Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Gnarly California Trip 2017

Another radical trip in the books… this time I spent nearly two weeks on Monterey Peninsula in Northern California enjoying myself at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

This post will act as a glossary of all of my activities and adventures, which included:

I’ll be writing the individual posts over the next few days so please stay tuned…

The trip went absolutely wonderfully. It’s been a while since the last event so I was well rested and enjoyed the experience very much. Instead of paying for a cheap flight I broke down and burned some frequent flyer miles to get to California. Which meant I could do some crazy routing to finally fly directly into Monterey. On the way over I used my Alaska miles that I got by converting Virgin America points (which Alaska bought out)… luckily two out of the three legs of the trip were actually on VX which was super enjoyable. I love their Airbus A320’s. I flew New York to San Francisco. Instead of getting off the plane and driving two hours, I spent the next four hours in the air over California. First taking another VX flight to San Diego where I connected to an Alaska Air operated by Horizon prop-plane Bombardier Q400 to fly back up to Monterey. My goal was to fly over Laguna Seca and take some shots, but 7:30pm this time of year meant complete darkness… so the only visual I have of the track is what I saw… it’ll stay in my mind instead of captured on a cell phone camera.

Car rentals at MRY weren’t cheap… as expected. But instead of paying $400-500’s for convenience I instead booked a car from Hertz Local Edition in Seaside (and Salinas as a backup)… it was only $162 which is a great deal for a two week rental. Got a Hyundai Accent which got a solid 33mpg! And because I’m so broke I tried not to do too many California road trips… ironically when I returned the car I had put 805 miles on it, which surprised me!

The two events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca were fantastic!

I got a chance to get a ride in all versions of the NC Miata… the early years NC1 – my buddy Daniel from Gerogia who drove his 2008 all the way cross-country for this event. Then hopped into the same NC2 I drove around the track last year (the owner let me drive it again which was awesome!) And finally my host in Prunedale owns an awesome looking NC3 which I was lucky to ride in again. We met at the Miata’s at Laguna Seca event last year and him hosting me for the duration of the trip was probably the only thing that made this all possible.

I can’t say enough positive things about my Cali visit this year. It’ll probably be a while before I get a chance to go again, so I’m going to savor the memories and share them on this blog along with many pictures.

42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach the debrief

The day after arriving home from the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Texas I was back on the plane heading west, this time to California for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unlike the Texas trip this wasn’t a last minute deal, I had booked my flight a few months in advance though knowing now that I’d be going to Texas the weekend before it would have made more sense to continue on to SoCal from Texas than going back and forth to New Jersey.

As far as the flight goes I was pretty excited about getting a deal but another one came up shortly after I booked mine that made me regret losing at least $75 bux on my deal. I thought I had frankensteined an awesome deal. Direct NY-LA flights were over $100 bux each way. But I found that by booking LGA to Chicago and Chicago to LAX, I could get the trips for $35 apiece. I had padded the trip to give me a few hours between the separate bookings in case something went wrong, but the weather was perfect and everything went as scheduled. On the way back I booked Burbank to New York via San Francisco for $131 bux… which seemed like a good idea because it flew on the day I wanted to fly namely Monday after the event, but a few weeks later I saw United offering $64 each way fares from NY direct to LA, which would have saved me a ton.

Luckily the car rental worked out perfectly. I pre-paid for a car at Dollar for about $120 all inclusive for a week. And when picking up the car I was offered a free drop off at Burbank instead of bringing it back to LAX which saved me a good $20 bux. The car proved really useful around Los Angeles and Long Beach… I was able to pick out a nice Toyota PriusC which after about 400 total miles done only cost me $18 in fuel where Cali fuel runs for $3+ per gallon.

Except for the first night which I spent at a hostel in Venice Beach, I had a neat place to stay in Winchester which is just 10 miles south of Long Beach in neighboring Orange County. The place we got to stay at was organized by my buddy James from Hawaii who invited me to go to Long Beach when we worked together at Bathurst 12 hour.

