Day 223 – Race Day, Auburn, Alabama

rainWe live in a semi-truck trailer, you know the kind, you see them moving down the freeway every day.  They are made of metal on the outside, so listening to rain drops is like sitting in a little metal shed.  The reverberation from the drops is mesmerizing.  I know this because it has rained 3 ½ inches in the last 24 hours.  Every drop of that hitting the roof of the trailer.

The cat sits in the hallway when it rains, it’s the farthest and quietest point from the rain.  You can tell it’s the first race weekend, because we have brought the rain again.  In Texas last year the ranchers offered us bonuses if we’d come back every 90 days and bring the rain with us.  It’s frustrating at times because there isn’t a damn thing you can do about the weather.

First southeast race, first race of the year, first rainstorm.  The fact that those three statements are in the same sentence doesn’t surprise anyone who knows us.  We try to make the best of it.  If we can’t make money, at least we can have some fun.  We built a great race course, put 110% in to making the event great.  Having put together events for years, I know how important it is to give those that do show up your best effort.  So we did.

Our drivers had a great time, the spectators that braved the weather had a great time, the staff had a great time.  We just all had to modify our expectations.  That’s ok, this ain’t our first rodeo.

This event was a little different than most because we had a controversy, we never have a controversy so this was unusual.  It took a little while for the frustration to leave the staff after it was all over and it’s probably good that these kind of things happen on occasion so it reminds us that we have to put all the rules on paper, we just hope all the people affected end up ok with the decisions made.  One thing I’m sure of, the same situation won’t happen again, and in to each life, a little rain must fall.  I just hope next weekend, it’s not over three inches.

 

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Day 225 – Packaging challenged

hydrationFor years I have told people I was packaging challenged, I can’t see how things are supposed to fit together, or come apart.  So as part of my athletic challenge, I picked up a hydration pack – not a Camelbak, because they aren’t four-wheel drive friendly, but a local brand carried by Academy Sports.  It took me twenty minutes to snip all the little zip ties they had holding it together, then I filled it with water.  No problem, I got this.

I decided it was too warm for a sweatshirt, so I took that off, put my hydration pack on, then realized I didn’t have any pockets for my phone.  So I took the hydration pack off, put my phone in the zippered pocket and put it back on.  By this time, I was tangled in my head phones and I’d forgotten to turn on my MapmyWalk app.

So I did it all again, took it off, put it on, with more success this time in getting my headphones on without being tangled.  I started my walk.  The first obstacle is a set of buried tires, on it I found a screw driver that looked suspiciously like ours, so I picked it up.  As I’m walking I realize that I’m just enough of a klutz that I probably shouldn’t walk with sharp objects in my hand, time to take the pack off one more time and stash the screw driver.

Back together now, I am trucking pretty well, at mm1, I figure it’s time for a drink from the cool purple hydration pack.  I pick up the little tube, unlock it and suck.  Nothing.  It doesn’t matter how hard I suck, I’ve got no water coming through.  I give up and move on.  Another 20 minutes and I’m starting to get thirsty, I try the tube again, still nothing.  I unload the hydration pack from my back and open the valve that I put the water in through and drink from there.

I manage to finish my walk, just over 3 miles according to MapMyWalk and get back to the trailer, I grab a bottle of water and take my shower.  When Rich gets back I admit to him I can’t figure out my hydration pack.  He takes it from me, unlocks the end and sucks on it.  Water comes out.  “How’d you do that?”  He does it again.  Turns out the end plastic needed to be bitten before you suck on it.  I couldn’t figure that out on my own.  Tomorrow when I walk the course again, hopefully I can manage not to look like a complete dork wrapped in my headphones and sucking on a tube with nothing in it.  Thankfully, there are no cameras here.

Day 226 – I am Not an Athlete

trailI am not an athlete, I don’t even play one on tv.  Truth be told, I’ve never been an athlete, sure, I played sports in high school, I even made the varsity teams, but that was more a lack of competition than being any good.  I loved team sports for the camaraderie, the social aspects and always having somewhere to be.  If you had to go to practice, you could skip out on those hours after school where nothing was going on and my friends were mostly getting in trouble.

I may not be an athlete, but what I am is a strong, healthy woman.  The scale hasn’t been my friend since I had my second child at age 24, so it’s been a quarter of a century since I liked my weight.  I don’t expect I will ever like my weight again, and that’s ok.

More importantly, I have discovered that I like myself.  I have endurance, staying power, no matter what I am doing.  In this, my fiftieth year, I have decided to be stronger, to use that endurance to my advantage and build my strength, and in that decision, I discovered that I have the best gym in the world available to me on almost a daily basis.

Each week we park on some of the most interesting properties, privately owned four-wheel drive parks.  There are trails and rocks and puddles everywhere.  There are birds and fish and deer in almost all of them.  Some have snakes and lizards, some have coyotes, all have fresh air.

A month ago, I started walking, not just flat ground around the neighborhood, but up and down hills, we were in Temecula at the time.  Then we moved out to Johnson Valley and I walked the perimeter of Hammertown every day.  Now we are at the Great American Park in Auburn, Alabama.  Josh has been setting race course all week, my goal has been to see if I can follow his arrows.  Friday morning the course will be set completely, I’m going out in the morning before the racers are here to see if I can manage the whole thing.  It’s 4.03 miles up and down rocks and through puddles, through trees, through brush and stickery plants.  I know I can do it!

Day 231B – Awe-inspiring! Carlsbad Caverns

cavernsJust a few miles from the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is Carlsbad Caverns, just a single state and a short highway stint up the 62 to New Mexico.  Don’t trust the signs, at one point the Texas sign says 23 miles and just a 100 yards further, New Mexico says it’s 16 miles – I’m not sure who put the sign in the wrong place, but whatever the mileage, it is worth the trip.

About 20 years ago, I visited Carlsbad Caverns with my kids, we took the Natural entrance in to the caverns, about a 1.25 miles straight down hill.  When we got to the bottom, just entering the Big Room, they asked us to please step to the elevators and find our way out.  Apparently there had been a bomb threat and they were evacuating the Caverns.  We were bummed, but didn’t have the time to stay, so we never actually got to visit Carlsbad.

This time, we were more fortunate.  We walked the Natural Entrance in.  Truly it is an 800 foot descent in 1.25 miles, at times, it feels like you are on the dance floor playing limbo the grade is so steep.  We will be feeling it in our calves the day after.  The entrance is beautiful, a huge powerful cave discovered in 1898 by Jim White at age 16.  He spent many, many years exploring the cave and finally in the early 1920’s it was named a National Park.

When we got to the bottom of the descent, we made our way along the mile long path through The Big Room.  A large cavern filled with stalactites, stalagmites, huge cones, soda straws and draperies.  Most of the formations are dormant, not enough water still seeping in to the cave to continue their growth, but others are still forming.

The Cavern is incredible in it’s size and dimensions, originality, lighting and protection.  The areas are well marked, lit appropriately and made to impress.  This has got to be one of the most awe-inspiring sights I’ve seen in a very long time.  It just proves that nature can build things so much grander than man, it just takes a whole lot longer.

Make the trip to southeast New Mexico, it’s not on the way to anywhere, but it is worth the effort to get there, and while you are there, join us as the newest Junior Rangers at Carlsbad Caverns, it’s fun and you learn new things too!

 

Day 231 – Senior Ranger

rangerGuadalupe Mountain National Park.  The highest peak in Texas at 8,657 feet.  87,000 acres of hiking terrain, made famous by the first Nevada Barr, Anna Pigeon novel “The Track of the Cat”.  The first place we have ever found a Senior Ranger program to complement their Junior Ranger program.  I love National Parks.

Guadalupe Mountain is peaked by El Capitan, a pre-historic reef that juts out from the Chihuahuan Desert floor.  I always thought El Capitan was at Yosemite, but not true, it is very distinctive and forbidding here in west Texas too.  110 miles north east of El Paso along the 62/180 lies the reef known as the Guadalupe Mountains.  Few roads pass through this area, this is a true hiker’s park.

We stopped off at Frijole Ranch and Josh and I hiked the 2.3 miles (what seemed like all uphill) to the escarpment that housed Smith Springs, an oasis surrounded by broad leaf maples and firs.  A spring that bubbles up in to a small fifteen foot pond that is as crystal clear as you will ever find.  Six springs are found in a three mile square area within the National Park boundaries, an area that was fought for by many over the years since water is such a scarcity in this area.

A return stop at the Visitor’s Center to spend a little bit of time with Hector and Sarah, Josh was out of there with his third Junior Ranger badge and I had obtained my first Senior Ranger badge.  These are some of the best programs within the parks system, it’s all well and good to tour the parks and read the info, but if you really want to retain some information, do the programs.  It’s a chance to really learn about the place.  Not many of the parks have Senior Ranger programs, so I was happy to participate.  The book was a little tougher than the Junior Ranger book, but not that much, just a way to get to know the park a little better.  Try it, it’s fun.

