Monday June 4, 2001
Eastbound And Down Loaded Up And Trucking
Our Trek broke smartly from the gate, as all the participants and their steeds met as scheduled atop the parking structure adjacent to the empire's headquarters in the shadow of the California Angles' stadium; the Big Ed. Our first day of travel was slated to be the longest, so we passed out the radios, slithered our nine-vehicle caravan out of the structure and snaked onto the East 91 freeway. Our first stop was Coachella for a quick bite. The Vortech Integra would not start and the fuel pump was identified as the culprit. Before the Vortech 2 got too serious, the intrepid Michael Graham remembered the alarm had sounded. A button push on the key fob later we were on the road. The miles rolled up and we were soon in Phoenix for our first photo op-MTX. The audio company had set-up an impromptu car show/barbecue. There was some mean bass thumpin' going down and engine swap gurus Hasport was on hand with a number of its engine-transplanted Hondas. Group A/ROH Wheels also had a nice layout of custom aluminum. After a nice visit, the troop motored onto I-10 and our first layover in Tuscon.
Tuesday June 5, 2001
Damn It's Hot; But It's A Warm Heat
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Ultra Performance, a high-profile mail order company based in the Tuscon/Phoenix area, suggested a nice hotel for us and were scheduled to have breakfast with us and see the caravan off. Ultra's Jeff Furrier missed breakfast, but was there as we once again aimed the snake east.
Prior to breaching the state line into New Mexico, we came upon Texas Valley, Arizona. As whacked out as the name is, it pales in comparison with the dreaded Thing? of Texas Valley. The Thing? is part mummy, part monster-one of those rare oddities that escaped the clutches of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. The carnival sideshow attraction only costs a buck to see and we highly suggest the experience...err, but not too soon after lunch. I made a big move on the souvenirs while Grambo put on his own fashion show, complete with stuffed cock and sombrero. He bought the hat but denies buying the feather-filled rooster. I know it didn't get back to the shelves...maybe this explains why he would disappear from time to time...it was a long week. A crowning moment of the trip was when we tie-wrapped a set of steer horns to the Xterra. The Xterra was the lead vehicle when we pulled into a venue and if you're heading into a hostile environment, best lead with pointed skull cartilage. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the wagon train paused to upload some data for the web coverage of the road trip, then it was on to I-70 and our layover in Alamogordo. As we approached Alamogordo, which is just east of the White Sands Missile Range, we caught a glimspe of a F-117 Stealth Fighter pulling some heavy Gs-talk about high-tech performance. My digestive system was at Defcon 5; we ate dinner after 9 p.m. for the second night in a row.
Wednesday June 6, 2001
The Man, Alien's In Roswell, Beam Me Up
I was looking forward to today, as our course would take us through that extraterrestial hot spot, Roswell, New Mexico. The Plymouth Rock of the Alien species, Roswell was the site of an alleged alien crash landing in 1947. Our route on I-70 would wind through the Lincoln National Forest. A few miles after emerging from the forest we were back in a flat, desolate desert environment. Bringing up the rear, I thought someone must be in trouble when The Man was on my 6 lights at full tilt. The Man, actually a female officer, motioned the IS300 to the shoulder and continued on to wrangle the rest of our group. The radios were abuzz with the news immediately. After backup arrived (nine imports are a step or two above Hells Angles and Harleys in New Mexico), we were informed that someone phoned in erratic high-speed passing over double yellows in the mountains and that we were not going to get a ticket, just a license review. Our Fearless Leader handled the situation with great skill. He would later say, "These were some of the nicest, most professional officers I've ever dealt with. The girl officer was a real 'hottie'. In high school I bet she was one of those cheerleader types."
Everything was cool, we gave them a couple Trek T-shirts and hit the road. We pulled off at the next gas station to fill up and calm our nerves. I was worried what the 5-0 would say about a Skyline with its right-hand drive and so on. On the radio everyone swore they were being mellow. The plot thickened, the Skyline was not part of the pulled over crew, since it was clocking 130 mph coming down the mountain. Sean had stopped and waited for us-bad boy Sean.
The hour setback and usual late start cramped our schedule big time, as we were supposed to hit Jacobs Electronics in Midand, Texas, around 3:00 or 3:30pm. Roswell would be the sacrificial lamb, as what was to be a tour of the UFO Museum and a fine meal at the Crash Down Diner, turned into a 17 minute photo-op slash gift shop raid. I grabbed the two nearest T-shirts and a shot glass for my collection and by the time I cleared the counter, half the posse was out of radio range. We grabbed a quick bite at Mickey-Ds and blasted the 285 to Interstate 20, arriving at Jacobs at 4:30. The dyno was running, testing two Mustangs, a pair of Camaros and a 'Vette. One of the Camaros revved us and Sean was praying to see it later on the street.
Our accommodations in Midland were horrific, so we pressed an hour east to Big Spring. Before rolling, we met up with Cam Waugh, who drove from Canada with his wife and infant daughter Hanna to meet us and join in on the Trek.
