Apples and Trees, Apples and Trees… Ron Garner ©2007
It was a spur of the moment thing. I called to find out what my supposedly adult daughter Robin was planning for the weekend. Mark (the Son-in-Law), I was told, was racing in the vintage sidecar invitational at New Hampshire International Raceway.
Sunday was Father’s Day so why not use that as an excuse to have a little family get-together at the race track? I’m not much into any kind of spectator sports. As blasphemous as it may seem I have zero interest in watching auto racing, bike racing, foot racing dogsleds etc. etc. but, on the other hand, I do like machines and old racing sidecars are bizarre enough to spark my interest. There is also the British connection; Mark’s 750 Triumph rig is almost as goofy as my Morgan three wheeler.
The two hour run up Route 93 was uneventful. The GPS did the thinking. The Roadster followed its nose and Kathi and I took in the scenery and enjoyed the bright cool morning as we zipped along with the side curtains on and the hood stowed. Every once in awhile I caught myself going a bit faster than wise and had to back off to give some of the many Harleys heading to bike week an opportunity to trip the radar.
Robin had a friend meet us at the gate. We got our wrist bands attached and drove the Morgan onto the infield where I saw Mark with his bike and Robin climbing into her leathers. LEATHERS? I’m quick on the pick up so even before the explanations I figured out that my daughter was going to be the “Monkey”.
In case you haven’t been exposed; a racing side car is only marginally similar to a motor cycle. The diver is wrapped around the motor and rides almost prone. The whole rig, from pavement to helmet top (yes; keep the helmet side up) isn’t 3 feet. Stuck far out to the side and surrounded by a gas tank is a third wheel. The space in between is where the monkey performs. Swinging over and outside the driver on the straights and right-handers and then traversing the aluminum deck, using a few strategically placed hand-holds to hike-out beyond the third wheel inches over the pavement, for the left hand turns; the monkey keeps the machine upright.
My daughter is a monkey?
“I’ll never get in that thing again!” She screamed the first time she burned her leg on the exhaust; the high pipes of the 34 Super Sports were treacherous, but she did. She was only four but was already conditioned to being in a Morgan family. I always promised to make her a real seat in the package tray of the 4/4 but never seemed to get around to it so in what today would be considered child endangerment she sat back there on the hood, side curtains and what not until we eventually got a four seater. With the tonneau cover over the passenger seat she had a secret hiding place and peaked out the flap startling people at traffic stops.
“That’s them!” Kathi said as if I didn’t already know. You hear the engines long before anything comes into view. There was more left-right dodging across the track than I expected. The leaders were jockeying to get around each other before they reached the end of the straight.
Mark was in the rear but ahead of two other machines and Robin was moving across the chair setting up to hang out on the sharp, up-hill right hand turn in front of where we were watching. HOLD ON; Just Hold on.
We were on a bit of a joy ride in a three wheeler. She was not quite a teenager and was always willing to join me on a toot. Then the engine blew. As happens with these things the cylinder separated and went skyward. We continued hurtling ahead, I dragged on the hand brake and did my best to bring things to a stop, and she, responding to instinct, caught the descending meteor that used to be a JAP engine.
As they came around on the second lap Mark was still ahead of a BSA and Robin was still on the chair. The bike was smoking. I remembered Mark complaining about rich running and that could be the cause of the smoke. Maybe, I thought, something will break and they will have to stop. Maybe?
“I see it!” and she was off. She was not a kid anymore and riding in a Morgan was just the way we went anywhere. This time it was the left front wheel that came off. I don’t recall any excitement just satisfaction at retrieving another one of those quality English parts that always seem to break or come off at just the wrong moment.
The smoking was still very noticeable on the last two laps. Mark had fallen behind the pace and was coming up the straight out of traffic which suited me just fine. When the pack circled on the last lap Kathi and I waited but we did not see our team. I recalled the conversation with Jay; a race organizer that Robin introduced me to before the race. “Happy Father’s Day”, he said to me. I didn’t say anything but Kathi said she read volumes in my body language. “Pretty exciting isn’t it; he continued, “Great family sport; what do you think of her…”
“’This isn’t what I envisioned when she was little.”
They were disqualified on the last lap because of the smoking engine. I’ll be at the next race. Nothing happens all at once. You have to get the mechanical issues resolved and you have to develop the skill and the teamwork. Experience and practice and a little bit of luck and maybe next time they will do better. I’ll be there and I’ll be thinking: HOLD ON; just hold on!