I Missed The Dirt Setup!

me sitting on pit wall @ IMS

(sitting on the pit wall @IMS)

For the past six months I have been working on getting off the excess weight that I have accumulated in the last several years.  In addition to changing my eating habits, I have been walking.

Where I was walking this winter is within the confines of the facility where I winter.  It is much safer, no cars trying to run over you, no traffic, no distractions, etc., however it is pavement, like a road racing course.  For the month of June I was visiting my kids and grandkids in Fresno, and walking on a one mile horse race track.

One would not think there is no difference walking on asphalt, versus walking on dirt.  I, too, was one of those that thought that there was little to no differences in the surfaces. However, after a few days of walking on the dirt track I found that I was having handling problems!

On the pavement, where I was walking this winter, it was a relatively flat surface, requiring both left and right turns.  I had no built in camber, or bump stops in my suspension setup. Just an old pair of Nike cross trainers on my feet!  However here on the horse racing track, it is dirt, slightly banked, and just left turns, kinda like oval racing in NASCAR. Quickly I realized that there was a big difference on how this old man performed on the dirt!

Anyway, for the first week of walking on this dirt track, I found that as I would get to the end of either straight-away, and try to set up for the turns, I was unable to hold the low line through the turns.  As soon as I would “gas it up”, I would push up towards the fence!  I just could not figure it out! Why was I unable to hold the low line, and pushing so much through the turns?

I tried “getting out of the gas” early, rolling through the center, then “gassing it up” again as I progressed through two-thirds of the turn.  That didn’t fix the problem.  I still was “pushing” through the turns!  I tried different tennis shoes, thinking that a change in the “footprint” would be the key.  No help whatsoever!  I was was absolutely puzzled!  What can I do?

After a long self evaluation, I decided to confer with one of my good friends, David Prickett, the 2013 USAC Western States Dirt Track midget champion.  If anyone could help me with my dirt set up, it would be David!  So I loaded up in my car, drove over to his race shop, with the idea of picking his brain.

Once I got over to his shop, I began to query him on how to get through the turns on my walk.  I asked David what are the main principles, tires, suspension, etc., of how he gets his midget to handle in the turns.  I was thinking that all those principles would apply to me and my walk on the dirt horse track!  David relayed to me that the right rear tire was for sliding through the turns, while the left rear powered the car through the turn!

Why did I think of that!  That concept seemed all too simple.  I thought a bit, hmmm, surely this will work for me as well.

Now all I have to do is to adjust my body posture, and body weight, to all a little softer right leg as I go into the turn, allowing for a little slide.  All the while, concentrating on getting the left leg to power me through the turns, and up off of the turns, onto the straight-away! What a concept!

On my walk the following morning, I was very diligent with the knowledge that I had received from David.  On lap one, at the end of the straight-away, I allowed my right side to roll over just a little as I got into the turn.  I found that I was able to hold the lower line.  As I “got back into the gas”, I found that my left leg was, indeed, able to power me through the turn without pushing up to the fence!

Eureka!  Problem solved!

Needless to say that my lap times came down, and my speed went up!

So the next time you see someone walking on a dirt surface, if you notice a cloud of dust, and a person walking by in a blur, it just might be me!


Somewhere Over The Rainbow


(Mom’s 93rd birthday, June 13, 2011)

As my alarm went off this morning, and I got dressed for my morning walk, I couldn’t understand why I felt so exhausted.  I also could not explain this tune that kept running through my head.

As I began my walk, the previous night’s restlessness began to unfold in my brain.

Even though I plug into my iPod during my walk, and I try to select some appropriate walking music, that tune was running around in my head from my night’s sleep, and it kept coming to the forefront of my thoughts.

You may recognize the song from the first line of the lyrics, and it goes like this.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high.

There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby”

As I continued on my walk that tune just was relentless inside my head. After a measurement of time that I could not quantify, I finally acquiesced to the music, found that song on my iPod, and selected it.  I have two different artists’ versions, but I knew which one of the artists I wanted to listen.

Years ago I bought the DVD/CD entitled “One More Car, One More Driver”, by Eric Clapton.  Clapton does an acoustical version of this song that is really so cool!  So I scrolled through the play lists, found this version, and selected it for my listening pleasure.

As the music played it became very clear to me that this song was placed into my head because I must have been dreaming about my Mom during the night.  After all, today is June 13th, and it would have been her 95th birthday.  Additionally, it is the first time I have had to celebrate her birthday without her!

Each time the song finished playing, I would push replay again, and again, and again.  I must have listened to this song a half dozen times this morning!  I was not sure how or why I was directed to play this particular song, but I was!

When I finished my walk I returned to my RV to get cleaned up for the day. My first order of business was to make a trip to the cemetery to visit my Mother’s grave.  After arriving at my Mom’s grave, that song reappeared inside of my head.  I could not get it out of my head!

Both of parent’s graves were slightly covered in pine needles.  Not having a wisk broom in my possession, and having that song running rampant in my head, I was trying desperately to wipe off the debris from the headstones, when I heard a familiar voice.  It was my nephew, who too, was there to visit my Mom, his grandmother’s grave on her birthday.

It was at this time, with this song blaring inside my brain, and all the emotions that I was feeling deep inside, the grief, and the sadness that still lingers within, that I figured out that this song was a message from my Mom!

After concluding all my errands of the day, groceries, and a doctor’s appointment, I returned to my RV.  Once again I found this song and played it once again.  And again it reaffirmed, in my mind, that it was, indeed, a message from my Mom!

So, I have embedded the Eric Clapton video version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.  Maybe you will go along with me in my analysis of my Wednesday night and Thursday morning!

Happy 95th Birthday Mom, I miss you very much!

Til we meet again, somewhere over the rainbow!

A Chip Off Of The Old Block?

Me and Cole

(Cole and Papa)

I have been in Fresno now for a little over a week this summer, and I have had the pleasure of getting to watch my grandson, Cole, play baseball twice for his school team.  One of those games was the final game in their really short regular season, and the other game Tuesday was a championship playoff game.  To say that ol Captain Blowdri was a proud grandfather would be a really gross understatement!

As I have written before, I get a great sense of pride watching Cole play baseball,  the game that I dearly love, the game that I played as a youngster, the game that was taught to me by both my Father, as well as my older brothers, the national past time.  I guess that you could say that baseball and the Hammack’s is kind of, like Hank Williams, Jr. sang about, you know, “a family tradition”!

I have had the opportunity to watch Cole play baseball about four or five times over the past year.  I have witnessed his progression, from an intimidated “newby”, to a young man who is developing skills and self confidence, where the game of baseball is involved.  Even though Cole is just about to finish the 5th grade, he is, in fact, ten years old and that is one year younger than most all of his contemporaries, which at this age can really make a world of difference in maturity, confidence, and performance.  I mention that because his teammates most always have had a little more experience playing Little League than Cole, at this point in their short lives.

Notwithstanding that fact, Cole has adapted very well to playing on a team of more experienced boys, and also on a team that is not coached by his dad, Jeremy.

When I am in the stands or on the sidelines watching Cole play baseball I get very nostalgic and, sometimes a little emotional.  I can’t help, nor control, the pride I feel deep inside, and the emotions that wash all over me while I am watching Cole play baseball.

While sitting in the stands watching Cole play ball, I find myself vicariously playing in the game.  It is like I am in Cole’s uniform, playing his position, and hitting for him when he steps into the batter’s box!  It is like I am experiencing all the highs and lows of the game, in real time, as he is playing it!  When Cole comes through with a base hit, I feel so boastfully proud and beam from ear to ear, and on the other hand, when he strikes out or grounds out, I can feel all of his disappointment!

Nevertheless, I will admit that I am a somewhat proud, prejudiced grandfather, when discussing my grandson’s athletic abilities!  Additionally, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction and family pride when I am able to attend any of Cole’s baseball games, and watch this young boy grow personally and athletically.  I could go on forever about this, however, I will just incorporate the following video to augment this article.

I will leave you with this video of one of my most favorite James Taylor tunes.  The message is the medium!

Peace be with you!


Returning To Indy After Seventeen Years!

Indy Car two seater

(WOMR file photo)

It has been seventeen years (17) since my last time in the grandstands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the year was 1996.

That year, 1996, was the first year that Tony George, the former president of the the speedway and grandson of legendary owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Hulman, split from the sanctioning body, CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams).  Tony George organized the Indy Racing League (IRL), and initiated the rift that has nearly killed open wheel racing!  But I digress!

Anyway Wednesday morning I will be driving to the speedway for American Family Insurance 500 Festival Community Day.  There will be several autograph sessions for the current Indy Car Series drivers that are in the field for the 2013 Indy 500.

On Thursday the track activities include Indy Lights practice for the Firestone Freedom 100, and qualifying for the race that will be on Friday.  Additionally, there will be some of the vintage Indy 500 race cars, from the golden era of racing, brought out to the track.  Those classics are normally housed within the museum!

The Friday track activities includes vintage Indy 500 cars, Indy 500 practice (Carb Day), even though these race cars have not had carburetors in about forty years, the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, and the Indy 500 pit stop competition.

Saturday will find the vintage Indy 500 roadsters, vintage sprint cars, and vintage midgets out along pit road, as well as honoring, and celebrating Parnelli Jones’ 50th anniversary of his 1963 Indy 500 victory!

Lastly, I really don’t have to tell you what happens on Sunday, it is “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”, the 97th running of the Indy 500.

Notwithstanding all that is going on at the track prior to the Sunday race, there is an excellent chance that history might be made this Sunday when the checkered flag waves.  Both Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves have a shot at joining a very exclusive Indy 500 club, if either of them wins the race.  Both drivers have won this prestige race a total of three times.

There has been only three race car drivers, in the entire history of the Indy 500, to win the 500  four times.  Those drivers in this fraternity are “Super Tex”, A.J. Foyt, Jr., Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears!  If either Dario, or Helio can win this race, they will forever be in a very good company, and a rather large feather will be stuck in their caps!

Standby for further updates from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!



If Roses Grow In Heaven


(93rd Birthday, June 13, 2011)

This is the first Mother’s Day without my Mom.  I have been trying to come to grips with what would be an appropriate tribute.  The following poem expresses, simply and concisely, my thoughts at this time!

If Roses Grow In Heaven

If roses grow in Heaven

please pick a bunch from me.

Place them in my Mother’s arms

and tell her that they are from me.

Tell her I love her and miss her,

and when she turns to smile,

place a kiss upon her cheek,

and hold her for a while.

Because remembering her is easy,

I do it every day.

But there is an ache within my heart

that will never go away!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Revisiting Some Of My Past


(Williams AFB 82 FTW T-38)

Last week, while in Casa Grande, AZ, for some really good late model and modified races, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to revisit some of my past.  It just so happens that Casa Grande is just about 40 mile directly south of the place that launched my aviation career, Williams AFB, AZ.

It was almost 40 years ago, August 9, 1973, that this baby-faced, young Second Lieutenant first drove onto the base for processing and orientation for USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training.

On an off day from racing I decided to take that nostalgic drive North to see what is left of the former Williams AFB, or as we, in the Air Force called it with great affection, “Willy”.

As I left the Pinal County Fairgrounds, that is where the Central Arizona Raceway is located, I headed Northeast for my first stop on this tour down memory lane.  About 15 miles NE from the race track stands a seldom used airfield that is now Coolidge Municipal Airport.

Coolidge Municipal Airport, in its previous life, was built and utilized by the USAF as for various support roles from 1941-1993.  During WWII that facility was used as a support field for ferrying supplies and personnel to support the war effort.  Following WWII, the airfield was aligned with the USAF’s effort in training pilots at Williams AFB, AZ.

It was at this auxiliary airport that I would fly visual approaches, both straight-in approaches, and single engine approaches, in the T-37 back in 1973.