For the race itself Cal Club SCCA was very welcoming. I got to work turn 8 which turned out to be a really busy station, lots of cars bouncing off the tires in the apex of the turn, many smashing into the concrete just past the tire wall. The thuds of cars smashing into the concrete not only made the cars leave on a flat bed, some left the event altogether… like the Gainsco #99 McLaren.

While the IndyCar race itself was pretty tame and borderline boring, the rest of the series were far more exciting. The celebrity race though was over the top stupid with people recklessly ignoring yellow flags which would have cost someone’s life if they weren’t as lucky. Station 8 was also close to the convention center which meant I managed to go check out what was on display there. Part of the building was used as the paddock for PWC, part was displays for vendors among them was a nice set up for Mazda, which had an Owners Lounge I got to visit and walked away with a nice t-shirt too.

Long Beach, Southern California in general and Orange County specifically is one of my favorite places to visit in the world. It’s like a combination of Singapore and Dubai where you don’t need a passport to visit. I would love to go back again in the future.

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 23 mazda owners lounge

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 13 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 11

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 5 mclaren on city street

Three Week Foodie Tour of the South, with some Racing Sprinkled In

Over the past three weeks I’ve got a chance to sample some amazing foodie experiences around the southern part of the country while marshaling various events in Texas, California and Alabama. My goal is to share my opinions on the places I liked and others that didn’t really do it for me anymore, while promoting the idea that there’s so much more to do when traveling for Motorsport events than just being stuck at the circuit all the time.

foodie tour long beach california in-n-out burger and fries animal style

I’ll start with my visits to the In-n-Out burger joint. It is a fast food place and as such not exactly a culinary phenomenon, but we don’t have it in New Jersey and everyone rants and raves about them on the west coast, and specifically in California so I had to have it. Was it as good as everyone claims it to be? Not particularly. I think I’m In-n-Outed already. The burgers are fantastic, for sure. But I think the fries killed the experience for me. There was an In-n-Out in Austin, Texas my host and I went to during the MotoGP before trying one in Huntington Beach, California during the Long Beach Grand Prix and the problem is the same: french fries go cold quickly making them taste like paper… especially when you get them done animal style, the cheese just puts a hard layer over the thin cut fries ruining the taste of the potato (I’m assuming that’s what they’re made of). That said, next time I’m in Cali I’ll probably have one again, minus the fry.

Another chain that really didn’t do it for me was Shrimp Basket in Irondale, Alabama. I like the idea of seafood to mix things up but this joint didn’t really live up to my expectations and I left disappointed. The food was mediocre, small portions and overpriced.

foodie tour alabama grand prix irondale shrimp basket

Similarly, I was very disappointed in Boomerang’s food truck at COTA, the Aussie flag peeked my interest as I absolutely love to have meat pies whenever I travel to Australia. But this place ruined it for me. The pie was basically a miniature pot pie which is nothing like the proper Aussie/Kiwi pies, and at $10 a pop they’re grossly overpriced, considering real OZ pies go for $2-4 bux.

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 1

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 2

I had to have one when I saw the truck, but I’m sorry I did.

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 3

Now to the foodie experiences that I seriously enjoyed…

Meches Tacos is an excellent taqueria less then a minute away from COTA that serves amazing breakfast tacos…. simple yet excellent! So good in fact I ate them before I realized I should take a picture. Look for it on FM 812 in Del Valle, TX just past the track entrance when traveling from Austin.

Unlike my last trip to Austin for PWC in March where I focused primarily on BBQ joints for dinner, this time around Tex-Mex was the name of the game, and the highlight of my visit was a trip to Baby Acapulco’s. I was feeling pretty exhausted and a bit under the weather so I ordered Baby A’s tortilla soup to help self medicate, and that stuff was pretty awesome. Again, was too hungry to take a picture but I did snap a shot of a similar lunch at Pappasito’s Cantina at Dallas Airport on my flight home…. another excellent choice for quick and good meal when traveling to Texas.

foodie tour motogp at cota texas papasito's cantina

I enjoy visiting Pappas restaurants in Texas ever since a friend of mine took me out to the Pappas Steakhouse in Houston. Now whenever I’m in Texas I try to visit one of the establishments depending what I’m in the mood for… Tex-Mex at Pappasito’s or seafood at Pappadeaux.

