Tuesday, July 26, 2011


My racing career is not well known to race fans around the world.  As a matter of fact it is not well known to Kansas City or even to the street that I grew up on.  But for a while there was a definite racing mentality going on in my brain that I really enjoyed. That racing in my brain is still there but is regulated to sitting on the couch while I watch others race.

When I talk about racing, I am not talking about running or walking.  Although I was fairly light of foot in my younger days and made several marks with my running ability through grade school. it is not that kind of racing that we are talking.  We are talking about racing contraptions with wheels attached to them.

A little bit of clearing up has to be done for a second.  Contraptions with wheels attached to them do not include the Tonka trucks and jeeps we used to tear up the back yard for dad.  Thinking about those Tonka jeeps brings up a question I have always wondered about.  One of those jeeps was pink with white and pink striped seats in it.  WHY?  No the contraptions I speak of must be able to allow a human being to ride upon it and propel it with lightening speed.

Now that we have defined what lies inside the lines of a "racing career" we can begin to look at it.  It started of with a three wheel vehicle otherwise known as a tricycle.  Trikes were good for small track racing, such as going around in a circle about the driveway.  Now a driveway track is pretty small and so about the only way that a pass could be made would be by running into the trike you were racing against.  That would be my little brother most of the time.  If I could hit him hard enough to topple him, then the race would be won.  Of course winning had it's downfalls as brother would go into the house with these tears running down his cheek to tell my mother that I had hurt him.  My thinking?  If he didn't want to get hurt, he shouldn't have been racing me.  I had a bigger trike and a bigger body.  Mom did not seem to see it that way though and often times I would end up either apologizing or sitting on the bottom step for a set amount of time.  There still was the satisfaction of winning the race most of the time, which made it all worth while.

After I outgrew the trikes, I moved up in class to the two wheelers.  The bicycle.  The bike was was faster than the trikes.  You could also run the bike in places where it would not be practical to run a trike, like up hills and on streets away from the house.  You could run road courses or ovals depending upon where you were at the time.  The bikes brought a certain danger along with them in that you could get hurt without running into your opponent.  Take a turn too sharp and those wheel would slide right out from under you.  When you got into the upper class of bikes, they had a sort of manual transmission to them.  Five speed or ten speed were the most popular.  These nifty little gear sprockets allowed you to climb hills with out too much trouble and also allowed you to gather speed that was exhilarating.   Riding on a bike at fast speed , you would feel the wind in your hair and your hearing would be severely disabled because of the wind blowing into them.  Cars could sneak up on you and you would not have a clue that they were there.  We ran many bike races around the neighborhood.  We had dirt trails and street trails and parking lot tracks.  If you were really fancy you would pop a wheely at the start of the race and then do another one after you won the race.  It was not as easy to win a bike race as it was with a trike.  The competition consisted of more than just my little brother.  I have been thinking about getting my bike fixed up just to take it out again and ride it along the lake trail.  It is a piece of childhood that you can always go back to.  There are some things that you never outgrow.  Bikes are one of those.

When I turned sixteen I went up another class to the four wheel machines.  The cars.  To be honest I really only raced a car once.  It was a drag race (see the "Sweeney and Me" series earlier in the blog for details) and I was stopped by a police officer.  It is just as well.  Cars are dangerous and if you are driving one at high speeds and you lose control, it could cost you your life.  I have known several people, both family and friends, that have died under such circumstances.

I don't race my car anymore.  I like it too much to race it.  Racing takes a toll on parts of the car that you don't think about until they break.  Transmissions, brakes, and the engine in general are but a few of the things that can go wrong if you race a car too much.  Then there is that wrecking thing again.  I don't like pain and from my experience, wrecking a car can be extremely painful if you survive.

That is not to say I don't have my little moments of fantasy racing.  I still find myself, when stopped at a red light, trying to beat the driver next to me through the intersection when the light goes green.  I am pretty good at that and I do it without left foot braking.  I stop my fantasy as soon as I hit the speed limit though and settle back down into an old man responsible driving mode, which can be boring at times but certainly is cheaper than paying speeding tickets or getting into one of those wrecks.

So my racing career is all but over.  Now it consists of sitting in my chair on Saturday and Sundays watching much younger men than myself go much faster than I ever dreamed about going.  I have crossed the one hundred mile per hour mark twice and it was a little intimidating.  Once I was driving my little Saturn SL from southern Missouri on my way home when Barb fell asleep next to me.  Just out of curiosity, I sped up to see how fast it could go.  It shook a little when I crossed the 85mph mark but then smoothed out like driving on glass when it passed the 95mpf mark.  Then Barb woke up and the slowed under its own power back to sixty five.

The other time I passed that magical speed was driving across Montana with my sister in a rental car.  That was fun.  The road was straight and flat and the car just seemed like it was built to run that fast.  We were making pretty good time until my sister noticed the speedometer and ordered me to slow down a bit.  I slowed to ninety-five.  Not slow enough for her so I took another five miles per hour off and settled in at ninety.  It was a fair compromise I thought and she must have as well because she let out a huge sigh and shook her head then turned to look out her window.  I figure she was praying or something.  If she was it worked.  The car stayed true to the road and we did not have any problems going that fast.  It was the last time she would allow me to do that on the whole of the trip which was okay I guess.

So that, in a nutshell is my experience racing.  Well there is one more race that we all are involved in.  That is the race of life.  Trying to get ahead all the time.  Trying to out run death consistently.  That kind of racing we have no choice but to be involved with.  The race will end sometime, but hopefully not today.

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