Gravity Payments, $70,000 For All Employees

“What is it to you if I am generous?”- God

A link to a page to follow the Gravity Payments results of the $70,000 a year minimum wage for employees. – Added 8-29-02016

A link to a page to an update on Gravity Payment in 9-26-2019.

Dan Price (Gravity Payments CEO) On  Yang Speaks Podcast (On Youtube) Very good discussion! – Added 9-9-02020

The above quote was shared with me via a friend. There is no argument that there is income inequality in the USA. This week there was a huge story from Gravity Payments founder Dan Price that he will both slash his own salary to $70,000 and raise the minimum salary of each employee to $70,000, even the office clerk. This was happening the same week as strikes for $15/hour minimum wage by fast food worker across the country.

Gravity is not the first company to voluntarily pay their employees higher than minimum wage. QuikTrip which pays cashier’s $40,000 a year and Costco which pays its employees $44,000 a year are two other noted examples. They are also much larger than Gravity Payments as they have thousands of employees while Gravity has 120. That is not to diminish it’s accomplishments but just to highlight facts. This is a big deal!

After I read this news I was initially quite excited at the change we are seeing these days. I have been quietly debating with friends and myself the merits of a higher minimum wage. This was exactly what I wanted! People were finally able to have a comfortable living. Shortly after that I began to contemplate further. Even the “lowest paid clerk” will make $70,000, over double their current salary, earning the promised $70,000 within the next three years. How will the, currently,  higher paid personnel react? Will their salaries raise also? For example if there was a person earning $80,000 already, compared to someone earning $40,000 currently, the $80,000 earner might be a bit peeved to learn that someone’s salary has raised $30,000 while his has remained stagnant. We are not sure if that’s the case or if higher earners wages were also increased. I will speculate that they were not. I must hope that they will take it in swing. They will recognize that it is his money and they are not losing money simply because their neighbors are now making more. They also have the opportunity to leave a company that has already showed it’s a generous company, to make more money elsewhere if they can.

This reminds me of a passage from the bible.

Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”” (Matthew 20:1-16, NIV)

The workers who came late and worked only one hour were paid as much as the people who worked the full day. Naturally the people who worked the full day were pissed! But they were reminded that no money was taken from them.

As for the people who received the huge raises, I hope they recognize how lucky they are. I hope that they all recognize the good fortune they have been given and pass some along to others who are less fortunate than themselves.One driver for inflation, in my mind, is the excess of money in the hands of individuals. If 2 people both want a thing that is $50 and there is only one left, this will create an increased price for that part. They may end up paying $100 for something that was only worth $50 initially. To combat this price war on things, we need to focus on being less materialistic. If we become happier with what we have, then the increased salaries will be just fine. The people might spend them responsibly, paying off loans or securing a future via a larger down payment on a home or larger retirement deferrals. They would do good to reference this article about retiring a millionaire. If this creates a culture of people worrying about others happiness and their own future instead of buying more material things,  this will have been a great experiment indeed.

I have found through my own journey thus far that I was really only able to realize that I could give some away more after I realized that I had enough. It’s natural for people to seek security. If that means saving up $50,000 or $100,000 before they start donating to charities that’s fine. Another good way to give without giving money is by volunteering time. Your time is just as valuable as money. You could use your time to make money or you could give it away freely. When donating time, don’t feel bad that you aren’t donating money,and don’t let others make you feel bad you aren’t donating money either. This is one issue with our culture is we like to point out the flaws we see in others instead of pointing out the positive. I have done this above a bit, in pointing out that the higher earners could be upset, but I did that just as a thought experiment and to provide discussion that I’m sure others were thinking. When I discussed this topic with friends and they mentioned it I told them what i have written. Let’s be happy that the CEO is doing good!

I did a cost of living using this calculator and found that $70,000 in Seattle is comparable to $56,000 in my current city of Cedar Falls, Iowa. While this is still above the median USA household income, it’s not by much, and it is still $70,000.

How would you react to a situation like this?

Trust. Government Regulation. Guns and Income Inequality (Oh And Of Course Smoking)

I have been wanting to write about gun control and income inequality recently but as I’ve been researching and talking with people I have come across some interesting similarities between both topics that I feel the need to expound upon.

The basic idea shared by both these topics is how much government regulation should be exercised over each issue? I think it’s important to try to understand what is really being said, despite the words used. When a person says I want more government regulation, what they are really saying is “I trust the government to make better choices for my life than I can for myself.”

I am completely ok with that statement if some people want to make it. In fact, it’s probably quite accurate for the majority of people, not because the government is incredibly smart, but because people are often incredibly self centered and ignorant of how the world works. I would never make this statement myself. I am the architect of my own future.

For every regulation you think the government should make you should also be arguing for more taxes. OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO. I’m not paying more taxes, you say. Ah. Herein lies the problem. People can’t see the world beyond the walls of their own home and they think that the government should take care of them, but they don’t want to pay for it. People expect someone else to pay for it and this is the problem with arbitrarily raising the minimum wage.

How do you conduct your shopping? If you are like most people out there you first ask “What is the cheapest way I can get this?” If that includes buying things from Walmart, which you are very vocal about not liking on Facebook, or buying a burger from a fast food joint because it’s fast, cheap and therefore convenient, you are part of the problem. If you wanted to do something active to make companies listen to you you need to start talking with your wallet. Read this article about Moo Cluck Moo. It is a semi-fast food joint in Michigan that pays its workers $15/hour. Here is the important part for you lazy people who won’t read it “In order to make this model work, customers have to pay a little more.” If you go to McDonalds because it’s faster or cheaper but then argue that McDonald’s should raise their minimum wage, you are part of the problem. That is called internet activism my friends and it’s as useless as a knife at a gun fight.

The same principle has been enacted in the argument for smoking. People are arguing that the government can remove someone’s free choice to smoke and your free choice to avoid establishments that endorse smoking because you think the government is smarter than you. If you are in the NRA you should also be trying to help smokers get back their choice to smoke in places that business owners think it is beneficial for their business (public places like gas stations and hospitals where it’s inherently dangerous excluded). Read my article on smoking if you want to understand that more. If however you are in the NRA but you think that it’s ok to deny restaurants the right to choose if they will have smoking or not, you are really saying that you DO trust the government to make good choices for you and all your arguments for no gun registration is as worthless as a gasoline engine on the moon. (For those of you who don’t understand this, an engine running on gasoline needs oxygen to run, of which there is none on the moon.)

So let’s recap. The question is how much do you trust your government? If you say, unequivocally but argue against higher taxes, you are a liar. If you say I don’t trust the government at all (NRA people and anti-gun registration folks) but argue for some regulation like seat belt laws and smoking laws I also call you a liar.

This is my challenge to you. Let’s start taking a little responsibility for ourselves. Do the right thing! If you think you can make good life choices for yourself lets see you do that. If you don’t think you are capable of making good life choices for yourself, please give your whole paycheck to the government and let them tell you exactly what you should be doing for a job, where you should live, what you should eat etc.

Mark Rain Flickr Creative Commons, cover photo

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Movie Review

I believe watching movies can help us reflect on current situations in our society. I recently watched the movie “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”.

The first thing I do when watching a movie is to identify the motivations of each character. It is also useful to identify what power each character or group has.

Malcolm is the main protagonist in the movie on the human side.His goal is to get the dam working again to provide power for the humans but also work with the apes for peace.

Dreyfus is the main antagonist on the side of the humans. He refuses to see the apes as intelligent or capable of reason. He is prejudiced against them as animals despite evidence showed to the contrary. His drive is to provide power to the city as they are running out of gasoline so their main goal is to restart the hydroelectric dam. He has power because he is ex-military and started the human city. He has provided protection for others so they trust him.

Caesar is the leader of the apes and the main protagonist of peace in the movie, even more so than Malcolm. He is constantly asked to trust the humans despite the continued disobedience of his conditions, by certain individuals, mainly Carver early in the movie.

Koba is the #2 ape, antagonist and main war monger. He refuses to listen to Cesar’s leadership and calls for peace. He is influenced by his past of being a lab animal and having humans do many painful experiments on him. His main flaw is looking at everything from a self-centered point of view and holding on to hatred from his past to a group of people (scientists) and applying that hate to the new group of people who had nothing to do with that. He eventually resorts to nefarious means to attain his agenda.

The humans main power comes from technology and knowledge.

The apes main power comes from being physically stronger than the humans. One of the characters also mentions that the apes are stronger because they “Don’t need electricity.” They are more resilient to nature.

The movie starts with a brief review of the history of how the humans were negatively affected by the testing that had been completed on the apes. Then it moves to the community in the woods that the apes have established. Caesar and Maurice (an orangutan and close friend of Caesar’s) are discussing the humans and how they have not seen or heard of them in 2 years.

Of course, the next thing that happens a few apes wandering around the woods stumble upon Carver, who’s with a party of humans looking to restart the hydroelectric dam to supply power to the city. Carver immediately feels threatened, because he is afraid of the apes and lacks knowledge about them. He ends up shooting Ash, one of the apes. The rest of the apes descended on Carver and the rest of the humans, Malcolm being part of that group. Caesar uses his wisdom to allow the humans to leave peacefully despite Koba’s insistence of punishing the humans. The apes retrieve Malcolm’s notebook and bookbag at the site of the attack.

Pondering what to do next the apes decide a show of force is necessary. They march down to the human’s city in a show of force. They return the bookbag to Malcolm and issue a warning for the humans not to return to the forest.

What follows from here is some trust building and breaking among the humans and apes as a small contingent, including Malcolm, return to the apes to ask them to be allowed to work on the dam. Cesar again complies in believing that working together is the only way to help both species.

It is around this point it becomes obvious that most of the characters on each side are quite trusting of the other side and willing to work together. It is also obvious that there are some characters on each side who are irrationally afraid of the other side. Carver being the human and Koba being the ape who are most guilty. This is an important point that should be considered and applied to the world at large. Most people are good decent people, but there are just a few violent or ignorant people who choose to make the world a bad place.

Koba eventually steals a gun and shoots Caesar. He makes it look like a human killed Caesar. With no investigation he works the apes up into a frenzy and they attack the city. This is another very important turning point of the story. There is absolutely no investigation by the apes to see if it was indeed a human who killed Caesar. They take Koba’s word because he was the 2nd in command, but he is a twisted individual and has chosen to use his power for evil. Can you think of any situations in the modern world where people jump to conclusions way before any evidence has been shown? Have you ever done this yourself?

Meanwhile, Malcolm has found Caesar and learned that Koba was the real killer. He starts nursing Caesar back to and brings him back to the city.

During his attack on the city Koba shows signs of a dictatorship. He imprisons any apes that are still loyal to Caesar and his ideals of peace. At one point during the attack one ape refuses to kill a human, saying that’s not what Caesar would have wanted. Koba responds by killing that ape.

Malcolm finds Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes, and brings him to see his father. Blue Eyes shares the information that “Fear makes the other apes follow Caesar”. Does Koba’s reign of terror remind you of any point in history? How about any current regimes? Nazis? North Korea? U.S.S.R?

The end of the movie includes the triumphant return of Caesar to power and his ousting of the evil that is Koba.

Overall I thought this was a great movie when thinking of how it applies to current situations such as when groups of people react irrationally and with a lack of information.

It also shows how a few bad people can really affect humanity negatively by using misinformation and hate to lead good people to do evil.

I encourage you to start thinking in these types of terms both when you are watching movies and in your own life. What power do you wield? How do you use it to affect those around you? When you learn of a situation, do you jump to conclusions quickly or do you take time to think through rationally and understand what is really happening?

Ross Elliott – cover photo, Flickr Creative Commons

Local Treasures

People often think that things need to be far away from themselves to be interesting or cool. That’s just not the case. I have been looking for things around my (current) town of Cedar Falls, Iowa that can be counted as interesting or cool, in the gearhead sense. Here’s a short list of what I have found thus far.

MotoGents – A group of friends who like motorcycles, building them, and living the lifestyle. They had their first motorcycle show the other weekend in town and it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of new people who have a similar passion for bikes as myself. My bobber was welcomed and I saw a lot of other cool local bikes as well.

1st MotoGents bike show

1st MotoGents bike show

Team SpeedASalt – A local shop teacher who got the need for speed after visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats recently. He has since banded together a group of people who enjoy performance vehicles and he is building a land speed racer, locally!

Waterloo Technical Society – This is a group of people who are passionate about technology. They meet once a month to talk about their latest projects, meet like minded people and learn about something cool being done locally. I just found out about this after 2 years living here.

Cedar Falls Raceway – This is a local drag strip. It’s so great to be able to drive 5 miles to a drag strip, make 20 passes (for $25) and be home in 5 more minutes. You also meet lots of people who would love to give you advice. They’ve been there, done that and they want to help you avoid the same mistakes they made.

drag racing 2013

Iowa SCCA – If you’ve never been to a SCCA race but you love cars, you need to go. SCCA = Sports Car Club of America. They host race events in parking lots and race tracks. It’s another great place to meet people passionate about cars, like yourself. They have them all over the country. Find your nearest and run what you brung.


Iowa Enduro Riders Association – This is the local dirt bike racing community. They are sanctioned by the AMA (American Motorcycle Association). I have driven a hare scramble and they are one of the most fun ways to be a gearhead. You get so much seat time, 2 hours, vs. 1 minute for the SCCA or 10 seconds for drag racing. They have events all over the state so you can do them every weekend, or just when they are close, like I do.

Monster Jam! – There will be a Monster Jam event in my backyard soon. I’ve never been to one, but I have been wanting to for a few years only. Huge trucks, huge engines. These things are technical masterpieces. What isn’t to like for a gearhead?

Independence Motor Speedway – Dirt Track Circle Track racing has been in my family for many years. I have had a love/hate relationship with it in that time. It can get stressful in the pits! But I usually enjoy watching something live instead of watching it on tv. Check it out!

Iowa Speedway – This is a (relatively) local NASCAR track. It’s about 1.5 hours from my home, which is not that far to see something that is broadcast nationally. I had never been to a NASCAR race before this year and it was a great time.

Twisted Kreationz– A local painter. His work looks good. I haven’t talked with him personally, yet.

This Monte Carlo – This car built by Daniel Howe, Iowa local. It’s been featured in many magazines. I ran into Dan recently at a SCCA event (see above) and he was a great guy to talk to. He was so passionate about his car. It was double interesting to me as I also have a Monte Carlo and had recognized his car at a show a year earlier.


Car shows – There are plenty of local car shows. You just need to look for them!

One of my favorites is Vintage Torque Fest in Dubuque, IA. Check out some local cars here.

This Model T Ford is a mixture of Gasser and Rat Rod. It's mostly for fun, and not so much for actual performance. This engine has a straight pipe for each cylinder. They are actually about the best you can get for flow, unless you start dabbling in tuned length runners, etc. It's really an independent header for each cylinder.  I think it's awesome!

Car from Vintage Torque Fest

Antique Archeology – More commonly known as The American Pickers Guys. I haven’t been there yet, and they don’t only do cars, but they do find some occasionally.

JP Cycles National Motorcycle Museum  – This is a motorcycle museum that is full of motorcycles of all brands. You can get so close to the bikes and the variety is incredible.

This is just a short list of a few of the local things I have thought of. There are so many other people I have met and things I have watched and participated in. I hope this inspires you to look locally for cool things happening in your community.

Do you usually feel you need to travel far to see “cool” or “interesting” events and people or do you embrace the resources in your local community?
What is your favorite local gearhead happening?
What is your favorite local car builder?

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Bugatti Veyron, Elio And My Wheel Life

I read an interesting article today about the Bugatti Veyron, the most expensive production car, that had any significant volume. Don’t tell me about the $4 million Lambo they made 3 of, they’ve made hundreds of Veyrons. That a lot for a hypercar. It ended with this sentence. “The Bentley customer on average owns 8 cars. The average Bugatti customer has about 84 cars, 3 jets and one yacht.” Along with a book I’ve been reading, this sentence got me thinking.

Bugatti Veyron Thanks to Axion23 (Flickr Creative Commons)

Bugatti Veyron
Thanks to Axion23 (Flickr Creative Commons)

What is the purpose of a supercar (or 84). I’ve lusted after supercars, muscle cars, dirt bikes, Harley’s, rat rods and muscle cars since I was young. My father was a “car guy”, and really he was a race car driver, which is a special kind of car guy who loves to spend even more of his his money than the average car guy on his car and a car guy who actually drives his car hard 99% of the time (except when idling around the pits.)

Dad racing picture

Anyway, between that and the time I saw a guy who was about 5 years older than me driving his Firebird around with some attractive girls, I’ve always been attracted to cars (and girls).

I am pretty lucky and blessed as peoples lives go. I currently own a total of 5 licensed vehicles, including a Honda bobber I built mostly myself and a GSXR 600, a Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe, a Mustang a winter beater truck, and a dirt bike, just for fun, and even some projects sitting at my parents home to be completed…. sometime. I recently had a realization of sorts that it just might be financially feasible for me to purchase some of the vehicles I had lusted after as a child. 2012 Boss Mustang? Dodge Viper? Corvette? Ferrari?

I ran into a few problems once I started down this line of thinking. One problem was the insurance, registration and maintenance on the cars I had already was a pretty significant annual cost. Another was, as I’m a big fan of “giving back” I started to contemplate if it was reasonable for me to have so much while some has so little.

