WHY I WANTED TO TAKE A ROAD TRIP WITH RANDY!
OR WHY I WANTED TO WATCH THE BLUE BOMB FROM THE INSIDE.
There are many things that you mentally dream about, but never expect to happen, yet sometimes they do, and it makes the dream such a reality that your memory banks go crazy taking it all in. This is what happened this past weekend when I had asked quietly if I could ride up to Santa Maria for the 6/14/08 race in the Kittle Motorsports hauler with Randy, Paul Dean, Steve Nichelson and Julie. The answer was a hesitant yes, but we were a go.
I arrived in Torrance at the home of Randy and Julie Shiosaki on a Friday the 13th afternoon and soon the crew chief of the Blue Bugger, aka Randy Shiosaki, picked Julie and I up and off we went to the haulers storage place. The crew did their normal three nights this week to get ready and all we had to do was load our bags and head off. But first, Mr techno-wizard, one Randy person, had to change out the Direct TV box so we could watch movies or racing on the trip. There was already one box working, but it didnít have all the latest gizmoís for the fast moving dish up top and so he installed a new box and set it up. It took some talking with the help desk at Direct TV, but he got it working fine and we took off.
Paul was the chauffer as he angled the long rig thru some city traffic and soon hit the 405 going North. Unfortunately, all of LA was on that parking lot and it was going to be a long trip, about 5 hours for the normal 3 hour trip. Whatever, we had TV and soft drinks to keep us going and some stale cheezits. It was obvious after moving slowly on the freeway, the TV wasnít exactly perfect with itís ability to keep tuned to the proper satellite, but the first big problem happened when one of those update yes or no screens appeared and Randy went for it. Unfortunately, when the lengthy update was done, it couldnít reload, but instead turned off the DTV box several times before he let it rest.
A food stop at a Subway in the late afternoon kept us going and after some more fooling around, Randy got the DTV box going again so we could watch the movie Coyotte Ugly, well the last half anyway. I did get to see the start on Sunday after we returned to home base. That kept me busy in the cushy Toter all relaxed and cozy. The trip was snailing along as we never cleared stop and go status until we were above Santa Barbara and then we were flying, nothing like me in my Vette of course, but at least 65 is an acceptable number over the freeway 5 we were used to.
We headed to Dannyís parents place, Rich and Lori Sheridan. They live a little north of Santa Maria and near Nipomo. It is away from the 101 towards the ocean in a very nice 55 home subdivision of beautiful homes, all on acre lots. The look was ritzy as every yard was professionally done. When we pulled up in front of their home and parked the extra long rig on the wrong side of the road, no problem. That would come later in the dark when we left. You could see the work the Sheridan's had done to make it really luxurious looking outside the nice one story home with trees and bushes and nice river rock here and there and more, making it look like a nice little park. We were greeted by Rich and Lori and made welcome with a drink. The backyard was the same well decorated wonder beyond the patio, and we went thru the house to the tables set up for dinner. Wow, what a view back there with an area behind the main part of the yard where the grandkids can ride 4 wheelers through the trees of the small forest.
A chicken, potato and salad feast was washed down by some nice wine, sodaís or beer, should you choose, and there were several restaurant type heaters on the patio to keep the ocean chill down. Ice cream and brownies for desert and I wondered what Mrs Wags was doing back home. The whole team was there plus Dannyís sister Kelly and her husband Kurt who live a few doors down. They included Ralph and Nancy McGray, Jimbo McCoskey, Chad McGray, plus us who came in the long rig. Garry and Brian Kittle were ready to party as well. Add Bob and Sharon, some long time friends, and we had a bunch ready to enjoy the evening in the cool of mid California where there were no 100 degree temps that I now live in. All the men but Bob were crewmen and having a ball this night.
Dinner was fabulous and the warm camaraderie of the Kittle racing team and family was like a warm glove. I was very comfortable in their presence and totally enjoyed myself. I got to know Gary Kittle much better at dinner as the two brothers are dynamically different. Gary is more excitable and driven in his quest to race while Brian is a little more laid back and trusts his crew to make his car fast while he generally is off getting their feed ready.
It was a fun evening with lots of stories, lies, teasing, bench racing, lies and more fun until it was time to go. Hugs all around and promises to see us at the races were said and I climbed aboard the big rig. I didnít mention the streets were a little narrow and we were on a dead end, so it was a back up process that took a while before we got back to the circle place to turn around and we headed to Dannyís house where we would spend the night.
He lives with his girlfriend Kacie and his son Blake. Their spacious nicely appointed home is on a corner lot in a very nice neighborhood and the rig needed every inch of the frontage to be able to park. We, Paul, Steve and I were sleeping inside and Randy and Julie would use the Toter. Steve got the living room air mattress and enjoyed Dannyís dog Roxieís company there. Paul got Blakeís room as he was spending the night somewhere else. Paul had an adjustable air mattress and he said he played with the adjuster knob until it was perfect. I of course was right at home sleeping in a personal sized bed in Dannyís office with Dannyís Wagsdash trophy nearby. We visited for a while before it was lights out. When I took a shower in the morning, they laid out a polka dot towel for me, right at home I was!
In the morning we all jumped in Dannyís SUV and headed to breakfast at a place called Kayís. It is just around the corner from Jackís, another breakfast place that we have visited regularly on our trips to Santa Maria for years. The whole crew arrived and we had some good food and relaxed before the upcoming Costco adventure.
In years past my Wagtimes group, that has dwindled somewhat over time, would go on racing trips together and we made many after race stops to eat, or shop in an all night grocery when no restaurants were available. Many day trips to a Costco or other shopping venue would be part of the action as the days went by making it look like a group of gypsies as we moved together. On this morning the seven of us did indeed go to Costco to buy food for the weekly cookout and went in like a bunch of gypsies, too. Brian Kittle has always fed his team very well, plus many drop-ins from around the pits, and often he cooked some great stuff while the team worked on the race car. At Santa Maria it would be a little different as Dannyís friends would cook the tri-tip and chicken we were buying today. So imagine the seven of us strolling thru the Costco shopping for food, a big cooler for drinks and one battery like it was just another day.
All that done it was back to Dannyís to load the rig with our purchases and head to the track. But first, Jimbo had to install the battery in Dannyís SUV because he said Danny didnít do that kinda work! We arrived after 1 PM and settled down to watch TV racing for a bit in the Toter. It wasnít long until the pits opened and we all clamored to get pit passes and go inside. I chose to walk in with my camera and took a few shots. The Kittle rig was in place when I finally got to their pit area and the cooks arrived to get started. Dallas Jenkins and Brent Wallingford unloaded two hand crank style open cookers, some special wood and a few other things from a pick-up truck and they were set and let the cooking begin.
The race car was unloaded, and since I wasnít a "crewmember" I didnít have any duties, so I wandered around taking pictures and visiting with many, like normal. When they hit the track, I went up the hill to watch and Danny was second quick on his home track. After hot laps and qualifying, I went down to have dinner. I think Dallas is Dannyís neighbor and a retired policeman, but he and Brent really smoked the Tri-tipís and chicken, it was gooooooood! The fruit and cookies and more just added to the feast that I noticed many took part in. After eating I went back to the grandstands to watch the race.
Danny finished third and I stumbled down the ramp to the truck. After the fans were all through visiting and had left, we still had a group of Sheridan stokers around and the guy in charge of turning off the lights, after waiting impatiently for a while, did just that. Didnít bother this crew as they just teased him and continued on. LaterÖÖ.. we said goodbye to all and loaded into the Toter for the trip back south. Steve was the driver now and I kinda alternately slept and thought about things until three hours were done and we backed the rig into itís spot and everyone went home to bed.
Sunday was Fatherís day, so with Randy and Julieís Father's both gone somewhere, I went with Randy to the shop and Paul and he did the cleaning thing. They used a secret ingredient to spray on every thing, then a pressure washer to clean it all including the car, the tires and wheels and anything else that had touched dirt. That took 3 hours as I simply sat around and watched the process and enjoyed the cool air and kept my back relaxed.
That was pretty much my trip with the Kittle Krew and as I reflect back on how much fun I had, one thing comes to mind. Work! There is an enormous amount of work for a race team, from cleaning and fixing, when needed, or replacing items on the car(s), and getting it all in the hauler, fixing or cleaning anything related to the hauler or Toter, driving to the race track, doing the racing, loading back up and driving home and starting all over. Itís an amazing process and it takes a lot of money to make it happen.
I already knew that Brian Kittle was a fun owner and that his crew had a good time. I had an idea of how much time and money it takes to make every race, and all the players required, but I didn't realize the large scope of it. It takes hard work and cubic dollars to make it happen. So, itís nice to know these people like each other, get along, work hard together and party hard and it's all in a days work.
I can tell you after my years of following these races all over the country and nearly every weekend of the 10 month season, I know how tiring that can be, but step it up a few notches if you want to do what these guys, and gals, do to make it happen. A fun and enjoyable trip with everyone treating me like the lazy guest I was, Iíd do it again, but itís probably not in my future. I am glad I am a mere fan and only have to be a race chaser not a racer! Thanks to all who made it fun, The senior Sheridanís who opened their house to us, to Danny and Kacie who had me a place to sleep, to Brian and his race team for giving me a spot for the night and to Randy and Julie for hosting me, it was all good.