Aaliyah once sang “age ain’t nuthin but a number”.  What she left out was that the number keeps getting higher, resulting in a person’s get-up-and-go feeling got-up-and-gone.  I don’t think that last part is what she had in mind but I do, for 41 good reasons.

Two or three weeks ago I was contacted by a long time acquaintance that I don’t get to cross paths with a lot, Jeff Paris.  Jeff is a long-standing BARF member.  He emailed to tell me he was hitting a trackday soon and wondered if I’d be interested.  Surely you jest in asking such a question; of course I’m interested!!  It turns out that the location this time would be Thunderhill Raceway and the host was Z2 (I guess the original name Zoom Zoom isn’t cool enough, or they were spending too much $$ on letters or something).  A number of BARFers had signed up for May 8th and/or 9th.  As I followed the BARF thread on this for a couple of days, their enthusiasm was infectious.  So I decided to sign up for a few reasons:

  • I love trackdays
  • the 9th was a Saturday, I wouldn’t have to skip work
  • I love trackdays
  • I hadn’t ridden with Jeff in literally years
  • I love trackdays
  • Thunderhill (heretofore referred to as THill) is cheaper than Sears Point/Infineon or Laguna Seca Raceways
  • I love trackdays
  • My core group of trackday compatriots has dwindled (finances, life, children, work, etc) so I have to do on my own
  • I love trackdays!!!!!

When I went to sign up, I was disappointed to find that I was #7 on the waiting list.  What with all the excitement people were generating, I thought for sure it was an exercise in futility.  It was to my great surprise then when a few days later a “success” confirmation email arrived.  Intermediate (B) group here I come (cause that’s where Jeff and the majority of the BARF folks had signed up).

In the days leading up to the 9th, I installed Bridgestone BT002RS tires, deviating from the Michelin Power Race tires that had served me well but cost considerably more.  Cost is an enormous concern for much of the world now and I’m no different.  My GSXR’s previous owner had already installed a Power Commander.  I wanted to try a quickshifter as well.  There’s endless examples of much-faster-than-me riders that shift normally.  But I’d been experimenting with clutchless shifting by loading the shifter and then doing a quick throttle off/on to unload the transmission and make the shift.  That met with meager success.  A couple months of persistence paid off in finding a used ignition module and used quickshifter.  I got everything bolted up by Friday evening and got as much situated in the garage as possible to make Saturday morning loading a minimal hassle.

The other thing I knew needed work was my physical shape.  I’ve picked up some weight, picked up some pains, and lost some energy and endurance.  Knowing this, I started weeks in advance with moderate cardio work, daily stretching, drinking more water and vitamins/supplements.  I found that it all was helpful yet much more is needed.

Saturday morning.  It’s 5am and I’m loading my bike onto the JoeHauler when I notice flickering lights in the living room.  What?!?  I knew my wife would be up early for her own routine but that wouldn’t include TV watching.  I’d gone to great pains to quietly turn off the security system and sneak into the garage, so who could be up?  Well this proved to be a frustrating distraction because it threw my train of thought, leading to leaving a lot of needed things at home.  After snugging the bike down and loading the bed, I now remember a fleeting thought “the bed of the truck is kinda sparse”.  But the predominate thought was “who in the wide wide world of sports is up watching TV?”  It had to be one of the kids.  And that meant a shortage of sleep on that child’s part.  Which inevitably leads to attitude problems.  That equates to me later having to hear a crapload of complaining about who did what.  Sure enough it’s the middle boy, and then the oldest too.   I reiterate to them and wifey that I am NOT going racing (welllll….sanctioned at least).  But they can never get it right, first thing out of their mouths when people ask about me is “oh, he’s off racing today”.   Since no one listens to me anyway, an AFM licence may be coming soon to a brotha near you.  Anyhoo, I kiss wifey goodbye, receive her “be careful” admonition, hop in the truck and congratulate myself on getting out the door on-time.   The iPod and I stop by Peets in Pinole but it doesn’t look open so I keep going.   I pop a VitC and start in on today’s load of water cause the forecast is sunny and hot.   I avoid any of the fast food places after reading that their products can lead to lack of energy and a general “dragging” feeling.  Nope, don’t need that.

Fast forward to the freeway exit in the lil town of Willows.  I pop into Walmart for 3 Gatorades and then head on to the track.  I’d completely forgotten to call Jeff and find out where he was so I could pit with him IN THE SHADE, as planned.  And now, in the armpit of nowhere, I can’t get a signal.  Of course all the covered pit spots are over-populated already so I drive out to the end and park.  Silly me, thinking it’d all work out.  I eventually find Jeff but he’d only arrived 10 min before me and the people that were supposed to have saved him some space……well they didn’t.   So now I’m out in the sun.  If you know me, you know I love direct sun and heat like cats love hungry rabid pitbulls.  Where’s my popup tent?  Cozy at home in the ()@#$@ garage.  OK, let’s get setup to ride.  I need to re-check my tire pressure soon as I put my bike up on the stands…….hmm, they’re at home with the tent.  No problem.  Tire guage says both tires are right at the limit of where I want but I think I’d like to start a pound or two higher.  Lemme grab my air pump……thats at home.  Sigh.  What else can be forgotten?  Don’t ask, JG, don’t ask.  Just program the correct track name into your laptimer and put it in place.  Whoops, battery is dead – lemme grab a small Philips……d@mn, toolbox decided to stay at home too.  I close my eyes, pinch myself, and open my eyes to see if I’d left my bike at home too and was instead fooling with someone else’s steed.

We sit through the mother of all rider’s meetings.  It went on and on and on.  Jeff was there but disappeared.  I found out later he was concerned about some kids needing to get to the pool or something.   As I walk back to my truck, I see a couple of sizeable clumps of riders that apparently were all together.  I knew they must be BARFers that I hadn’t met before.  But being the introvert that I am, not a chance that I’m gonna wander around like a lost puppy introducing myself .

I find and sit with Jeff a bit and then head back to my truck just about the time the B group gets first call.  I suit up, once-over the bike again, look at my GoPro camera (that’s suction-mounted to the speedometer) and wonder “hmm, how DO you turn this thing on?”, push some buttons on it and go.  The first session is interesting.  I’ve discovered I don’t like crashing, so I always take it easy on the out-lap.  Tire technology has progressed leaps and bounds, some riders swear you can “go for it” even on the 1st lap.  I’m not one of those riders.  And ironically I’d remembered my generator but forgotten my tire warmers.  So it was sunday-driving for me.  Unlike new Michelin Power Race that literally can feel like marbles for the first lap or two, the Bridgestones don’t give that bad a feeling but just a bit of vagueness.  2nd lap I turn it up a bit and all is OK.  Hey, how bout trying this quickshifter on the back and front straights.  OMG, this is really flippin cool.  It takes a bit of mental adjustment.  But you don’t roll off the throttle at all, just keep it pinned wide open and tap the shift lever when ready – BAM an instant upshift.  I like this!  As the day went on, I discovered that the shifts were sometimes better than others depending on RPM, and sometime I’d miss the 2nd shift if I tried to catch two shifts in quick sequence.  That part was likely operator error/learning curve.  But a quickshifter is really cool.  I discovered I could use it to shift in places I normally wouldn’t because regular shifting would have upset the chassis and the quickshifter was too fast to allow that to happen.

Something else interesting about the 1st session was it hurt.  3rd lap and my legs and thighs were not happy at all.  I wondered what the heck was happening.  I’ve been stretching and drinking lots of water and exercising, so what is this?

The second and third sessions went without a hitch, just faster.  But not fast enough.  I wasn’t in the groove, realizing that I’ve spent so much more time (relatively speaking) at slower and more technical Infineon Raceway, my mind was slow adjusting to less technical but faster THill.  Also, the leg/thigh problem was going away quickly.  In fact, as I sit here droning along in type, I’m much less tired and sore than would normally be.  So that exercise/stretching paid off.  I’m very happy about that and will continue in this routine.  Unfortunately as the heat quickly rose, so did a headache.  I’d been continuously drinking water (days before even) and Gatorade and staying in the shade as much as possible so I didn’t expect it to last.  But it did.  The fourth session came and I decided to sit it out.  Instead a restroom visit and then walk around to see how some of the A guys (which is where I should have been) were taking the back straight and approach to turn 14 vs. the B and C folks.  Heckuva difference.

