Xmas '07 RoadTrip! SF->LA->SF (Dad/Brother Time)
Naturally, this post comes a month late, but I think about this roadtrip all the time now that I'm back in Europe and working daily on the Alice Team MotoGP project. This trip took place a few days after New Year's, just before I had to pack up and get back to Europe before the Preseason kicked in. Now that Chinese New Year has hit and I'm busy responding to family emails about that (plus receiving a super awesome care package from my California Crew), I knew it was time to get this out, because it was yet another special moment in my life, memorable and meaningful.
Christmas and New Year's week rolled through pretty fast, even for me, and before I knew it, there were only a few days left to be enjoyed in the USA during my Winter Break. My brother happened to be visiting with my dad for a few days before he had to go back to school in Utah, so I made it Priority Numero Uno to get myself down to LA to spend some time with the men of my family. My brother is growing up so fast, and I wanted to see how he has been developing as a college freshman. Hanging out with my Dad was a total bonus, because he's always teaching me something new, whether it's about our family's history or about the latest music he's been listening to. He has definitely been a major influence in all aspects of my life and musical tastes, and he's just picked up a two-wheeler after a thirty odd year break, so maybe the influence runs both ways, haha.
I played the timing right down to the wire, opting to drive down south overnight so I could maximize the amount of daylight hours I would be able to spend with my family. Michelle was totally onboard, too, and I relished the chance for us to spend a couple hours in the car listening to music and talking. Plus, what fun is a RoadTrip if you're going by yourself?!?
We took off on a rainy afternoon from SF heading south on the 280, while I silently groaned because I had just washed and lightly detailed the car and rims. You just can't start the New Year with a dirty ride, and when they're clean, the TTrooper's wheels shine like great big pie dishes! Fighting our way through the rush hour traffic was a little tedious (because it always seems like SF is full of traffic!), and after an hour I pulled over in San Jose so we could stock up on Boba drinks (Milk Tea with Pearls) and walk around a little bit window shopping in the luxury outdoor shopping center, Santana Row. My aim was two-fold, to let us wait until there was less traffic on the highways, and also to see if it would stop raining so much because the car was getting filthy! Actually, I just wanted to relax a little because I knew the drive was going to take a lot out of me, and besides, this was supposed to be an overnight mission, so arriving in LA too early would kind of mess up our plans.
The previous night I'd organized a small MotoGP gathering at my local watering hole, the Ace Cafe, in San Francisco on Mission and 14th. A lot of enthusiasts came out and we had a nice discussion about bikes and racing until On Any Sunday started playing on the big screen . You just can't compete with that kind of moto-goodness, so we all stopped talking and kicked back, shot pool, drank beers, and marvelled at one of the greatest motorcycle movies of all time. Thanks to PopMonkey for this great panorama shot!
By 9PM it was time to get the show on the road, and I took off down the 101 through Gilroy. The rains had taken the heavy scent of garlic out of the air, but you could still feel the sharp bite through your eyes. The rains picked up, and we slogged our way through pot-holed roads and construction areas along the 152 until we met up with the Notorious 5. The 5 is one of the most boring stretches of road there is, two lanes wide with people either plodding along at 65 or playing around between 85-95 MPH. I had just made a seven cd mix of music for the trip, so we cruised along bumping to some great beats, mostly mixed electro and chill-out (downtemp). Our goal was to hit up the Flyin' J's restaurant/diner/gas station at the bottom of the Grapevine, the series of mountains (they're just big hills, really) that surrounds the northern area of LA. Weather reports said the the biggest storm in three years was coming in that morning, and temperatures were to be in the high 30's in the mountains, so my pop texted some safety messages to watch out for black ice on the roads there. It was a little daunting, but what the heck, we had Quattro power so I figured we'd be safe.
We stopped once for fuel (50 bucks!) and coffee, and before too long we pulled in to Flyin' J's and got a booth. I fully expected road cuisine, which is to say, the greasiest, nastiest, gnarliest kind of food you can imagine. You know, big Trucker plates of mystery meats dripping with oil and low grade butter. We got a couple of coffees, and for some reason, I always think about the Blues Brothers when I get American Coffee in a diner, but anyway we ordered up and prepared ourselves for the worst. These fries showed up and got the thumbs up.
