway. I also will not be selling my race car, unless it’s to upgrade.

I DO have a race car for sale, but it’s the SCS stock car we raced in 2009. I have advertised it on DirtDrivers.com on and off since last season but haven’t had any serious inquiries. Make me an offer, you might end up with a race car!

When I retire, that will give me more time to race. I will also be leaving town on my motorcycle a lot more than I am now.

This just goes to show that a person must ALWAYS be sure to log off any computer they are using. I am glad the AWP (Anonymous Weasel Poster) didn’t put anything bad on my status.

After working Wednesday and Thursday (Thanksgiving) nights, I got about 2 hours of sleep Friday morning before getting up and going to Lincoln for the Nebraska/Colorado game. We met Heather, Hollie & Ed on the west edge of Lincoln after having a quick cup of coffee with my brother and sister-in-law and nephew. Heather’s friends from Greeley saved us a parking place in the area where the new arena will be built and we spent almost 2 hours tailgating. Hamburgers, hot dogs and a variety of refreshments. I got about 20 winks, then we made the half mile walk to the stadium. By the time we found our seats, it was just under 30 minutes to kick-off.

I’m glad I bundled up. My only regret was that I did not have a ball cap. We were in the northeast corner of the stadium and after shading my eyes for the entire first half in order to see, I was glad when the sun dropped behind the west grandstands. It was a good game with a great crowd. I wonder what it will be like in the future, when the Big Red are in a different conference.

Once we made it back to the car, we were able to find our way to Spaghetti Works where we all enjoyed a good meal and some catching up. Once we were dropped off at our car & headed home, I slept like a rock until we pulled into the garage at home. Two hours of sleep just doesn’t cut it for me any more!

After all of the match-ups against the Oklahoma Sooners in the past, it’s only appropriate that Nebraska will be playing Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship on Saturday night. That brings back memories of Thanksgivings in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s spent at an uncle & aunt’s in Elkhorn watching Nebraska and Oklahoma battle for the Big 8 title. I sure miss those gatherings!

After spending Saturday at Jason & Emily’s for an “official” Thanksgiving, Sunday was spent removing the rest of the tin from the race car. I hope to be able to get the sheet metal cut and formed for the floor and firewall on my days off. I’ve NEVER done this much work on the car during the season!







David tells me that the engine he built for his class project at college will be going to the dyno between now and Christmas. Since it’s a class project, he says the dyno won’t cost me anything. I sure hope he’s right - I know that in Lincoln, dyno time runs at least $50 an hour.

I saw an announcement on DirtDrivers.com that I-80 Speedway near Greenwood, Nebraska is holding a late model special in July. They have announced that the winner of the A Feature will take home $25,000 and it will pay $1,000 just to start. This will be the largest “to win” race ever held in the state of Nebraska and should pull in the top dirt late model drivers from across the United States. I would just love to go, but it looks like this will be at the same time that we will be on the road to Chesapeake, Virginia for the Blue Knights International Convention. Maybe the race will become an annual event and I will be able to attend in the future.

While I-80 is already announcing their late model special, we have yet to hear anything out of Beatrice Speedway in regards to the 2011 schedule and rules. I sure hope they don’t wait as long as they did before the 2010 season to make any announcements. I do know that about 30 loads of dirt have been brought in and put on the track to help make the racing surface better. Other than that, if anybody knows anything, they certainly haven’t passed it on. I sure hope something is released soon!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Deputy Sam Brownlee, Weld County, Colorado; EOW 23 Nov 2010

I opened my e-mail when I got up today and found one from the Blue Knights e-mail list I am on. This concerned a Weld County, Colorado Deputy who was also a Blue Knight who was killed in the line of duty yesterday.

I have written in the past about officers losing their lives in the line of duty, and the Officer Down Memorial Page - ODMP.org - shows that so far in 2010, 147 officers have died in the line of duty. If I reported on every one, I would unfortunately be doing it full time.

The story of Deputy Sam Brownlee caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First, Deputy Brownlee was a Blue Knight. Blue Knights is the largest and best Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club in the world, with over 20,000 members world-wide. The other thing that caught my eye was the fact that it happened in Evans, Colorado, which borders Greeley on the south. My oldest daughter, Heather and her husband and son live in Greeley. Three years ago they moved from Evans to an area in Greeley which is farther west than where they were living.
There have not been a lot of details released about the actual shooting, but today it was reported that Deputy Brownlee was involved in a struggle with the suspect. The suspect eventually got Deputy Brownlee’s sidearm and shot Deputy Brownlee three times.  Other officers on the scene returned fire and the suspect was also killed.
The incident started an hour earlier with a domestic violence call in Ft Morgan, 55 miles east of Greeley. A woman reported that her car was stolen by a man she knew. The stolen car was spotted on Hwy 34 and a Morgan County Deputy and a Wiggins officer attempted to stop it. The driver refused to stop, and a nearly hour-long chase ensued with speeds reaching over 100 MPH at times. At times the suspect drove on the wrong side of the road and at Kersey, 10 miles east of Greeley, his vehicle was clocked at 107 MPH. Stop sticks were deployed to slow the vehicle down. The driver eventually stopped in Evans in the area of Coyote Lane and Cedar Lane. The suspect ran from the car and there was a foot pursuit that ended when Deputy Brownlee and the suspect were both shot.

The Greeley Tribune had a map along with the story. I thought the area sounded familiar to me, and when I checked it, I learned why. It is just about 4 blocks from where Heather and Dana used to live.

I will not name the 20-year old suspect because he does not deserve to have his name and picture made public. I will say this - he was a gang member and was currently on probation for felony menacing in January and DUI in July. He was also arrested for assault causing serious bodily harm in March, but that charge was dismissed. According to the Greeley Tribune, Court records show that the suspect still owes $30,000 restitution in the felony menacing case.

It appears that Colorado’s judicial and probation system failed the public by letting this career criminal back out on the street.

I send my condolences the family, friends and co-workers of Deputy Sam Brownlee. May God guide you through these difficult times. To Deputy Sam Brownlee, thank you for your service and rest well. Your fellow officers will take over from here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I HATE winter and cold weather!!

I have lived in Nebraska all my life, but the older I get, the more I hate the cold weather. We haven’t even had a lot of cold weather yet, and I already have one heck of a head cold! I woke up Tuesday afternoon with a scratchy throat and a bit of a runny nose. Wednesday was about the same, but got worse as the day went on. I started taking AlkaSeltzer Plus cold Wednesday evening. I stocked up on sugar free cough drops, more AlkaSeltzer and Kleenex yesterday, I don’t really look forward to going back to work tonight. Oh, well, I’m training a new officer, so I can let him do all the talking.
When people talk about the racing season being over, it really means there aren’t any races going on. If you know anybody who races, stop by their shop and see what they are doing to their race cars during the off season. Some are freshening old engines or building new ones. Others may put new skins on their cars, while others completely rebuild their cars over the winter. We are kind of on the end of completely rebuilding.
While we ended the season with a nearly fresh engine, my nephew, David, took one to Hastings Community College, where he is taking Automotive classes. The engine has now been completely rebuilt with some new internal parts, and has actually been run a little. I think it’s been run quite a little, as he told me he needs another five gallons of fuel for when they get it on the dyno. I sure hope it gets better fuel mileage when it is in the car.
I am also in the process of cutting the entire firewall and floor out of the car and will have a new aftermarket floor and firewall made. This will make working on the car a lot easier by giving us a lot more room. I will be spending as much time on the car, if not more, than during the season.

