mid-summer photo check

(I’m still here 😌)

Northern Italy Destinations 📸: Venezia, Prosecco Hills, & Lago di Barcis

Bright splashes of color bookended by black & white…

I’m here at my desk kicking myself because I accidentally just deleted fully processed photos from Abruzzo I was hoping to include with these. No way to recover them (even off the camera), or the time it took to process them. That said, I’m grateful to have had the experiences—let it go…Things have been super busy in the first half of this Summer—balancing work with hosting visitors has been a unique challenge for us, indeed. It’s not that I haven’t been taking lots of photos with my travel LUMIX, my editing just seems to be getting stingier. Out of about 200 photos I kept 20. Out of the 20 these are the ones I decided to share—except for those dang lost Abruzzo files 😩—not still salty with myself about that at all, though…a-hem. The weather here in Northern Italy this Summer has been hot and very dry. Not gonna lie, it’s triggering my West Texas-born fear of no rain for a super extended period of time. It’s hard to imagine a place this green going this long without real rain. Anyways, I chose these photos because of their colors/tones and textures. I think in their own ways they all say “mid summer.” I had a birthday in June—for some reason these have always been difficult days for me—even when I was a kid. I think it’s the sharp awareness of time passing that really gets me. In its own (sadder) way it’s a strong reminder how lucky I am to be here with people I love—and to have experienced the privilege I have in so many domains of my life—for these things I am extremely grateful. Maybe the sadness comes from reflecting on people and vibrant experiences that have (and will) inevitably fade with time—maybe that’s why losing the Abruzzo files hurt so dang much! Photos are a great way to keep those moments alive in their own unique way. June has ended up being a pretty complex month for me in terms of loss—I’m sure that factors in as well. Alas. I’m told the birthday is something to celebrate, and I’m still trying, lol. That said, as a birthday bonus (thanks to Amanda for getting out of the house) we took a few amazing van trips to Prosecco Hills, Bassano Del Grappa + Asolo, Venezia, and Lake Barcis (all photographed above except for Bassano del Grappa + Asolo, which were amazing —files not lost, just photos not taken—maybe it was them birthday blues 🙃 ). I was hoping to keep a tidy archive of van trips…numbering them on the blog. Well, I nailed 001 and 002, but 003 to Abruzzo was sacrificed to the trash bin ether and well…004 is peppered into this post. I’ll get back on the numbering wagon soon. We’ve had family and close friends come and go in the past few weeks, which is both exciting to see them come and sad to see them go, but also an interesting opportunity to check-in and re-evaluate where things are at here with our routines—the things we miss…the things we don’t miss so much. Our first year here travel was pretty much a no-go, so we didn’t have visitors. I think during that time we developed a pretty quiet / slow pace of life. Maybe it’s just aging, but I’m finding it harder and harder to move at a fast pace for more than a day or two at a time or stay up late every night. God I sound boring. I don’t even care, though. Or maybe it’s just the work of trying to balance too many important things that require serious time…at the same time. Who knows. I’ll be heading over to Milan soon with one of our friends visiting from the US. Since I’ve already been to Milan with my camera, I’ve decided to outfit my LUMIX with a red lens filter and shoot monochrome square format only the whole time–limitations. We’ll see what happens here–until then, ciao.


First Friday La Taverna Exhibition

⬆️ Disclaimer—I did a horrible job documenting this show while it was up. I was hoping to photograph everything before I struck the show, but when I arrived to photograph and strike the owners had already started moving stuff around to help make things quicker, as it is a functioning restaurant and bar. Guess I should have planned better and taken more photos during the show, but I was just too busy having fun to care 😅. I don’t regret it.

