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The Bench Racers Journal
Chapter 82

So where are we going in such of a not so big hurry?

I thought about checking out some stuff at the hardware store. Got any gripes?

Nope, I dont need an excuse to hit Lindops.

Well Steve we are going to the other hardware store in Oats Plaza today. Its not that much farther anyway.

So how did you get your new protege off the phone so fast?

He aint my new protege and dont say sidekick either. I told him we would meet up today.

Oh man, you cant be serious? That kid wont shut up. He is going to be running his mouth nonstop. And I bet he is going to be talking mostly to you anyway.

The whole time we talked, he kept asking about what you thought about everything, or what you did to the engines. Guess he is going to be in for a big let down when he finds out you didnt hang the moon.

Relax Steve, you can share me once and a while. I gave Steve one of those big grins he always uses on me this time. All I gotta do is tell him you build our engines and he is all yours for the whole afternoon.

No way man, I will just sit there and put up with it today. I dont need that much attention, especially from him. Besides even tho he is a motor mouth, I never said he was stupid. Ignorant maybe, but stupid, no. He knows at least that much.

My arms started feeling the burn again from handling that chainsaw earlier, but not nearly as bad. We made good time pedaling up Ferguson and ended over at the hardware store. This store is almost new and lots bigger than the Lindops Ace Hardware store we usually like to hit.

Lindops Hardware is across in the older part of town. What i like about it is the old store was built back in the early 1920's. It reminds me of the general stores on all of the western shows I watch on tv.

As we pulled up on our bikes, there is Topher. He is sitting on one of the picnic tables for sale out in front of the store sipping on a bottle of Dr Pepper. He was wearing cargo shorts, a cool white polo shirt, and a baseball cap turned around backwards.

He also had the colar turned up on that shirt. Just how Lloyd Bridges playing as Mike Nelson always wears it in every single episode of Seahunt. What was a little bit over the top is the aviation glasses he was wearing. Those reflective ones all the air force pilots use. But really seemed to fit with him perfectly.

Hey guys, sure is cool for you to invite me here. I didnt have anything else going on. I was just sitting at home with nothing to do but watch the tube all day. But this is a lot cooler anyway. Do you guys live close around here? My house is almost on the other side of the track. Not too far I guess, on my bike, but sure would not want to walk it on foot.

Yea this is way too far for us to walk too. I think it is about the same distance to my house from here as it is to the track. Give or take a few footsteps.

So what were you wanting to check out here, Topher? Hardware stores are me and Steves home away from home. They got some of just about everything here. Aint that right Steve? Yea whatever you say. I am just here for the laughs.

Well I needed some bolts for my kart. But not sure about the sizes and stuff. Could you help me out with that?

No problem Topher. You wish is my command. Me or Terry will help you out all we can. Steve bowed down and rolled his arm out servant style.

Chris gave out the biggest grin I have seen from him so far. Like he was really enjoying all of this attention focused on him right now. You guys sure are funny around each other. I bet you have known each other like forever. I have moved around a few times, so dont have any really long time friends like that. I hope to stay in one place for a few years. Mom seems to think it could happen this time.

Well thats not exactly the way it is, Topher. Steve goes on with an explanation. I went to a private Catholic School and we didnt meet up until the fifth grade. But we seem to have a lot of the same interests. And Terry would be completely lost without me around fixing up all of his messes sometimes.

Chris responded back. Uh yea, oooookie? If you say so, that is not what I expected to hear.

Actually Topher, we both manage to help each other out when things get screwed up. I dont know how to explain it, but Steve can sort of do some things better than me and the other way around too.

If he breaks it, I fix it, If I breaks it, I fix it. Something like that.

Man you are so full of your self as usual.

Chill Steve, remember you just came along for the laughs. I am doing the best I can with what there is to work with.

Outside the hardware store Topher tells us he needs bolts that hold the shroud on his engine. They always vibrate loose and fall out. Some of those pins that will fit the wheels, and two more bolts for the exhaust thing. The stock muffler bolts are way too long.

I brought one of the old shroud bolts with me so it can be matched. But there are so many to pick from. How am I supposed to figure out which ones are the best? I replaced some of these already, but they still keep coming back out.

Well lets go in and see what they got. We go barging in to the hardware store making more noise than we should. Naturally everyone close by turns to give us that death stare. Like we are in a library and are supposed to be really quiet.

It is usually very quite in this store anyways. Almost like a museum with a collection of everything. It was overwhelming the first time I came in this place alone. With my dad, it was different. We talked about what was needed and walked right over to the correct isle and found everything that we were looking for. Well most of the time.

My first time alone, it was like walking into a really large room, like a gymnasium that was full of so much stuff you couldnt make out what anything actually was. Any noise made was echoed thru the store and I was too scared to even talk to a store clerk.

But now, I know where just about everything is in the store. Even things I have no interest in. I can talk chainsaws and lawnmowers with the department heads and even find a toliet bowl ring if needed, too.

Topher continued explaining, The last time I bought these same type of bolts for the shroud. He shows me a short 1/4" diameter bolt with a flat screwdriver slot. They fell off the next time I raced. What can I do so that doesnt happen again?

Did you have a lock washer under the bolt?

Well one of them had a funny looking washer. It looked like a star or something. But the others were gone already. Is that what I didnt do right? Would the washer keep it from coming off again?

Steve butts in saying that Topher also has the wrong type of bolts. This one he brought to match is what they use to put a stove together with. Not really strong enough for anything else. Then Steve pointed to a few bins down at the bottom in front of us. This is the stove bolt section. We need to move farther down the isle. Hey Terry, dont you think he should replace it with a hex head bolt?

Yea that will work better. Hey Topher, you need to find a 1/4"-20 hex head bolt that is at least 1/2" long. If you can find one that is 5/8" long will be even better. Then use a different type lock washer this time.

He immediately starts pulling steel drawers open looking at what sizes are marked inside the bins. He finally says, I found them. These are 1/4" here. Oh wait, never mind these are some type of gal-van, uh-ized lag screws it says here. And they got a square head. I guess these wont work.

