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September 4, 2016

By Ken Wagner

I always was a sucker for a race trip and never met one I didn’t like. It had been 3 years since I took a racing trip solo and the CRA tour starting with Calistoga looked like a dream deal if I was able. My back problems have been improved so I took a chance. My plans were to see how it goes and if problems arose, go home. Luckily, I made it through everything and stayed until I was ready to go home.

For Calistoga trip pics Click here to view.

Planning is a key part of any trip, so I began setting aside things I would need, you know toothbrush, underwear, socks, shirts etc.etc. On Wednesday before my takeoff day, I charged my electric scooter. When that was done, my plan was to load it up! As soon as I touched the little Wagsmobile, the alarm went off. I looked for the “button”, but there wasn’t any. Plugging the key in the ignition didn’t help as it went off again. I noticed any movement set it off, so I sat back away from it and decided I would check the instruction book. The alarm went off as soon as I tried to get the book out of its hiding place.

The booklet is only 12 pages or so, and I read every line, but not one word about an alarm! Hmmm. So I did the only thing a manager would do, find someone to ask how to fix it. I called the Manufacturer service department. He told me to use the key fob to turn it off. What key fob? Oh yeah, I remember a key fob came with it but I put in it my office to keep it safe. It was still there as the man on the phone laughed. He told me which key to push and I guess I tried to light it up as I hit that key several times, no luck. He’s laughing again and said stop! Only hit it one time. I did and it stopped. Magic!

With that over and a quiet garage, I finished up loading, with Mrs Wags help, and got the car also loaded with a cooler, my camera, some jackets and so on. When morning of September 1st came at 6 AM, I finished packing it in and with a quick goodbye, I left the house heading north to Menden, NV where Darleen and Stubby were waiting for my arrival. Terry’s Morano hadn’t been on the road in a while, so I paid particular attention to the gauges to see if anything funny happened. Luckily nothing went wrong the whole trip, so it was still road worthy.

I got to the Dills home about 2:30 in the afternoon and they were ready for me. With Darleen you always have to stay on your toes because she is going 90 miles an hour talking racing. Moving from Garden Grove nearly 20 years ago has made her racing life very tough. In fact almost non- existent since she and Stubby have gone to very few. With his serious health issues the last several years, they have not left the homestead much. He is much better now, but still not eating regular food.

We spent the afternoon yakking and catching up for lost time. She and I went to dinner at a little place near the local airport and continued our diatribe about racing. In the morning, after an egg and melon breakfast, I was on the road again, heading now towards Calistoga and the hall of fame banquet and two days of the “Louie”, the Louie Vermeil Classic! I tried very hard to get Darleen on board for the ride, but no was the answer. I called her daughter Tina and told her to work on her mom! Later Tina sent me a message of success as Darleen would be coming in the morning with them! Okay!

The trip was thru some really pretty scenery, too bad my co-pilot wasn’t there to get pics, but neat regardless. The only slowdown was after getting on the last road to Calistoga and I had been followed by Geoff Ensign’s 3F hauler for a short bit. We were in the left lane of 3 moving along smartly until it stopped and suddenly he cuts right to pass a lot of cars and disappear. I was cut off by traffic, so I couldn’t follow. I later found out there was a short cut without the traffic. I experienced stop and go a few feet a few feet at a time and my 13 mile trip took over 45 minutes. Crap!

I managed to arrive at Dick and Sue Fry’s campsite in the campground outside turn two of the racetrack. After a few greetings, I unloaded my mini-mule and headed to see about tickets for Tina and Tom and Darleen. Turns out Dick had two left and it worked out. I visited a while before time passed and I was headed back to Dick’s to change into my banquet duds.

I had never attended this No Cal banquet before so it was a first for me. I visited outside with many, including Tim Green who was being inducted this night into the Hall of Fame. Once inside I made my way to table # 17 where Dean Mills Mom greeted me before I sat down. .Later Dean, Steve Lafond, Jim Chini and Sam Kihara joined me as the night went on. It was fun meeting Sam who is a facebook friend. A lot of visiting with many, as I actually knew a few people, and m fear of being bored left me. Janet and Lealand McSpadden were in the house.

