Day 100 – Our Need for Speed

speedwayThe Brickyard, mecca for race fans…the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a Sunday afternoon was just the ticket.  A $25 ticket, in fact, got us an hour and a half inside the hallowed gates of the Indianapolis 500.  For over 100 years, the Brickyard has held the 500, the first race being in May 1911.  A two and a half mile oval, once paved entirely of bricks has seen 47,432.5 miles raced in the Indy Car Racing series; 7,600 miles by NASCAR drivers; and additional races by GrandPrix and Moto GP racers.  In all, over 50,000 miles raced on a single track.  The track service has been undergone many changes over the 100 year history, but the original paver bricks remain in a 3 foot wide section at the start/finish line.

We took a tour today with 21 other race fans that led us in to the Hall of Fame Museum, out for a lap on the track with additional stops at the start/finish line; media center; podium, race control, and spectator suites.  It was a great tour.  We were able to talk and ask lots of questions; take pictures and generally be in awe of all that we saw.  Our tour guide, Patrick, was knowledgeable and friendly, and they even threw in a little rain for the tour, I guess to show us what a rain delay looks like!

Indy was impressive, the massive infield can hold hundreds of thousands of people; over 220,000 tickets are sold for the annual Indy 500; an additional 50,000 + people are generally on hand, as well.  To give you perspective, the 328 acre facility that now holds the 2 ½ mile track; the grand stand seating; 130 garages; suites for corporate guests; race control; medical facilities; thousands of employees on race day and concessions for all, could easily hold all of Vatican City, the Rose Bowl, Wimbledon, the Roman Coliseum, Yankee Stadium and Churchill Downs within its’ walls.  Wow!

A great day for us, truly enjoyable to get to spend the day at the track, next up…when we can fit it in – an actual race, so looking forward to that.


Day 101 – Lakeshores and Sand

dunes1Just a couple of weeks ago we went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado, today we found ourselves on the shores of Lake Michigan, once again with sand dunes.  It is incredible to think of how Mother Nature forms herself.  In the west, the dunes are an anomaly, an area where the perfect conditions come together to create an object unexpected between two mountain ranges.  In the east, surrounded by so many bodies of water that make up the Great Lakes, it is totally expected.  The summer winds bring the sand in to shore, the winter storms erode the dunes, the ice holds them firm so that in the spring, the seeds can take hold and help to hold the dunes in place for upcoming generations.

I’ve always been a fan of Lake Michigan, my mother’s family is from a small town near the shores, Shelby, Michigan.  This is where I still have numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.  Whenever we were going “home”, as a kid, this is where we went.  My dad spent my first grade year in Vietnam, he moved us home first.  When we didn’t have housing at the start of the school year in sixth grade, we, again, went home.  Just one of those places that brings back some incredible memories.

I learned to swim at Stoney Lake, a little puddle of water where all by aunts had cabins.  Whenever we were going to the lake, they meant Stoney.  Every early summer morning, before the sun was really up, we donned swimsuits and met our instructors out by the dock.  I went back once as an adult, what seemed so huge to me as a six year old was tiny looked at with mature eyes.  One of the best parts about Stoney Lake was the channel that went to Lake Michigan.  Several times a season, our cousins would get together and float the channel.  We all gathered our tubes and floated through the small waterway that led to the big lake.  When we arrived, there was big water, waves and lots of sand to play in.  So much different than the little lake we were used to.

The dunes hold all kinds of secrets, from the tiny animals that have adapted to the history it has seen, spend time and explore your National Lakeshore…remember, this is one of America’s great treasures.

Day 101 – Please? Rudy? Go Irish?!!

notre dameToday is the sixth month anniversary of my marriage to Rich – known as Big Rich to many, my husband is an incredible man.  Not only does he indulge my need to sightsee all over the damn country, he does it with a smile.  We started out today at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, by the time we had explored the Swedish Festival at Chellberg Farm, the homestead of Bailly Farm and the Succession Trail at West Beach, not to mention two trips to the Visitor Center so I could get my Junior Ranger badge, it was pretty late in the day.

