Last night, maybe 5 mins after getting into bed, Bijou and I both heard it at the same time. My window next to my bed was open and we both stopped in our tracks and started listening, barely breathing. There it was again. It was quiet and almost imperceivable, but I was certain I wasn’t hearing things after the second gentle rustle of weeds in an otherwise completely silent, moonlit night.
Rather than go berzerk, Bijou slowly got up, staring towards the window, methodically and slowly inching towards the direction of the sound and started gruffing angrily. For a 3 lbs teacup poodle, it was a surprisingly deep and low, choked back, soft bark while growls came from within her tiny little vocal cords.
I opened the blinds and stared out into the darkness, using my periferals to help me see into the wild under the moonlight. I stared, quiet and motionless for several minutes. I thought I could see a shape against a darker shadow about 30ft away, but I wasn’t 100 percent certain…then it moved it’s head slightly.
I knew instantly what it was. I whispered over to Brianna to look out the window. She didn’t have her glasses on and couldn’t see anything. I didn’t have my flashlight next to my bed as I usually do, so I crept towards the front of the RV to hit my 52″ LED lightbar so she could see what I knew was out there. It turns night into day.
Nothing. It was gone from view, even with 25,000 lumens shining into the forest. I was certain I wasn’t imagining anything and I grabbed my favorite flashlight and went back to bed and stared out the window with Brianna also watching for many minutes. Movement again! I shined the flashlight directly at it, but first hitting the window screen with bright light nearly blinding us in the process…but there it was! It’s bright, yellow, knowing eyes reflecting 500 lumens of tactical Streamlight glare directly back at us! An adult Mountain lion was sitting just within the grass line, not 30ft from the RV.
Yeehaw. It’s been many years since I’ve seen a big cat in the wild. It was pretty exciting. It slunk off quickly after hitting it with my spot light. Several minutes later, I could hear angry barking from a dog in the not too far distance. I imagine it head that way.
I love RV life. :D
It was just in front and to the left of the grove of trees closest in this picture.
Brianna and I have been traveling full time in our RV since December of 2017. Nearly a year now. Before, I used to travel to the race track, wherever it may be, then turn around and come home when the event was over. Lather, rinse, repeat. 80+ times a year. “Home” back then was Reno for me. I spent as long or longer driving to and from events than the actual event some times. It’s a lot of driving. A lot of fuel. A lot of time basically wasted on travel where I could be doing something else. 1000 miles round trip to Utah. 1000 to Chuckwalla. 500 to Thunderhill. 1500 to The Ridge. Etc, etc, etc.
I’ve stayed here more than once in the Element.
Sometimes I’d just drive out into the middle of the desert…because why the hell not?
I’ve mostly been away from AFM the last two years. This year, I made an effort to be at all the rounds I could; two of em, to be precise. There are so many new bikes, new faces, and new names that I kinda feel like the old-out-of-place-guy. But no worries…I’ve got a camera, and I know how to fucking use it. :D
This round, Tomas came and helped me out on Saturday. I had to shoot some stuff on the west side, so I couldn’t give my full attention to AFM on Saturday until about 2:30pm… So some of these pics are Toaster’s pics. He’s pretty much a BAMF with a camera too.
Also, Kevin came and busted out the video equipment. For those of you know don’t know Kevin—most of you, I’m sure—he’s pretty much spent most of his last 10 years with 4theriders behind-the-scenes…he’s the guy that brought you your favorite motorcycle video:
So…no official word on what may be coming yet…but I’ll keep you posted. ;)
Anyhow, I just wanted to post up a few pics that I enjoyed from this weekend. It was the final round, so I feel like it deserves a small recap in photos. Enjoy. If you wanna see every single one of 6084 photos we took, then they’re online here: http://4theriders.com/pics.php?loc=/pics/2018/AFM-R7/
Andrew Lee on his #1 plate Kawasaki ZX10.
So, I’ve had a number of people ask me about my solar setup on the RV. Frankly, it’s not all that extravagant, but it’s probably the single best modification I’ve done to my RV so far. Not just bang-for-the-buck, but all out best thing I think anyone can do for their RV.
