Week 103: Matchbox Superfast Clipper

Is this vintage Hot Wheels about adventure or what? Two-seater, flip-top, crazy color, futuristic sleekness, this old Matchbox emerges from under its rock to meet and conquer any thrills it meets.

I went to Cedar Point the other day, home of the world's greatest roller coasters such as the Dragster, Millennium Force and Magnum. Too bad I can't tie in this week's tiny car to my real life.

My oldest son, Spencer, turned 23 and for his birthday invited me and Racer Z to go with him for a final summer visit to the park. Spencer is a major coaster fan.

I was nervous, but sadly not about the fear factor of the rides. I worried about getting nauseated (I have developed an inner ear problem that now will not allow me to ride spinny rides without getting dangerously sick), about having a heart attack and subsequently leaving my son with a guilt trip, and about disappointing everyone. At the core was the worry that going to an amusement park would drive home I was getting older.

See, I once loved roller coasters. I loved them, and now was unable to ride many of them. The last time I had ridden a coaster had been with my oldest son many years ago. I had become very, very ill.

So here I was, with my oldest son, his girlfriend, and 12-yr-old Racer Z, in the park, looking at the Dragster, an amazing feat of engineering that hydraulically shoots a car along a track attaining a speed of 120 mph in less than 4 seconds and then 420 feet up a vertical climb. Like an old Chevelle, it was beautiful.

My son's girlfriend Alex doesn't like coasters, and my other son felt he wasn't ready for this one, so that left me. My first coaster in more than seven years, and one I was having a difficult getting my mind around.

Due to mechanical problems, the ride shut down for awhile, and the short version is Spencer and I hit the entrance right when they began allowing people back on the ride, so missed the huge lines.

Z asked if I was scared. "No, man. It's just a roller coaster." I felt myself remembering the long forgotten rules and codes of roller coaster riding.

I conquered the Dragster, and while only a 17 second ride, one of the coolest rides I've ever experienced. I went on to ride the Magnum, but it was in line for the Millenium Force that I had a transcendent experience.

"You ever ride this one before?" asked the guy in front of me, probably about my son's age and obviously a coaster fan.

"No, not this one yet," I said.

"Oh, it's awesome, and it's so smooth, different than other coasters."

Along with Spencer, we went on to talk about coasters, what we liked, what we didn't, what was scary, and so on. Age, experience, jobs, all went away, and it was like it should be -- dudes talking about coasters. At that moment I was happy. I was back.

Z, meanwhile, had his own doubts to wrestle, but direct ones of THAT THING IS WAY TOO TALL!!! I'M NOT GETTING ON THAT!!

Beyond the silliness of coasters, I understood the essence of fear, and I thought of my own  life and all the situations I have, and will yet, face, those in which fear stopped me, and those in which it hadn't. My son had ridden a number of rides, but his fear had stopped him from riding others he desperately wanted to try. I understood but didn't know how to help.

Toward the end of the night, Spencer was preparing to ride his favorite coaster at the park, a beast of a coaster called the Raptor, and one I can't ride because of the curves.He had previously ridden a coaster called the Mantis, and at the last minute Z had let fear get the best of him and had bailed. Now, although he said he would ride this one, looking up at the ride, fear was again ruling him.

"I can't," he said. "I want to, but I can't. I'm not ready." Spencer shook his head and went off to ride it by himself.

What could I say? Z was shaken, and disappointed with himself. I understood completely.

"Listen," I said. "I don't care if you ride this coaster or not, but you want to ride it, and one thing I've learned is that if you let fear stop you from doing something you know you can do, you probably will regret it and think about it for a long time. A coaster is a safe way of pushing past fear. A million people ride these things, and at the end of the day it's only fear. I'm not trying to push you to ride it, but I have this feeling that you need to show yourself you can do it and you'll feel really good about yourself if you do."

 It was the best I could do, but I guess it wasn't enough. We all went to find someplace to sit.

I sat at a picnic table with Alex, and Z sat at a table behind us. Z was quiet, and Alex and I chatted about a variety of things. It was now dark, and the park was lit up like a LED lollipop.

Suddenly, my son jumped up, dramatically slapped his glasses in my hand, and ran toward the entrance to the Raptor, which by this point had no lines. I was shocked, but didn't stop him.

My son was able to find Spencer, and together they rode the Raptor.

Alex and I waited, and we saw Spencer and Z emerging from the exit through the shadows, but I couldn't tell how the ride had went.

"I DID IT!!" yelled Z. "We're going to ride it again!" Z gave me a hug, and we both knew that this whole thing had been about a lot more than coasters.

For both of us.

Thank you Spencer.

Photo of my vintage Clipper, one of the old Lesney Made in England, models, courtesy of Phil Pekarcik.


Week 102: Anglia Panel Truck

This week's Hot Wheels truck has a branded logo for California-based Mooneyes, maker of customization parts for cars and motorcycles. The shop began in the 50s, and perhaps had a humble beginning such as this:

The above sign was made after Racer A begged me to find some cardboard. We had just removed his training wheels for the first time and, since that removal went so swimmingly, he decided we should open a shop. After making the sign, A plopped down on a chair outside our garage and held the sign high in the air like he was at a fundraising carwash, waiting for cars to drive by on the road.

"You know, we don't actually know how to fix bikes, right?" I asked, vaguely afraid that against all odds someone would pull in and ask for us to adjust the disc brake caliper on her new high performance racing bike.

"We don't?" he asked. "Well, what if someone is riding down the road with training wheels and pulls in for us to take them off?"