                         




My other passion - traveling on two wheels - is also be coming to a halt with the coming cold weather. It’s already been over a week since I’ve ridden the Gold Wing to work due to rain a couple of nights and cold weather. However, in what little spare time I have, I can still sit down and try to figure out the best way to go to Virginia Beach and back next summer to attend the Blue Knights International Convention. We have a lot of sightseeing we want to do on the way there and back, as well as once we’re there. Thanks to the internet, when I get tired of working on the race car, I can come into the house, fire up the computer, and research the highways and byways between here and Virginia Beach. I already have one route planned out to get there which includes an overnight stop at Nashville. Before we are ready to leave, I’ll have several routes mapped out. There is at least one other couple that is planning to ride with us, so it will be a great, fun trip.

I took training at Ft Lee, Virginia in 1971. During my time there, I got a lot of sightseeing done in my time off. There is so much history in that area of our country, from the time of the early settlement through the civil war. I spent several weekends in Washington, D.C., visiting Ford’s Theater, Arlington Cemetery, the Smithsonian, and Washington and Lincoln Memorials. We’ll just be in the area for a week, so we will have to plan our trips accordingly so we can see as much as possible.

The off season will also bring the opportunity to schedule some maintenance on the Gold Wing. At 32,000 miles, there will be some things that should be looked at by the dealer as they are far beyond my expertise. With the price of fuel slowly creeping up we will be much more aware of issues that keep the bike running more efficiently.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beatrice 2011 race schedule??

Almost a month ago, a question was posted on the Beatrice Speedway message board of DirtDrivers.com. The question was when would the Beatrice Speedway schedule for 2011 be posted. They noted that Eagle Raceway’s schedule was already posted.

I did not check Eagle’s website to see if the 2011 schedule was indeed posted. However, I responded to the posting with the following “If they hold true to form, the schedule will come out at the end of February. That's what happened this year.

Sometimes I feel like the Fair Board is hoping we will leave them alone. If they would work with track officials and the racers, we could pack the grandstands and pits every week.

That being said, I know there won't be any rules changes in the IMCA classes. However, PLEASE, PLEASE, Fair Board and track officials, let's put our heads together and make the factory stock rules so the pro-ams can come race with us on a weekly basis if they so wish. The sooner we can do this the better.”

I got the following response from my comment “Ernie, You are very right on it. Beatrice could easily pull in the crowds if they wanted to. I am not sure who makes the decisions (if anyone), but something has to change. I don't like to knock on anyone...but really... this year was terrible. The track needs to be taken more seriously, and ran as a business. They will be lucky to keep the doors open if they keep it up. Is there anyone to talk to about possibly getting a new group to run the speedway? The main simple essentials that a track needs to do are not even done..... (example...working functional website)”

The 2010 season saw the 2nd year that Beatrice Speedway raced on Friday night. After racing forever on Saturdays, racing was moved to Friday in 2009 in the hopes that car count and grandstand attendance would increase. When Beatrice raced on Saturday, they were up against Eagle, McCool Junction, Doniphan, Minneapolis, KS and Mayetta, KS. Since most people work on Friday, the starting time was moved back to 7:30 PM.

I’ve never seen any figures as to what grandstand attendance did, but I don’t believe the car count changed much. However, just changing nights won’t make people attend the races. The races need to be PROMOTED!! Let people know that Beatrice is racing! Toward the end of the 2009 season, a racer at another track told me he didn’t even know that Beatrice was still racing!

Years ago the Beatrice Daily Sun had some pretty good articles and results from Beatrice Speedway. KWBE radio also had a half hour program each week. The Daily Sun seems to have a hard time putting results in the paper, let alone having a story. KWBE moved the Track Talk program to a different time slot, so I continually missed it this season.

Beatrice Speedway has a website, but the person who has been doing it is slow putting up results, and there has NEVER been a story on the races posted. The most recent addition to the website was August 24th, one week before the end of the season. If somebody was being paid to maintain the website, they were overpaid.

When I would get home from work at 6 AM on Sundays, I would look at the Eagle Raceway website to check for Saturday night results. I would not only see COMPLETE results from the heat races and any B Features, but a complete story on the entire evening. I have seen where several Women for Racing members offered to help with the website, but apparently they were never taken up on the offer.

I know a lot of times drivers don’t respond, but a simple questionnaire given out te the drivers at the beginning of the year would be a start. It would outline their racing career and any highlights. Each week of the racing season, a couple of these couple be printed out and put in the program. Maybe the newspaper would even put them in an article, or they could be put up on the Speedway website. That way EVERYBODY would get exposure, not just the A Feature winners.

In the past, there were rules meetings in November, which set the rules and schedules for the upcoming year. That hasn’t happened in the last couple of years. For the 2010 racing racing season, registrations were taken at the end of February.

I would certainly like to see a better flow of information coming from the track. With a lot more effort, Beatrice Speedway can once again be the place to start your racing weekend.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Looking ahead to the 2011 racing season

Looking ahead to the 2011 racing season at Beatrice Speedway, it looks like there will be some changes made for the better. At Octoberfest 2010, pro-ams were allowed to race with the factory stocks. When the announcement was made, there was a lot of discussion on the DirtDrivers message board about the rules.

Current pro-am rules at I-80 Speedway at Greenwood mandate 3,400 lbs minimum weight, 360 cubic inch engine and 11 to 1 compression with a 4412 carburetor. They also use a different tire. Factory stocks at Beatrice are similar to IMCA stock cars with the exception of having to weigh 3,100 lbs, running a 4412 carb, being able to add a spoiler and hood scoop and allowing IMCA Hoosiers or American racer tires. There is no cubic inch or compression rule.

The discussions on the message board suggested that the factory stocks would be faster because the rules would give them the advantage. A pro-am started on the pole in one of the heat races and won. He started up front in the Feature and finished 7th. We had 17 cars race in the factory stocks at Octoberfest. I don’t think we had that high of a car count during the regular season. Also consider that there were a few of the regular weekly cars that weren’t at Octoberfest. If they had showed up, we would have had over 20 cars in factory stocks that night!

I talked to one of the pro-am drivers about the difference in cars. He feels that when the newer “metric” cars started showing up on the racing scene, the front geometry of the pro-ams was a lot better than that of the metric cars. However, the metric cars have improved with being allowed weight jacks and “correcting” the upper control arm mounts for better steering geometry. He feels that the metric car currently has the upper hand in the handling department.

Beatrice had IMCA sanctioned stock cars but they were dropped when the car count became too low. IMCA touts their point fund, but unless you race multiple tracks, their point fund might come close to paying the cost of your license. When Beatrice raced pro-ams, there were rumors for several years that they would be dropped and naturally the car count dropped until they were dropped from the program. There have been rumors since about 2004 or 2005 that the factory stocks were being dropped and the car count has suffered.

There are still a few pro-ams sitting in garages in our area, and there are pro-ams currently being raced that would come to Beatrice at least on a part time schedule if they were allowed to. One of the pro-am guys I talked to is building a car for his son, so that would make 2 new cars at Beatrice Speedway at least part of the time.

I would propose that the pro-ams be allowed to race at Beatrice under the same rules that the factory stocks currently use. Let them weigh 3,100 lbs and have the engine of their choice, instead of being limited to 360 cubic inches and 11 to 1 compression. They already use the same carburetor. Let them run their pro-am tire, the Hoosier IMCA tire or the American racer. Remember, more cars in the pits mean more people in the grandstands.

