Where’s Waldo?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2013 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Well that title is just a stupid way to start a post here, but I’ve been kind of missing. This is my first since September 2012? Wow. It’s been too long.

I must begin by saying I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED YOU AT THE HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA back in April! You spent lots of time at the PCA hospitality tent, and oh how I cannot believe I missed the opportunity to ask you all the questions I’d love to ask you in person. And to get you to take me for a spin in my still-stock 1988 911! Even if just around the access road (as much time as you’ve spent at Barber, I’m sure you’ve been as naughty as anyone on that road!). In years past, I would have been working away at the tent where you spent so much time, registering visitors, raffling off door prizes, posting schedule changes…when I wasn’t working the car corral, or running around rounding up supplies and speakers and cables and ice other things when you are “working” the tent for the club. Any other year I’d have been all over it! But this year, the race came too close to my birthday, which hubby and I had already planned to spend on the Fort Morgan beaches west of Gulf Shores, Alabama. I was watching the race from vacation, and when I saw the tweeted and facebooked photos of you at my club’s hospitality tent…well if I’d had my 911, I might just have tried very hard to speed the 4 (3?) hours back up to see you! Alas, I didn’t, and I didn’t.

Beyond that, my motorsports endeavors have been on hold again, thanks to another stupid car accident! My only contribution to this one was being out on the interstate on Christmas Day in a terrible, blinding downpour. Hubby and I were on our way back from Atlanta, and had planned to blow thru Birmingham and go on to Tuscaloosa for our Christmas visit with hubby’s family. We were in our 2004 Honda CR-V, and we were already spinning by the time my brain processed the bang of a car hitting ours, and all we could do was watch with awe as the headlights flew by our windows. Then another impact, more spinning, then flying straight backward, we could see everything as we crossed all four lanes of interstate before the back of the car hit the inside wall and we came to a rest facing the wrong way.

To our utter amazement, we were unhurt. The first thing we did was to kind of hold our hands in front of our eyes and turn them around, looking for blood. We couldn’t believe we were not bleeding, not hurt at all. We were covered in broken glass, the rain was coming in, the engine was still running. We gathered our wits about us quickly, as we were now hanging out into the fast lane at an angle from the wall, with cars speeding toward us around the turn. Not good. We grabbed a cell phone and called 911. Our spectacular accident, just near the airport exit, had already been called in, with injuries reported. I’m sure the caller thought we had to be at least hurt. So did we.

Several cars stopped and came to our aid. The first man told us that he was next to us and saw what happened. A Lincoln Town Car came up fast behind us, and when he went to pass, he lost control and started spinning. When he hit our car, his came to a stop, while ours went spinning first in one direction, where I think we clipped the wall on the other side, then back across all the lanes to where we were. The other car kept on going. Hit and run. Nobody had a good enough description to do anything, though hubby did see a car EXACTLY meeting the description of the one that witnesses said hit us, with damage on the right front end and fender….in front of the police station. An unmarked police car. Who knows.

So that’s the big wreck story. My already-messed-up neck got even more messed up, so my range of motion is a little limited, and it hurts like a mofo most of the time, though it’s getting better. So no helmet until I’ve got a better handle on that. The car was totaled, and we had a new one by the next weekend, a 2005 to replace the 2004.

And now while I have absolutely no fear about being in a race car, even in the rain (love that, actually!), I confess I have become kind of phobic about driving on the interstate in the rain. So I avoid it, or get a ride with somebody else, or whatever. I mean, I don’t get hysterical and pull off the interstate when it starts to rain or anything! But actually, I think I have managed to avoid even being on the interstate in the rain by watching the weather and planning my travel. For whatever this silly drivel is worth.

Meanwhile, as the real live professional sports car racing season started to shape up, I found myself sitting here with a great big “WTF” cloud hanging over my head. What in the world? Just after the end of last season, I think, Porsche Motorsport started making noises about new cars rolling out and changes here and there with teams. Next thing I knew, there was an announcement about no more Porsche factory alliance with Flying Lizard, and the Porsche Works drivers such as yourself and Jorg B were quickly replaced on the Lizard team. In fact, one of the drivers I used to GUSH to about you is now driving the old Lizard #45 (Spencer Pumpelly). I saw another announcement soon after about you going with CORE and R4R, and still, the big WTF cloud hung over my head.

What just happened? I suppose if I were still hanging around the tracks, I would have had some better intel. I’ve not been over to Franz Blam Racing in awhile, so I didn’t really have those brains to pick about it. Your website was quiet other than the announcements. A few hints on Twitter but nothing I could really figure out. I knew you were going to be on the sidelines for some of the season’s first races, and I wondered how hard that might be to do. I saw interviews with you where you talked about it a little, and I don’t know you well, but I think that I can say that I know you are a race car driver, and everything in you was probably aching to be behind the wheel at those first races. I know you are rolling with it and making the best of the changes, but I am just guessing that if you were in charge of the world, things may have gone a little differently around the transition.

Maybe next time you are nearby, I will manage to get out to the track and ask you all these burning questions myself! Until then, I am watching and rooting for you, loud and obnoxious as ever, of course. I think some of your time this season you may be sharing a car with one of my favorite drivers, and one of my only REAL DRIVING COACHES, Mike Skeen! Couple of ginger boys should make for a fiery season, I say!

Wherever you are, whatever (Porsche) you’re driving, GO GIT IT!!!!




Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2012 by vroomgrrl

Dear Pat,

Just a quick note to follow the last bit of a bomb-drop. I’m still here! And we have some new friends checking in. I’m fairly certain you don’t read this thing, and even more certain that very few people ever read this thing. But now that I know a handful of folks have come clicking over here, I’m all self-conscious about leaving that last note just hanging out there. So here we are!

I’m sat in a dumpy hotel room in west Alabama, getting ready to slip into my gladiator costume for a day of top secrit gubmint work. Most of a year has passed since I penned my last note here, and things are good. Soon after I wrote that, I learned that I would not need any chemotherapy or radiation. That’s a relief! I had said I’d snapped back from surgery like a rubber band, but when I wrote that, I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight that I have now, to tell you that the rubber band lost a bit of its snap for awhile there. I thought some of the physical (inside) changes I experienced early on might last forever. The most bothersome of those are…well, pretty much back to normal. My follow-ups so far are all clear. WHEW! Most of the changes of the past few months have centered more around managing my energy and my time. 

Speaking of which, my writing time is gone for the moment. Time to hop into the fleet car and take on the day. More later, promise! 



After the Crash

Posted in Autocross, Lessons, Me, Track Days on December 4, 2011 by vroomgrrl

The following was originally written on December 4, 2011, but not posted until today, August 11, 2012.

Dear Pat,

Once again I’m apologizing for taking so long to post you a note! You’ll understand, I’m sure. My last note was written on the eve of Petit le Mans, which I had to miss for the first time EVER this year. I did keep up by whatever coverage I could attain (TV, ESPN3) and wow, once again you guys drove like demons possessed to your 2nd place finish.

In the bigger picture, that was one of your team’s three podiums for the year, if memory serves. Fourth in points for the championship. I followed your various updates over the season, and while it was rough for everybody’s exemplary efforts not to be rewarded with more podium finishes and points standings, your resilience was inspiring. Because while your ALMS season was rough, you were doing so many other things. In many cases, your exemplary efforts yielded the pinnacle of results, such as your World Challenge Championship. This is what I was thinking about in my last post, “How You Look at It.”

My driving year was very up and down as well. My one accomplishment, and for me, it’s huge, was to be signed off to drive solo at Barber. Due to various intervening factors, like car problems, and health issues, my novice season stretched from late 2008 until Spring 2011! To be quite honest, taking up competitive driving for the first time at the age of 50, I really needed all of that novice time to get good habits truly engrained. I didn’t grow up throwing karts around, or piloting a scooter. Yeah, I had a bike, and a car when I was 16, but soccer and swimming were my sports. I followed motorsports from early on with my dad, and loved attending races. But it wasn’t until my 30s that I started to get the bug to take up driving as sport.

So I’ve really relished this extended novice period. As I’ve been able, I’ve focused on getting as much seat time as possible, both driving, and riding shotgun with some fantastic drivers (something I would love to do with you…my car and yours!). The competitive driving principles my dad taught me as I sat in his lap behind the wheel starting around age 5 (“The car will go where your eyes go…the way to drive curves is to straighten them out…”) came in handy. Many brave, patient souls rode shotgun with me as I got my head around the whole thing. At the end of my three-year novice season, I may not be fast, but I am smooth. Smooth hands, smooth feet, smooth moves. Heh! I have much yet to learn, and I am looking forward to what’s to come.

Autocross is something I really enjoy, but the year was fraught with conflicts, and I made it out for ONE event all season long. Several Porsche Club folks ganged up and went to the October SCCA Solo event together and we ran in a club class. That was a huge bag of fun! I wasn’t very competitive. I was so happy to be out with my buddies, and hanging with the cars and the noise and the vroom and the squeal and the whoooooa-slides…but I had a hard time getting my head in it. In fact, my being there that day turned into an unintentional middle finger at the gods of fate.

The day before, I had found out that I had colon cancer, and the autocross event I was so looking forward to was on the Sunday before my hastily scheduled Tuesday surgery. There was no reason not to go. My cancer was discovered via routine colonoscopy – I never had any symptoms and was not “sick” or anything. But once you find out you have cancer, there is this time of abject terror and fear between the initial diagnosis, and the point at which they have enough info (from surgery, radiology, pathology, etc.) to say how advanced it is, and what your survival odds are. And whether you will need chemo and/or radiation that can make you wish you were dead.

Anyway, all of a sudden, in my mind, this one little autocross event took on HUGE proportions, and it became massively important to me to just be there, JUST DO IT. The fear and terror lurking with my cancer diagnosis kept trying to remind me that this might be my last. Autocross. Ever. So I went, and it was a cool, beautiful Fall day, and my friends were there, and I told a few of them, and got my introduction to The Cancer Eyes. The Cancer Eyes are the eyes that look back at you from a person who’s just gotten tragic news that their dear friend has cancer.

To me, the hardest thing about having cancer is having to tell your loved ones that you have cancer.

So the fact that I’m writing this is all you need to know about how I’ve survived so far. And I’m lucky in that they caught mine pretty early, and I have pretty good survival odds: 88% chance of living five years, 84% I’ll make it ten years. The jury is still out on whether chemo would help or hurt me; I’ll know in another week or so. But even if I need chemo, the kind they use for my cancer is not known for awful side effects, other than “thinning” hair.

I went to my first post-surgery social event on Friday, the Porsche Club holiday party. I finally figured out how to describe my experience. Other than a few rough days recovering from the abdominal surgery, I have not been “sick” at all. My insides have been seriously re-plumbed, and there are challenges related to that. But I snapped back from surgery like a rubber band, was released with no restrictions on activity at three weeks, and other than getting a little lazy from lying around in my fuzzy slippers and robe, I’m good!

So when talking to people at this party, they would grasp my arm and give me The Cancer Eyes, and I’d say, “Really, I’m good now! Other than having a lump of cancer cut out of me, I have not been sick a day.” Then they’d give me the You Are Joking Eyes, and I’d have to reassure them, “Seriously, I know cancer has the potential to really wreck a person, but they got mine early, and other than recovering from surgery, I have not had any symptoms or illness or anything.”

That really is the truth. I’ve got cancer, but I haven’t been sick. So, what a year, huh? This wasn’t the end I expected to my year, I’ll tell you that much. Travel is tough, being in the car any length of time, certain things about how I go about the day have changed, probably permanently, but I can live with the changes.

Crazy damn year. Catch you on the flip side!


How You Look At It

Posted in Pat's Races on September 30, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Dear Pat,

You are enjoying a breathtakingly gorgeous day at Road Atlanta for Petit le Mans, and I am enjoying it here from home in Birmingham, Alabama. Oh, how I hate that I can’t be there with you guys! I got in touch with Thomas B and asked him to give you special good luck from me, same from all my friends who will be there, many of whom I know you know. Sniff!

So I was thinking what a rough year it had been for you, but you know, that’s really just the case in ALMS. I guess it all depends on how you look at it. Because in many ways, it’s been a crazy great year for you. In fact, in trying to catch up with today’s WC race results, I see that you WON THE 2011 WORLD CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP! And Porsche has the manufacturer title in that series, thanks to you, in large part. So that is fantastic!

And of course, I am over-the-moon thrilled that my friend and real-life-sometimes-driving-coach, Mike Skeen, came in 3rd in the championship for this year. I am so proud of him. He’s having a great year, and getting some really fantastic rides and some awesome support. And he is taking full advantage and showing what he can do. He will drive anything with wheels, and he’s such a quick study. And just a great guy. So proud of him!

OK so this weekend, I am hoping you and Joerg bring the #45 home in first! That would be so great. I know it’s a total crap shoot, and in a ten-hour race, anything can happen. Literally! At least we ought not need rain gear and row boats to get around Raod Atlanta this year, right? Looks just fantastic. Thomas says the car is really strong. I’m pulling for you guys! Let’s see what happens.


Hot Diggity Dayam! Laguna Seca!

Posted in Pat's Races on September 19, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Heya Pat,

I wasn’t able to see the race until Sunday morning, but I knew how it ended on Saturday from Jen’s blog updates, and let out quite the big hoot while everybody else in the bar was watching a football game. Hubby and I have run away to the beach for a long weekend to mark our 5th wedding anniversary – our favorite place, Dauphin Island, Alabama. Nothing but sun, surf, and a great mix of physical activity and total ass-sitting.

So there I sat (on my ass, obviously) refreshing my Smarter-Than-Me-Phone over and over to see what was going on in the final moments of the race. Seriously, I love all the “redundant” coverage, because you never know what’s going to work, for whom, and where. Where I am, my phone and the blog were my only way of following the race in real-time. Everybody else was watching the Alabama Crimson Tide. Me? Staring at my phone! And when I saw Joerg had pulled it off and won the thing, I was so thrilled for you guys! Thanks to ESPN3, I was able to watch a high quality replay of highlights on my laptop this morning. Hell’s bells, that was some driving! Finally a great big win for you two. I assure you that all of your fans are over the moon for you! Just like me!

Well, and your race engineer, too – they had a camera on the Lizard pit box as the race ended, and it was such a treat to see Thomas Blam’s face light up when Joerg came across the finish line in first place. Ear-to-ear smile on that guy – well on both of them, I’m sure, and surely you, too.

Alright. It’s amazing I was able to get a connection here, but I am shutting this thing right back down and getting back to my ass-sitting, and then I need to rest up so I’ll be up for lots more ass-sitting tomorrow. Hee!

Congratulations on the fantastic win today!!

All Apologies

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Finally, I’m back. I was watching the races from Road America over the weekend, an I got to feeling awful that I was letting this site languish! Sorry I have not really lived up to my self-proclaimed biggest! fan! ever! hype of years back! And I do not want to give the appearance of being a fair-weather fan, which I am not. I just had no idea how true the title of the last entry would turn out to be, “The Year of Me.” Hee!

So the trip for the first 2 weeks of April was AWE. SOME. I can finally tell you that we went to B3irut, L3banon! That’s where my father was born and raised, not coming to the US until he and my mama were about to have me in 1961. My dad died in 2008, not long before I started this little bloggy project, and this trip is something Daddy and I had always talked about doing together. And something I’d dreamed of all my life. So when I found out all the relatives I was trying to hook up with around Europe were all planning to gather in B3irut, right around my birthday, no less, all Le Mans plans were off, and the trip to B3irut was on!