⬆️ (click any image for a larger look) I built 10 medium-sized mixed media pieces—these made up the bulk of the show and were based off a series I started in 2020 called “random assembly required.” The name of the series implies exactly how the pieces were made. All of the content was literally plucked at random from my sketchbook or from stuff I’d scanned or photographed with my phone I thought was odd or peculiar. Example: A lot of people asked were the butts in the yellow piece came from…this was from one of my spouse’s chiropractor visits. I found it crumpled under the seat in our car one day and knew I needed to do something with it—it ended up becoming a metaphor for moving through the pandemic and all the physical and emotional things attached to that experience…

⬆️ I printed these large A1 size pieces on canvas—this is where the name of the show (Fare o Essere—Do/Make or Be) came to be and where the idea for the audience participation piece (see below) came in. The other typographic expressions are more or less other ways to say the same thing or pose the same existential question. One of my goals in moving to Italy was to design/set type in two languages. I’m happy to say I was able to do that here. That said, after a year + of learning I still have so, so far to go. I’ve been photographing a lot since I’ve been here. It felt great to use some of my photographs in this work as well. They printed really well on the canvas.

⬆️ I’ve always wanted to make a series of small square pieces—just because. These are 10X10 CM and are basically all just cherrypicked from my sketchbook randomly.

⬆️ Almost every show I’ve ever had features some sort of audience participation piece. This one was no different. It was really neat do do this is two languages (Italian and English) to explore potential cultural differences in how people might respond. I had around 70 responses in total—which I thought was excellent! It was about 70/30% majority Italian. And I found that people that responded in Italian tended to go deeper conceptually on the whole. My favorite response overall was “Fare lo stronzo o essere carta igenica”—which translates to—“Make the asshole or be the toilet paper.” As crude as it may be, this concept speaks volumes about so many problems we have today. I’d like to think this person might have been an engineer, architect, or designer, but who knows. This general idea of building better frameworks for survival or suffering the consequences really hit me hard. Bravo, whoever you are that did this! This one piece alone made the work of building the show worthwhile. It also felt great to use my garage screenprinting setup to print these with metallic black ink on color A4 paper stock. Gotta say, they turned out pretty sweet—and consistent! Still got it, baby 😀

⬆️ As I mentioned before, the show was already half way down when I came to photograph and strike, but nonetheless, La Taverna, Slow Bar in Polcenigo was the perfect location for this show. The owners are incredibly generous and were amazing hosts for our mixed reception of Italian and American friends. This show was held on the first Friday in April, 2022 and the place was packed. We were humbled by the amount of friends we had come out in support. It was also great to have patrons of the business mixing and mingling with us as well. The show was up for the full month of April.

More emphasis on fun that show documentation…

I’ve said most of what I wanted to say in the captions, but I do want to reiterate how humbling and neat is was to have both Italian and American friends we’ve made since being here come out (in driving rain) to support the show. Huge thanks to La Taverna and everyone that came. Since I’ve started working as a Graphic Designer for the USAF on base, there hasn’t been a whole lot of free time to do stuff like this. I’m proud to have been able to make this work and very much appreciate the support of my spouse, Amanda for coaching me through the pinch points. This was/will be a highlight of our time here in Italy for sure and I’d love to do something like this again in the future. Now that I’m not in a tenure track teaching position, there was no pressure or expectation to make this “fit” into any sort of framework for “approval.” I just made the work and enjoyed hanging out with the people that came. We had a ton of good laughs along with many drinks and great food from La Taverna. Yeah, I wish I would have snapped a few photos of the show actually happening, but looking back being fully present was by far more important/valuable. In the past when I’ve had shows I was preoccupied with how I would document it for tenure. Being free from that just felt right. Between the making, the screenprinting, and the audience feedback this experience touched on all the things that are deeply important to me as a maker—and as a human. Active energy exchange through making / thinking between maker and audience during an exhibition is absolutely essential for me. Ironically, there were many points in the process where time was short and things felt like an inconvenient squeeze to make it all work. The daily grind has a way of obscuring or distorting deep personal values, but even if you’re tired once you break that patina of inconvenience and get into something deep down you know will make you feel good…the good feelings do in fact, start rolling in. Enough for now—ciao.

📸 ➕ ✍️ ➕🖼 ➕

van trip—002

Pula, Croatia–05/13/22–05/15/22

A long short weekend

A few weeks ago we had a chance to travel from Northern Italy to Pula, Croatia in our van. It wasn’t a long weekend, but Croatia is so close to us (just 2.5 hours!) we decided to chase the sun. We ended up in Pula, which is a little further South, but wow—how beautiful it was! We were extremely lucky to have sun all weekend and amazing time on the water. The van made it possible for us to visit / sleep in pretty remote locations a little to the South of Pula. The color palette and texture of the coast in Croatia is incredible and the Adriatic is super clear. The red soil reminds me of Western Oklahoma, although I don’t recall seeing groves of Olive trees near OKC. The vibe near the coast in Croatia is largely uncultivated, which we like. There are horrible waterparks here and there (A-hem Istralandia), but we found tons of wild coast and very little oversight. We stopped in Pula on the way home to see the Roman ruins and the experience was both very low stress (even driving a 6M camper) and mind-blowing. If you’re a person interested in Roman history, but not cool with crowds I’d recommend coming to Pula instead of Rome—of course, I still recommend going to Rome regardless—feelings be damned! Short post for today, but hope you all enjoy the photos and words, as brief as they may be. Ciao.

🚐 ➕ 📸 ➕🌅

All the colors, all the textures…and all the work of shooting film—Arco MXGP, 2022

⬆️ I met @fedecunial (middle photo in sequence above) along with @tmarzaro via instagram as part of @astroclub.y. Long story short—I gave them a large official banner I picked up from the 2021 MXoN (Motocross Des Nations), where the Italian team won the title at Maggiora Park—what an event! See more from that here or over on Vurb Moto. These guys are Italian, and doing an incredible job photographing Italian riders that were on the team (Tony Cairoli and Mattia Guadagnini ) I thought it would be better that they have it than me 😀 Of course, they photograph + video tons of other riders as well and travel frequently on the MXGP circuit. They’re also working in video with Mattia Guadagnini’s “Behind” series—so good—and so much freakin’ work (and helpful for learning Italian, BTW)!! Long story short, I’m super impressed by these guys—and they’re as nice as they are hard-working, which is awesome. Since the IG convo we had about the banner I’ve kept in contact with these guys—they’ve been super nice to me and I really enjoy what they are doing with the Astro Club and hope they keep the party going. As a former racer, it always just feels way better to know people in the paddock doing awesome stuff! I hope I can meet up with these guys at another GP sometime soon.

Better late than never…

Wow y’all. No other way to say it. I’m way, way behind on posting. I was lucky enough squeeze a trip in last month to absolutely stunning Pietramurata, Trentino for an MXGP race. I decided to go analog with my cameras—taking my Minolta SRT 201 35mm with some Fuji 400 and my Diana F+ toy camera with a few roles of 120 Kodak Portra film. I also had my trusty digital LUMIX, but didn’t really use it. It was a perfect day for racing and for photographing—such an amazing experience. The difficulties started once I took the film from the cameras 😅. I’m not able to process C41 film myself, so I had the film processed by a local shop in Sacile called Cosmo Foto. From there, I began the arduous process of going through all of the negatives (probably around 150 frames or so—I’m a whiner, I know), selecting, scanning with my flatbed scanner, and finally processing the photos I scanned in photoshop. I post-process very minimally when I shoot film to try to honor the analog process as much as possible. I generally only edit exposure, levels, and throw a highpass filter on for clarity. That said, boy did it take a long time! I’ll admit there where moments during the process when I was questioning whether or not it was worth it anymore to keep buying + shooting film. It’s SO damn expensive now. But then, I look at the selected photos together and I remember all the good things about shooting film…and how good / free I feel when I have an analog camera in my hands. There’s unquestionably something unique about these images—there’s a story being told—even in the frames. I written about this a bit before—and the feelings haven’t changed much. I think we can all agree uniqueness in today’s media landscape doesn’t come easy. I’d venture to say these images are unique because the process reflects that—even down to the tape I crudely used in some of the images to tape them to my scanner bed. It’s there. Who cares! I just might try to keep it to one roll at a time in the future and maybe scrutinize a little more before snapping the shutter, but probably not. Ha! It’s pretty much impossible to stop once you start snapping that real shutter hardware—shoot ’em if you have ’em. Ciao!


van trip—001

⬆️ A look at the van (yet to be named)—& Cheese from Parma!

