Winter Olympics, Vancouver BC – January 2010

Danielle, Jordan and I spent a whirlwind weekend in Vancouver attending as much Olympics as we could without advanced reservations. Cassidy and Ali generously made room in their condo and we explored the city together, taking in the official Olympic facilities, the dressed-up city of Vancouver, and the millions of joyous, friendly, congenial Canadians filling the streets to support their country and welcome visitors from all over the world. We watched Canada bring home hockey gold Sunday afternoon from a packed Robson Street bar and then poured into the cheering, honking, high-fiving streets of Vancouver to celebrate their victory with the 26 million Canadians (80% of the country) who are estimated to have watched the match. It was an incredible experience being part of something as huge and international as the Winter Olympics and especially meaningful to join Vancouver in their triumphs – both as hosts and athletes – as it’s a part of the world where I’ve always felt particularly at home (and we already know I have a crush on British Columbia). Photos are below and the couple of videos I shot are on YouTube. The Olympics were a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m so glad we found a way to be there; even without front row tickets or an autographed jersey we felt included in something amazing, something we’ll never forget.

Gallery slideshow here.

DNBC Vancouver – September 2009 – Best of Show Winner!

I spent the weekend in British Columbia, and an amazing sunny day in Waterfront Park in Vancouver BC with a lot of really pristine Nissans and sweet vintage Datsuns, and somehow out of all of them, I was awarded Best of Show (!!). That means I bested some truly rare Japanese imported models, some immaculately-restored classic Z cars, and even Skylines and a new 370Z.

I’m especially flattered by this award as the Best of Show judge is a guy named Art that’s been involved in car shows for 30+ years and has been to over 175 of them. He’s a Concours-certified car show judge and evaluated my Z on Concours rules, meaning he placed a lot of value in preservation and restoration work in addition to aftermarket mods. Receiving this award means my car displayed the best balance of restoration to its original glory against tasteful modern upgrades that don’t degrade the look or purpose of the car, and also that my presentation of the car – things like cleanliness, my efforts to showcase points of interest by propping things open, the full-color modlist packet I printed up for display – was thorough, appropriate and impressive. Being recognized for my effort (and expense) has only motivated me to push even harder next season, to maintain and improve the state and presentation of my car. While not every show will be judged by Concours rules and I certainly won’t be Best of Show every time, making that jump from “clean, well-modded Z” to “award-winning Z” this year has given me a new respect and appreciation for my car and a new enthusiasm for this aspect of my hobby. 🙂

Gallery slideshow here.

I’d be willing to drink Kokanee on a more regular basis.

Another fantastic weekend with the guys in Van, the kind of experience that makes me want to take an active interest in hockey, start saying ‘aboot” and move to the great white north, where i never fail to have the time of my life and where sleep is, apparently, optional.

The official purpose of the trip was for DriftFest, a drift competition and car show combo out in Abbotsford. The coolness of this event for the guys into drifting was that it focused on giving local guys a chance at the course with the instruction and appreciation of their peers, skilled pros and a mob of fans. Everyone was pleasantly surprised at the skill present, especially with a lot of young drivers, and cars we’d been seeing at meets and events were put through their paces on the course.

I actually hadn’t planned on attending previous to wednesday. I needed something to click around on with my left hand while i was eating lunch with the right one at work that day, and i usually indulge myself in some non-work-related surfing during the 8 seconds it takes me to swallow a balance bar whole and chase it with the last gulp of now-cold coffee from my morning starbucks run. I was poking around and found a thread with Vince asking for volunteers to help out during the event that saturday, in return for free admission. Since Eric was headed out of town, and Clint had mentioned something about camping, i figured i was ‘unattached’ for the weekend and threw my hat in the ring. Vince took me up on it and the rest, they say, is history! (boy, that was cheesy. and how about the run-on sentence in there? woo-oo! making my english teachers proud since 1990.)

So i was a late-joiner in the weekend festivities, but in true form for the crew up there, i never felt out of place, unwelcome, or like the last warm body to fill the roster. They rule like that. I piled in my Z after work friday with a bag full of Nissan-related tshirts, stopped and picked up another club guy, Eddie, in Burlington and was getting myself lost in Coquitlam, BC by 9pm, driving laps around a massive Ikea store so large it must have taken millions of Ikea staffers decades to assemble it with 2″ long disposable allen key wrenches. I blame yahoo maps for this, as on more than one occasion while following their apparently-not-so-astute directions i was told to take a freeway exit (ie: exit off TC 1 and onto Hwy 7) without being provided a direction to take on said freeway. Should i take north or south? East or west? Yahoo doesn’t know… They only understand “turn right’ and “turn left”, so i guess a freeway clovercleaf would just make the poor little yahoo map gnomes remove their pointy shoes and use them to poke their own eyes out. In lieu of risking such a tragedy, these “non-essential” sorts of driving direction informational bits have been removed, which is great if you’re on a strict toner budget, but not so great when you’re 5 exits the wrong way from your destination in a foreign country with questionable taste in beer. Anyway, found Vince’s house, dropped off gear, and then over to Colin and Ben’s in North Van for a few poker hands. We managed to fall face down onto Vince’s basement sofas by about 2.45am, with alarms set for 5am to have us readying the Driftfest venue first thing saturday morning. That was the night i got a little sleep.

