Jerry Grogan lives life looking for the next challenge. Those challenges usually involve an element of speed and mechanics. Grogan’s weekend pursuits are supplemented by the machine shop he operates in his day job. When you can manufacture your own parts, why not build your own airplane? Grogan asked himself that very question.
Before flying planes and driving race cars, Grogan was a firefighter in downtown Des Moines. The adventurous deacon at Bondurant Federated Church certainly has hobbies worthy of “weekend warrior” billing.
“If it’s a challenge, I have to conquer it. That’s just me,” Grogan says.
It’s the new weekend pursuit for a man who owns a machine shop that manufactures fireplace-related goods.
Grogan’s current weekend passion is sports car racing. He’s an active participant with the Sports Club of America, a car club that sets up organized times trials, aggregated so that any car may compete. He’s getting better after finishing dead last in his first attempt. Jerry says he now regularly finishes time trials in the top 10 and spends recreational time adjusting the setup on various cars he takes to the track. It’s not easy cracking the winner’s circle, which contains experienced drivers who push their cars to the limit. Grogan became involved, he says, after a business associate suggested he take his Mazda Miata to the track.
Grogan describes the thrill of taking a corner at top speed, knowing if he lets off the gas, he’ll lose the back end of the car.
“You want to go in a corner as fast as you can — as tight as you can — without pushing or breaking loose,” he says.
In addition to his Miata, Grogan runs a 2006 Mustang GT that he calls “a horse.”
Before discovering racing, Grogan spent weekends piloting a plane he built from his shop on Jefferson Street. More than half of his personal aircraft was custom built, and Grogan has logged 500 hours in the air since earning his license.
Grogan shares a harrowing tale of escaping an inverted spin during a ride with a friend. He’d read about the situation many times, and his firefighter instinct helped him regain control. Grogan says he remains close to his co-pilot from that day, and the two share laughs recounting the incident.
Grogan is currently building another plane, something simple he says is a top wing aircraft named ‘“the low and slow.” The old plane sits in a hangar, grounded for more than two years.
An old fuselage hangs above the shop where his employees remain hard at work. The full length of the near wall is decorated with an airplane wing. Grogan carried over an interest in model airplanes as a kid to an adulthood business and hobby. He says with
“If you can build a model airplane, you can build the real thing,” he says with conviction. To build a big airplane is the very same thing. There’s no difference. They say model builders build the same airplanes.”
Grogan’s wife talked him out of firefighting because of potential danger, he says with a hint of irony. There are no problems or concerns at home now, even with the racing. She’s OK with anything, as long as he’s not in an airplane.
You know I conquered that,” Grogan says. “I’m having too much fun with the racing.”
Steve Pinkley works as the director of Hidden Acres Christian Camp and doubles as a restaurant owner and Christmas tree salesman in Ohio. For 38 years, Pinkley has been traveling back and forth to his hometown, overseeing the restaurant first opened by his parents.
“I take all of my vacation time, and I work,” Pinkley says.
The Bondurant resident and lifetime businessman has many endeavors, but Pinkley takes particular enjoyment in pursuits that allow him to return to Vermilion, an Ohio town on the shores of Lake Eerie.
Your Pit BBQ in Vermilion was the creation of Steve’s parents, who were originally from Memphis, Tenn. Pinkley’s father was one of many Memphis natives relocated to a plant in Ohio at the time.
Pinkley grew up working in the restaurant he now runs as manager emeritus. Besides his interest in the BBQ place, he is also known as the “Christmas tree guy” there. What began at age 16 continues as a side job for him.
Pinkley was able to save enough money through tree sales as a young man to purchase something very special.
“When I was in college, I made enough money to buy my wife a wedding ring,” he says. “I’ve sold to generations and generations of families. It’s a lot of fun.”
Pinkley describes himself as a people person, eager to give back to the Bondurant community. After meeting his wife in college, the two settled here almost 30 years ago. He hinted that his day job will be changing in 2014, but nothing will interfere with his weekend warrior duties back home in Ohio.
Daryl Bailey lives just down the hill from where he grew up in Bondurant. They call the neighborhood “Baileyville” because of the family’s long-time presence.
For most of his life, Bailey has made a living in excavating or dirt work.
Bailey hobbles around throughout the morning having recently undergone surgery to repair an achilles tendon injury, an ailment Bailey says was caused by many years in a physically demanding trade. His body breaking down, Bailey is spending more time on his weekend projects than ever before.
Bailey grew up hunting with his dad in nearby Chicahaqua Valley. In later years, Bailey remained an avid hunter and often wondered why he was paying for taxidermy when he could learn it himself. Now, Bailey is the go-to taxidermist in his hunting circle and has more work than his day job allows. He is hobbled by the achilles, but it doesn’t seem to bother the dedicated husband and father.
“You should have seen him,” his wife Marci says. “He was right back out here the day after his surgery.”
Taxidermy is a skill Bailey has perfected over a lifetime spent with animals. His father took him hunting as soon as he could lift a rifle. As an adult, Bailey took taxidermy courses to perfect his natural gifts, learning the art at Kindred Spirits in Burlington.
He aspires to someday host his own classes in his workshop just east of Bondurant. The only promise the 43-year-old Bailey makes to friends is that he’ll have a mount returned to them by next deer season. Mounting takes time — sometimes a lot of time. Bailey doesn’t stress it, most of the people he does business with understand. He’s a weekend warrior, after all, and this is just a hobby.
The process of skinning and mounting is disgusting to some of his wife’s friends who take the occasional tour through the expansive workspace, which is divided in halves. Dead animals are something Marci Bailey had to get used to with her husband, who she met during high school in Bondurant.
Bailey’s shed is a place where guys hang around and tell hunting stories.
“They come in and throw their stuff on the ground, they tell their stories and out the door they go,” he says.
Marci Bailey chimes in that her husband has a special appreciation for animals since he’s been so close to them his entire life.
“He talks to his animals. He totally does,” she says.
He doesn’t deny it, relaying the story of a recent bear hunting trip he took to Saskatchewan with his sons.
The Bailey boys like to work with their father, learning the finer points of taxidermy. One of the Bailey children has shown interest in pursuing taxidermy as a profession. For now, the kids are happy to help him in the shed with his overflow of work.
“He needs to do this full time,” said his encouraging wife.
Marci Bailey has her own ambitions in her weekend pursuits. She shows off a few wood-burned paintings she’s completed. Her husband chides her gently that she needs to stop giving away her art for free. Her workspace consists of a little area within the taxidermy studio, and this Christmas season was crazy for her once her friends started requesting her custom wood-burned artwork, she says.
“We’re both pretty much weekend warriors,” Daryl Bailey says.