Some chains of course are better than others. We went to a bunch of bad ones in Southern California which was surprising considering how saturated the market is there with good authentic Mexican food. But we also went to some really great places. One was a hole in a wall bar serving simple sandwiches on rye bread called Joe Jost’s. I ordered the hot dog which was actually Polish kielbasa and a liverwurst pate style thing on rye. This place was a few minutes drive from the temporary circuit downtown and full of people when we went. Funny enough all the drinks were served in margarita style glass, even beer.

foodie tour long beach california bar food

Next awesome stop was actually adjacent to my flag point. After two days of eating the same exact sandwich provided by Cal Club I couldn’t stand the idea of having the same thing on Race Day so we climbed the fence and went to Islands fine burgers and drinks. The root beer float I got to start off my meal really hit the spot on a warm and sunny day. But the highlight of the meal was my bacon avocado burger and those excellent fries. It was very delicious!

foodie tour long beach california islands root beer float

foodie tour long beach california islands burger

I felt like I needed a nap after that big  meal, and the uneventful IndyCar race that followed almost succeed putting me to sleep.

The final meal on the trip before flying out of town took delicious to the next level. I’m a sucker for Motorsport advertising, and when I saw a beautiful Dodge Viper racing in the Pirelli World Challenge series wrapped in Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles livery I had to see what the fuzz was all about. After visiting the Mazda HQ in Irvine I made my way to their Anaheim location to give it a go.

roscoe's fried chicken n waffles 1

Boy did that hit the spot. I requested the chicken breast with two giant waffles. The meal was so big this was one of those rare occasions where I didn’t finish it. I don’t normally leave food on the plate after I’m done eating, but this time I just had no place to put it, I was completely stuffed. And very satisfied. The freeflow of fruit punch and lemonade in a distinct two tone as pictured was a nice touch and something I hadn’t really seen before at a chain restaurant. Another good sign the place was packed for lunch!

roscoe's fried chicken n waffles 2 fruit punch and lemonade

Lucky for me, just a week later I had another Southern place to compare these friend chicken and waffles to. As I got an opportunity to stop by a real soul food place in downtown Atlanta on my layover heading home from Alabama. Glady’s Knight’s Chicken & Waffles wasn’t a planned visit, but since I was staying in a cheap motel just a block away and there weren’t too many other options in the area, I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try. Comparing the two I would vote for Roscoe’s as my more favorite, the chicken was juicier and the pancakes were more affordable. But the Hotlanta joint definitely had a better ambiance inside. And instead of the fruit punch and lemonade combo they had a sweet tea and lemonade instead… and after a week or so in the deep south, sweet tea became my go to drink every time!

foodie tour atlanta soul food fried chicken and waffles

foodie tour atlanta soul food sweet tea and lemonade

Now I’ll finish this write up with the really good stuff!

Alabama took me by complete surprise when I arrived there. It was nothing what I had expected. And while I always remind myself to travel with an open mind, arriving in Birminham blew my mind!

The foodie experiences were a major contributing factor to the mind-blown phenomena, and by sharing the pix below I’ll attempt to explain exactly why.

The first thing I learned about Southern Cuisine in Alabama is that they have a special sauce for their meals unique to the region. It’s called the Alabama white sauce and it’s best served on chicken or turkey although some friends that recommended it prefer it on pork too… So of course I went out hunting for this amazing white sauce.

And I found it at Saw’s soul food restaurant downtown.