I had purchased 6v batteries for the RV, but I didn’t want to waste the two 12v batteries that the coach came with. They’re only 80ah batteries each, but they were brand new when we got the RV…and I’m a waste-not, want-not kinda guy…so I’ve still got the 12v batteries in there, nearly a year later.
Brianna and I spend most of our time off-grid and not plugged into power. In the last 9 months that we’ve had solar, we’ve put approximately 50 hours on the generator. 10 or 11 of those hours were over a 2 day span mid summer when we wanted AC and had no access to shore power.
We do normal things while on battery. We have lights on at night, listen to music ALL the time on the surround sound system, or we’ll watch movies and such. We run the blender for smoothies. We have vent fans and a stand alone 12v fan. You know, normal stuff.
I installed energy efficient EVERYTHING into the RV. The lights are all LED. Even both smart TVs are LED. One is even 40″…So we’ve got that going for us. I check the voltage very regularly, as I’m pretty OCD about stuff being charged…we usually end a night sitting right around 12 to 12.2 volts. We usually wake up to 14 to 14.3 volts.
Solar. Solar was the best thing we’ve done to the coach so far.
I spent $339 on a kit from Renology on Amazon. It had two 100 watt solar panels, the mounting hardware, screws, all the connectors and 10AWG wiring necessary, and a 30amp PWM solar controller.
At the beginning of each month during the late fall and through winter, we go to Inde Motorsports Ranch for YCRS. Sometimes it ends up being a mad-dash to get there and get back to somewhere else…sometimes we get a few days to chill and explore. This trip to Inde happened to be the latter.
I’m writing this while stopped at mile marker 2 in Arizona. We’re headed northwest to Las Vegas, but decided on one last stop in Arizona before we go to LV. We can ALLLMOST see the Hoover Dam from where we’re parked. It’s mostly quiet except for the freeway, which is in earshot. There’s no one else out here.
This is what my view looked like about an hour ago before the sun set to the west:
I’ve decided to try a photo group ride for the public. I’ve done many in the past for manufacturers and magazines and shootouts and the likes, but I’ve never previously offered one to the public. I’m only offering around a dozen spots though. I don’t want it to be too crowded or chaotic. Safety is still third. ;)
When: Saturday Oct 27th, 2018, 10am, ready to go.
Where: Meeting at the Chevron on main street Chevron: 2370 Main St, Red Bluff, CA 96080 to ride Highway 36, stopping at 5-6 various locations for professional action photos. There will be something for EVERYBODY.
Sign up: Click here to sign up with paypal
What you get: at the day’s end, after an amazing day of riding some of the best twisties in California, I’ll email you your link to download all your high res photos from the ride!
Who: ALL motos welcome! If you don’t have a huge love for ALLLLL two wheels, then you’re missing out. Sportbikes, ADV, cruisers, and even scooters! Let’s do it! <3
Here’s the basic route where most of the photos will take place:
Here’s a few images from the last photo group ride I shot with the Busa Stampede on hwy 36:
The famous “twisties for 140 miles” sign
My first Yamaha Champions Riding School that I worked at was in April of 2008. Ten and a half years ago. One day, my friend and favorite optician Dr. David Benkle sent me a message and said “there’s this really cool school you should see if you can shoot in Las Vegas!” I contacted Nick Ienatsch, whoever the hell that was, and sought permission to shoot. I was given an apprehensive “o-o-o-o-okay.” I didn’t know it at the time, but Nick stutters sarcastically when he’s not entirely convinced of an idea. Afterall, the school was brand new at the time as well.
My detailed memories of the first school are pretty blurry, to be honest. I busted my ass the entire two days making sure to turn Nick’s stutter into something more confident when I asked to come back to the next school. I sat in during every classroom session, I was on track for every track session. Not only was I trying to capture every moment on camera so I can make sales, but I was devouring the information given by the instructors. They had a lot of things to say that made complete sense. They basically threw every fundamental you could think of at the students, and also backed it all up with the “why” and the “how” that I needed to hear to improve my own riding. I was very much a “but WHHHYYY, mom?” kinda kid.
I’ve spent an incredible amount of time thinking about this… and still, I don’t know exactly what to say or how to say it.
