Driving down 93 from southern Idaho into Nevada, I watched lightening flash across the sky and wondered if it was an omen. I really wasn't sure if I was going to make the trip to Bonneville this year until about mid-way through the prior day as money was short and the wife's normal loaner car wasn't available while I was gone. Here's the thing, though: Camping is free, you really don't want to eat that much 'cause it's so hot, so that cost was minimal. All I'd really have to pay for is gas, which, in our Mini wasn't going to be much, so we made alternate plans for a car for Nicole and took off for the flats on Friday morning. What the Hell: The time off is already scheduled, right?
I chased that electrical storm all the way down to Wells where it seemed to continue south. I called my buddy George who was already there to ask about the weather, and he let me know it was fine now, but not to camp at the bend in the road as it was pretty soupy due to the rain they had gotten all day. He said to go to the future site of the Bonneville Museum as they had opened that up to campers as an alternate, and that's what I did.
Upon arrival, I was reminded of the universal rule of camping yet again: Always dry run your equipment BEFORE you leave home, leave nothing to chance. Even though I had washed my tent to make sure it was clean, I didn't look at the poles which had apparently gotten wet over the winter, and leftover salt from last year had corroded the metal joints so badly that it was impossible to set the tent up. Luckily, the back-up tent was okay so I set that up instead.
When I woke the next morning, I rode my bicycle across the street to the auto parts shop and bought a small metal rasp. While watching cars go by and socializing with my boss and her daughter, who had come out from Salt Lake City for the day, I cleaned the pole joints up enough to make it all work.
After being treated to dinner and saying thank yous and goodbyes, I set the tent up without incident. What else needs to be done? Let's see... I needed to charge my phone, camera and laptop, but found that the cord for the inverter had busted, as had my phone charger, so I rigged a connection straight to the battery in the car and daisy-chained the devices together to charge all at once. Another problem solved.
My deluxe accommodations.
I spent most of the rest of the time hanging out at with friends, making new friends, riding my bike around and snapping photos, and at night, in front of the Nugget to see what else I could shoot. The weather threatened to get bad a couple more times, but seemed to stay just far enough away as to not be a real problem. Just close enough to make me nervous, though, and wonder if it was wise to be standing in the flattest place on earth when lightning was occurring.
After having a great time, I took off Wednesday morning for home. What an amazing place. On one hand, it's super pretty in way you just can't explain to someone who hasn't been there. On the other, it still wants to kill you even if you're not in a car trying to set a new record. Not that I'm a Bonneville veteran or anything even close, but I have yet to regret a trip to the salt, and I have a hard time imagining that I ever will.
And, by the way, Paul did back his qualifying time up and then some, upping his record about 4 more miles per hour to 138.662 MPH in the XF/VFALT class. I suppose we'll see him back next year, too.
Hot Rods and Street Cars
As always, there was a ton of great cars on the salt and in town. Something always surprises me, and this year was no exception. Here's some of what I shot...
The most aptly-named Mr. Model T drove this little roadster all the way from the Portland area, which by my calculations is about 740 miles each way. Considering it's 1920's technology and the apparent lack of front brakes, it begs the question...
This would be Greg Lazzerini's cruiser. I hung out with Greg, along with Chewy, Mo, Steve and the rest of the other usual suspects in his crew, for most of the time on the salt. He's a helluva nice guy, and it's always a good time at his camp.
In ancient Rome , they used to say it was bad taste to arrive at a party in a chariot nicer than the host's.
Individual tastes aside, and considering his stable, I don't think many if any of Greg's friends are gonna have to worry about that when the party is at his locale.
Fins and polish a-plenty...
Sometimes, when I get home from a long event like this, I start going through my photos and find that I have tons of shots of the same car in different places.
The DeLuxe Speed Shop guys brought these three roadsters out from their shop in the Denver, Colorado area.
I had seen the cars in some out takes from a shoot that Tim Sutton had done, and was stoked to get to see them in person.
The owner of this '32 bought it in 1973, and said that it hadn't been painted since '63. He really wanted to make her purdy, but everyone kept telling him to leave it as is, (as did I).
This would be the owner on the right, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten. To be honest, (and I mean this in the nicest way) he reminded me of Gomer Pile jus' a little!
Sometimes, driving down the salt, you see something that looks pretty damn cool, but you're not sure if it's real or a mirage.
As much as I love old hot rods and cruisers, and photographing those old cars, to say that Bonneville Speed Week is about these cars would be incorrect. It's about racing. True, the street cars can trace roots back to the early dry lakes and salt flat days in most cases, and that's why there's so many spectators that bring such cool old cars. But if you go to Bonneville as a spectator and you don't spend time checking out the pits and the start line, and talking to the competitors, then in my humble opinion, you've missed out. The wealth of unwritten mechanical knowledge, experience, character, and mind-blowing stories is astounding. I've never regretted starting up a conversation with competitors, as it always yields some pearl of knowledge, or at least an amazing tale.
I think this may have been the year of the belly tanker. I saw more new entries as well as old ones coming out of the woodwork than in the previous few years. Not that I mind at all, especially in the case of the guys that are running old flat heads with early speed equipment, and who are running in a class in which, with that setup, they will never see a record. I was talking to Derby and Julio from the Bean Bandits crew, and we decided that there really needed to be new class for these cars. I hope they can make that happen, 'cause I love that segment of vehicles.
This car, "The Flower of Scotland" had a film crew following it around the whole time. It was great: They got complete coverage of it failing to turn over at the start line. I had to chuckle 'cause the sound guy on the right had to keep telling folks that the mic was picking up what they had just said, and could they please refrain from swearing. Good luck, buddy.
Some husbands and/or fathers buy their girls a cool car, or if they're lucky, they'll build 'em a classic or a hot rod. Tegan Hammond's built her this rocket, and she set a new record of 302.597 MPH in the A/Gas Lakester class. I saw the qualifying run, and it looked damn fast!
Likewise, I took this photo 'cause I thought the car looked good, thinking the women in the background were incidental. Nope. The lady on the right was suiting up to take a run on the long (a.k.a. fast) course shortly after I took this shot, and again, it looked really fast.
This is the Bean Bandits' belly tanker that Derby, Julio and I were talking about. The last time I saw it, there was no engine cowl and the top was all open. I think it looks pretty nice all buttoned up like this.
This new belly tanker was called the Blonde Bitch, and was built by Andrew Welker and crew from Elizabethville, Pennsylvania. It's a real sharp looking car. This was their first trip to the salt to run the car, and they were still working on getting up to speed the last I heard.
As it's powered by an old flat head, it could be another candidate to run in the same class that the Bean Bandits guys were talking about starting.
E. J. Kowalski set a new record in the V4F/GL class in this little hummer of 138.976 MPH. Another record for the 4-banger belly tanker class.
And Scott Oliver set the new 121.833 MPH record in this tanker for the V4F/GS class.
Yup, after editing these photos, I'm already wishin' I didn't take off on Wednesday, and I'm already looking forward to speed week next year. Even if I do try to talk myself out of it again, I imagine that I'll be back out there. We'll see.