Burro Days! Burro Races, Llamas & Outhouses in Fairplay CO

Burro Days! Burro Races, Llama Races, Outhouse Races and More!

Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado - Last full weekend in July_

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July 2023 – We’d been hanging out in Buena Vista, Colorado, during our summer RV tour, and one afternoon we took a drive north to check out the town of Fairplay. As we came into town, we spotted a big sign that said, “Burro Days – Last Full Weekend in July”

Huh? What on earth was Burro Days? Whatever it was, we were intrigued! We checked the calendar, and the festival started the very next day. Perfect!

When we got back to our RV, we poked around on the internet and discovered that Burro Days is an annual festival — and burro race! — that has taken place in Fairplay, Colorado, every summer since 1949.

Officially known as the World Championship Pack-Burro Race, there were just 21 entrants back in 1949, and they ran from Leadville, Colorado, up and over towering Mosquito Pass (13,185’ elevation!) and down the other side of the mountain into the town of Fairplay for a $500 cash prize. Not surprisingly, only 8 participants finished that race!

Today, there’s 3-day festival that features not only burro races starting and ending in Fairplay (with one race still taking contestants on mountain trails to the top of Mosquito Pass and back!), but also a “Llama Rama” (a what??), a dog race, a llama race, a parade down Front Street and an outhouse race!

We just HAD to check this out!

Front Street Fairplay Colorado

Fairplay’s historic buildings on Front Street are quaint and inviting.

Fairplay got its name back in 1859 when gold rush latecomers found themselves unable to get into one of the bigger mining camps in the area called Tarryall. Frustrated, they nicknamed that camp “Grab-all” and set up a new camp which they called “Fair Play.”

Still fond of playing with words, Fairplay welcomes visitors to town today with a big blue silhouette of Sasquatch bearing the Colorado logo and the letters “WTF” — “Welcome to FairPlay!”

Welcome to Fairplay Colorado

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While Highway 9 runs right through the middle of town, the historic part of town is on Front Street, and that was where the Burro Days races and parade took place. Much of the rest of town was filled with artisan tents and food tents throughout the weekend.

The buildings along Front Street are really appealing, and crowds grew quickly in front of each establishment in anticipation of the races.

Fairplay Colorado Front Street Buildings

All the shops were open and people milled around waiting for the fun to begin.

Ellen's Place on Front Street in Fairplay Colorado

There were plenty of places to grab lunch and/or a brew!

The Distillery in Fairplay Colorado on Burro Days

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Colorado Delorme Atlas

Unfortunately, we missed the first race of the day — the Dog Race — by 5 minutes. The contestants in that race are all kids, and they run alongside their leashed dogs. The course is short, so arriving a few minutes late meant we missed it all together. Rats! Next time!!

However, the llamas had begun to arrive in their trailers, and we saw a few peeking out at the growing crowd.

A Llama waits for the Llama Rama on Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

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Buddy was especially disappointed that we missed the dog race, so when we saw the llamas hanging out with their owners in the middle of Front Street — the “Llama Rama” — he wanted to make sure he saw one up close.

He was very intrigued by their smell — and vice versa!

Llama and puppy meet at the Llama Rama during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Buddy meets his first llama.

If you haven’t seen a llama up close, they are really big! When you look at them they look back at you at eye level!

Llama Rama at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Llamas are as tall as people, just a different shape!

Llama Rama during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Racers were posing with their llamas for anyone with a camera or phone!

As proud owners showed off their beautiful llamas, we realized that the llama race involves a lot of whimsy. The entrants were teams of four people and one llama, and the idea was that all five would run together, the llama tethered on a leash and the four people running alongside.

But the runners weren’t wearing typical running race garb. They were dressed up in all kinds of crazy costumes!

One group of gals paid homage to the brown furry coat of their llama with brown tutu skirts. They wore little llama ears too.

Llama Races at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

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Most of the llamas came dressed in regular llama attire, but one had been to the groomer and wore fluffy knickers and a thick llama fur stole around her neck. Her black two-toed feet looked like she was wearing party shoes!

Llama Rama at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

Dressed for success!

Suddenly, Mark said, “Hey, there’s a guy over there in pajamas!” I turned and grabbed a quick pic, but it was only later that I remembered the Ogden Nash poem (and explanatory footnote):

The one-l lama, he’s a priest.
The two-l llama, he’s a beast.
And I will bet a silk pajama
There isn’t any three-l lllama*

*The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.

I’m not sure if this guy’s pink, llama-covered PJs were made of silk, but his outfit definitely was a three-alarmer!

Silk pajama Llama at Llama Rama in Fairplay Colorado

Three-l lllama?

Mark also remembered a song that his daughter loved when she was a little girl: “Me and my llama are going to the dentist today.”

He’d sung it to me before, and it’s cute, but I’d never gotten the joke until I took a few portrait shots of these wonderful llama faces.

Llama portrait at the Llama Rama during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

“Going to the dentist today!”.

Reese Goosebox

We roamed among the llamas and their people at the Llama Rama for a while, and then suddenly they all lined up behind the start line and took off running on the count of three.

Llama Race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The race is on.

As soon as the llamas had raced down Front Street, the crowd ran to the far side of the street to a ridge overlooking a dirt trail in the distance. Before long, the llamas and their people appeared on that trail, racing away.

Llama Race during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

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Some of them were bunched together and others had gotten a little separated, leaving the person holding the llama’s tether to run on his or her own.

In some cases the llama bounded happily ahead.

Burro Days llama races in Fairplay Colorado

“Weeeeee!”

And in some cases the person was towing the llama behind!

Llama Race during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

“Not so fast!”

There was lots of confusion in the crowd about where the course would go from there and how long it would be until the llamas came back to the finish line, but suddenly the announcer said the leaders were coming in. It was the team of Game Wardens — all very fit looking runners — and they soon crossed the line for the win.

Not far behind, the Search and Rescue team came running in for second place with four guys looking equally fit and serious.

Llama Race winners at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The Game Wardens took the win in the Llama Race.

Although the first two teams duked it out for the win, most of the teams and their llamas seemed to be happy just to be out running together on such a beautiful day.

Llama Race at Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

All smiles.

As the llama teams went past, a gal standing next to me named Amanda was keeping a close eye out for her team. She and her husband have 9 llamas on their 35 acre ranch, Shining Mountain Llamas, and they had selected two for the Burro Days events.

She explained that they raise their llamas for high altitude hikers who want to have help carrying their gear. Llamas are good natured animals, are native to mountains that are 17,000′ high, can make their way over difficult terrain like fallen trees, and contentedly eat pine cones and other things found on the trail so there’s no need to carry special feed for them. Hunters and mountaineers love having a llama or two along on their high altitude expeditions!

Llama Race at Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

One of Amanda’s two llamas happily trotted past us.

Of course, a few llamas were not very enthusiastic about the running aspect of the race. A few put their foot down and said, “No more!” and had to be coaxed over the finish line — to lots of laughter and cheers from the crowd!

Reluctant llama in the Llama Races at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

“Come on — it’s just a few more feet to the finish line!

The dog race, llama race and Llama Rama were all held on Saturday, while the headline event — the burro races — were reserved for Sunday. We could feel the excitement as we pulled into town for the first of the two burro races the next day.

The announcer was standing on a second floor balcony, entertaining the crowd and keeping all the events running smoothly.

Race and parade announcer at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The announcer kept everything rolling, from races to the parade, all day long.

We’d done a little homework overnight and learned that “burro” is simply the Spanish word for “donkey,” a particular species of equine animal.

Mules, on the other hand, like the ones we had seen at the Grand Canyon a few weeks prior, are not a species but are a hybrid animal that is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. The resulting animal is infertile. Cross-breeding the other way — a male horse and female donkey — isn’t done because of the large size of the baby and the small size of the mother donkey.

It turns out that burros come in three sizes, small, medium and large (“miniature,” “standard” and “mammoth”). When the burros lined up at the starting line, you could see the size differences between them!

The first burro race was the “long course” race — 29+ miles round trip from Fairplay, which is at 9,953’ elevation, to the top of Mosquito Pass at 13,185’ elevation, and then back down again. Longer than a marathon (which is 26.2 miles) and raced at insanely high elevations, this is one heck of a race!!

Start of the long distance burro race at Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

29 miles to go — Both mini and standard burros and their runners left the starting line for a long day of racing high up into the mountain peaks and back down again in the “long course” race.

Each racing team consists of just one runner and one burro, and it is very grueling for both. Unlike a traditional marathon, there are no water stations along the way, although there are checkpoints, and fans can watch from public property.

The burros were carrying packs which held whatever the racers might need: water bottles, energy food, clothing for the high elevation at the top and/or other survival necessities. The runners carried the burro’s tether and more water and food and other goodies.

We found out later that the long race at Burro Days in Fairplay is actually the first race in the “Triple Crown” of burro races each summer. The other two races are held in nearby Leadville and Buena Vista in August.

At the far end of Front Street there is a reconstructed living history museum mining camp called South Park City, and when the runners and burros passed under the South Park City gate around 10:20 in the morning to begin their trek to Mosquito Pass and back, they weren’t expected to be seen again until late afternoon at the very earliest. Some wouldn’t come in until sunset or after dark or even as late as midnight!

Burro Race heads out the South Park Gate in Burro Days at Fairplay Colorado

The “long course” burro racers left Front Street and entered the living history museum mining camp of South Park City on their way into the mountains for a very long trek to Mosquito Pass and back.

But for the crowd on Front Street, attention quickly turned to the second burro race of the day, the “short course” race which is a mere 15 miles of similar outback terrain!

