Stop #1 on our trip out to California for what seems like is going to be an annual adventure to Formula Drift Long Beach, was an interesting one - more on that below. As we pulled up to our first pee break along the I-10, I noticed that there was an abandoned, almost historic area of the gas station that had a plethora of stickers and tag art from passersby. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to leave my mark with one of the newer bumper stickers, so after fueling up and getting some snacks, I walked over real quick to drop a little Bushido love. If you ever find yourself stopped at the Chiriaco Summit exit, keep your eyes peeled and tag us if you see it!
As we were coming up to Chiriaco Summit, the fuel gauge had been blinking 'E' for the little 8-gallon tank of my iQ for about the previous 25 miles. I knew we needed to stop here for a pit stop or else we'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere. Sure enough, about 2 miles before the exit for the rest stop, the highway closes to one single lane and traffic came to an abrupt halt. We slowly made our way to the exit ramp while I crossed my fingers that we didn't run out of gas during our push through traffic. When we finally got close enough to see the exit ramp, we discovered that it's closed as part of all the road work being completed. $HIT! What are we supposed to do now? I NEED fuel. I don't have enough gas to get me up to the next exit to turn around and back-track. So I say well, no other option. . . and go up to the the exit for traffic that's normally getting onto the highway, and simply reverse my car up the on-ramp all the way until I get to the overpass of the exit and turn around. It worked flawlessly, and we pretty much coasted right up to the gas pump! Safe this time.
Back on the road, we started to make our way through Coachella and Indio. I love driving through the windmill farms, and it was crazy to see this snow-capped mountain from the highway.
I felt that any post about a drive out to California via I-10 West would be incomplete without at least a mention of the marvelous creatures in Cabazon. And while these photos aren't from our trip to FDLB, I thought they'd fit in great to this adventure.
A sneaky T.Rex lingers. . .
And Mr. Rex oversees the tourists traveling by, and the fast food restaurants in the area.
'Double-double, animal style and protein style, please!'
It actually is really cool driving up to these giant statues though, as touristy as it is.
Ok - the last push through Moreno Valley to get ourselves to the coast!
After 3 stints of CA traffic, we finally made it to our destination. We got checked-in with our Air BnB host, and quickly unloaded everything so we could begin our weekend adventure and exploration. At this point, it was Thursday evening and any practice sessions that were occurring earlier in the day were complete. We took advantage, and did a little track walk for ourselves.
The sun sets over Seaside Way, as we stood from Turn 1 facing the start line.
Turn 1 'touch-n-go' facing Turn 2.
And Turn 2 leading into the hairpin back onto Shoreline Drive. Street courses are the absolute coolest - being at FDLB brings back memories of watching the Grand Prix of Baltimore, and how amazing of an experience that was.
After exploring the track, we putz'd around the paddock and pit area for a few while most teams were dialing their cars in and vendors were still unloading display vehicles and setting up their tents. It was really cool to see GReddy's shop project R32 in person.
Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the crew and hit up Federal Bar which many years ago had previously been a banking institution. With vault and more still in place, this venue was apparently known as a local speakeasy. We then relocated to the Blind Donkey for another beer, where you can typically find Formula D and associated characters prior to Saturday's activities.
Here's the view we woke up to on Friday morning. Gayle really did an awesome job with booking our Air Bnb and found this incredible apartment room for the weekend with pretty sweet view of the track and surrounding scenery. We stood around for a few and appreciated the sunrise while we woke up and let the sun warm our faces. I was craving a coffee, so we quick got ready and bolted down to a nice little cafe across the street from our building.
After fueling-up, we came back up to our temporary residence on the 15th floor of the oceanside dwelling to prepare for the rest of our day. Friday meant practice, qualifying, lots of time to roam around the vendor areas and hopefully some delicious beer!
Speaking of beer, we decided to crack open a couple of these delicious Coconut Hiwa Porters by Maui Brewing Co. while we watched some of the morning practice session from the sky. Not a bad way to kick-off Friday morning. After sipping those down, we found our way down to sea level to rejoin our friends, get inside and see what FDLB had to offer this year.
It wasn't too long before we bounced into Pablito from Mastermind NA and started chatting up. We talked a lot about Low Style Heroes, the event coming up May 5th and 6th at my home track back in Shenandoah, Virginia. Then Pablo walked us over to check out his buddy's JZX-converted Cressida that was present inside the display area. I'm a sucker for vinyl, so I enjoyed the array of stickers across the rear window. The A-Bo helmet sticker was one of Mastermind's 'Fun-Raiser' stickers to help get Akinobu over to the states to drive with us at Shenandoah Speedway.
And here's a shot from the other side of the car, showing-off one of the other A-Bo-Moon stickers that was designed and printed to help raise funds.
Here, the cressy sits nicely next to a legit JZX100, both kitted with BN Sports aero. Despite some of the entries I've seen for next weekend's event, I'm hopeful for the turn-out as far as style goes at LSH.
We wandered around some more, and ran into our HARDCORE friends. They've progressively offered more and more product each year that I've seen their business blossom, which is super awesome. I handed one of my new bumper stickers to Jun, and he wanted to make sure I understood what Bushido was. I think I caught him a little off guard when I actually elaborated on what it is and why I chose the name. He went on to elaborate that there was another guy at a different event who handed him one of his bumper stickers that had a bunch of nonsense kanji on it, and had no idea what it actually meant. With that said, maybe it's time that I get serious about learning Japanese.
The Hardcore family are some crazy fun folks to hang around, and I was really bummed that we didn't get a chance to share some brews with them on Saturday night at the Pike Bar.
