From Alex:

Today Aidan and I participated in a rite of passage for many fathers and sons – the Pinewood Derby. Work began on the car about a month ago when we rough cut the shape into what looks like a classic 1950’s Indy car. Aidan picked the design and then did all the sanding to get it paint-ready. Last weekend over the MLK we went through the paint design and application process. From the get-go flames on the front were a non-negotiable and he settled on green and red with black racing stripes. We drew it all out and then went to work. I learned that tape is a really helpful tool in making straight lines(thank you Ash) and that next year I should use spray paint rather than crayola poster paint. We touched up the paint over the last week. Ash actually found me in the office at about 10 PM one night with all the paints spread out trying to neaten the thing up. She nicely asked “Isn’t this supposed to be something that you do together?” I responded “Yes, of course, but I just need to see if I can make these flames look a little better…”

I learned a lot about how to improve the car’s speed on the internet – Pinewood Derby is serious business! – and we tinkered with it over the last couple of days before weigh-in Friday night. We put the axles (basically specially designed nails) into a power drill and then used a file to grind down burrs and wear away any rough spots. We then used fine sandpaper and pumice stone to buff and polish them. We did something similar with the wheels and added weights, coming in at 139 grams – 2 grams below the 141 limit. Finally, we threw some graphite powder on there to give it an extra kick.

Although the race was today you were allowed to weigh and check your car in on Friday night, which Aidan and I did. They had the track setup so Aidan got to run his car a few times just for fun. We had to leave the car there overnight to ensure no tinkering.

Pack 451 clearly takes it’s Pinewood Derby seriously as everything was exquisitely well organized. We have a big pack and there were a lot of people crammed into the fellowship hall at our host church. All the scouts looked great in their uniforms and it was truly incredible to see the different car designs. No two were alike. It’s amazing to me that every kid takes their own spin on it even after kids all over the country have been building Pinewood Derby cars for decades. The organizers had an LCD projector and screen so race results could be broadcast to the crowd instantly. It was boy heaven.

The Tiger Cubs (Aidan is a Tiger) went first. I’m a huge believer in the learning that comes from winning and losing. I think that the Cub Scout motto of “Do Your Best” is right on, but I love that the Pinewood Derby pulls no punches and when it’s all said and done there will be someone who has the fastest car and others who don’t. All that said, I’m very competitive. I don’t like to lose and neither does Aidan, so I really wanted the Q-Crew to have a good showing. I knew I would feel like I had let him down if his car was dud. So I was really nervous but trying to play it cool.

In the end, our car did great. Out of four heats he took 2nd in three and 1st in one! It was cool when he won because they show the winner’s name, track time, and top speed on the big screen. Overall he got 3rd fastest out of his den of twelve kids! His best friend in the den won first so that was also exciting. His Dad and I are friends and he said “it was the best day of his life” and I actually don’t think he was kidding. I walked away with lots of ideas for designs and strategies for next year’s race. Aidan earned a nice trophy that is a stand for him to set his car on with a certificate behind it. Both were on his bedside table tonight and I have to admit I took an extra long look at our green machine before I shut out his light, feeling proud to be his Dad and blessed to have such a wonderful son.

(Photos to be added soon!)

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