Blue Apron Journey, Week 3

May 11, 2015

Mexican Week!

After two weeks of getting used to the idea of cooking (for the first time in my life), I found myself looking forward to my third Blue Apron delivery on Wednesday. Here’s what it looked like:

2015-05-06 Week3 Box

Week 3, Meal 1 (5/6/15)

Crispy Fish Tacos with English Pea Guacamole and Pea Tip Salad

Tonight’s dinner set new records for highs and lows:

  1. It rated a 4.7 on the Rich-o-meter, a new high. He’s still holding out for the 5, but he said this was close …
  2. …except for “the white stuff” (aka the raw matchstick-cut Golden Beet) in the accompanying salad. He didn’t mind it as long as he could stuff it on the taco, but it cost me a 0.01 rating decrease for every bite I insisted he eat after that (resulting in a net of 4.65). I don’t blame him, it wasn’t high on my list of raw experiments either.
  3. WTF do I do with the leftover oil? I grew up in the suburbs, we didn’t fry stuff by dousing it in an oil bath – we left that to Colonel Sanders. My first experience with a frying pan full of oil was a few years ago, when my Cordon-Bleu-trained friend Wendy prepared schnitzel with noodles to accompany an authentic Sound of Music Sing-along at my house. It was delicious, but I didn’t know what to do with the leftover oil then and I still don’t. Please help – the only two choices I can come up with are (a) sop up the oil with dozens of paper towels until it disappears, or (b) abandon the pan on the stove and pretend it isn’t there (and hope that my dog, Billy takes care of it).

2015-05-06 Crispy Fish Tacos3

2015-05-06 Crispy Fish Tacos1
2015-05-06 Crispy Fish Tacos2

Week 3, Meal 2 (5/9/15)

Chiles Rellenos with Spiced Tamarind Rice & Queso Fresco

This one was a winner! Rich and I both rated it 4.9. It would have been 4.95 on the Rich-o-Meter, but it lost 0.05 because the Poblano Peppers weren’t quite cooked enough. Point taken, lesson learned. We’ll definitely be doing this one again.

2015-05-09 Chiles Rellenos1
2015-05-09 Chiles Rellenos2

Week 3, Meal 3 (5/10/15)

Enchiladas Rojas with Nopales & Black Beans

When our Mexican week box showed up, we had high expectations – we both love Mexican food. But this meal nailed it. Are you old enough to remember Euell Gibbons, and his “ever eat a pine cone?” ads? We are. And that’s how I felt when I was presented with two giant cactus leaves for this meal. I trusted BA, and boy did they come through. In fact, as I was cooking this meal, I found myself thinking that corn might have been a good ingredient. Guess what? The diced Poblano Cactus Pad filled the bill – same texture, less sweet. The result was the highest combined score to date: 4.9 for me, and 4.95 for Rich. There was nothing wrong with it, but he’s holding out for the Perfect 5.

2015-05-10 Enchiladas Rojas1
2015-05-10 Enchiladas Rojas2

Week 3 Wrap-up

  • Mexican week rocked!
  • Poblano chiles need a little extra time
  • We ate cactus and weren’t afraid
  • Week 4, here we come

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 6 – Race Day

May 10, 2015

If you came here from Part 5 – Final Race Prep, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had survived a 2-day thrash to replace the blown engine with a used street motor they found on eBay, gotten it running reasonably well after finding and fixing two mistakes (an upside-down shifter and a disconnected spark plug wire), and received a gift from the race officials when they got credit for a full lap after their last-chance practice session was red-flagged for a civilian medical emergency.

Meanwhile, back in the states, my alarm is set for 3:00am – the race is scheduled to start at 3:30am my time (11:30am, UK time).

9:30pm Tuesday night (my time): Text from Rich – “hi ho hi ho it’s off to war we go” (7:15am his time)

Yeah, not much chance that I’ll sleep tonight.

Friday 8/29 – RACE DAY! (all times are my time, PDT)

Learned from Twitter that the start time is delayed by one hour because of wet conditions – expected to clear in time because of high winds. That’s a mixed blessing for sure – dry=good, windy=bad. I found this web cam view of Douglas Harbor on Race Day morning on the Manx Radio website. Looks pretty gloomy!