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham saws sampler

My CouchSurfing host lives just about a mile down the road and was happy to show me this joint. She even recommended the sampler plate to try more of the things on the menu. She was completely right, everything was delicious and I really did enjoy the sauce.

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham saws juke joint sausage

A few days later my buddy Robert and I went to the other Saw’s location called Juke Joint, which had a different menu but equally delicious food. I ordered some amazing sausage and fried green tomatoes. I also ordered sweet tea fried chicken sandwich to go so I can have it as lunch at the track the next day. Both were fantastic options!

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham golden rule sampler

foodie tour alabama grand prix irondale bama white sauce

Speaking of taking food to the track, on Friday a whole group of Road Atlanta flaggers went to Golden Rule BBQ joint just a few miles from the track for a big dinner. There I got to sample some amazing sliced pork again served with the local white sauce which is vinegar and mayo based with pepper and other stuff added for flavor. I had so many leftovers there was no need to buy lunch the next day.  It was such an delicious experience I’m happy to say that out of all the Southern food I got to sample on the trips to Texas and California, Alabama wins hands down for having the best food!

I am so looking forward to my next Grand Prix Foodie adventure.

My Least Favorite Moment from the Grand Prix of Long Beach: Drivers Ignoring Yellow Flags!

This year’s Grand Prix of Long Beach gave me the opportunity to see a lot of action at Turn 8. I got to flag some pretty massive impacts from several McLarens in the PWC race hitting the wall. Alexander Rossi in the #98 IndyCar was our first customer with a major whammy into the concrete barrier just past the tire wall exiting Turn 8. Several Stadium Super Trucks went in as well, but all drivers left the turn unhurt… except for one of our guys, a fellow marshal.

The incident during the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was absolutely absurd and completely avoidable. Yet we had one of our marshals leave the track in an ambulance because of injuries sustained as a result of “drivers” completely ignoring Yellow flags.

Now the marshal was released quickly and returned to the track to carry on his duties for the rest of the weekend. But it was thanks to dumb luck that things ended the way they did, it could have been much worse and potentially fatal.

What happened?

Well, have a watch for yourself:

The video (courtesy of Gazette Sports) shows the replay of the incident as well as the post-race driver’s interview, which is especially chilling showing how little regard for human life (other than the driver’s own selfish well being) there is on display.

I don’t really know who this celebrity is, but he certainly isn’t a race car driver. Worse, the “real” or “pro” race car drivers that this douche was following, aren’t much better than him either. For the whole group to so blatantly disregard the waving Yellow flags (and believe me, I was waving mine frantically being the closest person to the incident working Turn 8 Apex station, and basically waving the hell out of that flag right in the face of the drivers as they turned in) is pretty disheartening and very much appalling.

The only reason racing works worldwide is because there are rules in place that most racers follow. If you disregard the rules you can injure or kill someone on the track, including yourself. Disregarding yellow flags is about as bad as it gets because you willingly put someone in danger by not following the rules.

To me, the pro’s in this situation were as guilty as the celebrity that nearly chopped the legs off of a marshal against the tow truck. Nobody in that final group lifted when going into the turn. The dumbass causing the final crash was only following the “pro’s” going flat out through the turn, just like he admitted in the interview. And things shouldn’t be that way. He’s thankful he had a sturdy car like a Toyota with it’s five point harness and all, but the marshal standing on track he sent flying over the hood of the car only had the fucking Yellow flag for protection, a yellow flag that everyone ignored.

This…. is tremendously disappointing!

toyota grand prix of long beach pro celebrity race crash

toyota grand prix of long beach pro celebrity race crash 2

toyota grand prix of long beach pro celebrity race crash 3

toyota grand prix of long beach pro celebrity race crash 4

toyota grand prix of long beach pro celebrity race crash 5

The screen grabs above show the final incident in detail. Certainly no laughing matter when the camera captures the whole incident so clearly. I know we, as volunteers, accept a certain level of risk when marshaling because being in dangerous situations is inevitable, but finding yourself faced with blatant disregard for the only thing that is designed to keep you “safer” is pretty bad.