 

Day 233 – Racing Shocks

We’ve spent the last 24 hours parked in front of ADS Off Road Racing Shocks headquarters in east Tucson.  That is not a bad thing.  We have been here because they are installing the Billy Badass, Big Rich approved Dirt Riot Dominator shocks on our XJ.  If you are not a Jeep person, that’s an old style Cherokee, four door, that we use for everything.  We call it our motorized wheelbarrow because it drives all the race course, gets the groceries, does the laundry and hangs out in the back of the semi when we are moving from place to place.

ADS put some customized 2.5” remote reservoir, 7/8” shaft, nitrogen filled emulsion shocks on the front and the rear.  These babies are prototypes that we will be able to demo to Cherokee drivers all over the country, we are really excited to try them out.

We’ve always had a really good relationship with Brian Turner at ADS, he is the off-road man; now we’ve gotten to know Steve Kuker, the owner as well.  We are lucky to have such good people in the offroad industry.  In fact, one of my favorite parts is to get to know the business owners that are making things happen.  Offroad is 80% mom and pop and 20% corporate.  Even the mom’s and pop’s can be multi-million $ businesses, but they are still just real people.  People that you can go out and have a meal with, a Diet Coke, maybe a beer.  People with a passion.  Thanks ADS for hooking us up, we are excited to begin a partnership with you.

For more information about ADS, visit their website at www.adsmach.com or my other blog www.offroadbusinessconsultant.com.

Day 234 – New Things

jewelryJohnson Valley-Phoenix-Tucson.  We haven’t made it very far mileage wise, but we are on the road.  Anytime we are near Phoenix, we almost always stop.  We have great friends there, Charlene, Andrew, Campbell’s and Rich’s sister. Lots of reasons to stop.  This trip we dropped in to Charlene’s.  We’ve got a great little setup going on, she provides showers and internet, I get to fix dinner.  Because I don’t have an oven, it is exciting when I get to use one.  We had mustard crusted pork roast, rosemary potatoes, parmesan baked cauliflower.  It looked like a gourmet meal, if only I could learn how to plate it pretty.

Next stop was Tucson.  From February 1 til now is the Tucson Jewelry Show, it sounds like something simple, right?  Not so, it is thirty different shows held all over town for every jewelry buyer in the country.  There are high-priced shows with high-priced gems for the buyers from the BIG department stores; there are mineral shows and fossils shows, bead shows and just about anything else.  Charlene and I went to the JOGS show in the Tucson Expo Center.  It is a conglomeration of just about everything.

We found large geodes and lots of fossils, mostly from Indonesia and Madagascar.  We found tools and findings.  Findings are all the little pieces it takes to build jewelry, from chains to clasps, jump rings to split rings, charms and bails.  There were beads galore in every color and material.  Tables upon tables set out with strings of beads, some were natural stones, others were crafted.  There were diamonds and crystals and salt lamps, furniture and fashion accessories.  Bling, bling and more bling.  It was a bit overwhelming.

So many pretty things as far as you could see.  I am a more simplistic jewelry person.  I want to build simple stuff, minimalistic jewelry that just adds an accent, not a focus.  Most of this years’ designs are big and blingy.  It was fun to go, but I’m pretty sure if I go again, I’m going with a specific budget, and a specific idea of what I want to get.  I’m still in the design phase, so it was just too much for me.  I want to thank Jewelry Making Daily for turning me on to the Tucson shows and Charlene for being my partner in crime today, it was definitely worth the trip.

 

Day 237 – It’s Official

Website Both LogoYep, it’s Official, our race season has begun.  Friday’s race was the official start of the season and close of the off-season.  Since I began blogging, we’ve mostly been in the off-season, the races were pretty much done and we were just working the shows.  Now my daily life will be filled with travel and details regarding our race series.

We promote two National sanctioning bodies, W.E. Rock has been around since 2005, it’s pre-cursor was CalRocs, which still exists today.  W.E. Rock stands for World Extreme Rock Crawling.  We promote rock crawls all over the country in two series, East and West.  There are three events in each. This year’s schedule includes Congress, AZ; Cedar City, UT; and Goldendale, WA for the West – in the East we are in Dayton, TN twice and Attica, IN.  Rock crawling is a four-wheel drive trials type event.

Our second series is called Dirt Riot, it is a four-wheel drive endurance race.  We have several classes that race for one, two or three hours.  We have four series of events for that, a south-east with events in Auburn, AL; Birmingham, AL and Union Point, GA; the Central series includes Bryan, TX; Altus, OK and Fredericksburg, TX; the Southwest series includes Congress, AZ; Cedar City, UT and Cortez, CO and the final series in the Mountain series in Moab, UT, Colorado Springs, CO and Cortez, CO.

We spend the year running up and down the freeway beginning today, the season is on and I’m excited.  I love that we get to see the country that way.  The TajMaHauler (our semi truck) is ready, we are ready, the racers are ready.  Let’s get this party started!

Day 238 – King of the Hammers T-0 Race Day

The King of the Hammers Race Day finally arrived, early morning saw the wind gusting to 30 mph; temperatures around 30 degrees.  One hundred twenty-nine drivers took the green flag to begin the race; 28 drivers completed it. One hundred sixty-five miles in the hardest off-road rock race in the world.  Trails with names like Chocolate Thunder, Backdoor, Resolution, Wrecking Ball, Boulderdash, Claw Hammer, Outer Limits, Aftershock, and Elvis.   The first driver to complete the race was Randy Slawson in the Bomber chassis in just over seven hours.  Another 20 drivers finished in the next seven hours with the last seven coming in after that.  Most racers who finished were in their cars for more than 12 hours.

My Rich is generally referred to as Big Rich in the off-road community; his job was to own Chocolate Thunder.  He and his crew ran that trail to ensure there was no bottleneck on that trail.  The boys owned it.

The reason he is called Big is because his son is called Lil’ Rich.  Lil’ lives in Alaska now, but came down this week to work the race.  The trail he owned was Backdoor.  He and the San Diego Jeep club made all the recoveries on that trail.  Lots of compliments flowed their way for the job well done.

Today was the day we had all been working for all week, it ended up being a huge, expansive show.  An incredible event all around, we all had a blast.  Kudos to the Ultra4 crew Shannon, Chris B. and Dave.  Big kudos to their volunteer staff, too numerous to count, but particularly Shawn B., Shon W. and Roxy (at least from my perspective).  I loved working with Lujan all week long and am thankful I got to be a part of it.

Particular thanks to “our” drivers – those of you that regularly compete in Dirt Riot with us, we thank you for the efforts that were put forth in being here and competing.  There are so many that I want to thank personally and list here, but I’m so afraid of leaving someone out.  Love you guys, thanks for making us proud.

 

Day 240 – King of the Hammers T-2

I know there is a lot of other stuff going on out here on the lakebed, but all I can see is the side of the trailer that says www.mobileviewscreens.com That’s the view from the registration tent window.  In theory, we can see all of the qualifying that went on today, after all, we are in the Red Bull tent and it has windows that look out over the race course.  By in actuality, we never get to look out that window.  The line at registration for pit bands has been so long every hour that we are open, that we barely get time to look up and acknowledge all the people that are there.

I love that our lines are long, it means people are here supporting the racers.  The pit support is outstanding for all of the teams.  Tonight we hung out by the fire pit for a little while after we closed registration and the crowds were huge.

Now, I’m one of the lucky ones, I know hundreds of people out on the lakebed.  Drivers and their families, co-drivers and pit crew.  They come from all aspects of our circles, some are rockcrawlers, some are racers, some are people we camp with.  Often they are people from Anywhere, USA who are just part of the off-road community.  So, imagine my surprise when I really didn’t know many of the folks around the fire pit.  It means we are meeting new people and making new friends on the lakebed.  Love that part.

The Qualifying today was exciting, early in the morning Marcus Gomez, first year racer, beat all of the times from the day before by a full six seconds.  He held the pole position until the Power Hour started.  Power Hour is designed to put ten of the fastest guys through qualifying while it is being shown live on the internet.  There was no disappointment when they started.  The first driver, Jason Scherer, beat Marcos time by over 20 seconds.  Three more also beat his time by the end of the hour.  The starting line up is full of the top names in racing, Shannon Campbell, former King; Robby Gordon, Nascar and Trophy Truck driver; TJ Flores, Class One Driver; Loren Healy, former King; Matt Messer, champion rockcrawler; Derek West, champion rockcrawler and rounding out the top ten are JT Stephens and Randy Slawson.  Now the last two are particularly exciting because they are both LCQ drivers.  They made the trip to the Valley without a spot in the big race.  Because their times were so good, they not only are in the race, but they are off the line in the first five rows.

The KOH race is on Friday beginning at 8:00 a.m.; live coverage can be seen at www.ultra4racing.com.  Thursday is the Everyman Challenge (EMC), really looking forward to getting to race day.