DawnRaceDay

At this point, I’m following the race on three devices pointing to three independent sources of electronic updates:

  1. iPad following Twitter feeds from @iom_tt, @manxgrandprix and others
  2. iPhone streaming live radio feed from Manx Radio
  3. Laptop browser connected to the electronic timing check points so I can “watch” Wade progress around the course

In addition, I have two close friends who are awake and following it with me: Terry K., who got invested in the event over beers and dinner earlier in the month, and Sarah J., who assisted with Wade’s rehab from his ankle injury. They both had the same resources as I and we were communicating via text.

Race is underway!

4:30am – 1st rider has left the start line.The riders leave in 10 second intervals (in numerical order) to avoid crowding on the course. Wade is #89, so he’s scheduled to leave 880 seconds (roughly 15 minutes) after the first bike.

4:45am – Wade left the start line as scheduled (confirmed by electronic timing). Here is a YouTube video of the the start line. Skip ahead to 14:44 and you’ll see Wade leaving, right on time. The eBay engine sounds rather healthy, all things considered!

Now I’m obsessively refreshing my laptop browser so I can watch for Wade’s transponder to trigger each of the 6 checkpoints around the track. What a cool system this is. On the live timing website, you choose the rider(s) you want to follow. When the dots appear on the maps, your rider is highlighted in yellow. By the time Wade got to the third checkpoint at Sulby, it occurred to me to take screen shots so I could later document my stress with a time-lapse video. Keep in mind that Rich had none of this technology available to him – he just had to wait 25 minutes per lap and hope that Wade showed up again.

5:08am – Wade completes his first lap.

By this time, the leaders (who are 15+ minutes ahead of Wade) have not only completed their first lap, but are well into their second laps and are capturing most of the attention of the Radio TT announcers. They do to their best to throw in mention of the back-markers, hence this AWESOME moment from the radio feed: “Here comes #89, the bike with the eBay engine.” THAT’S US!!!

5:30AM – Wade completes his second lap and enters the pits for his mid-race fuel stop. This photo is taken during that pit stop. Rich is the guy behind the rear wheel.

5:37am – Wade’s transponder registers at the Glen Helen checkpoint

5:37am – Red Flag (Twitter and Live Radio)

5:40am – Two separate incidents between Glen Helen and Ballaugh (Twitter and Radio)

Wow, now the stress level kicks in for real. The last place Wade’s transponder checked in was Glen Helen. There are two crashes between there and the next check point (Ballaugh), and we don’t have any idea exactly where. Is he one of the crashes? Did the engine blow and cause one of the crashes? Is he ahead of or behind the crashes? I refresh my browser compulsively, hoping #89 will check in at Ballaugh. No such luck.

5:49am – Race will not be restarted, results will be based on two laps (Twitter and Radio)

6:05am – Crash details: 3 bikes at 11th Milestone, 1 bike at Bishopscourt, all riders transported to hospital (Twitter and Radio).

This helps a little, because both locations are much closer to Ballaugh than to Glen Helen. Since the red flag was thrown so soon after Wade’s transponder check-in at Glen Helen, I dare to raise my hopes that he hadn’t had a chance to get nearly that far.

6:13am – text from Rich “still no news, think it may have been the leaders”

6:21am – text to Rich “This is agonizing, I can’t even imagine how you feel.”
Reply: “Kind of like the ground crew at a WWII fighter base must have felt.”

6:30am – text from Rich: “Every time someone walks toward the tent my heart stops but I also would like to know WTF is going on”

6:50am – Rich finally got word that Wade is OK and got the sense that he’d be able to ride the bike back to the pits after the roads reopen

Let me recap these 73 minutes of hell:

  • Wade was somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
  • The two crashes were somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
  • He is running an untested used engine that we bought on eBay and installed two days earlier

I was doing my best to (a) keep Rich informed during this 73 minute information gap and (b) maintain my own sanity, and I’m extremely grateful that despite the hour on the west coast, I wasn’t alone – Terry and Sarah were right there with me, texting and hoping and wringing their own hands.

Here’s what it looked like on the live timing site (Wade is the yellow dot). I added some sound effects to enhance the experience (after all, I was listening to the live radio feed) and I obviously compressed the time frame – each photo (5 seconds) roughly equals 4 min in real time.

7:50am – I’m still waiting for confirmation that he’s actually made it back. Hoping that they’re just too busy packing the shipping container, and assuming no news is good news. My second biggest fear even after I knew he wasn’t IN the crash, was that the replacement motor had also blown and CAUSED the crash. That’s why it was so important to know that he was able to ride it back to the pits.

