(Last) Weekly Roundup: Riding High In Thailand Edition

This past week, about a hundred of my best Malaysian pals and I drove 2,877 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur to Hua Hin and back. Our vehicles ranged from the prosaic (an RHD NC1 MX-5 which has the same “4×4” ride height as its American sibling) to the unbelievable (a pair of Kevlar-bodied Bufori Genevas, about which more later). In the weeks to come, I will be bringing you all sorts of pictures, stories, and analysis pieces from this trip.

This was a true vacation for me in the sense that I hardly worked during the trip. So this Roundup will be a light one, but I do have two full-length print pieces which have just made their way on the Web.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Catfish Bottom Edition

I was talking to a friend recently about addictive behaviors and he introduced me to the phrase “catfish bottom”. It’s well-known within the twelve-step programs that an addict needs to hit “rock bottom” before he can truly have the desire to change. (Not everyone agrees with that; here’s an alternate perspective.) What my friend told me about was “catfish bottom”, where you get about as low as you can go but you’re still functioning, albeit imperfectly. A lot of people can spend years at catfish bottom.

Those of you who knew me circa 2011-2012 would have seen the “catfish bottom” me, particularly with respect to both drinking and relationships. I never missed a deadline or lost a job because of it but I was certainly exhibiting some remarkably addictive behaviors. I can distinctly remember a night when I was in my 911, trying to make it from one “hotel date” to another one, doing maybe 110 on a mostly but not entirely empty freeway, and screaming at the windshield because I’d underestimated my travel time and I was about to be caught out in a lie by Date Number Two. Right as I was executing some 6,900-rpm outrageous six-lane swerve pass on a bunch of tractor-trailers, I had this moment of clarity: “I’m not even having any fun doing this. It’s like a job. It’s like working fast food, except I can’t be sullen when I’m serving the customer.”

Luckily for me, my date was running even later than I was… well, either I was lucky or she was being just as bad. I think she blamed it on her husband at the time, which is the Cheating Wife’s Adamantium Excuse and usually just means she had an extra drink before leaving the house. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Anyway 2018 feels like “catfish bottom” for racing addiction here at Casa Baruth. Between endurance racing, SCCA, NASA, PWC, and vintage, I’m on the hook for 24 days under green. Add Time Trials and noncompetitive stuff; that’s maybe another 14 days on track. A whole month in pit lane. As with alcohol, heroin, or sex, the obsessive pursuit of auto racing can force you into some bizarre behaviors and some even more bizarre justifications. The difference is that if you’re doing it right you wind up surrounding yourself with good people and making memories that fill you with satisfaction instead of unsteadiness. But I’d be surprised if we did this much next year.

After the jump I’ll have some photos of those good people, taken at the recent AER event, plus a link to what Bark and I wrote this week.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: The Fatkini And The Boy Who Might Fly Edition

Two of my readers took the time this week to send me links to and/or a third-party commentary on a Cosmo piece about an obese woman who decided the world needed to see her in a bikini at Times Square. Note that I’m not calling her “obese” as an insult. It’s merely a medical fact. According to the standard chart, I’m currently obese as well, scaling 241 pounds at six-two. I would need to drop to 234 to be merely overweight, and I would need to be 195 or less to be a normal weight. The writer in this case clearly weighs more than I do despite being perhaps ten inches shorter; medically speaking, she is probably “morbidly obese”.

I found the story fascinating. Not because the writer is an obese woman who wanted to strip in public — there’s a whole social movement about that, called “fatkini” — but because she believed she could exercise absolute power over what happened afterwards. As a parent, I’m concerned about that. Allow me to explain.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: It’s A Start Edition

After the minor heartbreak of last weekend’s losses at NCM’s American Endurance Racing double enduro, it was really nice to come back and win both days at MidOhio with SCCA in my Neon. Yesterday I qualified 7th overall, 1st in class, and finished 6th overall, 1st in class. Despite being hit four separate times by the same Miata in this morning’s qualifying race, I was able to qualify 7th and finish 4th overall in the afternoon, just 0.6 seconds behind the third-place Mustang and picking up another first in class.

Click the jump for a video of my reasonably strong start, where I grabbed 3 places in the first 700 feet, and to read a rundown of this week’s contributions.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: Failure To Proceed Edition

It was a bit of a heartbreaking weekend. We had everything we needed to take two wins at NCM Motorsports Park: the fastest car, the strongest driver lineup, a cadre of volunteers who could do everything from lift a fuel jug one-handed to swap a water pump in minutes. Sure enough, we were in first place by nearly ninety seconds at the 7-hour mark of Saturday’s 9-hour race. Then the overheating problems began — and they persisted through Sunday. By 5:30 that afternoon, all we could do was send Danger Girl out for the checkered flag, knowing that we’d barely managed enough completed laps to avoid being classified as a DNF.

