Memories of the Edmonton Indy

Mazda RX7 race car

By Dave S. Clark

Summer is in full swing in Edmonton and that means festivals galore, although with one big absence again – the Edmonton Indy – which waved its final checkered flag in 2012.

Even though I didn’t go to the first Edmonton Indy in 2005, it was responsible for getting me hooked for the rest of its eight-year run. I live less than six kilometers from the now-closed Edmonton City Centre Airport and I distinctly remember waking up that first weekend to the sound of race cars ripping around a distant track. I had never been a Champ Car fan, so I hadn’t bought tickets for the race, but all weekend long I was taunted by the sounds of Cosworth turbo V8 engines.

In 2006, my buddy Joel and I decided to get general admission tickets and despite not having a place to sit down or any spot to get a really good point of view, we had a damn good time. The Champ Cars were exciting and fun to watch and the support races were just as good, if not better. 

Memories of Race City Calgary

Race-city-calgary

By Dave S. Clark

Last week, Edmonton’s Castrol Raceway officially opened its road course, a project 20 years in the making. I attended the grand opening and it got me itching to go racing again and hopefully will inspire others to do the same.

But it also got me thinking about the little bit of racing experience that I have, most of which was at the race-track-turned-garbage-dump formerly known as Race City Speedway in Calgary.

I was never more than a Race City rookie. I’ve only spent two weekends driving at the track and only one was for an actual race. I might have been around the track 150 times at best. But when I think about the track and picture it as a landfill now it makes me sad. 

Hupmobile, pre-war cars highlight Elkhorn auto museum

manitoba-car-museum

By Dave S. Clark

For years, I drove past the Manitoba Antique Automobile Museum in Elkhorn but never stopped to go in. Perhaps it was because I was always making good time and I know how long it can take me to go through a great antique car museum when I get sucked in. On my last time through, I made the wise move to get a glimpse of the Hupmobiles, Overlands and other pre-war cars on display.

On my way home to Edmonton from my annual retreat in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, I decided to finally commit the time and check it out. Besides, I was driving 1500 kilometres that day and this would be a good chance to get out and stretch my legs. 

Knox Mountain Hill Climb: Historic race in beautiful Kelowna

knox-mountain-hill-climb

By Dave S. Clark

For nearly 60 years, racers have been tearing up Kelowna’s Knox Mountain Hill Climb, a 2.2-mile track that ascends 800 feet through nine white-knuckled turns, and this year, I was able to get a little sample of it.

I had heard about the event many times as lots of racers from Edmonton make the drive to challenge themselves on the course and I finally got a chance to take in the action as I attended Datsun Matsuri 2014, which is held in conjuction with the race.

Although the Datsun show was my first priority for the weekend, I was excited to catch some of the racing and see some of the cars that I was familiar with from the Eurasia Cup at the Edmonton Indy, which I had covered for several years. 

Datsun Matsuri a celebration of vintage Japanese tin

Datsun-Matsuri-2014-2

By Dave S. Clark

Every Victoria Day long weekend, Datsuns from across Western Canada converge on Kelowna, BC for Datsun Matsuri (which translates to Festival in Japanese), a car show honouring the Japanese classics that is run alongside the historic Knox Mountain Hill Climb.

Despite decades of snowy Canadian winters doing their best to rot away the rust-prone Datsuns, many of them survived and got into the hands of enthusiastic owners. This year, I was able to join those owners in Kelowna with my friend Dave Myers from MyAutoProject.com, who hosts the show.

This is the third year Dave has hosted the show and I was pretty excited since I hadn’t been able to make any of Dave’s Datsun meets since I drove my old 280z to the All Alberta Datsun Meet in 2011. It was a memorable day as it was barely above zero and my driver’s side window had been smashed out two days prior to the meet, which meant I had to drive to the meet windowless in order to buy a spare one off a fellow Datsun owner. 

The therapeutic marathon drive to Whiteshell Provincial Park

Jessica-Lake-Lodge-MapBy Dave S. Clark

Some people think it’s crazy. Others think it’s stupid, dangerous or painfully boring. To me, it’s 15-hours of pure rubber-on-asphalt therapy.

