Sunday, January 31, 2016

Racing Like the Wind

But then again  it is fast!
When out and about the thought of getting into a fast little go cart seems the right thing to do – or perhaps not for everyone.

Well it was for J and L – perhaps there had been some pre-planning ahead of time by their daughters and son-in-laws but if they had been out and about they may just . . .

A very Patriotic sort of raceway - nice touch
A day at the tracks driving a Honda-powered 200cc cart trying to be careful while pursuing first place with no regards for safety, perhaps a bit, meant a lot of fun. It was just another place to explore locally and take advantage of what was in our own backyard – almost since it was only a short half hour drive to Fast Lap in Ontario.

Fast Lap with, at this writing, has an indoor facility in Ontario, California and Las Vegas, Nevada offering some pretty thrilling moments behind the wheel of these four stroke speedsters. Some of the ‘karts’ can go up to 50 mph but most have been throttled down to 25 to 30 mph for the safety of the customers.

These go-carts are not for the faint at heart
No, this is not an advertisement but just a blog about getting out and seeing what there is to do with friends and family nearby that is exciting and thrilling.

With some imagination the driver feels as though they are at the Indianapolis 500. Okay, perhaps not but there is something to be said about being strapped into a vehicle so  low to the ground it can be reached by simply dropping one’s hand to the cement track. Recommendation here – don’t do that while tooling around the track trying to get a head of the other drivers – good way to lose a finger.
Researching this indoor racing track brought a many things to light: no license is needed but children under 18 years old must have an adult supervisor, drivers must be 51 inches or taller and weigh no more than 350 pounds, no open toed shoes can be worn, helmets must be worn at all times, no intentionally running into other cars (duh – really but it has to be spelled out for some drivers), watch for flags on the track (yellow to slow, red to stop, white and black striped race over and green meaning ‘smash the gas pedal’).

Who is that Blur?
Whenever traveling even to a locale nearby research is important – as listed above simple things like wearing flip-flops (sandals, huaraches, or whatever isn’t allowed) would have ruined the days since the concept of racing would have been a no-no according to Fast Lap. Research isn’t only for faraway lands but those things that also happen near your abode.

With the green flag twelve drivers took off trying desperately to get ahead of each other with but with the curving twenty foot wide track lined with large rubber tires for protection obtaining first place on the first lap was with difficulty. Right, left, right, straight at speeds from zero to more than twenty-five tested each driver’s mettle as they concentrated not only on the track but those speeding around them. After a couple of laps it was easier to judge distances both in gassing the carts and braking allowing sophisticated driving to occur – okay, perhaps it was just trying not to bump into the carts and trying with all your might to pull ahead of the cart in front of you without ramming head on into the wall of tires.

L and J looking oh so sexy

Of course, attention must be paid for the slower drivers – those who are simply out for Sunday drive instead of understanding the competition of RACING! Carts are meant to be sped in not coast in – drive, pivot, fly in and out of traffic, snarl, growl, and get into first place.

There are individual timers on each cart so at the end of the race the driver could see their time but we all realize that a true champion only races against themselves. Not! You gotta beat the other drivers to the checkered flag.

Waiting for the Green and then gun it for all its worth

You just gotta!

You're next, and this time I mean it!

Three fifteen or so minute races went by way too quickly but luckily between each race there was a cooling down period for the drivers – Adrenalin was pumping through the veins and everyone needed a breather. One on and one off is the normal for Fast Lap unless there are no crowds which is hardly the case since the place seems to be always hopping.

Helmets and driving suits – yes just like the big adults in the racing world – then donning the gloves awaiting the next round of races only built the excitement that was to come.

Antici --- pa ---tion
The engines were started by the Fast Lap crew and then the flag was dropped again – smell of gasoline mixed with oil was in the air – refreshing to say the least considering the entire venue is enclosed in a mammoth building. Luckily these tracks have huge exhaust systems that change the air in the building every 4 or 5 minutes which is needed or they’d be having nothing but a bunch of coughing and hacking drivers making way toward the exits.

Two hours and three races later – it was crowded and sometimes the wait between races can be a half hour or more but it was worth it. A few sore ribs from bashing into a rubber wall left J in pain but smiling nonetheless.

Donning the racing gear

Who be the speed demon out there?

