Well, the first Big News is that work is all of a sudden progressing gangbusters on the new book. I have no idea how or why this happens, but after several long months of slogging away and not really feeling the rhythm or sparkle in the story, all of a sudden it's spewing out of my brain and fingers like water out of a fire hose. I can't stop it! Oh, I know I'll have to go back over some of the earlier sections to take some of the pith, fluff and lead out, but the project feels alive again, and I wake up eager to get to my keyboard and find out what's coming next.
Thank goodness!
Part of it is surely the projected, looming and much yearned-for end of the pandemic (Carol and I got our first shots last week, and our second are scheduled for two weeks from now) which had been a buzz-kill for everything and everybody. The other part is the almost equally welcome beginning of spring. Took my first major bike ride in months the other day. Had taken a few around-the-neighborhood jaunts as the temperature poked up into the mid-forties, but it's dull just pedaling up and down the same-old/same-old streets looking at houses and folks out walking their dogs. But, as mentioned in a previous e-blast, we had a hell of a snow a few weeks back, and my beloved bike path through the woods was still pretty snow-and-iced in. I know, because I tried once or twice, but got less than a quarter mile before coming to the unavoidable conclusion that it was way too snow-packed, icy and slippery for a klutz like me on skinny road tires to traverse without either:
a) getting off and walking the bike, which gets away from the original intent of the exercise or:
b) wind up going nose-and-forehead first into some very cold and solid stuff.
But on Saturday the weather gods smiled until their lips hurt, and I took off under sunny skies and [relatively speaking] balmy temperatures. Sure, there were still patches of snow here and there, and places where I had to get off and walk for moderate distances to avoid a) and b) mentioned above. But it was mostly good, there were almost NO people on the trail and I got all the way to the zoo and most of the way back. Call it ten miles. Along the way, I came upon a trio of deer--big suckers!--and I'm pretty sure they're the ones I saw as fauns early last spring. The neat thing is they didn't move as I approached and just kind of stood there, looking at me, as if to say "so, didn't you bring us any treats?" Here's one of them:

As you can see, there was still quite a bit of snow around. But it felt great to be out on the trail again. Or at least it did until I crossed the road between the second and third trail sections, got myself all coiled up for a banzai, slightly downhill charge onto that third section and SNAP! (only you couldn't really hear it) the pedals shot around like they weren't connected to anything. Which, in fact, was precisely the case, as I'd apparently exerted such massive, Incredible Hulk-style torque on them that I snapped the chain (see image below):

