Why I Wear 14

cruyff6Back in the70’s when I was a kid growing up in Minneapolis MN we were hard pressed to find any sort of football. I’m talking proper football, not the incredible boring NFL type football. Yes there was the park and rec. in-house Edina soccer association, a bunch of scrub kids chasing a ball around once a week over summer break. To find real football the stuff of World Cup glory and European titles was, except for PBS Sunday showing of Soccer Made in Germany, impossible.

My first taste of Proper football was in 1976 when the Minnesota kicks came to town. I was hooked and as a 16 year-old and I was a season ticket holder. Yeah I went for the game not the tailgate party, though they were fun too. I drank in the sport. I was short skinny and not a very good athlete but I loved to play the game.

In the summer of 1977 or 78 someone got their hands on the official FIFA movie Heading for glory the story of the 1974 world cup game in West Germany. After watching the video I fell in love with the German National Team and Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff stole my imagination. I sucked at the game, I still do, but I love how Cruyff played the game so fluid so graceful yet so cunning. I tried and tried to emulate what I saw on that VHS tape. His first touch perfect, his vision of the field perfect. In my teenage head I would pretend I was Cruyff, until of course, I tripped over the ball doing his signature move and reality crashed down on top of me as I hit the floor. While I could never come close to making Cruyff’s moves mine I did adopt his number, #14. Even today when I kick around in the backyard in my old man head I see myself as Cruyff #14 and all.

 

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Fun Little Show

Short pitstop among the corn

Short pitstop among the corn

Last Saturday I tagged along with the crew from Further Performance to Fargo ND. It was our first trip to Volkswagens In the Valley put on by the Red River VW Club. It was a fun little show with around 100 plus cars, mostly air-cooled. There is something about low keyed gatherings that I really enjoy. While we all like to show off our builds there is something to be said about hanging with people who share your passion without being overly competitive.

The plan for the day was to start early from Further Performance and make the four hour drive from Minneapolis to Fargo ND. Five cars in total: My two cars the Golf R and the MK3 GTI along with three cars representing the shop. Tristan was in the Scirocco, Alex in the Karmann Ghia and Mike in his MK5 R32. It would not be a proper road trip if something does not go according to plan. True to form my friend Matt came down sick and was not able to drive the GTI so we left the GTI behind. Surprisingly that was the extent of the days drama.

The phrase a road less traveled describes Tristan and his approach to road trips. Avoid the interstate taking instead the forgotten highways and back roads of central Minnesota. No record speeds between points instead opting for slightly less than the published limits. Endless fields of corn, freight trains hauling their black gold to refineries far to the east and small town America never made a boring moment. It was a refreshing way to travel considering for the past 25 years I have flown back and forth over the exact parts without ever seeing the country on a personal level.

Much of the VW scene I have been exposed to is the hyper competitive build it bigger and better than the other guy. The scene at the Volkswagens in the Valley was laid back. People like me who enjoy their VW’s for the smell, sounds and feel of the vehicle. Sure there were some amazing builds but they did not scream out I’m better than you. Instead we all enjoyed the time and passion it takes to build a car, any car, and keep them running just because it makes you smile.

VWs In the Valley will definitely be on my 2016 calendar.

Awesome Type 3

Awesome Type 3

Porsche Powered Bus

Porsche Powered Bus

Bus

Bus

Bus Bugs Blue Bug BlueWhiteBug BlueWhiteBugToys Bridge Final BugENG Blue Bug FRNT Blue Bug Black Bug

MADFURTHER Not just a Car Show

It has been a few weeks since I returned home from Southern Worthersee – SOWO14 .  I was going through the video I shot while in Georgia and I quickly realized that I do not possess the skills to be both a chronicler  and a participant at the same time. Most of the video I shot was very ordinary and nothing like what I had hoped it would be. I was far more interested in being part of the moment than capturing the moment. Plus I like to drive my cars. Driving and shooting video of the events as they happen is impossible. I think I will let SOWO14 . sink in just a little more before I begin my edit.

I might be putting off the SOWO14  edit for  bit, but I am still excited for the car show scene for this summer. I was looking through some old unfinished projects, and I stumbled across an edit of last years MadFurther show. This is the show where I unveiled my rebuilt 1997 Golf GTI VR6. (Thank You Aaron Witchger ) Since the edit was almost complete when I lost interest, I thought I would put the finishing touches on the project and post it to my Vimeo page (MadFurther 2014 on Vimeo). I also called my friend Tristan Henderson who is putting on the MadFurther show and asked him if I could do a quick interview with him about the upcoming show.  Now this is my first time interviewing someone and despite a bad tendency on my part to talk over the interviewee I did manage to pull out some OK footage. I hope you enjoy the video.

WitchOne Day Four SoWo 2014

Day Four of our 2014 Southern Worthersee  adventure continues. Except for a few minor mechanical problems with one of the  crew’s GTI’s the trip has been both trouble and drama free. Tire Change WitchOne Deals Gap2

I finally had the chance to take Witch One the 1997 Golf GTI VR6 turbo out for a drive. Nothing but props and a huge thanks for the guys at Further Performance. for this build. The car both handles and performs way above anyones expectations. Both Tristan, Matt and my self have pushed the GTI and the limits have yet to be found.

Of course like any build there is always things to be improved on; like upgraded brakes and a good set of sway bars will be a must. The Golf R has been rock solid other than a weak clutch, (planed winter project) she has answered every question asked and performed above all expectations.

Before the Dragon

Tomorrow the little town of Helen, Georgia will fill up with thousands of VW’s, Audi’s and veracious other Euro cars and the real shenanigans will begin. My hope is everyone has loads of fun but keeps things respectful and safe because I have this show on my must attend list for the foreseeable future.

I can’t close out this blog post without once again thanking the guys at Further Performance. Tristan Henderson, Matthew Henderson, Frank Buntz, Mike Olson and Aaron Witchger for their inspiration and hard work in making a dream come true.

 

Witch One The Rebirth of a Golf GTI

VR6

WitchOne

Today we set off on the long trek to SOWO Southern Worthersee A Volkswagen Audi show in northern Georgia . While this will not be my first time attending SOWO it will be the first time my 1997 Golf GTI will make an appearance. My GTI and I go back to the beginning; 17 years ago is when I bought this little 150HP pocket rocket. Today, after a total rebuild we are hoping, reborn, the little monster can pull 400HP and maybe more. Every day I drive Witch One I smile knowing in my hands I have a special machine that has not only kept me dreaming but also launched the dreams of at least 7 other people, maybe more, who were lucky enough to race her through the streets of Minneapolis.

Shows like Overhauling, Gas Monkey, Wheeler Dealers or Top Gear at their core depicts the emotional connection we humans have with our cars. I too have this emotional connection with my GTI and Golf R for that matter, and like the people from the aforementioned shows I can tell you exactly who inspired this connection and when the connection with my GTI occurred.

WitchOne and 2Dubs

WitchOne and 2Dubs

I bought the GTI new and after several years the fun had left the car. I was a home owner with yard work and remodeling projects on the to do list. The little hot hatch became a defacto SUV, hauling everything from lawn mowers and yard mulch to soccer goals and snowblowers. Time was taking its toll on the little GTI. It was time to sell the her and buy something more practical, a real SUV.

At the time my friend Aaron Witchger would badger me to let him drive the GTI and since I had already bought the Tahoe I freely tossed him the keys. Every time he would bring the car back he would say “dude you can’t sell this car.” He would present me with ideas he had found on the internet on how to modify the GTI to improve her performance or alter her stance. Wheels, exhaust and a chip to give the VR6 engine a little more growl.  The times I would ride along as a passenger with Aaron as he was driving I would marvel at his driving skills. The guy was so tuned into that car man and machine truly became one. Aaron not only was one of the best athletes I had ever met but he was also one of the best drivers I had ever met. Riding along with Aaron as he dipped through Minneapolis traffic was the point in time where the fun of driving the GTI was replaced by the magic of driving the GTI and the future build took root my soul. It was here I decided I would never sell this little car.

WitchOne

WitchOne

Aaron and I have long gone our separate ways, however when I look back at the story of the GTI I can point to Aaron Witchger as the person who influenced me the most in not only keeping the GTI but someday building her into something special.

Fast forward now 7 plus years. The GTI build remained a dream but I was not really committed to making that dream come true. The GTI was little more than a third vehicle taking up space in my garage. About four yeas ago now is when the GTI threw a rod bearing and life for the hot hatch changed. I had her towed to Further Performance. and while she sat pathetically up on the hoist it was clear; we could rebuild her bring her back to life bigger, stronger and more powerful  than the day she left the plant in Wolfsburg Germany.

