I Am Just Lucky That Way!

Cole pondering the universe

(WOMR file photo)

Every since May 16, 2010, when my world was turned upside down with the events that played out at 36,000 feet, I have had many opportunities to reflect back on my 61 years.  The real kicker to this whole thing occurred on June 30, 2012, that was the end of era for me.  That day I was thrust into the role of joining my siblings as the new patriarchs of our branch of the Hammack family.  That was the day that my Mom, Ola Mae Hammack, answered the call from God to return home to be with my Dad, my older brother, and the rest of her family!

I have now had a couple of months since then to reflect, to actually ponder, and to evaluate what I have done with my life.

If I am going to be forthright, I must evaluate my heritage.  I come from a very hard-working, but extremely dirt poor, early days, 1930’s and 40’s, migrant farm working parents.  Both Mom and Dad were not afraid of hard work, in fact, that is all that they knew.

About the time that WWII broke out, Mom and Dad settled in San Pablo, CA, an east SF Bay community that housed the Kaiser shipyards.  Those shipyards built US Liberty ships that transported soldiers and sailors to fight the War.  However, that was a few years before I made my entrance into this world!

As I progressed throughout school, there was never any doubt that I would go to college.  That realization came to me at an early age.  I saw how hard, and what long hours that my Dad put in on a daily basis, that I figured out that I wanted to find a skill that would allow me to “work smart”, not necessarily hard!  That skill would require a college education, not doubt!

However, I was initially not accepted into Fresno State.  I had missed the mathematical formula by just 2 points!  I made an appointment to talk to the Dean of Admissions, to discuss my application.  A few days after the interview I was notified that Fresno State would make an exception, and therefore, allow me to enroll for the fall semester of 1969.  What a stroke of good luck!

In the beginning of my sophomore year at Fresno State, my college deferment was revoke because I lacked the required amount of units.  Remember that was 1970, the height of the Viet Nam War.  Knowing that my draft lottery number was extremely low, I looked into USAF ROTC, which was on campus.  After taking all the aptitude tests and the physical, it was determined that I was qualified to enroll in USAF Pilot Training after graduation, if would commit to the program.  So in the fall fo 1971 I signed the necessary paperwork to enroll into USAF ROTC as a pilot candidate.  Luck smiled down on me once again!

Air Force pilot training was the single most difficult thing that I have ever attempted. There was a time that I was ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat, however, I just couldn’t succumb!  I remembered all the trials and tribulations that my parents had overcome in their life, and I just refused to let myself fail.  I just dug deep for some strength to get through this program.  I guess that I just got lucky again!

My USAF career was mostly uneventful, except for the April 1975 Saigon Evacuation. That was the first time that I witnessed what 37mm artillery looked like exploding around my aircraft in the air!  I didn’t take any direct hits, I guess that I was just lucky that way!

During my nine-year tenure at Eastern Air Lines I had one close call.  We had a landing gear, the nose gear, that refused to extend and had to land the plane with the two mains down and the nose gear still firmly in the nose gear wheel well.  It was a somewhat harrowing experience for me, a fairly new B-727 copilot!  Nobody was injured.  Once again luck prevailed!

In my 21 year flying career with United, it too was mostly uneventful.  I say mostly uneventful until May 16, 2010.  If you didn’t read the link at the beginning of the article, here is the link to my career ending Sunday night flight.  You might take a few minutes to read the first hand experience of what a cockpit fire is really like from the Captain’s point of view!  I now, more than ever, really understand just how lucky that I was that night!

But I have to say that, in reflection, the real force behind my drive to succeed was my Mom and Dad.  They were always there when I needed them.  They were there to catch me when I fell, and gave my support that things would always get better.  They never judged me for my failures and shortcomings.  I could have picked a wealthier set of parents, but I could never have picked a more supportive and loving Mom and Dad.  I guess that I am just lucky that way!

Now I have two great grandchildren, Cole and Hannah, that are the light of my life.  I guess that I am just lucky that way!

I’m not saying that I’m something special!  I am just luck that way!

Watch and listen to the lyrics of Joe Walsh’s explanation.  I couldn’t have put it any more succinct than he did in this song!


Waitin’ On A Woman!


50th anniversary

(WOMR file photo)


Today is  your 100th birthday!

For the last 16 years, July 21st has had a bittersweet meaning to me.  I celebrate your birthday with pride and joy.  All the while, still feeling that hole in my heart, and the loss that I have felt since December 30, 1995.  Additionally, knowing just how much that I have missed your presence in my life for all these years, leaves me somewhat sad.

Pop, you were always a role model for me while you were walking among us.  In death that did not change, in fact, you are more of a role model to me now.  When confronted with a difficult situation, I find myself saying or thinking, “how would Dad handle this situation”?

Little did you know that your influence on your family did not end when God called you home.  Little did you know that your legacy did not stop or vanish   with death.  Quite conversely, it has grown over the last 16 years.  Your legacy has grown via the stories that I have told, both Jason and Jeremy, as well as Cole.  Your presence is still felt long after you are gone!

Just as a side note, you would be very pleased to watch your youngest great-grandson, my grandson Cole, plays the game that you loved so much……… baseball.  I will admit that I am somewhat prejudiced, but Cole has the potential to be a very good baseball player!  I know that would make you very proud!  He is, after all, a Hammack through and through!  And did I mention that I have a very pretty young granddaughter, Hannah?  Pop, she would melt your heart!!!

