Brompton US Championship

I participated in last weekend’s Brompton U.S. Championship in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park.  The race was only six miles long, but it was brutally hilly and unseasonably warm.

In a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Brompton as a commuter bike, all participants are required to wear business attire during the ride (coat, tie, collared shirt, and helmet).  The event begins with a Le Mans Start where each racer runs to his/her bike, unfolds it, and pedals across the start line.  My buddy Ted was first out of the gate and I was four riders behind him much of the time.  He finished 10th overall and I came in 12th (in a field of approximately 60).

Tons of photos are available here.

If you own a Brompton and this event is offered in 2011, it comes highly recommended. The event went smoothly and was a lot of fun.

24 Hours at Daytona

I spent last weekend in Daytona, FL at the “Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona”, a 24-hour endurance race in which Bruce Ledoux was competing with the Guardian Angels, a team is raising money for Children’s Hospital Boston. The car came in 29th after completing 572 laps and raising nearly $70,000 for the hospital. More info (and videos) at the Guardian Angel race page.

The event is strange because it runs two car classes simultaneously: Daytona Prototypes (DPs) and Daytona GTs. The DPs are much faster (top speeds over 200 MPH in the straightaways vs the GT cars’ 160 MPH). My small role on GT car #63’s crew was to act as a spotter. The goal was to warn the driver that a much-faster DP car (or many of them as the case may be) was approaching so that the driver was aware of the passing car and so that he didn’t veer into any of the hidden cars trailing behind. This is a picture of T and C up on the grandstands spotting the car towards the end of the race.

All-in-all it was a good time. We were all sleep-deprived, but we ate well (thanks Bruce!) and got to participate in the race as in a behind-the-scenes way.

Update: C got some pics together here.

Ciao, Italia

M and I spent a week with her family in Rome. The weather was brutto, which kept us inside most of the time, but the food and conviviality were, as usual, molto bene. We made two short day trips into Rome (Trestevere and the Pantheon plus some other sights).  We also went out to V’s folks place in Grotta Ferratta for Paella.  More photos.


M drove the car into Manhattan twice last weekend. On the way back from her second trip the car wouldn’t start; it would turn over, catch, rev, and die, but it wouldn’t stay running. Eventually we realized that the little “immobilizer” icon on the dashboard remained flashing after the car died, which indicated that the anti-theft device had kicked in and we’d have to tow the car. After some late-afternoon calls, dead cell phone batteries, and inevitable wrangling with AAA, the car was towed to Cobble Hill Super Service (I was unhappy last time I had service done there, but it was the only place I could find that would take it). The owner/manager assured me that they could fix the immobilizer on Monday, if in fact that was the problem. FIne. So he called me on Monday and informed me that the alternator was dead to the tune of $700 (he also told me that I need new struts and my battery is leaking). However, he was unable to get the car started… even when he strapped in a new battery. That sounded fishy to me so after he had bullied me into authorizing the repair I called him back and asked a couple more questions (me: “how do you know the alternator’s bad if it wouldn’t start?”, he: “I’ve got computers that tell me” etc). I was in touch with some mechanics I know and they said it sounded funny too, so I called him back and cancelled the service… “Fine,” he said, “I wouldn’t work on your car anyway… are you questioning my diagnosis? Fine! Take it to the dealership and pay THEM to change your alternator. Come down here and tow your car away…” etc, etc. So I took half a day off work and went down there. It turns out that Cobble Hill Shell — of all people — is the outfit who AAA has called to tow my car! They cancelled the tow and procrastinated for nearly three hours while I stood on Atlantic in the cold. Finally after a dozen calls to AAA and an eventual death-defying, 55-MPH ride down 4th Ave in Brooklyn, we narrowly made it before the VW dealership in Bay Ridge closed. The folks there took a look at it today and chalked it up to a weak battery. They reset the immobilizer, reprogrammed the keys and we were on our way. It wasn’t an inexpensive “repair” from VW, but they did the job right: no threats and no bullying. I will never go back to Cobble Hill Shell/Super Service and I recommend you don’t either!
UPDATE: here’s some crazy documentation on the VW TDI immobilizer system… I especially like the emergency override feature (from chittychittybangbang on tdiforum).
UPDATE: the car’s been running fine this week.

Balmy Bellaire October

IMG_0157.JPGLast year when M and I closed up the cottage in Bellaire, we thought the weather was good… ha! What did we know? This unseasonable heat wave was on in northern Michigan too. The thermometer clocked out at 85 one day. The swimming in Torch Lake was even balmier than in July!

M&M Married

M & M were married last weekend. Everyone had a lovely time in the Catskills. The food was good, the weather cooperated, the people were excellent and the couple… well, they are pretty amazing!

Loons on Lake Bellaire

In 1997 there were approximately 286 loon pairs in Michigan. In 2006 that number dropped to 164 with 30% fewer chicks. There are two sets of loons on Lake Bellaire this summer, one in the north arm and the other (a couple of which are in the photo) in the south arm. Click the photo to see the original from which it was taken. Hmmm… I wonder why the loon population is down?

Rental Prius

IMG_1826.JPGMy Jetta was in the shop one night this week so I rented a Toyota Prius from the dealer. It’s a really nice car. There are a lot of high-tech features (like the touchscreen and audio system). The mileage was good (~44 in mixed driving), but that’s pretty equivalent to the TDI. (Honestly I was surprised to put four gallons in it after only one day of drving, though we did take it all the way out to Leland and then back to Bellaire). The very small engine is surprisingly noisy when it’s on. When it’s off (running on battery power) the car is eerily quiet. The engine powers the electric motor so there didn’t seem to be any transmission… the engine would just spool up higher and higher with no shift points. All-in-all it seemed a little bit too much like a well-appointed go-cart for my $23K.

Night Sky Over Bellaire

It’s been a beautiful week in Bellaire. The sun has been out the past couple of days (after a spate of cold and wet weather). The adjacent photo was taken by D and T. It’s a 90-second exposure. You can see the rotation of the earth in the stars if you look at the large photo.