Here we were, only an hour from South Bend, home of the University of Notre Dame, his fan favorite.  He asked what I wanted to do next…I was game for anything, so off to see the Fighting Irish we went.  The man was thrilled, a smile a mile wide as we drove on to the beautiful campus.  We drove Holy Cross Drive around the perimeter, saw the Dome, the golf course, both lakes and then parked at the stadium.

Big is a professed PAC 10 fan, but the Fighting Irish hold a special place in his heart.  We walked around the football stadium with high reverence for the coaches who have built such a legendary program.  Each gate is named for a different coach, Rockney, Leahy, Devine, Parseghian, Holtz – as we approached the Rockney gate, it was open…heaven for my man as we got to enter the stadium and stand on the field of the great football team, looking North we could see Touchdown Jesus! The gate guard had asked us for the password before allowing us to enter…my first response was “please?”  Big chanted, “Rudy! Rudy!” – the guard almost gave in on that one, my last suggestion, “Go Irish!” met with approval.  Thank goodness for that.

A dinner at the Legends completed the tour, with a little gift for our grandsons.  Football shirts declaring them to be “Future Legends” of the University of Notre Dame….dreams are always worth dreaming!  Happy ½ year anniversary honey, I couldn’t have planned better if I had tried.

Day 102 – George Rogers Clark

grcmemorialWe cruised out of Attica, Indiana today with a destination, kind of.  This is my favorite kind of road trip.  A bag packed just in case we don’t make it back, the cat fed and watered for the same reason and the open road.  Where we ended up was Vicennes, the first city of Indiana.  Founded in the late 1700’s, Vicennes played a crucial role in the Revolutionary War.

This is the place where Britian was forced to surrender its’ hold on the West.  George Rogers Clark was the man to make that happen.  Now if you are like me, you probably don’t know who he is.  I thought “Clark” of Lewis and Clark, but no, this is the man’s older brother.  A leader among men, George Rogers Clark was just 26 when he demanded and received the surrender of British Governor Hamilton.  He waged a mid-winter war against a garrison that was least expecting it.  He challenged the Indians to respect the white men and side with the New Americans, he enlisted the help of the French to secure the west for the growth of the States.  Not many men stand with so many credits to their name as our George Rogers Clark.

In Vicennes, Indiana, a town full of lots of history, a monument has been built to Mr. Clark.  It is in the neo-classical tradition similar to the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.  In the interior rotunda stand eight murals painted in the artists studio in Connecticut that measure 16’ x 28’ – the damn things are huge!  The setting is on the Wabash River, about two blocks from Governor Harrison’s mansion.  You may recall Harrison, he was the 9th President of the United States.  Now for those of us from the West, this kind of history is always a little breathtaking, when you consider Harrison took office in 1840, nine years before the California gold rush even began.

Another great adventure, another great National Park, another Junior Ranger badge.  I love my life!


Day 98 – Happy Birthday Kayla

Publication3My middle child…my first daughter…is having a monumental birth year.  She got married last September, she gained a four year old son and now, she is starting her own business.  Big Mama’s Pizza Truck…it is an exciting adventure that I am happy to be a part of.

For years, I have written business plans, thought up ideas that I thought would be good, written the plan to implement them, but that’s when I stop.  I stall in the implementation phase.  I am awesome at ideas, but my fear of failure keeps me from jumping right in.  I used to say that my job deserved 100% of my attention, as long as they were paying me, they deserved everything I had.  Then I retired and eliminated that excuse.

Now I sit back and wait, still not sure and able to jump in with both feet, I hesitate.  I still have awesome ideas, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to work on them. I like my life how it is and fear changing it for the worse. Along comes my daughter, Kayla…”mom, I have an idea.”  Not only does she have a great idea, she isn’t afraid to dive right in.

