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The Gaps…

When I last left off, we were back from the Texas adventure; I spent a little time at home before having to head out for work.

Off to a conference in Providence Rhode Island for a taste of the cool weather was awesome. The only drawback to the trip was the 18 hour travel with weather delays and missed flights and rude airline personnel. At least once I was there they had plenty of tasty seafood for me to enjoy.

Since I was on the east coast already, I extended my stay to hang out and help my good friends, Chris & Elaine Larsen. They run a little known car on the east coast, some of you may have heard of it, The Embry Riddle Jet Dragster. They were running at the NMRA race at ATCO Drag way in Atco New Jersey.

Three fun-filled glorious days of Sun, Food, Girls, and Mustangs!! Wow how could I get so lucky!!
I met up with The Larsen’s just outside of the track at a nice little restaurant for lunch. But typical Elaine, like on the tree, she was late. Sure she gave me some excuse of a traffic accident or some unbelievable story, but hey at least they brought Andrew and Nitro so all was forgiven.

After lunch, Elaine and I followed the Larsen boys out to the track. After their week at Oshkosh and the rain through Illinois and Ohio, they rig needed a serious washing. So out came the hoses, buckets, and soap. So what would your friendly west coast jet jockey do?? But hold Nitro’s leash and point out the spots they missed! Bet they were glad I came to help! What would they do without me!

With the rig all sparkling clean, the trailer reconfigured for the next days’ display, we loaded 10 tons of luggage into my teeny tiny, 5 horse power rental car for the trip to the hotel. Mind you, the Larsen’s had booked me a full size upgrade, but hey I am cheap, and all the scooters were out!

Into the Hampton Inn, beautiful room, wifi and breakfast included! Whoo even a bunch of restaurants next door. A quick bag drop and we are off to dinner. Nice Italian dinner at one place, then of for drinks at another. Can you say networking…. After a closing that place, we head to sleep. Busy day with a display already planned.

Friday came, sun shining, cool east coast weather again!! The Larsen team pulled into the Wal Mart for a display. Out came the dragster, the stool, and the girl. Elaine proceeded to hand out photos and talk about the NMRA race and the wonderful world of aviation. In the middle of this Chris and I had found a salvage yard down the road with tons of old aircraft pieces. We were trying to figure out how to get in there, and Elaine pulled through again. In the middle of talking to people, she found the sister of the owner of the yards. A few phone calls later, we have an appointment at this closed yard.

Once the display was over, we dropped the rig back at the track and headed to the hotel and food. We were planning on eating, relaxing by the pool, and hitting the yard later that evening. Just as we sat down to eat, the phone rang. By the look on Elaine’s face, it was not good. Seems to be a mix up, and the advertising had gone out with Elaine scheduled to make a run tonight! So a quick lunch, a change of clothes and we were off back to the track.

So out come the blue and grey SwissTrak flooring, the Embry Riddle Awnings and Flags, and finally the Beast herself. Then we roll the car out too. Just joking Elaine! A primary and reserve parachute selected and mounted, batteries charged, tires serviced, and the dragster is inspected for any abnormities.

This is a good time for me to also look over the car. Most people might not know, but each jet car is basically a one of a kind machine. Little differences here and there, and the people who build them like certain things a certain way, as there are differences in the Embry Riddle car and the Miss-Ta-Fire car. Both of these were built by Chris and there are differences. Now as I looked over the ER car and compared her to the Invader, I find differences but nothing major, and nothing in the area of safety. Chris builds a solid, safe car for his wife to rocket down the track.

So now with the Riddle ride readied, Andrew, Chris and I are off to the salvage yard. Once we got there we saw mounds of old aircraft, cars, jet engines, and even a train. We spent some time climbing, sifting, and just looking in amazement at the old stuff. We will have to come back again, now we have a better idea of what was there. As we were deep into the piles of aircraft, a shower of rain came through and soaked us all.

We quickly hurried back to help Elaine keep the car dry. She had it all under control and covered with a plastic cover. As the time for the run approached, I stood back an observed their pre run rituals. We all have them, some you just really have to pay attention to notice.

As we rolled up to the line, I noticed something very unusual for me. My shoes almost came off. What was this? It was sticky? Hmmm maybe they should try this on the west coast! My god it was prepped great! So my job for the weekend was something a little different for me. I was the air guy, and I also guided Elaine to the beams.

All is readied, Elaine is ready, here we go… Air on.. Ok starter is spinning… 12% she starts to growl… idle… air off, power unplugged… She is alive!!

Chris does a quick look over and leak check. (They have radios and talk back and forth. Sounds like a cool idea, but hell when the Invader is lit, that’s my alone time!!)

I stand back and also look for leaks, all is good. Elaine starts to do her show. Running by herself, she uses the radio over the PA to talk to the crowd. That was cool! So while she is doing that, I really feel out of place not in a car! So out comes the camera and I snap a few photos until she starts to roll towards the beams.

Here is another thing, some people like help, me I don’t, but not my deal so I do my best to let her know where the beams are. Bulbs lit, and she is off. Oh yeah I forgot to turn around, and was blasted by heat and rocks! Elaine ran a 5.59 at 281 MPH. Nice solid run!

Towed back to the pits, and then she signed photo after photos for all the fans! Boy it is sure different from this side. I always thought about stepping away from driving and just tuning and training, but I am not sure anymore. I think I like to drive too much.

Well back to the hotel for the night, and it’s an early day tomorrow!

Saturday brought more people, more sun, and more heat to the races. The NMRA puts on such a cool race. I think I like them better than a national event. They have the midways, the cars, and the fun but with real people. Not that the Forces, Herberts, or Capps are not real, but you get the feeling that this could be you. Just a good ole person having fun going fast!

First run of the day was just as nice as the night before, little wiggle at the end and a burst parachute panel had Elaine hitting the reserve in a very professional manner! She made Chris’s eye pop out but already hitting the reserve before he could tell her on the radio of the failure. Heck she might make a good driver yet!

Weather cooled down, and the darkness started to come for the last run of the night. Looking to improve her ET, but not quite, but let me just say she could run that car in a bracket class for as on index that the car runs, 5.59, 5.61, and 5.61!

Give her a trophy! Oh and I cannot forget the wonderful racers at ATCO. They would feed us, and feed us, and feed us some more! I think I gained ten pounds!

Sunday comes and so does the clouds! Then the wind! Then the tornados and lightning! Then the word that it was called off. So with that bit of news, I jumped into the go kart of a rental and headed to the airport after saying my goodbyes!

So sitting in the airport, trying to jump on an earlier flight, after that failed I waited for my flight. This was delayed, and delayed again, and again. I was supposed to get into Phoenix at 9:45 pm, I eventually arrived at 3:50 am. I even had to buy a bottle of water on the plane for $2. Ya think after a 6 hour delay they would at least give you a bottle of water. Noooo! Geesh!

Finally home right. Wrong!

Less than two weeks later, I am jumping on to one of our planes from work heading to Germany for two week to work with NATO. While I was there I was able to get in contact with a fellow jet guy and talk about his jets. Donald Pottier, he has two j-85 jet funny cars, one of which has two cockpits to give rides. We spoke at great lengths of ideas and such, and I can’t wait to go and visit again and see the cars next time!

So I am finally home, caught a cold, and getting the Invader ready for our final race of the year. Tucson’s Southwestern International Raceway’s Jet Car Nationals on October 4-5th.

It will be a blast! (Pun intended!!)

BTW my favorite sign in Germany!!

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