Now you're probably thinking what a massive and impressive brute I've surely become thanks to all the sort-of workout work I've done in our ad-hoc, downstairs gymnasium/exercise area. And I'd love you to believe that, too. But I have to admit, it's more like when I put the new chain on last year and didn't have the correct, purpose-built tool for putting the pin in the master link and was just too damned lazy/embarrassed to go BACK to the bike shop and admit I didn't know what the hell I was doing. So I kinda more-or-less forced/hashed/weaseled/improvised a Rube Goldberg-ish apparatus to get the job done...
And let's just say that the fix lasted something like 900 or 1000 miles before it went "kaflooey." So it wasn't a total failure.
But it did leave me stranded a fairly long way from home. But, fortunately, God made me with feet (with legs attached, no less) and, after briefly considering a call home to tell Carol I was a complete boob and needed her to come pick me up, I decided the only manly thing to do was to walk the damn bike home. All three-point-whatever miles of it.
Which I did.
I mean, Carol and I go for 3-mile (and even more sometimes!) walks on a pretty regular basis. Although let me just say that walking or hiking for pleasure/exercise and walking a bike the same exact distance are different propositions entirely. Suffice to say that it prompted residual soreness in a few lower-back nooks and crannies that I didn't even know I had...
In any case, the bike shop was able to repair the chain (they were even able to use the same chain!) for a paltry 19 bucks and had it back the same day I brought it in, so I am--how did Gene Autry used to say it?--"Back in the Saddle Again."
BTW: I decided I should carry some sort of deer edibles with me on the bike path in case I run into any more of my venison friends. I looked some stuff up on the net, but most of it was about what sort of snacks you might want to consume in your deer blind or up on your deer stand whilst waiting to blow a large, unattractive hole in some unsuspecting buck or doe. Now I have friends and relatives who truly love hunting--and God bless them, so long as they actually eat what they kill and aren't in it just for the blood lust and somewhat suspect glory--but, like the great sage Indianapolis sports reporter Frankie Floyd once said: "It's not really a sport if the other side doesn't know they're playing..."
(And if you don't know who Frankie Floyd is, fear not. You'll meet him in the next book...)
But back to deer snacks. I read that they really like carrots, and also that carrots are actually good for deers (unlike peanut M&Ms and Milk Duds, which of course would have been my own personal choice). So yesterday I went on another ride and brought along a couple cut-up carrots in a plastic bag. And what do you know? I came on a different pair of deer (a big old mommy deer and what I believe must be her last spring's faun) and the mommy deer kinda stood there and gawked at me while I pulled to a quiet halt and fumbled to get my bag of carrot pieces out. I tossed one over and she kind of looked at it, then back at me, and made it obvious she didn't trust any biped creature who rode on sparkly wire wheels enough to come even one inch closer to try a sample taste. So I put a little more "oomph" into the next toss, and this time it landed right at her feet. She gave it the hairy eyeball first, then leaned over and sniffed it, and then inhaled it like I would the aforementioned peanut M&Ms or Milk Duds. She still looked fairly skeptical of any good coming from an interaction featuring the same sort of creature who made rifles and deer slugs, but she did deign to gobble up whatever I tossed over. So long as it wasn't too close to me, anyway.
I'll be bringing more carrots along with me next time. And maybe some spicy pepperoni?


Below you will find an ad for our now AWARD-WINNING (ahem) radio-play version of The Last Open Road, and I want to encourage you (particularly if you haven't yet listened to it) to check out a few things about it, me, and the book it's based on via YouTube. Just click as indicated and it will (or should, at least) take you there:
1) THE STORY BEHIND THE AUDIOBOOK(a semi-stirring video on how it came to be and why you need to listen to it)
2) THE LAST OPEN ROAD AT 25 YEARS. Sure, it's shameless self-promotion (and it's more like 27 years these days) but I put the work in to make the damn thing, so you could at least watch a little bit of it. Just to make me happy.
4) RIDE WITH BURT! See some of the cars I can't afford that I got to drive anyway and some of the dumb stuff I did with them.




We had a few authoritative answers and more than a few lame guesses on this one (particularly from the Left Coast, who seem to think they invented sportycar racing). The above little beauty is friend-and-hero (not to mention fellow Chicago-area Midwesterner) Bob McKee's brilliant little "Chevette" sports/racer. Built for and funded to a great degree by local enthusiast/Chevy dealer/club racer Dick Doane of Dundee, Illinois, it was powered by a hogged-out & hot-rodded version of the near-ubiquitous Chevy smallblock. It debuted in 1963 and Bob built a whole series of them for various club racers and sometime pros, and they went pretty good.
Of course, the big problem back then was finding a transaxle stout enough to handle the torque of a big American V8. Bob's answer was typically simple, practical and beautifully made: he took a standard, aluminum-case Corvette close-ratio gearbox and mated it to a Halibrand quick-change differential and, voila, he had himself a transaxle. I think he also maybe got a little money from GM when they decided to use the Chevette name for their totally underwhelming econobox sedan a dozen or so years later. I made our spice rack in Bob's shop many years ago (he's since retired) and you would not believe the stuff that was always hanging around in there. He did a lot of work for GM and the Gummint ("You're not supposed to be seeing that...") along with a lot of local racers with everything from Mercer Raceabouts to modern F5000s and Can-Am cars, and was and is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
OK, bright lads and ladies, help me identify these three little beauties:


Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: