Day 248 – King of the Hammers T-10

Only ten more days to the big race, the city continues to unfold, 47 tents up by the end of the night Tuesday, war games being played at the Marine base over the mountain, two international teams have arrived (Italy and England), food vendors have been dropping trailers all day.  Word is the wind will die down by tomorrow so a lot more work can be done.

We were able to get the download for the race course today, since we are technically “staff.”  Out in the XJ to do some pre-running, Rich took me out to Cougar Buttes to show me around, then we connected from the powerline road to the race course at mm 34.  There is an initial 51 mile loop, so we took that in, or at least that was the plan.  Most of the sections were pretty easy desert, a couple of harder rock sections had us scratching our heads a little and then we came to the notch.  Being in the XJ, out by ourselves, we opted out of running that part of the race course and came back in to Hammertown around the tip of the mountain.  We had a great time wheeling today, but that is a whole lot different than taking this course at race speed.  That will change the game completely.  Pre-running will probably start in earnest on Friday when the teams are here to register and get their downloads, in the meantime, we are listening to them rev their engines all over the lakebed.  Love the sound of that.


Day 249 – King of the Hammers T-11

I woke this morning to the sound of the earth moving, sand being thrown against the side of the trailer by Mariah.  She is kicking up her heels out here on the Lakebed.  The wind is our nemesis, over the weekend it rained, so the lakebed has been kind of still, Mariah started up on Sunday afternoon and hasn’t quit.  Today she had dried out enough of the crust to create an earth movement.

Just a quick update on the building of Hammertown, the day ended Monday with fifty miles of race course marked, another two teams (both from Kentucky) on site, 25 tents of the total of 80 are up, two trash bins, lots of generators got delivered today.  We left the lakebed because the wind was blowing, I get cabin fever having to stay in the trailer, I’d much rather be in the Jeep.  Stay tuned, the city is building.

Day 249 – National Parks and a little rant

joshua treeJoshua Tree National Park sits in southern California, a piece of ground between I-10 and JohnsonValley.  We drove in from Twenty-nine Palms and took the loop back to Joshua Tree, about 35 miles.  Throw in the 18 mile loop on the Geology Tour Road, just east of Jumbo Rocks Campground, and we had a great day.  I love National Parks, this one is one of the babies though, it only became a National Park in 1994, before, it was just a National Monument.  Joshua Tree is known for the place where the Mohave desert and the Colorado desert come together.  It ranges from zero elevation to over 6000 feet.  There are wide sweeping sandstones, tons of granite, trails for hiking and four wheel drives.  Rock climbing is rampant. Joshua trees are all over the Mohave side of the Park.

Joshua Trees impress me, especially this time of year, the bright green stands out among the desert January brown.  Yucca plants and Ocotilla dot the skyline, but it’s the rocks that impress me.  There are granite formations that rise high above the skyline, pushed up through the pinto gneiss by the granite.  Closer to Joshua Tree, CA are rocks that look like they have been stacked for several stories.

Because I love National Parks and they serve a great purpose, I need to rant about something that we see often.  If there are established roads, stay on the established roads.  There is absolutely no reason to go off road in a National Park.  I love offroading, it’s our lifestyle, but this isn’t the place.  So what do we see when we take the Geology Tour Road, tire tracks out in the dirt.  Just once, I want to come upon one of those dumbasses when they are doing it.  It makes me crazy, folks if you want to drive offroad, come on out to Johnson Valley and drive offroad, the National Park is not the place for that, you give us all a bad name.

Day 250 – King of the Hammers T-12

koh12The staff level has jumped to 18, motorhomes on site to 20, eleven tents are up, perimeter fence is up to four miles, two teams have arrived onsite.  The growth is just beginning at Hammertown.  Dave Cole owns Hammerking Productions, the promoter of King of the Hammers.  We’ve been staying at Dave’s compound for a couple of weeks because it was convenient for the semi truck.  Dave is running a crew of at least 18 out here at the lakebed, most are volunteers.  Danny and Jack are old-timers, they’ve been out here for years. Matt, the Texas Jesus, (you would understand if you saw him) works for Dave fulltime, as does Shannon and Chris.  There’s a big contingent from Washington state here, Matt, Travis, Noah, and several others.  Shawn is here from Utah, Simon is here from Tucson, but the hero of the lakebed this week is Tina.  Tina is Travis’s wife and she is responsible for feeding the staff.  She is working hard to serve three meals a day to all of those boys, and man can they eat.  I got to sit next to her and listen to her schedule, she’s spending 14 hours a day cooking for this crew.

All the boys are singing her praises, the food is fresh and homemade.  I listened to them talk about how they ate last year and there is no comparison.  Usually everyone loses 10 to 15 pounds these two weeks, based on the amount of work that is being done and the lack of food.  One of the guys described it as his new year’s resolution – how do you lose weight after the first of the year – work at the hammers.  Tina has changed all that, these boys are eating better then they eat at home.

It’s been interesting listening to the radio, Dave is doing a great job running his crew, he thanks them profusely and from what I can tell, they all feel well appreciated.  I’m proud of him, it is awesome to see people be appreciated for a job well done.  Building Hammertown isn’t an easy task and these people are working hard for everyone to enjoy the race.  Only 12 more days, stay with me and watch this community grow.

Oh, and the petition I asked you to sign yesterday, we made it – 25,000 signatures in just 12 days -thanks to all for your help.



Day 251 – King of the Hammers T-13

ohvA dozen staffers, half a dozen motorhomes, a satellite tower, eight light towers, three big tents, two miles of perimeter fence, a campfire.  Hammertown is starting to take shape.  The Means Dry Lake bed is the home of the largest Ultra4 Rock Race of the year, it’s located in Johnson Valley, California.  We are two hours east of LA, just Northeast of Twenty-nine Palms and Southeast of Barstow.  The area is all desert and mountains, it is desolate and cold and the wind blows.  It’s the typical weather that flows from any high mountain desert area, just wait a few minutes and it will change.  The weather can be clear and blue, then change instantly to overcast and blowing.

Johnson Valley OHV is in a siege at the moment, the Marine Corps is working hard to expand their base at Twenty-nine Palms.  There is a movement afoot to expand west, we as off-roaders, want them to go east instead.  There is ground on both sides of the base, enough to provide the Marines with what they need regardless of which way they go.  Johnson Valley is an OHV designated area by the state of California, it is managed by BLM.  Thousands of people use the OHV area, many of them on a weekly basis.  For the people in our community – the off-road community, this is a fight worth fighting.  We have a saying about public lands…they should stay open to the public.

There are a number of ways that everyone can participate in this fight, organizations that are set up to fight for Johnson Valley,  Save the is one; there is also a petition to get the attention of the White House, there is a two-step process to sign the petition, but it is worth the few minutes it takes.  No guarantees that any action will be taken, but there is always hope.  Let’s take a minute and participate in the process, everyone counts.

Day 252 – Relationship based businesses

jobOver the last year we have gotten smarter about our scheduling and created some downtime.  Now downtime to you might be a little different than what I consider downtime.  Ours is described as time when we don’t have to be at an event site.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t working, just that we are working at different things.

Our business is relationship based, people might love to race or rockcrawl, but they keep doing it because of the relationships that are built.  We feel the same way, on a daily basis, we don’t do this for money or travel, we do this for the people we get to see, the relationships we get to build.

Our downtime is spent with people we have built relationships with.  Our friends: they might also own property that we compete on, they might also own companies that we partner with, they might also compete at our events, or might pit for someone’s crew that does compete at our events.  The thing we have in common is that we are friends.  We often make “shop” visits when we are out in the world moving from place to place, we stop and tour a race shop or a business.  That’s where you really get to see what makes people tick, when they talk about their passion.

We know a lot of fabricators, guys who build buggies in their shops.  Sometimes that’s in the garage of their home, sometimes it’s a piece away from home.  Others we know have small businesses, at least from the outside looking in, then when you stop in to see them, you see that it’s really not so small.  Some businesses were started by family decades ago, others are their own dream and passion.  I think these visits are some of my favorite things to do.  Each time, I want to go in with a tape recorder or a video and record the stories they tell, but we are there as friends, not reporters.  So to Currie and Raceline, Bower Media and Bent & Twisted, Munson’s Rod Shop and B&S Trailer Sales and everyone else who takes us in, Thank you for opening up your homes and shops to us, for feeding us, for sharing your heart and passion.  Folks, you can’t fake this, we love what we do, I wish everyone could enjoy their lives as much as we do.

Day 260 – Working

callieLast week we ran to Mesa, our plan was to get up in the morning and get out of there, back to the trailer in Temecula, when Charlene asked if I was fixing dinner…oh, yes, I want to.  I love cooking, especially when the recipients are so appreciative.  On top of that, Charlene reminded me that she has great internet.  That was enough to convince us to stay.  A whole day working on high speed internet, a whole day in a real house, a whole day to just work – SOLD!

Callie has been my constant companion today, she is tolerating Piston, but has decided she’s done, I think she’s ready to be in her own space again.  Rich and I spent the day making calls and sending emails, then got to start on some posters for the upcoming season.  I am not a graphic artist, but when you run a small business, you get to learn how to do things you never intended to.

Over the past year I have learned how to design posters, how to set up a store front, how to sell propane conversion systems and wheels and tires, how to make the racing experience great for first timers, how to get by on a shoestring budget, how to make an event look big, how to manage an event that is big.  I’ve learned more about media and impressions and websites than I was ever interested in, now hopefully soon I will get to learn more.

I want to learn to use a CNC cutter to make trophies, I want to weld, I want to design backdrops and host cocktail parties.  I want to design t-shirts and make jewelry, I want to demo our products.  Everyday is a learning experience, I just have to be open to that education.  What education should you be open to?

Day 264 – Carnival Splendor Day Eight and Embarkation (Day 9)

deckI am so tired, who knew a vacation could wear you out so thoroughly.  It is our “extra day” – a day at sea and they have added a bunch of stuff to the schedule to keep us all entertained for an extra day.  But, I’m done, I’m so tired, I really don’t want to play too hard.  A little food, a little football, a little more food, I’m starting to get a little energy, so we are going out for the night.

Bingo is being played one more time in the Spectacular lounge, we didn’t win big last night, so we are back again.  Kayla and Lindsey are here, and we have all decided to play.  When K and I went to buy our Bingo cards, her Carnival card had been shut off, so I bought all the bingo cards and let them pick which one they wanted to play.  The only stipulation I put on it was if either of them win, we split the pot.  The pot was $1199.  Imagine our surprise when Lindsey WON!  What a nice way to end a great cruise, it wasn’t enough to cover our cruising costs, but it did cover the girls – yay for them!

Finally docked back in Long Beach, we learned a lot about cruising this week, so here is my list of advice.

  • Get involved, get active, participate – remember you don’t know these people so you can’t be embarrassed
  • If you have a shell, break out of it – it can be so much fun
  • There is food available all the time, stick to some kind of schedule so you don’t spend all your time in line or worse, in a food coma
  • If you like to drink alcohol, go ahead and buy the alcohol package – we didn’t think we could run up a $600 bar tab in a week’s time, we were wrong – it’s not too hard at $8 to $10 a drink
  • Tour the ship regularly – things change, other things start happening that you might miss, check it all out
  • Get outside
  • Don’t get uptight – by the end of the cruise we had found a number of a**holes, mostly people who weren’t enjoying the company they were keeping – try not to be one of these
  • If you can’t be in love with the one you are with on a cruise ship, you might as well pack it in – what a romantic vacation
  • Cruises are a true vacation – no travel to worry about, no meals to worry about and for the most part, you don’t have to worry about money either
  • Talk to the people around you, you might make some great friends

We are already planning another cruise vacation, thinking we might need to plan a “racers” cruise with spouses and classes, who knew it could be so much fun, I’m glad we finally discovered that.

Day 265 – Carnival Splendor Day Seven

thriller-dance22It’s a beautiful day at sea, a little choppy out there and the temperature has dropped as we started heading north, but it’s still at least 60 outside.  We played a little bingo this morning and then found our way to the sports bar for the football game.  Rich is a huge San Francisco fan.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Giants or the 49r’s, he is a tried and true fan.  We had to squeeze in to the bar during the Denver game to be sure we could find a seat.  Turns out the ship figured out how many football fans were onboard and put the game up on the giant screen at the Lido deck pool, but by then, we were ensconsed in the bar.  We met some great football fans and watched San Franscisco win, then I was off to the Spectacular to learn how to dance Thriller.

My daughter, Haley, is a dancer and singer.  Well, she was never a dancer before college, but she is now.  She can pick up moves super fast and one of those was the Thriller dance back in November.  She and her crew were the hosts at a party for the Canadian Railway and they did a flash mob of Thriller for the guests.  When she told me about it, she said the liaison had taught it to them and it took minutes, so I was feeling pretty confident about learning the dance.  I mean, really, if a bunch of dancers could learn it in minutes I should be able to learn it in a half hour or so.  Yep, no.

Samuel was teaching again, we learned a little salsa from him earlier in the week.  The moves aren’t terribly hard, but there are a bunch of them and they come on fast.  I think if they slow the music way down for me, I might get it after another hour of trying.  The only good thing, my kids were there laughing with me.

After that we played our last game of bingo and then we were in the house for the Free Cruise raffle and the free bar tab raffle.  At one time in my life, I won every raffle I entered, my luck was phenomenal.  There was one Relay for Life event I went to that I won 9 of the 12 raffles I entered.  Last year, at Jeepers Jamboree, I had the numbers on either side of the giveaway for the Jeep.  So, of course, I was right in there for the free cruise.  The numbers I held were 485426 through 485430.  The winner was 485425.  One number.  I told Rich that I used up all my luck when I got him, so I don’t win anything anymore. Bummer, although I wouldn’t trade him in for anything.

Today was supposed to be our last day on the cruise, I’m so glad we get one more.

Day 266 – Carnival Splendor Day Six

tailSo, it’s day three in Puerto Vallarta, we are allowed to get off the ship beginning at 8 this morning, but we have to be back on by 4 – new departure time out of PV is set for 5 p.m.  We’ve been watching the repairs, they seem to be going slow.  There are a lot of grumbly people on board, folks who think we should have repaired in Long Beach before we left, others who are insisting to get off the boat NOW.  Carnival has offered $200 to anyone who needs to change their departure flights; the airlines aren’t charging any change fees and we get an extra day aboard with no charge, hell, they are even picking up the gratuities.  But, no, some people think they have to be home for Monday, I’m really glad, I’m not one of those.  In our world, it just really doesn’t matter.  We watched hundreds of people get off the ship to fly home.  Carnival made it right for all of them, not only did they cover the change fees, but they also covered the hotel rooms for them.  Now, I’m thinking about the hotels for the departing passengers, what about all of those coming in for next weeks cruise, Are they covering the hotels for those people too?  That could be another 3000 people, just because a repair didn’t happen fast enough.  Wow, that’s a cruiseline who takes care of it’s guests.

We’ve been bouncing from activity to activity today, we went to the Love and Marriage show, hoping to be on it, but they picked the newest married and we’ve already been married for 21 days, they also picked the longest married, now they were funny.

We met the girls up on the spa deck for some swimming with the grandson, he is fearless with his life jacket on.  I loved when he led the train and swam all around the pool with Kayla and I hanging on making choo-choo noises.  We got a bunch of smiles from the adults during that one.  Dressed for dinner we met the whole crew again, Jimmy (Kayla’s father-in-law ) has been quarantined.  Turns out he stopped down at the infirmary for some immodium and they threw him back in to his room for 24 hours.  No one likes the thought of an epidemic of any kind on a small floating city.

Another comedy show and a little time in the piano bar, it has been an awesome day and we are underway again. The ship is repaired and we set sail a little after 7:00, just a bit behind schedule, but not bad.