The burros, large and small, soon lined up with their owners. Again, the burros wore packs and the runners were prepared for anything and everything the mountains might throw at them.

Burro Days Fairplay Colorado start of the short distance burro race

The “short course” burro race (a mere 15 miles) gets underway.

We watched a burro named Ivy go by with her owner. We’d met them before the race, and she’d told us that Ivy was a rescue burro. Her mother had been kept in very poor conditions and fed candy bars, so she was diabetic. Fortunately, Ivy was thriving now, and both owner and burro were eager to do the race.

Burro Days shorter distance burro race in Fairplay Colorado

Ivy and her owner begin the “short course” burro race.

Soon, the “short course” racers passed under the South Park City gate and headed into the mountains beyond. Although their race wouldn’t take all day, the fastest racers still weren’t expected back for about two and a half hours!

Burro Race leaves Front Street and South Park in Fairplay Colorado Burro Days

Off they go into the mountains!

With nothing else to do while we waited for the burros and their companion runners to chase each other back to us, the crowd settled in for a really fun parade. Burro Days is non-stop action!

The parade began with the rumble of motorcycles in the distance. Soon, the color guard marched past followed by a group of roaring bikes.

Parade during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

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Humorous costumes are a big theme at Burro Days, and there were several fun floats and groups in the parade. The “pothole patrol” went by followed by a clever rendition of the Titanic, complete with an iceberg.

Parade during Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado - the Pothole Brigade

Watch out for those potholes!

Burro Days Parade in Fairplay Colorado - Titanic Float

And watch out for that iceberg too!

The Rodeo Queen and Princess looked very regal as they went by in full regalia on their horses.

Rodeo Princess and Rodeo Queen at Burro Days Parade in Fairplay Colorado

Rodeo Queen and Princess.

The sky had been growing darker and darker during the parade, and then all of a sudden the heavens opened up and let loose, drenching everything and everyone in a massive torrent. The crowd scattered to shelter under any kind of overhang we could find, and umbrellas popped up here and there.

Luckily, the parade was almost over, and in no time the downpour ended and people wandered back out onto Front Street, no worse for wear.

A banjo player strolled around entertaining everyone.

Banjo player and little girl at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

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Ryobi drill set

And then news of the returning “short course” burros filtered through the crowd and the emcee announced their arrival.

The gates to South Park City swung wide, and two runners and their burros appeared, flying towards us at top speed, racing neck and neck.

Winning stretch of short distance burro race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The first two “short course” burro racers appeared in the distance.

A roar went up in the crowd as they sprinted down Front Street. It was going to be a photo finish! And it was going to be a little burro against a big burro and younger runner against an older runner to boot!

Final stretch short distance burro race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

It’s going to be a photo finish!!

The crowd went wild as we watched the fast footfalls of these four racers. They were racing their hearts out!

It was impossible to tell which pair might win until suddenly, at the last second, the little burro surged ahead and stretched out his feet and nose across the line for the win.

What a fantastic race!

Photo Finish short distance burro race at Burro Days in Fairplay Colorado

The little burro wins by a whisker!

We found out the little burro’s name was Ben and his 15 year old companion runner was Aidan Malherbe. Aidan’s family raises burros and he’s been racing them his whole life! He runs track and cross country and trains about 50 miles a week.

Burro Days Champion Ben in Fairplay Colorado

Zippy Fast Little Ben…with special shoes on his front hooves!

Burro Race Champions Ben (Burro) and Aidan (runner-trainer) Fairplay Colorado

The champs, Ben and Aidan Malherbe.

Edged out by inches, the second burro over the line was Tito with companion runner Brian Rawlings. Brian also runs about 50 miles a week and has raced burros for years. He hadn’t planned to run in this race, but a friend called him the night before asking if he could run with Tito because a runner had pulled out. Tito is a wild BLM burro that Brian’s friend had rescued and trained.

What a great story!

Burro Days 2nd place Tito (burro) and Brian (runner-trainer) Fairplay Colorado

2nd place by a hoof length, Tito and Brian Rawlings.

The winning time for these four outstanding athletes was 2 hours and 24 minutes, similar to fast marathon times. Even though the distance wasn’t a marathon distance (15 miles vs. 26.2), the race was held at extremely high altitude and the runners were managing a running burro the whole way.

What a fabulous athletic accomplishment for all of them, and what a thrill these fine athletes gave the crowd!

Of course, the front of the race was very intense, but further down the line it was sometimes a different story. One burro took a very casual attitude and decided it would be more fun to walk rather than run down the finishing stretch. And who could blame him after running 15 miles through the mountains?!

Burro Days short distance burro race with reluctant burro in Fairplay Colorado

“Come on…we’re almost there!”

He took his time and stepped delicately over the finish line.

Burro Days burro race - no need to rush over the finish line! _

“What’s the rush?”

Another burro crossed under the South Park City sign — still two blocks from the finish line — and decided to take a break. His companion runner tried to coax him down Front Street, but this burro had other ideas.

Burro Days burro doesn't want to run any more at the end of the race

“I know the finish line is right up ahead, but I’m going to take a little breather.”

The burro took matters into his own hands (hooves?) and headed off the race course straight into the crowd.

Burro Days racing burro decides to join the crowd at the end of the race in Fairplay Colorado

“I wonder what these people are doing over here?”

Eventually, all the burros made it across the finish line, and after a round of well earned congratulations and photos, the burros and their owners made their way back to their trailers. Meanwhile, the Outhouse Race participants were getting ready to roll!

B&W Tow & Go bumper hitch

There were only two entries in the Outhouse Race, but each team had been huddling at the starting line for a while, discussing their race strategies. Maneuvering an outhouse down a race course isn’t so easy!

Suddenly, they were off and running/rolling with a pair of runners on either side of the outhouse and a third guy sitting on the throne inside. Talk about laughter and hoots and hollers from the crowd!

Burro Days Outhouse Race in Fairplay Colorado

Ya gotta love an outhouse race!

Burro Days Outhouse Race in Fairplay Colorado

Don’t fall in!!

The long course burro racers were still a few hours out at this point, but we were pooped even though we hadn’t raced a step! So, we decided to leave all the festivities and head back to our trailer.

I’m not sure how the race went for the long course burro race contestants or when the winners finally arrived back in town, but their names will appear on the World Championship Pack-Burro Race Winners monument that stands near the finish line.

Burro Days monument of winners in Fairplay Colorado

World Championship Pack-Burro Race Winners, 1949-Present.

If your travels take you anywhere near Fairplay, Colorado, at the end of July, don’t miss the very special Burro Days festival.

Meet a llama, pet a burro, and laugh as the outhouses careen down the road. It’s a total blast!

Note added later: RVing friends of ours who saw the burro race in Leadville told us that the winner of the long course races in both Fairplay and Leadville this year was the adorable little burro named Buttercup. She won the Fairplay Burro Days World Championship race in 5 hours, 26 minutes and 11 seconds with her running partner, Martin Sandoval. Unfortunately, the winner’s wreath did not adorn her neck in Buena Vista the following week, so she didn’t win the Triple Crown, but she has a lot of fans that love her!
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Drag Boat Races in AZ – Top Speed FUN on the Colorado River!

October 2019 – We took our RV to the Colorado River area near the town of Parker in the northwestern part of Arizona and just happened to hit the river on the right day. The Arizona Drag Boat Association was holding a weekend of drag boat races!

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker Arizona-min

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We could hear the noise of the drag boat engines long before we saw them, and we quickly ran down to the water to catch the action.

Boat 506 Arizona DragBoat Association Race in Parker-min

Racing drag boats in the Arizona desert.

There was a line of drag boats on trailers in the parking lot, and one by one they were being launched at the boat ramp. From there they were towed out to the starting line by people on jetskis.

Boat tow to the start line Arizona DragBoat Association Race in Parker-min

Getting a tow to the start.

The race was a “liquid” quarter mile, and they raced it in pairs with the winner of each race advancing to face another challenger in another race.

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race at Blue Water Casino on Lake Havasu-min

High speed fun!

Each drag boat leaped into action and then flew past us. One guy got such a fast start that he was knocked right off his feet in his boat. Luckily he was okay and his safety tether stopped the boat engine so it didn’t fly off with no one in control.

Driver falls in ADBA dragboat race at Blue Water Casino-min

Oops!

The sound of the engines and the speed of these drag boats was astonishing. To capture the motion we played with slowing the shutter speeds on our cameras and panning the action so we could blur the background but keep the boats in focus.

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ-min

Weeeee!

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race Blue Water Casino Parker AZ-min

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It was an absolutely perfect day to hang out on the grass and watch these exotic drag boats fly by. Even though it was mid-October it felt like summertime!

Spectators at Arizona Drag Boat Association Race at Blue Water Casino Parker AZ-min

A beautiful sunny day on the Colorado River.

Fun at Lake Havasu Arizona-min

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Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ at Blue Water Casino-min

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Up in the air a helicopter flew around, hovering over the drag boats at the starting line.

Helicopter surveys the starting line of Arizona Drag Boat Association Race at Blue Water Casino-min

A helicopter hovered over the start line.

As each boat leaped into action it popped a wheelie. What fun!

Popping a wheelie at the start line of Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ-min

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Drag boat racing on Lake Havasu Arizona-min

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Hole shot at Blue Water Casino drag boat race-min

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Some of the drag boats came clear out of the water!

Flying high on Lake Havasu in drag boat race-min

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Out of the water Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ-min

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On shore, some people were so inspired by all this racing action that they couldn’t help but fly off the ground in a full sprint too!

Puppy leaps for joy-min

Leaping for joy!

