Day -54 – Thankfulness

thankfulMy life is so full of good things, I can barely contain my joy sometimes.  My blessings are numerous…I have good health, a great man, incredible children, fabulous friends, an abundance of everything.  Truly Life, liberty and happiness are mine.

Each Thanksgiving I look around and Thank God for everything in my life.  I am a bit of a Pollyanna, maybe I’ve mentioned that before; I just don’t see any point in dwelling on the negatives – at least in my writing.  I have bad days like the rest of you, but there is something about grabbing my keyboard that makes me think positive thoughts.

For years, I have sent a half dozen emails on Thanksgiving morning, they begin with “I am thankful for you…” and then I say why.  This is something I send to my children and my husband, and generally one or two others who really have an impact on my life at the moment.  Folks that I just can’t seem to get by without.  Right now that would require a couple of dozen emails, so I’m going to post it here.  If it applies to you, you will recognize yourself, even if we’ve never met…

“I am thankful for you.  On this Thanksgiving, I look at all the things that matter to me and realize that you are one of them.  I am proud of your   resourcefulness, your talent, your willingness to share with others.  I am proud of your infectious smile and your laughter and the way you bring out the best in me.  I am proud of your willingness to work hard, no matter what the task, day in and day out.

Thank you for being someone who matters, for taking the time to look out for others, for listening to my silly ideas and for appreciating me.  It is because of  you that I am who I am and I couldn’t be prouder at this moment to call you my friend.  Thanks for being you.”

Do you know someone you should send this note to?


Day -45 – Thirty Six Hours of Racing Baja

bajaHave you ever gotten confused when someone said they were going to Baja California? You know that is in Mexico, right?  The little spit of land referred to as Baja, is the peninsula, it runs south from San Diego for about a thousand miles.  Baja has two states, the northernmost one is Baja California; the one south is Baja Sur.  We spent the last week in Baja California, the wild, wild west.

When you think Mexico, most people think of Cabo or Cozumel with the beautiful beaches; Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta with the ruins and lush green…when I think Baja, I think paradise – but that is for an offroader, the predominant color is brown, or better described as dust.  Baja is home to the SCORE 1000 race, the final event of each year for Score International.  It is an epic event that has been captured on film, think Dust to Glory, and has captured the hearts of many.

Each year we attend as part of a Chase team.  Our race team is the 1066 of Shaffer Motorsports.  This year there were about 20 people on the team.  We have six drivers that move the car forward, this year through 888 miles of course, starting at Ensenada and ending there as well.  It took 35 hours and 57 minutes, not our best showing, but we finished within the timeline of 36 hours; and a finish is almost as good as a win.  The attrition rate at the thousand is horrendous.

The other dozen of us were chase teams; our goals were to be where the race car would pass through sometime during that 36 hours to provide support.  There were three teams on the Sea of Cortez side; Chase 10 – that’s us, we run communications; Chase 2 – Shawn and Bror were stationed towards San Felipe; Chase 1 – Hector and friends (locals to Ensenada).  Our first challenge came providing an additional tire to the 1066 after they had to change one in the first leg of the race, Chase 1 met them at Pit 1 and dropped the tire; the second challenge came when we ran out of gas thirty miles from Pit 2.  All of us on the Cortez side got involved in that one, strapping down extra fuel cans we were carrying and sending them off with Chase 1 to find the car at race mile (rm) 173.  By rm 340, our team had moved away from the Cortez side and was running strong but we wouldn’t see them for what we estimated would be another 14 hours, they had moved to the Pacific side.

Driver change occurred at Coco’s Corner.  Coco is a legend in Baja, he lives in the middle of nowhere on a road that crosses the peninsula from east to west.   Coco has been a host to thousands over the years with a cold beer and many stories, all of the legends have been a part of that history.  San Felipe to Gonzaga has been almost completely paved; then there is another 30 miles of dirt until you get to Coco’s, this is race course in this event.  After Coco’s is another 20 miles of dirt to get to Highway 1, this year that 20 miles was slow going, so no easy task to get in there.  Chase 3 was waiting at the driver’s change, new drivers in, old one’s out, it had taken our team about 14 hours to this point. 