She first approached me in April with her idea, the school year was coming to a close, and along with it, a long summer break…she works at the University.  The prospect of another long summer without work, or trying to find a part time job I think was more than she could stand.  I thought her idea was fleeting, Kayla has never been known for following through, she is more like a flash in the pan, good idea now, but will it last.  I gave her some suggestions on how to begin and dropped it.  In May, she came to CedarCity to see me, she brought dough and sauce for me to taste test and a list of things she wanted to make happen.  I was impressed, she was still working on the same idea.

Kayla continued working on her plans, we met and made up a full list of what had to happen and everything I suggested, she followed through with.  She made calls, researched equipment, we created a budget.  What would it take to do this?  Before the month was over, we bought a used catering truck.  The truck has since been stripped and re-built, on Friday, the outside paint goes on.  Every roadblock I threw up, she countered and found a way.  When I limited the budget, she found used.  When the quote for the wrap came in over what we could afford, she hired a graffiti artist.  There is nothing stopping this girl.

The truck is due to be inspected this week by the health department, all other permits have been filed, we have insurance, we have equipment, next step is the Point of Sale system and she is a go.  There are moments I wish I was 26 and believed in a new idea so completely that I could let go of my fears.  I’m proud to have raised a daughter who throws caution to the wind to pursue her passion.  Happy Birthday honey, I’m proud to be your mom, I believe whole-heartedly in your plan and your business, good luck to you!


Day 127 – Ode to Beer

brewOur racers and rockcrawlers have the best sponsors!  Not only do they keep them in parts, and funds to travel, but sometimes, they add to the party too!  Pedernales Brewing Company supplies one of racers with beer, now that is a good sponsor.  Each of the Central Series races, Carl regularly comes with a keg of beer, or two to share with the rest of the racers.  We have had dark and light, ale and Hefe, all of it delicious.

When we were in Fredericksburg, Carl arranged a tour of the brewery.  Technically, they are a micro-brew.  In 2012, open only for 8 months, they produced 750,000 cases of beer.  In 2013, they are set to exceed that amount.  Last year they were ranked #14 for microbrews in Texas in production, this year, they will exceed that amount, growing to the #2 or #3 producer.

We were lucky and the owner, Lee Hereford, gave us the tour.  Lee and his brewmeister have put together an impressive operation.  They brew to the German standard, which means only four ingredients can be in the beer:  water, hops, barley and yeast.  That’s it, just four, only when they brew Hefeweisen to they add an additional ingredient in wheat.  Now you would think that with just four ingredients, all beer would taste the same, not true, not true.  Their beers are as individual as any you will find, and I think it’s because they do something pretty special.

Each beer is made from an old recipe, some from the 1800’s, some from the 1900’s.  Each of them comes from a specific location, so to be able to match that beer and that location, one of the four ingredients must be changed to match.  That’s the water.  Pedernales filters their Fredericksburg water to its’ purest possible state, then through research on the part of the brewmeister, the water minerals and salts are added back to match the water that would have originally been in the beer.  One example is a recipe they use from St. Louis in 1910.  The water is brewed, just as the beer would be to match the water that you would have drank in 1910 right from the tap in St. Louis.  I believe that is what makes their beer unique, attention to detail.

So, when you are hanging in Texas, stop by and ask for a Lobo…it will come from the Pedernales Brewing Company and I guarantee it will be great.  Enjoy it and bottoms up…for the rest of you, watch for them, they are growing by leaps and bounds.

Day 111 – What a wonderful week it has been

I love coming to Colorado Springs…we know so many great people here that every night is a party.  Well, maybe not a party, but at least good conversation.  Since we got in to town, we’ve spent every evening with a different friend catching up and telling stories.

conversationLast night, I got to visit my friend Mel, or Roxy, or Cookie…it doesn’t really matter what name she goes by (although Cookie is the dog) she is a hoot!  She and I have a couple of things in common, we are both part of the racing scene, we both make lousy spectators, and we are both in to upcycling.  Although, I have to be honest, she actually does it, I just plan to do it.  Their little two bedroom home is adorable, every room is remodeled and painted and there are pieces of previous junk that have been made to be beautiful everywhere.  It was a great evening for some lively conversation, thank you so much to both Mel and Robert, and Cookie, after last night, who could forget Cookie.

