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June 21, 2018
June 21, 2018
June 22, 2018 to June 24, 2018
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Retired, US Army. I grew up in Richmond VA and started racing there as soon as my friends discovered that cardboard boxes will slide down grassy hills. It progressed to bicycles, to cars and an occasional race in my ski boat. I raced many Gymkhanas in parking lots and owned 9 muscle cars in 8 years in the '60s. I drag raced frequently at several drag strips in VA, MD, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL and TN. Many of Gymkhanas I raced were sanctioned by SCCA, and I do not recall if I joined for the race day or had a regular membership. I joined a lot of different sanctioning bodies in those days.
With 33 years of military service, I was stationed, sent to, deployed to, visited, got stuck in, avoided arrest in, was not captured in, and certainly shot at and hit a few times in a wide variety of countries. Antartica is the only continent I have not set foot on. I lived the recruiting slogan, "See the Germany the tourists never see" and found out why no tourists would go to those spots. I was an infantryman and after graduating from Infantry Officer's Candidate School, I served in the Special Forces. I had wonderful experiences, served with so many really great people and met so many very friendly locals in so many parts of the world. Well, not all of them were friendly.I had some very interesting assignments. I was a Scout Platoon Leader and we had an opportunity to work at the Berlin Wall for a short period of time. I lived in an African Village in a sub Saharan part of Africa for nine months, spent time in Vietnam working with the best allies the US has ever had, the Montagnards. My team got the chance to go to the Bob Bondurant School to attend his evasion tactics driving class. We learned to do reverse 180s in Crown Vics and then went on to our assignment in the Shah days of Iran where the team was issued six VW buses with very high numbers on the odometers. We tried several times, but could never manage a reverse 180 without turning the bus on its side. We righted them and then tried to use our lessons learned, but were never successful. I was a team leader on the Tunnel Neutralization Team in Korea and our team found and neutralized the Third North Korean Tunnel under the DMZ near PanManJom. Our team then continued counter tunnel operations in other parts of the DMZ and we occasionally had to cross into North Korea to set and maintain seismic listening devices. I "wintered over" in the Arctic at a research station where I was involved in testing gear the Army might buy and Soviet Bloc and other unfriendly countries equipment that someone else had just "found" somewhere. That gave me the opportunity to dive in the Arctic Sea through an 8 foot hole in the ice. Of course, we used dry suits which were not insulated well, if at all, and not all of them could be said to be 100% DRY suits. I had the distinct pleasure of commanding one of the 27 Parachute Infantry companies of the 82d Airborne Division. The company had 175 assigned and they were the finest bunch of young soldiers I ever had the pleasure to work with. They knew I had been enlisted for nearly six years. They took very good care of me and worked hard to make me look good. I commanded the company for the full 12 month tenure at time when about half of all the company commanders were "relieved for cause" or in civilian speak - fired from their commands. A relief for cause evaluation report will just about end the career of an Infantry Office as leadership is the paramount skill for commander of the infantry in combat. The 82d was know then as "America's First Punch" as we had the mission to be "wheels up" in 18 hours from being alerted with all of our men, vehicles, and every piece of equipment, food and ammunition we would need for the first three days of combat anywhere in the world. And we had a practice alert every month. I had the opportunity to work on a project which involved the use of Rebreathers (no longer in the Arctic) and that proved to be very interesting as you can stay down for a long time and go much deeper than with regular SCUBA breathing equipment. I also had an opportunity to work on a project to bring GPS into the tactical realm of use. I found out it is true that when the second satellite with a military package aboard went into orbit, the concept of GPS was born. It had starts and stops along the way due to budgets and the necessity for more scientific discovery, but we had 30 meter accuracy in the late '70s. The field units we had were big, but kept getting smaller. The security on that technology was so tight that each field unit had chunk of C4 plastic explosive inside next to the batteries with a safety equipped pull cord on the outside to activate the timed fuse and the instructions were to destroy the unit before you let it fall into enemy hands. I had three different assignments at three different time frames in three different parts of the sub-basement world of the Pentagon. I worked with and knew on a personal basis two different men who went on to become the Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I met and married the most perfect wife for me in the whole world. She was a fellow officer of the Adjutant General Corps so she was in personnel and I was in anti-personnel. We have been happily married now for 21 years. I have a son who served in the Marines and he and his wonderful wife have graced me with two very talented and beautiful granddaughters who are currently in the 8th and 11th grades. I have a lung condition which causes me to use supplemental oxygen occasionally which has taken away my ability to run and that was a huge loss to me. I was an avid runner for about 50 years but only ran one marathon, several hundred ruck and rifle 12 mile runs, thousands of 5 and 10k runs and the physical fitness test many more than the required twice annually in my 33 years. If anyone wants to know why I spent 33 years in the Army, I want them to read this again. I left out so many good things that happened to me and yes I left out the bad things, but they always lead me to something better, except the Agent Orange - I can't find an upside to that. Ok the sucking chest wound has no upside, some of the broken bones, especially the crushed left hip - stop here!
I cannot imagine a time when I have dirven a car or any vehicle for that matter without exceeding the posted speed limit at least once during the outing. I don't have a detector and rarely get a speeding ticket and when I do, I gladly pay the fine and consider it a tax for being able to speed. The last accident I had on a public road was in 1972 while stationed in Germany. I was sitting still uphill on a narrow road when another vehicle going downhill struck the left front of my car. The way it was explained to me was an old unwritten law in Germany was that vehicles going uphill had to yield to vehicles going downhill even if that meant backing up. The rationale was they developed engines before efficient brakes so cars going uphill could stop faster than those going downhill. The more efficient engines could help climb any hill, but the brakes could not stop you very well, thus slamming it into reverse and rushing downhill backwards to a spot wide enough for both vehicles to pass by was the preferred manner. I really think the old unwritten law was that anyone driving with the green US Forces license plates was at fault if the local Polizei could come up with a different old unwritten law. Please, I am not complaining!
I was allowed to ship a car to Germany so I took my 396/375 Chevelle over to enjoy the no speed limit Autobahns. Driving back to Mannheim from the Port at Bremerhaven was a quite a shock. I was moving along at about 140mph according to the tach and a 4 door Mercedes with kids playing in the back seat passed me at such a faster rate of speed that I nearly lost it in their air disturbance. At that speed with the standard "aero package" of that vintage of Chevelles, I was sure if a tire hit a a penny on the road, my front end would just take flight. Nonetheless, I attempted to "clock" this Mercedes and bore down even harder but all I managed to find was the tach moving up about 1/10 of the speed of the gas gauge going down and just watched the Mercedes vanish into the night ahead of me. The Chevelle had to go. It was meant to go very fast, very quickly and then shut down - think drag strip. The locally produced vehicles were, for most of them at least, meant to gain speed far less rapidly but to attain higher speeds at much better fuel economy.
It was explained to me as a student in the international driver's license course we service folks had to take that the reason the Autobahns had no speed limits was to reduce congestion. It seems someone either did a lot of research or was gifted with a grand imagination to explain that if just the cars with German registry were parked bumper to bumper the total distance of those cars would equal 175% of the paved roads in Germany. Thus if a car were travelling at 200mph it would only be on the road for 25% of the time needed for a car travelling at 50mph. True or not, I thought it was a great reason to have no speed limits.
My wife ended up driving a BMW2800 and I happened to buy a Porsche 911S Targa after taking a tour of the Porsche Factory in Stuttgart, which we just happened to come across while doing a Road Rally in Bavaria. I abandoned the Road Rally for the tour. At the end of the tour I found out they had a car with US specifications (needed to ship back into the states) which had been ordered and the purchaser had decided on some change in the order. In those days, Porsche dealers in the US would take your order, receive your full payment and then notify you when your car had been built and had arrived at the dealership.
I drove that car like none other I had ever owned as it was like no other I had ever owned. The German Car Club I was in held events all over Germany and unless I was in the field, I was at an event, Road Rallies, Gymkhanas, Road Races, and burp and brags at the local Gasthaus. I even managed to attend a closed session track day at Nurburgring and will never forget that experience. I demolished two full sets of Pirelli tires and put the street tires back on for the trip home. We had so many knowledgeable people in the club and they got the suspension dialed in for me and it was a like a different car with more than a minute off my previous best lap time which is still over two minutes slower than Niki Lauda.
I suppose that tour in Germany, with all of its interruptions, was the heyday of my driving experience, so far... I even managed to convince myself that driving that Porsche was the best physical therapy I could have after an injury sustained on duty.
I brought it back home and was seduced by what I thought was a huge price for a car I had put over 150k miles on and with what I was doing during those miles. It was a price much higher than I paid for it so foolishly, I sold it. I've seen fully restored '72s go for well over $200K, a far cry from the $5800.00 I paid.
I briefly owned a 1958 Super 90 Porsche Speedster, one of only 1200 produced, but that is another story for when I have more time to type.
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