A Heart wrenching 30 days

Now, as you are well aware, the last 30 days have been heart wrenching for all of us.  We were very selfish, and not yet ready to let Mom answer God’s call to come home.  However, God once again won out, as he always does.  Notwithstanding the fact that Mom outlived you by 16 1/2 years, her body grew very weary and tired.  Now she is finally in Heaven with you, Donald, and the rest of the family.  Reconciling that idea still does not make the loss any easier for me, however, I have to try to understand that death is part of life.

With you and Mom now together in Heaven, the torch has been passed to your children to take up the lead, and be patriarchs of this segment of the Hammack clan.  It is an awesome responsibility that we must, and will, carry out.

One more note:

I can only think about the day that Mom entered Heaven on June 30, 2012. Knowing my Dad, he was sitting up there on a bench waiting for my Mom. I think that the very first thing that Dad said to Mom was, “what took you so long to get here. Olie”?  Well now Pop, she is there!

Dad, this is YOUR Captain speaking:

Til we meet again, I love you and miss you more than you will ever know! Thank you for being the father that you were.  I couldn’t have asked for a better role model!


I thought that this Brad Paisley video was very appropriate!

The Last Goodbye


(WOMR file photo)

This is without a doubt going to be one of the most difficult, and challenging articles to complete that I have yet written.  It has now taken me nineteen days to try to compose my thoughts, emotions, and arrange what you are bout to read.  Having said that, I feel compelled to share my loss with you.

Ola Mae Hammack

June 13 1918-June 30 2012

Those two lines appear to be self-explanatory, right?  Oh contraire, my friend!  How can a date, a dash, and another date define, adequately describe the person?  That dash between the birthdate and the date of death is a lifetime, in Mom’s case, 94 marvelous and glorious years.

Those 94 years encompassed a multitude of highs and lows.

Her life started out, in 1918, as the daughter of John Addison and Annie Myrtle Smith (nee Fletcher) in the little farm town of Sayre, Oklahoma.  Being number four out of a total of eight children, only seven lived to adulthood, having an extremely poor childhood, part of which was growing up during the depression, helped to formulate Mom’s naive conservative pentecostal point of view.

Mom’s family migrated from Western Oklahoma to South Texas while she was still in elementary school, they were chasing the agriculture work in the early 1920’s.  It was there in South Texas, at the age of 12, that my Mom was introduced to, accepted, and made religion an integral part of her life for the next 82 years!

At the age of 14 or 15 her family, once again, chased the farm work to Buckeye, Arizona.  It was shortly thereafter that Mom met another Oklahoma native, my Dad, Archie Wilson Hammack.

The courtship was very short and they were married in Buckeye, AZ on February 20, 1934.

Just eleven months after marrying, Mom and Dad welcomed into their family on January 19, 1935, with much joy, a new son named Donald.  However, just ten days before Christmas, December 15, 1935, and ten months after his birth, Donald passed away while battling pneumonia.

From 1934 through 1942 Mom and Dad worked as migrant farm workers, following the crops from the Imperial Valley, throughout the Central Valley of California, and occasionally up though Idaho, and back to the Imperial Valley of California.  All the while adding two more sons, Ted and Jim, to their family.  It was the lifestyle that was illustrated by John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”, in a nutshell!

During WWII, Mom and Dad settled into San Pablo, CA, an East Bay town of the SF Bay area metropolis.  During those years, the family was increased by two more mouths.  It was there that, both Zeeva and Jerry, were added to the family role.  The surviving children now totaled four at this point.

After the war ended, Mom and Dad decided to move to the Alaskan Island of Craig to try commercial fishing.  That venture only lasted about 2-3 years.  My Dad came down with Tuberculosis in 1948, and the decision to return to California.  After entering a TB sanitarium in Monrovia for treatment, it was decided that the whole family would relocate to Visalia where my maternal grandmother was residing at the time.  Later the family would move to Monrovia to be closer to Dad during his recovery.

In 1950 my Dad exited the hospital, and moved the family to Tulare, CA.  It was there the following year, 1951, that the last of the children, yours truly, Leon, arrived.

For the 61 years that my Mom and Dad was married, Mom was the backbone of the family, instilling her beliefs, guiding, and teaching her children, as mothers always do.  It was through those 61 years that she tried to be the best Mom that she possibly could be.  It was through those 61 years that she did her best to try to show her children, through example, as well as words, how to be a responsible adult.  Her efforts will forever be felt, and greatly appreciated!

However, for the last 16 1/2 years, Dad passed away on December 30, 1995, Mom has lived a more lonesome lifestyle.  Notwithstanding the fact that her five children were able to provide her a very comfortable living, growing old by one’s self makes for a lonely existence!

This past March Mom’s life started to unravel.  Her health began to decline, as well as her will to live, began to decline.  Fortunately, however, Mom’s mental and physical were soaring high for her 94th birthday, June 13th, as we gathered around her to celebrate that huge milestone!

But that was short-lived, on the morning of Tuesday, June 26th, however, Mom’s health took a huge U-turn!  She slipped into a coma, it was obvious that her time on this Earth was rapidly coming to an end!  It was at that point that our family gathered together around Mom, offering her love and support, knowing full well that she was about to answer that long distant call from God that we know we all must answer one day.

