T-Minus 2 months… Plenty of time. Really. No worries.
T-Minus 5 weeks.
Haul car to shop.
Send out email to all race team members asking them to cough up their entry fees… I'm feeling a bit tight on cash since I just paid $975 in entry fees and $600 for total rule violating camshafts and pulleys. We believe we have burnt valves from the last race and know we have a shifting problem.
T-Minus 2 weeks. 3rd driver is starting to flake. He tells Randal that he will do it but if we could find someone else we would be helping him out.
"Hey Randal, Joe again. Is the car out of the shop yet? If you want to work on it this weekend together we need to pick it up from the shop this week. I'm leaving town for Christmas next week, K? Also what up with your buddy? Is he in our out… I'm sure we can get someone else if we get on it CALL ME" click.
The organizers, in a continuing demonstration of masochism have scheduled this race 6 days after Christmas.
T-Minus 7 days. I leave on a roughly 800 mile drive to Utah with GF and Child. That's Beth and Avery respectively. I proceed to call Randal with growing frequency and urgency every day for the next 5 days. Lots of messages left. No communication. Is the car out of the shop? Do we have our 3rd driver? I don't know.
Finally I end my Christmas Vacation half a day early and begin the 800 mile drive back toward my race car and non-communicative racing partner. As we approach Reno my phone lights up with a txt message from Randal… hurt back, dumped by GF, injured over Christmas and has been hallucinating on pain killers for about 4 days. But he wants to go racing. GAME ON. With Randal in your corner most things are possible.
All doubt about weather we will make it to the race is washed away.
We stop at one of the worst hotels in Reno for long night of pretending to sleep. I'm ready to hit the road @ 6:30AM. Its Wednesday AM I'm roughly 300 miles from home. We cut the long way through California due poor road conditions in south eastern Oregon. Roads are beautiful until hit the mountains in near the state line, which are under white out conditions. Sternly worded, flashing signs advise us that if we don't have 4 wheel drive or chains we will NOT be allow over the pass. California DOT has traffic closed down to one lane and they are asking every driver of a vehicle without chains on it if they have four wheel drive. I'm thinking we screwed. They have to know that a Honda Odyssey is not 4 wheel drive. The man asks and Beth calmly leans over from the passenger seat and lies her beautiful face off. The rest of our trip to Medford is uneventful. I arrive in the same city as my race car Thursday afternoon still no verbal contact with Randal.
T-Minus 28 Hours: 8 AM Friday. Dial Randal. Voicemail. Drive to his house. He looks like shit. Thin. Kind of pale. Disjointed. The car is not out of the shop. Valves have not been ordered. We are not getting direct answers about the status of the transmission.
I begin to doubt.
I print a list of phone numbers to junk yards. I print a craigslist add for a 80's corolla with a 4age motor in it.
T-Minus 23 hours: I drive to the shop.
The transmission is not in the car. They got it back from their transmission shop this morning and installed it only to find a loose output shaft as they started hooking up the half shafts. Head is still on the car. Head parts have not been ordered yet. They are not available in town for any price.
We. Are. Screwed.
Shop owner questions me further about our burnt valve symptoms and advises me to stand by for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes of tinkering he tells me we don't have burnt valves and don't need any head work. He found a distributor/plug/wire problem that matches our symptoms.
His transmission shop will drop everything and re-fix the "fixed" transmission.
Randal arrives with his truck looking more human. We transport Mr. Grouchy 5 speed across town to the transmission shop. Owner advises us to call him in an hour. We go buy lights, drain pan, windshield wipers and a set of tires. Transmission shop calls: An output shaft bearing race had fallen out in transit and is easily repairable as soon it can be retrieved from his wife's car. Apparently our "fixed" transmission was transported to the shop in his wife's Chevy sedan.
We go get lunch. Randal is fading. He drops me at the auto shop and heads home to pack. I get my car, retrieve Mr. Grouchy head home to pack after dropping the cursed transmission off at the shop.
T-minus 19 hours: Head to Randal's to help sort out the trailer. At 6:30 PM the shop calls to tell us our car is back together and running. 7:45 pm we are rolling out of town. Randal mentions an upset stomach and look a bit pale… nothing new. 70 miles later Randal stops at a gas station and asks me to get him something to munch on. When I get back in the truck he is shaking. He informs me that I'll be driving. At this point I realize how sick he is. Did I mention we were driving through a bizzard? I get him a cup of soup, water, airborn, alkesetzer cold meds and ease his gianormaous truck with 2 axle, 20 foot trailer into the storm. Within 10 miles Randal calmly advise me pull the truck over, NOW. I slow the 13 thousand pounds worth of truck, trailer, tools and race car as quickly as possible on the snow covered road. As we approach 15mph Randal executes a beautiful rolling vomit out his open passenger side door. The rest of our journey to Willows is uneventful. We arrive around 1 AM.