A deep fried burger dripping with cheese and topped with bacon?!? Why Not! This was Americana at its finest - that I could roll into a place at almost 3AM, in the middle of nowhere, and order a cup of joe and a hot plate of diner food. God Bless America! Michelle actually put all this away, because I wasn't too keen on the greasy mess and had a normal cheeseburger instead. And it Rocked! Suprisingly good food, with all the trimmings, and now the Flyin' J's restaurant comes with the MotoLiam seal of approval.
We decided to spend our first hours of being within LA city limits by revisiting the areas we had each lived in, and as it was on the way, we drove all through Hollywood and the surrounding areas. The roads were deserted, and it was like driving through a ghost-town - very 28 Days Later, especially with all the crackheads and nightwalkers popping out at the intersections looking for who knows what. The city didn't really start to wake up until 5:30AM, which was fine for us because we were just cruising along, not really in any rush. We popped through Santa Monica, and then one down through the beaches (Venice, Manhattan, Redondo,etc). I got lost in Marina Del Rey! There, I said it, haha. We toured through Torrance and Lomita on our way to the Vincent Thomas Bridges that soar above the boat harbor/shipping area of Long Beach, the LBC. Everything was lit up magnificently, these giant industrial parks with strange tubes and towers, how I envision a moon base to look like. I always get a "Robocop" post apocalyptic feel whenever I look at big fuel/oil refineries.
Right around 7 AM we pulled off the PCH coastal highway and slid through Costa Mesa on our way over to Dad's place. Crazily enough, as I was driving over a freeway overpass I noticed a big golden truck and mentioned to Michelle that my pops had one just like it, and that was probably him. A few minutes later when we pulled over to reload our coffees a quick phone call to my dad confirmed that it was actually him, haha, and it's amazing to think that in 500+ miles of driving I would end up passing one of my few family members on the road. It was just coming light, and we piled back in the cars to follow my dad to one of his mountainbike exercise areas, the Back Bay Loop on the outskirts of Newport Beach. We paused for some important family pictures, and it's true, my dad and I have the same legs, hahaha, only I'm fatter. At least, that was all part of my master plan, to stock up on the tummy-dunlops so that I'd have some emergency blubber for when I was stuck eating Spanish food all the time.
While I had just seen my brother overnight a few weeks earlier in San Francisco when he lucked out and missed a connecting flight out of Utah, I really hadn't had a chance to just hang out and spend some time with him. He's been growing up so fast, going through the normal trials and tribulations of being a teenager on the verge of understanding himself and becoming a man. I've missed out on a lot of his experiences in the last few years, but I'm happy to report he's well on his way to achieving his full potential, all the while being calm and thoughtful. He recently secured an athletic scholarship to BYU, a Division One school, and he's learning a lot about life, Tennis, and cracking the books! Just days after this photo was taken at dinner, Thomas got a little recognition of his own.
It's been a serious goal of mine for the last 20 years to get my brother to start eating more adventurously, and it seems like he's finally grown into his multi-cultural heritage because while I was visiting with the fam we managed to eat a fantastic variety of foods. Here we are that night enjoying some seriously good Korean Hot Pot fixings. Speaking of 20 years, my Brother just had his birthday 3 days ago, hitting 20 in stride while on a school trip to Santa Clara University in San Jose, CA, so I guess technically he's not a teenager anymore! Thomas went on to win a neck and neck match against SCU's top gun, handling himself with class and maturity against a decidedly noisier opponent. Michelle was on hand watching the match, and nabbed this shot of them together after the match this past weekend, lucky girl!
By Friday afternoon, I was looking for something interesting for all of us to do, and because the weather was cold and generally not cool, I struck upon a great idea to visit the Oakley Headquarters in Foothill Ranch, CA. I've been using Oakley products for so many years, the thought of seeing where everything is thought up, designed, and produced, sounded like a nice way to spend an afternoon. Plus, I work with Oakley sponsored riders, like Toni Elias, and my favorite pair of sunglasses were a gift from Loris Capirossi, a set of Ducati edition Oil Drums. I'd also just received a gorgeous Oakley watch from Michelle for Christmas, so this may have colored my decision a little bit and pushed me there, haha, but either way, it was only thanks to the efforts of Joses Kofford (who's business card lists him as "Headquarters Factory Pilot") that we were able to have a backstage tour of the facilities. Special thanks go out to him, because he stayed late on a Friday afternoon to take us through all their departments and explain a little about all aspects of the company to us.
Here's a beautiful Chip Foose car just sitting in the lobby. The detail work on this vehicle was outstanding, and I fell in love with the external fuel filler cap, which was very similar to an old Jaguar clip-style one, frequently used on the types of retro-choppers I love. Joses walked us through the facility, past the marketing dept filled with examples of cool ad campaigns (like the SWAT team who showed up to blast a variety of sunglasses, Oakley's and competitor's, with shotguns), and past their HD movie-theater, and into their warehouse. I have a deeper appreciation of warehouses, after spending so much time at the Ducati Corse one in Bologna, so this was particularly cool to me, and learning about how Oakley is completely vertically-integrated was eye opening. From concept to design and fabrication, virtually everything is created in the same building without needless back and forth with outsourced services. Suffice it to say, I am a big fan, and I'll have a neat review of some cool Oakley products in the near future.
This is the main entrance to the factory building, and it's also seen on various Oakley products. The internal structure is made up of huge steel beams, think BIG, and there is an imposing weight to the place. Joses described it as "H.R. Geiger-ish" and that's a fitting description. It's at times dark, brooding, and massive. Many of my photos don't really do the place justice, because you'd need a serious wide-angle or fish-eye to fully appreciate the level of detail and industrialism built into the structure, but I'm hoping to get back there one day with all my equipment, if only to take some pictures. Just to leave you with an idea of how quickly Oakley is capable of making things happen, their interior building design was thought up and finished in under three years. Try something on that large of a scale anywhere else! And speaking of going big, they also built and onsite full size MX track, just so their guys could stop by and evaluate goggles. How cool is that?!
Here's the side of the complex, which is where the warehouse and shipping area are located. Except for some of the textiles, almost everything that Oakley makes comes out of this place.
After finding some inspiration in the grand scale that Oakley operates, we headed back towards home, stopping to have a beer at the Anti-Mall in Los Angeles, where the Shubert men scored some great jackets from the House of Howe. It was totally American to be popping from one shopping place to another, but the weather wasn't cooperating with us enough to be able to get out on the court and hit some balls. Not that any of us would have an answer for my brother. Michelle and I hit the supermarket up for some food supplies, and then she whipped up the tastiest Jambalaya we've ever had. Everything was fresh and delicious, and I couldn't think of a better dinner meal to enjoy with my family before we had to say goodbye the next day.
These vegetables went right into the mix, and it was gooooood. Up early the next morning because my brother had to catch a flight back to Utah before school started, and we met up at a breakfast diner to get in one last meal. Like peas in a pod, we showed off our jackets, haha, and everyone had some serious hugs afterwards. My dad and brother rolled out towards the airport, and Michelle and I headed north out of the city to tackle the 5 once again.
It was a fantastic trip, being able to share so much time with my family, and I'd like to throw some special thanks out to my girl, Michelle, for coming with and making the trip even more special.
Not to mention, her TTrooper kicks butt!
To say the Winter Break was a busy one would be an understatement. Like most Americans in the paddock, we try to jam as much living as we can whenever we make it back home. That can either mean a frenzied rush everywhere to see and do as much as possible in the short window of time we have available, or it can mean stepping back a little bit and decompressing completely. I opted for a balance between the two approaches, because step one was rebuilding myself stronger for the upcoming year. I knew my physical condition could be improved so I bought some light exercise equipment, and I worked on "slowing down.". However, I couldn't let the opportunity of being so close to my home crew go to waste, and I focussed on trying to spend as much time as possible with them as I could (when I wasn't at a doctor's appointment or eye exam, haha). I really count on my friends' strength and support to get me through the trials of the MotoGP season out here, and building upon and nurturing my relationships with my friends and family is a pleasure. It has been more and more apparent to me that a solid team and strong foundation are key to having a successful season, not just for the riders, but for everyone involved in this sport.