Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Broken Glass

After coming back from Packwood, I needed to replace my turbo. Since I run ESP, that means I can't do anything cool and upgrade it, so another stock TD04 it was.
A little worse for wear
This is why it's important to not just pop the hood at every gas stop, but to actually look at things. The air filter had come off, and with the MODE Racing heat shield "box" around it (as opposed to a metal shield that just blocks it off from the engine), the detachment wasn't immediately noticeable. It likely happened sometime between the Pro itself and the 120K service. But that was enough to have things severely damage the turbo.

With that replaced, I decided to drive the WRX to hockey on Monday and Tuesday, just to get reacclimated to the Competition Clutch feel and the power band of the car. Ever since I switched to autocrossing the Camaro, I've devoutly believed that a familiarity with a car helps with being able to get the most out of it, so I try to make sure I am not in "Camaro mode" if I'm getting ready to compete with the WRX.

In this case, this was both a blessing, but almost a curse.

Tuesday night, coming home from a tough short-benched scrimmage where our white team pulled out a win, I was feeling good. Adrenaline flowing, Arlington guys giving me props for the WRX on my way out of Ballston, and I just wanted to romp on the throttle something fierce.

So, I gave in when I got to the entrance ramp from Glebe onto I-66. 5K RPM, second, 5K RPM, third, 4K RPM, pop!

That did not sound good. The check engine light is flashing. I pull off and get out the Cobb AccessPort to try to figure out what's wrong. It comes up showing a cylinder 2 misfire. I clear the codes, wait ten seconds and restart the car. It's definitely acting like it's running on three cylinders. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it had just popped a spark plug wire -- my 2.5RS did that once -- but the WRX has coil packs. I pop the hood and look around with my meager flashlight and don't see anything that stands out.

I start the car up and let it idle again. It's running terribly rough, but as long as I don't give it any gas, it's not throwing a code. Weird. At 11:30PM on a Tuesday, I really don't have a lot of choice except to wake people up, and I just don't want to do that. So, I plot a slow, slow, slow course home, where I barely crack 30mph. It was one of the longest drives home of my life.

The next morning, I text McCance to find out which side cylinder 2 is, so that I know where to start looking. When he says, "Driver's front," that means I have to pull the battery, but the offender is right there. And once I do pull the battery, it's super obvious what's wrong.
may as well be a popped spark plug wire
A small plastic "bump" that the connector clips over was missing from the coil pack. So, I call up IAG, and they have some extra coil packs around, and I drive up there to get one. They actually give me two, just to be sure, and three hours later -- gotta love mid-day construction -- I'm home. I install the coil pack, and the car starts up, running fine.

I hurriedly pack and say goodbye to Pat, since he wasn't going to be able to make the Toledo trip this year. It was time to get to Cedar Point....

I arrived in Sandusky around 2:30AM, got into my mayfly-infested hotel room, and slept fitfully until 8. The lobby's breakfast area was packed, but I managed to construct a waffle/egg/sausage "sandwich" to take to the car. The hotel is only 5 or so minutes from Cedar Point, so leaving at 9:20 was kind of stupid, but I was antsy. I sat in the car for 10 minutes, then went up to the entrance gate to get my Fast Lane wristband, and then finally entered the park where I had to wait another 15 minutes before us non-resort-staying plebes were allowed in.

While I waited, I debated what I should go to first. The Top Thrill Dragster is always a good bet, because it's so fragile (to the point that Sean likes to call it the "Subaru ProSolo Experience"; ie., it's fast as hell, except when it breaks). But, if the Top Thrill Dragster is an ESP WRX, then Millenium Force is John Crouse's Camaro, because it's not too far behind. I opted to go to Millenium Force first, because I knew both of them required that I put my backpack in a locker, and the lockers near Millenium Force are a little less out of the way than those near Top Thrill Dragster.

So, since last year, they've changed the lockers -- for the better, I might add. They are now set up to take credit cards, and you plug in a code and so can open and close them repeatedly during the time period you choose. You can also extend the time period. It's much more convenient than the keys they had last year, so that once you reopened the locker, your rental was done.

Anyway, I got in the Fast Lane line for Millenium Force, and already I could tell this was a good idea. Fifteen minutes later, I'd completed my first ride, in the front seat, of course, and I headed up to Maverick. Fast Lane line, front seat, done in 20 minutes. Gemini, then Magnum XL200, within the first two hours, I'd ridden six coasters, all in the front seat, and within that time, I'd already dealt with a 30 minute rain delay. The Fast Lane wristband had cost me $65 (it's $120 for two, $165 for three and $50 each for four or more, up to ten), and it was completely worth it. Of course, I'd only paid $25 for admission since Megan Biddle cued me in on a "Christmas in July" promotion, but still, after this experience, I don't think I could go back to 2-3 hour waits in line for the front seat at Top Thrill Dragster when the longest I waited was 40 minutes.
I spied JohnV from the Magnum XL200!

Wicked Twister
In fact, I rode so much, and walked around so much, that by 8PM -- a full two hours before closing -- I was ready to sleep. I went back for a third round of Top Thrill Dragster, a fourth time on Power Tower, then over to Windseeker, while all the while thinking, "I need to grab a late dinner and go to sleep," but after leaving Windseeker, I wanted to ride Wicked Twister again.... well, I did, and I finally dragged myself towards the front gate, where I rode the carousel before I left.
my biggest regret was not riding it in the dark
I was disappointed I didn't get to ride Magnum XL200 or Millennium Force more, but Magnum was broken all day shortly after I rode it, and Millenium Force was broken most of the day, so I was glad I went there first. The Fast Lane pass helped so that when some of the prone-to-be-broken rides were up and running, I could get one them, rather than waiting for 90 minutes only to have it break again.

