Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dubs In the Valley (DIV) Oshkosh WI: A history lesson

In a land not so far away somewhere in the roundabouts of the last decade there was a group of guys who were into cars. Big cars, small cars, wheels, a propulsion system and badass were about the only items needed to muster the attention of these fellows.

They of course had a particular brand that captivated them the most, a brand that they had been drawn to from their early ages for a multitude of different reasons. Some had parents who had driven them, and hot rodded them, and their earliest memories were riding around in their parents old VWs. Some were enamored with them since their still developing minds could recognize what a car was. At events riddled with supercars and feats of engineering meant for the race track, these kids would gravitate to the dent riddled, battle scarred bodies of Rabbits modified with high compression racing engines, rollcages, numbers and sponsor logos all over the outside, and the cars held a certain mystique. The ugly ducklings that when put on the track blossomed into beautiful swans as they three-wheeled around the tight corners and outhandled cars of the same vintage that were equal to the difference of the pfister hotel and a one room shack with half a roof in the ozarks found abandoned by settlers decades ago.  I'm starting to ramble, telling my side of the story here, so let me get back on track......

This group of guys, all either deeply immersed in the VW modifying scene, or budding into it, were what the car world calls "enthusiasts". With a distinct passion for cars, beer, friends, and all things that go hand in hand with that lifestyle, these guys lived it. Always wrenching, hanging out, and having a good time in general.

Although from different backgrounds, all with a different idea of what they considered "fun" they had one thing in common. They loved getting their cars cleaned up, jumping in and driving to a car show.

They saw things at these shows that they found questionable at best. The awards, who was getting the awards, the activities, the location, blah blah blah. This was really the period where internet was starting to come of age. Peoples gripes and concerns were being heard via the internet as well as the golden age of: "internet fame" Pissing, moaning, building, yelling, name calling, and gratuitous complimenting were becoming prevalent and carshows were definitely one hot topic. Pages and pages of arguments, most started by a miffed attendee, and responded to by whoever was posting on behalf of the show. It made for hours of reading pleasure (I do think on of my favorite hobbies is reading arguments people are having on public forums, some of it is mundane, but every now and then you find some comments that lead you to believe that if society had not intervened with natural selection, there would be many less people on this planet)

These fellows were not the loud start a fight types on the internet, well, maybe once and a while when they something they thought was unjust, but they also held their own opinions about things. Usually  they held their tongues if only publically, as their thoughts generally came out to each other at what we could now call (looking back) meetings, normally held at the local VW shop where Benny worked or in my basement (the rock and roll palace also dubbed "manville" by my downstairs neighbor who built it) So that's it, a shop with cars, or loud sessions in a basement bar with instruments that carried alot of volume. That is where much brainstorming happened. How we were going to take over the world.
Circa- winter 06/07 Left to right: Ben Kwitek, Matt Kwitek, Bao Nyguen, And yours truly, Joe D. This photo is significant because it was the very first "official" planning session for DIV, the next paragraph will explain the premise of this night and leading up to DIV#1 in 2007.
In all the threads with complaints about carshows virtually every organizer responding to these gripes cited how difficult and time consuming it was to put all this effort and time into organizing said event. Committee meetings, venue problems, cost, infighting, etc. Toil toil boil and trouble right? Whatever, do you love it? Why are you doing it then if it sucks so much was the general consensus amongst ourselves. So in a (possibly inebriated, we'll never tell) discussion about this, as we laughed at these posts regarding how hard it was to set this up, we decided to have a carshow. If only to mock those posts. Yes, DIV started as a joke among a group of friends drinking beer in a shop In Madison WI. The photo above shows us at our first planning "meeting" at the Ale Asylum in Madison. A proposal was written up by one of us with scant (at the time we thought theywere plentiful) details about venue, basic cost, classes, etc. We were confident we had it all nailed down by the end of the first pint so shenanigans around Madison ensued for the rest of the night with the knowledge that we could actually pull this off.

And so it began. Next DIV installment will be about the players, the rulebreakers, the anti carshow carshow, and the development of a brand that is personal legend to us, and the times and trials of getting one of these off the ground. It's a good story, stay tuned. Up next will be a little closer look at some of the cast and crew, as well as some details from this:
Next up: burning questions left unanswered in this post. If we were in Madison, why is it "Dubs In the Valley" and in Oshkosh? Where did that badass logo come from that we plaster everywhere? Just to keep you interested, these are some original pieces of  memorabilia from DIV1, or 2007 as we called it then. See you next time and thanks for tuning in.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Project: Resurrection- Part 1, Condition.

This car was on the verge of being written off and dismantled for parts by the previous owner. After driving it for a bit I am really happy I got the whole thing and not just fragments of it haha.
Early in our years together I used to show up at home with either news of some "score" of a car or actually with some shambled pile of VW steel held together with zipties, duct tape and willpower, many which would make my wife cringe. Some ended well, and some were stripped of anything that made them good and sent for recycling, and some were put into road use or built as projects. The struggle was real for her. True story, I have heard the words "why on earth would you want that?!" and "you can't keep that where people can see it" more than most people, set aside car people with similar fluids mixed in with their blood and supportive significant others who have grown accustomed to this sort of "treasure".

Thankfully the successes have outweighed the yard planters and she now has a little faith. But when I got home with the 337, I still saw the cringe I know so well manifest ever so slightly but outwardly she managed to give a word of encouragement and an "oh good, I'm glad you like it". Haha, the struggle is real for my wife, Thank you for supporting my sometimes bizarre car habit Barbie!

This car really did need, but is absolutely worth saving.....
I had arranged a late night trip to MPLS to look at and more than likely purchase with a little help from my friend Tristan from easily one of the coolest shops I know, Further performance so I could have it on a lift in good light for a solid buyers inspection.

This car had me at the first sound I heard from it as the previous owner approached the shop. I remember the conversation with T. "that doesn't sound like a beater does it?" He said"It sounds decent whatever it is" and then it came around the corner.

Unbeknownst to the PO, I bought that car right at that moment. See my previous post about how I feel about the 337s. Not only did it sound like a well maintained 1.8t, it was clearly a 337, even with the mismatched panels.  When I walked up to the car to introduce myself and the door opened I lost my ability to negotiate too. Dammit. I went through the motions, I put it on the lift and silently pointed and noted little things I saw, all to devalue it in the owners eyes without saying a word (a brilliant buyers tactic btw, very unnerving to the seller) and then took it for a drive. Remember that ravenous drooling condition I said the 337 had put me into when I first saw the marketing materials so many years ago? Well upon my return from the test drive I stepped out of the car and immediately offered him every penny we had initially discussed over the internet. Dammit, but this was my Red Ryder bb gun, no ifs ands or buts about it. Cash and a title exchanged hands, and I had my 337.

Aside from some very small concerns which have been addressed, such as a driver axle with both boots shredded to non-existence and some attention to the lights which had just never been fully addressed after the accident that put it in this condition, the car is solid. Mechanically it is 95%, with the 5% being just cleaning up some previously installed parts (intercooler, and all the intake/recirc stuff is a mess)
The intercooler is mounted upside down and needs the bumper bar cut, the intercooler flipped to properly tuck it away. it also needs an OEM bumper skin to really clean things up.
Plans are: A real intake, a true emissions delete as all the stuff is still there and held in place by every vw enthusiasts temporary friend, zip ties, as well as a nice catch can set.
It doesn't have any check engine lights, it pulls hard, and has what the previous owner stated as a stage 2 GIAC tune. It's actually pretty badass and when I am in it and driving, I couldn't care less what it looks like.

Oh yeah, the look. Not intentional, it was a condition of purchase we shall say. It looks the way it does from playing bumper cars on a highway somewhere in MN. Thus the reason it is all mismatched. So if you know anyone, I am on the hunt for an OEM core support, Front bumper cover, driver fender, and driver door. It came with the front valance that VW equipped it with, just in the back of the car. The only piece it is truly missing is the hatch spoiler as they are pretty much permanently affixed to the hatches and cannot be removed without destroying them.

The recaros. Yes! Although the driver bolster is showing 130,000 miles of use, it is not all torn up and thankfully, still with the car.
The red stitched steering wheel and boot, Driver Edition shift knob, pedals, and aluminum trim. Some of the very desirable equipment on this car and usually the first items to go when these cars fall to this state are all there. I had to buy it....
All in all, I am totally down with this car. Thrilled as a matter of fact. This will not be some huge fancy build, this is going to be "put together the car I wanted as a driver for 12 years and drive it build". The maintenance (t-belt, etc) has all been done recently and all it needs is some cosmetic love. Speaking of........
As far as the multi color format, I am going to address it. How you ask?  I'll give you an opportunity to make an educated guess.......
Here is a link to the original post regarding the 337. This should get you up to speed on this project. Let me introduce you .......

If you are wondering if this is my winter project the answer is no. I also took another big bite of a historical piece......
More on this soon..............

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ski's Oshkosh. A "New" grocery experience in downtown Oshkosh.

Many years ago across cities in America life was compartmental. Neighborhoods had their own grocery stores housed in what now seems like quaint flat faced, big window store fronts with a big awning inviting patrons in for their daily or weekly needs. Dairy, produce, dry goods, they carried everything they should have on hand to provide locals with what they needed. The operators knew their customers, usually on a first name basis and special orders were not a problem unless the materials were out of reach for the store.

These markets dotted the landscape of american cities and you can still see the footprints everywhere, even in Oshkosh. Now re-purposed to anything from hair salons to fortune tellers, to private residences the shadow of them is still visible even if the original intent is now hidden.

As society progresses things are on a constant course for change. Time moved on and large "big box" style grocery stores popped up offering a selection of what people wanted at a sometimes lower price, but as with anything mass produced, you lose the personal touch of somebody behind the counter that knows your name, and has your order in their head when you walk in the door. What was once a personable, friendly experience has now become another faceless, just need to get it done, hurry up, get the cheapest processed thing on the shelf, Stores where healthy and organic foods receive a special section with big signs to boast they have them. The employees can generally tell you where something is but cannot tell you what it is or where it comes from. Not their fault, it is just not a priority for their employment, as the role of a food purveyor is a numbers game more than a passion for them.
probably the coolest butcher chart I have ever laid eyes on....
Ski's Meat Market in downtown Oshkosh not only has the feel of that old school corner grocery, it IS that corner store. The classic downtown storefront with an inviting awning and a stoop greets you as you walk up to it on Main St, and a large front window so you can see the interior of the store, a classy setting for what at first glance does not look to be a disappointing prospect to walk into.
Deli counters piled high with quality sliced meats, delicious smells, dry goods, a very contemporary but stylish decor, and after a short perusal, a selection of foods to excite anybody that has experience eating beyond mass produced, processed mash that is pushed on us daily in our world. I know it's a meat market, I'll get to that, there's alot to talk about here though.

Opened in October 2014 by  Kris and Sarrah Larson, April and Chef Mike Buckarma, And Janine and Jason Faught to fill a need in the Downtown Oshkosh marketplace they have fit the bill. I'm sure you recognize at least some of those names, they all bring important additions to a place like Ski's from equipment, to grocery, to the food and preparation, and the management of it all. One thing they all certainly brought to the table was a common vision as the end product of their efforts is outstanding. Execution of something different so well that it is lasting, not a novelty. Ironically, I say something different but the values it is based on are old school, the forgotten art of quality product and good service that has been forgotten and buried in our quick service convenience based society.
Not only stocked with awesome stuff, good looking too.....
Featuring as many local suppliers as they can, partnering with places like Growing Oshkosh, to Rhapsodies Frozen Custard to name a couple, they truly aim to support the city they call home.

Beyond injecting quaility into our local food supply, they also bring a much needed boost to our downtown economy as well as provide  a service to the people that live in the area. I remember living downtown without a car. When supplies were needed, it sucked. Stocked with all the basic needs, Ski's is there to serve the community at large. It also just happens to also be chock full of things so the culinary fans can have playdates in their kitchens.
There are not many stores you can go to that the folks behind the counter can give you pairing suggestions or meal ideas using the produce, proteins, dairy, starches, and liquor, wine or beer selections all available within eyeshot of the conversation. Oh, and know your name at that too.

Wine, craft beer, good booze, Mmmmmmm....
Infused oils, and seasonings, this store has something for everybody.

So, I haven't talked about the meat yet. Have you ever heard the phrase "saving the best for last"?
Case in point just in case you ever need a reference.
I don't mean for this to sound weird but it's inevitable. I like sausage. I love it as a matter of fact. Just about any meat counter worth it's weight has some sausages they've made up, some are very good. Ski's is a playground. With a selection of unique flavors and custom orders welcome (of course there is a minimum order for the custom stuff) the imagination is allowed to run far past the standard grill it and put it on a bun mentality.
These caught my eye. Maybe tonite? Probably......
What kind of a meat market doesn't have beef? Not sure, thankfully this one does. Featuring beef from 1855 beef, this stuff is head and shoulders above what I am used to buying locally until now.
I know, it's not all full. I personally think that's a good sign. Fresh, restocking frequently to keep up with demand. That's a good sign. Don't ever eat at the empty restaurant.....
The beef is fresh, with excellent color,  and great marbling. The flavor is fantastic and the texture is something you will behold if you know what you are looking for in beef. If you aren't looking for anything specific, your reaction will be "damn this is good!"

I can't say much more about the beef. It's good. Go get a steak, cook it how you like it and it will blow you away. What else can I say about it without being redundant?

I'm almost done blathering now, just a couple more quick things.
The Seafood. Wow. Fresh, variety, delish.
Always fresh with a changing selection. Sigh........
The seafood cooler is the best thing ever to happen to my wife's pescetarian diet as I'm not afraid to buy seafood from Ski's. She has reaped the benefits of my trips to the meat market in the form of many different preparations of Mahi, Talapia, Salmon, with more to come. I'm getting hungry.....

Ski's Meat Market is a franchise brought to us by some true downtown philanthropists. We should all be thankful to have folks like this in our community bringing us things like this to enjoy.

Go shopping, cook something, eat it, enjoy it. Live life, savor it all.....

Ever wonder where all those cool photos on the Ski's Oshkosh facebook page come from?
Ladies and Gents, Kris Larson. One set of hands behind Ski's Oshkosh providing us with cool photos to grab our attention on their facebook page.

Note: If you are coming by car, the parking lot is off Merritt Street, with a backdoor entrance off the parking lot for convenience.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Project: Resurrection. Introduction

The VW GTI 337. Borrowed from the

I have a way with cars. I really do. I always get my way even if it means compromising a perfect result for something that may not be the ideal choice for somebody looking for a specific model.

Historically I've bought cars cheap that I wanted and then cleaned them up enough to be respectable and enjoyed them for what they were. As long as it runs and drives when I get it (I've broken that rule too many times haha) I do what I want with it to make myself happy with it and drive them. When something else catches my eye, I sell it and move on.
Factory Recaro Seats. (Photo:

Take for instance the 2002 VW GTI 337.
In January of 2001 my wife and I bought a 2002 GTI in the color of silver. Nice car. Brand new. Being a solid VW enthusiast that's a pretty exciting thing to get. But I think I remember there being some buzz about a special edition coming soon.

That special edition was the 2002 GTI 337. The 337 was a designation created in the early 70s as the model code at VW. So fitting that they use it.
Created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the GTI as well as an outcry from enthusiasts in the US, the 337 was built to fill a niche that VW had needed to fill stateside for some time.

Equipped with many nice touches to trigger the buy button in guys like me, the 337 had just about all of it. When I first saw the pictures and info released in the VW marketing, I was enamoured. I had to have it. 18" BBS wheels in a classic design, Big bolstered Recaro seats, Front and rear spoilers that really worked well with the car, Brushed aluminum trim in the Interior, real metal pedals, it was to die for (a little insight into me, I'm like a 10 year old who wants and is soon expecting whatever is really awesome, Obsessed, and driven to the point of crazy)
BBS RCs, pretty cool wheels for a factory car. (photo:

That was sometime in early 2002. When I approached my wife and calmly suggested trading in "her" brand new GTI, It received a prompt "no".  I said "But babe! Look at it! Just look at it!"

Now my wife, who has good taste in cars and certainly thought it was cool stated very clearly, that in no way shape or form were we trading in the brand new car for another very similar model just because it was "cooler"

I get logic, but logic was out the window. I was a drooling, wild eyed, raving lunatic about this car. I have always sought out the "special editions" They were the reasons I drove VWs. I hate to use generic terms, but I love OEM+ styling. I like these cars because of their character, the aesthetics. So when I modify them, I only want to accentuate the engineers original version. This car was almost done from the factory in my eyes, a little adjustment of the altitude and it's just about perfect. Even when I was a kid I was head over heels for the little hatchbacks and tossed right over the edge the first time I saw a Rabbit GTI. This car gleamed to me like a chest full of gold and gems does to a pirate.

Ever since then I have wanted one of these. The 2002 GTI came and went like cars do. It was nice. But I was never in love with the fourth generation of VWs. I didn't love that car and was not sad to see it go. I went on my way from car to car but have not over the years really ever put much thought into a mk4 (fourth gen Golf or Jetta) but every now and then I would see one of these and feel that little tingle in my gut.

I'll leave this here for right now. I now have one in my possession but well, remember in the beginning here I said I will sometimes sacrifice perfection for one less desirable with a price tag that reflects that? More soon as I am about to set off resurrecting my very own 337......
Until next time...... (photo from

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Madfurther 2, MF2, #madfurther2014, Whatever, it was awesome. St Paul MN 8/23/14

“We're all mad here.” ― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

Gas+Air+Spark= BOOM, also known in the new school as "internal Combustion" Something we can all relate to. The equation that powers our dreams, and makes us tingle when an impressive demonstration of such presents itself.
Madfurther definitely had us tingling this year. After pulling off a super show last year in what could be a record short planning period, this year held a little more time to be creative with the set up and execution of this years show.
Following the theme created  last year, there was absolutely no shortage of rad stuff to drool over this year either.
Where else can you get this mix, at a working airport, with this kind of crowd? Madfurther is where......
I'll spare you the slobbery wet kisses of description about how great this show is, I did that last year and all I could do is repeat the same words if I tried again as it felt just as good this year. If you want a piece of that see here. myoshkosh to Madfurther 2013 coverage. This year had just as good a feel if not a little better.
of course with most of the organizers having deep roots in the VW scene there would be a strong contingent here, no disappointments....
 Pulling cars from all walks of enthusiasm is not an easy thing to do, there is uncertainty, and sometimes animosity between the different brand loyalists at times. Thankfully there is a trend coming about in our world of automotive enthusiasm, one of tolerance and a respect for cool stuff regardless of what the tag on the grill says.
This is called "doing it right"

"that moment when" the jawdropper rolls in....

All things cool represented.....

Not to mention the layout this year made for some decent photo ops.....

As was last year, Richard Grieco Suave was hitting it at the tables with another fixture from my neck of the woods- JB Ill. These guys should be called murders as they are always killing it. RGS almost being a fixture at Midwest VW Enthusiast events is probably one of the coolest crosses in industries I have ever seen and we are lucky it's happening! As he brings in more artists and talent to our world, It only benefits us as the biggest thing lacking at most car events is aural stimulation. Thanks for being there for us guys!

I'm really starting to be intrigued by the JDM scene. Many would be critical of a car arriving in this state, Me, I want to hear the story.......
For once (and I'm sure you are thankful for this) I'm pretty sure I have more pictures than words to tell The Madfurther 14 story. Enjoy....
being a serious picture taker and all I thought I'd play around with watermarks.....
I'd spoil this car if I said anything beyond It took home best muscle car last year as well as some awards this year.

Scott Evans is certainly making his rounds with his badass Allroad this year. And that's a good thing....
What would a carshow be without some CCWs?
Oh yeah, this thing. A bagged , ratrod radio flyer complete with skull shifter that operates the bags. Dang....
Is that guy taking a leak? Just kidding....
I wasn't kidding when I said there was some of everything there....

Really, I mean it.
What a cool mix of stuff.
Sorry bout that mess I left on the tarmac after I saw this....
I just happened to be into reflections in wheels and yellow cars that day haha....

Without fear of overstepping my bounds, I can say the organizers of this show say thank you for another great year. Your attendance and support either as a spectator or a sponsor/vendor are some of the major things that keep an event alive and a big thanks is in order for this.

In the spirit of Gas+Air+Spark=Boom, Thank you for a kickass show. I look forward to another celebration of internal combustion with my friends, many of whom feel like family, next year. 

Get more info on the show and it's happenings at Madfurther