Bye-bye 2010

Hey there, year two-thousand-and-ten! Can we talk for a second before you head out?

All in all, I think you've been pretty good to me, but quite a bit of a roller-coaster. Nothing boring about you.

Not even two full months into the year, I got laid off. But promptly found a new job that made me happier.

It being recession everywhere and all, I was preparing for long-term unemployment and hoarded contract work like there's no tomorrow. But less than two weeks into my gainful unemployment, I had an offer, which was totally cool. Also, I had a month's worth of contract writing to do, and two weeks to finish it. Which I did, mind you.

Learning a new job, meeting all sorts of new people, and figuring out how the new company works, that was cool. I really like the group I am in, and enjoy working for my boss.

Switching from a startup to a viable company also meant that I could relax my white-knuckle grip on cash and buy a race car. That was really cool. I shared it with enough people in private, so I'll write it here in public now (for all eight of you to read)--I totally cried when I bought that car. There's a video of me all teary-eyed and excited, but I hope to be able to take it with me to my digital grave.

Before I had that car, I never realized just how much I have always wanted to be a race car driver. Like some people remember their first bicycle or their first kiss or their first baby, I will remember that hot May afternoon when I shook hands on the deal with Bill and the white number Forty was mine.

After that, you become a kind of a blur, 2010, punctuated by track outings.

I went to Thunderhill mostly, and that's where I rent a corner of a garage for my spec Miata (my mistress). Then I added Infineon/Sears Point to my repertoire. Fuck, the first time out at Infineon, I took my daily driver out and scared the shit out of myself.

Oh, I also ditched my good old daily driver in June--traded my S2000 for a 2006 M Roadster. That was a bit of a heartache, but much less traumatic than my first change of equipment.

I remember one night I came home from having a dinner out, and turned off the engine of my 1999 Miata, when it hit me: I will be selling the car. I loved that car. And when I realized that I had to sell it, I hugged the steering wheel and cried for a good five minutes before staggering upstairs to cry and mourn some more. I have learned since that cars are equipment, and it is unwise to get emotionally attached to your equipment. Equipment comes and goes, you break it, you smash it, you trade it for a better one, and you move on.

Still, even after all that, I felt quite a bit attached to the S, but the hard reality of having a seven year-old car with fucked-up shocks on my hands made the decision easy, and I switched my daily drivers.

Having a dedicated race car allowed me to buy a more comfortable car to be my commuter and autocrosser, but I still miss my high-revving S2k some days.

On a side note, I also had a final-final breakup with a guy I was seeing for nine years, and loved for about six. That sure was not easy, and still gets me quite a bit depressed some days, but it's getting better and better with time. I am so glad our brains allow us to forget eventually.

Going to track and autocrossing all the damn time helped me with the breakup somewhat. Definitely kept my mind off things, so I was almost never home on weekends. In a good month, I would do two autocrosses and one track event, and maybe have one weekend to myself to clean up a bit at home.

But track was more than just another activity to keep me busy: it turned out to be the passion of my life. Or so it seems at this point. Even fourteen track days later (and that's a lot for one season--ask my credit card!) I still spend a lot of time thinking about driving technique, practicing my laps in my mind, and talking with other car nuts about past and upcoming events.

I learned a ton during the 2010 season, and sure enough, there is plenty more to learn. I can't wait to wrap my hands around that steering wheel and put my foot to the floor accelerating out of the pit lane once again. Hear my little spec Miata buzz like an angry bee, and feel the tires go from slippery to grippy after a lap. But that won't be until 2011.

What else was there?

I made a lot of new friends, a few slipped back into oblivion, due to distance and time, but I now for the first time feel confident that I have at last found a home in the world.

So all in all, two-thousand-and-ten, you were an alright year. I will remember you fondly.


I survived 25 hours of Thunderhill!

Don't ask me why, but I volunteered to work as pit marshal at the Twenty-Five Hours of Thunderhill this year. I rolled my Miata out of the garage and set up camp inside. Not exactly princely, but better than sleeping in a car. Particularly when the car has no fully reclining seats.

My first shift was right at the beginning, so I got to hang out and watch the teams get ready, then clear the track. Then the iconic phrase "start your engines" fell, and off they went onto formation lap.

Green flag! You could feel the electricity in the air.

My job was to walk along my portion of the hot pits and ensure that only authorized people were there, working on the cars. Also, there are a few rules about what can and cannot be done during a pit stop, and what activities cannot overlap. For example, when the car is being fueled, no other work is allowed, except for driver change. Keep an eye out for fuel spills. That sort of stuff.

All of the volunteer pit staff (and probably most other if not all volunteer workers) got to eat unlimited free meals from the Thunderhill Grill. The menu changed at least four times in the twenty-five hours, so I never had to eat the same thing twice.

There was some carnage of course. Like this car. Thankfully, it was a right-hand drive, so the driver was on the other side. The incident happened during my second shift, but I was unable to find out much about it. I hope the driver was okay.

The weather was nasty, but not miserable, at least during my shifts. We had some drizzle coming down, and some fog, but all in all, I did not really suffer.

The club gave us really handy hand and foot warmers, and I used them for each of my shifts. Boy, do they make a difference! I did not freeze for a second!

I had four three-hour shifts, and slept as much as I could between them, in my tent. I could hear the race engines zoom past while falling asleep. Didn't get to take many pictures, because I was mostly busy working when awake. A number of better photographers did, though, so not a huge loss to humanity.

This here is my back with a backpack in the picture on the left. Everyone is heading across the hot pits to the pit wall to watch and wave and cheer and applaud for the last lap of the race. My job at this point was to make sure that everyone cleared the pit area when it was time for the cars to come in and pit after the checker fell.

Finally, the race winner.

I stayed just long enough to scarf down a lunch and an energy drink, then picked up my tent and headed out before the trophies.

Next year, I hope to get to play on track for the race!