Above it all, the helicopter chased after each pair of racing drag boats to the finish line and then circled back to the start. When things got quiet between races it flew up and down the river close to the shore.

Helicopter chases two drag boats at the ADBA drag races on Lake Havasu-min

Getting a bird’s eye view of the finish line.

Blue Water Casino hosts Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker-min

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Blue Water Casino island ADBA drag boat rades-min

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They were taking pics of us as we were taking pics of them!

Flying helicopter at ADBA races Blue Water Casino Parker AZ-min

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Not all the water action was dragboat racing. This section of the Colorado River was closed to through traffic for the day, but periodically they had to pause the racing to let some boats cruising the river pass through.

Inside the marina a fellow played on practice wakeboard that was tied to a cable system spanning the calm water.

Water play Blue Water Casino Parker Arizona-min

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And in between heats of drag boat races a few jetskis took to the race course to see how fast they could go.

Jetski flies on Lake Havasu in Arizona-min

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But drag boat racing was the game of the day, and the spray was flying. Many races were neck-and-neck to the finish.

Speedboat drag boat race in Parker Arizona on Lake Havasu-min

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Racing drag boat on Lake Havasu Arizona-min

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Neck and neck drag boat race at Blue Water Casino Park Arizona-min

She got him in the end!

Most drag boats had huge towering engines, but one yellow boat had an outboard. When he lost his race Mark caught an image of him behind a fantastic wall of spray left by the winner.

Drag boat with outboard motor Lake Havasu Arizona-min

How will the outboard do?

Through the spray in a drag boat race-min

Well, he was left behind in the spray!

We were about to leave and started walking back to the parking lot when Mark noticed some truly exotic drag boats being backed down the boat ramp. These drag boats had covers that flipped down to protect the driver.

When the first boat got into the water and revved its engine we could feel the rumble in our chests. We asked one of the people helping roll the drag boats into the water what racing class this was and she said it was the top level group called “Pro-Outlaw.”

OMG. We couldn’t leave now!

Closeup of drag boat engine-min

Raw power!

Pro-Outlaw class of drag boats at ADBA race in Lake Havasu Arizona-min

The Pro Outlaws line up to race.

The drag boats sat at the starting line and rumbled for a while. Then we saw two boats lower their hoods. And off they went!

Pro-Outlaw drag boat racing at ADBA Lake Havasu race-min

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These Pro-Outlaw boats were hitting over 190 mph. Holy smokes!!

Pro-Outlaw class ADBA drag boat races Lake Havasu-min

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Drag boat race on Lake Havasu in Parker Arizona-min

190+ mph!

Pro-Outlaw qualifier race Arizona Drag Boat Association Lake Havasu-min

Pro Outlaws.

The Colorado River and Lake Havasu area in northwestern Arizona always seems to have something going on, and we’ve enjoyed several stays there.

From an unexpected and really fun “timeshare tour” of an RV park timeshare program to balloons rising over Lake Havasu to a VW microbus rally to a close encounter with burros on the California side of the river, we’ve bumped into some fabulous thrills in this water-filled part of the Arizona desert!

Drag boat race on Lake Havasu in Parker Arizona-min

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Soap Box Derby & Barrel Races – A Labor Day to Remember!

September 2018 – When we were in the town of Buffalo, South Dakota, buying groceries, we noticed a flyer on the window that gave a detailed listing of all the many things that were going to be happening over Labor Day Weekend. For a town of 380 people, it seemed like this community was going to be celebrating in style.

All kinds of events were planned, from calf roping to arm wrestling to rodeo kids events to a parade to golf tournaments to movies in the evening to street games and singing and dancing. But it was the Soap Box Derby we wanted to see!

Soap box race trophes Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend-min

1st, 2nd and 3rd prize trophies for the Soap Box Derby.

The Soap Box Derby is held on Tabernacle Hill on the edge of town where the road goes down at a gentle angle that is just right for the younger set. The “soap boxes” were a little more sophisticated than the wooden crates we imagined. Sporting steering wheels and sized about like a little red wagon (perhaps a few wagons had been converted for the race!), they looked like a lot of fun to ride.

The Soap Box carts are cute wagons-min

The little buggies weren’t quite soap boxes but sure looked like fun to ride!

In the traditional of all great sporting events, before the Soap Box Derby began we all sang the National Anthem.

Singing the National Anthem before the soap box races in Buffalo SD-min

Before the races started we sang the National Anthem.

Then the kids climbed into their carts on a starting ramp. To avoid congestion and pileups, the kides raced each other in pairs. The winner of each race advanced to the next round in quarter-final, semi-final and final events.

The soap box races begin in Buffalo SD-min

A starting ramp was set up for pairs of kids to race side by side down the hill.

And then they were off down the ramp and onto the road.

And they are off on the soap box races-min

And they’re off!

The race is on at the soap box derby-min

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The kids were pretty competitive and kept a close eye on each other as they urged their buggies to fly down the hill.

Who is winning the soap box race-min

The competition was serious!

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The white car takes the lead!!

Even if they didn’t win, they were having a blast with these little soap box cars.

Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend Soap box races_-min

All smiles…this is so much fun!

When they got to the bottom of the hill they got a tow back up from friendly helpers in golf carts.

Getting a tow Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

After each run the kids got a tow back to the top of the hill.

Happy soap box racer gets a tow up the hill-min

It was almost as much fun going up the hill as it was going down!

The whole town came out to watch the races. Some of us sat on the curb and some brought out lawn chairs. Two kids watched from perches in an old tree stump.

Watching the soap box races-min

Two girls got the best seats in the house.

We got a kick out of catching the action as the kids rolled down the hill. There were no pedals or motors. You just rolled off the ramp and hung on and tried to keep the buggy going straight (a few went off the road onto the grass!).

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

Riding to victory!

Soap box races Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend-min

All the kids had to wear helmets. We really liked this one!

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The design of each “soap box” was unique.

Getting a tow Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

I don’t know who was having more fun, the kids or the parents and grandparents!

At the bottom of the hill members of the high school football team caught the riders as they crossed the finish line.

Finish line Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The finish line was at the bottom of the hill.

The winner is... Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

Members of the football team caught the kids at the bottom.

Up at the top of the hill the Gospel Tabernacle gave out free snow cones. The blue raspberry ones were yummy!

Blue raspberry snow cones at the soap box races in Buffalo SD-min

The free blue raspberry snow cones were going fast.

When the races were over and the trophies had been given out, we wandered over to the rodeo grounds to see what was happening there. Three little kids were practicing their barrel racing skills, and boy were they good!

Young barrel racers in Buffalo SD-min

Over at the rodeo stadium some little kids were barrel racing.

Hair flying on horseback-min

Riding a horse is easy! (If you’re four).

The kids weren’t super fast on their horses, but these little tykes could make their horses do whatever they wanted.

When they first filed into the rodeo grounds all three of them headed in the wrong gate. A helpful mom called to them to go back out and then go in a different gate. I thought there would be a pile-up of hooves and bridles and flicking tales and flaring nostrils. But instead these three kids very neatly backed their horses up out the gate and headed them down to the correct gate, as if it were nothing!

Barrel racer heads to the first barrel on the course-min

A little cowgirl heads towards the first barrel.

Young barrel racer rounds the barrel on her horse-min

…and heads around the first barrel.

Barrel racer takes her horse around the barrel-min

She makes the turn nice and close to the barrel.

Rounding the barrel in a horseback barrel race_-min

And the she picks up speed on the way out of the turn.

On to the next barrel in a horse barrel race-min

On to the next barrel!

We saw the kids afterwards walking three abreast across the field. Mark congratulated them on their riding skills and asked them which one of them was the best rider. All three hands shot up in the air. “Me,” “Me,” Me!”

Then we came across the mom who had been working with them and complimented her on their skills. She grinned and told us they were four, five and six years old. Holy smokes!!

Expert young horseback rider uses one hand on the reins-min

The little kids had a lot of skill — and a little sass too!

What a fun and heartwarming Labor Day celebration this was.

Sunrise in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Sunset in Buffalo, South Dakota, after a great Labor Day weekend!

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Sun Valley Road Rally – Go Granny Go!

Bugatti Veyron

At the Sun Vally Road Rally you can see more than just the back end
of a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse!

July, 2014 – We found out that the Bugatti race cars had come to Sun Valley, Idaho for a reason.

We had arrived in the town of Ketchum just in time for the annual Sun Valley Road Rally, a car race we had seen in its second edition back in 2009.

This very cool “see how fast you can go” road race benefits The Drug Coalition of Blaine County.

For the race, the local cops clear Route 75 north of Ketchum, and participants pay $2,000 per run to drive any car they wish for two miles at top speed.

At the finish line, each car’s speed is recorded on radar.  And for once, the fastest car through the speed trap wins!

Future car racer at Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

A future car racer checks out a slick Camaro.

Five years ago, when we last saw the Sun Valley Road Rally, it was dominated by a mom, dad, son and daughter who passed the key to their family Porsche Carrera from one to the next as each took a turn in the driver’s seat.

The mom hit 181, the daughter reached 183 mph and the dad got to 186 mph, but the son topped them all at 188 and won the race.

Cars entering the Sun Valley Road Rally car race in Idaho

Cool cars and ski mountains — that’s Sun Valley for you!

Things have changed a LOT since then.  This year a fleet of six Bugatti Veyrons showed up.

These quad turbo charged cars sell for $2.7 million, have an exclusive “W-16” cylinder design (not a “V-8”), and 188 mph is an easy jog for them.  They go from 0 to 62 mph in 2.6 seconds.