10:15am – finally, a text from Rich: “Got the bike thru post race tech we are finishers and can you believe it were minor heroes for sticking with it and prevailing. Bike is in the crate and we’re off to the awards dinner to meet the folks that run the island.”

1:50pm – “Wade hobbled up to the stage and got his finishers trophy. For 64 out of 96”

OMG, THEY DID IT!!!

Facebook post, Friday afternoon, August 29

“Short story: they finished. 64th out of 96. With an untuned stock motor from a wrecking yard that they found on eBay on Sunday, picked up in the UK on Monday, delivered to the pits at 7am on Tuesday, thrashed on Tues/Wed, and got running in time for practice on Wednesday afternoon. Which was critical because they still needed one more lap to meet the qualification requirements. Minor hero status amongst the other teams for persevering and prevailing.”

“Slightly longer story: race was red-flagged two laps into the four-lap race (each lap is 38 miles) because of two serious incidents on the track. Both were in the multi-mile segment immediately following the checkpoint where Wade’s radio transponder had last pinged. We had 73 minutes of true terror before Rich was finally informed that Wade was not involved. Sadly, one rider was killed. Tragic.”

“Much longer story will come in a week or two when I have time to put my thoughts together in a blog. For now, I’m going to rest. I’m still shaking from relief and joy.”

Next up: Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?

Photo credits:

Start Line and Pit Stop – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)

Douglas Harbor – Manx Radio Web Cam


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 5 – Final Race Prep

May 10, 2015

If you came here from Part 4 – The Engine Adventure, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had found a used engine on eBay, traveled by air and land to the other side of England to pick it up, endured a ridiculous sequence of setbacks trying to get the engine back to the island, transplanted the engine into the bike, and somehow managed to get it running. My view of Tuesday (at the time) can be summarized as follows: 6:30am: Rich made it back to the island with the engine and turned it over to the transplant team 11:30pm: text from Rich (yes, 17 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!! But they were by no means out of the woods: they still didn’t have enough laps to qualify to run the race, and they had no idea whether or not the engine would hold up for a practice session and four grueling laps in the race. Remember, this wasn’t a shiny new race engine, it came out of a street bike with over 30,000 miles on it and the only assurance we had from the eBay seller was that it ran when he got it.

Wednesday 8/27

I received word at 10:30am that Kenny made it on to the boat with the rental car, so it’s finally headed home to Liverpool. Now the only challenge is to get Kenny back by boat or by air – everything at this point is Standby. It’s not surprising that there was a lot more to the engine story than just the 17-hour thrash on Tuesday. Swapping an engine in a motorcycle is not a trivial operation in the best of conditions, let alone on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea in variable weather with an ad-hoc volunteer crew of helpers. They got it done, but on Wade’s first ride around the pits, the bike was sputtering and couldn’t get out of its own way. They discovered that the shift lever linkage had been mounted backwards or upside-down, so what he thought was 1st gear was actually (take your pick), 2nd/3rd/higher. Once that got fixed, things improved dramatically, but he still wasn’t getting anything close to the expected horsepower/speed, even for a used street motor. 3:15pm: Scheduled practice. Because of the initial equipment problems and the blown motor, they still only have 4 out of the 5 laps they need to qualify to start the race. And now they have so many unknown variables with the replacement motor that still isn’t running right. Why is it running so poorly? Will it survive? Nothing to do but cross our fingers and wait – off they go. Thomas sent us this photo – taken at 3:14pm, just before the bike went on course. No worries, right? CAM00396 3:45pm – Ros (their B&B hostess) managed to snap a photo of Wade as he approached her driveway – proof that it’s running! I had no idea she lived right on the course. [The fellow in the foreground of this photo is Ron Halem, aka Gold Star Ron. Ron was a local vintage race bike builder (Prunedale, CA) with a long history on the Isle of Man, both as a racer and a fan. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in November of 2014, just a few months after this photo was taken.] Wade practice after engine replacement 3:49pm – Twitter feed reports that practice had been red flagged. My heart stops for a moment – after all, the last time there was a red flag, we caused it due to the spectacular oiling of the course from the blown motor. This time it turns out to be unrelated to the bikes – a civilian medical emergency that requires an ambulance go onto the course (did I mention that all 37 miles of the circuit are on public roads?). I knew Rich would be stressing too, so I texted him to let him know it wasn’t us. Good news: because the red flag was outside the control of the race officials, Wade got credit for the lap, so he has now officially completed the 5 required laps to quality for the race. Bad news: when Wade finally made it back to the pits, he had oil all over his boot. Now they have a day to chase down the leak, fix it, figure out why the engine is running so badly, and hope for the best during the race.

Thursday, August 28

There are no practices scheduled on the day before the race, so all efforts are focused on finding and resolving the oil leak and trying to get it to run better. I did get word that Kenny, after having delivered the rental car / world’s most expensive hand truck back to Liverpool, has made it back to the island – yay! Their time was well spent, as they identified and resolved three critical flaws:

  1. They found a small leak at the plug where the alternator was removed. Rich has fashioned a new gasket and sealed it up.
  2. The ad-hoc crew located a dyno facility in the pits, so they can run the motor to confirm that the leak is fixed. If so, the race is a go. If not, that’s the end of it – too dangerous to take the risk of oiling the track (both for Wade and the other riders). This also gives them an opportunity to identify the source of the power loss. The dyno operator reports that it’s only making about 56hp (should be closer to 100hp) and it’s running a little rich. They pulled the carburetors to adjust the jetting, and then while they were putting the carburetors back on …
  3. … Wade noticed that one spark plug hole didn’t look like the others. It seems that in the thrash to put the engine together, one of the plug wires hadn’t gotten reconnected. Um yeah, that would certainly explain the huge horsepower disparity!

As if we hadn’t had enough challenges, the shipping organizers have decided that the pits have to be cleared and all shipping containers packed and ready to go by 8:00am Saturday morning. Team USA thought they had through the weekend. So on Thursday, instead of focusing 100% on the bike and the race, they’re also scrambling to pack what they don’t need. And tomorrow (Friday), instead of celebrating the race (regardless of the outcome), they’ll be packing the rest of it in preparation for shipping back across the ocean. Adding insult to injury, they don’t fly out until Tuesday morning so they have 3 days to twiddle their thumbs.

Facebook Post, August 28

“What’s on my mind (FB asks)? Keeping the Dream Alive. Race Day on the Isle of Man. 3:15am alarm so I can follow it on Streaming Radio, Twitter, and Live Transponder Timing/Map. That’s what. Odds of getting much sleep between now and then? Slim to nil. After what they’ve been through, I’m beyond thrilled that they made it to the start line. Now all I care about is a safe outcome – if they manage to make it to the finish line, that’ll be a fantastic bonus, regardless of position.”

Next up: Part 6 – Race Day


Blue Apron Journey, Week 2

May 4, 2015

Week 2, Meal 1 (4/29/15)

Sirloin Tip Steaks with New Potato, Asparagus, & Radish Hash

My second BA box showed up. As I unpacked it, I had the following responses:
1) “Fennel!” (which I couldn’t even recognize until last week)
2) “Radishes!” (which I didn’t know could be cooked until last week)
3) “Parsley?” (which until tonight, I thought was just another disposable garnish, but approached with a freshly-opened mind based on having recently overcome my Radish bias)

2015-04-29 Sirloin Tip Steaks1
2015-04-29 Sirloin Tip Steaks2

The Rich-o-Meter rates this a strong 4.5 (out of 5), tied with last week’s Almond-Crusted Cod for things he’d like me to try again (from scratch !?!).

Week 2, Meal 2 (5/1/15)

Dukkah-Spiced Salmon with Spring Vegetable & Oyster Mushroom Ragout

Tonight I faced the scariest ingredient to date: Celeriac. This thing has everything going against it: I’ve never heard of it, its name sounds like a disease requiring a gluten-free diet, it’s really, really ugly, and I had no idea what tools I should use to prep it. I googled it and overcame my fear when I learned that it’s nothing more than a fancy, unfortunately-named, root-based relative of celery. I confirmed its heritage with a quick sniff check, peeled it like a potato, whacked off the nasty root end, chopped the rest into bite-sized chunks, and now I can embrace it the same way I have the radishes.

2015-05-01 Dukkah-Spiced Salmon2

That said, tonight’s meal was by far the highest-effort and most adventurous meal so far. It got mixed reviews on the Rich-o-Meter (overall rating of 3): Plus points because he liked it in spite of the salmon (which isn’t one of our favorites), and Minus points for too much fennel (note to self: it’s OK to adjust and toss the extra if the fennel bulb in this box is significantly larger than the one you learned on in the last box). Oh, and I still need practice with the zester, although tonight’s injury was trivial compared to the first one.

2015-05-01 Dukkah-Spiced Salmon1
2015-05-01 Dukkah-Spiced Salmon3

On a side note, this conversation happened tonight:
Me: “I know you’re busy, but sometime after the race bikes have left on the ship for the Isle of Man, we need to take our knives to the knife-sharpening guy at the Cotati Farmer’s Market.” (The last time we did that was several years ago.)
Him: “If it’ll keep you cooking like this, I’ll take care of that next week.”

Week 2, Meal 3 (5/3/15)

Laotian Larb Gai with Sticky Rice, Peanuts & Mint

Two weeks ago, I didn’t know how to cook and I didn’t care about learning. One week ago, I was rewarded by some early successes with my Blue Apron kits, but assumed my ADD-driven curiosity would quickly wane. Tonight, I’m truly looking forward to my next delivery on Wednesday (it’s Mexican week!). I’ve no doubt that my serotonin-deficient brain chemistry will ultimately prevail, but my interest has already lasted a week longer than expected. I still don’t know HOW to cook, but thanks to pre-measured ingredients and excellent instructions, somehow I actually AM cooking (in spite of myself).

Tonight’s Laotian meal rated 4 on the Rich-o-Meter. And yes, as my friends predicted, the “how can I make it better” has kicked in: I was faced with a plateful of raw cabbage, which neither of us care for. Undaunted, I pulled out a bottle of Comfort’s Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing to salvage (well, disguise) that part of the meal – success, no cabbage went to compost!

2015-05-03 Laotian Larb Gai1
2015-05-03 Laotian Larb Gai2

Week 2 Wrap-up

  • I cooked some more
  • It was still good
  • Week 3, bring it on!

Blue Apron Journey, Week 1

April 27, 2015

Week 1, Meal 1 (4/22/15)

Almond-Crusted Cod with Snap Peas & Radish-Red Quinoa Salad

Inspired by the posts of friends, I signed up for the Blue Apron meal kit delivery service. I don’t cook, but I can follow directions and assemble kits so I thought I’d give it a shot. My first attempt didn’t look much like the picture (because I forgot to refer to it before I shoveled the food onto the plate), but it tasted pretty darned good. Rich (my husband) concurs, and trust me, he wouldn’t hesitate to tell me otherwise. I only suffered one injury (need a little more practice with the zester), which isn’t bad considering I repeatedly tempted fate with knives and hot olive oil.

Week1Meal1 Almond-Crusted Cod

But damn, what to do with all of the packaging? Definitely not earth-friendly, which is ironic because today is Earth Day. Shipping box? Recycle. Ice packs? Reuse and Freecycle or donate after the first week or two. But what about all of the little plastic zip-lock bags? And the huge foil insulated bag? I finally found the Blue Apron recycling guide. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

Week 1, Meal 2 (4/24/15)

Spring Casserole with Fennel, Asparagus, and Golden Raisins

Until about an hour ago, I had never cooked a casserole, had no idea what fennel was (let alone that it is disturbingly reminiscent of “Wilson” from Castaway), and didn’t know that béchamel sauce was even a thing. But here it is, the before and after pic of tonight’s Spring Casserole with fennel, asparagus, and golden raisins (in béchamel sauce).

2015-04-24 Spring Casserole1
2015-04-24 Spring Casserole2

Spousal Responses (after taking the obligatory and safe half-portion):

  1. Hm, I took the first bite in the kitchen assuming it would need more salt. It doesn’t.
  2. Damn, I’m glad there’s more.”

Week 1, Meal 3 (4/26/15)

Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry with Radishes, Bok Choy, and Pink Rice

I want to summarize the results of week 1.

  1. Aside from lack of passion, there are many reasons I don’t cook: (a) I have no imagination for ingredients and no idea what to do with them; (b) I don’t want to buy a 16-oz bottle of X because a recipe calls for 1 tsp; (c) I’m terrible at planning, making decisions, and shopping – grab ‘n go at Trader Joe’s or Oliver’s is so much easier. Blue Apron probably won’t overcome my overall apathy for learning this skill, but it has addressed the other problems I mentioned.
  2. We’re expanding our food horizons. In addition to the fennel example I posted earlier this week, we have this: Rich and I both hate radishes. Raw, that is. Until this week, neither of us had any clue that they were good for anything other than garnish or things to pick out of your salad. Now I know how to cook them, and surprise, we like them!
  3. Tonight, I learned how to recover from mistakes. Mistake #1: When step 1 of the recipe is to simply cook rice, just use the rice cooker so you don’t have to worry about that timing while you prepare the rest of the meal; Mistake #2: 1/2-cup isn’t the same as 1/4 cup (time to fix those glasses), especially when you’re adding the ponzu/cornstarch/water mix to the final phase of the stir-fry. Solution: throw the excess stir-fry goop into the rice that wasn’t quite timed right and turn it on High.
  4. Inspired by a friend’s question, we are not only keeping the recipe cards, we are rating them so that we can decide which ones are worth repeating in the future.

Here is tonight’s triumph:

2015-04-26 Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry1
2015-04-26 Sweet and Sour Vegetable Stir-Fry2

Week 1 Wrap-up

  • I cooked
  • It was good
  • I’m looking forward to Week 2

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 6 – Race Day, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had overcome a series of ridiculous obstacles and had earned a 64th-place finish (out of 90 starters) in the 2014 Manx Grand Prix with a 1992 Suzuki GSXR 1100 that was built in our garage. The bike and tools are packed and ready for shipping, so now they can enjoy the awards banquet and three days of sight-seeing and visiting friends.

Awards Banquet

As I mentioned in the last post, Rich reported that Wade was able to hobble up to the podium to accept credit for his 64th place finish. Just surviving the race is such an accomplishment that everyone who finishes gets acknowledged at the banquet. Rich also pointed out that the awards banquet had a nice pub, and that the Barkeepers give the racers one heck of a pour.

Three days as Tourists

Until the race was in the books and the crates packed, every moment was spent overcoming adversity and tending to business, which included daily laps of the island in the rental car to familiarize Rich with the course. As I mentioned earlier, those laps were critical to giving him the perspective he needed to interpret to the feedback he was getting from Wade and make appropriate tuning adjustments to the suspension and the engine. But they didn’t really count as touring.

With three days to relax before their flight home, our heroes finally had a chance to relax and be tourists. Among other things, Rich reported these field trips:

  • The IOM actually has three race courses and we hot lapped each one in our rent’a’racer.
  • We also spent a nice afternoon visiting Peel, one of the oldest towns – as a Left-Coaster, it’s hard to get used to grave markers that list DOD as 1400-something
  • Lunched in Ramsey sitting by the quay enjoying the sea air and just relaxing.
  • Met up with Peter and Jean Tucker, locals who have known Wade since the mid-1990s but didn’t manage to cross paths until after the race. Peter later sent me this photo of the four of them.Tucker10

Race Photos

After Wade and Rich got home, I scoured the internet for photos and found these gems. Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online, you ARE the man! As always, click on the photos to see the full-res version – trust me, it’s worth it, especially for the Ballaugh Bridge photo.

Town of Kirk Michael, Practice, Thursday 8/21

Gooseneck, Practice, Friday 8/22. Note his left hand shading his eyes against the sun!

Creg-ny-Baa, Race, Friday 8/29

And of course, the one you’ve all been waiting for, the iconic Ballaugh Bridge airborne shot, Wed 8/20 (his first day on course). Remember, he’s about to land on a broken right foot!

Homecoming

Getting home seems anti-climatic after what they’ve been through. I know, you probably expected to hear that the volcano in Iceland stranded them for weeks. Or that their plane vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. Or that the cargo ship sank with all of the Team USA bikes aboard. But none of that happened. Wade and Rich made it home as scheduled without incident, and they calmly cooled their jets for 2-1/2 months until the ship with the bikes wandered into port just before Thanksgiving. BTW, here’s what the shipping crate looked like when it showed up in the driveway on the trailer after being picked up from the Port of Oakland, with tool boxes and lifts stuffed in every nook and cranny..

Crated Suzuki Front

What’s Next?