I have heard that some of our local teams will be changing classes in 2011. At least one hobby stock driver is moving to a factory stock, and a modified driver is having a factory stock built. I also heard that a couple more factory stocks are being built in the Fairbury area. Hopefully everybody who raced factory stocks at Beatrice in 2010 will be back, and with the anticipated newcomers, our car count will increase.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

End of summer

This time of the year always makes me wonder what happened to the summer. After the winter we had, and the late spring, we jumped right into hot weather. I heard a lot of grumbling about how hot it was, but I did not have to shovel the heat!!

We did get some riding in on the Gold Wing. Not as much as what I’d have liked to have gotten, but still a fair amount. We were able to take a short weekend trip to St Joseph, Missouri in June. We did that between thunderstorms and a flood on the Missouri at St Joseph. We made several short trips over the summer, and the big trip to Billings. A week before I left, Mikayla asked if she could go with me. She’s never been out of town on the motorcycle, and I tried to talk her out of going. I think a 13-year old doesn’t realize exactly how far 1,000 miles is, or how hot 100 degrees is when there is no air conditioning. She knows now. By the time we got home, we’d covered 2,994 miles and saw a lot of great scenery. I got to spend 12 days with Mikayla, and will always remember the time we spent together. I hope she does, too.

I missed the Blue Knights Fall Conference in Grand Forks. I took a trip to Chicago with Dad & Mom the week before for Dad’s World War II re-union. Except for some time spent in the suburbs of Chicago in the early ’80’s for automotive schools through K-Mart, I’d never been there. In addition to Dad getting together with some of his fellow surviving WWII heroes, we rode the subway into downtown Chicago and took one of the trolley tours of the city. Somehow, I neglected to take the camera, but I was able to get a lot of pictures with my cell phone. I have the pictures all posted on my Facebook page.

For the most part the weather for this trip was decent. It was breezy and cool, but tolerable. If you ever happen to be in Chicago, taking one of the trolley tours is a great thing to do. A 2 or 2 day pass can be purchased so you can spread your sightseeing out over s couple of days. Our greatest difficulty was in finding our way around downtown and finding the right subway to take back to where we started.

The racing season in this part of the country is all but over. With my work schedule, I raced at Beatrice Speedway every other week. On the Fridays that I worked, either Jeremy or Jason drove the car. At the end of the season, I finished 13th in points and Jeremy finished 14th in points, just 4 points behind me. We knew we wouldn’t be racing for a top 10 in track points, but it was fun to race against each other for track points. If it hadn’t been for an opening night mishap, Jeremy would have finished ahead of me in points.

I also made the trip to U.S. 30 Speedway at Columbus several times. The weather didn’t cooperate as it started to rain on 3 different nights before I finally got to do more than hot laps and a heat race. I really like that track and would race there more often if I could find somebody willing to pay for the fuel in the hauler.

The last trip I made to U.S. 30 Speedway was for the Abe Lincoln Memorial on a cool damp Sunday in September. With 28 street stocks on hand, I missed out on making the A Feature. I started 3rd row in my heat and finished 6th, missing out by one spot. That put me on the pole for the B Feature. I fought an inconsistent, ill handling car for the entire race and didn’t make the A Feature. When I started to load the car, I found that a brake must have locked up on me as the car wouldn’t budge. Once the car was back in the shop and on jack stands, I found the right rear caliper had almost no pad left. Apparently the caliper was hanging up once the brakes were warmed up.

Fantastic weather greeted Beatrice Speedway’s Octoberfest. What a difference from last year when we had snow! The factory stocks raced on Saturday and we had 17 cars in our class. Not all of the Beatrice regulars showed, and we had a few cars show up that hadn’t previously been at Beatrice Speedway. I hope that the track can tweek some rules for 2011 so the pro-am cars can race with us. I think it will put more cars on the track and more butts in the grandstands if that happens.

I felt like the car was pretty good and had a 10th place finish going with 2 laps left. However, I had the right rear go flat before taking the white flag and dropped out, finishing 13th.

The final race of our season is this weekend at Junction Motor Speedway at McCool Junction. Jeremy will be taking the wheel as it’s my weekend to work. He’s been looking forward to this weekend since he raced there last fall. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and Jeremy won’t have any problems with the car.

We’re already looking forward to the 2011 riding season. Blue Knights International Convention is at Chesapeake, Virginia and we’re making plans to attend. We want to stop in Nashville and hopefully attend the Grand Ole Opry. I have a rough schedule worked up, going through St Louis, then on to Nashville. From Nashville, it’s just less than 500 miles to Roanoke, Virginia, then the 4th day we’ll be at Chesapeake for the Convention.

We’ve signed up some new Blue Knights in our area and hope the new members will be enthusiastic about attending regional and national events. I sponsored a new Special Honorary member who is a local pastor, and he has already recruited 3 new members and wants to make the trip to Chesapeake.

Final days of our trip

We decided to not do a lot on Sunday. There was laundry to do, and I wanted to clean the Gold Wing up a bit. When I went to bed on Saturday evening, my feet were a bit swollen, but I figured when I got up in the morning, they would be OK. However, the swelling had actually gotten a bit worse, so I tried to pretty much stay off my feet as much as I could. It didn’t seem to help much as when I went to bed Sunday night, the swelling actually seemed worse. However, when I got up on Monday morning, my feet were back to normal.

We decided to go to Estes Park on Monday. Mikayla still had some souvenir shopping to do and I told her she could shop all day in Estes Park if she wanted. Besides, Hwy 34 from Loveland to Estes Park along the Big Thompson River is one of my favorite rides and every time I’m at Greeley I find time to take that ride. It’s 20 miles of curves along the river and an absolutely beautiful ride. Leaving Estes Park, Hwy 7 back to Lyons is also a great ride.

Once we found a place to park in Estes Park, we browsed through some of the shops, then decided to eat lunch. After that, it was back to shopping. Once all the stores were ravaged, we rode to the edge of town to where the go-kart track is and spent an hour or so riding go-karts. Final score - we each beat the other at least once. After giving Mikayla some driving tips, she learned and with some practice she could be a pretty good racer!!

Tuesday we took in Pike’s Peak; however, it was in a “cage.” I was happy we did it that way as it ended up being over 300 miles round trip. We took in the Garden of the Gods along the way as well as Manitou Springs. In 1972, I’d spent a weekend pass at Manitou Springs and as I remembered it, I don’t think it’s changed much in the years since then. The last time I’d been on Pike’s Peak was in 1974, and the road to the top hasn’t changed a lot. Parts of the road to the top are still gravel. We also ran into a little rain, so we didn’t get wet this way. After a lot of pictures, we made it all the way to the top and back down. As we were headed back into Manitou Springs, it was already 4:30 and a stop at Cave of the Winds was out of the question.

As we got closer to Greeley, conversation turned to how soon we would be leaving for home in the morning. I made the point that Mikayla would have to be sure to set her alarm so she would be ready to go when she wanted to. Back at the house, we finished packing, loading the trailer and cleaning the bike up a bit.

After a light breakfast, we were on the road about 8:30. The trip back to Nebraska was warm, but not nearly as warm as going to Greeley. We were sure to drink plenty of water on each stop. Our first fuel stop was just off I-76 at Sterling. From there, our next stop was for fuel & lunch at North Platte. As we continued east, I told Mikayla that we may be a couple of miles short of having 3,000 miles and maybe we should take a little longer way home. Her comment? “Just get me home!”

We were back at Beatrice about 7 PM, having covered 2,994 miles. Asked if she would go again, Mikayla told me “If we don’t go out of Nebraska!”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trip from Billings to Rawlins, then to Greeley

We were up, packed and loaded and ready to go shortly after 7 AM. Continental breakfast today FINALLY had biscuits & gravy!! I had figured we’d be on the road by 9 AM - it was actually about 8:15 when we pulled out of the hotel parking lot. The first 100 miles or so was mostly rolling hills with the mountains off in the distance as we went first west from Billings on I-90, then south toward Powell.