It was only slightly complicated by the fact that I have a top sekrit gubmint j0b and all. Just some extra paperwork, and a cliffhanger of a wait for the final layer of approval which came the night before departure. And we were off! Oh man, it was completely fantastic. I met all kinds of cousins I’d never met before, stayed in the home of my dear auntie with all her kids and grandkids, went walking thru the C3dars, down by the sea, and everywhere in between. I met some car people! And saw all manner of incredible cars. Those L3banese are some car-lovin fools! My daddy came by it honestly.

We went by the street that bears our family name, saw my parents’ first apartment, met the ancient auntie I’d heard about my whole life, saw the chapel where my parents were married, on the corner of what used to be the old family homestead, back in better days. Now all that’s left is the old family chapel (actually a stunning piece of 1960’s avant garde style) that’s been turned into a little neighborhood church. My grandparents are entombed below in what used to be a basement chapel – now storage! Kind of sad, but still good to “see” them, see this place, see all these places.

Some decent drivers took the wheels of various conveyances, and it’s hard to say which was more exciting, the wild-west inner city driving, or the wild-west-plus-livestock-and-deadly-drops-with-no-guardrails mountains. Obviously, the latter. We saw ruins of ancient palaces; we ate like kings and queens. And we had birthday parties! Several of them, one for each of us, with a different kind of cake for each. Stout Arabic coffee. Mmmm. I came home with my own coffee pot and enough training to do it right for myself here at home.

OK well anyway I could go on for WEEKS. Enough about that.

Then right back home and into a patch of really crazy time at work. I had a HUGE challenging assignment, which I may have referred to in the past. Professionally, it was one of the biggest challenges of my career. All eyes on me. Gladiator suit? CHECK. Oh, I was readier than ready. I was Olympics-ready. I completely kicked ass every step of the way, won every little battle. Kicked the entire thing’s ass every step of the way! But the big decision at the end? Oh man, I lost that bigger than SHIT. I lost. I HATE LOSING.

Yeah, I know, you do too!

I have been keeping at least a corner of an eye on you and the Flying Lizards over the year, and man, it’s been rough. Did I jinx you by rooting against you? Remember, Pat, the blog has your name in it, but it’s all about… (say it with me)….ME! Yes. So. Really crazy year out there in GT! We saw it coming over the end of last year, all the other marques finally got their $hit together and they have mounted a serious challenge to Porsche this year. When it’s not random stupid luck or crazy conditions, it’s mechanical crap, something you guys have not had to deal with as much in previous years.

Well I was going to try and come here and write a quick note, but I am constitutionally incapable of writing you a quick note, it seems. So I’ll just have to end abruptly and come back with photos and further catching up and commiseration on the whole concept of feeling good about all the work that went into fucking NOT WINNING.

Have you seen “Senna,” the just-released long-awaited documentary about Ayrton Senna? It’s rolling out all over the world, the past week or two in the US. It won Sundance for documentaries. I get to see it this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it!

Bye for now

The Year of Me

Posted in Me on April 4, 2011 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

It’s crazy time around here! I don’t even have time to be writing this note. We are going on a big adventure, my husband and I, to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday. Fifty freakin years. And Pat, I don’t feel a day older than you look! Hahah! But really, I don’t. When you are 50, you will know exactly what I mean. Strange, that.

Anyway. so I dubbed this, milemarker 50th birthday year, as The Year of Me, and I’ve been doing all sorts of stuff I want to do. Starting The Year of Me off with a trip to Daytona – and getting my hair done the day before I left. JUST BECAUSE. Following through with getting my 911 ready for the track. Getting signed off to drive solo at Barber! And all along, the feature event began to take shape. A great big trip to an exciting, very very far away place. The original plan began as a trip to experience a big week or so of Le Mans love this summer. I have relatives all over the world, and was sketching out this awesome itinerary all around Le Mans, with stops to see family along the way. I could rent a Porsche….

But then! Then an opportunity to do something even special-er came along. And you know if it beat out going to Le Mans for the first time, and taking a great trip around Europe visiting familly, it had to be really special. I’ll tell you all about it when we get back! In the meantime, I have a list about ten miles long of things that I have to get done in about a quarter-mile’s worth of time! So off I go. Wish us luck.

And drive real purty while we’re gone!