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|The adventures of Indiana Gump||The first day of school||Just the facts Ma'am|
|This space left unintentionally blank||Careers for the new millenium||The Handyman Club of America|
|The family vacation||No amimals were harmed...||That's Racin|
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My Dad used to tell me to travel while I was young, that it was an "adventure", and it was a good time to see the country. He was very passionate about it. I got the impression that it was something he wanted to do even though he never really said so. Mom and Dad even gave me luggage for my twenty-first birthday. There was a time when I wouldn't have understood that, but I always knew they meant well, loved me, and understood. Besides, I had just graduated from the sixties -- I was expected to do the most outrageous things, so why not?
Once in Louisiana, with the US Army Corps of Engineers, my crew was surveying a communications cable route along the Intracoastal Waterway some thirty miles from anything that resembled civilization. Remote is an understatement. A storm was coming in and it was past time to start back. Ahead was a bayou that cut north towards Morgan City. It was very shallow, but short-cut ten miles off the trip back to our landing. We were in the OB43 -- A Corps of Engineers, 21- foot armored boat with two 90 hp Mercury outboard motors. I had an operator assigned to me who was a tall thin Cajun. We called him Stick. Stick knew the swamp. The short-cut was his brainstorm.
These armored boats were heavy as a spam lunch, but would draft only eighteen inches of water at forty knots. We had to get a head start to get the OB43 up to speed, but when we finally hit the mouth of the bayou, we were planed out and only drafting twenty of some thirty inches of water... we were flying.
Skimming down a fifteen-foot bayou at something over forty-eight miles per hour is an "experience" in itself. That's when we hit... I thought it was a log. Solid as a cypress stump, it nearly stopped us dead in the water. Everyone was thrown to the front of the boat except Floyd, a Cajun from north of Lafayette. Floyd was thrown twenty feet in front of the boat into the black swamp water. His small frame skipped like a flat stone. It's progress stalled, the OB43 settled to the bottom of the bayou in thirty inches of water.
You may have seen an outboard motor kick up before. Locking down an outboard motor working in shallow water is not a good idea because it can hang up on the bottom, or on undergrowth, or worse. This can shear the pin, break the prop, or even bend the shaft. But when the motors aren't locked down, the props will kick up in the air when thrown in reverse. Two ninety horsepower Mercury outboard motors can do some serious damage when they kick.
We were bogged down in shallow water when Stick had another cerebral misfire -- he gave the OB43 full reverse in an attempt to free it from the bottom. The two Mercurys kicked up and threw the six-foot alligator they had hung on right into the back of the boat.
Suddenly, it was decision time. "Do I stay in the boat with a ten-foot alligator who is, shall we say... angry? Or should I go see how Floyd is doing?" Humanitarian that I am, I decided to check on Floyd who was, by this time, on the bank of the bayou, rolling on the ground, laughing so hard he was in tears. I'm not sure how I got to dry land because the cleats of my boots weren't even wet.
As it turned out, that fifteen-foot alligator was just as dead as our forward progress and now, with the rain starting, it was decision time again. I had not ordered provisions for two days in the swamp, which was how long it would take to find us since we were not within fifteen miles of where we were supposed to be, the waters were full of twenty-foot gators who had just lost one of their own, and the OB43 was on the bottom. I pulled my poncho out of my pack, over my head, and sat on the bank in the, now, driving rain.
I'll never forget sitting in the pouring rain thinking, "Dad wouldn't believe this... some "adventure" this turned out to be.
We had plenty of fresh meat, fuel to start a fire, and machetes to cut firewood. "We're ok." I thought. Then it hit me. "There isn't a cold beer for fifteen miles!" We had to do something right away.
I ordered everyone out of the boat -- It nearly floated. We tied ropes to the bow of the OB43 and started pulling it through the swamp like the African Queen. Floyd stood on the bow of the boat with orders to shoot anything with a tail that moves. We reached deep water just about dark and made our way to the landing.