"They'll be in luck," I said. "We can help them then."

"Perfect," he said, continuing to hold the sign aloft. His arms showed no sign of the sign making them tired.

His confidence was unwavering, but it should have been.

I had previously removed his training wheels for the first time and was taking them to the garage, simultaneously beginning the obligatory bicycle pep talk to my helmeted kindergartner.

"Now don't get discouraged if...." I said to nobody. Racer A had hopped on the bike and ridden off.

I stood up, amazed. No pushing the bike from behind, no fatherly instruction, no comforting an  insecure pre-schooler psyche. Nope, my son had simply pedaled away without fanfare.

"What...." I began. "How did you do that?" I asked as he slid to a stop. "I didn't know you could...."

He was beaming. "DAD!! You were right! It is fun to ride without training wheels!" He pushed off and rode back to me, circling around and back down the drive again.

I was incredulous.

But at least I was right. It is fun riding without training wheels. Now back to work  in case someone pedals up my drive. Those training wheels aren't going to take themselves off.

Picture of Hot Wheels sloppily taken by myself. Look forward to the usual high-quality images from Phil Pekarcik down the road.


Week 101: Yogi Bear 1964 GMC Panel

Photo courtesy of Phil Pekarcik.

I've put the photo credit at the beginning, because I've become lost in voices, and by the end I suspect you will be, too, so I want to give props to Phil in case you never reach the end.

Here's my story:

Doing research for this GMC with Yogi Bear on the side, I Googled Hanna-Barbera, the company responsible for that Honeymooners-style bear and his  sidekick BooBoo. Oh man -- there's a place to get lost in hotlink heaven.

Clicking on Daws Butler, voice of Yogi, I was immediately  pulled into other voices Butler did (oh yeah, I remember that! Oh, right!! I remember that one!). The list was prolific - Huckleberry Hound, Elroy Jetson, Bingo of the Banana Splits, breakfast cereal characters Capt'n Crunch and Quisp, and Scooby-Dum of Scooby-Doo.

Hmm -- Scooby-Dum. I don't remember him, but look, Scooby-Dum is hotlinked. Click.

And it began. I was clicking on who did the voice of this character or that character, and the more I clicked the more it seemed cartoon voices were more connected to everything than even Kevin Bacon. At one point I ended up on a page about Paul Frees, the voice of  the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Burgermeister Meisterberger in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, who also sang "Darktown Strutter's Ball" for one of my favorite horror camp movies The Abominable Dr. Phibes, with Vincent Price, which of course brought me right back to Scooby-Doo, as Price did the voice of Vincent Van Ghoul in The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo.

The web pages were filled with links to click, different colored text daring me to enter, and like eating a bag of Fritos late at night (Frito Bandito was voiced by Mel Blanc), I just kept gobbling down one more click, one more crunchy bit of trivia.

That was five days ago. I haven't slept, showered or had anything to eat since I began, but it's worth it.

Okay, I'm kidding, but it is addictive and fascinating.

Yes, I know I was supposed to blog about the kids and family and tie it all into Yogi Bear -- umm, yeah, I've been watching cartoons with my kids lately.

The end.

Now back to clicking.

No way! The voice of Big Dog in 2 Stupid Dogs is that guy from Everyone Loves Ramond?

Think you can resist? Okay, Boo Boo, let's see what you got. I dare you.

Click here and become lost


Week 100: 1967 Camaro

Astounding -- 100 Tiny Cars, already, The kids have grown 100 Tiny Cars larger, and I've grown 100 Tiny Cars older, and perhaps 100 Tiny Cars wiser.

Hitting Week 100 means something else: preparation for the Second Annual Daddy's Tiny Cars Race, but before I get to that, let me mention this week's feature car.

If you have nothing better to do than memorize my blogs, you may remember another 1967 Camaro back in June 2011. This time the duplication is not an oversight, however. I've had the above gem squirreled away and chose the dramatic Week 100 for the unveiling.

Green tinted windows, articulated hood, diabolical black green color, this 1967 Hot Wheels Camaro is sizzling, and while I loved the orange paint job back in Week 42, these colors make this car one of my all-time favorite looking Hot Wheels ever, even if it isn't aqua. This is a mean looking car, mean enough for racing ... do you see where I'm going with this?

Back on the First Tiny Cars race (results reported in Week 53), I was soundly whipped by my kids, with my selected Hot Wheels 1961 GTO Wagon being taken apart on the track, I suspect because of its weight. Not this year -- those kids are going down, and I'm hoping the intimidation factor of my Camaro may play a part. For some reason, the kids just didn't fear a yellow station wagon.

Like last year, I will select one tiny car to represent Daddy, and will allow each of my three kids to select three cars. I'm hoping I can get my 20-something son out here also, and rumor has it that Phil the photographer may also be racing. What the heck -- I'll allow them each three cars, also if the show up, and will even supply cars to race if they have none -- I'll let Spencer have the station wagon and one of my old cars with three wheels. There is even a chance that my wife may race, but that remains to be seen.

Now granted, the competition may be tougher now that Baby G is three years old. That one year has made a huge difference in the development of his competitive spirit, possibly through his disciplined training on Wii Sports Resort with his brothers. No matter, I'll be ready.

I'll be training until the big race, and while my training will largely be mental, I plan on being as mental as can be. These kids don't stand a chance.

Thanks for the excellent car photo from Phil Pekarcik. If you're wondering, the guy under the car isn't fixing a problem, he's souping, tuning and otherwise preparing for the big day.