Made our first fuel stop at Powell and got a cold bottle of water. After a short break, we were back on the road - next stop would be Thermopolis, where we’d fuel and grab a sandwich for lunch.

The weather for this entire leg of the trip was pleasant. The warmest temperature I saw was 85 later in the afternoon. We filled at Thermopolis and when I came back out from paying, Mikayla was off the bike taking pictures. A deer had wandered into a patch of weeds 25 yards away from us and was grazing there. It seemed oblivious to people and traffic and eventually wandered back in the direction it came from, stopping in a yard across the street for a bite to eat. We wondered if the animal was somebody’s pet.
A quick sandwich at a brand new Subway and we were on our way again. While we were eating, I noticed a different road on the map that would cut off about 30 miles from the day’s trip. Going south our of Thermopolis, we were soon into the Wind River Canyon area. What a spectacular ride & view! Continuing south one gets a great view of the Boysen Reservoir. After going through Shoshoni, we rode across the south end of the reservoir and to Riverton. At Riverton, we went southeast on Hwy 135. More great scenery along the way. However, if one ever travels this way, be sure you have plenty fuel because there is none between Riverton and Rawlins if you take Hwy 135.

Turning south from Muddy Gap, we encountered some wind the last 45 miles. Sometimes it came straight at us, sometimes from the right, sometimes from the left. By the time we pulled into Rawlins, I was tired of the wind. One nice thing about the day’s ride, however, was that the temperature did not get into the 90-degree and above range. We were sure to drink plenty of water each time we stopped.

I hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, but that didn’t look like it would be a problem as we scouted the motels. We decided on the Travel Lodge, which ended up being nice. I’d probably do some looking around if I were to stay in Rawlins again, but just because they had no restaurant or pool. The continental breakfast was not conducive to a diabetic as it was heavy on pastries, but I was able to have a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee before we got on the road.

We took I-80 west to Hwy 789 at Creston Junction. If you are looking at a map to find some of these places, be sure to see what the population is. They may only be the name of where 2 highways intersect, which is what Creston Junction is. We turned off the interstate and took the highway under it, and we immediately saw a dozen or so antelope on the west side of the road. They were grazing and paid absolutely no attention to us as we rode past. Over the next 50 miles we saw literally hundreds of antelope along the way with a few deer scattered about. I wonder how many deer we would see in Nebraska if our terrain was the same as this part of Wyoming? We drove for miles and never saw a tree!

We stopped at Craig, Colorado for fuel and a quick sandwich from the Quik Stop. Grabbed a couple of cold waters out of the cooler and back on the road. Rode through some awesome scenery on the road to Steamboat Springs. I told Kayla to grab the camera and get some pictures. When we got to Steamboat Springs, I asked how many pictures she got. Her answer…. “I was taking a nap!”

When I was 8 years old, we took a family vacation to California. When we came back, we came through Colorado and Steamboat Springs. It runs in my mind we stopped there for supper. The place has sure changed in 50 years as I only remember a 2 lane highway through town. On Saturday, we parked the motorcycle and walked around for about an hour before taking off again. More great scenery and we stopped at Walden for fuel and lunch. Gas was $2.999 there, which was the most I paid on the entire trip.

We grabbed a sandwich at a café in Walden. There was a magazine on the table about the local sights and I found that there is a large moose population in the area. Before two years ago, I didn’t know there were moose in Colorado. While going to Grand Lake in 2008, we saw 5 moose a few miles outside of Grand Lake.

The entire trip from Walden to Ft Collins was beautiful. From seeing “Moose Crossing” signs to the mountain passes, we could have stopped and taken pictures for hours and not make it back to Greeley until way after dark. We stopped at Rustic to stretch our legs and use the restrooms. While there, we checked out the local watering hole where they were getting ready for an evening of festivities. Stepping out on the back deck, we had a bird’s eye view of the river running behind the bar. The water was so clear you could see the bottom, unlike the rivers back home in Nebraska.

The entire trip from Rawlins was pleasant weather wise. The temperature was in the 80 to 84 degree range. Once at Ft Collins, I noticed that it had warmed up and checking the temperature, I found it was 97. So much for those pleasant mountain temperatures. We got into Greeley about 6 PM. Once getting unloaded and cleaned up, Dana took us to Roma’s for supper. This place has GREAT pizza, spaghetti and calzones, and every time we’re in Greeley, it’s one of the places we just have to go eat at!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Billings Wednesday/Thursday

Wednesday morning was mostly sunny. We decided to ride to Pryor to Chief Plenty Coups Park at Pryor, Montana, then to the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Crow Agency. We took the frontage road from the host hotel to South Billings Road and headed south. This was all rolling plains and later open range. About half way to Pryor we stopped at a historical marker which told of a battle between the Crow and Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in 1864. Something that struck me as unusual was that the women and children watched the battle from a nearby hillside. The Crow were hopelessly outnumbered but were saved by herds of buffalo and elk!! The herds kicked up dust in the distance, which the Lakota and Cheyenne thought were reinforcements coming for the Crow, and they fled.

The Crow Chief Plenty Coups was compared to George Washington because he led his people through difficult times and helped them transition to new ways. He built a house on his land, but also maintained ways of the Crow. He visited Washington, D.C. and designed his house after what he saw at Mt Vernon. Chief Many Coups died in 1932 and is buried on the park grounds. This was a very interesting place to visit and somewhere that many hours could be spent. It gives a new perspective on the struggles of the Indians in the 1800’s.

While riding toward prior, I pointed out to Mikayla that we were riding trhough an Indian reservation and the people we saws outside a ranch house were Indians. She informed me they were not Indians, but Native Americans. We had a short discussion about why they were called Indians and how times have changed since I grew up.

One of the ladies at the museum mentioned that we would see a quarter horse ranch if we would be traveling east. Mikayla wasn’t sure what a quarter horse is until I explained to her that it’s one quarter horse and three quarters cow - or is it the other way around?? The lady then set us both straight!!

We actually spent more time at the museum than I’d expected but it was actually a pretty short visit for all there is to see. We headed east toward Hardin, where we topped off with fuel and grabbed a Subway before riding south to the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Even though it was the middle of the week, there was a good crowd.

I’ve seen several movies about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and read several stories about it. None do justice to the actual location. It is hard to imagine the events on that June day in 1876, but a tour of the battlefield puts things in perspective.

The cemetery near the visitors’ center is a National Cemetery. I had always thought it was where the soldiers who died in the Battle of the Little Bighorn were buried. Most of those soldiers were buried in a mass grave at the base of the monument on Last Stand Hill. U.S. military veterans are eligible to be buried in the National Cemetery. This is another place a person could easily spend an entire day at and still not see everything. We got back on the Gold Wing about 4 PM and headed back toward Billings as there was a meal planned at Beartooth Harley Davidson at 6 PM.

The BBQ was a bit of a disappointment as we all got a hot dog on a bun, a small bag of chips and a bottle of water. We browsed around the Harley store but didn’t buy anything. Mikayla rode a motorcycle simulator and I decided she would not be driving my Gold Wing any time in the immediate future.

We checked in at the hospitality room for a few minutes and then rode to downtown Billings in search of a place to eat. We found a Perkins across the street from the local baseball park and decided to have something there. I got coffee, and for the first time since we left home, they brought the WHOLE pot!!

The 50/50 drawing back at the hospitality room was to be at 10 PM and I wanted to be back for that. We finished up and went to the register to pay our bill and saw that it was POURING RAIN and the wind was blowing the doors open. Our helmets were on the motorcycle, so I ran out and grabbed them, getting plenty wet in the process!