Nobody has probably ever described driving across Saskatchewan and through large segments of equally flat Alberta and Manitoba as an therapeutic before, but I guess I’m different.

I first made the trip to Jessica Lake in the Whiteshell Provincial Park when I was just five months old (I wasn’t driving yet.) During my first few years, we make the trek from BC’s lower mainland. Since then the drive has been made annually from Edmonton, save for two years where I lived in Manitoba where I drove the reverse route just as often.

Boeing Factory Tour an up close look at mega plane construction

boeing-787-assembly-line

The 787 assembly line in the Boeing Factory Everett. Photo courtesy of Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour.

By Dave S. Clark

When any inquisitive person sees a giant plane like a Boeing 747, he or she starts thinking about how it works, how it is constructed and what giant facility is needed to build such a vehicle. Those inquisitive people will love what is in store for them at the Boeing Factory Tour in Everett, WA.

My wife (Miss Wanderlust) and I were spending an extended long weekend in Seattle and we decided to rent a car and head up to the Future of Flight Aviation Center about 25 miles north of Seattle in Everett to check out the factory, which according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the largest building by volume in the world. The centre is full of real airplane parts on display and interactive flight activities, but more importantly, it’s where you depart from for the Boeing Factory tours. 

Erg Chigaga a moving Moroccan adventure

Erg-Chigaga-MoroccoThe Sahara Desert – its name alone conjures up images of sand, extreme heat and a quest for survival. It’s the world’s third largest desert and the largest desert that will kill you with heat rather than cold.

It’s something you can’t miss when you go to Morocco and if you haven’t already added it, you should tack it on to your bucket list.

There are two large expanses of sand dunes in Morocco that tourists go to – Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi. While we had heard Erb Chebbi was extremely beautiful, we also heard people call it the ‘Coca Cola desert’ because you can sit in your hotel or a café and sip your favourite American beverage while looking out over the dunes. Erg Chigaga, however, was very remote, which was what we were after. When I picture myself being in the desert, I don’t imagine other people around. It’s a place of solitude. A place where you wander alone to try to find yourself. It’s not a place to be around other tourists. Erg Chigaga it was. And remote it is. 

Taxis in Morocco: How to avoid getting ripped off

Mercedes Benz grand taxis dominate the streets in Rabat.

Mercedes Benz grand taxis dominate the streets in Rabat.

If you’re traveling outside of the car-free walls of the old medinas, taxis in Morocco are a cheap, effective and readily available way of getting around. They aren’t always comfortable, they usually lack seatbelts, and you’ll likely get out smelling like exhaust fumes, but they work.

The first thing you’ll notice is there are two types of taxis, Grand and Petit (if you don’t know what those words mean en francais, don’t go to Morocco) The grand taxis, which are Mercedes Benz diesel sedans ranging from the 1970s to 1990s, are typically for going from one town to another, or for in-town trips with four or more passengers. They are also mandatory for some lengthy local trips, for example in Casablanca, if you’re making the 40-kilometre drive to the airport. In North America, we think of luxury and refinement when we think of Mercedes sedans. But in Africa, they are all about longevity and reliability. These 240D and 300D sedans are the backbone of transportation on the continent and play a large part in keeping it running as well as it does. In Morocco, that’s no exception. These Mercs don’t have sat-nav, rain sensing windshields, they can’t park themselves and many don’t have airbags. The two that we took didn’t even have seatbelts. One of them had removed all of the plastic vent covers in the interior and for some reason, blocked them up with wood. But they ran and they got us to our destination. 

Expedition to Lone Island in search of abandoned truck in Whiteshell Provincial Park

jessica-marsh

By Dave S. Clark

For many years, I’ve had a vague memory from my childhood of a 1950s truck, partially submerged in water in a swamp in a river in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba, Canada.

The memory was created one summer, 16 or 17 years ago, when my uncle, brother and a couple cousins came across the truck while trying to find a portage route from the river to another lake. However, the day of our expedition, I was accidently hit on the head with a paddle, which sliced my scalp open. So I wasn’t sure if the whole day was just something I dreamt up in a bout of post-head-trauma creativity or if it actually happened. I know we never found the passage we were looking for, but I always remembered the truck.