That call from God was made to Mom at 2:45 pm on June 30, 2012.!

That afternoon, was for me, “THE LAST GOODBYE”!  

For those who have not visited the web site we created for Mom, check out the following link.  Your comments and stories are encouraged!


Til we meet again, this is YOUR Captain speaking, I love you and miss you, Mom!


Faster Than A Speeding Bulllet….!


(Captain Blowdri file photo)

Faster than a speeding bullet.…….

More powerful than a speeding locomotive…….

For those of us over 55 years old we are well aware of where those two phrases originated from……Superman.

But after my woeful Tuesday evening spent preparing for my early Wednesday morning colonoscopy, those two phrases took on a whole new meaning!

For those of you who may not have had to undergo this procedure for the over 50 gang, either because you are somewhat opposed to having an instrument “violating the sacred one way street” known as you rectum, or because you are not at the magic age of 50 yet, or flatly just because!  Whatever your particular reasoning is behind keeping your behind sacred, I will still try to give you all an insight into my fourth such experience that was a personal violation of my “backdoor policy”!

After having my doctor consult, going over my medical history, advising him of the changes since my colonoscopy three years ago, I scheduled the date with the office.  In return they gave me an information packet containing those valuable instructions and procedures.  Along with the instructions was the prescription for the 4 liter/1 gallon of the gut wrenching bowel cleaner, that foul tasting liquid that will clean out your innards cleaner than any spit and polish thing that you have ever seen, Golytley. (Surely that name is an oxymoron……more about Golytely a little later!)

Now, this was not my first rodeo.  I have had three colonoscopies in the last 10 years, so I knew just what I was in for, in the way of the preparation.  The directions state, 24 hours prior to the procedure put the packet of Golytely in this huge jug, and fill it up to the line with water and the icky lemon-lime flavoring, and refrigerate.  Filling this gigantic container, and knowing that you must consume this huge container of fluid was already turning my stomach.

On the day before my colonoscopy, at precisely 6pm, I am instructed to begin my “pre-op poop-shoot cleaning process”, by drinking half of this concoction in less than two hours.  The instructions stated that I must drink an 8 ounce glass of this putrid liquid every 15 minutes, so that the 2 liters/ one-half gallon is consumed in the two-hour time limit.

As I have previously stated, this was not my first rodeo.  I learned after the first go-around with this horribly convulsive mixture will also gag you and make you throw-up!  So if you want to be successful at getting this liquid down so that it will make you crap your brains out, you have to design a system whereby you can actually get this crap into your stomach so that it will get rid of your crap!!

From my previous colonoscopies, and several attempts of trying not to vomit while I was drinking my Golytely, I found out that if you keep a couple wintergreen life savers in your mouth at all times it would help somewhat to mask that horrible taste.  Well, I got a couple of those wintergreen lifesavers in my mouth and waited till I got good and wintergreened in my mouth.  I wanted to make sure that there was not any chance of getting any hint of the real foul taste of Golytely in my mouth.

Once both of those two wintergreen lifesavers were melted and gone, I threw two more in my mouth for extra precaution.  Now I was ready to make my first attempt at my 2 liters of Golytely for my first round of “cleaner”!  I poured my Golytely into a large cup, about 16 ounces, and added a straw to suck that gawd awful liquid down my throat.  I took a great big ol pull and swallowed it!

Within just a second or two, I started to “get the ooks”!  You know the routine, looking for your “Buick”, calling your buddies, “Ralph and Ernie”, or worshiping the porcelain bowl!  All of the sudden that Golytely went into reverse and desperately wanted to travel back up my esophagus and out of my mouth!  I clenched my mouth closed tightly and did my best not to allow “the reverse action” to commence.

Now my mind was starting to race.  How in the heck am I going to get this 2 liters down.  I had remembered that the last time that I had to drink this “poisonous concoction” it seemed to be a lot easier to do with the wintergreen lifesavers in my mouth.  Was I kidding myself, or do I have some form of dementia?  I have only taken one drink and I am quite certain that I will not be able to down the full 2 liters!  Man, I am in deep trouble because I am now committed to do this tonight!

I had to take a deep breath and start talking to myself in a very positive manner in order to try to get this fiasco over within the allotted 2 hours.  I reloaded the wintergreen lifesavers in my mouth, took my second swallow, and once again that concoction caused my gag reflexes to start to repeat itself!  I took a deep breath and took another big draw on the straw.  This time the gag reflex was far less severe.  I reloaded the lifesavers and took another drink.  After three or four drinks I had to take a break, all the while being borderline “ookie”!

And so this is how the pattern went for the first thirty minutes of this ridiculous drinking exercise, lifesavers, drink, lifesavers, drink, etc.

Caution: Stay close to the restroom!

Now I find it somewhat comical that when reading all of the material associated with this prescription, there was this one caution at the bottom of all the instructions.  Now, I find it to be fairly obvious that if you are taking something that is designed to absolutely remove every living thing out of you stomach, large intestines, as well as the small intestines, you really shouldn’t venture very far from the porcelain throne!

It read: caution stay close to the restroom.

Are you kidding me?  I am not that stupid to drink this stuff and wander off to some place that doesn’t have a clean, private toilet!

C’mon man!