After an hour’s wait, the wind had gone down and it was raining lightly. I got the rain suits out of the saddlebag and brought them in, where Mikayla got her first lesson on putting on a rain suit. Once we were both suited up, we made our way to the parking lot. Although wet, the trip back to the hotel was uneventful. Needless to say, we missed the 50/50 drawing. A check of the winning number at breakfast Thursday morning found that I did not have the winning number.

The motorcycle parade through downtown Billings Thursday afternoon kept us in town that morning. I stopped at WalMart for bottled water to put in the cooler for the ride home, then we went to the host hotel where the motorcycles were starting to line up. At 1 PM, we pulled out of the parking lot, following a Billings Police Department police car. All the intersections were blocked as we rode through downtown Billings to the Metra fairgrounds in the east part of Billings. There were TV cameras along the way, so I’m sure we got some press time.

After a quick lunch, we headed back toward the hotel. The day before we had seen a fun center with a go kart track and I challenged Mikayla to see if she could beat me. I told her I’d already beaten her dad and her uncle, and now it was her turn!

We located the track and went inside to get our tokens. The first session was just a learning experience for Mikayla. After some “expert” tips, we had another session and she did a lot better, really making me work to get around her. At the end, she did beat me across the line. I’m getting a rematch, though, as when we get to Estes Park next week, we’ll have a go at it on their tracks to see who gets bragging rights.

Thursday evening’s banquet was well attended. I heard the figure of 880 being thrown around. Colors were presented by the Billings Police Department. International President Mulford read the names of the members who transferred to Heaven I in the last year. Meritorious Service awards were presented and the buffet style meal was served. At the conclusion of the program, we started to filter back outside to find a light rain just beginning. We moved the Gold Wing to the front of the hotel, under the awning, to keep from getting wet. Talked with a few Blue Knights, then when it stopped raining, headed back to our hotel to get packed and ready to head to Rawlins on Friday morning.

Blue Knights at Billings - Monday & Tuesday

Monday we decided to explore the Billings area. There were some rides scheduled but after riding the two previous days, we decided to stay close to home base. I got a map of the city from the front desk and we started looking at it. We decided to take a look first at Boot Hill and then the downtown area.

Once we located the Boot Hill area, we found the road has deteriorated and is not being maintained much. After riding part way, I parked the Wing and we walked…. And walked…. And walked. Got some great pictures of the city and located the grave of Yellowstone Kelly. However, we did not find the Boot Hill Cemetery. I’m sure if we’d have walked farther we would have found it.

There has been a Gold Wing Touring Association convention in the downtown Billings area. When we found our way back down from Boot Hill, we made a stop to see the Gold Wings. I talked to a couple of guys who were in Billings for the GWTA convention, but are also Blue Knights and are making trips back and forth between both conventions.

Having found a parking place and not wanting to lose it, we elected to walk to a downtown café for lunch. Found a place called “Hog Wild” that had good sandwiches, then walked back toward where the GWTA convention was. Across the street and just to the east is a restored railroad depot so we stopped to look around. It reminded me of the old Burlington depot in Crete and brought back a few memories. I told Kayla about some of the things I remembered and she acted like she was listening. There are a lot of times I wish we could go back in time about 50 years so the grandkids could actually see and understand what we are talking about. There were 3 old cabooses outside and I explained what I could remember of them. We were able to look inside one of them from one end and she could see what I was talking about. As we were getting to the end of the “lesson” we were approached by three women from the GWTA. They were having a scavenger hunt of sorts and needed a Blue Knight to sign cards that they had. He had a nice conversation before going our separate ways.

Monday evening’s hospitality room gave me a chance to connect with a few old friends and meet some new ones. We had 4 Nebraska I members in attendance - Clyde, Roger, Jack and I. It had been several years since I’d seen Jack even though we send e-mails back and forth all the time.

Tuesday we went on a group ride of about 275 miles. We left the hotel and rode 12 miles west on the Interstate, then headed south. We went through an area that looked a bit like home, but you could see some mountains in the distance. We stopped at Red Lodge, Montana and topped off with fuel. From there we began climbing the foothills and got into the mountains. We had a couple of stops along the way to take in the view and get pictures. At one stop, hungry chipmunks swarmed anybody that had foor for them. Kayla fed them her entire bag of dill flavored sunflower seeds. She could get them to sit on her leg as they ate, but they were entirely too fast for her to touch.

We continued climbing to an elevation of almost 11,000 feet when we went over Beartooth Pass. There were a lot of signs warning us that we were in grizzly bear country. Our guide told us that a grizzly bear can run 35 MPH. I’ve never been much for running, but I’m thinking I might be able to run 36 MPH for a short distance!

We were able to get through the entire day without seeing any live animals on the road or near us. We crossed into Wyoming, then back into Montana through absolutely beautiful scenery. We stopped for lunch at Cooke City, Montana, which was our turning around point. The little town was busy since not only were there a ton of Blue Knights there, but a large number of the GWTA people were also there. On a side note, gas there was $3.40 to $3,80 depending on what you wanted, which was the reason for topping off at Red Lodge. On leaving Cooke City, we backtracked to Hwy 296 which becomes the Chief Joseph Highway. When we got to the top of Dead Indian Pass (elevation 8,060 ft) we took another break for pictures. We were able to look back in the direction we came from and see Beartooth Pass about 15 miles to the north. It is hard to imagine how Chief Joseph and his Nez Pierce tribe were able to travel through these mountains while fleeing the Army.

There was a lot more great scenery from Dead Indian Pass to Hwy 120. We took Hwy 120 back north and eventually ended up back on I-90, which took us back to our home base for the week. We got a ton of pictures and saw a lot of great country while getting a little bit of history.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Billings trip day 2- Greeley, CO to Billings, MT

Sunday started out about 74 degrees and sunny. We were out of the driveway right on time - 7 AM. It was a great ride to Cheyenne where we stopped at a new Denny’s at the Flying J for breakfast. That was a real busy place!

Back on the road and northbound around Cheyenne. I’d forgotten it was the beginning of Cheyenne Frontier Days. We crested a hill and saw a couple of patrol cars with their emergency lights on and hit the “slow down” button. Coming our way on the road along I-25 was a herd of longhorn cattle and cowboys following them. Kayla was able to get a couple of pictures of the longhorn cattle.

Farther north on I-25 we saw the first antelope on the east side of the interstate. There was a vehicle pulled off to the side and I slowed a bit to see it they were having mechanical problems. Then I noticed they were out taking pictures and I saw the antelope out a ways.

As we continued, I thought of the “Home on the Range” song. Remember the part about “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word?” That’s because there is nobody there to hear it!

Our next fuel stop was at Douglas. As we rode between Cheyenne and Douglas, I realized how big and wide open this country really is. We’d top a rise and see the highway go as far ahead of us as we could see. What looked like it might be a couple of miles turned out to be 10, 15 or even 20 miles! It was just an ideal day to be riding, with the temperature around 85 and only a light breeze most of the time.

As we got to the south end of Douglas, we encountered road construction which made traffic one lane in each direction. A mile into the construction area is where I pulled off for fuel. I filled up and remembered I wanted a Wyoming map that was bigger than the road atlas I had so I could show Kayla where we were easier. I’d wanted to get a map at Cheyenne and completely forgot about it while looking for something to put on a bee sting.

When we were getting ready to get back on the Gold Wing, a car pulled up on the other side of the pumps. As it was stopping, I could hear the brakes grinding. When the woman got out to get her gas, I told her what I heard. She said she would have the brakes looked at, and we took off. Our next stop would be at Casper to grab a quick sandwich and top off with fuel.

