Welch OK is A-Okay for a Fun Fall Fair in Oklahoma

October 2015 – After enjoying the wonderful Biblesta celebration in Humboldt, Kansas, we continued our RV travels south and west. We had been hoping to catch some fall colors in Oklahoma, and deliberately took some off-the-beaten-path scenic roads, but our timing was off and we were just a little bit early for the peak.

Oklahoma RV camping and travel

Oklahoma

However, we still saw a magical sunrise in Grove, Oklahoma!

Sunrise in Oklahoma

Oklahoma sunrise

Even though it was fall, and not spring, two northern flickers started doing a fabulous courtship type of dance in the grass right outside our trailer door. They jumped around with wonderfully bouyant movements, showing off their flashy yellow feathers under their wings and tails.

Northern Flickers courting in Oklahoma

A pair of flirting flickers!

Northern Flickers courting

Doing the Lindy Hop!

Sometimes people wonder how we go about choosing our travel destinations, and the truth is that we stumble into most of them. We don’t do a lot of planning. We prefer, instead, simply to be out there in the world and to see what kinds of adventures are waiting for us.

I had just answered such a query one morning when, a few hours later, as we were driving down the road with our rolling home trailing along behind us, we glanced down a street and saw a fall festival in full swing right in the middle of the road. What luck!

Pumpkins at Welch OK Fall Harvest Days_

Signs of fall in Welch, OK — pumpkins and hay bales.

We were in Welch, Oklahoma, and the town was in the middle of its Welch OK Harvest Days celebration. Mark quickly found a place to park the RV, and we walked back to see what was going on.

Welch OK Harvest Days Fall Festival pumpkins and hay bales

Happy Fall, Y’All!

It was a cold, gray day, but the spirit was warm and friendly as we walked around the various booths. There was a table of cozy looking knitted goodies, and there were pumpkins and hay bales stacked up for decoration.

Welch Oklahoma Fall Harvest Days Festival

Wonderful hand knitted and crocheted goodies at the Welch Harvest Days fair

In the middle of the street a bunch of guys were making hay bales the old fashioned way. The whole time we walked around the fair, these guys were stabbing a big pile of hay with pitchforks and loading it into the machine. One by one, the machine created rectangular hay bales. Nowadays, massive combines scour the farm fields, spitting round hay bales out the back as they drive down the rows.

I’m sure there was a time when this antique hay baler was a back saving godsend, but compared to modern farm equipment, this rickety old antique was downright quaint.

Haying with antique farm equipment Welch Fall Harvest Days Oklahoma

A group of guys show us how haying used to be done.

Nearby, there was a ring toss going on with a bunch of pop bottle as the target.

Ring toss Welch Oklahoma Fall Harvest Days

Nice throw!

In one booth, a local vintner was selling bottles of fine OK wine.

Welch OK Fall Harvest Days Wine Seller

OK wine is fine wine!

All the store fronts in town were dressed up for the festivities

Welch Oklahoma storefront for Fall Harvest Days

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When we peeked in one window, we saw a cat lounging on a workbench. Cute!

Cat inside a Welch OK storefront

Time for a snooze.

Right in the middle of it all there were pony rides. One little girl enjoyed her ride so much that after she got off the pony she walked with it around the ring a few times.

Pony ride Welch OK Fall Harvest Days

Riding the pony was fun, but walking alongside is even better.

While the litle girl walked her pony, a little boy was having a ball playing on an antique tractor. He climbed all over it and seemed ready to hit the farm fields — if only he could get it started.

Antique tractor Welch Fall Heritage Days Oklahoma

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As we walked around, all of a sudden we could hear the familiar and unintelligible patter of an auctioneer. Drawing closer, we saw that there was an auction going on. He was auctioning off cakes and pies, and the bids were coming in fast and furious.

Taking care not to make the wrong gesture, or inadvertently raise my hand the wrong way (or I’d end up with a fancy cake!), I got a brief video clip so you can hear what this sounds like:

This part of the world is tornado country, and one vendor had a neat selection of storm shelters for sale. These things were like rugged closets you install in the ground. They were fun for the kids to play in too!

Storm shelters for Oklahoma tornados

These sturdy storm shelters make fun play houses.