As I remember from my previous “pooper preps”, once that Golytely starts to activate, and I use that term with great respect, the sphincter muscle, or I should say my sphincter is not strong enough to keep the back door closed long enough to walk very far to the can!  Therefore, once that Golytely begins to gather up strength, and begins to rock and roll and heading downhill, you had better be “in position”, because you are now along for the ride of your life!

Now keep in mind that I have not quite drank a third of my allotted 1/2 gallon of Golytley for the night.  The mixture is now adding the necessary combustion in my lower G.I. and all HELL is now breaking loose.  Nevertheless, I still have to continue drinking this mess while I am making a mess!  Did I mention that this drink still makes me want to throw up?

So now I am “in the position”, another phrase for sitting on the can, drinking the solution, and wondering how long I can keep doing this…. Well I found out that if you drink 2 liters of this magical concoction within the two-hour time limit, you will be sitting on the can for about 3:30 minutes.

I was completely worn out! I was tired of drinking and swallowing, however, I was really tired of sitting on the can!  When I stood up I could see the ring of the toilet seat carved into my non existent buttocks.  It was a very pretty red ring that was left there!

It was 9:45pm and time to go to bed.  I had to get up at 3:10 am to repeat this process all over again to finish the “flush out”!  That’s right I still had another 2 liters of the “gut flush” to drink and further clean out my already clean “pooper”, prior to my 7:45 am colonoscopy procedure.

To say that the second part of the old “backdoor cleaning process” was any easier or smoother than the first, I would be lying to you.  In fact, to save my fingers from typing the same words all over again, just reread the last 11 paragraphs.  In fact, my gag reflexes were even more sensitive and more repulsive at 3:15 am than they were at 6pm!

All total I am not sure just how many wintergreen lifesavers I consumed during those two Golytley periods.  I possibly might be a very large stockholder in that company from my consumption of lifesavers.

By the time that the early morning gag, drink, wintergreen lifesavers, repeat, was wrapped up there were a few things that I noticed.  The first thing is that I really do not ever want to see any of those wintergreen lifesavers again.  Just thinking about putting one in my mouth gives me nightmares!

Secondly, just thinking about Golytely turns my stomach.

Lastly, there has to be some softer toilet paper on the market.  Charmin is advertised as being oh so soft, yeah right!  Remember how your nose feels when you have a cold and you are always blowing it and wiping it?  You nose gets irritated, beet red, and really sensitive.
What do you think that your buttocks feels like after you have blown everything from you stomach out your rectal orifice?

Do you get my drift there?  Let’s just say that sitting down was a little bit touch and go!

Now for those of you who might still be wondering about the how the title of this article,the contents of this article, and how the picture that I selected all fit together, I will try to explain.

Once the Golytely gets to rocking and rolling in your stomach, it gathers up speed and starts racing towards your rectal orifice faster that a speeding bullet!  It is also more powerful than a speeding locomotive, and you can’t stop it once it decides to try to make the great escape!  Ok, that explains the two quotes from Superman.

The picture is of an F-5, a derivative of the T-38 that I flew in pilot training.  It is a supersonic fighter that is also faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive!  However when flying the F-5 you do not need to be close to a toilet, unless, you are scaring the crap out of yourself!  Ok,I will admit that during my time flying the T-38 there were a few times that I wished that I had a toilet really close by!

Just remember a clean colon is a happy colon!


My Daytona 500 Moments


Trevor Bayne

(Trevor Bayne,WOMR file photo)

For those of us who follow racing, whether you’re a hard-core addict or a casual race fan, we know that winning the Daytona 500 is a true life changing event.  If you are not totally convinced just ask young Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, just how much his life changed following his “dark-horse, come from nowhere” upset victory!

If Bayne never has any more success in his fledgling young racing career, he will always be remembered as the extremely young, 20-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears, break-through driver, and 2011 Daytona 500 winner.  He was piloting the legendary Wood Brothers #21 Ford Fusion with a throw-back, David Pearson paint scheme.

It is exactly that kind of life-changing event that I am talking about, when I mention a “Daytona 500” type of life changing moment!  This “Daytona 500 moment” is THE single most life changing event in your life, the pivotal point in your life from where things in your life changed dramatically.

A “Daytona 500 moment” might consist of you getting married, or divorced.  Either of which can and will drastically create change in you life!  Becoming a parent is also very life changing, and has two phases.  The immediate short-term version of no sleep, is life altering.  Realizing that your children, like it or not, will “be on the payroll forever”!

As you age, the addition to the family with grandchildren is unquestionably is a “Daytona 500 moment”!  Oh the pleasures of being around your grandchildren is so much better than being a parent!  You get to spoil them and not worry about all the other “parental” responsibilities!

Along the road of life there are some other, not so pleasant, experiences that will impact your life.

In addition to the pleasant life altering events that almost all of us get the chance to experience, marriage (some of us have experienced that event on more than one occasion!), parenthood, being a grand-parent, etc., we, unfortunately, also must confront the less desirable parts of life.  Quite frankly, the joyful and pleasant experiences are not the ones that truly are the defining cornerstones in one’s life.

However, it is those less desirable parts of life that usually mold our character.  Those gut-wrenching experiences that test our faith, our courage, and our moral fiber, are the experiences that define who we are as a person.

I could list all the great experiences that I was fortunate enough to be a part of for the last 61 years.  Most of those things, being an Air Force pilot, being an airline pilot, and a few other cool experiences did have a lasting effect on my life.  However, those experiences do not, and did not, define who I am as a person. Being a pilot described what I did for a living, not who I was as a person.