I don’t know if it’s just because it’s Wyoming, or what, but everywhere we stopped for fuel had lines. Maybe it was because it was Sunday and a travel day? Even McDonald’s had a line out the door when we stopped for a couple of sandwiches.

While we were eating, I looked up to see the same car with bad brakes pull in the parking lot!! I’d thought those were some local people before, but now I’m thinking they were not planning ahead on their car maintenance. Depending on what their destination was, driving that car was fast becoming dangerous!!

The weather out of Casper was still great. Checking fuel mileage, I was doing better than the day before, and was going about 7 MPH faster. Maybe the weather not being 106 has something to do with it?

What a great couple of days!! No phone calls, no nothing!! My only worries are where will my next fuel stop be, and what kind of place can I find to eat at tonight.

We took a break at Sheridan and topped off with fuel. Once again, there was a long line at the gas pumps. Had another bottle of water while we waited in line.

When I plotted out this trip, it figured out that I should be in Billings about 6:15 PM. We took more time when we stopped at Cheyenne than we expected; however, we were within 15 minutes of being where I thought we would be. However, as we approached the Montana state line, the skies were increasingly cloudy, with very dark clouds building to the west-northwest. It was really hard to tell if we’d get any of it or not because the highway isn’t straight anywhere. One mile it’s going north, the next it’s going west. We stopped at the state line and took a couple of pictures, then took off again. About 12 miles south of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, we rounded a curve and ran smack dab into the storm with no warning! I don’t believe I’ve ever ridden in a wind that strong! I’d just checked the temperature and it was 88. In less than 5 miles it dropped to 64. I slowed to about 25 MPH and hit the emergency flashers as there was absolutely no place to pull over at. I felt like a drowned rat, and just about as cold! Then, as fast as it started, it stopped and the wind calmed down. We pulled over at the Crow Agency exit for a break and to regain our composure. After a 15 minute break, we started the final 65 miles into Billings.

As we neared our destination, the skies once again started to darken. The host hotel was the Holiday Inn and Convention Center at exit 446. We no sooner got turned in and under the canopy than the wind and rain hit again. However, once again it didn’t last long. It was shortly after 6:30 PM and my trip meter showed 1,032 miles since we left home. Judging from the number of Blue Knights already there, this Convention will be a large successful one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Billings trip - Day 1 - the ride to Greeley, Colorado

We were on the road at 7:27 AM - earlier than I initially planned but later than I wanted. Started out in 81 degree weather. As we rode west on Hwy 4, there was a cloud in the northwest and I was thinking if it came our way it may cool things off a bit. We must have been on the edge of it because by the time we got 75 miles, it cooled down to 73. At that point, the road was damp and there was water on the shoulders. However, a bit farther and the temperature started coming back up.

West of Campbell, Nebraska, Hwy 4 had a detour. It was a gravel road that went north 3 miles to another blacktop, which went 2 miles west to Hwy 10. Anyway, the detour must have been a mud road that the county just dumped gravel on. I had hardly gone 100 yards when I could feel how soft the road was. Shifter down into low and tried to go at a crawl, but that did not even help as the Wing tipped over. Fortunately, we weren’t hurt, but Mikayla was pretty shook up. It was her first time out of town on the Gold Wing and this had to happen!!

It was 96 when we stopped at McCook for lunch and when we left, the temp went to 106 for the next 200 miles.

We tried to keep drinking water and taking longer, more frequent stops. At Wray, Colorado it was still 102, and we took about a half hour break. With the next towns only being about 30 miles apart, we were in good shape. We stopped for more water before getting on I-76 at Brush. From there, it was just 12 miles to where we were going to take a break at Ft Morgan.

It was a good thing we didn’t HAVE to have fuel, as when we got off at Exit 80 for Ft Morgan, the Conoco right by the interstate was OUT OF GAS!! I went another block and a half to the Shell …. OUT OF GAS!!

                             
Back on I-76, then off onto Hwy 34 to Greeley. About half way to Greeley- “Grandpa, we have to stop, I got stung by a bee!” Got a good place to stop and took a look - sure enough, she had a bee sting on her right forearm. I got the tweezers out of the First Aid kit and got the stinger out. Check for antiseptic - could not find it in the kit. I used a cloth to wrap up some ice, then put it under the shirt sleeve and buttoned it up. Makeshift - yes, but effective.

The rest of the drive into Greeley was uneventful, We got in about 6:30 PM. Miles - 488.
 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Final preparations for Billings

I finished my last work shift at 6 AM Wednesday and headed for home. It stayed warm and humid all night. When I put my helmet on as I got on the Gold Wing, the shield immediately fogged over. Just like my glasses did every time I got out of the car or came out of the office. Then again, after the winter we had, I will NEVER complain about warm weather again!


Of course, when planning a motorcycle trip in hot weather, I may need to alter my original plans a bit. I had planned to strap a small cooler with ice and water on the trailer. Plans have changed to putting a bigger cooler on the trailer. I usually drink a pot of coffee in the morning to get myself going; I’ll try to cut back on the caffeine for the trip, It is said that a person dehydrates more in hot weather when they drink a lot of caffeine.

The long range forecast shows the temps will probably be in the 90’s the next two weeks. Being on the road during that kind of weather means not only being mindful of heatstroke, but sunburn as well. I wear a long sleeved shirt in this kind of weather to keep from getting burned. Cool collars can be purchased at motorcycle shops and soaked in icy water. I’ve used them while racing stock cars in the heat of summer and they work great.

We need to remember to take a lot of breaks when riding in hot weather. When we rode to Spokane in 1998, we ended up stopping at almost every exit to drink more water and even wet our clothing down. In a few miles, we were completely dry.

I plan to take a lot of pictures. One good thing, in the age of digital photography, all I need is to be sure to have a good memory card and a way to download it to my laptop. No need to worry about film, but I will have to be sure I have batteries and/or have all my rechargeable batteries charged. When Jan & I got back from our honeymoon, we had 11 rolls of film to get developed. Now, I just download the card to the computer.

I’ve located the extended warranty for the Gold Wing and bought an extra oil filter. Maps and reservations are being packed. Suntan lotion and chap stick, meds, ect all being packed. Maps and atlas. Bike has been checked over and ready to go.

Hopefully the race car is ready for Friday night. I got everything I could think of done on Monday & Tuesday. I always have nightmares about what could go wrong.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marshall County Deputy recovers; Why wasn't the suspect STILL in jail?; Ride to Billings coming up

Marshall County, Kansas Sheriff’s Deputy Fernando Salcedo is recovering at home from wounds received in a shootout in Blue Rapids, KS last month. Deputy Saldedo was released from the hospital on June 15th. That is great news, as since that incident several officers in other parts of the United States have lost their lives in similar incidents. It‘s a tragedy when these incidents happen; what’s an even bigger tragedy is when it should not have happened in the first place.


Since the Blue Rapids incident we’ve learned that the shooter is a career criminal. Steven Macomber, at 43 years of age, has already spent 23 years of his life in prison. Bill Miskell, spokesman for KDOC, said Macomber was convicted of aggravated battery in Sedgwick County, Kansas in January 1986,three counts of aggravated robbery in August 1987 in Sedgwick County, and aggravated battery in Reno County in 1992. Macomber was paroled in February 2009, but was returned to prison in May 2009 for a parole violation. He was once again paroled on September 9, 2009.

Macomber is also a suspect in a homicide in Topeka that happened about 4 hours before the shooting in Blue Rapids and a May bank robbery in Omaha. He is facing Federal charges in the bank robbery.

