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Life... ya gotta be doin' something...

1998 Adventures

Updated: December 24, 1998



Here are some pictures from the Denver Zoo. The animals seemed very bored:

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I started off the new year baking Russian tea cookies in Carbondale with Irene. A Beauty-full start to the new year. . Then back home for a few days before heading down to Phoenix for test and practice on January 10-11 at Phoenix International Raceway. It was pouring rain for the test weekend. The racetrack was covered with pools of water and the temperature didn't get out of the mid-50's. I was soaked and cold. Oh well. so much for a practice weekend.

I stayed in Phoenix until the SCCA double National races January 17-19. The weather was better for the races, but we were the first group out to qualify each morning and I just was not awake yet. My qualifying times were terrible, so I had start near the back in both races. It was good practice at passing other cars and I learned a lot about this racetrack. So I am looking forward to next month's race at his same track.  The picture at the left is Mexican Hat rock near the Utah-Arizona border.


panchos.jpg (22243 bytes) Here's a picture of Pancho Villa and a few compadres. I really like this picture.

Despite all the revolutions and conquests, there are still many native people living in Mexico. One of the least known cultures lives in the hills and mountains northwest of Guadalajara. They are the Huichol. Below are two examples of their wonderful, mystical art:


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These magnificent works are made by pressing dyed yarn or colored beads into beeswax.   Much of the art is done by the shaman. 

I'm finishing the month by trying to learn about the Microchip PIC family of microprocessors. I now have a PIC development system, a PIC programmer,  a prototype board and a C compiler. Hopefully I'll be able to get started on some new electronic projects as soon as I can figure out how to use all this new stuff.


Gees the last few weeks have gone very quickly. I've started working on a new electronics project, hopefully it will lead to a new product that I can sell via the internet. I really don't want to create another company with a bunch of employees. I'd just like to create a few electronic products that are fun and that I can offer to the marketplace through the internet. The first product will be for the Hollywood special effects and amusement park applications to control the servo motors of their robotic and animatronic creatures. The possible applications of this product have exceeded my original expectations so I've decided to spend a few more weeks developing software that can control more types of devices. I think it should be ready for a first production run in late April.

It was great fun racing at Phoenix International Raceway Feb 28-Mar 1 . As usual the competition was fierce and I was a bit outclassed by the hoard of more experienced drivers. I improved my lap times over the times of previous PIR races and didn't hit anything.



After the races in Phoenix I headed down to good old Puerto Penasco for some fresh fish and a couple of beers. There has been a lot of rain across the deserts of Arizona and northern Mexico this winter, and the desert is beauty-ful. There are wildflowers, blooms, blossoms and grasses everywhere. Very nice. Here are some pictures of springtime in the Sonoran desert of Mexico:

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It's hard to believe that the desert can be so colorful. In a few weeks, the heat will begin to return to the desert and these colorful sights will quickly disappear.

silly1.jpg (17389 bytes)At the left is a sign advertising the weekday special rate at a nice condo complex in Puerto Penasco. Gees, I like surprises, but I'm not sure that I'd like a room that includes two people. It might be fun.

I really like Mexico. The people are friendly and I like the language, although I only know a few words. In the small towns there is virtually no crime and the people are honest and sincere. Sort of like the way the US was once upon a time.

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Then I saw a silly sign at the church... everybody goes there thinking of getting up to heaven, but that sign in the lower left corner seems to say that you can't get there from here...






weid9635.jpg (6330 bytes)Sitting at my computer or workbench everyday, I realize that I just don't do any exercise for my upper body. I run 15 miles a week, which keeps my legs toned and is good for cardiovascular fitness, but my upper body just does not get any exercise. I always find some excuse for why I don't want to go to the gym to work-out, so I bought my own exercise contraption, a Weider home gym. Now, I just don't have any excuses for not doing regular workouts and gaining some upper body strength. 

I've been waiting, counting the days, until the Second Creek regional race. It's the first race of the 1998 racing season in Colorado and I have been very anxious to find out if I really learned anything from my several trips down to Phoenix to race during the winter. Well, that exciting day has come and gone, and now I can't wait for the next race at the end of the month. This race at Second Creek was very disappointing due to severe brake problems, but I'll have plenty of time to get that problem fixed between now and the next race at Pueblo. Oh well.

After waiting anxiously for the Pueblo race, it was a bit of a disappointment. At qualifying time it was 39 degrees and raining. Yuk. That weekend was a waste of money. I wish I would have gone to Cozumel instead.



The first weekend in May was a fun, but expensive, weekend of racing at Stapleton in Denver. I hit slid into a tire wall that shattered some fiberglass, bent the rear suspension and ruined a set of tires. About $1200 to get that stuff fixed before the races. But, the races were great fun.

The last weekend in May was a weekend of racing at Pikes Peak Raceway, just south of Colorado Springs. I guess my aspirations of being in the top 7 or 8 are just unreasonable. It seems that in an entire year, I just have not learned to drive a racecar. I was near the back of the pack in both races. At this point I am considering selling the car and moving on to other things.



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Cloudy, rainy, cold here in Colorado at the start of June... So I hopped in the car and drove south until I found nicer weather. I drove thru the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge which is near Socorro, New Mexico. During the winter, the Bosque is home to thousands of migratory whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and a zillion geese.



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I stayed in Las Cruces, New Mexico for a couple of days. Nice little town, a combination of a college town and an agricultural community. Then I drove over to Carlsbad Caverns, just to see what I could see. The caverns were once an ocean reef, which has had its insides carved out by action of the ground water. It is interesting, but not as spectacular as a cave I once saw back in Indiana or Illinois.