On the positive side, we made some great friends and enjoyed some good times to go with the bad. I also had a chance to qualify a competitor’s car, which has to be one of the odder things I’ve ever done in racing. (The fact that I qualified the car ahead of ours was just the icing on the proverbial cake.) Marilyn the MX-5 Cup Car and her friends will be back in October for the AER event in Mid-Ohio. There’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of money to be spent, between now and then.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Here Comes The Mom Blogger (And Others) Edition

Let me begin by thanking all of you for your patience. Last week, I asked any contributors who had not heard from me lately to shoot me a reminder email. Every one of the more-than-a-few emails I got was extremely polite and not at all hateful. Thanks for that. I’ll be spending the next few weeks putting your stories, reviews, and motorcycle pieces into the system. I appreciate all of you more than I can say.

One of the contributors who has been waiting too long for her time in this relatively dim sun of mine is East Coast autocrosser and lady-about-town Ryan Cheek, pictured above. She and her 5.0-liter Coyote Mustang, affectionately nicknamed “Hank”, have been pulling some impressive PAX finishes in her SCCA region for a while now. This September she’ll join me and 223 other drivers in the SCCA Time Trial Nationals. Two weeks ago, we had a chance to sit down at a Biscuitville and talk about our motorsports dreams. I know you’ll like her first contribution to Riverside Green, which should go up later this week.

Alright. As the real Alanis used to say, “enough about you… let’s talk about me for a minute.”

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: In My Mind I’m Leaving Carolina Edition

It was a busy week. I covered a few miles on my road bike each day, did more writing than I wanted to, parented where necessary and went hands-off where possible. The kid had a good time, and so did his cousins. Time to head back.

Given another week, I might have gotten halfway decent at dealing with the 97-degree heat and the remarkably humid air, which resembled nothing so much as a wet sock. The best I could do for a rolling average was 16.7mph. On the positive side, I managed to thoroughly test some great USA-made cycling apparel. More on that later, let’s roll tape on this week’s publications.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: Thelonious Bike Edition

Consistency, the man said, is the hobgoblin of little minds. When I returned to BMX riding about sixteen months ago, I didn’t have a lot of respect for the so-called “dirtjumper” bikes, those odd and awkward hybrids of 26″ wheel, suspension fork, and BMX geometry. I thought of them as “easy buttons” for big jumps and difficult lines down a trail.

The more I saw of them, however, the more I liked the idea of having a little more stability. Breaking my ribs and my arm at an indoor bike park last year made me even more receptive to the idea of a bicycle that would dial back the penalties for small mistakes in the air. So here’s my brand-new Chromag Monk dirt-jumper. It’s basically a dead-stock Chromag complete with different colors on a few parts. It took Chromag a full six months to deliver it to me, because these things are only in slightly less demand than new Ferrari 488GTBs.

This loneliest Monk and I are getting along pretty well. One thing I don’t like about it: the frame was made in Taiwan. I offered to pay Chromag their standard frame rate to do a Canadian-made Monk, but they refused. So I’ll probably have Mike Laird duplicate this frame in titanium over the upcoming winter then rebuild the bike around Chris King wheels and the new frame.

To see what these bikes are really capable of, and to catch up on my writing from last week, click the jump.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Midwestern Kids Are Alright Edition

“I can’t do it.” Earlier in the morning I’d seen this boy clear a ten-foot double jump, arrogantly hanging the back wheel out motorcross style, without breaking a sweat. He would go on to win his race that day by more than ten yards, bunnyhopping the finish line in a display of exuberance mixed with outstanding fitness even in the ninety-degree heat. But now he was trembling as he clutched the flagpole. “I’ll drop it. I can’t do it one-handed. The flag,” he whispered, “could touch the ground.

His mother, standing by the ground next to the tabletop jump on which her son was vibrating with fear and concern, pointed her finger up towards his face. Her tank top fell away from her shoulder and I could see the faded Technicolor of a half-dozen different philosophies in tattooing. One of them was a man’s name in cigarette-ink blue, followed by “USMC”.

“You,” she snapped, “can absolutely do it and I don’t wanna hear no excuses neither.”

Continue Reading →