It’s been a long, long time. 5 more days and it would have been a full calendar year since the last track day. Am I complaining? Yes, and no. Yes because it is such incredible fun to be in a controlled environment to do what I enjoy and see old friends and acquaintances, and I’ve missed this. No because I’m grateful this happened at all considering how many people are unemployed and with nowhere to live – those folks have much more to legitimately “dislike”, and I feel for all that have fallen into such a state.

Some months prior to this date, Dale and Kevin (via Kevin) notified me that they’d selected an event to attend. Two back-to-back days of riding with K@TT/Keigwins At The Track. I had a similar desire to attend both days but as life marched on, it became evident that only one day would happen, and even the prospects of that one became sketchy at times. Finances were a concern, time off was a concern, and transportation was a concern since I don’t have my Nissan Frontier anymore. I’d planned to add a trailer hitch to the Odyssey but never got around to doing so. So I tried to get Francisco interested in going. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to attend. But in a gesture of awesomeness, Francisco offered to let me borrow his Tundra for the day. I picked up the truck on Monday and bumped up the tire pressures (they needed it). Very early Tuesday I installed my carrier in the trailer hitch, loaded my bike and all gear up, took a few cautious corners and bumps to check out the stability, and hit the road. Meanwhile, Dale and Kevin were probably sound asleep, having done both Monday and Tuesday and spending the night somewhere in a Willows motel.

The drive up to THill was uneventful and the weather gradually revealed that it was going to cooperate and be a very nice day. Once there, it was relatively easy to locate where Kevin and Dale were pitted, underneath the permanent canopy. I was very happy to be shielded from the sun when in the pits as they had saved a little space for me. After the riders meeting it was out onto the track for a great time. I spent some time throughout the day following Dale and/or Kevin as well as riding on my own. cRa1G was present, but working as usual instead of riding like he used to wayyyyy back in 2001 (ha ha). I spent a little time hanging out in the Viets truck scavenging interesting industry tidbits and watching cRa1g change tires and work with customers. And then something unexpected happened. cRa1g asked if I’d be interested in riding a mostly empty track during lunchtime. Sometimes Lance will let the instructors go out for some free-for-all fun amongst themselves during the lunch period. Other times he’ll make the last session of the day a free-for-all. Today it was lunchtime that the instructors would be able to play. cRa1g thought I might be interested in “experiencing” a mostly empty track. Me? My innerds cramped and tightened up in fear. “umm….hmmmm….well OK” I say, thinking “it’ll never happen”. Wrong. I’m eating lunch with Kevin and Dale and up comes cRa1G with a reflective safety vest and says, in effect, “when you hear the bikes go out, go have fun”. Oh geez, no more appetite. Just butterflies. I know I can be a safe backmarker in the A group but something about being amongst a bunch of instructors that had been hamstrung all morning babysitting a bunch of slow riders? I should have just said no.

I went back to the pit area, sat there staring at nothing, wondering what I’d gotten into. After what seemed forever, I heard a few bikes making more noise that just wandering around the pits. So I grabbed my gear, saddled up, and went out onto the track. Hey, where is everybody? A quick glance over at T4 had shown a small pack of 3-4 bikes making their way through. But nothing on the front straight, the 6/7/8 section, the back straight or anything. In fact the track was so empty I thought “dang, I’ve messed up and gone out too early. Someone’s gonna chew me a new one”. But as I completed the first lap, there were no waving flags or flailing cornerworkers so I stayed out for just a few more. I never saw another bike the whole time. It was really wierd, as if I was the only person in the world at that time. Very peaceful, sole focus on being one with the bike.

After these laps were over I returned to the pits, chatted with Kevin and Dale about it a bit, and then we spent the rest of the day having a great time. I enjoyed a couple of 1-way (meaning I didn’t get repassed) passes in particular. One- an RC51 slipped up the inside between T1 & 2 while I was following Kevin. It was fun to get him and another bike both on the outside in T2. Two- exiting the last turn and onto the front straight, a rider turned to look back at me just as I was about to pass. He pulled the trigger…on his R1. Even with getting the jump on him, he still easily matched my acceleration up the front straight. OK….I’ll see how he handles T1. It took milliseconds to conclude I was faster there so up the inside. But in the interests of being polite (and safe), I waited till the exit and just got on the throttle earlier. Pass completed. I skipped the last session as I was tired after an early morning drive and anticipating a long drive home plus needing to unload at home and then return Francisco’s truck.

After loading up and saying my goodbyes, it was time to hit the road. I appreciated greatly that the Tundra had no problem handling my bike hanging off the tail area on it’s hitch carrier, or any other problems. Nice enough truck. The drive home was uneventful, just long. Sears Point is SO much more convenient. But it is a very different kind of track. And variety is nice, so….Thunderhill, I’ll see you again, soon.

Best lap: 2:06.27

Here is a link to my experimental track footage, posted on YouTube. Sorry it is BUMPY, I used extension arms to hold the GoPro camera off the front of the windscreen. First section is the empty track lunch time riding. Second section is B+ group snippets including the RC51 & R1 passes & a rear tire spin-up (you can hear the engine spool up a bit) down the backside of T9.