Staying in Morgan City that night, I ate supper at a restaurant that was on a bayou. It had a dining deck that extended over the water. The tables were wooden cable reels that had the centers cut out all the way through the deck so you could just push the crab and crawfish shells into the holes where they fell straight through to the water below... where six-foot alligators were waiting.
That restaurant was more like the "adventure" Dad and I had in mind.
Rob Wedding © 1996
It was our daughter's first day of kindergarten. Her daycare provider used the word 'traumatized.' She was describing us, not Anna.
Anna was up at five-thirty, excited about her first day of school. She was looking forward to making new friends and learning how to read a book. She wanted to be in early to check out her new library. It was a day of adventure and wonder for Anna. Not so for Anna's parents.
We arrived early enough to inspect Anna's new classroom. Pointing out all of the things that might impress a five-year-old, I made my first mistake:
"We didn't have a bathroom in our classroom when I went to school. The whole school had to share one in the hallway."
"Did you have to walk to school too, Daddy?"
I was thrilled that after all these years I had the chance to say, "We sure did, and it was uphill both ways!"
"Were you barefoot?"
She was teasing me. My five-year-old was teasing me! I would suspect Vicki put her up to it. (If I suspected she had a sense of humor, that is.)
"Feet? We didn't have feet. Only the rich kids had feet!" (I couldn't resist.) The surprise on her face encouraged me to continue, "We didn't have hands or feet. We crawled on our elbows and knees up gravel roads to and from school!"
"How did you carry your books?" (She thought she had me.)
"Oh honey, this was long before they invented books!"
"OK, OK," Vicki saw this getting out of hand, "You two stop it!" She was right -- we were beginning to draw a crowd.
Vicki couldn't bear to leave Anna alone, so she went to pay for her lunch while I said good-bye there in the classroom. I found out later this was so she could blame me for leaving our daughter with strangers.
At first, Anna cried. The prospect of being left behind bothered her for about five seconds before she started coloring pictures with the other kids. Anna's tears were nothing compared to the trail of tears I found leading to the cafeteria where Vicki had the cafeteria staff, custodian, and the Principal, I think, in tears with her. They were just about to call off school for the year when I dragged Vicki away.
The rest of the morning was slower that most:
"It's 8:50, she's in Art now." Vicki said.
"It's 9:30, she's going to Gym."
"It's 11:20, she's eating lunch now. What do you think she's having?"
"I don't know, but for $1.30... think they'll let us eat there too?" (Sometimes I joke too much.)
"We can, you know! They encourage the parents to visit, to sit in on the classes, to eat lunch with the kids."
"I was just kidding. I think the first day is a bit earlier than they had in mind."
Anna was to finish her first day of school at 2:35. Her daycare provider, Sherry, was to meet them in front of the school about that time. Vicki was somehow convinced that this detail had been overlooked and made me call to be sure. when I called, I got the answering machine and left these messages:
Message #1 -- "Hey Sherry, it's 2:34. Vicki made me call."
Message #2 -- "Hey Sherry, it's 2:35. are you not back yet?"
Message #3 -- "Sherry? it's 2:36. Is everything okay? Should I call 911?
I called back about 2:36:30. Sherry answered. "Hello?"
"Good grief, they're not even to the end of the hall yet! Tell Vicki to chill out and I'll have Anna call as soon as she gets here."
Sherry has been doing this for fifteen years. She was right. Everyone was fine but us. We nearly made Anna's first day of school a nerve-racking experience for ourselves and everyone else.
A week later now, everything is back to normal. Anna was placed in a combination kindergarten/first-grade class, the school teachers refer to Sherry Woods' daycare as "Sherry's kids" and if Vicki mentions what Anna might be doing at a specific time during the day, I make her sit in time out.
But I wonder -- how good could a $1.30 lunch be? I'd better check this out.
Rob Wedding © 1996
Just the facts Ma'am
Sitting quietly, minding my own business, my wife gave me "that look." If you’re married, you know the look. It was the "I’ve got something on you now, I’m going shopping, and you better not say a word" look.