It is our parents, and those “formative” years, that is the basis of our moral character.  With that being said, what really defines the person is the “life journey” that we all must take, and how we cope with those “Daytona 500 moments” that come and visit us.  It is life’s tragedies, how they affect us, and how we deal and cope with them, that really mold, and define our character.

After giving much thought on this theme, I have concluded that there are four such “Daytona 500 moments” that I have experienced so far in my life.

The first life changing event happened during the month of April, back in 1975.  You all might remember a military exercise known as “The Saigon Evacuation”.  This was a massive airlift operation that President Ford ordered after one of our C-5’s crashed bringing out Vietnamese orphans.  As a very young 24-year-old USAF 2Lt., this two-week ordeal was a very hair-raising, and dangerous military operation.  (Getting shot at by Viet Cong 37mm anti-aircraft artillery was not my idea of a leisurely day in the office!)

Another “Daytona 500 moment” happened back in July of 2005.  On this particular hot Fresno afternoon, my son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Stephanie, had to deal with their set of twins coming into this world extremely premature, and totally unprepared for survival in this world.  It was the second time in less than ten years that I was forced to deal with an untimely death of a family member, and once again deal with my own mortality.  Even though these two little girls didn’t survive 24 hours, their presence left a very profound effect on many people’s life, particularly their grandfather.

Still another of my “Daytona 500 moments” occurred on May 16, 2010, at 36,000 feet.  I had just taken off from JFK airport in New York and was on my way back to LAX.  Suddenly my cockpit had erupted into flames!  For those of you have not read my description of that eventful evening, click on the link that will describe this life and health changing event, “An Enlightening Experience”!

When death stares you directly in the face, and you realize that your fate is in your own hands, and that quite possibly this latest turn of events may cost you your life, there is no doubt that the way that you look at life, and for that matter, the way you view life in general, will change forever!  That qualifies as a “Daytona 500 moment”!

Having written about the three previous pivotal moments in my life, this next turning point is without a question the biggest, and the singularly most important “Daytona 500 moment” in my life.  This occurred around 10:15 pm on December 30, 1995.  That was the exact moment when my whole life would change forever.  That was the time and the day that my father left this Earth.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I began to realize all the lessons that I had learned from a man who “only had a sixth grade education”! I came to realize that he was “wiser” than just a sixth grade education.  He was a very street wise farm-boy, and much wiser than, as a teenager, I ever gave him credit to be.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I would find myself, when confronted by a tough decision, saying “what would Dad do”?  From that point I began to realize that even in death my Dad was a role model for me.  It was from that point that I realized that, whether I liked it or not, I am a role model to either my two sons, or much later, to my grandchildren.

Life would never be the same for me after December 30, 1995!  That is and was my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”!

What is/are your “Daytona 500 moment/s”?


This song was written by Blake Shelton.  It reflects losing his brother as a teenager, and song by his wife, Miranda Lambert.  Listen to the lyrics of this song.  It mirrors how I feel regarding my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”.

The Las Vegas Indy Car Weekend After Thoughts


(Jim, Jeremy, and Captain Blowdri @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway)

It was billed as the IndyCar World Championship weekend on the IndyCar race schedule.  I thought that it would be a great getaway for my youngest son, Jeremy, to be able to experience a cool race weekend in Las Vegas.  Joining Jeremy and myself was one of my older brothers, Jim.

It was going to be a great boys family weekend in Las Vegas!  Jeremy had not been to a big NASCAR or IndyCar race weekend in almost twenty years.  It was going to be a time for the three of us to hang out in the RV’s, enjoy some great racing, and for Jeremy and I to have some good, longtime coming, Father/Son time together.

The trip from Fresno to Las Vegas was a 7 hour road trip with Jeremy in my RV.  This was a first for him in many ways.  It was his first road trip in the RV, his first trip to see the Camping World Trucks, the first time to see the Indy Cars in 20 years, and his first time to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

For all of the seven hours driving to Las Vegas, Jeremy and I talked.  We talked about the great time that we both were anticipating it would be, once we were at the race track.  We talked about how our relationship had its ups and downs over the years, and where it stands these days.  We talked about what LIFE has dealt each of us.  We talked about the raising of his son, my grandson, Cole.  But mostly we just talked about LIFE!

Through all of the conversations, I tried to depart some “fatherly” wisdom to my youngest son, doing so very carefully.

The next morning, Friday, Jeremy and I went over to the race track.  As part of our weekend race tickets we purchased weekend Neon Garage/Paddock passes that gave us free reign to all of the pit road, garage, and any other area in the infield area.  During that day we walked throughout both the Trucks and Indy car garage areas, pit road, as well as the technical inspection areas.

While walking down along the pit wall we encountered several of the race car drivers.  Some of the drivers included, former Indy Car driver Mario Andretti, Camping World Truck driver Todd Bodine, X Games participant Travis Pastrana, and the 2011 Indy 500 winner, Dan Wheldon.  All of the above drivers were captured in photos with Jeremy.

Of those four individuals, the one that stood out in my mind was the jovial Dan Wheldon.  On Friday, when Jeremy was talking to Dan Wheldon, he was very upbeat, very positive.  He was very sure that he was going to win the $5 million dollar bonus that was posted for the non Indy car regular that could come from the pack of the pack to win the race.


(Jeremy and Dan Wheldon @ LVMS)

On Sunday the IndyCars were the headline.  From the drop of the green flag to the eleventh lap, the 34 car field looked like pack of angry bumble bees, running two and three wide all the way around the race track!

Then the unthinkable happened! 

One driver made a very small mistake that turned 15 race cars into a pile rubble, three cars blazing on fire, and one very popular, likable British driver, Dan Wheldon, lost his chance to win that $ 5 million dollar bounty by losing his life in that fiery crash in turns 1 and 2 on lap 11of the IZOD IndyCar World Championship race.

Wheldon, 33 years old, left his mark on the race car world by winning the Indy 500 twice, most recently the 2011 race.  He was also a past Indy Car Series champion.  Today the news was announce that IndyCar Series is naming the newly designed race chassis that will appear next year after Wheldon in his honor.

For the last four days I have been pondering and trying to digest the events of last weekend, all the while trying to make sense out of it.  But all that kept popping up in my head is what my Father told me many years ago. My Dad said that, it is not what you take with you when you are gone that is important.  However, it is what you leave on Earth when you are gone that is important!

Wheldon will be greatly missed by all who had come into contact with him in his brief stay on this Earth!  With just that short conversation with Dan Wheldon along pit road, Jeremy and I had felt like, after the events of Sunday afternoon, we had lost a new friend that day.

Go rest high on that mountain, Dan Wheldon, your work on Earth is now done!


My First Summer In Retirement Has Concluded

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Well gang, my first summer in full fledged retirement has officially come to an end.  What a cool summer vacation I had!  As it turned out the maximum temperatures that I had to deal with was 81 degrees!  So it was literally a very cool summer!!

I headed out of Yuma back on June 8th in my 38′ Fleetwood Expedition on a summer tour of the Pacific Northwest with my traveling companions, my brother Jimmy and his wife Edie, in their 40′ Fleetwood Revolution.

The first stop on the agenda was a week long stop in Fresno,CA to celebrate a milestone for our Mom.  Back in June, specifically June 13th, we celebrated her 93rd birthday.  There was a large gathering at my sister’s house of family for the celebration.  In addition to my sister were all three of my brothers, my two sons, one wife and one girlfriend, and my two grandchildren, a few of my nephews and their families, as well as my cousin and his wife from Vallejo.  It was a joyous celebration of life!

My nephew, Scott, made a very cool video of Mom’s life.  For me it was very touching and emotional.  The video incorporated some really old family pictures of all of us kids, my Dad and Mom, all the while accompanied with some really appropriate music for the video.

It was a celebration of life, longevity, of our heritage, and of our extremely humble beginnings!

Additionally while in Fresno, I met with my old college buddy of a thousand years, Steve Detjan, well honestly it was not really that long ago!  However, I have known Steve since that extremely hot day in the gym during college registration in the summer 1969.  It happened that Steve had knee replacement surgery on June 13th.  So I got to visit him a couple of times, once the day of the surgery, and the next day during his recovery, as well.

From Fresno I headed northwest to a place called Duncan’s Mills, CA.  This very small hamlet is located on the Russian River about 8 miles west of Guerneville, a northern extension of the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, and about 8 miles east of Bodega Bay.  While hanging out in this area for a week, I visited two wineries, did a little wine tasting, and, oh yes, purchased a few bottles of wine from the Sabastapol area!  The two wineries that took some of my money were; the Russian River Winery and Dutton Estates.

From Duncan’s Mills I headed up  the California coast on US 101. Within a very short time I was driving my motorhome right up through the Giant  Redwoods of northern California.  The view was awesome, and awe inspiring to say the least!

The next landing place was Klamath, CA, in a little RV park right on the Klamath River.  Klamath is about 20 miles south of Crescent City, CA.  It was very quiet and peaceful along side the river.  The highlight of the seven day stay was the last three days of that visit.  Early one morning Jim and Edie called me to tell me to look out the front of my RV and just observe.  Quite to my dismay, there was a Momma and young baby gray whale that had found their way into the river from the Pacific Ocean!  Both were just frolicking in the river fro the last three days of my stay there.

From Klamath my summer journey continued north to Gold Beach, OR.  This neat little hamlet is located at the juncture of the Rouge River and the Pacific Ocean.  The highlight of the weeks stay here, and for that matter my whole summer, was the 104 mile Rogue River jet boat tour.  That is 52 miles up the river and 52 miles back down river!  The tour launched from the dock at 8am and returned at 3:30 pm, with a 90 min lunch break on the return down the river at a riverfront place called Agnes.

This stay encompassed the July 4th weekend.  That weekend there were many neat and fun things to see and do.  There was a hydroplane boat race on the river that was really cool to watch.


Additionally, I got my first glimpse of “Outlaw Go Kart” racing. These were not your regular little go karts, with lawn mower engines running slowly on a small dirt track!
See what I mean!


The July 4th weekend culminated with a really cool display of fireworks that was much bigger than I was expecting!

From Gold Beach I continued northward on US 101 all the way up to the northern coast of Oregon, to a little town called Rockaway Beach, OR.  Rockaway Beach is about 75 miles west of Portland.OR.  There wasn’t too much at Rockaway Beach.  However, there were two very fine eating establishments in that coastal town, Beach Bites at Rockaway, and Upper Crust Pizza!

