Photos and Reflections from the Inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas

Racing season is in full swing with both the NASCAR National Series (Trucks, Xfinity & Cup) and the NTT IndyCar Series so you know that makes me a happy camper. It actually gives me something to look forward to on weekends. Alas, for the first time since they opened in 2014, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX finally hit the IndyCar schedule, and I was chomping at the bit to go.

I was already planning on visiting a good friend the week around the race (the amazing Laina of Who Loves Kitty and The Silent Wave) to check on the two cats my family had placed with her family about this time last year and to do a little show-and-tell with my Linux Mint machine, but when I found out IndyCar was racing at COTA I knew we had to add that to one of our adventures during my time there. After some arm-twisting (interpretation: hardly any) I convinced her to tag along for the race.

After getting some necessities at the dreaded WalMart and a little gas station, we found our parking spots and walked seemingly all over the track trying to find our perfect vantage point (being a 3.5 mile road course, seeing the entire track is impossible but you can see key areas in certain spots). Once we found the right spot, we settled into our lawn chairs and proceeded to talk IndyCar and a lot of the jargon used in the series (which she picked up on really quickly – something that did not surprise me in the least).

During pre-race I walked her through the whole process, pace laps, pit strategies, tire compounds among other things, but before we knew it the field was given the one to green signal, and that’s where the fun started. When the green flag dropped we were both like kids at Christmastime (I’ve attended oval races myself but never a road course race).

Laina amused me with her seeming excitement watching the cars go by and just taking in all the action – the passes, the lone wreck and just the race in general. She also entertained me with her amusing nicknames she assigned to the cars based on the livery they were sporting – “Flash Bang,” “Hello Kitty,” “Road Cone,” Blu-Ray” among other amusing names that were oddly fitting, except for one – though Will Power (#12 Penske Chevy) led 45/60 laps, he retired early with a clutch and engine failure. So much for being “The Immortal” huh? Oh well, as bad as we both felt for him, it was exciting to see Colton Herta become the youngest driver to ever win an IndyCar event – he was six days shy of being 19 years old at the time of the race.

Of course we had done some things right and some things wrong. Looking at the course map I thought I had the ideal seating spot, which I quickly found out was not the case because of the elevation change blocking the critical portion of the track (the home straightaway). OK, fine, the best place is actually between the start/finish line and turn 1 where you can see about half the track. The downside? I had gotten Lot F parking which was on the other side by our original planned set up location. Note for next time: opt for Lot T parking as it’s right there.

Of course, the time at the race couldn’t be complete without a few photo ops so we of course threw those in.

A coupld of selfies (the best we could do because Selfie Sticks are not allowed in COTA, the bastards:

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Of course, the individual images where we were just being our weird selves. She downplayed hers somewhat:

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but I being who I am just had to ham it up and pretend to be glamorous and strike a pose with the background and of course show off my racing tats and you know I’ll never turn down an opportunity to model my ever (in)famous “Davy” Dukes:

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Then they had a little prop where you could put the T in COTA – something rather amusing that neither of us could turn down an op at:

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Oh, and just a little video of the action from our vantage point for good measure:

Luckily traffic getting out wasn’t too bad; following GPS and using a TollTag (they’ve really got their shit figured out at this place – plenty of surrounding roads to funel traffic in and out). Alas, needless to say we were starving upon departure so we found a quick bite to eat on the way back to San Antonio. One way or another, I was relieved that Laina enjoyed herself and we both agree we need to make this a yearly excursion – attendance was great so hopefully COTA will become a permanent fixture on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Alas, now it’s time for some rest and on to the next adventure this weekend! I’m on vacation all week this week so what the fuck ever right? I’m going to forget about work and just enjoy some much-needed time off (especially after the fiasco that was this week). Just rest and general fun this week, the I get to do it all over again in Fort Worth next weekend with the spring NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway!

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Hello From Texas Motor Speedway!

Hi all, Lynn here reporting to you directly from Texas Motor Speedway here in No Limits, TX! A triple header this weekend with the Camping World Truck Series race last night, the Xfinity series race about to go down and the Monster Energy Cup Series tomorrow!

While we’ve got some downtime, I figured I would share with you some pictures from the Xfinity Series garage. For the first time, NASCAR has opened up the garage to all those with infield access (just for a couple of hours but still) so I of course took advantage of it. Got some photos, hope you enjoy:

Of course no trip is without its mishaps and I’ve already had two this weekend. Yesterday I dropped my regular glasses somewhere along the way. After looking in the car and freaking out, I called the lost and found and lo and behold someone found them and turned them in! I guess some people are honest after all.