She said, "Did you hear the ‘Doll House’ Was raided?"
Vicki was referring to The Bruno/ Tyson fight that we, ‘the guys,’ went to last Saturday. It was ‘the guys’ night out. The Doll House had the fight on a big screen TV, a couple of live fights, a buffet, some beer, and oh, yeah, there might have been some leggy, busty, sexy dancers too.
Raided? I was shocked! Determined to get to the ‘bottom’ of this travesty of justice, I called the Police ‘hot’ line to get the ‘low down’ on the investigation.
The ‘Head Detective’ who worked ‘under cover’ and preferred to be identified only as ‘Woody’ said, "This ‘probe’ has been going on for nine months.
Asked why the investigation took so long to bring to a ‘climax,’ Detective Woody said, "In an effort to become totally ‘abreast’ of the situation, it was necessary to expand the scope of the investigation until we were sure that everyone was ‘up front’ with each of the officers. "We had to make sure there was nothing ‘going down’ ‘under the table’."
Asked how many officers were involved in the investigation, Det. Woody replied, " 36 male officers worked 24 hours straight and one female officer worked 36 hours." Dick continued, "We all had a ‘turn’ at this case." "I couldn’t be more ‘satisfied’ with the way the department ‘came together’ in it’s efforts."
Speaking for ‘the guys’, I saw nothing that was obscene. (With the possible exception of two women boxing -- I blame Don King for subjecting me to that one.) I saw nothing that was unnatural. (Except maybe what was called a ‘thong’ -- I would have called it a wedgie.) I saw nothing that was illegal, but then I’m not Detective Woody. I would have described the dancing as artistic interpretation, but then, I’m not Jesse Helms.
I enjoyed the bout, the beer, the buffet, and the b.... er, that is, I mean, well, I enjoyed myself. But then, it’s not something I would like to see my daughter do.
We said it was blank, didn't we?
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Careers for the new millenium
Those of you who have recently modeled the cap and gown will most likely want to find a job after your trip to Florida. Who knows, you may even want a career. To those who decided years ago what you wanted this career path to be -- congratulations. Ah, but most of you (like most of us) still are a bit fuzzy on some of the "for the rest of my life" type decisions.
It is not my place to say what an individual’s career path should be. I merely offer graduates some real-world advice (we all know what free advice is worth) from the famous institution of "Been there, done that. State." Good ol’ BS. The following is what they didn’t teach you in class, so you don’t already know it. (Unless your Mom or Dad told you, in which case you probably didn’t listen anyway.)
Contrary to the rosy picture some politicians paint, more than 5% of the American work force is looking for work. The 5% national unemployment rate does not reflect the following factors:
- It’s Graduation time -- zillions of graduates that are willing to work for what amounts to cruising money are about to hit the job market.
- A large number of the recently laid-off, experienced, middle management are living on their severence now, but are looking for new opportunities.
- Many job hunters refuse to draw unemployment benefits.
- And, let’s not forget, many dissatisfied (but employed) workers are constantly searching for the ideal job.
Corporate America has eliminated 43 million jobs since 1979. IBM eliminated 63,000 jobs in 1991, GM 74,000 in 1993, Delta 15,000, AT&T 40,000, Boeing 28,000, Sears 50,000, DEC 20,000, Lockheed 15,000, etc. Unemployment is at least 5% and a 2.1% economic growth will not create jobs fast enough. One of the eight jobs you will have in your career will be eliminated regardless of your parachute’s hue -- it’s a free-fall job market. That’s the bad news.
The good news is; President Clinton claims to have created 8 million jobs in the last four years. Unfortunately, they happen to be in Mexico. Habla Espanol?
However, many new types of jobs and home businesses are being created as a result of the changing times. The eager, resourceful, adaptable individual has a bright future in the new millenium.
Assuming you prefer to work in the good ol’ USA, here are a few career choices:
· Corporate CEO - The most lucrative of the jobs often available, all you will need to know is how to lay-off middle management to strengthen the bottom line before you retire on your multi-million dollar bonus. A talent for making up cute names to replace "layoff" such as; reduction in force, right-sizing, down-sizing, early retirement, etc., is a plus.
· Outsourcing Specialist - A good judge of character is the only prerequisite for an outsourcing specialist. Since anybody from out of town is considered an expert, you need only make sure that the contractor is amiable and has no history of violent crime.
· Adventurist - Once, an athlete had three career choices: professional sports, coaching, or used car sales. Now, baby-boomers can afford to pay experienced guides to take them to do all the cool things they never had the nerve to do on their own. A bungee-jumping, river-rafting, rock-climbing, extreme-skiing, hang-gliding, mountain-biking, continental divide-hiking, trout-fishing, entrepreneur can make a bundle fleecing the boomers that have more money than sense during their mid-life crisis.
· Career Counselor - Many careers will be upset in the coming years. An individual with strong analytical skills, knows job requirements, and can take to a job seeker the way a lawyer takes to lawsuit, (like a pit bull on a pussycat) has a very bright future as a Career Therapist.
Here’s how it works:
Wilber’s "force" gets "reduced" after 25 years at General Dynamics. His severance package is $100k as a straight buy out. He thought it was a lot of money until, in his misery, he spent $20k, drank $30k, and lost $40k. By this time, he will gladly give you his last $10k to tell him that Wally World is hiring ex-weapons specialists in their garden department.
· Computer Guru - The money... well, it stinks. But, a rewarding experience for anyone who actually likes to:
- Work endless hours without recognition or appreciation. (No-one has a clue what you do, therefore, they think you play Myst all day.)
- Work independently. (You’ll never get enough help. See above.)
- Make people feel stupid. (One day you will have to back-burner dynamic linking your relational database of three-dimensional design models to troubleshoot a "broken computer," only to find out the user forgot to turn on the monitor.
- Control the destiny of someone’s endless hours of computer research. (Gee, how did that happen?... heh, heh, heh. Remember how to turn on the monitor now?)
Just one last bit of advice from the real world;
Never drive a car that’s nicer than the bosses’ car. It is easier to change jobs and double your salary than squeeze another nickel out of your present employer if he thinks you make too much already. If you’re a contractor, buy a rusty 1971 International pickup to drive to work. Leave your Mercedes at home. (Trust me on this one.)
Rob Wedding © 1996
Well, it's about time someone recognized what I do around the house.
Along with the bills and junk mail that I received today, at long last, I was recognized for all the sweat that has poured from my brow, all the splinters that have been pulled from my hands, and all the blood that has flowed from my knuckles. I received notification that I, Rob Wedding, was awarded the honor and privilege of induction -- as a charter member, no less -- into the "HandyMan Club of America."
The gold embossed plastic membership card made it all the more impressive that I, fixer of leaky toilets, that I, sander, primer, and painter of houses, that I, changer of oil, diapers, and disk brakes, would receive such an honor from the Grand Poo-bah of handy-men in far-a-way Minnetonka, Minnesota.
To think, the legend of my accomplishments has spread so far and wide. I wonder which special feat could have impressed the membership committee so much that they were compelled to make me a charter member? There are so many projects to consider and oh, I can't forget to thank:
My Echo Chainsaw -- the one I used to keep the skills of the staff of Caldwell Memorial Hospital's Emergency Room honed to a razor sharp edge. (By the way Dr. Nolan, good job, the scars hardly show at all.)
My Versa-Ladder - Yes, people do buy these. They are quite versatile and fold up easily. I found this out while I was fifteen feet in the air, painting the house. When I shook off the fall, I found the ladder neatly folded up in my shirt pocket. It seems when they say Maximum weight 200, they don't mean 201.
My hand tools -- I would thank them if I could find them. Again, my tools have been kidnapped. No doubt they are being held in different locations: Some in the kitchen drawer, some in the sandbox, and some in the playhouse.
My Weed Eater - My twenty-five dollar weed eater. I bought it at the pawn shop after mine was stolen. It has cost me at least two hundred dollars in shoes... so far. I should probably make a blade guard -- when I get a chance.
And especially my screw driver -- I have a special attachment to my screw driver. Used for everything from changing batteries to opening beer, it has many important uses. I even hide it in my sock drawer next to my bed in case I need it. If we ever have a burglar, he's screwed.
Most of all, of course, I must thank my Dad. He taught me everything I know. I'll never forget our first project. My job, of course, was to hold the flashlight. A job that would later become the stuff of which nightmares are made:
The year was 1963. The place? Sandy Springs, Georgia. The project? Check the kitchen power receptacle. It happened all in a fraction of a second:
There was a flash of light equal to a twenty-megaton blast. A fireball the size of a Subaru raced through the kitchen, and my dad shot across the tile floor at light speed.
"Dad, are you all right?"
"Let that be a lesson to you son, always check the breaker first."
"Good lesson Dad, thanks."
Yes, that's the kind of father and son bonding that got me where I am today. It's why my Dad has a closet full of gifts that in one way or another serve the same purpose as the Snake-Light. -- For you non-handyman types, a snake-light is a flashlight that does not require a designated holder -- It is why I also expect to receive one as a gift any Christmas now.
Gotta go... I have to send in my charter membership dues so that I can start enjoying my charter membership benefits right away.
I wonder if there is a secret handshake...
Rob Wedding © 1996
The family vacation
It’s the one thing sure to give me a coronary one day -- packing for the family vacation.
Deciding where to go is never a problem. Vicki and I have been together long enough to agree on what we want to see and do. (Vicki tells me what she wants to see, and that’s what I do.) Anna (5) and Matthew (3) are young enough to find adventure in any destination we choose. The problem? It always begins with packing. I have but one rule for packing -- Box it or leave it.
It seems so simple to me. Boxes are a simple vessel designed to organize items that need to be kept together. Need a checkbook? Need a note pad? A pen? A pencil? A book? A map? Look in the travel box. Need some Ice? A cold Coke? A sandwich? A watermelon? Look in that big box called a cooler. (See? I didn’t come up with this concept. I just feel like I did sometimes.)
This is where Vicki and I disagree. When Vicki packs there is only one question to consider. Paper or plastic? Her rationale is; like sand, when a grocery bag shifts and settles to the bottom, there will be more room for on top new stuff. So, the first thing I do is gather a half-dozen boxes and start sorting the bagged items. You know, from one bag I take the Doritos and put them in the food box with the bread and bananas, and then put the Barbies and GI Joes in the toy box with a couple of hundred stuffed animals that absolutely had to make the trip.
Boxes stacked neatly and tightly so they wouldn’t shift, (and positioned in their proper place -- car keys in the trunk and toys in the front seat,) I start the car and wait for everyone’s memory to start hitting on all eight cylinders.
"Where’s my Cool Tool Truck!" (Matthew was first.)
When we were back in the car, Anna announced, "I want my pillow!"
How could we have forgotten their pillows and blankets? How did we expect them to take a nap? How did we expect to keep our sanity in such close quarters with two small children for such a long drive?
Six feet from the end of the driveway it was, "Wait! I forgot my Make-up case!"
The make-up trunk fit nicely after I removed my golf clubs. (Gee, how did my clubs get in there?)
Finally, leaving the drive way and turning onto the roadway and into the sun, I realized my sunglasses were in the truck. I had just about decided to buy a new pair when the realization that I couldn’t afford a new camera too, set in. I turned around.
I suggested that everyone be satisfied with what they had brought because we were not going back again. We were already late getting started and besides, nothing else would fit in the car. After four more trips back to the house, the floor of the car was already beginning to look like a sand pit.
Satisfied that we had finally remembered everything we needed for the journey, we pulled out again and made it all the way to the highway when it started:
"I have to pee!"
I suspect that it was no accident that we happened to be passing a McDonalds at the time, but to be on the safe side, I stopped anyway. Two hours later, we dragged the kids away from the playground whining, crying, kicking, and screaming back to the car to finish our pilgrimage.
That’s when I hung them both upside down by their feet until they were unconscious. Well, not really, but I did make them sit in time out. (In a car, sitting in time out consists of five minutes without singing ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.’)
We arrived at Vicki’s parents house within the half hour. It was an exhausting and mind-numbing trip. We covered the ten miles in just under eight hours -- not a record, but a darn fine elapsed time for us none-the-less.
Rob Wedding © 1996
No amimals were harmed in the writing of this column
It’s not that I hate cats, I don’t. At the risk of getting in trouble at the next "Guy’s" meeting, I’ll even say I like cats. Not like the North Vietnamese like cats, but I do like cats.
Cats are truly fine animals and have many admirable qualities as pets go. Cats tend to be cleaner than most pets, grooming and bathing themselves on purpose - unlike a dog, for instance, whose idea of a bath is getting caught in a drenching rain.
Cats don’t bark at all hours of the night, bay at the moon or chase cars. They can even provide an important service - In the Thai Binh province of North Vietnam, (where cats are considered a delicacy) authorities have recently banned them from restaurant menus in an effort to save the dwindling population for rat-hunting duties. Cats can keep a rat population under control. "That’s a good thing," as Martha Stuart would say.
The problem I have with cats is simple. Cats are occasionally too smart for their own good.
Each of the ten thousand (at last count) cats in my neighborhood knows that the warmest, coziest, and cleanest place within miles to lay down for a nap is on the hood of my car. Normally clean animals, these felines will leave tracks over my car that resemble a scene from the last watering hole in the Sahara.
Since any one of these ten thousand cats also knows that it can, at any time, chew an ear off of my daughter’s cat Puss, they lay in wait for Puss’s food and fight him for it one at a time. These fights result in sounds that could only be described as a five-alarm fire at the Krispy Kreme.
When our Veterinarian bought his second Rolls Royce, it was time to do something about this "cat problem." Short of trapping and shipping each stray cat to the Thai Binh province, I had to come up with a plan to keep these strays out of my yard.
It came to me while mowing. I noticed that one by one, the cats would dart through a small hole in the boxwood hedge between my neighbor’s yard and mine.
And so the training started. Each time I saw a cat, I would chase it through this hole in the hedge. Every day I would build up their confidence. Each time, the cats would make their escape as they wore a path between the hedge into the neighbor’s yard, outdistancing the sluggish biped in pursuit.
After two weeks of training these intelligent creatures, I knew the time had come. The cats were no longer running at full speed to escape, they were now over-confident. They, at times, seemed to be taunting me.
They were right where I wanted them. They were mine.
Early that Saturday, I went to the shop and cut a two-foot square of one-eighth inch thick Plexiglas and secured it in the hedgerow hole. Directly in the cat’s path. That is to say the "emergency exit " between freedom and the formerly sluggish biped.
I started at the opposite end of the lower lot with a broom. Running as fast as these once-athletic legs could carry this two-hundred pound frame, making a noise that would wake a dead cat, I swept through the yard with dozens of surprised strays sprinting ahead of me. I could hear it long before I rounded the corner of the house and could see it.
BOING! BOING! BOING! It was the sound of frantic felines running head-long into a Plexiglas trampoline. BOING! BOING! BOING! As the frenzied felines (who had no prior need of a "plan B") searched for an alternate escape route, they were met with a broom straw motivation on the backside. Swooosh... BOING! Swooosh... BOING! Swooosh... BOING!
As cats climbed trees, hedges and each other (some, at times, even formed a ladder standing on each others shoulders) to get away from the now, rolling on the ground laughing, human that had somehow caught them, they made their escape , most never to be seen again.
Some cats take two, and even three experiences with what I have affectionately named Pavlov’s Plexiglas, but our home is free of all but the occasional stray and Puss is happy and fat. Our cat-food bill has been cut in half and the Vet bills are at a manageable level.
And, oh, yes, Puss washes my car twice a week now.
Who says you can’t train a cat?