The night before, we stopped by Crade and Michelle’s to visit with them and their boys.  I love those little guys, Corben is so serious and studious, and he doesn’t miss a beat; Riley has the most expressive face, filled with freckles and an infectious smile.  So nice to be able to sit and relax with a TV and a couch, we just never get that part in our life.  Thanks also for putting up our Josh, while the “condo” was in for repair.

The night before, the night before, we had a few drinks with a true American Badass.  JT Taylor is a legend in offroad racing, many of my friends admire the hell out of JT, and with good reason.  He’s pretty cool.

The best part of the last three nights are the stories, we all have common friends and common events that we can share.  To be able to tell the stories that come with our lives to people who can   relate is one of the greatest things about our lifestyle.  In addition, the next three nights will be just as great as the rest of our friends come out to the race track and compete, I am really looking forward to seeing them all, it’s like a family reunion every event weekend.  Whoohoo…I’m ready for some racing.


Day 114 – Navigation is not really my thing

dunesI used to pride myself on being a great navigator, I thought I was awesome at figuring out where I was and where I was going, apparently I fooled myself for almost 50 years, because today was a reminder that Navigation is really not my thing.

Big and I set out from Colorado Springs today to do some sightseeing, we had a plan.  Take the 115 out to Canon City, stop at the Royal Gorge, then weave our way around the 69 to the 160 and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Yep, that was the plan, and then he handed me the atlas.  I managed to get us on the 115 and out to Canon City, found a great little burger joint – Bunkhouse Burgers – highly recommended, even found our way to Royal Gorge…or maybe I should rephrase that to Royal Gouge.  We didn’t stay.  While I recognize that it is cool terrain, we have seen gorge’s before.  Flaming, Snake River, and many others…no way was I paying $26 a piece to look down at a canyon.  The place was super touristy…not our thing, so we passed.  Hopped back in the Jeep and headed out.

We found some beautiful roads along the Arkansas River, some gorgeous ranches, which we keep trying to convince ourselves we are in the market for, and then we got distracted in Westcliffe.  We turned off from the 69 to tour the city, and then forgot to make the turn again.  Sixteen miles later, we were on the 96…”that’s not right, we are supposed to be on the 69”…a quick look at the atlas and we realized our mistake.  Nothing a little 32 mile out of the way round trip won’t fix.  We were back on the 69 and headed towards Gardner, I kept seeing signs off to the west that lead to Great Sand Dunes, but Big thought we should get fuel first, unfortunately, Gardner doesn’t sell fuel, so we were back on the road to Red Wing.

My second navigational mistake was when we saw the sign for the 160 “ Do we need that?” he asked, “I dunno.” And we kept driving, about four miles down the road, I was like, “Oh, hey, we need the 160.”  He just looked at me, and then turned around.  This time we were only 8 miles out of the way.  But the best part of the trip was ahead, we took a little dirt road from Red Wing to the 160…most beautiful road we’ve been on in awhile.  It was like a little oasis from all the high desert.  On the 160, we still had plenty of driving to do, headed to the National Park.  We had paralleled the Sangre De Cristo Mountains all the way, I couldn’t figure out where they were hiding sand dunes, and then they were there.

So cool to see sand dunes in the middle of a mountain area, and a beautiful little river running beside them.  There were kids everywhere building sand stuff, nothing actually looked like a castle, and swimming in the ankle deep water.  People were hiking the dunes and generally enjoying themselves, with the exception of the pregnant mom with two under five.  Our plan was to take the MedanoRiver pass back to the 69, as that road is open to four wheel drives, but alas, it was closed.  There was a small plane crash on the pass yesterday and it was still being investigated.  At least that navigational error was not my fault.