⬆️ Our previous RV—“the Spaceboat.” A 28′ 1989 Winnebago Itasca Sunflyer gifted to me by my papa. The spaceboat and my papa’s memory both live on in the van 😌

Van life: Venezia > Parma > La Spezia

Amanda and I were lucky enough to get our hands on a Fiat Ducato van. It’s 6 meters long with a 4 cylinder, 6 speed manual turbo diesel motor—it’s amazing! It seemed like an absolutely ridiculous idea at first, but after thinking and discussing—and with the addition of Pinotto—we thought ease of travel and savings on hotels / bnbs would be worth it over the course of a few years. We’ve also seen these vans tend to hold their value. This one has low miles and was left in fantastic condition from the previous owners. We’re hoping when our time comes to an end in Italy we’ll be able to get some money back on re-sell…we shall see.

Sooo…we went big on our first trip, striking out literally hours after signing the paperwork. Having lived and worked from an RV in the past (final medium format photograph above) operating out of the van felt natural. The van is a smaller than our last RV, but it has all the same components (just newer thankfully 😅) so operating it felt both do-able and familiar from the get-go.

We used an app called Park4Night to find places to sleep that were free. This was surprisingly easy, but I will say some of the spots were spectacular, but not easy to maneuver into. Driving a larger car in Italy in tight spaces is a stressful endeavor—particularly on holiday weekends in destination areas, such as the Cinque Terre area we ended up in. In order to get from place to place we had to get comfortable with super tight space tolerances—at speed and moving slowly. We started by driving from the Venice area to Parma, where we stayed for the first night in an overnight space near the city center. Parma was spectacular to walk and the food was absolutely incredible. We are hoping to go back soon to spend some more time there. From Parma, we hopped on the Cisa Pass (SS62), where we stayed overnight in the mountains for one night (cold and windy, but incredibly beautiful). We cooked an amazing meal in the van from groceries we bought in Parma—hand made pasta, aged Parmesan, fresh vegetables etc… We drank Prosecco we saved from our last trip to Prosecco hills—it was all so insanely good—and we are so insanely lucky!

We finished the trip staying a night literally on top of a mountain outside of the port city of La Spezia. The view from the mountain was incredible, but getting the van up there on a dirt road was pretty stressful, lol—we barely fit, but we made it happen. That said, the sunset that night and the view from the open back doors the next morning made it all worth it. We learned a ton from trip 001—see more phone snaps on the IG post embed below. We’re hoping to spend as much time in the van as possible this summer—cameras will be in tow. I might add more to this post later, as this trip was a lot to process on top of a trip I’m on now in the US. I’m looking forward to being back in Italy soon and am currently sitting in the Gainesville, Florida airport. Time to get on the first plane of three for the 20 hour journey back to the FVGciao.


04/10/22—Prosecco Hills

transition markers…

Last week we had family in town from the U.S. One of the first places we always want to show people is the Prosecco Hills area. Yes, it’s close to the area we live, and yes, the wine tasting is amazing…but there’s something else about this area—call it a vibe if you will—that is otherworldly. I think the feeling was amplified because we visited just as everything was starting to bloom. The grapevines were all bare, but almost all of them we budding. I’ve always loved Spring and Summer—it feels to me like there are somehow more possibilities during these times. This visit was an opportunity to reflect at the very beginning of Spring—to acknowledge a transition actively taking place and look forward to a time of growth, warmth, and longer days. That said, it was also a good time to reflect on the trials, tribulations, and victories from previous Winter. So many challenges and change to process. But enough time traveling with the mind—wasting energy talking about the future or the past. This short tension point between things being essentially dead and then coming to life is very interesting to me—particularly since it more or less happens at the same time every year—things can be planned around around this moment of transition. Everything transforms within the space of just a few weeks and all the sudden you look up and everything is different. This happens in so many other important domains of life. Sometimes the change you recognize after the fact is good, sometimes not so much. I guess the best thing we can do is be mindful of the change. Not unlike making it a point to watch or at least acknowledge the sun going down or rising daily. These monumental markers of change just seem too easy to overlook when we get lost in schedules. When you really think about it it’s heartbreaking how much we miss. I was going through the zillion photos I have on my phone the other day to free up some space and I ran across an image I captured in 2015. At that time, we were going through a period of transition and difficult decision-making. The image is a post-it note stuck on a desk that says:

Happiness = satisfaction in a circumstance
Circumstance is born from change
Change is the only constant
Happiness = change

I’m not sure if he wrote this or not, but it was in Dr. Will Heywood’s office at Arizona State University. I was getting ready to interview for new jobs and my family was in the midst of coming to terms with my mom’s advanced cancer diagnosis. Will was nice enough to let me use his office as a temporary work space. I found these words to be both helpful and comforting at the time, and now reflecting on the massive change we’ve experienced over the past seven years since I’d say the concept framework has held up pretty well! Obviously change is difficult, but I really like this re-framing.

We forgot what it was like to have an actual winter coming to Northern Italy from Central Florida. I definitely miss the warmer temps and longer days during Winter we enjoyed in Florida (I’m flying there as I write this and was shocked to see temps in the mid 80s on the weather forecast 😱), but I will say the cold brings a stronger appreciation of nice conditions and generally a more acute sense of change when it comes to environment. Just like with anything else, contrast is a generally a good thing. I talk about contrast in pairing typefaces and using typeface variants / case / tracking etc.. constantly when I teach typography. When everything is roughly the same nothing stands out. I’m interested in being more mindful when it comes to identifying those tipping points during a transition. Those little blossoms on the grapevines (which I photographed, but accidentally deleted lol—irony) are a perfect example. I wonder if those moments could be framed as fuel for personal change/improvement—maybe priority re-adjustment, gratitude practice, making time for exercise, reconnecting with an old hobby, or even just taking a few minutes to chill on the front porch every day without an electronic device. Developing new habits can be easy or hard depending on what you’re trying to do. I think all the habits I listed would fall under the hard category, lol. But it’s nice to think of / frame any kind of moment of transition be it daily, seasonal, yearly, etc… as markers/reminders to do the thing(s) you’ve been meaning to do—even if it’s only for a few minutes. I suppose that’s enough rambling for now—ciao.

📸 ➕ 🇮🇹 ➕ 🏔

from Texas to Italy: recent 120 film

worldwide film quickpost…

I’ve been slowly working through processing a few roles of 120 I shot with my Yashica Mat 124G—the roles spanned from hikes we took a few months ago in Northern Italy near the small town of Giais (and one from Cortina!) to my recent visit home to West Texas. The negatives ended up scratched and dirty, but I’m still happy with the results—in particular the quality of the color. I feel like the tone of the images match what it looked like in context very closely. Maybe I’m just idealizing, but who knows. There’s obviously a striking contrast between the Mountains of Italy and the Plains of West Texas, but somehow they all seem to fit. I only have time for a quickpost today, but it feels good to get these up Sending good vibes to all—Ciao.


Frames from Arquà Petrarca

Pets & Friar Poets….

A few weeks ago Amanda and I visited a small town in the Veneto region of Italy called Arquà Petrarca. Aside from the name of the town being incredibly difficult for me to pronounce with my flat Texan accent, it was a neat experience. The town is named after Francesco Petrarca, who died there in the late 1300s. He was know uniquely as both a deeply religious and creative man. He operated in multiple societal domains at the same time—this was not so common during that time. Poetry and writing were his making outlets of choice—and—apparently he loved the ladies a little too much for total religious piety. We learned that many credit him for sparking the Italian Renaissance with his humanist beliefs / works, which is pretty incredible. There was a calming creative energy that could be felt in the town. It’s situated in an area of volcanic activity, and uniquely shaped peaks can be seen all around. Because of this, there are natural thermal baths. We stayed at a BnB that had access to these and I have to admit it was super relaxing—the Prosecco we brought probably helped with that ( none of that was photographed 😀 ).