A day with family in a nearby entertainment facility is what is called for sometimes. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Three Days and No Agenda

Iconic sight on the boardwalk
The sun rose over the eastern canyons of Laugna Beach with a brightness that promised well needed warmth.

Thank goodness for the rising sun
Warmth requested at a beach community in Southern California even during winter seemed a little farfetched but when J and L left their suite at the Laguna Canyon Resort for a day’s outing recently the thermometer in the car registered a dismal 32 degrees – yes, freezing!

May not look like it but it was cold!!
Uncalled for – undemocratic – unearthly – unwarm – and downright chilly.

The Resort was only a minute from the Coast Highway but in that short drive we gained the sight of the blue ocean and ten degrees. The day was looking promising for wandering the sights of the eclectic world of Laguna Beach with its myriad of enticing shops and delicious restaurants.

Chilly but a sweater did the trick.

What better place to have a breakfast while watching the glint of sun skid across the Pacific toward the outlying island of Catalina only twenty-six miles to the west? We found the Cliff and a marvelous breakfast while watching paddle boarders making their way southward over the clear blue waters.

Yes, the day was going to be fabulous with the clear skies, full stomach and nothing on the agenda – literally nothing.

Laguna Beach - a beautiful place to visit
Normally when on an outing J and L ensure there is no downtime with the belief that life is short and every second of traveling needs to be full of exploration but on this three day holiday to the coast no plans except relaxing and walking the crowded and welcoming streets of this idyllic beach town of nearly 23,000 souls.

Laguna Beach was founded in 1887 even though people had been living in the region far before that; the Native American tribe Tongva lived there centuries before the white settlers ventured down the canyons created millions by the San Diego Creek carving its way through the San Joaquin Hills. Then in 1944, the actual town of Laguna Beach was created and the rest is history.

New Orleans? No, Laguna Beach.

The storybook town has played host to many Hollywood movers and shakers including Betty Gable, Mickey Rooney, Charlie Chaplin and even today people like marine artist Robert Wyland, comedian Rita Rudner, tennis champion Rick Leach and Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker call the small water front community home.

It is a city rich in history and things to do – obviously the clear waters beckon surfers, paddle boarders, kayakers, divers, and just those who want to push bare toes into the white sand looking out over the calming effect of the Pacific Ocean. Just a few miles south of Newport Beach lies this almost villagesque locale which boasts over three million tourists per year making tourism its number one industry.

A view and a cold local brew - Paradise

In the afternoon visitors often grab cocktails or a bite from rooftop restaurants with only the horizon for their view. 

Sunsets are something to behold as the light slowly dissipates into the blue waters just over the curvature of the earth and sometimes – just sometimes that green flash can be seen when the sun says goodnight. J has been fortunate enough to see two of these extremely rare phenomena in Mexico but not on this trip to Laguna Beach though the sunsets were spectacular in themselves.

Unfortunately not our photograph
What exactly is a green flash? Isn't that just a myth? Only to those who never had the chance to see it for themselves. The green flash is a result of refraction most likely seen in clear, stable air when the light from the setting sun can reach the observer without being scattered. You might expect to see a blue flash since we know the sky is blue as blue light is refracted most of all in the spectrum, and thus the last of the light from the sun to reach us before it dips below the horizon. But in a blue sky, the blue is preferentially scattered and that last beam appears green.

Three days, actually two and a half when including drive time, with no plans was a perfect way to settle down after the holidays. Of course, there will be a couple more follow-up blogs about this trip and what was leaned about what is going on in Laguna Beach but for now it was just nice to write about doing nothing but enjoying the time together. Sure, we relaxed but the camera and notes were part of the mini-vacation as always.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


The Mob Museum - Las Vegas
The following blog was never written and you never read it! J and L state unequivocally that they never visited the Mob Museum in Las Vegas - the what and where - and if they actually did would not admit it.

It's the way of the 'family' - we took an oath - had to be real since it was on the tour.