Notwithstanding the fact that I had flown more than 50 approaches to this facility in 1973, I had never driven to this airport, stood on the taxiways and runways.  Now some 40 years later, I was able to stand at this facility and reminisce the significance it has played in my aviation career.

There were many emotional thoughts that ran through this old man’s mind during my revisitation to Coolidge Municipal Airport.  As I was standing out on the tarmac, I could hear the voice of my T-37 instructor in my head, talking me through the traffic pattern and onto the runway successfully.

As I gazed out over this, personally important historic old airport, I couldn’t help thinking……

Forty years, man where’d they go?

After more than an hour of reminiscing at Coolidge Municipal Airport, I worked really hard at gathering up all those emotions that had run rampant through my brain, walked back to my car, and decided to drive another 30 miles North to some more of my old stomping grounds, Williams AFB, now called Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport for some more soul-searching.

On the drive from Coolidge to “Willy” there were many thoughts that began to float around in my head.  I wasn’t sure just how this old man would handle what would surely be more emotional thoughts that would gush into my brain, after all, it was where my future was shaped in many ways.

As I drove through a back way from Coolidge to Willy, I noticed that this route used to be a deserted country road.  However, now there are subdivisions abounding everywhere! As I drove North on Power Road, I came to Williams Field Road, the entrance to Williams AFB in the old days.  I made a right turn on Williams Field Road, the old guard-house was still there, marking the entrance to Willy.

I was on a mission to find certain buildings that were key to my days on base.  I first drove to where my old T-37 squadron building was located.  That building has now been updated, and is now incorporated into part of the Arizona State University extension facilities now located here.

The memories of the morning standup briefing before we went flying the ol “Tweet” bounced around in my brain.

Forty years, man where’d they go?

Next stop was across the street.  That is where my T-38 squadron building was once headquartered.  Likewise, that building has been updated and incorporated into ASU extension.

Forty years, man where’d they go?

As I stood between these two buildings, I gazed out to the ramp area where all those T-37’s and T-38’s used to be parked.  The nostalgia rushed into my brain like a herd of stampeding buffalo!

Those thoughts resurrected my early days of flying the T-37, trying to learn how to be an Air Force officer and pilot, and to all the struggles of trying to manhandle the supersonic fighter/trainer known as the T-38.  The thought of 57 Second Lieutenants, “young studs” in our flight suits, strutting our stuff, flying jets, and living large, was absolutely overwhelming!

Forty years, man where’d they go?

My next stop was to find the Officer’s Club.  My most prized memory of this building was when I brought my Dad down to Willy for my “Dining Out”.  The Dining Out was a formal function, for men only, just prior to my graduation.  The Dining Out is a USAF tradition, a right of passage of sorts for the young USAF Officer and pilot.  It was a night with me in my mess dress uniform and my Dad in a tux.  What a memory!

That night still is one of the highlights of my life!  It marked, in my mind, when my Dad really realized that his son had passed into manhood!

Forty years, man where’d they go?

After the Officer’s Club, I headed back near the guard-house entrance.  Just to the South of the entrance stands the old base chapel.  The base chapel is where my graduation ceremonies were held.  It is where I got my USAF pilot wings pinned on my uniform at the end of USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training, September 7, 1974.

As I stood near the front door, I vividly relived that warm September afternoon with my family in tow helping me to celebrate a monumental event in my young life.  Once again, the emotions rushed and gushed all over me!

Forty years, man where’d they go?

My last point of interest to find was the base house that I lived in.  This was also the first house that my oldest son, Jason, came home from the hospital to!  The street names have all been changed since the Air Force gave the facility back to Arizona.  But with a little effort I found the house!

Once again, there were memories that overwhelmed me!  There were too many memories to even lightly touch upon!  But nevertheless, this movie lasted quite a long time as I sat down on the sidewalk in front of the house!

Forty years, man where’d they go?

As I left my old base housing house, I found myself pulling back into the base chapel on my way out of the base for one last stop.  I got out of my car one last time and walked up to the front door at the base chapel.  I just touched the front door one last time!

When I was able to gather myself up, I slowly walked back to my car.  As I pulled out of the old base chapel parking lot, I peered one last time over my left shoulder for a final glimpse of Willy and my past.

Good bye Willy!  Forty years, man where’d they go?

As I pulled out of Willy, on the radio quite coincidentally, was one of my all time favorite songs by Bob Seger.

It really sums up just how I felt last week as I was reliving the life of Captain Blowdri, forty years later!

Forty years, man where’d they go? Now I  recall!

I will leave you with the video.  Listen to the lyrics, they have left an indelible imprint in my mind for many years!


If I Could Have A Beer With Jesus

Fatherly advise

(Jeremy and Cole)

Growing up the way that I did, with a good old farm boy as my Dad, and a very naive girl as my Mom, and going to church every Sunday morning, I have always prayed in my time of need.  However, I must admit that I do not go to church every Sunday morning, now that I am an old man myself! Nevertheless, not all my prayers get answered, or at least I think that they do not all get answered.

But after my Dad passed away back in 1995, and periodically throughout all those years, but more specifically since my Mom passed away on June 30, 2012, I have thought that I would really like have a one-on-one talk with Jesus, to get a few of my most burning questions answered.  You know, just go have a beer with Jesus!

These are some of the things that I would ask him!

If I could have a beer with Jesus
Heaven knows I’d sip it nice and slow
I’d try to pick a place that ain’t too crowded
Or gladly go wherever he wants to go

You can bet I’d order up a couple tall ones
Tell the waitress put ‘em on my tab
I’d be sure to let him do the talkin’
Careful when I got the chance to ask

How’d you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
Do you hear the prayers I send
What happens when life ends
And when you think you’re comin’ back again
I’d tell everyone, but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

If I could have a beer with Jesus
I’d put my whole paycheck in that jukebox
Fill it up with nothing but the good stuff
Sit somewhere we couldn’t see a clock

Ask him how’d you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
Have you been there from the start
How’d you change a sinner’s heart
And is heaven really just beyond the stars
I’d tell everyone, but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

He can probably only stay, for just a couple rounds
But I hope and pray he’s stayin’ till we shut the whole place down

Ask him how’d you turn the other cheek
To save a sorry soul like me
What’s on the other side?
Is mom and daddy alright?
And if it ain’t no trouble tell them I said hi
I’d tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus
I’d tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus

[Thanks to Kendra Singleton for lyrics]

Check out the video, and listen to those lyrics.  Would you like to go have a beer with Jesus sometime?

Those Flyover States


(WOMR file photo)

Earlier this month I was driving back from Fresno after my cardiologist visit.  I have driven that long 500 miles many times recently. On this particular day I was near the Mojave airport, close to Edwards AFB, when I looked up to the sky to see an airliner heading to the East Coast.  That old jet airliner got me reminiscing about my 37 years of flying, and all that I have witnessed in the air and on the ground.

About that same time a tune came up on the radio by Jason Aldean that really intensified the thought patterns.  Listening to the lyrics, as I now do at my advanced age of almost 62, it really made me think about a lot of things.

When we think of this country, we tend to think only about the cool parts, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc.  However, we fail to realize that there is another part of this country, the part of the country that feeds, not only this country, but much of the rest of the world!

The forgotten parts of this country are called “the flyover states”!

There is one “flyover state” that is near and dear to my heart, “those plains of Oklahoma”. That is where my roots emanate from.  That is where my parents were born.

Nevertheless, if you watch the video and listen to the lyrics, you might feel some of the same emotions I was feeling while the song played on that long lonesome road back home!

While watching this video, with its broken down B-727’s, of which I have flown for over 5,000 hours in my aviation career, brought back many memories from my Eastern/United Airlines days.

Check this video out!

It’s A Time Of Thanksgiving

50th anniversary

(50th Wedding Anniversary, 1984)

Archie Wilson Hammack

July 21, 1912-December 30, 1995

Ola Mae Hammack

June 13, 1918-June 30, 2012

I will be brief this Thanksgiving.  I am most thankful for the best parents that I could ever ask for!

For those of you that know me, know that I relate music and life, whenever possible.

Listen to this song written by Blake Shelton, and his wife Miranda Lambert, who also sings this song.  The song is about the loss of Blake’s brother when they were teenagers.  The lyrics are poignant, current, and very moving!  This song says what’s in my heart this Thanksgiving.

“…..I miss you.  They say I’ll be ok, but I’m not going to ever get over you!”

September 11, 2001: Never Forgotten!

WTC 2 Plane
I found this tribute to my fellow crew members who lost their lives on the clear cool September morning.  The author was a fellow UAL pilot, Jay Heppner.  I could not have written a more poignant salute to our fallen airline comrades!
September 11, 2001
On a clear, warm September morning 11 years ago, our world and sense of security forever changed. The images of aircraft – our aircraft used as weapons against us — flying into buildings, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the fire pluming from the Pentagon, and a southwestern Pennsylvania farm field will forever be etched in our minds.
Each anniversary of 9/11, we recall the loss of friends, fellow employees and family members who died on that horrific day. We’re also reminded how that day impacted our sense of safety and control, two components of our work lives all airline pilots hold sacred.We all continue to feel the effects of 9/11. Our airline has gone through a bankruptcy and a merger. Many of us continue to deal with the lingering psychological effects of anger and other emotions. Yet, despite these challenges, it is important for us to remember what we have overcome. Our will to fight and stand up to those who would do us harm, our dedication and commitment to making air transportation as safe and secure as possible, and our continued belief in a free and open society have never been stronger. These characteristics – characteristics that make us unique – have sustained us during this difficult time.
“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”
-President Barack Obama
As United pilots, we all experienced a personal loss with the death of four of our fellow pilots 11 years ago: Captain Victor Saracini and First Officer Michael Horrocks of Flight 175; and Captain Jason Dahl and First Officer LeRoy Homer of Flight 93. The sacrifices of these brave aviators, together with the crewmembers on American Airlines Flights 11 and 77, serve as reminders that we cannot afford to be complacent or stagnant in the upkeep of our national security and aviation safety.On September 11, 2001, each United pilot inherited the responsibility of carrying on the legacies of Captain Saracini, Captain Dahl, First Officer Horrocks and First Officer Homer. Each time we enter the cockpit, our devotion to safety and professionalism honors their memories and lives up to the examples they set. It is our duty to continue carrying their light and honoring them with our service.

Let us all pause today to acknowledge the sacrifices of our fallen brethren and to reaffirm our collective vow to never forget the following men and women who lost their lives 11 years ago today:

United Flight 93:
Captain Jason Dahl (a personal friend of yours truly, Captain Blowdri)
First Officer LeRoy Homer, Jr.
Flight Attendant Lorraine Bay
Flight Attendant Sandra Bradshaw
Flight Attendant Wanda Green
Flight Attendant CeeCee Lyles
Flight Attendant Deborah Welsh

United Flight 175:
Captain Victor Saracini
First Officer Michael Horrocks
Flight Attendant Robert Fangman
Flight Attendant Amy Jarret (another friend)
Flight Attendant Amy King (another friend)
Flight Attendant Kathryn Laborie
Flight Attendant Alfred Marchand
Flight Attendant Michael Tarrou (another friend & Amy’s fiancé)
Flight Attendant Alicia Titus
Customer Service Representative Marianne MacFarlane
Customer Service Representative Jesus Sanchez

American Flight 11:
Captain John Ogonowski
First Officer Thomas McGuinness
Flight Attendant Barbara Arestegui
Flight Attendant Jeffrey Collman
Flight Attendant Sara Low
Flight Attendant Karen Martin
Flight Attendant Kathleen Nicosia
Flight Attendant Betty Ong
Flight Attendant Jean Roger
Flight Attendant Dianne Snyder
Flight Attendant Madeline Sweeney

American Flight 77:
Captain Charles Burlingame
First Officer David Charlebois
Flight Attendant Michele Heidenberger
Flight Attendant Jennifer Lewis
Flight Attendant Kenneth Lewis
Flight Attendant Renee May

These fallen heroes are gone, however, they will never be forgotten!