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“Seeing is not always believing.”

December 4th, 2008 2 comments

The title is a Martin Luther King Jr Quote.

I wear glasses.  Not a lot of folks that know me know that.  My vision is spectacular.  So, in every case…, less one, I’m good to go.  Far away (think driving, …racing), I can see perfectly.  However, as objects or text move closer (think reading a computer screen, or a book), one of my eyes, specifically the muscle around it, is lazy (weak! literally).  Who cares?  Well, the point is, … I can see.  I ‘perceive’ well, I ‘notice’ things.  Sometimes, too well, more often than not, I’m perceptive.  I pickup on the things that others don’t.

“What the HELL are you getting at Ben?”

Well (grin), it’s not like I’m a SuperHero, and I have a small weakness (glasses), because I have some SuperSight.  I just have better than average perception when it comes to most things.  It usually leads to me overanalyzing.  Let me give you a current example:  My Race Car. (wow Ben, what a stretch)

Right now, after the wreck, it is sitting, outside, on a trailer, in a trailer storage yard, out in the weather, being beated on by the elements, with a hood 40% open.  Everytime I start to think about getting it out of the elements and into our newly finished garage, this is what happens, I think:

  1. Since I can’t currently get the car to steer straight, I need to figure out some easy way to get the car off the trailer.  The problem there is that since it got smashed in, the front right side near the front right tire is pushed sideways, so it that tire can’t come all the way to center (turned too far right).
  2. Maybe I could get a skinny spare (not standard on my car) and change it on the trailer?  Notice in the pictures that the center of the trailer is …wel, there isn’t one (with this style of trailer).  So, as soon as the car starts to role, it’s going to role right off of being ‘on’ something, and highcenter itself (bad).
  3. Others have suggested furniture style or tire dolly’s underneath one or both front tires, but as you can see in the picture, that won’t work with this style of ramp.
  4. Yet another idea I came up with (which I think is more comical than anything else), just to get it off the trailer, not fully into the garage, is to put McDonald’s style plastic trays underneath the front tires.  Then, maybe hook something up to the front of the car somewhere strong, and pull slowly while someone is in the car.  But, again, this just ‘maybe’ gets it off the trailer.
  5. So, even if we get the car off the trailer, then, with the status of that bumper, will it even fit into the garage w/o first removing the bumper? (it’s in bad shape, and I’m not sure how difficult those bolts holding the bumper on will be).
  6. If I DO manage to get the car into the garage, then what.  We dont’ have the money to fix the car (probably somewhere around 8-10k), and with the state of the economy, my NVIDIA stocks aren’t worth anything right now, so that’s not an option.
  7. Then, there’s my back.  I hurt it when I was in the accident, and my ability to track my car again is still a question mark.
  8. And with all of that, we’re still making payments on the used massive Chevy 2500HD Turbo Diesel Truck that pulls pulled the racecar to the track.
  9. And even more important than any of these things, and especially important to Anna is the Biological WoMD clock of child Construction (of which, the ticking is deafening), and of which the cost is also astronomical (as well).

So, Then I just stress out, probably get a headache, which sometimes leads to a worse headache, and has yet to lead to any action anywhere NEAR me getting near the trailer yard where the car is.  Let alone getting the car into the garage.

Then, I start to think about how working on that car, and driving that car, and seeing that car, and hearing that car, smelling that car, …all of it, all of those things, how they made me feel, how passionate I am about motorsports, and being out on the track, and right now, how I can’t do that, and how my future to be even potentially able to do that is uncertain.  With the additional $1200 we pay now in a mortgage payment per month, it just decreases the liklihood that I’ll ever do it again, even when I want to. (I was going to write ‘if’ I wanted to, but I know better, I want to).

So, …I SEE things (back to the point).  I see much more, much further down the road than I want to, it’s built into me.  While others around me may be grateful for the insight I can bring into their lives, and even at times it may do me a service to be able to see such detail, …other times, it will paralyze me.

But, I have to find a way….I have to.  So, with all of those (#1-8, …probably more), come back to #0 (not listed)…

Patience….

So, if you’re reading this, just remember, that with everything else, this is on my mind all the time.

………..all the time.

Categories: Ben, Bens M3, Introspection Tags:

The Longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be

July 9th, 2008 No comments

Several Years ago I first took my old Convertible sports car onto Buttonwillow Raceway.  I realized very quickly that part of me that had been sleeping for most of my life.  Even though the M3 Convertible was really not suited for what I was doing with it, and my driving skills were in their infancy, I had found a second home.

If you have never been up close to a race-car or a bunch of race cars that have just been driving all-out on a racetrack, it’s quite an expereince.  There are some ambient elements that don’t come through with words on a blog.  The sounds and smells are intense.  The sweet odors of freshly burned 100 octane, …and burned up R-Comp Tires (Racing Compound), along with constantly climbing exhaust notes (Each motor and Exhaust design seems to have its own exclusive melody).  You’ll come upon folks that have been doing it for years.  They’ll be the guys trailering their fully race-prepped, non-street-legal cars.  They’ll have boxes of extra gear that they have with them or off-load at the track.  Anything from spare parts, tools, to coolers for drinks on a hot day, sunscreen.  The list goes on.  Always best to be prepared out there.

Anyway, back to the M3 Convertible.  While the M3 Convertible was a great car for freeway cruisin’ or backroads drivin’, it just wasn’t well suited for the track.  And, unfortunately, since my torso was so damned tall, with the top down and my helmet on, the top of my helmet would actually stick out OVER the top of the roofline!  Now, if you don’t understand how bad this could be, look at the picture to the right and imagine the car flipped over upside down.

There were also other problems with the car.  While the car came with basic rollover protection, it did NOT have a true motorsport roll bar, let alone a true 8pt motorsports cage.  No fire safety equipment.  Due to the car being a convertible, the chassis did not have the rigidity that would be required as I became a better driver.  So, even if I wanted to improve things, it became clear that this wasn’t the right car (sad, but true).

So, I sold the car, and eventually ended up with a 1997 M3 Coupe (hardtop).  By this time, I had realized the error of my ways (safety had to come first).   And on June 21st of this year (2008), all of my planning on this currrent car was realized when an idiot driver not paying attention slammed into me at around 80mph at Thunderhill Raceway.

The damage to the car is sad, and while it’s a lot of damage, it’s repairable (back to perfect working order).

Me, however… My MRI shows that my back is in less than perfect condition.  The final finding for the MRI (after a lot of very worrisome details) was this:

Findings: Central and right paracentral disc protrusions L2-L3 through L5-S1, likely compressing the associated nerve roots at L4 and L5 levels.  Moderate foraminal narrowing bilaterally.

Now, if you’ve never had a nerve pinched in your back, this is what happened the evening of june 21st as I was walking back from having dinner with some of my track buddies.  I can’t compare it to child birth pain since I will never experience that, but it was definitely the worst pain I have ever experienced before.  I have had pinched nerves before, but I think due to some swelling in my back due to the collission, the nerve pinching that day was inevitable.  In the past when I’ve had a pinched nerve in my back, I’ve been able to lay down (which I did), then eventually get up (which I did), limped myself up to the hotel room, and woke Anna up so she could move over and let me lay down (my new home for the rest of the evening).

Very late that night, I had go get up to go to the bathroom, and I assumed by then that my back had calmed down.  I should have taken more note that when I slowly moved to a standing position that ther was still considerable pressure on my spine.  Naked, I slowly hobbled to the hotel bathroom, and fearfully planted myself on the toilet.  Just as I had finished a very short round of #2, I felt the spasm start to creep back into my lower back.  Psyhologically speaking, this is horrifying.  The only thing I know to do is lay down flat on the ground, but… I haven’t wiped and if you’re familar with most hotel bathrooms near racetracks, the floorspace in those bathrooms is not exactly well suited to a 6’2″ guy trying to lay completely flat in there.

My back starts to spasm.

I quickly try to move myself into a semi-flat position on the floor, but this ends up prolonging the spasm.  In short, the first position I end up in is… my head is near the edge of the tub and the wall, and my legs are between the toilet and the wall… the wall that leads to the door that goes out of the bathroom.  This is tough to visualize, but in short, I couldn’t get my right leg into a position where the spasm would stop.  I ended up trying to use my arms to help straighten my back, and meanwhile grabbing onto any loose flesh on my body to create pain somewhere else to take my mind away from the spasms piericing up and down my back.  After several nightmarish minutes of pain, my back finally calmed down.  But it wasn’t over.  I still had to get my right leg out that bathroom door to extend it, and to do that, I’d first have to bright the right leg closer to my torso.

This ended up making my back spasm again for several more minutes, but I was able to get the leg out the door (finally).

After my back finally calmed down again, I was able to through several minutes, finally rock myself carefully into a ‘crawling on the floor’ position, and this was the way I came back to bed.

The next morning, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  I was thinking I might try to drive the truck (with trailer on back with wrecked race car on back, badly loaded), but when simply walking out from the hotel to the truck was enough to make me have to lay down on the 100 degree parking lot black top, I knew that wasn’t going to work.  So, Anna’s first experience of driving this truck with this car on the trailer would be on this day.  I managed my way into the passenger’s seat, and we propped it back as far as it would go.

On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant to grab some lunch.  The walk from where we had to park the truck (because of the trailer) to the restaurant was probably 40 yards.  This time i made it into the place, but by the time I sat down in the booth, I was hurting pretty good.  I had to hold my back straight while eating, which was tough to do in that kind of booth.

Once we got back into town, we brought the trailer and car back to the trailer yard (unsure of the fate of the race car), and covered it up.  We then drove over to the Camino Medical Urgent Care Center.  This sounds like an ER name, but it’s just the name they give to a place you can go without an appointment that is not an emergency.   The Doctor there took some Xrays which came back normal (that’s a good sign at least).  Next, she had me siting upright (I could feel the pressure on my spine), and she performed that standard old knee reflex test with the reflex hammer.

Left Knee: check. (great reaction)
Right Knee….. uh……Right Knee?  Hello?  Hello Right?  Ben to Right Knee?

The right knee was showing little to no reaction.

This greatly concerned the docor since she suspected either nerve damage or swelling around the nerves, the former of which could need immediate care.  So, they ambulanced me over to the Camino Hospital, and Anna followed in the truck (I haven’t been to an emergency room in YEARS).  The two ambulance dudes were great (both very nice guys, friendly, caring).  Once we got over to the ER, and the folks that got me immediately setup in a room realized I wasn’t about to die, I think I was placed pretty low on the totem pole of priorities.  In any event, the doctor eventually did come in and due a simliar kind of test to my knees.  However, when he did, he had me laying flat on my back (no pressure on the spine).  So, this time, the reaction on both knees was normal.  I guess this was good since to me, this at least meant that the nerves were at least partially intact, and it probably just meant that there was swelling in the area from the accident.  They HAD been talking about getting me an MRI before that, but after that, they decided to send me on my way and have me FIRST go see my primary care doctor (what a pita that all was).

They eventually gave me a very painful shot in the butt, and prescriptions for Valium and Vicodin.  I spent the next week mostly on my back, icing, ibuprofening, with a litle pain killer at the beginning.

So, now, I’m up and able to walk around, but its not like it was before the accident.  My back seems fragile and more susceptible to fatigure and pressure.  I have an appointment on july 18th with the Camino Medical Department of Physiatry.

Some folks may ready this and say “See!  Racing cars is a dangerous sport!”, but even now, as I write this, this is not the message I would wish anyone to draw from this.  The reason I’m here today, the reason I’m sitting here typing this blog is because I stuck to a very specific design philosophy when planning out that race-car.

Safety First.

1. I had a Hans Device on at the time of the impact
2. I was in a Racing Seat with Head Protection.
3. I was using properly secured 5-pt Harnesses (seat belts).
4. I had a well built 8-point Roll Cage
5. I started with a car that was known to be well built (good crumple zones)

The part that I’m struggling with is my future.  Doctors will likely tell me:
“Racing is a hazardous sport, and your back isn’t in great shape, we would encourage you to give it up.

My heart tells me
“If you can do it, and you’re physically able, get that car fixed, and get your ass back out there!’.

But, I know, in my heart, that if I take another impact like that, that it may even more severely affect me and the rest of my life (sigh).  At least, I have that feeling (I’m not a doctor).  And that’s where my mind is at.

Categories: Ben, Bens M3, General Tags:

Isn’t it funny

November 18th, 2004 1 comment

..that when you do a google for “Benjamin Hirsch BMW” and the first hit is a link to Speed Ventures Results for an OpenTrack event I did quite some time ago with my old M3. Guess it’s just a testament to some of the things I Love. …hehe, testmament, how’s THAT for religion?!

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Saying Goodbye

June 12th, 2004 1 comment

Well, the track pipe is out and sold, and the catalysts are installed, smog early next week, and away she goes (at some point next week), I have a buyer lined up, time to say goodbye.

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BMW owners get a bad rap

May 8th, 2004 No comments

On the way back from Bimmerfest on Rt.1 just past Ragged Point (mile marker 743 I believe), I had one of those moments where the world goes in slow motion (even though you’re well in your power band).

Rt.1 100 miles south of Seaside, CA
5/2/04 – 4:15pm

I had just come around a nice tight corner, and I heard this noise that sounded a bit unpleasant from my engine bay. A moment later I noticed my power steering was gone, so I Radio’d the caravan that I’d lost power steering. Just then the Battery problem light came on, and a moment later, I noticed the coolant temp. was starting to rise (and I don’t ever like to see that needle moving), I immediately pulled over and shut it down (even though we were on a two-lane twisty road with no real shoulder). I looked under the car for fluids… nothing. Then popped the hood, nothing (no secondary signs of leaks/fluids.

With the help of the NorCal Carvan folks, and without starting the car (it was hot) we did a three-point turnout (with no power steering), and rolled it down several hundred feet to the first turn off down the road.

After some looking and poking under the hood, we found the problem. It appears that the Accessory Belt (Water Pump, Alternator,…) broke. At first we were excited, Martin (white E36 M3 with Carbon fiber hood, white/black) had a spare belt. However, when my belt broke, it looks like it slammed into the Tensioner pulley and only 2 of the original four ribs on the pulley were still visible (belts spin fast). So, sadly, my car’s day was done.

Keith gave me a ride a half mile up the road to call box 743, I followed directions, thinking they could call a tow truck for me. Well, nobody ever picked up ….ever… (I tried 3 times), wonderful…

Ragged Point – The Forgotten getaway
5/2/04 – 4:45pm

So, we drove down the way to Ragged Point where there was a restaraunt, awesome view, gas station, gift store, and general services (well, with the exception of cell service) where Keith selflessly volunteered to use his AAA Plus card to call a tow truck, which they said would be in there in about two hours (7pm ish). We found an awesome couples hotel right there that has jacuzi/fireplace rooms overlooking the cliffside into the ocean, we’ll be going back there for sure.

So, at this point, the rest of the folks that had been hanging out to help (Martin, Susan, and Dave I believe) finally headed home as well, while Keith, myself, and Carl (I believe) stayed behind with me to wait for the flat bed.

Damn that M3’s Quiet!
5/2/04 – 5:45pm

So, thinking ahead, Keith recommended we roll the car all the way down to the Ragged Point parking lot, thinking it’d be easier to load the car on the flat bed. It was currently sitting up on the pull-out on the hill, quite precarious. But there were a few gotchas…it was mostly down hill, with one exception, I had no power brakes, so, errors were not going to fly (well, my car might have flown down the cliff, but that’s different), and no power-steering (not too shabby), so, we coasted it until the up hill part, I let it coast just about as far as it was going to, keith recommended to fire it up (so, I did that, just enough to get it up the hill), and coasted the rest of the way down right into the parking lot (good Thinking Keith!). Then we just relaxed and tried to stay warm (marine layer was moving in). We saw an absolutly stunning sunset.

Wayne gets his groove on
5/2/04 – 8:30pm

The flat-bed rolls into Ragged point and sets up to put the car up on the bed. Wayne (driver) is an awesome guy. He knew not to hook up to the lower control arms in the rear, we used the rear trailing arms, and off we went to Seaside. Keith was concerned that he’d be going slow, but… (hehehe), Wayne has been driving that section of route1 for years. I swear I saw him drift some of those corners with the flat-bed (well, maybe not, but it was damned impressive).

The highlight/horror happened when I saw him pass two cars (Mustang, bmw 5 series) in the oncoming traffic lane at night around a tight corner. All of our jaws dropped. Some might have been angry, but honestly? He was liable, so, what did I really have to lose We made really good time.

At one point, when Wayne was well ahead of us (yes, he was way ahead of us), he pulled over, and we eventually caught up, and as he walked up to Keith’s car he said…

“Ya know…if ya can’t keep up I’ll hook ya up to my T-Bar and tow yah?”
(We died laughing)

BMW Dealership in Seaside, CA
5/2/04 – 10:30pm

We rolled into Seaside and Wayne brought is right into “My BMW and Porsche” (an auto-mall with BMW Dealer Service). This was as far as we could go reasonably on the AAA card. I put the keys in the drop box with instructions, and we headed out via 156 east over to 101 North, finally making it to San Jose around midnight.

So, in closing…

A special thanks to everyone that helped, every little bit was awesome. Truly, this is what it’s all about, it really felt like a BMW Family, and sitting here thinking about it I know I’m a very fortunate person to have found the likes of all of you (Northern California BMW guys).

Please forgive me if I get your name wrong..

Keith, Carl, Dave, Martin, Susan, Greg, Greg’s son (hope your head’s okay), Alan, and everyone else.

I’m a lucky guy. Thank you all.

Also a special thank you to Anna, my girlfriend, who drove me back down to Seaside this last Thursday to get my car, and sat around reading magazines while I BS’d with the shop guys. I love you honey.

One more thing….
…When you think things are bad, just remember, they could be worse. The company was top-notch, the weather warm and sunny, the view spectacular…and tomorrow showed up, just as I thought it would

Status – 5/6/04 – 6:00pm Thursday
quote from My BMW was $1300, hell no, ordered parts from bimmerparts ($136 overnighted), labor out the door from Monterey Bay Motor Works was $269, total of $400 (vs My BMW’s $1300), car’s home now, and noticably happier to be so.

Categories: Bens M3 Tags:

Foggy Fun

March 7th, 2004 1 comment

Today we all drove up to Candlestick park up near San Francisco and watched the SCCA Auto-x chaired by local BMW tuner Vic Sias. Dave Eng’s best time was a 65.xxx. However, we saw an E36 M3/4 pull a 58.xxx. The car had both MPact Motorsports and Edge Motorworks stickers on it, and, clearly the stickers made it go faster:wink: When we showed up you couldn’t even see the other side of the autoX course though the pea soup. It burned off and turned into a beautiful day. It’s great to have a girlfriend that will get up early on a weekend and go play cars with me.

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Ramon kills the tick-tick-tick

February 29th, 2004 No comments

[synthetic oil] + [hard driving (who? me?)] + [hydraulic lifters] + [time]
= varnish-like build-up on the hydraulic lifters, causing clearances to change, resulting in….
….TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-!!!

A local southbay mechanic recently heard my car’s horrible case of Lifter Tick. Ramon (Bavarian Motorsport) thought there was a way to correct this problem without ripping the motor open. He recommended adding a quart of automatic transmission fluid before the next oil change, driving around for thirty minutes to break loose the ‘gunk’, and then do the normal oil change. The risk is that the crap that brakes free with use of the ATF could clog the intake for the oil pump, and I don’t really want to buy a new motor right now. Ramon assured me that if 1)I had done regular oil changes and 2)driven the car hard, that clogging the oil pump was very very unlikely.

So, I’ve gone through two drive cycles after the ATF, and thus far, no loud ticking.

$4 fix? …nice.
(Ben adds this to his normal oil change procedure)

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Cats Don’t Like Me – Part Deux

January 13th, 2004 No comments

So, one of the bimmerforums dudes, Mat (MKS) came by and scanned my ECU, and sure enough, it showed a problem with the pre-catalytic converter O2 Sensors, which cascaded into a misfire status (the ecu causes a misfire when it detects a clog in the exhaust so it won’t blow a head gasket, if only humans could do the same, wouldn’t that be nice).

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Cats Don’t Like Me

January 10th, 2004 No comments

Backstory: When I first put the Dinan exhaust on my Supercharged M3, it caused a problem. There appeared to be to big a difference in pressure between the SuperCharger side of the Catalytic Converter, and the Muffter Side of the Catalytic Converter (i.e. the Catalytic Converter was not designed to have the amount of gasses flow through it that the Supercharger needs). The result of this in not too long is the Catalytic Converter cells start to litterally fly apart. So (sigh), today, my 2nd catalytic converter finally threw a CEL (Check Engine Light), and has now clogged my exhaust. Ben Checks the Score:

Catalytic Converters – 2
Ben – 0

Present Day: So, I could put another cat. back on there, but this too will fly apart. My secondary solution, which is probably going to actually happen now is to buy and install the Active Autowerke Track Pipe. This will not blow apart, and will actually enhance the performance (inadvertently) of my car. Just comes at a bad time, Anna and I are already stretched for cash. The good news is I found a guy on Bimmerforums that will sell his shipped for $500 and it’s almost brand new… More to come…

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Something sounds different

December 8th, 2003 No comments

I found a guy on bimmerforums selling his old exhaust system (B and B Triflow). His only complaint? It was too loud (ben grins most deviously). He only wanted $300 for it. so….Anna and I put it on my car together. She was feeling absolutely horrible, so thanks again Lover. I couldn’t have done nearly as quick as we did without you. Here’s an example of what it sounds like.

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