People on Facebook should think this way

Okay, say you belong to one of the infamous Mafia five families from back East - that would be New York (set up by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky dividing New York up so the often fatal 'wars' would stop between rival mafia gangs) and you put up the money to build a rather luxurious hotel in the middle of a 'frigging' desert, wouldn't you want it a secret? That's the way it was back in 1947 when the finishing touches for the Flamingo were finished, after going way over it's budget of four million - it cost 6 million which did not make the families happy. But the man behind the hotel/casino was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegal and everyone liked him - he was handsome, endearing, charismatic, and a cold-blooded killer. Bugsy (never say that to his face) was a founding member of Murder Inc. - the infamous gang that boasted at least 1,000 mob hits during its heyday. Not a man to be fooled with unless you happened to be the head of one of the five families. Bugsy didn't scare them much and after spending more than two million of the mobs money your good looks can only get you so far.

Good-looking guy, this Bugsy.
Not a good end for Bugsy
Actually, it was Beverly Hills that Bugsy got before multiple 30 caliber bullets found his head in June of 1947.

The families (the hit was authorized by Meyer Lansky himself) don't like their money spent at what they believed at the time was a waste - today - they would have given him a raise for the forethought he had in knowing Las Vegas would go from a hole in the desert to a thriving mega-capital of the rich and famous.

At forty-one, Bugsy was way ahead of the mob members who had sent him West to develop sand - so sad for the Bugsmeister and within thirty years so with the families. In the eighties and nineties the Mafia was pretty much kicked out of Las Vegas after investigation after investigation and they sold their holdings to legitimate businessmen and women. Supposedly, as of 2015 there is no mob connection in Las Vegas - of course with gambling, prostitution, drugs and such who would doubt such a statement.
A few places the Mafia had control in - as far as we know

The Mob Museum at 300 Stewart Ave in Las Vegas is a three story tell-all on organized crime in the United States. Starting on the third floor descriptions and exhibits explain how the immigrants from Ireland and Italy came to America looking for a better life and that some of those immigrants decided it was easier to steal to make a living than it was to work. The entire history runs floor to floor with sometimes graphic details and photographs sowing the brutality of the Mafia in America. There are actually signed warnings about certain rooms which may be to terribly bloody and graphic for some viewers - we visited them all.

Please stand against wall with hands behind your back
There are some rather macabre exhibits like a gas chamber chair actually which had been used in multiple death sentences, a mock up of an electric chair that the visitor can calmly sit and have a person pull the switch giving off otherworldly sounds of imminent demise, weapons of all calibers owned and used by members of the Mafia for other than good deeds, and the actual wall from the famous Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 where 7 members of Irish mobster Moran's gang were executed by Capone's gang in a mechanics garage. That was really weird seeing the bullet holes and blood spatters - unless they really red paint - no, the MOB Museum wouldn't paint over blood since that would ruin the ambiance.

Shave and a Haircut 2 bullets
Infamous names jumps out to the visitor - Al Capone, Albert Anastasia, Mickey Cohen, Sam Giancana, Tony Spilotro, Whitey Bulger, and John Gotti to name just a few litter the museum as the guest walks and reads the tales of these men. No good virtues any of them had but there was something in that museum that shed a bit of light on what most would believe were people who had no moral compass - they did in a sick and twisted way.

The Mafia code called for no harm to any family members of a 'Made Man'. Wives and children were out of bounds for killing. As poor old Bugsy Siegal was once quoted while talking with Del Webb (yes, the developer) - "Del, don't worry, we only kill each other."

We don't know a thing, Copper! Go blow your whistle elsewhere.
There, from a murderers mouth - there was a code of ethics within the Mafia.

Famous names are also present at the museum with notables such as Ralph Lamb, Estes Kefauver, Thomas Dewey and J. Edgar Hoover (no photos of him in a dress though) along with dozens of other FBI and government law men who made life as difficult as they could to those who tried to buck the system - the Mafia.

Three floors of walking, reading, watching, and learning what impact the Mafia had on America from the beginning to the present - yes, there is a present and a sad commentary is that since 9/11 and so much time and resources from the United States Government is spent on National Security the Mafia is slowly climbing back into the American mainstream. We don't hear about it since who cares about someone running a prostitution ring or drug trafficking when there are terrorists among us?

We're back - actually never left
Hmmm - a new beginning

What anyone may think of the Mob, they are not stupid but very opportunistic.

See what can be learned when a museum like this one can be researched and explored - amazing and scary.


Again - you didn't read any of this here.