Saturday was excellent, the pro drifters were amazing to watch on their exhibition runs – as with most sporting events, this was much more exciting live than it has ever been on a dvd, even an animated one. The sun baked us all day and most of us came home smelling of exhaust and wearing tire particulate in our hair. Just how the ladies like us to be, as i hear. By the time we’d spent 11 hours poking under hoods, cheering for our guys on the course, oogling car-show models, and trying to hide how dirty our cars were with a generous application of quick-detail spray, everyone was ready for a shower and a meal that didn’t involve condiment packets.

As luck would have it, Colin and co. had arranged a stag party (also known as a bachelor party, down south here in Fatkins-Diet-Land, but i’m going to stick with “stag” cause it’s shorter to type) for Gerry, who’s off to someplace exotic to get married the first part of september. They had one more seat in the limo and i got the invite, to which i said, “gosh, i dunno. you think it will be any fun? also, i’m afraid of luxury transportation.” NOT! So, yes, black super-stretch picks up Ben, Colin, Jeff, Zack, Brian, myself and the lucky Gerry and trucks us around Van, the driver being a very fun and understanding sort, willing to double-park while we piled out of the limo to chase down groups of girls walking between clubs and invoke their participation in one of our warped stag party rituals that centered mostly on embarassing Gerry and getting nice-looking women to join in on the fun. We started with dinner at the Keg, where my bacon-wrapped filet mignon was exactly what Dr Stomach ordered, and the female waitstaff took great care of us, definitely above-and-beyond the call of duty. Needless to say, their tip was huge. I should also point out at this time that the huge slackers visiting from oregon who were mere blocks away and for whom we had a whole, large table reserved (you think it was easy getting a res. for 14? our group of 8 would have spent much less time lingering in the granite slab entry had it not been for their dead weight!) that ended up going unoccupied when they were [whiny voice] too tired [/whiny voice] and went home to their hotel. Let it be stated for the record that they have disgraced the entire state of oregon with their piss-poor attitude and skewed priorities. Also let it be stated that people from oregon are wack and are all getting coal for christmas, and are permanently stag-party-blacklisted. As the court can plainly see, we were not impressed with oregon (even despite the positive effects of Tillamook) and their punishment needs to begin immediately and continue unfettered.

The most popular group activity ended up being a post-closing-time rush on still-drunk groups of female clubgoers whom we could convince to write a message on Gerry’s body with a black sharpie. By 4am when the limo dropped us off at home Gerry looked like he had fallen asleep on the floor of a tattoo parlor in Tijuana, and many, many good laughs had been had by all. That was, in fact, the eventual theme of the entire night: having a good laugh. Some of them were at Gerry’s expense, some at the expense of stupid girls who couldn’t figure out how to work a sharpie, some at each other, and some with no point at all. It was truly a wild time, a one-of-a-kind night filled with “now how often do you see that?” moments that continued to baffle us even the next day and with the sort of spontaneous fun and postcard comraderie that you always see in movies and think can’t be real (but, apparently, is… at least in Canada. No wonder they filmed X-Men 2 there).

In order to meet our goal of a straight 24-hours of guys’-day-out, a few rounds of Texas Hold’Em (which apparently, i have no idea how to play, but the alcohol my brain was floating in told me we could figure it out as we went along. Thankfully, it was a chips-only round) were enlisted to help us stretch the whirlwind night until 6am, before everyone found someplace to crash. For me, it was a recliner, draped in a sleeping bag. For Gerry, it was in fetal position on the front lawn.

With my overactive internal alarm clock being what it is, i was of course wide awake at 7.45, and even after a shower, some email-checking and some further dawdling i was still the only one awake (go fig) so i took a morning constitutional thru North Van. It was fun watching shop owners rolling out their awnings and sliding back iron gates – very storybook stuff. It was a sunny and perfect morning watching the city wake up, and i found myself thinking “i could totally live here.” I found a bagel shop that was open about 10 blocks away and they concocted for me the ultimate champion of all bagel breakfast combos, the bagel benedict. Poached egg, hollandaise sauce, and bacon on a toasted sesame bagel. Learn to love it now, cause that’s what they’ll be serving for breakfast every day in heaven. I brought scones back for the still-zonked crew (shhh, don’t tell them mine had bacon!) and slowly they appeared from underneath blankets and sweatshirts or, in Brian’s case, from the passenger seat of his car (new, picked up just that day, a 1990 Jspec Fairlady Z 2+2 turbo, immaculate and new, and with no alarm or anything yet – i would have slept in it, too.)

