Track driving at VIR and chamber music

by Rob Tiller

Clara and friends at VIR on 10 September 2011

We had plans to go to the North Carolina coast for some wreck diving this weekend, but the trip was cancelled because of rough (eight-foot!) seas. I was a little disappointed, but also a little relieved. The last couple of weeks have been turbo-charged at work, and on top of that I’ve had lots of extracurriculars. Today is gray, drizzly, and chilly — a great day to relax and reflect.

Last weekend was exciting, but not relaxing. I took Clara, my 911S, out for two days of hard track driving at Virginia International Raceway. She’s a great car, and did almost everything I asked. The weather was pleasantly warm and clear. My instructor, M, was very experienced and initiated me into some new aspects of track driving.

M gives a pointer

M stressed that the key to faster laps is smoothness and consistency — threshold braking at the same spot, hitting the same apex, coming into the throttle and tracking out all the way to the same track edge. It sounds like consistency could get boring, but for me it didn’t — perhaps because it’s so hard to do. As I got better in a particular difficult turn, it required throttle and brake adjustments for the following turns, which were seldom perfect. I had a couple of hair-raising moments, including a skid off the track and into the field (too much speed into turn 1), but no damage was done. There was plenty of exhilaration, and over all I felt an increase in competence.

This week I had two meetings with the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, which recently elected me to its board of directors. I’ve loved chamber music, especially string quartets, since high school, and I’m pleased to be able to lend a hand to sustaining this great tradition. The RCMG is 70 years old, and has brought many world-class ensembles to this area. From what I’ve seen so far, the board seems like a good group. I’ve tried to make peace with the fact that some people don’t like chamber music (though I confess I cannot understand why), and just be grateful for the music and the people who enjoy it. They tend to be an educated, articulate demographic. But it isn’t easy for these music lovers to find each other or communicate about the music. It’s partly normal shyness, and also the difficulty of translating music and related feelings into words. RCMG may be a good venue for me and others to make some of these connections.

Another night this week I had a class on wreck diving, in preparation for diving on the Hyde and the Markham. Penetrating wrecks involves a higher level of risk than reef diving that we generally do, and it requires some training and careful preparation. I learned about various safety measures, including hazard assessment, redundant equipment, and laying a guide linet. I’m hoping to do the dives in late October.

Why do people engage in even mildly perilous situations, and imagine themselves in dire ones, when they don’t have to? People do it, at least to some degree, all the time — in sports, amusement parks, and scary movies. We’re funny animals, for sure, and we do some stupid things, but theres some sense to it. Maybe we confront manageable risks in play to prepare ourselves for real dangers. It could help develop some reserves of courage. And risk takes us out of our daily routine and out of ourselves. We forget ourselves, and feel more alive.