Tuesday Oct. 18, 2016
Welcome To The
*Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
there were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say
Welcome to the Hotel California*
The empty bottle of Cabo Wabo (Anejo spirit - 01) rolled around on the back seat floor one last time as I slid The Cruiser into the mostly empty parking lot of this old familiar California landmark. Hadn't stayed here for at least ten years. Roughly the same amount of time since I last hit town for the California Hot Rod Reunion. Memories of sitting on those stairways years ago chatting with old and new friends... breakfast at Milt's surrounded by the same old and new friends... meeting an unforgettable English lass with the vocabulary of a drunken sailor... somebody putting a sign on Peter “Madbrit” Broadrib's yet to be restored award winning Moody's Garage '55 Chebby that read “This Is NOT An Abandoned Vehicle”... and a few things that perhaps are best left unspoken of occupied my mind as I eased The Cruiser into a parking slot.
Now up to this point it had been a very uneventful thousand mile ride. Just me and The Dan and the already mentioned Cabo Wabo (Anejo spirit) bottle. It did get a little tense for a moment on I-10 back in New Mexico when a Border Patrol agent demanded to know if The Dan was indeed a U.S. Citizen. Fortunately I kept his papers to prove that he indeed was, just in case. But it never got that far as the agent took my word when I assured him The Dan certainly was and he's damn proud of it too.
First glitch: driving straight through Barstow, CA with the gas gauge on the far side of empty after deciding I'd stop for gas the first place I came to on route 58 on the other side of town. Bad decision. Turned out the next gas station was a mere thirty miles west of Barstow. Pulled into the AM/PM at Kramer Junction with the 'you've already passed the danger zone' red light flashing and bells ringing from under the dashboard. Can't remember the last time I was so glad to see a gas station! Lesson learned. I also found the 'Kramer' Junction name interesting... stirring up memories of Kramer seeing just how far he could drive a car after the gas gauge bottomed out on a long ago forgotten episode of 'Seinfeld'. Paula Roth and Vic Moneymaker told me a day or two later they'd once made this same mistake.
But that's all behind me now as I find myself standing in the lobby of this motel. Waiting behind a guy covered with cheap tats from his ears to his ankles listening to him telling (or was he bragging?) to the gal behind the desk that he'd just got out of the joint. Her reply to everything he said was the same... “Praise Jesus!”. A study in opposites if I ever witnessed one. On his way out of the lobby he turned and glared at me like all of this was somehow my fault.
Ah... but I got a room, and on the ground floor too. As I was backing into the parking slot in front of my assigned room some guy came along and opened the passenger side door on his pickup making it all but impossible for me to back in. I waited a minute or so waiting for him to take care of whatever business it was he needed to attend to but all he did was stand beside his truck with his arms folded across his chest staring at me. I finally got tired of this crap, honked the horn and motioned for him to close the door and move out of the way. For some reason that really set him off. He slammed the door shut and proceeded to walk around front of the Cruiser and stare at me through my windshield as I completed my backing maneuver. As I got out he stood there mumbling incoherently. I think for some reason he was inviting me to a good old fashioned a$$ stomping. I ignored his challenges though, after all the guy was about sixty five, frail, and obviously high on something. I checked out my room and by the time I stepped back out into the sunshine the old timer and his pickup were gone.
As I opened the rear hatch I noticed out of the corner of my eye this woman approaching from my right looking like she hadn't combed (or washed) her hair in a fortnight. She was carrying a large shopping bag which I assumed contained all of her worldly possessions. She stopped beside me and asked “You got anything to drink?” Obviously she saw the Cabo Wabo (Anejo) bottle and figured I was an easy mark. Wrong again 'sweetie'. When I told her “No” she stomped off but not after giving me the same look I's already gotten from the ex-con and Pop. Must be something they practice in their spare time around here.
All of this got me to thinking back to yesterday when I made a point of stopping at the last Rest Area in AZ and clearing and locking up the trusty 'ol Ruger LCP .380 in a case as per CA law. Now... guess what was the first thing I did after emptying the Cruiser? If you guessed take the LCP back out of is case, reload it, and leave it on the table next to the bed, you guessed right. Damn CA and their utterly unconstitutional laws left me with the feeling that up to this point I was the only one on the grounds that wasn't armed. They say 'an armed society is a polite society' but I'm guessing that doesn't apply in California where only the bad guys get to be armed.
Dinner and then breakfast the next morning at Milt's was as good as I remember it from years gone by... just a little more pricey. Oh... before we move on I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that someone in the room above mine evidently was warming up for the upcoming Olympic tryouts in the High Hurdle competition or into something really kinky!
*There's plenty of room at the Hotel California
any time of year you can find it here*
Wednesday Oct. 19, 2016
It was a little over two weeks ago when I got a call from photographer Michael Mihalko (02) better known in the drag race circles simply as 'Mashie'. We hadn't spoke in years and hearing from him after all this time was a real treat. He wanted to know if I was planning on attending this year's 25th annual California Hot Rod Reunion. It has been about ten years since my last Reunion and I had no plans of attending... until that call. I instantly changed my mind. He'd be arriving in Bakersfield on Wed. afternoon and we decided to share a room at the Vagabond South... a much wiser choice than my Tuesday night venue.