I met Sam Bailey from the Bailey Brothers fame and he was a hoot. I asked him what he thought when Lealand was leading the Western World and flipped it back in the day? He said I have one better about Lealand. The Bailey brothers were going back East to run some races and Sam told Lealand if he crashed the car, they were going home even though they were taking a new chassis with them. Well, as things happen, they ran at Lakeside and sure enough Lealand crashes into a pole and beats the car up bad. When Sam got Lealand out of the car, Lealand started in on how they needed to hurry to get the spare chassis out and start building a new car so they could run the next night. Sam looked at Lealand and said remember what I said? You crashed and we are going home. I don’t care what you do, but we are going home! Sam is quiet, but loved telling that story.

After dinner, the presentations were nice with some recipients passed away. Some of the presenters were too windy and should have seen what Bobby Gerould did and copy that. Tim Green was a riot as his career was legendary in NARC and Knoxville. The food was good with smoked meet and chicken and very tasty. Afterwards I parked my scooter at Dick’s and headed off to Don “The” Barber’s house where I would spend 4 nights.

Don was still up, but looking sleepy, so we would start our visiting in the morning. Up and ready to rock n roll, we ate some good ribs he brought home and then headed to Calistoga. I immediately took off to go to Bob’s Dream World to pick up my polka dot cars. I discovered several Wagtimers didn’t have one and I thought all the worker bee’s at the Wagsdash’s had one. Fran & Jim have theirs now. If any fans want one, see Bob at the track or check www.facebook.com/SprintStuff. You can see his full line up of sprint stuff for sale and he has a bunch of new items..

I spent several hours at the wine tasting event. I never drink at the races so I just watched and talked. We ended up with a great afternoon sitting on a picnic bench just enjoying the people. Darleen got to sit next to Lealand so she was happy! We had a big crowd of Wagtimers including Okie Sampson, Big Steve and Maggie, Jeff and Cindy Kohler, Darleen and Tina, Fran and Jim and many more. On with the stories as we had plenty of fun.

You’ve read this before, but since I retired from traveling, I have tried to say I didn’t miss going racing anymore, but I lied, I do miss it! I just will not travel alone or very often unless it’s an event like Calistoga or the Trophy Cup. I won’t make the 22 hour turnaround to Perris again or some of the other long tow’s unless Mrs Wags goes along and we can stay over. I truly enjoyed my weekend with the many friends greeting me and making me feel like I never left. I needed that! I called Mrs Wags and told her how I feel and she promised to work out a schedule where she will come with me in the future, but it still won’t be a lot of races.

I went back to Dicks for dinner as he had Elk and Venison on his menu. That plus salad makes it great to get ready for the races. I hung around until qualifying was almost done before I headed to the track. Thanks to Dick, I have seats on row 4 because making the trip up to the top is no longer a plan for me, but the seats were great. Next year a couple higher as the infield stands and concession stand make the backstretch difficult to see over.

This might have been the best race I’ve seen there in a long time. With 31 cars in the house and 4 heats we were ready. Damion Gardner led the first 8 laps with lots of action all around, but Ryan Bernal scooted by him and won with it not a done deal until the very end. It was a great show with lots of passing. The hard charger was Jac Haudenschild with a 23 to 7th run, but the midget winner Tanner Thorston in a sprinter came up to 5th from back near where Haud started. Robert Ballou was in the hunt until he crashed with 5 laps to go. Not only was he done for the night, but two broken bones in his neck took him out of the tour. He went to Stanford, but they decided not to do surgery and he is on the DL until he mends.

Home to the Barber’s house was over the winding road towards Petaluma. Morning and breakfast at the 101 Casino nearby. We went back to the house and watched some Baseball before heading to Calistoga where we had lunch with Darleen, Tina and Tom at that little place when you come into town where you turn right to go to the track. I had a salad and some fried Zukini.

The beer tasting event was more fun than the wine deal. We had more people around and enjoyed a lot of laughs. Tobie Sampson discovered some peanut butter beer that I had to try. I stole Lafond’s glass to get some and was all in on that taste. I had just a few sips and was good to go. Toby was supposed to get me the name of it and where to get it, but he must have forgot? TOBY!

I had my jar to collect for the annual Wagtimes/Lafond CRA hard Charger award we give at Perris Ovals with me and a few contributed. When I met Drake York, the 12 year old son of Jason York, I discovered he hosts a U Tube show called Dirt Talk. He also is a fledging announcer who did one of the heats later, thanks to Bobby Gerould. He interviewed a few driers for his show during the two days. Well, when he saw my jar, he said he could collect some, so he took off to visit the crowd and when we totaled it up he had put near $300 in the jar! Thanks for the help as I usually just set it by me and people do their thing. I have an additional $35.00 of change in the jar and Lafond reports he has over $300, so the total is near $700 heading on our goal of $1050, which will beat last ears effort, I hope. You all can get involved by seeing Steve or myself, or sending a check to me at my house at 429 Flores Circle, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Do it! If Drake can come to the Ovals, he will present it to the hard charger himself!!!

Alert the media? Anyone who knows me realizes I have no mechanical no how and anytime something of mine breaks, I find an answer man! At the races in recent years I had a bunch of failures to my mule and even to a car I drove. Paul Dean and Jimbo M fixed stuff that kept me going. Where were they today? I was still visiting at the beer fest when it was time to go. I was surrounded by a bunch of fun people when I tried to turn on mini-mule and it didn’t go. The power was on, the horn honked, the lights lit, but the throttle didn’t move the darn thing. I set there and fielded questions like what’s wrong, is the battery dead, am I a fool and more. What do I know!!! So I pondered it for a bit and remembered the only time I knew it wouldn’t go was when I had the brake lock switch locked to keep it from rolling around. Hmmmm. I looked at the brake lock and noticed it wasn’t actually locked but was loose? I borrowed a knife and moved the gadget that did the locking to where it should be placed against under the handle bar. Wala, it worked! So alert the media I actually fixed it. (pat on back here) That’s one for the record book.

Back to Dicks for dinner as they had spaghetti, more elk and some tri-tip. Desert was cookies and other stuff, but this diet is still on target as Mrs Wags and I are working the “give up sweets and other stuff”. I am down 14 lbs in nearly 3 months and lost another pound on this trip! That means no deserts, but some good food.

The second night of any dirt race is always a gamble that the track is going to hold up and this one was no different. The track took rubber more and went black in the groove. We had 32 cars tonight as Danny Sheridan and Brady Bacon were two adds. This one included man things including the winner declared after 29 laps and curfew appeared. Some in the crowd thought the winner Thomas Meseraull took out the leader, Carson Macedo, so there were boo’s when it was called. Nobody likes an incomplete, and that was what this one was.

I went in the pits to visit with some I hadn’t seen since I don’t go out there anymore. I enjoyed Brody Roa’s smile even though he has had two nights of unkind luck with a packed wheel and more maladies to keep him down. Great team as they have improved dramatically since I last saw them. All done and load the scooter up on it’s rack and head back to the Barber’s.

It was Fran’s birthday so I had to get her some flowers and a present. I figured real flowers would die, so found a little soap box with a pic of daisy’s on it and a box of tic tac’s for her present to go with the B day card. She was thrilled? We spent the rest of the day watching TV waiting for Trucker Frank to pick us up for dinner and take us to the track. Petaluma has always been a fun track for me as I’ve been there many times. Damion Gardner won his 2nd of the tour.

Tuesday morning The Barber was at work when I got up so I headed over to visit a while before heading down to Campbell and a visit with the Lafond’s. I had breakfast at Sox’s and a better chicken fried chicken won’t be found. I dropped in at Trophy City to visit until time to hit dinner with the Lafond’s. We met Kim at Henry’s High life and had some tasty steaks and a beer. After an evening of visiting, it was off to bed.

I spent two days visiting with Dave and Muriel Pusateri and we just relaxed and ate. Dave broke his foot a few weeks back and was still recovering from that, but it didn’t keep him from getting around. I took a liking to Muriel’s Acura MDX, but it looks a little above our budget. That was the end of my trip as I rose on Friday and said adios to my hosts and hit the road at 8 am. A little over 500 miles later I was home at 4:30 PM and bushed.

It was a fascinating trip with my many friends and I knew I was done after 3 races so another adventure was a wrap. Big thanks to my hosts The Barber, The Lafond’s and The Pusateri’s for their time and fun they shared, I couldn’t have done it without them. Next up on my Wagtimes itinerary is the Trophy Cup, but first a long drive to Missouri to see my son and daughter and their families at the end of this month.

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