The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

Not the fastest section on the track but you get the idea.

It’s no secret I enjoy pushing my own limits. Whether it’s with the V-Strom up on the pegs blasting down the Translab or trying to use a dirt track to cross a mountain pass better left alone, and now it’s trying to go as fast as I possibly can around a track in my JCW Mini. Some would say it’s a bit mad and who’s to say they’re wong? But I’m willing to bet, if you were measuring my heartbeat and blood pressure at those moments (with the exception of that mountain pass episode which got stupidly out of hand) you’d see a pretty steady set of measurements.

I can’t explain why I like this sort of thing but ever since I was given the gift of wheels as a small boy, I’ve wanted to go faster, further to the limits of where they’ll take me.

So here’s me trying to explain the feeling inside.

I don’t know much about Zen Buddhism but I’m pretty sure I’ve had a few Zen moments. Back when I was a teenager I was big into slalom waterskiing (a single ski). The best time to do it was early in the morning when the lake was like glass, before the wind had picked up and the waves gained strength. You could just carve away back and forth behind the boat. It was like flying but the Zen part of it was when you’d pull your body through the turn to cut back across the wake of the boat. There was a moment where everything was in perfect alignment, your ams, your body, the boat, the water, even it felt, the universe and it was like somebody was strumming a universal chord and you were the string and then you’d shoot back across the wake.

The other time was on the Translab. I was up on the pegs, leaning forward on the bike and doing just over 1oo kmh. The bike moved underneath me in very unnatural ways but there was a trust there between me and it, that this was the way it was supposed to be and it was as if my head was in it’s own bubble of calm. Everything fell away and my world became that rushing tunnel of three hundred feet in front of me and just the light tough of my hands on the bars and the nudges of my knees on the tank to keep me in line and once again, there was the feeling of that universal chord.

Last year was a tough one, physically and emotionally and to be honest, the final verdict on my riding days is still not in but when a big part of what defines you is wrapped up in something, it’s damned hard to let go of it and the feelings inside it generates. However, the JCW does pull me back towards my mental happy place. The second I drove it for the first time, I knew I’d be buying it and I knew I’d be getting it on a track. There is no greater sin in my eyes than having a thing built to do something and then never doing the very thing it was made for. John Cooper was always about the track. His entire focus was making things that went very fast and handled really well. What he did to the very first Mini’s to make them competitive is the stuff of motorsports legend and the JCW marque on the new Minis does him proud. So when I had the opportunity to learn how to lap my car properly and safely last October, I took it and it was an eye opener to say the least. Though I’ll admit, not very Zen. More of the other creature that also lives inside my head. The one that goes, “Yes, this thing is for us.” You start out a bit timid and unsure of how far you can push things but once you get the hang of the limits you can go to, you push up against them as hard as you can.

October to May is a bit of a stretch time wise or at least it feels as if winter is never going to end. For what was going to be my second track day with Infinite Motorsports I found myself back in Novice class. Which is fine. You need to show what you learned the previous session has stuck and to be fair, my first few laps were rusty and skittish until I managed to settle myself down. I’ll be honest, I was nervous. After the second session, my instructor cut me loose solo on the track. I was consistent enough to satisfy him.

Smooth is fast

Ross Bentley – Ultimate Speed Secrets

I’m on the back straightaway which is a bit of a misnomer as it’s actually more of a shallow curve to the right from turn 5C all the way up to the entry to turn 8. I’m closing on the Canadian Tire Bridge at the top of turn 7 with my accelerator to the floor in 5th gear. It’s taken two half hour sessions in the morning with an instructor to get me to this point. When I pass under the bridge I’m covering just over one hundred and eighty feet every second my braking point is about two seconds past the bridge. In three heartbeats, I’ll cover roughly the length of a football field before hitting my brakes hard enough to load my front end suspension and drop my entry speed into the corner to 150kmh. My tires howl in protest as a push the car tight into the turn aiming the front right tire for the white line at the inside edge of the track.

“Let her drift out, find your grip.” The voice of my instructor plays in my head. I ease off the turn a little and the car drifts to the strip of asphalt about three feet to the inside of the edge of the track. Once the front wheels are on it, I turn in to the right of the car, hold the curve and give her throttle. My tires sound like wounded dogs as I cross the apex of the turn and head into turn 9’s left hander.