So now I had the rest of the day free and of course decided to take a morning drive out to Famoso via the old tried and true Route 65. Didn't remember this many oil wells on my last trip here. And most of them were pumping too. Always a good sign. I arrived at Gate 2 in near record time and quickly found a place to park against the track fence under some nice shade trees. “Gonna be a cool, laid back day” I thought to myself. The Dan agreed too. So far he's been really agreeable. I left The Dan alone in the car and began wandering through the many rows of parked motor homes waiting for tomorrow's 'land rush' (I heard through the rumor mill that some those at the front of the line had been parked there for two weeks!). Making my way through the motor homes and campers I found equally long lines of various sorts of cars, trucks, campers, mobile homes, and other means of transportation all with a racecar in tow. Some racecars were in, and some were on, trailers. Now THIS is my kinda' place!
The first recognizable and smiling face I came upon belonged to none other than 'Digger' Dan Horan aka 'Curly' (03). Dan always has an interesting story or two to tell and this morning was no exception. He pointed to a good sized pile of gray and brown something or other on the ground beside the right front tire of his pickup. On closer inspection it turned out to be some kind of fur. Seems a chipmunk (or some kind of small varmint) made itself at home under the hood behind some heavy duty wiring. But that was back in Big Bear up in the San Bernadino Mountains. As soon as the pickup arrived here and stopped moving it ripped its own nest to shreds in a mad dash to get the hell out of there. At last sighting it was seen heading north towards the citrus groves at a high rate of speed! Wonder how it's going to take to it's new digs here in the flat lands?
A few steps away I ran into LA Roadster Club member Dave 'Big Wave' Kiley and his brother John (04). The boys brought the beautiful Ewell/Bell/Stecker/and Olson blown Hemi powered Don Long built digger on an open trailer. Damn fine dragster 'ya got there guys. Later in the day I ran into them again in the cackle car parking area and they offered me a cold brew. Gentlemen, you don't know how much I appreciated it! That earlier statement about how this was gonna be a nice cool laid back day was way off the mark. Dig...
About mid-day I headed for the 'Will Call' window to pick up my event tickets. I ran into a gentlemen whose last name I recall was Ziegler. We headed over there together. Both of us were picking up General Admission (spectator) tickets. His tickets were ready and waiting for him. Mine? They couldn't find them but told me they bring over more tickets every hour so check back in a while. THAT was lie #1. I returned later only to be told my tickets weren't there yet but to these eyes the box holding spectator tickets hadn't grown at all. This time they told me the tickets are brought over in alphabetical order and they hadn't got to the “O's” yet. Remember Mr. Ziegler? THAT was lie #2. After another hour or so I returned only to be told they don't have any spectator tickets and they won't have any until Thursday morning. Again... Mr. Ziegler. THAT was lie #3.
Now it's starting to get a little late in the day so I thought “What the hell. I'll try one more time.” This time the lady said something to the effect of “spectator tickets are only good for Friday thru Sunday and here it is only Wednesday what's you're hurry you can't get in til Friday anyway” THAT was lie #4.
Now I've spent most of the afternoon watching all sorts of folks stroll through Gate 1 as long as they showed they'd purchased tickets. So, after all this time and all these lies I was getting thoroughly pissed off and I told all within earshot so. Some guy that had been inside the Will Call tent heard me, folded his arms in front of himself, walked over to the window, and said in his sternest voice “Is there a problem here?” I replied “Damn right there is. I've paid almost seventy bucks for tickets that aren't here and obviously ain't gonna get here!” in MY sternest voice. I showed him the receipt on my cell phone (thank God for them, no?) and the notation that they were waiting at the Will Call window. He lowered his voice... I lowered mine too. He apologized and told me to wait right there. He returned in about five minutes with my tickets, said he personally printed them over in the trailer. I thanked him immensely we shook hands and I headed towards Gate 1 ticket in hand like a proud immigrant with a green card only to find the Security folks at the gate weren't there anymore. Oh well... here I am and I don't give a damn about what's occurred up to this point, because... well, here I am.
The cackle cars that were coming through the gate were being sent through the staging lanes towards the starting line then told to drive up the return road to the end of the track, turn around and drive back through the pit area to practically the same spot they started from. I assumed at that moment the High Sheriffs Of Glendora knew better than the peons and there was an unknown reason for all of this extra mileage and waste of time that we're not qualified to question.
Then I had a flash!! I'll just stroll over to The Grove, get a seat at one of the picnic tables and watch the procession of cacklers drive by? 'The Grove', I though as I headed for an opening in the fence in the vendors area... those hallowed grounds on these hallowed grounds where years ago some of us Standard 1320 people spent the morning before the start of this event Windex and towels in hand cleaning bird droppings off of the placards that immortalize some of the deceased pioneers and heroes of our sport. Between these placards rested vintage drag race vehicles of all sorts doing those honored here proud. As I rounded the corner of one of the food vendors buildings and entered The Grove, I saw this...
Maybe you had to have been there in the past to appreciate this quiet and beautiful place... before all the cars would come to life and transform it into a loud and beautiful place. I was reminded of the evening just days after 9/11/2001 when I saw the New York skyline minus the towers for the first time. But at least I had an idea of what to expect to see in New York. This took me completely by surprise. Our beloved Grove had been turned into what might have been, at the time, California's largest rest room... and unisex at that! How PC... and sickening. Wandering around literally feeling dazed and confused, I came across this (05)...