I signed up for a Patreon account nearly a year ago with the intention of creating content while on the road in the RV. I’d envisioned making fun videos of cool places, of random rides around back roads…I dunno, all sorts of stuff. I’ve filmed a bunch of random stuff over the year. I’ve got hundreds of photos all stock-piled from random adventures…but I’ve yet to do anything more than simply create an account on Patreon. Nothing.
Part of it, I think, is fear of rejection. I usually think that people enjoy the stuff I write or post or take pics of and the likes. But…would people be willing to actually subscribe to content I create? Man, I dunno…and I’d feel really dumb creating and posting all this stuff only to have no one interested in it enough to actually PAY me for it. I’ve always felt that way…about everything. Even my full time gig of shooting photos at the track…I tend to have the negative “no one is gonna buy em” feeling. I think I’m good at what I do. In fact, I think my photos rank amongst some of the best in the world…but I have a hard time taking money.
Another part of why I haven’t done it is the fact that I know I’d have to dedicate SOOO much time to creating content that people may or may not ever see. Photos, for me, are easy. I ride. I know EXACTLY what all my settings need to be at any given moment. I have capable equipment (not as good as the stuff the big name pros have, but I can certainly make it work), and I know what looks good and what doesn’t. Boom. I can shoot my little heart out. The sorting and stuff is the hard part…luckily for me, Brianna takes care of 99.999% of all that for me now and has taken a HUGE burden off my shoulders. But creating photo+video content NOT at the track? Wow…that’s a LOT of time spent in front of the computer.
So, back to what I was originally saying…I’ve been thinking about this for a looong time…and I’ve decided that I DON’T want to create a Patreon page where people will have to subscribe. I’m too scared.
On that same token, I’m running on empty now. Literally empty. I’ve always been really good with my money. I’ve never had much…but the little bit I’ve ever had, I’ve always made it work. I’ve always stretched it out. I’ve not really ever been stuck. But I’m stuck now. People sometimes comment “you must be rich!” when I say that we live on the road full time. I guess you could say that I am…Brianna and I lead pretty damn rich lives. But in dollar terms? No, not rich. Not even remotely close. In fact, I’m the exact opposite of rich. I’m maxed out. Totally. All of our income goes to groceries, bills, and mostly fuel. We almost never just buy ourselves random stuff. When we do, it’s typically out of necessity.
Together, Brianna and I are a single stream income. We both work together to accomplish the same goal: shoot events at the track and sell em to all the trackday riders and drivers. This year has been bleak. Some of it is circumstance, some of it is the economy. Some of it might just be my fault entirely.
Over the years, I’ve worked with most trackday organizations in northern California either full time or part time. I’ve worked with Keigwins, Pacific Track Time, Zoom Zoom, Fun Trackdayz, Precision Trackdays, and a bunch of other smaller orgs. For one reason or another, my relationship with them was severed. A few were my fault… either quitting them based on personal differences, or not my fault as my place was only temporary or location-based to begin with. Ultimately, it’s always ends up being gotbluemilk who started with them and is back with them. He pretty much has a monopoly on the entire norcal market. It’s exceedingly frustrating. I know I provide a better product at a better price. I get texts, emails, messages, and phone calls all the time saying they wish I were there shooting instead of gotbluemilk all the time. But nothing ever changes. I no longer work with any motorcycle trackday companies in northern California. But I want to.
Last year, I started shooting 2Fast up in the Pacific Northwest. I also shot them this year. It was a really rough year for the 2Fast organization and attendance was very low for nearly every event. Even as low as 11 riders one day. That doesn’t bode well for either 2Fast or myself.
As hard as I’ve tried this year, I haven’t been able to get ahead. I don’t need much money to survive, but it seems like I’ve been making even less than that lately. Everyone always says that there’s no money in the moto world…Maybe I just need to try harder? Maybe I need to throw in the towel? I don’t know… I mean, I KNOW that I just want to work MORE. I want MORE events. I want to work with more trackday providers. I want to create. I want to see people happy. I want people to have affordable awesome memories of the fun times they’ve had at the track riding will all the homies and such.
Ugh. I’m just so frustrated.
Times are tough as fuck right now.
So, now that I’ve dwadled off on the “back story”, I decided that I do not wish to make a Patreon account…instead, I want to ask for a donation. Not free money either…I plan on working for it. I’m asking for a donation towards more content on my blog. More fun, entertaining reads. More maps of super bad ass rides you should do. More photos and videos of things we care about like motorcycles, like great places to visit, see, do, eat, and experience. If you’ve enjoyed the thousands of hours I’ve put into all of this so far, if I’ve helped you out in some way with my writings, photos, or advice, can you throw a few bucks my way?
I’m only asking those of you that enjoy reading my blog and my posts and who will continue to enjoy my blog and posts. If you’re not interested in my writings and videos and photos and words, then no worries. I don’t want a subscription based portal of content. I want it to be free to anyone who happens upon it. But if you could chip in to help me get through this rough patch, it would go a long way. I’ll work my ass off to repay it and hopefully keep you entertained with more content and with more love thrown into my blog. :)
//END OF SUCKY AND EMBARRASSING POST
So, I got another email yesterday kinda out of the blue mentioning my blog and how they enjoyed reading it and the likes.
I felt both pride and guilt…pride because I don’t really keep track of who actually reads my blog. How many people read it? I dunno…I guess I don’t always write for other people; I mostly do it for myself…but I still get a certain satisfaction knowing that other people enjoy reading it. Guilt, because I neglect the hell out of my blog. Haha! I seldom ever take the time to write anymore. That makes me a bad human, I know. *sigh*
Anyhow, Brianna and I had two extra days to kill on our way from The Ridge Motorsports Park down to Thunderhill. Frankly, I wanted to take as long as possible, knowing that it’s supposed to be a hundred and fifteen fucking degrees on Friday at the track. I’m sooooo not looking forward to that…so instead I plotted some squiggley lines on the map and headed for Oregon.
I didn’t realize it’d be as hot as it was in Oregon…it was 100F for the better part of the day today, but whatever. It wasn’t 115F. :)
Our route was from Wolf Creek Rd to Agness, OR with several other side roads thrown in. I posted the general layout of what we’d done below:
This weekend, I decided to make a comeback to AFM and take pics. Something I hadn’t done in almost exactly a year. Mostly because I’ve been away at other events, but partly because I know AFM is in good hands with Max and Koi out there doing their thing. This weekend, I just happened to be free, it was along the way to my next event, and because, frankly, I could use a bit of extra cash.
I got to see a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in some time. It’s always great catching up. I also met many new faces…racers whom I’d never seen in events past…everyone’s numbers were different. Half the time, I didn’t recognize who was who out there…on one hand, it was good. I shot all my photos fresh and new, as if i didn’t really know anyone out there. There was no favoritism. I didn’t particularly lean heavily on anyone (except the few that preordered photos and I’d commited their race numbers to memory). I simply did what I know how to do best: made memories of everyone to have and share.
Bear with me, if you’d like; I have no particular path with this post, only a final destination. I’ve got many, many thoughts, and they’re in zero particular order.
I’ve been taking photos of motorcycles, riders, and racers for about a dozen years now. I’m not sure there’s anything left that I haven’t seen. Both good and bad.
On Saturday while on track, I was thinking back to one instance in particular some years ago where Michael Earnest had crashed in the opening laps of Formula Pacific while cresting t3a at Sonoma. I caught it all on camera. He’d hurt himself, but managed to get the bike up and going again and restarted the race. Honestly, I don’t even remember where he’d finished after the restart, but I do remember it like a hero-story. I chased Formula Pacific around the track that race as fast as I could, capturing this “saga” of Michael Earnest. I was at start/finish when the race ended. As Michael crossed the line, he pulled off to the tire wall on the left, put his head down, and whimpered, leaning on the tire wall, unable to dismount his bike, unable to even finish the cool down lap. He was in a lot of pain.
I captured all of this. It’s something I’ll never forget. I was proud of man-kind at that exact moment. I don’t fully even know how to describe it, honestly. Michael was able to do something that not a lot of people can. It may not have been smart, but the pure guts and determination of it all…it was memorable. It was honest. It was pure.
On the flip side, I’ve seen many riders crash to greater and lesser degrees. Not all of them get up. At least, not right away. One of the first things I do when someone crashes in front of me is take pause and listen. Why? Because the next sound they make tells me how hurt they really are. When I hear a string of curse words first thing, I know they’re good. When I hear the moan of pain, I know they’re hurt, but it’s likely not all that bad. When I hear the wet gurgles, then I know it’s not good at all. When I don’t hear anything…well, I just keep listening because eventually they’re gonna wake up and I’ll hear something.