Well what else, planning for 2015. Our motto is, “If one was good, more will be better.” We had hoped to bring four bikes in 2015, but two of them didn’t work out. One was recently denied entry by the organizers (for reasons that are unclear to me – politics?). At least this year, we got that word in advance of shipment – last year, Wade shipped the bike and was denied entry after it showed up. The other (a Classic Moto-Guzzi) didn’t get finished in time because the engine builder wasn’t able to meet the deadlines. As I write this, the following bikes have been entered and accepted in the event, and are currently undergoing final prep for shipment:

  • “Betty Boop”, the 1992 Suzuki GSXR750 we’ve grown to love in this tale, will be making a repeat appearance, but in the Classic TT Formula 1 race instead of the Senior Manx GP. She has a new engine, but the venerable eBay motor will be along for the ride as a spare.
  • “Purple Yam”, the 2015 Yamaha R6 that spent about 10 minutes in its new-from-the-showroom configuration before it was unceremoniously stripped and rebuilt with all new parts and bodywork, will be entered in the Junior Manx GP.

Yes, all of the bikes have nicknames. Just like our pets.

In 2015, the goal is to win a replica award. These are special trophies given at three levels – Gold, Silver, Bronze – only to those who finish within a percentage of the winner’s time.

You can bet there are more episodes of this Isle of Man Adventure to come!

Photo Credits

All photos on course (Ballaugh, Creg-ny-Baa, Gooseneck, Kirk Michael) – Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 4 – The Engine Adventure

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 3 – Practice Week 1, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had gotten the bike on course at the Isle of Man, having overcome many personal injury and shipping obstacles, and then spectacularly blown the engine just short of meeting the qualification requirements for the race.

The insanity of the next 48 hours is best summed up by a simple chronology. I swear, I haven’t embellished, I didn’t need to. You just can’t make this shit up. Except as noted, all times are UK time (8 hours ahead of us).

Sunday 8/24 (my time, PDT)

3:22am – Perhaps you remember, we had a little earthquake here in Northern California. Epicenter in American Canyon, about 20 miles from my house (as the crow flies).

3:28am – Text exchange:
Me: “Earthquake! Don’t know size yet. We’re fine.”
Him: “Where would be good.” (Wade lives in San Francisco, and his wife was at home…)
Me: “6.0 American Canyon. All FB posts so far have been North Bay folks.”
Him: “Well you have totally scared Wade and me. IOM bites us, but Mother Nature is out to get you. Please try to have things sorted out before we get home ;-)”

7:30am – Text exchange:
Him: “Please check on eBay.uk, seller Pete Stansfield, GSXR engine, 350 GBP.”
Me: “Found it, but it’s in North Yorkshire. Don’t know how you could possibly get it in time.”
Him: “Call him and let him know it’s for a Manx rider who needs it now. Just trying. People all over are trying.”

I email and call the guy (Pete) – he (and all of the UK) are on holiday until Tuesday, no way to transport the motor, he won’t be home until Monday. Looking bleak.

Pete emails me back and says he’d be available Monday after 2pm if Rich can figure out a way to get there. Side note: I’m amused by Pete’s concern that he’s “clear on the other side of the country” from Liverpool. So I googled it – 120 miles, roughly the distance from my house to Placerville. Couldn’t stop chuckling about that, it’s definitely all about perspective.

Rich and I figured out that he could fly to Liverpool, rent a car, drive to the “other side of the country”, pick up the engine, drive back, and take it back to the island on the ferry (presumably on a hand-truck, which they brought with them). All in a day’s work.

I let Pete know that’s what we’re going to do. He further adjusts his timeframe and says he’ll be available after noon.

Monday 8/25 (UK time)

12:01am – Rich confirmed he has reservations for the flight, the rental car, and the return ferry.

5:30am – Rich and Kenny (a new friend/helper from Team USA) leave for the airport

7:00am – Flight from Isle of Man to Liverpool

8:00am – Rental car procured, R&K are on their way to Malton (east of York)

10:00am – R&K arrive at Pete’s house (2 hours early), whereupon they inspect the engine and execute the transaction. And because they are hours ahead of schedule to catch the return ferry, they accept a gracious offer from Pete and his wife to join them for a lovely country breakfast prior to their return to Liverpool. Here are the two of them at Pete’s shop, ready to load the engine – nothing scary about that greasy lump of steel…

Yesterday Holly phoned from San Francisco, her husband is in the Isle of Man with his rider Wade Boyd and his GSXR750 which has just deposited it's internals on Crosby straight at 160, Wade is smiling 'cos he is still alive, Holly's man Rich isn't so happy. Oh and she's just had an earthquake. Can I help ?. So this morning Rich and friend Kenny from LA get a flight to Liverpool, hire a car and come to Malton for a replacement motor and a bacon sandwich. Turns out Rich spent a season racing Formula Ford in the UK in the early 70s same time as I was helping local racer Pete Clark also in FF. Once back at Liverpool it wasn't quite plain sailing as the authorities wouldn't accept a GSXR lump on a trolley as hand luggage so the hire car was re-hired and is now on the boat. The delayed Senior race is on Saturday, good luck boys ! #manxgp #wadeboyd #goodguys

A post shared by Pete Stansfield (@eattherichuk) on

11:00am – Engine loaded in the rental car, R&K headed back to Liverpool. All systems go!

