Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life in the Fast Lane








Earlier this month was another one of those weeks where I didn’t get outside much. It was cold, windy, rainy, snowy...and generally not appealing nor friendly to my condition, so I did what I could inside. 

There is always something to do here, but sometimes those things are set aside to enjoy some of the unusual perks and rare opportunities presented living here on the ranch such as when the balloonists came and we got a free ride in a hot air balloon. It was amazing. Ranch kid #5 and I went in a balloon with a lady pilot. Unfortunately, I have acrophobia and couldn't get off my knees. I did my best taking pictures but a good number of them were from the angle of looking up #5's nose.  She was, however, very patient with me as she has always been.


Then just a short time later, a guy showed up with a cute little Candy Apple Red helicopter. Again, I couldn't resist, I HAD to have a ride in it. Besides, I was about to go into surgery for a total knee replacement and I just figgered, in case I didn't ever wake up again, it would be nice to know what the ranch looked like from up above so I could spot it. That was an amazing experience, especially when the pilot decided to chase a coyote for a ways!



There were a lot of new folk here at the ranch for the week. They were 'camping out'  hoping to set a new landspeed record on the lakebed. This was to be their trial run, but the weather had not been cooperating. When the lake bed is dry, its awesomely flat and smooth and speed records have been set here in the past, but when wet, it is a fearsome mirey muck of a mess. A vehicle can instantly sink. It seemed as though all plans would have to be cancelled, but then as luck would have it, there was enough wind the last night to dry off just what they needed to run the tests, so Randyman and I joined up with everyone else and went to watch.

We drove the 6 miles down to the hotsprings, which is  on the ranch and turned down the new road the boss had put in to access the dry lake bed. We caught up to the group and it was a little nippy with the wind blowing off the icy Steens.








Huddled in our coats and gloves, we gathered around as it was explained to us that our best spot to watch from would be a mile down from the start and a quarter mile over from where the car would run as that is about where he would fire the afterburners. They set cones out to guide the pilot and we used those as our landmarks. They handed out ear plugs and told us to keep our engines running, because if the car loses control at high speed (we are talking excess of 600 mph) we would only have seconds to jump in our trucks and get out of its way. The rocket cars don’t steer or corner well, you see.



We followed one another around until we figured we found the right spot and we all waited a good long while in the cold wind. The ranch cowboys had all taken the day off to watch, so we had a slew of pick up trucks all parked in a row, facing the direction of escape, just in case. I asked if anyone had a rope to tie from my waist to the bumper in the event we DID have to jump in the truck and move quickly. Otherwise I would surely be left behind, because I am slow to climb in. I figured being dragged away would be better than nothing.  No one had any, so I opted to stand in the bed of the truck instead. I wasn't the only one, one of the kids chose to do the same.







The flare went up and the first brake test began. The rocket car sped past us then slowed down and stopped only a mile or two away. The first test was stopping without brakes. We all sped over there and just when we caught up, it took off again. We raced alongside (quite a ways off to the side) and kept up to about 100 mph while I hyperventilated, then boom...it was waaaaay out in front of us. This time it used the brakes to stop. I asked someone how fast he went and they said it only went about 200-250 mph for the tests. I get nervous around 40-45 so it was pretty exciting to me.






The steering wasn’t good, it was pulling to the left, so it was loaded back on the trailer, towed back to the starting point and they worked on it a bit while we all sat back at our appointed spot, waiting to see  helicopter with a camera crew  show up.  They are making a documentary of this. It has been in the works for 13 years so far. The pilot said one of the brakes didn't feel right, as though the liquid (which I assume cools it because 200+mph friction probably gets a little toasty) coolant might have frozen.

Not having spent the week getting to know everyone, the way the rest of the ranch did (both cuz I didn’t feel good and also cuz...well..they are people and you know how that goes for me...) I didn’t learn as much as I might have liked. But I did learn that right behind where the pilot sits is a whole computer network which records all kinds of data while he drives. They analyze all that and make whatever changes or preparations are necessary. From what I understand, the current record is 763 mph. They have to get to top speed, hold it for 1 mile, then turn around and go the other way and do it again within 60 minutes.  I’ve read that challengers hope to hit 1000 mph. I am totally baffled at why anyone would want to go that fast on land. 

I clearly remember back as a kid, blasting down a sidewalk on roller skates and colliding with a giant dogdoo. My skates stopped forward motion instantly but  my face kept going. The concrete was hard and I have never had much appetite for speed since then...or dogdoo either.
But, I digress. There are batteries that run the computer networks and they don’t hold a charge for very long, so as soon as the car stops, they have to plug it in to both recharge and retrieve all the data.


The helicopter finally arrived, the flares went up, we had our earplugs in and were waiting for the big thrill and big noise as the afterburners went on and the car sped past...





it leapt forward...











 then slowed down...








then kinda fizzled.





 As it turns out the steering quit working and one of the brakes literally broke. In spite of it all, the pilot was cool and unruffled.

 I was impressed, because I would probably have left a little weewee trail all the way down the lakebed if it had been me...and that's with NO problems. 

We were really starting to get ‘into’ the spirit of it all,  when we were told it would probably take some months to manufacture a new brake, so the fun for now, was over.


WE kept sneaking behind the afterburner, which was still warm and out of the wind while the camera people and helicopter people interviewed the pilot/owner.





We headed back to the ranch, waiting until they come back for  the next test and for the attempt at the record. The people involved were all really very nice, so maybe next time, I will bravely venture out of the house for more information.

Everyone involved was, of course,  really good at math and computers, electronics and all those kinds of cerebral things. One of the younger guys was enjoying the company of the cowgirls and explained he was not in the market for a brilliant girlfriend who knew all about science and math but just preferred to meet someone who came with no drama. A cowgirl might be just what he needs. 

One of the girls said she felt kind of 'dumb' talking to the guys cuz they knew all kinds of things she had no clue about. A neighbor, trying to encourage her, said 




“Oh, don’t let them make you feel stupid. It’s not rocket science you know...”  

But, actually...it is.

For more info, go to http://www.landspeed.com

18 comments:

  1. How exciting!!! Living on the ranch sounds like it has a lot of good things coming out of it.

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    1. There is just no end to the things you can do living 4 hours from civilization!

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  2. Very cool. And kind of odd I must say. :o)

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    1. haha! Not what one might expect out here!

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  3. Very interesting. I am not much of a "speed" person. I refuse to even drive down any of these highways where I have to go 70! And I think I would have been like you and stood in the back of the truck, even though I could have gotten in it fast. Better safe than sorry.

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    1. I have a hard time getting excited about anything mechanical, but it was difficult not to catch the enthusiasm of these people who had put so much into this, It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to seeing them come back and break the record!

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  4. Overall, it seems like there's always something exciting happening where you live :-)
    Talk about a life of adventure!

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    1. Boy Howdy! It is a great place to be!

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  5. This is certainly NOT what most people would expect out on the ranch! :)
    Tell the cowgirl that she knows all kinds of things the car guys don't know too and, in my opinion, her knowledge is a LOT more important!

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  6. I am with Candy, I think cowgirl smarts trumps rocket science anyday! LOL. I am so with you, no way would I have left the truck, I move SLOW on a good day. (And that weewee trail, yup, me too...) Still I do marvel at alll the strange and wonderful things that happen in your little (BIG) corner of the world. TFS. Good Luck with the knee and have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving. hugs...

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    1. Haha! They could have roped us together!

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  7. I probably agree that girl-sense beats rocket-science-sense most days but not if your putting a rocket together or even changing a tire. Oh, did they says Cowgirl. That's a bug of a different color. We get the hang-gliders in the summer but nothing as exciting as what you get. Catching a big fish is exciting enough for me. That was a nice entry, Petey. I love how it all is put together with the photos. Some day I'd like to buy a book with all your photos in it. God bless you. Super dX (thats pronounced d with a weird noise after it)

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    1. Thanks, D-squishysoundinthroat guy! Have I told you I think you are super?I can come here in a grumpy mood and you are just what the doctor ordered. You are truly a 'scrip! :)

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  8. Well, I'd rather be with the cowboys than the rocket scientist but this was a fun change of pace of all of you.
    I'm surprised that someone didn't yell, "Get a horse!" when the thing fizzled.

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