Additionally, the Tillamook Cheese Factory was only 21 miles back down south on US 101.  The tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory was a really fun experience.  The cheese is to die for!!  But their ice cream was totally phenomenal!!  Therefore, on that day I decided that I was not a diabetic!!!!!  Did I say that their ice cream was fantastic?

After Rockaway Beach, I headed on up into the Washington coast, at Ocean Shores.  That week was totally forgettable!  It rained every day, all day long for 6 days! (there is an old Washington adage that goes something like this:  If you can’t see Mt. Rainier, it is raining.  If you can see Mt. Rainier, it is getting ready to rain!)  I couldn’t see Mt. Rainier for six days!!

So it was time to pull up stakes, fire up the ol RV, and head to central eastern Oregon for some good weather.  The spot in central Oregon chosen was La Pine, Oregon.  It is a very small town just 24 miles south of Bend.  I spent a 10 day period at La Pine where the day time temperature was in the mid 70’s and the nights were in the mid 30’s!  Man, you just gotta love summer weather like that!!

At the end of the ten days at La Pine, I packed up the ol RV and headed back over to the coast of Oregon once again.  This time I spent two weeks in an RV park at Lakeside,OR.  Lakeside is about 15 miles north of Coos Bay.  The weather there was simply magnificent with daytime highs in the low 70’s and nights in the mid 50’s.

While at Osprey Point RV Park at Lakeside I made a Saturday trip over to Cottage Grove for a night of sprint car, midgets, and late model races.


On the subsequent Saturday night I hit the local Coos Bay race track for some outstanding races, as well.


After my two week visit in Lakeside, I returned to La Pine, OR for another 3 week stay that lasted until Labor Day.

On Labor Day I packed up the ol RV and started my southerly trek back towards Yuma, AZ.  However, I made a couple of pit stops along the way.  The first pit stop was in Chico, CA.  My week stay in Chico served two purposes.  First and foremost, I went there to really, really work on my redneck!  It just so happens that every year around Labor Day the Silver Dollar Speedway, located on property of the Butte County Fairgrounds puts on one whale of a four day sprint car show known as The Gold Cup Race of Champions.


In addition to watching some high caliber racing, one of my old Eastern Airlines/United Air Lines buddies lives in Chico.  So I got to spend some quality time with both Tim Donohue and his wife Dorothy.  We go way back!  I first met Tim in 1980 when we both lived in this old two story commuter apartment in Woodhaven, NY.  Oh the stories that surrounded this place!  Someday I will have to write about the adventures of Woodhaven!

Also, I was hooking up at the race track with two very dear racing friends from the Bay Area, Dan and Bernie Clapp.  So the visit to Chico served a multitude of purposes!  The camaraderie with both Tim and Dorothy, as well as Dan and Bernie made Chico a great week!

The culmination of the event was the two day World of Outlaws show.  It was fast and it was furious!


The last stop on the way home to Yuma was Fresno,CA.  I pulled into my old home town for a four day visit with my Mom, my kids, my grandkids, and of course my old college buddy, Steve Detjan.  Additionally, I had to pay a visit to my cardiologist as well.

On September 15th, a little over three months after I loaded up the ol RV for my northerly excursion, I rolled back into Yuma, AZ., I had come full circle!!

My first summer vacation in retirement has concluded!

It was good to be back home!


9/11: Ten Years Later

Tuesday , September 11, 2001, 8:46 am EDT.

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

I remember, do you?

I have elected to keep this salute/tribute to all who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack upon the United States of America, very simplistic!

This is your humble captain reflecting on the Paul Simon song from 1966, “Sounds of Silence”, it says it all!  Give this song and video a chance.

Gold Cup Day Three: The World of Outlaws

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It was Friday night, day three of the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Chico, CA.  So far, the action on the race track has mimicked the local temperature.  On Friday the local temperature was more than twenty degress hotter than, Monday,  the day that I arrived in this small northern California hamlet.  The afternoon temperature soared on up into the triple digits, around 102!

Notwithstanding the fact that I have been able to spend some good quality time with an old Eastern Air Lines/United Airlines buddy, Tim Donohue, I have also been the loyal sidekick of two very good racing friends, Dan and Bernie Clapp.  However, my main objective in Chico was to observe, enjoy, and inhale some very close, fast, competitive sprint car racing.

Day number three of the 2011 Gold Cup Race of Champions has given me a glimpse of just what I have been waiting to see in Chico.  After a brief delay, while the grounds crew rearranged and re-groomed the racing surface, the action began.

Paul McMahan had lady luck on his side as he picked up his fourth victory of the 2011 season at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. With a challenging racing surface, the Elk Grove, Calif. native made the best of his pole position starting spot to lead all 25 laps, wall -to-wall. The starting spot was by virtue of his win in the night’s dash. McMahan started the dash thanks to a drawing of six, which placed him on the front row.

“To get a win here in front of (team co-owners) Dennis and Teresa Roth is huge for this team,” said McMahan. “The dash draw really helped us and it meant we got to start up front which was key. The track started taking rubber early on (in the night) and they worked it a little bit after time trials. For the feature, it still had a lot of rubber so I was trying to be patient as I worked my way around here. I knew Jason (Meyers) would give me a run for my money near the end and I had to keep him at bay. Great win tonight but we want to be golden tomorrow night.”