Ferrari and other cars at the car show in Sun Valley Idaho

A Ferarri 458 cuddles with two companions at the car show

McClaren Can-Am Race Car Sun Valley Road Ralley Idaho

It’s the Bat Mobile! Wait…no…it’s a vintage McClaren Can-Am car!!

Spirits were high the night before the race when a parade of fantastic cars zipped through town before the kick-off car show.

This race is open to everyone, and we saw all kinds of fun cars.

An old bright red bathtub Porsche convertible went by.  It had a pair of skis tied to the back and an antique suitcase lashed to the trunk.

“He’s going to race like that?”  I wondered out loud.  The guy next to me nodded.  This race is all about having a good time.

Crowds watch the Sun Valley Road Rally

The crowds filled the fields on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway

“Hey look, it’s the Bat Mobile!” I nudged Mark as a bizarre blue machine roared past.

We later found out it was a 1980’s era McClaren Can-Am car, and it had a bouquet of velocity stacks towering in back.

The next day, out on the race track (well, the highway), the crowd gathered, bussed up from town in school buses.

 

Bugatti Veyrons ready to race in Sun Valley Idaho

The cars line up before the race.

The Bugattis got lined up at the start while the first car of the day, a Porsche, flew past the crowd at a whopping 219 mph.

Wow.  The race was off to an incredible start!

A few more cars limped by in the 180’s and then all our heads turned at once as a blue car flew past at a blinding speed.

“238!” The announcer cried.  “From a Nissan GTR!”

I heard some low whistles around me.  Then the announcer dropped his voice:  “And the Bugattis aren’t happy…”

Bugattis line up for the Sun Valley Road Rally

The Bugattis huddle together upon hearing news of an ultra fast Nissan.

The gauntlet had been thrown.  We watched some Ferarris, Lamborghinis, Audi R8’s and a Ford 500 GT and a few other cars to do their runs.  Nothing touched the Nissan.  And then the first Bugatti ran. It sounded awesome. It looked really fast…

“229!” The announcer yelled

He sounded almost apologetic! We all stared at each other in surprise.  Could a Nissan take the day at 238 mph??!!

Bugatti race car crosses the finish line at Sun Valley Road Rally

The first Bugatti crosses the line…a little too slowly!

One by one, the Bugattis rocketed past us. They were painted in gorgeous colors — two-toned blue, light silver, dark silver and orange.  As each one passed, we all held our breath, waiting to hear the speed. And with every single one we all let out a disappointed sigh:  “229….229….230…”

These Bugatti Veyrons just weren’t cutting it!

I heard murmurs around me.  Would a lowly Nissan that sells for a meager $250k beat a car ten times the price??  Not possible!! Then we all watched in awe as a white dot on the horizon came down the notorious Phantom Hill at lightning speed. I swear, if he went any faster he would have been airborne.

Bugatti sets record at Sun Valley Road Rally

Did you see THAT?? This Bugatti Veyron was booking!

Benjamin Chen with his winning Bugatti at Sun Valley Road Ralley in Idaho

Proud owner and driver Benjamin Chen with his awesome car.

“244!”  The announcer boomed.  “244!  A Bugatti”

OMG.  Who WAS this guy?

At the break between heats we rushed down to the finish line to mingle with the cars and drivers and watch them prepare for their next run.

Benjamin Chen, the owner and driver of this white and gold dream machine, was beaming.

He is a massively successful equity manager, but you’d never guess it looking at his boyish grin and blue jeans as he gave us the thumbs up.

Josh Ramsey ready to race a Nissan GTR in Sun Valley

Young driver Josh Ramsey with his incredible Nissan GTR. The green tape was to help with wind flow and to keep the hood from opening at 200+ mph.

A few cars down from him we met up with Josh Ramsey who would be driving the upstart Nissan GTR for its second run in the next heat.

Just 23 years old, and a self-made race car driver who got his start by sweeping floors in the car owner’s shop for nothing, he was excited and nervous, wanting so badly to beat the Bugattis at their own game.

But the tension and rivalry between these top cars was just a small part of the day.  There was lots of action in the lower ranks too.

 

 

1957 Corvett convertible at Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

Mike donned vintage glasses and his wife wore a scarf on their run,
going 110 mph in this 1957 Corvette!

A husband and wife went on a very fast date together, driving their 1957 Corvette convertible at 110 mph.

He wore antique goggles and she wore a fashionable scarf.

A 1950’s open wheel hot rod that had turned heads in the parade crossed the line at 98 mph.

Then another heat of 12 cars lined up and left the staging area to drive to the start line and set up to race.

 

hot rod racing in Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

What’s a car race without a hot rod, especially one that can go 98 mph!

“Did you see that driver in the yellow Corvette?” Mark suddenly said to me.  “She’s the little old lady from Pasadena!”

Huh?  I didn’t know what he was talking about until a little while later when the yellow Corvette flew across the finish line and pulled over to park near me.

A grandma climbed out of the driver’s seat, took off her helmet and brushed her hand through her hair.

Car racer Shirley Veine age 81 in Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

81 year old Shirley Veine stole the show at 166 mph in her bright yellow Corvette

“Wow!”  She gushed, looking up at me.  “That was fun!”

“You hit 166,” a young woman yelled as she rushed over to give her a hug.

“How old are you?” I asked, astonished.

“81” She grinned.

Go Granny Go Shirley Veine races her Corvette in Sun Vally Idaho

The Little Old Lady from Pasadena says she LOVES to go fast!!

“You know, I’ve been 120 mph before,” she said mischievously. “Out on those roads where nobody cares. But I’ve never raced before!”

Really!

When she turned around to pump her fist in the air for her fans, her T-shirt said, “Go Granny, Go!(That link goes to the song on YouTube for you, LOL!)

 

Josh Ramsey races a Nissan GTR in Sun Valley Idaho

The Nissan GTR had laid down the gauntlet and had hopes for the high 240’s, but a mechanical failure got in the way.

Meanwhile the race was heating up between the Bugattis and the Nissan.

Benjamin had taken his white and gold Bugatti across the line at 246 mph on his second run, and another Bugatti had matched the Nissan’s 238 mph.

The heat was on.

In the end, though, very unfortunately, the Nissan had a mechanical failure

Our hearts sank its young driver Josh limped back in after his run, wreathed in disappointment.

 

Benjamin Chen wins in a Bugatti Veyron at Sun Valley Road Rally

Victorious Benjamin Chen hit 246 mph on the golden spoked wheels
of his Bugatti Veyron.

However, even if he hadn’t won the day, at least his team had given those Bugattis a run for their money.

Over at the leaderboard, champ Benjamin’s grin went from ear to ear as he showed us his winning speed.

He told us the magic key on his necklace puts the car in a special “top speed mode,” dropping the spoiler, closing the air diffusers, and lowering the ground clearance.

Oh, to be a multi-millionaire with a super cool race car and a brilliant a sunny day to play with it out on the open road, especially smack in the middle of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway!

National Sawtooth Scenic Byway

The driver’s view (minus the cars) down Phantom Hill on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway
where, for once, the fastest car in the speed trap wins!

See the following links for the Sun Valley Road Rally and the Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho. There’s also a fantastic article about the Koenigsegg race car trouncing the Bugatti Veyron’s speed record in Nevada here.

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More Blog Posts from our Travels to Sun Valley

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Nevada Open Road Challenge – A NEED for SPEED!

May, 2014 – After our exciting slot canyon hike and our happy romps amid the beautiful wildflowers and “toadstools” just north of the Vermillion Cliffs in southern Utah, we put in some long hours on the road, driving north and west through Utah and into Nevada.

The roads in Utah were familiar and were loaded with memories as we passed through Kanab and the wonderful Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, on up through Panguitch and past its turn-offs for Zion National Park, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks.

Straight lonely highways in Nevada

This is Hayabusa country!

But when we got into Nevada we were in new territory.  The roads were straight and deserted, and the vast valleys on either side of us seemed to go on forever.  There wasn’t a building or car in sight all the way to the horizon in every direction.

“This is Hayabusa country,” Mark suddenly said.  “This would be so perfect for a fast motorcycle!” Continue reading

PV: 2013 Kiteboard World Cup – Here on the beach!

Mini Cooper

It’s Your Lucky Day!

Mid-May, 2013 – One afternoon while strolling around the streets of Paradise Village (Puerto Vallarta Mexico), we noticed a Mini Cooper go by. Then another. And another. Heck, there were a whole bunch! What in the world? Mini Cooper sightings re not all that common here!

English phone booth on the beach

A British phone booth – by the beach!!

The next morning we went out on another walk, stretching our legs and lazily taking photos of flowers. Suddenly we noticed a group of Mini Coopers lined up in the parking lot at the Hard Rock Hotel resort. Aha! Mark ran over to get some photos, and then we went up to the resort entrance, hoping to find out a little more about what was going on.

Mini cooper test drive

Hop in and drive me!

 

 

 

 

Sure enough, more Mini Coopers were parked in front of the hotel lobby. And one little white one had these intriguing words painted on the door:
“Curious of being my pilot? Drive me!” The back window spelled it out a little more clearly: “It’s your lucky day – You can drive me!”

kiteboard world cup hunk

Hotties of both both sexes came to the races.

Lucky day, indeed!! Next thing I knew, Mark was signing some papers and I was jumping into the passenger seat of a chic little black Mini while a rep from a local dealership climbed into the back seat and told Mark to put the pedal to the metal. Wow!!

Mini Kiteboard world cup babe

Posing with a backdrop.

It turned out that Mini test drives were part of the 2013 Mini Kiteboard World Cup competition that was taking place down on the beach. So, after zipping around a few corners and thinking that gee, this was a really sweet little car, we ran down to the beach, grinning from ear to ear.

Minis were on display everywhere — in the grassy lawn and down on the beach. The theme was decidedly British. There was even a red English phone booth overlooking the water!

2013 mini kite board world cup interview

Interviewing the kiteboarders for the media

Our cameras went into overdrive and we we shared a quick “is this really happening?” glance as a gal put bracelets on our wrists and explained to us that these gave us access to the VIP hospitality suite where they were serving free drinks. Really?  Was it the cameras? Did they think we were with the press? Who cares! Let’s go!.

kiteboard world cup competitor

The kiteboarders pump up their kites.

 

 

 

It was early, but gradually a crowd of youthful hotties of both sexes began to pour in. Neither of us had any idea what a kiteboard was, but the athletes coming in all had huge backpacks and gear bags slung over their shoulders. They threw their gear bags in a pile while they carbo-loaded at a nearby food tent and then got ready to race.

2013 mini kiteboard world cup kites

The kites look like colorful dinosaur wings

 

After lunch, they began to spread their kites out on the grass. Rather than having rigid ribs and framing, the structural parts of these kites all got inflated by hand pumps.

Soon the kites filled the lawn, looking like vibrantly colored prehistoric wings. Then, one by one, the athletes carried their wings to the beach where they were laid out in the sand.

A big crowd had formed on the beach, and the announcer was getting everyone psyched up with an endless patter in English and Spanish, while music blasted a heavy, pulsing beat in the background.

kiteboard world cup puerto vallarta

Ready for take-off!

 

Looking at the angular wings on the beach, it was hard to imagine how they would be used to propel the kiteboarders.

But once they waded into the water and flipped their wings into crescent shapes, we suddenly saw the most beautiful display.

The kites rose up in the air and the athletes were pulled out into the water where they zoomed back and forth at break neck speeds.

mexico kiteboard world cup

The beach was loaded with people and kites.

mexico kiteboard world cup

Lots of color everywhere.

kiteboarding

The afternoon wind was perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a series of races that took place a ways out, and at first all the kiteboarders zoomed out there. The kites floated back and forth along the horizon, drifting, dipping, diving and soaring past each other, changing directions and floating freely in a kaleidoscope dance of colors.

2013 mini kiteboard world cup races

Kites fill the sky during the races.

kiteboarding races in mexico

A sailboat is framed by beautiful kites.

kiteboarding kite

Color in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few sailboats glided past on the distant horizon, adding to the beauty of the scene.

We ran up and down the beach, trying to get the best angles on the action, when we suddenly saw one of the kiteboarders fly into the air and flip around in a somersault. Holy cow!! We didn’t know they did THAT!!

kiteboard jump

These guys are GOOD!

kiteboard flying

Soaring.

kiteboard tumbling

Tumbling.

kiteboarder jumping in Puerto Vallarta world cup

Weeeeee!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kiteboarder tumbling

Wow – how’d he do that?!

And then the challenge was on — trying to catch these guys in the act!

We were far from the the crowd and the main tent, and we could no longer hear the announcer. So we had no idea what was going on.

jumping over the camper kiteboard races

A photographer gets a shot from below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All we knew was that every so often a kiteboarder would flip up in the air and do a mesmerizing series of twists and turns.

kiteboarder racing in Mexico

When is he going to jump?

world cup kiteboard competition mexico

Landing pattern.

But we never knew when that would happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These guys zipped past us, back and forth, and back and forth, at crazy speeds, weaving between each other and making us wonder if their lines would tangle or if they would crash into each other.

kiteboarding somersault

Look out below!!

These were the best of the best, however — it was the World Cup after all — and there were no crashes or even near misses. But there were no indications of when they wanted to jump either!

So we’d pan one guy as he streaked past us on the beach, waiting and hoping, but then he would sail out to sea and never jump.

kite board speed racer

What an exhilarating ride!

Then, just as we’d put the camera down with a discouraged, “Aw, he’s not gonna jump,” we would see a different guy falling out of the sky right in front of us. It seemed that all afternoon we were saying too each other, “Arrghh, I missed that one!!”

But we did catch a few. And we were so excited by the whole thing that we went back the next day to see more.

recue boat with kitebaord jumper

The Navy rescue boat was never far.

What a glorious sport. So wild and free. They made it look fantastically easy, and we both wondered wistfully where we could take lessons.

kiteboard racer concentrates 281

Concentration…

 

 

 

 

It seemed like an effortless and exhilarating ride. Sometimes they cruised along one-handed. And even when they crashed, it just seemed like a splashy soft landing.

In the distance, though, we could see the Navy had stationed a rescue boat, just in case! Luckily, no rescues were ever needed, and instead they enjoyed the best seat in the house, right in the middle of all the action.

mexico world cup kiteboarding races competition

Kites flying above the beach.

world cup kiteboarding races mexico

What a beautiful spot to watch.

kiteboard with boots

Ahhh…. rest at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also caught some of the action on video and put together a little clip.  It’s not quite Fox Sports, but it gives the essence of what it was like to stand there on the beach and take in this incredible spectacle:
2013 Kiteboard World Cup Racing in Mexico.

 

 

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Acapulco – A Faded Lady + Sailboat races

Sail blog post - Acapulco is a faded lady in many ways, but we found a delightful oasis at Puerto Marques and were thrilled by the cliff divers and yacht races.

Orcas play near Groovy.

A shrimper outside Papanoa, Mexico.

Shrimper or bird taxi?

Papanoa, a shrimping village in Mexico.

Papanoa.

Sunrise over Groovy's bow.

Sunrise begins over our bow.

Sunrise over the water near Acapulco. Groovy arrives in Acapulco.

Acapulco's mountains in the distance.

Villas and hotels line Boca Chica Channel.

Villas perch atop cliffs on Boca Chica Channel.

Racing yachts barrel down Boca Chica Channel.

Sailboats race towards us.

Highrises on Acapulco's main beach.

Acapulco's main beach.

Two boats almost crash in a race in Acapulco.

Tight maneuvering.

Downwind spinnaker run towards Acapulco's highrises on the beach.

Downwind spinnaker run.

The

The "fake" lighthouse at La Marina.

The pretty grounds of Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

The Yacht Club grounds.

Insignia and knots on display at Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

Club de Yates de Acapulco.

Racing yachts at Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

Racing yachts waiting for the next race.

Waterfront near Acapulco Yacht Club (Club de Yates de Acapulco).

Waterfront near the yacht club.

Looking across Acapulco's inner harbor.

Looking across Acapulco's inner harbor.

Puffer and angel fish at the Acapulco marina docks.

Puffer and angel fish at the docks.

Puffer and angel fish at the Acapulco marina docks.

I took these from above water.

Wonderful daysailing in Acapulco Bay.

Wonderful daysailing in Acapulco Bay.

Acapulco highrises on the beach.

A few of the many highrises on the beach.

Navy warships and a tall ship in Acapulco Bay.

Navy warships and a tall ship.

Acapulco has several picturesque anchorages.

Acapulco has several picturesque

anchorages.

Vacation homes overlooking Puerto Marques outside Acapulco Bay.

Vacation homes overlooking Puerto Marques.

A little bronze mermaid in Puerto Marques.

A little mermaid near our

anchorage.

Camino Real, Puerto Marques, Acapulco Mexico

The lightly visited resort where we anchored in Puerto Marques.

Barrido Marino - the Sea Sweepers - in Puerto Marques, Acapulco, Mexico

"Barrido Marino" - the "Sea Sweepers"

Blue and white VW bug taxis in Acapulco

These cheap little taxis are everywhere.

The rock cliffs of La Quebrada home of Los Clavadistas, the cliff divers.

The rock cliffs of La Quebrada.

Cliff Diver Alejandro scales the rocks in La Quebrada.

Cliff Diver Alejandro scales the rocks.

Cliff diver soars off the rocks at La Quebrada. Cliff diver plunges into the water at La Quebrada. Cliff diver soars off the rocks at La Quebrada. Los clavadistas, the cliff divers of La Quebrada.

Alejandro (left) and Aurelio (right)

Acapulco's cathedral.

Acapulco's cathedral.

Acapulco's cathedral.

A peek inside...

The Zócalo has amazing trees.

Acapulco's town beach.

Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

Mid-January, 2012 - We finally pulled ourselves away from Zihuatanejo/

Ixtapa and resumed our travels south.  Papanoa is a 35-mile daysail

away, and as we motor-sailed we were very surprised to see some

Shamu-shaped fins ahead of us.  It turned out to be several small orcas

playing in the water.

Papanoa is a small shrimping village, and we passed a few

shrimpers trolling the depths as we approached the harbor.

Countless birds were catching a ride on the booms of one boat.

The frigate birds took most of one boom and the seagulls

spread out on the others.

We arrived in mid-afternoon and watched the activities of this quiet port

town.  Several shoreside cantinas had the music going, and a group of

kids were laughing loudly and burning up energy as only kids can, diving

off a pier and cannonballing each other out of a small dinghy that was

tied to a piling.

Acapulco is another 75 miles

south of Papanoa, which

required us to get a pre-

dawn start.  We were now

traveling more east than

south and we watched the

sky lighten ahead of us until

the sun rose over our bow.

Acapulco has a mixed reputation these days,

and we weren't sure what to expect when we

arrived.  Our first glimpse of this legendary port

had us grinning excitedly, however, and set the

tone for a fantastic stay.  We decided to enter

Acapulco's expansive bay through its narrow

westerly channel "Boca Chica" ("Small Mouth")

rather than through the main entrance further

east called "Boca Grande."  We slowed way

down as the rock walls rose to wonderful

heights on either side of us in the channel.

"This is just like Cabo!" we said to each other.

The towering cliffs were

covered with fancy homes,

hotels and highrises.

As we emerged on the other side of the channel, Acapulco's

vast beach suddenly came into view.  Our eyes widened in

amazement.  The beach was backed by an endless stretch

of highrise buildings, and the hillsides were littered with

homes and communities that rose in waves towards the

horizon.  There was more humanity in front of us than we had seen in months.  Forget Cabo.  This was like Miami.  Or like

sailing into Las Vegas.  It was a huge, massive city built for tourism.  We puttered around the bay taking way too many photos

that all looked the same -- highrises on the water -- and then backtracked to a lovely little anchorage in Boca Chica next to a

small beach on Isla de la Roqueta.

Gazing across the bay at the mammoth city in the distance, we were

anchored in our own small paradise next to a busy little beach where

the Sunday crowd was swimming, snorkeling and imbibing at the

beach bar.  Suddenly on the horizon we saw some incredibly sleek

sailing yachts headed our way in a race.  Within moments Groovy

was perched in a front row seat of a spectacular sailing race.

The streamlined boats flew towards us at top speed.  Ladened with

both skilled crew at the helm and winches and "rail meat" crew that

sat on the high side facing out, feet dangling over the side, the boats

bore down on us until I was sure we'd be broadsided.  Just at the

last second each boat would tack, within arm's reach of our cockpit.

All hell would break loose as ten people scurried over the deck,

furiously turning winch

handles and wrestling the boat into submission on its new tack.  A few commands

would be yelled here and there, but the most prominent sound was the creaking of

lines and groaning of each boat as it was tensioned and tuned for max velocity on its

new tack.

These guys are really good at this stuff

and they do it all the time, so when

one boat looked like it was about to T-

bone another and Mark said, "They're

gonna hit!" I said, "Nahhh…"  Then we

both heard a loud CRUNCH and the

sound of very expensive boat parts

grating against each other.  Seconds

later the lead boat dropped its sails

and turned around to head home.  I'm

not sure if they were disqualified or

had sustained too much damage to

continue, but none of the other boats

paused for one second!

In no time the race began its downwind leg, and one yacht after

another breezed past Groovy in the opposite direction, their

colorful spinnakers flying.  As each boat slowly vanished

into the horizon of skyscrapers our hearts gradually

stopped pounding.  What excitement, and what a

surprise.

By sunset our little anchorage had whittled down to just

us and the noisy birds in the trees.  Like Isla Ixtapa and

Las Gatas Beach in Zihuatanejo, this place is heavily

visited by water taxis, banana boats, jet-skis and

snorkelers during the afternoons, but by dusk it is

deserted and is an ideal, remote tropical anchorage with

no swell.  We slept like babies that night.

The heart of the Acapulco yachting scene is the "Club

de Yates de Acapulco," or the Acapulco Yacht Club.

This beautiful marina and yacht club would be ideal for visiting cruisers, but

it is so popular with local boaters that there is seldom room for anyone from

out of town.  Next door "La Marina" is being renovated and will soon

accommodate visitors, but it isn't yet finished.

We wandered into the Club de Yates and found all

the beautiful racing boats we had watched sailing

the day before already lifted out of the water and

put up in dry storage to wait for the next race.  We

found out that hauling our boat would cost nearly

$600 US.  Imagine having to fork that over every

time you wanted to race your yacht?!  But this is a

place where money is no object.  The captain of a

megayacht parked at an end-tie told us his owner

likes to zip from place to place burning a cool 180

gallons per hour at top speed.  He laughed out loud

when we told him we needed to top off our 66

gallon fuel tank sometime during our stay here.

Getting fuel is not as simple as you might think in Acapulco.  The fuel dock

is fairly short and has little turnaround room, and many megayachts come

calling, so you have to sign up to get fuel a day or two in advance.  This

requires a trip to the Harbor Master's office where, to our surprise, he made

a copy of our US Coast Guard documentation papers as part of our fuel

registration process.  The up-side of this minor inconvenience was that he

also issued us a temporary Yacht Club card which would allow us to come

and go from the pretty marina at will and use the dinghy dock and

swimming pool too.

The Acapulco Yacht Club exudes that noble air that wafts over

exclusive yacht clubs worldwide, and the whole place is dripping

with wonderfully elegant nautical decor.  Trophies fill the trophy

cases, portraits of past captains and commodores line the walls,

names of local champions and legendery yachts are engraved

on beautiful plaques, and ancient bronze binnacles and helms

stand like museum pieces in the corners.

The little chandlery has goodies for boats, but the prices for

ordinary items are truly extraordinary ($100 US for four plastic drinking glasses!), but

the souvenir shop sold high quality ball caps with the yacht club logo embroidered on

the front for less that $10 US.

Acapulco is not a clean city, and we had watched the Pacific ocean transform from a

rich inviting deep blue to a sickly grey-green as we had entered Acapulco Bay.  But

here at the dock the water was so clear that I could see angel fish and puffer fish

swimming just below the surface.

When we travel from place to place we always hope

to sail but usually end up motoring most of the way

because the winds are so light along Mexico's

mainland coast.  However, Acapulco Bay is a terrific

spot for day sailing, and after watching the races the

day before, we got inspired to go out for a joy ride

ourselves.  There were no other boats on the three-mile-wide bay, and we had just enough

wind, 10-13 knots, to put Groovy over on her side for a little romp in the breeze.

Exploring the outer reaches of the bay we saw more highrises (they are endless), and a Navy

dock that had two modern warships and a lovely old tall ship.

Other cruisers had found pretty anchorages

along the outskirts of this big bay, and as the

days of our stay wore on we

noticed that they weren't in a

hurry to leave Acapulco either,

obviously enjoying their time

here as well.

We left the inner harbor for

Puerto Marques, a small outer

bay, where we spent five

delightful nights.  Billed in the

cruising guide as being open to

ocean swell, we got lucky and

enjoyed peaceful quiet nights

ancchored alongside a row of

nearly empty resorts.  There couldn't have been more than ten

occupied rooms in the four resort hotels we were facing, but

new construction inexplicably seemed to be continuing.

Every day the bartender would arrive at the cute

dockside bar and serve perhaps one or two guests.

Every night the restaurant tables would be set and the

kitchen staff would get busy, all to serve just three or

four couples.

Acapulco has a reputation for being past its prime, but there are

clear signs that its citizens don't want to let that prime slip away

too fast.  Besides all the new construction, there is a fleet of

bright yellow boats bearing the words "Barrido Marino" ("Sea

Sweep") in large letters on their sides.  These boats scour

the entire bay every day with nets to retrieve floating trash

and debris.  At the far end of Puerto Marques a huge

project is underway with barges and cranes to install what

looks like a new pier or perhaps a marina.

Over in La Quebrada the famous dare-devil cliff divers began

flying headfirst off the cliffs into the sea back in 1934, and within a

decade or two were the superstars of Acapulco tourism.  Eager to

see these guys, we took one of the little blue-and-white VW bug taxis and

zipped off to the cove of jagged cliffs where the diving action takes place.  Both

Mark and I remember watching these divers on TV as kids, and we couldn't

wait to see them in action.

The cove is a spectacular craggy

coast of rugged peaks and

crashing surf, and the entire area

has been built up to show off the

divers.  Elvis Presley's 1963 movie

Fun in Acapulco was filmed here

(this is a fun link too).

Restaurants overlook the diving gorge and trinket shops offer free

coke or beer for shoppers.  El Mirador Hotel stands above it all,

having played host to many of the world's celebrities over the

years.  There's a ticket sales booth at the top of a long set of

winding stairs that go down towards the water.  Viewers can choose

any level for watching the divers.  Five or so divers take the plunge

once a day in daylight and they dive again three more times after

dark (with torches).  We opted for a daytime show and were thrilled.

To our surprise the divers start the show by walking through the crowd,

hopping over the fence to the rock face below, and then hot-footing it

down a ways and jumping into the water.  After a quick wave to the

crowd above, they then free

climb the enormous cliffs on

the far side all the way to the

top.  One young diver,

Alejandro, impressed us immensely

with his catlike agility as he zipped up

the cliff like Spiderman.

Once at the top, the divers each

offered a quick prayer to the Virgin of

Guadalupe, touched the shrine, or

even kissed the statue inside, and then

turned and waved to the crowd.  One

by one they then took a position

somewhere near the top of the cliff

and, when the waves were right 125

feet below, launched themselves into

spectacular dives.

Alejandro warmed up for quite some

time, stretching, doing mock flip turns, and obviously preparing for some fancy twists and somersaults in the air.  When

he finally soared off the rocks he rolled and turned and swiveled in the air like a shimmering fish, and gracefully slipped

into the frothing water below.

Another pair of divers leapt off the cliff together, one launching himself into a back

layout somersault before twisting and piking his way to the water.  The last diver

climbed to the highest peak and flew over the rocks in a glorious swan dive.

Afterwards the divers mingled

with the crowd, happily posing

for photos with fans.

We were on such a high after

this that we nearly skipped

down the hill towards the

cathedral in the old town

square, El Zócalo.  Acapulco is a grungy, busy,

crowded city, but there was something in the

earthy smells, the crush of people and the

sweat dripping down our temples and backs

that made it all very exciting.

A group of nuns emerged from the 1930's era

cathedral just as we approached, and the doors

were thrown wide for a peek inside.