Which brings me back to the question, why do we keep building more and more vehicles for ourselves? Are we trying to buy happiness? This has lead me to ask myself “What will really make me happy?” A sentence from “Deep Economy” by Bill McKibben states “volunteer work of all kinds generated ‘high levels of joy, exceeded only by dancing’. Why? The most common answers included ‘I meet people and make friends through it.’”

So are we really getting all this satisfaction from more and more cars? My personal answer seems to be a no. Which is a difficult thing to say. I have loved cars since I can remember. I even went school to design them (I’m working on diesel engines, a bit of a compromise, but still designing and engines, I’ll count it as a win).

I’ve been attending a financial club which has been telling me some things that are not novel by any means but might sound that way just because of the stories we’re fed by the media. One is “Don’t buy a car with a loan, pay cash.” What a crazy idea? I’ve bought 3 vehicles with loans since I graduated college, granted they have each been under $10000 so total, they are about equal to one $20,000 car a “normal” person would have bought, but being a car guy, I have had the urge for quantity over quality at times.

Recently I reevaluated my finances. I determined my recurring monthly and told a friend about it. After she told me my monthly recurring expenses was greater than her salary, I thought I could make a change. I’ve been living in a single apartment for 2 years. I’m hoping to move in with a roommate and cut some that expense about in half (I have already talked to a few people and believe I have plans made, but it’s not been executed yet so I have to count it as in progress still). I have also had to re-evaluate my eating habits. No doubt, the normal person would take one look at my eating habits and say “WTF”. I often eat out for lunch 5x a week and usually 2+ times a  week for diner, and not counting weekends in that even, those are free right? Wrongo-Bongo. I’ve tried to be a bit more reasonable in that and purchase food at the beginning of the week and make a lunch. That cuts the expenses in half at least. Couple that with eating out less overall and I feel I’m on a good path.

I have had a hard time giving up the cars. I still have them all, although I have threatened to sell the Mustang (to myself) a few times. I just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. It sounds nice and makes me smile. I’m not advocating for complete immaterialism, although minimalism has made a lot of folks happy. I’ve been considering a quote from a priest friend “I live simply so others can simply live.” That really makes you stop and think.

So to bring it back to cars, what car is living simply? What is the complete opposite of a Bugatti Veryron? How about an Elio? This is a car that’s not designed to be a “look at me car”. It’s built on practicality. On preserving the earth. On getting 84 MPG instead of 2.3MPG for the Veyron (at 253 mph). To be fair, it likely won’t be driven that fast, or likely at all, considering the 84 other cars, and 3 jets and a yacht it’s average owner has to spend time driving. Lets be honest, if you make that much money, you likely don’t need to drive yourself around, and probably you don’t! Your body guards probably won’t let you. What if instead of measuring our success by the number of cars we have we measured it by the number of people we’ve helped? Or what if businesses didn’t measure success by how much money they made but by how much they let the people buying their products keep? Crazy?


Here’s my proposal (because I still like cars, a LOT!). Someone who’s rocking one of these 84 cars (Jay Leno maybe?), please let me borrow one, just for a year (and pay my insurance please 🙂  (or maybe about 8 months) and let me use it to find myself and influence people in a positive way. That’s My Wheel Life today. Hope you enjoyed it. And if you know someone who’s own 84 cars, please forward this to them.

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What idea most affected you out of this article?

How do you measure your own success?


The Winter Beater

Thanks winter

Thanks winter

I am gearhead, like a lot of you reading this. I’ve lived in the mid-west all of my life (except for a short stint in Europe during college).

Being a gearhead is tough in this part of the country. One of the great things about being a gearhead (probably the best I’d argue) is actually getting to drive your pride and joy (or multiple prides and joys). By my estimations, that’s possible between the months of May and September giving a total of 5 month of “good” driving weather (and occasionally a few more, but really only 5 even remotely guaranteed.

Monte with chrome lug nuts, center caps and white wall wash.

Monte with chrome lug nuts, center caps and white wall wash. Not a winter beater.

This long winter is burdensome for many reasons.

  1. It’s cold.
  2. The roads aren’t very great to drive on.
  3. Your car will rust away in about 5 years.

There are a lot of people, probably a majority, that only have one car (GASP!)

This necessitates it being a daily driver making it by default a winter beater. This is fine for those who see cars as disposable tools, like a razor, or Harbor Freight wrenches, and plan to get a new one every 3-5 years.

But for us gearheads, it’s a bit different. Likely you like you car in it’s non-rusty state. You probably also plan to keep you car a lot longer than the average person. Likely until you die or at least can’t drive it anymore. My motto “Never sell any vehicles.”

Since you’ve likely spent all your money on your car (or cars) what will you drive when winter comes around what will you drive? Hopefully you’ve planned ahead and bought a beater. What does a winter beater do?

It allows you to get where you need to go while protecting your nice car from the salt and snow.

Good winter beaters are cheap and reliable, because who wants to work on stuff in the middle of winter? No one. Luckily vehicles these days are pretty dang reliable. Any FWD car built in the last 10 years should be relatively maintenance free, and most should be pretty cheap to buy. They are almost all ugly also, so you don’t have to feel bad driving one in winter. A better option, in my opinion, is a 4×4 truck.

My personal choice for a winter beater is a 2001 Silverado 1500 4×4. I bought it with 165k miles, basically brand new for those engines! I’ve put 15k miles on it in the last 2 years. Mostly in the winter. A benefit of having a 4×4 truck for a beater is that it basically transforms into a rocket ship when snow falls. Everyone else is trying to gain some traction, and you are in 4wd taking off. Of course, you need to take into account increased stopping distances as a result of snow also, but it’s nice to not get stuck every time you stop your vehicle at a stop sign.

Other great things about having a truck outside of winter.

  1. It can double as a great parts hauler. How awful is hauling parts in the trunk of your nice car, or any car for that matter?
  2. You can tow a trailer with it.
  3. You can tow your friend’s junk truck home when it dies. (See picture)
  4. You can haul your dirt bike with it.
Good use #1 for the winter beater in the off season!

Good use #1 for the winter beater in the off season!

Good use #2 for winter beater. Pull buddies dead winter beater home. See Brorango in the rear view mirror.

Good use #2 for winter beater. Pull buddies dead winter beater home. See Brorango in the rear view mirror.

Another option is to borrow a winter beater from a relative. I did this through college with varying results. One winter I hit a deer with the beater. Grandpa wasn’t impressed. But this allows you to continue to spend all your money on your nice car and still not have it rust away in the winter.

Deer Killer. Winter Beater. Throw away car.

Deer Killer. Winter Beater. Throw away car.

Here are a few picts of my friend trying to stop the current rust on his new winter beater, and maybe make sure it lasts through a few more winters. It’s definitely not pretty, but at least he’s giving ‘er the old college try.


Prepping "new" winter beater

Prepping “new” winter beater

Then non-prescribed way to fix rust. But it does stop it from rusting more. Which is what a winter beater is all about. Just keep it going!

Then non-prescribed way to fix rust. But it does stop it from rusting more. Which is what a winter beater is all about. Just keep it going!

What is your winter beater? Or are you lucky enough to live in a part of the country where things like this are not necessary? Can I come live with you?

And if you are stuck inside for the winter maybe you want to watch some of these movies to get your gearhead fix in the coming months.

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Respect For Racers


I have participated in a few types of motorsports in my life, Dirtbike Hare Scrambles, Dirt track circle track car racing, autocross, drag racing.
It is easy to watch and criticize the racers thinking “I could do better.”
This is especially true when someone is spinning out, causing wrecks etc.
Racing has been a humbling experience for me.
It’s easy sitting in the stands critiquing someone, it’s a lot tougher stepping up to the line.
Have you taken the challenge? Have you done any racing?

The Scramble!

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 New Hartford (this was last year’s hare scramble)

I participated in my 2nd Hare Scramble on 9-7-2014 in New Hartford, IA. For those of you who don’t know, a Hare Scramble is a dirtbike race that goes through woods, over beaches, over obstacles etc. It is a 2 hour long race, for the class I ran. They are a ton of fun. Unfortunately I jumped in way over my head! There are multiple classes for Hare Scrambles, AA (really really really fast), A (really really fast), B (still pretty fast), C (novice), the main classes are for riders 30 and under. There are also all the same classes with vet and Sr. on the end of the name, these are for older riders. I have a good number of friends who ride and we all rode this same race last year (it’s 10 miles from our city.) We all rode C class which is a 1.5 hr race. I finished about middle of the pack and was pretty satisfied with that. It was my first race on a dirtbike ever. The C class also rides by itself so you aren’t getting passed by faster riders to often. The AA, A, A Vet, A Sr, B, B Vet, B Sr all ride the race together. They start in that order with 1 minute between each class start, to space the groups out some.

This year only one friend rode and he said we should ride B class. Thoughts were

  1. Our friends were riding B class. (I’m not sure how they are doing, never watched).
  2. We’d get more riding time 2 hrs vs. 1.5 in C (for the same entry cost).
  3. We’d get the chance to ride with faster guys and learn from them.

So we started the race. I was immediately behind due to a bad kick start. (You still kick start your bike when the horn goes off, which is cool, vintage LeMans style).

Eventually I was passed by a some of the B Sr. riders and a while later some AA and A riders started to lap me. By the last lap I was wishing the race to be over. I finished 17 of 19 overall, and one of the guys behind me was a friend who had buried his bike in a mud hole so he was laps behind.Here are the results for the Hare Scramble I was in this year.

My brother's race car, before I smashed it....

My brother’s race car, before I smashed it….

Another type of racing I’ve participated in was dirt track car racing. Here is the unfortunate proof of that endeavor. My brother who races pure stock circle track let me race his car one time. I made it through the heat race, in last place, without spinning out, but rather slowly. The next race, the feature, I spun out 2x, while in the back of the pack, and the second time a fellow competitor crashed into me, basically wrecking the car. I’m definitely not upset (although my brother might be) with the other driver. While he could have avoided me, I also could have not been spun out in the track….

I have also drag raced, which seems easy when you look at it, go straight, mash the gas. Not easy once you try to get traction, shifting, etc all right. Check my write up about drag racing for more on that. And the last type of racing I was part of was autocross, again, harder than it looks.

drag racing 2013

drag racing 2013

Now that I’ve put all my embarrassing show of racing on display for the world what is my point in all of this? Like I mentioned at the start, racing is harder than it looks! Every time I race anything I become humbled. I remember that the race is not really against the other competitors but against myself (at least that’s what slow people say). You also usually can gain a lot of camaraderie with fellow riders drivers, at least at the smaller events like I’ve participated in.. Fellow drivers or riders are willing to give you pointers to make you faster and safer.

Overall, it has been great every time I have raced. I have learned a lot and met a lot of great people.
Hopefully you remember how hard racing is next time you are watching it and start to want to criticize the drivers.
Of course when you get to professional drivers, there is a higher expectation, but the difficulty it takes to drive those cars is incredible. Just try driving a slow car or bike and you’ll learn.

The point of this is not to dissuade anyone from participating in racing. Of note is that I’m obviously not an expert. Part of some of my poor finishes have to do with lack of experience. The general thought is that 10,000 hours makes you an expert, if that’s really accurate or not there’s no argument that more time practicing any skill makes you better. And even for dirt bike riding, which I’ve been doing for years, I have done very little riding this year (10 hours about) and very little racing, 2 total, so I am currently considering if putting more time to getting better at hare scrambles is something I want to do or not, I only have 5 years until I’m considered a senior. In the end, you have to do something for your love of it, not for the glory.

You should participate in anything you think you can for the experience. Just make sure you have some idea of what you are getting into. It’s always best to talk to a friend who does it, but if you can’t or don’t know anyone, you can still go. Participate!

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What racing or competition have you taken part in?
Did you do good? Bad?
What are you doing next?

Motorhead Movies

This is a list and short review of some movies I think gearheads would like but they are not big budget movies so you might not have heard of them (except one). Let’s be honest, we’re not all always motivated to go to the garage, but watching some of these movies should spark your motivation. Check the links in the titles to watch the trailers on Youtube.

Yank Tanks – This is a documentary about cars in Cuba. In 1962 a United States embargo against Cuba was introduced, effectively cutting trade between the two countries. Approximately 60,000 American cars from the 1950’s and early 60’s are still being regularly used there.The guys who maintain these cars are mechanical geniuses! Building their own windshields. Rebuilding chrome, just generally keeping the cars running with nothing but what they can make with their own hands. The passion they have for their rides might make some of you think you’re not quite the gearhead you should be.

yank tanks


yank tank car

Boys of Bonneville – Is this the original Batmobile? I don’t think so, but it’s still incredible! This is a story of Ab Jenkin’s. A Mormon man obsessed with speed in the 1930’s. The car was powered by a V12 Duesenberg engine originally and later a Curtiss Conqueror V12 airplane engine making 750 HP. Ab went faster in the 1930’s than most of us have gone yet today (150+). What drives a man to that obsession? Find out by watching Boys of Bonneville.

Batman Forever Batmobile

Batman Forever Batmobile

Mormom Meteor

Mormom Meteor

American Graffiti – A car movie made in 1973 featuring Han Solo? Not quite but Harrison Ford is in the movie, pre Star Wars, and George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, did direct the movie. That enough should be reason to watch this classic cult car movie. Unfortunately I think a lot of current generation car enthusiasts have not been exposed to this gem of a movie! It’s a great story of teenagers spending their last night before heading off to college. There are also a lot of great cars that can only be described as Iconic. Check it out for the street racing scenes and the historical perspective of the Hot Rod culture.




harrison ford american graffiti

Born 2 Race (Born to Race) – Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, sorry I mean Born 2 Race, is one of those rare low budget movies that, while it has a plot somewhat reminiscent of a major movie (teenage boy gets in trouble street racing and is sent to live with his dad and falls in love with the local “bad dude’s GF” (Tokyo Drift anyone?),(and it has a confusing title using the 2, it’s the first and only in it’s series) is still a good movie in it’s own right. The fact that the “bad guy” is another kid from across town makes the movie a bit more believable than a high schooler taking on a Yakuza. Also the technical jargon parts of the movie are basically accurate, which is always a plus for a movie. The cars the actors drive are also not over the top something you’ve likely never seen on the street, they are pretty believable street cars, but they are modified in a real and relatable way, something you’d build in your garage. Watch this movie.

born 2 race

Subaru WRX STI

Rush – This is a huge box office movie compared to the rest on the list, with a budget of $26 million, and even though it’s made $90 million, I still think it’s probably under appreciated. It’s the story of Nikki Lauda and James Hunt and their battle for the 1976 F1 racing championship. It’s a great movie even if you don’t love racing.

Let me know if you enjoyed these movies. Have you watched any other small time car movies lately that you enjoyed? Don’t forget to visit us on Facebook

What is a Kit Car?

Kit Cars – What are they?
Think of a Lego set, but for a car!
Why kit cars?
They are a car focused on performance or style. Imagine a Ferrari or Shelby Cobra for the price of a new Ford Focus!

Lets put it together!

I’ve written a few articles about buying cheaper used supercars or

newer muscle cars and I’ve told you about a few different styles of cars such as  street rods and muscle cars. But buying a car assembled by a major manufacture isn’t the only way to get a car. If you are the handy type or just want to break the mold, you can build a car yourself! Of course, building a car by yourself, from nothing is a pretty difficult task, and that’s not what I’m proposing, although that has been done also! Check it out here. If you’re not as hard-core as Ken, but still want something different you are in luck! You can build a kit car!

So what is a kit car? A kit car is a car that you purchase in pieces and assemble yourself, it’s basically like a Lego set, or buying a table from IKEA. Why would anyone want to do this you might ask? Well there are a few reasons.

1. You can get a kit car that looks and performs like a much more expensive car than it is.
2. You can build a car that never existed.
3. You can build a car that did exist but is way too rare to buy an original. (Think Shelby Cobra).

Why would a company want to design a kit car instead of a production car? There are a few reasons for that also!

1. It is (much much) cheaper for a company to design and sell a kit can than it is for Ford, or other major manufacturers. Often kit cars source a reliable engine from the major manufacturers. The body and suspension are the major contributions by the designers.

2. This is because a kit car doesn’t have to pass all the safety standards a new car does. They also aren’t held to the same standards for NVH and other considerations. That being said, that doesn’t mean that they are (all) unsafe, or harsh. Many companies put a lot of work into the kits to make them great cars.

Let’s look at the different types of kit cars available.

The first are replicas of current or older cars that you can build yourself. One example of this is the Factory Five Roadster . It is basically a recreation of a Shelby Cobra from the 1960’s. Why not just buy an original Cobra you ask?


Check Hemmings Motor news . An original Shelby Cobra is rare, and therefore expensive (think $100k+) where as a Factory Five Roadster can be assembled for $30k if you do it the right way. You also have the benefit of putting a variety of engines and upgrades suspension, electronics and just about everything else that has progressed in the automotive world in the last 50 years.

Another that is one of my favorites is a Chevrolet Cheetah kit car. What is a Chevrolet Cheetah you ask? It was a car made to beat the Shelby Cobra in it’s day. Unfortunately tragedy befell the company and only 19 (or so) were ever made. The good news is you can buy the beautiful Cheetah as a kit and put it together yourself!

Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s are other vehicles that are popular in this type of “build cheaper than you can buy” category.


The second type of kit car is a car that never was made. Factory Five has one of these available also. Is called the Factory Five GTM supercar. It’s a “generic” supercar being that it is low, wide and good looking. That being said, it is also a lot more ‘’cost effective” than a Ferrari or Lambo, and if you were to damage it, you know you could always rebuild it!  Here are 2 other supercar kits. The Superlite (at beginning of article) is the first, and here’s a quote from their site

“Q. How easy is it to build, really? –
A. The Superlite SLC was designed to be built in your garage, using basic hand tools.  You don’t need to do any welding, or machining, or have fancy tools.”
Sounds pretty great to me!

And here’s another supercar/racecar kit, the Ultima GTR, made in England.

And here’s a final one, the K1 Attack, made in the Czech Republic.
There is also a third type of kit car. It’s not a complete kit like the cars talked about before, but it’s a massive redesign of an existing car but also bought in kit form. Pontiac Fieros are popular cars for this as they were rear engine like many supercars. Often they get made into Lamborghini’s.

There is also this car, build from a 1990’s Ford Thunderbird.

So as you can see the kit car industry is far reaching, covering many different styles of cars. They are actually relatively affordable, if you are in the market for a performance car. There are often different levels of each kit available. Often you can buy just a body and source all the other parts yourself, such as the brakes, seats, wheels and tires. There are also kit cars that the factories will in fact build for you! There are even some that will let you help them build your car!

Here is a site with a very long list of kit car manufacturers if you are looking for something different. There is a car for everyone!

As always, please share this article and Like us on Facebook

So has this gotten your creative juices flowing? Are you rip roaring ready to get down in the garage and build your own car? Or would you rather buy a production car? Have you ever seen a kit car on the street or at a car show?

13. What is drag racing?

What is drag racing and a little on how to attend your first drag race.

Awesome Barracuda pulling a wheelie at the drag strip.

Awesome Barracuda pulling a wheelie at the drag strip.

Perhaps you’ve wondered why I use the term “quartermile” for my short synopsis at the beginning of my posts (above).
This term comes from drag racing, which is probably the quickest form of vehicular competition, hence why I use it for my short intros.
Drag racing is the original “go fast” sport.
The first drag race took place in 1900 between a Mercedes and a horse. The horse won.
Skip to the end for tips for your first track day if you don’t want to read everything, but I’d read it if I were you!
If your car is faster than 11.5 seconds in the quartermile
1. You probably shouldn’t start racing with that car!
2. You will need a roll cage (and a SNELL approved) race helmet or you will get kicked out…
Generally at slower speeds you don’t need a helmet up to a certain speed, that varies by track. It has to be SNELL approved also, ask ahead of race day.

The Flying Mile

2 Funny cars drag racing. Funny cars are purpose built drag cars that go very fast.

2 Funny cars drag racing.
Funny cars are purpose built drag cars that go very fast.

If you are reading this you are probably a car person and you probably enjoy driving your car fast. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam frowns on you going much about 70 in most of the country and often over 55 mph is a no-no. Luckily there is an option for you Speedy Gonzalez. Drag Racing!

Speedy Gonzales

Speedy Gonzales

There is so much to say about drag racing so I’ll just start. Drag racing is a race between 2 vehicles (usually). It measures how quickly each vehicle can cover a set distance (usually a quarter of a mile (1320 feet). You have probably been exposed to drag racing from the Fast and Furious movies, or just about any other car tv movie or show when people ask “What will she do?” She being the car. It’s sort of like the bench press of the automotive world. It’s a great number to impress people, but using a few simple tricks you can make a car a lot faster for the quartermile but that will make it less potent in other forms of racing. Drag slicks and skinnies aren’t really the best for autocross or other racing that doesn’t involve going straight! That being said, I like drag racing for this sole reason, it’s the easiest performance benchmark to replicate. You can pay $40 (or $70 or more) to go to a local drag strip, race your car a few times and you know how quick it is. Then you can compare it to friends. This is much harder in autocross unless you are at the same track, and often those tracks get changed each week also. Same for times around a larger set race track. So, drag racing it is.

woman prepping her husbands drag car. Does she have a granddaughter?

woman prepping her husbands drag car. Does she have a granddaughter?

The ultimate goal of drag racing is getting the car to cover the distance in the shortest time possible, because faster is better right? Drag racing sure sounds easy you are thinking right? Well yes and no. In principle yes, but have you tried accelerating fast and in control? In all likelihood, no, you haven’t, and definitely not with 300 or more horsepower. Everyone wants to do burnouts in their high horse power car, which look cool, but that is actually the opposite of what you want to do when drag racing. Burning out = no traction. Which means not moving forward which means you lose the race. Now you’re a loser. Bummer.

At the end of a drag race you will get a time slip which will show you the time it took you to cover 60 feet, 330 feet, ⅛ mile, and a quartermile. It will also tell you your MPH at the ⅛ and quartermile points on the track which is important. I will help you decipher all these numbers to help you go quicker below.

But first! How does a drag race start? A smoking hot girl throws a hankie in the air right? Not so fast Dom (inic Toretto, Fast and Furious reference for you uninitiated).20140426_151648
Before you start the drag race you have to do a few things. First, you should usually do a burnout. This will clean the debris off your tires. It will also make them warm and sticky. This will help you accelerate and not spin your tires off the line. Then drag race starts with the “Christmas tree”. It’s a set of 7 lights. The top 2 tell you when you are at the starting line (when you are staged).
Detail of Christmas Tree Lights
The top one will blink when you break a laser beam, and you will roll an inch or 2 forward and the second one will light up (from your tire breaking another beam). You are now ready to race! Once the other driver has also staged the 3 yellow lights (below the staging lights), will blink off in .5 second intervals (for normal racing, all at once for professionals). Then the green light will light up and you should start going now! Actually in all likelihood you or your car will not be as fast to react as you think, therefore the slower your car the sooner you should start engaging the clutch/removing your foot from the brake, and pushing the gas. If you leave from the line before the green light goes you will “break out” which means you have lost the race before you started, because you started too early. Not a big deal on your first day. On the other hand, the tree also measures your “reaction time” how close your car left the starting line in relation to the green light. Depending on what type of racing you are doing you might have to pay attention to this number. If you are just doing it to see what your car can do, that is fine, but if you are actually racing, the reaction time gets factored into your overall time. If you and the other car run the same time but his reaction time is .000 (perfect) and yours is .500 seconds you lose, even though your cars were equal. You can actually lose if you have a faster car even! If you run 14.00 with a .5 reaction time, and the other guy runs a 14.1 with a .000 R.T. you still lose.

Now that you know about starting, lets break down my time slip below and try to understand what all the numbers mean starting with the 60’ time which is one of the most important numbers in drag racing. This tells you how good your car is sticking to the ground and how much traction you are getting. If your 60’ time is high that means you are spinning your tires, which means you are going slow. See my time slip below.

1998 Super Taco vs 2007 Musatng

1998 Super Taco vs 2007 Musatng

This is my 2007 Mustang GT vs a 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup (not a performance vehicle in most peoples mind!) Our Mph was the same at the end of the track (100Mph) but his 60’ times are better and his over all time is lower by .821 seconds! That’s huge in drag racing. Why is he faster? He sticks to the track and uses his power while I was taking off, spinning tires, sometimes getting “wheel hop” etc. Who wants to take their mustang to the track and get smoked by a Toyota Taco? No one! How do we fix this? It (should be) easy. Basically you want to take off slowly enough, roll on the throttle to prevent wheel spin. You can also let air out of your tires to get better traction. Finally if you can, install drag slicks on your car. There are tons of other, more involved suspension mods you can do if you get fast enough, but that’s not the aim of this article.

Next we will compare the times of 2 cars that I raced separately and copy pasted their times together for a comparison of what the sticking to the track will do for you.

Super Taco vs. Some burnout

Super Taco vs. Some burnout


Burnout vs. Super taco

Burnout vs. Super taco

You will notice on the right is our friend the fast Taco vs some burnout car that I didn’t bother to document. You see again the Taco had the faster overall quartermile time 13.567 seconds vs. 13.757 for the burnout. But wait! The taco has a slower MPH at both the 1/8th and quarter miles. How is that? If you look at the 60’ times you will see. The Burnout had a time of 2.174 seconds vs. the Speed Taco at 1.892 seconds. This is showing that the Taco was accelerating very good and converting all his power into forward momentum vs the Burnout was spinning tires or had a bad start. So that brings us to the MPH. How was Burnout going faster at the end and still lost? The Burnout definitely had a bad start, spinning tires etc, which put it way behind. You see at the 330’ marker the Speed Taco had a lead of .337 seconds. This was cut down to .19 seconds at the end of the race. Therefor the Burnout had more horsepower and was accelerating faster once it finally got hooked up (probably 2nd or 3rd gear) whereas the Taco was always hooked but not quite as much power. So while power is good being able to transfer that power to the ground is also extremely important for your times and your ego! Don’t get smoked in your new bazillion HP car by some guy who knows how to race! Do burnouts, don’t be a burnout!

1998 Speed Taco 13.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Super Taco!

1998 Speed Taco 13.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Super Taco!

A few quick tips for your first track day.
1. You will need to go through tech inspection before they will let you drag race. Make sure all loose stuff is out of your car! Maps, shoes, kleenex, empty pop cans, etc. You don’t want that stuff flying around your car when you take off.
2. They will check some simple things like if your battery is tied down. Make sure it’s secured by something, at least the stock battery tie down!
3. Start accelerating when the 3rd yellow light is on. If you wait til it’s green you are already behind.
4. Do a burnout, if you have an AWD car this probably doesn’t apply.

burnout before drag racing to clean tires, get them hot, and help you stick to the track

burnout before drag racing to clean tires, get them hot, and help you stick to the track

5. Take off slowly. Don’t try to launch your car at 5000 rpm the first time. Ease onto the throttle, see how your car sticks. If you stick good, then try a little more gas next time.
6. If you do eventually start spinning on take off let some air out of your tires. Maybe to about 10 PSI. This completely depends on what type of tire you have, how far from home you are, etc. Don’t let all the air out of your tires and then be mad at me when you can’t get home! But even down to 15 psi you can drive a little bit safely. Air your tires up again ASAP!
7. Talk with other racers! They will give you tons of help. They are generally a super helpful bunch, but maybe don’t ask the guy with a top fuel dragster to help you drive your stock 2000 Honda Civic… He’s probably pretty busy and has a lot of money tied up in his car and he’s probably pretty serious. Maybe ask the guy who’s just a few seconds faster.
8. If you want to start modding your car once you have the technique down, but don’t have any money, removing weight also makes your car faster. Remove the spare tire, passenger seat, rear seat (those are the 3 easiest things to remove. A general rule of thumb is every 100 lbs removed from your car = .1 second faster in the quartermile. Don’t forget you need to reinstall these things sometime…
9. Have FUN!

Now that you know all about drag racing how do you start? It’s pretty simple to drag race. You can literally drag race any vehicle. I’ve seen Dodge Caravans, pickup trucks, Buick Century’s as well as the normal car’s you’d expect like muscle cars, import tuners and purpose built drag cars. A normal one day of drag racing test and tune will cost you between $25 and $75 dollars to run as many runs as you can get in, base on how many people are there. So get to the track! What are you waiting for?!?!?!?

Per usual please share this if you enjoyed it! Like “My Wheel Life” on Facebook, etc.

Here’s a great (non-traditional) drag race staged by Motortrend magazine between a ton of cars!
Motortrend Greatest Drag race 2. This is my favorite of the 3 “worlds greatest drag race” videos.