Sunday, April 15, 2012

Prairie City 1st Doubleheader

We survived our first season racing with the Desert Dingo class 11 team, and we had so much fun that we're back for more crazy races! This weekend's double header at Prairie City SVRA started off the 2012 VORRA racing season. VORRA stands for Valley Off Road Racing Association, and they run off road races near the Sacramento and Western Nevada areas.

Prairie City April 2012
Romy talking to Melissa, a news reporter from Good Day Sacramento.

The race weekend started off really wet and muddy. It just kept raining and raining and raining, since earlier in the week! The rain didn't stop until Saturday morning. Many days of rain left the track so muddy that VORRA decided to cancel the first day of racing (Saturday), which defeated the whole thing about the race being a "double header." But instead, they decided to pack in a whole bunch of races the next day. The course at Prairie City is very short (about one or two miles), so that meant a lot of motos could be scheduled in one day. Unfortunately, the more races you pack in, the less time we have for fixing the car between races!

Prairie City April 2012
Making hula hoops!

So with Saturday a bust for racing (the VORRA volunteers spent the whole day pushing mud around the track in hopes it would dry out faster), we spent it getting some last minute work done on the car, and of course, some relaxing! Lynda showed me how to make hula hoops, and we got to meet some of the new people on the team this year. Debbie and Dennis from baja Mexico came out (who are building their own class 11 car in Mexico and will host us if/when we go down there for the Baja 1000 race in November), and so did Danielle, who will do logistics (I think, but I'm not exactly sure). That morning, the news reporters from Good Morning Sacramento came out to interview some racers, and do a race car engine symphony. Romy and I got to rev the engine and sound the horn for Saturday morning's live show! It was fun!

Prairie City April 2012
Romy's new (old) racing helmet!

Towards the afternoon on Saturday, the sun started shining and everybody's hopes went up for the next day of racing. We got together with some other class 11 teams and did a huge potluck for dinner. A French team from San Francisco cooked up some crazy good beef stew and passed around a huge carrot cake. Mmmmmm. And Crusty gave Romy his old racing helmet, so now Romy has his own helmet! Yay! The racing helmet is not like a motorcycle hemlet, although it kind of looks like one. It has an electrical connection to plug into the car's radio so you can hear inside of the helmet. It also has a microphone so you can talk through the radio too. And the helmet also has an air hose connection for fresh air can be pumped inside. Its really nice to have fresh air, especially when it's hot, because the helmet is all sealed up otherwise when the visor is down.

Prairie City April 2012
Crusty and Romy getting ready for a practice lap.

Last season (2011) the team got 1st place in class 11. We were really hopeful to start out the new season on top to defend our title. Last year, we were the only bug racing at the first short course. This time there were a bunch of class 11's racing, so we didn't have it so easy. In fact, there were 5 (including us)! As soon as we got out on the track, it wasn't looking good. We kept having engine troubles. The engine didn't sound very good and we didn't have very much power. :-(

Prairie City April 2012
Romy getting ready to race!

We did most of the 5 motos that day (or 6? I don't remember), however, I don't think we finished a single one. Each moto had 12 laps, but I think the longest we made it was about 5 or 6 laps. The belt kept popping off because the pulley was a little crooked. We couldn't fix it at the race because we didn't have another one. When Romy and I drove one of the motos, we had to stop because the belt just ripped up on us! We couldn't keep driving without the belt because the belt is what spins the fan, and it's an aircooled engine. The radio wasn't working, so nobody even knew our problem, so nobody from the team replaced it at the pits so that we could go back out again before the moto was over. Needless to say, we had a bunch of glitches that day.

Prairie City April 2012
It was muddy out there!

At some point between motos, we realized that the exhaust wasn't properly tightened to the heads, which was one of the reasons we were having a loss in power and the engine didn't sound right. After we fixed that, we were ready to get back into the race. However, halfway through another moto, the spindle broke and we lost the rear driver's side wheel! The tow vehicle took the car off to the side of the course, but by the time we could survey the damage, the moto was over. We used the break between motos to get another spindle on there and drive the bug out of the mud (hey at least we fixed it!). It required a lot of hammering, and me running back and forth through the mud to get the right tools from the pits. I almost lost a shoe! If only the radio was working. . . .