Lunchtime arrives and I walk over to Jeff’s area but he’s nowhere to be seen.  As I walk away, someone calls me and it’s Jeff.  We walk over to the cafe to get food but Jeff disappears.  I figure he is chatting with his friends but after waiting for a hotdog and fries, I can’t spot him.  I walk back toward my truck and in passing his area notice his truck is gone.  Turns out he decided it’d be better money spent to drive into town for lunch.  ?!?!?!  That woulda worked for me too, umm-kay?  So I sit in my truck and watch a movie while eating.  Some little voice in my head says “good lord, someone must have spilled the whole salt container on the fries and hotdogs” but for some idiotic reason i kept at it.  Well that probably was a bad idea.  The headache continued to increase and it was after-the-fact that I thought about how I’d just worked counter-productive to the liquids I’d been taking in.  I catch a little catnap in the truck and then go over to borrow a screwdriver from Jeff to put a new battery in the laptimer.

Jeff decides to skip the next B session.  I tell him I’m going out but with the headache issue it is likely to be my last one.  THill is a long drive, longer when solo.   I decided I’d like to get some caffeine in me and on the road before things got too much uglier.  This session is one of the best of the day.  The laptimer tells me I’m well off what I’m capable of, but who cares.   I’m having fun and it wouldn’t be fair to push it even more in the B group.  I’ve posted this session on youtube, complete with lots of vibration due to poor camera mounting decision.  You can see 10 minutes of it here

After this last session, I roll straight up to the truck and strip of out the leathers and all.  I get a few sips of water, pack everything away and drive over to say by to Jeff.  Of course he is gone again somewhere.  I wander over to “4theriders” area to see the photos they’ve taken, like none of them, and head back to my truck to find Jeff suiting up to go ride.  I tell him I need to hit the road.   He digs out a couple of Advils for me but I’m done.  The day would be over before they helped enough.  I drove into town for a venti 8-pump soy chai latte with no foam and no water.  Of course they get it wrong, but by the time I get to I-505 the intensity of the headache had broken.  The drive home was of no consequence.

I did get to meet 3 BARF members – Josie, Steve and …… someone else, so that was cool.  They all looked to be having fun and the post-event thread bears this out.  A few people did “faw-down-go-boom”.  The meat wagon rolled once but I think it was just precautionary.  Also, Jeff lost some brake pads at speed.  I didn’t tell you that huh?  After the 1st session I walk over to his area and he tells me he had no front brakes coming into turn 14 (if you watch my youtube, turn 14 is just after you go under a bridge that says “Keigwins” on it, check the speed and engine sound and then imagine finding NO BRAKES).  Each of Jeff’s front calipers have 4 brake pads.  On the right caliper the two lower pads had fallen out.  Pulling the lever just drove the pistons into the rotors instead of stopping him.  Jeff said he used a combination of downshifting (slipper clutch ftw) and the run-off area to get stopped.  A friend of his found him some spare pads and he pulled the retainer pin from a spare caliper to save his day.

Yesterday I visited Francisco to help him with something on his R6 (and oogle his new red/white R1).  We both agreed that we’re happiest at K@TT events.  Not that Z2 or PTT or any of the others are bad, it’s just that K@TT feels more home-like for us.  That said, I’m glad I went and would do it again but with a few changes and some lessons learned.  What lessons?  Don’t count on others so much, be prepared yourself.  I was supposed to have a spot under the permanent metal awning, that didn’t work out but I went in over-confident and paid for it.  Don’t forget tools, tent, stands, etc.  I was prepared for allergy problems but didn’t count on a headache.  And don’t get distracted.  All the items I forgot were prepped and ready to go, they just didn’t transition into the truck.  If these lessons had been applied actions instead, a much better experience would have been the result.
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