We were lured to one edge of the fair by the yummy smell of a barbecue, and it turned out that Smokin’ Brothers Barbecue was grilling up some delicious things on one of their cute little farmhouse style grills. These guys build their own grills, and as long-time Traeger Grill owners, they say they have bested the Traeger design at a fraction of the cost. I don’t know a lot about high end grills, but I sure loved the little red “barn-b-que”!

Welch OK Smokin Brothers BBQ Grills

A unique barbecue by Smokin’ Brothers!

After enjoying Welch Harvest Days for a few hours, we moseyed on down the road, traversing Oklahoma from north to south.

Ruby daisies Welch Fall Heritage Days Oklahoma

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Eventually we landed in Paris, Texas, where the Eiffel Tower stands proud, wearing a red Texas cowboy hat on top!

Eiffel Tower Paris Texas

A poignant image from Paris, Texas, in the wake of recent events in this town’s namesake city.

We had no idea at the time how much our thoughts would be turning towards Paris, France, as world events unfolded in the next few weeks…

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“America’s Heartland” – Is it in Kansas?

October 2015 – We left our dreams of a beautiful new custom made Spacecraft fifth wheel trailer behind in Missouri and made our way to Chanute, Kansas, where we got a slew of plumbing related RV repairs done at the NuWa Service Center.

Kansas RV Camping and travel

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Luckily, life wasn’t all work and no play. We visited beautiful Tuttle Creek State Park in Kansas which is built around a small lake.

Camping sunrise Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

Campsite at sunrise in Tuttle Creek State Park, Kansas

Mark snuck out early one morning and got some wonderful sunrise photos.

Sunrise at Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

A magnificent sunrise at Tuttle Creek State Park near Manhattan, Kansas

Sunrise Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

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Boat dock Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

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He even caught a turkey vulture staring back at him from a tree. These guys sure aren’t very good looking, but they’re still cool to photograph.

Turkey vulture in a tree

A face only a turkey vulture mother could love!

170 miles southeast of Tuttle Creek State Park, the town of Humboldt, Kansas, hosts a very special and unusual celebration every fall, called Biblesta, and we were in town on the big day.

Kiddie train Biblesta Humboldt Kansas

The kiddie train at the Biblesta celebration in Humboldt, Kansas

The main event is a big parade, and folks come from all over to watch this unique procession.

Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

The Biblesta Parade in Humboldt, Kansas, draws crowds from far and wide.

When the parade started, a cute little girl in front of us spontaneously saluted the veterans.

Girls at Humbolt Kansas Biblesta Parade

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What makes Biblesta unique is that it is a celebration of Christianity sponsored by both businesses and churches from all over the area around Humboldt, Kansas. Each organization puts together a parade float that depicts a different story from the Bible or a special Bible verse.

B&W Trailer Hitches Moses Float Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

The birth of Moses

One of the first floats to go by was the Birth of Moses sponsored by B&W Trailer Hitches whose manufacturing plant is in Humboldt. These are the folks who make the top rated B&W fifth wheel trailer hitches!

B&W Trailer Hitches Float Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

B&W Trailer Hitches sponsored the Birth of Moses float. Every church in the region had a float too.

Another float was the Revenge of Sampson. I was floored when a cluster of little kids sitting near me started telling each other the various Bible stories. They knew the tales well, and they each had their favorite characters and stories.

Biblesta Revenge of Sampson Humboldt Kansas

The Revenge of Sampson

Jonah and the Whale came by, and Jonah’s legs were kicking madly from deep inside the whale. The kids around me giggled and pointed.

Jonah and the whale Biblesta Humboldt Kansas

Jonah and the Whale

Biblesta began in Humboldt, Kansas, in 1957 as a Bible Story Parade to share and teach the Bible’s great stories. In 1959 the town held a contest to name their special event, and the winning entrant suggested combining the words “Bible” and “Fiesta” into the word “Biblesta.” It has been celebrated every year since.

Little kids enjoying the parade at Biblesta in Humboldt Kansas

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What struck me more than the floats themselves was that this celebration even exists today. Living in a time in history when America often seems apologetic for its religious and historical roots, it was refreshing to find a town that openly and unabashedly celebrates its beliefs.

God's Word at Biblesta in Humboldt Kansas

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The crowds lining the parade streets were thick. This celebration is a very big deal here. A group of judges sat at a street corner judging each float, and an announcer told each Bible story as the floats went by.

When Christ appeared on foot carrying the cross, there was a somber note of reverence in the air.

Christ carrying cross Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

Christ carries the cross

This wasn’t a Bible thumping or evangelical gathering. It was simply a sharing and retelling of age old stories that are imbued with valuable life lessons, and have been passed down from generation to generation for eons.

As I glanced around, I thought about the term, “America’s heartland,” a term that vaguely refers to some place in the Great Plains states that is tucked away on small town streets between quaint red farm houses and endless waving rows of corn. A place that values tradition and is impervious, or even oblivious, to external pressures to change.

It would be easy to say that American’s Heartland was here, at Biblesta, in Humboldt, Kansas, and perhaps it is. But as I watched this very unique celebration — one that seemed to include absolutely everyone in town — it seemed to me that such a simplistic label would be missing the more precious and intimate story of cooperation and respect that was happening here.

Blood moon lunar eclipse Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

A lunar eclipse and Blood Moon in America’s Heartland

Without worrying about whether it was politically correct to say “In God We Trust,” or if it would be okay to allow prayers at school, or whether it might offend someone to express a belief in a supreme being or in Christ, this town simply made it a point to get together every year and share the great stories of the Bible right out in the open on the town streets, with every church from every denomination in the region participating.

How cool is that?! And in its own dignified way, how very American too!

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An Amish Farmer’s Auction in the NY Finger Lakes

August 2015 – During our stay in the Finger Lakes of New York we were fascinated by the comings and goings of the Amish. We saw them all over the place and were fortunate enough to meet a few Amish people and even see some Amish farms at work.

Amish open horse and carriage Ovid New York

A stylish Amish buggy rolls by in the FInger Lakes of NY

Their horse buggies are intriguing. They have enclosed family-style buggies and open air two-seaters that look like a lot of fun.

Horse and buggy Amish New York

These fun buggies were everpresent.

One young man showed us his two-seater open-air buggy up close. Rubber does not meet the road on these vehicles. They have steel tires! They also have well crafted drum brakes. Mark joked that soon he’d be upgrading to disc brakes like we did on our trailer!!

I asked him what a buggy like his cost, and he said around $3,000. As for a horse, he said it depends on whether you want a fast one or a slow one. Sound familiar?! The fast ones are more expensive, on the order ot $3,000 or more. A slow one can be found for around $2,000 or maybe less.

As he described what it takes for a young adult to buy a horse and buggy, his sparkling eyes and fresh faced good looks were no different than those of any other kid dreaming of a set of wheels. That youthful longing for the freedom that comes with keys (or reins) to your own personal ride is a truly universal teenage quest!

Amish open buggy and closed carriage

An open air two-seater and an enclosed family buggy side by side
The two seater, favored by young men for courting, costs around $3,000.

The Amish are hard workers, and we caught glimpses of them working in their yards and fields. Everything is done without the aid of gasoline powered engines and electricity, but their houses were big and tidy, and their lawns were neatly mowed.

Mowing the lawn in Amish country

A young Amish woman mows the grass with little kids in tow

Out in the farm fields they use teams of horses for plowing. Our friend Ralph, who is neighbors and friends with several Amish families that live nearby, and who grew up on a farm himself, commented that the Amish are always careful not to overwork their horses. “They use twice as many horses as we would have for the same job!” he said at one point.

Amish Farming Lodi New York

The land is tilled by a team of horses

What a contrast it was to attend the Empire Farm Days trade show and festival in Seneca Falls. Human sized farm equipment went out in the 1950’s, and the machinery that is used today is truly gargantuan.

Massive Farm Equipment at Empire Farm Days Seneca Falls New York

Modern farm equipment dwarfs the driver inside

Empire Farm Days Seneca Falls New York

Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls. This machinery cultivates plants!

Empire Farm Days tractors Seneca Falls New York

A little different than the small Amish family farms scattered around the trade show.

We walked around the fair grounds wide eyed with wonder at the size and scale of the machinery. We noticed a few future farmers playing with some tractors in a sandbox. Those little kids probably can’t wait to drive a combine for real.

Future farmers Finger Lakes New York

Future farmers dream of driving big tractors

Meanwhile, back in the world of the Amish, a different kind of farm gathering was taking place. We attended the Seneca Produce Auction in Romulus and were blown away by this event that is at the heart of Amish farming culture in the area.

Outside, the horses and buggies were all lined up while the farmers took their wares inside to auction them off.