Everyone’s question in this case should be - WHY WAS THIS IDIOT NOT STILL IN JAIL?? Looking at his record, he was obviously not rehabilitated! Maybe their parole should include having to live with the judge who gave them a light sentence or a parole board member who voted to parole them! Enough said - if I get started on this I will never stop!

Four more shifts to work until I’m on vacation and on the Gold Wing for 10 days or so! I’m really looking forward to riding and getting some sightseeing in. I’ll also get to race a couple of times before I take off, the first time on July 9th and the next time on July 16th.

There’s nothing like being able to pack up the Gold Wing and take to the road. It’s not like being closed up in the car. You’re at the mercy of the elements, kind of like the pioneers when they traveled through all kinds of weather. If the weather is hot, I can’t turn up the air conditioner. If it’s cool, we have to put on a little extra clothing; if it’s wet, add some rain gear. If it’s TOO wet, hopefully we can find a spot to pull over and have some coffee until it blows over. You can smell the freshly cut alfalfa and the wildflowers as well as the feedlots when you go by them. Most of the people you meet on the road are friendly, and it’s interesting to chat with them for a while.

A tank of fuel doesn’t last as long as with the car, but it will far out last my butt. Depending on how and where I ride, the Gold Wing will get between 37 and 47 MPG pulling the little trailer behind it. I’ll be watching gas prices to compare them to what we’re paying at Beatrice. I’m guessing it will take about 26 gallons of gas to get to Billings. At even $3 a gallon, that’s just under $80. Probably can’t go that far in the car for that price.

Talking about gas prices, gas in Beatrice went up a dime the middle of the week before July 4th. We rode to Grand Island of July 1st and gas there as a dime less than in Beatrice. We stopped at Git-N-Split on West O in Lincoln on the way home to clean the bugs off the windshield and gas there was 17 cents less than at Beatrice!! So much for “buying locally!” By the way, on July 6th, gas in Beatrice went down a dime.

Looking ahead to my trip to Billings, I’m probably going to stop in Cheyenne on Sunday morning for breakfast. I was going a Google search to see where there might be a Village Inn, Denny‘s or Perkins is in the area, and I found the Flying J website. They list their gas prices on their website. Their current price for unleaded regular is $2.539, while ours is at $2.699.

I made a quick run into Lincoln Saturday morning and when I turned around to come home, I filled at Git-N-Split on West O for a dime less than I would have paid in Beatrice. It’s only 40 cents for a tank of gas, but it eventually adds up, especially when you’re on a trip or are there anyway. I’m wondering how much gas is east and south of Nebraska. My brother and his wife went to Camp Lejuene to visit their son, but I haven’t heard anything from them on gas prices.

I have the week left to get ready to go, but too much to do. I think the race car is ready to race on Friday. The National Special Olympics Torch Run will be in Beatrice Friday afternoon, I have 2 more shifts to work, and still have to get my bags packed. Gotta take more than just a few things for a couple of nights. I plan to take a lot of pictures and post them in a new album on Facebook every night.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Marshall County, Kansas Officer Down; Price of gas

OFFICER DOWN - A Monday evening incident in neighboring Marshall County, Kansas put local law enforcement on high alert. According to a news release from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Fernando Salcedo made a routine traffic stop on Hwy 77 in Blue Rapids, Kansas about 8:15 PM. As Deputy Salcedo approached the vehicle, a suspect got out of the vehicle and fired a handgun at Deputy Salcedo. Deputy Salcedo suffered wounds to a wrist and his lower back. He was able to return fire, striking the suspect once.

The suspect, Steven A Macomber of Topeka, is a suspect in the killing of a Topeka man on Monday afternoon. Macomber stole Salcedo’s patrol vehicle after the shootout with Salcedo and drove a short way to a residence in Blue Rapids, where he forced his way into the house and took a hostage. Law enforcement quickly converged on the residence and set up a perimeter. Negotiators spoke with Macomber and he released his hostage about midnight. He surrendered about 6:40 AM on Tuesday and was taken by ambulance to a Marysville hospital.

Deputy Salcedo was taken to a Lincoln, Nebraska hospital by air ambulance where he underwent successful surgery and is expected to fully recover. Deputy Salcedo started his law enforcement career with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department as a Corrections Officer. He attended the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and has been a Sheriff’s Deputy since fall of 2009. This goes to show that as law enforcement officers, we can NEVER, EVER be complacent on even the most routine of traffic stops.

Most generally, when something such as a murder has occurred and a suspect is at large, local, regional and statewide bulletins are put out with suspect information to include possible vehicles the suspect may be driving. The little information I have been able to find from news reports does not indicate whether there was any suspect information in the Topeka case. We should treat every traffic stop as though the occupant may try to kill us until we determine that is not the case. BE SAFE OUT THERE, and ALWAYS COME HOME AT THE END OF YOUR SHIFT!

Gasoline prices tend to somewhat dictate how we plan our lives. Last summer, gas prices were as much as $1 a gallon lower than they are now. With a gallon of gas almost $3 recently, a lot of people are looking at how they will be spending their vacations. However, I am confused as to how the price of a gallon of gas is set.

From 2003 through 2009, we made an annual trip to Las Vegas at the end of February to attend the NASCAR weekend. We took a couple of different routes and found regular places to get fuel, eat and stay overnight. We always tried to fill the gas tank before we got to Vegas, because gas there was always a bit higher.

In 2009, the highest price we found for a gallon of gas was in BEATRICE!! It was even less expensive in Las Vegas than in Beatrice!

I believe in promoting the idea of buying in your own community. However, when I leave Beatrice to go to, say, Grand Island, I will try to find out ahead of time how much gas is in Grand Island. If it’s less than in Beatrice, I’ll hold off on getting gas until I get to Grand Island.

When I left to go to Columbus last Thursday, gas in Beatrice was $2.729. I filled up in Lincoln on the way home for $2.499. I got a total of 40.6 gallons; at 23 cents a gallon, I saved $9.34. That may not sound like a lot, but it paid for my supper!

I’ve just never understood how Casey’s in Beatrice can charge 15 to 20 cents a gallon more for gas than Casey’s in Crete, or Wilber, or Exeter. I’ve heard rumors why Beatrice is higher, but have never been able to confirm those rumors. For people who are watching their budget and are going that way anyway, so much for spending your money at home.
 
We'll be riding to St Joseph, Missouri in a few days, so it will be interesting to see how much gas costs in Kansas and Missouri.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Race track prep and advertising

After a Thursday night, June 3rd, road trip to Columbus to watch it rain, I’m thinking I could be a weather forecaster when I retire. I can be wrong a lot more than I am now and not get in trouble for it. That makes two trips at 234 miles each to: pack track, hot lap and run a heat race; and pack track and hot lap. As much as I want to run double features, I sure don’t like driving all those miles and then not racing! It looked like the track was going to be decent as the massive holes in turns 1 & 2 did not seem to be there any more during hot laps.

Most of the mud got washed off the race car Friday afternoon in getting it ready for Jason to race. Weatherman said 40% chance of rain, so it was wait & see for a bit whether or not he would get to race. Thunderstorm watches were posted until 11 PM for our area, and the weather radar showed some heavy storms between St Joseph and Maryville, Missouri. Normally, that would not have been a concern, but radar showed it was turning and coming back this way. If we’d been going any distance to race, it would have been a sure bet that it would have rained.