Or not.

3:30pm – Officious twit at the ferry won’t let them take the engine as carry-on (on the hand truck), and it’s too heavy for the baggage conveyor. Please note that this twit was not much more than a ticket-taker; the baggage loaders (most of whom were women) were more than happy to cooperate and help load the lump of steel, but they couldn’t take the risk of being turned in by the twit (who wasn’t a superior, but WAS a known dickhead). The ferry is full, so they can’t bring the rental car. Last option seems to be to make friends with someone parked in the car-loading queue and convince (bribe?) them to load the engine in their vehicle. Highly illegal of course, but what other choice do they have?

5:00pm – Rental car somehow made it on the ferry as Standby. R&K will have to figure out how to get it back to the mainland another time. (Most Expensive Hand Truck, Ever!!!)

8:22pm – Confirmation from Rich that they (Rich, Kenny, the rental car with the engine) are all loaded up on the ferry and ready to go.

8:30pm – Scheduled departure time

9:23pm – Text from Rich: “Ferry has broken down, engine trouble.” Really? We haven’t had enough engine trouble already?

10:14pm – Text from Rich: “Paging for a doctor/nurse because someone on the ferry has collapsed”. OMG, when is this going to stop?

Tuesday 8/26 (UK time)

12:51am – After sitting on the broken ferry for over 4 hours waiting for news/instructions, they have now been offloaded and are driving 70 miles to another port (Heysham) where a different ferry awaits them. Not a fresh empty ferry, but an equally full ferry that had been held awaiting these new passengers and vehicles.

2:30am – Text from Rich: “Loaded on the new boat, wall to wall people and vehicles.”

3:05am – Boat finally sails, due to arrive at 6:20am. Now I’m watching CNN, hoping not to learn of a tragic overloaded ferry accident in the Irish Sea.

6:30am – The precious engine has arrived on shore, 8 hours after its intended arrival. Meanwhile, back on the island, Wade and a pick-up crew of Team USA mechanics had been busily uninstalling the broken motor from the bike and preparing it for the replacement. Rich handed off the eBay motor to the transplant team and promptly went to sleep for a few hours.

Pete somehow got this great photo of Wade waiting with the gutted frame. Note he’s being a good boy with his broken foot elevated.

12:00pm – Rich wakes up, but can’t get to the pits to help or monitor status until the current race is over because it’s on the other side of the course and there’s no crossing. There is some good news, however: because of Monday’s postponements for weather, the schedule has been shifted and compressed. The result is that their practice today is canceled (they wouldn’t have made it anyway), so now they don’t have to feel bad about missing it.

11:30pm – text from Rich (yes, nearly 12 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!!

Facebook Post 8/26 (my time, after I knew the bike was running):

“Grand adventures cannot happen without great challenges. I guess it wasn’t enough that in the prior 6 months, both Rich (bike owner/builder) and his friend Wade (veteran IOM racer) were taken out in separate motorcycle crashes. The events of the last 10 days have increased the degree of difficulty exponentially (and they aren’t even remotely out of the woods yet), spawning two new definitions of “bucket list trip”:
— a trip so filled with drama and hurdles and setbacks and stress that you’ll be lucky if you don’t kick the BUCKET before it’s over.
— a trip so important, with a growing team of supporters so dedicated and tenacious and unflappable, that it’s worth throwing BUCKETS of cash at it just to keep the dream alive.
Trust me, I WILL blog about this in great detail when it’s over, with input from Rich when he gets home. Whenever that might be, because there’s another ice volcano in Iceland that is threatening to blow with the potential to ground all trans-Atlantic flights again (remember 2010?). Until then, I’ll be keeping a relatively low profile to avoid jinxing this trip even more.”

Yeah, I guess the accidents and the UPS nightmare and the engine blowing and the Napa Valley earthquake weren’t quite enough. Iceland had to add some volcanic ash into the mix.

Next up: Part 5, Final Race Prep