Probably no more racing until August for me.



I only had one race in July and it was terrible. My car was running very poorly, no power. I tried to race it anyway, but a car ahead of me spun and I hit her at about 80 or 90 mph. That was the first time I had failed to finish a race. So far, this entire Colorado racing season has been a very disappointing and frustrating experience.


I wonder where July went. I went up into Idaho at the beginning of August, then came home to finish my racecar data acquisition system. The data acquisition system will store the engine rpm, car speed, lateral acceleration and longitudinal acceleration 10 times every second for over an hour. After the practice session, or race, I can dump the data out to a computer and analyze the data. Hopefully, this data will help me to learn how to drive faster and more consistently. Maybe.

I had really looked forward to this race at Second Creek, but when I got there my car would not run. It seems like some sort of ignition or fuel system problem. We tried, off and on, for about 5 hours to find the problem, but I missed practice, missed qualifying and missed the race. Very, very, very disappointing.



chelly2.jpg (13959 bytes)The month got off to a good start with a 5th place finish at the National race at Stapleton. I'm still adding features to my data acquisition system. The current goal is to put the speed, rpm, and acceleration data on a video overlay, superimposed on video of the race.




On the 19th thru the 22nd I went on an adventure to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with my friend Irene. At sunset on Sunday, we were overlooking the south side of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, with the basalt1.jpg (10630 bytes)sheer red rock walls highlighted by the warm glow of the setting sun. We read and said prayers for the new year as the sun set. It was beauty-full. On Tuesday, we celebrated the Tashlikh (casting off) ceremony by thinking of our sins and transgressions of the past year, seeking to be forgiven, recognizing that by Divine Grace we can do better and then throwing bits of bread into the river, watching them float away, carrying away those sins and transgressions, offering us a fresh start for this new year.

The Jewish new year starts off with reflection on the sins and transgressions of the past year, recognition that God will help us do better this year if we choose and the recognition that without the Grace of God we are powerless.

Wow... that is a whole lot different than the December 31st-January 1st drinking binge that most of us have come to accept as the start of the new year..



This is a picture out my kitchen window on Oct 18th. It looks like fall is really gonna happen, although I wouldn't mind if it stayed around 70 degrees all winter. But it probably won't.

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It is nice to have the change of seasons, but I think that I'd like summer to be longer and the winter much shorter.

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I headed back to Ohio to watch my friend Bob Chapman compete in the 1998 SCCA Runoffs race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was a fun trip. The rolling hills of Ohio were beautiful, the leaves were just beginning to change colors, the weather was nice with temps in the 60's to low 70's, foggy in the mornings.

We put my video overlay system in Bob's car and it worked pretty well. It is nice to have the speed and rpm information on the video tape.

I drove back through Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico. I really liked Arkansas, although I only was there for a couple of days, up around the tourist-trap town of Eureka Springs. Very pretty country side, nice people. Someday I'll go back and explore more of Arkansas.



I was actually doing some servo motor work at the beginning of the month, and looking forward to getting to go racing down in Arizona. But the race turned out to be anticlimactic... I just drove much too conservatively and was just way too slow. Oh well.

My poor old Pathfinder died in New Mexico and had to be towed to Santa Fe Nissan to get something fixed. I really do not believe their stories about what was wrong, but  $600 later it runs again. I think I really got shafted. Maybe, maybe not. I guess I'll never know for sure.

My Pathfinder just quit running whilst driving down the freeway. No noises, no warning, the engine just died and stayed that way. So, I had it towed to the Nissan dealer in Santa Fe. First the Nissan service dude called me at my motel and said it had spark and fuel, so they thought it must have jumped a tooth on the timing belt. I said that it would have had to jump a lot of teeth to not run at all. But I told him to go ahead and take a look if that was all they could figure out. He said that  it was going to take 2+ hrs labor just to get enough accessories off of the engine to see the stupid timing marks. Yuk.

So he called me again in 2 hours and said that the timing belt was off two teeth, and asked if I'd like them to put on a new belt while they had it all apart... it was gonna cost about $250 in labor to just retime the existing belt, or for $348 I could have a new belt. Since the belt was supposed to be replaced at 60,000 mi and I had 85,000 on that engine, I told him to replace it. But I also said that the belt being two teeth off would not explain the severity of the problem.

Then he called back an hour later and said that the distributor was defective,  and although they didn't have any in stock, the mechanic just happened to have a used one that he would sell me for $250. But I'd have to bring $250 in cash for the mechanic, since it would not appear on my billing from the dealership.

I told him that it was very unusual for two problems to crop up, and that they didn't seem much like one could cause the other. He just asked if I wanted it fixed or not... I said fix it. Gees.



I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Snow. Last week on my birthday, December 3, it was about 70 degrees.  But on Dec 9, the high temp is expected to be 25 degrees. What a difference a week makes. But it will all melt in a day or two.

Off to the races. December 12-13 found me racing at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix. The weather was great, but my race driving was mediocre. I think the the drive down to Arizona was more fun than the race.

The trip through the Colorado mountains, down the edge of Utah and through monument valley is always beautiful.

Temp today is near 60 degrees, but it is about 20 degrees at night. Here's a picture taken out of my kitchen window on Dec 17:

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But all good things must come to an end...  the temperature has now stayed below freezing for an entire week. At sunrise the temp has been down to -20 deg F, with daytime temps skyrocketing up to a balmy +10 deg F.

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