I didn’t take many photos, but I was pleased with what I did frame. These were mainly small details that stood out to me as we walked the town—mainly curious splashes of color and aged textures—both natural and human-made. Less vacation photos. I’m certainly no Rick Steves, although I’ll probably look like him when I get old. I suspect you can google the town if you wanted to see some stock travel photos or consult Rick. A-hem…the city was absolutely picturesque, but one thing we did notice was the prevalence of smog in the area. We’ve driven through the Veneto region many times and have noticed this almost every time. We read that the lack of wind combined with the prevalence of industry and agriculture in area creates a haze the often lingers low in the cloud ceiling. Bummer. You can see it in the photos if you look at the sky, although the Walker Evans in me framed it out when possible with the camera.

We’ve adopted a new Italian friend (photo above). His name is Pinotto, Pinot for short. Pinotto is essentially Italian Castello from the Abbott and Castello we know in the U.S. He appears to be a mix between a Corgi and some kind of Terrier. This was his first weekend trip with us. Aside from some pretty moderate separation anxiety and weariness of the car he did amazing. He’s still adjusting with us, but seems to be getting more comfortable every day. It feels strange having a dog again after or last dog, Lexi passed away around 8 months ago. I can’t say I was ready for another, but I suppose I’m adjusting every day along with Pinotto. He’s a very sweet little guy—and photogenic.

Going back to Francesco Petrarca to bring this thing in for a wobbly landing…I like this idea of someone who is able to hold many things at one time. Not so much a specialist, but a generalist in all things spiritual—be it creativity, philosophy, or religion. I’ve never identified as a specialist, although I’ve had several folks tell me I should be for a career in academia. Guess that’s maybe why I decided to pause that for now to practice. I’ve always had diverse interests…and an ability to laser focus on one thing until I become proficient. Learning Italian has by far been the most difficult endeavor I’ve taken on to date—and I love the existential challenge. I’m still terrible at speaking, but I’m not giving up, damn it. Small daily gains, people. Traditionally, when I become proficient in something I’m generally ready to move on to the next thing. And yet, somehow—and at some point—the important things I’ve learned tend to rise to the surface like air bubbles from ocean depths synthesize into strange physical outcomes that somehow feel cogent. I never thought I’d be riding a vintage enduro motorcycle through Italy or working as a Graphic Designer at an Air Force Base…or letterpress printing on a Vandercook SP-15 with Dan Rhatigan—in Italy! I suspect the creative energy I felt in Arcquà Petrarca might have had something to do with this concept of being an enthusiastic creative generalist—trusting and focusing on process, but who knows. That’s enough rambling on a Saturday evening. I hope you enjoy the photos—Ciao.

📸 ➕ 🚶‍♂️ ➕ ⛰ ➕ 🇮🇹

Frames from Roma & Firenze

it’s been a bit…

Things have been super busy around here. January was a tough month, but we did manage to squeeze in a few weekend trips—one to Rome for the new year and one to Florence. We got super lucky with the weather on both trips. Both cities were, as one could expect, amazing. We spent most of our time exploring on foot, during which I snapped off these photos with my Lumix. We didn’t get to spend enough time in either place, but some time was certainly better than none. Dang…walking around with a camera and no plan just never gets old. I could seriously just go out a do it every day. There’s always something new to find. It’ll have to be a quick post for today, but I wanted to share and keep momentum going here. Plus these photos have been mocking me every time I see the folder on my desktop. Now they are free I suppose. I’m currently navigating a major schedule adjustment due to a new job (I’ll probably write more about that in another post) and am still trying to find schedule equilibrium, but I am committed! This short paragraph is a small step in the right direction towards balance—and we’ll end there for today. Ci vediamo.

📸 + 🚶‍♂️ + 🇮🇹

Simpson Bandit RX1 Throwback Project

I’ve been obsessed with helmets for a long time…

If you know me, you know I have a weird obsession with helmets—all kinds. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about the helmet that sparked my obsession—The Simpson “Bandit.” There isn’t much info about the original model online. The best info I could find was that the original Bandit had a RX1 model designation and was first released in 1979 by Bill Simpson (Simpson Race Products). The earliest iterations you can see above in the Rutherford and De Angelis photos. I grew up watching sprint car racing (see Brad Doty photo above)—and later participated in open wheel dirt racing in midgets (see photos above). From a style perspective, even as a little kid I thought the looks of the bandit were so unique—particularly the nose piece. Anyone wearing one automatically looked like a badass. So, naturally when I started racing I wanted one. Simpson helmets were always elusive and expensive. I’m sure they still are. It took several years, but I finally got my first bandit when I made the switch from go-karts to midgets. The bandits at that time had of course been updated stylistically, but still retained the same basic shape. They also had nomex (fireproof) lining—when you’re strapped into a racecar that’s basically a moving bomb nomex is a definite safety plus (more on that later).

Another thing about Simpson products that were very memorable to me as a kid is the Simpson catalogue I’d get every year. The catalogue had a range of products, from drag racing parachutes (what Simpson initially got famous for inventing) to helmets, firesuits, seatbelts, etc…But the thing that really stuck out to me was a short article Simpson wrote about his products that included a photo of him intentionally setting himself on fire to demonstrate the quality of his products. I thought this was incredible, and now I’d say from a branding perspective it’s about as good as it gets. My second Simpson helmet after the bandit was a speedway shark (see above). I also bought a high quality firesuit and gloves from Simpson, and don’t ya know it, one night me and my car caught on fire. Long story short, the fuel injection system malfunctioned during a race and was spraying fuel from the top of the motor—unbeknownst to me fuel was getting all over me and the car while we were at speed, but it wasn’t bad because we were pretty much full throttle during the whole heat race, so most of the fuel was still being consumed by the motor. When the race ended and I let off the gas flames burning off from my exhaust (a normal occurence) ignited fuel that the fuel pump was literally spraying from the leak—now that I wasn’t on the throttle the system had more back pressure on it. Our cars used methanol for fuel, meaning the fire was invisible except for impurities. As soon as I let off the throttle all I felt was a wave of intense heat and could see hints of fire all around me—I definitely knew what was going on though. An article I had read about a sprint car driver that got trapped in his burning car flashed through my mind before I could even think about anything else. Other than that I don’t remember much about how I got out of the car. I was able to get out myself pretty fast though—I had a cam lock belt system instead of a latch system and I feel that helped. I rolled out of the car onto the track. I didn’t know if I was still on fire or not, because my suit, gloves, and helmet were all super hot. They hit me and the car with a fire extinguisher and got all the switches turned off in the car really quickly. It was a crazy experience. Even crazier we fixed the car and raced the next day of the show. I put new visor on my helmet because parts of it were melted and coated with extinguisher residue. It was an eerie site, but I didn’t get burned at all—I got super lucky—and the track crew was awesome. I started 21st and finished 3rd in the feature at a tough venue in Oklahoma (then I-44 Speedway)—it was one of my best races ever.

Of course, this is just a for-fun, not for profit illustration project, but drawing this stuff brings back great memories. And it’s fun to celebrate designed artifacts that both work and look awesome. In the small world of sprint car racing I’d say this helmet was trend setting. Bill Simpson had a very interesting trajectory, which basically led to him getting ousted (unfairly IMO) from his own company in the early 2000s. Apparently this unfortunately had something to do with the Death of Dale Earnhardt and his seatbelts failing in his fatal crash. He subsequently started another race product company and then a company that made lightweight football helmets for kids. Apparently dude loved helmets more than me. Simpson is still a super popular brand, but it’s always funny when a company boots the person it is named after and continues on without changing the name—I’m sure that was a very strange feeling for Bill Simpson to see his name being used without even being a part of the company 🤷‍♂️. That’s America, I guess. He recently passed away, which I hated to see. He certainly made a lasting impact in the racing community, not just in terms of safety innovations, but also style. That’s all for now—ciao.

💂‍♂️ + 🏎 + 🎨