Ready for SOWO14 WitchOne

Ready for SOWO14 WitchOne

While building the car my friends would always ask me: “So you have three cars, Which one do you drive?” It was through countless conversations like this that the tag “Which One” took hold. It was also during the build that countless numbers of people, people I had never met started to tell me the stories of Aaron Witchger giving them their first ride in my GTI. They would tell me stories how they had so much fun riding or driving in my car with Aaron that they knew right there they had to buy a GTI of their own. One mutual friend told me a story of how Aaron scared the crap our of him as he dipped through Hennepin Ave traffic. The car and the drive was such a rush that with in a month he bought his very own 337 GTI.  Another person whom I had never met saw the GTI up on the hoist at Further Performance. and said “I own my GTI today because of the ride Aaron Witchger gave me in this car.”

People, it seemed, had not just one story but may stories about the time Aaron gave them a ride in my GTI. Each story was told with a sparkle in the eye and a smile on their face. The craziest thing to me was I had no idea any of these people had ever ridden in my car. I had no idea when I tossed Aaron the keys to the GTI he was making his friends smile and dream. There were so many stories that it was obvious that “Which One” had to be changed to “Witch One” a tribute to a guy who had such a positive yet unknown influence on so many.

WitchOne

WitchOne

It is funny how life can bring people together and create friendships, even if they are for a short amount of time; friendships that become frozen in one moment in time before they go their separate ways. I have not spoken to Aaron in over ten years but his influence on me and my GTI will live on until the day I die. When that day comes and I head off to the big Volkswagen club in the sky and some lawyer hands Aaron the keys to my GTI I hope rather than sending her to the crusher he brings new smiles and creates new dreams for the next generation of Volkswagen enthusiasts.

Matthew Henderson’s Honda CB350

When my GTI threw a rod bearing I had to make a decision; do I keep the car or do I scrap it. I chose to keep the GTI and thankful for that decision. Granted the GTI is just a car but it is a car that has been the key to a whole new world of amazing people. All the mods and builds for my cars are done at Further Performance. in Minneapolis. It is here where I met Mat Henderson. Like everyone at Further I am honored to call Matt my friend.

While most of Matts time is spent working on high performance VW’s and Audi’s in his free time Matt can be found working on his own projects. I had the chance to spend an afternoon with Matthew as he worked on his winter build, a Honda CB350 that can’t wait to see the Minnesota cold give way to the warmth of summer.

Matthew Henderson CB350 on Vimeo

Living the Dream

First Flight

15 years-old and about to take my First Flight

Thirty-eight years ago to day I flew my first airplane. Looking back on the experience I am just as excited to climb into the cockpit today as was the wide eyed 15 year old of the past. I have told this story before but as in all good stories it can be told again.

As far back as I can remember I was in love with aviation. I have been told, and I vaguely remember, that even as a young child aviation was part of my world. Like many young children I had imaginary playmates, Map and Groger, two heroes out saving the world. Of course both were pilots flying airplanes and helicopters while rescuing the needy with ease.

Through out my school days nothing really captured my attention as much and as firmly as airplanes. Yes I had bedroom wall posters of Porsche’s and Ferrari’s, Favorite athletes, and seriously what 15 year old boy did not have Farrah Fawcett looking down at him as he drifted off to sleep. However it was airplanes that would always stop me in my tracks. Even today I will stop and look up as the shiny birds climb into the sky.

Thanks to Edina High School and Anders Christenson, my Aerospace teacher, I jumped at the chance to learn about flying. Aerospace I. taught us the basics of flying. It was through Aerospace I. that we were given the opportunity to fly a real airplane. Three students would each split a leg between Flying Cloud (KFCM), Saint Cloud (KSTC) and then to Hutchinson (KHCD) and back to Flying Cloud airports. I drew the second leg KSTC to KHCD. By the time we reached Saint Cloud I was air-sick green about to blow chunks at any moment. What the hell this is my dream and I’m about the puke my guts out, this is not happening! While everyone was chuckling at my demise my 15 year-old ego and pride refused to give in. I took the controls and flew for the very first time a Cherokee 140 between Saint Cloud and Hutchinson municipal airports. Despite the nausea I did not blow chunks and I did not give up

First Flight

First time at the controls and fighting off a bad case of airsickness.

I have spent the vast majority of my working life at airports, pumping gas into aircraft or flying passengers around the country. The past twenty-five years I have flown airplanes for the same company, though they have changed their name a few times. Despite bankruptcies and  pay cuts I still get up every day looking forward to going to work. I love what I do. I am living my dream.

Endeavor Air CRJ900 My current office

Endeavor Air CRJ900 My current office