So at midnight, the 1066 was on its way headed to the infamous silt beds.  The silt this year was unbelievable, a 100 mile section of deep ruts with sand washing over the car; it wasn’t until daybreak that we started having an easier time of it.  Stuck in the silt at least nine times, because we had issues earlier in the race, we got the worst of it since it had all been run to death and powdered up even more than we had seen in prerunning.  The team forged on, Chase 4, 5 and 6 were on the Pacific side, since there are no roads that cross the peninsula easily, it is important to stage people on both sides.

No significant issues arose outside of the silt, but it was still very slow going.  Another driver change at rm 567 put the last of our drivers in the car.  We anticipated seeing the team at rm 750 when they finally made it out of the Mike’s Sky Ranch road around noon.  Chase 2 and Chase 10 were staged and ready.  It wasn’t until almost 6 p.m. that we saw them.  Chase 5 had helped with a change of GPS some miles back and then we hit a logjam at rm 735.  It took hours to clear the logjam with various race vehicles helping each other get through.  It doesn’t matter what team or what class you were in, everyone pitches in. 

By the time our car was cruising through, we had transferred Bror from Chase 1 in with us and Chase 2 had gone home, we were the last bastion of support on our side of the peninsula with 100+ miles to go.  Our concern now was time, SCORE checkpoints have very specific closing times.  Checkpoint six was set to close at 6:38; at one point, that time had been moved to 5:38 pm, but thankfully Weatherman fought for the time to move back to the six mark and he won.  Our car would have missed the checkpoint.  Checkpoint seven was set to close at 7:09, we were the last car through the checkpoint on time at 6:37.  The last checkpoint was crossed with plenty of time, but now we had to meet the 36 hour deadline, and we still had plenty of mileage to cover. 

We saw the car go past us three different times, after checkpoint 8, there was nothing further we would be able to do for them, so we headed to town, through the twisty mountain pass to meet them at the finish line.  By this time, we had added over 500 pounds to our vehicle and she wasn’t handling beautifully.  It wasn’t a good day to die, so we slowed down and took our time.  Pulling in to Ensenada, we parked and ran for the finish line, and there we waited anxiously for the racecar.  Watching our clocks, we knew that we just had a short window, we hoped our drivers knew that as well.  With a scant three minutes left, they crossed the line.  All of the team was there to greet them.  Finisher pins handed out by SCORE, pictures taken, this is what it is about.  The first finishers in the fastest trucks had finished before dawn that day in less than 24 hours; we were done an hour before the finish line closed, but within our 36 hour time limit.  So proud of our team, it takes everyone to make this kind of effort happen.

While all of our team arrived safely, we listened to Weatherman, the communications guru of the offroad community throughout the race and heard many Code Reds called.  Code Red is the radiospeak for an emergency is in progress.  Our first night out, just after dusk, Code Red had been called for a bike down; the KTM 2X rider was within 100 miles of the finish; he was leading the race; he died that night.  Kurt Caselli was a 30 year old legendary rider, he lost his life in the pursuit of his passion.

It happens every year, someone will die in Baja at the 1000; not often is it a competitor, it usually is a chase crew or spectator, but it happens every year without fail.  All of us going in country know the risk, but we do it anyway.  There is something to be said for being part of an event as epic as the SCORE 1000, for being part of something bigger than yourself, for being surrounded by people who push themselves so hard in pursuit of a goal, for living with that passion.  I can’t wait for next year.


Day -35 – What does the FOX Say?

What does the FOX say?  Haley’s home!  She got back from Japan a couple of weeks ago and found a way to see her old mom this week.  In fact, she rode the Greyhound to Vegas to see us.  It is SEMA week here in Vegas, a huge undertaking, the largest automotive after-market trade show in the world.  SEMA brings together anyone that has to do with cars; for us, that includes anyone that has to do with off-road vehicles as well.

We spend the week talking to people, cruising the aisles, setting up for 2014.  There are competitors there that we want to talk about the schedule with; there are partners there that we want to talk about the events with; there are media folks there that we want to know who we are.  Our drivers had cars in booths, our partners had booths…it was awesome.

Haley is an easy person to have around, she smiles a lot, stays fairly quiet and unobtrusive…at least when she needs to be.  But throw her an opportunity to tell a story and she will keep everyone enthralled.  I noticed that Tuesday night at an afterhours event when I looked up at the group I had just introduced her to and they were all paying attention to a story she was telling about the trains in Japan.  I was proud of her.  Everytime we cruised by the Fox Shocks booth, I couldn’t help but ask…What does the Fox say? And Haley would sing for me. 