Twice now while shooting photos, I’ve heard the nothing. I kept listening, but they never woke up.
Allen Rice was a track rider on a Triumph 675. He hit the wall at about 50 miles per hour. Right in front of me. I didn’t know Allen. I’d never met him in my life. I don’t ever recall seeing him at the track prior to that afternoon. But I remember his name. I remember the way his face looked as he lay there on the asphalt while medics did CPR. I remember the sound his body made as they did chest compressions. I took one last click with the camera and walked away dazed. I didn’t ride that day as I’d intended. I briefly wondered if I even wanted to ride motorcycles anymore. It was a haunting memory for a long time.
Joseph Pusateri was a racer on a Kawasaki 636. Another human I’d never met before. It was my first time shooting a WERA race. I clicked away at 6 frames per second as he lowsided, seemingly gently, in a pretty slow corner. I remember thinking to myself that that should be a guaranteed sale. Everyone loves to get their crashes on camera. Except…he didn’t get up either. Instead, he lay slumped in an awkward position next to his bike. The medics came. Then the coroner.
I can’t even remember anything else about that weekend. I don’t know if the races continued. I don’t know if they were cancelled. I don’t know if I even took more pictures after that. The only thing I can remember was thinking about Joe’s wife running out onto the track, fighting with the corner workers and medical personel trying to get to Joe. I cried then. I’m fighting back tear now.
Inherently, motorcycles are dangerous. I’ve joked about how dumb we are as motorcyclists in the past. Really, we are. We’re not smart beings. To take the risks we do, day in, day out. On the track at speeds “normal” people would consider ludacris. On the street dodging cars and thousands of other hazards every day. In the woods, avoiding cliffs and trees. On the motorcross track jumping 100 foot triples. It’s risky. And to put yourself at continual risk like that…it’s not smart.
But it’s what we do. It’s what we need to carry on. It’s in us like the blood that runs through our veins. Smart or not, it’s what we motorcyclists need. I can’t refute that. If i said I could quit riding, that would be a lie. I’d never be happy again not riding.
I’ve seen SO many people injured doing what we do. Bad. Life alteringly bad. Dave Stanton, Mario Bonfonte, Eric Arnold to name a few. Eric ended up taking his own life rather then carry on. I’ve wondered to myself many times how I could cope. IF I could cope. I really don’t know those answers. I only know the questions.
In all this, I’ve learned to hit the “off switch.” At least, I try. I guess it’s never truly off, but I’ve been able to close off most of the dam, so that it’s only a trickle that gets through anymore. I’ve even been accused in my personal life of being “robotic” at times. It’s true. I can be that way when faced with emotional things. I try and set aside emotion and instead rely on logic to get me through hardships.
Sunday was no different. Jason Blancas, racer #780 passed away at Thunderhill during a race. From what I’ve been told, he made contact with another rider in turn 8 and was highsided from his Yamaha R3.
I wasn’t in turn 8 when it happened. A few of my friends were. Glenn was there. As he told me about it, the lost look in his eyes was soul crushing. I didn’t say much. I only hugged him and fought back tears myself. Taylor came in to the building in tears. She was on com in t8, relaying information as best as she could, holding her composure like a true professional until it was time to come in. It was only her second time corner working at AFM. She just had her 18th birthday. Another corner worker came in, whom I don’t know her name. She was also sobbing.
I kept smashing the “off switch” over and over until until it finally stayed in the off position…and I went about my day, hoping no one would ask me about it.
So many lives change in literally a fraction of a second. Jason is gone. I didn’t know Jason, but many people did. I’m sorry for the loss you feel with his passing. I’m sorry for everyone who was there, trying to save him, if he could even be saved. I know that every single person at AFM feels it. I know the corner workers and the medical staff and race direction did the best they could in any role they could fill. I thank you guys and gals for everything you do. You are all amazing. Your efforts at keeping everyone as safe as possible in this crazy sport we choose to do will never go unnoticed or unappreciated. Thank you.
Rest in peace, #780.