Opposite the cathedral was a large, darkly

shaded city park filled with enormous trees

that have odd twisted trunks and roots.

Crabby old ladies sitting next to flowers

they were selling waved us off with nasty

frowns when we took photos of their

flowers.  People sat on park benches

eating snacks or reading the paper.

Tourists and shoppers mingled in between.

Vendors sold everything everywhere and music pumped so loudly

from some speakers on the ground that an old lady put her fingers

in her ears as she walked by.  Official tourism hosts wearing blue

shirts and numbered badges darted out from the crowd to help

bewildered tourists, and more than one suddenly turned up at our

sides asking if we needed assistance.  It is not a warm, friendly

place, nor is it a place I'd want to hang around for more than a

brief visit, but we were glad to have taken a walk through that part of town, and equally glad to emerge back on the waterfront

malecón, or boardwalk, where the fresh sea breeze hit our faces once again, and the beach and boats filled our view.

Such is the faded lady of Acapulco.  A previous cruiser's blog last

year described gunmen firing shots in a building near the marina at

night, and as we dropped our anchor in the city anchorage at ten in

the morning we heard a series of gun shots near the supermarket

where we had bought provisions the day before.  But I've heard

gunshots in every city I've called home, and I've even watched a

well armed SWAT team take positions outside a house in a tony

Scottsdale, Arizona neighborhood.  The anchorages on the fringes

of Acapulco Bay are all lovely, and we are glad to have experienced

the sweeter side of town.  After a little more relaxing at Puerto

Marques we headed down the coast to Huatulco.

Find Acapulco on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast to see more cruising posts from this area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ensenada Races – For Bicycles and Sailboats

Yacht at Hotel Coreal & Marina

We taste a life of luxury aboard a true Yacht.

Cyclist's memorial near Ensenada

The roads around Ensenada can be lethal for cyclists.

Frog-painted rock

A frog marks our passage uphill.

The

The "free road" twists through

the mountains.

Racing cyclist

Cyclists race down the mountain.

Bike racers descend

There was no front pack, just little groups of

three and four riders.

Cyclists sweep around a grand descent

I try my best Graham Watson

style shot.

Female bicyclist

This ride caters to sleek racers...

Male bicyclist in a ballerina tutu

...a man wearing a tutu...

Wonder Woman cyclist

...Wonder Woman...

Cyclist in a wrestling mask

...a masked man...

Kid in a Burley trailer

...a little kid gets a wild ride...

Cyclist does tricks coming down the long descent

...an older kid does tricks...

Newport-Ensenada Sailboat Race

The Newport-Ensenada Race arrives on a perfect sunny day.

One of the top raceboats, It's OK

It's OK is a pure racing machine.

One of the top raceboats, It's OK The crew of It's OK

The crew of It's OK congratulates each other on a job

well done.

It's OK - racing sailboat built for speed

Built for speed, It's OK looks fast even tied up at the dock.

Taxi Dancer, another race boat built for speed

Taxi Dancer is a thoroughbred from another era.

Taxi Dancer racing sailboat

100% carbon fiber, this boat dreams only of winning.

Crew of It's OK looks out over Hotel Coral & Marina

The crew of It's OK takes top spot.

Waiting for the Newport-Ensenada sailboat race

Out on the bay we wait for the boats to arrive.

Newport-Ensenada racing sailboats arrive Newport-Ensenada sailboat race Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race Newport to Ensenada International Race Newport to Ensenada International Sailboat Race

Elixir en-route to a great finish.

Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

A steady stream of boats arrived in the marina.

Joining a crew aboard

We find ourselves caught up in the cockpit parties on the docks.

controlled chaos below decks on a raceboat

Behind the scenes on a go-fast boat.

Mexican SAR swimmers train at Hotel Coral & Marina

The Mexican SAR swimmers take the

mayhem at the docks in stride.

Local dogs Bandita and Cha Cha want to join the party

Bandita and Cha Cha are in a party mood too.

Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race

What a glorious day for a race.

Rosarito-Ensenada & Newport-Ensenada Races

Mid-Late April, 2010 - Adding a new twist to our Ensenada

lives, a boat arrived flying the Australian flag.  Intrigued, we

made a bee-line for it.  The owners and their full-time captain

warmly welcomed us aboard, and we were soon relaxing in a

sumptuous main salon whose "wow" factor easily surpassed

any land-based living room I have seen.  We learned that they

had just purchased the boat in San Diego (complete with

broker horror stories like those of most California boat buyers

we've met.  How shocking that brokers making hundreds of

thousands of dollars on a deal will cheat their customers).

They were headed to points south in Mexico before visiting the South

Pacific en route to Australia.  Gazing down on the marina through

almost 360 degrees of enormous windows (a very different perspective

than on Groovy), I realized that in a small marina everyone loves to

show off their boat, no matter the size, and friendships blossom in

moments.  The vast disparity of income levels that too often separates

could-be friends on land isn't a barrier when you are camping -- in

whatever style -- on the water.

One of the big events in

Ensenada every year is

the Rosarito-Ensenada

bicycle ride, and we had

looked forward to it since we got here.  Boasting thousands of participants, the

ride wanders for 50+ miles up and down the hilly free (non-toll) road on the coast.

Rather than fight the logistics of this one-way ride, we opted to ride the last few

miles backwards and join the cyclists as they passed through.

Our goal was to stop and take photos of the

leaders as they began the final descent into

town.  The climb up this last hill was

exhilarating as we rose higher and higher

above the twisting road.  I staked out a spot at

the top of the hill while Mark rode a little

further to get some more exercise.  When the

leaders filtered past, one at a time, lead out by

police cars, I clicked a few shots, waiting for

the main pack to arrive.

But the typical race pack never arrived.  I did

my best to emulate the great cycling

photographer Graham Watson, catching the

spurts of three and four riders as they flew by

the wildflowers at 40 mph.

After a while I wondered when Mark would return down the

hill, but I kept snapping photos, figuring he'd

show up sooner or later.

Sleek racers were enjoying the steep climbs and

descents of this ride at race pace, while many

recreational riders dressed up in crazy outfits.

There was a guy in a ballet tutu, Wonder

Woman, some fellows in full face masks, Darth

Vadar, families, kids in trailers and a few bikers

doing tricks.  In no time I realized I had been

taking photos for well over an hour.

Not sure what had happened to Mark, I grabbed my

bike to start looking for him and found the rear tire was

flat.  Rats.  Heaving a sigh, I took out my spare -- and

found it had a huge tear near the valve stem.  What the

heck?!  I wanted to patch my flat, but couldn't find the

pin-hole leak, so I started walking the 12 miles towards

the finish.

Yikes, would this turn into a four hour walk?

Lots of people asked if I needed help, but I

knew (with evaporating certainty) that Mark

would be along any minute.  Finally a trio of

Mexican racers who were deep into a flat

fixing session waved me over.  We found

and patched the hole just as Sponge Bob

Square Pants rode by (where was my

camera?), and we were on our way, cruising

down the hills to the bottom all together.

I finally arrived back at the boat to find Mark

had spent the last two hours sitting on the wall in front of the hotel scanning the

thousands of cyclists going by, looking for me.  Arrghh.  He had cruised down the hill

hours ago, flying along with the first three riders, glancing at the side of the road now

and then to see if I was there.  Not seeing me, he kept on a-goin' as fast as the hills

would let him.  Why didn't I recognize him?  Well, it's hard to distinguish much of

anything through a camera's viewfinder, especially when the targets are going 40 mph.

Why didn't he see me?  Hmmm... when descending a hill with twisty roads as fast as

possible, you gotta keep your eyes on the road.  We were both bummed and more

than a little irate, because we had missed the most important part of the event which

was downtown at the Coronado Hotel where several thousand arriving cyclists mingled,

munched, swapped stories in English and Spanish while bands filled the air with music.

Oh well.  The following week we made a point to stick close

together for the arrival of the Newport to Ensenada sailboat

race.  Once the largest international sailboat race in the world

with some 600+ boats, this year's roster was just over 200,

due to a disgruntled former racer sponsoring a rival race from

Newport to San Diego on the same weekend.  But the

festivities and energy made up for any shortfalls in enrollment.

Leaving Newport Beach, California at noon on Friday, the first boat

crossed the finish line outside our marina entrance at 2:00 a.m.

Saturday morning.  By the time we got out of bed a few hours later, two

boats were tied up at our docks, each a phenomenal racing machine.

(Other boats had turned around at the finish to start the long trip home.)

The crew on the custom 50' boat It's OK was still on board when we wandered

down.  They happily sipped their first orange juices of the morning, diluted with

something much stronger, in celebration.  They invited us aboard, and our eyes

popped at the sight of a carbon fiber ladder going into the cabin, a carbon fiber

toilet and a no-nonsense command center at the navigation station.  There was a

galley, but the interior of the boat was essentially a mixture of sailbags and sleeping

bags, with the sailbags filling the main cabin while the sleeping bags were stuffed

around the fringes.  No question what the priorities were on this boat.

At the next dock we got a look at Taxi Dancer, another marvel of

racing machinery.  This boat was built in the 1980's and is another

carbon fiber racing thoroughbred.  As we walked back, we could

hear and see the crew from It's OK in their corner suite on the top

balcony of the hotel.  Their sunrise festivities were much deserved,

after a full night of racing.

Although the winds had been light, they had hit speeds of 12.5

knots at times.  But their boat is capable of much more.  On an

earlier run near Cabo San Lucas they had seen speeds of 24

knots.  This is just a little shy of the folks on Taxi Dancer who

reported speeds of 26 knots on their run from Santa Cruz to

Newport Beach before the race began.

