From an early age I was always interested in machines. As a small boy I went to a rodeo with a relative and was more interested in the tractors tilling the earth than the actual rodeo. In my adolescence I read the book, “Challenger: Mickey Thompson’s own story of his life of speed.”
This book really amazed me by how Mickey Thompson was able to push the limits to build engines with so few resources and no formal schooling or training. I was inspired by how he not only shared his knowledge, but also helped the other racers. This was probably the earliest memory of my need for speed. Here is a link to a great video of the History of Mickey Thompson.
While growing up I can remember at times being stranded somewhere because a car had broken down. I hated the feeling of helplessness that was associated with it. I’ve always been the type of person that hates being dependent on someone else. These feelings can be a bad combination with curiosity, and I was curious. There were a number of things I took apart to see how they worked. Some of those things weren’t meant to be taken apart, or at least I couldn’t get them back together. This didn’t stop me though.
When I was high school, I was given a car for good grades. It didn’t run and had been attempted to be fixed a number of times. I towed it to the high school with the help of my dad. I was taking an automotive class and was determined to get the car running. This was probably one of the few cars that hadn’t gone to fuel injection and still had a carburetor. With the help of my teacher, we determined the carburetor needed some work. I decided to rebuild it. One day I brought it home in the hopes of doing some work to it. My dad wasn’t very happy with me for bringing it home and didn’t think the car would probably ever run again. After a lot of work, I got it rebuilt. For the complexity of that carburetor, I didn’t do too badly of a job. However, the car never ran correctly, but it got me by for a couple of years. The car burned almost as much money in my pockets as it did engine oil. Its final destination was a junk yard, which it made it to under its own power. I’m still surprised it lasted as long as it did.
After high school I got a job working as a small engine mechanic. I mainly worked on small four-stroke engines, learning how to rebuild engines and do valve jobs. I also worked on a lot of miscellaneous small equipment, including chainsaws and weed eaters. In the meantime I was going to college for automotive technology. After a year of smelling like rotten gasoline and taking night classes, I was ready for a change. I dropped out of college and quit my job for a high paying steel construction job. The plan was to pay off some bills, save up some money and go back to college. The money was short lived and I knew that type of work wasn’t for me. I thought that a lot of the equipment I had used for steel construction was fascinating. So, I got a job working at an equipment rental company.
I started working in the wash bay and on small equipment. As my time and knowledge progressed, I started working on larger equipment. The mass of broken equipment became less and less, while becoming more reliable. I eventually started working on anything that was rented, which included 120’ boom lifts, excavators and much more. I started driving a service truck and moved into field repairs.After almost seven years at this, I decided I needed to finish college. I also wanted something different and more excited. I started back up community college with the goal of being a cop.
After a couple of years of school, full-time work and some driving citations, the police career was looking dismal. Then, the economy went sour and I was left unemployed. I was making a living through various mechanic jobs, but the uncertainty and lack of steady income left something to be desired. I took a job in corrections. I moved 225 miles away, finished up my criminal justice degree and lived in a camp trailer. After over a year of living away from my family, I moved home. I decided that I needed to pursue an engineering degree. This was something that I had talked about in high school, but never became serious about. I was admitted to Oregon State University’s Energy Systems Engineering program.
Little did I realize how much work was in store for me. Going to college, taking numerous calculus and physics classes while working full time is a humbling experience. Today, I am about ¾ of the way to a bachelor’s degree and still at it. My hopes are to better understand and explain the world not only from a tradesman’s perspective, but from mathematical, engineering, and conceptual perspectives. My hopes are to become a better problem solver to not only solve problems, but to prevent them. I have a great many ideas that I believe I can utilize to make things faster, stronger, easier to use and more inexpensive. In addition, I feel I can devise many new innovative products. Racing is one piece of this.