Boulder Fire 10-29

I don’t know how so many fires can occur in one season, it seems very dramatic with the smoke billowing up the foothills and the slurry bombers flying overhead. Today was a unique day in Boulder. People were roaming the streets in costume. Witches, ghosts and zombies all out in the daylight and they were out as the foothills looming overhead were on fire.



Walking the neighborhoods today that were being evacuated, I didn’t want to be in the way. So I stayed clear of the people who were frantically packing their possessions. there were cars lining the streets and they had hatches open or they were already packed. People were sorting through their belongings deciding what they could live without and what needed to come with them. I walked along and just observed them. It is a strange feeling, especially walking with a large camera in this condition, I feel as though I was marked as an outsider, though it is possible that nobody noticed me at all.



As some of the residence packed others congregated in the streets, they watched the slurry planes fly overhead and dump their payload only a short distance away. The air was thick with smoke and the sun was very warm considering how cold it has been over the past week. The fire tourists were out in full force and when I realized that I was probably one of them I had to turn back. At least I wasn’t clogging the road with my car, but I was there and I felt like that may be too much.


Sprinklers were on all over the place. Some had put portable lawn sprinklers on their roof in order to make sure that embers from the fire didn’t get caught up on their house. the constant sound of planes flying over, swooping and dumping became normal and the uncertainty of what was going to happen was part of the atmosphere. After I had felt like I had taken up to much space I left and headed back home.


It was interesting to see the array of things that were left behind in some people rush to leave. Other people were taking their time however and I believe they were hoping that the evacuations would be called off. It was also interesting to see how different the atmosphere was when I crossed from 7th st to the next block. Cars filled up and people scurrying around on one block and no action on the next. (7th st was the evacuation border)



I hope that everyone I saw today has a house to come back to. It seems surreal that their homes could be destroyed since they are mostly in some of the oldest portions of Boulder. I guess only time will tell.



I was pretty fortunately this year to meet Melanie. She is from Germany but has been living in the US. When she moved back to Germany for a bit I decided to take a vacation to not only visit her, but also to check out where she is from, you know, get the guided tour from someone who lives there. So I got a ticket and headed off to Germany.


My flight was great, direct from Denver to Frankfurt. I got off the plane and walked on through customs and waiting at the other side was Melanie. It was great to see her! We headed off to see the country she grew up in… Of course, we started by getting some coffee since I was kinda jet Lagged.

The first morning I woke up Melanie was making breakfast and asked me to go to the pet store to get some feeder crickets for her brothers frogs. We were taking care of his apartment and his pets while he was on vacation and in exchange we also got to use his car. I agreed but in a small village in Germany, English isn’t exactly easy to come by… How exactly would you ask for crickets if you don’t speak any German? Melanie wrote me a note and I headed down the street to see what I could do. I walked in the store and looked around. Every where I looked I didn’t see any crickets… So finally I resorted to the note. After a quick greeting a woman took my note and grabbed some crickets and I was on my way.

We headed out to the world and over the next two weeks we were able to see Heidelberg, Sinsheim, Mannheim, Grombach, Bad Rappenau, Bad Wimpfen, Speyer and several other places along the way. We were able to see the Porsche Museum, The Auto & Technic museum and the Hockenheim ring. Yes, I know I am a nerd with the car stuff, but Melanie was very patient with my Car addiction and may have even enjoyed some of the experiences.

Melanie was great at showing me the area, we rode bikes to her families orchard, we explored Churches, castles and borgs. We ate all the local delicacies and we met people and saw what the towns had to offer. It was a great trip, a relaxing trip as well! We took photos of everything so how about I let you just check out each of the photos rather than ramble on!

Bad Wimpfen Germany

Bad Wimpfen

Borg near Sinsheim

Melanie outside of the borg near sinsheim. You can see the Vineyards in the background

A view of the Vineyards at the Borg near Sinsheim. I will have to find out what the name of this place is again.

The sunset over the Borg

a panorama of the Hockenheim ring, Melanie is sitting in the seats on the right.

Hockenheim Ring
A audi racing at the Hockenheim ring

Hockenheim Ring
Melanie had told me that Germans really like to bring their own lunch wherever they go. These guys brought an entire spread, it was quite impressive and they may have had enough for us to join them, though we didn’t ask…

Hockenheim Ring
The Hockenheim Ring Museum

mannheim germany
Mannheim Wasserturm

mannheim germany

Speyer, Germany
Speyer Dom

Chris’s frogs that we were taking care of. Yes, I have a note that can get me crickets at a german zoo shop…just in case.

sinsheim auto und technik museum
Sinsheim Auto & Technik museum.

porsche museum, stuttgart
Porsche Museum in Stuttgart

Daimlers Workshop, Stuttgart
Daimlers first workshop, this is where the first car was created.

Melanies Grandmothers Barn and courtyard

heidelberg germany
Heidelberg Castle

heidelberg germany

heidelberg germany
The old bridge in Heidelberg

I will put up another post soon of my favorite photos from the trip. I guess this one is more of a quick tour through my trip to Germany.

Four Mile Fire

I took a quick drive of the 4 mile fire burn area on Friday. The damage is spotty, it is very interesting to see places that it had completely skipped and other places where it had completely destroyed. There were trees burned up to the edge of buildings without the building being touched and there were buildings completely destroyed with untouched trees right next to them. I didn’t take many photos of the area this time, I expect to head up there again to check it out. but I did take this one. I thought this tree was really interesting. It seems so fragile but so resilient at the same time. I thought it was interesting to see it there stills standing against all odds.



People are hard at work up there, crews are clearing the damage and some have moved back into their homes. Others are scrambling up there to decide what they will do. It is eerie seeing a propped up mailbox sitting in front of an empty lot, I guess mail delivery must continue, but I would think they would redirect it or something. It is pretty interesting how much of the area still has live trees, however the areas that have been burned have dusty ash and not a bit of growth. I am curious to see how long it will take to see the brush start coming back. I am also interested to see if any of the partially burned trees survive.

I will head back up in the near future to take more photos and explore a bit more. I didn’t want to get in anyones way while I was up there. I am sure “Fire Tourism” is high right now…

Boulder Fire 9-6-10

I spent the day working on my friends shop. Installing soffits, grouting steps and basically doing light construction on the place. I had no idea what was going on north west of where we were. When I was driving home I could see this huge plume of smoke that was coming from Boulder. It looked pretty intense. When I finally got home I looked it up. 4 mile canyon is on fire. 3000 acres burned and hundreds are being evacuated.


I waited till the sun set and then headed out to an overlook about a mile from my house (about 18 miles from the fire) and took a few photos.


Boulder fire, with some stars...



Last night I went home afterward and realized that many of these shots were a bit out of focus, but I went to bed anyhow. This morning I woke up to the smell of smoke. The wind had shifted and the smoke was now going in the general direction of my house.

Driving into boulder today I stopped and snapped another quick photo.


The drive into work was pretty normal, but the haze and scent of smoke got more intense the closer I got. The fire is still going strong and the slurry planes are doing drops according to the news. I am curious to see what happens. If the fire is still going this evening then I will shoot more photos and post them up.

I shot some photos from the roof of my work today, It is pretty crazy watching all the slurry planes fly overhead. It is very hazy from our direction so it is tough to get a clear shot, but you get the point.






Air Show!

Ok, so, first, I’ll confess, as much as I do love seeing how things are made, how things work and just the incredible innovations that there are in the world of mechanics, I just haven’t ever really been that into air shows. I like the idea, I like to see all the parts to airplanes and I like to see them fly, but every air show seems as though you stand in 200 degree weather staring into the sun as a plane does its tricks. Without ever being in one of these aircraft it is tough to realize exactly what is going on with the pilot so the danger doesn’t seem quite as real.



With that being said, I got an email from a friend who works at the airport. He told me to come on out the Friday before the show and I could check it out without all the crowds. Well, that seems reasonable, so I headed out there and it turns out this is basically the full show, just in “practice” mode. Each of the planes went up and did their piece, the jets flew around at amazing speeds and I got a chance to walk around in a B24 liberator. The sun was hot, but it seemed to duck behind the clouds at just when you couldn’t take it anymore.


We got a chance to see a group of Yak planes flying in formation for several passes. There was an F18 displaying its power and maneuverability. An F16 was making passes at crazy speeds a Jet car raced a prop plane and stunt planes were defying all types of laws of aerodynamics as they tumbled through the sky.








I left that day and the following day was the show. I didn’t attend the show, but after work I had a nice evening on the patio at my friends place watching the jets buzz his house at crazy speeds and at the end of the night after we saw the liberator fly by we watched the fireworks fire off from the front patio of their house as well. Overall, it was a fun experience. Check it out when you have a chance!

Steamboat Colorado

It has been an eventful month or so. So many visitors and so little time! With each visitor that comes to town I seem to find another adventure to add to the list. It is funny how you can take for granted all the things you have access to when you live somewhere and sometimes it takes visitors to spark you to actually do these things!


My parents arrived in town a few weeks ago and it happened to be my dads birthday. My mom was prepared and had some plans lined up. How about a couple days in Steamboat and a day at Dig This!? Well, that all sounds pretty good to me. We ventured up to Steamboat and enjoyed the view from our condo on the mountain. The Bear Claw Condo’s are right in the midst of everything and I was fortunate to have a co-worker who was a resident of Steamboat who was able to point us to the best places to eat and things to do.

Steamboat is pretty amazing at all times of the year so finding nice scenery, hiking trails and other things to do is pretty easy. We spent some time in town, checking things out, some time on the mountain, hiking and enjoying the views and then of course, our time at Dig this.

Steamboat co








Steamboat Colorado

Dig This was a whole ‘nother experience compared to the rest. The premise is that most people are curious about how all that heavy equipment works. You see a bull dozer or an excavator and think to yourself, “I wonder what it’s like to drive one of those?! Could I do it?” Well you can do it at Dig This. They provide the machines and the instruction and you get to play with the machines and get the experience of operating them. This was a gift for my dads birthday, but I think my mom and I enjoyed it just as much as he did.

My dad ended up in a Dozer and my mom and I ended up in Excavators. The instructors were great, they gave us pretty good instruction and it was actually pretty remarkable how simple these machines are to operate. I think that it is a good indicator that with very simple instruction they just put us in the machines, showed us the basic controls and then sent us on our way!









At the end of the session we all were presented certificates from Dig This that said we had completed the Fast Tracks program. It was a 1 hour session in the machines and we were there for a couple hours by the end of our session.


Anyhow, head up to steamboat. It is a beautiful place all times of the year and we had a pretty incredible time in our short stay there!

Cadet Chapel and Pikes Peak

If you can’t appreciate natural beauty then you must appreciate architectural marvels right? On the 4th of July, we decided to take in both in the same day!

Air Force Cadet Chapel

We started our morning by heading down to the Air force academy in Colorado Springs. I had never been on base before and wasn’t exactly sure what hoops we’d have to jump through to get through their checkpoints. It was a simple process and no cavity searches were performed so the day started off nicely. You can see the Cadet chapel from the highway, though the closer you get to it the more impressive it seems. The chapel stands in distinct contrast to the other buildings there. It has a very modern look with metal and glass standing in a sharp point aimed to the sky.

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Melanie is here from Germany studying religion in America and wanted me to join her at one of her church experiences so I asked her to select an architectural masterpiece to visit and this is where we ended up. I am sure you can imagine that we looked maybe a smidge out of place with me looking around at all the architecture and the design and Melanie taking notes through the service. I suspect nobody noticed in the end however. We were able to check out the inside of the building as well however and it is pretty amazing. The background on the building is that it was built from 1959-1962 and designed by Walter Netsch. The chapel is constructed of tubular steel, aluminum panels and colored glass. One of my favorite things is the pews in the protestant chapel, they were designed to resemble WW1 era propellers, both the ends of the pews as well as the seat backs to the pews. The Organ is also on full display in the upper chapel. I have to admit however the cross behind the alter had a lot of resemblance to a sword in my mind and I don’t know how I feel about that.

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Air Force Cadet Chapel

We made our way downstairs to see the Catholic chapel as well, this is a much smaller space but the walls were nearly entirely stained glass and gave the impression that the ceiling was floating. It is a pretty interesting room. I didn’t know that there were two more rooms downstairs otherwise I would have looked at them as well. The Chapel apparently has a Jewish room and an “all faiths” room.

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Air Force Cadet Chapel

From there we headed to Pikes Peak. Of course I have been there a billion times, but Melanie had never been on top of this mountain and of course, with all my jibber jabber about the race and the road, well she kinda had to see it in real life to get an idea of what all the fuss was about. So we ascended the road and stopped at a few lookouts to enjoy the scenery. The day was beautiful and the weather couldn’t have been nicer! We spent some time at the top of the mountain before heading back down and took a nice panorama from the top as well!


Afterward we rushed back to get dinner with friends and then not watch fireworks because the rain had eliminated them as a possibility. It was a fun day though and it made me excited to see more architecture! I only brought my G9 with me on this adventure. I didn’t want to stick out to much with a huge camera taking pictures at the church!

PPIHC Video, Jimmy Olson and Spencer Steele

Well after a week on the mountain and posting GoPro’s all over two open wheel cars I had a chance to tinker with the footage we got. Unfortunately I haven’t had as much time as I’d like, but we put together a nice little video. The audio is all engine and the speed is all as it happened. It is pretty impressive to ride along and see how close they get to the edge!


Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, 2010

We crossed the startline at 4:30 AM and joined the procession up the hill. We were constantly moving as we rose up in elevation from 9000ft to 12,800ft and it took us 27 minutes to reach Devils playground. That is 9 miles and probably about 115 turns to get to this point. Racers take between 10.01 and 15 minutes to reach the summit which was another 2.5 miles away! I love this sort of perspective. It is incredible to think of the absolute skill, experience, precision and courage it takes to negotiate some of these corners and conditions at the speeds that it takes to make it to the top in this amount of time.


From our perch at Devils Playground we watched as the sun rose, it is always an amazing sight from the top of a mountain, but Pikes Peak has a certain way about it that seems to saturate the colors to bring the sunrise to life. Our time in the parking area consisted of making a nice hot meal and preparing for our hike up the mountain. Hiking up to Boulder park is a bit of a distance to cover and has an elevation gain of about 1200 ft. But it is worth it. The views from the final sections of dirt road are amazing. As the classes progressed we began making our way back to Devils playground. The clouds were beginning to close in on the mountain and with the threat of lightning it is always nice to know you are reasonably close to shelter.

The racing was intense. As a spectator you need to be patient with any TT style racing. One car passes then several minutes later another passes. It isn’t the constant action of a Formula 1 race or motocross race. You have to appreciate what the drivers are doing in order to appreciate this race. To give you an idea of what the drivers are doing here is a bit of a run-through of their drive to the top:
Monster Tajima’s car is said to have about 950hp at the start line. When he takes off he is accelerating through the start line on perfect pavement. Traveling at speeds up to 130 mph in a car by himself with nobody else helping him to know what is coming up. Drivers often loose track of where they are on the road because of the sheer quantity of turns. Each turn starts looking more and more like the last and there are pretty popular corners, like Engineers corner, that claim drivers who fall into this trap. When he approaches the Picnic grounds he is traveling at his max speed of about 130mph when he has to transition to dirt! This year the dirt was treated with Mag-chloride which firms up the dirt, but doesn’t make it drive like tarmac. So at this point he starts getting into switchbacks. (2009 shot of 11 mile’s drifting left hand corner) He needs to adjust his driving style to the type of traction that the new surface provides while going into a complicated drifting turn into a very tight and slower switchback. As he ascends the mountain he is constantly loosing power as he gains elevation and as he passes the ski area there are several deceptive corners. (2006 shot, heading into the Ski Area parking area) One I have heard people refer to as the “rookie corner” but that isn’t its real name. This is, what appears to be a soft right turn, but it has a later apex than people realize. Sliding off to the outside is a definite possibility if you carry to much speed. The corners continue to relentlessly bombard the drivers through this section. Drivers have to drift sideways to carry speed and they are on constantly variable conditions because of the mix of Mag-Chloride and loose dirt. They need to plan for a corner, but at the same time they need to be ready to react to a sudden unexpected spot of traction gain or loss. If you watch their in car cameras you can see constant corrections. A final hairpin left takes the drivers into a section of rough tarmac and dirt mixed together. This is Glen Cove and once they pass through a toll gate they are back on Tarmac. They accelerate up through some of the most intense elevation gains in the course through some of the tightest corners on the course.
A portion of this section is called the “W’s” this section looks like a cursive “W” from above but consists of very tight turns linked with long switchbacks. As they ascend into 18mile they round a corner in excess of 80mph that has no guard rail on the outside and has exposure of nearly 1000 ft.
Drivers corner a hairpin left and a 90 degree right out of devils playground into a drifting turn that changes from tarmac to dirt. This year the Monster nearly lost it on this transition. Carrying that much speed through two distinct surface conditions is a tricky task! This dirt up top is not treated with Mag-Chloride and is definitely more dusty and loose.
Drivers now have yet another condition to adjust too and in addition their cars are loosing power. The Monster has lost at least 140hp by this point just because of the lack of oxygen. Drivers also have to cope with this sudden drop in available oxygen since only 7 minutes before they were at 9000ft and now they are at 13,000ft!
Drivers head into Boulder park which has a series of turns that have claimed some of the best drivers in the past and head up Ragged edge.
This section lives up to its name with a very significant view of the exposure as you head up to a very sharp left hand turn.
Now there is a transition from dirt to pavement here as well, so driver need to adjust their driving style yet again! (2008 shot of the S turn at Boulder Park) As they approach the summit they have a high speed left turn that takes them across the finish line before they can start breathing again. At this final acceleration the monsters 950hp car is pushing only 665hp!

Of course this account is pretty basic and it completely eliminates variables like weather. Each year weather at the summit can vary from warm sun to cold, to rain, to snow, to hail and each year you are very likely to see several of these conditions throughout the day. The number of surface conditions that a driver can see on their way up the mountain are infinite and the number of changes to the course that they practice can be infinite as well. Spectators are often in the wrong place, they will spectate from racing lines and unknowingly cause drivers to have to adjust their line in order to avoid people.

Our view of the race was speckled with lightning strikes in the distance and nice puffy white clouds in the foreground. we could see the clouds sweeping over the summit and hoped that they wouldn’t sweep by as a driver was headed up. Adding the element of fog to the course is very dangerous and would be very hard for a driver to recover from. We watched as drivers drove past and listened as their motors climbed to the summit. Crowds would leap off the side trails when a V8 would rev in the distance and wait for it to pass by. We watched the final motorcycles from Devils playground. the amount of control it takes to drift a motorcycle around a corner is astounding and it is impressive to watch as they transition from tarmac to dirt as well. The final vehicle of the day was driven by Mike Ryan. He drives a Freightliner… that is right, a semi cab. He is an incredible driver and words can not describe the sight of a semi drifting around corners.

When the drivers are all finished there is a procession down the mountain. The spectators line the road and the drivers come down. I find this to be one of the most awesome parts of this race. To most spectators a driver is the number on the side of his car. There is no face or personality, there is a car that they are cheering for. At Pikes Peak each driver is someone to congratulate, a hand to slap five and a face that you can put with all that crazy driving you just watched head up the hill! I put a camera on Dave and Allison Kern’s car a couple years ago and at the end of their run they ran the camera on the way down. It is really cool to hear the kids ask them to rev the engine and the fans who are congratulating them on a fast time! (check it out toward the end of this video)

Throughout the day I shoot photos, but anymore I enjoy the race. It is funny, when I get home I always wish I took more photos, but when I am there I really enjoy taking in all that is going on. Anyhow, enjoy this recap and enjoy some of the photos that I DID take this time around.

If you have made it this far, definitely check out my entry from Practice as well. There are lots more photos there and more recap as well. Check back because we ran in-car cameras on several cars and you can follow this link to see the initial video from the incar GoPro’s Open Wheel Car videos

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Practice days

If you know me, you know I love this race. It is more than just cars racing against a clock, it is cars racing against extremely variable conditions, history, the clock and themselves. The more time I spend on the mountain and the more drivers that I have the good fortune to get to know the more I realize how much this race means to the people who participate.


This year I spend a good deal of my “spare” time helping the Kern’s prep their evo. The car is fantastic, but unfortunately two weeks before practice started at PPIHC they had a major failure. I rod blew through both sides of the engine block causing a large fireball to sweep through their engine compartment and wipe out most of their electronics. This is a HUGE setback, but Dave is probably the most determined guy I know… and apparently requires less sleep than anyone else in human history.

After countless hours packed into two weeks as well as a trip to chicago to have a new motor installed and tuned dave returned the day before the tech inspection and we buttoned up the final details throughout the day of tech inspection. It seemed that the impossible had been done. The car now sported a new aero package, all body panels had been fixed, new rear diff and of course a new power plant. This thing was about as new as could be! So I went to bed anticipating a good day. It is satisfying to go to bed knowing that you helped accomplish what you thought wouldn’t be accomplishable.

Practice began Wednesday and I woke from a bit of a nap at 5:30 am to the sound of a safety car passing by. The practice was about to begin and the sun was just rising. We had the opportunity to see Rhys Millens new car. This thing is a lemans style car that is built specifically for Pikes Peak. It is amazing to watch, but it is clear that it has some bugs to be worked out. The acceleration that it is capable of is intense however! We had the opportunity to see Dave and Allison fly up the mountain as well. Run after run they were looking smooth! Their lines were great and they were definitely looking fast. We had our eye on a few other cars as well. Spencer Steele and Jimmy Olson were running onboard cameras for a little project that I am playing with and they both drive pretty awesome open wheel cars. In addition the Monster has fully updated his vehicle and he is serious about trying to beat the 10 minute barrier again this year. It is always amazing to hear the high RPM roar of a stock car V8 as well. Those things sound so incredibly angry when they are under full throttle and finally Jeff Zwart in his Porsche GT3 cup car…well that thing just sounds amazing.




After the first day of practice we headed down and saw Dave and Allison fussing over the car. I pulled off and they had the motor apart. Turns out their timing belt snapped and basically obliterated the top end of their brand new, 3 run old motor. I couldn’t believe it! Dave hadn’t slept in probably 2 weeks and now this happens.

The next day we were on the top section. This section is the least viewed section since all the spectators typically are stopped at Devils playground. Boulder park is our choice viewing location and we were up there to see Rhys spin out, watch ACP show up and see an amazing sunrise. Dave flew past us again! How could he have possibly fixed that thing? Well, turns out they replaced the top end of the motor and during their run…well the bottom end let go.






On the third day of practice we were on the bottom section of the mountain. I was feeling pretty refreshed from several days of good sleep and recovery and was out taking some photos. We got word from Dave. They now had a stock motor in the car, but it was going onto the Dyno in an hour. That guy is an animal. Nothing will stop the Kerns from competing! Dave hasn’t had proper sleep in easily 2 weeks and yet the spirit hasn’t changed, his motivation is still just as high as it was when the week began. It is incredible!

After a full day of practice I went down to talk to my open wheeler friends. Jimmy and Spencer were having a good day, but Spencers motor let go as well. “Nothing I can’t fix before the race” he said in his normal mater of fact way. I was chatting with Jimmy’s wife Andrea afterward and she mentioned that she’d been coming up here since 1978 and told me about all the changes that have happened. I had a realization that this race is not just a race to most of these drivers. It is a family tradition, it is an annual reunion with racing friends. The banter that goes back and forth is from years and years of handing trophies back and forth to one another. It is fun to watch this race and I can say I have a sincere appreciation for the history and challenge that this race presents but I wonder if it will ever mean as much to me as it does to these people.



Today is friday, the event is Sunday and Dave now has a car that is in one piece. The car has been dyno tuned and not tested at all. The motor that is in the car is the same motor that they set the standing record in their class. (Time Attack 4wd) But the motor is about 250hp less than the motor that they started the event with. Anticipation is building as the weather reports show poor conditions approaching. It is going to be an interesting year on the mountain this year and only time will tell how it all plays out.