Motoring Away


We couldn’t have picked a better week for our vacation in the U.P., as the Twin Cities were sweltering under scorching heat for all of last week. Even in the wilds of the U.P. it was 80 degrees and humid. Floating in the lake never felt better. Thankfully, God left the window open over the weekend, and cold, clear, Canadian air has been blowing through the state for the last few days. It’s days like these that make me love living in this place. I think I’d wilt if I had to live down in Missouri, or anywhere across the South. The summer I spent in Kentucky and Alabama damn near killed me. My thick central European blood and hirsute body just isn’t designed for that kind of weather.

Unlike most years, we really didn’t spend much time away from the lake. The weather was just too perfect not to be in the water. We did manage to make time for my favorite vacation activity though, a trip into Eagle River, Wisconsin for some go kart racing. As much as I enjoy racing the infernal little noisy contraptions, it’s funny that this is the only time all year that we do it. As a kid I used to dream of being able to race go karts. Hell, Batavia even has an awesome facility for doing so. However, it just wasn’t something that the folks felt good about spending money on. So I had to content myself by racing around the block on my Huffy Thunder Road pretending to be A.J. Foyt in his Coyote.

So I have enjoyed being able to share kart racing with the kids. Even if it’s just a once in a year event. Last summer was the first year that they were old enough to drive their own kart, and this year 20 Prospect Jr. was even able to move up to the faster oval track at Kartway. I must say, the boy impressed the hell out of me. I was able to pass every other person on the track but him. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him play my GTR game on the home computer, but the kid has a knack for driving. He threw block parties on me all over the track. Not that I let it prevent me from giving him the “chrome horn” a few times, much to the dismay of Mrs. 20 Prospect who accused me of cheating.

20 Prospect Jr. sets up for the hairpin

The first time I ever raced a go kart was the summer before my senior year of college. I was working a summer internship at Graham Manufacturing to gain some “engineering” experience before graduation. When summer began, I had hoped that the position might turn into a job offer after graduation, but it quickly became apparent that the Graham Engineering group was already full of young engineers, and that one of my fellow interns had already been chosen to be “the next one”. I can’t say I blame them. In fact, the guy that they eventually extended the job offer to is now one of their corporate officers. My, how things might have turned out differently had it been me. But I digress…

It wasn’t long before I discovered the real benefits of being 21 years old and working with a group of 20 something bachelors. It wasn’t “engineering experience” by any stretch of the imagination. No, it was happy hour on Friday afternoons. The usual routine after quitting time was to head out to the East end of Main Street for drinks and darts at Hevron’s Towne Manor.

Now Hevron’s was a curious, and slightly seedy place. Well, to be honest there was nothing “slight” about it’s seediness. It was an old flea ridden motel with weekly rates, and a bar in front that had inexplicably become a hot spot for Friday happy hours. That was where I learned to play “Cricket” on the electronic dart board. A skill that would eventually come in handy years later on the night I met Mrs. 20 Prospect. But again, I digress…

There were no women in our group, and in fact, I can’t remember if any of the guys had girlfriends or fiancé’s at the time. Although coincidentally, one of them would eventually end up marrying the sweet, dimple cheeked girl whom I spoke of in a previous post. But again, I digress…

No, our attentions were focused on cheap beer, and boastful, testosterone fueled banter. After a handful of beers and several games of darts we would leave Hevron’s and drive out to the Go Kart track by the town dump. There, half in the bag, we’d race each other for sh!ts and giggles. After a couple of races, and before we got motion sick, or tossed out on our ears, we’d pile back into our cars and race back across town to Pontillo’s for pizza. And I mean seriously race.

Looking back I am amazed that we didn’t get arrested, or kill anyone. How we could drive buzzed through the middle of Batavia at high rates of speed on a Friday evening and not get busted, or create an accident is beyond me. Lord knows it wasn’t one of the smarter things I have done in my life. But then again, how many things that a guy does at 21 years of age would qualify as being smart? No, looking back I am just thankful that no one got hurt.

The summer dragged painfully by, and when it was time to go back to Clarkson I was damn glad to be leaving Batavia. The end was in sight. Packing up my Plymouth Tourismo for the drive back to Potsdam, I had no idea of the trials and tribulations that awaited me. If you’d have told me that in less than 12 months I would live through a maelstrom of emotion, and end up in a hotel room in Paducah, Kentucky, well, I’d have thought you were crazy. Looking back now, I still puzzle over how it all worked out. The experiences, and seemingly random events that would eventually bring me here to Minnesota, where I live a mostly normal and well adjusted existence, are a source of endless fascination to me. Untangling them is really the whole purpose of this blog.

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