Hey you are at the wrong end. All of that over there is for wood fences. Come down here where the regular nuts and bolts are. Steve pulled open a drawer labeled 1/4-20 hex head 1/2 - 1 1/2" Grade 5.

Hey, here are the ones you want. These are much stronger than those slotted ones are anyway. Do you see the three hash marks on the head there? That means they are Grade 5. They have the right length too. These are 5/8" long. Should be perfect and also use the full length of threads in the side cover.

Should I get a box of them Terry? Or just a few right now? Do you think these will end up falling out? I dont want to miss a race because of not having enough extras.

No, you shouldnt need but a few extras. With the right lock washer and these better grade bolts, they should stay put this time.

How do you know what ones are better? So why are the old ones not right for my motor then? What is Grade 5? Steve then points to a chart with symbols and explanations above the bolt bins. You should try reading this sometime.

Those screws would be fine for their original purpose Topher. But that engine was never intended to be used on a racing kart. That engine has likely been in production longer than you have been alive. It could sit out in a field hooked to an irrigation pump or on a lawnmower for years and nothing would ever come loose.

But when someone decided to put it on a kart, well, you find out real fast where there are shortcomings. Like you have been finding out already. What other ones do you need?

Oh yea, these other ones are for the exhaust thingy. The old ones are too long and bottomed out. I tried adding spacers, but they kept coming loose. I had to change the old muffler my motor came with.

Are you talking about your exhaust header? What kind is it?

It is the small one that just sticks straight out. I think it is aluminum. There is a slot on both sides and three holes on the end. I had that big muffler, but it finally broke. Another racer sold this one to me. I think he said it came off a chainsaw. It has been modified and will make my motor run a lot faster. That is what he told me anyway.

It does run faster now. Much better than when that big muffler was on it. The bolts for that big muffler are too long. So I used some of the extra shroud bolts instead. Like this one that came on it. But these here are barely long enough to hold it on.

OK, no problem. The big muffler uses bolts that are 1 1/4" inch long. You probably need some that are no longer than one inch. Then use those same lock washers like you picked up for the shroud. Does that get you everything?

Now I need some of those pins that fit in the slotted bolts for the wheels.

I think you mean cotter pins for castle nuts? Steve points down to the other end of the isle. Those will be down there. Do you know what size they are? We use either 3/32" or 1/8" diameter that are 1 1/2" long. Can you tell which size by looking?

Thanks Steve, you guys are super helpful. I would be here all day trying to figure out which ones to get. Let me see. Yea it is these here. I remember getting the smaller ones last time. Those fit real loose in the holes drilled in my axles. They dont always stay in place unless you add an extra bend to one.

Hey Terry, what brand of tools do you like? I dont really have any right now. Fish lets me use his, but they are usually scattered all over his shop. Its hard to find the right sizes that fit my kart. But he doesnt have some of the sizes that fits my kart either. I dont even have any tools to work on stuff at home.

Topher, it really depends on how much money you have to spend on them. The tools here are decent. They are a little bit cheaper than the ones Sears sells. But Craftsman tools are what I have. It has taken me a long time to finally get almost a full set.

If it wasnt for Christmas and birthdays, I wouldnt have much in the way of hand tools for my own. My dad has a full set in the garage. But I hate using them. They always seem to be getting left out. Not always by me either.

Just then Steve glared over at me. I know you dont mean me. I dont leave your dads tools out. I usually go around behind you and pick them up. No Steve, but you know my brothers are worse than I am.

Dad doesnt like it when he finds tools are all over the place. And since I use them most of the time, I get the blame. So I finally started putting a set together for myself. Mostly everything I would use working on the karts and engines. So far I have enough to get by with. But you never have enough tools. Never ever.

Well if you think Craftsman tools are the best for me, I will get what I need. Can you help pick out what I should buy first? Hey, would you mind riding over to Sears in Casa View? You can show me some of the tools I should start with. That would be so cool.

What do you think Steve? Hey, where did Steve go? Wasnt he just here a minute ago? Hey STEVE, where are you?

Sorry man, over here at the tools isle. When you started talking tools, I remembered something. Dad was wanting me to see what sizes they had in stock for wood chisels. He has a project I get to help him with. He wants to show me how to do some inlays or something like that. Maybe cut in some hinges or striker plate for a door too. I dont exactly know for sure.

Wow, you guys sure know how to do a lot of things. I wouldnt have a clue where to start on anything like that. I sure would like to learn how to fix my kart, but dont know anyone that can really show me what to do. Most everyone I know doesnt even know how to do it for themselves either.

Well Topher, hanging around me and Steve, you will get to hate doing everything yourself. After a point it gets overwhelming. The more you learn, the more there is to learn. It never stops. Just starts to snowball down the hill.
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Chapter 83

Hey Steve, you up to an extended road trip? Like farther up Ferguson to Sears? It is still plenty early enough. We have the time, if you want to go?

Sure man, what are we going there for? Really Steve, you have to ask?

Oh yea, we can go to the tool and drool section. I am up for that. They have some decent wood working tools there too. I can play with those easily as the ones here. Lets get to it then.

After Topher paid for his small stash of hardware, we headed out a little bit farther from home. It was only another two miles, but a lot of traffic this time of day on Ferguson. So we took the back roads thru the neighborhood to get there.

When we got to Sears, it was nearly 1:30. The store closes at 4 pm. So we had plenty of time to see what we could not live without in the tool department. It was sort of a waste, since we were not doing much but hands on window shopping.

What are you thinking about getting for your first tools? Do you want to buy them as sets or just certain ones that you need to work on your kart? If you can afford the sets, it is a one time purchase. You will have most of what you need plus the other sizes that might work for other things later on.

This stuff gets expensive really fast. I have this small 1/4 inch drive socket set. It fits most of the things on our karts. A Crescent wrench works good enough for the larger sizes. Then a combination wrench set from 3/8 up to 3/4 like this one gets you covered pretty good. Except for a screwdriver set, that will do most of what you need to work on.

All of these tools would be so cool to have. I just about have have enough money to buy most of what you have suggested. But I dont have a way to get all of it home today. What do you think I should buy first?

Maybe I should go ahead and buy everything I can right now. None of it will do any good if I am missing part of what is needed to get any work done.

Are you serious? You have enough money to buy all of this? Huh? Oh no, I didnt bring that much with me. I wasnt planning on buying tools today. Only those parts from the hardware store.

Well, if you have enough money at home, what about putting all of this on lay-away? Then you can come back, pay off the ba1ance and take everything home when you have a way to carry all of it.

What a great idea! I didnt know I could do that. Alright then, help me pick out everything I need. I dont want to waste a lot of money just to have something I might not ever use tho. Can you help me with this?

Steve went to grab a shopping kart. We went thru some of the tool sets and made sure Topher had the right tools to do most of the work he would likely have to do on a kart. He decided on the larger set of screwdrivers, thinking there was other things at home they could be useful for.

The socket set he chose was the standard 1/4' drive set. Similar to mine minus a couple of luxury items. The sockets ranged from 3/16 to 1/2 inch. This set included a ratchet, short and long extension, and break over bar. He wanted to stay with only the wrenches that fit his kart. But after adding up the individual prices, it was cheaper to buy the medium size set and one extra size it didnt have.

I also told him to add a socket the set does not come with. He needed to grab the 9/16 socket to his tools. Then he should be set with the basics for now. Just remember what sizes you find out later that are needed so you can pick them up next time at the store.

Another two items he wanted is wire cutters and needle nose pliers. I can make use of these for a lot of things at home. This is getting expensive, but I knew eventually they would be have to be bought. This will also make it a lot easier if I need to do work on my bicycle too.

Time to head out I guess. Lets make some lay-away happen. As we were pushing thru the lawn and garden section, I saw a shiny new David Bradley chainsaw sitting up on display. I couldnt just pass on by. Topher, check this out. I grabbed the big chainsaw with only one hand and set it down on the floor. Hey pick this big dude up.

Topher reaches down and grabs it one handed with no luck. Then tries again with both hands. But the saw only tilted over slightly. Otherwise it didnt move from the floor. I got a big laugh seeing him try to pick it up. That dang thing is heavy.

I was using this exact same model all morning. By the time I got finished cutting up the tree, my arms were so tired, I couldnt even pick it back up off the ground. Just like you tried there. Can you imagine throwing one of these around all day every day?

Wow, I think it would be fun to play with. You know to try cutting up a tree. But no way could I ever use one all day. He then held up his arm trying to make his muscle more pronounced. But there wasnt any difference relaxed or in form.

As you can see muscles are not my strong point. With him saying that he followed by a slightly high pitched chuckle. Steve squeezed his arm trying to find a muscle. Man I would demand my money back if it was me. That followed by another chuckle from Topher.

Hey Steve I am going to hold on to the saw. You try to start it, OK? Heck no man, what if it actually fires up. Get real, there isnt any gas in the tank. And besides the kill switch is in the off position.

Steve got a hold of the pull handle and yanked really hard. The roped tightened up, jerked back and his hand broke free of the grab handle. What the heck? Is it locked up? Or does it have some serious compression?

Dude you are such a wimp. Let me show you how it is done. Hold on to it. And hold on tight. I dont want the chainsaw flying across the store. Yea man, I got it. If you are trying to show off, then go right ahead and try. I bet a coke you cant do any better.

Steve had just grabbed the rope and yanked without knowing what to expect. I pulled the rope up tight and rolled the engine over to top dead center. OK guys, watch this? Then making sure there was no slack, I pulled it thru hard and fast.

The chainsaw went gur-gur-gur-grgrger, then stopped. That is how you do it. OK Steve I have recuperated from this morning. You ready to try me at arm wrestling yet? Its been over 30 minutes, so I am good now.

Nah man, I will pass again. No reason for me to show you up. I dont want to embarrass you in front of the kid here. No reason to shatter his illusion of you so soon and let him down. Oh you know I was just kidding about the coke.

We seemed to catch the attention of a sales clerk. He came over, actually running, then started in to us about messing with the merchandise. You kids quit playing around with that. It is not a toy. Why do you kids think it is alright just to come in here and help yourselves to whatever you want? You kids have no business messing with something like this chainsaw, especially since you arent old enough to even use one.

This sales clerk kept ranting on about how kids should behave and if he had any say so in how they should be disciplined when defying their elders would set them straight.

About this time the store manager came over to see what all the commotion was. Edgar, what seems to be the problem here?

Sir, I was just explaining to these juvenile delinquents about life. I caught them here vandalizing this chainsaw inside the store for some reason. Kids these days just dont think before acting out. They just want to tear everything up. I doubt they were up to any good either. Just like those hoodlums back in Chicago. They are all the same everywhere. Nothing but trouble. What would have happened if the chainsaw started? I bet they didint even bother to think about that!

I looked up to the manager and said, Hello Mr Jackson how is it going today?

Just great, you boys staying out of trouble? So, are you breaking in my new sales clerk?

Sir, with all due respect, I have been employed by Sears for more than 4 years. I would hardly consider myself new with that much experience.

Edgar, there is a difference in kids showing interest in things and kids that like to vandalize. I dont think we have anything to worry about here. And you cant be serious about the possibility of this chainsaw actually starting up. I sure hope you are smarter than that.

Sir you just dont know how bad kids are these days, Well back in Chicago, there wasnt one day that past without some major trouble from these kind of juvenile delinquents. They are all the same. Turn you back for a second and they will rob you blind. Mark my words.

That will be all, Edgar.

So boys, you in the market for another chainsaw? Terry, how is that one holding up your grandfather bought a few years ago? I cant imagine it is worn out already. Oh I am so sorry to hear about his passing earlier this year. He will be missed by a lot of people.

Thank you sir, I appreciate that. His chainsaw still looks brand new. Sometimes a little bit hard to start when sitting up for a long time. Sure was heavy to haul around all morning cutting down a tree. I used it this morning helping out my grandmother. Man that sure was a workout.

I took this opportunity glancing over to Edgar and give him a smirky grin. Just could not help myself. He didnt look too happy right now for some reason.

Edgar, Mr Jackson goes on to say, I believe there are some customers in need of assistance over there with a mattress. Maybe you should head over to your department and see what help you might have to offer them. Edgar didnt respond back. Instead just turned and walked off.

Sorry boys, Edgar was just transferred down from Chicago. Seems he isnt too partial to kids. Maybe things are not so layed back up there in Chicago. He is sort of an uptight fellow as it is. I dont know yet if things are going to work out with him. He had several complaints from customers already. I dont take too kindly to that.

Well if there is anything I can help you boys with, be sure to let me know. Mr Jackson looks around and sees the shopping cart full of tools. So are these yours? Man that is a nice haul there.

Yes sir, Topher here is buying his first set of tools. We were trying to pick out only what he would need to start with.

So your name is Topher. Seems like I have seen you in the store one time before? Is that correct?

Yes sir, I was looking at the tools a few weeks ago. But didnt know what I should buy. Terry and Steve have been helping me a lot today. Then he holds out his hand and says, It is nice to meet you, Mr Jackson.

Likewise there Topher.

Mr Jackson reaches into his pocket and pulls out a few nickles. Hey I bet you boys could each use a bottle of pop. There is a machine right past the Lay-A-Way counter. Go help yourselves. You boys take care now. I need to get back to work. Looks like Edgar may be at it again.
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Chapter 84

We finally make it over to the the Lay-a-way department, then piled up everything on the counter. After she totaled it up, I was in shock. I didnt expect it to be so much. Dude I am sorry. I didnt realize it was going to cost this much. Guess we got carried away.

Huh? What is the problem? I am not paying for it all today. Isnt that why you suggested to put it in lay-a-way?

Well yes, but I didnt realize it would be so much money. Can you afford all of this?

Yea Terry, I got it covered. Just didnt bring that much with me today. Mom told me whatever I needed, just to let her know. But dont waste a bunch of money buying things I dont really have use for.

If I put $20 on the lay-away, that leaves enough left over to buy lunch for you guys helping me out today. I never would have been able to figure what to do without the help from both of you.

As we walked out of the Sears store, I was still in shock. This kid dropped more money today than I have ever had in my pocket at any one time. Well anytime I didnt have a reason to save that much.

OK guys, we can eat at the Wyatts Cafeteria, that pizza place over there, or ride back down to the Dairyette. Which one do you want? I am sort of hungry. Sure hope you are too. I hate eating by myself all the time.

How about we hit the Dairyette? Dont you ride your bike down Oats Drive to get back home?

Yea Terry, that makes sense. But Gus Thomasson or Oates will get be back home about the same time. So it doesnt matter to me. But a root beer float is awfully tempting. How about cheeseburgers, tater tots and the floats? Sound good to you guys?

Do the tater tots come with melted cheese on top? Steve asked with a really big guilty grin. That could be a deal breaker if they dont. Tater tots are good. But tater tots with cheese are awesome.

Its my treat Steve. Whatever you guys want. Besides I always get them with cheese too. They are awesome with cheese. But I think pizza would have to be just a little bit more awesome, if I had to make a choice between them. You know just saying. But I do eat way too much pizza.

We raced back down Ferguson to the Dairyette. Not nearly as much traffic going back this way. We arrived at the Dariyette and headed for one of the outside tables. All the time I have eaten here, it has either been in a car or outside on a table. I dont recall ever going inside to eat. I dont even know what it looks like inside.

Hey, why dont we eat inside today? I have never even been in there before. We moved our bikes up close to the entrance and piled thru the door. There was a row of booths against the front windows. Somebody pick a booth. I dont want to sit on stools up at the counter.

After sitting down, the waitress came over with three glasses of water and ready to take our order. Topher asked if everyone was on the same page with what we decided earlier. Sounds good to me, Steve replied.

We need three cheeseburgers, all the way with grilled onions, a super size tater tot with cheese and three root beer floats. Dont hold back on that ice cream either.

Mam, can I get change please? Topher handed her a dollar bill. Then she promptly reached down to her coin changer clicking off and handing back a stack of dimes and nickles. Thank you very much, mam.

Topher hopped up and went over to the Rock-ola jukebox on the far wall and crammed it full of dimes. Then came back and sat down. I didnt know what you guys like, so tried to cover all the bases. We got some Hank Williams, Buddy Holley and Elvis. Oh and that new song from Jimmy Dean.

For the next hour we just made small talk. I was surprised that Topher didnt completely run out of steam with him going non stop about everything. He even managed a whole conversation while eating his cheeseburger.

It didnt take long to figure out that Topher was extremely intelligent and very perceptive. I remember Steve mentioning that Topher was anything but stupid. It was sort of hard to figure that out at first, since he doesnt really know much about how anything actually works.

But I could tell those gears in his head were working in overdrive as I went into detail about the kart engines, and what we had been doing trying all this stuff to get faster. This kid is like a dry sponge, as my grandfather would always use explaining how some people could absorb all kinds of information and process it.

But then went on with just the opposite when some people could absorb some things coming in one ear then go sailing right out the other one. My grandfather whistled wind sounds and making a curlycue with his finger with his explanation. This time, I am certain Topher was absorbing everything we talked about and it stayed inside that noggin of his for future reference.

Some people can recite what others have said, but not understand a single word. More like parroting what they hear from someone. I think Topher has a full grasp on just about everything we have talked about so far.

Its like explaining something new to a person then showing them a picture to further illustrate it. Thats when everything falls in to place and makes complete sense. When he sees an engine torn down into pieces, then a lot of stuff we talked about will come to make sense to him almost immediately.

We did find out Topher is 12 years old. Actually just turned 12 one month earlier, if that makes any difference. It seemed to make some difference to him. Even with the nonstop chatter from him, he still listened to every word when me and Steve were able to get one in.

He had attended a high end private school before his parents got a divorce, but now enrolled in 7th grade public school this year where he lives with his mom. He is on the track and swim team. But not all that interested in either of them.

We have been listening to him talk about some of the places he has been to. One in particular I found very hilarious. Well more like unbelievable. But I am starting to figure out that Topher is an anomaly.

At the 1961 Indy 500 race, the very one me and Steve both watched on separate televisions while discussing the race in detail over the phone, Topher was actually there. Like there, as in person.

His dad likes to go to the bigger races, including Daytona. He had been to so many places I have only heard about. Those bigger than life institutions that I only find out watching the Wide World of Sports and sometimes in the news. Or if real lucky watch live coverage on television.

Topher was there watching the race in real time close to the start finish line. He went into a lot more detail on many of the wrecks and incidents than were covered on TV. He was even involved in one incident and got a big kick out of telling us it actually included one of the Indy 500 drivers.

His dad had secured pit passes and even had access to the garages for them. Since he had some business to attend to, left Topher there alone to go exploring the track for the day. It is amazing what a kid can find out if he just happens to keep his eyes open and stays in the shadows with his mouth shut.

Trying to picture Topher with his mouth shut for any length of time seemed a little far fetched and way out of character for him, but I went with it. He had gone around the pits and managed to acquire a lot of autographs from many of the better known drivers.

Topher has a way of starting up conversations with complete strangers. Without any trouble at doing so. That does fit his personality. Maybe this is why I am here right now eating a cheeseburger with him. He is really fun to be around and loves talking about racing.

He had managed to get the autograph of Eddie Sachs. It is one he had missed several times at previous races, He went on how exciting it was to finally have that autograph. He has a lot of them from other drivers, but this one had been evading him for a long time.

So I was running for all it was worth heading back to our seats. Dad had returned and was up watching the days events. Nothing real exciting that day, just practice and later in the afternoon more time trials.

I made it up the stairwell and around the corner heading up to the next level of seats. There wasnt a lot of traffic so not really paying attention to who was around. But I ended up slamming into a man making the corner just then. I knocked some guy right on his butt. I mean slammed him and he went down hard. I bounced off and landed on my butt too.

After apologizing, I turned and looked up to see my dad above on the next level standing there staring down at me. Dad was stunned at what had just taken place for some reason. Dad, dad look what I got. I got it! Finally I got his autograph. Eddie Sachs signed my race program! I cant believe it. He signed it. I have his autograph!

Topher then went on explaining how his dad reacted. Dads mouth was covered with his hand and he was pointing to the man I knocked down. Yea dad, I know. I apologized to him. He said it was alright. No harm done.

But dad kept his mouth covered shaking his head back and forth. He finally just covered his face and looked down to the ground. Just like someone would do when completely overcome about something.

Dad I got his autograph. Isnt that awesome? But dad kept pointing to the man I knocked down. I finally stopped talking and looked at the man still sitting there on his butt. He finally picked himself up. So you got Eddies autograph? Pretty impressive, I dont even have that one.

Then this man reached out and grabbed the Indy 500 cap off my head. He pulled a marker from his shirt pocket and wrote something on my hat. Hey kid, here is another one for you. Just in case you dont have it yet. The man just smiled and put the hat back on my head.

I was still completely lost just then, still focused on my latest acquisition. I had been trying forever and now its mine. That is when I took an up and close look at the man I had crashed into and knocked on his butt. That is when something clicked in my head. How could I be so blind?

My jaw opened wide and I couldnt breathe. I swore my heart stopped beating for a whole minute. There was a burning sensation passing over my face too. It was so strong I felt it all the way down to my toes. This was followed by my heart kick starting up again and going into hyper speed.

The man patted me on my back and finally started to walk off. Enjoy the race son. But watch that speed in the turns.

OK, with this much of his story already told, me and Steve were completely hooked on every word. But why did he stop right there? Then he took the last bite of his cheeseburger and washed it down with a large gulp from the root beer float.

Topher sure wasnt holding back on telling the story. He sure wasnt being discreet either. When he is excited, the word quiet never plays into the equation.

I looked around the Dairyette and everyone in the place was staring right at us. Or should I say staring at Topher. It seems he managed to have everyone elses attention at the moment too. Not just mine and Steves.

Chris stayed there quietly chewing and finally sawllowing the last of his cheeseburger. After another gulp of the root beer float, he exhaled and just stopped moving for a moment. He looked back up at both of us again.

You are not going to believe this guys. I mean you wont believe me. I still cant believe it happened. Sometimes I might get too carried away with things. I wanted his autograph for so long and finally I had it right there in my hand too. My race program had his autograph! Eddie Sachs!

I looked at that man, and tried to say something. But it was hard for me to even breathe. Then finally I managed to choke out something. OH I am so sorry! I am such an idiot for not looking where I was going!

Then for some reason I held out my race program. Uh, sir, You can have it. I am so sorry. That is when he turned back around and spoke. It is quite alright, his autograph is worth more to you that it is to me. You go ahead keep it. But thanks for the offer. You take care. Then he was gone. Just like that the whole world had stopped for those few seconds.

I shook out of my trance and the world started back up again. I was in total disbelief of what I saw. It couldnt be. No way. What an idiot I am. How stupid can I be? Was it really him? No way that was not possible.

By now the whole place was completely quiet. Well except for Topher. He is actually very good at telling a story. I figured this aint his first rodeo in front of a crowd. He must be drawing this out for the dramatic effect.

Topher takes this time to stop talking and cram a couple of tater tots in his mouth. Then washing them down with the glass of water the waitress had brought us when we first took our seats.

OK guys, I finally removed the hat from my head and looked at what that man had written on it. Are you ready for this?

"To the fastest kid I have ever run up against A J Foyt"

That is the honest to gosh truth guys. I told you it was unbelievable. I still cant believe it happened. But it did happen. Just the way I said too. I have that hat sitting at home right now. I have AJ FOYTS autograph TOO!

The whole place had been totally silent. Then the clapping started up. Not like when one person starts then the rest follows in. The whole place was immediately a loud non stop clatter of applause from everyone in there.

Well, that is one story hard to beat. I sure wasnt going to try to top it either. Not that I had anything even close to tell about anyway. About this time I realized we should have eaten outside by ourselves. I dont do so well around lots of people.

When things went back down to normal, the music was now replacing the attention from the others here. We got back to a much quieter conversation about nothing in particular. It is odd to see Chris not talking about something. But his lack of conversation was being supplemented by slurping on his root beer float.

You had mentioned something about how you got your name Topher. But didnt give any real details at the track when I asked about it.

Well its not that exciting. It is really sort of embarrassing now thinking about it. I was not very old, like six. I had just started school and we were outside playing during recess with some of the older students.

Two of the guys were picking teams for a basketball game. I didnt know any of them at the time. One guy asked what my name was. I sort of was not paying attention just then, But I blurted out Chris ttttopher. It must have sounded like like my full name to him I guess.

OK Topher, can you play basket ball? I nodded my head up and down. But really never played before. I had been to see the Globetrotters and a Celtics game. So sort of knew how the game was played.

Good enough then, Topher you play left guard, kay? He told me this while pointing over to the far side of the court. For my first game, I just passed the ball and tried not to get in the way. I had never shot baskets before, but did a decent job passing the ball around.

Fortunately I didnt make any major mistakes during that game. The team captain told me "Good job there Topher". Next time you can be on my team again. Got it? I thanked him for picking me and felt good for the rest of the day. After school I practiced all afternoon trying to shoot baskets.

I sucked at first. But later when a guy came by to shoot baskets, I sat there watching him drop one in after another. He finally asked if I wanted to trade shots. I told him I wasnt very good. He said that he wasnt either not too long ago. You dont get any good by not ever trying.

So we shot baskets for a while. He explained to me how to make some different types of shots. By the time we finished I was getting the hang of it. Hey my name is Jeremy, what is yours. Without even thinking, I just spit out Topher. It just sort of stuck after that.

But that is not even the first time when I got the name. When I was even younger, everyone always called me Chris. I didnt know any different. Only my name was Chris because that is what everyone called me. Sometimes when mom was mad about something she would call me Chris-topher. You know sounding like my full name. But I didnt know my full name because nobody ever called me by it.

Since mom would call dad by two names when he did something wrong, I thought Chris Topher must be both of my names. It just slipped that time in school. I was nervous about playing with the older kids that day. Then later when shooting baskets with the other guy. It was stuck in my head and slipped out.

It wasnt until much later did I finally realize I had three full names and shared the last one with my family. When I was really young, why would I know any different until someone explained it to me. Does that make any sense of just sound like I was really stupid?

Wow I had never thought about it that way. It makes a whole lot of sense now after your story. Something that has always been assumed to be one way. Why would anybody really know differently?

Something so basic as your name and unless it was explained, you could only make an assumption based on what you have heard until knowing enough to realize what it actually is.

This got me to thinking about how many things in life are assumed. It may be years before you ever find out. But a lot of things are not so important that it would even matter. But what about those things that really do matter?
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Chapter 85

After Chris ran out of lifes lessons, we got back to talking about average stuff. Then Steve mentioned once again about maybe going back to Fabens and giving it one more shot.

Topher got really excited hearing this. Are you guys going to come back out to the track? That would be awesome. It was so fun racing last time with both of you.

Me and Steve had discussed the possibility about another night at the track. This track is way too close not to try again. Even tho our first attempt had been a complete failure with all of the good ole boys treatment from the people running the track.

I dont know about hitting Fabens again. He got screwed over hard last time. I still dont know why the spark plugs got broken. That really pissed me off in the last heat. Why would someone be so afraid of us that they would sabotage our karts.

Do what? What are you talking about? Both you guys ran the third heat. What happened? Chris was asking us about the spark plugs that had been broken.

Yea Topher. Uh, do you mind being called Chris or prefer Topher? Anyway at the start of the third heat both the karts would not start up. I jumped out looking around and saw the spark plugs had been broken. It was not an accident, because the rubber boot was split on mine.

Fortunately my dad kept extra spark plugs in his apron. You know we had talked about what might be good to have on the grid. In case one got fouled. I never thought about having to change both of them at the same time.

We got them changed out really quick. Steve had it easy, he stayed seated while I removed them and dad replaced the plugs. Just left me very pissed off when I finally got on the track. After the karts started back up the flag man held us there.

It was so smokey from the other karts just leaving, I couldnt see anything. Steve slammed on his brakes, and I swerved over so not to hit the back of his kart. There was some guy just standing in the hot pits not paying any attention to what was going on and I nearly ran him over.

Are you serious? Someone actually broke them so you guys might not make the last heat race? That really sucks. I didnt hear about that. I guess you dont have any idea of who would have done that either?

I guess the Westbend guys are on your list of suspects. That would make a lot of sense. But if nobody saw anything, I dont think you can accuse them of doing it. Do you think their dad could have done it during intermission?

Well I went over the karts right after the second heat race. Everything was ready. Then we spent time hashing out all of the things going on by then. When our last race came around, I didnt think about double checking the karts, since I made a good effort to have them ready.

Man I was so mad after finding both spark plugs broken off. I could accept one plug as broken. That is always something that could happen. But to have both of them busted for the one heat race that counts for the finish position, someone was definitely wanting to make sure we didnt run the last heat race.

That sure sucks for you guys. The first time you come out there to race and then everything that happened. I dont know what I would do if someone targeted me. I cant believe there are people out there that only see winning as a goal regardless how it is accomplished.

So do you guys plan to come back out and race again? If you do, then maybe we could pit together and then all of us keep an eye on our stuff. I sure dont mind keeping a watchful eye out for your karts. I can help you work on the karts too. Just tell me what you want done and make sure I do it the right way the first time.

I would really like to learn how to work on my kart. So any stuff you guys can teach me, I would be more than happy to help out on other things. Doesnt matter what it is either.
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Chapter 86

It has been a week already and all that has been on my mind is the one conversation we had with Topher or now Chris. He thought it would be cool for me to call him Chris. But he still prefers Topher to his school friends and other guys he knows at the track.

Chris explained to me that Topher is the one unique identifying mark that sets him apart from just somebody named Chris. Especially since that is what he has gone by since first starting school. But after thinking it over, he decided he liked the idea of me using his actual name, instead of his nick.

I have to admit that getting to know Topher, or now with his permission, Chris, he doesnt need a unique nick name to use as an identifying mark to set him apart from just some other lunk head. He has that totally covered already.

It would be a challenge to go back to Fabens and try again, since we got hammered by the flagman in every heat race. But the competition was more than worth racing against. Especially since our karts handled and engines ran very well.

Even with those two Westbends being faster, it was still exciting to run with them by using some brains instead of relying on a lead foot. You cant beat someone all the time just from raw horsepower.

Raw horsepower is something none of the Clinton engines have against any Westbend in the Junior Bushing class. But taking full advantage of what you do have to work with can make a big difference.

The two brothers running those Westbends are much faster than every other driver in the class. But they dont work together on the track. The whole time they are leading, they also fight for position between each other.

By fighting for the lead position every lap, their times drop way back much slower. Some of the laps were even slower than what me and Steve had been running when working together. So long as we kept running inline with each other, it didnt take too long to catch up to them.

If they worked together for a few laps, nobody else would be able to catch up to them. Chris told me the two brothers had taken themselves out out of the race several times already. But for some reason every time this happened the heat race got a restart.

When asked why it was restarted, the flagman said all the drivers paid to race and deserved to get their track time. But when any other driver got taken out, for whatever reason, well that is racing, get used to it.

I thought no matter what we did, it would end up the same way as the one time we raced there. I didnt see how we could pull off anything if the flagman was only favoring his two kids running those Westbends.

Steve was right about his understanding of how the karts are set up and geared. My kart is faster in a straight line. But his kart can make up that difference thru the tighter turns or in traffic.

I could easily get caught behind a slightly slower kart and be stuck there, while Steve could pass us both and pull away. Unless the slower kart made a mistake somewhere, I might never get around it.

I dont know if it is so critical, but we are running two teeth different between almost identical setups. A 72 and 74. What if the best gear size is really a 73? As of right now only even numbers are available from any manufacturer. There is only a few companies even offering them right now.

Maybe if we are both geared the same, and with the modified carburetors ....... Wow, Steve might be right about running up there with the Westbends. Gears are grinding in my head thinking about what all it will take so we could do this.

I really need a new set of tires. Steves kart is just about perfect. Maybe try the modified carburetor on his kart to find out which gear works out best. The smaller 72 gear on my kart or the 74 gear on his kart.

Would it make the engine turn too much rpm with the modified carburetor and bigger gear? I guess we need to take another trip out to the track for some real testing this time.

Each time so far we went to the track for practice, Frank was there plagued with problems. I realized early on he was the problem for all of the problems he was having. It is not like I could tell him that.

Every time something went wrong, I focused on trying to figure out why. The only way any of the problems could happen is because Frank assumes the work he has done was done correctly. He way overthinks things for sure.

When he decided to set his kart up like he thought it should have been done originally, well thats when things went south fast. It would not handle and even worse was completely undriveable. While getting Frank sidetracked, like getting him driving Steves kart on the track, I tried to fix all of the fixes he had just fixed on his kart.

An engineers job is to solve problems. But Frank has a way of causing more problems than he could ever fix. Some are not so hard to rectify. But the other ones are too extreme to do much good at the track.

I could barely keep a straight face when Frank thought he figured out why his kart got out of wack so fast after he did such a fantastic job setting it up. He assured me the frame, after just getting enough run time on the track, well it was sprung.

He went into an in depth explanation on how this very thing could happen. Since his kart being a prototype, it was not likely built in a jig. But more likely setup one time on just a fixture table.

So more likely, as I wear out this one word he was constantly using in his explanation, the frame was not perfectly fitted when getting welded together. It was probably forced down and clamped then welded. So that little bit of resistance on the frame rails would cause the weight distribution to go all crazy after having been run for a while.

I wonder if Frank actually sits around drinking too much beer all day thinking this crap up. I mean he is an engineer after all. So that highly educated brain of his is supposed to solve problems.

But the one problem he cant solve is Frank. I think that is what the problem really is. But Frank wont ever figure this out for himself. It must be some kind of yankee thing. It sure fits the way I see things when he is involved.

So he said that has to be the only thing which could possibly cause his kart to become undriveable so quickly. The only other reasoning was it must have been possessed. At least he sort of laughed when telling me this hypothesis.

But since Frank is the only guy available to keep an eye on us so we can go to the track for practice, I have to rely on him for that. Mom is definitely not all that trusting with him, well not trusting at all really, but so far me and Steve have not killed ourselves yet, under his careful watch.

I would also like to help Chris, much as I can, and maybe get his kart more up to speed. I had no idea his kart had a dead axle. The whole time at the races we were so plagued with distractions, I never had much chance to even check out it out.

He was seriously asking about converting his kart over to a live axle. That might work just fine. But the engine would need some improvements to push the extra drag. His engine is totally stock with exception for changing out the carburetor and getting rid of that stock muffler.

Those are also the two best first choices for increasing power from the engine. Some more improvements can then be done to make an even bigger difference. I have learned a lot from the little bit of testing we have actually accomplished so far.

So without actually going all crazy grinding the ports, a few changes and adjustments can yield about the same benefit. The modified carburetor is a big plus, but only after addressing the ridiculously small reed petals on the intake manifold.

Swapping out to an aftermarket manifold is a much better choice, but the bigger reed petals and opening up the stock intake passage makes a huge difference. More than worth it if you dont have a Go-Power or Palmini manifold to use.

I should set up mine and Steves engines identical, then we track test and make adjustments until getting them fast as possible. I could have the backup engine set up differently to try other things we have not worked out yet.

If there is a chance of Chris coming out there with us, would be even better to work on getting faster. But if relying on Frank for chaperone, might prove less than useful like from the previous two times on the track.

Each time we went to the track for testing, I spent all my practice time working on Franks super duper prototype Dart Special wannabe A-Bone. I was thinking his prototype kart might have been built right before the A-Bone was introduced. Now I am almost certain it was built even before the Super K chassis.

There were some major changes from his prototype to what is now a proven and extremely fast design, known as the Dart A-Bone. Would Frank be willing to update his kart? I know the steering shaft has to be changed out. That thing is so flimsy I could bend it in a hard run. Or even with a fence post as a track side repair.

After some measuring I found out the wheelbase is longer on his prototype frame. Converting from a dead to live axle, the wheelbase didnt change so much originally. But the A-Bone is a lot shorter. It might be easy enough to update his kart.

So why do I keep going overboard thinking about everyone elses stuff? Steve wants to go race at Fabens again, and I need to do what I can to make the karts faster to be competitive enough to run against the Westbends.

I know we can run with them. That is if they keep fighting for position racing against each other. We found that out quick enough. They also dont do so well in traffic or being pressured from someone else following them.

There is one other thing I realized running up with those brothers. They have a tendency to just turn into you or try to knock you off the track. If I made a clean pass, they would just ram into me and try to force my kart off into the weeds.

This sucks too. Every time we did make some ground on them, we were blamed for anything that could change the scoring if they didnt end up in front of us at the finish of the race.

When I tried out the modified carburetor on our second practice day, my kart was noticeably faster. But I also used the Palmini intake manifold with the four petal Go-Power reed. This type combination has been recommended in all of the hop-up articles I read in the magazines.

Up until this year the only bigger carburetor available was that McCulloch flat back model. Not the original Mc 10 carburetor made of magnesium, but the later style of aluminum having a larger bore and venturi.

A big improvement on any engine that had been equipped with the Tillotson is just swapping out to a McCulloch carburetor. Or even better for the higher horsepower engines, make sure you have two carburetors on your engine.

Last year, Tillotson did not have anything comparable to the aluminum Mac carburetor. But now they have the new HL-115A. It is supposed to make a huge difference over the HL-93 model that came on the Mc6 and later model Mc10 engines.

The biggest chainsaw carburetors made by Tillotson have a 13/16 bore, 11/16 venturi and 7/8 air horn. The new HL-115A is advertised as a 1 inch bore. But really is only 15/16 and steps out to one inch bore at the flange. It does have a larger 3/4 venturi and a one inch air horn.

If I could afford one of these, would really make the Clinton run faster. But Frank keeps saying it is way too big for such an anemic engine. He thought that one carburetor I modified on my little Craftsman lathe was actually the new HL-115A.

He just kept going on about showing good smarts, investing in that new carburetor instead of wasting my time modifying those smaller ones from older chainsaws

But naturally Franks Westbend 580, according to his engineers mind, would be more than enough capable enough to handling that almost HL-115A he thought my modified carburetor was. So naturally I interpret this to mean it should work just fine on the Clinton.

I have to admit after machining the carburetor out so big, which was originally a model HL-66A, easily looked like the new HL-115A. That is until you set them side by side. The only carburetor Frank had for comparison is the HL-88A on his engine. This modified carburetor looks huge compared to one on his Westbend.

The Tillotson HL-88A, which replaced the smaller HL-15A, has only one major difference. The throttle bore is slightly larger. It is bored out from 13/16 to 7/8 of an inch. Even most of the drilled passages are the same size.

I lucked out by copying the drilled fuel passages to match an HL-93A from a Mc10 engine. I found it in a box of parts we had been given last summer after cleaning up the scrap pile at Gasset, that small engine repair shop across the street from the Dairyette.

Mr Grimes was so impressed with how great of a job we did, he even paid us cash plus what we had agreed on originally. We made out good from that one Saturdays work. If not for all of the junk engines we got to keep, me and Steve would be sitting on the sidelines still trying to figure out how to put something together to race some day.

Copying the drilled passages from that HL-93A worked on the modified carburetor. It runs extremely well when using the Palmini manifold. So we might even be fast enough to run right up with those two Westbends. It is possible.

Time to set up the little 6 inch Craftsman lathe again and bore out at least two more of those chainsaw carburetors. It should not take much time since I am just repeating what has already been done. But now I dont have to wonder if it will work this time.

Originally my plan was to use those HL-87A model carburetors I have several of in the parts surplus. This particular model did not come with provisions for the choke assembly.

I thought these would work great without having to plug the choke shaft holes. But after boring one out, the casting was too thin and broke thru where the boss is for the shaft.

Another more critical reason for scraping the idea of using these is the fuel circuit is very complicated compared to the newer models. The high speed circuit is routed in a very odd mannered way. So much that I didnt want to chance it not working out after doing all of the machine work on one.

When we make it out for another practice or test session at the track, the one thing important is finding out if the stock manifolds we cleaned up and installed larger reeds in, runs good enough to use with the bored out carburetors. Otherwise we need to buy another Palmini or Go-Power manifold.

I keep thinking about helping out Chris getting his kart set up to be a lot more competitive. At our only race, me and Steve did great minus a few bad calls from the flagman. OK really every call made from the flagman that night. He didnt hold anything back on us.

At the end of every heat race, Chris was the only driver finishing consistently in front of all the other drivers in our class. Even tho he does not run fast enough to even be a factor against the two Westbends, he was still faster than all of the other entries that night.

If all three of us practice and work together, we should be able to give the Westbend guys a hard time. And even likely beat them at their own game. So long as they keep fighting against themselves for position, we could possibly beat them without even ganging up.

It would be awesome if we didnt have to block them after making a pass. Neither brother cared much about driving clean when me or Steve did get around them. They turned into our karts, cut us off, or intentionally tried to force us off the track.

With all of the chaos on the track, we are the only ones getting black flagged or disqualified for poor sportsmanship. That cant happen again if we have any chance of beating them at the next race. I want to make a clean pass, then we work together getting some distance on them. Then no way could we get accused of anything but putting on a good race.

I guess Steve is all for going to the track again. I still need to motivate myself more first. My thoughts have been leaning toward going to the Whizzer track next time. Mr. Pennington from school last year, said they have a great race program and lots of participation in every class.

They do run under GKCA rules or now what is officially going to be the International Kart Federation, or IKF, after the first of the year. So I would have to read up on what classes we can run with the engines in our stock pile. Sounds to me like more time and more money to get competitive.

It would be cool to move up to a faster class and use that McCulloch chainsaw engine. But I would be starting all over again trying to figure out what makes it run well. I still barely have a grasp on these Clintons.

As of right now I am just starting to understand a little bit about the Clintons. Even tho there isnt any real difference with other two stroke engines. There is no reason to abandon these engines just to step up to a faster class just because it is faster.

I bet it could get expensive if very many mistakes are made before getting everything working right. But so long as we have a lot of spare spares with the Clintons, we should stick with them. Especially since we cant really afford anything faster.
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