Here is the results from Friday night’s  feature:

A-Main – (25 Laps)

1. 83-Paul McMahan[1][$8,000]; 2. 14-Jason Meyers[4][$4,000]; 3. 121-Shane Golobic[2][$2,500]; 4. 63-Chad Kemenah[3][$2,200]; 5. O-Jonathan Allard[10][$2,100]; 6. 57-Jac Haudenschild[8][$2,000]; 7. 11-Steve Kinser[9][$1,800]; 8. 99-Kyle Larson[5][$1,600]; 9. 1-Sammy Swindell[15][$1,500]; 10. 5H-Mason Moore[14][$1,300]; 11. 55-Trey Starks[18][$1,200]; 12. 5W-Lucas Wolfe[11][$1,100]; 13. 83JR-Tim Kaeding[17][$1,000]; 14. 33E-Evan Suggs[22][$700]; 15. 7S-Jason Sides[19][$600]; 16. 25-Jason York[20][$600]; 17. 6-Kraig Kinser[24][$600]; 18. 9-Brad Sweet[6][$600]; 19. 1X-Andy Gregg[16][$600]; 20. 44W-Austen Wheatley[21][$600]; 21. 7-Craig Dollansky[13][$600]; 22. 2-Kyle Hirst[23][$600]; 23. 17-Justin Sanders[7][$600]; 24. 15-Donny Schatz[12][$600]

Listed below are the results of the heat races:

Heat 1 – (10 Laps – Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature)

1. 11-Steve Kinser[1] ; 2. 83-Paul McMahan[2] ; 3. 17-Justin Sanders[4] ; 4. 2-Kyle Hirst[7] ; 5. 19-Tyler Wolf[9] ; 6. 29-Justyn Cox[8] ; 7. 11VS-John Michael Bunch[10] ; 8. OO-Jason Statler[5] ; 9. 5H-Mason Moore[3] ; 10. 15X-Pat Harvey Jr.[11] ; 11. 24C-Colby Copeland[6]

Heat 2 – (10 Laps – Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature)

1. 57-Jac Haudenschild[2] ; 2. 14-Jason Meyers[4] ; 3. 6-Kraig Kinser[7] ; 4. 1-Sammy Swindell[3] ; 5. 89-Rico Abreu[8] ; 6. 2F-Brad Furr[9] ; 7. 26M-Sean McMahan[11] ; 8. 21-Mike Henry[1] ; 9. 92-Kerry Madsen[6] ; 10. 7Y-Clayton Snow[10] ; 11. 44W-Austen Wheatley[5]

Heat 3 – (10 Laps – Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature)

1. 9-Brad Sweet[4] ; 2. 121-Shane Golobic[3] ; 3. 55-Trey Starks[2] ; 4. 25-Jason York[1] ; 5. 28-Ian Madsen[7] ; 6. 21M-Peter Murphy[9] ; 7. 25M-Bobby McMahan[8] ; 8. 88-Brad Bumgarner[5] ; 9. 3F-Geoff Ensign[6] ; 10. 28X-Billy Strange[11] ; 11. 11MD-Mathew Davis[10]

Heat 4 – (10 Laps – Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature)

1. 15-Donny Schatz[1] ; 2. 5W-Lucas Wolfe[5] ; 3. 63-Chad Kemenah[4] ; 4. 1X-Andy Gregg[3] ; 5. 11C-Roger Crockett[8] ; 6. 5D-Jason Solwold[7] ; 7. 7S-Jason Sides[2] ; 8. 3C-Cody Lamar[6] ; 9. 6C-Jeff Paraday[10] ; 10. 92N-Andy Forsburg[9]

Heat 5 – (10 Laps – Top 4 finishers transfer to the A-feature)

1. O-Jonathan Allard[1] ; 2. 99-Kyle Larson[2] ; 3. 83JR-Tim Kaeding[3] ; 4. 33E-Evan Suggs[6] ; 5. 91-Cody Darrah[5] ; 6. 19B-Bud Kaeding[8] ; 7. 7-Craig Dollansky[4] ; 8. 82-Robbie Whitchurch[10] ; 9. 6R-Bill Rose[9] ; 10. 64-Steve Tatterson[7]

With the end of the first night of action packed racing, the excitement builds for final night of the World of Outlaws, and the crowning of the Gold Cup Race of Champions!



Gold Cup: Night Two


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Last night was the second night of this four day racing event, called The Gold Cup.  The event was billed as “The Tiner Family Classic”.  Last night’s program consisted of  the USAC/CRA wingless 410 sprint cars, as well as, the Western States/BCRA “mighty midgets”.

There were 50 sprint cars and 24 midgets that showed up for the race.

Thursday turned out to be a very exciting, action filled evening of racing.  There was a rolling power outage in the greater Chico area that caused some delays prior to the green flag, temperatures hovering around the century mark, and a few spectacular crashes spread throughout the evening.  Early in the very first heat race of the evening, one of the sprint car drivers drove it very deep into turn one, launched himself over the berm, got on his head, then, began rolling with the race rapidly increasing in revolution speed, landing in the catchfence that protects the pit area from the racing action .

Nevertheless, the true entertaining portion of the night was not the wrecks, it was the hot, fast, keenly competitive races that unfolded as the night payed out.

The first two days of this four day event has given me plenty opportunity to work on my redneck!

So for now: