Got my SCCA Regional Club Racing License!

This Sunday’s SCCA MARRS race was a culmination of a number of year’s worth of effort.  Back in May of 2006 up in Seattle, WA, I began my journey towards obtaining my SCCA Club Racing license.  My job change and move across the country to the Washington DC area caused me to be sidelined for all of 2007 and most of 2008 aside from some PDX and HPDE type of events.  (Photo below of MARRS 4 race weekend).
Ted Cahall races in MARRS 4

While my job did anything but become more mundane in 2009, I was determined to maintain that delicate “work / race balance” all the HR types talk about for living a healthy life.  I really had no idea what I was in store for as I prepared for the 2009 racing season.  I had planned on racing my 2001 Z06 Corvette and took pains to install racing seats, add in tow hooks, fire extinguishers, and safety harnesses, etc.  Unfortunately I was mistaken on the requirements and did not know that the T1 class for my Z06 required a full roll cage to be welded into my car!  Heck – I even needed a full roll cage to attend the SCCA Driving School – the more you know – the more you realize just what you don’t know

After attending day 1 and day 2 of my SCCA Drivers School in a “Spec Miata” that I rented, I attended the SCCA PDX and SCCA Club Trials in a “Spec Miata” as well.  It was at this point that I finally realized it would be best for me to have Meathead Racing help me as my “Spec Miata” pit crew and support team for the 2009 SCCA Club Racing season.  I bought a 1999 Spec Miata from Bad Al Bell and I was literally “off to the races”.

Sunday was my second official SCCA MARRS race and fulfilled my requirements for my regional license.  I did qualification laps and the qualification race on Saturday to grid myself for the race on Sunday.   On Sunday, I started in 31st position and finished the race in 24th.  So I moved up and had an incredible amount of fun doing it.  My fastest lap got faster in each of the three qualification and race events during the weekend.  The key is to be safe, improve each week, and try not to fly off the track or bend any metal on either mine or the other driver’s cars.  All was accomplished successfully.

Ted Cahall

Rolling Thunder!

On Sunday I joined up with a couple of co-workers and their friends and family and rode down to DC as part of Rolling Thunder to celebrate Memorial Day and our nation’s fallen soldiers.  It was especially meaningful to me this year after my trip aboard the USS Truman. The complete photo and video album of my trip to Rolling Thunder is here.

Each year Rolling Thunder gets larger with some estimates of approximately 500,000 bikes participating.  Below is a photo of just some of the motorcycles that staged outside of Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA.
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As you can see, we are lined up four wide for miles.  They blocked off all traffic on Route 66 as we trimmed down to two across.   We road with a police escort right into DC.

Once we were in DC, we parked our bikes and looked at the Korean and WWII War Memorials.  From there, we waited and watched the beginning of the procession of the official Rolling Thunder.  Below is a video of the beginning of the event.

DC Rolling Thunder Opening Procession

After watching thousands of bikes go by, we decided to head home and beat the traffic.  It was a great ride, a great day, and a great way to say, “thank you”, to all that have fallen in the line of service to this great country.

Ted Cahall

World Class Driving Tour

On Thursday I drove down to Richmond, VA and participated in the World Class Driving Tour. We had a chance to drive five different exotic sports cars through the country side of Virginia. Of course, no speed laws broken by any of the participants, especially me. Cough…  Below is the group shot from our outing (more photos of my group at bottom of this post). I am the second person from the left. 

Ted Cahall with World Class Driving Group
Ted Cahall with World Class Driving Group on May 21st, 2009.

We started the day at 7:00AM by signing our lives away.  It would have been unpleasant to have wrecked one of these as I think I promised the future lives of all my relatives for many centuries to come as collateral.

Then we were  out to the cars for the group photo and then the road.  Each driver took a turn in each of the five cars.  We had eight drivers and only five cars, so each driver had three legs as either an exotic car passenger or in one of the lead or chase vehicles.  This was the only let down of the whole morning.  I am not sure I would have registered had I known that.  OK – I probably would have – it was a total gas.

I was lucky enough to sit out the first segment – as that was driving through town in a very slow, deliberate manner.  No fun sitting in a high performance car in traffic!  My first segment was in the Audi R8.  It is a fantastic car that handles superbly.  It clearly can be a daily driver (and Ash Patel at Yahoo uses it as one).  My only complaint was that it was somewhat under powered for an exotic car.  I was also at the very end of the pack – so lagging back to rev the engine was somewhat more difficult.  Still great car and I was very impressed.

My next segment was in the Callaway C16 Corvette.  It is supercharged and was by far the very fastest car of the day.  It has an automatic transmission as well as paddle shifters.  The automatic was so well tuned there was no need for the paddles.  I did a hole-shot out of the parking lot and was shocked by the power.  It got a bit squirrely even with the traction control on.  Yeah – that’s what I’m talking about!  I was second in the conga line behind the Lambo and I lagged back quite a few times.  The car was like a rocket ship when I would nail it and downshift two gears.  The whine of the supercharger was outrageous and the power literally pinned you to your seat.  I have owned some fast supercharged cars – but this was the best.  Callaway got this one right.  I noticed that there was blue smoke pouring out of the back of the car when I would pound on it.  I figured I would point that out when we stopped next (I really did not need to since I was coating the 3 cars behind me).  It turned out that the blue smoke was a harmless leak from the supercharger cooler that only occurred under very high load (ie. me).  I must have done 5 or 6 power runs after lagging back and flooring it.  That ride alone would have been worth every penny – but it gets better.  We got to a straight, well paved, wide-open section of two lane highway following a slower car.  The lead car passed and and the Lambo followed, I lagged a bit so I could wail on the C16 and then hit it.  We blew past the car and began to climb into the back seat of the Lambo.  I am sure we went a tad over 55…

Eventually we pulled over and switched again.  I got the Lamborghini this time.  I figured there was no way I was going to enjoy that after the C16.  While the Lambo does have 10 cylinders, it is not supercharged, etc.  Well, I was wrong!  The thing was amazing.  I was behind the pace car (driven by Roland who is an experienced pro racer that could have made a tricycle go fast).  I let Roland get a good pace ahead of me and pounded out the Lamborghini.  It was almost as impressive as the C16 – but it is all wheel drive and really was incredible in the curves and corners.  I pulled a number of power downshifts in this car too and was really torn as to which car I now liked best.  Either way, there is no loser out of these two.

When my turn was next, I got to drive the Ford GT.  This is a true supercar and was the only car with a real stick-shift and clutch.  One of the instructors always road in the GT.  No problem. 🙂  This was a great car and extremely fast.  It is also supercharged – but for some reason the power was very linear and smooth.  It did not really let lose and snap my neck back as I had done in the C16 and Lambo.  It might have been due to the instructor sitting next to me – but he never made a peep each time I lagged back and then hit it as hard as I could.  No question a fantastic car – but it did not rank with the C16 or Lambo.  It might be due to the manual transmission.  The automatics they are making in these new exotics are really phenomenal.

When we were well on our way back to the hotel, it was time for my final drive.  I was in the Alfa-Romeo 8C.  It had the nicest sound to it – but unfortunately resembled more of the Audi R8’s power band than the other power beasts.  Unlike the Audi’s fine transmission, the 8C would bog under full power shifting.  It was also grumble backfiring on downshifts or when I let off the gas.  All of this – and it was the most expensive of all of the cars at about $300k!  They are only letting 75-80 of them into the US – so it is a rare collector’s car.  It is a good thing – because even at about $200k this would not see any sales volume when compared to a Lambo, Ferrari, or other car in that range.  It was definitely my least favorite of the five cars.  So I was glad it was the one that I had to waste part of my turn in city traffic as we parked back at the hotel.  I guess it has some appeal and some woman actually called out to us (another driver was my passenger) to let us know she liked our car…  So Italian sound appeal counts for something.

Ted Cahall

Click on one of the photos to start the gallery.

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Ted Cahall on board USS Truman – Part 2

It has taken me a while to get back to my series of three posts regarding my visit to the USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina.  This is the second post of the series that will cover my activities while on board.  The first post covered my trip down to Norfolk, VA and my arrested landing onto the deck of the aircraft carrier.  I have also added a Webshots album of all the photos that the Navy photographers took of my group of visitors.

We started the day on the USS Truman with the arrested landing and then disembarked from the C-2A.  The photo below is part of an album taken by a Navy photographer as I exited the plane onto the deck of the USS Truman.  Click through to see this photo and others taken by the Navy from this trip.

Ted Cahall exits the C-2A on board USS Truman

Once on board, we went up to the bridge and met Rear Admiral Mark Fox, Captain Joe Clarkson, and a number of other officers as the performed their duties.  The photo below shows Rear Admiral Mark Fox greeting our group of visitors.

Rear Admiral Mark Fox greets the visitors

From there we began our journey of hundreds of ladders.  You cannot live on a aircraft carrier and not be in shape.  The ladders will make it happen.  Plain and simple.  We went and met the Captain of the US Marine wing VMFA-312 on the ship.  There are about 20 Marine Pilots on board and approximately 275 total marine staff.  Unfortunately I did not have a pen and paper, so I do not know the name of the head of the Marines on the USS Truman.  Here is his picture.

The head of the US Marines aboard USS Truman speaks to the guests

After being briefed by the US Marines, we were off to lunch.  We waited in the officer’s mess hall lounge until they were ready.  We ate in a cafeteria style food line.  The food was actually pretty good!  We shared some nice conversation with the staff before returning to our journey through the ship.

We stopped by the room where they maintain the anchor chains.  Each link weighs over 300 lbs.  They clean and paint the links from that room.  We then headed out to the “hangar” below the flight deck.  The hangar has a series of elevators that move planes up and down between it and the deck above.  After looking through the hangar, we went and looked at some of the elevator bays and out towards the ocean.  From there we proceeded to view the fire station and some of the repair labs.  We also viewed the rescue boats they send out in case a person goes overboard.  From there it was onto the Jet engine repair labs.  The photo below is one I took of two technicians working on a GE jet engine.  Click through to see a few more jet engine photos from this album.

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After the jet engine repair, we had the highlight of the entire trip.  We went back to the deck and watched jets take off.  The jets (and some turbo props) take off by being shot off the deck by a catapult.  It is really an amazing thing to see – and I was lucky enough to also be able to photograph it with my own camera.  Below is one of my better shots of a plane just off the end of the carrier beginning flight.  Click through the photo below to see my other photos of planes taking off from that album.

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After watching all of the planes take off, we were then taken to the back of the carrier to watch some of them land.  This part is really amazing.  I got to see what I had experienced earlier that same day as part of an “arrested landing”.  It was incredible.  When the pilot puts the plane down on the ship, he/she actually takes it to “full throttle”.  This is to make sure it has full thrust in case they miss the arrestor cable.  In that case they need to take back off so they can circle around and try to land again.  Once they know they have the cable, they back off the throttle.  We were standing a bit too far forward to get good shots of a plane grabbing the cable with its tailhook.  I do have one blurry one here.  The photo below is a photo I took of one of the planes coming in for landing on the deck.

The AWACS plane coming in for an arrested landing - closer...

Note the arrestor cable in the foreground.  That is the first cable of four such cables.  The pilot is supposed to shoot for the third cable.  This was one of the AWACS planes.  They are arriving at 150 mph and will drop down to 0 mph in a matter of three seconds.  I have an honorary “Truman Tailhooker” certificate signed by Captain Clarkson that states that I have completed an arrested landing and have an “elementary understanding” of the “remarkable challenges and accomplishments of Naval Aviation”.

We then headed off to dinner and had some break time in our rooms.  After dinner we went to the outside deck off of the bridge and smoked cigars.  After that it was lights out as we had all had way too many ladders!

Ted Cahall

Myrtle Beach Bike Week – 2009

A group of us rode down to Myrtle Beach Bike Week again this year.  The trip was slightly shortened due to Mother’s Day on Sunday.  Here is a shot of us as we prepared to ride home.  We are from left to right: Bart, Todd, Ted Cahall (me), Dave, Jeff, and Pradeep.

Myrtle Beach Bike Week 2009

Todd, Dave and Jeff rode down on Thursday morning.  Due to my recent trip out to the USS Truman (plus the rain forecast), I decided to delay a day.   Pradeep followed suit and rode down with me on Friday morning as well.  Bart met us there by car due to work obligations.

