December 4, 2020

Our Nation’s Sweetest Wine

There’s an episode of King of the Hill where the guys rent a backhoe to dig up and replace Bill’s septic tank. Drew Carey shows up, and makes Bill and Dale feel threatened. So they steal the backhoe, go to the pet cemetery to practice, and end up falling into the hole they dug. Eventually Hank finds them, helps them get out, and takes them and the backhoe out of the pet cemetery. As the credits fade in, Bill speaks a line that Hank immediately shuts down. Bill says:

Friendship is our nation’s sweetest wine

That line has always stuck with me, because while this country devolves into whatever nightmare is up next we’ve always had our friends. Those people we shared common interests with, and bonded with because of those shared interests. Yeah, they can come and go, but there are some we’ve made through whatever it was we were doing that have always stuck around. Or that you only see when doing said thing. Right now I’m talking about the latter, and the people I’m talking about are you: the NASA Utah folks.

So we don’t really hang out outside of the track, or other NASA Utah functions, and the number of you that have been to my house I can count on my two hands. That doesn’t really matter. I get just as excited to see you guys every month (or whenever) as I do when another friend comes over to my house. Why?

Because we’ve had some experiences we’ll NEVER have with anyone else. I watched you get your first podium, and you saw me wedge my ass into a too small seat and take my first laps. We’ve bullshitted in the garages, you’ve fed me and kept me from dying from thirst, and you got way too excited when you saw your photo on a postage stamp sized screen. We shared in the joy of off track joys, and lamented on track sorrows.

I’ve enjoyed being out there, trying to be a fly on the wall and capture all the moments of a track day. But every time I head home, I’m left wanting. Not because I didn’t enjoy being out there, or shooting, but because I wasn’t really out there. Let me explain

While I’ve been out at the track, experiencing the weekends and braving the elements, it was on the periphery. Yes, the orange vest got me into places I probably shouldn’t have and let me see and hear things I probably shouldn’t have, it also acted as a barrier. It kept me from really being a part of things. It was a giant, orange sign that said “he’s here, but not here here”. For 2020, I’d like to change that.

While I love shooting photos, talking with everyone, and heat stroke, I’d much rather be driving. I’ve always loved driving. It’s what I do when I need to clear my head, let stuff out, or to have a good time. Well, it WAS what I did when I had something I felt comfortable doing that stuff in. With the van, while fun and adorable, it’s not the same as my old Integra, Supra, or even the GTI. And I’m not using it for what I bought it for. I’ve barely camped in it, I haven’t shot any photos using it as a platform, and most of the stuff I bring to a track day or on a trip can be put in a trunk… or in a hatch.

I did 1 HPDE day a couple years ago, and I borrowed Scott Chamberlain’s E36 for it. I wedged myself into his seat for three sessions, and while I pointed by every other car in my group, it was still one of the most fun days I’ve ever had out at UMC. I want to have more of those days, have the fun the rest of you are having.

I’m not going to stop shooting. I’ll still be running around in an orange vest, talking to you all, eating your leftover catering, celebrating your joys, and empathizing with your sorrows. But I want to start doing. And you can help by buying some photos from this, or any other event I’ve been to

To that end: if you’ve got a suggestion for my new car, drop them in the comments. I will say it will have to pull double duty as a daily and track car, so I know there will be compromises in both arenas. Here’s what’s been suggested so far:

  • NC Miata
  • FRS/BRZ/GT86
  • 350/370Z
  • 8th or 9th gen Civic Si

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Michael Chandler

Director of Photography, writer, man about town and owner of Big Ronda, the Mk3 Toyota Supra project

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