Friday evening ended up being a decent night at the races. Even though there was lightning in the distance in all directions from Beatrice, it stayed dry all night! Jason had never been in this car before. He started in the back in both his heat race and the A Feature. The track was VERY heavy, especially in the heat race. After starting 13th in the Feature, he ran a consistent race and missed a couple of spinning cars, finishing 8th. It looks like the worst part this week will be getting the car clean!!

I don’t profess to be a farmer, but Beatrice Speedway needs to look at how the track is being watered. With a 7:30 start time, there should be no problem getting the track ready to race. Most weeks, the track is already being worked on Thursday evenings. Some water on Friday probably isn’t a bad thing, but what’s happening is ridiculous. There was so much water put down that the WATER TRUCK GOT STUCK!! We had 2 ½” of rain on Tuesday night, and more rain for an hour about 2 AM on Friday!

With all the water on the track, it took a lot of extra time to get the track rolled in. By the time the first heat rolled onto the track, it was 7:50 PM. In some circles, maybe starting 20 minutes late isn’t bad, but track officials always want the show to go in a timely manner. If there’s a problem with your car, the show is being rushed through so fast that there isn’t time to get it fixed. I know we have to get the show done in a timely manner, but that starts with getting the show started on time!

In these tough financial times for fans, drivers, and yes, even race tracks, we all need to be mindful of where our money goes. The race fan wants a smooth, well run show that starts on time and is done at a decent hour. If the races run too late, fans get discouraged and may not come back. On another note, people who live near the track may call the police and complain about the noise. If I was answering those calls, I would be in trouble because people who live close knew the track was there when they moved there. But, the track also has a responsibility of being a good neighbor and getting done at a decent hour.

I must say that I am EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED at the amount of communication, or rather lack of communication, from Beatrice Speedway this season. I have several points to make when I address this. In the past, there were always short rules/organizational meetings for each class in November. For the sanctioned classes, that was nothing more than talking about tentative schedules and registering for the upcoming season. For non-sanctioned classes, rules were discussed and, if needed, changed. Tentative schedules were discussed and registrations were accepted.

At the end of 2009, there was NO INFORMATION put out by Beatrice Speedway about the upcoming season. The first information we got was that the track was going to require all drivers to have RaceCeivers in 2010. They did not have any further information as to where to get them, how much they cost, etc. This ended up being an additional cost to each driver of $105 if they bought one. They can also be rented for $10 a night, but if you race every week, you’re a lot better off buying one.

The Women for Racing organization at Beatrice Speedway is, in my opinion, the saving grace of Beatrice Speedway. They sponsor the drivers’ points fund, and without WFR there would be no points fund. They do fund raising all season long with the goal of providing a points fund for the drivers. They sponsor a Kids Night in August, which includes a coin toss and bicycle giveaways. They have a Casino Night and Bowl-a-Thon before the season, once again to raise money for the points fund. Last season, they donated to the Beatrice/Gage County FOP Charity Race, as did Beatrice Speedway.

I don’t know if Beatrice Speedway has had a falling-out with the local newspaper, but the coverage by the Beatrice Daily Sun has been very minimal at best. Having interesting, informative stories on the race results amounts to FREE ADVERTISING, so why not take advantage of it? Isn’t the Daily Sun sending out a reporter any more?

I have been VERY DISAPPOINTED in the Beatrice Speedway website this year. Results and points are not being posted in a timely manner. If somebody is being paid to do this, they are not earning their keep! Somebody needs to take a look at the Eagle Raceway website. Greg Soukup, AKA Eagle Pit Shack Guy, writes an excellent article each week on the races at Eagle. It is posted on the Eagle Raceway website by 6 AM on Sunday morning, and his results include the complete finishing positions of EVERY heat race, B Feature and A Feature that was run that night. Something like that could be done at Beatrice and posted on the Beatrice Speedway message board on DirtDrivers.com. That would not cost anything except somebody’s time.

I don’t get a chance to listen to the local radio station a lot, so I don’t know if they still have a Beatrice Speedway show. That was an excellent source of information in the past. If they still have it, the word needs to be put out there so everyone is aware of it. Once again, post the times and dates on DirtDrivers.com.

So much for my ranting on that subject - for now!

Friday and Saturday nights at work were fairly quiet. It almost looked like the people who weren’t at the races left town, as the downtown bars were almost empty. With the nice weather, maybe everybody took to camping. One more night before my short weekend starts. I hope everybody behaves themselves.

My call of the night on Friday night was when dispatch tried to send me to Arby's to check on a snake near the entrance.  I am NOT a snake person, and even though it was about midnight, I think maybe that should be a call for Animal Control.  I let dispatch know that I would be stopping for binoculars, and thankfully the Sergeant jumped in and said he was closer.  Ended up being a dead snake that he disposed of. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day & alcohol; ANOTHER rain-out!!

We got through the Memorial Day weekend with no major incidents. After a nice, quiet weekend, I got into the office shortly before 6 PM on Monday evening. Before I had a chance to get logged in on my car computer or the video camera in my car, I got sent to a domestic disturbance. Dispatch didn’t have much information for me so I didn’t know what to expect. I got to the location, and my Sergeant pulled up at the same time. When I got to the door, I was met by a drunk, belligerent guy who called me every name in the book. He told me there wasn’t anything wrong and to just leave. I asked where his wife was, and he indicated she was inside. When I asked her to come out, he grudgingly allowed her outside. Seems for some reason he wouldn’t let her out to go to work.


We cleared that and I followed her to work, where I asked her to stop at the Police Department when she got off work. She assured me she would. She did stop later, but would not wait for an officer to talk to her.

We no sooner cleared that call than we got sent to the Emergency Room. They had a drunk, loud person there that was causing a problem. When we got there, he was outside. We convinced him to take a ride home with a friend. Less than 30 minutes later, we were dealing with him again, and this time he went to jail for disorderly conduct. Just the way I’d want to spend the end of a holiday…..

The Nebraska Legislature has passed a law that will allow bars to be open until 2 AM, and the Game & Parks Commission has voted to allow alcohol in State Parks. I think alcohol sales need to be shut off at noon!!

Tuesday evening we had storm warnings with wind, heavy rain and hail threatening. It was just a couple of days short of the 30-year anniversary of the Grand Island tornadoes and brought back some memories. I spent that particular night at the house of some friends and when things finally calmed down, found the neighborhood was devastated. We tried to leave, but found trees and power lines across the road blocking our way. It was not an experience I would ever want to repeat. At least this time there were no tornadoes. We did have over 2.5” of rain in our rain gauge when I got home Wednesday morning.

With Wednesday and Thursday being great weather and only a slight chance of any rain, I headed to U.S. 30 Speedway at Columbus on Thursday June 3rd. About half way between David City and Columbus it started getting dark in the west. As I arrived at the track, it looked like it was raining off in the west. I was just getting ready to get in the car to pack track when Jeremy called. He told me there was a tornado watch for Greeley County, which is northwest of Columbus.

The track was rolled in and looked like it would be a good track if the weather held off. We started to get some mist about the time the drivers’ meeting started. The stock car feature, postponed from May 6th, was to be the first race on the track. However, we started to get a light rain and track officials decided to wait 30 minutes to see what the weather would do. About 20 minutes later, the rains came and the night was another rain-out. It’s one thing to have a rain-out at home, but driving a little over a hundred miles each way - TWICE - is a real bummer! I’ve always thought that race tracks are rain magnets.

At least there isn’t anything mechanical to do to the car before Jason takes the wheel tonight. Just have to wash the U.S. 30 Speedway mud off the car and trailer and we should be ready to go. It’s my weekend to work. Next week is the Blue Knights Spring MWRC and we’re schedule to attend that. A weekend of riding and relaxing is just a short week away!!