We went out on Elizabeth Too, our new friends' boat, and drifted in

circles at 1 to 2 knots while a morning calm prevailed.  Eventually

some boats appeared on the horizon and we wandered among

them, engaging in a slow motion dance as they raced past us at the

pace of a great-grandpa using a walker.

Finally the wind

rose a little and

the spinnakers

came out, and

we had the color

we had been

hoping for.

Back at the marina there was

pure mayhem as 50 boats

began a steady flow through the

skinny entrance into their

assigned slips.  Exhausted but exhilarated,

most boats and crew were highly

challenged by the narrow fairways and

strong crosswinds and current in the

marina.  Dockhands and resident marina

dwellers scampered up and down the docks

for hours, taking docklines and fending off.

And then the party started.

Blessed with a fantastic sunny

day, every cockpit was brimming

with people, drinks and snacks, and

everyone hopped freely from cockpit to

cockpit, meeting new folks, checking out

each other's boats and comparing notes

on the overnight race.  Because of the

oddities of sailboat racing and the

handicaps assigned to each boat

according to its make, model and

equipment, no one knew exactly how they had placed.  However, the crew on Elixir

could barely contain their excitement when a rival they have raced against many

times didn't appear until three hours later.  The disappointment in the rival captain's

voice was palpable when he finally showed up and found out from Elixir's crew that

he had arrived three hours after they did.

Most of the boats were in by late afternoon.  With flags flying in

the rigging and most slips full, the marina began to take on the

look of a boat show.  There was a feeling of satisfaction among

the sailors that the race was finished, even if all had not gone

according to plan, and congratulations were shared all around.

Below decks on the boats told the real story of the hard work

and fast action of engaging in a race for 24 hours.

Amazingly, the

Mexican SAR (search

and rescue) swimmers who train in the marina waters every weekend carried on

with their drills, even as the sailboats continued arriving.  Meanwhile, up at the

hotel, a beautiful outdoor wedding was underway.  The rich voice of the operatic

tenor who entertained the wedding guests by the pool added an air of elegance to

the wild, party atmosphere down on the the docks.

Even our neighbor's dogs Bandita

and Cha Cha got into the swing,

going from boat to boat in hopes of

scraps from the cockpit tables.

Next morning the fog rolled in and the

revelers slept in.  The mood was

subdued as the crews awoke to the task

of preparing their boats for the return

trip.  Crews carefully laid out their

space-age, hand-crafted sails, folded

them neatly and tweaked and tested the

various equipment that had acted up

during the race.  One by one the boats began to slip away.  Each faced an initial run to

San Diego to clear US Customs followed by another leg to their home port.  Upwind and

into the swells the whole way, most planned to motor home.

We tidied up Groovy too, having entertained more folks in our cockpit in two days than

we had entertained in any dwelling in years.  All the liveaboards were sad to see the

boats go, but there was a contentment, too, in returning to our regular routines in

Ensenada.

Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Huron MI – Hydroplane Races and the Joseph S. Fay Shipwreck

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan

Peace and calm reign on this shipwreck strewn shore

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan beach Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan freighter Calcite

Pilothouse from the freighter Calcite

Kitchen inside 40 Mile Point Lighthouse

Kitchen inside 40 Mile Point Lighthouse

Circular staircase up to the light

Shipwreck of the Joseph S Fay Joseph S Fay freighter Lake Huron

The Joseph S Fay in drydock before the

shipwreck.

Joseph S Fay freighter shipwreck Lake Huron

Remains of the wooden freighter

Joseph S. Fay.

Joseph S Fay freighter shipwreck Lake Huron Rogers City Michigan

Rogers City Michigan

East Tawas beach RV Park Michigan

An RV Park lines the East Tawas beach

East Tawas MI

Party Time!

East Tawas MI RV Park Bay City Michigan boat race

Hydroplane boat races in Bay City

Bay City Michigan boat race Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

Coming in for a pit stop

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

Trailers and support crews for the race boats

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

A raceboat is launched after some quick repairs

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

The race is started from the dock in waves.

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

Up close and personal

The German immigrant town of Frankenmuth Michigan

The German immigrant town of

Frankenmuth

The German immigrant town of Frankenmuth Michigan The Bavarian Inn Frankenmuth Michigan

The Bavarian Inn served 20 million dinners in 100

years

The Bavarian Inn Frankenmuth Michigan

Lake Huron, Michigan

Late June, 2009 - We left the chilly northern reaches of Michigan's

Upper Peninsula and the Soo Locks to travel down the Lake Huron

coast on the eastern shores of Michigan.  Lake Huron is the second

largest of the great lakes, and it didn't take us long to find a beautiful

spot:  Forty Mile Point Lighthouse.  Built in 1896, it was one of a chain

of lighthouses that guided the many merchant ships through these

difficult waters.

Originally named La Mer Douce (the sweet, or freshwater, sea) by

French explorers, the sweet sea of Lake Huron has displayed a mean

streak when it comes to deadly storms.  As of 2006, 1,200 shipwrecks

had been recorded in these waters.

Looking out on the placid turquoise waters, fringed with tall,

swaying grasses, it was hard to imagine such violent storms and

frightening wrecks.  The water was very shallow in front of the

lighthouse.  Looking closely, we could see fish jumping in the

shallows between the rocks.

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse park features the pilothouse from the

freighter Calcite.  You can climb around it and peek in the windows

at the huge ship's wheel.

There is also a flat

bottomed skiff similar to

the ones that are built by

students at the Great

Lakes Boat Building

School.

We wandered up to the

lighthouse and admired

another bunch of lilacs

yet again.  Just can't get

enough of these flowers!

Inside we found the kitchen was set up as it would have been when the lighthouse

keepers lived here and tended the light: simple, rustic living.  Down in the basement

was a fun display of old washing machines.

We climbed up the circular steel

staircase to the cramped space

that houses the French-built

Fresnel lens, and looked out at

the peaceful view.  A guide

came up after us and told us

the most amazing story of the

wreck of the freighter Fay in

October, 1905.

At the time, the Fay was a 34-

year-old and rather battered

wooden ship.  She was towing a

wooden barge, the Rhodes, that night,

southbound along the coast.  The

winds unexpectedly built to hurricane force and shifted

onshore, pushing the Fay towards land.  As the

captain turned the ship towards safer, deeper water,

the tow line snapped taut, and the barge suddenly

ripped the back end off the ship and floated free.  The

ship's captain desperately turned the remains of the

sinking ship back towards shore, and miraculously the

pilot house was swept up onto the

beach intact with all but two

officers safe inside (one man even

slept through the whole ordeal).

Despite all the drama that night,

including the drowning of the first

mate who was on deck when the

back end of the Fay was torn off,

the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse

keeper noted the shipwreck with

just a brief one-line entry in his

logbook.

The rest of the Fay landed on the beach a short distance from the lighthouse.  130 feet of its starboard side is still embedded in the

sand, the heavy wooden planks and steel spikes that held it together still plainly visible.  We walked around it in wonder.  27

wooden ships and 50 lives were lost in that one storm.  104 years and many other vicious storms have passed since then.

The lake is lower now than in past years.  Old photos show waves lapping over the hull as it sat

in shallow water.  I don't know whether lapping waves or hot sun, wind and snow erode wooden

shipwreck remains faster, but I'm sure in another 100 years very little will be left of this hull on

the beach.

Continuing down the coast, we

stopped at Rogers City where we

found yet another lovely waterfront

city park.  There are so many

wonderful public parks in Michigan

where you can enjoy the lakes.

Many miles further south we discovered East Tawas

where there was a fantastic RV park that hugged the

shoreline.

A string of RVs was backed up to the beach, and

there was a party atmosphere in the air.

The folks who got the prime spots along the beach

had set themselves up for a season's stay, building

elaborate stairways and decks off their RVs.  Beach

umbrellas, bikes and happy visiting grandkids were

the theme of this RV park.

We continued south to Bay City, situated on Saginaw

Bay in the nook of Lake Huron that forms the base of

Michigan's thumb.  During my stay in this state I

learned that when talking about Michigan geography

everyone whips out their left hand and points to the

spot they are referring to.

We arrived in Bay City on the day of

the hydroplane boat races.  You could

hear the buzz of their engines long

before spotting them on the river.

The racecourse was a simple oval,

and the whole town turned out for the

event.

We got a great view from the bridge

overlooking the river at one end, and

got a good look at these crazy craft as they

periodically left the race to come into

the dock for a pit stop.

We walked among the trailers and pit

crews and watched one boat come get

launched back onto the racecourse

after some quickie repairs.

The boats were lined up along

the docks and sent off in

waves.

What fun to be right there on the dock

when this boat pulled over and the

driver crawled out of the cockpit.

Our last stop in Michigan was

Frankenmuth, a town settled by

German immigrants in 1845 and

redecorated to celebrate this German

heritage in the 1950's.

Touristy, but fun anyways, we got a kick out of walking

around.

A plaque informed us that the Bavarian Inn is one of

the ten largest restaurants in the US and served some 20 million

meals over the century from 1988 to 1998.

The huge restaurants on both sides of the street proudly

advertised their famous chicken dinners.

After some more family gatherings, we headed back to the airport

and jetted back to resume our normal lives in our trailer.  We

hopped back in the Luvnest in Valencia, California and made a

beeline for San Diego, arriving just in time for their huge Mission

Bay July 4th bash.  After a few days there we decided it was time

to start our summer travels for real.  We crossed the scorching

California and Nevada deserts and made it to the cool, green mountains and glittering streams outside Ketchum, Idaho.