The other issue, well let’s just say I had a wardrobe malfunction. Somehow something caught on the fringe of my light pair of “Davy” Dukes and split them right up the leg vertically. I was lucky that I saw it before anyone else did because that could have had bad results. Luckily I had a few safety pins in the car and was able to get out to the car and address the situation. My temporary repair looks a little ridiculous…

…but at least it will prevent the free end of the tear from being blown up in the wind and giving everyone a glimpse of my skivvies. Hah.

Oh well. Fun times anyway. Hope you all are having a great weekend. I’m heading out for a little Minuto sized cigar before the race gets going. Have a good weekend all, and sorry I’ll be late with SLS this weekend.

2018 Texas IndyCar Weekend Reflections and Photos

I got home about 30 minutes ago after the drive back to Abilene after a fun-filled weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in No Limits, TX. Other than it being incredibly hot (95F/35C for highs both days) it was all out a fun time.

So I arrived in Fort Worth on Friday afternoon, went and had a nice sushi lunch at Wild Sushi and Ramen, a little hole in the wall place just a few miles down the road from the hotel I stay at. After lunch and grabbing some snacks to stick in my cooler for the weekend, I made my way over and checked into the hotel, only to get situated and head out to No Limits.

I picked up my pit passes and went into the gate to peruse the pits for awhile. Friday was spent mainly in the garage area looking at the cars and then I stepped into the garage for the post-qualifying tear down. I also got a couple of up-close pictures of an IndyCar just to show how technologically advanced they are. Note the steering wheel – it looks like a video game controller!

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That was about all the excitement in the pits because Friday night was the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and NASCAR isn’t as fan-friendly as IndyCar. To get into the garage in any NASCAR series you have to pay an arm and a leg for their own pass. IndyCar lets you in with just a VIP facility pass – something NASCAR should learn from IndyCar if NASCAR wants to bill itself as “the most fan accessible sport.” Sorry, when it comes to fan accessibility, IndyCar kicks NASCAR’s ass.

The Truck Series race was entertaining as always, granted no pictures were taken during the race because let’s face it, a cell phone does not capture very good pictures of a fast moving car. Oh well.

Saturday found me sleeping in after a late night and going back again to Wild Sushi and Ramen for even more deliciousness. Yes, you can tell I love my sushi – I can eat myself sick on it. After a satisfying lunch it was back to the track again for the main event of the weekend: the DXC Technology 600 IndyCar race.

As I was an “early bird” I received this free commemorative bobblehead doll of James Hinchcliffe. Only the first 20,000 got them and as Hinch is my favorite driver it was a “must have” for me:

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After that it was time to go walk the pits again, this time heading into the garage to watch the crews frantically working on the cars to get them race ready – from fine-tuning various systems to firing the engines to verify all is in working order:

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Then I moseyed on over to Sunoco Victory Lane where I got a pic with the sponsor car. That was fun and free so why not?

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Yeah dude, it was so hot out there I actually rolled up my sleeves in addition to sporting the DD’s! I haven’t gone sleeveless in so long my upper arms were so pasty white. Alas, maybe I feel like my arms don’t look that bad? I was definitely a little self-conscious doing it at first (my upper arms are a major source of self-conscience for me – I don’t have guns of any sort) but after noticing how hot it was I didn’t give a crap. I guess my arms don’t look too bad? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The race that evening (again, sorry no pics of any quality) was one of the best IndyCar races at Texas ever. Long green flag run, minimal cautions (only two wrecks and a fuel line leak resulting in a fire) and all out good racing. The new aerokits provide for a faster car than the previous iteration, which makes for more exciting racing.

Other random stats: 12 beers and two gallons of water killed, two sandwiches, four pickles all down the hatch as well. Two tubes of Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 55 were totally gone through over the course of the weekend. When it’s that hot and the sun is that intense, I take no chances – I reapply more often than recommended even.

So that’s that! It was a fun time. IndyCar is always an incredible experience and I suggest you see a race live if you can. IMO IndyCar kicks NASCAR’s ass in almost every way (though I do wish they’d implement overtime so a race won’t finish under caution). You’ll enjoy it if you ever are able to.

So that was my weekend. Time to prop my feet up and relax at home base for the rest of the day. I’m tired and a bit sore! Oh well. It was worth it.

EDIT: As per Rachel’s request, a pic of my sushi. LOL!!! Just one of many different varieties I had. What a pretty sight huh?

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When Vacation Goes Horribly Wrong…

So it’s back to work for me after a rather cold NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in No Limits, TX. What should have been a fun time wound up with some ultimate suckage.

My woes started Friday afternoon when I arrived at the track for qualifying. Due to a massive thunderstorm qualifying was ended after round 1. After looking at the radar I felt it would be safer to go on to the hotel instead of waiting around so that’s what I did.

This turned out to be the correct decision as just as I got on the highway it hit full force. My GPS routed me some back roads to avoid traffic and go around the storm so I arrived safely at the hotel.

