March of the Cornhuskers


We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you breaking news from the East Coast.

I am sitting here, at my computer.  I am not sitting here, at my computer, in the Midwest.

In past years, in fact since 2009, I’ve spent two consecutive days falling between 25-30 August in some sort of vehicle, traveling 1,600 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska. The trip took anywhere between 23 and 30 hours, and I’ve been left at rest stops, left on the side of the road, or had one or any combination of the following, including but not limited to: flat tire, blown tire, no gas, fluid leak, nearly flipping over, suspension failure, GI distress, wrong directions, forgot to pack XYZ – you name it, it’s happened.

One year, I drove out in 1992 Nissan 240sx with a massive exhaust leak and no AC, and we were following a giant trailer that couldn’t go more than 55 mph.  And it was 280356203586 degrees.  We got stuck in several hours of traffic in South Bend, Indiana, when a tractor trailer flipped sideways and blocked four lanes of traffic, going both directions.  I had never driven on a median before then.

The next year, it was a slightly better ride, a 2004 Infiniti G35, but my travel companion (aka sister-in-law) had lots of knitting to do (and she hated driving anyway), so I drove most of the way.  I’m not complaining – that car is a blast and a great one for really long drives – leather seats, AC, cruise control – but I am just sliiiiiiiiiightly too short for the seat belt, so I ended up with a kink in my neck.

Last year, she and I drove out in her car – a 2008 John Cooper Works Mini Cooper S named Gilligan. It was comfy it was fine, but it was small.  And being girls, the guys in the truck ahead sooooooooort of stopped listening to us, so they “forgot” to stop in Indiana for 93 octane gas, despite us pleading over and over, and saying we weren’t going to make it the 600 miles across Iowa.  They don’t sell 93 in Iowa, and Iowa is a really,  fucking long state.  This is important, because the engine is tuned a certain way, and using a lower quality and lower grade fuel can damage it.

We finally nearly ran out of gas and stopped at a Kum & Go (aka the best gas stations in the Midwest), put in 91 octane. The guys had left us, and our phones were dead.  When we finally got back in range, we decided to play a joke.  They asked us what octane we used, and we told them that the gas station attendant said 89 octane with a chemical booster should be fine.  We weren’t able to keep the joke up for long – both of us know better, and we both started laughing hysterically when the guys started freaking out.

Last year, I also nearly won the National Championships in the old Nissan 240sx. This was a car with 8 years and $80,000 (or so) in development. It was not the prettiest, but it had the most heart and soul.  And I worked my butt off to be able to drive it well, and it only took my entire racing career.  Massive suspension failure on Day 2 meant I came in second place for the two consecutive days of racing, despite a healthy lead on Day 1.

That car is now gutted and junked, but has been replaced with one with no weaknesses.  This car is cleaner, faster, more powerful, and basically does everything the old car did, just better.  It’s really a logic and physics defying machine, and given what I know about the courses this year, I would have won, hands down.  The only competition I’d have is fast, and gorgeous, and over $300,000 worth of development – but the huge glaring weakness for that person/car is the one in which my car excels.

Unfortunately, due to both some seen, and unforeseen circumstances, I am sitting at my computer at work.  I’m not in Nebraska, I’m not racing with 1200 of my friends from all over the country.  I actually think nearly every state in the union is represented, Alaska and Hawaii included.  I’m not celebrating today, I’m not even really going to enjoy Labor Day weekend, since it’s the first time in years I’m not at big kid summer camp.  Yes it was a long drive, yes it was expensive, and yes people gave me funny looks when I was excited about going to Lincoln for two weeks.  I didn’t care.  And yes, I’ve had my fair share of issues while out there.  But no matter how bad things got, the racing part, the actual driving and skill, made it better.

I suppose there’s always next year, but this year, I’ve got a broken heart and no race car to fix it.

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