Post card from the Grand Prix of Long Beach

Greetings from sunny Southern California! Los Angeles, Long Beach and the home of the Grand Prix of Long Beach along the streets of downtown and the beautiful waterfront.

My station was at Turn 8, on Pine Ave between Bay St and Seashore Drive directly across from the Long Beach convention center and along the row of restaurants which turned out to be very handy when the Cal Club provided lunches started losing their appeal.

This time around the station assignment was a little less pretty than my stint at Turn 2/3 a few years ago next to the beautiful fountain featuring a roundabout with a dolphin that made it’s way on TV every time the cars went by. Although sitting at Islands Burger Joint for lunch on Sunday and watching the replay of the PWC race, the track still looks magnificent. Definitely hues of Singapore here stateside.

We were lucky enough to have a bunch of incidents to deal with. Many cars smashed upon exit of our turn somehow magically managing to miss the tire wall. Several McLarens crashed, including the Gaisco Red Dragon which was basically written off for the weekend. The K-Pax black McLaren with a baby blue roof crashed twice. Once bouncing off the tire wall and second time being put into the wall by a passing Porsche 911 which wrote that car off too, the rescue guys had a hard time towing it. Speaking of rescue guys we had a major fuck up during the celebrity race where one of the rescue guys was sent flying over the hood of a crashing car. No good!

I will do a more detailed debrief later, but for now enjoy some pix:

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 1 indy haulers

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 2 cadillacs on city streets

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 3 macau

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 4 indy car on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 5 mclaren on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 6 mclaren on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 6 nissan gt-r nismo on city street

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 7 citroen in santa monica

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 8 cal club

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 9 in-n-out burger

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 10 alexander rossi indy car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 11

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 12 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 13 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 14 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 15 turn 8

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 16 corvette c7r

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 17 ferrari 488

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 18 mazda mx-5 drift car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 19 mazda mx-5 drift car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 20 mazda mx-5 drift car

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 21 lunch at islands

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 22 ferrari 458 world challenge

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 23 mazda owners lounge

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 24 mercedes-benz amg sls crash

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 25 mercedes-benz amg sls crash

grand prix of long beach indycar imsa pwc 26 bentley continental gt3

Stay tuned for more…

Formula E recruiting marshals for Long Beach ePrix

For those of you on the West Coast interested in participating in the very first Formula E race in Long Beach California, you better hurry and sign up with CalClub. According to a recent post on the Long Beach GP marshals facebook page only about 64 F&C marshals will be required for this two day event held on Friday and Saturday, April 3-4, 2015.

formula e long beach

For information on Formula E Long Beach ePrix visit the official web site: http://www.fiaformulae.com/en/calendar/2015-long-beach/long-beach-circuit.aspx

For additional information about CalClub SCCA: http://www.calclub.com/

Long Beach GP marshals group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/253497021405763/

Good luck!

Registration for Long Beach Grand Prix 2015

On January 21st at 12:00AM Pacific Standard Time the registration to marshal the 41st Long Beach Grand Prix will be open with SCCA Cal Club. The event will be held from Friday, April 17th to Sunday, April 19th on the streets of Long Beach along the waterfront.

In my opinion this is an excellent event to volunteer because of the beautiful location of the temporary circuit. I often heard people comparing the event to Monaco or Singapore with it’s exotic, palm tree lined streets, the Pacific Ocean in the background and about as California as it could get with a great So Cal vibe all around. I only got to work one race two years ago, and unfortunately cancelled my participation last year because of a new job, I would love to go back.

I didn’t get a chance to do much blue flag because the person I was paired with refused to share, but other people I knew from the event didn’t have such an issue on their station. So perhaps if doing a particular role is important to  you, be sure to request it in advance.