That’s when another round of woes started – I couldn’t check in because their computer system was down. Go figure, right? So I waited around in the lobby for some time. After I finally got situated I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner but she got sick this week so we had to take a rain check. I wound up consoling myself with some sushi and sake instead.

Saturday was just ridiculously cold – barely above freezing, very unusual for April in Texas. I decided to try a new cold weather look, which kept me reasonably warm but it was still cold. Alas, I was not about to skip a race I had already paid for – that would be a waste of money.

After enduring 5 hours of cold I retired to my hotel to warm my bones and stream the IndyCar race which was in Arizona that night. Internet troubles at the hotel kept me from doing that smoothly and I only caught a few snapshots of it. I was left feeling very frustrated.

So Sunday comes around and it’s still cold – not as cold as Saturday but still rather cold. After fighting traffic for a parking space (NASCAR Cup Series races always draw a much bigger crowd than the lower series and/or the Verizon IndyCar Series) I settled in only to watch my man Martin Truex Jr. wreck out on lap 81 for a last place finish. As if that wasn’t enough, my most hated driver – Kyle (Cryle-Rowdy-Dickhead) Busch won the fucking thing. Kyle Busch is an embarrassment to NASCAR and motor sports as a whole – he acts like a toddler, has zero sportsmanship, talks trash, drives like a dick, you name it. It made me sick to see that sorry son-of-a-bitch win.

Then it was time to fight traffic out. Thank goodness I have a TxTag pre-paid toll account or it would have taken me forever. As it was I was able to take a couple of toll roads and save about an hour probably.

So I finally got home at around 9:15 CDT last night, feeling tired, hungry and totally demoralized. This was a weekend from hell. What should have been a vacation was anything but – it was pure misery.

Oh well, maybe IndyCar weekend in June will go better. If anything the blistering heat might make me wish for the freezing cold again. On the upside, I did rock the shorts-with-leggings look and got a picture with a racecar. I was long overdue for a new profile picture anyway. That’s something, right?

Oh well. Onto the next one.

Cigar Lounge Review: Cigar Art Dallas, TX

So as promised yesterday evening when I posted a round of beer and cigar reviews, I’d have two very special cigar reviews for you today. Well, that’s going along with a place review of a place I visited yesterday that was totally awesome.

So I was just bored out of my ever-loving mind yesterday morning/afternoon and decided I just had to go somewhere. So I got to Google Searching places and I came across this cigar place in the Bishop Arts district of Dallas that has a BYOB lounge, walk-in humidor and also has house-rolled cigars. Now that’s something new I hadn’t had before! I decided I just had to check it out, so I did.

Well, arriving there on a busy Sunday parking was not surprisingly a nightmare so I had to pay a valet service to park my car. Oh well, there are worse things right, plus there is so much other shit to do there that I can easily get my money’s worth (and I did – I went through several art galleries, boutique shops and the like while I was there). I’ve paid higher parking prices for other things in my life so I guess I can’t complain too terribly much.

Anyway, so after I valet park my car I arrive at this place and the second I walked in the word that came to mind was “eclectic.” It was a very laid back lounge with all kinds of cool art decorating the walls, a few comfortable couches and a “dry bar.” Swing music was playing in the background; if I had had a partner I’d have been dancing the Lindy Hop. That’s just how incredible this place really seemed. I immediately thought to myself “THIS is the feel I’m after when I launch my own place.” It was perfect for an eclectic person such as myself (yes, it’s one of the descriptors I use for myself).

So, of course, when I dropped into this place I just had to try their house blends. They were out of stock of their “Cliff Dweller” cigar (that’s OK – it’s advertised as a mild cigar so it didn’t really appeal to me anyway) but they did have plenty of their “Cliff Hanger” and “Cliff Jumper” cigars on hand so I got a mix-and-match 5 pack of those cigars, sat down with my self-supplied bottle of wine, chilled and smoked one of each of the blends while enjoying my own little slice of heaven.

With that, here are reviews of each of the two house blends I tried. Please note they do not advertise exact size on their website or in store, but I’m guessing these were standard Cuban Robusto sizes as they are reported to be rolled and blended “Cuban style” whatever that’s worth.

Cliff Hanger

The Cliff Hanger features an Ecuadorian Rosado shade wrapper over Nicraguan binder and long fillers.

First light revealed a perfect draw producing thick plumes of medium/full bodied smoke. Out of the gate it was quite peppery/spicy with a nutty core. Getting into the first third the pepper and spice calm down somewhat and a very pleasant unsweetened cream note enters the draw and an aromatic oakiness joins in on the retrohale. Everything is super smooth and well blended together. Getting into the 2nd third the nutty notes transition more to a smooth leather which mixes beautifully with the creamy and oaky notes. Getting into the final third the cream really ramps up and becomes the star of the show and closed out with a respectable burn time (didn’t time it exactly). No detectable nicotine strength.