Eddie and i stuck around until 2p or so, hanging around for the once-over of the three new cars delivered just in time for the weekend: Brian’s Fairlady, Ben’s spanktastic blue R32 Skyline GTR, and the rally-style Pulsar GTi-R. Clearly the weekend was filled with things you don’t see every day, both in a life-moments way and an automotive way. Our trip home was plagued with inexplicably heavy traffic, border-crossing-queues that outlasted a Spielberg movie, and a constant wall of 80-degree heat to plow through (that’s hot here, ok?) but none of that dampened my mood and once i’d showered and had a 15 minute nap in fetal position on my front lawn i felt well rested and motivated to share my rockin’ weekend with the interweb. I will work on the pics to go with this story, although most of the really crazy stuff either defies photography or is covered under the stag-party “no one shall ever speak of this” clause, but there will def. be pix of the cars, you can bet all your chips on that, Tex. And i will mos.def. be getting back up there s’more to make more wild memories with my canuck crew and if someone wants to offer me a well-paying job that involves a paid relocation to North Van well, baby, you just might have found your guy.

You can measure the quality of a weekend by how far you can open your eyes on monday.

I had such a blast on this weekend’s roadtrip, and i really wanted to sit down and log it last night while it was still fresh, but anyone who saw me last night (namely Danielle, and that jerk from craigslist who shorted her $20 in the U Village parking lot – what is it with craigslist people? oh well, last laugh’s on him: he thinks he drives a baller’s “Tahoe” but it’s a late-eighties Blazer. Someone got suckered by the used car lot!) knows i shouldn’t have been looking at a computer screen. My eyes are still a bit bloodshot today, but 9 hours of sleep and half a bottle of eyedrops have made great strides. That’s also why i haven’t processed the 4 memory cards (512 MB) of photos, either. But i might try and do that tonight, if my eyes can take it. I’ve got some contract work in the queue, too, and that does take priority…

I left work early friday for a doc appt with the very capable (and wow! incredibly hot) Dr. Jeannie. Before you go thinking i’m a traitor, Eric was in hawaii getting married. I don’t think he was even thinking the slightest bit about who was covering his appointments. At least, i hope he wasn’t. 😉 I will see him this afternoon and ask him how it went, but i assume he’ll tell me before i have to ask… 😉

Clint left work a little early, too, and we did some last-minute car cleaning and then met Travis, Christie and Peter in marysville, forming our Vancouver BC caravan crew. Clint’s Z, my Z and Peter’s 200sx were entered in the Driven to Perform show at BC Place, and Travis filled his Sentra with snack food and beverages heavy on the C8H10N4O2 and acted as our support vehicle. We met up with Luis about halfway to the border, and he rolled with us for a bit until some unluckily-timed showmanship landed him a $327 speeding ticket (sorry again about that, Lou!). Despite some navigational snafus (it’s not easy to read a map, hold a flashlight, steer and shift when you only have two hands, ok?) we found our way to the east airlock on time, and met up with Vince, Ben, James, Colin, Ron, Aaron, Luis, Tyler and the sweet booth that NWN had built for the show. (I know these names mean nothing to half of you – i mostly enumerate them for my own benefit, so when we’re 70 and i’m arguing with Clint about what that guy’s name was with the nice blue Silvia i can look it up here and prove him wrong 😉

Some cleaning and polishing, followed by late-night Denny’s, where Travis tried to take a picture of some chick he nearly convinced us was JoJo and her two-man Fubu entourage. It’s probably better there is no photographic evidence because now it will become our own private urban legend, as well as the running joke of the weekend.

DTP was a good time on saturday, with the guys at Garage Five taking home most of the trophys in our class, which we’re fine with because their cars are totally sweet. I took a kazillion pics, talked to a lot of canadians “aboot” my “zed” and pretty much laughed myself exhausted with Travis, Christie, Peter and Clint. We had a great time; it’s too bad we can’t afford to do this stuff more. The show staff kept us all locked in the exhaust-fumes-death-stadium until almost 1AM, and upon release we booked it past the hookers, junkies and drug dealers on Hastings Ave and straight to the border, because even with our quick departure we still only had 2 hours for a nap and a shower at Travis’s in marysville before it was time to report to Stanwood for the Twin City Idlers hot rod show. The entire rest of the team made it out for this one *with their actual cars*, which was a first since i’ve been involved. Someone’s always got a mechanical problem, or is in the middle of a build project, or has to work. But for the first time everyone cracked their “real” cars out of hiding (Jason even braved the burbs in his new R32 Skyline) and we filled a (small) parking lot with our Nissan contingent (and Nate’s turbo’d civic, just for variety). In the middle of a classic hot rod show we felt a bit out of place, but the quirkiness of a small-town close-main-street-for-the-day kind of event kept us all entertained, and (creating further amusement) our swag bags included packages of both beef jerky *and* pepperoni. Probably also a coupon for half-price bull castrating and a vintage Chevrolet parts catalog, too, but i haven’t gone thru it all yet. 😉

By the time 3PM crawled towards us, everyone was bleary-eyed and ready for a gargantuan nap, especially the five of us on a two-show international weekend tour. We puttered out of there past the gawking crowds and went home to crash (in bed, not on the road, thanks to energy drinks purchased, donated and surreptitiously acquired from vendor booths in a quantity large enough to fill a small pool), vowing on the way home that there should be many more weekends of spirited driving, walkie-talkie insult wars, celebrity pancake sightings, bikini-clad car show models, and breakdance fighting before we all get too old and start taking ourselves seriously. 😉