Because y​ou may not know until much later

As we live our lives we do many things that we enjoy. You may look forward to doing them often but, as you do, have you ever paused for a moment to consider that a particular time might be the very last time that you will ever be doing whatever that happens to be, eventually for it to fade away into your increasingly distant, perhaps forgotten memories?

P​erhaps the quickest, best handling car Jan ever drove (on Mulholland Drive!): prototype Ford FR200

I​ saw one of these parked on a city street in the early 1970s: Plymouth Superbird

H​ot rods & customs at Goodguys Del Mar

While we may never know that it is the last time that we’ll do something, our words and photos can help us to remember those happy times. Around 20 years ago I embarked upon my journey as a columnist. At the time I had no idea how long that journey would last, or where it would take me but, without having intended for it to serve this purpose, these columns have become a sort of memorialization of many of the happy and particularly interesting times and events in this part of my life. Those columns serve as vivid reminders of those times for me, and they continue to enable me to share them with you here, and soon on my AutoMatters & More website, which will become the online home and archive for all of my columns (691 and counting).

Y​es, these are Minis on the side of a building (in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada)

J​an drove this skid car while participating in the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving

H​ave you ever seen one of these? I is a hardtop Mazda Miata made only for the Japanese market, long ago.

What are some of those things on your list, some of which you can no longer do but wish you still could? My list of things that I’d like to remember, in no particular order, includes: summer vacations with my parents to Penticton and Vancouver, and side trips to go fishing with my dad; snow skiing every winter in Banff, Alberta at Lake Louise, Sunshine and Mt. Norquay; autocrossing my cars…

J​an’s Datsun 240-Z. Many years later, long after it was gone, he would realize that it was his favorite, most competitive autocross car ever

… watching auto races (NASCAR and IndyCar at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California…

N​ASCAR Cup racing at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana

… historic car racing at Coronado…

H​istoric racing at Coronado

… IndyCars and sportscars at the Grand Prix of Long Beach…

P​aul Tracy, IndyCar at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

P​aul Tracy wins IndyCar race at Long Beach in 2004 (Sébastien Bourdais, still an active IndyCar driver, is on the left)

… Formula One at the Circuit of the Americas…

… and Formula E in Long Beach, California and Paris, France…

F​ormula E in Long Beach, CA

F​ormula E in Paris, France

J​an in Paris, France, with an FiA Press credential to cover the Formula E race!

… driving an assortment of new cars with my fellow members of the Motor Press Guild at Willow Springs International Raceway…

… going to my kids’ birthday parties and school graduation ceremonies…

… driving my first car and my favorite car (not the same car, in case you’re wondering. See the Datsun 240-Z above)…

J​an’s first car: 1970 Plymouth Duster 340

… going to San Diego Comic-Con and Tiki Oasis…

T​he Muppets at San Diego Comic-Con

… taking photos through the open door from 10,000 feet up, in the frigid air, as the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights skydive out of their airplane towards the MCAS Miramar Air Show…

… and riding aboard ‘Fat Albert,’ the Blue Angels’ C-130 transport plane as it practiced its entire aerobatic routine at the NAF El Centro Air Show…

‘Fat Albert,’ the U.S. Navy Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules

C​aptain Katie Higgins, about to become the first female pilot to be performing the Blue Angels ‘Fat Albert’ demo, followed by the first air show the next day (NAF El Centro, CA — March 2015). For a play-by-play description, see AutoMatters & More #376.

I​t got hot in here real fast!

E​xperiencing zero G (weightlessness) after the push-over at the end of the initial high pitch, 45-degree climb.

P​arade pass at a 60-degree angle.

J​an does not get much happier than this!

C​aptain Katie Higgins, Blue Angels pilot

For every one of those things there will be, or has already been, a very last time.

As a senior citizen, there are some things that I used to do but am no longer able to do. My kids have long since had what are likely their final graduations from school. Some car races are no longer being run. My parents have both passed away. Snow skiing might already be too dangerous for me to do.

T​hrills in the Del Mar Arena, at the San Diego County Fair

A​ction from the defunct Red Bull Global Rallycross series

D​rifting at the Grand Prix of Long Beach

As a life-long photographer, I’ve photographed many of the things that I’ve done and enjoyed — first captured as prints and slides, and more recently as digital files. I never used to organize most of my prints, which I regret. Instead, the oldest of those photos — literally snapshots of my memories — were eventually stored away in boxes, not to be seen again for many years, if at all. I still have a projector and screen, if I should ever wish to look at my slides again. My digital images are my best organized photos, which makes it easier for me to find particular ones.

J​an aboard the Goodyear Blimp

The Goodyear Blimp

H​igh above Las Vegas, Nevada, as seen from the Goodyear Blimp during CES (the Consumer Electronics Show)

Together, those photos bring great joy to my life when I do take the time to look at them again. They remind me of so many happy times in my life, and can serve as starting points for stories that I may someday tell to my children.

J​ay Leno at the 2003 Art Center Car Classic in Pasadena, CA

The next time that you are doing something that you enjoy and that you have done many times, perhaps think for a moment and ask yourself if this may be the very last time that you ever do that. Consider taking pictures of it, and perhaps writing down some of your thoughts. Years later you will likely be glad that you did.

F​ree Dunlop tire tread haircut at the 2003 SEMA Show

R​acing legend Mario Andretti & a baby T-rex from Walking With Dinosaurs (at the MAV TV 500, Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA).


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Jan Wagner

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