Construction was very good with a very good burn that did require a couple of corrections but this is to be expected when you’re smoking a cigar right off the shelf in a brick & mortar store (no matter how well controlled it seems it’s hard to maintain precise humidity in such a large area).

A very pleasing and complex blend that would be well suited to a variety of applications. I was quite impressed. Rating: 4.25/5.

Cliff Jumper

The Cliff Jumper features a Mexican San Andreas wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan and Ecuadorian long fillers.

The first light of the first cigar I tried revealed an almost completely plugged draw and very minimal smoke output. Took it to the owner and asked to have a draw poker run through it but he exchanged the cigar no questioned asked! I was quite impressed with that level of customer service.

OK, take two: the second one had a slightly snug draw on first light but producing plumes of easy smoke. Medium/full bodied flavors consisting of the typical Mexican San Andreas bouquet of a sweet, rich cocoa and a peppery retrohale. Getting into the first third the draw opened up to perfect, the body settles down somewhat to a solid medium and a nice creamy note enters into the mix morphing along with the cocoa into a white chocolate type taste – something I’ve never tasted in a cigar before! An aromatic oaky note joins the mix in the retrohale (I can tell the oak is one of the blender’s trademarks) while the pepper is still present but very subtle. This remained consistent until the final third when the body ramps back up to medium/full and goes very nutty and the pepper ramps way up again. Good burn time, mild/medium nicotine strength.

Construction notes are the same as Cliff Hanger but interestingly enough this one didn’t seem to require any corrections to the burn line.

Though not quite as complex as the Cliff Hanger, this one was more along the lines of a dessert cigar which is more toward what I tend to gravitate toward. Rating: 4.25/5.

I’m glad to see the art of cigar making is alive and well in Dallas, TX and I’m always glad to support local businesses so needless to say I’ll be dropping in here. If you’re ever in the area this is one place I would recommend hanging out at if you just want to unplug and unwind. By all means look me up if you’re ever in the area; we’ll chill, smoke and drink!

Overall rating of 4.75/5 for atmosphere, products and customer service but what keeps it from being perfect is the horrible parking situation.

Home Again

Well, here I am about 40 minutes home and very, very sore. I’ve not done any real ringing since about last October when I went over to ring for a wedding in Dallas briefly as our local tower here in Abilene is currently unringable.

Oh well, it was a blast. Four and a half days of solid ringing so needless to say I’m flat-out worn out. I rang a number of different “methods,” did some conducting and was part of a quarter-peal attempt that unfortunately went sour about half way in due to an outside disruption of concentration (sucks too; it was trucking along beautifully until then). Aside from the ringing we were treated to some very nice dinners, drinks and just general BSing about life in general. Oh, and my tattoos (which were new since most of the ringers last saw me) were a topic of discussion as well. Go figure.

So this brings an end to this vacation. Truth be told I’m incredibly sad. Who knows if/when I’ll get to ring again? The vestry at my home parish has made it very clear they have no interest in reviving our bells, which also makes me very sad.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Alas, here’s a picture of me “in my element.” I’m ringing the tenor (heaviest bell) in this picture, and well, it should be obvious which one I am. The running shorts and the little piece visible of my Saltire tattoo on my calf kind of give it away. 😉 Photo credit to Trinity Cathedral Ringing Society of Little Rock, AR.

Yes, I promise I’m enjoying it, despite my very serious expression. I always look serious like that when I ring.

Anticipation: First Tattoo Convention (And a Small Teaser)

So a fantastic opportunity has presented itself to me for next week and I can hardly wait: my first ever tattoo convention!

I’ve only been part of the “inked club” for 10 months now (I think I’ve made up for lost time!) and have met so many cool new people and had such a fun time in the process. There’s one thing I’ve not yet done though: I’ve yet to go to a tattoo convention.

Well, that’s about to change. In working with my local artist on a new design and trying to nail down a date she suggested that we both go to a nearby convention and do the tattoo there and just have some fun in the process. Well, I’m always down for a trip and a chance to get away from everyday life for awhile is good for me. It’ll actually be a first for both of us – my first convention and her first time tattooing at a convention. Icing on the cake right?

And here’s a little teaser: here’s the sketch she drew up for me. It’s a memorial tattoo memorializing my maternal/maternal great-grandparents – when I was a kid both lived with us until their deaths. He was US Army Cavalry; she was Japanese and loved her flowers and especially peonies. The elements selected therefore are symbolic of each of them.

Of course, once the tattoo is completed I’ll show the actual tattoo, tell the story in more depth and add it to the my tattoos page for permanent reference.

Anyway, wish us both luck!