Haley is also one of the luckiest girls I know, we were standing in the aisles of the show and she found a gaming chip; we looked around, not a soul to be seen.  Turns out it was real, she went home with a few dollars in her pocket, a few hundred dollars even.  Since she had extra, she treated her mom to a trip to the Stratosphere.  We rode the Big Shot on Friday night, there was a moment that I thought, “Holy F***”, but it only lasted a moment.  It was something new for me, happy to check it off my list!

Day -34 – Scam Alert

scam7:45 a.m. Saturday morning; Las Vegas, Nevada.  Hotel phone rings.  “Hello…”

“Ma’am this is Carlos at the front desk, I am so sorry to bother you this morning, we had a massive computer failure last night and we are trying to get back up and running.  The new software has been installed, but we are missing data from last nights’ guests.  The good news is that last night’s room is only being billed at 50%, but I need to get some information from you.”

Ok, I’m tired, not really thinking straight…fine, make it quick is what I’m thinking, I just want to crawl back in bed.  He asked for my address, my phone number…I rattled them off, then he asked for my credit card number.  Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding.  The bell finally went off.

“Wait a minute, isn’t there a sign or something at the front desk that said hotel personnel will never ask for your personal information over the phone?”

“Yes, ma’am, we had a problem a while back; I’m just doing what my boss said, trying to get this back operational, if I could just get your card number?”

I said, no thank you, I will deliver it to the front desk and hung up.  Crawled back in bed and it was bugging me.  I had just been scammed, or was about to be.  Fortunately I woke up enough to prevent it going any further.  I’m not worried about him having my address and phone number.  Hell, you can find those all over the internet whether you have my name or not.  I don’t have to worry about a home invasion, my address is a UPS storefront.  I live on the road, a home invasion for me would likely look more like a car-jacking.

When I checked out a couple of hours later, I thanked the front desk staff for the reminder.  It turns out, it wasn’t a sign, they actually had it stapled to my receipt as I checked in.  I knew I had read it somewhere.  “Hotel personnel will never ask for your personal information by telephone.”  Thanks for the reminder Best Western, you saved me a whole lot of headache.  I pride myself on being aware of things that can go on, ways to be scammed, I hadn’t thought of this one.  So consider this your scam alert, if the hotel phone rings, remember it could be someone outside the hotel.  Offer to call the front desk yourself, or better yet, hang up without sharing any info, if the hotel really has had a problem, it is likely they have slid something under your door to tell you about it.


Day -23 – Who Dat?

saintsLive sporting events have always been my favorite, I never really cared what the event was, as long as there was passion on the field and in the stands, I was happy.  I’ve seen pro baseball, college soccer, pro soccer, college football, but I’ve never been to an NFL game, until now.  Sunday morning in New Orleans is kind of a trip any way, add Halloween weekend to the day and you will see things you wished you hadn’t,  but the fun was just beginning at Champions Square.

Champions Square is the party scene before the Saints game, there is a band, free flowing beer and sodas, food galore and the fans, or should I say FANS!  You can certainly tell how the term fan derived from fanatic at a Saints game.  There were two people in the whole stadium not wearing Saints gear…me and Rich.  Everyone had something on that was labeled.  We sat in a section of true fans, people who knew each other because they had been sitting together for eons.  We had to admit that we were really 49r fans, but we were here for a reason.

Josh Hill is a rookie for the Saints, he’s a hometown boy, a boy we have seen play high school ball and lead the Blackfoot Broncos to the state championship.  We watched him catch the winning pass at districts to propel the team forward.  We have seen Josh play college ball at Idaho State University, and well, while winning wasn’t really their thing, we were proud to know someone on the field.  Now we have seen Josh play pro ball, in fact, he earned his first stats at the game we saw, with two passes caught for 17 yards.  We couldn’t be more proud.

We told everyone around us, and everyone we saw in New Orleans and Houston that appeared to be Saints fans to watch him, he was going to do great things in his football career.  We are proud that of him for the hard work he’s put in, for the effort and talent, for the good name he brings to the field.  To Josh and Courtney…congratulations; to Shawn and Jane…job well done; to Jordan…proud of you too!  Congrats to a family for the sacrifices made to reap the benefits deserved.  Who dat think they gonna beat them Saints??