Here are some pix from my last LBGP:

Long Beach Grand Prix, IndyCar 2013
Long Beach Grand Prix, IndyCar 2013

long beach gp

 

To sign up visit MotorsportReg.com and search for Long Beach GP or follow this link: www.motorsportreg.com/events/flag-com-long-beach-grand-prix-registration-scca-california-sports-car

Read about Cal Club SCCA here: http://www.calclub.com

I often heard Cal Club does things differently to the rest of the country, this was especially emphasized by folks from the San Francisco Region, but you should be a judge of that for yourself.

I think this is a fantastic event, and if you can be sure to consider the Formula E event to be held on the streets of Long Beach on April 4th read more about it here:  www.fiaformulae.com/en/calendar/2015-long-beach

 

39th Grand Prix of Long Beach

Talk about managing expectations… the 39th annual TOYOTA Grand Prix of Long Beach had the potential to be a fantastic event, yet it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the race atmosphere and the overall scenery were quite exotic and unique. I was immensely impressed, however the role assignments on my station ruined things for me from the get go, and it never really recovered throughout the weekend. I’ve mentioned the blue flag fiasco in the previous post so I won’t go any further in bitching about it, other than to make an observation of how big of a difference such a simple thing makes. People often criticize events for not providing decent lunches – no big deal for me, I often bring my own. Others complain of the event when it rains – again no biggie as I carry my wet weather gear. But when you get assigned to a role, like say “yellow flag” and you’re stuck on it for two hours starring at a space where typically nothing happens, while the “blue flag” person is enjoying an exciting workout, it got to me. With the designated role of “blue flagger” and all, it has not stopped people from rotating even for just a few minutes to let the “yellow flagger” do something. The selfish arrogance displayed at Long Beach reminds me why I dislike SCCA so much.

long beach gp

long beach gp 1

long beach gp

long beach gp 4

long beach gp 5(yeah! that close…)

long beach gp 6

All the pouting and whining aside, I did in fact have a great time. And would probably like to return considering the alternative this year was Bahrain F1 Grand Prix and I’m not sure I’ll have enough frequent flyer miles left next year to make it happen. I enjoy California in general, everything from the In-n-Out restaurant near LAX to the beautiful palm tree lined streets you see overlooking the beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean.

I am very much looking forward to the next trip to California next month for ALMS at Laguna Seca… hopefully I can do a little blue flagging this time!

Post card from the Grand Prix of Long Beach

Greetings from the 39th annual LBGP, one of three of my marshalling events in the Golden State: California.

long beach gp 3

The day went by smoothly this Friday, though there were some incidents I got to flag, like an LMP1 prototype flying over our roundabout shrub or the Indycar that overcorrected it and met the wall opposite our station. Even a celebrity race pilot went nose deep into the tire barrier.

Worst of all was station role assignments. I wad doomed to doing yellow flag for all series. Of the seven people on station, three out of state marshals like me got yellow flag duties, while three locals got to blue flag everything. The last local woman did comms all weekend. Not fair from the onset, but worse, the blue flaggers refused to rotate during sessions, making each practice or race, a sleepingly boring experience. No bueno SoCal, no bueno!

Grand Prix of Long Beach application

Grand Prix of Long Beach application will go live 1am Pacific time on Tuesday, January 15. Hopefully this post will serve as a reminder for me to apply, thru Motorsportreg: (http://www.motorsportreg.com/index.cfm/event/event.advert/uidEvent/1C2627FA-A9B9-68AF-39B04DDE0050287C#.UPLiKSftTJJ)

I would really like to participate in more North American events both because it is cheaper to travel here (now that I’ve signed up for some generous bonuses through US-based domestic airline frequent flyer programs) and it takes less time to get there. I have yet to marshal an event in California though I have worked with several marshals from there, last one being my post chief from the USGP at Austin, and before that another post chief at MotoGP in Indianapolis. The Grand Prix of Long Beach is a major event for Indycar, ALMS and Formula Drift which I haven’t participated in yet, so there’s a lot to look forward to.

Hope I can swing it 🙂