Monday, June 3, 2013


 If you should roam   Away from home   Take note of landmarks
Or you could end up  Out of luck   At the hands of cardsharks
                                         Burma Shave

As barometric pressure slowly rises, there develops a brief transitional period, just prior to the ensuing cloudburst. This is the "calm before the storm". It's actually a moment of pressure filling the last remaining spaces between the oxygen and water molecules, until the storm cell becomes too dense to stay afloat in the sky and must present itself to gravity, which delivers the goods to us, to praise or curse.

And so did the dark lords of meteorology deliver to me the might of a thousand deluges. They came in the form of two seemingly innocuous print deadlines - one magazine and one book. The magazine deadline was met head-on without incident - a mere splash in the pool - yet strenuous enough to leave me somewhat weakened and vulnerable to the book deadline  - which attempted to drown me in a tsunami of last minute challenges.

Okay, that's a bit over dramatic, but it was fun to write. The crux: Three days before the book deadline, I had to leave town for a previous commitment: Two weeks of house sitting for dear friends in Vancouver, Washington. I had happily agreed to this arrangement six months previous, but now suddenly perceived it as yet another deadline to contend with. That dour outlook didn't last long though...

When I hit the I-5 North on-ramp, all thoughts and emotions were flattened by the soothing dial tone of white line fever. My radio snatched fragments of NPR jazz and bluegrass where it could - in between dodging assaults from shady evangelists, over-caffeinated Top 40 DJs, and pompous talk radio blowhards. I love America, but I need a CD player.

Non-northwesterners, take note: This is a proper rest area. In my childhood, most were shaded like this. Now I'm old and my scalp is sunburned, thanks to "progress". Phooey!

Gosson crossing the Columbia. There was a slight moment of trepidation as I considered the ramifications of this drawbridge falling into the river while fender surfing with the rolling time bomb in the right lane. I swallowed my pride and backed off. Sure, the Oregon side of the bridge felt secure, but the Washington side has suffered some credibility problems lately...

I arrived in Vancouver refreshed and eager to do battle with Mr. Deadline. After a good night's sleep, I Felt Good, like James Brown.

My hosts were the Kiwi Metal Fab crew - L-R: Caroline, Loretta, and House Gilbert, AKA: The Irish/Kiwi Connection. Dogs Bailey and Murphy provide shop security. Between their thick accents (and barks), I can't understand anything this bunch tells me, but I love them all - dear friends for several years now. This was shot seconds before a last-second panic speed run to Portland International Airport. No sweat.

Arriving back at the house, I walked into a new reality - with my new room mates, Bailey (left) and Murphy. Murph is a mellow old soul. Bailey is - well - a bit high strung. Okay, he's a needy, greedy, neurotic over-the-top drama queen energy vampire, born without an Off switch. Four pounds of pure centrifugal evil. We're working it out.

                                                       The house.

                                                       Yard art.

                                    Where the magic happens. Lots of skill and sweat in here.

                                            There's been a run of Mopar customers lately.

                                                                               Shop art.

On book deadline day, hot rod superhero Mark Brislawn ("Briz") dropped by to rescue me with much needed insight into subject matter beyond my realm of experience. As always, good friends to the rescue! Thanks to Briz' expertise, I made the deadline with 47 minutes to spare.

Briz, resorting to visual aids in an attempt to make me understand a mechanical concept. Waste of time, buddy.

We celebrated with the traditional Friday night gathering of the Slo Poks - Vancouver's seminal hot rod club, steep in history and skills - shallow in political correctness at these closed club meetings, where no women or children are allowed. The food and conversation is always exquisite. Depending on your point of view, the same could be said for the farts and cigar smoke, I guess.

Briz owns a fleet of awesome homebuilt hot rods. Then there's the Salt Flat Rat. I've seen this Model A touring many times at Bonneville (often doing push-car duty), but never ridden in it before. Exhausted, I felt I had the best seat in the house, melting into the comfy bench with warm wind in my face. Life is good. Machinist Gary Vail rode shotgun.

The long steep entrance to Paul Springer's rural estate made for a dramatic entrance, complete with a long drizzle of steaming antifreeze as we parked. Ta Da!

                    Our host for the evening, Mr. Paul Springer, basking in his private machine shop.

Early arrival guys, standing around talking. But these aren't just any guys. I learn and laugh more at one of these meetings than I do in a year of researching and busting knuckles.

The big news on this night was the debut of Springer's BIG ROADSTER, built on a fire truck chassis. Springer calls this his beater. Somebody call Randy Grubb!

Random shots of other Slo Poks cars.

A chill set in at sunset and we set out for adventure! Well, after assisting this stranded motorist (Briz unstuck the guy's points, but we failed to stop his fuel leak).

Back at Briz' shop, Gary discovered what appeared to be K&N filter material clogging the Holley on Briz' racer (campaigned in the 60s by Gary Bettenhausen). At this point, we all called it a night.

The next day, a rat-in-a-maze drive eventually delivered me to Chip Starr's shop in North Portland for a photo shoot. Chip and I met at Woodburn Dragstrip many years ago and became fast friends (so to speak). He and Chip Sr. campaign the White Lightnin' Austin gasser - one of my all-time favorites. Chip's day job is providing high tech lighting for animated films, but his off hours are spent wrenching on hot rods - and his recent passion - sports car racing. Since I had the camera handy, I clicked off a few "non work" shots.

Radically non-descript, except for its beautiful crustiness, Chip's shop sits in one of my favorite neighborhoods. He doesn't need a sign - he's slammed as it is. Flying elephant wall art was there when he moved in - it's that kind of community.

Chip's current race car. The flip-nose Bugeye Sprite has been racing since 1964. Double-cab VW in background is a buddy's car.

More of the same, inside the walls. These guys are waiting their turn, along with several others that I didn't shoot.

Chip hasn't forgotten where he came from. This Austin has been raced since the early '60s. Last time I saw it run, we were both turning low 10.30s.

The man himself, doing that voodoo that he do - healing the wounded with a wave of his magic wrench.

More activities are scheduled for the coming days. Besides grueling photo shoots, some leisure time is also on the agenda. So stay tuned for fun!


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