Monday, May 30, 2011

100 Miles of Nowhere – 77008 Petit Fondo

This past Saturday, we competed in the 100 Miles of Nowhere national cycling “event” put on by the Fat Cyclist ( By "event", I mean a handful of people as stupid as us. What is this “event”? It’s a Century Ride (i.e. a 100 mile bike ride).

Around an impossibly small loop.

Our loop? We rode around Section 5 of Timbergrove. How small of a loop? 0.91 miles. That equates to 110 laps of pure boredom, pain, and poorly paved streets.

The participants in this ridiculous day?

  • The “38 Year Old Male – Skeletal Issue” division only had one participant in the group David Tessin.
  • Likewise, the "Jim Adler Texas Hammer" division only had one partipant as well, the chronically short of sleep Jeff Smith.
  • Finally, the "37 Year Old Male 220 LB Plus" division unfortunately only had 1 participant as well, myself.
Here is a picture of the Petit Fondo starting line. The air was crackling with electricity and energy. Or not. But we did have a great chalk start-finish line and great mile markers.

While we were short of participants, the good news was that we all would each win our respective division handedly...IF we could finish. Why wouldn’t we finish? Two reasons, well three actually:

1) Heat. It was friggin’ HOT and HUMID in Houston. We were riding from 7am – 3pm, you know, the cool part of the day.

2) Boredom: we weren’t the most verbose cyclists, and that’s an understatement. After debating the merits of the New Soldier Field, how dirty Jeff’s bike was and whether it was slowing him down, and how much beer we would drink post-race….the conversation went very silent.

3) Fitness. Lets see here…I’ve ridden maybe 3 times this year after my knee surgery, with the longest ride being, oh, 30 miles, and the longest ride ever in my life at around 65 miles last year in triathlon training. Dave – I think he’s ridden 4 times, ditto on the longest ride ever. Jeff – he’s ridden more, but not by much, and has done many Century Rides in his past, more fit life.

We had a massive aid station set up (i.e. it had a bunch of kids shooting us with water guns), we had a grill (mile 80 = burgers and hot dogs), we had a bunch of proud spouses and friends supporting us while simultaneously laughing at us, we had random neighbors wondering what the hell was going on, and we had a cooler full of beer waiting on Mile 100.

Yes, we did finish.

We all struggled at different times, and speaking for myself, it was harder than I thought it would be. For whatever reason, God chose to make the 77008 Petit Fondo race route have a headwind in all 4 directions. I know it sounds impossible, but I have two other numb nuts who can vouch for this weather conundrum. I would say it was uphill in all directions too, but this is Houston. Its dead-ass flat.

My struggles came early around 45 miles, and it was probably nutrition related since I wasn’t taking this ride very seriously. Jeff’s barrier probably came around mile 90 when he finally realized he was riding with idiots, and he pushed through admirably thanks to the Chef’s delicious offering of grease, cheese, and pig parts. Dave – he’s like the Stig and doesn’t offer up weakness. All in all, we rode the 100 miles over 8 hours, and broke it into 4 sessions with 10-30 minute breaks. We rode 30 miles, then 25 miles, then 25 miles, then ate a lot of food, then rode the final 20 miles. Oh, and we soaked our feet in the kiddie pool at the breaks, and we sincerely hope the kids never got into the pool afterwards because there were new forms of life being formed in there after our soaks.

We had 3 celebrity guest riders….Jeff Farmer on his mountain bike, Landon Croker rode 3 laps with us, and Connor Smith rode 1 lap. I believe all three celebrity guest riders were disgusted with us, our smell, and Jeff’s dirty bicycle. One scheduled guest rider never showed up. Go figure.

The final lap was marked with kids strung across the finish line, all with water guns pointed our direction. Which presented a problem for us…how do we cross the finish line without taking out someone’s kid? The answer? We walked the bike across the finish line…a fitting end to this hard-to-understand-harder-to-summarize event.

Odometer proof below:

Stay tuned for more stupid escapades. More stupid pictures below.

The fantastic Twin Six race shirt:

Caroline getting the Start-Finish line ready.

Landon getting ready to join us for a lap.

The party, which looked more and more like a failed trailer park development.

Three idiots, riding off into the hot sunset (into the wind).

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Just to summarize our past experiences:

2008 Race #1 (Houston): the unturbo Saab blows its motor after some, uhh, “misuse” and two-wheel driving with the car. Does not finish the race.

2009 Race #2 (Houston): the rebuilt, unturbo runs a good, Swedish problem infested race and finishes 29th out of 90 cars

2010 Race #3 (Houston): the turbo Slaab runs an incredible, unSwedish non-problematic race, wrecks while in 7th place. Does not finish.

2011 Race #4 (Dallas): the turbo Slaab is officially jinxed, wins an award, blows up 15 minutes from end of race. Does not finish (unless being towed across the finish line counts, which in our eyes, does)

This years summary will be a bit shorter than the usual affair, mainly because people don’t care anymore about reading the same summary of blown seals, driver error, poor mechanical aptitude, and gorilla driving technique. But alas….


With our new frankenfender (fender made out of scratch after our wreck last year), new fuel pump, and otherwise generally the same rusted out heap, we had a fairly relaxed lead up to the race. Before and after frankenfender picture below:


Jinx #1: Upon unloading the car on Friday into our newly downsized pit setup (we didn’t use the semi this year) and starting the car for warm-ups and practice, the car proceeded to blow the turbo seals immediately. Mind you, this is after running for a couple of months with no issues whatsoever on the turbo. Luckily, we came to the race with two turbos, so we set out on an hour fix to replace the turbo (note – the blown seals is indicative of an ignored problem later).

Slaab HQ:

Fix #1 - new old turbo:

We drove 4 laps apiece for practice, and thoroughly enjoyed this track and the numerous challenges its layout presents. It has something foreign to us Houstonians….HILLS. The car ran perfectly, albeit hot for some reason.


Saturday was Dave and my day to drive, and Dave started the race for Team Slaab. This is where the ominous, Swedish-laden issues continued.

Jinx #2: Dave drove up to the pit lane to get ready to start the race. While in line, the car unceremoniously dies. While the race gets started, the tow truck takes the car back to our pits (yes, we began the race on the tow truck, and we finished the race on the tow truck). Issue was a blown fuel pump relay, and luckily, we had a spare for this odd small part.

Fuel relay fix:

Dave gets going, down only 2 laps, and proceeds to drive for almost his entire 2 hour stint. He runs the entire session, and when he pits to change drivers, he tells me that the car has developed a similar fuel cutoff issue that plagued us in 2010, except now its at low RPMs. Oh, and its running hawt.

I drive my stint, and alternate between fast and slow laps in an attempt to modulate the temperate issues the engine appears to be having. Also the fuel cutoff issue is not good, and randomly cuts out in the middle of turns, under acceleration, and whenever I sneeze or scratch myself. I notice while driving that the fuel cutoff issue is related to huge boost spikes that were happening on the car (engine boost was spiking around 20psi, whereas 10psi is normal, particularly on a junker). When the car is running, its pretty darned fast (its all relative).

Jinx #3: After about an hour into the session of fun driving, the car develops a very bad sounding exhaust note, it overheats, and I promptly come into the pits. Water is pouring out of the exhaust pipe (you know, where only exhaust fumes are supposed to come from). Blown head gasket from the high boost pressures. We were in 6th place at this point in the race, and were now totally out of the running.


Luckily, we had a full set of gaskets for the engine (noticing a trend with our “luckily, we had a spare….”),and we tore apart the motor to replace the head gasket. FIVE HOURS LATER….Dave got back in the car and drove the final 15 minutes cautiously until the end of the day. End of Day 1.

The race session was called an hour early due to approaching tornados, hail, and rain. We were in Autozone that night watching a large tornado form nearby with the loud tornado sirens going off, very surreal. We were secretly wishing the tornado would take our car and drop it in Oklahoma. Oh, and lightening struck the scoring tower at the track that night and left a hole in the roof of the tower. Nice and indicative of our race so far.

I don't think you should see your pistons in the middle of a race, just a thought. Yes, thats the cylinder head on the ground by my dad's feet:


Dad and Nick were the drivers for Day 2, and we were now just there to drive, tune the car, and get it running properly.

Jinx #4: we started the car up for the morning, and it was blowing smoke again as if it had a blown turbo seal (again). The smoke went away eventually, and we held our breath for our only remaining turbo to blow.

Nick started Day #2, and drove a full session somewhat cautiously. He came in for a variety of small nagging issues, namely running out of water, leaking fuel line (woops) from a broken hose (twice), and also almost a lost wheel (our lug nuts came loose, sheered one off while driving, and ruined a wheel from the vibrations). Double woops. Yes, we had a spare wheel. Luckily.

Notice something missing below?

Dad took over from Nick, and drove for about an hour or so, drove a hard session on the car, and fought the same fuel cutoff issue as the rest of us. He ultimately came in for a leaking fuel line (again). You know, because an engine bay on fire is never a good thing.

We had an hour or so left in the day, and Nick finished the race up for us and drove some fast, hard laps with little issue besides the fuel one. The car was running strong, the tires were good, and the car was not interested in lasting. Ultimately, the car crapped its pants 15 minutes before the end, and unceremoniously ended the race on the tow truck. We didn’t even lift the hood to see what was wrong. It was time for the awards ceremony and to go home.


We finished in 27th place out of 43 cars, and we could have easily finished in the top 5 without the head gasket issue. We also won the “Heroic Fix Award” for the weekend, given that we were constantly wrenching on the car, but kept the car running no matter what and did it with a smile on our face (probably a frown, but whatever).

We will rebuild this motor, tune it up a bit more, and add about 13 gauges to the car so we can monitor every aspect of it. Hell, we might install a rust gauge too to watch the advance of the rotting metal on this car. It will look like a WWII submarine inside with all the guages….and we’ll probably crash from looking at guages and not the road….but whatever. Watch here for the next race.

A bunch of mildly happy, very tired, semi unprofessional race car drivers.