Amish horses and buggies tied up_

Amish horses and buggies line up at the Seneca Produce Auction.

Amish horses and carriages lined up

A one horse power engine — parked and resting.

Inside, huge boxes of beautiful, ripe melons and corn and cucumbers and peaches and tomatoes were all lined up.

Produce at Seneca Produce Auction Finger Lakes New York

Huge cardboard boxes of produce filled the auction hall.

Amish men and women were dressed in black and royal blue. The men wore straw hats with a ribbon and the women wore white bonnets. It was summer, and the kids were barefoot. They all milled around, watching the proceedings.

Amish man at farm auction Finger Lakes New York

Bearded Amish men and women in white bonnets, all wearing black and royal blue, went about their tasks at the auction.

An auctioneer moved from one box of produce to the next, singing in a totally unintelligible patter, selling off this wonderful produce to buyers from the nearby markets. Next to him, an assistant scribbled furiously on a clipboard.

The auctioneer’s fabulous song rang out off the walls of this building, but we could not make heads or tails of his words. Try as we might, it was impossible to know what he was selling or to whom or for how much!

Amish at the Seneca Produce Auction

Surrounded by a crowd, the auctioneer sang out the ads and closed the sales in a lightning speed patter
that we couldn’t understand at all!

He moved quickly, and the crowd shuffled along with him, inching from one box to the next. Obviously the folks right around him knew exactly what was going on, and a raised eyebrow or wave of a finger probably bought them a crate of cantaloupes. So there wasn’t a lot of random arm waving going on!

Both Amish and non-Amish men moved the boxes from the auction hall out onto waiting horse drawn carts with forklifts. It wasn’t clear to me how the forklifts were propelled, but the Amish were careful not to drive or operate any machinery that wasn’t within their code. Non-Amish mingled with the Amish freely throughout the auction hall, some buying produce that got loaded into their trucks and some just watching the fantastic goings-on.

Tomatoes at Seneca Farm Auction Finger Lakes New York

The produce was beautifully ripe and ready.

It was a wonderful scene, and probably not too far different than one that would have been typical at the turn of the last century in farm towns across the country.

Amish at the Seneca Produce Auction

Simple white caps and black aprons over long dresses.

I had been amazed to discover earlier on that the Amish speak German at home first and then learn English in school (which they attend through the eighth grade). They call their everyday German dialect “Pennsylvania Dutch,” but they conduct their church services in High German. I asked one woman if she could converse easily with Germans travelers who visited the area, and she said they could, even though many words are different.

How intriguing it is that they are all essentially bilingual. Besides first generation immigrants, there aren’t too many communities in America that deliberately raise their children to speak two languages fluently, especially that choose to teach English as a second language.

I was charmed by their accent when they speak English. It is essentially a standard American accent, but a few words here and there caught my ear as sounding a little different.

Amish farmers Finger Lakes produce auction

Working on the crates of melons up front, the row of peaches will be next.

As the produce auction progressed, the row of horses and buggies outside the auction hall grew smaller as people left with their boxes of watermelons and tomatoes in tow.

Amish horse and wagon with plastic chairs

Hauling produce away in an Amish flatbed trailer, complete with plastic chairs for driving.

The horses pulled flatbed wagons, quite different than the buggies we had been seeing around town until now. A few horses were even set up for a triple tow, pulling the family buggy with a flatbed trailer hitched up behind.

Triple tow Amish horse and buggy and wagon

Some Amish even triple tow with a horse, family buggy, and flatbed full of fruits and veggies hitched behind!

What a heartwarming delight it was to be able to brush shoulders with the Amish a little bit during our travels and to learn about their way of life and see them in their daily tasks. We really cherished our time spent in their company and left wanting more. The Amish community is growing rapidly, benefiting hugely from the decrease in infant and childhood mortality nowadays, and their numbers are increasing at around 5% a year. Much to our surprise, we learned that their population doubled between 1991 and 2010.

The New York Finger Lakes are a wonderful area for an RV road trip. From quiet country roads, to encounters with the Amish, to the absolutely breathtaking beauty of Watkins Glen, is it a place well worth making a detour to go see!

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Balloons and VW Buses in Lake Havasu AZ

January, 2015 – We started this year’s travels by heading to Quartzsite, Arizona, where the campfires are hot and the beer is cold and the RV madness is in full swing. The RV show doesn’t start until today, so yesterday we took a day trip to Lake Havasu to see the unusual RV rally of VW microbuses Buses by the Bridge. VW buses are gathering from far and wide this weekend in Lake Havasu State Park, and we just had to see the show!

Balloons at Arizona's Havasu Balloon Fest

What a surprise to see balloons flying overhead as we arrive in Lake Havasu!

We left for town early in the morning and were somewhat bleary eyed as we crested the hill just south of the city. What a shock it was to look up and see dozens of hot air balloons in front of us, drifting across the sky over the lake!

Balloons over Lake Havasu Arizona

A few balloons almost skimmed the water.

We quickly pulled over to take pics. Balloons were everywhere. They were flying high overhead and dipping their baskets down towards the water between the boats too. We watched them with delight and were soon joined by lots of other folks holding their cameras and phones up to get a shot.

Earth balloon at Lake Havasu Arizona

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s Planet Earth!

“What the heck is this?” I asked the guy next to me. He said it was the opening day of the Lake Havasu Balloon Festival. What total luck!  We came looking for hippie vans and ran into a balloon festival by accident!

They began to land after a while, so we continued on to the VW bus festival at Lake Havasu State Park.

VW Microbus at Buses at the Bridge in Lake Havasu Arizona

Buses by the Beach in Lake Havasu

Microbuses of every year and in and every state of reconditioning (or disrepair) and in every imaginable style were lined up all around a field and along the beach. Everyone was camping out for the weekend, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

VW microbus on the beach in Lake Havasu Arizona

Awning out and doors thrown wide, this VW is ready for some beach camping!

VW microbus Make Love Not War

Some buses have been perfectly restored and others have aged gracefully.

Vintage coolers and picnic baskets and antique popup tent campers and camp chairs filled all the spaces between the mini rigs. Volkswagon van lovers were hanging out everywhere comparing notes on their buses and showing off their very cool mods and restorations.

Volkswagon Westfalia buses at Buses by the Beach each in Lake Havasu Arizona

Lots of folks were camping in Westfalia vans

Everyone was reveling in a bit of nostalgia for years gone by, whether they had lived through those years themselves decades ago or had just heard about them from parents and grandparents.

Inside a 1960's hippie Volkswagon microbus

The Genie Bottle – a true Shaggin’ Wagon from the 60’s

I was enchanted by the Genie Bottle, a microbus with a submarine hatch that was the predecessor to the Westfalia style pop top vans. This was a true “Shaggin’ Wagon.” The owner, Nancy, had decorated it entirely in soft vintage materials from the 1950’s, using rich red and purple hues, and her husband, Mark, had lowered the floor so he could install a waterbed!

A waterbed in a VW microbus. What next?!

Hippie girl by her VW microbus at the beach

A young girl gets totally into the hippie spirit.

Lots of grizzled, grey bearded VW bus experts were selling spare parts of all shapes and sizes. More surprising was seeing a beautiful 14 year old modern day hippie girl with a long tie-dyed skirt, long blonde hair and bare feet selling paintings she’d made in front of her family’s VW bus.

Jerry Garcia in tie dye

Grateful Alive!

Mark was startled to turn around and find himself face to face with Jerry Garcia. He is alive and well and living in Lake Havasu.

Shasta Root Beer Volswagon van

Remember Shasta root beer?

21 window VW microbus in Lake Havasu Arizona

These folks are totally into their little buses, and one fellow even had a very cool six pack of beer called “Big Blue Van” which is brewed in Lake Havasu!! How fun! We looked for it in the stores later but didn’t find any.

Big Blue Van beer from Lake Havasu Arizona

Now we’re talkin’ — local Big Blue Van beer!

We’ve been to Lake Havasu before but have never gotten down to the beach. White sand had just been brought in recently, and the beach was so inviting. What a spot for a picnic!

White sand beach at Lake Havasu State Park

Life’s a beach in Lake Havasu Arizona!

Little party boats were taking people out onto the lake, and I wondered for a moment, “Is this Arizona or is it Florida?!”

An ultralight takes flight at Lake Havasu State Park Arizona

Here’s a great way to take in both the balloons and the buses!

An ultralight buzzed the crowd and then flew off over the lake. What a perfect day this was — our favorite kind of day: carefree and full of unexpected encounters!

If you are in the Lake Havasu area in Arizona, both the Havasu Balloon Fest and Buses by the Bridge are going on all weekend January 17-18, 2015, and the weather is going to be ideal — sunny and warm!!

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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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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

Quinceañera – Sailboat “Groovy” Helps Celebrate a Mexican 15th Birthday

13-07-13 Quinceanero-4407

July 13, 2013 – This afternoon, Mark was busy in our sailboat Groovy‘s cockpit here at the marina in Ensenada, Mexico, when he noticed a well dressed man in an elegant suit walking on the docks.

The man seemed to be eyeing up our boat Groovy, and he walked back and forth in front of it a few times.  Mark called out a greeting, and suddenly the man stopped and said in English, “My daughter is celebrating her 15th birthday today.  Do you think we could take some photos of her on your boat?”

Mark looked around and thought for a moment.  But of course!

13-07-13 Quinceanero-4370

Within a few minutes a crowd of young teenagers showed up, all dressed to the nines in suits and fancy dresses and stiletto heels.  They were giggling and chatting among themselves as they shuffled down the dock.  Mark flew into the cabin and told me to grab my camera, quick!

friends

 

Quincenaera aboard Groovy

The birthday girl poses on Groovy’s bow.

As I came into the cockpit, the birthday girl appeared at the top of the dock ramp.  She was wearing a beautiful fluffy white dress and had pearls around her neck.

For girls in Mexico, the quniceañera — 15th birthday — is a very special day.  The celebration is something like a coming out party, and it is an occasion for donning a prom dress, wearing makeup, posing for lots of photos, and having a big party with a live band that lasts long into the night.

This birthday girl was obviously relishing every second of her moment in the spotlight.

 

Paparazzi crowd around the birthday girl!

Paparazzi crowd around the birthday girl!

Her proud dad, Carlos, hung back while a professional photographer and videographer posed her all around the boat.  What total fun!

Mark and I ran around behind the scenes, trying to catch her poses as best we could.

Meanwhile her friends all giggled and fidgeted as they stood on the finger pier next to us, jumping up and down, and looking very cute in their dressy clothes.

Suddenly a few boxes of pizza appeared out of nowhere, and the teenagers got busy scarfing the slices down in an instant.

friends

After a little pizza, her friends are ready to party!

A very special day to remember!!

A very special day to remember!!

Once the photo shoot was finished and the sun had set, Carlos invited us to come up and join the party that was in full swing under the tents next to the office.  What an invitation!!

When we got up there, we walked through a few lighted arches onto a dance floor that was surrounded by tables and chars.  Everything was decorated in pink.

Carlos showed us to the family’s head table and introduced us to everyone sitting there — grandma, aunts, godparents and little brothers and sisters.

 

13-07-13 Quinceanera Helm

Several family members had flown in from far-flung parts of Mexico to take part in the celebration.

We’ve been lucky enough to see several quinceañera photo shoots from a distance — the girls are always so lovely in their big bouffant dresses — but this was the first time we had been invited to be a part of the action at the party itself. We were loving it!

As we sat chatting with the family at the head table, explaining to everyone who we were, where we had sailed from, and how we had unintentionally crashed their party after the impromptu photo shoot aboard Groovy, they happily swept us up in the festivities.

Everything around the dance floor was decorated in pink.

Everything around the dance floor was decorated in pink.

 

The man on my left, Alfredo, fondly told us how he had held the birthday girl at her baptism fourteen years earlier when she was just a baby, and we could feel his pride at being her godfather.

Everyone whipped out pocket cameras, cell phone cameras and iPads to get pics of the party, and suddenly we found ourselves being posed into the group shots too.  We were just the boat people from down on the docks, but that didn’t seem to matter — we were welcomed right into the heart of the family!

 

birthday cake

A birthday cake fit for a princess and
decorated with icing starfish!

When we finally stood up to go — wanting to let this jovial group enjoy their special moment together — the grandma didn’t want to let us go.  “Sit down, sit down!” she insisted, patting the chair next to her where Mark had been sitting.  “No, no… thank you, thank you!”  Mark said as we tip-toed out backward and bid them all goodbye.  This was their party, but they had been so kind to invite us to join them so we could get a glimpse of a true quinceañera celebration.

Back on the boat, we crawled into bed and listened for a long time as the band got rowdier and rowdier and the heavy bass thumped a steady beat through the hull of the boat.  What a fantastic tradition this 15th birthday party is, and what a great way to bring together the whole family to celebrate the arrival of a young girl on the threshold of adulthood.  Most of all, what a lucky day it had been for us!

 

Monarch Butterfly Migration at El Rosario – A Fabulous Daytrip!!

Contepec street sign Morelia Mexico sail blog

Not so easy to say these names!

Mid-February, 2013 – After our whirlwind tour of beautiful Morelia, we piled into the car with our friends Joe and Nancy and headed even further into the mountains to see the phenomenal throngs of butterflies that migrate there each winter. We were getting off into the hinterlands now, and the road narrowed dramatically and began to climb even more steeply, easily reaching 15% to 20% grades at times, while the town names quickly became very hard to pronounce.

Topes speedbump sign Morelia Mexico sailing blog

“Topes”

The thing that sets Mexican roads apart from roads elsewhere is the plethora of speed bumps, or “topes” (pronounced “toe-pays”). This is a very effective way to slow drivers down without having to post patrol cars and radar everywhere, but it sure makes for some hair-raising driving. The speed bumps are very steep, usually they are unpainted, and they are only occasionally marked with a sign. So you don’t know if a speed bump is there until you hit it and go flying.

Tlalpujahua church Mexico sailing blog

We spot a centuries old church in the distance.

A two hour drive in the Mexican countryside can quickly become a torturous “all eyes on deck” pavement scan while you wait for the inevitable jolt accompanied by the sound of scraping metal as the underbody of the car loses yet another layer of skin to the road.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte statue Mexico cruising blog

Tlalpujahua was having a special festival.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico sailing blog

There was lots of music…

However, the little towns we passed through were intriguing. One boasted a beautiful church we saw from the distance, and when we got there we discovered a huge festival was in full swing.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico sail blog

Dancing…

A fellow told me the town was called “Tlalpujahua,” which is pronounced (“Tlal-poo-hah-wah”) and it was once a gold mining town and has churches dating to the 1500’s. Along with a huge outdoor market that lined the main street, they were celebrating the Day of Señor Jesús del Monte.

What luck!! Kids were dressed up in fantastic costumes, and they paraded in the streets and climbed the steep path to the church where they danced and sang and made music.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico cruising blog

All the kids in town helped celebrate.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta  Mexico sailing blog

Great costumes.

It was a colorful celebration, and every kid in town seemed to be a part of it.

Tlalpujahua Sr Monte fiesta Mexico living aboard blog

These machetes were real!

My favorite was the line-up of youngsters that were reenacting a sword fight, clashing their (real and sharp) machetes together while doing some dance steps and singing.

We wandered around town, fascinated by what was going on but not understanding what it was really all about. There was so much music and noise and hand clapping going on that we couldn’t have heard an explanation even if someone had been willing to try and give us one.

Kansas City Southern Train Mexico sailing blog

Kansas City Southern.

We jumped back in the car and continued our journey higher into the mountains. A very long freight train labeled “Kansas City Southern” went past pulling an endless stream of cattle cars that bore the same name on the side. We couldn’t tell if the cars were empty or full, but if they held cattle coming from or going to Kansas, those animals had a lot of miles under their hooves.

 

Haystack Michoacan Mexico sail blog

This is farm country.

 

We passed old style haystacks and horses in pastures, and eventually we made it to El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary.

Horse grazing Michoacan Mexico living aboard blog

Horses were grazing in the fields.

We hadn’t had any idea what to expect, and we were surprised to be greeted with several stages of fees: parking fee first, entrance fee second, and then the mandatory hiring of a guide to take us into the woods.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Michoacan Mexico sailing blog

Joe opted to catch a ride.

We are experienced hikers, and we couldn’t imagine it would be all that hard to find the butterflies. But when we protested against taking a guide, we learned that viewing the butterflies is an eco-tourism tour that helps sustain the people in this area.

The sanctuary provides a job base for the locals and, on that note, a guide — who was paid only tips — seemed like a fine idea.

The hike is an uphill, hour-long jaunt through the forest, and the locals provide rides on “caballitos” (little horses) for those who don’t want to walk. These cute little horses are just about my height, and I thought it was neat to be able to look a horse right in the eye.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Michoacan Mexico sail blog

The guides hoped we’d catch a ride too.

Joe opted to go on horseback, and he and his guide set off into the woods. Mark ran behind them, getting quite a vigorous (and dusty) workout in the process.

Nancy and I were directed to the walking trail, which is a different trail than the horses follow. The horse guides are shrewd businessmen, and they know that lots of people will change their minds about the $150 peso ($12 USD) fee for a round trip horseback ride once they’ve hiked a little ways up on the steep trail.

an Mexico cruising blog

Wonderful woodsy trail into the forest.

So a collection of horses and guides accompanied us for quite a while, patiently waiting for us to ask for a ride. Eventually Nancy saw the wisdom of arriving at the butterfly site rested, so she selected a horse and vanished into the woods after Joe and Mark, and that left me and my guide alone on foot on the walking trail.

My guide, Berenice, was 14 years old and a sophomore in high school. She lived in a town nearby and she said she guided two tours a day when she wasn’t in school. Today was a weekday but it was a school holiday, so she was out on the trail. She didn’t speak any English and she was very shy.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Michoacan Mexico sailing blog 260

Butterflies filled the air like leaves.

The path wound higher and higher. We were now at 10,000′ elevation (3,000 meters), and although I didn’t need my jacket, I knew if I stopped hiking I’d get chilled. We had heard reports of people getting snowed on during these wintertime butterfly excursions.

The woods were very similar to the woods in northern Arizona: full of evergreens and with a fine, grey dust underfoot. We stopped to take in a few views of the valley below, and as I scanned the horizon I saw brief flash of orange go by. Then I saw another and another. They were here… the monarchs!

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

The pine trees seemed to have orange blossoms.

“There’s more up ahead,” Berenice told me. And sure enough, more and more of them floated by us until we turned a corner and saw literally thousands filling the air.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico sail blog

They loved these flowers…!

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

The monarchs let us in close.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico sailing blog

Joe holds one up.

 

 

 

 

 

They clung to the pine branches so thickly that the pine trees seemed to be in bloom. The air was so full of orange butterflies it was as though there were an autumn breeze blowing tiny leaves around.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico cruising blog

These hardy souls are incredibly frail.

Mark and Joe and Nancy had already arrived at the spot when we got there, and they were playing with some of the butterflies.

Joe held out a flower and coaxed a butterfly onto it, and then held it up so we all could see. What a miraculous little animal.

 

El Rasario Monarch butterfliies Morelia Mexico sailing blog

So delicate…

Looking at them closely, although many were in fine shape, we noticed that many of them had faded and tattered wings, and they looked tired. There’s little wonder, as their north-south migration route is 3,000 miles between southern Mexico and the US and Canada.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

All that orange mossy stuf is butterflies.

The butterflies have three different routes into the northern US states after they cross the border a little west of Brownsville, Texas.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico living aboard blog

Usually we feel lucky to see one butterfly, but here they numbered in the millions…

Some head northwest, some due north, and some northeast. Unlike birds that migrate long distances, though, individual monarchs don’t live long enough to travel the full migration path.

Wildflowers Morelia Mexico cruising blog

A little different than the tropics!!

Busily courting and mating here in the mountains of Michoacán, these monarchs will fly north in the spring to produce the next generation in the southern parts of the US.

Lupine flower Morelia Mexico cruising blog

Familiar mountain flowers.

The butterfly lifecycle of pupa to caterpillar to butterfly will take place, and then somehow the young butterflies will all know to continue the flight north that their parents had started.

Then the cycle begins again in one of the most complex animal migrations on the planet.

How do these delicate little guys do it? Tiny butterfly corpses were scattered all over the ground, with pieces of wings and bodies strewn among the leaves and flower petals, ready to decompose at the blink of an eye. These creatures are frail! Yet they doggedly get their species across 3,000 miles of treacherous ground twice a year.

El Rasario Monarch butterflies Morelia Mexico cruising blog

Commuting on horseback is common here.

We wandered among the butterfly laden trees for quite a while, enjoying this miracle that science can’t yet fully explain.

As we hiked back down the mountain path, we passed familiar wildflowers we see in the summers up north: lupine, penstemon and others. This had been a beautiful day in the woods, and Mark, a man who comes alive among the mountain pines, was completely in his element.

We made our way back to Morelia through small mountain towns where riders commuting on horseback are a common sight. After collapsing into bed, the next day we topped off our excursion into Mexico’s interior with a brief stop at the colorful town of Pátzcuaro.

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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.