Thursday June 7, 2001
We WILL Be On The Road By 8, Absolutely (leave at 9:35)Destination
Fort Worth, Texas
This would be some tough mileage because most of the crew hung out and drank beer until the wee hours. It was a good opportunity to see the other side of the empire. I did 12-ounce curls with some of the advertising representatives and confirmed what I had already known-they are into cars just like the editorial staff; only their output is different. We represent the enthusiasts, the hard-earned money they invest in the quest for power. They represent those who want to provide parts and components to realize the ultimate goal of that quest. We fill editorial pages; they fill ad pages and only with these two components do you get a magazine each month-pretty simple really. I should have reached this conclusion in five beers not nine; by 1:30 not 3:30. Anyhow at 8AM I was conscious and recruiting someone to pilot the Lexus until I got my land legs back. J-period stepped up. We were on the road late again which was fine but I would have killed for 90 more minutes of slumber. Our destination was Enkei Wheels in Fort Worth, Texas. The deal at Enkei was a four wave rave with each segment separated by a down pour. It seemed like 20 to 25 enthusiasts would be hanging out checking out the Trek cars and chatting with us, it would rain and we would run for cover. After the storm we would emerge and 20 or 25 new faces would be in the parking lot. This was toughest on the DJ, who had to "waterproof" his equipment four or five times in the span of 90 minutes.
Friday June 8, 2001
Blue Sky & Sun;
What Could Go Wrong; Who's Allison?
WIC Baytown, Texas
Victory was at hand. Only 240 miles left. We motored to Discount Tire to hook up with Enkei's Chris Ditty, who was joining the final leg in his yellow 300ZX, the Enkei van and a S-15 Silvia sans motor that was being trailered to the WIC. On the way to Discount Tire there was some late discussions on which off ramp to take and I got hung out to dry. I made a late lane change onto the ramp and found that where painted lines are in California, Texas uses a bumpstrip-like curb. Realizing I was six feet from a real curb I aimed the Lexus square and earned my self-given Chitwood nickname as the IS 300 reached for the clouds. As I understand it, the Lexus got two or three feet off the ground. Bondurant instincts kicked in and I quickly gathered the car. All in all, a successful suspension compression test.
With our vehicle count somewhere in the teens, the Trek lurched southward and took aim at Houston. We arrived at Houston Raceway Park together. It was hot and sunny and while the others applied the sunscreen I bolted to the line and got some shots of Kenny Tran grabbing the number one spot in the Quick Class at 9.57. As Friday wore on, the sky took on an ominous shade of dark gray. It started to rain and I retired Friday night thinking the rain would pass, much as it had in Fort Worth. To my chagrin, this was no passing storm. It was most definitely tropical storm Allison, and it would literally make a loop around Houston, intensifying its impact, and move north to wreak havoc on another import drag race seven days later.
Saturday, June 9, 2001 & Beyond
I awoke Saturday to a city whose basic infrastructure had been taken off-line. Freeways were under water, homes were flooded, hundreds of thousands of people were homeless. In a wise move, the promoter cancelled the race early. I had planned to fly out so the Lexus was westbound already. Staffers Gary Castillo and Jason Mulroney had rented a Blazer 4x4 and we forded water aplenty as the 15-minute jaunt to George Bush airport was a three-hour struggle. We got there, but all flights had been diverted for the prior 12 hours and the planes on the ground had no crews to fly them. The terminal was complete chaos. The illogic of the lines to the Continental ticket counter, that weaved in and out of lines to other counters, only added to the heightened sense of desperation. It was a lost cause; nobody was going anywhere Saturday. We looked for a room and decided to backtrack down the highway that got us to the airport only because we knew it was passable. We tried every hotel we saw and finally found a room at the Forest Inn, 30 miles outside of Houston. This was the last available room in a flea-bag hotel, but we were better off than many in the Houston area. Sunday was still crazy and we surmised correctly that our original flight on Monday would prove to be one of the early flights out. We cut our losses and hit the AMC 24 at the mall. It was late Sunday and only then did ATM service return. We checked out "The Animal," starring Rob Schneider (I was out-voted) and later attended the Greyhound races at a track that was half way to Galveston. I won $20, Jason won $2, Gary drank a lot of beer-it was a beautiful thing. On Monday the airport gave off the aura of impending normalcy. We checked in two hours before take-off and made it home.
The World Import Challenge has been rescheduled for February 2002.
"The journey is its own reward." If this isn't a saying of some sort, it is now. We are about cars, ogling them, wrenching on them, racing them and driving them. Only on the open road can one truly meld with a car-come to understand its quirks and appreciate and utilize its strong points while identifying and remedying its weaknesses. Road trips are cool and our Trek 2 Texas' mission was to drive some of the hottest imports to Houston and cover the World Import Challenge. The Trek would take us from Orange Country, California to Houston, Texas, with a number of stops along the way.
AKA: Lawrence, Fearless Leader
Trip Organizer, Editor of Sport Compact Car
AKA: Graham Master Flash, Grambo
Zany comic relief, ad salesman
Sean Morris (John Kim)
AKA: Lucky dog driving Skyline 3,400 miles
Works at MotoRex
Trevor Kaplan & John Kim
AKA The Vortech 2
Paid by Vortech to drive supercharged Integra 3,400 miles
AKA: Baldwin, Get that outta my face
AKA: Running Man
Staff editor SCC
AKA: Lexus hog, Chitwood
Editor of Turbo Magazine, quiet guy
Tommy Lee Liang
Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)
Blown Acura Integra
Turbocharged Nissan Maxima
2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT