A couple of years before I got into politics full time, I got into the passenger seat of a high-speed sports car that barreled down a 90-mile stretch of a lonely Nevada highway pushing 200 mph. It was 1991 and I had been hired by Phil Henry to videotape the Nevada Open Road Race, the only legal street race in the United States.
I don't remember the type of car I was in — probably a Porsche — but I do remember it was driven by a professional driver named Terry Herman.
Here's a description of the race from the event's website:
"The State of Nevada closes down 90 miles of Route 318 and more than 200 drivers from around the world converge on the little town of Ely in the central high desert of Nevada. Why do they come? To experience firsthand the adrenaline rush of driving flat-out on a public highway. Not just professional racers, but men and women from all walks of life, pursuing the Walter Mitty dream of speed, horsepower and high performance."
At close to 200 mph, an adrenaline rush, indeed! And dangerous, to be sure.
In fact, my driver, Terry Herman, died in the race the very next year when the car he was in "left the roadway about 25 miles into the race, struck an embankment, rolled end-to-end and burst into flames."
The day before the race everyone converged on the little rural town of Ely. The drivers would all park their cars on the football field in town and everyone had a blast checking out everyone else's car. It was a festival of sorts and, as the saying goes, a good time was had by all.
It was, indeed, an absolutely unforgettable experience. I videotaped three of those races for Phil before getting into politics, shutting down my videography business and losing touch with him.
Years later, our paths crossed again.
Apparently Phil fell in love with Ely and moved there. Not only that, he got swept into the tea party movement and became the tea party leader for White Pine County. That's how he and I reconnected in 2010 and why it was particularly sad to learn of Phil's unexpected death this week.
Like many others, Phil was loving how Donald Trump's candidacy was driving the establishment Republicans nuts, and we exchanged a number of emails on the subject just days before his passing.
Phil was a solid conservative, but as genial of a gentleman as you'll ever want to meet. He was a fierce competitor who loved this state and this country and embodied the phrase "happy warrior." He was, quite simply, a good man.
Nevada conservatives have lost a true patriot and hero. I was happy to know Phil, and proud to call him my friend.
RIP, Phil. You made a difference, and you'll be missed.
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.