So, on the way back to the hotel, I hit the Thirsty Pony for dinner. They, too, had a "Christmas in July" special, of Great Lakes Christmas Ale! A pint was $5, so I went for that, with the cinnamon and sugar on the rim.
sooooo goooood.....
A delicious walleye sandwich later, I was ready to pass out. I was heading to the Glass City of Toledo in the morning to steadfastly ignore the fact that the Toledo ProSolo was starting on Friday. I had plans to go to the Toledo Museum of Art and the Toledo Zoo, and I was going to them, damnit, even if it cost me my first four runs.

But first, I was rudely awakened a good hour before I'd even planned to start hitting the snooze alarm. My phone trilled at me at 7:38AM, telling me insistently there was a text message. I cursed myself for forgetting to turn the damned thing to silent and looked. 

McCance. Wanting to know if I was still going to the Pro. I was tired, I was pissed that I was awake, and so I fought all of my instinctive urges and just texted back, "Yeah." I dropped the phone and threw the pillow over my eyes. 


I scowled at the offending electronic device. Reluctantly, I looked at it. McCance again. "Need a codriver?" I fought the intense urge to throw the phone across the room and debated how best to response without sounding like a total bitch. 

"Isn't Shawn coming?" He'd signed up to drive with Detroit region Mustang driver, Shawn Alexander. I'd offered him my car, and he said he would stick with the Mustang to show he "wasn't a hack."

"He is. Just asking." I wanted to break something, I wanted to go back to sleep so badly. It took all of my self control to be nice and just say, "I already offered the car to you." I mean, I had, and it would be really catty of me to tell him "no" just because he woke me up. But on the same note, the whole thing made me feel weird. I didn't know why he was asking me if Shawn was still going to be there, because I knew that if someone had planned to drive my car and ditched me at the last second, I would be pretty offended. 

I shook it off, and since at that point, I couldn't fall back asleep easily, I just figured I'd get up and shower and head out to Toledo. 

I've been to the Museum a few times before, so I was really interested in the non-permanent collections, especially the Color Ignited exhibit. I spent probably two hours in the Ancient Civilizations room, and then moved into the Color Ignited room. The first piece to really catch my eye was Fred Wilson's Iago's Mirror.
Fred Wilson. Iago's Mirror. 2009

Okay, this picture doesn't do the piece justice. First of all, it's huge. Secondly, to see it in person is to see the bizarre reflection that it casts. If you know the story of Othello and the character of Iago, then the strange reflection cast by the "black" (actually a very, very dark purple) glass starts to make more sense. I'd seen the pictures of it on the TMA Facebook page, but like most art, I had no idea what it was going to be like when I actually saw it with my own eyes. 

But even that was nothing compared to two other pieces in the exhibit. 

Let me preface this by saying that I appreciate art. I am especially astounded by ancient art, where the techniques to create things of wondrous beauty were so basic, we can only wonder how it was done. I am amazed at the time and the creativity of painting and sculptors, as I don't have nearly the patience -- much less the talent -- to create the things they do. But rarely do works of art capture me and move me to tears by their extreme beauty. I can literally count on one hand the number of pieces that have had me just state in complete amazement after capturing my attention from across the room. King Tutankhamen's death mask was one of them -- and yes, after all these years, I still remember seeing that so clearly at the Smithsonian. 

There was not one, but two such pieces in the Color Ignited collection.
Twilight Powered by Electricity Makes for a Brilliant New Horizon by Andrew Erdos
I don't know why I even bothered taking a photo. It can't do this piece justice. It was just simply amazing. I saw it out of the corner of my eye while I was looking at the Fred Wilson, and despite how "epic" the mirror was, I had to look at this. 

But after walking around the backside of the room, there was something even more eye catching, and this one I really couldn't leave.
Fundamental Vortex 2 by Michael Estes Taylor
There were camera crews all around while I was there, filming for CBS Sunday Morning (not sure when it is going to air), but the one camera guy I talked to agreed with me -- this particular piece would be absolutely stunning under natural light. As it was, under the track lighting, the prism effect was very pronounced. It made me think of a cluster of quartz and citrine crystals.... I was just astounded by it. 

I actually bought the exhibit book, and even those professionally done photos don't do this exhibit justice. I can only hope that some of the pieces maintain a permanent place in the Glass Pavilion next door.

After I bought the book, I headed out for the Zoo, where I, of course, went to the reptile house for the chelonians, and then wandered some of the other areas just to see what they had.
Burmese brown tortoise
Tiny painted turtle
Redfooted tortoise
Sea jellies
Alligator snapping turtle
Wally the walleye, official mascot of the Toledo Walleye hockey club
After spending time in the aquarium building, I walked outside to wet pavement, and realized storms had moved in. I started to walk back to the car, but a quick burst of rain sent me running to the Aviary for 10-15 minutes. Then I headed over to the Airport for check-in and tech. It started raining again, so I skipped changing tires, and went to the hotel for check-in, then out to dinner with some of the Cleveland/Akron crowd. 
The view from my car in paddock at 6:15PM.
We finished off the evening by going to a karting place where we managed to almost get tossed -- well, some people did get thrown out, but Megan and I negotiated with the manager and so not everyone had to leave. Fortunately, most of the perpetrators of the spinning and assclownery had fled, so the rest of us finished our last two races with good, clean-as-you-can-do-it-in-Ohio racing. :)

The next morning would be the ProSolo, with the impromptu codriver...
He actually made the car look good. :)

To be continued....

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