Day 115 – Flying Experimentally

IMAG0306Over the course of my career, I spent a lot of time in small aircraft.  From what most people consider small, the “Puddle Jumpers” that comprised the commercial airlines in Idaho to truly small craft that were part of our corporate fleet.  We had two…that’s what made our fleet, an AeroCommander 690A and a Sirius.  When you travel to lots of little locations in back of beyond towns, it’s necessary to have your own aircraft.  Our pilot was outstanding, we didn’t always get where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go…but when we went, we got there safely.

Since I left, there hasn’t been much opportunity to fly, most of our miles are ground bound, so when the offer to fly today came up, I jumped at it.  Literally, I was kind of napping, I hopped out of bed and threw on my flip flops, grabbed my sunglasses and a bottle of water and was out.  We are in Dodge City, Kansas, home of the famous Boot Hill and not much else, except our friends, the Shirleys.  Brian needed to pick up an airplane from a nearby town and bring it down to his own hangar, I got to be the co-pilot.

We drove up to Montezuma and picked up the plane, a little two-seater with not a lot of excess room.  Right on the dash there was a notice…”Passenger Notice:  This plan is experimental in nature and does not comply with Federal Aviation Safety Requirements.”  Well if that doesn’t instill confidence, I just don’t know what does.

It was obvious Brian was very comfortable flying, we had an uneventful trip back to Dodge City.  Of course, I’m a bit of a klutz, it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing, I can always manage to get myself all fouled up.  Flying little two-seaters requires you to go in through the window, kind of like getting in a race car, me, I’m trying not to lean too hard on the fiberglass, yet get myself inside without falling down.  Finally in my seat, it took me a minute to locate all the seatbelt pieces and get strapped in, I put on my headphones, so we had communications, and as I’m adjusting the microphone, I knock the whole thing off, together with my sunglasses, because, of course, I’ve put it on backwards the first time.  When climbing out after landing, it’s the same process in reverse, only this time, I’m trying to step off the wing without sliding off.  The non-slip patch doesn’t extend the whole wing, so it was a bit tricky to get situated.  I think I managed to do that part without being seen though.  I’ve never been mistaken for being graceful, hmmm, I wonder why.

Day 116 – Writer’s Block

writers blockIt’s been a month since I wrote anything at all.  Not just posted, but wrote.  I have had a severe case of writer’s block, not sure it’s over yet…but I have to start somewhere.  I have a dozen things to write about, but my process has let me down, so I haven’t begun.  Fortunately, at least for me, I wrote down the initial idea, now if I can just get the feeling back that I had when I was experiencing it, that would be awesome.

Maybe my process is flawed, but I have always found that if the first three sentences are written in my head before I sit down at the computer, the rest will flow.  Not so this past month.  Nothing has been in my head, so it doesn’t even occur to me to sit down and write.  I’ve been on my computer plenty, but that is just work related, marking things off my ever changing list of things to do.  No writing, no creative thoughts, no fun.

I love writing, I miss it.  I miss knowing that someone may read what I have to say.  It is satisfying to have “readers”, even more so to have “fans.”  It makes me sad to think I’m missing out.  But I’ve done it to myself.  I’ve had my blog for just over 200 days, I have some subscribers, some regular readers, but not a lot.  Most of my reads are referred from Facebook, where I have a few friends and Big has even more.  So, I disappointed myself when a friend suggested I read someone else’s blog and I realized that a 17 year old had 10+ times as many followers as I did, and she had just begun her blog.  It kind of depressed me.  What was I doing wrong?  And I have just realized, that I am doing nothing wrong.  We all have different influences, different circles…I am happy in mine, I just needed to remember that.

Another of life’s lessons, a reminder that I’m not in competition with others, I am my own voice.  I write for my satisfaction, not that of others.  Like I said, it is satisfying to have readers and fans, but not necessary for the process.  This isn’t about who is more popular, this is about recording my life, my observations, my experiences.  If you enjoy them, I thank you, stick with me, we are going to continue to have a good time and experience life to the fullest.  Life is a journey, I need to remember to Create the Life I Imagine…thanks for helping me with that.