Here's the latest from the soggy Pacific Northwest on my flat track...
Last Saturday night was an enlivened culmination of two weeks of self-induced stress, replacing the seat that vanished from the bike sometime between leaving the track and arriving at the shop... which meant a number of late nights after my day job, and the ever helpful, fellow racer Korry Fitzpatrick volunteering his time to assist. He did the beautiful paint job, masterfully matching the graphics on the original Ray Carroll tank.* More on that in a bit.
My intentions were good...shape a blank out of foam, make a gelcoat and glass mold, then lay up a beautiful gelcoat and glass seat of my own design, to match the flavor and design of both the bike, and the other seat. Making the seat would both satisfy my creative callings, and remind me of ding repair on surfboards and friends' Hobie Cats... Ah, the lessons learned. Youtube experts make it look so easy. I found out the hard way, that one must use polyurethane foam to build your pattern, or "plug." Why? Because the two part marine epoxy primer will find a soft spot in the glass you laid over the block via air bubbles...and it will eat your pattern. And all of that time in a freezing, barely heated shop after hours...and your pride. Gulp. I swallowed the latter, and with the help of Korry convincing me that it truly wasn't the end of the world, I shifted mentally to plan "B."
So, the foam block gets repaired and wrapped in foil duct tape, several coats of form release wax, and it becomes the mold...a reverse mold, wherein the underside of the seat will be smooth, and the top will be only as finely finished as we are able to lay the glass over the complex contours (both convex and concave) of the seat. It released from the block nicely, but had the expected fill, sand, repeat process of getting it smooth and prepped for paint. This process, for the unfamiliar, is a very dusty, arduous, and itchy affair.
I'd been through each stage enough times to get it "good enough." Plus, race day Saturday was looming.
Korry made a deal with me when I first told him I was going to make a new seat: "I'll help you with it, but you have to let me paint it." Deal. He's a skilled painter, and is meticulous. I'm grateful for his work with me on my bike, and glad to call him my friend.
It's Friday night, he's finished his fantastic recreation of the tank detail on the new seat, and we return to the shop after a celebratory meal at the Delta Cafe to apply the clear coat to our masterpiece. Cue dramatic disappointment music...Dah-dah-dah-DAH... within about 35 seconds of applying the enamel high gloss clear, we stood together in our make shift paint room in the shop of an unfinished house, where we get electricity from one circuit via extension cord originating at the temporary power pole...in utter disbelief, before our eyes, the paint reacted to the clear coat, and not positively. It raised and "alligatored" the paint underneath. We were devastated. I felt particularly bad for Korry, because he was, after all, just helping me out, and had a lot of time in painting the seat to that point. It was after 11:00 pm, and the race was the following day. We left dejected for our respective homes, Korry with a much longer drive than I, out to Estacada.
I barely slept, worrying about the seat. Would the clear coat dry? Would I be able to affix a cushion to sit on? And ultimately, would we be able to salvage Korry's hard work in his beautiful paint job?
At 8:15 am on race day, I was back at the shop. With some 600 grit paper, I was able to wet sand the high spots off of the part of the seat where the pad would reside, getting it glass smooth so the velcro would adhere.
I rinsed the seat clean using what little bottled water I had remaining, dried it off, and attached it to the bike. I cut and applied the velcro strips to the pad I shaped out of closed cell foam, and then the pad to the seat. Voila! I had a place to sit. And, if you don't get too close to it, you can't even make out our nightmare. Korry will not be satisfied until it's perfect.
Cue the squad, and my race day breakfast at Tim's Cafe. Tim's Cafe is open today as of the moment I accepted Tim's invitation to let him make me breakfast at his house. Tim has assembled a squad to come and watch the races, and support me. Tim has also convinced his brother Vinnie to bring them all down in his RV. So, Tim, Vinnie, Chuck, Adam, Chad, and his lovely girlfriend Breezy piled into the Toyota RV, vintage 1990, and made the trek to the state fairgrounds at Salem. I'd just finished my practice session when they arrived, and I was elated. It meant a great deal to me that they all came down to watch me race. To this point, it had been Korry and I, in a convoy following each other to the track to go do our thing. My girlfriend, Jenny was with me on this night as she was last race, but now, we had a squad. Tim, with the help of his trooper wife, cut out logos from various product cardboard packaging found in their recycling, and fashioned them to a white boiler suit along with my name and plate number on the back, giving the impression of a pit crew chief, with numerous sponsors to support my racing interest. The executives and stockholders of Cheez its, Modelo Especial, and Huggies diapers would surely wince if they only knew. I was quite pleased...
The Vintage 250 class was numbered with more riders than I'd experienced previously, requiring two heat races for the class. I finished 4th in my heat after nearly looping it completely at the start, and was happy to have not fallen or throw the chain off of the rear sprocket, as I've been prone to do in the past. And, the new seat felt great!
Another good friend, Sean Moran, a fixture at See See Coffee every morning, a brother in arms during Timbers matches in the north end, and my crew chief/spiritual adviser during my flat track debut at Dirt Quake in the summer, showed up at the track...also dressed in full race team crew chief gear. He heard that Tim was bringing the RV and we'd be cooking, so naturally, he brought a pork tenderloin. I was brimming with excitement over the whole thing.
The main event crowded. I was positioned in the middle of the front row in the grid. Again, I didn't get a good start (gotta work on that) and was in fifth at the end of the first lap. Robert from @lastmoto asked me to wear the gopro for the main, and the video reveals a pretty harrowing crash in the front straight at the start/finish line, wherein Korry gets launched after running over the rear wheel of the suddenly down rider in front of him. His bike ended up on the wall, his tank came off, broke his pipe, and taco'd his handlebars. I was worried about him, as I watched him hit the deck pretty hard. At the time of writing this, I'm glad to say he's very sore, but he thinks he'll be fine.
For the restart, without Korry in the field, I position myself as far forward on the bike as I can, and get the best start I've ever had, yielding the hole shot. I lead the race for all but the last lap, wherein Cory Churchill, who'd been waiting patiently for me to make a mistake, seized upon his opportunity after I went too wide in turn two as a result of coming in faster than my comfort level, sensing him breathing down my neck. With that, I finished second, and received a great deal of cheering from my friends, and a purple trophy to match my bike. I introduced myself to Cory Churchill and congratulated him, as he won not only our class, but the TT, and 100cc or "Mad dog" class, as well. His dad was a flat tracker back in the day, and the DT 250 Cory rides sports his dad's plates and the front wheel from one of his bikes. Some cool family lore, there. He's yet another wonderful person I've had the pleasure of meeting through the sport and this community.
Then, I posed for pictures, packed up, pulled out of the fairgrounds and headed back to Portland. Jenny and I honked as we passed the RV on the way. By the way, Robert took third in the main.
I can't wait for the One Show, and the races next month!
Click the link to buy one of the few remaining Sideburn x 250London race shirts like Todd's and perhaps you can be a serial podium-botherer too.