The trip down was beautiful.  No rain and no traffic delays.  Pradeep did end up duct-taping his saddle bag to his bike when the bolt fell off – but that was worth a laugh and on we went.  We only stopped three times on the way down from DC: once in VA at the 295 Richmond bypass, once about 20 miles north of Wilson, NC, and once just outside Dillon SC.  It was pretty interesting as Pradeep was on a Ducati Monster riding in a cafe position most of the way.  He did not complain at all and was ready to ride around Myrtle Beach when we arrived.

We headed out in a cab to the night spots to see all of the bikes and general entertainment (mostly provided by other people that rode down as well).  A good time was had by all and we called it a night to prepare for the ride back on Saturday morning.

We headed out about 10:30AM on Saturday morning on what looked to be a great weather day.  I think a few people (Dave and Jeff) even commented that it was the best weather ever for the trip back.  About 10 miles north of the 295 bypass by Richmond it started to rain lightly.  We all pulled off the road under a bridge overpass.  My helmet was covered in rain as was my fairing.  Unfortunately I could not see that I had pulled up to the very far side of the shoulder’s pavement.  There was a 8 inch drop off and when I went to put my right foot down…  Darn – I need longer legs.  I gently rested the bike on the guard rail until I could straighten it out.  Somewhat embarrassing – but at least there was only a minor paint rub in a very small section of the fairing.  It could have been a lot worse.

The fun was not over yet though.  As we debated if we needed to don our rain gear or simply wait for the storm to pass over, it started to hail.  That was somewhat odd – but since we were under the bridge, we delayed putting on the rain gear.  Then it seemed like a small tornado went through.  The winds kicked up to about 50 MPH and the rain began hitting us sideways.  Being under the bridge had no effect anymore and we all got seriously drenched.  I have never seen such a quick and furious downpour.  The sideways rain abated after about five minutes and we all looked at each other like the bunch of knuckleheads we knew we were.  Had we put on the rain gear we would have been fine…

Fearing another deluge, we decided to don the rain gear and when the rain lightened to almost a stop, we proceeded on.  Within a few miles the streets were completely dry.  Too bad we were wearing soaked blue jeans under a rubber suit in what was now hot, humid weather.  Now that makes a fun ride!

It was getting somewhat late, so we we stopped at Mickey D’s for the second time of the day (yes – this was a real “man” trip) and changed back out of the rubber rain gear in hopes of drying off on the remainder of the trip.

We split off somewhere south of 495 so Dave, Todd, and Jeff could take the back roads home.  I road with Pradeep up 495 over to 267 and split off from him at the Reston exit.  It threatened rain a few more times but we did make it back without another shower.  Another safe trip down to South Carolina and back.  The photo below is the other shot we have of the group.  Photos from the 2008 trip are on Webshots.
2009 Myrtle Beach Bike Week

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall visits USS Truman – Part 1

What an incredible adventure. First I need to thank Michael at AOL for arranging this for me through his connections as an Annapolis grad. Secondly I need to thank the US Navy and Admiral Mark Fox for running a program to show civilians the inner workings of the largest moving object on earth – an aircraft carrier. In this case, the USS Harry S. Truman.

I have always been proud to be a citizen of the United States of America – but seeing the energy, passion, and talent aboard the USS Truman was a moving experience.  Fellow Americans, we are all in very good hands.  I was allowed to take photos while on board and have all of them up on Webshots.com.  All of the photos in this blog post were taken with my camera (so it is my fault if they are blurry or underexposed, etc).

This experience will be covered in three parts since I am off to Myrtle Beach and will not be able to fit it all into one blog.  This first part will cover the arrangements through landing on the Truman.  The second installment will cover all of the areas we toured on the Truman including the plane launch and landings and the last segment will cover my departure back home to US soil.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in this program by the Navy through one of my co-workers that is an Annapolis grad.  After filling out forms and registering for the hotel, I eagerly awaited the adventure.  I was not quite sure of the details (confidential Navy info) – but knew I was being flown onto an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on May 5th.  A day or two prior I was told it was the USS Truman and that the meeting time would be 6:15AM. On the evening of May 4th I drove down to Norfolk, VA (in a torrential downpour) and spent the night in the Hampton Inn.  At 6:15AM I met the Navy team and was whisked off to orientation.  We were informed that we would be flying out to the USS Truman via a C-2A “Greyhound” transport plane.
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This was not quite as exciting as flying in on an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet – but this is as good as it gets.  Most of the 5,000 personnel on this ship never get to take off or land on it.  They simply walk on and off when it is in port.

After some briefing and selection of life vests, hearing protection, and crash helmets (see – all things that are fun do require helmets), we were ready to board the plane.  The interesting thing is that we were seated backwards.  The best reason I heard for this is to protect you during the “arrested landing”.  This is a wonderful invention where the plane’s tailhook catches one of the arresting cables and slows from 150 mph to a complete stop in less than three seconds.
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As I was being strapped into my 4 point harness (see self shot photo above), it dawned on me that I was going to leave the ship facing backwards as well – on a catapult!  At this point I was beginning to wonder if I was really going to enjoy this trip…   It was sort of late to be having second thoughts, so I said my prayers (funny how prayers often come at times of loss of total control of a situation) and off the plane went on a normal take off.

There was only one window on each side of the plane and it was not near enough to my seat for me to see anything.  After about an hour of being strapped in upright with my uncomfortable headphones and helmet on, I could tell we were slowing down and circling.  The guys near the window seemed to perk up a bit.  I assumed we were near the boat (no rocket science necessary for that call).

After a while we straightened out and began a slow descent.  At one point one of the crew members in front of us got on the loudspeaker and let us know we were within 10 seconds.  Since we were facing backwards, I straightened my back and prepared to get embedded into my seat.  Within a few seconds we pounded down onto the deck of the carrier and caught the arresting cable.  It was an incredible force that seemed to get stronger as we pulled the cable to maximum tension.  In about three seconds (it felt like 5) we were stopped.  I felt like my lung collapsed!

I realized I had lived through it, hypochondria and all, and was likely to be able to blog about it in a day or two.  After they unhooked the cable and taxied the plane over to the side, they opened the doors and we took off our harnesses.  We all stood up like we did this every day.  Yes we were strong proud Americans.  The petite woman from Minnesota said that is was like a roller coaster and wanted to do it again!  So I decided to keep my collapsed lung story all to myself.  Ahem…

We left the plane and walked onto the deck of the USS Truman.  We were in the Atlantic Ocean over 100 miles off the east coast of the US.  All we could see were jets,  water – and no railings…  One of the airmen related a story of a worker being blown overboard when a jet revved its engines not knowing the man was behind it.  I was feeling better already.  What collapsed lung?  Now I was now certain I was going to drown and be eaten by a shark or whale…  Don’t worry, they fished the guy out and he was as good as new.  Probably also from Minnesota.
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I began to look around. What an incredible site.  Dozens of US Navy jets waiting to launch.  The Ocean is so blue that far out (I have clearly never been on a cruise liner).

We were whisked inside for our first meeting with the Admiral and the ship’s captain.  I was not sure of all the titles below Admiral, so it took me a while to figure out who reported to whom.  Everyone was cordial and professional and our tour guide, Dave, was a rock-star (actually he was a “Shooter” as you can see by his shirt).P5060161

All kidding aside, landing on an aircraft carrier is an incredible engineering accomplishment.  I am in awe of how these consummate professionals and masters of their craft made such an intricate and critical operation look totally routine.  Safety is the single most important thing on everyone’s mind: for the crew, the pilots, and everyone on the carrier.  I am sure they were just teasing me about the guy being blown overboard and later fished out.

I was ready for lunch – but we had dozens of ladders to climb up and down before I was allowed to feed the beast.  One thing to know about a carrier – they are full of ladders – not stairs.  These sailors are in great shape!

More to come on the ship tours in the next segment and the catapult in the final installment.

Ted Cahall

Flying out to the USS Truman in the Atlantic Ocean

Tonight after work I will drive down to Norfolk, VA. In the morning I head over to the Norfolk Naval Station on Hampton Blvd.

Some time on Tuesday, I will fly out to the USS Truman. This is an incredible opportunity to see how one of the largest moving objects on the planet (an aircraft carrier) operates.

I will not be able to drive with the SCCA this weekend since I do not have a National license yet.  That should be OK since I will just be getting back from Myrtle Beach Bike Week and can use a day off.

Hopefully I will have pictures of my excursion to the USS Truman later this week.  (Update: photos are now here).

Ted Cahall