Rob Wedding © 1997
Vicki came by her love of stock car racing honestly; Her mother worships the blacktop Dale Earnhardt races on. So, as a 14th year anniversary gift, (year 14 is sheet metal after all) I surprised Vicki with a ride in a Winston Cup stock car at Richard Petty’s Driving Experience.
We arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway just before noon. After failing a sanity check, we signed waivers that cleared Richard Petty and CMS of any form of liability. Vicki took a helmet and a seat in Michael Waltrip’s Pennzoil Pontiac -- a 350 cubic inch, 700 horsepower stock car. Brad Nofsinger, Richard Petty’s designated driver, took Vicki three laps around CMS at 160 mph. As she dropped the window net, popped out of the window, and removed her helmet, Vicki said only, "You have GOT to do that!"
No one had to twist my arm to get me into that Grand Prix. Secured in a five-point Simpson safety harness, the G-forces created as we ran through the gears on pit road, forced me deep into the seat. Entering turn one at nearly 140 mph, it occurred to me that my new buddy Brad did not intend to lift the gas pedal that was firmly embedded into the fire wall.
With a death-grip on the roll bar that would protect me when we began barrel-rolling out of turn one, the car pitched on the 28 degree banking as the Grand Prix hugged the lower groove of the track, sticking like glue as it continued to accelerate thru turn two. Exploding out of turn two and up the banking at over 150 mph, we accelerated down the backstretch in excess of 160.
"It’s runnin’ real good today," Brad grinned.
The backstretch wall was closer than a NASCAR inspection when I realized that the finger prints in the roll bar padding would be permanent if I didn’t relax my grip. I shouldn’t have been surprised when we entered turn three also at full speed, but I was. Climbing high on the track, less than a car length from the wall, we shot out of Charlotte’s infamous turn four with the energy of runaway train.
As we completed our first lap at CMS, I relaxed and felt secure in the belief that I would live to see my wife and children again. Confident that ol’ Brad was not, as he claimed, "Hired away from the drive-thru at McDonalds yesterday..." this had become one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Any voluntary experience, that is.
At the front stretch dog-leg I read the blur "Charlotte Motor something" in the instant that we passed the flag stand. Through turns one and two, this time the Grand Prix danced around the track as the dips and bumps manipulated the formerly straight, smooth line. Giving the Pontiac its head, we slid up the track to meet the backstretch wall within inches.
On the backstretch, a Brillo pad couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face. Again, turns three and four were taken in the high grove. Brad found that perfect groove as it catapulted us out of turn four. Cutting across the dog-leg, I thought of Ernie Irvan’s failed "pass in the grass" that ended in disaster. I remembered the late Davey Allison who, tapped by Kyle Petty in a fierce front-stretch challenge, won "The Winston" just before slamming into the wall.
Lap two was a blur of names like Roberts, Petty, Baker, and Allison -- not to mention an accounting of pulse rate, deep breaths, and neck-muscle fatigue. As our Winston Cup stock car dove into turn one again, my senses awakened to the smell of burning rubber as our Pontiac buffeted and danced thru one and two. Centrifugal force pushed the Grand Prix up the track to what would surely be a collision with the backstretch wall when the Goodyears gripped and shot us down the backstretch for the last time.
It was now no surprise that we didn’t lift through turns three and four, but the smell of racing fuel, hot engine oil and burning rubber, along with the sound of tires slipping and gripping -- each sound and smell uniquely distinguishable from the others -- did surprise me.
I know something now that I hope all real race fans will know someday -- How difficult it can be to command a 3400 lb. race car possessing questionable aerodynamics, on an irregular racing surface, at a speed well in excess of 160 mph.
Every fan should understand that what seems to be a Sunday drive is, in fact, an arduous and physically taxing ordeal. Every time I hear a so-called race fan say "Did you see "The Eliminator" hit so-in-so on purpose?", it will irritate me to no end because they can’t possibly understand the true meaning of "That’s Racin’."
I’ll be back, Brad ol’ buddy. Except next time, I’m drivin’!
Rob Wedding © 1996