Tuesday, July 5, 2011

University of Dayton Student "Auto-Biography" -- Rob Barnes and his Love for Speed

Hi Folks -- this is the first of a number of student "Auto-Biographies" that were written for my current HST 344 class. Uniformly, they were excellent, and I thank the students for letting me post them. Rob is a most enthusiastic student in my class, and from reading this it is obvious why. Folks like Rob make my job easy.

Rob Barnes

Dr. Heitmann


June 30, 2011

My "Auto-Biography"

High performance has always been important to me; in many ways, it defines me. I like anything that performs well. When I was a young lad, my family had very little disposable income. My brother and I were glad to get old dirt-bikes. My dad would find one that wasn't running well, buy it for very little money, and fix it so that it ran perfectly.

I don't remember my first bicycle ride. I'm told that I was riding by myself, without training wheels, when I was three years old. When I was four, I got a mini-bike powered by a pull-start Briggs and Stratton 5 HP engine. When I was five, I got a 50cc Suzuki. It had a five-speed transmission and a real clutch. Since my dad worked the second shift at GM, he wasn't there to start the mini-bike for us. Our neighbor across the street was much older and larger than I was. He gladly started that mini-bike hundreds of times for me.

Riding motorcycles was the beginning of my love of high performance items. Although I am very fond of cars, my real passion is motorcycles. That probably stems from the fact that I spent so much time on them. I've had at least one motorcycle in my possession from the time that I was four years old to the present day. I'm now forty years old and have five motorcycles. When it comes to the most 'bang for the buck' I must choose a motorcycle because they are very fast and cost much less than a car.

After graduating from Patterson Co-Op, I got a job as a toolmakers apprentice working at a large machine shop called Gem City Engineering. I was making good money for someone my age and bought my first new vehicle, a 1989 Yamaha FZR400. It was perfect for me, small, fast, light weight and cheap. It wasn't long before I was riding faster and faster on the roads. A friend told me stop riding so fast on the street. He knew some motorcycle racers and offered to introduce me to them. A short time later, I crashed in Englewood Park on the Aullwood side. I crashed due due to lack of knowledge, not due to high speed. I rode off of the road, down a steep drop off and tumbled through some shrubbery. Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet and gloves. Unfortunately, I was only wearing a T-shirt and jeans. My back was slashed open by the branches that I broke. I admit that my speed was excessive, but on the racetrack that speed would be considered slow.

Soon after that, I agreed to meet the racers and start learning proper technique. I enrolled in a racing school, got my racing license and roadraced motorcycles for nine consecutive years. I spent a lot of money, broke a lot of bones, met a lot of nice people, left broken motorcycle parts scattered on racetracks east of the Mississippi and learned a great deal about life.

It's no surprise that the knowledge I gained from the racetrack allowed me to 'play' at higher speeds on the road. I bought a 1986 Chevy Camaro I-ROC. It was not a stellar car, but it did what I needed it to do. It was the best handling car that I've ever owned. I had a bad habit of driving at dangerous speeds. One of my favorites roads had a twisty section that curved as it went uphill, crested at the top, then switched directions with a dip at the transition. I loved to toss the car into the turn, feel the chassis flex and the tires bite, let it drift a little while the tires were unloaded, then turn when the chassis came back down and weighted the tires.

One day, I was driving on my favorite road and was moving at a particularly fast pace. I stuffed the car into the turn and headed uphill. Just as I got to the top, I found a very large city truck with a crew of men piling out of it. They had just arrived and were, I assume, going to place the hazard signs down the road. I had not anticipated four men and a 12,000 lb. truck being on the side of my favorite road! I mashed the brakes, the car danced uncontrollably, I sawed at the steering wheel and was finally able to pass the workers without hitting them. I was terrified of what 'could have been'.

A couple of weeks went by and I was back to my usual shenanigans. This time, I was leaving work and I got off of Rt. 75 onto a section of road that had several large turns. It was easy to get the I-ROC sideways on these turns. As planned, I carried a lot of speed down the ramp, pitched the car to the right and started sliding, like I always did. The next step was to turn left into a long, large radius left hand turn. I had already entered the turn when I was stunned to see a guy standing behind an old brown Ford van changing a flat tire. I clearly remember the tall ratcheting bumper jack and large chrome bumper. I realized that if I hit him, I would cut him in half. I mashed the brakes, the car danced around, I sawed at the wheel, the car pivoted briefly in the opposite direction allowing me to barely miss the guy and his van. I was really terrified this time.

I've always remembered the people that I almost killed. I clearly remember those turns, those guys, those antics, those guys. I'm thankful that nothing bad happened and that everyone is okay. I'm a much better driver now.

I still like high performance objects, but now I build High Power rockets. My large rocket is 8 ft. tall and will go Mach 1. My fastest rocket will go Mach 2.25, when I finish it this summer. I just ordered a carbon fiber rocket and will build it for my son.

http://tinyurl.com/6dcngtu (flight pictures are at the end of page 1)

No comments:

Post a Comment