Hard on the brakes, down into fourth. None of this Triptronic stuff for me, I’m in a manual, so it’s the ballet of left foot, right hand, accelerator. Turn 10 is another quick flick down to third and let the wheel wind out as I head onto the front straight at 120kmh which feels a lot slower now than it did this morning. I’ll shift into fourth as I cross the start finish line and trail brake into turn 1 so I can enter it at about 125kmh.

First Solo Lap minus my instructor – Shit just got real.

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is a technical track with many blind corners, which are also off camber. There are also a lot of elevation changes. Each one has its challenges obviously but there are sections I really enjoy like the drop from Turn 2 around 3. Turn 4 is a bit unnerving because you have to brake quite late before you turn in to go down the hill then brake hard as you can and downshift to 3rd as you charge up the hill to the apex of 5b with its tight 34 foot radius. I’m still working on tackling all the sections of Turn 5 properly. Which brings us back to the top of this section.

The thing about Track Days is it brings out a wide selection of people and cars. Everything from a Nissan Micra (one of my favorite racing classes to watch at the track) to McLarens and a good smattering of Porsches and other fastness. All are enthusiasts and everybody likes to talk about their car or their time on the track, compare notes on corners etc. The funny thing at least for me is, I like the social aspect but it really is just the down time between my times on the track.

Next month I’ll be at Watkins Glen for a couple of days, I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a good chance it’s going to be all the time off I can manage this year. At least I’ll be taking it at speed.

Every year one of the largest model making competition and swap meets takes place at the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum in Hamilton and I do my very best to attend. Back when I was a lot younger, I used to build primarily 1/48 Scale WW 2 aircraft (everybody has their niche) and while I always appreciated the work and detail of dioramas I never possessed enough of a skill set to build my own. Once I got married (ironically I met my wife when she was working in her Grandparent’s Hobby Store) and we began to have a family, the model making fell by the wayside and life crept in. Still, I love good work in miniature and always will and some of these builders really do magnificent work.

As far as the photography goes, the CWHM has very high and very bright lighting of the standard metal halide type and while the wall with the hanger doors has plenty of glass, lighting conditions are a challenge at best. I’d meant to pick up an LED fill light but hadn’t had time since my Rotolight pooched on me. Because it’s a show, I didn’t bring a tripod either as who wants to be stepping around that while they’re trying to enjoy things? You’re also shooting on the extreme edge of the macro settings on your lens. In this case a Sigma 17-75mm. In order to get better DOF, I was shooting at around f6.0 and because of this I had to run my ISO at 2000 and my average shutter speed was 1/30.

So right away, you can see the struggle with DOF but it looks not too bad considering this figure is only about 1 1/2″ tall. I’m at 17mm and pretty much right up against it.
Tinkerbell by contrast was a much bigger figure and I believe scratch built.
I love the model within a model vibe of this one.
I also really enjoy dioramas that offer historical context. Lots of research went into this one.
Another angle
This one looks real enough to ride.
Apollo 15 Landing Site and the debut of the Moon Buggy.
Great attention to historical detail.
A really nice Millenium Falcon
Not sure what this was from but it was pretty cool to look at. With lots of stuff going on.
I loved the plywood finish on this one.
A nice, “Flower,” class Corvette.
I’m also a big fan of more interesting subjects you’re not used to seeing modelled.
The Great Eastern one of Brunel’s greatest achievements. A ship well worth reading about.
Indian Troops working with armour.
Nice action in this diorama.
A very impressive Engineering vehicle.
Great weathering on the mine plow.
A Nice 1/32 Typhoon
A very well done Shackleton
Grumman Avenger
Some 1/144 scale armour. My lens is pretty much right up against this model.
Here I’m trying to impart the action in the diorama relative to it. Makes me wish I’d brought my flat focal plane lens.

The use of active LED to create a welding effect was a great touch in this diorama.
This guy has seen some shit.
Sean Connery in miniature from, “The Man Who Would Be King.”
A nicely done B-Wing from the Star Wars universe.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these shots. Swing by my author page to check out my books at www.steveabbottauthor.com

One of the crew welds a well onto a mixing tank.

Weeks pass in a blur. Being part of getting a new company off the ground is consuming enough but we’re also going through some family medical issues. The unfortunate thing is they’re a few provinces away which makes things difficult.

Last year was so full, I didn’t get any sort of chance to get away, though with my throttle arm being what it is, I’m not sure how that would have played out anyway. Still, that leaves me with extra time on the books for this year.

So that in a nutshell is why I haven’t been posting. I didn’t feel putting up bits about me designing tanks or welding stuff wouldn’t be too interesting. Though I’ve started to experiment with stop motion and the results are a bit cool. And yes, that’s my ugly mug in the videos.

I’ve also started to experiment with animation in Solidworks for some of our design presentations. Maybe not too cool to most but you get a bunch of engineers in a room and show them how their gear is going to look in operation and it causes a stir.

Anyway, as a result a lot of other things have fallen by the wayside and I’m trying very hard to get back into my photography as well as completing my next travel book and completing the the last Sean Addison book. Though to be fair, Amazon has been such a shit show for the last bit I’m going to be going wide with it and reissuing the other books in the series wide as well. To be honest, I’m having a hard time breaking the inertia to write after a long day at work. I’ll keep trying though.

On a comical note, I was having issues with our dryer telling us there was a blockage in the dryer vent. After checking the outlet (which was clear) I finally buckled and pulled apart the dryer vent line deeper in the house. It was full (and I mean full) of pine cones. Seems it had been used for Winter storage. I removed the blockage and then discovered it had burned out the Thyristor control pack on the vent line’s booster fan. Lucky for me I knew how to wire up a bypass. So now the fan is on or off by switch when we go to dry our clothes. The automatic start was a nice function but life goes on without it.

I will try to post more to the blog but seeing how chaotic my life currently remains, I’m not sure how well that’s going to play out.

So finally got the link to the pics from my lap day. The bulk of them are at turn 5 A thru C with only the one being at turn 1 from early in the day as I’m getting used to pushing my car to my limits.

I’m already signed up for the 2019 season of track days run by Infinite Motorsports and will most likely be also participating in the Watkin’s Glen excursion as well. My shoulder isn’t improving and because of this, there a good chance my motorcycle riding days are if not over, I’ll be severely curtailed as to the length of my rides. Long distance forays are pretty much right out for me these days which truly sucks as a big chunk of my identity is tied up with my bike and the places we’ve been and the things I’ve done on her to get there.

Still, my JCW Mini allows me to learn new skills and still enjoy another facet of motorsport. I’m looking forward to taking Colin out on the track with me next year as he really does enjoy going fast.

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The only downside here is I’ll be stuck waiting till May before heading back on to the track. I briefly looked at putting a Dinan kit into the Mini but after reading a couple of books on how to get more speed out of your car, I’ll be spending next year building my driving skills before making any mechanical modifications to my car. It’s pretty quick in its current configuration. It’s probably for the best to get a handle on that now before pushing the limits engine wise. 

IMG_5488 - Despair Crop I’ve met some people over the course of my life (as you do) who were pretty toxic individuals. It’s always a frustrating experience. Usually, they see their abusive behaviour as, “Motivating,” when most times it has exactly the opposite effect. Be it work related or on personal time, nobody wants to be around somebody who is at their very core an asshole who makes you feel shitty.

These days it’s easy to feel surrounded by toxicity. Our politics are populated by tribalism, it feels like the planet is under constant attack by those who view profits as being more important than breathing clean air or having potable water and being insular and afraid of the, “Other,” is seen as strength. There’s a lot of, “My way or the highway,” attitude out there and it’s reinforced by what ever bubble of influence you live within. Frankly, it’s killing all of us.

My experiences with toxic people is they lack empathy, the ability to see things from another’s point of view and because of that, they’ll lock on to one tiny thing, regardless of whether it’s a salient point or not and fight to the death on that hill. The problem for those of us dealing with this is we’re not even aware we’re in a fight in the first place. This toxic myopia is truly stunning to behold as the confronted narcissist will go through amazing flips and contortions of logic (or for the most part illogic) to maintain their supposed position of superiority. The funny thing is, they think they’re winning when in fact everyone around them is just figuring a way around them, so things can get done. They seek to isolate others but in the end just isolate themselves.

Lapping Day 2018 Just a couple of pics for this post, I’ll explain why in a minute.

