Archive for July 2012

DRIVING IN THE FAST LANE

Every Father’s Day, children around the country struggle to find a gift that will make their dad really happy.  This year, John Martin’s three kids came up with the perfect gift.  Bryan, Ian and Jennifer got their father an authentic NASCAR racing experience. That’s right. John got to drive a real racecar on a real racetrack.

“When we were first married,” said his wife Melanie, “we would tape all of the major races and then watch them after work. “We would be up until the wee hours of the morning watching these cars circling around and around the track.  “The most exciting part of the race was the final lap. “Since we taped the race, you would have thought that we would have fast-forwarded through it.  “But no! “John always wanted to watch the entire race.”

Naturally the kids were excited when they bought this for him, because they knew it was something that would be just for him.

John didn’t even have to venture too far from his Whitby home.  Right in the Municipality of Clarington (which is in the Durham Region) is the peaceful little town of Bowmanville, which just happens and to be the home of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park … otherwise known as Mosport.  The 750-acre, multi-track family facility has been presenting road racing on it’s famed 3.957 km circuit since 1961, including Formula 1, Indycars, sports cars, stock cars, endurance racing, motorcycles, motocross, showroom stock, historic vintage racers, “Big Rig” trucks and karts. Mosport is one of only 3 tracks in the world to have hosted Formula 1, Can-Am and Indycar events.

Of course, it wasn’t a matter of just showing up at the track and saying, “I’m going for a ride in that fast car over there.”  The Martin kids had signed their dad up for the The Rusty Wallace Racing Experience.  This included training, four laps riding shotgun with a professional driver, AND 16 laps driving solo!

This past week John got to experience his Father’s day gift, which he says was, “quite a surprise”. Off he went with his wife, Melanie, along for the “ride” and to photograph the day’s events for posterity. First, there was a 10 am session that began by explaining what exactly oval racing is, which was followed by some valuable instruction on driving a race car. The classroom is located strategically in an upstairs booth over the grandstand.

Then it was time to pick out his racing gear.  Once John was outfitted it was all about getting into the vehicle. There is but one way … through the window. The steering wheel actually has to come off to get into the drivers seat.

John Martin Finding The Perfect Fit

Suited Up Like A Pro.

The Only Way In

To get used to the actual “feel” of the car, John rode four laps with a professional driver at the wheel. “It was hot and noisy with non stop vibration. And fast,” said John.  “Very fast.” Then it was his turn to climb behind the wheel.  The class started in groups of three in a “nose to tail” position. At first the others were passing him because “I was slow”.  He was nervous, mostly because he knew that if he totaled the car he paid for the car.  Remembering everything he learned that morning, John would go into a turn slower and come out faster and picked up speed as he worked through his allotted 16 laps. There are four “corners” on an oval track.  According to John, however, corners one and two are really just one big corner and corners three and four are pretty much the same.  The track is fenced in but it goes by in a blur.

Strapped In And Ready To Go

It’s All A Blur From The Inside

The noise can be overwhelming as there are no mufflers on the cars. The cars are mostly made of steel tubing with panels attached, foot wide tires and some very cramped quarters for the driver. “They are designed and set up to turn left,” John pointed out. “They don’t do well going straight and they absolutely don’t do right.“ With no rearview mirror, your vision is pretty much limited to straight ahead and to the left. The helmets are fitted with communication devices so at all times there is someone in your ear that you can contact and will let you know if you are going too fast or if you’re in someone’s path etc.

Making The Turns

For John it was incredible and a lot of fun. Definitely a Father’s Day gift he will never forget and an adventure he would recommend to anyone, “… as long as they like loud, hot cars.”

John Martin – One Happy Dad

 

OH, CANADA! YOU ARE 145 YEARS YOUNG!

If you live anywhere in the Durham Region, you know that one of the best Canada Day Celebrations traditionally takes place on the beautiful Lake Scugog waterfront in Downtown Port Perry. This year, the 145th birthday of our country featured vendors, activities, games and entertainment located throughout Palmer Park and Water Street from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. The event surpassed its reputation with something for everyone.

This has long been one of Judy Stacee-Cleaver’s favourite celebrations and she was not going to miss it. In fact, one of the first things she did to guarantee that she would be in town was to make dinner reservations at one of her favourite local spots ? Harp & Wylie’s Canadian Grill House.

Judy recently had surgery on her shoulder and her arm is anchored firmly against her body in a very tight sling. She can’t drive trussed up like this and often things take more effort than most people would be willing to expend. Not our Judy, though. Much like that famous battery bunny, she just keeps on going. Of course, some compromises were necessary and she reluctantly missed out on some of the earlier events in the day. The 4th Annual Scugog Council for the Arts Canada Day Show along the waterfront started at 10 am. Then at 11am came the “Support the Troops” Canada Day Parade, featuring Vettes for Vets (yep, you guessed it the “Vettes” are Chevy Corvettes). The official Opening Ceremonies took place at noon. There continued to be activities all afternoon with the concert lineup in the Gazebo in Palmer Park starting at 4 pm.

Judy Stacee-Cleaver ready for Canada Day celebrations.

Around this time, Judy was making her way to the Port Perry waterfront. She lives east of Port Perry right on Lake Scugog, but on the other side of Scugog Island. Of course, her mode of transportation is a boat. Her husband, Chris and their near neighbours, Derek and Laurie, arrived at the Port Perry Marina with Derek at the helm. A good portion of the pier was taken up by The Woodman, a custom built Double Decker Transport Canada Certified Ship that  can accomodate up to 100 guests and is the largest boat launched in Lake Scugog in over 70 years.

The Woodman

There wasn’t a vacant slip to park the Jet boat in sight. No problem! The community of boaters is a close-knit group and when someone needs to tie off to go ashore they just throw out their fenders and tie up to the closest boat. There was a lot of this happening on Canada day. As far as you could see boats were tied up to boats that were tied up to boats that were tied up to boats … looking much like conga lines. Judy and Chris were no different and some friendly folk allowed them to latch on to their houseboat, which of course was tied up to a bigger boat.

This is where Judy’s prowess as a gymnast came into play. OK, she doesn’t have any formal training but I defy you to find someone else who could have handled this as well. You have heard the saying, “I could do this with one hand tied behind my back.” Well, she did it, but her arm was anchored in front. To get to shore for her much anticipated dinner, Judy had to make it from boat to boat with the use of only one arm. She rolled across the back of the Jet boat until she reached the platform. Then she climbed up to the houseboat. Once on the houseboat, she crossed over to the other side and then climbed up to the bigger boat. She then crossed over to the other side of that and had to climb up to the pier. The only thing missing was her three-point landing! Yes, our Judy earned her dinner that night and was able to wander around and enjoy the festivities until it was time to return to the Jet boat to watch the fireworks.

Judy the “acrobat”

The harbor was now full of boats from all the cottages in the area, all anchored in the water to see the fireworks. Of course the “Water Police” were on hand to make sure everyone was a safe distance from the pyrotechnics.

Canada Day fireworks at the water front in Port Perry, ON July 1, 2012
by Blaine Horrocks

Judy made it safely back onto the Jet boat in time to catch the breathtaking display of fireworks being launched from the back lot of VOS’ Independent Grocery Store.

Canada Day fireworks at the water front in Port Perry, ON July 1, 2012
by Blaine Horrocks

The display was rivaled by none as was verified by the collective oooohhhhs and aaaawwwws as each new explosion lit up the sky.

Canada Day fireworks at the water front in Port Perry, ON July 1, 2012
by Blaine Horrocks

The celebration is definitely one not to miss. Just ask Judy Stacee-Cleaver.