Prairie City April 2012
We got stuck on the track after our wheel fell off!

Anyway, even though we had a whole lot of mishaps, we did finish a few laps, which was important. Every lap you finish gets you points for the season. Sometimes winning overall is just about who manages to show up and finish as many laps as you can (for class 11 anyway). We don't necessarily go for speed! It is a VW, after all. Better luck next time!

Sunday, April 01, 2012


Warning to all letterboxers: Don't look at the pictures in this post, unless you want to spoil all the fun! Letterboxers, look and read further at your own risk.

That is my disclaimer. Do you have no idea what I'm talking about? Well then, it's probably okay to continue reading. So I have recently gotten into the 'sport' of letterboxing. It is very similar to geocaching, which most people know about. In geocaching, people leave small boxes or packages at certain GPS locations. You need a GPS or some kind of map to find the location as best as you can, and then you start looking for the hidden geocache. Inside of the geocache are some trinkets, which you can take, but you must also leave something too, I think. Letterboxing is very similar, but in my opinion much better!

Finding a well hidden and fun letterbox in the historic Austin, NV cemetery.

With letterboxing, there is also a small box or baggie that is hidden in the elements. But you don't find it with GPS coordinates. Instead, you get clues which you follow to the exact location of the letterbox. The clues can be in any form, very direct or cerebral, like a puzzle. They can be words, or pictures, or even in a code that you have to decipher! Anyways, once you get the clues (which are posted in the U.S. at AtlasQuest or Letterboxing North America) then you start hunting down the letterboxes. Its amazing how many are hidden in just about every city, or park. There are hundreds of them in Oakland alone!

Putting our stamp in the stamp book (ours is the fish, and our alias is Lemonheads).

To start letterboxing, you need a small personal log book and an ink pad, and your own personal stamp (although that is technically not necessary). Inside each letterbox, you should find a unique stamp (usually hand carved) which in some way relates to the location that the box was hidden in, or the theme of the box. Inside, it should also have a log book where people stamp in their own personal stamp (like a signature that you were there and found the box). The personal logbook doesn't have to be fancy - its just a place to stamp into. Ours is a mini stapled booklet of printer paper.

Finding the letterbox near the dumps of Battle Mountain, NV.

Its a lot of fun trying to hunt down the letterboxes and then stamp them into your log book. I got into letterboxing through a friend, who showed me a hidden letterbox in a cemetery in San Jose. It was hidden in the gnarly roots of a huge pepper tree, inside of a hole which was just big enough to fit a small tupperware container. Since then, I was hooked, and I try to find letterboxes every time we travel. I've also been trying to find the urban ones too.

Putting our stamp in the Battle Mountain letterbox.

Usually people hand-carve their own personal stamp, but we decided to buy one at an arts and crafts store because it was kind of a last-minute thing, as we were driving out of Oakland for spring break in Nevada. Our personal stamp is a fish, blowing bubbles! We bought a dark purple eggplant colored ink pad. Once we had this, we were ready to start letterboxing. There are some people really crazy about letterboxing, and have found thousands of hidden boxes. They have also created or 'planted' a bunch of boxes themselves. Once day I might plant a letterbox somewhere. . . .

We found the Ghost Rider box in Rhyolite, NV!

When we were on spring break, we found some letterboxes hidden in the most unexpected places in Nevada. Our first letterbox was hidden next to a grave in the historic Austin, NV cemetery. Another was hidden near the dumps outside of Battle Mountain (sounds lovely but it was cool!). We found another in a ghost town called Rhyolite, and recently found out about so many more that we weren't aware of at the time! It is cool to flip through the log book inside of the letterbox to see how many people found the box before you. We noticed quite a lot of the same stamps in the different letterboxes we found. Someone must of been on the same pursuit before us!

This is the Ghost Rider, inspiration for the letterbox theme.

Eventually, I would like to hand carve our personal stamp, but for now it will remain the fish blowing bubbles until I have the time and build up the skill for hand carving. So now I have to end this post about letterboxing so that I can get out there and start letterboxing again!

Jenn Romy 4.4.2012
We found this letterbox near the gym we go climbing at, Bridges in El Cerrito.