Down the row was Yokomo and Vertex USA's awesome set-up. I actually brought my chassis along with me in hopes to drive with some of the guys there, but realized a couple days before leaving that my batteries were toast, having not been charged in years. I was praying that they may be selling batteries at the event, but no luck so I had to sit on the side and watch their shop drivers sliding around.
This Yokomo GP Sports 180SX body looked sweet in conjunction with the pilot's great RWD driving skill!
Some memories were brought back when I saw this A'PEX D1 Spec FD3S body - this was the body that came with my original Drift Package Basic kit, and it endured lots of late nights in friend's garages and at the Wolfpack HQ!
Around 5PM, the day's events were coming to a close so we all started to mosey out of the venue and thought hitting up Beechwood BBQ & Brewing again this year was a great idea. This spot has a pretty awesome happy hour, not to mention incredible craft beers - Gayle and I shared some Irish Nachos, while I started with an IPA and moved to a spicy chocolate stout and she sipped on some Udder Love Milk Stout. A group shot of everyone while the sunset beamed us in the face only seemed right.
We explored for some frozen yogurt with the rest of the group afterwards, but came up empty-handed. Gayle and I spent the rest of the evening over at GGT RC, a local RC drift shop in Garden Grove. Everyone there was super welcoming when I showed up randomly with my chassis in hopes to get it running on-track that night. Employees helped me dial the car a bit, set me up with a new LiPo battery and even let me drive some of their chassises. Meanwhile, Gayle partook in some karaoke on their PA system and tried to keep her eyes open until we finally left around 2:30AM.
The next day, I really just tried to focus on having a good time with everyone, socializing and enjoying the show. Saturday proved to be a heck of a lot more packed than Friday, and while I did have my camera with me, I felt it was easier and just more fun to keep it tucked away and appreciate the day's company. We sat in our grandstand while watching Top 16, and I enjoyed some McFate Brewing Fatality cans that we brought along with us from Scottsdale, as Gayle sipped on some Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porters. I promised the above pic to my dude Billshido back in Maryland -
Wolfpack in the house!
This photo really says so much about the crew haha
We looked-on as they announced James Deane as the Round 1 winner. Folks quickly began to scatter, so we held our ground and just waited for people to clear out a bit before rolling.
The plan was to head over to Hoonigan's After Pizza Party, so we jumped in the iQ and hung out along the curb of Oceanside Blvd while we waited for Chris and Yasmeen to get their Elite FRS out of the show area. Seeing and hearing all of the show and vendor cars leave out was awesome - it's nice to see some of the amazing builds in there actually get driven out on the street and not trailered home.
We finally rendezvous'd with Chris, as we had talked about trying to get some rolling shots on the street during the less than 2 mile trek over to the Hoonigans Donut Garage. It was absolutely awesome to hear this V8-powered beastly car echoing off the buildings of Long Beach.
Lots of looks and thumbs-up were delivered while we cruised down Long Beach Blvd.
We were greeted with the Golden State sunset as we made the turn onto 7th Street to get us over to the pizza party. While the van kinda ruins the picture, it would almost be incomplete without the dude's expression inside driving. It was a bit of a bummer though that we only had 2 miles to cram in as many rollers as I could - I would have loved to capture more shots and a chance to experiment with exposures a bit more.
We successfully made it to the garage however, and wiggled our way in. Chris was invited to have his car on display inside, so while he piloted his way through the crowd, we went down the street and parked elsewhere.
This was my first ever trip to the Hoonigan's Donut Garage, and it was really pretty cool - I could see not ever wanting to leave this complex if I worked there. One whole side is an actual garage where the work gets done, and the other side seems more like a fun-zone with entertainment and the offices where business takes place. The place was PACKED with both cars and people by the time we got over there.
One of my favorites on display was this sick '27 Ford PU. Makes me wish my dad had never sold his roadster, Bella.
Gotta show love for this Voltex wing - Swan neck mounts seem to be replacing the Rocket Bunny style mounts in the popularity contest.
I was so pumped to see that Chris chose WORK CR2P's to compliment his BN Sports fitted FRS. I have no idea how those gigantic calipers sit behind the faces of the wheels. This car has come a hell of a long way in a pretty short period, and was done right. Following the build was awesome, and it seems like not that long ago that I was gazing upon the chassis sitting inside the Elite Auto Finishes garage after it had just come back from powder coating and was essentially just a rolling chassis.
Folks seem to dig it, as they move in for a closer look.
The guys inside the shop seemed to have some special deals on apparel and goodies. I stayed far away since the crowd over by the door were intense.
Instead, I enjoyed hanging out in what seemed to be the theater-area, and watched some of the Hoonigan's recent content. The smell of popcorn really made me want some, but unfortunately the crew was running around like chickens with their heads cut off and never got around to making an additional batch in the machine. All-in-all, it was a fun visit and by the time everyone had walked around a couple times, a few of us decided that shooting over to an all you can eat sushi spot was going to be our next move. Typically, Saturday night means heading over to the Pike Bar where all of the drivers and teams go to relax and share drinks with their fans after the long weekend. Unfortunately, we got word that they were limiting entry and folks were not being allowed in. So while most of our friends went up the street to a different pub, we decided to just stay in our cozy weekend apartment and relax for the night with a movie and snacks.
Gayle and I stayed in town for an extra day to go see our girl Alina Baraz in Santa Ana on Sunday night (look her up if you've never heard of her)! This was for sure an eventful and successful weekend, and just has me wanting to go back to California more and more - Every time I visit, there seems to be a vibe that just draws me in.
Stay tuned - the next post should be about our trip back to Maryland and Virginia for Low Style Heroes, and the excursion back across the USA so I can finally have the Z in Arizona!
武士道 - B U S H I D O!