As you know, my 2003 Mini Cooper S needed enough expensive surgery to warrant me putting her down. While I was looking for something around my figured budget (about $12,000) my wife asked me about a 2016 John Cooper Works Mini she’d found in St. Catherines.

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Here it is here, so you know how that turned out.

Now as anybody who reads this blog knows, I’m a fan of Mini and the JCW is the pinnacle as far as a factory built car goes. My Gen 3 is a far cry from my other Gen 1s. I went from 163 HP with a supercharger to 240 HP with twin turbos.

Ever since I bought the car back in June, I’ve been looking to get it out on a track. It took me a bit to track down a group I wanted to go with but I finally found it in Infinite Motorsports. I just missed their last lapping track day back in August but I signed up for their October session at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park).

Because I’m a Novice, I would have an instructor in the car with me for every on track session and there was also a thirty minute class after the day’s initial safety briefing. The safety briefing was thorough and sombering as the flags and what your in vehicle response to them were explained. Even though you’re out there for a day of fun, it’s all very serious business.

In the classroom, I learned my hand position on the steering wheel had been wrong my whole driving life as well as my seating position and mirrors. They have since been adjusted.

The first on track session, your instructor takes you round the track to show you the speeds, lines, entry and exit points to the corners. The noises your tires make are alarming because on the regular road, those sort of noises mean it’s all going Pete Tong. On the track you learn to understand those howls of protest mean you’re doing things right. This, and I can’t stress this enough, is not an easy lesson to learn. Everything to do with what’s going on outside your windshield, your instructor is telling you. It’s a lot to take in, it requires all of your attention and this was not a day where I wanted any distraction from the task at hand.

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This is the layout of the track. Damn near every corner with the exception of the Esses (turns 8,9 and 10) have an elevation change prior to or just after them. Going in blind was pretty scary but to help you out, there were cones placed at the entry and exit points of the turns. At turn 2, you brake (just a touch) at the high point, just before the pedestrian bridge, then you turn in and aim for the inside of the turn. As you pass by that you aim for the new tarmac strip at the base of the turn. As you pass the start of that, you turn in to pick up the end of the inside of turn two and aim for the end of the turtles (trackside indicators) that your now considerable velocity is propelling you towards. As you hit those, you turn towards the outside of the start of turn three, then brake and turn into the inside of turn three. Then you hold it on the new tarmac round turn three while giving it some throttle etc. etc. Up until lunch I was fighting my instincts to slow down through all of this. It took my instructor continually saying, “Stay off the brakes, stay off the brakes, keep it steady,” to break me of my bad habits.

The only place on the track I could check my speed was on the Mario Andretti Straight and that was usually to gauge what my entry speed into the braking zone after the Canadian Tire sign at corner 7. Which is why I can tell you my top speed but not my general speed for each turn as my focus was not on my instrument cluster, it was on not muffing my gear change or entry point.

Twenty minutes on track goes by fast. Because you’re only up once every hour, you spend at least two laps warming your tires and then the rest of your laps are about getting round that track as fast as you can. There was a passing etiquette but there were a few drivers who were slow to indicate the safe pass but this was pretty rare.

The whole time, my instructor kept guiding me through the twists and turns with a calm steady voice. Even when we hit a slippy patch during some light rain and slid sideways on all four tires before I found grip again.

I saw some very cool cars. I met some very cool people and I got to drive my car like it was meant to be driven. All in all a pretty great day. Once I get the pictures back from the photographers who were there to shoot the whole thing, I’ll post them up.

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Back when I was a teenager, I made no fewer than three B-29 models. It has always been an aircraft that fascinated me because it was so different in design principle from other bombers of its day. It had been a dream to fly in one ever since then. Though part of me realized even then, this was a highly unlikely scenario.

Zoom to 2018. Back in February, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton informed its members that, “Fifi,” of the Commemorative Air Force out of Texas would be making the museum one of its stops and would be offering rides.

I talked it over with my wife, we both knew the flight would not be cheap. These old girls take a lot of time, effort, oil, gas and rubber to keep in the air. Anybody who flies in one is going to be an enthusiast. In the end, it was a, “Go big or go home,” moment. I could purchase a cheaper place in the rear of the aircraft but at the time we had the scratch, so I reserved the Bombadier’s position right in the nose and yes, it was not cheap.

Two weeks later, the company I was employed at went bankrupt. About a month after that, I bought into a new company. 2018 was not off to a good start but it was off to an expensive one.

Was there any regret at spending so much on the B-29 flight. A little but the reality was, the money was spent and life is short. The experience would be worth it. Plus, a B-50 (the upengined version of the B-29) was going to figure heavily in my next book and actually feeling what it was like to be in the aircraft in flight was going to be a huge plus to writing about it. So I wrestled with my feelings of dread and got on with living my life and making my commitment to my new company matter.

Now any day you fly in a vintage warbird is an experience, with it’s own ups and downs and situations to overcome. When I flew in the Lancaster, it was one of the rougher days in the air I’d ever experienced. I’ll be honest, I was pretty ill for a few hours after the flight. Flying in the PB5Y – Canso was by comparison was a much different experience though because of timing, we did a hot turnaround on the tarmac between flight. Which essentially means they keep the engines running while you board and those props do not feel that far away from you as you do this. Videos of both these flights are available on my Youtube channel.

Flying in, “Fifi,” was not going to be any different.

The first flight of the day was scheduled for 9:30am, my flight was scheduled for 10:30am. I checked in at 9:00am. Then you wait. The first flight was being held because the ceiling was at 900ft and in order to fly, it had to be above 1500ft. No big deal. It was a day that was heating up so the ceiling would lift and the air for the most part felt calm. I reasoned I could get some coverage of start up and taxiing to cut into my head camera footage. About two hours later, the first flight got off the ground.

My group then convened around the flight tent and got to know each other as we waited for their return.

Once the other flight was landed and everybody had deplaned we were led out to the aircraft and had our safety briefing. It was getting on towards about 1:00pm at this point. The safety talk done we boarded. As I was in the nose, I went up first and got into position in the nose and waited for everybody else to board.

The pilots got in, the rest of the guys in the nose got in and we waited for the guys in the back to do the same, and waited, and waited some more. After about fifteen minutes there was some brief radio chatter back and forth between the pilots and the hardstand crew. One of the passengers in the rear, a gentleman who I’d clocked at near if not over eighty had not been physically able to get up the ladder into the tail because of some body mobility issues. Rather than accept the fact he couldn’t accomplish entry, he pushed the issue and slipped and fell into the airframe. We were asked to deplane because of this now medical incident. I knew from my own first aid and enclosed space training this was not going to be an easy situation to resolve.

Paramedics were on scene in record time and we watched them work with the crew and CWHM staff on the hardstand to stabilize the patient and come up with an extraction plan. I’m happy to say, the gentleman was extracted and whisked off to hospital about forty minutes later. I hope the gentleman has since fully recovered from his ordeal. His now empty seat was quickly sold off and we were back in the aircraft fifteen minutes later and taxiing down the runway as soon as the engines were started and run up.

You can watch the whole B-29 Flight here by clicking the link.

As far as flights go, it was great and very different from my other flights. Fifi is treated very gently in the air. When I flew in the Lancaster, the pilots didn’t mind showing off what she was capable of. I and my stomach, sure don’t mind a nice smooth flight.

If you live near a flying museum and have the funds, I highly recommend taking a flight in the warbird of your choice. It helps keep these birds in the air and it also keeps the sacrifices of the men and women who flew and kept them flying and many of who did not survive conflict to come home.

Please also take a look at my books available through Amazon and Createspace by clicking the link and if you like what you read, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

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On last year’s trip out west I noticed some physical issues with my body cropping up. My stamina was for shit and everything seemed to hurt a lot more at the end of a day’s riding than it ever had before. At the time I wrote a good deal of it off as being related to my type 2 Diabetes and the meds I was taking to combat it. A few years back I slipped and fell down the stairs in our condo. The result of the fall was I tore part of my deltoid muscle off of the bone. It was later reattached and I do have full range of motion in the arm again. However, the surgeon told me at the time I had arthritis in the shoulder and the channel the main nerve that runs down your arm to your hand goes through was narrowing.

Which brings us back to last year’s trip. I’d noticed a bit of numbness creeping in to my throttle hand now and again during the ride. I chalked it up to riding position and tried to vary how I sat and gripped my throttle and handlebars accordingly and for the most part, the pins and needles feeling was kept at bay.

This year due to work and weather on the days I could ride, my riding has been scarce but the last two attempts have revealed a serious deficit in my right hand. It completely goes to sleep. I have no sensation in it about twenty minutes after getting on the bike and any attempt to rest it and get the feeling back is only temporary.

If it was my left hand, I’d muddle along and figure out the new normal but it’s my right hand. My throttle and brake hand and that is far more problematic. Maybe not so much for throttle but critical for braking. If I can’t feel how much brake I’ve giving on my front end, I’m at a severe disadvantage.

I’m hoping to get in to see my surgeon before the end of the year. There is a good chance because of the nerve, things can’t be fixed by surgery and if that’s the case, I’ll have to give serious consideration to no longer riding a motorcycle. Something that would leave me gutted. But the reality is if I continue the way I am right now, it’s not a safe pursuit.

I’m hoping my surgeon will have a solution and it won’t leave me with an immobilised arm for eight weeks like the last time.

“Things,” as a general rule aren’t supposed to be the foundation for your happiness. Focusing on acquiring this or that to make your life complete leads to a shallow and venal existence of trying to chase the high of possession with the next possession and the one after that until all you have is stuff that you can’t remember why you bought it in the first place.

That being said, many, “Things,” in my life give me great pleasure and have been well worth the money invested in them. Like my camera which allows me to get shots like the one below.

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Or my V-Strom which has taken me all over the US and Canada to some pretty spectacular places and which has run pretty much flawlessly through some truly heinous weather and tough terrain.

And then there’s my love of the Mini Cooper S. While my love of Ferrari and Porsche have been strong my love of the Mini Cooper S has been enduring. I saw my first Mini in a rally in Scotland my Papa had taken me to when I was about seven. It was coming off of a small hump in the track all but sideways to make the hard turn into a sharp corner. It left in a shower of mud and gravel and the smell of Castrol and gasoline (to this day, still two of my favourite smells). I’ve been a fan ever since.

For some reason and certainly not one where I consciously planned it that way, the majority of my cars have been manual transmissions. I prefer a manual over an automatic. It feels more like driving to me and always has.

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Minis are a funny car. Even used, they tend to be high mileage. The reason is simple, they’re stupid fun to drive and people find themselves making up excuses to just go drive somewhere. So when I purchased the above 03 Cooper S it had over 200,000km on the clock and it would be my daily driver for the next three years. It weighed just under 2800 lbs and pushed 163 bhp out of it’s 1.6L Supercharged engine and yes, it was stupid fun to drive. Unfortunately, all complex systems move towards entropy. I’d noticed it was leaking a bit of oil from the engine. I knew it possibly had a leak by the valve cover but the word back from my mechanic was much worse. It had multiple gaskets that had failed or were in the course of failing and it was coming up on time to replace the timing chain in the motor. The bill for all of this exceeded the value of the car. Not good news at all.

I started to look through the auto ads to see about a newer replacement. I’d decided to look for a 2010 Cooper S. The prices weren’t bad and there was a decent selection to choose from in the market.

My wife was also looking for me though she was choosing a much more direct route through BMW. “What about this one?” She asked and showed me a 2016 John Cooper Works Mini being sold in Ottawa.

“Well yeah,” I replied. “That would be amazing but it’s well above what I was going to spend.” She then went on about some stuff to do with our finances but really all I had heard at that point was, “You can buy the car of your dreams.”

I fired off an inquiry to the Ottawa dealership via email and figured I’d hear back the next day.

There were a couple of other JCW Minis being sold in St. Catherines down by Niagara so I fired off an email to them as well. Bear in mind, this was about 8pm at night. I got a call from their sales manager twelve minutes later. Usually I only get this kind of response time when I’m buying 3D CAD software. An appointment was made to view their stock that Saturday.

Now I’ve bought a few cars but I’ve never been treated like I was at Mini of St. Catherines. Maybe it’s because they know you’re there to buy a specific marque of car but there was zero pressure and certainly none of the sort of car sale antics you sort of expect. They made it all very easy.

Colin and I took the 2016 JCW for a test drive (Yes, the one below, so you know how that turned out). I’ve never been in a car where it felt like I was holding it back like this one and I hadn’t even engaged the exhaust gate. By comparison, the 2017 I test drove next felt sedate.

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The JCW comes in at just under 2900 lbs with 228 bhp from a 2.0L engine. However with the performance package, the output is bumped to 240 bhp and when the twin turbos kick in, this thing launches.

Every time I drive it, it makes me grin. The next step is to get it out on a track to do some laps. It’s all a bit mad but man is it fun.

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It has been said, “No plan survives execution.” I can’t say I’ve ever encountered a situation where this isn’t true. It’s a chaotic and random world we live in and while the big picture plan always seems straightforward, things do get weird at the quantum level. You push for one thing and the universe pushes back. Sometimes pretty hard.

Three weeks ago, I had a job. Which in and of itself is an oversimplification because right now I still have a job just not the way I had before even though it’s still in the same industry etc., etc.

But things are really different.

This is not going too well as an explanation. I’m going to go back to the beginning… Well some of it.

I started out like a lot of young people going right out of school into a job. Further education wasn’t going to happen as I didn’t have the money and frankly, I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be and I didn’t see how spending money I didn’t have was going to change that. So I went into construction as a laborer. I dug ditches, I leveled basements and built forms for foundations. It was hard physical work and for the most part it was seasonal, Spring, Summer and a chunk of Fall. In order to fill the wage gap, I began working in a metal fabrication shop that made fireplace inserts and free standing wood stoves. I started out as a grinder, which sort of morphed into a bunch of different jobs within the company and through need and attrition, I learned how to MIG weld. As we were doing miles of it every day, I got pretty good at it. We were all young guys and the shop foreman was an ex high school shop teacher. I learned a lot. Eventually he moved on and a younger guy took his place. He taught me how to TIG weld.

It’s a weird fact that most of my early career in metal work was focused in a very small area of Langley, BC.

When I moved into doing aseptic welding the company I worked for was small so we were all expected to be multifunctional. In addition to the welding and fitting, I also began to wire control panels, eventually I ended up laying them out as well. This of course led to learning to program industrial SLC and PLC controllers. I had to learn ladder logic and electrical layout. Of course in order to properly program the PLCs you had to understand the processes you were controlling. Process drawings and understanding production process were next. All in all, it was a constant learning curve. It’s still a constant learning curve and it’s provided myself and my family with a decent and steady income because no matter what, people like to eat. The day job has had another cool payoff. I’ve always liked building things and at the end of the day, there is a plant or a machine that exists because of you and your team’s efforts. It’s a concrete entity in a way that my creative work isn’t.

So that sums up the last 25 years or so. I’m leaving out the tragic bits because while they might be part of my definition, they don’t push this narrative forward.

Back to three weeks ago when the company I was working from ceased operations. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t much of a surprise. I’d been through it twice before and the signs had been there. Plus there’d been a lack of chatter. You see on any given day, there’s a general amount of chatter in the upper areas of a company. Usually it’s bitching about productivity or meeting deadlines. It’s the background hum if you like. As long as it’s there, the engine is ticking along. Maybe not well but it’s running. The time to be concerned is when the chatter increases in frequency and intensity, which usually signals a change of some kin. Maybe a big job is being bid on or somebody is going to be leaving (though that has its own set of signals). The other side of the coin is radio silence. All chatter stops. Anybody in ELINT (electronic intelligence) will tell you, this is never a good sign. It means something is in the wind and it isn’t going to be good for whoever is on the receiving end of it and as I previously mentioned, there’d been other signs.

I’m 52 and not looking to going back to square one with another company. I’m lucky in the fact that the second the news got out people started to reach out to me to see what my next move was going to be. The easy thing (somewhat) would be to pick one of them and run with it. I could be in a new office or in the field at the start of the following week. The easy thing.

Instead, I decided to throw my lot in with another member of my previous employer. We created a lean cut down team and he and I purchased the liquidated assets of our former employer.

It was not easy.

It was not without fear.

It certainly wasn’t without substantial financial risk.

But on the upside, we’re the masters of our own destiny – whatever that may be.

I’ll be posting up more on this whole thing down the road and I’ll be mentioning names and places etc. but right now everything is still very fresh and a certain amount of distance needs to be gained before I can write those words.

 

In the meantime, please purchase my books and audiobooks, you’ll be glad you did.

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